Friday, February 27, 2009

Valentine's Day at Ottawa's Le Cordon Bleu

Chef Marc Berger on Flickr by beFOODled.

S and I spent the night before Valentine's Day at a cooking class put on by Ottawa's Le Cordon Bleu. It was a really fun evening. We made three dishes — a shrimp and anise appetizer, a creamy cauliflower and leek soup, and for dessert, crème caramel à l'orange with marmelade sauce — in one of the school's big demonstration kitchens. The idea was to learn how to make a wonderful Valentine's Day dinner that you could repeat the next day at home.

You can read more about the chefs and Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa in my blog for Food Network Canada, where I also added the recipe for the shrimp and anise appetizer.

There were two French chefs — Chef Marc Berger (above) and Chef Benoit Gelinotte (below) — who helped all of us get the techniques down pat, and many students of the Cuisine Diploma program were there too, volunteering as sous-chefs. They helped us with the various steps, including flambéing our appetizer, which was pretty spectacular!

A nice flambé on Flickr by beFOODled.

One of the students told me that the definitive guide to French cooking is former Le Cordon Bleu chef Auguste Escoffier's Le Guide culinaire, which documents the cooking techniques of French restaurant cooking circa 1903. In Canada, the American translation called The Escoffier Cookbook is easier to find and the next best thing to the original. I checked at Chapters on Rideau Street and there are currently two left on the shelf. I resisted the temptation to buy as I already have several shelves groaning with cookbooks, but it comes highly recommended by the Le Cordon Bleu students!

Chef Benoit Gelinotte on Flickr by beFOODled.

It was also interesting talking to the chefs when while we were cooking. When I asked Chef Gelinotte what kinds of jobs the students go on to do, he told me all kinds. Many of them go off to work in hotels and restaurants, but one shining student of his cut her program short a few months shy of graduation to go learn haute couture in Paris. Can you imagine, just killing time at Le Cordon Bleu? What I would give to do that!

Here's one of the recipes we made:

Crème caramel à l'orange on Flickr by beFOODled.

Crème caramel à l'orange
Serves four

First, make the caramel:

125 g sugar
31.25 ml water
6 g Grand Marnier

Dissolve the sugar in the water and don't stir! One of the students told me that if you stir, the sugar will crystalize on the sides of the pan. Boil until it thickens and turns a dark amber colour. Quickly take it off the heat and when it's cooled a bit, pour a thin layer into four ramekins.

Then the custard:

125 g milk
125 g cream
2 egg yolks
50 g sugar
1 Tbsp orange rind, thinly sliced

Combine the milk and the cream and bring just to a boil over gentle heat. Take off the heat and add the orange zest to infuse. In a separate bowl, add the egg yolks and sugar and mix together. Add to the milk/cream and stir. Strain out the orange zest. Pour over the caramel in the ramekins. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Marmelade sauce for crème caramel à l'orange on Flickr by beFOODled.

And lastly, the marmelade sauce:

four oranges
200 g sugar
50 g glucose
splash of Grand Marnier

Chop the oranges into medium-sized pieces. Cook together in a pot until the oranges have cooked down into a sauce-like consistency. Take off the heat and set aside.

When the crème caramels have cooked, let cool and run your knife slowly around the edge of the ramekin to dislodge the custard. Place caramel side up on a plate and drizzle with the marmelade sauce over top. (We ate our crèmes at the school and took the marmelade sauce home.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

BeaverTails on the canal

BeaverTails on the canal on Flickr by beFOODled.

When I first started skating to work, I ate three of these BeaverTails in the span of about a week. They are highly addictive, and highly Canadian. But I recently found out there's an American connection, too.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Breakfast or dessert?

Breakfast for dessert on Flickr by beFOODled.

Pancakes for supper is one thing, but breakfast for dessert? This might look like breakfast, but it's actually the dessert that we made with Mark in Calgary. This clever little plate finished off the meal that we cooked with him on New Years Day. The egg whites are Chantilly cream, and the yolks are peach halves that I carved into circles. There's a sprinkling of sugar and toasted sesame seeds on top — salt and pepper :). Beside them is a slice of pumpernickel toast and jam, or if you had a mouthful, you would discover it's chocolate cake topped with a berry compote. Such a cute and creative idea. It would be a fun thing to make with little kids :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Irish stew

Irish stew on Flickr by beFOODled.

