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Lobster is a nice, sweet meat
(July 2012)
“What about this one?” I say, holding up a not-quite-wide-open shell, soot-black and glossy with curried cream. “Dead before the pot? Or after?”
We’re seated on the second story balcony of a downtown Charlottetown pub. Jazz notes are rising from street musicians on the street below. The air is comfortably cool. And I’ve just ordered my first ever bowl of mussels (to share).
When it comes to a love of seafood, I’m a late bloomer.
Having grown up on mostly landfood, I went from farmer’s granddaughter and butcher’s stepdaughter, to spending my teenage years on the other side of my family tree, as a Seventh Day Adventist vegetarian. If I did eat seafood, Levitical-type attention was paid to whether, in life, the fish had swum with fins and scales.
Therefore, my longstanding aversion to bi-valves and crustaceans has deep and twisty roots.
Now, as I stick a slender fork between two halves of shell and finagle an orange oval of flesh from its once home, I swallow an upwelling of panic and open wide.
“P.E.I. mussels are renowned for having the highest meat counts in the world,” a reader will later tell me.
And?
Because I’d put off trying West Coast mussels every chance I’d ever had, I have nothing with which to compare. But these mussels are sweet and pleasing to the bite. They are meaty, yes, and I conclude that I rather like them.
Given the right setting, I could even see myself acquiring a hankering. Maybe.
But more importantly, this shellfish novice suddenly feels ready to move on from the safer waters of haddock and ahi that started off our week in the Maritimes, and consider other things.
Having eaten mussels, maybe raw Malpeque oysters from Raspberry Point will be next. Perhaps even something with an exoskeleton and pincers and alien-like eyes suspended on waving sticks. Like the lobsters that seem to follow us everywhere we go.
And I do mean everywhere. Including, we’ll later discover, the Departures area of the Halifax airport, where one can have a live lobster packed up to take home in a cardboard carrier that is essentially a pet caddy packed with ice.
For now, however, as we drive towards our next meal, a sign under a set of golden arches makes pull a U-turn.
“McLobster is Back!” the sign proclaims.
And while this certainly is not will not be where I will encounter lobster for the first time! we stop, click, and post photographic evidence on Facebook for all of our friends in the West.
Later, it’s in a salt box of a seaside restaurant in Cavendish P.E.I. where I finally work up an appetite for something the Maritimes is famous for: a lobster roll.
Mounded on a soft pretzel bun, the crustacean meat is tossed in a light mayonnaise dressing, and is firm and sweet and everything (I imagined) it should be.
A perfect lunch in a perfect place. So that, before we board our flight home later in the week, I’ll take a good long look in that tank in the Halifax airport, considering whether I want to travel with a giant sea bug by my feet. And whether, once I get it home, I’ll be able to dispatch it into a pot.
I’ll look at Chefhusband, who will fix me with an are-you-kidding look that lets me know he’s not interested in a lobster pet. And when we take off, we’ll already be planning when to come back, and what to eat when we do.
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P.E.I. Lobster Rolls
1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat (4-1.5 pound lobsters)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
flaked kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper
4 pretzel rolls (or other soft artisan buns), split and lightly toasted
melted butter for brushing
Extract meat from lobsters; discard shells or use for stock. Chop meat into bite-sized pieces.
In a bowl, gently toss lobster with mayo, lemon juice and celery. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes, allowing flavours to develop.
Brush cut sides of pretzel rolls with melted butter. Stuff with lobster salad and serve.

 

