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white flakes falling fast
icy nights blackened silence
clinging leaf hanging

7 days ago staring into the falling snow.
7 days ago cursing the cold.

Summer snuck in late here, and fall was short and intense and gone too quickly. As the days shorten and the nights stretch farther and further into the days it doesn’t leave time to contemplate much.

The solution?

Beef of course!

Roast Beef with mushroom gravy and Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

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(inspired by a recipe from Cook’s Country)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Roast Beef

1 4-pound (1.8kg) top sirloin roast, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch thick
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon(15mL) vegetable oil
8 ounces (225g) white mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces (225g) white mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 onions , chopped fine
1 carrot , peeled and chopped
1 celery rib , chopped
1 tablespoon (15mL) tomato paste
4 garlic cloves , minced
1/4 cup (250mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250mL) red wine
4 cups (1L) low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon (5mL) Worcestershire sauce

Mashed Potatoes

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped roughly
6 tablespoons (90mL) apx. Unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (125mL) apx. heavy cream, warmed
salt and pepper
1 stalk green onion, sliced thinly

Instructions

1. Pat roast dry with paper towels. Rub 2 teaspoons salt evenly over surface of meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Pat roast dry with paper towels and rub with 1 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown roast all over, 8 to 12 minutes, then transfer to V-rack set inside roasting pan (do not wipe out Dutch oven). Transfer to oven and cook until meat registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 1½ to 2 hours.

If you don’t have a v-rack, twist 2 large pieces of foil into a “snake” to keep the roast from touching the bottom of the pan.

3. Meanwhile, there should be a tablespoon of fat or so left in the pan. If not, add enough oil to make up the difference. Add mushrooms to Dutch oven and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in onions, carrot, and celery and cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and flour and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in wine and broth, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Strain gravy, then stir in Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper to taste; cover and keep warm.

4. (Optional) Give the Dutch oven a wipe to free any chunks, add 2 tablespoons of butter or oil and re-heat over medium-high. Add additional 8oz of sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden, add to gravy.

5. Bring 3L of water to a roiling boil, carefully season water with a tablespoon of salt.

6. Transfer roast to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 20 minutes. Slice roast crosswise against grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve with gravy.

7. Add potatoes to boiling water, and cook until a knife easily goes through a chunk of potato and drain. Mash with butter and some of the cream. Add and season with salt and pepper until desired richness reached. Keep warm.

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“How many peppers would you like?

How many can I have?

A little quiz show before dinner when you order the order the “Hunan” Kung Pao at Earl’s Tin Palace.

After going back and forth with the waitress, I went for the “7 peppers out of 10” level.

Spicy? A mild kick. Flavours? The only thing I could really taste was soy and an overwhelming taste of ginger. Chicken, actually quite well prepared. Noodles, rather limp and flaccid tho. Which is fine I suppose, if that’s all you’re looking for.

Personally, I think I’ll stick to the scotch:
(neat, water back)

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Elegant.

Cool.

Warm.

Posh.

It really was a dark and stormy night when we walked into Sage at the River Cree Resort and Casino. The first big storm of the summer had just hit, and we needed refuge and nourishment after being run off the course.

After being seated promptly by the fireplace, we started with drink, a nice cold pint of Rickard’s white, followed by some very lovely wine. A Cedar Creek Reserve 2004 (for a very respectable $39)

Snacks were up next, we decided on the fresh oysters on the half shell with a “trio of accoutrements”. The first two mystery “accoutrements” were just tabasco and the other seafood sauce.

The last was actually the most interesting. A mild sweet vinegar (sherry I think) with a tiny bit of sauteed shallots. Very good.

The oysters were indeed fresh, and did actually seem to have come in the previous night.

The perfect ingredients were letdown by the sloppy shucking job, leaving tiny shards of shell in every oyster I had. Sad.

The other appetizer we had was the Charred Tuna Tower, with mango, avocado, and citrus. The “tower” was just the standard short stubby O-ring, so it didn’t really tower much. Very good though.

A Glendronach 12yr old scotch was ordered, and then onto dinner.

I broke down and went with the night’s feature, the Surf n Turf. A filet mignon stuffed with crab, topped with a lobster tail, and served with roasted vegetables and truffle mashed potatoes.

THe steak was cooked very well, but you might as well stuff it with gold, since the stuffing was so bland and lost. The lobster tail was sweet, fresh, if rather small.

The truffle mashed potatoes were more of a literal smear across the plate. Disappointing, when it was built up so much.

Overall, I felt pretty disappointed with the entree. Especially when the dish was $55!

The funniest moment came when a friend, who had ordered Steak Frites, had the waitress come over and offer him “red sauce”.

I could tell the waitress was gritting her teeth, and you would too if your manager made you offer people “red sauce” instead of “ketchup”!

Hilarious. (and really pretentious)

All in all, the entire meal was quite a let down. Maybe it would have been better if the original chef David Cruz hadn’t left.

Sometimes the simplest things in life can give the greatest pleasure.

Growing up, the chances that I’d have a cheeseburger or a pair of chopsticks in my hands were about the same. As a kid of course McDonald’s playland was always a big destination, but, for me, it was always about getting my hands on a burger and fries. (Although sitting on a springy bouncing Fry Kid in the Playland had it’s moments)

I rebember beistifling for breakfast there, looking up at sign and pointing at what I wanted.

It was smiles. And it was free.

I have to say, I’ll take a juicy cheeseburger over a bowl of rice (with some notable exceptions).

piri piri chipotle burger

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Makes 6 burgers

ingredients:
500g ground chuck
500g ground sirloin
4 dashes big worschtershire sauce
3 chopped chipotles
3 tsp adobo sauce
3 tbls piri piri
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
(all seasonings approximate!)

toppings:
some decent buns, I prefer sesame seeded ones (6)
sliced cheddar
bacon, thick sliced, cooked (12)
lettuce
onions
tomatoes
mayo/relish/ketchup mix etc..

Not a lot of directions. Mix all burger ingredients together and divide into 6. Form mixture in your hands, forming gently into patties.

Press a small divot in the centre of each patty to allow the meat to stay level when cooked.

Sear or grill on one side, flip, and sear or grill until medium-rare to medium. Ttop with sliced cheese 2min before done.

Top with bacon and your favourite fixings.

Morning.

Early morning.

The house is quiet.

I rub the sleep from my eyes and hit the ground running.

The sun is blaring through the white and green paisely covered picture window.

A gnarly *thunk* goes the ancient 13 channel tube lurching to a phosphorent blaring life, more than ready to burn its blurry images into young eyes.

Lost in that heady mix of sugar powered cartoons, poorly written and acted voices, and classic coyote fare, one smell eventually fills the air.

A combination of Maxwell House coffee, Coffee Mate, and toasting bread.

My grandmother is up and making herself breakfast, but I’m too lost in my own world of sugar frosted commercials and mutant turtles to take much notice. That same smell every morning before she tends to all of her chores.

They say the sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory triggers.

I believe it.

My grandmother is long gone now, but I will always remember that smell, and I can still picture her at our table, her mug of coffee, a slice of buttered toasted bread, maybe with a slice of ham, and always folded in half so she could dip into her coffee. Sometimes she’d also have a soft boiled egg, and more times than naught, I’d have one too.

While I don’t drink Maxwell house coffee, nor do I use Coffee Mate, I do love coffee, hot buttered toast, and soft boiled eggs sprinkled with salt. I don’t think anyone needs a recipe for that, but I do have another favourite eggs recipe (taken from Gordon Ramsay’s ‘sublime scrambled eggs’ recipe):

Scrambled Eggs

2 large eggs (organic please)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon crème fraîche or sour cream
fresh dill or chives, finely chopped
salt, pepper

Break eggs into a cold pan, add butter, and place over medium-low heat.

Whisk. Off heat. Whisk. On Heat. Whisk. Repeat ad nauseam until they become creamy and start to solidify.

Stir in crème fraîche.

Add dill or chives and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with coffee, and a slice of hot buttered toast, and early morning cartoons.

That ubiquitous bright bleeding red colour. That sickening cloying sweetness. The gelatinous glossy goo that sits in the bowl, ready to be scooped out onto to unsuspecting plates.

Every bite leaving that cloying saccharine film in your mouth.

