Posts Tagged ‘chicken’

Shepherd, Meet Cottage Pie

Mega Pie

When I was a child, shepherd’s pie was one of several dishes that my dad could make relatively cheaply and easily, so it was one we had fairly often.

I’m not sure what it was about shepherd’s pie exactly, but for years I’ve mercilessly decried its very existence.  If I had to guess, I’d say it was likely the whole frozen pea/carrot/corn blend that caused me to hate it with a passion, because I’ve had too long and varied a love affair with mashed potatoes for them to be the cause.

That negative connotation stuck with me even after all of these years, and though the Everyman is quite a fan of shepherd’s pie (categorizing it as one of those dishes he never craves but whenever he ingests it he wonders why he doesn’t eat it more often) I have never so much as considered making one.

But, then I concocted that delectable chicken pot pie recipe.  And it got me thinking – why limit a shepherd’s pie filling to that sad, sloppy mess of frozen veggies and ground beef?  Having just recovered from a bout of food poisoning (where the only things I could ingest were mashed potatoes or peanut butter on toast) I had a gigantic bowl of creamy buttermilk mash left over but no semblance of a plan for what to do with it.

Before I knew it I was mentally mapping out a shepherd’s/cottage pie hybrid that had the filling of a chicken pot pie, but was topped with pillowy mash instead of golden puff pastry.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that having all that mash on top meant I should omit the chunks of potatoes from the filling and replace them with something else.  My pot pie recipe typically consists of a carrot, celery, pearl onion and potato blend, and having nothing else in the house I opted to just beef up the other quantities.  To make the hybrid version that much more complete though, next time I would replace the potatoes with those ubiquitous frozen peas and corn instead.


Chicken Pot Pie (In The Sky!)


It’s been unseasonably warm here in Toronto during the last 7 days, with temperatures ranging from 14 to 19 throughout the week.

It’s been so warm in fact, that it’s had many people decrying the arrival of spring.  I for one am sceptical on that front.  Not that it matters much to me anyway, since I’ll be departing on a tropical vacation soon.  Nonetheless, it’s certainly not enough to get me planting out of doors or packing away the winter boots just yet.

One thing it was able to inspire me to do though, was to create a pot pie.  Even if winter might not be quite over, it’s pretty clear that we’re getting to the tail end of it, which means heavier, heartier fare is becoming less and less desired or appropriate as each week moves on.  That being said, as far as I could remember, I don’t think I had ever made a pot pie before, though I’ve certainly made my fair share of chicken stews with dumplings, which are pretty much just pot pie filling without the vessel.  It seemed almost ludicrous to me that I had never bothered to make one, since chicken pot pie rates up there as one of my most favourite foods, but also one I don’t eat very often.  For the record, I can’t even recall the last time I had one before this, which seemed like reason enough to follow through with it.  Fortuitously, I’d received an email recipe from Chow recently that sounded like just the ticket, so I planned to work on it when I got home that night.

Of course, as I read through the recipe I realized I was missing several things; peas and pre-roasted chicken being the most noticeable exceptions.  I wasn’t ready to let go of the idea though, so I went rogue.  Instead of adding the peas, I just increased the carrots, celery and potato all to a cup.  For the chicken I opted to take the liquid that you’re supposed to simmer the chicken in, substitute buttermilk into it so that it would keep the meat moist and tender and poach boneless, skinless chicken thighs in it until they were cooked through.  Once everything was cooked and creamy, I assembled the pie as directed and topped it with a yummy puff pastry lid.  45 minutes later, I was in pot pie heaven.

The Everyman was so fond of the pot pie that he went back for thirds that night, and then proceeded to request it in his lunch bag every single day until it was all gone.  I’d say it was a winner.  Unfortunately, since he also asked me to keep this one in the regular rotation, I imagine it’s possible that I’ll be in the kitchen sweating my arse off over some pot pie filling this summer.


Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name?


During the past few months I’ve become increasingly entranced by the idea of making my own pasta.

While achieving ribbony, hand cut noodles has been a work in progress, I’ve slowly but surely become more proficient, bit by flour-covered bit.

As such, I’ve been on the market for some form of pasta machine, but ever since my snafu with the stand mixer pasta attachment, I haven’t been in much of a hurry.  I’ve also been told they can be quite expensive, so I didn’t want to plunk down any cold, hard cash until I was absolutely certain it wasn’t just a passing fancy.  In the interim, pastas have been made with some regularity in our household by using the old fashioned method of rolling pin plus sharp knife.  Rustic for sure, but still extremely satisfying when compared next to your standard out of the box fare.

