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Dueling Aji Amarillo Salsas

I really love the scorching hot, Peruvian, yellow hot pepper called aji amarillo. It really has a unique flavour and the bright yellow colour makes everything it touches look really pretty which, in turn, makes everything it touches taste great. If you look good, you feel good.

I was introduced to this spicy little devil by our good friend, the MVP (Most Valuable Peruvian) when he made us papa a la huancaina. I watched him make this very traditional dish for us and, at the time, I was dying a little inside because all I was seeing was a bunch of bland, white food. Boiled, sliced potatoes, sliced hard boiled eggs, a bowl of queso fresco and some milk - omg, how was I going to eat this without making my bad face? The worst part was how exited he was for us to taste  this special dish that he was clearly infusing with unadulterated Peruvian love. He put the cheese, milk and some of these frozen aji amarillo peppers in the blender as he told us that it is virtually impossible to have these peppers in their natural state in Canada but luckily, he knows where he can buy them frozen. He blended the sauce and it turned a pretty pale yellow, which, next to the bland looking plate of boiled potato and egg, was the most colourful thing going. He poured the thick, cold, yellow sauce over the potato and egg and set the platter in the middle of the table while his entire family salivated, forks at the ready to dig in.  It was truly the LEAST appetizing looking plate of food I had seen in years. I politely took a tiny portion, plastered my best fake excited expression on my face (which is not entirely convincing at the best of times) and took a tiny bite, wracking my brain for something nice to say about this monstrosity.


That sauce literally exploded in my mouth and I might have actually yelped as I elbowed his children out of the way so I could fill my plate with this ambrosia. In the end, I was thankful that the only thing under this powerhouse of a sauce was a plate of boiled potato and egg because anything else would have competed with the huancaina sauce. Basically, the potato and egg are just excuses to get the spicy, slightly grainy while still being creamy sauce in you. After this experience, I knew I had to start experimenting with this magical, Peruvian pepper so the MVP bought me a jar of the paste and, later on, brought me a little bag of hot aji amarillo sauce from Peru that they use at the table on everything. I have made up my own homage to our friend in the form of my MVP sauce and I often just throw a spoonful of the hot sauce into bowls of soup or on top of scrambled eggs just like any other hot sauce.

 We were eating dinner at the home of our MVP family this summer when they served us a platter of grilled meat served with a scallion sauce that had lots of aji amarillo in it. Although the meat, itself, was delicious, I ate it as an excuse to keep eating the sauce and if I had been at home and not a guest in someone's house, I might have just grabbed a big ass spoon and ate the whole bowl as is.

After we came home I kept thinking about it. I had to make it but I couldn't get hold of my MVP to find out exactly what he put in it so I improvised. I knew he had  aji amarillo and olive oil in there but after that I couldn't remember. Over the next two weeks I experimented with it until I ended up with my two favourite sauces. They are kind of different so you will know which way you roll - you are either a smoother basil person or like a bit more radishy bite and cilantro. OR you could make them both, which is what I have been doing. Don't just eat this stuff on steak because it's great on baked potatoes, on scrambled eggs, in an omelet, on some basmati rice or on a taco, on a fox or in a box.

Scallion Aji Amarillo Salsa

3 scallions, sliced thinly
approx1  tbls chopped, fresh basil
3 tbls olive oil
2 tbls white balsamic
pinch salt
1 tsp aji amarillo or to taste

Mix everything together in a bowl and let sit at least an hour.

Scallion Radish Aji Amarillo Salsa

3 scallions, sliced thinly
2 radishes, julliened (I used a plain radish and a small watermelon radish)
approx 2 tbls chopped cilantro
3 tbls olive oil
2 tbls white balsamic
1 tbls water
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp aji amarillo or to taste

mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and let sit at least an hour.

