Chicken Piccata

Chicken Picatta

Last on our tour of schnitzel around the world is the Italian inspired chicken piccata. Even though the exact origin of chicken piccata is unclear, it definitely comes from the Italian culture, but it has been hard for Italians and Americans to narrow down exactly what the word “piccata” means. When translating it from Italian to English, it has several different meanings and originates from several Italian words, the result being a mixture of possibilities.  It is unsure whether chicken piccata was made by Italians in Italy or by Italian immigrants after they came over to the United States around the early 1930s. The name for a lemon and butter sauce differs in the various regions of Italy as well, making it hard to track down the exact location it originated from.

One of the main reasons piccata is so popular though is because it is known as a fairly fast and economical dish. The piccata sauce is said to be the perfect blend of salty, acidic and buttery flavors, then broth or wine is added to complete it. There are many different variations of piccata. The classic Italian sauce usually consists of lemon, broth/wine, butter, salt and pepper and other ingredients are sometimes added to the lemon sauce like capers, parsley or even garlic to spice things up a bit and usually finished off by adding salt and pepper so it’s not too bland. Traditionally, the chicken may only be dusted in flour before being lightly fried, but you can also lightly bread it as I have in the recipe here. It will give the chicken a little more substance, and by flavouring the breadcrumbs, give another layer of seasoning, I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded very thin (about ¼” thick)
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 ½ cups breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 eggs, lightly whisked
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or as needed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 lemon, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
¼ cup margarine
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced*

* Click here to learn how to clean parsley.

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Place a serving platter into the oven to warm. Place the breadcrumbs on a large plate, and season them with the garlic powder and lemon zest. Place the flour on a separate plate, and season it with the salt and pepper. Place the whisked eggs in a bowl. Dip the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess. Then dip the chicken in the eggs, then in the breadcrumbs, pressing firmly to coat. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet and pan-fry the chicken until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Work in batches and do not over crowd the skillet, adding more oil as needed. Place the chicken onto the warmed platter in the oven.

When you are finished with all of the chicken, drain most of the oil from the skillet, leaving a thin coating on the surface of the pan. Cook and stir the minced garlic and shallot in the skillet until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine, and scrape up and dissolve any brown bits that may have become stuck on the bottom of the skillet. Add the chicken broth and lemon slices, and bring the mixture to a boil. Let the sauce cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces by about a third, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the lemon juice and capers, and simmer again until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes more. Drop the margarine into the skillet and swirl it into the sauce by tilting the skillet until the margarine is melted and incorporated. Add the parsley, and remove the sauce from heat and set aside. Arrange the chicken on a serving plate and spoon the sauce over to serve.

Marinated Chicken in a Wine and Mushroom Cream Sauce with Kalamata Olives

Marinated Chicken in Wine Mushroom Cream Sauce

So we’re coming into the home stretch, sort of, of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Dinner, as we are now on the relevés course. This came after the mains, but before the roasts and the sweets, not to mention the side table that was out, y’know just in case you got hungry between courses. Can you imagine? I’m sorry your Majesty, but the 9 dishes you had presented up until now haven’t quite hit the mark, I’m going to go make myself a cold roast beef sandwich? I definitely would have gone all Queen of Hearts on the subject and shouted “Off with their head!” to the ungrateful lout!

Speaking of off with their head, a chicken definitely lost theirs in the preparation of today’s recipe. “Les Poulets à la Financière” or “Chicken Garnished with Cocks’ Combs, Cocks’ Kidneys, Dumplings, Sweetbreads, Mushrooms, Olives and Truffles” was a pretty complex dish as you can tell by a partial recipe that I was able to find from the era:

Poulets à la Financière

I think the modern recipe below for chicken with mushrooms and olives might not only be easier, but will also be slightly more palatable! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

6 chicken leg quarters or 6 breasts (or whatever cuts your family likes)
olive oil (to brown chicken)

Marinade:
6 sprigs of fresh sage*
6 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 ½ cups dry white wine
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives (roughly chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mushroom Cream Sauce:
6 sage leaves roughly chopped*
4 garlic cloves (minced)
1 ½ cup dry white wine or chicken broth
3 cups of non-dairy creamer
3 pounds of crimini mushrooms (sliced)
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives
Salt and pepper to taste

* Click here to learn how to clean sage.

