Category Archives: Entrées/Main Dishes

Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent Recipe

Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent

One of my favorite recipes is Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent. Some may know this as “creamed chicken”.  I actually make up a large batch of this delectable dish and freeze it in serving-sized portions.  It makes a quick and easy meal when all that has to be done is bake the frozen patty shells, heat up the creamed mixture, and toss a green salad.

Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent

This recipe makes four generous servings. The great thing about this recipe is that it is a good way to use up cooked chicken if you have any or, if time is limited, it can even be made with a rotisserie chicken from the deli.  Even though it is called “chicken” vol-au-vent, turkey can certainly be used as well.

While my preference is to use the puff pasty shells, commonly called “patty shells”, because they are light, airy, and ever-so-flaky, this creamed chicken mixture can also be served over toast points or biscuits fresh from the oven. I have even used appetizer-sized patty shells to serve this dish as part of a savory course for an afternoon tea. Fancy enough for company fare but easy enough for a weeknight meal.

Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent Recipe

Ingredients

Sauce:
2-3 tbsp butter
3½ tbsp all-purpose flour
¾ cup chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp cooking sherry (optional)
¼ tsp garlic salt
Sprinkle pepper
Dash of paprika
2-3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Filling:
2-3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
3 tbsp celery, finely chopped
6-8 small white button mushrooms, sliced

1 cup cooked chicken, cubed

4 frozen puff pastry patty shells (or, alternatively, biscuits or toast cups)

Method:

Sauce: In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour. Combine the chicken broth, milk, and sherry and whisk into the flour-butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Season with garlic salt, pepper, and paprika.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened.  Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Filling: In medium-sized frypan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion, red pepper, celery, and mushrooms.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Add the chicken and toss just until heated.

Assembly:  Bake patty shells according to package directions.  Add sautéed vegetables and chicken to the sauce. Stir gently to combine. Heat over medium-low heat to ensure all ingredients are heated.  Spoon hot mixture into baked patty shells.  Serve with a side salad.

Yield: 4 generous servings

Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent Recipe

An easy-to-make delectable creamed chicken filling encased in light and flaky puff pastry shells. Perfect for company fare but easy enough for weeknight meals.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Chicken, Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent, Vol-au-Vent
Servings 4
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry optional
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • Sprinkle pepper
  • Dash of paprika
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Filling:

  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp onion finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red pepper finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp celery finely chopped
  • 6-8 small white button mushrooms sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chicken cubed

Instructions

Sauce: In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Combine the chicken broth, milk, and sherry and whisk into the flour-butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Season with garlic salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Filling: In medium-sized frypan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, red pepper, celery, and mushrooms. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and toss just until heated.

Assembly: Bake patty shells according to package directions. Add sautéed vegetables and chicken to the sauce. Stir gently to combine. Heat over medium-low heat to ensure all ingredients are heated. Spoon hot mixture into baked patty shells. Serve with a side salad.

 

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Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent

Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette

Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Orange Star Anise Vinaigrette
Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette

We grow a garden and live out of it in the summer. We grow lots of different varieties of lettuce and so salads are an almost daily part of our menu.

Lettuce from our Garden
Lettuce from our Garden

On hot summer days, I love to make what I call a main meal salad. I simply take a meat platter and lay a layer of mixed greens down the center bordered by a row of quinoa along both sides of the lettuce bed. I often marinate and cook chicken breasts then slice them for salads as I have done here.  I use whatever fruit I have on hand or that is in season to make a colorful and healthy salad. It could be strawberries, mango, melons, oranges or mandarins, blueberries, peaches, raspberries, and so forth.  Add some red onion rings, crumbled feta cheese, and top with crunchy pea and radish shoots and you have a very colorful, appetizing, and healthy dinner.

Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Orange Star Anise Vinagrette
Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Star Anise and Orange Vinagrette

What makes the salad super tasty is the vinaigrette.

Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette
Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette

For this recipe,  start with 3 tablespoons of orange juice and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and add a small star anise pod and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the juice cool. This allows the star anise to infuse the juice with a lovely subtle layer of licorice flavor. Discard the star anise and mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously.  If adding fresh herbs, only add them at the time of serving as, otherwise, they become quite limp and wilted.

Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette
Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette

Now, I don’t tend to measure the ingredients for the salad itself. I go to the garden and pick a couple of handfuls of different kinds of lettuce. For a main meal serving for two, I cook 1/2 cup of quinoa and a large chicken breast. For the fruits, just add as many of each kind as you like and the same for the pea and radish shoots.  I don’t grow these shoots – I get them from Just A Little Farm in Bonshaw.  You can click here to read the story I wrote about this farm. Jessica grows the most amazing produce and her pea and radish shoots are so lovely crisp and fresh!

Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette
Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette

This recipe will yield a generous main meal for two or, if serving as a starter, it could serve 4-6.

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

Orange and Star Anise Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
3 tbsp orange juice
1 small star anise pod
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp liquid honey
¼ tsp garlic salt
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh herbs (e.g., parsley, thyme, dill), chopped

Method:

In small saucepan, bring orange juice to boiling point over medium heat.  Reduce heat to simmer and add the star anise pod.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely, allowing the star anise to infuse the orange juice. Remove and discard star anise after orange juice has cooled.

Combine all ingredients, except the fresh herbs, in a small jar. Shake vigorously.  Add the chopped herbs at time of serving.

Yield: Apx. scant ½ cup

Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette

Yield: Scant 1/2 cup

A tasty vinaigrette with subtle undertones of licorice flavor. Perfect accompaniment to any salad but especially good with Chicken and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 small star anise pod
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp liquid honey
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs (e.g., parsley, thyme, dill), chopped

Instructions

  1. In small saucepan, bring orange juice to boiling point over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer and add the star anise pod. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely, allowing the star anise to infuse the orange juice. Remove and discard star anise after orange juice has cooled.
  2. Combine all ingredients, except the fresh herbs, in a small jar. Shake vigorously. Add the chopped herbs at time of serving.
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Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Star Anise and Orange Vinaigrette

Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

Seafood Crepes
Asparagus and Lobster Crepes

Springtime in Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast means it’s lobster season so it’s a great time to make these delectable lobster and asparagus crepes that combine two of the season’s special treats!

The lobster fishery is a significant industry on the Island and, according to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website, “lobster is Canada’s most valuable seafood export and an iconic Canadian species exported around the world.” (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/sustainable-durable/fisheries-peches/lobster-homard-eng.htm).

Fresh PEI Lobster
Steamed Lobster in the Shell

The opening of the spring lobster season is a huge deal in PEI. On opening day — the day when fishers head out to sea with boats laden with traps — hundreds of Islanders gather at fishing ports around the province to see the fishers off. Naturally, mouths are watering for the first taste of lobster from the cold Atlantic waters, a taste that is usually satisfied a day or two after traps are set and the “first haul” of lobsters is brought ashore.

Preparing for Setting Day
Eve of Setting Day in the Fishing Village of North Rustico, PEI, Canada
Parade of Lobster Boats
Early Morning Gathering in French River, PEI, to Watch Parade of Lobster Boats on Setting Day

These are so worth the wait!

PEI Lobsters
Fresh Catch of the Day – PEI Lobsters

While I adore lobster straight out of the shell and served with homemade potato salad, I like creating recipes incorporating this tasty seafood as an ingredient.  Asparagus is the first vegetable of springtime on PEI and, for the crepes I am featuring in this posting, I am using asparagus as a complimentary ingredient to the lobster. The earthy undertones of the asparagus pair particularly well with lobster, especially when some mushrooms and a rich cheese sauce are added. Choose small mushrooms, either white button or the cremini variety, for this recipe.

My asparagus comes from the farm of Tim Dixon in North Tryon in central PEI, not far from the Confederation Bridge.  Click here to read the story I previously wrote on Tim’s asparagus-growing operation. For the filled crepe recipe, try to choose the freshest available  asparagus spears that are a uniform size. I tend to choose medium-sized spears. I find that spears that are pencil thin tend to cook up too quickly and become somewhat limp. Thick spears tend to have less flavor because they have gotten too old before they have been harvested. They may also have a somewhat unpleasant woody texture. The key thing to remember about steaming the asparagus is not to overcook it because it will go limp and loose its vibrant green color.

Fresh Asparagus

The crepes for this recipe may be made ahead (by a few hours or even a day or two) and stored between layers of plastic wrap in a tightly sealed bag in the refrigerator. Following the steps I have laid out for this recipe will help organize the process of preparing the filling and steaming the asparagus so that everything is timed to be ready at the same time for the crepe assembly.

I am quite lucky here on the Island as my local fish market, MR Seafoods,  in Charlottetown sells lobster already out of the shell which means they have done the work of removing the meat from the shell and then disposing of the shells. I find this is a quick and convenient way for me to get lobster meat for a recipe.

These crepes can be baked in au gratin dishes, a 7″x11″ baking pan or on a parchment-lined baking sheet which is the way the ones in the photos in this posting were baked. I wanted to ensure that the asparagus would remain intact and clearly visible when the crepes were plated so, by baking them on a rimmed cookie sheet, nothing disturbed the asparagus which could have happened if they were scrunched into a tight baking dish such as an au gratin.

Seafood Crepes
Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

As always, I recommend reading the recipe through a couple of times to ensure a good understanding of the method of preparation and that all the ingredients and cooking utensils and cookware needed to prepare the dish are available.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

Ingredients:

Crepes:
2 large eggs
1 cup flour (to make gluten-free, use 1 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp melted butter

Sauce:
¼ cup butter
1 shallot, finely minced (about 1 tbsp)
¼ cup flour (to make gluten-free, use ¼ cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
½ tsp granulated garlic
¼ tsp dried dill
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
2 extra-large egg yolks, lightly broken up with a fork
2 tbsp dry white wine or cooking sherry
1 cup grated cheese mixture (e.g., mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Filling:
2-3 teaspoons butter
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

8 oz cooked lobster meat, cut into small chunks
40 asparagus spears

Garnish:
3-4 green onions (white and light green parts only) and/or fresh herbs for garnish (optional)

Method:

Step 1 – Make the crepes.  In large measuring cup or bowl and using an immersion blender, beat the eggs lightly.  Combine the flour and salt and beat in to the egg alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour (3 additions of flour and 2 additions of milk).  Beat in the melted butter and beat an additional 30 seconds, or until batter is smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.

Over medium heat, melt apx. 1½ tsp butter in a 8” non-stick skillet with sloped sides. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, scoop up batter. Pour the batter in to the heated skillet while quickly swirling and tilting the pan to ensure batter distributes evenly and completely over the bottom of the pan. Return pan to heat and cook crepe until top loses its gloss, tiny bubbles start to appear, and the edges of the crepe start to slightly curl. Gently lift an edge of the crepe with the tip of a fork and grab the crepe with fingers and flip it over.  Cook the second side of the crepe for 15-20 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a clean tea towel. Repeat for remaining crepes, adding small amounts of butter to the pan, if necessary, to keep the crepes from sticking to the pan.

Step 2 – Make the sauce.  In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the shallot until softened and transparent. In small bowl, whisk the flour, granulated garlic, dill, paprika, and nutmeg together. Stir flour mixture into the butter and shallot and cook until frothy.  Whisk in the chicken (or vegetable stock) and milk (or half-and-half).  Cook sauce, until mixture is smooth and heated (but not boiling) and is starting to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Stir 2-3 tablespoons of the hot mixture into the egg yolks then pour egg mixture into the sauce.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened.  Stir in white wine or cooking sherry.  Add the cheese mixture.  Continue to cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and cheese is melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove approximately 3/4 cup of the sauce and set aside.

Step 3 – Make the filling.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  In medium-sized skillet, melt 2-3 teaspoons of butter over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent mushrooms from scorching.  While mushrooms are sautéing, steam the asparagus in a tall pot with a small amount of boiling water for approximately 2 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Swish the asparagus in the cold water for just a few seconds then drain in a colander. This will also help keep the asparagus its vibrant green color. Remove mushrooms from heat and combine with the lobster meat.  Add the reserved ¾ cup of sauce and stir gently to coat mushrooms and lobster meat.

