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Archive for the ‘Beef’ Category

After a couple of failed attempts at making beef ribs, I was a little hesitant to try again but since I had already purchased them I decided to take a chance and try again. I read up on different methods of cooking beef ribs as much as I can. From what I gathered, the primary difference in cooking beef ribs (pork doesn’t seem to be as bad) is getting the connective tissue to soften and melt into the meat to make it tender, almost falling off the bone. I really wanted a one-stop recipe without having to boil them first; it was a super hot and humid day and I didn’t want the extra heat and humidity in the house! I found a few recipes that baked the ribs in foil pouches, sealing in the flavours from the dry rub that was applied the night before. Bingo! But just in case the beef ribs failed again, I repeated the recipe with pork ribs and they were just as good!

The spice-blend can be altered to your preference. Or even use a bulgogi rub, or a tandoori rub, to change it up entirely! I love that the ribs steam in the pouches with the spice rub, sealing in the flavours. To be honest, you really didn’t need the BBQ sauce at the end, but it did allow the meat to caramelize and not dry out. This recipe will definitely be repeated before the summer ends.

Barbequed Beef Ribs

Serves 2-4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg beef ribs
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 12 g granulated garlic
  • 10 g dehydrated onion
  • 5 g chile powder
  • 35 g brown sugar, packed
  • 5 g smoked paprika
  • 10 g paprika
  • 5 g smoked sea salt
  • 2  g oregano
  • Your favourite BBQ Sauce (I used about 125 mL)

Directions:

  1. Remove the membrane from rib backs and cut the ribs to a length that will fit all of the ribs in your BBQ without overlapping.
  2. Combine all of the spices in your spice grinder and grind to a fine powder; add the oregano and stir well. Place the ribs in a zip-lock bag and pour in the spice mix. Rub the spice mix into the ribs well and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the BBQ to 250° F with indirect heat (we used our Medium-sized Big Green Egg with a cast iron diverter and stacked grills).
  4. Lay a long piece of foil on the counter. Lay each rib section onto half of the foil so it doesn’t overlap, fold over the length of foil and seal the edges so it is entirely contained. Repeat until you have all the ribs in the foil pouches.
  5. Place pouches on the grill with indirect heat and cook for 3.5 to 4 hours or until ribs are fork-tender and almost falling off the bone (ribs will cook at different rates depending on the thickness and whether they are beef or pork, so check around 3 hours). Remove the ribs when they are ready (at this point, you may hold them in a warm oven on a baking sheet in their pouches).
  6. Increase the BBQ temperature to 375° F and remove the diverter so heat is now direct.
  7. Carefully remove the ribs from the pouches and brush them with your favourite BBQ sauce. Place the ribs directly on the BBQ and grill until the sauce is slightly caramelized, sticky and delicious. Serve immediately.

These beef and pork ribs turned out fantastic!

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We don’t eat burgers often, but when we do they had better be mouth-wateringly delicious! These definitely hit the spot.

I made a similar recipe way back in 2015 when The Hungarians (my cousin and his wife) came for a visit. We invited them to our street party and this was the recipe I used for our dinner. When my cousin’s wife asked what we were having for dinner, I told her burgers (frustok, in Hungarian) she made a face. Yup, she made a face that clearly said “oh no, not THAT!” You see, Hungarian burgers are dry little meat pucks, they are generally overcooked and simply unpleasant to eat (the ones I’ve had anyway). So I had to prove her wrong. Her face told a whole different story as she took her first bit! Her comment was, “these are delicious!” And that made me very happy.

Juicy Beef Burgers

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 8 125 g burgers

Ingredients:

  • 900 g sirloin tip roast, ground
  • 50 g smoked bacon, ground
  • 120 g onion, finely chopped
  • 25 g roasted garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 g bread crumbs
  • 5 g salt

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together until well blended. Shape into 125 g patties and press down to eliminate air bubbles.
  2. Freeze until needed or cook on the barbeque until the internal temperature is 160° F. Serve hot on a toasted, home-made brioche bun. I used this recipe.

Notes:

  • You may use a combination of beef and pork and it’s equally delicious.
  • If you’re feeling particularly cheeky, add a small amount of pork belly and it will definitely up-the-ante.
  • We use roasted garlic because we find raw is too pungent, go ahead and use raw if you prefer.
  • The raw onions cook through so they are not raw tasting, they are necessary for the moist factor in this recipe.
  • Defrost burgers overnight in the refrigerator, don’t cook from frozen.

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The chef at our favourite French Bistro has left and his long-time sous chef has taken over. In general, the menu changes to suit the new chef but, because this is a traditional French Bistro, very few of the menu items changed. Sadly, one item that did change was the serving of the braised short rib, one of JT’s favourites. Instead of blue cheese risotto, the chef serves it with greens and pommes fourchette (literally, forked potatoes) and it’s not quite the same. When I mentioned that I was going to make short ribs, JT specifically asked me to make the blue cheese risotto. This dish is extremely rich, so I suggested that I make it with cauliflower rice instead of real rice and JT agreed. The meat is cooked on low for a long time but that is what makes it so delicious, so don’t fast forward and use high, low and slow is the way to go. Also, cut the carrots into good sized chunks so that they don’t disintegrate during the cooking process, my carrots still had great texture at the end.

Sherry Braised Short Rib with Cauliflower Blue Cheese Risotto

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Please click here to print this recipe.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL beef short ribs
  • 200 g onions, finely chopped
  • 125 mL beef stock
  • 125 mL cooking sherry (or red wine)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 200 g (1 medium) carrot, cut into one-bite chunks
  • 120 g (1 stalk) celery, finely chopped
  • 20 g (3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) corn starch, dissolved in a small amount of cold water

 

Directions:

  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. Brown the short ribs in small batches in a cast iron pan, transfer to a pre-warmed slow cooker.
  3. Add onions to the hot cast iron pan and cook until translucent, add celery and garlic and cook until garlic becomes aromatic. Add the carrots and cook for about a minute. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  4. Combine the stock, sherry, tomato paste and mix well, use to deglaze the cast iron pan, turn the heat off. Add the cornstarch that has been dissolved in a small amount of water and stir well into the deglazing liquid. Pour the liquid over the meat and carrots in the slow cooker. Stir well.
  5. Lay the fresh thyme and bay leaf into the slow cooker and cover with braising liquid. Cook the ribs for 5-6 hours, covered on low or until meat comes cleanly off the bone. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
  6. Serve on top of a bed of cauliflower blue cheese risotto (I didn’t jot down the recipe, but this one would be delicious).

 

Notes:

  • Always brown meat in small batches, otherwise you’ll end up steaming them instead of browning.
  • I sprinkled the seasoned ribs with Mycryo and got a gorgeous sear.
  • My sauce turned out to be the perfect consistency, not soupy at all.

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We had our 15th or 16th (I’ve lost count) progressive dinner recently. It was our turn to host the main course, so we got to choose the theme and we chose Canada’s 150th birthday! This opens up the menu to several options and we all did very well! We began our feast with appetizers at John and Nancy’s, they had a lovely selection of Canadian cheeses with a variety of crackers. We were up next and we chose Tourtière as our main course. We finished the evening off at Tom and Iona’s where we enjoyed a Canadian Touque cake! I wish I had taken a picture of it, but it was dark and we were already into a few bottles of vino! 😉

Tourtière is a traditional Québequois meat pie with as many variations on the recipe as there are families! So, of course, I had to put my own spin on it. But before I get to the recipe, allow me to give you a bit of history that I found interesting (like to learn more? This is a good article).

This was the first test recipe.

