Archive for January, 2013

Really good brownies

25 January 2013

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Nigel Slater’s brownie recipe is, in his words, “just a 24-carat brownie, as dense and fudgy as Glastonbury Festival mud.” Who would resist? I, for one, couldn’t. Though I rarely make chocolate dessert — a whole year might go by — and never choose the chocolate option on a restaurant menu.

It’s not, as I sometimes explain for simplicity’s sake, because I don’t like it much. The truth is that, in matters of chocolate, I am embarrassingly picky. While most fruity cakes, tarts, and crumbles make me happy, chocolate doesn’t often hit the mark. It’s not as simple as dark or milk, cake or mousse, it’s a subtle dance in proportions: the shade, the butter, the nuts; it’s entirely subjective. For me, the perfect chocolate confection lies somewhere between a pecan blondie and a sombre, flour-less, nutty chocolate cake.

Which swept me right into the lap of this deep dark, spot-on fudgy brownie. It could be the only chocolate dessert I make all year.

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Very slightly adapted from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

I substituted “60 g of finest-quality cocoa powder” with an equal amount of additional regular chocolate (and so reduced the sugar very slightly). I also added pecans, of course.

2 cups (260 g) sugar

1 cup and 2 Tbsps (250 g) butter (more to butter the pan)

11 ounces (310 g) dark chocolate (70%)

3 eggs plus 1 yolk

1/2 cup (60 g) flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)

Take the butter out of the refrigerator to soften at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking tin, approximately 9″ (23 cm) square, with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan.

Prepare a pan of simmering water. Break the chocolate into pieces and set aside about 2 ounces (50 g). Melt the chocolate (except the 2 ounces) in a bowl sitting atop, but not in, the simmering water. Once melted, remove the chocolate from the heat and set aside to cool. Chop the remaining 2 ounces of chocolate into chip size pieces.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and softened butter thoroughly, until very light and creamy.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and whisk briefly with a spoon. Add the eggs to the sugar/butter mixture, little by little, stirring thoroughly in between.

Add the melted and the chopped chocolate.

Mix in the flour sifted together with the baking powder and a pinch of salt. Do not overstir, stop as soon as all the flour has disappeared.

Finally fold in the pecans, carefully with as few large strokes as possible.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking tin, smooth the top, and slide into the oven to bake for approximately 30. Test for doneness with the point of a sharp knife that should come out wet but without raw batter attached. Return to the oven for a few minutes if necessary until done. **The brownies will continue to solidify a bit once they are out of the oven, careful not to overcook!**

Let cool for at least an hour before cutting.

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Orange almond cake

Travel | Two meals in Québec City and a night at the bar

11 January 2013

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People don’t seem to gush forth with recommendations for restaurants in Québec City. Montréal is different, and off hand even I would know a few places I’d love to go to one day and might even recommend without having been. But we were off to Québec and had to eat, somehow. Every meal doesn’t have to be Joe Beef, but most cities have at least one café that makes a decent salad, or a diner that serves a good burger. I made a couple of timid social media attempts to snag recommendations and got only one response (thank you!) for a place outside Québec, which unfortunately wasn’t open when we were going.

It took one or two edible but unremarkable meals before I turned to Yelp and Chowhound, which pointed me in the direction of l’Echaudé, a simple and tasteful French bistro in the old city. It is by no means a ‘family restaurant'; our children were the only ones there, there are no designated kids’ options, but Louise was welcome with a jar of crayons to doodle directly onto the white paper tablecloth covers, and everyone found something very good to eat.

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The blood sausage (shaped like a slice of terrine) was possibly the silkiest I have ever eaten, there was an above average steak tartare. Salmon tartare was fine too. The desserts, especially the tarte au sucre (which I must learn to make!) and a grapefruit tarte, were outstanding. It is not a restaurant to warrant the trip; I am a rigid seasonal snob and I do cringe at the sight of fresh tomatoes and zucchini in December, but it was a fine meal, and a lovely place. So, absent any proper research, without having perused all the options, I am not implying it is the best place in Québec but nonetheless here it is: unequivocally a recommendation.

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For New Year’s we decided to have a hotel-room picnic, what with our brilliant view of the city fireworks. Thomas, who clearly has superior googling skills, discovered the Marché du Vieux-Port, promising feasts of Canadian products. Exactly what we were looking for. And so for a second recommendation.

At the Marché du Vieux-Port we found the mildest, flakiest, most delicious old-fashioned smoked salmon. The gentleman in line in front of me at Les Delices de la Mer urged me to also get the maple smoked salmon bites. Great advice. Les Canardises offered very good foie gras at remarquably decent prices. (I admit I was a bit envious of their flawlessly de-veined foie. Still have a bit to learn there.) There were amazing saucissons and excellent cheeses. As Mary had forewarned, finding Canadian, let alone Quebec wine was not easy. Mission Hill seemed the ubiquitous, reliable, readily available label. We drank champagne, too, from France. It was a feast, a fun and very delicious evening.

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After a couple of days in Québec City we went skiing. And so for a third, most unlikely recommendation. When in Mont Tremblant, the best bet for a decent, relatively affordable meal may very well be the bar of the comfortable Fairmont Hotel nestled just at the bottom of the slopes. Again, no serious research resulted in this realization, just one outrageously expensive, horrific burger at Bullseye Grill. The place advertizes itself as a sandwiches and burgers kind of place, but once inside most options were well north of $30. We learned later that it is virtually impossible to find a medium-rare burger in Québec, where they are always cooked medium-well, which should warn anyone to stay away. But at $18, one would expect that the burger, even cooked to oblivion, would at least be 100% beef. If only.

And so back to the cozy hotel bar, armchairs and low light, a few manhattans, a bottle of wine, chicken wings, steak tartare, duck confit salad, the children outside tubing into the evening and barely disturbing the air as they rush in for plate of crudités and a burger (medium well, real meat – still there is some irony in serving raw meat but not pink hash). One last martini… The best bet.

Happy New Year!

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L’Echaudé

73, rue Sault-au-Matelot
Vieux-Port
Québec, QC G1K 3Y9

1 418-692-1299

Lunch Mon-Fri 11.30 am-2 pm
Dinner from 5.30 pm
Brunch Sat-Sun from 10 am

www.echaude.com

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Marché du Vieux-Port

160 Saint-André Quai
Québec, QC G1K 3Y2

1 418-692-2517

Mon-Fri 9 am-6 pm
Sat-Sun 9 am-5 pm

www.marchevieuxport.com

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Nansen Lounge, Fairmont Tremblant

3045 Chemin de la Chapelle
Mont-Tremblant, QC J8E 1E1
1 866-540-4415
Daily 11 am-11 pm

www.fairmont.com/tremblant/dining/nansen-lounge/

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Breakfast in Montreal | Le Cartet and Olive + Gourmando

Eating out | Shack at the end of the road, Las Galeras, Samana, Dominican Republic


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