Gordon Ramsay’s Shepherd’s Pie

If you want comfort, this Shepherd’s Pie will do the trick. I had never prepared a Gordon Ramsay recipe before (only stared at them in awe), and decided to take a stab at this stewed lamb pie after watching an episode of the F-Word where monsieur prepared this meal for his patrons.

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The peculiar/funny thing about his preparation is that he slaughtered a few lambs that he was rearing in his backyard for this special dinner service. Fortunately I am lucky enough to purchase my lamb in slabs, unaware of the final moments of their lives. I prefer it this way.

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Recession Rolls

Have you ever sat down in a restaurant and thought wow, that much for some salad and croutons? Or, that tastes like cardboard, I can’t believe I’m going to pay for this? Or even, great that was delicious, how can I make this at home so that I don’t have to fork out the dough for it (no pun intended)?

I’ve been known to ponder those questions when I’m out dining. Sometimes out loud, sometimes in my head. They all bring me back to square one in my test kitchen, where I try to resolve them.

A while ago I came to the conclusion that I was going to try and cook as many of my meals at home as possible. Given the current economic wave we’re riding, I thought it would be doing my piggy bank a great service, and it would also get me into the habit of experimenting more in the kitchen.

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Indulgences

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I have an inherent fear of consuming a “whole” something. A whole bag of chips, a whole cake, a whole tub of ice cream, a whole pizza. When I go out grocery shopping, rarely do I ever pick up a snack or sweet treat unless I know that it is going to be shared. The only exception is when they come in small packets or portions that I can label “reasonable”. Reasonably fit to consume, reasonably in my range of caloric intake, reasonably nutritious.

A few days ago I found myself in an unreasonable situation when I decided to make a favourite standby crepe recipe. Did I have anyone to share with? No. Was it within my range of caloric intake? No, given that it served 4 people not 1. Was it nutritious? Sure, if you call white flour, sugar and eggs nutritious.

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I hadn’t made this recipe in a long time, and craved the bittersweet edge of homemade caramel. Moreover, I don’t divulge quite often, so a little slip off the wagon wouldn’t be too bad.

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This crepe recipe is from the banks of the wonderful Alton Brown. It is a tender, delicious crepe that is scented with vanilla.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/crepes-recipe/index.html

You can find the recipe for caramel anywhere online, because they are all prepared the same way. Heat sugar until it caramelizes (never stir the pot to avoid crystallization) and pour in some heavy cream. Instant caramel.

Fish (Shrimp) Tacos

Name one place in Toronto that serves fish tacos like they do in California, and you’ve found yourself a new best friend. Don’t bother pointing me to Burrito Boys, because they make fish burritos, not tacos. And come on, no matter what sort of meat you put into one of those burritos, they all turn out tasting the same.

While I wait for that miracle to happen, I thought I’d give a go at making these lovely fold-over parcels myself. The ingredients are simple, and you can find most of the help you need from your pantry. I love meals like this, because they are fast and very fulfilling.

1. Marinate 1/2 lb of peeled and deveined shrimp (or any firm white fish)  in 1/4 cup of milk, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tbsp hot sauce, 1 tbsp dijon, 1 tsp salt for 1 hour in the fridge

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2. Julienne 2 cups of green cabbage, 1/2 a large red onion, and 1/8 cup of coriander

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3. Combine 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1tbsp dijon mustard, 1tbsp sugar (or honey), 1 tbsp hot sauce (add more if you like it spicy) and 1/4 tsp salt to make dressing

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4.  Dress slaw and allow to sit

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5. Combine 1/4 cup white flour, 1/8 cup cornmeal, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper in a large dish

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6. Dredge marinated shrimp in coating

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7. Deep fry for 2 minutes at 350 degrees Celsius allowing shrimp to turn golden. Drain on paper towel.

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8. Heat tortillas in a dry pan until warm and toasted on both sides

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9. Fold tortilla in half and fill with sliced shrimp and slaw. Serve with sour cream and a wedge of lime on the side.

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Enjoy!

Turkey, Stuffing, Gravy, Oh My!

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If there is one thing that is a must for me, it’s a lovely holiday meal. It doesn’t matter how busy one is with their career, work, or running around with the kids, when the holidays roll around, it’s time to put a proper meal on the table.