Directions:

Season the chicken with dried sage, salt, and pepper. Place the chicken in a covered container or large freezer bag with the wine, garlic, fresh sage and chopped olives. Marinate the chicken overnight, or longer, but no longer than 48 hours.

When you are ready to cook chicken, take the chicken out and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Bringing the chicken to room temperature will help the chicken to cook evenly. While you are waiting, preheat the oven to 375°F.

After the chicken has sat out for 15 minutes, put a little olive oil in a cast iron pan or other any oven safe pan you have. On your stove top heat the pan up on a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces, and evenly brown the chicken on both sides. Once you have browned the chicken, remove the chicken from the pan.

Now add the wine to the pan, deglazing it (removing all the delicious pieces of marinade from the bottom of the pan). Immediately after you add the wine, add the non-dairy creamer, mushrooms, sage, and garlic. Cook the sauce for a few minutes, giving the mushrooms a chance to absorb the sauce.

Then, add your chicken back in to the pan, along with the olives and taste for to see if salt or pepper is needed. Cover the pan and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through.

Rhubarb Wild Rice Pilaf

Rhubarb Wild Rice Pilaf

So here’s a little FYI about rhubarb, were you aware that it is poisonous? Rhubarb contains oxalate, which causes illness or death when large quantities are ingested. Most of rhubarb’s oxalate is in its leaves, so trim them off and discard them, and you’re safe. There is almost no poison in the actual rhubarb stalks.

By the way, it’s not easy to die from eating rhubarb leaves. According to The Rhubarb Compendium website (at www.rhubarbinfo.com), a 150 pound person would have to eat at least 11 pounds of rhubarb leaves before suffering fatal effects. I think we’ll all be okay with this weeks recipes.

Ingredients:

¼ cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium/large sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped rhubarb (about 2 large stalks)
½ cup white wine
½ cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup cooked wild rice (about ⅓ of a cup uncooked)
1 cup cooked long-grain white rice (about ⅓ of a cup uncooked)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F, and spread out the almonds onto a baking sheet. Toast almonds in the preheated oven until golden and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Keep an eye on them, nuts burn ever so quickly! Set the almonds aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion in the oil until just translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about another minute. Add the rhubarb and sauté until slightly softened, about 2 minutes more.

Stir in the wine, raisins, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper into rhubarb mixture; cover the skillet with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until rhubarb is tender to the bite but still firm, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the honey and soy sauce, stirring everything to combine.

Lastly, add both the wild and white rice into the rhubarb mixture, stir until rice is heated through. Top with toasted almonds.

Roasted Cornish Hens with Apple, Date & Almond Stuffing and Honey Pomegranate Glaze

Cornish Hens

So on Rosh HaShanah we eat many symbolic foods, in order to have a healthy, happy and prosperous new year. This entrée includes 4 of these foods! The apple symbolizes Gan Eden(The Garden of Eden), which according to the Sages had the scent of an apple orchard. The word date in Hebrew is תמרים and related to the word תם – to end. So on Rosh HaShanah we eat dates so that G-d will bring an end to our enemies.

Honey, as you know is sweet, and what could be a better symbol for a sweet new year? Lastly, the pomegranate is full of seeds (some say 613 seeds to be exact, just like the number of laws in the Torah). So we eat pomegranates so that we will be as full of mitzvot (good deeds) and the pomegranate is seeds. This recipe is geared for 8 guests, and will give some extra stuffing and sauce to serve along with your final dish. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

¼ cup unsalted margarine (½ a stick)
8-12 (about 4 pounds) Fuji apples, chopped
20 Medjool dates, pits removed, chopped*
2 lemons, zest and juice**
2 oranges, zest and juice**
1 cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
8 Cornish hens (1 ¼ pounds each)
¾ cup dry white wine
⅓ cup chopped shallots (about 1 ½ large shallots or 3 small ones)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons margarine

* Click here to learn how to inspect dates.
** Click here for my tips on zesting lemons and oranges.
♦ Click here to learn how to truss a Cornish hen.

