Thursday, March 29, 2012

Smoked Salmon Crepes

     Recently I posted a recipe for making your own smoked salmon at home. Here is a great way to enjoy your homemade smoked salmon. These crepes are so tasty, you will want to try them even if you don't smoke your own salmon. Served with a runny poached egg and maple syrup, this dish makes for a pretty luxurious brunch.

  Cooking a perfect poached egg can be tricky business, but I have a little chef's tip for you. Before putting the egg into the boiling water, let it sit in a cup of water mixed with vinegar for a couple of minutes first. The vinegar will start coagulating the egg white before you tip the eggs into the simmering water. The other advantage to this technique is that you can easily pour the egg into the hot water, so that the whites stay in place and form a perfect circle around the yolk. It is important that the water is not at a full boil, or the turbulence will knock the white off the yolk. To help the whites form a ball around the yolk, give the water a gentle stir first.

Start to finish: 20 minutes. Serves 4


200g smoked salmon
4 eggs
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbs vinegar
butter for coating the pan

crepe batter:

1 cup flour
1 tbs salt
1 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
3 tbs melted butter

1. Whisk together all of the ingredients of the crepe batter except the flour. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the center and then gradually incorporate the wet ingredients. Gently whisk until the batter is smooth. For soft crepes, do not overwork the batter. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes in the fridge.

2. Heat a small amount of butter in a non-stick pan. Pour 1/4 cup of batter in the pan. Tilt the pan in circles to spread out the batter until it coats the whole pan. Cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat the process to make 7 more crepes.

3. Fill a pot with 4 inches of salted water, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat until it reaches a slow, steady simmer. Put a small amount of warm water in 4 separate cups or ramekins and then add a few drops of vinegar to each. Crack one egg into each cup and let sit for 2 minutes. Give the pot of water a gentle stir and then add the eggs one at a time. Let the eggs cook until the whites are solid, about 4 to 6 minutes.

4. Roll the crepes and then place two on each plate. Place 50g of smoked salmon one top of each pair of crepes and top with a poached egg. Drizzle with maple syrup and top with chopped chives.

Make ahead: The crepes can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge between layers of wax paper. To make the poached eggs in advance, poach them for one minute less and then transfer to ice water. Reheat the crepes in the oven and reheat the eggs in simmering water.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Homemade smoked salmon

      Making your own smoked salmon at home is easier than you might imagine. The transformation of raw salmon into delicate strips of melting smoked salmon might seen magical, but it basically only involves two steps: curing & smoking. The curing part is easy. Just cover the salmon in a mixture of salt, sugar & spices and leave it in the fridge overnight. The smoking part can be a bit trickier. You don't have to own a fancy smoker to make smoked salmon at home, almost any barbecue will do the trick. The key to making perfect smoked salmon is controlling both the amount of smoke and the amount of heat. This is easy to do with an electric smoker, but can be a bit more challenging if you are working with regular charcoal grill. 
    At home I use simple kettle charcoal barbecue to do my smoking. It has a chamber underneath where I can set the coals and wood chips which is very useful for smoking. You can also find specialized smokers that have a separate chamber for the wood off to the side. These are even better, because there is less risk of the meat or fish getting too hot. When using charcoal, you have to keep a good eye on the coals to make sure that they are hot enough to keep the wood chips smoldering, but not so hot as to ignite them. Keeping the chips at just the right temperature can be a bit challenging, but that's what make's the job fun. I find it really satisfying building up a good smoke and then watching it go.

    If you plan on doing a lot of smoking and are looking for the simplest solution, you can invest in an electric smoker. Small electric smokers, such as the Little Chief can be found at Walmart or hardware stores for just over $100. The benefit of using an electric smoker is that you can set it and forget it. A small element provides just enough heat to keep the wood chips smoldering. 

    You can also use a propane grill as a smoker, but they're not ideal. With a charcoal grill you can put your wood chips directly on the coals, but if you are using a gas grill, you will have to wrap the wood chips in an aluminum pouch and then place the pouch as close to the element as possible, without touching the open flame. For more tips on smoking at home, see my recipe for smoked mackerel.

This recipe makes 1 lbs of smoked salmon, but can be easily scaled up to whole side of salmon. Simply double the amount of cure and follow the same steps. 

Start to finish 14 hours.

1 lbs (454g) fresh salmon.   
1 cup coarse salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs black peppercorns
1 tbs juniper berries, crushed
wood chips for smoking, ideally a blend of 80% maple and 20% hickory. 

