Monthly Archives: April 2011

Eyebrow on the Lowbrow: Mug Cake for the Royal Wedding

Don't knock it til you nuke it.

Me thinks molten chocolate cake has finally jumped the shark by becoming Mug Cake.

I do wonder when I still see Molten Chocolate cake on dessert menus.

Has the molten cake not had its day pastry people?  At least mix it up a little.  How about molten on the outside, cake on the inside!

Wait, that’s chocolate cake with sauce.  OK.  It’s over.

Or is it?  A little Dr. Oetker Mug Cake made its way into my house recently.  Did I raise my inner foodie eyebrow?  Oh yes, I did.

But, forging ahead with an open mind and open cupboard, I pulled out a mug and did some baking.  Using my 10-year-old, not so high-powered microwave, after a couple minutes I  pulled out a moist, chocolate cake in a mug—kind of goopy in the centre where it hadn’t finished cooking.  You bet I ate the whole thing.

And then I really opened my mind to the universe and thought, Who’s to say you couldn’t pour a little Drambuie on this baby and flambé it up?   Just call it Flug Cake.

And since I’m on a drunken roll, here’s another great idea:  Mug cake for high tea!  Watch the Royal nuptials while sipping a mug of warm cake.

Just call it Smug Cake.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Restaurants and Products, Strange but Tasty

Top Chef Canada- Episode 2:

What did we learn on Top Chef Canada: Battle Cheese last night?

Well, not a heck of a lot about cheese.  The chefs seemed like they’d be more comfortable cooking with spiny insect legs than showcasing Canadian fromage.

What else did we learn?

Jamie is going to SNAP.  I called it first.

Quickfire Challenge:

The chefs were asked to prepare an inspiring breakfast dish from a table laden down with 2000 kgs of cheese (that no one seemed to know anything about).

The highight/lowlight (they go together just ask your hairdresser) was Clayton’s Dali-esque melted cheese wedge (serving size for 6) that looked like it had been run through the microwave on high for 10 minutes before serving.

Silly Clayton, if you’re going to microwave cheese it should be on a Triscuit.

KILL the cheese, KILL KILL the cheese. (oops sorry, that was Jamie’s inside voice escaping)

I did very much appreciate Connie’s Monte Cristo, quail egg and Truffle cheddar plate. (I officially have a girl-chef crush)

And of course Todd’s winning “Toad in the Hole” using the Avonlea Clothbound cheddar (only clothbound made in Canada) so Todd has immunity.

The best whine/excuse (they go together just ask any toddler)  came from Francois, “I wouldn’t be on the bottom if my eggs weren’t raw.”   He later added, “Stupid non-cooking eggs. It’s not fair.”  And kicked some dirt.

Which takes us to:

The Instant Elimination Round: 

Francois, Clayton and Dale, whose “inspiring breakfasts” were only inspiring if you were using reverse chefology, were put into a 20 minute instant elimination.  Goal: Make an amuse-bouche with anything in the kitchen.

Francois made an amuse with foie gras and walnuts which Chef McEwan said, “exploded in the mouth”.  I really liked Dale’s melon, cilantro (?) concoction…..fresh and simple.  And I honestly cannot read my writing and figure out what Clayton made.  Which is appropriate as Mark McEwan axed him.

Bye Clayton.  Peace.

The Elimination Challenge: 

The chefs were paired up to make hors d’oeuvres using cheese and inspired by their teammate.

All you need to know is that Jamie was paired up with Darryl Crumb (if that’s your real name) whose hors d’oeuvres dish was inspired by Jamie’s farting (so he eloquently explained).

Let me break it down-

Jamie +farting = blue cheese risotto.

Jamie in turn made a roulade which was so large and not “bite-size” I imagine it was inspired by the rolled carpet Jamie would like to hide Daryll’s body in after he beats him to death with a whisk.

Other teams were more successful (Connie and Todd) and Chef McEwan was impressed by the fact that Rob’s Cobb Salad did not fall into any society cleavage.

