Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gratin with a twist: garam masala, goat cheddar and sweet potatoes.

Ingredients (for 6 as a side, 4 as a vegetarian entree):
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 1 1/2 cups of shredded goat cheddar
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- garam masala, to taste
- shredded coconut (unsweetened), to taste
- salt, pepper

- preheat your oven at 375F (190C)
- with a mandolin, slice the peeled sweet potatoes thinly (about a 1/10th of an inch, or 2-3 mm).
Note: be careful with the mandolin! Use the guard!!!

- fill the baking dish with layers of sweet potatoes. Salt and pepper every layer. Add garam masala, coconut and shedded cheese only every other layer.
Note: I find that adding spice and cheese to each layer rapidly overpowers the flavor of the sweet potatoes. Garam masala is quite a potent spice mix so don't be too heavy handed with it.

- finish by a thick layer of cheese, and pour the cream over the cheese.

- bake at 375F (190C) for 1 hour. Then let rest and cool a bit in the oven before cutting into it.
Note: Waiting here is quite important, because the sweet potatoes release a LOT of moisture, and letting the gratin rest in the oven allows for the reabsorption of the extra liquid.

Serve as a side to grilled lamb chops for example, or as a vegetarian entree with a side of green salad :)
Bon app!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Butternut squash soup and sage brown butter drizzle

After a nice and cozy afternoon spent decorating my Christmas tree and playing around in the first snow flakes of the season, I was happily tired and I was not in the mood for a full fledged cooking session.
Rather, I was craving a quick and easy hearty creamy soup. I had a butternut squash and a few sage leaves lying around (Thanksgiving groceries leftovers) , and came up with this in a matter of minutes.

So easy, give it a try!

Ingredients (for 2):
for the sage butter:
- 10 sage leaves
- 1/2 stick of butter (4tbsp)
- salt
for the soup:
- 1tbsp butter
- 1 shallot (onion works fine), finely chopped
- 1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced  in 1-inch cubes
- 4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer to keep this recipe vegetarian)

- make the sage butter first: melt the butter in a pan and fry the sage leaves until brown and the butter is a beautiful golden brown.

Drain the leaves on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.

Reserve the butter in a small bowl.

- in a large soup pot, melt the butter and fry the shallot until soft and translucent.

- add the butternut squash and broth and bring to a boil. Cook until the squash is fork tender (about 20 minutes).

- with an immersion blender, puree the squash until creamy and smooth.

- serve with a slice of cereal bread, sourdough or (in my case) a whole wheat grilled tortilla. Drizzle the sage butter with a teaspoon on top of the soup. Decorate with a couple of fried sage leaves.

Bon app!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pork chops Piccata

Here is the step-by-step pictorial how-to for the pork chops Piccata in the Nov'11 to Nov'12 photo-recap post :)

Dredge 4 pork chops with seasoned flour (salt and pepper, and for a little extra oomph and if you have it powdered loomi), and brown them on both sides in 2 tbsp of melted butter. The taste of butter makes a real difference here, so I really would not recommend oil.

Set the browned chops on a plate and add a finely chopped shallot in the same pan (with remaining butter and brown bits and juices) and cook until soft. This step will start to deglaze the juices from the pan.

Then add a half-glass of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio, which I also drank with the meal afterwards) and the same amount of chicken broth, a finely chopped clove of garlic and a half a cup of capers.

Once the pan is deglazed and the shallots and garlic are soft, put the chops back into the pan and cook all the way through (about 7-8 minutes).
At this point, the liquid will combine with the flour and thicken the sauce. If the sauce gets too dry before the pork is cooked, add a little chicken stock, 1 tbsp at a time. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon (fresh) into the pan right before plating.

Serve with starch of choice. I used a store-bought mix of quinoa and wild rice, but mashed potatoes, fresh pasta or plain rice would be fine too. If so inclined, you can also serve with green veggies such as green beans. I think that would work well with this dish.
Sprinkle a few parsley leaves and voila!

Bon appetit!


There's nothing like a thick and hearty soup to make you feel good on a crisp and sunny fall day.

I was in a cozy mood this weekend, and felt like eating a comforting bowl of soup for lunch, so I took a look inside my pantry and fridge and realized I had all the ingredients to make a Minestrone. Ish.

