Ouzo is a strong, clear, anise-flavoured spirit made in Greece. The taste may remind you of liquorice candy, or other anise spirits like sambuca, pastis, and Pernod. The term is a protected regional designation within the EU, meaning that if it’s not made in Greece, it can’t be called ouzo. It is usually about 40% ABV.
Ouzo is made by infusing a relatively neutral spirit with anise and other botanicals. The neutral spirit is a grape pommace distillate, just like Italian grappa or French marc. In most of Greece this grape pommace distillate is called tsipouro, though the Turkish word raki is also common, especially on the islands of Crete and Cyprus. Tsipouro has been made for centuries, and over … Continue reading.
The actual Greek name of the ubiquitous Greek salad is Horiatiki, which means, roughly, “village salad.” As I mentioned in my general post on Greek food, one Greek restaurateur told me that the primordial Greek salad was just feta, onions, and olive oil, and that traditionally the cucumbers and tomatoes are flourishes added only in the summer months.
There are really only two things you need to know to make superlative Greek salad. The first: for this dish more than maybe any other you need to use amazing ingredients. Greek salad with pale tomatoes and thick-skinned cucumbers and canned olives is really one of the saddest things you can eat.
I use the following:
… Continue reading.
The defining element of Irish stew is the use of lamb neck, or scrag.
Traditionally it is made more like a casserole than a stew. Actually it bares an uncanny resemblance to boulangère potatoes. Lamb, potato rounds, and other vegetables are layered in a casserole, then covered with stock or water and baked in an oven.
Lamb neck is a very tough cut of meat. I sear and braise the necks to tenderize, then use the shredded meat and cooking liquid to make the stew.
Once the necks are very tender to the tip of a paring knife, I remove them from the liquid and let cool briefly. While the necks are still warm I fold back the meat … Continue reading.
Originally published March 18, 2012.
Cream, rich as an Irish brogue;
Coffee, strong as a friendly hand;
Sugar, sweet as the tongue of a rogue;
Whiskey, smooth as the wit of the land.
-a traditional toast accompanying Irish coffee
The Irish coffee typically served in restaurants here either has cream stirred into the drink, or whipped cream floating on top. The traditional way to enjoy the drink is to gently pour heavy cream onto the surface of the coffee so that it floats, then sip the coffee through the cream.
Let’s discuss ingredients.
The Coffee – Use good coffee. Brew it strong.
The Sugar – Irish coffee is made with brown sugar which has a distinct, cooked, molasses-like taste. … Continue reading.
Originally posted on March 18, 2012
Corned beef, also known as salt beef and spiced beef, is a national dish of Ireland. Recipes vary, but the cure is usually made of kosher salt, curing salt, a heap of brown sugar, and spices like clove, allspice, black pepper, and mustard seed. The cured meat is gently simmered (usually in water, sometimes in beer) until tender, and can be eaten hot or cold.
To clarify, corned beef has nothing to do with maize. “Corn” was once a broad English term for a small bit, whether a grain of wheat, or a crystal of salt. “Corned beef” is beef that has been covered in corns of salt.
Like most charcuterie, corned beef … Continue reading.
Originally published January 25, 2011.
If you’re not already acquainted, let me introduce you to the proud institution that is the Burns Supper.
Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759, in Ayr, Scotland. He grew up on farmland leased by his parents, and wrote several poems and songs about that rustic life, hence his famous epithet, “the ploughman poet.” His first book of poetry, published in 1786, was an explosive success, and he was quickly accepted into Edinburgh society, becoming a Freemason and working as a tax collector.
His poetry was written in an old Scottish dialect, one that modern English readers find more difficult to understand than Shakespeare. Even so, you probably know some of his verses. … Continue reading.
Often cited as the most influential food book ever published in the western world, The Physiology of Taste was written by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Born in 1755 in Belley, France, “B-S” grew up to become first a lawyer and then a judge in provincial France during, well, a fairly tumultuous time in European history. The details of his life are fascinating. My copy of TPT includes a brief biography containing lines like “crossed swords with Robespierre” and “incurred the displeasure of Napoleon”. While he did live in exile in America for a short while, B-S managed to keep his head and most of his property throughout the Revolution and the Napoleonic years. It was in the last years of … Continue reading.
Originally posted December 15, 2009 (if you can believe that). Re-posted today with some major corrections. I first read about cretons in an article in The Ottawa Citizen by then-food-columnist Ron Eade. He presented cretons as a Quebecois variation on rillette. A while back Emmanuel (Manu) of Pied Cochon, Joe Beef, and Woodwork fame gave me the skinny on cretons, and they really are not like rillettes at all. I am not able to find that original Ron Eade article to expose it. Presumably someone from the lower St. Lawrence forced him to remove it as libel or lies. Anyways.
Cretons is a pork spread made by simmering ground pork and aromatics like onion, bay, and clove in milk or … Continue reading.
Risotto is a traditional northern Italian dish of short-grain rice cooked in broth and finished with butter and grated hard cheese, usually parmigianno. The “ris” in the name refers to the rice, so “barley risotto” is sort of an oxymoron. There happens to be an Italian word for barley cooked in the same style as risotto: orzotto.
Anyways, this morning I prepared a squash and barley risotto on Global Edmonton and promised to post the recipe here. This is a dish we do at Elm Catering throughout the autumn, a re-imagining of the traditional risotto using some local fall ingredients. It would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps in lieu of mash potatoes.
You can use … Continue reading.
Any country that pickles its national cheese in brine and adulterates its national wine with pine pitch should order dinner at the local Chinese place and save its energies for other things.
-Jeffrey Steingarten, on Greek food
As the above quote from Vogue’s food critic demonstrates, Greek food is not often taken seriously in North America. In fact, a trip to a Greek restaurant is not even about the food, as the food is more or less the same at all Greek restaurants. In our part of the world, dining at a Greek restaurant is about the experience, an experience that usually involves tables for twelve, bazuki music, belly dancing, liquor, repetition of the phrase “Opa!”, smashing plates, and … Continue reading.