Thursday, October 10, 2013

Weekly Roundup - A Big Week For Comfort Food

Big Crow Brunch - My new trick to getting into the most buzzed about restaurants in our growing foodie city is to be ahead of the game and go before the buzz has truly kicked in! This trick worked wonders for my boyfriend Chris and I when we checked out Hudson Kitchen on it's fourth night of service for cocktails (grabbing a seat at their bar in no time!), and once again we found success when we checked out Anthony Rose's (unfortunately no relation to myself) barbeque joint Big Crow merely hours after hearing that they had opened for weekend brunch service. After a nice and rare little sleep-in on Saturday morning, Chris and I hopped in the car and headed over to Dupont to see if we could manage to squeeze ourselves in at a table for two. After hearing about the insane long lines for brunch at Rose's main restaurant Rose & Son's, I made sure to call on our way to see if it was even worth trying to get into Big Crow for brunch. The incredibly friendly hostess on the phone (big bonus points for positive attitude!) gave us the go, and told us we wouldn't have trouble if we were on our way. As expected, Rose & Son's was buzzing, with the doorway filled up with a line of eager customers hungry for brunch. We walked right on past Rose & Son's (even though I need to go there for brunch as well!) and headed on back to the covered patio of Big Crow where we were lucky to find numerous tables empty and waiting for us! I guess most people didn't know that they had opened for brunch yet, and Chris and I were once again ahead of the game! 

What drew me to Big Crow for brunch other than the Rose name (not because I share the name, but because Chef Anthony Rose has made such a positive name for himself in Toronto) was the menu. Each and every dish sounded like it was out of my fantasy brunch list, with classic breakfast comfort foods given a unique twist. Warning, if you are looking for your basic eggs and toast, don't come here! This place is for people seeking big flavours and creative combinations. With Chris snapping up the Soft & Sexy Maple & Cheese Grits with Fried Egg & Mushrooms (we can't ever order the same thing!) I went for the equally enticing Pork & Beans with fried egg, cornbread, maple syrup, and chili pepper sauce. I was in comfort food heaven as I dug my spoon into the messy pile of goodness that was promptly served to us. A simple dish can take on a whole new life when made with care and with the right ingredients, and that is exactly how my pork and beans were treated. Of course I had to sneak a bite of Chris' grits, which were just as swoon-worthy as my dish. With great food, a fantastic atmosphere (I felt like I was relaxing at a cottage!), and spot on service, I will definitely be coming back to Big Crow soon to make it through their entire menu! Next on my list to try? Big Crow's Smoked Mozzarella & Brisket Roast with Garlic Bread, Fried Egg, Whiskey Onions, and Mustard. 

Kale Salad - After indulging in just about everything I could get my hands on during my birth-week, it was time to wave the white flag and give my tired and bloated body a rest with some healthy eating. It's no secret that I am a big fan of kale, the dark leafy green with big health appeal, so when it's time to start thinking healthy in the kitchen, I seem to always turn to kale to get me back on track. Because kale sits heavier in the stomach (it doesn't make you feel bloated and gross, just full and satisfied) I have been getting into the habit of eating kale before my evening classes and shifts at work so that I won't be keeling over with heartburn (as I did several days last week) or grumbling with hunger after eating an improper meal beforehand. Kale has the ability to deliver a delicious meal that will give me the energy to take on my class or a serving shift with gusto and last all night long! The salad that I found myself making numerous times this week was a kale salad with a hard boiled egg, multi-coloured cherry tomatoes, avocado, and sautéed onions, in a simple grainy mustard and honey vinaigrette. I love how beautiful and colourful this salad is, with big flavours in every bite. Mix it up real good to allow the avocado to break down and act as a sort of creamy dressing to go along with the homemade vinaigrette. Keep your eyes peeled for the recipe as I will be posting it soon!

