Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chili Gonzalez: A Three-Hour Chili in One-and-a-half Hours

I am really into making meals in a single pot or pan lately. I have been investigating recipes which will have tons of flavour but don't require too much attention. Chili is something I never had growing up, but I have wanted to try it for some time.

The single pot style of recipe is perfect for our Wednesday Dinners because we can cook something delicious and still have lots of time to visit without spending all night in the kitchen. The recipe (below) is a mash up of several recipes I found, including Macleid's Rockcastle Chili from Joy of Cooking. Alterations include: halving the recipe (because it just seemed like too much food), using Guinness instead of just any old dark beer (because nothing has more flavour than Guinness) and adding delicious paprika to the spice mixture (because it's delicious).

The rest of these Guinesses accompanied our meal as the beverage of choice.

Since we made this recipe for WeDine, Laura and I have made this again using ground beef but we both liked the round steak/pork version better. Due to our Wednesday time constraints we only simmered for one and a quarter hours but you could add some extra liquid (guiness, beer, or water) and simmer it longer for even more flavour. Let us know if you have any tips or tricks of your own for chili. This fed 4 hungry women and one hungry man (special guest) two portions. My title alludes to Speedy Gonzalez, the quick Mexican mouse from Looney Tunes, who alway evaded Sylvester the cat by being extra fast. Andale Andale Arriba! Make the chili below as quick as you can, flavour awaits.

1 lbs round steak (cubed)
1/2 lb ground pork
2 onions (chopped)
3–4 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 – 500ml can of Guinness or dark beer
2 – 16 oz cans tomatoes including liquid
1 – 16 oz can kidney beans - drained & rinsed
salt & pepper to taste

3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp black pepper

1. Mix spices together
2. Mix steak and pork with spice mixture. We ended up with the cubes of steak partially encased in pork. We also accidentally doubled the spice mixture from the quantity above – which was a bit too spicy. (adjust to your liking)
3. In a stock pot, heat a couple tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat and soften the onions, add the garlic just before starting the meat
4. Brown the meat in batches, to seal the outside but not to fully cook through
5. Once all the meat has been browned, deglaze the pan with the can of Guinness or other dark beer – be sure to get all the flavour off the bottom of the pan
6. Stir in tomatoes, beans
7. Simmer on medium or medium-low for 1–1.5 hours, stirring occasionally

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

A little Country Style in the big city

It was the beginning of September and the sun was shining fairly spectacularly on Canada's largest city when I met up with Sean, former west-coaster and newly-minted Torontonian for some culture-vulturing and sustenance in the Annex (the area around Bloor and Bathurst).

The photo above gives you an idea of where our journey ended – at Riverdale Farm market in the park of the same name, where I saw this beautiful table o' tomatoes of every shape, size and colour. I love that the tablecloth is also all tomatoes. Click on the photo to see it all up close.

You'll have to imagine the shafts of sunlight slanting through the leafy green trees and the little kids running gleefully through water fountains one of these cold rainy days if you need a little cheering/warming up. As I remember, Sean bought some peaches, and it was a lovely place to end an afternoon. But where did we start?

I snapped this photo just out of the subway – at Honest Ed's, of course, a Toronto institution. I love the forms of those letters. I guess they slot a different price next to the items as costs change. But what a good deal on bread, hey? Or should I say, eh?

I was on Bloor to meet Sean at Country Style Hungarian restaurant, another Toronto institution, and a family favourite of Alisha's. Now, if you say 'Country Style' to most Torontonians, they will think 'doughnuts,' because Country Style is also a coffee shop chain that has been around for some time in Toronto. But those in the know will think 'fantastic Hungarian food' instead – and certainly 'fantastically large Hungarian portions' when they think Country Style.

Country Style is one of those great Toronto places that hasn't changed much since mid-century and keeps the gingham tablecloth suppliers in business. I liked the well-stocked counter at the front and the faux-wood panelling, and it's great to overhear conversations in Hungarian and try to decipher them. I believe some of the clientele must have had their particular spots in the restaurant staked out since 1962.

So yes, I took a vegetarian (well, fishatarian, really) to a Hungarian restaurant. Folly, you say? Well, it wasn't all bad, though it was a bit like that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Toula introduces her fiancé to her aunt, explaining that he doesn't eat meat, and the aunt is momentarily baffled before announcing that she'll just make lamb instead.

The waitress was a little confused about the concept of vegetarianism itself, and tried to get Sean a meaty broth soup. Ah yes. But here's Sean enjoying his spaetzle, or dumplings. They were extremely tasty, I have to say. And fully vegetarian!

And here is my totally non-veg option: their delicious wiener schnitzel. Or bécsi szelet in Hungarian (which means 'Viennese slice!' What a great name. It originates from the Austro-Hungarian ties of the nineteenth century).

I have to say, this photo does not fully convey the magnificence (nor the sheer size) of this dish. It was incredible and awe-inspiring. I highly recommend it. The schnitzel also came with the same dumplings that Sean is enjoying above, and a great cucumber salad (which was highly appreciated, about midway through the meat).

I thought my own dinner was astonishingly massive, in a sort of 'undulating waves of schnitzel' way, but someone else had ordered the 'meat platter', in which a large stack of different sorts of meat came skewered on top of each other on a wooden board – and that put mine to shame.

Still, the schnitzel was delicious and highly recommended (particularly if you're an omnivore!) and Country Style is a great destination for hearty eating. 450 Bloor W. Country Style in the heart of the city!

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Monday, November 03, 2008

How to feel glamorous and lazy at the same time

So how do you achieve that delicate balance of dinner moods? Make chanterelle, leek, and goat cheese pie and pear bacon salad, and eat these while drinking white wine and sitting on the floor/couch. The TV should be on. The lighting soft. Voila, glamor and laziness together at last.

Okay, so I guess it's not the height of laziness or anything. But my point is that wrapping anything up in phyllo is really easy to do and feels fancy to eat. All you need to do is pick a few very tasty things to go inside, and use lots of butter. Here's how we did it one Wednesday in October:

My Dad had generously donated a paper bag full of forest-fresh chanterelles he picked over the weekend. He went on a super cool mushroom tour where you get taken out into the forest and taught how to recognize and pick the mushrooms, eat a huge mushroom diner, and come home with untold numbers of chanterelles. Seriously – he was practically begging my sister and I to take them off his hands. Can you imagine? Too many fresh wild mushrooms to deal with! I knew they'd have to show up at Wednesday dinner.

Here are the mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, chillin' out with the bacon for our salad, and some garlic of course:

We sauteed the mushrooms in butter with thinly sliced leeks and garlic. We meant to add wine, but forgot! Argh, well more for drinking.

Alisha preparing the butter for in between the phyllo layers:

Laura holding up a curtain of phyllo, ready to join the others in the pie dish:

After about ten layers of phyllo and butter, we began to lay down the mushroom filling (which had chopped parsley added to it after it was sauteed):

And spread it around to get a nice even layer:

Then the fun part – dolloping on the goat cheese:

And, to finish, more layers of phyllo (I think six on top) and of course more drizzling and brushing on of butter:

The result:

There are times when I've already photographed the meal before digging in, but then I just have to pick up the camera to document it again half-eaten. This was one of those – that decadent filling just had to be exposed! The big fluffy bits of rich cheese, the subtle flavours of the chanterelles and leeks working together, the flaky flaky pastry. I'd eat it again any day...

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