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Brining rant...

I do the under the skin method and leave the outside with salt only as I find anything else will scorch. Lift up the skin starting at the edge of the breast and thighs, and carefully work your fingers around until there's a nice big pocket. It's not super delicate, you can stretch out a nice big space to slather in some delicious seasonings. I like to put a mix of butter, lemon juice, herbs, pepper, and garlic.

When it's under the skin it has protection from the direct heat and flame of the grill so there is no chance of the fresh herbs and garlic scorching and turning bitter.

As for brining chicken, I usually don't bother. 90% of getting a moist and flavourful cooked chicken is getting the temperature right. Use a thermometer liberally, and don't worry about losing juices by poking the pieces. You will loose far more by over cooking. Take it off the grill when it passes 150F, and let it rest.

May 26, 2015
JDAWG in Home Cooking
1

Which Dutch cheese is best for melting in my baked penne?

Update! I found the advice somewhat conflicting.

I ended up using a smoked gouda in the middle layer of the dish, and edam on the top, with a dash of parm. Both the edam and gouda were made in Wisconsin, and bought on recommendation from the cheese shop owner after explaining what I was using them for. Price was a factor as cheese is ridiculously expensive here due to the government cartel (Ontario, Canada) 180 grams of each cost a total of $16. To get imported dutch cheese would have been several dollars more. This was just not worth it for the circumstances.

However it turned out fantastic. Both cheeses melted very well and did not get too stringy. The eadm on top did brown a little bit and was great.

May 18, 2015
JDAWG in Cheese

Which Dutch cheese is best for melting in my baked penne?

Hello Chowhounders,

In a few days I will be making a baked pasta dish with roasted eggplant, peppers, and sausage, in a light tomato sauce, plus an internal layer, and a topping of melted cheese to provide that ooey-gooey goodness factor.

It's not an uncommon recipe, except for this one item. For a really unusual reason that I won't waste your time on, I must only use Dutch cheese.

I am well aware that not all cheeses melt well, so I want to pick the best Dutch cheese. The only one I know well is Gouda, which I understand is a decent melting cheese. Are there better one's to consider? Are there one's I should avoid? Should I use regular gouda, or smoked gouda?

All help is appreciated.

Apr 27, 2015
JDAWG in Cheese

Simple is Best

I love the idea of pickled beets with the beats with beans. Perhaps adding some diced pickles/cornichons would be a nice crunchy aspect.

Apr 24, 2015
JDAWG in Home Cooking

Any Licks left in the GTA?

I'm curious about something on that site. It lists three "services" offered by the stores. 'Drive Thru' and 'Party Room' are obvious (despite the grating spelling 'thru'); but what is "barter for retail"?

According to the legend, only one of the stores actually offers this.

Apr 21, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

As a foodie, what do you do for lunch during the week?

I work in the center of a big city and I don't find the options to be very good there either. I work in an office tower that is connected to a dozen others through underground walkways. Each one has its own food court, meaning several dozen options in walking distance, but I have yet to find anything worth my time or money.

I recently tried a place in the building next door that had gourmet sandwiches for takeout and it was terrible. I wrote about it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7821...

I know of some places on the street level that do really good takeout, however, I guess because a lot of people feel the way I do, they are usually rammed at lunch. Some regularly have 15 minute lineups out the door. I don't have time to waste to walk there, then wait in line, wait for my order, then walk back.

I think it's just the factor of it being so expensive to rent space in this area that only option is either fast food chain; or for independent stores, low quality food at too high prices.

I now just always bring leftovers to enjoy. I have noticed since I started almost always bringing my own food that I am much more aware of how salty and greasy the takeout food is whenever I eat it.

Apr 19, 2015
JDAWG in General Topics

Don't let your Debit/Credit Card out of your sight when dining. .

I am a Canadian in Toronto. Debit cards are ubiquitous here. Cash transactions are now very rare. I often carry no cash at all for several days at a time. It is very rare to find even any store that does not accept debit cards. This is perhaps the reason there was no resistance to abolishing the Canadian penny coin a few years ago.

