Friday, April 29, 2011

a perfect day for bbq...

perhaps i should start checking the long range forecast before deciding on my weekly menu...
for the weekend i will have bbq chicken & ribs, therefore i will be bbq'ing in the rain and fog today. the sides will be loaded baked potatoes (cheddar, bacon, pickled chillies & green onions), crunchy slaw (vinegar based and super fresh), black beans & corn, and cheddar-jalapeno cornbread. not quite sure yet of the logistics as the baked potatoes are massive but i'll figure it out and it will be super tasty - i'm already excited for leftovers...
yesterday i also made a new flavour of soup: red lentil dahl. it has mild spice & curry flavours but i didn't go over board and it's really nice, light (fat free) and refreshing. i also made a new batch of onion soup with propellor porter & foxhill parmesran and of shepherd's pie with getaway farm beef and cheddar mash (i have smalls and larges). oh and a few chicken, leek & broccoli pies minus the bacon, by special request, but i still have some with bacon as well.
i reorganized the freezers and i'm out of the lamb meatball dish and have just a couple butter chicken & braised beef shank dinners left and only 1 roasted red pepper, tomato & sweet potato soup - but tons of everything else.
tonight i'm also delivering lots of hors d'oeuvres to a community function so i will be a busy, busy bee today. the menu will be: mushroom & goat cheese filo triangles, mini crab cakes with cilantro aioli, braised beef stew tartlets, individual quiche lorraines, olive & sundried tomato strata with goat cheese & arugula, lemon biscuits with smoked salmon, cream cheese & dill, and pulled bbq chicken rolls with crunchy slaw... geez, yet again i think i have gone waaayyy overboard... oops.
also, you may have noticed my blog has been a little lacklustre lately. i've been having technical difficulties. first the camera on my iphone stopped working (it has since been fixed) but now all of my recent photos show up in .impeta format (i have no idea what that even is) instead of .jpeg so i can't upload them. any tips from technologically inclined people out there would be much appreciated, thanks.
ok, the kitchen & my monster prep list beckon... even though i'd rather sit and watch the royal wedding...

Saturday, April 23, 2011


oh dear, today was crazy - crazy awesome that is!
unfortunately i'm almost out of all the easter fix'ins. some turkey & gravy, and few other odds and ends. so if you're really craving something, come early.
don't worry i'll have fresh baked goods. i'm about to start baking more cupcakes, rolls, tarts & cookies - see ya tomorrow and if not, happy easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011


holy camoly, i cooked up a storm yesterday!
this meal is my favourite in the history of little red kitsch'n. i'm worried that it might be a little too complicated & too much reading for the frenzied saturday shoppers - but we'll see...

here's what i made yesterday:
brined & herb roasted turkey breast - shani's farm (7 oz portions)
my grandma's baked ham with cloves, mustard, honey & pineapple (7 oz portions)
parsnip and celeriac puree - super smooth & creamy
dressing: summer savoury, homemade bread, mashed potatoes, dried cranberries (my favourite!)
sweet potato casserole, maple-walnut crunch on top
roasted fingerling potato salad, radishes, celery, tarragon, grainy mustard vinaigrette
turkey & thyme gravy

here's what i'll be making today:
lemony asparagus spears
crunchy slaw (rabbit food!)
herb roasted veggies
dinner rolls

i also made a huge batch of thai turkey & rice soup yesterday and mexican posole. for those that don't know, posole is a spicy soup with hominy, braised pork, green chillies, cilantro & green onions. this one definitely has a kick and lots of southwest flavours like cumin & coriander and a special kick from my chipotle lime bbq sauce. i'm going to try and squeeze in a batch of red lentil dahl today - 'try' being the operative word...

today is also my baking day. i have to whip up a tray of brownies, giant bunny shortbreads, lemon meringues, chocolate coconut macaroons & tons of cupcakes. on sunday the nice people who make the british pasties have organized a scavenger hunt for the kiddies. i'm one of the destinations so i'll be giving each participant a free mini cupcake when they come by - should be fun and lots of baking. i picked up loads of easter candy too: mini eggs, jelly beans, easter smarties and chocolate eggs for extra special & festive garnishes too. i like the chocolate, vanilla, carrot & red velvet selection so i'll stick with that this week and maybe switch it up for next week.

