I know I have been a neglectful blogger these last several days. And I apologize.
I have in fact eaten more than one meal and have neglected to take photos or post. Again I apologize.
However, in my defense, I will say that I did intend to post photos and dutifully recount the experience. Unfortunately all the food went mysteriously missing before I could complete my mission.
Ironically, I think I may have put on a few pounds since last I spoke to you. Weird.
I would like to tell you (minus photographic evidence) about the pho I made this weekend. We are lacking pho in these parts and I had a craving. So, totally unwilling to say "no" to my belly I embarked on my first ever adventure in pho.
After some in depth interweb-y research (read: drooling as I sifted through multiple recipes and made a random determination based on gut instinct. No really, I use the stomach growling effects as an effective measure of the impressiveness of a recipe.) I used Jaden from Steamy Kitchen's recipe.
It was well touted as the best home made pho recipe to be found. Seeing as how I haven't tried any other recipes I can't say whether it's the best, but I can say it more than satisfied my craving. It surpassed many a restaurant pho. It was beefy but light and clean. I left in the silky marrow from my soup bones and slurped every last bit of it with mouthfuls of just cooked, thin sliced steak and the typical accoutrements.
I will be making it again very, very soon.
Next time I promise not to gobble before snapping pics.
What does any of this have to do with the title of this post?
Nothing. I just wanted to share. And apologize.
Now on to more post related babbly bits.
Since the snow has melted 'round here I've been on the lookout.
I've been looking for wild leeks.
I was told that the forest near my house was of a magical sort, full of foraging goodness.
I've been searching and searching, with no sign.
I started to think I was crazy, started to think I imagined being told of the magic amongst the trees. Started to think some bastard had lied to me.
And then today. Glorious, wondrous today! There they were suddenly.
Tiny, tightly furled green heads poking up from amongst the heavy layer of discarded leaves that make up the forest floor.
I was overwhelmed by garlicky, oniony goodness just brushing aside the leaves and debris.
And they weren't just in one spot. I was picking them out everywhere.
Isolated patches of them
Larger swathes of them
Yummy, delicious, once a year, limited time offer wild leeks. Just waiting for me to pluck them from their soil beds and give their lives meaning (at least that's how I choose to think of it.)
Can you tell that I'm excited?
Seriously, since the snow has melted I've been out there in that damn forest, poking about, searching in vain for signs of these guys. And I got 'em. Hooray for me!
And now let's talk about what else my daily trips to the forest have gotten me.
And still more of this
The dogs have decided that mud puddles are, like, THE best things ever (or at least two of them have. Sugar and I prefer to tiptoe around giant piles of squishy gooeyness. 'Cause we're classy...and lady like.)
They take such joy in it though, it's hard to do anything but smile.
Especially when I can't stop thinking about wild veg....until I get home and it's time to get them clean (which must be done so we can get dirty again tomorrow!)
1: How long it took me to realize I was throwing away money buying it every week.
2: How much stock I actually go through.
It seems like lately I've been using stock for everything. I think it has something to do with the cold weather. Lots of soups and stews and heavier sauces equals lots of stock...and wine, lots of cooking with wine.
Also (much to my amazement) my father loves my gravy! He even demands I make it for his terrible Newfie dinners. This is an incredible evolution for a man who previously only enjoyed gravy made from some mysterious brown powdered base that he gets in unlabeled containers from a friend. Supposedly the friend supplies restaurants with this mysterious stuff.
I'll stick with home cooking and gravies made from ingredients I can identify thank you very much.
I find myself making stock once every week or two right now. It's so easy to do, makes a huge flavour difference over store bought stuff and, in the case of chicken stock, it means I get to eat yummy roast chicken often.
Have I mentioned that chicken is also a new thing with me? Never liked it before.
Chicken cravings are the new pork cravings. Except not really 'cause the pork cravings won't stop but they have agreed to share the spotlight. For now.
So, as promised, here's how I make my chicken stock from beginning to end.
Brown Chicken Stock
"Brown" stock is different from any other chicken stock only because the bones of the carcass are roasted before the stock is simmered.
