Archives for September 2007

WFD? Tartiflette: French Comfort Food

What is more comforting than the combination of cheese and potatoes? In the cooler months here in Canada, I can’t think of anything. For this exquisite marriage of the two, I have to hand it to the French; they really, really know how to make one’s tummy smile.

Tartiflette before baking…
Tartiflette after baking.

It’s was Valli over at More than Burnt Toast, who has been singing the praises of the humble potato recently, who inspired me to finally try out this French potato dish. For a while now I’ve had the recipe (which came in a flyer from the local liquor store!) but put off making it because it always seemed like a cooler weather dish to me.
Fortunately, I didn’t wait too long because it was fantastic! Imagine: fresh potatoes with some sautéed onions and slab bacon, a dash of white wine, and thick cream; all topped with an entire round of tangy, rich cheese and baked slowly until the cream bubbles up and the cheese oozes out.
A glorified scalloped potato? Perhaps, but absolutely over-the-top delicious. It reminded me a bit of raclette, another French meal where you melt Raclette cheese under a tabletop grill and scrape it onto boiled potatoes and various other morsels. Of course, this is like the casserole version (hate that word) and I can imagine it making an ideal apres-ski feast.Wait a minute. Was I just wishing for snow for a second? Really, this pregnancy is doing funny things to my head!
Noah and I dug these fresh spuds up from the garden and the taste of them was a real reminder that homegrown potatoes really are a step above anything you can buy, no matter how fresh. Funnily enough,these beauties popped up uninvited as a result of some random potato from the compost going to seed. Thank goodness they did!
Next year I plan on planting a whole plot of potatoes…I’ll need them for all the tartiflette I’ll be making!
If you are unable to locate the traditional Reblochon cheese (I couldn’t), substitute another semi-soft, cow’s milk cheese that is creamy, but with a bite to it!Valli, this recipe is for you.
Tartiflette 1 ¾ lb Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
150 g blanched lardons or slab bacon
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup white wine
1 pinch nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
¾ cup 35% cream
1 small wheel Reblochon cheese (240g) Preheat oven to 350F. Cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, but still slightly firm in the center. Drain, cool and cut into cubes.
In a skillet, lightly brown the lardons. Add the onion and continue cooking for two minutes. Deglaze with white wine. Let reduce by half. Add the cubed potatoes, nutmeg and pepper. Mix well. Pour into a lightly buttered ovenproof casserole. Drizzle the cream over the top. Remove the rind from the bottom of the cheese and lightly scratch the top rind of the cheese. Place the cheese rind up on the potato mixture. Bake on the lowest rack in the oven for 40 -45 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Preserving Summer: Crabapple Jelly

Every autumn comes around and I can’t resist buying a basket of pretty crabapples thinking I’ll make a jelly. The problem is, I’ve never made jelly and as simple as it may be, the first time for anything is reason enough to drag one’s feet. I usually end up packing the small apples into a wide mouth jar, adding some sugar and topping it up with vodka for a nice pink liquor come Christmas time.
But this fall was different and I actually produced a batch of crabapple jelly; mornings are cheerier when you can wake up to this pretty pink spread on toast .

There is very little labor involved in this jelly. No apple peeling, coring, or sieving; just wash them, cut in half and cook them down slowly, then mash them up and leave them to drain overnight in a jelly bag and see the lovely pink juices gather. These will make great gifts come holiday season!Crabapple Jelly
4 lb (1.8 kg) apples or crabapples
5 cups (1250 ml) water
5 cups (1250 ml) granulated sugar
1 pkg (57 g) Fruit Pectin
½ teaspoon butter Wash and remove both stem and blossom ends from apples. Cut apples into chunks and combine with water in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and boil gently 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Thoroughly crush mixture and boil gently 5 minutes longer.
Pour cooked fruit into a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined sieve over a large bowl. Let juice drip, undisturbed, 2 hours or overnight (squeezing bag may cause cloudy jelly). Place 7 clean 250 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer Set screw bands aside. Heat sealing discs in hot water, not boiling. Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use. Measure sugar; set aside.
Measure 5 cups juice into a large, deep stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in pectin until dissolved and add 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter to reduce foaming Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Add all the sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat; skim foam if necessary. Quickly ladle hot jelly into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch of top rim. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner ensuring jars are covered by water. Repeat for remaining jelly.Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. Process 10 minutes.
Turn stove off, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours. After cooling check jar seals. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. Makes about 7 x 250 ml jars

Doughnuts & Coffee: Wish You Were Here

Sourdough Cinnamon Doughnuts with a Latte

As a young girl growing up in the wild, northern, Yukon Territories, I didn’t know the whole history behind the term ‘sourdough’ and how it traced back to the Klondike Gold Rush, but I did know that I loved sourdough bread and baking. Those days, one of the biggest treats we could be allowed to make were sourdough doughnuts—just the combination of sugar and fat was enough to make my mother cringe and make me jump up and down with anticipation.I recently dug up that old recipe from an even older cookbook that my mother started when she got married, and decided to give it a shot. Boy was I glad I did! There is only a slight ‘sour’ taste, but enough to give these delicious treats a uniqueness you certainly won’t find at Dunkin.
These doughnuts contain both yeast (in the sourdough starter) and baking powder, so they are right in the middle of a cake doughnut and a yeast. Even if you have a strong preference for one or the other, either way, you will love these.
Not that it should be a problem, but they are best eaten the day they are made. I can’t tell you how many of these I ate while I was photographing them…I’m embarrassed. Sure it was a trip down memory lane, but it was a really loooong trip–and I’m not that old yet!As I looked at the platter of doughnuts, I had to resist to urge to run out of the house, down the street, bang on all my neighbors doors and say “You HAVE to taste these!”
What a shame, there was no one at home to share them with. And let me tell you, warm from the pan, coated in vanilla sugar, you should have been here. Fortunately, a friend dropped in later with her two little girls and we enjoyed them with some spiced chai.
These tiny doughnut holes are perfect for little fingers….

