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Monday, March 10, 2014

Bobby Flay Saves the Day

Turning 80 is no joke. You've managed to outlast the Soviet Union, multiple wars, Beatlemania and Bieber Fever. The least you can get for all your travails is a decent celebratory meal. Tis the reason that I turned to Bobby Flay to fittingly help mark my mom’s 8oth birthday.

Certain occasions in life call for a steak. It's the perfect carnivore offering for joyous festivities of all kind. But which cut of meat to choose? Enter Broiled Hanger Steak from Bobby Flay's Bar Americain Restaurant.

Hanger steak is used infrequently since there is only one of these per cow. It can be a little bland tasting so thankfully this recipe cleverly enhances the steak's flavour with a savoury spice rub, a homemade steak sauce and "bright" parsley oil.

With steak knifes grasped firmly in hand, family tore into steaks they described as juicy, crisp and tender. The spice rub helped to make the flavours big and dramatic. The homemade steak sauce was a balanced blend of the sweet and sharp notes of molasses, honey, Dijon mustard and horseradish. It delivered a jolt that was at once salty and sweet yet did not overwhelm the steak’s own flavour. Succulent and intoxicating came to mind.

Wine was had, presents were opened and the steak was talked over. Kind, strong yet gentile, it’s no wonder why Momma has had such staying power. She has left an indelible mark on all of us with many more years to go. Although Momma was the star of the evening, the steak was certainly the centerpiece. And I have one person to thank for that. Bobby Flay? Thanks for saving the day.

Bobby Flay's recipe for Broiled Hanger Steak with Homemade Steak Sauce can by found in Bobby Flay's Bar Americain cookbook at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.



Monday, February 24, 2014

Northern dude finds his soul in Southern cooking

The nature/nurture debate ends right here. I've had a full-on obsession with Southern cuisine as far back as I can remember. It is my favourite food. If I ever have the misfortune of being on death row, my last meal request will be Leah Chase's Fried Chicken, Patti LaBelle's Over-The-Rainbow Mac 'N Cheese, Lee Bros. Fried Green Tomatoes, James Villas' Candied Sweet Potatoes, Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse-style Biscuits and some sweet tea with bourbon. I could then die in peace.

But where did I develop my admiration for Southern food? I mean, it's a reasonable question and one that's often asked. I'm a French-Canadian dude who lives far north of the Mason-Dixon line. I didn't grow up under a cypress tree in Charleston nor did I visit any relatives in Augusta during summer break. I was raised squarely on escargots, soupe à l'oignon and Coquilles St-Jacques. Not a biscuit to be found for kilometers. So really, there is no explanation other than I've coveted fried okra and peach cobbler since my beginnings. I've long ago surrendered to the fact that I was just born with smothered chicken gravy running through my veins. And why should I fight it? There are worse fates than having an innate ability to cook fried chicken and shrimp & grits. When it comes down to it, I am drawn by the cuisine's hallowed traditions and unique cooking styles, its use of fresh ingredients, but mostly to its ability to provide feel-good old-fashioned comfort.

It is for this reason that every year I play host to a group of friends who indulge me in my zeal to create a Southern tradition north of the border. And I'm more than happy to be their comfort food ambassador. Here are some pics from this year's "Southern Dinner."

Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken
Light, crispy, juicy, tender and delicious. This best describes Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken or as the magazine describes it, "the only fried chicken recipe you'll ever need."


Tart and brimming with brisk flavour and apple-like crunch, these fried tomatoes are topped with a refreshingly creamy butter-milk lime herb dressing. This dish is unusual and one that my friends clamor for every year.



Lee Bros. Cherry Tomato and Soybean Salad 
Soybeans are married with sweet cherry tomatoes and tossed with a buttermilk-basil dressing. A good, fresh-tasting complement to any Southern meal.




Lemon Meringue Pots de Crème
Light, airy and tangy with a delicate lemony flavour, these pots de crèmes were the perfect ending to the feast.



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love + art + latin tradition = Café Morala

She emerges from the back to welcome us like returning war heroes. Miriam, the gregarious owner of Cafe Morala, sets the tone for her restaurant, greeting us with warm affection and fussing over every detail of our order. To dine here is to experience veritable Latin cuisine.

The clientele is dotted with loyal fans and neighborhood regulars. English, French and much, much Spanish can be heard. Cafe Morala has been a local Glebe favourite for decades now.

Want authentic empanadas? Yum! Find this place. A master chef formerly from Bolivia pops in daily to deliver handcrafted empanadas from a cherished family recipe. She makes them for her family, for the café and for no one else. The chef’s love, art and tradition meld together in pure synergy to produce perfectly baked pastry stuffed with an abundance of tasty fillings like spinach, chicken-chipotle, beef-vegetable, cheese and lamb. To savour a Cafe Morala empanada is a privilege. After one bite you will "see the light." They are otherworldly.

