Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cheesy pasta, the perfect remedy to a hangover

It’s the holidays and we can sometimes go overboard with the drinking thang. Although I’m pretty much spared this year (yes, I’m pregnant so no boozing for me), people around me can go wild and crazy. They might even regret it the day after… which is the case for my husband today!

I have to admit I’m a huge pizza fan when it comes to hangover food. Add to that a can of Coke and I’m usually all set. But sometimes the pain is not that bad and I feel like eating something a little fancier while watching a cheesy movie. But the food still needs to be greasy, heavy, and loaded with cheese. Mmmmm cheese!! And of course, it has to be easy to make with readily accessible food.

From the leftovers I’ve got in my fridge after the Christmas food splurge, here’s a nice recipe I made up. It’s greasy, cheesy and should do the job.

Makes about 4 portions

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small red onions cut in small pieces
150 g of pancetta in small dices
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ cup of 15% (or even 35%!) cream
150 g of Ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Gruyere
½ cup of grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt & pepper

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, brown the onions in the olive oil.  Add the pancetta a let sear for a good 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sear for another 5 minutes.
Lower the heat of your and add the cream, Ricotta, Gruyere and Parmesan. Blend well. Add the thyme leaves along with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve with fresh or dried linguine pasta.

Note: I didn’t have any Gruyere at home so I used Charlevoix cheese. Just get a cheese loaded with flavor and it should do the job.

I usually keep a piece of pancetta or bacon in my freezer at all times. That way I have access to a tasty ingredient whenever I need it. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Never fancied out

Christmas is already over. Again, it went by so fast it was like the strike of a lightning; you don’t really know what hit you. But a few things remain to remind you of what happened in the last few days: good memories with family and friends, some good (or not so good!) presents piled up in your living room, and the vague impression of decadent food decay… which, against your will, have brought some extra pounds to the scale. Yet you have absolutely no regret. It was all worth it you tell yourself, and for sure, when the New Year comes, you’ll put this resolution on your list: I’ll make sure never to eat so much ever again!

This year I’ve been spoiled, maybe a little too much for my own good. But I liked it and I don’t want it to end. Why should it? After all, what’s an extra day of spoiling if it’s going to be about good culinary pleasure? The New Year isn’t here for another few days so lets make the best of it, and lets forget about those few extra pounds.

Which is why after Christmas, I like to treat myself to some really good food. Good ingredients have never killed anybody. And today I feel like something nice and smooth, that tastes like the sea. I’ve decided on a silky Coquille St-Jacques.

Makes 6 servings or 10 appetizers

Mashed potatoes (optional)
5 medium size potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon 15% cream
Salt and pepper

Béchamel sauce
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons shallots, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm milk
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons Vermouth
Salt and pepper

6 shells (or oven proof serving plates)
24 larges scallops cut in 4
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
¼ cup aged Gruyere cheese, grated
Pinch sweet paprika or piment d’Espelette

Mashed potatoes
In a saucepan, cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain, and finely mash with the butter and cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven’s boiler.

Béchamel sauce
In saucepan, melt the butter. Add the shallots and sear until tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring over medium heat. Whisk in the milk. Add the fennel seeds, white wine, and Vermouth. Stir until it thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
With a pastry bag with a fluted tip, pipe the puree around the shells. Separate the scallops between each shell.

Drizzle the sauce over the scallops. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese. Add a sprinkle of paprika. Bake in the middle of the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is slightly brown.

Note: I’m making my Coquille St-Jacques as an appetizer so I’ve decided not to put I in the mashed potatoes. It’s as delicious that way only a little lighter.

You can make your Coquilles in advance, covered in the fridge. Just cook them before serving. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Joy... and the perfect diner for it!

Ok, so I have to admit to something. I’m not a great fan of sweet and sour food. I don’t know. There’s something about mixing a nice fruity flavor to salty meat that doesn’t always compute in my mind, and on my tongue. Still, there is some exception (of course, there always is an exception) and one of them is cranberry sauce! A turkey without it is simply naked and bland. Add some nice, fruity cranberry sauce and bam, the turkey shines and becomes a star!

