Monday, December 8, 2008

Goat Sausage

I love breakfast. You might have noticed. I also love these lovely people from Au Fond des Bois who make some really lovely homemade goat cheeses. Recently, their son went to train to butcher goats and is now selling the meat every Saturday at the Dieppe Farmers Market. This week he had sausage!

The taste of goat is unique since it's slightly dry, does resemble lamb somewhat but is milder. Regardless of taste though, it's unique and made by some really nice people. People who will travel over 100 kms through a snowstorm to make sure that market regulars will have their weekly cheese fix. My hats off to them and to all of the dedicated merchants who let me fill my fridge with delicious and natural food every week.

Proper Roast Beef

Growing up, roast beef was some dry crusty grey meat that wasn't even edible even when drenched in gravy. But beef is beef. A roast is no different than a steak. And I don't remember my father eating his beef well well done so I don't know why he treated his roasts that way. Oh well, I know better now.

The inspiration for this traditional meal came from two places: 1) my discovery of an organic beef farmer at the Dieppe Farmer's market who raises his cattle in pastures where they are free to graze and live a chemical free life, and 2) yet another recipe in Jamie Oliver's infinitely useful cookbook, Cook with Jamie. I also took out a meat thermometre, something I don't even think my father knows exists.

Mr. Oliver's recipe calls for roasted beets alongside the beef but seeing as we're past the season of variety at my local farmers markets I made due with root vegetables. I chopped up some ruttabegga, small potatoes, organic carrots (that actually taste like carrots) and the sweetest little onions you've ever tasted. I pressed some of the onions and garlic into the beef, topped these with a handful of thyme sprigs, wrapped the whole thing in bacon, and then slathered it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Propping my beef contraption on some carrots - for a roast mustn't boil - I cooked the whole thing, excluding vegetables, for an hour in a 400 degree oven. I then added the vegetables and cooked the whole thing for another hour, making sure to baste the whole thing from time to time. I also stuck the meat thermometre in at this point. I wanted my meat medium well. Not dry.

Once the meat was cooked, I put it in a bowl, covered it in aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. In the meantime, I drained the juice from the pan, reduced it and kept roasting the vegetables.

Thin slices of beef with sweet roasted vegetables (the onions were the best since I only peeled them and left them whole) and all deliciously swimming in reduced jus. Very good, very well cooked and very different from what my childhood memories.

My girlfriend even said that this was one of the best things I've ever made. Now that's an accomplishment!

Sausage, Egg and Hollandaise Breakfast Pizza

There's this local chain that we went to recently that really surprised me. I'm not used to being pleasantly surprised by chains. They tend to be bland, umimaginative, poor service, overpriced money pits of consumerism. Now Mikes Restaurants is not an exception. We waited far too long in line before the understaffed staff finally sat us down at a table that had been empty since we'd walked in. But that was the end of our troubles. Our server was great.

All my friends encouraged me to take a breakfast pizza. And, like I said, I was really surprised. The idea of putting everything you would find in a breakfast on a pizza, douse it with hollandaise sauce and melted cheese and place it alongside a bit of fruit and some homefries is simply genius. So being the person who I am, I decided that I would make my own. I'd even make it better. Truth be told, chains aren't very difficult to beat.

First I prepared my pizza dough from scratch...more on that in a later post. I then prepared hollandaise sauce which, it turns out, is egg yolks, butter and lemon juice. Really fattening but oh so delicious. As far as toppings go, I sautéed some mushrooms, onions and sausage after which I scrambled some eggs. Everything went on the semi-baked pizza crust, topped with the sauce, sprinkled with cheese and enjoyed with a tall cup of coffee.

Was it better than what they had at the chain restaurant? Of course. And the victory was as easy as I'd predicted.

Ceramic Coated Frying Pan Rocks

I'm as much of an environmentalist as what I am a foodie. So when the two come together, I'm all atitter with excitement.

There are two lines of environmentally friendly, toxic-free cookware that have come out in our neck of the woods recently: EarthChef and Eco-Chef. Basically, they're the same...ceramic coated cookware that doesn't realease any toxic chemicals into every meal that you cook in them. The frying pan I bought is also made out of recycled materials and has a bamboo handle (actually a grass that reproduces really quickly which makes can sometimes make it a better choice than unsustainably produced wood). Along with a cast iron frying pan, you can't get any healthier than this.

Plus this frying pan is definitely the best I've ever owned. Nothing sticks to it. And you don't have those little black bits that start mixing into the food either.

So go green. Your health and the environment will thank you.

Homemade Pasta At Last!!!

They say that third time's a charm. Well this is the third time that I tried making homemade pasta and I refused to fail. Thankfully, Jamie Oliver's recipe in Cook with Jamie is much more helpful than his recipe in his first ever cookbook where only egg yolks were required. Plus it also helped that I scored some "tipo 00" flour at an Italian deli on a recent trip to Halifax.

The simple recipe calls for 5 cups of tipo 00 or pasta flour with 6 large free-range eggs. The flour should be the finest and silkiest one you can find...apparently, silky flour = silky dough = silky pasta. As for the free-range eggs, I think that if you know that food is unethically raised or pumped full of chemicals then you should stay away. So free-range is common sense.

You must first make a well in the centre of the flour, break the eggs into the well and start working the whole thing together. If you're lucky, you should end up with a nice lump of dough that you could just knead for about 10 minutes making it all soft and smooth. This was the exciting part for me because I knew that I'd finally made pasta dough. When you've got so few ingredients, it's all about texture. So then I just had to wrap it up in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for half an hour. Half an hour with a smile on my face.

One thing that I would consider as an absolute must is a pasta machine. It's either that or rolling the whole thing out by hand. Not something I'd enjoy doing. Even when the dough was so smooth and easily worked. So with my huge ball of dough, I divided it up, pressed it flat and then ran it through the largest setting of the pasta machine for a about 6 runs, folding it over every time to work the dough.

Trying to keep the sheet of pasta's edges square (fold the rough edges into the middle and pass it through the machine) all I had to do then was roll the pasta progressively thinner in the machine. Once I had that, I had a few options. The first I tried was cutting it with a sharp knife but this mostly just pressed the dough together thus making it a bitch to seperate every individual strand.

Fortunately, I have an attachement on my pasta machine to cut fettuccini or spaghetti. Fettuccini was on the menu the first day. On the second day of pasta gluttony, we went out and bought a mould to make ravioli. It was so simple. Just press one sheet into the dimples, drop a bit of ricotta or other filling, lay another sheet on top and press. They all come apart beautifully and make a really nice little meal.

I really love the fact that I can make my own pasta. Next time, I'm trying it with semolina since I find the smooth white flour lacked texture. But I really can't complain too much. Making things from scratch is a pleasure in itself. Eating it is only half the fun. Ok, maybe four sixth of the fun. Anywho...