Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Don't I Eat This More?!??! feat. Crab Cakes

I'm back! 

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of  foodstuffs out there you absolutely adore, and yet you rarely take the time to prepare or eat? For example, how often do you make a Club Sandwich at home, even though it's really not that tough? Or , in this case, Crab Cakes? I've never made them before (although I have made something similar in the form of Salmon Cakes), I've rarely ordered them in restaurants, and yet they're absolutely delicious!

Crab Cakes

For 12 cakes


- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 eggs
- 2 cans crab meat
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 cup panko, plus another cup to coat cakes
- 4 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 dried chipotle pepper, powdered (or 1 tsp chipotle powder)
- 1/2 tsp allspice powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- hot sauce to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3-4 tbsp olive or vegetable oil for frying (or more if needed)


- Heat oil and sauté onions for about 5-6 minutes.
- Crack eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork.
- Add rest of ingredients (including onions, not including extra panko for coating) and stir together.
- Form crab cake "batter" into patties and coat in remaining panko.
- Heat oil in pan (and maybe add a touch of bacon fat, trust me) and fry crab cakes until golden and crispy, turning at least once.

Fryin' up those onions!

Throw everything in a bowl to start!

Fork it all!

Fry em in oil! (maybe with a little bacon fat?)

Serving up the goodness involves tartar sauce and maybe some kind of side dish. In this case, we went with creamed spinach.

But, we'll throw together some Tartar Sauce for you now!

Tartar Sauce
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- juice of half a lime
- 2-3 tbsp green relish (or chopped dill pickles)
- 1/2 tsp capers, chopped 
- dash smoked paprika
- pinch salt
- Stir everything together, mixed well.

Ready for snarfing!

And that's that! This was another one of those recipes that really worked well, likely because it's really hard to mess up the combination of ingredients that make up Crab Cakes .

But back to the original point of this post, which is this: Why the frak don't I make this dish more often? I think I might have to change that, because really, it isn't that hard to pull off.
Until next time, stay crabby!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Comfort Meets Fresh - Indian Style

Hey there! Time for more winter-themed fare (sort of)!

One of the advantages of cooking for a pregnant lady (fyi - Kari's expecting, YAY!) is that there's little in the way of food indecision.

"What do you want for dinner, honey?"

"I want something FRESH!!!"

"You want salad in January?"


"Um, OK..." (shivering inside) "Can we have something warming as well?"

"Sure! But, what...?" And then the bandying of ideas went back and forth until I remembered that Daal is supposed to be rather quick and easy to make. Luckily I was correct! I did a bit of looking around on the Internet and found several recipes and pretty much combined and adapted to my own wishes.

Daal (or Dal, or Dahl) is essentially a thick soup that originates from the India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Sri Lanka area. It's made up of some sort of pulse (lentils, chickpeas, split peas, beans), usually served with rice or flatbread (or both) and, in my experiences at least, yogurt. It's really hearty and is a great vegetarian source of protein. And, if done right, really freakin' tasty!

I took the basics from but got inspired seasoning-wise at Simply Recipes. Specifically a spice blend called "Panch Poran" (aka Paanch Phoron aka Bengalese 5-spice) consisting of fennel seeds, nigella seeds, cumin, black mustard seeds and fenugreek. You can find it in pretty much any Indian grocery store.

Super-professional labelling 

OK, so let's get to the recipe!

Red Lentil Daal 


- 2 tsp olive oil (optional: 1 1/2 tsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp sesame oil)
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp Panch Poran spice blend
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- pinch cardamom seed
- pinch turmeric
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 4 cups vegetable broth 
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked
- juice of half a lime

To serve: 

- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 1 cup plain yogurt


- Heat a dry frying pan and toast Panch Poran, coriander and cardamom until fragrant. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind spices into powder. Set aside. 

Grinding spices the old-fashioned way

- In a large pot or saucepan, heat oil. Sauté onion, garlic and ginger for about 6 minutes, until onions turn translucent. 
- Stir in salt, Panch Poran, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. Cook for about a minute. Stir in tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes. 
- Stir in vegetable broth and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover.Cook for about 20 minutes until lentils are tender. Stir in lime juice. Turn off heat and cover to keep hot. 

Bubbling away...

