Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ma's famous tourtiere

Now this recipe is really famous! My mother Gisele (Brossoit) Dupuis has always been a great cook and tourtiere, or French Canadian meat pie, has always been one of my favourites of the things she makes. So this year on Christmas Eve she supervised us in the ritual pie-making while we recorded the process for posterity. My son Daniel took the notes as well as doing most of the work on the pastry. I did most of the work on the filling. It was a great family moment to be treasured.

Makes two pies


3/4 lb ground veal
3/4 lb ground pork
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped finely
1/2 large carrot, diced finely
1 stalk celery, diced finely
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp savory
1/2 tsp sage
1 tblsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup bread crumbs *or* 3/4 cup mashed potatoes

1. Saute vegetables until a little soft, starting with carrots, then celery, then onions & garlic

2. Start browning the meat with the vegetables. Start with the pork, then add the veal, then the beef. Once the meat is browned and everything is well combined, add the savory and sage.

3. While browning, make sure the mixture doesn't get too dry and crumbly. You can add some bread crumbs or mashed potatoes at this point to act as a binder.

4. Let cool completely before putting in crust.

Crust & final prep

1 lb vegetable shortening (ie. Crisco)
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (approx) of ice water
egg wash (1 egg beaten with a splash of water)

1. In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter, gradually add the shortening to the flour & salt about an eighth at a time.

2. Make a well in the middle and slowly add the water, mixing quickly with a spoon.

3. Using your hands, combine & knead the dough.

4. Roll out the dough into the tops and bottoms.

5. Put the bottoms in 9" pie plates, add 1/2 the filling to each, to the top of the plate.

6. Carefully put the tops on the pies & trim excess. Using a sharp knife, cut some vents in the pies for steam to escape.

7. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush egg wash on the tops. This will help them get a nice golden brown.

8. Put the pies into a 450 degree oven. Immediately reduce the temperature to 350. Bake for 50 minutes or so, until the pies are a golden brown.

As usual, it was great, a true recipe to savour as part of our family heritage. The tortieres freeze extremely well, so making one for now and one for later is a great way to take advantage of the two pies this recipe makes.

You'll also have a fair bit of pastry left over. What we did was make a bunch of pinwheels -- flatten out a one inch ball of pastry & spread 2 tblsp of a brown sugar/pinch-of-cinnamon mixture and roll them up into a cigar-shaped roll. We ended up with about 10, my son Sam doing most of the work here. Put them in a few pie plates and egg wash them. Put them in with the pies -- they take about 25-30 minutes to get golden brown.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dad's famous chili

If I have one signature dish, this is it. It was one of the first things I started making when I took to cooking a couple of years ago and it's also one of the things most requested by the family. So, it has a special place in my heart.

Chilis are great in that they are also really great canvases for experimentation -- I've never made the darn thing the same way twice. You can always add something, drop something, increase, decrease, spice up, tone down. Get a couple of chili cookbooks and just wade in, try a few recipes until you find what works for you. And it can't be a bad thing to have a few chili recipes in the repertoire.

Makes a large pot of chili, at least 8-10 main course servings
Serve on its own or over rice

Core Ingrediants

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
2-3 bell peppers, chopped, various colours: green, red, orange, yellow
5 stalks celery, chopped
2 spanish onions, 1 diced, 1 chopped
5-6 cloves garlic
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
2 cans tomatoes, 1 ground, 1 diced
2 cans beans, drained, choose from white kidney, red kidney, black beans
1 can niblets corn
splash of red wine
olive oil
1 tsp sugar

This is quite a large number of ingredients, but obviously none of them is really cast in stone. You can use more meat is you like, and many use cubed chuck instead of ground. You can also try ground turkey if you like, as that is quite good too. For onions, I pretty well use a different kind every time I make chili; sometimes I just use two to three diced yellow onions and leave it at that. On the topic of vegetables, there's a lot of pro and con for using vegies in chili and I'm definately on the pro. I used to use carrots too, but I've mostly settled on peppers and celery. Tomatoes and beans are up to you. I like using black beans exclusively but the last time I made chili I only had red kidney beans around the house so I just used those. I like using one can of diced and one can of ground tomatoes to both give a bit of body and a bit of chunkyness. Using two cans of ground would also be great.

