Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Creating & Feasting On Cornmeal Favourites

Harbourfront Empanada Throwdown - An Ecuadorian feast featuring some of the best empanadas you've ever eaten (even after having travelled to South America) is not something that is easily forgotten. For days after attending my friends casual bridal party dinner party (that's a lot of party!), the large and ongoing feast made lovingly by the soon-to-be bride's brother in law Kevin, I still had those mouth-watering, savory veal and potato empanadas on my brain. You can guess that a goofy smile spread across my then drooling face when it was suggested a week later that we check out our favourite Empanada chef, Kevin, battling it out for the top title at the Harbourfront Empanada Throwdown! For $8 you could purchase a sampler plate that allowed you to walk around to all six of the chef stations and taste each empanada that they were serving up, alongside their own salsa. Guests were encouraged to vote on best filling, best pastry, and overall best empanada. 

While my friends and I waited in the long, snaking line, an announcer was going around interviewing those that had already gotten their full empanada plate, asking them which was their favourite. Time and time again we heard people enthusiastically shout into the microphone that "KEVIN IS MY FAVOURITE!" We had no doubt that his oxtail and potato empanadas would knock our socks (er...sandals) off. After finally making our way through the chef stations, we all had a full empanada plate and were ready for tasting! Despite the fact that Kevin's empanada was piping hot, fresh out of the blazing hot oil, I had to bite into his first. I swooned. Perfection. The complex flavours of the filling, mixed with the perfectly crisp and soft cornmeal pastry, dipped into that fresh and spicy salsa had us all cheering for Kevin! Of course we were just as eager to try the other five empanadas, so off we went, making our way through our mini South American feast on a paper plate. I know we're a little biased because we know Kevin personally, but there was no doubt in our minds who the winner should be. Kevin's was miles better than all the others...and you know me, I can be brutally honest when it comes to food. We were shocked to find only a few minutes later, when the winners were announced, that Kevin had only won Best Filling. Were people crazy? Ah well, I guess they just don't know great food...perhaps they should read my blog HAH! Be sure to look into Chanchitos Latin Flavour, by chef Kevin, to cater your next event! I promise you will not be disappointed!
Garlic Polenta with Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus & Cherry Tomatoes & A Poached Egg - With a night in the apartment all to myself this week, I had a hankering to try something new in the kitchen. I always love experimenting in the kitchen when no one is around, so that if I fail miserably, no one will be there to see my tears...and by tears I mean dejected face as I sadly eat my failure. As I always do, I first checked out my fridge to see what I already had on hand so I could avoid a grocery store mission. After jotting down some notes, brainstorming my experimental recipe, I felt confident that I had something interesting in the works. 

With a great playlist on in the background, it felt therapeutic working on this dish. I had prepped everything in advance to avoid any mid-recipe making panic, I was calm, I followed my instincts, I tasted everything along the way, seasoning each and every component to the dish, and by the time everything was ready to be plated, I knew I had a winner! Sure enough, the dish looked pretty damn spectacular on the plate (if I do say so myself), that poached egg bursting with the bright yellow yolk, creating what I refer to as "natures dipping sauce" for the polenta, resting on a bed of slightly crisp prosciutto, hugging crisp Ontario asparagus, wrinkled and charred cherry tomatoes nestled into the creamy polenta, with a scattering of caramelized onions and fresh parsley pesto...come on...just look at that dish! It's bloody beautiful! Not only did the dish look beautiful, the components also tasted beautiful together. I was so incredibly proud of the final product, you can count on this recipe going up on the blog soon! 
Leftover Lovin: Grilled Polenta with Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus, & Lightly Dressed Spinach - The day after my delicious polenta creation, I had a container of leftover garlic polenta, hardened and begging to be grilled up and dressed. Still obsessing over the perfect combination of the roasted prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, I could think of nothing else to sub into the dish. I quickly dressed some fresh spinach with a sweet onion and poppy seed dressing, with my grilled garlic polenta acting as the base for the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and to tie the whole dish together, a small slice of goat cheese, with a dollop of both caramelized onion relish and apricot and jalapeno jelly. With my mom home for dinner that night, she of course got a serving too. Although it wasn't quite as mind-blowing as my dish the previous night, this polenta dish was also pretty damn awesome! It was amazing how that little bit of relish and jelly brought all of the components of the dish together, something my mom was very impressed with. I will definitely be posting this tasty and quick recipe up on my blog soon! Be sure to keep your fridge stocked with versatile relishes, jellies, and other preserves to help you play around and heighten the flavours in the dishes you create in your own kitchen! 

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Listening To:
The Drums - Let's Go Surfing

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