Reflections, ramblings and a recipe, to boot!

It’s been so long… I should be making a far more concerted effort to blogging regularly and it’s not been easy trying to get the motivation to write down recipes, at the very least!

My favourite recipes really need to be hanging out, here, where it’s most convenient for me to refer to all the recipes that I turn to, again and again. Over the last couple of years I’ve been making sure to have “hard copies” of all my favourite recipes saved, on my ipad, so that if I am ever faced with the prospect of no longer having this blog, at least I will still have access to all the recipes that I cook the most often. [Side thought: I wonder I should toy with the idea of publishing them in a small personal cookbook like I did for the family sticky rice cookbook I made last(?) Christmas…?]

It’s been a really challenging few months. TheHubbs™ has been dealing with a still (very) unknown recurring health issue that’s been plaguing him since the end of September, and me doing Round #3 of infusions.

The third round of Rituxan/Rituximab infusions (started October 12th, finished the 26th) have left me in the familiar state of: So much tired, so not hungry, so not motivated to cook, so exhausted, and dealing with unpredictable bouts of random nausea & barfiness.

It sucks.

So I pushed myself this afternoon to shut down SALLY and just try to be a normal human being for a couple of hours today. The hard won effort became a surprisingly decent result: an easy dinner that I would be more than happy to recreate again, after tonight.

Backtracking a bit: Last week, The Hubbs™ made the executive decision to restart our grocery delivery service with Spud.ca to go along with our bi-weekly mini Winter CSA pickups with Noble Gardens.

Winter is never an ideal season for me to go out and about, mainly due to the cold temperatures aggravating my breathing & lungs, plus cold & flu season wreaking havoc in public places where I am more likely to catch a bug of my very own, but right now I’m still under TheHubbs’™ imposed post-infusion lockdown until the end of November.

Grocery shopping under these circumstances is not easy for me, and The Hubbs™ would ordinarily be doing them himself; either after work or sometimes he’d brave the grocery mobs on the weekend, but this Unknown Health Issue (a.k.a. “U.H.I.” from this point forward) has absolutely clobbered his energy levels.

U.H.I. has also become a serious quality of life issue which is affecting coping mechanisms, and inadvertently affecting me, too. It’s especially frightening being unable to adequately help care for your own caregiver if you’re physically incapable of functioning like a normal, healthy, human being to begin with.

So we’ve been trying to make do as best we can, but we can only do so much when I’m pretty useless in my current condition and we’ve had to learn to accept the offerings of help from MIL when TheHubbs™ needs extra hands with the chores I can’t complete on my own, getting a few groceries picked up, or whatever. It sucks so much.

*sigh*

So! That takes us back to the dinner I successfully made, tonight: Bacon & Brussel Sprout Spaghetti. Ya, Rly.

I realised that I needed to clear out as much space in the fridge that was being taken up by the previous weeks’ veggies before tomorrow’s grocery delivery from Spud. It’s amazing how much space an awkwardly shaped veggie can take up in the fridge! Noble Gardens gave us brussel sprouts on the stalk a few weeks ago, and it was so large & unwieldy that I had to chop it in half and share it with Mom & Dad!

Thank goodness my parents accepted the brussel sprouts offering because we honestly would not have been able to eat the entire stalk’s-worth of sprouts between only the two of us.

So without further ado, my first recipe posting in absolutely forever so I will have a place to track it back when needed. Super fast, super simple, and super tasty: Five ingredients (most of which I would consider pantry staples), turned into “one pot” meal!

As a side note: With American Thanksgiving coming up this week, I imagine this would make for a really great use of any turkey day leftovers, especially with some actual leftover turkey on the side!


Bacon & Brussel Sprout Spaghetti

1 onion, sliced

3-4 cloves garlic, sliced

4 slices bacon, sliced into lardons (matchsticks)

~500g brussel sprouts, halved then sliced into ribbons

1/2 pkg spaghetti

Olive oil, salt & pepper

Gouda & parmigiano reggiano, grated (optional additions I would highly recommend)

In a large pan big enough to accommodate everything at the end, heat the pan on medium heat and add the bacon to render down its fat and a bit of olive oil.
In a separate pot, boil water and cook your spaghetti.

Once your bacon has rendered its fat but still soft, add the onions and cook till fragrant and translucent.

Add the brussel sprouts and sliced garlic to the onions & bacon, season with salt & pepper. Stir fry everything until the sprouts are softened, making sure to evenly mix through the bacon and onions. Make sure to add  a splash or two of water to help deglaze the bottom of the pan, cover and turn heat to low to finish cooking through.

Once noodles are cooked, drain noodles, reserve a cup of pasta water, then add to the brussel sprouts & bacon.

