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Throwback Thursday - Greek Stuffed Pork Roast


Lately I have begun to go through my old posts at my other blog, No ReEats. I will start craving something and comb through this blog, sure that I not only made this tasty thing but I know I blogged it. I remember photographing it and writing about it but I can't seem to find it. For some reason the last place I look is No ReEats, sort of like the fact that Shack always finds his keys in the pants he wore yesterday but that is always the place he ignores because he is sure he didn't leave them in there.
Anyway, I am going to start reposting my favourites from over there to here every Thursday so I can have them all in one place, at last. I have moved The Week in Yum to Saturday so, from now on, there will be two regularly scheduled postings each week. Let's get in the way way back machine....

From Thursday, January 26, 2012:

It was a rare night where both of my men were going to be home for dinner so I kindly asked them if they would like to put in any requests. I got a "whatever you want to make" from The Kid and a very emphatic "I don't want any curried anything and nothing stir fried" as Shack stomped out the door.
Well, okay then. Somebody has been working and living off catering for too long I think. It was time for a manly meal of roast meat.



My first impulse was to do a pork tenderloin with a nice mustard, creamy pan sauce but that is how I usually make pork. I realized the one thing I never do is to cook a pork loin roast and I certainly never butterfly it and stuff it. The Kid is turning into a hungry teenager and the days of 1 pork tenderloin feeding all three of us for dinner are behind us so it's time for me to start getting used to different cuts of meat. Greek roasted potatoes were already on the menu so it made sense to do the pork with flavours to compliment them. Spinach, feta, garlic, oregano and lemon was perfect to stuff the roast and a nice port pan sauce finished it off nicely.


Greek Stuffed Pork Loin



ingredients

1kg (2 lb) pork loin roastolive oilsalt and pepperoreganocotton kitchen stringolive oil1/2 red onion, chopped finely1 clove garlic, chopped1/4 cup finely diced, seeded tomatozest from one lemon1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and roughly choppedsalt and pepper100g (approx 3/4 cup) crumbled feta cheese1 slice fresh bread buzzed into crumbs2 tbls oreganozest from 1 lemonpinch kosher saltsauce:1 small shallot, minced1/2 cup port1/2 cup chicken stock1 tbls cold butter


directions
Butterfly your pork roast - here is a video showing you both methods - just butterfly it unless you want to make yourself all crazy.



to make the stuffing, heat up a small glug of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute the red onion and garlic for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the tomato and the spinach and stir it around until the spinach is wilted. Take it off the heat, add the lemon zest, stir again and taste and salt and pepper to taste. Let it cool to room temperature before you add the feta and the bread crumbs.

spread the stuffing evenly over the butterflied pork loin and then fold it back over like a book.
Mix together the oregano, zest and salt and rub that all over the top of the pork roast (fat side up).Now tie that thing together with kitchen twine (the video shows you how to do the twine. Honestly, as long as you tie it up nice and tight and don't care about it looking pretty, just do what you can).


Preheat the oven to 425F

heat an oven proof skillet or pan over med heat with a bit of olive oil.  Put the pork roast in the pan, fat side down and brown it for a few minutes before turning it over, fat side up again and put it in the oven. After about 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 325F and continue to roast until the internal temp of the pork is about 155F (that took about another 45 min). Take it out and let it sit for another 10 to 15 minutes while you make a pan sauce to serve with it if you like.

For pan sauce:  In the pan you roasted the pork in, sauté the shallot in the drippings over med heat for a few minutes. Add the port and simmer for a minute, scraping up all the bits from the pan before you add the chicken stock. Let that simmer and reduce by half or for about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a tbls of cold butter.
Slice your pork roast and drizzle the sauce over it.
YUM

A Bowl of Lemony Red Lentil Soup a Day Keeps the Doctor Away



The Kid is sick and like a dog, this kid is stoic. He always says he is feeling okay, never wants to stay home from school and actually refuses my offers of a day in bed because there is something wrong with him. What kind of weirdo doesn't jump at a sick day from school? Clearly he did not get the memo on how to deal with the mansick. To be perfectly honest,  if I didn't watch this kid spring from my loins with my own eyes I would make myself take a maternity test.



A sick young man requires a nourishing soup that will be smooth enough that it won't hurt his delicate, froggy throat on the way day but bright and tasty enough to tempt his failing taste buds. He lives for miso soup so I make him cups of miso like I make him cups of tea but there needed to be a soup with a bit more substance. This lemony, thin soup is perfect for these cold weather, feeling too crappy to even want to eat the delicious lunch my mother packed me days. The mix of preserved lemon with fresh lemon juice really brighten up what can be a bit of a heavier soup and the large percentage of broth to lentils keeps it a bit on the thinner side. Turmeric is thought to aid in fighting off infection, ginger helps get rid of nose and throat congestion and cumin is also considered to help in fighting off a cold. Basically this combo is to Ayurveda what chicken soup is to a Jewish grandmother.  I throw in a couple extra veggies that he thinks he doesn't like just to make it a bit more nutritious and we are off to the races.






This recipe fills my 5.3 litre (5.5 quart)  pot so under servings, file "a lot"


Lemony Red Lentil Soup



Ingredients


2 tbls olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1" piece of ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
rind of 1 preserved lemon, finely chopped (I use very small lemons so it's probably about 1 tbls of rind)
1 japanese eggplant, finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced
1 tbls cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
8 cups of chicken stock
1 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
juice of two lemons
handful of chopped cilantro

Directions


Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy stock pot over medium heat.
Saute the celery and carrot for about five minutes before adding the ginger, garlic and jalapeno. Saute for another few minutes and then throw in the preserved lemon, eggplant and zucchini for another few minutes of cooking. Add in the cumin, turmeric and coriander, mix into the vegetables thoroughly and then pour in the stock and the lentils. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium low, put on the cover and simmer for about 25 or 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are nice and tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and let the soup cool a bit before you remove it to a blender to puree lightly. You can also just use an immersion blender right in the pot. It's up to you how smooth you make it - I like to leave a little bit of texture. After you blend it, add the juice of two lemons, check for salt and add more if it's needed, add a few grinds of black pepper and throw in the cilantro.


