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Recipe: Spicy Southwest Stuffed Red Peppers

February 19, 2012 4 comments

The following recipe is easily made paleo; I’ll flag ingredients that aren’t and provide suggestions. This is something I threw together tonight.

Ingredients:
1lbs grass fed ground beef
Home Made Taco Seasoning (see below)
1 small onion diced very thin
1 jalapeño pepper
3 table spoons of salsa (get one with no sugar or make your own)
Hot sauce to taste (I use Cholula which isn’t paleo, but you don’t use much)
1/2 cup of Mexican shredded cheese (Not Paleo)
3 large or 4 small red peppers.
1/3 cup of water
 
Taco Seasoning*:
1 tsp. salt
2. tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tps. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cumin, depending on your preference

Directions:

Brown the ground beef, don’t drain the fat, add taco seasoning once brown  and add water. Mix well, simmer for 5-10 minutes on low.  While the meat is cooking chop up the onion, jalapeño, and cut the top off and remove the core of the red peppers.  Let the meat cool, I throw it in the freezer.  Once the meat is cool add the thinly diced onion,  jalapeño, hot sauce and the 3 table spoons of salsa and mix with a large spoon combining well.  Fill the peppers with the meat mixture, don’t pack the meat in but don’t leave it too loose either.  Cook in oven on a shallow roasting pan for 30-45 minutes at 350F add cheese in last 15-20 minutes. Don’t cover anything, you want the peppers to brown.

Serving suggestion: I cut the pepper down the middle meat filling each half then lay on some avocado slices, hot sauce and salsa.
Enjoy!

 *Thanks to  at http://www.lifeasaplate.com/ for the Taco Seasoning Recipe.

Sous Vide Experiments Continue

February 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Lamb Sous Vide Pan Seared in unsaled butter and finished with blowtorch

Tonight I sous vide Ontario lamb chops at 134F for 2 hours, they were great!  Mint and garlic marinade penetrated the meat like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  After this I’m excited to try a rack of lamb.

I also picked up hunk of flank steak as well as a flat iron.  I’m very curious on the flat iron since it has a great amount of connective tissue I expect it will sous vide very well, time will tell.

Currently have the chimichurri marinated flank steak in the SousVide Supreme and will be cooking it for about 30 hours.  Not sure how I’ll sear it, might use the pan, but the blowtorch is proving very effective.   Will be making fajitas with it for tomorrow night’s dinner.

I get most of my meat at Medium Rare, they’re at Dundas & Kipling and are my go to butcher.  If you’re looking for very good premium meat, I can’t recommend them enough.

I’m going to give salmon and chicken a go later in the week, a man can only eat so much red meat!

SousVide Supreme Unboxing & First Use

February 6, 2010 2 comments
SousVide Supreme

SousVide Supreme

Before I get into the SousVide Supreme I believe a little tutorial on sous vide cooking is in order.  Sous vide is French for “under vacuum” and is a culinary technique where by food is cooking for longer periods of time under precise degree accurate temperature control.  Think of it as effectively like poaching but under much more lab quality temperature control.  Food is placed in vacuum bags and left in a water bath at exact temperatures for prolonged periods of time.   Many foods can be cooked sous vide from beef, chicken and pork to fish, seafood and vegetables, as a result of cooking under a vacuum seal there is little air and flavours are locked into the food.

Another benefit of sous vide cooking is how forgiving the technique is; it’s almost impossible to overcook foods.  Take a 1″ steak, cook it for 1 hour at 130F and you’ll have a medium rare steak, hold it in the water bath for 8 hours and you’ll still have a medium rare steak.  How?  Simple, the water is being held at EXACTLY 130F so the meat can’t cook beyond that temperature.  This is particularly beneficial for seafood which can be tricky to get “just right.”

So you might be asking yourself why you haven’t been cooking sous vide at home for years?  Simple, cost.  The typical equipment required to cook sous vide are lab quality thermal circulators from companies such as PolyScience cost well over $1000, and look like lab equipment.  The SousVide Supreme is the first home appliance designed for cooking sous vide, at $450 it’s not a cheap home appliance but far from the $1000+ that a PolyScience re-circulator costs.