Turn off heat, combine until noodles are evenly mixed with sprouts. Add cheese, if using, then cover the pan for a couple of minutes to let the cheese melt, then thoroughly mix through the melty cheese as best you can.

Serve generously!

Super quick noodles.

I’ve been missing my sense of smell & taste for almost 3 weeks now due to The Plague™ and for some reason, the only thing that has been remotely appealing to eat is pasta.
It started with Mom’s garlic noodles (lots of chopped garlic, fried in butter, can of tomatoes, some herbs & spices, plus noodles and lots of cheddar cheese) and since then, it’s kind of been a rather unconventional combination of ingredients that I wouldn’t have considered throwing together under normal circumstances that I’ve been making over & over again this past week.

While your noodles are cooking, put into a large bowl: a pat of butter, a decent drizzle of garlic olive oil, and a good sprinkling of your favourite furikake (if it happens to have bonito, rice balls & egg bits, even better!). Set your bowl over the pot and let it melt the butter. While that’s doing its thing, grate some parmesan cheese & set aside, give your melty butter concoction a good stir so it’s all nicely combined. When your noodles are cooked to your liking, add them from the pot, directly into your bowl with the cooking water still dripping. Mix everything together so that every strand has been sufficiently coated in the buttery emulsion and season with pepper. Add your cheese, extra furikake if desired, and stir well, making sure to add extra pasta water if needed to get the right consistency. Eat fast while it’s still hot! :D

As a side note: I have recently discovered the perfect method for cooking pasta so that I don’t have to worry about accidentally overcooking it. Apparently that Serious Eats tip for cooking dried pasta totally works!

Put your pasta into a pot just large enough to accomodate the size/length of your noodles and cover it with about 1-2″ of cold water (don’t forget to add salt). Bring to a boil, stirring a couple times as needed, then cover the pot, shut off the heat and set your timer for 10 minutes. Yea, seriously. When the time’s up, taste test your noodles and it should be the perfect doneness! Add noodles to your hot sauce, stir to combine and you’re good to go!

Onion Gravy Lamb Shanks

 So I was in channel on Wednesday, late night, talking to Esp about a bunch of random food-related things. I don’t remember how it came about, but he mentioned this slow-cooked lamb shanks with onion gravy from this place called Tommy’s Joynt in SF that he really likes and how he was gonna try replicating it for dinner tonight after work.

Since I’ve always been kinda meh about most of the traditional recipes for braised lamb shanks (ie: tomato based Italian-style, Moroccan-style tagines etc) his suggestions sounded really close to how I’ve always wanted my lamb shanks to taste: with more of a roasted lamb flavour versus a stewed flavour.

Well it turns out this “recipe” was exactly what I’ve been searching for in a braised lamb shank recipe. It’s super simple to make, especially in my Instant-pot❤️ (hence the note below regarding the 15minute end pressure cook to finish off) and it’s just perfectly flavoured, which I find crazy.

I had originally intended on making mashed potatoes to go with the gravy but I completely ran out of steam once the lamb got going and decided instead to just boil some noodles and serve it with some (leftover, frozen) braised cabbage. It was seriously awesome.

There’s not much in terms of recipe (will still write up something below for future reference though) since it was literally: sear & remove meat, cook onions & garlic, add back meat, liquids, herbs & spices, cook until done.

If needed (ie: you’re starving to death & in a rush): pressure cook the shanks for ~15-20 minutes at the very end if they’re still not yet falling off and you’ve already cooked them for at least 3hours.

Note on the the noodles: I made the trofie that Baby Bro & his gf brought back as a souvenir from the trip to Italy last summer; these took forever to cook for some reason and way longer than the 15-16 minutes stated on the package. They’re more like dried thinly-rolled dumplings, almost like spaetzle!

Once I had cooked the noodles their alotted package cooktime, I realized that I would rather have them finish cooking in the oniony lamb juices so they would suck up all the flavour.

While they were doing their final cooking in the sauce, I removed the meat off the bones and pulled everything apart into bitesized pieces and put it aside, ready to serve as is.
Once the noodles were cooked & ready to be served, I ended up at the last minute deciding to strain the triofe back into the empty noodle pot, so the sauce could be served separately from the noodles and wouldn’t bloat any of the potential leftovers that might be sitting around. Turned out to be a great idea and the extra sauce on the side meant you could add a spoonful over the meat just to keep it warm and juicy while you’re plating.

