September 18, 2010

A few days in Montreal

My husband and i spent two days, three nights in Montreal together with some friends and here is some of the adventures we experienced.... 

Poutin @ Frites Alores

A while back I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Montreal. I remember feeling sick to the bone when seeing the humongous plates stacked with fries, gravy and any desired topping! However, one must when visiting Canada was the Poutin, according to Wiki this dish originated in Quebec but is now a staple dish in many diners. I also read somewhere that this dish is a the national dish of Canada but I am not sure so don't take it as true until confirmed by a Canadian.

I received a recommendation to try the Poutin at Frites Alores. The four of us did the mistake of ordering two Large Poutin on top of the burgers, one would have been enough to feed the four of us. I am not sure how to review this dish other then I tried it, it tasted good but I think I had enough of it for the year or maybe lifetime! My husband might not agree, he would eat a bowl of this every day if his health allowed it.

Au Pied de Cochon
Steak frites
Plogue de champlain

I am not a foie gras fan because of the way foie gras comes about. Up to our Montreal trip I have had one mouth full, or maybe half a mouth full of foie gras in my life. Also, from Anthony Bourdan´s episode in Montreal, Bourdane goes to the restaurant A Pied de Cochon and the chef said said he would serve him every dish the restaurant had on their menu that contained foie gras until he would pretty much drop dead. Prior to leaving for Montreal we researched restaurants online and asked friends for recommendations and this specific restaurant was recurring with positive reviews. However, It was clear to us that it was hard to get a reservation and we were not big fans of foie gras and we thought no more about it. The plan for our final dinner in Montreal was a recommended fondue restaurant but after all the weekend eatings we all though we should go for a lighter meal. In the late afternoon we were having a drink at the M´ckibbin´s Irish Pub and thought of Au Pied de Cochon, gave them a call and got a reservation for 8pm. We were all very excited and the guys were looking up which dishes that were recommended highly in the reviews.

I was the least adventures person and had the Steak Frites (Frites in duck fat), delicious! The menu was quite expensive but not overwhelming and my table quickly found something of their choice. Pork, duck and foie gras were main ingredients. The waiter was sure to let us know during the placement of our order that we would not be needing anything else because the dishes we chose were heavy!!!!!! He was right!!! There was not even room for dessert. Apart from the food, we loved the ambiance, the music and the people.

Apart from eating poutin and all the rich foods above we also had crepes, Canadian bagels, risotto and steaks and sweet buns. Very full and content food wise by the time we left Montreal. However, eating was not the only thing we did, there was some sightseeing squeezed i nbetween the meals as well. We climbed up Mount Royal which provided us with a stunning view of Montreal, we strolled the hip streets of St Denis, St Laurent street, Crescent street, the cobble stone streets of the Plateau and old Montreal and took a windy and chilly cruise on St Lawrence river.  Something that I loved about Montreal was that many of the old buildings had been restored  and there was color on the buildings which added funness without creating a mess or tastelessness. Here are some buildings that intrigued me...

One of the things I wish I had done was to visit a cozy cafe. However,  prior to leaving the city I made a quick stop at the local boulangerie to buy some croissants and bread to bring back to NY. The croissants were so fresh and warm that I had to eat them right away (saved one chocolate croassant for the car trip). With me back to NY I bought a raisin and hazelnut loaf which in hindsight I regret, I should have bought at least 5 of them. The bread had loads of raisins and nuts and was still fresh and soft and moist the following day. I pay more for a freshly baked loaf of bread in NY and get bread that is dryer than dry the following morning!

Oh, by the way, our hotel was a cute little boutiquie hotel that I can highly recommend, Chateau Versailles!

September 14, 2010

Butter & butternut squash, Mozzarella, Ricotta & Heavy Cream....Who said Fat Free is the way to go?

Last Christmas my husband and I visited family in South Africa. One evening we were invited over for a braai, South African BBQ. One of my favorite side dishes was a butternut squash gratin which I tried to replicate the other night. I found a recipe that I used for inspiration but because I am not sure what  measurements I used for my gratin I will not make an attempt to try to put a recipe together for you. For those of you who eye ball the ingredients when cooking should not have a problem making this one at home. The ingredients were finely sliced butternut squash and potato, half and half, heavy cream, thyme, grated garlic, salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese for the top.

I made a baked salmon to serve on the side of the butternut squash gratin because it is quick and easy and creates no mess. Just rub each salmon fillet with olive oil and any choice of spice, bake for 20 minutes and ta-da! If you prefer a slight crust you can place the salmon under the broiler for a few seconds, tip from from my mother in law. 

Tip: My suggestion if you determine to make a butternut squash gratis is to substitute partially or completely the regular potato for sweet potato. Using a mandolin when slicing the butternut squash and potato saves you heaps of time! I bought my Martha Stewart Mandolin at kmart a few years ago, I think i paid less than $15 and it came with four different blades, a very useful tool! 

Butternut squash gratin & baked salmon

Lingon berry - Ricotta Mousse

For Dessert I wanted to make something that I didn't have to use the oven for as I had enough oven required dishes for the evening.  I had ricotta cheese in the refrigerator as well as raspberries so I browsed the web for a ricotta based recipe and found this appetizing one by Giada De Laurentiis. As I was preparing the dessert I realized I didn't have raspberry jam so I substituted this for Lingon berry jam and the result was quite delicious. I often compare the lingon berry with the cranberry as it is a rather bland berry and needs sugar added to it. If you go to the wiki link of the lingon berry you will see a picture of lingon berry jam on a toast,  I don't think I have ever eaten nor heard of anyone having lingon berry on a toast....

1 (15oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of any desired jam
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries or any desired berry that goes with your chosen jam

1) In a food processor, blend the ricotta cheese until light and fluffy, about 20 seconds. 
2) Add the jam and pulse until combined. Transfer to a large bowl. 
3)In a separate bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the cream until thick. 
4) Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. 
5) Working in batches, carefully fold the cream mixture into the ricotta mixture. 
6) Spoon the mousse into serving bowls and refrigerate for 1 hour. 
7) Garnish with your choice of berry and serve.

Fun information: The texture of the mouse was a bit unexpected to me as I am not accustomed to cooking with ricotta cheese. The textureof the cheese reminded me of the Swedish cheese cake Ostkaka. Funnily enough, ostkaka is often eaten with lingon berry jam and heavy cream.