Friday, 7 October 2016

French Onion Soup au Gratin Meatballs

I'm starting to "winterize". 

The perennials are starting to turn brown and get cut back.  The oil in the lawnmower is changed.  I got the dirt in the backyard garden turned up and two ugly plants removed.  And then.  There was the snowblower debacle.

The snowblower was purchased in February of 2011 after a ridiculous amount of snowfall in the few months leading up to "the last straw".  The snow was over my head on the lawn!  So, the snowblower came into my life.  And - well.  I just got around to changing the oil in it - this year.  Oops.

Being an individual of somewhat handy means, I checked the instructions and proceeded.  The oil drains from a pipe that about 5 inches long and has a cap on it.  I was unscrewing the cap and it seemed to be taking an amazingly long time.  But I persevered and suddenly, the drain pipe falls COMPLETELY off the snowblower (into the pan I was using to catch the oil), and oil starts going EVERYWHERE.  Ugh. 

So I slammed the pipe back into the machine and screwed it into place.  For whatever reason, the cap was completely stuck in place and I needed to use a pair of vice-grips to hold the drain pipe still while unscrewing the cap. 

Tip from me to you.  Kitty litter will soak up oil like nobody's business.  It's amazing.

Then, after letting the machine sit for a few days to see if the drain pipe was set properly and the cap was tight, I went ahead with starting the stupid thing to see if it would leak when it pressured up.

I hit the primer button, the tilted the machine to roll it closer to the open door so that I wouldn't suffocate and gas dripped on the floor.  So I pressed the primer button a few mores times and MORE GAS leaked out.  Naturally, I needed to rip the thing apart to find out if a piece of tubing had blown apart.

After monkeying around for a little while (and basically emptying the fuel tank into a Ziploc bag), I gave up and headed inside.  After a little bit of research, I discovered that "over-priming" causes the carburetor to over fill and spill over. 

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the snowblower.  Since then, I've moved it around, started it up, and let all the parts move.  With no problems at all.

Tip from me to you.  Research before ripping apart a machine. 

And with that.  The winterizing continues.  Gardens are being cut down, tulips are being planted for the spring.  The garage is getting cleaned out.  I'm surprisingly busy!

So - with the winterizing in progress, it is with just the slightest chagrin that I'm going to slightly switch gears from the summery fun of BBQ to more..... wintery type of meals.

But though the snow and cold is coming to stay - there is totally nothing wrong with the deliciousness that I'm about to share with you.

These French Onion Soup au Gratin Meatballs are beyond unbelievable.  Caramelizing the onions and stuffing the meatballs is somewhat time-consuming - but WORTH IT.

So let's start with the onions. 

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add in the onions.  To get them super-even, I used my mandolin.  But if you have killer knife skills and can slice those onions up evenly - knock yourself out.  

Add the salt and pepper.  And then let cook over medium heat for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Stirring frequently.  You don't want those babies to burn.

Once the onions are caramelized, add in the thyme and cook for another minute or two.

Then add in the red wine.

And add the beef broth.

Stir to coat the onions and cook until the liquid is nearly reduced.

In a medium bowl, combine the beef.

And the bread crumbs.

And the parsley and egg.

Salt and pepper.  And combine.

Cut (about) 2 ounces of mozzarella into half-inch cubes.

Divide the beef mixture into sixteen equal-sized pieces.  Flatten each piece into a patty.

Then stuff with a half tablespoon of the caramelized onion.

Then add in a cube of mozzarella.

Wrap the patty around the onions and cheese and seal as much as possible - rolling into a ball.

Then you're going to brown the meatballs in a skillet.  I would absolutely recommend being lazy and using the skillet that you caramelized the onions in. 

Next is to make the sauce.  Combine beef broth, red wine, and cornstarch and whisk together.

Now.  If you're lucky enough to be using an oven-safe skillet, pour the sauce over the meatballs in the skillet, top with the remaining 6 ounces of cheese, and bake in the oven.

