culinary creations for the best night of the week
Potatoes 1

This one’s an original! Every good Canadian loves poutine, and this is a great way to incorporate it into a fancy meal! Real poutine is made with white cheese curds, which can be hard to find if you don’t live in Quebec. However, both Whole Foods and Choices Markets sell pre-packaged “squeaky cheese curds” which […]

Balsamic and Dijon Marinated Steaks with a Red Wine & Shallot Reduction

This sauce can take over an hour to make, but it is well worth it. The red wine and balsamic flavours are so delicious, that this sauce will enhance nearly every meat dish you can think of. Inspired by Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Shallot and Red Wine sauce, this is a restaurant-worthy sauce! It also freezes really well, so if you’ve got the time, then why not make a huge batch of sauce and freeze them in ice cube tray sizes that can be reheated in the future for individual serving portions. Tonight, we’re having this sauce served over Balsamic and Dijon Marinated Steaks, on a bed of organic baby arugula. Be sure to slice the meat up prior to pouring the sauce over top, so that the sauce has a chance to coat each piece!

Marinated Steaks

Ingredients

2 lean steaks

4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. dijon mustard

Directions:

Mix dijon and balsamic, and spread generously over steaks. Cover, and let marinade for at least 1 hour, or over night if possible. Allow steaks to warm up to room temperature prior to grilling. Cook steaks to desired consistency, and then let rest atleast 5 minutes to maintain all the juices.

To serve: slice steaks diagonally, and lay on top of baby arugula. Spoon generous amounts of Red Wine and Shallot Reduction over steaks.

Red Wine & Shallot Reduction

Ingredients

3 medium sized shallots , sliced

4 tbsp.  olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. black pepper

1 sprig rosemary

2 cups red wine (a good bet is to use the same wine you’ll be drinking with dinner)

I can condensed beef broth, no water added

1 tbsp.  butter

Directions:

Sauté shallots with olive oil in heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until lightly golden brown. Add rosemary, pepper, and balsamic vinegar, and cook down until vinegar turns into syrup, about 5-10 minutes. Add red wine, and simmer until reduced by half (this can easily take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour). Add condensed beef broth, and simmer again until reduced by half (again, this takes a while…). Once the sauce has reduced down to about 1 cup, remove rosemary, and stir in butter. Serve hot over steak of other meat dishes.

Note: This sauce refrigerates nicely, and can be made in advanced and reheated before serving.

Simple Crab Bisque

Ok, I’ll admit this one is a bit of a cheater. But if it tastes great, then I don’t think there is anything too wrong with using canned soup in a recipe! This soup is amazing, and takes only a few minutes to prepare. With a sprinkle of cayenne on top, the presentation is beautiful… and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser before any gourmet meal.

Simple Crab Bisque

 

Ingredients:

1 shallot

1 tbsp. butter

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of asparagus soup

2 cups milk

1 cup light cream

1 can chunk crab meat (or about 3/4 cup of fresh meat if it’s available)

1 cup dry white wine

 

Directions:

Over medium heat, cook finely chopped shallot with butter in a heavy soup pot until soft, about 2 minutes. Add chicken and asparagus soup, milk, and light cream into pot, and stir until mixed. Cook until a light simmer is reached. Add white wine, and allow to cook until simmer is reached again. Stir in the crab meat, and remove from heat. Let soup sit for 2 minutes to allow the crab meat to heat up.

Serve immediately, with a pinch of cayenne for garnish.

 

 

Sweet and Savoury Bacon Wrapped Brisket

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 med brisket (cut into 4 pieces)

4 thick slices of bacon (or more if you’re a bacon lover)

2 tbsp + 4 tbsp brown sugar, divided

4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 large onion,  sliced into thick rings

1-2 shallots, diced

1 cup red wine

1 can beef broth (no water added)

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Wrap each piece of brisket with bacon and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. In a heavy oven-friendly pot, heat oil over med-high heat and brown bacon-wrapped brisket pieces on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Set beef aside.