Fresh from the oil

Dressed up with vanilla sugar

Sourdough Starter

2 cups flour
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon yeast

Mix well in a large bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in a warm place.

Sourdough Cinnamon Doughnuts

½ cup sourdough
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour milkPrepare a wok or deep fryer for frying. Prepare a tray with paper towel for draining doughnuts. Heat oil to 360 degrees.
Sift dry ingredients together. Mix remaining ingredients together and add to dry. Bring dough together gently with you hands. Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface and turn dough on to it. Knead it gently about 3 times to help bring the dough together. Roll out to a thickness of 2 centimeters and cut with a doughnut cutter.Fry until golden brown. Test the first one for doneness by breaking it in two and checking if the middle is doughy. Drain on paper town. Toss with vanilla sugar or cinnamon sugar to coat.Enjoy!

Noah Turns Two

My little one turned two today and I am still coming to terms with the fact that he is growing up. Although he proves to us everyday by accomplishing a new feat or sentence that he is no longer a baby, I still sometimes see that tiny bundle that we brought home two years ago when I look at him.
I wanted to do him an airplane cake as he is bananas over airplanes, and this is what I came up with. In case you can’t tell, it’s a little airplane flying in the clouds.

I made an apple spice cake, layered it with maple butter and iced it with cream cheese frosting.
I wasn’t happy with the overly-dense apple cake part, so I won’t post the recipe, but it was a nice combination of flavors.
And Noah ate it, which is what matters most.

Happy birthday, darling.

Preserving Summer: Tomato Herb Sauce

OK, OK, so I’ve been grumbling a bit about saying good bye to summer, but I am not going to pretend that I am excited about the coming winter. So, I have started a little canning operationto help me hang on to summer a little longer and perhaps even through the winter—if I can track down enough jars!

When I was growing up, my mother canned all sorts of produce, but did I ever pay any attention? No. Usually I was giving the most mundane tasks, like peeling the tomatoes or pitting the apricots, and I would let my mind wander, waiting for the chance when I could slip away and get back to my book.

Now that I am a mother and want to take up these domestic duties, it’s a trial-by-error project.
I mean, I’ve made a few jams and jelly’s over the years, but that about it. But how hard can it be, right?

So, I am excited to get started with preserving summer’s beautiful produce in pretty glass jars and hope to inspire you to do the same. What better way to keep the flavors of summer alive that to preserve them and store them in a pantry for that cold December day when the tomatoes at the grocery store taste like cardboard.

Gorgeous Italian tomatoes tomatoes at the market were the first to catch my eye and I was reminded of my own yellowing plants at home. I bought 40 lbs, hurriedly, knowing that if I thought about it too long, I would chicken out at the big task ahead of jarring these beauties.

I was very please with this simple sauce; the herbs and garlic don’t overpower the tomatoes, it’s thick, has vibrant color, and I was proud to jar it.

Tomato Herb Sauce

20 lbs Italian tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, chopped
I medium onion, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped finely
Black pepper

Fill a 5-quart pan with water and bring to a boil. Wash tomatoes and make a small “X” with a knife in the bottom. Prepare a large bowl with cold water. Blanch tomatoes, a few at a time, quickly in the boiling water until the skins loosen. Plunge immediately into cold water. Peel tomatoes and using your hands, squeeze the juices and seeds out. Discard seeds and skin.
In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil. Sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add tomatoes and herbs and stir well.
Cook on medium heat until heated through, and then reduce to low for a gentle simmer. If you prefer your sauce smooth rather than chunky, puree it now with an immersion blender.
Cook for about 4 hours, until reduced slightly and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Place eight, one-quart clean mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat water to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside; in a small pot, heat lids in hot water, NOT boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and lids hot until ready to use. Have ready: a pair of tongs, a jar lifter, a 2-cup glass measuring cup, a wide-mouth jar funnel, and a few clean dish towels.
You are now ready to can! Make sure any small children are not underfoot at this time. Working with one jar at a time, remove jar from hot water and place on your workspace. Place the funnel in the top. Ladle hot sauce into a hot jar to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim . Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Using your tongs, remove a lid from the hot water standing by and center lid on jar; apply screw band securely & firmly until resistance is met –fingertip tight. Do not over tighten. Place jar back in canner; repeat for remaining jars. When all jars have been filled (or your canner is full –don’t overcrowd), make sure jars are covered by at least ½ inch of water.
Cover canner; bring water to a boil.
‘Process’ (meaning “boil”) at a gentle boil for 40 minutes. When processing time is complete, turn heat off and remove canner lid. When boil subsides, remove jars without tilting.
Cool jars upright, undisturbed 24 hours. DO NOT RE-TIGHTEN screw bands.
You should hear the musical “Pop, Pop” of the jars sealing. This is a proud moment!
After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. If you have any leftover sauce, why not enjoy it with some spaghetti for supper? You shouldn’t have to do any more cooking for today.