So, while the Everyman and I were out shopping for our upcoming trip, it occurred to me to stop into a housewares store to check if they happened to sell pasta makers.  In the first store I was out of luck, but ducking into the second as we headed towards the exit, not only did I find a pasta maker, but it was the last one, and a floor model at that, so for all intents and purposes it was a steal.  The only catch was that it didn’t come packaged, which meant that a) there was no manual, and b) it took the clerk 20 minutes to try and figure out what the SKU was so they could enter it into the cash register.  But, for a mere $20 I certainly wasn’t complaining.

Semolina Dough


Battle Of The Bird

As anyone who has read my Taste T.O. wing comparison would be able to gather, I have a bit of a soft spot for the venerable chicken wing.

The hiatus that I’ve taken from consuming them since I wrote that piece was abruptly brought to an end last week, after I pointed out one of the latest in the crop of wing joints to open in Toronto (The Wing Company) to the Everyman.  You see, the Everyman is also quite a fan of the chicken wing, and once he took a gander at the menu, his eyes glazed over with that barely concealed lust that he reserves for daydreaming about his junk food of choice.

Inevitably, it wasn’t long before he was trying to cajole me into ordering delivery, but as fate would have it, The Wing Company (thankfully) only delivers 3 days a week (Thursday through Saturday).  Which meant that he had to wait until Thursday to take them for a test drive, dovetailing nicely (for him) into our weekly “survive the Everyman’s cooking” night of the week, when he is supposed to provide (read: cook) our dinner.

Without having tried them, it seemed that the main appeal of a place like The Wing Company is the customization aspect.  Wings are their metier, thus their focus is on little other than the coatings of said wings and the sides that’ll go with them.  As of this writing, the count of sauces/coatings tops out at 40, which is impressive to say the least.  On the first occasion, I ordered the hot buffalo blue flavour, whilst the Everyman selected the smoked lime tequila sauce, with a side of poutine.  The buffalo blue was tangy and slurpable, but hardly what I would consider hot (probably for the best) and the Everyman’s smoked lime tequila had a well balanced spiciness, but gave off the faintest whiff of curry (another flavour option) leaving me to wonder whether the toss bowls were properly cleansed between uses.  Overall though, the wings themselves were crispy, fat and juicy, and not at all the disappointing nubbins that hardly have any meat to them at all.  The poutine was remarkable for something that arrived by delivery, and while the Everyman adored it, I found the gravy a touch too salty.

On Sunday afternoon, the Everyman had a hankering for poutine in the worst way and wanted to order from The Wing Company again, but a call placed to them shortly after opening confirmed that they do not deliver on Sundays.  Recalling that another wings-only company had opened in the area recently, I set about finding a menu for Wing Shop 366, which is available through Grub Canada.  They sported a remarkably similar concept t0 the one at The Wing Company, though they also dabble in burgers and salads, with a sauce/coating count sitting at a respectable 52 options.  Noting the numerous overlaps between the two, the Everyman was game and hoped for the best.  His wings of choice were a half pound of jalapeno pepper sauced with the balance of the pound done in traditional BBQ, while I opted for a half order of dry parmesan and a mini 2 ounce burger.  To be fair, the burger was well charred and probably would have been more palatable if I’d enjoyed it piping hot, but I found it reminiscent of the way McDonald’s used to taste when I was a wee foodie whose parents threw her 3rd, 4th and 5th birthdays in their party room (i.e. made of something resembling real food, but still mediocre).  The wings were exceptionally crispy but repellent, tasting only of the aged oily sludge they were probably fried in.  The parmesan tasted of funky sawdust that likely came from a green cardboard can, while both of the Everyman’s selections were so unappetizing that he didn’t finish either of them.  Their version of poutine was a soggy hodgepodge; the experience on a whole guaranteeing that we’d never order from them again.

As if those weren’t enough wings for one week, last night the Everyman and I ordered in from The Wing Company again, this time opting for traditional BBQ for him, BBQ blue for me, and a sampler of the dry salt and malt vinegar.  Both BBQ’s walked the fine line between sweet, savoury and heat, with the blue cheese adding the appropriate amount of zest, but the salt and malt vinegar stymied us both.  The salt flakes were visible, but no aroma or zing could be detected.  No matter.  After consuming that many wings in the past 7 days, it didn’t hurt either of us to stop well before finishing the combined 3 pound order.  The one curiosity I’ve noticed about The Wing Company is their propensity to send only celery sticks with their meals, which leads me to believe that they must not like carrots.  Not that the tiny bags of veg in any way balance out the excess that is a typical wing dinner, but it’s funny to wonder why, nonetheless.


