13 February 2015

Freezer and Pantry Valentine: Part 3. The Pudding

Make an impressive three course meal for two on Valentine's Day using ingredients you already have. For the pudding, make hot and gooey apple-chocolate bread pudding. (I told you it was impressive.)


Opposites attract, so avoid arguing over fruit or chocolate and have both.  After all, it IS Valentine's.

Apple-Chocolate Bread Pudding for Two


a hunk of stale bread (french stick is good but anything will do), cut into chunks 
1 apple, peeled and chopped (or maybe some frozen berries, or perhaps a handful of raisins or other dried fruit) 
1 egg (non negotiable, sorry vegans)
1/2 cup milk (or cream, or mmmmm maybe chocolate milk.....) 
3 tbsp sugar, I used white, but use what you have, or honey or maple syrup.....
knob of butter, cut into small pieces
a handful of chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate or, I don't know, mini marshmallows...)

MAKE AHEADYou probably don't want to be running around like a crazy person feeling harassed and frustrated on Valentine's Day.  So get this ready before you pop your main in the oven, you could assemble it hours ahead, more time for the egginess to soak into the breadiness. Pop it the oven as soon as the quail comes out and impress your love with a heartwarming dessert.
Chances are good you've got all the ingredients already.  The
uneaten end of a loaf of bread, that apple which inexplicably
no one is eating, chocolate chips lost way in the back of the
freezer... eggs, milk butter, sugar.  Okay, maybe you don't
have the exact items, but you've got something that will work.

Your oven will be nicely preheated to 350F from cooking your quail.

Butter two individual ramekins.

Stuff the ramekins full with bread mixed with the apple, and chocolate - save a wee bit of the chocolate to sprinkle on the top.  Really jam it those ramekins.

Whisk together your egg, milk and sugar.  Slowly pour the egg mixture over the bread giving it time to soak in, you may want to encourage this by pressing the bread down a bit.  

Top with a few teensy bits of butter and reserved chocolate.

Place the ramekins on a shallow pan and bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top is golden brown.  Let cool a few minutes before serving, to avoid comically blowing on each other through the first half of the dessert course.

~~~

'bou likes fruity desserts and I don't believe something counts as dessert unless it contains chocolate, whipped cream or meringue.  With this pudding, I look like I'm being considerate of caribougrrl while giving myself a little chocolate valentine.

caribougrrl is always complaining (under the guise of teasing) about the British obsession with making dessert out of stale bread, but I think she's starting to get used to them.  And for godsakes, I put an APPLE in it.  

But don't kid yourself, the next time she's away I'm going to make this with chocolate milk and mini marshmallows.  Just don't tell her...

12 February 2015

Freezer and Pantry Valentine: Part 2. The Main

Make an impressive three course meal for two for Valentine's Day using ingredients you already have.  For the main, make individual coq au vin.  (I told you it was impressive.)


Go ahead and be dramatic.  Serve tiny whole quail cooked in a rich red wine sauce.  The best part: surprisingly easy and mouthwateringly delicious. 


Quail au Vin for Two


2 quail
2 slices of bacon, chopped (or use pancetta or lardons or back fat)
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced (or a small onion, or part of a larger onion)
1 bay leaf
2 stems of thyme
a glass or so of red wine* 

*Preferably a burgundy or pinot noir or similar (we used Nova Scotia's Jost Vineyards Leon Millot), or use whatever you opened recently and did not finish... ha ha ha, right, okay, buy a red wine you don't mind losing a glass from but that you like enough to serve on Valentine's day.  

MAKE AHEADYou probably don't want to be running around like a crazy person feeling harassed and frustrated on Valentine's Day.  So in the morning, make this recipe up to the point of placing the vegetable mixture and browned quail in their pots.  When you are ready to cook, all you have to do is take them out of the fridge, top up with wine and stick them in the oven.  Less time in the kitchen is more time to spend with your sweetheart.

Make sure the quails are well-cleaned; it's not uncommon to find a pin feather or two that require plucking.  Scrub with coarse salt and wipe off with a damp paper towel, leaving some of the salt for seasoning.

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Put bacon in a cold skillet and heat over medium.  Render the fat and cook the bacon to golden brown but not crispy.  Remove bacon from pan and set aside.

Brown the quail in the bacon fat until golden on all sides.  Remove from  pan and set aside.
Put the mirepoix and bacon in the bottom of the dish, tuck the
whole quail in, top up with wine and it's ready to go.

Saute the carrot, celery, shallot and bay leaf in the remaining bacon fat (if there's not enough, add more from your jar of bacon fat... if for some insane reason you don't save bacon fat, use olive oil).  When the vegetables begin to soften, deglaze the pan with a splash of wine (use the more traditional brandy for deglazing, if you have some... we used ours up at New Year's and haven't replaced it yet).

Remove the bay leaf.  Mix the veg and bacon together and divide into two 1-cup lidded ovenproof pots or ramekins. Divide the thyme between dishes, using some under the quail and some on top.  Tuck a quail tightly into each pot and fill to almost full with red wine.  Cover with lids (or aluminium foil) and place on a baking tray in case of overflow.

Bake covered for 25 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for 15 minutes.  If they look dry (this is fairly unlikely, but check anyway), add a bit more wine.

Serve with a simple salad and some crusty bread.  Or just the salad.  Or whatever side you can make with what's on hand.


Quail au vin for a candlelit dinner... swoon....

