Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holy Crap, its Chili Chicken.

Hey all,
I'm just about finished at my current co-op job, and I've come to note some big traditions here that I'll definitely miss. One that harkens back to the days of their old office at Rexdale (yes, THAT Rexdale) is a love for Indian-Chinese food. Indian Chinese food, in the sense that I'm familiar, is insanely spicy and delicious, and not for the faint of heart.

A usual run takes about ten of us up there for a bowl of hot and sour soup and my favourite, Chilli Chicken. Some go for fish, some get it 'dry' (without sauce, and spicy as all hell), but I got for the Chilli Chicken, Wet, with Half Rice (because they give you an entire farm's worth sometimes.

To experience this, go anywhere around Rexdale and Martin Grove in Toronto, and look for Hakka Chinese food. It's complicated where this name comes from and applies, but so, so worth it. We go to the China Garden at Airport and Derry Road.

Also, yes - my love for Canadian-Chinese food is more and more strengthened by this place. It's a dangerous mix, but so. damn. good.

Anyways! Here's the recipe, with no photos (sorry) because it's a pretty speedy, involved recipe. Like many dishes, most of the work is in the prep, with little cooking time.

You'll need
  • 2-3 Green chilis (minced or sliced)
  • A clove or two of garlic (minced)
  • About an inch of ginger (minced)
  • Half a decent size onion (thin slices)
  • 2-3 chicken breasts or 3 thighs (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce, mixed with a pinch of salt and pepper, and some cayenne/chili powder if you're a badass (Like a certain Mr. Kalra. Man, that guy is intense about his spicy food)
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 3 tbsp water - keep this aside and ready, and stir again before putting in. It tends to separate quickly.
On med-high heat, cook the chilis, garlic, and ginger until your apartment smells delicious (as I assume it already does. Then toss in the onions. Brown those suckers.

When content with the onions, toss the chicken in to cook. If it has skin or fat, leave it in for maximum goodness. Also, the fat renders, yadda yadda, helps form the base of the sauce, blah blah.

When the chicken is cooked through, toss in the soy sauce mix to cook for a bit. It will smell very strongly like soy sauce, but begin to sweeten. When it smells less like overpowering sodium juice , and more like good stuff, toss in the water. This seems a bit odd, and it is to me, but I'm not familiar with the cooking style really.

Let this mix come to a boil. Then stir up and toss in your cornstarch mixture. Quickly mix this to integrate, and let it thicken. When thickened pretty well, cover and leave for a few minutes. Serve this over rice, and burn your eyebrows off and lose any kind of a cold you ever had in your life. To reduce the spice, cut back on the chilis - but that's really part of the appeal so you're missing out if you do.

The cornstarch is an odd addition to me, not being particularly familiar with it. Turns out it's a very important part of sauce construction in Asian cooking, so for more information, go here (also looks like a pretty amazing recipe.

The chicken can also be replaced with tofu if you swing that way.

Enjoy! Don't blame me for singed eyebrows and steam coming out of the ears.

edit: thanks to Hooked on Heat for helping me get my fix

Sunday, October 25, 2009

vegetarian pho-king gold

Hey all.
So I have this odd sort of fascination with Pho, ever since I was introduced by a friend of mine. Something about it is therapeutic - maybe the spices and steam, or maybe that you're eating a gallon of broth and all the trimmings. Either way, I decided to take it on at home.


A lot of my friends are vegetarians, and my apartment is a sweat lodge at the moment. So simmering beef knuckles for eight or so hours just ain't gonna happen. Luckily, I found a pretty nifty veghead recipe online that still does the trick.

As follows (thanks elliemay.com)

- Make eight cups of vegetable stock. You can use the cubes, or if you have some good homemade stuff, that's neat too. Again, sweatbox - I used the cubes.
- Put a large pot on medium-high heat, with nothing in it. Then toss:

  • 1 small unpeeled onion, quartered

  • 2 unpeeled shallots, halved

  • 8 garlic cloves, halved

  • a 1-inch piece of ginger, coarsely sliced

  • two 3-inch cinnamon sticks

  • 2 pods of star anise

  • 4 cloves
in. DO NOT (yes, I mean it) put olive oil or any such nonsense in. You basically want to burn these suckers - I have no idea why, but getting a good scorch on these things does the job. When you're content, and your apartment is smoky - toss in the broth and 3 tbsp of soy sauce. Simmer this sucker for twenty-five minutes and strain into another pot.
It'll look like this:

Then, cook some rice vermicelli (they look like sticks of rice) - about half a handful - according to package directions. Set these in bowls to keep warm.
No picture. I tried, it looks pretty fugly.

