Healthier Fish and Chips with homemade tartar sauce

Make-at-home version of a favourite take-out treat!

I adore fish and chips and it’s one of the things I love to eat whenever I’m visiting family in the Maritimes. One of my favourite spots of all time is the South Shore Fish Shack in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, which serves up delicious food in a great setting with magnificent views of Lunenburg’s historic harbour and shipyards. Perhaps I’m feeling a tad homesick, because I decided it was time to come up with a healthier, make-at-home version of fish and chips – one that doesn’t require a deep fryer. I’ve learned through experimentation that you can get things to crisp up nicely with very little oil, and that technique worked well for the fish in this recipe. I recommend haddock because it holds together well when cooking, but you can certainly use your favourite white fish (basa, sole, tilapia, etc.), reducing the cooking time slightly for thinner fillets. For the chips, behold my perfect oven-baked French fries recipe! The tartar sauce is the crowning touch. For a wine pairing, I recommend a rich, buttery chardonnay like La Crema’s Sonoma Coast 2014 Chardonnay which has bright, lemony notes that perfectly complement the flavours of this meal.

Ingredients

For the tartar sauce

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) capers, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) gherkins or cornichons, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) rice or white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) grainy or Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

For the fish

  • 1 lb(454 g) fresh or frozen haddock fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL)salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(1.25 mL) pepper
  • 1/4 cup(60 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1egg
  • 1 tablespoon(15 mL) 10% cream or milk
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons(30 – 45 mL) vegetable oil, for frying
  • Lemon wedges and chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Method

  • Make tartar sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • If fish is frozen, thaw fillets before cooking.
  • Pat fillets dry with paper towel then season with salt and pepper. Put flour in a shallow bowl. In a second shallow bowl, whisk egg with cream or milk.
  • In a large, heavy duty skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  • Using tongs or your fingers, dip fillets into flour, gently shaking off excess; dip into egg mixture, letting excess drip off.
  • Fry until golden and crisp on both sides and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, about four minutes per side for 3/4 inch thick haddock fillets.
  • Garnish fish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

Serves 2 – 3

 

 

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Deconstructed Cannoli with Crispy Cinnamon Cookies

All the flavour, none of the fuss!

I adore eating cannoli but I don’t enjoy making it. Maybe the distinct absence of any Italian ancestors in my lineage leaves me ill-equipped for the task, but I find filling those delicate pastry tubes to be a fussy job and don’t even get me started on making cannoli shells from scratch. I thought about the essential elements of cannoli – crisp, cinnamony pastry and creaming, chocolate-studded filling, and decided a simplified version might be a good experiment. These cinnamon cookies are delightful on their own, but even better when perched atop the rich, creamy filling. You can make the cookies ahead of time and store in an airtight container on the counter or in the freezer; the filling can be made up to 48 hours ahead and stored in the refrigerator. If you don’t have time to bake the cinnamon cookies, purchased amaretti cookies (available at Italian food shops) are a great substitute.

Crispy Cinnamon Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) soft butter
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups (180 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar

Cannoli Cream

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup (250 mL) mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) icing (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) grated orange zest, tossed with 2 teaspoons (10 mL) white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional but delicious)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mini chocolate chips
  • crispy cinnamon cookies

Method

  • Make the cookies by creaming together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Combine flour with baking powder; add to creamed mixture and mix well.
  • Using your hands, roll the dough into balls about the size of a large marble. Place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  • Press the dough balls flat with the bottom of a drinking glass that has been lightly greased; dip it in the sugar-cinnamon mixture (in a small, broad bowl) before each time you press down.
  • Bake in 350°F oven 10 minutes; Remove from cookie sheet and let cool.
  • Make the filling by putting the ricotta and mascarpone in a mixing bowl; whip together with an electric beater until smooth and creamy. Sprinkle in the icing sugar along with the vanilla and liqueur, if using, and mix together.
  • Fold the sugared orange zest and mini chocolate chips into the cheese mixture.
  • Spoon evenly into 4 small bowls and perch a cookie upright in the filling. Alternatively, you can also sprinkle about a tablespoon of crushed cookie over the top of each bowl. Serve with additional cookies on the side.

Serves 4

 

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Shredded Honey Garlic Chicken

Use a slow cooker, pressure cooker or Instant Pot to make this delicious meal! 

