I really like ordering eggs at American coffee shops and restaurants. The waitress comes over and asks, “How would you like your eggs cooked, Hun – over easy, over medium, over hard, sunny side up, hard-boiled or scrambled?”
“How about poached, I ask?”
“No worries, poached eggs comin’ right up!”
I’m always amazed at the number of ways you can have your eggs prepared in the U.S. On the other hand, in some other countries we’ve been to, if you say you want your eggs sunny side up, you may get a look bordering on constipation, or if you step over the line and say you want them poached, you may even get run out of the restaurant!
All kidding aside, there’s one more way you can prepare eggs: baked in a skillet on abed of tomatoes and red beans and flavored with a smoky chipotle sauce. This dish takes less than 30 minutes to prepare but the delicious taste will remain in your mouth long afterwards!
The key ingredient that gives this dish so much zing is the chipotle chili pepper in adobosauce (in a can). The chipotle pepper is a Jalapeño pepper that has been smoked. If you can’t find this product in the supermarket or specialty store, you can just use chili powder. But remember, only use a small amount of the chipotle pepper (I used 1/2 pepper) or you may be running to the nearest fire hydrant to cool your mouth!
First, cook the onions and garlic in oil until soft. Then add the tomatoes, red beans, chipotle pepper, malt vinegar, thyme and salt.
Next, add the grated cheese, then crack the eggs over the mixture, spreading them evenly:
Then bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking.
By the way, the next time you want to order eggs at a restaurant, try asking for Eggscooked in Chipotle sauce– they might even say, “Sure, comin’ right up!”
One of my blogger friends once reminded me that blogging should be about sharing, not showing off. I try to follow her advice, but I’m afraid that this post might be edging over a little into showing off. I recently saw the film Julie and Julia again on TV – I really like this movie; perhaps it’s because of the nostalgia created by the movie sets of an old Paris, perhaps because it has Meryl Streep in it.
Anyway, I noticed that the last dish that ‘Julie’ had to make was a fully boned duck, stuffed and baked in a fancy pastry crust – Pâté de Canard en Croûte. This dish was a major achievement for her – not only it was the last of the 365 dishes she had to create over the year, but she had to overcome the hurdle of preparing a complicated dish.
I, too, then decided to leap to the challenge of making Canard en Croûte. At first, I thought this dish might be too ‘fiddly’, but then again it would be good practice for me- in three months I’m off again to Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris to do the advanced cuisine course! Was this dish worth it? Was it worth the many hours spent in the kitchen and dropping my knife several times on my foot? Read to the end of this post and see!
The first steps to making the dish involve removing all the bones of the duck, leaving the skin in tact. It’s important to start with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude- remember that you are master of the duck!
To bone the duck, start with the back of the duckfacing upwards. First you cut a deep slit down one side of the backbone (going from neck to tail), pulling the flesh away from the carcass using your fingers.
First cut down one side of back bone
As your knife reaches the ball joint of the thigh, you find that you’ve hit a roadblock. You now need to sever or ‘snap’ the joint using your fingers and you can now slice to the end of the backbone.
Snap tendon at thigh ball joint
Continue cutting to bottom of duck
Now repeat this process on the other side of the back bone. You will now see a fully exposed back bone with the ribs attached- cut away this part of the carcass to tidy things up and make it more manageable to handle the remaining carcass. Next you cut very close to the ridge of the breastbone to free the carcass, being careful not to cut the skin. Once the carcass is fully released, you’re not done yet! There are still the bones to remove from the wings and thighs. To remove the bone from the thighs, scrape the meat from the bone going from the ball joint to the tip of the thigh. Repeat with the wings.
Scrape meet from drum sticks and wings to remove bones
At some point, Julia warns us that the whole duck carcass with dangling legs, etc will appear to be an unrecognizable mass of confusion and therefore we should not be overcome with fright. Several times, I had to remind myself to put on my ‘Julia hat’ and fill myself with confidence. Yes, I can bone six ducks if I wanted to! After boning the duck, you are left with an empty ‘duck suit,’ ready to be stuffed, then rolled and stitched up into a loaf shape.
Fully boned duck
Add stuffing to center of duck
Fold sides together, stitch up back opening and tie together into loaf
Next, you brown the duck in oil on the stovetop. Prepare a chilled pastry dough and roll 2/3 of it out into an oval shape (1/8 inches thick). Place the browned duck on top of the dough with the breast side facing up and bring the pastry up around the duck, patting it into place.
Cover duck bottom with pastry
Roll out the remaining pastry into an oval shape and place it on top of the duck. Brush pastry top with egg wash. Cut out small pastry decorations using a cookie cutter, using back of knife to press fan-shaped lines into them. Coat them also with the egg wash. Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 350 F (180 C). Julia recommends serving the dish chilled, but you can also serve it hot. Before serving, you’ll need to lift the top crust off and remove the duck, to cut all of the trussings. Place the duck back into the pastry to serve.
