Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Simply Put... The Clay Pigeon, Ladies and Gentlemen

            Here I go again in grandly selfish fashion, I have found another joint to eat that I want everyone to love as much as I do. I want you to love it too so that it will succeed and I can keep going there. Such is the case with The Clay Pigeon, a little bistro that opened up a couple of months ago. One of the great and somewhat subversive things that bring a smile to my face is that I am able to shake off the shackles of my corporate job and use the money that I have earned to support good local eateries. I take too much pleasure in this fact. My days off are filled with farmers markets and amazing local places to grab a bite to eat. I love it. But that is beside the point. I am writing this to tell you about the Pigeon. Go there, go now, give it a try, you will not regret it.

            So there I was eavesdropping on a conversation as I sipped on a coffee and there was mention of the new bistro that opened up on the corner of Broughton and Blanchard (in Victoria BC for those who are not hip to where the Condor roosts) and that the food was fantastic. I am a firm believer that people are way more honest when they don’t know you are listening so I resolved that I would go and give this joint a try. I was not disappointed. A friend and I breached the doors to have a little lunch and see what the Clay Pigeon had to offer. We were greeted by our waiter, Christopher Vickers (you will know him by his truly epic mustache), and seated. Christopher’s service was great. Quick with a witty quip and able to make great suggestions about the menu, his service made eating there all the more enjoyable. We took some of his suggestions and he was dead on in how they would compliment what we ordered. He honestly seemed really happy to be there, a seeming rarity in the service industry. So I will say thank to him for that.

            On to the food, now I can only comment on what we ordered but if those two dishes are any indication of the level of tasty that comes out of that kitchen the world now has a little bit more light in it. I will start with my friends dish, she ordered the Porchetta sandwich. It was served up on a fantastic baguette with apples. It was crazy tasty. We split a side of Kale Slaw, thanks again to Christopher for the suggestion, which balanced the rest of the meal. It was smooth and fresh and pretty much fantastic. As for me I went for the Ruben, a sandwich that I will always have a soft spot for. It was tweaked a little bit but it is one of the best that I have ever had. The major tweak is that they use bison tongue that is corned in house. Now before you make that face that I know you are about to my Lovelies you need to know it is so good and you are not allowed to judge unless you have given it a try. Johnny would not lead you astray. Everything about this sandwich was great, the bread was good, and the sauerkraut added the acid that the dish needed and was not overpowering, the gruyere added a nice richness but was not too much and the Russian dressing was perhaps the best that I have ever had. It was a great sandwich, truly great. We finished our meal with an espresso and a house made apple fritter. The fritter evoked more than one, I want to be alone with this thing noises, though out its consumption by my dining partner. So I hope that this lets you all know how good the food was and I hope that it inspires you to go and check it out.

We were also fortunate enough to be able to chat with the head chef Genevieve LaPlante and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to chat with someone in the industry that loves the food that she is creating to the point that you feel it too.  She quite simply wants you to love what she cooks for you. In our short chat a few things became apparent. The first is that she has a commitment to bringing in locally sourced products, as much as she can. If you were wondering where one gets bison tongue, the answer is right here on the island. The second thing is that her standards are exacting. She spoke about the balance needed a simple dish and how if one component is off so is the whole dish. I was reminded of why I consider myself to be a serviceable cook and why I am not a great one. My big fix is to put more bacon on whatever it is, Chef La Plante solves those issues for real.

One of the signs of a good restaurant for me is, when I look at the menu after I have finished my meal and I start figuring out what I want to try the next time I am in the place. It stops becoming a question of if and turns into a question of when. The menu as a whole is bistro fare and I love that, you should too. There is something on it for both the adventurous eater and those who are less so. All of it is good. I have already planned out what I am going to try next. Just so you know it is the Crispy Pig Ear appetizer followed by the Basque Lamb Stew, and the house made marshmallows, nutella cookies, and chocolate chaud for dessert. It sounds fantastic and I can wait to go back and eat there again.

Did I mention that they are brewing their own root beer. How freaking cool is that? So my Lovelies be brave, go, eat there, fall in love with the place. It is worth both you time and your cash so give it a go.

