Diego’s Hearts

  I had a guest around for a pre-Christmas dinner. He’s from Brazil and I had been out with him for dinner previously at one of those infamous Brazilian steak houses where he had asked for chicken hearts (a common grilled meat in Brazil). Unfortunately the restaurant was out of them at the time, so when he came for dinner I decided to serve a chicken heart appetizer (along with lamb chops). Shooting from the hip I came up with what turned out to be a tasty and inexpensive appy. 

At the end of the meal he asked what the dish was called. Since I had created it from scratch, I told him it had no name. His response was swift, “I’ll give it a name! A Diego!” Well I couldn’t argue, so I present you with Diego’s Hearts. 
Menu:

  • Diego’s Hearts (appetizer)
  • Pan seared lamb chops
  • Sauce Romaine
  • Roasted yellow mini potatoes
  • Steamed carrots

Recipe Diago’s Hearts:

  • 1 lb Chicken hearts (trimmed and rinsed)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt 
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tsp dried herbs du Provence ( or basil, oregano, etc.)
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tbs butter or olive oil (for sautéing hearts) 
  • 1 cup Vegetable broth
  • 4-5 Brown mushrooms finely diced
  • 1 Tbs Salted butter (for sautéing mushrooms)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1 medium Spanish onion thinly sliced and separated 
  • 2 Tbs Salted butter (for caramelizing onions)
  • 2-3 tsp Fine white sugar
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 8 Thin slices french baguette cut on the bias, toasted, and lightly buttered
  • 1 Tbs Italian parsley chopped finely
  • Crumbled Chèvre or shaved hard cheese (optional)

Method:

  1. Combine the hearts and next five ingredients and marinate for 1-3 hours at room temperature. 
  2. Create a mushroom cream sauce by sautéing the mushrooms in butter until well softened and then adding stock and cream. Simmer over low heat until slightly thickened. Keep warm. 
  3. Caramelize the onions in butter with the sugar, finishing with a small splash of balsamic. Keep warm in the oven in a heat proof dish. 
  4. Drain the and dry the hearts discarding the marinade and sauté in 1 Tbs olive oil or butter  over medium to high heat until just cooked 3-5 minutes. 
  5. Toast the baguette slices, butter and arrange 2 slices side by side on a small plate for each portion. 
  6. Top each portion of toast with a “nest” of caramelized onions. 
  7. Add the sautéed hearts into the nest of onions. 
  8. Drizzle 2-3 Tbs of the mushroom cream sauce across the stacked dish and finish with a light topping of parsley, fresh ground black pepper and optionally crumbled Chèvre or hard cheese shavings. 
  9. Serve hot. 

Notes:

Timing is the trick with this dish as all the elements need to be warm or hot. 

Serves 4.

The cheese topping is optional. I forgot to add it in my flurry of cooking, but I think it would have been a nice touch. 

Enjoy,

Aaron

East Meets West Coast: Baked Thai Lingcod Curry

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It’s been a while since I posted anything new and interesting. Life kind of got in the way, but I came up with this dish a while ago and figured that it needed to be shared.

Some time ago I was given several large fillets of lingcod, a large white fleshed fish of the Greenling family common off the coast of British Columbia. I’ve been preparing these mild fillets in a number of ways, but I came up with this tasty and fairly easy to prepare recipe when I needed a dish to take to a dinner party.

The recipe below involves a homemade curry paste and stock, but to speed things up a store bought paste and stock could easily be substituted.

Menu

  • Baked Thai Lingcod Curry
  • Coconut Rice
  • Sesame Garlic Brocolli
  • Cut Fresh Fruit

Recipe: Baked Thai Lingcod Curry

Curry Paste:

  • 2 Tbs Canola or Peanut oil
  • 1 Sm Spanish or red onion chopped
  • 6 Sm Cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1″ Ginger root minced
  • 2-3 Tbs Sambal Oeleck to taste
  • 1/2 Tbs Shrimp paste or Anchovy paste
  • 2 tsp Dried red chillies ground
  • 2 tsp Cumin ground
  • 3 tsp Coriander seed ground
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric ground
  • 1 tsp Dried lemongrass ground
  • 1 Tbs Spanish paprika
  • 2 Tbs Fish sauce
  • 1-2 Tbs Water
  • 10-15 Cashews
  • 3 Lime leaves centre stalk removed chopped

