Velvet that meat.

Stir-fried asparagus with velvet porkLet’s talk about velvet. As a verb.

IMG_1175If you’ve ever paused mid Beef & Broccoli to wonder how Chinese restaurants get their stir-fried meats so silky and tender, you may be intrigued by the concept velveting and its implications in your kitchen. This is something I’ve been playing with for a while, as I’ve got one of these small people who finds the texture of meat challenging.

Velveting meat is a gentle approach to meat cookery, and one that prevents the fibres of the meat from tightening and toughening.

Have you ever sat beside someone while they chewed a single bite of hot dog or chicken for 45 minutes? It’s just a marathon of wet mouth noises. There’s no bouncing back from that, and a little piece of you will die as your exhortations to “please, please swallow that right now” become increasingly frantic. Misophonia is a thing, and toddlers are known to aggravate it. And so the resourceful home cook will find that velveting becomes more than just a neat kitchen trick, but a matter of life and spiritual death as well.

IMG_1176Velveting is not terribly complicated. At its most basic, it’s a bit of raw lean meat that’s thinly sliced, marinated in a mix of egg white, salt, acid and cornstarch. This mixture serves to tenderize the meat, create a barrier between the meat and the heat, and to create a coating that will improve sauce adhesion.

It is then gently poached in oil or water (I prefer water poaching for cost and clean-up reasons) before being added to a stir fry, and the effect is meltingly soft. I’ve seen variations on this idea that don’t include egg white; if you’re dealing with egg allergies, you could certainly skip it. But I like the sort of slick layer the egg white leaves on the meat – it adds an extra element for your sauce to cling to, and the result is a lot of flavor with not a lot of effort.

Once you get into the habit, I mean.

If velveting meat is something you want to try at dinner, be prepared that there are multiple steps and though they are not difficult, they may add up to an additional 45 minutes or so to your dinner prep. This is annoying. Fortunately, you can do it ahead of time.

IMG_1179Because the steps are simple, I’ve found that if I time things correctly, I can prepare the meat for tomorrow’s dinner tonight. The advantage to this little bit of forethought is that you can have dinner prepared in about ten minutes, depending on how fast you chop your veggies. You can also deep-fry velvet meat.

(You can deep fry anything.)

Velveting meat is a Chinese technique and therefore suited to Chinese cooking, but it’s also something you can do in quick stews or pasta dishes. My favourite application of this is to add a few pieces of velvet chicken to a briny puttanesca sauce – the coating gets clingy with the olive oil and capers and tomato juices, and the chicken remains tender and does not compete texturally with the other elements. I bet it would lend something extra special to chicken piccata.

So, how do you do it? The following is a general set of ingredients, and you can substitute what’s listed for whatever you have or flavours you’d prefer. To make this more Mediterranean, for example, one might replace the rice vinegar with lemon juice or wine vinegar, and the soy sauce for coarse salt. You could replace the sesame oil with olive or grapeseed oil.

Velvet pork or chicken

  • 1 lb. lean meat, such as pork tenderloin or chicken
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil

Pat the meat dry using clean paper towels. Slice your meat as thinly as you can while still keeping each slice intact.

Whisk together cornstarch, soy sauce, and rice vinegar until no lumps remain. Add egg white, and whisk until thoroughly combined but not frothy.

Pour the egg white mixture over the meat. Squish the mixture together with your hands so that the meat is coated well. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to one hour.

Bring four cups of water, salt and sesame oil to a boil in a sauce pan. Working in batches, poach pieces of the meat for about 30 seconds each, removing these from the pot with a slotted spoon into a colander. Let the water come back to a boil between batches.

From here, you would either refrigerate the meat for another use, or add it straight to your current dinner preparation. To brown the meat, fry it quickly before adding your veggies to the pan. For best results, toss the meat in the pan and coat it in the sauce before adding veggies.

Plated asparagus and velvet pork

 

 

Something to Read: India, Ireland

sleeping

For some of us, it’s been a rough week. On Thursday, the little nugget started running warm and flu-like, and by Friday’s earliest hours, he was in full-blown fever mode, seizing and feverish and feeling pretty awful. We spent Saturday trying to convince his little belly to keep fluids down, and only now is Toddler back to normal.

We also had one particular hour-long Thomas (the really annoying train) movie going pretty much on repeat, which occupied my computer for most of those three days; we’ve now memorized a whole bunch of really annoying songs about hard work and helping out so we also didn’t get anything done.