Directions:

Melt margarine in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add apples and sauté, stirring occasionally, until brown but still crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Add dates, zests, and juices; cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat, cool, and stir in almonds and salt.

Place the chopped onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of a large roasting pan (or divide into two smaller pans) and mix the vegetables so that they are combined.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Remove and discard the giblets and necks from the hens. Rinse the hens under cold water and then pat dry. Trim off any excess fat. Season each cavity with salt and pepper, and then loosely stuff with apple mixture. Truss the hens♦. Place the hens, breast-side up, on top of the chopped vegetables.

Boil the wine and shallots in a heavy small saucepan until most of the wine has evaporated, about 4-6 minutes. Add the broth, pomegranate juice and honey. Boil again until the sauce has reduced to about 1 ¾ – 2 cups, about 7-9 minutes. Whisk in the margarine and then remove from the heat.

Brush the hens with the honey-pomegranate sauce. Roast the hens at 475 degrees for 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 35 minutes, or until juices run clear. While the hens are roasting, baste them occasionally with more of the sauce, about every 10 minutes or so. Serve the hens with any remaining stuffing and remaining sauce.

Safety Note: Before serving the remaining sauce or giving a final basting to the fully cooked hens, put the sauce back on the stove and bring it back up to a quick boil. The reason for this is because you have been dipping your basting brush back and forth between the hens while they were cooking, and therefore at various stages of rawness, and then dipping the brush back into the sauce pot. You want to eliminate any chances of salmonella or other food borne pathogens from contaminating your final dish. The re-boiling of the sauce will kill off these pathogens. Safety first!

Wineries & Vineyards (Ontario)

Niagara Region Winery

So one of Ontario’s pride and joys is the Niagara Region in the southernmost tip of the province. Not only is it simply beautiful, but it is home to Niagara Falls and unbelievable soil and climate for growing grapes. Because of this, wineries and vineyards are a major attraction, both for tourists and economically for the province. The Ontario growing region lies between the 52° and 41° parallels, placing them in the middle of the northern grape growing belt. This is the same latitude as Bordeaux, France and the Northern wine regions of California! Because of this, we are able to grow a vast number of grapes, producing excellent award winning wines. Today, instead of a recipe featuring wine, I thought I’d give a little Wine 101 – Breaking down some of the types of wine, and how to use them in cooking. I will be also posting this information as a separate page on this blog so that it’s easy to refer back to. Remember, as always; check the label of your bottle before using it to confirm that it is kosher. If you would like to see more alcohols that are kosher, check out our Kosher Alcohol List by clicking here. Enjoy, and drink responsibly!


Wine 101
A basic introduction to wine, plus pairing suggestions to make every dinner special.

The Whites
Chardonnay is a versatile wine grape: its flavour and aromas are easily influenced by where it’s grown and how it’s made. Fruit flavours range from apple and lime in cooler climates to tropical fruits in warmer places. When barrelled in oak, it takes on a richness characterized by honey and butter flavours. When barrelled in stainless steel, it often retains more mineral flavours and comes across as fresher on the palate. Chardonnay excels in Burgundy, France.

Riesling is a crisp, clean wine with green apple, pear and lime flavours. The best offer pleasing mineral qualities as well. With age, Riesling takes on honey flavours and attractive oily aromas. Riesling grows well in Germany, the Alsace region of France, the Finger Lakes region of New York, and parts of Australia and Washington State. Riesling pairs nicely with spicy foods, and poultry.

Pinot Gris is made from grapes that generally produce different styles of wine depending on where the grapes are grown and how they’re handled in the cellar. In the Alsace region of France, and in places like Oregon and New Zealand, Pinot Gris typically makes rich wines marked by a bit of spice. The Italian style (Pinot Grigio) tends to be fresh, crisp and refreshing. This either style of this wine goes well with seafood and pasta dishes, vegetarian food and poultry.

Sauvignon Blanc is a fresh, crisp, aromatic wine with grapefruit and grassy flavours. This wine is the star of the Loire region of France. It also shines in the Bordeaux region, where it is often blended with Semillon. In the New World, New Zealand has emerged as a prime spot for Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is a food-friendly wine that goes well with many seafood, poultry and vegetable dishes.

