There are many days that call for celebrations in a food blogger’s lifetime. I’m so pleased and honoured to announce that Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen has reached 200 followers just shy of my very first blogiversary. I’m just really excited to have so many people interested in something that is so important to me.
I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to bake a cake for this occasion so I chose a special cake from one of my personal favourite bloggers and cookbook author, David Lebovitz. Any cake I have made using his recipes has turned out splendidly and so when I have a special cake to bake my first look is always at David’s site. Of course, he didn’t disappoint and I found this amazing recipe for a Chocolate Stout Cake.
I also wanted to experiment a bit today so when I hit the Co-op liquor store I didn’t get a bottle of Guinness but instead brought home a delicious sounding Longboat Chocolate Porter by Phillips Brewing Company. I had a rich, dense cake in mind marked with a bit of sweetness from coconut so this was a great opportunity for me to try baking with coconut oil. I replaced half of the butter in David’s recipe with an equal amount of coconut oil. In addition, I added some shredded coconut for a bit more coconut flavour. I thought maybe I could get away with just a light dusting of cocoa powder…
But who am I kidding? I’m pretty sure David included a ganache for a reason. Now, who’s coming over to celebrate?
Today I was faced with an excess amount of bacon. Lovely, delicious naturally wood smoked Hutterite bacon that I am very addicted to. Unfortunately (?) it only comes in large packages and our bacon consumption doesn’t occur as often as it should. Sad, I know but when I was faced with the thought of this preservative free porky goodness going bad I knew the solution was a good ol’ bacon fry up. Naturally I wanted to include a bit of it into our dinner and I was immediately reminded of a comment I made on a recent lovely tomato risotto post. It had been a long time since I’d made risotto and the idea of a tomato risotto for dinner was just too good to pass up.
Enter this lovely blog post from Cottage Grove House. I mean, it looks so good who could resist giving it a try? My first intention was to completely follow the recipe but then I realized I had no tomato to make the broth with and only my home made passata instead of canned tomatoes. When I looked in my pantry for arborio rice, I remembered I had this saffron risotto rice and thought it might make a good combination with the tomato passata. So instead of the home made tomato broth I used chicken stock, added a bit of white wine, and used saffron arborio.
The result was super delicious and it was immediately voted onto the ‘make again’ list.For me, the marriage of saffron and tomato is like peanut butter and jelly and the addition of the chili flakes really warmed our cheeks up on this cold winter’s eve.
I was glad no one had to leave for football, karate, etc. and that we were all warm and safe inside our home. Let the winter winds blow!
Tomato Saffron Risotto (adapted from Cottage Grove House)
1 diced shallot
2 finely diced cloves garlic
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup passata
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1/4 tsp saffron threads (my rice had saffron in it already but I would approximate the amount of saffron to be this amount)
pinch of chili flakes
5 cups hot chicken stock
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
diced cooked bacon (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the diced shallot in the olive oil until it has turned soft then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the risotto and stir to coat the grains with oil. Add the white wine and allow it to cook out. This step is important in achieving the correct wine flavour within the risotto. When the wine has cooked out, add 1/2 cup passata, chili flakes, saffron threads (if using) and 1/2 cup hot chicken stock. Stir and let the stock cook out then add another 1/2 cup of hot stock. Repeat this process until you have one cup of stock left. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of passata and 1/2 cup of stock. Let it cook out again and add the final 1/2 cup of stock (check the risotto and if it is still ‘chalky’ add 1/2 cup hot water and cook out until it is soft but also al dente) and the grated Parmesan. Allow to cook until you have your desired consistency. Top with Parmesan curls and bacon.
Wow. Just writing the title made me drool all over again. I almost didn’t get a chance to carry this cupcake project to completion because as soon as I had the cupcake batter all made up I just wanted to cover myself in it so no one else could have any. It’s THAT good.