But - if you're like me and you haven't yet acquired a skillet like that, you can transfer the meatballs to a casserole dish, top with the sauce and cheese, and bake in the oven.  I would say that a 7 x 11 inch dish would be just the right size.

Oh, the cheese.  Oh, the meatballs.  Serve them on rice.  Serve them on mashed potatoes.  Top with fresh parsley if you happen to remember.  

But mostly, the glorious, glorious cheese.

The sauce thickened while it was baking, the meatballs came out tender and juicy.  The cheese..  I mean - I'm probably boring you with the cheese business, but if you lust after cheese the way that I do, this meatball dish will be totally perfect for you.

I hope your lawnmower is put away, and your snowblower is all ready for the new winter season.


Friday, 23 September 2016

Drunken Cherry Galette

Let's talk about galettes.

Galettes are basically just a fancy name for a pie that is "ugly".  Except these galettes are SO PRETTY.

Straightforward ingredients...  Sugar, flour, salt, butter, water.

In a large bowl, combine the flour,

With the salt and sugar.

Then add in the pieces of butter.  It's best if the butter is cold.  For the majority of baked goods - butter should be at room temperature (or melted if the recipe indicates).  But for pie - COLD.

Then, using a fork or a fancy schmancy pastry cutter if you have one, cut the butter into the flour until it is about the size of peas.

I prefer my pastry cutter - but a fork works just as well.  Though it might take a little longer.

Then you're going to add in cold water (again - pie crust ingredients must be cold), and stir the mixture until it comes together.  Knead it until it holds together in a dough ball and then refrigerate.

On to the filling.

Remove the stems and pit the cherries.  I used a chopstick to remove the pits and it worked really, really well.  Just press the chopstick through the cherry from the stem end and the pit will pop out the other side.

Once all the stems and pits are removed, put the cherries in a shallow dish.  I used a pie plate.

In a measuring cup, combine the wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Then add in the sugar.

Stir the wine, lemon, and sugar mixture together and pour over the cherries.  Stir around to coat the cherries.  I would probably use a different vessel for this next time.

Let sit for about an hour.

After the hour is up, strain the liquid from the cherries and transfer into a pot.  The recipe says to remove 1/4 cup of the wine mixture from the pot, but I didn't.  And it turned out just fine.  Just took a little longer to cook down.

Start simmering the wine mixture until it is reduced to 1/4 cup.  (Mine was only a couple of tablespoons because I halved the recipe).  Then stir in the cherries and add in 1 teaspoon of cornstarch.  Stir again.

The get your dough ready.  Split the dough into equal portions and roll out to desired thickness. 

Top with the cherry mixture and fold the edges up and over the cherry mixture.  It doesn't need to be perfect!

Brush the top of the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Then bake.

I topped mine with freshly whipped cream.

Oh - MY this turned out so good.  It's slightly time consuming - but altogether worth it.  

I loved a number of things about this recipe.  1 - the crust was so easy to put together.  2 - the wine, lemon, and cherries came together completely perfectly.  3 - it is easily halved.  4 - It is BEAUTIFUL in its imperfection.

The last thing.  Probably that I abandoned my fork and ate it like a pizza.  I have no shame.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!  xoxo - Heather

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Million Dollar Spaghetti

If you're a resident of Alberta, you know that September long weekend sits on a knife-edge of weather.  Either it will be freezing cold or smoking hot. 
This long weekend of 2016.  Freezing cold.  Which is fairly average.
So let's do a pasta casserole. 
That name though - it cracks me up every time.  I suppose it's because the casserole itself is quite rich.
Feel free to use a fancy spaghetti sauce if that's what blows your skirt up.  But an inexpensive sauce like President's Choice Marinara Sauce is perfect (and tastes delicious).

In a large bowl, combine the cottage cheese.

Sour cream.  And the cream cheese (I forgot it's picture!).

Cook up the ground beef and add the pasta sauce.

