Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Worthy Cookbooks

It has been such a whirlwind this December that I have not had the time to post all I have wanted to. I really wanted to get this one out there as it features a few really great cookbooks. I will, over the coming weeks, cook a dish from each one of these books, and see how they come out. I usually do not follow recipes but more the idea. But in these cases I have decided to cook verbatim from the books to see the accuracy. And hopefully inspire some of you to purchase some of them.

Up first: Nobu West
A really great book. Beautifully presented dishes with some innovative techniques. It's one of my favorite Asian Cookbooks. I prepared a version of his salmon tataki a while back and posted it. I have also made his playful dessert that is a deconstructed cappuccino.

Second: Morimoto the new art of japanese cooking.
It is really just that, the new art of japanese cooking. I really love his vision of food. Clean, pure flavors. Many, many, many, techniques to be gleaned from this one.

And lastly: Raw (By Charlie Trotter and Roseanne Klein)
Charlie Trotter is the first chef that I really respected. I learned more from his cookbooks than from alot of my culinary education. I have sadly still not eaten in his restaurant. But I will take solice in his cookbooks. And this is one of the better ones. It focuses on the raw food movement. No dish in this book has had any heat (except for a dehydrator) applied to it in any way. It is this fact that makes these dishes so spectacular. I am not a really big proponent of raw food. In fact I have never eaten at a raw restaurant, but there are dishes in here worthy of adding to your repertoire. I will be doing several dishes from this book, so look for them.
I hope you get inspired from these books or dishes I post. If there are any cookbooks you have that you think are in this vein please let me know. I'd love to read them.

A couple of nice bottles

I had the pleasure of opening these two bottles the other night for dinner. I was especially surprised with the Ontario Riesling. Although the LCBO lists this one as extra dry, I found it quite sweet, although not cloyingly so. Really nice color and balance on the tongue. And the fruit although forward was not overpowering. An almost mineral effervescence at the end. Really nice and at less than $30.00 I will definitely purchase again.
The Alion "cosecho" was also quite delicious. I am not really familiar with high quality Spanish wines, but this one sure piqued my interest in them. The tannins in this wine were nothing short of lush. I really enjoyed each sip. I am still teaching myself about wine tasting and appreciation, and my review of this wine is shoddy at best. But I can say that I would buy again, but at the price it would be for a very special evening.

Do something nice for yourself and go out buy a couple of nice wines, make a nice meal for someone you love and enjoy.


Scary sounding product at first. But wow does this stuff work well. Transglutiminase is, from what I understand, an enzyme that will bond two proteins together. I first saw this used on the Ideas In Food website. They had fused chicken skin to sea bass if I remember correctly. After much searching I managed to get ahold of some. My first attempt was with duck. I deboned a whole duck and removed the skin. After seasoning the meat, a liberal sprinkling of this enzyme coated the meat. The duck was rolled up like a ballotine and the skin (which was cleaned and trimmed (somewhat) was wrapped around the ballotine. Plastic wrapped tightly and into the fridge overnight. The duck produced two beautiful ballotines, that were really nice and tight as well as sealed at the seam relly well. I have to say my first attempt was definitely a success. Unfortunately no pictures as I used it for a family Christmas dinner.
Today though, I am going to wrap up a flank steak for various applications. I can really see the potential for one bite dishes with this product that would be impossible or otherwise messy without it. The flank trimmed and butterflied can be rolled up nice and tight, wrapped in caul fat and cooked sous vide with various seasonings and marinades. I hope to try 3 new dishes with the flank I have.

After opening my freezer I found that I had only parts of flank. Well onward ho I went. Looking through the pantry and fridge this morning I came up with some other projects to use up this product (tgm). Hopefully I will add a couple of other dishes to this set in the near future.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cook Books

I find that I have been buying alot of great cookbooks lately and that I haven't shared any. At Chapters the other day I started going through a cookbook after cookbook looking for some neat idea to try. It was then that I found David Adjey's cookbook De/constructing the dish. I wasn't going to even read it because of the sticker "As seen on Food Network". I am glad I let that slip, because there were some great ideas. He does a swordfish (annatto seed rub) that has the fillet cut thinly and laid out on 2 layers. The way it sits on the plate I see it as a free form concept ravioli. He also makes a lobster corndog. I like the corndog for all kinds of tasty ideas. Good price for the amount of ideas contained. Visit his blog as well. I just went and was surprised by the amount of info.

