Friday, October 30, 2009

Beef Bourguigon

It's become a craze - seems everyone is recreating Julia Child's beef bourguignon. Since I'm not a big beef lover it just seemed unusual that this recipe could attract soooo much attention. I have Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" so I took a look at the recipe. OK, got it - looks like a bit of work but I can handle this. Then I started flipping through "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" that has a much more simplified version and claims not to lose in the flavour department.

Well... oh my .... let me just tell you .... to die for. It's really worth all the hype and Ina's recipe is not at all complicated.


1 3 lb. filet of beef, trimmed (I used sirloin)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 Tbsp good olive oil
1/4 lb bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups good dry wine, such as Burgundy or Chianti (I used Chianti)
2 cups beef stock
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 spring fresh thyme
1/2 lb. pearl onions, peeled
8-10 carrots, cutt diagonally into 1-inch-thick slices
3 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced 1/4" thick (domestic or wild)

With a sharp knife, cut the filet crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Salt and pepper the filets on both sides. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat, saute the slices of beef in batches with 2-3 Tbsp oil until browned on the outside and very rare inside, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the filets from the pan and set aside on a platter

In the same pan, saute the bacon on medium-low heat for 5 minutes until browned and crisp. Remove the bacon and set it aside. Drain all the fat, except 2 Tbsp from the pan. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook on high heat for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock, tomato paste, thyme, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Strain the sauce and return it to the pan. Add the onions and carrots and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until the sauce is reduced and the vegetables are cooked.

With a fork mash 2 Tbsp butter and the flour into a paste and whisk it gently into the sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile saute the mushrooms separately in 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp oil for about 10 minutes, until browned and tender.

Add the filet of beef slices, the mushrooms and the bacon to the pan with the vegetables and sauce. Cover and reheat gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not overcook. Season to taste and serve immediate.

Ina's notes:

To peel the pearl onions easily, first blanch them for a minute or two in boiling water.

This dish is excellent made in advance and refrigerated in the pan. When you are ready to serve, heat the filets and sauce over low heat for 10-15 minutes, until heated through.

Warning!!! This dish is highly addictive. The sauce is so flavourful I'd be happy just having the carrots with the sauce. Using a good wine here is a great tip. I should have made a double recipe. I wouldn't hesitate to make this again. It's out of control delicious. StumbleUpon

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Apple Pie

We're just about 2 weeks away fron the move. The bottom of my extra freezer is in sight!

We've got an office full of boxes and an attic full too. So far, no last minute packing -- we have some overlap between the close date and the end of our lease.

Last post, Giz mentioned having gone apple picking and having too many apples. So - you know that if Giz has too many apples, chances are that I'll get a load of them myself. Giz sent us home with two large bags full that are now taking up an entire shelf in my fridge. At least it forces me to not buy more groceries.

I decided to make an apple pie for dessert for the Canadian Thanksgiving meal I made. You can read about the soup and main course here.

I followed Giz's advice and used the Best Ever Apple Pie recipe in the Canadian Living Cookbook -- there were some initial bumbs in the road, but eventually success.

Best Ever Apple Pie


3/4 cup (175 mL) shortening
3 tbsp (50 mL) butter, softened
2-1/4 cups (550 mL) All-purpose flour
3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) ice water
8 cups (2 L) Thinly sliced peeled tart apples (2-1/4 lb/ 1. 12 kg)
2 tbsp (25 mL) lemon juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) Granulated sugar
3 tbsp (50 mL) All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon
1 egg yolk
2 tsp (10 mL) Granulated sugar
1. In bowl, beat shortening with butter until smooth; stir in flour and salt until coarse and ragged looking. Pour in water all at once; stir until loose dough forms. With floured hands, gather into 2 balls. On well-floured surface, gently knead each into 3/4-inch (2 cm) thick disc. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until chilled.

2. On well-floured pastry cloth or work surface and using stockinette-covered or well-floured rolling pin, roll out 1 piece of dough from centre, lifting pin at edge to maintain even thickness. Turn rolling pin clockwise 90 degrees. Repeat rolling out and turning dough until in 13-inch (33 cm) circle.

3. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin; unroll into 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate. Using sharp knife, trim edge even with pie plate.

Filling: In large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice. Stir together sugar, flour and cinnamon; sprinkle over apples and toss until coated. Scrape into pie shell. Brush pastry rim with water.

4. Roll out remaining dough to same-size circle. Using rolling pin, drape over apples, without stretching dough. Trim, leaving 3/4-inch (2 cm) overhang. Gently lift bottom pastry rim and fold overhang under rim; press together to seal. Tilt sealed pastry rim up from pie plate at 45-degree angle.

5. With hand on outside of tilted pastry rim and using thumb and bent index finger, gently twist rim to form scalloped edge. With small decorative cutter or tip of sharp knife, cut steam vents in centre of pie.

