Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Rainy Days Are Cooking Days

Pork Tonkatsu with Watermelon & Tomato Salad - Friday nights always seem to be a mad rush, trying to get myself out of work at a decent time, looking presentable, with enough outfit changes to last me the weekend, and a 45-minutes commute to my boyfriend Chris' condo. If it's a Friday where Chris and I are having dinner together, it's even more of a rush so that we aren't totally exhausted by the time I get there and resolve to make something incredibly simple and not all that exciting. This week I seemed to be running way past schedule and didn't get to Chris' until much later than anticipated. I spent my 45-min commute with my stomach growling, worrying that because of the late time, we would be in for another simple sausage and bun dinner (which, don't get me wrong is delicious, but by the time September kicks in, I've certainly had my fill of enough sausage and bun dinners).

I arrived at Chris' tired, hungry, and grumpy about the lack of possibilities for dinner. On my commute I had seen a stunning, colourful photo of the most delicious-looking watermelon salad, and was unable to get that sweet and savoury salad out of my mind. I knew that no matter what we had for dinner, I would be disappointed, because all I wanted was that watermelon salad. I guess when you've been dating someone for long enough, you begin to read each others minds a little bit. Chris, who was able to get to St. Lawrence Market before close, had picked up all the ingredients required to make panko-encrusted pork chops (or Pork Tonkatsu) and...wait for it...WATERMELON SALAD! I swear I fell in love with him 10x more when he told me that! With Chris on pork chop duty, and myself on watermelon salad duty we quickly whipped up Bon App├ętit's recipe for Pork Tonkatsu and Watermelon and Tomato salad, altering it ever so slightly by adding a bit more lemon juice to the dijon-citrus vinaigrette as well as some salty feta cheese. Our meal was so delicious, with the bright and fresh watermelon salad complimenting the rich pork chops perfectly. I couldn't stop smiling! I will most definitely be making this meal again...and soon!

Teamwork Breakfast - My favourite homemade meals are the ones that are created as a team. It seems you can always taste the love in a meal all the more when you know that people had to work together to create it. To start our weekend off right, myself, Chris, and his roommate Adam decided to collaborate on a teamwork breakfast, with Adam making his infamous spiced hash browns, Chris making his favourite breakfast items grits and pea meal bacon, and myself on egg duty. Our breakfast was gluttonous and outrageously delicious. It kept us full and satisfied all day long, and was definitely one that will go down in the books as one of our best! 
Homemade Fresh Pasta - There's something about a gloomy and grey rainy day that just screams "cooking day" to me. This past weekend, on the gloomiest of Saturdays, while devouring our massive 'teamwork' breakfast, Chris and I decided that a rainy day was the perfect day to take on a new cooking challenge together. We had been discussing perfecting homemade fresh pasta for weeks now, and with the sun hiding behind the clouds, a very wet balcony, and limited movies at the nearby cheapy Rainbow Cinema, we could think of no better time to take on the challenge. I have made homemade pasta a number of times before, but I was never quite satisfied with the the overall result. Always just a bit off in the texture department, I have always dreamt of creating those perfect, silky, al dente noodles that I have swooned over at my favourite Italian restaurants. Apparently having an Italian cooking partner in the kitchen was all I needed to finally create my dream pasta! After a quick phone call to his pro-pasta-making parents, and a trip to St. Lawrence for the essential tippo "00" flour (a finely sifted flour often used for pasta and pizza dough) we were set to begin our all-day pasta-making adventure! Chris was an absolute natural, taking control of the pasta making, while I took on the challenge of making a near perfect bolognese sauce (which is it bolognese or ragu? Jamie Oliver calls it ragu). The pasta turned out absolutely perfect. The texture was spot on, just like the best critically acclaimed Italian restaurants in the city! I felt so proud of our final results, and couldn't contain my excitement over the thought of future pasta-making days together! 
Homemade Bolognese - To go with our perfect homemade pasta, we needed a rich and flavourful sauce to bath our noodles in. After a bit of bolognese/ragu research, we came up with a recipe that combined Jamie Oliver's recipe for ragu, with Eataly NY's recipe for Butchers Ragu. Our recipe featured lean ground beef, ground veal, and smoked pancetta, as well as Chris' roommates newly-made homemade fresh tomato sauce. After getting all of my ingredients in the pot, it was ready to simmer on the stove for at least an hour and a half to enhance the flavours and reduce. After 45-minutes of simmering on the stove, I began to panic. The sauce wasn't reducing at all and was extremely watery. I feared I had added just a bit too much tomato sauce, which was a bit on the watery side to begin with. I was kicking myself over potentially ruining our pasta night, and knew that I had to do everything I could think of to rescue my sauce. The first step was to transfer the sauce from the large stock pot it was cooking in to a wide and shallow saucepan to allow more surface area of the sauce to cook off. I added the sauce to the new pan a bit at a time, at medium-high heat, allowing it to cook off a bit each time before adding another ladle full. I kept the heat at medium to medium-high to encourage it to reduce as much as possible. I also received a tip to go against every instinct in my body to stir the sauce, and just let it sit. About 45-minutes later my sauce was, if you can believe it, a little too reduced! To loosen it back up a bit, I added a splash of red wine, which also enhanced all those delicious savoury flavours in the sauce. Finally, after 9PM, both our pasta and our sauce were ready for tasting! As I had mentioned, Chris' pasta noodles were perfection, with my bolognese just a touch under perfect. The problem? The smoked pancetta. I absolutely loved the pancetta flavour in the sauce, but we all found that the smoked pancetta was a little too overpowering for our liking. Next time I would do either all regular pancetta, or a combo of half smoked, half regular. I would also add a touch of red pepper flakes to add just a bit of heat to the tongue. I was so proud of my rich and comforting bolognese sauce, I think this just may become one of my signatures that I will be making into old age!

On My Mind:
Check out this article from the Globe & Mail about the growing influence of foodies and the publics interest in food and its culture.

Check out the fourth issue of the new online magazine deliberateLIFE, the lifestyle guide for impactful living.

Nine questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask.

This coming Thursday come out to 6 Degrees for an evening of love and support for my old high school friend Robyn. For Robyn, With Love is an event to raise funds and awareness for a beautiful girl fighting a rare and aggressive form of cancer called Angiosarcoma. Please take a moment to read about Robyn and her battle, and give in any way you can! Hope to see you at the event!

 me on Twitter!
Like me on Facebook!
Follow me on Instagram!
Follow me on Pinterest!

Listening To
Arcade Fire - Reflektor

No comments: