Lazy Sunday and Duck-Zucchini Dumplings

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On my way from work Friday I decided to pick up some roast duck from a store in Chinatown to accompany the squash risotto I had planned on making for dinner. We had a whole roast duck for the two of us. Needless to say, we had too much. Seeing as Sunday was supposed to be a lazy Sunday, simply doing a few things around the house and running a couple of errands with my friend Jasmine, I planned on making dumplings with some of the leftover duck.

This was my second attempt at making dumplings – ever! The first time I used shrimps, mushrooms and scallions but I must have done something wrong because when I proceeded to cook them, the dumplings filled with water and just weren’t that tasty.

I was determined for this time to be different, I had a strategy:

One: make a test dumpling to check for taste, cooking time and overall holding power

Two: keep an egg yolk near just in case the filling doesn’t bind together 

Three: keep some extra wrappers in case I tug too hard and the dough tears

At 11am, the sound system was turned on, the dumpling wrappers were thawed, my ingredients and tools laid out; I was ready to start making dumplings! I proceeded to mix my filling, bring my pot of water to a boil and carefully wrapped up my test dumpling. I plopped it into the boiling water and waited two minutes – as mentioned on the dumpling wrappers packaging. With a slotted spoon I took the dumpling out of the boiling water but noticed the edges of the dough still looked stiff, so I put it back in for another couple of minutes or so. I finally took it out of its bath and let it cool. The dough looked like it had perfectly sealed around the filling and there did not appear to be any water bubbles. The taste test came back positive: my filling was nicely bound together (no need for that extra yolk) and the dough was perfectly soft (a four minute cook time is ideal, as long as your filling doesn’t have any raw meat or seafood ingredients). I did add a bit of salt and pepper to the filling mixture but no other changes were made. I proceeded to wrap and boil more dumplings just as my phone rang. My friend Cammie wanted to drop off something for me before my trip, the book Julie and Julia which I haven’t read yet, nor have I seen the movie. So she stopped by with her husband, we chatted for a while over coffee and they left with a small care package. Just as they were leaving, my friend Laura calls and asked if she could stop by to pick up the extra cookie sheet she had lent me. While I wait for her to arrive, I continue with my dumpling making, sending a few more bundles into their boiling bath 

Laura arrives, I put out a pot of tea and moments after, right on schedule, Jasmine knocks on the door. The three of us spend some time chatting and catching up. Mid-afternoon has rolled around and I still have a few more dumplings to finish up. Laura says goodbye and heads home with her cookie sheet and care package. I finish up the dumplings I had left to do and out the door I go, along with Jasmine to run our errands at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. 

At the end, I never managed to do all the things I had planned to do on this so-called lazy day. However, I did manage to make forty dumplings, spend a few hours catching up with friends, sending them home with their respective care packages. In any case, what’s the point of cooking if you can’t share it!

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Duck and Zucchini Dumplings

  • About one cup and a half of cooked duck, chopped
  • About one cup of zucchini, shredded (using a cheese grater is easiest)
  • About ¼ cup of scallions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 40 wonton wrappers (most grocery stores sells frozen packages, just remember to thaw them ahead of time)
  • Egg wash (one egg whisked with one tbsp of water)

Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Lay out a clean dish cloth on a cookie sheet and dampen another clean one to cover the dumpling wrappers so that they do not dry out.

Take one dumpling wrapper and place it in the palm of your hand. Spoon a small amount of the duck mixture into the center, squeezing the filling to make sure there aren’t any air bubbles. Dip the tip of your finger into the egg wash and moisten the dumpling wrappers around its filling. Gently wrap the dough around the filling making sure to push out any air bubbles. Seal the dough by pressing it tightly together. Proceed with the remainder of the filling and dumpling wrappers. Bring a large pot of water to boil and gently drop in the dumplings. You do not want to cook too many at a time, or else they may stick to each other. They need enough room to swim around. After about 4 minutes of cooking (only if you’re using a precooked filling as I have here), take them out with a slotted spoon and put them on the towel covered cookie sheet to absorb the extra water. Cover the dumpling with a damp cloth to ensure they do not dry out. If they’re still hot you can serve them right away with a dipping sauce of your choice. If you’re making them ahead, you can easily store them in a plastic container until ready to eat. To heat them up you can steam them or boil them again – just long enough to heat through. Or you can, as I suggested to my friends, heat up some broth of your choice, add an assortment of veggies to the broth, and right before serving drop in the dumplings to make an Asian style dumpling soup.

