Category Archives: potato

Savory Potato Boxty Bread Recipe


This winter is the neverending story, and today we had yet another mini snow storm. However, it is St. Patrick’s Day, about the time we invite some spring into our lives and table travel to the Emerald Isle of soda bread and potatoes.

The apple tree branches I put in the water last week upon pruning our fruit trees have given tiny pastel green burgeons. They make some wonderful spring house decorations and an amazing background to feature the Irish savory potato soda bread called Boxty we baked for today’s particular occasion. Ready to follow? Buckle up to this fine old school gem of Sleepy Maggie’s Canadian rendition performed by an icon fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and scroll the images first to determine if this recipe will hook you up.
The word Boxty stems from the old Irish bacstaí, which means ‘poor house bread’ and pertains to the mix of flour and potato from which you can make a pancake or bread.  This Irish rural recipe is believed to have been created during the times of famine to feed big families and make potatoes, which were the only means of survival, stretch further.  The pancake or loaf was served with milk and salt and Irish kids used to call it ‘dippity’. Today Boxty is a huge come back food trend in Ireland and potato bread and pancakes are served in restaurants all over the country.
Obviously, the Boxty Bread is a tribute to the Irish terroir, which includes:
STARCHY POTATOES
WHEAT FLOUR, MILK & BUTTER
DILL or CARAWAY seeds, sea salt, pepper, BAKING SODA
Mixed together, they make quick and tasty savory bread. Note: you do need to prepare a piece of cheesecloth to drain the grated potatoes for the recipe.
Without yeast as a leavening agent, the Boxty soda bread is very easy and fast to knead and pull off.  

It tastes amazing with some extra butter or the rarebit cheese melt and pickles when freshly baked. Or in the form of Croque Monsieur or mini-pizza with all kind of garnish the day after.

I also love to add it to all kinds of pan-fried or baked breakfasts and brunches, from omelet to frittata.

This bread keeps up to one week in the fridge and slices better when cold. 

BOXTY BREAD IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST TRY IF YOU LOVE POTATOES!
It is said to have inspired the following folk rhyme:
‘Boxty on the griddle,
boxty on the pan,
If you can’t bake boxty
sure you’ll never get a man…’

Check if it’s true and stay tuned for more Irish soda breads.

PS: A friend of mine has just sent me a nice St. Paddy’s greeting, here’s mine in return-
‘May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of you wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest,
Be those which come true,
The kindness you spread,
Keep returning to you.’
Happy St. Paddy to You All!
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Former St. Paddy’s Recipes: Dublin Lawyer
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IRISH BOXTY BREAD
Yields: 4 small loaves
Ingredients:
7 (about 1 ¾ pounds) starchy potatoes
2 tbsp lightly salted butter, plus extra to serve*
2/3 cup of milk*
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 ½ tsp dill seeds OR caraway seeds
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
5 tsp baking powder
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel four of the potatoes, cut them into even chunks, cover with water, add the heaped teaspoon of salt and bring to boil in a medium-size saucepan. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash with butter until smooth pure.
Peel the remaining three potatoes and grate coarsely. Wrap in a clean piece of cheesecloth and squeeze tightly to remove the moisture. Put the grated potatoes in a large bowl with the milk, ¾ teaspoon of salt, pepper and dill seeds. Beat in the mashed potatoes.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and remaining salt onto the potato mixture. Mix to smooth dough, adding a little more flour if the mixture is too soft.
Knead lightly, then shape into four flat, round loaves, about 4 inches in diameter. Place on a non-stick baking sheet. Mark each loaf with a large cross. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown.
Break each loaf into quarters. Serve warm, spread with butter.
Adapted from: The Irish Pub – Fabulous Food from the Emerald Isle, Parragon Books, 2012

Moules Mariniere & Roasted Rainbow Fries Recipes


They say Belgian and Northern French people are almost religious about moules -frites (mussels & fries), but so are almost all French Quebecers.  Rain or shine, snow storm or ice storm, none of my friends can pass on a well-prepared bowl of fresh steamy bivalves floating in a cloudy-winy-garlicky broth with French fries and crusty bread on a side. Each time we discover a good place serving this dish, it spawns a new sensation. This particular post, for instance, was inspired by a little gem place in Verdun we discovered recently, the ‘Bistro Entre Ciel et Terre’.
The bistro has opened its doors back in 2011, and within the record time became No. 725 out of 4543 restaurants in Montreal rated on Tripadvisor (as of today), which is a big deal for Montreal (i.e. Jamie Oliver’s Maison Publique is No. 763 on that list), winning also the first prize of the young Entrepreneurs of Verdun in 2013. Once you try their honest food (priced very reasonably) you will know why.

