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High Low Roast Beef Shortcut

I recently made my first roast beef using a crazy method that involves blasting the roast at 500F for about 5 minutes per pound before turning the oven off and walking away for two hours. It was a sirloin tip and I cooked it to a perfectly rare roast, much to our shock and awe. I am now officially a fan of roast beef and am anxious to try different cuts of beef using this method.

I bought an outside round oven roast on sale and planned to try this crazy pants roasting method on it to see what would happen when you use a less tender cut of meat. Normally, I would throw this type of roast into the crock pot and let it cook til it fell apart. I went to see August: Osage County that afternoon with a couple of girlfriends and told Shack that if he was home, it would be great if he took the meat out of the fridge at 3pm so it could rest for two hours. If it came out any later than that, we would be looking at a dinner hour that would be require eating my meal in bed and eating roast beef right before nodding off for the night is not a great idea.

Have you seen August: Osage County yet? Holy crap, it's like an Oscar making machine for the actors. As always, Meryl Streep is ridonkulous in it. She is totally devoid of vanity and goes balls out, off the rails and although she deserves to win another Oscar, at this point, don't you think it's time to share with the others? I don't even particularly like Julia Roberts all that much but she will blow your socks off:


Honestly, even though they are acting can you imagine the cathartic joy that must occur when you get to screech that at Meryl Streep? They could raise millions of dollars for charity by letting actors pay for the honour sitting across from Ms Streep and screaming that in her face.

Anyway, I got home around 4:15 and the roast was still chilling away in the fridge because Shack had forgotten about it. I took it out and thought that maybe I would make it and we would just eat sandwiches the next day because , at that point, it wouldn't be ready until about 8:30pm and I was already getting hungry. While it was resting for the prerequisite 2 hours, I kept thinking that it would speed things up if, instead of turning the oven off for two hours, I just turned the oven way down for a shorter period of time to finish it off. Why wouldn't that work?

I am happy to say that it does work. I just turned the oven down to 275F after ten minutes at 500F and started checking it after 10 minutes and took it out once the internal temperature reached 135F. I cooked my last roast just enough that it was not officially carpaccio but I wanted this one to be a nice, medium rare and it was perfect. We did eat a few slices for dinner but it was even better the next day in a sandwich. Admittedly, this cut of meat is not as tender as the sirloin tip roast and I had to cut around the thread of sinewy connective tissue that ran through one section, but for $6 I had just over 2 lbs of delicious roast beef to use in sandwiches for the next couple of days and I will most definitely buy this cut again when I spy it on sale. I still like the ease of walking away for two hours, this method is a good back up for days when you don't have the luxury of taking all that time to cook dinner.

High Low Roast Beef Shortcut

2.2 lb outside round oven roast
Olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 large clove garlic
Montreal Steak Spice

Take your roast out of the fridge 2 hours before you are going to cook it so it can come to room temperature.
When it's time to cook it , preheat the oven to 500F and make sure it really is good and hot. I like to preheat it for a good 15 or 20 minutes even though my oven will tell him it's preheated in 5.
Rub your roast all over with a bit of olive oil before sprinkling kosher salt and freshly ground pepper all over the entire surface. I use a good tbls of kosher salt and probably 15 grinds of black pepper but it's really up to you and it also depends on how salty your spice rub is, if you choose to use a spice rub.
Next, peel the garlic clove and slice it. Make some small slits in the meat and stuff the garlic slices in there, tucking a few under the string if your roast is tied up. Now, if you want to use a spice rub or something like Montreal Steak Spice, sprinkle that all over the surface of the meat, using your fingers to make sure it's pressed right into the meat and place the roast into an oven proof roasting pan of some sort, fat side up. I like to use a cast iron skillet.

Open the door quickly and get the roast it, shutting the door quickly - you don't want to let much heat escape since the blast of high heat is going to sear the meat. Cook it at 500F for ten minutes before lowering the heat to 275F. For a 2.2 lb roast, it took 17 minutes at 275F to bring the internal temp to 135 for a perfect med rare roast. I started checking the temperature at the 10 minute mark, again at 15 minutes and then I checked again after two more and it was perfect. It will depend on the size of your roast, of course, and if you have a thermometer you can set and leave in the meat while it cooks, it will just beep and let you know when it's done. I don't have one of those so I have to keep checking. 

If we go by my math, it would mean:
ten minutes at 500F
8.5 minutes per lb at 275F

Let the meat rest for a few minutes before carving it. If you are using it for sandwiches, it is much easier to slice it thinly when it's cold so let it cool down to room temp and then pop it in the fridge until you need it. I don't have to tell you how to make a roast beef sandwich, do I? These were very simple concoctions consisting of nothing but delicious beef, deli mustard, arugula, salt and pepper on a beautiful, soft Calabrese bun.

Smokey Spanish Meatloaf

Who doesn't like meatloaf? You know who doesn't like meatloaf (apart from people who don't eat meat of course)? People who haven't eaten a delicious meatloaf, that's who. We eat it prepared in a few different ways to keep it interesting. One of our favourites is Italian Meatloaf and Italian Meatloaf take 2 , we do a Korean Style Meatloaf and a cranberry glazed turkey meatloaf that is full of thanksgiving flavours without the hassle of roasting a big turkey.

I promised The Kid that I would make it this week. I am always looking for new ways to jazz things up a bit when I came across my smoked paprika. Hmmmm. What about doing some Spanish flavours in there? I am kind of all about Spanish food right now, ever since I did a tapas spread for our Christmas Eve soiree.

