Posted in Foodstuffs

Guanciale

Guanciale 1

Most people have had, or even cooked, some sort of ‘Carbonara’ style pasts dish at one time or another (Spaghetti alla Carbonara, being especially favored), and generally, this will be made with the unsmoked Italian style bacon known as ‘Pancetta’, or, sometimes even, the regular, everyday smoked bacon commonly served with breakfast. The favoured traditional pork product, however… the ne plus ultra one might say, is Guanciale… which are salted and dry-cured hog jowls, or ‘pig-cheeks’ for the more genteel among you.

The preparation of guanciale is a bit more complex than for the belly pork equivalent represented by Pancetta. The fatty jowls are rubbed with salt, sugar and spices (pepper, thyme and fennel are common), and then hung and air-dried for three weeks or so. In the above picture, you can see a 200 gram piece I bought in Ottawa… You should be able to make out the mixed herb and spice mixture that was used, as well as the string that was looped through one corner in order to hang it.

The beauty of Guanciale, in contrast to the belly, is the dense, white, very creamy fat that lends a lovely sweet unctuousness to pasta carbonara, or, indeed, to any other dishes where it is employed.  As the product is cured, it can also be eaten ‘raw’ as is and, before cooking myself a carbonara with some of my current chunk, I tried doing so… I was a little hesitant as the cut has a very high ratio of fat to meat, but it actually proved to be delectable. I cut it a little thicker than paper-thin and it was delightfully chewy and unctuously tender at the same time, with the sweet, slightly apple-like flavor of a good prosciutto.

Mostly, of course, Guanciale is used as the decadent focus in several different pasta dishes… Continue reading “Guanciale”

Posted in Recipes

Simmered Enoki

Simmered Enoki 1

Today’s recipe was inspired by one I saw in a fairly old Japanese cookery book. It is Enoki Mushrooms (Enokitake in Japanese) which are braised in rice wine and soy, and it generally follows the Japanese recipe except that, instead of Mirin, I uses Chinese Rice Wine, and, rather than cooking oil, I use butter. Butter does occasionally get used in some Japanese preparations, but it is an uncommon ingredient and I have used it here because it lends a nice depth of flavor and richness…

I began with a 100 gram package of Enoki. I cut away the dense, somewhat fibrous common ‘root’ and then separated the individual mushrooms from each other, leaving some of the tiniest still grouped together.

Cooking is easy… Just melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a pan on medium heat, add the mushrooms and stir until coated, then add about three tablespoons of rice wine (or mirin if you prefer), a teaspoon of light soya sauce, then cover the pot and let the mushrooms braise until tender and limp. Finally, before serving, add in a little finely sliced or shredded green onion (green part only).

That’s it….

Posted in In my Kitchen...

Grilled Octopus Skewers

Octopus Skewers A

I did up this little appetizer using a couple of octopus tentacles I had left over from using the rest of the beast in a different recipe. I first thought of doing something sort of Asian with ginger and soy, but I decided, instead, to marinate my sections of tentacle with lemon juice and herbs before gilling them on skewers.

The tentacles had been blanched and frozen before use and so needed no further tenderizing. I cut each into sections and then marinated the pieces in a few tablespoons of olive oil, along with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, a quarter teaspoon of pureed garlic, and about one eighth of a teaspoon of dried thyme with just a few needles of rosemary crushed into the mix with a pinch of salt. I let this sit for about a half hour so.

Finally, I threaded the pieces on skewers and grilled them over high heat for a couple of minutes on each side, basting with the marinade as I did so. I served them, as you can see, over thinly sliced lemon and the result was very pleasant indeed. I have not used thyme with octopus or squid before and I liked the combination. Next time, I think I may try a more complex Herbes de Provence blend…

Posted in Recipes

Shrimp Bites

Shrimp Bites 1

Recently, our local supermarket has been carrying some very nice cocktail sized shrimp and, since they don’t appear that often, I have bought quite a few packages and have been using them in different ways. I opened one pack to make scrambled eggs with shrimp and, since I didn’t need the whole package, I put together the little fritters you see above. They are somewhere half-way between an Indian Pakora and Japanese Kakiage, and, for this recipe, I kept everything very simple and clean… the only seasoning in the fritters is a dash of salt and the batter is made very light with egg-white rather than whole egg… Continue reading “Shrimp Bites”

Posted in Wine

Château Haut-Bages Monpelou Pauillac 2015

Château Haut-Bages Monpelou Pauillac 2015

Today’s wine is another ‘left-bank’ Bordeaux and I am featuring it because it turned out to be very nice, and something I will likely purchase again if I can. It is a bit expensive, running for $56.75 at SAQ in Montreal, but I was very happy with it thought it well worth the price.

As you may recall from previous posts, red wines from the so-called ‘left-bank’ region of Bordeaux are mostly blends, which mostly have Cabernet Sauvignon as the primary varietal. This particular wine is from the Paulliac AOC, in the famous Medoc wine-making district, and it is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with 27% Merlot, and the final 3% rounded out with Cabernet Franc. It is a dry wine, with just 2.1 grams per liter of residual sugar, and the alcohol level is about 13%.

The nose here is a bit muted with the fruit component being dark plum and blackcurrant. It has a very earthy quality, with a faint touch of the barnyard, and there are very strong mushroom notes interspersed with highlights of violet. On the palate, it is smooth and fully bodied with lively acidity and rich tannins, and the blackcurrant on the nose is supplanted with sour cherry against the plum. There are rich woody tones of both oak and cedar, with some spice in the finish, but what I really liked here were some interesting notes of ripe grains and light toast.