6. Whisk yolk with 1 tbsp (15 mL) water; brush over crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in bottom third of 425°F (220°C) oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F (180°C); bake for 40 minutes or until golden, filling is bubbly and apples are soft when pierced with knife through vent. Let cool on rack.

Verdict: The recipe was quite good - but I partially messed it up. The short version is:

Don't follow pie cooking recipe if you decide to use a "almost ready-made dough, forget to make vents in your pie and eat it quite soon after it comes out of the oven. It ended up almost burning (I think I mainly salvaged it from the hot oven temperature) and became a bit apple saucy (probably from the lack of vents and type of apple). Nonetheless, I like hot apple sauce (with ice cream) - so all was good. It was even better the next day (which I don't have a picture of).


I have also been wanting to post about The Cookbook People. They've partnered with BloggerAid and have agreed to donate $20 to the School Meals Programme when a member mentions them on her/his blog. Here's some information about both:

The Cookbook People have designed their own family cookbook software to help families create a cookbook out of those recipes you've had in your family for generation -- or new recipes that you want to share with your loved ones. If you're into making your own cookbooks or cookbook supplies - go check out their site.

BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine has a number of great initiatives to raise awareness and funds for the World Food Programme. One of their major current initiatives is the cookbook they are developing with recipes from foodbloggers around the world. They're in the final editing stages and it will be available on Amazon soon! Really exciting to hear about it coming close to completion.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Apple a Day

There's absolutely no question that fall has arrived in Canada. The colours are spectacular and the photo opportunities are second to none. Although I'd love to take credit for these photos, I really can't. My friend "S" took them - she really has the photographic eye but I really had to share them with you. Tell me this isn't an incredible site to see.

Today was another fun day in the apple orchards. We probably have just one more good week of apple picking - most orchards close around Halloween but we found the apples really plentiful today - especially the Spy apples, known to be exceptional pie apples. While there, I also picked up a book called "An Apple A Day" written by a local cookbook author - Susan Smith. What a find!!!

Published in 1951 I couldn't even find it on the internet to give due credit to the author. It was amusing to find an author's tip that suggested using nylons as a great sieve to make apple juice with. No disrespect intended but does anybody actually really do that anymore?

Since I have this overabundance of apples, I thought I'd work my way through her book and try out some of her recipes. Here's an easy oldie but always a welcome dessert.

Apple Crisp

4 cups sliced, peeled tart apples (about 4 medium - I used Cortland apples)
2/3 - 3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (quick cooking)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease square pan 8"x8"x2". Place apple slices in pan. Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly. Sprinkle over apples.

Bake 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm alone or with light cream or ice cream.

6 servings

Here's my learning: An apple is not just an apple. As with most things, if you have the right tool to do the job, the outcome is generally more favourable. The cortland apple was the perfect match for this dessert. I've made many apple crisps but this one is by far the tastiest ever. StumbleUpon

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast

I posted recently about my short trip to Niagara Falls and a visit to Anna Olson's Ravine Restaurant. I also mentioned that I picked up a cookbook that Anna generously signed for me. Do check out Anna and Michael Olson Cook at Home So far I'm loving this cookbook. It's a compilation of recipes that you may or may not see in a restaurant setting but focuses more on the food that Anna and Michael would cook at home. What's the difference? So far most of what I've seen is lower fat without losing flavour.

I decided to try their Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast, a recipe I found to be really no fuss, a 10 minute prep and really delicious.


2 cups shallots, peeled
6 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 springs fresh thyme (I used sage)
1 3lb turkey breast
coarse salt and black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 325 F. Toss shallots and garlic with olive oil and spread over the bottom of a roasting pan or baking dish.

Arrange thyme over shallots and place turkey breast on top. Rub turkey with butter and season with salt and pepper.

Roast turkey until juices run clear and an internal temperature of at least 175F is reached
Remove turkey from pan and keep warm. Skim excess fat off shallots and place pan over medium heat.

Add balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring shallots, until vinegar is absorbed. Serve turkey slice with sauce spooned on top.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Canadian Thanksgiving

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Although I am a proud Westerner, the Fall in Ontario is pretty amazing.

One of my favourite things to do at this time of year is to walk around Parliament Hill and the surrounding area.

Canadian Thanksgiving is a sure sign of Autumn. Here's some of the meal I made for it....

Last year when making Butternut Squash Soup, I realized I had bought more squash than needed. I decided to partially cook it (boil it) and then flash freeze it. It worked out perfectly as a base for a delicious recipe from Whole Foods Market

Classic Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup diced carrot (about 1 (8-inch) large carrot)
1/2 cup diced celery (about 1 (11-inch) large stalk)
2/3 cup diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
4 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used this broth)
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add carrot, celery and onion. Cook until vegetables have begun to soften and onion turns translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add butternut squash and thyme. Stir to combine with vegetables. Stir in chicken broth and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree soup. Alternatively, let the soup cool slightly and carefully puree in batches in a traditional blender.