Spice Mix

3 tsp cummin powder
1 tsp papkrika
1 tsp chili poweder
1/2 tsp
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

The spice mix is one of the most fun things to experiment with, trying different things and different proportions. This mix alone will give flavourful yet still pretty mild chili. I don't use a lot of salt here for the simple reason that the beans usually have a lot of salt in them, as do the canned tomatoes, so I don't feel the need to add much more in the mix. My son Daniel and I have mostly worked on perfecting the mix.


2-3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded, stemmed, diced


2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a can, seeded, stemmed, diced
1-2 tsp of the adobo sauce from the can


1-2 tsp hot sauce of your choice

Heat is a very personal choice, especially if you're preparing chili for a family with smallish kids. You can just leave any of these items out, mix them together or pump up the volume using additional chilis or hot sauce. I like using the chipotle myself.

1. Brown diced onions, garlic and meat with a little olive oil in a skillet. Sprinkle about 1/4 of the spice mix over the meat as you are browning. Reserve.

2. In a large dutch oven, saute in a little olive the rest of the vegetables that you are using: celery, peppers, chopped onion. Saute until a little soft, 5-8 minutes. Add another 1/4 of the spice mixture as you saute.

3. Add meat mixute to vegetables & combine well. Deglaze the meat pan with a the red wine & add as well. Add canned tomatoes & beans. Add 1/4 of spice mixture & sugar (sugar is to counteract the acidity of tomatoes, you may not feel you need it).

4. Add heat ingredients at this point.

5. Bring to a boil & let simmer until you're ready to eat.

6. About 20 minutes before you serve, add cilantro & corn. Adjust seasoning. Add as much of the spice mixture as you think is necessary.

Chili is a blank canvas -- I never make it the same way twice. This recipe is mostly patterned after the last time I made it, but all bets are off the next time. So much is dependant on mood, season and what's lying around the kitchen. Enjoy the recipe, but mostly make it your own, make it you signiture dish.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Chicken Peanut Curry

This Chicken Peanut Curry is another one from Simply Recipes, my favourite recipe blog. Their recipes are usually simple and tasty, with that little extra something that catches your eye to make you want to give it a try.

I love curries but have generally not made them too often. Indian cooking seems like it has to be hard and long and complicated, so I was happy that this recipe seemed to be pretty easy to make. As usual, the recipe below is slightly modified from the original to reflect how I actually made it.
Chicken Peanut Curry

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken pieces, cut into 1 1/2 inch wide chunks or strips
1/2 cup flour
4 Tbsp curry powder
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, de-veined, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
8 green onions, chopped, greens included
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 limes cut into wedges

1 Rinse chicken and pat dry. In a small sturdy freezer bag, combine the flour, curry powder, salt and pepper. Shake well. Add the chicken pieces and shake to coat well.

2 Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat. Add chicken pieces. Cook 5-10 minutes (depending on size of chicken pieces) tossing occasionally to cook chicken evenly. Add the ginger, garlic, chili pepper and 1/2 cup of the chicken broth to the saucepan. Cook for 3 minutes, scraping the pan with a spatula and stirring to combine everything well.

3 Add the peanut butter, stirring quickly to incorporate it with the chicken. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups of broth slowly, stirring continuously to maintain an even texture. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Right before serving, add the coriander and green onions. Salt & pepper to taste.

4 Serve with basmati rice. Top each serving with fresh cilantro. Squeeze a little lime juice over it as well.
Elise suggests 2 serrano pepppers, but those aren't easy to find here; also, I only used 1 jalapeno so as not to make the recipe too spicy. As well, she suggests garnishing with mint and cilantro, but I didn't have any mint handy.

So, how did this one go over with the troops? Although I thought it was just fine, the rest of the gang felt it was "missing something" in the depth of flavour category. I think since I considerably reduced the heat factor by using 1 jalapeno instead of 2 serranos (or even 4 jalapenos like Elise also mentions trying), it may not have been as flavourful as they were hoping. When I reheated for leftovers the next night I added a teaspoon of some curry masala spice mix I had lying around in the fridge as well as about a 1/4 cup of raisins and let it simmer with that a bit. It made it a bit spicier (and sweeter) but the peanut gallery was decidedly happier with the results. How much of that was just due to the leftovers-always-better-the-next-day factor? Who knows.