Step 4: Assemble the crepes.  Line 9”x13” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lay out 8 crepes on work surface.  Place 5 asparagus spears in the centre of each crepe, extending the asparagus tips by about ½” beyond the edge of the crepe.  Divide the lobster and mushroom filling mixture between the 8 crepes by placing filling down the center line of each crepe on top of the asparagus.  Gently fold crepe over filling, first one side and then overlapping the opposite side over the first. Using large pastry scraper or flat spatula, carefully transfer each crepe to the prepared baking sheet. Pour the remaining sauce over crepes to cover, leaving both ends of the crepes uncovered. Alternatively, the crepes may be baked in either 4 individual greased au gratin dishes or one oblong 7”x11” baking pan.  However, baking the crepes on a baking sheet allows the asparagus tips to stay perfectly intact and attractively visible when plated.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and, if desired, sprinkle with chopped green onions and/or chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or chives.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with favorite green salad.

Yield:  4 servings, 2 crepes each

Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

Yield: 4 servings

Serving Size: 2 crepes per serving

Delectable crepes filled with fresh asparagus, succulent chunks of lobster, and sautéed mushrooms in a rich cheese sauce.

Ingredients

  • Crepes:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup flour (to make gluten-free, use 1 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • Sauce:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 shallot, finely minced (about 1 tbsp)
  • ¼ cup flour (to make gluten-free, use ¼ cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic
  • ¼ tsp dried dill
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, lightly broken up with a fork
  • 2 tbsp dry white wine or cooking sherry
  • 1 cup grated cheese mixture (e.g., mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Filling:
  • 2-3 teaspoons butter
  • 1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz cooked lobster meat, cut into small chunks
  • 40 asparagus spears
  • Garnish:
  • 3-4 green onions (white and light green parts only) and/or fresh herbs for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Step 1 - Make the crepes. In large measuring cup or bowl and using an immersion blender, beat the eggs lightly. Combine the flour and salt and beat in to the egg alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour (3 additions of flour and 2 additions of milk). Beat in the melted butter and beat an additional 30 seconds, or until batter is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.
  2. Over medium heat, melt apx. 1½ tsp butter in a 8” non-stick skillet with sloped sides. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, scoop up batter. Pour the batter in to the heated skillet while quickly swirling and tilting the pan to ensure batter distributes evenly and completely over the bottom of the pan. Return pan to heat and cook crepe until top loses its gloss, tiny bubbles start to appear, and the edges of the crepe start to slightly curl. Gently lift an edge of the crepe with the tip of a fork and grab the crepe with fingers and flip it over. Cook the second side of the crepe for 15-20 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a clean tea towel. Repeat for remaining crepes, adding small amounts of butter to the pan, if necessary, to keep the crepes from sticking to the pan.
  3. Step 2 - Make the sauce. In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the shallot until softened and transparent. In small bowl, whisk the flour, granulated garlic, dill, paprika, and nutmeg together. Stir flour mixture into the butter and shallot and cook until frothy. Whisk in the chicken (or vegetable stock) and milk (or half-and-half). Cook sauce, until mixture is smooth and heated (but not boiling), and is starting to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Stir 2-3 tablespoons of the hot mixture into the egg yolks then pour egg mixture into the sauce. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened. Stir in white wine or cooking sherry. Add the cheese mixture. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove approximately 3/4 cup of the sauce and set aside.
  4. Step 3 - Make the filling. Preheat oven to 350°F. In medium-sized skillet, melt 2-3 teaspoons of butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent mushrooms from scorching. While mushrooms are sautéing, steam the asparagus in a tall pot with a small amount of boiling water for approximately 2 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Swish the asparagus in the cold water for just a few seconds then drain in a colander. This will also help keep the asparagus its vibrant green color. Remove mushrooms from heat and combine with the lobster meat. Add the reserved ¾ cup of sauce and stir gently to coat mushrooms and lobster meat.
  5. Step 4: Assemble the crepes. Line 9”x13” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out 8 crepes on work surface. Place 5 asparagus spears in the centre of each crepe, extending the asparagus tips by about ½” beyond the edge of the crepe. Divide the lobster and mushroom filling mixture between the 8 crepes by placing filling down the center line of each crepe on top of the asparagus. Gently fold crepe over filling, first one side and then overlapping the opposite side over the first. Using large pastry scraper or flat spatula, carefully transfer each crepe to the prepared baking sheet. Pour the remaining sauce over crepes to cover, leaving both ends of the crepes uncovered. Alternatively, the crepes may be baked in either 4 individual greased au gratin dishes or one oblong 7”x11” baking pan. However, baking the crepes on a baking sheet allows the asparagus tips to stay perfectly intact and attractively visible when plated.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and, if desired, sprinkle with chopped green onions and/or chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or chives.

Notes

Serving Suggestion: Serve with favorite green salad

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Seafood Crepes
Lobster and Asparagus Crepes
Seafood Crepes

Lobster and Asparagus Crepes

Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign: Moussaka

Moussaka
Moussaka

I have been invited by www.thinkbeef.ca to participate, as one of ten food bloggers from across Canada, in the Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign to promote recipes using ground beef. Each blogger was asked to develop a recipe (using ground beef) that is inspired by his or her cultural background or a culinary adventure experienced. Each blogger was paired with another and the two exchanged their own recipe for the other to try. This posting involves showcasing my own recipe as well as a recipe from my swap partner, Jason Lee, who writes the blog, “Shut Up and Eat”.

Moussaka
Moussaka

I frequently use ground beef in recipes and am never at a loss to come up with meal ideas to use this versatile meat. The recipe I have chosen is Moussaka. This is a one-dish meal typically characterized by ground meat, eggplant, and tomato sauce with a white sauce on top. So, I will begin with a discussion on why I chose Moussaka to feature ground beef, followed by some hints and tips on making this Greek-inspired dish, and will end with my experience cooking my recipe swap partner’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings inspired by his Chinese heritage. This posting has two recipes from two different cultures but both use ground beef as the main ingredient.

A Greek Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece
A Greek Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece

The recipe for Moussaka is inspired by a recent trip to the Mediterranean area that included a re-visit to parts of Greece. I have always been a fan of typical Mediterranean dishes and, when I would stop and look at menus of Greek tavernas, like the one in the photo above in Kerkira, Corfu, I’d inevitably see Moussaka as one of the offerings. While I was unable to conclusively determine the exact origins of Moussaka, it is a dish that is commonly associated with Greece. It had been a long time since I had Moussaka and my visits to several Greek Islands re-ignited my interest in this tasty dish.

Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece
Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece

I was first introduced to Moussaka in the early 1980s when I found myself working not far from the restaurant of the Dundee Arms Inn  in Charlottetown, PEI. Their restaurant was considered one of the best in town with an upscale menu, and my workplace had a standing Friday noon reservation as, otherwise, it would have been impossible to get a table. The popular restaurant had an extensive lunch menu that included Moussaka.  This became my standard Friday noontime order. The traditional Moussaka contains eggplant as a key ingredient; however, I never did acquire a taste for eggplant but I sure did enjoy the rest of this yummy dish that was served, piping hot, in au-gratin dishes. I’d simply move the eggplant to the side and enjoy the meat and tomato sauce with its traditional béchamel topping. After all these years, when I think of Moussaka, I can still recall the wonderful flavor of the dish at The Dundee.

So, when I returned home from Europe in the fall, I decided I would develop a Moussaka recipe minus the eggplant, instead substituting potatoes as the base. This is quite apropos given I am from Prince Edward Island, home of great potato production. There are many variations of Moussaka, depending on the region in which it is being made, and many different combinations of meat that can be used. Mine keeps it simple by using lean ground beef. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was invited to participate in the Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign because I knew that Moussaka would be the recipe I would use in which to feature ground beef! And, it was the catalyst for me to get busy and develop the recipe instead of leaving it on my “To Do At Some Point” list.

Moussaka
Moussaka

Moussaka is not difficult to make so long as it is approached in a methodical and organized manner. That said, this is not a dish I would attempt for dinner on a weeknight after having arrived home from work at 5pm.  This is a great weekend dish. Serve it with rustic bread or rolls or biscuits alongside a green salad. If desired, pair with a red wine such as a Chianti Classico.

Moussaka
Moussaka

My version of Moussaka does not take any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients.  However, it does require planning, organization, and some time.  I don’t find it’s any more complicated or time-consuming than making lasagna.  There are four layers to my Moussaka – the potato base covered by the breadcrumb and Parmesan cheese mixture, followed by the meat sauce, and topped with a cheesy white sauce. As always, I recommend a thorough reading of the recipe before beginning the cooking process to make sure you have all the ingredients and understand the preparation method.

Moussaka
Moussaka

Here are my hints and tips for successfully making Moussaka:

  • Assemble and prepare cooking and food prep equipment (e.g., grater, whisk, measuring spoons, skillet, baking pan, baking sheet, etc.)
  • A deep 9” pan is best for baking this Moussaka. I used an 8” pan and it was full to the brim. I placed the pan on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet in case the Moussaka boiled out.  It didn’t, fortunately, but a deep 9” pan would give a little bit extra leeway.
  • Assemble and prepare all ingredients before beginning – chop the onion and celery and mince the garlic, grate the cheese, process the bread into crumbs, bring the eggs to room temperature, etc.
  • Before beginning, measure out all the ingredients and separate and group them according to the meat sauce, white sauce, etc. This will make the process go more quickly and efficiently.
  • Start the meat sauce first as it will need 25-30 minutes to simmer during which time work can be done on preparing the potatoes and white sauce. While the simmering process will allow the liquid content in the meat sauce to reduce, there is a fine line in how much liquid to evaporate out of the meat sauce. Removing too much will make the meat filling too dry but leaving too much will make it too runny when the Moussaka is cut.  A good gauge is to run a heat-proof rubber spatula through the meat sauce to make a track. If the sauce does not immediately fill the track back in, it’s done!
  • Choose a grind of beef that has reduced fat in it. I find lean ground beef has just the right meat/fat content for this recipe.
  • Make sure the oven is preheated to 425°F as soon as the meat sauce is starting to simmer so the oven is ready to roast the potatoes.
  • Choose a dry variety of potato, such as Russets, for this recipe. Wetter varieties of potatoes will have too much moisture in them and they may go “mushy” and not hold their shape in the Moussaka base.
  • Slice the potatoes about ¼” thick (or use a mandolin) and start them roasting once the meat sauce has been simmering for about 10 minutes. About ¼” thickness is good for the potato slices. Any thinner and they are likely to burn in the roasting process; any thicker and they provide too much of a starch taste in the Moussaka. Only roast the potatoes until they are just barely fork tender – overcooking will turn them to mush and they need to hold together in this dish as they form the base.
  • The grind for the breadcrumbs should not be as fine as you’d find in a box of commercial breadcrumbs. They should be slightly coarser. I use my food processor to grind breadcrumbs from crusts. I keep a ready supply of these on hand in my freezer for casseroles and for making poultry stuffing. This thin layer of breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese adds another layer of flavor to the Moussaka and also helps to absorb any excess moisture there might be in the potatoes.
  • The amount of garlic and spices to use is always very subjective and can vary greatly according to taste preferences. As with all recipes, I recommend following the recipe-prescribed amounts the first time the recipe is made, then altering the amounts, if necessary, the next time the dish is made. The amount of spices and garlic used in this recipe is moderate, meaning the meat sauce is not overly spicy.
  • About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is due to be done, start the white sauce. The goal is that the meat sauce, roasted potatoes and white sauce should all be ready about the same time so that the Moussaka can be assembled efficiently.
  • After the Moussaka has finished baking, allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes as this will allow it to set and firm up, making it easier to cut. Cutting it as soon as it comes out of the oven may cause the layers to separate, meaning the Moussaka won’t stay intact and stand on its own when plated.  The Moussaka should stay intact with each layer visible when it is cut.
Moussaka
Moussaka

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Moussaka Recipe

Ingredients:

Meat Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef

1½ tbsp olive oil
¾ cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz canned crushed tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup beef broth
1 bay leaf
1¼ tsp dried oregano
1¼ tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cinnamon
½ tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Roasted Potato Layer:
2¼ lb russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into about ¼” thick slices
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

White Sauce:
2½ tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 2/3 cups warm milk
2 extra-large egg yolks (room temperature), slightly beaten
Pinch nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
Pinch pepper
2/3 cup grated Gouda cheese

Breadcrumb Layer:
¾ cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Topping:

2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Method:

Meat Sauce:  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add beef and scramble fry until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Transfer meat to wire sieve positioned over bowl to drain off excess liquid. Set meat aside.

