Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Giving Away My Secrets

Okay, I hate to admit this, but there's a part of me that is very much like my ancestors. Senior relatives, to be more precise.

A photo posted by Naomi (@woobiesmum) on

Normally, I love to share my recipes because I know what it's like to taste something so divine and then never be able to have it again because the creator/chef/baker has shuffled off to the great kitchen  in the sky. There are so many things my late husband used to make that I wish I had learned to do, or at least made him write or type out while he was still here.

However, there  is a part of me that knows when I do something really good. And I don't really want to share because I want to be the special person who makes that one special thing. I know that is childish and selfish, but hey, if my eightysomething aunts can be like that, as was my late grandmother, then I can't help it if my genetics creep in every once in a while.

This is one of those recipes. Everyone has a go-to recipe for a tough crowd. Mine is Key Lime Pie. I actually don't like pie. I know, I know...but I don't. I know I make a damn good pie. But as I've said here, time and time again, I love to cook for others. That gives me more pleasure than eating what I've made. Hell, if I've made it, I can make it for myself any time I like.

Whenever I'm feeling like crap, instead of posting a Selfie to get compliments, I just make a Key Lime Pie.

So here is my not-so secret recipe. Because I can't take it with me. And, in spite of all the compliments and ego-boosts I receive when I make it, I'm still single.


Makes 1 – 9” pie
Heat oven to 350F.

1 prepared graham crust

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend together with a pastry blender or fork until all crumbs are moist. Pour into a 9” Pyrex or tin foil pie plate and press the crumbs to the pan, making sure that your crust is at least 1/8” thick all over.  When the crumbs have been pressed and formed, bake the empty shell (no weights required) for at least 7 min in the oven until the crumbs are golden brown but not too dark. Take the shell out to cool while you make the filling.

12 key limes OR 4-5 regular limes to give you 2 tsp. of lime zest and ½ cup freshly-squeezed lime juice.
4 egg yolks
1 – 300 mL tin of condensed milk

If you are using actual key limes, this will be more labour-intensive since it’s harder to zest them, but the flavour is so worth it. To bring more juice out of larger limes, microwave each lime for no more than 10 seconds before cutting and juicing them. Beware of seeds!
Keep your lime zest separate from your juice. Once you have your mise-en-place (zest in one thing, juice in another, opened your tin, and separated the eggs (keep the whites out for the end)), take a large bowl (not gigantic but bigger than medium) and beat your egg yolks to the ribbon stage, when they are light and creamy in colour, and have thickened to the point when you lift the whisk, the egg yolks cascade from the tip like a beautiful yellow ribbon.

(If you are using a machine, use hand beaters. Don’t use a food processor or a stand mixer. You will overbeat the eggs and you’ll curse how difficult it is to clean up this thing. I mix everything by hand because I get a workout.)
Once your egg yolks have reached the ribbon stage, add the entire tin of condensed milk and half of the lime juice (so ¼ cup). Beat ingredients until well-combined. This is not as easy as it looks, but the lime juice helps to cut the condensed milk into the yolks.  Once this mixture is well-blended, add the lime zest and the rest of the juice and mix until just combined. Do NOT overbeat!

Scrape and pour and pour and scrape the mix into the pie shell. Don’t worry if it’s lopsided or has a funny top. The top will smooth out in the baking.
Bake for about 8 minutes and check by wobbling the pan. If the pie wobbles, leave it for no more than four (4) minutes. Do not overbake – it should not take longer than 12 min at 350F to set. Once the centre is no longer wobbling, the pie is done. A teeny bit of wetness is okay but not full on jello-style wobbling like it was when you put it in.  Allow to cool.

There are several ways you can eat your key lime pie.
One is plain, i.e. the way it looks right now.

One is topped with whipped cream (Chantilly icing). If you’re going to do that, then whip the cream in the stand mixer or by hand. Freshly-whipped cream is easier to spread on top of a pie than the stuff you squirt.
The third is meringue. Those egg whites you had from above – make sure they are room temperature, which they should be by the time you finish making and baking your pie. First, throw your oven on at 400, or take out a blow torch. Throw the whites in the stand mixer with 1 Tbsp warm water and ¼ tsp of cream of tartar. Throw the switch to high and let it go until the whites are at the soft peak stage (take the mixer out and the peaks fall into themselves) Then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar, sprinkling it over the egg whites. Continue to whip until egg whites are stiff – when you take the beaters out, the mix should stand like Mt. Everest.  Spread or pipe the egg whites on top of the key lime pie. You can totally torch the pie if you want to freak people out, but first, you may want to bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes or so. Then, when the whites have sort of set, pull it out and blowtorch it, or turn your broiler on and leave the pie under it until the edges of the whites start to turn golden brown.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I'm Back - With Cheese

I’m back on the blog! I’ve neglected this one for too long. And it’s a shame really, because people have asked me for more recipes since I stopped posting than they did before. So I’m going to start posting again, because recipes are in and of themselves creators of stories.
Why this recipe to (re)start with? A lot of people have asked about this risotto. Really, it’s not that difficult. If you can stir a pot, and you know the difference between wet and dry, you can pretty well make risotto. It does require you to stand at a stove for at least 20 – 30 minutes, though. But you’ve probably spent more than that in line for some free item, concert tickets, or to be patted down by security at the ACC. At least you won’t feel nearly as violated.
Making risotto is a sensual experience. You will use your ears, your eyes, your nose (of course), your sense of touch and taste. It’s one of those dishes you must pay attention to, and if you do have ADHD, there’s enough sensory stuff going on to keep you from being distracted. (That’s no joke; my son has ADHD and he could make sense of the risotto AND sing at the same time.)
What makes this slightly different is that I didn’t use parmigiana reggiano. I didn’t even use parmesan. I used…cheddar. Yes. Stop fainting. It’s possible to use cheddar, a good cheddar, in risotto, and not mess it up. It goes with the nuttiness of the shiitakes the way it would on a cheese board with walnuts.
So, without further ado, here you go.