Recipe For Change - The Toronto Food Event Turning Five This Week



You know, I think that as a food blogger, I just assume that because I am eating well that everyone is eating well. It feels like all I do is talk about food, shop for food, prepare food, serve food and write about it. If you are reading this blog, you are probably also pretty interested in eating well or else you would be reading a blog about Doritos taco shells or dog grooming or something, right?

The Week In Yum Feb 15-21



Last weekend was a blur of OLYMPICS/HOUSE OF CARDS/OLYMPICS/HOUSE OF CARDS with some food consumed somewhere in there along the way. We only left the house long enough to stuff our faces with delicious brunch items and then it was back to the couch for more speed skating, Francis Underwood and his evil co villian, Claire and hockey and slopestyle. 

Ancho Coffee Braised Beef Shanks

The fact that I am not a fan of Valentine's Day did not stop me from making jokes about Shack and his shanks for two days as I was preparing this dish last week. It was only a happy accident that we ended up having this for dinner on Feb 14 but I ran with the opportunity to pretend that it was meant to be a romantic token of my undying love and that alone make them worth their weight in gold. Shank is a funny word at any time but when your husband's name is Shack, it's even funnier. Actually, I often call The Kid Shank in moments of confusion.... you know, now that I think about it, I really should take this as a sign and make them more often.


I have been obsessing about this beef cooked in a an ancho coffee sauce that they serve at Xola, a mexican restaurant in The Beaches. The first time I had it they were not called Xola and they were on the Danforth but it's the same restaurant and it's the same, delicious beef that is served with warm corn tortillas so you can make little tacos with it at the table.  I have been playing around, trying to replicate it for over a year but I never really seem to get it quite right. Up until now I was only using stewing beef but then I spied the beef shanks that were on special at the butcher and my little brain got to work.

When I went looking for some shankspiration I kept seeing the same recipe for Ancho Braised Beef Shanks from The Unorthodox Epicure pop up all over the place and thought it sounded kind of close to something I could work with. What I was really interested in was the idea of making a paste out of the dried chilis and aromatics and in the end, it was this paste that finally got me over the hump. I used the recipe as a jumping off point, taking out what I didn't want, adding the things I did want in there and tweaking it until I got it just right. I don't know that this dish actually tastes all the much like the beef I am trying to copy but that's okay because it's so good that it's made me forget about the other beef and that is even better. Now that I have the paste/sauce thing down, I will try it with stewing beef next and report back with the results.

The sauce is a bit on the thin side so if you really want you can thicken it up by either boiling and reducing the braising liquid, adding a slurry of flour/water or just do whatever you would normally do to thicken up a gravy but I like it a bit on the soupy side myself. I love the way it pools around the mashed potatoes and, to be honest,  I almost like the gravy and potatoes so much that I could happily skip the meat altogether.

It's a good idea to try to make these types of braised dishes ahead of time because they just get better after sitting for a day or two so when at all possible, make it in advance and leave it in the fridge for up to three days. This way you can just scrape off the fat that will congeal on the top before you reheat it, which is much easier than trying to degrease it when it's still hot out of the oven. Shanks are cheap and full of flavour but they are fatty so you do want to make the effort to remove as much fat as possible from the top of the cooking liquid. I just let it cool to room temperature and throw the whole pot that I cooked it in right in the fridge.

Chocolate, candy and flowers are all very nice but nothing says I love you like a big pot of spicy shanks.

Ancho Coffee Braised Beef Shanks

adapted from The Unorthodox Epicure
serves 4

buttery savoy cabbage was a perfect foil for the rich sauce and creamy mashed potatoes

Ingredients

4 beef shanks about 6 oz each
4 dried ancho chilis
2 cups water
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbls chipotle chili powder
1 tbls kosher salt
1 tbls brown sugar
1 tbls cumin
2 tbls canola oil or other veg oil
salt and pepper
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup strong coffee
1 leek, chopped

Directions


bring 2 cups of water to a boil and drop in the dried ancho chilis. Let simmer for 10 minutes and then take out the chilis but reserve the water. Remove and discard the stems and the seeds from the chilis and chop them roughly.

In a food processor or blender, blend the chopped ancho chili, the onion, garlic, chipotle powder, kosher salt, sugar and cumin until you have a thick paste. Add the soaking water, 1 tbls at a time,  if you need it to help make a thick paste.

Preheat the oven to 300F

Heat the canola oil in a heavy, oven proof pot or braising pan over med heat. Lightly salt and pepper the shanks and brown them in the hot pan. Leave the shanks, undisturbed for at least 3 minutes per side to make sure they get nicely browned and remove them to a big plate.

Deglaze the pan with some of the chicken stock, stirring with a wooden spoon to make sure you get up all that nice fond from the bottom. Add in the ancho paste and the leeks and saute for just a minute before you add in the rest of the stock, the coffee and the reserved chili soaking liquid. Put the meat back into the pot - it should be just covered with liquid. Bring to a boil, cover and put it into the oven and cook for between 2-3 hours.

If I am cooking it to eat the next day (or even the day after that) I cook for two hours and then reheat it for an hour at 300F on the day. If you are going to eat it that night, cook it for 3 hours.

