Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lessons from a Beef Wellington

The other day I had some friends coming over. Before they came, I sat down and watched an episode of Hell's Kitchen, just as I was deciding what to make for dinner.

Someone had burned one of the beef wellington again and I thought to myself, why not try it? Why not try to make beef wellington. I had always been curious about the taste. I had filet mignon and some puff pastry. How bad could it be?

The idea in principle was pretty good. I came up with my own take on the recipe and thought I would give it a try. Here are some things I learned along the way.

1. If you have a a bottle of wine reducing on the stove, don't get distracted with political conversation. You will burn the wine and it will turn solid. Interesting, but also hard to clean and will fill your house with smoke.

2. NEVER try to make a beef wellington for the first time at 8:30 at night, when you have to get up early the next morning. Especially if you are going to keep getting distracted with talk that makes you abandon what you are doing to emphasize your point.

3. Remember you are using puff pastry and not pie pastry, so waiting for the spaces between the egg yolk to turn a bit more golden will result in overcooked beef.

4. If your steaks have been in the freezer for a while, even if they are still good otherwise, you may want to marinate them in order to make them more tender.

5. Even when everything goes wrong and you end up eating an overcooked but otherwise good beef wellington past midnight, with the house still smelling of burnt wine, good friends can still salvage the night and make it great.

That being said, if not for the overcooked part, the wellingtons' themselves were quite good. This recipe is going on the keep pile, with a couple alterations to be tested.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Infamous Turducken

My wife is American, and we live in Canada. As such, we have the option of two thanksgivings to celebrate. To make things more interesting, his birthday falls around the American thanksgiving. Since we are in Canada, we have to celebrate the Canadian thanksgiving. That being said, we decided to have a little fun for his birthday and make Turducken.

For those of you who don't know, a turducken is a chicken stuffed in a duck and stuffed in a turkey. My wife often follows up with the joke that the ultimate challenge is the dish that starts with a hummingbird and ends with a cow.

Still turducken is enough of a challenge to start.

All three birds need to be completely deboned, although the turkey legs and wings can have their bones.

I am lucky and I have a great place to get birds. Saslov's meat market in the Byward market.They were nice enough to do the deboning for me, so that when I had half the work to do.

I decided to brine all three birds. This ended up being a great idea. One of the biggest risks with turducken is making sure that all three birds are safely cooked all the way through.  This could lead to the birds being dry. That being said, I also decided not to put stuffing in between the layers. Instead I filled it with seasonings.

Then came problem number 2. I needed to close each bird, but the end result has to be able to be sliced. If I sowed them closed then I wouldn't be able to slice.  I used some metal skewers and then used some string to tie the skewers and provide a means of pulling them out.Once everything was ready and set, I started baking.

That is when the success of the brining really showed. There was soo much gravy that about half way through the cooking process, I had to pour off the gravy. Why? There was so much gravy that the whole thing was covered! I wasn't going to have roasted turducken, I was going to have boiled poultry!

I poured out the liquid and made a lot of gravy. By the end of the roasting, I had half of a pan again of gravy. It was incredible!

The turducken was a hit. It was a fun recipe to make  and one I would make again.

Not an easy thing to slice for the first time.

To Brine or Not to Brine?

In my third year in Ottawa, I decided to stay there and make Thanksgiving dinner on my own. Turkey was always one of those recipes that was up on a pedestal. Every show on tv always had that one thanksgiving where someone burns the outside of the turkey and has the inside raw or frozen. Or better yet, the bird looks beautiful but the meat is dry.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous about making the turkey perfect.

I knew from my family that turkey had to be basted often to prevent drying out. I don't believe in stuffing a turkey. The heat and time needed to cook the stuffing to a safe temp would increase the risk of drying out.

That first time I made a basic turkey. I filled the cavity with herbs and rubbed the outside with salt pepper and a little garlic. The end result was delicious with me obsessively basting every half hour. The final product was delicious. The main problem was in how little gravy was produced. After the first half hour, there was no liquid to baste with. I countered this problem by adding a glass of water the first year, and a glass of chicken broth the second year.

That year started what would become a tradition. Over the next 4 years, Thanksgiving at my place would become a tradition. In year 3 I was watching some random TV while working on homework. I ended up seeing an Alton Brown special where he was talking about something called brining. The idea seems to be to soak the turkey in ice water, broth, and spices. The idea is to infuse the meat with enough moisture to guarantee  a moist bird. I decided to give it a try. The end result was amazing. The bird was so filled with juice that I ended up with a good jug of gravy and a perfect bird. I fell in love.

