Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crab Cakes

I was in the mood for something fishy tonight and crab cakes came to mind.  I've never made crab cakes so this would be a first try. I bought imitation crab with 3% real crab.  It tastes good and should hide well in a crab cake. Not to mention it cost less than $3. I bought the prawns on clearance in case the crab cakes were a disaster.  I needn't have worried.

I got the potatoes peeled and on the stove and the carrots and beans ready for the steamer.  For the crab cakes I was adding a finely diced shallot and half a stick of celery also finely diced. I sweated the shallot and celery on the stove before putting in the bowl to cool.

The guacamole  was just a ripe avocado mashed, salt, tabasco and lime juice. A hot dish would have been a better complement but I was flying blind. By this time the sweated vegetables were cool and I broke the half pound of crab up into the bowl.  I put about half a cup of bread crumbs, from Alpine bread in and less than a quarter cup of flour. I want the flour as a binder not as a dough. To that I added 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon paprika. I mixed it all thoroughly then added a beaten egg, mixed again and made 4 patties. I dusted them with flour before putting in the pan.

The patties browned nicely and I plated them while the prawns heated up with some garlic.  I plated the mashed potatoes and vegetables then put the prawns over top.  Finally I finished with a dollop of guacamole between the patties.  Tartar sauce would have been better but I had to use up the avocado.

The crab cakes were sweet and delicious. What a relief.  I thought the guacamole was a nice condiment with the crab cakes but Fern felt it didn't belong. The prawns were great and the fresh beans were a nice treat.  I'll definitely make crab cakes again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pork Chop with Green Cauliflower on Polenta

I went to the store today with the idea of buying purple cauliflower on special.  Of course it was gone and only green left, same price, probably look better anyway. Instead of making carrots with it I wanted to try making polenta.  So I got the potatoes peeled and boiling, pared the cauliflower into the steamer, put 1/3 cup chicken stock and 2/3 cup milk on the stove and got out a plastic bag for the pork.

Pork Rub

1 tbsp flour
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne

Put in a bag, crush the lumps out, then put the chops in one at a time and shake to coat.  There is enough for 3 or 4 chops.  Put  the coated chops in a frying pan and rotate 180 degrees half way through this side to get an even sear. It was at least 4 minutes a side, really depends on the chop thickness. When I turned it over I put 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary over the chops.

When the milk and stock is boiling whisk in 1/3 cup corn grits and turn the heat down to low. Add 1/2 tsp salt, keep it stirred and put a lid on so it doesn't get too dry. It takes about 20 minutes to cook.

I managed to get the cauliflower out at the right time, running it under cold water. I put butter in the pot and put it back  on the burner on low so it would be hot when the cauliflower goes back in.  I poured extra virgin olive oil over the top and cooked it for a few minutes before serving.

I plated the potatoes and polenta with the cauliflower on top. The polenta was nice, it could have used a lot more flavor, but I liked it.  Fern didn't.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pan Fried Chicken Breast

I still had the maple cake in the oven when I started prepping dinner so I wasn't planning anything amazing. Chicken breasts pounded flat to double in size has become the standard treatment.  It cooks faster and more evenly so it's worth the trouble to put them in a plastic bag and pound a little. The spice rub didn't contain any garlic powder and it was really noticeable in the taste. Garlic seems to give a platform for the other flavors to play on. Onion powder and poultry seasoning alone didn't bring it to life.  It did have a nice crunch on the outside though, so it wasn't all bad.

I managed to over steam the broccoli too so they were a bit soft.  Plain white basmati rice with soy sauce for flavor. Fern likes plain white rice so I compromise by putting soy on mine. It was a satisfying meal though not the most flavor packed.

Maple Cake with Cinnamon Walnut Streusel

I love maple syrup so a maple cake sounded really good.  The recipe called for 1/4 cup maple syrup and some maple flavoring as well so it should taste pretty good.  This one was disappointing so I'm not including the recipe but describing the process can be illuminating.

The recipe was for a square pan but I just bought a bundt pan I was determined to use.  The recipe called for a layer of cake batter then a layer of streusel, the remaining batter and topped with the remaining streusel. Since I wanted to turn the cake out I did it in reverse order. Above is how it looked straight out of the pan. When it was cool I melted 1 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp maple syrup and 1/2 cup icing sugar in a pan and poured it over the cake, pictured below.

