11 January 2015

The Moose Curry Experience Best of 2014

We like to think we learn a few new tricks every year.  We certainly make an effort to.


Thanks to a good friend sending us bitters (some homemade!), we are beginning to really understand cocktails.  The Old Fashioned, however, wins the year.  


The Best 2014 Food Discoveries chez The Moose Curry Experience


As chronic gifted under-achievers, we're nearly late in getting our "best of 2014" list together, but here it is.  Our favourite new finds, new techniques and new solutions from the last year, in no particular order.


The Old-Fashioned

Curious about a note on Facebook, I asked an old friend, “Tell me about the bitters?!” to which he replied, “Check your mailbox in a few days.”  Much to our excitement (and sudden anxiety), a package containing homemade rhubarb bitters, homemade celery bitters, and some small-batch artisan-y orange bitters arrived at the post office.  Determined to do these justice, we bought better liquor than we might otherwise and did a lot of experimentation.  It feels like we are beginning to understand cocktails.  Which is as good a gift as the bitters themselves.

The complete winner though, is the Old-Fashioned...  made sacrilegiously with good floral single-malt scotch.  It was a complete and utter delight to discover that whisky can be as good in a cocktail as it is on its own.  Maybe even better in a cocktail.  Fefe likes the Old Fashioned because it can come with a maraschino cherry.  I like it because it smells like storm petrels.


Pho

Good lord, you can make pho at home!

It's what's pho dinner.  It's what's pho lunch.  It's even what's pho breakfast.  I can't think of the last time we had any leftover roast (other than fennel-rubbed pork, see below) where the carcass wasn't used for pho broth... plus all the pho broth Fefe has made from meat bought specifically for that purpose.

We had to go to Corner Brook in the late winter, not a place we would normally be thrilled to drive to in late winter, but we were looking forward to it because a Vietnamese restaurant had opened there a few months earlier.  I was dreaming of pho as the date approached.  Unfortunately, as the date approached, the restaurant was temporarily closed down and it didn't reopen until we were safely back across the island.  So disappointing.  But I couldn't stop thinking about pho.  Finally, while I was fighting a really nasty summer flu and could only breathe with difficulty out of one nostril, Fefe Noir took pity on me.  All I wanted was a bowl of chicken noodle soup, but specifically chicken pho so I could taste it.  She scoured the miracle of the internet pho recipes and it turned out to be a lot less mysterious and difficult than we expected.  So much so, it's part of our phoking repertoire now.

Za’atar

I want to ask, “How is it we’ve never used za’atar before?”, but I know the answer.  It may have existed for centuries in the middle east, but it did not exist in Newfoundland in any easily obtainable way until 2014.  Even if we’d known what we were missing before now, we couldn't have made it ourselves since sumac is impossible to find here*.

We’re in love though.  Za’atar on pita, za’atar on yogurt, za’atar on cottage cheese, in soups, in salad dressing, on eggs, dips, cooked veg, raw veg, meats of all sorts… it’s endlessly charming.

*I have a sneaking suspicion that some smug Newfoundland resident is going to tell me about some really obvious place that’s always carried za’atar and sumac.  Bring it on.  I’d like another source because the last time I bought some it was marked down to half-price, often a sign that it will disappear from the shelves forever.  I’d rather spend money right here than give it to someone somewhere else to have it mailed to me.

Grates Cove Studio Cafe

If you drive northwest-ish (as best you can following the road) from our home for long enough, all the way to the end of the road, you will arrive at the end of the earth, in a town called Grates Cove.   A place where you might find a cow tethered in someone's front yard, where there are days you can count more humpbacked whales in the coastal waters than people you will lay your eyes on.  

But as you are coming into the town, this astounding thing happens: the Grates Cove Studios Cafe.  And this is not any old cafe, it's a cafe serving Louisiana classics like gumbo and etouffe. Literally at the end of the earth.  Did I say that already? Not just gumbo either, sushi, Korean bbq and stromboli.  In rural Newfoundland! By far our best restaurant discovery of the year.



BBQ Pizza

Shockingly easy, and it really works.  Pizza can be cooked, right from the raw dough stage, on your propane bbq.

Not pizza with bbq sauce, but pizza made right there on the bbq grill.  We know other people have been doing this for a long time.  I have a reasonably clear memory of reading about it more than a decade ago in a magazine… I have a less clear memory of which magazine (Food & Drink? Martha Stewart? Canadian Living?). 

At any rate, the new-to-us technique traveled to us with some of our summer guests… during their road trip they stayed with someone who made it for them, then they made it for us.  Then we made it pretty much every week until it got too cold outside for sane people to be standing out at the grill.  However, I’m reluctant to suggest we’ll never be out there in unseemly weather... if we get a repeat of #DarkNL this year, bbq pizza could make the outdoor winter cooking list**.