I don’t know that I would really change anything after my first time making this; I am really pleased with how the whole thing turned out.
As a sidenote: tonight’s shanks (raw) were probably twice the size of a normal shank & ridiculously huge compared to what I’ve purchased in the past: 

Originally when I was talking to Esp about how many onions to use for the dish, he thought one onion per shank would suffice, but thinking about it for future reference: I don’t think I would change the amount of onions I used tonight; I think I would keep it at 2 (small/medium) onions per normal-sized lamb shank, just because it would make for better onion coverage when slow cooking.

Having said that, if in the future we end up with monster-sized shanks again, I might increase the onions considerably; maybe use 3-4 onions per dino-sized shank, just so you get the proper onion:shank ratio.

Lamb Shanks with Onion Gravy
4 onions, sliced
1 head garlic, peeled

Garlic Olive oil

2 lamb shanks

Beef demi-glace (Better than Bouillon soup stock base)

1L Boiling water

1 sprig Rosemary

2 Bay leaves

Salt, pepper

Mochiko flour, for thickening as slurry

Slice onions and garlic, leave small garlic cloves whole, chop large garlic cloves, set aside.
Heat dutch oven (Instant-pot!) over medium heat with olive oil. Season lamb shanks with s&p, sear all over, then remove from pot & set aside.

Cook all the onions at the bottom of the pot, seasoning with a bit of salt & pepper, until nicely caramelized, then add garlic. Cook a little longer until garlic becomes fragrant then deglaze with a bit of boiling water, just to prevent scorching or burning the onions, especially if you’re using an InstantPot.

Add a spoonful of beef demi to the pot & just enough water to dissolve the demi, maybe about 1 cup, barely covering the onions. Add the sprig of rosemary & 2 bayleaves.
Re-season the shanks with s&p then add back to the pot; making sure to cover shanks as much as possible with the caramelized onions.

Gently pour enough hot water into the pot to come about halfway up the sides of the shanks, but do not pour water over/disturb the onions! Cover and slowcook until meat is fall off the bone tender. At least 3 hours.

Bonus! If you’re using an InstantPot and you’ve cooked the shanks for at least 3hours, but they’re not quite falling completely off the bone yet, if needed: pressure cook the shanks for ~15-20 minutes at the very end if you’re starving to death & desperate to eat ASAP but can’t wait for the sweet spot to happen on its own.

Remove the shanks to a plate and pull the meat off the bones, shredding it into bitesize pieces. Set meat aside somewhere warm while finishing the onion gravy.

Simmer the remaining oniony juices over medium heat and thicken with a mochiko slurry until desired thickness is achieved.

Serve lamb shanks with onion gravy overtop triofe or spaetzle-type noodles and if possible, some braised cabbage. 😏 ❤️

Homemade tapioca pudding

Part 1 of Rituxan infuson treatment was on Monday. The only thing I could stomach eating was tapioca pudding and interestingly, somehow I got it into my head that I was going to make from scratch tapioca pudding  because Minute Tapioca that I normally make just wasn’t working for me texturally — it tends to be pretty bouncy & jello-like, and I was hoping homemade tapioca pudding would be more of a soft custard texture.

Thankfully, my first attempt at making homemade tapioca was a success considering I was worried that I screwed up because my soaked tapioca kind of ended up disintegrated after the overnight soak.

Preparaing for my days of nausea, I tripled the recipe written below and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. ^_^

  
Tapioca Custard

1/3 cup medium pearl tapioca

3/4 cup cold water

1 1/2 cup milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

Soak tapioca in water 6 hours or overnight in a covered container.

Add milk & cook in covered double boiler over simmering water until tapioca is clear & tender 2.5-3hrs), stirring occassionally.

Beat eggs with sugar & salt. 

Temper eggs with hot milk, then add to the hot tapioca, stirring well to blend.

Continue cooking until thickened, stirring constantly, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat & stir in vanilla.

Serve warm or cold.

Serves 4.

Yup. Savoury oatmeal is totally the way to go from now on.

 

I knew there was something weird about oatmeal always being flogged to tasting sweet and not being at all filling. If it had been something that was used more in let’s say, Chinese or let’s say Indian cooking, we’d probably be more intuitively eating it like we already do rice. I think we’re totally biased about how we eat oatmeal because it’s a primarily western-eaten grain, usually only consumed with sweet toppings.

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I mean if you think about it, risotto is basically just the Italian way of making Chinese jook/congee, right? So if we just swap out rice for oatmeal, I imagine that there are absolutely no limits to what kinds of flavour combination profiles would match up brilliantly with oatmeal. The only difference being of course, is that it’s a heartier grain with slightly more flavour. It’s certainly not a deterrent, in my opinion, and plus: It means that suddenly you’ve opened up so many more options and flavour combinations.

