Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Filet Mignon With Scalloped Potatoes - A Little Decadent Delight

In this part of the world with all of the cattle farms here, beef rules. People eat beef, mainly burgers and steaks, to no end. Now, I don't condone eating beef all of the time as far as your health goes, but the quality of the beef here is second to none so it's hard not to eat it once in awhile. There are quite a few great steakhouses here in this city, and I like to eat at these places as often as the next guy, but I don't do it very often. As much as I love a good steak, it finishes a distant second to a nice fish, chicken or pasta dish these past few years.

Mrs. Urban Eater and I went out to a steakhouse (Halo, if you recall a couple of blogs back), so I find it strange she called and asked me to go to our local butcher and get something nice (steak, possibly...hint, hint...) a few days later. She likes her steak as well, but has the same feelings on it as I do, can't eat eat more than once every week or two. So, over to the butcher shop I went and picked up a couple of filet mignons. I follow instructions very well!

The filet is one of the better cuts of meat as it is extremely lean and doesn't have a lot of fat in it. It comes from the tenderloin, which hardly has any fat on it. I like that because I don't like to eat the fat or the gristle, so the filet is right up my alley. It was one of the menu choices at our wedding as well, and oh boy, was it ever good! Didn't even need a steak knife to cut it up. Perfect.

There are quite a few different ways to cook and serve it. Many times we have eaten or cooked it with blue cheese stuffed in the middle or have made a blue cheese sauce to pour over the top of it. It seems to be a natural fit, so why not experiment with it. I have also wrapped it in bacon once, but haven't done it since. I liked it but I feel there are other ways to prepare it which do it more justice. Even cooking it and serving it alone is nice. You just can't go wrong with a nice filet. Normally, we eat it medium rare. This is a fine way to eat it, I find. It's so nice and juicy when it sits for 10 minutes after you finish cooking it.

One of the issues I have when I eat steak is I love to eat it with a potato on the side. Meat and potatoes together in the same meal is pretty hard on me as it is very hard to digest them both at the same time. I don't suffer or anything, but sometimes I wonder if I will ever go #2 again. A lot of people I know are "meat-and-potatoes" kind of guys, including me, but as I just mentioned, that has come to an end (no pun intended). Once in awhile I will indulge, but not too often. So, two times in the span of a week is a lot for me.

I had to figure out a side to serve it with, so I came to the conclusion after much thought it should be scalloped potatoes. Live on the edge again, I said. My mom used to make them when I was young. She would use cream of mushroom soup in it along with cheddar cheese on top. It was one of my favorite things she made while I was growing up. Now, things are different as I have the power to choose what junk I put into my body. I always try to make things with less fat if possible and as healthy as I can, so out with the soup and in with the real thing on the dairy side. And every now and again, I get this craving for old cheddar, and this was one of those times so that cheese stays. If I can be decadent once in a blue moon, it may as well be with this dish. I have many recipes for this dish and here is just one of them.

Ingredients

Filet

- 2 filet mignons
- EVOO
- coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Scalloped Potatoes

- 1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream or half & half
- 1/3 cup (79 ml) homo milk 
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) smooth goat cheese 
- 1/4 cup (59 ml) chives, finely chopped
- 1 pound (.45 kg)Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 large onion, purple or yellow, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup (237 ml) old or sharp cheddar cheese
- EVOO
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions

Filet

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (205 C). Place a baking sheet in the oven now. The hot cookie sheet will help keep the temperature of the meat up. Make sure your steaks have been out of the fridge for about 30 minutes and are at room temperature by this time. A cold steak will contract when the heat hits it and will toughen up on you.
2. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Pat each filet dry all over with a paper towel and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both sides. If they aren't dry, they won't brown for you.


3. When pan is good and hot, pour a little EVOO in and place the filet's in the pan. Let cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until brown. Searing the surface of the meat will help lock in it's natural juices and keep it nice and moist.
4. Place steaks on the cookie sheet and put them in the oven. Turn the heat down to 375 F (190 C) and cook until desired doneness. We like ours to be medium-rare, so about 5-7 minutes.
5. When done, take steaks out of the oven and place on a cutting board or warm plate and tent with aluminum foil for approximately 10 minutes and serve.

Scalloped Potatoes

1. In a bowl, mix together the goat cheese with the cream and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chive. Set aside.


2. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Slice the potatoes into thin slices (1/8 inch thick). I used a mandolin because I have one. If you don't have one, do your best with a sharp knife.


