Monday, September 24, 2007

WFD? Tartiflette: French Comfort Food

What is more comforting than the combination of cheese and potatoes? In the cooler months here in Canada, I can't think of anything. For this exquisite marriage of the two, I have to hand it to the French; they really, really know how to make one's tummy smile.

Tartiflette before baking...
Tartiflette after baking.

It’s was Valli over at More than Burnt Toast, who has been singing the praises of the humble potato recently, who inspired me to finally try out this French potato dish. For a while now I’ve had the recipe (which came in a flyer from the local liquor store!) but put off making it because it always seemed like a cooler weather dish to me.

Fortunately, I didn’t wait too long because it was fantastic! Imagine: fresh potatoes with some sautéed onions and slab bacon, a dash of white wine, and thick cream; all topped with an entire round of tangy, rich cheese and baked slowly until the cream bubbles up and the cheese oozes out.

A glorified scalloped potato? Perhaps, but absolutely over-the-top delicious. It reminded me a bit of raclette, another French meal where you melt Raclette cheese under a tabletop grill and scrape it onto boiled potatoes and various other morsels. Of course, this is like the casserole version (hate that word) and I can imagine it making an ideal apres-ski feast.

Wait a minute. Was I just wishing for snow for a second? Really, this pregnancy is doing funny things to my head!

Noah and I dug these fresh spuds up from the garden and the taste of them was a real reminder that homegrown potatoes really are a step above anything you can buy, no matter how fresh. Funnily enough,these beauties popped up uninvited as a result of some random potato from the compost going to seed. Thank goodness they did!

Next year I plan on planting a whole plot of potatoes...I'll need them for all the tartiflette I'll be making!

If you are unable to locate the traditional Reblochon cheese (I couldn't), substitute another semi-soft, cow's milk cheese that is creamy, but with a bite to it!

Valli, this recipe is for you.


1 ¾ lb Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
150 g blanched lardons or slab bacon
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup white wine
1 pinch nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
¾ cup 35% cream
1 small wheel Reblochon cheese (240g)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, but still slightly firm in the center. Drain, cool and cut into cubes.
In a skillet, lightly brown the lardons. Add the onion and continue cooking for two minutes. Deglaze with white wine. Let reduce by half.

Add the cubed potatoes, nutmeg and pepper. Mix well. Pour into a lightly buttered ovenproof casserole. Drizzle the cream over the top. Remove the rind from the bottom of the cheese and lightly scratch the top rind of the cheese. Place the cheese rind up on the potato mixture.

Bake on the lowest rack in the oven for 40 -45 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Preserving Summer: Crabapple Jelly

Every autumn comes around and I can’t resist buying a basket of pretty crabapples thinking I’ll make a jelly. The problem is, I’ve never made jelly and as simple as it may be, the first time for anything is reason enough to drag one’s feet. I usually end up packing the small apples into a wide mouth jar, adding some sugar and topping it up with vodka for a nice pink liquor come Christmas time.
But this fall was different and I actually produced a batch of crabapple jelly; mornings are cheerier when you can wake up to this pretty pink spread on toast .

There is very little labor involved in this jelly. No apple peeling, coring, or sieving; just wash them, cut in half and cook them down slowly, then mash them up and leave them to drain overnight in a jelly bag and see the lovely pink juices gather.

These will make great gifts come holiday season!

Crabapple Jelly

4 lb (1.8 kg) apples or crabapples
5 cups (1250 ml) water
5 cups (1250 ml) granulated sugar
1 pkg (57 g) Fruit Pectin
½ teaspoon butter

Wash and remove both stem and blossom ends from apples. Cut apples into chunks and combine with water in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and boil gently 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Thoroughly crush mixture and boil gently 5 minutes longer.
Pour cooked fruit into a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined sieve over a large bowl. Let juice drip, undisturbed, 2 hours or overnight (squeezing bag may cause cloudy jelly).

Place 7 clean 250 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer Set screw bands aside. Heat sealing discs in hot water, not boiling. Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use.

Measure sugar; set aside.
Measure 5 cups juice into a large, deep stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in pectin until dissolved and add 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter to reduce foaming

Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Add all the sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat; skim foam if necessary.

Quickly ladle hot jelly into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch of top rim. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner ensuring jars are covered by water. Repeat for remaining jelly.

Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. Process 10 minutes.
Turn stove off, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours. After cooling check jar seals. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.

Makes about 7 x 250 ml jars

Monday, September 17, 2007

Doughnuts & Coffee: Wish You Were Here

Sourdough Cinnamon Doughnuts with a Latte

As a young girl growing up in the wild, northern, Yukon Territories, I didn’t know the whole history behind the term ‘sourdough’ and how it traced back to the Klondike Gold Rush, but I did know that I loved sourdough bread and baking. Those days, one of the biggest treats we could be allowed to make were sourdough doughnuts—just the combination of sugar and fat was enough to make my mother cringe and make me jump up and down with anticipation.

I recently dug up that old recipe from an even older cookbook that my mother started when she got married, and decided to give it a shot. Boy was I glad I did! There is only a slight 'sour' taste, but enough to give these delicious treats a uniqueness you certainly won't find at Dunkin.

These doughnuts contain both yeast (in the sourdough starter) and baking powder, so they are right in the middle of a cake doughnut and a yeast. Even if you have a strong preference for one or the other, either way, you will love these.
Not that it should be a problem, but they are best eaten the day they are made.

I can’t tell you how many of these I ate while I was photographing them...I'm embarrassed. Sure it was a trip down memory lane, but it was a really loooong trip--and I'm not that old yet!

As I looked at the platter of doughnuts, I had to resist to urge to run out of the house, down the street, bang on all my neighbors doors and say "You HAVE to taste these!”
What a shame, there was no one at home to share them with. And let me tell you, warm from the pan, coated in vanilla sugar, you should have been here.

Fortunately, a friend dropped in later with her two little girls and we enjoyed them with some spiced chai.
These tiny doughnut holes are perfect for little fingers....

Fresh from the oil

Dressed up with vanilla sugar

Sourdough Starter

2 cups flour
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon yeast

Mix well in a large bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in a warm place.

Sourdough Cinnamon Doughnuts

½ cup sourdough
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour milk

Prepare a wok or deep fryer for frying. Prepare a tray with paper towel for draining doughnuts. Heat oil to 360 degrees.

Sift dry ingredients together. Mix remaining ingredients together and add to dry. Bring dough together gently with you hands. Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface and turn dough on to it. Knead it gently about 3 times to help bring the dough together. Roll out to a thickness of 2 centimeters and cut with a doughnut cutter.

Fry until golden brown. Test the first one for doneness by breaking it in two and checking if the middle is doughy. Drain on paper town. Toss with vanilla sugar or cinnamon sugar to coat.


Noah Turns Two

My little one turned two today and I am still coming to terms with the fact that he is growing up. Although he proves to us everyday by accomplishing a new feat or sentence that he is no longer a baby, I still sometimes see that tiny bundle that we brought home two years ago when I look at him.
I wanted to do him an airplane cake as he is bananas over airplanes, and this is what I came up with. In case you can't tell, it's a little airplane flying in the clouds.

I made an apple spice cake, layered it with maple butter and iced it with cream cheese frosting.
I wasn't happy with the overly-dense apple cake part, so I won't post the recipe, but it was a nice combination of flavors.
And Noah ate it, which is what matters most.

Happy birthday, darling.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Preserving Summer: Tomato Herb Sauce

OK, OK, so I’ve been grumbling a bit about saying good bye to summer, but I am not going to pretend that I am excited about the coming winter. So, I have started a little canning operationto help me hang on to summer a little longer and perhaps even through the winter—if I can track down enough jars!

When I was growing up, my mother canned all sorts of produce, but did I ever pay any attention? No. Usually I was giving the most mundane tasks, like peeling the tomatoes or pitting the apricots, and I would let my mind wander, waiting for the chance when I could slip away and get back to my book.

Now that I am a mother and want to take up these domestic duties, it’s a trial-by-error project.
I mean, I’ve made a few jams and jelly’s over the years, but that about it. But how hard can it be, right?

So, I am excited to get started with preserving summer’s beautiful produce in pretty glass jars and hope to inspire you to do the same. What better way to keep the flavors of summer alive that to preserve them and store them in a pantry for that cold December day when the tomatoes at the grocery store taste like cardboard.

