Lemon Leek Pork and Not So Sweet 16

Milestones are supposed to be fun and celebrated.  Our daughter turned 16 this past weekend and there were a few fun things planned.  Unfortunately the plague is still upon this household!  Poor thing woke up on her birthday with the stomach bug.  Day canceled!  Of all days.  We’ll have to do a proper celebration when we have them back again.

That is if it doesn’t keep going round this house.  I had it last week and now my poor husband is knocked down with it.  The puppies are keeping him company, too bad their licking isn’t the cure!

With all the germs, not a lot of cooking is going on so creating new dishes has been put on the back burner.

I did make this dish a few weeks ago on one of my few days off when I had some boneless pork ribs and leeks on hand.

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For this dish, I sliced the pork ribs lengthwise and browned them in butter in a large skillet.

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Once both sides have been browned remove the pork and cook off in the oven at 350F/175C to cook off.  Just make sure you don’t overcook the pork.  Chop about a cup and a half of oyster mushrooms (12oz) and saute them in the butter.  Cook until they start to brown.  As they brown add a few cloves of garlic that are finely chopped.

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Slice about half a cup/4oz of leeks and add to the skillet.  As that cooks add about two tablespoons of lemon juice.

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Next add 8-12 oz of cream and about 1/2 a cup/4oz of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Toss in cooked spaghetti and serve with the pork.

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It goes without saying this would be great with a nice white wine and some garlic bread.

Fingers crossed we can all get germ free and take our daughter out to celebrate.  🙂

Leek and Bacon Burgers

When I started blogging I was nudged by a friend to just go ahead and do it.  Instead of just thinking about it and worrying whether it could be successful or not.  For a few months now I’ve been wondering about starting a YouTube channel.  Of course I have been trying to figure out if I could pull it off, what would I do, how would I do it, that sort of thing.

I’ve been inspired by Stéphane of My French Heaven who has started his channel.  He has already uploaded a few videos and he is doing a great job.  It’s a bit of a learning curve for me as I don’t have a Mac and we don’t use Windows.  So I found an open source video editor Kdenlive to try out.  I took a few videos to practice and boy did I feel silly!  It’s one thing to have in your head what you want to do and another to actually press record and do it.  So I’ll do a bit of practicing and see what I can sort out.  I have iMovie on my phone but that screen is too small for me and I don’t have enough space on my iPad.  Then I have to figure out camera set ups.  I think this could be fun, once I learn the ropes.

This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous so we did a lot of outdoor projects.  Which meant easy dinners was the name of the game.  My husband wanted burgers.  I wanted to do them with a twist.  For the actual burger I did the same ones as I did in my gourmet burgers.  Though instead of goat meat I used beef.

Leek Bacon Burger 1 2016

Instead of buns I bought large portobello caps to grill.  Just prep them with sea salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Set aside while you prep the burgers.  Slice about half a cup of leeks and a few button mushrooms.  Cut up a few rashers of streaky bacon.

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Start cooking the bacon in a skillet.  Once it is half cooked add the mushrooms and leeks to the skillet.  While this is cooking grill the burgers and portobello caps.

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Stack the burger on the mushroom caps, add goat cheese, and top with the leek and bacon mixture.

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For this you can pick just about any cheese you like, my husband likes jarlsberg. You don’t need much more than this as it is quite filling.

Please let me know if you have a YouTube channel or any advice on having one.

Roast Chicken with Bacon and Leeks and Teaching the Boy to Cook

I have wicked spring fever!  It looks like winter is leaving early this year.  Obviously this could change but I am really hoping it doesn’t.  It is so beautiful out.  And it so nice to be out of the windowless office.

A few weeks ago my son mentioned he wanted to cook dinner for us so we had him go through our cookery books to see what he would like to try out.  He found a recipe for roast chicken that had a bacon stuffing with seaweed.  With the exception of me, no one else would want seaweed and I don’t like roasting birds stuffed.  So we brain stormed and came up with our own recipe.  We finally had time to do it last night and it was a lot of fun to cook with him.

