Category Archives: General

Arm of Lamb

Roast lamb foreleg, or "arm of lamb"One of the great things about purchasing your meat as a whole animal and cutting it yourself (besides getting high-quality ethically produced meat for a fraction of its farmers’ market price) is that you have total control over how the meat is divided.

I’ve written about this before (Alternative Pork Primals) but I have another great example of an unorthodox meat-cutting practice: arm of lamb.  While lambs have four legs, the traditional roast leg of lamb is always a hind leg.  The shank meat is trimmed away, leaving relatively tender, lean meat that is best roasted medium rare.

The foreleg is a very different piece of meat.  It could simply be billed as “foreleg of lamb” but I … Continue reading.

That Scene in Ratatouille

I work in a kitchen that is built into a sort of warehouse.  It has terrible ventilation and gets stiflingly hot in the summer.  We’ve found that if we raise the large bay door in the receiving area behind the kitchen, then prop open the door in front of the kitchen, we can sometimes wrangle a decent cross-breeze to cool us down.

One hot afternoon we were running this system, and riding a beautiful cross-breeze.  So much so that the catering menus and prep lists pinned to the walls were flapping and waving at us.  I was cutting chickens at a work bench opposite another cook who was slicing fennel.  I was downwind, so to speak, and during one warm … Continue reading.

Canola Oil

Some crusty bread with cold-pressed canola oil for dipping.Take a midsummer drive away from Edmonton in any direction and soon you will find fields of yellow flowers in radiant bloom.  This is canola, and the oil pressed from its seeds is as common in Albertan pantries as the plants are to Albertan landscapes.

Canola is a Canadian invention.  In fact, its name is an amalgam of the words “Canada oil low acid”.  Canola is a type of rapeseed that has been bred to have a low erucic acid content.

What’s rapeseed, you ask?  It’s a plant with an unfortunate name, ultimately derived from the Latin word for turnip, rapum, to which it is a close relative.

Allow me to expedite this explanation by quoting from the … Continue reading.

Citrus Juicer

Juicing limes to make a cocktail called The Last WordThis is my citrus juicer.

It belonged to my grandma Suddaby.

It’s made of something called Depression glass, a tinted, translucent glass that was manufactured from (roughly) the 1920s to 1940s, hence the name.  It came in several colours, but most commonly funky neon green, or pastel pinkish orange.  Those are terrible colour descriptions, but that’s why I cook for a living instead of naming new shades of paint.  I imagine these colours were hyper-modern in the 1930s, though I have no source to confirm or deny this.  Depression glass was mass-produced and most often distributed as a free gift for people buying groceries or attending a show.  In other words it was Depression-era swag.  I asked my parents if … Continue reading.

Because Flavour Dynamics

Background:  I work for Elm Café.  We make sandwiches (herein referred to as “sammiches”).  Today we made one that I was particularly excited about, so on my personal Twitter account @allansuddaby I tweeted: “Just sampled an @elmcafe sammich: beef shortrib, Brie, port-soaked plums, rutabaga, red wine reduction. Will cure what ails you.”  National Post columnist and local wit Colby Cosh responded: “Sounds like the Incredibly Random Sandwich Generator came up with a winner!” at which I literally lol’d.  Then it dawned on me that the ingredients in this sandwich are emphatically not random.  I thought it would be interesting to explain why they make a great sandwich.

 

Because Flavour Dynamics: The Sammich Apologist

The sandwich in question is Continue reading.

Drying Herbs

A basket of dried herbs“Fresh is best.”

Armed with this maxim many chefs spurn dried herbs.  I’d like to go to bat for dried herbs.  Not the dried herbs that have been in your pantry since Harper took office, and certainly not the dried powdered herbs you buy in one pound bags from a bulk store, but the dried herbs that you make from the plethora of fresh herbs you have languishing in your autumn backyard.

I take for granted that you have a plethora of fresh herbs languishing in your autumn backyard.

You should, because it’s important to use lots of herbs in cooking, and paying $4 for a 28 g packet at the grocery store is crazy.  You can buy an entire … Continue reading.

On Cooking Resinous Herbs

Last night I ate out at an Italian restaurant, one of them new-fangled Italian joints that have hardly any tomato sauce on the menu, and nary a checkered table-cloth or plastic grape vine in sight.  I had a bowl of squash tortelloni with brown butter and sage, a classic dish from the hallowed kitchens of Emilia-Romagna.  The sage was raw.

People usually freak out over raw chicken, not raw herbs, but eating those fuzzy, grey, acrid sage leaves was at least as unpleasant as contracting salmonella.

Chefs distinguish between fine herbs and resinous herbs.  Fine herbs are delicate and usually eaten raw.  Examples are basil, parsley, chervil, and tarragon.  Resinous herbs are more robust and are usually cooked.  Examples are … Continue reading.

Herb Oil

Tarragon oil floating on pear and parsnip soupHerb oil is a powerful tool to have in your culinary belt.

It is a fantastic way to preserve a glut of herbs, especially a glut of herbs that are past their prime, for instance basil that is starting to get moist and speckled.  This less-than-attractive basil still has loads of flavour.  And parts of the herb that are usually discarded, say the thick, woody stem of a basil plant, are also full of flavour, and make great herb oil.  Herb oil keeps for weeks in the fridge and months in the freezer, and if made properly it is a stunning, concentrated, lustrous, fluid version of the plant it is made from.

My herb oil process is ripped directly from … Continue reading.

Stewed Rhubarb

A ham sandwich with stewed rhubarbAt home I call this preparation stewed rhubarb, a name that has all the sex appeal of a cactus.  At work I call it rhubarb compote or jam to trick other people into eating it.  It’s not a compote because there aren’t any large pieces of fruit.  It’s not really a jam either, because it hasn’t been set with pectin.  It’s just stewed rhubarb.

Stewed rhubarb is rhubarb cooked with sugar.  It’s a preparation so basic that it doesn’t need a recipe, though as a ballpark ratio you can start with 2 parts chopped fresh rhubarb and 1 part white sugar by volume.

Cook this mixture over medium-high heat.  Soon liquid will pool on the bottom of the pan.  With … Continue reading.

Making Soap with Lard

Homemade soap in a mold.If you had told me five years ago that one day I would make soap I would have scoffed with self-righteous indignation.  Being a very serious chef and a bit of a dink I eschewed the “arts and crafts” that took precious space away from food at the farmers’ market.  I don’t feel that way anymore: I appreciate the pottery and the quilts and the pysanka, and even the beeswax candles.

For the past few years I have been rendering lard from sides of pork.  Now, I think I eat more lard than most: I use it in pie dough, I make spreads like Grammelschmalz and Schmalzfleisch, and use it as an everyday cooking fat.  Even so, I can’t … Continue reading.