Thursday, January 26, 2017

Finding a butcher was the best thing I ever did! - In memory of my brother Dan

My brother would be so proud of me, I found a butcher!

In this day in age of a world of superstores that sell everything from t-shirts, tv's and and apples, you don't come across many butchers that work in the store.  Yes, they have a deli counter, where someone was trained to slice meat, but they aren't a butcher.  And if those super stores have a butcher, they are not at the counter, they are behind the scenes just butchering meat, not talking with customers.

These super stores have definitely put a strain on small business.  I know I am guilty for shopping a lot at Superstore and Costco because of the convenience and cost.  We certainly get great deals on some of our everyday items.

When I wrote one of my first tribute posts in memory of my brother Dan, I didn't know it yet, but I met my butcher Dave.  Dave is the owner of Ben's Meat & Deli.  I walked in looking for a tenderloin to make a gluten free beef wellington.  I couldn't find a cut anywhere.  Until I walked into Ben's Meat, and met Dave and his family.

I quickly learned a few things after that first visit

  1. Dave really knows meat!
  2. Dave really loves talking to his customers
  3. Dave has what seems like his entire family working in the butcher shop
  4. Dave is Dutch, and proud of it!
  5. Dave has Celiac Disease, just like my wife, and has tonnes of extra gluten free goodies at his shop, which is great for me Gluten Free Edmonton blog.
Every time I go to Ben's Meats on a Saturday the place is jam packed and his family is working hard getting orders out.  But that doesn't stop Dave from walking with a customer around the shop talking about all the amazing stuff his carries, or some of the deals he has.  Or heck, even taking in suggestions from customers.  As I suggested he should sell his smoked brisket more often, and he has, and sells out pretty quickly when he does!

If Dan were still here today, I would have loved to take him to meet Dave, they would have got along just fine, and I'm sure talk food all day long!  Dave is full of great tips on food preparation.  One of which I just shared on Facebook about the best way to cut and warm up a brisket.

If you live in Edmonton, or ever visit, be sure to visit Dave at Ben's Meats!  You won't regret it.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dafina - Moroccan Shabbat Stew - For Dan

September 14, 2015 marked the 3rd anniversary of the passing of my brother Daniel.  Daniel loved his family and loved cooking for his family and friends.  That's why he started Haggis and the Herring.

Every year I have been posting one recipe to honour him.  

I was recently in Toronto for a family wedding.  My sister'n'law Brianne was getting married.  During one of the post wedding celebration meals, her husbands aunt made a Moroccan dish that I had not had in a long time.  Dafina is a Moroccan stew made on the Sabbath because the cooking is started before shabbat begins, and finishes after it ends, so your meal is ready to be eaten.
This is what it takes to make some Dafina
This was a staple dish my dads mother (Mama) made every Saturday for lunch.  The whole family, all the aunts and cousins would cram into my grandparents 2 bedroom apartment around a string of tables and just enjoy everyones company.
Lets get this thing boiling!
After Mama passed away my Auntie Debbie and Uncle Gerry took over hosting shabbat lunch, and my aunt took over the tradition of making Dafina for the family.  I asked my aunt for her recipe, because I wanted to try it out.  In true form, like someone that cooks from the heart, she gave me a rough cut of the recipe, with no measurements of spices or ingredients, just guided by love of the food.  You know when its right.
Ready to eat!
So in true family fashion, I made up Dafina and invited my mother'n'law and father'n'law over to share the meal.  I was so happy to be able to make this meal for family like my grandmother would.  Made me proud, because I don't tap into my Moroccan heritage all that much, especially when it comes to cooking.  I'm glad they enjoyed it too!

This is how you can make this traditional meal (Roughly speaking of course since I guessed on some of the measurements):

  • Large piece of chuck steak (I used stewing beef)
  • Potato and Yams/Sweet Potato peeled (Enough for at least one piece for each person of each kind)
  • Eggs (Enough for at least one person)
  • Large can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • One large spanish onion
  • 3-4 Cinnamon sticks (depending on how much you are making
  • About 1 tbsp Garlic powder
  • About 1 tbsp Paprika
  • About 1 1bsp Tumeric
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Season meat with garlic powder, paprika and tumeric and let sit with dry rub while you peel the potato and take skin off the onion.  If you don't think 1 tbsp of each is enough, just mess around and add more or less.  The meat shouldn't be drenched in it, just nicely seasoned.
  2. In a large oven safe pot, layer the following:
    • seasoned meat on the bottom
    • Potato (both kinds)
    • Onion
    • Eggs (gently to not crack)
    • Can of chickpeas drained
    • Cinnamon sticks
  3. Fill pot with water to cover ingredients in pot
  4. Boil for 1 hour (In a traditional sense, you would do this before shabbat starts)
  5. You can now either:
    • Place in oven at 225 all night until morning and then place back on stove top and put on low until you are ready to eat or;
    • Place in a slow cooker on low all night until you are ready to eat the next day
Serve with a baguette to dip and suck up all the sauce!