Tourtière can be traced back to the 1600’s, served on Christmas Eve as part of a massive réveillon after Christmas Mass, it is time-consuming and expensive to make. Original recipes were made of cubed meat instead of ground meat and usually contained a variety of pork, beef, veal and in some cases, wild game. The uniqueness of Tourtière comes from the spices used to flavour the meat blend, most commonly would be cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, summer savoury, and thyme. Some even added grated potato, bread crumbs or oatmeal to help soak up the liquid. The pastry is always a rich, savoury, buttery pastry in a pie form, or are baked in layers like a lasagna; I chose to make mine a log similar to Beef Wellington. I will say, it was tasty but I doubt I would make it again (unless it was a special request).

The first one looked a little rough.

The first recipe I tried included grated raw potato which was added to the browned meat at the end and stock poured over to help cook it. Both JT and I agreed that it lead to a starchy filling and I decided right then and there that I would not go that route. You do need a little something to absorb some of the flavouring liquid so I chose bread crumbs. For this quantity of meat, some recipes added an entire cup, but I really wanted to avoid that starchy, gummy texture so I reduced both the stock and breadcrumbs significantly and was much happier with the outcome. The other thing I did slightly differently, is I added cooked bacon! It really brought a nice, layer of flavour to the pie without being overly bacon-ie.

The pastry is rather rich and employs a completely different method than regular pastry, the butter is room temperature and is basically rubbed into the flour and then the lightly beaten eggs and water are added at once, using the paddle attachment until just combined. Then it is set into the refrigerator to allow for the butter to set. It is rather odd, but it does work and it does make a very rich pastry that is both delicate but firm enough to hold the heavy meat filling. I decorated the log with maple leafs and then I scored the leaves for effect.

Just about ready to be popped into the oven.

Tourtière

Please click here to print recipe
Serves 6, plus

Ingredients:

  • 100 g bacon
  • 275 g each beef, veal, and pork
  • 130 g onion, finely diced
  • 125 g celery, finely diced (roughly 2 ribs)
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced (roughly 2 cloves)
  • 125 mL beef stock
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 20-30 g bread crumbs (unseasoned and finely ground)
  • 1 tsp each, salt and pepper (less salt if your bacon was really salty or to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Directions:

  1. Crisp the bacon. Reserve 30 mL (2 tbsp) of the rendered fat (set remainder aside if desired).
  2. Caramelize the onions in the 15 mL (1 tbsp) bacon fat. Near the end, add the garlic and stir until you can smell the aroma (this will cook further, later in the process). Reserve the onions and garlic mixture.
  3. Brown meat in batches using a little bit of the remaining 15 mL of bacon rendering. On the last batch of meat, deglaze the pan with a mixture of the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Turn the heat right down and return all of the meat to the pan, and add the celery and stir well.
  5. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs a little at a time while stirring to achieve a slightly drier texture but be careful, because it can make it mushy and starchy (I used about 20 g of the bread crumbs).
  6. Lightly toast the aromatic spices (nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon). Mix with salt, pepper and dried thyme and sprinkle evenly onto the meat mixture and stir well. Allow the meat to cool completely and then assemble into the pie crust.

 

This one turned out very well.

The Savoury Pastry Recipe

Please click here for original recipe. The recipe makes enough for 1 log.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 470 g cake and pastry flour
  • 12 g salt
  • 254 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 125 mL cool water
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, salt and smallish chunks of butter in the large bowl of your stand mixer, equipped with the paddle attachment. Mix until the butter is fully incorporated into the flour (should be mealy).
  2. Combine the water and eggs and mix well. Add the water egg mixture to the dough all at once and mix until just incorporated, the dough will be very shaggy.
  3. Transfer the dough without a lot of handling to a smaller bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours so the butter can set.
  4. Turn the shaggy dough out and bring it together with your hands, flattening and folding the crumbs until it comes together.
  5. Roll as required or wrap and chill or freeze for future use.

 

May I offer you a slice? Please have some smoked ketchup with it.

Assembly:

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Bring the pastry out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes (or less if it is hot in your kitchen) before you wish to begin rolling. Roll pastry with a little flour on parchment paper.
  3. Roll a rectangle about 30 cm x 40 cm (12″ x 16″) and place the meat mixture into the centre in a long log, leaving space at each end. Fold up the ends and pinch closed and fold up the sides and pinch closed. Cut off excess pastry at the ends, reserve for decoration.
  4. Flip the entire log so that the seam is underneath. Roll the remaining pastry a little thinner than the rectangle and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (I used a maple leaf).
  5. Lightly brush the pastry with the lightly beaten egg. Decorate with cut outs and then brush the cutouts with the remaining egg.
  6. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until pastry is golden and shiny. Slice into a variety of thicknesses to please all your guests.

Notes:

  • I served the Tourtière with Bacon Jam recipe and home made ketchup (recipe to come) and this Chutney.
  • Sides to consider: creamed corn, peas, green beans with garlic and almonds, and or mashed potatoes. It is a heavy meal so you may wish to include a salad.
  • JT made a wonderful no knead bread and I cut little patts of butter with my small maple leaf cookie cutter.

Night photos always suck.

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KalbiBenny_Blog

Last Friday night we went out for dinner but finding a spot was a much more arduous task than usual because it was Winterlicious. Winterlicious/Summerlicious theme was originally developed by the City of Toronto to encourage residents to go out for meals after the unfortunate SARS breakout in 2002; it’s a participation event where restaurants offer prix fixe meals for standardized rates (Lunch: $18 • $23 • $28; Dinner: $25 • $35 • $45). This year there are over 200 participating restaurants! What’s really cool is that some really high end restaurants participate where you get a three course meal for $45 Canadian (in some of these places $45 is usually just the main course!). It’s a great way to sample some expense account restaurants. But don’t think the restaurants aren’t making money because as one restaurateur once told me that because people perceive they are getting a deal on their meals, they will splurge on the bottle of wine, or two (in Ontario our restaurant liquor is usually marked up 3 times)! Getting a reservation this time of year is no easy task, even in non-participating places, but participating places it’s next to impossible. One year, I was on the phone for over an hour trying to get connected to a highly demanded Summerlicious restaurant, it was like calling a radio station for a prize, you just keep calling and calling and calling until you were connected. One year I gave up after 45 minutes of re-dial!

These days, I just couldn’t be bothered trying to get into the popular places plus we’re still trying to cut back consumption so three courses just isn’t what we want to eat, no matter how good the price. So Friday night we went to the newest addition of the Playa Cabana restaurants on Bloor, Playa Cabana Barrio. It’s part of a small Mexican group in Toronto and we have found (at their three other restaurants) the food to be exceptional and reasonably priced. This one was in Little Korea and the menu read more Korean than Mexican. I usually preview the menu but I was busy and didn’t this time. I was really in the mood for Mexican. The narrow restaurant was very crowded (imagine the width just wide enough for one table on either side, one parallel to the wall and one perpendicular). The tables are very close together so it’s difficult not to say ‘Hi’ and chat with the table next to yours (impossible for JT, that is). We were very fortunate as we had two young women from each end of the country (Victoria, BC and St. John, Newfoundland) reuniting for a girls weekend and we hit it off, weaving short conversations between courses about places they should go to in Toronto and their lives at the polar opposites of Canada.

One of the courses they ordered was BBQ’d Kalbi Ribs which came out “Fred Flintstone” style, piled up on a plate. When I say piled, it must have been 20 cm (8 inches) high! And I’m not exaggerating! It was difficult not to comment (for JT, that is)! But here’s the most unusual part: they insisted we take the last mammoth rib home as they were staying in a hotel (it was served family style, so it wasn’t handled). So we DID! Is that not the best story EVER? How many times have you wanted to give your uneaten food away while on holiday? It’s really a shame to throw away perfectly good left-overs (as long as they weren’t handled)

This inspiration is the result of that donated doggy bag of “Fred Flintstone” proportion Korean BBQ’d beef short rib!

KalbiBenny2_Blog

Although the yolk doesn’t look as runny, it really was!