My favourite toppings for jook happen to include: green onions, black eggs, and a generous splosh of fish sauce. I honestly don’t see that as being a bad combination even with oatmeal, the only difference is that it’s unlikely that I would need to dunk in the Chinese doughnuts because you’ve already got that wheat-y flavour profile in the oatmeal… not that there’s ever anything wrong with dunking fried dough in stuff, I’d just have to make sure that the oatmeal was a lot soupier than I currently make it. ;)

Anything that you eat with rice, would honestly be perfectly acceptably used on top of oatmeal. In fact, you don’t even have to cook it with anything like broth or stock, however you normally cook it for breakfast is fine and dandy! It’s been so long since I played around with oatmeal topping combinations that I forgot how enjoyable it was. I think that using steel cut oats is definitely preferable than the usual fast cooking rolled oats, just because it gives great creaminess plus the extra chewy bits of oatmeal makes for nice textural contrast. By all means though, if all you have is just regular oatmeal, use that absolutely!

I think that as a basic template: some kind of leftover protein + cheese + some kind of green vegetable matter + seasoning + drizzle of flavoured oil at the end, is the fastest, easiest and tastiest way to eat oatmeal. Not to mention most filling ;D

If I had it on-hand, I would love to fry up some mushrooms with garlic & lots of fresh thyme, and serve them over the oatmeal with a few pieces of emmental or other swiss cheese. Soy sauce, fried/poached egg with a runny yolk, with sesame oil and some chopped green onions would be amazing. Plus, I’d really love to make a batch using miso, some nori, a poached/fried egg and maybe some furikake sprinkled on top at the end would be pretty awesome.

Vague Savoury Oatmeal Recipe Template – serves 1 generously

2 1/4 cups water

1/2 steel cut oats

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Optional: better than bouillon chicken base, miso paste, dashi stock, etc

Optional: leftover bits of meat (like steak, ham, etc), cheese, fried/poached egg, etc

Optional: cooked kale, caramelized onions, garlicky mushrooms, etc

Optional: chopped green onions, toasted & crumbled nori, sesame seeds, furikake, etc

Optional: butter, garlic infused olive oil, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, etc

Bring water & chicken base to a boil.

Add oatmeal and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.

When oatmeal is cooked, add your optional toppings, I used Snowdonia Cheese Company’s Beechwood Cheddar + leftover bits of steak with slices of garlic chips cut into small pieces, then season with a couple grinds of pepper to taste and serve with bit of flavourful oil, like a drizzle of garlic olive oil, before serving with a giant spoon.

Yum tastiness…

 After a whole week & a half of meals dedicated to comfort foods that would give warmth, bolster spirits during a time of great need, and provide extra calories for someone who has a tendency to shed weight like water off a duck’s back when they’re stressed,  Saturday night was just the night to make something easy, filling but not too gut-straining, plus still relatively comforting but fresh & palate-perking.

I know that the holidays are finally here, and usually that would imply bringing out all the favourite holiday-centric meals, but I’m just not feeling it as of yet; plus I’m pretty sure the damper on my mood has something to do with TheHubbs’ stress & sadness revolving around MIL and the passing of FIL last week after a long, stress-filled week of just patiently waiting.

[Sidenote: the term sofa-meal(s) will be used  as a term, from this point forward, to denote any dinner-time meal consumed while sitting sofa-side. Usually it will imply the meal was simple make and easily eaten while feeling physically or emotionally fragile; something from Netflix will very probably be playing on tv as accompaniment & distraction.]

So that brings us to this: homemade lamb souvlakis & tzatziki, greek salad and a side of hummus with extra pitas. I have to say: it was really damn good for a sofa-meal. 

Most of our sofa-meals in the last four to six  months basically consisted of a small pot of soup and a couple sandwiches. Simple & speedy to make, but not terribly soul-satisfying. The meal’s only saving grace is the soup being homemade; made ages ago in vat-sized quantities, portioned out then vaccuum sealed and frozen with the intention to be eaten as future meals.

This meal was remarkably satisfying considering it’s basically just an assembly job and in my opinion: a cold meal. The biggest surprise was how quickly it took to reheat the large chunks of leftover lamb that I had frozen from last weekend’s roast leg of lamb. It’s not easy to reheat roasted meats originally cooked to medium rare without drying it out or overcooking it. 

I’ve said it before and I’m certainly happy to say it again: I ❤️ my Sansaire. I should reallt try to think of using it for so many more things. I had a facepalm moment the other day when I saw that someone had used their sousvide setup to proof their challah bread dough! Why didn’t I think of that myself?!? It’s the perfect way to proof yeast bread doughs because you  can control temperature AND keep the dough from drying out at the same time!! 