*a note about aji amarillo - I have a jarred paste and I have a salsa in a bag. It really is worth looking for if you have any sort of latin american markets you can peruse because it has a very distinct flavour and I love the deep yellow it imparts to everything. If you just can't find this stuff you can use another hot chili that you know you like to use already but it won't taste the same. I have read a bunch of different things about what you can use to substitute but my Peruvian friends say that is crap and you can't substitute it. If you must, order some online. It's really like no other chili.
can't decide? Put one version on your potato and the other on your meat

The Week in Yum Sept 20-27

This has not been a week of yum but a week of sad. If you read my blog, you have probably heard the odd story about our crazy dog, Reno. If you actually know me and follow me on facebook, you have definitely read about her. She has been our faithful, loving companion for over 10 years since we rescued her at the age of 2ish from death row when my giant son was only a tiny four year old boy. It was a rough start because she was totally off her rocker (which is why nobody else wanted to adopt her and she was slated for the gas chamber) and it took a lot of hard work on the part of our family and her wonderful vet, tons of money and lots of experiments with different drugs until we found out that a healthy daily dose of human prozac was the only thing that turned her into something resembling a normal dog. After 2 pretty relaxed years with her, she had her first seizure while we were visiting family 3 hours away and in grand Reno style, she didn't just have one seizure, she had them pretty much every hour on the hour until we got her back to Toronto and to the emergency animal hospital to get it under control. At this point we added epileptic to her list of problems and her vet (who acted mainly as her shrink to be honest) proclaimed her a "complicated girl". Over the years her incessant chewing of her back legs caused a HUGE, digusting baseball sized lump to grow on one one of them which effectively ended her modelling career. She later grew a lump on her front paw to compensate for the removal of the huge rear growth and then, just for good measure, another big warty lump on her gum, right in the front where everyone could gaze upon it. Every time she saw Reno, the vet would shake her head and chuckle (yes she actually chuckled so shut it) and say "oh Reno, you are one lucky dog"

My poor little lemon of a dog has given us a couple of huge scares this year and we have rushed her to the vet at least twice, expecting to not be bringing her home again. Both times, she had to be carried into the car, looking like she was on death's door, only to have her jump up the second she realized where we were and hop out of the car and then spend the next twenty minutes pacing nervously up and down in the office, looking fit and neurotic as a fiddle.

This summer, we realized that she was completely deaf which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For the first time in her life, she would sleep contentedly right through fireworks and thunderstorms and if she was poking around in the front yard she didn't try to murder every dog that came by because she could no longer hear the tinkle of their tags as they dared to walk past her home. She also started showing signs of dementia and would wake up in the middle of the night and start barking at nothing. You would notice that she would walk into the kitchen and then just stand there, staring at the floor, like she couldn't recall why she had even went in there in the first place. If she were human, she had turned into that aunt we all have that can't find her purse because she put in the freezer.

We had another scare about ten days ago that resulted in another tearful drive to the vet but ended in a bazillion dollars in supplements for her menopause and her stinky, dry skin and one crazy, alive old dog who was still hanging in there. Despite the fact that we were originally warned that we would be lucky if she lived to see 6 or 7 because of all of the drugs she had to take, we were blessed with a full decade with our nutty, stinky, beloved old pooch. Because I am a sick individual with a bad case of gallows humour, I have threatened to put her down on a daily basis for years but when you are actually looking that option in the face, it is a terrible, awful, no good day.

This week, after a very rapid decline, my baby girl died this week and so you will understand that I do not recall eating anything, I did not taste anything interesting and the only things I cooked were Reno's favourite people foods in an attempt to tempt her to eat something. I think that I have pinned a few things and shared somethings on facebook but this week has all been a blur so I am not even going to go back and see what I have done. If you are not a dog person, you will not understand the level of sorrow experienced when you lose your most loyal companion and I am sorry for that because there is nothing and no one in the world that will adore you as unconditionally as a dog from the day you take it into your home until they day they leave it. Only with a dog can you literally kick it in the head and the dog will come right back to you, head down, trusting you to not do it again. Okay, I am not advocating kicking a dog to find out if that is true or not just like I don't really mean that I have tasted poop when I declare something tastes like shit. Even The Kid, who I am pretty sure loves us a lot, started to sometimes doubt us and give us the occasional side eye by the time he was past toddlerhood but Reno loved us whole heartedly and put her life in our hands right up until her very last breath.

yes, I know I have a terrible sense of humour but she was cool with it

I no longer have anyone to yell at all day, to talk to while we rattle around in an empty house while the menfolk are at work and at school,  to lecture, to watch CNN with, to listen to me bitch about Wolf Blitzer's cadence and to cuddle with me on the couch with while I play Words with Friends. She was a champion stealer of food, lover of Ruffle Chips with Helleva Dip, hater of bananas, chronic chewer of legs, epic farter and clearer of rooms, wake the dead snorer and the poster dog for OCD. Like her humans, she was a  big personality has left a very big hole in their lives.

