Curry Osso Buco with Roasted Cauliflower & Broccoli, garnished with Crunchy Snow Peas

If you hadn’t already noticed, I am quite the carnivore.  I loveeee meat, no matter the species.

Slow-braised meat on the bone is one of my favorite ways to eat it (next to eating it raw).  When I walked into the butcher’s yesterday afternoon, I was planning on picking up a couple of lamb shanks to braise in curry and served with roasted cauliflower.  Unfortunately, they were out of lamb shanks, but I was stuck on my original plan.

As an alternative, I asked for two veal shanks.  Osso Buco is like my favourite home-style meal.  It is the epitome of old school, traditional home cooking.  And this Indian twist to the original was actually really great.

Begin by heating up a saute pan (with high edges) and seasoning the meat.  Sear the shanks until they have a nice golden brown exterior.  In the meantime, dice one medium-sized onion, a carrot, and a stalk of celery.  Take the shanks out of the pan once seared and add the onions.  Turn the heat to medium to medium-low and allow the onions to sweat, let out some of their moisture, and deglaze the pan.  Once the onions have become translucent, add the diced celery and carrots and sweat with some butter.  Crush a couple cloves of garlic and add those as well.

Buy a curry paste from your local grocery store – whether it be mild of hot (i suggest a hot curry paste because the coconut milk in this particular recipe will cut the heat).  Add about two tablespoon of the curry paste, along with some curry powder, into the pan with the mirepoix.  Cook for a couple minutes before adding the coconut milk (1 can, from your local grocery store) plsu one cup of chicken or veal stock.  Place the veal shanks back into the pan, add a bay leaf or two, some freshly grated ginger, and salt & pepper.  Cover the braising pan and turn heat to low.  Slowly simmer on low, stirring every once in a while, for about 2 hours, or until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.

To roast the cauliflower and broccoli, heat your oven to 425.  Drizzle the veg in a mix of olive oil and curry paste, and season with salt and pepper.  Throw in some garlic cloves, fresh thyme if you have it, and a couple bay leaves.  Roast until really nice and crispy and caramelized on the outside.  There is nothing better than a crispy, caramelized bite of cauliflower (trust me).

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Roasted Beet, Asparagus, & Cremini Mushroom Salad with Toasted Walnuts & Crumbled Goat Cheese

Although I’m not crazy about salads, generally preferring rich, warm, hearty meals for dinner, I sometimes crave a fresh tasting, healthy meal.  Having hated beets as a child, I have certainly grown into their earthy sweetness.  I was craving a dish that featured beets as the star…

I had some goat cheese laying around that was in need of being used, and the sharp, slightly sour, creaminess of the cheese is such a nice companion for beets.  I washed and wrapped a couple of beets in tin foil before roasting them in a 400 degree oven.  Because beets vary in size, their cooking time also varies.  I always suggest that the best way to know if something is ready/cooked through is to touch and taste it (whether you’re talking about vegetables or meats or starches).  In the case of roasting beets, you’re looking for them to be somewhat soft to the touch, with the skin peeling off easily.  This can take longer than you might expect (for me it took almost an hour and a half!).

I decided to add asparagus and mushrooms both for their strong, earthy flavours and for their colourful appearance next to the bright purple beets.  Once the beets were finished roasting, I upped the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  I lay out the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzled the spears in olive oil and seasoned with kosher salt and pepper.  I did the same with the mushrooms, but on a different baking sheet.  I put them both in the oven and roasted them for 15-20 minutes, or until the asparagus was slightly aldente, and the mushrooms were soft and juicy.

Toasted walnuts were a perfect addition.  I simply coated them in olive oil, seasoned with salt, and roasted in the oven on a baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, checking and tossing constantly, until they were browned on all sides.

Once the veg had cooled, and I’d peeled the beets, I chopped everything and started building my salad.  I had so much fun photographing this meal because of the wonderful colours.

I didn’t have any basil at the time, but if I had, I would have made a nice Basil Oil with olive oil and salt & pepper.  Instead, I just used a simple balsamic vinaigrette that I made with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, some chopped rosemary, and a touch of dijon and salt & pepper.