/end  sidetracked tangeant

Anyhow, like I was saying: easy to make meal that is pretty satisfying. 

I love Greek salad because it just needs cucumber, tomato, bell pepper in the colour of your choice, and a bit of red onion (although I use green onions) to be all chopped into bite-sized pieces and tossed together in a big bowl. Drizzle with a genous amount of  your favourite olive oil (mine  is garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil from Blue Door), a good splash or two of red wine vinegar, to taste. Season everything with salt, pepper, & some dried oregano;  then rain down a whole bunch of cubed feta cheese overtop before mixing it all with a really big spoon.

 If you happen to enjoy kalamata olives, the time to add a small handful would be at the same time your feta cheese came to the party. I would suggest that you halve the olives, as these are pretty intense flavour bombs and please consider removing the stones! No one enjoys having to figure out the polite way to spew olive pits without other people noticing. 

At this point I would highly recommend that you leave the salad alone at room temperature for awhile so the flavours can do their thing and the veggies can rid themselves of any fridge coldness that remains if they were once hanging out in the icebox, chilling.

 I especially love tzatziki made at home. I use: Greek yoghurt + grated cucumbers that were lightly salted then left to drain in a small colander, then quickly rinsed and squeezed off as much of the extra liquids as possible. Add the mandhandled cucumber to the yoghurt, a bit of salt & pepper for seasoning, a good squirt of lemon juice and +/- a tiny bit of garlic with a drizzle of olive oil, if you’re into that sort of thing. Mix everything together with a spoon, taste for seasoning, adding extra lemon juice if needed to brighten things up a bit more, then leave the tzatziki alongside the greek salad for their flavours to become one.

   
 

As for dessert: the long awaited & anticipated Apple Tarte Tatin!

I’d been wanting to make this recipe since last week, but didn’t get around to it until this past weekend. Super easy recipe that I wish I had learned to consider making much sooner and much more often! 

Seriously, this is the easiest way to make an apple pie/tart. Just peel, slice & core a bunch of apples, squeeze over a lemon’s worth of juice to stop the apples from getting too browned and sprinkle with your favourite spices; I used some cinnamon, a few shakes of ground cloves & half a dozen gratings of fresh nutmeg. 

Make a simple caramel sauce with sugar and apple juice (or calvados if you’re able to handle that sort of thing ^_^) in an oven-safe skillet, large enough to eventually accomodate all your apples and sauce. Wait for the sauce to get a little thick and properly coloured, then carefully add in your apple slices and gently toss until everything’s evenly coated with the caramel. Leave alone to cook for about 5 minutes & preheat your oven to 375°. 

While you’re waiting, roll out a sheet of puff pastry until it’s about 5cm larger than the diameter of your pan. Once the apples are slightly pre-cooked, very carefully lay your puff pastry sheet overtop, tucking the pastry all the way around the edges so no apple peeks through (use the back of your wooden spoon if needed, DO NOT EVER TOUCH HOT CARAMEL!!). Once you’ve tucked  your apples under their puff pastry blanket, put the whole skillet into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. 

When the time is up, pull the skillet out from the oven, very carefully put a large plate on top of the whole pan and very quickly flip the whole thing over. Let cool at least 15-20 minutes for the caramel to set up before serving with vanilla ice cream.

WARNING: This dessert is amazingly easy, but also incredibly dangerous if you’re not careful to take special attention to the fact that this dessert has molten hot lava temperatures. Caramel is not something you wanna just be blazé about! It’s crucial to make sure your caramel is at least a little bit “thick” so it doesn’t just spill all over the place, and please be sure to protect your arms when you flip the pan over. 

 
 

Original Jamie Oliver recipe I followed for Apple Tarte Tatin found here.

Weird’n’Tasty things….

Is it possible to substitute duck fat for butter in cream cheese frosting?!? Turns out the answer is a resounding yes.

I ran out of butter in the house earlier in the week (*HORRORS!!*) and The Hubbs asked me if I would mind making him some treats to bring to work the other day to share with everyone cuz they were all stuck “in school” for a course. 

Wish granted: Cinnamon Snails, it is! ^_^

I honestly didn’t know if the duck fat idea would work. 

I just crossed my fingers and kind of hoped that using the duck fat as a replacement for butter in the cream cheese frosting recipe included with the Snails recipe wouldn’t impart any really weird flavours. I noticed that it added a bit of something, but I don’t know that I would necessarily call it a bad-something, per se. It was more like an unidentifiable savoury-ness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on…. Give or take.

[Side note: why the hell does icing sugar make everything taste so awful with its dusty powdery-ness?!?? Blehh!!]

