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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Home Baked Baguettes

Every time I taste freshly-baked bread I wonder why I don't bake it more often. Then I look around at the counter, bowls and hands covered in a gloopy mess and I remember.  This baguette recipe from Dan Leader makes three delicious crusty loaves.  I didn't get them to rise as much as I thought they should, and one of mine was a bit misshapen, but otherwise I declare the experiment a success!  I even kneaded the dough by hand when I usually go with the less messy mixer method.  

The hands on work for this project is minimal, but you need almost a full day waiting for the dough to rise at each stage.  It's called a 4-hour baguette, but it took more like 6 hours for me from first mix to first bite.  Still, that was only about an hour of hands-on time, with delicious results.  

And, you can't beat the ingredients list. Flour, water, yeast & salt. That's it. Baking bread is magic in that way. The simplest ingredients turn into something so fantastic with just mixing and time.

Aside from the basic ingredients, you need a few other items to make this work.  A kitchen scale is a big help because baking works better when ingredients are weighed.  You'll also need parchment paper, a baking stone or inverted baking sheet, a cast iron pan, and a pair of scissors.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cheese Tortellini with Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Although the snow is still on the ground, we've been grilling a little. But I'm still going through the (hopefully) last of my winter recipes while it's cold outside. 

This easy recipe is inspired by Martha Stewart. It wouldn't have occurred to me to add brussels sprouts to pasta but it's a great combination. If you keep some fresh or frozen tortellini on hand, it's simple to whip it up any time.  

Here's what you need:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a great thing to have in the freezer for quick meals. They are more flavourful and easier to keep moist when cooking than boneless breasts. I love to grill them, but these ones are cooked in the oven which is nice when the weather is too cold to grill.  

Here's what you need for these:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Braised Red Cabbage

Although it doesn't have the green of St. Patrick's Day, this is still a lovely side dish for your corned beef.  I served it with smoked pork chops and boiled potatoes and it was a perfect match.  The cabbage is nice and sweet and a great match for the salty smoked pork.

Here's what you need:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Beer Baron: Bell's Expedition Stout (The Beer Baron's first post!)

Rex Banner - The Beer Baron
My husband is a craft beer fanatic.  Although I don't drink much beer I feel like I know a lot about craft beer through osmosis and our frequent visits to craft breweries and beer bars. 

Matt has written several guest posts for me about beer. I've been thinking of ways to become more motivated to blog and one of those ideas is regular monthly features. Tart of the Month is one thing I'd like to make a regular feature, and I'd like the Beer Baron to become a regular feature too. Matt tries new beers all the time so he's a good resource for craft beer info. He also tries beers from all over North America, so there should be lots of diverse content from our travels as well as what's in stock at the LCBO and our local craft beer bar.  So here's the first official guest post from the Beer Baron...  

If you happen to go to a pub or just about any chain restaurant or bar this St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll likely see signs for Guinness, a dry stout from Ireland. In fact, it won’t just be on St. Patrick’s Day, as the makers of Guinness – no doubt perturbed by the fact that St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Monday this year, thus limiting intoxication levels to the merely absurd – have dubbed it St. Patrick’s Weekend.

I have nothing against Guinness and have enjoyed many a pint of its smooth, creamy goodness. However, as a beer, it is really just a gateway drug to bigger and better things and to me, you can’t get much bigger or better than Russian Imperial Stouts. Named in honour of the style of beer preferred by the court of Catherine II of Russia, I personally believe she deserves the moniker of Catherine the Great because of her taste for big, bold, high-alcohol, low-carbonation, intensely malty, roasted stouts.

One of the better examples of a Russian Imperial Stout is Expedition Stout, brewed by Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Rated a perfect 100 on Ratebeer for good reason, Expedition Stout is to Guinness as Batman is to Scooby Doo. Sure, they are both solve crimes, but the latter wants to lick your face while the former wants to punch your face (in the best possible way).

