Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Could Use Your Help

Ok so I said it before, I’ve got a little bit of a cooker’s block. And I’m seriously stuck over here. I have to cook for about 15 people in 2 weeks time. It’s going to be my son’s baptism. What will I make, that is the question? I’m looking for some seriously “chic” recipes to make. Things that I don’t mind behind hard to prepare but that will be super easy to serve on the day of the event. I don’t want to be spending the entire party in front of my stove! It’s going to be buffet style, not a sit down dinner.

Any ideas? Any amazing recipes to share? Send me the goods to sophie@figareau.com. I’ll make sure to share your recipe on this blog after that!! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lamb Tajine Isn’t That Hard To Make

These days, it feels like I have writers block. You know, the feeling of being in front of a blank page and not knowing what to write about. Only my problem isn’t writers block, it’s cooker’s block! I don’t know if it’s because its summer but I don’t feel like cooking these days and when I do, I like to make easy stuff I know how to make; stuff not interesting enough to add to this blog.

What do you do when such a thing happens? I’m thinking time will make the feeling go away. And maybe that winter will bring me back to life. Isn’t that sad? I don’t want summer to end so it’s like saying I don’t want to revive!

Ok so enough of the depressing stuff! I still make a few interesting things in a week and this is a great recipe I made for a friend. Super tasty and tender, this lamb dish takes quite a bit of time to cook but is super easy to make. On a beautiful summer night it felt like the perfect summer dish!

Makes 4 servings
1kg boneless lamb shoulder, cut in dices
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp powdered ginger
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
3 tbsp fresh flat parsley, chopped
¾ cup green olives, pitiless
3 cups potatoes, cut in dices
2 pinches saffron
1 tbsp extra olive oil

In a large cooking pot, heat the olive oil over high heat and add the lamb cubes. Cook until they are evenly roasted (about 5 minutes). Take the lamb out into a bowl and keep on the side.

Reduce the heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are tender. Add the garlic, cumin and ginger, cook for another minute. Cover with 375ml of water. Scrape the bottom of the pot to keep the meat juices. Add the lamb and incorporate the paprika, salt and pepper. Add the coriander and parsley, cover and simmer over low heat for another 1 hour to 1h15 minutes, until the meat is tender.

Add the olives and cook for another 15 to 30 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and dice. Cook in slightly salted water with the saffron for about 10 minutes. Take out of the water and add the extra olive oil.

Transfer the lamb in a serving plate and spread the potatoes around the meat. Serve immediately.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Old Aunt’s Banana Strawberry Ice Cream Pie

Ok, so you’re going to think I’ve gone back in time. I know. This is a very strange and uncommon desert now a day! We’ve become quite fancy with time. Fashion trends don’t just happen with clothes but with food also. There are some things we just don’t make anymore. Like aspics. Who makes aspics in 2011… Besides maybe your 90 year old grandmother?

But who can deny the power of a great childhood memory? I ate the following desert once in my life, when I was about 9 years old. My aunt (who is now 90 years old!) had made it at her country house and I got to have a nice big piece of this delicious frozen treat. I only had it once and 15 years later, I can still remember it in vivid colors. Good things just never disappear from the mind. My aunt is quite old and I rarely see her, something that often happens when you have a really big family. But this summer, I saw her daughter, and I couldn’t resist talking about the pie and the souvenir I had of it.

You should’ve seen my face when she told me she had the recipe and that she would share it with me. I knew right there I was in trouble; I was gonna have to make this pie, soon. So I made the pie. Who knew something so easy to make could be so delicious to eat? And boy am I proud to see that my childhood memory hasn’t fooled me. This desert might seem old school but it tastes damn good and even though it’s not really the trendy to do anymore, I totally think you should try it too!

Makes 8 servings

1 ½ cups chocolate cookies
¼ cup melted salted butter
¾ cup chocolate chips
1 cup 35% cream
1 tsp vanilla
3 bananas, sliced
1 liter strawberry ice cream

In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate chips with the cream and vanilla. Take off the heat and let cool.

In a food processor, crush the cookies with the butter. Spread at the bottom of a pie plate.

To make the pie, cover the cookies with a layer of bananas. Top with half the ice cream. Cover with half the chocolate mixture. Freeze for about an hour. Repeat the 3 first steps and freeze again for a couple of hours.

Take the pie out of the freezer for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Notes: For the chocolate cookies, try Mr. Christie’s simple chocolate cookies… the ones they make Oreo’s with!

If you’re from Quebec, your best pick is Coaticook ice cream.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crispy Fried Chicken

Summer is filled with parties for everyone. Who wants to stay cocooned inside, all alone, when it’s warm and beautiful outside? No one so everyone tries to organize a bunch of fun gatherings. On top of it, it gives us an excuse to finally see all these people we neglect during the winter because we’re too caught up in staying warm!

This summer, a friend who’s Haitian hosted one of the parties I went to. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Haitian party but Haitians can hold a serious cook down!! My friend’s mother was there with us, and she brought the food along with her. It was mainly rice and chicken, but man was the chicken good! No one can cook a good fried chicken like the Haitians can.