If you are serving it right away, you are going to have to remove the meat and then skim as much of the fat off the top as you can manage before you serve it. If you are going to refrigerate it for a day or two, just scrape the congealed fat off the top after you take it out of the fridge, before you reheat it (again, reheat it in the same oven proof pot, covered for an hour at 300F)

The best way to serve it, to me, is to remove a shank with tongs and lay it on top of a bed of mashed potatoes before covering the whole thing in sauce. YUM

The Week In Yum Feb 8-14

Now I know what the hell a rainbow loom is thanks to the girls of Avalon Montessori

The week started out with a bang with a delicious dinner from Shack. He made a huge bowl of shrimp ceviche with better guacamole than I ever make, which kind of pisses me off, but whatever.  It was delicious. Then, if that wasn't enough, he made a  ginormous pot of meat sauce. The meal didn't really "flow" in any sort of way but it was super tasty and I got to lay on the couch and watch Olympics so I am not complaining. I am going to be honest with you and admit that nobody eats well during the winter olympics in this house because mama is parked on the couch for two weeks and that is just the way it is so everyone has to get over it and carry on.


On Monday I managed to make another batch of BBQ pork so there would be leftovers to pack for lunch all week but The Kid wanted to go to Il Fornello for a $5 margarita pizza. Actually, he ordered TWO $5 pizzas but who's counting? Il Fornello  might not be my first choice for pizza but their $10 pizza Tuesday ($10 for any pizza on the menu) is only beat by $5 margarita pizza Monday. A whole pizza and a glass of wine for $10 works for me. We all split the small salad which is so not small that I am afraid to ever order the large. Honestly, it's the best dinner deal in The Beach if you have kids.





On Tuesday, I finally made an onsen tomago that worked using my crock pot during some Olympic
downtime. Onsen tomago are sort of a poached egg that are slow cooked in their shells. I ate that bowl of udon you see down there for lunch after I shot it for the blog and then made The Kid his own bowl for supper. I love this Japanese method for making eggs - you basically poach the egg INSIDE the shell so it's much neater and easier to hold over until you need them and the texture is also very different. Since we don't have any volcanic hot springs in the neighbourhood and I also don't have a sous vide machine, I had to improvise.  The yolks are runny but thick at the same time and its perfect for plopping onto ramen, noodles or a bowl of rice. Very excited to share how I got to this point in a day or two so stay tuned.


my failed attempt at making the onsen tomago produced a perfect hard boiled egg and breakfast



Thursday was the annual Avalon Montessori bake sale to raise money for Free The Children and it was a great success, raising $800. Clearly the family and friends of our magical unicorn school suffer from from serious sweet teeth. I bought three of Nonna's madeleines because they are the bomb (our school Nonna is everyone's Nonna and every one needs a Nonna) and retired to my couch to watch some sporting event that is going on... I can't remember the name. That evening was a simple meal of braised honey mustard chicken thighs, mashed potatoes and savoy cabbage because THE OLYMPICS!

Canada is killing it at these Olympics and I am so thrilled. I can take or leave the summer games but for some reason I am obsessed with the winter games. I am a speed skating groupie and a newly minted slopestyle groupie who wants to put little Mike McMorris in her pocket and carry him around everywhere. My boys are lucky I have made them anything to eat all, frankly, so I feel like I am actually coming out on top my game.

the recipe for these ancho coffee beef shanks is coming this week

Friday was Valentine's Day and although we don't really "do" Valentine's Day anymore now that The Kid is too old to make me a craft, I had some nice beef shanks and it was a good excuse to make a fancy dinner. Braising doesn't require constant attention either so I didn't have to interrupt my Olympic viewing too much. This is not the time for risotto people. I shouldn't even have to tell you how much we had making "shank" jokes all day.

I was hoping to hit at least a couple more restaurants for Winterlicious but Shack had to work all week getting the crap beat out of him and i had a really bad cold so I missed the boat. 





Food find of the week: How have I missed this??

Tweet of the week:



Red Miso Udon with Onsen Tomago



Last week I went to Momofuku with my friend, Alice,  for ramen at long last. I have been putting this visit off since it opened because it seemed like it was nearly impossible to get a seat at lunch but we happened to be working at the Shangri La Hotel all day so I couldn't not go. More or less living up to the hype, the soup was pretty damned fabulous but the thing I couldn't stop thinking about afterwards was the poached egg they add to it. We get a soft cooked egg in our ramen all the time but it just comes to the table with the egg already in there and I have always just assumed that they poach them the same way I poach them. I bring a pot of water to a simmer, stir the middle to make a vortex - DAMN YOU WINTER VORTEX- and gently slide in an egg that I have cracked into a small bowl. I simmer that for about 3 minutes and gently remove with a slotted spoon and then drain on another paper towel lined slotted spoon. It's not brain surgery but it requires your full attention, it's a bit fussy and you use a couple of slotted spoons and it takes up a burner on the stove. It can be a pain to do this for a noodle soup bowl because every part of the bowl is done so last minute that I don't really want one more pot on the stove. I generally just don't serve our soup with a poached egg at home and reserve the whole egg thing for eating out.

Because it was pretty crowded we had to sit at the bar at Momofuku and watch the sous chef dudes put together all of the orders. Thankfully, I love being able to watch the kitchen work their magic and both of us were enjoying our front row seats to the show when we saw him take an egg in the shell out of a large pan full of eggs, tap the side with a spoon and break it into a bowl. Expecting a raw egg, imagine our shock and awe when a perfectly poached egg slid out instead! What was this food trickery? We talked about it all afternoon because we are losers and clearly easily thrilled.

