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In keeping with my renewed interest in nihonryouri, I decided to play around a bit with sushi.

I’m not exactly a sushi fanatic; put it in front of me and I’ll eat it, but I generally don’t bother making it myself. There are a couple of reasons for that – first, when it comes to family get-togethers, my father takes on the role of the sushi itamae (chef). For whatever reason, the old guy likes spending hours cooking rice, slicing fish, and rolling nori.

Secondly, I don’t particularly like nori. Don’t get me wrong, I am not repulsed by it or anything like that, but it’s not going to be the first thing I think of whenever I’m hungry.

But, as I’ve been told once or twice, the world does not revolve around me. Folks want to learn how to make sushi, so I need to brush up on my sushi making skills, end of story.

Well, not really. If it were the end of the story, then this would be a really short blog post.

In any case, I decided that I needed to put my own spin on things, since any schmuck (no offence, Dad!) can make sushi with tuna, or salmon, or…..well, you get the idea.

So, I decided to go with supaishii kani, or spicy crab. Now, spicy crab isn’t exactly unheard of in the sushi world, but every version I’m familiar with uses sriracha as the heat element. I’m a Japanese man, I was making a Japanese dish, and by Inari, I was going to use Japanese ingredients!

(Inari-no-Kami is the Japanese god of food. Bit of a geek moment, sue me)

To that end, I came up with the brilliant idea of making a tobanjan aioli to mix in with the crab meat. Tobanjan is a paste made from fermented soybeans, rice, and chilis. A sort of spicy miso, for all intents and purposes. It’s also known as doubanjiang in Sichuan cuisine. It’s hot. Like, really hot.

The aioli idea was a direct result of a burger that I had eaten the week before. No, seriously. I went to a restaurant that offers a “build your own burger” option, and one of the toppings was a chipotle aioli, so my twisted little mind figured that I could substitute one spicy element for another. It was a good idea in theory, but…..I hit a snag.

I discovered that aioli, in any flavor, is damned bloody hard to make. I found a nice egg, beat the hell out of it, then added about three drops of oil and continued to beat the mixture together, until it looked like it was ready. I then started to add the rest of the oil with one hand while I worked the whisk with the other, waiting for my aioli to emulsify.

Didn’t happen. Didn’t happen the second time I tried, either. Nor the third. Eventually, I decided to quit before I ran out of eggs, and tried to figure out what I was going to do. Then it hit me – Japanese mayonnaise.

No, I was not attacked by Japanese mayonnaise, I just remembered that I had some in the refrigerator. If you’re not familiar with it, Japanese mayonnaise is made with either apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, as opposed to the distlled vinegar found in “western” mayonnaise, which gives it a very different flavor. The Japanese version also tends to be thinner in texture.

Anyhow…..I had Japanese mayo, I had tobanjan, and in short order, I had a spicy, aioli-like substance to add to the crabmeat that I had procured from the grocery store. REAL crabmeat, not that imitation crap. I mixed it all together, then started assembling the maki.

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I didn’t really measure anything, since I was merely trying it out, but to the best of my recollection, it went something like this:

6 oz crabmeat
4 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
2 tbsp tobanjan

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Once that is done, pop the mixture into the refrigerator while you get your sushi rice together:

2 cups cooked Japanese short grain white rice (1 cup uncooked rice makes 2 cups cooked)
Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup

Oh, you never heard of Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup? Well, it’s not a secret. You can actually buy something similar:
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If you want to make it at home, add 1 cup of rice vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar and salt dissolve. Let it cool to room temperature before using.

Moving right along, place the cooked rice in a large, non-metallic bowl and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the syrup over the rice as you gently spoon the rice from the bottom of the bowl up to the top, continuing until all of the syrup is incorporated into the rice.

If you don’t know how to roll makizushi, I found a random instructional video to help you out, since I’m too lazy to type it out myself.

I can tell you just by looking at the rice, that girl was NOT using Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup. Or even the bottled stuff. When you use the syrup, your rice takes on a beautiful, glossy sheen that is quite visually appealing. The rice sticks together better, too.

Anyhow, in addition to the crab mixture, I decided to throw in some avocado to balance out the heat a bit:
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And, after some nifty knife skills,
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While I still don’t particularly care for maki, I’ve already begun to think up new applications for the crab mixture, so I suppose this little experiment was not in vain.

