Saturday, April 30, 2011

Goat Cheese and Pancetta Stuffed Baby Bella Mushrooms

What is your favourite finger food?

On Easter, I invited a couple of old friends who came to visit Montreal for the holidays. Since I haven't seen them in years, the best approach is to spend as less time in the kitchen as possible and spend more time catching up. Serving finger foods is the appropriate theme for this evening get-together. Finger foods are anything that can be eaten without the need of utensils, quick and simple to serve. It can be meatballspuff pastry rollsmini-sandwiches or even freshly cut vegetables. 

Recently, I received some helpful pointers from my catering and foodie friend on making the most satisfying and crowd pleasing stuffed mushrooms. Mushrooms contain over 90% of water and the rest is dry matter. It is not always pleasant to bite on watery mushrooms which would dilute the flavour of your stuffing. To extract the most flavours out of your stuffed mushrooms, it is best to expel as much water out of the mushrooms, not at a point to completely dry out, but still retains some moisture. The trick is to bake the raw mushrooms without filling for a couple of minutes. Let it cool and some of the liquid will spill out. Stuffed the mushrooms and do a second bake until fully cooked, this is how you make the perfect savory finger food. 

These stuffed mushrooms are soft and tender, a little salty from the pancetta, a little sweet from the bell peppers and red onion, a little gooey from the cheddar and a little creamy from the goat cheese. So how many would you eat?

Makes 20 stuffed mushrooms
Preparation Time: 25 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Printable Recipe


20 baby bella mushrooms or large white button mushrooms
80g pancetta or prosciutto, finely diced
1/4 cup green or red bell peppers, finely diced
3 tbsps red onions, finely diced
1 garlic, minced
1/3 cup goat cheese, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Chopped parsley for garnish


1. Clean mushrooms and pat dry with paper towel. Carefully remove stems from mushrooms. Finely chopped stems and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 400F.

3. Line a parchment paper on a baking pan, and place mushroom caps, hollow side down. Brush caps with olive oil.

4. Bake for 10 mins until slightly softened. Let it cool. Some liquid will spill out from the caps once cooled.

5. In a skillet, cook pancetta to over medium heat until it starts to crisp. Add in bell pepper, red onion, garlic and chopped stems. Cook until softened, about 5 mins. Cool.

6. In a medium bowl, mix pancetta mixture with goat cheese and cheddar.

7. Line an aluminium foil on a baking pan, and then transfer cooled mushroom caps, hollow side up. Spoon a tablespoonful of the filling into each mushroom cap.

8. Turn oven down to 375F. Bake for 10 mins until mushrooms are softened and golden. Sprinkle with parsley.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Saltimbocca" Pork Loin with Lemon Sauce

Saltimbocca is a classic Italian dish consisting of thinly-pounded veal scallopine wrapped in sage leaves and prosciutto. The veal is cooked in a skillet and afterwards, a white wine based sauce is made by deglazing the skillet. There are various versions of preparing saltimbocca depending on the regions of Italy. It is common to use chicken breasts and pork loins as a substitute for veal.  

For this dish, I did not thinly pound the pork loin, instead I left it as a whole, rubbed in sage powder, covered with slices of prosciutto, and roasted in the oven. After roasting, all these drippings left on the baking pan are used to make a flavourful lemon white wine sauce. Simple, juicy and flavour-packed, no wonder saltimbocca translated means jump in the mouth!

Serves 4-6
Preparation Time: 5 mins
Roasting Time: about 30 mins
Printable Recipe


1 1/2 lb pork loin
10-12 slices of prosciutto
about 2 tbsp ground sage
Ground pepper

Lemon Sauce

1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp white wine
about 1 tsp cornstarch
about 1 tsp cold water
2 tbsp lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. Rub pork loin with ground sage and ground pepper. Lay slices of prosciutto on a surface, overlap the slices along the long edges.  Place pork loin at the center, fat side down.

3. Wrap pork loin with prosciutto and seal the edges. Lightly oil baking pan, place the wrapped pork loin seal-side down. Roast for about 30 mins until the internal temperature reaches 155F.

4. Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 15 mins before slicing.

