D’oh! or is that Dough!?

Does this ever happen to you? You buy a 5 kg bag of unbleached white flour, but when you get it home and open it you realize you’ve bought a bag of whole wheat flour instead? This happened to me not once, but twice in a row. And the second time I was being careful not to make the same mistake again. I suspect that the bag somehow transformed after I picked it up and before I got it to the checkout. Or maybe the magical transmogrification occurred at home in the cupboard? In any case, now I have more whole wheat flour than I can possibly use, not being, you know, a commercial bakery. 

May Contain Spam

Not this kind

which can be quite delicious (in a guilty pleasure kind of way), but this decidedly less appetizing kind:

Yes, that’s 921 spam comments in about a month since the last time I cleared it.  It’s not happening on any of my other WordPress blogs, just this one. I suppose it may have something to do with the six month “hiatus” we took – you know, like squatters moving into a vacant house – but we’re back now and posting (somewhat) frequently and it hasn’t abated. Is anyone else being bombarded by comment spam? Luckily we’re able to set our spam filters so none of it actually makes it to the site.

Tradition

Hello my far-flung friends! How was your Thanksgiving? Here in Edmonton, the family and I had a traditional meal yesterday. That tradition, however, was not ours, and not Thanksgiving. We made a Danish Christmas meal. This is something we were planning to do last year at Christmas time but it got put off for various reasons and didn’t happen until now.

This is where the inspiration came from: The Time-Life Cooking of Scandinavia book, published in 1968. If you want the recipes, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding this book (or any of the Time-Life cookbooks) in just about any thrift store in the land.

The centrepiece of the meal is roast goose – something I’ve long wanted to try. The Bro-in-law has made goose before and knew what to do. He pricked the skin all over before roasting to allow the grease to stream freely. Goose is very fatty – there was a lot of grease in the roasting pan, which my sister poured off into a container to throw out. Doing some reading today, I discovered that goose fat is “culinary white gold” (for things like roasting potatoes), so I phoned her to see if it could be saved. Luckily it was still in the fridge – another victory for procrastination.

Goose is delicious – it’s all dark meat, which I love. The crispy skin was heavenly (and much coveted by my parents).

The bird was stuffed with apples, prunes and onions – all of which gets thrown out because it becomes drenched in grease. It’s there to impart flavour and moisture. Apples and prunes are part of the meal though.

Poached apple halves with prunes soaked in sherry (should be port, but sherry’s what I had in my cupboard).

Brunede kartofler (caramelized potatoes). You brought this to a party at my house once, Truly Scrumptious. Yours were better. For some reason the caramel didn’t adhere to the potatoes, so it was more like potatoes in toffee gravy. We’ll have to compare notes.

Also, peeling all those little spuds, while not difficult (the skins can mostly be pulled off with fingertips), sure is tedious.

The rødkaal (braised red cabbage) was much more successful. Even my sister (who’s unable to eat raw cabbage) loved it. Here’s the recipe:

Rødkaal

1 medium head red cabbage (2 to 2 1/2 lbs.)
4 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup red currant jelly
2 tbsp. grated apple

Wash the head of cabbage under cold running water, remove the tough outer leaves, and cut the cabbage in half from top to bottom. Lay the flat sides down on the chopping board, cut away the core and slice the cabbage very finely. There should be approximately 9 cups of shredded cabbage when you finish.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, water and vinegar in a heavy stainless steel or enameled 4 to 5 quart casserole. When it comes to a boil and the butter has melted, add the shredded cabbage and toss thoroughly with two wooden spoons or forks. Bring to a boil again, cover tightly and place in the centre of the oven to braise for 2 hours. There is little danger that the cabbage will dry out during the cooking, but it is a good idea to check on the liquid level occasionally. Add a little water if it seems necessary.

About 10 minutes before the cabbage is finished, stir in the jelly and grated apple, replace the cover and complete the cooking.

The piquant taste of red cabbage will improve if, after it has cooled, it is allowed to rest for a day in the refrigerator and then reheated either on top of the stove or in a 325 degree oven. In any case, serve hot, as an accompaniment to a stuffed loin of pork or goose to complete the traditional Danish Christmas dinner.

Dessert was something more traditionally Canadian:

While the guys made dinner, the ladies had a cat nap.

And what did you have for Thanksgiving?

Conspicuous By Our Absence

Yeah, we’ve been bad bloggers. What can I say? Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Here’s a little update on what we’ve been up to in the past 6 months.

We’ve become bi-coastal.

King Crabby – Moved to Victoria with The Boyfriend (now The Husband). Got married on Vancouver Island.

Truly Scrumptious – Retired from her government job. Converted her garage into the artists’ studio of her dreams. Drove cross-country with The Man With Whom… to Newfoundland to find that the building on their vacation property has become uninhabitable.

