Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Oysters RockAfeller, Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters on the half shell

I was watching the Food Network one afternoon, and saw an episode of Chuck's Day Off, where he was cooking up a meal of dishes all surrounding oysters.
I thought the dishes looked scrumptious, and he was ever so helpful in demonstrating how to shuck your own oysters.
I thought it look easy enough! So I got myself an oyster knife (essential tool to have) and had a go at it...brilliant!
It was a huge success, certainly a new favourite dish I will do again.

Oyster knife - almost like a letter opener
Ready to be dressed up
Creamy spinach sauce with bread crumbs and parmesan
After broiling for about 2 minutes

    * 2 dozen oysters
    * 1 cup/250ml 35-percent cream
    * 1 teaspoon/5ml Dijon mustard
    * 1 cup/250ml grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
    * 4 cups fresh spinach (1 liter), stemmed
    * 1 cup/250ml breadcrumbs
    * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shuck the oysters, reserving the liquid. Place the oysters and liquid in a saucepan. Reserve the deeper half of each oyster shell. Cook the oysters over medium heat for about 30 seconds, just to give them some firmness. With a slotted spoon, remove the oysters to a bowl and set aside. Add the cream to the oyster liquid in the pan and cook for 10 minutes to reduce. Add the mustard and half the cheese. Set aside.
In another saucepan over low heat, cook the spinach with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water until wilted. Strain the excess spinach water into the cream mixture and set the spinach aside.
Mix the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and the breadcrumbs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Heat the broiler. Arrange the oyster half-shells in a casserole dish filled with seaweed or large rock salt. Place each oyster in a shell and add a bit of the cream mixture and some spinach. Top with the breadcrumb mixture. Broil until the cheese melts and the tops are lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

For quick demo of how to shuck oysters, scope out this link.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Busy Month of December

These past couple of Tuesdays have been consumed with getting out and enjoying myself.
Last week we went to see Beady Eye at the Commodore Ballroom.
For those of you not familiar with the band, Beady Eye is Liam Gallaghar and the other Oasis members, minus Noel Gallaghar.

Last night we leaped into the holidays with the Artsclub production of White Christmas, at the Stanley on Granville Street.
It was a lovely evening and a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.

I've been watching loads of Christmas cooking specials - Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, and Nigella.
Today I'm preparing some apple and cranberrry chutney, as seen on Nigella Lawson's Christmas Kitchen, 2007, episode 4.


  • 4 to 5 cooking apples, peeled, quartered, cored and chopped small, about 4½ cups (1.125 L)
  • 11/2 cups (375 mL) dried cranberries
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cup (250 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) super-fine sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground coriander
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) Maldon salt or 1 tsp (5 mL) table salt
  • 4 1 cup (250 mL) sealable jars, with vinegar-proof lids 
Simmered and ready to bottle
  1. Sterilize your jars following the manufacturer’s directions.
  2. Take a medium-sized (not too big) saucepan and chuck all the ingredients into it. Stir with a wooden spoon and then put the pan on the heat.
  3. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat a little to let the pan cook, uncovered, on a fast simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the chutney has thickened slightly and the fruit is soft.
  4. Spoon into your warm, prepared jars and seal them.

    Make the chutney up to 2 months before using or giving (the longer it has to mature, the better). Store in a dark, cool place for up to 1 year. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within 1 month.
Beautiful...makes a wonderful gift as well

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

November 15 Blog

Roasted Beef with Garlic-Peppercorn Crust, Yukon Gold Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Spiced, Brown Butter Carrots with Sage and Dried Cranberries and a Slice of Apple Toffee Cake
Apple Toffee Cake
2 ½ c      all-purpose flour
1 ¼ c      granulated sugar
¾ c          chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1              egg
Combine flour and sugar in food processor and whirl until blended. Add butter and continue to whirl, pulsing until mixture becomes the texture of fine crumbs. 
Add egg and whirl until mixture begins to hold together. Turn dough onto a flat surface and gather together to form a ball. Remove 1/3 of the dough and set aside for the lattice topping. Form remaining dough into a flat disk. Gently roll on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch springform pan. Transfer dough to pan and press into the bottom and 2/3 the way up the sides of the pan. If dough tears, patch with small pieces of dough.

4 c           apples, peeled and sliced
¼ c          crystallized ginger, chopped
¼ c          toffee bits, chopped
½ c          light brown sugar
3 tbsp    flour
1 tbsp    milk
Icing sugar
Combine ingredients except the milk in a large bowl. Gently toss together until evenly mixed. 
Place filling in crust. To make lattice topping, roll bits of remaining dough into about 8 inch thin cylinders. Criss-cross cylinders of dough on surface of filling to form a lattice. Trim edges to fit and seal. Brush lattice with milk.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until apples are tender and crust is golden. Remove to rack to cool.

Yukon Gold Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
6              Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
¼ c          butter, plus additional to serve
¼ c          buttermilk
1 tsp      salt
1 tsp      freshly ground pepper
Add potatoes to pot of salted water and bring to a boil for 20 min until potatoes are cooked through when tested with knife or skewer. 

Strain and place potatoes back in hot pot (heat turned off) so moisture evaporated. In small saucepan, gently heat buttermilk and butter on low heat until butter melts. Mash and fold in buttermilk mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a dollop of butter.

Spiced, Brown Butter Carrots with Sage and Dried Cranberries
¼ c          unsalted butter, softened
½ c          shallots, finely chopped
1              garlic clove, finely minced
6-8          sage leaves, coarsely torn
1 tsp      salt
1 tsp      freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp     cinnamon
½ tsp     nutmeg
¼ tsp     ground cloves
¼ c          dried cranberries, finely chopped
8              medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-in x 3-in batons, steamed or blanched until tender-crisp
In a medium skillet, melt butter over moderate heat. When butter begins to foam, add shallots and garlic and continue cooking until the butter turns a nut-brown colour. Stir in sage and spices and sauté until sage starts to wilt. Toss in steamed carrots and cranberries and coat well. Serve immediately.

Roasted Beef with Garlic-Peppercorn Crust
 3             large garlic cloves
¾ tbsp   coarse sea salt
½ tbsp   mixed peppercorns, med-coarse ground
¼ tsp     freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp    fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tsp      paprika
2 tsp      olive oil
2 lb         beef roast
¾ c          dry red wine
½ c          beef stock
Using a mortar and pestle, mix together garlic and sea salt. Add the peppercorns, pepper, thyme, paprika and olive oil to form a paste. Rub the paste all over top and sides of roast. Place roast in roasting pan, cover loosely with foil and let stand at room temperature for 30 min.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Roast 40 in the preheated oven, or to a minimum internal temperature of 150 degrees F (63 degrees C) for med-rare.
Remove from oven and transfer to cutting board, tent loosely with foil and allow to rest for 20-30 min before carving.
Heat drippings over med-high heat. Add red wine and beef stock and bring to a boil, scrapping caramelized bits off the pan bottom. Cook and reduce liquid until thickened to half, about 8 min. Keep warm until ready to serve. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Caramelized Beet Borscht, Sliced Steaked with Kale Caesar Side Salad and Bourbon ''On the Rocks'' Caramel Nut Tart

I think I'll have to dedicate this one to my girlfriend Chantelle, in Kitchener, Ontario.
This one's for you Chanty!
I now know why you'd always ask the server when we went out if the Ceasar dressing was from a bottle or home-made...what a WORLD of difference.
This dressing was delicious! The combo of kale and romaine lettuce was a really nice touch too. I think it's a MUST try.

Bourbon ‘’On the Rocks’’ Caramel Nut Tart
Shortbread Crust
1 ¼         all purpose flour
3 tbsp    granulated sugar
¼ tsp     salt
¼ cup    unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1              egg
2 tbsp    cold water
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
In a food processor, fitted with steel blade attachment, pulse together flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water. Pour this over mixture and pulse again until dough begins to hold together when a small amount is pressed between your fingers.

Empty dough from processor into prepared tart pan and press evenly into pan. 

Bake until crust just starts to turn golden around the edges, about 30 min. Cool crust in pan on wire rack.
Caramel Nut Filling
¼ cup    butter
¾ cup    brown sugar
1 tbsp    liquid honey
¼ cup    bourbon
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 cups   mixed nuts
Place butter in saucepan and melt over med heat. Add sugar, honey and bourbon, bringing to a boil while stirring constantly. Boil mixture for 2 min, then stir in whipping cream and nuts. Bring back to a boil for one min and remove from heat. Place cooled crust, still in tart pan, on baking sheet and pour filling into crust. 

Bake tart ob baking sheet in the middle rack of oven until filling is bubbly, about 20 min. 
Mine bubbled over...what a sticky, delicious mess!!!

Cool in pan on wire rack until room temperature. Then chill for at least 1 hour to allow caramel to completely set.
Caramelized Beet Borscht
1 lb         medium beets
6              sprigs thyme, leaves only
6 tbsp    olive oil
1              large onion, finely chopped
2              carrots, chopped
2              garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ c      cabbage, chopped
7 c           beef stock
2 tbsp    balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp    honey
5 tbsp    fresh dill, chopped
Sour cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 400. Scrub beets and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 30 min. When beets have cooled, slip off their skins and chop coarsely. Heat remaining oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, cabbage, garlic and thyme and sauté until mixture softens. Add stock and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add beets and bring to a boil. Add vinegar, honey and fresh dill. Serve country-style as is or puree until smooth. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with more fresh dill.

