Bresaola pt.1

This evening we went on an adventure in pursuit of culinary advancement! Last week, Matt proposed a project and I readily jumped on board. However, we soon realized that we would need some equipment to make it work. So, we went on an adventure! This adventure also marked my first time driving in the city. I signed up for a ZipCar account, and we reserved a nice little hybrid car to take us all the way out to scarborough to procure this:

curing system

A wine cooler! BUT there’s a catch. We don’t actually intend to use it as a wine cooler. At least not all the time. Most of the time it’s going to be our new “curing system”. Because, you see, Matt proposed we try curing our own meat, and after doing some research it turns out it’s not that hard to do. Some people, depending on where they live and what kind of space they have access to, are able to do it without buying any special curing system. Cured meats need to be hung to dry at about 50-60 degree fahrenheit, and kept at a relative humidity of about 60-70%. Some people rig up old fridges, but we saw some really affordable wine coolers online, and discovered that a wine cooler would work perfectly. And we could fit it in our apartment!

On to the meat! After researching and considering a few recipes, we decided on bresaola because BEEF, and also the beautiful red colour when you slice into the final product. We bought two nice chunks of beef, eye of round, about 2 lbs each, and marinated them overnight in some red wine. The next day we took them out, dried them off, and administered a dry cure. We adapted our recipe from a few sources: this one, this one, and the bresaola recipe from this book.

spices

 

 

MEAT

So, these beautiful pieces of meat are sitting in our fridge, curing away, the salt slowly draining the moisture from the beef. On monday, we’ll take them out, rinse them off, and administer a second batch of the dry cure, letting them cure in the fridge for another week. At which point, we’ll move on to step two, which involves rinsing them, tying them, and hanging them for 3-4 weeks, until they’ve lost roughly 40% of their original mass. I’ll make another post about it when we get to that point.

And then I will stuff my face with so much salty red meat. I hope.

Wish us luck!

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Two Recipes for Winter

You guys, winter has been an asshole this year. A real asshole.

As a result, my soul needs beige carby foods. I’m sorry, it just does. It needs filling buttery goodness that allows me to hibernate under my duvet, or in front of my fireplace and stuff something warm and comforting into my maw. Not every day, not every night, but often enough to remind me that warm, comforting things do still exist.

Now winter is also mostly over. We got snow last night, but despite that, finally, mercifully, the end is nigh. Tuesday after next is supposed to go up to 12 degrees. TWELVE. Twelve. But until then, if you need a little something, or two, to bury yourself in until winter is really, truly over, I offer you two recipes:

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 The first one is pastina. Oh my goodness. In case you don’t know, pastina is really just the type of pasta used, a tiny pasta often used as a soup pasta, that comes in little shapes like stars or squares or, as in our case, the alphabet.

It all started when, a little while ago, Matt was telling me about how his Nonna used to make him pastina when he was little, and how we could never get enough of it. “More, Nonna. MORE” he’d demand. I’d never really had pastina made in the way he was describing, so I figured I’d try it out. It’s really easy and so, so gratifying. It’s like crack.

The key to making it super delicious and soul-warming, I think, is boiling the pastina in chicken broth. I’m sure you could use veggie broth too if you wanted. Boil up a pot of chicken broth, and then add the pastina. I just kind of eyeball it, but the box usually has instructions. The pastina absorbs most of the broth, and once it’s cooked, there shouldn’t be a lot of broth left in the pot. The first time I made it, I didn’t put enough liquid in and had to add a few cups as it cooked. Once it’s done, you just scoop the pasta into some bowls with a slotted spoon. You want just enough liquid to make it nice and slippery, kind of like a sauce, but not too much. Then you just add a ton of butter and grated parmesan and mix it up and then literally stuff it down your gullet. It’s so velvety and smooth, like a kind of mac and cheese, and it just slides down your throat. Seriously guys, it’s so good.

If you wanted to kind of seem healthy, I’m sure you could add veggies to the pot. But whatever.

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My next offering is equally delicious and satisfying in a completely buttery, warm way.

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 I’ve not usually been a huge fan of banana bread. It’s okaaay. But usually just okay. But then, a few years ago I found this recipe. It uses buttermilk, and butter and the result is…fluffy? And buttery and banana-y and so darn good. It’s just different and better than most other banana bread recipes I’ve found.

I usually follow the recipe fairly closely, though depending on whether or not I feel like buying an entire litre of buttermilk for the 4 tablespoons this recipes calls for, I might just do the ole milk and lemon/vinegar combo. But I do make one change:

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Adding booze to recipes is another great way of making yourself feel better in the bitter cold months. Why would you NOT but bourbon in a banana based recipe?! It just makes sense. So screw the vanilla. Add the bourbon.

So anyway, chuck it in the oven for about 50 minutes, or usually more for me, and then when it’s done, it comes out with a beautifully caramelized crust, and even though there’s already a fair amount of butter in it, you can smear more on a slice, and then you can munch on it and feel at peace with the world again.

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Yea. You’re welcome.

Matt’s birthday, madeleines + Barque Smokehouse

This weekend we celebrated Matt’s birthday, which provided a lot of fodder for my very first post here. Because we ate. A lot. Too much, even. But it was good. And I plan to write about it here, and hopefully to continue writing about the things I eat and cook here on a regular basis.

I think about food often; more than I think about most other things, really. Thinking about food makes me excited and passionate, and cooking allows me a creative outlet that results in food, which I can then eat. Which is pretty ideal. It also allows me to bond with other people who love food, like my dad, who I credit as the person who sparked this obsession. Since I’ve finished school and started work full time, I’ve found myself struggling to adjust to the monotony of a 9-5 schedule. That, combined with this wicked, awful winter, has left me needing some other way to be creative, to spend more time thinking about things that make me happy. So I’ve started this blog. Let’s see how it goes.

On to the food.

I ate a lot of meat this weekend. We hit up New Sky Restaurant in Chinatown for dinner with friends on Saturday, and Sunday we tried out Union Social Eatery with Matt’s family, in Mississauga. However, what I really want to talk about (and post pictures of) is Sunday’s breakfast, and tonight’s dinner.

Mads 3

A few weeks ago, I bought my first madeleine pan. It only cost me 8$, but it felt like a splurge. This weekend I brought out my new pan and, using Dorrie Greenspan’s recipe, made my first Madeleines. Though I didn’t make use of Dorrie’s tips to achieve maximum bumpage, I did make my batter the night before and chilled it in the fridge overnight. They turned out beautifully. I got nice big bumps, and they were nice and lemony.

I also brought out the stovetop espresso maker and the french press and made us some nice little cappuccinos (another first for me) to accompany the cookies. It was a good morning.

madeleines espresso

This post is already getting long, but I can’t end it without mentioning tonight’s dinner at Barque Smokehouse, a place we’ve been meaning to visit since moving to the neighbourhood.

We got the platter for two, with dry rubbed ribs, chicken thighs, brisket, squash and brussel sprouts, fries, and smoked cauliflower. It was pretty much so good that I was outraged and could have punched someone. Barque also does brunch. We need to try that next.

Barque 2

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to share tonight. Thanks for reading. I hope you come back!