In any case, next time I'm definately going to use 2 jalapenos, a bit more peanut butter, raisins and a bit more curry powder directly into the pot. I'd also consider adding some veggies to the mix, like a green pepper or two or some zucchini.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Macaroni and meat sauce

This is one of the iconic meals of my youth, something my mother made quite often. And I just loved it. It was probably the second favourite thing that she made, right after shepherd's pie. Unfortunately, in recent years she's mostly forgotten how to make this recipe -- the last couple of times she's made it it wasn't quite right, if you know what I mean. So I set about the hugely significant task of recreating the recipe from memory, from my taste impressions over the years. And you know what? After about 3 tries I think I've got it. I made this last night and it was a huge hit, with lots of enthusiasm for even better tasting leftovers tonight.
Macaroni and meat sauce
makes 6 - 8 main course servings

1 lb dried elbow macaroni
1.5 lbs lean ground beef
1 very large onion (I use the biggest Spanish onion I can find)
4-6 stalks celery
1 jar (3-4 cups) tomato pasta sauce
4-6 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp italian spice
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. Saute the onions, garlic & celery in some olive oil until they start to get a bit soft, about 8 minutes or so. After a few minutes, add about 1/2 the italian spice and red pepper flakes. Set aside in a bowl.

2. Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water according to the directions on the box.

3. Brown the meat with some olive oil, add the rest of the italian spices and red pepper flakes. About 5-8 minutes.

4. When the meat is brown, add it the veggies and the tomato sauce. Make sure you don't add too much sauce, as the mixture needs to be quite thick and meaty. Let simmer for a few minutes while the pasta finishes cooking. Check the seasoning and add whatever seems necessary.

5. Drain the pasta. Combine the pasta and sauce in the biggest of the pots you used. Mix it all up very well. If you need to add a bit more sauce, this is the point to do it.

6. Serve with salad or chopped veggies and some nice bread.
The sauce I used this time was Ragu Old World Stlye Traditional Pasta Sauce and it worked out very well, but whatever you have will be fine, as long as it's a simple tomato based sauce. This dish needs to be very thick and the veggies a bit crunchy to give it's full impact.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Grilled chicken parmigiana

Rachel Ray gets a bad rep. Her recipes are quick and easy and usually pretty good. Sure she's not a professional chef, but neither am I. What I want is something that's pretty good, pretty easy, pretty fast and pretty healthy for my family. This recipe fits the bill. I like it because it avoids all the battering and deep frying of the traditional chicken parm while still maintaining the good flavour.

This version slightly modified from the original.

Grilled chicken parmigiana

6 thin chicken breast cutlets, about 2 lbs
Olive oil for grilling & sauteing
3 to 4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chrushed hot red pepper flakes
1 medium or large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 slices bacon or smoked ham
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 pound smoked mozzarella, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Grill the chicken cutlets on a well-oiled grill pan. A frying pan works too.

2. Meanwhile, place a medium pot on the stove over medium heat. Add some olive oil & saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and onion for 10 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the tomatoes and heat through, 2 minutes.

4. Preheat the broiler to high.

5. Layer the chicken with the tomato sauce in a casserole dish. Top the casserole with Parmigiano and mozzarella. Brown the chicken parm casserole under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.

Ray suggests using a can of "fire-roasted diced tomatoes, such as Muir Glen brand" which doesn't seem to exist in Canada. On the tv show, she suggest a bit of bacon to replace the smokiness if you can find the fire-roasted tomatoes. The smoked mozzarella really adds to the flavour and shouldn't be substituted if possible.

