Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Old-Fashioned Beef Stew

My aunt, uncle and two little cousins from Toronto made a stop at our place to have lunch with us before heading out to Mt. Sutton for skiing, about an hour and half of drive from Montreal. Knowing that they were coming, I already knew what to make: a hearty and comfy beef stew. Who wouldn't crave for a stew before the cold weather ends?

This stew is old-fashioned, nothing fancy with unusual spices and flavours. It is just your typical, hearty beef stew loaded with lots of vegetables and a generous amount of red wine to give a good depth of flavour. After tasting the stew, we were blown away of all the flavours that came out beautifully together. This stew has officially become one of our favourite dishes to make on the weekends.

The meal would not be complete without desserts, so I did my #3 signature dessert, a refreshing minty berry medley. This is simply a mix of berries tossed in a lemon-mint syrup, which will make your guests' taste buds crave for more! Results guaranteed. For those who are new to my blog, I made this dessert almost two years ago, click on the image below for the recipe.

Serves 8
Inspired from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food and Chef at Home
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: about 3 hours
Printable Recipe


2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs stewing beef
3 carrots, cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp rosemary, minced
2 bay leaves
2 red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes


1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook half of the stewing beef until all sides are brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove and set aside. Repeat process with the remaining ones.

2. Add in carrots, celery and onion and cook until onions are transparent, about 5 mins.

3. Add in garlic and sprinkle vegetables with flour. Cook for 1 min. Stir oftenly.

4.  Gradually stir in beef stock and red wine. Stir in tomato paste, parsley, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves.

5. Return browned beef to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

6. Stir in potatoes. Add more stock if necessary. Cook until both the meat and potatoes are tender, about 45 mins. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jerk Seafood

Do you know any of Chuck's Hughes speciality dishes? He is a chef here in Montreal, owner of the restaurant Garde-Manger and a Food Network host of Chuck's Day Off.  Recently, he appeared on Iron Chef America and won the battle against Bobby Flay. All the dishes that he made for this epic battle are all in his menu. Considering seafood is a staple at his restaurant (and a lobster tattoo on his forearm), the favours were on him. One of his speciality dish that my Taiwanese friend and I really enjoy is his jerk crab. It is a large common dish where everyone digs in with their hand. The enjoyable part is to get your hands dirty and suck every bits of flavour about of these crabs.

Since my friend loves to cook seafood, he uses several seafood ingredients for his jerk dish. Jerk is a cooking style native to Jamaica where the proteins is dry-rubbed or marinated with a spicy mixture. This mixture consists of two main ingredients: a very spicy pepper and allspice. Other spices, aromatics and herbs are added to accentuate the flavour in the mixture. Traditionally, the marinated meats and seafood are usually cooked in a grill, we did ours in the oven. The cooking time takes longer than the requested time on the grill, but do check for doneness midway. Our jerk seafood turned out spicy, saucy and full of seafood flavour, a guaranteed dinner-party knockout.

Serves 6
Adapted from Food & Wine
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 20-25 mins
Printable Recipe


Jerk Paste
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
4 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch sticks
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 pinch ground allspice
1 pinch grated nutmeg
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp distilled vinegar
Salt and pepper

2 jalapenos, julienned
2 lbs mussels, cleaned
3 calamaris tubes, cut into 1/2-inch tubes
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 lb bay scallops


1. Preheat oven to 500F.

2. In a food processor, combine all jerk paste ingredients until blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. In a bowl, combine jalapenos, mussels, calamari, shrimp and bay scallops. Add in the jerk paste.

4. In a 13'' x 9'' baking pan, line two aluminum foil at the bottom. Transfer seafood mixture to baking pan. Cover with two more aluminum foil. Fold up the edges all around to seal.

5. Bake for 20-25 mins until mussels have opened and squid tubes have curled.

6. Remove the aluminum cover and serve in a bowl.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

White Bean Potato Purée

What side dishes would you serve along with pork tenderloin or roast beef? This was the question that I asked in my last post on Pork Tenderloin. As I get more experience in cooking and baking, I tend to find new focus and directions which I feel that I am lacking, something that I haven't mastered yet. It is always fun to explore new stuff, otherwise life would so boring. Same goes for science, once we are done with one project, we want to work on new ones with the acquired skills and knowledge from our previous project. This is how science usually advances.

In fancy restaurants and in cooking shows, main dishes are always served with a sauce and a side dish that  the flavors go well together. As you can see, I'm starting to explore different combination of side dishes that would complement well with mains. Since you viewers come from different part of the world, it was very interesting to see how you would respond to this question. There were some basic and quick side dishes that you have mentioned such as mashed and roasted potatoes, rice, pasta and greens. A few of you have mentioned grilled and sautéed asparagus, this is something that haven't tried yet, seems like it is a common side dish for Westerners. Thanks for all your response, I greatly appreciate it.