Return skillet to heat and add 1½ tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and celery.  Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds while stirring mixture.

Add the drained ground beef, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, bay leaf, spices, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.

Roast Potatoes: While meat sauce is simmering, heat the oven to 425°F.  Place potato slices in large bowl and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toss potatoes to coat in oil. Place the sliced potatoes, single layer, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 12-15 minutes, or just until potatoes are barely fork tender. Remove potatoes from oven and reduce heat to 375°F for baking Moussaka.

White Sauce:  In medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  Cook, whisking constantly for about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk.  Bring mixture just to the boiling point.  Remove approximately ¼ cup of the hot liquid and whisk into the slightly beaten egg yolks to temper them so they don’t curdle.  Whisk the eggs into saucepan mixture.  Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute.  Stir in the Gouda cheese until melted. Mixture should be of spreading consistency when sufficiently thickened.

Breadcrumb Layer:  In small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese together.

Assembly:    Grease deep 9” baking pan.  Arrange half the potato slices in the bottom of the baking pan, overlapping the potatoes slightly.  Sprinkle one-half the breadcrumb-Parmesan cheese mixture over the potatoes.  Evenly spread one-half the meat sauce over the potatoes and breadcrumbs.  Place a layer of the remaining potato slices, followed by the rest of the breadcrumbs, and then the remaining meat sauce.  Evenly spread the white sauce over the entire mixture.  Sprinkle with 1½ tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.

Place baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil to catch any spills should casserole bubble out.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and the top lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let stand for 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with a green salad and rustic bread, rolls, or biscuits.

Yield:  Apx. 6-8 servings


And, Now, My Swap Partner’s Recipe ….

My recipe swap partner, Jason, chose to create a Beef and Coriander Dumplings recipe to feature ground beef.  Jason says, being Chinese, dumplings have always been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. Making dumplings with his mother and grandmothers is one of his fondest memories. A culinary course instructor specializing in Chinese cuisine, Jason is always looking for different dumpling recipes. He tells me that this particular recipe was inspired by a chili oil he was experimenting with for another recipe.

I was excited to try Jason’s recipe because I had never had filled dumplings and I love Chinese food! I was a little concerned at first that I might have difficulty finding dumpling wrappers and chili oil in PEI; however, the Island has a growing Asian population and, by participating in this initiative, I discovered Charlottetown, in fact, has a number of small global and Asian food specialty stores. I had no problem sourcing the ingredients locally for this recipe. I found the recipe easy to make and tasty. I did some online research into how to fold the dumplings and I experienced no difficulty in accomplishing the task. Jason’s method to cook the dumplings is to boil them and they cooked quite quickly, floating to the top of the water with the dumpling wrappers becoming somewhat translucent to signify they were done, all in the span of about 5 minutes.

It’s fun to try others’ recipes and, through this initiative, I discovered another Asian-inspired dish to add to the menu of my next Chinese-themed dinner.

Here is Jason Lee’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings recipe:

Jason Lee's Beef and Coriander Dumplings, served with spicy chili oil
Jason Lee’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings, served with spicy chili oil

Beef and Coriander Dumplings

(Served with spicy chili oil)

 
1 package dumpling wrappers (approx. 35)

 Filling:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
3/4 cup chopped coriander
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white  pepper
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
3 tablespoon water

Garnish:
3 tablespoon crushed peanuts
3 tablespoon chopped coriander
3 tablespoon chili oil
1 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorn

Procedure:

  1. Add all filling ingredients into a large clean bowl and thoroughly mix until everything is combined.
  2. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling into wrapped and fold/pleat into dumpling.
  3. Boil dumplings in a large pot in batches – about 10 at a time – for 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to serving bowls.
  4. Spoon chili oil over dumplings, sprinkle peanuts, coriander and ground Szechuan peppercorn.

Be sure to visit Jason’s blog, Shut Up and Eat, to read his posting about his recipe.


For more great ground beef-inspired recipes, visit www.thinkbeef.ca

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by thinkbeef.ca and I was compensated monetarily for its content and with groceries to make both recipes.

Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign: Moussaka

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings

A Greek-inspired dish featuring layers of ground beef, potatoes, and a tomato sauce all covered in a delectable white sauce topping

Ingredients

  • Meat Sauce:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ cup onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1¼ tsp dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Roasted Potato Layer
  • 2¼ lb russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into about ¼” thick slices
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • White Sauce:
  • 2½ tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 2/3 cups warm milk
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks (room temperature), slightly beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated Gouda cheese
  • Breadcrumb Layer:
  • ¾ cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • Topping:
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Meat Sauce: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and scramble fry until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to wire sieve positioned over bowl to drain off excess liquid. Set meat aside.
  2. Return skillet to heat and add 1½ tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds while stirring mixture.
  3. Add the drained ground beef, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, bay leaf, spices, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.
  4. Roast Potatoes: While meat sauce is simmering, heat the oven to 425°F. Place potato slices in large bowl and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss potatoes to coat in oil. Place the sliced potatoes, single layer, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 12-15 minutes, or just until potatoes are barely fork tender. Remove potatoes from oven and reduce heat to 375°F for baking Moussaka.
  5. White Sauce: In medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the warm milk. Bring mixture just to the boiling point. Remove approximately ¼ cup of the hot liquid and whisk into the slightly beaten egg yolks to temper them so they don’t curdle. Whisk the eggs into saucepan mixture. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Stir in the Gouda cheese until melted. Mixture should be of spreading consistency when sufficiently thickened.
  6. Breadcrumb Layer:
  7. In small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese together.
  8. Assembly: Grease deep 9” baking pan. Arrange half the potato slices in the bottom of the baking pan, overlapping the potatoes slightly. Sprinkle one-half the breadcrumb-Parmesan cheese mixture over the potatoes. Evenly spread one-half the meat sauce over the potatoes and breadcrumbs. Place a layer of the remaining potato slices, followed by the rest of the breadcrumbs, and then the remaining meat sauce. Evenly spread the white sauce over the entire mixture. Sprinkle with 1½ tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.
  9. Place baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil to catch any spills should casserole bubble out. Bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and the top lightly browned. Remove from oven and let stand for 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with a green salad and rustic bread, rolls, or biscuits.

Notes

NOTE: Please read entire post which is filled with tips and hints on making Moussaka which are not mentioned in the recipe itself.

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Asparagus-stuffed Chicken Breasts Recipe

Asparagus
Asparagus-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Asparagus is one of the most versatile vegetables, both in the ways in which it can be prepared and the ingredients with which it can be paired. Locally, in Atlantic Canada, asparagus has a very short growing season in late May/early June and it is a harbinger of wonderful produce to come from the land. And, as we all know, fresh, locally-grown produce is always best.  I am very lucky to live not far from an Island farmer, Tim Dixon, who grows asparagus and sells it at the farm gate – this means I’m buying produce that has just been harvested and has not lost its freshness through several days of transit to reach me. It also means I know where my food is coming from and, at the same time, I am supporting the local food movement with no middle men involved.

I like to feature asparagus in springtime on my dinner table and, this year, I have chosen to combine Boursin cheese, prosciutto, and chicken breasts with the asparagus.  This stuffed chicken breast can be served whole or it can be sliced into 3/4″ slices and served on either a bed of rice or on a green salad.  The latter is quite colorful as it shows the green asparagus stuffing.

asparagus
Slices of asparagus-stuffed chicken breast

This is not a difficult recipe to make and I hope you enjoy it, especially when the flavorful local asparagus is available in your region. I chose to pair this entrée with New Harbour Sauvignon Blanc (NZ 2013). This wine with its citrus, passionfruit, and guava notes, has a lovely crisp finish that compliments chicken quite well.

Asparagus Stuffed Chicken Breasts Recipe

(printable version of recipe follows at end of posting)

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp Boursin cheese (French cream cheese), garlic and herb flavor
1 – 2 tsp olive oil
10 fresh asparagus spears tossed lightly in apx. 1 tsp olive oil
2 thin slices prosciutto
3 tbsp flour
1 extra large egg, beaten
¼ cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp cooking oil

Method:

Preheat oven to 375° and grease an 8”x8” baking pan.

Individually, place each chicken breast inside a plastic freezer bag and, using a meat mallet, flatten the chicken breast to approximately ¼” thick.  Season both sides of each breast with salt and pepper.

In small bowl, mix the Boursin cheese with just enough olive oil to make the cheese barely of spreading consistency.  Leaving about a ½” border on the edges of each chicken breast, divide the cheese equally between the two chicken pieces and evenly spread the cheese on each chicken breast.

Snap off the woody ends of each asparagus spear at their natural breaking point and discard. In medium-sized bowl, lightly coat the  spears with a teaspoon of olive oil (focus mainly on coating the tips of the asparagus that will be exposed during the baking). Lay five asparagus spears on each piece of prosciutto and roll the meat tightly around the spears.  Lay each bundle of spears on one long side of each flattened chicken breast and roll the chicken around the bundles tightly, leaving  the tips of the asparagus exposed .  Secure chicken pieces with two lengths of baker’s string.

In separate shallow bowls, large enough to accommodate the chicken pieces, place the flour in one bowl, the beaten egg in another, and mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in the third bowl.

Heat cooking oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Dip each chicken breast in the flour, then in the egg, and then roll in the bread crumbs-parmesan cheese mixture, being careful not to coat the tips of the asparagus spears.  Transfer chicken pieces to hot skillet.  Reduce heat to medium and brown the chicken pieces, turning them so that all sides of the chicken breasts brown evenly, about 1 minute per side.  Transfer chicken breasts to prepared baking pan and bake in pre-heated oven until internal temperature of chicken registers at least 165°F on an instant read meat thermometer.

Remove baker’s string from each breast. To serve, lay chicken breast over steamed rice or, alternatively, let the chicken pieces rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board then, with a sharp knife, cut into slices, approximately ¾” thick and serve over rice or a green salad.