From the Home Burger with Melted Brie and Caramelized Onions garnished with microgreens (which was of a superb quality and tasted so much more than just a ‘lump of ground beef between two buns’); to ideal endorsers of the fans of Les Canadiens – merguez pogos; to their signature dish: Moules Mariniere, the place which is steadily conquering the hearts of many tourists and Montrealers.  

How come I didn’t know about the place? Perhaps I was too much grieving over the death of ‘Mas Cuisine’ in the neighborhood (which re-appeared recently in the Mile End as a new ‘Wilfrid sur Laurier’ brasserie where Michel Ross reunited with chef Suhl). Obviously, the explosion of Griffintown development did not inhibit Verdun’s Chef Georges Nory and he’s bringing his French bistro/Italian trattoria/American diner classics to the new level. The rustic-meets-funky bistro interior adds to the hipster feel, but with only 20+ seats in winter you’d better nip to it fast. I’m definitely coming back.
Bistro Entre Ciel et Terre 
750 rue de L’eglise
Verdun, QC H4G 2M8
(514) 768-0740

The oversized mussels they serve in Bistro are most probably a special order, but don’t shy away from a bag of fresh mussels in IGA, METRO or LOBLAWS if you are ready to make your own Moules Mariniere at home. This recipe of was given to me hush-hush almost 20 years ago by the first French Chef Manou in Kiev (he also happened to originate from Normandy). He often served our diplomatic receptions and each time everyone was particularly smitten by his Moules Mariniere, so I had no choice, but to take a note of his recipe. Now that thousands of the wine steamed mussels recipes are surfing the internet in mass, you are in a privileged position to try, test and select your own favorite version. And, hey, they are very easy to prepare – with all the right ingredients you are basically 30 minutes away from that bowl of goodness.
I had them with these crispy-crunchy rainbow roasted fries, for which I used a regular potato, sweet potato and purple yam (procured in Chinese grocery). These three ‘potatoes’ worked really well together balancing the regular potato crunch with the sweetness of sweet potatoes and balmy  delicate tuber yams, making a healthier match to the plump steamed mussels. Feel free, however, to use any other root vegetable of your choice (carrots, celery root, turnips and parsley are great too).
Here are some killer apps to speed up the healthier roasting fries method while still having a restaurant-style results: (1) parboil the fries before roasting for exactly two minutes uncovered; (2) drain, toss with oil (duck fat you’ve saved from the roasted duck would be a great savory alternative), garlic and herbs of your choice (rosemary always marries great to fries, but so does thyme or tarragon, fresh or dried).
Try to align the cooking process of both (for that you’ll have to begin with fries and proceed with mussels once the fries are in the oven) to have this outstanding meal, which is definitely romantic under any and all circumstances. Don’t forget some crusty baguette to sop that fragrant broth. Enjoy, or should I say with the French sign-song lilt Julia Child was trying to imitate for years, Bon appétit?
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CHEF MANOU’S MOULES MARINIERE
Yields: 2 generous portions
Ingredients:
1 pack of mussels (2 lbs or 910 g), cleaned under the cold running water
3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped finely, OR 1 cup of chopped shallots (5-7 shallots)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Small pinch of chili flakes (optional)
1 bouquet garni (small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, 3-4 branches of fresh thyme and 2-3 bay leaves)
1 ½ cup dry white wine
3-4 branches of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
3-4 green onion branches, chopped
1 ½ cup 10% cream or milk (if milk intolerant, substitute with clam juice)
Instructions:
Clean the mussels under the cold running water removing the beard-strings or barnacles you might find on some with your fingers or paring knife.  Press the shells of any open mussels with your fingers: discard them if they don’t close.
Heat the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven (enough to take all the mussels: the pot has to be half-full) over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute until fragrant and onions are translucent. Add bouquet garni and half of white wine. Bring to boil on a high heat and add mussels. Close the pot tightly with the lid and cook for 4 minutes, shaking the pot 3-4 times. Open the lid and add the rest of wine, cream and chopped parsley and scallions. Close the lid back and steam mussels for another minute shaking the pot to help the juices and steam distribute evenly. Remove the pot from heat. Discard bouquet garni.
Divide the mussels into two big (preferably warmed) bowls. Ladle the broth over the shells.  Serve immediately with fries (check the tips on great home-made fries and try the Three Root Fries below for a change and uplifted taste) and, of course, crusty bread to sop up that magical broth. Don’t forget to place some empty bowls for shells and some finger bowls with lemon skin water along to indulge in the dish ‘comme il faut’.  Enjoy!
PS: Discard unopened mussels if any.
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ROASTED RAINBOW HERB & GARLIC FRIES
Yields: 2 portions
Ingredients:
1 big potato (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
1 big sweet potato (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
1 big purple yam (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
3-4 tbsp duck fat or high heat cooking oil
1 tbsp rosemary, dried
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Cover the fries with cold water in a medium pan. Bring to boil on a high heat and boil for exactly two minutes not covered with lid. Drain the water and toss the fries carefully with fat or oil, garlic and rosemary.  Spread in a single layer into the foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven, flip the fries carefully with spatula and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until crispy and browned (preferably, flipping fries one more time in between to make sure they will not be glued to the foil because of their sugar content).  Season fries with salt and pepper. Serve hot with garlicky aioli sauce on a side for dipping.