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(July 2012)
An Ahi Moment 
In historic Lunnenberg we catch up with tall ships at anchor and fling open the doors to our senses.
There’s a chorus of gulls. Salt in the sea-moistened air. Dense clusters of clammed-up mussels anchored by their whiskers to wooden docks at low tide.
And there is colour.
Along a shore that rises into a gently-sloped amphitheater over the Atlantic, a prism of houses and shops seem to be the creation of a master pastry chef. A fairytale town created from painted sugar cookies, where a kitchen store called Cilantro is green to go with its name. Where a trattoria seems to take its inspiration from nectarines and cream, and an optometrist’s clinic is wild with the colour of strawberries.
For every blue and purple, for every yellow, red, green or aquamarine, there is a natural reference that comes from beach pebbles, wildflowers, sea ice, and sand-washed shards of sea glass. From tree, vine, and cane fruits. From fish scales and heron feathers. Leafy green sprigs and red red mud.
Back at home, our house is a dove-soft grey, and colour sprouts from seasonal planters, taken down in winter. A subtle backdrop that, until now, I was certain I preferred.
Until now, I’ve never supposed I might want to live in a purple house. Although suddenly, I can see myself through the kitchen window of a grape-juice sided two storey, stirring batter to go with wild raspberries that seem to grow along every path-side thicket in Nova Scotia.
I take a hundred pictures. I take a hundred more.
Then, on the docks of this iconic town, we stop for a patio lunch of battered haddock and chips, intended to ease my way into an intention of turning a lifelong seafood aversion into a passion.
This week I plan to work my way all the way up to staring down a lobster.
After scooping flakes of fish out of a heavy cocoon of batter, however, I’m no farther along. And when we farewell what is surely the most picture perfect town in the entire world, I leave it wondering whether the trattoria might have been the better choice.
In Halifax the following morning, we board a boat and set off to watch for whales that do not, this day, decide to watch back.
We know they’re there, however. And somehow just being on the surface of their world helps us better value the depths beneath.
After watching comes a late lunch, and having so far failed to have a seafood moment, we walk up and down the docks and finally choose another ocean-view patio. We order crab cakes, smoked Atlantic salmon and seared-rare ahi tuna encrusted with cracked black pepper and fragrant spices, sliced thin and served on a tomato bun.
With one bite, as the flesh yields to the soft pressure of my tongue, I have what I can only describe as a conversion experience.
If seared rare ahi tuna were my last meal, I would leave this world wanting nothing else to eat.
On the seafood adventurist’s scale, it’s not yet lobster, I know. Or even mussels or raw oysters, which are also on my list.
But for now, as we dip our forks into the ocean, there is nothing but time ahead of us. A week’s worth of diving deeper into the ocean of food that surrounds us.
Seared-Rare Ahi Tuna
1 1/2 pound center-cut Ahi tuna fillet (line-caught)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon coarse black pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsp vegetable oil
DSC00772_2
Combine spices and spread out on a plate. Roll fillet in spices, pressing gently.
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sear tuna on all sides and remove from heat. Let rest 5 minutes.
To serve, slice thinly using a very sharp slicing or sushi knife. Serve as an appetizer with slices of baguette, or pile slices onto tomato buns (or other artisan rolls), with mayonnaise, sliced ripe tomatoes and baby lettuce.

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Breakfast:

Brioche Sticky Buns

March 1, 2012 by darcie friesen hossack | Edit

 
4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm milk
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 pound butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in milk. Set aside in a warm place, 10 minutes, until creamy.
In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, whisk together flour and sugar. Fit mixer with dough hook. Add yeast mixture and eggs to flour. Mix on low until liquids are completely incorporated; 3 minutes.
With mixer on high, add butter, several pieces at a time. When all the butter is added, knead for 8 minutes. Transfer dough to a very large, buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Roll out to 15×20-inches.
Filling:
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tbs cinnamon
1 cup light brown sugar
Spread sour cream over surface of dough, leaving a boarder of 1/2-inch. Combine cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle over sour cream. Roll up lengthwise.
Sticky:
1 1/2 cups golden brown sugar
1/2 pound butter, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1/4 cup golden corn syrup
Cream together butter and sugar. Add syrups and beat until well combined. Spread mixture into the bottom and sides of two 8x11x2-inch glass baking dishes. Cut roll into 12 equal slices. Arrange into pans.
Bake, with a cookie sheet below to catch drips, at 350F for 40-45 minutes, until deep golden. Serve warm.

Second Breakfast:

Prairie Berry Clafoutis

December 1, 2010 by darcie friesen hossack | Edit

I have a new favourite recipe and this is it!
by Amy Jo Ehman, author of Prairie Feast, a writer’s journey home for dinner
2 tbs butter
2 cups mixed Saskatchewan berries, fresh or frozen
(raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, sour cherries and, of course, saskatoons)
1 tbsp flour
3 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
Heat the oven to 350F. In the oven, melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or large pie plate. Do not brown. Meanwhile, toss the berries with 1 tbsp of flour. In a blender or food processor, mix the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and salt. With the blades running, gradually add the cup of flour and blend well. Pour the batter into the pan. Scatter the berries overtop. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the centre is set. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with icing sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup.
Cook’s note: Clafoutis is a French custard cake, much like a thick crepe, and makes a perfect brunch or dessert.

