A delicious thing to do with sardines.

Kitten and I are alone this weekend, as Nick is off to a rainy lake four hours away to fish for trout/drink on a boat. And so I will stay in this rainy city, with tinned fish and my pajama pants, and drink on my couch. At least tonight. Though this work-week was only three days, they were three busy, non-stop days that required focus and effort – neither are strengths of mine.

So I’m staying in, alone. And instead of cooking, I’ve opted instead to “assemble” a meal, and have put together a grazing platter that should carry me through the evening, if I am able to stay awake. The centre of the meal is a thing with sardines, and it’s based on this anchovy thing I really like called anchoïade.

Anchoïade is a French thing, and at its most basic, it’s a potent mix of anchovies, olive oil, lemon, and garlic. It’s delicious, but I can’t quite justify a large dish of the stuff because anchovies are not a particularly sustainable ingredient these days. Good news though, sardines are. They’re plentiful, and they’re from close-by – there’s a cannery in California in Monterey and when I eat them I think of John Steinbeck because I love that book and because I literally hemorrhage bliss when an item of food tickles my book fancy, if you know what I mean.

I hope you enjoy this little adaptation. It’s for Linda, who asked for a sardine recipe; she’s expecting a baby, and sardines are all kinds of good for moms-to-be. Wander over to her place and say hello!

Sardinoïade

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds (skins on), toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tin sardines packed in olive oil (smoked, if possible)
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grainy dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil

Okay. You can do this two ways.

The easy, smooth-textured way to do this is to grind almonds and garlic in a food processor, then add remaining ingredients (add the oil from the sardines too, don’t forget!) and pulse until the mixture achieves the texture you prefer. I like this way for parties and things where you can just put it out without having to explain too much about it. It will resemble pate, and it will work as either a spread or a dip.

The other way, which is also easy but has more steps, is to chop the almonds as finely as possible (or as you like), mince the garlic, and mix them both together. Dump the tin of sardines into the mix, oil included, and mash it all up together until it’s a texture you like. Stir in remaining ingredients until well combined. This is better as a spread. It’s much less attractive, but just as, if not MORE tasty.

Scoop either variation into a ramekin, and drizzle the top with good oil. Serve either on a plate with pickles, slices of hard-boiled eggs, and slices of baguette. You must also have wine or sparkling water. Pajamas optional, but always implied.

If you have any left over the next day, it’s nice to thin it out with a bit more olive oil and toss pasta with it, topped with fresh herbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Some people use air fresheners, but I prefer spicy cakes.

Sometimes I clean around here, and though that doesn’t happen as often as it should, when it does, I’m always a little OCD about the place smelling like it was cleaned. If I can smell it, it’s right, and so from time to time, the bleachy, VIMy, ammonia smells are a little more prominent than they need to be. It’s momentarily satisfying – it’s the way I let Nick know that I don’t always do almost nothing around here. And then I hate it, so baking happens, because spices and vanilla and sugar cover up the smell of cleaning stink and make an apartment feel like home.

Tonight the evening light was golden, and though we’re well into spring, it doesn’t feel too late for cake. The warm glow through the trees seemed to call for something yellow and spicy, and this cake is it. Well, maybe not yellow. Golden, I guess, but definitely spicy. Perfect for brunch or tea.

Ginger spice cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. finely ground white pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and combine until wet ingredients are just moistened.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″x13″ pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Serve warm, with whipped cream or ice cream.

Can I write about meatloaf in May?

I think yes, I can, because it’s my name on this thing and I felt like something meaty. The whole last hour of my day and the entirety of my bus-ride home was spent fighting the urge to chat MEAT! MEAT! MEAT! MEAT! for all the world to hear, and when I finally got here, I dove right into things, mincing shallots and sautéeing finely chopped mushrooms and garlic in butter and olive oil. Can I write about mushroomy meatloaf in May?

Again, I say yes. At the little farmer’s market I go to when I go back to the ‘burbs, there were beautiful little white mushrooms that a sign claimed came from very nearby. And I wanted them, so we’re throwing back to November here, even though it’s warmish out now and the sun periodically mentions itself from behind the clouds. Around here meatloaf is a three-day affair – one day dinner, two days lunches, and I like the long-lastingness of it. Why am I defending this? You know you want meatloaf. There are places where it’s not even really spring yet, and maybe you’re from there. Maybe you want this so bad right now.