The End of Food

I just recently finished this book. A really great and informative read. It brings forth some disturbing points regarding the quality and safety of our nations food supply. I hope it makes you just a little bit mad. And that you do something about it. There are so many ways to make good decisions about the food we eat. If I start a rant now, it would take too much space here. Suffice it to say, I really thought this book would be provocative read for most.
Eat in season, buy local.
Support organic farmers in your area.

New Dishes

Sometimes things just come together like you had in mind for them. It always brings a smile to my face when you don't need to tinker to get it just right. This is how I would like more days to go when working in the kitchen. We are just finishing up on a great many Christmas parties. I tries alot of new ideas and techniques in the past few weeks. I will showcase some of them here.

To start we have a panna cotta of spiced cauliflower. An idea I gleaned from a cookbook a while back. It came out beutifully. My only complaint is we didn't have the right size glass to serve it in. We usually rent our tablewares and they didn't have a cordial glass large enough to get a spoon into, nor small enough for the portion size I envisioned. Oh well if thats my only complaint on this one, so be it. The taste and texture were superb.

The second dish is an oyster on the half shell with pickled ginger sorbet and Lumpfish roe. (some nicer caviar would have been better but not in the budget). This dish was a real treat for oyster lovers. The taste of the sea from the oyster mixed with the heat and sweetness of the sorbet, and finally the salty finish and slight texture from the lump roe. A really great combination.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It will be a molecular christmas.

Christmas came early for me this year. I have been wanting to have a little time to play with some new products and techniques. That time has finally come. Hope to create some new dishes and possibly some dialogue with these products.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Exam day

I have been asked on a number of occassions to judge student exams in the past year. I have to say it has been really rewarding to do so. I have really liked going back to my school (now in a much nicer location) and feeling the energy there. It's really a nice experience.
Now there is a downside, I had to eat 14 portions of sole meunierre with jardinierre vegetables. A new format has all students making the same dish. I can safely say I do not enjoy this format. A change is nice. And I think the students would be more likely to do their own style of plating. With this method I found all the dishes looked very similar. Of the 14 I tested, 2 were decent, one outright unedible, and the rest somewhere in between. I am also still amazed that more attention is not given to vegetable cookery. Damn near anyone can cook a peice of protien, but it takes real attention to properly prepare vegetables. Not one student had the seasoning of both components of the exam right. Some had great seasoning on the main portion of their plate (protiens), but lacked seasoning on the veg.
Maybe I am splitting hairs here, but I really beleive the star of any dish should be the vegetables and even the starch. They just make the protien taste even better. All in all a good class (probably better than mine).
Confit of cornish hen with fig and leek candy
Seared striped bass with risotto and mango salsa

I felt very hurried with some of these dishes. Some of the ideas are worth exploring further....some not.
If you have any suggestions please feel free....

Friday, November 9, 2007

Playing with my food

I really need a couple of days to work out some new ideas. I have been reading a lot of food blogs as of late, getting some ideas for one bite dishes. Inspiration is from various sources — check 'blogs I read'.

List of things I am playing with (in no particular order):

Cornish hens
Mariposa duck breast
Nice piece of black truffle
Gem squash
Whatever shows up in my weekly basket from Bryson Farms
Mock sous vide
Methyl cellulose

Hopefully I will have made some progress by the end of the week. Stay tuned for the finished products and some recipes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

