Monthly Archives: January 2010

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Our dear friend Nick Edwards comes over every Monday for music time with the Beast (they both have the day off).  When I get home from work we have a meal together, usually one that I prepare Sunday night, and we watch a “cultural” show.  So far, we’ve screened The Godfather, a WWII documentary, and The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino.  It’s been just lovely so far.  

 I really wanted to do a special meal this week seeing as it’s our six year anniversary and it was dear Nick who introduced me to the Beast.  So I asked my friend Tom, with whom I used to work at Swan restaurant, for the braised beef short rib recipe that’s been a staple on that restaurant’s menu since day one.  Tom is a fabulous cook and I think he assumes that most people don’t actually follow recipes so he just provided me with a list of ingredients.  It was up to me to decide on the appropriate measurements of beer, marmalade, dijon, chipotle and tomato paste in which my ribs would braise overnight on Sunday.

When I got home from work on Monday night the Beast and Nick greeted me from the couch where they were pretending to look smart by watching a documentary on evolution. 

Beast:  I already have the ribs heating up in the slow-cooker!

Foodie:  Actually you’re not supposed to use the slow-cooker to reheat food.  

Beast:  Well that’s good news because it wasn’t heating up fast enough so I took the enamel dish out and have it heating up in the oven.

Foodie:  You’re not supposed to do that either!

Beast:  How do you know all these slow-cooker rules?

Foodie:  I read the manual.  

Nick:  STOP FIGHTING!

Foodie:  Nick we’re not fighting, we’re just talking.  I think it’s great that the Beast tried to help with dinner but it’s best that I take over now.  

I immediately got the ribs into my Creuset, threw some diced Yukon Golds into some boiling water for our mashed potatoes, and prepared some green beans.

The Beast and Nick, not wanting to be too far away from the action, joined me in the kitchen.  Dinner was served as soon as I finished reducing the rib sauce down to a shiny, chestnut brown thick wonder.   

And instead of eating in front of the TV, we ate like adults do– at a real table.

Thank goodness there’s a chalkboard in our dining room so that the Beast could make a list list of possible conversation points for us to hit on throughout the evening, in case there was a lull.

Beast:  Wow.  This is really, really good.

Nick:  It’s amazing.

Beast:  You know what would be good?  An english muffin, topped with a poached egg, these braised ribs with the sauce, and then hollandaise.

Foodie:  Every one of your food fantasies involves some sort of rethinking of eggs benedict.  

Beast:  If we get a divorce, who do you think would get custody of Nick?

Foodie:  Well, you’ve known him longer, but I cook for him and I think that goes a long way.  

Beast:  Yes but I play more instruments than you do and I also take a more active role in Nick’s education.  

Foodie:  That’s true.  Nick what do you think?

Nick:  (Silence)

Foodie:  Nick, I want to apologize for talking so much last week when we watched The Godfather.  It must have been so annoying.  I hate when people talk during movies.  I really do.  But I just felt it was important for you to know a few things, like how my favourite scene is when Michael is on the steps of the hospital with Enzo the baker and Enzo can’t light his cigarette because he’s scared so Michael lights it for him and notices that his hands aren’t shaking which is sort of like him realizing that he’s his father’s son.  And then everybody thought the studio was going to fire Al Pacino until they saw the scene when he shoots McCluskey the cop and Sollozzo at the restaurant in Brooklyn and then they thought, “Wow, that kid is good.” And how when Tessio is going to get offed and he says to Tom Hagen, “Come on Tom, can’t you get me off the hook, for old time’s sake?” and Tom says, “Can’t do it Sal” and how Wes Anderson stole that scene and used it in Rushmore.

Beast:  We should watch Rushmore next week.  And Nick I really think you should give The Darjeeling Limited a second chance.  

Foodie:  I really like our Monday night tradition.  It’s so nice, the three of us spending time like this.

Nick:  Happy anniversary you two.

Foodie:   ***

Beast:   ****

 

 

 

Sunday Fish Pie

I made a fish pie today.  Let me explain why:  The Beast and I, as I’ve mentioned before, spent six months living in a tiny outport in Newfoundland called Grand Bruit. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.

