Friday, December 31, 2010

Tourtière (Québec Meat Pie)

The past week, I spent my holidays with my brother in Varadero, Cuba. Exploring both the paradise part and the cultural part of Cuba, it was simply an unforgettable and worthwhile experience. Unfortunately, Cuba was cold for 3 days, so beaches were out of the question. The weather did provide us the opportunity to explore towns around Varadero and meet some great locals. I'm amazed how easy you can enter someone's house simply by asking. Before our departure, we brought a pack of 24 2/HB pencils and candies in case we get hussled by the locals. I'm surprised that husslers are not that common around Varadaro, but do watch out once you are in the capital of Cuba, Havana. The moment you get out of the vehicle, they will start to bother you. Prepare to give your stuff away.

Anyhow, this is a brief summary of my trip. It was definitely a well deserved break. I will write one or two posts about Cuba.

Obviously, we can't leave Cuba without buying any rums and Cuban coffee, so we brought back one 1kg of coffee and 4 bottles of rums: one aged 3 years, two 5 years and one 7 years. Expect some recipes involving rums for 2011!

Food bloggers are still writing about their holiday meals, so I guess I'm not too late writing about mine also. Apart from making a successful Yule log, I also wanted to bake our classic Québec meat pie. I never made one before and it was on my to-do list for years. A few days before my departure to Cuba, my friend's parents came to town from Taiwan. This is their first visit to Montreal, what a great opportunity for me to provide them a little taste of Quebec's tradition.

I was searching for a Tourtière recipe and found a really good and convincing one from a recent post on Simple Bites. At first glance, the recipe requires over an hour to cook the ground meat. Usually, when cooking for that long, it becomes blend and hard to chew. This is not the case if you add some water during the cooking process which helps soften the meat. This is standard for all meat pies. An unusual ingredient is rolled oats. I didn't know what was it purposes until I tested it out. It seems that the rolled oats acts as a binder to hold the ground meat intact.

The original recipe is for two pies. I adjusted to make it for one pie and I only had puff pastry available in the fridge. I'm pretty amazed of the final result; the flavors match perfectly to the ones I used to eat. I'm glad that my friend's parents were very satisfied. This recipe is definitely a keeper for next Christmas!

Makes 1 pie
Adapted from Simple Bites
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 1 h 30 mins
Baking Time: 20-25 mins
Printable Recipe


1 1/2 lbs ground pork (and/or ground beef, ground lamb)
3/4 cup cold water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup quick oats (or old-fashioned rolled oats)
2 puff pastry sheets
1 egg, beaten for glaze


1. In a large pot, combine pork and cold water. Bring it to a boil. It should be a bit soupy.

2. Turn heat to medium-low heat. Add onion, celery, bay leaves, thyme, sage, rosemary, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cover and cook for 1 h 15 mins, stir occasionally. If necessary, add a few tbsp of water if mixture dries out.

3. Halfway of the cooking process, season with salt to taste.

4. Stir in quick oats and cook for 1-2 mins. Remove bay leaves and cool until warm.

5. Meanwhile, roll out one puff pastry sheet to line a 8'' x 8'' baking pan and the other puff pastry for the top crust.

6. Preheat oven to 400F.

7. Transfer meat mixture onto the puff pastry and spread it evenly. Brush outer edges with beaten egg.

8. Place top crust and pinch edges to seal. Trim edges and cut a few slits in the top crust to vent the steam. Brush top crust with beaten egg.

9. Bake for 20-25 mins until golden brown. Serve with ketchup.

I wish everyone Happy New Year and all the best wishes for 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Double Chocolate Yule Log - A Success

Christmas is coming soon! What are your Christmas plans? Have you thought of making a Yule log for this Christmas? Remember my last year's Yule log. Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong. The ganache was hard as chocolate and the génoise cracked while I was rolling it. Well it is not happening this year! Like in science, you analyze carefully what went wrong and hope that all goes well the second time. It would be a boring post if I follow my last year's recipe. This year, I'm making a whole new one. I wrote down on paper all possible flavors of frosting, génoise and filling. The goal is to find the best matching flavors and also, the structure should be esthetically eye-catching.