I googled it as soon as I arrived home and discovered that not only is this "a thing", the technique has a name and that name is onsen tomago (onsen = hot spring and tomago = egg). In Japan, these eggs are traditionally cooked by submerging them, in their shell, into a natural hot spring or "onsen" which maintain a temperature of about 158F. After a cooking time of 30 to 40 minutes, you are left with an egg that has a really special texture that is much smoother and silkier than a traditional poached egg. It is usually eaten in a bowl or on rice with a bit of light soy sauce and perhaps some scallion. Another nice thing about this method is that it produces a much more spherically shaped egg without all the little stragglers that you can get when you poach. And you cook it right in it's shell which is neat and tidy and easier to store for serving later on.

So, I found out that the method found in the Momofuko cookbook requires a pot of water on the stove with a rack inside so that the eggs do not touch the bottom and you must maintain a temperature of 145F for 45 minutes. If I had a gas stove I would totally try this but my electric burners are not consistent and this would require constant attention for the whole time. He tells you to keep monitoring the temp and when it goes up a few degrees to drop a couple of ice cubes in. You can find a really good description of this method on I am a food blog but me being me, I wanted to make it even easier. If you don't have a crock pot, you can totally do it the Momofuku way with a pot on the stove, a clip on thermometer and a rack in the pot but it's fun to experiment too.

So, short of buying myself a sous vide machine, how was I going to do this without having to stand by the stove for 45 minutes, checking the temperature constantly. I did some research and found some other claims that sounded almost too good to be true but I bought a dozen eggs and got down to it.




Day 1,

Egg #1:
This guy swore that this method using nothing but a kettle and good quality thermos worked perfectly. WooHoo! Right? Right?

Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Put a room temperature egg in the bottom of your thermos,  cover with the just boiled water, cover the thermos and wait 15 minutes. The bad news is that I was left with a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg. The good news is that I was left with a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg and have inadvertently found my new favourite way to make eggs for egg salad. Clearly the just boiled water was way too hot and my thermos is too fabulous and held that temperature too well.


failed attempt #1 resulted in my breakfast. Waste not, want not.


Egg #2
This time I grabbed an egg straight from the fridge and put it into the thermos, covered it with boiling water and left it for 6 minutes. It was much closer but It didn't work either. As you can see, the white was too cooked for a poached egg already so a longer cooking time would just produce another degree of a boiled egg that didn't look like it was going to just slide out of the shell so it was time to walk away from this method but at least I have a new, no brainer way to make hard boiled eggs.



Egg #3
Thinking that the water must be cooler after the first egg cooked, I took an egg from fridge and put it in the same thermos with the still super hot water from egg #2  right away and left it for 6 minutes. This was actually getting somewhere and I might still go back and do a variation on this one but I was getting frustrated and took a break. Maybe if I put boiling water in the thermos, let it sit for 6 or 7 minutes, add an egg and then leave it for 10 minutes it might work. It seems that the problem with this whole thermos method is the shock of the boiling water which cooks the outside of the white too much, too quickly so letting the water sit for a bit to cool off slightly makes more sense. If anyone tries this before I do, let me know how it works out.





Egg #4
More reading brought me to another guy who had the bright idea that your hottest tap water in a thermos would do the trick. I put the hottest tap water in the thermos and it was 136F. I left it for 45 minutes and the water had dropped to 125F by then which left me with a raw egg. FAIL



I gave up for the day.

Day 2

I filled my crock pot with hot water, turned it on to warm and left it for an hour. After the hour the water was 165F so I turned it off and let it sit for another hour with the lid on. After the hour, the temperature had come down to 144F. I put an egg into the crockpot, turned it back on warm and put the lid on. I checked the temperature after ten minutes and then temperature was about 145. I checked again in five minutes and it had gone up to 150F so I turned it off again and closed the lid. In another five minutes it was only down to 149 and then five minutes after that it was 148F. When my time went off at the 45 minute mark, the water was back to 145 and i took out the egg.
I held my breath and broke the egg into a bowl and got this perfect little onsen tomago!!

sorry for the bad picture of it but I was so excited I lost my mind a bit. It takes so little

In honour of this perfect little onsen tomago, I built a lovely soup around it. Of course, you can just poach an egg for the soup the way you usually do it but I am pretty happy with this method. Of course, it will all depend on your slow cooker but once you get the hang of it, it will work every time with your crock pot and you won't have to hover over it the entire 45 minutes. After some original messing around with your own crock pot, you will develop a method that won't require so much work down the road. If you are lucky enough to have a crockpot that only gets the water up to 145 or 150F, it will be a no brainer and you will be a lucky duck.

 I now know that with my slow cooker it goes like this:

fill the crock pot with hottest tap water
turn on warm, cover and let sit for one hour
add eggs from fridge
cover and set timer for 15 minutes
after 15 minutes, turn the crockpot back off and set timer for the final 30 minutes
remove eggs and crack them into individual bowls.





Red Miso Udon with Onsen Tomago

serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup boiling water
2 dried shiitake mushrooms

Miso Soup4 cups water
4 tsp dashi granules
3 tsp wakame or dried seaweed
4 tbls red miso paste

400g fresh udon noodles
2 onsen tomago or 2 poached egg8  slices of chinese bbq pork
2 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (the ones you just soaked)
1 bunch of baby bok choy, halved
1scallion, sliced thinly
*furikake garnish optional



Directions


cover the shiitake mushrooms with boiling water and set aside to soak for at least 20 minutes.

Get all of your soup garnish ingredients prepared and set each aside so that you can assemble the soup at the last minute right in the bowl. I get out a bunch of small bowls so that I can have my mise en place all lined up and  I have a bit of an assembly line going.

