Friday, July 31, 2009

conserverie 101

Jessica Dally, master canner/food preserver and founder of Seattle Free School, taught an AMAZING and memorable class (by donation) mostly dedicated to SAFETY. Loved it. She's a great instructor, and sure got her point across. (She teaches cheese-making classes also!)

Let's see...the biggest lesson here was how to not kill your loved ones. VERY IMPORTANT! This is not a time to be 'experimental' or an adventurous cook. You don't want to improvise, you don't want to KILL YOUR FAMILY. Here are the key points:
  • Follow a recipe that is backed by good science and rigorous testing. There are only 2 books that are approved and these are: So Easy to Preserve put out by the University of Georgia Extension Program, and Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, which can be found in most hardware stores.
It's also risky to rely on an index card Grandma used in 1954 or even a publication from the U.S. Department of Agriculture dated before 1994, says Luke LaBorde, associate professor of food science at Penn State University. Some techniques have changed, he says, to keep up with science.

The consequences for improper canning techniques can be serious, especially if consumers mishandle foods with low acid content, such as green beans and asparagus. Spores from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum may grow in such foods, creating toxins that can cause paralysis and death. In one recent case, reported in Spokane, Wash., a woman was put on a ventilator and two children were more mildly sickened after eating improperly canned green beans, Chapman says.
  • Follow recipes to a TEE!
  • Glass jars and the metal rims can be reused, but be sure that there are no cracks or imperfections. The lids CANNOT be reused, under any circumstance.
  • Cool old jars from the days of yore might seem like a cute idea, but oh so not.
  • What do you do if someone brings you a nice little gift of say...canned carrots, or canned tomatoes? Jessica's advice "throw it out." If you don't know whether or not your friend/family member followed the rules of canning, don't chance it. Don't ask make them feel bad by throwing it out in front of their faces, do it at your own discretion.
You can consult these helpful websites:

Monday, July 6, 2009

poutine à seattle

Being Canadian, I take my Poutine very seriously.

A lot of folks ruin it by either using the wrong cheese (non-curd), or making the wrong gravy. That's right folks, curds & gravy atop a bed of crispy French fries..*I heart u Poutine*

Poutine #1:
I was told that the Steelhead Diner (downtown Seattle) had a very good Poutine (amazing considering it's made in the US of A!) It was absolutely SCRUMDILI-ICIOUS! I give this Poutine 4 out of 5 stars!
  • Beecher's curds
  • Crispy fries (none of that hand-cut bullshit)
  • Rich gravy (it was vegetarian believe it or not, but tasted so rich and meat-like)

--> -->
[poo-TEN] The ultimate in French-Canadian junk food, poutine is a mélange of warm french fries, topped with fresh cheese curds, then smothered with gravy. The subject of the gravy is widely debated-some say it should be beef, others declare chicken gravy is the only way to go, and still others proclaim a spicy barbecue sauce is the answer. This Québécois favorite is consumed while hot with a fork.
The dish originated in rural Quebec, Canada, in the late 1950s.

Classic Poutine

The French fries are of medium thickness, and fried so that the insides are still soft, with an outer crust. The gravy is a light chicken, veal or turkey gravy, mildly spiced with a hint of pepper. Heavy beef or pork-based brown gravies are typically not used. Fresh cheese curd (not more than a day old) is used. To prepare, first place the hot fries into a bowl or large plate, then spread the cheese curd on top. The cheese curd should be at room temperature. Then pour piping hot gravy over the cheese curds and fries.

The wine for the evening:
A to Z Rose (from Oregon) one of my favorite Rosés

Characteristics: Made entirely of Sangiovese grapes, this Rosé has inviting nose full of fresh pure strawberries, raspberries, cherries, wildflowers with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg.

The only domestic wine to be selected in Wine Spectator's (May, '06) favorite Rosés.

Poutine #2:
Gainsbourg Lounge in Greenwood; you know, for a restaurant which boasts 'French', I certainly am rarely pleased. The only thing that comes close is the rude non-existent service I usually get. The decor is fun, the atmosphere is right up my alley, but if you don't have the goods, I won't be excited about going back. The poutine was mediocre at best. The gravy was lumpy, starchy, and cold and not homemade (if it was, oh my...) the cheese was a grated gruyere. I'm all about gruyere in French food, on Croque-Monsieurs/Madames - their Croque-Monsieur looked horrible - in salads, baked on just about anything, it's delicious! Grated cheese on 'poutine' is not 'poutine'. I won't be eating this at Gainsbourg again, I don't think I will be eating there again, unless I'm really drunk and have nowhere else to go on my stumble home. In that case, I will be ordering anything BUT the poutine. The frites are actually quite good. I give this poutine 1.5 stars out of 5.

Steelhead Diner
95 Pine St
Seattle, WA 98101-1530
(206) 625-0129

8550 Greenwood Ave N (between 85th St & 87th St)
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 781-2224

chaque sorbet de l'arc en ciel

Yum, Yum, and Yum!

