Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

Brian’s cooking is seasonal, inventive and smart, but in no way unapproachable or fussy. When he is coaxed out of the kitchen and starts talking about food, his passion and knowledge are instantly recognizable.

"Chef Brian Henry cooked a series of delicious appetizers for us as we sat around a table in the kitchen". Thanks

Tony Aspler, Wine writer

“Chef Brian Henry puts one hundred percent of his energy into going all the way.”

Birgit Moenke, Editor Stir Media Read More Reviews

Posts Tagged ‘food writer’

Gastronomically yours,

July 11th, 2017

Counter Culture

I remember my dad used to take me to a restaurant as a kid. It was unlike those you see today as you would sit at what was called a lunch counter, decorated with stainless steel backsplashes and vinyl covered stools that spun round and round. We would sit elbow to elbow with people we may or may not have known, but by the end of our meal we often came to know the stranger beside us as all walks of life would gather at the lunch counter.

My favourite memories of the lunch counter were spinning and twisting back and forth while I waited for my soda or malted shake. The soda tasted fresh and vibrant while the shakes had a velvety texture that I have not enjoyed since. Having the option to flavour your soda with a shot of syrup made for some serious flavour experiments which all ended the day I ordered a cherry soda and discovered what my life had been missing. It was sad day indeed when they tore out the lunch counter and replaced it with booth style seating because my cherry soda was tossed aside at the same time.

Thankfully the summer that the lunch counter disappeared a neighborhood gas bar started selling The Pop Shoppe line of gourmet sodas and I could sit curbside enjoying my Cherry Soda once again while listening to the “ding-ding” as cars pulled up for gas. Nothing like the sweet taste of nostalgia.

There are two basic categories that cherries fall into, sour or sweet. Sour cherries are typically cooked and served in pies, tarts or preserves while sweet cherries are consumed raw, juiced or dried. Ontario sweet cherry varieties include Hedelfingen , Vista, Viva, Vega, Vogue, Viscount, Van, Vandelay, Tehranivee and the Bing variety. Other than the Van cherry, all other cherry varieties that begin with the letter V or end with “vee” were developed for Ontario growing conditions at what is now the University of Guelph Research Station in Vineland, Ontario. The Rainier Cherry was developed at Washington State University and are named after Mount Rainier are often referred to as White Cherries as their flesh is creamy yellow which does not stain your fingers and the skin is yellowish-red blush once they’re ripe. Rainier cherries are a cross of the Bing and Van cultivars.

The Ontario cherry season begins in June when we see the arrival of sweet red and black cherries. In July we welcome in the Rainier cherry which will be followed by the smaller sour cherries.

Once picked cherries will not ripen any further, so choose cherries that are plump and firm with flexible green stems. Store them in the refrigerator uncovered in a shallow paper towel–lined container. Keep them dry and discard any crushed cherries as their juice can spoil the fruit around them.

The following recipe for Cherry Cola Cobbler can be made without the cola which can be replaced with milk or water.

 

Cherry Cola Cobbler

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. butter melted

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 cup milk

¼ cup cola

3/4 cup white sugar

3 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup boiling water

1 cup white sugar

 

Method:

Mix the 3/4 cup sugar, butter, flour, salt, baking powder, milk and cola together to form a dough. Place the cherries in the bottom of a 9 inch square pan. Evenly spread the dough over the cherries.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and cornstarch. Stir in boiling water and pour the mixture over the dough and place in a pre-heated oven and bake at 350° F for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Gastronomically yours,

July 11th, 2017

Choosing a wild or tame Strawberry

With summer solstice only a few days away it’s hard not to be excited for the change of season but it will also usher in the local strawberry season and what better way to celebrate the taste of summer than to delve into our local bounty of strawberries.

The wild Woodland Strawberry is native to North America. Its fruits are considerably dwarfed by Ontario cultivated strawberries which are a hybrid of the Woodland strawberry and the European strawberry. Wild strawberries are dainty almost elfin with their conical shape which grow in tight little clusters and have an intense flavor that is fueled by a comparatively higher sugar content with less acidity than cultivated varieties. The wild variety can be seen growing almost everywhere from fields, forests, along streams and even our yards.

Foraging for enough wild strawberries to prepare a modest amount of jam will take about 3-4 hours and another hour or two to hull which will see your harvest shrink by 20% due to the berry to hull size ratio. This is if you do not pop any of these juicy prized morsels in your mouth during this tedious process.