Turkey is as traditional as it gets when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas, although Roast Hams, and Legs of Lamb are often substituted. I love working with turkey, but can’t stand purchasing a whole one. Can you imagine all the turkey that would be left over? All those turkey sandwiches, soups, stews, salads, quesadillas?  I can’t force feed turkey to myself for weeks on end, and I don’t recommend you do either. My simple solution is to purchase turkey breast.

Many of you will argue that you prefer dark meat, and I don’t blame you. It is a lot more flavourful. However, I come from the school of thought that if prepared properly, a slice of turkey breast can be as juicy, tender, and succulent. At the end of the day, it’s all about technique. Nonetheless, if you’re a stickler for dark meat, turkey drumsticks are sold on their lonesome as well.

Butter basted turkey is boring to me. I mean, you’re going through all this effort to put a memorable meal on the table, you might as well go the extra mile. I season my turkey with a variety of herbs, olive oil, and seasonings and marinate it over night so that the flavours permeate the meat.

I roast the turkey in a pan with seasonal vegetables. This year I opted for sweet potatoes. They caramelize in the oven while your bird cooks, and soak up the juices and fat let out by the turkey. As sides, I prepare mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a lovely gravy flavoured by the turkey juices collected in the pan after baking. Please, please, please…if cranberries are in season, do take the 5 minutes necessary to make fresh cranberry sauce. There is nothing like it.  The sweet and sour tang of fresh cranberry sauce trumps tinned cranberry sauce any day, and your efforts will be validated by the smiles of satisfaction around the table.

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Easter is around the corner, and it’s almost time for that holiday meal. Time to pull out those roasting pans once again!

Tuesday Lunch

I’ve been finding myself in the kitchen a lot recently. I’ve also grown the need to document every meal I cook, and every bite I take. It’s not an obsession…at least not yet.

Today I decided to explore the classic pairing of apple and pork. I call this dish “Roast Loin of Pork with Bacon Sauteed Savoy and Apple Cognac Compote”.

1. Liberally season loin of pork with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Pan sear until medium-well (or sear, and bake in oven at 375 degrees Celsius  for 10 minutes). Allow meat to rest for 5 minutes.

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2. Dice and sautee two strips of smoked bacon until crispy. Add 1/4 cup of onions and cook until caramelized.

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3. Add I cup of julienned Savoy cabbage. Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup of chicken stock being sure to scrape bacon juices from bottom of pan. Cook for 3 minutes, or until cabbage is slightly tender.

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4. Next, in same pan pork loin was prepared, add 1/4 cup of onions and cook until caramelized. Peel, seed, and slice one granny smith apple and add to pan. Add a couple of knobs of butter, and allow apples to soften. Deglaze pan with 1/8 cup of cognac (or calvados). Add 3/4 cup of chicken stock, and 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard. Allow to reduce until apples are tender and liquid had thickened.

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5. Slice rested loin on the bias.

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6. Plate

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Enjoy!

Turning a bad food day into a good one

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Today was not a proud day in the land of Vijaya. I had an egg McMuffin breakfast a la McDonald’s (eek), followed by a Weetabix lunch. It’s pretty sad I know, but every foodie has one of “those days”. And if it makes you or I feel any better, I had the most fantastic gelato yesterday (stay tuned for that post!).

I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere or do anything, because my neck and back were in excruciating pain. I turn on the TV, and low and behold I am watching one of the most annoying food network hosts, Rachael Ray. I gotta give it to this lady, her spunk and enthusiasm have put her up with the likes of Martha Stewart, but god help me if I have to hear her whiny voice spell out E-V-O-O (extra virgin olive oil) once again. Anyhow, she somehow hooked me into watching her for 10 minutes of one of her 30 minute meals episodes. I think I lasted that long because I was hungry, and also because I got inspiration (I hate to admit it) to prepare that meal. So much so, that I got ready, went out and picked up 2 ingredients that I needed.  Chicken with mushroom cream sauce, here I come!

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My version is a loose adaptation of Ms. Ray’s:

I substitute the whipping cream for 3 tablespoons of sour cream.

I nix the balsamic vinegar all together and instead opt to deglaze the fried mushroom, garlic, and onion mixture with ¼ cup of white wine, after which I add the stock.

Instead of thickening with flour, I allow the chicken stock to reduce to half, and then had the sour cream which helps creates a thick sauce.

I opted for spaghetti instead of orzo. Choose whatever pasta you have at home/like best.

All in all, it was pretty delicious, and fast to prepare!

Here’s the link :

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/chicken-with-wild-mushroom-and-balsamic-cream-sauce-recipe/index.html