Friday, 18 January 2013

Explaining the lack of Posts with a Sandwich

            So some of you may be wondering what Johnny has been up to seeing as there was a big gap in posts there for a awhile. Well here it is. I have taken on the cool and seemingly trial filled endeavour of baking bread. With the help of some books loaned to me by my friend Antonio I have been baking up a storm to try and produce good bread at home. I am getting the hang of it and all of my little guinea pigs are loving the trials of Johnny’s bread. The other thing that is taking up some of my time is that I have started to do some home curing. Yep the Condor is now making homemade bacon and pancetta. I know that you are all a little frightened and might even be drooling a little. So I have fresh baked bread and home cured and smoked bacon so what do I do with it..... BLT sandwiches. Here is how Johnny knocks out a classic sandwich.

BLT sandwiches to the tune of Into the Fire by Thirteen Senses.

4 slices of good bread
6 slices of good double smoked bacon
1 tomato sliced
2 leafs of lettuce. I used a red leaf lettuce.
Dijon mustard

-Fry off your bacon so that it is crisp but not charred remove from the heat. Remove the bacon from the pan but save the rendered fat in the pan.

-Spread Mayo on two slices of bread and the mustard on the other two. The tomatoes go on the mayo side, the lettuce goes on the mustard side. The bacon goes in the middle.

-Now here in the trick. Heat up that pan you thought you were done with and then fry your sandwiches just like you were making a grilled cheese. This will crisp the bread up and add a little extra flavour that really makes the sandwich. You are done. Enjoy.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Kick The Flu's Ass with This One

            So everyone is getting sick. The time of year, stress, whatever you want to blame really but the fact remains sickness has swept in. So your boy Johnny has got a little medicine for you. You know we are talking chicken soup people. Now here is the thing I am apparently unable to make any soup in small batches so if you take this on you are going to get a lot of soup. This is not a bad thing just a small warning so you can share. Nothing makes me feel better than a hot bowl of soup when I am feeling crappy and this one is a winner for sure. By the way it freezes really well so you can do that too.

            There is something a little bit cathartic about making this soup. The simple act of putting it together makes me feel better about the world. I am not sure why but it does and that is enough. It has everything in it to make you get over the sick. It also allows you to use some of the stuff most people would normally throw away, like a chicken carcass. “Waste not want not” my beauties. So Johnny is going to hopefully make you feel better with his Chicken noodle soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup to the tune of Upside Down by Jack Johnson

1 chicken carcass
4 large carrots, 2 cut into big chunks, 2 cut into small bites
4 stalks of celery, 2 cut into big chunks, 2 cut into small bites
2 onions, 1 quartered, 1 finely diced
2 jalapenos, chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups of dried pasta, I used rotini
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp of oregano

-So this recipe happens sort of in two parts. So part 1. In a stock pot over medium high heat toss your carcass, big chunks of carrot, celery, and onion in. Cover ingredients with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow it to stop rolling. Using tongs and a fork remove any of the chicken meat that is still clinging to the bones. Discard the bones as they have done their work.

-Let the brew simmer until the veggies are soft, around 30 minutes or so. Pull the big chunks of veg out and discard as they have now done their work. Skim off any fat that is floating on the top.

-While that is simmering sweat your chopped onions, garlic and peppers over medium heat until the onions are clear.

-Part 2, add in the rest of your ingredients except the pasta and simmer over low heat for about 40 minutes. Skim if you need to. Add in your pasta and simmer until the pasta is el dente. And thus you are done Chicken Soup to make you feel better. Don’t let the flu get you down my lovelies.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Roasted Chicken Oh Yeah Ya Did

            One thing that will always produce oohs and ahhs when you are cooking for other people is the sight of roasted chickens coming out of the oven. There is something about seeing that golden, crispy skin that just starts your mouth watering. It is also a technique that is really simple and the payoff is second to none. So here is how Johnny roasts his little birdies. It is simple but it has yet to fail me. So go baby go and find you some birds to roast.

            Because this is such a simple preparation the quality of your ingredients is going to shine through so if there was ever a time to spend a little more this would be it. I lean towards buying my poultry as locally as I am able; luckily I have poultry farms relatively close to where I live. Do the best that you can. The big thing you want to look for in your birds is that they are free range and hormone and antibiotic free. We could get into a very long and intense debate about ethics and all of the stuff that surrounds eating meat in general but we are not going to. All that you really need to know is that they are going to taste better. I have tested this so trust me the birds that have been running around and are not full of drugs taste better and that is why you should use them. Spending the extra $5 is worth every cent and more. Okay let’s get down to it roasted chicken Johnny style.

Roasted Chicken to the tune of Marlaina Kamikaze by The Zolas

1 whole chicken around 3lbs
½ lb butter
3 cloves of garlic minced
Salt and pepper
Some herbs chopped, I use winter savoury but thyme and rosemary both work great too.
(Optional) coarsely chopped root vegetables: carrots, onion, potatoes, squash, or whatever you have. I use these as a roasting bed as I do not have a rack for my roasting pan. Not only does it keep the bird from scorching on the bottom but it adds a little extra and complimentary flavour to the meat which is never a bad thing.

-Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and remove your bird from the fridge so it can temper. You want it to be at room temperature when it goes into the oven. Now you need to remove the neck and any of the other little treats your butcher may have left in the body cavity. Keeping them or discarding them is totally up to you. Now you have to truss the sucker so get ready to tie the sucker up. It doesn’t really matter how you do it but the things you need to remember is that you don’t want any twine going over the breast and you want your bird to look like a single package, no limbs hanging out like a botched mob hit.

-Using your fingers, push up under the skin to separate it from the meat of the breast. Stuff the butter and garlic up under the skin and that is magic baby. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and the chopped herbs. Now it is ready for the oven.

-Roast for anywhere between 35-50 minutes depending on the exact weight of your bird and the reliability of your oven. Check the internal temperature. It should be between 165- 180 degrees Fahrenheit. You can baste it if you want to but I don’t. Let it rest for about 10-15 minutes and then carve it up. You can serve the roasted veg as a side dish if you like and you are done. Enjoy.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Feeding the Vegan in My Family

            My love for my family is an all encompassing sort of a thing. I would do pretty much anything for them. This year I went about cooking a family, holiday dinner. It was very non traditional and was a blast to do. I set to menu planning and came up with a fairly ambitious meal which included appetizers, salads, main courses, and with the help of my cousins, Zoe and Tea, dessert. As I was putting together my menu plan I received a call from my Grandfather informing me that my cousin Darby was now a Vegan. Now, for a self dubbed meat guy, this brought up a whole lot of issues. The most daunting of which was the fact that everything that I had planned to make had animal products laced through it.... even the salads had cheese and bacon and other wonderful animally goodness in them. Thus I was put to it. I had to feed the Vegan.
     Making the choice to be a vegan has got to be a tough one, I mean giving up bacon alone would kill me, so good on you for making a choice that you believe in. But what makes it even more difficult is that when you attend, let’s say a family meal, and you realize that you cannot eat anything that has been made for the meal because the peas have butter on them and even the salads have cheese and meat. So there you are eating a carrot that you found at the back of the fridge watching everyone else fill their faces. That sucks and it was not going to happen on my watch. So I got to work trying to figure out what to make and how to make it delicious without my usual bag of tricks. I will admit that I will never give up all things animal but it was a good bit of fun trying to solve the vegan puzzle. Any way here is what I came up with and it seemed to go over really well with Darby. So put away your butter and pork fat, arm yourselves with jokes about pig’s blood and the fact that bacon is you favorite veggie and let’s cook some vegan food.

Squash stuffed Portobello Mushrooms on a Bed of Zucchini Risotto to the tune of The Lemon Song by Led Zeppelin.

So there is a lot of roasting in this recipe but a lot of this stuff can be done in advance, even the day before. So let us start off with the squash filling and the mushrooms.

2 acorn squash cut in half and gutted (I had to throw in a butchery joke). You can use whatever squash is in season. Acorn is a good choice.

1 onion diced really fine

4 cloves of garlic

2-4 tbsp olive oil (the best that you got.)

4 portabella mushrooms

-Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the squash with the olive oil and then fill the cavities with the 
onion and garlic. Put them in the oven and let them work for about 40 minutes or until they are really soft. Pull them out and let them cool.

-Once they cool scoop out all of the goodness and toss the rind. Throw all the good stuff into a food processor or a blender and blend until it is smooth, add more olive oil is you need to smooth it out. Put it aside.

-While the squash is cooling pull out the stems of the mushrooms and clean out the gills, rub them down with some olive oil and season them up. Spoon some of the cooled squash mixture into the hollowed out cap and set aside or in the fridge if you are doing them ahead of time.

-You will roast them for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

That is how the caps are done.

Now we move on to the risotto part. You can check out the risotto post if you have concerns about making this as I am going to do the bullet points.

1 cup of Arborio rice

1 liter of vegetable stock

1 cup of white wine

1 medium sized zucchini diced

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Rice wine vinegar

-Season your zucchini and in a pan over medium heat lightly fry it to get a little bit of colour going. Remove from heat and set aside.

-Toast your rice in a large frying pan over medium heat, while you are toasting heat up your stock and wine in a sauce pan. Do this gently, no boiling.

-Once your rice is toasted start adding your stock by the ladle full stirring constantly. As the rice absorbs keep adding more stock. Once you are about 2/3 of the way through your stock add in your zucchini. Keep stirring. Taste it constantly. Once your rice is done and tastes good you are pretty much done. Remember that you are making risotto and that it should be loose, meaning it should spread out on the plate.

  -Mix together equal parts vinegar and oil for your drizzle. Plate it up. Spoon some risotto onto a plate place a couple of the caps on top and drizzle with you drizzle. There you go, some vegan food from a meat guy. The pics come to you from my cousin Kate, and all my love to her for snapping them as I worked. Enjoy.