~~~

Okay, okay.  You might not have quail lying around in your freezer.  Grouse or partridge will do if you have it (though you will only need one, quartered so it can be squished in the pot - so really, quail is best for visual impact).  Maybe you don't have neighbours who raise or hunt quail.  Maybe you missed the after Christmas sale of "fancy" poultry at your local grocer.  No worries.  You can buy 6 frozen quail** for $10-12, which sounds expensive but is 3 romantic dinners for two, or 6 self-validating and empowering meals for one.

**They need to thaw at least somewhat before separating, but since you will be thoroughly cooking quail eventually, go ahead and re-freeze the partially thawed quail.  Or, if you have your tea-smoker operating for cod, smoke the leftover quails before freezing (or refrigerating to use in the next few days).

This is not Julia's coq au vin, I know, but don't worry about it.  This is not about perfecting a classic french dish, it's about romance.  Don't underestimate the power of being a bit dramatic; serving a whole bird in a pot of rich wine sauce is pretty dramatic.  Also, most importantly, quail au vin is delicious.  Which is why you only make one per person; if you make more, you will eat too many and that will spoil your dessert.


8 February 2015

Freezer and Pantry Valentine: Part 1. The Appetizer

Make an impressive three course meal for two for Valentine's Day using ingredients you already have.  For the appetizer, smoke your own fish and make pickled berries.  (I told you it was impressive.)


Frozen fish, frozen berries and stale bread make a smoky and bright appetizer worthy serving to the love of your life.
Tea-smoked Cod Crostini

For the tea-smoked cod:

frozen cod*, thawed (as much or as little as you have**)

*Don't have cod?  Don't worry... use whatever other fish you have in the freezer. Allergic to fish? Tea-smoke a couple eggs (boiled for 6 minutes, peeled and cooled first), or pull something else out of the fridge or freezer.  You can tea-smoke just about anything, but consult the miracle of the internet for appropriate cooking times.

**As long as it fits on your smoking rack, see instructions below.  And bearing in mind this is for an appetizer for two, so you don't need very much... of course, any you don't use for Valentines day would be good on a sandwich or salad the next day.


Genmaicha tea comes with the rice already in it, but feel
free to substitute any leafy tea and raw or toasted rice.

