southwestern white chili.

It’s been a while. I know. I got a new job and the transition ate me alive and I didn’t do much else but work and then sleep. But now, we are launched and alive and I can talk about FOOD again.

In case you don’t live in the North, it’s now winter in the world….at least, in Edmonton. It’s been -25 to -30 all week and thus, one-pot dinners with an emphasis on meat, meat, and meat, have been in order. This one comes from Men’s Health magazine (a surprising treasure trove of solidly delicious, hearty meals) and I only tweaked it slightly. More meat, different chiles and spicer all around. Also, served it with sourdough, not warm tortillas. I know! Rebellion!

Southwestern White Chili
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
1 medium white onion , chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bottle (331 mL) Mexican beer (I used Corona)
1 carrot , chopped
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies, or chipotles in adobo sauce (what I used…the only problem is that they are so spicy that you have to skim the top of the chili before eating, to get the hot red oil off and out of your mouth.)
1 can (15 oz) hominy, drained
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Lime wedges

Heat a 4-to 6-quart pot on high and add the oil. Add the pork in batches and let the pieces brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir another 30 seconds.

Add the beer. After the foam subsides, add the carrot, chilies, half of the hominy, two-thirds of the cilantro, the oregano, the salt, the red pepper flakes and 4 cups of water.

Bring the chili to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until the pork is fork-tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add more water if it looks too thick, and skim off any foam or any red oil from the chipotles, if you chose to use them. During the last half hour of cooking, mash the remaining hominy and stir it into the stew.

Adjust the seasoning and serve the chili with the remaining cilantro, red-pepper flakes, lime wedges, and warm sourdough bread (or tortillas).

The lime makes this a really tasty dish – it’s easy and pretty damn good.

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kale chips.

This is a quickie because it’s not really a recipe. It’s more like a directive to eat these. If you are lacking in vitamins, or fibre, or feeling like you don’t eat healthy enough – eat these! Kale chips are delicious and easy and cheap. And also high in vitamin K and A. Almost spells k-a-l-e.

My good friend gave me her tips on her kale chips which I have used and only made up my own temperature. And really, my friend didn’t give me a real time. So I have adjusted nothing, I suppose. Thanks Lauren.

I eat these every night when I get home from work/while watching TV. I feel zero guilt about it.

Kale Chips

1 head kale, washed and cut off the tough stems.
1 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh black pepper

Preheat your oven to 350-375 depending on the strength of your oven. These babies crisp up quick, so be aware. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Tear the trimmed kale into chip-size pieces. No pieces should be left behind though. Drizzle both sheets with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Put in oven, cook about 5 minutes but keep an eye. When the kale chips are crisp and just beginning to brown around the edges, remove and put into a bowl.

Devour.

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chocolate mayonnaise cake.

One of my oldest friends came into town this past weekend and I asked her what she would most like for a dessert (I find dessert is so varied from person to person). Her first choice was strawberry-rhubarb pie; the second was a chocolate cake. As I couldn’t locate any rhubarb at the grocer when I went to make my pie, the chocolate cake was called to bat.

I am not a very big chocolate cake person – it’s never been my favourite type of cake, or dessert for that matter. I found this recipe and thought that it sounded pretty tasty and also like a legit CHOCOLATE CAKE. Even if I didn’t like it, I was going to make the damn well best one I could.

The mayo sounded both weird and oddly…right. It made sense. I found that this recipe was super easy and really delivered. I recommend to keep it at room temperature – the moisture in the cake is amazing and it really keeps well. Also – the frosting is really solid. SOLID. With a big glass of milk, delicious. With a side of ice cream? Perfection. I might have been turned over to the dark side.

The only things that I changed were to up the chocolate in the actual cake by another ounce and to use 2 9-inch cake pans instead of 3 8-inch ones. Call me crazy but a double layered cake is enough for me.

As my friend said, “This is best chocolate cake I have ever had.” Praise enough.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Adapted loosely from Bon Appetit, April 2010

Cake:
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 c. boiling water
2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
1 c. (packed) dark brown sugar
1 1/3 c. mayonnaise (do not use reduced-fat or fat-free)
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Frosting:
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar (I recommend starting with 2 cups and then adding by taste from there. I don’t usually like the sweet frostings, but I found that 3 cups was a solid, real, chocolate-y frosting but to each their own.)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Special equipment: 2 9-inch cake pans

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 2 9-inch diametre cake pans. Combine chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in medium metal bowl. Add 1 3/4 cups boiling water and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into another medium bowl.Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and mayonnaise in large bowl until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with chocolate mixture in 3 additions, beating until blended after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Divide batter among prepared cake pans (about 2 1/3 cups for each).

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 32 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Carefully invert cakes onto racks and let cool completely.

