Breakfast · eggs · How To...

How to Poach an Egg

As much as I love poached eggs, I realized the other day that I rarely make them at home.   I don’t know why that is.  Starting today, I am going to change that. A perfectly poached egg is a beautiful thing, and can elevate your meal from plain old every day to something really special.  Life is short.  Treat yourself to the good stuff,

It doesn’t take that much effort, or time, and if you are watching your calorie intake, it costs about 60 calories less than a fried egg.

Fresh eggs are best for poaching, the whites are stronger and hold together better.

Gordon Ramsay demonstrates how to poach a single egg,  and I certainly do not know more than he does on this subject, but I can cook up to 4 eggs at a time using the method below.  It is a more practical method for me.

You will need a deep sided 12″ frying pan for 4 eggs.   This video demonstrates the technique, but he does skip the step where you drain the egg on the paper towel.    The point of the video is to give you a visual guide to the written instructions below.

How to Poach an Egg

Crack each egg into its own bowl or onto a saucer.  If there is any very runny white surrounding the thicker white then tip this away.

Give the frying pan a quick spritz of Pam, or any other cooking oil spray.   You don’t need a lot.  You just want to prevent any sticking to the bottom.  This will help you with clean up later.   (if you are using non stick cook ware, you can skip this step)

 Put at least 2 inches (5cm) of water into a 12″ skillet and bring to a simmer. 

Add 1 teaspoon of plain white vinegar the simmering water

Carefully tip the eggs into the pan. 

Cook for 2 minutes then turn off the heat.  Check for done-ness.    There are LOTS of variables for cooking time: size of egg, how many in the pan, how hot your simmering water is and even altitude come into play here.  This morning, I poached 2 eggs and they were done after 2 minutes.  So, after you have turned the water off and checked for done-ness, you may want to leave the eggs the pan for a few minutes longer.  If  you have a lot of eggs in the pan, this may take 8-10 minutes.  Or maybe less.  Like I said, there are a lot of factors to consider. 

Meanwhile, place a double layer of paper towel on a plate (or a couple of plates, depending on how many eggs you are actually poaching.  Set aside

When they have reached your desired level of done-ness, lift the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and place on the paper towels.  This may seem like an unnecessary step, but it  is very important!  It gets rid of any excess moisture clinging to the egg so you don’t end up with soggy eggs on your plate.

Gently transfer eggs from the paper towel to plates and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

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How To...

How to Char & Peel Bell Peppers

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1. Char peppers over gas flame until skin is black and blistered. Transfer to bowl, cover with plate and let them steam for 10 minutes or so.
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2.  Peel the peppers using your fingers and a sharp paring knife. Careful not to tear the flesh. It helps to have a bowl of water handy to help remove all the skin.
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3. Pat dry with paper towels
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4. Cut slit down one side and remove seeds, and stems if desired.
How To... · Pasta

Pizza Dough

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Making pizza on an evening when you are not in a rush is good for the soul.   For us, it is a team activity which means time well spent together.  I prep the dough, we both do the toppings and Kevin cooks it on the grill which avoids heating up the house.

By using instant yeast, rising time is cut in half so we can start the dough around 4 and be eating by 6:30.

So, this Saturday night, when dinner can get to the table ‘eventually’, mix your dough, then maybe mix a cocktail to unwind…  kick back and listen to some great music with your significant other and wait for the dough to rise.

While you are waiting, chop up some fresh herbs and stir them into to can of tomato sauce for a fresher tasting pizza sauce.

And, remember to have fun with your toppings.   What about that leftover brisket, souvlaki or  bbq chicken already in your fridge?  Maybe charred veggies?  Or stick with traditional pepperoni.  Whatever makes you happy.

Cooking time will depend on where you are cooking it – our charcoal grill cooks it in about 6 minutes, but it takes nearly 15 in our oven.  So you will have some experimenting to do, but don’t stress over it, its all part of the fun.

The one piece of specialty equipment you will need for this is a pizza screen or use an upside down pizza pan or cookie sheet.  Using one of these takes all the stress of getting that dressed pizza off of the peel and onto the grill.  Just be sure that if you are grilling this, the pan you choose fits your bbq.

 

Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon instant yeast

2 1/2 cups flour

6 – 8 oz water

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a bit more for brushing the bowl

In bowl of stand mixer, whisk sugar, salt, yeast and flour together.  Add the olive oil and 6 oz of water.  Using the dough hook, on low speed, mix until dough comes together and forms a rough dough.  If dough looks dry or is not coming together, add more water by teaspoons until it looks right.  Knead with mixer until smooth.  About 5 minutes.  (this can be done by hand if you prefer).

Turn dough onto floured board and knead 3 – 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, place in warm, draft free area and let rise until doubled in size- 30 – 40 minutes.

Punch dough down and place on lightly floured board.  Divide in half for 2 large pizzas or into 3 for 3 medium ones.  Form pieces into balls, place on cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and put back in warm place to rise for another 30 minutes. ( here is where we take that 3rd ball of pizza and toss it into the freezer for later use.  Also, if you are making the dough ahead, you can pop it into the fridge now for up to 2 days. Of course, you will thaw and or let dough warm up and rise before proceeding)

Preheat your oven or grill to 500F.

