Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Canape 101: Japanese Eggplant

In Ottawa about a third of the dishes we serve are vegetarian. Being a staunch carnivore, I always look for vegetarian dishes that can make converts of even the staunchiest of carnivores. (Is staunchiest even a word?) This is one of those dishes. It is always somewhat amusing to hear what people think they are eating. But one thing is for sure, they always love this one. It also doesn't hurt that it is prepared very easily and quickly. Of course, that is compared to the pork belly dish that requires days on end of anticipation.

Grilled Japanese eggplant with dens miso and candied lemon

2 japanese eggplants. Look for ones with a consistent cylindrical shape.
1 tbsp five spice powder.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup white (shiro) miso
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
1/2 cup sugar

Cut eggplant into slices about 1.5" thick.
Mix with spices and oil in a bowl.
Allow to sit for about an hour
Grill for about 1 minute per side. Just long enough to create some sear marks, no longer. You want the eggplant to have some body left and not be all mushy.
Allow to cool and refrigerate till needed.

Dens Miso
Combine the sake, mirin and sugar in a small sauce pan. Cook until sugar is dissolved.
Add miso a little at a time.
Continue cooking over med/low heta until miso is thickened considerably. The more you cook out the moisture the nicer your finished product will be. Remember that it will burn very easily so keep stirring. This could take upwards of twenty minutes.
Remove from heat and store in a squeeze bottle. This will keep for up to 3 months in the fridge.

Candied lemon
2 lemons with bright yellow skins. Washed

Using a citrus channeller tool cut the skin from the flesh. You could also use a vegetable peeler, but a zester produces too small a lemon shaving.
Cut all white pith from the peel.

Bring lemon peels in a small sauce pan of water to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes and drain.
Do this procedure 2 more times with fresh water each time. This is necessary to get rid of the bitterness of the peel.

Prepare a simple syrup by mixing 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and drop in lemon peels. Cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Take 1/2 cup sugar and place in a bowl. Drain the lemon peels from syrup and dust in the sugar.
Reserve in an airtight container.

Squeeze a good dollop (about 3/4 tbsp) of dens miso on top of eggplant.
Decoratively place one lemon peel in the miso.

We finish with a sprinkling of grains of paradise on top.

Pics to come....

Canape 101: Pork Belly

Pork belly. mmmmm. How I love thee.

Pork belly (also known as bacon when smoked) is truly one of the wonderful cuts from the pig. Curing it and then finishing as confit is truly amazing. Prepared properly it will just melt in your mouth, leaving nothing but a smile.

This recipe requires a few days of patience but is well worth it. Not a dish you whip up at the last minute. Try to start 5 days before you want to serve it. IF you can leave the finished product longer in the duck fat, all the better. The flavours will deepen and concentrate giving you even more porky goodness with time.

A whole pork belly is a large and cumbersome thing for the home cook. Have your butcher prepare you a half or even a quarter belly for this recipe.

1/4 pork belly
2 cups salt
5 tbsp sugar
2 heads garlic cut in half
3 bay leaves
4 tbsp black pepper whole
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cumin and coriander

Mix all ingredients in a bowl to combine. Rub all over pork belly and cover in a suitable container. Leave in the fridge for 48 hours.
Remove and rinse off all seasonings. Dry well with paper towel.
Use a pot or pan that will just hold the belly and be tall enough to completely submerge. Remember the larger the pot/pan the more duck fat you will require to submerge the belly.
Generally for a 1/4 belly I would use about 4 cups or so duck fat.
Oven should be heated to 200 degrees.
Cook belly making sure it is completely submerge for 3-4 hours, or until very tender.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Before the fat starts to reset, remove belly to a sheet pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and top with another pan and weight down with several cans of whatever in your kitchen. Leave in the fridge over night.
Once compressed you can slice into 1.5" wide strips.
At this point I remove the skin layer, leaving a nice creamy white layer of fat on top.
Preheat a cast iron pan to medium and place the belly fat side down in the pan.
Cook until you have a nice brown crust on the top.
Turn and sear the other sides, but not as long as the top.
Remove to a cutting board a cut into nice bite sized cubes.