 Remove the shiitakes from the liquid and set aside, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid and discarding the dregs at the bottom of the bowl.

Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Add your shiitakes to the water because you will let them cook while you blanch the bok choy and the noodles.

Submerge both halves of your baby bok choy into the boiling water for one minute before you remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside, being careful to keep the mushrooms in the water. Keep the water boiling. Have your sliced scallion, egg and sliced pork handy as well.

In a smaller pot, bring your 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the dashi granules, the wakame and the 1/2 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and let simmer for a few minutes to make your dashi broth.  Put the miso paste into a bowl and ladle in about 1/2 cup of the hot dashi broth and whisk or stir with a fork until the miso is dissolved. Take the pot of dashi off of the heat and add in this miso, give a good whisk and set aside with a lid on it. You don't want to let it boil again after you add the miso so keep it off the heat now.

Cook the udon noodles in the same pot that you boiled the bok choy by simmering for 3 minutes.

While the noodles are cooking, get your soup bowls out.

Fish out the shiitakes before you drain the noodles and set the mushrooms aside. Divide the udon among the two bowls. Slice your mushrooms. Next, lay out your pork slices, then the mushrooms, carefully lay an egg on top of the noodles and then snuggle in your bok choy. Ladle the hot miso soup over the whole thing until it just covers the noodles. Sprinkle half a chopped scallion over each bowl and then a sprinkle of furikake, if you are using it.


Easy Chinese Style BBQ Pork or Char Siu



One of the greatest thngs about living in Toronto means that I have access to an abundance of fabulous Chinese food. Because of this, there are things that I don't even try to make at home all that often. For the most part, I will think "why would I even attempt BBQ at home when I am a 10 minute drive from Ka Ka?" but you know, I'm in the eye of the stupid winter vortex, I don't have a car during the winter and I didn't think far enough ahead to pick some up earlier in the week and I want to make Cantonese Chow Mein.  Shit happens.



I used to date a Chinese guy and his parents made their own BBQ pork and duck and I recall that it was far superior to anything that you could get in a restaurant but I never gave much thought to how they made this stuff. Once, when I was sleeping over at their house I ventured down to the basement in the dark in search of my designated spot on the couch, I had a close encounter with my own  mortality. It was completely blacked out and I was a bit disorientated and was fumbling around, looking for the light when I was whacked in the face by something heavy and greasy and I started screaming my head off. I tried to dodge the big, greasy things that felt like an army of satan's beaver tails but as soon as I had fought off one, I would be hit in the back of the head by another. It felt like I was being attacked on all sides and, for a moment,  my life flashed before my eyes. Okay, I think I might have also had a couple cocktails in me and that certainly didn't help the situation but it was pitch dark, I was in a strange house where I wasn't an overly welcome guest and was always a bit on edge to begin with - all that was missing was the shower music from Psycho. Suddenly, the light snapped on and my boyfriend was standing at the bottom of the stairs, laughing his ass off at me. I found myself standing in the midst of at least a dozen ducks hanging from the ceiling, flattened like flowers pressed between the pages of a book.

WHO DOES THAT???

Anyway, I wanted BBQ Pork so I had to make it myself. It might not be 100% authentic but most people don't have maltose syrup or big hooks with which to hang their chunks of pork but this produces a pretty good home version with ingredients that most people can get their hands on.


Easy Char Sui/BBQ Pork

adapted from momofukufor2.com

Ingredients

1 lb pork tenderloin
1 1/2 tbls brown rice syrup (or maltose if you have it or corn syrup)
1 1/2 tbls honey
1 1/2 tbls hoisin sauce
1 tbls dark soy
1/2 tbls light soy sauce
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1/2 tbls sesame oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 coin sized slices of fresh ginger


Instructions

mist everything but the pork in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for a minute or two until everything is melted and thickens up just a bit. Let it cool to room temperature.

Cut your pork tenderloin into three or four chunks and toss it with most of the sauce, reserving a small bowl to baste it with at the very end, and let it marinate in the fridge. If you can manage a full 24 hours that is fabulous but sometimes life happens and I have done it with as little as 6 hours and its still tasty.

When it's time to cook it, take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking time to let it come down to room temp. If you can, you want to grill this pork but I am Canadian and that is not always possible so, if you can't grill it, roast it and then broil it.

out of the marinade and ready to go into the oven

Heat the oven to 425F and lay the pork pieces on a rack over a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.

Cook the pork until the internal temp is 160F, probably about 30-35 minutes. For the final glazing, brush the pork with the remaining marinade that you set aside and broil it, turning the pieces so that you char all sides but careful, because all that sugar will burn if you don't watch it.

Let it sit for at least ten minutes after you remove if from the oven before you slice it to serve it. It's great at room temp, in a sandwich, on rice or in any kind of stir fried dish.


The Great Canadian Food Experience - My Canadian Love Affair with Tandoori Sopes




This month's challenge in the Great Canadian Food Experience is called Canadian Love Affair. Hmmmm

We have covered so many aspects of what constitutes Canadian cuisine. We have talked about regional specialities and food traditions from our families and our childhood and I just keep coming back to the fact that Toronto is a melting pot of every type of international cuisine imaginable. This is the city that introduced me to pho and to Ethiopian food. I learned the difference between a Punjabi butter chicken (the most common regional cuisine served here in North America) and the dosa, a staple of Southern India right here in the city. You can get authentic Iranian food at the Persian Plaza for lunch and then pop over to J Town on for some imported Japanese groceries and grab some bibimbap at The Galleria on your way home.  We also have a huge Italian community which means we have an endless array of authentic Italian restaurants and grocers serving the community and delighting those of us who are not Italian by birth but feel like honourary Italians by heart. 

