Saturday, February 14, 2015

Southwestern Chili

What do you really want this Valentine's Day? A sexy, beautiful homemade treat or a hot and spicy, comforting bowl of chili? I choose comfy any day, in fact, I'm happily wearing sweatpants with fuzzy slippers and sporting a messy hair bun right now. Then, there's the delicious chili I made waiting for me to devour. I've tested this recipe twice so far, so I know it's a winner!
Southwestern Chili
Recipe adapted from Curtis Stone's What's For Dinner?
(Makes about 8 hearty bowls)

A handful of dried chili
8 garlic cloves, peeled
900 milliliters of reduced-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons of lean ground beef
2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 medium white onions, finely chopped
28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
2 19-ounce cans of red kidney beans, drained
Grated cheddar cheese
Chopped Scallions
Fries or tortilla chips

Boil hot water in a small saucepan.

I never actually measured how many dried chili I dump in this. It's roughly a handful or enough to fill a small bowl as seen in the photo above. I cut them in half and remove the seeds as well. There's still a very good spicy kick! If you love putting hot sauce and sriracha on your food, this is a good heat level. You can of course add more or less depending on your comfort zone. After the chili is prepped, put it in the saucepan with the hot water. Leave for 20 minutes so that chili softens. You can use a bowl or plate to place on top to keep the chili's submerged. During this time, peel your garlic cloves and chop your onions.
When the 20 minutes are up, place the beef broth, garlic cloves, chili, salt, and pepper in a blender, chop until everything is well blended. Set aside.
Place your pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Pour in the canola oil, once you see it shimmering, add the ground beef. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to scrape the bottom and break up the meat. Add in the cumin, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in the chili-garlic-beef-broth sauce, the tomatoes, and the vinegar. Bring to a gentle simmer, uncovered. Reduce the heat to low or medium-low depending on how strong your stove is. Cook for an hour and fifteen minutes, stir occasionally. After half an hour, add in the kidney beans. Chili will thicken, best served hot!
Don't forget to garnish!!! Grate some cheese and chop up some scallions.
Make chili cheese fries by topping the fries with cheese and pour on some chili to melt it. Garnish with scallions.
Gooey goodness. I love melted cheese.

Or, serve with tortilla chips for dipping. Go Tex-Mex by garnishing with cilantro and avocado instead! I don't know what the weather's like where you are, but Toronto is going through a deep freeze, it's currently -17°C and it's supposed to feel like -40°C tonight. So warm up with a hot bowl of chili. This only takes 3 hours - tops - to make!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Chase Fish and Oyster

10 Temperance Street
Toronto, ON M5H 1Y4

Birthday weekends are the best! We haven't eaten out and tried a new restaurant in a long time, so Howard did a little research and picked a restaurant for my birthday dinner last week. The only stipulation I gave him was that I wanted oysters. I think it's been more than a year since I've had a good oyster platter!
Oyster platter delivered. Each table is given a card and pencil to mark the amount of raw seafood they would like to order. So I penciled in three Foxley Bay oysters and three Salt Grass oysters after our knowledgeable waiter went through the description. All oyster platters come with fish and oyster hot sauce, cocktail sauce, and migonette. Just so perfect that I could try each sauce per oyster. Maybe eight next time so I can really load up the lemon and horseradish on one.
We tried a bunch of sharing plates and this was by far our favourite. The big eye tuna "nachos" - in quotation marks because it was made with crispy taro root chips, hot mustard saffron emulsion, and sweet onion and shoyu dressing. Delicious and refreshing, it was so good during this chilly winter, imagine how much better it would be eaten on the patio during the summer!
Next up, the hot smoked white fish on toast with caviar and pickles. Great flavours and I don't even like pickles! But everything worked together to form that perfect bite.
Couldn't resist a side of shoestring fries. I love fries.
Octopus with harissa, spiced merguez sausage, mustard greens, and sauteed red onions. We made merguez sausages last summer and I thought they were pretty awesome. But this one was a hundred percent stronger and punchier in flavour. There were only a few slices on the plate, which is a good idea because it can easily overpower the octopus.
We decided to share a main, but thought that the portion was similar to the sharing plates. Regardless, the scallops with pumpkin ravioli, foie gras butter, and arugula was rich and creamy.
I always look forward to dessert, but felt this was too much chocolate and sugar for one person. Did I just say that? Darn, I am getting old! But thank goodness we shared it because it could not be finished as a single serving. The hazelnut bombe with hazelnut whipped ganache, dark chocolate cream, chocolate cake, and candied hazelnuts was like a giant Ferrero Roche minus the thin wafer shell. I can't believe I'm going to say this as well, but dessert was our least favourite dish of the meal!

