Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Finding A Rooster In Downtown Victoria

The "Polka"

            So there are some things that make me reminisce about the wayward way that I spent my younger years. Now I am not talking about some sweet memory of being hugged by someone I love and told that I am indeed a good person. This is more a memory of stumbling out of a bar at 2:30 in the morning, feeling fuzzy and knowing that if I don’t find something to eat I will truly die. My friends who are at my side are feeling the same way. We breech the door and our eyes fall upon what looks like a hotdog cart and we share a collective smile. But something is not what we expected, something is amiss. As we approach the cart there is the unmistakable smell of frying onions and bacon. My God this cart was serving Perogies. With a sort of manic glee we dove into bowls of fried dough, potatoes, cheese and sour cream. It was glorious.

            So Toby and I are walking downtown and he tells me we should check out this new coffee shop that just opened up. Needing caffeine something fierce I say that I am game. As we approach the shop we see a massive green food truck. Needing an infusion of wakefulness we stroll on past though I will admit my curiosity was piqued. We slammed down some espresso and decided to check out the truck. We checked out the menu and I felt my heart jump. It was a perogie truck. Awesome. We resolved to return and that was easily the best decision that we made that day.

            I am not the kind of guy that really raves about a lot of things when it comes to eating out; however, you my people, need to check out the Hungry Rooster. Toby and I called Tiff, my friend and Toby’s lady fair and she met up with us to give the Hungry Rooster a shot. Questions rocketed through my head, would this joint live up to the booze induced glory of the perogie stand of my college days. The Hungry Rooster kicked that memory’s ass. We all tried something different and it was all amazing. Toby opted for the traditional “Polka” a plate of perogies with all of the fixings which included, to Toby’s delight, cabbage. Tiff went with the “Poutinka” a crazy and awesome version of poutine with deep fried perogies and wonderful miso gravy. And finally I myself decided on a glorious, and I do mean glorious, thing called the “Slapdown” a perogie filled grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and onions. We snapped pictures like it was Christmas morning and then dove into the food. Sweet mother Mary it was good.
The "Slapdown"

            As if the food wasn’t enough to make you want to check this rolling joint out, which it should be, the two ladies who were manning the truck were amazing. Paulina and Janelle were great. Sharing a little bit of what they were doing and why, they made the visit even more enjoyable. The service was better than I normally get in sit down restaurants. The prices are more than reasonable and the food is awesome, and I could go on and on. So I will leave it at this, you need to check this place out. I want to keep eating there so we all need to support it. If not for Paulina and Janelle, then for Johnny and his love for perogies and all things perogie related.
The "Poutinka"

            You can find the truck on Courtney St. across from the Sticky Wicket, like them on Facebook: Hungry Rooster food truck, or follow them on Twitter, @hungry_rooster. Throw some support their way my Lovlies.  

Friday, 9 March 2012

Mmmm Western Chinese Food Part 2

            So here I set out to finish the buffet I have started. This is sort of a two fer. A lot of the same ingredients are used here and only some small changes in the cooking process. This comes again from my memory of eating Chinese takeout with my family. It will never fail to bring a smile to my face remembering my lovely Grand struggling to pronounce the name of the restaurant and my Gramps, I am pretty sure on purpose, pronouncing it wrong just to make her feel like it was right. The smiling continues as I as a very determined young man trying to teach Grand how to use chopsticks. It never worked but she tried her best. So these two recipes taste how I remember eating that food with my family so I hope you dig them.

            Okay so the cooking method is pretty much the same for both of these variations there is however a slight difference: for the ginger beef you want to use more oil in the initial cooking of the meat, this is going to give your meat a little bit more of a crunchy coating which is closer to how I remember eating ginger beef. If you have access to a deep fryer you can actually batter and fry your beef if you like but the method below works good enough for me. You can also mix up your proteins here if you like. If you feel like you have too many beef dishes sub in chicken or pork. All of these recipes will stand up to a swap in protein. So give them a go and serve with some simple rice. Your buffet at home is now complete. Grab some sticks and get at it.