Chip/Pin cards were rolled out here for credit and debit at least 10 years ago, and you simply cannot get one without it anymore.

But now we have moved on and debit/credit cards also have the RFID transmitters. For transactions under $100.00 you can simply tap the display of the debit machine with your card and it will process the transaction instantly without requesting a PIN. It saves time and is very convenient.

Apr 16, 2015
JDAWG in Not About Food

The popularity of Swiss Chalet seems to be waning in the GTA. Thoughts?

Good call. This is definitely their problem. Almost every grocery store, except No Frills, sells roasted chickens now plus a huge variety of sides. Also they have other entrees for that one person in the family who doesn't feel like chicken. They have salad bars and bakery items that offer ten times the variety available at Swiss Chalet. Also there is the standard grocery store selection of desert if you want it.

I was just thinking about this issue the other day when I was reading about restaurant owners complaining they will take away their business, and it dawned on me that grocery stores selling massive amounts of prepared foods, which is becoming increasingly better in quality and selection, have already are taken away more of their business than food truck ever will.

Lots of the stores now even have sections for you to sit down and eat there.

Apr 15, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

What's for Dinner #359 - the April Showers Edition [through April 15, 2015]

Can an empanada expert tell me more about why they are deep fried and what regions this variety originates from?

I have traveled in South America to Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, and in that time I only encountered baked empanadas. Back here at home there are two empanada restaurants I have visited, and they also both offered only baked varieties of empanadas.

However a few months ago I encountered a food truck selling "Colombian style empanadas". I spotted it right at a moment where I was starving, so I ordered two. I was completely surprised to find them deep fried. I didn't like them as much as the baked varieties I had eaten, though they were inexpensive, and I wouldn't judge universally based on one order from one food truck.

How common are these? Is it only Colombian's who deep fry them?

Apr 14, 2015
JDAWG in Home Cooking
1

I'm the turtle at the table .

Yikes.

Sounds like what happens when I visit Quebec City. Except it's my own damn country.

Apr 07, 2015
JDAWG in Not About Food

Best places to buy groceries in Toronto?

I find No Frills are the most variable store in quality and selection. I guess it's because they are franchises. My local No Frills at Parliament and Carlton in Toronto is below average, though the nearest other location at Sherbourne and Wellesley is worse.

Apr 07, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Market Shoppers: Get out of the quick check out line. You have too many items...

I wish I was important enough to have someone stand in line all day behind idiots who have all day to spend standing in line.

Apr 06, 2015
JDAWG in Not About Food

Best places to buy groceries in Toronto?

I shop at the FreshCo at Parliament and Dundas. It's a new store in a relatively new condo building (opened about 4 years ago). They appear to turn over their produce quickly, every two or three days it is sold out and replaced, which is one of the most important factors in the freshness of the selection.

I'm the turtle at the table .

Ya. I was just cranky when I wrote that. Sorry.

Apr 06, 2015
JDAWG in Not About Food

Market Shoppers: Get out of the quick check out line. You have too many items...

I could get two minutes worth of stuff done in two minutes. And it's two minutes per person. So when there's five people in line, that's an extra 10 minutes standing doing nothing but watching lazy idiots.

Apr 06, 2015
JDAWG in Not About Food

Best places to buy groceries in Toronto?

You mentioned getting produce at No Frills.

Since you have left, Sobeys launched a competitor to No Frills called Fresh Co and I find it has equally good deals on basic produce.

Apr 06, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Market Shoppers: Get out of the quick check out line. You have too many items...

A big part of the problem is that the payment portion of checking out has become so obnoxiously long that it negates the advantage of these express checkouts entirely.

People are asked if they have various rewards/air miles cards and they then fumble through their purse/wallet for 30 seconds looking for it.

Then there's the time wasting chip/pin debit cards that seem to confound so many people, despite the fact they have used it hundreds of times. The worst is people who have the RFID instant read cards but still use the chip/pin instead.

Then there's cash-back on debit which of course requires counting out the money twice.

And now a lot of stores have these charity drives where they stop and ask you if you want to donate to X which takes up even more time.