It was stupid thing to do–to go live in a place with no cars, no roads and about thirty winter residents with a boy you’d been dating for only ten months.  But the thing is, I’d saved up for a year to go live by myself  in the house that my dad and step-mom bought several years ago. I never expected to meet a Beast who’d want to come with me.  We were young, or at least the Beast was, and we took a chance.  There were tough time all right.  But they didn’t hold a light to the good stuff,  like our drawing expeditions,

icing skating on ponds that went on forever

and me turning thirty and getting this cake.

The people there, our friends, treated us two city kids, who “came from away,” like one of their own.  We shared many meals with them.  My favourites were the ones that featured traditional Newfoundland fare, like moose, beaver and caribou boil-ups (not so different than an Italian bollito), cod cheeks, pan-fried cod, brewis, sea birds, and codfish pie, which is sort of like a shepherd’s pie, but with more cheese and cream.  

I’m regretting using a Jaime Oliver recipe for tonight’s fish pie rather than the recipe I took with me from Grand Bruit.  I suppose I thought it might be interesting to see how the Newfoundland dish compares with a nouveau British one  (Grand Bruit is also where I started becoming very interested in the history of food.)  

I don’t, however, regret making Nigella Lawson’s Guinness chocolate cake (you can find the recipe here:  take a look-see if only for her inspired description!)  It’s a recipe that my friend Alex Girl recommended to me and it’s perfection both visually (because it looks like a Guinness!) and in your tummy.

The fish pie was dead simple to prepare.  I just had to grate some celery, carrot, red chili, lemon zest and Cheddar into a baking dish.

and then toss in bite size bits of cod,

cover it with mashed potatoes and bake it for 40 minutes.

Anyway, I suppose I made fish pie because I missed a time and a place so much today that I wanted to taste it.  The Guinness chocolate cake was just pure gluttony.

Foodie:  *** (But I prefer the Newfoundland version, specifically Linda Billard’s recipe.)

Beast:  ** (the fish pie was too spicy for his weak palate.)

A Slow-cooker Descent into Mediocrity

My mom bought me a slow cooker about ten years ago.  I used it once—ten years ago.  But last weekend I dug it out from the way, way back of my kitchen cupboards because I’d decided to make pulled pork.  Why pulled pork?  Because the Beast cleaned the washroom without being told—the tub and everything—and when I told him that I’d make him anything he wanted, he requested crab cakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.  So I made pulled pork.

I googled, “best pulled pork” and settled on a supposed Texan recipe that was less BBQ sauce based and more vinegar & spice based.  I couldn’t do the actual pulling of the pork when it was done:  I was traumatized over how flesh-like it.  So while the Beast pulled, I prepared my Aunt Sandy’s cabbage salad, affectionately known as “lines” and buttered a warm baguette.

We customized our plates: the Beast made little sandwiches while I ate my cabbage salad and pork ala cart in some bites and then on the baguette in other bites.  

Plus I made him dessert–one of our favourites.  It’s a recipe for a pseudo key-lime pie from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess.  Now usually when I see a recipe that calls for sweetened condensed milk, I think church bake sale.  But  I’ve brought this sweet delight to all sorts of events and everybody always asks for the recipe.  The hardest part is zesting four limes.  But the smell of that labour makes me so happy.

Then you just mix in a can of sweetened condensed milk (splurge on Eagle Brand), a bit of whipped cream and beat that up for a few minutes and pour it into a graham cracker crust.  I made my own and added a bit of cocoa to it.  But it would be just lovely in a store-bought shell.

I don’t think a meal has ever gone over so well with the Beast.  He kept telling me how good everything was.  I felt like a star.  A real star.  What’s more, is that the singular pork butt lasted three meals.  This is great for a working woman, especially one that put in about 70 hours last week.  

This also warranted me a genuine  sleep-in on Saturday morning.  And boy oh boy, did I sleep in–until 1:30pm!   After coffee and papers, it was about 3:00pm and we were both starving.  So the Beast and I headed out to find brunch at the time when all the brunch places are closing.  Luckily, Easy, at the corner of Queen and Roncesvalles, was open until 5:00pm.  

