fontas food

eating my way through suburbia

Friday, November 30, 2007

More Humble Food: Meatloaf (Part 1)

After the fun and excitement of our neighbourhood corned beef hash cook-off (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), we decided to embark on another cooking series; this time around, we'd tackle meatloaf.

As with the hash off, we discussed in advance the features that might make up our ideal meatloaf. In a perfect world, a meatloaf would be moist but firm and dense enough to slice without crumbling. It would be seasoned perfectly and taste meaty. Finally, we discovered that none of us were fans of glazed meatloafs; we wanted our meatloaf to have crispy edges.

Even though M was supposed to go first in this challenge, I felt like having meatloaf for dinner tonight and so I just went ahead and started us off. Here's my recipe for meatloaf:


3 oz. fine dried breadcrumbs
1 tsp. chile powder *
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 lb. ground pork (for the locals, I bought it from John Bledsoe at the downtown market)
1/2 lb. ground veal
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, finely minced
1 egg

* I don't use the chili powder blend commonly available at the supermarket. I make a mixture of 2 parts California chile powder and 1 part New Mexico chile powder; both of these are available in the Hispanic foods section of the supermarket.

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a half sheet pan by covering it with foil.

Combine the seasonings with the bread crumbs.

Mix together the three ground meats and then add in the bread crumb mixture and the minced onion. When everything is evenly combined, add the egg and mix until it is thoroughly incorporated into the meat mixture.

Line a 9-1/2" loaf pan with plastic wrap. Press the meat mixture into the loaf pan and then invert it onto the prepared sheet pan. (Use the plastic wrap to get the meat out of the pan and then discard it.)

Bake for roughly 1 hour or until the internal temperature of the meatloaf reaches 170. Remove from oven and tent with foil; allow the meatloaf to rest for up to ten minutes. Just before serving, put the meatloaf under the broiler until the top is crispy.

Slice and serve, baby.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Weeping Meringues

Now that Thanksgiving (my second one this year!) is over, I've got more time to get back to the important stuff...blogging!

One of the dishes I made for the big turkey party was a lemon meringue pie. Going into the day, I had no worries about how the meringue would turn out but, by the end of that Thursday, I would rue my devil-may-care approach.

I used a recipe from Susan Purdy's As Easy as Pie (great book, by the way; I highly recommend it). The only change made to the recipe was the use of Meyer lemons rather than the standard Eurekas or Lisbons (hey! they were free!).

There is no doubt about it; the pie looked fabulous!

But a closer look showed that all was not perfect with my pie...

The shrinkage of the meringue is clearly visible in this photo but what might be a little less clear is the amount of weeping that went on. I swear, that pie wept more than a hormonal teenager at a chick flick.

So what causes meringues to weep?

I did a little googling today and found a variety of reasons proffered. The one that made the most sense to me was the uneven cooking of the meringue caused fluid in the egg white foam to be released as the meringue cooled.

So how to combat this problem? One solution is to put the meringue on hot filling before baking it. Another is to add a wee bit of cornstarch to the meringue (although this apparently changes the gobs of syrup don't!). I suppose baking the meringue separately and then sliding it onto a cooled, filled pie might work too.

Any good ideas out there?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Recipe : Corned Beef and Tomato Pie

After reading about "The Ugliest Gourmet" event on IMBB, I immediately knew what I had to make for dinner...corned beef and tomato pie. The rules were simple; blog about a delicious but disgustingly ugly food.

Corned beef and tomato pie has a long history in my family; my sisters and I are now the third generation to make this delicious meat pie for our families. Family lore has it that our grandmother read an article in a newspaper (or maybe it was a magazine) in which Bing Crosby's mother provided a recipe for "corned beef and tomato pie".

In this world of Google, I've able to find what appears to be the original recipe; it's not what Nana made though. The original looks like it is for individual servings of the corned beef mixture wrapped up in biscuit dough. Nana's version put the filling in a double-crust pastry shell thus becoming a satisfying meat pie.

The combination of corned beef and tomato is an inspired one; the acid of the tomatoes helps cut the sometimes-fatty nature of corned beef. And who doesn't like pie?

Corned Beef and Tomato Pie


2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cups lard
5 to 7 T ice water


2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 14-oz tin whole tomatoes, chopped and undrained
1 tin corned beef, cubed

Preheat oven to 425 F.

The instructions for the crust are your typical how-tos on making pastry. If you have a favourite pastry recipe (as long as it's not sweet), go ahead and use it. If you hate making pastry and want to use store-bought, well go ahead and do that.

Otherwise, here are my instructions for pastry:

Combine the flour and salt. Cut in the lard until it looks a bit like wet sand. At this point, you start adding water, a tablespoon at a time. We've had no rain here for a while so I ended up adding all 7 tablespoons. When we lived on the coast, I don't think I ever added more than 5-1/2. So, just add as much water as you need to make the dough hold together.

Divide the dough in half and roll out one half to a roughly 10" diameter circle. Use this dough to line a pie tin and set the other half aside for a wee bit.

