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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.
I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t even had time to get my usual winter blahs. Maybe they’re still coming, but I don’t know. I don’t know much of anything anymore, not having any time to stop and think.
But there. Complaining over. After all, I’m at home today on a beautiful sunny afternoon, trying to enjoy sitting around. One of the side effects I’ve noticed of being super-busy is monkey mind. It’s a Buddhist term that I learned from reading Nathalie Goldberg, who used it to talk about that restlessness of mind that makes it difficult to slow down, concentrate, and write. Well, in case you can’t tell by the previous awkward sentences, I am having difficulty with that writing part. But beyond that I’ve gotten so used to running around that I’m having a hard time staying put at home and just appreciating my leisure time. I keep looking around for something to clean, something to panic about, something to put on my to-do list. When I find something, I do it halfway and then get distracted by another thing that I really should be doing instead.
I thought I’d pin myself down at home for a while by focusing on monkey bread. This is a long overdue recipe preparation, as it’s from a blog I was paired with a long time ago for a taste & create event: The Vegetarian Hausfrau. She writes twice a week from Germany, and her site offers many wonderful, healthful recipes, so of course when I was browsing through it, I got fixated on something unhealthy. Monkey bread has sweet dough, slathered in butter and heavily layered with sugar and cinnamon. Just what I need to calm (or, um, sedate) my monkey mind.
This is a lovely old-fashioned recipe that’s easy to assemble. The only time-consuming part is the rolling of little dough balls, which must then be dunked in melted butter then coated in a sugar/cinnamon mixture. It’s like mini cinnamon rolls when it’s baked. And it’s so good that my monkey hands couldn’t resist pulling pieces out to put in my monkey mouth before I even finished photographing. Take that, monkey mind! Thanks to The Vegetarian Hausfrau for a great recipe!
Today’s recipe is a previously mentioned gift from Farhan at happygrub. When she sent me a package of amazing goodies from Singapore, she wasn’t allowed to send the tin of cardamom milk that she had planned to include. However, it made the 10 000 km journey anyway, straight from the note Farhan tucked into the package into my idea bank. As soon as I read about this milk, I was intrigued, so I asked for more details. Farhan told me “masala tea is made by boiling cardamom pods which are crushed with the tea and milk, then strained before serving. The cardamom milk is just a shortcut and can be poured straight into the mug from the fridge. It’s nice. You should make a large batch and store it, have it with Indian tea and condensed milk. That’s how tea/coffee is drunk all over Asia. No one drank fresh milk in coffee or tea till Starbucks came.” (Hope it’s okay that I’m quoting you, Farhan!)
Today was particularly gloomy in Edmonton, without even a hint of sun from morning till night. Just varying shades of grey. Not to mention the abbreviated day–sunrise at 8 AM, sunset at 4:30… and it’s only getting shorter. If ever there was a day that needed spicing up, it was today. So I decided to make a batch of cardamom milk. I added it to Indian tea (straight out of my Singapore package, and brewed strong), and it was lovely. I made a big batch, just like Farhan recommended, so I’d have more on hand. When I was recipe planning, I thought a bit of sugar added to the milk would be a good idea, to help with preservation (does that make sense at all? I don’t know, but it tastes good!) The milk added to tea gave a hint of the exotic without being over-the-top complex, like chai is. It’s a perfect antidote to winter cold.
I didn’t have a recipe for this, so I winged it. Feel free to experiment with your own proportions. And let me know if you come up with something divine!
3 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
10-15 green cardamom pods*, slightly crushed
Combine all ingredients in a saucapan, and warm over medium-low heat until milk seems like it’s going to start boiling any second. Remove from heat and allow the cardamom to steep in the milk for 20 minutes. Strain cardamom seeds and pods out of milk and store your finished product in the fridge.
To use this milk with tea, I brewed strong tea and filled my cup 3/4 with tea, topping up the rest with cardamom milk. Next time I’ll try some condensed milk, although I found this mixture to be plenty sweet for me.
*if you’re looking for cardamom, try finding it in an Indian market, or the “ethnic” aisle of the supermarket (in Edmonton, Superstore has it cheap). Cardamom is WAY cheaper there than in specialty markets. By cheaper, I mean $5 compared to $13, at least in Edmonton.
Carlo’s usually the video poster, but I thought this was a funny postscript to our cheese-making post. I found it while browsing around looking for cheddar recipes (so I can make cheese curds, so I can make poutine). This is definitely NOT how cheese is made. Carlo and I are big fans of these guys, Mitchell and Webb, star in a hilarious (vulgar) sitcom called Peep Show and this sketch comedy show (WARNING: some NSFW language).
