Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Pay it forward: A handcrafted gift

Many of you know that I'm totally addicted to needlecrafts and candle and soap-making. So I am participating in a beautiful Pay It Forward project that I learned about on one of my favourite blogs, it's all yoga, baby:

What I will do:

  • I will make a handmade gift for the first three people who comment on this post
  • It doesn't matter how near or far you are -- I'll mail it anywhere!
  • I technically have 365 days to do this
  • What it will be and when it will arrive will be a total surprise

The catch for gift-receivers:

  • You must have a blog to participate
  • Before or after you comment here, you must do a write up of the pay it forward on your space and keep the “Good Karma” flowin’

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An American in Montreal

Welcome! I'm a transplanted Southerner in Montréal whose harp therapy career takes her around the world and back again. In this blog, I will share my thoughts and impressions of my adopted city, as well as more important things like recipes, especially soul food recipes. You can eat any ethnic cuisine you may fancy in Montreal (and believe me I do!) but I cook all my old favorites from home on a regular basis.
My New Year's Eves are a bit less wild than they were in my 20s, as I know I'll need plenty of time to make all the traditional Southern New Year's Day foods, so I usually just plan for it, get up and go to New Year's Mass and get my first pray of the year on, then come home and fry, simmer and bake.
I can't tell you how thrilled I was to discover collard greens at the Chinese grocery after about two years in Montreal! God bless the Chinese, they come through for me again and again and again. From okra to fried soft-shell crabs, I keep finding delicious foods I thought I'd said goodbye to when I left South Carolina.
This is my collards recipe, which I use to make Hopping John for New Year's. Hopping John is what we eat to have money and luck all year long. It's collards, rice and black-eyed peas (I just add more water to cook the dried blackeyed peas and rice when I make Hopping John. Also, I use wild rice to make it extra nutritious and flavorful!)

Collard Greens
Serves 4 to 6
1 bunch collard greens, washed, stems discarded and chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, plus more water as needed for cooking
1/4 cup vinegar
2 sugar cubes
2 teaspoons hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 bacon strips or one slice ham (optional)
Combine bouillon, vinegar, sugar cubes, hot sauce and ham or bacon (if using) in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Add collard greens and add more water as needed to cover. Reduce heat to medium and cook for two to three hours, or until greens are dark green. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning as needed. Collards should be a blend between sweet, sour and spicy. Serve hot.

Collards go well with:
Grits (salt and pepper grits, cheese grits, shrimp and grits)
Pork and ham dishes
Potato dishes
Your favorite Southern fried dish (chicken, fish, shrimp, okra, eggplant, zucchini, squash, green tomatoes)

Another fantastic recipe, though this one is very right brained. I know I'm going to sound like somebody's absent-minded mama when I give it to you, but I'll do my best. This is to make the most incredible batter for frying all the Southern fried dishes mentioned above. I use it the most for green tomatoes (one of Fred's favourite dishes) and okra. It is unbelievably light and crispy, has great flavor and a smooth, satiny finish. It is wonderful for fried fish and shrimp, too.
You dredge whatever it is you want to fry in a plate of flour and put it on another plate. Take the leftover flour and pour it into a bowl. Then, pour in some beer (about a quarter of a cup at a time) and beat it with a whisk. It will foam, and then you'll start getting a batter. Repeat until your batter is the consistency of pancake batter. If you have too much beer and it's watery, just add more flour. If it's too thick, add more beer. Add some salt, pepper, and a little Cajun seasoning if you like. Now you are ready to start frying. I usually have at least one more beer ready in addition to the beer for the batter; it helps me stay relaxed while I'm frying.
Heat your oil (corn, peanut and canola are all good to use) to about 350 degrees. This is about medium or medium-high heat. Do not overheat your oil. When you put your hand over it, it should feel like an oven that you're about to bake bread in, not a kiln that you're about to bake pottery in.
Dip your fry bits into the batter and drop them in the hot oil. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan. Watch them carefully and turn regularly to check that everything is getting all golden on all sides. When they're ready, drain on paper towels. You can serve immediately or keep warm in the oven on 200 degrees for up to 30 minutes if you have any other business that needs tending to before dinnertime.