Yield:  2 servings

Asparagus-stuffed Chicken Breasts by My Island Bistro Kitchen
Chicken Breast Stuffed with Asparagus

Asparagus-stuffed Chicken Breasts Recipe

Yield: 2 servings

Tasty chicken breasts stuffed with asparagus, prosciutto, and Boursin cheese - easy enough to make for weeknight dinners but fancy enough for company fare!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp Boursin cheese (French cream cheese), garlic and herb flavor
  • 1 - 2 tsp olive oil
  • 10 fresh asparagus spears tossed lightly in apx. 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 thin slices prosciutto
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 extra large egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp cooking oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° and grease an 8”x8” baking pan.
  2. Individually, place each chicken breast inside a plastic freezer bag and, using a meat mallet, flatten the chicken breast to approximately ¼” thick. Season both sides of each breast with salt and pepper.
  3. In small bowl, mix the Boursin cheese with just enough olive oil to make the cheese barely of spreading consistency. Leaving about a ½” border on the edges of each chicken breast, divide the cheese equally between the two chicken pieces and evenly spread the cheese on each chicken breast.
  4. Snap off the woody ends of each asparagus spear at their natural breaking point and discard. In medium-sized bowl, lightly coat the asparagus spears with a teaspoon of olive oil (focus mainly on coating the tips of the asparagus that will be exposed during the baking). Lay five asparagus spears on each piece of prosciutto and roll the meat tightly around the asparagus. Lay each bundle of spears on one long side of each flattened chicken breast and roll the chicken around the bundles tightly, leaving the tips of the asparagus exposed. Secure chicken pieces with two lengths of baker’s string.
  5. In separate shallow bowls, large enough to accommodate the chicken pieces, place the flour in one bowl, the beaten egg in another, and mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in the third bowl.
  6. Heat cooking oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Dip each chicken breast in the flour, then in the egg, and then roll in the bread crumbs-parmesan cheese mixture, being careful not to coat the tips of the asparagus spears. Transfer chicken pieces to hot skillet. Reduce heat to medium and brown the chicken pieces, turning them so that all sides of the chicken breasts brown evenly, about 1 minute per side. Transfer chicken breasts to prepared baking pan and bake in pre-heated oven until internal temperature of chicken registers at least 165°F on an instant read meat thermometer.
  7. Remove baker’s string from each breast. To serve, lay chicken breast over steamed rice or, alternatively, let the chicken pieces rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board then, with a sharp knife, cut into slices, approximately ¾” thick and serve over rice or a green salad.
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Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Asparagus by My Island Bistro Kitchen
Asparagus-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Harvest Quiche

Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

My newly-created recipe combines several wonderful flavors to create this tasty quiche – sausage meat, leeks, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and a mixture of cheeses. While this savory quiche can, of course, be made year-round, it is especially good in the fall when the tomatoes are fresh off the vine and leeks and mushrooms are locally harvested.

Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

This quiche is a little bit time-consuming to make but the end result is so worth it!  But, first, here are some of my tips for quiche-making.

There are three key elements to a good savory quiche:  1) A tender, flaky pie crust; 2) The right combination of flavorful, fresh ingredients; 3) A custard filling that holds the ingredients together so that each slice of the quiche holds its own when cut and does not fall apart and spread all over the plate.

First, I recommend par-baking the pie shell.  This helps to keep the crust flaky and prevents it from becoming soggy when an egg mixture filling is added.  Time the preparation of this quiche so that the par-baked shell comes out of the oven when the filling is ready to be added.  Allowing the pie shell to cool first may result in a tougher crust than if the filling is added to the warm shell and the quiche immediately placed in the oven.  Either an unbaked frozen pie shell or one made from your own favorite pastry recipe will work fine for this recipe.  Adding a layer of shredded cheese on top of the par-baked pie shell before adding the other ingredients and custard filling also helps act as a barrier to prevent moisture from the filling soaking into the pie shell as the quiche bakes.

Second, use a good combination of flavorful ingredients that are as fresh as you can get them.  Part of the issue with some quiches is that the filling is simply too moist and this can come as a result of a couple of reasons – either the wrong amounts of eggs and/or milk used or ingredients that, themselves, are too wet and have not been drained enough.  Because this quiche recipe uses ingredients that already have significant moisture content in them (mushrooms, leeks, sausage, and tomato), it is important to drain the cooked sausage meat well and to blot the cooked mushrooms and leeks with paper towel before adding them to the quiche.

In fact, in addition to draining the cooked sausage meat, I often blot the cooked meat in this way, too.  It does make a difference.

The other recommendation I have is to use a “meaty” tomato, such as the Roma/plum tomato variety, as it is tends to be less watery than some other varieties of tomatoes.  It’s also important to keep the ratio of ingredients in proportion and to curb the urge to, say, add more sausage meat, mushrooms, leeks, or tomatoes than the recipe calls for as this will add more moisture to the quiche which may make it difficult for it to stay together when cut. It will also make a heavier quiche and the light, custard filling part of the quiche will be lost.

Quiches may be eaten warm or cold.  It’s important to let the quiche rest for at least 20 minutes when it comes out of the oven.  This allows it to set so that, when it is cut, each piece stays intact when plated and the rest of the quiche stays together without the filling running all over the pie plate before the next slice is cut. A quiche should not be sloppy.

Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

Any combination of hard cheese can be used in this recipe so long as it can be shredded and equals 1 1/2 cups total.  Cheddar cheese is pretty much a standard addition to most of my quiche recipes. In addition, I also like to buy a bag of already-shredded mixed cheese such as mozzarella, provolone, gouda, and parmesan to add to the quiche. This is a quick way to get shredded cheese and is the most economical way to get a mixture of cheeses for a recipe.

It’s a good idea to place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet as this catches any drips should they occur and it also makes it easier to transfer the quiche to and from the oven.

This quiche is a great brunch dish and I also use it as a main entrée alongside a green salad and paired with a good white wine such as Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine produced right here on Prince Edward Island.

DSC_0559

Because quiches can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold, I often add quiche slices to a picnic basket, especially if I’m preparing a savory picnic.

Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

Ingredients:

1 – 9” pie shell, chilled for 30 minutes before par-baking

½ tbsp butter
1½ tsp vegetable oil
2 small leeks (about 1 cup sliced), white and light green parts only
4 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 oz. sweet Italian or sun-dried tomato sausage meat, removed from casing

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk or blend
1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
1 tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp garlic salt
Pinch pepper

1½ cups shredded cheese (any mix of cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, gouda, and/or parmesan)
1 medium-sized Roma tomato, thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves and parley for garnish (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the unbaked chilled pie shell and add a layer of ceramic pie weights or dried baking beans to keep the pastry from puffing up while it bakes. Bake the pastry for about 12-13 minutes then remove the parchment paper and pie weights and return pastry to oven to bake for 5 minutes longer.

The pie crust should not be cooled before adding the filling so, while pastry is baking, prepare the filling. In small frypan over medium high heat, melt the butter and vegetable oil. Add the sliced leeks and mushrooms. Sauté, stirring constantly, until leeks are golden brown and mushrooms tender (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer leeks and mushrooms to paper towel. Blot dry to remove excess moisture. Set aside.

In clean frypan over medium high heat, add 1-2 tsp. cooking oil. Add the sausage meat and scramble-fry until browned. Remove from heat, drain well, and set meat aside.

In small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Whisk in the milk or blend and the liquid chicken bouillon. Add the dried basil, garlic salt, and pepper.

To assemble quiche:

Reduce oven heat to 350°F.

Place pie plate with warm partially-baked shell on rimmed baking sheet.

Line the pastry shell with half of the cheese mixture. Distribute the sausage meat over the cheese. Next, add the layer of leek and mushrooms followed by the remaining cheese mixture. Lay a layer of the tomato slices over the cheese. Lastly, pour the milk mixture over the quiche ingredients and sprinkle with 2-3 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese. Add some fresh basil leaves to top of quiche along with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, if desired.

Transfer quiche to oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until knife inserted into center of quiche comes out clean. Remove from oven and let quiche stand on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving. May be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings.

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Harvest Quiche

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings

A savory quiche that combines the wonderful flavours of sausage meat, leeks, mushrooms, tomato, and cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 - 9” pie shell, chilled for 30 minutes before par-baking
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 1½ tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 small leeks (about 1 cup sliced), white and light green parts only
  • 4 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 4 oz. sweet Italian or sun-dried tomato sausage meat, removed from casing
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk or blend
  • 1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • 1½ cups shredded cheese (any mix of cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, gouda, and/or parmesan)
  • 1 medium-sized Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves and parley for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the unbaked chilled pie shell and add a layer of ceramic pie weights or dried baking beans to keep the pastry from puffing up while it bakes. Bake the pastry for about 12-13 minutes then remove the parchment paper and pie weights and return pastry to oven to bake for 5 minutes longer.
  2. The pie crust should not be cooled before adding the filling so, while pastry is baking, prepare the filling. In small frypan over medium high heat, melt the butter and vegetable oil. Add the sliced leeks and mushrooms. Sauté, stirring constantly, until leeks are golden brown and mushrooms tender (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer leeks and mushrooms to paper towel. Blot dry to remove excess moisture. Set aside.
  3. In clean frypan over medium high heat, add 1-2 tsp. cooking oil. Add the sausage meat and scramble-fry until browned. Remove from heat, drain well, and set meat aside.
  4. In small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Whisk in the milk or blend and the liquid chicken bouillon. Add the dried basil, garlic salt, and pepper.
  5. To assemble quiche:
  6. Reduce oven heat to 350°F.
  7. Place pie plate with warm partially-baked shell on rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Line the pastry shell with half of the cheese mixture. Distribute the sausage meat over the cheese. Next, add the layer of leek and mushrooms followed by the remaining cheese mixture. Lay a layer of the tomato slices over the cheese. Lastly, pour the milk mixture over the quiche ingredients and sprinkle with 2-3 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese. Add some fresh basil leaves to top of quiche along with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, if desired.
  9. Transfer quiche to oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until knife inserted into center of quiche comes out clean. Remove from oven and let quiche stand on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving. May be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.
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Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

Cranberry and Ginger Sauced Pork Chops

Cranberry and Ginger Sauced Pork Chops
Cranberry and Ginger Sauced Pork Chops

Today, I am sharing a new recipe for pork chops.  In addition to PEI pork, I am also featuring two other PEI products, both from J.J. Stewart Foods and Soda Company, in Stratford.  The first is a new preserve flavor — Cranberry Champagne with Crystallized Ginger — and the second is from their maple mustard line.

This is a very easy recipe to make and does not take a lot of time to prepare. It is essentially pan-fried pork chops with a pan reduction sauce made with chicken stock, orange juice, mustard, and the preserves.  This recipe is easily doubled.

Cranberry and Ginger Sauced Pork Chops

Ingredients:
2 pork chops, fat removed
2 tsp olive oil

½ cup chicken broth
2 tbsp orange juice
1½ tsp balsamic vinegar (I used Liquid Gold’s Grapefruit Balsamic Vinegar)
3 tbsp J. J. Stewart’s Cranberry Champagne with Crystallized Ginger Preserve
1 tbsp J.J.  Stewart’s Dill and Chardonnay Maple Mustard
¼ tsp onion
⅛ tsp garlic powder

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Over medium heat, add 2 tsp olive oil to small frypan. Add pork chops and cook, turning once until cooked to desired doneness. Remove chops from pan and transfer to oven-proof covered dish. Place pork chops in oven set at very low temperature, just enough to keep them warm while preparing sauce.

Add the chicken broth, orange juice, and balsamic vinegar to frypan. Over medium heat, cook liquid (uncovered) until it reduces to about half.

Whisk in the mustard along with the garlic and onion powders until mixture is smooth.

Whisk in the preserves. Cook until mixture becomes the consistency of syrup.

Return the pork chops to the frypan and heat for about 1 minute, turning the chops at half-time to glaze both sides.

Serve hot with the cranberry-ginger sauce mixture drizzled over top of each pork chop. Serve with potato or rice and your favorite vegetable(s).

Serves: 2

Note:  Other brands of preserves, mustard, and balsamic vinegar may be used in this recipe; however, flavor will differ.

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Pork Chops with Bread Stuffing and Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Today, I am sharing a recipe for one of my favorite ways to serve pork chops.  It’s very simple and easy to make and uses very few ingredients, none of them uncommon or hard to find.  In fact, many cooks likely already have the ingredients in their kitchens.

I find this is a good recipe to use to tenderize pork chops and it works with any cut of the meat, boneless or with  bone in.  The soup sauce also keeps the pork chops moist.

The recipe is quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal but can also be served as company fare.  Make a simple bread stuffing (be sure to use fresh, soft bread crumbs).  Brown the pork chops quickly in a frying pan, then transfer them to a baking dish.  Top each chop with a generous amount of the stuffing.  Mix a can of cream of mushroom soup with a small amount of milk and pour over the pork chops and stuffing.  Dinner in about 1 hour.  This can be served with your choice of potato or rice but baked potato goes particularly well with this meal along with a side of your favorite vegetable(s).