BBQ’d Kalbi Benny

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 left-over BBQ’d Kalbi Short Rib with kimchi
  • 2 crêpes (recipe can be found here)
  • Hollandaise sauce (make your fav, healthy or not)
  • 2 poached eggs

Directions:

  1. Reheat rib and once hot, shred with two forks.
  2. Fold crêpe into fourths and spread the shredded rib meat in the centre.
  3. Top rib meat with a little of the left-over kimchi, then the egg and pour hot hollandaise over.
  4. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • This inspiration ‘recipe’ would work famously with any shredded left-over meat.
  • If having ribs for dinner, set aside one or two so you can have this fabulous breakfast.
  • Coleslaw may be substituted for the kimchi or omitted, but it was a tasty addition.
  • English muffins or any type of bread, for that matter may be substituted for the crêpes, I just wanted a slightly less heavy carb.
KalbiBenny3_blog

Lighting is everything.

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Recently we watched Chef on video. It was a bit long, but the happy ending made it totally worth it and we resulted with The Cuban sandwich for dinner, which is always a win/win for me! We had most of the fixin’s from the Parrillada Mixta we created for the progressive dinner and some ordinary staples like, French stick, dill pickles, cheese and onion confit. It made for a very tasty meal.

Cuban_4093

My baguette turned out rather thin but it still had that delicious chewy texture that French baguette should have.

Cubano (adapted from Chef, the movie)

Makes 4 small sandwiches (about 8-10 cm or 3-4″ long)

Ingredients:

  • 4 smallish portions of baguette
  • 4 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 4 tbsp onion confit
  • thinly sliced leftover steak, to cover one side of bread
  • thinly sliced Argentine Chorizo, to cover one half of bread
  • 8 thinly sliced pieces of cheese (we used sharp cheddar)
  • 4-6 thinly sliced dill pickles (depending on the size of the pickle)
  • Butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat your double sided grill (like a panini) until smoking hot.
  2. Slice each baguette in half and reserve the top half.
  3. On the bottom half, spread 1 tbsp of onion confit on each slice.
  4. Layer the thinly sliced meat, then sausage, then dill pickles and lastly the cheese.
  5. On the top half, smear 1 tbsp yellow mustard on each slice.
  6. Top the sandwich.
  7. Grill the sandwich so that it’s heated all the way through and the cheese has melted. Eat immediately.
Cuban_4098-2

Perfectly grilled so that meat is hot, the cheese is melted and the bread is delicious.

Notes:

  • For the baguette, I used this recipe. It was very labour and time intensive but the result of the texture was perfect!
  • For the onion confit, I used this tried and true recipe.
  • The meat is generally slow cooked with a variety of spices and the onion confit is not a usual component of a Cubano, so that’s why I called it ‘adapted’
  • Even though the sandwiches were small, they were very filling and I would say one would have done us just fine. Yes, we’re pigs.

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ArgentinianChorizo_1_4091

The long one’s are mild and the short one’s are hot!

Remember the group of neighbours with whom we share a progressive dinner from time to time? Well, we’ve had two such dinners since my last post about them, one was at the cottage of one of the neighbours and the other was just a couple of weeks ago back in the city. The one at the cottage had a European theme and because we had it at the cottage, we left it pretty loose for interpretation and it was fantastic! We were in charge of the hors d’œuvres and appetizers and because it was held dock-side we did an antipasto platter with lots of meat, cheese and roasted vegetables. We snacked on them for a few hours while the Bœuff Bourguignon simmered in the kitchen. For dessert, the other neighbour had the most incredible S’mores with belgian chocolate bars and decadent chocolate chip cookies (instead of graham crackers) by the fire pit. We slipped in dessert just before the skies opened and the rain poured and poured!

The most recent progressive dinner had Latin America as the theme and boy did it ROCK! We started with Cassava and cheese fritters, delicious empanadas and of course, nachos with guacamole and salsa. JT and I had the main and we went all out. I wanted Argentinian because I just love how they adore their meat! I made home-made Argentine Chorizo, we grilled steaks AND ribs! (OK, I confess, I just really wanted to make sausage and that’s why I picked this platter!) We also roasted small yellow potatoes (we were going to have Fried Papas Criollas but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it) and stir-fried a variety of coloured peppers; I even caramelized some onions in case someone wanted to eat Choripan (chorizo in french bread with caramelized onions and peppers) and of course we had Chimichurri sauce (both hot and not!). We had WAY too much food and now we’re enjoying variations of this feast for lunches, dinners and snacks! Dessert was a very tasty and refreshing lime ice cream.

The Argentine Chorizo sausage recipe is slightly different than other Latin American recipes in that it contains nutmeg; it’s not a lot but it does give it a slightly different flavour. I used this recipe with some minor alterations. What I didn’t skimp on was the garlic, it seems like a lot, but it’s not and it’s totally worth it! I made a sweet version and a hot version (sweet was longer and hot were the short ones) and I think both went over excellent. Even though I did use some pork belly, it was still a little dry but more than a couple of people said they preferred it to a greasy sausage. I know I will experiment with other flavours in the near future (like spinach, chicken and feta for example!)

ArgentinianMeat_1_4103

We grilled steaks, ribs and home-made sausages!

ArgentinianMeat_1_4105

It was a meat-lovers heaven.

Argentine Chorizo

Makes about 6 mild Chorizo (15 cm or 6″ long) and about 10 hot Chorizo (8 cm or 3″ long)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red wine (we used this wine)
  • 1 entire head of garlic
  • 5 whole cloves, crushed
  • hog casings
  • 1 kg of pork
  • 400 g of beef
  • 150 g pork belly
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp (heaping) nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp hot chilli pepper flakes (reserve for hot portion)

Directions:

  1. On low heat, gently boil the wine with the whole head of garlic and crushed garlic for 15 to 20 minutes and allow to cool. Strain and reserve the liquid (discard the garlic) should be about 1/2-3/4 cup.
  2. Cut the pork, beef and pork belly into small cubes and pass through the meat grinder set on coarse grind. Mix meat with hands until well blended.
  3. Pour the cooled wine over meat mixture and mix thoroughly. Combine all of the spices together with the exception of the hot chilli pepper flakes and sprinkle over meat mixture. Add the finely chopped garlic and mix into meat well. Divide the meat into two equal portions and set one portion aside. Over the second portion, sprinkle the hot chilli pepper flakes and mix well with hands. Refrigerate both hot and mild sausage meats overnight to allow flavours to develope and mature.
  4. Prepare your sausage casing by rinsing in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Any unused portions may be resalted with seasalt and frozen for future use.
  5. Untangle a reasonable portion of the casing and feed it onto the sausage stuffer attachment, tie a knot at the end. Then in small portions, slowly feed the meat mixture through the sausage stuffer into the casing making sure that it’s relatively evenly filled (it should really fill on its own). Tie off the other end and twist into portion sizes. Poke a lot of small holes throughout the sausage to allow any air bubbles to dissipate (this step will also prevent the sausage from bursting open when grilling). Allow the sausage rest in the refrigerator uncovered for 2- 3 days before cooking or freezing. Once the casing has time to dry out, you should be able to cut the sausages into individual pieces without unravelling the casing.
  6. Grill on a charcoal grill over indirect heat for 30 minutes or until internal temperature is 71° C or 160° F. Serve hot off the grill with french stick and mustard.
Casing_1_4080

This is the natural casing. Someone on-line said it smelled really bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to smell it.

ArgChorizo_1_4081

The meat fills into the casing relatively easily. In fact, you hardly need to help it.

ArgentinianChorizo_1_4083

This is a really long sausage.

ArgentinianChorizo_1_4084

This is the sausage twisted into portions. I made two sizes so I could easily tell which one was hot. As the sausage dries in the fridge, the twisted ends will also dry out and be strong enough to cut through without it unravelling..