I would not ask this question for no reason if I haven't made one myself. Mashed potatoes are perfect when they are light and fluffy, even better when milk and butter is added. A good alternative is to use white beans. Since they have a very similar texture to potatoes once cooked, they are excellent sources of fiber! This mashed white bean potato dish complements well with any saucy dishes, a lighter and healthier alternative to mashed potatoes.

Serves 6
Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 15 mins
Printable Recipe


2 red-skinned or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 can (14 oz.) navy or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves for garlic paste
1/2 tsp ground rosemary (or any other herbs like thyme and oregano)
Salt and pepper


1. In a medium pot, place potatoes and cover with water. Boil until potatoes are tender, about 10 mins.

2. Meanwhile, prepare garlic paste. Check this video for preparation. Garlic paste has a finer and smoother texture than minced garlic.

3. Turn heat to medium-low and add in beans. Simmer for 2-3 mins.

4. Drain until about 1/3 cup of cooking water remains. Add in garlic paste and herbs.

5. Purée mixture with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Apple Tarte Tatin - Pi Day

Have you made your pie for Pi day on March, 14th? If you're a nerd like me, Pi is a mathematical constant which its value is approximately equal to 3.14... so that's why last Monday, we celebrate Pi day, the day we grab a slice of pie.

Last year, I didn't make a pie, instead I blog about the new Australian Pie place (Tourtière Australienne), which is opened in Montreal for more than a year now. Check out their selection of hand-size pies from my last year post.

This year, I decided to go for a challenging dessert. Since French cuisine is one of my specialty, I went for the classic Tarte Tatin, an upside-down caramelized fruit tart. This is a very technical and difficult to get it right for an amateur baker, even trickier if you never caramelize sugar. I have to confess that I burnt the sugar twice before I got the caramelization at the right consistency. I did have a hard time to remove the burnt caramel from the skillet, so be prepared to clean the skillet, if you end up burning the sugar. 

The key to a perfect Tarte Tatin is getting the puff pastry dry and flaky, the fruits juicy, soft and well caramelized with a hint of acidity. If you meet all these criterias, you should be proud of yourself! My Tarte Tatin was nearly perfect, only a few wedges of apples stuck onto the pan when I flipped the tart to the plate.  Apart from that, the tart tasted just like I describe it. If you're brave enough to take on this dessert, let me know how it turns out.

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 10 mins
Baking Time: 25 mins
Cooling Time: 15 mins
Printable Recipe


3 Golden Delicious apples (or Granny Smith)
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 puff pastry sheet


1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. Peel apples, cut into quarters and remove cores. Toss it in a bowl with 2 tbsp sugar and lemon juice.

3. Roll puff pastry dough into 11'' x 11'' on a lightly floured surface. Cut pastry into a circle about 11 inches in diameter, using a 9-inch skillet as a guide. Prick pastry with fork.

4. In a 9-inch oven-proof skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Cover it with sugar and cook until it starts to foam and mixture is light brown, about 2-3 mins. Keep a close eye on the sugar!

5. Remove skillet from heat, arrange apples around the edge of the skillet, flat side down. Fill the middle with the remaining apples.

6. Turn heat to medium-low, cook apples for 6 mins. Shake pan occasionally. Turn apples during the cooking process, about 2 mins per side. End turning with apples rounded-side down. The caramel should be bubbly and darkly colored. 

7. Remove from heat. Lay pastry dough on top of the apples, tuck in the edges so that it fits into the skillet.

8. Transfer skillet to oven. Bake for 25 mins or until the crust is golden brown. Rotate pan halfway.

9. Remove from oven and cool in the skillet for 15 mins.

10. Now the fun part. Place a serving plate on top of the skillet and hold it tightly against the skillet. Flip skillet and plate and set plate on the counter. Carefully lift the skillet up, leaving the tart behind. 

11. Serve with your favorite ice cream or crème fraîche.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pork Tenderloin in a Wild Blueberry Red Wine Sauce

Pan searing is one of these techniques which can be considered effortless. All you need is to coat your meat with herbs, then get it brown and crusty on the outside, and finish the cooking process in the oven. Juices left after roasting make a great sauce. Don't forget to rest your meat after roasting for a juicy, tender and flavorful result. 

Pork tenderloin is a great piece of meat. It is very lean and healthy, great to serve for a party dinner. Recently, on Best Recipes Ever, I was eager to try out the red wine blueberry sauce. I'm a big fan of using wines for cooking (not for drinking) and wild blueberries for baking. I can't miss the opportunity of trying out these two ingredients in one dish. This sauce was a slightly sweet, slightly tart and blueberry-ish, a wonderful compliment to the pork tenderloin.

Q: What side dish would you serve along with pork tenderloin or roast beef? 