1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs)
3 carrots roughly chopped
1 large onion quartered
4 celery stalks roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic whole (no need to peel)
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
small bunch fresh parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. fresh black peppercorns
In order to not be wasteful (and because I like roast chicken dammit) I buy a whole chicken and prepare it roasted.
For the roast:
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
layer bottom or roasting pan with 2 of the carrots, onion, 2 celery stalks and the garlic.
Toss the vegetables with the olive oil.
Lay your chicken (prepared as you prefer) on top of the veggies.
Place in oven.
Cook at 450 for 15 mins.
Reduce heat (without removing chicken) to 350 degrees and continue to roast for 45 mins or until juices run clear.
Save the carrot, onion, celery, garlic for the stock.
Save any leftover bits of fat, meat from the carcass.
Cut the bones of the carcass into manageable 1-2 inch sized pieces.
In a large stockpot heat 1 tbsp. olive oil
When oil is hot add bones and roast on all sides until well browned.
Add one cup water and deglaze pot, removing any bits stuck to the bottom.
Add vegetables from roast.
Optional: Add another fresh carrot, celery, onion.
Fill pot with water to cover ingredients.
Bring to a boil.
Remove any scum that forms on surface.
Add herbs and peppercorns.
Reduce heat to simmer.
Partially cover and simmer for up to three hours.
Let cool and strain.
Pour stock into jars.
Keep in refrigerator up to a week or freezer up to three months.
That's it, that's all. You can a yummy meal, the basics for some more yummy meals and the pleasure of knowing that you really got the best out of the aromatic vegetables sacrificed for their aroma-ness.
You can't really ask more from a carrot than being roasted and then further cooked to a pulp!
Last week I found some interesting looking onions at the grocery store.
A beautiful skin of pink/purple with an overlay of thin, crackly peel and a smell of mildly sweet oniony goodness.
I had to try them.
I happily noted that they were locally grown and I was further intrigued when I read the label and found that the seeds had been gathered from France to grow back here at home.
When I got home I did some googling and discovered that I was in the presence of greatness. Turns out pink French onions are the stuff of legends - or at least a well documented history.
The onions were originally grown in the town of Roscoff in the Breton region of France. The French farmers took their tasty harvest across the waters to England where they were sold door to door in braided bunches by bicycling Frenchmen who became known as Onion Johnnies.
Man I wish I was European. I totally want my onions brought to my door by a beret wearing, stripe shirt clad Frenchman.
But I'll take them as I can.
I broke into the onions and discovered a firm flesh with light onion scent and, miracle of miracles, a total lack of tears running from my poor, sensitive eyes.
Apparently they're known for this trait - I love them even more!
So after all the onion research, appreciation and some taste testing I had to decide what to make with them.
And that only took me about half the day.
I am nothing if not decisive.
When I have an ingredient I haven't tried before I always want to cook the simplest thing so I can really taste the ingredient.
I was going to do a raw prep, then I was going to simply saute, then carmelize, then confit, then make a tart...
Finally I settled on French onion soup. Not the most creative choice, but it seemed fitting given the onion's origins.
I wanted to make a really light version of the soup to compliment the delicacy of the Roscoff onion so I switched up my typical recipe to alighter version.
Roscoff Onion Soup
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs Roscoff pink onions sliced thin
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp cognac
thick baguette slices
gruyere cheese grated
Melt butter with oil in large saucepan.
When butter has totally melted and stopped foaming add onion slices.
Cover saucepan and cook onions for 15 minutes.
Raise heat to medium and add sugar.
Stir together and continue to cook onions uncovered until they reach a deep colour (approx 30 mins.)
Stir in flour and allow flour to cook for a couple of minutes (this removes the raw taste of flour.
Add white wine and allow to evaporate and deglaze the pan.
Turn heat to low and allow to simmer for up to two hours.
Just before serving add cognac.
Place baguette slice in bottom of oven safe soup bowl and grate cheese over top.
Pour soup over top bread and cheese.
Place bowls under broiler and allow cheese to melt.
