Thursday, March 29, 2012

Garlic Chicken under white wine mushroom sauce

I forgot to put the mushrooms in the stew last night, oops. I already had chicken for tonight so I decided white wine mushroom sauce, no cream. First I started the rice.  There was a rice blend that I really liked but the store stopped carrying it so I had to come up with my own.  I started with just over 1/3 cup brown basmati, and added 1/2 an ounce of pearl barley then fill up with red basmati or red thai rice to 2/3 cup. Add 2/3 cup stock and 2/3 cup water salt, pepper and cook.

To season the chicken I put the following in a plastic bag:

1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mixed peppers
1/4 tsp cayenne

I put both breasts in the bag and shook till they were evenly coated. Seared one side in the frying pan, turned them over and put them in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Carrots and broccoli I did in the microwave so I could concentrate of the sauce.  I diced an onion and fried it golden then took it out and put sliced mushrooms in.  Once browned I put the onions back in with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of flour. When the flour was cooked a bit I added and ounce of white wine and the same of stock.  Boil down the wine and add stock or wine if it gets too thick. This sauce was very plain tasting so I was a little afraid the meal would be bland but the spice on the chicken brought everything to life and the sauce was wonderful, on the chicken.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Roast Beef

Yes, asparagus is still on sale.  The meat is sirloin tip Angus beef, also on sale.  I'm getting better at plating, at least remembering the chives. The meat is covered with my spice rub, seared all round then put in a 250º oven for about an hour and a half. I use an electronic meat thermometer and highly recommend them. I used a wide shallow pan to cook the carrots and asparagus, it worked fine.
Fern's doctor just ordered red meat only once a week so it's a good thing this roast is absolutely delicious.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sole Almondine

Fresh sole was on special again so I picked up a few fillets.  Definitely never buy frozen sole, it cooks up like fish mush. Asparagus is still on special for the same price as broccoli but I'm getting tired of asparagus every day. To round out the plate it's mashed potatoes, carrots, sliced blanched almonds and fresh lemon sauce.

I peeled and mashed the potatoes and put them on to cook. While the potatoes were coming to a boil I prepped the carrots and broccoli.  When the potato water was boiling I turned it down to a fast simmer and left them for 20 minutes. I put a teaspoon of oil and a patty of butter in my smallest frying pan. On medium heat I lightly browned the almonds and took them off the heat. In my sauce pot I put a tablespoon of oil, a patty of butter and a heaping teaspoon of flour. I brought this to a sizzle to cook off the flour taste but not enough to brown the flour. With the sauce pot off the heat I added an ounce of white white and one of chicken stock.  I whisked that smooth and added more stock till I had a thick sauce then added the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt. Putting the pot back on the burner I added stock till the sauce was thick but not gummy.

I've been using the microwave to cook my vegetables.  Mine has a moisture sensor so it can tell when food is cooked but I find it over cooks if I leave vegetables in the whole time. I know I will get better results if I partly steam the vegetables then finish them in a frying pan.  When I find I am standing doing nothing while food cooks then I am ready to add more difficulty.  I just got there with this meal, so next time I'll steam the veggies, probably. This time they just got butter, salt and pepper. When the potatoes were cooked I drained, mashed and added a patty of butter to them. When the butter was melted I added salt and milk then whipped with a fork.  Don't use an immersion blender on potatoes, it turns them into a thick unpalatable paste.

The fish only takes a minute or so each side so you want to put it on at the last minute.  This time I seasoned, then dredged the fish in the flour instead of shaking it all in a plastic bag. The fish was better seasoned this way so maybe I'm using too much flour in the bag. More experimenting there is needed. In any case, popped the floured and seasoned fish in a hot frying pan and when it's cooked half through turned it over.  It will finish cooking faster on the second side because heat is still coming from both sides. While the fish was cooking I got the plates out and start plating the potatoes.  As soon as the fish was done I plated it opposite the potatoes then added the almonds.  Next the broccoli and carrots and finally, spooning lemon sauce over the fish and vegetables.

This is a simple easy meal to make but it is complex in that there is a cooked garnish on the meat as well as a sauce. I should have sprinkled chives over the potatoes too, but didn't think of it.  Next time.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Laughing Oyster Restaurant

Wednesday evening our favorite restaurant, the Laughing Oyster, re-opened for the season. We are their best customers, not because we go out a lot, but because we go regularly. Owner David Bowes is one of the top chefs in British Columbia so it is always a taste sensation to dine there, not to mention the spectacular view.