 

Cultivated Ontario strawberries are picked fresh every morning and delivered within a few hours to markets and grocers. These berries are picked only when ripe as they will no longer ripen once harvested which means they are as fresh as you can get and will need to be consumed within a day or two as their thin skin and fragile structure makes them susceptible to quick deterioration.

Comparatively imported berries are usually picked while still green. They are then sprayed with a chemical cocktail that forces their ripening process to occur. This ripening process occurs while the berries are in transport over a couple of days while they cover a distance of often exceeding 4500 kms.  The result is an oversized blood red berry with minimal flavour, a woody texture and often hollow centers.

Farmer’s markets and grocers will soon be gushing with locally grown strawberries as will our forests and field with the wild variety. Whichever berry variety you choose you will be able to preserve their flavor to enjoy year round using the following recipe for

 

Kawartha Strawberry Jam

Ingredients:

3 cups wild strawberries, hulled

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 large lemon, zested and juiced

 

Method:

In a stainless steel or Pyrex saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice and simmer gently over low heat until the sugar is dissolved or about 7-10 minutes.  Add the strawberries and continue cooking the mixture over very low heat. After about 20-30 minutes the mixture will gently begin to boil. Stir the jam mixture every so often with a wooden spoon. After about 30-35 minutes of cooking, perform a gel test by spooning a very small amount of the jam mixture onto a well-chilled plate and letting it sit or better yet set for a while to see if it sets up firm in a jam like consistency.

Once it reaches the desired consistency you may choose to pour the jam off into sterilized mason jars and place them in the refrigerator for immediate use or follow proper canning guidelines for long term storage of our seasonal local food harvest.

Gastronomically yours,

July 11th, 2017

When the Road gets Rocky

The month of June can be a rocky road to navigate as we have spent the last 9 months preoccupied with our daily routines and busy family schedules. Now all of a sudden it appears that all hell is breaking loose with graduations, proms, school events weddings and lots of last minute planning with what to do with ourselves, families and children for the next couple of months. It is no wonder that June 2nd is National Rocky Road Ice Cream Day.

Pinpointing the origins of Rocky Road Ice Cream is indeed a rocky road as the stories are all conflicting with a number of people laying claim to be the creator of this classic flavour of ice cream. One such story claims that the ice cream recipe was created by Dreyer Ice Cream after the Wall Street stock market crash in 1929 in hopes that the new flavour would help put a smile on people’s faces while enduring tough economic times.

Rocky road ice cream is typically known as a chocolate flavored ice cream composed of chocolate ice cream, nuts, and marshmallows. The type of nut used in the recipe also appears to cause more bumps in the road but not as much if we ask the question “What is the difference between Rocky Road and Heavenly Has Ice cream?”, as they appear to be identical in their ingredients other than Heavenly Hash is said to be evocative of the holy trinity of confectionary items chocolate, nuts and marshmallow.

Near the end of the Great Depression, in 1937 Jack and Ila Crowe started Kawartha Dairy which is celebrating its 80 anniversary this year.  Kawartha Dairy is still operated by the same family that started it and is a Canadian company using local ingredients.

 

Maybe we all need to simply relax a bit more and stop for some ice cream once in a while. My wife and children are regulars at Lockside Trading in Young’s Point where they scoop up Kawatha Dairy ice cream which we savour as we wander about Lock 27 on the Trent-Severn Waterway. If you insist on making things more complicated than they need to be, you may want to try making your own Rocky Road – Heavenly Hash ice cream using the following recipe using Kawartha Dairy ingredients the following recipe.

 

 

Heavenly Road Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups 35% cream

1 cup 5% cream

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup roasted pecans, coarsely chopped

¼ cup roasted almonds, coarsely chopped

¼ cup broken pieces of milk chocolate

1 cup miniature marshmallows

Method:

In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir together the condensed milk and cocoa until smooth and slightly thickened. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the creams and vanilla. Place mixture in the refrigerator until cold. Separately combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and place them into the freezer for up to 1 hour.

Pour the cream mixture into the cylinder of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Once the ice cream begins to set and take shape add the chilled nuts, chocolate and marshmallows.

Gastronomically yours,

June 25th, 2017

Butter Chicken Finger Lick’en

Thanks everyone who attended yesterday’s barbecue class at Friendly Fires!

As promised, this post/blog is for you and those who wanted the butter chicken recipe…

 

Chickens are domesticated fowl. It is the most widespread domestic animal with an estimated

global population of more than 25 billion.