Gorgeous Italian tomatoes tomatoes at the market were the first to catch my eye and I was reminded of my own yellowing plants at home. I bought 40 lbs, hurriedly, knowing that if I thought about it too long, I would chicken out at the big task ahead of jarring these beauties.

I was very please with this simple sauce; the herbs and garlic don't overpower the tomatoes, it's thick, has vibrant color, and I was proud to jar it.

Tomato Herb Sauce

20 lbs Italian tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
I medium onion, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped finely
Black pepper

Fill a 5-quart pan with water and bring to a boil. Wash tomatoes and make a small “X” with a knife in the bottom. Prepare a large bowl with cold water. Blanch tomatoes, a few at a time, quickly in the boiling water until the skins loosen. Plunge immediately into cold water. Peel tomatoes and using your hands, squeeze the juices and seeds out. Discard seeds and skin.
In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil. Sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add tomatoes and herbs and stir well.
Cook on medium heat until heated through, and then reduce to low for a gentle simmer. If you prefer your sauce smooth rather than chunky, puree it now with an immersion blender.
Cook for about 4 hours, until reduced slightly and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Place eight, one-quart clean mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat water to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside; in a small pot, heat lids in hot water, NOT boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and lids hot until ready to use.

Have ready: a pair of tongs, a jar lifter, a 2-cup glass measuring cup, a wide-mouth jar funnel, and a few clean dish towels.
You are now ready to can! Make sure any small children are not underfoot at this time.

Working with one jar at a time, remove jar from hot water and place on your workspace. Place the funnel in the top. Ladle hot sauce into a hot jar to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim . Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Using your tongs, remove a lid from the hot water standing by and center lid on jar; apply screw band securely & firmly until resistance is met –fingertip tight. Do not over tighten. Place jar back in canner; repeat for remaining jars.

When all jars have been filled (or your canner is full –don’t overcrowd), make sure jars are covered by at least ½ inch of water.
Cover canner; bring water to a boil.
‘Process’ (meaning “boil”) at a gentle boil for 40 minutes. When processing time is complete, turn heat off and remove canner lid. When boil subsides, remove jars without tilting.

Cool jars upright, undisturbed 24 hours. DO NOT RE-TIGHTEN screw bands.
You should hear the musical “Pop, Pop” of the jars sealing. This is a proud moment!
After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.

If you have any leftover sauce, why not enjoy it with some spaghetti for supper? You shouldn’t have to do any more cooking for today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tomatoes, Bread and Cheese. Repeat Several Times.

Tomatoes, bread and cheese. Tomatoes, bread and cheese.
For a while now I have been craving little except for crusty fresh bread, sweet garden tomatoes and any cheese I can get my hands on. Something about the simple and classic combinations of flavors appeals to my occasionally queasy, first-trimester-preggers stomach. Of course the bountiful harvest of fresh tomatoes from my little kitchen garden would be tempting to just about anyone.

While tomato sandwiches have been a lunch staple for a good week now, I decided to take my trio of ingredients to the next level--and use up that fresh mozzarella in my fridge. What could be better than a pizza?
Allow me to share my current favorite pizza dough recipe with you. I say current, because I am always on the hunt for the perfect crust. Like the ones I had in Italy. Who knows if my search will ever come to an end this side of the pond, but for now this one will do.

Pizza Dough

60 ml warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
2 1/2 cups white flour
180 ml cool water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

In the bowl of your Kitchen Aid or stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and with the dough hook, beat on medium for a minute until combined. Knead on low for five minutes. Dough will be soft.
Coat dough in olive oil and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place 30 minutes. Punch down dough and divide into portions. It is now ready for pizza making!
Makes enough for three 12 inch pizzas.
May be refrigerated for up to two days. Freezes well.

Cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella were my toppings of choice as well as a drizzle of olive oil, homemade sauce, and fresh cracked pepper.
Mmm, just what the doctor ordered!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

UtHC Turns One: A Look Back

365 days, 115 posts, thousands of hits, hundreds of comments, many new friends, and three contented bellies: that is just some of the impact this blog has had on our home in its first year. So pour yourself another glass of wine or top up your cup of coffee as we take a journey back together.

Happy 1st birthday to Under the High Chair!