In Search for Umami: Salt Cod & Tuna Fish Cakes


I made these savory crispy fish cakes during holidays and served them as tapas on Quebec National Day along with three sauces. Later, on Canada day, I made another batch from frozen leftovers and toted them as fish tacos to the ‘Potluck with Style’ party along with tortillas, assortment of fresh garden veggies, Aioli sauce and lime avocado mayo. They were a huge hit on both occasions and everyone kept asking me for the recipe. Bring a box of these babies to your next potluck party and you can easily come off as a promising young chef from l’Academie, because, I can guarantee, they WILL upstage any food party. 

Salt cod is one the most under appreciated and underused foods in our country.  Despite its magical flavor powers that can bring most of the dishes with this ingredient to a whole new level, and its availability in almost every grocery; a dirty looking piece of something-dried, covered with gray salt is not very visually appealing.  That, plus a very little knowledge of how handle it and/or lack of publicity, keep this valuable commodity in the ‘underdog’ category of foods reserved for the limited consumption by Natives and/or just a few high-end French, Portuguese or Spanish restaurants. Nobody is serving accrass de morue or pasteis de bacalhau in the fast food joints, like they do it in Carribean or in Portugal although, technically, Canada has been one of the major producers of salt cod for the last 500 years. The Old World, however, has been enjoying salt cod for centuries. The famous epicureans like Claude Monet or Paul Cezanne, for example, used to stash the recipes with this precious ingredient in their diaries as their best kept culinary secrets to impress each other.

Dishes with salt cod are in the category of an acquired taste and people usually love or hate them. Here’s the thing: if you like Parmesan, cured meats, anchovies, oysters, soya sauce asparagus, tomatoes, etc. chances are you are going to like these fish cakes big time because of the umami factor apparent in all these foods. The naturally occurring amino acid in salt cod (called umami) is what makes it so tasty and unique. And if you have a hard time with umami, you can always swap the salt cod for canned tuna or salmon and still have very palatable cakes, although with not much umami in them.

A quick, but useful trivia: about a century ago Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda discovered chemical root behind the fifth sensory taste (in addition to salty, sweet, bitter, sour) and called it umami (which translates from Japanese into ‘deliciousness’). The common component producing the flavor of meat, seaweed and tomatoes was glutamate, which gives the sensation of umami. Not surprisingly, Ikeda further patented the manufacture of an arguably infamous Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) food flavor enhancer.