It is believed that the chicken was domesticated somewhere in the region of India and Vietnam over 10,000 years ago. They were domesticated from the wild red jungle fowl species that still runs wild throughout most of Southeast Asia.

I tested this week’s recipe using chickens from Crazy Acres Farm located in Indian River. They offer farmgate sales of chicken, turkey and pork.  I’ve divided the recipe into two parts: first we must make Tandoori chicken, then we use the Tandoori chicken to make butter chicken. I recommend making these dishes over two days.  On day one make the Curry in a Hurry chicken but double the recipe so that you can produce the butter chicken on the following day using the left over Curry in a Hurry chicken.

Curry in a Hurry Chicken
Ingredients:
Two – two pound chickens
Two tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp. Curry in a Hurry
2 tbsp. of canola oil
Method:

Rinse the chicken and the body cavity of the chickens with fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Make small incisions in the breast and leg pieces with a sharp knife.
Stir together Curry in a Hurry and oil.
Rub the chicken with the oil mixture and allow the chicken to marinate a couple of hours in the refrigerator.

Roast the chicken in a pre-heated oven at 400 °f or over a charcoal fired bbq, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180°f/85°fc Timing will depend on the size of your birds. For faster cooking time; break down the chicken into smaller pieces, keeping the bones in.

Butter Chicken

Ingredients:

2 cooked Curry in a Hurry Roasted chickens

Two pounds tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

One large cooking onion, coarsely chopped

Two-three tbsp. Minced ginger

Eight cloves of garlic minced

One and one half cups of butter

One tbsp. Sugar

3/4of a cup of heavy cream

One tsp. Curry in a Hurry

 

Method:

With the bones left intact cut the chickens into pieces and reserve. In a medium to large size sauce pot combine the whole spices with the tomatoes, onions, ginger and garlic. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Occasionally stir the mixture and cook it until the tomatoes become soft. Puree the tomatoes into a smooth sauce with an immersion blender. For a very smooth sauce push it through a sieve.  Return the sauce to the stove. Stir in the butter and sugar. Let the sauce simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Next add the chicken pieces and Curry in a Hurry. Let the chicken heat through and finish it by stirring in the cream. Serve over rice.

Gastronomically yours,

March 26th, 2017

Egg-zactley!!
I remember watching Rocky Balboa drink raw eggs while training for his big fight. If Rocky only knew that humans can only absorb about 50% of the protein in raw eggs, whereas the proteins in a cooked egg have a 90% bio-availability he may have had this scene deleted from the movie.

Eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients used in the kitchen. We commonly use eggs from chickens but duck, and goose eggs, are frequently used around the world by many cultures. Quail eggs are considered a delicacy and are commonly used in Japanese preparations where they may be served raw or cooked in sushi. Colombian’s enjoy quail eggs as a topping on hot dogs and hamburgers. Although wild birds’ eggs are edible they are often protected by laws which prohibit collecting or selling them.

Chicken eggs intended for human consumption are unfertilized as laying hens are usually kept without roosters. Fertilized eggs can be consumed as refrigeration prohibits cellular growth delaying the development of the embryo. Egg shell color is determined by the chicken. White feathered chickens typically lay white eggs with the brown feathered chickens laying brown eggs and on occasion a bird will lay both colors.

Egg yolks are often used as a binder or emulsifier in the kitchen. The albumen, or egg white, is high in protein but contains little or no fat and can be aerated to a light, fluffy consistency. Beaten egg whites are used in desserts such as meringues and mousse.

Sometimes when boiled eggs are overcooked, a green ring can appear around the yolk. This is caused by iron molecules reacting with sulfur compounds within the egg. It is not always a sign of the eggs being overcooked as it can also occur when there is an abundance of iron in the cooking water. The green ring does not affect the egg’s taste.

Locally farmed eggs are usually at most a week old compared to those from large-scale producers, which could age up to two months in cold storage. Fresh eggs have egg yolks that will stand up more firmly when cracked open onto a surface and often surpass the grade “A” standard in yolk form and shape, as well the yolk exhibits a richer mango colour.

 

Many residents in the City of Peterborough and outlying areas had their feathers ruffled by city council when they proposed to ban the practice of raising chickens within city limits. The debate was passionately defended on all sides but before questions as to why chickens cross roads, and to whether the egg or the chicken came first, common sense and a contemporary approach in thinking prevailed with everything going to the birds. As many urban centers across Canada allow backyard chicken farming I’m nothing short of confused as to why this became an issue let alone a dramatic discussion. I will forgo entering the cats on leashes arena for all culinary intents and purposes.

