Tag Archives: eggs

Main Street Station farmer’s market

Apparently, it’s local food week on this here blog. That was unintentional, but maybe a reflection of the plethora of the events and whatnot that are going on this time of year, and in Vancouver.

Yesterday was the opening of the Main Street Station farmer’s market. Had I been more on the ball, I would have told you yesterday so you could go, but I’m telling you now so that you can go next week. There are early strawberries (a bit tart, but still infinitely better than the stuff carted in from California), beautiful rhubarb, garlic scapes, kale, arugula, radishes, eggs…the list goes on. And, yesterday, opening day cake!

I have visions of rhubarb pie, swiss chart tart, radishes with salt, and roasted scapes. It’s going to be lovely.

And just when you thought I had chocolate off the brain: when you go, say hi to Kelly at Bad Girl Chocolates, and tell her I sent you. She has two new things in her arsenal: a beautiful molded chocolate spattered with green, containing a rosemary caramel; and a fresh mint truffle. Oh, to die for.

The Main Street Station farmer’s market is on until October 21, every Wednesday from 3-7pm. It’s in Thornton Park at Main and Terminal, across the street from the train station. Look for the tents, local produce and happy people: you can’t miss it.

Czehoski: creme brulee that doesn’t suck

While I was in Toronto a few weeks ago, I met up with some friends from grad school. One lives in Montreal, the other in London (Ontario, that is). And all the stars aligned and our paths crossed in the T-dot. How about that.

We met at Czehoski, a place too hip for its own good. Having said that, I love it just a little bit. The food is great, the wine list thoughtful, and the space cozy. The service is a little more…relaxed than I would like, but no matter. It just means that you can linger as long as you like – which we did. We lingered for six hours, gossiping and re-living our glory days. You know, the days when I wasn’t pining for my bed at 11pm.

Their composed salad changes daily, and that day it was arugula with quail’s eggs, parmesan and pancetta. The pancetta was so crispy it nearly disintegrated into a powder of salty pork goodness on my tongue. If that’s not enough, the Czehoski burger is insanely good. The patty is juicy and beefy, and quite possibly laced with crack.

For dessert, I was skeptical of the so-called “chocolate ganache” until it came to the table. It is exactly that: discs of chocolate ganache, served with bits of seafoam and crushed pistachios. It’s not exactly conventional, but it really was delicious. The tarte tatin was a little bit disappointing. The apples were cooked but not caramelized, and the pastry was a bit soggy.

Now, generally speaking, I’ve got a beef with restaurant creme brulee. There are so many things to get right. I’m looking for a perfectly smooth, perfectly cooked, unctuous custard, served cold. On top, there should be the thinnest possible layer of caramelized (not burnt) sugar that shatters when you take a spoon to it.

Most places don’t get all those things right, probably because most places don’t have a dedicated pastry chef. Most restaurants make the garde manger do double duty: after the salads and cold appetizers go out, then it’s time for the desserts. Really, do you think it takes the same kind of mindset to make a salad (as beautiful as some salads are) as it does to make and present a beautiful dessert?

That’s another post in itself.

Anyway, this creme brulee was beautiful. It was immaculate. It was perfect. In fact, it was so perfect that I got over my pastry snobdom, had a spoonful, and swooned. And then ignored the fact that the restaurant charged $6 for it when I know full well I can make it at home for a fraction of the cost.

But hey, I’ll pick my battles.

Czehoski
678 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON
(416) 366-6787
Czehoski on Urbanspoon

The wonder of sponge cake

Genoise is the classic French sponge cake. Its exhaustive list of ingredients includes eggs, sugar and flour. And maybe a wee bit of butter. But that’s it.

Just think for a minute about how amazing that is. Eggs are individually packaged vehicles containing fat and protein. Sugar is a crystalline sweetener that gives nice caramel flavours when it’s heated. Flour is a powdery form of wheat, and provides structural support for most things in the pastry kitchen. Butter is, well, fat.

Under the right circumstances, these ingredients come together to form a complex network of teeny tiny air bubbles.

First, heat eggs and sugar to 45 degrees Celsius, then whisk until cool. This magical temperature is just hot enough to loosen up the proteins in the eggs, but not so hot that you end up with sweet scrambled eggs. With vigorous whisking, this dense, yellow liquid is magically transformed into a pale yellow foam that is twice, sometimes thrice, its original volume. It doesn’t matter how many times I make genoise – the beauty of the foam shocks me every time.

Gently, oh so gently, fold in the flour. This terrifying step is dreaded by most culinary students, since it’s a fine balance of incorporating the flour just so without deflating your egg foam. After a bit of practice, you learn to read the batter. It whispers to you when it’s done – you just have to keep your eyes and ears open. 

If you’re daring, you’ll fold room temperature (not hot, not cold), melted butter into the mix.

But that’s not all. Now you have to gently coax the batter into a prepared pan, and slide it into the oven. All those old-fashioned stories of moms shooing their bouncing kids out of the kitchen when a sponge cake was in the oven? I get it now. Nothing comes between me and my genoise.

After all that, if you’ve done your job properly, it comes out of the oven golden-brown, moist and fragrant. That’s alchemy, if I ever saw it.

Tricks for poached eggs

There’s a running joke between me and my roommate that all we eat, regardless of whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, is toast and eggs. She scrambles, I poach. Sometimes, when we’re feeling wacky, we’ll have cheese or spinach with it.

It took me years to figure out how to poach an egg. Aside from the inherent frustration with not being able to do this seemingly simple thing, it was annoying because it made me order bad restaurant eggs. I can’t remember when or where, but the last bad poached egg was so awful that I resolved to figure it out for myself.

Trick #1: add a tablespoon of vinegar (or some other acid, such as lemon juice) to the cooking water. When the acid reacts with the egg white, it forms a skin. This skin helps the egg stay together as a nice, round object – as opposed to a floaty mess of goo.

Trick #2: keep the water at a low simmer. This is trickier than it sounds. If the water isn’t bubbling enough, then the egg will spread out and form the aformentioned floaty mess of goo. On the other hand, an egg dropped into water that is boiling too vigorously will disintegrate…into a floaty mess of goo.

Hrm. I see an emerging theme. 

Trick #3: swirl the water before you drop the egg in. A mini-whirlpool will force the egg into the middle of the swirl, encouraging it to form one cohesive unit. As opposed to – you guessed it – a floaty mess of goo.

These are my tricks, and I know others who swear by ladles and black magic. All in an attempt to avoid the goo monster.

Symbolism in Chinese food: an introduction

January 26th is Chinese New Year, ushering in the year of the ox. This is a time for lots of eating, with lots of symbolism around the food.

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Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe

I make a really simple, but really tasty, tomato sauce. It consists of tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt & pepper, and a bay leaf. With such a simple recipe, it’s really important that you’re using the absolute best ingredients. And, since tomatoes are the star of this sauce, you’d better use the best tomatoes you can find: San Marzano tomatoes.

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Family treasures: soya sauce chicken

I’m an only child, so I’ve never had to argue with siblings over who got the newest toy, or who got to sit where, or whatever siblings argue about. See? I’m such an only child that I don’t even know.

When it comes to family treasures, the thing I want most is my mom’s marinade for soya sauce chicken. She has two jars of dark, dark brown sauce in the freezer that are older than I am. It’s essentially a braising liquid for any kind of meat (usually chicken) or, my favourite, hard-boiled eggs.

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