Curry/Fish

  • 2 Tbs Canola or peanut oil
  • 1 Med Spanish or red onion halved and sliced finely
  • 4 Sm Cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1-2 Tbs Sambal Oeleck
  • 3-4 Tbs Curry paste to taste
  • 1-2 tsp Fish sauce
  • 1-3 tsp Brown sugar to taste
  • 1 c Thai style fish stock, plain fish stock or low sodium Chinese style chicken stock
  • 1 c Coconut milk
  • 4 Lime leaves
  • Water for thinning while cooking
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Lime juice
  • 2-3 Tbs Fresh cilantro finely chopped
  • 1-2 Tbs Thai basil coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 lbs Lingcod or other firm whitefish fillets cut into chunks

Method

    Part 1: Curry paste

  1. Heat oil in wok or heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and sauté until soft and starting to lightly brown.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, shrimp paste and sambal and cook stirring for one to two minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add the dried spices and cook stirring for another minute.
  5. Add fish sauce, water, cashews and chopped lime leaves and continue to cook until well combined (about a minute more).
  6. Remove from heat and transfer to a food processor or blender and process to a paste adding a little oil if necessary to create a thick paste.
  7. ——–
    Part 2: Curry and fish

  8. In the same wok or pan used to make the paste add oil and heat over a medium-high heat.
  9. Add onions and sauté until translucent.
  10. Add garlic and sambal and sauté for two minutes stirring frequently.
  11. Add curry paste reserving a little to smear on fish pieces (about two teaspoons) and cook for another minute or two.
  12. Stir in stock, coconut milk and lime leaves and bring to a low boil.
  13. Reduce heat to low and add fish sauce and brown sugar to taste.
  14. Simmer for 20 minutes to allow for the flavours to combine adding additional water if necessary to keep the consistency medium.
  15. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and lime juice and let cool.
  16. Cut lingcod into small serving chunks (about 1″x3″) and arrange in a lightly oiled casserole dish.
  17. Smear a little of the reserved paste over the fish and evenly sprinkle the Thai basil over the pieces.
  18. Pour the cooled curry over the fish and bake in a preheated 375 f oven for 20 minutes.
  19. Serve hot or warm.

Notes: I found the finished dish a little on the mild side and if you do you can always add a small handful (4-6) whole fresh red Thai chillies to the simmering curry to kick it up a notch (I usually just slit them with a single cut lengthways down the centre). The chillies also add a nice visual touch to the dish as well–just be sure to warn your guests.

Serves 4-6

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Basic Lamb Curry

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Lamb is a bit of a staple in our house. When I see a good deal at our local market I like to take advantage of it. This past Saturday I happened upon a couple of inexpensive lamb shoulder chops marked down by an extra dollar each. My plan was to do them “slow braised” and divide them in four for the family, but a surprise guest (a friend of my daughter) showed up for dinner and I had to extend them to feed five. I decided on going with a simple lamb curry. This killed to birds with one stone, as my daughter has been bugging me to make lamb curry since the last time I prepared it.

Menu

  • Lamb Curry (for 5-6)
  • Braised carrots with butter and cardamom
  • Rice
  • Cut watermelon
  • Milk for the kids, wine for us

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Lamb shoulder chops are highly underrated by most North Americans, who when they hear chops almost exclusively think of the tasty, tender and hellishly expensive loin chops. But shoulder chops are an incredible deal, delivering far more flavour at a fraction of the price. The trick with the shoulder chops (which admittedly are a tougher cut) is a long moist-heat cooking time. As a cooking method, curry is a natural for such cuts–drawing out the rich flavour inherent in the meat, fat and bones.

Recipe: Basic Lamb Curry (Tomato based)

  • 2 tsp Cumin seed, ground
  • 2 1/2 tsp Coriander seed, ground
  • 2-3 tsp Amchur powder (dried green mango)
  • 1/2 tsp Tumeric, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Indian paprika, ground
  • 1 tsp Chilies, ground (optional)
  • 1 tsp Cumin seed, whole
  • 1 x 2″ pc Cinnamon bark
  • 2 Black cardamom,  lightly crushed
  • 2-3 Bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs Light cooking oil (canola)
  • 2-3 Lamb shoulder chops
  • 2 med. Onions, diced
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1″ Ginger root, grated
  • 2 -3 tsp Sambal oelek (optional)
  • 12 oz Can diced tomatoes and juice (or 2 good quality lg fresh tomatoes, chopped)
  • Salt
  • 2-3 c Water