Pork Chops with Bread Stuffing and Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups soft bread crumbs

2 tbsp finely chopped onion

1½ tsp summer savory

2 tbsp finely chopped celery

2 tbsp finely chopped apple

1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon

2 tbsp melted butter

1½ tbsp water

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

1½ tbsp butter

4 pork chops, boneless or bone-in

 

1 – 10 oz can cream of mushroom soup

⅓ cup milk

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Combine bread crumbs, onion, summer savory, celery, apple, chicken bouillon, melted butter, water, salt and pepper.

Stir stuffing mixture well.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Over medium-high heat, melt 1½  tbsp butter in large frying pan.  Brown pork chops, turning each once to brown on both sides.

Transfer to greased casserole dish.

Combine the cream of mushroom soup with the milk and stir well.  Set aside.

Using an ice cream scoop, place ¼ of the bread stuffing mixture on top of each pork chop.  Pour the soup mixture over the stuffing and pork chops.

Bake, uncovered, for approximately 45-60 minutes (depending on size of pork chops), until the chops are tender.

Serve with baked potato and your favorite side vegetable(s).

Serves 4

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True Confessions of an Island Foodie’s Love Affair with Local Prince Edward Island Foods

Happy Valentine’s from Prince Edward Island!

As many of you know, I am part of the year-long Canadian Food Experience Project.  Each month, food blogger participants are prompted by a prescribed theme upon which to base a posting on their individual blogs.  The February theme is “My Canadian Love Affair”.

What follows is the menu and description of my Valentine’s dinner 2014, using several of my favorite Island food products. In order to meet the timelines of the Project, I have prepared my dinner a week early so it can be included in the Project’s monthly round-up.  My Canadian Love Affair is all about the great local food produced on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province.

When I think of foods that I love, well….there are many!  But, coming from an Island blessed with rich red fertile soil and surrounded by the sea, I would have to say that seafood and potatoes would rank high on my list.  So, for my Valentine’s dinner, I have incorporated both but the potatoes in one of the recipes may be presented in a form that could surprise some of you.  Here’s a taste to whet your appetite ….

The following is the four-course menu for my Valentine’s Dinner which features some of my favorite Island products:

Starter

Island Mussels

(steamed in apple cider and herbs and dipped in Island-churned butter)

Soup

Jeff McCourt’s PEI Seafood Chowder

(a rich, smooth, and creamy chowder filled

with a variety of PEI seafood and Island potatoes)

Main

Lobster Newburg served in a patty shell accompanied by a crisp green salad

(lobster and mushrooms in a rich sherry and cheese sauce)

Dessert

Chocolate Potato Cake

Wine Pairing:  Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine (PEI)

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels

It would be hard to surpass PEI mussels.  They are shipped all over the globe and are world renowned.  There are many ways to prepare mussels and there are many different liquids in which they can be steamed, each of which will give a slightly different flavor to the mussels.  The important thing about steaming mussels is to use very little liquid. Using too much liquid will diminish the flavor of the mussels. It is the steam from the liquid that forces the mussel shells open, not the amount of liquid itself.  These delicacies take very little time to cook – they are cooked when the shells open, a process that generally takes about 5-7 minutes.  Be sure to discard any shells that have not opened during the steaming process.

Today, I have steamed the mussels in a small amount of apple cider enhanced by a sprinkle each of lemon thyme, parsley, and basil all dried from our garden last summer.  How much liquid is needed is based, of course, on how many mussels are being steamed.  Because I was only steaming about 15-20 mussels for these two appetizers, I only used about 2 tbsp of apple cider.

While mussels are used in various recipes, including mussel chowder, the most common way to eat mussels on the Island is dipped in melted butter (oh-là-là!).  Mussels are a common food found at many get-togethers because they are quick and easy to prepare and are so very tasty.

For the second course, I couldn’t bypass an all-time favorite of mine – a good seafood chowder.

Seafood Chowder
Seafood Chowder

This recipe comes courtesy of the Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown.  This award-winning recipe was developed by Chef Jeff McCourt who was the chef instructor at the one-day “Island Flavors” Boot Camp that I attended a couple of years ago.  This chowder was one of the dishes that participants made at the Boot Camp.  The Culinary Institute kindly gave me permission to share the seafood chowder recipe as part of the story I was writing on the Boot Camps.  If you find yourself on PEI during the summer/fall seasons when the Culinary Boot Camps are operating, this is a fantastic way to learn about cooking with local Island products and flavors.  Click here to see my story on the Boot Camps and to get the PEI Seafood Chowder recipe.

I have made many seafood chowder recipes but have not found any that I liked better than this one.  It is filled with a great variety of delectable Island seafood along with PEI potatoes and has a rich, tasty chowder base.  Seafood chowder is a great way to sample several different kinds of local seafood all in one dish. This recipe suggests a variety of seafood that includes lobster, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and crab.  On PEI, we would typically serve the seafood chowder with crusty rolls, biscuits, or baguette slices.

For my main course, I simply had to choose lobster!  Lobster is still the seafood king on the Island and Islanders love their lobster.

Lobster
Lobster

The most typical way Islanders enjoy their lobster is straight out of the shell, dipped in melted butter, and served with potato salad, coleslaw, and rolls.  A jellied salad and slices of tomato and cucumber are also often  included.

There are numerous enterprises around the Island that, seasonally, serve lobster suppers that generally consist of mussels, seafood chowder, lobster in the shell, salads, rolls, and a selection of pies and other desserts.  There are three main lobster supper venues on PEI.  Saint Anne’s Church Lobster Suppers in Hope River, not far from Cavendish, PEI, began in 1963 when a priest came up with the idea to have lobster suppers as a means to raise money to pay off the $35,000 mortgage on the church.  New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in New Glasgow, in operation since 1958, and Fishermen’s Wharf Restaurant in North Rustico also serve full lobster suppers as well.  A traditional lobster supper at one of these establishments is a must-stop for lobster lovers visiting PEI.  In addition, most restaurants on the Island will feature lobster in one form or another on their menus.  Last summer, I crisscrossed the Island in search of the best lobster roll on PEI since these are a common menu item for many restaurants.  Click here to read about which one was my favorite.

The popularity of lobster is somewhat ironic.  Today, it is a high-priced food, often considered by many a luxury and reserved for special occasions.  However, on PEI, that was not always the case.  I remember speaking with an Island woman who grew up about 65 years ago in an Island fishing community where her father was a lobster fisherman.  She remembers being embarrassed opening her lunch at school and revealing a lobster sandwich since lobster was associated with poor people!  My, how times have changed!

As a child, I had no interest in eating lobster.  In fact, when my family was having a “feed of lobster” at home, my mother always roasted me a chicken!  They would coax me to try the lobster but it just didn’t appeal to me.  Finally, as a young adult, I gave in and tried a bite of lobster….well, let’s just say that’s when my love affair with lobster began and I’ve been making up for all the years I didn’t eat it!

So, it would be a logical choice that I would choose lobster as the main course for a special Valentine’s dinner.  I have opted to go with a traditional Lobster Newburg served in light and airy patty shells accompanied by a crisp green salad.

Lobster Newburg
Lobster Newburg

Lobster is fished in PEI from spring through to fall so we have no winter lobster fishing season on the Island.  Many of us freeze lobster meat when it is in season to enjoy in recipes, like Lobster Newburg, throughout the remainder of the year.  My recipe for Lobster Newburg can be made with either fresh or frozen lobster meat.

Lobster Newburg
Lobster Newburg

Lobster Newburg, although it is often considered an elaborate menu item, is really quite easy to prepare.  It’s also a good way to stretch lobster to increase the number of servings you can get from the meat of a lobster.  What makes Lobster Newburg so tasty and silky in texture is the sauce.  This is a rich, creamy cheese and sherry sauce so large portion sizes are not necessary.  I traditionally serve Lobster Newburg in patty shells.  However, it can also be presented over toast points or served over a bed of steamed rice.  Or, it may be served in small individual casserole dishes with a side of steamed asparagus spears.  The recipe for my Lobster Newburg follows at the end of this posting.

Much as Islanders have an enduring love affair with food that comes from the sea that surrounds us, we also have a special fondness for our famous PEI potatoes.  For the past two years, I have followed a couple of potato farmers from the planting of the crop to the harvesting process.  To read these stories and get a couple of my favorite potato recipes, here are the two links to the postings for Smith Farms of Newton, PEI and Eric C. Robinson Inc., of Albany, PEI.

I have chosen to serve a Chocolate Potato Cake as a finale to my Valentine’s dinner.  Yes, potatoes in a cake!  It’s amazing how many different ways potatoes can be served.  Earlier this week, I posted my recipe for Chocolate Potato Cake on my food blog.

To make this feast truly a PEI dinner, I chose a white wine from PEI’s Rossignol Winery in Little Sands, PEI.  The Island has three wineries – the other two are Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone and Matos Winery in St. Catherine’s, PEI.  Each makes fine wine that is a great accompaniment to any meal.

Rossignol's Little Sands White Wine
Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine

To compliment the tablesetting, I chose locally-grown tulips from Vanco Farms’ greenhouses in Mount Albion, PEI.  Aren’t they beautiful flowers!

Vanco Tulips
Vanco Tulips

So, this is my local flavors Valentine’s dinner for 2014, featuring some of my favorite and most loved local PEI foods and wine.  I hope you enjoy them, too!

Lobster Newburg

Ingredients:

4-5 oz cooked lobster (either fresh or frozen)

1 tbsp butter

3 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp butter

1½ tbsp flour

⅛ tsp paprika

pinch nutmeg

¾ cup whole milk or half-and-half

2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

½ tbsp sherry

1½ tsp brandy

1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon

salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Melt first amount of butter in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add and sauté mushrooms for approximately 2 minutes.  Set aside.

In separate saucepan, melt remaining tablespoon of butter.  Add flour, paprika, and nutmeg.  Whisk in the milk until mixture is smooth.  Add cheese.  Stir mixture constantly until slightly thickened.

Add approximately 2 tbsp of the hot sauce to the egg yolk to temper the egg so it won’t curdle when added to the hot sauce.  Add the tempered egg to the sauce in the pan.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, then add the lobster meat and mushrooms.

Add the sherry and brandy and cook and stir slowly for 1-2 minutes to heat the lobster and mushrooms.  Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Serve immediately in baked patty shells or over toast points or steamed rice.

Yield:  2-3 servings

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From Field to Table: Potato Growing and Harvesting in Prince Edward Island

The PEI potato harvesting season has drawn to a close for another year – the spuds are out of the ground and on their way to a multitude of uses.  Part of my objective with this food blog is to showcase food products produced on PEI and the producers and farmers behind them.  In this story, I will introduce you to Lori Robinson, a fifth generation PEI potato farmer.  Lori is Farm Manager at Eric C. Robinson Inc. in Albany, PEI.

PEI Potato Farmer, Lori Robinson
PEI Potato Farmer, Lori Robinson

I hope that this feature story will shed a little light on just where the bags of potatoes that you pick up at the supermarket come from or where the potatoes that go into making potato chips originate.

For the land mass size of our Province, PEI produces a lot of potatoes. According to the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, there were 89,000 acres of potatoes grown on PEI in 2013.   The Board tells me there were approximately 45 varieties grown in commercial quantities and more than double that amount when those that are being grown in test plots or market gardens or for limited specialty markets are included.  An economic impact study completed a little over a year ago determined that the potato industry is worth just over a billion dollars annually to the PEI economy directly and in spin-off effects.[1]

Individual potato farms on PEI range in size.  The Robinson farm grows around 500 acres of potatoes annually in rotation with soybeans, barley, and forages.   For the past five months, I have been following Lori from the time she planted the spuds in the ground back in May to their harvesting in October and ending with the washing and packaging process that is now, at the time of writing, underway at the farm.

