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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vij's Hat Trick

Back when dirt was new I received a recipe in the mail from my mom for Vij's fenugreek cream lamb popsicles (I had given her Vij's first cookbook for Christmas that year, and for my birthday the following January she had taken me to Vij's for this dish). At the time, I remember looking at it and thinking there would be absolutely no way I would ever make these, it was wayyyyy too much trouble. How things change. And also, since I've been focusing on economy, I figured out a way to make an additional two dishes out of the products of this one, so we have the first hat trick on Crass Cuisine.

If you are from Vancouver, you are no doubt familiar with Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala and their amazing restaurants, Vij's and Rangoli. If you aren't, they are the leaders of modern Indian cuisine on the West Coast, and have many, many faithful guests at their restaurants, readers of their cookbooks and purchasers of their locally-roasted herbs. I myself enjoy all three.

So, Vij's lamb popsicles. I love lamb so any opportunity to make it makes me happy. I decided to make this dish for the C-bomb for one of our traditional Friday night dinner, movie and wine dates. What's better than that?

Vij's Lamb Popsicles in Fenugreek Curry
(adjust quantities up and down depending on how many you are feeding)

For the popsicles:
2-3 French cut racks of lamb, bone cleaned down to the chop, cut into "popsicles" but cutting between each joint
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grainy yellow mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt

For the curry cream:

2 tbsp crushed garlic
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 litre whipping cream
1 tbsp dried Greek fenugreek leaves (Vij's sells this at Rangoli)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 lemon juice
1/4 tsp paprika

Mix white wine, mustard and salt together in a large bowl, then add the popsicles. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before cooking.


In a separate bowl, mix together the whipping cream, salt, paprika, cayenne, fenugreek flakes and lemon juice.


In a medium-sized heavy pot, saute the garlic in the canola oil. Once the garlic is golden in colour, add the turmeric, stir and heat for one minute. Add the whipping cream mixture, stir and heat on low to mediu, heat for a few minutes. Grill the popsicles just before you are ready to serve your meal. Pour the cream curry over the grilled popsicles, or use it as a dipping sauce.

I served mine by grilling potato wedges, placing the popsicles on top and pouring the curry cream over top:


This meal is so decadent you will want to eat slowly, savouring every ridiculous flavour. There was lots of curry cream left over, so the next day I browned some chicken breasts and finished cooking them in the mixture:


I served over rice and with some fresh chopped cilantro (2nd goal in our hat trick):


And? I saved the bones of our lamb rack, washed them, and the next day made lamb stock:

Homemade Lamb Stock

Bones of leftover lamb dish, 1-2 rack bones or equivalent
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 scrubbed carrots, cut into quarters
1 parsnip or 2 celery ribs, scrubbed and cut into quarters
2 small onions, peeled and quartered
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 Roma tomato, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover all with water by about 2 inches.


Allow to sit for 1 hour (this draws out the calcium). On the lowest setting on your stove, simmer the combo for 12-24 hours. Remove from heat and strain out vegetables and bones, allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze.



I used mine to make wild mushroom risotto, and it was wonderfully tangy and flavourful. The apple cider vinegar makes this dish by bringing out the flavours. I got this recipe from this sweet lady at the Nourishing Gourmet, and it is delicious. Her blog is found here. So you see, each of these dishes had a domino effect on the other, which I completely love about cooking.

Thanks Vij and Meeru!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Zoloft Market

There is nothing quite like Granville Island market on a sunny day to cure all that ails you. I've been feeling kinda blue/lonely since I lost my job, and as soon as I saw it was sunny out, I thought what better way to kill the blues than to go to the market, smell the smells and see the sights, take some pictures, and pick up some small fresh treats to make a killer lunch for myself. And I was not disappointed!

I take the Aqua Bus, because it's easy, cheap and drops me right in front of the entrance, so I can begin at the beginning and walk slowly through every last corner. I passed fresh sourdough loaves steaming up the display window, oysters on chipped ice, chubby grape hyacinths wrapped in cello, raspberry flavoured sea salt with rosemary sold by a guy who was a ringer for Ringo Starr, and throngs of tourist for whom all this was new. It was heavenly. I mean, look at these tomatoes:


The flower stores are amazing too, and I snapped this gauzy photo of a peony right across from those tomatoes:


I walked around everywhere, but stopped in my tracks when I saw the fattest, blackest tiger prawns, deveined (I hate deveining) with the tails on hanging out on some ice. Expensive as fuck, but so fat they were practically lobster-sized, I thought it wouldn't hurt the ol' pocketbook too badly if I only got 5 of them. This purchase kicked off the meal plan: I would grill them and pour them over fresh pasta in a recipe I invented per my mood.