<a href=""><img alt="The Clay Pigeon Restaurant on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;padding:0px;width:104px;height:34px" /></a>

Thai Pork Slider which Won the Day

            Everybody that I know is a fan of the idea of a good grilled burger right about now. After writing about Johnny’s rock star sides I wanted to play with some different flavor combinations to add to your burger mix. One of the easiest ways to do this is to experiment on your friends. Invite some people over, fire up the grill and see which ones worked out the best. I decided to make up a few different mixes and do sliders so that we could all try all of the different types I put together. Now I am going to say right now that I am a huge fan of the basic burger but I wanted to try some new stuff so I did. So after we ate, we had a little impromptu vote about which slider won the day and a Thai inspired pork slider took home the prize. I know it is the furthest thing from a traditional burger but my people have spoken and that was the one that they liked the best, so we call it a twist on a burger.

            A little bit of a side note here. I have become a big advocate of the home grind. As you have seen from the sausage post I have, due to the kindness of my friends, the ability to grind my own meat. The fact that you can choose the cut of meat you use, control the fat content and put your seasoning in the mix are all great reasons to grind at home. There is nothing wrong with buying ground meat but there is something wonderful and, for lack of a better word, fresh about doing it yourself. It makes me smile and the results that I have had with doing it has been fantastic. If you have the means give it a try and I don’t think you will go back to buying the ground stuff in your supermarket.

            Another little piece of advice: Buy fresh baked buns. They are worth the scratch you will spend. Just saying.

Thai Inspired Pork Sliders to the tune of Thursday by Morphine

1 lb of freshly ground pork
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
Salt and pepper
½ onion sliced and sweated
1 tbsp butter
8 small buns

-Mix up pork, curry paste, chilli sauce and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

-roll into balls (8ish) and then flatten into patties.

-fire them on the grill and cook them up. They are done when they are firm when you give them a poke with your finger.

-while the sliders are cooking sweat down your onions in a frying pan with the butter and a little salt and pepper.

-toast you buns on the grill while the sliders are resting. Bottom of the bun, burger, onions, top of the bun, Done. Enjoy.

Rock Star Sides for the Grilling

            Now is one of my favorite times of year. We are getting the freshest possible seafood and all of the glorious springtime produce is becoming available. Beyond that the farmer’s markets are beginning to hit full swing. Locally produced veggies and herbs are now at my disposal and man do I plan to put them to work in my kitchen. There is nothing really as cool to me as walking through a market on a beautiful day and seeing the stuff that I will be cooking with, laid out before me, knowing that it had been in the ground a few hours earlier. Fresh don’t get much better than this.  Now is the time that I instinctually try to start stripping down ingredient heavy recipes to the very basics. If you have fantastic products, baby, let them shine. So here we go with a couple of recipes for some very simple side dishes that will accompany your back yard grilling because as soon as the weather turns nice we should all be out cooking in the great outdoors; or at least the backyard.

            So for the first little dish I am harnessing the awesome power of my Grand once again. There are few things in this world that I know my Grand loved more than words: her family, a little nip of something before dinner and the glory of asparagus and bacon. So I give this to you in honor of the springtime and my Grand. This can be used as a side, an appetizer, or as part of a breakfast dish that I know that Toby drools over as soon as he hears that it is being made. The cool thing about it is that it has three ingredients and is wicked fast. You also look like a rock star when you serve it. How can you beat that? I am not sure but it rules.

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus to the tune of Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra

A bunch of fresh asparagus
1 lb maple smoked bacon
1 lemon

-Trim the bottoms of the asparagus. There is a bit of a debate about how to do this. One is aim for the change in color of the stem, tan to vibrant green, and cut there. The other is to flex the stem and it will break where the tenderness starts. Either way will work and I have no preference at all. Just do one or the other to get rid of the woody bits at the bottom.

-Wrap each stem with a slice of side bacon. You should not need to salt this dish as the salt from the bacon should do it for you.

-Slap them on the grill and let them work. You want the same look as you would if you were making bacon for breakfast. By the time that the bacon is done the asparagus should be too.

-Yank them off and finish with a squeeze of lemon and you are done. Killer.

