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When we were kids, my dad fancied himself a pretty good beef stew maker. I did not agree – he used big chunks of flank steak, which I suspect weren’t cooked quite long enough to break down in its tomato-ey sauce, because while it was certainly lean and healthy, it had the texture of chewy meat rope. (Sorry Dad – it’s not you, it’s me. And the meat rope.) Fortunately, he’s so fantastic that it’s easy to overlook his stew. But it’s funny how childhood food preferences stick with you – I keep thinking I don’t like beef stew, but really I do. (So long as the meat is cooked long enough.) Any tough cut of beef (or bison) makes a good stew – even those chunks of “stewing beef”; the trick is to simmer it first, giving the connective tissues time to melt and the gravy a chance to develop, before adding the potatoes and carrots, which you don’t want to break down toContinue reading

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I feel like I’ve been slingshot (can that be used as a verb?) straight into mid January, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a grilled cheese sandwich. I’ve decided that if I’m going to eat bread, it might as well be truly fantastic – and preferably used to bookend other divine ingredients, bound together by melty cheese. There are few things I love more than a grilled cheese sandwich, but too often everything gets ignored but the cheese. Let’s start with the bread, shall we? This is a roasted garlic oval from ACE Bakery, with sweet, mellow roasted garlic right in the dough. It’s a good size – with enough structural integrity and a crisp crust. I used my friend Jessica’s trick – to mix grated Parmesan cheese into soft butter to spread on the outside of each slice, which creates an extra crunchy, cheesy exterior, maximizing those crispy edges.

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I’m super into braising things these days. The process of it. The browning of the wodges of meat and their long, lingering time in the oven. (In a cast iron pot, not the slow cooker.) The way the house smells when you walk outside and then back in – I keep going out and coming in, just for the experience. It feels like cooking. Bringing home an identifiable slab of meat, cutting and searing it (neither of which requires any particular skill), adding whatever flavours you like (balsamic! salt! thyme!) along with liquid and heat and allowing it all to do its thing – to break down tough connective tissues and melt into a delicious stew no different from those our ancestors cooked for their families in a pot on the hearth or over an open fire. Deep for a Wednesday night, I know.

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At the beginning of the year, my friend Jan and I started a series we called Gatherings, a monthly post based on a time we had extra people around our table, or in our backyard – there have been birthday parties (OK, a few birthday parties) and a big pot of meatballs, pecan waffles with wine smoothies and music-inspired cocktails. I was in Toronto on Monday-Tuesday and we got together to work on a project and as we sat on the hotel room beds, laptops and books and room service calamari and wings spread across both, Jan, who is far more on the ball than I, pointed out that we were due for a post in a couple days. Apparently it’s the last week of August. (People in Tofino gathering for their annual Lantern Festival at the botanical gardens 2 weeks ago.) So yesterday, Jan wrote about cousin camp – an annual summer thing where she has her nieces and nephews over for an epicContinue reading

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He has a shirt and a noun (or many), in lieu of a Nenshi action figure, why not a pie? Generally in Calgary we gear up for Canada Day and Stampede, energy-wise – this year the city was tired, still collectively recovering from the floods and the muck when July 1st snuck up on us. (Or on me, anyway.) It was good timing, actually – everyone was in need of a little reprieve and celebration, and our mayor suggested we all take a day off and enjoy each others’ company. (Amid all this, one day upon seeing a photo of Nenshi on the cover of Avenue, W said to his cousin: “see that guy? He’s the principal of Calgary.) Emceeing the festivities at Fort Calgary I got to talking with the chairman of the (Fort Calgary) board, who told me one of her family’s favourite meals is something they call Nenshi pie – made with the filling from his mother’s samosa recipe baked in aContinue reading

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It’s raining all weekend, right? This is the plan? Which means we’re diving back into warm and cheesy comfort food? Good, because I’ve been dying to tell you about this sloppy little number. It was by total serendipity that this came to be. I was making cheese rarebit for Alice, and had just finished taking photos of it. Rarebit is one of those dishes that has gone the way of escargot and beef Wellington; for those unfamiliar, it’s a Welsh dish of cheese, loosened with ale or milk or made into a thick cheese sauce and poured over toast, then broiled. Toasted cheese, I want to call it. My mom used to make cheese sauce, but she’d pour it over steamed broccoli. Remember when that was a thing? Broccoli with cheese sauce? A total 80s side dish. Does anyone do it anymore? Broccoli-cheese segregated the granolas from the junk food eaters; my mom used to make a roux of butter, flour and milk, then addContinue reading

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Sometimes in between the making and the baking and the writing and the tweeting and the planning in the meetings a dinner squeaks by undocumented. This was one such meal; something I pulled together to satisfy a craving for beef, sweet potato and curry. I went and grabbed my camera before taking a bite when two of the four at our table (the other two being Mike and I) asked for the recipe. This happens hardly ever. (The little blip of green in the top left corner is that kale-Brussels sprout salad I was so enamoured with last month that I ate it every day for a week.) So here it is.

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I feel so cliché posting a Guinness pie recipe on St. Patrick’s day – but it’s what was for dinner last night. The stew itself was left over from a TV segment I did last week – all I really did was top it with a slab quick and rough puff pastry that has lived in the fridge since about January, and popped it into the oven for the boys before heading out to a birthday party. The filling is essentially a long-simmered beef stew – cubed beef browned and braised with a bottle of Guinness (or other stout), although it could as easily be done with red wine or beef stock. The first batch we ate as stew; the rest waited until it was time for pie. This is a sort of streamlined version of a Jamie Oliver recipe my mom has been making for years when a bunch of us get together – it’s great for a group. The kicker is a handfulContinue reading

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If I was more motivated by food than love, I’d have married into a big Italian family, one known for its long bustling Sunday lunches anchored by a big pot of something red bubbling on the stove. I keep meaning to just pretend I’m Italian and adopt the tradition, but then Sundays get away from me. One of my favourite gatherings of last year came about from a text I received on a Saturday afternoon as we walked in the dog park. It came from friends with two little girls (and two large dogs), both of whom work full time and play in multiple bands and are generally as busy as anyone I know. It said: “if you guys are free tonight, want to come over for spaghetti?” It was so spontaneous! So casual! Such a great way to get together without advance planning and emails and checking of schedules! We in fact did not have plans that night, and so we grabbed a bottleContinue reading

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