**Fefe is not convinced of our ability to get dough to rise if we can't heat the house.  I'm working on a plan that involves tea light candles and the tiny tent we gave the cats for Christmas...

6-Minute Egg

What can I say?  It's a bit embarrassing for food bloggers to admit they didn't even know how to a boil an egg until well past their early 30s (there has to be a joke in there somewhere), but the 6-minute egg was something of a revelation.  Still soft, but custard-sauce-thick rather than runny yet, hard enough to be peel-able.

Soft-ish boiled eggs were obviously sexy in 2014; poached-in-the-shell and 6-minute boiled eggs seemed to be everywhere.  Eventually, Fefe tried the technique to do eggs to go into a spinach pie... when they stayed custard-like even with a second cooking, we were hooked.  Now we look for excuses to top things with egg.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, plunge your eggs in, boil for 6 minutes, remove to cold running water until just cool enough to handle, peel and they are ready for use. 

Fennel with Pork

Fennel has always gone into our pork meatballs wrapped in lemon leaves, because that’s what the first recipe we used did and it was delicious.  Somehow, that failed to sink into our minds as an epic pairing until we were watching the Jamie Oliver cooks frugally series and he rubbed a pork roast with fennel.  Suddenly it was all dings and flashing lights and air horns in our minds: pork and fennel.  Of course!  Duh.  And holey shirts, what a lot of fennel we’ve been through since that moment.

As a matter of interest, you can make an outstanding bean soup with the bones and scraps of a fennel-crusted slow-cooked pork butt.

A Cast-Iron Griddle

The cast iron griddle pretty much lives on our stove nowadays.  

We can cook more than one tortilla at a time!  More than one pancake!  Enough peppers and garlic for a big pot of romesco sauce.  All the peppers and tomatillos for a batch of salsa.  Bacon and eggs AT THE SAME TIME.  Bacon and eggs and toutons, if you like.  Or just an army of toutons. Moose sausage for all our friends and relatives (if one of our friends or relatives would give us some moose sausage...).  

And, if you turn it over, there's a grill we haven't even started to use yet.


NOMA Cookbook

The NOMA cookbook entered our home in the summer of 2014.  It is a beautiful thing.  There's an almost perverse sincerity oozing from the pages.. the earnest dedication to a food politic/ ethic/ morality in the essays.  Seriously beautiful photographs.  Paper that you want to spend your afternoon stroking because of it's genuine paper-ness.   

I will spend the next few decades flipping through this book being inspired to think more and more about food origins and locality.  I will expand my foraging and gleaning habits and pay more attention to the wildness of wild food.


I will never cook from this book.  


The NOMA cookbook recipes are beyond my comprehension; it's like the experimental jazz of cookery.  It will prod and poke and challenge, but I will always be chasing the tune rather than catching it.  I love it.


Solving the Mystery of the Wooden Spoon Handles

Over the last couple of years, our wooden spoons have disappeared one by one.  The spoon part, anyway.  No matter how diligently we made sure they were far back on the counter, no matter how well rinsed we kept them, eventually every last wooden spoon was decapitated.  We had our suspicions but careful monitoring of the, um, culmination of the digestive process in all our pets left no clues.  

But no spoon-ends appeared either, no matter how many appliances were pulled from the wall and cleaned out from under.

Shortly before Christmas, during marshmallow-making season, the culprit was caught in the act.  We are still suspicious he had some feline help getting the spoon from the back of the counter to the edge.  We now have a better system for idle wooden spoons (mason jars are a bit like duct tape as a general problem solver...).


The wooden spoon thief in his natural habitat.

7 comments:

  1. Bulk Barn for Zatar and Sumac! I've been buying there the last 3 years.

    I feel pretty smug now! :)

    PS: We should meet up sometime for a feast or something! What do you think?

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    1. which bulk barn?! I probably just never noticed it... I don't think I was every actually looking for it until I noticed some in the international section at Blackmarsh Dominion.

      P.S. Yes we should! We didn't manage a summer foraging trip (we had WAY TOO BUSY a summer last year), but we should seriously talk about getting together to eat... maybe it will make the best of 2015 list. :)

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    2. Cyber space ate up my previous answer!

      Bulk Barn by the Village has both sumac and zaatar. Thats where I had first bought mine before the Stavanger opened. I buy mine from Stavanger now. They always have in stock. Hope you find them!

      How about we get together after the snow melts? Lets plan something. Summer was insanely busy and I think we were all a bit like escaped prisoners after 6 months of snow! Hopefully none of that this year. :)

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    3. Thanks for that... I must have just never been looking for it, but I will now. Little Red Chicken said on Twitter that Food for Thought downtown also carries sumac. So we should be set now.

      Sounds like a good plan re: getting together.

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  2. Maybe you could make Phocaccia on the bbq next :)

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    Replies
    1. ha ha... or maybe just some hot crossed puns...

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