Here is what I came up with. I decided this year to make a chocolate génoise with a vanilla cream filling. Instead of making a chocolate ganache, I chose to make a chocolate frosting. Now that I have all the recipes written down, it is the time to shop at my local supermarket and get all the missing ingredients. While going through the list of necessary ingredients carefully, I noticed that I didn't need to buy any chocolate pellets. All I had to buy is only one carton of whipping cream. As for the rest of the ingredients such as icing sugar and cocoa powder, I have it already in my pantry. That's a money saver! 

You can't believe how proud I was of the finished product when I made it last Sunday. Compared to last year, this is much better. The génoise rolled so perfectly without any cracks and the frosting was smooth, creamy and heavenly. I asked my brother to bring his friends to test out the Yule log and they all went for seconds. I can tell you that my bro never goes for seconds when it comes to desserts. I still had half of the Yule log left so I share the rest at work with whoever that hasn't left for the holidays. I'm glad that everyone enjoyed it, some even invites me to make another Yule log for the Christmas lunch at work last Tuesday. They were complaining that they didn't eat enough to satisfy their sweet tooth. 

Since I had some chocolate frosting and half of carton of whipping cream left in the fridge, I made a second Yule log without any problems. At the Christmas party, when I took out the Yule log, my friends, technicians and supervisor can't believe that the Yule log is homemade and seems like store-bought. Unfortunately, I had to forbid them from getting seconds, even a few of them were nagging me for seconds while I was cutting the Yule log and distributing to people who haven't tried it yet. In total, I shared it to about 20 people including my technicians and my supervisor. Well for the naggers, they scrapped every possible bits of chocolate frosting remaining on the parchment paper. 

If you want to make a Yule log successfully this Christmas, I have written all steps as clear as possible and took a picture of every steps. Hopefully, you don't end up like my last year's attempt. One important key point to remember, once the génoise is ready, immediately roll it once taken out of the oven. Good luck!

Makes 1 Yule log
Génoise adapted from Allrecipes
Preparation Time: 45 mins (génoise) + 10 mins (filling) + 10 mins (frosting)
Baking Time: 12 mins (génoise)
Printable Recipe


Chocolate Génoise
5 eggs, separated
1 cup white sugar, divided
1/2 cup cake flour ( or 7:1 all-purpose flour : cornstarch)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Vanilla Cream Filling
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp icing sugar

Creamy Chocolate Frosting
2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup milk


1. Oil a 15'' x 10'' x 1'' baking pan and line it with wax paper. Grease with butter and coat with flour.

2. In a large bowl, place egg whites, stand for 30 mins at room temperature.

3. In another large bowl, beat egg yolks until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale.

4. In a small bowl, combine and sift flour, cocoa, and salt.

5. Gradually whisk in the dry ingredients into egg yolk mixture until blended. Set aside.

6. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until it starts to foam. Add in cream of tartar and gradually add 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until stiff peaks. As a test, the egg whites should not fall if you invert the bowl.

7. Incorporate 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. 

8. Fold in the remaining egg whites, 1/3 of egg whites at a time until incorporated. 

9. Preheat oven to 350F.

10. Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 12 mins or until it springs back when gently pressed.

11. Meanwhile, prepare a parchment paper and dust with icing sugar.

12. Invert cake to prepared parchment paper, remove wax paper and immediately roll up the cake with the parchment paper, starting from the short side, while it is still hot and pliable. Let it cool.

13. Prepare vanilla cream filling

14. In a large bowl, beat cream until it starts to thick. Add in vanilla and icing sugar. Beat until soft peaks.

15. Unroll cooled cake and spread filling with a spatula spreader. Roll it up again. Set aside. Notice that the cake has no cracks.

16. Prepare the creamy chocolate frosting.

17. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and cocoa powder until creamy.

