Thursday, April 22, 2010

Weird cookery. OR how to eat the leftover random food in your fridge

So, I'm going on vacation to Atlanta in a few days (what what!), and as a result, I'm trying to eat all of the perishable food in my fridge, so I don't come back to gross stuff. I've been making some weird food lately, and I think this takes the cake.

But oh god. It was tasty. Probably a few zillion calories, but that's alright.

For this, you will need (ugh)

  • One half a red onion

  • Two strips of thick bacon, or three of normal

  • About a cup and a half of pasta (I used gnocchi, for extra deliciousness)

  • and the mystery ingredient - 1/3 cup of Philadelphia Herb and Garlic cream cheese (low fat, obviously. not that it makes much of a difference)

So, for starters, chop your bacon up into lardons (little strips, see picture), and fry until just before crisp. Keep it all in the pan, grease and all.

In the meantime, get your pasta cooking away, and slice an onion into crescents. I used red onions, and took out the little core thing - not a lot of good flavour there. If you cut them thinner, you get caramelization going on, but I got lazy.

Add these into the pan. Bacon and onions? Can't go wrong. Until you add in the cream cheese, then it just becomes extra epic, and so, so wrong, but so, so right. Mix this together till the cream cheese melts and integrated with everything.

Strain your pasta, reserving some cooking liquid (maybe a few tablespoons), and add it all in. The liquid makes the sauce a bit more loose, which is never a bad thing. Stir around till the sauce and pasta are one cohesive lovely little thing - and eat that sucker up.

I need to go the gym now, or something. Also, I'm going on a week-long hiatus. Expect an Atlanta travel/food co-blog with my friend Tressa after!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Schnitzel! And other uses for breaded pork.

"Alright, I'm going to make lunch and blog it"
That's how I kicked off this post today, saying goodbye to a friend on MSN. Makes me realize that I'm kind of addicted to this thing. But hey, it's what you enjoy, right?

What I've decided to make today are some delicious pork cutlets, breaded, and served two different ways. But there's a definite technique to it - so we'll cover that first.

You'll need:
  • "Fast-fry" pork chops, I got three from Market fresh for 3$. They're about half an inch thick. Alternatively, chicken breasts work well too. No bones though.
  • Breadcrumbs (with some seasoning and salt added)
  • Flour
  • One egg, beaten to an inch of its life OR milk, because they use it for fried chicken in the south and it is delicious
  • A LOT of little plates. You'll see why in a sec.
First, toss a chop in a zip-top bag (you may be able to see the brand I'm using. maybe they'll send me more). Freezer bags work best, as they are sturdy. Then, get a rolling pin, and beat that sucker down! A meat mallet works well too, as long as you use the smooth side. It should practically double in surface area, and halve in thickness, as seen below.

When you've got all your teen angst out on some poor unsuspecting pork chops, prepare your work station. You will need, from right-to-left:
  • A plate for your meat (ooh, my bullet points are back to normal)
  • A plate with flour, about an eighth of a cup
  • A bowl, or deep plate with high sides, with milk or the beaten egg
  • Another plate for breadcrumbs. Don't forget to season these fellas

First, flour the meat. Shake it off to remove excess flour. This gets rid of any weird floury pockets. Then, "dredge" it in in the milk, and shake off the excess. Then into the breadcrumbs. The flour picture is below for your reference.

Set these aside when done, and set aside a pan on medium-high heat with a neutral oil (Canola works well) with a high smoke point. What's a smoke point? Glad you asked! It's the temperature where oil begins to burn (and smoke), giving it an off taste. Some oils have a very low point, and thus are not too good for frying. Some have an extremely high point, and these are the best to use. Canola is around 464 degrees. (Thanks, Wikipedia. You save my life again.)

The beauty of these being so thin, is that once they're browned, they're done! Thicker pieces may burn when frying for that long, so that they're cooked through.