The Reds
Merlot is a soft, supple wine with nice fruit flavours of plums and blackberries and occasionally mint, chocolate and eucalyptus flavours and aromas. Typically, it is ready to drink earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, which sometimes needs a few years for its astringent tannins to mellow. Outside of Europe, New World Merlot shines in places like California, Chile and Washington State.

Cabernet Sauvignon is more assertive than Merlot, with more tannin and greater ageing potential. It can have flavours of blackberries, plums, black currants, and cassis. Aged in oak, Cabernet Sauvignon can take on flavours of vanilla, cedar, chocolate, and coffee. Beyond Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon does well in Napa, California, where it produces smooth, ripe wines. Washington State, Chile and Australia are also making excellent Cabernet. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are very nice with meat dishes like beef and lamb.

Pinot Noir, a notoriously difficult grape to grow, made its mark initially in Burgundy, France. The grape continues to deliver single-varietal wines that are among the best in the world. Pinot Noirs are delicate wines that taste of red fruits like cherries, raspberries and strawberries. With age, flavours and aromas become more complex, developing earthy notes like mushrooms and decaying leaves. Burgundy in particular is noted for developing these earthy flavours. In the New World, tasty Pinot Noir is being made in Oregon, New Zealand, and some of the cooler appellations of California. Pinot Noir is a versatile food wine, great with poultry, salmon, meat and vegetable dishes.

Syrah is at home in the Rhone region of France, where the grape makes spicy, rich, darkly delicious wines that increase in complexity as they age. Syrah also makes delicious wines in Australia, where it is marketed as Shiraz. Australian versions are typically big, bold and spicy with jammy fruit and aromas of leather and black fruit. Syrah also excels in Washington State, where it often displays an attractive acid balance, and in California, where the styles vary significantly. Syrah is a very versatile wine that pairs well with a wide variety of foods. It’s terrific with grilled meats.

Other Reds to Consider
Sangiovese is the wine grape that makes Chianti, a tremendous food wine with flavours and aromas of cherries and rose petals.

Nebbiolo is the grape variety that makes Barolo and Barbaresco, the noble (and pricey) red wines of the Piedmont region of Italy. With age, flavour notes of plums and cherries are enhanced by flavours of smoke, tar and roses.

Malbec is a star in Argentina, where it produces inky wines with an attractive smoke and leather quality. It also stands out in Cahors in southern France.

Tempranillo is a famous grape of Spain, where it is used in wines of the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions.

Gamay makes the fresh and fruity, raspberry-flavoured wines of the Beaujolais region of Burgundy.

Zinfandel has found its home in California, where it produces big, fruity, often spicy red wines.


Cooking with Wine:

Wine’s complexity of flavours and aromas is one reason it works so well as an ingredient for cooking.

The Flavour Factors

Alcohol
Alcohol itself doesn’t add flavour to dishes so much as it helps release flavour molecules in foods and assists in dissolving fats, allowing ingredients to reveal their own unique flavours in ways that other liquids (like water or broth) or fats (like butter and olive oil) cannot.

When adding wine to a sauce, make sure you allow most of the alcohol to cook off; otherwise, the sauce may have a harsh, slightly boozy taste. How do you know when enough is enough? After adding the wine, cook the sauce uncovered until it reduces by about half. As the alcohol burns away, the flavour of the sauce will concentrate, becoming more delicious.

Tannins
Tannins come from the grape’s skins, stems, and seeds. Thick-skinned grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon, produce more tannic wines than thinner-skinned varietals like Pinot Noir. And red wines have more tannin than whites. This is because the juice of red grapes spends more time swimming around with their skins than white grapes whose juice is separated from the skins soon after pressing. The juice of white grapes just doesn’t hang out with its skins long enough to pick up tannins.

Tannins affect the texture of a wine. We often experience them in the mouth as a drying sensation, rather than as a specific taste. In a young red wine with lots of tannin, they can come across as astringent and pucker-inducing, but the tannins will mellow with age, and are, in fact, one of the compounds that allows red wines to age gracefully.