I made a mistake with the ingredients.  The recipe called for baking powder and baking soda but I missed the baking soda.  Fortunately it called for more powder than soda so the cake rose anyway but it was a little bit heavy. As can be seen above I didn't put enough streusel in the bottom of the pan and I put too much batter on top of that.  Despite that the cake was still moist and had a fairly good texture.  The only real problem, where this recipe fails, is in flavor.  It just doesn't taste mapley enough. I have made a maple cake before by modifying a vanilla cake recipe into a maple cake.  I used the same amount of maple syrup as this recipe and got very similar results.  Maple flavor does not seem to survive cooking very well.  My grocery store sells a really mapley cake from a specialty bakery so I know the flavor can come through, I just have to figure out how to achieve it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beef Tenderloin with Spinach Salad

Beef tenderloin was on special so I splurged a little.  The steaks were less than $5 each so within my food budget anyway.  I had mushrooms in the fridge but I had to buy a bin of baby spinach. The salad was just baby spinach, boiled egg and real bacon bits. The salad dressing:

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp oil
2 tsp fresh lime juice

I fried the mushrooms in butter and served them over the steaks.  I put sour cream on my potato but not fake bacon bits as I have real ones in the salad. I seasoned the steak with my beef rub and it was absolutely delicious.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fillet of Sole with Tartar Sauce

I was in the mood for beef, Fern was in the mood for anything but.  So I settled on nice fresh fillets of sole and fresh green beans.  I got my potatoes going for the mash and put the carrots on to start steaming.  The sole was dredged in a mixture of:

2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika

and fried in plenty of oil. I cut the ends off the beans and steamed them whole with the carrots.  Just before they were done I drained the water, turned the burner to low  and put the veggies back in with butter, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. While they were finishing I made a condiment.

Tartar Sauce

3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp sweet pickle relish
juice of 1/4 lemon
a good pinch of salt

Mix and slop on the fish. I also put sour cream on my mashed potatoes with artificial bacon bits. I drizzled lemon juice over the fish after plating.  It was every bit as good as it looks, unless you're a cardiologist!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pork Chop, mashed potato, peas and carrots

Pork chops tonight.  I shook the chops with the rub in a plastic bag and fried them. Fern has been bugging me to sear at higher temperature so this time I did and burned them nicely.  The burnt part didn't affect the taste that much. They were MMMMMM instead of  WOW! Mashed potatoes with sour cream on top.  Those are artificial bacon bits on the sour cream.  I saw, I used. The vegetables were done in the microwave since the peas were frozen anyway. Fern's homemade ketchup is the condiment.  Apples, onions and tomatoes with herbs and spices, it's to die for!

Pork Chop Rub

1 tbsp flour
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prawns on Fresh Pasta

Prawns were on special and I was in the mood for pasta.  Pasta is surprisingly easy to make but it takes time and a little muscle.

Pasta (per serving)

1 egg
2/3 cup flour

Put the flour in a bowl or a mound on the counter and make a well in the center.  Drop the egg into the well and use a fork moving in a slowly widening circular motion to take up the flour.  Keep moving the fork until all the flour is incorporated.  Turn the dough out onto the counter and kneed a bit to develop the gluten.  Take up  all the bits and add more flour until the dough is not sticky. Cover the dough and put it in the fridge for half an hour or more.

I cut the dough into single servings so it's easier to work with. If I didn't have a pasta roller I would use a rolling pin or piece of broom stick or a bottle to roll the dough out. Then cut it into fettuccine with a knife.  Dredge the freshly cut pasta in flour so it doesn't stick to itself.

The prawns had tails on so I held a knife edge on the meat at the tip of the tail and pull the prawn away from the shell.  For the tomato sauce I used a can of our own tomatoes which were canned ripe and full of flavor.  There are few ingredients so each one must be top quality or the dish will be mediocre.