Next up is the salad, which was a mostly on-the-fly recipe using what was around the house. I had some apples and some yellow pepper and decided that would make a tasty, fresh salad as had been requested by my better half. So, I cobbled together some ingredients to get the salad going, but I also needed to figure out the dressing. One idea that came to me was to use coconut milk somehow, since it's a common ingredient in a lot of Indian cooking. It all came together to become what I call a Curried Apple Slaw with Coconut-Sesame Dressing.
Curried Apple Slaw with Coconut-Sesame Dressing
- 1-2 apples, rinsed
- 1 yellow pepper, julienned
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Using a box grater, grate apple (use larger holes) and squeeze out liquid from apple (put it into a glass for some of the tastiest apple juice ever!)
- Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate.

Grating the apple
- 1 small can coconut milk (400 ml)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- juice of half a lime
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cider vinegar
- pinch salt
- pinch coriander powder
- First, you want to reduce the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly (it might overflow if you don't stir it). Allow to reduce while stirring, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Mix remaining ingredients until well blended.
Reducing the coconut milk
Stir dressing into slaw, mix well and serve!

Simple but unique

To serve the whole meal:

- Warm some Naan bread in the oven and butter lightly. Or cook up some basmati rice and serve on the side.
- Ladle Daal into large soup bowls and serve with cilantro and yogurt on the side. Your diners can add as much of either as they see fit. If using rice, put a small portion at the bottom of the soup bowl and ladle Daal over top.
- Serve slaw on the side in smaller bowl.

Soup's on!

And that's that! Verdict? Wow, this Daal is really tasty! Earthy, filling, nourishing and absolutely comforting. The Panch Poran really helps give it an authentic flavour that you don't often find outside Indian restaurants. It's also dirt cheap to make and really easy. Easily one of my favourite vegetarian meals.

The Slaw was also quite tasty, with a fresh burst of tropical flavour and vitamins sorely needed in the bleak Winter months. The pregnant lady was happy with it...

And that's it for now! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Breakfast for Dinner Goes Epic

Hey there, I'm back again!

I think we all get the urge to make breakfast for dinner once in a while, whether it's a simple plate of bacon and eggs or pancakes or going whole hog for a batch of Eggs Benedict. Well, as I recently posted, I'm a big fan of the latest (to Canada) breakfast classic-in-the-making: Chicken and Waffles!

But, me being me, and Kari being Kari, we weren't going to go the traditional route of fried chicken on a sweet waffle with syrup (and maybe gravy) on top, we were going to try something completely new (maybe).

So for our version of Chicken and Waffles, we used a savoury waffle batter using goat cheese and fresh basil and instead of fried chicken, we kept the Italian influence going with Chicken Parmesan (with Kari's fresh-made tomato sauce, of course!). As a topping, we figured everything can use a touch of bacon-like flavour, but to be thematically consistent, I decided to fry up some Sopressata Salami instead. Also, building on the idea of Garlic Maple Syrup from our last trip to Murray Street, I whipped together a garlic-balsamic-maple sauce. Because HELL YES!

Now, this one is going to take some time, because there was a lot going on with this dish (because it was a rare Saturday off together and we're lunatics).

Here are the four main components of the dish:

Savoury Goat Cheese and Basil Waffles
Chicken Parmesan
Crispy Sopressata Bits
Garlic-Balsamic-Maple Sauce

Kari got the ball rolling by putting together the tomato sauce for the Chicken Parmesan (some day I'll actually reprint the recipe for this):

Meanwhile, I went to the Internet for inspiration, having never made waffle batter before. I pretty much followed the recipe below from, while omitting some ingredients, and adding others:

Getting pointers online

So here is the revised recipe:

Savoury Goat and Cheese and Basil Waffle Batter

- Makes 6-8 waffles


- 2 eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 3-4 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped or 2 tsp dry basil
- 70 g (half a small package) goat cheese


- Beat the eggs with a fork or hand mixer until fluffy. 
- Mix in flour, milk, oil, baking powder, salt, pepper and basil until batter is smooth. 
- Slowly beat in goat cheese, a few small pieces at a time until well blended into batter. 
- Set batter aside in the fridge while making other components. 

Batter up! 

Next up is the chicken for the Chicken Parmesan. As most of you already know, Chicken Parmesan is basically a breaded and baked breast or cutlet of chicken topped with marinara sauce and melted cheese. Now, I've probably said it before, but I tend to prefer chicken thighs (boneless and skinless) to chicken breast. They have more flavour and are almost always way cheaper. Also in the case of this particular recipe, thigh pieces  were the right size for the proportion of one piece of chicken to one waffle (with two of each per serving).