            Now you have one of the sides done. I always like to do a salad as part of any grilling meal that I put together. This one worked out great and was super tasty and fresh. A couple of little hints for you all first of all. For the dressing that I make for this salad I use a Balsamic Vinegar reduction, sounds fancy huh? Basically you take some moderately priced balsamic and chuck it into a pot and let it cook down for about 45 minutes or until it is reduced by half. This intensifies the sweetness and the subtle flavors of the vinegar and you are left with something that is amazing for salad dressings or even for finishing veggies. It keeps in fridge for a long time. The second little tip is that I sort of pseudo candy the nuts. Basically you toast your almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts or whatever you are using and in the last couple of minutes add in a tbsp of brown sugar, a squeeze of honey, and a touch of water. Let it cook down so they are sticky and no longer wet. Remove from the heat and let them cool. You will be tempted to give them a try hot out of the pan. Resist. Trust me after many burns to the fingertips and tongue, I now know to let them cool. A special thanks to my friend Fyfe for constructing this salad while I was ripping around do other things. So we will call this salad a la Fyfe.

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Goat’s Cheese A La Fyfe to the tune of Baba O’ Reilly by the Who

Salad Part

Big bowl of well washed spinach
8-10 strawberries sliced the way you like them.
Some crumbled goat’s cheese
Pseudo candied almonds and sunflower seeds

-Chuck everything in a bowl and toss... Done.

Dressing Part

Equal parts olive oil and Balsamic reduction
Salt and pepper

-Toss everything in a bell jar and shake the crap out of it. Dress the salad like you are going out for a night on the town. Done.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Jilly and Johnny's Seafood Chow Dah

            In my youth we used to go on epic camping trips. The one that stands out to me even now is when my family rolled down the Oregon coast. Tenting in the rain and reading every Hardy Boys book I could get my hands on, I was nine. There are two food things that stand out in my mind when it came to this trip. The first is getting super sick due to the massive consumption of salt water taffy and the second, and seemingly more profound, is the discovery of chowder. My Uncle John took my cousin and I to this little hole in the wall place that he had heard about in Portland. They had three things on the menu and two of them were chowders. I had my first encounter with New England style clam chowder and fell in love with it. I have been screwing around with recipes for a good chowder for quite a while and finally landed on something that at the very least is close to the memory I have of that place in Portland.

            Joining me on this journey into chowder is my friend and sometime student Jill. Jill and I set out into the world to collect and gather our ingredients for what turned out to be a pretty darn good bowl of soup. Now the recipe that I have come up with is one of those things that is a little fluid when it comes to ingredients, specifically the seafood. What you want is the freshest things you can get. Halibut happens to be in season now so we used that but you can use any sturdy white fish. The clams need to be fresh or omit them completely. I am not a fan of the canned variety. So here we go with Jilly and Johnny’s seafood Chow dah. This is the correct pronunciation of the word Chowder as explained to me by watching the Simpsons. Enjoy.

Jilly and Johnny’s Seafood Chow-Dah to the tune of Blunderbuss by Jack White

4 leeks (small dice)
2 ribs celery (small dice)
2 carrots (small dice)
2 potatoes (small dice)
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
¼ cup butter (melted)
4 tbsp flour
500ml 2% milk
500 ml vegetable or fish stock (low sodium)
200g steamer clams
200g uncooked prawns
200g scallops
200g halibut cheek (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

-In a stock pot over medium heat add oil and vegetables and let them sweat down until they are tender. 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently.

-While that is working heat stock in a sauce pan and then using a steamer, par steam your clam so the just start to open up. Remove from heat and reserve the stock.

-Add the butter and the flour to the stock pot and make a roux.... stir it until it is pasty.

-Dump in milk and the reserved stock and whisk until it is smooth and there are no lumps. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

-Add in your halibut and your scallops and let it work for about 20 minutes

-Pop the clams out of the shell and add to the mix with the prawns. Let it work for another 10 minutes or so.

-Taste and season this recipe as you go as it reduces it may get a little salty so a light touch is required at the start. I F’ed up a batch earlier and it was inedible due to salt content... I almost went blind so be careful my people. Serve it up with some biscuits or some crusty bread. It is Major Fantastic. Give it a go.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A Little Something For Momma Condor

The Finished Product

            The air is full of love for the mothers of the world and I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t send some love out to my mom as it is both Mother’s day and my Mom’s birthday. So a little bit about my mom: she managed to raise a pain in the ass kid, that would be me, and play the dual role of mom and dad. She taught me a lot including the basics of how to cook but a crazy love for the greatness of true rock and roll. She likes her music classic and she likes it loud. When my mom was a kid my uncle John teased her that one could hear her music three towns away. I grew up with the sounds of Deep Purple, The Who, and AC DC ringing through our home. I knew all the words to “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the age of five. Truly my Mom and I were a family who got the Led out. She is the major reason that all of my postings have some form of music in them. So for the love of music that she instilled in me I say thanks. And this one is for you Mom. All My love.