18. Add in milk and 1/2 cup of icing sugar. Beat until incorporated. 

19. Continue adding 1/2 cup of icing sugar until it reaches a frosting consistency.

20. Make a diagonal slice at both ends of the cake. Place it anywhere on the cake.

21. Frost cake with a spatula. Draw lines to resemble like a tree bark. Use a sieve and sprinkle with icing sugar for a snowy effect.

Et voilà! Not too difficult, right? Let me know how it turns out.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chilled Watermelon and Feta Soup

What is your reaction towards combining watermelon and feta cheese combo? When my labmate was mentioning that he was going to make watermelon feta soup for the Red & White cooking theme, I was unsure if the saltiness of the feta cheese would match the taste of the sweet juicy melon. He did convince me that it is the best soup he had ever tasted so approve it. When I think of it, the watermelon-feta combo is also employed in Greek salad so the soup should not be too bad after at all.

It might be a bad time to post this recipe as there are several feets of snow outside right now and Christmas is arriving soon. If you want to feel like summer again, this is for you. It is cold and refreshing with a fresh herbal taste of mint and the salty feta cheese balances well with the watermelon. The recipe is adapted from Epicurious, but we did not add any sugar as our watermelons are already sweet.

Serves 8
Preparation Time: 20 mins
Printable Recipe


6 lbs (9 cups) red watermelon, diced and seeded
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup Riesling wine (or any lightly sweet white wine)
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1/4 cup sparkling water
Crumbled feta cheese


1. In a blender, combine 8 cups watermelon, mint, lemon juice, wine, sparkling water. Blend until smooth.

2. Strain soup and divide into soup bowls. Top each bowl with reserved watermelon and a teaspoonful of feta cheese. Serve.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My 2nd Blogiversary - Gourmet Double Down Burger

Today is the 2nd blogiversary of Random Cuisine. As usual, I tend to think of big project to realize for memorable days like this one. For the past month, I thought long and hard of what I should be doing for this blogiversary. I didn't want to follow tradition and make a cake again like the one on my 1st blogiversary. A weird idea occurs to me when some of my friends at work were mentioning about the Epic Meal Time on Youtube. Epic Meal Time is a group of culinary daredevils who create outrageous and unhealthy masterpieces to outwit the number of calories of the Double Down burger. The calorie count of these dishes can range from 6,000 up to 80,000. Why not if I do something less similar and make my own interpretation of the Double Down burger. I also invited my local food blogging friends to take part of this challenge. One has dare to take on the challenge. Check out Valérie's version of the Double Down on her blog The Chocolate Bunny. Thanks Valérie for accepting the challenge.

Before I describe my Double Down burger, I would like to thank all of my friends who have participated in at least one of my cooking sessions and make it last for over two years. I wanted to write on the story on how this blog got launched. I wrote so much about it that I placed the essay on the History of Random Cuisine page. Last Sunday, on Dec. 12, we all celebrated our two successful years of cooking sessions and discussed our most enjoyable moments we had together. For this special occasion, we made vanilla ice cream using liquid nitrogen. You can find the recipe here.

After two years, the name of Random Cuisine still holds as we have friends representing different part of the world. Here is the picture of the cooking group on Sunday.

Best of the Year

Now, for the round-up of all the recipes of the year since my 1st blogiversary. Here are my Top 10:

Top 3 cooking themes:

Double Down Burger with Sweetness Added

Now, the moment you are all waiting for, my version of the double down burger. For those who are not familiar with the Double Down burger from KFC, it consists of two fried chicken as the "bread", melted cheese, bacon and KFC's special sauce. Taking these components into account, my take of the burger is to go for something sweet instead of something salty. Here is the structure of my Double Down burger: 2 pieces of butterfly cut chicken with Dijon-apple batter and Parmesan-bread crumbs coating, the cheeses are mozzarella and swiss, the "bacon" is Serrano ham, and the "secret" sauce is an apple-BBQ sauce. Basically, homemade applesauce is the sweetener for this burger.