While Guinness is on the lighter side of things with a white head and low alcohol content (4.2 – 5.0% alcohol by volume, depending on where you get it), Expedition Stout has a rich, brown head and a decidedly high alcohol content (10.5%). The colour of the head is usually a pretty good indicator of whether you are about to drink stout or STOUT... If it’s white, it’s not right; If it is brown, drink it down.

Beyond the looks, Expedition Stout just smells and tastes downright decadent. There is a heavenly aroma of chocolate mixed with dark fruits and molasses and the taste... well, that you should experience for yourself. Everyone’s palette is different and with something as complex as Expedition Stout or any other truly great Russian Imperial Stout, you might get notes that are special and just for you. To me, it is a mix of dark things that I love (dark-roast coffee, dark chocolate, dark fruits) with little hints of caramelized sweetness and warm booziness and a texture could be described as oily or sticky, if those things were positives.

The other amazing thing about Expedition Stout and Russian Imperial Stouts like it is that it is magic! Different aromas and flavours present themselves at different times and it could be argued that the best Expedition Stout is the one that has warmed up and is in your half-empty glass. Better still, it was designed to be aged, so a new bottle can be a completely different experience than a bottle cellared for a year or two... time can take booze and bitterness and give you mellowness and depth, just like people!

So, if you’ve never tried Guinness before, don’t be afraid, you’ve got an entire St. Patrick’s Day weekend in which a million different pubs and restaurants will pour you a pint. However, once you’ve taken those baby steps, do yourself a favour and work your way up through great, readily available stouts like Wellington’s Russian Imperial Stout or St. Ambroise’s Oatmeal Stout and then track down a Bell’s Expedition Stout or anything from this list. They didn’t call her Catherine the Great for nothing.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tart of the Month: Butternut Squash, Mushroom & Gruyere Tart

Since my last attempt was deemed a success, I've decided to make Tart of the Month a regular feature!  I will try to make a seasonal tart every month in honour of the name of this blog.  This tart also uses a very simple crust you just press into the pan rather than rolling out, but eventually I'll have to learn to roll dough.  

Here's what you need for this delicious tart that's great for dinner or brunch:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Milos' Craft Beer Emporium

I guess it must be this interminable winter, but I am not in the mood to cook lately. We have been eating out a little more than usual because all we want to do is bundle up on the couch and watch TV.  

So, let me tell you about one of our favourite bar/restaurants here in London, Ontario... Milos' Craft Beer Emporium.  We probably go to Milos' more than any other place.  We're there almost every week.  Sometimes we just have drinks from their excellent rotating craft beer menu, and sometimes we eat.

They have a fantastic burger, but they also have a really interesting menu featuring local meats and veggies.  They often have great specials.

On our most recent visit we tried some new menu items.  This is a local, pastured pork cutlet with brown butter pomme purée, deep fried Brussels sprouts, pine nuts and Creole mustard gravy.  It was juicy and delicious. 

And this is fried organic chicken sprinkled with piment d'esplette with collard greens, bacon cracklins (!) and buttermilk gravy.  This was so fantastic!  The chicken was mostly boneless and so tender and crispy.  It was way to much for me to finish so Matt helped out a lot.  

Milos' has the best craft beer selection in London and for miles around. You can always find something interesting to drink and the fact that the food is great too makes it one of the best finds in London.  It's right downtown, the staff is super friendly and the atmosphere is great.  I can't recommend this place highly enough if you're in London.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pork & Mushroom Dumplings

Well, these were fantastic!  It's a bit of a project to assemble the dumplings.  It takes a little time but it's not that hard. And the effort is worth it. 

This recipe made 40 dumplings, so there were plenty leftover to freeze.  

One special ingredient I needed to track down was round dumpling wrappers.  My local supermarket has a decent supply of Asian ingredients, but only had square wonton wrappers, so I had to go to the Chinese speciality store for these.  But they only cost a buck!  

Here's what you need for these fantastic dumplings: