Saturday, November 20, 2010

Location, Location, Location!

This story starts the last day of the wine tour I previously wrote about. For the weekend of the wine tour the whole family booked up all 5 rooms at the B&B Domaine des Chutes. At first I wasn't too impressed with the room it was in the basement, and it looked like a room that was in a basement. But as soon as I opened the curtains that didn't seem to mind any more, as I was staring out at "Les Chutes" (the Falls). Each room faced the falls and had a little deck which made up for the fact that the bathroom had a shower curtain for a door. The next day we were sat at their dinning room table which has the same views of the falls but a little higher up, then we had a great breakfast.

The Breakfast started with a fruit salad, local apples and orange segments, tasty but I thought more time should have gone into it. However, this place is good for giving you something out of this world to make you forget the lesser liked things. This local made apple juice was the best apple juice that I have ever experienced. It was so smooth and had just a little more body than its watery (distant) relative grocery store AJ, without the over pulpiness of those organic ones that are shipped in from some part of the US. Out comes the pain doré (french toast), and the rest of the bad memories disappear as we are served these two slices of hearty french toast, with a light creamy chèvre, dried cranberries and pecan segments in the middle. After breakfast, the owner of the B&B Jacques Lajeunesse who is also a painter (a good one at that), showed us his studio, and some of his work.

As great as this breakfast was we had a big day ahead, 2 or 3 wineries and a 3 hour trip to pick up our dog at the kennel, and a stop to pick up some apples. Out of the wineries, I think we only made it to one, L'orpailleur vineyard. There was so much information on wine in this region and pretty much everything else down to the cork. The website has a lot of info too but the displays are very informative. This was the most bilingual place I had been, which is probably why I learned so much there.

After all of this, the trip was coming to an end and with a long trip back, lunch was in order. So as a group we finally decided on a place called, Restaurant Sir Dunn at 3819 rue Principale, Dunham, QC. Which is a cute little place in the little downtown section of Dunham next to a brewery/pub. This place serves the beers that are made next door and better than that for their cream ale they have a nitrogen tap, to make a creamier more old fashion pour. So I had to try a pint, I mean it was noon somewhere, right?

I saw so many things on the menu I would have liked to get, instead I settled on pizza, even then there was 15 or so choices. I ended up choosing a pizza with chèvre, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Although the fries were delicious, it was a little weird getting a big bowl of them with a 10" pizza. I could have shared my lunch the portions were so big. As for the pizza, the dough was memorable it had a nice chewy texture and not too thick. I make pizza at home a lot, so I knew it was chewy because they used beer in the dough, otherwise you end up with a more crispy crust. I needed to know if they used the local beer for the dough, and the chef told me that the dough is made at the bakers down the street with a local beer in it. I liked the pizza but it was a little oily from the sun-dried tomatoes. I would eat there again when I am in town.

That was a great trip, and Its not too far from Montreal. The best part is to spend that time with my new family doing something we all love.

Bonne Appétit!

Friday, November 12, 2010

MMM Bread....

Hello again,

Ok it has been busier than expected lately, and I am little behind on postings. I have a few articles on the docket still. I didn't end up writing anything while on my vacation as I thought I would, and this week was long work-wise. I have just started the winter phase at work, which although not as busy I work 10 hour days 4 times per week. This has proven difficult to do anything on weekdays, but I am sure that I will adjust so it is only temporary. The best part is having 3-day weekends.

I am using the extra day to play catch up, bake a pie with the last of the apples, make a stew, get the Mac and cheese oven ready for Sunday, experiment with new bread making method, and of course blog about it all. I have 2 posts in line before this one; the continuation of the wine tour, and one about pizza. However this one cuts the line. It smells so amazing at home right now, I just got inspired to write about this bread I am making.

About 2 or 3 years ago I caught an episode of Chef at Home, and it was about a no kneading type bread. I was definitely interested in trying this, problem was (and kinda still is) the time it takes. See the catch to this not having to knead the dough is more water, less yeast and 18 hours of letting it sit. Not exactly the spontaneous type of bread. I just kept putting of trying it, mostly because I couldn't commit to the 18 hours ahead of baking. I had a bread maker that took 3 hours and I got a little comfortable (lazy) with that method. Then when I moved in with my wife I couldn't make the bread fast enough, so doing the slow method didn't make any sense.