Ginger Beef to the tune of American Slang by Gaslight Anthem

1 onion sliced
1 8-10oz steak cut into strips, I tend to go with middle of the road steak here; please do not chop up a piece of fillet for this recipe. A moderately priced piece of sirloin will serve you fine.
½ cup flour
Salt and pepper
¼ cup of soy sauce
¼ cup of water
3 tbsp honey
4 tbsp of freshly grated ginger, I go heavy on the ginger so do this to your taste.
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, you can use cider or any wine vinegar if you don’t have rice wine.
6 tbsp oil, I use sesame but whatever you have will work

-Mix flour, salt and pepper in a bowl add your beef and dredge completely.

-Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add your beef and give it a quick and complete sear.

-While your beef is cooking whisk together soy sauce, water, honey, ginger and vinegar and put aside.

-Once your beef is seared off drain off the excess oil left in the pan, reduce the heat to medium and then add your onion. Let your onion cook down for a little bit and then add your liquid.

-Let your liquid cook down and thicken and then you are done.

The last of the recipes is one of my favourites. It adds a little bit of earthiness to your meal and is simply super tasty.

Beef and Shrimp in Black Pepper Sauce to the tune of Blackout by The Dropkick Murphys

1 onion sliced
1 steak 8-10 oz
6 mushrooms, I use whatever wild mushrooms I can find, shitake mushrooms are my favourite for this one.
1 sliced bell pepper
½ lb of uncooked shelled and deveined shrimp 31/40 count
Salt and pepper
¼ cup of soy sauce
¼ cup of water
3 tbsp honey
1 clove of minced garlic
A whack of fresh cracked black pepper, I use a lot, but 1 tbsp is a minimum
1-2 tbsp of oil

-Season your beef with the salt and pepper.

-Heat your oil over high heat and sear off your beef. Reduce the heat to medium.

-Add in your onions and garlic and let them cook down and then add in your mushrooms.

-Whisk together all of the other ingredients and add to the pan. And let reduce.

-Add in your shrimp and bell pepper, they should take very little time to cook. The last five minutes of cooking should be about right.

-Let the liquid reduce a little more until it becomes a thick and wonderfully gooey sauce.

The buffet is now complete. Sit down with some friends and enjoy.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Some Lemon Pepper Linguini from the Mind of Beer Run

One of the nice things about having the group of friends that I am lucky enough to have is that most of them are willing to share their food experiences with me. So this recipe comes from the mind of a good buddy of mine who goes by the moniker Beer Run. I met Run when I first moved to Victoria and found that we shared a love for food, moderately good booze, and really good cigars, among other things. He is one of those guys who you hand something weird to eat and after a single “just try it” he will give it a go. He may not love it but he will tell me that I had a set to try and cook it. So here is to the Run , and I hope you dig the offering that he has put forth.

Lemon-Pepper Shrimp Linguine
This is an easy to prepare and very delicious option for those of us who enjoy pasta and seafood.  All in cook time should be under ½ hr and there’s nothing fancy, just tasty.

You Will Need:
L    Linguine for X number of people being served.  A standard package should serve four.
·         Shrimp or prawns for X number of people served.
·         A bit of basil.  Ideally a few fresh leaves, but dried would suffice.  About 1TBSP
·         3 TBSP parsley.  Again, fresh is ideal….it’s very cheap.
·         6 cloves garlic.
·         ½ cup chicken stock….home-made,  a carton from the store, oxo pack….whatever you can find.
·         1 fresh lemon.
·         ¼ cup melted butter
·         1 TBSP oil.  Olive best, vegetable fine.
·         ¼ cup white wine (That leaves most of a bottle for you!)
·         Dash of salt.
·         Black pepper to taste (I’m a fiend and use about 1 ½ TBSP)

pPrepare your chicken stock and melt your butter.  Set aside.