Tomato Sauce

1 500ml - 16oz can whole or crushed or stewed tomatoes or 2 cups fresh tomatoes
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt (if needed)
pepper to taste

In a large saute pan sweat the finely diced shallot and garlic in some oil.  Add the prawns and make sure both sides of all the prawns are almost fully cooked. Take the prawns out of the pan and put them aside.  If the tomatoes are whole, use an immersion blender or whatever is available to liquefy them. Add tomatoes to saute pan and cook off some of the water.  When the sauce is about the right consistency add the prawns and finish cooking.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Boil the pasta for 3 to 6 minutes in salted water. Strain, plate and spoon sauce and prawns over the pasta.  Serve with parmesan cheese over top and take a bow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Angus Rib Steak

Fern had to go to Vancouver overnight so I was Home Alone!  One thing can always be counted on when Fern goes away, I'm having fatty red meat for dinner! I paired my Angus rib steak with baked potato and mushrooms and zucchini. The steak was seasoned with my beef rub and done on the BBQ for 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes and they're done. While the steak was on the BBQ I fried the mushrooms and removed them from the pan then did the zucchini.
When the zucchini had a nice sear I put the mushrooms back in and finished cooking everything together.  The baked potato was done in the microwave.  A tasty meal to keep the lonely's away.

Beef Rub

1  1/4  tbsp paprika
1   tbsp kosher salt
1   tsp garlic powder
1/2   tsp ground black pepper
1/2   tsp onion powder
1/2   tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2   tsp dried oregano
1/2   tsp dried thyme

Coat beef with rub and spray or brush with oil.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Which Extra Virgin Olive Oil to buy?

When I shop I don't look for the cheapest price, I look for the best value.  Sometimes the most expensive option is the best value, but not often. For extra virgin olive oil, I don't use vast amounts so the best tasting one is the best value. The two top end products here are Bertolli and Philippo Berio. Bertolli is $2 or about 15% more expensive but is it better?  I put a few drops of Bertolli on a plate and a few drops of Berio beside it.  I dipped my finger in the Bertolli and tasted it.  A mild flavor, no after taste. I drank a little water to cleanse my palate and dipped my finger in the Berio. It had  a stronger flavor and a distinct bitter after taste. That solves the dilemma, Bertolli tastes better so it is the better value even though it is the more expensive. Too bad I just bought a bottle of Berio!

Meat Loaf

The meat counter's gourmet meatloaf was half price and looked interesting so, after interrogating the maker, I bought one. It smelled good cooking and tasted great!  I over cooked it a bit and half the mozzarella leaked out of the center but it wasn't dry. This product made in store from good quality ingredients, I'd buy again, if it's half price.

Sweet Pepper Chicken

It wasn't as bad as it looks, but it isn't worth writing about except to say, "Overconfidence on a plate."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ham and Cauliflower Quebecois

Fern brings this recipe from Trois Rivieres, Quebec where it was a family favorite. It's very simple, ham, potatoes and cauliflower in a caramelized onion cheddar cheese sauce.

Start with cooked ham, par boiled potatoes and a steamed head of cauliflower.  Take several 1/8th inch thick slices of ham. Lay them in the pan overlapping slightly so sauce can get under the meat. Next spread the sliced potatoes over the ham. Break the head of cauliflower into florets and slice the large ones in half.  Spread the cauliflower over the potatoes. Now the cheese sauce that ties it all together.

Thinly slice an onion so there are even width strips and caramelize in a sauce pan with a tablespoon or two of oil. When the onions are golden sprinkle 2 heaping teaspoons of flour over them and toss the lot to coat.  Cook briefly to remove the raw flour taste then remove the pan from the heat.  Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and 1/4 cup milk and stir to smooth out the lumps. Add more milk a little at a time till you have added a cup and 1/2 and put it back on medium heat. Add a bit more if you think you need it but not too much or it won't thicken. If it's too thick add milk. If it's gluey add chicken stock. Now it's ready to add the cheese!

Slowly add 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, stirring occasionally till it's all melted.  Taste the sauce and add a pinch of salt if it needs it. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and put the pan in the oven at 350º. It only needs to heat through so twenty to thirty minutes is plenty.  Serve it up and enjoy this delicious comfort food.