Elevensies:

BLT Bread Salad

4 slices bacon, crumbled

3 slices day-old bread, cubed

(or equivalent artisan bread, cubed or sliced into thin fingers, as shown)

2 medium tomatoes

2 cups salad greens

2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

DRESSING:

2 Tbs light mayonnaise

1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

dash hot sauce

3 Tbs milk

flaked kosher salt/freshly ground pepper

Fry bacon until crisp, then remove with tongs to a paper towel. Add sliced garlic to bacon fat and distribute evenly around pan. Add bread and fry until golden on one side. Flip and fry on other (or all) side. Remove from pan.

Roughly chop the tomatoes. Place in a large salad bowl and squeeze lightly to release some of the juices.

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over tomatoes and stir. Adjust seasoning. Just before serving, toss in bread.

Arrange salad greens on two large plates. Top with the tomato/bread mixture. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Luncheon:

Baked Potato Soup
flesh from 4 large baked potatoes
4 Tbs butter
2 medium leeks, finely sliced, (white and light green parts only)
5-6 cups chicken stock
2 cups grated cheddar
6 green onions, finely sliced, (white and light green parts only)
5 strips bacon, cooked crisp, drained, chopped
flaked kosher salt/freshly ground pepper
sour cream
Scoop flesh from well-baked potatoes.
Melt butter in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks; sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add potatoes and 5 cups stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmering for 10 minutes
Puree using an immersion blender. Thin with additional stock if needed.
Bring back to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheddar, green onions, bacon and sour cream.

Afternoon Tea:

London Fog for one

3/4 cup hot water
2 Earl Grey tea bags
3/4 cup whole milk
3 tbs vanilla syrup
Steep both tea bags in water for very strong tea. Meanwhile, froth milk with the steam attachment of an espresso machine (or heat and use a latte whip). Remove tea bags from tea. Add vanilla syrup and steamed milk, reserving froth for the top. Serve immediately, with crumb cake (next recipe).

Susanne Klassen’s Crumb cake recipe!

(contributed by Elsie K. Neufeld)

2 cups brown sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup margarine (or butter, I suppose), softened.

Mix the above and reserve 3/4 -1 cup for “crumbs.”

Add 2 tsp BAKING SODA to 1 1/2 cups sour milk (or buttermilk). Whisk with a fork.
Pour into the dry mixture. Then beat 2 eggs and add. Turn on mixer. Beat until your intuition tells you to stop.

Pour into a 9×13 inch pan. Top with reserved crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 or so minutes.

Bakers’ notes: I wanted to keep Elsie’s mom’s recipe worded just the way it was. I used a different method, so include these few notes:

Whisk together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Set aside 3/4 cup crumbs. Whisk baking soda into remaining crumbs.

Whisk together buttermilk and eggs. Add to crumb mixture and bring together with a fork, until the consistency of muffin batter.

Pour into a buttered pan. Top with reserved crumbs. Bake until a tester comes out clean.

Dinner:

Chefhusband’s Ultimate Fried Egg Sandwich

March 30, 2012 by darcie friesen hossack | Edit

 

(makes 2)

4 slices artisan bread

4 fresh eggs

8 slices bacon, cooked, drippings reserved

1 tomato, sliced

4 slices sharp cheddar

2 tbs mayonnaise

herb salad

kosher salt, fresh ground pepper

butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Place a pan over med-high heat.

For each sandwich, butter one side of two slices of bread. Spread insides with mayo and place tomato slices on one side, cheese on the other. Season tomato with salt and pepper. Place bread, buttered side down, in skillet. After 30 seconds, transfer to oven to melt cheese.

Meanwhile, heat 2-3 tsp bacon drippings in a small pan. Crack in 2 eggs and fry over-easy, leaving the yolks runny.

Remove pan from oven. Transfer bread to a cutting board. Add eggs, bacon and a few greens. Assemble and slice in half. Serve immediately.

 

Supper:

This is an old Mennonite recipe. Though I didn’t learn it from my Grandma Friesen, it still reminds me of her kitchen in Schoenfeld, Saskatchewan.
 
