16 August 2009

"You Can't Win Friends With Salad"

Or can you?

That line is from one of my favourite Simpsons episodes ever - the one where Homer barbecues a pig and irritates Lisa the vegetarian. She brings a salad to the barbecue, and Homer and Bart start a conga line singing, "You can't win friends with salad, you can't win friends with salad".

I made a salad last night for my friend's housewarming party that garnered some pretty decent reviews, so I thought I'd put it here in my first salad-related post.

Baby Greens with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Candied Pecans

Candied Pecans
1/4 cup of butter
2 tablespoons brown or golden sugar
1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
1 cup of plain pecans

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a frying pan, melt the butter. As it bubbles, add the sugar and syrup. Stir to combine. Allow to bubble again for about a minute. Add the pecans. Combine well. Empty the frying pan onto a cookie or baking sheet (line it with tinfoil - saves a lot of effort) and spread the mixture out into a single layer. Put in hot oven for 5 minutes or so. Take pan out of oven and stir the mixture around again. Place back in oven for another 3 minutes. Remove from oven. Select one of the pecans with a spoon, allow it to cool, and then test it to see if it has that toasty, sugary flavour. If yes, they're done. If no, put back in oven for another 2 minutes - just don't let it burn. Remove from pan and put on a dish or piece of waxed paper to cool. They're great to snack on, too.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
juice of 1 squeezed lemon, or a scant tablespoon of bottled lemon juice
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dijon mustard or dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (optional)
sugar to taste (some like dressing more sour, others more sweet - start with a scant teaspoon and keep tasting/adding)

Get your whisk out. Combine olive oil, salt, pepper, mustard, and optional Herbes. Stir. Add lemon juice. Stir. Slowly pour the white wine vinegar into the mixture, whisking the whole time. Whisk until you've fully emulsified the vinegar with the oil. It will look smooth and a bit shiny. Taste it to see if it's sweet or sour enough for your taste. If too sour, add a bit more sugar. If too sweet, add a bit more vinegar or salt.

1 box organic baby greens mix (also goes under the name of Spring Mix)
1 cup of beets (you can either roast and peel them yourself, or get a can - either are good options, but canned is obviously faster/less likely to stain your clothes or kitchen)
1/3 cup of sliced or diced red onion
1 small log of goat cheese
1/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup candied pecans
3/4 cup dressing

Combine it all and serve.

Feeds about 4 as a main (add some chicken or shrimp to balance it out), or 8 as a starter or side dish.

08 August 2009

Try Pie

Feeding a crowd? Or just a few?

Most people can enjoy a good pot pie. I helped to feed my boyfriend's extended family last week with a variation on chicken pot pie. This recipe is good for about 8 normal servings, but if you're having it in conjunction with other dishes, it can feed up to 25.

Chicken Pot Pie

8 cooked and diced chicken breasts
4 carrots, chopped into rounds
1 onion, very finely diced
4-6 potatoes (Yukon Gold are so pretty you might as well go for them), washed, unpeeled and diced
1 1/2 cups of frozen or fresh peas
1/2 - 3/4 cup salted butter
4-6 tbs flour
4-6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup of dry white wine (you don't have to use this if you don't cook with wine normally)
1 tbs fresh or dried thyme
sea or kosher salt
fresh black pepper, ground
teeny tiny pinch of saffron if you like it more golden coloured
1 rolled out sheet of puff pastry (I love love love the President's Choice ones which are already rolled out for you, and amazingly tasty - I don't make my own, which may be sacrilegious in the food blog world, but since I can't give you a good recipe, I'll give you a good brand) *the other option here is to cut the puff pastry into circles and use it like dumplings rather than a crust
1 beaten egg

other veggie options (remember, if you add more veggies, add more stock):
turnip, diced
parsnip, diced
celery, chopped

Melt butter in your biggest pot (okay, not like a corn pot, but maybe a bit bigger than a pasta pot) on medium heat. Add flour, stir to make a paste. Let the paste cook till it turns a kind of light brown colour and smells like toasting flour. Set pot aside. You have just made a roux.

In your second largest pot, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add onions, carrots, and potatoes, along with any other vegetables, except for the peas. Do not put the peas in now - they will be mush if you do. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Preheat your oven to whatever temperature your puff pastry box tells you it needs to cook at. The President's Choice one said 375 degrees, I think.

Go back to your first pot. Turn the heat to medium high. Add the chicken stock slowly, combining it thoroughly with the roux. It should look kind of creamy. Bring to a boil. Add white wine. Simmer again. Add vegetables and thyme. Bring back to simmer, then add the diced chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste, and optional saffron. Allow filling ('cause that's what this is) to cook until the potato seems pretty much done - usually 10-15 minutes. Add peas. If you're using fresh, allow filling to simmer for about 5 more minutes. If you're using frozen, allow to simmer for about 3 more minutes.

Pour mixture into a really big casserole dish. Put puff pastry on top, and spread it out to the edges of the dish. Or, if you've cut it into circles, arrange the circles around the casserole dish - none overlapping. Brush the pastry with beaten egg.

Place casserole into oven and bake until the pastry has puffed up beautifully and turned a gorgeous shade of done. This means brown and kind of shiny. If you poke it with a fork, it will shatter in a flurry of flakiness. Remove from oven and let stand for a minute or two. Cut into however many portions you like.