It was great to see cheese-guru Julia Rogers as a guest judge on the show.  She looked lovely and super buff and I am sorry she had to be caught on camera trying to gnaw through Jamie’s death roulade.

Reckoning:

Andrea wins the challenge by creating a cheese hors d’oeuvre in which one can actually taste the cheese and swallow it without gagging.  Sound easy? Apparently Steve’s grilled cheese “tasted nothing like a grilled cheese”.  (Maybe it’s a molecular gastronomy thing- it’s a grilled cheese but it tastes like air!)

So final reckoning leaves the following waiting for elimination:

Dustin: “grease explosion”

Jamie: “only a cheese sauce could make this worse”

Rebeckah: “does she understand savoury?”

Darryl: “farting and food”

At this point Jamie lets loose his inner tattletale-chef and whines about being “left all alone” by Daryll to tend the station and how it was “all HIS fault”. (Eyes getting crazier by the second.)

Daryll lets loose his not-so-inner thug-chef and vocalizes his wish to ram Jamie’s head into a frozen ice rink/brain damage surface (they go together just ask the NHL).

You know neither of them is going home.  This is good drama.

So, its bye-bye Rebekah, who apparently just found out her restaurant went bankrupt while she was on the show.  Double whammy.

But on the bright side, perhaps she’ll be one of the only people to escape alive after Jamie’s sure-to-happen killing spree.

Errrr…elimination round.

5 Comments

Filed under Top Chef Canada Season 1

Best Pasta Carbonara ever-unless you live in Italy and own a bunch of hens

A delicious shadow of its true self.

I took this pasta carbonara recipe from the March Cucina Italiana magazine and massacred its local, farm-raised, artisanal integrity in so many ways that I feel dirty.

So dirty that I’m baking rosemary focaccia bread in the oven as penance to Italy itself (I had to use a big tray).  The fresh baked smell of herbs and crisping crust is making me feel slightly less like a charlatan for even attempting a local dish that uses the freshest of fresh ingredients-eggs pulled from the hen’s butt with one hand while the lemons are plucked off a lemon tree with the other. Did I mention the almost extinct Cinte Sense pigs which provide the pork?  Check out the whole story which will make you want to gnaw on a piece of pancetta ASAP.  Materie Prime by Douglas Gayeton.

The good news first-if you didn’t know–true pasta carbonara does not include cream so it practically falls into the health food category.  Sure there’s the pancetta and I suppose a whole bunch of  cheese but truly–once you ammortize the fat over a few helpings it’s negligible.  I’m almost positive.

Pancetta-second best was still pretty good

The bad news starts with my use of plain old grocery store eggs (I am quite sure the hens did not forage for their own food nor were they supplemented with grains soaked in fresh goat milk).  It continues with a package of pre-cut pancetta (world’s apart from Paola Parisi’s guanciale, see below).

“Aside from being an exceptional slaughterhouse, Levoni is known for smoking meat, in this case the guanciale from Paolo’s pigs. The process requires a special machine, one resembling a rotisserie, and the burning of select woods (their type remains a secret). This slow curing takes a week to complete.”

Grana Padano

I decided to use Grana Padano since I already had it.  In a large bowl I crack the non-fresh eggs, add fresh marjoram (from a plastic container), lemon zest, minced garlic and a “Jamie Oliver” glug of olive oil.  I make some quality tagliatelle from the pantry at home. Drain the pasta. I add this to the egg mixture, toss quickly and mix in the cheese. A little pasta water smoothes it all out. It’s steamy, glossy and fragrant as I bring the fork to my mouth.

sadly, not a farm in sight.

And yet it has none of the romance, practise or purity of Paolo’s version…..

“He starts by prying massive wedges from a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. He hands them to his second eldest son, Rocco, who quickly goes to work with a circular grater. I am handed a corkscrew and a bottle of 2006 Ansonica from the nearby La Parrina winery. Paolo collects the dish’s materie prime, arranges them on a massive wooden table and dices thick slabs of his guanciale picked up from Levoni the previous afternoon. He grates zest from a few lemons taken from a tree just beyond the kitchen window.”

