Taco, ma cherie

Paris Party Table
Earlier this June, we were invited to a friend’s surprise engagement party. It was beautifully decorated and Paris themed, and it was a great night full of good food, good drink, and good people. They told the couple that it was a going away party for one of our friends who was supposedly moving away to San Francisco. The look of surprise on their face when they were trying to figure out why we were shouting “Surprise!!!”, why their family was there, and why everyone was staring at the nondescript couple waltzing in late to the supposed going away party was unforgettable.

Taco Dip

 

I had wanted to do a French-inspired tarte tatine, but everyone wanted taco dip instead, and who is to blame them? I love making taco dip because it’s super easy, and super delicious. We ended up eating leftover taco dip for almost three days straight; it was awesome.

Bottom layer to top:

  • Refried beans mixed with pickled green chilies
  • Taco meat (ground beef mixed with taco seasoning)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream mixed with taco seasoning
  • (This is where I would usually add guacamole but my avocados were too hard.)
  • Salsa – this one was from a jar to save time but I usually like to make it myself
  • More cheese
  • Pico de gallo – I use the Pioneer Women’s recipe
  • Lettuce
  • Top off with more pico de gallo, shredded cheese, and pickled jalapenos to make it look nice.

What happens when you’re shopping last minute is that you don’t can’t always account for the groceries not having what you need. In this case, there were no ripened avocados and only one jalapeno! I settled for pickled jalapenos on top and bought some other hot peppers to mix into it. Unfortunately, the peppers weren’t well labeled and I bought scotch bonnets instead of habaneros. I mixed the scotch bonnets into my pico de gallo in lieu of the jalapenos and it turned out great; it gave the dip a bit more of a kick than usual.  Serve with any corn chips you like. We tried the Tostitos lime chips and they were off the HOOK!

I found it surprising that within minutes of bringing the dip in, someone had eaten the “decorative” scotch bonnet on top, and I didn’t hear anything about it. These south Asians are terrifying with their spice tolerance.

Pickle Jalapeno Backs

Last year, I took almost the same group of people to Montreal for my birthday, where I introduced that to a drink I had found on my trip to New York — The Pickleback. It is a shot of house whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice; you can watch me do the shot here. The shot lined up above was purely spur of the moment when I realised that we had a bunch of whiskey and a whole empty jar of pickled jalapeno juice. So we poured them, and drank them, and they were delicious! I like alcohol when I can’t taste it. :)

Here are a few pictures from that night! There was so much food leftover and as usual when there is alcohol involved, the pictures get blurrier and blurrier as the night wears on.

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A big congratulations to Hamsa and Jehan, both on your future life together and also the most beautiful proposal story I’ve ever heard (hello, he took her to Paris to propose. Excuse me while I swoon.) With an engagement party like that, I can’t wait till the wedding.

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Scallion Pancakes

I decided to make scallion pancakes after reading an article about it on Serious Eats, where they really broke down the science of flaky foods, and how they get to be all flaky and whatnot. They also provided a recipe, so I figured, why not have a go. I like pancakes (I lied, I don’t, but I do like fried dough), and I like green onions, so I went ahead and made them. It was actually kind of difficult, and my end result may only get a 65% passing rate.

I don’t have a food processor so I went super asian style and just mixed it by hand. I started off with a 2:1 ratio of flour to hot water and mixed it together until I got most of the flour mixed into the dough. It looked a little like soft mutated popcorn kernels.

I then poured it out onto my lightly floured ghetto working space (parchment paper taped onto the wooden desk) and worked the dough into one integrated piece of dough. I tried to get it as smooth as possible, but I think I put too much flour into it.

Into a bowl, and covered with a damp cloth to rest for 30 minutes, which actually turned into an hour and a half because I left the house.

After dividing the ball into fourths, I got rid of my parchment thing because it got too difficult to roll out the dough. Don’t worry, my table was actually clean, I just didn’t want to make a mess. So, I rolled out the dough, and spread some sesame oil onto it. It was then that I realized how long I’d gone loving sesame oil without realizing what it was. The smell is so aromatic, but after a few hours of the scent I felt a little ill. But I still love it.

Roll it up.

Twirl it up.

I then flattened it out, added more sesame oil and then chopped green onions on top of it. After which, you roll it up, and twirl it up again.

And then once you flatten it, it kind of looks like this. Yes, I realize its shape is a little bit wonky.

Frying it up.

The dipping sauce was a mixture of ginger, green onions, rice wine vinegar, soya sauce, and a bit of sugar.

And then only thing to do after was to sit down, eat, and enjoy my shows.