Well, here. This one’s a little different – it’s French. Or, rather, French-ish. It starts with shallots, then mushrooms, and then garlic, some dry white wine, fresh bread crumbs, a generous dollop of dijon, enough black pepper, and fresh parsley. There’s meat in there too – I used buffalo tempered with pork, but you can use beef, and venison would be lovely. I’ll bet a bit of lamb would be exquisite.

Anyhow, I made the meatloaf, and it was very good. You can hold off until October, if you want, but I’d make this now. Let it get cold, and slice it into sandwiches, and serve them at picnics.

Mushroom meatloaf

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 minced shallot
  • 3/4 lb. mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 lb. extra-lean ground beef (or other extra-lean red meat, such as buffalo or venison)
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1 tbsp. grainy dijon mustard
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

In a large pan over medium heat, sauté shallot in olive oil and butter until translucent. Add mushrooms, stir to coat, and allow to cook for five minutes, until liquid begins to drain from mushrooms. Salt, add garlic, and stir. Sauté for another five to ten minutes, until pan is dry and mushrooms have begun to caramelize, achieving a golden hue.

Deglaze pan with wine, and simmer for another three to five minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and allow to cool until you are able to handle the mushrooms comfortably.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine meats, mushroom mixture, bread crumbs, eggs, mustard, parsley, pepper, and nutmeg. Squish everything together with your hands until pretty well combined. It’s okay if the meats are not thoroughly blended – it’s more interesting if they’re not, actually.

Press mixture into a greased 9″x5″ loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let stand for ten minutes before serving. And remember, it’s always even better the next day.

As you may have noticed, meatloaf is one of the ugliest foods, which is one more reason why these photos suck. But don’t let that stop you from making this.

To make up for the photos, and because I’ve been good lately, here’s a sleepy photo of the cat.

Chicken and spinach calzones.

We make and eat a lot of pizza around here – it’s my go-to meal when a bunch of people show up and are hungry. Last summer I discovered my new favourite easy crust, and there’s been no going back – I make it all the time. I change it from time to time – whole wheat flour, a little bit of buckwheat flour every so often, or spelt even. I let it rise a little for a thicker pizza, which is how I like it, or roll it out flat for a thinner crust. Or, sometimes, I add a little bit of semolina flour, give it 30 minutes in a warm kitchen, cut it into eight pieces, roll each piece out until it’s barely as thin as a pie crust, and stuff it with sauce and cheese.

Calzones are a treat, and they’re awesome for lunches at work or school – they’re pizza pops, but with none of that chemical stuff that’ll probably kill you. Cheese, a little sauce, some veggies and meat if you want – and you can stick them in the freezer and reheat them as you need them, in the microwave or toaster oven, whatever you’ve got. And if you’re using an easy crust, they’re the kind of thing you can serve on a weeknight, or even to company, with a little bit of salad and not much else.

If you use leftover chicken, even better! Less effort, so you have more time for drinking beer and inhaling the smell of baking pizza. Which is infinitely better than ordering delivery, even though delivery is easier. Some things are just worth a little bit more time, and people will like you more if you serve them calzones over take out schlock. Some of us need all the help we can get in that regard.

Chicken and spinach calzones

(Makes 8.)

Dough (inspired by a recipe from everybody likes sandwiches):

  • 1 package yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour (if you don’t have this, it’s not crucial; just use regular flour, or sub whole-wheat, if you want)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt

Filling

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl, combine yeast, honey, and water, and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Add flour, semolina flour, oil, and salt and stir to combine. Turn out onto a floured surface, knead ten times, and then place in a greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes.

Use semolina if you can, because it’s extra nice in this kind of crust. It’s a coarser flour, and it produces an excellent crispiness that you’ll want in your calzones. Regular old all-purpose will work fine if that’s what you’ve got, but semolina is a nice touch. A little goes a long way too – spend the two dollars, and you’ll have a bag that will last you a long time, and you can add it to homemade pastas and breads and all kinds of things.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat onions in olive oil until shimmering. Add garlic, stir and saute for another minute, and then add crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium, then add chicken, spinach, lemon zest, garlic, and basil. Taste, adjust salt as needed, and set aside.