PolyScience Immersion Circulator

Now onto business, unboxing:

The box.

Box opened

Box Removed.

The SousVide Supreme

None of what I’ve read about SousVide Supreme online covers the build quality; after all when you’re paying $450 for a counter top appliance there are certain levels of quality one expects.  I’ve got to admit to being a little disappointed with respect to the build quality of the SousVide Supreme.  It’s not poorly built but it seems like costs were cut.  The lid is quite thin, and doesn’t scream “expensive” – The plastic handles are cheap plastic too.  I don’t think anyone would say it costs $450 if they had to guess.

SousVide Supreme Control Panel

I’m not a fan of membrane keyboard/keys and the unfortunately this is what the SousVide Supreme uses.  They work well enough but expect they’ll wear out, like all membrane keyboards do, eventually.  Granted the buttons on the SousVide Supreme won’t get used very often but is again something that doesn’t scream $450 appliance.  Build materials matter, but in the end I’ll leave it up to the food to decide over all verdict.

First Cooking Experience

Amazing Egg Yolk, whites not so much. Cooked @ 147F for 45 minutes

As I was out of vacuum bags I decided to try a boiled egg, heated the unit up to 147F, placed 4 eggs inside and waited the 45 minutes.  The whites didn’t turn out anything but runny and rather awful, the yolks were nothing short of amazing with a constancy more like Nutella than typical yolk.  Very good, but with runny whites not very appealing, this will obviously become an experiment of heat:time and trying to find the correct combination.  I tried leaving one of the eggs in a little longer and raising the temp to 150F but that simply resulted in harder yolks, but still nice, with a barely more solidified white.

The experiment continues…

Blowtorched Sous Vide Tenderloin

Blowtorched Sous Vide Tenderloin

I made sous vide beef tenderloin in butter tonight. Cooked it for 1h15m with some butter, salt, garlic and pepper.  I then used my blow torch to crust over the steak getting a great Maillard effect.  The final product was PERFECTLY cooked; there is no way with a grill one could duplicate the consistency that sous vide brings to the table, pardon the pun.  My only regret is the choice of meat, we just happen to have some tenderlion in the fridge so I wasn’t going to let it waste, but tenderloin isn’t a very flavourful cut, and that was VERY evident cooked in this manner.  It was good, but nothing terribly special.

Medium Rare Sous Vide Tenderloin

Tomorrow, perhaps some flank, tri-tip, rack of lamb or maybe some scallops?

Burrito Boyz Vs. El Sombrero GTA Burrito Challenge

September 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Burrito Boyz has become somewhat of a Toronto phenomenon; word of mouth is amazing, line out the door, packed EVERY day at lunch no matter what location you go to.  Well, the other day I finally made it to the Burrito Boyz on Lakeshore, and as luck, or bad culinary planning, would have it I happen to have a burrito from another restaurant the previous night for comparison sake.

In the right corner, weighing in at 3 locations around the GTA and counting we have Burrito Boyz. <cue cheer>

In the left corner, weighting in at 1 location (Mississauga @ Highway 10 and 401) we have El Sombrero. <cue cheer>

There are 4 things I look for in a burrito; meat, salsa, tortilla, flavour penetration.

Meat: I’ve got to give this to El Sombrero, they use actual chicken breast chopped up in cubes or chunks of beef, not a mush.  Burrito Boyz, for their beef burrito, uses a typical ground beef mix, I think that alters the texture and makes everything into a mush.

Salsa: Again, I’ve got to give this to El Sombrero.  They use a hand made Pico de Gallo and not a typical wet salsa.  I’m a fan of Pico over a traditional salsa and El Sombrero uses a bunch of cilantro in their Pico, it isn’t right unless there is tons of cilantro.  Borrito Boyz on the other hand uses what I would call a traditional tomato based salsa, it lacks the flavour and freshness of a hand made Pico.  Not sure if Burrito Boyz make their salsa themselves, but I suspect not.

