Most of my readers are gay men, and most gay men eat chicken breasts probably more often than any other meat. Sure, I’m making assumptions here, but I feel like they’re educated ones.
Now, it needs to be said: not all chicken breasts are created equal.
Firstly, I’d like to draw your attention to a film I’m a huge fan of, Food Inc.
Watch it. Go ahead. It’s not one of those super preachy films, and it’s nowhere close to the propaganda PETA spews all over the place. It’s a smart film that talks about justv how crazy the food industry in the US is (and to a lesser extent, Canada.)
Rule #1 - those frozen boxes of chicken breasts you get at Costco? Those chickens suffered. Guaranteed. Plus, they’re tumbled in these high pressure vats that add water and seasoning to them. Have you ever noticed how much water comes out of them when you thaw them? That’s not normal. They add water to increase the weight so you pay more. Underhanded 100%.
Rule #2 - Organic is best. But not always viable. Lilydale chicken can be found just about anywhere (including Costco) and their chickens aren’t held in cages - they’re given freedom to run around inside a barn. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than the boxed chicken.
How to cook the perfect chicken breast
Preheat your oven to 375
take your chicken breast (preferably a nice big one, like the Lilydale kind - and no, they don’t use growth hormones in Canada) and pat both sides dry with a paper towel. Season liberally on both sides with salt & pepper.
Heat a sautee pan to high heat and let it get hot. Couple mins. Add some olive oil to the pan, and if it just starts to smoke you’re ready - throw in your chicken breast and reduce heat to medium-high. let cook on one side for 2-3 min until you have a nice crust. flip, and pour over approx 1/3 cup of any sort of sauce you like - nothing cream-based, but asian or italian or whatever - for the super lazy folks out there (i do this all the time) just pour over a couple squirts of a good vinaigrette-based salad dressing, like roasted red pepper.
The pan will bubble and hiss like crazy - throw it in the oven, and set your timer for 20 mins.
after 20 min, remove the chicken, and let it rest for 5 mins. This is super important as it allows the juices to redistribute back into the meat. slice on the bias and serve.
Quinoa has all but replaced rice for me in my daily life - yes I cook terribly unhealthy things from time to time but, as social convention among gay men dictates, I need to remain moderately healthy. I keep up on recent pop culture events and deliver 16-20 witty gay quips with perfect delivery on a weekly basis, I can walk in heels 5 inches or less, and am considered a “flappy wrist talker”.
Otherwise I’d lose my homo status card. And shit knows that test was hard.
“Woman with Topsy Tail hairdo & orange corduroy knee-length skort asks to buy you drink at a bar. do you:
a) accept the drink, thank her, introduce yourself and after a minute of chit chat excuse yourself
b) raise one eyebrow ever-so-dramatically, give her the up & down, snap your fingers and walk away
c) call her a stupid bitch, slap her, and take her shopping”
It’s a trick question. Apparently every gay man knows that she’d never be let in to the place you’re having the aforementioned drink, OR, you’ve just woken up from an Adderall-induced fugue state in Surrey and need to get your ass home.
So anyway, quinoa.
Fun fact: it’s a seed, not a grain.
It’s crazy good for you, and is a complete protein (these rarely exist in plant proteins - the 8 essential amino acids our body requires externally are usually only found in meat sources) more on quinoa nutrition here.
Here’s the basic way to cook Quinoa (if you think you already know, keep reading as this is probably better)
my #1 pet peeve is mushy quinoa - and most people add too much water in the standard long-grain-rice 2-1 ratio. wrong.
The best way to cook quinoa is:
so, let’s say 1 cup quinoa, 1.5 cups water. Add quinoa to water, bring to boil, reduce to low heat and simmer for 18 minutes. After 18 minutes, remove from heat and let stand for another 5 min before fluffing with a fork to serve.