Typically I make my French onion soup with a mix of onions, garlic and a lot of chili flakes to give it some kick. I also use beef broth which makes for a more robust soup but I really wanted to keep this light and highlight the onions.
This soup was so delicate and sweet. I was very pleased with the results and I hope you are too!
For the last three months I've been promising Anamaris of Chef it Yourself that I would participate in her Top Chef challenge.
This month I finally got my s*@t together in time to do it.
Each month Anamaris names a couple of "mystery" ingredients to base a meal around. This month it was edible flowers, choice of lamb, pork or beef and shallots.
Do I seem calm about it?
I totally shouldn't because the words "edible flowers" completely scared the bejezus outta me.
For a while I wasn't even sure I could get my hands on any flowers. I mean, yeah we're seeing some signs of early spring around here but by that I mean all the snow is gone leaving everything looking dirty and barren.
We're not exactly awash in a riot of spring blossoms.
Then it occurred to me that we have an amazing organic greenhouse nearby. Cookstown Greens is this amazing place that's been producing heirloom veggies and organic wonders for almost 20 years.
They mostly supply professional chefs and restaurants but that worked out just fine for me as it fed in nicely to my delusions of real chef-itude.
Hooray for encouraging the crazy!
So I ordered a mixed bunch of flowers and had absolutely no idea what I was getting.
When I got the flowers home I found nasturtiums, violas, corn flowers, pinks and phlox. I did some taste testing and devised a plan of action.
The nasturtiums were the most interesting to my palate. They have this peppery hit to them that I really liked so I wanted to feature them.
Et voila, nasturtium pesto! I thought the peppery note would go nicely with our other mandatory ingredient, shallots, so I added some of those to the mix as well as toasted walnuts and a little garlic. It was yummy.
With the other flowers I decided to make an infusion and use them in a shallot sauce to go over my sauteed sirloin steaks. The flavour and scent of the infusion was mild but added a unique layer to the shallot sauce.
I'm pretty darn pleased with how everything turned out - if I do say so myself.
2 cups nasturtium flowers and leaves
1 tbsp diced shallot
1 tsp garlic minced
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
Season with s&p
Process all ingredients together.
Please play with the amounts of ingredients here to get a flavour and texture that you're happy with.
Bring flowers and water to a boil and allow to steep together to infuse flavours.
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots finely diced
1 clove garlic finely diced
good splash of white wine
1 cup flower infusion
1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Season with s&p
Melt butter with olive oil in saute pan.
Add garlic and shallots.
Saute until translucent (about 30 seconds).
Add wine to deglaze pan.
Allow wine to evaporate.
Add flower infusion and citrus zests.
Bring to boil and simmer to thicken.
Finish sauce with 2 tbsp unsalted butter.
Season with s&p.
Season with s&p
Pat steaks dry and season.
Heat pan to smoking.
Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side for medium rare.
Verdict: Yummy spring/summer meal.
Mostly impressed with myself for being capable of pulling my act together on a deadline!
Here's how my brain functions (or malfunctions - I leave that for you to decide) if I don't like what I perceive to be the personality of a given singer/actor/chef/general celebrity type I cannot, in turn, enjoy any of their work.
Take Bono of U2 for instance. He seems like a pompous ass to me. That's exactly how I describe him any time the topic arises. Luckily for me it seems to arise often and I get to shout out "pompous ass" and get all kerfuffled about my obviously very valid judgment of his pomposity.
Another good example: Alanis Morrissette.
I don't care that she's Canadian, I really don't. I care that her songs back in the day were ridiculous and stupid and therefore she is obviously a fool. Don't get me started on the now infamous "Ironic" lyrics. Complete idiocy.
And so I couldn't even stand to be in the room when one of her songs was played. Back in the 90s I was so well known for harbouring these strongly held opinions about people I totally have no personal knowledge of that my friends once took it upon themselves to trap me in a room and force me to endure Morrissette and her Ironic philosophizing.
It was pure torture. I still have nightmares.
The point is that this character trait of mine informs a lot of what I do and don't do in my life. I'm a little rash, I jump headlong into things.
I love as easily as I hate though. In fact, I don't like much. I love, I hate, there's not much in between for me.