4 tbsp genmaicha tea (or 2 tbsp loose leaf green tea + 2 tbsp uncooked rice)

1 tbsp demerara sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 star anise
1/2 tsp fennel
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1 twist of orange

For serving:

a couple slices of stale bread
butter***
quick-pickled red currants****

***Or olive oil or bacon grease or drippings...

****Any berry from your freezer will do, the tarter the better.


MAKE AHEAD: You probably don't want to be running around like a crazy person feeling harassed and frustrated on Valentine's Day.  So make the smoked cod and the quick-pickled currants the day before.  We did a one-quarter-ish recipe of the Pickle Girl's recipe (link above) for the currants... and used the excess brine and pickled some wild blackberries to eat with cheese.

You need a heavy dutch oven or casserole or other pot with a lid.  You also need a good bit of aluminium foil and a heatproof rack that fits inside your pot.  We used our cast iron dutch oven and an old metal trivet with a bent leg (caribougrrl finally wins the why-are-we-keeping-all-this-useless-stuff game!).

When you see wisps of smoke rising from the tea mixture,
it's time to put the fish on.

Line your pan with tin foil in two directions, leaving a lot of overhang on all sides (enough to wrap the lid in later). Mix the tea, sugars, and spices together.  Spread these across the bottom of your foil-lined pan, add the orange peel, and place the rack over top.  Heat the smoking ingredients over medium-high until wisps of smoke begin to rise.  Put the fish on the rack in a single layer, put the lid on the pot, and wrap the lid with the overhanging foil.
Seal up the pot with tin foil turning it into a stove top smoker.


Let the fish smoke***** for about 12 minutes per inch of thickness.  You can tell if it's cooked the same way you would if you were baking or grilling it: the fish will be firm and fat will be coagulated on the surface.  White fish is delicate so remove it from the pan to cool rather than allowing it to cool in the smokey pan.

*****Your house is going to smell a bit smoky, but fragrant smoke, like incense.  Go ahead and run your exhaust fan, but there's a lot less smoke than you think, especially if you've used enough foil.  If you're still worried about it, take the whole pot outside when you open it up.


To serve:

Cut your stale bread into serving sized pieces.  For bonus points, cut it into heart shapes.  Butter (or oil or grease) lightly and fry in a skillet to toast.

Top toasts with flakes of smoked fish and a few pickled berries.  The bright and salty berries are the perfect counterpoint to the rich, smokey fish.


