Steak Frites

Nothing is better than Steak Frites done right.

The secrets you need to know:

1.  Always sear your steak in REALLY HOT pan.  Let the pan heat up for a minute or two and add the oil – if it starts to smoke, it’s hot enough.

2.  DON’T OVERCROWD THE PAN.  If your pan isn’t big enough, sear your steaks separately.  The last thing you want is an overcrowded pan.  The hot pan will cool down substantially if it is overcrowded with meat, and steaks that are too close to each other with cause steam to form.  This will essentially mean you are steaming your steaks and you will never get a nice crust – eww.

3.  Get a thick cut – at least 1 1/2 inches thick.

4.  Have your oven preheated to 450 (throw your thick steak in once you have a nice caramelized crust, until its to your desired doneness)

5.  Blanch your fries before you crisp them up! Fry your potatoes at a low temperature (325-350) until they are soft and cooked through, but not browned.  Then, increase the temperature of your oil (to 375-395) and let them get crispy.  Also, make sure to salt your fries as soon as they come out of the fryer to ensure the salt sticks!

Advertisements
Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Crispy Confit of Pork Belly with a Sour Apple Salsa

I loooove pork.  I especially love fatty pork – hence my obsession with pork belly.   And what a better way to cook it than in its own fat!

The first time I had the pleasure of eating pork belly slowly poached in its own fat for hours and hours was at the Gilead Cafe (Jaime Kennedy’s hip spot in Queen East).  I honestly can’t even remember the accompaniments on the plate because I was so infatuated with every bite of the succulent, melt-in-your-mouth pork.

I was inspired by my experience when developing a menu for one of my client’s later that month.  The belly is a comparatively heavy piece of meat when it comes to pork (which these days is too lean in my opinion) – exemplified in its most common use: bacon.  In order for the belly to be edible by most people’s standards, the thick layers of fat nestled between the rich meat must be rendered down.  By poaching the pork belly in its own fat, it cooks in its own rich flavours and becomes supremely tender.

With most meat that has been confit-ed, you always want to add a tart, sweet and sometimes acidic component to the dish to balance out the richness of the fat.  In this case, I serve the confit-ed pork belly with a sour apple salsa, made from granny smith apples, some apple cider vinegar and a touch of maple syrup.

TO CONFIT PORK BELLY:

Salt & Pepper your pork belly the night before.

Preheat your oven to 200 F.  Buy enough lard to cover your pork belly completely.  Melt the lard in a saucepan/pot and add your spices (bay leaf, thyme, cloves, garlic).  Add the pork belly in rather large pieces (to be cut after it’s been cooked).  Bring the lard to a simmer and place in the oven for 6-10 hours depending on the size of your pork pieces.

You will know it’s ready when you can stick a fork in it with ease and the meat pulls away easily.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Thomas Keller’s Creamy Lobster Broth

This is probably one of the easiest and most delicious hors d’oeuvres I have ever come across.  As mentioned in earlier posts, I am not one to use recipes – ever.  The thing I love so much about being a cook is that I can have fun with ingredients and be creative every step of the way, whether I’m making a sandwich or a five course meal.

I must say, however, that Thomas Keller‘s cookbook, The French Laundry, is the best I’ve ever read.  It is more than just a recipe book – even though it does include some amazing recipes.  It is a story about food and Chef Keller’s love for it and that’s why I love reading it.

The following recipe for Creamy Lobster Broth is to die for.  Although incredibly simple in preparation, it is not such in taste.  The rich flavour of the lobster is something I’ve never experienced anywhere else.  Please, next time you have a couple of lobster bodies laying around, do yourself the favour, and MAKE THIS DISH.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup           canola oil

3                      raw lobster bodies (cut into quarters, no meat)

1 1/2 cups      chopped tomatoes (use canned unless in season)

1/2 cup          chopped carrots

1 bunch         tarragon

2 cups            heavy cream

NOTE: this is a very rich soup and is best served in small portions, as a canape/hors d’oeuvre

Heat oil in a large rondeau, or deep straight-sided braising pan.  Add the lobster shells and sear over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes per side, until they turn red.  Add the tomatoes, carrots, and tarragon, cover the shells and vegetables with water, and bring to a boil.  Skim off any impurities that rise to the top.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.  Strain the stock thorugh a large strainer or a China cap, smashing the lobster bodies with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid and then strain again through a chinois into a clean saucepan.

Return the strained stock to the stove and simmer until it is reduced to 1 cup.  add the heavy cream, return to a simmer, and cook, skimming occasionally, until the broth is reduced to 2 cups.

