Canadian cocktails and Sriracha sauce

Happy Canada Day!

republican-president-candidate-move-canada-day-ecards-someecards previous-assumption-little-bit-canada-day-ecard-someecards please-accept-mildest-excitement-canada-day-ecard-someecards

Oh, and can’t forget

Canadian Girls

(How did a picture of our kids’ Kindergarten teacher get there?)

Anyway. A little while ago, my friend Trish from the Purple Fig Magazine gave me a subscription to the magazine Bon Appetit. Shocker, I really like it (I’m talking Bon Appetit here, but I love The Purple Fig like crazy too! Check out its new look!). I think Trish chose this particular magazine for me because they cook very dangerously in every article and recipe. I can almost guarantee that there will always be at least one ingredient I’ve never heard of, and since never having heard of an ingredient is my speciality, I have to admire their efforts. This month, they turned a filing cabinet into a smoker, which isn’t an ingredient per se, but there’s obviously some seriously dangerous cooking going on around there. I kind of fantasize about working there.

So another article in this month’s issue gave beer cocktail ideas, and I think that we can all agree that beer is a very good theme for a Canada Day post. Except that after a quick Google search, I was disappointed to learn that we’re only #19 in the world in beer consumption. Don’t worry, though — after my initial disappointment I decided to turn a gap into an opportunity. I promise to do my part to bring up our numbers. Let’s call it my Canada Day resolution.

But back to the beer cocktails. I decided to try one they called the “Sriracha-lada.” I bought some Sriracha hot sauce to use as a dangerous ingredient a while ago when I heard that the plant in California was being shut down because residents were bleeding from their eyes and stuff (lightweights). I’m exaggerating about the hemorrhaging, but the fear that there would be Sriracha-hoarding because the townspeople were suffering was true. Here is a super-cute article about the importance of Sriracha hot sauce.

And here is the recipe. I fed it to two very willing Canada Day guinea pigs — my husband Phil and my brother-in-law John — at our cottage. Please ignore the size of my husband’s head in that picture. I had them re-pose, but the improved photo turned out blurry. His head is actually regulation size. For a Canadian.

The Sriracha-lada (courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine, with a few alterations)

  • 1oz lime juice (juice of about 1.5 limes)
  • 1tsp Sriracha hot sauce
  • ice
  • favourite beer
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Lime wheel
  • Worcestershire sauce (called for in original recipe, although I didn’t have any)

Directions: Mix er up. The only part that’s not super obvious is rimming the glass — dip it in lime juice, and then pop it into a plate of coarse salt before adding the other ingredients. Here is a pictorial recipe.

Sriracha and limes

 

This next shot is pretty much the same as the previous one, but John was insistent that he wanted his hand in a picture. So to fulfill his hand-model dreams…

John's hand

Sriracha

Mill Street beer

Sriracha-lada

John and Phil

Results: Meh. These tasted like a light Caesar, but not as good. And yes, I mentioned the Caesar in honour of Canada Day, because that is a good drink, and only Canadians know about it for some reason. We drink it instead of a salad. Who doesn’t want vodka in their salad? I can guarantee that Canada is #1 in clam juice consumption, that’s for sure. Anyway, this cocktail was drinkable, but Phil and John made the suggestions to use a heavy beer and not to skip the Worcestershire. I liked the Sriracha itself — it feels like the normal basic standard that all other hot sauces should be compared to. Some might be better, many are probably worse. Get me? As for the cocktail, I’m going to have to give it a  rating of 1 Gag. If a cocktail has alcohol in it and I didn’t finish mine, it means it wasn’t very good.

Happy Canada Day!!

Rob Ford says goat is good, mon

Do you have any aptitudes that started to express themselves while you were young? I hadn’t really reflected on my early foodie tendencies until this past week when my long time friend Krishna came over. (Her name isn’t really Krishna. I had to change it because she hates all things social media and her real name is highly Googlable because there may only be one of her. You should see the woman bolt when someone shows up with a camera looking like they might post to a website. I’m totally going to hide with her when the NSA comes for us all, because I guarantee she’s never left her DNA on a single thing in her life).

