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What's for Dinner #342- The Return of the Polar Vortex Edition! [through Jan. 10, 2015]

It was certainly tasty, but I would call it a hit and partial miss primarily because I think the recipe itself has some issues.

The recipe calls for a 6 pound pork shoulder. I live in Canada, so labels are in metric, and as I noted above, I assembled that from a 1.7 kg pork shoulder, which converts to just under 4 pounds; and an additional package of riblets, chosen for convenience and because they were on a 50% clearance discount, which were about another 3 pounds. When the meat was cooked, and I transferred it all from the crock to a bowl to cool before shredding, I just had to stand there staring at all of it for a minute, wondering if maybe I did the metric conversion wrong and bought way too much, but I did it right. We ended up using only half of the meat, so there is now about 2.5 pounds of leftover shredded pork in my fridge, which will be great for some tasty sandwiches, but it means I could have just not bothered with the riblets at all - picking out their bones was an annoying bit of extra work - and still had extra pork left. Maybe some people would have eaten more pork with the pasta than my family did, but even then you would still have leftovers. I think you could pull this off with only a 4 pound pork shoulder.

The sauce was... interesting. That's probably an unfair way to put it. It was tasty: the fennel complimented the pork extremely well, but it was much thinner than I anticipated. The fennel, onions, and tomatoes disintegrated to a mushy texture, and didn't really make a sauce, just separated from what I would call a broth. The end product was essentially pasta topped with shredded pork, pureed braised fennel, onions, and tomatoes, and then some pork broth poured over top. The carrots really stood out oddly. They didn't dissolve like everything else, so you also carrot slices in the mix, making it seem almost like a stew poured over rigatoni.

There was also a lot of fat to drain out of the sauce/broth. It was somewhat difficult to get enough of it out.

The cooking time is listed at 10 to 12 hours, but my slow cooker did this on low in 8.

Overall, I don't think I would make it again, but if I did, I would swap out the carrots for mushrooms, use much less meat, and maybe add 50% more crushed tomatoes.

Jan 11, 2015
JDAWG in Home Cooking
2

What's for Dinner #342- The Return of the Polar Vortex Edition! [through Jan. 10, 2015]

I'm making the Serious Eats "Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder With Tomatoes, Fennel, and Pasta". Recipe is here: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

I had most items on hand, but not the meat and fennel bulbs. As this recipe requires a very long cooking time, I woke up early and went took the streetcar my local grocery store (Metro) to pick up the needed items. They had only four small fennel bulbs left, thankfully enough, but then there was the matter of the pork shoulder. The recipe called for a 2.7kg pork shoulder, but, of course, Metro only had two pork shoulders on display, and they were just 1.7kg, and 1.9kg. A store employee walked by who was zero help when I asked if there were other cuts availble in the back or if I could have a custom one done at that moment. I knew the two together would be too much to fit in my slow cooker, but one alone was not enough to properly make the recipe.

I thought about the problem and considered cutting the recipe in half, or doing it in the slow cooker and a dutch oven at the same time, but then I noticed out the corner of my eye there was a discounted 1.5kg pack of pork riblets: the perfect shaped meat to nestle in the cooker with the giant pork shoulder!

This has worked out well so far. Even this smaller than planned pork shoulder took up a surprising amount of the slow cooker space - I always underestimate its volume - but the riblets did fit perfectly, nestled vertically around the edge of the crock. With the fennel, tomatoes, and other ingredients on top, it filled up the whole cooker right to the top!

Fingers crossed this turns out great!

A restarutant trend that should die in 2015:

Random related story and background about a legendary secret menu in the city of Toronto:

Toronto has had a large Chinese population going back a century. For most of the city's history they were concentrated in an area known as "The Ward." This was a neighbourhood just north of the modern financial district. It was a terrible place. The houses, many 100 years old even then, were dilapidated, infested with bed bugs and vermin, and stacked so full of renters that many were forced to sleep in shifts. But it was also home to an amazing mix of cultures: the Chinese, Jewish, Irish, and Portuguese families who immigrated en mass after WW2 often settled first in The Ward. It was cheap, and within walking distance of the massive textile factories, railway yards, and slaughterhouses of old Toronto that provided jobs on the spot to anyone who showed up.