Notes:

  • Whenever I grind meat, I always prepare a medium-sized bowl which I submerged in an ice bath to ensure the meat remains cool as I work it through the grinder. My hands are always cold, so I don’t worry about mixing the meat but if your hands are hot, you may wish to use a wooden spoon.
  • To gage how much casing you’ll need, just tell the butcher how much meat you have, I had about 2 kg (4.4 lb) and he portioned out the casings which ended up to be about 2X too much. He suggested I could salt it and freeze it for next time. Casing are not expensive.

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ChillyTemps_1842

-22°C is -7.6°F (wind chill: -38°C is -38.4°F)

We had some very cold weather in December and I know some of my dear readers are experiencing some very hot weather — I can’t say which I prefer more, but at least one can put a few more layers on in the cold, not much you can take off after you’ve taken it all off in the heat (or maybe that was a vision we didn’t need!). To help combat the chill over the holidays, I made a big batch of beef barley soup which we had for a lunch and then froze the remainder for quickie servings in the future; it’s always easier to eat healthful if you are armed with healthy food.

BeefBarleySoup_1846

A thick soup flavoured with lots of mushrooms and chunks of beef

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup or 3 stalks celery, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 L Low Sodium beef stock
  • 5-7 dried  “fa goo” Chinese mushrooms, sliced (hydrated but save the liquid and strain it through a fine sieve)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 1″ sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
  • 400 g cubed beef (relatively small)
  • 1 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1-2 tsp canola oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • water, if necessary

Directions:

  1. Allow the beef cubes to come to room temperature. Preheat the slow cooker on high.
  2. Add 1-2 tsp canola oil to a hot cast iron dutch oven and brown the beef on all sides. Add to the slow cooker pot.
  3. In the same dutch oven, cook the onions until translucent, then add the garlic until fragrant. Stir in the pearl barley and toast for a few moments. Pour into the slow cooker with the beef. Add the beef stock to the slow cooker and give it a good stir.
  4. Deglaze the dutch oven with the sherry and add it to the slow cooker and add the bay leaf, thyme and finely chopped rosemary. Cook for 4-6 hours on low temperature or 3-4 hours on high.
  5. For the final hour, add the sliced hydrated mushrooms and the strained mushroom stock and give it a good stir.
  6. After the final hour, test the barley for doneness and soup for thickness, should you want a slightly less thick soup, add more water.
  7. Remove the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt and a sprig of rosemary.
  8. Cool leftovers completely and pour into plastic containers for freezing.
BeefBarleySoup_1843

A nice dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt is always a nice addition. Of course the crostini with brie never hurts either!

Although December and January were very cold, in late January and early February we were bombarded with snow. A lot of snow, all at once. I know other parts of the world get snow, but this is a lot for us, particularly those of us living in the city with smaller lots which means we have a really hard time finding the space to shovel the snow off the sidewalks and driveways! Enjoy the photos below and just be grateful you didn’t have to shovel it.

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This snow mound is just about 1 metre high (39″)

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You can see how high the snow is piled from our gorgeous little tree!

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These are our Rose of Sharon ‘trees’. They are about 3 metres (10 feet) tall, but they just look like shrubs with the snow piled up to their canopy!

 

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Several years ago we dined in a lovely bistro in the heart of the financial district downtown Toronto called Forte Bistro and Lounge. JT had read about Chef Greg Argent in one of our foodie magazines and he knew right away we had to experience his cooking! Sadly, the restaurant is no longer around but the delicious memories of Chef Argent’s cuisine still lingers on.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

One such dish was the unique French Onion Soup Dumplings ($11): a tender pasta dumpling filled with braised veal broth and gruyère cheese; what made this tasty dumpling so unusual was the surprise of the explosion of veal glacé that would fill you mouth with flavour after biting into the tender pasta, immediately reminding you of French Onion Soup! I have tried many times to recreate this wonderful dish without success and then Chef Argent revealed his ‘secret’ when I asked how he does it. Today I will share with you the secret of the tasty, unassuming little dumpling, but you must swear never to speak of it again! Although the recipe is laborious, I urge you to make a batch to serve as an amuse bouche or little hors d’œuvres at your next Super Bowl party (you may freeze uncooked dumplings on a parchment lined sheet lightly dusted with flour and then put them into a zip-lock bag), you will not only thank me for the wonderful compliments your lucky guests bestow upon you, you may even wish to send me gifts! 😉

Did you figure out the 'secret'?

Did you figure out the ‘secret’?

French Onion Soup Pillows

makes 60 single bite pillows

Ingredients for the broth:

  • 0.5 kg (about 1 pound) Beef bones or oxtail bones
  • 130 g (about 4.5 oz) sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp merlot salt (from my friend Kristy at Eat, play, love; our family food adventures)
  • 600 mL water, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry
  • 3 g (a scant teaspoon) powdered gelatine (agar agar will not work here)
  • 1 cup caramelized onions (please click here for a great recipe)
  • Home made pasta dough or 60 square won ton wrappers (for a great pasta dough recipe, please check out Chicago John’s kitchen)
  • Gruyère cheese to garnish

Directions for the broth:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F 177°C. Put a 11.5 cm x 21.5 cm (4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) metal loaf pan into the freezer.
  2. Sear the beef bones well on high heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with 1 tbsp cooking sherry or port. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for a minute or so on the residual heat from searing. Spread the onions out evenly on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef bones to the pan and nestle into the onions, add the merlot salt, bay leaf and 300 mL water. Cover with tin foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated, top up as needed.
  3. Remove pan from oven and remove tin foil. Add an additional 200 mL water and boil on the stove top until liquid is reduced to about 150 mL (about 5 oz). Strain through a fine sieve and press as much liquid out of the cooked onions as possible.
  4. Set aside about 60 mL (1/4 cup) of the stock and cool. Keep the remainder stock on a soft boil.
  5. Stir the gelatine into the cooled stock until melted. Add the boiling stock and stir well. Allow to cool to room temperature and pour into the super cooled loaf pan. Refrigerate until set.
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You can develop a little assembly line to speed up the process!

An unexpected, rich, delicious soup explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

An unexpected, rich, delicious broth explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

Directions for assembling the pillows:

  1. Roll out the pasta dough to #4 thickness on the Kitchenaid Pasta roller (less than 1 mm or 0.125 inch). Using a 6-7cm (2.5″ -2.75″) oval cookie cutter, cut out the ovals to make both sides of the pillows.
  2. Remove the jelled broth from the fridge and cut into 0.5-1cm (0.25″-0.5″) rectangles.
  3. Onto each oval, more or less centred, add one jelled broth rectangle and about 1/4 tsp caramelized onion. Wet your finger and run a wet bead along the outer edge of the pasta oval. Turn up both sides of the oval and squeeze the edges together to bind — you don’t want these pillows to burst open when boiling.
  4. Lightly flour a parchment lined baking sheet and add each finished pillow to it so as not to touch each other. Freeze and bag frozen pillows into a zip lock bag or container. Use as many as needed.
  5. Bring an appropriate  amount of salted water to a boil. Add frozen pillows and boil until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a clean dish cloth to drain off water. Present on a Chinese soup spoon and garnish with a small amount of finely grated gruyère cheese. Brûlée the cheese until it is golden and crispy. Serve immediately.
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The Brûléed Gruyère cheese taste just like the burnt bits on a French Onion soup bowl.

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We celebrated our fourth Progressive dinner a few weeks ago with our lovely neighbours. During the last dinner the boys dreamed up our next theme: Beer! I was lucky enough to be next up for the main course so I was excited because I don’t often cook with beer and I don’t often make stew; I was thinking Guinness Stew!

We started at house one with a variety of beer cheeses and beer candied bacon (definitely on my list to make!), they also served a delicious Steam Whistle Butternut Squash Soup garnished with bits of the candied bacon and a splash of cream, very tasty indeed. Then of course it was our place and then at the third house we enjoyed dessert which was a fantastic Beer Brownie, it was definitely moist and flavourful. All of the dishes were wonderful and the company was great. We’ve even determined our next theme: Mad Men! We’re going to have fun with that as far as I could tell, all they did was eat cake and drink. Should be an interesting party!