It may look complicated, with a lot of ingredients, but really, it is one of the simplest things to prepare. Here's how I did it.

INGREDIENTS (for 4-6 people, or just the 1 with tons of leftovers. Good news: you can freeze it!):
- a bunch of kale, leaves picked and coarsely chopped (can be substituted for spinach, or any kind of leafy greens you like)
- a small pack of salt pork (about 4oz) diced, skinned and trimmed off most of the fat (I only had this in the fridge, but would normally have used either pancetta or bacon)
- 3 medium sized carrots, diced finely
- 3 long stalks celery, diced finely
- 3 small potatoes (the waxy kind), diced finely
- 1 medium onion, diced finely
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 1 cup tomato paste
- 1 14oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 6 to 8 cups of liquid, such as vegetable broth or chicken broth (I mixed 4 cups of chicken broth and about 3 cups of water as I went along and realized it needed more liquid)
- 1 cup of small pasta
- a splash of olive oil


- in a deep soup pot, heat up the olive oil and brown the salt pork until almost cooked through

- then add the holy trinity of diced onion, celery and carrots. Cook on medium-high heat until the vegetables render some moisture and soften (about 3 minutes). This will deglaze the juices of the pork that may have started to caramelize in the pan. Make sure to scrape the pan as it goes with a spatula.

- add the potatoes and garlic, and cook on medium-high heat for another 5 minutes. Keep stirring to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.

- finally, add the beans, tomato paste and broth. Stir everything really well, and bring back to a simmer.

- add the kale and cover the pan until the leaves wilt.

- add the pasta, and stir well. Cook until the pasta and vegetables are done (should take anywhere between 7 and 10 minutes, depending on the size of the pasta and how finely you diced the veggies)


Friday, November 16, 2012

Chili con carne


I've been in the mood for Chili con carne for about 3 years. It was about time I did something about it...
I was browsing the Food Network website a couple of weeks ago, in preparation for my bimonthly-ish culinary gathering of sorts, when a recipe caught my attention.

That was it! I was sold! This was going to happen... "This" was Guy Fieri's Dragon Breath Chili.

Seeing as my stomach lining is nowhere as heat-tolerant as Guy's, I substituted most of the hot peppers for bell peppers, adapted the spice-mix to whatever I had lying around in my pantry and omitted most of the hot sauce, chili powder and cayenne, preferring the slightly much safer option of post-cooking heat-customization :D


2 tablespoons granulated onion

2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander (I used a pestle and mortar, but if you have powder or a spice grinder it is better; those half-ground seeds can get really annoying in the final texture)
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (not in the original recipe)
1 tablespoon crushed dried oregano (not in the original recipe)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons bacon grease

2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, diced very finely
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1 head garlic, grated 
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 28oz can of peeled tomatoes (I used Italian style because I had it in the pantry already, but plain is fine)
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • water (about 1-2 cups, just as needed to avoid getting too dry during cooking on day 1)
  • 12 ounces lager beer (used it to reheat on day 2)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 14oz cans pinto beans, with juice
  • 2 14oz cans kidney beans, with juice
  • 1 14oz can black beans, with juice

  • For garnish: 
  • Saltine crackers and corn chips
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely diced
  • Lime wedges
  • Sour cream
  • Cilantro
  • Liberal amounts of shredded Cheddar cheese
In large stock pot over high heat, melt butter and bacon grease.
Add the diced bell peppers, jalapeno, and onions and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute longer. Reserve in a bowl.

Add chuck meat to the pot and brown.
Add ground beef and sausage to brown and stir gently, trying not to break up the ground beef too much, when the meat is almost cooked all the way through, add the reserved sauteed vegetables back into the pot.
Add in the spice mix and cook for 1 minute. Add in tomato sauce and paste and stir for 2 minutes.
Stir in the chicken stock and beans. Lower heat and simmer for 2 hours.
If it is not wet enough, add some water. Let rest overnight in the fridge. 
Note: If you are preparing this chili on the day you are going to eat it, add the beer together with the chicken stock and forgo the water.

To reheat on day 2, stir in the can of beer and extra water if the chili has become too thick. Reheat on low heat for 30 minutes, or until the chili is warm evenly.

Serve with saltine crackers, a good dollop of sour cream and sprinkle liberal amounts of shredded cheddar cheese, cilantro and spring onions :)