2 cups milk
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbs active dry yeast
1 tbs granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
4-5 cups flour
12 oz Farmers sausage (about 1 1/2 large)
Grease an 11 by 11 by 3-inch baking pan.
In a  small pot, scald milk by warming it over med-high heat until barely simmering. Allow to cool until it is warm but no longer hot (baby bottle temperature).
Meanwhile, proof yeast in water with sugar.
In a large bowl, beat eggs well. Stir in milk and yeast mixture.
Whisk salt into flour and add, one cup at a time into the wet mixture (whisking at first, then changing to a wooden spoon), until mixture is thick and slightly elastic. (It should be like a very heavy muffin batter, but not so thick or overworked that it becomes a dough).
Chop sausage into bite-sized pieces. Fold into batter.
Scrape batter into prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours, until nearly doubled.
Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

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(makes 2)

4 slices artisan bread

4 fresh eggs

8 slices bacon, cooked, drippings reserved

1 tomato, sliced

4 slices sharp cheddar

2 tbs mayonnaise

herb salad

kosher salt, fresh ground pepper

butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Place a pan over med-high heat.

For each sandwich, butter one side of two slices of bread. Spread insides with mayo and place tomato slices on one side, cheese on the other. Season tomato with salt and pepper. Place bread, buttered side down, in skillet. After 30 seconds, transfer to oven to melt cheese.

Meanwhile, heat 2-3 tsp bacon drippings in a small pan. Crack in 2 eggs and fry over-easy, leaving the yolks runny.

Remove pan from oven. Transfer bread to a cutting board. Add eggs, bacon and a few greens. Assemble and slice in half. Serve immediately.

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Three bite slider buns
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 tbs plus 1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Scald milk. Add butter and salt. Cool until lukewarm. Dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in water. Set aside 10 minutes, until foamy. Place in a large mixing bowl, combine with milk mixture, remaining sugar, and egg.
Gradually add flour, mixing until ingredients come together. Turn onto a floured surface. Knead five minutes to form a soft dough.
Cover and set in a warm place to rise until doubled. Punch down. Pinch off balls of dough the size of walnuts. Place on a greased pan, 1-inch apart. Cover to rise until doubled. Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes.
Cuban shredded pork
2 kg boneless pork shoulder roast
1/3 cup (about 2 heads) finely minced garlic
2 shallots, finely diced
28 gram package fresh oregano, leaves only, very finely chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vegetable oil
2-3 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, heated
gherkins
Combine marinade ingredients by pulsing with a hand blender until emulsified, but not completely pureed.
Place roast in a very large bowl. Open out roast and season all over with fresh ground pepper. Spread marinade oven entire surface. Reshape roast, place in a deep dish and cover tightly. Refrigerate several hours or (preferably) overnight.
To braise, place roast in a roasting dish or Dutch Oven. Place in a 300F oven, on the lowest rack, and cook with the lid off for 2 1/2 hours. Continue cooking for another 3 1/2 hours with the lid on. Let rest 15 minutes. Remove roast to a dish. Cool until it’s comfortable to handle, then pull apart meat into shreds, discarding all possible fat.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a very large saucepan. Add onions, and caramelized over medium heat. Add shredded pork, along with stock (enough to moisten and absorb) and heat, turning meat over with a wooden spoon, just to warm through (if you don’t have a large enough saucepan, do this in batches of four). Serve warm, in buns, with thin slices of gherkins.

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8 slices artisan bread
4 apricot-sized yellow tomatoes
1 red pepper
4 oz unripened goat’s cheese (“Chevre”)
handful baby arugula
4 generous tsp tomato pesto
softened butter
olive oil
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
Slice tomatoes into quarters and remove seeds. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 325F for 25 minutes.
Char pepper over a cooking flame. Rub away skin, remove seeds and slice.
For each sandwich, butter outside of two slices of bread. Spread insides with pesto. On one slice, spread Chevre. On the other, layer tomatoes, peppers and arugula.
Place sandwich on a griddle over medium heat. Toast both sides until golden. Transfer to a heated oven to warm through.

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4 ciabatta buns (those big, yummy, triangular ones from Costco), halved
2 ripe pears
125g wheel camembert (or oka, if you’re more adventursome)
4 tbs Rhubarb, Rosemary & Honey Jam
Preheat panini press. Halve and core pears. Thinly slice lengthwise. Slice camembert (best done cold and with a serrated bread knife). Spread the bottom half of each bun with jam, top with sliced pears and camembert. Replace top half of bun and place sandwiches, one or two at a time, in press. Cook until cheese is gooey, then remove panini to a cutting board and slice into fingers. Serve immediately.
Where to find it: For Rhubarb, Rosemary & Honey Jam, either dash down to Okanagan Falls to the Meyer Family Vineyards, (250) 497.8553, or email jamgoddess@shaw.ca for mail orders.

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