Meatycake, Meatycake, Butcher Man


Day by day, it’s getting colder and colder, and becoming more and more apparent that summer is long gone.  With that shift in seasons, we spend a little less time cooking outside on the grill, and a little more time indoors baking, braising and stewing, etc.

One of the indicators that typically signals the arrival of fall for me is my willingness to spend time making homemade stock.  Such a steamy, sweaty endeavour would be out of the question during the dog days of summer, but in the fall when days are brisker and nights hold a chill, warming the air with rich, meaty scents sounds like a wonderful, reflective idea.  It also happens to appeal to my waste-not-want-not mentality.  Each time I make stock, I continually marvel at the amount of flavour you can extract from little more than kitchen scraps.  And with such a small amount of effort, you can improve just about every dish you add it to.  Bored of rice?  Simmer it in stock.  Making mashed potatoes?  Boil those in stock first, too.  Deglazing pan juices?  Stock can do that.  In just about any cooking application where you would use water or wine, stock makes a flavourful stand-in.

But, before we get to the meat of the matter, a few “suggestions” about making stock that will make life a little easier.

1) Be organic – I try to buy as much organic food as possible, mostly because I think it tastes better, but also because it’s better for me and the environment.  I usually try not to preach to others about why they should too, because I understand that some things about food are very personal matters.  In this case I’m breaking my rule, though.  If at all possible, try to use organic food to make your stock.  With something as simple and elemental as boiled bones and veg, imperfections easily come through, so starting with the best product possible will automatically put you ahead.

2) Save, save, save – If you roasted a chicken, save that cleaned carcass in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  Once you’ve amassed a few, you’ll be well on your way to a flavourful stock.  And don’t hesitate to add vegetable trimmings to the bag either, as long as they’re cleaned first.  Carrot peels, onion skins and celery leaves all make great additions to a stock base.


Allioli… A New Form Of Kitchen Torture


As soon as I saw the recipe for this month’s Daring Cooks challenge, I knew I would have to make a few alterations, but I was ultimately intrigued.

The recipe that Olga selected was a rice dish with cuttlefish, mushrooms and artichokes by Jose Andres, an American chef who trained under Ferran Adria at El Bulli, one of the few culinary meccas I must visit some day.  With that in mind, I knew the dish would be robustly flavoured and hearty, so I set to work considering alternative ingredients.

Since the Everyman doesn’t eat seafood, and I am finding myself allergic to more of it every day, I first opted to switch out the cuttlefish for chicken and chorizo instead.  Next, I realized that even though we had half a dozen different specimens of rice in the house, none of them were the one I needed, so instead I chose to what I thought was most similar in properties, yet unique, a purple Thai rice.  Lastly, the Everyman eats neither artichokes nor mushrooms, so I had to omit those in favour of the last of our local asparagus and some corn.  I know that with all those substitutions you can hardly consider it the same dish, but I’d like to think that the spirit of the challenge stayed the same.



Birthdays At The Foodie’s House

Angel Food Cake, Figs And Strawberries, With Crown Royal Ice Cream

Yesterday was the Everyman’s 29th birthday.

If you were to ask him, he’d probably tell you that it is a holiday in Ontario because he was born (he’s so ridiculous).  It’s funny too, because I know 3 people who were born on that day; the Everyman, his sister in law, and an old coworker/friend from my previous job.  The Everyman tells me he also shared this birthdate with one of his grandfathers, but I never got to meet him.  It’s a small world after all, I guess…

Aleppo Chicken, Wheatberries And Chili Corn

At any rate, one tradition I’ve always loved is allowing the birthday celebrant to pick whatever they’d like to eat, and then preparing it for them.  We’d been to The Black Hoof on Sunday after having a craving for ‘nduja (what with mine not being quite ready yet) plus we’d been out to eat for lunch as research for an upcoming Taste T.O. piece I’m working on, so we were both really jonesing for some home-cooked fare.


The Joys Of Buttermilk; AKA How To Get The Everyman To Eat His Chard

Oven Fried Chicken

The Everyman’s not a huge fan of the tougher, leafier greens that have become a staple of our CSA share during the past few months.  Some weeks that means they get turned into oven “chips” for me (FYI – I finally made the kale ones and they do taste like potato chips, oddly enough) while others they are relegated to the bottom of the compost bin.

It pains me to throw good food away, but there are only so many dried “chips” I can eat. This past week I drew a line in the sand, said enough was enough, and determined to make a chard dish he would love.