Have a bowl with cold water near you to put the potatoes in for a couple of minutes. This will help bring some of the starch out in the spuds. Drain and dry in a towel.


3. In a large skillet, sauté the onions with garlic for about 10 minutes in olive oil over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
4. In an ovenproof dish, grease the inside with a little EVOO and arrange the potato slices in a nice manner. Cover with some of the caramelized onions, then 1/4 of the goat cheese mixture. Sprinkle a little cheddar on each layer and lightly season each layer as you go. Repeat the layers and finish with the goat cheese mixture. Pour the rest of the cream mixture and then the remaining cheddar over the potatoes.


5. Cook in the oven for 1 hour until golden brown and serve.
Yield: Serves 2 with leftover potatoes.


Tips: Salting your meat just before cooking isn't a bad idea. Some people say it's bad as it sucks the juices out of the meat and makes it so the meat won't brown. I've never had this problem as long as the heat is up high enough to get the initial sear going. Some people also say it makes the meat dry. Never had this problem either. I did when I salted to meat about 30 minutes before as I got sidetracked, but that's all. Just make sure you are good and prepared and you won't have any issues. The potatoes are something I love to play with. You can use blue cheese, chevre, goats milk, sweet potatoes or even celery root (celeriac). White cheddar is also a good substitute instead of regular as it is healthier. Try something different from the normal recipe you use sometime. You never know what you might come up with, and hopefully it's something you'll eat again and again.

Another tip: When cutting onions, to control it so you don't slip and chop your fingers off, cut a little slice off on the bottom so it will sit still for you, as seen below.


Goat cheese is a nice substitute or addition to any meal. It's lower in fat and calories than cow's milk and it has a nice, tangy flavor to it is more easily digested as well. I put it in here because we love it and it goes very well with all of the other ingredients. We also use it on salads and when I stuff meat or pasta with ricotta.

Little O's Menu

After I wrote the last blog, something occurred to me. I always talk about what she eats mostly, rather than what she drinks. I've told you we have her drinking whole organic milk now, but we also give her lots of different types of juice. There isn't really any common one we stick with, but rather we mix it up so she doesn't get tired of one in particular. The past week and a half, she has been drinking papaya juice. She has also been treated to pear, white grape, mango and apricot. The brand we find seems to be the best and most consistent is Ceres. There aren't any preservatives or added sugar in their juices and they have an extensive product list. As far as we can tell (as long as they aren't lying about their ingredients), this is as close to real juice as you can get. We have tried to make our own, but sometimes the quality of the fruit we have available isn't up to par here. There are other companies who sell juices out there who have a decent product and we are always on the lookout, so if anyone has any ideas please let me know.

Quote Of The Day:

"I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit."
 ~ William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatist, playwright and poet.


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pan Fried Salmon With Coconut Sauce

This is a re-post with a small change. I chose to leave out the cardamom in the first post as I didn't have any on hand.. I made the dish without it and my friend Loudon told me he he made the dish with it. He says it turned out too bitter, so it's probably better off without it. Mine worked out fine. Lesson learned, make sure the recipe works on my palate before anyone else try's it, at least with a curry recipe. :)


Two of my most favorite things: salmon and coconut. I eat more salmon than coconut, mainly because I love a good coconut cream pie more than anything and I would be as big as a house if I ate more coconut than salmon, but I have decided to start eating more coconut in different capacities, such as this dish. Taking something healthy and tasty like salmon and mixing it with something healthy and tasty like coconut is a win-win situation. But until recently, I never realized how good coconut (in all of it's different states) really is for you, so now knowing this, I will make the effort to add more to our diet.

A Coconut tree (or palm) is actually called "The Tree Of Life" where they grow as they are a main staple in peoples diets and economies in certain parts of the world. The coconut is a nut from the tree which offers a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Besides the meat, it also offers up coconut oil, which I just figured out. The oil is considered to the cure to all illness. Good enough for me, so now I'll start using it!

Salmon, on the other hand, is good for us as we all know. I only eat the wild salmon now as farmed doesn't offer the same health benefits as wild. When it comes to healthy eating, salmon is one of the best things to add to your diet. It is full of vitamins and minerals and should be a staple in your diet. We like to eat it once every week or two, which is why I am always looking to cook it as many different ways as I can and also try to add other healthy, flavorful ingredients to it. This is the ideology of why I started to write this blog, to help people understand healthy eating doesn't have to mean eating bland, tasteless food. Flavor can coexist with a healthy diet.

