Dinner Party – Seared scallops, coq au vin, clafoutis

I have had such good intentions for this blog! I have had two different recipes planned, that I wanted to post about! I made the meals, and photographed every step of the process, but alas, I was not happy with the end result.

Good Friday, Matt’s family came over for dinner, and the salmon cannelloni that I made kind of fell a bit flat. Or at least I thought so. And then, a few nights ago, I made one of my favourite curries: a butternut squash, chickpea, and spinach curry. But I rarely use a recipe, and in my attempt to peg one down for this blog, I ruined it! So I wasn’t happy with this particular variation. Though it certainly looked good. I’ll work on the spice variations and get back to you on this one.

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And then, of course, I made a really great weeknight meal, but wasn’t expecting it to be so good, so of course I didn’t take any pictures. (But, thankfully, Matt did!)

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This was what I like to call a “Poor man’s bulgogi”, because it has essentially the same flavours but with ground beef instead. It’s super quick and tasty. Top it with sriracha, a crispy fried egg, some sesame seeds and green onions, and it’s aces. Super super good. Again, I want to come back with a full post about this one.

But that’s not what today’s post is really about. This post is about a dinner party I held over the weekend. Three pairs of us have started hosting rotating dinner parties every couple of months. This past weekend it was my turn, and the theme was french. So the menu consisted of seared scallops, coq au vin, and a nice clafoutis. And I broke the rule of never trying anything out for the first time for company, but I did, with every dish. And it turned out okay! I declared it a success.

I used Deb Perelman’s recipe for Coq au vin, over at Smitten Kitchen. And it turned out perfectly. I used all chicken breasts, cut in half, with skin and bones, and I dredged them in flour before browning them. Other than that, I followed the recipe pretty exactly. The trick is really reducing the sauce to get that delicious concentrated flavour. It’s damn good.

Somehow some mushrooms, onions, bacon, chicken and a fair amount of red wine turn into something amazing. Actually, it’s not really that surprising.

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I went pretty simple with the sides, with some green beans and new potatoes, tossed with some butter and sauteed shallots.

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Dessert was Orangette’s lovely recipe for brown sugar clafoutis with pears. It was good, but I’ll be honest, it didn’t blow me away. Part of me thinks this was because I don’t have a blender, so I made it in my mixer, and it left some lumps. It was tasty though, and looked mighty pretty right out of the oven. Despite the lumps :\

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And personally, my proudest moment was the seared scallops we started with. On a bed of greens, with a nice little white wine pan sauce. I’m really glad these worked out, because they would have been an expensive mistake.

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My friend Andrea brought some nice cheeses (a fucking DELECTABLE triple creme brie, and a great aged cheddar), and I supplied a nice Ontario pecorino for a local shop. I also put out some nice little spreads courtesy of my dad: a sweet chili pepper jelly, a red onion relish type thing, and the favourite, a spiced tomato jam. The cheese board was definitely one of my favourite parts of the evening.

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(I need a cheese board that’s not just my cutting board)

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It was just a really nice night.

Apartment 1A: The Kitchen Tour

So, I thought it might be a nice idea to do a bit of a tour of my kitchen. I feel like people who cook always like to see what other people have in their kitchens. Or at least I do. Mostly I like to covet fancy things. Most of my things aren’t that fancy, but I’ve got some gems here and there. And a pretty sweet kitchen, I might add.

It’s pretty small, as far as kitchen go. But for a kitchen in an apartment in a city, it’s actually a pretty decent size.

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You’ll have to excuse the bike to the left (again, apartment in the city). But this is my kitchen. The giant butcher block peninsula is pretty much a life saver and basically makes the kitchen as great as it is. It’s HUGE, and I can prepare stuff on it at multiple stations, and store stuff on it, and there’s even room for seating on one side. Other things I like about my kitchen are the gas oven and stove, and the DISHWASHER. I don’t care what anybody says, having a dishwasher is the BEST. When it comes down to it, there’s not much about my kitchen I don’t like. Sure, I could always use some more storage, but we get by okay, and the pot rack we installed gives us some great extra space. The one other thing is that it doesn’t very much natural lighting, which makes taking pictures for this blog a bit of a pain, and means I’m often cooking in my own shadow. But all in all, it’s a pretty great kitchen.

This is the peninsula in all it’s glory:

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This is the lovely little pot rack we installed when we moved in:

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It’s nice to be able to display my nice cookware, a great 10 piece Lagostina set I got for a really great deal at Kitchen Stuff Plus.

And here is the true star of the kitchen:

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Apart from the kitchen itself though, there are lots of things IN my kitchen that I love and am really partial too. This one is a big one:

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I was lucky enough to get this beauty for Christmas this year. Because I am spoiled. And I know it. But I’m pretty okay with it if it means I get to use this swanky machine. Here are some other beautiful things in my kitchen:

A lovely glass cake platter

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These wee little cat plates I found at Value Village. I discovered that I can buy the complete set at the Sanko store on Queen West.

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 Our tiny Le Creuset collection

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 These are danish dough Whisks!

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My favourite milk glass vase

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And here’s a bonus – a badly behaving cat

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Bresaola Part 2

ImageSo, it’s been over a week since my last post. I was hoping to post 1-2 times a week, but I guess, as it turns out, I don’t always cook the most interesting stuff. There has been good food this past week, don’t get me wrong. There’s been crock-pot pulled pork with jalapeño cornbread and homemade slaw, there’s been cabbage, bacon and egg hash, and there’s been some damn good pappardelle at an east side italian restaurant. But either they just weren’t quite good enough for sharing with you all, or I forgot to take any pictures. And if there are no pictures THEN WHAT’S THE POINT!?