At that time Toronto was still a caricature of a prudish English Victorian era city: liquor stores did not display merchandise, you had to ask the staff to go in the back and get what you wanted; children's swings in parks were padlocked and shut on Sundays; churches had special streetcar stops at their front door to pick up and drop off parishioners (some of them still exist to this day!). However The Ward was an exotic place, and attracted many residents tired of the stodginess of a bland city. There were many reports of exotic cuisines and drinks available unlike anything else you could find in the city. Live animal markets were abound, and exotic teas and spices were for sale all over. Unfortunately, by the late 50's, it had become best known as the go to neighbourhood for drugs, prostitution, and bootlegged booze.

In 1960 most of The Ward was expropriated and demoilshed to make way for construction of Toronto's now famous curved city hall towers. The Chinese community that lived there decamped a few blocks to the west, but in the process also became a real Chinese community, much more insular and isolated than before. Those exotic dishes disappeared from the cities knowledge. What propagated in its wake was the generic "Chinese Canadian" cuisine.

Two decades later, Chinese cuisine in Toronto was plodding along with everyone enjoying their egg rolls, chop suey, chicken balls and chow mein. But then some rumours began to circulate about a restaurant in mid-town Toronto called "China House." It was noticed by diners that some Chinese patrons were given a different menu, and they were eating different food no one recognized. Eventually people started asking about it and news of a "secret menu" at China House spread. Word reached Joanne Kates, a restaurant reviewer for a Toronto newspaper.

One night, Joanne went in to China House, was seated, given a menu, then asked what she would like. She put it aside and asked for the 'other menu'. The server said there was no other menu, everything was on the one she was provided. Joanne persisted and loudly demanded to see the other menu. Eventually the owner arrived at the table to see what was happening. Flustered, he eventually admitted there was indeed another menu, but that she would not like that kind of food, and instead she should just order from the regular menu. Joanne persisted and eventually the owner caved and brought her the secret menu, but it was in Chinese only. Having no idea what she was looking at, she simply randomly pointed at a selection of items and they were dutifully prepared and brought to the table.

The next day she published her column and it instantly became a ho topic at water coolers across the city. The idea of secret menus at Chinese restaurants spread across the city within days. Within a month there were lines were forming every single night outside China House of people wanting to sample the now famous secret menu. The other newspapers began exploration of the new 1970's Chinatown and found other little known establishments that had been serving authentic Chinese all along, but made no effort to market to English only speaking customers. Soon they too were inundated with new patrons. Traditional authentic Chinese cuisine was back, and in the twenty years since, has exploded across the city. Many Toronto diners are now acquainted well enough to understand the nuances of the various regional dishes and ingredients across China. Of course, Chinese-Canadian food is still popular, and delicious, but the explosion of alternatives available to anyone without needing to know about a secret menu is amazing.

Making liver palatable

They were pureed raw, as per the recipe, and added before baking the sauce for several hours.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

The recipe says the livers are to be "finely minced", however the accompanying narrative by the author said he pureed them with an immersion blender.

Dec 27, 2014
JDAWG in Home Cooking

Making liver palatable

I recently made a bolognese sauce that included chicken livers pureed with an immersion blender. They had a very mild taste and were only about 1/5 of all the meat in the recipe.

Maybe you could work liver in to other dishes in the same manner. It would be a nice thickener to a stew or a pasta sauce.

Dec 27, 2014
JDAWG in Home Cooking
1

What's for Dinner #340 - the Pre-Christmas Rush Edition [through December 29, 2014]

Tonight is all about simplicity. It's been a hectic day already. Last minute shopping, haircut, surprises at work (always on the worst possible day!), and I need to get up early tomorrow to catch a train to my sister's house, which is about a 90 minute trip.

