La bûche de Noël – Yule Log

Bûche de Noël au chocolat, à la pâte d'amande et à la noisette. Chocolate, marzipan and hazelnut yule log.

Bûche de Noël au chocolat, à la pâte d’amande et à la noisette. Chocolate, marzipan and hazelnut yule log.

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Pour la dernière chronique Bouchardises de l’année 2014, l’objectif était double. D’abord, j’ai parlé brièvement d’essentiels de cuisine. Pour ce faire j’ai proposé deux instruments de cuisine utiles à tout pâtissier en herbe : le mélangeur à pâte et le zesteur. Un autre essentiel est sans contredit d’avoir une réserve d’épices bien garnie. J’ai eu la chance d’en parler avec Allison Johnston, propriétaire de la boutique The Spice Trader qui a su partager sa passion.

En second lieu, j’ai tenté ma main à la confection de ma toute première bûche de Noël. Le récit et la recette sont disponibles sur le site de Y a pas deux matins pareils d’ICI Radio-Canada Première.

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A new year: rediscovering the joy of blogging

Ham and a sliced fig

Holiday ham: fig and balsamic glazed ham

Hi!

It has been so long. Feels a little strange to be posting – especially after such a long hiatus (4 months!). A new year means new beginnings. Time to start fresh and rekindle with the joy of blogging again.

At the beginning of last year, I had a semi decent run for a couple of months. Then, things obviously slowed down quite a bit. Procrastination may have got the better of me. Can’t blame anyone but myself for that. continue reading

Baked Eggs in Crusty Bread

 

Baked eggs in crusty bread.

Baked eggs in crusty bread.

I recently discovered The Simple Things magazine thanks to my partner. This british lifestyle publication is thoroughly an enjoyable read from cover to cover. Each edition is divided in three parts: dawn, day and dusk and presents various recipes, shops destinations and people. Their philosophy is simple.  “It’s about slowing down, enjoying what you have, making the most of where you live, enjoying the company of friends and family, and making simple food for friendly gatherings.”

I stumbled upon French-Canadian chef, Serge Dansereau’s baked eggs in crusty bread recipe in issue 02. I knew right away that this would come in handy; especially with my family over for the holidays. These baked eggs in crusty bread make for an elegant presentation. Served up with a tasty sweet potato hash and breakfast sausages made for a delicious Christmas morning brunch.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs per roll
  • Crusty bread rolls
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh herbs of your choice

 Method

  • Preheat the oven at 350°F.
  • Cut the tops off the buns and scoop out most of the soft bread. Brush the inside with butter.
  • Set rolls in baking tray and crack in 2 eggs in each roll.
  • Season with salt, pepper and fresh herbs of your choice. For this meal, I used fresh chives. Place a bit of butter of butter over the eggs to prevent them from burning.
  • Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the egg whites are firm.

Variation
You can also add sautéed, mushrooms, spinach or slices of ham and cheese at the bottom of the roll for additional flavour.

Christmas morning brunch: baked eggs in crusty bread served with sweet potato has and breakfast sausage.

Christmas morning brunch: baked eggs in crusty bread served with sweet potato has and breakfast sausage.

Moosewood’s Acorn Squash Soup

Acorn squash soup, Moosewood style.

Acorn squash soup, Moosewood style.

The holiday season has prompted me to rediscover the cookbooks we have at home. My quest for the perfect soup recipe brought me to the Moosewood Cookbook. Published in 1977, this book presents an adaptation of the recipes originally served at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. The group of people who founded this vegetarian inspired restaurant brought together various recipes from their personal culinary heritage.

I decided to adapt Moosewood’s Curried Squash and Mushroom Soup. In this case, I simply opted to not add sautéed mushrooms and chopped toasted almonds to the soup. I also decided to roast my garlic.

The Moosewood Cookbook.

The Moosewood Cookbook.

Note: since the soup was prepared before the big day, the photo of the finished product does not exactly reflect how it was served.

