January 2009

The NFL Gameday Cookbook
By Ray Lampe aka Dr.BBQ
Published by Chronicle/Raincoast 2008, softcover, $27.95; 240 pages
The last Sunday in January is usually the biggest day of the year for fans of American football. But Superbowl celebrations also attract another big crowd — food lovers, judging by what Lampe offers in this book.

Football is heavily tied in to good eating, he says, and each NFL team’s fans has local favourites, including Philadelphia cheese steak sandwiches, Seattle salmon and vegetables in packages and Dallas stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon (recipes for each in the book). This year’s Super Bowl is in Tampa, Fla. and is between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals, and fans of those two teams will no doubt be hauling out the wings and steak sandwiches and  barbecued chicken nachos and spicy spare ribs. Oh, and the icy cold beer.

Not surprisingly, given his nickname is Dr. BBQ, many of Lampe’s recipes get their mojo from the grill. And it has to be said. Most of this is “man” food: lots of meat, lots of heat, and lots of calories. Even something as healthy sounding as Lampe’s grapes and yogurt salad has sour cream, cream cheese and whipped topping as part of the mix. Sounds delicious, but forget the diet for one afternoon. Save the celery sticks (without the blue cheese dip though) for Monday and enjoy the feast.

What I find most appealing about this book are Lampe’s  notes on his favourite food hits in each football city. It’s like a mini-travelogue of what to seek out when you’re in Tampa (fresh seafood and anything Cuban) or Kansas City (steak and barbecue) or Baltimore (steamed crab and crab cakes) or any of the other major league football cities.

The recipes are divided into appetizers; soups, stews and chilis; sandwiches; entrees; side dishes; desserts; and drinks. They cover the gamut from traditional — grilled steak and mushrooms, barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, brats with beer, butter and onions — to the inspired — bloody mary wings, mac and cheese soup, barbecued chicken legs with raspberry-chipotle barbecue sauce. The following recipe is for a BLT sandwich that replaces the lettuce with grilled chicken thighs (I warned you about the man-food thing; Lampe doesn’t like lettuce and this is his substitute for it. Love it!)

BCT Sandwiches
2 tbsps. vegetable oil
2 tbsps. soy sauce
2 tbsps. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsps. ketchup
1 tsp. black pepper

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
12 slices toast
12 slices bacon, cooked and cut in half
12 thin slices tomato
Mayo, as needed

To make marinade, in medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Put the thighs in  zip-top bag or a glass container and pour marinade over them. Toss well to coat. Marinate in fridge for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.

Prepare grill for cooking over direct medium heat. Remove thighs from marinade and grill for 12 to 15 minutes each, turning often or until they reach an internal temperature of 180F. Put each thigh on a piece of toast. Top each with 4 slices bacon and 2 slices of tomato. Spread a thin layer of mayo on the top slice of toast and put it on. Cut in half and serve. Makes 6 sandwiches.

– From The NFL Gameday Cookbook


West Restaurant: The Cookbook
By Warren Geraghty
Published by Douglas & McIntyre, 2008 hardcover, $50; 250 pages

West is one of those iconic Vancouver restaurants, similar to Bishop’s, Lumiere and even Vij’s. Each basks in the bright light of its passionate founder and/or head chef and each has added immensely to the glowing reputation this city has gained for its food scene.

That’s why it’s somewhat ironic that former executive chef David Hawksworth  — the man almost single-handedly responsible for West’s meteoric rise to culinary stardom in the nine years it’s been gracing the South Granville area (originally as Ouest) — is not the author. That’s not to say Hawksworth, who is currently busy readying his own restaurant, has been rubbed from the pages of this book, which is under the new executive chef’s name.

He gets credit in both the introductory pages and text for his role in the restaurant’s opening years and for his recipes, but it is clear this is Geraghty’s book. Geraghty hails from Michelin-starred restaurants in London, England so his culinary pedigree is top-notch. But that could spell trouble for the average cook who may not have the time, training or unusual ingredients to pull off a restaurant-class dish. Most high-end restaurant chefs have a fleet of assistants who do all the prep work — and heavy lifting, something the home cook doesn’t always have access to, and their recipes are often complex layerings of ingredients that require prep work as well. So no 30-minute specials when you sign up for one of these puppies.

Still, it’s worth noting that Geraghty has made an effort to include recipes that would be quite doable for the experienced home cook who understands what a bechamel sauce is, has the patience to deepfry parsley for garnish purposes, and has the time to make multiple sub-dishes that eventually end up as one main dish.

West is known for its exquisite use of local ingredients and the book shows why food lovers flock to its tables. They’re there to swoon over ravioli of snails and truffles with sauteed spot prawns and shellfish jus (recipe page 23), or drool over roasted filet of ling cod with spicy braised pork belly and caramelized butternut squash (recipe page 30). They want to consider last meals as they inhale the perfumes wafting from their bowl of aromatic pine mushroom and duck broth bursting with smoked scallops and slicked with black truffle oil (recipe page 143). And who wouldn’t tremble with delight as a lovingly arranged plate of galantine of quail, foie gras and jasmin-poached raisins (recipe page 184) is placed before you.

You may not be able to  find such things as lamb’s tongues, duck fat or yellow foot chanterelle  mushrooms, but substitutions are  always acceptable. In all, there are about 100 recipes, equally divided between starters, mains, desserts and cocktails, and arranged according to the seasons. Each includes wine pairing suggestions and there are also charming little out-takes sprinkled throughout the book that focus on specific ingredients such as rhubarb, squab or pears.

Here’s a lovely little starter that takes a bit of time, but is easy enough to do if you plan ahead.