I spent some time living and working in Madrid in my former life and these were the flavours that still linger in my noggin. I went out and got a bit of Spanish Manchego cheese and some quince and got to work. The first attempt was good but there was something missing so the next time I made it, I tried throwing in a bit of chorizo and it was much better. I served it with mashed potato/sweet potato and roasted brussels sprouts but it was even better the next day in a sandwich with a smear of my homemade mustard, some arugula and bit more manchego.

Let me talk to you about Spanish chorizo, not to be confused with soft, raw Mexican chorizo that you prepare like any other sausage. Spanish chorizo is a smoke, cured (sometimes fermented) sausage that is hard and most are eaten without having to cook it. It can be mild or spicy and they do vary a bit in the hardness or softness of the actual sausage. I think that the long thin ones are usually considered to be sweet and mild and the shorter, fatter ones are spicy.  It's got a really distinctive, strong, smoky flavour and not everyone loves it so if you have never tried it before, get a bit and taste it first. I love this stuff but it doesn't take much to become too much in a recipe so I only added one. If you are crazy for chorizo, feel free to chop a couple of them up and use them. Now, the whole mincing the chorizo thing... I had read that you can just roughly chop it up and grind it in your kitchen aid with the grinder attachment. Now, maybe it's because I don't have the hard core, pro KA stand mixer, but all I know is that you should NOT DO THIS.

I chopped up the chorizo, threw it in the grinder and started pushing it through. It seemed like it was going to work but about ten seconds and I should have just stopped the machine right away but nooooooooooo. I had to keep trying until I realized that I was most likely going to burn my motor out kill my beloved KA so I stopped and made my first attempt to screw the ring off the front to take the attachment apart and get all of this rock hard meat out. WHATEVER. I guess the force of the rock hard sausage trying to work its way through the holes of the grinder blade thingy tightened up the front piece and it would not come off. I finally had to ask Shack to get it off for me and HE could not get it off. He tried and tried and tried and finally muttered something obscene before disappearing out to the garage. He returned, holding this:

Okay, lesson learned. Just do the dirty work and chop that chorizo up until it's minced, even if it takes a while because, as delicious as this baby is,  murdering your Kitchen Aid stand mixer is just not worth it.

Smoky Spanish Meatloaf

    makes 1 meatloaf or 4 servings


1 generous tbls olive oil
 carrot grated (approx 1/4 cup)
 parsnip grated (approx 1/2 cup)
1/4 large red onion, finely chopped
1 small celery rib, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
pinch kosher salt
1 slice of bread
1/4 cup milk
1 lb ground beef
1 100g spanish chorizo, ground up or chopped as finely as possible
3 tbls tomato puree
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 tbls smoked paprika
1 tbls fresh thyme
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grated manchego cheese
1/4 cup of quince preserves
1 tsp smoked paprika
1tbls ketchup
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced


heat a sauté pan over med heat with a small glug (approx 1 tbls) of olive oil and sauté the onion, celery, carrot, parsnip and garlic for about five minutes until it's softened. Remove from heat and let cool to room temp.
Preheat oven to 400F

Put the slice of bread in the food processor and grind up into crumbs. Add the milk and let sit and put aside. Put the beef, minced chorizo, tomato puree, eggs,  herbs, salt, worcestershire and cheese in a big bowl. Add the bread crumbs that you soaked in milk and the cooled veg and mix with your hands for about a minute. Don't over mix or your meatloaf will be tough. I like to fry a tiny morsel of the mix to taste and check for salt and adjust if need be. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Divide the meat mixture into halves and form each half into a loaf shape on the parchment lined pan. If you have a wire rack, you can set that on your lined pan (this is my preferred method). I think it really benefits from being elevated off of the pan so that air can circulate fully and the fact can drip off to the parchment (or foil) lined pan beneath.

Put the baking tray in your hot oven and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hr. After 30 minutes, remove the meatloaf and brush on the glaze, put back in the oven and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until  the internal temp is be at least 160F. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for about ten minutes to settle before slicing and serving.

It makes a great sandwich with some peppery arugula and jarred spanish red peppers

Cabbage Rolls, Walter Caesar Mix and Grandma Panties, Not Necessarily In That Order

I don't know what is going on with blogger right now but it seems that my blog is possessed by demons that make my normal looking posts publish looking like they are all out of whack, the wrong colour font, the wrong size and, well the wrong font altogether. I am trying to figure out a way to work around this demonic possession but, for the moment, it is going to look like I have lost my mind and I ask for your forgiveness, your patience and a vial of holy water, a virgin goat and 
these guys. Oh, and ask them to bring Chip

All of my American friends are usually pretty disgusted when you describe the difference between a Bloody Mary and a Bloody Caesar to them. I didn't realize that Clamato juice was a Canadian thing at all until I was in my mid twenties and tried to order a caesar , probably in Miami, and nobody believed that we actually drank our vodka with tomato clam juice. Who can be happy with a vodka with plain old tomato juice after you have had it with Clamato? It's probably not something to brag about but I loved this drink so much that I used to travel with a jar of horseradish in my purse because I took them really spicy and you never know who is going to use horseradish. Some crazy people just used tobasco to fire it up and that is just wrong. 