The best thing that came out of this political process was that it brought more awareness to urban animal husbandry practices and has increased interest in raising chickens in our own yards and empowers you to control what your chickens are eating and their living environment while producing a perfect source of protein. You will also be able to quickly process your kitchen scraps and lawn trimmings into compost which in turn can be used to propagate your own vegetable gardens. For those of you familiar with Disney’s The Lion King, it’s a circle of life thing Simba.

The daily chores involved with raising chickens is about as intensive as having an unleashed cat, feed them every morning, provide them with plenty of fresh water, let them out in the morning and put them in at night. Every couple of months you will need to change the litter or shavings in the floor of the coop and run. A coop is the house that your chickens will live in which and must be designed to protect the birds from the elements and any predators. Position the coop in a shaded area, allowing 1 cubic meter per chicken.  Nesting boxes could be incorporated into your design as it promotes the chickens laying their eggs in the same spot making them easier to find. If you plan on raising your chickens year round you will need to insulate the coop with a venting system for sufficient air circulation. The floor should be covered with shavings which will need to be changed over every couple of months and will provide your gardens with ample free fertilizer. You will need to have a run attached to the coop which is a fenced-in area that will contain the birds and protect them from daytime predators.  Allow 1 sq meter per bird when constructing the run.

Chickens are highly social creatures so you should have a minimum of three birds. Heritage breeds like Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, and Ameraucana are easily tamed and will behave more like pets. They are considered to be excellent layers that will begin laying around 4 – 5 months of age where other breeds may take up to six months before they begin laying.  This selection of breeds provide a colourful variety of birds but an even greater variety in egg shell colours which will shift in hues between white, taupe, brown, blue and green.

Incorporating chickens into your urban farming practices is great way to way to educate your family on how are food cycle works and allows for hands on learning in a practical environment and is enjoyed by all ages. All of your chicken supplies and chicks can be sourced from local farm supply companies. They require advance ordering which allows you to plan and build your coop and run in a timely manner knowing when your chicks will arrive.

Gastronomically yours,

March 12th, 2017

Curly or Flat leaf Parsley

Parsley is as synonymous as salt and pepper when it comes to cooking. Recipes often list parsley as an ingredient but rarely suggest whether one should choose from the flat or curly varieties.

Although the curly variety often shows up on plates as a garnish next to a slice of citrus or artfully rained down on a plate of monochromatic coloured food to make it appear more vibrant it is the flat leaf parsley that is preferred to use in recipes as it has a lively peppery flavour that holds up well when cooked. Flat leaf parsley looks very similar to cilantro so be wary as to which herb you are grabbing in the produce aisle because it seems that these two are often mixed together. For gardeners flat-leaf is easier to grow as it exceptionally forgiving to its exposure to varying amounts of rain and sunshine,

Curly leaf has a milder taste than flat leaf, but its flavor diminishes when heated, so it’s best used raw or added at the last minute to prepared food. Its crinkly makes it ideal to use in uncooked salsas, salad dressings and salads. When properly stored; refrigerated, rolled in paper towel and placed in an air tight bag it will stay fresh longer than flat leaf, and it’s easier to bunch into a ball for chopping.

A recipe may list parsley as an ingredient but it rarely will tell you which one to use but regardless of their differences, curly and flat leaf parsley can be used interchangeably.  I suggest you experiment with the two and you will find a difference in textures that can impact mouth feel which for some can be the deciding factor as to which parsley they prefer.

Most people use only the parsley leaves and discard the stems but these actually have a stronger flavour than the leaves and can be minced up before adding them to soups or stocks.

Both parsley varieties require a very thorough rinsing as they are best grown in a sandy soil, which if not rinsed will quickly dull your knife and your teeth.

Every so often you will also come across parsley root which looks like a parsnip but tastes more like a potato with parsley and is commonly found in European preparations of soups and stews. Parsnip is parsley’s closest relative.

Whether you choose to forage your parsley from your herb garden or the grocery store, try both flat and curly parsley in the following easy to make recipe for pesto which is great on pasta or with fish and chicken.

 

Presto Parsley Pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/2 cup sliced unsalted, roasted almonds

1 tbsp. Italian Scallion

½ cup chopped fresh chives

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan

Method:

Meanwhile, pulse almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add parsley, chives, oil, and Parmesan; process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Without heating the pesto simply toss hot freshly cooked noodles in it before serving.

Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days

Gastronomically yours,

March 7th, 2017

The Humble Onion

One of the most frequently asked questions that I get is “ How do you chop onions without crying?” The answer is simple… don’t chop onions.

Cutting onions can be one of the most miserable of kitchen chores.  With our sniffly noses and tears streaming down our cheeks we can easily see why onions sulphurous characteristics were originally designed to repel animals from eating them.

The reason that our bodies react in this way is that when you cut through an onion, you release the chemical contents of the onion’s cells. These chemicals combine and create a sulphur-based gas known as lachrymator, which is also an ingredient, found in Tear Gas. When this gas comes in contact with your nose and eyes it turns into sulphuric acid causing a burning sensation and naturally we begin to cry.

To minimize the tearful effects of chopping onions and keeping snot out of your food I recommend that you place your onions in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, as this will slow down the movement of the tear inducing sulphur elements. Another effective yet somewhat awkward method is to try cutting the ends off of your onions under cold running water. Then allow them to soak in cold water for half an hour before chopping them. If your going to be cooking your onions right away, you can try placing them in the microwave for 2-3 minutes on high as this helps release the gasses prior to chopping. Ultimately if you do not want to cry over onions you will need to wear a pair of goggles and a nose plug in your kitchen. Be sure to remove your protective clothing before your dinner guests arrive.

Onions appear in almost every cuisine found on the planet. There are over 500 varieties of onions of which only twenty are used for culinary purposes. They are most often used as a sub-ingredient to help build the foundation for great tasting soups and sauces. On occasion we see onions being used as the primary ingredient in recipes like French Onion soup, Onion bread or onion rings. In these recipes we get to enjoy the true sweet flavour that onions have to offer.

You can use any variety of onion to make the recipe below but I prefer to use red Italian onions as it has a striking purplish red color that is preserved well by the red wine vinegar.

Red Onion Marmalade

3 cups of diced red onions

One cup red wine vinegar

One tbsp. Humble Pie , from The Spice Co. naturally…

2  cups granulated sugar

 

 

In a large sized sauce pot combine the diced onions, apple cider, vinegar and sage. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar and return to a boil for two to three minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and allow the mixture to simmer for five more minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow the onion s to cool. Store the onion marmalade in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

You can serve the Red Onion marmalade as a condiment to enhance the flavor of a number of dishes. It makes for a light alternative to horseradish in beef dishes and is delicate enough to be served with poached or smoked salmon. I like to pair it with triple creamed Brie some grapes and a baguette.

Humble Pie, from The Spice Co. naturally

Gastronomically yours,

March 4th, 2017

Do you want learn how to make a great sandwich?

Alright so the following bits of culinary information and recipes are easy to prepare and perfect for the novice cook, which I assure you will make you look like a master.  First and foremost it is important to go easy with the rubs and start off using them lightly as you can always add more, but it is hard to remove them once they are added to your food. If need be go lightly at first… sprinkle them like salt and then add more if your palate says to do so.

We will cover off 3 recipes using a total of 4 products from our retail line of spice rubs under the guise of “The Spice Co.” if you don’t have the products you can order them online at https://www.chefbrianhenry.com/shop  If you choose to  not use our products in the following recipes I cannot attest to what the flavors in these recipes will work out like for you so good luck with that… you’re on your own.

There will be three recipes in total that when combined together create a balance of flavours and textures that will please most any palate. I recently prepared this dish at a fundraising event and it was bestowed with a people’s choice award. The recipe is for a Slow Fire Roasted Kick Ass Cajun Rubbed New York Striploin with One Stinky Onion Marmalade and Mexican Kitchen Cartel Mayo. Although the recipe calls for beef you can use a pork loin or whole chicken. The recipe will yield enough food for 4-6 dinner guests with a bit left over for a sandwich or two the next day.

To make this award winning meal you will need to start a day before you want to eat. It is also important to read the recipes all the way through before making them. This will ensure you have all the necessary ingredients and tools as well as an overview of the tasks that will be required of you to execute.  We first need to start preparing the meal by concocting the accompanying condiments.

First we will prepare the One Stinky Onion Marmalade…

One of the top 10 questions I get is, “how do you chop onions without crying?”

The answer is simple. Don’t chop onions.

Slicing or chopping onions can be among the most miserable of kitchen chores.

Our snotty, running noses and tears streaming down our cheeks make it easy to understand the purpose of onions¹ sulphurous characteristics: to discourage animals from eating them.