To serve: place broth in a saucepan and whisk vigorously over medium heat to froth.  The broth should have a beautiful pink colour.

When we serve this hors d’oeuvre at personal chef events, we serve is with a tarragon crisp as shown in the picture.

Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Search For Quail Eggs In Nova Scotia


Since moving to Toronto and immersing myself in the culinary world, my view towards food has changed a great deal.  I have always loved great food, and have cooked and baked with my mother growing up but the options in Halifax Nova Scotia are much fewer than here in Toronto.

I recently went home to Halifax for my brother’s wedding and of course, wanted to share my love for food with my family and friends by cooking for them.  I found that I was constantly running around the city trying to find ingredients I take for granted in Toronto. I had my heart set on cooking specific dishes for my family knowing they would love what I had planned, so I was willing to spend the time to find the ingredients I needed.

I wanted to make Beurre Blanc Poached Lobster on a bed of Wilted Garlic Spinach, topped with a Soft-Poached Quail Egg. Of course, lobster was easy to get my hands on back at home, and at a fantastic price of $5.99/lb. The other ingredients of butter, spinach, garlic, white wine were all also very easy to find as they are common ingredients. The challenge was in finding quail eggs! I went to my neighborhood grocer with little hope of finding them there but figured it was worth a shot. Unfortunately there was no luck there as I had expected. My next stop was Petes Frootique, which is comparable to Pusateri’s of Halifax. Pete’s used to sell quail eggs, but they came in frozen and ultimately they decided it was not worth bringing them in. I was next sent to the Italian Market in hopes of finding the eggs there, but again no luck.

At this point I was getting discouraged but knew there was still one more chance to find my quail eggs. I had my father make the trip to drive across the bridge to Bedford to the original location of Petes Frootique to see if they would have them. They did not have any in stock as the item is simply just not in demand, but they could order me a half dozen in for $18.99 with a 15 day wait.

Needless to say, my family did not get to enjoy the meal I had originally planned, but were not disappointed in the lobster and steak I prepared for them after my day of ingredient hunting. Next time I visit home, I’ll be sure to place an order for quail eggs as soon as I arrive and plan for a dinner at the end of my trip.

Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 3:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pan-seared Jumbo Scallop w/ Avocado & Shrimp Salsa

One of the most simply beautiful things to put in one’s mouth is a perfectly pan-seared scallop.  Although relatively simple to execute, I’ve had many over-cooked, chewy or soggy scallops in my short lifetime eating them.  It’s the simplest things that are the easiest to fuck up, excuse my language.  Eggs, for instance, require a certain patience and skill.  They are deceivingly simple, shall we say.

Getting back to scallops: when you pan-fry them, the best seasoning is simple salt and pepper.  Dry them off as much as possible before you fry them in a very hot pan.  I like to use duck fat instead of oil for my scallops.  Duck fat is always a good call in my books.  If you’re can’t get your hands on duck fat, pork fat (lard or bacon fat) is also a great alternative.  After all, bacon and scallops are a classic combination.

Because fresh scallops are very delicate and sweet in both flavour and texture, I usually serve them with something delicate and neutral in flavour, so as to not overwhelm and mute the scallop’s beautiful taste.  In this recipe, the avocado and shrimp salsa pairs perfectly!

Published in: on June 22, 2010 at 2:31 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Tuna Tartare with an Avocado Mousse

 

There is nothing better than good, fresh sashimi tuna. Only in recent years have I become a fan of tuna tartare but it seems to have become a favorite choice of mine for a great app or meal.

When Lauren and I go shopping for the fresh fish, we usually head down to the St Lawrence Market.  The tuna they have there, while expensive, is always fresh with a beautiful sweet smell.

The beauty of this dish as an hors d’oeuvre is that a little tuna goes a long way.  You don’t need much for a dinner party of say 6.  For example, when we’ve worked dinner parties of about 20 people, we’ve only had to purchase about $20-25 worth of tuna when using it as an hors d’oeuvre.  We serve it on a taro crisp with avocado mousse.  The crispy sweetness of the taro and the creamy neutral flavour of the avocado mousse are a perfect balance for the fresh tasting, asian inspired tuna.