I have been pretty proud of my meals lately because I am getting phenomenal flavor from my protein seasoning and sauce.  My mashed potatoes usually have enough salt and I don't boil the vegetables to mush but David's seafood buffet showed me how much further I have to go.  He puts a pan of sliced toasted baguette on the buffet that I always have a few pieces of.  A new addition was a bowl of oil with sun dried tomato and olives in it.  I've had oil dipped bread before and wasn't eager to have more but David came over and said "You have to try this, it is really delicious!"  He directed me to put some of the oil mixture on my bread including some tomato and olive. I was dubious but he's never led me astray before. I loaded up my plate and headed back to the table.

The oil on the bread was amazing. That is the first time I've had an oil/bread combination that tasted like more. The vegetables were perfectly cooked and were seasoned with something that seemed to amplify their natural flavor while adding special notes of it's own.  His pasta sauce makes mine taste like ketchup in comparison. His calamari is wonderful as are the pulled pork and steaks.  He has added a strip of bacon wrapped around the breaded oyster but I didn't like it.  To me the tastes are clashing not enhancing each other. Which reminds me to email him and offer that because he really likes feedback on his food.

Overall the meal was one delight after another. A much needed humility check that showed me how much better my food could be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lemon Cajun Chicken with Asparagus

The trusty old cajun chicken again, this time dressed up with that lemon sauce.

A really tasty meal and my plating is getting better.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rosemary Thyme Corn Pork Chop

Two beautiful pork chops today.  I'm leaving out the corn grits and using just corn flour, about a tablespoon, to coat them.  To that I added plenty of salt, some mixed pepper and 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder. I got a good inch of rosemary and a small stem of thyme and cleaned everything off the stems. I finely chopped the leaves and added them to my coating mix.

I used a hot frying pan with lots of oil on medium high heat. Gave it a good sear then turned it down to medium. These were thick chops and they took almost 10 minutes a side but it was worth the wait. Juicy and delicious.

For the snow peas I tried something new.  I broke off the stem end toward the side with the peas and pulled as much of the string off as would come.  It made them much easier to eat! The apple sauce is homemade by Fern. I think my plating is starting to improve. I keep forgetting the chives because they just started growing again, tomorrow.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Asparagus pork with 5 spice chop suey

I planned to make ginger beef with broccoli but when I took the beef out of the fridge it had magically transformed into pork. Oops. Ginger pork and broccoli? Blech. I did have some nice asparagus so I left the ginger out and used asparagus instead of broccoli. I also made red thai and brown basmati rice with pearl barley and a little beef stock. To round out the meal I had bean sprouts and snow peas.

I put the rice on to cook and got two frying pans out.  I diced an onion and put half in each pan and fried it golden.  Next I seared the mushrooms and finally the meat. The pork was sliced into thin strips and shaken in a plastic bag with a teaspoon of flour. When the meat had a light sear I added to asparagus and the bean sprouts and snow peas to the other pan.  A pinch of Chinese 5 spice in the bean sprouts.  An ounce or 2 of beef stock in the pork and a splash in the bean sprouts. A dash of soy sauce in each also. When the asparagus is done plate the rice with the two dishes either over or on the side of it. I prefer my rice under everything, my partner likes his rice on the side. Either way it was delicious!

Friday, March 16, 2012


Months ago I bought some fillo dough determined to do something with it.  A couple of days ago I put it in the fridge to thaw, it was time.  I looked up a recipe for baklava online, it's really simple:

2 cups chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix these dry ingredients together.

1/2 cup melted butter
1 package fillo dough
3/4 cup honey
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Your going to waste the edges of the dough so don't fuss over them.  Working quickly but gently put a piece of dough in the pan and brush it with butter. Put another piece and butter it and continue till you have 6 sheets. Then spread about 1/2 cup of the nut mixture  on the dough and cover with 6 more buttered layers of pastry. Do another layer of nuts and then 6 more buttered sheets of dough.  In all you will have 4 layers of nuts and 5 layers of 6 sheets of dough, or till you run out. When it's assembled cut the excess fillo off and discard then put the baklava in a 300º oven for an hour and a half.

A bit before the baking is complete put the honey and lemon in a pot and get it hot but not boiling. After 1.5 hours baking take the baklava out of the oven and slice into it so you can spoon the hot honey over all of it. Use all the honey then set the baklava aside to cool. I tried to eat one of those big pieces and it took to people and two dogs to get through it all.  It is delicious but RICH. Cut it from corner to corner and people will still have trouble finishing it. It's cheap to make so it doesn't hurt to waste a little.