Also, not really about the nightmares by the way, I'm not that pathetic.
So what does this have to do with Top Chef? Well it has a lot to do with Chef Michael Chiarello from Top Chef Masters.
The guy was a bit of an ass on the show. Sometimes more than a bit. He seemed to be dealing with some serious insecurity and self confidence issues. He was totally intimidated by Chef Keller and in every championship round made some mention of a personal competition between himself and Keller that Keller seemed to be totally unaware of.
When former Top Chef contestants arrived to act as sous chefs in one round, they all immediately felt the overcompensating ego of Chiarello as the "master" made them run ridiculous errands in the kitchen to prove their prospective worth to him. Those who were chosen to be on his team he treated like lesser beings and not the seasoned chefs they all certainly are.
Oh yeah, and he was also totally put off by the idea that former Top Chef winners would have a hand in deciding the Masters winner, stating clearly that they were not qualified to judge his food.
As you can see, I was a little annoyed by the guy.
Actually I more accurately vacillated between being super put off by his attitude and feeling incredibly sorry for him that he couldn't enjoy the comaraderie and friendly competition the way the other chefs seemed to because he was just so busy trying to prove himself all the time.
But his food looked good dammit.
I actually struggled with myself about cooking one of his dishes because his personality bothered me so much.
My own ego insisted that if I gave in to cooking Chiarello's food I would be giving in to...well, I don't really know what....his yucky pomposity I guess.
Then rational brain had a chat with ego and talked ego down off the ledge of self importance and all the voices in my head realized the whole discussion was stupid and really all any of us really wanted was some short ribs.
Does this mean I'm maturing? Growing more rational or less dramatic?
Probably not. I'm pretty sure most rational mature folks don't have multiple arguing voices in their heads
And also I still won't listen to U2 and I'll still throw up a little in my mouth if I hear Alanis Morrissette in my vicinity. And I still won't watch movies with Russell Crowe and..well..you get the idea.
But a good short rib dish? Well I guess I have to draw the line somewhere.
I wanted to try this dish because the ribs are brined before braising and I haven't done that before. This extra step of marinating the beef in salt and really imparted some nice flavours on the meat.
My favourite part of this dish was actually the cabbage. It was so softly sweet and tender. The onions were subtle and sweet. The julienned carrots and raisins were visually beautiful and added a nice level of sugar to the cabbage.
They were such a perfect match for the ribs. Another brilliant dish in which the whole is that much greater than the sum of its parts.
On their own I found the ribs to be very good if a little too salty for my taste (salt loving dad thought they were just perfect). They were tender and falling off the bone and when met with the cabbage the whole dish gained a wonderful balance of flavours and textures.
Brined Short Ribs with 5 Onion Cabbage
(adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe on bravotv.com)
2 quarts water
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups kosher salt
2 tbsp. juniper berries
3 bay leaves
Bring all ingredients together in a saucepan.
Stir to dissolve sugar.
Let the brine cool completely and then cover the ribs with brine and refrigerate for 3 hours.
4 lbs. cross cut short ribs
2 cups onion coarsely chopped
1 cup carrot coarsely chopped
1 cup celery coarse chopped
1 cup red wine
1 quart chicken stock
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Remove ribs from brine.
Heat a high sided saute pan over medium high heat until hot.
Add a layer of olive oil to the pan.
When the oil begins to smoke add the ribs and brown on all sides.
Note: They will brown very quickly due to the sugar in the brine.
After browning place the ribs in an oven safe dish.
Put onion, carrot and celery to saute pan and cook over medium heat until well caramelized.
Add vegetables to dish with short ribs.
Pour red wine into saute pan.
Deglaze the pan and then simmer until reduced by half.
Add stock to wine.
Bring to a boil and then pour liquid over ribs and vegetables.
Bring the ribs to a boil on the stovetop.
Then cover and place in oven.
Bake until tender (approx 4 hours).
5 Onion Cabbage
1 cup leeks sliced (white parts only)
1 cup green onions sliced (white parts only)
1 cup shallots diced small
1 cup red onion diced small
1 cup yellow onion diced small
1 cup grated carrot
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 head savoy cabbage
Sweat leeks, shallots and all onions and carrot in olive oil.