After watching the above video this morning, I was browsing my feed reader and found this lemon and fresh cranberry scone recipe at Smitten Kitchen. That got me out of bed (yes, I browse in bed) and into the kitchen. I didn’t have a lemon in the fruit bowl (especially not my favourite meyer lemon, which Deb recommends–we obviously need to plan a trip to LA so we can raid my uncle and aunt’s tree), so I made lime-cranberry scones. I think the lack of lemon was a convenient circumstance, because I loved the slightly flowery lime aroma. The scones themselves were perfect, crisp at their edges and tender, almost meltingly so, at their heart. With or without cranberries (go with!), this is an excellent base recipe. Check out the above link to Smitten Kitchen to try it out yourself.
Last week I got a package in the mail. It travelled a long way to get to us, all the way from Singapore. My friend Farhan, from the blog Happygrub, found a few things a little while ago that she thought I might like, and thought she’d send them off to me. How sweet and generous is that? She sent Balinese vanilla, a bag of mixed spice (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise… amazing! I can’t wait to try it in a curry.), some pretty mini muffin cups (they’ve already made an appearance here), and tea.
One kind I haven’t tried yet– “Taj Mahal” tea (which I assume is Indian-style, and Farhan advised me to serve with milk). The other I have tried, and immediately started rationing. Two tea bags in and I’m worrying about when I’ll run out! This tea is “teh Prendjak,” an Indonesian tea. It has a mild rose-y flavour and a warm aroma, and what I love is that it has no bitterness to it at all, unlike regular black teas.
One thing that didn’t make it into the package (Farhan said the post office said it wasn’t allowed) was a tin of cardamom milk. But the cardamom milk is still a gift, because the idea is one I’ve never encountered before. Farhan tells me it’s possible to make at home and that the tinned stuff is just a shortcut. So I’m going to give it a try this week, combined with strong tea and condensed milk, which is how she drinks it. Seriously. This is why we write this blog. Without this venue, I might never have heard of cardamom milk, and I certainly never would have met my friend from Singapore. I love the package, don’t get me wrong, but the ideas are just as much a treasure. That’s what I love about happygrub. Almost every post, Farhan mentions something I’ve never heard of before. I’ve got a whole library of things to discover thanks to her: prata, sugee cake, rempeyek, etc. etc. etc….
Thanks so much, happygrub! I can’t wait to send you a housewarming gift in return!
I only come by here now to say hi, apologize, then post a Daring Bakers challenge. I hope this will change soon, as soon as we move into our new! apartment!, but for now, I’d like to say hi, sorry, and tell you that eclairs are delicious, fun, and (mostly) easy to make. And yes, this is a Daring Bakers challenge.
Eclairs are easy, if you follow instructions and proportions, and if you don’t get greedy. I offered to make these as a dessert for a dinner my in-laws were hosting. The recipe claims to make 20 eclairs, and I thought “pssh… who wants puny little 20-to-a-recipe pastries? I’m going to make REAL sized ones.” This was a mistake. My first batch of choux pastry went horribly, horribly wrong, coming out like lumpy oblong pancakes. I worried and complained and generally acted miserable. My mother-in-law and auntie-in-law tutted and pooh-poohed, and said, “don’t worry, you’ll cut them and put cream in them and top them and they’ll be gorgeous.” And I allowed myself to be soothed, but the psychological weight was too much. Inferior! Eclairs! To guests! I couldn’t take it, so I marched back to the kitchen and started my pastry from scratch, thus inconveniencing the other cooks and guests, and hogging the oven, which needed to be used for important things, like, you know, dinner. Some house guest I am. But the eclairs did turn out.
The pastry was tender, the pastry cream was sweet and smooth and cold, and the chocolate sauce on top was just the right balance of gooey and firm. So, yum!
I modified the recipe for chocolate pastry cream, eliminating chocolate and adding half a vanilla bean and some Jameson, trying to create an Irish cream flavour. The flavour was fantastic, but I’m not a big cornstarch fan, so I wouldn’t use this except as a filling, where it holds its shape beautifully. The chocolate sauce, while fiddly, is all stations go delicious, and I wish that I had some right now, so I could eat it on ice cream.
All in all, a great challenge, thanks to MeetaK and Tony Tahhan, both of whom you can visit to check out the recipe. Also, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll to see what those bloggers more dedicated than me have produced.