Over the years, I have ate and cooked salmon in different dishes from different cultures. The one I have always kind of shied away from was East Indian. Not sure why, but I did. I have seen salmon cooked with curry, but never tried it. I have eaten smoked salmon in a rose`sauce with fettuccine at an Italian restaurant in Brampton, Ont. and later made it the same way myself, but that's as exotic as I have been with it. I figured it was time to venture out there and try a little Indian with possibly a little more of a southern Asian influence with it. Couldn't hurt. Hence the coconut sauce was born.

There are a few recipes out there like this one, but the idea behind it is to make people understand that coconut has more uses to it than that woooonderful cream pie most people associate it with or in a cookie. I did some research and if you're cooking with coconut, you may as well try a little coconut oil to go along with it. The health benefits have a big upside as the oil contains less calories than other oils and the fat in it is easily converted to energy. Also, it doesn't make your heart or arteries accumulate any fat in them. Sold yet?  Alright, here's a little more info: it helps the inside of your body as well as the outside. There you go. A total body makeover if you use it frequently!

Ingredients

Coconut Sauce

- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tbs mustard seeds
- 1 tbs fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 tbs coriander seeds
- 1 tbs finely chopped or grated ginger
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup coconut milk

Salmon


- 2 tbs coconut oil
- 2 (6 oz) salmon fillets
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Coconut Sauce

1. Grind seeds in a mortar and pestle. Do this until it becomes a powder.


As you can see here, I gave up on the mortar and went with my coffee grinder which acts as a spice grinder. I didn't realize how late it was, then figured I better hustle it up.


2. Put coconut oil into a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the ginger. Saute for 30 seconds and then add the spices. Let cook for 10-20 seconds just to season the oil.


3. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Stir frequently as you want the tomatoes to start to break down a little.
4. Pour in coconut milk and simmer for about 15 minutes, until sauce is thickened. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

 

Salmon

1. Heat coconut oil in a non-stick skillet or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season salmon fillets with 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.

2. When the oil is hot, sear the salmon on each side for 7 to 8 minutes, until they are just cooked through.
3. Put salmon on a plate, pour a little sauce over top and serve.

I chose to serve this dish over basmati rice with peas.

Tips: Adding salt at the end of the sauce preparation is extremely important. It really helps bring out the flavors. This dish could also be served with spaghetti squash. If there is anything you think would go nicely with this as a side, try it. Be resourceful and don't be scared to try something new.

I really liked this dish, but the next time I make it I will start the salmon on the stove for a minute or so, and finish it in the oven. This way the fish will be cooked in a more gentle manner using indirect heat. This will yield a nicer, not quite as firm serving of fish.

Little O's Menu

We've come to a stalemate, almost, for the first time with her. She just wants to eat raspberries, blueberries, the odd piece of apple without the skin or toast with jam or almond butter for breakfast. She is backing off from the oatmeal a little bit, but still likes to have it before bed. I think it fills her up and she sleeps a lot better, right through the night actually (and the crowd rejoices... yay)!

We are going to try to get her back on the path to vegetables again. Carrots, broccoli, yams, even tomatoes. She has turned her back on these, but we hope she will reconsider soon. They are all extremely healthy for her, so we won't give in that easily!

Restaurant Review

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a squash tournament. I forgot to talk about what the free Friday night dinner was which they offered to the players. Bankers Hall is a two-tower office building(s) which houses, among many other things, The Bankers Hall Club. Below the club are two floors of food courts and restaurants. One of those places is the Orchid Room, a nice little fusion restaurant combining Vietnamese, Thai and French influences. I had not been given the chance to eat there yet, so I was really looking forward to the meal. The choices they offered were deep fried spring rolls or salad rolls as a starter, and the mains were a choice of chicken, beef or vegetarian vermicelli bowl, or a chicken or vegetarian pad thai. I chose the salad rolls and the chicken vermicelli bowl and shared them with Mrs. Urban Eater. Even O had a little bit. It was as good as I expected it to be and we could barely finish it all. I will now make the effort to go there at least once a month. If you happen to be in downtown Calgary, give the Orchid Room a try. You won't regret it.

Quote of the day:

"Let me pose you a question. Can farm-raised salmon be organic when it's feed has nothing to do with it's natural diet, even if the feed itself is supposedly organic, and the fish themselves are tightly packed in pens swimming in their own filth?"

- Mark Bittman, American food journalist and author

Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark