The Cooking Chronicles: Chicken for Lunch

With pan-frying and roasting being our go-to methods of cooking chicken, I really never considered poaching an option before. From reading tips on various websites, it seemed the trick to moist, flavourful meat was to throw in some flavouring agents (bay leaves, peppercorns, onions, garlic, salt, etc.), and not to overcook it.

Needing some cooked chicken for a We Eat Together recipe for curried chicken and apple soup, I decided to poach a chicken breast in the chicken stock and coconut milk that would become the base of the soup anyway. Good idea, in theory, except that coconut milk has a tendency to boil over…very quickly. Besides having to clean the stove though, the method worked reasonably well. The apples were an interesting textural addition to the soup – they became almost translucent in appearance, and lost most of their sweetness to the broth. I probably wouldn’t have known they were apples if I didn’t add them myself. It’s hard not to love a soup that contains coconut milk though!

Curried Chicken and Apple Soup (photographed in the very drab lunch room at my office – between the fluorescent lighting and the grey tables, I admit defeat)

A second meal involving poached chicken (this time just in water, with a few aromatics thrown in), was a variation on Donna Hay’s chicken pot pies, from No Time To Cook. Her version involved combining cooked chicken with sour cream, shredded cheddar to be baked in ramekins and a puff pastry crust. I decided to throw in some peas and steamed potatoes and carrots for good measure.

Chicken Ramekin Pies

The final product was perfectly sized for lunch the next day (and the puff pastry wasn’t too worse for wear heated separately in a toaster oven).

Mmm…puff pastry

It’s always handy to have more cooking methods at my disposal, especially ones that don’t involve a lot of work on my part!

The Cooking Chronicles: Sausages Braised in Red Wine

I won’t soon forget the day we decided to make our first recipe from We Eat Together, the locally-produced cookbook that has been taking Edmonton by storm. A series of unfortunate events took place, involving a garage door frozen open, burst pipes, a flooded garage and ultimately, no water in our apartment building for two days. It was an inconvenience to be sure, but one that in the end reminded us how fortunate we are to have access to clean, running water most of the time.

Fortuitously, the recipe of sausages braised in red wine required minimal water, besides having enough to wash our hands and vegetables. We had picked up a package of leek sausages from Irvings Farm Fresh, as well as a bottle of en Sante Campfire Strong (sour cherry) wine at the Old Strathcona Market the day prior, and had some Valbella pepper bacon left over in the fridge. The recipe was easy to pull together, particularly because the majority of the work was done on the stove unattended, allowing the sausages to simmer and the flavours of the sauce to meld.

The result (even without the jelly, which I only realized we had mistakenly left out as I write this) was fantastic. We ate the plump, juicy sausages straight out of the pan, along with the meltingly tender mushroom and shallots that still had some bite to them. A side of rice would have been great to soak up the sauce, but on that night, we did without. The remaining Campfire Strong wine was, as expected, a fine accompaniment, but more so for me as I found it to have less of the aftertaste I usually associate with red wine.

Leek Sausages Braised in Red Wine

A great cold weather dish, I will be making this again, hopefully with some rice next time!

“We Eat Together” Book Launch

When I heard about the forthcoming book We Eat Together back in October, I was excited – not only did it feature local farmers, but recipes featuring ingredients from those farms.

Julianna Mimande (formerly of Bacon and currently the chef behind the EATery at the ARTery), joined forces with local designer Gabe Wong and photographer Zachary Ayotte to produce a celebration of local food production in book form.

Gabe Wong, Zachary Ayotte and Julianna Mimande (nice enough to pose for a photo!)

The launch at d’Lish tonight was absolutely packed. Several of the producers featured in the book were there (the Irving family of Irvings Farm Fresh, and Patty Milligan, aka Lola Canola, among others), as well as other members of the food community (food writer Jennifer Cockrall-King, Isabelle Gallant of CBC Radio and The Little Red Kitchen, chef Nate Box, and Liane Faulder of the Journal). It was good to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen in a while – as always, food has a tendency of bringing everyone together.

Inside d’Lish

Chef Sebastian Lysz of Relish Culinary Consulting was in the kitchen all night, cooking up a few dishes from the book to the delight of the crowd. I unfortunately didn’t get to try the carrot spread, which seemed to be the biggest hit, but what I did sample was great. In particular, the shredded pork in adobo barbeque sauce on a potato crisp was amazing, as was the (what else?) bacon ‘n’ cornbread.

Sparrow’s Nest Organics Carrot Spread (so vibrant in colour!)

Canada Goose Wild Rice Cakes with Blueberry Relish

Victoria Fancy Bacon ‘n’ Cornbread

Of course, we were there to pick up a copy of the book, and boy is it gorgeous. For $40, it’s not inexpensive, but from my relatively quick first glances, it is worth every penny. Cover to cover colour photos, with recipes that include helpful cooking tips and substitutions, it’s a book that any home cook would love. But more than that, We Eat Together pays respect to the farmers that produce our food, with nine profiles of farms from James Vriend and Jennifer Berkenbosch of Sundog Organics and Emily McNairnay and Sean Superkoski  of Mighty Trio Organics. In particular, I love the “We Want to Get to Know You” questionnaire page – it’s a fun read not normally found in such books.

It was flying off the shelves!

But then again – I suppose We Eat Together really isn’t a typical book. It’s a made-in-Edmonton book that highlights how incredibly lucky we are to have access to such bounty all year round. Thanks to Julianna, Gabe and Zachary for this gift!

You can pick up a copy at the Royal Bison Craft & Art Fair on November 28-29 and at the Make It Fair on December 11-13.