Tag: Appetizer

Notable Nosh: Pork Rillettes

Pork Rillettes

Rillettes is a specialty of French cuisine that can be thought of as something of a cross between the rustic Confit and a fine Pâté. Like a confit, it uses salt and fat to preserve meat but, as with the confit, the preserving process produces a lovely result that is prized in and of itself. It has been many years since I last made a batch, and I am still planning to post the recipe when I finally do again, but, for now, I am just going to share with you the very pleasant version I had at Play Food Wine in Ottawa not long ago…

This rillettes dish came with slices of pickled cucumber. They were clearly not a lactic acid ferment type, but were made using a very mild and slightly sweet vinegar. What set these apart is that the pickling medium also included some finely shredded seaweed of some sort (Wakame, perhaps), and this added a different level of flavor that was both unexpected and very good.

The rillettes here were quite bit more finely processed than others I have had. My own have tended to be quite granular in consistency, and others can be composed of tiny shreds, but these were very smooth and quite unctuous, almost like a pâté, in fact. The mix was not heavily seasoned, indeed, other than the expected salt, the only thing I could identify were some tiny brown mustard seeds. These, surprisingly, were softened to the point that I had absolutely no sensation of biting into seeds and their flavor had obviously been given up to the blend. The result was anything but bland, though, and the pork really spoke for itself without a lot of additional enhancement. I have to say that my own efforts, thus far, haven’t exceeded this particular dish.

Notable Nosh: Pork Belly with Kumquat

Pork Belly with Kumquat and Parsnip

I had this little appetizer at Play Food Wine during my vacation in Ottawa. I am not posting it because it was an especially wonderful dish, but rather because the basic idea was pretty good and could be improved with a little tweaking. It is not easily apparent from the photograph here, but the pork belly consisted of two thumb-sized pieces that were roasted, then placed on a bed of pureed parsnip and topped with a sauce made with kumquats. There were some snap peas included, which didn’t add a great deal, and the garnish consisted of sprouts of some sort (possibly mustard).

The pork belly was well cooked but otherwise unremarkable. Little seasoning was used during the roasting from all I can gather, and the compliment came from the additional components on the plate. The parsnip bed was nice, with the sweet taste of fresh parsnip coming through cleanly, but I didn’t like the consistency very much. It was a little too much like applesauce and something with a bit more texture would have suited me more. As for the kumquats, I thought the idea pretty decent, but, ultimately, it was too overpowering. The fruit appeared to have been sautéed until partially collapsed into a thickish chutney-like affair, but the overly sweet result, coupled with an orange-pith like citrus bite was a bit much for the pork. I’d try this dish myself but, instead of the kumquat, I think something like cranberry (as one idea) might work a little better. Still, it was a good try…

Chilli-Basil Lobster

Chilli Basil Lobster 1

I bought some frozen cooked lobster back at Christmas-time to use in a seafood stew and I kept a couple for future use. As the ‘keep-until’ date is drawing near I decided to use one of them in the little appetizer dish you see above. In some ways, given the use of both chili and basil, the dish has a Thai flavor to it but, aside from this, it could easily be incorporated into a more western dinner menu.

After chopping the tail, claws, and main ‘arm sections’ into small pieces, I made a stock using the body and little legs, then reduced this to a very concentrated liquor of no more than a quarter cup or so. After, I fried some garlic puree in a little oil and added the stock along with a splash of sherry and some Sriracha sauce. When this was steaming, I added the lobster chunks and cooked for a few minutes until the sauce was almost a syrup then added chopped basil leaves, plating as soon as these were wilted.

This turned out to be a really nice dish. It was a bit messy to eat but sucking the sauce from the shell before teasing out the flesh from within was delightful. In a future evolution, I would like to try doing this with fresh, raw lobster as I think the result would be even more succulent than this…

Sambuca Flambéed Shrimp

Sambuca Flambeed Shrimp 1

Today’s dish is my own take on an appetizer I was served a while ago in Yellowknife called ‘Flambé Sambuca Shrimp’. Now, I rather ‘panned’ that dish for what I felt was a rather poor execution but, after giving the basic idea a try, I rather owe the cook in question a (partial) apology. One of my criticisms was that the typical anise flavour of Sambuca was entirely absent, leading me to think that they had unfairly skimped on this part of the production. However, in my own attempt, I used quite a bit of the liqueur myself and experienced the very same result. Possibly, it is the flaming of the liquid that causes this? In any event, despite that particular ‘flaw’, I think my effort was the better of the two… Continue reading “Sambuca Flambéed Shrimp”

Notable Nosh: Flambé Sambuca Shrimp

Flambe Sambuca Shrimp

I had this little appetizer at Diamante during a layover in Yellowknife not long ago. It was described on the menu as ‘Tiger shrimp flambéed in Sambuca and finished with honey lemon cream sauce’ and I wasn’t really sure if the that I would like the strong anise flavour of Sambuca with delicate seafood. As it happened, though, I needn’t have worried as, for the life of me, I couldn’t detect even a hint of the liqueur anywhere in the dish.