As this weekend was approaching and my wife is in Vancouver until Sunday, I started to plan what I wanted to make. I thought about the bread that takes so long to do and decided, why not? That at least was the idea. Since so much time had passed I thought I would look it up and see how it was done. I went to Chef Michael Smiths site to get the recipe and read about a method of getting the crust just right. That is where my thoughts went to that rye flour that I just bought and how much I love my rye bread recipe. Not knowing how to change the recipe to the wetter dough required, I improvised a little and combined the best of both, using the bread machine for the dough and the oven method for the perfect crust (and shape).

The oven method is the covered pot method on Michael Smith's site. Now to combine the use of the bread machine for the dough and use of the covered pot takes a little finesse and timing. Timing may vary between machines, for my machine it takes 2 hours give or take for a dough if the temperature of the ingredients are warm enough (about 10 degrees Celsius). Consult your guide for a timing chart if you are not sure. Find out when the last rise is (for me it is 1 1/2 hours in) and just before it the machine will knock it down. Using the directions for covered pot method: Flour a towel well and quickly forming a ball with the dough rest it on the towel, and cover it with another. Let it sit to double in size for about 1 hour, about 30 mins in preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C) with your covered pan (cast iron, ceramic or enamel). Once the dough has doubled in size carefully slide your hand under the towel the dough is on (and using oven mitts) invert the covered pan over it, and flip. Give the pan a little of a shake to settle the dough, and then bake covered for 30 min, and 10 to 15 mins uncovered.

I found that with the amount of dough the bread machine makes (2LB) that the recipe needs a little less time, it was a little dark and I pulled it out 10 mins early.

Well at least the bread is off the list, only problem is now eating it is now on the list...

Bon Appétit!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Route des vins (Wine tour) Part1-Iced Cider

I was invited by my wife's family to go on a winery tour in the Eastern townships this past weekend. I didn't know too much about wine but I do have a keen interest to define my palate, learn about wine and bond with my new family. Now the one thing I didn't realize was that we were also going on an Iced cider tour. Iced Cider is something I have only known to have existed for the last 3 years of me living in Montreal. We were staying in Freihlisburg which is home to the inventor of Iced cider Mr Christian Barthomeuf and his vineyard/orchard Clos Saragnat.

So we were lucky enough to get a private tour of Clos Saragnat. On our tour of this rather large scenic property, Mr Barthomeuf very warmly welcomed us and went into describing his use of a biodiversity scheme to plant so that he could have the birds eat the bugs instead of using pesticides. He also has chickens who aid in getting rid of the insects and keeping the operation very organic.

Mr. Barthomeuf is very open to tell us whatever we could possibly want to know about his vineyard. As we came back towards the winery we came across his vegetable garden, and his chickens at work. Him and his partner Louise have budgeted so that they only produce enough to cover their expenses, and that way they are living very sustainable. He is also a very strong supporter of the small organic farmers, and local industry.

As for the cider it is an interesting process. The apples are not picked when ripened, but only once the temperature has been below -10 degrees for more than 3 consecutive days. So hardier apple varieties are needed to survive. Mr Barthomeuf has actually patiently found wild varieties that are native to the area, and some that were here even before the Europeans arrived. Once the apples have been frozen to the core they are brought to the press one load at a time. No more apples can be picked than can be pressed because they need to stay frozen. Clos Saragnat has 3 presses and each press will take 8 hours to extract the juice of the apples at about 4500 PSI. 50 large apples will yield about 1 L and I believe the press can hold enough to make 500 L at one go. Once the juice is pressed it is left to cold ferment for a minimum of 2 years. So it is definitely a craft that requires great patience.

I don't know if it was because we found out so much about how the cider was made but it was the best Iced cider I have tasted. It was very rich and sweet, tasted like iced tarte aux pommes, apricot (glaze) and all. I love to know were my products are coming from so this was very good trip for me. Also I am breaking the blogs down into segments because there was so much learnt on this trip, too much to include in one blog.

If you would like to take this tour yourself call ahead as they only give the tours a couple times a month and you have to book in advance. Info is on their site Clos Saragnat.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Roasted Rainbow Trout

I went to the grocery store without a list which sometimes can be fun, it opens me up to get inspired. In this case I saw fresh whole rainbow trout and a light went off suddenly I remembered reading about stuffing a fish with thyme, garlic and lemon in my new read "Kitchen Confidential" -Anthony Bourdain. I couldn't wait to get home from the grocery store to cook it. The simplicity of this makes it that much better. I definitely will be doing this one again, and trying different fish! I tried it with cranberries inside, but didn't help or hurt.