Toss on some sliced green onions, and prepare your platter of accoutrements.
I used

  • mint

  • lime

  • bean sprouts (big ones

Isn't that purty? Also, keep a bottle of this nearby:
You can find it at any respectable Asian grocer. Sriracha works too, but I like the chunky stuff where you can see pieces of garlic and chilis. - I used a Vietnamese place nearby for everything in this recipe. It also totalled about.. twelve dollars for four LARGE (there is no other way with Pho) servings.

{Side note: I heard a story once about a guy who went to the address on the back of the bottle, and it was an empty lot. Thus is the mystery of the most amazing hot sauce in the universe. I use it on pizza and eggs like it's going out of style, and has already shown up in next year's American Apparell catelog.}

To finish!
- Top your noodles and onions with broth. Use a massive bowl. Trust me. You'll eat it all.
- Rip up some mint (or basil, that's nice too.) leaves and toss them on.
- Toss in a handful of sprouts
- Squeeze a lime wedge
- Stir in some hot sauce

and voila:
Giant bowl of Vietnamese cure-all.

{Side note the second: Pho is apparently pronounced "fuh" - think of that next time you go to the Pho-King.}

Saturday, October 3, 2009

pizza? ohnomnomnom

Okay. So this is the latest post after months of not posting - basically, I've lived at home for a few weeks, and barely cooked. So to start writing again, I figure I can write about the best home-made pizza I've ever had.

If you know me, you know I cook A LOT of pizza. With a lot of weird things. But it's still sort of kind of pizza. Here's the basic recipe:

- Good dough, about fist size
- Good sauce, about half a cup (cook chilis, garlic,and crushed tomatoes together for eons - there's a good sauce)
- Good mozzarella cheese, about... a heaping half-cup grated.

Heat your oven between 450 and 500 degrees.
Spread out the dough BY HAND - but not too much, or else it gets messy. Get it really thin.
Ladle on sauce, spread it around
Put on cheese.

Here's where it gets tricky.

Put it in the ludicrously hot oven, aiming to not get your eyebrows singed.
Cook until the bottom is well done. I mean nice and well done - like this:

(side note:this is known as a "pizza upskirt" shot. google it. i dare you.)

Take out, turn your oven broiler on full whack. Put the rack close to the broiler (the top element)

Put your pizza in and watch the cheese and top crust go all beautiful and golden brown and delicious. This is pretty critical if you have thin crust pizza, so you don't have to cook it to black on the bottom to get some colour on top.

Take out, let rest, and then eat the whole thing in one go like I did before I posted. So no pictures. Sorry folks, next time. Anyways.


Put some genoa salami on it - either on top or under cheese, depending how you like it (crispy or hidden.

Saute spinach, lots of garlic, and sauce, then top with that in lieu of sauce. Don't do this before a date (smelly breath + spinach in your teeth = no kiss goodnight)

THE MARC SPECIAL - caramelized onions, blue cheese, and crispy (burnt) bacon with everything else. This turned into pizza soup once, but IT WAS STILL GOOD. (even if a certain someone's mom thinks I'm a loser.)

OR toss some cheese curds or old cheddar in with the mozzarella. makes it a bit tastier, I find.

That's all for now. (hopefully) more to come soon!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

easy dinner

As you might be able to tell by the lack of posts lately - I've been pretty busy with work and life, so I haven't been able to post. Some family news lately, of the not-so-good sort, so I've been on my toes.

As a result, I've been making some pretty simple, easy dinners lately, and it's actually kind of nice. You forget about fancy foods, long times cooking, and just realize what difference simple good ingredients make to a nice meal. Like bacon. Glorious bacon.



Cook some nice bacon down in lardons in a pan, to get a lot of fat rendered. Wilt a good bit of spinach in the bacon fat (use olive oil instead, if you're a veg-head), and toss in some chopped garlic, salt and pep.

When that looks good, toss in some tomato sauce, simmer for a bit, and toss this with pasta. Add a little more salt if you're gross like me, and enjoy.

If you're quick, you'll notice I don't bother with exact amounts, because I don't know them, use your judgment, and failing that - someone else's.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

wait, what?