Method

  1. Liberally salt lamb chops on both sides
  2. In a large wok or deep heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high heat
  3. When hot, add prepared lamb chops and fry until nicely browned on each side (about 3-4 minutes a side depending on temperature)
  4. Remove lamb from pot and set aside to cool
  5. Add chopped onion to pot, lowering the heat slightly, and saute
  6. While the onion is cooking, chop the lamb into very small pieces, trimming off the fat and reserving the meat and bones
  7. Set the meat aside and add the larger bones to the onions, continue cooking until the onions just start to brown
  8. Add garlic and ginger (and sambal if using) to pot and saute for a minute or two, stirring to prevent the ginger from sticking to the pot
  9. Add dry spices (first six ingredients), plus cinnamon, bay leaves, and cardamom to pan and cook for a minute or more stirring to make sure that the spices cook lightly but don’t burn
  10. Add reserved meat, stirring to coat it in the onions and spices
  11. Add a cup and a half of water and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot
  12. Add  tomatoes and bring to boil
  13. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the lamb begins to soften (20-30 minutes or more)
  14. Add water through the cooking process keeping the curry thin enough to simmer the lamb, letting it thickening just prior to serving
  15. Salt to taste
  16. Remove any bones, bay leaves, cardamom, and cinnamon prior to serving
  17. Serve in a large ceramic bowl

Notes: Our dinner guest didn’t strike me as being very heat tolerant so I added very few chilies to the curry. My family members (except for my youngest) suggested that it could use more heat, and were it not for the guest I would have included at least the optional chili based ingredients indicated in the recipe above. Even with these additions it would qualify as a mild heat. As you can see the this curry is tomato based and tends to favour Northern Indian spices–but there are quite probably hundreds of “lamb curry” recipes from across South and Southeast Asia.

Aaron

Edamame Bento

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More bento fun.

Again a quick lunch for the kids, this time featuring boiled and salted edamame as the main dish. Rice drizzled with a little teriyaki sauce (for moisture) then topped with furikake fills the role of starch for the meal, while octodogs provide a little extra needed protien. The small clementine and grape tomatoes add colour and a serving of fruit/vegetables. Yogurt, a small granola bar (for an after-school snack) and an apple round out the lunch.

The octodogs are probably the closest I get to a kawaii (cute) bento. I’ll post separately how to make these fun extras for a kid’s lunch in the near future.

Aaron

Moules et Frites (Mussels and Fries)

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My wife and I have a special place reserved in our hearts for Moules et Frites–it was the first restaurant meal we shared at the long since closed Santo’s Bistro in Vancouver. For me they also bring back fond memories of my time as a student in Montreal, where cheap mussels were a staple at home and in the bars that lined Saint Laurent Boulevard.

We serve mussels on special occasions and this time it was for my wife’s birthday. Cooking mussels can be as simple as steaming them until they open and serving them with a little garlic butter, but we like to go the extra distance.

Menu

  • Mussels in Cream Sauce
  • French fries
  • Balsamic glazed snow peas
  • Sliced mango
  • Crusty baguette for dipping
  • Milk for the kids, Lillet and soda for the adults

Recipe: Mussels in Cream Sauce

  • 2 lbs Wild or cultured Mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
  • 4 tbs Butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 c Mirepoix (finely diced onions, carrot, celery, peppers, parsley, etc.)
  • 1 c White wine
  • 1/4 c Red or orange bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c Baby asparagus tips
  • 4 cloves Minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs Flat leafed parsley
  • 1/2 c Whipping cream (or to taste)
  • Fresh ground black pepper to finish

Method

  1. In a medium sauce pan melt 3 Tbs butter and saute the mirepoix to soften
  2. Add white wine and five mussels in the shell and bring to a high simmer
  3. Remove the mussel meat when the shells open and return the shells to the pan, reserving the meat
  4. Simmer the stock covered for a few minutes, uncover, add a cup of water and bring to a boil
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and strain into a heat proof bowl squeezing as much liquid as possible from the cooked mirepoix
  6. You should be left with approximately 1 1/2 c of stock, if not add a little water or wine to extend
  7. In a deep saucepan large enough to hold the finished dish, melt 1 Tbs of butter and lightly saute the garlic, and remaining vegetables for one to two minutes
  8. Add the stock and whipping cream to the pan, stir to combine and bring to a low boil
  9. Add the mussels and stir to combine
  10. Cover and cook until the mussels open
  11. Remove from heat immediately and add reserved parsley, mussel meat and pepper
  12. Transfer to a decorative bowl and serve hot

Notes: The cooking process essentially involves 2 steps: making a stock and cooking the mussels. If you wish to use a mild fish stock or a low sodium chicken stock you can skip to step six above, but you should add a half cup of sliced onions along with the peppers and asparagus tips before adding the stock and whipping cream. I’m a bit torn between using unsalted butter or salted butter in this dish. The result is naturally quite salty due to the liquid released from the shells when they open. If you prefer less salt then definitely use unsalted butter in the rest of the cooking process. The mirepoix is a thing of personal preference, but it almost always should include carrots and onions. Normally I would include celery, but I had none on hand.