Quinoa is very much like couscous when done properly and it’s brilliant in a lot of different preparations, including one of my favorite salads:
Quinoa & lentilles du puy salad with pine nuts & basil
2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa
1 cup lentils du puy (french green lentils) cooked & cooled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
handful fresh parsley, chopped
handful fresh basil, chiffonade
handful fresh dill, chopped
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 roasted red pepper, de-seeded, peeled & finely chopped
2-3 sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, finely chopped
1 small block feta cheese, cut into small cubes (omit for vegan)
salt & pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients well, careful not to overmix. Chill for 3 hours before serving.
If you’ve made any of my recipes more than once you’re probably struggling to breathe at this very moment. She likes butter. Whatever.
So to ease my conscience, I’ve got 20 free digital subscriptions to Men’s Health to give away!
You can download your subscriptions to your tablet, phone, or computer using Zinio - it’s a slick subscription management app that handles your magazine subscriptions to a ton of different publications like Rolling Stone, Esquire, and, the magazine I’m not legally allowed to write to anymore, Whiskey Advocate.
To enter: comment on this post with a recipe or topic you’d like to see me blog on (be serious, ppl) and you’re entered to win! Chances are I’ll still have subscriptions left over so your chances are REALLY good.
Also, the Zinio app store link is here (you’ll need it for your free subscription)
So yesterday I had my second date with a really cute guy and once I decide I like someone I usually make a point of cooking. You know how I can tell I like someone? When they say they’re vegetarian and I don’t call them a lesbian, or perpetually try to slide a fat piece of pork into whatever they’re eating. Euphemism or not? You’ll never know.
So my date and I went to Granville Island to pick out something to make. Now, when I go to Granville Island I try not to be too dead-set on what I’m cooking, as there’s so much great seasonal stuff that more often than not it’s best to just find an ingredient that inspires you and work around that.
Now, naturally I’m inclined to start pelvic thrusting at the meat counter, typically to organic local lamb shanks or veal cheeks or a girthy New York, but I refrained. I was there to shop for a vegetarian dinner. My date suggested mushrooms in something, and I love mushrooms (so much, in fact, that when I was 4 I used to get up in the middle of the night, open up cans of campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, pick out all the mushrooms and eat them).
Now initially I wanted to opt for some healthy option - quinoa or lentils or something along those lines, but hell it was Sunday and i wanted something comforting so I opted for Risotto. Mushroom risotto is one of the very first things I learned to make in culinary school, and it’s been one of my faves ever since. I’m exceptionally picky about it (see: my review of west) and honestly mushrooms and risotto are meant to be together.
Now, if i haven’t been clear, I like my date. So I’m really trying to make a good impression and be on my best behaviour - but when I get to a big, busy public market full of amazing ingredients, a rather embarrassing thing happens. I turn into a full blown, wrist-flapping fairy. I’m spinning and twirling from stand to stand like a Disney Princess in a flower garden. All ears within 30 feet are bleeding at the ferocity of my lisps.
It’s like this, with vegetables.
So we’re bounding around the market from stall to stall, getting the best herbs from one place, mushrooms from another, arborio rice from the granary stall and the best stock from the stock place. I talk cheese with cheese merchants as I eye fuck the dangling salamis (never letting my date notice, of course).
All the while I’m trying to keep myself from terrifying the poor guy and maintain as much composure as possible. We finish shopping and head back to my place to prepare…
Mushroom & Roasted Asparagus Risotto with Roast Baby Zucchinis & Summer Squash
1 litre vegetable stock
1.5 cups mixed dried wild mushrooms (you can buy these at costco or wherever)
1 shallott, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked and minced
1 cup white wine (and 2 bottles for you)
1/2 lb fresh crimini mushrooms
1/3lb fresh oyster mushrooms
(you can really use whatever mushrooms you want - chanterelles, porcini, morels, lobster, whatever - I’d maybe avoid shiitake as they’re kinda strong)
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
a bunch of fresh parsley
a block of parmegiano reggiano
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Add the dried mushrooms to the vegetable stock and add another cup of water. Bring the whole thing to a boil then reduce and simmer 20 mins to infuse the vegetable stock with the flavor of mushrooms. Leave the stock on a low flame on the stove.
