Sunday, October 30, 2011

What exactly is charcutiere?

I'm starting a new professional cooking class next week - Butchery and Charcutiere.  Many of you may know that I worked as a butcher for 2 years and loved it.  Alas, I never was able to talk the owners  of the butcher shop into letting me make artisan Charcutiere.

It took me 5 minutes searching the web to figure out how to spell the word, so what exactly is it?  It's a general term for prepared meats, pates, terrines, foie gras, pickled vegetables, dried fruits and cheeses.  It's such a huge subject that the region I want to concentrate is Alsace, France.  Why that region of France? My ancestors on my dad's side come from there and I love that style of food, lots of beer, lots of sausage and foie gras, potatoes and cabbage!  Great food for our climate from October to April.

This is a veggie terrine that I made years ago with spinach, roasted red pepper and butternut squash.

This is a chicken pate en croute - it is a pate baked inside pastry and is heavenly!

I'm sure there will be a lot of fun stories coming from my new class and a lot of my followers will be able to sample, simply because what I make I can't possibly eat all myself.  

A little history?  Alsace has been passed back and forth between Germany and France for centuries.  It is on the border to Germany and after the end of WWII Germany had to hand it over to France once again.

To ease you guys into the joys of "Alsatian" cuisine, here's my favourite recipe that I'm going to make for dinner tonight.  This recipe has just a few ingredients and is super easy to make.

Braised Pork Belly - Serves 4

6 lbs of Pork Belly
Apple Cider
Caraway Seed
1 large onion, sliced
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
White vinegar
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250 F.  Put pork belly, fat side up in deep casserole pan.  Put in pan, around pork belly onion, apples and caraway seed, pour in enough apple cider and a couple splashes of vinegar (and maybe some of your favourite beer) so that liquid is 3/4 of the way up the side of the pork belly.  Cover with foil and put in oven for abut 4 hours.

After 4 hours remove from braising liquid (keep this!!!) and let sit for about 10-15 minutes.  After resting, cut into 2" x 2" pieces.  Heat broiler in oven.  Place pieces on cookie sheet and place under broiler to crisp up the top of the pork belly.

Serve over mashed potato or braised cabbage with the braising liquid and a large stein of dark beer!

Next week I hope to have pictures of my first day of class if it's not too gruesome...hehe!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


So the past 2 months I have been across Lake Ontario, flown to Las Vegas, driven to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and the Windsor Casino.  It's been a fun couple of months and I finally found something worthy to write about.  BURGERS!!!

When I was in Las Vegas with my 3 girl pals, we had the best burgers ever!  This is the only story I can share from Vegas because technically we weren't in Vegas when we had our burgers...

We are driving back from the Grand Canyon in our Mustang Convertible, starving.  Hoping that the rumour is true that in Boulder City, Nevada there is a diner that was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners Drive-ins and Dives.  We pull into a side street, park the car and peel ourselves off the black vinyl seats.  We have no idea where we I stop in a local real estate agent and ask some guy sitting in the waiting room if he knows what we are looking for.  Apparently the place closes after lunch and it's 5:30...Our stomachs growl in disappointment. 

Suddenly a cute blonde 20-something guy pops his head around the corner and directs us to the hole in the wall next door.  Apparently they have great food, and he gives us a raving review.  We bite.

Dillinger's it's called, in Boulder City, Nevada!  

It's small, nothing fancy, dark but quirky.  We pick a table near the front and are greeted by our waitress Amy, she was awesome:

On the menu tonight, well we want burgers.  There are a lot of burgers, but the patties are made fresh, and so are the buns and are toasted perfectly.  I go for the chili cheese burger (the chef boasts no beans in his chili because he doesn't like beans, me neither and in the immortal words of my travelling companion, what's wrong with beans is they get in your mouth...):

So Dawn chooses the pulled pork burger, even though she tells us she doesn't like bbq sauce...

Judy goes in for some kind of triple cheese thingie that dripped 3 kinds of cheese all over the place.

Terri went in for a Reuben on Sour Dough Bread, perfectly toasted.

Beers - a local gem but alas, I forget the name...but I loved it!  

Next time I'm in Vegas and get a chance for a side trip in the desert, I will make a point to go to Boulder City and have dinner at Dillingers - cheers for making great food to remember!!

On the flip side of the burger world is the most horrible "burger" my pal Terri and I had on our way to the Windsor Casino last weekend...I don't know why I wanted to stop for fast food, seemed appropriate, I hadn't had fast food in years, possible 10 or more years!  I totally regret it.

Let's start with the bread - white, soggy, tasteless, gluey.  The pattie - gray, dry, cooked from frozen, thin and tasteless, the tomato was under ripe, the tiny piece of onion, not even worth the effort, the pickles were at least something but they were drowned in the ketchup and mustard (I think I heard one of the pickles asking me to rescue it).  

People, why do we eat fast food WHY?  It's so not worth it when there are restaurants owned by regular people, rather than corporate America. Run by people who love their job, love to make people smile and care.  The fast food employees are there to make money, get home as soon as possible and their skills include opening plastic bags full of frozen burger patties, fries and emptying vats of ketchup into a large pump.

Taught me a lesson - no more fast food for me EVER!  Ask the locals if you don't know where to eat, apparently they don't lie...hehe