Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sirloin on Risotto

I recently got a value pack of top sirloin. I have a similar story with carrots. This is why you might have noticed a theme in some of my more recently updates. I’m still a student so its hard for me to pass up such good deals.

Sirloin on Risotto

There are really only three components to this dish. The steak is cooked pink again. The carrots are cooked in a butter and water emulsion like in my last post as well. The risotto I cooked in some red wine and beef stock to reinforce the beef flavour of the steak.

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Meeting Anna Olson

At the Biosci with Anna

Meeting Anna Olson

In my second year of university I was exclusively watching the Food Network on TV. In my “why” section, I talked about Michael Smith being a player in shaping the way I think about food. Another chef I really enjoyed watching was Anna Olson. The reason why I liked watching Anna Olson is because like Michael Smith, she would explain why things are done a certain way. That meant that I would actually take something away from watching her programs instead of just the realization that food can be made way better than I was making it.

I could tell from watching Anna Olson on TV was that her approach to food was similar to mine. She was constantly looking for why recipes were done a certain way, and why certain ingredients reacted with each other in the ways they did. I think this is a smart way to go about things because it allows for a deeper understanding of cooking. Only when this kind of knowledge is achieved can one be confident in being successful in letting their creative side run wild. Knowing the fundamentals allows one to understand what is likely to work and what is not likely to work.

What I did not know until two weeks ago, however, was that Anna was actually a Queen’s Alumna and that she was coming back to give a lecture. I decided to do some research. To my surprise, Anna studied politics and sociology and ended up with a job at a bank downtown Toronto after her undergrad. It was only after three years downtown that she realized that she needed to follow her passion. Her passion was baking. Similarly, I had worked at a bank for a summer. It did not take long before I realized that it wasn’t for me. I started to wonder what else I may have had in common with Anna Olson.

Luckily for me, a friend of mine brought to my attention that the Queen’s Student Alumni Association was holding a contest in which the prize was to have breakfast with Anna Olson and her husband Michael Olson. Even luckier for me, I was selected to be one of the contest winners!

Breakfast w/ Anna

On top of hearing her lecture on her culinary journey, I also got to speak with her in person about some of her experiences which might be similar to mine in the future. What I found most refreshing was her advice on keeping doors open. Growing up, I was encouraged to my options open but, at some point there were pressures on me to find out what I wanted to do in life. I remember in high school talking to my guidance counselor about course selection and what university program I should enroll in. I was convinced that what I took from grade 11 onwards would determine the outcome of my life indefinitely. I was confused and pretty stressed out at the time. I was, however, unable to really say with any certainty that I wanted to do one particular thing.

During Anna Olson’s lecture she spoke of Queen’s as a place where, for the first time, you could learn whatever you wanted, as much as you wanted. You were freer than you’ve ever been. I must say, I did not go into Queen’s expecting this, but it was definitely and particularly true in my case. I did not go into university with the objective of self discovery in mind, however, that is exactly what happened. I learned things about myself and the world that are not taught in classrooms. To me, Queen’s greatest contribution to my life will be the unique educational experience it offered outside of academia.

Speaking with Anna Olson was fantastic because she went to Queen’s, worked for a bank and then left it all to pursue her passion. She has had incredible success in the food industry and at first I thought I would be more interested in that. However, in the end, what interested me more was how she was able to make a living doing what she loves.

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Steak for Lunch

So there I was in the kitchen after finishing my last midterm when I decided to give myself a bit of a reward. I had earned it. What better way to reward yourself than with a nice steak and mashed potatoes? This meal is as simple as it gets; top sirloin cooked pink on mashed potatoes served with asparagus and carrots. Sometimes the simple things are the best.

Steak for Lunch

I like my top sirloin medium rare. I think at medium rare it has a good combination of texture and taste. to be honest, I tend not to deviate too much from medium rare with most cuts of beef. As for the vegetables, I made a butter and water emulsion to slowly cook them in. By cooking them slowly they absorb a lot of the butter flavour and it also makes it easier for me to cook the vegetables to my desired texture. If I were boiling them they would be cooking very quickly, which means that if I mess up the timing by even 10 seconds they will be noticeably overdone. I finish the dish with sautéed mushrooms.