Roast chicken with bacon and leek 1 2016

Preheat the oven to 325F/150C.  Place the chicken in a shallow roasting pan.  Add water and a bit of sherry to the pan.  Coat the chicken with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  This chicken was just under 4lbs so we cooked it for an hour and a half.

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Cut up 4 rashers of streaky bacon and render it into the skillet.  While I was doing this my son was working on his knife skills getting the mushrooms and leeks ready.  He’s 11 so I handled the raw meat and he took care of everything else.  I was impressed with how he did.  🙂

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Drain excess bacon fat then add the leeks and mushrooms to the skillet.  Saute until the leeks have softened then add about a cup to a cup and a half of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add a couple of tablespoons of cognac and about the same amount of stone ground mustard.  Stir well to blend and simmer to reduce by a third or so.

Roast chicken with bacon and leek 4 2016

I had my son taste test to see if it was balanced.  I have to say he has a really good palette.  So I had him adjust the flavours as needed.  He did really well with that!

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Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before carving.  We served it with roast potatoes and parsnips.

I really enjoyed spending one on one time with him doing this meal.  He’s a neat kid.  🙂

Lovely Farmer’s Markets and Grilling Cod

The schedule for the markets in the surrounding towns is being figured out.  We went to our first one in Noyant and what fun!  It isn’t a big one but you won’t lack for food.  Though for this one, in order to get fresh herbs I had to buy a thyme plant.  Where there’s a way!

 
It wasn’t expensive and my in-laws can keep it when they go home.  

  

With our phrase book, little French, and the vendors’ little English (or sometimes big English!) we managed to get everything we needed for the special dinner of celebrating my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary.  Quite the accomplishment these days!  

  
We also managed to find some lovely cured meats, cheeses, and the most amazing crevettes.  They are very messy to peel and eat but it’s worth it.

  
The fish monger had a very good selection of fish so I bought some cod to grill.  The stall that sold cured meats also sold spices and we got a mix that was like a citrusy dry rub that had paprika in it.  I thought it would be perfect for the cod.  We found some ready prepared kebabs made with turkey and beef for the non fish lovers to round out the meal.

I prepared the cod two ways.  First I rubbed the fish with the dry rub and added olive oil.  I wrapped it in the tin foil and put it in the fridge.

  
For the second preparation of the cod.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper, added lemon slices, thyme sprigs, olive oil, and dry white wine.

  
Wrap in tin foil and place it in the fridge until ready to grill.  I also prepped aubergine with salt and pepper and olive oil to grill.  The mushrooms I dipped into a lemon thyme dressing I made for the salad.

  
  
I’ve gotten the hang of the charcoal grill but it is very hot work in this heatwave!  Yesterday was 100F/38C.  Even in the shade, trying to be an asthmatic bellow to get the flames going nearly did me in.  But I was successful.  Given that it’s not a large grill I had to do the food in stages with the aubergine put on last.

  
Keep the lemon thyme cod in the tin foil so it poaches in the olive oil and wine.  I decided to be brave and place the other cod directly on the grill.  Conor from One Man’s Meat was kind enough to give me a tip of about five minutes.  This was quite the thick piece so after a few minutes I checked to make sure it was starting to flake before flipping it over to cook on the other side.

  
So far so good!  The kebabs were done so I added the leek to the grill.  You want the fish to be flaky but not dry.  It’s ok to have it medium well rather than well done.

 
My husband made delicious garlic bread and his aunt made a salad.  I have to say, I was really pleased with how the fish came out.  Both ways.

  

We are enjoying the countryside and I love the sunflowers.  Though if you stop on the roadside beware!  I don’t know if I stepped in stinging nettles or some stinging insect nest.  Either way it was painful getting the shot.  Taking the suffering for your art a bit too far I think.  😊 

Leek and Mushroom Puff Pastry

Our kids are coming home tomorrow!  They’ve been gone for nearly two weeks visiting grandparents in Florida.  While I’m thrilled they are having a blast swimming, getting ice cream, and being goofy, they are missed.