Our bodies react to onions as they do because cutting an onion releases chemicals that combine to create lachrymator, a sulphur-based gas, which is also one of the ingredients in tear gas.

This gas reacts to the water in your eyes and nose, producing sulphuric acid, which causes that familiar burning sensation and produces tears and sneezes.

There are plenty of suggestions on-line as to how one may reduce the tearful effects of onions, I suggest that you just suck it up, chop the onions, have a good cry and get over it.

Onions are most often used as a sub-ingredient to help build foundations for great dishes. On occasion, though, they get top billing as the primary ingredient in recipes such as French onion soup, onion bread or onion rings. In these recipes we get to enjoy the true sweet flavour that onions have to offer.

You can use any variety of onion to make the following recipe for One Stinky Onion Marmalade, but I prefer to use Red Italian onions aka: Bermuda Onions, with their striking colour preserved by the red-wine vinegar.

Serve One Stinky Onion Marmalade as a condiment. It makes for a light alternative to horseradish in beef dishes, and is delicate enough to be served with poached or smoked salmon.

One Stinky Onion Marmalade

Ingredients:

2 cups of diced red onions

1-cup red wine vinegar

2-3 cups granulated white sugar

1 tsp. “Humble Pie” Spice Blend, from The Spice Co. (optional)

Method:

In a large saucepot, combine diced onions, apple cider, vinegar and sage. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar and return to a boil for two to three minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow the onion s to cool. Store the onion marmalade in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

Alright so the next recipe is a bit easier to pull off….

Mexican kitchen Cartel Mayo

Ingredients:

1-2 cups of mayo, the full fat kind

1 – 2 tbsp. “Mexican Kitchen Cartel” Spice Blend, from “The Spice Co.”

Season with to taste with” Chef Salt”, from “The Spice Co.”

Method:

Stir ingredients together until evenly incorporated. Cover and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator so that the flavours have time to develop. Give it a taste the next day and up the amount of “Mexican Kitchen Cartel” Spice Blend if you want to give it more kick.

The final stage of this recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare and about 3 hours to cook so think about it and plan on when dinner will be.

Slow Fire Roasted Kick Ass Cajun Rubbed New York Striploin

Ingredients:

5lb beef roast like Ny Strip, Prime rib, or pork loin roast, or whole chicken

3 tbsp. “Kick Ass Cajun” Spice Blend, from”The Spice Co.”

3 tbsp. brown sugar

¼ cup apple juice

Method:

Stir together the “Kick Ass Cajun”, brown sugar and apple juice in a non-reactive bowl. Thoroughly rub the spice and sugar mixture all over the roast or birds. For best results cook the roast on a charcoal or wood-fired barbeque at 275 °f for 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. If you do not have access to a barbeque roast the meat in a roasting pan with a wire roasting rack. Use a meat thermometer / probe to check the internal temperature of the meat. For beef or pork you will want to reach an internal temperature of 135 °f – 140 °f for med-rare. Chicken will need to go a bit higher to 170 °f internal temperature.

To serve slice your steak, pork or chicken in thin slices, like a 1/8th of an inch thick. Pile the slices up on a tossed salad, rice or your favourite sandwich bread. Top the meat with a generous dollop of the One Stinky Onion Marmalade and drizzle a tablespoon or so of the “Mexican Kitchen Cartel” Mayo on top of everything and get to eating.

You can like both The Spice Co. and Chef Brian Henry Private Chef Services on Facebook, write a review or follow us on Twitter, Instagram, G+ and bunch of other ones too

 

 

 

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

February 27th, 2017

Cabbage Curds

The cabbage family is a diverse group of vegetables whose members include Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. Cauliflower is a variety of the common cabbage that has begun to flower but stop growing at the bud stage. In the 17th century these budding growths were observed as a freak occurrence in wild cabbage, but through selective breeding these plants evolved by the 18th century into what we know them as today.
Culinary historians are uncertain in knowing the regional origins of the cauliflower. It’s modern day name comes from the Latin “caulis” meaning stalk and “floris” for flower and is believed to have been introduced to Europe by Arabs after the fall of the Roman Empire however it was referred to as Cyprus cabbage in France and opens arguments that support it’s Cypriotic origins which predates the Roman Empire.

We do know that cauliflower is a large flower-like growth that is comprised of numerous florets that grow on the ends of a maze of stalks nestled in a base of leaves. We often refer to the floret portion of cauliflower as the head as in a “head of cauliflower” but it is properly referred to as the curd.