Ginger is one of my favourite flavours and I love baking anything with a bit of a spice bite. Who doesn’t love a cute cupcake with amazing texture and flavour? Salted caramel is so big right now these cupcakes are a sure fire party favourite. When I found this recipe by Laura Loves Cakes, I just had to make them. It’s just by pure weird coincidence that I bought the cute little gingerbread men sprinkles in Winners the other day. I thought they were adorable so I brought them home and my intent was to use them to accent an amazing recipe…preferably with ginger.
Of course I was also attracted to this particular butter cream recipe because I have never make salted caramel and I really wanted to give it a try. When it came out so dark and luxurious I felt like a rock star! Kid number one was hanging around the kitchen eating some non-photogenic cookies (or tasty duds as I call them) and even he was impressed. He helped me take some pictures by blowing away the steam from the pot for a clearer image.
After the sugar was nice and browned I stirred in the salt, cream, vanilla and I had salted caramel. The buttercream recipe was basically just room temperature butter creamed with icing sugar for about 5 minutes. I noticed that the longer it was being whipped, the lighter the colour became until I added the caramel in at the end. I guess it was here that I found out that while the cupcake recipe made 24 cupcakes, the buttercream only made enough for about 14 and that was a stretch. So if you’re going to make the buttercream be sure to double the recipe.
I thought the gingerbread men in this photo looked like they were drowning in a vortex of salted caramel buttercream!
The title of this post is no laughing matter. Your family may be able to live without butter tarts during the holidays but I think I would be strung up by my ankles and dragged behind a skidoo if I forgot to add them to my list of Christmas baking. And really to be honest I don’t mind making them every year and look forward to a touch of nostalgia on our Christmas goodie platters.
There was a time when I was a young aspiring baker; say around 1982. I would hang around Grandma’s kitchen and beg to make butter tarts year round. I must have been a real pain in the butt or just really super cute because sometimes (just sometimes!) I would get my way. It is a Grandmas job to spoil the grandchildren so she would begin the pastry while I counted out raisins. Yes, my job was counting raisins and I took it very seriously. Ten raisins for each tart. That’s not a lot when you think about it so maybe Grandma was being a little stingy.
Excepting the fiddly job of making pastry, butter tarts are super easy to make and Grandma taught me well. I’ve passed on the job of counting the raisins out to my children; or I did until they decided to hate on raisins and insist on pecans instead. I still make a few raisin butter tarts and have a little laugh to myself when the kids can’t tell the difference between the two varieties after they are baked. Such little joys bring pleasure to the holidays.
So every year before I begin baking I make a ‘to bake’ list. It is separate from my ‘presents to buy’ list, my ‘to pack’ list, and my ‘to clean’ list. That’s a lot of lists. The point is I ask everyone what they want on that ‘to bake’ list and they insist on two items: 1) Butter tarts and 2) Mini Cheesecakes. Even when we lived in Australia I was able to give them a beloved Christmas memory when I made our special treats so far away from home.
Last Easter I cooked my heart out and was glad that my family took over the clean up portion of the meal. Isn’t that every cook’s dream? To make all the mess you want creating delicious dishes and never have to clean up again. In my house it doesn’t happen often enough. They were so thorough in their cleaning, however, that it wasn’t until the next day when I was searching the fridge for the ham bone only to find out they had thrown it away! What a waste. I had been so excited to make a nice huge pot of ham and pea soup but now I would have to wait until the next big ham holiday to nab a ham bone.
Since then I’ve amended my thinking about ham as a special dinner. Of course it’s still special but ham gets requested for dinner so much at our house that I’ve taken on a new philosophy. That is, there should always be a ham waiting in the freezer. After our last feast of smokey porky goodness I made sure the clean up crew saved the ham bone (and pan drippings) and finally I was able to make a lovely pea and ham soup.
