Saturday, February 23, 2013

korean food in jasper

It is safe to say that my husband loves Korean food.

Not as much as he loves me, but almost.

I cannot tell you how proud he was when he made his own kimchi last spring.

This winter, he had to go to the farmers' market by himself. He moaned and complained, but what did he come home with? That's right: a big jar of kimchi from the Korean stall. Which he proceeded to dip into every night for the next two weeks.

I never imagined I would be able to feed Scott's kimchi addiction in Jasper, but sure enough, my friend Isabelle suggested Kimchi House.

We were there for Scott's birthday and had a whole weekend in the quiet town, big mountains watching over us.

On the Friday night, we walked down quiet, snowy streets into downtown Jasper.

We found the restaurant and Scott ordered a warm little tumbler of sake.

The server brought us some kind of unusual pickled salad to begin. We don't remember what it was  only that we'd like to eat it again soon. Then we tucked into our japchae  tender-but-stretchy sweet potato noodles with slivers of beef and vegetables  – and a soup that was spicy and full of beef.

Every bit of food seemed exactly right, and just the meal to eat on a cold winter's night.

Korean food in Jasper: highly recommended.

Speaking of highly recommended restaurants, I've just updated hop & go fetch it with more favourite restaurants in Jasper and Edmonton. Hop on over!

one year ago: eating out in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island and gumdrop cake
two years ago: turnip puff to the rescue!
three years ago: Olympic mint Nanaimo bars and lemon loaf

Saturday, February 9, 2013

dutch babies and turning 3

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to share a house in Vancouver with a family from Atlanta, Georgia.

Joy introduced me to the joys of cast-iron skillets and southern food. There was fried chicken and fried green tomatoes and a breakfast food I had never even heard of: the Dutch baby.

But after one bite, I was soon begging for the recipe.

The thing I love about Dutch babies is that the process is just as fun as the final result (which is very funny looking).

First, you heat your oven almost as high as it will go, to about 450 degrees Fahrenheit. While you're doing that, you've got your cast-iron skillets in there, getting sizzling hot.

Because you haven't woken up enough to juggle too much at once, you get all the ingredients out. (Some of you might already do this for every recipe. I am not so disciplined and always think I can "catch up.")

Next, you take a break. You pour yourself a glass of orange juice (or apple, if that's what you've got) and you drink it.

Once you've had your juice, you're ready to get back to cooking. Basically, you just mix all those ingredients together, melt a copious amount of butter in those hot(!) skillets and pour your batter in.

The batter looks thin and unremarkable, but you hardly notice because you're still rubbing the sleep out of your eyes . . . and you know what's coming next. You slide your hot skillets into the oven and then  this is seriously part of the recipe as Joy told it to me  you pull up a chair in front of the oven and you watch the Dutch babies poof up.

Sitting in front of the oven is probably the best part (well, I guess except for eating). You just drink your juice and think about the day and peer through that oven door to look at the babies' progress.

Can you see it growing?

After about 15 or 20 minutes, your Dutch babies have grown into giant, crispy pancakes with their own mountain ranges and silky innards. At this point, you really should call someone over who will be properly amazed at what you've already done this morning.

Then you quickly sprinkle a bit of icing sugar on top and slice them into big pieces. Once you've got a now-fallen-but-no-less-delicious Dutch baby on your plate, you squeeze lemon over it.

And that's all. It's so easy. Just eat it and have a good day. Oh, and if it's your birthday, you can celebrate: dollop of cream has just turned three!

P.S. Many thanks to the lovely Joy for sharing this recipe with me. Speaking of whom, you might like to see Joy's blog. She's a creative director and stylist and creates the most beautiful worlds . . .

one year ago: gumdrop cake
two years ago: bacon-wrapped dates with almonds and olives and whisky marmalade (could someone please tell me where to find Seville oranges in Edmonton?)
three years ago: muesli and lemon loaf

dutch babies
from joy
bakes 2 dutch babies in 8  10 inch skillets,* serving 4  5**

4 eggs
1 c. milk
1 tbsp. neutral oil (such as canola or grapeseed)
1 c. flour
     or gluten-free:
     48 g. pure oat flour
     36. g. potato starch
     36 g. tapioca starch
     20 g. corn starch
     1 tsp. guar or xanthan gum
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
a good grating of nutmeg (let's say more than 1/8 tsp.)
about 5 tbsp. butter
 2 lemons, cut into wedges for squeezing
2 tbsp. icing sugar for sprinkling
(optional: glass of juice)

Put your two cast-iron skillets in the oven. Turn the oven on to between 425 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (I have a good oven right now and I like 440. But I know not all ovens will be that exact and it doesn't really matter, as long it's really hot.)

Get all the ingredients out.

Have a glass of orange or apple juice, whatever you have on hand.

Beat the eggs for one minute, but no longer. Slowly add the milk. Slowly add the oil. Slowly add the flour.

Stir in the vanilla, and then the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Put on your oven mitts (yes, both of them). Carefully, take out the hot skillets and put them on the top of the stove. Drop about 3 tbsp. of butter in your larger skillet and a bit less in your slightly smaller skillet. Watch it melt. Wearing your oven mitts, tilt the pan a bit so that it's coated with butter.