Set 4 onion slices aside, and line the bottom of the pot with remaining onion slices. Sprinkle onion with 2 tbsp brown sugar. Place meat over onion slices, ensuring the side of the brisket with the open ends of bacon is at the bottom so that bacon remains secure on brisket during cooking. Space meat evenly so that each piece has empty space around it. Sprinkle the following ingredients over the meat in this order: 4 tbsp brown super (1 tbsp over each piece), diced shallot, Worcestershire sauce, red wine, and beef broth. Cover each piece of meat with the onion slices previously set aside.

Cover with tight fitting lid, and cook in oven for 4-6 hours. (Meat will be ready after four hours, but the longer you let it cook, the tenderer the meat becomes). Baste the onion covered beef with the juices every hour (or more, if you’re feeling ambitious).

Once finished cooking, remove lid and baste one final time. Let sit 10 minutes prior to serving.

Serve covered in juices with a side of french bread or Lazy Mashes Potatoes to soak up the juices

Braised Lamb Shank Osso Bucco

Ingredients:

 

4 lamb shanks (2 for now, 2 for leftovers)

1 large carrot, chopped

2 stocks celery, chopped

2 medium onions, julienned

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 small jar tomato paste

1 can whole tomatoes, in juice

1 cup condensed beef broth

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Italian spice mix

5 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup flour

½ bottle dry red wine (something you like to drink)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Celsius.

Heat olive oil in deep cast iron pot on medium-high heat. Coat lamb shanks in flower and brown meat on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove meat from pan and set aside. Add carrot, celery, onion, and spices to oil and meat drippings. Cook until vegetables begin to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Stir often. Add tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and vinegar, stir to combine. Return lamb shanks to pot, and stir to coat with vegetable mixture. Pour condensed beef broth and red wine over meat, and allow mixture to boil about 10 minutes.

Cover pot with lid, and cook in oven for 2.5 – 3 hours. Serve shank with lots of sauce over a side dish that will soak up all the juices – for example: red wine and mushroom risotto or lazy mashed potatoes.

Red Wine and Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:

 

4 cups chicken broth

2 – 3 tbsp. olive oil

1 med onion – finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted

3/4 cup sliced mini Portobello mushrooms

1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

 

Instructions:

 

Heat broth until warm – either microwave or stove top.

Heat olive oil in heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook until caramelized, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for about 3 minutes until the rice is lightly toasted, and slightly translucent in color. Add the wine, and allow to simmer for about 2 minutes to allow alcohol to evaporate. Top rice mixture with chopped mushrooms, and stir until combined.

Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often (about 5-10 minutes). Repeat previous step multiple times, until all remaining broth is absorbed into the rice. Stir in the peas and Parmesan (keep some parmesan on the side to serve as a garnish). Remove from heat, and cover. Let rest 5 minutes to achieve ultimate creaminess.

To serve: Spoon risotto onto serving plates, and top with parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

Home-made Ricotta and Herb Focaccia Bread Mini Pizzas

These mini pizzas are a combination of two main recipes: Home Made Ricotta Cheese and Onion & Balsamic Focaccia Bread.

Onion & Balsamic Focaccia Bread

One of my favourite snacks as a kid was my mom’s fresh baked focaccia bread, dipped in oil and vinegar. This recipe is a slight adaptation of the family recipe, with some tweaks to make the flavour more bold and complex. Normally this bread is baked in larger loafs, but in this case, I’ve shapes them into little rounds to act as the crust for mini pizzas.

Ingredients:

1 onion, finely chopped

¼ cup olive oil

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

5 cups whole wheat flour

1 package instant yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp Italian spice mix

1 ½ cup warm water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375

Heat oil in heavy stove top saucepan. Add onions to oil, and cook on medium heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, and cook an additional 1 minute. Remove from heat, and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, salt, and spices. Add warm water and onion mixture, and stir until fully combined. Using dough hooks, allow mixer to knead dough on medium speed for at least 10 minutes. This step can also be done by hand if you’re looking for a work out! After ten minutes, the dough should be elastic and not sticky. If still sticky, add more flour and kneed a little longer. When dough is ready, cover the bowl with a clean tea tower, and allow to rest for at least another 10 minutes.

