Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The end of made to order meals at restaurants

I've found this very interesting piece called "Haute cuisine? More like boil in the bag" from the Daily Telegraph about the end of made to order meals in restaurants. Their focus is mostly on France but I bet it applies to a majority of countries. According to the author, it is now commonplace to be served reheated ready-made food straight from vacuum sealed bags at many restaurants in Europe.

According to an investigation by the newspaper France Soir, the days when a Gallic chef could boast of 86 different ways to make an omelette are fast disappearing.

Instead they are turning to frozen vegetables, ready-made dishes and sauces delivered in cartons - some of them supplied discreetly by an arm of a British "pub grub" caterer.

Restaurants may give the impression that their leg of lamb is fait maison (made by the house) when in fact all the chef has done is remove it from a bag and heat it up, said France Soir.

Many younger chefs, it claims, would now struggle to produce standard fare such as a sauce Béarnaise or even straight-forward vol-au-vents.

To add to the dismay of food purists, more than a dozen traditional techniques - including how to truss a chicken, open oysters and prepare artichoke hearts have been dropped from the national cookery qualification, the Certificat d'Aptitude
Professionnel. Instead trainees are tested on their use and handling of processed, frozen, powdered or pre-prepared foods.

To be honest, I don't know what to think about this industrialization of the restaurant business. This is not an entirely new phenomenon: fast-food chains have done exactly the same thing for the last 50 years and most restaurants keep ready made sauces at hand in the freezer or even more simply in a bain-marie. I think most of the outcry comes from food enthusiasts who are able to detect the smell of the industrial kitchen on their plates and from those advocating for a less industrialized (and homogenized) approach to food. In that sense, I certainly see a problem with these trends especially since low prices for acceptable but homogenised industrial food might put out of business the true and sincere artisans whose product, I believe, would almost always be of greater quality and contributing to culinary diversity.

On the other hand however, we should not forget that these techniques allow a certain democratization of the dining experience. Not all of us have the money to eat out in good restaurants who themselves are able to hire experienced cooks. I live in a city where good restaurants are scarce and expensive and I would certainly appreciate the possibility to indulge in standardized but good food at a reasonable price once in a while. As for now, however, it seems the ready-made meals are only served in awful chain restaurants in my area...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Enfin le nom du légume mystérieux

J'ai enfin trouvé le nom du légume mystérieux dont j'ai parlé sur ce blog il y a quelques jours. En chinois on dit 'jiao bai' (茭白筍) et le nom latin est Zizania latifolia. Certaines personnes l'appelle riz sauvage de Mandchourie ou bambou aquatique mais il ne s'agit pas à proprement parlé de bambou. Pour ceux et celles qui lisent le chinois, voici un lien intéressant avec quelques images. (link)

Il s'agit, comme vous le voyez bien, d'une plante apparentée à nos propres variétés de zizania qui envahisse souvent nos cours d'eau, surtout en bordure d'autoroute.

Merci à ma conjointe (YanYan ou FuFu dépendamment de son humeur du jour) pour son aide!

Et je le répète, si vous trouvez cette plante dans une épicerie chinoise près de chez vous, essayez-là et donnez moi en des nouvelles!

Friday, November 25, 2005

A la table des grands chefs Européens

(Another post exclusively in French: I am reviewing a French language cookbook)

Il y a déjà quelques semaines, je me suis procuré ce très beau livre de cuisine présentant les créations d'un grand nombre de grands chefs d'Europe. Avec au delà de 800 pages, toutes superbement illustrées, ce livre est très bon marché puisque je l'ai payé à peu près 60$ canadiens.