In a roasting pan, add asparagus, a little olive oil, salt & pepper and toss. Throw it in the oven for about 10 min or until asparagus is lovely and roasted and fully cooked with little brown bits. Set the asparagus aside to cool.
Now, chop your mushrooms. I like to do 2 separate chops of crimini - a small dice as well as quartered mushrooms for some textural change. Simply tear the oyster mushrooms with your hands. Add them to a hot pan with a little olive oil and sauté until golden brown. The size of the mushrooms should reduce significantly. Deglaze with a splash of white wine and set aside.
Now, for the rice.
In a hot, wide sauté pan, add a splash of olive oil. Right when it starts to smoke, add the rice - now stir that bitch like crazy. Add your shallots, garlic and thyme. Stir stir stir!
Now, add the wine. Sizzle! Now, add about a half cup of stock. The deal with risotto is this:
You’re going to be stirring for the next 20 mins or so. Don’t even think about walking away. You’re this risotto’s bitch.
never let it get too dry, and don’t drown it. Risotto should always stir easily, with just a little excess liquid. As you stir, and the liquid reduces, ad more ladleful by ladleful. Typically you’ll add the liquid in about 4 stages over the 20 min. This, ladies and gentleman, is a labor of love.
After the 1st liquid addition, add your mushrooms. After the second liquid addition, add your baby zucchinis and squash to the same pan you roasted the aspargus in and follow the same technique. Make your way through the stirring process. Like pasta, risotto should be al dente. You’re looking for clearly individual grains of rice. Risotto should be runny. just a little, so if you spread it on a plate it’ll flatten. (this is how the consistency should be when you stop the cooking - it’ll firm up more on its own). Now, add cheese. So much cheese. Add a mountain of fresh grated parm until you’re a happy camper. Taste along the way. Add salt and pepper as required.
Remember that roast asparagus? chop it into 1.5 inch pieces and add it to the risotto. Now, add some chopped fresh parsley.
Your zucchini should be done, get it out of the oven. Plate your lovely risotto with the zucchini and extra cheese.
I neglected to take a picture so I stole on from the internet. (full credit, it’s from here)
Apparently someone found my crap mildly entertaining for a minute - which has pretty much justified my continued ranting until the end of time (fingers, don’t fail me now).
So, I’ve been nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award. Granted, I’m not sure exactly what being a “versatile” blogger means, but I’m at least happy I wasn’t nominated for a Nelly Bottom Blogger Award - lord knows Perez wins that shit every year.
Now, apparently there are rules:
1- Nominate and contact bloggers
2-Thank the person who nominated you
a big whopping thank you to Heather at Free Range Kitchen - I’m glad I make you giggle. :)
3-Let loose and share 7 things about yourself
1- I went to culinary school and dropped out before I graduated - the thought of actually working in a kitchen terrified me
2- When I’m really hung over I talk to myself, and blurt out things like “Oh god no” in public
3- When i watch Nigella Lawson on TV i just sit there and smile
4- I’ve met some of my very best friends on Craigslist
5- Sometimes i’ll spend a whole day cooking something just for me
6- Half the shows on the food network make me so happy, others fill me with blind rage
7- I could eat home made nachos and guac every day for the rest of my life
West - a Vancouver institution, and birthplace of David Hawksworth - in my opinion, the most talented chef in Vancouver.
But this post today is not about David Hawksworth - rather, his successor, Quang Dang.
Now, I’ve been to Hawksworth on numerous occasions and was blown away every time, so suffice it to say West had some serious shoes to fill. I suppose you’re always a little skeptical when a famous chef leaves a restaurant to open his own place, but West did in no way disappoint.
I opted for the land tasting menu, and my date went for the sea tasting menu. I’m a big fan of doing tasting menus whenever possible because it’s really a chef’s greatest showcase. That and you get more food and more tastes. For any fat girl/foodie/binge & purger it’s an easy choice. I’ll only really be commenting on my own dishes because they’re the only ones I tasted - but I’ve got photos of everything, at least!