Published in: on November 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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My Search for the Best Chocolate Croissant in Toronto – Bonjour Brioche

When I was 10, I lived in Brussels, Belgium, for a short period of time while my Dad was filming a movie.  Every morning, without fail, someone would go out to fetch breakfast: pain au chocolat (better known as a chocolate croissant).  I cannot even begin to explain the luscious, buttery, flaky goodness of a Belgian chocolate croissant.  Better than Paris, the chocolate in Belgium just takes the simple pastry to a whole new level of decadence.  There are no words really…

Ever since I’ve moved back to Toronto, after I finished my undergrad in Montreal, I’ve been on a secret mission to find a pain au chocolat that compares to my childhood memory.  There have certainly been some that have come close, but they’ve never been quite good enough.  As such, since starting this blog, I have decided to slightly tweak my search; my mission is to find the best chocolate croissant in Toronto.

My first stop was Bonjour Brioche, one of my favorite neighbourhood  spots.  Acclaimed for having the best baguettes in the city, this french bakery turned lunch/brunch spot is a must for any Torontonian.  If you haven’t been, GO!!!

Their pain au chocolat is really excellently done, with great flakiness and richness.  The only suggestion I would make is that they could use a little more chocolate – but I’m also a chocolate fanatic.  The chocolate is always un-centered, which means you don’t have it in every bite – make of that what you will.

I definitely recommend them.

My Awesome Bradley Smoker: Hot-smoking Rainbow Trout, Sockeye Salmon, & Cod

Rainbow Trout is great for hot-smoking because it has a high fat content.  Any fatty fish smokes really well, including salmon, cod, halibut, sea bass, mackerel etc.  I don’t usually brine my fish before I smoke it because I really enjoy the natural flavours of the trout and don’t feel as though it needs the brine for moisture purposes (the fatty-ness keeps the fish really moist).  All I do is brush a little bit of maple syrup on the pieces of fish and season with salt and pepper and then add them to my smoker, at about 200 degrees, for 20-30 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillet).  I use either maple wood chips or hickory, each of which produces very contrasting end products (maple being more subtle, hickory being much stronger).

Sockeye Salmon is actually quite lean compared to most other species of salmon.  It has an incredible colour and very rich flavour.  It was great smoked, although I left it a medium rare so that it wouldn’t dry out.  It was divine!

Last but not least, is the cod.  A rather meaty, fatty fish, with a very soft flavour.  It took to the smoke really wonderfully.  It tasted less smokey than the trout and sockeye, even though I left it in the smoker for a good 10 minutes longer.  It was delicately flavoured with a really wonderfully moist yet flaky texture, and it just melted in your mouth.

As you can see, I paired the smoked fish with some garlic sauteed baby bok choy and caramelized oyster mushrooms (sauteed in a pan with butter, salt & pepper), which I finished with a little maple syrup.  Try it out sometime!

It’s easy, but certainly doesn’t taste like it!

Published in: on November 6, 2010 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Low Fat, Atkins-Friendly Steak & Rapini

Steak and Rapini are a great combination.  I was in the mood for a striploin today but didn’t want to feel super heavy and bloated after dinner (like I usually do).  So I stayed away from carbs and filled up on good old meaty protein.

I simply pan-fried (yes, grilling would have been even healthier) my steak in a tablespoon of vegetable oil (high smoke point i.e. it gets really hot) with sea salt and cracked black pepper, for about 2 minutes per side until it was perfectly rare. I prefer frying steaks in a cast iron skillet, as you get the nicest crust, but thick stainless steel will also do the trick.

The trick to cooking a great steak is in the heat of the pan and letting it be.  It is so important to let your pan heat up until it’s almost too hot and the oil is just about the smoke.  This way, when you add your steak to the pan, the heat won’t drop too much, and your steak will fry up nicely.  The ONLY way to get a nice, even, caramelized crust through what they call the Maillard Reaction is to place the steak in the pan and leave it.  Whatever you do, DO NOT FUSS WITH IT.  To develop the crust, it needs constant contact with the hot surface, so the more times you move it around, the less of a crust you will end up with. Also, throwing a little bit of butter in there about 30 seconds before you take it out will definitely help!

Meanwhile, I trimmed and washed my rapini and heated my wok.  Once heated, with about a teaspoon of olive oil, I threw the rapini into the wok.  I sliced some garlic into rather large pieces and added those as well.  I seasoned with salt and pepper and covered it so that it would slightly steam, to get the crunch out of the thick stems.