So, I got a shallot, garlic, fresh angelhair pasta, a bag of sweet lemons, and a bottle of crisp white wine along with a small bar of creamery butter and hauled the whole mess home and started cooking. I did some kind of weird prancy little dance through the hall and into the kitchen when I put down my groceries, I was so excited to get going. This is what I did, and this will be the first recipe I will use to kick-off a series I would like to start, called Jess's Messes. These are recipes invented by me, tested and found to be good, and then provided to you:

Jess's Messes, Vol. 1: Lemon Tiger Prawns on Angelhair Pasta


zest and juice of 1 Meyer or sweet lemon
2 large cloves garlic
1 large shallot
3 tbsp salted butter
5 large, raw tiger prawns, deveined, tails on
1 sprig fresh tarragon
1 sprig fresh citrus thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 loop fresh angelhair pasta
splash white wine, preferably dry

Set a large pot of water to boil with sea salt, when water comes to a rolling boil, add the fresh pasta, cook for 3 minutes, remove from heat and drain.

Chop garlic and shallot fine. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, allow the butter to go from foamy to clear. Add the garlic and shallots, pan fry until lightly golden. Add the prawns, white wine, lemon juice and zest, stir and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes on one side, then flip. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once prawns are cooked through, add pasta into saucepan and stir into sauce for 1 minute. Plate and serve.


I've been making myself sit at the table lately, especially if I'm by myself, and enjoy meals like a civilized person, instead of in front of the computer, writing or watching tv. I think it's a great practice because it forces you to pay attention to what you are eating, every bite of it. This was a fantastic combo of some of my very favourite things to eat. I ate it slowly (another thing I'm trying) and felt much better for having embarked on the whole day.

Friday, April 13, 2012

God Bless Queen Deen

I bought a medieval-looking stainless steel tenderizer at a local cook shop near my (old) office with no immediate plans for it's use, but I was having a really bad day and somehow owning it made me feel more in control of my life. I had told Chris (or the C-bomb, as I feel like calling him today) that I would make country-fried steak with biscuits and gravy for our next meal together. It occurred to me that I should probably try something on myself first for once instead of inflicting it, untested, on the C-bomb. Also, because I was really hungry, and because I'm going to make lamb on Friday instead. It's really all about me because I'm a selfish bastard.

This recipe is Paula Deen's, and to me Queen Deen can do absolutely no wrong. Diabetes? Fine. All that butter? I don't give a shit. She's an agoraphobic like me who used to be afraid to leave her own home and supported her sons as a single mother by starting her own restaurant. She's unstoppable. She says that this is her favourite dish, and I am inclined to agree after eating it today:

Country-Fried Steak with Biscuits and Gravy

(Adjust up and down per how many people you are cooking for. In my case; one. Until I cook for the C-bomb. Then, two)

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 (4-ounce) tenderized beef round steak
1 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole milk

Queen Deen may call for slightly increased ratios. I'm adapting this for the West Coast cook. This is not to say that Queen Deen can do wrong. I emphasize: Queen Deen can do no wrong. Ever, ever ever.

Picture someone you hate in your mind. Or a situation in which you wish you had laid a beat-down on someone who really, really deserved it. Push all that feeling into your metal meat tenderizer. Beat the shit out of that steak like it's the last thing you have to do on this earth. If you truly have channeled that rage (and everyone has rage, don't hand me that shit) your steak will be perfectly tenderized.

Soak in the buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture. Prepare a sautee pan but don't turn it on yet. Set steak aside and make the biscuits:

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
6 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 450. Whisk the dry ingredients together and cut in the butter, blending well with your hands until it resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and form a ball, turn onto a floured surface and knead very slightly until covered with just enough flour to be easier to handle. Form into a square and cut inch-thick biscuits with a biscuit cutter or glass. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

(OOOOoooooh child, I been around and I know me my biscuits. This is the best recipe. Stolen (mostly) from this fantastic lady: http://www.food.com/recipe/southern-buttermilk-biscuits-26110. I have of course incorporated my own slight variations)

Turn your pan on med-high heat and fry your steak, about 5-6 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and deglaze the brown bits left on the bottom of the pan with a cup of milk, with flour added as needed to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, place steak and biscuits on a plate and cover the whole mess with the gravy.


