If Yan Could Cook. . .

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Addendum: Crepes, Nachos

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We’ve been eating a lot of morning crepes, as described in this earlier entry. The blender pitcher is often full of crepe batter, so I can just pull it out, pop it on the blender for a second, pour out a 1/3 cup into a pan lightly touched with butter, and we have breakfast. Just spread with peanut butter and folded up it’s quite good, or with a sliced banana inside. Strawberries and Nutella is quite decadent:


Because it has become our quick morning food, I have yet to try any more elaborate fillings, like apples and brown sugar and cinnamon, or pears and caramel. Or ice cream. Well, there’s really no excuse for having not tried ice cream.

Edit: another good one is a pancetta scramble. Pieces of panchetta, chopped green onions and minced shallots cook together; add eggs whisked with milk and shredded cheese at the last moment, just as you turn off the heat.


Have a sweet crepe for dessert for a quick two-course meal.


Bruschetta leaves me with a lot of leftover ingredients. One solution is pasta sauce. Another good one is nachos.


On a base layer of nacho chips, top with chopped jalapenos, tomatoes, red onion, olives, basil, and cooked, spiced (cayenne, paprika, cumin, black pepper, salt) ground beef. Add a second layer of chips and a second layer of everything else. Smother the whole mound in as much cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack) as you’ve got. Pop it under the broiler until it’s a greasy, slutty mess. Watch TV and drink beer and pillage.


Written by skimfu

April 23, 2009 at 1:46 am

Posted in Beef, Dessert

Beef Skewers with Spicy Peanut Sauce

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When I had roommates – three apartments ago – one of them came up to me while I was eating some chicken skewers and said, “You made those yourself?!”

“Yes…” I answered, slowly. Something about stringing food on a stick, even the same ingredients of the dullest stir-fry, makes it seem fancy and inaccessible. I’m actually revolving my next party around toothpicks, but that (hopefully) will be a story for another day.

For these skewers, I marinated cubes of steak in soy sauce for half an hour, and then tossed cubed zucchini and red pepper with olive oil and salt.


These I fed onto the skewers, alternating meat and vegetables, changing the ratio as I went along to suit the number remaining the bowls. Don’t put the skewer only through the seeded part of the zucchini or they’ll just fall off as the zucchini softens with cooking. In the picture on the right you can see the discoloration on my left palm, a healing scar. On my way to do a paid medical study on pain, I fell on the last slushy ice of this winter and pierced my hand on something. I don’t know what it was except that it left a very neat, very circular gash. I bound it up with some corner store bandages and did the study anyway. While in an MRI machine, a hot thermode was applied to my leg; if you can at all avoid it, never be in a situation where someone is applying shocks of pain to your body and you have to stay perfectly still. Being in an MRI is like being inside a giant dot-matrix printer – they have that same characteristic, crunching squeal. I pretended that I was a perforated piece of paper, except in horrible pain. Still: for the cash, for the anecdotes, for the writing fodder, for the candy bars, and for science!


The skewers go in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, two jalapeño peppers (one unseeded, one seeded), five gloves of garlic, and one shallot get coarsely chopped and allowed to pick up some color in a hot pan of olive oil. A big hand-sized lump of peanut butter is added and melted in the pan.


The melted peanut butter mixture is poured into the blender with about 1/2 as much soy sauce and a smattering (couple teaspoons?) of sugar. Blend until smooth and pour into serving dishes.


The whole shebang is great with rice or raw cucumber and celery. And adorable feet. They’d look better on my black plates, though. I miss my dishes.

Written by skimfu

March 24, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Beef

This Pedestrian Life: Hip Steak Wraps, Beef-Lentil Soup, Roasted Vegetables, Pulled Pork

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While processing an insane amount of vegetables, alone at home, I listened to Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” for the first (and second and third) time. On the one hand, it irked me to be so cliché. How many teenagers and college students, decades worth, dead and alive, had sat around and had their minds blown by this album? And then it irked me to be having that thought, that pathetic, moronically young, pseudo-nonconformist desire to not be like everyone else, not like what they like, so that what you like can define you. But then it just washed over me: first a smile, a movement, a creeping joy, then a stillness inside. Yes. The music: mind-blowing.