The scallion pancakes were not as good as I thought they’d be. They weren’t half-bad though. It’s something I’ll probably crave in a few month’s time. A little doughy, maybe not salty enough. But then again, that’s because I didn’t add salt on after like the recipe said. The dipping sauce was really good though.

I think I didn’t fry the pancakes up long enough because they weren’t as dark as the Serious Eats photos. I still have one raw dough one left in the fridge though that I’ll fry up and make it more well done, you know, for science.

**UPDATE**

Fried up some more, this time, I left it in for longer, and is most definitely more flaky. Very delicious! I am pleased.

Shitty pictures abound.

It's difficult to see, but if you look really hard, you can see the layers.

Apartment Cooking

So, I have been doing some light cooking while at home. Man, do I love a great meal made with my own hands. Well, my own hands and the supermarket. One of the first recipes I made was this tomato-cream one from one of my favourite food bloggers, Ree Drummond. It’s so insanely easy to make, and so insanely delicious to eat, if you’re a fan of rosée ish sauces. Mmm. You basically just cook up some onions and garlic, then pour in some puréed or crushed tomatoes, cook till the tomatoes darken, then pour in some heavy cream. Mix it up, pour in parmesan cheese, and then mix in the noodles. Unfortunately, I don’t have my own photo to add here, too busy devouring. But it turned out more or less like that. So yummy. On non-lent Fridays, I’ll add some chicken breast in for more substance to the pasta, but even plain is good enough.

My first meal, with tomatoes tossed onto me from my friend Zizi after she cut up too much, I made some enchiladas. Just some taco beef and beans inside the tortilla, with melted Monterey Jack and medium Chedder, cilantro, and fresh tomatoes on top.

I do eat quite a bit of pasta, but only because I bought this one never-ending package of fettucini, 900g, and for 1.5 people, it’s lasted me a whole month. This one is an incredibly fresh pasta that is the easiest thing to make. There’s no cooking involved, aside from boiling the pasta. I basically took a bruschetta recipe that an italian mama taught me, but they’re a dime a dozen. It’s only 4 basic ingredients chopped and tossed in together with a bit of olive oil.

  • 2 small Tomatoes
  • 0.5 red onion (they’re sweeter, but you can use any, really. Depends on your preference)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (a fuckton)
  • 4 leaves of fresh basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar (I decided to add this on a whim, experimenting with your recipes is the fun part!)
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

First, start boiling your water and cook your pasta. Remember to generously salt your water, as this is the only place you’ll be able to add some flavour to the inside of the pasta.

So, you chop up the first 2 ingredients. I only put a fuckton of garlic because I love garlic, so if you don’t like it, feel free to lessen it, but the garlic really does make a difference. These are the approximate proportions, but really, I go by what ‘looks right.’ If you don’t like that many onions, don’t put that many. The real workers of this recipe are the tomatoes, garlic, and basil. The onions are the least important ingredient, but is still kind of important.

I digress. Chop those first 2 ingredients. Mince the garlic. Chiffonade your basil aka cut it into thin-ish strips. An easy way to do this is to stack the leaves on top of each other, roll them up, and start slicing. Take all of that stuff, throw them together, lube them up with a bit of olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. The vinegar is optional. Add some salt and pepper to your liking, then allow this beautiful mixture sit for ten-ish minutes and the flavours will marry each other. A big, beautiful Italian orgy.

Make sure your pasta is cooked to however you like it. Strain the pasta. Let it cool a bit, but not too much. Then mix it all up together. Eat it. Die happy.

I cannot believe that I actually craved Vietnamese food. So I called my parents up to ask them how to make Thit Bo Kho (some beef dish), they explained it to me, and then I went to the grocery store and for some reason, bought pork. Ha! Luckily the recipe was interchangeable. First, I made some molasses-like substance (boiling sugar and water till it turns dark). This process is actually pretty delicate, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re clumsy or accident-prone in the kitchen. I basically dissolved a bunch of sugar in water, and then boiled the water out of the mixture. This potion turned into a caramel-like substance and then I put it aside for a bit in a small bowl.

I then boiled the pork to cook it slightly, sliced it up, then browned it in some shallots and garlic. Added some of the molasses, which had hardened slightly, into the pork for flavour and colour. Picked up the small bowl, without realizing that I had JUST poured boiling sugar into it. Boy was it hot. I picked it up with a cloth around it after that. Put in some salt and pepper. Didn’t have Nuoc Mam (fish sauce), but it was alright. It didn’t taste like how my parents made it but it’ll do in a pinch. I also hardboiled some eggs, tossed them into the pork mixture with some water and simmered it for a bit so that it would absorb the flavour of the pork.