Guinness is by far my favourite beer; thick, creamy, caramel tones and even a little liquorish flavours are a perfect pairing with the hearty, earthy beef. My friend Angela (of Titanic Anniversary, Truman Capote’s Black and White, James Bond 60th Anniversary dinner parties) served up this Beef and Guinness Stew for the Bond party and I knew it would be the recipe I wanted to make. Plus it has Guinness in it. Did I mention it has Guinness in it?

I made this stew the day before because stews always taste better the next day and I would urge you to do the same. JT confessed he likes this stew better than his Bœuff Bourguignon! Make sure you refrigerate overnight and then bring it to room temperature before you reheat. I also added carrots because one of our neighbours is not a mushroom eater so I wanted another vegetable in it and it tastes and looks amazing. I used eye of round which is a rather tough cut of beef, but I wanted to bake it longer at a lower temperature and I wanted a meat that would stand up; it was amazing, totally fork tender keeping its shape for serving. I also added a bit of beef stock when I reheated because the sauce thickened up a bit too much, use your own discretion on how thick or watery you want your sauce to be. Guinness’ website offers up a recipe that looks very watery but it’s entirely up to you.

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The biscuits were perfect for this type of stew

Guinness Beef Stew

Serves 6-8 (it’s a filling meal, so you may even get 9 out of it!)

(original recipe is by Executive chef John Cordeaux of The Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto as published in Canadian Living) I have altered the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb (907 g) eye of round beef roast, trimmed and cut into 5-8 cm (2-3″) cubes (I like bigger chunks of meat, serving size is 2-3 per person
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetabIe oil
  • 6 slices chopped bacon
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely sliced
  • 4 cups (1 L) small mushrooms, either halved (if large) or whole (if small)
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced in 2-3 cm (1.5″) chunks
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) all purpose flour
  • 1 can (440ml) Guinness draught beer
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) grainy mustard (I made my own here)
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) white pepper
  • 1 cup of beef stock (to be added when reheating the stew)
  • Fresh Rosemary to garnish

Directions:

  1. In ovenproof Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown the beef in batches, transferring to bowl using slotted spoon (don’t drain, you’ll want the liquid from the beef too).
  2. Once the meat has been browned and removed, cook the bacon until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes; remove bacon with slotted spoon to a piece of paper towel to drain and then reserve.
  3. Drain off the pan fat and melt the butter over medium head. Add the onions and sweat until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms (I was concerned that they would over cook over the 3 hours in the oven).
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and cook continually stirring for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook stirring for another minute. Whisk in Guinness, grainy mustard, salt and pepper until smooth.
  5. Return beef and bacon and juices to the pan, cover and bake at 250°F (121° C) until beef is tender, about 2.5-3 hours.
  6. In the meantime, peel and cut carrots into chunks. Roast on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour (not 100% done).
  7. When beef is cooked, add the carrots and mushrooms and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until day of serving.
  8. Remove beef from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature (2-3 hours).
  9. Pre heat the oven to 200°F (93° C). On the stove top, warm beef slowly to boiling, adding beef stock as required. Fold instead of stirring to avoid breaking apart the meat.
  10. Cover and put into the oven until ready to serve.
  11. Serve with Cauliflower Celeriac “Mashed Potatoes” and a Butter Biscuit (recipe).
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Thick, rich Guinness Stew, I know you want some!

Note: Don’t be concerned that the stew might be bitter, the long cooking process, sweet tomato paste and onions certainly round out what ever bitterness there may have been. Allowing to rest overnight also helps round out the flavours.

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We have an Indian restaurant just north of where we live in BWV called North of Bombay. It’s a lovely place, nicely decorated in a contemporary style, close enough to walk (about 20 minutes) and the food is very good and it’s never crowded and the service has been very good. But for some reason, we ALWAYS order takeout or delivery. Indian is like that for us. And they have a crappy wine list. But they have the most delicious Beef Bhuna that we’ve ever had so that is the recipe I was trying to replicate for our Indian themed dinner party. Their menu describes it as Eye of round cubes cooked with fresh onions,green pepper, ginger, coriander, tomatoes, herbs & spices. So when I was searching the net, those were the key ingredients I was looking for. The recipe below is loosely based on this recipe but I changed it to replicate the flavours of North of Bombay’s Beef Bhuna. I also changed up the technique because I wanted to cook it slow and low as per Bœuff Bourguignon.

Beef Bhuna

Tender beef cubes drenched in a mildly spicy, fragrant, flavourful gravy

Serves 4-6 as part of a bigger menu

Ingredients:

  • 400 g eye of round beef, cut into 2.5 cm or 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Green Pepper, cut into similar size squares as the beef
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of mild curry powder
  • 1 tsp of Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you find this too hot)
  • a pinch of ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1+ cup water
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300° F.
  2. In an oven-proof pan (like Le Creuset’s dutch oven) sear the beef in about 1-2 tbsp high flash point oil (like peanut or canola). Remove from pan. De-glaze with a 1/2 cup of beef stock, pour over the meat.
  3. Add finely chopped onions and cook well (I saw Madhur Jaffrey on Martha Stewart once and she said that Indian cooking doesn’t sweat the onions, but they cook the onions dark, but not burned).
  4. Add the curry, chilli, cayenne, cardamon and coriander and cook JUST until you can smell it. Add the garlic, fresh ginger and garam masala give a quick stir. Now add the water and combine well. Return the beef to the pan and give it a good stir. Cover and bake in the 300° F oven for 2-3 hours or until beef is fork tender. Check frequently and add water as required; you don’t want it soupy, just a nice light gravy. About 30 minutes to serving, add the green pepper — you don’t want the green pepper soft and mushy.
  5. Serve hot garnished with cilantro leaves and green onions with Basmati rice and Naan.


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Happy Holidays Everyone! I do hope you are enjoying this lovely spring long weekend. I am very fortunate because we decided to close the studio on Friday AND Monday, so it’s extra lovely for me.

We’re just finishing off our Paul and T weekend and this is the last new recipe I’m posting of that series. I’d like to begin the way I’ve ALWAYS began my posts about the Paul and T weekends: We’ve survived another Paul and T weekend (see here or here or here or here to name a few). And I say it with a heart full of love and gratitude that they visit us…but there is only so much eating and drinking one can take. We’re dieting for the next three weeks ;-)!

I had never made beef tenderloin before I saw this recipe in Epicurious a few years ago; now it’s my ‘go to’ recipe for tenderloin. I was intrigued by the recipe because the first instruction was this: “Sprinkle entire surface of beef tenderloin with coarse kosher salt. Place beef on rack set over large rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours.” Really? Could that be true? It goes against everything I think the salt will do, like dry it out completely! If it wasn’t for the 173 comments, I probably would have passed right by, because I don’t know about your parts of the world, but beef tenderloin could cost as much as $60 to feed 6 people, and I’m not about to wreck a $60 piece of meat! But this recipe is A M A Z I N G! Really. And I think it would be even more amazing using some of the flavoured salts that Kristy (from Eat, Play, Love; our family food adventures) won in January during my first give away. Sadly I didn’t have any on hand but a quick trip to Longo’s this past weekend, I now have a lovely selection that I will definitely try the next time (the espresso salt or the Wild Porcini or the Black Truffle or the Aged Balsamic would be amazing for this recipe).

This was our first dinner together on Thursday night. We almost couldn’t stop eating it (that’s why the photo looks a little lame…I had to wait for the next day and this was all that was left!)

The port sauce is incredible and the meat was so tender you could cut it with a fork.

