Category Archives: Food TV

We are all Julia’s Children.

A while back, I had the pleasure of seeing Julie & Julia on the big screen. I don’t typically shell out movie theater dollars to watch a pseudo-documentary (Big Screen money is for Star Wars, the Terminator movies, and Beowulf 3-D), but this was special. I grew up with Julia Child.

Every Saturday on PBS, I’d sit with Mommie Dearest and my sisters while the menfolk were off somewhere getting dirty, and we’d learn how to roast a goose, bake a gateaux, and flip an omelette. By the time I came along, Julia was in color, but reruns of the black and white show were frequent.

It didn’t matter whether we ever tried her recipes or not. We loved her. She made cooking significant and entertaining. And because of Julia, we began to explore more sophisticated flavours and techniques. My brothers can make roadkill stew. My sisters and I can make burgundy beef. It pays to watch Public Television. Between Julia Child and Betty Crocker, there were a lot of good eats at our house.

It’s my birthday week, and I’m glad to be here to share something I learned from la plus belle chef du monde: a simple recipe for Potato Leek Soup. I had a plan to attempt Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon for the first time, but the recipe is involved and I wanted something to sate our hunger until the big dish was ready. Soup was just the ticket. Both recipes came from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, a small book compared to her others, but chock full of basic master recipes and excellent tips for everything from preparation to garnish. It’s an essential reference on my kitchen bookshelf. The Boeuf Bourguignon was also a great success, but that post is for another day. I’m still enjoying the leftovers.

Potato Leek Soup

This is the very first recipe in Kitchen Wisdom, and with good reason. It’s in a section called “Primal Soups” which Julia calls “the least complicated and often the most loved.”  Its versatility is extraordinary, served hot or cold, you can leave it chunky and brothy or puree it smooth and add something creamy. To boost the flavour, I chose to use both chicken stock and water, and I sauteed the leeks briefly in a teaspoon of rendered bacon fat. Don’t panic, it’s one itty bitty teaspoon in a whole 2 quarts of soup (that’s at least 6 servings, more if you stretch the leftovers a bit with some extra milk or cream).

Preparing Leeks:

  • One big leek plus one small leek yeilded about three cups sliced. You’ll use most of the white part and some of the green part.
  • Cut off the root and a few inches off the top leaves.
  • Split the leeks in half lengthwise and spread them apart under cold running water to remove any dirt between the layers.
  • Slice the leeks crosswise into thin strips.

In a saucepan over medium heat, briefly saute 3 cups sliced leeks in 1 tsp bacon fat (or olive oil or butter). Add 3 cups of chicken stock, 3 cups of water, 1 1/2 tsp salt, fresh ground black pepper, and 4 baking potatoes (peeled and diced).

Bring the pot to a boil and simmer about 20-30 minutes until potato chunks are tender. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sour cream. Taste and add more S&P if needed.

NEXT DAY: “Baked Potato” Leek Soup

Heat leftovers and garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, some chopped green onion, and bits of crisp-cooked bacon.


Pimento Cheese Burgers with Bacon Studded Slaw

Pimento BurgerGingerman recently expanded our cable services, for which I am truly thankful because now I get the Food Network. The last time I had it was during the second season of The Next Food Network Star when the bold and brash Guy Fieri beat sugar baker Reggie Southerland in the finals. I like both of them, but Guy was totally made for American TV. He now hosts several shows on Food Network including:

I watched an episode of Ultimate Recipe Showdown featuring burgers, and the cooks were really creative. There was a turkey burger, a vietnamese burger, and a unique artery-clogging Croque Monsieur burger, but the winning patty was 74-year-old Harold Cohen’s Southern Pimento Cheese Burger which looked incredibly nummy. Harold made his own slaw and pimento cheese, right there on stage, so I followed his lead and started from scratch.

Osage pimentos Pimentos are the little red bits stuffed in a martini olive. They are slices of sweet, succulent, heart-shaped Cherry Peppers, a type of red bell pepper (Capsicum annuum). The taste is distinctive, and pimento cheese is popular in the Southern US. Homemade pimento cheese is definitely better than that thick orange goo in a jar we used to eat in white bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

Like the slaw, pimento cheese spread gets better if it rests a while, so I made it ahead of time. It comes down to three simple things: cheese, creaminess, and spice. For authentic taste, be sure to use real pimentos, quality cheddar cheese, and don’t forget the pickle juice! I’m a big fan of sharp old cheddar, but you can use a blend of cheeses if you want (some recipes use Monterey Jack, Colby, or American cheese). There are oodles of recipes out there for Pimento Cheese Spread, so really it’s one of those things you can make to suit yourself.  The peppers and cheese must be the star of the show, but there’s room to experiment. After the mixture sits in the fridge, the flavours get a chance to know each other better. Delicious!

I used a mini-processor to blend everything together coarsely. Add a little extra liquid (milk or water) or a bit more cream cheese make an even smoother puree. Melting the cheese first is another way to create a more homogenized spread, but I like having cheesy bits that can melt on a burger (or under a broiler on toast).

Slaw isn’t something I usually make, but I do like eating it. I wanted mine to be crunchy, tangy, and creamy, with a hint of sweetness. I compared a few recipes and started by sautéing a little bit of minced onion, then mixed that into some honey and apple cider vinegar, a shake of celery seed, mustard, and some mayo. It came together fine and tasted pretty good, but something was missing. I think it needed some lemon to wake up the flavours, plus I discovered I don’t really like celery seed much.

Harold jacked up the meaty flavour in his burger by adding chopped ham to the ground meat and topping it off with bacon. I  just wanted to have a good burger with a whole lotta that cheese spread on it. I figured bacon bits would be awesome in the slaw, though. That turned out to be a good idea, and it kinda made up for the presence of celery seed.

For the burger patties, I mixed up some ground sirloin with a few spices (nothing fancy) and cooked them in a skillet while a couple of buns went under the broiler to toast. When they’re ready, they get a good shmear of homemade pimento cheese spread. Top off the burger with a fair bit of delicious bacon studded coleslaw, add a side of cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkling of Terra Stix for crunch. Yum. Yum yum yum. It was a sloppy delicious mess, and I’d definitely make them again.

Curious Pimento Cheese Spread

  • Pimento Cheese SpreadSmall jar of pimentos with juice
  • 2 TBS minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • Dash of cayenne pepper or hot sauce
  • Splash of worchestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs pickle juice (yes, juice from the pickle jar)
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • Canadian cheddar (about 1 1/2 cups grated)

Mix together everything except the cheddar, then fold in the grated cheddar, cover, and let sit in fridge until ready to use. Slather it on burgers, spread it on toast, or dollop some on an omelette.

*Note: The fresh version is really nice on hot foods or as a grilled cheese, but sometimes I make this using powdered onion and garlic instead (1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/8 tsp garlic powder).

Bacon Studded Slaw

Make the Bacon Bits:

Chop 6-8 slices of thick bacon into small pieces. Cook over medium heat until browned and crispy. Drain bits on paper towel.

Mix the dressing:

  • 2 Tbs minced onion, cooked briefly
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 2 Tbs mayo
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • Dash of celery seed (optional)
  • S & P

Toss dressing with:

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • Homemade Bacon Bits