Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I have recently embarked on a new mission; putting together a cooking demo to submit to The Food Network. Yep, that's right...I'm hoping for a cooking show! I can't give too many details right now as to the name and concept of the show, but it won't be long until I can share that here. At this point, all of the shooting is done, the film is being edited and sound and graphics are being added. I can't wait to see the final product!!

This is Istvan Dugalin. He is not only the man behind the camera(s), but he is the creative director and, well, everything in between. Were it not for Istvan, this project would not be possible. Thank you Istvan!!

This is the set at Eaton Hall. Were it not for Eaton Hall, this project would not be possible either.

As I say, I will be able to share with you the nature of the project as well as footage right here @ Livingston Cooks very soon. Keep your eye out for upcoming news!


For most non-professional cooks, stock production is a bit of a mystery. Once the veil is removed, however, stocks are pretty simple. Just think of making a stock in the same way as you would in making a cup of tea. Both are infusions where flavor is extracted by adding water to something which contains flavors that are locked away. Water is the means of releasing those flavors.

As far as stocks are concerned, bones are used to add flavor to the water, unless a vegetable stock is being produced in which case vegetables alone would be used. In any case, bones are usually roasted until browned and then roasted vegetables are added. Everything is thrown into a pot with water, wine and herbs and allowed to cook for a few hours at a slow simmer.

When the stock is ready, it is poured off of the bones and is ready to use. Think of that as though removing the tea bag from the tea. It isn't really rocket science!

Here we have raw veal bones in a roasting pan ready for the oven.

Here, the bones are about half way roasted. They are golden brown and full of flavor as the sugars have caramelized and are waiting to be infused into liquid.

Some tomato paste is smeared over the bones and will brown in the oven to add additional flavor.

The bones are ready for the stock pot!

That's one BIG stock pot!!

The bones in the stock pot waiting to be simmered off.

Mirepoix freshly cut! This is a blend of onion, carrot, celery, leek and garlic; the classic French vegetable blend used for so many things in French cooking.

The mirepoix is roasted and ready for the stock pot!

The mirepoix is added to the bones in the stock pot and everything is covered with water and wine. It is allowed to cook at a very low simmer for 12 - 16 hours!

The stock is poured off and is run through a strainer.

Straining the stock!

The finished stock. In this case I added a fresh mirepoix and more wine (3 bottles) and reduced this down to a demi glace. However, at this point the stock can be used for broths and soups.

Here you see the stock (on the left) with fresh mirepoix which will simmer down for about 12 hours to become a super-concentrated demi for fine pan sauces. The reboil (on the right) has a fresh mirepoix plus all of the bones that were boiled for the stock. I will simmer this over night again and extract every last bit of flavor out of it for a remouillage, or, a second boil. This will be reduced also and used to enhance other sauces.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I had a customer ask me to make a roasted red pepper and asparagus bisque the other day. What is a bisque, you say? Well, the classic definition is "a thick, creamy, highly-seasoned soup of French origin, classically of pureed crustaceans." However, a vegetable bisque is not made of crustaceans. It is simply a thickened puree of vegetable. Why then is it called a bisque? I guess it sounds much more elegant than "cream of vegetable." Regardless of the terminology, I was asked to produce the roasted red pepper and asparagus bisque so I obliged.

Now, in my opinion, the flavor of the roasted red peppers would have overpowered the subtle flavor of the asparagus. Asparagus has a mild flavor in comparison to red capsicums. So, I elected to make two separate soups and serve them in the same bowl.

Furthermore, I decided to take the flavors in two different yet complimentary directions. The red pepper soup was sweetened with a little sugar in order to enhance the sweetness of the peppers, and the asparagus soup was lifted with a little lemon juice to give it a bit of acidity.

All of this analysis is hot air I suppose, but I wanted the two soups to have a taste very distinct from one another. This was important considering that they were being served in the same bowl, and spoon for spoon, they had to be distinct and complimentary. Not only did the tastes have to be complimentary, the colors had to be complimentary as well. Green and orange are complimentary colors on the color wheel so they were perfect for one another. You see...interior design principles at work in the kitchen!!