Kristel’s Kitchen Tribute to Schwartz’s

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Anyone who’s ever heard of Montreal has also heard of Schwartz’s. It is not only a Montreal landmark but it also offers up some of the city’s legendary smoked meat. So good in fact that people congregate in lines for an hour plus just to have a taste on the spot. In the last year, they opened up a side store meant exclusively for takeout, for which I am very grateful. A few weekends ago I was strolling along the Main and decided to pick up a pound of cold sliced smoked meat and rye bread. Since I have no patience for lineups, I take the meat home and prepare various sandwiches. In my love and quest for a good breakfast sandwich, I have concocted my brunch tribute to the Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich.

  • One pound of cold smoked meat, this is usually enough for 4 people
  • Eggs, one per person
  • Arugula, or lettuce of your choice
  • Mustard – I used creamy dill mustard that I found at, you’ve guessed it, Schwartz’s!
  • Rye bread, sliced
  • Caramelized onions

Begin by caramelizing the onions: in a pan on medium heat drizzle some olive oil, sauté the onions and season with salt and pepper. When the onions are soft start to brown, add a sprinkle of brown sugar and cook for a few more minutes. At the end they should be delectably golden, soft and sweet.

To heat up the smoked meat, I usually prefer to steam it – Schwartz’s, if you’re reading this, let me know if you have a better way to heat it! While the meat is heating through, cook your eggs to your liking – I prefer to have my egg fried sunny-side up for this sandwich.

Now is the time to start building. Grab two slices of rye and spread mustard on both sides. On the bottom slice, layer the arugula, meat and egg. Top with caramelized onions and close it up with the other slice. Cut the sandwich in half and chow-down!

For a city that prides itself on its diverse culinary culture, how is it that Montreal does not have a go-to breakfast sandwich to be proud of? Let’s see if somebody picks up on this – hint hint, nudge nudge – and perhaps I’ll get to share some of the fame… [Here you must imagine me gazing into the distance and a twinkle light up the corner of my eye].

Qing Hua

Less than a week since its reopening, I’ve had teh pleasure to both eat in and take out at Qing Hua, an amazing but small dumpling restaurant here in Montreal.

In their kitchen run by mostly women, each dumpling is stuffed, wraped and cooked to order. The clever clothes-peg numbering system helps the cooks and waiters keep track of each plate and variety of dumpling, because variety is what they have! At an average of $9 to $14 for 15 to 18 dumplings, the price is hard to beat fur such a fullfilling experience.

The reoppening of Qing Hua signifies the end of bland wonton soups and sheds light onto their delightfully soft, chewy and juicy mouthfuls.

Would I pay for that? I’ve eaten there twice in fours days…what do you think?

The Holliday That Just Keeps on Giving… Leftovers!

After the holidays, come the leftovers! No matter how much we give away to friends and family, we always tend to be left with more food than we know what to do with. Since our family meal just this Saturday, I had turkey sandwiches on Sunday, warmed up risotto, turkey and Brussels sprouts on Monday; another turkey sandwich on Tuesday for lunch, but by then I had to come up with something creative. Following with the theme of leftovers, here is the breakdown of my week of meals:

Tuesday Dinner: Mexican Soup

Mexican SoupA few years ago I came up with what I call a “Mexican” soup. I put a few ingredients together but hadn’t really thought it through. Turned out to be souperbe! I tried to recreate it a few times but just couldn’t get the same flavors to mix together just right. Bottom line, it is simply a tomato vegetable soup with a Mexican twist. So here is how it begins:

Content of my fridge: extra leeks, carrots, parsnip, red bell pepper, onions, garlic, turkey meat and broth.

From my pantry: dried ancho pepper, cumin, oregano, coarse corn meal and a can of diced tomatoes (usually I have some type of beans that I would throw into the pot as well, but not this time).

Needed from the store: an avocado.

Cut up your vegetable into even pieces. In a large pot drizzled with olive oil, sauté the chopped garlic, onions and leek. Add the rest of your vegetables, one teaspoon cumin, ½ tablespoon oregano, the dried ancho chili (or any dried chili of your choice) and the can of tomatoes. Stir to mix and add the measure of two cans of broth to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about 30 minutes. At this point the pepper should be soft. You can add about ¼ of a cup of coarse corn meal and let it cook for another 20 minutes until the corn meal has completely swelled up. Right before serving remove the pepper and add your leftover turkey. You can use chicken, beef or no meat at all. Serve hot with pieces of avocado on top. I didn’t quite nail it like I did that first time but I’m starting to think it was simply a figment of my imagination…

Wednesday Lunch: ate out at Pranzetto for a friend’s birthday.