I searched the internet for ideas, but in the end all I used was a ham bone and juices, water, pepper, bay leaves, and green split peas. I put the ham and juices in a stock pot, covered it with water, added the bay leaves and brought it up to a slight boil. I let the stock simmer for a couple of hours, then removed the ham bone and bay leaves. I divided the stock into portions for freezing and immediate use. The directions on the split pea container were to use two cups of split green peas for about 7 cups of liquid and boil until they became soft. Pretty basic. After all the peas were soft, I blended the peas a bit using my immersion blender and added some left over ham and some fresh green peas. Easy peasy.
The whole time we were enjoying this soup I kept on shaking my head and wondering aloud how something so good could be made out of only four ingredients. The whole family agreed and promised to never, ever throw away the ham bone again.
Ha! See what I did there? Novembrrrrr.
November is rushing by and Christmas is ever looming…It’s been a busy month with football still every night (but thankfully ending on Saturday), karate, visiting in laws, and today I woke up in a slight panic when I realized it was kid number one’s birthday! He’s thirteen years old which means I officially have no children in the house, only teenagers. Man, that makes me feel old! He’s still my baby though and loves playing in the snow.
It’s also been an interesting month In My Kitchen. I’ve been quite busy perfecting my pie pastry. I’m almost there but I’ve realized something…the only way to get better is make lots and lots of pies. That’s not always a good thing!
Lemon Meringue Pie
I’ve also been testing out a new kitchen helper, the Bellini Kitchen Master. For those of you in Australia it is similar to the Thermomix. I made the lemon curd for the Lemon Meringue Pie in it.
I had my in laws visiting from Pinawa, Manitoba. They were really surprised we had snow already and also I think a little jealous. They are really into cross country skiing and are quite active in helping to maintain their local ski trails and rest huts. I took my father in law for a drive to pick up wine and brought him to the Calgary Farmer’s Market. He talked up the lady at Green Eggs and Ham while I talked mushrooms and truffles next door at Fifth Element Fine Foods. He brought home duck eggs (and the lady’s email!) for an experiment and I brought home some Samphire, (or Sea Asparagus) and a huge mound of gorgeous Cauliflower mushrooms.
On the night before they left to fly to Arizona, I made this really amazing Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cake. I have to say this one is one of those recipes that will be around for years to come.
After they were gone I needed a load of groceries and came back with this odd looking citrus. I still haven’t figured out what to do with it. Any ideas?
That’s almost it for this month’s post. I’ve been meaning to sneak in a photo of my homemade soft light box. When the daylight hours get short the light in my house is really bad for taking photos. You can probably tell which photos I am taking using ambient light and which ones I take the time to set up in my light box. It is permanently set up in the dining area so that I can take decent photos during the dark winter months.
Thanks so much to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this little sneak peak into kitchens around the world. If you get a chance check out her November In My Kitchen as well as her huge round up list of other blogger’s amazing kitchens.
It’s no secret that truffles are wondrous things. They are less than beautiful knobs of underground fungal growth that grow among the roots of trees. As with many foods I often wonder about the first person who thought eating truffle was a good idea. For sure they would have seen the marks of wildlife foraging for them in the woods or maybe even smelled their woodsy cloying scent as they walked through the forest on a boar hunt. Once that first truffle was foraged by humans there was no turning back. It’s no small wonder why these prized fungi are loved the world over from locals, to collectors, chef, and connoisseurs. I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t love truffle.
You never forget your first truffle experience. Mine was while we were living in Perth, Western Australia at the annual Mundaring Truffle Festival (July 2010). The festival was started to showcase the Perigord truffles grown in Western Australia at The Wine and Truffle Co. (in Manjimup) to the people of Perth and surrounding area. I was on the edge of becoming sick so we had almost cancelled but I’m so glad we went. Even on the threshold of losing my sense of taste I could still enjoy the many dishes we tried. Truffled chips and arancini, pork truffle sausages on a bun, baked brie with layers of truffles, steamed egg tart (infused with truffle), apple tarte with truffle crème fraîche, and my absolute favourite smoked boar hock and potato soup. It felt amazing on my sore throat and seduced me with it’s unctuous top layer of truffle oil dotted with bits of shaved truffle.It was pure heaven in a bowl.