enjoy the sun, see you over the weekend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

easter weekend

i'll be at the market on saturday & sunday this week. i know it's easter and all, but the market closes early enough to still make it to dinner on time. fyi, the international market is closed on friday but lots of places like the fish shop will be open and the regular market is open all weekend. 
i'm still working out the details but i'd like to do a mix & match easter dinner - choice of proteins and sides to build your own holiday spread. i already have a ginormous turkey from shani's farm which will be brined and roasted with gravy, and i'm going to prepare my grandma's recipe for ham as well. i typically hate ham, but this one is different, not all watery and gross. then i'm thinking roasted root veggies, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, steamed asparagus, crunchy salads, dinner rolls... i love holiday meals and always go way overboard so we'll see just how much i can pump out. i'm also going to make some fun & fantastical easter-themed cupcakes and super cute bunny shaped shortbread cookies.

here's what else i'll have for the weekend:
fishcakes and baked beans - panko crust, salt cod, summer savoury (serves 2)   $12
lobster mac & cheese - tomatoes, leek bechamel, foxhill cheese curds, parmesan crust     small $10 (serves 1) family $28 (serves 3-4)
osso buco style braised beef shanks, getaway farm, parmesan polenta, rapini (serves 2)   $20
curried chicken, chickpeas, butternut squash, roasted cauliflower, basmati rice (serves 2)   $16
honey mustard roasted pork loin, scalloped potatoes with foxhill curds, steamed brussel sprouts (serves 2)   $15
sausage & cheese curd penne, shani's farm, caramelized onions, parmesan marinara, swiss chard  small $7.50 (serves 1) large $15 (serves 2)
chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pie, puff pastry lid and herb gravy (serves 2-3)  $16
lamb & feta meatballs, zucchini, roasted peppers, kalamata olive and sundried tomato marinara, lemony basil couscous (serves 2)   $18
same dish without the meatballs - i've been calling it 'mediterranean couscous' (serves 2) $10

soups & chowder - $5 each (500 ml serving)
roasted red pepper, tomato and sweet potato (spicy)
curried butternut squash
carrot, apple, ginger
beet, parsnip & pear
cream of broccoli & cauliflower
seafood chowder - mussels, clams, halibut & smoked haddock
root vegetable veloute (really awesome velvety soup)
beef & barley (slightly spicy)
thai turkey & rice
vegan vegetable stew

in an ideal world i'll also be able to rock out a batch of miso mushroom soup, red lentil dahl, and mexican posole - this is all, of course, contingent on my caffeine consumption and freezer space.
this week i also have a few special orders to fulfill - but i think they're surprises so i won't elaborate until next week...

Friday, April 15, 2011


it looks like a bomb just went off in my kitchen.
too tired to write a full menu.
chicken pies, lobster macs, pork & scalloped potatoes...
fishcakes, lamb meatballs, butter chicken, veggie couscous, sausage & curd penne, shepherd's pie...
all the usual soups, minus thai chicken and french onion - no time or space, sorry...
brown & white rolls...
four types of cupcakes, lemon meringues, butter tarts, brownies, cookies...
just come visit me tomorrow, it'll all be on the trusty blackboard, my brain won't be so fried then... hopefully!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


lobsters are my thang.
when the lobster deliveries would arrive at the restaurant, prepping them, more often than not, fell on my shoulders. after 20/day for a few days straight, i'd get a little tired of it, and my poor hands would be a bit destroyed, but in moderation they're fun and rewarding and oh so tasty!

yesterday i got myself some monstrous beasts - 4 pounders. the fisherman assured me that the shell to meat ratio is always pretty much the same, ergo the yield on one 4 pounder would be equal to four 1 pounders, so i figured less cracking and went with the gargantuan ones.
all you really need to tackle a lobster is pictured here (oh and a rolling pin - but we'll get to that later...). i don't use my cleaver for much else, but it does a number on the thick shell of the claw. the chopsticks are great for picking the meat out of hard to reach places, and the scissors aren't imperative but they do help limit the amount of damage done to the hands.
first things first, you've got to cook the lobsters. 