The morning of our Irish Gastronati, I got up early to make this recipe, which was given to me by my Irish friend at work. I was super-organized and the stew was bubbling away by noon, but then S and I stepped out for an impromptu shopping trip that lasted the whole afternoon. When I came back, the stew had almost dried up and there were pieces of potato stuck on the bottom of the pot. Thankfully all was not lost. I revived it with two full cans of Guinness (thank goodness!) and added fresh carrots and potatoes. The meat completely fell apart as you can see in the photo, but taste-wise it was still delicious and Guinnessy.

Irish stew
(serves six, plus leftovers)

3 pounds of stewing beef cubes
4 slices of bacon, cut into thin strips
5 potatoes, cut into thick slices
3 carrots, chopped on the diagonal
3 onions, thickly sliced
2 cups of stock
2 cans of Guinness
fresh thyme

Fry the bacon in the bottom of a stock pot until crispy. Remove the cooked bacon from the stock pot and set it aside. Pour out most of the bacon fat, leaving about a teaspoon, and add some olive oil. To the same pot, add half of the bacon, potatoes, carrots and onions, and then the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the meat with the remaining vegetables and bacon.

Add the stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Cook for four to six hours at the barest simmer until the meat pulls apart if you want to do it as I did, or simmer for one hour until tender, which is what the recipe recommends ;) Add two cans of Guinness and cook for another hour.

Serve hot with cheese scones and tea biscuits.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gordon Ramsay sighting in Toronto

Gordon Ramsay and my friends in Toronto on Flickr by beFOODled.

Celebrity chef alert! Gordon Ramsay is in Canada and my lucky friends sat next to him in the Toronto airport last night. They said he was very nice (not potty-mouthed at all ;) and he even generously posed for a photo with them. Apparently he was in Toronto for a book signing. After I told my colleagues at work, one of them said he knew someone else who also saw him there. So there has been one degree of separation between me and Gordon Ramsay, which is kinda fun!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Irish Roast Pork with Potato Stuffing

Irish roast pork with potato stuffing on Flickr by beFOODled.

Peanut Butter and Jelly brought this very tasty Irish roast pork with potato stuffing to the Gastronati's Irish night. The recipe is from this website. As with all their dishes, they gave it a nice presentation, this time with apple slices.

PB and J made the following changes: They used shallots as well as white onion, and precooked them with the apples, herbs and butter in a frying pan before adding them to potatoes. They also added a tablespoon of cream cheese to the stuffing, and a little bit of bacon to both the stuffing and the outside of the roast. Lastly, they added more beer than the recipe calls for braising the meat.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Gastronati turn to auld Irish fare

The Gastronati turn to auld Irish fare by beFOODled on Flickr.

As Ottawa's bus strike entered its sixth week, the members of the Gastronati fortified themselves accordingly with Irish fare, a great cuisine for staving off the cold of a Canadian winter.

I brought a homemade Guinness stew, which I almost messed up but not quite (stay tuned for that story later). S and I also brought a pile of Guinness, some of which Mochi, Squeaky and Calimocho's new chihuahua, developed a liking for (see below). It seems that Guinness is good for you AND your dog, but don't worry, we didn't let her have the whole glass ;)

Peanut Butter and Jelly brought roast pork with potato stuffing, and Squeaky and Calimocho made colcannon, a dish with mashed potatoes and kale, soda bread and cheese scones, and a homemade Irish cream liqueur, which was divine. As the old Irish expression goes to encourage someone to take a second drink, "a bird with one wing can't fly." But with this liqueur, nobody put up much resistance, not even the dogs!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tomatoes Provençale

Tomatoes Provençale by beFOODled on Flickr.

Here's a closer look at the tomatoes Provençale that we made in Calgary. I love tomatoes, but in Canada the stuff we import in winter doesn't compare in flavour to the fresh local toms grown by our own farmers in the summer. Once again, I bow to the superior expertise of the French in matters of elevating humble ingredients to new heights (the secret is grated cheese)!

Tomatoes Provençale
serves six

3 big tomatoes
fresh chopped parsley
dried basil
dried thyme
diced garlic
grated parmesan cheese
olive oil

Cut three tomatoes in half. Cut a little bit off the bottom of each half so the tomatoes sit up straight and don't roll away.

Sprinkle small amounts of each ingredient over the top of each tomato half. Drizzle over a little olive oil.

Bake at 375 degrees in the oven for half an hour, then check them and if needed, bake for another 15 minutes.

Tomatoes Provençale in the convection oven by beFOODled on Flickr.

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