How do tannins affect our eating experience? Well, let’s take Cabernet Sauvignon. Beef dishes are a classic pairing partner for Cabernet Sauvignon. In large part, it’s because Cabernet Sauvignon is a highly tannic wine. The tannins in the wine become attracted to the proteins in the meat rather than the proteins in your saliva, which makes the wine seem less astringent, a softer experience in your mouth.

When you make a pan sauce with Cabernet Sauvignon, the tannins become concentrated as the sauce reduces. If the sauce does not also contain enough protein and fat to handle those tannins, the end result could be a sauce that is a bit astringent for your liking. A vegetarian sauce, then, will probably work better with a less tannic red wine, like Pinot Noir, or a white wine.

Acidity
Have you ever paired a tomato sauce with a red wine like Merlot? The acid in the tomatoes can burn right through the wine, making it seem flat. That’s because Merlot, which is typically on the low end in acid, can’t compete with the acid in the tomatoes. Chianti Classico, on the other hand, is a terrific choice for tomato-based pasta dishes: the sangiovese grape (the main grape in Chianti) has enough acid to stand up to the acid in the tomato sauce.

Of course, all wines have acid. So when cooking with wine, use non-reactive pans and skillets (like those made from stainless steel or enamelled cast iron) to avoid discolouration when the acid hits the pan.

Flavours and Aromas
When you’re making a dish that has one or two dominant flavours, it’s worth thinking about wines that share those basic taste characteristics. Pinot Noir, for example, particularly Pinot Noir from Burgundy, is known for having flavours and aromas of mushrooms; it might pair up nicely with a dish that features lots of fresh, sautéed mushrooms. A bright dish with a healthy splash of citrus might respond well to a wine with a nice, bright citrus flavour–like Sauvignon Blanc. A cream sauce with fish will likely match up well with a creamy, buttery Chardonnay.

Preserve Your Cooking Wine
Once you uncork a bottle of wine, and oxygen is introduced into the scene, the wine slowly begins to change. No matter how good or expensive the wine was to begin with, it will eventually turn to vinegar.

Bear that in mind when a recipe calls for wine. It’s easy to reach for that half-full bottle you’ve kept in the cupboard for a month. But before you pour it into the pan, take a moment to determine its condition. Cooking with this wine could make the dish taste sour.

One way to make the wine last a bit longer is to refrigerate it. The cold climate will slow the chemical changes that are conspiring to turn your wine to vinegar. Another method is to transfer the leftover wine into a smaller bottle. This helps because a smaller bottle will have less air in it. You can also buy fancy vacuum contraptions that suck the air out of the bottle. An even easier solution, of course, is to drink the wine before it goes bad!

Cioppino

CioppinoSo aside from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Cable Cars, San Francisco is known for quite a few food items. Top on my list (’cause it has it’s own jingle) is Rice-a-Roni a.k.a. the San Francisco Treat! Well, I can’t give you a recipe for something that comes in a box can I? Well, I mean I could, but it’s just so much easier to get a box of the stuff (or the kosher equivalent). So what else is SF famous for food wise? Cioppino and Sourdough Bread!

For the Sourdough, you need a starter or “mother” to start the dough from. You can make one yourself (though this takes some time and care) or buy some from a bakery store or online. Again, yeah, not much of a recipe for this blog. But Cioppino? Now we’re talking! Cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco in the 1800’s. It was developed by Italian immigrant fishermen, who after taking their catch to market, would put together a stew of whatever was left over that wound up to be this wonderful dish. Normally, Cioppino is chock full of shellfish, but this being a kosher recipe, there won’t be any in this dish. This recipe will make a huge pot of the soup/stew, as it is definitely a one-dish meal. I suggest buying some crusty sourdough to serve with it!

Ingredients

⅓ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic
4 ribs celery, peeled
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 large onion, quartered
2 (2 oz.) can anchovies, drained and rinsed
1 fennel bulb, quartered, centres removed, sliced thin*
3 leeks, white/pale green parts only, sliced thin*
1 (796ml) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups dry white wine
6 cups water
4-6 bay leaves
2 good pinches saffron
2 tablespoons paprika
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon anise/fennel seeds
Good pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
4 sprigs fresh thyme*
½ pound halibut, skinned and boned, cut into 1 ½ in pieces
½ pound salmon, skinned and boned, cut into 1 ½ in pieces
½ pound snapper, skinned and boned, cut into 1 ½ in pieces
½ pound sea bass or cod, skinned and boned, cut into 1 ½ in pieces
½ pound flaked mock crab
1 large bunch flat parsley, minced*
Salt and pepper to taste

* Click here to learn how to clean these vegetables and herbs.