J'achète et consulte rarement des livres de cuisine pour y suivre les recettes. Règle générale, je les lis lorsque je suis en recherche d'inspiration. J'y découvre des techniques nouvelles, des trucs intéressants et des agencements de saveurs intrigants. En ce sens, ce livre fait décidément un bon boulot. On y trouve quelques photographies illustrant les techniques de préparations ainsi qu'une photo du plat terminé quasiment pornographique tant elle met l'eau à la bouche. Pour ceux et celles qui désirent suivre les recettes, elles sont très bien décrites, parfois avec une touche historique ou même biographique.

Le mélange de recettes traditionnelles modernisées et de recettes plus contemporaines, tout comme le mélange de saveurs régionales, plaira à ceux ayant l'esprit éclectique. En fait, il n'y manque qu'un peu plus de détails sur les chefs ayant participé à ce volumineux ouvrage et peut-être aussi une petite touche d'humour pour adoucir l'aspect pompeux de la haute cuisine pour me plaire à 100%. Je crois que l'important à retenir ici c'est qu'il s'agit d'un très bel ouvrage à un prix exceptionnel!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A roasted industrial chicken that left me slightly bitter

Although I love to eat chicken, I don’t cook this bird very often. My partner, who was used to free range chicken before moving to Canada, simply hates North American chicken. I can’t blame her; most of our chickens are raised in factory farms and fed stuff you won’t even believe could be legal. There are tons of activists groups and organizations condemning these practices, mostly basing their argument on concerns about cruelty against animals, (link, link, link, link) but few mention how bad the resulting meat is. In fact, many of these groups advocate a vegan diet so I doubt they have any concern about the taste of meat. At the end however, at least in this country, we have little choice but to buy junk. My partner is working part-time and I am still unemployed at this moment so we have little money to indulge in organic, free range or simply tasty chicken.

Hence yesterday we bought a factory farmed chicken. I actually insisted because I love eating birds (duck, quail, Cornish hen…) and because cheap poultry is usually the only thing we can afford. I made myself believe that I could make something good out of this fowl using some flavouring ingredients such as thyme, bacon and garlic. Today I proceeded with my plan and cooked the bird. I placed garlic slices and thyme under the skin, added bacon strips on top of the bird and roasted it as instructed in most decent cookbooks: breast side down for the first 30 minutes and then breast side up until cooked.

At diner, I served it with roasted root vegetables (carrot, rutabaga, celeriac and potatoes) and a sauce made with the jus from the roasting pan. What a nice combination! Well, to be honnest it was only ok. The taste of the chicken was very mild… not to say bland. The thyme flavour was overwhelming and gave the meat a slight but weird bitter aftertaste; something like the taste you get from drinking cheap beer. I have to say that it was more than just a little bit disappointing. I am not sure where I failed, maybe it was the ingredients and their dosage, maybe it was the chicken itself. Street corner rotisseries are often able to offer a much tastier chicken using what I believe to be the same factory farmed chicken. However, their chicken does not always taste like, er… chicken.

I might be fast to blame the chicken industry for the bland taste of today’s poultry; after all, there is a huge demand for flavourless skinless and boneless chicken breast. I’m not the greatest cook either and I am sure there is way to deal with this kind of bland meat: if Chinese cooks can make such amazing dishes out of tofu and rice there must be a way to make something tasty with industrial chicken. The problem is that I still don’t know how.

Tenting meat

We all know that it is best to let your meat rest for a few minutes after cooking so that you won't loose all its delicious juices. Most people I know simply tent their piece of meat with aluminium paper. I am using one of my large mixing bowls to do the same. Less garbage and much easier!

Eating Ottawa

Just a word to tell you that I started working on a new blog dedicated to the relatively poor restaurant scene in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Although it is definitely not the best city to eat out (try Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto instead) it is the city I live in and I am sure I'll be able to find a couple of jewels.


Juste un petit mot pour vous dire que j'ai commencé à travailler sur un nouveau blog dédié au monde de la restauration d'Ottawa, la capitale canadienne. Ottawa n'est certainement la ville la plus intéressante pour sortir ou resto (pour cela Montréal, Vancouver et Toronto sont bien plus intéressante) mais c'est la ville où j'habite et j'ai confiance de pouvoir y trouver quelques perles rares.

