Crying While Cooking

Jean Poutine came for supper the other night before we went to see the movie Monsieur Lazhar, a lovely Canadian film that is an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. I didn’t feel like going out for groceries, so I did what I often do in those circumstances: take a look to see what I have and Google the ingredients for a recipe.  I had onions and feta, and I found several intriguing recipes for onion and feta tarts. I based mine mainly on the recipe from A Pot of Tea and a Biscuit.

I used both red and yellow onions. They were pretty powerful and I had a pretty good crying jag going, when I heard my cat meowing from her regular perch on top of the fridge. She was shaking her head and had tears pouring from her eyes. The poor thing had been overtaken by onion fumes.

I wiped her tears and put her outside for some fresh air. I didn’t take a video of her crying – it seemed too mean – but if I had, I could have put it onto the Crying While Eating website. Although strictly speaking, we were crying while cooking.

I caramelised the onions with brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper using the recipe from A Pot of Tea… Mine took a couple of hours, and you really have to watch it near the end of the cooking time so they don’t burn.

I used a frozen store-bought crust instead of making my own and it turned out fine. I just thawed it in the fridge and then rolled it flat between two sheets of parchment paper, mending where needed with a bit of water and my fingers. I loaded some of the caramelised onions into the bottom of the tart and crumbled 150g of feta cheese on top along with some thyme.  For a rustic look I folded in the edges of the crust and brushed them with an egg wash. My baking time was shorter than the recipe – you just have to watch it. It’s done when the crust is browned and the cheese is melted.

I had some quinoa on hand so I made one of my favorite salads which is basically cooked quinoa with whatever you have in the fridge that seems like a good idea to throw in there. The secret is the dressing: 2 Tbsp of melted honey and 2 Tbsp of lemon or lime juice. This time it had arugula, red onion, avocado, roasted pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. The cranberries were a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law.  They are from Cranberries Naturally in Fort Langley BC and they use orange to flavour them – delicious!

Both Jean Poutine and The Man With Whom I Keep Company gave the meal two thumbs up, so I’ll definitely be adding it into the rotation!

Foodie Christmas Gift

One of the gifts that I received this Christmas from The Man With Whom I Keep Company was a lovely little vintage Hankscraft Automatic Electric Egg Cooker. These egg cookers were manufactured from the 1920s to the 1950s and are both beautiful and simple in design.

It will cook up to 4 eggs soft, medium or hard boiled depending on how much water you put into the unit.

For a soft-boiled egg, put in 2 tbsp. of water, and plug it in. It shuts itself off when the water boils away, and that also means it’s done.

There you go – a perfect breakfast!

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?

Steamy kitchen nights

The windows of our Newfoundland vacation rental home have been steamed up pretty much every night lately. Yep, you guessed it, The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I have been making jam. This is our first attempt at jam making, and it has been highly successful. After a couple of tries that produced “sauce”, we landed on a formula that has produced beautiful, tasty, healthful blueberry jam. That’s not to say that the sauce isn’t pretty amazing too.

The Man With Whom I Keep Company caught Blueberry Madness soon after we arrived in Newfoundland, and has been picking buckets of blueberries from our property at Bacon Cove. It is an obsession that I have encouraged. Newfoundland’s acidic soil creates blueberry-growing heaven. You can sit in one spot and fill a bucket without having to do much more than turn around. There is a Newfoundland saying about blueberry picking: “Don’t pick the red ones – they’re green”.

Newfoundland blueberries hug the ground, so picking them can be a bit of a back-breaker. But if you get tired, you can just have a rest and take in the ocean views and fresh salt air.

We’ve had big bowls of blueberries in the fridge at all times and have eaten them fresh every day on cereal and ice cream, in yogurt, salads, sauces, muffins, pancakes, crumbles, you name it. I’m afraid that we may have developed an expensive habit that we will not be able to support when we get back to Edmonton, but we’ve been reveling in the free berries in Newfoundland while we have them.

We have also picked some partridge berries, but they are harder to find and tend to hide under club mosses and junipers. They are known elsewhere as lingonberries. They are a more tart tasting berry and are not so good raw, but make great jam.

While we’re at it, we’ve been picking a few rose hips too, and making tea out of those. The ones pictured below are pretty close in size to Alberta rose hips, but we have seen some that are as big as grapes. Earlier, the rose bushes were all heavy with rose blooms. Roses seem to love the salt air here too.

Unfortunately, we cannot haul fresh blueberries back with us, so jam seemed to be one way to bring home some of that goodness, anyway. The Man With Whom I Keep Company has been primarily involved in the Harvesting and Production Departments of our jam making enterprise. The house that we are staying at didn’t have any pots big enough for what we needed, so we borrowed some from friendly neighbors.

I have been primarily involved in the Quality Control Department: removing stems, leaves and insects from the berries (The Man With Whom I Keep Company advocates the catch-and-release program for live bugs, but I favour the down-the-drain program) and I also comprise the Design Department: high-art hand-made labels.

M&M Jams – a satisfying and yummy cottage industry.

Posted by Truly Scrumptious

Minor Miracle – One Pot Bread

Since I retired, I have been wanting to bake bread, but my first experience years ago was so discouraging that I hadn’t worked up the courage to give it another go. (I had attempted a loaf of bread and some buns but what I produced was a door stop and some paper weights). All of that punching and kneading doesn’t appeal either, and yet the smell of bread baking in the oven appeals greatly. So I decided to do some research on the good old internet and I came across a no-knead one-pot bread by none other than a man who I greatly trust – Jacques Pepin. (The recipe comes after the Cheesy Breadsticks on the YouTube video).

The house that The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I are staying at in Harbour Main Newfoundland has a beautiful cast iron pot that I used. The bread is mixed, proofed and baked in the same pot. Easy clean-up! No kneading – just a bit of stirring after the first rise. Easy method! I used whole wheat flour for 1/3 of the flour in the recipe. I get the first part done in the evening and then bake the bread when I get up the next morning. Here is the bread after it has risen the second time in the fridge for 12 hours.

And here it is after baking at 425 degrees for 40 minutes.

After it cools, just loosen it around the edges with a knife and out it pops.

It makes a nice moist loaf with a good crunchy crust.

And here it is toasted with some home-made blueberry jam (watch for the blueberry jam post coming soon!)

A true  minor miracle. Thanks Jacques!

Posted by Truly Scrumptious

Newfoundland home away from home

The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I have been staying in a beautiful heritage vacation house, Terry’s Bayside Getaway, in Harbour Main, Newfoundland for the month of September. The house was built in 1927 and is attached to what was the family’s store (on the right in the photo) which is now closed.

The kitchen here is huge. Especially compared to our cute little kitchen back in Edmonton. This photo shows the main part of the kitchen with a view of the pantry (door on the left) and a separate room with the sink, dishwasher &  prep space (door on the right). 

Here is a view of the sink/prep area. The counter goes farther to the right. Those are some rose hips that I am drying on the counter.

And here is a view of the cooking area. We’ve been getting our exercise walking back and forth between the kitchen areas. At home we can be sitting at the kitchen table and we can pretty much reach the oven, fridge and kitchen drawers without even having to get up. Advantages can be found in every situation.

Upcoming posts will show what we have produced in this kitchen!

Posted by Truly Scrumptious.

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!