Ingredients

  •  2 medium acorn squash
  • 1-½ cups of water or chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 2 Tbs. of butter
  • ½ cup of chopped onion
  • 1 or 2 chopped leek
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp. of ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. of coriander
  • ½ tsp. of cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. of ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. of dry mustard
  • 1-¼ tsp. of salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Method

  • Half the squash and bake face down in an oiled pan for 30 minutes at 375 °F.
  • Cool and scoop out the insides and place in a large stockpot with broth of choice. Add-in spices salt and pepper. Let simmer.
  • In a large frying pan, sauté onions and leeks. Combine to the squash mixture and simmer. After about 30 minutes of simmering, purée squash mixture using a blender or hand blender.
  • Serve topped with a bit of cream, chives or thyme. I also added some Terra vegetable Sticks for just a bit of crunch.

The Book

Moosewood Cookbook
By Mollie Kazan, Ten Speed Press, 227 pages.

And the Beet Goes On

We can pickle that! Libby's Stovetop Pickled Beets.

We can pickle that! Libby’s Stovetop Pickled Beets.

For the longest time, the process of pickling seemed like something complicated and quite honestly inaccessible. Earlier this year, I asked my Nonna how to go about it. She provided some advice on how to pickle the likes of peppers and mushrooms, but the process kind of ended there since at the time, I had nothing to actually pickle.

Christmas was around the corner and there was a large amount of beets in the fridge. Suddenly, it was all clear: “We can pickle that!”

With Portlandia’s catch phrase in mind, I began searching for pickling recipes. I stumbled upon a simple recipe in Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters. My partner offered the book to me over a year ago but it’s only recently that I’ve been consulting it. The book consists of a compilation of hand written recipes found and collected in yard sales and used bookstores. A true gem.

Washed and ready: beets.

Washed and ready: beets.

Libby’s Stovetop Pickled Beets

The recipe is from Elizabeth Corkery of Groton Massachusetts. The recipe is simple and effective. It has made me confident in my novice pickling skills!

Ingredients

  •  6 to 8 medium sized beets
  • 1 cup of vinegar (250 ML)
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ¼ tsp. of salt
  • ¼ tsp. of whole cloves (which is about 4 or 5 cloves)
  • 1 cup of sliced onion (a medium sized onion)

Method

  • Wash beets. Leave a bit of the stem; do not trim tails (this will prevent the beets from bleeding hence less of a mess and an elegant presentation). Add beets to a pot of boiling water. Cook for about 35 minutes.
  • Remove beets from pot and le cool. Peel and slice into about ¼ to ½ – inch-thick rounds (that’s what the book said, I eyeballed it).
  • Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and cloves in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Add in beets and onions and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and place in a glass container and let the beets cool down.
  • Refrigerate overnight and voilà! The beets are ready to serve.

 The book:

Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters
By Marilyn Brass and Sheila Brass, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 285 pages.

Tourtière time: an update

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After serving up my first-ever tourtière for my folks for Christmas Eve dinner, I come bearing a brief update. My previous post related a play-by-play of how these pies took shape.

As per Grand-maman’s advice, I had planned to cook the tourtière at 350 degrres Farenheit for about 25 minutes. However, before placing the precious pies in the oven, my father gave me a bit of additional advice. He suggested that I brush a bit of milk on the crust which would help give the crust a nice golden color. He also suggested I place the oven on broil for a couple of minutes at the end for it to be slightly crisp.

The verdict… Success! The flavors were great. The filling wasn’t dry. It tasted pretty much the same as my grandmother’s. I could have perhaps left it on broil a touch longer, but other than that, I can say mission accomplished!

Cam from Gekiuma was intrigued by the use of 7-Up in the pie crust. I have to admit that I was too. Surprisingly enough, the pie crust wasn’t particularly sweet. This pie crust can be used in both sweet and savory situations.

More posts to come on items served for Christmas!

Tourtière time!

A labour of love: five tourtières ready for a family feast!

A labour of love: five tourtières ready for a family feast!

Having family over for Christmas has prompted me to tackle this classic québécois and French Canadian dish.

When the word “tourtière” comes up in conversations, a debate is sure to ensue. Everyone will argue that they have the real deal and that others are simply “pâtés à la viande” (meat pies). The discussion will more than likely turn into a very territorial one. The ingredients, their texture, and the size of the pie are the elements at the heart of the debate. For instance, some say that for a tourtière to be legit, it must contain game meat while others debate on whether or not the meat should be in cubes or ground and if the pie should contain potatoes. In other words, the combinations and regional variants are endless.