Spicy Turkey Burgers

I realize that summer is on the way out the door and it's probably a bit late to be busting out another burger recipe now. Where was this tasty turkey burger recipe a month ago, huh??

Well, this has been a weird summer for us and we haven't even grilled all that much. The weather has been wacky, Shack has been working too much and we have been on a terrible eating schedule with too many days of super late lunches and then no real dinners. Better late than never though.

I don't know where the original recipe for these things came from so I can't give credit because I have been making them and tweaking the original recipe for years. For the most part, I have a hard time selling a poultry burger to Shack. He likes his burgers out of freshly ground beef with nothing but a good whack of salt and always says turkey burgers are dry. Of course, every time I make these ( I never actually tell him we are having turkey burgers before hand so he can't complain) he eats it with gusto and appears to love them. I like it because I can actually eat an entire burger without getting a tummy ache, which often happens with a regular burger. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the taste of beef but if I eat too much of it at one sitting, it doesn't always end well for me.

These make a great lunch for The Kid as well, so I always make the full recipe, cook 3 or 4 or them for dinner and then I pop the rest in the freezer so I can take one out when I want to send it in his magical thermos bento. To freeze them, I put a piece of parchment on a tray and lay the burgers out on top. If you freeze them like this, you can pop the frozen burgers into a freezer bag and just take out one at a time as needed. I have found these amazing freezer bags called Ziplock Perfect Portions and I am using them like crazy. I hate it when I put items like these burgers into a bag and then once I open it once to get a burger out, air gets in and the remaining items start getting freezer burn. These bags seems to put a stop to that problem and, therefore, I love them. 

You can also use this turkey mixture to make meatloaf or meatballs if that appeals to you. If you make it into a meatloaf or meatballs, just throw in two beaten eggs and a cup of fresh bread crumbs, brush some thai sweet chili sauce on top before you bake it and you are golden.

These burgers are mildly spicy as is but feel free to add more jalapeno pepper and I think the original recipe called for an entire tbls of dry hot mustard so you can go up to a tbls safely. I cut it back a bit because of The Kid, although he is getting better about heat in his food all time. They are juicy and full of flavour and I really love the crunch and the touch of acidity that the pickled vegetables add as well. If you are going to make the pickled daikon and carrot make it in the morning if you can't actually make it the day before. It really needs a full day to sit at the very least.

Spicy Turkey Burgers

makes 8 burgers

2 pounds lean ground turkey
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
2 fresh green chile peppers,diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finelychopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tsp ground dry hot mustard
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 dash Worcestershire sauce

Thai sweet chili sauce 

Preheat the grill 

Mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl. Lightly oil the grate and grill them for about 5 minutes per side or until done (the juice will run clear)

Toast your buns lightly and put some thai sweet chili sauce on the bottom bun before topping it with a turkey burger. Mound some pickled daikon and carrot on the burger and put on the top bun.

freeze raw burgers individually on a tray and throw in a freezer bag

The Week In Yum Sept 14-20

chocolate caramel treat from Devonne Sitzer @ Le Catrin

After last week's week in Yuck, anything is going to look like an improvement but this week really was much better. For starters, although my asthma means that the previous week's plague is still making me cough my head off, I am no longer sick and that is fantastic. I have managed to NOT gain back the five pounds I lost while being sick and that is fantastic as well. I also got to have dinner at my favourite thai restaurant, The Salad King, with my good friend Liz and that was doubly fantastic. As Liz said afterwards
 " I think it tastes better when you pay for it. We attacked that food like we were savage beasts. "

If you have not eaten at The Salad King before and you like thai food, I suggest you run right out this week and fix that problem. Because it was just the two of us, we didn't have to wimp out either and we had FIVE CHILI (rated Watch Out on the menu) green curry chicken and pad thai. Salad King has a chili rating system that goes from 1 chili which they call nice up to 20 chili which may cause stomache upset. When I am with my family unit, we have to stick to 2 chilis which lies between nice and start mopping your brow because they are delicate creatures. I have no pictures of our food because we both jammed our faces into it before the server could even place it on the table so unless I was going to show you the post meal carnage, there was no point. Trust me, it's the shiz.

thank god for one pot pasta

It was a much better week in the kitchen as well. Sunday I made spicy turkey burgers (recipe coming soon), Monday The Kid and I had miso soup with soba noodles and shrimp instead of take out falafel and Thursday night I made a one pot pasta with my spicy almond pesto and shrimp. Now that he is back in school, life has settled into a more consistent routine and he is actually eating three squares a day again. I can take my mom badge back out of the lock box, polish it up and slap it back on my bosom.