Sadly, the above deficiency wasn’t compensated for in the rest of the execution. First, the 8 or 9 Tiger shrimp I was promised turned out to be the very small (and generally tasteless) variety one usually finds in supermarket ‘Shrimp Rings’ destined to be consumed with horseradish based cocktail sauces. The butter based sauce in this particular offering was creamy in texture but it did not seem as though any actual cream was used. It had honey, though, to the point of being almost cloyingly sweet, and while this may have been balanced by the advertised lemon, this also did not seem to be included save for a small section of whole lemon sitting in the sauce.

Anyway, overall, this appetizer was pretty much a disappointment. That being said, though, I am glad I tried it as it inspired me to give the basic idea a try myself. I even brought a little bottle of Sambuca back from Yellowknife to this end and I will post my results in due course.

Tiger Peppers (hu pi jian jiao – 虎皮尖椒)

Tiger Peppers 1

It has been years since I last made Tiger Skin Peppers (as many as twenty, maybe). For a long while now, I have wanted to prepare the dish for my blog but I waited in vain for the right sort of peppers to turn up in local stores and it wasn’t until this past week that some finally appeared. I grabbed a good quantity of them and will devote a small portion to this present offering.

The origin of this dish is, I believe, Sichuan, but it is very popular elsewhere. It is so named because the characteristic patterns formed on the chillies when seared at very high heat in a wok or other pan gives it a ‘tiger skin’ like appearance. Personally, I actually think that ‘Leopard Skin’ might be closer but I won’t quibble.

Anyway, once seared, the chillies are finished with a simple sauce composed of Chinese Black Vinegar, soy sauce, and, usually a little sugar. I am rounding that out with a little chopped garlic here (which is sometimes, though not always, used) but, in any event, the result makes for a very nice appetizer or side-dish… Continue reading “Tiger Peppers (hu pi jian jiao – 虎皮尖椒)”

Experiment: Tea-Fried Squid

Tea-Fried Squid 1

Somewhere, in my Chinese cookery book collection, I have a recipe for Shrimp that are prepared by poaching in green tea (complete with reconstituted tea leave shreds). As yet, I haven’t tried it but, not long ago, I saw a picture of squid that had been fried after dusting with greenish fragments that weren’t identified. It was clearly an Asian preparation (I forget where I saw the picture), and I suspected the green ‘bits’ weren’t any common herb as might be used in the west. I wondered if, perhaps, it might be powdered tea. Anyway, the idea sounded interesting and so I put together the little appetizer you see pictured above. The idea is still rather a ‘work in progress’, but the first attempt was interesting enough that you might like to try something along the same lines yourselves… Continue reading “Experiment: Tea-Fried Squid”

Beef Tataki with Horseradish Sauce

Beef Tataki with Horseradish Sauce 1

The little appetizer you see above is made with the Japanese style rare beef, which I have already introduced to you as Beef Tataki, and pairs it with a Horseradish Sauce and a little salad garnish made from lightly salted shreds of cabbage. If you look at my post on Horseradish Root, you can see the basic sauce I made from it in the last picture. The sauce here is essentially that, although I blended it to be a little smoother and added some finely minced scallion and parsley. The combination that results here is something of an east-west fusion, although the spirit is mostly Japanese as the horseradish is very similar to Wasabi and shredded raw cabbage is the standard accompaniment for Tonkatsu. Anyway, although I found the beef needed a little salt at the table, this was a very nice little light lunch…

Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

Stuffed Anaheim Peppers 1

Today’s recipe doesn’t attempt to reproduce any particular ethnic recipe but, with the addition of cumin and added hot sauce, is probably closest in spirit to being Mexican. There is a bit of preparation involved but none of it terribly difficult and the result can make either a main course, if served with, say, rice, or a nice appetizer… Continue reading “Stuffed Anaheim Peppers”