Lobster Risotto

lr3Omelettes, pies and risottos. What do they have in common? Not much you might think. I tend to agree, to a degree. They are however perfect for the ‘It’s time to clean out my fridge’ category. I can’t speak for your fridge but here, there are always leftover vegetables lurking. Take celery for example. Who ever use all the stalks of celery when buying it for a recipe. Most (this one included) call for one, two or three stalks. The rest goes back in the fridge and becomes part of the ‘leftover vegetables’ pile. Even though the base is the same (an omelette is an omelette, pie dough is pie dough, rice is rice), throw in different vegetables or meats and you have a whole new dish every time. Perhaps that’s why I fall back on them quite often. It’s brilliant.

My lobster risotto came about this way and it has become a big favourite. It’s light and the taste of orange makes it summer fresh. Do I even need to mention it goes beautifully with our Golden Russet Cider? Or our pinot noir for that matter. I find the key to a great risotto is to give it a little bit more stock than you think it needs. By the time you bring the dish to the table and everyone sits down to enjoy it, the rice will have soaked up more of the liquid. A dry risotto can make it feel like you are eating sticky porridge. Risotto should not resemble sticky porridge.

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1 carrot

1 shallot

1-2 stalks celery

1 tbsp butter

1/4 cup calvados

2 cups arborio rice

5-6 cups chicken stock

zest of 1 orange

juice of half an orange

1/4 cup finely chopped dill

1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce

200g lobster

200g shrimps (save shells)

2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar

Finely dice (brunoise) the carrot, shallot and celery stalks. In a large sauce pan, sauté brunoise in butter on medium-high heat for about a minute than add the calvados. Let cook for another minute then transfer the vegetables and leftover liquid to a separate bowl. Set aside. 

Peel the shrimps and set aside. Wrap the shrimp shells in cheese cloth and tie with kitchen string. 

In the same large sauce pan, add the rice along with 2 cups chicken broth and the shrimp shells package. Bring to a simmer on medium- low heat. Stir frequently and add more broth when needed. Add the orange zest, juice and dill along with the fish sauce. Let simmer for 20-30 min until rice is cooked through and soft.

Roughly chop the shrimps and lobster meat and add to the risotto. When the shrimps are cooked (turned pink) add the vegetables. Let simmer for another couple of minutes then add the butter and vinegar. Add another splash of chicken broth if you feel it’s too dry. Serve immediately.

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Auf Wiedersehen Switzerland!

e1My name is Elva. I am Swiss, not Swedish as some mistake me for. An error which does tend to get under my skin. I cannot speak for Nordic technical engineering skills, however, I doubt they’ve reached the height of us Alpine people. Should you need convincing, simply glance in my direction. I insert large corks precisely and with little effort into glass bottles containing effervescent wine. What’s more, I gracefully wind wire hoods to secure the cork tightly and safely. I am few in number, built by hand entirely of stainless steel and brass.

Sadly, my place of birth does not require my skills. Such is often the way of things among my brethren. Will I ever lay eyes on my dear land of edelweiss? I know not. So with a heavy heart, I bid adieu. Auf wiedersehen, I cry!

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Ils ont des pupitres? I stand saluted by proud oak riddling racks. Well, life has a way to surprise even the most jaded among us. Perhaps a deep ocean separates me from the Old World yet I notice my employer has certain appreciation for the way things used to be done. I find that very agreeable. I see it everywhere and not just things to do with sparkling wine. Outside, there is an old lady with a blue rinse who grunts and chokes black smoke when she starts up in the morning. Often, I hear her in the distance swearing, as the French are oft to do, as she drags heavy equipment up and down the vineyard behind her rather broad girth. Though not Swiss, she works hard and well. Her name is Birdie and I admire her.

I have a nice spot in the winery by a stone wall where I quietly do my work. There is even space beside me for a future colleague. My employer agrees with my assessment that a doseuse can dose and top up a bottle much more effectively than by hand. I hear the older models are quite beautiful. I look forward her arrival and shall certainly make her feel welcome here.

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Dining Room – Crandall House Reno

d8d5My mind is blank. I stare at them but feel nothing. My repressing techniques must work quite well. I’m sifting through renovation photos, trying to find good ones to use for this post. It was only a few years ago we were standing right there, in the middle of chaos. We caused it to look that way. Tearing things apart and ripping things out is an enormous amount of physical work, but it’s still the easy stage. All you have to do is to shut your brain off and go crazy. Like a robot. No real thinking involved. Putting things back together is a whole different story.