I picked up some tilapia and plan to top it with an easy mayo and dijon sauce, some lemon, and an obscene amount of capers. I love capers. I have a bottle of Conundrum wine for the assist.

All that will go down while watching last nights Maple Leafs vs. Stars game, which I was too tired to stay up for. Don't spoil it for me!

Bolognese pork alternative

I just tried the Serious Eats Food Lab bolognese they posted this month which uses ground beef, pork, and lamb; pancetta; and chicken livers.

I found the pancetta didn't add much discernable flavour to the mix, beyond the saltiness, and, given how expensive it was, I plan to leave it out completely next time I try this. If you did that, and raised the lamb and beef portions to compensate for removing the ground pork, it should work out fine.

You could add extra chicken liver too, but be warned that will make the end product gray not red. It will taste fine, but look odd.

Dec 21, 2014
JDAWG in Home Cooking

What's For Dinner #338 - Winter Wonderland Edition [through 12/14/14]

I made the Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce posted on Serious Eats a few days ago. The recipe is here: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

I had to make a small change to their recipe due to supermarket limitations and running out of time to try another grocery store, or go to a butcher shop. Ground lamb and ground beef were unfortunately only available in packages about 2/3 to 3/4 of the required amount, however the chicken livers were sold in a package that was larger than required. Since the liver was very cheap, I added extra to compensate, rather than buy more ground meat than I would need. I don't think this made too much of a taste difference, but I think it did cause the end product to be much grayer in colour. There was almost no hint of red at all in the sauce. I am not one to dwell on visual appeal, but I wouldn't do this substitution if I was serving it to special guests.

Another issue was the pancetta. This was by far the most expensive component, and I don't think the marginal taste benefit was worth the significant extra cost of 225 grams. I would either leave it out entirely, or try out a small amount of diced bacon instead to see if it would work just as well.

All that being said, it was still a hit for my family. It is a very heavy, rich, meaty, dish. I served it with a very fresh, light, chopped veggie and lettuce salad which worked out fine, but you still can't eat much of this without feeling bloated. Expect leftovers if you have fewer than four or five adults at the table.

How can we say no to a dinner invitation? We don't want to appear ungracious even though we don't really like the boyfriend!

"Is it wrong of us to want to just stay home instead of spend an evening with someone neither of us like?"

Of course not. Why would you think it is? An invitation is not a subpoena. Decline with grace.

"Thank you for the invitation, but unfortunately we have no free time left to attend."

What are you concerned could happen?

How long to cook a 25-lb turkey?

Are you cooking it whole? It is an extraordinarily difficult task to pin down an exact time on a bird that big. Brining gives you some leeway to keep the white meat juicy at a higher temperature, but not much. If you want to be safe don't worry about time, worry about temperature. Do you have a probe thermometer? Get the deepest part of the breast meat a little above 150, then take it out and let it rest, covered, for at least 20 minutes, and you should be good to go.

Nov 27, 2014
JDAWG in Home Cooking

Disastrous meal at 28 Lister steakhouse in Hamilton

LOL The website.

"Due to lack of payment. This website is closed. If you are Chris Des Roches please contact your webmaster."

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly not as hot as expected

That's for the advice. She is going to tinker with the quantity of jalapenos and amount of sugar. I will let you know what happens.

Oct 28, 2014
JDAWG in Home Cooking

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly not as hot as expected

Hi, I'm relaying a query here from my mother! She has made a few batches of Jalapeno pepper jelly that are not turning out as expected. The jalapeno pepper flavour comes through nice and clear, but the heat is underwhelming, buried in the sweetness.