sorry buddies. 
i've been steaming them lately - it uses less water, comes up to the boil faster, the flavour is more 'lobstery', and they are less sloppy when you go to crack them later on. for lobsters this size, i've been steaming them for 18 minutes. they are slightly undercooked, but that's on purpose because they get cooked again when you heat up the lobster mac & cheese and i don't want them to get rubbery & overcooked.
in a restaurant setting, i would rip the claws and tail off and cook them separately - claws 6 mins, tails 4 mins (skewered on a chopstick to keep them straight). maybe i'm getting soft in my old age, but i just can't do it with these giant ones, or maybe it's because they scare me a little, as well as the karmic retribution!
ok, let them cool a little and then get to work.

rip em apart.

crack the shell of the tail - i normally stand on my tiptoes and smoosh it, like doing a cpr chest compression and then use the scissors to cut down the soft side of the tail. then wiggle and jiggle the meat until it slides out in one piece.

normally the shell will remain intact as well, but i ripped this one apart with my sheer, brute strength!

then it's time for the claws. i put my knife beside it to give a visual of the enormity of them. not gonna lie, i worked up quite a sweat and was out of breath after dealing with them.

separate the claws at all of the joints. when removing the thumb (i guess that's what it is) make sure that the two pieces of cartilage come with it. then crack the shell with the blunt side of the cleaver and pull out the claw meat.

then it's time to move on to the knuckles - my favourites! i use my index finger to push the meat out of the bigger section. if you don't have girl hands, you can always use the scissors to cut the shell and fish the meat out. then use a chopstick to scoop it out of the smaller, bottom portion - comme ca:

and last but not least, the legs. this is where the rolling pin comes in - and another little trick i learned from reading thomas kellar's ad hoc at home (i love that book!).

crack each leg in half and roll. it will force all of the meat out. it's quite labour intensive and would typically go in the garbage but some wise women once told me (well actually it was last saturday and the nice ladies upstairs at the market) 'the profits are in what you throw away' so i'm taking the time to do it.
and one last step:

lobster juice has a tendency to fly all over the kitchen. clean, step back, survey the scene, and clean again. you'll be amazed at the places it ends up...i have to go wash the curtains.

future blogs posts will involve sugar & spice and everything nice, instead of just the gruesome kitchen jobs, promise.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

what do you want for dinner?

i find it so interesting to see what people buy from me each day at the market. as far as i can tell, it is completely random! i have a hard time deciding what to bring and what to put on the menu because i just don't know what people are craving on any particular day. 

i always figured the lobster mac & cheese would go over pretty well, but the popularity of the chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies has really surprised me - and apparently i have to make them every week now (they're my thursday project). 

today's prep included a monster batch of fishcakes - they sell like crazy. it's funny too, i always watch and listen to people as they glance at my menu, and it is almost always the fishcakes & beans option that catches their eye.

here's a little run down of fishcake preparation:
salt cod is crazy salty (hence the name).

notice the 155% of your recommended daily intake of salt - eeekkk. but don't worry that's before it's prepared.

i always cover the cod in cold water and bring it up to the boil. then drain the salty water and repeat. i do this 3 times to pull out all of the salt. it's important to start with cold water - hot water would seal the salt in. it's the same concept as when making stock - always cover the bones with cold water to start.

drain, cool and glove up. shred the fish and check for any bones.
then it's time for the fix'ins.

i add mashed potatoes, onions, celery, green onions, lemon zest and a secret blend of herbs & spices.
mix well, adjust seasoning and portion into cakes - i use my handy, dandy ice cream scooper for this to ensure even portions.

yeah i made a few of them - 152 to be exact! that's 38 orders and should hopefully last me a few days...

so as i was prepping away today, i thought it would be cool to take suggestions for what you would like for dinner. if you have the time, post a little comment of things you'd like to see on my upcoming menus and i'll try to accommodate, thanks!

Friday, April 8, 2011

so much food, so little time

i just sat down after a 14 hour day in the kitchen, and i am wiped! please come visit me at the market over the weekend and help me clear some room in my fridges and freezers...
i have completely run out of space and have had to forgo the thai chicken & rice soup, and seafood chowder until next week - sorry, i hope no one is too disappointed.

i have 3 fresh main courses for the weekend:

beef 'osso buco' featuring getaway farm shanks, parmesan polenta, rich tomato gravy, rapini
chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies, with a puff pastry lid 
herb-roasted chicken breast, shani's farm, creamy mushroom risotto and kale

in the freezer there's tons of stuff - i'm about to go through everything and label and organize (maybe i'll find some surprises)...