As I got older, I started to pay more attention to what I was putting in my body and actually looked at the ingredient label on a bottle of Clamato juice and I wasn't very happy with what I saw. Glucose-fructose was the third ingredient on the list, followed by MSG with dried clam broth lingering all the way down at third from the bottom. The actual last thing on the list just said "colour". What the hell is "colour"?? The amount of vodka I was consuming did not seem to factor into things at the time, of course.

Now, that said, I didn't stop drinking caesars but I certainly didn't feel fabulous about it anymore. I mean, I still eat Nacho Cheese Doritos and movie popcorn so I am no nutritional saint.. but can you imagine how thrilled I was when I was asked if I wanted to try out a new brand of small batch tomato clam juice that is made right here in Toronto called Walter Caesar Mix? Pretty damned thrilled. I also told them that I would like to cook with it too so they sent me four bottles - two mild and two spicy. Okay, they also sent along a couple of cute, little bottles of Tito's vodka so I could enjoy a cocktail while I cooked which just made me love them more.

The good news is that it's all natural, there is no msg, no artificial flavours or colour, no high fructose corn syrup and it comes in glass bottles instead of plastic or cans, which is another thing that I am starting to become more aware of as of late.

The better news is that it is also delicious. It's not too salty, it's nicely spiced, it leaves no weird after taste and I actually prefer it. When I used their spicy version in a caesar, I didn't need to add anything to it. When I make a cocktail using Clamato, I always have to add more worcestershire, horseradish and sometimes a squeeze of lemon but this was actually spicy enough already, I could taste horseradish in the actual juice so I didn't feel the need to add any more. I didn't have anything on had to rim my glass so that was the only thing missing.

The first thing that came to mind, as far as cooking with it goes, was a ceviche like dish I used to eat in Puerto Escondido. It was called coctel de camarones and it was sort of like a ceviche but it was served in a tall sundae class, a long spoon and saltines. It's not my preference - I like my ceviche old school with lime juice, but I and going to try it anyway. For now,  I decided to make cabbage rolls with it. I have been promising Shack cabbage rolls since before Christmas and just haven't gotten around to it yet and this was a perfect excuse. My mom made really good cabbage rolls and the one thing she did that was kind of different was to make the sauce out of equal amounts of tomato juice and milk. How yummy would it be to use this caesar mix in place of tomato juice?

Pretty damned yummy , as it turns out. Because the flavour is more complex than plain tomato juice, the sauce had more oomph to it but it still had the same, creamy smoothness that my mom's sauce had. The milky tomato juice sauce mixes in with the fat from the meat in the cabbage rolls and the bacon to create a really delicious sauce. You know, even Shack, who gets very anal about anything that even smacks of his Ukrainian grandmother's cooking and doesn't like such things being messed with, loved them, said they are extremely good and almost went so far as to deem them as good as his Bubba's. 

A word about making things like cabbage rolls. I find that these kinds of homey dishes require a bit of grandma intuition on your part. Everything depends on some many elements. Is the pan too small and they are all crowded in there? Is the pan slightly bigger than it should be so that the liquid evaporates a bit too much and they aren't as moist as they should be? Do you open the door too often to check them and cause the temperature to drop, which means they will take a bit longer to cook? Is it the third Sunday after a full moon and a bird winked at you right after you burped?

Don't be intimidated by all of that, just don't be afraid to go with the flow and trust your judgement. I gave approximate weights for the meat because I used 670 g of beef and 300g of sausage because that's what I bought but you can use slightly less beef and more sausage or use even more beef and less sausage, it's all good. Just try to make it about 1kg (or 2 lbs) of meat. The bottom line is that if you follow the directions and cook them for a full five hours, it is impossible that they are going to suck so relax and put on your giant grandma panties and get in the kitchen.

Cabbage Rolls

makes approx 16 rolls


1 large cabbage or two smaller heads
approx 670 g (1.5 lbs) ground beef
approx 300 g (1/2 lb)  sweet italian sausage
1 leek, chopped
1 cup basmati rice
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp kosher salt
20 grinds black pepper
1 1/2 tbs fresh thyme
1 tbls sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 slices smoked bacon

3 cups evaporated milk
725ml bottle of Walter's Caesar Mix
approx 1 cup of cabbage water optional ( keep a couple of cups of this cooking water just in case you need it)


Bring a huge pot of water to a boil (make sure your whole head of cabbage is going to fit)
While the water comes to a boil, core your cabbage. It's not the easiest thing to do but I use a small, sharp knife and cut around the core and then I make two cuts, like a cross, through the center of the core and start prying chunks out. If you have a better way to do it, please enlighten me.

Put the whole head , cored side up, in the boiling water and boil for about 5 minutes, or until the outer leaves start to just come off easily in the water. Remove any loose leaves with tongs and set aside to cool. I use a giant slotted spoon and some tongs to remove the whole head to a strainer set in a big bowl and let it sit for a couple of minutes and start gently peeling more outer leaves off. Once they don't just come off anymore, return the whole head to the water for a couple more minutes and repeat until you have at least 16 or 17 leaves that are not ripped. If you get two medium to small sized cabbages instead of 1 big one, take half of the outer leaves from each of them. Set those leaves aside but keep the rest of the cabbage handy as you will need it to line the bottom of the pan and to cover the rolls before baking.

In another big bowl, mix together the ground beef, sausage that you remove from the casing, the leek, rice, egg, salt and pepper, thyme and both paprikas. Mix together like you would for meatloaf or meatballs, making sure you don't over mix. Just squish it all around until it seems mixed. You can also do that in your stand mixer with the flat beater but just be certain to not overbeat. If you like, this is a good time to cook a tiny bit of filling to make sure there is enough salt - i fry a tiny chunk, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 300F.

You now assemble. Take a cabbage leaf and using a sharp paring knife, trim the thick core down so it no longer sticks out and lay your leaf on a cutting a board. Using a half cup measure, scoop out about 1/2 cup filling and put it in in the centre of the leaf and roll up like a burrito, folding the sides in as you roll. Some people use toothpicks but I only use them on the ones that feel like they are going to fall apart because I have traumatic memories of biting into them every once in a while.

I put them on a baking sheet as they are assembled until I prep the baking dish.

Once they are all rolled, get a baking pan that is deep enough to come up higher than the cabbage rolls and big enough to accommodate them all with a bit of breathing space around them. They will expand a bit as the rice cooks. It is better to use two smaller vessels than one that is too big.

Lay a bed of cabbage leaves on the bottom of the pan and lay three pieces of smoked bacon across them.

Now, start adding the cabbage rolls to the pan being careful not to totally crowd them in but they should still be just touching each other without big gaps.

Mix the Walter's Caesar Mix with the milk and pour that over the cabbage rolls. If the liquid doesn't come up to the middle of the rolls, add a cup of the cabbage cooking water in there.

Using the leftover cabbage leaves, cover the rolls with those. It is nature's tinfoil and will keep some moisture in and prevent the cabbage rolls from burning.

Check them after 3 1/2  hours. At this point I covered the pan with foil because my pan was a little too big and the liquid was evaporating more than I liked. If you find that you are in that situation, add another cup of the Walters or more cabbage water at that point.  Check again at the four hour mark. The cabbage should be completely cooked and you should be able to see the filling through it a little bit and  be able to cut into it easily with a spoon. If they are not done, leave them in and keep checking every half an hour. They shouldn't take much more than 5 hours.

When they are done, remove them from the oven, remove the leaves that you used to cover them with and serve each one with a spoonful of the sauce.

They are actually better the next day and will keep for a few days in the fridge. I like to reheat them by steaming them for about 15 minutes so that they stay really moist and it also doesn't hurt to mix up a bit of evaporated milk/Walter mix to pour over the top when you reheat them (equal amounts of each). You can never have too much sauce.  They also freeze really well.

The Week In Yum Jan 11-16

even the little signs at Bobette and Belle are pretty

This was another slow week around here. Thankfully, the weather has warmed up but I've been feeling a bit lazy and have spent too much time catching up on my Scandal and Justified. Do you watch Scandal? It is ridonkulously insane, completely unbelievable and so over the top it's one stop from cartoonish and I LOVE IT. I finally caught up yesterday so I am all ready for the third season to continue at the end of February. I was so stressed out by the way Huck is treating that poor girl that I couldn't do as much cooking as I would have liked to but I am sure you understand.

ceviche from Seven Lives

Last Saturday we made our regular jaunt to Kensington Market for ceviche at Seven Lives and this time , for the first time in a couple of weeks, we snagged a seat. If we can't get a seat, we don't go in so it means that we can go a couple of weeks striking out. They had a fresh, delectable snapper and shrimp concoction this week and even though we both ate a big plate of it, Shack decided he needed more so we bought most of the things we would need to make it at home and then stopping for fresh talapia and fresh shrimp from The Beach Fish House in The Beach. If you are in the east end, make sure you stop in because not only do they sell really clean, fresh seafood, but they usually have something yummy to eat like lobster rolls or oysters and the owners are lovely. Anyway, I made a big batch of ceviche and we spent the night grazing on that until it was almost gone. There was just enough leftover for me to make the boys some tostadas for dinner on Sunday. Sometimes you just have to binge on something and you can't choose anything that is going to be healthier than ceviche unless you are binging on steamed kale. Ceviche is nothing but fresh seafood, lime juice, tomato, onion and lime. There is no oil, no fat, no sauce - it is the epitome of fresh, clean eating and I would much rather eat a ton of this than steamed kale, let's be honest.

I threw a bit of chopped avocado into The Kid's bowl to fatten him up like a christmas pig

We take our popcorn seriously around here and we all like it prepared differently. The Kid likes it dry. He doesn't even put salt on it because he is insane. Shack likes it with more butter than I care for and I often like a bit of freshly grated parmesan on mine. The Kid and I have been popping it in a brown paper bag in the microwave while Shack makes it in a big pot on the stove but I have kind of had enough of his stove top endeavours. Everytime he makes it, he burns it and it sticks to the bottom of my pot which I also end up cleaning out because he just leaves it on the stove but I can't talk him into just popping it in a bag like we do. We tried an air popper last week but we both hated it. Popcorn was flying out willy nilly and it was more trouble than it was worth so we took it back. This weekend, Shack came home with this Hamilton Beach hot oil rig and although I wasn't thrilled at first, it works really well. Yes, it's another one trick pony that takes up valuable storage space in my miniscule kitchen but it really does make good popcorn. In the end, it's about the popcorn and I will just have to find a storage spot for it.

Has anyone noticed that there appears to be some sort of popcorn shortage, by the way? I went to four grocery stores looking for a bag of popcorn kernels. I don't want Orville Redenbocher, or microwave or jiffy pop, just a bag of popcorn and every store was out of it. Instead, we went to Bulk Barn and bought a bag of each type they had there. There were larger, yellow kernels and then tiny, white"gourmet"  kernels and we came home and popped a bowl of each. The tiny, white gourmet kernels gave us light, crispy, fresh tasting popcorn, leaving almost no unpopped kernels but the yellow kernels produced popcorn that was almost twice the size and much darker in colour. Unfortunately, it also tasted like stale cardboard. It was all very scientific.