Now, for the serving suggestions:

Method 1: Schnitzel-ish: Serve naked, maybe with a bit of salt on top, and delicious spicy mustard on the side. I'm a big fan of Koslik's - Guelphites can get it at Ouderkirk and Taylor, Torontonians can get it ridiculously fresh (and sample all kinds) at St. Lawrence Market.

Method 2: (On the left) Parmigiana-esque: Probably better with veal or chicken (same recipe still applies) - cover in shredded mozzarella, with some parmesan to give it a tanginess, and bake. When cheese is bubbley and delicious, toss on some nice tomato sauce and enjoy! Also good on a bun with roast peppers, chilis, and maybe eggplant done the same way.

Enjoy! (sorry about the dishes)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quick, easy and delicious exam-time dinner

Hey team,
So we're just starting up week 2 of our delightful exam-time hibernation period around Guelph, and I've realized the value of good sleep and good food to really keep the brain-cells firing. As a result, I've been (trying to) cook up a storm around here, and I've come across a pretty damn tasty and easy dish as a result. It's.. sort of like a paella, but whatever, it'll do.

As follows:

You will need:
  • Blue bullets, for some reason
  • 1 sausage per person (I recommend Guelphites go to Market Fresh and get their Salsateria Rojo for this. Failing that, any spicy/garlicky sausage will work wonders)
  • Half a diced red pepper
  • Quarter of a diced red onion (you'll see the cut ahead)
  • A cup of rice (I used brown)
  • About 1/3 cup of salsa (flavor/texture to your liking
Start by getting a cup of rice on the go cooking. I'll use this as my shameless promotion for rice cookers, since I'll admit, I suck at making rice. This puppy is a cuisinart model, with only one button (changes it from "warm" to "cook"), which I hear is the way to go.

If you don't have one, read the bag of rice! Again, I suck.

While that's doing its thing, heat up your cast iron skillet on the stove, while simultaneously turning your oven up to 300 degrees. When it's good and hot, pour in a bit of olive oil, and put your sausage in first. Then, dump the vegetables around it, and salt well. When the sausage has a nice brownness to the bottom, flip it, and toss the whole thing in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring the vegetables around halfway. This will cook it all together, which is much deliciousness.

If you don't have cast iron or oven-ready skillet, you're reading the wrong blog. But I guess that we can still be friends. Slowly cook it all together all the same on medium on your stove for about 17-18. You can never cook a sausage to slowly, I've heard (/weird).

When all is said and done, pull out of the oven and put on a medium heat (or leave on medium). Take a spatula or wooden spoon, and mash up the sausage, integrating the juices into the stuff on the pan. Makes it really tasty. You want everything mashed up as such, with some big pieces and little ones.

Finally, add in your (now-should-be-cooked) rice, about half of it per sausage. Then when that's integrated well, add in your salsa and a tiny pinch of salt to bring it all together. Plate it, eat it, and enjoy! Glass of Fin du Monde is not optional, and once you try it you'll see why..

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kitchen Essentials for all y'all new graduates

Hey friends,
I saw off a wonderful friend just a short bit ago, and realized she's graduating university and venturing off into the real world. In honour of our wonderful friendship, I decided to make a post dedicated to the top five things you need in your kitchen in your new homes for epic chef-ery.

There's more, which I will detail at the end. But these are big deals. At least, I think so. And you're reading my blog, so I'd assume you trust my opinion somewhat at least.

... not even a little bit? Whatever. I'll write it anyways! As follows...

1. A high quality salt container with a lid, and a pepper mill. You want to put kosher or sea salt and whole peppercorns in these, as they have a much better tendency to grip to food and taste much better than the usual stuff. Not pricey either - a box of kosher salt is five bucks and has lasted me a year. And I'm addicted to the white stuff. You can get the salt mill at the dollar store, so long as the lid has a decent seal. The pepper one might be worth more expense, as they tend to fall apart/not work if you cheap out. Use your good judgement here, folks.