Seared Scallops with Apricot Puree and Candied Walnuts

3 ½ oz. dried apricots
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 large scallops
1 lemon, halved
3 oz. candied walnuts (recipe follows)
4 oz. Dijon mustard greens, for garnish (or substitute watercress or any other small, intensely flavoured greens)

Place apricots in small pot and cover with water. Simmer for approximately 2 hours until the apricots are completely soft. Remove apricots from water and puree in high-speed blender.

Heat olive oil in small saute pan on high heat. Add scallops and sear 1 to 2 minutes per side until golden brown. Squeeze lemon juice over top.

To serve, in middle of each of four plates, smear a quarter of the apricot puree. Place a scallop to the side of the puree and sprinkle with a quarter of the walnuts around the plate. Finish with a quarter of the mustard greens. Serves 4.

Wine suggestion. Pairs well with unoaked light whites with a bit of sweetness, like a German riesling from the Mosel or an off-dry chenin blanc.

Candied Walnuts

12 oz. walnut wholes or halves, shelled
2/3 cups icing sugar
8 cups vegetable oil for deep frying

This recipe works well with most nuts and is very versatile. Use the walnuts with cheese or in a salad or simply eat them on their own.

Place walnuts in a pot and cover with water. Simmer for 3 minutes, drain and allow to cool. Pour icing sugar over them and thoroughly mix.

In a deep fryer, heat oil to 350F. Add walnuts and fry until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes, then drain and lightly salt. Keep in an airtight container. Makes about 1 lb.

– From West Restaurant: The Cookbook

Deep Dark Chocolate: Decadent Recipes for the Serious Chocolate Lover
By Sara Perry
Published by Chronicle/Raincoast, 2008 softcover. $20.95; 196 pages.

“Dark chocolate is more than a quintessential comfort food. It is the new coffee: an affordable daily luxury with its own menu of intensities, flavors and special infusions.” Sara Perry

There aren’t many people who disagree with Perry’s view. I know only one — he hates chocolate of any kind — but he’s a fine person otherwise.

Dark chocolate is for everyone — for moms and dads, for friends and lovers and for aunties and grandparents. Keep it away from the dog (the theobromine will make dogs and cats sick), but give it to someone who’s had a rough day and it soothes the ragged edges like nothing else. Chocolate has a rich, decadent, almost sinful side to it, but thankfully, it has its good sides too.

Chocolate brims with healthful flavonoids as well as mood-enhancing substances that replicate falling in love. There’s a small jolt of caffeine in there, too, but a whole pound of chocolate contains only the same amount as an 8-oz. cup of coffee, says Perry.

Perry describes all the forms of dark chocolate takes, from unsweetened or bitter baking chocolate to cocoa powder, then offers a list of chocolate-related terms that explain both its properties and its origins. For best results, use quality whole chocolate, chips, buttons or cocoa, she says.

If you’ve never worked with good quality dark chocolate in baking and cooking, it pays to read the chapter Baking Tips and Deep, Dark Chocolate Secrets before you proceed with any recipes, Perry suggests. Chocolate can be finicky, and though disasters such as seized chocolate (caused by even the tiniest bit of moisture as you try to melt the chocolate) can be fairly easily remedied,  you have to know what you’re doing.

The recipes here are divided into cookies and brownies; cakes, pies and tarts; puddings and custards; chilled desserts; sauces; breakfast delights; candies; and drinks and range from chocolate espresso cookies to chocolate gingerbread to chocolate bread pudding to bittersweet chocolate-rum icebox cake.

Perry says the following cookies were created for a friend who had just discovered her sweetheart had grown sweet on someone else, hence the name. The chocolate surely helped ease the pain a little. And you can take out the “Not” if your romance is still intact. These dipped cookies are best within 3 days and should be stored at room temperature, says Perry. Undipped cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or frozen up to 2 months.

He-Loves-Me-Not Valentine Hearts

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup ground almonds
¼ cup premium unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. premium unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Large pinch salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp. pure almond or vanilla extract

Dipping chocolate
3 oz. premium dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vegetable shortening

In medium bowl, whisk flour, almond meal, cocoas and salt until well blended. Set aside.

In stand mixer  or with a hand mixer set on medium speed, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in almond extract until well blended, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. On low speed, slowly add dry ingredients and beat until just blended, again scraping down the bowl as necessary. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and scrape the crumbly dough onto one half the wrap. Fold the wrap over the dough and knead 3 or 4 times. Flatten dough into a disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or leave it ungreased. Remove dough disk from fridge, unwrap and cut in half. On pastry cloth or a lightly floured board with cloth-covered rolling pin, or between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, roll out one half the dough to a ¼-inch thickness. Using a two-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut a cookie, pressing the cutter straight down into the dough. Repeat, cutting cookies closely together to avoid rerolling. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate cookie sheet and bake until firm to the touch, about 12 minutes longer. Repeat with remaining dough.

Pull parchment paper with cookies onto counter and let cookies firm and cool slightly before transferring from parchment to wire rack to cool completely. If not using parchment, let cookies firm and cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring.
To make dipping chocolate: Place chocolate and shortening in tall, deep heatproof bowl and set in a wide pan or skillet of hot water. Set aside for 5 minutes, stirring 4 or 5 times, and let chocolate melt completely. Stir until smooth.

Meanwhile, place two wire racks on sheet of parchment or waxed paper to catch drips. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate and allow extra chocolate to drip back into bowl. Place cookies on racks to set, for up to 2 hours, depending on room temperature. For a fast set, after 10 minutes, you can slip the wire rack into the fridge to chill for no longer than 5 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
– From Deep Dark Chocolate