As a kid, my favourite item on takeout Chinese food menus was the little honey garlic spareribs. Salty, sweet and meaty, they were both exotic yet familiar in that my mom introduced soya sauce into our kitchen quite early on. That honey-garlic combination is still a favourite of mine, and was the inspiration for this delicious dish. I like to cook the chicken in my Instant Pot or pressure cooker, but you can make this in a slow cooker as well – just follow the last two steps to drain off excess liquid once the chicken is cooked and add in the sauce so it stays thick and sticky. Rice and vegetables are great sides with this chicken; for something extra-flavourful, check out this great tropical salad option. Note that leftover shredded chicken freezes beautifully (so consider making a double batch)!

Chicken

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sesame oil
  • 6 – 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Juice of 1 orange (approximately 4 tbsp / 60 mL)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) honey
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Chinese five spice powder or powdered ginger
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) water

Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) honey
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) water, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 mL) soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) Sriracha (optional but delicious)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cornstarch

Optional garnishes: toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions

Method

  • If using Instant Pot, set it to sauté; add oils and let heat for 1 minute. Add chicken and brown in oil for 3 minutes, turning once. Add orange juice, honey, brown sugar, five spice, soy sauce and water. Put lid on pot and lock in place, with vent closed.
  • Press Poultry button and let cook (the cycle should take 15 minutes).
  • If using pressure cooker, sear chicken in oils then add juice, honey, brown sugar, five spice, soy sauce and water. Put lid on pot securely and cook under pressure over medium heat for 15 minutes.
  • If using slow cooker, sear chicken in oils in a large frying pan then add browned chicken to cooker along with juice, honey, brown sugar, five spice, soy sauce and water. Cover and cook on low for 4 – 6 hours until tender.
  • While chicken cooks, make honey garlic sauce by putting honey, garlic, 1/4 cup of the water, soy sauce and Sriracha, if using, in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine cornstarch with remaining 2 tablespoons of water and add to honey garlic mixture; increase heat to bring to a boil and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • When poultry cycle is finished, depressurize pot, remove lid and transfer chicken to a clean plate. Drain off cooking liquid, reserving 1/2 cup to add back with chicken.
  • Shred chicken using two forks and return to pot with reserved 1/2 cup of cooking liquid and the honey-garlic sauce. Press the Instant Pot’s sauté button and reheat, stirring, for 1 – 2 minutes until hot (or reheat in pressure cooker/slow cooker).
  • Serve over rice, garnished as desired, with tropical salad or stir fried vegetables (broccoli and carrots are a nice combination) on the side.

Serves 4

 

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Double Raspberry Streusel Muffins

A delicious new grab-and-go breakfast treat!

We are huge fans of muffins over here at Constantly Cooking – they’ve been our favourite grab and go breakfast treat forever, it seems. There are a few go-to varieties that appear regularly on the menu, such as Berry Burst Muffins, Corn Muffins with Blueberry-Cream Cheese filling and Pear-Gingerbread Muffins, yet I often find myself yearning to try different ingredient combinations. I love the flavour of raspberries so decided to add it in two forms (whole berries and seedless jam) to amplify the taste in these muffins. They’re extra-delicious thanks to the crunchy streusel topping. I love that this makes a big batch (18 muffins) because they freeze beautifully.

Ingredients

Streusel topping:

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) very cold butter

Muffins:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 (560 mL) cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen whole raspberries

Method

  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 18 muffin tin compartments with paper liners.
  • Make the streusel topping by mixing the sugar, cinnamon and flour in a small bowl. Grate the cold butter into the sugar mixture and toss it with a fork or your fingertips to combine. Set aside.
  • Blend together sugar and melted, cooled butter. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Add half the flour mixture to the sugar and egg mixture and stir to blend.
  • Add the milk to the sugar/flour mixture and stir to blend. Add remaining flour mixture and stir to blend.
  • Add raspberry jam and stir to blend.
  • By hand, gently fold in the raspberries.
  • Fill the muffin tin compartments 3/4 full with the batter (try to ensure the raspberries end up somewhat evenly distributed). Top each with a few teaspoons of the streusel mixture, dividing topping evenly among the muffins.
  • Bake in preheated oven 21 – 23 minutes, testing with a toothpick (it should come out clean) to ensure doneness.
  • Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and let cool completely before serving.

Makes 18 delectable, freezable muffins.