Homemade Applesauce

Adapted from Michael's Smith Chef at Home

Makes 4 cups
Preparation Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins


12 red apples, cored and cut into wedges
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt


1. Heat a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Combine all ingredients and add enough water to cover bottom. Cover.

2. Cook until all apples have softened, about 20 mins. Stir frequently.

3. Blend softened apples with an immersion blender. Strain with a sieve for a smoother texture.

Parmesan Chicken with Dijon-Applesauce Batter

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins


4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup homemade applesauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp ground almonds
5-6 basil leaves, chiffonade
pinch ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line aluminium foil on 13'' x 9'' baking pan.

2. Butterfly cut chicken breasts. Apply pressure on chicken breast and cut it in half from the center, not all the way through.

3. For the batter, combine Dijon mustard, applesauce, garlic cloves, butter in a bowl.

4. In a pan, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, ground almonds, basil and pepper.

5. Brush Dijon-apple mix on both sides of the chicken breast.

6. Coat it in Parmesan-bread crumb mix. Place it on the prepared baking pan.

6. Bake for 25 mins until golden brown and fully cooked. Turn once halfway. Serve.

Apple-BBQ sauce

This apple-BBQ sauce is adapted from Chuck Hughes' Chuck's Day Off. This BBQ sauce won't taste good without the chipotle pepper or smoky flavor.

Makes 4 cups
Preparation Time: 10 mins


1 cup homemade applesauce
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper


1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.

Stacking the Double Down

Parmesan Chicken, Mozzarella Cheese, Serrano Ham

Swiss Cheese

Apple-BBQ sauce

Parmesan Chicken

Melt cheese in a hot oven for 1 min. Bite.

After taking a huge bite of the double down burger, I really enjoy the combination of flavours. It wasn't greasy at all but saucy. I can taste the sweetness of the applesauce and smoky flavor of the BBQ sauce. It tasted really good, but my stomach was really full eating halfway. The Double Down burger is a once-in-a-lifetime attempt, I won't be making another one again unless one of my friends ask for it. I would suggest though that you try making your own apple and BBQ sauce. Also, use the Parmesan chicken as a main dish, it has a lot of flavours from the batter and the bread crumb mixture.

Now, I have proven that I can blog for two years. I'll see what new culinary challenges await for me. I will hope to meet new people to join our cooking group and encounter wonderful food bloggers and foodies out there, hopefully one in physics. Thanks for all you readers who have followed my blog since the beginning. Hope to see you all at the third blogiversary!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saffron Coconut Ice Cream

If I would give you a pinch of saffron, what dessert will you make? Most of you would think that saffron should be used in savory dishes such as in rice, risotto and seafood. Fortunately, saffron can be employed as an ingredient for dessert.

Usually, I would not share the most expensive spice in the world if I have paid a fortune for it. Since I received the saffron as a sample from OGourmet, I didn't mind sharing a bit of saffron to my friend Kristin of Chocolate and Tea so she can make a dessert out of it. Here is her post on White Chocolate Saffron Truffles.

On my side, I made ice cream using saffron. Because of the bitter taste of saffron, I had to add another flavor to balance it off. Since I had a can of coconut milk available in the pantry, why not make saffron coconut ice cream. I also thought of using cardamon, I guess I'll try to make next time. I'm not sure how all the ice cream machine work, we use the one from Cuisinart. Sorry for the unattractive presentation picture as I had to share the ice cream among 8 people so basically everyone had less than 1 scoop of ice cream. I can guarantee you that this is the best dessert you will ever taste.

Serves 4
Cooking Time: 15 mins
Freezing Time: at least 2 hours
Printable Recipe


1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup white sugar
1-2 pinch saffron stigmas


1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring it to a boil.

2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins, stirring occasionally. Bring to mixture to room temperature.

3. Transfer mixture to the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

4. Remove saffron stigmas and freeze for at least 2 hours for a firmer texture.


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