My partner says this is too thick.  The same ingredients could go into a 13x9 pan with maybe only two or three nut layers and it would be more manageable. You'd need to start with at least a quarter cup more butter to cover all the dough. So that's an idea if you want to feed a crowd.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Salisbury Steak

Some Angus ground beef was marked down to $2 so I couldn't resist.  I also got a small amount of ground pork and some mushrooms.  First I got out the frying pan I would use to cook the steaks and started browning a diced onion.  When the onion was nice and golden I took it off the heat.  I mixed the beef and pork with my Beef Rub, some bread crumbs and most of the onions.   I fried the meat to well done then put the patties aside under foil while I fried the sliced mushrooms.  When they had a good sear I put the rest of the onions in and a couple of ounces of red wine.  I cranked up the heat and reduced the wine.  When I had a nice sauce I plated the patties and spooned the sauce over them, potatoes and vegetables to round out the plate. Absolutely delicious!

Roast Pork Again

See Brining Pork for the methods to cook this meal.  I only had a couple of hours to brine this loin but it was enough.  I diced up potatoes and a carrot and tossed them with oil then arranged them in the roasting pan around the rack for the roast .  Then I put 3 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh thyme and fresh rosemary on top of the roast and put it in a 375º oven for about 2 hours. Shown served with 'ketchup' a French Canadian condiment my partner makes that contains tomatoes, onions and apples.  This is about the easiest meal to prepare because 2/3 of it are done in one pan in the oven. If you don't have a meat thermometer, get one. I use an electronic one with a cord but I will buy a wireless one when this one dies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Asparagus with lemon sauce

Dinner was rosemary pork chops and right now asparagus is a cent less than broccoli so the choice was clear.  I used to think that a sauce on asparagus had to be hollandaise, which is egg yolk based and extremely high in fat. I love hollandaise but it's really bad for me so I wanted an alternative.  Hollandaise is predominantly lemon flavor so a simple lemon sauce can replace it. This is where making a good chicken stock shows it's worth. If your stock is delicious, the lemon will bring it to life and they'll sing together.  If your stock isn't full of flavor you will just have a lemon sauce, it will be good but not great.

To prep the asparagus hold one stalk by the root end with your fingers.  Bend the tip end down till the stalk snaps.  Do this again with another stalk and take the longest of the two tips. Cut the rest of the asparagus tips to this length.  If you don't have an asparagus steamer I've found the easiest way to cook it is lying down in a wide pan of salted water. If you are making stock put the root ends in the pot, otherwise just dispose of them. Put the tips in the boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes till a fork goes in with a slight snap. If you overcook them they'll be mushy.

To make the sauce I started with one or two teaspoons of cooking oil and a similar amount of butter on medium low heat. When the butter was melted I added a heaping teaspoon of flour and cooked off the flour taste. It should sizzle a bit but not darken.  Take off the heat and whisk in an ounce of stock.  Add more stock till you have a thick sauce.  Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a good pinch of salt.  Taste it, you'll probably want to add half that much juice again but make it to your taste. Put it back on the burner and add more stock if it gets too thick. Plate your asparagus and spoon sauce over top. Don't put too much just because you have it, you'll drown the meal. It's better to lose a little than use it all and spoil everything.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Banana Bread

Almost everyone loves a good banana bread, yours truly included. An elderly lady on my partners meals on wheels route sent home her over ripe bananas. I don't know how they manage to get all three bananas to turn uniformly black without rotting anywhere.

I dug out my favorite recipe. I have no idea where I got this, I just have it written on a piece of note paper. Line a bread pan with parchment paper.  Mash the bananas in a bowl and add the ingredients in order, stirring each one in.

3 or 4 perfectly ripened bananas
1/3 cup melted (not hot) butter
1 egg beaten in
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup flour

Pour into the papered bread pan and put in a 350º oven for 1 hour. Test with a toothpick in the center, if it comes out clean it's done. If not put it back in for 10 more minutes.

I sent a couple of slices back to the elderly lady and they were the first thing she'd eaten in two days, despite having food delivered. That explains why she isn't eating, the foods terrible! Give her something good and she gobbles it up! I send her food when I can.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cajun Chicken Ragout

I had to use up some fresh tomatoes and we had curry the other night, so I decided a vegetable ragout would be nice.  I picked up mushrooms, a zucchini and a green pepper.  I already had an onion and a carrot. I put a tablespoon of flour in a plastic bag and added some Cajun spice and shook my chicken breasts to coat them.  Then seared the breasts on one side, turned them over and popped them in a 375º oven for 25-30 minutes. Started potatoes for mashed and diced up an onion.

