Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chicken, Fig and Mushroom Wilted Salad

This salad is perhaps the opposite of healthy. It is, however, extremely delicious. Also incredibly easy - made up on the fly, as it was - providing you have some pretty obscure ingredients to hand. Luckily, I had stopped by the Italian Centre on the weekend and noticed fresh figs (which I had not previously tried) and my freezer has goodies like the pan scrapings from a roast goose. Fabulous, and under 10 minutes to make.

Chicken, Fig & Mushroom Salad (serves 1):
100g chicken thigh or breast, cubed
large handful crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 onion, sliced
1 fresh fig, quartered
very large handful spinach leaves
1 tbsp goose fat
1/4 cup goose pan scrapings
salt & pepper

The pan scrapings and goose fat meant I did not have to spend any time worrying about flavouring for the meat. To start off, I melted the goose fat in a fry pan and cooked the onion and mushrooms until softened. Those were set aside and the pan scrapings were added to the pan with the chicken until cooked through. The spinach was topped with the mushrooms and onion and those were topped with the chicken. Then I added the fig and some good bread to mop up the drippings, and had a lovely al fresco dinner.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Avocado Pear Salad

A few weeks ago I was over at Court's for a family dinner and forced(!) onto salad duty. Without any pre-planning, we had to work with what she had on hand, and also work around preferences that include no balsamic vinegar and no strong cheese. Surprisingly, this was a hit with everyone. I say surprisingly because Court's husband claims to not like pears or avocado, and my dad claims to not like avocado and cheese.

Avocado Pear Salad:
1 head romaine lettuce
1 avocado, chopped
1 pear, chopped
goat cheese

Sweet Vinaigrette: (my new go-to)
2 tbsp minced onion
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
salt & pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Melting Pot - Bad Pictures, Good Times

I think I have mentioned before that Brooke and I are in a dinner club. Last month, we hit up the Melting Pot fondue restaurant. I have to say that our little group of four had a fantastic time enjoying this very unique dining experience. A few notes to start, I would definitely recommend going as a group of four - a lot of the meals are priced per couple, and a group of four allows you to try two different cook styles, and I would also make sure you have some time to spend out - our dinner took close to three hours, and we felt like we were moving at a pretty good clip.

Seeing as our dinner club is more about experience than budget consciousness, we decided to go with the Big Night Out feature menu. It is a four course meal starting with a cheese fondue, followed by a salad course, then an entree, and finally a dessert. Although each meal is set out in the menu, you are able to change out items from the a la carte menu, and we did so that we got to try more options.
For the first course, we stuck with one of the suggested cheese dips: the Feng Shui, and substituted in one Fiesta. The reviews were mixed from the group. I really liked the Feng Shui, it was very much what one would expect from a traditional cheese fondue. Made with gruyere cheese, white wine, mirin and sake, it was subtle and delicious. I wasn't as taken with the Fiesta. It was cheddar with jalapenos and salsa, and reminded me a bit too much of "nacho" cheese. Our cheese dips were served nice and warm with sides of raw veggies, breads, tortilla chips and granny smith apples. I thought the best pairing was the apple with the Feng Shui. The tartness of the apple paired perfectly with the boozy cheese.

The second course of salad wraps was mostly filler for us. Honestly, with picking all the other dishes, we paid very little attention to the salad course. Really though, how can salad compare with melty cheese or melty chocolate? We were careful not to fill up on the salad, which was not difficult as the salad wraps had some mint in them, and that didn't appeal to any of us.
For our main, we went with the bourguignonne (oil), and the coq au vin (burgundy wine, broth, herbs, mushrooms, garlic). The bourguignonne also cam with a tempura and sesame batters. We had entree plates that were packed with selection. There was ahi tuna, chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, lobster, veggie dumplings, mushrooms, potatoes, and broccoli. As if the food and cook styles didn't offer enough variety, there were sauces as well! The sauces are a bit of challenge to remember, so I may not have each of them 100%. There was a flavoured butter, two different cheesy sauces (one that made for great stuffed mushrooms), a plum sauce, a curry sauce, a teryaki sauce, and one other that I can't recall. Darn it! I knew my memory would fail me.