Some people use up two minutes of the cashiers time just to buy one item.

I swear most people lose 20 IQ points when entering a grocery store.

Apr 06, 2015
JDAWG in Not About Food

I'm the turtle at the table .

I've heard this before and it's pretty grating. Why should I care what they do in Madrid? I'm not in Spain. Why is this used as some sort of benchmark?

I'm in Canada. For a good chunk of the winter the sun rises at 9:00AM and sets about 3:30PM. It's already been dark for five hours by the time some Spaniard decides he wants to eat. IDGAF what they do. I can't sit out on a patio watching the sunset while eating tapas at 11:00 at night because the sun set 6 hours earlier, it's -30, and I have to get up to go to work in 5 hours. Why does "in Spain they eat dinner at 3 in the morning" have to be mentioned so often?

I'm the turtle at the table .

I have a similar difficulty with a twist. I have some friends who are extraordinarily late eaters. They are a couple, now with one two year old. I used to work with the mother, and we've remained friends and I visit occasionally.

This came up again last Friday when I went to visit. We had planned my visit well in advance, and decided to order Chinese food from a place that has different dishes we all like.

She explained her husband was working late, and he would pick it up on the way home, arriving at about 6:30. That was fine by me as I would only arrive at their place for 6:00. I was expecting we would eat as soon as he arrived.

He indeed arrive at 6:30, and had the Chinese food with him, which he put on the counter and walked to the couch and sat down. I thought that was fine as maybe he wants 15 - 20 minutes rest before eating.

That 20 minutes turned into 45 minutes. Then when he finally got up it was to make dinner for their two year old. When he was done that, it was time for a beer for all of us. Another 30 minutes went by while we watched TV. Now it was now almost 8:00 and the food had been sitting on the counter. I was starving. Then they decided we should play some X-Box. I asked if they were hungry but the response was "not yet, it's too early". It was just after 9:00 when they finally opened up the food. Then they spent another 20 minutes getting out plates, cutlery, reheating, sorting it into bowls. It was 9:30, 3 hours after picking up the food when they were finally ready to eat. I was starving for some time, but by then I had in a weird way come full circle and lost my appetite. The food was cold and all the sauce congealed and gross.

I like going to visit them, but they always want me to come after work on a Friday. I could eat before hand, but I'd rather not pay for dinner twice. They live about a 45 minute train trip away from my place, so it's not like I can easily make or brake the plans; I have to commit to going. How do I broach this subject with them.

How do I deal with these guys?

Mar 31, 2015
JDAWG in Not About Food

Ideas for dinenr out, Friday night (March 27) with my mother around 6PM

Thanks all. We ended up going to Bannock, as we were shopping in the Eaton Centre, and it was convenient.

We split a caesar salad to start. It was made with kale and romaine, which worked well. My mother ordered the mac and cheese with greens; and I had the "noodle of the day" special, which was fettuccine in a smoked fish ragu with squid. It's a good thing I am fine with eating whole squid as the waitress didn't mention it was in the dish. I saw a table near me send their orders back on arrival when they discovered it full of tentacles.

The fettuccine was ok. The ragu tasted like it had a fair amount of lemon in it, which I guess sounds good in a fishy tasting dish, but didn't work for me. I felt it could have used some heat to balance the sweetness and acidity, but there was none. The pasta was cooked perfectly, and the portion size was good for the price, but it is not something I would order again.

My mothers mac n' cheese was made with broccoli, peas, and mustard greens and it was great. She finished the whole thing and loved it which was all that mattered to me in the end.

The service staff were attentive and professional, but the entrees were very slow to come out. We received our caesar promptly after ordering, and finished the whole thing over about twenty minutes, but then we had to wait another thirty minutes for the entrees to show up, during which time they didn't remove the dirty salad plates. It appeared busy, but there was never a line-up to be seated, so I don't know what the problem was with cleaning up our table.