Coming back home after the party, I was possessed with a major craving for more of the amazing chicken. I know it’s not the healthiest but depending on how you make it, it can be sort of not so bad. Because I needed a quick fix, I didn’t have time to ask for the official recipe so I decided to recreate my own version of it. And it was pretty good I have to say. I can’t say it was better than the real version, but it was good enough for people to eat about 5 pieces of chicken each; now THAT’S a BIG appetite!!!

Crispy Fried Chicken
Makes 4 about servings

About 12 chicken thighs
3 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tsp salt & pepper
1 tsp smoke paprika
2 cups canola or peanut oil

Preheat your oven at 350˚F. Take out a baking sheet and pour the oil on top of it.

In 3 separate large bowls, put, in order: the flour mixed with the salt & pepper; the eggs, beaten; the panko crumbs mixed with the paprika.

Take 1 chicken thigh at a time and cover with the flour, then the egg mixture and, finally, the panko mixture. Put on the baking sheet.

Cook in the oven for 25 minutes then turn and cook for another 25.

Note: If you’re not in a hurry and are willing to take on the task, you can deep-fry you chicken for an even crunchier effect. Nothing beats deep-frying for crunchiness. I’m just too lazy to get to it!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Copying B&G Oysters Greatness With Striped Bass

During my vacation I got to escape the craziness of having kids for one whole day, thanks to my parents who accepted to babysit. That day was memorable for all sorts of reasons, one of them being the restaurant where my husband and I went for dinner. We went to this great little Boston restaurant called B&G Oysters. Owned by renown chef Barbara Lynch, it wasn’t a surprise we landed in the right place for a night out on the town.

Besides indulging on some amazingly fresh oysters (which were opened right before our eyes), I ate a delicious plate of Striped Bass. The meat of a striped bass is white and its texture is between flaky and meaty. Its taste is rich and sapid. Above all, stripers are versatile; no matter what you feel like doing, from batter frying them to smoking them to poaching in court bouillon, striped bass can handle it.
When we came back home from our day trip, I couldn’t resist making my dad jealous by telling him what I had eaten: Striped Bass. He’s a huge fan of the fish and wouldn’t stop talking about having it for dinner. So I made him a deal he couldn’t resist: I offered not only to prepare dinner, but also to try to recreate the dish I had eaten at B&G Oysters. I always love a good challenge and this one, I felt, was one I could easily take on. And I did! I managed to reproduce (or copy!) a great dish just by instinct and memory. Although it lacked a little bit of finesse (I’ve mentioned this in my previous post but only had access to basic ingredients), it tasted damn good. And the meal certainly pleased my dad. That made my day!
Makes 4 servings

1 pound fresh striped bass filet (skin on), cut in 4 equal pieces
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

4 corn on the cob
1 tbsp sugar
¼ cup milk
1tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 celery branches, cut in small sticks
¾ cup chicken broth
1 thick slice of bacon, cut in ¼-inch pieces
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh chive, finely chopped

Red Pepper Topping
1 red bell pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp flat parsley, finely chopped

Red Pepper Topping

In the over, on the boiler or the BBQ, roast the red pepper. Once done, take off the skin and cut in tiny cubes. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until tender. Lower the heat and add the red pepper dices. Let cook until the pepper is soft and tender. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Add the parsley just before serving.

In a large pot, boil some water with the sugar and milk. Cook the corn for about 6 minutes (more or less, depending on the size of the grain). Drain. Cut the grains off the cob and set aside.

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and the celery. Cook until tender. Add the chicken broth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Close the heat and add the butter. Your sauce will become nice and shiny. Add the chives just before serving.

In a small skillet, cook the bacon until it’s nice and crispy. Set aside. Add to the corn mixture just before serving.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Cook you fish, skin side down. You should cook ¾ of your time on the skin side and finish ¼ of the time on the flesh side. Be careful not to burn the skin. Striped Bass should be cooked thoroughly. It should take about 8 minutes.

In a deep plating dish, lay some of the corn mixture (don’t forget to add the bacon and the chive before serving!). Add a piece of the fish on top of it, skin side up. Garnish with some of the red pepper mixture (don’t forget to add the parsley before serving!!). Et voilà! Enjoy! 

This is the original version from B&G Oysters

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cooking On Vacation

Is it me or is there nothing better in life than a nice vacation? I don’t know who wouldn’t agree with me… besides those who don’t have the privilege to get out of their house to enjoy the better things life has to offer. It pity those people…

So I’ve been away, which explains why this blog has been dead silent for the past three weeks. I decided to take a true a total break from writing… and from cooking. Can you believe that? The funny thing is that I’ve actually BEEN cooking for the past three weeks, for my whole family, parents and siblings included! I know, I’m totally contradicting myself so I need to give you a good explanation for this. Actually, when I say I haven’t been cooking, I mean I haven’t spent much time behind the stove and certainly have not been trying out new recipes. I’ve simply been grilling a whole lot of fish and a little bit of meat on the grill, in their bare essential; naked, with almost nothing but salt and pepper. That’s the good life… and it was a true break for me! As for the vegetables, they pretty much got the same treatment!! And what to say about desert? Welcome ice cream cones!!!

But now it’s back to life; back to my cupboard filled with all these great spices; back to my fridge packed with amazing sauces and condiments; back to all the small specialty stores I know that have so much to teach me. I need to get back to cooking. Everyone needs a break once in a while, but everyone needs to come back to reality at one point.

I’m back!