Chicken Parmesan

- Makes 6 servings


- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, pounded flat (directions to come)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup panko
- Tomato sauce (pre-made)
- 6 slices cheese, cut to cover chicken (usually parmesan, but here I used mostly mozzarella and a pinch of parmesan)


Before doing anything, make sure the oven is preheated at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The first step to getting the chicken ready is bashing it into cutlet shape. There are several ways to achieve this, but the best for this recipe was to pound the chicken flat.

This is done by resting a piece of chicken between two sheets of wax paper and pounding it flat using a meat hammer. In our case, since Kari has lots of neato kitchen gadgets, we used this weighted doohickey that looks like some sort of futuristic gavel.

Below is the "before and after" of that process:

Chicken - pre-pounded

Chicken - post-pounded

So, once that's taken care of five more times (or however many piece of chicken you have), it's time to bread those suckers!

You'll need a container with flour, another with milk and another with whatever you're coating the chicken with. In this case, I recommend panko breadcrumbs, mixed with a pinch each of salt, pepper and oregano. If you're lucky enough to have a home breading station, as my gadget-addicted girlfriend does, well your set up is easy! If not, simply fill three bowls with each component.

The dredging station

The process for breading your chicken is fairly simple: coat with flour, then milk, then breading. Boom, done. Try to have only one hand handle the meat since this can be a a rather messy process and better to only have one hand covered in shmutz than both.

So follow along with my how-to in pictures!

Step 1 - dredge in flour

Step 2 - soak in milk

Step 3 - coat with breadcrumb mixture

Ready for the oven!

Once breaded, set a wire rack over a foil-lined cookie sheet and place chicken on the rack. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crunchy.

Next, turn the oven to broil. Without removing the chicken from the rack, top each piece with a dollop of tomato sauce and a slice of cheese. Broil in the oven until cheese turns golden brown and bubbly.

Chicken is baked, now to broil the cheese

Turn off oven and keep chicken warm in the oven.

Crispy Sopressata Bits

Next up is the Crispy Sopressata Bits. This part's pretty darn simple. Fry Sopressata in a hot cast iron pan (with just a bit of bacon fat) until it's crispy. Set out on paper towel to absorb grease. Break up pieces of meat with fingers or knife and set aside.

Crispy fried Sopressata... 

...becomes a substitute for bacon bits!

And now we get to the Garlic-Balsamic-Maple Sauce, which is really just those three ingredients mixed together and reduced.

A cross-cultural culinary love affair in the making

Garlic-Balsamic-Maple Sauce


- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped or minced
- 3-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
- salt and pepper to taste


- Bring maple syrup to a boil in a small saucepan. 
- Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and reduce for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in balsamic and reduce for another 10 minutes until syrupy. 
- Season with salt and pepper before serving. 

Halfway through cooking the sauce, preheat the waffle iron.

Preparing the Garlic-Balsamic-Maple Sauce 

Next up, we cook the waffles. Essentially just pour a half-cup of batter per waffle onto the pre-heated iron and cook until crispy and golden (about 10 minutes). 

Waffley goodness!

Finally, it's time to put it all together. There are two ways to plate this one. 

The first is to put the waffles and chicken side by side, which is the more traditional presentation. Top the waffles with the sauce and sopressata bits, as shown below:

Let's eat!

The second way is to put the chicken on top of the waffles and pouring the sopressata bits and sauce all over the whole thing, which is how Mill Street does it

Let's also eat!

So, the verdict on this over-the-top experiment in tasty decadence? It was really, really freakin' good! The Waffles were rich and flavourful without being too much so. I wasn't sure if the goat cheese would work, but it totally did! The Chicken Parmesan was, well, Chicken Parmesan, which is pretty fail-proof as a flavour profile. The Garlic-Maple-Balsamic Sauce was a great mix of sweet and tangy that offset the richness of the waffles and chicken and the Crispy Sopressata Bits added a salty component that tied the whole thing together beautifully, and the whole affair was a nod to Italian cuisine, although I doubt any chef in Italy has tried this before!

All in all, this was a fantastic epicurean endeavour that I would totally make again, time permitting. This was quite a time-consuming effort, but nothing was terribly difficult to put together and the flavour was unique and delicious and totally worth it. 

If you give it a shot, tell me how it went! I'd love to hear if I'm the only one crazy enough to try this out!