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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Ho ho ho … ho ho … oh boy … ho … (ahem).

Ho ho ho … ho ho … oh boy … ho … (ahem).

 

You ever leave a turkey out to thaw and then forget to put it back in the fridge overnight and then the next day you wake up and realise your mistake and have to run to the grocery store at nine in the morning with the hopes that they are open and still have turkeys for sale on Christmas morning?

Anyway…

This was our first real Christmas as parents and we found ourselves really appreciating all of the work our parents put into our Christmases growing up.  (Spoiler Alert: Those presents don’t just appear by themselves.)  We put together our first real kid’s toy (a life-size dollhouse that Caia can actually enter, complete with a stove and oven where she can entertain her guests with tea and other treats … that she makes …), and we spent the evening listening to Christmas music, sharing a couple of glasses of wine, reminiscing about our childhoods.

Then we went to bed and I forgot to put the now thawed turkey back in the fridge so that I wouldn’t turn into a bag of sick by morning.  Yep.  Opening that little present the next morning was little mythological.  I swear the souls of all turkeys past flew out of that thing when I pierced the bag the next morning.

But, other than me being a forgetful idiot on Christmas Eve, things went very well.  I got to spend the entire day in the kitchen, which was awesome, and we had a feast generally reserved for the end of Dr. Seuss stories.

 

On the Menu: Sautéed Yellow Bell Peppers with Roma Tomatoes in a Basil-Infused Olive Oil and Balsamic Reduction Dressing, Turkey (Duh), Nutmeg Raisin Stuffing, Brussel Sprouts, Roasted Vegetables with Squash, Carrots, Asian Pears (LOOK UP), and Onions, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Apple Pie à la mode, Sugar Pie

Yeah, that’s right: Sugar Pie, bitches.  As Canadian as … all right, I’d never heard of it, either, but it is very popular in Eastern Canada and most of us liked it fine.  (It’s pie made from sugar.  You do the math.)

The turkey was an event.  As mentioned already, I left the first turkey out overnight.  (Being Santa is hard!)  Rushing to the local grocery store only to wait for forty-five minutes for it to open so that I could buy a replacement … like a Norma Rockwell painting, isn’t it?

(You have no idea how guilty I felt!  Here it is Christmas, and I’m throwing out a whole Turkey before we’ve even had a chance to reflect on our blessings. I felt sick.)

Anyway…

Once the turkey was in the oven, it was autopilot from that point on.  Here’s how I do it, and two years in a row, success.  Also?  As a bonus?  It’s probably the easiest way to cook a bird without running the risk of it being dry.  Promise.  I’ll bet you a whole turkey that if you do it this way … sorry.

Turn the oven up full blast.  As high as it will go.  Place the bird in a roasting tray and drizzle it with olive oil.  Dust it with nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, salt, pepper, and half-a-cup of brown sugar.  Cut a white onion into quarters and toss it around the bird.  Break one stick of cinnamon and sprinkle the shards around the tray.  Scatter six or seven cloves.  Toss in five or six stars anise.  Pour a whole beer into the tray with bird and all.  (NB: it works better with a stouter beer, like a porter, or Guinness.  If you are feeling particularly festive, you might want to use a chocolate beer or a Christmas ale … the more flavour, the better the result.)

Put the lid on the roasting tray and place in oven for twenty minutes.  Then turn the temperature down to 180 degrees Celsius for about forty-five minutes per kilogram.  Every hour, take the tray out and coat the turkey in the juice.

If you calculated right, you should be left with about an inch of liquid which makes a perfect base for your gravy.  The meat should be shrinking away from the legs.

(For recipes for the sides, just email us and we’ll happily provide them.  You don’t have to wait for next year to try them out!  They’re always crowd-pleasers!)

Another thing?  Having a big kitchen rocks!  There was room enough for Megan, Joseph (Cara and Rene’s father), and me to work and allow guests to get to the fridge and pantry without bumping into us!  This Christmas, there were only two stabbings at our house!  Two!

In all the running around of the week and moving and junk, Megan and I forgot (didn’t bother) to buy a wine we hadn’t tried before.  Luckily for us, our good friend Michael showed up with bottle in hand of another fantastic Canadian red.

Wine: Painted Rock, Estate Grown, Syrah, Okanagan Valley, BC VQA, Canada, 2008, $39.95 CAD

Rating: Three Bottles

This was the absolutely best wine anyone could have picked for Christmas dinner.  Very fruity and very amazing, this wine complimented all of the flavours on our table.  It was so pleasant – each sip took on a different character.  The bouquet enchanted you with it’s BC flavours – cedar, sea salt, and earthy tones played underneath the anise, fennel, and cinnamon notes.  Black cherry and dark plums backed up the muskier flavours, making this a very complex, very enjoyable wine.