Back to our fish cakes. Once you’ve tripped over the initial shock of actually buying this ‘thing’ (salt cod) and had it rinsed from salt and soaked for 24-48 hours, you are just a few steps away from making this mouth-watering treat. Mashed potatoes, milk, egg, chives, garlic, thyme, cornmeal and frying oil are basically all you need to add to prestidigitate the ‘thing’ into something amazing. It’s completely optional, but this time I added a can of tuna to the mix to make it exactly one pound in fish ingredient without altering the taste. Feel free to make it half & half (salt cod & canned tuna or salmon) and it will still be equally delicious. I also added 1/3 teaspoon of smoked paprika to deepen the flavor depth even further with the touch of heat and smokiness. Finally, I figured that umamiwith umami can only work out for good, so I added 2 tablespoons of fresh Parmesan crumbs to the mix.

Voila, now you can savor the best thing that can ever happen to salt cod. Enjoy them as tapas with variety of sauces like:  classic Aioli sauce, zesty Tkemali plum sauce, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise, Buttermilk sauce, even Herb Lentil Avocado Spread.

My latest favorite is to dress them in tacos, laced with one of the above sauces and garnished with a mountain of thinly sliced summer bounty, including: cabbage, radishes, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, shallots, onion, lettuce, fine herbs, etc. Just have a bunch of corn (for gluten-free) or whole wheat flour tortillas, warm up wrapped in foil for 15 minutes at 375F and serve immediately with some refreshing drinks. Fish tacos allow the cakes to shine with their intriguing umami taste combined with textures and captivating colors of artfully embedded crunchy veggies and tangy sauce. Simply out of this world!

And if you want something absolutely lean and/or diet-healthy (from Paleo to Gluten-free to Carb, Sugar or Elimination diet) go for the lettuce wrap option and the dish will never trigger any guilt alarms – just pure joy and pleasure.

All good to the last bite, hot or cold!

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SALT COD & CANNED TUNA FISH CAKES
Serves: 8 to 10 people.
Ingredients:
1 lb skinned & boned salt cod (or half & half of 1 lb of salt cod and canned tuna)
1 cup of milk
1 bay leaf
3 big Idaho or Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ cup 10% cream for mashing potatoes
4 tbsp butter at room temperature for mashing potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch of fresh chives or scallions, minced
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced (optional)
1/3 tsp smoked hot paprika (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
oil for frying (sunflower, canola, peanut or grape seed oil)
4 tbsp butter or ghee for frying (optional)
2 cups corn meal for coating
Lemon or lime wedges for serving
Instructions:
Soak the salt cod in cold water to cover in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours changing the water occasionally.
Drain the salt cod and place it in a saucepan, cover with milk, add bay leaf. Add water if necessary to cover the fish. Bring to boil and simmer over the low heat for 12-15 minutes or until the fish flakes with fork easily. Do not overcook. Transfer the fish to a plate and let cool.
In a separate saucepan bring potatoes to boil and simmer until tender for 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, mash them with cream and butter. Let cool.
Using your fingers or a fork flake the cod (check for the occasional bones, although most of the time it’s bones-free).
Combine the cod, drained tuna, mashed potato, garlic, chives, egg, Parmesan, thyme, smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix it with masher or hands.
Use 1 full tablespoon of the mixture to form a ball, press and coat well with corn meal. Set aside while making remaining cakes. Refrigerate fish cakes until chilled for 10-30 minutes*.  
Preheat the skillet to medium high. Add 2 tablespoons of frying oil and 1 tablespoon of butter for each batch. Pan-fry in batches for about 2-3 minutes each side or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Check the seasoning. Serve with lemon or lime wedges, classic Aioli sauce, zesty Tkemali plum sauce, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise, Buttermilk sauce, Herb Lentil Avocado Spread or other sauce of your choice. You can also serve them in fish tacos wrapped in warmed up corn/whole wheat tortillas, laced with one of the above sauces and dressed with thinly sliced vegetables, such as:cabbage, radishes, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, shallots, onion, lettuce, fine herbs, etc.
*Freeze them on the cutting board if making the dish in advance. When frozen, transfer cakes to Ziploc bag or plastic container and keep in a freezer for up to 1 month. Let thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before frying. Re-coat in cornmeal if necessary for the crispy crust.