Because I still had corn tortillas left from the weekend, I made tacos a couple of times during the week, perogies one night and last night Shack made a big batch of pasta with meat sauce. I didn't venture out much at all, to be honest, and just caught up on some stuff that I needed to catch up on and didn't put a ton of effort into thinking about what we were going to eat.

Almost makes me want to have a wedding. Almost.
On Thursday I had lunch with Kate at Mimi on Gerrard in the east end Chinatown, where we almost always have lunch and ate rare beef Pho, which I almost always eat when we go there. It is still one of my favourite things to eat and Mimi is still one of my favourite places to eat it at. The broth is light and flavourful without being too salty and oily like some pho broths can be. They make their own hot sauce, in house, and I eat that shit up like candy. After lunch, we went to Bobette and Belle on Queen East for treats. I am always just happy to look around in that shop because everything in there is so pretty. It's all light and white and pastel colours and pretty things with lovely baked treats everywhere. Kate assured me that their carrot cake is one of the best she has ever had so I decided to bring a slab of that home to The Kid, who really loves a good carrot cake. My only misgiving was the concern that it contain raisins because we are not big fans of the raisin and I was thrilled when the counter person told us that because one of the owners doesn't believe in raisins, they leave them out of their baked goods. I don't believe in raisins either!

it really was one of the best carrot cakes I have tasted in a long time

Pin of the week:  I need this pork right now

Facebook share of the week:  everyone should know this stuff

Instagram of the week: looks sooo tasty

Tweet of the week:

Strawberry Ricotta Parfait

Could someone please tell me why have I spent my entire life NOT making trifles? I think I had trifle once about a hundred years ago when I was 18 or 19. My own mother never made anything like it. She was more of a jello 1-2-3 kind of gal when she wasn't making pies, but I do have a fuzzy memory of eating it at a boyfriend's house. It must not have left much of an impression since I waited another hundred years to actually make one myself, although I do have very fond memories of jello 1-2-3.         

I have a friend who makes all of these little desserts in jars whenever she hosts a party and there is almost always some sort of trifle along with something cheesecakey and something chocolately and this must be what sparked my interest. My Christmas Rum and Eggnog Tres Leches Trifle was everything I love about a dessert. It was delicious, although time consuming it was easy to make and, most important of all, it looked super impressive. I have made a few other trifles over the holidays and even the ones that I threw together totally on the fly using stuff I already had in the house were pretty amazing, to be honest. Trifles are new the black for 2014.

One of Shack's very favourite desserts is angel food cake with strawberries that have been left to macerate with sugar until soft and juicy. I don't even bother making angel food cake anymore because he actually prefers those little spongey cakes with the well baked in them that you get at the grocery store. For our NYE dessert I wanted to make him happy but I also wanted to step it up a notch and since I am all about the trifle right now, I turned his simple little dessert into a pretty parfait, adding some whipped ricotta for a little richness. The chambord adds a nice boost to the berries  and you can totally replace the strawberries with raspberries too if that is your preference. All in all this is simple, easy to throw together at the last minute as long you have your components prepped in advance and still looks like you took a lot of time to make it when, in truth, I whipped up the ricotta, did the berries and cut up the cake the night before and just threw them together while everyone was relaxing after dinner.

At first, he balked because he would be happy to just have a little sponge cake on a plate with tons of whipped cream and berries slopped on but his face lit up after he took his first bite and I knew I had a winner. I kept all of the ingredients in the fridge and made both boys another the next day. I changed them up a the second time by adding a bit of crushed up gingerbread to one, some finely chopped up dark chocolate to another, and changed the dollop on top to whipped cream. The beauty of these little babies is that you can make it a bit different each time or customize each one to suit your picky recipients but here is the basic recipe. 

As far as how many servings you will get out of this recipe, it is going to depend on the size of your serving vessels. I used rock glasses that you would typically drink scotch on the rocks out of (which is a very common occurrence during the winter around here , so sue me) and I got about 6 servings all in all. Obviously, if you use bigger glasses you are going get fewer servings. It's science.

Strawberry Ricotta Parfait

1 lb strawberries
3 tbls sugar
2 tbls chambord

1 cup ricotta
2 tbls honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 angel food cake

At least a few hours in advance and up to the day before, wash and slice the berries and put them in a bowl with the sugar and chambord, stir to combine, cover and put in the fridge to macerate (if you are doing it a few hours in advance, just leave it on the counter)

put the ricotta, honey and vanilla in a blender or food processor and whip it up until it's nice and creamy and set that aside.

Now, I just bought an angel food cake but you can make one if you like. 

So, you choose a serving vessel. I served them in rock glasses but you could do little jars, parfait glasses, wine glasses or whatever you like. It's nicest in a clear glass of some sort so you can show off the pretty layers.

Slice your angel food cake into 1/2" slices and cube that up roughly. Put down a layer of cake and then cover that with the berries, making sure you also spoon some juice over them as well. Now, add a dollop of ricotta and smoosh that around but when you add the second layer of cake, it will help spread the ricotta out to the edges. Put your second layer of cake down, spoon more juicey berries over the top. Repeat this until you have got to the top of the glass with your top layer being the berries. Add one dollop of whipped ricotta (or you could use a bit of whipped cream for that too if you like) and serve.