Also, Alton Brown's show was great! Lots of great stories and hilarious demonstrations on crazy cooking contraptions. The "mega bake" oven was a highlight. Powered by two dozen 10,000 watt light bulbs, it baked a pizza in 3 minutes flat. Also his story about the pitfalls of throwing a huge amount of incorrectly made, but still fresh and unrisen dough into a dumpster on a really hot day was hilarious.

Mar 30, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Ideas for dinenr out, Friday night (March 27) with my mother around 6PM

Oh how could I forget about Biffs! That's perfect.

Mar 26, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Ideas for dinenr out, Friday night (March 27) with my mother around 6PM

Hi all,

I am taking my mother to see the Alton Brown show tomorrow night at the Sony Centre. She is a big fan.

The show starts at 8pm, which is great as we will have time for a relaxed dinner. But I'm not sure where to take her.

She is not too adventurous when dining out, which is a shame really, as whenever I finally convince her to try something new she usually likes it. But for this night, I wouldn't want to commit her to a restaurant that was for example serving only authentic regional Thai or Indian or Carribbean dishes she may not end up liking.

In terms of atmosphere, she probably would not want to be somewhere crowded and noisy; I know that's a tall order in Toronto on a Friday night. It should also be downtown, though not necessarily right near the Sony Centre; I will pay for a short cab ride there and back. Anywhere south of Bloor, west of the Leslieville, or east of Ossington would be fine.

Basically, I am thinking of a place to take her where she can open the menu, pick out an app, entree, and have a glass of wine without too many questions about the dishes; something like a Canadian bistro; or maybe Italian or French, perhaps even Spanish.

Anyone have some good ideas from recent experiences?

Mar 26, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Brick Street Bakery in FCP is open (finally)!

I was in FCP again yesterday at lunch and I thought I would try BSB again to see if something different would be better.

I had the "marinated chicken sandwich" It was listed on the menu as "marinated chicken on a ciabatta, with mayo, tomato, onion, and lettuce". It was $9.50 after tax.

Once again, it was terrible.

I had to wait a long time to get my food again, but this time it was because my sandwich just sat in the pass-through window, ready to be given to me, but the one clerk taking orders ignored it. I finally had to physically interrupt the line of customers and ask her to give me my food, at which point she acted stunned, as though she had forgotten it was there at all. That was surprising as the kitchen staff have a bell to let the front know when an order is ready, and the rang it several times while she continued on taking new orders.

The first thing I noticed when I finally received the sandwich was that it was enormous. I thought that was a good sign, given it was a $9+ sandwich, I expected nice thin bread with lots of tasty filling. It was quite a let down unwrapping it and seeing it was really just an enormous, thick ciabatta roll, with little filling in the middle.

The chicken was very dry. It was clearly over-cooked, and only white meat. It had no flavour at all. The "marinade," which still coated the chicken, was bland, tasting of just sweet tomato paste. There were no other flavours; no heat, spice, or even salt and pepper. There was also no mayo to be seen. It would have really helped with such a dry and carb-heavy sandwich. Even the ciabatta was bland, and far too dense and chewy. It was obviously stale. It was like a ciabatta you buy at the supermarket; shipped in from a commercial bakery three days earlier and dumped in a bin for shoppers. The other toppings turned out to be two thin slices of tomato, one thin slice of red onion cut in half, and four, small, green lettuce leaves, I think romaine.

This place is a joke. The food is bland, stale, unseasoned crap, sold at premium prices. I doubt they bake their own breads, or anything else. They must just buy commercial bakery items and resell them. It's quality is equivalent to Tim Horton's, and it's triple the price.

Mar 25, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

good, quick, simple recipes to use a jar of mayo

Grilled cheese sandwiches. Spread it on the bread instead of butter.

Is Scarborough the dining capital of the world?

Popular economist and food blogger Tyler Cowen visited UT Scarborough, and was taken on a local food and restaurant tour by the Dean. Afterwards he had this to say:

"Wednesday night I was taken on a restaurant tour of Scarborough — four different places — plus rolls from a Sri Lankan locale, consumed in the office of the Dean of UT Scarborough and with the assistance of Peter Loewen.