Our only regret was that Michael only brought one bottle.

And so we finished our evening happy, replete, and thankful.

And that is the point of Christmas dinner, of holiday dinners, in general – to bring people together, to end the story on a high note, to leave everyone with that “feel good” feeling.  We sit around the table, smiling as we eat, share stories, make toasts, drink, love, and laugh.

And so we wrap up our Christmas with a hope that yours was as amazing as ours and that your families were as blessed as ours.

Cheers!

 

Christmas Eve

So …

We are sitting with kith and kin on this Eve of all eves, waiting for the Big Guy to bring us lovely baubles and praying to all that is holy that tomorrow`s turkey and trimmings work out the way we hope they will.  Everyone is well into their libations at this point, I`ve already had a mild panic attack for some reason, and Megan and I are debating opening a really cheap (yet untried) bottle of red.  We´re kind of avoiding it, to be honest.

Joseph, Cara and Rene`s dad, took care of dinner, as he always does on Christmas Eve, which included Chicken Schnitzel, Potato Salad, and Crudités with a spicy dipping sauce.  He does this every year in keeping with his Czech heritage.  Apparently, Czechs like Schnitzel and potato salad on Christmas Eve.  And spicy dipping sauce.  (And slivovitz, if we`re being honest.)

We have plenty of Yarrunga on hand, since it has become our favourite wine, and we are now sitting in the library/den drinking a really expensive scotch (thank you, James).  The baby is running around with a tea light that runs on batteries.  She is also terrorizing the dogs.  The Dachshund (Basil) is bearing up nicely.  The retriever (Lebowski) is enjoying the toddler-leavings as she takes a bite of a cookie … and drops it on the floor; takes a bite of celery … and drops it on the floor; takes a bite of …

The “cheer” has started to make me feel somewhat sentimental and philosophical and I am debating whether to contemplate, in writing, the blessings we have all received.  There is a part of me that would like to ruminate on the fortune that has been bestowed on us, being all together, and being so healthy, and so happy, compared to so many.

But that would involve some kind of a soap box and some kind of “did I really post that last night” on my part, and I don`t really want to deal with that, tomorrow, while mashing potatoes and checking turkeys and slicing squash … es … (Squash?  Squashes?)

Instead, I will leave you all with the sincere wish that you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by loved ones, and blessed enough to be so healthy.

May your turkeys all turn out great, may your potatoes be well-smashed, and may your cups runneth over.

Until tomorrow,

Cheers!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas …

The palm trees are bearing fruit, the macaws are squawking in the jungle, and there is a smell of the ocean on the breeze.

Oh, and tacky crap is hanging in stores from every possible window, shelf, wall, and precipice.

In our house, we are slowly shaping it up to look half-way presentable for the Big Guy.  The girls – Cara, Caia, and Megan – decorated the tree (that we bought on Sunday morning … a week before Christmas … in the Caribbean … for $7.25 … Charlie Brown, anyone?) while Rene and I chatted with Rene’s parents after a meal prepared by yours truly.

And I only lost my cool once.

(Okay: twice.  Toddlers and gas ranges make me edgy, what can I say?  Plus the dogs are running around, bumping into everyone, trying to get at the chicken … And Megan made the cookies.  Shut up.)

On the menu: Roasted Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Tomatoes with a Honey Cinnamon Glaze, Asparagus in a White Wine Butter Sauce, White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies with Lemon Icing

This was a dry run for Christmas dinner.  Since we have a larger kitchen, it was decided (by Megan and I) that for everyone’s sanity (and safety, lest our knives find your legs and biceps for traipsing through our kitchen yet again to ask if you can help when all we’ve asked if for you to not walk into the kitchen!  Seriously!  It’s like, ten hours of cooking!  Get the fuck out of here!) Christmas dinner would be prepared at our house this year.  So, I made the chicken as if it were a magnificent bird deserving of only the tenderest of care.

The chicken was dusted with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and stuffed with cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Potatoes lined the roasting tray and it was in the oven at 200 degrees for about two hours.

The potatoes and tomatoes were given the same treatment but with a drizzle of honey and a about five knobs of butter thrown in to soften the acidity of the tomatoes.

In hindsight, the white we chose this week would have gone better with dinner, but we were really excited about the red, so we started with that instead.