Bake and enjoy!
But was it worth it? Julia Child gave people the confidence to toss out their TV dinners and to get into the kitchen to cook- even complicated things like Pâté de Canard en Croûte. I accepted the challenge and happily succeeded! This dish is indeed an impressive sight when you bring it to the dinner table! So, yes, it was worth it. But bones are what give meat dishes their juicy flavor – so why remove them? And there are other duck dishes that are more delicious and simpler to prepare (see my Duck Breast in Orange Sauce). So, yes, with this dish Canard en Croûte, I admit I was showing off a bit, but probably I won’t be doing it again! It will be back to my ‘blogging is sharing’ once more.
Cut the wings of the duck at the first joint and bone the duck as per the instructions (above). Lay the bird skin-side down on a cutting board. Slice off some of the thickest parts of the meat from the duck breast and thigh meat and cut into cubes. Place the cubes back onto the duck, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the cognac and port. Roll the duck up and place in fridge while preparing the pastry and stuffing.
For the stuffing, cook the diced onion and garlic slowly in butter until they are tender and translucent. Transfer to large mixing bowl and add the port and cognac, minced pork, veal and pork fat. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, thyme, orange zest and chopped walnuts and mix well.
To prepare the dough, place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled, cubed butter; rub the flour and butter together between the palms of your hands until it resembles fine sand. Add the eggs and mix with a wooden spoon. Add enough cold water so the dough easily holds it shape when formed into a ball. Turn the dough mixture out onto your work surface and knead several times until the dough forms a cohesive ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes.
Remove the duck from the fridge. Place the duck skin-side facing down on a work surface. Place enough stuffing inside the duck to cover the center part. Fold both sides inward toward the center and stitch up the opening using kitchen string and a trussing needle. Wrap and tie the string around the duck in 4 – 5 places to hold it together while cooking. Heat several tablespoons of oil in a large casserole dish or saucepan and brown the duck on all sides; let cool for several minutes
Remove dough from fridge. Roll out ⅔ of the dough into an oval shape on a floured surface. Place the trussed duck on top of the dough, with the breast side facing up. Bring the edges of the dough up around the duck and pat into place. Roll out the remaining dough into an oval shape and place on top of the bottom crust. Pinch or press the edges of the top and bottom crusts together. Brush the top crust with an egg wash. Roll out the remaining pastry dough and cut out small round or oval shapes using a cookie cutter. Use the back of a knife to press fan-shaped lines into them. Decorate the top crust with these shapes. Brush the entire top crust and pastry decorations with egg wash. Place a foil funnel or piping nozzle in the center of the pastry to let out steam during baking.
Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 180 C or 360 F. Remove from oven and let cool. Lift the top crust gently off and lift out the duck. Cut off the trussings, place the duck back inside the pastry and replace the top crust. Serve either cold or warm.
This is how I feel when I eat lamb – I love the rich, gamey taste. But, I love it even better when I add it to a pie and flavour it with a full-bodied red wine and some diced vegetables!
So here is my recipe for Shiraz and Lamb Pie – made with puff pastry and lamb that has been slow-cooked in red wine and stock until the meat ‘falls apart.’ For my pie, I used Shiraz wine, made from the dark-skinned Syrah grape. Originally from France, this grape is now grown globally and is especially popular in Australia.
This wine is called Syrah in some parts of the world, but it’s the Australians that popularised the name Shiraz. (Leave it to the Aussies to come up with interesting names for things; i.e. chickens are called ‘chooks’ and breakfast is ‘brekkie’). Whatever you call it, this dish is high up on the list of comfort foods!
For those of you wondering what ‘Zip-a dee-do-dah’ is, I’ve attached a ‘feel-good’ YouTube video at the end of this blog for you to look at!
Dust the chopped lamb pieces in some flour and shake to remove the excess.
Heat several tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Brown the lamb pieces over medium high heat on the stove top for several minutes. Transfer to a dish.
Add the diced onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the Dutch Oven (or pot) and cook until tender (3 – 4 minutes). Add lamb pieces back into the pot with the veggies, then add the wine and beef stock, thyme and bay leaves. Bring the liquid to a soft boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot with a lid and let simmer on low heat for 1.5 - 2 hours or until the meat falls apart and is easy to shred. If necessary, add more stock to the pot to ensure the ingredients are fully covered by the cooking liquid.
About 10 minutes before the lamb is fully cooked, add the sliced mushrooms and peas (optional) to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Strain the meat and veggies from the cooking liquid. Separate the meat from the veggies and shred it using a fork to ‘mash’ the meat fibers.
Place the shredded lamb and cooked veggies into a pie or casserole dish, filling the dish almost to the top.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (360 F).
Return the cooking liquid to the stovetop and let simmer until the sauce reduces to about ¾ of the original volume. If required, add a bit of cornflour paste to the liquid to thicken it further. Add the sauce on top of the lamb mixture.