The tea-smoked cod is done when it's firm and flaky, and the fat has coagulated on the surface.

~~~

So, you might glean from the all the notes, that the important thing is not following the instructions exactly so much as using what you already have on-hand and following the idea.  Save your money for one good ingredient for your main or for a really good bottle of wine or for flowers, or (let's be honest) for your heating bill.  The point is, you can probably make something fantastic with things you already have sitting in your freezer and your cupboards.

About the tea-smoking.  We bought Skye Gyngell's A Year in my Kitchen several years ago and have always been tempted by the tea-smoking technique but really intimidated by it too.  When I saw the step-by-step in Showfoodchef's post about tea-smoked salmon, it all suddenly made sense and seemed accessible enough to try.  As it turns out, not only is tea-smoking possible, but it's surprisingly easy and surprisingly tidy.  Give it a try, you'll be amazed by yourself.

Stay tuned for a miniature version of a classic main, perfect for candle lit dinner.


11 January 2015

The Moose Curry Experience Best of 2014

We like to think we learn a few new tricks every year.  We certainly make an effort to.


Thanks to a good friend sending us bitters (some homemade!), we are beginning to really understand cocktails.  The Old Fashioned, however, wins the year.  


The Best 2014 Food Discoveries chez The Moose Curry Experience


As chronic gifted under-achievers, we're nearly late in getting our "best of 2014" list together, but here it is.  Our favourite new finds, new techniques and new solutions from the last year, in no particular order.


The Old-Fashioned

Curious about a note on Facebook, I asked an old friend, “Tell me about the bitters?!” to which he replied, “Check your mailbox in a few days.”  Much to our excitement (and sudden anxiety), a package containing homemade rhubarb bitters, homemade celery bitters, and some small-batch artisan-y orange bitters arrived at the post office.  Determined to do these justice, we bought better liquor than we might otherwise and did a lot of experimentation.  It feels like we are beginning to understand cocktails.  Which is as good a gift as the bitters themselves.

The complete winner though, is the Old-Fashioned...  made sacrilegiously with good floral single-malt scotch.  It was a complete and utter delight to discover that whisky can be as good in a cocktail as it is on its own.  Maybe even better in a cocktail.  Fefe likes the Old Fashioned because it can come with a maraschino cherry.  I like it because it smells like storm petrels.


Pho

Good lord, you can make pho at home!

It's what's pho dinner.  It's what's pho lunch.  It's even what's pho breakfast.  I can't think of the last time we had any leftover roast (other than fennel-rubbed pork, see below) where the carcass wasn't used for pho broth... plus all the pho broth Fefe has made from meat bought specifically for that purpose.

We had to go to Corner Brook in the late winter, not a place we would normally be thrilled to drive to in late winter, but we were looking forward to it because a Vietnamese restaurant had opened there a few months earlier.  I was dreaming of pho as the date approached.  Unfortunately, as the date approached, the restaurant was temporarily closed down and it didn't reopen until we were safely back across the island.  So disappointing.  But I couldn't stop thinking about pho.  Finally, while I was fighting a really nasty summer flu and could only breathe with difficulty out of one nostril, Fefe Noir took pity on me.  All I wanted was a bowl of chicken noodle soup, but specifically chicken pho so I could taste it.  She scoured the miracle of the internet pho recipes and it turned out to be a lot less mysterious and difficult than we expected.  So much so, it's part of our phoking repertoire now.

Za’atar

I want to ask, “How is it we’ve never used za’atar before?”, but I know the answer.  It may have existed for centuries in the middle east, but it did not exist in Newfoundland in any easily obtainable way until 2014.  Even if we’d known what we were missing before now, we couldn't have made it ourselves since sumac is impossible to find here*.

We’re in love though.  Za’atar on pita, za’atar on yogurt, za’atar on cottage cheese, in soups, in salad dressing, on eggs, dips, cooked veg, raw veg, meats of all sorts… it’s endlessly charming.

*I have a sneaking suspicion that some smug Newfoundland resident is going to tell me about some really obvious place that’s always carried za’atar and sumac.  Bring it on.  I’d like another source because the last time I bought some it was marked down to half-price, often a sign that it will disappear from the shelves forever.  I’d rather spend money right here than give it to someone somewhere else to have it mailed to me.

Grates Cove Studio Cafe

If you drive northwest-ish (as best you can following the road) from our home for long enough, all the way to the end of the road, you will arrive at the end of the earth, in a town called Grates Cove.   A place where you might find a cow tethered in someone's front yard, where there are days you can count more humpbacked whales in the coastal waters than people you will lay your eyes on.  

But as you are coming into the town, this astounding thing happens: the Grates Cove Studios Cafe.  And this is not any old cafe, it's a cafe serving Louisiana classics like gumbo and etouffe. Literally at the end of the earth.  Did I say that already? Not just gumbo either, sushi, Korean bbq and stromboli.  In rural Newfoundland! By far our best restaurant discovery of the year.



BBQ Pizza

Shockingly easy, and it really works.  Pizza can be cooked, right from the raw dough stage, on your propane bbq.

Not pizza with bbq sauce, but pizza made right there on the bbq grill.  We know other people have been doing this for a long time.  I have a reasonably clear memory of reading about it more than a decade ago in a magazine… I have a less clear memory of which magazine (Food & Drink? Martha Stewart? Canadian Living?). 