The recipe she is using is as follows:
7 jalapeno peppers
3 green bell peppers
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
2 pouches liquid pectin
(and green food coloring as needed/wanted)

I confirmed she is including the jalapeno seeds in the jelly, though removing the white pith, thinking it would look odd in the green jam.

Her idea here isn't to make a scorching hot jelly, just something that puts a twinge on your tongue and a bit in the back of your throat. Itcould be something to complement cheese on a cracker without overwhelming the cheese flavour.

What do you think can be changed? Should there be more jalapenos? A different kind of pepper(s)? Another change in the recipe?

Any advice is appreciated.

Oct 25, 2014
JDAWG in Home Cooking

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving - How is your day going?

Greetings from Toronto my fellow Canucks.

It's Canadian Thanksgiving weekend! For the Chowhounders from the US that are unfamiliar, the actual holiday in Canada is Monday, but it's not held strictly as "the day," like in the US. People get together on the day of the weekend the works best, and often multiple days with different families (co-ordinating can sometimes be an inter-family nightmare). But my family has always met on Sunday.

Today I am hosting my first ever T-dinner. I am pretty nervous as I have never tried to pull off something like this before. 7 family members will be attending.

I will be serving a turkey, which is unusual for my family as our normal Thanksgiving meat is lamb, but I have never cooked one before, and didn't wan this to be my first time. I am doing a spatchcocked turkey, which I have done many times before, and don't anticipate to be a problem. My sides are mashed turnip, roasted brussel sprouts, and a baked penne with sausage, which I made yesterday and will just heat up today.

I made a cole slaw, which I know everyone in my family likes, and my mother is bringing another salad, not sure what kind. My sister and brother-in-law are bringing deserts: butter tarts, and nanaimo bars.

I have a plate of cheese, olives, pickles, and kielbasa (my mother's step-father was Polish so this is a favourite) for appetizers.

Wine is ready, Conundrum to start, and my great Aunt, who lives in Vineland, is picking up some local Niagara reds to bring down.

And of course there's beer for the post-meal food coma while we watch the Leafs game (they'll beat the Rags tonight!). Side Launch Pale Ale from Collingwood, and Dead Elephant IPA from St. Thomas.

I am simultaneously panicked, terrified, gratified, and happy right now.

And as I have been writing this I realised I completely forgot about bread and rolls. So now I'm back in panic mode and am about to run for the streetcar to get to Loblaws and pick through whatever bread they have left.

How is your day going?

Oct 12, 2014
JDAWG in Home Cooking
1

The Cabbagetown is becoming the new Ossington

The 420, the Hey Lucy, The Stout, the House on the Parliament, The Wing Machine, The Ronnie B, the Murgatroid.

"One of these things is not like the other."

Wing Machine aside, there have been some good additions to the area recently, but I wouldn't go nuts as to call it the new Ossington.

I've lived in the area since 2005 and have seen good restaurants come and go while mediocre to poor places carry on.

The Stout is a great environment with great beer, but is really a faux-gastro pub with buzz-word filled menus are really just a gimmick and the food is not anything special. A hilarity is their claim that their hamburgers are topped with "Bermuda Onions," which google shows are an all but extinct variety, and were nothing special when they existed.

The HoP is the Hop, but it's been there forever and is expensive.

Murgatroid does interest me, but I am meh on Ronnie B.

I am hoping 420 sticks around, but they were late on the smoked meat trend and they don't do it as well as their competitors.

Oct 03, 2014
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Good Food in Hamilton?!

I had some great central American food near the Hamilton Supercrawl yesterday.

My friend and I did pick up some items from the huge row of food trucks, but were underwhelmed. Busters Sea Cove, Gorilla Cheese, and some perogi truck, whose name I forget, were all good food, but at the steep prices, $10 to $15, do not inspire return visits if I see them in the future.

