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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mulberry's Restaurant

Thirty five years and fifty one weeks ago I married my lifelong love, so when you have been married this long where do you go to be sure your anniversary dinner is just right. We live in Niagara Falls home to many very good restaurants (and too many very bad ones), Niagara on the Lake is just minutes away with fine dine restaurants on every corner, or Toronto is just a 90 minute drive down the QEW and you know the restaurants are great there. Then of course just a 20 minute drive and a journey over the Peace bridge is Buffalo NY, some fine restaurants here too.

Buffalo is no culinary capital but has given the world a few famous choices, Anchor Bar and Grill where Buffalo chicken wings were created, or how about a beef on Weck. The German answer to the French dip. In the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, Joe Gohn (1862-1949) purchased a small saloon which he called the Delaware house, located at Delaware and Delavan Streets. The street car ran right in front of Joe’s small ten room hotel always loaded with hungry patrons. Joe employed a German baker and together they decide to serve hot roast beef on kummelweck rolls a kasier style roll topped with rock salt and caraway seeds. Thus the first Buffalo creation.

Another famous Buffalo culinary experience was the Chef’s salad. Attributed to chef Victor Seydoux at the Hotel Buffalo, a Statler Hotel in Buffalo, New York, although there is some debate on this as well.

Nevertheless Buffalo does have some exceptional dining spots for any occasion, we however are celebrating nearly thirty six years of marriage (a feat in its self). We decided that Buffalo would be the place to dine but where?

A friend of Dianna suggested at a quaint restaurant in Lackawanna (a suburb of Buffalo) called Mulberry’s. So based on her recommendation we called and made our reservation.

Located at: 64 Jackson Street (corner of Jackson and Spruce) Lackawanna, NY 14218 (716) 822-4292

This truly is a neighborhood restaurant, driving down Jackson St. There is nothing but housing from the 1930 era. Then you come upon the restaurant, there is parking beside the restaurant and across the street but get there early for these spots don’t last.

This one busy little Italian restaurant , you're greeted at once by a friendly hostess and made to feel as you have been a regular here for years. You enter into the bar of the restaurant and can dine there if you choose. Given it was our anniversary we decide on the dinning room. The entire restaurant reminds one more of a sports bar rather than an Italian restaurant. The sports memorabilia covers every inch of every wall, but each item most likely has some meaning to the partner owner/chef Joe Jerge. One thing he did get right was the background music great tunes of the best crooners.

Of course it is about the food and here Joe does not disappoint in any way. I don’t know how a restaurant with an Irish name became an Italian hot spot but Joe’s customers are certainly happy he has chosen to venture this cuisine. The restaurant offers Italian food just like Nonna would make, See the video on their website, huge baseball size meatballs, a different lasagna every day, house made pasta and the finest in sauces. You’ll not only leave very satisfied but also very happy.

I seldom recommend a restaurant but hands down this one serves some the best food in the Niagara and Western new York regions. Well worth the trip from anywhere with driving distance. They offer a tasting menu as well and this what Dianna and I chose for our dinner.

A four course dinner of: Astice: Maine lobster with Stracciatella cheese, Basil pesto oil, a roasted cherry tomato and eggplant funghetto. Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with corn relish and balsamic reduction Short Rib Agnolotti with beef reduction, Honshimeji mushrooms Braised Veal Cheeks with fingerling potatoes, Autum cauliflower, barbequed onions and pan jus.

The recipes:

The first course was first-rate the lobster was cooked in a court bouillon, then chilled it was sweet and firm, served with the cheese basil oil and the cherry tomato, however neither of us found the eggplant funghetto. This al funghetto, means "eggplant cooked in the manner one would cook mushrooms," Stracciatella is a stringy, sweet type of gourmet Italian cheese. Made from the very rich milk of water buffaloes, it is a soft member of the Mozzarella cheese family. In Italian, “stracciatella” means “to shred,” and you’ll sometimes see this word used in the Roman egg-drop soup called Stracciatella alla Romana. The fresh mozzarella is soaked in cream and then stretched out in strings. All the recipes that follow for this menu are Chef Ks and not those used by Mulberrys we do hope we honor them with a recipe that would be similar.

Lobster In Court Bouillon
2 medium white onions, sliced into 1-inch rounds
2 large carrots, cut into thirds
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large bay leaf
1 750 ml bottle dry white wine
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
12 live lobsters, about 1 1/2 pounds each 1 pound
(4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
6 lemons, halved

Place onions, carrots, and celery in a large stockpot. Make a bouquet garni: Gather thyme, parsley, and bay leaf; tie into a bundle with kitchen string, then add to the stockpot. Fill stockpot 2/3 full with cold water; set over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let simmer about 30 minutes. Add white wine and peppercorns; simmer about 15 minutes more. Return to a boil. Depending on the size of stockpot, quickly add 4 to 6 lobsters to boiling court-bouillon, making sure the liquid covers all the lobsters. Allow court-bouillon to return to a boil again, and cook lobsters about 12 minutes. Using tongs, remove lobsters, and transfer to a platter or large bowl. Repeat with remaining lobsters, working in batches if necessary. Serve lobsters hot with melted butter and lemons. Or chill and serve cold as they did at Mulberrys.