Moving on to the filling, melt the butter in a medium pan and, when it's melted, stir in the flour. Mix it thoroughly then add the tomatoes, along with any juices. Stir to combine well; it will thicken a bit as well. Add the cubed corned beef, stir to combine, then remove from the heat and let cool a bit.

While it's cooling, roll out the other half of the pastry dough. Put the filling into the pie shell and top with the remaining pastry. Seal the edges by folding the top crust under the bottom at the edges and crimping them together; then you'll need to cut some vent holes in the top.

(My mum always used scissors to cut the vents in pies and it makes a really neat little divot when you do. I highly recommend using scissors.)

Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven heat to 350 F. Continue to bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes or so; the pie will still be hot but it will be much easier to cut and serve.


So, with the history of this pie and the recipe for it out of the way, we can proceed to why this is a good dish for "The Ugliest Gourmet".

It might be one of the ultimate comfort foods but, unfortunately, the filling of this pie looks somewhat less than appetising.

Here it is ready to be topped by pastry and also a close-up of a slice...

Now, Mum, don't take offense but I can't be the only one that thinks it looks like a pie made from cat sick...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sweet Mama Squash Chips

Winter squash has been making its appearance at the farmer's markets for the past couple of weeks now. The first acorn squash of the season was pretty grim but the next squash purchased, a beautiful red Kuri, was wonderful. My latest squash acquisition was a "Sweet Mama" kabocha squash, a completely new variety for me.

I'd looked at the Sweet Mamas for several weeks and thought they looked like they were covered in barnacles:

Maybe I've just been a little homesick for the ocean but this gnarled appearance spoke to me. And it was saying "Try me! Try me!"

I've never had any reason not to listen to the voices before and so I tried it.

Thanks to the internet, I discovered that kabocha squash was drier than others and could be treated the same way one might treat buttercup squash. No, that doesn't mean you hold it under your chin...when I checked the entry for buttercup squash, it mentioned a similarity to sweet potatoes.

This is not necessarily a good thing for me as I really do not like sweet potatoes. Well, unless they're made into a pie with pecans but that's for another day.

Well, I may not like sweet potatoes but I do like chips and so I decided I would make "sweet mama squash chips" to go with my dinner tonight. (Or, "sweet mama oven fries" for those who don't speak Jen.)

First, the squash was halved and seeded, then cut into quarters. Each quarter was cut into rough 1/4" slices and then peeled. The slices were tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

The slices were then put on a sheet pan and baked in a moderate oven. After about 20 minutes, they were turned to brown up all sides.

Now, if I were really clever, I would have come up with a dip for these chips!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Redux: Vanilla Chicken

I first made this dish about 18 months ago; it makes such a pretty plate that I just had to take another picture.

The recipe can be found here: Chicken Scallopine with Vanilla and Garlic Veloute

Friday, November 02, 2007

(Corned Beef) Hash Marks: Part 3

The finale of our hash off took place tonight and it was fabulous. Despite claiming he would use tinned corned beef, W decided to go with the corned brisket. Onion and bell peppers (red and green) made an appearance as the aromatics and the whole lot was seasoned with paprika.

Another superb meal...

After dinner, the hash marks were tallied up and the winner was...


W and I were tied about 5 points behind her. We wondered if maybe hash is supposed to be made with tinned corned beef. Or maybe M just is a better hash maker...

We did decide that our next "off" subject would be meatloaf. There's something about celebrating humble foods that really appeals to us...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Recipe : Chicken Adobo

Chicken (and pork) adobo is a dish that has been completely under the radar for me. A couple of years ago, Saveur ran an article which included a recipe for pork adobo but that was the extent of my knowledge of adobo. Despite that, for some strange reason, I decided to cook my chicken legs as chicken adobo rather than proceeding with my original plan of making chicken and dumplings.

I looked at a number of different recipes on the web, comparing common ingredients, regional differences, techniques used, etc.,. After reading what seemed like dozens of different recipes, I came up with the one that follows. I don't know how close I came to "real" chicken adobo, since I've never had it before, but what a revelation this dish is! Its vinegary sauce is like crack...completely addictive and hard to get enough of.

Chicken Adobo

4 chicken legs with thighs attached
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2-4 Bird's eye chiles
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup water

1 T cornstarch

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut thighs from chicken legs and place in a braising pan, along with garlic, chiles, bay leaves, soy sauce, vinegar, and water. Cover dish and braise in the oven for 90 minutes.

Remove dish from oven and turn on the broiler. Remove chicken pieces from the braising liquid and place skin-side up on a foil-lined sheet pan or on a broiler tray.

Remove remaining solids from the braising liquid and discard. Boil liquid over high heat until it's reduced by 1/3 or so. Dissolve cornstarch in water and stir into the braising liquid. Reduce heat and let simmer until thickened slightly.

Meanwhile, place chicken pieces under the broiler until the skin is browned and crispy.

Serve chicken with sauce.

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