Chicken Chicken

I've been getting tired of Southwest and Cajun rubs all the time so I decided to just use some basic herbs tonight.  Poultry Seasoned Chicken sounds like a pretty boring dish but Chicken Chicken leaves it open to some speculation.  Fern wanted just plain white rice and I was serving it with spinach salad instead of cooked vegetables. Chicken Chicken seasoning:

in a mortar crush:

1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt

I have learned to always pound chicken breasts flat before seasoning and cooking.  It makes cooking faster and more even and gives more surface area to take on flavor. I sprinkled the rub on, but shaking the breasts and rub in a plastic bag would have done a better job. In any case, spray the seasoned meat with oil and BBQ or just fry in some oil.

The vinaigrette for the salad was

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
juice of a lime I found at the bottom of the fridge (lemon works too)
whisk and quickly toss the salad in the dressing.

Fern initially grimaced at the thought of lime salad dressing but on spinach and mushroom it worked quite well. I served white rice and put a bit soy sauce on my own.  I wonder if sour cream helps rice the way it does potatoes? Maybe one day I'll find out.  The chicken was delicious and the salad a surprise.  Sometimes just plain old white rice is what you're hungry for. I could have garnished the plate to make it more appealing but the meal overall was exactly what we felt like eating.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Banana Bread

I really like banana bread and make it fairly often.  This recipe produces the moistest, most delicious cake I've tried. It's quite simple too.

Banana Bread

In a bowl mash:

4  bananas
add and beat:
1 egg
add and stir:
1/3 cup melted butter (melted not hot)
1 tsp vanilla
add and mix:
1 cup sugar
add and mix:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Line a bread pan with parchment paper and spray or brush with oil. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350º for 1 hour. When a toothpick comes out with no batter it's done (cake crumbs are okay).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Garlic Oregano Pork Tendeloin

I moved the oregano and other herbs inside the sun room and they perked right up.  I used about 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano and 2 cloves of fresh garlic. In a bowl I put the herbs, half a cup of oil, juice of one lemon, one teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper. I cut the tenderloin into about one inch pieces and tossed them in the marinade.  I put the lot in the fridge for about 3 hours.

At dinner time I made basmati rice in the microwave while I BBQ'd the pork. I did the corn on the stove top and the peas in the microwave when the rice was done. I like a little soy sauce on my rice if I didn't help it at all.  Fern likes plain white rice so I make it for him. The meat was delicious even though the rest was basic as can be.


Fern made the sauce from his own tomatoes! It was extra yummy. He just pointed out he also shredded the cheese and had to go on a 2 hour ferry ride to get the pasta. (he had to take the ferry to see a doctor, the shopping was a free extra!)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lemon Chicken

I thought I'd try my hand at lemon chicken, how hard can it be? I pounded my breasts flat, sprinkled salt and a little brown sugar down on an oiled pan.  I laid the breasts on top and seasoned the top the same way.  I laid lemon slices over all the chicken, covered the pan in foil and put it in a 350º oven for 50 minutes.  That was much too long as it turns out.  Thirty minutes then take the foil off and put them back in if they aren't quite done would have been perfect.  So they were dry and over done but they did taste lemony! I steamed the veggies and made ordinary mashed potatoes.  Not a restaurant quality meal, but it wasn't terrible either.

We had lunch in a restaurant where the chef just went home sick, someone else hadn't shown up so the dishwasher was cooking.  We waited an hour for our food. My sandwich had so much dijon mustard on it, even after scraping as much off as I could I still couldn't eat it. I ate the fries, which I couldn't taste because my mouth was burned out by the mouthful of mustard. So the restaurant didn't win any prizes today either.