I asked what they are requesting for dinners for the few days they are with us before they dash off to overnight camp.  My son is asking for chicken cordon bleu.  And my daughter would love something Italian.  I think I can handle these requests.  🙂

When I posted about the roasted veg with crepes I said there was another dish to post about from the French restaurant we went to at Terminal 3 Heathrow.  I did find out what the restaurant was called, it’s Oriel Grande Brasserie.  My husband ordered a puff pastry dish with leeks, mushrooms, and goat cheese.  It was delicious so I knew I would try to recreate it.

I confess I buy the puff pastry.  I do want to try to make some but I can get decent store bought and it’s one of the few ingredients I buy so what the heck.  🙂  For this dish I used the puff pastry shells which need to be baked ahead of time.  Follow the directions given.  For mine I baked them at 425F/220C for about 20 minutes.

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Set aside. This recipe is for two servings. In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute 6 sliced mushrooms.

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I wanted a nice roasted flavour from the mushrooms.  As Julia Child taught the best way to do this is not mess about with the mushrooms.  In other words, don’t stir.  After the mushrooms are sauteed for a minute or so, let them “roast” on each side until browned.  In the meantime, finely chop 2 cloves of garlic and add to the skillet with a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.

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After a few minutes add a 1/4 cup of chicken stock and about 3/4 cup of sliced leeks.  Bring to a simmer.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Once the liquid reduces about half add a dollop of goat cheese and melt it into the sauce.

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Spoon into the pastry shells and grate fresh Jarlsberg or a similar cheese on top.

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Bake until the cheese is melted and golden.   The side dish that was served when my husband had the dish was a potato salad of some sort over greens.  I roasted some potato in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper.  I served it over mixed greens with a lemon thyme dressing.

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This was a light summer meal but would also be great as a starter or a party dish.  I really wish my son liked mushrooms as I’d like to make this for the kids.  It would be hard to pick round the mushrooms though!

Pommes Boulangere and How to Up My Game

I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist because good luck with that.  No one is perfect!  But I really dislike not being really good at something.  Needless to say it leads to disappointment.  For example, you will never see me dancing and singing on stage.  That is reserved for the car and the kitchen.  I wish I was better at food photography.  It’s strange because with everything else I can come up with some very good photos but I struggle with food.  And plating.  I can paint, create, design most things.  Food?  There is a mind block.  Which is tricky when you have a food blog.

So imagine my envy when I came across Roger’s post for Pommes Boulangere.   Granted he made a career doing this but I saw his food pic of the ingredients and just went wow.  That is what I am looking to achieve.  I immediately put photography books and food photography books on my Christmas list.  This is my New Year’s resolution to improve in this area.  It’s in my head but doesn’t always translate.  Time to start thinking outside the box and just do it and practice.

And the recipe?  Had to try it.  I admit for the first time I was hesitant to blog about a recipe that someone else did because of the difference in the photography but this dish is so delicious it outweighed my concerns.

Preheat the oven 375F/190C.  Avoid the convection on this one.  I should have and you’ll see why below.

I finely chopped half an onion and thinly sliced about 1 1/2 cups of leeks.  I use the green parts all the time.  Lots of flavour and less waste.

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I took 3 potatoes and thinly sliced them.  Quite the task when you don’t have a mandolin but I managed.

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In a skillet melt 2T of butter and saute the leeks and onions until softened.

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Add a cup of homemade poultry stock.  I used our turkey stock for this.  Also add 1 cup of dry white wine and bring to a simmer.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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The recipe calls for fresh thyme but I didn’t have any as ours is currently buried in snow.  So I used some fresh sage we had on hand. After simmering for a couple of minutes add the potatoes.  Cook for 10-15 minutes covered.

