Sausage gravy and biscuits

11 Oct

It may not be pretty, but a plate of biscuits swimming in sausage gravy is mighty fine.

As cozy as woolen socks on a winter morning or as life-bringing after an over-served summer night, it is pure southern comfort.

Go south and start with good biscuits, like Great Grandmother Ruth’s:

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Or head north with Grandma Nora’s:

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Just don’t let a feud errupt!

Our lazy version is simple, as this dish should be. But we are icked out by the call for Bisquick mix. Surely a small amount of effort is justifiable.

1/2 lb Jimmy Dean sausage

2 tbsp flour

2 cups of milk

Crumble sausage and brown in a large skillet. Add flour and cook. Pour in milk and stir until the gravy thickens.

This New York Times version calls for twice as much sausage, so if you are partial to milky gravy, try the portions above. Some people add dashes of Worcestershire or a splash of morning coffee to give the gravy a less pallid colour.

Either way, keep things simple and you’ll agree: sausage gravy and biscuits are mighty fine.

 

1 pound bulk pork breakfast sausage (quality counts and skip the mild).

¼ cup all-purpose flour, or instant flour like Wondra

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

2½ cups whole milk

Salt to taste

ground sage to taste (optional)

ground fennel to taste (optional)

ground red pepper to taste

 

Set a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it is loose and no longer pink, approximately 10 minutes. Taste sausage and adjust seasonings — you may wish to add sage and fennel aggressively.

Sprinkle the flour and pepper over the sausage and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour has been absorbed by the fat and has gathered its flavors close, approximately 2 to 5 minutes.

Slowly stir in the milk and cook at a bare simmer until the gravy gets thick and the roux covers the back of a spoon. If it is too thick for your liking add more milk and stir. Check seasonings and serve over split or roughly crumbled biscuits.

 

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No Peek Chicken

31 Jul

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In a word, this is delicious. Also a trip to sodium city. Yoy.

A typical pack of eight skinless, boneless chicken thighs fit perfectly in our oval Le Creuset.

We mixed half milk and water to the larger newsclipped recipe (March 1992), which omitted the oven temperature: it should be baked at 275-300F for two hours. We baked at 350F and it got a little crunchy!

Cowboy Cookies

22 Jul

Half batch of Governor’s Mansion cookies.  Excellent if you can rest dough in fridge for 24 hours.

12 tablespoons salted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg (plus 1 egg yolk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups semisweeet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (used less)
1 cup pecans, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add in the sugars and mix well for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
Add the egg and egg yolk and beat well.
Beat in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder baking soda and cinnamon together.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.
Stir in the chocolate chips, oats, coconut, and pecans.
Scoop out 1/4 cup of the cookie dough and place on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Space the cookies 3-inches apart.
Bake in the oven for 17 to 20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cookies remain on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to baking rack to continue cooling.

Cajun. Ah Gha-rawn-tee!

11 May

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Like a ghost from the past, Cajun chef Justin Wilson lives on, laughing and wandering the endless hallways of YouTube. His 1980s Cookin’ Cajun episodes from PBS are well worth squandering your free time.

As kids, we thought he was pretty hilarious. The New Orleans patois: Awn-yawn! That red string tie! Those matching suspenders. What a kook.

Gumbo. Jambalaya. Red beans and rice. Dirty rice. Hush puppies. Pralines. It was all so exotic compared to our WASPy facsimile of cut up hot dogs sauteed with onion and crushed tomato sauce, Worchestershire and scant red pepper flakes, served over steamed white rice.

More refined was chef Paul Prudhomme, clad in his head-to-corpulent-toe chef whites. His Cajun blackening craze was everywhere by this point. Blackened red snapper, anyone? Get that pan smoking hot, flip the hood fan and for god’s sake, don’t breathe in!

Decoding blackening spice pre-internet era was a labour. Long before Emeril was hawking his Essence, you had to make your own. It didn’t take long for Cajun chicken Caesar salad to find a home on every chain restaurant menu. Even our beloved 1980s-era Seventeen Magazine took a crack at jambalaya. Cajun- and Creole- inspired cuisine limped along throughout the 2000s with chicken pasta dishes that were creamy, spicy and loaded with veggies.

Cajun refuses to go away. We can’t think of anything more fitting than a sophisticated Louisana remoulade to enjoy with some shrimp or crab cakes while relaxing on deck with something cool.

Just yesterday, we spotted this:

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Earls restaurant chain has steadfastly kept Cajun blackened chicken breasts on its menu for decades.

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You can see by the amount of paprika in their recipe, they’ve toned down the pepper’s kick. Paul Prudhomme would never stand for it. And you just know Justin eschewed black pepper for his love of the scorching cayenne: “That’s much more better. Ah gah-rawn-tee!”

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

12 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne

34 teaspoon white pepper

34  teaspoon black pepper

12 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

12 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Behold: al Pastor

8 May

Thank you Cinco de Mayo for being the perfect excuse to tinker with tacos.

We’ve been researching al pastor since gorging on them from a charming beach cantina. There is no shortage of sad online recipes (mostly involving slow cookers) but this winner is the closest to mimicking what makes al pastor so amazing minus the enormous rotisserie.