The green beans are incredibly easy to make. Look at that heavenly glow. It’s something that my mom makes, and I could eat a whole plate of this by myself. So delicious. First, you cut off the ends of the beans. Wash them. Then blanche them. You just need to get a pot of water to a rapid boil and throw the beans in. The beans will absorb the heat of the water and the bubbles will slow down or stop. Keep them in there until the the rapid boil starts again. It is at this point that you want to drain the beans, they’re going to be so crunch and crispy. ^_^

Mince up some garlic. Throw it into a pan of some sort (people say wok, but I don’t have one so it doesn’t quite matter), with a bit of oil, stir it around for a bit (less than a minute), make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Toss your green beans in, and stir it around. Careful if your beans are still wet because this might cause your oil to splash back at you. Stir around your beans and garlic. Add salt. Pepper if you like (I’m a pepper kind of girl). You can leave it at that or add some oyster sauce. This is rather salty so you’ll want to serve it with rice. But if you like salt, just eat as is.

Crispy inside-out grilled cheese sandwiches. The recipe (really, it’s just cheese and bread) and how-to is found here at Foodwish’s youtube channel. I highly recommend this. Again, I used the monterey jack and medium chedder that I had in my fridge. I had some slices left of the country loaf, so here’s to using what you’ve got on hand! I paired it with Campbell’s tomato soup, to which I added cream to make it .. uh .. creamier.

Mmm.. so that’s that for this post. I am quite pleased with my recent culinary adventures. Now, I’ve got to plan my next dinner. :D

Warning: Vegetarians, look away now.

Mmm, there’s nothing I like better than a hunk of juicy, tender meat. I got these two honkin’ pieces of New York strip at the market where I now work, which is great because these weighty beauties only cost me $14 for both of them. Amazing! I love discounts, they make me feel special. The steaks were fresh, perfectly marbled, and almost two inches thick. $14 is a steal, considering the cut and quality of meat.

Blurry picture of seasoning

Some people like their steaks fancy, all marinated with dijon and rosemary. Others like it plain and simple, just a bit of salt and pepper and you’re ready to go. Me, I think there’s nothing better on a steak than Montreal Steak Spice. I can stick my nose in a container of it and smell it all day. I can eat a whole cow, raw, covered in this steak spice. I can eat this all day, e’eryday. Preparing steak is so easy that it’s almost a crime. If you don’t have time, just sprinkle some of this stuff on prior to grilling. I had some time before I had to cook the meat, so I put it on (I like a lot of it), threw some olive oil on top, and rubbed it lightly into the meat, working it in with my fingers. I covered it in saran wrap and threw it into the fridge to let it mellow until I was ready for it.

There are just a few general guidelines for making a good steak. It’s just such a versatile thing, and a simple steak is so easy to do.

  • Get your steak to room temperature (or close to it at least) before cooking. This will make sure that you get a good sear on it, and nice and pink on the inside without it being cold.
  • Get your pan (or grill) hot hot hot before throwing the steak on top. Melt a little butter, or olive oil, whichever, but make sure to not burn the butter.
  • Put your steak into the pan. Sear on one side, 2-3 minutes, depending on how rare you like your steak. I like mine bloody, so if you like it a bit medium, leave it in for longer. After 2-3 minutes, check the bottom of your steak to see if you’ve got a good texture, flip, JUST ONCE, and sear for another 2-3 minutes on the other side. You only need to flip your steak once. Don’t go fiddling around.
  • For God’s sake, do NOT take a knife and cut the middle to check for doneness. All this will do is let all the sweet juices run into the pan and wasted forever. Instead, use a warm spoon (or your fingers, depending on how hardcore you are) and press into the middle of the steak. The tenderness of this part will tell you how done it is. The softer it is, the rarer it is. It takes a little experience for you to get the hang of this, but there is a handy trick to it (analogies via MensHealth. You can find pictures there too).

  1. Touch your thumb and pinky together, and poke the inside pad (by the palm) of your thumb. It should feel hard and springy, like a tennis ball. This is well done.