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Back to the roots

I mentioned a while back that I had the opportunity to attend a cooking class with an amazing local chef at Get Cooking Edmonton. During the class, the instructor, Kathryn, mentioned that she was going to be teaching a Japanese class in the near future, which naturally grabbed my attention immediately. I offered to provide her with a few recipes, which she graciously accepted.

After looking over the recipes, Kathryn offered to let me attend the class as a “special guest”. Alas, my schedule was just too full, and I had to decline.

Nah, I’m just messing with you. I jumped at the chance. Getting to watch a pro in action is a huge treat for me, so I was extremely grateful for her generosity.

Maybe it’s just my ego talking, but I thought the class went over quite well. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and folks were blasting questions at me so fast I thought I was playing paintball. I just hope I was able to provide them with semi-coherent answers.

Kathryn asked me to return for a second class, at which point I figured I should brush up on my nihonryouri.

That’s Japanese cooking, if you were wondering.

On a recent road trip to Calgary, AB, I stopped in at a popular Japanese restaurant and had a lovely buta no shogayaki dish. While it’s not “fancy” by any stretch of the imagination, I still love that stuff. It’s tasty, it’s easy to make, and it’s fast. What’s not to like?

Oh, by the way:
buta – pork
shoga – ginger
yaki – grilling/grilled

So, ginger pork. The second most popular pork dish in Japan. As with most of the food I eat in restaurants, I decided that I needed to be able to make it at home, and given my newfound motivation to expand my nihonryouri arsenal, I began searching through my culinary library to see what I could find.

To my surprise, I had a few different versions of this fantastic dish. Sumo being Sumo, I did a little mixing and matching of ingredient amounts and cooking techniques, and came up with a fairly tasty creation.

Now, before I get to the recipe, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the star of this dish, the pork. One might think that all pork is created equal, but that’s just not the case. For starters, to make buta no shogayaki, you need a nice, tender cut of pork. Namely, the tenderloin. Now, you could head down to your local grocery store and find pork tenderloin, but in my experience, grocery store meats can be a little on the flavorless side. Granted, you’re going to be adding flavor to this dish, but what’s the point of eating pork if you can’t taste, well…..pork?

On the other hand, if you have a kickass butcher like I do, then your pork woes are over. Your butcher can not only provide you with quality meat, but they can also recommend an alternative to pork tenderloin if you’re on a budget.

HOWEVER, my friends, if you want the pinnacle of porcine perfection in nihonryouri, then you need to find yourself some Berkshire pork. Berkshire pork, known as kurobuta (black pig) in Japan, is the most flavorful pork you will ever has the privledge of putting in your mouth. If you’ve ever heard of wagyu, or Kobe beef, kurobuta is widely considered to be the pork equivalent to wagyu.

Fortunately (for me, at least), a local pork farm specializes in raising these beautiful, tasty animals. Any pork that enters my kitchen originates from that farm.

And then ends up in my belly. Circle of life, y’all.

Anyhow, since I’m sure that you’re tired of my pontificating, on with the show:

Buta no Shogayaki

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced. REALLY thin. Like, paper thin.
1/3 cup shoyu (Japanese soy sauce – Sumo recommends Kikkoman)
1/4 cup mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
2 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 tbsp grated ginger
canola oil
toasted sesame seeds

In a bowl, mix together shoyu, ginger and mirin.

Add pork slices then marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Remove pork from bowl then reserve the marinade.

Add small amount of oil in a wok, turn heat on high then once it starts to smoke sauté meat for around 2 minutes. You may want to do this in batches, in order to avoid over cooking the meat.

Pour marinade into pan then stir for 30 seconds. If you’re cooking the pork in batches, add the marinade in batches as well.

Remove from wok then serve over rice, and garnish with the toasted sesame seeds. Shredded cabbage is the “traditional” companion, but I had it with some pickled daikon and carrots.

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Sandwich of the Gods

A while back, while perusing a forum that I belong to, I stumbled across a post describing something called a shooter sandwich. After I stopped drooling, I added it to the very long list of Things To Try In The Kitchen.

I mean, come on! Ribeye steak, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, and onions. Why WOULDN’T I try it? Did I mention the bacon?

This morning, I finally got around to it. I have decided that “shooter sandwich” just doesn’t do this work of absolute magnificence justice, so I have renamed it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Sandwich of the Gods.

