Posted in Notable Nosh

Seared Scallops at Lapointe

Lapointe's 1

I had this appetizer of grilled scallops at Lapointe Seafood Grill in Ottawa’s Byward Market way back in the summertime. In truth, the dish wasn’t especially memorable and I might well have not featured it in a post except for the fact that it employed a couple of interesting additions that I thought would be worth trying at home and thus deserving of a mention here…

The dish was described on the menu as follows:

Lapointe's 2

Now, first, I have to say that the plating job in this case was really sub-standard, which really detracted from the overall enjoyment. The arugula was largely placed with spinach that was haphazardly strewn on the platter, as were with the scallops and the ragged pieces (not sections) of orange.

The scallops, however, were very nicely grilled, having been seared to a caramelized crispiness on the outside while being tender, and still slightly translucent on the inside. I am not sure what happened to the ‘maple espresso’ dressing promised in the menu description as neither of these flavors were apparent in what I was served. Possibly the kitchen had none on hand due to some disaster or other, and had to improvise. As it happened, the dressing I did receive was tangy and very nice so, while I was a bit disappointed at not getting the interesting sounding dressing that was promised, I still enjoyed this part of the dish.

What I really enjoyed, here, was the pairing of orange, nuts and scallop. I am not a huge fan of pistachios, and would prefer, say, hazelnuts, or the like, but the flavor combination here worked very well. I actually resurrected my notes for this appetizer while looking for ideas to use with some lovely sea scallops I received as a gift. I am not sure exactly how I will go about it as yet, but I do wish to capture something of that very pleasant pairing with at least some of my scallops. I will be sure to share the results of any experiments along those lines, of course …

Posted in In my Kitchen...

Honey Chili Shrimp

Honey Chili Shrimp 1

You may already well know that shrimp cooked in the shell can often be much for flavorful than the pre-shelled variety in the same way that meat cooked on the bone is generally much better than boneless cutlets from the same source. Indeed, eating shrimp that is still in the shell can be a bit fiddly, and even quite messy, but, at an outdoor barbecue, or a casual meal with friends, this often enhances the pleasure of the meal…

Today’s little dish is very easy to prepare and could be served as a light snack, or appetizer with drinks. It is somewhat Asian in spirit, especially with the splash of soy sauce used to give saltiness, but there is no garlic or ginger used (though you certainly could, if desired) and the preparation could just as easily feature in a tapas meal as it could as one of a series of dim sum type dishes.

Basically, you just flash-fry the de-veined shrimp in oil until nicely pink and then add in thin slivers of red chili pepper (or sweet bell pepper for a less fiery result). Once the latter are softened, quickly stir in a splash of soy followed by enough homey to coat the shrimp and, just before serving, a generous sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

That’s it …

Posted in Foodstuffs

Foodstuff- Ostrich Meat

Ostrich 1

I have seen Ostrich steaks offered on restaurant menus a few times within the past decade or so, but, on each occasion, other items were more appealing for one reason or another. Accordingly, I had always passed on the opportunity and it was not until recently that I saw ground Ostrich meat offered for sale in the freezer cabinet in a local store.

The product is Canadian, as it turns out. The company, Blue Mountain Fine Foods™, is located in Thornbury, Ontario, but, unfortunately, I was unable to learn whether they were actually raising ostrich in that location or just packaging meat raised elsewhere. In any event, while I would have preferred to be trying steaks, or other whole, cuts of meat, I was pleased to see that the ‘Burger’ meat they were selling contains just ‘100% Ostrich’, with no seasonings or other ingredients listed. As such, I was at least going to be able to taste the bird without other flavorings getting in the way … Continue reading “Foodstuff- Ostrich Meat”

Posted in Recipes

Pasta Gricia with Truffle

Pasta Gricia with Truffles 1

A few weeks back, I did a post featuring the Italian cured hog jowl meat known as Guanciale and I included a picture of a Spaghetti Carbonara I made using it. There are two fairly famous Italian dishes made using Guanciale (or sometimes Pancetta, or else regular bacon) and these are the aforementioned Pasta Carbonara and Pasta Amatriciana. Both of these are descendants of a simpler dish known as Pasta alla Gricia, which is basically pasta tossed in the pan with cooked Guanciale, generous amounts of pepper, grated cheese and sufficient pasta water to make a rich ‘sauce’.

Today, I am using the ‘alla Gricia’ style as my base but I am creating a ‘descendant’ version by adding sliced black truffle along with some brocollini for a little color and texture… Continue reading “Pasta Gricia with Truffle”

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 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 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?