Somebody asked me what I eat on any given weekday, and I’m going to pretend all of you care. I don’t change my Facebook status or use Twitter, so allow me this “hey world, look at the mundane workings of my life!” narcissism.

This month orange juice and peach yogurt have been a permanent fixture in my fridge, along with frozen mangoes, strawberries, grapes, and raspberries. Any combination of the above, with ice, in the blender, sends a cool, flickering sensation through the limbs.

Last week I made a bunch of hip steak wraps to take with me each day. In second year I thought this was a stroke of genius; now I regard anything that has only three major ingredients to be a quick-and-dirty affair. Foodie snobbery infects without warning, and the prognosis is swift and grim. Strips of onion (1/2 inch half-rings) are left to caramelize until inarguably sweet, then stir-fried with strips of hip steak, strips of green pepper, minced garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, oregano, and black pepper. Because of all the sitting-in-ambient-heat time, it’s better to leave the beef considerably rarer than you actually want it. Then roll appropriate portions up in tortillas, let cool, wrap in foil, and then eat them with aggressive messiness in class, dripping onion juices in your lap.

This week’s second-year classic: beef-lentil soup. Half a large yellow onion, chopped small, sweated with minced garlic, one beef bullion cube, one chicken bullion cube, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and pepper; cubes of stewing beef are seared with the mixture. Five medium-small carrots and three large stalks celery, sliced, white-flesh potatoes in large cubes, a can of tomatoes, loads of green lentils (3/4 pound), and enough water that it isn’t stew get tossed in. Even loaded with red chili flakes at the end (which is essential!), it’s a comforting, straightforward soup. Portioned out and frozen for the grab-and-go.

Man, that is an unpalatable brown.

At the same time I was making this soup, last night, I chopped extra celery, onion, carrots, and potatoes, as well as some zucchini in large cubes, tossed it all with oil and coarse Montreal steak spice, and then popped it in the oven in two roasting pans covered in foil. After an hour and a half of being ignored, at 350 degrees F, a weeks’ worth of easy veggie snacks!

This morning, I rubbed a pork shoulder with a dry rub of brown sugar, celery seed, dried cilantro, paprika, cayenne, and oregano. It went into the oven at 200-225 degrees F (my oven is kind of imprecise at such low temperatures) for four hours: one hour uncovered, three hours under foil.

Finely chopped celery, green pepper, and onion were cooked in a few spoonfuls of broth and fat from the roast. To this I added dijon, balsamic vinegar, orange juice, honey, tomato paste, and pepper. Dismayed at how much it tasted like pasta sauce, I also added some pureed chipotle (which I cannot seem to get rid of) at the end. Then it tasted…well, kind of like a meatball sub, but still closer to pulled pork.

roast1 roast22

roast3 roast4

When the pork came out, I tore it apart with tongs and my hands, and drenched in the sauce. So far I’ve eaten it on hallah bread; I imagine it would be good on rice, too.

Written by skimfu

November 9, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Posted in Beef, Pork, Soup

Pot Roast with Vegetables, Cheddar-Brie Mac and Cheese

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This past summer, I would ride my bike to work at six a.m., biking down the center of silent, empty streets, before the sun came out and began roasting people in their clothes. At the same time, there was that early-morning drugged feeling of lugging your body around before it is ready.

I had forgotten that the city sleeps in on weekends. Biking yesterday at nine a.m., I was the only one in the world, with all the crisp October sunlight to myself. If only I had known this sooner. Already the air is cold enough to strip the skin from your hands, leave your mouth raw.

Last week was a saga of sick. Four days in bed, while responsibilities rush and pile against the door like an avalanche; I made and ate a lot of congee. All you do is boil rice in nine or ten times the amount of water you would normally use to cook it (because there is no risk of burning it to the bottom, you don’t have to pay it any attention) until you get a pasty porridge. I use a mixture of regular white rice and extra-glutenous white rice (“sticky”), for better texture. With shrimp, bok-choy, white pepper, and green onions, it is perfect for eating on the couch with a box of tissues and a blanket pulled up to your ears.