This recipe makes 6 cutlets but we only ate 4 at dinner. The next two days I fixed myself a couple of really nice chicken parm sandwiches with the leftovers. Yum-o!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Split pea soup

I love pea soup. It's something my Mom used to make quite often when I was a kid, it's a kind of French-Canadian staple. I've often had canned pea soup and its often quite good too, especially the Habitant brand. So, I decided to make it for myself. And as is quite common in these sorts of projects, I was inspired by watching Michael Smith on Chef at Home make his version of speedy split pea soup. The recipe below is very closely patterned on Smith's.
Speedy Split Pea Soup with Bacon

Make 6-8 main dish servings

1 lb package bacon, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, washed and chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled sliced thinly
2 cups dried split peas
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water, in any combination. Use low sodium stock if possible
2 bay leaves
1 dried rosemary
2 cups frozen peas
1 tbsp of any vinegar
1 ham bone (optional)

1. Place bacon in a large soup pot over a medium high heat. When the bacon is brown and crispy drain away nearly all the fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pot.
2. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the pot and sauté for a few minutes.
3. Add the dried peas, stock, ham bone, bay leaves, rosemary and pepper.
4. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until the soup is thick and the peas are completely soft, about 1-1.5 hours
5. Stir in frozen peas and stir to heat through.
6. Stir in the vinegar and adjust seasoning to taste. The bacon and stock are already quite salty, so you probably don't need to add any more.
How would I do this one differently next time? Well, I was just lucky to have a ham bone around to simmer with the soup, so that's likely to change. Also, I'm not a huge bacon fan so I might switch to 1/2 a pound of bacon and 1/2 pound of cooked ham. Ham is more traditionally French-Canadian in this recipe anyway. I didn't check any of my traditional French-Canadian cookbooks before starting, so I might do that as well to see if I can get any ideas.

BTW, this one was a real winner, a huge hit with the family last night.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dad's famous subs

I love making submarine sandwiches and, thankfully, my kids love it when I make them too. This is a quick and easy supper or lunch. Serve with some kind of salad or sliced veggies. I'll give the ingredients per sandwich.
1 panini bun
1/4 lb (100g) mixed coldcuts
1 slice havarti cheese
sliced tomato
sliced dill pickle
hot mustard

1. cut bread open

2. assemble sandwiches

As far as meet selection, I like to use three different kinds in the sub. Usually two fairly plain, like smoked turkey or maple ham, but at least one that has a very strong flavour, like a good salami or summer sausage.

Tuna salad

This one's adapted from Michael Smith's book Chef at Home. I like this tuna salad a lot and use it every week or so to make sandwiches for my and kids lunches. It's also great just eating on it's own as a side or a snack. It's also one that really encourages experimentation with incredients and ratios until you find that way you like the best. This makes 4 to 6 good-sized sandwiches.
2 cans tuna
1 tbsp diced red onion
1 1/2 diced dill pickles
small handful chopped cilantro
1 1/2 stalks celery
2 tbsp dijon mustard
splash of olive oil so it all holds together
salt & pepper to taste

1. combine all the ingredients in a bowl & prepare sandwiches.

Another thing I like about this recipe is that it's a nice sandwich salad that doesn't use mayo. A very important consideration is what kind of tuna you use. The Italian style tuna packed in olive oil, but that's a bit expensive sometimes. Using one can of Italian (use the oil) and one of regular tuna packed in water (drain the water) works very well too.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dad's famous potato salad

Simply Recipes is my favourite recipe site, and I slightly adapted this one from Elise's Dad's Potato Salad Recipe. I usually add the word "famous" to all my signiture family dishes: Dad's famous chile, Dad's famous burgers, Dad's famous subs. I'm sure I'll get around to posting those all one day too. But for now, enjoy this really tasty potato salad.
4 mid sized Russet potatoes
4 Tbsp juice from Kosher dill pickles
2 finely chopped dill pickles
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 or 3 stalks celery, chopped
1 or 2 chopped scallions

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the potatoes (skins on). Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from pot. Let cool enough to handle, but still warm. Remove skins. Cut potatoes into inch sized cubes.

2 Put potatoes in to a large bowl. Add the juice from the Kosher dill pickles. Add the finely chopped pickles themselves. Add parsley, onions, celery, scallions.

3 In a separate small bowl, mix mayonnaise with mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the dressing with the potato mixture. Again, salt and pepper to taste.

The most significant change is that I switched cilantro for parsley. Personally, I just like the flavour of cilantro better and I think it adds a real zing to this recipe. Also, the 20 minutes that is suggested for the potatoes might not be enough. To get them soft all the way through takes another 5-10 minutes (unless of course, you like them a bit crunchy).

