Sunday, 25 November 2012

Brussel Sprouts and Bacon: Sprouts for the Haters

I was inspired to actually write a damn blog post today by a Facebook status update I read, posted by someone that I think is hilarious and great. He made a bold statement that is absolutely partly true:  "Food bloggers irritate the piss out of me". When I indicated that his statement made me get my dukes up, because I don't think all food bloggers are irritating, he clarified that he thought our era of every supposed "foodie" in the city running around, eating out, taking photos, posting them on some website and calling themselves an expert was, well, irritating the piss out of him. Sure, I agree. But do you know what's worse? There was a horrendous video someone else posted on Facebook that showed a horde of people literally physically fighting each other to get their hands on cheap smartphones on Black Friday somewhere in Georgia or something and here's what I think:  go ahead, annoying people, post photos of that stupid panna cotta that you probably paid too much for, do your worst, just don't push a fellow human out of the way in the name of a phone. Like I guess on a scale of what's kind of annoying and what's 100% wrong, I'm with the panna cotta photo-posters. The comparison is a bit extreme, I know, and I'm sure the friend I mentioned would absolutely agree - but my point is that the overabundance of food bloggers is pretty damn harmless, in my opinion. Plus, I am one, you know? But just to be clear, I don't take pictures of food in restaurants, or ever review restaurants, because I find the first annoying and intrusive, and I don't purport to know enough to do the latter. So, there. 
Let me know if you find this photo irritating.

To the food! A wonderful thing happens to sprouts when you slice them up finely and add bacon and pine nuts. They become the kind of vegetable that people who say that they HATE brussel sprouts actually like. They are honestly DELICIOUS. It's a bit of work to slice these babies up, but it's worth it. And brussel sprouts should not be relegated to holiday dinners - they are a happy side dish with pretty much anything. 

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Pine Nuts
Originally a Lucy Waverman joint, slightly adapted

Who could even know these were sprouts?
1 pound of brussel sprouts, finely sliced
4 slices bacon, or a little hunk of pancetta, or even prosciutto
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
olive oil for sauteeing the sprouts
salt and pepper to taste

First, fry your bacon or other desired pig product in a big pan that'll hold all your sprouts. Once it's cooked, remove it from the pan and dice it up into little wee pieces of pig product. Drain most of the fat off, keeping a bit of fat for flavour - you'll add a tbsp or two of olive oil to the fat to fry your sprouts, once you've sliced them. I usually cut them in half, down the middle, core and all (who has time to core brussel sprouts?), and then I lay them flat and slice them into ribbons.  

Add a tablespoon more or so of olive oil to the pig fat in your pan, on medium heat. Add the shredded sprouts, and saute, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. You'll see that they'll wilt and begin to lose some of their mass, in the same manner that cabbage or sturdy greens do. Add salt and pepper to taste; but a good hit of both is necessary. After ten minutes, taste some and make sure they've cooked down enough. If they haven't, keep cooking them. Obviously. If they're as soft as you'd like them, stir in your toasted pine nuts and toss them around, and serve the whole enchilada with the bacon sprinkled over top.  

I am an impeccably clean cook.
P.s. I forgot to take a photo of the end result, so you're on your own.
I love these transformative kind of recipes, where something you thought you knew takes on a whole other quality when you do something different with it. To me, it's what makes cooking exciting, you know? You should serve these as a side dish the next time you decide to have people over for dinner, instead of going out and taking poorly lit panna cotta photos. Added bonus? You'll save yourself from irritating the piss out of my friend.     

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A New Family Favourite: Chicken with Soy-Lime Sauce

Long time no see! I really love writing this blog but dayum, it's hard to keep at it in any kind of consistent way. Please forgive me.

This delicious number comes from a favourite cookbook that I refer to constantly, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

Look there's even a stovetop burn on mine! So authentic.  

It's a great reference book - if you have an ingredient you're not sure what to do with, or if you have something like a chicken breast and are looking for some inspiration. I was actually reading another food blog,, and she referred to this recipe, which I then looked up in the book. Dinner:  A Love Story is a great blog. God I spend an inordinate time on food blogs. I remember once being on a train from Ottawa to Toronto, and basically spending the entire four and a half hours consulting all my favourite food blogs. At the end of the trip, the woman sitting beside me said "You must be a chef! All you've been doing is looking at recipes and photos of food the whole train ride!" I explained I was actually just obsessed with food. I felt like I had been caught doing something a bit weird. Anyway. As I've said before on here, I'm a big fan of chicken thighs, drumsticks, or cooking up a whole chicken. And though I certainly went through a loooong phase where the only cut of chicken I ate was breast (I used to buy the big boxes of frozen ones from M & M, you know those - it was a staple during university), I'm certainly not in that phase no more. Chicken breasts can be boring, and dry, and even tasteless. But, they're healthy and easy and usually not offensive to anyone, so I pick them up from time to time.

Here are the limes I sliced thinly to put on top of the chicken. So it turns out,
limes are actually pretty gross to eat as a garnish. Pretty, yes, but inedible
and therefore not recommended.

This recipe involves dredging either a flattened chicken breast, or those thin cutlets you sometimes see them selling on their own, in some cornmeal, then a hot visit in a frying pan to brown them, and then a quick sauce made in the saute pan. It's so delicious and easy. Crunchy, super flavourful, and a little bit special, I'm gonna say.

Chicken with Soy-Lime Sauce
recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1.5 pounds chicken cutlets             (please excuse me while I get a bit preachy re chicken:  buy good chicken. Avoid factory farmed chicken and aim for antibiotic and hormone-free. Local. Happy chickens taste better, for reals. If you use breasts, pound them until they're nice and thin. Cutlets are thin enough on their own.)
Oil, vegetable or olive is fine
1 cup cornmeal
1 minced garlic clove
4 scallions, chopped finely
1/2 cup of chicken stock
2 tbsp soy sauce
juice of 2 limes          (again, ditch the thinly sliced limes on top of the chicken due to their not actually tasting good)
a handful of chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper your chicken, and then dredge the pieces of chicken in the cornmeal. Saute over medium-high heat, making sure not to cook too many at once and crowd the pan. If you have to do more than one batch remove the first batch and keep warm on a plate in a 200 degree oven, or just tent it with tinfoil. Add more oil if you need to for the second batch. The chicken should take about 8 minutes total to cook, about equal time on both sides. The cornmeal will create a crispy crust, and get nice and browned. Once you remove the chicken, turn the heat down to medium, add a bit of oil, and saute the garlic and scallions for a minute or two. Then add the stock, soy sauce, and lime juice. Scrape up any browned bits and turn up the heat to high, letting the sauce simmer for about a minute. Serve the sauce overtop of the chicken, and sprinkle with the cilantro.