Roast Beef Tenderloin with Port Sauce

Beef Ingredients:

  • 1 4- to 5-pound trimmed whole beef tenderloin, tail end tucked under, tied every 3 inches
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (or infused salt as above)

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup ruby or tawny Port
  • 1 cup Homemade Beef Stock or Low Sodium Beef Stock

Roasting Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, coarsely cracked in mortar with pestle or in resealable plastic bag with mallet

Directions for beef:

  1. Sprinkle entire surface of beef tenderloin with coarse kosher salt.
  2. Place beef on rack set over large rimmed baking sheet. and refrigerate uncovered at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours.

Directions for sauce:

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots; sauté until soft, 3 minutes.
  2. Add Cognac, rosemary, and 1 teaspoon cracked pepper and cook until liquid evaporates, 1 minute.
  3. Add Port; bring to simmer. Add all of beef stock. Boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes.
  4. Strain into medium saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids in strainer.

Note: The sauce can be made 24 to 36 hours ahead. Cool slightly, then cover and chill.

Directions for roasting:

  1. Let beef stand at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.
  2. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425°F.
  3. Rub beef all over with oil; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cracked peppercorns, pressing to adhere. Return beef to rack on baking sheet and roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 125°F for medium-rare (135°F to 140°F in thinnest part), about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove roast from oven and let rest 15 minutes.

Note: Several comments suggest that you sear the beef, but I did not do that and it was still incredibly succulent and tender.

Plating:

  1. Bring sauce to boil; whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Cut off string from roast. Cut roast crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices; arrange on platter. Serve with sauce and the celeriac and cauliflower mash.

I served it with the celeriac and cauliflower mash instead of potatoes. It was incredibly satisfying.

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You may recall at Maison MK we made Lamb Tajine, our guests Kevin and Barb with whom we are traveling down memory lane don’t care for Lamb; fortunately, the recipe deck from Maison MK included the same Tajine except using beef! Perfect. We decided to cook the dish the same way that we did at Maison MK, in a pressure cooker and only present in the Tajine.

Beef Tajine

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg stewing beef in large cubes
  • 50 g almonds with skins on.
  • 50 g prunes
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp 5 spices (a Moroccan blend our Chef gave us as a gift)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 large pinch saffron
  • 1 tsp turmeric (for colour)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 2-4 cups of water

Directions:

  1. Add the pitted prunes to a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 8-10 minutes (this is to soften the prunes and not disintegrate them!)
  2. Strain the prunes and return to heat, add the honey and cook until the prunes are glazed and all of the water has evaporated. Set aside.
  3. Add the almonds to a small saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 3 minutes. Strain and cool immediately with cold water. Remove skins; the skins should come off very easily.  Our Chef deep fried the almonds but we roasted them in a 375°F oven for 5-10 minutes.
  4. In a very hot pressure cooker with a bit of oil, brown the meat on all sides, set aside.
  5. Add a bit more of the oil and cook the onions until a little brown. Turn down the heat and add the garlic and stir until you can smell it. Return the beef to the pan.
  6. Add the ginger, saffron and turmeric and 1 cup of water. Stir well. Put the pressure cooker lid on and cook on a medium level flame for 10 minutes.
  7. Give the meat a stir and add 1-2 cups of water and cook with the pressure cooker lid on for another 40 minutes. Check to see how the meat is, after about 40 minutes it should be tender enough that you don’t need a knife to cut it. There should be enough ‘gravy’ to serve with the meat.
  8. Add salt and cinnamon and stir well. Stir in the cilantro and parsley. Serve in a tajine with couscous.

The beef turned out incredibly well, falling apart, no need for a knife! How do you like the tip of the hat to the 1970’s propping? What is that in the background? A bedspread? or is it curtains? Not sure either — I was just having a little fun!

Beef Tajine with Prunes and Almonds

This is the tajine that Hayat gave us as a gift!

Our new tajine

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Toronto has a diverse cultural population and we love it. For example, did you know that Toronto has the largest Italian population next to Rome? We have Little Italy, Little India, Greektown, Korea Town, Chinatown, well you get my drift. When you enter these small areas (sometimes only one street, or two or three blocks) you are transformed from being in big city Toronto to being in Italy or even India! We are indeed very fortunate to be able to live safely, peacefully and embrace our diverse cultures. We LOVE this, particularly the FOOD!

Very close to where I work, there are a couple of Vietnamese restaurants; we sometimes go to a place called Asia 21. It’s not pretty, but the food is fresh and good and family run; the only bad side is that they only take cash, and they are not licensed (somehow this type of food does not pair well with wine anyway, but I still love it!) I am addicted to Phô, a clear beef broth with very thinly sliced rare beef, rice noodles and herbs; it’s ‘Happy food’ or Vietnamese comfort food. I totally get it, I can eat this for every meal, every day! Sadly, there is so MUCH salt in the restaurant versions that I swell up like a dirigible on Superbowl Sunday — not a pretty site! We’ve started making our own so we can control the salt. I must say, I like it even better. The temperatures in Toronto couldn’t be less like soup weather…but I have to say, I have missed my Phô! It’s humid and unseasonably warm, NOT complaining! JT made an excellent Phô last night, and I had it for lunch today (did I mention that I can eat this EVERY DAY?). We’ve adapted Canadian Living’s Beef Phô (click for original recipe) A delicately fragrant beef broth, with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise. It’s really a flavour explosion in your mouth. We season it with fresh mint, cilantro and thai basil. I also add hoisin sauce (sweet) and Sriracha Sauce (hot, they call it Asian Catsup). My mouth is watering as I type this on my iPad (sitting at the island in the kitchen while JT cooks up another specialty, Israeli Couscous and Grilled Shrimp). YUM! I am a very fortunate woman.

Phô

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I am so excited to introduce my best friend and husband as guest blogger today, please meet JT! I have asked JT to blog about the Moroccan Braised Beef because I had also asked him to prepare it. When I read the recipe on Epicurious, it dawned on me that it was indeed very similar to Julia Child’s Boeuff Bourguignon, and since JT is the master of THAT meal, it really was a no brainer (plus it got me out of the kitchen a bit sooner 😉 ). And I hand it over to you, JT…

I don’t pretend to have the same knowledge nor quite the same passion for cooking as does my wife Eva, but I do have some specialty items I do enjoy creating ……glass of wine in hand. As Eva eluded to above, one of my favourites meals to make (and eat) is bœuff bourguignon (bb), however during the summer months it is just too hot to prepare and too heavy to eat. So, when Eva asked if I could make the Moroccan braised beef (mbb) I was happy to oblige (considering the temperature had gone from 28° C last week to lows around 5° C this past weekend). In reviewing the mbb recipe I saw two steps that I found interesting compared to the bb. First, in the bb recipe, the beef is seared in a hot pan then coated with flour and baked at a high temperature for a few minutes. This gives a really nice thick sauce after bb has fully cooked. While the mbb beef is seared, it does not add any flour or thickeners, but it does have a lot of liquid. Eva suggested to use the bb method of baking the flour onto the meat, but I resisted and made it according to the recipe. Since the mbb is simmered on the stove top uncovered instead of in the oven as with the bb, much of the liquid is evaporated off (also giving the house a really great aroma). The final product had a beautiful thick sauce similar to my usual bb. The second step in the mbb that I was curious about was the creation of a glaze. Again following the recipe to a T, the ingredients did boil down to a very shiny, flavourful, glaze. I mixed the beef into the glaze first for a couple of minutes prior to adding the rest of the liquids to incorporate even more flavour into the meat. Here are a couple of tips to hopefully improve the appearance, flavour and texture. 1) Cut the beef into about 1″ (25 cm) to 2″ (50 cm)…..any larger than 2″ is just too large in my opinion. 2) Simmer at a very low heat setting and increase cooking time to longer than 1 1/4 hours. I cooked ours for 2+ hours and the meat just fell apart. 3) Add some of your raisins about half way through the simmering process as the long cooking time tends to almost dissolve them into the sauce and it is nice to see some of them in the final product 4) Never add a wine or sherry you wouldn’t drink.