For frosting:
Place chopped chocolate in medium metal bowl; set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Carefully remove bowl from over water; let melted chocolate cool until lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth and creamy. Sift powdered sugar over butter and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add melted chocolate and beat until well blended and smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over top of cake layer to edges. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting decoratively over top and sides of cake. I thought it would be too much frosting for a two layer cake. It isn’t. It’s a real chocolate cake.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature. If you don’t have a cake dome, you can also create an elaborate saran wrap and shish kebab skewer dome that works just swimmingly. If you refrigerate it (although you don’t have to) make sure you give yourself enough time to warm up because the buttercream frosting will get hard as a rock. Honestly, on my counter in the 32 degree heat, it was fine. No meltage.

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Food travels.

My mate and I recently returned from a summer vacation to the Oregon Coast. The Coast, aside from the beautiful views, is home to such great food it’s almost unbelievable sometimes. I often feel this way about places that are so naturally fertile that produce, animals, cheeses, wines all grow up big, strong, and tasty.

For the majority of the trip, we camped and tried out seafood as much as we could so that we could get our fill. In Portland and Seattle, we were much better equipped (with a hotel room and cabs and servers) to eat. Below is a list of finds and somewhat reviews.

Tillamook Cheese
I had heard about Tillamook via interweb and word of mouth so I was quite excited to visit the famous cheese factory there. It didn’t disappoint. I grew up in Ontario so I am used to the dairy farm thing, but I never tire of good cheese.

If you get a chance to go, it’s a free tour and it’s pretty cool to watch the machines (if you like big machines, like I do). Also, the sheer volume of cheeses passing through is extraordinary.

Try:
-Tillamook Smoked Pepper Cheese
-Tillamook Medium Cheddar (which recently won the best worldwide)
-Vintage White Extra Sharp

Also – we grabbed some steamed crabs and ate them in our campsite – but needed butter obviously. We bought some Tillamook Sweet Cream Unsalted Butter and I melted it over our camp stove. Not kidding – the best butter I have ever had. Sorry, Stirling Creamery. Especially if you can brown it – it’s almost like caramelized pecans.

http://www.tillamookcheese.com

Sea Dog Bakery in Waldport
We stopped in Waldport near the end of our trip, with the last of the campsites being just down the 101. Waldport itself is tiny and cute, but this place had a great breakfast menu and really fun old people customers. I had a croissant breakfast sandwich and it was really solid. I wish I had tried the French toast, which was made with “crumpet bread”, something that is baked in house by the owner’s wife.

Whiskey Creek BBQ
This place was a find. It’s located along the Three Capes Scenic Route, off the 101. We stopped on our way to Cape Lookout State Park. There was a sign on the side of the road for Hot, Fresh BBQ and I am a sucker for all of those things.

It was opened by a South Carolinian and featured a great waitress from Texas who seemed out of place on the Oregon coast. Everything was made in house and let me tell you – you can tell. 12 hour smoked brisket, pulled pork, chicken, ribs. We got the BBQ sampler to start and then we both ordered BBQ sandwiches. Mine was the Carolina, with coleslaw and pulled pork, with fries on the side. Mate ordered the chicken, with avocado. They were legitimate sandwiches, with the history behind it. We ordered way too much and ended up sleeping in a food induced coma in the too-small tent after, but it was worth it. Honestly, if you find yourself on that road, pull in and give it a go.

We stopped in a lot of towns, but to be honest, a lot of them have the same food. If you are looking for seafood, we have learned our lesson to simply go to a crab shack and buy fresh, steamed crabs and save ourselves a lot of money and gain in quality. We tried places like Mo’s in Newport, but it was just okay. A lot of the towns, like Seaside and Newport have such a carny feeling of fake boardwalks and fried food that it was hard to get a sense of the actual town. Tillamook was great, Waldport was sleepy but real.

Seattle
Seattle is a town where you can rarely go wrong. I will just list the restaurants that we hit up. We went on a Tom Douglas kick, so be aware.

-Lola’s – dry martini and the grilled octopus. The octopus was so good that I just about died. Really.
-Etta’s – 1lb of steamed mussels and fries, crab cakes. Delicious and worth it.
-The Confectionary – yum. These aren’t the BEST cheesecakes I have ever had (see previous cheesecake post) but they are one serving sized and really good nonetheless.
-Serious Pie – our go-to place that we have to visit in Seattle. Buffalo mozza and the fennel sausage. Damn. It’s even good cold, which we discovered after walking 1 mile from the car rental to the motel.

Portland
Portland. So many things to say. First of all, it’s like an American Montreal. In so many ways. Secondly, the FOOD.

We timed our trip with July 4th and the Beer Month of Oregon. Like dancers, we are.

-Le Pigeon
www.lepigeon.com
Lamb tongue with truffels, sweetbreads and spaghetti meatballs, trio of creme brulees. Pork belly, salmon with savoury crepe, foie gras ice cream profiteroles with foie gras powdered sugar and foie gras caramel. I don’t think I need to say anything more. Just go.

-Deschutes Brewery
Really great beer, burger, welcome to Portland situation. Loved it.