King Corn

On Tuesday night, I attended a screening of the movie "King Corn" at St. Paul University. A really fun movie about two friends who travel to their ancestors town of Greene, Iowa, to learn all the ins and outs of growing corn. The movie starts with an isotope test of their hair follicles. Everything you consume apparently leaves a marker in your hair. Surprisingly, we are told the major carbon input in their bodies is corn. We are essentially walking corn cobs. At first this seems odd, but the journey is afoot and the revelations are flooring.
In Greene, our two friends rent a one acre plot of land from a farmer to grow corn. It is said right from the onset that if these two are trying to turn a profit from growing corn, forget it. If it weren't for the Government funding their venture, it would be a loss. And that wasn't just for these two, but for all farmers growing corn. That revelation was disturbing when you consider how much corn is grown across America.
A great moment occurs in the movie, when the filmakers sit down to try out the fruits of their labour......It's inedible. The spit it out thinking it tastes like chalk. The corn they and oh so many other farmers are growing is just not suitable to eat. Ironic isn't it? So much farming going on and the farmers loose money planting a seed they will never be able to eat. Our filmakers try to follow their corn into the food system. Their corn is likely destined for feed, ethanol or high fructose corn syrup. The last of these surely a major contributor to obesity in America right now.
After harvesting our filmakers are left with a $17.00 deficit. Thanks to Government funding though they turn a small profit. Funny though that farmers are producing such a crappy product, no one can eat it. Cows get sick being fattened on it. And we come up with ways of turning our surplus into a product that is slowly killing us.
This movie is made in a real tongue and cheek way, that is sure to make you laugh. But really I hope it makes you think. And sadly those who should see this movie the most, will probably not have it playing anywhere near them. And it surely won't play in a theatre that tries to get you to drink the 32oz soft drink.
On the option bar to the right there is a fun video that was played just before the main movie.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

How Ya Like Them Apples?

What to do with all these apples. Well, into the kitchen I went and came out with some comforting food for an ugly afternoon.
Lately cooking at home, I try to include the kids as much as possible. And seeing as they picked most of the apples, they should be encouraged to make some stuff with them. We settled on a nice Curried Apple and Parsnip soup, as well as an easy apple crisp that my 5-year-old made with me.

Curried Apple Parsnip Soup

8 cooking apples (again we had a glut of empires) Peeled cored and chopped reserving 2 cut into wedges.
4 lg parsnips peeled and chopped
1 sweet onion sliced
1 celery stalk chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1" ginger sliced
3 tbsp hot curry powder
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 cup cream 35%
salt pepper

For serving
2 apples that were wedged (above)
3 tbsp brown sugar

In a pan sautee the apple wedges on med heat until just beginning to color. Add the brown sugar and continue to cook until well caramelized, but still retaining their shape. Reserve.

Cook onions and celery until just translucent (not browned).Add garlic and ginger cook 1 minute. Add parsnip and continue to cook 5 mintues. Add apples and cook until just starting to get soft. Then add curry powder to coat all ingredients. Splash with white wine and cover with water by about 1 inch. (Most of my soups do not contain meat based broths, so as to remain both vegetarian and pure of taste). Add kaffir lime leaves and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and puree soup.
return to the heat and check for seasoning. Remove kaffir leaves. Add cream to get a nice velvety texture.

Serve with a nice mound of caramelized apples as garnish. Use remaing caramel in the pan to drizzle around the soup.

The sweetness and the heat from the curry is very pleasing.The parsnip adding a taste that is both clean and elusive. A wonderful soup for a crappy autumn days lunch. Enjoy.

Apple Crisp

Rum rasins with cranberry

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup cranberries
1 cup spiced rum

In a small saucepan add all ingredients and cook over med low heat for 5 minutes. Ignite the rum and allow to burn out. Set aside.

Apple Crisp Topping

3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
pinch of salt

Melt butter and add to other ingrediants in a med bowl. Mix with your hands till crumbly and not too combined. Set aside.


10 med to large apples. Cooking apples. Today we had Empires and Royal Gala. Cored, peeled and cut into 1" pieces.
1 lemon juiced Half used in water to hold cut apples and half for filling
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Mix flour, salt and cinnamon in a lrage bowl. Add apples and reserved lemon juice. Add raisin and cranberries. Pour mix into a 9x13 baking pan with 1"+ sides. Cover with topping mixture and bake @ 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes. TIll nice and golden.
Allow to cool a bit and portion out. Serve with good rum raisin ice cream or whipped cream.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Apple picking day

It seemed like the perfect day to pick some apples. So we bundled up the baby, loaded up the other two and off to pick some apples we went. Today was the first time we visited Orleans Fruit Farm. We were more than pleasantly surprised. Right in the middle of suburbia is a great stand of apple trees. they have some 3000+ trees with plenty of variety to choose from. Today was near the end of the season and we had Empire, Macintosh, and Cortlands to choose from. Most of the picking occured in the Empire orchard. It was most enjoyable and we have a horde of apples to make some delicious treats from. More to come on these fall wonders.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pork Belly "a la vaca frita"

