Saturday, July 24, 2010

what does Emmy Lou Harris and Etran Finatawa have in common?

Cooking at La Cuisine, Chapter 2

For the most part, all the performers eat with the volunteers. They eat the same food in the same blue and white tent as all of us. On some occasions we have performers who request special meals. They might cite health reasons, religious reasons, cultural differences, but for whatever reasons they give we try to accommodate. This performers are on the road for a large part of their lives and it is important for themselves to keep themselves healthy and happy. Sometimes, the "green room" crew takes care of the performers food. Sometimes they come to me.

This year, i was asked to make fish for Emmy Lou Harris. "Anything but salmon, she is sick of salmon", I was told. So I thought, because she is in Manitoba, i'll cook her pickerel. I wanted to keep the fish in the same flavour profiles as the rest of the dinner, so I floured the pickerel with chick pea flour that i seasoned with a little cumin, and then served it with lime and chives.

A couple of days later, we were asked to make a special meal for Etran Finatawa, a band from Niger. When they came for lunch, they asked for rice. The chicken in salsa verde was going to be good, but they needed lots of rice. So Danielle ran out front (in our little golf cart) and got rice from the East India Company. For dinner, I was asked to make a meat curry and a veg curry with lots of rice. That evening, we were serving a greek inspired dinner with grilled lamb and an eggplant moussaka. So I took the ingredients and twisted them to make a lamb curry, an eggplant and chick pea curry and rice (this time we made the rice).

Emmy Lou Harris's Chick Pea Flour Pickerel

4 boneless fillets of Manitoba pickerel
1/2 cup chick pea flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
pinch of cayenne
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp lime zest
1 tbsp chopped chives (or green onion)
lime segments

1. combine flour with cumin, salt and cayenne. Dredge pickerel in this mixture
2. heat oil in a pan and add butter.
3. fry pickerel on one side for about a minute and a half. flip and fry the other side for the same.
4. Sprinkle pickerel with chives and lime zest. serve with lime segments.

Etran Finatwa's Lamb Curry

2 lbs boneless lamb leg, cut into stew sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 jalapeno, stemmed and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger minced
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 cinnamon stick
dried chilies (as hot as you like it)
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups water or stock
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp chopped cilantro

1. In a heavy bottomed pot brown the lamb. Do this in batches so you get nice colour. remove lamb from pot.
2. add onions carrots and celery to pot and cook till onions start to brown. Add spices and cook for a couple minutes. Put lamb back in pot. Add all the remaining ingredients except the mint and cilantro. Stew lamb on low heat for about 2 hours. (If you are a slow cooker type, this would work great in one of those) until it is very tender.
3. mixed chopped herbs into stew. serve with rice.

Etran Finatawa Eggplant and Chick Pea Curry

1 tbsp oil
1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch dice
1 small onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp coriander seed
chilies to taste
1 can chickpeas, drained, or one cup dried chick peas soaked and cooked
1 cup apple juice

1. in heavy pot sauté onions and peppers until onions are caramelized a little. Add eggplant and spices, sauté for a few minutes.
2. Add chickpeas and apple juice. Cover and simmer for about 1/2 an hour. Veggies should be tender and all the flavours nicely combined. Serve this with rice

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cooking at la Cuisine

Bison Short Ribs with Maple and Chipotle

700kg bison short ribs (6000 pieces)
24 cans chipotle in adobo
2 x 4L jugs maple syrup
12 x 4L jugs pancake syrup
6 x 4L jugs soy sauce
4 x 50lbs yellow onions
500 ml salt
500 ml chili powder
500 ml pepper
12 x 100oz cans ketchup
60L water
1. Dice onions. Puree chipotle in adobo.
2. place shortribs in 18"x24" tinfoil pans. You will need about 80 pans.
3. combine onions, chipotle, syrups, soy sauce ketchup and spices.
4. pour syrup mixture into pans on top of short ribs. Cover pans with tin foil.
5. Put pans in Hot Hot Hots set at 275F overnight. Roast until falling off the bone tender.