Tortilla: This is more a personal preference.  Burrito Boyz grills their burrito after it is wrapped, this gives the outside a crunchiness, but I find it makes holding things together more difficult.  El Sombrero uses a non-grilled tortilla, I prefer the El Sombrero way, but this is very subjective.

Flavour Penetration: Hands down the winner here is El Sombrero, the fresh Pico, Guacamole and what appear to be higher quality ingredients with a large dose of cilantro oozes flavour, every bite is different.  I felt the Burrito Boyz had a very 1 dimensional taste, it lacked flavour depth when compared to the El Sombrero, every bite was the same.

All in all I’ve to give this match to El Sombrero as a knock out.

Having recently returned from the San Francisco area, where Mexican food such as this is abundant, I’d hold El Sombrero up to any burrito place I’ve eaten at thus far, it is THAT good.

Better luck next time Burrito Boyz.

Now, can someone finally try and make a great simple REAL taco in the GTA?  Something like Taco El Pastor?  Little bit of spicy pork, hand made tortilla and a splash of onion and cilantro, so simple yet so good.

Categories: Food

Review: Jacob’s Steakhouse

Steak, just the word can trigger a Pavlovian response.   While complicated recipes involving much thought and preparation are great, there is something to be said about the simplicity of a steak; however nothing says steak must be simple.  From the raising of the beef, to aging and cooking, sucess is measured in the details.  Angus, Kobe, USDA Prime, dry aging, grilling, broiling and sous-vide.  This brings us to a relatively new entrant in the Toronto steakhouses scene, Jacob’s & Co. Steakhouse.

There are a few things I look for in a restaurant but I put two above all else, Good Food and Service.  So we’ll call this my 2 point scale, 2 points, and you’ve got a perfect review.  It doesn’t leave much room for making a mistake.  The break down of my two point scale works like this:

Food Score:

0.25: I could eat the food, but just.

0.50: Food was good

0.75: Food was very good

1.0: Food was something special

Service:

0.25: Not very good at all.

0.50: Average

0.75: Very Good

1.0: Perfect

So yes, it’s really a 10 point scale if you take into account 0.

Dinner started with drinks in the basement bar, it was drinks, they were good and I had no complaints.  After finishing we were escorted upstairs and seated at our table, a nice large round table perfect for the larger group I was with.  Why more restaurants don’t have round tables for larger groups baffles me, round tables allow everyone to interact and prevent “conversation islands” but I digress.

In place of bread, Jacob’s served amazingly large and fantastic Yorkshire Pudding.  I’ve loved Yorkshire Pudding since I was a kid and my mom would make them as part of Sunday dinner, my mouth just waters thinking about it.  But we’re not here to talk about the bread, we’re talking about steak.  From first glance at the menu one can tell Jacob’s takes their meat seriously.  The menu puts the steaks top left, right where one’s eyes are instantly drawn.  The choices aren’t broken down into cut, but rather creatively by type (USDA, Canada Prime, Kobe Wagyu) and separated by farm, and time aged.  You have your typical USDA aged 41 or 54 days, your Canadian Angus, followed by Canadian, US and Australian Wagyu, oddly no Japanese Waguy on the menu seems a glaring omission.  All meat is aged in house.  Kudos on the menu layout, this is a carnivore’s delight.

I opted for the USDA 30oz (shared) bone in Rib Eye aged 41 days, I’m a sucker for Rib, and will get the bone in every time if it is on the menu.  Jacob’s cooks their steak in a broiler, as is typical at most high-end steakhouses at 1800 degrees to sear in the goodness.  My steak was perfect, a nice outer crust and a perfect medium rare on the inside.  The meat was well marbled, but not overly fatty, well trimmed.  The meat was very obviously dry aged, something I look for in all my beef.