You may now wonder which I like better bb or mbb? I am leaning toward the mbb, but that may be just because it is a new taste to me……I’ll have a better idea after dinner tonight as we having leftover mbb…..yum!!!

Thanks JT for a great synopsis of the recipe and the tips. I sure would make eat it again, and again!

Moroccan Braised Beef

Moroccan Braised Beef

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into 2-4-inch cubes
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala* (Krishna Jamal’s HeartSmart™ Flavours of India, Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre, 1998)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Add meat to pot; sauté until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to bowl.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same pot. Add onions; sauté until brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and next 5 ingredients; stir 1 minute. Add wine and Sherry; boil until reduced to glaze, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes with juice, and 1/4 cup raisins (reserve about 1/4 cup of the raisins to add later as suggested in tip 3 above); stir to blend. Add beef and accumulated juices; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered until sauce is thick and beef is tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours 15 minutes.
  4. Season stew with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly, chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before serving.)

You will notice that the Epicurious link to spiced almonds and couscous also included raisins, but since the beef had raisins, we omitted them, the almonds added an excellent of flavour AND texture.

Spiced Couscous with Almonds

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, wine, and saffron to a measuring cup and let sit for about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion; cover and cook until translucent and tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Reserve.
  3. Bring the saffron water to a boil, add couscous and remove from heat. Allow to sit covered for about 15 minutes or until couscous has absorbed all of the water. Fluff with a fork.
  4. Mix onions, almonds and cinnamon into couscous. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

All in all, an exceptional Moroccan dinner we are both eager to try in Morocco. PS, our guests also seemed to really enjoy it. Thank you Gordon and Angela for allowing us to use you as test victims…again!

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This is a piquant sauce, made from carrots, parsnips and celery root. Original recipe from this link. All of the recipes on-line indicate that if you are cooking with beef, to begin this recipe a couple of days in advance so that the beef has time to tenderize in the marinade. I did this batch with turkey scallopini, so I marinated for a few hours.  Also, for poultry, I would strongly suggest that you allow the marinade to cool to at least room temperature before you immerse the poultry in it. Also, the original recipe called for a roux to thicken the sauce, I omitted this as I felt the sauce was thick enough with the cooked vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 1 trimmed whole beef tenderloin, 5-6 lbs (my mom used to make this with eye of round — tenderloin is way too expensive, plus, it has 2-3 days to marinate, and soften up).
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, cut in to little strips
  • 1 cup grated celery root
  • 1 cup grated parsnips
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup minced sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (I did add this but strongly recommend not to, it was too sweet; the carrots make this sauce sweet enough)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt

Directions:

  1. Start this recipe 2 or 3 days before you plan to serve it.
  2. Combine 1  1/2 cups water and the vinegars in a dutch oven (not aluminum), add the vegetables and bring to a boil. This step is simply to blend the flavours, not cook the vegetables. If making this dish with poultry, allow this mix to cool completely before the next step. I also transferred this mix into a glass container with a lid, large enough to hold the liquid and the meat.
  3. Add the beef, grated lemon rind and bay leaves so that the mixture covers the meat. Marinate for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  4. When you are ready to cook, pre-heat the oven at 350°F.
  5. In a large dutch oven (large enough to hold the vegetables and the meat) over  heat wilt the onion in 1 teaspoon EVOO; do not allow the onions brown.
  6. Remove beef from marinade and place it on top of onions. Cook meat for 2 or 3 minutes on each side.
  7. Pour marinade over meat and place into pre-heated oven, covered until meat is almost cooked, for 2 hours.
  8. Remove the meat and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, set aside.
  9. Remove bay leaves and discard. Using an immersion blender, blend vegetables until very smooth (you may wish to press this through a fine sieve to get the creamiest texture, as I did).
  10. I omitted this step: Brown the sugar in a small frying pan until caramelized. Add 3 tablespoons cold water and cook for a few minutes till sugar melts. Whip in the mustard. Pour the caramel and mustard into the puréed sauce.
  11. Instead, I whipped the mustard into the smooth sauce. Return the sauce to the dutch oven.
  12. Add sliced meat; keeping the slices whole. Cook at a slow simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes to allow sauce to permeate the meat (this can be done on the stove).
  13. Just before serving, combine the lemon juice and sour cream and whisk into the sauce. Serve with bread dumplings.

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This afternoon we are having our good friends Rae and Mon over and they are bringing Remy and her Beau Liam. Remy is going to borrow my (mom’s) vintage brocade dress for her prom. She bought a pair of shoes in NYC and this is fitting #2! The kids will then be off to Bloor Street to walk around and then have dinner plans!
We will make a killer charcuterie/antipasto plate:
• chicken liver pate
• korozot
• boconccini
• pickles (gherkins, mini onions)
• pickled asparagus
• grapes
• Salami
• Black Forest ham
• crispy Chorizo sausage
• melon
• marinated black olives
• Blue Cheese
• St. Andre cheese
And a variety of flat breads and crackers!

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I have been really bad about blogging lately. My hesitation is that I want to post recipes with photos, but I do hate our crappy little Nikon so I procrastinate. My dear friend Barb gave me the boot last night and suggested that I post my creations anyway, so here I go (thanks Barbie!).

We haven’t seen Barb and Kevin for quite some time, so we had them over for a tapas dinner. What’s really nice about a tapas dinner is that it’s the entire evening. We sat in front of a roaring fire and ate little portions all night long. If you think about the time you spend creating a sit-down meal and the relatively little time it takes to devour said meal, the tapas menu is a much more satisfying experience! I’ll post only recipes I haven’t posted before and I will try to link those that I have posted before. Keep in mind that I never use a recipe verbatim, I always eyeball to my own personal taste. This is a rendition of how I remember doing this dinner. Hope you enjoy.

Round One: Asia
Sushi rolls
Lemongrass soup w. shrimp
Mango salad
Wine: South African Viognier

Round Two: Mediterranean
Chorizo w. tomato & balsamic
Spanakopita
Onion & orange Salad
Wine: Spanish Rioja

Round Three: Europe
French onion soup dumplings
Beef bourguignon
Roasted golden beet & goats cheese salad
Wine: French Cabernet Sauvignon

Round Four: North America
Québec Artisan Cheeses w. crackers and breads
Wine: Ontario Late Harvest Riesling

Lemongrass Soup with Shrimp (80 mL each serving, serves 4)

  • 350mL low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots finely chopped
  • 3 dried Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 tbsp lemongrass, finely ground
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, finely ground
  • 2 tsp or so freshly grated ginger (I like to use my microplane for this)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic (I like to use my microplane for this)
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • pinch of roasted chilli paste
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar (you may substitute honey for this)
  • 4 medium mushrooms (cut into quarters)
  • 4 cooked shrimp
  • 3 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 3 tbsp finely sliced green onions
  1. This soup is prepared relatively quickly so it is best to have your mise en place  so all you do is add ingredients to the pot.
  2. Chopped shallots, set aside. Grind lemongrass and coriander seed, set aside (I like to use my spice grinder aka coffee grinder dedicated to spices).
  3. Heat olive oil in a 3 quart soup pot, add finely chopped shallots and sauté until soft.
  4. Add lemongrass, coriander and freshly grated ginger and garlic and sauté until you can smell all of the ingredients (less than 1 minute).
  5. Add chicken stock, fish sauce, lemon juice, chili paste, kaffir lime leaves and agave nectar and stir to combine.
  6. Bring to a boil and allow flavours to blend about 5-7 minutes on the boil, taste to make sure it is seasoned well.
  7. Add mushrooms about half-way through the boil.
  8. Remove from heat. Remove kaffir lime leaves.
  9. Serve in small bowls, adding one shrimp per bowl, garnish with chopped cilantro and finely sliced green onions.
  10. Enjoy!