Wine: Don Manuel Viallasañe, Keltehue, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2011, (Price Unknown)
Rating: One Bottle

Blueberries and cloves play on the palette in this wine (with a really classy label).  We hung onto this bottle for a couple of weeks (which is why we cannot remember the price) because the label told us it was going to taste great.  It was okay.  Kind of forgettable, really.

With some time and some air, this wine came around.  Also, the subtler flavours of blueberries and cloves complimented the fare nicely, so all was not lost.  We just weren’t that taken with it, is all.

We took a breather and decorated the tree and talked about the coming week and what a crazy couple of months it’s been and how nobody has really started their Christmas shopping yet and how nobody really wants anything this year anyway, and it’s really just about Caia and what presents we all get for her, but seriously, everybody needs something to open Christmas morning, so it was basically a lot of posturing by everyone because who isn’t going to buy anybody nothing at all anyway?  Then, the baby in bed, and the night winding down, we opened the second bottle and sat outside and planned for the holiday feasts coming.

Wine: Graffigna, Centenario, Pinot Grigio, Reserve, San Juan, Argentina, 2010, $179 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

This was a lovely little Grigio and highly recommended by us for anyone who likes this varietal.  Chewy and very fruity, it carries itself well, staying away from the more citrusy Pinot Grigios we’ve tried in the paste, and instead favouring mango and peachy flavours.  The sweetness is tempered nicely with a tangy finish that leaves your mouth feeling zingy and not cloudy, as some sweet wines do.

Even though we may have enjoyed the Malbec from earlier more had we switched up the order of the two, sitting outside with the warm breeze and the night sounds, this wine fit the mood perfectly.

This next week is going to be a bit chaotic and we probably won’t get away with just one post, so look out for a few days of Christmas posts coming your way this weekend.

Also, I have three days off this week, which is almost unheard of, so there will be more time for us in the kitchen.

Until then,

Cheers!

Blerg.

*

Blerg.

That basically sums up last week for all of us.  Between stomach bugs and head colds, everybody felt pretty beat up.  Luckily,  nothing helps lift your spirits like comfort food.  Digging through our archives, we came across a recipe that Megan had never tried and that I only tried once, but with great success.  Tyler Florence’s “Dad’s Meatloaf with Tomato Relish,” which was met, the only time I tried it, with great fanfare and accolades for the chef and guests demanding (not asking for, demanding) me to give them the recipe.  Which I did.  Without claiming it to be mine.

Actually, one of the best things about cooking and baking and all things kitchen is the sharing between chefs, amateur or not.  Each week we get people offering new ideas or solutions to old problems we faced in our (my) culinary disasters, and that’s what we love about cookies: everybody just wants everybody else’s meatloaf to kick ace.

I was on full daddy duty this week, since Cara had a previous engagement, so Megan spearheaded the gastronomy and I took charge of the wine selection.  Megan fared better than I did, unfortunately.  (Well, fortunately, but … oh, you know what I mean.)  Also unfortunately, she developed a massive head cold late in the afternoon and so was unable to truly enjoy all her work.

On the menu: Tyler Florence’s Dad’s Meatloaf with Tomato Relish, Mashed Potatoes, Chocolate Chip and Banana Bread

This is a great recipe and one that you can rely on in a pinch.  The only alterations we made were excluding the pork for just beef and dried thyme for fresh.  Fresh thyme can be hard to find down here.  Also, Megan spiced it up a bit more than the recipe calls for.

What makes this dish so special is the flavour that it brings to an unfairly vilified North American staple.  True, we have all eaten our fair share of lousy meatloaf.  This one makes up for it.  The relish keeps everything moist and is a welcome alternative to gravy.  The bacon on top lends a savouriness to the meatloaf without overpowering the entire dish.

If you are in the mood for an amazing dinner that makes you feel warm from the inside out and puts you in the holiday season mood, I highly recommend trying this one out.  It makes up for Tyler hosting one of the worst-named shows in television history.  (“The Great Food Truck Race?”  Seriously?  Who thought that was the best name available?  It’s just terrible.)

Wine: Faustino V, Reserva, Rioja, Spain, 2005, $257 MXN
Rating: One-and-a-Half-Bottles

This wine … well, let’s just say it serves me right.  Feeling a little Faust-ish myself on Sunday, I thought that this wine would play nicely into my mood.  And it did.  I traded a few moments of earthly haughtiness for a wine that would leave me feeling actually good.  In short, I sold out to pettiness.

