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Bhav’s Send Off

So it was Bhav’s last day at work and we sent him off in proper fashion with lots of booze and karaoke (yes he sings and his wife’s a damn good rapper too).  Here are some pics of the start of the night at Wvrst (thanks Harman!) and the shot that was the beginning of the end for Bhav.

That beer is as big as his head!

The beginning of the end for Bhav frame-by-frame:

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Porchetta

Oh pork, the fat, the skin, the meat, it’s all tasty.  I think porchetta is the ultimate dish that celebrates all things pork.  The porchetta recipe I followed consisted of cured pork belly wrapped around a layer of proscuitto wrapped around a pork butt….ahhhh yeahhh!

The pork belly was cured for 36hrs earlier with brown sugar, fennel seed, dill seed, chili flakes, salt, and pepper.  The pork butt was marinated for 36hrs in olive oil, rosemary, sage, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Bring it all together:

And start by layering in the proscuitto:

Then roll it all up:

Truss it, put it in a pan, then bake it for 5+ hrs!

When it’s ready develop those crispy bits under the broiler:

Let stand for 30min then slice it:

And serve over buns (or by itself) with rapini and lots of wine!

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Lobster cakes with fresh pasta and brown-butter sage sauce

In round two of our cooking sessions we deviated from what we had planned at the end of our first cooking session here.  We had issues with the store bought fresh pasta and trying to mould them into ravioli.  Rather than fight with the ingredients we decided to change it up and cook lobster cakes with the ravioli filling by breading in flour-egg-breadcrumbs then a quick pan fry.  We cut the fresh pasta sheets into ribbons, boiled them, then finished them in a brown-butter sage sauce.  The final dish was delicious.

Our little snack of olives, proscuitto, spicy salami, manchego, bocconcini, and cheddar:

The final dish:

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Paella

Oh Paella, such a simple and delicious dish.  I think Spanish food is often overlooked for more popular cuisines like French and Italian but you’d be making a mistake if you didn’t explore Spanish food.  Before we started cooking we popped open a bottle of Cava and dug into some Serrano ham, Cabrales, and Manchego.

You’ll notice that the Serrano ham has a deep ruby colour compared to a prosciutto and is much more intense, almost earthy in flavour versus the more delicate prosciutto.  Cabrales (the blue cheese) is made from raw cow’s milk, goat milk, and ewe’s milk.  This particular cabrales had a pleasant blue cheese tang near the middle of the cheese and as you got closer to the rind it smelled (and tasted) strongly of gym socks…yum!  Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese and is one of my all time faves, a firm cheese that was not too salty and deliciously smooth.

Once everybody had their fill we began the mise-en-place:

The rice we used is an authentic Valencia rice named Bomba which is not as starchy as Arborio rice (used in risottos).  From what I’ve researched a paella should not be creamy like a risotto so if your goal is to make a paella with the proper texture stick to a Valencia rice.

We diced and chopped the veg, cut up the sausage, cleaned the shell fish, heated the stock with saffron, and turned the burner on high starting with the chicken, then the sausage, followed by the onions, garlic, and rice.

After sauteing the rice for a couple of minutes we assemble the dish with chicken, sausage, and stock to let simmer for 10min then add the shellfish:

Once all the shellfish has been added top with peas and red peppers then finish in the oven until all the liquid has evaporated:

And the finished dish…

F**k yeah!  It tasted as awesome as it looks!!!

Some takeaways from the meal:

1) Watch the ratio of liquid to rice, the goal is to keep the rice al dente and not mushy.

2) You can’t have too much sausage.

3) We had a 15″ pan which didn’t fit so well on a 9″ burner, ideally you’d do this over an open fire so there aren’t any hotspots for more even cooking.

So that was paella, stay tuned for the next cookoff!

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Barbera’s Venison and Beef Stew

To pick up where I left off here, I finally have my own place where I can cook up a meal and enjoy the company of a fine bottle of wine.  Sunday’s menu was a simple one, a Venison and Beef stew with parsnips and carrots (I didn’t have enough Venison for the stew if you’re asking why not just Venison).  Accompanying me for this fine meal is Bersano Barbera D’asti, let’s call her Barbera for short.  From what I discovered during our meal together Barbera is from Northern Italy, the Piedmont region to be exact.  She’s often overlooked because her older sister, Nebbiolo, is used in the more famous (and pricier) Barolo wine.  But to overlook her would be a mistake, she’s light and fruity with a refreshing acidic finish.  Being the younger sister she shines in her youth.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not skilled at pairing wines with food.  All I can say is that the stew was rich and hearty, and the acidic finish of the wine was good.  Here’s a pic of what Barbera was wearing:

Onto my other dining companion Mr. Venison.  I’ve been told by many that Venison is a gamier meat but I didn’t taste the gaminess at all.  Maybe it’s because the stew had Beef in it as well and all that tasty gaminess was lost.  I think next time I need to do a Venison roast to focus on the flavour of the meat.  The mise-en-place was simple: carrots, parsnips, onions, mushrooms, chicken stock, wine, bay leaves, thyme, bacon fat (for browning) and the meat.

First we dredge and brown the meat.  In my attempt to keep Paleo I used tapioca flour for dredging instead of flour.

Then we saute the veg and set aside for later.

Next place the meat back into the pot with the chicken stock and wine to braise in the oven for 1.5hrs.

After 1.5hrs the veg is added back into the pot and the dish is placed back into the oven for another half hour.  Here’s the final dish (you’ll notice how rich and thick the stew is, likely due to the use of tapioca rather than flour):

So that was the meal with some fine dining companions, one with a definite and likable voice, the other that fell short in flavour and will need to make a repeat performance in roast form.