Wednesday Dinner: Turkey Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

Turkey Enchilada MoleCan anyone else other than me sense there’s a theme going on here? I always wanted to try making these at home. With all the leftovers, I had the perfect chance!

Content of my fridge: turkey, squash, onions, mushrooms, cheese and broth.

From my pantry: soft tortillas that I always keep around to make wraps.

Needed from the store: a jar of mole sauce.

Start by cutting the squash into small cubes and then steam until cooked through. In a pan drizzled with olive oil, sauté the onion and mushrooms. Add the turkey to heat through. In a large bowl, combine the onion, mushrooms, turkey, squash and a small handful of shredded cheese. Put some of the mixture in a tortilla, roll up and place seam down in a baking dish. Make as many as you’d like.

For the mole sauce, follow the directions on the jar and pour over the rolled up tortillas. Top with shredded cheese and bake in the oven at 400ºF until barely bubbly. I served this with my leftover mushroom stuffing, candied yams and a simple green salad. Like the recipe above, you can also use chicken, beef or veggies.

Thursday Lunch: Leftover Mexican Soup

Thursday Dinner: Turkey Curry

Turkey CurryFrom the fridge: onion, garlic, cabbage, turkey, pineapple

From the pantry: a can of coconut milk, curry spices

Slice the cabbage into thin shreds, cut the onion in half and slice it, chop the garlic and in a pan drizzled with oil sauté together until barely soft. Add about a tablespoon of the curry powder / spice / paste of your choice and cook for a couple of minutes until the flavours melt into the other ingredients. Chop about ½ of a cup of pineapple and add it to the pan. Add about one cup of the leftover turkey and half of a can of coconut milk. Adjust seasoning with more curry, salt and/or pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes and serve with rice or nan bread. This basic recipe is incredibly versatile: use leftovers or fresh ingredients, use any vegetables you want, any protein you want and any fruit you want (however, I would not recommend harder fruits like apples).

Friday Lunch: Leftover Turkey Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

Friday Dinner: Spaghetti with a Mushroom-Leek Wine Sauce

Spaghetti in Mushroom Wine SauceWell, it’s Friday. Although it has only been a four day work week it definitely was a busy one, well worthy of a bottle of wine that I picked up on my way home to accompany dinner: C’est La Vie, Sauvignon Blanc – don’t you just love the name?

From the fridge: garlic, leek, mushrooms, turkey

From the pantry: spaghetti pasta, Dijon mustard, thyme

Cook the spaghetti until al dente, following the instructions on the box but making sure your water is well salted. Meanwhile, in a large pan drizzled with olive oil, add a square of butter. When melted, add the sliced leek, chopped and mushroom. Season with salt, pepper and a large pinch of thyme; cook until leeks are slightly browned. Add the rest leftover turkey, just enough white wine to covers the vegetables and two heaping spoonfuls of Dijon mustard. Stir to combine and let simmer for a couple of minutes to let the flavors melt into each other. Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan, with a ladle or two of pasta water. Stir and serve. This was a pretty good first try but the recipe needs a bit of tweaking… more on that later. Suggestions anyone?

Saturday Brunch: Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts Hash Topped with a Fried Egg

Pancetta Brussels Sprouts HashFrom the fridge: pancetta, Brussels sprouts, onion, eggs

From the pantry: potatoes, paprika

Steam or boil a potato and a few Brussels sprouts. Once cooked, cut them into smaller pieces and slice a small onion. Chop the pancetta and sauté in a pan. Once it starts to crisp add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Bring down to medium heat and add the potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Season with a pinch of paprika, salt and pepper, allow mixture to brown. In another pan fry an egg to your liking. Serve the hash in a plate and top with the fried egg. It is a great start to the rest of your weekend!

After six days of leftovers, the turkey is finally all gone and none of it went to waste! With the exception of a few carrots and an acorn squash, all the fresh ingredients in my fridge were used up.

I must admit that finding something creative and versatile for Thursday and Friday was more of a challenge than I would have thought, but there you have it, a full week of leftovers with only one trip to the store. Now, it is time for me to head back to the market to fill up my fridge!