North Americans typically discard the stems, core and leaves and eat only the florets in raw, steamed or boiled preparations. Although this may seem like a practical approach in preparing cauliflower it is wasteful as the entire plant other than its roots are edible. The stems and core have a slightly stronger taste compared to the flowers but they contain a significantly higher concentration of nutrients such as vitamin C and iron.
Cauliflower is most commonly recognized as a bright white bulbous vegetable with purple or green highlights with light green leaves, but it is also available in green or purple varieties similar to its cabbage parent plants.
When shopping for cauliflower look for tightly formed curds with small florets that are vibrant in color without spots or discoloration. The leaves should be crisp and green, and are a sure sign to tell how fresh the curd is as the leaves begin to wilt and yellow within a couple of days after they have been harvested. Store your cauliflower in the refrigerator tightly wrapped in plastic or in a sealed container for up to 5 days.


I suggest cooking the white variety with a bit of lemon juice or milk in a non-reactivate metal pot to prevent the cauliflower from discoloration during the cooking process. The green and purple varieties should be cooked without acid but be advised that the purple cauliflower will turn green when cooked. Once cooked store cauliflower in your refrigerator for up to 2 days.
I encourage you to try eating the whole curd in the following recipe which can be prepared on your barbecue or in a Dutch Oven.

Curry roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:
One whole cauliflower

2 tbsp. melted butter

2 tbsp. Cooking oil

Juice of one lemon

1-2 tbsp. Curry in a Hurry

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

2 tbsp. chopped green onion
Method:
Trim the cauliflower curd of its leaves and cut a large X into the bottom of the stem so that its core will cook more quickly. In a large stainless steel bowl, stir together the lemon juice, curry powder and oil to format a paste. Place the curd in the bowl and evenly coat it with the seasoned oil. Next transfer the curd core side down onto a large piece of aluminum foil and wrap the foil around it so that the foil bunches up around the top of the curd. This will allow the cauliflower to cook inside the foil without dripping out any of the oil. Cook the cauliflower in a preheated oven or barbecue for 30 minutes at 400f. Let the foil cool before un-wrapping the curd. Season with salt and pepper and serve whole or cut into wedges. Yogurt makes for a great topping for this dish.

Gastronomically yours,

February 19th, 2017

A DIY approach to Maple Syrup

When the nights are below freezing and the days are mild you can be sure of some things, like the coming of spring, the deadline for filing your tax returns and a new season of local harvesting. This seasonal change in the weather makes the sap flow and represents the region’s premier crop harvest of Maple Syrup.

Tapped Sugar Maple producing sap for maple syrup

It usually takes about forty years before a Sugar Maple will reach the recommended tappable size of being 10 inches in diameter. The tap hole is usually placed about waist high on the tree, and 3 to 4” from any previous taps. It is bored 3″ into the sapwood. Larger trees may take numerous taps. For every additional 8″ in diameter another tap hole may be added. A tree 26″ in diameter could have up to three taps. I’ve been told that trees with lots of branches are better producers than those trees with smaller tops. During the 4-6 week syrup season, a single tap hole can yield up to ten gallons of sap or about one quart of maple syrup.

After tapping the tree a metal spout called a spile is tapped snugly into the hole, and a bucket is hung from a hook on the spout. A cover is put on the bucket to keep out rain, snow, and debris. If a plastic tubing system is used to collect the sap, a plastic spout is tapped into the hole and is then connected to a network of tubes that creates a pipeline system.

When all of the trees have been tapped, the syrup producer is ready for the “first run,” this is when the sap first starts to flow. Sap flow requires freezing nights and warm days. These must alternate and be in a long enough series to allow the sap to move through the trees. Prolonged periods of either below freezing temperatures or days without freezing nights will stop the sap flow.

Maple sap comes from the tree as a clear, slightly sweet liquid that is approximately 98% water and 2% sugar. When the syrup is finished these ratios change to 33% water and 67% sugar.

When the bucket collection method is used, a sap-gathering tank is mounted on a sled or a wagon that is moved through the sugar bush as the sap is gathered. Tractors are most regularly used, but sometimes teams of horses pull the sleds or wagons. Workers using large gathering pails collect the sap from each tree. These pails are dumped into the gathering tank, which is then taken to a large sap storage tank at the sugarhouse, where it will be boiled down into maple syrup. If the tubing system is being used, the sap drips from the tap hole into a section of tubing. This tubing eventually connects into a larger pipeline called a “mainline.” The mainline carries the sap downhill to a sap storage tank either at the sugarhouse, or at a low spot where it can be collected easily and transported to the sugarhouse.