After that eating, and lots of driving around and looking, I concluded Scarborough is the best ethnic food suburb I have seen in my life, ever, and by an order of magnitude. I hope you all have the chance to visit Scarborough, Ontario.

If you are wondering where I went, that is beside the point."

Cowen is the author of "An Economist Gets Lunch," and may have sampled more regional cuisines of the world than most anyone. His dining philosophy is rooted in economics: the best ethnic cuisine in the western world is found in family owned restaurants in suburban strip malls because they are able to offer the highest quality at the best price to the customer base most familiar to the cuisine.

http://tylercowensethnicdiningguide.com/

He is also a professor at Georgetown University and co-manages the very popular economics blog Marginal Revolution.

http://marginalrevolution.com/

Mar 15, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Brick Street Bakery in FCP is open (finally)!

I passed by at lunch today and grabbed a lamb kofte wrap to go.

It was horrible. Disgusting, even.

The wrap it self was a gummy, stretchy, whole-wheat tortilla. It looked and tasted identical to those made by Dempsters that you buy in a plastic package at the grocery store.

Inside the wrap were two round meatballs, each cut in half. I am unconvinced by taste they were 100% lamb, and wouldn't be surprised if they were 90% beef or something else. No matter what meat they really were, they were bland; completely unseasoned.

Also inside was some shredded raw red cabbage, a small amount of greasy sauteed red onion, and a mystery white sauce that tasted slightly sweet, but mostly of oil.

It cost $9.00 and a 7 minute wait after ordering. I threw most of it in the trash. This was about 11:30 am.

The quality was what I would expect to get from Tim Horton's. In fact, I am certain the gummy tortilla wrap is identical to the ones used by Tim Horton's for their $1.50 Hot Chicken Snack Wrap.

They had free samples of a "turkey chili" to try while you wait for an order. It was also very bland. No heat, no seasoning, no flavour. More like tasteless gray ground turkey in a bland tomato sauce. Is all their food this poor?

Mar 13, 2015
JDAWG in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

What's for Dinner #351: the Wishing & Hoping Edition [through Mar 2, 2015]

Falafel pork chops!? Intriguing! Can you elaborate on what that is and how you made it?

Mar 03, 2015
JDAWG in Home Cooking

What's For Dinner #350: The Robins are Back So it Must be Spring Right? Edition [through Feb. 25, 2015]

Don't get between me and my Boursin!

I ended up just using half the package as that seemed rich enough and also the saltiness was bang on.

Perfect comfort food for a frigid day.

What's For Dinner #350: The Robins are Back So it Must be Spring Right? Edition [through Feb. 25, 2015]

I'm on the shore of Lake Ontario and there is a snowstorm passing through this morning. It's those big wet flakes, not falling too heavily, but it's been four hours now and it's starting to accumulate noticeably. It is about ten degrees warmer than Friday morning, but that's still no where close enough to think about spring. The only birds I have seen lately are the pigeons, and a gaggle of Canada Geese who didn't bother flying south for the winter. There were a few raccoons in the backyard this morning too They are extremely ubiquitous in this city and it's not uncommon to see them wandering around any time of day, but it's rare to see them out in the snow.

I'm making my go-to pasta and sauce comfort food recipe tonight.

It's a pretty simple recipe: saute onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil (no measurements, just whatever looks right), add two big cans of tomatoes, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Then add some wine or vodka, whatever I find open in the cupboard, and let it simmer another 20 minutes. Dump into a bowl and hit it with the immersion blender until it's velvety smooth. Then I will add in the package of Boursin cheese I noticed in the back of the fridge that is coming up on it's expiration date, and grind in a pile of black pepper.

This usually makes enough for two nights for the family so half will go in a container in the freezer and the other half will be mixed with whatever pasta strikes my fancy in the pantry (I'm thinking tagliatelle right now).

Maybe a caesar salad on the side too.

Recent kitchen remodel? What's the best and worse of the new "technologies" you included?

The number one feature I love that we added are stainless steel counter tops all over. I love the aesthetic and the easy cleanup.

Feb 11, 2015
JDAWG in Cookware