Krishna's version of posing

Krishna’s version of posing

Anyway, I met Krishna in Grade 9, and although at the time I just thought we were hanging out, now I can see that we partly bonded because of our foodie natures. We would often sneak into a movie (through the exit doors as people are leaving, in case you ever wish to do the same. Then when you get caught, just try to look really innocent and say, ‘Oh, this isn’t the entrance?’ and then kill yourself laughing afterward when you reminisce about how guilty you actually looked). After the movie, we would go to a grocery store and walk around checking out the different products and sharing commentary about which ones were interesting and which ones sucked. Isn’t that what all fifteen-year-olds do in their spare time?

When we were about 16 we both decided we needed to try sushi, so we took a bus for nearly an hour to hit the one place that offered it outside of our smaller city. It still annoys us to go for sushi with people who say they enjoy it and then just order the rolls.

Later, we were in computer class together. Our teacher thought it was great “real-world” practice to log what we did in class every day (time and materials-ish I guess). I found this highly annoying, because although obviously I enjoy journalling, when I’m forced to follow a schedule, I’m far less enthusiastic. I’d go weeks without doing it and then have to catch up. Krishna let me copy her more diligent notes – in exchange for dinner at the Chinese buffet. This was a win/win for everyone.

When I got my license and we were able to sign ourselves out of school, we would blow off the afternoon and drive across the border for chicken wings. FYI, you don’t have to go all the way to Buffalo for buffalo wings, but you do have to go as far as Niagara Falls.

Honey's Niagara Falls

So last week when I was talking to Krishna on the phone and she said, “I just treated myself to some curried goat,” it was no surprise that I coincidentally had just purchased some to experiment with, because we always have these kinds of things in common.

Goat

The other night when she came over, I apologized that she would be eating goat twice in two weeks, but I knew she wouldn’t complain. As expected, she was enthusiastic, although she did apologize, saying that she might not have Rob Ford’s expert palate for Jamaican cuisine.

(Tried to embed the vid of the glorious Mr. Ford dancing to Bob Marley there, but I needed Flash and I think we’ve all seen enough of him anyway).

I wasn’t very familiar with traditional Jamaican curried goat having only tried it once years ago but after Googling recipes I decided to go for a coconut milk version, because coconut milk rocks. Krishna told me afterward that generally the curried goat she’s had is more gravy-like, but that she enjoyed how to coconut milk made the sauce thicker and more clingy. Here’s the recipe that I made up based on a number of recipes, in case you want to get your inner Rob Ford on…

Slow Cooker Curried Goat with Coconut Milk

  •  One package stewing goat (there will be bones)
  • 1 onion
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 4 Tbsp curry powder. I was lucky enough to find this one. Does this picture mean the goat is a cannibal? 

Goat curry

Directions: Chop onion coarsely, and add with garlic and ginger to a food processor. Fry this blended mess for 3-5 minutes. Add goat and flour to pan and brown slightly.

Goat pieces

Add goat and remaining ingredients to slow cooker and let it go 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high. Serve over your favourite rice – I chose black sticky coconut rice since I had lots left over from my last post.

Results: 

Curried goat

The goat tasted old shoe-like with just a hint of tin can. Ha! Kidding. The meat tastes a bit like lamb – dark meat-ish. Krishna said that using the slow cooker was a good idea because sometimes goat can be tough. Some may find it off putting to eat from the bones, but it’s really kind of fun. The curry was very nice and tasted rich, but I shied away from adding chiles because spiciness tends to disagree with my innards in my old age, but Krishna was disappointed. She hates buying chips or foods that say “spicy,” that don’t actually have any bite. So if you make this curry (even with another animal) add some chiles if that’s up your alley. Rating: 3 Yums Rob Ford and even real Jamaicans might enjoy this curry. Maaaaaahvellous.