I've been on a sorbet kick lately, being summer and all. Let's see if I can remember the order of things thus far....

  • Mojito Sorbet (just like the drink, only frozen)
  • Mango/Nectarine/Lemon/Mint Sorbet
  • Blueberry/Honey Mango/Lemon Sorbet

The first thing I did for the the blueberry sorbet was cook the blueberries and 1/2 cup of sugar for 20 minutes. Once cooked and cooled, I strained the blueberries through a fine colander. I chopped 4 honey mangoes, threw them in a food processor with the blueberry mixture, zested a lemon and added some of its juice, and threw in a little white wine. I then liquefied all the ingredients in the processor and put them in the sorbet maker. 25 minutes later, deliciousness. It was the perfect sweetness, had a very subtle tartness, it almost tasted like a fruit tea.

This sorbet came after:

  • fried breaded oysters
  • prawn quesadillas
  • homemade guacamole (best ever)
fact or fiction: oysters are an aphrodisiac

I purchased the oysters and prawns at Wild Salmon Seafood Market at the Fisherman's Terminal in Ballard in Seattle. Great place! The prawns were minutes off the boat, doesn't get any fresher than that!

Wine of the evening:

Wolftrap Boekenhoutskloof Rose (delicious)
The high percentage of syrah in the blend leads to the spicy aromatic nose of wine, the cinsault offers juicy fruit and the mourvedre adds structure and weight.
Tasting Notes : A bright brick pink colour with strawberry fruit on the nose and a touch of spice. The palate has the same fruit with a hint of redcurrant, and nice weight to carry it through to the good long finish.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

je suis cochonne

I went to Guemes Island for the weekend with family. The weather was extraordinary and the time spent was relaxing and most enjoyable. I have recently acquired a shellfish license and since then have consumed more oysters than most do over a lifetime.

A few weeks ago I was at one of our favorite sushi restaurants in Seattle, Chiso, (Maneki is my all-time favorite) and I was lucky enough to find an oyster special on the menu. The "special oysters" were Shigoku oysters on the half shell, served with a nice little sauce. The chef went on and on about where they buy their oysters, Taylor Shell Fish Farms. I realized on Guemes that I was a short drive away from Taylor and so I ventured off and bought some Kumamotos, Shigokus , as well as Olympias and Virginicas. YUM. I shucked my little heart out (64 oysters! - not my heart.) I made a mignonette made up of rice vinegar, shallots, ginger, tobasco, and salt and pepper.....delish!!

The Olympias are as big as a dime, probably wouldn't buy those again. The Kumamotos and Shigokus were so delicate and smooth, with a hint of sweetness. The Virginicas, can't say that I remember what those were like, I was in an oyster coma.

I  probably won't order 5 dozen again (oh yes I will), but I'll have to save for our next oyster extravaganza.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

une nouvelle rotation sur le blog

Seeing as my favorite restaurant has always been MY HOUSE, I will begin reporting on the fabulousness which arises.

This will mostly me be bragging of my culinary talents.

What better way to start than CAROLINA BBQ! This is an acquired taste really, but so good!!! Pork stews/roasts/bbq's in vinegary juices 8-12 hours, then chopped to smithereens. Another spicy/vinegary concoction is whipped up for the final christening. YUM. Spread the pork in a bun and pour on the sauce.

This was accompanied by another vinegary dish. I really wanted a coleslaw, but not a disgusting mayonnaisy mess. I found a jicama slaw with a tangy/spicy dressing. Vinegar overload, there's nothing wrong with that. Wish I'd had a nice light beer to wash it down.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I made a Cassoulet last Friday night.....meaty goodness!!! This recipe was very easy to follow and had an amazing outcome, here's how it goes..

Cassoulet in 10 Easy Steps - NOT WEIGHT WATCHERS APPROVED!

When Anthony Bourdain cooks with Michael Ruhlman on the Cleveland episode of "No Reservations," he layers meat and beans together in a giant drum, tops the whole thing off with breadcrumbs and produces a dish most of us aren't used to seeing on Food TV (and I say that as someone who now works for Food TV): a classic French cassoulet that'd put Julia Child to shame.

Cassoulet is a dish that just makes sense. Why does it make sense? You take fatty, flavorful meat, put it in a big pot with moisture-hungry beans and bake the whole thing until the beans are infused with all that fat and flavor and the meat is cooked. It's not meant to be a fancy dish--this is the kind of food French people make at home--and it's infinitely variable, as evidenced by the infinite cassoulet recipes you will find in my infinite cookbook collection, recipes that vary the type of meat, the type of bean, even the amount of time it takes to make the dish (Bourdain's recipe, in his "Les Halles Cookbook," calls for three days). I didn't have three days to spare on Friday night when I set out to make my very first cassoulet. So I turned to an under-praised, underused book in my collection: Daniel Boulud's "Daniel's Dish: Entertaining at Home with a Four-Star Chef".