Cut dough into four equal pieces, and then cut each piece in half. Roll each piece out until it is no more than 1/8-inch thick – it should be as round as possible, about the size of a small plate.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Spoon filling onto dough, dividing the amount as equally as possible between all eight rounds. Place the filling slightly above the centre of the dough, so that when you fold the short side of the dough over top of the filling, you still have an inch or so of dough on the other side. Place 1/4-cup of cheese on top of each scoop of filling, and fold dough over.

Press dough down gently to seal, and then fold the remaining dough over the crease to seal. You’ll end up with a sort of scalloped pattern, as you fold each bit of dough over the last. (See below.)

Place gently on a baking sheet lined with parchment or sprinkled with cornmeal. I bake these four to a sheet, with at least an inch between them, as they’ll puff up a bit and get bigger.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.

If you’re not going to serve them all right away, you can cool the rest on a wire rack, and then wrap up and freeze. Reheat as needed.

Ten-minute sweet yellow curry.

It was supposed to be Rib Week, and indeed that’s how the week started off, but then I felt an obligation to perform and then some other stuff happened and I decided to hell with it, and stuck the rest of the ribs Nick bought into the freezer for another week. Today we had chicken in an easy ten-minute curry, because I am working on a few freelance writing projects before going back to work and have less time this week than I thought I would.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off. It’s not that much, really, and it really does all come together by the time the rice is cooked. Which leaves you time for other important things, like drinking wine and watching What Would Brian Boitano Make?

Sweet yellow curry

  • 1 cup diced mango (about one mango)
  • 1 banana, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large shallot (or small onion), chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Zest and juice of one lime
  • 2 tsp. sriracha (or the hot sauce of your choice)
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 bunch green onions, light green and white part separated from darker greens
  • 1 398mL (14 oz.) can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In a food processor or blender, combine the mango, banana, shallot, ginger, garlic, lime juice and zest, fish sauce, sriracha, white & light green part of green onions, and coconut milk. Pulse or blend until smooth. Set aside.

Chop chicken thighs, and smash each piece with a meat mallet or rolling pin until flattened. Flattening the meat tenderizes it, and it cooks much faster because it’s not so thick.

In a large pan over medium-high heat, sauté chicken in canola and sesame oil. Add bell peppers. Let cook for a minute or two until the chicken browns, stirring frequently. Once chicken has browned, add cumin, turmeric, pepper, coriander, and nutmeg, stirring chicken and bell peppers to coat in spices.

Pour mango-coconut milk mixture into the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove any browned bits, and stirring to incorporate all of the spices. The colour will be fantastic, possibly alarmingly bright. Reduce to medium heat, and bring to a gentle simmer to warm the sauce through.

Stir in the green part of the green onions (chopped) and the frozen peas. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Before serving taste to check your seasoning, adjust as needed, then add cilantro. Serve over jasmine rice.

Seriously – this whole thing takes, like, ten minutes. It’s got a delicate sweetness, but not cloyingly or oppressively so, and gently spicy. It’s fragrant, and all kinds of good for you. Anything that colour has to be good for you.

Casseroles: Not totally gross?!

I like the idea of casseroles. A whole meal in a single pan that will produce leftovers I can enjoy for lunch the next day? Yes please I want that. I think somehow, somewhere, the casserole went awry. I am not really sure who to blame for this – Kraft? Campbells? In any event, the casserole seems to have somehow fallen out of favour. But not around here. Here, it’s just coming back into style.

Kielbasa casserole

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. potatoes, boiled, cooled, and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 lb. kielbasa sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 lb. kale, stems removed and blanched
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2  cups grated cheese (I used Cheddar, but you could use Swiss, or Havarti – anything you like or have in the fridge)
  • 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375°F. Thoroughly butter a 9″x13″ casserole dish.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt two tablespoons of the butter, and add onion. Sauté until translucent, then add potatoes, and cook until lightly browned. Add kielbasa, and reduce to medium heat.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt remaining butter, and stir in flour until the mixture forms a paste. Whisk in milk and reduce to medium, stirring frequently until thickened, about two minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of cheese, mustard, garlic, pepper, thyme, nutmeg, and salt. Taste before salting too heavily – keep in mind, your sausage will be plenty salty as well.

