Saturday, November 21, 2009

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Buttery Shortbread

Fig.1. This traditional shortbread is dense, heavy, and very buttery.

Christmas baking just wouldn’t be complete without shortbread. This dense, buttery, square of fat generating goodness is the epitome of the butter cookie.
When it comes to shortbread I’m a purist: the old Scottish rule of flour, butter and sugar (and a pinch of salt to round out the flavor) are best. Don’t even think of using margarine (which in my opinion is evil and should be banned outright)
Traditional shortbread is baked round and then cut into wedges. The surface of the cookie is also poked with a fork to help with the drying and finished texture. This shortbread however, is formed into a cookie sheet and cut into squares.


This shortbread has less butter than most resulting in a firmer cookie


1lbs butter, cold from fridge
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup rice flour
1 cup sugar


Cut the cold butter into 1” squares and mix with the flour and sugar--knead until smooth. Press the dough into a 13”x9” pan (you don’t need to grease pan), prick the surface with a fork and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Cut while still hot. Freeze until ready to use.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sometimes a Sausage Can Make All The Difference

Fig.1. A perfect soup for the cold nights ahead. The Ukrainian Kovbasa (or kielbasa, as it's referred to by most people) is a porky, fatty, garlicky shaft of meaty goodness. I get mine at Ron Mish, whose variety and quality of Eastern European sausages is nothing short of incredible.

Chalk this one up to the Ukrainian influence in my house; and also to the unwillingness to accept the end of the growing season, which it most certainly is not. The harvest is not yet over: potatoes, leeks, beets, onions, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, apples, squash and all manners of root vegetables are calling out your name. All you have to do is take a trip to the market and listen.

Fig.2. Beware of supermarket paprika which cost $1.99. I bought this one at Olives et Epices in the Jean Talon market.

In addition to the kovbasa, a proper paprika can add another dimension to any dish. A good, high quality paprika is a revelation; the paprika used here is of the spicy Hungarian variety, a Spanish, smoked pimenton paprika would also work.

Leek, Potato and Kielbasa Soup
While the sausage and paprika are wonderful additions, this soup can definitely stand alone in the taste department. I've also made this soup using bacon with great results, then again, how can anyone expect anything less from bacon.

4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
6 Large leek stalks, white and light green part only, halved and chopped
7 medium sized red potatoes, cut into ¾” dice
5 to 6 cups chicken stock (If using canned, buy low-sodium)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Smoked paprika
Kielbasa, diced


Chop off the stems and green parts of the leeks leaving only the white and very light green parts. Cut leeks lengthwise in half and clean thoroughly under running water; dry and chop leeks into 1/2" pieces. Start the soffritto by adding the olive oil to a large, heavy bottom pot set over medium heat, when oil begins to loosen, add the onion, leeks and potatoes and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves, and bring to a gentle simmer, semi-covered for about 45 minutes. (the stock should cover the vegetables by about 2", if it doesn't, simply add some more stock or water.) Salt and pepper to taste.
When serving, sprinkle some of the paprika over top along with the kielbasa and enjoy.

Note. Like most soups and stews, this one is also better the next day. It also freezes exceptionally well. I like to freeze mine in small batches, ready to reheat in the microwave at work for a quick and healthy lunch.

Felix (Ron) Mish
1903 Rue Jolicoeur, Montreal 5147662094

Olives et Epices (Jean-Talon Market)
7070 Henri-Julien, Montreal, 5142710001