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Pour into a shallow baking dish.

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Bake until potatoes are cooked and golden with most of the liquid absorbed.  Here was my error in using convection.  It got crispy too fast so I switched to regular baking.  Covering would have helped as well.  Live and learn!

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This makes a wonderful side dish.

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I must say though if you can, make it a day or two ahead.  I found on the second and third day using up the leftovers that the flavours really melded together perfectly and it just got better and better.

Turkey, Leeks, and Lemon

The chances of a white Christmas are definitely increasing.  We’ve had a couple of snow showers that haven’t melted due to the freezing cold but this weekend is shaping up to be the first major storm of the season.  The kind where we need to make sure the snowblower fires up and we have enough fuel for it.  The major weather sites are just saying snow but the local weather sites are saying it could be 6-12″.   The kids will be thrilled!  They love snowball fights.  🙂  Fortunately it will be over the weekend so no worries about commutes.  We can stay off the roads.

Our turkey is about done now and it’s time to make some stock with the bones.  That will be on the list for today.  One of the dishes I created to use up the turkey was this dish that went over pasta.  It was a school night so it needed to be quick.  We are lucky enough to still have leeks in the garden, granted they are frozen but we can still use them.  This meal takes less than half an hour to throw together.

To prep slice and clean the leeks and drain.  Chop some fresh rosemary and garlic and squeeze the juice of a lemon.

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I then cut what I needed from the turkey into small pieces.  I also sliced some mushrooms.

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In a skillet I put a bit of olive oil and then a couple of tablespoons of butter to melt.  Add the garlic and rosemary with the heat on low and cook for several minutes to allow the flavours to infuse together.

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Start with about half the lemon juice and add that to the skillet.  Later add more lemon juice to taste.

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Add in the turkey, leeks, and mushrooms.  In the meantime cook up the pasta of your choice.  I chose cheese ravioli for this pairing.

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Once everything is cooked serve with grated cheese.

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It had a light flavour with the lemon and was delicious with pinot grigio.  I think this weekend we’ll be doing more stick to your ribs food with the storm and cold.  Comfort food will be key!

Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche

I don’t know what my expectations were for the food on the ship.  I don’t think they were high or low but maybe just hopeful.  We enjoy good food and it’s part of our experience when we travel or just live.  Overall it was fair to middling but I did get some inspiration here and there to try at home.  One starter my husband ordered was a goat cheese and leek tart. I had a small bite and thought I could come up with something that we’d all like.

We got back home late Tuesday night after a nearly 20 hour day of traveling.  Now you would think that would mean we needed a good long sleep.  Oh no.  Bright eyed at 4am.  Why?  The only good thing was we managed to get a ton of stuff done before 7am.  Unpacked, laundry started and all!  Picking up the dogs is always an adventure after a trip.  They love the kennel and get excited when we pack their things but they are equally excited to come home.  They barrel down the hallway leaping about like idiots.  Trying to get the harnesses and leashes back on them is like wrestling an octopus!

Then the day dragged as we had to wait until school was over to get the kids.  We missed them so much!  I wanted to do a home cooked meal for them but I needed something simple as I knew by the time dinner needed to be made I would be struggling to keep my eyes open.  This quiche would do the trick.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C

I prepped the veg first.  I chopped several mushrooms, couple cloves of garlic,  and a small leek from our garden.  And sauteed them in some olive oil.  As they soften I added just a smidge of veg bouillon and a few splashes of water to the mix.

Goat and leek quiche 1 2013 Goat and leek quiche 2 2013

In a small bowl I prepared the rest of the mixture.  Mix together 4 eggs and two cups of milk.  We use 2% milk and that works just fine.

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I crumbled up 4 oz of soft goat cheese and added it to the egg mixture.  To season salt and pepper to taste and add a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce.

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Set this aside and make the pastry dough for the pie shell.  Spoon in the leek mixture and spread along the bottom.