Wednesday I had dinner and cocktails at El Catrin with my OG Gastroposters , Libby Roach and Robyn from Planet Byn and a new cohort, Cindy who does not yet blog but she does participate in Gastropost.

what dinner out looks like with food bloggers

The food was tasty but the portions are miniscule so, in the end, we actually drank more than we ate which isn't always a bad thing but if you are going there hungry, bring extra cash because you will have to order lots of food. I had two mezscal cocktails and the first one was incredible. It was called a Miel Quemada-Burnt Honey and I could drink one every day for the rest of my life and die a happy woman. The second was the blackberry meszcal cocktail and I didn't enjoy that nearly as much so when I go back, and I will (I promised Sven, our waiter, that I would) I will stick to the burnt honey.

from the top: Mexican Chocolate bar, Ancho Chil Brulee, Mexican Fudge and Tres Leches Cake

Capirotada(Mexican bread pudding) and churros with sauces

Because Libby's best friend, Devonne Sitzer, is the pastry chef we were showered with amazing desserts. Truly, it was enough to feed 8 people or more and I felt terrible leaving as much as we did but we were all lapsing into sugar comas by the time we finished. I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite because two of my favourite things were there. Her tres leche cake was sooooo comforting and moist and milky and delicious but her Mexican Chocolate Bar was crazy pants. She smokes the dark chocolate and does all sorts of hazelnutty things to it so that you get a rich, dark chocolate taste in your mouth with a hint of smoke and then after you swallow, a slight burn from the chili starts to warm up the back of your throat. I will go back for drinks and dessert for sure. It's also a beautiful space with great service and the tiny portions are delicious, just tiny.

look at those tiny burgers which are basically cupcakes with a brownie wedged in there

I am thrilled to welcome some Yum back into my life this week.

My favourite pin: oh my god, please make these for me somebody out there

My favourite facebook share: I ate my weight in tortilla when I lived in Spain. Go eat some.

my favourite instagram: It's an older photo but I just found it this week - am loving pissinginthepunchbowl

My favourite food find: This cake slicing kit is pretty cool

My favourite tweet:

Charred Corn Preserved Lemon Chowder

I grew up in London, Ontario which always felt like the Land of Corn to me. We took all of that abundant, sweet, peaches and cream corn for granted and we ate it at ever single meal from the first day it showed up at the store until the very last cobs were snatched up in early fall. My mom never did anything fancy with it, we just ate lightly boiled, buttered and salted corn on the cob. A 1 pound block of butter was set aside and sat out on the table just for rolling your corn in and if you had delicate fingers you could use those little corn on the cob holders that actually looked like tiny, plastic corn on the cob.Believe it or not, my dad had no teeth and that man could destroy a buttery cob of corn like it was nobody's business and barely leave a kernel on the cob when he was done with it. True story.

It's coming to the end of corn season so we need to find ways to enjoy the last of it. I had already grilled the corn for my charred corn/scallion salsa so that was already done but you can either grill it on the bbq or even just on a grill pan. If it's fresh sweet corn, you don't need to par boil it or anything, just grill it until you get some nice brown spots on it. You can make it without doing that step but it looks so pretty to see those tiny little charred bits and it gives the soup a nice, smoky flavour. You can also substitute the condensed milk for milk or cream but I like to get the creaminess of cream without all that fat so I almost always use carnation milk myself. Of course, because preserved lemon is my new jam, it's in there too, giving every other mouthful a tart little yelp in your mouth because that's it's job and preserved lemon knows how to get the job done.