Serves 4
Adapted from Best Recipes Ever
Preparation Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 40 mins
Printable Recipe


1 lb pork tenderloin
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Wild Blueberry Red Wine Sauce

3/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup frozen wild blueberries
1 1/2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold water


1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. With a sharp knife, remove the silver skin from the tenderloin to ensure that it doesn't curl during cooking.  Rub thyme, salt and pepper over pork.

3. In an ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown pork all over, about 1-2 mins per side.

4. Roast for 30 mins or until slightly pink and meat thermometer reads 160F.

5. Transfer meat to cutting board and cover with aluminum foil. Rest for 5 mins before cutting.

6. Meawhile, prepare the wild blueberry red wine sauce.

7. Drain any fat left from skillet. Pour in red wine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir and scrape up brown bits from bottom of the pan. Boil until slightly reduced, about 3 mins.

8. Add in blueberries, sugar and lemon zest. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water to make a slurry. Stir into sauce and simmer until clear and thick, about 1 min. Serve.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Poach An Egg Without A Single Drop of Vinegar

"How can you poach an egg without vinegar?" you might wondered. The idea of poaching an egg might seem difficult to most of us, whether it is the fear of getting it wrong, fear of turning it into egg drop soup, fear of unpleasant vinegar taste, fear of solidifying the yolk or simply fear of wasting an egg. In my case, it would be the first three. Let me know what do you fear the most about poaching an egg.

Poached eggs are not that hard to make, provided that you forget the traditional techniques of pouring some vinegar in a large pot of boiling water. You won't even need to invest on a $20 egg poacher. This trick is neat and foolproof, I even got it perfect the first time considering that I never poached an egg before. You might have noticed that the shape of the egg white is not oval nor smooth like the classic poached eggs. The shape looks like a Chinese steamed bun. All you need basically is a plastic wrap, a teacup, and simmering water. After reading this tutorial, you will no longer fear of making poached eggs anymore. You will get addicted of making it every breakfast.

Update March 13, 2010: This technique is definitely foolproof, check out the poached egg made by Laura Jeanne, author of A Healthy Jalapeno.

Update March 16, 2010: This technique has also been used by fellow blogger, Lena from Frozen Wings.

Preparation Time: 2 mins
Cooking Time: 4-5 mins


1 egg
Olive oil
Salt and pepper


1. Bring a pot of water to boil, then turn heat down to a simmer.

2. Lay out a plastic wrap on top of a teacup or ramekin, about 5-6 inch square. Lightly rub olive oil on the plastic wrap.

3. Push gently onto the teacup and then crack the egg.

4. Pull wrap upward. Twist and tie a knot together tightly.

5. Drop egg in simmering water. Simmer for 4-5 mins or to your liking.

6. Take out poached egg with slotted spoon. Remove plastic wrap with scissors. Serve on toast. Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beer Stew with Braised Beef Short Ribs

Great news everyone, I am in the medias! It has nothing to do with my food blog, but my work as a scientific researcher. Ever since I came back from my trip to Cuba, I have been keeping myself busy with new research projects, training the new student in my research group, and organizing cooking sessions. The past months, I have been doing extra work for La Science Prend le Métro (which translates to Science Takes The Subway), an organization which recruits students in the area of science to talk about their life story, passion and contribution to science. Each month, an article is written about that person in the Metro newspaper and a picture of them will appear in the big screens of the Montreal subway as you can see in the pictures below. 

Many students in high school are indecisive of their career path, so this organization has the goal to inspire and promote these students to go into science. When they sent the e-mail about this concept, I did not hesitate and accepted their offer. It was not only their incentive that pushes me to do it; I feel that each one of us has something to give to our society. It is like sharing my culinary knowledge with my cooking groups as I share my love of food with you. Here I share my love for science to high school students hopefully one day they love science as much as I do. Click on either pictures below. The first will lead you to the article on Metro newspaper and the second, about my life story, passion and contribution. Unfortunately, it is written in French. Do use Google Translate, it does pretty good job in translating. Courtesy to Emile Aragon, my photographer for all these pictures.

Stock is a must when making soup, sauce and stew, it provides way more flavors to the dish than just adding water. I recently discovered that simply beer can also be used as a stock. Here the short ribs are cooked in its fat along with aromatics. Afterwards, the ribs and vegetables are simmered in a pool of beer. The beer provides terrific flavor to these unctuous ribs. This will sure please your beer-loving friends. Don’t worry your friends won’t get drunk eating this stew as all the alcohol has evaporated during the cooking process. I'm not too sure which is the best beer for stew, I use the cheapest brown ale in store.

Serves 6
Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 1 h 15 mins


800g short ribs, separated into individuals
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into cubes
4 carrots, chopped
about 750 mL brown ale
salt and pepper


1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Cook short ribs until brown on all sides, but still undercooked. Set aside.

2. In the same pot, add in onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots. Cook onions until transparent, about 5 mins.

3. Bring back short ribs to the pot and pour in the beer. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 mins to 1 hour until the vegetables are tender and the meat falls off the bones. Remove the oil layer from stew. Serve.


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