Friends

Grilled Corn Soup with Bacon

Our amazing friend JC (who was the best man at our wedding) and his girlfriend Lea, were visiting with us last week from Edmonton. The night before they flew home, we debated heading into Halifax for dinner, however, after touring around Nova Scotia, visiting friends and family for ten days, JC and Lea were kind of tired. We collectively agreed to stay home, drink some beer, fire up the grill and play Apples to Apples.

Sent on a mission to the grocery store to buy cheddar smokies and chips, the boys, including our friend Colin, returned with a Sobeys bag full of fresh Nova Scotia corn.

Fresh corn. It's so different than canned or frozen. It's sweet, crunchy, loaded with flavour, and, with a little char from the grill tastes like summer, despite the cool nights.

So... guess what happens when five people are sitting around drinking beer, eating smokies and chips and a huge platter of grilled corn hits the table?

You guessed it.

Because everyone is already stuffed, you end up wrapping a bunch of cobs in tinfoil and putting them in the fridge. The next day, after everyone's gone home, you pull the tinfoil pack out of the fridge and ask yourself, 'What the heck am I going to do with this?'.

I did all of the above except I had an answer to the question.

'I'm going to make soup!', I said, and so, I gathered a little inspiration here, and here and then played the rest by ear.

Ha ha. Get it? Played the rest 'by ear'?

Ummmm. Ok. Here is the super delicious recipe.

 

Grilled Corn Soup with Bacon (yields about 1.25 L of soup)

5 ears of corn, husks and silks removed, grilled until corn has lots of toasty char (or roasted in oven until lots of brown bits)

5 Cups water

1 tsp sea salt

1 Tbsp butter

1 small onion, chopped

3 green onions, chopped (these are not essential - I just happened to have some growing in my garden)

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 Cup milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

5-6 strips bacon, cooked, crumbled

- Use Season's and Suppers Steps 1, 2 and 3 (I used 1 Cup of water per ear of corn + 1 tsp sea salt in the water)

- Melt butter in a sautée pan - cook onions and garlic until just translucent - set aside 1 Cup of corn kernels - add the rest of the corn, plus the stuff you scraped from the cobs with the back of you knife, to the onions and garlic and top with corn stock and milk

- Bring to a boil then simmer 15 minutes

- Add salt and pepper then purée soup thoroughly with an immersion blender

- In batches, sieve soup into a large bowl/container through a fairly fine mesh strainer - really press on the corn solids to extract all of the soup from the pulp - discard pulp

- Add crumbled bacon plus reserved corn kernels and serve

* I like to take a cue from da Maurizio and add a drizzle of white truffle oil as a garnish. Extra flavour and richness is never a bad thing in my books.

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Traditional Cornish Pasties (or as close as you can get in Nova Scotia)

One day, not too long ago, I texted Kris, one of my oldest friends, a photo of a cheese and onion pasty I had picked up at a cute little food shop near my house.

'Look!', I typed, excitedly. 'A delicious Cornish Pasty!'.

'That's not a Cornish Pasty', came the reply.

'Oh', I wrote, rather dejected. 'Then what am I eating?!?'

And here began Kris and my eventual foray into pasty making together.

You see, my friend Kris is from Cornwall, England where the Cornish Pasty is the region's fiercely loved official dish. The story goes, that the pasty was invented for the local tin miners because they could eat them, using the crust as a handle, without having to wash their hands. Kris told me that sometimes the pasties would be filled with meat in one half and jam in the other so the miners could have lunch and dessert all in one neat little edible package.

According to Wikipedia, the Cornish Pasty accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy, is the food most associated with Cornwall by the rest of the UK, and, in 2011 was awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status by the European Union. 'In order to receive the PGI status, the entire product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured (prepared, processed OR produced) within the specific region and thus acquire unique properties'.

In other words, the people of Cornwall take their pasties VERY seriously.

Kris says that a traditional Cornish Pasty can be made with either a flaky crust or a shortcrust - it doesn't really matter because the pastry is not the main debate. Most discussion focuses on what should go inside the pasty - skirt/chuck/flank steak, potato, swede, onion, salt and pepper and that's it - and as Kris told me 'everyone's got an opinion'. When I ask about sauce he says, 'I usually put a bit of butter inside because who doesn't love a bit of butter?'.

'What about carrot?' I ask, thinking about my mum's delicious meat pies.

'It's wrong to put carrot in' says Kris.

'Why?', I ask. 

'It's not traditional', he says.

Now, of couse, living in Nova Scotia means we can't actually make a TRUE Cornish Pasty, but we came damn close.

Kris and I drove to the Halifax Seaport Market on a sunny Saturday morning to pick up the ingredients for our pasties - potatoes, onions and turnip from Taproot Farms and a beautiful 1 pound skirt steak from Getaway Meat Mongers.

We used this recipe for the pastry except instead of 75g of shortening, we used 50g of shortening and 25g of butter. 

We eyeballed the amount of steak, potato, onion and turnip. We diced each ingredient and mixed it all together with lots of salt and pepper.

Then we rolled out our pastry.

We cut the dough into large circles and filled them with the steak mixture. We topped our steak mix with a few knobs of butter and a sprinkle of flour for thickening.

We then sealed the edges of the pastry with a little water and tried to crimp the edges like we knew what we were doing. The one on the left is my attempt, the one on the right is Kris'. Hmmm...