Soy & Sesame Kale Chips - My favourite way to eat kale is raw in a salad, but the idea of 'kale chips' had always intrigued me. Make something crispy and salty, and suddenly it tricks your taste buds into thinking your being indulgent. As much as I had wanted to try kale chips, I never really bought the idea of them being all that flavourful. I knew that when I was to try my hand at the healthy chip I would have to add something to it to give it another hit of flavour. It wasn't until I came across a recipe on the lifestyle blog A Cup Of Jo for what she considers to be "the best kale chips" that I was finally convinced to make them. What got me excited about this recipe was the addition of soy sauce and sesame seeds, adding that extra hit of flavour that I was hoping for. These chips were incredibly fast to prepare and turned out to be just the snack I was looking for (you know, the kind of snack that you eat not because you're hungry, but because you're bored) with the soy sauce and sesame seeds keeping me coming back for more and more...but with zero guilt! Kale chips certainly won't be replacing any potato chip cravings that I may have, but they are a great healthy snack to munch on on the regular. 

This Week At Chef School - This week at chef school was hands down the tastiest week as of yet as we learned how to cook the comfort food staple potatoes in a variety of different ways. Although our chef warned us that this week was going to be a tricky one to organize our time and have everything hot, ready, and properly cooked for 'service', it seemed to be the smoothest one for our class...despite a small fire by one student and myself burning my hand on a scorching hot pot handle. On our menu this week was:

Boiled Mini Red Potatoes
The most basic in potato cookery. You must master a perfectly cooked boiled potato before you really know how to properly cook a potato.
French Fries
Perfectly cooked french fries are blanched once in oil at low-heat, drained, & then fried again at a higher heat to create perfect 'crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside' french fries.
Duchesse Potatoes
Boiled Yukon Gold potatoes are riced, seasoned, & piped into rosettes to bake in the oven for a crispy shell & creamy, fluffy filling.
Fondant Potatoes
Peeled & halved Yukon Gold potatoes are 'turned' (pared down to a classic barrel shape) & braised in the oven in a seasoned chicken stock.
Scalloped Potatoes
Thinly sliced potatoes are layered alternately with a seasoned cream sauce, gruyere, parmesan, & salt & pepper & baked in the oven to create a decadent potato casserole.

So after all that potato cooking goodness, what did I learn at school this week?
  • I am never using the salamander ever again! A salamander is a broiler that our chef warned us against, as it gets extremely hot and can quickly add too much 'artificial looking' colour to your product. At five minutes to service, myself and a few other students felt desperate to add some colour to the top of our dishes to present. Our Dushesse potatoes, Fondant Potatoes, and Scallop Potatoes were to be presented with a golden brown colour on top, a colour that my oven didn't seem to want to give to my product. I made a snap decision and (while burning my hand) moved my Fondant Potatoes out of the oven and under the salamander. In the one minute it took for me to run my burn under cold water, I had burnt the top of almost all of my little Fondant Potatoes. Luckily I had two presentable ones to be graded by our chef. Lesson learned, I will never use the salamander again!
  • The perfect french fries are fried twice, once in oil at low heat until about 60% cooked, then once again at high heat for the perfect 'crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside' french fries.
  • Don't place your sliced potatoes for Scallop Potatoes in water until ready to cook. You don't want to rise away the starch in the potato that will act like a glue to hold your casserole together.
  • When making Duchesse Potatoes, you must work fast! You want your potato mixture to be hot while you pipe it so that you get the most beautiful and sturdy rosettes. 
  • The kitchen is not always filled with unpleasant egos! I feel so lucky to be apart of a class filled with such supportive, encouraging, and positive people who seem to always have each others backs. It's a pleasure to share the kitchen with you all!
On My Mind:
This is so stunningly beautiful.

As one of my birthday gifts this year my good friend Rita was kind enough to treat me to see the Mirvish production of Les Misérables. Although I don't see too much theatre these days (bad theatre student!) this show absolutely blew me away thanks to the unbelievably talented cast! Never before have I seen a show with such a strong cast that were able to bring me to tears and chills throughout the entire performance. Thank you so much to Rita for treating me to such a memorable night! 

Interesting article on the racial implications of the hatred of Chris Brown. 

I was a Disney princess girl and I turned out aiiight, but when I have children I will take a cue from this mother who dressed her daughter as five empowering and inspirational women!

Being a server I can totally relate to this article on why everyone should work in "the industry" for at least two years of their life.

Check out this cute and quirky infographic on Beer vs. Wine. Which do you prefer? 

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