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Make your own Potato Wedges!

Everyone loves carbs. Its evolutionary biology. It is one of the fundamental truths to the world. That last statement might be a stretch but, at the very least, carbs explain why I’ll never have well defined abs.

If we’re all being honest, french fries are one of those things that if it were healthier to eat, we’d be inhaling 5 times more (conservative estimate). But what if I told you I had a healthier alternative? You would probably not be that surprised, actually, given the title of this page. Nevertheless, my explanation for  how to make potato wedges is now in my “how” section.

Cottage Pie

My housemate has been hinting for a long time that I should make her Shepherd’s pie. One day I tell her I would do it if she went out and got the supplies. It was one of those days in which I lacked motivation to leave the house. It was unpleasantly wet outside so I sent my pawn to do the dirty work. I know I sound like a bad housemate right now, making her go on a treacherous journey as well as making her pay for the supplies, but she ate it in a way that told me it was all worth it. It didn’t take long before our dreams were crushed by our grocery store. They had no minced lamb… Which is why, even though I’ve been talking about shepherd’s pie, the title of this blog post is “Cottage Pie.” We had to settle for minced beef.

Cottage Pie

The cottage pie is all about the mince. If you can make the mince flavourful then half the battle is already won. I sat the pie on top of a bed of asparagus and served it with carrots I cooked in butter.

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Marinated Mushrooms

Once upon a time I didn’t like mushrooms. Now I’m eating a dish that comprises almost nothing else. This one has become comfort food for me this year. It is super simple and quick to make. You literally just sautée mushrooms in butter and deglaze the pan with some acid after a while. If you want to get fancy you can throw in some herbs as well.

Marinated Mushrooms

I finish it with a bit of parmesan right at the end while everything is still hot so it half melts into the mushrooms. Its particularly lovely if you put lardons into the mix as well. There aren’t many things I’d rather have as a 3pm snack.

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Eggs on Croissant

I’m going to be straight with you; this is the best breakfast I can make. It comes as no surprise to me since the first thing I ever learned to cook was scrambled eggs. My mother taught me how to make scrambled eggs as a child and in the first few weeks of living without a meal plan I abused this knowledge. As I learned how to cook I continued to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. Over the years I have refined it again and again. This is where I’m at right now:

Eggs on Croissant w/ roasted tomato ketchup

I sit the parmesan scrambled eggs on smoked salmon in a croissant-which. The parmesan eggs are REALLY rich so I balance that with a smoked garlic tomato ketchup. I garnish with bacon, mushrooms, and chives.

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Eggplant Dip

Today, I have to work on an assignment that is due tomorrow. If we’re honest, we all like a good study snack. After half an hour of fighting off the temptation to go get french fries I opted for a more healthy alternative: eggplant dip. Sadly, my good intentions might mean little because at some point, if you eat enough eggplant dip it ends up being less healthy than a plate of a fries. I think I passed that point about half a bowl ago.

Eggplant Dip

The actual dip is easy enough to make. First, slice the eggplant in half. Second, season the inside of the eggplant with salt and pepper. I like to also rub in some garlic and some fresh thyme although other herbs like rosemary would work brilliantly as well. Third, put the two halves back together and wrap in tin foil. Now just pop it into the oven at 375 for a good 40 minutes. Next, unwrap the eggplant and scoop out the flesh and put it into a hot pan for 15 seconds or so just to release some water content. By doing this you intensify the flavour of the eggplant as now it is less watered down. I finish with some lemon juice for the acidic component to wake up the dish as well as some sour cream to add some richness although if you want to be healthy be careful with this.

I served the dip on top of asiago crackers. I’ve chosen to finish them a lot of different ways. Plain eggplant dip made it onto the plate as well as lardons, thai chili, onion sprouts, parsley, parmesan, and cherry tomato. The only downside to this was that every bite was just different enough that the dish held more of my attention than my assignment did. Best mid-day study snack I’ve ever had.

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