You won't need to eat for about 3 weeks after eating this, I didn't know I could be this full and I'm an absolute pig. But so, so worth it!

Monday, April 9, 2012

This is how we do it: Ukrainian Easter

It's great to be Ukrainian at Easter time. We get a chance to make all our fave foods and feed them to the people we love. This year for Easter, Chris and I decided to make the works for each other and stuff ourselves like it was Rome before the fall.

But let's back up a bit. There is a ton of tradish in Ukrainian Easter, but we only observed two small parts of the meal for brevity's sake. Here is what my grandma's cookbook has to say about the Easter feast:

"The Easter food blessed in church has deep symbolic meaning. Egg is the symbol of new life. The egg shell represents Christ's grave. Easter bread (paska) represents Christ as the lifegiver, cheese and butter, God's grace, horseradish, the bitterness of sin and beets, the blood of Christ. At the beginning of the meal the head of the household is to divide the egg one piece for each guest with the greeting of "Khrystos Vockres" (Christ Is Risen), and the guests respond with the traditional reply "Voistyno Voskres" (He Is Indeed Risen)."

That excerpt was taken from the St. Demetrious Ukrainian Orthodox Church Cookbook, and the women who wrote it are badass. On the same page as the recipe for Easter paska is the Ten Commandments. Yeah. Shit gets real.

Chris and I did say the tradish stuff to each other, but as for the tradish food I only made beets and horseradish, because boiled eggs aren't really my favourite and paska takes forever. So we had cabbage rolls, perogies, ham, sausage, beets and horseradish. MMMMMM MMMMMM, bitches.

I have already given you my recipe for perogies, it can be found here. For the rest, it is as follows (including timing). As for the perogies, best to prepare them the night before, so you can boil and pan-fry while the ham is finishing up:

Cabbage Rolls

1 medium head cabbage
2 cups white rice
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 46 oz can tomato juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a large casserole dish with either butter or canola. Stea the whole head of cabbage until it is al dente. Using a bamboo steamer and covering the cabbage with a clean dish towel works well. Cook rice fully in a rice cooker or using the stovetop method.

Melt butter in a small skillet and add the chopped onion, cooking until translucent. Stir into the cooked rice, adding the dill, salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the leaves off the cabbage and cut the larger leaves in half, place 2-3 tbsp of rice mixture in each leaf and roll tightly, place in casserole dish. When the dish is full, pour the tomato juice over top until all rolls are covered. Cover with tin foil and place in the oven for 2 hours.


Ham and Kielbasa
1 precooked ham, size depends on how many you are feeding
4 large kielbasa, for this dish as well as for pan frying the perogies
4 medium shallots

Drain the ham and place it in the centre of a baking dish. Chop kielbasa into inch-wide chunks and scatter around the base of the ham. Chop the shallot into halves, peel, and place in dish with kielbasa. Put in oven after cabbage rolls have been cooking for about 1 hour. Remove after 1 hour.


Beets and Horseradish
2 medium beets
1 6 inch horseradish
Olive Oil
1 clove garlic
juice of half a lemon
maple syrup to taste

Peel the horseradish and beets and chop both into circles. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Using a garlic press, press one clove of garlic and the lemon juice into the bowl and mix well. Place in a small baking dish and drizzle with maple syrup. Place in oven at the same time as the ham.



Epic meal time, no?



Thanks to Chris who was a good sport putting up with my endless chatter in the kitchen and who supplied some of the raw ingredients to make our feast dreams come true.

Khrystos Vockres, muthafuckas.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Aw, crepe

    I naturally assume that if something is complicated or tricky or requiring any kind of skill, I will not be able to do it. As a self-taught cook, I feel this even more acutely in the kitchen. Maybe this is because when I moved out of my house, my family gave me three separate fire extinguishers. Not one - three. As if one would never be up to the job of the kind of destruction I was capable of. They naturally assumed I would find a way to blow myself up, and I generally agreed with them.