The Week In Yum January 3-10

Holy mother of god, it was ridiculously cold out there this week. It was the vortex of climate changey coldness in other parts of North America. In Toronto, it was just really, freaking cold. Because it was so cold, we didn't go out to eat as much as we would normally do and I did more cooking at home. On the weekend, we did go out to Mexican Salsa's  in the Market for that pozole up there just like we did last week. We were planning to go to Seven Lives again for ceviche but it was so packed when we walked by that we just kept on walking. This is the problem with places that are really fabulous and also really popular, right? On the way back to the car, it wasn't crowded at all but I had just finished a big bowl of pozole and no longer wanted any ceviche. First world problems.

On Sunday, we met friends for lunch at a new BBQ restaurant on Mount Pleasant, south of Eglinton called Sandoozles. I wasn't even going to mention it but you know what? Our lunch was so disappointing that I feel like I have to. The food was disappointing, the service was painfully slow and inattentive - the three people who ordered poutine left it virtually untouched and nobody thought to ask if there might be a problem? My brisket sandwich was fine but nothing else was. Sorry, I just disliked it so much I had to say something. Usually when I don't like a place I just don't talk about it but I want to save you the bother. Luckily, the company was great and we had a really nice visit with friends.

On Monday, I made my very first roast beef. I certainly cook beef. I made stews or steak and I will throw a brisket in the crockpot but I don't do traditional roasts. I really dislike prime rib and almost never like any other cut of roasted beef and I just thought that it's not possible to cook one so that it's basically Chicago style - charred and crusty on the outside and rare on the inside. January's challenge in my Great Canadian Food Experience was to make some sort of resolution for the new year and I am really trying to push myself and use ingredients that I am unfamiliar with or that intimidate me so what better thing to start with than a roast?

I am now going to all about the roast beef with this recipe

I bought a really nice, small sirloin tip and then just looked at it for a couple days while I read up on all of the different techniques. People who do low and slow swear that this is the only way to cook it. People who do high heat swear that THIS is the only way to go. Some people sear at super high heat and then turn the oven down to about 200F and finish it off but the thing that intrigued me most was the idea that you could blast it at super high heat for a very short time, turn the oven off and walk away. I cooked it at 5.5 minutes per pound at 500F and then did just that. I turned off the oven and walked away and came back to a perfectly rare roast. I would cook it another minute the next time to cook it just a touch more but I really wanted to make a rare roast that had a really nice, salt crust and I succeeded. I will no longer be passing on roast beef in 2014 (I have had two friends use this method and they are now 100% sold on it).

Tuesday, I threw a pork shoulder in the crock pot with my newest attempt at pulled pork with bbq sauce. I have been tinkering to find a sauce that is not too sweet and I am really happy with this one. We had sandwiches on Tuesday, The Kid took a sandwich to school on Wednesday, they wanted to eat it again Wednesday night and another sandwich made it's way into school lunch on Thursday by request. I think everyone was pretty happy.

On Wednesday I made a huge pot of kale, sausage and white bean soup and we all had a little bowl of it with our pulled pork and then made dinner out of it on Thursday. God, I love soup.

On Friday, Shack and I ditched The Kid and met up with some friends at Ki. I love Ki. It bills itself as modern Japanese food which is just code for expensive, fancy pants sushi and stuff but it really is delicious. The saikyo marinated black cod is perfect. It is rich and silky and decadent. To me, black cod is like the creme brulee of fish and we get it every time we eat here. It's actually not that expensive but if you have cocktails and order freely off the menu, it does add up. I felt like a martini instead of wine or sake so I tried something called the Ginjun Therapy Session - gin, lillet, ginger syrup, lemon, fresh ginger and juniper berries. Okay, I had two of them, so sue me. I would have another one again, too. I didn't photograph any of our food because we were with Shack's work friends and I look like a freak when I try to photograph our food so I just snuck a shot of my tea pot and my napkin when everyone was busy settling up.

Because it was a balmy 3C, which feels like spring after two weeks of -25, we started walking and ended up walking all the way back to the Beach from King and Wellington because we were both so happy to be outside that we didn't want to go inside and took a couple of hours to walk and chat and enjoy the city at night. A perfect end to my week. My three favourite things are eating great food, walking and my guy.

Pin of the week:  I love Donna Hay

Instagram of the week:  I think I want a leek tattoo

Facebook share of the week: We can all sleep well now

Tweet of the week:  

Saucy BBQ Crock Pot Pulled Pork

It is a new year and so it is time for a new pulled pork recipe. If you read this blog from time to time, you can't help but notice that we like our pork. Although we love all parts of the glorious pig, we do really like our pork shoulder. Some favourites have been an apple pulled pork, a Korean pulled pork, and  a second Korean pulled pork, we have done the momofuku pulled pork in the oven with nothing but tons of salt and brown sugar and make pork for tacos all the time like these carnitas. A pork shoulder jumps into the crock pot at least a couple times a month in the winter time and although I can't recall the last time we met one we didn't like immensely, I have been tinkering with something a bit more classic to make The Kid happy. Shack  makes a mustard mop that is out of this world (and I still can't get the recipe out of him because he is not a nice man) but I thought it would be good to come up with a bbq sauce version too. The Kid loves BBQ sauce and he goes through more Bulls-Eye than I care to admit (he doesn't like ketchup so it's just Bullseye and mustard for him as far as condiments go - mustard for fries, I kid you not)  and I would really like to come up with a homemade sauce that might start to replace the Bulls-Eye but up until, this has completely eluded me.