Let’s begin by finding out what led Lori in her career choice to become a potato farmer.  I think it would be fair to say that Lori grew up with potato farming in her bloodline.  Her great, great grandfather began growing potatoes in Augustine Cove, PEI, in the early 1800s and successive generations have continued the tradition.  She says her decision “to become a potato farmer was part tradition, part general interest in all things science based, and part desire to work with other members of her family in a family-owned and operated business in PEI”.  By the time Lori was in her mid to late teens, she knew what her career path would be – she would study agriculture at university and become a farmer.

Lori holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Guelph where she majored in Agriculture Business.  While Lori will be the first to tell you her university degree did not specifically teach her much about growing potatoes (she learned that by doing), her education did teach her how to think critically, solve problems, and manage human and financial resources.  These are all skills useful to today’s commercial farmers.  Farming is much more than planting seed in the ground and waiting for the produce to grow.

In 2013, Lori grew 15 different varieties of potatoes.  This year, 35% of their crop will be used to make potato chips at Frito Lay, 20% will be used for seed, and 45% will be for table stock – the ones that will make it on to our dinner tables. The seed potatoes will be used to plant the farm’s crop next year and also to sell to other potato growers.  The potatoes in the large storage bin behind Lori in the photo below are next year’s Norland seed. 

Today’s commercial potato farming is very scientific and controlled.  Lori points out that “seed potatoes must be inspected in the field by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) agents and then tested in an accredited laboratory to ensure that disease levels (viruses) are below a certain percentage before the seed receives certification to be replanted the following year”.  It is interesting to note that seed potatoes can be used as table stock but table stock potatoes cannot be used as seed.

The Island spuds will travel.  Lori’s farm sells both the seed potatoes and table stock in Canada and the United States while the “chipstock” (those used to make potato chips) will be sold in Canada and the United States as well as in Indonesia, Thailand, and Guatemala.  You just never know where you might be eating an Island potato!

All professions have their challenges as well as their sources of satisfaction.  Lori says her biggest challenge is finding an adequate number of staff to work on the farm and in their packing house. She currently employs 14 year-round, full time staff and 4-5 seasonal employees from late September to late June. In terms of job satisfaction as a potato farmer, Lori has this to say:  “Harvesting a good crop of high-quality potatoes that I eventually see in our local Superstores provides me with a great sense of satisfaction.  No two years in potato farming are ever alike.  Many new challenges come up every year, every growing season.  There is always something new to learn about farming.  The need to overcome these challenges to remain successful and the desire to learn new things are what motivate me and make me passionate about my job as a potato farmer.

Lori has been potato farming for 20 years, continuing on in a long line of successful potato farmers in her family.  I asked her what she attributes the success of her potato farm to.  She says her predecessors “recognized the importance of good land stewardship in order to achieve the balance between economic viability and environmental sustainability”.  Lori has carried on these traditions and philosophy while adding a few of her own ideas along the way to maintain the success of their potato farming operation and carry it into the future.

Lori is very much a hands-on farmer.  She actually gets on a tractor and works in the fields herself in the spring doing land preparation work that occurs prior to planting.  On May 29, 2013, when I arrived at a huge long field waiting to be planted in North Carleton, PEI, I found Lori and her crew planting Dakota Pearl potatoes. That’s Lori up on the planter on the right-hand side checking to make sure things are working as intended.

The farm operates with 7 John Deere tractors, 1 planter, 2 sprayers, 7 tandem trucks, 2 windrowers, 1 harvester, and 3 telescopic pilers.

Farm sizes and farming methods and machinery have changed over the years for sure.  I asked Lori what she sees as the biggest changes in potato farming over the years.  For her, one change really stands out – input costs for potato farming continually increase while the price farmers receive for the potatoes is relatively unchanged from the days when her grandfather sold potatoes.  She also says that a big change has been in the advancement of technology, mainly in the use of GPS for field operations.  Lori also notes that, while the Robinson farm has remained relatively the same size since she started farming 20 years ago, most well-established farms on PEI have grown larger at the expense of a number of smaller farms going out of business due to financial strain or lack of a succession plan.

So, let’s look at the timeline of the potato season at the Robinson farm on PEI.

May 29, 2013 – Planting

Potato Seed (aka potato sets)
Potato Seed

It all begins with the potato seed for this field of Dakota Pearl variety.

Loading the Planter with Seed

And, well-tilled fertile soil.

1-DSC_0169

And a planter full of potato seed along with some fertilizer.

A good John Deere tractor helps, too!

Planting potatoes
Planting potatoes

And, the seed is in the ground!

June 20, 2013 – Fertilizing and Hilling

Field work continues through the growing season to ensure a good crop of potatoes (yes, that’s the Confederation Bridge in the background and, yes, PEI soil really is that red!).

Fertilizing and Hilling the Potatoes
Fertilizing and Hilling the Potatoes

July 2, 2013 – Potato Plants Growing

By early July, there is evidence that the potato plants are growing well – look at that gorgeous emerald green color against the rich red soil of PEI!

July 20, 2013 – Potato Blossoms

A drive by the field in mid-July reveals that the Dakota Pearls are out in blossom!

Potato Blossoms
Potato Blossoms

The field is abloom with white blossoms that have tiny bright yellow centers.

This is a super long field!

September 30, 2013 – Harvesting

By September 30th, harvesting was underway on the Robinson farm.  On this day, I found the crew harvesting the Norland variety (deep red-skinned potatoes) in Albany, not far from the Confederation Bridge.

Two windrowers (one two-row and one four-row) were working the field in advance of the harvester, and moving the freshly-dug potatoes over into the drills where the harvester would pick them up while digging two more rows of potatoes itself at the same time. 

This means that the harvester is picking up a total of eight rows of potatoes as it moves down the field.

The harvest days are long and dependent upon good weather and, of course, no mechanical breakdowns.

Once the truck is full of spuds, it heads to the warehouse and an empty truck comes alongside the harvester to be filled as they move in tandem down the long drills of potatoes.

Heading to the Warehouse
Heading to the Warehouse

At the warehouse, the spuds are offloaded from the truck on to the conveyer belt that takes them into a small grading house just outside the warehouse where three employees remove any stones, plant particles, or damaged or spoiled potatoes.

From there, via conveyer belt to a bin piler, the potatoes make their way into a huge warehouse that is divided off into separate bins for the different varieties of potatoes.

In the photo below, the man is standing on top of 1/2 million pounds of potatoes in order to insert a temperature probe down into the pile of potatoes to monitor any significant rises in temperature in the middle of the pile which would signal attention needed.

The warehouse is temperature-controlled to maintain the freshness and quality of the potatoes.

1-1-DSC00722

By the end of the first day of harvest, 3/4 million pounds of potatoes will have been dug and stored in the warehouse.

Three different sizes of the red potatoes dug on this day will be destined for different uses.  The smallest on the lower left of the photo below are mainly sold for restaurant trade where they would be roasted or baked.  The next size up are sold in 2 lb or 3 lb bags to grocery stores.  Consumers would typically purchase these potatoes to use for roasting or baking at home.  The largest of the three sizes are sold in 5 lb poly and 10 lb paper bags to grocery store chains in Canada and the United States for sale mostly as baking potatoes.

In the photo below you can see some of the freshly dug Norlands I brought home with me after my field visit.  You’ll find the recipe I used them in at the end of this posting.

Early November, 2013

Before the potatoes make their way to market, they are graded, washed, and packaged on the farm.

Grading Potatoes
Grading Potatoes

 

Bagger Machine
Bagger Machine

Once the potatoes are packaged, they are ready for shipping to markets.

Pallet of Potatoes Graded, Washed, and Packed Ready for Shipping
Pallet of Potatoes Graded, Washed, and Packed Ready for Shipping

 

Small Bags of Potatoes Ready for Grocery Stores
Small Bags of Potatoes Ready for Grocery Stores

Working with potatoes day in and day out, I was curious as to Lori’s favourite potato dishes.  She tells me her favourite way to serve potatoes is to simply toss some small red potatoes with olive oil and herbs and roast them in the oven.  She also likes the potato lasagne recipe found on the Prince Edward Island Potatoes Website.

There is nothing like fresh produce straight from the rich red soil of PEI.  The day I visited the Robinson farm during harvesting season in early October, I brought some of the Norlands home with me.  These beautiful red-skinned variety potato with white flesh are a multi-use potato (they are good boiled, roasted, baked, in salads, and scalloped).  I am presenting them here in my favourite old-fashioned scalloped potatoes recipe.

 


[1] Source:  Prince Edward Island Potato Board, 30 October 2013

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Old-fashioned Scalloped Potatoes

 

1¾ lbs. potatoes (about 3 medium-sized), peeled and sliced about 1/8” thick

1 medium onion, sliced in rings

1½ cups milk

1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon

½ tsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp flour or cornstarch

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 tbsp melted butter

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Paprika

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Assemble ingredients.

Spray or grease a 1½-quart casserole.

Place a layer of sliced potatoes in casserole.

Slicing the red-eyed potato
Slicing the red-eyed potato

Add a layer of sliced onions.

Repeat potato and onion layers to fill casserole.

In microwaveable bowl, whisk together the milk, chicken bouillon, Dijon mustard, flour or cornstarch, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Microwave for about a minute, then stir and add the melted butter and 2½ – 3 tbsp. grated cheese.  Microwave 1-2 minutes, just until mixture is heated and starts to thicken slightly, stirring once or twice.

Pour warm sauce over the potatoes and onions in the casserole.

Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and paprika.

Bake, covered, for about 1 hour.  Remove cover and continue to bake until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes, or so.  Remove from oven and let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.  Serves 4-6.

Serve with ham and your favorite side vegetable.

 

Scalloped Potatoes
Scalloped Potatoes

Tips:

Using whole milk or a blend of whole milk and cream will make creamier scalloped potatoes.

Removing the cover during the latter part of the baking process will give the scalloped potatoes a nice crust on top.

Scalloped potatoes have a tendency to boil out of the casserole.  To avoid a messy oven clean-up job, place a piece of tin foil on a large baking pan and set the casserole on it.  Lightly spraying the tin foil will also make it easier to remove the casserole from the baking pan should the contents bubble out.

 

My thanks to Lori Robinson for allowing me to follow her potato operation over the past season and for answering my multitude of questions.

This story will also be published  as part of the Canadian Food Experience project which began on June 7, 2013.  The November 2013 theme for this project is “The Canadian Harvest”.

As we (project participants) share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice.

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

Be sure to visit my new Facebook page at My Island Bistro Kitchen.  You may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro and on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”.

Lobster Cakes

Barbara's Lobster Cakes
Barbara’s Lobster Cakes

The opening of the spring lobster season on Prince Edward Island is always an event.  Fishing boats, laden with lobster traps like those in the photos below, depart wharves around the Island in the very early morning to set their traps, often going several miles out to sea.  This is called “setting day” and it is not uncommon for people in the local fishing communities to head to their local wharves to see the fishing boats off.  Setting day 2013 was yesterday, April 29th.  I didn’t make it to a wharf yesterday or today but I am sharing some photographs I took during fishing season 2012.

Lobster Fishing Boat Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

 

Lobster Fishing Boats Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

 

Lobster Fishing Boat Loaded for Traps to be Set on “Setting Day”, Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, May 6, 2012

Several communities also have church services known as the “Blessing of the Fleet” services on the Sunday before setting day.  These are sometimes held inside nearby local churches but, most frequently, they are held on the wharves of the fishing ports.

Today was the first day of the season that fishers could check their set traps and bring in their catches.  The photos below were taken at North Lake Harbour, PEI on June 1, 2012; however, the same scene would be playing out today at many harbours across PEI.

Lobster Fishing Boats Filled With Their Day's Catch Returning to Port at North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Lobster Fishing Boats Filled With Their Day’s Catch Returning to Port at North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]

Lobster Fishing Boats, North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Lobster Fishing Boats, North Lake, PEI [June 1, 2012]
Unloading the Day's Catch at North Lake Harbour [June 1, 2012]
Unloading the Day’s Catch at North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
And, here are the “goods”!

