I was invited to an event at beautiful The St Lawrence Market Kitchen (upstairs at the market) to introduce me to Fresh Canteen , a new dinner prep concept launched earlier this summer here in Toronto. It's a service that caters to people who want to cook fresh, delicious dinners in their own kitchens but are often just too busy to shop for all the ingredients they need. They are quite committed to using locally sourced products whenever possible and that appeals to me very much. I have used Supperworks in the past to stock up for those times that I am too busy to shop but you still have to put aside time to drive down there, put all of the stuff together and get it back home. You also have to remember to take those damned bags out of the freezer the night before so it will be thawed by dinner time so you can actually cook it which doesn't come easily to me. I love the idea of everything for a dish being brought to my house for me by a handsome stranger. Okay, I just like to imagine it's being delivered by a handsome stranger with floppy hair and piercing blue eyes so don't judge- it's unbecoming. Think of it as a personal shopper for your belly.
|my lovely and stylish red apron|
Each week they have a list of recipes online you can choose from and then on Tuesday you will find an insulated box filled with all of the ingredients that you will need to make that dish. Each recipe is portioned out for two (or you can order enough for four) but both recipes that I have made would easily feed all three of us or two of us with enough leftovers for someone to take to lunch the next day so for the $15 per serving (and that includes delivery to your front door), you are getting a great deal. The three of us can't even eat wings at the pub for $30 to be honest so I am all over this. I have so many friends who eat out or do take out/order in at least 3 or 4 nights a week because they are all get home from work at 7pm on a good day and the last thing they are going to do is go shopping. I was also thinking it would be great for a weeknight dinner party - you just come home from work, open the box, whip up some fancy duck and wow your friends.
The food is packed in an insulated bag with some reusable freezer packs and will stay cold all day in case you aren't home when the box comes. If you pop the whole thing in the fridge, it will stay fresh for a couple of days too so you don't even have to make it that night. Also, each recipe comes with a plastic covered recipe sheet with super detailed instructions and photos - kind of like cooking for dummies so even those who aren't 100% confident in the kitchen are going to be able to cook this stuff, flip their hair and flash their giant white chompers and feel just like Giada. All the meals claim to be done in about 35 minutes and I will say that both of the ones I made did, indeed, take about half an hour from starting my prep to chowing down.
Right now they only deliver in downtown Toronto but you can get it delivered to your office if you work downtown and just take it home at the end of the day. I am pretty sure that this is going to catch on and eventually they will expand their delivery zones.
|oooo the table was set and waiting for us to finish cooking|
|my cooking station|
I didn't know what to expect at the Fresh Canteen event but I know what I didn't think was going to happen - I didn't think that I would be donning an apron and cooking myself a delicious duck breast with mashed potatoes, that's for sure. I think everyone was pretty exited about getting to actually try out one of these meals and get their hands dirty instead of just tasting and mmmming politely.
The duck box included the makings of duck breast with a butter grape sauce, mashed potatoes with sour cream and scallions and a mixed green salad. I don't really cook duck at home so I was pretty stoked about the opportunity to make it with people there to help me if I screwed up. I was encouraged to let the duck brown more deeply because I was going to chicken out and turn it too quickly and they held my hand as I seared it and then baked it off in the oven. Of course, I totally overcooked my breast because I wanted to get it to 130F and it was taking forever (the only downside was three or four pans per oven and lots of opening of oven doors so I don't think my oven was at temperature) A kind lady moved my duck to it's own oven when it was stalled at 120F but that oven must have been smoking hot because when I took it out about 4 or 5 minutes later it was already at 135F.