Melanzane (Eggplant) a Fungetiello
4 1/2 pounds eggplant
Olive oil for frying Parsley or basil minced
10 ripe plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped.
1/4 pound black Gaeta olives (you will likely want mild olives here)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Dice the eggplant, salt it, and let it sit for an hour, then rinse the pieces and pat them dry. Fry them, about a third at a time, in hot oil, and drain them on absorbent paper. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a pot, sauté the garlic until it is golden, and stir in the tomatoes and the herbs. Simmer for ten minutes, then add the eggplant, capers and olives. Simmer for a few minutes more and it’s ready

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

2 pounds cherry tomatoes on the vine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Kosher
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the tomatoes on a sheet pan and drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes collapse, about 10 minutes.

Our next course was the Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with corn relish and balsamic reduction. Dianna really enjoyed these blossoms, they were cooked prefect, tasty and crunchy. The corn relish was as fresh as could be, it had that just picked flavor to the corn.

Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

1 cup ricotta
1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Zucchini blossoms

Vegetable oil (for frying)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounce chilled Pilsner, lager-style beer, or club soda

Zucchini blossoms (stamens removed; about 2 dozen) Zucchini blossoms are sold at farmers' markets, better supermarkets, and Sea salt Preparation

To fill about 16, combine ricotta, mint, and lemon zest in a bowl. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using a spoon, fill each blossom with about 1 Tbsp. ricotta mixture. Zucchini blossoms In a large pot, heat about 2" oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl, then whisk in beer until almost smooth (some small lumps are welcome—don't overwhisk or you'll deflate the batter). One by one, dredge the blossoms in batter, shaking off the excess; gently lay them in the oil, without crowding the pan. Cook, flipping once with a slotted spoon, until golden brown, 2-3 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with sea salt and devour while hot.

Corn Relish

2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
2 cups fresh corn kernels
12 Oz-can black beans, rinsed well, drained
4 green onions, sliced thin
1 or 2 green jalapeño, seeded, diced fine
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 fresh lime, juiced
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


Toss all ingredients in a large glass or stainless steel bowl to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. May be made up to 8 hours ahead. Toss well before service.

Balsamic Reduction

Traditional balsamic vinegar has been made for over 1000 years in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena. The name balsamic comes from balsam and balm which refer to its attributed medicinal properties since it was used to soothe and heal and to protect against the plague. Local grapes, such as the white Tribbiano and the red Lambrusco varieties, are harvested at the very end of the season to maximize their sugar content. They are then crushed and the resulting juice (or must) is then cooked in a large open pot over a direct flame and simmered for a day or so. Once the evaporation stage has been completed, the juice will have been reduced by about half into a sweet syrup and allowed to cool before transferring to a large ventilated barrel. Yeasts in the air ferment most, but not all of the sugar into alcohol and then aceto bacter bacteria in the air convert the alcohol into acid. The vinegar is then aged for a minimum of 12 years in a series of progressively smaller wooden barrels, called a batteria. I have one which is over 100 years old. The batteria consist of at least 3 and up to as many as 7 barrels ranging in capacity from 100 to 10 liters. Each barrel, made from a different type of wood such as oak, chestnut, mulberry, juniper, ash and cherry, imparts color and a unique flavor to the finished product.

Chicken stock, 3 cups
Balsamic vinegar, ⅓ cup
Porcini mushroom, 2 tablespoons (chopped)
Butter, 1 tablespoon
Pepper, ½ tablespoon (freshly ground)
Salt, ¼ teaspoon
Fresh rosemary,
2 sprigs Garlic clove,
1 (peeled and minced)


Pour in the chicken stock in a large saucepan and add the porcini mushroom and fresh rosemary sprigs. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and cook over high heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the mixture has reduced to almost half. Now add the balsamic vinegar and simmer over low heat until the mixture has the consistency of a sauce. Remove the saucepan from heat and strain this mixture through a fine wire mesh. Discard the rosemary sprigs and the porcini mushroom pieces. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir in the butter so that it is completely combined. Add salt and pepper and stir the mixture once more.

The Thrid Offering This one was my favorite, each little pasta pillow was excellently prepared, then cooked perfectly and sauced just right.

Braised Short Rib Agnolotti
Agnolotti pasta is a type of pasta normally stuffed, roughly similar in size to ravioli and tortellini. The Piedmont region of Italy is well known for their many agnolotti recipes. Today the pasta is becoming increasingly more popular in the US, with numerous famous chefs suggesting agnolotti pasta dishes and fillings. The name agnolotti, means "priest’s hat," which does suggest that the crescent shape agnolotti pasta is more traditional than the square or rectangular type. Some agnolotti pasta is square or rectangular in shape, while others form a half moon circle. Instead of taking two layers of pasta dough, adding the filling and then cutting them all around to produce square ravioli, agnolotti are simply folded over. You’ll notice one side is smooth, while the other sides, or half if the pasta is circular are pinched together.