But I did take pictures of last night, when Matt and I began the next step of making the Bresaola. You guys, it’s going to be SO GOOD. It’s pretty reassuring when hunks of meat that have been sitting in our fridge for over two week still smell GREAT. It smells like mulled wine and nature and meat. All the best things, really. Last monday we applied the second  batch of dry cure to the meat and sealed it in fresh bags. By the time we took it out of the fridge last night it was sitting in a fair amount of juices, drained from the meat.

ImageImageAfter rinsing the cure off of the meat and thoroughly drying it, it was time to wrap it up. Some people get either natural or synthetic casings for their meats, others simply tie the meat. We chose to wrap ours in cheesecloth.

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ImageThen we tied them (with the help of a few youtube videos) with some simple butcher’s knots so that they’re all ready for hanging.

ImageWe then hung the meat in our “curing unit”, i.e. converted wine fridge. Right now it’s sitting at about 11 degrees and about 58% humidity, which is a tad bit lower that we want, so we’re going to experiment with adding some more containers of water, or maybe a sponge or two to bring it up a bit higher. Ideally, for curing meat, you want the temperature between 10-15 degrees celsius and the humidity between 60-70%. But I think we’ll be just fine. Now we just have to weigh the meat weekly, and once it’s lost about 35-40% of it’s original weight, we’ll know it’s ready. I’ll make a final post about it at that point!

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Anticipating Summer: Lazy(ish) Fish Tacos

I have many plans for the summer. One of these plans is to eat many fish tacos. There is something delightfully summery about them. So spicy and bright tasting. It just satisfies you. Add a margarita to the mix, and you’re gold. 

Often, when I’m craving fish tacos, I go to straight to the experts: La Carnita’s fish taco, “In Cod we Trust” plagues my mind on a pretty constant basis. In fact, pretty much everything they do plagues my mind. I’ve never had a bad taco there, but their fish taco is my favourite. They also do a mean margarita, and their street corn is pretty boss as well. If I could go there all the time, I would. But I can’t so I don’t. So every once in a while, I have to try my hand at my own fish taco.

I am no fool. You cannot improve upon perfection. And I don’t entertain ideas of being able to replicate perfection. So I went on a hunt for a recipe for fish tacos that I could replicate or at least approximate. I needed something that had the same satisfying array of flavours, blending so well but still distinct. And spicy. A fish taco has to be spicy. It just does.

So anyway, after a bit of research (ie: googling) I came across a recipe that seemed to capture most of what I wanted in my fish tacos. Bobby Flay’s Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw, Tomato and Avocado Salsa and Pineapple Hot Sauce is what I use as a rough guide for my much lazier (and probably just as delicious) fish taco. It’s a weeknight taco. Or a weekend taco. Or a midnight taco. Or an every minute of your life taco, really.

Here’s a rough overview of my recipe: Tilapia fish tacos with “whatever slaw”, pineapple jalapeño “salsa”, avocados, and a sriracha “crema”. 

First, assemble your toppings. Slice up dem avocados. Here’s a nice tip I read somewhere on the internet once: to make sure an avocado isn’t overripe, pop off the little nubbin/stem/whatever, and if it’s still white underneath, it’s all good. If it’s brown, put it down. HANDY. 

For the slaw, use whatever is easiest. In an ideal world, it’d be red cabbage slaw. But I don’t want to buy an entire damn red cabbage for a cup of slaw. So I pick up a bag of slaw from the store. Sometimes they have red cabbage, but mostly they don’t. Today I used a carrot-cabbage combo. So long as it’s crispy and colourful, you’re all good. Chop up some cilantro and mix it in with the slaw, then add a generous splash of rice vinegar and good amount of lime juice. Half a lime or a whole lime. Up to you! Let that marinade while you do the rest. 

Next chop up the pineapple and some jalapeños (canned, jarred, fresh, whatever, no judgement here) and fry them up in a pan until they get all delicious looking, charring and caramelizing a bit. Most foods are better if you can somehow get them to caramelize. Once that’s done put it in a bowl. That is my pineapple jalapeno “salsa”.

Grab a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, and mix it with sriracha sauce to taste. It should be pretty spicy. This is the “crema”.

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As for the fish. I usually use tilapia fillets, because they’re cheap and easy to find, but you could use any old white fish you wanted, I’m sure. Season both sides with salt and pepper. I like to grab some breadcrumbs and zest a lime into them, and a good squeeze of lime juice. Mix that good stuff all together. Then I simply dredge the fish in these breadcrumbs and fry it up in a tiny bit of oil. Both sides. But you could also do the fish any old way you want, really. If you’re a better man that I, you could actually batter the fish! But that’s too much work. For even less work, you could just skip the breadcrumbs and do salt, pepper and some lime zest/juice.

Once the fish is done, grab a pile of corn tortilla and stick them on a plate. Cover them with a damp dishtowel, and microwave it for about 2 minutes. This kind of steams them and makes them lovely and pliable. 

Now, YOU ARE READY. Throw everything onto a pita and GOBBLE IT UP. It’s good right? Super good. Yea.

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