The true dish must be heavenly because even my industrial version– merely a shadow in Plato’s cave–was dreamy.  The nuance of the zingy lemon zest and grassy marjoram elevates the savoury, rich flavours.   And the whole thing comes together in the time it takes to boil pasta.

And raise a few hens.

Pasta Carbonara- adapted from Cucina Italina  (at Sam’s request!)

serves 4

The key to this recipe are the eggs.  With Farmer’s Markets opening up soon it should be easier to get fresh ones. I did use “what was in the fridge” with good results.  You can fiddle with this recipe, assume 1 egg per person and then roughly adjust the other ingredients.  I am often a nightmare without detailed guidance but it worked to “eyeball” it.

And for God’s sake–please–use real Parmigiano Reggiano.

4 fresh eggs, large

2 cloves garlic, minced very fine

3 tbsp (45 ml)  fresh marjoram leaves, pulled off the stem

zest of 1 lemon

1/4 c  (60 ml) olive oil

1 cup (250 ml) pancetta, small dice

1 lb (500 g) spaghetti ( I like Rustichella d’abruzzo, fairly easy to find, brown paper package)

1 1/2 c (375 ml) Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano), freshly grated

1. In a bowl large enough to hold the spaghetti crack the eggs, add garlic, marjoram, lemon zest and olive oil.  Whisk to combine and set aside.

2. Pan-fry your pancetta til getting crispy.  Let cool and add to the egg mixture.

3. Boil pasta, salt water generously (should taste like the sea I’ve been told!). Cook spaghetti til al dente or as per package directions. Strain and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

4. Add hot pasta to the egg mixture and toss until well coated.  Add the grated cheese and keep tossing until you have a glossy sauce.  Add a little bit of pasta water as necessary to thin.

5. Eat the damn thing!  (Add fresh ground pepper if you like.)

NOTE FROM SELF:  I use slightly less spaghetti for four as I like a bit more sauce-maybe 3/4 package? 4/5ths?   6/8ths?  Someone stop me…..

12 Comments

Filed under All Recipes, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Ruminations on the Edible

Toast Post: Bothwell Horseradish Cheddar

Horseradish zing on South Dakota Loaf.

Like the first stiff drink of the day, Bothwell Horseradish cheddar is more of a midday or “after 11am” cheese.  It’s certainly not meek.  But it does taste of real, bright, fresh horseradish and would be a champion on a sandwich or melted on a roast beef sub (mmmmm mmmm, the taste buds are rallying).

The South Dakota bread (post to come) toasts really nicely–the crust gets crisp and all the seeds inside warm up.  You’d nibble on this cheddar while waiting for your toast and think, “This cheddar is so damn pungent I’m breathing it out my nose-like a big hit of wasabi hidden under tender sushi.  Man!  I finally  feel alive-let’s do an extreme sport.  I would totally serve this to my arch-enemy who hated horseradish.”

Bothwell Cheddar in 11 words or more: Bothwell hails from Manitoba and the company has been making cheese since 1936–no preservatives, no MMIs.  Dairy farmers still deliver the local milk to Bothwell themselves.  I am curious about the horseradish flavour itself–does it come from fresh horseradish root?  I have sent in an inquiry and will keep you updated. (FYI: Horseradish is the 2011 herb of the year.  Keep on rockin’ in the herb world little horseradish.)

April 19- Got a response about the horseradish from Bothwell:

Hello Sue,

It is always exciting to hear feedback from our customers.  The
horseradish that we use for our horseradish cheddar is a highly
concentrated liquid horseradish extract.  It is added during the make
process to give the desired flavor that you enjoy.

If you have any further questions just let me know.

Regards,

Pauline Doerksen
Bothwell Cheese Inc.