5. Meanwhile, prepare lemon sauce.

6. Drain fat from pan. Pour in chicken broth and white wine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up browned bits. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with cold water to make a slurry. Stir into sauce with lemon juice and simmer until thick.

7. Slice pork loin. Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or white bean purée.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chocolate Pikelets

Have you made the perfect pancakes? Perfect meaning tall and thick, fluffy and light on the inside while evenly golden on the outside with the tiny hint of crispness. I learn quite a few tricks from my baking experience to achieve this kind of texture such as folding stiff peaks egg whites to batter, adding carbonated beverage or simply use a double-acting baking powder and let the batter sit in the fridge for several hours before being cooked. These tricks help form bubbles in the batter for a very light and airy pancakes, otherwise it will be flat and dense.

Recently, I was introduced to pikelets which are mini unsweetened pancakes, usually served with jam and whipped cream. I found a few pikelet recipes requiring a fair amount of cream of tartar, about 2 teaspoonfuls. I was very sceptical of this large quantity as usually, when baking cakes, I only need 1-2 pinches of cream of tartar to stabilize the egg whites. I look through Wikipedia, and surprisingly enough, cream of tartar is an acidic powder and it has more utilities than simply stabilizing egg whites. It also activates the baking soda when folding cream of tartar which help form bubbles in the batter. Try it out! I can guarantee you that they are even fluffier and airier than your usual pancakes.

Makes about 12 pikelets
Adapted from
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: about 2-3 mins
Printable Recipe


1 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
3 tbsps white sugar
1 cup flour
2 tbsps cocoa powder
2 tsps cream of tartar
1 pinch salt
1 tbsp margarine or butter, melted


1. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in milk. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat egg and sugar until thick and pale.

3. In another large bowl, sift flour, cocoa, cream of tartar and salt together.

4. Alternatively fold in the dry ingredients and milk/baking soda into the beaten egg mixture until just combined. Lastly, fold in the melted margarine. Avoid overfolding the batter.

5. Heat skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease with margarine and drop by large tablespoonfuls onto the hot skillet. Cook batter until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip and cook until golden brown, about 1 min.

6. Serve with jam and/or whipped cream.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nuevo Latino Cuisine chez Raza

Being a food blogger for over 2 years, I never expect that I would be a part of a food blogging community where I receive numerous invitations to foodie events. Last Tuesday, I received an invitation for a private cooking class from the chef himself, Mario Navarette Jr. who EnRoute magazine voted him as one of the top 10 new Canadian Chefs in November 2005. The cooking class occurs at his restaurant Raza where he offers a gastronomic experience in which he blends his Peruvian roots into Quebec products in a modern interpretation. Modern also means that a bit of molecular gastronomy is involved with fancy machines such as an anti-griddle, sous-vide and smoking guns. The evening was full of amazement. All the dishes were a work of art: simple, colourful and each ingredient is carefully placed with a tweezer onto the plate. I can tell you that I have an amazing experience and learn a lot about Nuevo Latino cuisine.

This evening was a 6-course meal with wine pairing. The meal started with a cream of mushroom soup, not any mushroom soup. The soup is made first in a pot, then poured into a carafe and applewood smoke is added with a smoking gun. The idea of this soup is to bring the smoke to your table. A plate of mushrooms is placed in front of me, and the waitress poured the liquid into the bowl. The smoky flavours give an interesting taste to the soup. Here are some quick clips:

The second dish is a take of the Peruvian classic ceviche. Ceviche is basically fresh fish cooked in lemon or lime juice, no heat required. This ceviche was fluke fish cooked in lime juice, with garlic, jalapeno and serrano chlorophyll, served on a bed of sweet potato purée with a few drops of squid ink.

The next dish is a modern interpretation of a Peruvian classic: Papas à la Huancaína. My Peruvian friend Jorge made  this dish two years ago, click here for the recipe. Chef Navarette called his modern version: The Garden.  A rich, creamy and spicy huancaína sauce is covered inside a pile of mashed potatoes, sprinkled with lots of dried mushrooms and topped with baby carrots and asparagus.

The last savory dish was shrimp poached with butter in a sous-vide machine cooked at a temperature for about 45 mins. This was served with blue potatoes, pickled onions and radishes.