Add blanched kale to the potato mixture, then pour sauce over, tossing to coat. Pour mixture into casserole. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and remaining cheese over top, then slide into the oven, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.

You could substitute bratwurst for the kielbasa if you wanted, sub in whatever kind of cheese you have or prefer, add mushrooms if you wanted, or use spinach instead of kale depending on the season. This was a nice, hearty, easy meal, and Nick has asked that it be made again. Because it’s so saucy, you might try over egg noodles or braised cabbage, or with a side of crusty bread to wipe your plate clean.

It’s homey, and sort of rustic, and I want to call this a casserole because it reminds me of something you’d serve on a weeknight, to your family or an apartment full of hungry friends, and not just for it’s delightfully cheap and easy attributes. And for all that cream sauce? It’s surprisingly not heavy or unpleasant once it’s in.

So, anyway. I think it’s time we made casseroles cool again. You in?

Here’s that meatball recipe.

These are the meatballs that Tracy‘s vegetarian boyfriend ate, like, four of. They’re that good, they convert the herbivores. She asked me for the recipe – “they’re like my nonna’s!” she exclaimed – but I explained that there wasn’t one, you just use a little of this and a bit of that, you know?

And then Nick’s sister asked for the recipe, and Sooin did too, and they wanted to know if it was on this site, and I said no, it wasn’t, because it’s the kind of thing you just make. You need a recipe for these? I asked, and people nodded yes. I thought they were everyone’s meatballs. Apparently they are my meatballs, and they are delicious.

I’m a little bit biased though. I mentioned a little while ago that if you were bent on seducing me (and you hadn’t already fed me too much wine, which is my favourite), meatballs would get you most of the way there. I don’t know what it is about them; meatballs, in all their forms, make me sublimely happy. There are probably hundreds of ball jokes to be pulled from that statement, but I stand by it.

So anyway, some friends came for dinner tonight, and I decided that we would have spaghetti and meatballs, because it is one of my favourite things and I like to share it, and I wanted to write the recipe down at last. Really, I’m pretty sure that they’re everyone’s meatballs. There’s no secret to them. But in case they are special, or different, or if you’re looking to score, here’s the recipe.

The meatballs

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (not extra-lean – please, not extra-lean)
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. (rounded) fat (butter or bacon fat, or olive oil if you want)
  • 1 tbsp. (rounded) tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Combine all of your ingredients in a large bowl. Squish it all together with your hands to ensure that crumbs and eggs are thoroughly combined. Don’t worry if the meat looks like it isn’t – it’s better to have the meat sort of separate, so that you can taste pork and beef distinctly. And you must use your hands. There is no other way.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Roll meat mixture into balls roughly an inch and a half in diameter. This recipe makes about two dozen – if you have many more, your balls are too small. (Snicker.) And the reverse is true too. Place balls on baking sheet.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

And here’s where it gets interesting.

If you’re just feeding you and another person, or maybe two smaller, miniature persons, then use a dozen, or fewer, and freeze the rest.

If you’re insane and for some reason always end up feeding tons of people even though you’re poor and hardly anyone ever invites you to their homes for dinner even though you’re very nice and don’t always guzzle the wine or step on the cat, cook them all, but double your sauce recipe and use the two-pound bag of spaghetti.

Because these are deceptively large, I would bet that no one will be able to eat more than three. Four is pushing it.

For sauce, there are lots of options. A sauce I am loving right now is tomato sauce with onion and butter from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. In the summer, I use my special slow-cooked tomato sauce, and it’s very nice then too. Tonight, I made a simple sauce of one onion and three cloves of garlic sweated in olive oil, two 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, simmered for forty minutes, then salt, pepper, and basil stirred in right at the end. Keep it simple with the sauce – these are hearty meatballs, and they will be the star of the dish. Stew the meatballs in the sauce for about twenty minutes before serving; they’ll cut the acidity of the tomatoes, and they’ll warm up nicely all on their own.

There it is. See how easy? So easy. Really inexpensive. No reason not to make them for me. I’ll bring dessert. And wine. And soft slippers, because of the cat.

Leek and bacon barlotto.

I’m. So. Tired.

We went to Las Vegas this past weekend, for the very first time, and it was wonderful. We ate nothing but meat and drank nothing but beer and Bloody Marys for three days, and though our bodies are suffering, our minds are at peace, the stress of our daily lives forgotten as we pissed away our American dollars and gorged ourselves at the meat buffets.