And I got the wine pairings because I’m a drunk. Whatever. Don’t look at me while I drink.
Honestly, I can’t remember what the hell this is. Some sort of croquette. With a yuzu vinaigrette. But I remember not being able to taste the yuzu, because I love yuzu and was a little bummed. Delightful, regardless.
First Course - Land
Foie Gras Pate, Spiced Apple Jelly, Frisee, Brioche
Paired with: Pfaffenheim Gewurtztraminer 09, Alsace
Without a shadow of a doubt this was one of the single best foie gras dishes I’ve had in my life. Now if you don’t know what foie gras is, it’s goose liver. It’s boycotted by many (it’ll be illegal in California July 1) because the geese are force-fed with funnels to excess to fatten them up and make their livers swell up with fat. Being strapped down and force fed - that’s pretty much my idea of heaven and I’d pay someone to do it if I wasn’t just a poor blogger so I don’t see what the big fucking deal is. (I’m just kidding - legitimately it’s terrible but it’s SO good - order it and spank yourself later). But to each their own. Regardless, the texture was absolute velvet.
The spiced apple jelly was a really wonderful addition - acidity but familiarity - making the goose liver pate somewhat reminiscent of a luxurious christmas dinner. Only complaint is there wasn’t enough brioche for the more-than-ample serving of foie. So I used my table bread too.
The wines of Alsace sing to my wino heart, and Gewurtztraminer is a grape varietal often seen on the bottles littering the floor of my tiny one bedroom apartment on a Wednesday morning. Light, refreshing, palate cleansing and perfect with fatty fatty goose liver.
First Course - Sea
Citrus Cured Steelhead Trout, Poached Kumquats, Fromage Frais, Parsley
Paired with Sumac Ridge Brut “Steller’s Jay” ‘07 - BC
I didn’t try it (as I was face planted in goose liver whilst clutching my wine glass and quietly sobbing) but I was a little jealous my date got sparkling. I’m jealous of the booze in anyone else’s glass, really.
Second Course - Land
Thiessen Quail, Pemberton Beets, Toasted Almond Gel
Paired with Laughing Stock Chardonnay 09, OK Valley
This was awesome. I LOVE beets (probably because they have the highest sugar content of any vegetable - big surprise) and the preparation here was lovely. Some house pickled, some raw, varying colours and textures. Add to that beautifully cooked quail that’s both crispy and supple - the richness of the meat cut beautifully by the tart pickled beets. The almond gel added a really nice round finish to the entire taste combination.
Now, I generally don’t like chardonnay. I’m just not a huge fan of oak in white wine, but here, the chardonnay was lovely. It’s the almond in the dish that really made the fullness of the wine work here.
Second Course - Sea
Vancouver Island Octopus, Cracked Olives, Barigoule Vinaigrette
Pairing: Cantele “Alticelli” Fiano ‘09. Apulia
I don’t get super preachy about eating specific animals, but octopus is one of those things that I am reluctant to eat. Octopi are insanely intelligent. They’ve been seen using tools. That puts them in a comparable intelligence bracket with primates, elephants & canines. Plus, I ate a fair bit in Argentina before I found out about their intelligence level and feel rull bad about it.
So, I didn’t try this. But my date said it was lovely. I politely held my tongue (because I hate when fucking vegans start their PETA rants while I’m elbow-deep in a bucket of KFC.)
Third Course - Land
Foraged Mushroom Risotto, Pickled Veal Tongue, Thyme. Truffled Pecorino.
Pairing: Poggio Vignoso Chianti 10, Tuscany
This was easily the dish of the evening for me. Honestly, risotto is one of those things that should NOT be put on a menu unless you know what you’re doing. These guys know what they’re doing. Foraged mushrooms - earthy, lovely. Pickled veal tongue (don’t focus on what it is) rather, imagine a wonderfully tender and thinly shaved piece of meat that melts in your mouth. Then, truffled pecorino - salty, with that background of truffle that is so so subtle. I can’t stand overpowering truffle but this was just right. But the best part?
