My Food Star Weekend.

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last weekend I went with a friend to the city to hear Diana Kennedy speak at Omnivore Books on Food about her new book Oaxaca al Gusto.  I’ve long been a fan of her books and Oaxaca was a city I had the good fortune to visit a few years ago during the  Dia de Los Muertos ( you can see some of the cool altars here).

Ms. Kennedy was great – slightly cantankerous, slightly cynical and very funny.  I’m glad we had the chance to go and see her as this may be one of her last books.  Seeing her did also get me thinking about the new trajectories that chefs today can take.  53 years ago when Diana moved to Mexico there was no Food Network or Blogs.  Would Diana have been a household name today?  Would Rachel Ray have become famous if all she was known for was her cookbooks?  I’ll leave that one to you.

After, we went to Bar Tartine for dinner and had a fantastic meal, greatly aided in the choices by our waitress.  The burger I ate there may have been the best I have eaten in a very long time.  Fortunately for me, my friend is also a close friend of the owners, Liz Prueitt and Chad Robertson.  They came in for dinner and when we first saw them Liz was engaged in conversation with Ruth Reichl and Nancy Silverton.

Five incredible chefs in one evening, one food star weekend.


Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

October 29, 2010 § 7 Comments

Occasionally it’s better to let photos tell a story.

The cake fresh out of the oven (approx 7:10pm).





The cake just after my husband, my friend, myself and three little girls had our fill (approx 7:30 pm).





The cake just before I sat down to watch Glee (approx 8:20pm)





The cake right after Glee finished and before I started watching Top Gear (approx 9:10pm)





The cake just before I started writing this post (approx 10:00pm).





That piece may or may not make it to breakfast but it definitely won’t be there when my husband gets home in the morning (approx 8:30am).

This cake was superb – light and flavourful and so easy that you can whisk, sip a glass of chardonnay, carry on a conversation and not miss a step.  I left out the rum as I figured it wasn’t necessary and I had three 6 year olds waiting to eat cake.

The only things I may do differently next time:

  • Cut the apples into smaller pieces and make sure they are the same size.  Some of the larger pieces were a bit too crunchy.
  • Use salted butter as I felt it could have used a bit more salt.
  • Wait for it to cool so I don’t burn my tongue
  • Top it with either whip cream, brown sugar crumble or caramel sauce depending on how decadent I want it to be.

But I may also not change a thing.

Canadian Cuisine

October 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

I just went to Vancouver for a long weekend.  Vancouver is definitely a foodie town and it seems to get better every year.  There is a huge ‘locavore’ movement and the interior of BC is on its way to becoming the Napa of the North.  My friend and I had some great meals out.  I have to jump on the ‘I love Vij’s bandwagon‘, because it truly is the best Indian food I have ever had.  We also stumbled upon a great Japanese Izakaya restaurant on Denman called Wanoma (867 Denman St.).  It’s a tiny little place with a Mom and daughter dishing up some fantastic food in one of the tiniest open kitchens imaginable.  I really wanted to try a Japadog, which I guess became quite famous during the Olympics, but I never had the chance.

However, what grabbed me this trip, along with Tim Horton donuts and the laughable signs for Poutine (for those who don’t know  – Poutine is a French Canadian thing, fries with cheese curds and gravy – they are a love/hate thing for sure) was a butter tart.

I went to Starbucks for my AM Chai tea latte and there amongst all the familiar donuts, coffeecakes and breads were a stack of butter tarts.  In my years away the butter tart had slipped from my memory.  I, of course, bought and ate one.   And now have one more thing to add to the list of things I say are ‘Canadian Cuisine’ when asked.

For those of you, who like my husband and American friends who have never heard of a butter tart – here is a recipe.  I like mine without raisins.

Make your favorite pastry dough ( you could use the one from Around My French Table – make a non-sweet dough as the filling is sweet enough already.)

Cut the dough into large circles using a cookie cutter or a drinking glass and line the individual cups of a muffin tin with the pastry circles.

For the Filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together the corn syrup, brown sugar, melted butter and egg. Add vanilla and stir in raisins (again , these are optional).

Spoon filling into pastry shell to just below the rim.

Bake at 400 for about 10 mins until golden brown.

Makes about a dozen tarts.

Hachis Parmentier

October 22, 2010 § 17 Comments

Hmmmm.  This post is difficult for me.  I have to admit straight away that I grew up with Shepard’s Pie being one of my favorite dishes.  My mother made one weekly and it was delicious.  Given that it has been at least 20 years since I had one of hers, maybe my memory of it is greater than it should be, but I don’t think I am wrong about this one.  One thing I do remember about my mothers was that she would put the mashed potatoes in a piping bag and make big fluffy florets of mashed potatoes that would puff up and turn brown and be slightly crispy and slightly chewy.  That puff of mash would always be my last bite.

I was looking forward to making this dish because I have long been looking for the elusive magical recipe from my childhood.  My mother died about 15 years ago, long enough ago that I wasn’t all that interested in cooking and it didn’t cross my mind to gather any favorite recipes.  So, search I have and as of yet I have not found a Shepard’s Pie that tastes like hers.