Venison Liver

Fern cooked dinner tonight and it was delightful.  Friends had a very successful hunt, 6 deer, so we were gifted with a fresh liver. That part of living in a remote area is great.  The grizzly bear killed at the public beach down the street last summer, not so much. If you get a chance at a fresh deer liver, take it!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Agar Gelled Milk with Fruit Cocktail

We were out of yogurt and there wasn't enough ice cream for two. What to do? A vanilla pudding might be nice. I can use the agar agar to gel some milk and put fresh fruit on top.  I put one cup of milk in a pot on the stove and added half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, 5 teaspoons of sugar and about 1/3 teaspoon agar agar powder. The instructions called for 1/2 tsp agar per cup liquid but I found this produced a grittiness in the finished product. The lesser amount produced a smooth clean gel. In any case simply bring the liquid to a boil, give it a stir to make sure all the agar is dissolved and pout it into molds or dishes.  I put the dishes outside to cool but it's such a small amount, only the white at the bottom is gelled, they could have cooled on the counter.  As soon as the liquid cools below the melting temperature of agar, it gels. It isn't necessary to wait till it's cool.  Once it is set it's good to go.

On top of the gel I put fresh cut fruit and topped it with chocolate sauce.  The chocolate sauce was going a bit too far but here's the recipe.

Chocolate Sauce

1 tsp cocoa powder
3 tsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp milk or cream

Stir and add more milk or cream if it's too thick.  Pour a small amount over the fruit, unlike the chocolate swimming pool I created, less is more.

The gel was smooth but light, not creamy, which was preferred in this situation. The liquid from the fruit formed a layer over the gel but it ate with the gel just fine. I put too much chocolate, it might have been better with just a dusting of icing sugar. I'll definitely make more gels though, this was simple and fairly fast.

I found agar agar and gelatin at the health food store for considerably less than the grocery store so it's worth shopping around a bit.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Corn Breaded Cat Fish

I felt like fish for dinner and at first I dismissed the Basa (Cat Fish) because it was previously frozen. The only other choice would have been Sole, which was fresh.  Then I thought for a minute. I think I had thawed basa before and it was good so I decided to take a chance.

Mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables finished in butter and extra virgin olive oil complete the plate. I have a big dollop of sour cream on my potatoes so that's why they look so white. To coat the fish I put 2 teaspoons of flour in a plastic bag followed by 1/2 tsp salt, mixed ground pepper, a pinch of cayenne and 2 teaspoons of corn meal/grits.  I resisted the urge to add more herb in case I spoiled the taste of the fish. I shook the fish in the bag then fried it in hot oil and mostly managed to keep the coating on the fish. It was delicious, we both loved it, so did the dogs! I'll bet fresh cat fish is REALLY great!

Carrot Cake

I had half a can of pineapple left over in the fridge from the curry several days ago.  I decided to make a carrot cake and since my recipe makes way too much cake for two people, I'll only make half. So here are the halved instructions:

Carrot Cake

2 eggs
add and mix:
3 ounces vegetable oil  (hint: 8 ounces in a cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 can pineapple tidbits
add and mix:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
add and mix:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional but they really help, specially pecans!)

Pour into a parchment lined bread pan and bake at 350ºF for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The pictured cake was made with exactly half the flour of the original recipe which wasn't quite enough for the eggs and oil so this recipe has the correct amount of flour. Also when I sliced the cake with my new slicer I set it too high. Live and learn.

Butter Cream Icing

1 cup soft butter
add and cream:
1 to 2 cups sifted icing sugar
add as much as needed for the right consistency of:
1 tablespoon whipping cream or milk
It should be stiff but easy to work.

I put a dollop in the center of the cake and work it out to the edges. Put top half of cake on and apply icing as before. I put the excess in a pipping bag and had  some fun with it!

Beef Stew Fry

I had some left over roast beef but not enough for two.  So I went to the store to fill the rest of the plate. My hopes for a surf and turf were quickly dashed.  Nothing appropriate on the fish counter so I continued to the Angus Beef counter.  There was a nice sirloin tip steak for $2.97 that would fill out my left over roast nicely. I snapped it up and headed home.

First, I put the rice in the microwave. Then I diced half an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery.  Next I sliced a zucchini and some mushrooms and chopped the rest of the onion in one inch pieces. The meat, roast and steak was cut into 1/8th inch thick strips.

I put oil in the pan and put it on medium high heat and put the diced onion in the sizzling pan.  I fried them to golden and took them out of the pan.  Next I did the mushrooms, then the zucchini and finally the celery. When the rice was done I put the carrot in the microwave to precook it a bit.