In the questions of to brine or not to brine, for me the question is easy.... Brine! 

That being said, both options have their disadvantages and advantages.

Not brining has the advantage that it needs less prep. You can defrost the bird the night before and not have to worry about it till the morning of. The lack of gravy and juice can be mitigated by adding water or broth early on and using that to baste at the very beginning.

With brining you have to be ready to work the night before serving. You want to brine for about 8-12 hours. You will need ice, salt, hot and cold water, and broth, along with the right container to soak the bird. My first two times using this method, I used a band new outdoor garbage can that I purchase from a home hardware for this purpose alone. The last time, I used a cooler that I got from my parents. The advantage of the cooler was a little bit more portability.  My favourite aspect of brining is that this is a great way to infuse flavour into the meat. Whatever flavour you want in the meat should be in the brine.  I love adding lots of honey and adding a great kick of sweetness.

Before roasting, I rub down the turkey with a butter mixture that has lots of garlic, paprika, pepper, and some cayenne. The little extra fat helps to brown the skin a bit more, while the spice flavour gives the meat that little kick.

This is not my turkey! I can cook, but as you will see, my photography leaves a bit to me desired. Picture taken from

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Noodles Continued

So I realize I am posting this on the same day, but I felt that this needed to be two separate posts. I cam down with a cold this weekend and decided to make some chicken soup. About 2 hours in, I realized I was out of any soup noodles.

You guessed it! I decided to make some on my own. I found a nice recipe for some egg noodles.

Mixing together flour, salt, eggs, and milk (lactose free). The mix worked out beautifully, although the noodles grew much more than expected and became quite large. As soup noodles, they failed since they would have to be cut extremely thin in order to work. However, I finally found what seems to work as a great Udon noodle recipe. I have tried cutting them a little thicker and will let you know tonight how it works.


So while waiting for my boyfriend to come home, I got to work preparing the noodles for dinner. I took one batch and cut them very thin. I used the knife to bunch up a small amount of dough and then pressed down. After letting the noodles dry a little, I made myself a bowl of soup. The thin noodles worked out perfectly.

I also prepared the Udon noodles for the evening. Before we got down to dinner, Alex and I had to run a few errands. We packed up the drying noodles in a ziplock bag to keep from the dog and left. When we got back, we found that the cat had chewed through the bag and devoured the entire batch! I whole roll of raw dough devoured!

I guess it will have to wait till I next make noodles, before I can figure out if these work as Udon. *sigh* Silly Kitty! 

Wish me luck!

All About Udon Noodles!

One of the results of looking for work, is that when I am not sending resumes, I have too much time onn my hands. So what do I do? I bake, and cook, and roast, and what not.

The problem with that is: if money is tight, this is not the best moment to be going out grocery shopping for exotic ingredients. To kill two birds with one stone, I decided to try and make some of the staples we use around the house by hand.

One of these, believe it or not, is Udon noodles.

Since I love making udon soup and since I was out of Udon Noodles, I decided to embark on a quest to make my own. Inspired in part by this video,

I didn't expect to be able to do this, but I thought maybe at least I could make something to go with my spicy beef udon.

I found a pretty basic recipe involving:

3 cups of flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 cup of water

One of the important parts of noodles is making sure to release the gluten. To that effect, a friend of mine who does martial arts did me the honour of beating my dough (with all the associated jokes of course)

We worked it until we got a soft dough, then cut it into roughly the right shape.

The soup was delicious, but the noodles (although good) were somewhat heavy and a bit more tough than what we are used to.

I decided to try a new recipe involving tapioca flour. They advertised as being chewy and I was hoping not as tough.

Much to my disappointment, the dough itself was so tough, I could barely work it. After an hour of stepping on it and having my friend punch and kick it for a while, it was still much too tough. Finally in a desperate effort to make it lighter, I added some melted butter.

It worked to soften the dough and make it easier to work but the noodles when thick were even heavier and tough than the ones before. When sliced much thinner and over cooked slightly, it was better but not really udon.

So the search continues. What does it take to make noodles thick, but still light?

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Hello Everyone!

This is Ania from Scribbles and Rants. Whenever I have a little extra time on my hands, I tend to become obsessed with cooking. This seems to especially be the case when I am looking for work.

Finally, I decided that it is time for me to start a food blog and catalogue my food adventures.