Directions:

In a food processor, pulse together the garlic, celery, red pepper, green pepper and onion so that it makes a coarse purée.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on a medium high heat. Once hot, add the rinsed anchovies and sauté so that they start to break up. Add the pureed vegetable mix to the hot oil, along with the sliced leeks and fennel. Sauté until the leeks and fennel become translucent.

Deglaze the pot with the white wine, and then add the crushed tomatoes, water, bay leaves, saffron, paprika, tomato paste, anise/fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and thyme. Reduce to heat to medium, and allow the soup to cook covered for about 30 minutes.

Once the soup has come together, add the fish and about half of the parsley. Cover and let cook for about 10 minutes, until the fish has cooked through and become opaque. Taste for salt and pepper, and then ladle the soup into bowls, topping with the remaining parsley and served with some fresh crusty sourdough bread.

Poached Cod with Tomatoes and White Beans

Poached CodConsidering the amount of rain we’ve received here in Toronto lately, I thought it would be appropriate to serve up some fish dishes this week, in honour of the creatures that we will soon all turn into! Today’s dish, is one of those that looks elegant and fancy, but can be made any weeknight in a hurry. The simple act of poaching the fish in the sauce makes for a flavourful, moist dish that you won’t have to worry about overcooking. Worst case scenario? You leave the fish poaching too long, and it breaks up… and you have fish stew instead! See, it’s all good! I hope you enjoy this cod dish. It will serve 6.

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 ½ medium onions, chopped
1 ½ red bell peppers, chopped
2 medium yellow squashes, chopped
6 large ripe tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
generous pinch of saffron threads
½ cup dry white wine*
¼ cup water
1 ½ (540ml) cans butter, cannellini or white beans, drained and rinsed
6 (6-ounce) pieces boneless, skinless cod (you can substitute with halibut, haddock or tilapia)
salt and pepper, to taste
parsley, chopped (for garnish)**

* If you don’t want to use wine, you can substitute with an equal measure of water with a little powdered consume added for flavour.
** Click here to learn about cleaning parsley.

Directions:

Place the wine, water and saffron threads in a small saucepan and let steep over a medium-low heat while you work on the rest of the dish.

In a large skillet or pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the garlic and onions, and sauté until they become slightly translucent and fragrant. Do not brown. Add the bell peppers, squash and tomatoes, along with about ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook until the tomatoes have broken down, and the sauce has thickened, about 10-12 minutes.

Once the tomatoes have broken down, add the wine mixture to the pan, along with the drained and rinsed beans. Stir to combine. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper, and then gently place them on top of the liquid/vegetable mixture. Cover and simmer until the cod is opaque throughout, about 7-9 minutes.

To serve, ladle some of the vegetable/bean sauce into the bottom of a bowl, or deep dish, and then top with the fish, along with some more of the sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley, and serve with crusty bread.

Asparagus and Brie Tartlets

Asparagus & Brie TartletsThis is lovely as an hors d’oeuvre, or two per person as an appetizer. You can par-bake the wonton wrappers ahead of time, just make sure to weigh them down with something so that you retain the cup shape. I suggest dried beans or pie weights. This recipe will make 12 tartlets, but can easily be doubled. You can even make this into one large tart by layering the wrappers on the bottom of a tart pan, and then just topping with all of the filling and brie. I would suggest slightly cooking the tart first though, before adding the filling, so that it can crisp up a bit.

Ingredients:

24 wonton wrappers, thawed
2 ½ tablespoons butter, divided
24 asparagus spears, cut into 1” lengths (about 2 bunches)*
1 shallot, diced*
¼ cup white wine or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
4 oz. (120g) brie, sliced into 12 pieces/wedges
salt and pepper, to taste

* Click here to learn how to check these vegetables.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt about 1 ½ tablespoons of butter in a microwave or small saucepan. Brush each wonton wrapper with the melted butter and press two wrappers into each mould of a muffin tin. When placing the wrappers I find it easier to align them first out of the tin, then press them in. You should have one wrapper square in front of you, with the flat edge facing you, and then another wrapper on top, but turned 90 degrees, so that the point is in front of you.