Maple syrup is traditionally made in a building called a sugarhouse or sugar shack. This name comes from the time when most sap was actually turned into sugar. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s when the drastic price reduction of cane sugar caused maple sugar sales to drop resulting in the production of the more profitable maple syrup.

Each sugarhouse contains an evaporator that is used to boil down the sap into syrup. Evaporators are made up of one or more flat pans, which sit on a type of firebox. Wood or oil, and sometimes gas is burned at the front end, and the flames are drawn along the underside of the pan, heating and boiling the sap as it travels towards the back of the pan. It takes about one cord of wood or sixty gallons of oil to boil down 800 gallons of sap into syrup. Sugarhouses have a vent on their roofs, a cupola, which is opened to allow the steam of the boiling syrup to escape the building. Steam rising from the cupola is a signal that maple syrup season is under way.

An evaporator pan is divided into partitions, so that the sap is continuously flowing through the pan. Fresh sap enters at the back of the pan, where a float valve keeps the sap about an inch deep. As the sap boils the liquid becomes sweeter, and begins to move towards the front of the pan, traveling through the partitions and more fresh sap is allowed into the rear of the pan.

The syrup maker concentrates their attention to the front of the evaporator where the boiling sap is turning a golden colour as it approaches being maple syrup. The temperature of this boiling liquid must be checked regularly for when it reaches 7.5 °f above the boiling point of water, it has reached the proper density and has become maple syrup.

At this stage a valve on the front of the pan is opened and some of the finished boiling syrup is drawn off the pan and is filtered. After filtering, the syrup is bottled and is ready for a fresh pile of warm pancakes.

Last year I spent $200 on equipment and $60 on propane and was able to produce over 4-gallons of my own maple syrup. Considering that a gallon of syrup costs around $60 this is a very economical approach to enjoying maple syrup. The amount of work involved in making these 4-gallons was rather shocking and makes purchasing locally produced syrup seem like a bargain at $60 a gallon.

 

Homemade Maple Syrup

If you have a few sugar maple trees, you can make your own maple syrup. I strongly recommend not boiling sap inside your house.

You will need the following

Cordless drill with a 7/16” bit

Spigots and metal or plastic pails with lids. Felt syrup filter. Available at TSC stores

Large plastic pails for storing freshly gathered sap

Outdoor cooker with pot available at hardware stores

Full propane tank and a back up tank

Candy thermometer.

Clean glass jars that will seal for storing your syrup

 

How to make your own syrup

Be sure your trees are sugar maples

Drill a 7/16″ hole 3″ deep at waist height into unblemished bark. Drive the spigot in so that it is tight and cannot be pulled out by hand, but don’t over do it and split the tree. Hang your bucket on the hook of the spout. Be sure to cover the bucket with a lid.

Once the sap has started to run and you have enough in your buckets to fill your boiling pot two-thirds full, you are ready to fire up the burner. Do not overfill your pot, as it will boil over. As the water evaporates, add more sap to the pot. Do not have less than an inch of liquid in the pot as it may burn. You can add cold sap right into the boiling sap. It will take a lot of boiling to get it to become syrup. Remember that 40 gallons of sap make one gallon of maple syrup. Do not leave an accumulation of sap in the collecting buckets especially in warm weather, as the sap will sour. Keep the sap as cold as possible and boil it as soon as you can. Finished maple syrup will be 7.5 °f. above the temperature of boiling water at your elevation, check this with your candy thermometer. I like to use a hydrometer to tell me when my syrup is done. Proper syrup will weigh at least 11 pounds per gallon. Do not go beyond 11 1/4 pounds per gallon or it may form crystals in the bottom of the storage container.

Pour finished hot syrup through a felt syrup filter or strainer. Sediment will settle to the bottom of the jars and clearer syrup may be carefully poured off the top. I leave the sediment in my syrup, as it is a concentration of calcium and other minerals.

Pour the hot syrup into the clean, sterile canning jars and seal. Fill them full so that very little air will be in the jar. If laid on their side while cooling a better seal will result. Store syrup in a cool place. The freezer is ideal and properly prepared syrup will not freeze and a poor seal will not be as important when stored in a freezer.

If proper taping procedures are followed, tapping will not endanger the health and vitality of your trees as a healthy sugar maple can provide sap every year for a hundred years or more.