3 lbs short ribs
3 T flour
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 bottle of good Italian red wine
2 large onions, sliced
2 carrots diced
½ bunch rosemary, minced
1 bunch beets, diced
5 cloves garlic
1 quart veal stock

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Brown ribs: Season ribs with salt and pepper and dust in flour. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the oil and brown the ribs on all sides. Transfer ribs to a braising pan (a shallow roasting pan or similar). Sauté aromatic: To the same sauté pan, add the vegetables. Sauté until soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add to the ribs in the braising pan. Braise: Transfer pan to the oven and cook at 300° until done (tender and falling apart, about 2 hours), turning occasionally. Finish sauce: When done, remove meat from braise and rough chop or shred it; keep warm. Strain sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to saucy consistency.

Toss the ribs in sauce and serve over pasta, or combine ribs and sauce and use for pasta filling as below.

Fresh Pasta
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semolina flour
1 pinch salt
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil


Thoroughly sift together all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. On a clean surface, make a mountain out of the flour mixture then make a deep well in center. Break the eggs into the well and add olive oil. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands. Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roll out dough with a pasta machine or a rolling pin to desired thickness. Cut into your favorite style of noodle or stuff with your favorite filling to make ravioli. Bring water to a boil in a large pot, then add 4 teaspoons salt. Cook pasta until tender but not mushy, 1 to 8 minutes depending on thickness. Drain immediately and toss with your favorite sauce. Roll out with a pin until paper thin and then cut into 2”x3” rectangles. Set aside. Place one tablespoon of filling in the center of each piece, leaving a small margin. Fold the bottom third of the pasta up to cover the filling, pinch the sides closed, and then fold the packet over onto the top third. Pinch the sides closed again (use a tiny bit of water with your fingertip to seal the sides if needed), set aside, and repeat until all the agnolotti are made.

Honshimeji mushroom The Honshimeji mushroom grows in bunches of delicate, compact white stems 1 to 2 inches high, topped with small light brown or off white caps. The flesh of this mushroom is crisp in texture, providing a crunchy and juicy meat that may taste somewhat nutty or herb flavored when cooked. It is not a good mushroom to serve raw, since the flavor and the ability to digest it will not be favorable. Saute’ in a small amount of butter and top on the pasta.

The Main Feature This dish was prepared with care and style however admirable this dish was the veal cheeks were a little on the dry side from over cooking. Overall a very good dish.

Braised Veal Cheeks
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
10 veal cheeks, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups veal stock
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard


Preheat oven to 325°. Combine breadcrumbs and next 3 ingredients. Set aside. Sprinkle veal cheeks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook veal cheeks, in two batches, 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan. Reduce heat to medium, and add onion and next 3 ingredients. Cook vegetables 5 minutes or until browned. Add thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Add white wine, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of pan, and cook 2 minutes. Add veal stock, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Return veal cheeks to pan. Bake, covered, at 325° for 1 1/4 hours. (Veal cheeks are done when a small knife inserted in the middle slides out with no resistance.) Remove veal cheeks from pan; keep warm. Strain braising liquid, return liquid to pan, and reduce over medium-high heat to about 2/3 cup. Place veal cheeks on a roasting pan, and brush with mustard; sprinkle with herbed bread crumbs. Broil 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with reduced braising liquid.

Barbequed Onions
4 Vidalia or other sweet onions (each 14 to 18 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 strips bacon cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slivers
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup sweet red barbecue sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

You will also need 2 cups of wood chips soaked in water to cover for 1 hour, then drained and 4 strips of aluminum foil twisted into a doughnut-shaped rings.

Peel the onions. Using a sharp paring knife and starting at the top (opposite the stem end), cut an inverted cone-shaped cavity, about 2 1/2 inches across and 1-inch deep (the core will come out in a cone-shaped plug). Finely chop the pieces you remove from each onion. Set the onions, stem side down, on the foil rings. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet. Add the bacon and chopped onion and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the pecans after 2 minutes. Drain the bacon mixture in a strainer over a bowl, reserving the fat. Place a spoonful of bacon-mixture in the cavity of each onion. Spoon in some barbecue sauce and place a pat of butter (cut from the remaining butter) on top. Grind some fresh pepper on top of each onion. Brush the sides of the onions with bacon fat. The recipe can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place the wood chips in the smoker box or a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. Place the onions on the grate away from the fire. Indirect grill until onions are golden brown and tender, 40 to 60 minutes. To test for doneness, pinch the sides of the onion--they should be squeezably soft. If the filling starts to brown too much before the onions are fully cooked, tent with foil. Transfer the onions to a platter or plates and get ready to experience the lowly onion elevated to the level of art.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