The immediate concept was to make a fried chicken-type dish, and then side it with some stewed greens, using chard in place of collards.  Being that I don’t care to fry things, I opted for oven “frying” instead of oil, because it would be quicker, easier and healthier.  On the rare occasions I make battered chicken, (I blame my teenage years working for KFC for my impartiality regarding fried chicken; some things once they are seen, can never be unseen, unfortunately). I also like to up the health quotient by crusting it with something more substantial than AP flour (not that we even keep AP in the house, anyway).  Usually it ends up being a crust of whole wheat flour, wheat bran and flax meal, but this time I had something slightly different in mind.

The Everyman’s mother has a gluten allergy, so I have a vast array of “alternative” flours in my basement freezer ready and at hand for any baking emergency or requirement.  The latest acquisition in my floury arsenal was a tub of spelt flour, which sounded like a good choice, so I poured some into a bag, added the requisite wheat bran and flax meal, some pimenton, salt and pepper, and shook it all around, after soaking the chicken legs in buttermilk for a few hours.  On it’s own it didn’t look overly appetizing, what with spelt flour having an almost grayish cast.  Once coated onto chicken legs it started to perk up a little, and by the time it was out of the oven, it looked sensational, as seen above.  In case you’re wondering, it tasted fantastic, too.

To side the “fried” chicken, I rough chopped my chard into medium-sized pieces, tossed it in a pan with some olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes, and let it sauté until the chard was limp and collard-like.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the Everyman eat any vegetable that fast before.  Our chard dilemma solved, it’s clear that I will definitely be making this again. (more…)

A Is For Aleppo


After having talked up a storm last week to convince you that you should try aleppo, I started thinking it wouldn’t be a bad idea to explore other uses for this smoky and subtle spice.

Strangely enough, the July issue of Bon Appetit (unearthed while searching for aleppo recipes on Epicurious) yielded a Steve Raichlen barbecued chicken dish featuring aleppo, so I decided to test it out.


On paper the ingredients list reads tantalizingly; sliced lemons, yogurt, aleppo, oil, vinegar, garlic and tomato paste combine to form a fragrant and rosy-hued marinade.

Skewered And Sprinkled


Mmm, Liver

Chicken Goji Pate With Freshly Baked Baguette

I love liver…  as long as it’s ground up into an unrecognizable paste that’s been highly seasoned with cream, spices and booze, that is.  For the most part the Everyman won’t eat liver under any circumstances, so when there is pate, it’s usually all for me.

As much as I enjoy a creamy pate, I never quite caught on to the appeal of eating a plain piece of fried liver with onions for dinner.  So I don’t.  Ever.  But every once in a while I do get the urge to play around with pates and create something sumptuous and luxurious out of a piece of meat that a lot of people typically discard.  It just so happened that this weekend I was in that creative mindset…

To the best of my recollection it’s been a few months since the Everyman and I last visited The Black Hoof, but I’d never stopped thinking about that ethereal goji fois mousse we’d gobbled on our last visit.  From the get-go I’d known that experimenting with fois was way out of my budget (specifically because I’d mess it up) so I’d always intended to prepare my version by flavoring a chicken liver mousse instead.  Unfortunately, working with liver is not particularly fun.  It’s cold and sort of slippery-slimy, and it gives off a not entirely pleasant ferric smell.  I know, stop making it sound so awesome that you have to make it right now, right?  But, a goji mousse was desired, so certain sacrifices had to be made.

Once the livers were trimmed and cleaned, they were set aside while I sauteed some chopped white onions.  Once translucent, the livers were added back to the pan with a healthy sprinkling of fresh thyme.  The gojis were reconstituted in a small cup of boiling water (though in hindsight I probably should have just used warmed brandy) and then added to the pan too.  The mixture was sauteed until the livers were cooked through but still mostly pink.  Then the whole lot was thrown into a food processor and whizzed into submission.  While it was spinning about the cream and brandy were drizzled in, along with a modest dash of salt and pepper.  Lastly, (because on occasion I end up with too loose a pate) an envelope of gelatin was added to help firm up the contents.  After thoroughly cooling, I sealed the top of the pate crock with a layer of schmaltz; partly for preservation, but mostly for a little added flavor.  Refrigerating for a few hours helps to properly set the mousse to a spreadable consistency.


What I Did This Weekend

No one can accuse me of not being exceptionally industrious.  Take a peek at some snapshots of what I’ve been up to this holiday Monday.  Somehow, I think Queen Victoria would be proud.

First, there was the tower of jerky (actually, it took 3 of those towers of cooling racks 4 racks deep to get through all of the jerky meat I marinated) and I’m still working on drying it all.  Before it gets dried it sort of looks like a giant tower of bacon, doesn’t it?

Homemade Meat Tower