PPre-heat a large frying pan or wok over medium-low heat.  Toss in your TBSP oil.
     Finely chop your garlic, heat in pan 1 minute.
    Add your chicken stock and white wine.  Zest the lemon in then cut it in half and squeeze the juice in as well.
SSimmer until it reduces down to about 50-60%.  Add salt and pepper when convenient.
  While your pan simmers, boil a large pot of salted water.  Cook your pasta to your personal preference then strain.
  Once your liquid has simmered down, add the shrimp, butter, basil, and parsley.  Cook 3-5 minutes until the seafood has become translucent (cooked!) and sauce mixed.
  Toss in your cooked pasta and stir/blend until the sauce is soaked up and seafood mixed in.
Serve hot and enjoy!  Cold leftovers are great too.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Mmmm Western Chinese Food

            Food has always held a sense of nostalgia for me. Most of the stuff that I really enjoy cooking has a tie to something in my past. Whether it is a dish that I loved forever, a crap meal I had once that I wanted to be great, or even hearing a story about something cool that I wanted to try, I am heavily influenced by events past. I am sure that I have said this before but I feel as though it bears repeating. So this little post, which will more than likely end up as two, is no different. I have a rather obscene love for western style Chinese food. Every once and a while I wake up just craving the stuff. Now here are the disclaimers. I do know that what I am talking about here is not authentic Chinese cooking. I love the authentic stuff too but it is tough to find Chinese food that doesn’t have a touch of some sort of fusion in it, here anyway. If anyone knows of a place that does really authentic Szechuan food in the greater Victoria area let me know. So, I know it is not really real Chinese cooking but I still love it. I also know that real Chinese cuisine is very regional and what I am talking about here is pretty much the same if you are anywhere from Vancouver to Halifax. I don’t care it is tasty. Maybe too much MSG has seeped into my body over the years but I can’t help loving the stuff. Chow Mein, pork fried rice, deep fried spring rolls, ginger beef, and the day glo red glory of sweet and sour pork I love them all.

            I think that my love for this food stems from a very young age. My mom worked as a receptionist for a chiropractor in a strip mall in the town I grew up in. The office was wedged in between an adults’ only toy store, which was run by a lovely woman named Fran, and a Chinese Buffet restaurant. I used to visit my mom at work and kill time while she finished up. It became ritual that I was given a little bit of money and sent next door to the restaurant to grab a drink. I would walk through the doors and be hit with the new to me smells of Chinese food. I would be greeted by the owner, a Chinese dude named Tony, no lie, and he would set me up at the bar. My drink of choice was New York seltzer and Tony would sneak me a little plate of whatever was going on the buffet as long as I didn’t tell my mom. I never told, sorry mom. It was here that I was introduced to western Canadian Chinese cuisine. It was love at first bite for sure. That is where the love came from I think. As I started to cook more I always knew that I wanted to know how to cook this stuff. I have taken it on and here is a little home buffet for you to try out at home. It is super easy to pull off and a great way to feed your friends.

            So here are the first two recipes of a little four dish home buffet. These dishes have my spin on them so they are perhaps not the most authentic renditions of the not really real Chinese food but they are really tasty and that makes them work for me. Give one or all of them a try.

Spicy Chow Mein with Prawns to the tune of Fall at Your Feet by Crowded House

½ lb of prawns, shelled and deveined
1 pkg of noodles, I lean towards a thicker noodle like a shanghai style but whatever you like
1 onion, diced
1 Thai chilli, diced, more if you are feeling bold, you can take the seeds out if you like but I don’t
1 clove minced garlic
1 bell pepper, diced
Some Bok Choy if you like
2 tbsp fish sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
2 tbsp sesame oil, vegetable oil works too

-heat a wok over high heat, add oil, toss in your onion, garlic, chilli and let them work for a little bit.

-add in your noodles and give a toss, add in your fish sauce, soy sauce and water. Cover and let it work for a couple of minutes.

-add in your peppers and Bok Choy. Toss to coat everything. Add your prawns in at the last minute and as soon as they turn pink you are done. You got yourself some Chow Mein.

