30 October 2012

Pulled pork fishsticks

Pulled pork fishsticks

We first visited Joe Beef in Montréal a few months ago. It's a fun, meat-centric restaurants, with over-the-top, creative dishes and cocktails. I purchased their book, The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts as soon as it was available, and have been salivating over their dish, pulled pork fishsticks, ever since. But I needed a proper occasion to cook this over-the-top dish.

Here's how it works. You make pulled pork. You smoke a pork butt for 8 hours and then pull it. Then you mix it with bbq sauce and dissolved gelatin. You form them into a tray and allow them to gelatinize. Then you cut them into sticks, bread them and deep fry them.

Well, our occasion arrived, in the form of Foodapalooza 2012. I'm going to present a slightly modified version from what I made, as I wasn't thrilled with Joe Beef's bbq sauce, but this is inspired by their recipe, and is guaranteed to delight meatlover's everywhere:
½ of a pulled pork butt
¾ cup pulled pork bbq sauce
3 tbsp finely chopped shallots
3 sheets gelatin
salt and pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
2 eggs
2 cups panko bread crumbs
canola oil for deep frying

Pork butt sauce

Soak the gelatin sheets in icewater while warming the bbq sauce in a small saucepan. When the sauce starts to boil, remove from heat. Squeeze the icewater out of the gelatin, and add the gelatin to the sauce. Stir until the gelatin dissolves.

Pulled pork

Mix the sauce, pulled pork and finely chopped shallots. Mix very well, and check the seasoning. Adjust with salt and pepper. Line a small sheet pan with plastic wrap. Press the meat into the pan, making it about ½" thick all throughout the pan. Push the meat together tightly. Chill overnight.

In the morning, remove the plastic wrap from the pan, and remove the meat from the plastic wrap. Slice into fishstick-sized pieces (I cut these into 21 pieces). Set up a breading station. First bowl has the flour and Old Bay seasoning. Second has the eggs, beaten until foamy. Third has the panko bread crumbs. While you're heating the oil in a pan, bread the sticks. Coat them with flour, then coat them with egg, then coat them with panko bread crumbs.

When the oil hits 350°F, fry the sticks in small batches until the bread crumbs are a nice brown colour. Fish out of the hot oil, and set on paper towels to drain for a few moments. Serve.

Deep-fried, smoky, acidic goodness. This is a decadent little meat-bomb, and it's guaranteed to please.

Pulled pork fishsticks


28 October 2012

Foodapalooza 2012

October has been a rough month, for various reasons. So, when I e-mailed drricky and told him, "I'm feeling bummed out, want to come up and cook?", he was here less than two weeks later. drricky is the kind of friend that I am truly lucky to have. Friday, we spent some time exploring the Italian bounty that the Greater Boston area has to offer, and on Saturday we cooked up a storm, as we have done together in the past.

Twelve dishes, no repeats (nothing we've done together before). We've gotten better at timing the dishes, and giving ourselves enough prep time to throw everything together. We started making sauces on Friday, and started serving around 6 p.m. on Saturday.


Small dishes, small servings, served over 6 hours. More detailed descriptions will follow, over at drricky's blog and here.

We started with pizza scones, hoping that the word pizza would lull the children.

Pizza scone

Next up, bánh xèo, a coconut milk pancake, wrapped around all kinds of crunchy goodness.


An easy-to-prepare course, the ham-tasting: 3 prosciuttos served with drricky's excellent homemade loquat jam. Interesting note, La Quercia's prosciutto Americano was the far-away favourite (and the least expensive).

Prosciuttos with loquat

The following dish was the evening's most fascinating dish (and one of the most successful, in my opinion). Huitlacoche-monkfish chowder. The grey of the huitlacoche is a challenge to make beautiful, but I think that is accomplished here against the bright yellow of the corn (source of the huitlacoche fungus) and the white of the monkfish.

Huitlacoche-monkfish chowder

Next up was the Burmese thoke, a crunchy salad with fried lotus root. Lightened things up before we went heavy again.

Burmese thoak with lotus root

Salted, seared duck breast, served with blueberries we picked in August. Beautiful and delicious on top of home-baked sourdough. I know that several guests are looking forward to drricky's post describing how to make this sauce.

Seared duck with blueberry sauce

Beef oysters (Joe Beef, that is). A mix of soy sauce and salt beans made this a tad too salty for some, may require a bit of refinement for the future.

Baked beef oysters

Another hit of the night, chicken-fried, home-smoked bacon, served with a trio of New England sauces. Blueberry, rhubarb and cranberry sauces, this is another one that I eagerly await the details for.

Chicken-fried bacon with New England sauces

On Friday, I smoked a pork butt, and made pulled pork. We split the pork into the next two dishes. First, bbq pork potstickers, with a mustard-serrano sauce.

Bbq pork potstickers with serrano-mustard sauce

Followed by pulled pork fishsticks (I'll be posting about this soon).