"The Prized Cargo" - Fresh PEI Lobster
“The Prized Cargo” – Fresh PEI Lobster!

Boats at rest after their day’s work fetching the catch.

North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
North Lake Harbour, PEI [June 1, 2012]
And, once they are cooked, look at the fabulous rich color of these freshly caught PEI lobsters!

Cooked Lobsters
Cooked Lobsters

Many Islanders will be dining on fresh lobster for supper this evening.  For many, it is a tradition to have fresh lobster on the first day of the catch.  This is one of the benefits of living on an Island – we have plenty of fresh seafood.  Many (including myself) will argue that lobster from the spring fishery is better than lobster fished later in the summer from waters that have warmed up over the season (even though lobster from the later catch is very good, too).  I don’t know why it is but lobster from the cold Atlantic water always does seem to taste better and I think even has a better texture meat.

I remember the first time I was on a Caribbean cruise many years ago, ordering lobster from the dinner menu.  My taste buds were salivating for what I knew to be lobster taste.  Oh my!  It didn’t taste like lobster at all as I know it.  That’s when I discovered the difference in taste of lobster that comes out of cold water and that out of very warm waters!  I never ordered lobster from a cruise ship menu again.  I wait for the good PEI lobster at home!  The ironic part of this is that I never liked lobster when I was growing up.  In fact, when the family would be chowing down on lobster, my mother always roasted me a chicken!  However, they convinced me to try a bite of it when I was probably about 18 years old and I’ve never looked back and have more than made up for it since!  I love lobster by itself and in just about any other recipe imaginable!

So, tonight, I am dining on Lobster Cakes to celebrate the opening of the 2013 PEI lobster fishery season and am sharing my recipe with you.

Barbara's Lobster Cakes

Barbara’s Lobster Cakes

2 cups warm mashed potatoes (about 2-3 medium-sized potatoes)

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp tartar sauce

2 oz. grated cheddar cheese

¼ tsp dried dillweed

½ tsp parsley

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 small scallion (apx. 1 ½ tbsp)

2 tbsp celery, finely chopped

2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped

7 – 8 oz. cooked lobster (fresh or frozen), cut into bite-sized chunks

½ – 1 cup bread crumbs

 

Apx. ¾ cup finely ground seasoned bread crumbs for dredging lobster patties

1 – 2 tbsp oil

 

Method:

Place warm mashed potatoes in large bowl.  Add beaten egg and mix well.  Add tartar sauce.

Stir in grated cheddar cheese.

Add dillweed, parsley, and pepper.  Stir in scallions, celery, and red pepper.

Lastly, add the lobster and mix well.  Add just enough of the first amount of bread crumbs so the mixture will hold together and can be formed into patties.

 

Using ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop up mixture and form into round patties.  In shallow bowl, place the seasoned bread crumbs.  Dredge each patty in the bread crumbs until completely covered on all sides.  Place on wax-paper lined baking sheet and chill for 1 hour to allow flavours to blend and for patties to become firm so they won’t break apart when sautéed.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, reduce heat to medium and sauté lobster cakes 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Transfer browned cakes to greased baking sheet.  Bake in oven 6-7 minutes to finish the cooking process and allow cakes to become firm so they will hold together.

Serve lobster cakes, 2 per person, hot with citrus aioli or your favorite tartar sauce and a side of green salad.

Lobster Cakes with Citrus Aioli
Lobster Cakes with Citrus Aioli

 

These cakes freeze well, uncooked.  When ready to serve, simply remove cakes from freezer and thaw.  Sauté and bake as described above.

Yield:  Apx. 1 dozen cakes

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Seven-Layer Dinner (aka “Shipwreck Dinner”)

Seven Layer DInner
Seven-Layer Dinner (aka “Shipwreck Dinner”)

Okay, so my recipe is actually eight layers, but who is counting when the meal is as tasty as this one is!

Seven-layer dinner (sometimes called “Shipwreck”) is really little more than a full dinner in a casserole and baked in the oven.  I grew up (as I am sure many of you have) with this vintage meal served on a regular basis.  The seven main ingredients are:  1) onions, 2) meat, 3) potatoes, 4) celery, 5) carrot, 6) peas, and 7) rice.  Sometimes, it’s a six-layer dinner depending on what veggies I have on hand and sometimes it might be eight or nine layers thick.  I like to add parsnip because it adds a level of sweetness.  Sometimes, I will slice turnip very thinly and add it as well.  Frozen corn also works in addition to the frozen peas or instead of.  In that regard, it is almost a potluck dish!

It has probably been named “Shipwreck” because it can be made with pretty much any vegetables you happen to have on hand as well as different kinds of meats, such as ground beef or sausage and it is also an economical way to stretch the meat content.  In many households, it can be made with what is on hand without having to go shopping and it doesn’t take any kind of exotic or hard-to-find ingredients.  This is an old-fashioned hearty meal.  Have you noticed that many of these old “stand-by” meals are becoming popular again?

On a regular basis, I tend to cook with a fair bit of seasonings and spices.  However, this is one dish that I never add anything to it other than salt and pepper and the onion for flavour.

In my home, I grew up with this recipe being made with ground beef (we never used any other kind of meat in it) so, as April closes out as the month on PEI to promote local beef, I am sharing my recipe for this simple comfort food.  The beef I used for this casserole is 100% Island beef and was purchased at KJL Meats, a local butcher shop in Charlottetown, PEI.

This is a great meal to make when you have little time for meal preparation and clean-up because all the veggies, the rice, and the meat cook together in the one casserole so there are no pots and pans to wash (bonus!) other than the dish it bakes in.  And, your kitchen will smell divine when this is baking in the oven!  If there happens to be any leftover, this meal carries over well and, in fact, the flavours seem to become even richer the next day when it is reheated.

Seven-Layer Dinner

1 medium onion

2 medium-sized potatoes, thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)

½ – ¾ pound extra lean ground beef

½ cup celery

1/3 cup parsnips, thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch thick)

1 cup carrots, thinly sliced

½ cup frozen peas

scant ½ cup Minute Rice

1 can tomato soup

1 soup can of water

 

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Grease 2-quart casserole.  Peel and slice onions to make first layer of casserole.

Add the layer of sliced potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add the layer of ground beef.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add celery, parsnips, carrots, and frozen peas.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

page 1

Sprinkle ingredients with rice.  Cover casserole ingredients with can of tomato soup.  Pour one soup can of water over top of ingredients (or, if you wish, you can mix the soup and water together and pour as one over the casserole ingredients).

Cover and bake at 350F for 1 ½ – 2 hours until vegetables are tender.

Serves 4-6

It is hard to plate this meal attractively but its taste more than makes up for its lack of presentation!

Suggested Serving:  Serve with homemade mustard pickles and whole grain artisan bread.

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Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Dinner)
Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Dinner)

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Savory Cottage Pie

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Cottage Pie
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Cottage Pie

I first had Cottage Pie (although I didn’t know that’s what it was) many years ago as a small child at Camp Segunakadeck (Seggie) on the south shore of PEI.  I came home from summer camp raving about this yummy dish and trying to describe it to my mother.  As a seven or eight-year old, my descriptions of culinary delights would not have been enough for even a seasoned professional chef to be able to concoct some resemblance of the meal.  The description would have went something like this…there was hamburg and ‘stuff’ on the bottom and mashed potatoes on the top and it was made in a large pan.  Many years later when I would recall my camping experience, I was always reminded of this dish which I have since come to realize was likely a version of Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie, most likely the latter.

In the years since, I have tried many recipes for Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie but none were very flavourful and I was never satisfied with the result.  One thing I learned not so long ago is that, while both have a cover of mashed potatoes on top of the meat, there is a difference between the two:  Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground (or minced) lamb and Cottage Pie is made with ground (or minced) beef, more commonly known as hamburg.  So, while many of us use the generic name “Shepherd’s Pie” when referring to this dish, if we are using ground beef, then it’s really Cottage Pie we are making.  The great thing about Cottage Pie is that you can add any veggies you like (or eliminate any you don’t) or you can make it primarily with meat and very few vegetables.

The recipe I have created for my tomato-based Cottage Pie contains a lengthy list of ingredients and, I will forewarn, it does take a bit of time to make.  However, the end result is worth the effort and this comfort food freezes well (unbaked) so it’s a great dish to have on hand in the freezer for busy nights when everyone arrives home hungry for dinner and no one has the energy to make a fulsome meal from scratch.  Serve the Cottage Pie with string beans, asparagus, or a green salad.

Cottage Pie

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lb extra-lean ground beef

 

1 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup diced carrots

2 tbsp diced parsnip

½ cup chopped celery

¼ cup chopped green pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

2-3 oz. button mushrooms, sliced

2 tbsp flour

2 ½ tbsp tomato paste

½ cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp ketchup

1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice

½ cup tomato soup

¼ cup red wine

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 cup beef broth

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tsp. molasses

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 bay leaf

Pinch coriander

Pinch ginger

Pinch cinnamon

½ cup frozen peas

½ cup frozen corn

 

Potato Topping:

2 lbs potatoes

½ cup milk

1 egg yolk

Sea salt

Ground pepper

3 tbsp soft butter

Pinch nutmeg

¼ cup grated cheese of choice

 

Paprika

 

Directions:

Assemble ingredients.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large frypan.  Brown meat over medium-low heat.  Drain off any excess fat.  Set aside.

In large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil.  Sauté onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, green pepper, and garlic for 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat.  Add mushrooms.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over the mixture and stir in tomato paste, tomato sauce, and ketchup.  Cook 1-2 minutes.

Add canned tomatoes, tomato soup, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, beef broth, salt, pepper, molasses, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce heat to medium-low.

Add cooked ground beef and spices.  Cook 3-4 minutes until mixture is heated.

Add frozen corn and peas and cook 2-3 minutes longer.  Remove from heat.

Potato Topping

Cook potatoes.  Drain.  Mash.  Transfer mashed potatoes to bowl of stand mixer and whip for apx. 2 minutes on high speed with milk, egg yolk, salt, pepper, butter, nutmeg, and grated cheese (I used Parmigiano Reggiano).

Preheat oven to 350F.

To assemble:

Spray casserole dish or individual ramekins with cooking spray.

Remove and discard bayleaf and spoon meat mixture into dishes, filling each a scant ¾ full.  Top with spoonfuls of whipped potatoes to the top of the casserole or ramekins.  With knife, gently spread potatoes so meat mixture is entirely covered.  Using tines of a fork, create a decorative pattern on the potato topping. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes, until topping starts to brown.  Remove from oven and let stand 8-10 minutes.  Serve with steamed green beans, asparagus, or a green salad.

Makes 8-9 servings

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Cottage Pie
Savory Cottage Pie

Honey Garlic Spareribs

Garlic Spareribs served with Turnip Casserole and Baked Potato
Honey Garlic Spareribs served with Turnip Casserole and Baked Potato

Today, I am sharing my favorite recipe for Honey Garlic Spareribs.  This is a recipe that has been used by my family for many years.  Sometimes we serve the ribs with rice and other times with baked potato and a side vegetable.

This evening, I served the ribs with turnip casserole and a variation of a traditional baked potato.  I used baker potatoes and sliced them not quite all the way through into thin slices.  I then drizzled Liquid Gold’s Organic Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil over them and added some herbs and garlic powder along with small dobs of butter in between some of the slices.  I placed the potatoes in tin foil loosely gathered up around them and baked them in the oven.

When preparing the ribs for roasting, I suggest lining the roaster with heavy-duty tin foil as this sauce thickens and makes it difficult to clean the roaster.  I forgot to do that this time and washing the roaster was not a fun task.  When making the sauce, heat it only until it reaches the boiling point.  Don’t worry about thickening it on the stove as it will thicken further after it has been poured over the ribs and cooked in the oven.