The big important question: Would the duck fat be used again for other dessert frostings/icings if I ran out of butter? Probably not. Next time I think I would like to try using goose fat, as it was mentioned that goose fat is a lot more neutral in flavour compared to ducky fat when rendered. 

Would I consider using duck fat for baking? Yeah, I would be more inclined if I was making something like bread for sure; especially like I did for the bacon kugelhopf au lard recipe, ages ago. Damn… that was a great snacking bread with a cuppa hot tea. Sorry, tangeant.

The Snails recipe below is copied & pasted directly from my girlfriend Shannon. 

It does not account for my “Cream Cheese Frosting: The Adventures in Duck Fat”, as The Hubbs’ request had come at an inopportune time when we needed to restock most of my essential baking ingredients and I was seriously scraping the bottom of my proverbial barrel just to fulfill his request. I most of the icing sugar, but barely enough cream cheese (just the tiniest wodge leftover from who knows what). Funny enough: I actually had some of Mom’s homemade cheesecake in the fridge, leftover from last week’s family dindin that I ended up partially scavenging  in attempts to boost the cream cheese flavour, as to try masking the awful icing sugar’s dusty-powdery flavour that I despise so much. 

There may have also been some random additions of: extra vanilla, some vanilla paste, and dark grade A maple syrup to help compensate for the missing quantity of icing sugar… and again: mask the dusty powdery flavour.

If you want to give the duck fat idea a go, I would highly recommend NOT SUBSTITUTING the half-cup butter for duck fat as a 1:1 ratio. Instead: consider using about 1/4-1/3 cup of ducky fat to the original creaming stage. See how you feel about it and if you’re feeling keen; add more, up to the original 1/2 cup quantity of butter.

P.S.: I love Shannon’s mental note at the end of the cream cheese frosting recipe & am leaving it in its originally written form. ^_^

  

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Shannon’s Cinnamon Snails
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
6 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

In large bowl, combine first 4 ingredients.
Cut in butter till resembles coarse oatmeal.
Beat 1 egg slightly and mix with milk.
Stir into dry ingredients.
Lightly gather dough into a ball, being careful not to overhandle.

Place dough onto lightly floured surface and gently knead about 12 times.

Roll out to 9×18

Beat remaining egg and lightly brush over dough.
Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over dough.
Roll up like jelly roll, starting from long side.
Cut into 18 slices.
Place each slice in a paper lined muffin tin and bake @350°F for 25-30 minutes.

Goes nicely with this stuff on the top:

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

Soften butter and cream cheese, and whip together with sugar and vanilla. Try to stop eating it from the bowl before you make yourself sick. Save some for the kids.

Freaking Awesome Ribs!

Finally! Here’s the recipe for the freaking amazing indoor ribs that I made way back in September.

CookedRIbs

I have never really been much of a BBQ person, let alone a rib person, but one day I was craving MEAT, so we ordered a ridiculously huge platter from BigT’s BBQ for our anniversary. It was freaking amazing.

BBQ has never before been my thing — I’ve always found sauces to be just too sweet and one dimensional in flavour, meats too dry and generally tasteless, and I couldn’t understand why people got all hot & bothered over meat slathered in sugary sauces. Perhaps it’s because “BBQ” from any restaurant that’s not actually authentic Barbecue is just a ridiculous idea and asking for disappointment. It’s like going to Panda Express and saying that’s your benchmark for Chinese food.

The problem is that I also had all sorts of expectations in my mind of what barbecue was was supposed to taste like from all sorts of resources, but until recent years, Calgary just didn’t have much on offer for real barbecue and what I did experience on the rare occassions, just did not add up to what the tastebuds in my head were expecting. From those few disappointing experiences, I just did not like barbecue.

… But then something in my brain clicked over and I experienced pretty decent (in my opinion) barbecue one day which did in fact match up to what I had always imagined barbecue should taste like. I ended up craving smoky meat and barbecue sauce (that wasn’t just cloying sugary sweetness) from BigT’s all the time and just wanted to eat ribs and what I call the riblets (their burnt rib ends) whenever Friday rolled around.

Thank goodness this video from ChefSteps.com popped up on my youtube feed, which it turned out was a great introduction to this recipe from AmazingRibs.com because by this point I was sort of piling cravings, upon cravings, upon cravings and desperately needed a jumping off point to start on my way to making my own ribs!

The multiple recipes required for these ribs are primarily based on AmazingRibs.com’s original recipes. The dry rub is entirely theirs, as is the barbecue sauce. I am not very well versed in the world of barbecue, so I pretty much followed all the recipes as they were written and made the recommended changes for using smoked ingredients to help impart the smoke you would ordinarily be getting from a real barbecue smoker. The amazing thing to me about all this was that I actually had almost all the smoked ingredients on-hand in my pantry because of the Quarterly Box subscription I had from Andrew Zimmern :D

So without further ado, here are the recipes for making indoor smoker-less ribs!