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I’ve decided to split the renos up in a few different posts, concentrating on a few areas at a time. Today the dining room is in focus. The original corner cabinet was one of the few things in the house worth keeping. I’m glad, and surprised it survived all the sad renovations this house had to endure over the years. Although the four doors to the cabinet are gone, I still love it. I put comfort in knowing they will be replicated at some point.

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Between the dining room and kitchen was a hallway connecting the two rooms. The hallway had two doors. One leading into a very pastelly and ‘cute’ bathroom (shown briefly in a previous house post) and one door leading to the basement stairs. The door to the basement was moved to a different spot. The hallway and bathroom was turned into a  breakfast room which now connects the kitchen and dining room. 

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Hidden behind drywall and layers 70’s paneling, leftover bits and pieces of the original trim began to emerge. Around one of the side windows we found a beautifully simple, delicate trim with a wood panel in it. This became the inspiration for much of the trim work in the house. We duplicated the trim and panel as close as we could. A big “thank you,” to the person who, decades ago, was too lazy to bother ripping out the last bit of window trim left while ‘updating’ the house. Flooring and baseboards still need to be tackled although I take great comfort knowing this, too, will have its day.

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Swedish Pirogies

p1I can honestly say that I have never been on a picnic using a red-white checkered cloth. Yet, for some reason, every time I see the pattern, that’s exactly where my mind goes. Picnics are fun and I admit we don’t go on them as often as we should. Living in Prince Edward County I feel somewhat spoiled. Since the county is surrounded by water, there’s no shortage of beautiful spots to unfold that checkered cloth whether on a crisp spring day or a balmy summer evening.

As much as my mind refers to the word picnic when I see this particular pattern, I also associate these Swedish Pirogies with the same word. They are quite different from the original polish ones. These are much larger in size and baked rather than boiled. They are also made with a yeast dough. The filling can be switched out for something else but ground beef is the traditional (and in my opinion the best) one. Growing up, these patties were often found in the freezer at home. It’s a perfect afternoon snack but also the ideal picnic food. Easy to eat, no mess. No plates or cutlery required. They are as good cold as they are hot.

I think we all should make an effort to go picnic-ing a bit more this season. Make a day of it, or even an afternoon. Let’s enjoy the beautiful world around us. Sitting in your back yard is not the same thing as sitting under a tree by the water. Unless of course you happen to live right by the water with a big tree throwing the perfect amount of filtered shade. Then all you need is the red-white checkered cloth, these pirogies and a glass of The Old Third pinot.

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Dough:

5 tsp dry yeast

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

100g butter

2 tsp salt

3 eggs

3 3/4 cup flour

 

Filling:

1000 g ground beef

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large or 2 medium leeks

3 cloves garlic

1” piece fresh ginger

1 large carrot

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp basil

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp soya sauce 

1.5 tsp sambal oelek

2.5 tsp salt

Dough:

Activate the dry yeast according to the packaging. In a pot, melt the butter. 

In a blender, medium speed, add yeast, milk, cream, butter, salt and eggs. Sift the flour into a bowl and transfer, a little at a time, into the yeast mixture while on medium-low speed. When a ball is formed, remove from the bowl and kneed on a lightly floured surface until nice and even. Shape into a ball, and place in a clean bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for about an hour.

Filling:

Finely chop the white and green part of the leek, garlic and ginger. Grate the carrot. In a cast iron pot, on medium heat, fry the ground beef until cooked through in olive oil and butter. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Stir and let cook for 10-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Cut the dough into 20 even pieces and roll each piece out to a circle, roughly 6” diameter. Alternatively, if you have a 6” round cookie cutter, roll out the dough in one piece, 1/8”-1/4” thick, then stamp out the circles. Add ~ 1/4 cup meat filling into the centre of the circle, then fold over in half. With a fork, push down along the curved side to seal. Brush with whisked egg. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 min or until nice and golden. 

Eat hot with a side salad, or cold when out on a picnic or as a quick snack. They freeze well. 