Sweet and Sour Pork to the tune of You Can Do Better Than Me by Death Cab For Cutie

So this one gets a disclaimer I have not yet broken the code of how to make the sauce from scratch and even if I had I know that I could not get the wonderful yet frightening red color I will always associate with this dish. So sadly, dear reader, the sauce comes from a jar.

2 pork chops cut into cubes
½ cup of flour
Pinch of salt and pepper
½ cup pineapple tidbits
3 tbsp sesame oil
1 jar sweet and sour sauce
1 bell pepper diced

-dredge your pork in the flour, salt, and pepper.

-heat oil in a frying pan and toss your pork in and fry until golden brown.

-add in your sauce, pineapple and peppers and cook until the peppers are al dente.

Now you have yourself some sweet and sour pork. To finish off your at home buffet check out the next post which will be up soon. Have fun out there.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Nic Cooks Goat

            One thing that is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face is when I get asked to help someone cook. That smile grows even larger when I am asked how cook something different and interesting. So imagine my glee when my buddy Nic caught me at my coffee shop and said to me, “So, I have this chunk of goat a friend of mine gave me.” I am sure that I started to rub my hands together as my brain moved into planning mode. Now, Nic, by his own admission is not much of a cook, but he wanted to cook goat for his girlfriend and damn it I was going to help. I started to think about the preparations of goat that I have had in my life, they are few and far between. I think that this is mainly due to the lack of goat being served in restaurants. I could only think of two ways that I have eaten goat, roasted whole on a spit over an open fire and in curry. Since Nic only had a small chunk and his landlord would probably get pissed if he started a fire in his apartment, I went with a take on curried goat.

            Now for a little aside here, there are a couple of things that I feel like I should confess at this point. The first is that I have a hate on for goats. I am not a fan. This stems from a childhood trauma where I was attacked by a goat when I was like four years old and admittedly I hold a grudge. So a small part of my glee in putting together this recipe was the knowledge that one of the little buggers was dead. As for the second confession, I have been a little bit spoiled in my life, in that I used to live with a guy named Alif who used to cook super authentic, passed down for generations, Indian food. It was so good I can’t even explain. The only thing that was better was when his mom cooked it for us. It is because of this fact that I tend to lean more towards using Thai curries. I have a fear, much like the one of goats, of messing up the memory. So I steer clear and go with something I know a little bit better. I am sure that I will face the fear and attempt to rock on some Indian food but for now I am sticking with the Thai thing.

            Back to Nic and his goat, I started to plan out a meal that Nic could execute and impress his lovely girlfriend. I decided to go with a braise as Nic was not sure of the cut of his goat chunk. We met and I handed him the recipe that I had come up with. He smiled and told me that he thought that he could do it and then asked if he could contact me if he got stuck. I said sure and I sent him on his way. I received a couple of texts but Nic came though any adversity that he encountered like a champ, ovens can be tricky. So this post is a recipe that I came up with that was pulled off by my buddy Nic. He took the pictures too. I hope you dig it.

Nic’s Yellow Curried Goat Shank to the tune of A Little Help from My Friends by Joe Cocker

 1 Goat shank
1 tin of yellow Thai curry paste
Beef stock, enough to fill your cooking vessel so that your goat is submerged about half way up
2 tbsp oil
1 can coconut milk
Salt and pepper

-slather your shank in the curry paste and cover. Place in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

-remove from the fridge and let it come back up to room temperature. Sear off your goat, preferably in the pot you will be braising in, make sure that it is oven proof, or in a frying pan and then transfer to an oven proof vessel.

-add your beef stock and pop it into a 300-325 degree oven for about 2-3 hours depending on the size of the shank. Flip it about half way through the cooking process

-once the goat is tender remove and let it rest.

-take some of the braising liquid and add it to a smaller pot on the stove top. Add your coconut milk and let it reduce a little. Now you have your sauce.

-serve with rice. And you are done. You just cooked goat.

            So a special thanks to Nic for cooking up this meal and sharing it with the world and giving me an excuse to figure out how to cook it. I am glad that it worked out for you. If you cannot find goat, this recipe will work great with lamb too. Give it a go and let me know if it works for you like it worked for Nic.