Dehydrated Apple Slices – trying out the dehydrator

The first batch of dehydrating is complete.  I couldn’t resist starting with the simple apple – after all my earliest memories of eating dried food were apple chips.  This was a frequent snack while hiking in Boy Scouts.

Dehydrated Apple Slices   trying out the dehydrator Preserving Recipes January Apple [Read more...]

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – Liver, Onions, Bacon, Mushrooms and brussel sprouts

First off, I promise a vegetarian option next week.

Liver and Onions was a meal I grew up on – it never excited me a whole lot to hear that it was cooking but my Father always did such an amazing job of it and I found myself loving it when I pushed myself to eat it.  It’s certainly not a daily dish (in fact it’s less than yearly) but it’s something few cook and it’s full of flavor and is actually a tasty, hearty meal.

Even after picking his brain tonight I didn’t live up to his legend but we came close…

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet   Liver, Onions, Bacon, Mushrooms and brussel sprouts Liver January Cooking Recipes Cheap Tuesday Gourmet [Read more...]

Santa brought a food dehydrator…

It was a wonderful holiday season and it’s now time to head back to a more normal life (and diet).  Last night was the pinnacle and an annual tradition – leftover gourmet cheese becomes a killer macaroni and cheese the night before the return to work.  A touch of black truffle oil finished the panko-crusted bowl of cheese and pasta.  We also made a roasted vegetable soup to start the journey to normalcy…

Santa did show up at the Well Preserved house this year.  Dana treated me to a 9-tray industrial food dehydrator (an Excalibur 3900).  She claims it was the ugliest gift she has ever purchased – which is a tough go for a designer!  She had driven to the US and across this city to do her research and came home with an awesome unit – and the start of a new journey for preserving with us.

Santa brought a food dehydrator... January

I have been dreaming about dehydrating for a long time – am excited to start another journey towards more preserving – of course we will maintain our canning as well.  Dehydrating offers some exciting potentials for me – including the option to eat more local food more often, preserve some different things and take my cooking to the next level.  The lack of adding skids of sugar from afar is something that appeals to my bloated

It is not about simply eating “dry, brittle food” ( a friend ame up with that one and I laughed until I peed a little).

I also want to take dehydrating to places it has rarely risen to – including fine cooking.  Dehydrated foods can be re-hydrated – to bring back or alter their flavor.  What would a dehydrated blueberry taste like when it is rehydrated in maple syrup?  What would happen if you make tea of dehydrated blueberries in maple syrup to alter it’s flavor?  Duck jerky could be rehydrated in Grand Marnier and then turned to a confit to make Duck a L’Orange.

Here’s some of the ideas I want to play with and expand on in the coming year:

  • Dehydrated strawberry leaves to make strawberry tea in the winter.  dehydrated lemon rind would be a fun match with this.
  • Dried tomato leaves to add to sauce through the winter to increase the smell and flavor (tomato leaves were previously believed to be poisonous but this has been proven inaccurate in recent years – they do, however, contain the majority of the smell of the tomato).
  • Dry beans and peas for use through the winter – affordably, locally and from farmers we know.
  • Dry our own herbs.  It’s been a pet peeve that food personalities claim you should never keep dried herbs for more than 6 months but no one seems to notice that the dried herbs on our shelves could have been in a warehouse for 2 years.
  • Create non-traditional food ingredients for later use.  We experimented with store-bought dehydrated mushrooms on the holidays,  I ground them to a powder that was awesome to throw into a vegetable soup to add flavor and reduce excess liquid.
  • Moose or deer jerky.
  • Cottage cheese.  Why?  Why not.
  • Dried fruit and veg that can be used later through the year – including slow roasted tomatoes.
  • Fruit roll-ups.  Lunch time snacking that remind me of my youth  – and we control the ingredients.

We’ll share our journey as we experiment and would love any tips or experiences from those of you out there who have tried!

Prepping for the can jam – an intro for newbies Oranges in Cointreau

For those of you who read any amount of preserving sites these days you may have heard of the Tigress Can Jam – there are almost 120 people committing to making 12 batches of preserves over the next 12 months.  We’ll be participating and are glad to answer questions and help people along with the process.  We also look forward to learning as much as we can from the rest of you participating (formally or informally) so grab some jars and join along.

In the weeks leading to registration, we offered to help by sharing a recipe and a walk-through for the first “secret ingredient.”  We’re going to hold on to the details of our preserve of the month (Tigress would like us all to release pictures and posts of the preserves we make for the challenge at the same time and I am most excited for the third week of January) but we’ll post a walk-through of a recipe and the basics of preserving. [Read more...]

Guilty Pleasure at the St. Lawrence Market

I hear so many people rave about peameal on a bun at the St. Lawrence Market.  There is a certain Canadian charm the the sandwich and the market does do a great job of this classic.

My obsession is, however, different:

Guilty Pleasure at the St. Lawrence Market January

Veal and Egglplant on a bun from Mustacio’s in the basement of the market.  A $7 feast complemented with a crunchy crusted bun and a soft interior.  I ask for cheese, onions and hot peppers – adding a bit of sriracha hot sauce at home.

It may be time for a nap!  Soon thereafter we will be trying our first batch of dehydrating using our new dehydrator from Santa.  We’ve come home with 4 types of Ontario apples to give it a try (2 sour, 2 sweet).

What a Wonderful start to the year

I used to really struggle on New Years Eve.  I found it difficult to surround myself with parties of people excited to bring in the New Year – at the time it felt like people were wishing the time away; a difficult concept for someone who adores (adored?) living in the moment.