This picture was presented to me on my last birthday by the artist Jerri Andrews, presnt were Dianna, Ronnie and Glory-Ann Prophet, guest of theirs and Don and Pam of the Casablanca Winery Inn. Thanks Jerri. Banana’s Foster In the 1950's, New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America. Of course sugar and rum were a large part of Creole cooking as well. In 1951, Owen Edward Brennan challenged his talented chef, Paul Blangé, to include bananas in a new culinary creation. The scrumptious dessert was named for Richard Foster, who, as chairman, served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission, a civic effort to clean up the French Quarter. Richard Foster, owner of the Foster Awning Company, was a frequent customer of Brennan's and a very good friend of Owen. Little did anyone realize that Bananas Foster would become an international favorite and is the most requested item on the restaurant's menu. Thirty-five thousand pounds of bananas are flamed each year at Brennan's in the preparation of its world-famous dessert. Ingredients: 6 tablespoons butter 1 cup dark brown sugar 5 tablespoons rum 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 6 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise, then across 1/2 cup pecan halves 6 scoops vanilla ice cream Preparation: Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat and melt the butter. Add the sugar, rum, vanilla and cinnamon and stir to combine. When mixture starts to bubble, add bananas and pecans to pan. Cook until bananas are hot, spooning sauce over but being careful not to break the bananas. Place a scoop of ice cream in each of six dishes, and divide the bananas and sauce over the dishes of ice cream. French Vanilla Ice Cream
For a richer custard, you can add up to 3 more egg yolks. For a less-rich custard, substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream, realizing that the final texture won’t be as rich or as smooth as if using cream. 1 cup (250ml) whole milk A pinch of salt 3/4 cup (150g) sugar 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream 5 large egg yolks 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Better Bananas Ingredients: 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup melted butter Topping: 1/4 cup butter 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel 1 tablespoon lemon juice 4 firm bananas -- cut in 1/2" slices 1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed Nutmeg, to taste Preparation: Combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup melted butter in a medium bowl; mix well. Press crumb mixture into bottom of a buttered 8-inch square baking dish. Bake 5 minutes at 375°. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add lemon peel, lemon juice and bananas. Stir just until bananas are coated with butter mixture. Arrange slices on crust. Sprinkle with brown sugar and nutmeg. Bake at 375° for 12 to 15 minutes or until bubbly. Cut into squares to serve warm. Serves 6 to 8. Banana Cake with Banana & Coconut Frosting Ingredients: 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup shortening 1/3 cup butter 2/3 cup buttermilk 1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium bananas) 2 eggs Preparation: Sift together the sifted cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add shortening, butter, buttermilk, and mashed banana; mix until moistened, then beat on low speed of electric mixer for 2 minutes. Add eggs and beat 1 minute longer. Grease 2 9-inch round or square layer cake pans and line bottoms with waxed paper. Grease waxed paper. Divide batter into the two pans; bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes, until cake tests done. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes in pans; remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Frost with the banana coconut frosting, below. Banana Coconut Frosting 1/3 cup butter 2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted 1/2 cup mashed banana 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1 cup toasted coconut* 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans 4 drops yellow food coloring Cream butter; add sugar and bananas which have been sprinkled with lemon juice. Blend well. Add toasted coconut and nuts; mix well. Blend in yellow food coloring. Spread between layers and on sides and top of cake. Maui Banana Cake When you drive the island you find the locals selling great loaves of Banana bread roadside, stop and enjoy the bread but the folklore more so. Ingredients: 1 cup butter 2 cups sugar 2 tsp. Vanilla 2 tsp. Lemon juice 4 eggs 2 cups bananas (mashed) 1 tsp. Salt 3 1/2 cups flour 2 tsp. Baking soda 2 tsp. Baking powder 1 cup sour cream 1 cup of chopped nuts Preparation: Cream the butter with the sugar, add extract and eggs, one at a time, then add bananas. Sift all dry ingredients, add to wet ingredients, alternately with sour cream, fold in nuts. Bake in two greased (or spray with nonstick coating) loaf pans at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes. Makes two loaves.
MAPLE BANANA BAKLAVA 2 cups maple syrup 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 cups sliced BANANAS 2 cups pecans, chopped 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon banana flavoring 1 pound filo dough 1 cup butter, melted Mix the nuts and brown sugar. Set aside. Butter 13x9 pan thoroughly. Keep filo pastry covered with a damp tea towel while working with individual sheets. Layer sheets in baking pan, one at a time, brushing each layer with melted butter. After layering six or so, begin alternating layers of filo pastry with nut mixture and bananas. Brush one layer with butter and sprinkle the next with 1/2 cup nut mixture and 1/2 cup bananas. Continue to alternate buttered layers and nut and banana layers until all but ten sheets have been used. Layer the last ten sheets as you did the bottom six, brushing each with butter. Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Score pastry into diamond shapes about 1-1/2 inches x 2 inches. Pour syrup over hot pastry. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting and removing from pan.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grillin' Time

Grill N’ Chill
Summer time and everyone is grilling, smoking and barbequing. Everyone has their own special secrets and the aroma fills the entire neighbourhood. War and peace, politics and big money all are resolved over lip smacking baby back ribs, or the world’s best hamburger grilled by the world’s best grill master (in their own mind at least).

So this then is the idea behind Grill N’ Chill allow the grill master to express creativity on what comes from the grill but also what is served as a beverage alongside that great grilling effort. We have given great recipes for both.

There are a few simple rules that every great grill master has mastered some basic unbreakable rules for grilling. They may seem simple but forget them and you face a possible down fall, poor quality food presentation or even worse food that is not edible.