Roasted Rainbow Trout:

1 whole rainbow trout approx. 2 lbs gutted and cleaned
4 sprigs of thyme
1 clove of garlic sliced
2 or 3 slices lemon
kosher salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Rub the inside of the fish with Kosher salt and pepper, then spread garlic slices evenly in cavity of the fish, along with thyme and lemon slices. Place the fish on the foil lined tray and and bake for about 25 mins or until golden and cooked throughout. Allow to cool a couple minutes, then serve whole, with rice and a vegetable and you have a healthy family dinner.

It is a really simple meal that can be cooked on a weekday and if you were to parboil some chopped carrots for about 5 minutes, you would be able to roast them at the same time as the fish is cooking.

Bon Appétit!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin and Coconut cream soup

Once upon a time, my dad took me to a Thai restaurant just outside of Toronto. On the menu, I saw "spicy pumpkin soup" and I being one to try new and strange things, gave it a go. I loved it and it was one of my most revered culinary experiences to this day. At the time I couldn't make a soup to save my life, and so it went untried at Chez Brendan. Until that is I went on a shopping spree at the farmers market on the way to the cottage, and saw pumpkins that inspired a legendary soup.

I remembered the elements of the soup and tried to work from there. I assure you once you try this soup you will have a hard time using a pumpkin for a Jack-o-Lantern again.

Pumpkin and Coconut cream soup:

1 med pumpkin (6-8 cups peeled and cubed)
2 L chicken/vegetable stock
2 heads of roasted garlic (if you want to save time, you can use 3 regular garlic cloves-minced)
3 carrots
1 onion
4 stalks of celery
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp cumin,
1/2 tsp grated ginger *if you keep a knob of ginger in the freezer it's easier to grate
pinch of sage, cinnamon and cayenne
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp sriracha (flavourful Thai hot sauce)
1 can of coconut milk

Roast garlic:
Take 2 heads of garlic slice the tops off and individually wrap heads in foil. Bake in 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. When they are done you should be able to squeeze the garlic out like a paste.

Pumpkin Soup:
Use fresh pumpkin. I have tried 2 variations for the cooking method of the pumpkin. I tossed it with brown sugar cayenne and cinnamon then roasted it, which is the best way and it can be cooked with the garlic. but the easiest is to just cube and simmer with broth and spices. Your choice. The main difference is when you add the pumpkin, if you roast it add it in the last 5 mins.

Prep all your ingredients first, because this is a pureed soup you can chop the vegetables roughly.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a soup pot (6 L or bigger). Soften onions for about 2 mins then add carrots and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 mins, add minced garlic and bay leaves, cook while stirring for long enough to smell garlic. Then immediately add a splash of stock.

Simmering Pumpkin option:
Add pumpkin at this stage and the rest of stock.

Roasted Pumpkin option:
Add rest of stock, spices and add pumpkin 5 mins before done (other vegetables mash able).

Add spices, and Sriracha. Bring to a soft boil, then reduce the heat to low, and cook until vegetables are mash able. Using a hand blender puree until smooth, and then add can of coconut milk. Serve and Enjoy.

Bon appétit!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Night at Bangkok Express


Well let me start by saying how unassuming this place looks from the outside, but as you look in you start to realize that the place is packed. The service is anything but slow, and they can't afford to be given that the dinning area is only 30 seats and consistently full. Not to mention that the phone is ringing off the hook and people lining up for takeout. The Waiters are not only knowledgeable and friendly, but great time managers.

Then the food came and it all made sense why it was a madhouse of orders. The food was amazing. Papaya salad was the only disappointment about the place, because it was overdressed. The crispy duck appetizer was absolutely divine, a great balance of sweet and savoury. Then for the mains...wait for it...
WOW!!! I had the Green Curry with chicken and it was great. I am glad that I did get the steamed rice on the side, so I didn't waste any of that beautiful sauce. The vegetables were cooked perfect! Green peppers, carrots, broccoli, onions, eggplant, and bamboo shoots all cooked to the same perfection...

This is the first place in a long time that I would give anything more than a 6, and I am giving Bangkok Express a 9/10

Bangkok Express
5645 Monkland Ave (at the corner of Oxford)
Montreal, Quebec
(514 ) 223-4552

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