Foodie:  Remember when we came here before?

Beast:  Yes and it wasn’t very good.

Foodie:  But that was years ago.  Maybe we just ordered the wrong things.  I’m getting the huevos dish.

Beast:  I’m getting the breakfast burrito.

But as soon as he saw my breakfast, the Beast regretted his choice.  

Foodie:  This is really good. How’s yours?

Beast:  It’s okay.  

Foodie:  I’m a little shocked you ordered it.

Beast:  Why?

Foodie:  Because of the whole wheat tortilla wrap.

Beast:  That’s the worst part.

Easy was a hit, at least in my books, except for the potatoes:  they looked like a million bucks but fell flat on flavour. 

From there we went on a big long walk, first to the Good Will so the Beast could look for records, and then to the Dufferin Mall (Mom, the Dufferin Mall is sort of a funny place–it can be a bit sad and scary but also fun because there’s a Wall-Mart, an H&M and a Winners)  to try to get our remote control for the Bell Express thing fixed.  It was crowded and hot.  Just when we were about to leave, the Beast got himself a whiff of Cinnabon–the leading cinnamon roll retailer in the world!

Beast:  Hold up there.  Let’s get us some Cinnabons for later tonight!

Foodie:  Are you kidding?  You know Cindy at work told me those things have nearly 25 grams of fat in them–that’s more fat than one person should consume in a day!  

Beast:  But they’re delicious.

Foodie:  Do you want to split one?

Beast: Are you joking?

So we got two Cinnabons to heat up at home.  First though, we had more Saturday night activities to do:  next up was the Value Village at Bloor and Lansdowne. I used to frequent Double Vs quite often when I was younger.  Sadly, these used goods emporiums have lost some of their charm.  Maybe it’s just Toronto locations.  What I mean is that Value Villages in smaller cities can be bright, lovely places where one can score, say, a vintage Dior handbag or good pair of worn in Levi’s.  I think the ones in Toronto tend to be sadder affairs, although I hear testimony from many friends who’ve found incredible things on their thrifting hunts.  

Well the Beast certainly wasn’t sad–he was having the time of his life.  I turned my back for two seconds and he was nowhere to be found.  When he did resurface, his arms had clothing–most of it questionable–hanging from them.  

Foodie:  What have you got there?

Beast:  So much good stuff!  Do you like this yellow blazer?

Foodie:  No, not at all.

Beast:  It’s great!  And look at this sweater!

Foodie:  It’s got a mock turtleneck!  Slow down now.  What’s going on here?

I know the Beast, and I strongly suspected he was picking out particular clothes in order to adapt some sort of persona.  I do it too.  Maybe one day I want to dress like Mary Tyler Moore, or Laura Ingalls, or an old-fashioned newspaper delivery boy.  Value Village helps me realize these fashion fantasies for only a few dollars.

Beast:  Well, I’d like to start dressing like a jazz musician.

Foodie:  Excuse me?

Beast:  You know, like Keith Jarrett in his prime, or Ornette Coleman.

He ended up buying the electric blue mock turtleneck and the shiny grey blazer.  I didn’t get anything.  In fact, I didn’t feel so great once we started walking home.

Beast:  You’re so quiet.  What’s wrong?

Foodie:  Oh nothing.

Beast:  Is it because I want to dress like  a jazz musician?

Foodie:  No.  

Beast:  Then what is it?  Something’s wrong.  I don’t know how to deal with this–with you being sad.  This is just wrong.

Foodie:  I think I had too much sad time culture today.  It was just an overload of shit.

Beast:  Value Village?  It wasn’t that bad!

Foodie:  No, it wasn’t, but us sleeping in until after noon, and then the Good Will and the Dufferin mall and the Cinnabons and then the Value Village:  all that together on a Saturday night just makes me feel terrible.  And I started using a slow cooker.  Is that okay do you think?  Does that symbolize my state?  Just slow-cooking beans and pot roasts all day long.  What am I doing with my life?

Beast:  You ‘re doing great things!  

And the Beast pep-talked me out of my funk all the way home.  Then we got into jogging suits and watched TV.

Beast:  Do you want me to heat up the Cinnabons?