Pour in the thin batter right away. Don't worry about the melted butter that might sneak up along the side and over the batter  it's all good.

Wearing your oven mitts, carefully slide each skillet back into the hot oven.

Pull up a chair and your glass of juice and watch them poof up. Bake for about 15  20 minutes, until they are mountainous and browned and the sides have pulled away from the skillet.

Wearing your oven mitts, take the skillets out of the oven and set them on a rack. Call someone over to see what you've made. Try not to worry when it all falls down (in about 30 seconds). Sprinkle each Dutch baby with icing sugar through a fine-mesh sieve. Slice and serve with lemon wedges. Eat immediately.

*Yes, you must use a cast-iron skillet. I've tried a stainless steel skillet and it just didn't crisp as well.
**This recipe halves perfectly.

Friday, February 1, 2013

chocolate ginger cookies

In the small town of Courtenay on Vancouver Island there is a very, very good farmers' market.

There's something about the town that seems to draw old and young hippies who are gifted bakers and farmers and coffee-bean roasters.

Even Scott  who could definitely use an attitude adjustment when it comes to hanging out at farmers' markets  trails along happily behind me and my dad at the Courtenay farmers' market.

We always end up at the gluten-free baking booth, where we buy a loaf of maple oat bread for Scott and chocolate ginger cookies for all of us. We usually save the cookies for whatever adventure we get up to that afternoon: canoeing around Jim Mitchell Lake or walking the beach at Royston or forging trails in the bush on my dad's land.

And the cookies are always just right: rich and chocolatey, with a good kick of ginger and molasses to perk you up. In short, they do exactly what a cookie is supposed to do mid-afternoon.

This fall, my dad told me that the mother-daughter team behind the booth, Sweet Surprise, was publishing a cookbook. Now, we haven't been able to go to the Courtenay farmers' market since we moved to Edmonton in September  the commute is just too long.

So what do you think I thought about first?

That's right. These chocolate ginger cookies.

Luckily, my dad gave me the cook book for Christmas and it had the recipe. (Thank you, Heidi and Alex, for including it!)

People, I am here to tell you: these chocolate ginger cookies are even better than we remembered. I make them a bit smaller and possibly bake them for a bit less time . . . and they are chewy and bright with ginger and the chocolate is melting on our fingers and I always think I haven't made nearly enough.

Now we are set: I will keep making these chocolate ginger cookies and they will tide us over until we can get back to Courtenay (fingers crossed!) in the summer.

one year ago: gumdrop cake
two years ago: whisky marmalade (Does anyone in Edmonton know where I can find Seville oranges?)
three years ago: ugly vegetables make beautiful soup: creamy celeriac soup

chocolate ginger cookies*
slightly adapted from sweet surprise and martha stewart
bakes about 34 cookies

80 g. (1/2 c. + 2 tbsp.) brown or white rice flour
42 g. (1/4 c. + 1 tbsp.) sweet sorghum flour
54 g. (1/4 c. + 1 tbsp.) potato starch
40 g. (1/4 c. + 1 tbsp.) tapioca starch
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
90 g. (1/2 c.) room-temperature butter or coconut oil
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 c. brown sugar
175 g. (1/2 c. + 1 tbsp.) molasses
200 g. dark chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp. white sugar or coarse blonde sugar for rolling

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl so that they mix well. Set aside.

With your mixer, beat the butter, ginger, brown sugar and molasses until it's very creamy. Then slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Add the chopped chocolate and mix. Try not to worry about how wet the dough is at this point.

Take out two rectangles of plastic wrap. Divide the craggy dough in half and put each half on one of the rectangles. Use the plastic wrap to form a log on each rectangle. It should be about 5 cm (almost 2 inches) in diameter (roughly). Chill for at least one hour or overnight in the fridge.

When the dough has chilled, prepare 3 baking trays with parchment paper. Put the white sugar into a small bowl. Slice the dough into even pieces  about 16 to 18 per log. Roll each slice into a ball and flatten it slightly. Roll that in the sugar. Place the dough balls on the tray about 6 cm (2 inches) apart. Let the dough balls chill in the fridge for a further 10 minutes.

While the dough balls are chilling, move the rack in your oven so that it's in the upper half. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.** Bake for about 10 minutes. The top will have a crinkle appearance and the cookies will look somewhat set, but will still be very fragile  this is key for a chewy cookie.

Let the cookies rest on their tray for about 10 minutes, until they are coherent enough to transfer to a rack to finish cooling (they will be much stronger at this point). Let cool.

Note: Sweet Surprise says the unbaked dough keeps in the fridge for about a week, if you like to do that. I always need to bake them right away because it never seems like there's enough . . .

* I have only tested these cookies with gluten-free flours since that's how Sweet Surprise wrote the recipe. The Martha Stewart version with regular wheat flour is very similar  try it if you don't need to go gluten-free.
** My mom tried this recipe and found the cookies baked better (and chewier) at 325 degrees Fahrenheit in her oven. If you think your oven runs hot, try that.