Charred Corn and Preserved Lemon Chowder

5 cobs of fresh corn, grilled
5 cups chicken stock

3 slices bacon, chopped
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
chicken stock that you steeped the corn in
corn from the five cobs of corn (4 cups)
about 1 1/2 cups diced potato
1 hot pepper or to taste (i used a jalepeno), diced finely
the rind of 1 small preserved lemon, chopped finely
about 1/2 cup 2% carnation condensed milk
fresh parsely
pinch salt and a few grinds of black pepper

you can either grill your corn over your bbq or in a grill pan. Either way, take those grilled cobs and cut the nicely charred corn kernels off of the cobs and set the kernels aside.

Put the cobs in a pot and cover with the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn it down to med low so it just barely simmering and let the corn cobs steep in the stock for at least an hour to really impart the stock with their corny goodness.

Remove and discard the cobs and set the stock aside.

When it's time to make the soup, heat a soup pot over med heat and fry up your bacon. When the bacon is nice and crispy, remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside for garnishing later on. You want to saute the leeks in the bacon fat so make sure there is at least a tbls or so in there. If there seems to be too much fat, remove some but leave 1 to 2 tbls of fat in there. Saute your leeks until they get nice and soft before you add the garlic. After letting it cook a couple more minutes pour in the reserved stock, salt and pepper the corn kernels, diced potato and the hot pepper along with the preserved lemon rind. Bring it to a boil and lower heat until it's just simmering and let it cook until the potato is soft - about 10 or 15 minutes should do it. Stir in the condensed milk and the fresh parsely and taste so you can adjust the salt and pepper

To serve, sprinkle the soup with some of the crispy bacon

So, About Vietnamese BBQ Pork with Corn Scallion Salsa

I wrote a post about ten lunch ideas for those of us with kids who aren't picky and who like to take a hot lunch to school. In order to put my money where my mouth is, I realized that I couldn't make his very first lunch for his very first day of high school a boring old smoked meat sandwich like I was kind of wanting to do. Instead I practiced what I preach and I made Vietnamese BBQ for dinner the night before so he could take it for lunch the next day. Okay, so I also made it because i LOVE to eat it myself but still, If I am going to get back into the swing of things, that is going to have include not only cooking dinner every night but doing that with an eye towards The Kid's lunch the next day.

This is a regular staple around here and I have published this recipe before on my old blog, NoReEats. I have been combing the archives over there more lately and I am going to regularly start reposting the recipes that stuck that I am still making now a couple of years later on. Just the fact that I am still actually cooking after spending a year of never repeating a recipe is a testament to my love of food, frankly. It is a kissing cousin to my Vietnamese Pork  Meatballs and a similar version with chicken - it's all about meat with sticky, sugary outsides and lemongrassy insides.

Because I also had a dozen beautiful stalks of Ontario sweet corn, I made a charred corn salsa to go with our pork instead of the more traditional pickled carrot and daikon and it was a perfect match.

you don't need to do the corn/scallion thing all the time of course, it's tasty on it's own

Although I really like chinese bbq pork, nothing beats vietnamese bbq for me and I order a side of it almost every time I go out for pho. It's like pork candy. Whenever I go for pho, I try to get a side order of bbq to bring home with me but sometime's it's nice to make it myself. This recipe isn't quite as sweet and sticky as the restaurant pork but it's also probably a bit healthier and it's just as tasty, just not quite as crack like.

 If I can't actually cook in outside, it's still really good made on the grill pan indoors. Because we have a charcoal grill only, we don't bbq much at all in the dead of winter and, let's be honest, Shack is the BBQ man so when he is not here, it really takes a huge effort for me to go to the trouble of starting a charcoal fire and grilling just for The Kid and I. I wanted to get the corn nice and charred anyway so it was totally worth it to fire up the Q.

Vietnamese BBQ Lemongrass Pork With Corn/Scallion Salsa

adapted from the ravenous couple

2 pork tenderloins
1/4 cup minced lemongrass
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbls fish sauce
few grinds of black pepper
3 cloves garlic
3 tbls sesame oil
1 tbls kecap manis ( i am not sure what thick soy sauce is but this is what I use)
3 tbls toasted sesame seeds (optional)
chopped dry roasted peanuts as garnish optional

Grilled Corn/Scallion Salsa
for each serving:
1 cob grilled corn
1 scallion
pinch kosher salt
juice from 1/2 lime
approx 1 tbls chopped cilantro

I chopped up 3" of lemongrass stalk and then whizzed it up in the bullet   - do enough that you end up with 1/4 cup of the minced lemongrass.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the sesame seeds, to your food processor or blender or bullet and whiz it up until its completely blended.