Sadly, this recipe won’t be it either.  I chose to go the ‘Bonne Idee’ route as my mother’s was always made with ground beef.  Like with Gerard’s Mustard Tart, I think my disappointment was, in part, because of expectation and memory.  When you have in your mind what a Tart or a Shepard’s pie will taste like, ultimately, when it tastes different, you can’t help but be disappointed.

This would score about a 6 out of 10 in the world of Shepard’s Pie.  There was not enough flavour in the meat and the sauce was not thick enough, nor flavourful enough.  The cheese topping is good but doesn’t add enough taste to merit its addition. I ate mine with the addition of HP sauce, my husband added HP and Worcestershire sauce and my daughter a lot of ketchup.

I’d like to say that next time I would do the following differently:

Add Worcestershire sauce when browning the meat, add more tomato paste and perhaps even make a roux to really create a strong base of sauce for the filling. But saying that, I realize that I won’t make this dish again and rather just continue in my quest for the ultimate Shepard’s Pie recipe.

A note about our wine.  Again, I asked my wine guy at my local market for a suggestion.  He picked a 2008 Bodegas Juan Gil, a Spanish red that goes great with beef.  He recommended it for it’s being sweet and light, something that wouldn’t be too strong along side my pie. I thought it was a great pick.

Redemption in a bowl of soup

October 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

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Gerard’s Mustard Tart

October 9, 2010 § 5 Comments

Well, its been made and eaten with a great deal of enjoyment.  The tart was delicious and that it was so pretty seemed an added bonus.  The aroma as it baked was gorgeous, even my daughter, who is still fighting whatever it was that took her down on Saturday, commented on how good the room smelled.

I went with the ‘Bonne Idee’ version since our market is heaving with heirloom tomatoes right now.  My husband was helping me season the egg/creme fraiche mix and we both thought it needed more bite.  This is most likely a result of the brands of mustard we happened to be using or just our personal taste.  We ended up adding about 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar to add some sharpness to the mixture.  I added five slices of tomato which cause the filling to spill over the top of the crust, and since the recipe explicitly says not to let this happen, I spooned out some of the egg mixture.

The tart was beautiful.  It cooked perfectly in just under 30 minutes.  The dough, unlike my first attempt with Dorie’s sweet tart dough, turned out perfectly.  The tart itself had a great balance of flavours and went perfectly with a simple green salad and a glass of white (more about the glass of white in a minute).

But, for me this tart crossed too far into the realm of being a quiche.  With one more egg and almost as much cream in the recipe as the neighbouring one for a quiche (Gorgonzola-Apple Quiche, p. 157), why is this is a tart and not a quiche?  I would love to know if there is a distinction or if it’s just a matter of taste and preference.  Also if anyone has a tip for getting a crust not to shrink beneath the edges of the pan while baking I’d love to hear it.

As much a I enjoyed Gerard’s Mustard Tart, I think I’ll stick with my tried and true tart recipes and look forward to trying quiche on a French Friday to come.

A note on the wine.  At my local market I am lucky enough to have befriended the wine buyer.  Tonight he sent me home with a Macon Villages, Cave de Lugny that paired perfectly with the tart. I’m not usually a lover of Chardonnay but the smooth, slightly sweet taste of this one seemed to heighten the acidity of the mustard in the tart.

The lead up to Gerard’s Mustart Tart

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

I jumped ahead a bit last weekend.  With my daughter sick and sound asleep for more hours than I would have thought possible I tried making the Orange Almond Tart but using Pears.  We have a pear tree in the yard which drops more fruit than we can use so any excuse to cook it up is easily taken.

Pastry is not something that intimidates me.  I had the good fortune to attend a cooking class in Provence with Lydie Marshall (good for having the opportunity to meet Lydie and also to have met the man of my dreams) and her simple straight forward pastry has become my go to – it works everytime without fail. Pate Brisee Short Crust Dough

So it was with reluctance that I tried Dorie’s Sweet tart crust recipe to accompany the Pear tart.  Overall the tart was edible but not what I would call a success.  The dough really didn’t come together for me and when I tried to roll it out it was impossible.  I ended up pressing the crust into the pan which resulted in it being too dense and overworked.   I also made obvious mistakes – I didn’t have a 9.5 in tart pan and used a baking dish instead. I also left no room between the pears so the almond custard couldn’t fully bubble to the surface leaving uncooked pockets.  In the end – everything tasted good but I would not have been proud to serve it.

So on to the Mustard tart.  I’ve mentioned Lydie’s tart dough, but what I didn’t mention that when I learned how to make the dough it was for a Tomato, Gruyere and Nyons Olive tart that I still remember eating even though it was 10 years ago.  I have made that same tart many times since and always with a great deal of success.  I also discovered another ‘go to’ tart last summer.  The Barefoot Contessa’s  Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart.  This one is made with store bought puff pastry but it is delicious and so easy that erases any fear of making a tart.

With that said, this Gerard’s Mustard tart has a lot to live up to.  I can’t wait to see how it turns out.