The bourguignonne was generally the favourite, but it got very hot and therefore it was a bit difficult to cook the chicken and pork through without overdoing the exterior. The coq au vin was also very nice, but without the batters, it didn't rate quite as highly with our group.

Eating this way was tons of fun. We all shared tips on what were the best combos, and the cooking gave us lots of time for visiting in between. The time just flew by.
They saved the best for last. I would definitely go back again just for dessert, and without being as full when it arrived I would be tempted to eat any left overs like soup (I'm classy like that). We totally abandoned the Big Night Out for these choices, and had a very difficult time choosing. In the end we went with one Original (milk chocolate with a swirl of peanut butter), and one Flaming Turtle (milk chocolate, pecans, caramel, and yes, it was flambeed!). We got strawberries, bananas, pineapple, cheesecake, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies for dipping. Just seeing the dipping tray come out was exciting. It's hard to describe how good this all was. I was lusting over the cheesecake dipped in the chocolate and peanut butter fondue for days after. To be truthful, I am lusting after still at this very moment. Yum....

In the end, the bill was a bit pricey (with drinks we were at $60 and higher per person), but to recreate this experience at home would also be pricey and very time intensive. All in all I would say it is worth it for an occasional fun night out. Make sure you go with people that don't mind sharing, and have similar tastes as you so that you can try more. I will be back at some point for sure.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pulled Pork

Does everyone get a slow cooker when they get married? I think slow cookers are like fondue pots that way. I seem to use mine in fits and spurts, but at the moment it is back in my regular dinner rotation. Why? Pulled pork! I love getting pulled pork sandwiches at pubs and restaurants. When we were down in Palm Springs this past winter it seemed to be the thing to have on every happy hour menu. There's a good reason for that, it's cheap and delicious!

The hardest part about this is just remembering to take a pork shoulder out of the freezer, and putting the slow cooker on the counter so that when you wake up you remember to pop the roast into it. Pork shoulders are fantastically inexpensive and manage to produce a huge amount of meat. The best part is that left over meat makes excellent sandwiches/wraps/quesadillas etc.

I generally do the pork roast in one of two ways. The first is to pop it in as is, turn it once or twice during the day if I have time, and just leave it cooking on low for 8-12 hours.

If I feel a bit more ambitious, I throw the roast in a freezer bag overnight with a rub of about 1/4 cup sea salt, 3/4 cup brown sugar, a couple of tbsp of cumin and one tbsp of chilli powder. Other than tossing stuff in a bag, it is the same as above in terms of preparation.
When the shoulder is all cooked, you just pull it out and use a couple of forks to "shred" it. It pretty much falls apart as soon as you touch it. I do get rid of a little of the outer fat if I see any big chunks, and I take off the skin. Some people might be a bit put off seeing the skin, but the skin and fat are where all the flavour and moisture come from. If you are a bit more adventurous, you can make crackling with the skin (we did this once, but over did it sadly). Cooked pork skin is tasty, but not exactly diet friendly. Also, if I don't do the rub, I will sometimes make a pan gravy from the drippings. If I use the rub, the drippings are a bit too salty to make a usable gravy.


Monday, June 7, 2010

JapaDog - Vancouver

My child is a seven month old jet setter. Already having flown to Palm Springs twice, she got to accompany my husband and I to Vancouver a few weekends ago as well. Airplanes are old news to her. She was great walking around, and that gave us a chance to see a lot more of the city than we expected. With the goal of trying to eat some interesting food while staying child friendly, we followed Anthony Bourdain's lead and hit up the JapaDog stand by our hotel.

Apparently many celebrities have done the same thing - haha!

I went with the Terimayo dog (teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo and seaweed flakes). It was good. I think some people would find it a bit sweet, but I thought it was quite a lot like a sweet BBQ sauce, which I enjoyed. The seaweed was a bit daunting. I wasn't sure I would be able to eat it without spilling everywhere, but it was good, and not as overpowering as I feared. My husband had the Oroshi dog, and it had tons of radish on it. He found that to be a bit intense, and was feeling it all day afterward.

It is definitely worth a stop next time you are downtown Vancouver and looking for a quick bite. I intend to hit it up again next time we are there and try a different offering.