And, voila! Easy, tasty, satisfying, and low-fat! It is even Atkins-friendly!

Published in: on November 4, 2010 at 7:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Organic, Grain-fed Chicken Two Ways: Breast Stuffed with Caramelized Onions & Slow-Braised Legs

For many years now, I’ve cooked everyday of my life, whether it be professionally or personally.  I’ve never had the opportunity, however, to document my culinary adventures.  I’ve never owned a nice digital camera, or anything even close to it.  Any pictures I’ve ever taken of my food just didn’t do it justice.

This past week, I invested in a Canon Rebel t2i.  It was recommended to me by many photographers as one of the best entry DSLR cameras, taking professional grade photos, without being incredibly complicated like most professional DSLR cameras.

Long story short, the pictures Moira and I will be uploading from now on will be a whole lot nicer.

On to the food…

Last night I picked up this gorgeous-looking free-range, grain-fed, organically raised (bla bla bla) chicken and designed a tasty dinner around it.  Because the chicken itself was slightly outrageously priced ($17), I wanted to keep the rest of my costs down.  As such, I stuffed the breasts with caramelized onions (I always have onions in the pantry), braised the thighs and drumsticks with mirepoix, stock and wine, and used the carcass and bones to make a rich stock, which I used to make a parmesan risotto (parm also being a staple in my house).

Caramelizing onions is the easiest thing to do, and yet yields such a rich, tasty product.  It is slightly time-consuming, but well worth the patience.  Simply heat your pan, slice your onions (2 should be enough), and put them in the pan with about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a couple tablespoons of butter and a pinch of salt and sugar.  Turn the heat to very low, cover, and let cook for at least 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a stainless steel sauté pan.  Take the legs (which you have butchered yourself or asked your butcher to do), salt & pepper, and sear skin-side down in the skillet until golden brown.  Flip, sear for a couple more minutes, and deglaze with ½ cup of white wine and ½ cup of chicken stock.  Cover and put in a 350 degree oven until the chicken falls of the bone.

Once the onions have caramelized, add about half a cup of grated parmesan cheese and chill.  Slice the chicken breasts and stuff them with the caramelized onions as neatly as you can.

Heat a cast iron skillet and add about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil.  Salt and pepper the stuffed breasts.  Sear the breast skin-side down in a very hot pan until it has a nice golden brown and crispy skin.  Flip over and place in oven (450 degrees preferred) until cooked through.

I served my chicken two ways on parmesan risotto.  I made chicken stock with the bones of the chicken and made a very simply risotto with shallots, onions, celery, thyme, white wine, and a whole bunch of parmesan and cold butter.

Atkins Friendly Cheesecake


Atkins friendly cheesecake? Yes Please. For all those dieters out there who can’t beat the cravings for dessert, this is the perfect cheesecake.

It’s much like any basic cheesecake, with a nut crust rather than a graham cracker base. I tried a blueberry vanilla cheesecake with a walnut crust. This cheesecake is just what I need when I’m craving something sweet without the added carbs!

Crust:

2 cups Walnuts

2 tbs Splenda

½ cup Butter

Filling:

750g Cream Cheese (Full Fat)

3 Eggs

¾ cup Splenda

1 tsp Vanilla

1 cup Blueberries

Directions:

  • In food processor, mix nuts, melted butter and Splenda. Spray a 9” spring form pan and press nut mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8 minutes in oven preheated to 325.
  • In stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Scrape down sides of mixer and add Splenda.
  • Add eggs to cream cheese mixture one at a time making sure each is incorporated before adding the next. Finally add vanilla.
  • In medium saucepan, bring blueberries to a boil (if necessary add a touch of lemon juice)
  • Pour 1/3rd of cream cheese mixture into pan. Spoon small amounts of blueberry sauce onto cream cheese mixture, and spread with a knife in a circular motion creating a swirl design. Repeat this with 2 more layers of cream cheese mixture and blueberry sauce.
  • Bake in oven preheated to 325 for 40-45 minutes. Center should still be “wobbly”, it will set when cooled in refrigerator. Chill for 2 hours before serving.
Published in: on November 2, 2010 at 2:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Adrian & Laura’s Wedding Cake

Several months back, Lauren posted about our trial run wedding cakes for my brother’s wedding. Well, the wedding was at the end of June and was absolutely beautiful! (And I must say, so was the cake) Simple, but elegant is the best way to describe the wedding cake.