This is a typical recipe of La Cuisine. We are the people who feed all the performers, volunteers staff and special guests of the Winnipeg Folk Festival. This amounts to about 4000 meals, three times a day for five days. In between meals and late at night we offer a continuous stream of snacks. We run the kitchen with a crew of about 250 volunteers. Some of these people are chefs, but most of them are teachers, social workers, mechanics and any thing but a cook.

folk fest size normal person batch
48 100 oz cans chickpeas 1 28oz can chickpeas
12 Litres tahini 1/4 cup tahini
6 L olive oil 1/2 cup olive oil
5 L lemon juice 1/3 cup lemon juice
2 kg garlic, minced 1 clove garlic, minced (or more)
750 ml cumin 1 tsp cumin
250 ml paprika 1/3 tsp paprika
125 ml cayenne pinch cayenne
500 ml salt 2/3 tsp salt (to taste)

1. puree chickpeas with tahini.
2. add lemon juice, garlic and spices. puree.
3. with food processor going, drizzle in olive oil to emulsify.
4. serve with grilled pita and olives

One week before the folk festival begins, we have no kitchen. A crew comes in to set us up with 16 bbq's, 8 rented flat top grills, 5 coke coolers, 50 or so folding banquet tables, and 6 hot hots. The hot hots are ovens (of my invention) that were built by the hutterites for us. They are 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide and three feet deep. They are made of heavy industrial strength steel. The racks inside are made out of rebar. These ovens are heated with tiger torches that we stick in the bottom. The first three I had built used one torch per oven. Fully cranked, these would heat to about 325F. We call these the hot hot hots. The second set of three, I had set up to use 2 tiger torches per oven. These heat up to about 500F. We call these the über-hots. Our refrigeration comes in the way of 2 53' reefer trailers and one 30' freezer trailer.

Three Bean Salad
normal person batch

1 can kidney beans
1 can chick peas
1 bag frozen green beans (or 1 lb fresh green beans trimmed, blanched and cooled)
1 stalk celery
2 green onions
few sprigs of parsley

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch dried chilies
1/4 tsp fennel seed

1. chop celery, onion and parsley. drain and rinse beans
2, combine dressing ingredients.
3. toss beans and veggies with dressing. This is best if you make it a day before you need to serve it.

Our kitchen was started 36 or so years ago by a man named Harry Paine. He established a tradition of serving a very high calibre of cuisine. He and folk fest founder Mitch Podolak felt that if you fed performers and volunteers well, they would be happier, they would work harder, they would come back the next year and and they might even work for less money. So, carrying on the tradition, we can't get away with serving chili and hot dogs for 5 days in a row. We put together a menu that includes things like bbq leg of lamb, lentil mousskka, jerk chicken, pulled pork with biscuits and gravy, wild rice casserole, and meatloaf (both a meat version and a veggie version with mushroom "un-gravy"). We need to make sure we have food for meat lovers, vegetarians, vegans, people with gluten or lactose intolerance and a wide range of allergies and religious restrictions. Each meal is centered around a theme or a culinary style. Friday lunch we had perogies and farmer sausage. Saturday lunch with set up a taco bar with black beans, chicken in salsa verde or slow roasted pork "carnitas". Our desserts include maple blueberry creme brulee (done with a tiger torch), upside down chocolate pudding cake, and something I called "fake baklava". On sunday we did a brunch with bacon, sausage, hash browns, cheesy scrambled eggs, fruit salad and a baked apple pancake.

Baked Apple Pancake

1 cup apple pie filling (store bought, or if you are feeling fancy, sautee apples with brown sugar, butter and a pinch of cinnamon)
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

1. in a greased 9 x 13" pan spread apple pie filling.
2. combine eggs, milk, flour and baking powder. DO NO OVERMIX.
3. spread pancake batter over apple pie filling
4. bake in a 400F oven for 15 minutes until puffy, firm and golden brown.
5. combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over pancake.

Cinnamon Cider Syrup

1 cup apple juice or cider
2 cups brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

1. combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer until "syrupy".
2. serve warm with baked aple pancake.

So this, my friends, is how I spent my summer holidays. In order to feed all these people, I build a recipe book (actually a data base) of 103 recipes. I have included just a small sampling. If you want specific recipes, or menus, just leave a comment on this blog and I will add your requested recipe to this page. Thanks, see you all at the festival next year!!!