Working with one ball at a time, roll or press out dough on a lightly floured surface to a roughly circular shape, about 10″ across for a mediium pizza.  Place on your pizza screen or upside down pan.  Add sauce and toppings as desired.  Pop the pan into your oven or the grill and bake 8 – 14 minutes, until cheese has melted and crust is golden.

Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy.

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How To...

Tzatziki Sauce

Now that you know how easy it is to make this, you will be putting it on everything – fresh tomatoes, your next BLT, salads, dip for that leftover pita bread…

Tzatziki Sauce

1   6″ cucumber, peeled, seeds removed

1 cup greek yogurt (whole milk)

1 clove garlic, grated

1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together, let stand 15 minutes for flavours to blend and serve with anything greek.

Desserts · How To... · Pies

(Almost) Graham Cracker Pie Crust

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Mango Pie with Graham Crust

We can buy Graham Crackers here but we must go to an import store where we pay more for that little box of crackers than it would cost to buy a whole pie from a speciality bakery.    We can get pre-made “graham” crusts for a very reasonable cost, but they tend to be flavourless.  So, I started experimenting with different types of cookies that  are readily available here and, discovered what most of you probably already know… most any unfilled cookie can sub in for Graham Crackers.

Crush the cookies in a plastic bag using a rolling pin or pop them in your food processor.  The important part is to be sure to add enough butter and sugar so it stays together when you press it into the pie pan.

It isn’t rocket science and some of you are probably wondering why on earth something so common needs to be written down.   The answer?  Because even though this is a no brainer for many of you, I  don’t make pies often enough to have this simple formula memorized.  And, now that it is written it down, I don’t have to memorize it.

(Almost) Graham Cracker Pie Crust

 

1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs

6 tablespoons  butter, melted

1/3 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl until well combined.   Press mixture into a 9″ pie pan, making sure it is tight and compact.   Using the bottom of a flat measuring cup to help with this.

If you are making a no-bake pie, chill the crust for at least 2 hours before adding the filling.

If making a baked pie, pre-bake the crust at 350F for 7 – 10 minutes, then continue with whatever directions you have for the filling.

How To... · Soups and Stews

Chicken Stock

Yup, it is exactly the same as Turkey Stock, but a whole lot more versatile.

In my family, there is a certain traditional flavour we expect Turkey Soup (and stock) to maintain, whereas chicken stock can go in so many different directions.

The beginning is simple.  Start with a pot full (about 2 kilos) of chicken bones, backs, thigh bones, breast bones.   (Honestly, if you are not already doing this, keep a zip lock bag in your freezer and any time you have to remove a breast bone, or de-bone a chicken thigh, toss it in the freezer bag.  You will be surprised at how little time it takes to fill it up.  Once full, it should weigh about 2 kilos, which is enough for  2 – 3 litres of stock. )

Toss the frozen contents of that bag into a stock pot, add water to just cover the chicken pieces.   Toss in 1 onion, quartered, 2 stalks of celery, cut into 2″ pieces, 2 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters, and a handful of parsley stems.

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This batch included chile d’arbole and dried chipotle, along with garlic and cilantro

Now for the fun part; any number of additions can be made in any combinations you like, depending on how you plan on using the stock once finished:  oregano, thyme, dill, ginger, cilantro, dried chilies, garlic, lemons, lime, use your imagination.

Once you have everything in the pot, bring to just below the boiling point over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours.  Keep an eye on the water level, it should just cover the bones to begin with, and as the stock simmers, the level of liquid will reduce by about 2″.    Avoid letting it boil and try not to stir too much as this will make your stock cloudy.   Remove from heat, cool slightly and strain the broth.  Discard solids  (you can pick the meat off the bones at this point to use in the soup if you like, but my personal opinion is that the meat has boiled so long, all the flavour has left it by now).    Let stock stand, uncovered until it cools to room temperature.  Then transfer smaller containers and refrigerate, uncovered until completely cool.  Do not cover until completely cool or the stock will turn sour and unusable.   Once cooled, any fat can be easily removed and discarded.

And that is it!  Simple.   Stock will keep in the fridge for 5 days.  You can freeze it for up to 3 months.

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How To...

How to Cook Dried Beans

Its true, you cant beat the convenience of canned beans.  But, making your own beans is really very simple.  Once you have the basics down, soaking and cooking, you can take a pot of plain beans in any direction you choose.   There are other ways to soften dried beans, but I get the best results this way.

2 cups dried beans – black, kidney, navy, pinto, garbanzo..any kind you choose, really.

Place them on a cookie sheet and give them a quick sort to remove any tiny stones or broken beans.

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Watch for (and remove!) the little stones hidden inside each bag of beans.  They can be a real party killer.  

Toss the beans in a colander under cool running water to rinse, then place in a bowl and add water to cover by 1 inch.   Remove and discard any beans that float.  Cover and let soak overnight.

Put beans and soaking liquid in pot.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer, partially covered, adding more water as necessary for several hours until beans are tender.  How long will depend on the type and age of the bean.  The older the beans, the longer they will take to soften.   Moe or less, allow from 1 – 3 hours.  Just be sure keep an eye on them while they simmer.

Once the beans are tender, you can spice them up any way you choose, including subbing them in any recipe that calls for canned beans, which means less sodium and NO Preservatives!!  Will keep 5 days, refrigerated.