First be sure you have enough fuel, charcoal is best, so be sure to have good quality charcoal or briquettes on hand. Usually 6 quarts of charcoal will see you through, use 30 briquettes to cook 1 pound of meat. Be sure you select a high quality charcoal made from burning high quality woods in the absence of oxygen, so it will light quicker, burn hotter, gives a nice smoky flavour and leaves little ash. Briquettes on the other hand are less expensive, easily found gives an even temperature. Made from wood by products they tend to need chemicals to burn and therefore need to be burned off to begin with otherwise the chemicals will enter your food and taste like fuel not the flavour you’ll desire. However they tend to maintain temperature longer than lump charcoal. Time is also very important 30-40 minutes are required to create a proper ash layer which gives you the even temperature you require. Look for grey ash spread over the briquettes a good indication it is time to get cooking.

Secondly be sure your grill is clean. Pieces of black carbon burned on to the grill will cause your proteins to stick to the grill and give your products a bitter burnt taste. A clean grill is not only important for the presentation of your food but more vitally for the final flavour of your meal.

Judging the temperature of your grill may be a little tricky if you do not have a grill thermometer (you really should have one) so to judge temperature without one use this method.

Hold the palm of your hand over the heated coals, the length of time will indicate the temperature of the grill:
5 Seconds = low heat, Ash coating thickens, red glow less visible
4 Seconds = medium heat, Coals covered with light gray ash
3 Seconds = medium high heat
2 Seconds = high heat, Red glow visible through the ash coating

Stay committed, once you begin pay close attention to your grill. This open flame should never be left unattended. Any one of many factors can cause flare up’s and ruin your food. Stay involved, it is your dinner on that grill.
Want the extra flavour of mesquite, hickory or maple soak the wood chips in water before placing them over the hot coals.

Flare ups will instantly burn your food so avoid using anything which would cause such flare ups. A common mistake which causes flare ups, are sugary sauces (most BBQ sauces) basting with such sauces should be done only during the last ten minutes of cooking. The sugars burn easily and that will ruin your meal as well.
Every good cook needs a good instant read thermometer.

Steaks are done on the thermometer as follows:
Rare: 120 to 125 degrees F (35C) centre is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion
Medium Rare: 130 to 135 degrees F (50C) centre is very pink, slightly brown toward the exterior portion
Medium: 140 to 145 degrees F (55C) centre is light pink, outer portion is brown
Medium Well: 150 to 155 degrees F (60C) thin line of pink outer portion evenly browned
Well Done: 160 degrees F (70C) no pink and above steak is uniformly brown throughout


1 tbsp 15 ml olive oil
1 tbsp 15 ml Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp 15 ml garlic minced
1 tbsp 15 ml paprika
2 tsp 10 ml dried thyme
2 tsp 10 ml dried oregano
1 ½ tsp 8 ml black pepper
1 tsp 5 ml salt
1 tsp 5 ml lemon pepper
1 tbsp 15 ml red pepper flakes
4-6 oz 4-170 g rib eye steaks

In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except the steaks in a small mixing bowl. Place the steaks in a shallow baking dish, spoon the mixture over the steaks and press into the meat with the back of the spoon. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Grill over medium heat to desired doneness.



1 lb 454 g lean ground beef
¼ lb 120 g sausage meat
1 1 small onion finely diced
½ tsp 3 ml each of fresh basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper
2 2 slices bread, milk soaked, broken in small pieces
½ cup 125 ml soy sauce
½ cup 125 ml pineapple juice
½ tsp 3 ml each of white pepper, garlic powder
1 tsp 5 ml ground ginger
2 tsp 10 ml canola oil
2 tbsp 30 ml sherry

In a large mixing bowl combine the beef, sausage meat, onion, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper and bread.

Make into small meatballs, skewer with water soaked bamboo skewers. Place on a tray, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a small sauce pan combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the sauce is reduce to half the volume.

Grill the meat balls for 3-5 minutes per side (depending on the size) over medium hot heat, brushing frequently with the sauce. Brush one final time just before serving.


2 cups 500 ml chilli sauce
3 cups 750 ml catsup
1 cup 250 ml brown sugar
2 cups 500 ml Coca-Cola® soft drink beverage (do not use diet)
2 tsp 10 ml black pepper
1 tsp 5 ml each of white pepper, garlic granules, onion powder
½ tsp 3 ml cayenne pepper
1 tsp 5 ml each of dried basil leaves, thyme leaves, oregano leaves
2 tbsp 30 ml mustard
3 tbsp 45 ml honey

2-¼ lbs 1 kg Danish or baby back pork ribs
½ tsp 3 ml each of salt, paprika, thyme leaves, oregano leaves, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder
1 tbsp 15 ml chilli powder

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Pour into a mixing bowl and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
Cut the ribs into 5 bone sections.

Combine the seasonings. Sprinkle on the ribs and then rub into the meat.

Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Bake the ribs in the oven for 1½-2 hours, until fork tender. Grill ribs for 15 minutes over medium heat brushing frequently with the sauce. Brush 1 final time before serving.

1 1 egg
¼ cup 60 ml dry bread crumbs
1 1 small grated onion
2 tbsp 30 ml chopped fresh green onion
2 tsp 10 ml chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp 15 ml water
2 tsp 10 ml Dijon mustard
½ tsp 3 ml salt
¼ tsp 1 ml Pepper
1 lb 454 g ground chicken
6 6 Kaiser Buns
¾ cup 180 ml prepared mustard
¾ cup 180 ml red wine vinegar
1½ tbsp 23 ml margarine
2 tsp 10 ml salt
1 ¼ tsp 6 ml black pepper
½ tsp 3 ml Tabasco sauce
½ tsp 3 ml Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup 60 ml granulated sugar

In a bowl, beat egg; mix in bread crumbs, onions, chives, water, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix in chicken; shape into 6 ¾ inch (2 cm) thick patties. Place on greased grill over medium high heat; cook for 6 to 7 minutes per side or until no longer pink on the inside.

