Monday, October 25, 2010

Geese and Poutine

I've been strong
I've been angry
I've repented
I've shed puddles of tears
I've had enough

I want to fly
Like the geese
In a gaggle
To new lands
Far flung and distant
Over corn fields
Under blue skies

To warmth
To forgiveness
To love
To happy
To healthy

Earlier this week,
after hearing about the geese I saw that made me cry,
my mom sent me this poem.
It's brilliant.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver


So, as the story goes, this trucker walks into a restaurant and asks the owner to mix French fries and cheese curds together in the same bag. The year was 1957 and the restaurant owner was Fernand Lachance. The location: the dairy town of Warwick, Quebec, Canada.

"Ça va te faire une maudite poutine," ("It's gonna make a hell of a mess"), replies Lachance. But he complies, and the first Poutine is served. “La sauce” (rich, brown gravy) was later added to the dish to keep the food hot.

Several Quebecois communities lay claim to the origin of poutine, including Drummondville, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and Victoriaville, but the most popular story is the Lachance story.

Poutine has been described as a cholesterol highball, a fatty delight and a fast food icon.

But Charles-Alexandre Théorêt, author of Maudite Poutine!, describes the dish to Montreal's The Gazette as being more psychological in nature:

A generous portion of shame
fried gently in an inferiority complex
and topped with a hint of denigration
from the ROC (Rest of Canada) –
and a touch of guilty pleasure.

"Love it or hate it, poutine has become a strong symbol of Quebec," says Théorêt.

In his book, Théorêt insists that the real poutine is properly made with cheese curds softened - not melted - by the warm gravy and fresh enough to squeak when bitten, due to their high humidity.

Poutine even made it on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) list of the 10 greatest Canadian inventions, beating out basketball, the Canadarm, and the music synthesizer, and finding its place between the electric wheelchair and the cobalt 60 “bomb” cancer treatment. It even placed ahead of the snowblower in the list of Canadian inventions.

After 53 years, Poutine is finally gaining respect beyond the borders of Quebec. .The New York Times referred to Poutine as “a staple from Quebec, embarrassing but adored.”

Have you ever made Poutine? I have yet to do that!

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    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Apple Choosing and Apple Tart

    we couldn't pick apples this year
    mother nature had other plans for us

    the frost bit the blossoms in the Spring
    the apples fell early
    the tree was bare

    we had to choose
    from a bin
    from the ground

    we went apple choosing
    and still had fun

    According to Linda Stradley, on the web site What's Cooking America, one of the first records of apple pie was in a cookbook originally compiled around 1390 A.D. by the master cooks of King Richard II. The following, according to historians, is one of the first recipes of what we know today as apple pie.

    XXIII. For To Make Tartys in Applis
    Tak gode Applys and gode Spryeis and Figys and reyfons and Perys and wan they are wel ybrayed co-lourd wyth Safron wel and do yt in a cofyn and do yt forth to bake well.

    These early pies differed from pies today in that no sugar was used – for obvious reasons. Sugar was both scarce and expensive. Also, the pastry, referred to as a “coffin” in the ancient recipe, was considered simply a container, something not to be eaten.

    It was said that the mark of a good “coffin” was if it could be run over by a wagon wheel without breaking!

    Apple trees were brought to America from Europe. The only apple trees native to North America are varieties of crab apple trees. However, the acceptance of apples in the American culture is demonstrated by the well known slogan:

    “As American as motherhood and apple pie.”

    Today, the mark of a good apple pie is its tender, flaky crust and the shortest possible period of time between the picking of the apple and the baking of the pie. It has become a family tradition at our house to pick our own apples in the fall. At Thanksgiving this year, we made pies with apples that had been at the orchard as recently as the day before we made the pies.

    Recipe for Apple Tart

    An apple pie is often made with a double crust. This time we used only a bottom crust, making it an Apple Tart.

