Here’s another quick-to-make slow-cooking easy-to-freeze recipe that is highly satisfying and adaptable (which I adapted, of course, from i heart naptime). You can use fresh or frozen chicken breasts in the recipe, which means that even if you didn’t plan ahead you’re still going to be just fine.
Take 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (mine are frozen) and plop them in the bottom of a slow cooker pot turned to low.
Chop up 1 sweet onion into bite-sized pieces (the original recipe calls for onion powder but I think real onions are better).
In a bowl, dollop 1 tablespoon olive oil, the equivalent of 2-3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a bunch of ground pepper, as much as you like.
Add to that as well 1/2 cup soy sauce and 3/4 cup honey and give it a good stirring.
Pour the sauce over your chicken and cook for 4-6 hours on low.
And if you happened to have additional chicken breasts, you can chuck those in a freezer bag with more onions and more sauce (I made the recipe in triplicate) and chuck those in the freezer for later.
The chicken is done when it falls apart on you.
I decided to go whole hog and shredded it with a fork to expose all the chickeny bits to the sauce.
I served it on top of a quinoa-bulgur blend that I cooked with just a little bit of lemon juice added to the water, a little bit of extra sauce, and garnished the whole thing with a pinch or two of white sesame seeds.
Atlas’s dad has a philosophy that we are born with a spirit and a body. The body is tied to this earth and will return that way when its time is finished, but the spirit can live on in a new body. And that spirit is always looking for the good in life, the good people, the good experiences, and so it will actively seek out those who it remembers were good in a previous life. His family and our family, he says, get along so well because our spirits were friends in a previous life. It’s a lovely sentiment.
As a child in a military household I moved around quite a bit, and I never stayed in any city longer than five years — until I moved to Ottawa, that is. So every time we moved I felt like I was starting a whole new life, with new friends, and that my old lives were somehow over. Visiting the west coast this summer was for me a revisiting of an old life, a way of showing my husband the way I used to be (and I’ll have more on that in a later post).
I had a friend in elementary school when I was living in Esquimalt. Her name was Jordana* and we were friends from when my family was posted out west in grade three, to when her family, also military, was posted away at the beginning of grade five. When she moved away I thought I would never see her again. This was of course before Facebook and even email (this was the early nineties) and so the only way to reach each other would have been through letters, and if you’re never going to see a person again, what’s the point in wasting a stamp?
I joined Facebook in 2007, twelve years after leaving the west coast and fifteen years after I had last seen Jordana, and we reconnected over the internet. At this time I was getting ready to move to Newfoundland with the Pie and she was settled in Vancouver, so it was unlikely we were going to run into each other any time soon. Even so, we communicated back and forth sporadically and learned we had much in common.
Then my brother decides to get married out west, and Jordana and I figured this was our chance to finally meet up after TWENTY years apart. She and her partner Daniel live in False Creek, a nice old area next to the water. On our last night on the mainland, the Pie and took the SkyTrain from Coquitlam to Vancouver and trailed our way over to their place for dinner.
And you know, it was instant chemistry between the four of us (which, if you have ever tried to make friends as a couple, you know is a hard thing to accomplish). Jordana and I talked our faces off for about four hours straight, while the quieter gentlemen exchanged views on computers and other manly endeavours. We took a walk along the seawall after dinner, and Jordana and I both took a ton of pictures. Obviously.
And the food, cooked by Daniel, was excellent (yes, I’m finally getting to the recipe, sorry). We had an amazingly tender chicken and a barbecued pork dish with the most incredible dipping sauces. While Daniel’s not super keen to share his recipes, Jordana was very persuasive and so I now have them in my hot little hands. And while Cait and Jul were here (and since they brought most of the spices from Ottawa for us), we decided to try it out.
For the Chicken:
First you start with a whole chicken, about 1.6kg or 3 1/2lb. Take off all the fat that you can see and wipe down the inside with a paper towel, or two, to remove any goop in there. Gross, but worth it, trust me.
Then find yourself a pot large enough to fit a bunch of liquid and a submerged chicken. Into that pot, chuck 1.5L (6 cups) water, 250mL (1 cup) soy sauce, 250mL (1 cup) shaohsing wine (also known as shaoxing), 150g (2/3 cup) light brown sugar, 1 large knob of ginger, peeled and sliced, 3 cloves garlic, sliced, 4 heads of star anise, 2 sticks cinnamon, and 3 pieces dried mandarin peel.
Yeah, that’s a hefty load of ingredients. Cait and Jul brought the more far-out stuff with them from Ottawa, as I can’t get it here. Anyway, bring all those ingredients in the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer all that spicy goodness for about 20 minutes.
Then you can submerge the chicken, breast side down, in the pot and raise the heat again to bring it to a boil. Then turn it down again and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Flip the chicken over and allow it to simmer for a further 3 minutes, then pop a lid on the pot and remove it from the heat. Let the chicken cool in the stock.