Saute for a few minutes.
Add cabbage and cook slowly until very soft (approx 2 hours).
At eight months I think I'm capable of looking ahead again.
I leave hesitate to declare that with certainty because I know that I've been fooled before.
Fall and winter allow you to shut down, to hibernate, to cover your head in the blankets and just get by from day to day. But now spring has begun to spring and I feel as though the universe is insisting that I take a deep breath of the fresh air, soak up the warmth of the sunshine and take some pleasure in the world around me once again.
Spring was Mom's favourite season. I remember her talking about how much she loved to see all the different shades of vibrant green in her garden. She worked hard on that garden.
I had never taken any notice of the progression of spring growth until I heard Mom that day.
She is so much a part of all the things I am.
So spring is difficult too. I find myself encountering a lot of "lasts" that didn't affect me in fall or winter. I existed in such a daze through those dead seasons that I was not plagued by distinct memories of seasons past. Spring has awakened those.
It feels like spring is the last season that I remember spending real time with Mom. She was so busy in those last few months. Of course I'm haunted by this every time I remember her.
The beach, the garden, the dogs, the family gatherings. They all are overlayed with the last time with Mom.
It hurts but I am so lucky to have so many memories to recall so very easily - or at least I know that in time I will be comforted by that fact.
I actually didn't realize he was so famous for it until, um, 30 seconds ago when I did a quick google seach with his name and the soup. I just wanted to give a Mexican recipe a try.
Mexican flavours are not ones I indulge in much. I think I've been a bit jaded by my general perception that Mexican food has been franchised out and reduced to chihuahuas yapping about tacos and quesadillas.
On one of the few occasions that SeaBass decided to take me on a romantic dinner date (this was at the beginning of our relationship. The attempts at romance have only gone downhill from here) he made a reservation and would only tell me that he was taking me out for a wonderful meal of "real" Mexican food at this restaurant he had heard about. As we drove closer to our destination I started to get a bad feeling about just where he had "heard about" said restaurant.
Woman's intuition is a powerful thing.
We were headed for "Mexicali Rosa's". He had heard about it on the radio. In one of their incessantly repeated commercials.
We were headed for the typical Mexican fair of tortilla chips and salsa and crappy margaritas. I was trying very hard to be pleasant.
The funny thing was that SeaBass totally didn't recall being inundated with commercials with this place. He was sure that someone he knew had given him a hot tip on a great place.
Their ad agency better have been well paid.
SeaBass also did not recall, until he saw the sign for the restaurant, that we had just eaten at another one of their franchises a couple of weeks before with some of his rowdy friends.
Yep, his romantic destination was filled with families with screaming children, drunken boys and bad food.
I think that's the night he gave up control in our relationship.
Hmm...maybe some good did come out of it.
I have for some time now been wanting to give Mexican fare another chance though. Especially since my brother just returned from a trip during which he got to experience a bit of the real Mexico. No Acapulcan resort food on this journey.
Now he keeps walking around mumbling about "tortas" every time he gets within hearing distance of me. Can anyone help me with this?
Back to Bayless and his Sopa Azteca. It was damn good. I loved all the layering of flavours involved. The tomato base was very nice on its own but building on the soup with the condiments and garnishes to suit your own taste was my favourite part.
(Full disclosure: This pic is from Bayless' website. I was having an off day when I made the soup and hated all the pics I ended up with. I had a bit of a temper tantrum and deleted them all. I am a huge whining baby. Thank you for understanding.)
(adapted from Rick Bayless recipe on bravotv.com)
*1 large dried pasilla chile stemmed and seeded
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 med white onion sliced
3 garlic cloves peeled
2 quarts chicken broth
**1 large epazote sprig
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cubed into 1/2 inch
1 large ripe avocado pitted and flesh scopped out
1 1/2 cups Mexican melting cheese
approx 4 cups broken tortilla chips
1/2 cup mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraiche
1 large lime cut into wedges
*no pasilla chiles in my neck of the woods. I used a scotch bonnet and dried red chili.