At the beginning, I had many doubts that blogging would stick as I am not a ‘techie’ by any means, and any attempts in the past I have made at journaling have all been wildly sporadic. However, one thing I knew for certain, was that I would never stop creating and consuming delicious food, and with that being a firm fact, I found myself with more material that I could use for this blog. How many dishes and baked goodies went eaten before they were photographed? How many excellent recipes got put together without note-taking and thus impossible to recreate? Plenty!
Still, I am thrilled with what I have been able to share with you over the past year and have enjoyed the process of this blog’s evolution from the first post
to what it is now.

It would be impossible to sum up the past twelve months or try to identify a favorite post, but I have attempted to highlight some of the more memorable posts with a look back at UtHC’s first year. Just click on the links to read the posts in full.

In the beginning…Getting started!

Two years ago I probably didn't know what a blog was.
One year ago I was oblivious to the wide and wonderful world of food blogging.
It wasn't until my friend Zaak suggested I should start a blog that I realized I could actually enjoy this idea of an online food journal which would include three of my hobbies: cooking, photography and writing. ( Because, of course the blog would have to be centered around the all-important FOOD!)
That was the 'what' and if you've read my basic profile, you'll understand the 'why': I needed a creative outlet.

As for the 'where'? Well, introducing…Noah, the inspiration for Under the High Chair. In the post What’s in a name? I detail just how my blog title came to be and vent some frustration over how my son is my harshest critic.
Also in my header I ask the question “Does my young son care who I've cooked for?” and I expounded on that subject in So who have I cooked for? While I name some A-list celebs, I also note that it’s a pretty pitiful claim to fame but it helps to remind my self once in a while that I used to have clients that actually enjoyed my cooking, unlike my son.

And so, Under the High Chair was born.....

Most Feedback:
Easily the post that received the most attention was Montreal’s Best Cupcake. A lot of hard work (eating cupcakes!) went into this revealing review of four cupcake bakeshops in Montreal. The study, combined with a lengthy write-up and some colorful pictures, drew plenty of attention from local readers. For instance, I received personal emails asking detailed (and somewhat bizarre) questions, a few cupcake themed gifts made their way into my kitchen, and UtHC popped up as a link on a Chowhound message board. The review even caught the eye of the delightful Susan Schwartz of the Montreal Gazette: several emails and an interview later, voilà, there was a blurb about Under the High Chair’s opinion on our city's cupcake status in her article titled: Let them Eat Cupcakes. How fun to see a link for UtHC in print!

Most Personal:
I’ve always been fairly open on my blog about myself, our family and the workings of under the high chair, but when I signed on for an interview with the delightful Gilly of Humble Pie, I should have known I would be giving readers an even closer look at Aimee and UtHC .

Most Memorable Trip:
While my recent three week visit to my home province of British Columbia was extra special because of close family ties, I would have to say that our whirlwind weekend getaway sans bebé to the Big Apple in June was completely unforgettable. We ate and ate and ate, and in between eating, we walked. 15 kilometers, to be exact.
Let's do it again soon.

Most Controversial:
Perhaps the most controversial post of the year was Danny Cooks: an honest narrative of a typical Saturday morning where my husband's sincere attempt to serve me poached eggs ends with mixed results. This little glimpse into our kitchen hovered like a dark cloud over our house for two weeks before Danny finally agreed (after some editing of his own) to let me post it. While those who know him well testify to its accuracy, Danny still refuses to accept the writing as anything but pure fabrication.

Best Construction/Use of Ginger:
My kitchen was never so sugar coated that it was during the few weeks leading up to Christmas where I attempted the second gingerbread house of my life and had a much easier time than with the first. I remembered how much I love working with candy and how much fun it is to be on a perpetual sugar high for several days.

Best Cake:
I am not a big cake maker. I tend to drag my feet at the decorating stage unless I have a really good idea I can play around with, and even then, I like to keep it simple. For Noah’s first birthday I did a lemon cake with a lollipop garden-enough candy for a whole pack of kids. Or uncles.

Best Canapé:
I love eating finger food. Love to much and crunch, dip and sip. After three years of the garde manger station at Toque! I acquired a lot of patience for putting together delicate, bite-sized amuse bouches and still enjoy creating flavorful and pretty canapés for my own parties. Hmm, best of the best?? A tough decision, but I do make these Wilted Spinach and Garlic Crostini with Parmesan every chance I get.