On top of that, turkey can sometimes (and to be honest, most of the time) be dry. It’s hard to make a nice, roasted turkey without overcooking it. Maybe it’s the fact that when we make turkey, there usually is a fun party going on in the living room, which means we can forget about the turkey in the oven!! But my mom figured out the way to minimize the dryness and maximize the party factor: go for brown meat only. Turkey legs, turkey thighs, whichever you prefer. This year, I’ve asked my butcher to cut me some nice turkey thighs. They're the perfect individual serving size, they’re easy to serve and they certainly are nice, tender and juicy.

I know what you're thinking: what about the stuffing? Now that's an easy fix. I have this killer stuffing recipe which will, no doubt, satisfy your guests. The interesting part is that you don't have to stuff it in the turkey to make it. You make it on the side and Voilà!, you've got your stuffing. It's not more complicated thant that.

To make sure I get the perfect turkey-cranberry mix along with a great stuffing, here are the recipes I’m going to use.


3 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
300g fresh or frozen cranberries
3 tablespoons honey
¼ cup red Porto
¼ cup water
¼ cup orange peel
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan, soften the shallots in the butter. Add the cranberries and honey. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper

Makes 8 servings

8 turkey thighs (ask your butcher to cut them, they usually do)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt

Note: Before starting, if you have time, you can brine your turkey. Simply dissolve 1 cup of kosher salt in 2 quarts of water then soak the turkey in this brine for 1 to your 4 in the fridge. This will make your turkey more moist and tender.

When you’re ready, heat your oven to 350˚F. Pat dry the thighs with paper towel. Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper. Let rest at room for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat an ovenproof fry pan over medium-high heat. Put the oil in the pan and wait until it shimmers. Add the turkey, skin side down. Sear for about 4 minutes, or until the skin is dark golden brown. Flip the turkey and sear on the bone side for another 4 minutes.

Move the pan in the oven (at the bottom of the oven) and roast until the turkey is thoroughly cooked (about 170˚-180˚F when checked with a meat thermometer). This should take between 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the thighs.

Makes 12 servings

One 9-inch-long loaf seeded rye bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, halved and thinly sliced
1 celery rib, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 teaspoon chopped sage
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
½ pound piece of slab bacon, sliced ½ inch thick and cut into ½ inch dice
2 ½ cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 egg
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toast the rye bread cubes for about 15 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until lightly golden and dry. Transfer the bread to a large bowl.
In a skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery; cook over moderate heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape into the bowl with the bread.
Wipe out the skillet. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the bowl with the bread. In a medium bowl, whisk the chicken broth with the egg. Pour over the bread mixture and add the kosher salt and pepper. Toss until the bread soaks up the liquid. Scrape into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Bake the stuffing for about 30 minutes, until hot throughout. Remove the foil and bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the top is lightly golden. Serve hot or warm.

Note: After tossing the ingredients and spreading them in a pan, chill the stuffing for at least an hour before baking. This ensures that the bread soaks up the liquid—key to a stuffing that's crisp on top and moist within.

With all of this, I'll make sure to make some great mashed potatoes (make sure to use yellow potatoes) along with some nice grean beans. Nothing too fancy, everything perfect! 

Monday, December 20, 2010

The diner party

It was simply amazing!! Once again, the girls outdid themselves… and we ate a little too much for our own good. But it was all worth it and I’d do it again tonight (although tomorrow night would be wiser). Who would say no to a feast prepared with love?

Besides having a great time, what did we eat? Here’s a showcase of only but a few them. I’m hoping this might give you a few extra ideas for your Christmas dinner parties!