The hard part is getting back to our lives as usual. Early bedtimes and dinners with vegetables are the order of the week. Tonight was grain night, and half of a one-dollar bag of barley formed the basis for dinner.

The following recipe makes enough for four to six as a side dish, or two to three as a main. It will double very easily. We ate it as a main, topped with a poached egg, and there was a bit left over. It’s a hearty alternative to risotto, as barley is a whole grain rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, which means that it’s a great way to recover from a vacation in which you ate nothing good for you.

Leek and bacon barlotto

  • 2 to 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped leek (one medium leek, white and light-green part only, cut into sixths lengthwise and chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 to 4 cups warmed chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, sauté bacon until crisp. About one minute before the bacon is ready, add the leeks, and sauté until glistening. Remove from heat and drain onto a plate lined with paper towel.

Drain the bacon fat, but don’t wipe the pan. Add olive oil. Return the pan to the stove, set to medium-high heat, and pour in barley. Stir fry barley and garlic until golden and toasted, about two minutes. The barley will smell toasty and will turn white before it browns slightly. Stir in the wine, and reduce to medium heat.

Once wine is absorbed, pour in one cup of stock. Stir frequently until stock is absorbed. Repeat two to three more times, over thirty to forty-five minutes, until barley has puffed and softened; you will want the texture to resemble al denté rice, slightly chewy but pleasing to the bite.

Once almost all of the liquid is absorbed, add bacon and leeks back to the pan, and cook with the barley. You’ll want the liquid to have almost completely disappeared. Once this happens, remove from heat.

Stir in butter and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste.

Serve with crusty bread, with more fresh-grated Parmesan cheese, possibly topped with a poached egg.

This is salty, cheesy, nutty, and thoroughly delicious, with just the right amount of chew and softness to make it the perfect comfort food to follow a weekend of gluttony, or just a hard, long week.

Kroketten: Make your holiday leftovers into delicious fried snack food.

Nick is all about croquettes. He demanded them for his birthday, and he gets very excited whenever the possibility of croquettes arises, which for him isn’t often. Croquettes, or kroketten, are a Dutch thing, and given Nick’s Vander-leaning heritage, he gets a little nostalgic over them, a little obsessive even, possibly the same way I do for good fish and chips. You can buy them at the Dutch store, but that’s an hour’s drive away, and you can get them at the little Dutch pancake restaurant in town here, but they close early and we sleep late.

This year though, we ended up with enough leftover meat to make a couple of batches. So, inspired in part by this recipe, in part by a recipe from my in-laws, Mark and Jess, and by the taste of the things, which is always fairly consistent, I made my first Dutch croquettes. They’re basically deep-fried soft meatballs, so by their very nature they’re delicious.

They seem like more trouble than they are. They weren’t all that time-consuming, because the majority of the work was not intensive and I could leave them in stages and do other things. So if you’ve got a lot of extra turkey, chicken, or roast beef, or even pork, and you’re tired of soup and sandwiches already, why not try kroketten? One batch makes about two dozen, and they freeze well, so you can enjoy your holiday leftovers as a snack anytime.

The recipe below is for a beef version, but I’ll include the variation I used for the turkey ones as well.

Kroketten

  • 1 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup reserved
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 lbs. cooked beef, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 cups beef stock or reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten

(Variation: For turkey kroketten, use chicken stock instead of beef stock, and use dried sage instead of rosemary. You could throw in a handful of raisins or dried cranberries here, and it would be lovely.)

Melt butter and sweat onion, carrot, and celery, and garlic cloves. Add the meat, lemon zest and juice, and stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain meat mixture, reserving stock. Transfer meat mixture to a food processor*.

Add parsley, dry mustard, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and nutmeg, and pulse until well-combined and mostly puréed. You want some texture, but not too much, as these aren’t really “chewing” snacks. They should be very soft.

*Alternately, if you don’t have a food processor, separate the meat and the veggies. Mash the veggies, and pull the meat apart with a fork, and then chop very finely. Mix meat and veggies together, and then proceed as below.