-Hotel DeLuxe
Had a great stay here, especially after 7 days of camping. Blerg. Really good little bar in the place called the Driftwood Lounge. Attempted to eat at their restaurant, Gracies but missed the closing hour by a few minutes.

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blue cheese butter.

I know, I know. I don’t have to even describe it. It’s right there. Blue. Cheese. Butter. Did I mention the roasted garlic? No? Well then. Let’s not stand on ceremony.

This is the BEST on top of a hot steak. Allow the butter to melt on said steak. Feel arteries clog. Love life. Also good as the butter in/on potatoes.

Blue Cheese Butter
Adapted from Bon Appetit, 2004

1 stick unsalted butter, softened (or you can increase this depending on how many people you are buttering)
1 hefty chunk of blue cheese, or gorgonzola – maybe about 2 ounces
2 heads of garlic
2 tsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the tops off the heads of garlic to just expose the cloves. On a piece of tinfoil, drizzle the heads with the olive oil and wrap them up. Bake for about 1-1.5 hours, until the garlic is very soft. Let them cool and then squeeze the soft cloves out from the paper into a bowl. Mash with a fork.

Add the softened butter, blue cheese and optional parsley. Mix thoroughly. Adjust the level of cheesiness according to your taste. I said “wedge” earlier because I love a really cheesy butter here, but its up to you.

Put the butter on plastic wrap and form into a log, refrigerate until firm. Cut into rounds on top of steak.

I keep this butter frozen in my freezer for periods on end. I just had some from 2 months ago, last night. Tasted delicious. Unsure about the food safety of that, so don’t trust my word on that.

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gai pad bai gaprow.

To start, I always call this dish by the wrong name. I can never remember it properly. Gad Bai Bad Gaprow. Gad Bad Bai Gaprow. To my credit, I usually get the last word right. Regardless, I know what it is and I know that it’s good. This dish is one that I feel that I have mastered, and I rarely feel that way about recipes because at any moment, they can pop up and bite you in your confident ass.

Gai Pad Bai Gaprow
Adapted from Gourmet 1996

I always serve this with coconut rice and recently toasted some coconut flakes to go on top. Needless to say, do that.

6 chicken thighs
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 small fresh red or green Thai (bird) chilies or jalapeno peppers, keeping one with seeds, minced (I always use jalapenos because I can never be certain which pepper is the Thai chile)
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. Asian fish sauce (preferably naam pla)
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh holy basil leaves or Asian basil leaves (from about 2 ounces sprigs), washed well and spun dry (I usually use sweet basil here, as the holy basil has been impossible to find)
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice or to taste

Freeze chicken, wrapped in plastic wrap, 30 minutes to facilitate slicing. Cut chicken lengthwise (along grain) into thin slices and cut slices lengthwise into thin strips. Cut strips crosswise into 2-inch pieces.

Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat until hot. Add oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and stir-fry until golden. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, until all chicken is opaque white, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add chilies, broth or water, fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, and black pepper and stir-fry until combined. Add basil and stir-fry 30 seconds. If using holy basil, stir-fry 1 minute more, or until basil is wilted but still green. Stir in lime juice.

Serve chicken with rice.

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peanut butter sesame noodles.

In Montreal, there is a place on St. Laurent that has some infamy. Mainly, this is because they offer food for $2. In university, this was key to life. We would walk for an hour, an hour and a half to get the $2 meal. Not only was it cheap but it was also delicious. Peanut butter chow mein (if you wanted a spring roll, it was an extra buck). I ate my fill of them, they were great after a bar night.

Sometimes I crave that peanut butter-noodle combination. It’s such a tasty dish, but I haven’t been able to recreate it very well. Probably because the original place used a disgusting sauce that was full of MSG, or other gross things. It was always in this gross plastic tub with this big ladle and it would have dried and gooey peanut butter stuck to the sides. That’s how you knew it was good.

I found this recipe on another blog that I love, Smitten Kitchen, and Deb from there originally got it from Gourmet. The noodles could easily be switched out for chow mein and you could be like the place on St. Laurent and omit all vegetation to be legit. Or, if you want to “fance it up”, follow this recipe. Either way, the main thing with it is the sauce. And this sauce is as close as I will ever come to recreating Montreal.

Peanut Butter Sesame Noodles
Adapted from Gourmet and Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 4 main courses, 6 sides.

1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/4 c. soy sauce (be careful here – I found it a bit salty, likely dependent on your peanut butter…taste!)
1/3 c. warm water
1 tbsp. chopped peeled fresh ginger (I upped it)
1 medium garlic clove, chopped (I used 2)
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. honey (I upped it because of the saltiness)
1 tsp. dried hot red pepper flakes (I used 2)

For noodles
3/4 lb dried soba noodles (I couldn’t get them at my grocer, so I used spaghetti today…linguini fini would also work in this, but soba is the best)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
Half a cucumber, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Puree dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, then transfer to a large bowl.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente or almost tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.
Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers and cucumber to dressing, tossing to combine. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

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