Vol-au-vents are light, delicate, pastries that typically hold creamy, savoury ingredients. You’ve probably seen them in the freezer section of your local grocer but if you want an extraordinary appetizer, you’ll need to handcraft your own puff pastry. If you don’t believe me, here’s what Julie Child says about vol-au-vents in Mastering the Art of [...]Read More
Few foods transcend all seasons — cozy sweater food is not the same as breezy sundress fare — but omelettes stride both comforting and light in a single reassuring bite. More technique than recipe, a classic French omelette is very different from your sturdy, stuffed with “the works” omelette. I enjoy both but when I’m [...]Read More
Parisian Potatoes may sound elegant but they’re just everyday potatoes shaped with a dollar store melon baller. It’s a simple trick that transforms ho-hum potatoes into a dressy side-dish for steak, roast chicken or pork. The potatoes can be sautéed in any sort of fat but duck fat transcends all others. When you shape potatoes [...]Read More
My holiday mantra this year is “keep it simple” and these sparkling jellies are simplicity in a glass. Made of cranberry juice and a splash of Grand Marnier, these grown-up jellies are both sweet and tart. I’ve dusted the rims of sherry glasses with fine sugar before pouring in the fortified juice. Once the gelatin [...]Read More
When I tell friends I’m making duck confit they look at me suspiciously, like maybe I skin rabbits or have a gutted deer hanging in my garage. Duck may sound exotic but the only hunting involved is rooting through the freezer section of your local grocer. Where there’s frozen turkey, there’s often duck. Duck confit [...]Read More
When my twin daughters turned three, I baked them a very special three layer cake, one layer for each precious year. This year’s birthday cake has 14 layers, one layer for each wonderful, tumultuous, year. I love traditions, no matter how precarious. This is my take on the classic French Opera cake, traditionally made with [...]Read More
Potato croquettes are something you make with leftover mashed potatoes, except when your child requests them for her birthday dinner, in which case you skip the plain mashed and move directly to croquettes. This recipe combines mashed potatoes with freshly grated ginger and garlic and toasted Indian spices. Next time I might use olives, anchovies [...]Read More
A message to the reluctant cook,
Sometimes you’ll scorch the rice, burn the sugar or overwork the dough. You might under-cook, over-salt or overcrowd the pan.
I’ve made all these mistakes and plenty more.
But with every blunder, a new lesson unfolds. Knowing what NOT to do is as important as knowing what to do. If your cooking history is, um, colourful, consider yourself ahead of the curve.
With practice, you’ll learn to trust your senses:
Touch your food. You’ll feel when the dough is ready or when the meat is perfectly cooked.
Smell your food. Your nose knows if the fish is fresh or funky — or when the garlic’s about to burn.
Listen to the sizzle and the sputter. It’s telling you if your pan’s the right (or wrong) temperature.
Watch your food. It’s always perfect — just before it burns.
Taste as you cook. You’ll know if the soups needs a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lemon.
Most importantly, relax and enjoy the pleasures of the kitchen. And have a glass of wine while you’re at it.
Just don’t toss in the apron!