Recipes by the Haggis and the Herring: tasty world recipes tested in our kitchen
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

For my brother Dan - My Beef Wellington Experience

Today mark's the second anniversary of my brother's sudden passing.  The only way I can think of continuing honouring him is to try and love cooking half as much as he did.  Last year in honour of his Haggis and Herring blog I made Haggis and Herring.  This year, I decided to take on a Beef Wellington.  But for those that don't know me, I write a gluten free living blog at, so the slight twist was to make this a gluten free recipe.

Dan, I miss you with all my heart!

The idea of a Beef Wellington all started with the release of Pillsbury's gluten free pastry dough.  The first thing that came to my head wasn't pie (because I'm not a baker), but Beef Wellington!  Why Beef Wellington?  Because Chef Gordon Ramsay has it as a staple on the Hell's Kitchen menu.  What a great challenge.  Try and make a Beef Wellington good enough that Gordon Ramsay won't be screaming at you telling you its RAW and throwing it down like it's garbage.

So task #1.  Find a recipe.  I opened up my Food Network App, search wellington, and spotted a recipe that looked good to me by Tyler Florence (recipe shared below).

Task #2, search out the ingredients.  The only unique ingredients was the tenderloin cut (filet mignon) and procuitto (yes the tenderloin was wrapped in yummyness).

Knowing that I needed to do this right and go to a butcher, I went to Ben's Meat for the tenderloin.  I knew the meat was going to be expensive for 3lbs, and $60 later I was about to work with the most expensive cut of meat I have ever worked with.  And to be honest, that was a good price for that meat.

task #4 tackle this bad boy of a recipe.  I spent the better part of a morning prepping the meat and the insides of the wellington.  I knew it wasn't going to be easy, so I even called in reinforcements when it came to working with the gluten free pastry.

So what was the end results?  A slight mess!  It actually tasted amazing, and the meat was perfect.  But there are two things I didn't do well that could have made this dish perfect.

As you can see the crust kind of fell apart
First thing, I didn't roll the tenderloin tight enough.  I found it a challenge to wrap the tenderloin with the prosciutto and mushroom stuffing really right with the seran wrap.  I knew it wasn't perfectly tight, but I thought it was pretty good.  If you try this recipe, make sure you wrap it really tight.  There should be no give so when you put the tenderloin in the fridge, it will do a better job at holding its shape before wrapping it with the pastry.

Second thing I messed up on, was cutting the vents in the pastry.  I could not have wrapped this damn thing, without the help of my pastry loving mother'n'law.  I just had no idea what I was doing.  We then cut the vents, but I think we needed to cut the vents deeper, or cut more of them.  This particular recipe had a mushroom stuffing and mushroom contains lots of water.  So, although the top stayed crispy (and damn that Pillsbury makes a good gluten free pastry crust), the bottom got really soggy because the moisture couldn't escape to well.

So here is the recipe:

The Ultimate Beef Wellington - From Tyler Florence

For the Duxelles:
  • 3 pints (1 1/2 pounds) white  button mushrooms
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the Duxelles: Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for 8 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

For the Beef:
  • 1 (3-pound) center cut  beef tenderloin ( filet mignon), trimmed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons  Dijon mustard
  • Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
  • 1 pound  puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
  • 2 large  eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse  sea salt
  • Minced  chives, for garnish
  • Green Peppercorn Sauce, recipe follows
  • Roasted  Fingerling Potatoes
  • Warm Wilted Winter Greens, recipe follows

To prepare the beef: Tie the tenderloin in 4 places so it holds its cylindrical shape while cooking. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil - about 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile set out your prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap (plastic needs to be about a foot and a half in length so you can wrap and tie the roast up in it) on top of your cutting board. Shingle the prosciutto so it forms a rectangle that is big enough to encompass the entire filet of beef. Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with a thin layer of duxelles. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, cut off twine and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap to tie it up nice and tight. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap and twist the ends to seal it completely and hold it in a nice log shape. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic.  Set the beef in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef - saving ends to use as a decoration on top if desired. Top with coarse sea salt. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet.

Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife - this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven and rest before cutting into thick slices. Garnish with minced chives, and serve with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and Warm Wilted Winter Greens.

Green Peppercorn Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 sprigs fresh  thyme, leaves only
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 box  beef stock
  • 2 cups  cream
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup green  peppercorns in  brine, drained, brine reserved
Add olive oil to pan after removing beef. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, then, off heat, add brandy and flambe using a long kitchen match. After flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock and reduce by about half. Strain out solids, then add 2 cups cream and mustard. Reduce by half again, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and place a baking sheet inside to heat.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh  Herbs and Garlic:
  • 2 pints fingerling potatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 6 cloves garlic, left unpeeled
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus for  sheet pan
  • Salt and pepper
Add potatoes, rosemary, sage, thyme, and garlic to a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Remove sheet pan from oven, lightly coat with olive oil, and pour potatoes onto pan. Place potatoes in oven and reduce heat to 425 degrees F. Roast for 20 minutes, or until crispy on outside and tender on inside. Recipes by the Haggis and the Herring: tasty world recipes tested in our kitchen
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