There’s been a theme to my last few posts. I’ll give you a second to go back and check, if you want. Booze, dessert, syrup, pasta. Yeah… we’ve been putting lemon in everything.
Well, if you’re looking for a change of pace, I’ve got none to offer. And I’m not apologizing, because I think this next recipe is another great use of lemon. Try it, you’ll like it.
First, an intro: this month I signed up for a great event called Taste & Create, at For the Love of Food. Participants get matched up with another blog, and you both go through each other’s archives and find a recipe to recreate. I love this idea and I can’t wait to do it again. You should do it too!
We were lucky to be paired with Andreea and Mark of Glorious Food and Wine. I loved paging through their posts (ahem.. and felt a little guilty about the blog’s wealth of recipes. Unfortunately for Andreea, she had a much smaller pool of recipes at SiS to choose from). I love the casual “toss some of this in, throw together some of that” feel of the blog, and the photos are great! There was so much to choose from, but I settled on some plain old potatoes. Well. Not so plain.
Rustic Anchovies Potatoes caught my eye. It’s got something I’ve never tried before (how have I gone this many years without anchovies?), and it’s got lemon. Two of my hangups in one recipe equals something I must try.
I wanted to make sure that I could taste the lemon, so I fiddled a bit. While Andreea and Mark’s guidelines call for a lemon roasted with the potatoes, I went one step further. After roasting the potatoes with a quartered lemon, I tossed the finished product in a little sauce made from a bit of lemon juice (maybe half a tablespoon) mixed with diced anchovies. It worked out great! The sour of the lemons and umami of the anchovies were a nice mix, and made ordinary roasted potatoes into something that tasted entirely new. Hooray!
Hey, Carlo here. And look! A new feature. Don’t go holding me to it just because I made a banner.
So Hanne keeps signing SiS up to blogging groups, which is great, but my non-participation makes me feel (and likely look) like the sort of curmudgeonly husband who sends his wife off to dinner parties alone because there’s a very important hockey game on and beer in the fridge. No, pointing out that the Oilers have no more important games left in them this season is not helpful.
Anyway. Here is our supper in stereo:
I pan fried “don’t call me deer if I’m dead” venison steaks smothered in half a log of Anthony Bourdain’s red wine compound butter (see Ruhlman). We always have a store of the butter in the freezer for last minute steaks. It’s like insta-marinade. I’ll post the recipe sometime.
The wine butter’s palate smack was nearly too much for the gamey/muddy taste of the deer steak (I guess that does sound weird). If it wasn’t for the roasted potato and anchovies turning the steak’s aftertaste on its head with its fishy citrus bite, I might not have enjoyed this meal as much as I did. Frankly, at first bite I didn’t like the potatoes much either, but they grew on me quick. I guess I wasn’t expecting such complex flavours out of meat and potatoes. We rounded out the plate with glazed carrots. Their sweetness helped level off the major umami busting off the other two thirds of the dish. Despite my initial skepticism, it turned out to be a great meal.
Oh yeah. The carrots were glazed with Meyer lemon honey. They were great, but I swear I now know there can be too much of a good thing. Okay Hanne? Next time life gives you more lemons than you know what to do with, use the freezer.
Anyway, thanks to the other blog for supplying us with the recipe. Oh and hey other blog, tell the other other blogs I’m not actually a big unsociable jerk, okay?
I have something to tell you. Up to now, this blog has been decidedly positive. We tell you how much we love a food item, give a little run-down on why we like it, maybe give a glowing description and a couple preparation suggestions. Then you get the recipe. This is good. And positive. Everything’s all right here at Supper in Stereo.
But here’s my confession– I’m not generally sunny. I’m a whiner, a complainer, a look-on-the-dark-side kind of person. I complain about my job, curse the cloudy weather, call my cat stupid.
Actually, I only did that last one once. And I felt really bad afterwards.
I’m working on it, I am. But sometimes Carlo’s and my self-imposed exercise of listing three good things that happened every day ends up sounding something like this: Today is over. I survived today. I can go to bed now. This, my friends, is not positive.
Sometimes when you’re busy feeling grey like this, food falls by the wayside. Oh, we still eat, of course. But cookies turn out tough and floury, soup tasteless, meat dry. And we dutifully shovel it in, to get enough energy to slog through another day. January and February are especially bad when you live in a wintry climate. We’re lucky to get one sunny day a week and the rest of the days are plodding and overcast. They’re not even grey, they’re just… nothing.
Have you had enough yet?