In a pot over medium-high heat, melt the reserved butter, and stir in the flour. Pour in your reserved stock and stir frequently until the mixture comes to a gentle boil and thickens. Add your meat mixture to this, and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Transfer to a 9″x13″ pan, cover, and refrigerate for up to three hours.

Go out, do other things.

When you come back, set a workstation up for yourself with one parchment-lined baking sheet, one bowl of the beaten eggs, a plate with the flour, and a pie-plate containing your breadcrumbs. Form into logs, about 3/4-inch thick and 2 1/2-inches long. Alternately, you can roll them into balls about the size of golf-balls. If you’re making two different kinds, it helps to make both so that you can tell them apart later when you want to eat them.

Dip first into flour (coat all sides), then into egg, and then drop into breadcrumbs, rolling each piece in your hands to thoroughly coat. Place on cookie sheet. You should end up with about two dozen. Make sure that the coating is thick and even, or else the meat will burst out of the croquette’s more delicate places when frying.

At this point, you can either freeze them or fry them. If you are going to freeze them, cover them (on their cookie sheet) with plastic and place in the freezer until frozen solid. Remove them to a large, sealed container, where you can store them in the freezer for up to six weeks. If you are going to fry them, return them first to the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Heat a pot of oil, about four inches, to 350°F. Drop kroketten in, four or five at a time, and cook each batch for three to five minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate, sprinkle with Kosher salt, and serve piping hot, with a big bowl of yellow American mustard.

If you’re not super comfortable with deep-frying, you can fry them in a regular frying pan, in about an inch of oil. Just give them a bit longer, and make sure you brown them on all sides.

At this point, your version of Nick, whether Dutch-inclined or not, will be all kinds of grateful, and will likely even volunteer to do things for you, such as washing the dishes and/or keeping your hand filled with cans of ice-cold beer for the remainder of the evening. Your version of Nick will also be hugely complimentary and will let you go to bed early and not get mad at you for not dealing with the last of the laundry or “forgetting” to put the sheets and duvet cover back where they should be.

The moral of the story is that there is something pleasant you can do with leftovers that doesn’t only involve turning them into soup or sandwiches. If you freeze them, these little croquettes will make a nice make-ahead treat for your guests on New Years Eve. Happy leftoversing!

Gingerbread? Don’t mind if I do.

Oh! Hello. It’s been ages and ages. Actual time, one week. With the arrival of the Shaw Cable guy this morning, we have now clawed our way back into the 21st century, and these feelings of connectedness and calm are very reassuring.

Today marks the beginning of the week before Christmas, that frantic time of shopping and trying to remember who you have to buy for, who you haven’t bought for, and which bills should be paid right now lest you find yourself without heat, hot water, or car insurance. I don’t know about you, but I don’t handle stress very well. Fortunately, the one thing you can control, the one thing that can bring you inner peace like nothing else, even if you have forty-thousand relatives to visit in not nearly as many hours, is your kitchen, and you can whip it into submission and fill your home with wondrous holiday smells and end up with a cake that goes very well with rye and ginger ale. Which you probably also need right about now. Yes?

This is a strong-tasting sucker, crammed full of molasses and maple syrup and raw ginger. It’s grown-up gingerbread, and you can serve it with ice cream if you want to but I like it straight out of the pan, plonked onto a plate with a little icing sugar and a cold beer. It’s also packed full of good stuff, so you can even take this with you as an on-the-go breakfast, since you’re going to need to leave early to avoid traffic hell.

Grown-up Gingerbread

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger, packed
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. dried ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Cream together the butter, ginger, and sugar. Once smooth and creamy, beat in the molasses, maple syrup, sour cream, and eggs.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, dried ginger, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir into liquid mixture. Inhale. Sigh.

Pour into a greased 8″x8″ pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out relatively clean. This is a moist cake, so you may notice moist crumbs. That’s okay. Desirable, even.

The cake’s pretty good hot out of the oven, but believe you me, you’ll like it much better after it’s sat for awhile. There’s a lot of stuff in here to keep it moist, so if you want to bake it the night before, let it sit, then grab it and go in the morning, it would likely be at it’s flavour-zenith then. I’m not sure that phrase worked. Oh well.

You can frost it if you want, but I wouldn’t.

Now, you relax. And maybe buy yourself something nice, wrap it up, and put it under the tree, “From: Santa.” I won’t tell.