This week, my dinner party hiatus ended. I asked people what they wanted – the only answers I got were “bacon” and “pasta”.

When I added the brie into the sauce, my wallet twinged with waste and remorse; when I tasted it, my knees buckled. Friends, if you ever doubt I love you, remember this night: when I tried to make your hearts stop with cream and butter and cheese and bacon.

The roast (inside round) went in the center of a casserole pot. It was surrounded by three carrots, a handful of white-fleshed potatoes, and half a large yellow onion, all chopped into large cubes, as well as a few whole cloves of garlic. This went in the oven at 400 degrees F for twenty minutes, until there were noticeable juices at the bottom. I pulled it out and loaded it with thyme, two bay leaves, a mashed beef bullion cube, and enough white wine and water to cover. On top of that went tinfoil and the lid of the dish, then into the oven at 325 degrees F for another hour. Once it came out, it was drained and carved; the broth I saved for future soupage.

For the mac and cheese, I used a roux of butter (1/2 stick) and white flour, working in about a 1/3 cup of cream. I froze a block of strong white cheddar, grated it with my “micrograter” zester, and added it in, stirring until smooth. I cut the rind off a wedge of brie, broke it up into chunks, and tossed those in too – they melted in smoothly without resistance. I thinned it out with a little wine and water, always stirring.

I dried out three pieces of bread and then ground them in the blender for crumbs. Five strips of bacon were baked in the oven on parchment paper and chopped into bits. The sauce, crumbs, and bacon were stirred into enough hot rigatoni for six people, with chives for garnish.

Edit: Forgive the platings; the food was getting cold.

Written by skimfu

October 6, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Beef, Pasta, Pork

Shepherd’s Moussaka, Apple-Pear Salad with Candied Walnuts

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Talking to a friend who lives in another country, I confessed that I had somewhere between six and nine people coming to dinner the next day, and no idea what to make. He said, “Why not make comfort food?”

My own comfort foods are the last remnants of a culture from which I am a generation and a world removed: a particular brand of ramen noodles, seafood rice porridge, jasmine-scented rice, chrysanthemum tea. But that’s not what he meant, he meant the potatoes-and-gravy-1950s-America ideal that I’m not sure ever existed. Our only evidence seems to be the menus at Denny’s and IHOP, where the ideal has been blown up to gargantuan, sopping proportions.

Photos by Laura D’Alessandro.

I couldn’t decide between shepherd’s pie and moussaka, so I combined my favourite parts of both. Three carrots, a small yellow onion, three gloves of garlic, all finely chopped, got cooked with an unholy mound of ground beef, mixed medium and lean. Near the end of cooking, I added plenty of 35% cooking cream and frozen corn (for a moussaka-like creaminess, rather than gravy). This mixture forms the first layer. I used one casserole dish and one 10″ rectangular cake pan.

For the second layer, I sliced a large eggplant and two medium zucchinis lengthwise. The eggplant slices were heavily salted on both sides, drawing out the bitter juices, and then thoroughly washed. These were tossed in oil and then fried in the wok, though I fantasied about grilling them; there is simply nothing better than lightly fire-charred eggplant and zucchini. I laid them across in a single layer over the beef mixture.

The top layer was mashed potatoes. Because I used the wrong kind of potatoes (I had been warned about this, but never encountered it – use white, not yellow flesh) I had to douse the chopped, boiled potatoes in cream and butter and salt and stock to get a reasonable texture. I still thought it was noticeably gluey and glutenous – it reminded me of my parents’ ruddy obsession with mashed taro root – but my guests claimed they didn’t care, and I have to believe them since they went back for seconds. The whole thing was topped with chives fresh from Phil and Laura’s plant and popped in the oven on broil for ten minutes.