Paneer and a Pen Pal

So this post is a fun little diversion from my usual experimentation with weird ingredients – except that I still experimented with weird ingredients.  I’m addicted, really.

Anyway, I’ll explain.  This month I finally signed up for “Foodie Pen Pals.”  Lindsay at theleangreenbean.com runs a pen pal program where foodies are paired together to trade food items by mail, and then they blog about what they received at the end of the month.  So this is that blog!

I was excited to receive my package from Ashlee at Twitter handle @missashlee286.  I opened the box to find…

Very considerate that Ashlee had planned a whole family meal for me within our $15 limit!  Maybe I should hire her as our personal chef, because that’s the kind of budget that I should really obey on a more regular basis.

So I was excited to get started, and liked the idea of a chicken curry, but if you know me well you know that chicken isn’t quite weird enough for my strange tastebuds (unless it’s mixed with something strange, of course), so my mind started to veer and swerve until I was at Costco and found this:

A gigantic package of Paneer, or Indian cottage cheese.  The picture really doesn’t do justice to how big it was.  You may be wondering how many people I was looking to feed with a huge double pack of something I had never cooked before, and the answer to that question is two, because there was no way my kids were going to try it.  You may also be wondering, “Why wouldn’t she just go to a regular grocery store and get a teensy pack once she knew that was what she wanted to do,” but again, if you knew me well you would know that I do everything in my power to reduce the number of times I have to wrestle my children in and out of car seats.  If I can buy everything at one store I do, even if it means I’ll be filling my fridge with a supply of cheese that would feed the entire cast of Slumdog Millionaire for a year.

I’ve eaten Paneer from restaurants with peas (mattar paneer), and also with spinach (palak paneer), and I love both, but my family is more partial to peas so I bought a bag of those big enough to feed the island nation of Australia and rushed home to get cooking.  I Googled recipes for a while to figure out what else needed to go in this dish, finding only that ghee (clarified butter which you may remember from Helen Bannerman’s kids’ story is actually made of tigers) and onions were the main elements that were consistent, other than the spice and sauce elements which I was already lucky enough to have received.  So here’s what I did:

Ooh, but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.  I forgot that Ashlee had planned for me to have a kid-friendly appetizer, so I boiled up some grapes in 1/3 bottle of leftover wine and 1/2C sugar, added them to the crackers and Wow butter (awesome substitute for peanut butter which she knew I liked due to earlier blog post – peanut allergic daughter) and made little fake-PB&J snackers.  And before you call the Children’s Aid, Mom (again?), I boiled the wine and sugar together for a good long time so there was no alcohol left when the grapes were coated.

But back to the Easy Mattar Paneer.  SO quick and easy:

  • 2 cups paneer cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 2Tbsp butter – I didn’t have ghee, using regular butter rather than the tiger variety
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 package Kitchens of India Curry Paste, or your favourite curry mix or recipe
  • 2 servings of rice, per package directions

Directions:  Melt butter in pan over med-high heat.  Add cubes of paneer, cooking until browned.

Set aside.  Add onion to pan and cook until translucent.  Cook frozen peas in boiling water, drain, and add to pan with onion. Add curry sauce and paneer and cook just until hot.  Serve over rice.

Results: My first foodie pen pal experience was a great success!  Dinner, which I cooked a few nights ago, was enjoyed by all, and I cooked the identical meal again tonight using spinach instead of peas and it was just as good.  I also unloaded a great portion of the leftover paneer on my friend to prepare, so it may be the recipe that keeps on giving.  Thanks again Ashlee!  Recipe Rating:  3 Yums

Bonus Fun Facts about Paneer:  People have been eating it since before 6000BC, and now it’s served as the “McSpicy Paneer,” at McDonald’s India.  It has probably reinvented itself even more often than Madonna has.

 

Horseradish that made my husband whinny

This entry is only my third, but it has, so far, taken the blue ribbon as far as my husband is concerned.  Little does he know I very nearly poisoned him.