Honey Garlic Spare Ribs

2 lbs. spareribs, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup brown sugar

¼ tsp dry mustard

1 ½ tbsp cornstarch

2/3 cup water

¼ cup apple juice

2 ½ tbsp honey

2 ½ tbsp soya sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup onion, finely minced

Step-by-Step Method:

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut the ribs into pieces, slicing in between each rib.

 

Place ribs in greased roaster.

Cover and roast for ½ hour.  Remove from oven and drain fat from roaster.

To make the sauce, combine the remaining ingredients in saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat just until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Pour the hot sauce over the ribs.

 

Cover and roast for 1 hour at 375F.

Serves 2-3 (allowing 2-3 ribs per serving).

 

 

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Boiled Ham Dinner – Old-fashioned Comfort Food!

Boiled Ham DInner
Boiled Ham Dinner

This old-fashioned boiled ham dinner is a meal that is so familiar to me that it never occurred to me that some don’t even know what a “boiled dinner” is.  So, today, I am going to demystify and explain the “boiled dinner” as I know it.

There are any number of meats that can be used to constitute a boiled dinner.  I grew up with a boiled dinner made with either a cut of  beef or a smoked pork picnic shoulder (ham) (bone-in).  My mother taught school and this was often a Saturday meal with enough cooked for leftovers for a weeknight meal early the next week as well as meat for sandwiches for school lunches.  Saturday would be a busy day with housework, laundry, and shopping so this was a simple, easy, and tasty meal to prepare.  The meat is put in a big pot on the stove and cooked slowly in lots of water for probably a couple of hours and then root vegetables are added and cooked in the broth – no thickening.  These veggies would typically include parsnips, turnip, carrots, and potatoes.  As those of you who follow my blog will observe, I tend to cook with a fair bit of seasoning.  A boiled dinner, however, is the exception; I use absolutely no seasonings whatsoever, not even onion.  I let the natural flavour of the meat do all the seasoning. With all the vegetables cooked in the same pot in a flavorful broth, this makes a nutritious and wholesome meal.  And, there is nothing like the tantalizing scent of a boiled ham dinner simmering on the stove!

Earlier today, I had a discussion with some friends and acquaintances about their versions of a boiled dinner.  I learned that, depending on the region of the country you may come from, different meats are used as well as different vegetables.  For example, someone from the south shore of Nova Scotia makes her boiled dinner with corned beef to which she adds turnips, cabbage, and potatoes.  Another, in addition to the usual root veggies, adds onion and cabbage in her boiled ham dinner and finishes the cooking process by placing the mixture in the oven for about a half hour.  Yet another tells me her version of a boiled dinner is either pork and fiddleheads or pork and sauerkraut.  Essentially, then, we can conclude that a boiled dinner is a cut of meat of some sort, cooked in water to make a broth, to which a variety of vegetables (as many or as few as you like) can be added in the later stages of cooking.  It’s dinner in one pot!

I am not so fond of a boiled beef dinner.  My favorite is the boiled ham dinner, as we refer to it.  The important thing about the meat is that it should have a bone in it to add to the flavour and it should be cooked slowly.  The slow cooking process makes the meat very tender.  Some may fully cook the ham and then remove it and cook the vegetables separately in the broth afterwards.  I cook the meat and veggies altogether because that’s what my mother and hers before her did.  The leftover ham can be served cold with salads or scalloped potatoes and it also makes really tasty sandwiches.

So, here is my method for making an old-fashioned traditional boiled ham dinner:

The ingredients are simple:  a smoked pork picnic shoulder (ham) and root vegetables of choice.

Ingredients for a Boiled Ham Dinner
Ingredients for a Boiled Ham Dinner

Place the ham in a large stock pot and add water to cover the meat.

Boil the ham slowly and gently for 2 – 2 1/2 hours (depending on its size) then add the vegetables, starting with those that take longest to cook – e.g., parsnips.  Continue to simmer the meal for about 20-30 minutes then add chunks of cut-up turnip.  Cook for about another half-hour.

Add the carrots and continue the cooking process for another 20 minutes or so.

Finally add the potatoes – if they large, halve them.  Cook just until the potatoes are fork tender – about 15-20 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook the potatoes as they will break up and become mushy.

Remove the ham from the pot and transfer to a large plate or platter.  Remove the netting (if any) on the ham.  Slice.

Using a slotted spoon, remove vegetables and plate meal with slices of ham.  If desired, spoon some of the broth over the vegetables.  Homemade mustard pickles are a nice accompaniment to this meal.

DSC_0545

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Boiled Ham Dinner
Boiled Ham Dinner

 

Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce served with Potato Croquettes and Roasted Root Vegetables
Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce served with Potato Croquettes and Roasted Root Vegetables

I am still experimenting with black garlic in recipes.  If you have been following my postings, you will recall my January 12, 2013, entry using black garlic in a sauce over sea scallops.  My latest culinary escapade finds it is a suitable flavouring for sauces for meat as well.  Below you will find the recipe I created for a pomegranate, red wine, and black garlic sauce to accompany a marinated pork loin roast.  It serves 2-3.

As I described in my January 12th posting on black garlic, don’t expect any traditional garlic flavour from this fermented version which is very sweet and tastes more like a fig or a prune than it does garlic.  I like pomegranate molasses but it can sometimes be hard to find as many of the traditional supermarkets in my area don’t tend to carry it.  However, if you can locate a grocer who sells Middle Eastern food in your area, you are most likely able to find the molasses there.  The marinade itself is very traditional but the sauce I have created for drizzling over the roast pork loin slices is a somewhat sweet sauce with a rich burgundy color which, of course, comes from the combination of the pomegranate molasses, red wine, and black garlic.  It makes a fine pairing, both in taste and visually, with the roast pork.

3/4 lb pork loin roast

Marinade

2 tbsp soya sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1/8 tsp ginger

1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp shallot, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and place in dish.  Place roast in marinade and turn once to coat.  Cover and place in refrigerator for 3-4 hours, turning occasionally to baste.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Place roast on rack in small roaster.  Roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 325F and continue to roast, covered, until internal temperature of roast registers 150-160F on meat thermometer.  Remove from oven and let stand, covered for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce (recipe below).

Marinade Ingredients
Mixing the soya sauce, oil, white wine vinegar, and garlic for the marinade

 

Marinade Ingredients
Adding brown sugar, ginger, salt, pepper, and shallots to the marinade

 

Marinating the Pork Roast
Marinating the Pork Roast and Preparing it for Roasting

 

Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

1 tsp butter

1 tbsp shallots, finely minced

2 cloves black garlic, sliced or fork-mashed

1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1/4 cup chicken stock

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/16 tsp cardamon

1 tbsp orange juice

1 tsp cornstarch

Melt butter in saucepan.  Add shallots and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add black garlic.  Stir and sauté for apx. 30 seconds.

Add pomegranate molasses, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, red wine, brown sugar, and cardamon.  Stir over medium heat just until mixture reaches boiling point.  Reduce heat to low.

Mix cornstarch into orange juice.  Add some of the hot mixture to the orange juice and cornstarch mixture to temper it.  Add the mixture to the pot.  Stir over medium-low heat until thickened.

Slice roast into 1/4″ thick slices and plate.  Drizzle warm sauce over pork.

Making the Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce
Making the Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

 

Making the Sauce for the Pork Roast
Making the Sauce for the Pork Roast

 

Sliced Pork Loin Roast Served with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce
Sliced Pork Loin Roast Served with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

 

I served the pork loin roast with potato croquettes and roasted root vegetables which were lightly tossed with a maple syrup and balsamic vinegar dressing.

Marinated Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce
Marinated Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce

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Maple Syrup Baked Beans (from My Island Bistro Kitchen)

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Maple Syrup Baked Beans

Growing up, baked beans was a traditional Saturday night supper in our household.  While I haven’t continued the Saturday night tradition, I do frequently have baked beans on the menu.

Baked beans make a very economical dish and freeze well for reheating later in the microwave.  These are a staple packaged in meal-portion sized dishes in my freezer.  I will make up a large batch and then divide them into serving sized containers that will freeze well.  I serve baked beans with homemade bread and molasses and mustard pickles and sometimes tomato chow.  When prepared ahead, they make a quick and nutritious meal.

We know beans are a good source of fiber and protein so they are good for our diet.  Making your own homemade beans is not difficult although it is a somewhat lengthy process:  The beans have to be soaked in water overnight, pre-cooked for about an hour or so, then baked in the oven for about 3 hours.  The bonus of homemade beans, however, is that they taste so much better than canned beans off the store shelf.

I like to use yellow-eye beans as I find they cook well and are not hard as I find dark beans to be.  My grandmother always grew the dark beans solely for the purpose of drying them and using them to make baked beans.  I always found the beans to be very hard despite that she would have baked them in a bean crock in the wood stove oven for hours and hours.

Soaking the dried beans accomplishes three things:

1) It softens the beans and lessens the cooking and baking times (the beans also expand to double or triple their size in the soaking process);

2) It allows the beans to absorb the liquid (become rehydrated) thus they will cook more evenly and hold their shape when baked (i.e., they won’t split open or become mushy)

3) It removes the indigestible complex sugars, making the beans easier to digest.

The jury is still out on adding a small amount of baking soda to the cooking process of the beans.  Some say doing so will make the beans more tender, particularly if the water is hard.  Others claim the soda may also aid in digesting the beans while others subscribe to the theory that the baking soda does nothing for the beans.  My mother always added the baking soda to the beans and I continue the practice of adding 1/2 tsp of baking soda when cooking beans.  I figure 1/2 tsp will not harm the beans and, if it does do some good, so much the better.

Beans, on their own with no seasonings, can be very bland and tasteless.  I don’t think my grandmother added much to her baked beans other than some molasses, brown sugar, and water.  My mother always added some onion and ground mustard along with molasses, brown sugar, and water but very little else.  I like to gently spice the beans up a bit and, over the years, have perfected a recipe that suits my taste.  When an ingredient calls for a “dash”, I use an actual measuring spoon that has the “dash” as a measurement.  Spices, and the amount added, are very much a personal preference so each cook should adjust them to his or her own tastes.  My recommendation, of course, is to make the recipe the first time using the measurements called for and then decide what needs to be adjusted for the next time.  As well, if there is a particular spice that you absolutely do not like, simply omit it.  The recipe that I have developed does not use large amounts of any one spice.  I did this because I still wanted the original bean taste and didn’t want any particular spice to overpower the natural taste of a traditional baked beans dish.

Some like to add salt pork, regular bacon, or cut-up weiners to the baked beans.  I prefer just the beans but that is a personal preference and meats can certainly be added, if desired.

As those of you who have been following my blog will know, I recently went to Woodville Mills, near Cardigan, PEI, to visit a sugar shack that was in operation producing maple syrup.  Since I like to add some maple syrup to my baked beans, I thought this was a good time to share my recipe with you so, here it is.  Enjoy!

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Maple Syrup Baked Beans

Ingredients:

 Method:

Place beans in large bowl.  Add enough cold water to completely cover the beans. Cover.   Soak overnight.

Soaking the Dried Beans
Soaking the Dried Beans

Drain soaked beans in colander.  Discard water.  Place beans in large pot and add 4 cups fresh cold water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add 1/2 tsp baking soda.  Cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally and fork-testing beans for doneness.  Beans should still be firm but not hard when cooked.  Do not overcook or beans will become mushy and lose their shape.

Drain the beans in large colander, reserving the liquid.  Set liquid aside. Rinse the beans with cold water.  Place beans in 2-quart casserole or small roaster pan.  Add remaining ingredients and 3 cups of the reserved liquid.  Stir gently until well combined.

Ingredients for Maple Syrup Baked Beans
Ingredients for Maple Syrup Baked Beans

Bake, covered, in 300F oven for about 3 hours or until beans are fork-tender.  Check beans 2-3 times during baking and add more liquid if needed.

Baked Beans
Baked Beans