Smoked Meat Rub

3/4 cup firmly packed smoked brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup smoked paprika
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 Tbsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp ground rosemary

In a large bowl, mix the ingredients thoroughly and transfer to a jar with tight fitting lid to store.

Jazzy Hog Barbecue Glaze
Makes ~1L

2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
3/4 cups ketchup
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp tamarind paste/chutney
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp American chili powder
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cumin

3 Tbsp butter

1) Mix together all the ingredients except the butter in a saucepan with a whisk over a medium low heat. Don’t let it come to a hard boil, just a few occasional light bubbles.
2) When the sugar is thoroughly dissolved turn the heat to low and stir in the butter. Because it has butter in it, you need to warm it and shake it well before you use it, and it will not keep as long in the refrigerator as sauces without butter.

Smoker-less Ribs Recipe
1 slab of baby back ribs
1/2 cup liquid smoke
1-2 tsp smoked salt
4 tsp smoked Meathead’s Memphis Dust
1 cup barbecue sauce

1) Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs and trim excess fat. Mix water with the liquid smoke and marinate the meat in this for an hour.

2) Season both sides with smoked salt and then Meathead’s Memphis Dust. [Optional: Refrigerate meat overnight after seasoning.]

3) If oven cooking: Wrap the meat in foil. Put it in a pan to catch leaks in 225°F oven for 2 hours. 

If you have a sousvide setup: Cook ribs for 5 hours @165°F/75°C in double sealed bags.

4) Second Oven Roast: After cooking time has elapsed, take the meat out of the foil, re-season ribs on both sides with Memphis Dust and put it back in the oven, meaty side up without the foil covering, to dry roast for another 2 hours at 225°F. This will firm the bark.

After SousVide: remove meat from bags, re-season both sides of ribs on both side. Put ribs in the oven meaty side up to dry roast for 2 hours @225°F.

Note: If you use thicker, heavier cuts such as spare ribs or St. Louis Cut ribs, add 1 hour to the cooking time outside the foil.

5) Turn the slab meaty side down. Slather the bone side with the barbecue glaze, turn the oven on broil and broil for 5 minutes with the oven door partially open or until the sauce bubbles, watching closely to make sure it doesn’t burn. Repeat for the meaty side. 

6) Serve!

Is it possible…?

Weird random thought of the evening: Is it possible to make a crumble/crisp/whatever you call it recipe using… carrots and/or beets??

It popped into my head earlier for some reason because once again, I’ve been inundated by a ridiculous number of carrots from our CSA.

I mean, we already know that carrots go well with warm seasonings like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, etc just because that’s what can be used in a traditional carrot cake & apple pies/crumbles/etc, right? I figured these are pretty similar, so why not just swap for apples for carrots?

Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?

Nigella’s Praised Chicken recipe

Wow.

I haven’t written about a recipe in forever. To put it mildly, I’m in a cooking rut and have been having the toughest time getting the motivation to make dinners lately. It sucks, I’m not happy about it. We’ve been resorting to soup and sandwiches for weeks, again, and I’m starting to get angsty.

Whatever.

Anyhow, just to back-story this recipe a bit: This year we got 10 chickens from Country Thyme Farm. These are not your grocery store specimens, lemme just say. Not by a long shot.

These guys are Heritage Breed chickens and they are far and away nothing at all like the stuff you would be familiar with in size, flavour and method of cooking. At least, I’m not. A long time ago, when I was in junior high/high school, we were taught about how chickens were classified for sale in Canada. They’re graded for sale dependant upon size, age, best cooking methods, etc… Nowadays, when you go to the store, you really only have one type of chicken to choose from.

Here in Calgary, the more common options that I have seen for chickens are: standard conventional commercial chickens (President’s Choice, Lilydale, un-named store chicken, etc), Hutterite chickens (I’ve only really seen at Co-Op), “Organic” labelled Chicken (President’s Choice, Costco, etc).

If you’re of the lucky few whose grocery store happens to be a little more ‘worldly’, and you’re lucky, you might be able to find other interesting prospects in the freezer section like: quail (rarely in a conventional grocery store), cornish hens, ducks and geese.

A few years ago we started to buy our meat directly from farms in whole, half or quarter-sized animals, whole ducks, geese and of course now recently, chickens.

For us, these purchases have always been great experiences and experiments, and really worth it in terms of taste and quality of meat. It’s a completely different beast when the meat you’re eating has been raised on a farm which aims to give the animal its best life possible with the healthiest diet available.

