Sunday, 24 May 2015

Dad's Rotisserie Pork Roast

Dad's love of entertaining and cooking for crowds has always inspired me. My childhood memories from the cabin are full of large dinners with family friends, usually involving a large peice of meat cooked on the rotisserie. I'm lucky that some of dad's cooking creedos have stuck with me: brown everything (sugar, butter, meat), always use the full fat option (cream, butter, cuts of beef), some recipes take time and the one thing I'm still trying to learn: relax in the kitchen!

I realized last weekend as we were grilling up this roast why Dad always chose it for those summer weekends when cooking for crowds: you can prep everything the night before, then by the time you're a few beers deep, all you have to do to get dinner on the table is sit out on the deck in the sun, looking like a hero as your roast sizzles to perfect doneness. I don't often cook pork, but I remeber Dad's pork roast being as good as beef. I picked this one up from Costco, it could easily have served twenty people, and cost me a total of $30! It came out so juicy and flavourful. If you've never tried it before, it's so worth it, and it's not at all like ham.

I had to trust Dad for this recipe, something that doesn't come easily to me! When he brought out the cumin and curry powder I was weary - told him I didn't want an Indian pork rub, but he just laughed and told me to trust him. What resulted was the perfect rub to compliment the pork. Using the rotisserie was easier than I expected, and I feel as though it's a dying method that no one uses anymore. I'm definitely going to bring it back this summer! We were lucky enough to share this roast with dear family and friends after a pretty classic day at Brereton - a bit of work, walking the dogs, and a lot of shooting the shit at the Kippen's picnic table.  

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Smoked Gouda and Swiss Chard Quiche - Mother's Day Brunch

It has become somewhat of a Mother's Day tradition for Dave and I to host a brunch for our mom's. I love planning a brunch menu - so many tasty and easy options. For mother's day I don't have to consider the tastes of any meat loving men, but only the tastes of my mom and mom-in-law, which happen to align very much with my own. This year I made a quiche, and replicated a recipe that I came up with for our family friend Ashli's baby shower. Ashli was a huge fan of the smoked gouda, egg and pastry combo, not really a huge surprise there though.

I haven't really given my mom full credit for her cooking abilities. I like to poke fun of her for her lack of passion in the kitchen - but I've realized that she does have a number of signature recipes that she puts her heart and soul into. One of them is Quiche Lorraine. She always makes the crust from scratch. This recipe largely uses the same ratios as the one she goes by, from her old Betty Crocker cookbook. Like my mom, I use the pastry recipe on the Tenderflake box and it has never failed me. There's no need to pre cook the curst for this one, a huge bonus in my opinion.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Drunken Mushroom Pizza

I've said it before, pizza at the cottage is always a good idea. As per usual, when you start cooking dinner at 8 pm, intending to use the BBQ, the propane runs out. Not to worry though, the small cabin  oven reaches 500 degrees Fahrenheit surprisingly quick, and at least it wasn't a sweltering hot day. 

Last year at this time there was still ice on the lake and snow on the ground. This weekend, we suntanned, Dave bathed in the lake and we put in the water at the cottage two weeks before May Long = success. It was such a bright and beautiful day for walking. No bugs yet, warm sun, but not sweltering. The dogs were in their element. We found a wonderful surprise on the shady floor of the pine forrest, almost a hundred prairie crocuses! Helllo.... Manitoba's floral emblem. 

Back to the pizza. I first tasted "drunken mushrooms" at Pizzeria Gusto. I make no claim that this  recipe is a good stand-in for a visit to Gusto's patio for the classic Sophia with a class of Santa Margherita. However, drunken mushrooms are easy to make and up the gourmet factor of pizza so long as you have at least one good cheese on hand.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

LOTW Lodge Lemon Squares

My mother will be the first to admit that my love of cooking and baking did not develop under her tutelage, but largely in the kitchens of two different fishing lodge owners, Ruth and Jenny. During university I spent two summer's working as a cabin cleaner/server/cook on Lake of the Woods and Pipestone Lake in the wilds of Northwestern Ontario. It was there that I really developed my love of cooking from scratch, and became addicted to the wonderful feeling that results when you feed hungry people hand made meals. 

As with many of my most treasured recipes, this one comes from the weekly rotation of items we'd make for the fishermen. I can't say where this recipe came from originally (comment please if you recognize it), but Ruth provided it to me when I left Lake of the Woods Lodge in the fall of 2004. For a period of time I actually lost the recipe and tried out a few different variations floating around, but none compared to the intense lemon flavour and perfect ratio of crust to curd that this one produces.