When the stock is cooled you can take the chicken out. If you plan to use the stock later (which you really should), then you need to strain it, bring it to a boil again, and then cool it and chuck it in the refrigerator.
As for the chicken, well it’s now up to you to do what you want with it. You can chop it up in a salad, or slice it thickly and re-form it on a plate (which is what we’re going to do). You can also fry it in peanut oil and serve with salt and pepper and lemon juice. It goes well with cilantro and the dipping sauce we’re going to make in a minute.
For the Pork:
This recipe calls for pork neck, which I can’t find here. I know it’s a poor substitute, because the consistency is all different, but I’m going to use a pork shoulder here. I’m sorry. If you can’t get a neck, try to find something with a bit of fat on it, if you can.
First you want to mix up your marinade. Take 4 tablespoons fermented bean curd, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 5 tablespoons shaohsing wine, 3 tablespoons yellow bean sauce, 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 4 tablespoons fine sugar, and 3 garlic cloves, minced. Stir that into a frenzy.
Cait described the Yellow Bean Sauce as looking like “someone threw up in a bottle.” Seems about right.
I was more grossed out by the fermented bean curd though.
Cut the pork into 4cm (~2″) strips and pour the marinade over the meat. Leave that for about 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 240°C (this is 464°F, so I would err on the side of caution and go with 450°F).
Fill a baking dish with water and fit a wire rack over top. The ones with the folding legs are handy here, as you can use more water, and then it will keep the pork moist. Put the pork onto the rack and cook for 30 minutes.
Remove the pork from the oven and heat up 6 tablespoons honey. Brush that over the pork and leave it to cool.
Slice up some fresh cilantro to sprinkle over everything. As well, mince up some ginger and mix it with some black rice vinegar and leave that to sit for an hour or so — it goes fantastically with the chicken.
Serve the whole thing with some scented rice and some steamed greens. We fried up some baby bok choy as an accompaniment over jasmine rice.
*Jordana is a blogger herself, and a much busier person than I am. She writes about fashion here and here, and about travel here. She even has her own online clothing store. Check her out if you’re interested!
I got a tweet on Friday from Danger K over at Project: Priceless, looking for a good fried rice recipe. We happen to have one. Actually, the Pie has one, which he modified himself from one of our many stir-fry books. We make this one with chicken, but you can leave that out for a vegetarian option. If you want to go vegan, you can leave out the egg as well.
So this is what you need:
Half an onion, diced.
A boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed. Add a splash of soy sauce to that.
An egg, beaten.
Two carrots, peeled and diced.
About one cup peas. These are defrosted frozen ones.
A pinch or two of sliced green onion.
About two cups cooked rice, cold. Preferably a day or two old. The rice needs to be dry and no longer sticky.
In a large frying pan or wok, heat a tablespoon oil with a tablespoon minced garlic on medium heat. Chuck in the onions and cook until they’re translucent.
Toss in the chicken and stir until the chicken is cooked through.
Make a well in the middle and pour in the beaten egg in a thin layer. Allow it to cook through and then break it up with your spatula and mix it in.
Add in all the vegetables and heat through, then add the rice and stir to mix. Splash in some more soy sauce to taste. When everything is heated up to your satisfaction, you can serve it. And it’s as simple as that!
You won’t see too many fish or seafood dishes on here, because the Pie won’t eat them. You can’t do a feature on Canadian cuisine without talking about Canada’s vast ocean resources, so I’ve kind of snuck this one in under the radar. I discovered the recipe a few years ago when the Pie and I had two other roommates who were a little more into sea creatures than he is, and I made it often. The plus is that the marinade works really well on pork chops as well, so when I make this I can make a piece of salmon for me and a piece of pork for the Pie and we’re both happy.
Maple syrup forms the basis of this marinade, but the lemon juice, ginger, and soy sauce give the sweetness a bit of a snap. Quick and easy, too. I pulled it from an issue of Canadian House & Home a million years ago.
In a bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup genuine maple syrup, 4 tablespoons light soy sauce (I used organic tamari), 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, and 1 teaspoon minced ginger. This is enough marinade for 4 pieces of fish.
You’ll notice here that I butterflied the porkchop I had, just to make it the same thickness as the salmon. That way I could cook them at the same time.
Place your salmon* (or your pork) in a shallow dish and, saving about 1/4 cup of the marinade for later, pour the sauce over the fish. Refrigerate that for an hour.
Preheat your oven to 450°F.
While that’s heating up (mine takes forever), peel 2 very large carrots and wash 3 very small zucchini. Or whatever ratio you prefer.
Use a mandolin to slice the vegetables thinly lengthwise.
Plop them in a pot with a few inches of water. Add a generous pat of butter and some fragrant herbs, like herbes de provence.