I put the raw beef in the frying pan to give it a good sear.  When it was almost done I put the rest of the roast beef in to warm it up.  Finally, I put all the vegetables back in, sprinkled a little flour over everything and stirred it up.

Fern doesn't want anything with soy sauce so it has to end up with some kind of gravy instead. That's where stew fry comes from.  I don't make beef stock and I don't like opening a one liter $4 box for 25ml of stock.  So I used a little chicken stock instead because I needed something. When it was all hot, fully cooked with a thin gravy I plated the rice and stew fry over top for me and beside for Fern.   I hadn't put any herbs in, just salt and pepper so it had good flavor but nothing special. A 1/2 tsp of garlic powder or even some fresh garlic would have brought some extra flavor to this dish.

Some days I just can't seem to hit all the flavor bases on the fly. I guess this speaks to consistency.  Adding basic seasonings should be automatic so I 'll have to work on that. Over all it was a very good meal I'd make again, with a little added effort.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pork Cutlet with Peanut Sauce

It's not often that half a can of coconut milk determines dinner but that happened tonight.  I had the coconut milk left over from my curry the other night and I didn't want to make another curry so I wondered what to do. What can one make for dinner with half a can of coconut milk? Peanut sauce! I went off to the store to find some fish or pork that would be good with peanut sauce. Some fresh sole but they were tiny little fillets, hardly bigger than minnows. Spring Salmon, yuck. Pork. Everything is expensive except the tenderized cutlets, which I've had success with in the past, so I snapped them up. Protein for 2 for less than $3 just makes dinner taste that much better! Also Fern doesn't like fatty meat so the lean cutlets are perfect.

I got my potatoes going and prepped the carrots and corn. Since it's frozen corn I'm doing both together in the microwave.  The cutlet rub:

1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp flour

I didn't have a bag to shake it in so I sprinkled the whole lot over both sides of the cutlets and put them in hot oil. They'll take about 3 minutes in there. While the cutlet cooked I made the sauce.

Peanut Sauce

in a small sauce pan put:
1/2 tsp flour
tsp oil
cook off the flour taste and add:
1 oz chicken stock (3 tablespoons)
1/2 can coconut milk (the raison d'etre)
1-2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp soy sauce
optional 1/4 tsp cayenne or few drops tabasco sauce

Turn the pork cutlet over.

Simmer the sauce a few minutes and add more chicken stock if it gets too thick. Serve over the pork cutlet. I like peanut sauce so I put it on my potatoes as well. Fern doesn't like stuff on his potatoes but he cleaned all the peanut sauce off his plate.

Sirloin Tip Roast Beef with gravy

A small roast was on special and we haven't had beef for a while so I picked it up.  I was out of Beef Rub but I wanted to make gravy so I didn't want too much salt on the roast anyway.  Instead I used half a teaspoon of salt and fresh ground black pepper to season the roast.  Then I seared it all round on the stove and finally put it in the oven at 250ºF for about 1 hour and 40 minutes for a two pound roast. I use a digital meat thermometer with a cable that runs out the oven door so I can see what is happening without opening the oven.

I paired the roast with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots and broccoli.  I put the carrots in the steamer for about 5 minutes then put the broccoli in and when it's almost done but still crisp, run everything under cold water to stop the cooking. When the roast is out of the oven resting and potatoes are mashed, put the vegetables in the pot on low heat with a pinch of salt, butter and extra virgin olive oil. When extra virgin olive oil is cooked gently at low temperature it's flavor improves dramatically. When extra virgin olive oil is heated too hot, it becomes bitter, so care must be taken. That cooked flavor on the vegetables is what I'm looking for but I also have to heat the broccoli and carrots to the center, so the pot must be tossed regularly.