Jean Poutine – Mostly looking after my aging parents. Still living and eating in Edmonton.

So, you can see we have busy lives. We continue to have notable food adventures that we may or may not be motivated to blog about in the coming days.

Posted by Jean Poutine

The Nightmare that is Christmas

Hey Crabby, how was your Christmas? Did you have a turkey for Christmas dinner or is it salmon all the time on the Island?

This year was my first time cooking Christmas turkey at my folks house and it was a bit of a nightmare (think Stuart McLean). My sister’s consort bought an organic, free-range turkey from the Strathcona Market on Thursday and I cribbed a bunch of idea on cooking it from various Jamie Oliver holiday specials on the Food Network.

raw

beets and carrots

more beets, parsnips

According to JO, turkey takes about 35 minutes a kilo to cook (apparently organic turkeys cook even faster – I’ve heard this from a few different people), so this 18 pound turkey would take, at most, maybe 4 to 5 hours. I put it in the preheated oven at 1 pm, hoping it would be done by 5 and rested and on the table by 6.

stuffing (I stuffed under the ample skin at the neck end, not the body cavity)

Five pm came and went with the internal temperature falling well short of the target 165 degrees F. When the thermometer finally hit 165 a few hours later, we took it out and started carving. The breast meat was cooked (maybe even a little dry), the skin over it was brown and crispy, the thigh moved easily and appeared to be cooked, but the juices in the bottom of the pan were pink and the vegetables around the turkey were still crunchy. When we started carving, the dark meat was definitely not done. Very strange. So back it went into the oven, and we cranked the heat.

cooked?

Long story short, we finally figured out that we had a half cooked turkey because the bottom element in the oven wasn’t working. We carved what we could (the breast, mostly) and sat down to eat at about 8 o’clock (we turned the bird over and put it back in to fully cook the bottom  half).

It was really stressful – my folks are used to having their evening meal around 5 o’clock but, bless ‘em, they didn’t complain once.

I guess in the grand scale of Christmas disasters, it wasn’t all that bad, really. Everyone was fed (eventually), no one died or got sick, there was lots of food and it was delicious – though I didn’t really enjoy it until the next day.

And how was your Christmas?

Posted by Jean Poutine

Postscript: When the repair guy came today, the element was working fine. Oy!

Da-De-O: Lust for Oysters

Watching Lynn Crawford at a Maryland oyster farm on Pitchin’ In the other night made me crave oysters something crazy, so tonight I called King Crabby and invited her to join me at Da-De-O (10548 Whyte Avenue).

I adore oysters prepared just about any way (except baked – yuck), but especially raw or fried.

I began with half a dozen Oysters Greta Garbo ($13). It combines four foods I love on a half shell: raw oysters, smoked salmon, capers and sour cream (the alarming pink tinge in all these pictures was cast by a neon sign we were sitting near).

I followed with an oyster po’ boy – two huge, juicy fried oysters on a French loaf, accompanied by potato hash and coleslaw (normally $11 but on Mondays and Tuesdays all po’ boys are $8). I was completely satisfied (and stuffed) by my meal.

Crabby was less happy with her Philly cheese steak po’ boy – the steak was sliced too thick for her liking. Shoulda had the oysters!

Posted by Jean Poutine

Table Scraps – Nov. 18

• I can’t speak for my co-bloggers, but I’ve been very busy of late with limited internet access – that’s why I haven’t been posting.

• Yesterday King Crabby, Truly Scrumptious and I met for lunch at Won Jung Gak, an out-of-the way Korean restaurant that’s been mentioned a few times lately in the Journal. If Crabby was writing this post, she’d want you all to know that she knew about this place long before it became a media darling, because a former co-worker who lived in Korea raved about it to her. Whatever.

It was cold (and very bright) sitting next to the window, but the food warmed us up.

Crabby cuts the homemade noodles with scissors. The dish is called Ja Jang Myun (noodles with black bean sauce). Is it just me, or does Crabby look like Jamie Oliver in this picture?


Separated at birth?

Don’t remember what this is called – some sort of chow mein dish – but it was more delicious than it looks.


Unpretentious

I was disappointed that nothing we ordered packed any of the heat Korean food is noted for (I should have paid more attention to the menu). I’m up for a return visit after I’ve studied the reviews.

• Rodeo Burger has added a new signature burger to their lineup:

The Aussie comes topped with pickled beets and a fried egg, the way they eat ‘em in Oz.


Delish!

Posted by Jean Poutine

Date Night: Rummage and Bauernschmaus

Thrifting and eating, two of my favorite activities, were made all the more pleasurable on Friday by being in the company of my favorite perma-date (that’s you, King Crabby).

The Anglican church in our neighborhood had their semi-annual rummage sale. We lined up about 40 minutes before the doors opened. This sale is very popular and I’ve never been this close to the front of the line before. We were even in front of Book Guy who shows up at every church basement sale and buys books by the boxful.