I often tell the tale of my German friend who came to visit for the first time. I took him all over the city so that he could see why I love Toronto so much and why I would always get homesick at the three month mark whenever I was working abroad. I watched my friend fall in love with Toronto in the summer because, who wouldn't?  After a week he asked me why I bother to travel at all when I have the whole world, right here on my doorstep? Despite the fact that food and eating is a huge part of my life, I do like to experience other facets of life in other countries but I understood what he was trying to say. 

If you ask me to choose just one country's cuisine as my favourite, my answer would change daily. Ask me today, and I might say that I love Italian food more than any other food and that would be my choice if I could only eat one thing. Oh, wait. Would that be the buttery risotto of northern Italy or would I want to stick to barolo from Piemonte? Maybe it would be the spicy, North African influenced foods from the most southernmost tip of Sicily, full of dried fruits and pine nuts or maybe a nice carbonara from Rome would keep me happy? 

The next day I might decide that I love nothing more than Thai and could envision myself eating nothing but pad thai and green curry for the rest of my days but by the third day I would be sure that life would not be worth living without Japanese food as I rush off to Guu Izakaya so that the lovely staff can yell their heads off at me while I sip Sapporo and eat salmon tataki. 

So, it might not feel like a Canadian Love Affair on the surface but, at the heart of it, the cultural diversity represented by the huge variety of restaurants and grocery stores that dot the city is as Canadian as it gets for me. I was raised to believe that while the United States was a melting pot, encouraging all immigrants to assimilate, blend in and become American that Canada was more of a mosaic. We were a place where immigrants were encouraged to keep their own culture, foods and customs while finding ways to weave them into the fabric of their new community, eventually forming a newer, richer place in the process. 

My favourite thing to do is to blend together elements from these diverse cuisines to make my own dishes. We all know that there is nothing like a Korean Taco but did you realize that lime, cilantro and garlic are just as prevalent in the food of Quintana Roo in Mexico as they are in Thai food?  It just makes sense that you can start to cross breed your favourite dishes until you end up with an edible Shnoodle of sorts. 

I have discovered that the flavour of masa harina tastes like it was made to go with tzatziki and lemony souvlaki.  Since Indian raita is almost the same as Greek tzatziki, we take it a step further and try mixing Indian food with little fried masa harina cakes and throw in some paneer, which is so similar to queso fresco that I have substituted one for the other on more than one occasion. Now you've got yourself with tastiest way imaginable to use up any leftover butter or tandoori chicken by transforming it into sopes, like these butter chicken sopes .

I actually make tandoori chicken just so I can enjoy these Indo-Mexican fusion beauties. Oh Canada, indeed.





Tandoori Sopes

makes 6 large

Sopes:
I have full instructions with pictures on my blog,  The Yum Yum Factor
1 cup masa harina
2 tbls lard or shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup hot tap water plus another couple of tbls of hot water

mix the masa harina, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the shortening like you would for pie dough. I just use my fingers to work it in until it has that pea like texture. Add the water, starting with 1/2 cup and mix it all together with your hands. Add water, 1 tbls at a time until the dough has the texture of a nice, soft cookie dough.

If you are making small appetizer sized sopes, roll the dough into balls the size of golf balls. I made them bigger because it was our entree so mine were the size of swollen golf balls, maybe 2".



f you have a tortilla press, great. If not, I use a flat spatula to flatten them out until they are about 1/4" thick.


Heat a dry, heavy pan (i like cast iron) over medium heat until it's really hot. Add the sopes and fry for two minutes a side. Take them out of the pan and start pinching up the sides to make a little wall, turning your flat disc into a little well to hold in all those tasty fillings. It will burn your fingers a little bit but like fashion, sometimes you have suffer for great food. 
If you want to cook them later on, you can stop here and cover them well with plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to fry them.




Heat another heavy pan (I don't like to use a really big pan to fry) with about 1/4" of vegetable oil. The oil is ready when a little piece of dough sizzles after you drop it in.

Add the sopes and fry for a minute or so , flat bottom down and then flip them over and fry them for another minute , flat side up. Remove from the pan and place, flat side up, on a paper towel lined plate to drain some of that extra oil. 
After they are all done, flip them right side up and start filling them.



Assembling the Sopes:

Shredded leftover *tandoori chicken (featured below)

1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
mint chutney
coriander chutney
about  3" block of paneer, sliced into thin slices cut to fit the bottom of the sope
a small avocado mashed with a squeeze of lemon
**home made raita or store bought

put a thin slice of paneer on the bottom of a hot sope. Smear some avocado on top of that, then pile some shredded chicken and top with a few slices of red onion. Drizzle a bit of each of the chutneys on top and then a final bit of raita to finish it off.



*Tandoori Chicken

adapted from a recipe from The Food Of India


1/2 cup greek yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
2" piece of ginger
1 tbls garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
4 cardamom pods, squashed
9 skinless chicken thighs, meat scored
small bowl of melted butter or ghee
Put the yogurt and the lemon juice in a bowl. Put the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor to puree OR just chop, chop, chop until it's really finely chopped OR use a pestle and mortar. I use my bullet for this sort of thing because it works perfectly for small amounts of food.







Add the puree to the yogurt and lemon along with the rest of the ingredients right up to the chicken thighs and stir well to combine. Add the chicken thighs and make sure they are completely coated in the marinade. Cover it and put it in the fridge for at least four hours or, preferably, overnight.