The highlight came at the north end of the crawl at Barton Stret, where a tiny sign was advertising central american food at All Souls church around the corner. When we arrived it was apparent a Spanish language service was in progress, but two friendly gentlemen outside happily escorted us to the basement, where it looked like a hall was being setup for a social event with a dj and food and drinks. A little hesitant, I wondered if this was just for the parishoners, but they reassured me the food was for anyone who stopped by.

The menu looked appetizing, papusas, tamales, tacos, and more, all for $2 each. I had the papusas and tamales. The papusas came topped with a vinegary cabbage slaw and diced tomato salsa. I've never had them before, and the interior stuffed with pork was a delicious surprise. They were very hot and fresh. The tamales came steamed in banana leaves and were filled with chicken, potatoes, and olives, all in a light tomato sauce, which Wikipedia tells me is probably Guatemalan style. Perhaps these would not qualify as 100% authentic, the olives were obviously from a jar as they had the pimento paste inside, but they were still the best food I had at the Supercrawl. This was real food cooked on the spot by some loving grandmothers in the kitchen, and in typical grandmother style, insisted I order extra to bring home. An extra $4 donation to their church made them ecstatic.

I don't know if this is a weekly or monthly event, but I intend to find out and go back.

Tree Top African Cafe - Opening!

WHAT?????? Seriously? I always assumed that was a place that went out of business long ago, not one that was just waiting for work to open. That sign has been up for as long as I can remember!

Google streetview shows it was there 7 years ago, and it looks even then like it had been sitting vacant there for years already.

https://www.google.com/maps/@43.65211...

Perhaps it was a working cafe in the past, has sat dormant all this time, and now someone will have another go at it?

Aug 26, 2014
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

2014 Restaurant and Food Store CHANGES and CLOSINGS

I called that one when I saw they added burgers to the menu, then the restaurant death warrant, grilled cheese sandwiches.

Aug 26, 2014
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Millennial Dining Trends: What Have You Noticed?

All of the items listed are about exploiting dining as a method of affecting a trendy personal brand to be telegraphed via social media. I hate to throw marketing jargon around like that but I don't know how else to say it.

Newness, access, secret things: they're all popular now because never before have you been able to so rapidly publish to everyone you know that you are doing something unique and special that others are excluded from, therefore making you better than them.

The funny thing is they don't really like "newness", "access", or "secret" things, when they are not able to be involved. If it is too much of a secret, and requires actual "access" then it's considered gauche, and the people involved are hand-waived off as too haughty and worthy of mockery.

Jul 13, 2014
JDAWG in Not About Food
1

Shattering the Myth of Craft Beer

I envy you. I live in Ontario and there are a lot of people producing great beer here, and attempting to create a great market for it, but it's almost impossible to make it a commercially viable operation since we have the most bizarre beer distribution system on Earth: "The Beer Store". A retail chain, owned by Labatt, Coors, and Sapporo, that was granted a literal monopoly over stores that sell beer. As you can imagine, they sell almost nothing that isn't their own product. The government has their own liquor stores that also carry some beer, but they put very little effort into developing that side of the business (wine and liquor get almost all the shelf space) and getting even local craft beer on to the shelf is a huge hassle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beer...

May 23, 2014
JDAWG in Beer

Shattering the Myth of Craft Beer

I am Canadian so I don't know all the details, but I believe at some point during Jimmy Carter's presidency there was deregulation of many barriers that kept people from getting into the beer brewing business.

For a few decades prior to that time there was almost no access allowed to brewing equipment, unless you were a giant industrial producer who paid a fortune for it. The result was that a few generations of Americans simply did not know how to make beer, and couldn't even learn if they wanted to. Even the concept of a brew-pub was mostly banned by state regulations.

The craft beer explosion today is the result of those restrictions finally being lifted and the next generation of people finally being able to learn how to do it themselves, and to be able to access the equipment needed to do it.

Here's an interesting look at it from a graph perspective:

http://www.synthesis.cc/assets_c/2010...