I don’t have any pictures from inside, because I was, you know, too busy trying to find treasure. I totally got elbowed out of the record section by some old dudes. Old folks at rummages sales are really pushy, don’t you find? I guess I’m just not cutthroat enough for church basement bargain action.

All I bought was some baking – a half dozen pumpkin bran muffins for 3 bucks, and a pie plate full of jack-o-lantern cookies, also 3 bucks.

Here you are in my kitchen with your purchases: A nice, newish looking suitcase with wheels and everything for 4 bucks! It came in handy for carting home all the cookbooks and magazines you bought. I know you paid a quarter each for the magazines – how much were the books?

Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cook Book, first published in 1962. Apparently in the 60s people needed to consult cookbooks to prepare packaged breakfast cereal.

For supper we went to the Bauernschmaus Restaurant (6796-99th Street), a German/Austrian restaurant that’s been around for as long as I can remember (though this is the first time I’ve been).

I don’t know if you’re aware that our Old Strathcona neighbourhood used to used to be the German part of town back in the day. I think there was a lot of German immigration after WWII (or did it happen earlier? I’m no historian). There used to be lots of German stores at one time – bakeries, butchers, restaurants and so on. Studio 82 cinema on Whyte Ave. used to show German movies weekly. The K & K Foodliner is an enduring remnant of this period (as is my German-born neighbour across the street who’s lived in the same house for more than 50 years).

Anyway, on to the meal.

I started with a large Leberknödelsuppe (beef liver dumpling soup). The substantial liver dumplings were meaty and delicious and the broth was mild and pleasant but not particularly flavorful.

My Bauernschmaus Farmer’s Feast plate was a pork lover’s delight – it came with a slice of smoked pork loin, a slice of roast pork loin and a (brautwurst?) sausage. I’ve been trying to eat more sauerkraut since I learned of its amazing health benefits, but this night I opted for rotkohl (red cabbage) instead. Dinners come with a salad and choice of starch: buttered potatoes, a dumpling, Viennese pasta or French fries. I had the Viennese pasta (sort of like German spätzle) which was light and buttery.

Your Wiener schnitzel and dumpling. The schnitzel had nicely seasoned breading and wasn’t at all greasy. The dumpling was made from bread rather than dough, which I’ve never seen before. It was very good – like a savory bread pudding.

Desserts are all made on the premises. I loved my Sacher torte. It was dense and moist and very chocolaty. I think it deviated from the traditional apricot filling with raspberry or strawberry jam under the chocolate icing.

I believe you were equally satisfied with your pumpkin cheesecake,

and the extra helping of whipped cream our server brought.

The service was old-worldly slow (especially the long wait between getting our menus and having our order taken), so it was a good thing we were in the best of possible company. Thanks for the lovely evening.

Posted by Jean Poutine

Ti-Toki

Another legacy of my niece K’s recent visit from New Zealand was the bottle of Ti-Toki liqueur she brought me.

Ti-Toki was invented by a New Zealand winemaker in the mid 1970s and is only available in that country. It’s made from indigenous flora including kawakawa, manuka leaves and oils from the ti-toki tree berry.

I confess that my interest was more for the collectible ceramic bottle, shaped like a Maori tekoteko, than the contents. It was designed by Maori carver Hemara Hemara and originally produced by Crown Lynn potteries. The older ones (in brown or mottled blue-green glazes) are fairly rare and sought by collectors.

The eyes are made fom paua shell (a species of abalone).

The company changed hands and today the bottles are made in limited numbers by a small ceramics studio near Auckland. You can also get Ti-toki in plain glass bottles – much cheaper, but not as much fun.

I invited Brandomoai, one of my tiki mug collector pals over for a tasting. First we tried it straight up.

The sniff test. The overwhelming scent is of vanilla.

Sipping. The viscosity is of a light syrup, similar to Frangelico. Initially the taste is sweet and mild. Then the alcohol (37%) and botanicals kick in: notes of pepper, citrus, eucalyptus (manuca, according to my niece). Very complex, strong and interesting.

Then we tried in a recipe suggested on the gift box:

Ti-toki Liqueur & Gingerbeer

1 part Ti-toki Liqueur

3 parts Gingerbeer

Serve with crushed ice, finely chopped mint and sliced lemon

Cheers!

I muddled the mint mojito-style instead of chopping it and used an organic ginger ale that has more bite than regular ginger ale but isn’t as aggressively spicy as Jamaican-style ginger beer. Diluting the Ti-toki really smoothed out its harsher edges. A lovely cocktail.

I look forward to tying it in other cocktails as well as just sipping it plain. Now I need my niece to visit more often so I can have a steady supply.

Posted by Jean Poutine