Quel est ce légume? - What is that vegetable?

(This post is written in French but if you have any information or question about this vegetable, I would be glad to hear about it in either French or English)

Voici un de mes légumes chinois préféré. Je ne sais pas comment ça pousse ni comment ça s'appelle. À la maison on l'appelle 'magic plant' (plante magique) car il ressemble un peu à la quenouille qui est vraiment une plante magique car on peut manger à peu près n'importe quelle partie de cette plante: rhizome, jeune tige et jeune épi. Enfin, je sais que ce n'est pas très clair tout ça; disons simplement qu'en discutant avec ma copine nous en étions venu à la conclusion que les deux plantes se ressemblaient mais nous ne connaissions ni l'un ni l'autre le nom de chacune des plantes en anglais et les avons surnommées toutes les deux 'magic plant'. À ce que j'en sache toutefois, il ne s'agit pas de quenouille mais d'une autre plante... enfin, c'est difficile de vérifier car je ne connais pas du tout le nom de cette plante.

Lors de mon séjour en Chine en 2004, ma belle soeur a réussi à savoir que j'adorais ce légume et m'en a préparé tous les jours pendant une semaine. Et vous savez quoi? je ne m'en suis même pas fatigué! Il faut dire qu'ici on n'en trouve pas souvent sur les étals des épiceries chinoises et que lorsqu'on trouve, ma copine et moi s'en régalons! Je crois qu'il s'agit d'un produit très saisonier.

Pour déguster ce légume, il faut enlever les feuilles vertes coriaces et trancher la partie blanche dans le sens contraire des fibres (comme pour le poireau ou le céleri). Ma copine, ainsi que ma belle soeur, les font généralement sauter à feu très vif au wok avec des piments forts, de l'ail et parfois du gingembre et un trait de sauce soya. C'est tout simple et délicieux!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Watercress and gravlax pasta

This is what I've done with some of the gravlax I've made: an easy pasta dish. We are at the point in the week where we have to clean the fridge from the little leftovers we have before doing some grocery shopping again. We had:

- Celery
- Gravlax
- Water cress
- Manchego cheese
- and a few other ingredients in our pantry: garlic, olive oil, pasta...

And since we didn't have much time (badminton night!) we decided to make some pasta with these ingredients. The result was alright... nothing great to be honest but more then edible. This kind of pasta dishes are becoming a weekly occurrence, we might have to rethink our kitchen cleaning practices.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Old recipe books - Vieux livres de cuisine

I just found these two web sites containing a wealth of very old cookbooks.

Want to know what your ancestors were cooking? How they were cooking it? Have a look at these websites:



If you know of any other cookbook database, please let me know!


Je viens de trouver deux librairies virtuelles contenant chacune plusieurs livres de cuisine.

Vous voulez savoir ce que vos ancetres mangeaient? Comment ils le cuisinaient? Allez voir ces sites web:



Si vous connaissez d'autres librairies virtuelles de ce genre, laissez-moi le savoir!

Gravlax (take 2)

I made an extremely salty gravlax a few weeks ago and was not too pleased with it. But I am not the kind of cook who gets discouraged easily as I actually enjoy a good challenge (at least in the kitchen). This time however, I decided to follow a recipe instead of relying solely on my limited knowledge and instinct. Since a gravlax recipe was presented a week or two ago at one of Canada’s best cooking show (A la di Stasio) I decided to experiment with their formula.

The ingredients are as follow:

7 x sugar
5 x coarse salt
3 x ground white pepper
4 x smoked tea leaves

I liked the idea of having a strong pepper flavour so I used a mixture of green, white, black and pink peppercorns instead of white pepper but decided to forego the tea leaves which I believe would only alter the flavour, not the final texture or the curing process itself.