One of my other go-to's is the salad. It's circus-like colours will fascinate you, like Versace on a plate. Sheep and goat feta, avocado, roasted almonds, strawberries, cranberries, peppers, beets and greens are tossed together with a lemon-Dijon dressing creating a wondrous palate pleaser.

Although not a coffee drinker, I hear (in English, French and Spanish) that this is the place to come for the best coffee in Ottawa. Cafe Maya, cafe baires and cafe caramel are some of its offerings. Pair it with a lemon cookie or try the alfajor, a traditional confection made up of flour, honey, almonds and several spices, such as cinnamon.

To be a patron at Cafe Morala is to revel in its warm ambiance and experience true Latin cuisine. The diner's pleasure here is truly essential. And I'm a happy patron!



















































Morala Coffee Shop on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 27, 2014

Get the cookbook from Maine's first family of seafood

It’s been said that Harbor Fish Market is synonymous with Maine's iconic industry and has become a must-see destination for tourists and locals alike. It's the ultimate authority on Maine seafood.

9 Custom House Wharf in Portland, Maine, has been the site of a fish market since sometime in the late 1800's. It became the Harbor Fish Market when the Alfiero family purchased it in 1966. Nick Alfiero is the owner of Harbor Fish along with his two brothers, Ben and Mike. Their father founded the iconic seafood market, located on Custom House Warf, in 1969.

Now for the first time, the family behind the successful business shares some of its favourite seafood recipes in this collection of more than 50 dishes. In Harbor Fish Market: Seafood recipes from Maine, the Alfiero family’s 30+ years of expertise comes to life with crab cakes and baked clams that would make any true Mainer proud. But it also includes a few dishes that go beyond tradition like scallop ceviche and a lobster roll with crème fraiche and lemon.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Maine cookbook without various takes on chowder and fish stew. There's crab-meat and corn chowder, a Scandinavian fish chowder, a lobster stew, an Italian fish chowder, a Scandinavian fish chowder and an Italian twist on fish stew called cioppino which is made with non-classic fish stew ingredients like mushrooms, oregano, curry powder and lime juice. What makes this book even more appealing is how Asian and Italian influences come to play as well. This fusion adds an interesting dimension to some traditional Maine seafood dishes.

With this book, you’ll master some fundamental techniques on how to grill seafood and create fish stock. You'll also get some handy tips on how to buy fish, cook lobster and how to properly fillet and skin a fish, making this that must-have practical cookbook you’ll keep in your kitchen for years to come.

Harbor Fish Market: Seafood recipes from Maine (Down East Books) is available for $29.99 at amazon.ca or Down East Books. Visit the Harbor Fish Market at 9 Custom House Wharf in Portland, Maine for your personalized signed copy.




 



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mello's makes the best hamburger I've ever eaten

Last year, the owner's of Mello's came up with a cool idea to breathe new life into the 70 year-old diner. A permanent "pop-up." Why not open in the evenings, reinvent the menu and offer new takes on old classics? Steak, burgers, noodles, dumplings and sandwiches have been elevated to a supernatural level, all wonderfully executed and kindly priced. The basic yet envelop-pushing dishes are some of the best I've ever had the pleasure of eating.

The word "best" is bandied about so indiscriminately these days that its true meaning has been distorted. "Best" has become slang-fodder for anything that's remotely good, pleasing or enjoyable. But it should be reserved for a supremely incomparable, truly award-winning and momentous thing or occasion. So allow me to restore "best" to its original luster and speak about something that is world-class, top-grade and truly "the best," the Mello's Burger.

Now I've seen a lot of things, been to a lot of places and eaten a lot of burgers in my lifetime. Shake Shack, In-N-Out, Craigie on Main...all glorious. But I've never ever, NEVER EVER been sent to hamburger heaven as I did that night I visited Mello's. 

A flat-top griddle is used to sear the patty, creating a crunchy caramelized crust and a juicy center. The beef was beefy and each bite oozed with luscious flavour. Served on toasted bread, the burger experience was made all the more memorable with a just-right melding of cheddar, onions, mustard and pickles. This burger, folks, is a thing of beauty.

There is plenty of other fare to be had that is equally as delicious. My pals devoured the scallops with chorizo and rosemary cauliflower puree. It was declared a winner! My side-salad was huge, big on flavour and included a creative combo of ingredient (celery root, eggplant and mint dressing.) There is an inventive but affordable take on a braised beef sandwich with fermented chili sauce, daikon sesame slaw and rings. I spied guests devouring the roast pork cubano sandwich, which is made up of ham, spiced mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles. That's on my list for my next visit. But really, the ultimate champion of the evening, was without a doubt the Mello's Burger. It was, truly the best!