Now, onto the dessert... The first was a Jamaican flower jello topped with spinach, kiwi and avocado (green) caps and mango (yellow) caps. These caps are made on a anti-griddle which freezes the surface of liquid instantly.

Finally, the last dessert was a tres leches cake made with condensed, evaporated and coconut milk. This pound cake is cooked in a microwave for 30 seconds from its batter form. This is served with a sugar cane ice cream and Nutella reduced in a powder from the tapioca maltodextrin. This powdered Nutella simply melt in your mouth. This is a great dessert to end the evening.

I have to admit that this is the first time that I have been to his restaurant and enjoy my first dining experience at Raza in the company of other MTL food bloggers. I also went to his other restaurant last Sunday for brunch with 5 co-workers at Madre and I can tell you that the brunch (only available on Sunday) was well worth the money and the portions were very generous. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mini Marble Rum Chocolate Banana Bread

This is not your regular banana and chocolate marble cake where you will not only taste banana and chocolate. There are few teaspoonful of extra ingredients that are added to this bread, creating a surprising pleasant and non-overpowering complex flavour profile. All these ingredients are distinguishable if one eats a tiny bite of the bread at a time. 

This morning, I distribute a slice of the bread to my co-workers and friends at work to see if they have a good palate and are able to distinguish some of the hidden flavours. Some manage to get it all right and some got 1-2 ingredients correct, apart from the basic and obvious ones. This marble cake is sweet, nutty, moist, and zingy, and the rum helps to accentuate the flavour combinations for a rich and mellow taste. Consider this as a fun game to give to your guests at your next dinner party.

Makes 8 mini loaves (or 1 loaf)
Adapted from Nos 200 Meilleurs Desserts et Biscuits
Preparation Time: 30 mins
Baking Time: 30-35 mins (or 55-60 mins)
Printable Recipe


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2-3 tbsp dark rum
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil bread loaf or mini-bread loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add in lemon zest, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

3. In an another bowl, whisk bananas, eggs, sugar, butter, rum until blended.

4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.

5. With a fork, slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones until moist. Do not overwork it.

6. In another small bowl, melt chocolate over simmering water. Stir 1/3 of the banana batter into the melted chocolate until combined.

7. Spoon banana batter alternately with chocolate batter in a loaf pan or mini-loaf pan. Swirl batter with a knife for a marble effect.

8. Bake for 30-35 mins for mini-bread loaf (or 55-60 mins for bread loaf) until it passes the toothpick test.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

"Steak - blé d'Inde - patate" as a Quebecer would say when describing the main ingredients of a Pâté Chinois, a French Canadian Shepherd's pie, basically ground beef, canned creamed corns and mashed potatoes. When you translate word for word Pâté Chinois, it literally translates to Chinese pie. Here we call Shepherd's pie.

The origin of the name of Pâté Chinois still remains a mystery up to this day, but one thing for sure, this is definitely not a Chinese recipe. Some might say that it was introduced by the Chinese workers who worked on the construction of the CN railway in the late 19th century. Other would say that this dish was established in an American village named China and had been a favourite destination for the Quebecers. 

The traditional Pâté Chinois is easy to prepare and inexpensive, only requires 4 ingredients, no herbs nor broth are added. The Shepherd's pie presented here is from Gordon Ramsay show, a more sophisticated pie with red wine, herbs and aromas infused in the ground meat filling. Some Parmesan cheese are sprinkled on top of the mashed potatoes. Another comforting dish before the cold winter ends.

Gordon Ramsay's Shepherd Pie
Serves 8
Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 40 mins


1 1/2 lbs ground lamb (or ground beef)
1 large carrot, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Worcestshire sauce
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
Salt and pepper
about 1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth

Potato Topping
3 large russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 1/2 tbsps butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook beef until brown.

3. Drain fat. Add in grated carrot and chopped onions and cook for a few mins until onions are translucent.

4. Stir in rosemary, thyme, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Pour in red wine and beef stock. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 10-15 mins. Transfer mixture into a 13'' x 9'' baking pan.

6. In a medium pot, place potatoes, cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes until tender. Drain. 

7. Mash potatoes with butter and milk. Add salt to taste. Uniformly spread mashed potatoes on top of the meat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and paprika.

8. Bake for 20-25 mins until bubbly and golden brown.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...