At any rate, the new-to-us technique traveled to us with some of our summer guests… during their road trip they stayed with someone who made it for them, then they made it for us.  Then we made it pretty much every week until it got too cold outside for sane people to be standing out at the grill.  However, I’m reluctant to suggest we’ll never be out there in unseemly weather... if we get a repeat of #DarkNL this year, bbq pizza could make the outdoor winter cooking list**.

**Fefe is not convinced of our ability to get dough to rise if we can't heat the house.  I'm working on a plan that involves tea light candles and the tiny tent we gave the cats for Christmas...

6-Minute Egg

What can I say?  It's a bit embarrassing for food bloggers to admit they didn't even know how to a boil an egg until well past their early 30s (there has to be a joke in there somewhere), but the 6-minute egg was something of a revelation.  Still soft, but custard-sauce-thick rather than runny yet, hard enough to be peel-able.

Soft-ish boiled eggs were obviously sexy in 2014; poached-in-the-shell and 6-minute boiled eggs seemed to be everywhere.  Eventually, Fefe tried the technique to do eggs to go into a spinach pie... when they stayed custard-like even with a second cooking, we were hooked.  Now we look for excuses to top things with egg.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, plunge your eggs in, boil for 6 minutes, remove to cold running water until just cool enough to handle, peel and they are ready for use. 

Fennel with Pork

Fennel has always gone into our pork meatballs wrapped in lemon leaves, because that’s what the first recipe we used did and it was delicious.  Somehow, that failed to sink into our minds as an epic pairing until we were watching the Jamie Oliver cooks frugally series and he rubbed a pork roast with fennel.  Suddenly it was all dings and flashing lights and air horns in our minds: pork and fennel.  Of course!  Duh.  And holey shirts, what a lot of fennel we’ve been through since that moment.

As a matter of interest, you can make an outstanding bean soup with the bones and scraps of a fennel-crusted slow-cooked pork butt.

A Cast-Iron Griddle

The cast iron griddle pretty much lives on our stove nowadays.  

We can cook more than one tortilla at a time!  More than one pancake!  Enough peppers and garlic for a big pot of romesco sauce.  All the peppers and tomatillos for a batch of salsa.  Bacon and eggs AT THE SAME TIME.  Bacon and eggs and toutons, if you like.  Or just an army of toutons. Moose sausage for all our friends and relatives (if one of our friends or relatives would give us some moose sausage...).  

And, if you turn it over, there's a grill we haven't even started to use yet.


NOMA Cookbook

The NOMA cookbook entered our home in the summer of 2014.  It is a beautiful thing.  There's an almost perverse sincerity oozing from the pages.. the earnest dedication to a food politic/ ethic/ morality in the essays.  Seriously beautiful photographs.  Paper that you want to spend your afternoon stroking because of it's genuine paper-ness.   

I will spend the next few decades flipping through this book being inspired to think more and more about food origins and locality.  I will expand my foraging and gleaning habits and pay more attention to the wildness of wild food.


I will never cook from this book.  


The NOMA cookbook recipes are beyond my comprehension; it's like the experimental jazz of cookery.  It will prod and poke and challenge, but I will always be chasing the tune rather than catching it.  I love it.


Solving the Mystery of the Wooden Spoon Handles

Over the last couple of years, our wooden spoons have disappeared one by one.  The spoon part, anyway.  No matter how diligently we made sure they were far back on the counter, no matter how well rinsed we kept them, eventually every last wooden spoon was decapitated.  We had our suspicions but careful monitoring of the, um, culmination of the digestive process in all our pets left no clues.  

But no spoon-ends appeared either, no matter how many appliances were pulled from the wall and cleaned out from under.

Shortly before Christmas, during marshmallow-making season, the culprit was caught in the act.  We are still suspicious he had some feline help getting the spoon from the back of the counter to the edge.  We now have a better system for idle wooden spoons (mason jars are a bit like duct tape as a general problem solver...).


The wooden spoon thief in his natural habitat.

30 December 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Sangria is one of the most delicious drinks of the holiday season.  Use white wine for a crisp, new-years-y feel.  


White wine sangria makes a great signature drink for your holiday cocktail party: fresh, crisp, boozy, and you can make the mix the day ahead.  Added bonus: fights scurvy...

Make-Ahead White Sangria Mix for your Holiday Party

Take advantage of the peak of citrus season and use fresh-
squeezed ingredients.

Get the mix ready the day before or the morning of your party.  

1 meyer lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
2 clementines, sliced
4 oz brandy
juice of 1-1/2 meyer lemons, 1 lime, 3 clementines

Put the sliced fruit in a pint-sized mason jar.  Add the brandy then top with the citrus juices.  This should almost exactly fill the jar.  Make up one jar of mix for each bottle of wine you anticipate turning into sangria.

Take a moment to marvel at how beautiful those jars of citrus fruit look, then put them in the fridge until you are ready to use.  (If it's a cold enough winter, you might be able to store them in your shed or a closed in porch... if you aren't sure, don't take the chance.)
~~~
Each pint-sized mason jar of citrus-brandy mix will do one 750 mL bottle of wine.  Use the jar to measure your sparkling lemonade, mix it all together and illico presto, you have sangria.