Naturally, one begins by assembling the ingredients:
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Next, saute the mushrooms and onions together:
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Hollow out the big ol’ loaf of bread:
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Fry up those beautiful rib-eyes:
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Then start putting everything together. Slather some dijon mustard into the bread shell, put one of the rib-eyes on top of the mustard, and cover the steak with your favorite barbecue sauce, followed by half of the mushroom and onion mixture:
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Add some cheese. I went with sliced Provolone that I bought at The Italian Centre.:
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Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the next layer, but it consisted of bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. Followed by the rest of the mushrooms and onions:
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Then the other rib-eye:
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Moar cheese:
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Then you put the top back on the bread, and wrap everything in two layers of parchment paper:
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After the parchment paper, wrap it in aluminum foil. You may want to leave out the slightly illegal item, though:
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And now for the odd bit; weigh the sandwich down and leave it for 6 to 8 hours. This compresses everything together, and keeps the sandwich from falling apart when you chow down:
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After an agonizing wait, the finished product. Trust me, the crappy iPhone picture does not accurately portray the awesomeness of this sandwich:
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And there you be. Enjoy.

Fit to be Thai’d

So once again, I have been slacking off when it comes to my blog. When I think about all of the dishes I’ve cooked in the past 10 months, I almost feel guilty for not sharing.

I say “almost” since I’m still not convinced anyone reads this stuff.

Anyhow….right around the time I posted the last entry, a girl that I know mentioned that she was planning a trip to Thailand, but she was a little apprehensive about the food. Being the caring and considerate human being that I am (ha!), I offered to provide her with some Thai dishes in order to acclimatize her palate before her trip.

Sadly, my picture taking skills are non-existent, so please bear with me:

Coconut Dumplings.
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Thai wontons:
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Pad Thai. One of the best know dishes of Thailand.
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Chicken Satays. These were served with a peanut sauce, but I forgot to take a picture of that. You’re not missing much, though – it kind of looks like soupy peanut butter.
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And finally, sticky rice with mangoes. Rice for dessert is common in Thailand. It’s also damned tasty.
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I also recently had the opportunity to attend a cooking class hosted by two fantastic local chefs. The subject of that class? Thai, of course. Check out the talented and friendly Kathryn and Michelle at Get Cooking Edmonton.

I make-a da meatballs

For whatever reason, I’ve been cooking a lot of Italian cuisine lately. Might have something to do with the pasta machine I received for Christmas, or it might be because I’m a little infatuated with Giada De Laurentis. In any case, I’ve been churning out lasagna, ravioli, and fettuccine dishes like you wouldn’t believe.

Since I am, at heart, a meatatarian, I try to incorporate as much meat into every dish as I possibly can. To that end, I’ve recently discovered an amazing local butcher shop, Acme Meat Market, located at 9531-76 ave here in Edmonton, AB, as well as a local farmer who raises Berkshire pigs, Irvings Farm. For the last few weeks, Acme has been my go to spot for beef, and Irvings Farm for pork.

With amazing suppliers with these, I figured the best way to make use of all this wonderful meaty goodness would be to make meatballs. Since I couldn’t find a recipe that I liked, I did a little mixing and matching, and came up with a pretty decent concoction of my own:

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Since I was just messing around, the “recipe” is kind of fluid. Also, I was in the mood to freestyle the amounts:

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
finely diced red bell pepper, maybe 3 or 4 tbsp
about 1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg
about 1/4 cup bread crumbs, maybe more, maybe less. Used panko, since that was all I had on hand
about 1 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
Marinara sauce, about 3 cups.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Mix everything in a large bowl. Roll into balls, however large or small you like. Mine were about the size of golf balls. Place the meatballs on a broiler pan.
Brown the meatballs in the oven. Add to marinara sauce and simmer until cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Marinara sauce:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.
I dislike “chunky” marinara sauce, so I ran the vegetables through my food processor instead of chopping them. YMMV.
Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

So there I was last week, sitting at the table, trying to figure out what to do with the leftover bacon from my bacon waffle experiment (I promise, I’ll come back to that one). I tossed about the idea of bacon wrapped shrimp (yum!), bacon wrapped scallops (double yum!!), then I had an epiphany – I’ve never tried wrapping bacon around PORK before! In my head, it sounded somewhat similar to filet mignon, which, let’s be honest, is friggin’ amazing. With that in mind, it was off to the grocery store to obtain some nice pork tenderloin.

But, just wrapping a strip of bacon around a piece of tenderloin sounded kind of bland. It needed some elan, some pizazz – it needed some Sumo-rizing!!!! In the spirit of Sumo-rizing, I decided to give it a bit of a teriyaki twist. Because you just can’t go wrong with teriyaki.