Along with the soup, I served a pomegranate salad...

roast chicken and sweet potatoes:

Everything came out really well... Except for the dessert. I'll tell you about that in my next post.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Cure for Stress - The Niagara Region

It's been a fun few days in the life of Giz. We decided to take a few days and take a short jaunt to Niagara Falls . It's pretty fortunate that The Falls are only a short hour's drive from my home. Although I've visited several times, the magnitude of The Falls is nothing short of incredible. Since Niagara Falls is right on the border that separates Canada from the U.S. we have a view of both the Canadian Falls and the American Falls. It's fair to say that the Canadian side is far more spectacular to look at.

Canadian Falls
U.S. Side

I don't think my view from a hotel window really shows the power of the Falls but if you come for a visit, I'd be happy to show you both falls and you be the judge.

We had a plan! Chillaxin' was part of the plan as was being able to participate in some of the local fun things. The Niagara Region is known for it's wines so we booked a full day tour of several of the wineries do do some tasting with a stop for lunch at Olson Foods at Ravine. The restaurant is run in partnership with Ravine Vineyards in St. David's, Ontario. It's a noteworthy restaurant and bakery since it's run by one of our Canadian celebrity chefs Anna Olson. Anna is known for two Food TV shows. The first is called Sugar where we followed a sweet journey in the life of a pastry chef who delights us with accessible baking.

Visiting the restaurant was part of a whole experience. As part of the BloggerAid View and Review group, I'll be receiving Anna's newest cookbook Fresh by Anna Olson for review. The book is also the name of Anna's second Food TV show.

It was nice to be able to meet Anna and have her sign a copy of one of her books for me and get a sense of the person behind the talent. In spite of the fact that she was cooking in the back as well as taping her show at the same time, Anna made a point of coming out to chat for a few minutes.

We had the pleasure of tasting the Gewustraminer wine found at the Ravine Winery that shares the same property as the Ravine.

The Niagara Region is well known internationally for its world class wineries and its ice wines.

The Inniskillen Winery will be the vintner for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia this year.

and how gorgeous are the grapes at Chateau des Charmes

and of course not to be forgotten, the white grapes

now...this is what I call a cork board -

Weaving through the back roads of the Niagara Region, one of the must stop places along the way is the well known unassuming Picard Peanuts. Housed inside, one can sample and purchase literally ALL things peanuts.

Since "R" is the only human I know who absolutely adores dill pickle chips, how could I not pick up peanuts that taste like dill pickles.

Yeah, I know - pretty out there but well.... I love my son in law :). Psychgrad - she'll get half my stash of wines and ice wine. A really great few days. StumbleUpon

Friday, October 9, 2009

Birthday Celebrations

Birthday celebrations were successful!

Somehow I got drafted to be in charge. I blame Giz (the obvious solution). Usually Giz is in charge of managing the troops, but since it was for her birthday, we couldn't put her in charge. So I got stuck "herding the cats" in my family.

We decided to mix things up and plan an evening of games. While packing (for the impending move), I came across an old murder mystery game I had from my 15th birthday. At first I thought we could just re-use it because it had been long enough since playing it last that I wouldn't recall the storyline. Then, I realized how old I am and came to terms with it being time to get rid of the game...It would be too difficult to find a tape player to play the tape that comes with the game.

Realizing that this is the 21st century, I did what any reasonable person would do...I searched on line for a murder mystery game and came across this site It seemed well-organized, so I searched for a murder theme that would work for the group and sent out electronic invitations to the guests from there.

UPDATE: The game was fun...there were 4 rounds of clues and at each round the players had to reveal a clue. The idea is to weave the clue into a conversation, but everyone ended up just reading their clues and then yelling, "I heard that character X...." (basically yelling out the clue as soon as they read it). In any case, it was still fun.

In the end, Actorboy turned out to be the murderer. I liked how it was a ready-made game that incorporated everyone. But, I find that the murder mysteries are not particularly clever. In the end, it's not as though you would really guess how the murderer carried out the act -- it's basically a random result that falls a bit flat.

I decided to play it relatively safe by mainly selecting dishes that I've tried and love.

Of course, that involves Caprese Skewers:

I figured Portobello Mushroom Pizza would be a hit with at least some of the crowd, but even the fussier eaters ate them.

I made the easy lemon dill salmon - another simple dish.

Probably the biggest risk (which is still minor in the world of food risks) is the chicken dish. The fear is ending up with flavourless or dried out chicken. But, after browning the outsides and letting it finish in the oven, the chicken was very succulent and earned several kudos.

But, really - the commendments go to For the Love of Cooking. I made her Grilled Chicken with Mustard Tarragon Sauce. It was a great pairing with the chicken and actually went very well with the salmon too. I HIGHLY recommend that you try it.

The mustard-tarragon sauce is the dish on the left, below.

On the right is a herb and roasted garlic butter spread I made (it was just ok).

Actorboy and his gf were in charge of getting the cake. They got a carrot cake for Giz....

And a lemon meringue tart for my birthday (which was just a few days after Giz's b-day).

Of course, no one was hungry for fruit, but it's mandatory dessert food.

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