I then placed a part of this mixture in a pan;

Placed three small salmon filet on top;

Covered them with the rest of the mixture;

And placed a cutting board and four large cans on top to create a press.

This time, I placed the fish in its homemade press in the refrigerator for 5 days, turning the filets a couple of time during the process. There was a problem however: I didn’t read the recipe carefully… it clearly stated to use only ¼ cup of the dry mixture per pound of salmon filet and I probably used more than a cup for each of my small filet.

The filets turned out to be very dry and were a bit too sweet for my taste. The saltiness is surprisingly at a more appropriate level than the last time but it is still a bit too high. The fish is also very peppery; it is almost too strong to eat it as is but I am guessing that it would be much nicer when paired with other ingredients (pasta, cheese, bread…).

Next time, I will:

- Use a 50% - 50% ratio for salt and sugar.
- Reduce the amount of sugar and salt used to at least ½ cup per pound of fish filet.
- Use less weight on my press to avoid loosing too much water and thickness.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Good stew made with flavourless meat

I've been recycling ingredients again. This time I made a stew using the veal cubes that served as a flavour booster to my veal stock. I knew I had to add strongly flavoured ingredients to this stew in order to get something reasonably good out of these now insipid meat cubes so I added some Dijon mustard, leek, thyme, bay leaves, and tons of mushrooms. Many of these mushrooms came from my collection of dried mushrooms that I harvested this fall. They included some cepes (porcini), a few oyster mushrooms and some aborted entolomas. The rest was the usual white button mushrooms. The added liquids were some beef broth and cream. The stew was ok, better than what you get at most cafeterias, but it lacked complexity and especially a nice meat flavour... but at least the mushrooms did their job!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Roasted vegetables and goat cheese appetizer

This is another super simple but delicious recipe I don't want to forget.

All there is to do is to stack roasted eggplant slices, roasted red peppers (I used canned ones), spinach, basil and goat cheese and then bake it in the oven for a few minutes. In fact, I used these ingredients because they were available to me but you could use zucchini, arugula or anything you feel would blend well with the other ingredients.

I served it with a good bread (because it gets deliciously gooey with all the cheese and eggplant)... it was really delectable!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fish catastrophy 2 - Steamed skate wing

I really didn't feel like cooking tonight so I opted for one of my no-sweat recipe: steamed skate wing with a ginger-lemon sauce. Sounds complex? Nahhh it's the easiest fish recipe there is: everything cook at the same time in stacked steamer baskets. In the first one you place your favourite veggies, on the upper one, you place the skate wing with a few flavouring ingredients and in a wok or a pan the base of your sauce will also produce the steam needed to cook everything.

You can adapt this recipe the way you want, but here’s my recipe (I did measure everything yesterday to be able to provide this to you):

For 2 persons:

- 1 medium skate wing
- 2 cups of seafood or fish broth (I used the powdered version)
- 1 lemon and its zest
- 1 or 2 inches of sliced ginger
- 1 bunch of green onions
- 1 cup of cooking cream
- Your favourite vegetables (I used broccoli and cauliflower)
- Salt and white pepper
- A pinch of nutmeg

Zest the lemon and place the zest in your wok along with half of the ginger and the broth.

Cut the lemon in slices and lay them in a steamer basket with the rest of the ginger. Wash the skate wing carefully and place it on top of the lemon and ginger in the steamer basket. Season the fish with salt and pepper and surround with the green onions. In the second basket, place your favourite vegetables.

Place the fish basket on top of the vegetable basket (this fish generally cook faster then the veggies if your veggies are not cut too finely) in the wok. Steam until the fish is cooked (about 10 minutes). Reserve the fish and vegetable and strain the zest and ginger from the broth (which should have reduced by half now). Add the cream and nutmeg to this broth and cook until desired consistency. You could also put less cream and thicken the sauce using your favourite thickener (e.g. corn starch mixed with cold water) or you could avoid using cream and choose to make a butter sauce (monter au beurre). When the sauce is ready, plate everything with a couple of lemon slices and green onions for decoration.