The trick is slicing the meat thinly into pieces about 3-inches-by-3-inches, and ¼-inch thick. Thread onto two parallel skewers to hold in place, packing tightly so there are no gaps (you’ll have enough to make three rows using six skewers.) Then it goes into a 250 degree oven for two to three hours.

And then you get this: succulent, chili-coated pork with crunchy bits and roasted pineapple to sweeten the deal.

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Start two days before by whizzing up this amazing marinade of guajillo chilies, garlic, avocado leaves, achiote paste, cumin, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, kosher salt, apple cider vinegar and chicken stock.

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It makes enough to thickly coat 3 lbs of sliced pork shoulder.

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Perfect for threading onto these fantastic double-prong skewers from Lee Valley. We let these marinate for 48 hours.

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Then it’s time to set them on thick slices of pineapple and slow roast for two to three hours. The pineapple juices do their part to make this unforgettable.

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Don’t forget to flip these a few times to make sure everything gets covered in the juices while cooking.

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We scored some adorable mini flour tortillas to go with our favourite handmade mini corn tortillas from the Latin market. Bonus: they were selling queso fresco, so we grated some of that to go with chopped white onion.

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And here’s the spread, along with a molcajete brimming with guacamole and our favourite desert rose tortilla chip and refried bean dip (thank you Phoenix circa 1982).

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We are happy to report this recipe is another bulletproof keeper, just like our favourite carnitas recipe.

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
2 dried guajillo chilies, stems and seeds removed
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 dried avocado leaves (found at Latin market but still not sure they’re necessary)
1/4 cup achiote paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (will try a smidge less)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 pineapple
12 corn tortillas, warmed (or a stockpile of mini corn and flour tortillas)

4th Street Rose Tomato Basil Soup

27 Apr

Is anything as warming on a cold spring day as soup?

We remember staying dry inside 4th Street Rose as afternoons turned stormy. Their thick broccoli cauliflower cheese soup and clam stew (chock full of diced tomato, carrot and basil) were heavenly. But the bright-tasting Tomato Basil soup was local legend.

Writes Dee Hobsbawn-Smith in the Calgary Herald Sun Apr 29 2001: “One of the successes from my days as R & D chef at Fourth Street Rose in the late 1980s was this wonderful, subtle tomato and basil soup. Canned tomatoes provide better value and colour than well-travelled too-early raw tomatoes in this fresh, quick soup. Here, tomatoes are partnered with the tried and true. Add a handful of fresh basil leaves just as you serve this forth for a fresh blast of extra flavour.”

Tomato-Carrot Basil Soup

Serves six

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter

1 medium onion, minced

4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced

4 carrots, coarsely grated

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) dried basil

1/2 cup (125 mL) water

1 28-oz. (796-mL) can plum tomatoes

2 cups (500 mL) water

1 tbsp (15 mL) honey

3 green onions, minced

salt and hot chili flakes to taste

2 tbsp (30 mL) shredded fresh basil

In a large saucepan, combine butter, onion, garlic, carrots, bay leaf, basil and water. Simmer uncovered, over moderate heat until vegetables are tender, about seven minutes. Add tomatoes, mashing them with a wooden spoon so they are bite-sized. Stir in remaining water, then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir in honey, salt, hot chili flakes and fresh basil.

And here’s the original version clipped from a newspaper back in the day. It’s interesting to see the tweaks between the two recipes.

4 Street Rose Tomato Basil Soup

2 tbsp butter

1 medium yellow onion

1 medium carrot

1 1/2 lbs tomatoes

1/2 cup fresh basil

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 1/2 cups water

1 cup crushed tomatoes, canned

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp vegetable base

Rough chop the onion and carrot, puree in food processor.

In a large pot, melt the butter then add the carrot onion mix. Saute for 5 minutes on low to medium heat. Do not brown the mixture.

While the mixture is simmering, pick the fresh basil off the stems. Cut into thin strips. Cut the tomato into medium sized chunks (spoon sized).

Add the fresh tomato, pepper and vegetable base to the mix. Bring to a simmer and add all remaining ingredients except basil.

Bring soup to a simmer and taste. If the soup is too acidic, add sugar. If too sweet, add salt. Add basil and stir before serving.

For an added zing you can add roasted garlic to the soup at the same stage as the carrot and onion. Many of our staff also enjoy the soup over some white rice.

Oscar Night Bites

15 Feb

Oscar night on the couch is looming. We’ve found our favourite bites through the years but super excited to take another crack at buttery beef crostini bites. We still love the look of egg-wash glossy puff pastry mini star cutouts topping crispy sausage slices.

Ultimate Oscar Night Crostini

Wolfgang Puck’s iconic Smoked Salmon Pizza With Dill Creme Fraiche and Caviar

Oscar-party-worthy hot dogs

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Mini prime burgers and Bubbling Leek, Cheddar and Bacon Dip

Crab Fondue, Cava’s Chipotle Caramel Corn

Star-shaped Cinnamon sugar tortilla chips with fruit salsa

Oscar Crunch