Slice the pork into thin slices, probably about 1/4" or so and then pour the marinade all over the pork, mix it well making sure that every inch of each piece of pork is coated. Cover and put it in the fridge for at least an hour up to 24 hrs.

If you are grilling the meat on the bbq, thread the meat onto skewers (either metal or presoaked wooden) and lay out on a platter and sprinkle the sesame seeds over them if you are using them. I love sesame seeds but it is great without them too if they aren't your thing. Get your grill nice and hot and cook the skewers for about 3 minutes per side.


You can heat a grill pan (or just a heavy sauté pan if you don't have a grill pan) over medium high heat and grill the pork for a couple of minutes per side. You could also broil it. If you want charred bits but want to cook it on the stove top you can just throw it under a really hot broiler for a minute before you serve it. Again, if you are using the sesame seeds, sprinkle them over the top side of the pork after you lay them out on the hot grill pan. Cook for about 3 minutes per side.

For last night's dinner, I also grilled corn on the cob. If the corn is really young and fresh, you don't need to do anything but remove the husk and throw the naked corn cob right on a hot grill until you get some nice brown spots and take it back off. Young corn is so tender that you can basically eat it raw so there is no need to par  boil or cook in the husks or anything. I cut the kernels from the cob and tossed them with sliced scallion, a squeeze of lime, a pinch of salt and some cilantro and sprinkled that over the pork.

We eat it with rice, over vermacelli noodles and it's great in a bahn mi style sandwich.

The Week in Yum Sept 7-13

my Lindt Angels provided me with the only food of the day at TIFF

On Saturday I worked TIFF which usually equals famine I  but ate lots of yummy food at my neice's 1 year birthday party later that evening. My brother in law is a master in the kitchen and he fed everyone until they couldn't move.

Preserving Your Summer Herbs

greek oregano in olive oil

I know we are all sad that summer is coming to an end. After this weekend, The Kid starts high school, I start working on TIFF and Shack will most likely start working on whatever movie he is working on until after Christmas. We will settle into a routine and it will all be fine but today, as I stood in my garden with a pair of scissors and a big bowl, harvesting my herbs, I wanted to roll up into a ball and throw a massive tantrum. I don't want to stop wearing flip flops. I don't want to wear pants or cute jackets - okay, I am kind of ready for jeans and cute jackets but that's it. I love summer and this day signifies the impending end to hot summer nights drinking wine on the porch so I hate it.

The Great Canadian Food Experience Project - My Most Cherished Canadian Recipe is Poutine

It's time for my monthly post for The Great Canadian Food Experience Project where Canadian bloggers from across our nation write about a different subject each month. This month we are sharing our cherished canadian recipes. As I have said before, I didn't grow up eating anything particularly Canadian or worth sharing so it wasn't until I moved to Montreal that I discovered this regional cooking thing. I will be honest and admit that I lived there for over two years before I tried poutine. I was super health conscious and rarely ate fried foods or junk food and I kind of thought poutine sounded disgusting. Of course, one night - well wee hours of the morning really- after a couple of drinks I was convinced to try my friend's poutine.

Holy life changing experience batman. I am so happy that poutine has become "a thing" and you can find it everywhere now. You can find super fancy pants, gourmet poutine with stewed lamb shank , artisan virgin goat milk curd and deep fried organic potato frites, fried in duck fat imported from the south of France on foot. I like to go all the way from the highest high down to down and dirty chip truck poutine made with gravy. Poutine has become the catchword for anything that involves some sort of crispy potato, some sort of cheese and some sort of saucy topping to melt the cheese.

We eat things here in Ontario that are called poutine that are not really poutine at all. We eat a ton of fries with gravy that happen to have some sort of cheese thrown in there, often grated mozzarella or bright orange cheddar. The way I learned to make it in Quebec was NOT with gravy but with a veloute that they just called "sauce" (pronounced closer to Sowse) made with either poultry or veal stock, often with something a little sour in it, like vinegar which helps to balance out the richness of the dish. Traditional poutine will rarely use an actual red meat based gravy like they do here in Ontario. In fact, one of my favourite poutines can be found at Montreal Poutine in Old Montreal and their sauce is completely vegetarian and they use some tamari in it which is why I started to add the splash of soy sauce at the end with great success.  I am also sure that there will be people who will argue with me about the gravy issue but I am only sharing what I learned from my Quebecois friends during my years of living in Montreal, who took their poutine sauce very seriously indeed.

