Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Chai... Why Not

            I was introduced to proper Chai from my buddy Alif, a half Indian, half Kenyan and all handsome kind of guy. We were nursing a brutal hangover and he went into the kitchen and emerged with this steaming cup of joy. He smiled as he handed me the cup and simply smiled. After the haze had lifted he went about showing me how to make the stuff. The thing about Chai is that it differs from region to region and even from house to house. It is kind of like red sauce in Italy or stuffing in the states. So this is Johnny’s take on how to blend your own Chai at home.

            Now I am the kind of guy that likes to make a concentrate and then mix it with milk and that is what I am going to show you how to do. However, if you just want to make a loose leaf tea and brew it in water I will let you know how to do that too. Now the thing about Chai is that it will only be as good as the spices that you put into it so you want to try and get your hands on the freshest ones that you can. The other thing that you need to know is that your Chai will be different from anyone else’s. Take great solace in this fact. It is yours because you created it. Mine differs from batch to batch as I may be feeling a little more anise on the day I make it or I may be leaning toward a more cinnamon flavor. You can’t really go too awry. Just have fun playing with the process.

Blending Chai to the tune of “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver

7ish star anise pods

2ish cinnamon sticks broken
12-15ish dried cloves

10-12ish cardamom pods

Sprinkle nutmeg
Tsp ish of whole peppercorns
3 tbsp full leaf Ceylon tea
1 heaping tbsp of honey
1 tsp of vanilla
2 pints of water

-Toss all of you spices into a frying pan and dry toast them over medium heat. Your house will start to smell super good that is when you remove them from the heat. You have to watch them as they will burn if you don’t.

-If you are making loose leaf tea, put the toasted spices into a coffee grinder and give them a buzz. Add your tea, mix everything up and you are done. Brew it like you would any other loose leaf tea.

-If you are making the concentrate, bring the water to a boil in a small sauce pan and then and your spices and all of the other ingredients except the tea. Let it cook down so it reduces by half. Remove it from the heat.

-Strain out the spices and then brew your tea in the concentrate using a tea ball or a tea strainer.

-Toss it into a jar and refrigerate it. Done, you now have Chai concentrate. Add an oz for every 8oz of milk and heat up on the stove. There you have it.

Monday, 25 June 2012

"Let's Make a Taco"

For Uncle John

            I distinctly remember the look that my Uncle John gave me when I was about 8 years old and I said that I wanted to have Mexican food for lunch. There was this spark of joy that was reserved for good booze or a great book in his eyes. The look I received as I pointed to a Taco Time restaurant was equally memorable but it was more, “I just took a swig of long expired milk,” kind of thing. Fast food and less than stellar were the only introductions that I had to Mexican food and this I think broke John’s heart a little. John I think has had a love affair with Mexico for as long as I can remember. He and my aunt and my cousins would load up their VW van and road trip down to Mexico and upon their return I would be regaled with stories about their adventures. I will admit that I was very jealous in a pre teen sulky kind of way. The First introduction that I had to more authentic Mexican food that I remember was us road tripping across the US border to eat at a place that we were positive was called Don and Ester’s. Turns out it was really called Don Ernesto’s, this became a running joke in my family. The food was great no matter what the name. So to send a little shout out to my Uncle John I decided to throw down and take on making tacos.

            Everyone who knows me knows my love for the spicy. I have made more than one person cry and according to two of them nearly killed them with how spicy I cook some of my food. For the record I really believe with all of my heart that it was Beer Run and Gregory Anne’s own weakness that hurt them the day I made the 5 alarm chilli not the spiciness of the food itself. Yet if you are looking for the root of my love of the spicy you need look no further than Uncle John. The man used to eat raw jalapeño just to show off for us. I wanted to be like him so I started to do it too. I hurt myself more than once but my love for the spicy was born in that crucible. So as always when I give you the proportions of the spices that I use feel free to tone it down. I give to you two fillings, one meaty the other vegetarian and a couple of fresh salsas, because they are so easy, for you to try. I finished them with a little sour cream, or you can add guacamole if you like. Build it the way you like. So here we go salsas first and then the fillings. All my love to you Uncle John, enjoy.