10 Ways to Enjoy Poutine with One Big Campfire Special

Honestly, I wish we had the weather like today back on Tuesday, June 24th, so our Saint Jean Baptiste celebration wouldn’t got screwed. It was nerve-wrecking watching all that rain pouring cats and dogs on those masterfully constructed bonfire-to-be structures that finally never took off – a real bummer… A comforting traditional supper was the only way to save the holiday. Fortunately, in the food-haven city of Montreal there’s always plenty to choose from to celebrate. We opted for a home-made good old Poutine among others, one of the great French Canadian creations that put Canada on the world’s culinary map.  A mountain of freshly cooked French fries smothered in gravy and cheese, which you can top with unlimited number of your own favorites, from Italian sausage, to magret de canard, to umami anchovies to make that simply irresistible caloric bomb and save the day…
Poutine is a true culinary oxymoron: a greasy, salty, heavenly-tasting convict of the premeditated gluttony, it is a real fast food junk on one side – but a valuable haute cuisine material on the other. Take the glorious creations of Poutine Foie Gras by Chef Martin Picard or Lobster Poutine by Chef Chuck Hughes, for example: each made an instant hit at their restaurants, respectively, long time ago each doesn’t seem to slide off the menu any time soon.  Since the time of its inception in the 50s, Poutine has been a subject of a lot of grotesque stories and anecdotes that don’t seem to end, but all that jazz only reinforces its popularity.
Everybody likes crispy fries and squeaky curd cheese. Almost everybody likes gravy. Combined together in Poutine, they make a one huge memorable feast you won’t forget soon.  My recently discovered trick was to use other kind of cheese in the absence of the curd cheese that is not always available. Guess what, apart from the missing squeakiness the dish works quite well with simple Mozzarella or Cheddar, or even Feta, and, especially well, with savory cheeses like Gouda or Gruyere. Of course if you are by-the-book rigid with recipes chef, I suggest you stick to the curd cheese and disregard this post completely.
Another affordable adjustment is using the store-bought Poutine gravy, or make it from the store-bought organic beef stock (in the absence of one) by adding some flour (or corn meal in gluten free cases), Worcester sauce, butter.
 For the camping purposes, feel free to use the non-perishable cubed or powdered beef stock.
 As you can see from the images, making fries at home and turning them into Poutine is a no brainer. One big killer app for successful and faster cooked pan-fried or roasted potatoes I’ve been using for years: boiling potatoes in the water for exactly 4 minutes uncovered (for the rustic chunks), 3 minutes for French cuts, 2 minutes for shoestrings; draining them and shaking carefully with canola or sunflower oil before pan-frying or roasting. Always delivers the best results! Another good tip: always use baking potatoes, such as Idaho or Yukon for fries or roasted potatoes; they are the highest in starch and therefore deliver the best results for the crispy on top, light and fluffy inside fries.
OK, this little fresh oregano leaf might be the only healthy thing on the plate, but Poutine takes no prisoners: there won’t be a drop left within a few minutes. And here is a fun fact: no matter how full of salt and fat Poutine is, Monsieur Putin is still much more dangerous.
There are many ways to enjoy Poutine at home or elsewhere in Montreal or Quebec in general.
Image via Wikimedia
 Here are my 10 WAYS TO ENJOY POUTINE in Montreal, or Quebec in general.
1. Go to one of the Poutine specialized placesserving the authentic Poutine, like La Banquise, Poutineville, Smoke’s Poutinerie in Montreal or Chez Ashton in Quebec City.
2. Upscale yourself to one of those haute Poutine places like Au Pied de Cochon or Garde Manger.

3. Go North for the world’s best poutine experience at  the hidden gem, little bistro Chez Perron in the Saint-Prime town in Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, where they top their poutine with the mountain of their own produced squeaky cheese and lace it with variety of savory gravies at Fromagerie Perron poutine buffet.