** I substituted some dried oregano and savoury
Quickly toast the chili over an open flame (or in a dry pan over medium heat on both sides) for just a few seconds.
Break chili into pieces and put in blender with tomato and juices.
Heat oil in large saucepan over med. high.
Add onion and garlic.
Saute until golden.
Remove onion and garlic with slotted spoon (leave behind as much oil as possible.)
Put onion and garlic in blender with tomato and chili.
Blend until smooth.
Return pan to med high heat.
When pan is hot add tomato puree and stir constantly until reduced to tomato paste consistency (approx 6 mins.)
Add chicken broth and epazote (or herbs.)
Reduce heat to med low and simmer 15 mins.
Season with salt.
Approx 5 mins before serving add chicken to simmering broth.
Divide acocado, cheese and tortilla chips up soup bowls.
When chicken is cooked (5 mins) ladle soup into bowls.
It's the typical nightmare of being back in school and being unprepared. In this version I'm not concerned about exams for classes never attended or having to suddenly take a scary subject like math again (have I ever told you all that I hate numbers and I really, truly believe them to be unnecessary and a form of torture imposed by nerds everywhere?) or, my favourite, finding myself back in high school. I even had dreams about finding myself back in elementary school for a time.
No, this series of dreams involves end of term papers that I can't seem to get done. I'm too exhausted, too mentally drained to complete them.
I remember feeling this way at the end of my final year of University. All of us graduating as Comparative Religion majors (all 4 of us) were experiencing the same complete mental breakdown (mine was more influenced by WAY too much partying and basic self destruction than anyone elses though) and our wonderful profs were good enough to give us all extensions.
In the nightmare, I risk not graduating because I just can't get the damn papers done.
So, why am I telling you this?
I spent the weekend writing my first research paper in 5 years.
Nope I'm not back in school.
Nope I'm not on to some scientific discovery that will make me millions.
Let me preface the rest of this by saying: Plagiarism is bad.
I'm just doing a favour.
Why a favour that forces me to confront my recurring nightmares?
Well, 'cause I'm crazy like that.
And to add to the crazy - it's a topic I have no clue about.
But when you get pimped out by your brother and your SeaBass it's hard to say no.
Also when the favour is for (identity being protected for sake of not getting charged with plagiarism) one of your most favourite people in the world.
Along the way I discovered that I love me some research papers.
I've been using words that I forgot I knew like socio-cultural and heterogenous and "one" in the form of a noun and....I should really excercise my vocabulary more regularly.
I realized that I actually am capable of focusing on research papers and articles...and that it helps if I'm not totally hung-over or recovering from a wild mushroom trip.
Good god, I really was not ready to be in University while there!
I'm letting go of the paper now. I'll admit that it stressed me out. But damn it was fun.
Finally let me re-iterate: Plagiarism is bad....unless it's for someone you love.
As a reminder here is Max in the days after we brought him home at eight weeks old.
Please not the look of innocence in the eyes (also, disregard the pine needles sticking out of his head. I swear we didn't impale him with anything.)
The innocence is palpable. He's begging you to believe that he could never take part in any kind of mischief. He wants you to love him, to care for him, to coddle and baby him.
He's sucking you in, that's what he's doing.
He's cute and he damn well knows it people!
Just look at what he's become:
Of course, he may or may not be running for his life from his big sister - but still...crazy!
I have never raised a puppy who chews - no, chews is wrong, he doesn't chew. He EATS so many
things (none of which are his toys. Because why would you chew your own toys when there are human type things to eat?) who takes so much pleasure in disregarding discipline...who eats SO MUCH poop!
Yeah, he's a poop eater. I'm trying to figure out the issue but no luck yet.
At least once a day my Dad threatens to evict him.
But he's still so damn cute (when he's not making crazy face that is) and he is getting better. I think. Maybe. Possibly.
Also, when did this happen to his ears?
Will he ever grow into them?
Until I started looking at pics for this post I didn't even realize how insanely large they've gotten!
Large, just like his personality.
because keeping this level of cuteness to myself would be just plain selfish.