I ended up using the pound cake recipe I originally used, but with the alterations Lauren and I had made. We substituted cake flour for all-purpose flour, and buttermilk for milk. The result; a to die for pound cake that practically melts in your mouth.

Cake baking was the easy part, it was the hot humid weather in Halifax proved a new challenge I wasn’t anticipating. Relocation from the dining room, adjacent the kitchen where my mother was busy cooking away was necessary to escape the battle of Fondant & Moira VS Humidity. So the logical solution…have my father re-assemble our dining room table in the basement. After a couple attempts to roll the fondant out perfectly, I got the cake exactly where I wanted it to be.

The next challenge was to get the cake from my family’s home, to the hotel where the wedding reception was being held in one piece. You might wonder why this would be a challenge, and if this is the case it means you have never driven with my mother. Luckily we made it there, and the cake arrived in one piece.

The reception was lovely, and my brother Adrian and his wife Laura loved the cake. Laura’s mother froze the top tier of the cake for them while they are away in Germany. I can’t wait for them to enjoy it again on their 1 year wedding anniversary. (Although I’m sure it will not be nearly as tasty after being frozen for a year!)

Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Published in The Planner

ON THE MENU

By: Marilyn Lazar

-0p

What to do? The world is a confusing, conflicted place, nowhere more so than at the dinner table. Concerns for health and the environment are both coming to the forefront. Fish choices are popular as a lighter alternative and for reasons of kashrut. To shed light on the topic, Toronto Party Planner spoke to Lauren Mozer of Chefs Chez Vous Personal Chef Service (chefschezvous.ca). With partner Moira Murray, these young entrepreneurs exemplify idealistic world citizens vying for creative and commercial success in a competitive market.

Have you noticed shifts in clients’ behaviour that you attribute to environmental concerns?

Unfortunately, most of our new and existing clients are not yet very well educated on the subject of sustainable food choices. When it comes to “going green”, many citizens of Toronto have made changes in how they purchase cleaning supplies, household goods, and have placed a lot of emphasis on the Green Bin Program as well as on recycling responsibilities. In the outskirts of the city, these programs may not be in place. For example, we have clients who live in Mississauga, Oakville, and Maple who haven’t even been issued green bins yet. Instead, they have garborators, which have actually been outlawed in the city of Toronto because of their negative environmental impact. As personal chefs, we not only cook, but also clean up after ourselves within the client’s home. We don’t have much control over these issues.

What about food?

We find that the general public is still relatively uninformed about food choices. When splurging on a decadent evening in, most clients are concerned about the flavour and extravagance of the ingredients. We have yet to work with a client who has specifically requested local or sustainable food choices. Of course we don’t fault our clients for their unawareness on the issue of sustainable food, as the knowledge base is simply not readily available to them. Neighborhood supermarkets and superstores have made local options almost impossible. Finding local farmers is a challenge, even with the abundance of farmers’ markets in Toronto. Most of them are open during limited hours which make it difficult for people who work full time. Also, it’s unreasonable to expect consumers to give up products such as oranges or spices that cannot be found locally any time of the year.

How do you balance your awareness with clients’ demands?

As cooks/chefs who are aware of these issues, but who also prioritize pleasing our clients, we make those choices on our own when possible, and bring the awareness to our clients through menu design. For example, we note on our prix fixe and a la carte menus posted online, that certain ingredients are subject to change, depending on seasonality of products and availability. However, if a client wants asparagus in the dead of winter, we will supply it. We might suggest alternatives, but when it comes down to it, the choice is always the client’s. We hope to one day have more control over such choices, but as young women who have just started out a new business this year, we don’t yet wield that kind of power.

What animals are now considered “endangered species”?

When asked this question, the first thing that comes to mind is sustainability with regards to seafood. An estimated 90% of all large, predatory fish are already gone from the world’s oceans. Recent studies predict a world-wide fisheries collapse by 2048. Many organizations, such as “Ocean Wise”, suggest that consuming seafood in a sustainable manner is the only solution.