Sliced Steak and Kale Caesar Side Salad
2             striploin steaks
1/3 c      olive oil
1             lemon, juiced
2             cloves garlic
1 tsp      anchovy paste
1 tsp      Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp      Dijon
1             egg yolk
1/2 c      Romano cheese, grated - plus more for shaving
1              bunch flat leaf kale, stems discarded, leaves chopped
1              romaine heart

Heat skillet over med-high heat.
Season steaks, coat with olive oil. Cook the steaks, turning once - 5 min per side. Transfer to cutting board and let rest for 10 min, then thinly slice on an angle.

In a salad bowl, combine the lemon juice, garlic, anchovy paste, Worcestershire and mustard; season heavily with pepper. Using a fork, mix the egg yolk, then pour in 1/3 cup of olive oil in a slow, steady stream to emulsify the dressing. Stir in cheese. Add the kale and romaine and toss to coat. Serve the salad topped with shaved cheese alongside the steak.

Apple and Parsnip Soup, Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Quinoa and Whole Carrots, finished with Pear and Almond Cake with Almond Mascarpone Cream

As you'll notice, my blog is seriously lacking phots this week (Nov 1st)...I can explain!
As it turns out, I had a guest for dinner last week, which completely mixed me up. I was so busy preparing and hosting, I totally forgot to take my snaps!!!!
We were finished dinner before I even realised I hadn't taken the pictures for my blog...so here's what I do have.
Gotta say though, the meal WAS fabulous.

Pear and Almond Cake with Almond Mascarpone Cream
4             large eggs
¾ cup    sugar
½ cup    soft butter, plus extra for greasing cake pan
1 1/3      blanched almonds, finely ground
4 tbsp    flour
1 tsp      baking powder
3              firm pears, peeled, halved, cored and sliced, keeping their shape together
1 cup     mascarpone cheese
3 tbsp    icing sugar
½ cup    whipping cream
1 tsp      almond extract
Preheat oven to 350. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10 inch cake pan with removable bottom and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Slowly beat eggs and gently add in sugar until well-mixed. Beat on high until pale and very thick, about 5 min. Beat in soft butter, fold in almonds, flour and baking powder.

Transfer mixture to cake pan and arrange sliced pear halves, round side up. Push pears into batter until they are half submerged. Sprinkle pears with 2 tbsp sugar.
Place in oven and bake for 35-40 min or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cool to room temperature.

Beat mascarpone and icing sugar until fluffy. Add almond extract. Beat whipping cream until stiff and fold in mascarpone. Serve with cake.
Apple and Parsnip Soup
1 tbsp    olive oil or grape seed oil
2              leeks, white part only chopped
2              garlic cloves, minced
3              parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 ½ c      chicken stock
2              large thyme sprigs
1 tsp      ground turmeric
½ tsp     ground ginger
¼ tsp     ground cardamom
3              large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Salt and pepper
Cilantro sprigs
Heat oil in large saucepan. Add leeks and garlic and sauté until soft. Do not brown. Add parsnip and continue to sauté over med-low heat until almost soft, then add chicken stock, thyme seasonings and apples. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 min or until apples are soft.
Remove thyme stems. Remove from heat. Cool mixture before pureeing. Then puree and add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat. Serve topped with cilantro and parsnip crisps (recipe follows).

Parsnip Crisps
1              large parsnip
                Grape seed oil
Peel a large parsnip and thinly slice on a mandolin. Heat ¼ inch grape seed oil in pan until very hot, almost smoking. Fry slices, several aat a time, until golden brown, about 2-3 min. Crisps will curl and twist slightly. Remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Sprinkle with salt. They will stay crisp for several hours.
Apple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Quinoa and Whole Carrots
1 cup     apple cider
2 tbsp    grape seed oil
2 tbsp    tamari soy sauce
1              clove garlic, minced
1 tsp      fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
¼ each  salt and crushed chillies
1 lb         pork tenderloin
1 tbsp    butter
Press tenderloin into marinade and rotate to evenly coat. Tightly seal and refrigerate for minimum 2 hours or overnight. Turn tenderloin several times.
Remove pork from marinade, reserving juices for sauce.
Melt butter in a heavy sauté pan over med-high heat. Add tenderloin and cook for 5 min, turning several times in pan until lightly browned on all sides. Add a splash of water if necessary.
Cover and simmer for 12 min – until tender and a hint of pink still remains.
Remove from pan and place on platter to rest for 5 min before serving. Cover to keep warm. Cut into thick rounds to serve.
2 tbsp    unsalted butter
2 tbsp    flour
½ cup    water
3 tbsp    brown sugar
1 tsp      Dijon mustard
To make sauce, melt butter in pan. Whisk in flour until crumbly. Whisk in water, sugar, Dijon and remaining marinade juices stirring until smooth.
Continue to cook until reduced and thickened.
Quinoa - follow package directions