Also because I fear that Sugar and Dolan will find out that I wrote a post solely about Max.
Aand last but not least because it's moments like this that keep me going through the last (hopefully), dragging days of snowy winter and I hope they will brighten your day,
Please bask in the glow of happy puppies playing in wintry woods
(I managed to capture Sugar on her good side - the one without the bald patch shaved into her to help her punctured neck heal. She wouldn't be pleased if I posted a pic of her injured side!)
(This is a dog who loves this time of the year like no other. She turns every walk into an adventure....also she's already ventured out into the waters of still half frozen Georgian Bay, wading out to the mini icebergs.)
Until last night I'd never cooked lentils before. I bought a package a couple of weeks ago and I'm just now getting around to cooking them. So I decided to do them pretty simply with chorizo sausage in a kind of stew sort of thing.
I know that chorizo and lentils is a pretty classic combo but as I was looking through various recipes for inspiration I found a lot of discrepancy in the way the dish is prepared.
There were some recipes suggesting just adding the sausage to the cooking lentils - this I couldn't fathom since so much of the flavour from chorizo comes from the release of oils as it's being fried up.
There were some recipes calling for a cooking of the lentils in plain water with no additional seasonings added - I had to refer back to my Julia Child lessons here and insist on cooking my lentils with aromatic vegetables and some chicken stock to add immediate layers of flavour.
On the flip side to the plain water recipes some suggested cooking the lentils in straight stock. Some even added wine to the mix - I may have gone with straight stock (i just didn't have enough on hand)
...speaking of stock, I've become a total freak about making my own. If anyone's interested in a post on stock making, let me know!
Where was I? Right, cooking the lentils in wine - I just couldn't do it. I totally wanted some wine in the dish but it didn't make sense to me to only have it in the cooking liquid. I added my wine at a point when I could incorporate it into the whole dish.
Some recipes had the fully cooked lentils being added to the separately cooked sausage at the very last minute before serving. I envisioned more melding of the flavours. I figured if I waited to add the two components together at the last minute I'd missing out on an opportunity to allow the lentils to soak up the oils from the chorizo.
So this is what I came up, kind of a combo of what I saw as the best of all the recipes I found.
SeaBass had never had lentils before either...and was disturbed by the look of them when he came home - he's getting a little suspicious in his old age. I think he's spending too much time with my Dad.
But he loved them! After slopping down to super-human sized bowls he started feeding me suggestions for more lentil dishes.
As for me, I thought they were pretty damn good - if I do say so myself. The smokiness of the chorizo, the slight sweetness of the onion and garlic, the heat from the chili flakes made their way into every bit of the rich, slightly al dente lentils. The addition of the lentil cooking water blends everything together and adds even more lentil flavour. I love the pop of each individual lentil in your mouth.
This is a totally simple dish that I will be cooking again and again.
Chorizo and Lentils
1 cup lentils
3 cups liquid (I used a combo of chicken stock and water)
1 whole carrot
2 whole celery stalks (with leaves)
1/2 bay leaf
1 tbsp olive oil
handful of chili flakes
2 links sweet chorizo
1 white onion diced
3 gloves garlic finely diced
good splash of white wine
Add lentils, liquid (stalk, water or combo), carrot, celery and bay leaf to pot.
Bring lentils to boil uncovered.
Cover and turn heat down to low.
Allow to simmer for 15-20 mins (the lentils will still be very firm).
While lentils are cooking heat olive oil and chili flakes in deep saute pan or pot.
Add onion and garlic to pan and saute until translucent.
Dice chorizo and add to pan.
Saute until chorizo is cooked through.
Remove from heat until lentils are cooked.
When lentils are ready return chorizo to heat.
Add splash of white wine to deglaze pan.
Allow to cook down for a couple of minutes.
Drain liquid from lentils. Reserve liquid.
Remove carrot, celery, etc. from lentils.
Add lentils to pan with chorizo.
Add 1/2 cup of liquid from lentils.
Cook on low heat until lentils reach desired consistency.
Continue to add liquid if needed to keep the mixture loose and stew like.