When I entered my beloved discount grocery store to find an experimental food to cook this week, I picked up a giant, gnarly root, and thought, “Okay, giddy up.”  I really did think that, so I had to write it even though doing so makes three horse references in almost as many sentences, so you’ll have to forgive me.  Here is a picture of what it looked like:

But this is where I ran into a problem that may end up being a persistent one through my adventurous cooking exploits.  The root was labelled with the following sign:

When I brought the smelly thing to the cashier, she held it and looked at me with a look of boredom, saying, “horseradish?”  I had hoped she was wrong, because I thought that horseradish was far too normal for my experiment.  I pulled out my phone and showed her the sign it had been labelled with, but she said that no, she thought it was actually horseradish because taro was white.  I shrugged and told her sure, silently vowing to go home and look up photos because maybe she was wrong, although I’m sure that that cashiers at those places are so well informed that they should actually be allowed to go straight into a Master’s in Botany without an undergrad degree.  

Anyway, I’ve returned to the store once since I picked the thing up, and have noticed that many mysterious foods seem to be missing labels or are piled up alongside one another so that it can be difficult to tell what you’re actually buying if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Wish me luck in future.  The second time I went back the taro sign had moved (this was actually when I took the photo above, having deleted the first one when I found out it probably wasn’t taro) and the roots looked more round, which made me think that the cashier had been right, as if there was any doubt.

When I  got home I googled taro and saw that the roots did indeed look more round than mine.  It also said that if you didn’t soak taro roots overnight before eating them, and if you ate them raw, they were toxic.  Let’s hope the cashier really did know what she was doing, because if my mystery veggie was horseradish I wouldn’t be soaking it and would be eating it raw.  Oh well, my husband would be the only one eating it anyway.

Now although I was disappointed that I had inadvertently picked up horseradish for several reasons – it’s a boring, well-known food, and also as mentioned I’m not a fan, preferring to enjoy my expensive cuts of beef straight up – my husband was overjoyed, because although he’s mostly indifferent to what he’s eating, he really enjoys horseradish that burns your tastebuds off and melts the hair out of your nose.  He sometimes pays for an expensive dinner at his favourite cheesy steakhouse, “La Castille,” in Mississauga, specifically for this privilege.   So I made horseradish from scratch for the first time using the information on this page, which took less than five minutes, and I made him the happiest guy ever.  Plus, making horseradish was really cool.

The reason why making horseradish is cool is because you have complete control over the results by manipulating a three-minute window of time.  I’ll explain.  When you cut or crush it, damaging the cells of the plant, enzymes go to work in a chemical reaction releasing mustard oil.  The root immediately goes from an unassuming tuber to a stinky, eye watering concoction when you mince the peeled, cubed root in your food processor, as I did.  If you don’t add vinegar within a short period of time to stop the reaction, the root darkens, becomes bitter, and loses pungency.  If you add vinegar immediately after processing (2-3Tbsp per cup) the horseradish is fairly mild, but if you let it sit for 3 minutes or so, the horseradish gets progressively hotter, which is the way my husband likes it.  The whole thing takes very little work to get exactly the results you want, which is rare in food prep, if you ask me.

My husband loved the horseradish.  He slathered it all over his steak and coughed a few times until he nearly choked, but apparently that was a good thing.  He excitedly said things like, “we could bottle the rest, horseradish keeps forever!” which isn’t true, one website said a few weeks in the fridge, but I liked his enthusiasm.  He did jump up from his chair and put away the rest of what was in the food processor, overjoyed when he remembered he has a boys’ weekend in only a few days and my horseradish might be that certain something that would give their prime rib night legendary status.

I’ll make it again and again. 

Rating:  3.5 Yums (if you’re a fan of horseradish)

PS – I started out by looking for a more interesting recipe incorporating horseradish on epicurious.com, but was surprised to find that almost all recipes suggested using prepared horseradish as an ingredient rather than making it from scratch.  Pourquoi?