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Miso-Maple Salmon with fennel and orange

Impressively easy fish dish yields big flavours!

In case you haven’t already noticed, we’re big fish fans over here at Constantly Cooking. Scroll through the archives and you’ll find some delicious, easy inspiration if you’re looking for new ways to enjoy fish. Some of my favourites include Mediterranean Fish Stew, Salmon in Puff Pastry with Dill Sauce and Crispy pan-fried Basa Fillets. This new recipe was inspired by a fantastic gift I received from a friend – gorgeous salmon caught and flash frozen at a fishing lodge in British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii. I knew I had to do this beautiful fish justice by coming up with an easy yet impressive way to prepare it, and I’ll definitely be making this dish again. If you’re looking for an exceptional wine pairing, I’d recommend the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve 2015 Chardonnay; it’s a buttery, creamy Chardonnay that has prominent citrus notes, making it a great match for the fennel, orange and salmon.

Ingredients

Salmon

  • 2 skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon white wine

Fennel and orange

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 bulb fennel, stalks and fronds removed
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled, halved and sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • Combine the miso, maple syrup and white wine. Spread evenly over both sides of the salmon fillets and place them on a clean plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours.
  • While salmon is marinating, prepare the fennel. Remove any discoloured outer layers and halve the fennel bulb. Slice very thinly and set aside. Prepare the orange and shallot.
  • Drizzle half the olive oil in the bottom of an ovensafe baking dish. Scatter the fennel and shallots in the dish, then top with orange slices. Drizzle remaining olive oil and white wine over top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 375F. Cook fennel and orange mixture for 15 minutes then remove pan from oven and place marinated salmon on top. Return pan to oven and cook for 15 – 25 minutes longer (time will depend upon thickness of salmon). The salmon is cooked when the internal temperature is 145F.
  • Remove pan from oven and serve.

Serves 2.

 

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Oatmeal shortbread squares with salted caramel chips

New product the best thing to happen to baking since chocolate chips were invented!

When I am grocery shopping, I try to restrain myself. You know, only buy what’s on my list, get everything in one pass through the store and don’t wrinkle the magazines I read in the checkout line. All restraint went out the window this week, however, when I spied a new product in the baking aisle. The pretty blue package of Hershey’s Sea Salt Caramel Chipits was positively yelling at me from the shelf; I may have squealed back in return when I realized what it was. Checking to make sure no one was watching, I grabbed 6 packages and tossed them into my cart. I bought a bunch because I am certain that once word gets out about this delicious new ingredient, there’s going to be a run on them and they’ll be impossible to find.

Like any good culinary scientist, I opened a package as soon as I got back to the car. For research, of course. The modicum of restraint that remained after the squealing episode in the store thankfully kicked in, otherwise I’d have been tempted to eat the whole bag as they are ridiculously tasty. I came up with this new recipe to honour the good people at Hershey’s who invented these sea salt caramel baking chips, to whom I extend my most sincere thanks. The squares are a snap to make, beautifully flaky and not overly sweet so you can really taste the salty caramel nuggets. Best of all, you can even feel virtuous about eating them since the oats make them a tiny bit healthy, right?

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups quick (not instant) rolled oats
  • 1 cup icing (powdered/confectioners’ sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups very cold butter
  • 1 package (283 g/10 oz) sea salt caramel baking chips

Method

  • Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, ensuring it overhangs on two sides so you can lift the cooked squares out of the pan easily.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar and baking powder.
  • Using a box grater, grate the very cold butter into the flour mixture, stopping every 30 seconds or so to clear the grater and gently stir the butter into the flour mixture with a fork. When you are finished, the mixture should be in small clumps.
  • Stir in salted caramel baking chips.
  • Transfer mixture to prepared pan, pressing it down with a spatula or your fingers. It will look a little crumbly but as it cooks, the butter will melt and everything will stick together nicely.
  • Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan (set it on a wire rack) before lifting out to cut in bars or squares.
  • Store in a tightly-covered container at room temperature for up to four days or freeze for up to six months.

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JUNO-inspired stuffed peppers

Celebrating Canadian music with ingredients tied to song lyrics!