Nothing makes me crazier than biting into what should be a perfectly good pulled pork sandwich and finding it so sweet that it could pass for dessert. Now, I don't mind a bit of sweet to balance out a nice bit of vinegary twang but it shouldn't be the prevailing taste.  It can't be super thick either for mixing in with the meat so it's been a bit of work to get it where I think it's just right. The only thing I would say is that if you want it kind of hot and spicy you can up the amount of chipotle powder or add some hot dried chilis to the cooking liquid instead of the ancho and pasilla. I was going for something that was packed with flavour but would appeal to all the people I have to feed and not all of us love the heat element. If I were to make this sauce without the pork cooking liquid, I would probably just soak the dried chilis in some simmering chicken stock until they were soft and then puree it and use that. I will try that next and report back.

Saucy BBQ Crock Pot Pulled Pork

Ingredients for the pork:

1.7 kg pork shoulder picnic roast, bone in
1 tbls brown sugar
1 tbls chili powder
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1 onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, halved lenghtwise and then each half cut into three sticks
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 dry pasilla chili
1 dry ancho chili
1 cup chicken stock

BBQ sauce:

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup tomato puree
1 cup reduced cooking liquid
2 tbls of cider vinegar
4 tbls brown sugar
1 tbls honey mustard
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tbls molasses
1/4 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp worchestershire sauce


Mix together the brown sugar, chili powder, chipotle powder, cumin and kosher salt and rub that all over your pork shoulder. You can do this the night before if you can but it's fine if you do right before you put it in the crock pot too - it's just a tiny bitter bit better to let it sit overnight in the fridge if you can.
Line the bottom of the crockpot with the onion and celery sticks, scatter the garlic on top and pour in the chicken stock. Take both of your dry chilies and open them up, discard the seeds and the stem and throw those in there too, making sure they are submerged in the stock before you lay your rubbed pork shoulder on top of it. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (if you need to cook it ten hours that is fine too but it must cook at least 8)

When it's done, remove the pork to a big bowl, let it cool a bit before you start discarding the big chunks of fat and any bone.

Strain the cooking liquid into a big glass vessel, pushing on the solids with a big spoon to get all the juices out of it ( i like to use glass so that I can clearly see where the fat is sitting) and let it sit for a couple of minutes before you start removing the fat that rises to the top. If you make it the day before, you can skip this part and just refrigerate it until the fat congeals and scrape it off to discard it.
So, once the fat has been removed, pour the liquid into a pot and bring it to a light boil and reduce it until you are left with about a cup. Set aside.

Okay for the bbq sauce:

Chop up the shallot and the garlic and saute that in about a tbls of oil in heavy pot for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the sauce ingredients, including the reserved cup of reduced cooking liquid. Simmer that lightly for 15 minutes.

Now, the pork should be cool enough to shred it - you can pull it apart with your fingers or you can use tongs if it's still too hot. Once the pork is all pulled apart, pour enough of the bbq sauce over that to fullly moisten the meat and mix it in thoroughly.

How you eat it is up to you, of course. The boys like it on old school hamburger buns or nice, crusty Portuguese buns. Shack likes his with coleslaw and The Kid likes it with extra sauce only. I like to eat it as is with coleslaw on the side or ever over rice.

The Great Canadian Food Experience Project and Why Am I Just Finding Out About This Now Roast Beef

I hate making New Year's resolutions. I don't mind quietly taking stock of myself and deciding that I will take note of a few things I would like to change, some improvements that could be made or other stuff that needs to be continued in the new year ahead but I never make any sort of declaration. I hate making a list of them and I hate attempting to commit myself to things I have no intention of following through with for an entire year. Let's be honest, I am not going to stop drinking red wine, I might start doing more yoga again and it's possible that I will endeavour to yell a little less but it won't be because I made a resolution to do so.

The Week In Yum - Dec 20 to Jan 2

It's a two week roundup because I did not do a week in yum last week for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's the Christmas season and that is a pretty busy time and sometimes I prefer to just spend time living and not always documenting. It was also the week of the big power outage in Toronto and my neighbourhood was hit particularly hard. On Saturday night, after watching SNL, we retired to bed expecting to sleep but, instead, we both spent the entire night listening to the row of big, uncared for trees on our neighbour's property snap apart and fall on our building. At one point we felt the house shake and heart a huge THWAK and ran into The Kid's room. He was sleeping soundly, oblivious to the whole ordeal, but when I opened his blinds, there was a huge tree limb against it, blocking the bottom half of the window. I looked down and our truck was so covered in tree limbs that you couldn't see the vehicle. We moved The Kid out to the couch and returned to bed to lay there, sleepless, and listen to non stop shwoosh and thwack until morning. Upon investigation after the sun came up, Shack discovered a limb that had impaled the hood! Luckily, it only broke the washer fluid thingy and the truck still ran just fine so he rigged something up so fluid would still shoot out and we were off. A couple of inches either way and we would have been in trouble but we were very lucky.