These guys go through a crazy process with their arborio rice - they buy it in advance and age it in house *i believe* in steel barrels. Real risotto should never have cream in it - and this one certainly didn’t. The rice was firm and al dente put perfectly tender and creamy. Creaminess in risotto should come from the starch in the rice. That’s why arborio rice is so prized - it’s high starch content.
I’ll know I’ve found the man for me when I can find someone who makes risotto this well - hell mine is nowhere near this good. It’s good, but this - this is some life changing risotto.
And guys, I’m not kidding. All I want in life is a feeder, mmkay?
The wine was lovely, but truth be told I was so enthralled in my risotto I didn’t drink it until afterward.
Third Course - Sea
Shellfish Bisque, Brioche Croutons, Truffle Froth
Pairing: Miner “Simpson Vineyard” Viognier ‘09, California
I did get a chance to taste this bisque and it was lovely and rich - the froth was a nice touch. But again, risotto distraction.
Fourth Course - Land
Blackberry Crusted Peace Country Elk, Smoked Shallots, Potato Pave, Rosemary Jus
Pairing: Montes “Alpha” Syrah ‘09, Colchagua Valley
West is the type of restaurant where you can know, comfortably, that all the meats are locally sourced and ethically raised. That said, I really love game meats because the likelihood of ethical treatment is far higher for exotic meats.
This was an awesome meat and potatoes dish. Elk is incredibly lean so it needs to be quite rare, but it was mild and delicious. The rosemary jus was on point, the braised shallots sweet and mellow, cabbage slightly tart and the potato pave was flakey and rich.
The wine pairing was perfect - the Syrah was rich and jammy and paired beautifully with the elk - most game meats need a bigger wine to stand up to their flavors, like Cabernet, Syrah or Barolo. This was just perfect.
Fourth Course - Sea
Haida Gwaii Ling Cod, Porcini Tortellini, Brussels Sprouts
Pairing: Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis ‘09, Burgundy
So honestly, for most of the night I kinda felt bad for my date because my food just seemed generally better. I was making all sorts of horrifying noises while eating and my date was silent and very polite. Don’t get me wrong, the food was all wonderful but my menu that night really was exceptional.
All that aside, this dish was fucking sexy. I was blowing it kisses from across the table. Awkward for my date? Sure. But when I see something I want in me I go for it.
CRISPY FISH SKIN IS EVERYTHING. This was beautiful! Porcini tortellini! Brussels sprouts! BONER! Expertly prepared and the plating was outstanding. Never tried the wine pairing but I was suitably impressed.
Warm Manjari Chocolate Pudding, Condensed Milk Ice Cream
Pairing: Chapoutier Banyuls ‘09 Languedoc-Rousillon
I’m gonna come out and say it: I’m not a huge chocolate guy. Little bits here and there but on the whole it’s not my fave. This was very nice, and the ice cream was very rich and silky. The pairing was well done, a port-style wine with chocolate notes of its own.
Tofu Cheesecake Wrapped in Omelette Crepe, Coconut Rice Pudding, Mango
Pairing: Quail’s Gate Optima 10, OK Valley
This sort of dessert is far more up my alley - I’m really a fan of cheese/fruit/pastry. Cheesecakes and tarte tatins make me weak at the knees and tight in the pants, and this playful take on cheesecake was really creative.
It’s rare that a restaurant who that is so well known for its Chef is able to maintain its quality and creative flare when that Chef leaves. But Chef Dang has some mad skills and I’ll be thinking of this meal for quite some time. Definitely back again soon.
West gets a crazy 4 3/4 Rachael Ray nip slips out of 5!
Do you spend all day thinking about it? Each time you’re stuffed it’s just a temporary fix and you’re already thinking about your next mouthful?
If you’re obsessed with food, or just about anything food related, I want you. To write for me. You could be the next andhecooks, andshecooks, or andnongenderalignedpersonacooks!
Fire me an email at email@example.com or comment on the post with a title.
Note: the fastest way to my heart is to rip on Rachael Ray.
Now, get it in me!