    Serves 8

    200 g flour (about 1½ cups)
    100 g butter, unsalted, and broken into pieces (about 7 tablespoons)
    70 g confectioners' sugar (about 1/3 cup)
    5 g salt (about 1 teaspoon)
    4 ml milk (about 1 teaspoon)
    3 egg yolks
    5 ml pure vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)

    700 g apples (about 3 cups)

    500 g apples (about 2 cups)
    50 g sugar, optional (3½ tablespoons)
    50 g butter (3½ tablespoons)
    cinnamon, to taste

    For the dough:
    Sift the flour onto the counter. Make a big well. Add the butter, confectioners' sugar, salt, milk, yolks and vanilla extract. Using your pointing finger, start bringing the flour into the liquid ingredients in a circular motion. When you have a paste-like mixture, use a pastry scraper and break the dough up into a crumbly, sandy mixture.

    Fraisage: Take a small amount of dough and rub it through the palm of your hand along the work surface. This pulls the butter around the flour and ensures that you don't overwork the dough, keeping it tender. Set this piece of dough aside and repeat with remaining dough.

    After you've performed this technique on all the dough, then you can knead all the dough into a ball. You should be able to see a fingerprint in the dough that springs back a little before resting. If the dough seems dry, add fingertips of water. If wet, add touches of flour. Form into a circle, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

    Fleurer (sprinkle) the counter with flour. Roll the dough out. Always roll from the middle of the dough and roll evenly. Position the dough in the tart pan or ring. Chill until needed.

    For the filling:
    Core, quarter and slice apples. In pan, melt butter. Add apples. Then add sugar, to taste (depending on how sweet your apples taste). Cook until soft. Then add pure vanilla extract. Cook (adding water if it dries out too quickly and turn heat to low) until somewhat soft. Pass through a food mill (or use a food processor to purée.

    Spread the compote on the bottom of the pastry. Layer the remaining slices of apple on top in a circular pattern. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350˚F for 30 to 40 minutes, until done.

    Tasting Notes
    My 11 year-old loves to help make pie and she does it now with minimal supervision. We all love it when she gets into her pie making mood. The only thing better than the taste of fresh apple pie is the anticipatory smell of it baking in the oven. This year, the pie came out just in time for the turkey to go in and the lingering aroma of apple pie spices with a slow roasting turkey – well, memories are made of this!

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    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Doodles and Pumpkin Pie

    This year for Thanksgiving,
    I decided to make a paper tablecloth
    that we could all doodle on.
    Throughout the day,
    we would grab a marker
    and doodle
    things we were thankful for.

    nail polish!

    It was fun
    and something I think we'll do not just at Thanksgiving,
    but for many upcoming holidays.

    My favorite pie is pumpkin. What's yours?

    Recipe for Pumpkin Pie

    Serves 8

    1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
    1 1/4 cups whipping cream
    3/4 cup maple sugar [or use regular sugar plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup]
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 large eggs

    Whisk all ingredients and pour into a pre-baked pie shell. Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for about 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Necks and Leek and Potato Soup

    Photo on Left: Reka Nyari's "My Neck" {posted with permission}

    I look at necks differently now.

    I see necks without scars
    And remember when I didn't worry about my health.
    When I took it for granted.

    I have a scar on my neck.

    In the checkout line at the grocery store,
    I glance at people's necks
    instead of the display of celebrity magazines.

    Some are old.
    Some are strong.
    Some are wrinkly.
    Some are taut.

    I find myself laughing
    with my head back
    exposing my neck,
    and then embarrassed
    and vulnerable
    I hide.

    I'm searching.
    For understanding.
    For acceptance.
    For a voice.
    For life.

    Today I wear cancer on my neck.
    Someday I'll just wear a scar.

    What could be more soothing than a velvety, smooth, deliciously flavoured soup awakening your taste buds and then gliding down your throat to fully satisfy those hunger pangs?

    To say that some like it hot may cause one to think of the 1959 Billy Wilder movie of the same name starring Tony Curtis who died last week (September 29, 2010). However, in this case, I’m referring to Leek and Potato Soup, sometimes known as Vichyssoise (vi-shē-swäz), a thick soup made of puréed leeks, potatoes, cream, and water (or sometimes chicken stock). It is traditionally served cold but – some like it hot. I am one of those who prefer my soup hot. But this versatile soup can be served either hot or cold, on its own, or as a sauce over seafood.