Pulled pork fishsticks

The final two dishes: Scottish sundae, consisting of grilled peaches and jackfruit, served with caramel-oatmeal ice cream and candied oats.

Scottish sundae

And the final dish of the night, chokecherry panna cotta with a nutty cookie.

Chokecherry panna cotta with nutty cookie

A crazy evening, but everyone went to bed with full and happy bellies. An epic evening, I can't wait to do it again.

EDIT: Will continue to update with links for individual dishes.


02 October 2012

Macaroni & cheese

When I left home, I didn't know how to cook. My mom is an excellent cook, and she didn't feel it necessary to teach her kids to cook. But when I left home, she gave me a copy of The Joy of Cooking (the old version, not the re-published travesty). I still love that book. How many cookbooks do you own that describe (with drawings) how to skin and cook a squirrel?

The Joy

The first recipe in that book that I ever cooked by myself comes from page 186, Baked Macaroni. It was a classic when I was a child, and it's a classic for my child. And it's an amazing side dish next to a smoked brisket.

We've modified it over the years, simplifying the seasoning, and dialing up the cheese.
4 cups macaroni
4 cups grated cheese (as many kinds as you have in your fridge, but primarily cheddar)
4 eggs
2 ¾ cup milk
1 ½ tsp salt
Throw the macaroni in boiling water and boil until al dente. Butter a large casserole dish and pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

Cover the bottom of the casserole dish with just enough noodles to make the bottom disappear, then layer on a layer of cheese. I particularly like a mixture of any blue cheese, cheddar and parmesan. Use enough cheese to cover the noodles and make them disappear.

Assembling mac and cheese

Repeat, layer after layer, ending with a layer of cheese.

Assembling mac and cheese

Meanwhile, beat the eggs until foamy. Mix with milk and salt until the salt dissolves. Pour that mix over top of the macaroni. Cover the casserole and place in the hot oven. Bake for 45 minutes, until cheese is melted, and the egg mixture has firmed up a bit (it won't firm entirely until it cools a fair amount).

Assembling mac and cheese

Serve, classically with sausage and a veggie, or southernly next to a brisket.

Macaroni and cheese


25 September 2012


Boston isn't the largest city in the U.S. Not by a long shot. But being a college-town on steroids means that it's a cosmopolitan town that attracts scientists from around the world. Despite living the furthest from Latin America in all the years that I've lived in the U.S., there is plenty of Latin cuisine here. And that often means empanadas are served at potlucks.

Grilled empanadas

We've taken the Argentine recipe from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way and cooked them on the grill.

Here we go. Make the dough and the filling the night before you plan to serve these tasty critters.

For the dough:
2 cups water
1 ½ tbsp salt
3 ½ tbsp lard
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour

Bring the water and salt to boil. Remove from heat, and add the lard. Stir until the lard melts, then transfer to a bowl to cool.

When it's cooled to room temperature, mix in the flour, a cup at a time, until you've added 6 cups. Flour a surface, and knead the ball of dough, adding flour until you have a stiff, dry dough.

Working the dough

Split the dough in half.

Working the dough

Wrap and place in the fridge to chill overnight.

Meanwhile, make the filling:
1 lb well-marbled sirloin
coarse salt and fresh pepper
10 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup lard
3 medium onions
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
4 scallions, minced and separating green and white parts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
3 hard-boiled large eggs, coarsely chopped
½ cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
Trim the most egregious pieces of fat off of the beef. Then chop finely. Think ground beef, but not quite that fine. That's why you do it by hand, you want it to still have some texture to it, but you want it pretty fine.

Chopped beef

Chop the onions. Sauté the onions in the 6 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of lard over low heat. Cook until clear.

Sauteed onions

Add the dried spices and the white part of the scallions, sauté for a few more minutes. Your kitchen will smell ridiculous at this point. Remove from heat, and mix in the remaining scallions.

Sauteed seasoned

Meanwhile, brown the meat in the oil over high heat. Brown a little bit at a time, we're looking to sear the meat, not boil it (and if you liberate a ton of fluid, you'll end up making beef stew).

Browned meat

As you finish each batch of meat, set aside to cool. Don't make piles, we're not steaming beef here.

When everything has cooled, mix the beef, onion mixture, 3 tbsp of lard and the oregano (so glad we planted oregano in the garden this year, yum!).

Chill the mixture in the fridge overnight.

On day two, peel and chop the boiled eggs, and chop the olives.

Boiled eg

Roll out the dough to ⅛" thick.

Emanada dough

Cut out 3 ½" circles in the dough and set aside on a floured tray. Repeat until all dough is gone.

Emanada dough

Get filling, butter, olives and eggs ready. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in a circle of dough. Add a tiny bit of butter, olives and eggs.

Emanada dough

Wet the outside of the circle of dough. Fold across the mid-line, and pinch shut with a fork.

Emanada dough

Repeat. A bunch. If you're alone because Mrs. Dude is working late, continue folding for about an hour. Heat up your grill to 350°F. Cook each tray of emapanadas by indirect heat, using a bit of cherry wood for smoke. Cook until the empanadas are nicely browned.