The accompanying salad used my leftover apple-wasabi vinaigrette, romaine and iceberg lettuce, sliced granny smith apple, sliced Bartlett pear, and spicy candied walnuts. I toasted the walnuts, spread in a single layer on a pan lined with parchment paper, for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees F, when they just barely started to show a colour change. In a small pot, I melted one part brown sugar to two parts white sugar and about a tablespoon of water into a dark caramel, adding cinnamon and cayenne pepper at the end. The toasted nuts were tossed with the mixture, and then left to cool and harden on the same piece of parchment (removed from the hot pan).

The chive plant was left in my custody. I want to return it as soon as possible; I am, after all, the girl who killed two cactuses, one of them in such a gruesome fashion that I’m still ashamed of it. It involved an elevator, a vacuum cleaner, and a hand like a pincushion.

Written by skimfu

September 17, 2008 at 10:22 pm

Posted in Beef, Salad

Steak with Chimichurri Sauce and Potato Pancakes

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Tri-tip is a cut of beef that, according to Wikipedia, is a “Santa Maria specialty”; the cow is only cut this way in parts of California and Europe. One of my sisters loves tri-tip. Living in the Bay Area, this cut of beef was just another thing she could get at the grocery store, and she was shocked by this internet-derived factoid.

“Imagine,” my other sister said, “if you had never moved to Santa Clara, you never would have tried it.”

While I was there, my brother-in-law grilled some tri-tip and I have to agree it is the perfect degree of lean and fatty for my tastes. He served it with chimicurri sauce at a barbeque, along with a salad that featured tomatoes picked fresh from his garden. We all sat on their porch in the narcotic California sunlight, washing down satisfying slices of meat with beer and lemonade.

Unfortunately for my friends, I could not bring the sun or the beef home with me. Returning to Montreal was a shock: stylishly dressed, statuesque people, constantly rushing, pushing each other out of the way. I was one of the first people to leave the plane, but flowed almost immediately to the back of the crowd, my skin the dirty colour of a hobo tan.

Once I had regained my east coast jadedness, I had my friends over for dinner, to give them a taste of California. Our cows, of course, chain-smoke and bitch about their rent in French, before being more conventionally butchered.

Photo by Laura D’Alessandro.

As I don’t have a grill, or a barbeque, or a broiler, or even a grill pan, I just placed the salted steaks in a frying pan with a thin layer of butter, flipping once and then finishing in the oven. “French cut” inside round steaks worked well, and (almost) enough meat for six people was about $10.

For the chimichurri sauce, I put a full bunch of fresh parsley, a large clove of garlic, a splash of lemon juice, olive-canola oil, salt, pepper, and dried oregano and basil into the blender. Using dry herbs and both the stems and leaves of the parsley gave a slightly mulchy, fibrous texture that I think would be off-putting to some people, but didn’t bother me or my guests. Being liberal with the oil and restricting yourself to only the leaves of fresh herbs would result in a much creamier, gentler, and more expensive sauce.

For the potato pancake bases (my sister also loves grated-potato pancakes; I suppose this whole meal was more of a homage to her than to California), I peeled and grated six small and medium golden russet potatoes with a box grater. These were drained and pressed out with paper towels as much as possible, and then I added some finely chopped yellow onion, salt, and one egg. I fried patties made up of about 1/3 of a cup of this mixture in oil.

The green beans were plain, just blanched in boiling water.

Even though we ate it in the darkness of a city evening, at a dining table with wine, some crucial element remained the same to me, some taste of sun and sea.

My meals seem to be getting less complicated while my platings get more elaborate. As I already suspected, I may be a lazy chef who tries to compensate with design.

Written by skimfu

September 9, 2008 at 1:28 am

Posted in Beef


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These photos are from last fall, I guess, while still documenting my meals. I’m not clear on why I never published them. Pictured: Lentil soup, “Love” soup, basic stir-fry, jerk burgers, steak with onion/carrot/peppercorn compote.

Written by skimfu

August 10, 2008 at 9:49 am

Posted in Beef, Soup, Vegetarian