On a dry, floured surface, place dough in a single ball. Punch down the dough, and divide into desired baking portions.

Note: in this case, I’m using the dough for mini pizza crusts, so I will separate the dough into small fist sized portions. For regular focaccia bread, divide dough in two and create 10 inch round loafs)

Place formed dough on greased cookie sheet. Brush dough rounds lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle spices and/or a cheese mixture on top. Bake loaves in oven on middle rack until golden brown, and slightly hard and hollow sounding when tapped. For 2 regular sized loaves, bake for 25-30 minutes. For small mini pizza sized portions, bake 15 minutes.

Home Made Ricotta Cheese 

Making ricotta is extremely simple, and tastes nothing like the stuff you buy in the store. From only a few simple ingredients you can create delicious and creamy ricotta cheese at home, for a fraction of the price.

Ingredients:
4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Directions:
Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a heavy saucepan, and heat on medium heat. Stir continuously to avoid scalding at bottom of pan. Once mixture reaches a light boil, turn the heat down to low (so it is only lightly simmering). Add the lemon juice and stir only once to combine. Leave mixture undisturbed for 1 more minute, and then stir only once again. Let rest another 1 minute, and then remove from heat. At this point the mixture should have separated nicely into curds and whey.

If you have a colander, put in larger bowl and line with cheese cloth. If not, very loosely cover a large bowl with 2 layers of cheese cloth, and hold cheesecloth in place with tape or elastic band.

Pour the separated mixture into the cheesecloth, and let drain about 1 hour at room temperature.

Once curds have drained, remove from cheesecloth, and either serve or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. This recipe makes about 1 cup of ricotta cheese.

Note: Do NOT throw away the milk whey that separates from the curds. Hold onto this, and use in other recipes, such as our heavenly whey crepes!

I topped these pizzas with Ricotta cheese, left over balsamic onion mix from the Focaccia bread recipe, fresh basil, and roasted garlic. Roasting garlic at home is extremely easy, and is a nice addition to many dishes. Simply cut the tops off a head of garlic, and remove the outer layer of skin. Place cut side up in a muffin tin, smother with about 1-2 tbsp. olive oil, cover individually with tin foil, and bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes.


Fully Loaded Steak Oscar

This recipe is definitely one to put in the “rare occasion” category. There is no sacrificing calories or flavour in this decadent buttery meal of grilled steak, fresh seafood, and creamy bearnaise sauce. A leaner cut of steak is ideal  for this recipe, as your meat will be fully loaded with creamy goodness that you wont be able to easily dig around to cut out bits of unwanted fat. For this meal I served the steaks on a base of my full flavour lazy mashed potatoes, which tasted wonderful mixed with the crab and shrimp bearnaise topping. This recipe is always a crowd pleaser (it’s a lot easier than it looks – don’t tell anyone), and is an excellent choice as a celebration meal… whether it’s an anniversary, or just a Wednesday 😉

Ingredients

2 lean steaks (I chose top sirloin for this meal, but a nice tenderloin would be even better!)

1 package Knorr bearnaise sauce (Ok, I cheated here… but Knorr makes to die for bearnaise sauce, and it is nearly impossible for it not to turn out perfect every time)

1 can chunk crab meat

1/2 cup chopped cooked baby shrimp (fresh or frozen, you can usually find these mini cooked shrimp in the meat section)

3/4 cup butter – separated into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup

1 shallot

 

Instructions

 This meal is very quick and easy to prepare, and can all be done simultaneously. With such a nice presentation, and amazingly decadent flavour, you would have no idea that it actually only took 15 minutes to make!