  1. Mix the salt, sugar, peppercorns and juniper berries together and place half of the mix in a non-reactive (plastic, glass or ceramic) container big enough to fit the salmon. Spread the cure out and then lay down the salmon. Spread the remaining cure over top of the salmon and then cover with plastic wrap. Leave the salmon to cure in the fridge for 12 hours. 

2. Rinse the salmon thoroughly and then pat dry. Soak the wood chips in water for 10 minutes and then strain. Light a small amount of coals in your barbecue and allow to burn for 10 minutes. Lay the wood chips down on the coals. Fill an aluminum tray with ice cubes and set it on the lowest rack. Set the salmon on the highest rack and then close the lid with the vent open. The tray of ice will cool the smoke before if hits the salmon, preventing it from cooking. If you own a dedicated smoker that has a chamber for the wood that is off to the side of the grill, you wont need the ice.    
3. If the wood gets too hot and ignites, put out the flames with a little bit of water. It the wood cools down too much and stops smoking, add some dry wood chips, allow them to catch fire and then put them out with a bit of water. Let the salmon smoke for two hours. Let rest in the fridge overnight and then slice thinly. Smoked salmon will keep for one week in the fridge or up to 6 months in the freezer. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Veal Scallopini with Watercress Salad

    Spring is already here and it's time to start bringing out the lighter dishes. This simple version of veal scallopini is perfect for a light lunch on a warm spring day. Lightly breaded veal is topped with a simple salad of watercress and parmesan shavings, dressed with just olive oil and lemon juice. The bitterness of the watercress is balanced nicely by the tang of the lemon juice. If you can't find watercress, arugula is just as good. A drizzle of beurre noisette over the veal gives this dish a hint of buttery richness. To make beurre noisette, you simply cook butter until it just starts to brown, and takes on a nutty aroma. With an added squeeze of lemon juice, beurre noisette, or "brown butter," is great on veal, but also make a nice sauce for pretty much any fish or seafood.     

Start to finish: 15 minutes, Serves 2


400g (14oz) thin pounded veal cutlets
3 cups watercress
1/2 cup shaved parmesan
1 lemon
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour

1. Spread the flour out on a plate. Season the veal with salt and pepper and then dredge in the flour. Heat 1 tbs olive oil & 1 tbs butter in a large frying pan and then add the veal. Fry until golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes per side.

2. Divide the veal cutlets among 2 plates and then heat the remaining butter in the pan that the veal was fried in. When the butter starts to froth and begins to turn brown, remove the pan from the heat and add the juice of half a lemon. Pour the brown butter over the veal.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the watercress and the parmesan shavings and then dress with 1 tbs olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper and then top the veal with the salad.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Irish Stew

        St. Patrick's Day is coming up, so I just couldn't resist the temptation to post the typical cliché for the holiday: Irish Stew. I'm half Irish after all, so I had to take this dish on eventually. About 10 years ago, I spent a year in Ireland and a couple of times when I had stew there it was served on a plate rather than a bowl. I liked eating it that way because it made this already hearty dish feel extra substantial. I use large chunks of beef and potatoes that are simply cut in half. That way, after cooking the stew for a couple hours in a dutch oven, by the time the meat is tender and melting and the potatoes are cooked just right. Because this is for St. Patrick's Day, naturally the broth is made with Guinness extra stout.

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time 2 hours. Serves 4


800g (1 3/4 lbs) cubed stewing beef
1 lbs carrots, peeled & cut in large pieces
1 lbs celery, cut in large pieces
4 medium, or 2 large potatoes, peeled & cut in half or quarters.
1 small onion, or 2 french shallots, quartered
4 cloves garlic, whole, peeled
1 pint stout beer (Guinness)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
celery leaves
vegetable oil, salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F

1. Generously season the meat with salt & pepper. Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and sear the meat until golden brown. Transfer the meat to a large pot or dutch oven. Deglaze the frying pan with a small amount of beer. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits and then add to the pot with the meat.

2. Fry the onions and garlic cloves until brown and then add to the pot. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the parsley and celery leaves. Add water until all the meat and vegetables are covered. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook in the oven at 350F until the meat in very tender, about 2 hours.