I am quite proud of this recipe but today I forgot about it when it was steaming. When I finally realized that a lot of time had passed the fish was overcooked. The skate wing was mushy and unappetizing… The lesson? Keep an eye on whatever you are cooking!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fish catastrophy 1 - Red Snapper

I don't know why but this week, fish is prominently on the menu at home... I guess it is due to the combined effects of the grocery's weekly specials, some weird health concerns, the feeling of the moment and pure coincidence.

As a matter of fact, I love to eat fish and I could eat more of it every week... But, to tell you the truth, I have very little experience at cooking it… especially in the case of the more delicate white fish.

Fish can be quite expensive and is not always fresh in this city. Subsequently, I don’t have the opportunity to work with this type of product as often as I would like to. I even started fishing a few years ago but even then, my skills at cooking fish didn’t improve much. All fishes do not react the same way in a frying pan or in the oven making the learning curve pretty steep. Finally my sometimes idiotic and somewhat ‘malish’ reluctance to follow recipes didn’t help at improving my skills.

All this to say that I completely screwed up diner tonight! Yep, I wasted perfectly good ingredients and made a fool of myself. Not that it was the first time it happened, on the contrary, but this time I had a plan and an idea of what I wanted to do. Usually, when I mess up something it is often due to a lack of preparation or just a lack of thinking and attention.

Tonight, I wanted to cook red snapper filets and serve them with an olive oil and tapenade (crushed olives) sauce… nothing really complicated, or so I thought!

I heated my pan, poured a good amount of olive oil and added my fish skin side down and almost immediately the skin contracted bending the flesh and preventing its proper cooking. The skin didn’t get crispy and the delicate white flesh didn’t received enough heat from the pan. I guess my pan was a bit too hot and I obviously forgot to score the skin on the filets. Without any delay I tried to save my dish by placing it in the oven adding the tapenade to the oil to enhance the flavour of the fish. The tapenade simply made the whole dish look very dirty. After plating the fish, I realized that since the oven didn’t have the time to pre-heat, the fish turned out undercooked. I usually prefer my fish to be slightly undercooked rather then overcooked but this setback simply added to the multiple flaws of my dish.

Now, if I had to cook this dish again, I would:

Score the skin of the fish before cooking
Fry it in a pan skin side down at medium heat until the skin is crispy
Finish cooking in the oven under broil to cook the top part of the filet.
Prepare the sauce in a separate dish, as one would do vinaigrette, adding a little acidity (lemon juice, vinegar, wine, cappers…).

I’m not sure I’m yet ready to try my luck again but when the time is ripe, I’ll certainly try not to repeat the same mistakes. At least we didn’t order pizza, the problems were, after all, mostly on the cosmetic and texture side... And lets admit it, my girlfriend put a lot of energy in making a nice presentation using my ugly fish!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Using that veal glace - steak with mushrooms and braized red cabbage

Tonight's diner was the test for all my efforts this weekend: I used my veal glace to make a sauce for the huge steak my partner and I were sharing. This steak was served with sauteed mushrooms and a very nice braized red cabbage (red cabbage, wine, honey, salt and pepper... slow cooked for 30 to 45 minutes). The sauce was based on a wine reduction but even the strong wine flavour did nothing to hide the flaws of my stock. Don't misunderstand me, the sauce was good... it could just have been better.

Thyme and rosemary infused potatoes

Again simplicity won the game. These potatoes are just awesome!

1. Boil a few new potatoes.
2. Cut them in quarters.
3. Cook some garlic chunks, a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme in olive oil.
4. Add the potatoes to the oil, garlic and herbs.
5. Saute them for a few minutes.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Palce them in a hot over to crisp them up a bit more if wanted.

Seriously yummy!