Five Canadian Hours of Cooking for Twenty Canadian Minutes of Eating

 

Mushroom Stuffed Roasted Turkey

Mushroom Stuffed Roasted Turkey

This weekend is Thanksgiving – Canadian Thanksgiving to be exact. This is by far my favorite holiday along with Halloween. You can bet that October is an exciting month for me! It’s harvest season, so the markets are overflowing with bright fresh ingredients. The temperature is cooling so it’s time to pull out those boots and comfy sweaters. I love Thanksgiving for the food obviously but also because I enjoy taking a moment to think about what you’re thankful for. I even make everyone around the table say this before they can touch their food. I love the time spent with family and friends. For many years, because of university and a part-time job, I could not go spend Thanksgiving with my family but decided that I would host one here in Montreal for all my friends and family that stayed around and couldn’t make it their home for the holiday long weekend. Of course we grow up, get jobs and return to our families. That doesn’t mean the tradition stopped there – but more on that later…

So, this weekend’s Thanksgiving get-together will be slightly different. Mother is coming to visit and my brother-in-law joining us for dinner, so it’ll just be the four of us, with an 18 pound turkey! I may have to digress to explain why we need such a big turkey for so few of us. Yes, I’ll admit it, I especially love the leftovers but there are only so many turkey meals one can fit in a week. The reason is that on Sunday we are meeting up with other loved ones for a hike and picnic up North from Montreal and we said we’d bring sandwiches. So, dinner for three people and turkey sandwiches for fifteen – somehow that bird needs to get cooked! I do not want to go into detail on how to prepare a turkey since there are an infinite amount of resources for that (and probably more accurate ones at that). However, since we are only three, I wanted to try a couple of new things this year.

On the menu we have: roast turkey with a mushroom stuffing – a classic of mine if you ask anyone who had it; butternut squash risotto; candied yams – because it is not a true Thanksgiving dinner without them, and glazed Brussels sprouts since they are in season. For dessert: dairy-free carrot cupcakes with dairy-free chestnut-cardamom icing!

Mushroom Stuffing – a Kristel’s Kitchen original

Mushroom StuffingI never used to like stuffing much. It was the one item at Thanksgiving dinners that I used to avoid because it looked boring and I would rather eat an extra serving of wild rice or yams. When I started hosting Thanksgiving parties, I figured I should give stuffing a try and make it with the flavours I wanted to taste. Mushrooms are the best! They are incredibly diverse and fragrant and I simply cannot get enough of them. So somehow this is the recipe that I came up with which has been perfected over the years. Everyone’s favorite stuffing is always their mothers’ but I am proud to say mine comes in as second best! 

  • 8 slices of thick-cut bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celeri stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 cups assorted mushroom, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 large apple, diced
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 6 slices country style bread, or 3 cups diced
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until the fat start to render. Add the onions, celery, garlic, and sauté until barely soft. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, add the thyme and cook mixture until barely soft. Add the mushrooms and while they cook, combine the diced apple and cider vinegar in a large bowl. When the mushrooms start to water, remove from heat and transfer to the apple mixture and allow to cool. While the mixture cools, if the bread isn’t stale enough, proceed to toasting the bread slices.

A side-note: this is a great way to use bread that you would otherwise throw out; take advantage of reducing your waste whenever you can. As another example, the celery and apples I used here were also past their prime, but I still managed to make good use out of them.

Back to the stuffing… Once the bread is toasted, dice it and add it to the mix. Stir to combine and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper is necessary. Add the eggs and mix well to combine. Now you are ready to stuff that bird! Once the roast beast is done to perfection, spoon out the stuffing. It is then ready to serve.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Squash Risotto-1My lovely sister in-law and her husband gave me a subscription to Bon Appétit for my birthday and every month I wait impatiently for my new issue to arrive. Just this week I received the November issue (just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving) and of course it was a special issue for the upcoming American Thanksgiving. Hey, I’m definitely not going to complain about celebrating this glorious holiday twice!

So, thanks to the good folk at Bon Appétit, there is a new addition to my usual Thanksgiving dinner. You can find their recipe here. However, I did make a few changes:

  • I obviously did not use any shrimp
  • I never use cream when making risotto
  • Instead of vegetable broth, I used all that extra stuff they hide inside the bird to simmer up a broth
  • I finished the risotto with about ½ cup lactose-free smoked gouda

Candied Yams

Yams-1It’s never quite Thanksgiving without them. Start by peeling and slicing the sweet potatoes. Either boil or steam them until just barely tender (remember to salt your water if you’re boiling). Layout the slices in a baking dish, sprinkle with brown sugar, cardamom and cayenne pepper. Squirt the juice of about half of a lemon onto the yams. Drizzle with maple syrup (don’t use the fake stuff here – it would be sacrilegious) and bake at 400ºF until golden and caramelized. 

 

Brussels Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts-2Trim clean and cut the Brussels sprouts in half. Steam or boil until tender (again, remember to salt the water). I had extra bacon leftover from the stuffing so I decided to sprinkle the broken up pieces of bacon atop the Brussels sprouts with some chopped scallion and a bit of duck fat (you can use butter instead).

 

 

 

Dairy-free Carrot Cupcakes with Dairy-free Cardamom-Chestnut Icing

Carrot cupcakeI am not going to claim to have come up with this recipe but I will thank the Food Network for their help in putting together this dessert. Lucky for me, the carrot cupcake recipe I found was entirely dairy-free and you can find the recipe here. As for the icing, I had to improvise a tad. I went with the traditional butter cream proportions of 1 cup of butter for 4 cups of icing sugar but experimented with it a bit. For those who want to make lactose or dairy-free desserts, this is a reminder that butter is a dairy product and is not lactose free.

  

For the icing:

  • ½ cup margarine (try to find it in bar-form which is firmer than its container-form)
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 3 tbsp chestnut cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Let the margarine come to room temperature before whip with an electric beater. Gradually add the icing sugar until well incorporated. Add the cardamom, chestnut cream and vanilla extract. Combine well and proceed to decorating cooled cupcakes.

Catering Leftovers

IMG_4025A few weeks ago I successfully catered my first event for M. Karim Boulos’ Campaign Launch. Seeing as it was indeed my first time and I was worried about not having enough food, and big surprise, I ended up with too much food! Some leftovers stayed behind as snacks for volunteers and some came home with me, namely the roasted red pepper dip and chimichurri that I had made immense quantities of. After using them on sandwiches, grilled veggies and meat throughout the week, like most people I became bored of having the same thing over and over. 

I was at that point of revisiting the essence of Kristel’s Kitchen and realized that so far I hadn’t been keeping true to the idea of sharing my credo of reduce, reuse and recycle in my kitchen. Yes I recycle – quite diligently in fact, but that’s not what I’m referring to here. We’re talking leftovers and going beyond the “oh no not that again” feeling we often tolerate from the desire to not waste food. As a way to liberate myself from the repetitiveness of sandwiches and whatever was left in my fridge, here is what I came up with: 

Roasted Red Pepper Spaghetti with Sautéed Veggies

  • Leftover roasted red pepper dip
  • Whole wheat spaghetti or any pasta of your liking (enough for two)
  • Any leftover veggies in your fridge
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the box. While the pasta is cooking, heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, add your garlic and veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste and sauté until tender. In my fridge I had leftover tomatoes, spinach, asparagus and leek. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, then strain and transfer back into the pot. Add the leftover roasted red pepper dip and thin out the mixture with the reserved pasta, water as needed. If you happen to not have enough roasted pepper dip to coat the pasta, do not panic. I recommend always keeping a small can of tomato paste or sauce in your pantry. You can open the can and simple add as many extra spoonfuls as needed to coat the pasta. *Got some leftover in the can? To keep for next time, transfer the remainder into an ice tray and freeze. Once frozen you can store the tomato cubes in resealable plastic bags or plastic container. Serve onto plates and top with the sautéed veggies. Nothing’s simpler and nothing goes to waste!

Chimichurri Seared Scallops

  • Leftover chimichurri
  • Large scallops
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Scallops seem oh-so-very decadent, and they most definitely can be. They can also be enjoyed more casually. Sure they are individually expensive but if you get one each it can be a nice little treat on top of a salad as an appetizer or on top of the pasta as I have done here. 

You want to start by rinsing the scallops and patting them completely dry with a clean dish towel or paper towel works too. The reason scallops need to be prepared this way first is because if they are not dry enough when you put them into the pan, they will boil rather than sear and hence will become rubbery. Nobody wants to eat a rubbery scallop. Add salt and pepper to both sides of the scallop and place into the hot pan. Scallops take no time at all to cook so you need to act fast. You want a nice caramelized color on the bottom before flipping it over and the flesh to be more opaque less than half-way up its sides. At this point, flip the scallop and add a spoonful of chimichurri to the already seared side while it finishes cooking. Remove immediately from heat and place onto your dish.

L’Orignal

Dinner out at l’Orignal is definitely a meal that was in a league of it’s own. Fantastic service, amazing food, and a beef/bison tartare that is completely out of this world! Surrounded by a decor reminiscent of a cottage weekend and a playlist seemingly downloaded from my own ipod, this hipster place is a nice little cottage tucked away in the heart of Montreal’s Old Port.

Would I pay for that? let me just put it this way… tartare goosebumps = priceless