In a 9 x 13 baking dish, place half the butter (cut into "cubes) in the bottom of the dish.

Then add half the cooked pasta. 

Spread the cottage cheese mixture on top of the pasta.

Then add the rest of the cooked pasta and the rest of the butter.

Top with the cooked beef.

Bake for 30 minutes, top with desired amount of cheddar cheese (I wish there'd been more!), and bake a little longer.

Very rich - it's a hearty meal that's ready pretty quickly.  Definitely use a pasta sauce that you love!
I would reduce the amount of cream cheese for the next time as I found it to be a little overpowering.  (I'll note the change in the recipe below)

While this pasta is not great for your waistline (so few casseroles are!), it's a great "feel good" recipe for when the rain is persistent and the wind is cold. 
Every now and then, a cold and gross September long weekend turns into a beautiful and spectacularly warm fall.  I've got my fingers crossed that we're in for that.  While we're waiting for that to happen - fill yourselves up with casseroles!
Xoxo - Heather

Friday, 19 August 2016

Japanese Potato Salad

One of my most favourite side dishes at a barbecue is potato salad.  And it can be made a zillion different ways.

My preference is for a mostly creamy, slightly chunky version.  But I think is mostly stems from my penchant for mashed potatoes - I could eat mashed potatoes and gravy

When I made the California Roll Burgers, I wanted to do something a little outside the normal.  And when I came across this potato salad, I figured it would be perfect match.

Check the glorious ingredients.    

That's the veggie and egg part, but let's talk about the other important part.  The seasoning.  I definitely recommend getting your hands on Japanese (Kewpie) mayonnaise.  It's actually fairly easy to find (I pick mine up in Superstore).

In a small bowl, combine the mayo, rice vinegar, salt, and sugar.  This is going to get stirred into the potatoes once they're cooked and mashed to your desired consistency.

You're going to laugh now.  Things happened and I kind of was busy and forgot and then magically there was cooked, mashed potatoes and diced carrots and corn being stirred into them.

The cucumber is sliced thinly and salted and the excess water gets squeezed out of them.  Then they too get stirred into the potatoes.

Although the salad is slightly tedious - it's actually REALLY delicious.  Creamy, sweet, tangy, the veggies give it a lightness and a freshness that's really perfect in the midst of a heatwave.

If you happen to have Japanese Mayo on hand because you've made, say, California Roll Burgers - or you've been ambitious enough to make your own sushi from scratch, I would say that this potato salad should definitely be on your list of must-makes.

PS-  I LOVED that this recipe included the weights of each item.  It did my obsessive brain a favor.

Japanese Potato Salad
2 medium russet potatoes (400g)
1/2 medium carrot (80g)
1/2 fresh corn kernels (60g)
4 inches Japanese cucumber, thinly sliced (80g)
1 large egg
100g Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie)
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra sale for cucumber and potato

  1. Peel and cube carrot.
  2. Remove the husk and silk from corn.  Cut the corn kernels from the cob.
  3. Steam the carrot and corn until cooked through (about 8 to 10 minutes).  
  4. Place cucumber in a bowl and sprinkle with salt to coat evenly.  Let sit for about 5 minutes, then squeeze as much excess water from the cucumber as possible.
  5. Hard boil egg and cut into pieces.  I like to place eggs in cold water and bring the water to a rapid boil.  Continue to boil for 10 minutes, then place the pot under running cold water to cool the eggs.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, and honey (and salt and pepper as desired). Whisk until smooth.
  7. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces.  Put the potatoes into a medium sized pot and fill with water, about an inch above the potatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork tender.  Drain the water and mash until the potatoes have reached your desired consistency.  Keep in mind that they may break down further when mixing in the veggies and mayonnaise mixture.
  8. Stir in the mayonnaise mixture.
  9. Add in the carrots, cucumber, and the egg.  Stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper and additional mayonnaise as desired.
  10. Transfer the potato mixture to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.
Source: Food 4 Tots