So, with today, I’m now three books behind. Maybe goals are for people with free time? Maybe I’d be better to set small, reasonable goals, like “I will fold the laundry after taking it out of the dryer” or “I will open all the mail, even the scary envelopes?” Maybe I should get on with it and tell you about the books.

Let’s get international.

30days

The first book is one that I wanted desperately but that was kind of expensive so I had to wait and wait and wait and insist repeatedly that it would be a valuable resource and the best Christmas present ever. I just shouted down the hall at Nick to ask which occasion the book was and he said “It was definitely Christmas because it was too expensive – I wouldn’t spend that much on your birthday” which I guess means we’ve left the honeymoon phase.

I feel like all my books are either “kind of expensive but worth it” or “super cheap and amazing.” Anyway.

India

India Cookbook, by Pushpesh Pant, an Indian food writer and critic, is 815 pages and 1000 recipes, and “the definitive collection of recipes from all over India.” I cherish it the way other people cherish heirlooms or members of their extended family. This book is serious, and detailed, and gorgeous, and according the the cover, “the only book on Indian food you’ll ever need.” On this, I concur.

The book is thorough, and many of the recipes are long and involved, but the results have always been delicious and well worth the time and effort. There are recipes for spice mixtures and pastes, which you can make in large batches and use whenever you need them – this has been quite handy, though I’ll admit I’m moving into bigger and bigger Mason jars for storage and my cupboards are starting to look a little ridiculous.

Every recipe includes the Indian name of the dish, the English translation, the region of the recipe’s origin, and preparation and cooking time, and the number of servings, either in pieces or weight. The instructions are very detailed, and if, perhaps, you don’t have a coal fire over which to roast your lotus root, for example, alternative steps are included.

There are dishes from all over India, so there’s so much more than just the most popular stuff on the take-away menu. One thing I love about this book is that anytime I have a bunch of a vegetable I’m bored with just killing its last days in my crisper, I’ll refer to this book and find something new and exciting to do with cabbage or cauliflower or chickpeas (every vegetable, it seems, is given its place in the sun). India’s seemingly endless number of vegetarian dishes means that this book is a fabulous addition to the herbivore’s kitchen; often, the recipes also happen to be vegan-friendly, no adaptations necessary.

If you like Indian food, and want to learn more about it (and there is so much to learn), India Cookbook is worth the investment (it’s about $50 if you buy it online).

As it would otherwise be simply impossible to choose which recipe to share, I’ll give you the last one I made.

Parathas are dough patties stuffed with delicious stuff, which is essential to every culture’s cuisine, it seems. They are like pupusas, kind of – that’s my first point of comparison, so hopefully that makes sense to you. Basically, they are the best and you can make a ton of them and freeze them and then take them to work in your lunch bag and all your coworkers will be so jealous.

I simmered the potatoes for this recipe in coconut milk, because I wanted to slip some potatoes into Toddler and coconut milk is a sure-thing with him. You don’t have to do that – the recipe is perfect as it is.

Aloo ka Paratha

(Shallow-fried spicy potato stuffed bread; makes 4 or 5.)

Origin: Punjab/Delhi/Awadh
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 4 cups plus 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup ghee (if you don’t have ghee, clarified butter will work but it’s not the same; vegetable oil will work in a pinch)

Filling:

  • 2 medium potatoes (9 oz.), unpeeled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 6 green chilies, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 large spring cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried pomegranate seeds (I didn’t have these; I used 2 teaspoons of amchoor powder; a squish of lemon will do in a pinch)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt

Boil the potatoes whole for 20 minutes, or until soft. Drain, then cool. Peel off the skins, return the flesh to the pan, and then mash. Move the potatoes to a bowl, then add the ginger, chilies, coriander, pomegranate seeds, and chili powder. Mix, taste, season with salt, and then set aside.

Sift the flour and salt into another bowl. Mix in enough warm water to make a soft dough, about one and a half to two cups.

Knead the dough for about five minutes, then divide the dough into 8 to 10 equal portions and roll it into balls. Using a rolling pin (on a floured surface), flatten each ball to a disk about six inches in diameter.

Spread about a quarter (or a fifth, if you’re working with ten rounds) of the mixture on one disk, then top with the other and seal around the sides. Roll gently with a rolling pin until the rounds are sealed and have spread out to about seven inches in diameter.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Place a paratha in the pan, cook for 20 seconds, then turn over and cook for an additional 20 seconds. Repeat with each paratha.