We all plated our duck, mixed green salad and mashed potatoes after making a buttery pan sauce with local grapes and sat together at long, communal tables and enjoyed the fruits of our labours with a nice glass of wine. I would totally make it again and I would order the duck box to make at home. I would make a few changes in the recipe but that is nothing new. I can barely make my own recipes without changing them all the time.
|we also had tasty desserts including this panna cotta and lemon meringue cupcake|
We were sent home with our spiffy, red aprons, a lovely knife from Nella and the box containing their Mock Butter Chicken.
|the contents of my Mock Butter Chicken box|
I was pretty happy to open the box and find that all of the ingredients were super fresh and enticing. Even the cilantro was still really fresh and not at all wilted. I made the butter chicken, following the recipe fairly closely and it was quite good and came together really quickly. I did the rice in my rice cooker and the chicken was done a couple of minutes before the rice so I would estimate it took about 20 minutes, all in. I didn't put in the raisins because I couldn't even imagine raisins in my butter chicken but that was the only omission.
I added closer to 1 1/2 tbls of butter at the end and I had to add salt (that wasn't in the recipe) and, to me, it really did need the butter but I was pretty happy to eat a tasty version of butter chicken that was healthier than a traditional recipe.
It made more than enough to feed Shack and I dinner (The Kid is off at grade 9 sleepaway camp), I was left with one small portion. It wasn't enough for a another dinner and The Kid wasn't here or I would have sent it in his lunch. What I did do the next day was to make Butter Chicken Sopes with it and they were actually even better this way. I love the corny flavour of the masa harina with Indian food and I have made Tandoori Chicken Sopes with great success so I was pretty sure it would work. I made some raita with greek yogurt and julienned the leftover radish and cucumber salad. I also crumbled a bit of paneer that I had left but I ran out so that doesn't show up in the photos. If you don't have paneer, it would be great with a bit of crumbled feta or queso fresca.
Butter Chicken Sopesmakes 6 large
Butter Chicken from Fresh Canteen
Sopes:I have full instructions with pictures here
1 cup masa harina
2 tbls lard or shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup hot tap water plus another couple of tbls of hot water
mix the masa harina, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the shortening like you would for pie dough. I just use my fingers to work it in until it has that pea like texture. Add the water, starting with 1/2 cup and mix it all together with your hands. Add water, 1 tbls at a time until the dough has the texture of a nice, soft cookie dough.
If you are making small appetizer sized sopes, roll the dough into balls the size of golf balls. I made them bigger because it was our entree so mine were the size of swollen golf balls, maybe 2".
f you have a tortilla press, great. If not, I use a flat spatula to flatten them out until they are about 1/4" thick.
Heat a dry, heavy pan (i like cast iron) over medium heat until it's really hot. Add the sopes and fry for two minutes a side. Take them out of the pan and start pinching up the sides to make a little wall, turning your flat disc into a little well to hold in all those tasty fillings. It will burn your fingers a little bit but like fashion, sometimes you have suffer for great food. If you want you can use a teaspoon to push up the ledge too but it takes some practice.
If you want to cook them later on, you can stop here and cover them well with plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to fry them.
Heat another heavy pan (I don't like to use a really big pan to fry) with about 1/4" of vegetable oil. The oil is ready when a little piece of dough sizzles after you drop it in.
Add the sopes and fry for a minute or so , flat bottom down and then flip them over and fry them for another minute , flat side up. Remove from the pan and place, flat side up, on a paper towel lined plate to drain some of that extra oil. After they are all done, flip them right side up and start filling them.
RaitaTo make just enough for dinner, I mixed about 1 cup of greek yogurt with juice from half a lemon, about 1/4 cup of grated cucumber and a good pinch of kosher salt and about a tbls or so of fresh mint.
Assembling the Sopes:
leftover butter chicken(enough to mound at least a tbls per sope - more is okay)
julienned cucumber/radish salad
optional: about 3" block of paneer, crumbled to sprinkle on top (or greek feta or queso fresco)
home made raita or store bought
Make sure your sope is right side up so that the raised edges form a bit of a shallow bowl. Help a bit of butter chicken to fill the sope, spoon on some raita, add a little mound of cucumber radish salad on top of the raita and then, if using, sprinkle the paneer over the whole thing.