The belly can be kept submerged in the duck fat in the fridge for several weeks.

Daikon and apple slaw
1 cup daikon (asian radish) julienned
1 cup green apple julienned
1 clove garlic minced
1" piece of ginger minced
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lime juice

Allow all ingredients to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.
Remove and strain the liquid.
Mix in a bowl with:

1 tbsp cilantro finely chopped
2 tsp finely chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Maple BBQ sauce frosting
This one requires a ittle bit of ingredient sourcing. So we will do an abbreviated version. For our original we use a starch called Ultra-Tex3. It is a fantastic starch that can absorb a huge amount of liquid. Fantastic for making sauce or even puddings as in this sauce. Without ultra tex we can use cornstarch and cooking down our BBQ sauce.
In the kitchen we make our own BBQ sauce base, but I would suggest you use a sauce you already like.

1 cup BBQ sauce
4 tbsp maple syrup
6 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 6 tbsp water

Mix BBQ sauce and maple syrup in a small sauce pan and reduce by about a third over medium/low heat. Depending on how much you reduced your sauce and what consistency it was to begin with your cornstarch amount will vary.
Slowly add slurry (corn starch mix) to your simmering BBQ sauce. It should thicken very quickly. You are looking for the consistency of pudding.
Remove from heat and cool.
Store in a squeeze bottle

If you can find tapiocca starch or even arrowroot starch both produce a sauce that has more shine, which looks great on the finished product.

Serve this bite skewered on a fork with the slaw behind and a squeeze of the sauce on top of the pork. Alternately you can use a chinese soup spoon with the slaw on the bottom, topped with the pork and finished with a squeeze of sauce.

Pics to come...

Canape 101: Black Tea Smoked Salmon Sushi

The CBC asked me to talk food tomorrow afternoon. Specifically we will be talking canapes, and how we make ours. We thought this would be a great time to do an online demo of some of the processes we use. So follow us for the next few posts about 3 of our different canapes. Each one is easy to produce with products that are easily available. We will also show you how we take a dish and embellish it and take it to the next level. Feel free to try some of these added twists or leave them as is. Either way you are sure to wow your guests when you serve these.
Also stay in touch as we had a ton of fun putting it all together and figure we should give away more of our secrets in the coming months.

Black tea smoked salmon pressed sushi
This is a dish that has evolved over the past couple of years. It started with regular smoked salmon and a very simple pressed sushi recipe. What I originally liked about the canape was the fact that a good number of bites could be produced in a reasonable amount of time. Some time last year we bought a toy called the smoking gun. It is just like what the name entails, a gun that smokes. It kind of also looks like something the city of Ottawa gives out to crack addicts, but alas it is not, and no we don't use it that way. If I remember correctly smoked salmon is the first thing we tried with our new toy. And thus we tried smoking salmon with all kinds of different flavorings. But in the end I always seem to come back to Lhapsang Souchong tea. I has an incredible smokey character to it. For this dish you can try to smoke your own salmon or use just regular smoked salmon.

You will also need the following:

10X10 square pan
Plastic wrap
Cardboard cut to fit pan and covered with plastic wrap

2 cups sushi rice, rinsed well
5 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbso mirin
10-12 smoked salmon
Pickled ginger to taste (shredded makes a more attractive presentation here)
Wasabi paste to taste
Finely cut chives
Toasted white and black sesame seeds
Masago or tobiko
Soy lime pearls (more on these later)

Cook rice in a ratio of 1 1/4 cups water to 1 cup of well rinsed sushi rice
Prepare sushi vinegar by mixing vinegar, sake, sugar, mirin in a small pot and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste.
Mix sushi rice and vinegar mix and combine thoroughly. You may not need all the vinegar.
Cover your pan with plastic wrap, making sure to leave some overhang on two sides.
Lay out 1/2 of your rice in the bottom.
Sprinkle of sesame seeds and cover with nori cut to fit
Lay out the rest of your rice and cover with a brushing of wasabi (you can omit if you do not like wasabi)
Top this with another layer of nori.
Cover nori with smoked salmon, cut to fit snuggly. Remember this will be visible so make sure to have an eye for presentation with the salmon.
Top with ginger, masago/tobiko, chives, and sesame seeds.