In medium saucepan, combine mustard, vinegar, margarine, salt pepper, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and sugar; mix well. Simmer 10 15 minutes on low heat. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Baste the burger with the sauce while grilling. Brush one final time, place burgers in buns, garnish with lettuce, tomato or any of your favourite burger toppings, and serve at once.


New York Steak

1 cup 250 ml safflower oil
¼ cup 60 ml garlic vinegar
2 tbsp 30 ml lemon juice
2 tbsp 30 ml minced onion
1 1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp 5 ml salt
1 tsp 5 ml marjoram
1 tsp 5 ml basil
1 tsp 5 ml thyme
½ tsp 3 ml cracked black pepper
1 tsp 5 ml Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp 3 ml Tabasco sauce
1 cup 250 ml steak sauce
6 8 oz 6 225 g New York Strip steaks (AKA Kansas City Strips)

Blend all the ingredients except the steaks.

Place the steaks in a large shallow baking pan, pour the marinade over the steaks, marinate 4 6 hours covered and refrigerated.

Broil the steaks on a char broiler over medium heat or coals to desired doneness. Brush frequently with the marinade, brush one final time before serving.


Carmenere Marinated Skirt Steak with Blueberry Chimichurri

• 2 cleaned and skinned skirt steaks
• 2 cups carmenere Chilean wine
• 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 3 sprigs fresh thyme
• 1 small sliced white onion or shallots
Blueberry Chimichurri

1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons dark red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons minced onion or shallot
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cracked black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, marinate for 24 to 48 hours. Remove, season with sea salt and cracked black pepper and grill until desired doneness.

Blueberry Chimichurri:

Blend all ingredients together until pureed. Season to taste. Serve with grilled skirt steak as a side condiment. Note: If allowed to stand, run blender briefly before serving.

Samples of Chef K's new cook book Grill N' Chill

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Claire's Butter Chicken

When my 3 year old granddaughter likes something as delicious and exotic as Indian Butter chicken, it's time for me to create a recipe just for her. So here it is princess.

1 kg boneless chicken skin removed
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
1 tsp red chilli powder
6 cloves
8-10 peppercorns
1" stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
8-10 almonds
Seeds from 3-4 pods of cardamom
1 cup fresh yoghurt (use a rich type)
3 tbsps vegetable/canola/sunflower cooking oil
2 onions chopped
2 tsps garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsps coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
400g/ 14 oz of chopped tomatoes, ground into a smooth paste in a food processor
1/2 litre chicken stock
2 tbsps dried fenugreek leaves
3 tbsps unmelted, soft butter
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves to garnish

Mix the chicken, lime juice, salt and red chilli powder in a large, non-metallic bowl. Cover and allow to marinate for 1 hour.

Heat a flat pan or griddle on medium heat and gently roast (stirring frequently) the cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves and almonds till they darken slightly. Cool and add the cardamom seeds. Now grind into a coarse powder in a clean, dry coffee grinder.

Mix the yoghurt, above whole spice powder (from previous step), coriander, cumin and turmeric powders together and add them to the chicken. Allow to marinate for another hour.

Heat the oil in a deep pan on medium heat. When hot, add the onions. Fry till a pale golden brown in color and then add the ginger and garlic pastes. Fry for a minute.
Add only the chicken from the chicken-spice mix and fry till sealed (chicken will turn opaque and the flesh will go from pink to whitish in color).

Now add the tomato paste, chicken stock, fenugreek and remaining part of the yogurt-spice mix to the chicken.

Cook till the chicken is tender and the gravy is reduced to half its original volume.

Melt the butter in another small pan and then pour it over the chicken.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with Naan and Kaali Daal.


4 cups White bread Flour
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Milk
1 tbsp Sugar
1 Egg
4 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Nigella seeds (known as kalonji in India and in the United States they are called charnushka)

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl and make a well in the middle.
Mix the sugar, milk, eggs 2tbsp of oil in a bowl.

Pour this into the center of the flour and knead adding water if necessary to form soft dough.

Add the remaining oil, knead again, then cover with damp cloth and allow the dough to stand for 15 minutes. Knead the dough again and cover and leave for 2-3 hours.
About half an before the naan are required, turn on the oven to 450F.

Divide the dough into 8 balls and allow rest for 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle a baking sheet with nigella seeds and put it in the oven to heat while the dough is resting.

Shape each ball of dough with the palms to make an oval shape.

Bake the naan until puffed up and golden brown. Serve hot.