Serves 4-6 depending on appetite.

Aaron

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Dinner on the patio

Hot Tamales!

I made tamales for the first time last night. Well I should say I heated pre-made tamales last night.

I’ve travelled through Mexico a bit and eaten a wide variety of traditional dishes, but this is the first time I’ve served tamales. It’s not like I haven’t heard of them–like enchiladas or refritos, they’re almost iconic in Mexican cuisine. For those who haven’t come across this dish before, a tamale is a seasoned centre filling (usually chicken or pork) surrounded in a thick masa dough that is packaged and cooked in dried corn husk skins or plantain leaves.

We picked up ours at a local Mexican food wholesaler/retailer, El Comal, where they make a wide assortment of authentic Mexican food plus some of the best tortillas north of the 49th parallel. We grabbed a half dozen ready to heat chicken tamales pre-wrapped in their familiar dried corn husk “skins”. The daughter of the owner at El Comal said that you could microwave, steam, bake or grill them–anything but boiling. I opted to grill them over a low flame–turning every 4-7 minutes for a total of about 15-20 minutes. I was flying a bit blind having not been given any instructions other than “heat and serve”, but the results were very good–at least to my eye.

They were, well… nice. Not “exploding with flavour” nice, but more of a wholesome “comfort food” nice. Once removed from the husks and drizzled with a yogurt/salsa picante sauce they made a good protein/carbohydrate centre to the family meal. My children were especially enthusiastic about them, eating four of the six tamales between them.

Tamale Meal for Four

  • 6-8 Tamales
  • Yogurt and salsa picante sauce
  • Oaxacan black beans (recipe below)
  • Feta stuffed mini bell peppers
  • Sliced oranges
  • Milk for the kids, red wine for us

To make the yogurt and salsa picante sauce, simply combine very spicy thin salsa with 3.5% MF yogurt to taste. The bean recipe shown below was a nice addition to the meal.

Recipe: Oaxacan Black Beans

  • 19 oz Can of black beans (sometimes called Turtle beans)
  • 2-3 Strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 Tbs Olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Water or chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Rinse beans in a fine sieve removing the liquid and any fine particles
  2. Melt butter or heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat
  3. Saute onions and chopped bacon until onions become translucent
  4. Add cinnamon and beans to the pan stirring to coat the beans in oil and combine the ingredients well
  5. Lightly mash a small portion of the beans using a wooden spoon and stir gently to combine
  6. Continue cooking for a few minutes stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan
  7. Add water or stock to create a saucy consistency and simmer for five minutes stirring frequently
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste
  9. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm

Notes: I make this dish quite often. This simple bean recipe makes a nice accompaniment to any Mexican inspired dish. It adds protien and complex carbohydrates to the meal and fills in the gap when serving smaller portions of a main dish.

Adapted from, Sunset Books, Mexican Cook Book: Simplified techniques 155 classic recipes, 1983.*

Aaron

*My wife has a collection of these quirky 1970’s books covering everything from architecture to home repair. This one looks and feels like it was written by a Mexican homemaker as opposed to a restaurateur–basic “home and gardens” stuff. There’s lots of treasures to be found in old cookbooks such as these and I’m not about to turn my nose up at a book just because it wasn’t authored by a celebrity chef.

Every Day Japanese – Miso Pork

imageWeekday meals are a time to apply the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). Today’s post is a Japanese inspired KISS menu. The only time consuming element of the meal is the miso pork, which really needs from four to twenty-four hours to marinate. Not being sufficiently prepared I cut it down to two hours, but it really needed a bit more. That said, it was still a nice flavourful dish and suited the simple theme of the meal.

Weekday Japanese Menu:

  • Extra Fancy Short Grain Rice (Cal-Rose)
  • Miso Marinated Pork
  • Stir-fried Broccoli
  • Sliced and Skinned Manila Mangoes
  • Milk for the kids, Red wine for the adults

The miso pork recipe I used was taken from the Just Bento blog and is available here: (butaniku no misozuke). I increase the sugar content a little and add mirin and sambal oelek to jazz it up a bit. One thing I’ve found with this recipe is to make sure the pork is pounded nice and thin and to get it out of the pan the moment it’s cooked. Leftovers are great in Bentos the next day, so always make a little extra.

Aaron