Add the ghee to the pan, then fry each paratha until golden brown on both sides. Serve with mango pickle and yogurt. I also like them with ketchup, but I am ashamed of this.


The next book I want to tell you about is one that fits into the “super cheap and amazing” category, but was also the result of being in the right place at the right time.

The place was a bookstore that was closing; the time was just before the book won a James Beard award (Best International Cookbook, 2010) and came out with a new cover. The book is The Country Cooking of Ireland, and it’s by Colman Andrews, one of the guys who founded Saveur Magazine.

ccoi

Most people probably don’t think of Ireland as being a great place to grab something to eat, but in fact Ireland is basically a nation of comfort food and good beer. It’s full of good farmland and, since it’s an island, it’s in close proximity to all the best fish and shellfish. It’s not just potatoes, though they are well-represented among the 225 recipes contained in the book (which I don’t think is a bad thing – potatoes are the best, obviously). Among the recipes are stories of Ireland – the history, the people, the cookbooks; it’s as informative as it is lovely, with pictures that make you gaze out your own window and sigh, longingly.

I’ve made quite a few of the recipes in the book, for everything from Irish Stew to Donegal Pie, a cheap and easy dish made of potatoes, chives, hard-boiled eggs, bacon and shortcrust pastry. The food is hearty and warming, and makes sensible and interesting use of affordable ingredients.

One of the recipes I am fond of is the Battered Sausages, which, according to the book (and my stomach) are “admittedly dietarily excessive and nutritionally incorrect.” I’m trying to understand how that’s not a selling feature.

“A staple at gas-station food counters all over Ireland, battered sausages are usually grim and greasy. If made correctly though, they can be a real treat.”

Battered Sausages

(Serves 4.)

  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups stout, preferably Guinness
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Oil, for frying
  • 12 small breakfast sausages (not the maple kind)

Whisk together the yeast and the beer. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/4 cups of the flour and the salt. Stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture, mixing well. Let stand at room temperature for an hour.

Heat about six inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, such as a cast-iron or enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. Heat to 350°F.

Toss the sausages with the remaining flour, then dip into the batter. Deep-fry the sausages, a few at a time, for about eight minutes each. Drain the sausages on a wire rack over a pie plate until you’re finished frying; serve hot. Then take a nap.

Something to Read: American Food Writing

30days

A good story is as good or better than a good recipe, but a good story that ends in a recipe is about my favourite thing, because it means you can take the story with you and re-tell it, in a way, every time you make a dish. I like stories.

With food in particular, I like to know why things are the way they are. I mean, it’s all well and good to find a nice recipe for scones, but why do the scones exist in the first place? Are they the fancy scones your grandmother would always make on Sunday to go with tea? Tell me about tea with your grandmother. The scones will taste better if they are not just any old scones. I want to be biased. I want to believe they are exceptional.

Good writing about food fills most of my emotional voids (the rest are filled with cheesy carbs or over-buttered popcorn). Which is why I was delighted to find American Food Writing: An Anthology, edited by Molly O’Neill, at a local bookstore that was tragically set to close but then was bought/rescued by another local bookstore and then everyone lived happily ever after. The book is a collection of 250 years of American writing on food, from writers as diverse as John Steinbeck, James Beard, Madhur Jaffrey, David Sedaris, and Emily Dickinson, among others. It’s food writing and writing about food excerpted from longer works, and there are recipes.

afwa

There’s a recipe for a clambake to feed 500 people (and 125 workers) that requires 200 pounds of sausage and “1 1/2 tons of stones about the size of a cantaloupe melon;” there are recipes for risotto and chowder and hoe cake and Chicken Marbella. There are stories of “primal bread” and “enough jam to last a lifetime” and “adultery” and “The Toll House Cookie.” It is, as it turns out, both a pleasant incremental read and a reference book, and I am pleased to have it in my collection and to recommend it. I honestly can’t choose an excerpt because I can’t narrow one down. Borrow it from the library; if you agree that it’s wonderful, buy yourself a copy.

Here’s a recipe for Lady Bird Johnson’s “Pedernales Chili,” because this is the kind of thing the book contains and isn’t that fantastic? There’s definitely a story behind it. The recipe originally appeared in a 2004 book by Robb Walsh called Tex-Mex Cookbook. I’ve excerpted it here in its entirety; you can find it on page 711 of American Food Writing: An Anthology.