Pulled pork - the love of my life

After too many tries, I finally nailed a decent recipe for pulled pork. It took only four hours to make, and was worth every second. Now I just need to explain my excitement this to my vegetarian friends, and not have them hate my life.

As such...

Pulled pork (Adapted from Apartment therapy - kudos to them)

4 to 5 pound pork shoulder, bone-in
1 tbsp chipotle
1 tsp ancho
1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into wedges
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tall boy of beer (I used Grolsch)

A couple hours before you make this, give the pulled pork a good rubdown (intentionally dirty pun) with the spices mixed with the olive oil. Let it sit for a while in the fridge, then for about half an hour on the counter to warm up to room temp.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Put a cast iron dutch oven on mid-high heat for a while, until it starts smoking. Sear the pork on either side for about two minutes. Your apartment will smell amazing, and your neighbors will love you.

Remove the pork, pour in the beer, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Bring this to a simmer for bit. Toss the pork back in, cover, and put in the oven for a good four hours.

Check the pork once or twice with a instant-read thermometer (aka why I've never given anyone food poisoning). When it's at 190F in the middle, it's done.

Remove to a pan, and shred with a couple of forks. Mix with your favorite barbecue sauce- I use and swear by Cattle Boyz, but you can use whatever. Don't skimp out here.

Put on nice fresh white bread with coleslaw, and rejoice in the fact that you've overcome your past failures at cooking and have made your barbecue-crazy dad a happy man.

Pics (with added links! because i'm bored and hungover):



In the big swim
Pre-shred (note the bbq sauce and container of liquid)

After shredding

My obvious reaction to the food

Friday, June 5, 2009

What's in your fridge?

So after stumbling upon this and this link, basically just checking out what's in people's fridge, I thought for an early post it might be interesting to let you enjoy your voyeuristic pleasures. You sick weirdos.

So what does my fridge say about me?

Apparently, I like beer (as evidenced by the case of good stuff and cans of liquid failure), barbecue sauce (two large bottles in the door) and pickles (the gallon in the door). And not much else.

What does your fridge have?

Comfort food for a rainy southern ontario day

I figured I'd toss this one in too, one of my favorite recipes for when Guelph is being Guelph.

French Onion Risotto
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • parmesan/asiago/some kind of good hard cheese
  • mozzarella
  • herbes de provence (thyme, basil, savory, whatever, really)
Caramelize the onions in the butter, olive oil, and more salt than you might think necessary. This takes time. Be patient. You'll know it's done when it smells amazing and the onions are reduced to barely what they used to be, and the neighbors are no longer mad at you for the smell of onions cooking for hours.

Reach for your herbes de provence shaker, or cut up some fresh herbs from your herb garden (it's like, fifteen bucks for all you need for a summer. do it.) and toss them in, cook a little while, then add the rice.

Sloooowly (a ladle at a time) add in the stock. In the meantime, spread out your parmesan on some parchment paper, toss it in the toaster oven until it gets all brown and crispy. Set aside.

When all the stock is added, toss in a few small hunks (about a half cup worth) of mozzarella, and stir to combine/melt in.

Serve with pieces of the browned cheese on top, and feel better about the crappy weather outside.

Cornbread - aww yeah.

So I've decided to write a new blog, focusing on my love for cooking, having people over, and enjoying the fine beverages supplied by the government (it is Ontario, after all). I'll alternate between recipes I make all the time and what I just made, whether it's an abject failure or not.

Here's a success, made about half an hour ago, as written in an e-mail to a friend of mine.

"make this, or i'll key your car

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/3 cup oil

  • 1 tblsp baking powder

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tbsp thick hot sauce

  • 1/2 cup cheese curds (or normal cheese, if you're not cool)

  • 1/2 cup grated cheese

Mix all this, except the grated cheese, and toss in a small oven-proof skillet or a loaf pan. Put grated cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 40-ish minutes (check after half an hour). Eat when stupid hot, with lots of butter. Send me an e-mail detailing just how much better your life is as a result.


Now if you don't make this, don't expect any nasty surprises for your car. If you know Deluca, you know the revenge that has to be hadfor a certain comment made blocking a certain appendage of mine at a party he held. Also, if you don't have an oven proof skillet, check your attic or your grandma's house. I made this using a seventy year old cast iron I got from her, and it's my favorite tool in the kitchen.