May 23, 2014
JDAWG in Beer
1

2014 Restaurant and Food Store CHANGES and CLOSINGS

Spring Rolls on Church Street at Richmond is closing next Saturday, per a sign in their window.

May 08, 2014
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Pizza delivery charge

The first thing is to recognize is it's not a fee. Don't think of anything called a "fee" as a fee. Just look at total cost and evaluate from the businesses point of view.

Separating out various costs into line items, or bundling them into "specials" are just marketing gimmicks. The "delivery fee" is a part of the price of your order that has been un-bundled. If they were not charging it separately, the cost of the food would be higher by the same amount.

Having taken orders for a pizza place a long time ago, I have seen how this causes a lot of cognitive dissonance. People would tell me they will call somewhere else and pay $5 more for a pizza rather than pay our $2 delivery charge "on principal". It's utter non-sense. That $5 is composed of the $2 delivery fee and $3 of profit, but for some people a line item on a bill can't be viewed as part of a whole.

And no, it does not "go to the driver," even if all of it ends up in the drivers hands later anyway. It is still all revenue for the store first, and they will pay out as an expense as they see fit. Think of a situation where the price of a pizza was raised $2, and they driver's pay went up by $2/delivery. Would you think a part of the cost of your pizza "goes to the driver"? It's the exact same situation: an amount is billed, the store collects it from the driver, the store pays the driver.

This is all just marketing gimmicks designed to make things look cheaper, or to make it appear a certain cost is a special separate expense, when on the back end, everything is happening just as it would.

2014 Restaurant and Food Store CHANGES and CLOSINGS

Ginger at Parliament and Carlton is closed today with a landlord notice on the door.

Apr 26, 2014
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

2014 Restaurant and Food Store CHANGES and CLOSINGS

Does it count if they never opened?

Il Panettone on Queen, west of Parliament appears to have never made it to opening for business. A for rent sign is up on the still papered over windows with a landlord's notice on the door.

The website is still up and running but it's been a year since they started renovating and appear to never have finished.

http://www.ilpanettone.ca/about-us.html

Apr 08, 2014
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

2013 Food and Restaurant OPENINGS

Seven months later.... 420 Smokehouse is finally opening tomorrow.

Jan 28, 2014
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Less of this in 2014 thread

Cilantro and I are not compatible. There are probably only five food items I have encountered and found myself repulsed by, and cilantro is one of them, and the only common one (I don't expect to be offered fermented fish ever again).

I don't actually expect it to be removed from a common menu item on request, but I would appreciate it's inclusion to always be listed on a menu; and for it not be arbitrarily added as a garnish to dishes that don't otherwise use it.

What I do NOT want in a Cookbook

"15 minute meals"

I really don't understand this genre as all the books I own (all received as gifts, which itself is a rant for another day) there is NO WAY most of the recipes will require only "15 minutes" of my time. I guess the assumption is the clock doesn't start until all ingredients have been gathered; all veggies peeled, chopped, sliced and diced; the meat seasoned and prepped, the pans heated; water boiling; and the oven cranked up. All you need to do is throw it all together. I should publish a book of 5 minute meals. Sure it takes 90 minutes to make, but only 5 minutes to eat!

Dec 27, 2013
JDAWG in Home Cooking

☺Supermarket scavenger hunts: "Why'd they put it THERE?"☺

My local grocery store puts the tomato paste next to the pasta, but canned tomatoes are with the other canned vegetables three aisles away. I can never remember that the paste is not with the tomatoes.

Dec 23, 2013
JDAWG in General Topics
1

What I do NOT want in a Cookbook

I agree with this, and would also apply some of this to food blogging. I find it tiresome scrolling through a recipe on a food blog that contains really large and unnecessary pictures. Showing pictures of unique or unusual ingredients is fine, and of course, the end product, but please not every single interim step. I don't need to see pictures of celery being chopped, or butter melting in a pan, or a picture of the oven temperature dial setting. This format is ridiculous.