You know a recipe is good when it's requested by someone each time you bring it to a shower or celebration. Lindsay - I'm writing this post largely so I can refer you to this link when you semiannually ask for the recipe. I don't normally buy organic, but apparently when using the rind of a fruit, it's wise to buy organic to avoid the pesticides in the rind. For this I bought organic lemons. To each his own, as it could just be one of those internet urban legends that is not backed up by science in any way. I would recommend good, fresh eggs though, as they make up a large part of the square. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Leek and Gruyere Tarts

Having enjoyed a couple of 20 degree days I think we can start cautiously proclaiming that spring has arrived. Today on my morning walk with Steeler I didn't just see geese passing over head, but three white swans. The potluck gals will recall seeing two swans on the Rennie River last October, how amazing that they're already heading back for the summer! Pretty magical way to start a Tuesday. 

Leeks scream spring. Huge shocker: puff pastry, onion and cheese for dinner was a winner. This made an insanely quick and easy week night dinner. Likely considered a brunch or lunch recipe by most however as soon as the snow melts I don't mind having a smaller dinner so long as my glass of wine isn't downsized accordingly.  This rich tart should've been accompanied by a salad, but that wasn't in the cards given what we had in the fridge. I didn't make the puff pastry from scratch. When it comes already rolled out in parchment from Safeway or Sobey's freezer section, why bother. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Spinach and Eggs en Cocotte

We just returned from an extravagant and fun filled week in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. After an overnight flight home, it was slim pickings in the fridge when we woke up early Easter Sunday morning. Thank goodness for eggs, rye and a chunk of leftover pecorino.

It wasn't exactly grilled langostino on a private yacht (shameless braggy trip photos below)... but these baked eggs made a great comforting post-all-inclusive breakfast. Dave and I generally go to church two times a year - Easter and Christmas - after spending the past two Easters sitting in the pew with a growling stomach aching for breakfast - this year I made sure to go in full.

Eggs en Cocotte are essentially eggs baked and served in a heat proof dish. I have an obsession with  recipes made in individual servings. Any ramekin or heat proof container will work. If you've had the baked eggs at Stella's you already know the comforting heaven that is two eggs slowly baked with cheese. I use this recipe at least once a month when I have totally random things in the fridge. You can use any cheese, and any other additions (I've previously used smoked gouda, goat cheese, sliced tomatoes, leftover carmalized onions, avocado).

Monday, 23 March 2015

Moms Retirement Dinner

My insanely beautiful mother is retiring this week after 37 years of working full time. I know this is a recipe blog but I wanted to write a quick post to share some photos of the dinner party we hosted for her last Sunday. Mom had a great time, surrounded by her dearest friends.

We made a long table runner out of old photos of mom (thank you Pinterest), easily printed on a black and white printer. The cake was probably my favourite part of the whole dinner.

I used the rosette technique and buttercream recipe developed by i am baker found here. With rosette cakes you use a lot of sweet buttercream so I've found it's best to go with something less rich for the actual cake. I made a sort-of angel food cake with raspberry and blackberry mouse filling, by modifying the recipe found here. The filling was very light and tart so it worked well with the vanilla buttercream.

When I don't want to stress about appetizers - the best go to is a cheese board. Expensive, but so easy and beautiful. My friend Laneil is a master cheese board assembler so I tend to poach her ideas. The orange things are physalis fruit, which were found at Vic's. My fav cheeses: caramelized onion cheddar (aka heroin or crack cheese), aged gruyere, fresh mozzarella and dubliner.

Along with copious amounts of wine, we passed around blood orange margaritas to start. As usual, my younger brother Glen was keen to come over early and help. The poor guy was tasked with juicing 6 blood oranges and upwards of 10 limes. They were made by combining two parts tequila, one part triple sec, 2 parts fresh juice, and a squeeze of agave, shaken over.

For dinner we started with a procuitto melon salad. Made by placing a handful of arugula on each plate, drizzling over olive oil and balsamic, chopped canteloup and topping with a prosciutto crisp and grated pecorino. Note my amazing brother assiting again. Not pictured: homemade, warm breadsticks.

Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Dates

I call them my "potluck girls" but really, after over ten years of friendship, I'm not going to try to express on a food blog what they mean to me. Last Friday, we had the pleasure of watching our friend Kaitlyn be The Bachelorette in a dating game at a local bar. Luckily, Gill's baby boy Ryder was in attendance (our first potluck baby) at the pre-game to provide a male perspective to the outfit selection process. He obviously approved of the little black dress. I suspect he won't always enjoy attending our potlucks. 

I forgot how fun it is to eat snacks on the couch while your friend models her outfit options for the night. It felt like we were right back in high school, only difference being that one of our offspring was present and we weren't pounding raspberry vodka and five cent candies. After years of potlucking this is not the first time these ladies tasted stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto. Isn't it fantastic when a few simple ingredients combine to make a killer snack? This "recipe" has been passed back and forth many times, everyone puts their own spin on it. Ever since first tasting it at my friend Lori's house, I was sold on the concept. It takes a bit of time to make each individual bite but it's very simple. Because each piece is so easy to grab, it's one of my top go-tos for parties. 

An alarming side effects of transitioning from your twenties to thirties is the new found comfort level for eating savoury cheese and meat in the same mouthful as dried fruit. The craving for salty/sweet seems to intensify with each passing year. Add in the additional contrast of textures - soft and chewy with the crunch of an almond, and let the addiction begin. For some reason I'm still not down with the meaty, chewy texture of uncooked prosciutto, so I always roast these little guys before serving to crisp it up, but that's your call. I used goat cheese here, but if I was making them for the chèvre-averse (husband) I would use a herbed cream cheese or Boursin. You can find dates pre packaged, but also usually in the bulk section, which is ideal because then you can hand select the biggest, best ones.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Wild Blueberry Cordial - Part One

I am one lucky lady. At the cabin a few weekends ago my Dad's very thoughtful girlfriend Donna gifted me a ziplock bag full of wild Whiteshell blueberries she hand picked in summer and froze. Last year was a fantastic year for blueberries in our little corner of the Canadian Shield, but with the bumper crop of berries also came a mosquito invasion that made foraging unbearable. Knowing the effort that went into picking those berries made the gift just that much sweeter.

 I brain stormed for a few long weeks about how to honour the blueberries. Plans for pie, muffins or coffee cake crossed my mind. But booze is always the right answer. Cordial takes about two months to develop, so this batch will be ready just in time for Mother's Day and my Dad's birthday. Best way to ensure I will continue to get a cut of Dad's foraged bounty - turn it into booze and share it with him. It helps that last weekend Dave's Oma gave me a box full of stunning antique mason jars.

I considered actually making my own alcohol with the berries, by starting from scratch using yeast. But the risk of wasting the bounty on an experimental recipe freaked me out. Making a cordial using vodka is fool proof. I made a similar recipe last Christmas using over ripe blackberries and loved the results. This time to compliment the blueberries, and jump on the herbal cocktail band wagon, I'm trying one jar with mint and one with rosemary. This is a very loose recipe, you can use any fruit and flavours you can think of, and the ratios are far from strict.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Tarte Flambee on Cracker Thin Crust

If like me, you have an unhealthy obsession with the cracker thin crust pizza that's prevalent around these parts, cut into those familiar squares (think Gondola or Niakwa), then you can understand how excited I was to stumble upon this crust recipe. Amy Theilen, the loveable host of The Food Network's Heartland Table, has won me over in a serious way. She seems so authentic, and she's one of the few female cooking show hosts that doesn't give me the urge to smash my TV after a half hour episode (a la Pioneer Woman or Farmhouse Rules). When I read about her long time struggle to reproduce the crust we're so used to in the prairies, I was so excited to try the recipe. Her secret is to use no yeast.

The result was even better then I expected, and I plan to use it exclusively for pizza now. A few pages over from the crust recipe, contained in her debut cookbook The New Midwestern Table, was a recipe for Tarte Flambee, a French dish that Dave pointed out tastes like an ideal intersection of quiche lorraine and pizza. The few simple ingredients combine to make a savoury, decadent lunch, best served with a fresh salad.

To accomplish a high quality result you will need a pizza stone, parchment paper and high heat. As much as I'm into restaurant quality at-home-pizza, I refuse to buy a pizza peel (the oversized wooden spatula) - that would just be going a little too far, even for me. I managed without.  I was inspired by Amy's recipe, but made a few small tweaks to make it easier. I used part buttermilk in the crust because I had it for the toppings, but you could use all water if you don't have buttermilk on hand.