Mango Salad (serves 4 small)

  • 1 medium ripe mango
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 2 radishes
  • 2 green onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 4 tbsp coarsely chopped peanuts
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 finely chopped thai chili
  • 1 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
  1. This salad is best made the morning of the day you are serving so that the dressing has time to blend into the salad.
  2. Using a fine slice on a mandolin, finely julienne the mango, cucumber and radishes, toss to mix well.
  3. Add green onions and cilantro leaves and toss again, set aside.
  4. In a small measuring cup, mix lime juice, fish sauce, thai chili and agave nectar and whisk until well combined. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
  5. Strain thai chili’s from the dressing (otherwise it could be way too hot!) and pour over the salad mixture. Toss to coat evenly and refrigerate 4-5 hours.
  6. To serve, garnish with additional cilantro leaves and chopped peanuts.
  7. Enjoy!

Chorizo with Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar (serves 4)

  • 1 cup 1/4″ sliced chorizo sausage
  • 2 medium sized plum tomatoes, seeded but skins left on
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (I prefer Mayan sweet onions or vidalia)
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped (I prefer to use my microplane)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a small pan, add chorizo and caramelize each side.
  2. Add onions and garlic and sauté for a minute. Add tomatoes and sauté for another minute.
  3. Add balsamic and allow balsamic to reduce slightly 3-4 minutes (this will thicken the balsamic a bit)
  4. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Red Onion and Orange Salad (serves 4) adapted from Spain-Recipes.com

  • 2 medium navel oranges, peeled, sectioned and sliced in half into bite sized pieces.
  • 1 small red onion finely sliced (mandolin works best)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tbsp salted sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons blueberry merlot balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Section oranges over a bowl to catch the juice that undoubtedly drizzle from the orange.
  2. Combine oranges, onions and raising in a bowl.
  3. Combine vinegar and olive oil and mix well.
  4. Pour over oranges and onions. Refrigerate overnight (this will allow the onions to mellow quite a lot).
  5. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on top and serve.

French Onion Soup Bundles (makes about 24 dumplings, which may be frozen for future use)

  • 2 large mayan onions
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1/4 cup Port
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 48 sheets of won ton wrappers
  • 1 egg white with a little water to help glue the wrappers
    Beef Broth for presentation
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1/4 cup port
  • 1 clove garlic smashed but left whole
  • 1 small onion in large chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 cup gruyère cheese finely grated and broiled on a silpat sheet until crispy
  1. Finely chop onion and garlic.
  2. Heat olive oil and add onion and garlic, sauté for about 1 minute. Slowly add the beef broth to cover, add bay leaves. Stirring frequently, boil down adding stock as it evaporates until all the stock is consumed by the onions and the onions are golden brown.
  3. Add port to deglaze the pan, add thyme.
  4. Set aside to cool completely.
  5. Lay out 6 won ton wrappers at a time, painting each one with the egg white and water mixture. Add about 1 tsp of the onion reduction to the centre of each wrap and fold two opposing sides into the centre so they overlap and the sides are smoothed out to seal. Layout 6 more won ton wrappers at a time and paint each one with the egg white mixture. Lay filled won tons seam side down and repeat the folding process. Place finished bundles onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment so they do not touch one another. Repeat until the entire onion mixture has been used. Freeze over night and store in a zip lock bag for future use.
  6. For presentation, I like to serve the bundles in a beef broth reduction, drizzled with gruyère crème and a gruyère crisp. To make the beef broth reduction, add 2 cups beef broth, smashed garlic, onion in large chunks, 1 bay leaf and thyme into a sauce pan and simmer until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Strain liquid and set aside (discard onion, garlic, bay leaf mix).
  7. To serve, steam bundles for about 3-4 minutes until the won ton is done. Heat beef broth reduction and pour evenly into four shallow round bowls (should just be a hint of liquid, not a soup). Add french onion soup bundles and drizzle with the gruyère crème (I like the contrasts of the cold crème and the hot bundles in the hot soup) – garnish with the gruyère crisp. Serve immediately.
  8. Enjoy!

Beef Bourguignon was JT’s specialty and he followed Julia Child’s recipe which can be found on line at Julia Child recipes: Boeuf à la Bourguignonne (should be made ahead and reheated on the stove for a few minutes, adding red wine if needed).

Roasted Golden Beets, Sautéed Beet Greens and Goats Cheese Salad

  • 3 medium golden beets (well scrubbed, tops and bottoms trimmed, cut into 2″ cubes)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil in about 4 cups water
  • 1 oz pancetta finely sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 2-3 cups well washed and chopped beet greens
  • 1/4 cup balsamic
  • 1 tsp pesto (home made or store bought)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup goats cheese crumbled
  1. Preheat over to 375°F.
  2. Put beet cubes into the water and olive oil, strain (this is an excellent way to reduce fat as the olive oil floats and as you strain the beets, it sticks evenly to the beets). Discard water.
  3. Arrange beets in a 13″ x 10″ pan evenly so they are not on top of one another. Bake for about 45 minutes or until beets are tender to pierce.
  4. Fry pancetta in 1 tsp olive oil until crisp, add onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  5. Add beet greens and sauté until soft (4-5 minutes). Remove from heat and add roasted beets.
  6. In a small measuring cup, mix balsamic, pesto and olive oil together.
  7. Place greens and beets on a platter and add crumbled goats cheese. Drizzle dressing over the warm salad and serve immediately.
  8. Enjoy!

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The diet went extremely well last week – 4lbs in total, and am hoping for an additional 4 this week. I broke down and had cocktails and wine, but the weeknights will remain dry.

I remembered I bought a tortilla press a few years ago and thought I would dust it off and make some mini hors d’oeuvres sized ones. They turned out OK, not sure if I will make them again. The braised beef filling was extremely tasty!

Whole Wheat Tortillas and Braised Beef

Whole Wheat Tortillas and Braised Beef

Homemade Whole Wheat Flour Tortilla Recipe

  • 2 cups less 2 tbsp of whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds and wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor. In another bowl combine the warm water and oil.
  2. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour mixture, drizzling until it combines to form a dough. Once the water is mixed in, add another tablespoon of water and repeat the process until all the water is mixed into the dough. The dough will be sticky.

Cooking The Tortillas

  1. Once you have rolled out the tortilla very very thinly, place it on a preheated cast iron skillet. You don’t need to add any oil or butter. Cook the tortilla for about 30 seconds to one minute. You will notice brown spots all over your tortilla. Flip it over and cook an additional 30 seconds to one minute.
  2. Don’t over cook it as you want the tortilla to be nice and soft.
  3. Keep your tortillas warm by covering them in a towel on a plate or in a tortilla warmer.

Braised Beef Filling

  • 1/2 cup of braised beef (I saved this from an oxtail gravy I made quite some time ago)
  • 1 green onion
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic fine minced
  • 3 tbsp finely diced red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Cayanne pepper to taste
  • Onion sprouts to garnish
  1. Mix all ingredients together, serve with warm tortillas as an hors d’oeuvres.
  2. Enjoy

Homemade Whole Wheat Flour Tortilla Recipe on Foodista

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Picadillo

Adapted from Epicurious.
My friend and colleague Andy (proprietor of the new Irish Pub, The Roy – check it out) brings this in for lunch every once in a while, and the smell is incredible. Each time I think, man, I have to make that…and finally, we did. It’s basically the same as on Epicurious, except that we added cumin, which is really fragrant and one of my favourite spices!

picadillo1

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 Turkish bay leaves
  • 2 pounds  Yves Ground Round (or ground beef (15 to 20 percent fat))
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup sliced drained pimiento-stuffed green olives (from 5-ounce jar)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  1. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and bay leaves; sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add beef; sauté until cooked, breaking up with back of fork, about 7 minutes.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients. Simmer until picadillo thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Discard bay leaves. Serve picadillo warm with rice.

Picadillo on Foodista

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