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January Kitchen Tasks

Season cast iron and sharpen knivesOnce the guests have been blown away by their first roast goose and you’ve recovered from the champagne hangover, the subsequent calm may leave you with some time on your hands. These are the tasks that I try to check off my list every year some time in early January. (more…)

Rhubarb Syrup

Straining the syrup from the rhubarb solids.

Another project I’m working on was the original impetus for making this rhubarb syrup. Over the past couple weeks I’ve been experimenting with trying to make homemade campari and anyone who is familiar with that greatest of bitter aperitifs knows that it needs to be red. You can order cochineal (ground beetles that were used to dye various foodstuffs including Campari before the vegans threw a fit) online but that would have tilted the price comparison even more in favour of just buying a bottle from the LCBO. (more…)

Marinated Olives and Does Extra Virgin Make a Difference?

A comparison of extra virgin vs. regular olive oil for this marinated olives recipe.

“Seriously you have to try these olives”

“There good enough to make a true believer out of any olive hater”

“I never ate an olive before these but now this is all I eat.”

I’m paraphrasing (and exaggerating a bit) but that’s the passion that our London hosts have for the marinated olives at their local pizza joint, Pizza East Portobello. We tried them–a medium dish, also including Marcona almonds goes for three pounds–and they do deserve the superlative praise.

Over a couple of his visits to our table I managed to butter the manager-proprietor up enough (playing the “we came all the way from Canada” card didn’t hurt) that he gave me the recipe. (more…)

Nuts and Bolts with Pork Drippings

Nuts and bolts with pork fat

Do we all remember the dark ages before free trade when there was a big difference between grocery availability in Canada and the US? Dill Pickle chips and Shreddies were  the highlights of what we could exchange with our American cousins for their Cherry Coke-led cornucopia. Not much leverage there, except before Christmas when the value of Shreddies sky-rockets because it is the workhorse of the greatest of all snack mixes, Nuts and Bolts.

My aunt Kim has my grandmother’s recipe posted on Squidoo but this year I decided I’d add my own twist to it. (And really isn’t that what recipe blog posts are for?) (more…)

Bone Marrow Butter

Bone marrow butter on pasta with bacon, parmesan, and milkweed pods

I love the deeply meaty flavour of bone marrow. It tastes to me like that connection of grass, butter, and animal smells that fill the kitchen when a really nice steak hits a cast iron pan. It’s a bit of a production to clean, roast, and serve bone marrow, though. A special spoon is sometimes used–no one buys these except restaurants and gift givers–and the most popular presentation usually has bone marrow stand on its own with just bread, salt, and parsley as complements.

Sometimes this ritual is what’s called for but bone marrow has such a luxuriously beefy flavour that it seems a shame to not use it more often. Of course there is always Bordelaise but the thought of making a demi-glace before even beginning the red wine reduction or poaching the bone marrow is enough to discourage all but the most well-equipped restaurant chefs. I can’t think of a preparation better suited to spread great flavour over several weeks than compound butter. (more…)