Putting up

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything here. I’m not sure why I got out of the habit … maybe  we  were getting a little tired of animal fat;  maybe it was with the heat of summer, as I wasn’t as keen on spending hours on end in the kitchen. It was probably a combination of the two.

Our heat wave broke this week–but to be honest,  Leslie, an old friend of Daniel’s, remarked that she enjoyed my entries  and was hoping to see something new soon.. there ‘s nothing like a little positive feedback to get you going again!

Making Bacon (or more precisely, Pancetta.)

It’s been a while since I posted anything here … after the intensity of turning out several types of charcuterie in the last few weeks, I thought I needed a break from pork. Plus, it took quite a while to mow through the various pâtés and sausages that I’d produced.  (I gave a lot away, and froze some as well … but it was only today that the last of the pâté de foie disappeared.)  Also, it took this long for something I started to make two weeks ago to be ready to photograph, use, and write about, namely, my latest attempt at pancetta arrotolata.

True to my shegetz heritage, I love bacon. Good bacon, that is. Not that watery, slimy stuff you get in hygienic plastic packages at the supermarket that’s been cured as quickly as chemically possible, with “added smoke flavour”.  I like the stuff that has been cured slowly, with lots of salt to draw out the water, and then hung to dry in a cool, humid place for a period of time, and then, maybe (but not necessarily) cold-smoked. You can find it at better butchers. Or you can make it yourself. Really, it’s not the least bit difficult. […]

Toulouse (?) sausage

I had some pork shoulder and belly left over from making several pâtés this week, so I thought I’d use it up making some sausages.  About the simplest sausage you can make is Toulouse sausage, because it contains only pork, salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg.  No fillers of any kind. (Often, fresh sausages recipes will include a good portion of bread crumbs, which absorb the juices (read “fat”) during cooking, resulting in a juicy, tender interior.)  Because they lack filler, and because they are made from coarsely ground meat, they benefit from longer, slower cooking after they’ve been browned.  For example, you would almost certainly see Toulouse sausages in a cassoulet. […]

The joy and sorrow of pâtés en croûte, Part II

A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine who sings in Schola Magdalena, an ensemble that interprets and performs medieval music, asked me if I could contribute something to the buffet table for a post-concert reception taking place this Friday.  Still riding the high of our trip to France, I was looking for an opportunity to have a go at meat pâtés again.  So I said sure, I’d be happy to bring something, and went home to start researching what I might put together. […]

The joy and sorrow of pâtés en croûte, Part I

I have always loved a good pâté. From sturdy, coarse pâtés de campagne, to the ultra-luxurious, (if controversial) silken pâté de foie gras – if they’re on a menu, I’ll order them.  There’s something fascinating about how a chef can turn some of the more unappetizing parts of an animal into something wonderful to eat.  (I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to eat meat, you should make an attempt to use as much of the animal as possible.) I marvel at the ingenuity of the cooks – probably farmer’s wives – who decided they were going to take a bunch of liver and fat (and maybe some meat, if there was any left) and cook it up into something really tasty.  It’s alchemy to me. […]

My oil sprayer

For years, I used commercially-made cooking spray for greasing pans, or for oiling the surface of bread dough for it’s fermentation in the bowl.  I came across a gadget at a kitchen store on Yonge Street a few months ago that intrigued me: an oil sprayer. […]

“French” bread

(Skip ahead to recipe)

As I promised in my post about our recent trip to France, I’m writing today about bread. I’ve been making bread for most of my life.  I started when I was in Grade 7, or perhaps a little before then.  That was the time when 10-speed bicycles first appeared, at least for the mass market.  I desperately wanted one … all the cool kids had one, after all.  But my parents felt that my red Supercycle was just fine, and weren’t prepared to fork over the cash for a bike that would almost certainly be stolen.  So, I started making bread and selling it. First to the neighbours; I’d rake in about 6 bucks a day from them.  The family next door, as it happened, owned a camp-ground north of where we lived … and when they offered to buy and then re-sell as much bread as I could bake, I realized I’d hit pay dirt.  I made 30-40 loaves every other day. Of course, I had expenses in the form of the ingredients required … though I didn’t contribute to the electric bill, which was surely going through the roof with the oven being on for so many hours a day. I suspect my parents felt it might have been more economical for them to have just bought me the bike, but I think they were also proud of my gumption, even if my business plan was a little shaky. […]

A re-energising trip

D and I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to London, Paris, Reims and Marseille, where we went with a dear friend to celebrate a significant birthday he was having. Our friend, who is an artist, was dying to go see an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London of John Singer Sargent’s portraits of his friends, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to turn this into an extended birthday celebration, and have a few nice meals at the same time. It all started modestly enough. We were to go to London to see the Sargent exhibition, and then take the train to Paris for a couple of nights to explore the food scene there, and then fly home. As things tend to go with us, however, a small side-trip got added here, and another there, and next thing we knew, a 4-night getaway had turned into a 10-day holiday with additional stops in Champagne and Provence. […]

Do-it-yourself orecchiette

Last summer, Daniel and I went to Apulia, Italy for a holiday. We ended our stay a little early because the weather in the beach town of Gallipoli promised to be steady rain for 7 days … and you don’t want to be in a provincial beach town if you can’t go to the beach. About the only thing you can do if it’s raining is sleep, eat and drink … and based on the spectacular meals we had had for the first few days, we knew that if we stayed, we’d put on 20 pounds each. Because Apulia is known for pasta.  Beautiful, toothsome, fattening pasta.  It is featured on menus at both lunch and dinner; I was led to understand that most families eat it at least daily.  And one type pasta in particular is practically a trademark of Apulia: orecchiette. […]

A career in high-tech isn’t for me. So what if it only took 28 years to figure that out?

I mentioned in my first blog post that I am a technical writer by profession. Something happened yesterday, though, that has put that into question. Getting the news yesterday afternoon of the death of my childhood best friend’s mom, a woman I really liked, upset me.  I found my thoughts dwelling on Mrs. Gullberg, and how nice she had been, and I couldn’t really focus on work. So, I walked out of my new contract job only 3 days into it. […]