White Wine Sangria Instructions


Make sangria in a pitcher or punch bowl (depending on the size of your party and your aesthetic sensibility) with ice.  Since it's all pre-measured, you can start with as much as you want and easily top it up as needed. For each jar of sangria mix add:

1 bottle of crisp and bright white wine (like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio)
2 cups* of decent sparkling lemonade**

*don't bother with a measuring cup, just fill your empty mix jar to the neck
**this saves you from having to make a syrup and figure out the right ratio of syrup to soda water, and still lets you avoid the HFCS pitfall of most soda pop 

...give it a stir and you're on! 
~~~

[Hi, Mom!  You can skip this paragraph, I won't be offended...]  A million years ago when we were undergrads living in a student apartment with a then-new-friend who is a now-old-friend, we had the occasional sangria party: everyone brought a bottle of cheap red wine and piece of fruit.  A big bucket was filled with the various wines of suspect origin, some cheap brandy or maybe whisky (or whatever was handy) was tipped in, grapefruit-ish Wink soda to dilute and sweeten, and masses of uncoordinated fruit were chopped and tossed in for good measure.  When the sangria ran out and the fruit mostly consumed, anyone left standing was likely to go out for breakfast.  This bucket-of-sangria fun, I must point out, was started by previous tenants of that apartment long before we moved in... a tradition that was inherited with the apartment.  A tradition that should undoubtedly stay with the apartment, because anyone over the age of 25 is probably not immortal enough for the consequences of such an event.

If I recall correctly, sangria parties were generally spring events, something to help shake off the long cold winter.  So for the longest time, I thought of sangria as a spring or summer drink.  Bubbles, fruit, ice... what's not summery about that? 

But, lo and behold, I was wrong.  

A few years ago, I was talking warm weather drinks with a Portuguese-immigrant friend who found it amusing that I associated sangria with summer because, so far as she is concerned, sangria is for Christmas.  What an epiphany!  Even without thinking too hard about it, I am happy to defer to the Portuguese on this.  

But think about it anyway: of course sangria is a Christmas drink.  Citrus is available year-round, but December is when it’s at its peak season.  It’s the time of year we buy crate after crate of clementines and the end of the season for boxes of mandarins wrapped in thick purple paper.  Meyer lemons and early blood oranges appear on the shelves, limes become so inexpensive you can buy them in dozens without having a panic attack at the till, and heavy boxes of grapefruit pre-ordered as fundraisers for school bands finally materialize.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year indeed.

So make sangria during the holiday season.  (In a pitcher or punch bowl.  No buckets.***)

***Unless, of course, you are a student... 

And a happy new year!

The advantage of fresh but pre-measured sangria mix could become abundantly clear as
the evening progresses...