At any rate, my teen angst is now behind me and we’ve settled into a New Years Eve tradition that brings me great joy over the last 4 or 5 years.  A quiet evening surrounded by food and friends and great beverages.  We had the opportunity to host a group of 6 dear friends last night and feasted like kings and queens.  Dinner was a 5-hour progressive tasting marathon and was a lot of fun.  Great conversation, friendship and revelry were had.

I took the opportunity to try to cook things I’ve never done before – a risky proposition to learn with an audience so I balanced it with some tested favorites.  A dear friend who also helped in the kitchen suggested surf and turf so we played on that theme through the evening.

Menu of the night:

  • Cheese tray to die for – XMas leftovers and more than 12 cheeses from around the world.  Included preserves, 3 types of homemade bread, our own slow roasted tomatoes, charcuterie and preserves to match.  We opened one of the 4 jars of amaretto pears we made this year (my first sampling of them) – pleased to say they turned out awesome!
  • Oysters Rockefeller (panko, pancetta, oregano, parsley, parmesean, beemster) and mussels steamed in white wine and our ’09 tomato sauce.
  • Naked Ravioli poached in butter and a farmers field full of sage leaves.  Matched with homemade focaccia (a no-knead variety which uses a small amount of potato water and yukon gold potatoes).
  • Butterfish sashimi on endive with green onion and citrus.  Our friend P brought this to the table – wonderful amuse bouche.
  • Lobster bisque with whipped cream with Canadian Sherry and Vanilla (we bought when in the Dominican 2 years ago).  I had never made – or eaten lobster bisque and think this may have been the hit of the night.  We stole a trick from Alinea and served the bisque in a bowl – the bowl was served on a plate covered in fresh mint and boiling water to pair the smell of mint with the taste of the bisque.  It’s amazing what flavor you can bring from the shells – the part so many throw out.  It is also a heck of a way to extend your lobster budget.
  • Beef wellington with Lobster Newberg (lobster cream sauce on egg noodles).  This was my first attempt at wellington and though I would change my approach slightly I am thrilled with the results.
  • Homemade local apple sour cream pie.

The best thing served on the table last night?  Great conversation and laughter shared amongst friends.  Leftovers have been stunning so far – including a lobster newberg sandwich.

The night officially ended around 3AM – we skipped a final cheese course due to caloric overload.

Happy New Years

Todays post will be delayed until further notice Happy New Years January

Final Preserving batch of the year – Turkey Stock

We live in an apartment in Toronto – while we are fortunate to have lots of space inside our walls, very little of that is freezer space.  My entire freezer consists of the small chest above our fridge and some borrowed space in Markham (about a 30 minute drive from here).  This is part of the reason we can so much.

As we cook fairly often at home, I keep a jar of stock open at almost all times.  Stock is just a handy staple and something that`s tough to live without.  We use it in soup, pasta, to de-glaze pans, stirfrys, cooking rice, steaming anything and so forth.

Final Preserving batch of the year   Turkey Stock Turkey Preserving Recipes December Bones [Read more...]

Prime Rib Roast – with a side of blowtorch

Jan 7, 2014 (edit): Don’t have a blowtorch or don’t want to use it on your meat?  Check out this recipe for a more conventional approach to cooking prime rib.

Several big name Chefs have been raving about taking a blowtorch to a side of beef.  Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal (both with restaurants on the list of the top 10 in the world) have raved about using a torch to sear a prime rib; we had to give it a try.

The theory is straightforward – a prime rib is best served rare-medium rare acquired with low/slow cooking and most tasty when it is accompanied with a dark brown crust which is accomplished by high heat.  This is a difficult oxymoron to achieve – one objective interferes with the other.

Prime Rib Roast   with a side of blowtorch Prime Rib December Cooking Recipes Beef

A blowtorch is a source of high heat that will start to cook the surface of the prime rib without cooking the inside.  The technique is simple – light a torch and sear all exposed meat with the flame.  You are simply looking to make the surface grey (not dark brown) and the oven will continue to brown your meat and render the fat (even at low heat).  We did ours on a rack over a tray – the fat will start to render and drip into your pan.

Once the entire roast is grey, season it.  We chose a very simple seasoning of lots of salt and pepper.

The roast can now be put into the over at 275 degrees until the roast reaches a temperature of 128 degrees in the center.

Prime Rib Roast   with a side of blowtorch Prime Rib December Cooking Recipes Beef

It is important you let the roast rest once it is complete – we waited almost 30 minutes.

The results were full of flavor, cooked to perfection and just an awesome meal.

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet: New Years Eve Mussels

Although this meal would be suitable for any evening that you wish, it is certainly a fine option for New Year.  It is a super easy meal to prepare and so many people avoid because of the perceived difficulty.  Cooking mussels is easier than boiling potatoes correctly.

Mussels are on sale this week at one of the large chains – though their prices are in kilograms, it amounts to $2.00 per pound.  Their normal price is $2.50 per pound.  It was common to see them at 99 cents per pound only a few years back.

The only two things you have to keep in mind for cooking this shellfish is that you only want to cook live ones and that you don’t eat the beards (a small grass-like piece which allows a mussel to attach to rocks and other anchors in the ocean).

Looking for live mussels is easy – you want to ensure the shells are closed.  If a shell is open, knock it on the counter a few times (not hard) – it should close over the next few minutes.  If it remains open, discard it.

Removing beards is also easy – simply pull them from the shell before or after cooking. [Read more...]