Brown Butter Mushroom Risotto With Lobster for NYE

We really don't like to go out on New Years Eve anymore. Just the thought of getting all dressed up, putting on makeup, getting a cab in the cold, being squished into a space with lots of really drunk people who are trying to have the BEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR is just exhausting to me. Back in the day we used to joke that NYE was for amateurs and that every night was NYE to us. We were young ,worked in the film business and we worked very hard but we also played very hard. Honestly, I think we were both secretly thrilled when we had a baby and could lay the blame on him for declining all the invitations until they just stopped coming and I was fine with that because I am just partied out.

Now, the most exciting thing to happen on NYE around here is a rousing game of prosecco fuelled euchre with The Neighbours in our pjs and if everyone is actually still awake when the ball drops, it's a New Year's miracle. It's also a night for rich, decadent food because we have generally gained some winter pudge and January means eating clean for a month or so. It also often includes lobster in one form or another. Some years it's a pasta, other years it will be in some sort of soup or just boiled and eaten as it. This year I knew it was going to be a risotto and I knew it was going to also include lots of mushrooms. We have been depriving ourselves of these delectable beauties for a decade because The Kid hated them and since he hates so few things, I respected that. Now, he has decided he actually likes the flavour they impart but not the texture of the actual shroom so we are making up for lost time and cooking with them as much as humanly possible. I made the basil oil because it added a fancy pants, elegant touch to the dish but, to be honest, you could also just throw a handful of fresh basil into either the risotto right at the end or in the lobster when you heat it up. 

I am aware that this is not one of my usual "this is too good to be this simple to prepare" type of dishes that I tend to favour. It takes quite a bit of prep and you will be in the kitchen for a couple of hours but none of it is actually difficult and it really is a great thing to make for a special occasion. I would totally make just the brown butter mushroom risotto any old weeknight  but with the buttery mushrooms and lobster AND the basil oil drizzle, it is a very rich, decadent meal (the peppery arugula helps to cut through all that butter so try not skip that) although The Kid could probably eat it every night for a month and still look like Ichabod Crane in skinny jeans.

I only got one quick shot with my iphone of the actual dish with the extra mushrooms and the lobster because it was so good that they even ate the stuff I had put aside for the photo shoot the next day. Take my lack of finished beauty shot as a testament to how delicious this stuff is.

Brown Butter Mushroom Risotto with Lobster

serves 4 main course or 6-8 as a side

for the basil oil:
about 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch kosher salt

blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for 10 seconds, take it out with a strainer, plunge it into a bowl of ice water to shock it, remove it, gently squeeze the water out of it. Add the oil and the basil with a pinch of salt to a blender or food processor and give it a whiz until it's pureed. Set aside for about half an hour before you strain it into a bowl or a clean jar with a fine mesh strainer. Press on the solids to make sure you get all of the good stuff and discard those solids. You can keep this in the fridge for at least a week or two but let it come to room temp before you use it.

for the sautéed mushrooms:
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced (I like to use fresh porcini, brown button and maybe some oyster)
3 tbls of butter
1 clove garlic, chopped

melt the butter in a pan and sauté the garlic in that for a minute before adding the sliced mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for about 3 to 4 minutes, until nicely browned and soft. Salt with a pinch of kosher salt and taste, adjusting if needed.

for the lobster:
300g cooked lobster, in chunks (you can boil it, use leftover, buy pre cooked tails and cut it up)
2 tbls of butter

melt the butter in a pan over med heat until it foams and starts to brown. Add in the lobster and sauté for just a minute or two until the meat is heated through.

the only photo that exists of the entire concoction due to extreme deliciousness

for risotto:
1/2 cup dried mushrooms (I used a mix of porcini and morel)
1 cup boiling water

Pour boiling water over the mushrooms and make sure they are all submerged. Let steep for at least 20 minutes and then strain the mushrooms into a bowl, using a fine strainer. Keep the steeping water and set both aside.

4 cups of chicken stock (I throw all of my leek and mushroom scraps in there, heat it up and let it steep while I prep everything)
mushroom soaking liquid
4 tbls butter
1 small leek
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup white wine
2 big handfuls of baby arugula
salt if needed
1/2 cup parmesan

Bring your stock with added mushroom soaking liquid to a boil in a pot and reduce the heat to keep it just under a simmer.

Melt the butter in a large pan and once it foams, keep a close eye on it until it turns a nice, nutty brown (it takes between 1 and 2 minutes) throw in your leeks and sauté until wilted before you add in the rice. Stir the rice around for another couple of minutes until it looks opaque. Now you pour in the white wine and stir until the wine is mostly absorbed.
Now we start adding the stock, a ladle full at a time, for about 20 minutes or until the rice is perfectly al dente. It shouldn't be mushy, of course, but it shouldn't be crunchy either and I find it almost always takes about 20 minutes. Add stock, stir pretty much constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed, add another ladle full of stock, lather, rinse repeat. After the 20 minutes, take the rice off the heat, stir in the arugula until it's wilted, taste and add salt if needed then stir in the parmesan, cover and set aside while you get the lobster and mushrooms heated.

Have your mushrooms prepped and ready to go if you haven't made them ahead of time. You can either make them before you start the risotto and heat them up slightly at this point or if it won't stress you out, you can sauté them at the very last minute to spoon over the risotto. It's up to you.

I wait until the risotto is done and I heat another pan immediately over med heat, melt another 2 tbls butter, let it foam and brown, add the cooked lobster and sauté long enough to just heat it.

Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls, add a big spoonful of sautéed mushrooms over that and then crown the whole thing with chunks of butter lobster.
Now, if that wasn't enough, drizzle a bit of basil oil over the whole shooting match and serve.

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