As delightful as this was starting to sound, I figured that I needed to serve something with it. All that thinking about filet mignon lead my convoluted little mind around to my favorite chain steakhouse, The Keg, and their awesome twice baked potatoes. Now, I do not do a lot with potatoes. Sure, put some in front of me and I’ll eat them, but cooking them isn’t really my thing. Why cook a potato when you could cook rice? In addition to the fact that it’s rice, you also get the option of having fried rice the next day.

But, I digress. A quick burst of Google-fu revealed a fairly simple (and tasty) looking recipe for a twice baked potato, so I figured “what the hell”.

It turned out fairly well, but I think the recipe will get a few tweaks the next time I make it. Just needs a little diversity in the flavor profile.

Anyway, this is what my dinner looked like last Tuesday:

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Yes, yes, I know……the presentation needs work.

Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin:

1 pork tenderloin, roughly 1 pound
Bacon
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp sake

Cut the tenderloin into chunks approx. the same width as the bacon. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and sake in a bowl or baking dish. Place the tenderloin in the bowl and toss to coat well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Wrap a piece of bacon around each medallion, affixing each strip with a toothpick and trimming off the excess and saving for some other bacony goodness. Place the medallions on a foil lined baking sheet, and roast for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy and the pork is fully cooked.

Twice baked potatoes:

2 medium to large baking potatoes
cooking spray (optional)
sea salt (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
3 to 4 slices of crisp fried bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
paprika to taste

Spray the potatoes with cooking oil, and then grind some sea salt on them. Place them in an oven-proof dish and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
While the potatoes are baking, combine 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup chopped green onions, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a dash of black pepper. Cover this mixture with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it while your potatoes cook.
When your potatoes are done, split each of them into two equal halves with a knife. Since they will be hot, hold them with a potholder while you scoop out the potato meat. Place the potato meat in a dish, and reserve the potato shells.
Mix the potato meat with the mixture that you have previously made. Now blend in the crisp, crumbled bacon. Spoon this mixture evenly into the four empty potato shells. Sprinkle the top of each potato half with Cheddar cheese, to taste. Finally, sprinkle the potatoes with paprika, to taste. You may freeze the potato halves at this point, but be sure to thaw them before you bake them.
When ready to bake, if the potatoes are refrigerated or cool, let them come to room temperature. Then bake them in an oven-proof dish for 20 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees. If they are cool when you put them in the oven, it will take a little longer.

Mmm…..chili

So it’s no secret that I watch the Food Network a lot. In addition to being entertaining, I get a lot of new ideas for my culinary experiments.

Lately I’ve been seeing a commercial with Rachel Ray hawking Ziploc bags, which she then uses to store her ancho-chipotle turkey chili. That got me thinking – “Hey, I like chili. I like chipotle, and I’ve got a bag of ancho leftover from that chicken molѐ experiment! Let’s DO THIS!!”

The only thing that made me pause was the turkey. Not really something that I would normally want to see in my chili. But, that was a snag that was easily rectified. I used beef instead. Because I’m badass like that. I also threw in a can of red kidney beans, since I like beans in mah chili. And for once, I took the time to snap a few crappy iPhone pics while I was cooking.

Started with seeding/stemming the dried ancho chiles. I’m sure there must be some sort of technique to do this more efficiently, but I’ll be damned if I know what it. I just tore them apart and scraped out the seeds:

Next up, had to re-hydrate the ancho in some chicken stock. Fortunately, I made some stock last week, so all I had to do was thaw it out and drop the chiles into the pot:

Now comes the part that I was really excited about when I first read the recipe. If I have to explain, then maybe you should find another blog to read:

Next up, the chipotle. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything clever or witty as a lead in to the next pic. I can, however, tell you that these things are messy, and smell fantastic as soon as you pop open the can:

Also needed an onion and some garlic. Recipe called for 4 cloves, but I recently acquired some massive purple garlic from the farmer’s market, and the cloves are about twice the size that you normally see:

From this point, it was fairly standard – brown the beef, add the veggies, et cetera:

Then, the very best part of the whole process – deglazing the pot:

Recipe called for a Mexican beer, but since the only I could find was Corona, I opted for my favorite brew instead. Honestly, I’d rather drink cat piss laced with cyanide before I would let Corona enter my body in any form.

