Category Archives: Special Topics

Dried Chili Peppers

Dried chili peppersWe didn’t eat spicy food when I was growing up.  Not at all.

I didn’t learn to appreciate spicy food until I was in my early twenties, and it was at an Italian restaurant, of all places.  I patronized Mercato in Calgary throughout high school, then later I had the opportunity to work in their kitchen.  They make food from all over Italy, but the owners are Calabrian, and there’s always a few pastas on the menu made by infusing olive oil with garlic and hot chili flakes.  I remember the first time that I realized how effective a little heat can be.  It wakes up your mouth, and it elongates the sensation of the dish, as your mouth is … Continue reading.

Lacto-Fermented Pickles

Cucumbers

Naturally fermented dill picklesI come from a land of “refrigerator pickles”: cucumbers steeped in syrupy vinegar and spices, and stored in the fridge through the fall. There is another type of pickle called a lacto-fermented pickle.  The idea of producing an acidic pickle with only brine was a revelation.

The procedure couldn’t be simpler. Make a brine of one cup salt in one gallon of water. Cover your chosen vegetables in the chilled brine (most vegetables want to float, so you’ll have to find a way to keep them submerged) and leave for a week at a cool room temperature. This is the only tricky part: the solution must stay below 23°C to prevent the proliferation of harmful bacteria. I don’t have … Continue reading.

Potato Dumplings in Broth

This post is about simple potatoes dumplings, served in an interesting potato broth.

Conversations about potato dishes usually focus on texture (the ideal French fry has a crisp exterior and fluffy interior, the ideal mashed potatoes are smooth but not gummy…) I love this broth because it makes you think about how potatoes taste. Potato skins are used to infuse a vegetable broth with potato flavour, without any of the thick starchiness we associate with potato soups.

Let’s start with the dumplings. The key to pillow-like potato dumplings is to have very little moisture in the potatoes. This way the milled potatoes will require less flour to form a dough, and there will be accordingly less gluten in the finished … Continue reading.

Rumpot

The first layer of the rumpotRumtopf, literally “rum pot”, is a traditional German fruit preserve. As each type of fruit comes into season, it is macerated with sugar, placed in the pot, then covered with rum. Traditional rumtopfen are earthenware pots with heavy lids, but any wide-mouthed, non-reactive vessel can be used.

I use about one part sugar to two parts fruit, by weight, for each addition.

Once the last layer of fruit is added, the mixture steeps for a few months, and is traditionally eaten around Christmas.

The mixture goes through some profound transformations during aging. It loses the striking vibrancy seen above and turns a uniform burgundy. The liquor loses its clarity and becomes murky, with an exceptionally rich mouthfeel, verging on … Continue reading.

Austrian Dinner

But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is? It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just there it’s a little different.

-Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction

 

I am part of a culinary exchange between NAIT and a school in Semmering, Austria. This past month I hosted an Austrian student named Dominik, whom a lucky few met at Valerie’s psychedelic taste-tripping party.

On Dominik’s last full day in Canada, we coerced him and two of his Austrian colleagues, Mike and Lena, to cook us a classic Austrian dinner.

First Course: Frittatensuppe – Pancake Soup

Domink requested that we make a good beef stock for the … Continue reading.

Lamb’s Quarters

If you think that it’s weird to eat dandelion, or you find the bitter flavour unpalatable, you should try eating another common weed: lamb’s quarters.  It is the perfect gateway weed, very approachable, with a texture and flavour quite similar to spinach.  Lamb’s quarters are popping up everywhere, and now is the best time to pick them, when the plants have only a few leaves, for the following reasons:

  • The young leaves are the most tender.
  • The young leaves taste the best. Older leaves are a little more bland, with a wood flavour.
  • Picking the leaves prevents the plant from going to seed. Once the plant goes to seed, it stops producing leaves, and it doesn’t taste as good.  
Continue reading.

Easter Ham

For the last few years we’ve been curing our own Easter ham with more or less an entire leg of pork.

The primal cut of pork known as the leg is separated from the loin and belly by sawing through the middle of the pelvic bone.  The section of the pelvis that is left on the loin is called the pin bone.  The section on the leg is the haitch bone.  To remove the haitch bone you have to follow its frustrating curves with your knife until you expose the ball joint where the leg meets the pelvis.  Cut through this joint.

Next the skin is removed in one large sheet.

What remains of the leg typically weighs about 15 … Continue reading.

Pouding Chômeur – Poor Man’s Pudding

Pouding chômeur, ready for the oven: cake batter floating in a sea of maple syrupMy dad grew up in eastern Ontario, in sugar shack country. The most common applications of maple syrup in his home were pouring over pumpkin pie and cornbread, or, if he was especially well-behaved, as a dip for white bread. These dishes win for most direct conveyance of syrup to mouth without drinking from the bottle, but I need something (slightly) more refined.

My Québécois dessert of choice is pouding chômeur. “Chômeur” means unemployed. Here it functions as a substantive, so this is “unemployed person’s pudding.” “Poor man’s pudding” is a more natural sounding translation. Whatever you call it, it’s a fantastic, unadulterated way to enjoy maple syrup.

A simple batter of creamed butter and sugar, eggs, … Continue reading.

Turkey Giblets

A plate of turkey giblets: neck, liver, and heart.This was the first year that I had a hand in preparing the Thanksgiving turkey. Subsequently it was also the first time that I came in contact with the infamous giblets: the neck, heart, liver, and gizzard of the turkey, stored together in a bag in the cavity of the bird.

First things first: I needed to know what I was dealing with. I was familiar with the general shape and function of the first three items on that list. The gizzard, however, I embarrassingly thought was the flap of skin hanging between a turkey’s beak and neck. Turns out this is the wattle, “an organ of sexual dimorphism” (Wikipedia), whatever that means. The gizzard is actually a stomach with … Continue reading.