Remove from heat and cool.

Grilled empanadas

Serve. The lard creates a beautifully crunchy crust. And the salty, spicy, fat filling. In the language of the young folk. OMGWTFBBQ.  Really. It's that good.


18 September 2012

Blueberry sorbet

So we've become rather large fans of the local you-pick place, Tougas farms. We spent a quiet morning in August picking 9 lb of blueberries. And for less than $25, I call that a win.


And what do you do with 9 lb of blueberries? Well, we froze a lot of them. But the first thing we made, was blueberry sorbet. I modified a recipe from one of my favourite dessert blogs, Tartelette.

3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
zest and juice of one lemon
1 tbsp blueberry vodka
Bring to boil all ingredients, save vodka.

Blueberry syrup

Cool to room temperature. Sieve out the chunks.

Blueberry froth

And add the vodka. The vodka is in there primarily to keep the sorbet from freezing too solid. And I'm delighted by the texture that this recipe attained.

Chill overnight, then run through your ice cream maker the way your instructions say. With my KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker, you freeze the ice cream maker for 24 hours. Then run the syrup in it for about 25 minutes.

Sorbet making

Transfer the sorbet to a cold container, and cure in the freezer for at least 12 hours to further firm the sorbet.

Blueberry sorbet

We found this sorbet rather rich-tasting to serve alone. But holy cow does it taste good with a chocolate angel-food cake.

Cake and sorbet

Not bad, not bad. Enjoy.


13 September 2012

Chokecherry milkshake


When I was a kid growing up in southern Alberta, my mom would convince the neighborhood kids to help her pick chokecherries or Nanking cherries by offering up rewards. In retrospect, we probably weren't super-helpful. Did she enjoy our company? Was she teaching us a lesson in the value of labour? Probably both.

But her favorite reward for us was a fresh cherry milkshake.

Cherry milkshakes are pretty easy to put together. No quantities required. Just:
ice cream
chokecherry syrup

I loosely fill our blender with ice cream. Then add milk to about half full. And add about ¼ volume syrup.

Chokecherry milkshake

Yup, this is all very rough. Too much milk, and your milkshake is runny. Too little syrup, and it's not flavourful enough. Practice. Taste. Even your failures will be pretty tasty.

Chokecherry milkshake

Most importantly, serve these to a child in your life. And watch their face light up. This flavour is available nowhere else.


11 September 2012

Chokecherry syrup

On a recent visit to my home in southern Alberta, we arrived in the peak of chokecherry season. I wanted to give my son a taste of home, so we planned an excursion into the river valley to collect chokecherries.

Even in Alberta, few people my age know what chokecherries are. They are plentiful berries that hang in clusters, and have a very large pit relative to the berry. And they're really not that tasty. They have an astringent quality, similar to rhubarb, that makes your lips and teeth feel unpleasant. But when cooked with lots of sugar, they're quite delicious.


We were able to easily find large areas of chokecherries growing in a park in Lethbridge, and they were largely undisturbed. We could have picked there all day, but the kids quickly grew tired, so we returned home with a few buckets of cherries.


While picking we talked about food and cooking, and the flavours that I can't get in Massachusetts. And I told my 74-year old mom about foraging, and how terribly hip it is. "Well, I guess I've been hip all my life" she said. "We've always picked chokecherries, saskatoons and gooseberries."

We spent several hours de-stemming the cherries and chatting with my mom and her sister about the foods of old, and what they ate when they were very poor in the 1940s and 1950s.

Beautiful chokecherries

Chokecherries, rhubarb and damson plums were inexpensive (free) and readily available. Today, they're a local luxury that too few people take advantage of.

Chokecherry syrup:

Mix equal volume:
chopped apple (for thickening)
Cover with water. Boil cherries (low simmer) for approx 1 ½ hours.

When the chokecherries have bleached, pour them into a colander lined with cheesecloth placed over a pot to catch the juice.

Chokecherry goop

When we got to this step, my mother turned to me and put on a very sombre face. "You have a choice. Most recipes say at this stage not to press the chokecherries, because it releases all kinds of stuff that makes the syrup not be clear. I press the cherries to release all that flavor. What do you want to do?"

What would you do? I did it Mom's way. We squeezed the cherries, for a turbid syrup that was as delicious as I remembered from my childhood. Measure out the syrup you recover, and mix with an equal volume of:
Boil for a few minutes, until sugar is dissolved and syrup thickens.

Chokecherry mess

I was surprised by how simple her canning process is. She uses cleaned old jam, jelly and pickle jars, rinses them with boiling water. She boils the lids for a few minutes, adds the boiling syrup to the jars, and then applies the lids. Take your own canning precautions.

Chokecherry syrup

We use this syrup for pancakes, crêpes and waffles. The flavour is bright, and unique. Unlike anything you can get commercially. Delicious.