    The origin of this soup has been debated. It is generally agreed that a French chef born in a town near Vichy in France was the first creator of this soup. French chef Jules Gouffé published a recipe that included potatoes, leeks, chicken stock, and cream in a cookbook entitled Royal Cookery in 1869. In this cookbook, the chef recommended that it be served hot. Another form of this recipe appears even earlier under the name Potage Parmentier, after a man named Antoine Auguste Parmentier who returned from a German prison-of-war camp after the Seven Year War (1756-1763) and, noting the sad plight of his people, set up potato soup kitchens in the city of Paris to feed the poor.

    This soup became popularized in America, at the Ritz Carlton hotel in New York City. Louis Diat was chef at this hotel for the first half of the 20th century.

    "In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato-and-leek soup of my childhood, which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how, during the summer, my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk, and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz."
    - Diat in the New Yorker magazine (1950)

    The article goes on to say that the soup was first called crème vichyssoise glacée but when the restaurant’s menu changed from French to English in 1930, Diat named his invention after Vichy, a town near his home in France.

    • It’s important to clean the leeks thoroughly. Since they are covered in sandy soil as they grow, sand can easily get embedded into the leek. Gritty sand is not a pleasing addition to this smooth soup so be sure to take the time to wash the leeks very carefully.

    • Do not overcook the leeks since that will cause them to lose their brilliant, green color.

    At Le Cordon Bleu
    For one of the practicals at Le Cordon Bleu, we had to make Potage Julienne d'Arblay, which is a version of this classic leek and potato soup. The hardest part of this practical was cutting the carrots, turnips and leeks into julienne. The length of my turnips were shorter than my carrots, so I lost marks on that. As well, I over-salted my soup. And I sautéed my croutons in too much clarified butter so when I presented my dish to the chef, he pressed a crouton in his fingers and showed me all the butter left on his hands. I thought that the more butter, the better!

    Recipe for Leek and Potato Soup

    Serves 6

    30 g butter
    150 g leeks, white parts only
    500 g potatoes
    750 ml water

    50 g carrots
    50 g turnips
    50 g leeks, white parts only
    50 g butter plus 50 g clarified butter

    3 branches chervil (you could use parsley)
    50 ml cream
    50 g white bread slices

    While you're preparing the soup, clarify butter in a bain marie.

    Clean the leek. Slice into ½ inch thin slices. Put some aside for the garnish.

    Melt 50 g butter in a pot. Sweat the leeks in the butter, about 2 minutes or until translucent.

    Peel and chop potatoes. Add the potatoes to the leeks. Add water to just cover the potatoes, about 500 ml. The water should be just above the potatoes. Bring to a simmer (mijoter). Salt a bit.

    Prepare the garnish. Julienne the carrots, turnip and leek. Cook each vegetable separately. Heat some butter, add a touch of water, the vegetable and a dash of salt. Cover. (This technique is called Étuvé.) Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove vegetable to a separate bowl and cook the next vegetable the same way. Mix all vegetables together at the end.

    Check to see if the potatoes are cooked. A knife when inserted should pull out easily. Put the soup through a food mill. Check the consistency and add some water if it's too thick. Add cream and heat. Check the seasoning. Pour through a chinois or strainer. Cover with plastic wrap.

    Make the croutons. Cut the bread into cubes. Sauté in clarified butter until golden brown. Drain on paper towel.

    Pour soup into a bowl and garnish with vegetables, croutons and chervil.

    Tasting Notes
    For such a few ingredients, it's amazing how complex this soup tastes and how tricky it can be to make perfectly. But when done well, it's a favorite and can be jazzed up with other ingredients such as bacon, garlic or curry. Just don't add too much salt!

    Reka Nyari: website and portfolio
    Jan von Holleben: portfolio of necks

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