Monthly Archives: March 2012
A few weeks ago, Robyn, Chris, and I attended a cooking demonstration put on by former Top Chef Canada contestant (2nd runner up), and co-owner of outstanding Calgary restaurant CHARCUT, Connie DeSousa.
Connie’s demonstration was all about making homemade goat cheese. Perfect, I love goat cheese! And since goat cheese and my wallet are natural enemies, this was going to save me a bundle! But wouldn’t making your own cheese be a long, arduous, complicated process that requires years of expertise and skills?
Connie assured the crowd that it was, in fact, dead easy.
She was right!
The tables were filled with instructions sheets on how to make CHARCUT’s goat cheese and beet salad. I’m focusing on the goat cheese only, so I’ve cropped the recipe for you from the official instructions.
I made my first batch of cheese last week , using some random goats milk from Superstore. The result was ok, but very mild. In fact most of the flavour seemed to be from my seasonings, and not the cheese itself.
For this weeks batch, I used Fairwinds Farm organic goat milk. The first batch was good, but the second batch was outstanding. I was a bit stunned at just how much difference there was. Batch 2 was much more flavourful, creamier, and had a better texture. So I guess the lesson here is to not be such a cheapskate and start with quality ingredients. Heck, you’re saving tons of dough here anyways, so splurge a little.
Pour the milk, yogurt, and whipping cream into a pot. Whisk together and add a pouch of your favourite herbs. I used fresh dill stems and a bit of rosemary, because that’s what I had. To be honest, I don’t think I used enough but I wanted to be sure not to overpower the cheese flavour.
Bring the mixture up to 100 degrees F and remove from heat. Remove your spice pouch and stir in the dissolved rennet for a few seconds until curds start to form, then cover and let sit 1 hour.
When you come back, the curds should have formed a large mass. Slice the mass with a knife in a criss cross pattern.
Pour the curds into a sieve lined with cheesecloth. I had no luck finding cheesecloth at the first 2 stores I tried, so I took a friends suggestion and used a clean J-cloth. It worked like a charm!
Next, I folded the j-cloth over the top, and weighted the curds down with a couple soup cans in a gladware container.
After about an hour, I dumped the cheese into a bowl and mixed in some seasonings. This step is optional, and you may only want to add salt and pepper at this stage. I added a teaspoon of Herbs de Provence and a teaspoon of salt. Pepper to taste.
Mix the seasoning in thoroughly and return it to the cheese cloth. Weight it down overnight at minimum.
Next day you can give it a taste test and re-season as desired.
Ronald McDonald House is something most of us have heard of, but how many of us really know what it is, or what they do there?
I know I didn’t.
RMH has 30 rooms that they rent out to families who are in town while their sick children are getting medical care. They charge $12/night for the service.
The families are responsible for their own meals, and after spending full days at the hospital, those meals usually consist of a quick bite out or opening a can of something before crashing into bed.
The average time that a family checks in for is about 2 weeks – so that would be approximately 14 straight days of eating out 3 meals a day. That is not only very costly, but probably not the healthiest idea either.
Turns out that RMH promotes something called Home For Dinner; a program where a group of volunteers plan, shop for, and prepare a much needed family-style meal for families as they struggle with endless rounds of hospital visits.
What a fantastic idea!
As soon as I learned about this I rallied a team of kitchen geniuses that would be up for cooking a full meal for 30 families: of course my wife Robyn, and our good friends Carmen and Dongbu. And I just had to scan my friends list on Twitter to fill out the team with Jerry, Eric and his wife Angela, Addie, Chris, and Erin.
We decided on Shepherd’s Pie with coleslaw on the side and cookies for dessert.
When we got to the kitchen, we decided on the ‘divide & conquer’ method…
Robyn and I were the potato masters:
Chris and Erin were “Team Meat” and cooked up all the ground beef* and the accompanying veg to fill out our pie:
Jerry, Eric and Angela took control of the coleslaw:
Carmen threw together some chocolate and caramel cookies:
And Addie kept busy doing whatever else needed doing:
Before long, the smell of our cooking started to bring a few guests wandering around to check out the scene. One of the house-guests introduced himself to me and thanked us for our efforts. We chatted about what brought his family to the house and it became apparent just how much a little bit of normalcy in the form of a home cooked meal meant to these families. He told me that they were teaching in Japan when they discovered a problem with one of their children. They had to fly home for treatment, and they had been staying at Ronald McDonald House ever since-for about 4 weeks already.
Can you imagine the stress of not only having a seriously ill child, but also having your entire life turned upside down in order to facilitate the treatment? Having a more home-like place to stay like RMH instead of a standard hotel room must be a huge relief.
Back in the kitchen, with all the separate ingredients completed, it was time to assemble the final product – Chris found a cookie mould in a drawer and decided he’d make a few potato clovers on one pie. I went with the fork ridged design that my mom used to make all the time growing up. It brings back really good memories for me so It felt good to share that with everyone, even if I didn’t mention that’s why I did it.
Into the oven the giant Shepherds Pies went, and we finished our clean-up.
Finally, the guests assembled in the dining room and we served dinner.
The whole experience was fantastic from start to finish, and I really enjoyed the immediate feedback from the diners. We got to sit and eat with everybody else, and it was really heartwarming to watch the parents and the kids gulping down what we had made.
Especially the cookies.
Robyn and I will definitely be back to do it again, and a lot of the crew expressed interest in another round as well.
Interested in forming your own team and getting involved? Use the link at the top of the page and get the ball rolling! If you’re on Twitter, give Jen Panteluk a follow and I’m sure she would be happy to give you a tour of the facility and answer any questions.
And be sure to check out Carmen’s recount of the day too!
*A huge shout out goes to Corey and Amanda Meyer, owners of stellar local butcher shop Acme Meat Market at 9531-76 ave. The always community minded and unselfish duo donated the 15 pounds of ground beef we used in the Shepherds Pie.
That meat was no small part of why we received compliments such as “that was the best Shepherds Pie I’ve ever had”. Robyn and I get all our meat from there, and there is nothing better than getting fantastic products from a local shop owned by such an awesome young family. I suggest you give them a try.