So when I heard that a local restaurant Muse had purchased a 558 gram white Alba truffle and were planning their own mushroom and truffle festival, I was definitely going to attend! After a couple of quick tweets to the restaurant I managed to secure a lovely table in the lounge for myself and hubby. Of course I had never been to Muse before, so I was surprised at how nice and intimate the table was and I didn’t feel so self conscious about taking all the photos I wanted. I still do have troubles with low light restaurant photography, though opting for the accompanying wine tasting menu may have also been a factor…
We started the evening with a Double Cross vodka martini. I don’t eat olives (even those stuffed with blue cheese and truffle) but I did taste a smidgen of truffle in my naked vodka.
I opted for the accompanying wine pairings and was not disappointed. When our server poured out the first glass of Elvio Cogno, Babara D’Alba she saw my eyes light up (and the thirsty look on my face) and made sure to caution me that it was to be paired with both the Chef’s Amuse and the cold appetizer. She did take pity on my and added another splash later on. This wine made me sit up and take note, the sommelier definitely meant business with these Northern Italian pairings. The Elvio Cogno, Barbera d’Alba was also great with the truffle popcorn which I nibbled on in between every course. I made a mental note to make my popcorn like this from now on. The kids are going to go nuts for it, especially kid number one who was so sad when he found out only hubby and I were going to the truffle fest. I wouldn’t be surprised if kid number one was a truffle pig in a previous life.
Our courses throughout the night arrived within a relatively short time frame of each other. That is not to say we were hurried in anyway and maybe time flew because I was trying to absorb so much information at once. Each course was complex and thought provoking.
The Chef’s Amuse was an interesting combination of tapioca pearls in a green tarragon and onion emulsion. There was a little brown tower of mushroom pate at the centre of the dish topped with a tiny salsa of onions and mustard seeds. I loved the fresh herb flavour of the the tarragon and onion and the light texture of the mushroom pate. I thought the micro greens really set off the dish and they tasted strongly of celery to me, though the server insisted they were tarragon. I think eating this dish with a fork was a touch aggravating. A spoonful of those pearls with the emulsion would have been much more sensuous and satisfying.
For those of you who agree with the famous comedian, John Pinette and think the salad course is only “a promissory note that food will soon arrive”, please think again! Our salad at Muse arrived with lovely blushing greens, porcini and crimini mushrooms, thin black and watermelon radish wafers, pickled radish cubes, a slice of house cured pancetta, and sourdough croutons. Nestled in the centre of this finery was a nice little 63 degree egg yolk. The silky texture of the yolk was brilliant as it coated my mouth and then was cut by the very light vinaigrette. So many places don’t give any thought to what goes into a proper salad and almost never season it. I’m pleased to say this is not the case at Muse.
However, we were here for a truffle and mushroom tasting. The mushrooms on this salad were a touch pedestrian and there was no truffle. One relatively easy way to incorporate that truffle taste into this dish would be to infuse the eggs with truffle before they are cooked. If you add a chunk of truffle to an air tight container along with your eggs, the truffle aroma will work it’s way through the pores in the eggshell and the egg will taste of truffles. As you can imagine, these eggs makes the best scrambled eggs you’ll ever have!
After I had managed to make the first wine pairing last between these two dishes, I was rewarded with another glass. This time it was Elio Altare, Dolcetto d’Alba. A slightly less ‘in your face’ wine than the first but delicious as it was enjoyed with the truffle creme and mushroom duxelles in the next dish. That little quail was superbly cooked and respected, taking centre stage among all that fungi goodness. I absolutely loved the little gnudi nestled in the duxelles and made a mental note to make these at home. In short, this was a dish of comfort, the homey flavours of quail, chanterelles, gnudi, and truffle needed the light touch of acidity present in the aioli. I couldn’t help but note there were no shaved Black Burgundy truffles on this dish as compared to other (much better) photos I’ve seen…
Just as I was about to wonder how the quail dish could be topped, the server arrived to serve me a sparkling Chardonnay Brut (Giulio Cocchi). I was a bit confused how such bold wines could be followed by this particular pairing until I saw the next course arrive on our table. Crispy skin Striped Sea Bass with burnt spring onion, fried chicken mushrooms, and shiitake. Just peeking out from behind the fish was a little dumpling filled with black bean and scallop. Our ocean course arrived in a bowl to which our server promptly added a hot dashi broth. A little table theatre goes a long way and I want to take a moment to say that our server was outstanding. She was well versed in the components of each dish and wine pairing, though she admitted her Italian was a little less than perfect. She was attentive, yet not rushed and very personable.