During the ranch era, the Dutch oven and cast-iron skillet became common cooking utensils. The new cookware made it possible to brown the meat before cooking the chili, which improved the color and flavor. Here’s a classic cowboy chili recipe that Lady Bird Johnson used to give out. (Page 711)

Pedernales Chili

(Makes 12 cups.)

  • 4 pounds chili meat (beef chuck ground through the chili plate of a meat grinder or cut into a 1/4-inch dice)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole canned tomatoes and their liquid
  • 2 to 6 generous dashes of liquid hot sauce
  • Salt

Saute the meat, onion, and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until lightly colored. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, hot sauce and 2 cups hot water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 1 hour. Skim off the fat while cooking. Salt to taste.

Pot roast weather.

Pot roast ingredients

We were supposed to spend Saturday afternoon turning the soil in our garden plot and planting the cucumbers and beets I’m hoping to be overrun with at the end of the summer – possibly the hardest part about coping with this time of year is that nothing new has grown to the point of being edible yet, and I’ve eaten all my pickles from last year. It’s a dark time.

Carrots, mostly.

But it rained, and we had no other plans. And in these dark times the best thing you can do for your mood and your health is to brown a large piece of meat in bacon fat and roast it low and so slow in a broth that just gets richer and tastier by the hour.

I spent the afternoon wearing an apron and cooking a pot roast. (I did burn my fingertips and swear like a wounded sailor though, so don’t worry – nothing’s really changed.) I don’t make many pot roasts, but we got quite a few chuck roasts with a half-cow we bought and the Googles don’t suggest much in the way of alternative uses for this particular roast. We’ve been making the most of it.

Onions.

And pot roast can be such an inedible thing. Why are they so often so dry? What cooking process could possibly render a cut of meat so grey? Even in restaurants, where pot roast finds its way onto menus under the guise of comfort food, I’ve had the kind of stringy meat that turns to cotton wads in your throat, the kind where you are asking a lot of your esophagus just to get it down.

The bouquet.

My grandmother made a good pot roast, though, so I knew that there was hope. She’d simmer hers in a small stock pot on the stove for hours, and the meat that emerged from the weird hodge-podge of ingredients she threw into the pot would emerge fragrant and tender. The texture was like pulled pork when you cut into it, and the meat was no trouble to chew or swallow.

Pre-cooked pot roast.

Her secret ingredient was coffee, and I remember thinking “oh, I’m not going to like that” when I saw her add it to the roast. But hours passed and the meat simmered and the flavours in the pot melded and turned themselves into something else, and when she spooned the gravy over the meat at the dinner table, I marveled at how rich and delicious it was, and how I couldn’t even taste the coffee. But I could taste that something was distinct, and if I hadn’t seen her put the ingredients into the pot I’d never have guessed at what it was.

My version is a little different, but the ingredients are similar. It’s laziness more than anything that makes mine different – throwing something in the oven for hours and hours just feels like less work than monitoring something on the stove top. There’s not a lot to this recipe, and it can be assembled in minutes; it just cooks for about four hours, which is the perfect amount of time for whiling away a rainy afternoon. And if there’s still cold wind and snow where you are, this will warm your home right through.

For cooking, it will be ideal if you have a pot that can transition from stove to oven. If you don’t, that’s okay. Just make sure the vessel you cook your beef in has a lid and is deep enough that the cooking liquid comes halfway up the sides of the meat.

Cooked pot roast.

One last thing – I mention that you should bundle your herbs in cheesecloth and tie them into a bundle – a bouquet garni! – but if you don’t have cheesecloth or string, just throw the herbs in whole and individually and then fish them out at the end. Also, I know I’ve shown rosemary in the photo above, but it’s really better if you use fresh thyme. Rosemary, when cooked for a very long time, tends to impart a bitter flavour that I am not fond of. Thyme stalks are not woody, and do not impart that same bitterness.

Slices.

Pot roast

(Serves four.)

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil or (ideally) bacon fat
  • 1 x 4-5 lb. beef chuck roast
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and chopped
  • 2-4 cups beef stock (or chicken, if that’s all you have)
  • 1 355mL/12 oz. can of cola
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 275°F.

Generously season your beef with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Using a piece of cheesecloth, bundle your parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Roll tightly, then tie with string to secure. Set aside.

Heat fat in your large pot over medium-high heat. Brown your onions on each side, then remove to a plate.