Kaali Daal (black lentils)

1 cup split urad daal (black lentils)
2 large onions sliced thin
2 green chillies slit
Salt to taste
A pinchof asafetida
2 large tomatoes chopped into cubes
2" piece of ginger jullienned
1 tbsp garlic minced
2 tsps coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 cup thickened/ double/ heavy cream, whisked
2 tbsps vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil
2 tbsps ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds


Soak the Urad Daal (black lentils) in a bowl of water, overnight if possible.
Boil the soaked lentils with 3 cups of water, 1 sliced onion, green chillies, asafetida and salt to taste till they are very tender.

In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the other onion till soft. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute.

Add the tomatoes, coriander, cumin and red chilli powders and fry for another 5 minutes.

Add the boiled lentils and enough water to make a thick gravy-like consistency and mix well. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour in the whisked cream and mix well. Turn off the heat.

In another small pan, heat the ghee and when hot add the cumin seeds and cook till they stop spluttering.

Pour this into the lentils (it will all sizzle) and mix well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Carinval Dream

Everybody dreams, the exotic ports, the extreme sunsets or sunrises, food that makes one shiver because it’s so good. The vacation of a life time, but what do choose? That all inclusive hotel on a warm water beach, the Yucatan vacation that no one else has ever had or the cruise that just keeps you smiling day after day.
So after many long hard hours of work I chose the dream to come true for my family and booked a cruise on the Carnival Dream, one of Carnivals largest and most well appointed cruise ships.

Carnival Dream Highlights
•Gross Registered Tonnage - 130,000 •Length - 1,004 feet •Beam - 122 feet •Beam at Pool Decks - 158 feet •Maximum Draft - 27 feet •Number of Guest Decks – 13 •Passenger Space Ratio – 36 Capacity (2 persons per cabin) - 3,646 Capacity (including upper berths) - 4,631 Staff - 1,367 Speed - 22.5 knots

Wow what a ship is the feeling that you get when you first approach it docked at the terminal in Cape Canaveral Florida. (The above picture was taken in dock at Cozumel Mexico) This ship has it all no matter what the age of her guest there is always something to do 24 hours a day. As a low budget cruise you really can save huge dollars by choosing Carnival. There is of course the casino, live entertainment, a variety of musicians plying their trade (some whom were very good) a small variety of guest participation events, this ship has waterslides (the reason I booked it for the grandkids) and live entertainment in the main theatre (which lacked the entertaining part of the description). After the “Welcome the Board” show who really wanted to return?

This blog but however is about food and service. So let’s first begin with the service, the staff on The Dream are beyond excellent. Everyone seems to be truly concerned with the guest and that the guest is enjoying every minute of their stay upon the ship.

From the Captain to the bus person assigned to your nightly dining table they want you to leave with memories that will last your life time or at least until you want to cruise again and hopefully choose The Dream.

(Chef K and the Captain upon the bridge of The Dream).

The matire d’ can be found checking with every table at all meals being sure that each guest is receiving the service standard that Carnival has set as a minimum for their guests. You are sure to find exceptional service staff in all departments of the ship. Why we even had a server named Lady who actually got Dianna up and dancing in front of the entire dining room. Something I could not do after 35 years of marriage. But look and see isn’t she having fun on the “Fun Ship” with Lady the server?

Carnival is dedicated to the “Fun” on their ships so they work hard to give every customer and enjoyable experience. But seemly in doing so they forget the customer wants to partake in much of what is happening. They seem to believe it is better to entertain the guest than allow the guest to partake, they have karaoke for we who cannot sing but think we are the next American Idol (more like William Hung than Ruben Studdard). Waterslides for all, a variety of pools and hot tubs, special clubs for young children, tweens, teens and adults of all ages. Giant chess sets on either side of deck for those who need to relax and clear their minds (LOL).

So then when hunger strikes after all the fun where is the food, The Carnival Dream has many options for those hunger pangs. Upon the Lido deck you can find a deli and Tandoori buffet at the aft of the ship, and mid ship on the same Lido deck you’ll find two buffet lines, a pizza shop, and burger and hot dog barbeque as well as a pasta restaurant aft ship one deck up. Along with many bars to quench any kind of thirst. The food here is comparable to most QSR (quick service restaurant)restaurants and other than the Tandoori buffet most QSR restaurants far surpass the quality that is served on the Dream.

All the QSR’s upon The Dream use mostly prepackaged and frozen products, you’ll find heat and serve products at breakfast such as the breakfast sausage links (micro wave type sausages) powder eggs for the buffet line although you can get a fresh made omelette and fried eggs upon request. Premade frozen breakfast Danish the just bake and serve type.

The pasta house and buffet lines seem like the place to use up the leftovers from the two main dining rooms, The Scarlett and The Crimson. Here you have the option of having a set dinner reservation in the Scarlett or Carnivals “Your time dining” in the Crimson. Don’t try to have dinner in the Scarlett you will be turned away rather curtly as we were with a “Your not allowed to eat here” by the matrie d’ so you make your way up to the Crimson and wait up to an hour for a table. When booking on The Dream I made the false assumption the “Your time dining” was the same as NCL’s “Freestyle dining” unfortunately it is no where near similar. Your time dining basically means you wait until the reservation guests are served.