It’s JUNO Awards Week in Ottawa and I’m pretty excited by all the musical hoopla. In 2012, the last time the JUNOs were held here, my son played piano for a pre-JUNO performance featuring former Governor General Michaelle Jean and local folk hero Craig Cardiff so it’s no understatement to say that in our house, the JUNOs are a big deal. While many of Canada’s talented musicians will be front and centre on Sunday, April 2 when the awards are handed out, there are tons of other JUNO-themed activities happening all over town this week. Little did I know I’d be taking part in one of them when I unexpectedly received an email a few days ago from Alan Neal, host of CBC Radio’s All in a Day program, inviting me to be part of a fun food challenge. Without knowing anything about what I was signing up for, I agreed to participate. It was only after I’d said yes that I learned that I’d been tasked with creating a dish for the show’s Wednesday D is for Dinner segment using ingredients (selected by me) which have to tie into the five songs nominated for the 2017 JUNO Award for Single of the Year.

The nominated songs are:

“Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes
“One Dance” by Drake (ft Wizkid and Kyla)
“Wild Things” by Alessia Cara
“Starboy” by The Weeknd (ft Daft Punk)
“Spirits” by The Strumbellas

If you know any of the song lyrics for the JUNO 2017 Single of the Year nominees, you’ll appreciate how daunting the challenge actually was. Nary a mention of cheese, chocolate, cherries or chives among them; in fact there’s very few references to food or drink in any of the five songs. As a result, I had to play a few word association games in my head to forge connections between the songs and a dish that I hoped people would find appealing (not to mention, which would also best my unknown competitors). I’m pleased to share with you my creation: it’s peppers stuffed with Chinese pearl barley; it also includes king eryngii mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, wine, thyme, ground walnuts, caviar, parmesan and Ungava gin. Following the recipe, you’ll find the references connecting these ingredients to the associated song lyrics.

You can listen to the fun radio segment here.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 king eryngii (or king oyster) mushroom, diced fine (or regular button mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 3/4 cup Chinese pearl barley (or regular pearl barley), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup coarsely ground walnuts
  • 3 – 4 medium-large bell peppers, colours of your choice

Garnish:

  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon caviar (optional but delicious; black sesame seeds would be great too)
  • 1 tablespoon Ungava gin

Method

  • Heat the canola oil in a medium sized, heavy duty saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushrooms and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes, until softened. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute more.
  • Add the rinsed barley and stir to coat with the moisture in the pan. Add the white wine and let simmer for 1 minute, then add the salt, pepper, thyme and stock.
  • Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook about 25 – 30 minutes, until barley is just tender and liquid has not completely evaporated. Add a few tablespoons of water if you find the mixture drying out before barley is tender.
  • While barley cooks, cut the tops off the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds inside. Preheat oven to 350F.
  • When barley is cooked, stir in walnuts and scoop the mixture into the prepared peppers. Fill them to the top but try not to compact the mixture too much.
  • Place the filled peppers in an ovensafe dish and bake for 22 – 25 minutes, until peppers are just tender.
  • Remove from heat and garnish each pepper with a drizzle of Ungava gin, a sprinkle of Parmesan and a small amount of caviar, if using.
  • Serve hot.

Makes sufficient stuffing for 3 – 4 peppers (depending upon their size).

It was so much fun talking about this dish in studio with Alan Neal and to see what the dynamic duo of Caroline Ngo and Kevin Benes from Hintonburg’s Carben Restaurant came up with as their dish.

Here’s Alan Neal enjoying sampling my stuffed peppers. I can’t wait to feed him again as he’s such an open-minded and enthusastic taste tester!

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Here is the list of the ingredients and the song/lyric with which they are associated:

  • Bell peppers (Starboy: ‘shade’ because peppers are in the nightshade family)
  • Chinese pearl barley aka Tears of Job (Treat You Better:  ‘crying’)
  • Finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (Spirits: ‘sun’; also Wild Things: ‘fine’)
  • White wine (One Dance: ‘wine’)
  • Thyme (One Dance: ‘time’)
  • Ground walnuts (One Dance: ‘grinding’)
  • King eryngii mushrooms (Starboy: ‘king’)
  • Caviar (Starboy: ‘ebony’; also Treat You Better: ‘girl’, because it comes from female fish)
  • Grated Parmesan (Starboy: ‘ivory’)
  • Ungava gin (Spirits: gin is a spirit; also Wild Things – Ungava is made from wild Canadian botanicals)

Stuffed Peppers with Barley

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