Foodie:  Yes, yes I do.

Pulled Pork dinner:  Foodie **1/2     Beast ***1/2

Easy:  Foodie ***   Beast *1/2

Cinnabon:  Foodie:  *1/2   Beast ***

Pizza

There’s something you should know about me: pizza is my favourite food.  It really is a pefect meal, a perfect invention really.  Think about it:  every food group, if you choose the proper toppings, is represented within the perimeter of the pie, and it’s usually an economically sound meal.  And it’s fucking delicious.  

When I told my boss at the Italian restaurant that the Beast and I were going to have a pizza party on New Year’s Eve, he asked me from where I’d be ordering it.  When I told him that we’d probably just get it from any old shit-shack pizza joint, I thought he was going to cry.

You see, this restaurant where I work makes real, southern Italian pizza, meaning it’s got a thin crust, it’s uncut and you can’t put chicken, pineapple or pepperoni on it.  It’s amazing–arguably the best in the city–but I’m not Italian, so I grew up eating North American style pizza, which is doughier, greasier, and cheesier than the original. Therefore, I have an affinity for the latter style of pie.  But I can’t let my boss find out.

Our pizza cravings got the better of us and we couldn’t wait until NewYear’s Eve.  So two nights prior to the big night, I stopped in to a new place that opened up around the corner from us.  It’s called Pappazee’s, and their logo is an Italian man with a mustache and a chef’s hat making a kissing sign with his hands.  It looks sort of like this: 

I think it’s a great logo.  Anyway, the Beast requested that I order something resembling Pizza Hut’s “Canadian” pizza.  So I decided on pepperoni, bacon, green peppers, red peppers and green olives on half (for me.)  I think a Canadian has mushrooms on it but I didn’t want to risk going home with a soggy pie.

The pizza maker was very friendly.  He said he was going to make the best pizza I ever had.  I smiled.  Then he said something about how he was Italian, from Naples, and his friend said, “Yeah right.  More like St. Catharines.”  Then he asked his friend to go get some bacon in the back, eight slices to be precise.  And then he talked to me about how each pizza he makes is like a work of art.  I must say, it did look very pretty.

Beast:  Finally, you’re home!  I need to ask you something.

Foodie:  What’s that?

Beast: Were you watching the movie, “Heat”?

Foodie:  How did you know that?

Beast:  I took the DVD out of the player to put in The Sopranos for us to watch during our pizza party.

Foodie:  Yes, yes I was watching Heat.

Beast:  Interesting.   Did you know that they sold Val Kilmer’s pony-tail from this movie on Ebay for 25 000 bucks?

Foodie:  Holy smokes!  Really?

Beast:  No.

Foodie:  Why would you make something like that up?  That’s just the strangest thing to lie about.

Beast:  Wow.  This pizza looks amazing.

Foodie:  Well it ought to–a pizza artist made it.  And it cost about $30.

Beast:  Why so much?

Foodie:  Because it’s extra-large I guess, and because there are so many toppings on it.  I think an extra-large pizza is supposed to feed an entire family.

Beast:  Impossible.

Foodie:  Did I tell you that I had pizza with some colleagues from the magazine before the staff holiday party?

Beast:  Yes.

Foodie:  Well they ordered ONE extra large pizza for SIX people!  And all the girls had one slice and then said that’s all they wanted.  There were actually left-overs.  Isn’t that weird?  What’s the normal number of slices that people eat?

Beast: I don’t know but I can guarantee that we’ll finish this pizza tonight.

Foodie:  Maybe we should start eating smaller portions in 2010.

Beast:  Not me.  I’m resolved to gain 30 lbs in 2010.

Foodie:  This is good pizza–not the best pizza though.  The crust is pretty average.  We need to find the best take-out pizza out there.  Not fancy pizza, just normal pizza.

Beast:   I’ll help in any way I can.

And if anyone else wants to help, please include suggestions in your comments below.

(P.S. I made cabbage rolls for New Years Eve.  My Aunt Sandy told me that my Grandma Adeline always made cabbage rolls on New Year’s Day.  What a lovely coincidence.)

Foodie:  **1/2

Beast:  **