Service on the other hand is where Jacob’s and Co. dropped the ball.  Service was slow, I don’t mean it took an extra 5 minutes here or there, but truly truly slow; over 1 hour before our order was taken.  The waiter seemed new, not just to Jacob’s but rather to being a waiter in an upscale restaurant at all.  He lacked the ability to interrupt conversation, something EVERY waiter must know how to do, it is a skill, and this waiter didn’t have it.  He would wait for conversations to actually end before asking anything from the table, this made the night VERY long.

So how would I rank Jacob’s?

Food: 0.75

Service: 0.25

Total: 1.00

Service killed it, and I’m only partially blaming Jacob’s & Co.  The real problem was our waiter, his lack of experience was evident, and that seriously impacted the experience.  Everything else from Food, to Wine choice and decor was very good.

Would I go again?  Certainly; however, if service is slow next time, Jacob’s & Co. and not the waiter are getting the blame.

If your a carnivore with a few extra bucks in your pocket, or an expense account, give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Categories: Food

Back to the Kitchen

January 18, 2009 Leave a comment

steak

I’m a bonafide foodie and love to cook; more than just cooking I know how to select a good piece of meat. When I want something special I will go out of my way to butchers like Cumbrae’s in Toronto so that the meat I cook at home is every bit as good as the meat I can get in a restaurant. While I don’t have a Montague Broiler at home, I do take grilling steak seriously. My steak of choice is typically a Rib Eye; you could say I’m something of aRib Eye expert, but I am a sucker for a bone-in fillet too. I do have a good grill at home and have been complimented on my steaks by more than just family. For the record my Prime Rib roast and Roast turkey have received raves too. 😉

Knowing how to cook and select meat does mean that I have high standards. This does have some disadvantages, I tend to be rather picky on how my food is prepared. I’ll eat anything, but if it isn’t prepared correctly, and I’m in a restaurant, I will send it back. I hate sending food back, but I am the customer, I don’t like doing this but it does happen. Last night I was out with the family for a nice meal at The Keg where I ordered one of my favorites, a Rib Eye, the steak was tough. Sure The Keg isn’t Harbour 60, or Jacob’s Steakhouse that said the steaks at The Keg are still good value and I’m seldom disappointed. This steak wasn’t just tough to the touch the big steak knives at The Keg really struggled with cutting it. How a restaurant handles themselves when you send something back tells you a great deal about the restaurant.

Last night I would rate The Keg a 7.50/10 for how the handled my particular situation. There were no complaints by the staff and they quickly whisked the steak away, and in fact the only thing preventing a 10/10 had nothing to do with the steak and everything to do with the sides. When my plate returned my steak was perfectly tender, which I could tell by both the “poke check” and cutting; exactly as I would expect it. The problem was the “onion straws” they weren’t replaced along with the steak, neither was the potato, and while the potato I can let slide the onion straws once sitting for a while tend to lose their crispness and “steam” and go soft, and that’s exactly what happened to mine. So my steak was perfect, but one of my sides was ruined. Hence 7.5/10.

This experience is nowhere as bad as an experience a couple of years ago at Via Allegro, a high end restaurant in Etobicoke. I sent my steak back to the kitchen and the waiter returned 2 minutes later and said “Chef suggests you choose a different cut of meat, as the Rib Eye tends to be a tougher cut perhaps a Fillet would be more to your liking?” I was beside myself that the waiter would even think this let alone say it. I’m sure they cut into the steak in the kitchen, they may have only done the “poke check” on it. Regardless the customer told them it was tough, and I assure you it was, and their response wasn’t what it should have been. The replacement steak was perfect.

Sending something back doesn’t just apply to food, but wine too, ~8 percent of all wine is “corked” and while you don’t want to be wrong, you sholdn’t feel bad sending something back that isn’t right. When it comes to wine not everyone can tell that wine is corked, assuming you’re eating in a higher-end restaurant simply ask for the Sommelier he’ll know for sure.

As a patron in a restaurant you have to feel comfortable sending food back to the kitchen, you’re spending your hard earned dollars for something, it should be prepared correctly.

Categories: Food Tags: , , ,