Monday, October 11, 2010

Food, well, by us

Our Sunday Thanksgiving dinner was put on hold until today to do a squash ravioli with brown butter and sage sauce and salad with pomegranate, goat cheese and pork belly confit (lots left over from last week).

Jason Laurin, mentor chef and owner of Essence Catering, wisely left me with enough squash from the recipe challenge to repeat the butternut squash ravioli – a pasta dish.

Enter my forte … my domain

So with the free range turkey, we bought at Aubrey Meats in the ByWard Market, brining for an extra 24 hours, fresh pasta and salad was now on the menu.

Making pasta isn’t difficult, but finding the right recipe is key – and it took a long time to figure that part out. The Jamie Oliver method is the easiest and most flexible that has always produced nice light dough: eggs for as much as you want to make, splash of olive oil, pinch of kosher salt and white flour.

Combine these ingredients in a food mixer until granular yet holds together when pinched. Dump on the counter and work lightly to form into a ball. The dough doesn’t need to rest, but it works better if it sits in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Separate the dough into reasonably workable sizes. Pass through your KitchenAid pasta attachment (get one) until thickness (or thinness) “5”.

Before the pasta making step, the butternut squash was chopped in small cubes, sautéed in butter with fresh thyme, kosher salt, ground pepper, honey … and friggin’ bacon.

The addition of bacon was my stupid move of the day. Thinking that bacon would add nice flavor to the squash, it was added to the squash while it was cooking. Well, it didn’t crisp up – duh.

Once the squash was tender enough, it was taken out. The bacon was left in the pan to crisp up with more Maplewood bacon, for good measure. As the two bacons combined in the squash grit, a quarter cup of white wine was used to de-glaze the pan.

The squash was returned to this mix, and left to cool until putting it through a mix food mixer for the ravioli filling.

The ravioli sauce was a Dianna-combination of browned butter with homemade chicken stock sauce, topped with sautéed sliver almonds and fresh sage.

The ravioli and salad were absolutely delicious and, I humbly believe, could be served in any restaurant we enjoy so much.

Today, we’re preparing the turkey and a never-made turkey stuffing with cranberries ravioli.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A good beginning … a tasty one, anyhow

My first recipe/meal challenge ended last Sunday evening around 7 p.m. when it was plated with Dianna’s artistic flair.

Believe me, there was a heavy a sigh of relief when we took the plates out of the dining room table to the dishwasher.

Here’s the observations from this experience:
  • Professional chefs can combine foods and ingredients like there’s no tomorrow.
  • Professional chefs have a sense of humour.
  • Professional chefs can be cruel – this I actually knew from watching Gordon Ramsay’s many TV shows, but didn’t expect from Jason.
  • I’m no pro chef… no kidding.

The final hours of this 203-hour ordeal on Sunday was spent getting the rest of meal items. And that was by driving around the city looking for three ingredients – black rice, farro and champagne vinegar.

All the other ingredients, listed in a previous blog, were quite easy to find.

To make a long story short – farro was never found. It was replaced with Jasmine rice. The black rice and champagne vinegar was located at stop number four (Byward Fruit Market). As an aside, farro couldn’t be found at stores in the Glebe, most of the Market and Westboro.

The meal worked out well in the end and was quite enjoyable and entertaining to prepare. Jason Laurin, my mentor chef, did though throw me to the wolves, or pigs in this instance.

Jason, like those TV chefs, is outstanding and makes it look easier than it is. That’s a good and bad thing. It made me think I could prepare most anything.

The reality of preparing ‘certain’ meals is, it’s no different than watching your favourite team/players. On TV, in the stands and press box, it all looks so easy. You chuckle at the fourth-liners who get five and six minutes of ice-time, but the skills they have can’t compare to the best player you ever played against in your youth and beer-leagues.

But, like “The Secret Life of Walty Mitty”, being the hero in my daydreams meant donning a chef’s chapeau like a pro in my kitchen and doing my best.

My next recipe challenge hasn’t been determined yet, but this blog will next present some simple steps to making squash ravioli and a variation of Michael Smith’s easy-to-prepare frozen biscuits.

Until next time.