Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Maple Butternut Squash Risotto

Two of my absolute favourite things to cook are the jumping off point for this fantastic Sunday (or any other night) dinner... roast chicken and risotto. I see both as blank canvases where you can add seasonal flavours or elements to make a crowd-pleasing meal at any point during the year. A roast chicken and risotto in spring might feature loads of lemon, mint, and young new green peas. A roast chicken and risotto in the winter might feature root vegetables from the cold room, rosemary, and lots of red wine. 

On the cusp of a short fall and a clawing winter, I felt like this sort of comforting, transformative meal was exactly what our household needed after a long overdue weekend of relaxation and home time.

We visited our favourite Bridgeland Market on the weekend to gather some ingredients and also get our pumpkin for the annual market pumpkin giveaway... the jumping off point for the meal came as I walked down one of the aisles and spotted a can of Farmer's Market organic butternut squash (check out their products and the great recipes on their website.. I have bookmarked a few already). It seemed like the perfect starting place for this meal.

Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Herbes de Provence
Maple Butternut Squash Risotto
Maple Gravy

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Feta

Feta, feta, bo-beta.. banana fana pho feta.. fe fi fo... FETA. Yep, that was dorky. I couldn't resist. Or, more so, I couldn't get it out of my head... I'm sorry.

When our October challenge was issued, I had trouble deciding whether I would make the feta or the halloumi. Time was quite limited in October, so I knew that I wouldn't be able to make both in this month, though I had every intention of making the other cheese at some point down the line. 

I ended up choosing the feta. I had been having so much success and enjoying the low-and-slow goat cheeses and, thus, wanted to continue on with that roll. Plus, feta is one of those cheeses that I would buy but never considered making (obviously, until this challenge was issued). The aggressive salt, interesting texture, and sharp brine... it just seemed like too much to mess with at home. And, just like the chevre and cabecou and many other cheeses that I have been enjoying making, it really wasn't worth stressing over. I could manage it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Cabecou... maybe?

After so many pretty pictures of cabecou or "little goat" turned up on blogs and the Cheesepalooza facebook page, I had to try my hand at it. Take one look and I think you'll agree!

Cabecou is a classic French goat cheese that is formed into little rounds then aged or ripened for 10 to 15 days, according to our guide. It can be ripened into a soft spreadable cheese or left longer to reach a texture and firmness that you are able to grate. The one that caught my eye the most was the marinated version, which yielded both a supple and flavourful cheese as well as a fragrant oil that could be used for dipping or finishing. Though, after the success and rave reviews of the ricotta salata, I think I'm going to make not only the marinated version but also the dry salted versions again very soon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Ricotta Salata

Oh, ricotta salata... this is a cheese within a cheese. First, you need to make yourself some ricotta. You could opt for the whole milk ricotta or, as I did, you can build on flavour by utilizing whey ricotta. Then you salt and cure the ricotta to create a whole new cheese experience.

I made my whey ricotta using goat's whey and cow's milk, which made for a more complex yet still mild flavour profile. Since most commented that the ricotta salata was a fairly mild and innocuous cheese, I thought I would give it a bit more umph by using my combo whey ricotta.

So, once you've made your ricotta (in whatever form), you need to press it into a cheese mould, then salt it over the course of a week, then age it until it has reached whatever your ideal texture or density is, then eat it!

Cheesepalooza: DIY Cheese Moulds

Don't get me wrong, I love to throw myself into a project. I like to have all of the fancy supplies and gadgets. I try to not cut corners... mostly. :P I want to make an earnest effort and work hard to achieve the best result possible. All of that said, I had spent a few pennies purchasing the rennets and cultures and cloths required for the Cheesepalooza project but wasn't quite ready to purchase cheese moulds. Storage is at a premium in my small kitchen and I also wanted to be sure that, when I did purchase moulds, they would be moulds for cheeses that I would make again and again and again. Why buy a mould for a cheese that I didn't end up making or maybe didn't end up even liking?

So, I decided to DIY. Ian at Much Ado About Cheese has DIYed many of his cheesemaking supplies, so have Valerie, Addie, and Deb. I am reasonably handy... I can change light bulbs, assemble some Ikea furniture, and own a power drill. Ok, I'm not that handy and certainly a far cry from being a DIY Network star but I can get by. It was worth a few bucks and an attempt anyway...

I went off to the dollar store and found myself a few plastic BPA-free, food safe containers that I thought could function as reasonable moulds for my cheeses.

Cheesepalooza: Whey Ricotta

In making all of these cheeses, I have been left with an exorbitant amount of whey. Charlie the puppy absolutely loves this, as a bit of this on his kibble like cereal is enough to have him doing flips. The plants have loved it... though that season is coming to a close. I'm using it in bread. I can't quite get around to drinking it... just a mental block, I think. Maybe if I blend it into a smoothie?

One thing that I had to try in using up this whey was to make a whey ricotta. I thought I'd mix it up a little bit and make a whey ricotta using goat's milk whey and whole cow's milk.

I couldn't quite get the double-boiler bit coordinated... it's tough to find a pot big enough to fit a pot that fits two gallons of liquid! Instead, I opted for the single pot but warmed it extra slowly to compensate (it was more than 45 minutes to get to temperature).

The whole process was quite simple - heat, curdle, drain, cheese!

(It probably could have drained a weeeeee bit longer based on this photo...
but it was still soooooo good.)
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