Add your beef to the pot, and sear each side of the meat. You want to achieve a deep brown on all sides of the meat. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.

Add the garlic to the pot, and cook for about one minute, stirring frequently. Add the cola to deglaze – make sure to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon. Add the Worcestershire sauce and coffee granules.

Add onions back to the pot, spreading so that they cover the whole bottom. Add the meat back to the pot, placing it on top of the onions. Add the herb bundle, then the carrots, and pour enough stock to come halfway up the meat.

Give it a quick taste – is it delicious? Yay! Is it not salty enough? Add more salt.

Cover and cook for 4 hours. Serve with noodles – we had knopfle – or mashed potatoes.

Toad in the Hole.

We’re moving next week, and we’re hiring movers, which we have never done before. We can’t really afford them, but I figure it’s the cost of saving our marriage and friendships, because while our new building has an elevator, our current one doesn’t and we’re on the third floor. This, and the fact that it’s Buy Nothing Day, have reminded me that we have too much stuff – so much stuff, and I wonder how much of it we would even miss if it was gone. You’d be surprised at how many chicken figurines and plastic dinosaurs two people can cram into fewer than 1,000 square feet.

Or maybe you wouldn’t?

One of the things we don’t need to spend so much on is take-out, which we’ve been eating too much of because my job is less a job and more a way of life, and because the dishes are dirty and one of us has to clean them and it isn’t going to be me. But those are excuses, and I know that. I am never so busy that I can’t just take half an hour and make dinner; that I’m doing so little of that is laziness. During the Depression, no one got to say “Uggggh, work sucked today, let’s just get wine and Thai food and watch dumb crap on TV with our pants off.” They might have wanted to, but they turned their powdered milk and canned tomatoes and elbow macaroni into a dish that would span four meals because that’s just what you did.

We need a little more “that’s just what you do” and less “eff, I just don’t feel like it.” I need to stop using fatigue and ennui as an excuse.

It’s Friday, and I probably could have gotten away with just calling in for sushi, but I wanted something homemade, something made out of stuff I have in the cupboards and fridge. So here’s a dish I’ve made a million times, one that won over Nick in the very beginning when he was just a fetus of a husband, back when we were young and never watched TV because we had too many roommates hogging the remote and no cable anyway. It’s something I made here a few years ago, but that has evolved and grown into a better dish – why did I never think to add cheese before?! Anyway, here’s Toad in the Hole: Version 2012. It’s an eggy, pancakey thing – basically Yorkshire pudding with stuff baked in – and it’s good with salad, but it’s better if you serve it with onions and cabbage fried with bacon. Because what isn’t?

Make it vegetarian by folding mushrooms and shallots fried in butter into the batter. Use what you have, but don’t make a special trip to the store. It’s best if your milk and eggs are at room temperature, but it’s not the end of the world if they aren’t.

Toad in the Hole

  • 2 tbsp. butter or two strips of bacon, chopped
  • 2 to 4 sausages
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, milk or buttermilk, eggs, mustard, and salt and pepper until smooth. Set aside.

In a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat, melt butter or cook bacon. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, stick a pie plate in the oven as it preheats.

Melt butter or cook bacon. If cooking bacon, scoop out of the pan and drain it on paper towel. Brown sausages in melted butter or bacon grease – it doesn’t matter if they are cooked through, but you want them brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and slice into bite-sized pieces.

Add bacon, if using, and sausages back to the pan, or to the heated pie plate (if using), pour batter over top, sprinkle with cheese and stick in the oven for 25 minutes, until batter has puffed and turned golden. Slice and serve immediately with mustard or sour cream.

 

Stewed short ribs.

I’ve been singing this song, dazedly, replacing the lusty words with worky ones, for the past couple of weeks. I’m … tired. Work is exhausting and unrelenting, the baby is crawling and into everything, and I haven’t watched a new episode of Adventure Time or read anything interesting in far too long. In the interest of adapting as best I can to a new normal, I am throwing myself into Crock Pot cookery – we WILL have a meal at the end of the day that doesn’t start off with a package of instant ramen and an egg. We WON’T just eat take-out sushi every day until our toes web and our backs sprout fins.

It is a wonderful thing to come home to a meal already made, and to an apartment that smells of herbs and garlic instead of stale cat food and yesterday’s dishes. It’s nice to hear from a friend on the weekend and invite him to dinner on Monday night because there will be short ribs, which is a pretty good excuse to blow off work for the night. And if he offers to bring a selection of interesting craft beers to try, all the better.