I love pork in all it's forms. Is there anything better than pork? I think not. I decided today to make some braised pork belly. I am preparing as I prepare vaca frita which is basically twice cooked beef. This dish has a very South American preparation with decidedly asian flavors. Pork belly is essentially bacon that has not been cured/smoked. For this application we are going to give the pork a dry rub and allow it to sit overnight in the fridge. Followed by a long braise. After the braise it is shredded and mixed with some more aromatics and then fried till crisp. This application produces a taste that really has to be tried (even if it takes a couple of days to produce properly).

Obtain a 1kg peice of pork belly from your butcher.

Dry rub
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup star anise (whole)
2 tbsp sancho peppers
2 tbsp dried tabgerine peel
10 indenosian long peppers
4 tbsp smoked salt ( I had smoked salt on hand, regular coarse salt would be fine).
Grind all ingredients in a grinder or mortar and pestle.

Slash the fat side of pork in a crosshatch pattern. Not so deep as to go to the meat. Rub with seasoning well all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight in fridge. There is not alot of salt in the mix as the braise will be slightly salty and no sense in overdoing it right at the beginning.
The next day remove from frigde and allow to come to room temp. In an oven proof pot large enough to hold in one peice, sear meat fat side down on med heat. This allows for some of the fat to render and build flavor for the next compoinents. Make sure to brown nicely on all sides. Remove from pan to a large plate. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of fat from pan.

3 carrots rough chop
1 celery rough chop
1 onion rough chop
2 cloves garlic smashed
1 1/2" peice of ginger sliced
2 tbsp coriander seeds
5 star anise
2 tbsp red miso
1 cup sake
1/2 cup mirin
4 tbsp honey
1 qt chicken stock

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Add first five ingredients to pot and sautee till golden (med low heat) When nicely colored add aromatics including miso and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with sake and raise heat to medium and reduce by half. Add mirin and honey, cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and pork. Make sure it is covered by 2 inches. Use water for remaining liquid. Bring to the boil on the stove skimming of any foam. Transfer to preheated oven and cook for 3-4 hours. Checking for doneness after 3 hours. It is done when a knife point has no resistance going into the meat.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly in the braising liquid.
When it is cool enough to handle remove from liquid and and shred removing as much fat as possible.
Braisinf liquid should be returned to stove top and reduced to a syrupy glaze. Test for saltyness as you go and adjust with honey if needed. Strain liquid and reserve.
The shredded meat should be mixed with 1 red onion very thinly sliced. Juice of one lime, 3 green onions sliced on an extreme bias (as thinly as possible), and one small bunch cilantro chopped finley.
Allow the flavors to develop for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.
When ready for serving get a non stick pan very hot (smoking)
Add enough oil to almost cover the bottom of a large pan. About 2 1/2 tbsp.
Put pork into pan like a pancake pressing down slightly. Sear on this side for about 1-2 minutes. With a steady hand flip the pancake over and sear other side as well. At this point I use two tongs to tear the pork back into nice crispy peices and add my sauce to the pan coating all the pork evenly.
At this point it is ready to plate. For our application we are using a sushi rice prepared risotto style, and some sauteed chanterelle mushrooms. Some of the sauce was reserved and painted onto the plate between the two elements.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pickled silly

So I picked up the recent issue of Gourmet, and was completely enthralled with David Chang's recipes. I really like the clean tastes and the pickles were a great idea for people to try. So off to the market I went. I wanted to make some pickles for some upcoming events. PIckles as a condiment are wonder vehicles for flavor and textures. A great acidic counterpoint to savory dishes. So I will make some of his pickles here and some others> In the coming weeks I will pull them out and show you some of the ideas to fruition.

Basic Pickling Solution
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt

Bring water and other ingredients to a boil in a non reactive sauce pan. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve.
Remove and steep with flavoring components separately.

I have chosen to pickle some sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes) with shichimi togarashi (asian 7 spice, recipe follows).
I will also do some multi colored carrots in coriander, and celery root with caraway and fennel seed.