Creamy basil and garlic snails
A classic: bacon wrapped olives
Mushroom duxelle laid in a filo paste nest and topped with a hint of balsamic glaze
Fresh tomatoes stuffed with black olive tapenade and sliced cured Copa
Half a kiwi stuffed with curry and coco
Tomatoe and cantaloup gazpacho in a shooter glass
Lemon cake served with a raspberry coulis
Refreshing mint and basil mojitos
And as an extra, I even managed to get the recipes to two of the nights hits.

Champagne jelly with pomegranate 
Makes 10 to 12 glasses

1 pomegranate
1 cup of small green raisins (without seeds) cut in small slices
1 bottle of sparkling wine (or real champagne, if you dare!)
2 tablespoons of neutral gelatine (2 small pouches)
½ cup of sugar
6 tablespoons of cold water
Empty the sparkling wine bottle in a big bowl and set aside.

Get the pomegranate seeds and equally split them between the glasses. Do the same with the raisin slices.

In a small saucepan mix the gelatine and the cold water. Wait 5 minutes.

Over low heat, add the sugar to the gelatine and water mixture and heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Add the hot mix to the sparkling wine. Wait a minute or two, until there are no more bubbles. Empty in the champagne glasses.

Set aside in the fridge for about 1h30 and mix every 10 minutes for the first 50 minutes. This way the fruits will stay in suspension.

Serve chilled. Great with a cheese platter!!

Duck over carrot and ginger confit
Makes 12 portions

Carrot and ginger confit
12 grilled bread croutons
3 grated carrots
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup white wine
2 tablespoons corinth raisins
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 confit duck legs
1 small green onions cut in small pieces
1 tablespoon fresh parsley

For the carrot and ginger confit, blend all the ingredient in a small saucepan and let sear at low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the mixture is syrupy and there is no liquid left.

Serve the confit in small serving glasses and add some duck on top. Finish it off with a bread crouton.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting ready for a girls dinner party

Every Christmas, for the past 12 years, 7 of my girlfriends and I organize a fancy dinner to celebrate our friendship. All of us love to cook, so right from the beginning we had to split the task of cooking, making sure everyone had something to prepare. As we’re 8 girls in the group, we split the dinner as so: appetizers, starter, main course (2 people prepare this!), sides, salad, bread & cheese and finally desert. With all this food, you can imagine us at the end of dinner: rolling our way back home!!

We’ve always made a great effort at our dinner parties to cook something special and out of the ordinary. But as the years have gone by, our dinners have almost become a fierce competition on who’s going to make the best dish and how gastronomical our creations are going to be. Us girls are like that!

This year, we’ve decided to slightly change the formula and we’re doing a Tapas night! This is great as we get to make a few different dishes, in smaller portions, which means we can really go all out!

Still, a debate has been dwelling upon us: what really is a tapas? Is it a small plate shared by all or is it a bite? I’ve done a little bit of research and the truth is, both are right! If you go to Barcelona, you can get little plates of say, fried calamari or stuffed mushrooms, which can be shared between 4 people. But if you go in San Sebastian, in the North West of Spain, you get small bite size samples of all sorts of things on a piece of bread...  Usually with loads of mayo!

Anyways, we’ve decided that all is aloud! Why not? The surprise will be more interesting, we’ll have more diversity and depending on what ideas the girls find, we’ll surely be impressed and well fed!

As for me, I have to prepare 3 plates: 1 cold, 1 hot and 1 desert. Here are my choices for this surely amazing night:
-Crispy Asian bite with salmon sashimi and a Nobu inspired sauce
-Caribbean cod acras with a spicy mayonnaise
-Lemon and vanilla panna cotta with a wildberries and rose water coulis

Makes about 75 acras

350 g of salt cod
Water for soaking
3 cups milk
6 green onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Grated zest and juices of 2 limes
2 tablespoon of powder coriander
2 tablespoons of whole coriander, crushed
½ cup of fresh coriander, finely chopped
2 jalapenos finely chopped (optional)
1 ¼ cups of white flour
¼ cup of cornstarch
1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
4 egg whites
Salt and pepper
Canola oil for frying

Caribbean Sauce
½ cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of hot Caribbean sauce
2 tablespoons of fresh coriander, finely chopped

Rinse the cod under cold running water. In a large bowl, cover the cod with cold water for desalination. Refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water three times. Drain.

