Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cooking 101

Since the boat is out of the water and yes it was snowing this morning, I can turn my mind to my other passion - cooking!

Yesterday one of my businesses gave a cooking class (Pandora's Bakery) at Black Angus Butcher Shop in Port Credit.  There were 8 students all hungry with forks and knives in hand.  The menu was Venison Striploin roast served with a potato and yellow beet 'cake' all brought together with a drizzle of cherry balsamic glaze.  Chef Claudia took over the class and demoed the potato beet 'cake' while I cooked the roast.  As the venison roast rested we talked about the benefits of game meats and their low fat content, how to properly sear a piece of meat and the beauty of duck fat.  Venison, like most game meats must be cooked no more than a medium - about 125 F when it comes out of the oven.  When it rests before slicing the temperature will actually continue to rise to that perfect 135 F.  After the heathens were fed, we talked about all kinds of herbs and spices that go with game meats.  Venison is a general term for the deer family and deer eat grass, pine needles, nuts, berries...etc.  The best pairings for venison - earthy flavours such as juniper, fennel, caraway, cardamom and fruits.

Next recipe - Venison Ragu (which is just a fancy Italian word for stew).   Chef Claudia talked about the magic of the pressure cooker while I filled it with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, shallots, garlic, fennel, star anise, juniper berries and all sorts of great stuff.  While the pressure cooker top danced away we moved the class up into the beef cooler.  There we talked abut the virtues of dry aging beef and the benefits of aging beef.

The Ragu was served over gnocchi slathered in duck fat and I saw a few who really, really wanted to undo their top button on their pants.

The venison class not only introduced people to game meats but helped understand how easy it is to cook and reminded me how much North Americans have forgotten about how to cook.  A friend told me that North Americans are cooking for themselves less and less, more than any society on the planet.  It's a shame as cooking is our life.  I love eating out but I love cooking with friends and for friends even more.  Let's cook more.  Let's get those expensive granite and stainless steel kitchens dirty, let us fill the refrigerator with left overs that we made not what McCain made.  Let's use those food processors, mixers and knives that we all spent so much money on.  Let's open a bottle of wine while we stir our tomato sauce or watch the pot of pasta boil over.  Let's slow down and start living simply.  I love it!  I'm glad I could share my knowledge with others and remind them that cooking is fun - and the more wine you drink the faster the clean up will seem to go afterwards...hehe

Speaking of clean up - I was cleaning out my fridge last night and found 1/2 litre of egg whites...what to do - what to do?  We had a Cuban Dancer friend popping in for dinner so I decided to make a Pavlona - a light dessert made for a famous dancer about 75 years ago in Australia:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar (very fine)
1 tsp. white vinegar
1/2 tbsp. corn starch

Preheat oven to 250 F.

In mixer beat egg whites to soft peaks.  Slowly add the sugar until the egg whites are glossy and have firm peaks.  Sprinkle vinegar and corn starch over the egg whites and fold by hand with a spatula.

On parchment paper lined baking sheet, spread the meringue in an 10" circle building up the sides just a bit (remember this will hold a filling).  Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, the meringue will crack and turn a bit brown.  Turn off oven and set the oven door ajar and let meringue cool in the oven.

Make up:  fill the well with real whipped cream, cut up your favourite fruit, or use cooked cranberries or your favourite tart jam and sprinkle over the meringue, filling the well.  Garnish with shaved chocolate or toasted coconut or whatever strikes your fancy. 

I love this dessert and it's easy to make.  Beware though - the meringue will soak up any moisture and you won't be able to keep any leftovers for the next day, I suggest you just eat it all!

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