Steep 1 1/2 tsp of each ingredient with 1/3 of the pickling solution. Place julienned veg in separate airtight containers and cover with pickling solution. Cover and chill for 1 week. Shaking jar occassionally.
This is a great basic recipe to get you started. The possibilities are pretty much endless. have fun

Shichimi togorashi
3 tbs sancho pepper
3 tbs tangerine or orange peel (dried and grinded, available at asian markets)
3 tbs chilli pepper
2 tbs garlic
1 tbs nori flakes
1 tbs black sesame seeds
1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

salmon tataki

Well, the avocado vase was just not as good an idea in practice as it was in theory. If anyone else has done something resembling a vase made from avocado mash that is frozen and cut to size, please let me know. In the end I had made some sushi rice for another use and just made a mold of it and hollowed out the center. Sauteed and cooled down. The salmon tataki came off well, especially with the jalapeno salsa. Some balsamic and wasabi reduction finishes the dish.

Jalapeno salsa
100 gr. finely chopped jalapeno ( I used red and green)
50 gr finely chopped shallot
1 tbsp+ 1 tsp chilli oil ( I used one that I infused with Indonesian long peppers)
4 tbsp lime
2 tbsp cilantro chopped
1 tsp smoked sea salt

And please anyone who has successfully molded avocado please share....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What's new

Wow, this has taken entirely too long. When last I typed, I was just starting a blog, I intended to devote time to. Hah. How life makes fools of us all. Well the kitchen is finished and the work steady. I had great plans to come on every Sunday and ramble on (as those who know me will attest......Man can he go on and on.) about everything food related. That was the plan. Maybe I should have thought about the timing a little more. Must have something to do with being a chef and being so "a la minute". I can really only see the next meal, not always the whole picture.
What all this boils down to is this. After getting the kitchen going and putting our name out there. My wife and I had our third son. You would think that having had two previous, I'd have known the work and sleep defficit quotient. But as I said before, not great at the big picture thing. So although I have pined over this site and all I want for it, my family until now has been more in need of my full attention.
Thats it for the excuses and the appologies ( for the three poeple who have read this blog, thanks mom, Nahad, and that person that got lost on the info superhighway and ended up here).
This week I want to try an idea that I have had in my head for a while now. It's a combination of ideas that I gleaned from various sources. It starts with a few slices of salmon sashimi. This gets topped with a jalapeno relish (a la Nobu).
There is another component to the dish I have wanted to try. An avocado vase, holding a small salad. The idea of freezing an avocado mash in a thin sheet is something I have seenon a few blogs recently. After freezing the sheet can be cut to any shape. So far all I have seen are flat shapes on plates. I figured you could cut strips and wrap them around a cylinder and back into the freezer till service. Pop it out and fill with small lettuce leaves. I'll take some pics as I go. Heres hoping the avocado idea plays out.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Inspection day

I have one day left to finish up all my odds and ends for tomorrows round of inspections. This has been a very long and sometimes hair pulling experience. I have spent several months preparing this kitchen for operation. And am now nervous as it all comes to an end. I am also extremely excited to get going with this new kitchen. There are still a few pieces of equipment to buy, but the necessary basics are all on hand.

My wife and children will be happy too, as I will no longer take over our house to get things done. It has been difficult these last few months prepping at home for the parties and events we have been catering. In the next few weeks I will have everything completed and be up and runnning in our new location. I hope to have the time to go through some of the equipment we have purchased, as well as the ones on my WISH list. And I also hope to show some of the dishes and recipes I am using for some of our upcoming events.

Part of starting this blog was through inspiration from some of the blogs I read regualrly (see side bar). I intend to do some recipe preparation from some of the great cookbooks available right now, as well as some variations on those recipes. I really hope we can get some dialogue going to improve these ideas as well as expand on them. And, as I am truly passionate about all things food, I will be going to local markets, meeting the purveyors, and the chefs who swear by them — all in an effort to show the Nations Capital's rich bounty.

I will also try to visit one restaurant per month, and review it for you. There are many to choose from in both Ottawa and Gatineau. Along the way we can hopefully have some dialogue with the chefs and owners of the above mentioned restaurants. And maybe some of their inspirations as well.

I hope you enjoy all I plan to offer. And if you have ideas for this site please feel free to comment and offer suggestions.