After experiencing the food you may want to wait. As a chef with a masters degree I clearly understand how very difficult it may be to feed a small city several times a day, no easy task. Some times quality must be given over to need to turn tables so all may be fed in a timely fashion. The basic attempt in both main dining rooms is to provide a three course dining experience. Menu’s feature standard selections from hamburgers and chicken tenders to comfort food selections to the usual dinner features, steak, chicken and salmon. There was a daily attempt at a more unusual appetizer, frogs legs, escargots or alligator.

I tried the alligator fritters on the second night they came raw in middle without the batter being fried, the apology given by the martie d’ “so sorry one out of five isn’t bad though” yes one bad meal is a bad meal, the same time raw chicken was served to one of my guest and not a word was mentioned regarding it. Feeding many people should never mean cutting corners or reducing the quality of service and never, never, never drop culinary standards to serve good and safe food. Consuming both the raw alligator and chicken could lead to serious illness and the standards should very high to assure this does never happen.

The dinning rooms main proteins (chicken, beef tenderloin, prime rib, etc. ) are by far the lowest of USDA Standard. (The steak house does offer a higher standard which we’ll discuss later) Having an opportunity to visit the main galley and inspect the freezers most of the proteins are USDA Standard many contains a 17% Neti Pot saline solution. This solution contains water, baking soda and salt and is injected into proteins to “tenderize” them. The original use of this “pump” was to give turkeys that self basting method and prevent the white turkey meat from drying while roasting. It has become popular with chicken producers as well and so too with beef producers to sell the much inferior USDA Standard cuts of meat. Often used in cow meat because of poor fat marbling within the cuts.

USA and Canada have similar rating for beef depending on fat marbling or content with the primal cuts. The finest in both countries is “Prime” going down the scale from there is USDA Choice or Canada’s AAA next is USDA Select or AA in Canada then USDA Standard of Canadian single A. In addition to the grades for youthful cattle, Canada also has quality grades for mature animals. Bulls are assigned an E grade and cows are placed into one of four D grades. Canada’s D1 grade requires excellent carcass muscling, firm white or amber fat and less than 15 millimeters (mm) or just over 9/16th of an inch fat depth. D2 requires medium to excellent muscling, white to yellow fat and less than 15 mm fat depth. The D3 grade is assigned to carcasses with low levels of muscling while D4 grades indicate a fat depth of greater than 15 mm. It is also possible to purchase ungraded Canadian beef.

The less the fat content the tougher the cut will be when cooked unless it is larded or tenderized through a marinating process or injected with a pump of some kind, as used in The Dreams cuts of beef.

So why is this not a good thing? The use of this pump is very similar to what the ancient Egyptians’ used to mummify bodies with. The results are the soda reacts with the beef and loosens the proteins leaving a mushy or gummy substance instead of a DELICIOUS TASTING piece of meat. Pump also allows the risk of bacteria growth, gives all proteins a soapy and salty taste, additional seasoning usually results in a food that is far too salty in taste. As was the case with my wife filet migon on our third dining night. As well as the prime rib on the last night. A perfectly cooked piece of pumped steak still becomes uneatable because of the chemical reaction. USDA Standard meat generally is good for braising or slow cooking other meat that may be pumped are the final USDA grades which are Commercial, Utility and Canner. To attempt to pass it off as a quality meal is by far letting your customer’s way down.
Breakfast in the main dining room The Scarlett also provided a far inferior experience.

Eggs Benedict a all time favourite , looks good!!!! The English muffins were left on a steam table until a knife could not cut them, the instant hollandaise sauce was placed beneath a salamander until the sauce was hard and dry and they were cold as well. Notice to the heat and serve sausages, the same sausages used in the buffet restaurant which they usually chopped and fried with over cooked onions. Breakfast menu in the Scarlett remains the same daily.

Now let us discuss The Dreams steak house called The Chef’s Art. Here the standard definitely was much higher. The primal beef cuts are USDA Choice equal to AAA in Canada. Only 2% of all beef slaughtered in the US are graded as Choice. There will be no need to pump such beef and The Dream does not.

All course are well presented, the Escargot Bourgogne presented on brioche with a creamy garlic dipping sauce.

Or the Sashimi style tuna tartare.

Both appetizers were excellent and any chef would be proud to serve these. The next course was a soup or salad. I choose the Lobster Bisque while Dianna and Tim both had the house Spinach salad.

So we are really happy at this point and I decided to book a reservation for all eight of us in our party for the next night. A little premature as we had not had our entrees at this point. After a 15 minute wait the entrees arrived and again they looked very tempting. Everything was good exactly as ordered and the flavours were blended with a professional steak house chef’s skill. Again Dianna and Tim both had the lobster and petite filet.

While I choose the rack of lamb.

Again this meal had all the making of a great dinner, but one mouthful changed the whole experience, everything was very cold, the plate themselves were as if they came straight from the refrigerator. The onions beneath the lamb medallions were cold slices (which are supposed to be grilled, see any grill marks)? The little crock pot again was cold as ice and the contents therein matched, Roasted potatoes and vegetables. This of course is an additional charge upon the Dream and should have been removed from our bill as no food was replaced with hot food. We did receive a phone call from guest services inquiring about the meal and when told they choose to do nothing.

The Dream offers many experiences and the service staff as I have said are very attentive and did all they can in their power to keep you happy, like “Lady” our Crimson server. But in my opinion they fail hugely in all they’re restaurants.