Traditional Poultry Stuffing

 

Ready for stuffing the bird.

Ready for stuffing the bird.

When I was very small, I remember watching with fascination, as Mom & Dad would put the turkey in the sink, and proceed to stuff it full of the mixture they’d cooked earlier that morning. They’d skewer it closed, stretching the skin to fit. Hefting the bird into a roaster that we never used for anything else, they would then put it in the oven. This would all happen before lunch, as it would take hours for the bird to roast. As soon as it was in the oven, Dad would drive off to go pick up Grandma to spend the holiday with us. The smell of the herb-laden stuffing would fragrantly scent the house all day.

As we grew, we took on a bit more of the holiday cooking each year, learning to simply make dinner, perhaps with a quick glance at the well-thumbed Joy of Cooking, but usually just following what Mom did, which was probably essentially the same as her mom did, and her mom before that.

Although I now buy a bag of coarse breadcrumbs, when growing up we never did. Slightly stale crusts and bits of bread would be kept until there were enough to either break apart to make a coarse crumb, or put folded into a tea towel to be rolled and crushed into fine crumbs. Today our bread trimmings tend to go to the chickens with their morning feed.

As stuffing is a bit of this and a bit of that, I needed to narrow it down to the essentials for the recipe; herbs, vegetables, a bit of fruit, egg, a bit of liquid, and sometimes the treat of oysters, and dry breadcrumb. This is essentially how I make it year after year, occasionally adding something new just to switch it up. Continue reading

Fried Rice ~ Basic Recipe

IMG_9565_2For several months one year, we had two young women staying with us through the Canada World Youth Program; one was a Canadian university student from Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the other, an economics student from Jakarta, Indonesia. Language was one of the key components to their stay here, as well as volunteering in the community. While I struggled with Indonesian, finding it difficult to separate the words, as the language is so fluid, I did find my high school French coming back to me so quickly. The three of us would laugh, quite often pointing, or drawing pictures to communicate. But slowly it all started to happen. Often just a quick sentence, but the intent was picked up on.

Besides language, food was a huge part of us getting to know each other and our cultures. Our household became used to the scent of rice in all its cooked forms. During Ramadan, the two of them would get up before dawn, and start cooking the early meal. Usually it was a simple assembly of fried rice. A few pieces of garlic, onions, and hot peppers, fried with leftover rice from the evening meal. Other bits of vegetables or meats would be added, and served with sambal oelek and ketjap bentang. This meal would last them right through until the late meal. Our Quebec guest found it very hard to manage the long days of fasting, but did it to experience her counterpart’s religion. Our tiny, Indonesian friend explained to me, that if you eat less, it is far easier to make it through the day, as she watched with glee as our young Canadian friend wolfed down a bagel with cream cheese following her fried rice.

Frying the rice before cooking it (instead of frying leftover rice) gives it a nuttier flavour. The recipe still uses small amounts of vegetable, meats, and egg to make it a complete meal. Be creative with this, as it is a very simple meal, using what is at hand. It can easily be fully vegetarian, or just use the egg if you like. Continue reading

Crab Cakes

IMG_5721About 15 years ago, we had an epic snowfall over the Christmas holidays.  Not that it takes too much for us to be excited, as in this area more than a foot is remarkable.  This storm brought us about 3½’ of snow over a couple of days.  Just when we thought it was over, it would start again.  We have walkout horse stalls, and I can remember the snow sliding off the barn roof towards the snow in the paddocks, until there was only about a 3’ opening.  The horses got in their stalls and then stayed for a few days, while I mucked out religiously, fetched water and food.

During this time, we also lost our power, not a huge concern for us with a great woodstove, back up generator, and gravity fed water.  However, our friends started dropping by to our warm home “for just a quick shower” or a dinner of things that needed to be used up, as their fridges needed to be emptied.  We put the extensions in our kitchen table, and had weird meals of things like perogies & sole, while we played cards and visited.

By the time New Year’s rolled in, we were all pretty tired of the snow, and its inconveniences.  We were invited to a friend’s home for dinner, where she was holed up with a couple of B&B guests.  After hiking out our driveway, and driving over to her place on the water’s edge, we were greeted with lots of candles, and a cheerful fire burning.  We gathered round a big table and demolished a huge crab feast!  It was fabulous! Just what we needed after a weird week of just getting by, and having most of our Christmas plans cancelled.

As the evening unfolded, the weather outside was changing.  The temperature was rising, and rain started falling.  Really falling.  By the time we were trekking back down our driveway, we could hear the water rushing under the icy bottom crust of the snow.

Whenever I eat crab now, I look back at that evening, regardless of the season.  Crabmeat is easily available, either fresh packed or frozen, and makes great crab cakes.

The trick with crab cakes is not to overburden them with unnecessary flavours, and to add just enough binding ingredients to keep them together.   Continue reading

Cod Cakes with Zesty Mayo

IMG_5277It used to be that if we wanted fish for dinner, we’d simply go out in our dory and catch some.  We used to be happy with a couple of nice sized rockfish, thrilled if we got a snapper, and felt like we’d won the lottery if we brought in a good sized Lingcod.  We would cast a herring jig and slowly bring it back up to the boat.  If we didn’t get anything in half a dozen casts, we’d move to another place.  We only kept decent sized fish, because there was no point in keeping the littler ones. Those days are long gone.  For several years in a row in the mid-eighties, there was a fishboat that used to go up and down Stuart Channel, scraping up anything that was a bottom fish.  Unfortunately, it scraped up anything and everything.  Rockfish, Ling Cod, Snapper, and every other type of sea life.  This was before we knew about the late reproductive age of rock fish and lingcod.  Stocks are slowly returning, but most of our area is prime habitat for these fish, so it is usually closed to fishing, commercial or pleasure.

Stuart Channel - heading home.

Stuart Channel – heading home.

Now we buy our fish.  Sometimes we are lucky and are told of some  fresh caught halibut or salmon for sale, but more often than not, we buy our fish at a store.  I try to keep some in the freezer, as I only go to town once a week or so, and if that isn’t the day for fresh fish, I’m better off with frozen.

Our usual is wild caught Pacific Cod.  It is sustainable, and until we have North American farm-raised tilapia more readily available, I feel better with the cod.

We’re pretty happy eating fish grilled, baked, or pan-fried, but I’m a sucker for a good fish cake.  When I saw this recipe in Canadian Living it sounded so fresh and flavourful, I had to try it.  As usual, I couldn’t help but change a few things. Continue reading

Oxtail Soup


IMG_5318 The first time we went in to pick up beef from the butcher, he asked if we’d like the licker, the flicker, or the ticker.  We stood looking at him like a couple of newbies.  I’m not sure if he actually rolled his eyes, but probably somewhere in his head he was.

The tongue, the tail, or the heart.  Not having had much experience with any of them, we opted for the least embarassing, and said, “yes please.”

So started my fascination with slow braising of the most intensely flavoured muscle meat that a beef animal has to offer.  These aren’t actually organs, they are constantly used muscles, tough because of their use.  They pump, lick, help to swallow, and flick away flies.

The more a muscle is used, the more flavour it has.  The trick is how to get that flavour in an accessible way. In other words, without much chewing!

This soup is one of my all time favourites.  I think I was first introduced to it in a red & white labelled can.  Now it is made once or twice a year (there’s only one tail per animal).  Cook the meat, creating the stock, one day; put together the soup the next.  Take your time, no one is expecting you to rush while making a pot of soup.  Continue reading