Remove the frozen puff pastry sheet from the freezer and let it thaw for several minutes. Then place it on top of the pie or casserole dish (containing the lamb mixture). If necessary, trim the outer edges of the pie so that the pastry fits neatly around the rim of the dish. Brush the dough lightly with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with a little water).
Cook for 30 minutes or until the crust turns a golden brown.
Chocolate Easter Eggs with Caramel Filling – easy to make and even easier to eat!
As a child, I used to love having Easter egg hunts. My Dad would go out and hide the eggs on the front lawn area while us children would wait inside the house. No preliminary peeking was allowed, lest we find out ahead of time where the precious eggs were hidden.
We often dyed our own eggs – first hard boiling them, then dipping them in various dyes. Once, I bit into one of my prize eggs and found it to be quite runny- obviously we hadn’t perfected our egg-dying technique yet. Sometimes, while pottering in the garden, we would find an egg a year later that had been missed – we wouldn’t dare eat it but it was still fun finding the odd egg or two that had been neglected for such a long time.
As an adult, I grew away from Easter eggs but then came back to them when our two children were young. They, too, loved Easter egg hunts and receiving baskets filled with the decorative eggs. Unbeknownst to them, I would sometimes raid their Easter baskets, heading right for the chocolate ones. But I was so disappointed when I bit into a hollow chocolate egg. “Where is the caramel filling? Where is the crunchy hazelnut filling?” I would cry.
So, this recipe is dedicated to those who love chocolate Easter eggs, not the boring hollow kind, but those that have those wonderful, creamy fillings.
Summary of the Steps (see detailed recipe below)
First, melt the chocolate either in the microwave oven or by placing a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Then pour the chocolate into the egg mold, filling it about 1/3 full. (I used three different kinds of chocolate – dark, milk and also white chocolate). Spread a thin layer of chocolate around the mold using the back of a small spoon.
Place the molds in the fridge to set – only takes several minutes. Then gently remove the chocolate by pushing the chocolate upward from underneath the mold – should lift out easily without having to use a knife.
Next, prepare the caramel filling, then let cool. Now pour the filling into each egg half, filling about 3/4 full.
Close the two egg halves together. In order to close up the seam between the two halves, rub some melted chocolate along the seam, using your finger. You are now ready to enjoy your caramel-filled chocolate egg!
This is the last day of my series ‘5 Salads in 5 Days’ where I have posted 5 different salads over 5 consecutive days. I must say that I have lots of salads backed up in my fridge – enough to last for one week!
Today’s post is Pizza with Lemon-marinated Sashimi Tuna Slices. Do I hear you ask, “Is that a pizza or a salad?” Well, this dish can be both! Place some pizza slices on a platter or cutting board with some salad greens, and you can have your cake (I mean pizza) and eat it too!
This pizza is topped with olives, slow-cooked onions and delicious marinated sashimi tuna slices. Grab a piece while you can and don’t forget the salad greens!
5 Salads in 5 Days: Pizza Salad with Sashimi Tuna Slices
Part pizza and part salad, you'll love the lemon- marinated sashimi nestled on top of a pizza base covered in soft onions and a few sardines.
For the Pizza:
10 g dry yeast
60 g warm water
200 g flour
5 g salt
5 g sugar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, sliced thinly
3 tbsp. olive oil
about 20 black olives, pitted and sliced in half
small jar of anchovies (optional)
For the lemon vinaigrette marinade:
50 ml fresh lemon juice
75 ml olive oil
30 ml peanut or vegetable oil
½ tsp Dijon mustard
salt/pepper to taste
For the garnish:
~ 300 g of sashimi grade tuna, sliced thinly
Mixed salad greens, including some water cress
Pre-heat oven to 190 C (380 F).
Prepare the pizza base: dissolve the yeast in 60 ml of warm water. Add flour to a mixing bowl, add the salt, sugar, egg and olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the yeast mixture and stir until smooth.
Turn the dough out onto the benchtop, knead several times and form into a ball using your hands. Place dough back into mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the lemon vinaigrette: combine the lemon juice, oils, Dijon mustard and salt/pepper. Slice the sashimi-grade raw tuna into thin slices and marinate in the vinaigrette for at least 15 minutes. Now cook the sliced onions in 3 tbsp oil on the stovetop until soft and set aside.
When the dough has risen, place it onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangular shape, about ¼ inch thick and 6 – 7 inches wide. Brush the dough with olive oil and spread the onion mixture on top of the dough. Add the chopped olives and anchovy pieces (optional) on top of the dough and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until the dough is a light brown color.
Remove pizza from oven, add the tuna slices and anchovies on top of the pizza and drizzle with a little olive oil. Slice into pieces about 3 inches wide, arrange the pieces on a platter or wooden cutting board and garnish with various salad greens (I used pieces of watercress and some cos lettuce pieces).