Photo source: Ottawa Citizen









Salad: Celery root, eggplant and mint dressing.

Mellos Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The World is your Cornmeal Crusted Oyster with Mango Vinaigrette and Red Chile Horseradish

He has held nearly every marker of success by which today’s popular chefs are measured with umpteen restaurants, cookbooks and TV shows. His charisma and single-minded devotion to the art of southwestern cuisine have led to his enduring presence in our food obsessed culture. Yup, I'm talking about Chef Bobby Flay.

Beneath Bobby’s amiable “Every-guy” demeanor is a trained chef with talents of staggering proportions and make-your-head-spin skills. I've yet to have the opportunity to visit Chef Flay's Mesa Grill but I’ve been lucky enough to cook my way though the cookbook. His recipes are accessible yet challenging. At a recent dinner I hosted, I served his Cornmeal Crusted Oysters with Mango Vinaigrette and Red Chile Horseradish. The saltiness of the oysters combined with the crunch of the cornmeal, blended with the sweetness of the mangoes and tang of the horseradish made for a dish that was dance-on-your-tongue pleasurable yet showed remarkable subtlety and depth.

To note that Bobby’s cuisine has had a profound effect on me is not mere hyperbole. I've been a dedicated fanboy since the beginning (Remember Hot off the Grill with Bobby Flay? I do). His well-worn cookbooks adorn my shelves and I turn to them ofttimes to WOW my guests. He’s had an unshakable influence on my cooking.

Although I have never met him, he lives in my world through his recipes. They awaken in me a mix of curiosity and willpower and push me to attempt dishes that I’ve never dreamed of doing before. His recipes make my dinner parties hugely triumphant and the kudos I receive from my guests are in large part due to his shrewd vision and creative abilities. He epitomizes the very ideals that I espouse to attain in my cooking. Delectable, artful, comforting and soul satisfying food.

I frequently invoke his spirit while preparing for a dinner and feel as if I am one of his kitchen underlings, striving to do his dishes, and in turn him, justice. It’s a little weird, I know, but there is some inexplicable and subconscious comfort in knowing that Bobby is always by my side. Even if it's only in print!

Cornmeal Crusted Oysters with Mango Vinaigrette and Red Chile Horseradish


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The guide to Thanksgiving 2013

Every year I vow to throw a Thanksgiving feast that will outdo all feast.  I act as the chief executive  gourmand presiding over a meal that I hope friends and family alike will love. For me, Thanksgiving is more than a culinary tradition. It is a day a day to pause, reflect and humbly offer thanks for our health and well-being. And the football and the food don't hurt. Check-out this year's recipes.
 
Food & Wine's Apricot-Glazed Turkey






Fine Cooking's Classic Potato Mash (Rosemary and Garlic)

Bon Appétit's Classic Dressing

Food & Drink Magazine's Warm Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad with Roquefort & Hazelnuts

Cook's Illustrated Best Turkey Gravy



Bon Appétit's Cranberry Sauce with Vanilla Bean and Cardamom

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I ate where John F. Kennedy ate

Seafood is essential to Boston's very being. Living near the ocean affords you to have plenty of digs brimming with the catch of the day.  But only one place turns fresh-from-the-ocean fare into a history lesson: Ye Olde Union Oyster House.

JFK ate here. Already, I'm sold on the place. The American president and icon (and personal hero of mine) loved to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room. His favorite booth "The Kennedy Booth" has since been dedicated in his memory.

Billed as the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S., the doors have been open to diners since 1826. The building itself was built around 1704 and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Before it became a restaurant, a dress goods business occupied the property. In 1771, printer Isaiah Thomas published his newspaper, The Massachusetts Spy, from the second floor. The restaurant originally opened as the Atwood & Bacon Oyster House on August 3, 1826.

During the revolution the Adams, Hancock, and Quincy wives, often sat in their stalls of the dress goods business sewing and mending clothes for the colonists. In 1796 Louis Philippe, king of France from 1830 to 1848, lived in exile on the second floor. He earned his living by teaching French to many of Boston's fashionable young ladies. America's first waitress, Rose Carey, worked there starting in the early 1920s. Her picture is on the wall on the stairway up to the second floor. The toothpick was said to have been popularized in America starting at the Oyster House.

Along with great history comes good food. Take a seat at the raw oyster bar on the main floor or try the dinning room which serves up rich and creamy clam chowder, sweet scallops and live Maine lobsters as well as poultry, baked beans, steak and chops.

As popular with locals as it with tourists, the Union Oyster House is ripe with history and awash in seafood standards. It's a mandatory stop to complete your authentic New England experience.









41 Union St, Boston, MA 02108, United States





















Union Oyster House on Urbanspoon