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Last week at this time we were collectively stress eating – and cooking – me doing my best to distract myself in the kitchen, simultaneously trying to come up with something munchy-snacky-comforting we could eat on the couch in front of the TV, when this passed through my Instagram field of vision. A pile of nacho-style fried wontons topped with salty-sweet bulgogi beef, kimchi and cheese sauce. Brilliance? I think so. First of all: the crispy wontons, which are simply wonton wrappers, halved and fried in a shallow skiff of oil in a small skillet (you don’t need much – and they cook up in less than a minute) which transforms them into a delicious cross between cracker and chip. I am so keeping this technique in my back pocket for those nights when we need some salt and crunch with structural integrity – they would do well with a hefty, cheesy baked artichoke dip. Mental note.

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The oak leaves were just sitting on our kitchen table, I swear. Last week W and I were invited to come join a family cooking class at the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence (yes, this is an actual place, and for anyone who appreciates beef and butchery, it’s amazing) – they were working with Canadian Living (my fave, as you know) on encouraging families to bring their kids into the kitchen – a place W has been hanging out in since he’s been alive. Publisher Sandra Martin joined us virtually on the big screen and the butchers and beef chefs – such great guys – were there to help everyone along as we cooked our way through recipes in the current issue of CL – beef stew, sliders, stir fry, an easy roast (our task – and a good one as it allowed me to give W a crash course in gravy making, something I hope he remembers this Thanksgiving weekend) and mozzarella stuffed miniContinue reading

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I know, two days into school and I’m already dishing out pot roasts, as if we had already switched on the furnace and were full-on into fall. (I made gingerbread too this week. I know!) Really what’s happening is I’ve been spelunking through my freezer, making room for the berries and tomatoes and soups and curries I’ve been making to keep everything that’s coming in to season all at once from composting itself on the countertop. And those items that take up the most real estate are the first to go. Plus, making things like pot roast and muffins makes me feel like I’m on the ball with life, taking care of things. Who cares that I shovelled the stuff off my treadmill onto my bed and when it was time to go to bed shuffled it all to the floor, and have since piled even more stuff onto the treadmill (which is beside my desk because I truly believe one of these days I’mContinue reading

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Apologies for the uninspired portrait of this lasagna; it was taken in haste as it came out of the oven and sat for a few minutes while we gathered plates and forks and tore off paper towels in lieu of napkins for everyone around the table who had come to celebrate Mike’s birthday. W chose lasagna for dinner, and the next day my friend Emily Richards’ beautiful new cookbook arrived in the mail – a book of recipes from the kitchens of her extended Italian family. When I make a lasagna – not that I have for ages – I generally make a big pot of meaty tomato sauce, grate piles of mozzarella and then wing it, starting with tomato sauce spooned over the bottom of the pan, then noodles, more sauce, spoonfuls of ricotta, grated cheese, and so on. I used fresh lasagna sheets this time, which are as inexpensive as dried noodles if not as convenient to keep stashed in your cupboard, butContinue reading

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We have the very first gathering of our cookbook club tonight – a real-life club in which we collectively choose a cookbook to cook out of, or a theme to stick to, and everyone makes something and brings it and we eat and laugh and cheers our good fortune that we all get to enjoy each others’ company on an otherwise regular Tuesday night. Our first theme is family recipes, to celebrate our diverse pasts and presents, to recall where our parents and grandparents were born and raised and what they ate and how they got to be here, and how our families’ daily meals have evolved or stayed the same. (In fact, we started compiling our collective recipes into small eBooks, to raise funds for the UN Refugee Agency.) I made my grandma’s Belgian beef carbonnade – a Belgian stew in which not-so-tender cuts of beef are braised slowly in stock and beer, creating an intensely flavorful sauce – and the only recipe IContinue reading

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Hockey playoffs! You’re gonna need some poutine. Rather than make a packet of gravy (St Hubert is authentic), I like to just go ahead and make a big pot of sloppy pulled beef, which generates its own gravy. You’ll need a pot roast or brisket – something that has tons of tough connective tissues that requires a low, slow braise to break down. At the end it will be ultra-tender and flavourful, soft enough to pull apart with forks.

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Brisket! ‘Tis the season. I mean to make brisket more than I actually do. I keep hoping a smoker will magically appear in my back yard, so that I might spend a day in a lawn chair like a lady in waiting to an enormous brisket, mopping it hourly, in pursuit of the perfect smoke ring. But braising will do too. Because brisket comes from the lower chest of the animal, it contains plenty of connective tissue, requiring a long, slow braise to break it all down. Because smokers have not yet become a common household item, braising is by far the most common way to cook brisket – and there are as many ways to do it as there are people making it. Braising is simple – all you need is a heavy pot, a chunk of meat, low heat and some liquid. I love my enamel-coated cast iron braising pots – you can set them on the stovetop, brown your meat and veg,Continue reading

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Beef stew was, sadly at the time, a staple of our childhood. My mom would buy stewing beef and my dad, clearly unaware of the benefits of cooking such cuts low and slow, would brown the meat, add tomatoes and potatoes and green things and serve it up for dinner – and it was a long, meaty chew. Nowadays, I appreciate the flavour potential of inexpensive cuts of beef – and I love a good dark, sticky braise. A recipe that calls for a few hours’ cooking time sounds daunting, but dishes like beef stew and carbonnade can be slid into the oven after school and be done by dinnertime. Of course, starting with the proper cut of beef is important, which is why so many people panic in the meat aisle, why Mike dreads me sending him to the store with vague cuts of beef on his list, and why having a good butcher is a very good thing. But when there isn’t someoneContinue reading

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Apparently, the world is divided into two types of eaters: those who want to segregate everything on their dinner plates, and those who like everything mixed together in a big jumble, like pad Thai or a rice bowl topped with all manner of meat, eggs and veggies. That’s me. The grill continues to rule our world. I’m amazed how much I don’t miss my oven. (This will change in the fall, I know. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.) Thinly sliced, intensely marinated steak cooks almost instantly on the grill while you do any number of veggies alongside – sliced zucchini, peppers, eggplant, asparagus – anything goes. Totally different from the usual barbecue fare, but perfect for eating outdoors – a pair of chopsticks is all you’ll need.

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