The ancho/chicken stock combo got pureed and added to the mix, but I forgot to take pics of that part. Wasn’t terribly exciting, so you’re not missing much. After a good long simmer, this was the result:

Now, I could post the recipe, but since it took me nearly an hour to write this post, I’m just going to give you a link instead. Again, I swapped out the ground turkey for ground beef and added a can of red kidney beans, but other than that, this one is all Rachel.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/ancho-chipotle-turkey-chili-recipe/index.html

Busy busy busy…….

I haven’t posted anything for the last three weeks, so if anyone actually reads this blog, I apologize for the lack of material.

On the bright side, I’ve tried a lot of new things in that time frame. Some of them were great, some of them not so much. Here’s a brief rundown:

Chicken Mole (moe-lay) – Mexican stew-type dish. It was all right, but the recipe I found needs to be tweaked.
Pasta salad with green onion dressing – courtesy of celebrity chef Roger Mooking. Not bad, but I found it a little bland. Also needs tweaking.
Caramel creme brulee – courtesy of celeb chef Michael Smith. Full disclosure, I only made this because I wanted to play with a blowtorch.
Japanese coleslaw – Ick. Just ick.
Roasted garlic soup – FAN-FRIGGIN’-TASTIC!!!! This one will get a follow up post.

That’s about it for now.

Phew….

The holidays are always a hectic time in Sumo’s kitchen. It’s only time of the year that I bake, I get tapped to fix the sides for Christmas dinner (this year, I Iron Chef’d up a dried cranberry and pineapple juice sauce), then once Christmas is over, planning, shopping and prep work immediately begins for the REAL holiday – Japanese New Year!

My grandmother used to put out a fantastic spread for JNY, as the holiday doubled as an excuse to have a family reunion. Some of my favorite memories of her involve watching her cooking for days in advance. I wasn’t allowed to help, exactly, but I did a lot of fetching, carrying, and reaching for stuff above her head (she was short!). I also got to watch the master in action, which was almost as good as doing it myself.

Since she passed away, SumoDaddy and I have been doing a slightly scaled down version. I say slightly scaled down since there’s still a metric crapload of food, but nowhere nearly as many guests. We also tend to expand the menu a bit. As much as I love Japanese food, sometimes I find it a little bland. Usually a couple of Cantonese dishes find their way to the table. No one has complained yet.

So, a brief summary – SumoDaddy made a variety of sushi and maki, teriyaki chicken, teriyaki salmon, sweet & sour spare ribs, and chow mein. I handled the tonkatsu, tempura, spring rolls, char siu (barbecue pork), Szechuan green beans, and Mongolian beef.

In other words, I’m bloody well exhausted, and don’t have the energy to post any recipes this time around. Check back in a few days.;)

Crepes

Ah, crepes. My first taste ever of French cuisine, way back when I was just a pudgy kid who thought McDonald’s was fine dining.

Believe me, my opinion on that one changed, and fast.

Been making this dish for a number of years, and I have yet to serve it to anyone who didn’t like it. That might change, though – I’m making this for the co-workers as a little Christmas-type gift, and they’re notoriously reluctant to try new things. Then again, they’re also rather fond of most of my creations, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Enjoy!

Crepes

2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup & 1 tbsp flour
1 tsp oil
salt

Beat eggs, then add milk, flour and salt. Beat all ingredients until smooth, and let sit for at least one hour before cooking.
Heat a 6 inch frying pan, grease with a few drops of oil, and pour in 2 to 2 1/2 tbsp of batter. Cook over medium heat until the bottom is lightly browned and the top is dry. Turn over and brown the other side. Add a little oil as needed to cook the rest of the batter.

Crepe sauce

2 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp flour
2 cups light cream

In saucepan, melt margarine, then blend in the flour. Cook over low heat, stirring until bubbly. Remove from heat, stir in the cream. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.

Filling

1 can mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups light cream
2 cups cooked chicken
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
Nutmeg

Cook and stir mushrooms and red pepper in butter until tender. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is bubbly. Slowly stir in chicken broth and cream. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Stir in chicken; heat through.
Heat oven to 350C. Spoon 1/4 cup chicken mixture on each crepe; roll up. Place seam side down in 2 ungreased baking dishes, 11 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches. Cover with crepe sauce; top with cheese and nutmeg. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

You can also substitute 2 cups chicken broth for 1 cup chicken broth & 1 cup white wine. Gives it a nice flavor.