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Monday, November 21, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Today was the first day that the temperature dipped below freezing.  When I set out to make something for dinner I instinctively thought of comfort food.  Something rich, hot and filling to satisfy the tummy and the soul. 
Shepherd's pie definitely falls into the comfort food category.  Meat, potatoes and vegetables all in one dish is another reason I love it. This is my interpretation and although it may use some typical ingredients found in most popular shepherd's pie recipes, some of the ingredients and procedures will differ. It is very hearty, flavorful and an absolute perfect food for a cold winter day.

2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes peeled and chopped
3 lbs ground veal (or beef)
1 large onion, medium dice
1 1/2 cups of corn
1 1/2  cups of fresh or frozen peas
1 large carrot, medium dice
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
1 1/2 cups of beef stock
1 1/2 cups of creme fraiche
4 TBSP of unsalted butter
1 cup of milk
salt and pepper , to taste
Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water and boil until very tender.
 Place the ground meat in a foil lined baking try and  sprinkle with chopped garlic.  Put in a pre heated 375f oven and bake until brown.

Place onion and carrots to a hot pan with 2 Tbsp. of butter and saute until slightly softened.
Now add peas and corn, cook for a few minutes until warmed through.
Add meat and 2 cups of beef stock to pan and simmer on medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
When the potatoes are tender, drain water and pass through a ricer or food mill into the same pot.

Add milk, creme fraiche, 2 Tbsp. of butter, salt and pepper to potatoes and lightly whip with a wooden spoon.  Using a ladle, remove 1 cup of liquid from the simmering meat and vegetables and add it to the potato puree.
Now take 1 1/12 cups of the potato puree and add it to the meat and vegetables, making sure to stir until completely incorporated.  (Most people would add flour instead of the potato puree as a thickening agent but the puree lends a much better flavor and texture to the meat).  Once most of the liquid has evaporated and been soaked up by the puree, remove from heat.

Spread the meat mixture evenly in the bottom of a large baking dish or hotel pan and press down slightly with a wooden spoon.  Now spread the potato puree over the meat mixture until covered, wrap with foil and bake in a 375f oven for 20 minutes.
After baking for 20 minutes, remove foil and place pie under a broiler for 4 or 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and serve.  This can keep well in the refrigerator for 3 days or it can be frozen  in pieces and reheated on another cold wintery day.
Try it today... it just makes you feel good !

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Almond Crusted Sole with Avocado Basil Pesto and Blood Orange, Arugula Salad

   Summer is gone....... I miss the sunshine and warmth of our beautiful yet short Canadian summer.  It is easy to feel down when summer ends here because we all know that fall is even shorter and winter comes quickly. We generally begin to look for thick, rich, comforting meals that pair so well with our brutal Canadian winter.
 I on the other hand, choose to fight the early arrival of cold fall and winter days.  How do I do this you ask? Warm thoughts!... Ahh yes, I close my eyes and think of a wonderful warm place . I go back to my roots in Sicily and dream of the sunshine , seaside and the wonderful ingredients that the sun blessed island has been given.
   Fresh fish taken daily from the coast, the almonds and oranges growing all around the island, fennel, fresh basil, arugula, avocado, lemons, extra virgin olive oil.....are you feeling warm yet?
This recipe is fairly simple.  The result is a light tasting and crispy fish, the avocado pesto is rich yet the heaviness is cut with the citrus infusion from lemon and blood oranges.  Overall this could be the perfect mediterranean summer dish but I choose to prepare it now to keep the sun and warmth on my mind as we get ready for the long, dark and cold season ahead.

4 fresh sole fillets, cut in half
1 cup, oven roasted almonds pulsed into crumbs
1 cup, panko or regular bread crumbs
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

For pesto:

1 avocado
1/2 cup fresh basil
4 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, add roasted almond crumbs, panko bread crumbs, paprika, flour, salt and pepper and mix well.
Dredge sole fillets in the mixture making sure to firmly press the fillet so it is well coated.

In a hot skillet, add some oil and a little butter and saute fillets until golden brown on both sides. Approximately 2 1/2 minutes per side. Place on a paper towel lined tray until ready to serve.

In a food processor, add avocado, basil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and puree until thick but fairly smooth.

Ingredients for Salad:

2 cups baby arugula
2 blood oranges, segmented and juice reserved
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup fennel fronds

In a bowl, mix arugula with blood orange segments and their juice.  Add olive oil and lemon juice and toss until well mixed.
Spread avocado pesto on a plate and place sole fillet on top. Take some of the salad making sure to grab both arugula and orange segments together and place on the fish. This will allow some of the salad dressing to drizzle over the fillet and at the same time adding a some acidity and brightness to the fish. Top the fish with a good amount of fennel fronds and serve immediately
Don't let fall and winter get you down !

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ontario Food Terminal ( Supporting Local Farmers)

 Walking through the enormous food terminal quickly reminds you of all the great produce grown and sold here in Ontario. Early in the season there is already an abundance of great things available.  Within minutes your mind begins filling with imagination and inspiration for your next culinary endeavor.
The outdoor market and indoor refrigerated storage is well kept and clean.  Courteous staff and vendors await you as you walk through to find the freshest and absolute best quality produce available in the city . If you ever get the chance to tour this wonderful place I say go for it!

Remember to shop local and support your farmers and distributors!


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