To serve: Use a slotted spoon or ladle to divide the meat and vegetable among 4 plates. Pour over the broth and then garnish with parsley and celery leaves. For a thicker broth, mix 1 tbs cornstarch with 2 tbs water and then add to the broth and let simmer for 5 minutes before serving.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Plum Glazed Black Cod

     Black cod, aka sablefish, is a wonderful fish to cook with. Its flesh is rich & buttery and melts in your mouth. One of the best ways to prepare black cod is to glaze it and bake it in the oven. For this fatty fish, a thick, sweet glaze works best. Sometimes I'll use a blend of miso and maple syrup. For a quick glaze, you can simply mix hoisin with lemon juice. For this recipe I used dried plums & hoisin. The texture is great and the plums bring a nice little fruitiness to the dish. The wild mushrooms and brown rice bring in some earthy notes to balance everything out.
          Here I used dried "trumpette de la mort," aka "black trumpet," or "trumpet of the dead" mushrooms. Besides having a really cool, kinda spooky name, these mushrooms are delicious. They have a strong woody flavour and are easily one of my favorite mushrooms. They grow wild here in Quebec and are available in many specialty markets and even some grocery stores. If you can't find black trumpet mushrooms, any dried variety will do. There's two reasons for using dried mushrooms in this recipe. For one, the flavour of many mushrooms - particularly black trumpets and morels - deepens after they have been dried. Also, the water that you use to re-hydrate the mushrooms will absorb their flavour and can be used to flavour the rice. It is best to soak the mushrooms in the fridge overnight, but you can have them ready in about 30 minutes if you soak them in hot water.

Prep time 30 minutes, cook time 30 minutes. Serves 4

4 filets black cod (sablefish)
20g dried wild mushrooms
1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 cups spinach, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried plums (prunes)
1/4 hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F

1. Soak the mushrooms in 1/2 cup cold water overnight or in hot water for 30 minutes. Put the rice in a pot with 3 cups water. Strain the mushrooms and add the water that the mushrooms have soaked in to the rice. Bring to a boil and let simmer until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Heat 1 tbs of butter in a frying pan and sautee the mushrooms for 6 minutes. Add the chopped spinach and 3/4 of the mushrooms to the rice. Reserve the remaining mushrooms for garnish

2. While the rice is cooking, combine the dried plums, hoisin, water and soy sauce in a small sauce pan and simmer for 8 minutes. Puree the glaze in a blender. Place the 4 black cod filets on a baking tray that has been lined with parchement paper and apply a thick coating of the glaze. Bake in the oven until the fish is just starting to flake apart, about 12 minutes.

To serve: Divide the rice among 4 plates. Use a spatula to carefully set the glazed cod down on the rice. Garnish with reserved sauteed mushrooms

Friday, March 2, 2012

Roasted Marrow Bones with Parsley Salad

   Roasted marrow bones are one of the most overlooked delicacies of the culinary world. To my mind, bone marrow is just as delicious and luxurious as fois gras, yet it's a fraction of the price. I like to eat it straight out of the bone, roasted and served with just a sprinkling of sea salt and a simple parsley salad. In a world of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, where some people would rather not know where their food is coming from, marrow bones can be a tough sell. Fortunately, there has been an increased interest lately in sustainable agriculture and "nose to tail" eating, popularized by chefs like Fergus Henderson and Montreal's Martin Picard.
    Marrow bones can be found at most good butcher shops and even some grocery stores. Sometimes, the beef bones for sale in a grocery store will be bundle of different cuts that are meant for use in soups and stocks. If you go through them, you can often find bones that are appropriate for this dish. You are looking for bones that are round and narrow, where you can see the marrow exposed on both ends. If you are not sure if you found the right kind, simply ask the butcher behind the counter and he or she should be able to help you find the right bones.

Prep time: 10 minutes, cooking time 20 minutes. Serves 4.


12 beef marrow bones
1 bunch parsley
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 baguette
1 clove garlic
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat oven to 425F
1. Rinse the bones, place in a large pot, cover with water and them bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the bone steep in the hot water for 2 minutes. Drain the water and then repeat the process one more time. This will remove the impurities and will help the bones roast quick and evenly.
2. Place the bones on a roasting tray and roast in the oven at 425F until the marrow is soft and starting to come away from the bone, about 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Chop the parley and then combine with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt & pepper

4. Slice the baguette diagonally in 1/2 inch (1.25cm) slices. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub each slice of bread with the clove. When the bones come out of the oven, pour the fat from the bones over the bread, spread on a baking tray and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes.  

To serve: Place 3 bones on each plate along with a small, slender spoon or knife for scooping out the marrow. Sprinkle sea salt over the bones and spoon some parsley salad on the plates. Serve with garlic croutons.