Brush the top of each pasty with some beaten egg and then bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes, until deep golden brown all over.

No photograph will ever do justice to the moment when Kris and I sat down in his living room, him on the couch, me on the floor, both of us ooohing and aaaahing over each and every bite of our crisp, flaky, golden pasties.

I think the thing I love most is that, not only do I now have an amazing recipe to add to my collection, but, every time I make it for the rest of my life, I will think of my friend.

New Orleans

I flew to Houston in March to visit my beautiful friend Cathy for five days. Cathy's husband Chad is a commercial airline pilot and they're based out of Houston because it's a major hub for his airline. I know one of the perks of working for a large successful airline is the free flights but wasn't I completely surprised and over-the-moon when I arrived in Texas and Cathy told me she had an overnight New Orleans adventure planned for us!! We were only in NOLA for 24 hours and I'll be honest, most of our time there was spent drinking Hurricanes and so, albeit brief, here is part one of our adventure.

Cathy and I freshly arrived in NOLA, me with the first Hurricane of the day in hand. Uh oh. (Instagram pic)

 

Jazz band playing in the middle of the street.

 

Taking a break.

 

Blue cat - It's all good!

 

Cathy taking a pic of the famous Blue Dogs for her friend Sean.

 

At the corner of Jackson Square - looked as good a place as any to stop for lunch!

 

Lunch at Muriel's on Jackson Square with Hurricane #2. I had a wicked fish dish here - Roasted Puppy Drum with Crawfish and Pecan Butter Sauce. It was fabulous.

 

Inside the atrium at Muriel's.

 

The view into one of the main dining rooms from the atrium at Muriel's.

 

Relatively new by-law around Jackson Square - so refreshing!

 

Saint Louis Cathedral

 

Buskers doin' their thang for the huge crowds.

 

This kind of street art abounds everywhere.

 

It takes all kinds to make the world go round!

 

Lacy skull mask. Where would you wear this - Mardi Gras?

 

Cathy with her mudslide in front of The French Market.

 

WTF is a Swamp Burger?!?

 

Gator PoBoys at pretty much every stall. I didn't try one.

 

Gator Sausage

 

Love the chalkboards everywhere.

 

Fried Green Tomatoes!! I shot this for my friend Dave - it's his favourite movie.

 

Poor little gators.

 

Pat O'Briens for Hurricanes. It's all downhill from here.

 

And, here we have the final shot of me before things got really out of hand. Cathy and I made a pact - what happens in NOLA stays in NOLA.

 

Messy. This is the point where I looked at Cathy and said 'I have to take my camera back to the hotel now'. We meandered our way through the streets back to the hotel and documented the rest of our evening adventure on our iPhones. Smart move. Until I lost mine. But that's another story...

 

And... we found Jesus on our way back to the hotel. Maybe it was a sign? Although at this point, neither of us would have been very good at reading signs. (Instagram pic)

How to Host a Crawfish Boil

One of the major highlights of my trip to Texas in March was the crawfish boil my friends CC and Chad hosted at their house. Now, I'm no expert, but I think I can give you a pretty good breakdown on how to host your own crawfish boil!

Step One - Find a roadside crawfish shack (Hmmm, we may not have much luck with this in Nova Scotia...). We bought 2 sacks of crawfish and 2 plastic containers of homemade seasoning.

(iPhone pics)

(iPhone pics)

Step Two - Dump your sacks of crawfish into a large clean cooler.

Step Three - Sprinkle the wriggling critters with copious amounts of salt. They don't like that. Apparently it helps 'purge' them if you catch my drift.

Step Four - Fill cooler with fresh clean water.

Repeat steps three and four 2 more times. You want to get as much mud and poo out of their little systems as possible!!

Step Five - Fill a HUGE pot - this one is specifically for boils of this sort and is connected to the propane BBQ tank - with water and turn on the heat. Add one container of seasoning to water. 

Step Six - While water is heating, drain crawfish in the basket that comes with the huge pot and rinse out the cooler.

 

 

 

 

Step Seven - Add whole small potaotes, onions, mushrooms and corn to the boiling seasoned water. Once potatoes are cooked through, scoop all vegetables out of water and set aside.

 

Step Eight - Lower basket of crawfish into boiling water. They're done when they turn the colour of a cooked lobster. While waiting for them to cook, make sauce for dipping - mayonnaise, ketchup and Tabasco. Surprisingly good!

 

Step Nine - By now you will be very thirsty. Walk to the fridge and grab a Shiner. Open it. Drink it.

Step 10 - Remove basket of cooked crawfish from pot. Dump into clean cooler. Add cooked potatoes, mushrooms, onions and corn as well as second container of seasoning. Mix and then close lid for a few minutes to steam. Open cooler, reach in and scoop out large bowls of goodness.

 

Step Eleven - Cover tables with newspaper and grab at LEAST one roll of paper towel. Pull the tail off of a crawfish and pull out the teeny tiny little piece of meat. Eat the meat and discard the rest of the body into a pile on the newspaper. Repeat.

 

It's all for this one little morsel...

 

Step Twelve - Drink beers and laugh a lot. Before your friends leave, bribe them with another Shiner and get them to help you pick the meat out of the mountain of remaining crawfish.

 

Step Thirteen - Repeat on an annual basis.