Now, this wine wasn’t a total waste of time.  Deep claret in colour, this is an earthy, musty wine with a smooth finish and lingers just a little on the palette.  Anise, lavender, and Something dominate.  But it’s that Something, that intangible quality that kept us from truly enjoying this wine.  For the money, we just couldn’t figure out what was up with this wine.  The Something, the Escaped Flavour, the Missing Link, kept this wine down, in our opinion, from being … well … something.  And this is not, as some detractors have put it to me in the past, criticism for criticism’s sake.  We like plenty of wines, and this wine had some good qualities.  We just felt that it was also missing some key qualities that would have made it gushable.

Yes, that’s a word.  Gushable: having or possessing the quality that makes one rave on and on about … (All right: it isn’t.  So what?  Your face, that’s what.)

Cara and Rene’s parents are now in town, and we are getting furniture, I’m told, soon.  Next week.  In other words, everything promises to be much more normal next week.

Keep the comments and emails coming!

Cheers!

* Yes, we know the date is wrong on the photo.  Megan has a huge head cold.  Leave her alone.

Birdies, Bubbles, Balloons, and Elephants, Too

Birdies, Bubbles, Balloons, and Elephants, too

As promised, this week was insane.  We moved from the condo that Megan and Rene had let us use for the past two years, almost to the day, and into our first home.  As anyone who has done this before will tell you, moving sucks.  Everything is heavy – there are no light boxes.  Stairs are too narrow – couches are not made to be moved up or down flights.  There isn’t enough patience in the world – no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you seek to restrain yourself, you will snap at somebody.  Maybe just the guy filling your tank with gas for the eighty-seventh time in two days, but somebody’s gonna get it.  Accept it: you’re just not that strong.

Moving into your first house is even suckier since it’s mixed in with all of those little thoughts that fly around your head making you wonder if you can actually pull this off.  Being male, I cover it all with dollops of bravado.  I also become an expert on many mechanical things, and also physics.  This does nothing to change the laws of those two fields, however, and without a working knowledge of pulleys and levers, my faux knowledge of very basic mechanics and physics comes crashing down around my head.  Sometimes in the form of a washing machine.  (Nota Bene: If you are getting the carpenter to help you move, and he doesn’t speak English, be prepared to forget ALL of your Spanish at crucial moments.  Like when the washing machine door opens and tries to eat you alive half-way down the stairwell.  “Dammit!  What’s the Spanish word for ‘Stop?’  Somebody!!  Get me a Larousse!”  What did I wind up shouting?  The Spanish word for ‘drop it.’  Yep.  I did that.)

With this in mind, I would recommend that you cap off the biggest moving day of your life with a child’s birthday party.  Preferably yours, since, for you, there will be no escape.  Oh, there’ll be crying, sore legs and feet, bruises, and vomit, but no escape.

Our beautiful daughter, Caia, turns two today.  And for that, we are immeasurably grateful.  Her party was a huge success (thanks to a late-night trip by Megan and I to City Club and Sam’s Club the night before).  Many thanks to all of our friends who helped make it a special day for our special girl.

The theme was based on four of her favourite things: Birdies, Bubbles, Balloons, and Elephants.  She loved it.  We had a bubble machine and everything.  (I wish I still got that excited about bubbles.  I get excited, but, you know …)

Around four in the afternoon, our guests left, and Caia crashed.  We took her to our new home, put her down for the night, and within minutes, Cara, too, was out.  I returned to Megan and Rene’s place and we sampled a bottle of red.

Wine: Santa Julia, Reserva, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2008, $130 MXN

Rating: Two Bottles

Nice and plummy and figs.  This would be a fantastic wine to drink with Christmas Cake or Plum Pudding, but on its own, it fell a little flat.  While it deepened in flavour with a little air, it remained a one-note wine and just a little too basic for our liking.  Port-like in colour and consistency, though pleasant, it needed to be paired with something to compliment it more fully.

We did find their commitment to sustainability fascinating, however, and we’d like to see more vineyards taking a greener approach.  Winemaking occupies a lot of land, so it only makes sense that wineries set good examples as stewards of the lands they occupy.

And on a topic completely off-subject, it’s time for my thought of the week.

A colleague just walked into my office and commented on the Christmas music I was listening to.  The song playing was “Let It Snow,” and he said, “I like that song,” and I said, “I wrote this song!”  Now, everybody knows that “Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!” was written in 1945, which means that, in order for me to have written that song, I would have to be at least sixty-six years old, OR, I would have had to travel back in time in order to write it.  Since we know that I am no sexagenarian, clearly, I travelled back in time.  Now, here’s where I blew his mind: I was only able to write the song because I heard it first in the present allowing me to time travel and write the song in the past.

That means that I wrote the song in the past that I later heard in the present that allowed me to write the song that I wrote in the past.

He’s still thinking about that.

Until next week …

Cheers!

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