If you are grilling the chicken, take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you are going to cook it to let it come to room temperature. Prepare your grill the way you usually do. We like to cook over charcoal so we prepare the grill for direct grilling with the grill about 5" above the coals and let the coals heat until they are covered with white ash. Remove the chicken from the marinade and sort of press them to get rid of much of the excess marinade and grill, covered, turning a few times, until the juices run clear. About ten minutes before it's done, brush the chicken with some melted butter or ghee.

If you are baking them in the oven, preheat the oven to 400F. Place the chicken on a wire rack on a baking sheet. Cover with aluminum foil and roast on the top shelf for about 45 minutes until cooked through and the juices run clear. Baste the chicken once with the marinade during that time. Remove the foil after about 30 minutes so they have a good 15 minutes to brown.

Just before you want to serve it, with the chicken still on the rack, brush the ghee or butter over the chicken and put under the broiler for five minutes to blacken the edges a bit like they would on the grill or in a tandoor.



The Week in Yum Feb 1-7 Winterlicious Double Tap

Coffee by the fire in the lobby of the Shangri La


It's February which means Winterlicious has begun and it's time to get out there and try something new. If you aren't already acquainted with the Liciouses, it's time to find out what it's all about. Twice a year an array of Toronto restaurants put together a prix fixe menu that showcases the best of what they have to offer. Some places just do dinner but others do both a lunch and a dinner menu. It's a great way to discover new restaurants or to try places that you have been meaning to check but just haven't gotten around to. I always go with a friend who will share so that we can both order different stuff and instead of tasting one app, one main and one dessert, I get to taste six new things. I don't really trust people who won't share their food because I get so excited when something is delicious that I want to share it with the whole world. I want you to experience just how amazing this soup is too. Nothing makes me crazier than ordering just to hear my companion order all of the same things. What is the point in that? You don't have to let me eat off of your fork (although I will if you offer) but sharing is what side plates were invented for for the love of pearl.


I have a food blogger friend who claims to hate the 'Licious thing. No Summerlicious or Winterlicious for her because she feels like the special menus are just a throw off and that the restaurants don't care about you if you order off of it but I think she is nuts. I love Summer/Winterlicious and try to hit as many restaurants as I can. I usually aim for places that are on the pricey side so that I can try their food for a fixed price before I lay open my wallet for an a la carte meal on a normal night. It's also the perfect time to try those expensive spots at lunch when you are getting the same food that you would get at dinner for half the price.

Winterlicious runs from January 31 until February 13 this year and there are three tiers of offerings ranging from $15 to $25 dollars for lunch and $25 to $45 for dinner. If you go to the website, the participating restaurants are listed alphabetically so you can look for places you would like to try, preview their Winterlicious offerings and make your choices but if you are planning to eat dinner instead of lunch, you would be wise to also make reservations ahead of time, especially for the more popular places.

So, my  week started off with dinner at Azure, the restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel on Front St West. I eat lunch here quite a bit because I spend the entire week of The Toronto Film Festival make up artisting out of this hotel so I already knew that the food was good. Unfortunately, I never get to eat my food hot from the kitchen because each time I sit down to lunch, it's almost an unwritten rule that my phone will buzz with an urgent text to get to the ninth floor STAT to powder the nose of a greasy skinned actor and by the time I get back down to the restaurant, my soup is cold. The fact that my cold soup is also still delicious is a testament to how good it was in the first place though, no?

When I was contacted and offered a chance to try the Winterlicious menu at Azure on the house,  I immediately accepted. A chance to eat an entire meal here while never jumping up from the table, served at the temperature it's meant to be consumed at? Who would say no to that?





As soon as we arrived we were greeted warmly, our coats whisked away and seated at a small table for two. Just as I was lamenting the small table and wondering where I was going to put all the crap I would have to push aside in order to be all obnoxious and take pictures of our food, our lovely waiter came and said "let's just push these two tables together so you won't feel cramped. A big table is always better"
Why yes, lovely waiter, it is.

Our waiter was attentive without being all up in our grill and I do appreciate a good server. After perusing the wine list, we were very happy to see some interesting Ontario wines on there and chose a bottle of Organized Crime “THE PIPE DOWN” , a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot from  niagara. I didn't notice until after we ordered that they also had some wine from 2027,  another Ontario winery. Their 2012 Riesling is one that I really love and not always that easy to find and if I had noticed that I would have probably just had a glass of both the Pipe Down and the 2012.  That's what I get for being so anxious to get some wine in me.

Since I had already perused the Winterlicious menu, I already knew exactly what we were going to order and wasted no time in letting the waiter know. Having enjoyed their parsnip and leek soup a number of times, I knew that Shack would like the Parsnip Bisque and he did. I had the maple cured salmon with lovely little bits of beet and candied pecans and it was also very good, if small. It was okay for me but Shack would have finished the plate in two bites and be left wanting a bit more although the warm buns with compost butter filled the gap nicely.

From what I could see, he enjoyed his veal osso bucco because he was so busy eating it that he forgot to share and I was was lucky that I managed to sneak one tiny bite of meat while he wasn't looking. My Arctic Char was nicely done and although I didn't get much pomegranate from it, I thought it was great. The portion size was perfect with two chunks of nicely seared fish sitting on top of a smattering of navy bean puree. Out of the three desserts, my favourite was the apple caramel cheesecake and I may or may not have licked the plate clean. The Banana walnut ice cream tasted exactly like banana bread, if banana bread was not bread but ice cream and since I love banana bread, that is a very good thing.  Our waiter said their pastry chef makes all of the ice cream herself, in house and it shows in the perfectly creamy, smooth texture.


maple cured salmon

Fun fact about everyone in my little family:

We LOVE hotels. We love crisp linens, fluffy duvets, endless hot showers and room service. I would be so happy if I could live like Eloise and call The Plaza my home although I no longer look fetching in knee socks. Who needs a mom when you have a concierge?  We would have to make a few changes but I think it could still work. We also love a good hotel restaurant and I like the idea that I could meander down there in my pjs for a bit of fine dining if I chose to do so. They often have high ceilings and opulent decor, a kind of hushed atmosphere and offer fabulous people watching. Okay, so let's get the negative out of the way right now:

This is not really that place.