Best Party:
I love hosting parties be it a holiday, the Oscars, a birthday or just a warm summer evening and this year we had some great ones. I think that this wine and cheese party was the most fun- and that’s not just because many bottles of wine were consumed, either! It wasn't a lot of work and it was worth it to splurge a little on fabulous cheese and fine wine.

Best Cookie:
With two (Christmas & Valentines) successful cookie exchanges on UtHC's resumé last year, picking a best cookie is highly controversial and entirely a matter of taste; however, I get asked for this gingersnap cookie recipe more than any other recipe ever. I love to add tonka bean for an extra-complex flavor.

Worst Dining Out Dish:
The year can't all be great food and wine...and this Trio of Crème Brulé from the Beaver Club brought me crashing down to earth pretty fast. A not-so-sublime combination of pistachio, praline and mocha brulés, served in egg shells.
Ugh. I hate to be reminded.

Best Dining Out Dish:
We dined at so many great places this year: Le Jolifou, Au Pied du Cochon, Gastropod, Tapeo, L's hard to pick a best dish, so Ive narrowed it down to a tie:
Warm Chanterelle Salad (pictured above) with fresh Favas, Sea Asparagus, Almond and Cider Vinegar from Vancouver’s Gastropod and Deep-Fried Calamari from Montreal’s Tapeo. Sublime.

It’s been a wonderful year!

I have learned so much and hope to keep improving in areas such as photography, formatting, writing, and content. Thank you to my readers for all their comments-they mean a lot to me!
I look eagerly ahead to the next year for UtHC as I have a few new things planned, as well as continuing old favorites.

Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

WFD? Yogurt and Tamarind Marinated Grilled Chicken

Here we are at the beginning of September and I have not yet featured one recipe from the hallowed grill. Shocking! Maybe by now you have realized that I am not one of those people who start their barbeque mid-May and practically leave it on low until Labor Day. To these people it seems that grilling as almost a requirement, rather than an option, and suppertime is usually no more complicated than “Hamburger or Hot-dog?”

Now, I do enjoy a good Barbeque feast, and after years in a tiny downtown apartment, consider it a luxury to have a back deck large enough to hold a full sized BBQ; still, everything in moderation!
To me, grilling should be about options. All too often folks get stuck in the aforementioned rut of burgers, hot-dogs and –maybe on weekends- a brochette or a steak. I can recall one week this summer where I ate (as a guest) hamburgers four nights out of seven. While I do enjoy the occasional hefty outdoor-grilled burger, that was about my quota for the entire summer.
I guess you catch my drift.
All that said, here is one recipe for the grill to add to your repertoire. I’ve made it a few times this summer (each time vowing to blog about it) and am always delighted by its simplicity and succulence! For those of you who remember, I had promised to post a recipe or two using my homemade garam masala and this is it, finally! In my opinion, it is that exciting addition of spices that sets this recipe apart. You can also buy garam masala at most specialty or ethnic food shops. The same goes for the tamarind paste, although it more commonly packaged as a pulp. No worries, just mix with some boiling water to soften and pass through a fine sieve.

This recipe is taken from the fabulous Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine
I served the chicken with a basmati rice pilaf, to which I also added some garam masala, and baby vegetables from my garden.
Yogurt-and-Tamarind-Marinated Grilled Chicken

Be sure to use boneless chicken thighs for this recipe, as breast meat doesn’t soak in the flavors of the yogurt and tamarind as well.

¾ cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
3 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
¼ cup canola oil
1 ½ Tbsp salt
1 ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
1 Tbsp garam masala
2 ¼ lbs boneless chicken thighs
1 lemon, in 6 wedges (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, tamarind, garlic, oil, salt, cayenne and garam masala. Add chicken thighs and mix well. Make sure chicken is well covered in the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours. The longer the chicken marinates, the stronger the flavors will be.
Preheat a grill to high heat. Grill marinated chicken thighs skin-side down for about two minutes and then turn over. Grill on other side for 2 minutes and turn over again. Grill each side for another two minutes. Poke thighs with a knife to be sure they are cooked through. Remove from grill and let rest, covered with tin foil for a few minutes.
Serve with lemon wedges and desired accompaniments.


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