Did I tell you we’re going to move across town at the end of the month? Good lord, it never ends. But I’m fed, and ultimately that’s what matters the most. You may get quite a few Crock Pot recipes out of me yet – I’m doing a lot of big-batch feelings-eating.

Slow-stewed short ribs

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5-6 lbs. beef or veal short ribs
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 whole head of garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into inch-long pieces
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into inch-long pieces
  • 2 cups dry, lightly oaked white wine, such as Chardonnay
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup low-sodium or homemade beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

In a large pan, over medium-high heat, cook short ribs in olive oil until deeply browned. Place into Crock Pot or slow cooker. To the same pan, add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Stir to cover with the oil that remains in the pan.

Add  wine, tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaves, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, rosemary, red pepper flakes, black pepper, basil, oregano, and marjoram, and bring just to a boil. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed. When you are satisfied that it is delicious, pour the whole mix over the short ribs in the slow cooker. Stir to ensure even distribution of liquid. Set to low, 9 to 10 hours, and go about your day.

About 30 minutes before serving (if you are so inclined – this step is not mandatory), skim as much fat off the top as you feel you need to, then carefully spoon ribs, veggies and sauce back into your large pan and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, until sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Add lemon juice, taste again, and adjust seasonings as needed. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve over fresh noodles, rice, potatoes, or whatever starchy, filling thing most pleases you. Make sure you have crusty bread to sop up the juices.

If you don’t have a slow cooker but you do have 2 1/2 to 3 hours, you can make this in the oven. Braise the ribs, uncovered, at 325°F until meat is falling-off-the-bone tender. This way will produce a thicker sauce, but you will have to spend more time in the kitchen.

Turkey chili.

This weekend we finally had a moment to spare, a few minutes to sit down and breathe and look at the baby, who’s now pulling himself up on things to peer over them, and who suddenly switched from picky to pleased when it comes to the food set before him.

I don’t know where the time went. I have a job now, one I think I’m going to really like and not just because of the office’s close proximity to cheap bibimbap and fresh-baked cinnamon buns. Creditors are starting to get paid. I might even buy a pair of shoes.

We lost summer and fell into autumn, and, semi-concerned about potentially starving come winter should no job ever materialize for me, I spent most of the cusp of two seasons pickling and preserving, putting up jars of tomato sauce, pears, applesauce, jam, and jar after jar of hot peppers and pickly things. I made soups and stews for the freezer, bought cheap produce direct from the farm and inexpensive cuts of meat from the butcher, and ran out of places to store food. If I were an animal, I’d be the noble hamster.

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, so we also had leftover turkey to make the most of. Bored with the idea of turkey soup and having had too many turkey sandwiches, I decided a pot of chili would give new life to the leftovers and keep us in lunches for the next few days. It’s a white chili, because some of us have eaten our body weight in tomatoes lately. The best thing about this recipe is that it calls for green chilies, but because I was at work and we only had fresh peppers, I had to ask Nick to roast them and peel them for me. And he did it, perfectly. The baby is crawling and standing, I’m back to work, and Nick is roasting chilies, and everyone is a better version of himself than even just a few weeks ago.

Turkey chili with black-eyed peas

(Serves 6.)

  • 2 to 4 Anaheim chilies (or 2 poblano peppers)
  • 4 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (remove seeds and membranes if you prefer a milder chili)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chopped cooked turkey
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 19 oz. (398mL) cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Turn your oven’s broiler to high, and place whole chilies directly onto the rack, under the heating element. You’ll need to stick close and watch them so they don’t burn. When skin is charred and blistered on one side, turn 90 degrees. Continue until all sides have blackened and blistered. Place in a glass container with a lid, and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently rub skin from peppers – it should slough right off.

In a large pot over medium heat, brown bacon until crispy. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels. Add olive oil. (Fat is delicious.)

Add jalapeno peppers, onion, celery, the white and light green parts of the scallions, and the garlic. Saute until colours have brightened, the add bay leaves, salt, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, black pepper, and marjoram.

Chop your peeled chilies, and add these to the pot as well.

Add flour and cornmeal, and stir until the mixture coats your veggies. Add the turkey and the cooked bacon, then the stock and milk. Stirring frequently, bring to a boil.

Add beans. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Add corn, and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve topped with the green part of the scallions, chopped, and grated cheddar cheese.