2. GOOD quality cookbooks. Yes, I realize these are essentially food porn, and some may be coffee table books with recipes. But don't skimp here. You can find great stuff online used or at book sales for really cheap, too.

Some recommends:

- Jaime Oliver's stuff - make what you will of him, his recipes are solid and he has a really great writing style, along with simple, delicious recipes

- "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"(Julia Child)/"How to Cook Everything" (Mark Bittman)/"The Joy of Cooking" (Becker, Becker, and Rombauer) - any of these books are massive tomes, but give you insight into plenty of different styles of cooking and techniques. GREAT for beginners and pros. and I know you'll all be pros

- A crazy expensive book based on a style you love - in my case, the Au Pied de Cochon book, by Martin Picard. I wanted to find a french-canadian cookbook, and I found an idol. More on that in a later post.

3. One good, solid chef's knife. I used to wonder what the big deal was, as I used the ones in sets. Then I got my hands on this puppy. Sturdy, great grip and balance, and it's my go-to (and generally only) knife I use in the kitchen. I like mine a bit heavier, but yours is your call. Go to a store, and test-drive the suckers.

Two notes - store properly! I keep mine all in a drawer on a tea towel so they don't get knocked around.

Note the second - if you don't have a lot of cash (and I know most of us don't), here's a hint. A lot of fancy knife makers will charge you like crazy for beautiful handles. Save money! Go to a restaurant supply store, and get one with these horrendous handles that look like they're made out of a cutting board. They are far sturdier, far cheaper, and much better. I worked in kitchens before and that's all we use, and they are fabulous. A comparable knife would cost you a hundred dollars, not forty like what's listed.

4. Good, solid pots and pans. I have one big saute, one small, two medium pots, and one massive pot for stock/soups, all with lids. Again, quality is key here. Nonstick is useful for most purposes, too. Restaurant supply shops are again a good bet for these, but I knicked these on sale at a kitchen warehouse for about fifty, and they're holding up well. I have some really garbage ones lying around that I don't use, and have warped because they're a waste of time and money. These will last me a while.

5. Finally, speaking of lasting a while, you're looking at a fifty or sixty year old cast iron pan that used to cook my grandparents and father eggs and bacon, and has seen a LOT in its life. I'm going to straight up call this one necessary, as it handles high heat, can go on the barbecue, go in the oven, handle any cooktop (except flat-tops, which it will scratch up. thanks Veronica for the tip!), and is just absolutely-completely made of win. Either get one from your grandparents, attic, garage sale, or buy a new one (Lodge is a nice brand) and season the hell out of it. Mine is absolutely my favorite tool in the kitchen, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Do NOT drop it, as it will shatter and take out your floor (and inconvenient neighbor downstairs). Also, handle carefully with decent oven mitts, and don't wash with soap or I will be disappointed in you.

Now, for the rest!

That is a lot of nonsense that I have. But I experiment, and do this for a living! (I'm up to like, sixty cents on google adwords thanks to you guys. mwhaha). Really, you don't need all this crap, but you do need:

  • an 11x13 deep baking tray (like a lasagna pan)

  • a cookie sheet or two

  • a muffin tin

  • a dutch oven (don't laugh, goons)

  • a good quality wire whisk (not plastic)

  • a bread knife

  • a paring knife

  • wooden spoons!

  • a ladle

  • multiple cutting boards, as you just don't cut the salad on the same one you cut the chicken on

  • aluminium foil

  • parchment paper

  • plastic wrap

  • paper towels

and optionally:

  • a rolling pin, to chase down mangiacakes

  • an electric kettle

  • a toaster oven (having two ovens is amazing)

  • a casserole dish (with a lid is nice)

and a lot of stuff more. I'll try to specify any special equipment needed on here, but that all pretty much gets me by. I have a lot I don't use, which I regret, but it happens.

Thus concludes my longest blog post yet. Hope you enjoy, and please submit comments and feedback using the usual process.

For those of you graduating and going off to change the world, I will miss you all very much, but will see you sometime soon, I'm sure. Do good things!