It's a great recipe for its simplicity (it's called "Casual Cassoulet") and yet the recipe has a serious flaw: it's meant to be cooked in a 15-Qt Dutch Oven. I completely missed that part when I shopped for my ingredients, so I prepped enough food for a pot 3X bigger than the one I had. Therefore, the recipe that follows is my adaptation of Daniel's recipe for Dutch Ovens of a more realistic size. Daniel's recipe calls for lamb shoulder, but I left that out too: sausage + duck + bacon = plenty of meat for one dish, thank you very much.

Since winter's almost over, this is the perfect dish to make on one of our last cold winter's nights. I promise it's easy and I promise the pay-off is big. And so, without further ado, Cassoulet in 10 Easy Steps.
1. Soak two pounds of Cannelini beans in water overnight OR, if you're like me and you want to make this instantaneously, use the "quick-soak" method featured in the Gourmet cookbook. Put all the beans in a pot, cover by two inches of cold water, bring to a boil, boil for two minutes, put the lid on, turn the heat off and leave for an hour. You're done!

That's what I call a quick soak. [Note: I'd definitely use dried beans for this, since they're such a major part of the dish. Canned beans seem much more likely to disintegrate.]
2. Cut an onion into 1/2-inch cubes, 2 carrots into 1/2-inch cubes, 2 stalks celery into half inch cubes, and slice all the cloves from one whole head of garlic (that's what it calls for in the big recipe, but too much garlic can't kill a cassoulet, can it?) Tie together 1 bay leaf, 4 spigs parsley, 3 sprigs time:

3. Salt and pepper 3 duck legs (I was serving 3 people, so I did ONE duck leg and ONE sausage per person--vary accordingly) and 3 sweet Italian sausages and dice 1/2 pound of bacon into cubes:

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and in the Dutch oven, melt 2 Tbs butter along with 2 Tbs olive oil over medium heat.
5. Now here's where I disagree with Daniel (who are you gonna trust: me or a 4-star chef?) He has you throw all that meat in the pot all at once until it all gets brown. Maybe he suggests that because he assumes you have a 15-Qt. Dutch Oven, but you don't have that, do you? Of course not. So I added all the meat at once and gallons of fat came out and the meat took forever to get brown, basically steaming in all that fat. If I had to do it again, I'd brown the duck legs really well first, take them out, brown the sausages really well, take them out, and add the bacon till it renders a bit, then throw all the meat back in. In any case: brown your meat!
[There was so much fat, I ladled a few ladlefuls out. No one missed it.]
6. Add your vegetables and herbs and stir and cook for 10 minutes.

7. Add 2 Tbs tomato paste, stir around, then add 1/2 pound peeled tomatoes (I used ones from a can) that you dice into 1/2-inch cubes, and the beans (just keep adding beans until it looks pretty full--you'll want a lot of beans) and then add water until the beans are covered and bring to a boil:

8. Cover the pot and bake in the oven until the beans are tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. After 45 minutes check to see if it needs more water, and if so add some. When it's done, take out of the oven and season with salt, paprika and cayenne pepper to taste. Just stir it all around and taste it: you'll love it.

9. Now's the fun part: the breadcrumb topping. Reduce the oven to 350 and take 2 cups of fresh bread crumbs, mix together with 3 Tbs coarsely chopped parsley, 6 cloves of finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper and layer on the top of the cassoulet. Now Daniel has you do this in two stages: you put half the breadcrumbs on, drizzle on 3 Tbs melted butter, put in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, remove from the oven, press it into the liquid to moisten and then cover with the rest of the breadcrumbs, drizzle on another 3 Tbs butter, and put under the broiler until golden brown (5 to 7 minutes). I think the reason he suggests this is because if you don't do it this way, lots of the breadcrumbs sink into the moisture and you get a big gunky mess. But I had impatient eaters waiting on the couch:

So I just did it all at once. All the breadcrumbs went on and I drizzled on 6 Tbs of butter:

Into the oven it went, and out it came (about 10 minutes later) thusly:

Not bad, eh?
10. Serve!

Everyone gets a duck leg, everyone gets a sausage, everyone gets a big bowl of bacon-infused beans. Served with a strong French wine, could a winter meal get any better? It really can't.
Plus, the next day, the leftovers taste even better and go great with a salad:

This is the kind of food that sounds scary because of its big scary name (Craig quite cutely calls it "Cassie O'lay") but which is indeed, quite easy, once you understand the concept. So here's the concept: meat infused beans. Now was that hard? It's not! Give cassoulet a try and do it soon, before it gets too warm to consume all that fat, meat and beany beany goodness.

You may want your own bedroom afterwards, however.

I'm just saying.