In a saucepan, melt remaining butter on medium heat and cook asparagus for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a fork or slotted spoon to keep the melted butter in the pan. In the same saucepan, cook the shallot for about 2 minutes. Add the white wine, and let it simmer until it has reduced by half. Add vinegar and reduce once again by half.

Pour the shallot/wine/vinegar mixture over the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Divide asparagus and Brie among the muffin moulds lined with wonton wrappers. Bake on the bottom oven rack for 15 minutes or until wonton wrappers are golden brown. Serve warm.

Pan-Fried Whiting Fillets with Garlic Kale

Pan-Fried Whiting Fillets with Garlic KaleOkay, so Queen Victoria’s chef may not have made his whiting fillets like I have in the recipe below, but to be honest, it was probably pretty close. I found another recipe from the era and it gives a simple recipe for dusting the fillets and serving them with a Hollandaise sauce. I figure a beurre blanc sauce with garlic kale is a nice modern twist. This recipe will serve 6-8 people. I hope you enjoy it!

Fillets of Whitings FriedIngredients:

Garlic Kale:
2 large bunches (about 500g) kale, stems trimmed*
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chili flakes

Whiting Fillets:
⅔ cup olive oil
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
16 (about 1.1 kg) whiting fillets, skin off

Beurre Blanc:
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus extra wedges to serve
1 ¾ cup chilled unsalted butter, cubed (just under 4 sticks)
salt and white pepper, to taste

* Click here to learn about cleaning kale.

Directions:

For the beurre blanc, bring wine and vinegar to the boil in a saucepan. Add the shallots, and season with salt and white pepper and season. Reduce heat to low and cook for 6-8 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 3 tablespoons liquid should remain). Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Strain and return to a clean saucepan over medium heat for 30 seconds to warm. Reduce heat to low. Add butter, a piece at a time, whisking constantly so it melts before more is added. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. Season to taste, set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, blanch kale in a pan of salted boiling water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain. Heat butter and extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chili, then cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add kale, season and toss to coat. Cook for a further 10 minutes until tender.

To prepare the fillets, in a small bowl mix together the flour, salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Coat the fillets with the seasoned flour, and shake each fillet to remove any extra coating. Cook the fish in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes each side until golden.

To serve, divide the kale and fish among plates, and spoon the beurre blanc over the fish and serve with lemon wedges.

Fish Soup

Fish SoupThis is a nice alternative to chicken soup, and combines the fish course and soup course into one! All the flavour, half the work! This recipe will serve about 12 people.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup olive oil
2 medium onions, quartered
2 large leeks, white part and most of the green part, sliced*
4 stalks celery
1 bulb fennel, quartered (save the fronds for garnish)*
6 cloves garlic
1 large bunch parsley*
2 red peppers, seeded and cut in chunks
Head and tail of a large salmon, tile fish, or any other big fish, quartered, loosely but securely wrapped in cheesecloth
2 (540ml) cans crushed tomatoes
8 cups water
2 large potatoes, cut in small cubes
1 cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon cayenne, or a little more to taste
Good pinch ground cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon paprika
2 good pinches saffron
8 cups fish, cubed, about 1” size (salmon, tile or snapper)

* Click here to learn how to properly clean these vegetables and herbs.

Directions:

In a food processor, coarsely grind the onions, leeks, celery, fennel, garlic, parsley and peppers. You can do this in batches if you have a smaller processor or you find the vegetables are becoming over processed.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil, and then add the vegetable mixture. Sauté the mixture until the onions and leeks become translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Mix often so that nothing sticks and burns.

Next, add the head and tail of the fish (in the cloth), along with the tomatoes, water, potatoes, wine, cloves, bay leaves and paprika. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook for 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecloth with the fish parts in it, and then add the chopped up fish meat and saffron to the pot. Allow the soup to cook another few minutes until the chopped fish has cooked through. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and then serve hot, garnished with a few fronds from the fennel.