Two bean salad

This is a kitchen-sink-style salad I made the other day, mostly using stuff just lying around the fridge and pantry. It was surprisingly good.
1 can black beans (rinsed)
1 can white kidney beans, rinsed
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 avocado, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 chopped roasted red peppers (from a jar)
1/2 small red onion, diced
parsley to taste
pepper to taste (no need to add salt, beans are probably already salty enough)
oil & red wine vinegar as dressing, to taste

1. Combine everything in a large bowl.

2. Add dressing & toss gently.
What could I have added? A can of tuna would have turned this into a great lunch salad. Also, any kind of bean would do, especially canelloni instead of white kidney.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Southwestern rice

I love the flavours of the southwestern USA, guacamole, chile, the whole range of flavours. One of the mainstays of the cuisine is the spice cumin, and this recipe really showcases the earthy, rich aroma of cumin.

I adapted this one a bit from a recipe on Michael Smith's show Chef at Home, on Food Network Canada. I love that show, it 's really what inspired me to take up cooking as a forty-something. Smith has a great, easy going way of presenting, he really emphasises the ease of preparation of most recipes. He also mostly uses fairly common ingrediants in basic preparations. When he shows you how to braise something, you really get an idea of what braising is all about. His style of cooking without a firm recipe is also inspiring -- you really think, "Hey, this is easy, basic ingredients in simple preparations -- I could do that!" And, mostly, you can. I first starting watching Smith while staying home with my wife while she was recovering from an operation, so we had lots of time to watch tv together and I certainly had the opportunity to get a bit of practice in the kitchen. The rest is history! (One of these days, I'll blog the first thing I made, his clam chowder.)

Anyway, back to the recipe:
Makes 4-6 side dish servings

1 cup of basmati rice
2 cups of tomato juice
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 red pepper, diced
1 12 oz can of corn kernals
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper

1. Put rice, tomato juice and 1/2 tsp of cumin into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover with a lid and simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Toss with fork and let cool slightly.

2. Heat oil in large skillet. Add the rest of the cumin to the oil.

3. When it begins to smoke, add onions and peppers and sauté quickly until they are softened and slightly caramelized.

4. Add corn and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Add rice, season with salt and pepper and stir-fry until incorporated.

5. Stir in green onions, cilantro and lime juice and adjust seasoning.

We served it this evening with a nice baked ham from Nunzio's Fine Foods on Bayview in Toronto, and it was a great combo. Another link for Nunzio's, one of my fave places for good food, especially meat and fish. I also can't speak highly enough of Michael Smith's Chef at Home cookbook.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Philly cheese steak

I've done this one a couple of times already and it's very popular with the kids. I don't follow any set recipe; I just did a google search and read a bunch of different recipes and combined the ones I liked into my own version.
For 4 sandwiches

1 large onion (red, spanish, yellow as you prefer)
2 bell peppers (green or red are probably best)
3-4 stalks celery (optional)
2 lbs steak (see below)
cooking oil
4 kaiser rolls
12 slices provolone cheese (more if you like it cheesy)
favourite BBQ sauce

1. First, when choosing the steak, any cut suitable for grilling will do. When choosing, make sure you get a thicker cut, at least 1/4" or more. put it in the freezer for about 1.5 hours until partially frozen. This will make it easier to slice into thin strips.

2. Slice onion so you'll get nice meaty slices. Chop peppers fairly small, so they'll get soft quickly. Same with cerery if you choose to add those. Celery is fairly heretical here, but I like the crunchyness so I add it.

3. slice meat into long thin strips.

4. Saute the veggies in the cooking oil for 5-8 minutes, at least. When they're starting to get soft, take them out of the pan and put them aside for a minute.

5. Now put the meat in your pan and saute for a couple of minutes, until mostly cooked.

6. Add back the veggies and cook all together for a couple of minutes to get everything combined with the juices and for the veggies to get soft.

7. Slice the kaiser rolls and put the cheese on. Kaiser rolls are extremely heretical here. However, they are nice because since they're round the filling doesn't squeeze out as easily.

8. Spoon the steak & veggie mixture onto the cheese.

9. Put some BBQ sauce over the mixture. This is also quite heretical, but I love the combination. My current fave BBQ sauce is Loblaw's PC Beer & Chipotle sauce, but whatever you have is fine.
This is a great weekday meal because it's easy and doesn't take all that long to prepare if you have all the ingredients (at least the steak) pre-sliced.