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This picture isn’t pretty, I know. It’s leftovers. This food may have looked nice the night before, but cold and unarranged and in plastic containers it loses something. But! At the top are patates savoyard made with potatoes we pulled out of the earth ourselves that were cooked until crisp and bubbling on top with Dubliner cheese. To the left is a top sirloin roast purchased at Sunterra Market, which was braised in that orangey-red mess you see is at the bottom, cherry tomatoes from our own garden that, after three hours cooking in beef juices then reduced, had the rich, full flavour of fat and a spine of tomato tang that popped with garlic and just a hint of (home-grown!) rosemary. And that white mass you see on the left was once a light cloud of horseradish whipped cream that we made with fresh horseradish purchased at a farm outside the city. It ain’t pretty, but it was almost as lovely the day after as it was the night before.
It seems like there’s been a bit of blogging ennui going around these days. I can identify. I don’t know what’s come over Carlo and me lately, but it’s not just that we can’t muster the enthusiasm to write about our food. Lately we haven’t even been cooking. I’m not exaggerating about this, sadly. Our larder has emptied out bit by bit, and on nights when Carlo is working late, I’ve filled my belly with marshmallow melted onto saltines under the broiler, Nibs candy, or frozen burritos. We’re in a funk.
That’s why this meal, ugly as it is, was a celebration. Things weren’t perfect. The beef braised too long and got a little dry. My feet ached from standing in one place while I sliced and whipped and grated. We set off the smoke alarm. I made Carlo come talk to me when he strayed out of chattering range. We don’t have four matching fancy plates, so we served our guests on mismatched china. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have almond meal as I was making dessert (grape cake!). There was a hockey game on while we ate (first game of the season), and the Oilers lost. But the house was warm after a cold, grey day. We had company. I mixed cocktails, and we had wine. We talked about work and TV shows and our family and the food. I’m starting to remember why I cook.
Speaking of food, please try the horseradish whipped cream. We were all a bit unsure, but my Gourmet cookbook (speaking of which, RIP Gourmet mag) promised an “ethereal” accompaniment to beef or lamb, which sounded lovely, so we tried it. And it was lovely, and I will be making it again.. Made with fresh horseradish, it had a bit of a kick, but I imagine it would be more in-your-face with bottled stuff. It was especially good as a cool, smooth counterpoint to the gutsy, beefy tomatoes we served as the other condiment.
The braised beef was especially simple, though maybe I used too lean of a cut. My favourite part is its simplicity. It was about three pounds, and three hours in the oven at 300 degrees, four cups of fresh tomatoes, half a head of garlic (the cloves peeled and left whole), and a sprig of rosemary was all it took. After it was done cooking, I took the meat out to rest and brought the tomatoes, now swimming in juices from the roast to a very fast boil for about 10 minutes until the sauce reduced to something thick and hearty.
The potatoes were similarly easy. I followed, though not very closely, Julia Child’s recipes for patates savoyard, slicing about four potatoes thin, then layering them with dollops of butter and generous handfuls of Dubliner (I didn’t have Gruyere, which was a lucky accident). To finish I poured about 1 1/2 cups of boiling beef stock over them and popped them in the oven for an hour and a half (at 300 degrees, obviously, to go with the beef). They came out crispy on top with soft layers underneath, rich and cheesy.
Whipped Horseradish Cream
As I said, this is a recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook. The book says that vinegar helps stabilize the volatile oil that gives horseradish its kick. I guess the cider vinegar here does two things, then: it keeps the horseradish pungent and it balances the honey’s sweetness. If I were to change anything, it would be to pull back a bit on the honey, which was almost over-sweet.
3-4 tablespoons grated and peeled fresh horseradish or bottled horseradish
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey (go light here)
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Stir together 3 tablespoons of horseradish with vinegar and honey in a small bowl
In a larger bowl whip the cream. When it holds soft peaks, gently mix in the horseradish mixture.
Taste cream mixture, then add more horseradish to taste. Put the prepared cream into the fridge for at least an hour so that the flavours can mellow and spread.
This post is a gift for my brothers and sister, who just moved into a new house. Today is their housewarming party, and I’m all the way across the country. Since I can’t attend, guys, I’m offering you this housewarming gift. Without Mom in your kitchen, I figure you might be eating more chips and soda, starburst candies, and um… raw potatoes (do you still eat raw potatoes?) than before, at least for a little while.
Here’s a recipe that will give you a break from the junk food. Carlo and I make this all the time and we still can’t believe so few ingredients can taste so good. The secret is in the long simmer, where the tomatoes slowly absorb the butter and the flavour of the onions, cooking down into a thick and rich sauce that’s just perfect on pasta with a generous sprinkling of parmesan on top. It’s amazing that just three things can make a sauce that tastes so good and feels so warm and filling. But there you are.
This simplicity is a good thing to remember, I think. You’re all taking care of yourselves now, and that’s a lot. I still sometimes have these panics where I think “my goodness, for the rest of my life I’m going to have to do this myself.” And there’s no way to take a break from life, it’s just going to keep coming at you. That’s why it’s nice to know that it doesn’t always have to be hard to take care of yourself. Pop this in a pot, boil some pasta, and in 45 minutes, sit down together and eat. You can do it! Happy housewarming! I guess maybe I’m going to have to stop calling you “the kids.”
I’m sorry about the not-so-beautiful photo. Trust me, even though it’s not beautiful, it’s delicious.
We got this recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. We’ve adapted it so that its proportions match a large can of tomatoes (796 mL), but that’s about it. You can reduce the amount of butter in the sauce, which I always do. However, it always tastes best when Carlo makes it (he’s not careful with the butter).
TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONION AND BUTTER
1 can plum tomatoes (28 oz/796 mL, either diced or whole)
1/3 cup butter (you can be a little more generous or a little more sparing with this)
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. pasta (or whatever amount you happen to throw in the pot)
Parmesan cheese for serving
Put the tomatoes, the butter, the onions, and a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Stir it occasionally, and mash the tomatoes up with your spoon. Cook the sauce for about 45 minutes (it should be at a light simmer this whole time) or until you start to see the butter and tomatoes separating from each other. When it’s done, taste it and add more salt if you need to. Take the pan off the heat and remove the onions. Serve it over pasta, with parmesan cheese on top.
Quick! Before the frost hits, harvest all of the green tomatoes left on your plants. Make sure the tomatoes aren’t touching (to prevent rot) and keep them in a dark warm spot. I stowed mine in a clementine orange box. I shoved half an egg carton inside to keep the small rolly cherry tomatoes apart. I stuck the clementine box on top of the fridge (a warm spot) and put a cardboard box over top to keep the light out. Approximately three weeks later I have ripe tomatoes.
This is a Rick Bayless recipe from our dog eared copy of Mexican Everyday. The page in question is being held together by green painter’s tape, which is a good indication of how often Hanne and I have used the Chipotle Shrimp recipe. This dish comes together quick, making it a great weeknight meal. Bayless recommends fire-roasted tomatoes. Take his advice if you can track them down. Or better yet, roast your own!
Using two chipotles in this recipe makes for a strong steady burn. Three and you’ll be smacking your lips happily (I’m a sucker/masochist for spice) or manically searching for that ill-advised glass of water (doesn’t work. Soothe your sad gummy tongue on a gob of yogurt, wimp). Don’t even think about using one chipotle.
This dish is also a great reheater. Double up the recipe and you have leftovers for lunch. It’s not a fishy dish, so it won’t stink bomb your work’s microwave. Not that you should really care.
1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water
1 drained 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 canned chipotle chiles (or 3, tough guy)
1 tablespoon chipotle sauce (from the can)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Approx. 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Approx. 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 pound (or so) of shrimp, peeled and deveined (leave the tails on to make this a quick recipe)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro for garnish
Step 1) Get your rice steaming. Your sauce will be ready by the time it’s done.
2) Blend tomatoes, chipotle chiles and sauce until smooth.
3) Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook until golden.
4) Pour in tomato mixture. Be sure the pan isn’t too hot or your white shirt is screwed. Cook for 5 minutes.
5) Add broth, making sure to keep the sauce saucey, not soupy. Salt it.
6) Add the shrimp. When they pink and curl they’re done (about 4 minutes). If your sauce is too thick, add a bit more broth or water, if you used up the broth in step 4. If it gets soupy on you (not sure how, but this happened to me. The frozen shrimp probably released moisture), then remove the shrimp and cook the sauce down.
7) Serve garnished generously with cilantro. I recommend serving this dish on a bed of long grain white rice.
Rick Bayless, the lovable Yogi, is not Mexican. But he’s one of America’s top Mexican chefs and cookbook writers. We visited his restaurant in Chicago a couple years ago. It was really good, but honestly? We’ve gotten better results at home using his recipes. This is either a testament to Bayless as a great cookbook writer or having gone soft like a week old plantain on his kitchen staff. Probably an effective chef should let Yoga be.
Seriously though, if you love Mexican food and need quick recipes for weeknight meals, get this book. Equally seriously, skip the page picturing Bayless on his head, doing Yoga. And uh, don’t eat refried beans before your Yoga class.
We’ve been busy lately. I know, so have you. And it’s no excuse, as much as I’d like it to be. But there are some days (Monday in particular) when I’m pretty sure this all really is just too much. Those days, all I can do is bite my lip, close my eyes, and barrel my way through headfirst. Those are the days that usually end–shamefully– in a frozen pizza. Lately, though, we’ve been eating pierogies (perogies? pyrogies?) instead. They’re still frozen, but I feel slightly more virtuous after making this amazing browned onion sauce for them. We found the original recipe in the October Gourmet’s “Ten-Minute Mains” section. The following is our slightly adapted version. Gourmet’s recipe calls for boiling the pierogies before adding them to the sauce, but we’ve made the whole thing a one-pot meal by cooking the pierogies in the tomato sauce. The pierogies come out slightly chewier this way than when they’re boiled, which to me is a good thing. These pierogies also reheat perfectly, both in the microwave or panfried on the stovetop, so they’re a great lunch leftovers choice.
Pierogies in Browned Onion Tomato Sauce adapted from Gourmet Magazine
2 onions, quartered and sliced thin (the slicing be done in a food processor)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon caraway
1 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz.)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. dried dill weed
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. frozen pierogies, unthawed
Heat the oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Toss in the caraway seeds and the bay leaf and stir them in the oil for a few seconds. Add the onions to the hot oil and cook them at medium heat until they’re lightly caramel-coloured. This will take you about 15 minutes. Once the onions are caramlized, turn the heat up and cook them a bit more until they’re nice and dark.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, dill, some salt (about 3/4 tsp), and three or four twists of freshly-ground pepper. Bring this sauce to a nice fast boil, and keep it there for a few minutes. Then add the frozen pierogies, tossing them well to coat them with the sauce. Cover them up and cook for 7-10 minutes (or follow the package instructions on your pierogies for more accurate timing), stirring and tossing occasionally to ensure that they’re evenly coated with tomato and onion. When the pierogies are cooked through (they’ll be soft when you poke them with a fork) serve with a generous side of sour cream.