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Slow Cooked Guinness Beef Stew and for dessert, Petite Pumpkin Toffee Tarts

Slow Cooked Guinness Beef Stew
3 cups (750 mL) 1" (2.5 cm) potato cubes or mini potatoes, halved
2 cups (500 mL) each, baby carrots and sliced celery
1 small onion, cut into wedges
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 lb (750 g) 1" (2.5 cm) stewing beef cubes
1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground black pepper 
 1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
2 cups (500 mL) CAMPBELL'S® Ready to Use 25% Less Salt Beef Broth
200 ml Guinness
1/2 tbsp (7 mL) Worcestershire sauce
 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves
 2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine vegetables in 4-1/2 qt (4.3 L) slow cooker. Add bay leaves.
Place stewing beef, flour and pepper into a sealable plastic bag and toss to coat beef.
Brown beef well on all sides in heated oil over medium-high heat in large non-stick skillet. Place beef on top of vegetables in slow cooker.

Add broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and garlic to skillet and combine well with pan drippings. Pour mixture over beef and vegetables. 
Cook, covered, on HIGH setting for 4 hours* or until the beef reaches internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) and is fork-tender. Discard bay leaves before serving

Petite Pumpkin Toffee Tarts
Makes 24 tarts
tart shells
3 39-g Skor chocolate bars
1 cup (250 mL) unsweetened pumpkin pureé
1/3 cup (75 mL) lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) whipping cream
2 eggs
1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla
 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pumpkin pie spice or 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg
24 pecan halves, about 100-g pkg

Arrange oven racks in top and bottom thirds of oven. Preheat to 375F (190C). Place tart shells on 2 large baking sheets, leaving a bit of space between them. Thaw at room temperature for 10 min.
Meanwhile, finely chop chocolate bars. Spoon 1 scant tsp (4 mL) into each shell. In a medium bowl, whisk pumpkin with sugar, cream, eggs, vanilla and pie spice until blended. Fill shells nearly to the top, then place a pecan half on each.

Bake sheets on separate racks. Rotate baking sheets between racks after 10 min. Then continue baking until filling is set, about 10 more min. Serve warm or cool on a rack. If making ahead, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They'll keep well for 2 days, or freeze up to 3 months.
I think I'll be bringing some of these to work for the kids!

Just a week behind

Mixed Olive and Lemon Tapenade served with French Baguette to start, followed by Grilled Pesto and Goat's-Cheese Stuffed Chicken and  French Green Bean Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette with Toasted Hazelnuts.

Last weeks blog - one week later!
Gotta say, I was just too pooped last Tuesday to get the blog up.
I also ran into a little snag when making my tapenade last Tuesday...mechanical malfunction! Yip, my mini chopper (little device I've been using as a food processor), bit the bullet. I was in the middle of processing the ingredients when it just died...couldn't get the darn thing to go. So I was left with half of a batch of tapenade...better some thatn none, I guess!

Mixed Olive and Lemon Tapenade
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp capers
1 cup black olives
1 cup green olives
1 cup Kalamata olives
1/3 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil
2 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Toasted baguette
This is where it all went wrong!
Had to bin that thing...good-bye.

Add garlic and capers to food processor and process until coarsely chopped.
Add olives, red peppers, basil and process until coarsely chopped.
Add lemon zest, vinegar, parsley to mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest  1 hour.
Serve with baguette.
Yes, some is better than none.
Grilled Pesto and Goat’s-Cheese Stuffed Chicken
8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
½ cup pesto
½ cup goats-cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375.
Lift skin and make a small pocket between skin and meat.
Stuff one tablespoon of pesto and cheese into centre.
Press down to distribute.
Transfer to oven for 35-40 min. Skin should be crisp and golden and chicken should be cooked through.

French Green Bean Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette and Toasted Hazelnuts
2 cups fresh green beans
2 tbsp Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
Blanch beans in salted boiling water 3-5 min depending on size. Beans should be crisp and be dark green.
Strain and plunge into cold water to stop cooking.
Blot dry on clean kitchen towel.
Toss in Dijon Vinaigrette until evenly coated, season to taste.

Dijon Vinaigrette
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 ¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, shallot, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Whisk in one direction to avoid splitting dressing while slowly adding oil in a thin stream.
Continue whisking until dressing is emulsified and thick enough to coat a spoon.
Transfer to a clean jar and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.