Back to the dish. If I had to say one word to describe this dish it would be ‘Umami’. The crispy skin had a lovely crunch and smokey flavour, yet the sea bass was still moist and tender. And of course the skiitake mushrooms were a great mushroom to put in this dish, having a nice umami of their own….I’m not sure about the chicken mushrooms though because they were little bits cubed and hidden under the fish among the dashi. I couldn’t distinguish their flavour. The sparkling chardonnay went well with the umami theme.
Does it seem like this tasting menu will ever end? I hoped not…though I did mention to hubby that we hadn’t seen any full blown shaved truffle action yet. Our server came to offer the next wine which was a hefty Barolo (Beni di Batasiolo) and I asked her if we could view the massive truffle and she replied that she hadn’t even seen it yet but would enquire. I tweeted my ‘lack of truffle’ concerns to the universe and the universe answered with this:
It was easy to see why so many have claimed this dish as the favourite from the whole tasting menu. 48 hour short rib, with beautiful black trumpet mushrooms, cippolini onions, brussel sprout leaves, pomme puree, and as you can see, finally some of the beautiful Alba truffle! When I cut into that short rib it felt like butter and the whole dish was quite comforting until I bit into the black trumpet mushrooms. These black fungi have long been a favourite of mine, however care must be taken during washing as they have many folds which can trap grit. With each mouthful it felt like I was eating delicious sandpaper. Did I stop? Nope. Hubby noted he had some in his as well and his portion of mushrooms were about a third of what I had on my plate. After we were finished this course we had a nice surprise…owner Stephen Deere came by with the star of the show. He offered to let me hold it but I declined as visions of a large truffle rolling around on the floor and the ensuing mayhem filled my head.
After we had recovered from truffle shock our server arrived with a ridiculously tiny soda bottle filled with house made apple soda and meant as a palate cleanser. I got a kick out of watching hubby pick it up as it looked so small in his hands.
You’ll note that my wine glass was empty and I didn’t have to wait too long for it to be filled with a delicious Elio Altare, Langhe Nebbiolo. Soon after that our cheese course arrived. I was very pleased to see Brie with truffles and I absolutely loved the lemon curd with honeycomb. And everything on top of delicious sourdough from Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. I couldn’t help but wish for some chanterelles on top of that honey. I love chanterelles and honey, it is a superb combination. Speaking of superb combinations, I really felt that the cheese course had the best wine pairing.
I did get my wish for more chanterelles with the final dish of the evening. Ever had chocolate and mushrooms? I’m still a bit on the fence about this one as there really was a lot going on in this dish. Chocolate ganache topped with salty crunchy bits, dehydrated meringue , burnt lemon sorbet and gel, and two lovely squares of caramel flan. Those caramel flan were delicious! We enjoyed this last dish with a Caffe Coretto; a nice shot of espresso mixed with Grappa.
Overall we left the restaurant with smiles on our faces. There were some bumps in our courses; missed ingredients, plating inconsistencies, and questionable prep with the mushrooms but kudos to Chef Pedhirney for such an ambitious Chef’s tasting menu. I will be back for more.
Muse Restaurant and Lounge
107 10A Street NW Calgary (Kensington)
403 670 6873
Related articles: http://thefoodpornographer.com/2011/08/mundaring-truffle-festival-2011
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