    But what kind of asshole blames their family for their imagined shortcomings when they're 33? Not this asshole. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only could I make crepes so paper thin they melt on your tongue, but I could make fucking delicious crepes so paper thin they melt on your tongue. If I can, so can you. My directions and recipe below:

    Crepes

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    1/2 cup water
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons butter, melted
    Mix all ingredients together and blend first with a spoon, then a whisk to get all the lumps out. Lightly oil a frying pan on medium-high heat. Pick up frying pan by the handle and ladle approx. 1/4 cup of batter into the centre of the pan, and rotate so batter coats the entire surface of the bottom of the pan. Let cook for about 2 minutes, then flip.

    To serve, coat with butter and granulated sugar and lemon if you like.


    I'm not going to pretend that I didn't eat these as they came off the griddle, liberally doused with sugar and butter. I love this no-job thing. And? I didn't really have to eat for the rest of the day. You should only stuff yourself sick once a day, I think.

      Thursday, April 5, 2012

      Leeky days, part 2

      So after you're done with the leek roots (those tasty, tasty bastards), you have some leeks on your hands. I love these things. Flavourful and versatile, I believe you can use a leek wherever you would normally use an onion. And I usually use them in soup. I'm not very creative. So this time, with these gorgeous organic babies, I decided to make them the main course:

      Braised Leeks

      4 large leeks, tough outer leaves peeled off and cut in half, white parts and green parts. Cut again so the leeks are quartered.
      1 bunch green onions
      1 cup vegetable stock
      2 cups milk (or cream if you have it)
      4 tbsp flour
      2 tbps thyme
      1/2 cup parmesan or blend of asiago and romano cheeses
      sea salt
      fresh ground black pepper

      Preheat oven to 400. Once your leeks are quartered, cut your green onions in half, put all in a colander and rinse really thoroughly under cold water. Leeks are grown in sandy soil so make sure all the grit in between the leaves is rinsed out.

      Take a casserole dish or bread pan and put your leeks and green onions in, set aside. In a medium saucepan, make a roux out of the stock, milk or cream, and the flour. Once finished, pour over the leeks in the pan, top with thyme, salt and pepper and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese on top. Add more salt and pepper and put back in the oven for another 7-10 minutes, until cheese is golden brown. Remove and serve hot.


      Yes. I made this for Chris and I and I also added bread so you can sop up all the ridiculous juices. Originally the recipe I found didn't call for roux, but the sauce was a little watery so this is my version. Also? This is not for the faint of calorie. However if you skip the bread and you're a no-gluten person, this is legit. So score.

      I don't fucking care about calories. I don't have a job. I'm rich in calories. That's how I look at it.

      Tuesday, April 3, 2012

      Leeky days, part 1

      I love farmers markets. Because I never leave the West End, I had no idea that there was a winter farmers market at Nat Bailey stadium. Score. Farmers markets are great because sometimes they write the jokes themselves:


      Ya know?

      I went to buy some leeks, and the farmer said to me "did you know that the roots are the tastiest, most flavourful part of the leek? Most farmers cut them off, but I highly recommend you fry them in a little olive oil and see what you think". Sold.

      I love the idea of getting multiple applications out of one ingredient. Look at this pretty thing:


      I also got a bag of garlic chives for a buck, and thought they would make a great combo:

      Leek Root Bird's Nest

      Roots of 4 leeks
      Fistful of finely chopped garlic chives
      Olive Oil
      Sea Salt
      Peppercorn medley, ground in a mortar and pestle.

      Trim leek roots off leeks and rinse thoroughly. Fill  a bowl with lukewarm water and allow roots to soak for about half an hour, so all the dirt floats to the bottom. Drain and set aside.

      Heat a glug of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high and pan-fry roots, flipping with a spatula until brown on both sides, about 7 minutes total. In the last minute, add garlic chives to the centre of the "nest" and allow to wilt slightly. Remove from heat and plate. Dress with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper medley (a mix of pink, green and black peppercorns.


      Slightly crunchy, filling and very flavourful, the roots are like leeks concentrated, and absolutely delicious. I will for sure look for more of these at future markets.

      Now I have the leeks themselves to use. Stay tuned!