I fried the onion till golden then removed the onion from the pan.  Next I fried the zucchini to a nice sear and removed from the pan. Next I fried up the mushrooms and removed them from the pan. Finally I put a sliced carrot and the diced green pepper in the pan, when they were sweated I added back the onion, zucchini and mushrooms.  I added the diced up tomatoes and a bit of salt.  I wanted to stop the searing so I added an ounce of chicken stock.  That got the tomatoes softening and releasing water.  I sprinkled a little instant blending flour over the dish and mixed it in to cook.  The chicken was ready resting and potatoes I mashed with butter, milk and a bit of sour cream.

I plated the ragout over top of the cajun chicken breast with potatoes on the side.  Chives to garnish.  Fern said, "When are you going to put out your first cookbook?"  It was good but I'm not ready for a cookbook yet.

Sole Almondine

Yesterday I was in the mood for fish again.  The grocer had (previously frozen) sole on special so I picked it up. My Sole Almondine turned out mushy and flavorless, no more frozen fish.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rosemary Chicken under Mozzarella Cheese

I had enough of the sweet pepper sauce  left over for only one chicken breast. My partner really liked that sauce so I heated that up for him.  I would try something else for my piece of chicken.  I put a tablespoon of flour in a plastic bag along with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Shake to coat and place in medium high frying pan.  Sear both sides then place a sprig of rosemary on each breast and pop into a 375º oven for 25 minutes.  For the last 2 minutes I took the rosemary off my breast and put a slice of mozarella cheese on it.  Two minutes later I took them out to rest.

Served up with mashed potatoes and vegetables. It was absolutely delicious and that is how I'm going to do chicken when I'm pressed for time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chicken Curry with Brown and Red Basmati Rice

A good curry is delicious and easy to make.  First take boneless skinless chicken breasts out of the fridge to warm up and get the rice cooking.  At this point in my culinary progress I prefer basmati rice for everything.  My favorite whole grain rice mix isn't carried in town anywhere so I've had to improvise. I used 1/3 cup of brown basmati and 1/4 cup of red basmati or red Thai rice. I find that half water and half stock gives a good background flavor to brown rice. I use american basmati that doesn't have to be washed and has a wonderful nutty flavor. Any rice you prefer will do fine except minute rice and ilk.  Processing food means taking the flavor out in favor of storage, portability and ease of preparation.  If you start with flavorless ingredients you will end up with flavorless meals.

1 onion diced
1 green pepper diced
1/4 cup pineapple pieces - canned is easier to work with or 1 red pepper diced or a spoonful of chutney
2 chicken breasts diced in bite size pieces
2 tablespoons curry powder
a pinch of cayenne or some hot sauce to taste
3 tomatoes diced
1 tablespoon flour in a plastic bag
chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onion in a sauce pan with a tablespoon of oil on medium high heat.  When it is translucent turn the heat down to medium and cook till they are golden. Add the green pepper.  When the pepper has sweated scrape everything onto a plate and put aside.   Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and shake the chicken pieces in the flour. Put the chicken in the hot pan by the handful, shaking excess flour off in the bag.  Brown the chicken pieces on all sides

Turn the heat down to medium and add the curry powder and cayenne to the pan.  Add more oil if it gets dry while you stir the chicken around.  Put the green pepper and onion back in.  Add an ounce or two of chicken stock till it's not gummy and the tomatoes and pineapple. Turn the heat down and simmer it for 15 minutes. When the rice is done take it off the heat and fluff it with a fork.

Serve the curry over or beside the rice blend.  Some peas on the side work well to.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cajun Snapper

Cajun Snapper with seasonal vegetables. The skin of snapper tastes really fishy so you have to make sure you slice off every little bit of skin or someone will get a mouthful of blech. The bones are easy to pull out with needle nose pliers.  I bought a pair at the hardware store for the kitchen.  My partner hates it but I haven't found a pretty stainless steel needle nose pliers anywhere.  A chef told me he likes Craftsman so maybe I'll give that a try.

I squeezed the juice of half a lemon and dribbled it over the fish and broccoli on the plate.  I have an idea for plating.  Rather than try to arrange every plate to make it's own statement I plan to start making fancy garnishes to just drop over the food.  Hopefully the eye will fooled by a clever garnish that hides carrots, broccoli, mashed potatoes and a hunk of meat.  I managed to give myself a concussion yesterday so I'm glad I even got this together.  How did I give myself a concussion? I was making cookies and dropped something so I bent to pick it up and the cupboard door was still open directly above my head. I have a nice gash on my head too but the doctor said it would close up on it's own. So I'm taking it easy.