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Swedish Dreams

d6I have a dream…So simple yet so powerful. Dreams are what keep us going, give us hope. Sometimes easy to forget, yet without them there would be no change. We’d be lost. These Swedish cookies have been given this name for a reason. Dröm. Dream. They encourage you, just for a brief moment, to pause and reflect over the meaning of the word before taking your first bite. This is where you realize why this nondescript-looking creation was given such a powerful title. They are white as snow, a crunchy fluffiness difficult to describe. As it vanishes in your mouth you are left with a velvety smooth taste of vanilla. You will most likely close your eyes and let your mind pay full attention to this decadent and short lived dream. I dare you to eat a whole cookie without licking your lips.

d4150g butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup sunflower oil

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ammonium bicarbonate

2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a blender, on medium speed, whisk butter and sugar until light and airy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the oil and vanilla. Sift ammonium bicarbonate and flour into a bowl then slowly, while whisking on medium-low speed add to the butter mixture. Blend well then stop.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and kneed into a ball. 

Pinch pieces of dough and roll into 1″ size balls. Place, 2″ apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 min. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool.

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Long Live Pinot Noir!

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Some 3,500 years ago when Phoenician merchants set sail across the Mediterranean from their island city of Tyre on the eastern coast trading and establishing colonies, they brought with them not only their unique, simple alphabet, first to the ancient Greeks who saw early on its potential and who then later passed it to a receptive Roman audience, but also an unfathomably expensive dye. Tyrian purple. Long before Elizabeth I made it illegal for non-royals to wear or even well before popes began to fancy themselves monarchs, this dye was so far beyond the reach of even the very wealthy that mostly only emperors and kings could wear it. Murex, a spiny predatory sea snail, unfortunately for itself, was the only source of colour fast purple. The colour, gleaned from a defensive mucous gland was so strong, it deepened and improved with age. It could take over 10,000 to turn even just the trim on a robe purple. Cleopatra draped not only herself in it, but her palaces and even the sails of her boats. An unimaginable price no one today could afford.

The exact shade of this colour is not known, but the most prized hue was said to be a brackish purple one that veered towards oxblood, and one, perhaps, much like the dark robe of pinot noir that swirls in my glass. Yes, pinot noir is the king of grapes.

b6Today, we release our 2013 Pinot Noir. I have been waiting a long while to say this. Since the first days of the 2013 harvest when I first started to really get excited about the dark rich colour that was leaching from purple skins. We grape growers don’t get many kicks at the can. Our career is framed by so few vintages so when a summer like 2013 comes along, it is hard to suppress enthusiasm. Now, 18 months later, it is a brooding, noble wine with power and length. A pinot to lay down. I love it.

Long live pinot noir!

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The Thing About Pantries

p3I think the ultimate sign of friendship is when your friends feel comfortable enough to invite themselves over to your home. Whether it’s for a cup of coffee or a couple of days escape from the city. It’s such a beautiful compliment. It shows that they miss you and they want to see you and hang out. Usually the first thing to cross my mind when this happens is “What are we going to eat?” No kidding. It doesn’t have to be complicated and elaborate. I find these somewhat unexpected visits really inspiring. 

I try to always be stocked up on basic ingredients for unexpected visits. Pasta, crushed tomatoes, couscous, lentils and rice which, combined with what’s in the fridge will most likely help me throw something together on short notice. This way there is never a reason, or excuse, not to eat well.

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p14A very unattractive and out of place laundry room here at Crandall House got a second chance when we decided to convert it into a pantry. Although a pantry is a lovely thing to have, it does expose your private eating habits to the world. Anyone who walks into your pantry will know what you eat and what you like to hoard. Trash that you might crave once in a while but wouldn’t want anyone to ever know about is right there, on display. A slight panic used to arise inside of me when someone walked in and poked around our pantry. I knew it would happen. I do it too. I love peaking into pantries when visiting new places. Over time I stopped worrying. We all have our habits and secret cravings. It’s a part of who we are. 