Mango Salsa to the tune of “Wild Night” by Van Morrison

1 mango, diced
½ onion finely diced
1 fresh raw jalapeño finely diced
4-5 sprigs of cilantro minced
Juice of 1 lime

-I do all of the chopping by hand but you can just chuck everything into a food processor and buzz it. Or, chop everything and mix it together. Mango Salsa is now done.

-let it sit for a couple of hours in the fridge to let all the ingredients get acquainted then serve.

Fresh Tomato Salsa to the tune of “Get Back (Naked)” by the Beatles

2 tomatoes seeded and chopped fine
½ onion finely diced
1 clove of garlic minced
1 fresh raw jalapeño finely diced
4-5 sprigs of cilantro minced
A splash of apple cider vinegar

 -same deal as the mango salsa, just do it again.

Now for some fillings I give to you a Rajas recipe and a beef one too. Now you can please everyone if you are hosting a Mexican feast. Now the Raja recipe is my take on the one that I eat at my local taco stand, La Taquisa in Cook St. Village, and it is the one that I like. The beef is me screwing around until I found what I like it feels like Mexico to me anyway.

Raja filling to the tune of “Hold On” by Alabama Shakes

2 cups of fresh corn
6 mushrooms diced
1 pablano pepper diced
1 onion diced
3 garlic scapes diced
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

-put all your veg. in a skillet, salt and pepper them, and get some color on them, a little char if you will.

-add your stock and let it cook down low and slow until the corn is nice and tender and you are done. Vegetarian filling is complete.

The beef is a little bit more involved but totally worth it.

Beef Filling to the tune of “The Woman I Love” by Jason Mraz

1 ½ lbs flank steak
2 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of cinnamon
1 tbsp of salt
1 jalapeño finely diced
1 onion diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup beef stock
1cup beer

-put all of the spices in a food processor or I use a repurposed coffee grinder and buzz them until they are in powder form.

-dice your flank steak and rub it down with the spice mixture stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

-sear off the meat on high heat in a in a large skillet with the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Add the stock and beer and reduce heat. Cook low and slow until the meat is tender. And there is the meaty filling for you. Combine them any way you like in a soft corn tortilla and you are set all my love to you Uncle John.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Johnny's Ruben

            So here I go back to my roots a little, just on the other side of the tree. You have all heard of the influence that I have had on my mom’s side of the family so here is a little something inspired by my dad’s side. I seem to be unable to break too far from my love of the sandwich so here is another classic that I have tried to make my own. Now, part of the joy that I find in cooking is being inspired by not only the great products that I happen upon on my walkabouts but also what I eat when I go out for a meal. So I guess this is actually part homage to my dad’s side, part inspiration from a recent visit to the Clay Pigeon Bistro, and part screwing around with a classic. So here we go Johnny takes on the Ruben.

Johnny's Ruben
            There is something about a good Ruben sandwich, it is delicious yet if you tell most people what is in a Ruben you get this kind of how could you eat that look. Like anything else, if you have had a bad Ruben it will put you off of them but if it is done well it is simply magic. There is something about the tart acidity of the sauerkraut, the saltiness of the corned beef the sweetness of the Russian dressing, the richness of the cheese and the tang of good mustard, that when they are in the right proportions they sing like a good five part harmony. Add into that a really good rye bread and, like I said, it is magic. Now for my little tweak on this dish I have used Montreal smoked meat instead of the traditional corned beef and it worked out pretty well. So here we go.

Johnny’s Ruben to the tune of American Slang by The Gaslight Anthem

200g Montreal smoked meat
100g smoked gruyere cheese, grated
3 heaping tbsp of sauerkraut
3 tsp of Russian dressing
3 tsp Dijon mustard, more on the side if you like
6 slices of marble rye bread

-Get your broiler started. Lay the bread out on a parchment lined sheet pan. On three of the slices smear the Russian dressing, on the other three smear the mustard.

-Split the meat into three portions and evenly lay it on the mustard smeared slices. Do the same with the sauerkraut on the Russian dressing smeared slices. Add the cheese and flip them together to make your sandwich.

-Fire them under the broiler until the top is golden and then flip them to toast the other side. The cheese should be oozing out the sides, what a wonderful sight. Let them cool for a couple of minutes and then cut them in half and serve.

The reason this is a three sandwich recipe that feeds two is that whenever I make it we always want just another half. It is a good thing. Enjoy it and give it a go.