Steak:

Grill steaks on BBQ or broil in oven until desired done-ness is achieved – everybody has their own tastes! When steaks are done, wrap with tin foil and let sit approx 5-10 minutes. This allows juices to fill the steak.

Bearnaise Sauce:

While steaks are grilling, heat up 3/4 cup butter in small pot on medium heat until lightly simmering. Remove from heat, stir in 1 cup water and bearnaise sauce mix. Return to heat, and cook on high for 3 minutes, whisking ever 30 seconds or so. You can tell the sauce is done when a thick creamy texture is reached. Cover, and set aside.

Seafood Topping:

In a small pan, heat up remaining 1/4 cup butter, and stir in chopped shallot (or small onion if preferred). Cook on medium heat until onions are cooked through – about 3-5 minutes. Stir in crab and shrimp, and allow to heat up to a hot temperature.

Assembly:

Place steaks on individual serving plates (I like to serve mine on a bed of mashed potatoes for a complete meal). Pile each steak with half of the seafood mixture, and cover with generous spoonfuls of bearnaise sauce.

Bon Apetit!

(Note: This recipe is catered to someone who wants a nice romantic meal, without breaking the budget OR the clock. This recipe could easily be enhanced with freshly cooked crab meat and home made bearnaise sauce – but honestly, who has the time!)

Lazy Mashed Potatoes

These mashed potatoes are amazing. No gravy necessary! So often are we served bland mashed potatoes, and we’re forced to desperately save all the juices from whatever it is we’re eating, just to help liven up the potatoes! Well, not these bad boys. These are potatoes that can stand their own.

I call these “lazy” potatoes, because I leave the skins in for added taste and texture, and purposefully don’t mash them to runny oblivion. Having varying textures through this dish is what makes it so successful, as every bite bring a new potato taste explosion!

Ok, I admit.. I may be getting a little over excited about these potatoes. But really, you’ve got to try them.

Ingredients – Serves 2-4

2 large russet potatoes, cut into 1.5″ cubes (do not remove skin!)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup cream

2 garlic cloves, crushed and diced

2 green onions

 1 chicken bouillon cube

Instructions

Boil cubes potatoes for approx 20 minutes in a large pot, on high heat. Drain, and transfer to large bowl.

Combine butter and cream in a small heavy pot, and heat over low heat until warm. Stir in chicken bouillon cube until dissolved. Add cream mixture, garlic, and onions to potatoes, and mash roughly. The key here is to mash them enough to have a fairly creamy texture, while still having small chewy chunks of potato in the mix. This, along with the added texture and nutrients from the potato skins, make this dish unique and absolutely delicious!

Raspberry Summer Salad

This is such a refreshing salad as a starter or as a meal on its own. This dressing uses fresh ingredients – no store bought jams or jellies like many other fruit vinaigrette recipes call for. The combination of sharp feta cheese, sweet onion, and tangy raspberry vinaigrette creates a beautiful mix of flavours and textures, sure to please even the toughest critic.

Ingredients

Raspberry Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

1/8 – 1/4 cup good quality olive oil (depends if you’re dieting this week or not..)

1.5 tsp white sugar

1 tsp dijon mustard

 

Salad:

1 bag spring/herb/spinach mix salad (or get creative and chose your own mix of fresh lettuce and herbs – dill tastes great in this salad as well)

1/2 small sweet onion, sliced very thin

1/4 cup chopped nuts (whatever you have on hand – I like to use almonds)

1/4 cup fresh raspberries

1/4 cup crumbled light feta cheese

Instructions

Raspberry Vinaigrette:

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving to ensure the best possible flavour!

Salad:

Mix all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with onions, nuts, and raspberries. Serve in individual bowls, and top with feta cheese.

(Note: The beauty of this salad recipe is that you can mix up the ingredients, and it’s nearly impossible to ruin it. Choose your favourite nuts and cheese to customize the salad to your tastes.)