Ingredients

Tuna Tartare:

Olive Oil

Sesame Oil

Very Finely Chopped or Grated Fresh Ginger

Rice Wine Vinegar

Soy Sauce

Lime

Toasted Sesame Seeds

Chives

Hoisin Sauce

½ 1 Shallot Small Dice

1 Piece Raw Sashimi Grade Tuna

(all ingredients to taste)

Slice the tuna into a nice brunoise (very small dice).  Brunoise the shallots and chives and add those to the chopped tuna.  Add the rest of the ingredients together in a separate bowl to act as the dressing.  We never measure these ingredients, especially since different soy sauces, fish sauces, and hoisin sauces tend to have slightly different tastes and salt contents.  Also, its a lot more accurate to use those awesome taste buds we all have.

Avocado Mousse:

1 Ripe Avocado

Lemon Juice & Zest (to taste)

2-3 TBS 35% Cream

1-2 TBS Goat Cheese

Wedding Cake Take 1

Moira‘s brother, Adrian, is getting married on June 25th (congratulations!!).  As they are both originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the wedding will be taking place there with the whole family in attendance.  Although neither of us have EVER even attempted to make a wedding cake (a two-to-three-tiered cake covered in rolling fondant), when they had their cake provider back out last minute, Moira was there to save the day, offering to bake it for them instead.

And thus our wedding cake adventures have begun and we had our first trial run, from start to finish, yesterday/last night (baking takes forever).  The only practice either of us have had is watching the Food Network’s Cake-Off Challenges and other cake decorating shows that have recently become so popular, such as Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes.  Being a die-hard fan of pretty much anything Food Network (with a few exceptions of course, cough cough Rachel Ray), I consider myself quite the Cake-Off aficionado.  It’s pretty astounding how much you can actually gain from watching reality shows, Food Network reality shows at least.

Anyways, starting with the actually cake baking itself, we decided to go with a classic pound cake (sturdy, heavy, and tasty!).  We doubled the recipe and tweaked the second batch, to see if it would be better or worse.

In the second batch we used buttermilk instead of milk and cake flour instead of all-purpose.  The ending result had a much softer and pleasant texture and a great tangy-ness that we loved.  I would highly suggest the tweaked recipe over the original, although both are really awesome (best pound cake I’ve ever had).

Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 80 to 90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Fondant rolling was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Having seen many Food Network Challenges gone wrong, most of the disasters were fondant related.  Fondant is very much like play doe and therefore must be handled as such.  It is easy to roll out, but hard to handle with your hands because of the risk of finger prints.  I think Moira did an awesome job with the fondant.
Where we need improvements:
The buttercream icing:  it was far too sweet for such a sweet pound cake so we were thinking of making it a cream cheese buttercream for the next try.  Also, we did not put enough buttercream in between the cake and fondant which would have gotten rid of a lot of the imperfections with regards to our rounding off of the cake itself.
Wish us luck next time!
Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Citrus Marinated Rainbow Trout

If you’re looking for something quick, easy, and healthy to throw on the BBQ this lazy Friday evening, then this recipe is for you.  Honestly, it’s a dish that just sort of came together with a bunch of extra ingredients Moira and I had laying around the kitchen while we were prepping for the BBQ event this past week.  While dill, lemon, and salmon are classic flavour combinations, the addition of other citrus fruits and mint really add a next level of freshness to each bite.

(more…)

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

First BBQ of 2010!

This past weekend was our first BBQ event of the summer.  It was for 35 and took place in the courtyard of a beautiful condo building at York Mills and Yonge.  For the clients we rented round tables with white linens, white chairs, white plates, cutlery and glassware.  The tables were set up around the outdoor kitchen (consisting of 4 BBQs and a bunch of counter space), which put Moira and I at the focal point of the party.  The weather was beautiful, the scene romantic, and the food and drink bountiful.  The guests were incredibly friendly and more importantly hungry, coming back for more and more.

Cooking for hungry foodies is always such a delight.  Food is such a huge part of my happiness on a day-to-day basis and to see my food excite others and satisfy fellow food lovers is the reason I love what I do.

The star menu items of the evening were definitely the brisket and burgers. We slow-cooked a whole beef brisket on the BBQ, keeping it at a constant 225-235 C.  We through together a nice rub (chipotle powder, cayenne, black pepper, molasses sugar, smoked paprika, paprika, celery salt, garlic powder…) and smoked it with cedar-chips for the first few hours, hoping to develop a nice thick smoke ring.  We took it off after about 7-8 hours.  It was incredibly succulent and flavourful.

The biggest hit of the night had to be the baby burgers three ways: mushroom & aged cheddar, basil stuffed with goat cheese, and classic build-it-yourself.  Unfortunately, we were too busy manning the grills to take pictures of the meat.  Above is a picture of some of the salads we made.

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 1:31 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,