During the day, the soaring windows that flank the entire restaurant fill it with light and make it a really pleasant place to have lunch. At night, the tinny throb of euro disco music coming from what sounds like another room doesn't really create any sort of atmosphere, romantic or otherwise.  There is a happy place between over loud music making conversation difficult, which I really dislike, and muffled club music coming from the back room. The fact that there is no actual wall to separate it from the actual hotel makes it feel like an extension of the lobby, depending on where you are seated so try to get a table around the back where you can't really see all that. The staff is attentive and considerate and I think I spied some private dining areas around the back but the actual restaurant lacks intimacy if you are going on a date or something like that. Luckily, the food and the service made up for that and I would definitely go back.


Okay, whew, that had to be said and in saying that, it is a great place to eat during the day and at $25 per person, the Winterlicious lunch menu looks fantastic as well.

banana bread disguised as creamy ice cream


We started Sunday with breakfast sandwiches because we could and we did.


Later on during the afternoon, we popped down to Le Papillion on the Park for The Leslieville Market's Souper-Bowl. In exchange for the chance to bring containers that they fill up with delicious french onion soup (you can bring a bowl and enjoy it right there if you like), you are donating money to help support the market. All the money goes towards the cost of actually running the wonderful market that we all love and frequent and it brings the community together during the winter season.


I run into my friend, Alice and her brat every year at the Souper-Bowl. They must really like soup


She doesn't look excited at all , does she?
The first half of the week was spent working with Disney to make Aaron Paul (aka Jesse Pinkman) look fresh and well rested for the Toronto leg of their Need For Speed publicity tour. I know, I know, I have the worst job in the world, having to touch the faces of beautiful men for days on end. Not only do I have to tend to these beautiful men, but I am force fed this non stop spread of fancy hotel food. I forgot to photograph the pastries and the selection of breads to toast with an array of jams, jellies and honeys. We were at the Shangri La hotel, which is one of my favourite hotels, not that I will ever actually stay there. I don't think I can afford to do that but I do love to work there. The staff are so good looking, so on the ball, so helpful and elegant - dare I say swellagant.



Since Alice and I (of the Souper-Bowl loving Alice, who is also a fellow makeup artist extraordinaire )
we spending the day at the Shangri La, we chose to not eat the beautiful lunch spread that Disney provided in our suite. How could we not pop in to Momofuku to enjoy their Winterlicious lunch menu? I am ashamed to admit that this was the first visit for me. When they first opened, it was impossible to get a seat without waiting forever and I really hate waiting so I thought I would wait for the hype to calm down. I keep meaning to go but it's a pain to go right down town to eat unless I am actually working there so I just never do it.


The Winterlicious $15 lunch menu is a really good deal. My smoked chicken ramen is already $15 a bowl, so why would I not get a kimchi and a compost cookie to go along with it for the same price? We got the spicy kimchi and it was sooooo good. It was just spicy enough to be able to say it's hot without making me choke, although Alice did need an extra glass of water after eating some of hers. I added it to the soup for an extra hit of deliciousness, if that is even possible. The miso broth was smoothly addictive and it came with just the right amount of noodles. I ate almost the entire bowl of soup and didn't feel bloated and over full like I often do after eating ramen. I admit that I have no self control when it comes to delicious noodles and if it's in the bowl, I will keep eating even when my brain is screaming "STOP IT YOU PIG, WE'RE GONNA BLOW!"

We sat at the bar which meant that we got to watch the army of food prep dudes make all the food. I learned a very cool little trick that day - instead of poaching the soft egg for my smoked chicken soup, they boil them in the shell until they are still very soft and crack them into small bowls. It takes up so much less room to boil them in the shell and it results in a perfectly cooked egg that isn't waterlogged and that retains it's shape beautifully. I can't wait to try this at home. The lightly braised water chestnuts in my soup were also a step above what you will usually encounter. All in all, it was one of my favourite ramens to date but be forewarned, there are only two types of soup on the menu so you aren't going to get to choose from a long list of variations so don't come here looking for a big variety.

I am happy to report that The Kid said that although the compost cookie was very good, it was not as good as MY compost cookies. He said mine are bit saltier and he prefers that.
BAM

all of the mise en place needed to make the lunch dishes

I will dream of this soup

Alice loved her dan dan noodles with spicy pork

This is the magic people




The rest of the week was pretty uneventful although on Thursday I did make my own version of chinese BBQ pork, which will be up on the blog at some point over the weekend. I don't usually make it because I live in Toronto and I can get good BBQ pork pretty easily but it was snowy and I didn't have a car and it was cold and I did have a pork tenderloin and I needed just 1/2 lb of the stuff. Today, I am going to park my ass in front of the TV and watch the Olympic opening ceremonies and hunker down for the next two weeks to watch because I adore the Winter Olympics and although I toyed with the whole idea of boycotting them, how can we punish the athletes who are spent their lives training to get there? I could skip the summer olympics but the winter sports are my jam and I look forward to seeing all the clever ways that the various countries will give Putin the gay middle finger, like this:




Pin of the week:  I will take this for lunch today, thanks

Instagram of the week: pure food porn

Facebook share of the week: The Gouda LIfe really makes food look crazypants

Tweet of the week:

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