In dealing with the asparagus soup, it was important to remember that the chlorophyl is destroyed by heat. This means that if you overheat a soup (or vegetable for that matter) that is green, it will lose its brilliant color. So in order to dazzle the eye with a nice flash of green, the soup was heated until the asparagus was just el dente and then it was pureed immediately and cooled rapidly in an ice bath. As you can see, the color is good!

Both soups were thickened only with the vegetables and aromatics they were made with; there were no thickeners used. I wanted the simple, clean flavors of the vegetables to shine through with as little competition as possible. Also, thickeners tend to "muddy" things up a bit. So, the soups were pureed in a high speed blender until super smooth and frothy and the consistencies were adjusted with stock. Then they were seasoned and finished with a bit of whipping cream.

So, in cooking these soups, I kept things simple really. The vegetables speak for themselves and were treated with respect for their unique characteristics and flavors. A lot of talk about something so elementary, but the basics are the building blocks of fine cooking and what can be more basic than making soups from fresh vegetables? Peeling potatoes I suppose!


Living in small-town British Columbia for 15 years had very few drawbacks for me. I love the small-town life. And the two places where I lived in BC, Squamish and The Okanagan, had everything I needed close by. But not everything I wanted was available.

One of my favorite comfort foods is corned beef on rye. In all the time I lived in BC, I didn't have one corned beef sandwich. That's fifteen years without corned beef!! Now, It wasn't because corned beef wasn't available. It was. But they don't make corned beef sandwiches in the areas I lived they way I remember having them in Toronto; warm and piled a mile high. And that's the only way to eat corned beef! It has to be served on rye bread with yellow mustard, coleslaw and a pickle too. Everyone knows that!

So, the other night Lola decided to bring dinner home. I didn't know what she was bringing; it was a surprise. She walked in with a single brown bag and I could smell a familiar smell coming from within it. I wouldn't let her open the bag until I guessed the smell. It registered in my mind instantly, but it took a moment for the light to go on. DING! Corned beef!

I have to say...eating that sandwich was pretty amazing. It was just a corned beef sandwich, yes, but it was also a connection. It was a connection to the past and to something I enjoyed a long time ago. It was also a connection to my dad because he was the one who usually took me for corned beef at Shopsey's when I was a kid. He's dead now, so it was a nice memory for me.

Anyway, I looked on Chowhound for the best corned beef places in Toronto after that. That opened the door for the "experts" to tell me that we can't get good corned beef in Canada and that I'd have to go to New York for the real deal. "Yadda, yadda, quack, quack, quack." Whatever! I was quite happy with Lola's find, and she found it just for me and that made it taste even better.

She did a little research on the Net and found The Corned Beef House at 303 Adelaide West. The sandwich was perfect and I can't say as I've ever had better, New York or not! I'm looking forward to going in to have a sandwich and a cold beer in the restaurant soon rather than taking it to go. I'm also looking forward to trying some of their other menu items. Here's a link to The Corned Beef House's web site: http://cornedbeefhouse.com/

One thing I know: I'm going to introduce my kids to a big, fat corned beef sandwich at The Corned Beef House soon and I hope it will become a favorite of theirs. It's so simple yet so perfect!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Monday, April 7, 2008


There's something about lime that I love. I think it's the freshest, most alive taste there is, and the very smell of it transports me to a sandy beach somewhere putting me in a festive mood prime for hot Latin music rife with congas, sassy trumpets and sexy Salsa rhythms. Hey, it's a recipe for excitement, and I'm always ready for a cold lime cocktail and some cheeky Latin jazz!

With that in mind, you might suspect that I'm a Margarita man. Well...you're right if you do. A good margarita is the absolute king of cocktails in my book. But there is a close cousin to the Margarita that has my attention lately. It's know as the Brazilian Caipirinha.

The Caipirinha is made of crushed limes, sugar, and cachaca. Cachaca is a rum based liquor made in Brazil and the is the national drink. Here is a step-by-step on how to make Caipirinha at home from the folks at Gaucho BBQ.

First you need the Pitu Cachaca and a whole bunch of limes.

Slicey, slicey!


Pulverize the little suckers!

Add Cachaca...

...and sugar.

Kick it with some lime bar mix!!

Shakey, shakey!

Wakey, wakey!!! Ahhhhhhhh!

For more information on Cachaca, check out this Wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cacha%C3%A7a