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Pour in the egg mixture on top and bake for 15 minutes.

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Reduce the heat to 350F/175C and bake for another 30 minutes or so.  Until the toothpick test comes out clean.

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If you are not jetlagged, hungry, and wanting a pillow let it set for 5-10 minutes.  I barely made it 5 before I was ready to serve so it was a bit soft but the flavour was there.

Goat and leek quiche 9 2013

This was perfect comfort food after a very long day.  But it was wonderful to have a sit down dinner with the kids again listening to how their day went.  I missed that.

Duck and Leeks – Sounds Like a Good Pub Name…

I love the old pub names you can find and the history behind them.  And I get a kick out of the signs.  I can picture a pub named the Duck and Leek and there would be some historical story going back to the mists of time.  Unlike my dish.  It came about 2 days ago because I was in the mood for some leeks.  🙂

I’ve mentioned a few times this year that the garden has been a bit wonky.  The growing aspect has been all over the place.  The leeks are no exception.  The previous years they have grown to be about 5 feet long and almost 3″ in diameter.  Loads of meals but this year they are about 2 feet and about an inch in diameter.  And we didn’t do anything different!  Fortunately the flavour is still there.  So I thought they would go well with the duck.

To prep I sliced and cleaned the leeks. Dirt gets in all the crevices of those little buggers!

Duck and leek 1 2013

Next I score the fat on the duck and season with salt and pepper.  In a hot skillet I place the duck fat side down.  Once there is a bit of a sear I turn the heat down to slowly render the fat.

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Once it’s rendered enough turn and sear the meat side.  Do this for the short sides as well so you’ll have to hold it with tongs.  Remove to rest and keep it warm while the leeks are being cooked.

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Next I drain about half the duck fat otherwise it would be overwhelming.  I add about a tablespoon of butter to melt.

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I chopped up about 4 cloves of garlic and sauteed them until they started to turn a little golden.

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Toss in the leeks and saute until cooked.

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While this cooks I slice the duck.  This particular duck was a bit stubborn as it stayed on the rare side.

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Easily fixed as I added the duck to the skillet with 1/2 cup of Pinot Grigio and simmered for a couple of minutes to reduce down and to just finish off the duck.

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I cooked up some rice pilaf and served the duck and leek over the rice.

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Got a thumbs up from the kids.  And the dogs were thrilled because they got the excess duck fat.  Happy campers all round!

Leeks and Onions

The other day I had the grand plan of recreating a dish I had in Paris.  It was an unmitigated disaster.  The key ingredient was the artichoke.  I had never prepared one before and I may never again.  The dish was a lovely tender bottom half of an artichoke with amazing smoked salmon, a poached egg, and a mustard sauce.  The last three I was able to do.  However we now have a pot that is blackened and I’ll have to attack that with oven cleaner.  I hope that works.  I was steaming the artichoke and it ran out of water.  Sigh.

So I moved on to other things.  I decided it was time to get the leeks and onions into the ground.  We like to rotate our little crops each year and that was the plan for the leeks and onions.  Mother Nature had other plans as one bunching onion plant is regrowing and some seeds that didn’t sprout last year are coming up now.  Which is pretty cool but that bed is staying the same as last year.

Leeks and Onions 1 2013

For the leeks I dig out two small trenches to plant them in and mix in organic compost and fertilizer.  A lot of gardeners will bury the leek as it grows to blanch it.  I only do that a little bit until the leeks are pretty sturdy as I like the dark green.  More flavour.

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I plant them carefully and they are so delicate at this point.  Hard to believe they can get up to 5 feet long and you can use them as bats.  🙂

The bunching onions are much easier.  After mixing in the compost I just plug them in willy nilly.  I left space to plant more seeds in a few weeks to stagger the harvest.

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Our garden is well on it’s way now with the bulbs and flowers starting to grow.  The peas are poking through and I think spring is finally here to stay!