In a small saucepan, poach the cod in 2 cups of simmering milk for about 20 minutes. Drain and flake with your fingers into small pieces. Set aside.

In a large bowl, blend the cod, onions, garlic, zest and lime juice, 3 corianders and jalapeno.

In another bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients to the fish mixture. Blend well. Add the remaining milk, stirring continuously. Using a spatula, fold in the egg whites. Season with salt and pepper.

For each fritter, spoon about 1 tablespoon of fish batter right into the oil. Fry about eight at a time, until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes. Drain on the paper towel.

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl. Add some hot sauce to taste.

It is also possible to make the acras and the sauce the day before. Simply warm the acras for a few minutes in the oven (350˚F) just before serving. Add the coriander to the sauce just before serving.


About 10 frozen won-ton sheets
Oil for frying
200 g of fresh sashimi salmon
Black sesame seeds
Baby Asian greens for decoration (or anything delicate and green!)

3 tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise
½ tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon soya sauce

Defrost the won tons and cut the in 4. Cut your salmon in small bite size squares (about ½ cm thick and a nice 1 ½ cm wide).

In a large saucepan, heat the oil (375˚F). Delicately but quickly add the won tons to the oil. You can put up to 10 at a time. Heat until golden (about 45 seconds).  Remove and put on a paper towel covered plate.

In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients. Adjust taste if desired. 

Note: You can make the fried won-tons a few hours before serving time. As for the mayo, you can prepare it a day in advance and keep it covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.


In a nice flat serving plate, lay the fried won tons. With a small spoon, put a little bit of the mayo on each won ton. On top of it, add a slice of salmon. Sprinkle with the black sesame seeds. Finally, add a little bit of green on top of each bite. Serve and enjoy!

Lemon and Vanilla Panna Cotta
Wildberries and Rose Water Coulis
Makes 6 portions or 12 mini servings

Panna Cotta
1 tablespoon (1 small pouch) of neutral gelatin
1 ½ cups of 15% cream
1 ½ cups of plain yogurt
½ cup of sugar
1 vanilla bean
5 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of lemon zest

3 cups of small frozen fruits
3 tablespoons of well-packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons of crème de cassis
1 tablespoon of rose water (if desired)

For the Panna Cotta
Pour the lemon juice into a small bowl; sprinkle the gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.

Mix the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from the vanilla bean; add the bean. Bring to a simmer. Add the gelatin mixture and stir over low heat just until the gelatin has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let it cool for a good 15 minutes and remove the vanilla bean.

Whisk in the yogurt and lemon peel. Divide among ramekins. Cover and chill until set, at least 6 hours or overnight.

For the coulis

Puree in a blender the small fruits and all reserved juices, brown sugar, crème de cassis and rose water, if desired. Strain mixture into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids in strainer.

Note: you can make both the panna cotta and the coulis 1 day ahead as long as you keep everything covered and chilled.
You can be creative with your plating. For the purpose of tapas night, I served my panna cotta in miniature format!

Tomorrow I’ll show you what the girls made for our dinner!! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's time to start!

Wicked!! This is my first post. Honestly, I’m a little nervous. I don’t really know how these things work. But I trust my instincts and I hope that once again, they’ll take me where I want to go.

I can assure you that I’ll do my best to make your time worthwhile. I promise I won’t take up too much of it (wouldn’t we all need more time?) and that I’ll try to show you stuff you haven’t discovered yet. Of course, if you work in a 5 star restaurant or own a fancy shop selling fine foods, you might be disappointed. But otherwise, you might find a few things interesting, which is what I’m aiming for.

Thanks in advance for reading me and for pulling up your sleeves in trying some fun, sometimes adventurous, but mostly accessible recipes. If I can do them, so can you!