Leeks in their vinaigrette

I love leeks but I often cook them in the same way each fall: in a vichyssoise soup. This time, I turned to another classic: leeks with vinaigrette. It is quite simple to make:

1. Wash your leeks carefully!
2. Boil your leeks, choc them in cold water and reserve.
3. Make your favourite vinaigrette (here: Dijon mustard, olive oil, sherry vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper)
4. Pour the vinaigrette over the leeks and enjoy!

This recipe makes a perfect appetizer for a formal diner or a great in-front-of-TV-eat-alone meal when served with your favourite cheese and a glass of wine.

Stock and meat glace... There's place for improvement!

This weekend, I made my own veal stock. I didn't really plan to do it but when visiting a local butcher shop, I noticed a few packs of veal bones in a freezer. I immediately bought all five of them and ended up working on my stock the whole weekend. To be honnest however, I'm not very proud of my stock. Although it is still the best I've done so far; the taste of veal doesn't come through and the taste of the vegetables from my mirepoix is clearly overpowering everything else. Here's what I did, the good things and the mistakes:

1. I placed all my bones in a roasting pan and roasted them slowly in the oven for an hour or two so that they could develop that beautiful and delicious brown crust.

2. I then prepared a mirepoix (celery, carrot and onion). You noticed that I didn't peel my onions? No worries, we have to strain everything at the end so it's ok to be lazy.

3. When the bones were nicely browned, I added the mirepoix to the roasting pan and returned the whole pan in the oven for another 30 to 45 minutes.

4. I then prepared a bouquet garni. From left to right: parsley stems, thyme, leek and a few basil in the lower left corner.

5. I then added everything to my stockpot

6. Deglazed the roasting pan with red wine. And added the liquid to my stock pot.

7. Covered everything with cold water.

8. I then placed an upside down metal steamer basket and placed a heavy cast iron lid on top to maintain all the ingredients submerged. I first saw Alton Brown doing this on TV and thought it was a neat trick to use. Then the whole thing simmered for 5 to 7 hours (some people suggest 8 to 10 but who on this planet have that much time to spare watching a pot at home?)

9. Now the boring but essential part of the job: skimming! For the first hour or two, I skimmed the foam, fat and residues that floated on the surface every 10 to 15 minutes... and then every hour for the last hours. I made sure my stock was not boiling each time. To do this, I also used an alarm thermometer which rang every time the temperature approached boiling point.

10. After these long hours, I finally strained my stock. The result was, of course, veal stock.

11. The problem was that my stock lacked flavour so I decided to boost its flavour by browning some veal cube (I plan to use them for a 'blanquette de veau', a french creamy veal stew). I then added some stock, let reduce and browned again. Repeated the operation a couple of times and finally added all of the remaining stock and let simmer for another one or two hour with an extra dose of browned mirepoix and tomato paste. Now I think, this whole operation was a mistake as it clouded my stock and exaggeratedly intensified the vegetable flavour of my stock instead of the meat flavour.

12. Faced with a cloudy stock I had to clarify it using egg whites and egg shells. I first cooled my stock to room temperature (by placing the pot outside and adding a few icepack in it) and then I mixed in about 10 egg whites and their shells. I simmered my stock again and waited for a raft to form on the surface.

13. The raft did form after a few minutes and I strained my stock through a fine sieve and several layers of cheese cloth. My stock was much clearer now. (can you see my thermometer attached to the pot with a paper clip on this picture?)

14. Then, still using my thermometer to avoid reaching boiling point, I reduced my stock to a meat glace stage.

The result, as I said, was a bit disappointing but at least I think I was able to pinpoint my mistakes. Hopefully, I'll get better with time. By the way, I welcome any ideas and tricks to help me improve my stock.

Glazed rutabaga (the return!)

Just a word to say that I improved on a recipe I discussed on my blog a few weeks ago (link).