Again, if you are not using cheese curd and it is missing the wonderful squeek that the curds provide, it's not really poutine. It's just fries with grated cheese and gravy which is also tasty but it's not poutine. The rubbery, squeaky curds don't actually melt, they just soften and pull out and get really gooey and chewy after you pour the hot sauce on top.

I am not going to get all fancy here and I am sure I will not be the only one to share a poutine recipe either but for me, poutine is as Canadian as it gets and I could not love it more. I don't deep fry at home so I make crispy oven roasted fries or wedges but if I can find nice fingerling potatoes, that is what I use. If you can use local potatoes and local cheese curds, it is absolutely BLEEDING fresh maple leaf blood. I like to get my curds from Ruth Klahsen at Monforte Cheese in Millbank. Okay, I don't drive out to Millbank for it because she sells her delicious cheeses at all of my local farmer's markets. Top your local cheese curds and thyme kissed roasted fingerlings with a chicken veloute and you have got yourself one delicious Canadian classic.

Fingerling Poutine

about 1 1/4 lb of fingerling potatoes
glug of olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
about ten sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbls butter
2 tbls flour
4 cups of chicken stock

splash cider vinegar (about 2 tsp and up to a full tbls)
dash of soy sauce

cheese curds (we used sheep milk curds but as long as they are curds you are good)

To make the sauce, melt 2 tbls butter in a pot and stir in the 2 tbls of flour. Cook the roux for a few minutes before adding in the chicken stock and the vinegar. Stir really well to make sure there are no lumps and simmer the sauce until it's reduced by half. When it's done, add a splash of soy sauce (just a splash) and set aside, keeping it warm in a covered pot on low.

Toss the fingerling potatoes with the olive oil, salt and fresh thyme (rub the leaves off the thyme and discard the stems).
Meanwhile,  heat the oven to 425F. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil, salt and thyme. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, shaking the pan a few times to prevent burning.

For each serving put some hot potatoes in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Scatter a handful of curds over top and then ladle over some hot chicken sauce.

The Week in Yum Aug 31- Sept 6

Friday night back to Xola in The Beach.

I so want this place to thrive and stay in the beach and it warms my heart to see it packed every evening so I really hope that they are getting repeat business. I have been three times and each time there was something wrong and that breaks me heart. Last night I had to send my margarita back because it was so sour I couldn't drink it and at $9/drink, I want to be able to love it. The sangria I got instead was so delicious that if I were alone I might have ordered a pitcher to myself and called it dinner but I really hate having to send something back and it starts things off on a bad footing.

The food was great and the portions are enough for me but The Kid and Shack both left hungry - maybe if they threw in the rice and black beans which cost next to nothing to make, it would round the meal out and make it more filling. As it stands now, adding rice and beans will ding me $4, added to the $15  tacos and if you want more tortillas (some people like to double up on them so they don't fall apart), that's another $2. Suddenly you find yourself with a $19+ entree and, knowing The Beach, people expect to waddle away from the table with a broken zipper after spending $20 pp before drinks or apps.

Don't get me wrong, I love the food and I don't mind slowish service but I am afraid the downfall will be the money spent to fill me up ratio and that breaks me heart.

Saturday brought about a day I have been waiting for for almost a decade - an invitation arrived to join the Dickey family to help them make their famous Dickey's Dills! I could barely contain myself and if you have ever had the good fortune to taste one of these pickles, you would understand my glee. I now have my own stash of dickey's dills in my pantry and in about 6 week I am going to be a very popular girl indeed.

Ten School Lunches for Adventurous Eaters

Even though The Kid is going into grade 9 and could probably make his own lunches by now, I still enjoy doing it. Until he started grade 7 he ate a hot lunch at school so I have really only being doing the daily packed lunch thing for 2 years and I haven't had a chance to burn out. That is probably the only reason why I don't abhor the grind of packing a lunch to be honest. Even if you are sick of it, these kids have to eat so I like to make it a bit easier on myself.

