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Ever wonder what would happen if dense gingerbread and dark fruitcake got together? This.

It was called coffee fruitcake in a 2005 issue of Gourmet, but doesn’t taste like coffee – you could swap orange juice, or grape juice, which is what my mom used when she made fruitcake decades ago. Or anything, really – but the coffee really does intensify the deep, slightly bitter gingerbread, which contrasts well with the loads of dried currants and raisins. You could, of course, stir in some other dried fruit – I was tempted to add slivered dried apricots, figs and cherries, and may next time, but it is tempting to stick with the ease of just raisins.

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roast-duck-1

Fresh whole duck is becoming easier to find in grocery stores these days, and yet I’m not sure most people are quite comfortable with the idea of roasting one. If you’re duck-curious, give it a go – the only difference, really, is that you need to poke holes in the skin before you stick it in the oven, to allow the excess layer of fat under the skin to render off. (This is why ducks look perfectly content paddling around in freezing rivers at this time of year – my own built-in insulation doesn’t seem to have the same effect.) As a bonus, you get to pour those drippings off into a jar and keep them in the fridge to roast potatoes with. Duck fat is like liquid gold – in fact you’d pay more for a teeny jar of it at many gourmet shops as you would for an entire duck.
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*I’ve partnered with Lindt to bring you this buttery shortbread, topped with squares of Lindt dark chocolate. Doesn’t it seem like a great idea? It really was. It’s perfectly reasonable to eat shortbread for breakfast with (Bailey’s-spiked) coffee at this time of year, right? And then to keep nibbling from a stash on your kitchen counter throughout the day, like a slow dose of butter and sugar and Christmas joy? It seems as if I’ve been on a bit of a cookie bender since the calendar struck December – two cookie exchanges in the first week, and two back to back cookie baking classes to raise money for the food bank. There’s no shortage of new ideas at this time of year, but what I really want is a good butter shortbread – and something chocolate. My dad has, for at least the past decade, kept a stash of Lindt Excellence 70% cacao bars on hand, and the stack rarely dips below half a dozen.Continue reading

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wookie-cookies-1

Hey, remember these? I made them exactly a year ago, but never shared – and now on the eve of Rogue One coming out in theatres (big excitement in this house – it’s like pre-Christmas) it seems timely again. Also – these are far more interesting than a straight-up gingerbread dude, aren’t they? You could, of course, use any rolled gingerbread cookie formula and squish them with the back of a fork to make them look like shaggy wookies – extra Chewie.

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prime-rib-7

Prime rib seems so 1990s steakhouse, and it’s something I rarely think to make at home, but when we do I never regret it. It can be a bit of a spend – $50 for a chunk of meat seems exorbitant and reserved only for the fanciest of occasions – but when you think about it, it’s less than we’d likely spend ordering pizza or hitting Swiss Chalet on the way home from Christmas shopping. This relatively small two bone prime rib fed all of us plus my parents, with leftovers. And it provided a perfect excuse to make Yorkshire puddings.

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I know when you invest in a prime rib you don’t want to screw it up, but the good news is, after you practice the blast-it-with-heat-and-then-leave-it-in-the-oven-for-two-hours-no-peeking method, you’ll be confident in your ability to cook a prime rib whether it’s for a special occasion dinner (like, if everyone is kind of meh about turkey) or just a regular Wednesday. You can call your parents to come over for dinner and wow them with prime rib and roasted potatoes, and Wednesday night won’t seem quite as ordinary.
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feijoada-2

I had been fidgety about the unseasonably warm weather around here, and then winter went and showed up all at once. Temperatures hovering around -32 with the windchill is the perfect reason to have a pot of something or other simmering on the stove, and I had been meaning to make a pot of feijoada – a thick Brazilian black bean stew, simmered with miscellaneous cuts of pork (and sometimes beef). The beauty of it is that dried beans take a few hours to soak and simmer, just like tough, flavourful cuts of meat, like pork shoulder and ham hocks. If you’ve never worked with smoked pork hocks before – it’s the ankle bit – this is a perfect reason to; you toss it in the pot and it does its thing, flavouring the beans with smoky meatiness, and then the chunks of tender meat fall off when you pull the bone and leathery skin out of the pot. Once you’ve cooked one, you’ll notice all kinds of delicious applications come up.
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cereal-milk-panna-cotta-3

It’s true – cereal milk is a thing. Momofuku Milk Bar made it so for anyone over ten. In essence, cereal milk tastes like the bottom of the cereal bowl – it pulls you straight back to childhood, to that spot where you sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV, watching Saturday morning cartoons. It’s the reason W always asks for a straw along with his bowl of cereal. I had been contemplating how to use cereal milk in a way that puts it at the forefront – just the flavoured milk itself, no gritty, soggy bits – and panna cotta seemed like just the thing.

Also, I was challenged to make something using cereal. Which in a twist of what’s-old-is-new-again appears to be trendy these days – who knew cereal was so retro? There are cafés dedicated to it, even!

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As I may have mentioned in the past, panna cotta is about as simple as dessert gets – it’s basically sweetened cream, set with gelatin. It’s an Italian thing, and verging on fancy, depending on where you get it and how you serve it. It seemed like the right move to bash up some crunchy cereal to sprinkle on top in order to texturally deliver the best of both worlds – smooth, sweet milk with crunchy-sweet cereal suspended on its surface.
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cranberry-lemon-bars

I can’t remember the first time I made these. I make them every year – and now, on the verge of cookie month, when I went to look up the recipe here, I couldn’t believe I haven’t shared it yet. Sorry, guys.

For fans of the sweet-tart, these are it – a double whammy of pucker, with a layer of cranberries suspended in lemon filling. A smattering of coconut adds some sweet chewiness. I like that I can make them ahead of time and stack them in the freezer – in fact, freezing them first makes it easy to cut them cleanly, and they thaw nicely while sitting out on a plate. All they need is a shake of icing sugar.
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mashed-potato-doughnuts-8

Yes! You can turn mashed potatoes into doughnuts. As if you needed another good reason to make more mashed potatoes than you need – these doughnuts are what you make with the leftover mashed potatoes you haven’t yet eaten with butter and salt.

So… the leftover leftovers.

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The recipe comes from my friend Caroline, who sings and plays in a retro pop rock band called the Lovebullies, and whose family makes enormous batches of these mashed potato doughnuts every Christmas. Christmas doughnuts seem like a great idea to me – not only are they delicious, you could, if you were so inclined, probably hang them on the tree. And making doughnuts is more of a production than one would generally take on on a regular weekend – which is really what the upcoming holidays are all about. Staying in your PJs until noon, and spending an hour making homemade doughnuts, to be doused in sugar and eaten with large cups of coffee and hot chocolate.

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They’re cake doughnuts – that is, a quick dough risen with baking powder instead of yeast – like banana bread is to a white sandwich loaf, texture-wise. Cake doughnuts (think of the sour cream glazed at Tim Hortons) are denser than yeasted ones, but far easier to stir together, pat and cut while an inch or two of oil heats in a small pot or shallow pan – you don’t need a deep fryer, honest. Nor a thermometer, really – I have one, but rarely pull it out – heat your oil until it’s hot enough that a small scrap of dough sizzles when you dip it in. My aunt would test the oil for her croquettes by dipping the handle of her wooden spoon in – if the oil bubbled around it, it was ready. (If you have a thermometer, aim for around 350F.)
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