1 Comment

Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Toast Posts

Top Chef Canada: Episode 1:

Voila, my  Top Chef Canada observations:

1. I loved the Filet-O-Fish challenge.  What happened to all those fish afterward– staff meal?

2. Tarragon +Hollandaise = Béarnaise.  I have to ask, “What were you thinking chefs who added tarragon in the “Hollandaise challenge”?”  (though I do prefer a Béarnaise sauce and understand that if you’re hungry and craving steak frites your impulses might get the better of you.)

3. Go Chef Connie DeSousa.  She is my fave.  Did you see how calm she was during the challenges?  Calm and deceptively fast I bet.  And the woman MADE a sausage for the first cooking challenge.  I think if you’ve made a sausage you should win the whole show automatically. (Plus she can butcher a pig’s head in 4 minutes.  Hello!)

4. Most heart-wrenching moment–when Francois Gagnon‘s spoon hovered over his plate and the timer went off and he was not allowed to sauce his dish.  No sauce?  Quelle horreur!  Luckily–he kicked ass anyway.  (WHAT WAS THE SAUCE!  I missed it.)

5. Moment of deflated elation:  When Rob Rossi won the elimination challenge and $2500 worth of Le Creuset cookware.  But then I realized that $2500 worth of Le Creuset only buys you about 2 large Dutch ovens (cassoulet for everyone!) and then a bunch of those little oven-safe pots that you think you’ll use to serve individual souffles or hot artichoke dip in but never do–eventually relegating them to paperclip or raisin storage.

See you next week (oh, except for Chef Michael Stauffer (he was the one that served the “vomit sauce” with his lamb–I would have eaten the lamb that rare (raw-re?) by the way Michael…..)

4 Comments

Filed under Top Chef Canada Season 1

Let them eat cake…at your funeral.

I find it harder to have your cake and not eat it.

Sometimes things just click. When your babysitter brings a Stubbe’s Lemon Torte to your house you know you chose the right caregiver. We picked Donna to babysit Felix after a rigorous vetting process investigating which dessert shops she frequented in Toronto.

Cake fits any occasion–a quick lunch, after a bikini wax or as a sympathy gift.  No one will know who sent what bunch of smelly lilies to a funeral but your chocolate cake gift basket will stand out like the beacon of plastic-wrapped comfort food that is is.

And let’s face it,  attendance would soar.  Next time I fantasize about who’s coming to my funeral I’m going to imagine myself in an open coffin with my hands  arranged to hold a large chocolate Krispy Bunny.  I think it will get more kids motivated to participate.  Nibbles encouraged.

2 Comments

Filed under Restaurants and Products, Ruminations on the Edible, Strange but Tasty

It’s Sandwich Day!

Immediate Impulse Buy

I unknowingly woke up into sandwich day.  It started when I was walking by a store window where the new Saveur magazine was on display.   Saveur is probably my favourite food magazine–I love the feeling that if I read a full years subscription I would be the savviest foodie on the block. I haven’t yet subscribed because I fear a pile up of unread issues will trigger massive foodie-anxiety.  (Only a subscription to The New Yorker is more terrifying in potentially magnifying my ignorance….of everything.)

BTW Canadians–the last issue had a great piece on Quebec and the maple syrup tradition (The Sweet Life) by Sasha Chapman.  And the sap is now running so get out there and lick it up.

Memories of my old sandwich stomping ground

Back to sandwich serendipity:  on my way home I stumbled across the Yorkville Sandwich Box location.  I have not eaten at Sandwich Box since it was a little store inside a strange little food strip at McCaul and Queen.  But man–the memories!   Grilled, hot, crispy, gooey, savoury, sweet, grilled, spicy…..oh the land of sandwiches.  I went with white panini  (sometimes whole grain is not the right choice) smoky grilled eggplant, crisp pancetta, bocconcini and curried apple spread.  I think I ripped the box in my excitement to get to the food.  And as after any great sandwich, I simply felt…happy.

So sandwich it up today people!  It’s meant to be.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Restaurants and Products