I would like to thank all of our volunteers for their hard work. I would like to thank the folk festival staff for their support. I would like to thank our suppliers for their products and donations. And I would like to thank all of you volunteers and performers for enjoying our food and for making us feel so good about it. Thank You, happy Folk Fest!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Haute Campfire, vol. 1

How to elevate your campsite fare.

Alright happy campers, there is more to campfire cooking than weiners roasted on sticks, beans straight out of the can and s’mores. The beauty of campfire cooking is that everything you make tastes better. So if you are an alright cook at home, you will be awesome out here. To make life easier, I always pack little ziploc bags with spices. I make blends, my mexican blend with chilies, cumin and coriander, my imediterranean blend with oregano, rosemary, thyme, you get the idea. I also make little baggies of pancake batter, bannock dough, pizza dough and the like. You can mix all the dry ingredients, (including instant yeast) and the fat and then you just need to add water at the campsite. Be careful if you have to cross the border, there might be some ‘splainin’ to do.

One real quick meal is asian noodles It can all be done in one pan, and you can use whatever veggies and meats you have on hand. (at the folk fest camground, you can go get some veggies from our little porduce stand, a luxury you don’t have when camping in the deep dark woods) When I camp, I always like to bring a bag of frozen cleaned and deveined shrimp. It keeps your cooler cold, and can be turned into a light snack or quick meals. Those little tetra packs of tofu are great for the campsite as well.. To make campsite chow mein, slice up your veggies into bite size pieces. You want to take advantage of the campfire’s quick unpredictable heat so slice everything fairly thin. If you are using beef or chicken, slice it thin, shrimp is right out of the bag. tofu cut into ½ inch bricks. You can also crack open a can of chick peas or kidney beans if that is what you have. Heat you frying pan over the fire. Pour in a little oil. Quickly sautee your protein, add your veggies. If you brought ginger, garlic or chilies add it now. Now here’s the trick, you need to save those little pacakges of soy sauce you get with chinese takeout. Add some soy sauce to the pan and a little splash of ketchup (everyone always has ketchup at the campsite). The ketchup adds as little sweetness, some tang and that glossy chinese stirfry look. Now add your noodles. I like those little mini packs of steamed udon noodles, or those steamed chow mein egg noodles work great. Try to get a noodle that is already fully cooked. Even you instant ”mr. noodles” would work. Add a splash of water or apple juice to heat the noodles and make a sauce. Garnish your noodles with a little toasted peanuts, trail mix or everyone’s camprgound favourite “gorp” for a little texture.

I love to do Huevos Rancheros on the campfire. You use salsa to protect your egg from the inconsistent heat of the campfire. To make, heat salsa in a frying pan. When it comes to a low boil drop in one or more eggs. Poach to desired doneness. If it is getting too hot, remove pan from heat. It will continue to poach with its own heat. Heat up a toritlla on the side of the grill. Drop egg and some salsa onto the tortilla. Garnish with cheese, lettuce, tomato, green onion, or whatever you have.

For something more substantial, I make cast iron cassoulet. Grill sausages, whatever sausages you may have. Sautee bacon and onions in a cast iron pan. add a sprig of thyme or rosemary. Add tomatoes, the grilled sausage and canned beans. (you can use white beans, black beans or even libby’s brown beans). Season with salt and pepper. Then take some bread crumbs, or crumble up some stale bread and mix it wth butter. Sprinkle crumb on top of cassoulet. Classic french cooking over a campfire!

For dessert, here is a great cast iron rocky road brownie recipe. In a bowl mix 6 tablespoons cocoa, 1 cup sugar, and ¼ tsp salt (you could have this all done ahead in a little baggie) Mix in ½ cup vegetable oil or butter with 2 eggs. Grease your heaviest pan with oil or butter. I like to bring a cast iron pan camping, In the pan toast about ½ cup nuts. You can use walnuts, pecans, peanuts, whatever you have. Get the nuts nice and hot, because these will help cook the batter from the inside out. Spread batter into the pan. Sprinkle with with chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. If you have any caramel candies, throw those in as well. You can even add broken up cookies or chocolate bars. The whole thing is going to look like a mess, but will taste fantastic. Keep pan away from the hottest flame and when the batter is about half cooked remove from the heat and cover with a large plate, pizza pan or tin foil. Let the heat of the pan fininsh cooking the batter. Dig in!