Their recommendations are based on 4 criteria. An “Ocean Wise” recommended species is:

1) Abundant and resilient to fishing pressures

2) Well managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research

3) Harvested in a method that ensures limited by-catch on non-target and endangered species

4) Harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats and negative interactions with other species.

– Ocean Wise

After attending an Ocean Wise event I did some of my own research. Commercial fisheries continue to reduce fish populations and have subsequently altered the world’s marine ecosystems. According to Sea Choice, 52% of fish stocks have been fully exploited; 16% have been over-exploited; 7% have been depleted. On their website, they classify species of fish into three groups: those to avoid; those with some concerns; and those with that are the best choice. Some of the most common fish that people have gotten used to purchasing at the supermarket are actually horrible choices. Atlantic Salmon, Sea Bass, Tuna, and Tilapia are all horrible choices, and yet the first and cheapest choices you’ll be faced with at the supermarket. I have just recently become aware of such issues. However, I have not removed all of the items on my menu that include such species. Again, the demand is there, and I aim to please my clients. Unfortunately, I also love a good Tuna Tartar, and Sea Bass is one of my favorite fish. It becomes a huge moral dilemma.

Why use food from within miles of home?

What it comes down to for me, is that eating locally from sustainable sources is beneficial from various standpoints. The fresher the produce, the more nutritious it will be. By supporting local producers, one supports the growth of our agricultural industry. Purchasing locally is also environmentally friendly because it reduces the carbon dioxide emissions involved in shipping goods.

Are other food items simply politically incorrect?

Veal is certainly known as a controversial product. The controversy that surrounds veal is in how the calves are raised. They are raised in dark, confined pens, and are fed iron deprived diets, which cause anemia. This is done to keep the meat a pale pink rather than red. Criticism is based on the fact that the calves are highly restricted in movement, spend their entire lives indoor, experience prolonged sensory, social, and exploratory deprivation, and are susceptible to high amounts of stress and disease. Ultimately, it’s up to individual chefs and customers to make that decision for themselves, in my eyes.

Is there a shift in how you source your products and in how these suppliers service you?

We go to many farmers’ markets and buy there when possible. We certainly do not restrict our menus to sustainable products. When presented with the option of locally farmed products vs. non-locally farmed products, we will most definitely choose the former.

Given your experience, can you predict the next trend?

My partner and I have noticed a growing interest in more “exotic” game meats, such as ostrich, venison elk, caribou, etc.

Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blueberry Tart with White Port and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

One of my new favourites, this little tart will please anyone! I recently had a friend over for dinner and completely forgot to plan dessert. I happened to have the ingredients for this dish in my cupboard because it is just so simple it’s hard not to have everything you need on hand.  If I had a little bit more time, I would have made a delicious White Port and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream to serve alongside.

All you need is a basic pie crust recipe…..

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

1.)    Butter must be cold, not room temperature. Cut the butter into small cubes.

2.) Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add the butter but only pulse until the butter is mixed in to pea sized clumps. Add the ice water until the dough just comes together.  Be very careful not to over-mix.  A great pie crust is soft and crumbly, without being chewy or hard to cut through.  The less you mix any dough, the softer it will be.

2.)     Remove dough from food processor and cover it with flour so that it is easier to roll out. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick (make sure the dough isn’t sticking to the table as you roll it out! Just sprinkle more flour on BOTH surfaces of the dough if it is.) Press the dough into greased tart pans, and cover with parchment paper and uncooked beans to blind bake the crust.

Blind bake the crust in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 10-30 minutes (depending on the size of your tart). You want to be sure the dough is sufficiently chilled before blind baking to make sure the sides don’t “melt”.  Remove the beans/parchment from the shell, and poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust to allow the air to escape. Allow to bake for another 5 minutes or so until it is a light golden brown.

4.)     Fill pie and bake for 10-15 minutes.

…Blueberry Port Filling

2 small sized containers of blueberries

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup port

Corn Starch Slurry – to thicken

In small pot, cook 1 container of blueberries with sugar and port. Combine about 1 tablespoon of cornstach to a couple tablespoons of water to make a slurry.  Add the slurry to the blueberry mixture to thicken it (this will ensure that your amazing crispy crust will remain that way).  Once this becomes soft and syrupy, add the second container of berries (if you add both at the beginning, there will be no whole berries and your filling will be very mushy) Pour into pre baked pie crusts and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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