Cover and steam for 8-10 minutes, until the carrots are all bendy.
Thinly slice up about 3 tablespoons scallions or green onions.
Spray a glass dish and set your fish in it with a bit of marinade to coat.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes, basting halfway through with some leftover marinade.
Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with some of that 1/4 cup of marinade you saved earlier. Sprinkle with the sliced onions. Drain the vegetables and serve as well. Mmmmm … This makes up a little bit for the poutine we had last week, but won’t stand up in the face of what I’ve got planned for you on Friday. Stay tuned!
*** THE END ***
*If you’re reading this asterisk-ed caveat, you got me: that is actually trout, not salmon. It was in a big jumbled pile at the seafood counter and I picked it up by mistake, okay? Sheesh.
[Note from Photographer’s Ego: Yes, I know these pictures fail to follow that number one rule of food photography: use natural light! I will be building myself a light box soon, not to fret.]
This will be our final tofu recipe for you folks for a while. Our digestive systems are not used to so much soy and they have unequivocally had enough. The Pie especially so. Poor man. Pity him that his wife cooks new things for him on a regular basis. Tsk.
The last time the Pie and I attempted calzones, we ended up with floor pizza. I was determined to get it right this time. The recipe below, with some modifications, comes from the Savvy Vegetarian, and it’s pretty easy. The dough is nice and stretchy, and I could definitely use it again for a calzone with a different filling, which is exciting! The yield for this is 10 hand-hold-able calzones, and I halved it (because there’s only the Pie and myself — Gren doesn’t get people food).
For the dough:
In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in 1 1/4 cups warm water. Stir in 2 teaspoons active dry yeast and allow that to sit for 10 minutes.
Or until it gets all foamy.
In a larger bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to 3 cups flour and mix well.
Rub in (exactly how it sounds) 1 tablespoon olive oil. Rub it between your fingers until there are no large clumps left.
Stir the water/yeast mixture into the flour until it forms a shaggy ball. Make sure to get all the floury goodness at the bottom of the bowl.
On a floured surface, knead the ball for about 10 minutes. The more you knead it, the tackier it will get, so you will need to add more flour on occasion. Also, keep in mind that the more you knead it, the more elastic it will be (because you worked all the gluten together). You want your dough to be nice and stretchy.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with a clean cloth and set it in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
For the filling:
Dice up 1/4 cup onion, and about 8 mushrooms and toss them in a frying pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Sauté until soft.
In a small bowl, mix up 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon powdered vegetable stock, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, a pinch of cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.
Toss that on the vegetables in the pan and stir it around.
Plop in 16 ounces fresh baby spinach (you can use frozen spinach, if you thaw it and drain it first), as well as 2 12-ounce packages of firm silken tofu and a dash of soy sauce. You can break up the tofu before you toss it in, but it gave me something to do while I waited for the spinach to wilt.
I had some leftover chèvre, 8 ounces worth, so I tossed that in as well. So if you’d like to add that to this recipe, chuck in 8-16 ounces goat’s cheese and stir it around until well-incorporated and completely melted.
Remove the mixture from the heat.
Calzone Assembly and Baking:
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Punch down your dough. Literally.
Divide it into 10 equal parts, rolled into balls (remember, my recipe is halved, that’s why you only see five).
On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a 6″ round.
Divide the filling into 10 equal parts and place each portion on a round, slightly to one side.
Wet the edges of the dough with your finger and fold over each round to make a half circle.
Squish down the edges with your finger and crimp with a fork to seal them.
Place the calzones on a baking sheet. You can brush them with oil and sprinkle them with salt if you like, for a crusty, salty top. I chose to cook ours on our pizza stone, which I put in the oven when I turned it on. Cut two diagonal slices in the top of each calzone to let the steam escape.
Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the filling bubbles up through the holes.
I FINALLY found silken tofu in St. John’s. I’ve been looking for it for what feels like forever. In celebration of my recent discovery, and the Pie’s insistence that he needs to slim down in time for Kristopf’s wedding next July, I have decided to honour the long-standing request of my friend Danger K and start finding new ways to cook with tofu. You might know Danger K: she recently got married (on our wedding anniversary, no less), and she and her husband planned a big fancy wedding by begging, bartering, and borrowing everything they could. Their expenses out of pocket? About two hundred bucks. You can read about the process on their blog, Project Priceless. So they’re a little bit famous back in Ottawa. And I can say that I knew her when. We went to high school together. In fact, she had a huge crush on one of my brothers (DON’T DENY IT DANGER K I HAVE PROOF). Not that I’m going to hold that against her or anything.
So. Cooking with tofu.
My previous experiences cooking with tofu (not in eating it, just cooking it) focused mainly on tossing cubes of it into Broccofu, Peanut Butter Spaghetti, or the occasional stir-fry. There’s nothing wrong with that, but’s not using tofu in all its myriad manifestations. This fall, the Pie and I aim to change our ways, and this recipe is the beginning. September will be a sort of Tofu Feature Month.