Shiitake Risotto with Aged Cheddar
110g (4 oz) shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced or chopped
2 sprigs green onion, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter, unsalted, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups arborio or carnaroli  or calrose (short-grain) rice
1L stock, preferably unsalted, heated and kept at a simmer (you can use vegetable or chicken stock, but nothing with a heavy flavour like beef stock or asparagus stock)
¼ cup finely grated aged white cheddar (not the big holes in the box grater, and not the fine holes for hard cheese, but the tiny holes that look like minis of the big holes. Or just use a wood plainer or nutmeg grater)
Salt, to taste (optional)
Freshly-ground pepper
Chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley (to taste)
Equipment: large skillet, wooden spoon (for the love of all things holy PLEASE use a wooden spoon), ladle with 1/3 – 1/2 cup bowl, cheese grater, and large eyes (optional)*
* I don’t really measure accurately for this recipe. I eye up the size, and so when I say “large eyes”, I mean an overestimate of the size, not so much that a teaspoon is now six tablespoons, but that one tablespoon is about 1 ½ or maybe even 2 by volume. If you’re scared to use your eye, you can use measuring tools and things will still turn out fine.

First things first: are you using a no-stick skillet or a pro-stick skillet? If you are using non-stick, then you will have to be extra vigilant with your risotto, as you won’t be able to hear the sizzle of the stock for as long a time as you do a pro-stick pan. I used a non-stick pan for this because my largest skillet happens to be non-stick. I find I prefer to use a pro-stick skillet for risotto to keep me on my toes, but it’s up to you.
1.       Make sure your pot with the stock is on a burner near the burner where you will be placing the skillet. Keep the stock at a simmer or scald (steaming with the slightest bubble) once heated. Never use cold stock for a risotto. (Try it, and you’ll see what I mean.)

2.       Heat skillet on medium heat on stove, adding 2Tbsp olive oil and 2Tbsp butter to the pan. When the butter has melted and started to clarify (the milk solids sink to the bottom of the oil) add green onions and stir with wooden spoon to coat. Add chopped mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have absorbed the oil and butter and onions are translucent (about 2 – 4 min).

3.       When oil and butter have been absorbed, add 1Tbsp butter back into the pan. As soon as that butter melts, add all of the rice, and stir to coat the rice in the butter and mix the mushrooms and onions in. When the rice becomes translucent, all of it (this will take about 4 – 5 min of continual stirring), and all of the butter has been absorbed, take a look at your rice. This is what “dry” will look like – no liquid in the bottom of the pan, rice making a slight sizzling sound.

4.       Using your ladle, add 1 ladleful (but no more than ½ cup) of stock to the rice and stir it in. It should sound like liquid hitting a hot pan, sizzle sizzle sizzle, until you start stirring. Make sure your rice absorbs all of the stock. It should appear almost dry again, and you will hear whispers, if anything, from your rice. If there is a little liquid left, keep stirring it in. Do figure 8 stirring. Whatever you have to do, but do not…DO NOT…add more liquid until the liquid you’ve added has been absorbed. That’s the key to risotto.

5.       Once your rice is dry, add another ladle of stock and stir. Add one ladle at a time. Don’t get cocky and add more than I’m telling you to add. You’ll lose control and end up with something that is inedible. Trust me.

6.       So after about the 5th ladleful, just after the liquid has been absorbed – it should take a little longer each time, which means the rice is actually absorbing the liquid, and the pan gets whisper quiet – take a couple grains of rice from the pot with a teeny spoon or fork and bite down. If it’s completely hard, then add another ladleful and keep going. If it’s starting to give, then add a little less than a ladleful of stock. You want the risotto rice to be al dente – not RAW inside, but with a bit of give. At this point, the rice grains should be softish on the outside but a teeny bit crunchy on the inside.

7.       After your next stock addition and absorption, check again. Is your rice getting a little softer in the middle but still tough? Good. Add ¼ to ½ ladleful of stock and stir.

8.       Once your rice is al dente (which means firm in the middle, not raw, not tough), add the last tablespoon of butter and the grated cheese. Turn off the stove, and stir to melt them in. This is something you would NOT do if you use parmesan or reggiano cheese. You need more heat to mix a harder cheese in. You need less heat for a softer cheese.

9.       Once your butter and cheese has been incorporated, taste your dish one last time and add fresh ground pepper to taste. If you need more salt, add a touch more cheese or the tiniest dash of sea salt.

Serve right away. Risotto does not do well if it sits for too long.
So enjoy and let me know how it comes out! Tag me on Instagram and follow me to see what’s going on in my kitchen.