If you’re curious about the history and debates surrounding the tourtière, check out this article from Le Devoir (it’s in French, but it’s worth using Google Translate). It provides a bit insight on this dish that has survived the tests of time.

For this dish, I followed two recipes: my paternal grandmother’s for the filling and my friend Véronique’s for the dough.

All my previous attempts at making pie dough have been a struggle. It was sometimes too dry, other times too soft. No way would I buy frozen pie shells (well not for this project, at least). My friend Véronique had recently spoken to me about a foolproof recipe that had worked wonders. I thought I’d give it a try.

Dough! Ready to roll out some pie shells.

Dough! Ready to roll out some pie shells.

Pie dough
(variants of this recipes seen also on Recettes du Québec and Canadian Living)

Makes 5 large pie shells and covers

Ingredients

  • 5 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 pound (454 g) of cold lard or butter (I respected my friend’s recipe and used lard)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
  • 1 can (355 mL) of cold 7Up or any clear fizzy pop (yes, you’ve read correctly)

Method

  • In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg with the vinegar. Add in 7-Up, and place in the fridge.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.
  • Cut the lard in small chunks (about pea sized). And combine into the flour mix with a fork.
  • Create a well in the middle of the flour and pour the egg, vinegar and 7-Up blend into the bowl. Mix together until dough holds together.
  • Place dough in to a large ball at the centre of the bowl, make sure it is covered and refrigerate it for at least an hour.
  • The dough can be rolled out for pie shells, make sure you generously flour your rolling surface to make sure the dough doesn’t stick.
The tourtière's filling: ground veal, pork and beef seasoned with savory, cloves, allspice and onions and celery.

The tourtière’s filling: ground veal, pork and beef seasoned with savory, cloves, allspice and onions and celery.

The filling and a bit of intergenerational banter

Even if all the ingredients and quantities were carefully listed on a recipe card, I still needed to defer directly from grand-maman for some additional insight. Our phone conversation went something like this.

Me: “I’ve got your tourtière recipe. Other than what is written, do you have any additional advice?”
Grand-maman: “Well you can add a bit of garlic. Your grand father didn’t like garlic so I never put some, but you can if you like.”
Me: “Anything else?”
Grand-maman: “Just make sure the meat doesn’t dry up.”
Me: “One last thing… You know how everyone debates the issue of tourtières versus meat pies… Are these tourtières or meat pies?”
Grand-maman: “They’re tourtières! Don’t be mistaken. I learned how to make them in my culinary arts class when I was young. The nuns were teaching us how to cook back then. They taught us how to cook tourtières!”

With that being said… I got to work.

Ingredients

  • A total of 5 pounds of ground pork, veal and beef
  • 4 medium sized onions finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 large branches of celery
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Savory, cloves, allspice, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 to three cups of water
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs

Method

  • In large skillet, melt a bit of butter and brown the onions and celery.
  • Add in the ground veal, pork and beef making sure to break up any chunks. Season to taste with savoury, cloves, allspice, salt and pepper. Cook well at medium heat.
  • Add in a bit of water. Mix in a bit of breadcrumbs. (I didn’t really follow the exact recipe when it came to the breadcrumbs and water. The meat mixture wasn’t too dry from the get go. I added less than half a cup of breadcrumbs. Again, the texture seemed appropriate.)

;

Quite possibly the most challenging part of the process: making decent looking pie shells.

Quite possibly the most challenging part of the process: making decent looking pie shells.

Then comes the fun part: the making of the tourtières.

The rolling of the dough to make the pie shells proved to be a bit of a challenge for me. There were flour and excess pieces of dough a little everywhere in the kitchen. I flattened the dough with a rolling pin and cussed like a sailor, but was able to roll out five pie shells that were filled with the meat mixture and covered with more pie crust. As seen per the photos, the pies are somewhat unequal in appearance, but hopefully on Christmas Eve, everyone will agree that despite their appearance, they taste great!

To serve: preheat oven at 375 ° F and cook tourtière for about 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden.

Got any holiday cooking anecdotes and tips? Feel free to share them!