Then listen: every once in a while, even I have to poke my head up and say “wait, this is pretty good.” The other night, Carlo and I were contemplating a beautiful pan of chicken parts scattered with chunks of lemon and rosemary that we were about to roast (the recipe was yet another gift from my generous aunt and uncle, and I’ll pass it on to you soon). It was gorgeous, even uncooked, and we could tell just by looking that it was going to be delicious. Carlo said “man, we have it pretty good.” And I agreed.
I had another moment like this the other night, standing in the kitchen, sticking my tongue out while I took a paring knife to the skins of our last Meyer lemons. I was sticking my tongue out because I was concentrating on only getting skin and not pith, so that the mini batch of limoncello that I was preparing wouldn’t come out with any bitterness at all. To be honest, the task of carefully peeling thin-skinned lemons isn’t really all that fun. I was tense and my shoulders were aching. But at the other end of the counter, Carlo was preparing a batch of one of our favorite ice creams. He was talking himself through the steps, pretending to host a cooking show (sample instructions: “…then you take a thing… or a spoon… and you move the stuff in the bowl around with it.” Sample banter: “I’m okay! Do you like me? You’re okay!”). If I wasn’t concentrating so hard, I would have been giggling. Carlo finished preparing his ice cream, and I finished peeling my lemons (it took me 30 minutes for four lemons– that’s dedication). Then Carlo put his ice cream into the ice cream machine and I put my limoncello in the cupboard to steep.
It’s just a little jar, mind you. I only had four lemons left (and incidentally, the more-than-half-empty bottle of vodka on our bar had the exact right amount of alcohol left, which was a nice coincidence). When the limoncello’s finished, it will be enough for a few sips, not much else. But I still like knowing that it’s sitting in the cool darkness of our cupboard, getting more and more delicious, waiting for us. You can steep your limoncello anywhere from two weeks to four months. I’m leaving mine there for all of February. We’ll see how I feel come March.
I’ll let you know how the limoncello turned out in a couple months. And Carlo’s ice cream? It was perfect, perfect. Life is good and we are lucky. I just don’t feeling like talking about it.
BROWN SUGAR SOUR CREAM ICE CREAM
We follow the recipe for brown sugar sour cream ice cream from Mercedes at Desert Candy faithfully. The last few times, we’ve used panela instead of brown sugar, just because I found panela in the store and felt that it needed to come home with me. I highly recommend this variation, as the panela has a great intense smoky, molassesy flavour. However, you MUST try the original recipe as well. It’s great! I love the addition of bourbon to the mix, but you could easily leave it out and still have a great ice cream. Plus there’s no custard to fiddle with (Farhan, I’m thinking of you…).
If you want to make limoncello, here’s the recipe I used. I used vodka, as it’s what we had around, but if you can find a grain alcohol, that would probably be better. The linked recipe makes a huge amount, but I scaled it to the following proportions:
4 lemons, preferably unsprayed and unwaxed
350 mL vodka or grain alcohol
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/3 c. sugar
Wash and dry the lemons, then peel them. Place them in a mason jar with the alcohol. Make sure the lemon is fully covered. Put the mason jar in a cool, dark place, shaking it once a day. Leave this for at least two weeks, but I’ve read you can go up to four months.
When your lemon concoction has steeped to your satisfaction, it’s time to sweeten it. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When the mixture is room temperature, put a strainer over the saucepan that’s holding the sugar syrup and strain your steeped lemon mixture into the sugar syrup. Combine the liquids well, then place the mixture back into a mason jar. Put the mason jar back into your cupboard and repeat the first process, shaking twice every day for about three weeks.
Finally, after all that time, it’s ready to taste! The Washington Post recommends storing your limoncello in the freezer, where it will turn a milky yellow.
By the way, I juiced the lemons after I peeled them and boiled the juice with sugar in a 1:1 ratio to make lemon syrup. You could use this syrup to make lemonade, or you could pop in a vanilla bean and do a bit more fiddling to make something like this (which looks super-lovely).
So. We’re running out of post-every-day steam. Today, here’s a link to what Carlo made for dinner: Provencal-Style Lentils at Family Style Food. This is a simple lentil and spinach dish made with my favorite Du Puy lentils. It’s got a bit of tang thanks to vinegar and dijon, and it’s a great buddy for a bowl of warm rice. We’ve prepared this a few times and we always enjoy it. It’s easy but filling and warm enough that you feel like you’re really eating, not just putting food in your mouth. Head on over to Family Style Food and check it out!