This time, I simply cooked them in water and 'glazed' them in honey, butter and some of the cooking water. Of course, this mixture was not exactly a glaze, it was too thin and not sweet enough to stick to the vegetable, but after thickening it with starch it became thick enough to coat the turnips. Of course, calling this glazed rutabaga is not appropriate since I used a liquid that was more like a sauce than a glaze...

I feel this version is better then my first one in part because I can control the amount of sugar (honey) in my sauce and also because of the delectable creaminess of the sauce. A last note, I added some cinnamon, clove and nutmeg to this sauce; tiny amounts, hardly detectable, but I believe they helped adding a different dimension to the dish.

Simple simple simple asparagus salad

Again, I am sorry for this out of season dish... but, as I said in a previous post, asparagus are out of season but we still get some very nice ones from South America (I know, there is an ecological price to this but, in Canada, nothing is in season from October to July except snow).

When I was a kid, most of the veggies that we ate at either of my parents' homes were boiled or steamed and served with salt and sometime a bit of butter. They were good but my point is that they were always cooked and served the same way as side dishes. When growing up, I realized that vegetables do not have to be cooked and served this way all the time and that they can also take center stage.

The problem is that most of the time, you just don't want to complicate diner too much... After all, we only have a very limited number of hours per day! A solution, that many of us have figured out, I am sure, is to simply substitutes butter and salt for other condiments such as flavourful oils, vinegars, mustards, etc. In this case, I used sherry vinegar, olive oil, coarse salt and grinded pepper... it took no time and was delicious! I think I am really in the process of simplifying my cooking these days and I enjoy food like never before! (maybe it's because I started to write about it too...)

Roasted chestnuts and more

Chestnuts are on season now, so we did some experiments with them recently.

1. Roasted in the oven (with a little bit of water as suggested in the Larousse Gastronomique)

2. Added to a butter scotch sauce (butter + brown sugar... and in, this case a bit of chai tea to cool down the pan)

I have always loved the taste of chestnut but never liked their powdery texture. It might be because I do not cook them the proper way... but then it's been my experience with all the chestnuts I've tried.

If you have any trick to share for dealing with chestnuts, I'd be glad to hear/read them.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sauerkraut - Choucroute

A classic when the colder months arrive: sauerkraut! It's not light or refined but it's soooooooo good with a few beers. All i did for this one was to get both the sauerkraut and the sausage from a very nice local polish butcher shop and cook the fermented cabbage with some beer and a few juniper berries in the same pot where I cooked the sausages. Easy and yummy!

Coconut creme brulee

I made these cremes brules this weekend using the coconut milk leftover from my lamb curry (link) and the egg yolks leftover from my stock clarification experiment (link).

It looks nice isn't it? Well,.... to tell you the truth, I forgot to add sugar to the custard. I don't know what is happening to me, I get so forgetful these days, I guess I just don't sleep enough... There's often a way to get out of trouble with a bit of imagination so I'll make a thicker caramel crust on the next ones in order to add a bit of sweetness.

And, I should not use a very coarse sugar (like I did) since it burns before it has the time to melt.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Had mint, made a granita

I bought a lot of mint in Montreal last weekend and I had to find a way to use it. Mint tea is a great option but I felt more like making desert today. I made this nice granita using lemon and lime juice, some dried orange zest that was sitting on my spice rack for a long time now, sugar, vodka, pernod, triple sec, and, of course, mint. I first made a strong mint tea by boiling some of the mint in water, to which I added the citrus juices, the orange zest and some sugar. I cooled it down, strained it, and added the liquors and a fine chiffonade of mint leaves. I placed everything in the freezer and voila! My first granita ever!

The taste was fabulous (thanks to the liquors). However, the mint chiffonade, which, while adding colour, did not blend well with the ice crystals producing a weird texture. Next time, I could try to blanch the mint first so that it can get a bit softer and I could chop it more finely... Otherwise, I feel this recipe is good for the best restaurants!