shepherd's pie, getaway beef, peas & corn, cheddar mashed potatoes
butter chicken with basmati rice
greek lamb meatballs, with roasted veggies and basil couscous - i also have the option of this dish minus the meatballs, sorry it's not vegetarian - chicken stock in the couscous
fishcakes & beans
lobster mac & cheese (i think there's just one left - new batch next week)
sausage & cheese curd baked penne, with shani's sausages and foxhill curds
roast pork dinner
spaghetti and meatballs

carrot, apple, ginger
curried butternut squash
roasted, red pepper, tomato & sweet potato
french onion with guinness and beer
cream of broccoli and cauliflower
beef & barley
vegan vegetable stew
root vegetable veloute 

ummmm...i think that's it.

dinner rolls
snickers brownies
lemon meringue tarts
chocolate, carrot & red velvet cupcakes
oatmeal, white chocolate & cranberry cookies
chocolate, coconut macaroons

i was on a total roll this morning burning through the prep, and then in the evening things weren't going as planned. and then i pulled these little gems from the oven and i can go to sleep in a good mood.

they're shiny!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

fun, fun, fun, fundamentals!

i buy my chickens whole & you should too!
the breasts are great for grilling or pan-searing, the legs are great for braising and make excellent curries and soups, the bones make a serious stock and the wings are a tasty treat.

here's how to butcher a chicken: 

this is a whole chicken from shani's farm - it's 8 and 1/2 lbs so it sort of resembles a turkey... it's amazing how much better free-range chicken tastes than the factory raised junk at the grocery store. chicken in the store is injected with water so that you pay more by weight and the flavour just doesn't compare. 
in this photo there is also one of my fav knives. typically i prefer japanese style - the blades are thinner, more delicate and slice, rather than smoosh, tomatoes & tuna. however, this is a wusthof (german) boning knife. when i first walked into le cordon bleu, i think they saw me coming. i didn't know a stitch about knives and what i needed and walked out with a wusthof $1100 knife kit - most of which i no longer use. this boning knife is the exception. i've had it for about 6 years now and it still holds an edge and does a number on all the proteins that cross my path. if you're in the market for a great boning knife buy this one! otherwise, just check for something with a sturdy blade and sharp point. but i would recommend japanese for everything else, macs and globals are my fav (shun if you have money to burn). there is a full set of globals at costco (random) that i have my eye, now i just need to save up some dough...

ok back to chicken.

this doesn't look too appetizing... but you have to cut the wing off and it's easy if you flip the bird over and 'pop' the joint - it sounds so hardcore, and what is extra hilarious, is that i was watching glee and doing this during commercials!

then cut in by the legs - they will naturally separate from the body.

again, it looks totally gross - but that's why you buy my food so i can do all the dirty work! if you're doing it at home, just remember to let the chicken show you what to do - cut around the joints, not through them, and follow the line of the muscles.

then flip it back over and cut down the breastbone to separate the meat from the bones. use the tip of your knife for this and run it along the bones so you don't waste any prize meat. also, make sure to cut around the wishbone (not too tasty).

this is four chickens - holy camoly...
the breasts will be herb-roasted to accompany a creamy mushroom risotto, the legs have been braised for chicken, leek, bacon & broccoli pies and thai chicken & rice soup, and, when this photo was taken, the bones were already roasting for an epic chicken stock, oh, and i baked and ate the wings myself, delicioso!

in my opinion, thomas kellar is the best chef in north america. he has an awesome cookbook called ad hoc at home and he has much better pictures than i of how to butcher a chicken - buy it. it is a great resource and shows you how to simplify restaurant quality food for cooking at home. when i used to teach cooking classes i always struggled with explaining restaurant techniques & terms to home cooks, but this book gave me so many tips and ideas for putting everything in terms that people could actually understand and relate to.

then there was the beef...

beef shanks from getaway farm. low in fat and high in flavour. shanks are not tender at all, but after a long braise they are ridiculous - again another reason to let me do the cooking :)
they've been marinating in wine, garlic and herbs and will be cooked up into a rich, italian osso buco. typically it's done with veal, but that's not very nice, so i'm using beef. i'm going to serve it with parmesan polenta, greens, and gremolata, and it sould be rad!