As for chickens, these are definitely more flavourful. The meat is admittedly a lot tougher than a standard grocery store bird because these guys have been living their lives outdoors running around eating bugs, enjoying the sunshine, grass and ability to roam around to their heart’s content, plus these birds are mature birds. These birds aren’t very large, but they are fully grown! I don’t think many people are aware, but nowadays, grocery store birds are not fully matured at slaughter, nor is their size normal for a bird that is confined to a limited amount of space and its only purpose in life is to become “a piece of white breast chicken meat on your plate”.

Anyhow, we were given the heads-up that these birds are not quite your normal roasting birds when we picked up the first half of our delivery, back in September. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to that key piece of information. For the first couple of birds, we just roasted them as normal or if I was feeling particularly impatient, I’d spatchcock the bird first then roast it in half the time of a normal roast chicken.

Needless to say: Bad idea. Well, not entirely true. It still tasted amazing, but it definitely not a tender bird; you knew these guys ran around all over the place when given the opportunity just by how tough and stringy the meat was. I say tough & stringy, which in my mind sounds like an awfully negative descriptor, but strangely, it’s not. It is what it is, but not in the way that you’d think of being a poorly raised bird that’s on its last legs, as it were. It’s just a really lean meat bird.

Fast forward to Sunday: The weather has officially begun turning to winter, the snow has begun to fall, the clocks were turned back an hour, and dinner was begging to be something warm and comforting — Nigella’s Praised Chicken.

I’ve always been curious about how this chicken recipe would taste and it turns out that this is probably one of the best recipes for this kind of chicken, especially in its whole bird state. It seems not a lot of people cook using a whole bird in its un-butchered state, nowadays, except in the case of a roast chicken. Most people opt for chicken pieces and leave it at that. Such a shame.

Anyhow, the recipe is ridiculously easy. All you need is a large pot, some carrots, celery, onions, a bit of your favourite herbs (I used sprigs of tarragon & a couple bay leaves), a whole chicken that’s been squished a little flat, and in my case: some thick cut bacon, a spoonful of chicken ‘better than bouillon’ base for the liquid, a few generous sploshes of white wine vinegar for the acid/wine component when deglazing the pan, plus a drizzle of tuscan-infused olive oil for extra flavour.

To serve, I would absolutely do as the recipe suggests and have it with rice. I’m not a fan of dill, so I didn’t use it in the recipe during cooking or serving. Although, please do make sure to have some good strong mustard on the side. The dijon mustard was a huge eye-opening revelation for me with this chicken.

We have a whole bunch of different kinds of mustards in our fridge, mainly because TheHubbs quite likes having options at hand (and to a lesser degree, so do I) but up until this point, I had never really put much thought into how much a mustard can impact the flavour of something depending on what kind of mustard you used. I am officially a fan of mustard options ^_^

Nigella’s Praised Chicken – My Way

1 large chicken

Garlic & Tuscan Herb-infused olive oils

4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into generous pieces

White wine vinegar

2-3 onions

2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks

1-2 stalks celery, sliced

Chicken bouillon

2L water

bay leaves, summer savory, thyme

salt & pepper, to taste

Lots of Dijon mustard (or your favourite) & rice for serving

On a chopping board put your chicken breast-side down and press down until you hear the breastbone crack. I used the lid to my super huge, oval, heavy, enamelled cast iron pot to bash the chicken until it flattened as best as possible. 
Heat the large cast iron pot over medium heat. Cook the bacon until some of the fat renders, it doesn’t need to be cooked through or crisp. Remove the bacon pieces to a bowl and add the chicken, breast side down, to brown for a few minutes. Press & squish the chicken down so that the meat makes good contact to the pot to brown nicely, then raise the heat and turn the chicken over to brown the bottom as well. Remove the chicken back to your chopping board for a bit. 

Add the bacon back to pot to render down some more fat, adding some olive oil if needed to help sauté the carrots, onions & celery until nicely caramelized. Once the veggies are cooked, deglaze the pot with white wine vinegar and let it bubble down a little before adding the chicken back to the pot, nestling it in among the veggies.

Cover the chicken with water, it’s fine if the very top of the chicken pokes out. Add the bouillon, herbs of choice, and season with salt & pepper.

The chicken should be almost completely submerged by now and if not, do add some more water. You want it pretty much covered by this point!
Bring everything to a bubble, clamp on the lid, turn the heat to low, and let it cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. 
Serve the chicken and accompanying vegetables with lots of rice, adding a ladleful or 2 of liquid over each bowl, as you go, and putting mustard on the table for the eaters to add as they wish.