WFD? Smoked Meat Sandwich with Celery Root Remoulade

Montreal’s famous smoked meat on rye with a remoulade of celery root and pecans
One cannot live in Montreal for very long without devouring a smoked meat sandwich, be it from the famous Schwartz’s, or at the corner casse croute. Thanks to contributions from the local Jewish community, we have the best smoked meat in North America. If you think you’ve never had smoked meat, it’s what Americans call corned beef or pastrami and the British call salt beef, so maybe you’re just had it under another guise.

We like to buy ours straight from the butchers rather than order it in a restaurant and we’re convinced that the best in Montreal can be found at …..ready?…a small, family run place in Point St-Charles called Quebec Smoked Meat (1889 Center St. (514) 935-5297) Don’t look for a website or anything like that, this place is so old school they don’t even have Interac and operate strictly on a cash basis. It seems like the two guys behind the counter have been there forever and nothing ever changes in the store.
Thank goodness for that, because their meat is something to write home about. It’s even something to pack in your carry-on and bring home with you for visits, which I have been known to do. Who cares if I smell like a traveling Ukrainian deli?

Quebec Smoked Meat has been around long enough that Danny remembers when he was a six-year-old living around the corner and going there with his mom. Ordering is simple: two pounds of sliced smoked meat, two loaves of Kimmel (caraway rye) bread and a jar of kosher pickles. (Incidentally, that was our purchase on the way home from the hospital with two-day-old Noah. A very wise one too, as we didn’t have to cook for a few days)

Most places heap up a pile of fries next to the smoked meat sandwich, but I prefer a salad and until we start getting some spring lettuce that actually tastes like a green, my choice is a creamy celery-root remoulade. Celery root (also called celeriac or ‘knob celery’ which I kinda like but would look silly on a menu) is a relative of the humble celery that is developed for its root rather than it’s stalks. It’s pretty popular here in Quebec and local chefs like to play around with it in soups and salads, passing it off as something gourmet, when really most cookbooks ignore it as if it’s some kind of cow fodder.

The truth? It’s delicious! A welcoming burst of flavor and a much-needed crunch to my palate which has grown tired of tasteless lettuce from California. I keep it simple: make a quick julienne, a dressing, toss a handful of nuts in, and voila, the perfect side to a Medium Fat Smoked Meat Sandwich.
All I need now is a cherry coke.

Celery Root Remoulade with Pecans: 1 small celery root, peeled and julienned fine, (about 2 cups)
¼ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix cream and Dijon together. Season with salt and pepper; toss with celery root and pecans. Check seasoning again and adjust if needed.
Serve immediately.

I’ve Got a Craving for Pho

Our little house has recently been struck with a nasty bout of gastro-intestinal sickness that left us weak and without appetites. Rarely does it happen that I can’t stand the thought of food, but day after day of cleaning up vomit and other stuff has its effects; I could barely open the fridge without my stomach churning.

Yesterday, Day 6 of being sick dawned on our household and as we munched some more plain crackers and sipped some Gatorade, I had a craving.
A flash!

Of course. I needed Pho.

A Vietnamese staple consisting of gentle beef broth simmered for hours and infused with tummy-soothing spices like cloves and ginger, bland yet comforting rice noodles, a few tender cuts of beef, a shredding of basil, some bean sprouts and a squeeze of lime to awaken my disinterested palate.

At least, that is one version of it as it comes in many ways.
I got dressed and left the house for the first time in almost a week in search of pho

.(pronounced‘fuh’) I wasn’t about to make it myself as I had no energy and the only thing I had cooked all week was some scrambled eggs (bad idea). The best pho in Montreal is in Chinatown, but I settled for some takeout Pho Ga (chicken) from a place nearby.
Danny and I lapped it up at home and reminisced about the last time I had desperately needed a helping of pho: in the hospital after giving birth to Noah. I remember pushing aside the hospital ‘food’ and requesting Danny go out in search of some pho ….and chocolate.

I guess I know what my comfort foods are.

DIY: Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup

You can Do It Yourself! Vientamese Hot and Sour Soup

There is nothing like a plate or a bowl of hot soup, it’s wisp of aromatic steam making the nostrils quiver with anticipation, to dispel the depressing effects of a grueling day at the office or the shop, rain or snow in the streets, or bad news in the papers.”

Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949)

Yesterday was minus 15 and snowy. Inspired by an old recipe my sister, Haidi, sent me a while back, I whipped up a Vietnamese noodle soup and it turned out to be the perfect antidote to the weather. It’s incredible how a bowl of soup can be the most comforting, soul satisfying thing. With a fully belly of soup and after a one hour massage from Sandra at the Concordia Physio Center, I was about as relaxed and content as can be! Sometimes creating an Asian style soup can be a daunting task as the list of ingredients is often long and usually requires various exotic, unattainable ingredients. This recipe is different; it’s so easy to make, I had to share it with you. If you haven’t yet tried a recipe from UtHC, this one is a perfect start. Feel free to play around with the vegetables, substituting bak choi or jullienned carrots for bean sprouts or whatever your fancy. Of course, the shrimp can be left out completely if you wish for a vegetarian soup.

Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup

2 teaspoons oil 2 tablespoons minced shallots 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, cut into 3 inch lengths and bruised lightly. ½ lb mushrooms, thinly sliced, button or shitake 1 ½ teaspoons sugar 5 cups water ½ lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and sliced lengthwise in two. 5 tablespoons fish sauce 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice ¼ lb flat rice stick noodles, softened for 30 minutes in warm water and drained 1 ½ cups bean sprouts ½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or ½ teaspoon Thai chili sauce

Optional: 1 cup diced tofu ½ cup green peas

Garnish: Sliced scallions Chopped cilantro Wedge of lime Heat a heavy pot. Add oil and heat. Add shallots and lemongrass and stir fry lightly. Add mushrooms and sugar and stir fry for about 1 minute. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Add fish sauce, noodles, peas and tofu, if using. Bring to a boil again and add shrimp. Simmer 2 minutes more while you call everyone for supper. Discard lemongrass, add bean sprouts and chilies. Serve immediately. Top with scallions and cilantro and serve with lime wedge.
Note: If you don’t serve this soup right away, the rice noodles will absorb most of the broth and you will be left with a tasty (but soggy) noodle dish!