Onigiri Revisited

It's September and school starts in two days so all of sudden, I have ten months of packed lunches looming ahead of me. I am fortunate that my kid will eat just about anything I make for him so I can have a bit of fun with his lunches, use up bits of leftovers and not get all stressed out about it. If that wasn't the case, he would totally be packing his own lunch by now but because I still enjoy doing it, I will continue to feed him during high school.

I am combing through all of my old posts for inspiration and found  this one which was originally posted on NoReEats, my year long experiment of never repeating a recipe. This recipe was posted in August of 2011 on that blog and I have updated the photos and tweaked the recipe a bit to put it here.

One of The Kid's favourite snacks is something called onigiri and it is a great thing to send in his lunch. I can make it before bedtime and pack it up the next morning. For this batch, I had some leftover curry chicken from our curry chicken udon noodles and used some of that to stuff in them. If you have never tried onigiri, they are just japanese sticky rice balls (the same rice you use to make sushi but you don't season it with the vinegar/sugar mixture). You put in a cute, little mold, fill with a bit of meat or fish or something and the wrap in a strip of nori (the seaweed sheets you use to make sushi). You can use anything to fill them, even tuna salad or some ham and it makes a really easy lunch item to pack for your kids too. I make california roll onigiri on mornings when I am too lazy to make actual california rolls to pack in his lunch. If your kid doesn't like meat or fish, you can just use a bit of vegetable or even nothing at all. Some kids just like a big rice ball without any filling at all.

You can pick up these onigiri molds in any japanese or korean store and if you don't have one close by, you can order them online at a ton of places. This one even comes with a case so you don't have to wrap it in saran wrap. If you have young kids who appreciate fun looking food, you can buy these molds in all sorts of shapes like hello kitty and panda bears (you might not be able to wrap them in nori if you are using fancy shapes though)

my onigiri mold
makes 4 med sized onigiri
1 cup sushi rice
1 cup water
ponch salt
a couple tbls of filling of your choice
furikake to taste - my kid loves it so i use a generous amount but you can just use a light sprinkle
1 sheet nori, cut into strips (the sheets have a light cutting indents so just cut along those lines, about 1/2")
 onigiri molds

I use a rice cooker for my rice. Put the rice in pot and rinse it in cool water four or five times until the water runs pretty clear. Cover with water and let it sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes or up to about 30 minutes to soak. Drain that water and then add a fresh cup of water to the rice in the pot , a pinch of salt and cook in your rice cooker.
While the rice is cooking, get your stuff together.

Cut up your leftover meat or fish or mock crab, tuna salad or whatever you are going to stuff these things with into little pieces. Cut your nori strips and set aside.

When the rice cooker turns off, let it sit for 10 minutes to steam before removing the lid. When that is done, take off the lid, remove the rice and put it a shallow bowl and let it cool until it's just nicely warm. This is when you sprinkle in the furikake (you can skip this too if you or your kids don't like it) over the rice and gently fold in in.

Rinse your mold and the mold lid under warm running water and just shake the excess water off but don't actually dry it. It also helps to keep your hands damp while handling the sticky rice, especially if you choose to mold them by hand, by the way. Pack some rice into the mold so it covers the bottom and is starting to come up the sides. Lightly press a well into it with your thumb and put in a bit of filling - not too much or it will not hold together after. Cover the filling with some more rice so that the mold is loosely filled - not too tightly packed in or when you press the lid down it will ooze out and the filling might seep out.
There is a little flap in the bottom of the mold and you push that in and it pops the onigiri right out. Because it's still warm, the seaweed will stick right to it and hold itself to the rice when you wrap the strip around the bottom. The seaweed forms a kind of a wrapper that makes it easier to eat without it falling apart but if your kid hates nori, leave it off. See? So many options here.

fill part way with rice-make small indent

add a bit of your filling

cover with a little bit more rice to fill mold loosely

push down lid to compact the rice

finish with nori wrapping

That's it. If you are eating it right away, you just serve them as is. You can serve with any sort of dipping sauce or just a bit of soy sauce. The Kid eats them plain or sprinkles even more furikake on them. Just wrap them in plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge and throw them in your kid's lunch box in the morning (don't forget to add a freezer pack so they stay cold if you are using meat, fish or anything with mayo as a filling)

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