But that doesn't matter, we are definitely going back and looking forward to trying the other restaurants from this hospitality group: The Chase (which is upstairs), Little Fin (right beside), and Colette Grand Café.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Caramel Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Happy new year! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday and that the start of 2015 has been a joy as well. Our new year's eve plans consisted of being around great friends, Chinese food takeout, board games, and a cookie exchange. There were delicious caramel and chocolate chip cookies as well as an oatmeal, chocolate, and Skor cookie. We contributed a caramel stuffed snickerdoodles - the name having many confused. Where are the Snickers? What makes them doodles? I had no idea, but a chewy cookie is my favourite kind of cookie.
Caramel Stuffed Snickerdoodles
(Makes about 4 dozen cookies)

2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
48 caramels
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes)
  3. Add the eggs and beat to combine. Carefully pour in the dry ingredients and beat until mixture is well combined
  4. Take out plastic wrap and wrap the dough. Chill overnight (or one to two hours if you're in a hurry).
  5. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line your baking trays with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the ground cinnamon.
  7. Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough. Roll into a ball and then flatten to form a disc. Take another scoop of dough and roll into a disc shape. Place a caramel in between the two discs of dough, like a sandwich! Gently fold the edges over so that that top and bottom dough meet. Roll to seal, make sure none of the caramel is sticking out. It should be encased in the middle.
  8. Roll the ball of dough in cinnamon sugar. Place on parchment paper (or silicone mat) on a baking tray. Cookies should be placed two inches apart because they will spread!
  9. Bake for 10 minutes, there might be some minimal cracking on the top of the cookies, but that's' okay!
  10. Immediately transfer to a wire rack to cool, you don't want the cookies to over bake.
Find caramel squares if possible, they're the perfect size!
Leftover cinnamon sugar is great on peanut butter toast with slices of banana.
Don't forget to give the cookies space to spread in the oven!
I love how these turned out. Little soft puffs. Like cinnamon sugar clouds.
And then there was the gooey, melting caramel in the center . . . good luck just eating one!
Snickerdoodles all packed up and ready for the cookie exchange!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mango Pudding

My parents came back from their trip to Hong Kong with cute little milk bottles. It looks like my aunts took them to Milk Top for desserts quite a few time. They tried mango and red bean puddings and I was envious! In turn, I found Sweet Note and tried their milk bottle desserts. They're delicious little treats and I was delighted to learn that we could keep the milk bottles! Well, I guess I have to try my hand at making some pudding then! It's one of my favourite treats and I always try to order one at dim sum.

I made the recipe below three times. The first time, I foolishly let the gelatin and water mixture cool as I was dicing mangoes and basically the solidified gelatin didn't incorporate with the rest. So they didn't set and Howard has been drinking them like shots. Ew.

The second time I found success and brought them over to my parent's house for Christmas dinner. However, the gelatin left surprise chunks in the pudding. I still needed to master a smoother gelatin mix. Third times the charm!
Mango Pudding
(Makes enough for 6 milk bottles)

1 fresh mango
1 package of gelatin (about 2 1/2 to 3 teaspoons)
3/4 cup of water
2/3 cup of mango pulp (or purée)
1/2 cup of evaporated milk
10 ice cubes
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  1. Cut the mango in half and dice into small cubes. Set aside the other half to eat! Or if you'd like, you can save them to decorate the pudding by placing them on top after it has set.
  2. Put the hot water in a small pot and boil, reduce heat to simmer. Stir in the gelatin until dissolved. This step is important!
  3. Turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat. Pour in the mango pulp, evaporated milk, and ice cubes. Stir until the ice has melted.
  4. Add in the sugar and the diced mangoes, mix until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Pour into the milk bottles or ramekins or molds. Place in the fridge to let it set overnight or for about 2 hours. 
  6. Decorate with the other half of the diced mangoes. Or pour a thin layer of mango pulp on top for decoration.
Finally, my best batch yet. Smooth mango pudding with dices of mango throughout.
And these milk bottles, so cute!!!
I'd love to know how to make red bean pudding or green tea pudding. I think flan would also work well in these little bottles. Something to try this week!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Skillet Cookie

Happy holidays everyone! We hope you had a great time and totally chilled this boxing day. I'm happy to say we haven't stepped out of the house yet to venture into the crowds. It's nice when there isn't really anything on your immediate shopping list. That's not to say that we don't have items on our wishlist, but nothing is urgent enough to warrant an early wake up to line up at the stores.

We spent Christmas eve and Christmas days with our family. Both of our parents hosted and made hot pot for dinner. Mmm: tofu, mushrooms, radishes, meatballs, fish, scallops, shrimp, and finely sliced pieces of meat.

This morning I made nachos with my favourite guacamole: avocados, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Tossed in some pomegranate seeds since I was feeling festive. Then a Dutch baby with sautéed apples. It failed. I've made this three times this year, twice it stayed flat and refused to puff up and give me the air pockets I desired. Once (when I actually had guests over) it did and was beautiful and impressive to my brunch crowd. Seriously, I stress over Dutch babies more than soufflés. How is that right? Why does the Dutch baby make me cry?

Well, at least this skillet cookie does not disappoint.
Skillet Cookie
(Makes six 5-inch skillet cookies or two 9-inch skillet cookies)

1 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, place butter and chocolate in it, then melt on low power for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Whisk in sugar until smooth. Let it cool, if you don't the eggs will cook too fast when you put them in.
  4. Whisk in the eggs until combined.
  5. Add in the flour and cocoa powder. The mixture will be very dark, thick, and shiny (see the first photo).
  6. Scoop and place into skillet, about half full. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the batter loses the shininess.
  7. Cool for a few minutes and top with ice cream and sprinkles!
Don't over bake these, you want them to be soft and gooey. They're best when they're still warm. If you don't have enough skillets (who does?? Why would any of us own that many mini skillets?), you can use a small ice cream scoop to divide the batter and drop onto parchment paper as drop cookies.
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