4. If in a hurry and/or on a strict budget, try no frills places like La Belle Province, Valentine or similar local fast-food corners for a soggy to my taste, but an acceptable alternative.When desperate, pressed with time or transport constraints, try the convenience store (depanneur), McDonald or Burger King variety for an ersatz of Poutine.
5. Buy some ready-made French fries, curd cheese and gravy and assemble the dish yourself at home for a quick TV dinner. 
6. DIY your own Poutine at home from scratch(see the above paragraphs).
7. In winter or fall (and for weird people like me), enjoy the Poutine served in the movie theater in the comfort of the darkness, big screen and loud noises. Don’t take me wrong though, I would never have it offered in a blind restaurant for the fear of any organic extra added to the dish (roaches, rodents, spit, etc.) no matter how attractive the idea of enhancing your senses in the dark is.
8. My summertime favorite: hit the road and explore the casse-croûtes spots in Quebec countryside, the real place of Poutine origin. 
Go North, South or East of Montreal during summer and stop here and there at the tiny casse-croûtes along the road while enjoying the breathtaking landscapes, farms, and nature. For me it’s like time traveling to a long forgotten past and going to the places that were just called a ‘Bar’ or a ‘Restaurant’, like these ones, so locals or hungry travelers can navigate themselves in with ease.
French workers having casse-croûte lunch via Wikimedia

In case you don’t know what the casse-croûtes is, the word itself in French literally means breaking the crust or (in some dictionaries) a crust-cracker tool used to crush the crust of bread for (here goes an interesting trivia) the old people who would have lost their teeth. Eventually, around the end of the 18th century, the casse-croûte began to signify a quick lunch the workers or travelers had and generally started to represent a simple meal or a sandwich. In Quebec, this French term got used to signify the fast food places around 50-s and coincided with the Poutine creation.

9. Enjoy the Poutine take out from one of the above places in the great outdoors, like on a picnic in the park, fishing or biking trip. 
10. Finally, my all-time favorite – the CAMPSITE POUTINE! What a wonderful experience – nobody can pass on it. After a long day of hiking in a murky deep forest, there is nothing better than sitting around the fire telling stories and making Poutine with friends.
Once you heat those charcoals and put the frying pan on with a bunch of sizzling potatoes, the whole process becomes a life of a party. The wood coal fire infuses the fries with that one of a kind smokiness you can especially appreciate in the fresh and cool forest air. Use the store-bought frozen fries or the above described technique for making fries from scratch.  
Nothing is left in the bowls no matter how hard you try to leave some – the ooey-gooey camping Poutine will conquer your heart fast and easy. For some reason it never gives me the heartburn either, even the one made with store-bought fries and canned gravy (non-perishables are always better for the camping trips). And did I mention to you that it’s gluten free? Awesome…
Wow, that’s a longest post I’ve written so far – thank you for your patience and I hope you will find some of the above useful and practical.
Lots of sunshine and happy long week-end celebration, cooking, hiking, fishing and paddling to all the lucky campers and others!
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One year ago: La Vie En Rose Moment;
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CAMPSITE POUTINE (which you can also make at home)
For 2 people (for more, increase the amount accordingly)
Ingredients:
2 big Idaho or Yukon potatoes cut in rustic chunks, parboiled, or store-bought frozen
½ cup (3.5 oz or 100g) curd (or other cubed) cheese
2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
Pinch of dried rosemary
For Gravy: use the store bought canned Poutine Gravy, or DIY (follows)
1 cup organic beef stock (or re-constituted beef stock from powder for the fast version)
1 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tbsp flour (or corn meal for gluten free version)
1 tsp Worcester sauce
Instructions:
Parboil the potatoes for 4 minutes uncovered (skip this step if using frozen potatoes). Drain the potatoes, add 2 tablespoons of oil, pinch of dried rosemary and give it a gentle shake to cover the potatoes with oil evenly.
While potatoes are boiling, prepare the gravy by mixing butter and flour (or corn meal) in a hot saucepan and whisking in the stock and Worcester sauce 2 minutes on a low-heat until it thickens.
Keep hot.
Prepare the grill for a high heat or the skillet for the stove high heat.
Prepare the curd or other cheese and set aside.
Heat oil in a large cast iron camping skillet set directly on grate. Add potatoes. Cook turning carefully until browned, for about 7-10 minutes. Carefully remove the skillet from the grill/stove and distribute the potatoes in two plates. Top with cheese and cover with the hot gravy. Serve immediately with or without your favorite topping.