Mapo doufu (mapo tofu) is a traditional spicy dish from the Sichuan province of China and involves sautéing tofu pieces in a suspension of a paste made of beans and chilis. What I found particularly interesting about this dish is that I normally think of tofu as a protein-replacement for meat, but this recipe calls for a combination of tofu AND beef or pork. Very unique (for me, at least).
A note on substitutions: this recipe calls for chili bean paste, a spicy gooey mixture of fermented soy beans and chilis (I’m thinking like a super-hot miso). I didn’t have such a thing, so I used black bean paste instead with the chilis, which is why my sauce isn’t that signature reddish colour. The recipe also requires the use of rice wine, which, not being a wine-drinker, I also don’t have, so we used rice wine vinegar instead. Finally, the recipe I used made little sense and required some serious moderation, so I haven’t linked you to it. I wasn’t a huge fan.
Start by making up enough rice for two people.
Drain and pat dry one block soft tofu (I used extra-firm silken tofu because I wanted to see what it was like). Cut it into 1″ cubes.
Slice up 4-5 green onions and save about 1/4 of the green tips (sliced) for garnish.
In a skillet or wok over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and sauté 4oz ground beef or pork until cooked. Drain and set aside.
In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add 1 teaspoon minced ginger, the green onion that isn’t what you saved for garnish, 2 whole dried chilis, and 1 teaspoon ground peppercorns (Sichuan if you’ve got ’em). Cook that for about a minute.
Add the ground meat back in, as well as 3 tablespoons chili bean paste, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, and 2 teaspoons brown sugar. Cook that for another minute or so, just so everything can get acquainted.
Add in the cubed tofu as well as 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or beef, or pork) and let that simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally, but don’t let the tofu fall apart.
When it’s nearing done, dissolve 1 tablespoon corn starch in a little bit of water and pour that in as well. Stir gently until it thickens.
Serve over rice and garnish with the remaining green onions. SPICY!
This recipe is actually called something like “Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Snow Peas and Carrots”, but the Pie and I have made it so many times that our version is better. It came out of an Every Day Food from eons ago, and it’s kind of like a lazy man’s pad thai.
We made it for Kª one night when Kº was off gallivanting in Russia, leaving her alone with Il Principe and the Incredibly Little Hulk. Served with our crispy won ton crackers, it was a great and easy meal. Even Il Principe approved.
Start some water a-boilin’. Like enough to cook about 8-10oz of whole wheat spaghetti (to serve 4). Then you can, you know, cook that there spaghetti for about ten minutes, or according to your package instructions.
While you are waiting for the water to boil and for your pasta to cook, prepare the following mis en place:
3 medium carrots, shaved with peeler
8oz snow peas, tough strings removed
1 (300g) package of firm tofu, cut into small cubes (if you’re not a fan of tofu it’s conceivable that you could replace this with thin strips of cooked chicken or steak)
Prepare as well this wee bowl of sauce:
5 tablespoons organic peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, it’s your choice)
Obviously it’s been a sweet week with Rusty and Mags in town. We’ve even had some awesome weather, and what better way to celebrate summer than ribs on the back porch? It’s become kind of a yearly tradition with us and The People Downstairs, so we took advantage of a sunny day last Friday and had ourselves some ribs. The sauce here makes enough for four racks of ribs and comes from an old LCBO magazine.
We got these ribs from Costco, and it’s a hit and miss process. These ones were a very strange cut, and probably tougher than we would normally prefer. But ribs is ribs. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
First you need to remove the membrane across the bone. This will help to tenderize your meat and will ease the absorption of juices. It also facilitates the removal of excess fat, and boy, did these ribs ever need some trimming! Use a paper towel to help you grip the membrane on the bone side. Then, with steady pressure, slowly pull it off. It’s simple.After you’ve removed the membrane, place the ribs bone-side-up in a baking dish.Now you concoct the sauce. In a bowl, mix together the following:
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 garlic cloves (or 4 teaspoons minced garlic)
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon chili sauce
2/3 cup beer (the darker the better)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon green Tabasco sauce
2/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Pour that stuff all over your ribs.
Use a pastry brush to coat the ribs evenly.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for an hour. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for a further 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.
Remove the ribs from the oven.
Place the ribs on your serving plate and cut to serving size (you might want to keep it in a low oven to keep the ribs warm). You can also toss them on the barbecue for a few minutes to caramelize the juices on them. Drain the sauce from the pan into a gravy separator to get rid of the fat. Discard the bay leaves. Then cook the sauce in a saucepan for a further ten minutes until it is reduced and thickened. You can add corn starch to push this along if you need to.
Drizzle the hot thick sauce over your ribs and serve.