Soy Lime Pearls
Digital scale
Cajun meat injector or squeeze bottle
A container that is deeper than 3 inches filled with neutral flavoured oil. We use grapeseed. Keep it in the freezer till needed.
Mesh strainer

1 cup soy sauce (light)
1/4 cup lime juice
4 tbsp agave syrup (or brown sugar)
1/2 cup water

Bring the ingredients to a boil and let reduce slightly. Check to make sure your sauce is not too salty or too sweet. Adjust accordingly.

1.2 grams agar agar (powder form)
0.6 grams locust bean gum

Mix both powders with the soy mixture and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes. Making sure to properly whisk in the powders. You will now fill your injector or squeeze bottle with soy mixture. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes to cool slightly. You will squeeze out the liquid being careful to create small balls into the very cold oil. Allow them to sit for about 5 minutes and strain and rinse gently under water.
They can now be stored till you are ready to use them.

For the salmon dish above I put a small spoonful of pearls on top of the salmon with some ginger, masago, and some chives to finish.

Pictures to come...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

foie two times

By way of missmanaged delivery intake, we ended up with two lobes of foie gras that needed using. Unfortunately we had no parties where this would be of use this week. So I needed to do something with them for myself. Every Christmas day my wife and I invite our friends to drop by with their families and enjoy a bit of the afternoon. Of course I always manage to get something put onto the table. Never too much trouble, as I really would prefer to unwrap presents and play with my kids then cook. So we usually put ut a nice spread of artisinal Quebec and Ontario cheese. This year it looks as though we'll put out some charcuterie as well.
I had intended this year to prepare alot more charcuterie than I actually did. We mused at the idea of opening a restaurant devoted solely to charcuterie and cheese. But sadly the idea never came to fruition. Charcuterie to me is one of those things you just have to make to fully appreciate. The first time you make a terrine or a dried and cured meat, you will be hooked for life. It is a bit a history and reconnecting with your roots to prepare charcuterie.
So with our two lobes I decided a torchon of salted foie (no poaching) and a simple foe terrine would rounds out a nice cheese course and some simple meats and olives.
The salted foie is dead simple. Clean and devein one foie. Of course this is always easier said than done. The advice I can gove on this proceedure is this:
1. allow the foie to sit at room temp for about an hour so it is maleable.
2. use a butter knife or just your hands to get the veins out.
3. don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.
Once cleaned I layered everything on a sheet pan covered with parchment. I lightly salted the foie and drozzled some white port over the top. This was left for a few hours. I then cut a large peice of cheese cloth and laid it out in front of me on a cutting board. I clumpe the foie into a rough cylinder shape and start to roll tightly in the cloth. Tieing off one end and rolling the other to acheive a uniform shape. tie off the other end and lay out on a bed of kosher salt. Cover with copious amount of salt to cover.
Leave for 24 -48 hours. Unwrap. Slice thin and enjoy. You cn also rewrap in pastic and leave in the fridge for another couple fo days. Delicious.
For the terrine I used the same salted and port infused base. Using a small terrine tin, start layering the foie. Make sure to use the smooth side down on the bottom. Be careful to season with salt and white pepper as you layer. When you reach the top make sure to use the smooth side out on the top. Cook in a bain marie for about 30 minutes at 200 degrees. At this point the terrine needs to cleated of some of the fat the a=has accumulated (please keep this liquid gold for later). Wrap in plastic and wieght it down to compress. Leave in the fridge over night. the next day all I do is take off the plastic and melt the reserved fat.
I pour this over the top creating a fat seal. The terrine is returned to the fridge to firm up till ready. Simply unmold and cut into slices.
Both recipes (although similar in starting flavors) took no longer than an hour of prep time. Yet your guests will feel it must have taken for ever to produce something so sublime. I will try to post some pictures of the platters as I present them on the 25th.

Seasons greetings and Merry Christmas.