Cream of Leeks, Potatoes & Foraged Greens

Easy, fast and to the point, this soup is a take on the classic cream of leeks and potatoes. Sorrel adds a touch of tartness; nettle brings a touch of delicate tanginess and both make an extra nutritious boost to the meal. Creamy and hearty (without a cream), this light starter is an excellent spring tonic. And if you have no foraged greens, no biggie: use spinach or parsley or both instead for equally delicious and nutritious result. The cream of leeks, potatoes and foraged greens goes very well with more flavor-complex crunchy quesadillas, like the ones with a smoked salmon, or goat cheese, olive oil dried tomatoes, both of which add remarkable rich-salty-savory and texture contrast to the soup.  This soup also pairs fantastically with crisp salted cod croquettes such as these wonderful accras de morue bites. OR, bacon, for that matter…

For the first time my monumental yearly battle with weeds in our backyard is turning into something beautiful. Learning to enjoy some of the wild nature’s gifts, I’m totally in Redzepi’s state of mind wandering in the garden of weeds and collecting dandelions, violets, burdock, clover, and other lush green edibles.  Up until recently, the foraging knowledge and skills have all but disappeared from our lives, but now that the foraging trend got back on a horse, it helps to reinstate the nutritional and medicinal importance of the wild plants in our daily regimen. I’m happy about it and so I’m picking the nettles and sorrel like its nobody’s business for my soup of the day.

IMPORTANT: Always wear gloves (to not be stung) and use cutter (not to spoil the tender leaves) when foraging stinging nettle and select the youngest species that have no flowers yet.

Although sorrel has been used in European cuisine for centuries and has been admired by many, from Monet to Julia Child, it is somewhat of an acquired taste because of its lemon sourness, so if you are the beginner, you might wish to start with a smaller sorrel batch in the soup not to overpower the nice and creamy leek-potato background taste. The same with the nettle: although it incorporates very well into an array of soups, its hardening taste is quite particular, so, again, begin with a moderate amount and let the leeks shine through.

Garnish the soup with a little quail egg (eggs work very well with sorrel sourness) and/or chopped chives, parsley or other greens of your choice. Optionally, you can add a dollop of sour cream or cream, or lace your soup with some olive oil. Serve with above suggested quesadillas (see the smoked fish post), home-made crackers, toasted baguette, and/or maybe some crispy bacon on a side or freshly crumbled (my favorite). Enjoy!

What is next on my foraging agenda?  How about dandelion wine? I recently tasted it at the party and got very curious about it. There are so many recipes on the Internet, but my principal question is: is it regular active dry yeast like in Chef Ricardo’s recipe or special wine yeast like in many othersthat we should use?  If any of you, dear readers have some successful experience with dandelion wine making, please let me know. 

That’s about it for my most recent foraging practice and interests. I hope you will find some of use. Cheers!

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CREAM OF LEEKS AND FORAGED GREENS
Ingredients:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 cups or 3 medium-sized leeks (white and light green parts only), washed and sliced
3 cups potatoes (baking kind), peeled and cubed
½ cup or 1 celery stalk, chopped (optional)
8 cups chicken, or vegetable broth, or water
1 bouquet garni (1 thyme spring, 1 bay leaf and few parsley springs tied with kitchen spring) (optional)
1 cup (2 big handfuls) fresh sorrel leaves, stems and tough ribs removed
1 cup (8 oz) fresh nettles or spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chives or parsley for garnish, minced
½ cup crème fraiche or plain Greek yogurt for garnish
Instructions:
Melt the butter in a large pot, add leeks and cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes, celery and chicken stock (or water), bouquet garni, bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add sorrel, nettles or spinach leaves and cook just until wilted for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Puree the soup in batches in blender. Reheat if necessary or serve cool garnished with chives or minced parsley and a dollop of crème fraiche or plain yogurt.