Cranberry sauce.

That condiment that always gets served with turkey dinners. That condiment that you always end up having piles of left over that gets scraped into the bin.

The best part of it has been the ironic laughter if you dump it out of a can and the jelly still has the ridges from the can.

This year, under the influence of Elle, I decided to find and make cranberry sauce worth making.

I ended up with this:

Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon

* 1 cup ruby Port
* 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
* 1 cup dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
* 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
* 3/4 cup water
* 1/4 cup sugar (or less)
* Fresh Rosemary sprig
* Orange zest

Bring ruby Port and broken cinnamon sticks to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer mixture 5 minutes.

Add dried cranberries to saucepan; simmer until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add fresh cranberries, 3/4 cup water, and sugar; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low; add rosemary; cover and simmer until cranberry sauce thickens and is darker in color and berries collapse, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Transfer sauce to bowl; cool; add orange zest. Discard cinnamon sticks.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Modified from an Epicurious recipe

The result?

Pretty spectacular actually. The cinnamon and the rosemary really perfume the sauce. The dried cranberries give the sauce a bit of fruity texture.  It wasn’t too sweet or cloying.  I was really impressed, and I don’t even like Cranberry Sauce.

(Thank you to Elle for the inspiration, even if I didn’t get any pine nuts)

The need. The craving. The wanting.

The soft inviting gurgle draws you in. The smell wafts across the room and permeates everything and invites you to come even closer.

As each hot drip splashes down you can feel yourself getting anxious. You can feel yourself becoming impatient.

Your anticipation rises when you finally reach in. That sound it makes as you pour, the glossy perfect shimmer as you look down. Seems like nothing else in this world.

The culmination of all your effort, all your waiting, all if your senses collide in that last moment when you finally bring it to your lips and taste.

The perfect cup of coffee in the morning.

People seem to be writing a lot about coffee lately (especially this morning). About it’s health properties, how much is too much, is fair trade really fair and whatnot.

Sometimes things can just be over analyzed. Sometimes things simply need to be enjoyed.

In fact, I think I will go enjoy another cup right now.

What is it about bread that is so irresistible to the senses? A warm crusty loaf soaked and dripping from grassy, sweet, pungent olive oil and basamic. Still carrying that lingering scent of the oven.

The crunch when your teeth breaks through the crust into the soft warm inner crumb. The creamy combination of butter and bread that spreads across your palate as you chew each bite.

The tang of fresh sour dough. The hearty texture of a rye. The perfect crisp crust of a baguette. That heel of bread soaking up the last drops from your plate as you swirl it around finishing a perfect meal.

Which leads me to one simple goal. One simple mission.

Learn to make bread.

And to make it well.

I’m laying in bed still thinking about posting about Sunday night.

After finally crawling out of bed Sunday afternoon, and finally making outside, I was greeted by the perfect fall day.

Crisp.

Bright.

Beautiful.

The air was ripe of autumn. The sky blazed blue. The wind had finally died down. Everyone was out and about like proverbial ants, running around doing their Sunday chores before winter came and be damned the days of the grasshopper.

The plan was to get everything I needed for Stout Braised Short Ribs.

I made my way to the local grocery mini-mega-mart. It takes talent to always be out of something that I need.

After getting through that mess, I made my way to my other local grocery mega-mart and picked up the rest of my provisions and I realized I was dead famished.

A little 12.5oz “small” burrito from the burrito joint and to home I went with my booty and to scarf down my pulled pork burrito.

The ribs:

The rib recipe turned out to be pretty easy. A lot of prep work with chopping and rubbing the ribs with the spice rub.

Let them marinate for an hour before browning.

You do have to be very careful with browning the ribs in the pan due to the high sugar content of the rub. The end product ended up being very food. Cutting it with a bit of honey would have rounded everything out nicely. I used St Ambroise Oatmeal stout from McAuslan, and I imagine Guinness would have been even more bitter.

Served over a big pile of colcannon with some crusty bread.

Absolutely perfect on a cool autumn night.

It’s always intimidating your first time.

The sweating.

The excitement.

The shaking.

The anticipation.

Before you even get warmed up it’s over and you’ve posted your first blog.

Not even any tears either.