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Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Shots

s2You might think this is very much a fall post. That is true. It would be a perfect fall post. Except it’s not. March has finally arrived and spring is just around the corner. The long winter months are over and we can start looking forward to seeing the the earth come to life again. In anticipation of the new season, with all that it will give us, I find celebrating what has kept us alive throughout fall and winter is a nice gesture. In the olden days root cellars were very popular. Before grocery stores became what they are today and before modern refrigeration, this was the way to survive. Everything that needed to stay cool was put down there. Potatoes and carrots, apples and onions, squash and pumpkins were stored along with preserved vegetables and fruits. Perhaps even a few bottles of wine. I really love the traditional Swedish root cellar. They were outside of the house, dug into the ground and covered with dirt so that they resembled a grassy mound with a small door.  I would love to eventually build a one behind the house. I will tell you more about them in another post. So, this will be one of the last ‘winter posts’ for a while. These butternut squash and apple cider shots are a great amuse bouche or hors d’oeuvre for your next dinner party. I am using The Old Third Golden Russet Apple Cider of course.
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1 butternut squash

1 medium onion

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

6-8 fresh thyme sprigs

fresh ginger, one 1″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

3 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cup dry apple cider

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt & pepper

1/2 cup cream

1 package sliced bacon

 

Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1″ pieces, discarding the centre core. Peel and roughly chop the onion and ginger. In a frying pan heat up the butter and olive oil. Sauté the onion and ginger 2-3 minutes, then add the squash and garlic as well as the thyme sprigs. Sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock, apple cider and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then simmer until squash is soft, 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, fry the bacon crisp, either in a heavy skillet, or on a baking sheet in a 450F oven. Let the bacon cool then crumble it together into small pieces. Put aside. 

Remove the soup from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour into shot glasses just before serving.Decorate with the crumbled bacon. Makes 24-30 shots or 6 appetizer size servings. 

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Mise en Place

mise6Countless were the times when I was wrapping up a dish and I’d take one last look at the recipe. Staring back at me was that one ingredient I failed to prepare. Julienned carrots, finely diced fennel or blanched pearl onions. Suddenly I was balancing between dropping that one item or, delaying the completion of the dish in order to correct my oversight. Countless were also the times I was in the middle of cooking when realizing that a vital ingredient to the dish I was making was nowhere to be found. I was certain I had had it at home. These scenarios might not always be crucial or end up a culinary disaster, however, they’re no fun.

mise4I have watched cooking shows on TV for as long as I can remember. One thing that used to annoy me was how everything was always prepared ahead of time. All the ingredients were there, within arms reach. The vegetables were chopped and diced and placed on plates. Dry ingredients pre-measured and added into cute little bowls. How tidy. How ‘mise en place’. I remember thinking it was so ridiculous. I mean, who cooks like that? Slowly but surely I became accustomed to the idea. It’s clearly done to save time and to make sure not to miss any ingredients. One day I thought, let’s try this method and see how well it works. And so I did. I brought all the ingredients out on the counter. I prepared all the vegetables and herbs according to the recipe. I chopped, sliced, diced and minced. I put everything in bowls and on plates. I measured and I weighed. Then I started cooking. 

mise1If you haven’t yet, you really should try it. Not only does it eliminate the chance of missing an ingredient, but it also slims the chance of forgetting to prepare that one ingredient, should it require julienning, dicing, or blanching. At the same time it encourages you to read through the recipe before starting, something you should always be doing no matter what you are planning on making.

Today, years later, the ‘mise’ is my best friend. There will be a few extra bowls and plates to wash up when finished, but it certainly makes cooking so much easier and much more enjoyable. 

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Rustic Oven Baked Pancake

rp8Brunch. I love that word. For me it’s tied with fun times with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Almost festive. This Swedish oven baked pancake is a wonderful option next time you have friends staying for the weekend. Traditionally chunks of bacon are added to the batter before baking, although I prefer it without. The reason being has nothing to do with taste or flavour. Serving it plain gives you the opportunity to consume it savoury or sweet. A side of fried bacon or sausages drizzled with maple syrup is a mouth watering salty option. Whipped cream and strawberry or blueberry jam with a dusting of icing sugar is ideal for the sweet tooth. It’s easy to make and its moon landscape surface is sure to make a longer lasting impression than the more common flat pancake.

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3 cups milk

1 1/3 cups flour

5 eggs

pinch of salt and sugar.

Butter

Pre-heat the oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, sift the flour into the milk and whisk together until a smooth mixture forms. 

Add the eggs, salt and sugar and keep whisking until well blended.

Pour into a buttered 11”X17” baking tray and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes or until browned and bubbles have formed. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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