Monday, November 28, 2016

The Best Roasted Potatoes

My mother made the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever tasted.  For years, I’ve been trying to make mine as well as hers, but I usually skipped one of her steps – parboiling.  There’s no getting around it, superior roasted potatoes start with parboiling.  Skip this step and the potatoes tend to stick to the pan, don’t brown as quickly, and don’t take on the same golden, crackly crust.    

Animal fats work best, be it beef, pork, duck, goose or chicken.  Vegetable-based fats don’t impart the same level of flavour as animal fats, and the potatoes don’t crisp up as nicely.

This is more of a method than a recipe, but here goes:

As many baking (Russet) potatoes as you need, peeled and cut into 3 – 4 cm chunks
Animal fat of your choice (about 2 teaspoons per potato)

Spoon the fat into a dark, non-stick pan.  Put pan into cold oven, and turn oven on; preheat to 325 F.

Put potatoes into a pot large enough to accommodate them, and cover with water.  Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and boil for five minutes.  Drain.  Return potatoes to empty pot, put lid on, and bash the potatoes around a bit by shaking the pan (this roughs up their surface a bit, which allows the fat to cling better to the potatoes).

Once the oven is preheated, carefully remove the pan from the oven, and gently put the potatoes into the pan.  Baste the potatoes on all sides with the fat using a pastry brush.  Return the pan to the oven, and bake for 1-1/2 hours, basting every once in a while and turning the potatoes as needed for even browning.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is the perfect make-ahead meal, and it’s great for pot lucks as well.  Everyone loves it, and it’s simple and economical. Even the side dishes (buns, coleslaw and baked beans) can be ready to go at a moment’s notice.     

The moist heat of a slow cooker produces meat which is pulled much more easily than meat cooked in an oven.  The oven does produce those delicious, crispy bits that everyone loves though, so to replicate, broil the pulled meat for a few minutes once it has been combined with the sauce and reheated.  Watch it like a hawk though, and make sure your dish is approved for broiler use. 

2 t seasoned salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t smoked paprika
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 t chili powder
1 t dry mustard
1 T brown sugar

3 - 4 lb bone-in pork shoulder

The day before cooking, combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl; mix well.  Rub into the exposed areas of the meat.  Place on a rimmed plate, cover well, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Place meat fat-side-up in a slow cooker.  Cover, and cook on low for eight hours.  Remove meat to cutting board, and cool enough so it can be handled comfortably.

Tip the juices from the slow cooker into a gravy separator; discard fat.  In a medium saucepan, add the degreased juices, and the following:

1 c ketchup
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 t smoked paprika
1 t dry mustard
¼ t cayenne
½ t seasoned salt
½ t black pepper
2 T brown sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T cider vinegar

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for five minutes.  Cool.

Shred meat using two forks, or just use your hands.  Discard any fat.  Toss meat with cooled sauce; put into lightly-greased dish.  Cover with foil. 

Reheat in a preheated 325 F oven for 20 minutes or until hot.  Remove the foil and broil for a few minutes to crisp the meat, if desired.    


Monday, April 25, 2016

Vegetarian Chili

This is so full of flavour & satisfying, you won’t miss the meat.  I like to serve this with a salad, along with bread to sop up the thick sauce.

French Du Puy lentils work better than normal brown lentils, as they retain their shape better, and their smaller size add a pleasing meat-like texture to the chili.

1 c dry Du Puy lentils (sometimes labeled as Puy lentils)
1 T vegetable oil
1-2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
227 g mushroom, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Stalks from one bunch of cilantro, chopped (optional)
798 ml can tomatoes, crushed with your hand
½ of a 156 ml can tomato paste
4 t chili powder
1 t oregano
1 t cumin
¼ t chili flakes
1 t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 t sugar
1 T lemon or lime juice
Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

In a large saucepan, cover the lentils generously with water, and soak for one hour.  After the hour has elapsed, bring the lentils to a boil, then simmer, covered, for approximately 25 minutes or until tender.  Drain & set aside.

Give the saucepan a quick rinse, dry, and put on stove over medium heat.  Once heated, add the oil, celery, carrot, onion, bell pepper and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring regularly, until mushrooms have released their liquid and the majority has evaporated.  Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute or so.

Add the cilantro stalks (if using), tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cumin, chili flakes, salt, black pepper, sugar and citrus juice.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered, stirring often, for one hour or until all the vegetables are tender.    

Serve garnished with cilantro, if desired.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cabbage, Carrot & Beet Salad

If, like me, you get tired of lettuce salads, give this one a try.  It's crunchy, keeps well, and most importantly, delicious.  Best if made early in the day or the day before.

¼ medium green cabbage, cored and finely sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2-3 beets, peeled and grated
¼ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ t celery seeds
2 T sugar
4 T rice wine vinegar
4 T vegetable oil
Finely chopped parsley, optional

Combine all and toss well.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lime & Basil Shrimp Salad in Wonton Cups

As you may have noticed, I love hors d'oeuvres.  Anything bite-sized and delicious is fair game, with a little drink on the side, natch.  A perfect start to an enjoyable evening.  

18 wonton wrappers
18 frozen raw shrimp (31-40 size)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T lime juice
4 T olive oil
2 T minced basil or cilantro
½ red bell pepper, diced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325F. 

Spray one side of each wonton wrapper with vegetable oil.  With the oiled sides down, line each section of a mini muffin tin, gently pressing to form to the shape of the cup.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, and cool in pan for five minutes.  Remove each shell from the tin and put onto a wire rack.  Repeat process with remaining wonton wrappers.

Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add shrimp and cover.  As soon as the water comes back to a gentle boil, drain shrimp and put into iced water.  Peel (if necessary) once cool.

Dice shrimp into ½ cm size pieces (don't worry if the shrimp aren't fully cooked; the lime juice will finish the job).  Add remaining ingredients, toss well, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until just before serving.

Spoon a teaspoon of the shrimp mixture into each wonton cup, garnishing with additional basil if desired.

Creamy Black Beans

Properly-made black beans are a thing of beauty.  They should be tender, well-seasoned, and surrounded by a thick, starchy sauce.

As with all bean cookery, acids cannot be added to the beans until they are completely tender. Doing so prematurely will result in a complete halt of the the cooking process, and the beans will never soften. Similarly, salting beans prematurely will result in tough skins.

These are even better if made the day before, but I rarely have the foresight to do so.  

1½ c dried black beans
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
1 t cumin
1 t oregano
Stems from one bunch of cilantro (optional), rinsed & tied together with string
¾ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of one lime
Chopped cilantro to serve

Soak the black beans in plenty of water for 8 – 12 hours.  Drain, return to pan and top with three cups of fresh water.

Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, bay leaf, cumin, oregano and cilantro stems, if using.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until tender (taste for doneness), 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  Remove cilantro stems & bay leaf.

At this stage, your beans should still have quite a bit of broth surrounding them.  Remove the lid and add salt, pepper and lime juice.  Stir through.  Increase the heat to medium-low, and simmer the beans uncovered, stirring often, until broth reduces and becomes gravy-like, 20 to 30 minutes.    

Serve with rice, and garnish with cilantro.  Coleslaw makes an excellent accompaniment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beauty in the Kitchen

Hot cherry peppers from St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, awaiting their pickling fate.