good luck with your chickens.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

that's hot

i dig spicy food.
it doesn't have to always be hot spicy food, it can be mellow, complex and interesting. often food can be a little boring (particularly throughout the winter months) but spices can elevate flavours and make things funky and tasty. this weekend i made a couple of dishes that relied heavily on spices. my butter chicken was my fav batch yet and is what i'll be munching on for dinner tonight. as i continue to scour the shelves and explore the city i'm discovering places to source the spices i really love to cook with. and just remember, they are a great fat free way to add flavour - it doesn't always have to be butter and cream (but they're nice too...).

these are a few of my favs.
there's whole star anise and cardamom pods. they add really nice, mellow flavour like a chai tea but work really well in most asian or indian dishes. there's fennel seed, coriander seed, and dill seed. they are some of the ingredients that i like to use to make homemade montreal steak spice - i originally thought the dill a little strange but it is that mystical, magical ingredient that makes a world of difference. then there's yellow and brown mustard seeds. they add a great pop & crunch. i've become addicted to their texture - in rice or roasted veggies it's a really neat addition. and last but not least, there is the whole vanilla bean - yummers! vanilla beans don't come cheap, but do not be deterred, a little goes a long way and they are the spice that keeps on giving. once you've scraped the pulp from the pod, just chuck it in a bin of sugar and voila - vanilla sugar. great for baking or just in your coffee or tea. if you start to notice little black flecks in all of my baking, don't be alarmed, i didn't drop it on the floor, it's real vanilla!

it's always best to buy whole spices and toast and grind them yourself. i'm a slacker sometimes though and i just fire 'em in whole and rely on the strength of my blender to render them edible later on. if you don't want to deal with them you can always buy ground (i'm no preacher) if that's what it takes to get you to use them, you'll notice a marked improvement in your cooking. just remember spices go stale and their flavour can become muted and wacky, so use them up quickly or share them with your neighbours if you don't think you'll be able to get through them fast enough.

now onto the hot stuff.

chipotle peppers and smoked paprika. these are two major components in my chipotle lime bbq sauce. you get that great smokey flavour before you even hit the grill. chipotles are smoke-dried jalapenos packed in a piquant, tomatoey adobo (not adobe - one of my pet peeves!) sauce. they pack a powerful punch so use sparingly and sometimes i just spoon in the adobo sauce if i want to keep things on the mild side but still incorporate that great smokey flavour. and then there is spanish smoked paprika - this was a recent find and i was pretty stoked. it adds a great depth of flavour and i have a feeling i'll be purchasing lots of this one! it comes in different levels of heat too - so if spicy isn't your bag search out the mild version and i'm sure you won't be disappointed.

next there is the realm of thai cookery.

cilantro, lemongrass, fresh ginger and sriracha sauce - some of my most favourite flavours of all time. i'm going to make a new batch of thai-inspired chicken and rice soup this week and all of these will be heading into the pot. the roots of cilantro taste great too so don't waste them - however, they are a mecca for sand and grit so just make sure to wash them diligently before use. lemongrass adds great lemon flavour without any sourness and it so fragrant and lovely, i love it - now i just need to find some kaffir lime leaves too... then there's ginger, a staple in my kitchen. if you're a regular customer and have taken the time to read the ingredients in my food you'll notice that ginger is in pretty much everything i make... it just makes you feel good and healthy - some will also be making its way into another batch of carrot, apple, ginger soup this week too. and then there is sriracha - my most favouritest (cause that's totally a word) hot sauce ever. it's always on the table in thai, and vietnamese pho restaurants and i love it. sometimes i can get a little carried away with it so i've been adding sides of sriracha to dishes so people can spice it up as they see fit. i personally like to change the colour of all of my food to red by adding copious quantities. also, if you're ever feeling a little under the weather, just eat loads of it and scare the bug right out of your body!

this week i'll be braising beef shanks for osso buco and roasting chicken to go with risotto so the spices won't be as prevalent as last week - it will be mostly fresh herbs this week - but i have lots of frozen butter chicken and spiced lamb meatballs in the freezer if you're craving some heat...
see you on saturday and sunday.

Friday, April 1, 2011

quick update

so due to pre-orders - i have unfortunately sold out of all of my chicken pies again - sorry.
also, i made up 10 couscous, 'puttanesca' and roasted veggie dishes minus the meatballs, for those who aren't crazy about lamb and are looking for a lighter option.

this is my uber-retro looking butter chicken - i'm totally digging the tacky clashing colours.

maybe i can find a matching outfit for tomorrow...

ok, that is all, good night.