            I feel as though I need to send a little love out to my grandmothers in this post as well. For as much as I was pushed, lovingly, into the kitchen by my mom I spent most of my youth getting kicked out of them by my grandmothers. Always lovingly, these ladies ruled the kitchen of my youth with an iron fist. You did not mess with their area. Sneaking a premature taste of something that was not ready got you a smack across the ass with a wooden spoon. So I will thank them for teaching me what little patience I have. I can hear them laughing at me every time I burn my tongue.

            On to the food now, my mom always ended up with the sort end of the stick when it came to my Grand baking pies. My Gramps loved lemon and apple, I favored cherry and my poor mom loved strawberry and rhubarb. She very rarely got her favorite. Growing up in the Okanagan Valley we have fresh apples and cherries every summer. Gramps' lemon came from a box so my sweet mom was left out in the cold when it came to pies. So, in an attempt to remedy this oversight in pastry, here is my Mom’s favorite kind of pie, made with love for her birthday.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Pie to the tune of “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin

Quick short crust pastry

This is enough for one large and one small pie.

3 ½ cups flour
1 cup icing sugar
1cup + 2 tbsp cold cubed butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Splash of milk
Pinch of salt

-Throw the butter, flour, salt and sugar onto a big mixing bowl and crumble the butter with your fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

-Add in your wet ingredients and gently bring the mix together. Do not over work it. There is no need to knead. When the mix is a smooth solid mass wrap in cling film and refrigerate for no less than a half an hour, overnight is better. Roll out the dough  and line a pie plate then roll out a lid.

-Now you have your pastry. This recipe works for any and all fruit pies and it is delish.


1-1  ½ lbs strawberries quartered
1 lb fresh rhubarb sliced
½ +½ cup sugar
1 egg whisked

-Toss the rhubarb and ½ cup of sugar into a large sauté pan over medium heat and let it cook until the rhubarb is al dente about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

-Mix together the rhubarb, strawberries and the remaining sugar.

-Dump the filling into the pie shell. Paint the edges with the egg wash. Top with the lid and crimp together with the bottom shell. Paint the lid with the egg wash, sprinkle with a little sugar and poke some holes in the lid with a knife.

-Bake in a 350 degree oven for 60-65 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool and serve with some vanilla ice cream.

Happy Birthday Momma, I love you tons.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Black and White Red Snapper

            Here we go with a little recipe for Red Snapper. One of the many things that I love is to get my hands on some good fresh fish so when my eyes fell on fresh Snapper in the seafood case a smile broke loose on my face. There is something wonderful about a simple preparation of a nice piece of fish. So here my take on Snapper in a white wine sauce, I served it on top of a bed of, what I call black noodles. It is sort of a fusion thing but I thought the flavours were great together. You get sort of a rosé sort of vibe from the white and red wines. I thought it turned out pretty well so here it is.

Black and White Red Snapper to the tune of Simple Song by the Shins

The Snapper Part

1 fillet of Red Snapper portioned
Salt and pepper
¼ cup white wine
Splash of heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp oil

-Season your fish on both sides while you heat oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Place your fish in the pan fry until you can see the doneness move to about half way up the side, flip and let cook through. Remove the fish and let it rest

-return the pan to the heat and add your wine and lemon and reduce a little. Add in your cream and heat through. Pour the sauce over the fish when you are plating. The Snapper part is done.

The Black Noodle Part
1 Package of Udon or Shanghai style noodles
A handful of thinly sliced red cabbage
¼ cup of red wine
A good splash of soy sauce
A splash of water

-In a large frying pan over medium high heat toss all of your ingredients in and cover with a lid. Move them around from time to time until the noodles separate and that is how you do that.

            I hope you dig the attempt at a little fusion cooking. When I made it I dug it so give it a go and enjoy it.