  2. Touch your thumb and ring finger together. The pad feels like a racquetball. This is medium.

  3. Thumb and middle finger together, the pad feels like a nerf ball. Medium rare.

  4. Thumb and pointer together, feels like a sponge. This is rare.

  • If you’re scared of burning your steak, but want it well done. Get the fuck out of here. This is no place for a well done steak. I kid. But not really. Anyway, you can cook the steak to as well as you’re comfortable, then take it off the pan or grill, put it onto a warm plate and tent it with aluminum foil for 10 minutes. This will allow the steak to soak up the warmth inside and continue to cook. You can also just take the entire pan, with the steak inside and put it into the oven for a few minutes. But seriously, you should get over the whole well done steak thing, because a medium rare/rare steak is the perfect way to go. It’s just so much more flavourful and juicy. Mmm.
  • One of the most important things to do after you take your steak out of the pan is to let it rest for a few minutes before cutting into it. This will allow all the beautiful steak juices, which have centralized into the middle of the steak, to redistribute and spread back out into each corner of the steak, ensuring a juicy bite in each piece.
  • Something you can do if you wanna get a little extra-fancy (I didn’t): After you cook your steak, you may have a bit of oil and meat juice and beef extras lightly caramelized on your pan. You can take about half a cup of cooking sherry, or red wine (leave your white wines for the fish and chicken), stock, or even some water, into your pan, and then use something to scrape off the bits at the bottom. You can cook it down till it’s thicker, and pour it on top of your steak, or add some butter and herbs, simmer till it thickens, to make a fancier sauce. Go crazy. Add some freshly cracked pepper if you want, I would probably forgo the salt though. You can actually do this for any kind of meat or saute or whatever. Though, I would only recommend doing this if 1. you’ve got a non-stick pan and 2. the little bits aren’t burnt, because this will only make for a bitter sauce.

These are just some general common knowledge tips, but are invaluable if you’re a steak noob.

I paired my steak with a mushroom and crouton salad. I don’t like mushrooms, but Ervin does, so I braved the waters, and this recipe lessens the overall mushroom taste, or maybe I just like the taste of mushrooms now, I don’t know. But I sautéed the mushrooms with a bit of oil and garlic. I bought a nice rustic country loaf, cut it into little cubes and stirred it in until it was a bit crispy. It’s an incredibly easy recipe that’s hard to mess up. The full recipe can be found here. I left out the parsley because of my incredibly picky guest. HA.

I also attempted to make thinly sliced, fried onion strings, like at the Keg. I kind of rivered the recipe, just throwing in a bunch of ingredients that I thought was right. Basically, I used some flour, mixed with salt and paprika, as my dry base. I sliced some onions really thin, dipped them in the flour mix, and deep fried them. They turned out pretty nice. Except for that one batch at the end where I left the pot of oil on the burner for an extra 30 seconds while I did something else. Yeah, don’t do that. The oil got too hot, and when I went to put on the last batch of onions, it burned up instantly and blew smoke into my badly ventilated apartment. I went ghetto 151 Queen Street style (shoutouts to my Hamilton homies. HAAAA) and had to frantically fan to smoke alarm with a pillow, trying so hard to make sure it doesn’t go off and evacuate the entire building. I put the pot outside on the balcony overnight because it scared me.

Other than that little incident, I would declare this dinner a delicious, delicious success. Mmm… I’m hoping for a recreation soon.

Cooktimes in New House

I tried making breakfast today. We had bread, nutella, and bananas. No problem right? Wrong. Don’t let your eyes fool you, that toast you see up there is not at all what you think it is.

I opened up the bag of bread, ready for my 2pm breakfast, when I looked around and found no toaster. Dun dun dunnn. I specifically remember calling my aunt as I was buying the bread, asking if we did indeed have a toaster. Affirmative. So I opened every drawer in the kitchen, there are a lot of them, and can’t find my bread cooker. I hollered out to her, asking where the toaster is. Right beside the water boiler, she says. Right beside the water boiler. On the counter. And on the counter, next to the water boiler, is what? A conventional oven. Or a convection oven. I don’t know what it is called. It’s not a microwave, and it definitely was not a toaster. It’s one of those tiny, miniature ovens.

I was craving my breakfast, so I decided to have a go at it anyway and put my bread in the machine-that-is-not-a-toaster, turn up the heat, and let it go. I watched it for about ten minutes and when I thought it wasn’t doing anything at all, a faint bit of colour creeped along the edges of the white bread meat. Cool, but then it starts spreading faster and faster. I panicked and took the bread out with my hands for fear of burning the bread. Instead, I burned my hands.

It sat on my plate, and it looked okay, so I spread my nutella over, sliced some bananas, and went to town. Upon my first bite, I knew immediately something was wrong. First of all, only one side was crunchy, while the other side was soft as raw bread. I should have seen that coming, so it was kind of my fault anyway. The second bit though, it didn’t even taste like toast. I don’t know what it tasted like, maybe the leftovers of whatever was cooking in their before. But it wasn’t bread. Maybe some particles of the mini-pizzas that me and my brother had cooked the other day was still floating around in that contraption and stuck itself in my bread, maybe it was some other stuff.

I was unsatisfied and therefore will probably go buy a toaster today. That is the story of my failed breakfast.