Overall, I found this a complex and very enjoyable sipping wine as is, but I am sure it has great prospects for becoming even better with a little more ageing. If I can lay my hands on a few more bottles on my next travels south, I will certainly ‘cellar’ at least one for a few years or so. The 2016 vintage is also supposed to have been a stunning one for Pauillac, so I will keep my eyes out for those as well…

Posted in General

Notable Nosh: Grilled Sturgeon

PFW Grilled Sturgeon

One of my greatest pleasures is being able to try foods that I have never had before. Until a recent visit to Play, Food & Wine in Ottawa this spring, I have never encountered sturgeon in any shape or form before and even the ‘caviar’ I have had has been from some other sort of fish (and thus not proper ‘caviar’ in the eyes of many). Accordingly, I was quite excited to see the actual fish appearing as an item on the menu and I was unable to forego the opportunity to give it a try…

The fish itself was served atop a bed of lentil salad incorporating pickled yucca and teardrop peppers. It was topped with toasted, coarsely-chopped almonds and pea shoots, and olive tapenade was added to the plate in three little pools.

To be honest, I didn’t think the tapenade added anything, and I didn’t like the lentil salad bed either in taste or texture. I don’t care for lentils all that much to begin with, and there was nothing about this salad or its other ingredients that really changed my mind. That being said though, neither of the ‘enhancements’ here spoiled my enjoyment of the sturgeon at all, thankfully…

The flesh of the fish was very nicely grilled and succulent. The texture was quite firm, yet still ‘flake-able’, much like cod, and the flavor was slightly sweet, and even somewhat chicken-like. It did not have the pronounced ‘fishy’ taste that some people find a bit overpowering in seafood and, in all, I was reminded very much of Monkfish in taste, if not in texture. Anyway, I doubt I shall be eating sturgeon very frequently in the future, as it is a bit pricey, but I very much enjoyed my introductory experience…

Wine Pairing: 2017 Pearce & Predhomme Chenin Blanc [South Africa]

Posted in Recipes

Dashi Simmered Vegetables and Beef

Dashi SImmered Beef and Vegetable 1

Today’s dish does not represent a specific Japanese recipe but the technique is very much in the spirit of Japanese ‘Nimono’, or simmering things together, and is one I have featured before in such posts as Braised Pork with Daikon, and Potato Mizuna Nimono. Here, I have simmered potato in dashi until tender, and then added Rapini and beef for the final cooking… Continue reading “Dashi Simmered Vegetables and Beef”

Posted in Notable Nosh

Chorizo Scotch Eggs at The Clarendon Tavern

Chorizo Scotch Eggs

When I was a kid growing up in Britain, Scotch Eggs would often put in an appearance at picnics or on cold buffets, but, on this side of the pond, they seem less well known and are only infrequently encountered. Basically, the idea is that a boiled egg is wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried or baked. In my house, when I was young, my mother deep-fried them, as best as I recall, and she always hard-boiled the eggs first.

A while back, I had an opportunity to visit ‘The Clarendon Tavern’ in Ottawa’s Byward Market for the first time. I was able to sample a number of beers I had not had before, and also tried their version of Scotch eggs, which has been given a spicy twist with chorizo and other seasonings in the sausage wrap.

The specialty was served with some very nice bread and butter pickles, grainy mustard, and a salad of greens in a lovely dressing containing just a little lemon zest. There were also some finely shredded pickles in the greens and, while I could not identify them, I thought them a very nice addition. As for the egg itself, the coarse breadcrumb produced a very nice crust that was still nicely crisp and the chorizo sausage made a great change from the usual. There was also a slight ‘curry’ taste to the meat coating, and I could definitely detect cumin and coriander in the blend. Whatever it was, the result was a nice play on an old favorite and I would really like to experiment with the idea myself … maybe Quail eggs instead?

Posted in Notable Nosh

A Meal at Kochin Kitchen

Kochin Kitchen 1

Kochin Kitchen opened up on Dalhousie Street in Ottawa’s Byward Market a few years back, and, while I did try to pop-in for lunch on a past visit to the city it was packed full already and I didn’t get a table. Recently, I made another attempt and, though the place was very busy once again, the service was very friendly and efficient and I enjoyed my meal. The place specializes in the food of southern India and they have a nice range of dishes, especially appetizers. I plan to go again on an upcoming visit to the capital a few weeks hence actually, but I am posting to day to share the very nice dishes I enjoyed on my introductory excursion to the place… Continue reading “A Meal at Kochin Kitchen”

Posted in Notable Nosh

Meal Excursion: Lunch at C’est Japon a Suisha

C'est Japon a Suisha 1

I had been meaning to visit this place on Ottawa’s Slater street for some time now and, though I finally made it with a mind to write a proper review of the place, I unfortunately did not arrive at the best time to do so. The restaurant opens for lunch but then closes quite early in the afternoon before opening again in the evening and I did not get there unto just a short time before the kitchen shut down. Still, I managed to sample a few of their fish selections, both as sashimi and sushi, and I will share them here now with a promise to return sometime for a more thorough report… Continue reading “Meal Excursion: Lunch at C’est Japon a Suisha”