I used the pan drippings for the gravy, putting a teaspoon of flour in and cooking off the flour taste.  I added an ounce or two of chicken stock because I didn't have any beef.  It didn't make a huge difference.  I added the blood from the resting roast and half a cup of red wine. A dash of Worcestershire and cook the wine taste off. Hot horseradish is the condiment. I did add some salt to my beef on the plate because there wasn't enough on the outside. It was all very good, a delicious rainy day meal.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Prawn Linguine

We had a large late lunch so we wanted something lighter for dinner. I suggested prawns and pasta in tomato sauce and Fern agreed.  I diced a shallot and started browning it while I crushed a couple of garlic cloves.  I put the garlic in with the onion for a minute or two before removing all from the pan. Next in a little butter and garlic I cooked the prawns to almost done.  I should have taken them out and put them aside because I hadn't started cooking the pasta yet but I didn't think of that and I added the onion and garlic back in. I used a 500ml (2 cup) jar of Fern's canned tomatoes. I tried putting them through the food mill without success.  The potato ricer did a nice job.  I could have used the immersion blender but I find it aerates the mixture too much giving the sauce a milky appearance.

I put the linguine in boiling water and set the timer for 10 minutes. I added a little dried basil, salt and pepper to the sauce and let it simmer gently till the pasta was done. I plated the pasta and prawns and sprinkled some grated parmesan over top. It was really good, Fern's fresh canned tomatoes were packed with flavor. This was the first time I have had pasta with a seafood tomato sauce that I liked. The prawns were over cooked and rubbery so if I had held them back till the last few minutes of the pasta cooking the dish would have been perfect. If I didn't have Fern's canned tomatoes for this dish then I would start with fresh tomatoes. Commercial canned tomato sauce doesn't have the right flavor for this dish.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pineapple Coconut Chicken Curry

I had chicken breasts in the fridge so the only question was what to make with them.  I decided on a curry. I diced my chicken breasts into one inch pieces, which was a little too big, and put them in a plastic bag with a tablespoon of flour and half a teaspoon of salt. Shake and put aside. Next I diced an onion and fried it lightly golden, added a sliced carrot to sweat,  then removed them from the pan. Next I fried the chicken pieces to almost done then took them out of the pan.

Now the pan was nicely seasoned so I added one teaspoon of flour and two tablespoons of curry powder and 2-3 tablespoons of oil and cooked off the flour taste.  Then I added 1/4 cup chicken stock and half a can of coconut milk. I added half a can of pineapple pieces, the onions, carrots and frozen peas and cooked them in the curry for about 5 minutes. I added more chicken stock when it got too thick. Next I put the chicken in so it could finish cooking for 5 more minutes.  I shook a few drops of Tabasco sauce in for heat and served it over basmati rice.

It was one of my better curries.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halibut with Lemon Sauce and risoto

I found a halibut steak on to clearance for less than half price. I poked it, the meat sprang back so it wasn't too old. I grabbed it and headed home. Halibut for two for $5 oh boy!

I got the arborio rice on cooking in some fresh stock and got the carrots going in the steamer.  I prepped the broccoli and grated parmesan for the rice.  In a small sauce pan I put a tsp of flour and a tbsp of oil.  I cooked the flour taste off and added half a cup of chicken stock then whisked the lumps out. I squeezed out a lemon and added the juice and a good pinch of salt.

I have served fish steaks before and the soggy skin and bones never seem to go over well so I cut the meat off the bones and skin. It was quite easy once I got going.  I put 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in mortar and ground the lumps out.  I seasoned both sides of the fish and got the frying pan hot, medium high heat. They took about 4 minutes on one side then 2 minutes on the other.

The vegetables I finished with extra virgin olive oil and butter. It helps to have it on the burner on low to cook the oil just a little. The rice is cooked in chicken stock then stirred the last bit adding stock slowly to get a smooth creamy result.  Obviously that didn't happen here. It was a bit gloppy but it tasted great.

I spooned lemon sauce over the fish and the broccoli.  It was all quite delicious and a refreshing change from snapper!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Southwest Chicken with Salad

Chicken tonight and Fern is making a salad and he peeled the potatoes.  So all I have to do is bone the breasts, pound them flat, season and BBQ them and make mashed potatoes. On my potatoes I hid some artificial bacon bits with some chives under the sour cream. (I have no shame) Fern made the salad so I'm not sure what he put in it but next time I'll have him make the mashed potatoes instead. The chicken I sprayed with oil and BBQ'd to get the grill marks. 2 minutes rotate, 2 minutes turn over, 2 minutes rotate, 2 minutes and they're done.

Here is my spice rub.

Southwest Spice Rub

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tsp kosher salt (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne