Saturday, 14 April 2007

Keep It Simple Salmon

Posted by Andrew

With my being busy for the past week mostly due to work, but also partly due to making sure I can watch the NHL playoff games, I haven't had as much time to devote to making dinner as just a couple of weeks ago. With only an hour or so between the PIT/OTT and TB/NJ games today, I had to make sure I made something quick and healthy without missing a minute of the games. With that in mind, I decided to venture into pan-seared salmon.

I'll admit I haven't done pan-seared fish before, but at least I learned a few things from this experience. The wildcard was the cooking time for salmon, and like many types of seafood salmon is temporally finicky. Don't cook long enough, and the fish will still be raw in the centre; cook too long, and the fish is dry and flaky. Salmon tastes best cooked when just flaky but still moist.

After sprinkling both sides of my salmon with salt and pepper, I drizzled a heated pan with olive oil, and over medium high heat I let the pan do its magic on the fish. Depending on the thickness of the salmon one only needs to sear each side for 1-2 minutes; make sure the salmon isn't too thick or the meat will be quite dry on the outside but still raw inside.

Once the fish was seared and cooked through I set it aside and added shredded shallots and sage to the salmon-infused oil in the pan. After tossing the shallots and sage in the oil for a few seconds I then added a cup of red wine (I still had some of that merlot I bought to make my shrimp linguine arrabiata for the office potluck), letting the liquid simmer for a few minutes. While it was simmering I mixed a tablespoon of corn starch with some water and used this to thicken the liquid in the pan. After adding some pepper and chicken broth to bring a bit more flavour to the red wine sauce I tossed the thickener, stirred the pan and drizzled some on my salmon.

In the meantime I cooked some spaghetti on the side, sauteing first some sliced garlic and basil in some olive oil in a pot. I then added the al dente spaghetti and some chicken broth (not too much though, wanting the spaghetti to be on the drier side) and pepper to the pot and tossed it until mixed evenly.

It looks like I made enough red wine sauce and spaghetti to have cooked another piece of salmon tonight. At least salmon cooks quickly, so the extra sauce and pasta may come handy from my fridge this coming week as I know my schedule won't be letting up.

What's more, I finished cooking in time to enjoy my dinner as NJ and TB started playing. OTT sadly lost today, but that story should be told elsewhere.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

An Osborne Village Backroom

Posted by Andrew

Osborne Village is a neat little "yuppie" neighbourhood in Winnipeg that's reminiscent of The Glebe in Ottawa. Both Osborne Village and The Glebe are close to their respective downtowns and sit beside major recreational waterways (Assiniboine River and Rideau Canal respectively). Both have all forms of housing from apartment towers to large mansions and everything in between. Both have a central main street (Osborne Street and Bank Street respectively) lined with an ecclectic medley of shops. And both have a mix of new and gentrified buildings that help establish the character of their respective neighbourhoods.

It is not surprising therefore to also see a good selection of decent restaurants featuring cuisines from around the world along Osborne Street in this area, and it is here where you'll find Mise. Had it not been for the red and yellow fascia signs facing Confusion Corner I wouldn't even have known that this restaurant existed at this locally famous landmark. As if it wasn't already hard enough to find it while casually strolling the streets, I realized that this was located in the basement of the two-storey building, and to top it off the entrance was from the back

Once you enter the restaurant, however, the atmosphere is warmer thanks in part to the treatment of the brick interiors complementing the furnishings and in part to the friendly staff. Mise's style of cooking, officially labelled as "Canadian regional cuisine", is an infused mix of different cuisines, much like Canada is multicultural today. The food presentation may be inspired by the French, but the flavours point to East Asian, Mediterranean, northern European and even local origins.

After ordering my meal I was first treated to an amuse-bouche of a curry potato cracker topped with a mix of chicken and gala apples in a creamy sauce and a cashew, giving the tastebuds a nice spicy kick and a soothing sweet finish. The focaccia was then accompanied by a hummus and sundried tomato butter (fortunately unsalted as the focaccia itself was sprinkled with coarse sea salt). For starters I had buckwheat blini with yellow caviar and creme fraiche. The blini were flavourful, light and cake-like fluffy, and there was just enough fish roe to provide a salty accent.

My main dish was duck confit and breast with spinach, fresh shiitake mushrooms and wild-rice noodles in a sweet soy-based sauce. The duck breast and leg, already flavourful on their own, were simply pan-seared rare, leaving the meat tender and moist while the skin had a light crisp to it. The sauce alone was pretty strong and reminded me somewhere in between of teppanyaki sauce and roast duck marinade. Though the sauce matched well with the duck, it unfortunately proved to be too strong for the fresh shiitakes and drowned out the flavour of the mushrooms. The use of noodles as the starch followed this dish's East-meets-West style, and the use of wild rice in Manitoba to make the noodles was hardly surprising at all.

It seems that a true Manitoban chef must use wild rice in as many different forms of his/her cooking. On top of being a base ingredient for the noodles in my duck dish, Mise's chef also sprinkled puffed wild rice on my dessert dish, a chocolate brownie topped with some heavenly cinnamon ice cream. A slice of caramelized banana was served on the side, and though it was a pleasant experience, it didn't seem to register with me how the banana should have played with the brownie and ice cream in terms of flavouring. Capping it all off in the end is a nice mignardise, a mini dark chocolate truffle coated in crumbled puffed wild rice.

Mise has shown that its food, like Canada and its culture, has been influenced by other parts of the world yet still gets its inspiration from home-grown foods as much as possible. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Osborne Street and Confusion Corner, it's a cosy little restaurant with food that befits Osborne Village. Perhaps offering a wider selection of Canadian and especially VQA wines might better round out its claim of "Canadian regional cuisine". All dishes are individually priced; there is no a-la-carte menu.

Name: Mise
Address: 22-222 Osborne St., Winnipeg, MB
Cuisine: Canadian Regional
Price Range: Dinner $50-70
Accessible: No

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

One for the potluck

Posted by Andrew

It must be karma... computer problems partly explain my own long absence from this blog, along with my being out of town for a conference for half a week. In any case, I'm back now and with a new food story to tell.

Today my office had another potluck lunch, and this time around I decided to up a notch my culinary contribution. Last time I wrapped mini bocconcini with fresh basil and thin slices of proscuitto ham. This time I made my version of shirmp linguine arrabiata. I say "my version" as I'm sure Italians will accuse me of bastardizing a classic recipe. How so, you ask? For one thing, I used Tabasco sauce to give it that nice spicy kick (though I made sure not to add too much in case my colleagues couldn't handle it). I also added some red onion, porcini mushrooms and even some red wine. I really liked the flavour of Inniskillin's 2004 Merlot, so I got my hands on one such bottle over the weekend. As for the basil and oregano, I used the freeze-dried form, so that when they were rehydrated they return to their original "fresh" form, albeit already chopped for easy storage.

Fortunately my colleagues enjoyed it, and that's what's important. However, there was so much food on the table that it only meant more leftovers for me. Not that I'm complaining! ;o)

(Sorry, no photos again this time.)

Andrew's Shrimp Linguine Arrabiata
  • 1/2 package (450g) linguine
  • ~500-600ml (2-2.5 cups) tomato sauce
  • 250g (1 cup) red wine
  • ~2-3 dozen shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1/2 red onion, shredded
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, halved & sliced
  • Large handful of porcini (cepes) mushrooms, cut into bit-sized pieces
  • ~2 tbsp. basil
  • ~2 tbsp. oregano
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Olive oil
  1. Cook linguine al dente; usually following instructions should suffice, otherwise cook in boiling salted water for 8-9 minutes. Drain but do not rinse!
  2. In a preheated pot drizzle bottom of pot with olive oil, coating it and a bit of the sides evenly. Over medium heat toss into pot onions, garlic and shallots, add a small splash of water, cover pot and let cook for ~2 minutes.
  3. Remove lid, add red wine, increase to high heat and let boil until alcohol fumes dissipate. Turning on the exhaust fan at this stage is recommended.
  4. Once the alcohol has evaporated, reduce heat to medium high, add tomato sauce and mushrooms and let simmer covered for a few minutes.
  5. Once the sauce is simmering reduce heat to medium, remove lid and add Tabasco sauce to desired spiciness. Stir evenly.
  6. Add shrimp into pot, cover lid and let shrimp cook in the sauce for 2 minutes.
  7. Cut heat, remove lid, add oregano and basil, stir evenly.
  8. Add cooked linguine, stir evenly and serve.