Archive for category Pork

Gluten Free Holiday Dinner with Chef Robin Wasicuna

During the summer months in our northern capital city, the food trucks come rolling out of their hibernation and set up camp to serve the hungry masses some amazing “fast food.” One of those trucks is run by Chef Robin Wasicuna and his wife Karen, Wise Guy Foods. Chef Robin serves up his takes on cholesterol raising, but damn tasty burgers, sandwiches, and the like. The summer before last, I was fortunate enough to devour some of those delicious piles of meaty goodness; such as the “I Haz Cheeseburger,” one of Chef Robin’s most popular (and now elusive) burgers: a giant patty of beef topped with cheese, and jammed between two grilled cheese sandwiches. If you have the pleasure to eat this burger, you will be thanking the Gods you have taste buds … and that your cardiologist is on call. Alas, I can no longer eat gluten, and Chef Robin now keeps this monster of a burger tucked away, to bring out for special events and on random days to tease his customers into coming back for more. Luckily for me though, this summer Wise Guys Foods started to serve up some Gluten Free options from time-to-time. Such as my favourite salad of the summer: a braised pork belly and kimchi salad. Thank You Robin.

But what does this have to do with my blog? This is a recipe sharing blog, not one where I review tasty places to eat. Well there is this little thing called Twitter (maybe you have heard of it…), where myself and Wise Guy Foods happen to update our own prospective goings on; and we both happened to follow one another. Then, back in August, Robin sent me a direct message stating he’d like to do some sort of Guest Blog on the site. I was immediately excited about the opportunity, and Robin and I hashed out a few ideas. Then those ideas became a bit more concrete with Robin suggesting a gluten free Thanksgiving meal. Sold. Unfortunately life gets in the way, and Kyle and I happened to be in the midst of a move and had a lot of family coming and going for visits – it was becoming a challenge finding a time when Robin and I could get together in the kitchen. We finally set a date for a weekend in September; which would have provided ample time to get this on the blog for Canadian Thanksgiving. However, the day before we were set to cook, Robin got a call for an amazing last minute opportunity: he was asked to represent NWT at the Canadian Chefs Conference – which was taking place in 2 days. Yikes. Needless to say we had to cancel. He did our territory proud out in Nova Scotia!

So we missed Canadian Thanksgiving. But we managed to get together last weekend after Kyle and I settled into our place, and cook up a holiday feast that’s free of gluten. Just in time for our friends south of the border to serve at their Thanksgiving tables – and you can tuck this away for Christmas or next year if you’re so inclined. Although, maybe everyone should take a lesson from my parents: Turkey is not just for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It’s a bird that should be cooked many times a year, whenever you’re heart desires.

When Chef Robin and I got together last weekend, I was getting very pumped up prior to him showing up. And nervous. I had never cooked with a chef before. And I’m just a humble home cook – I wasn’t sure my skills would be up to snuff. But I reminded myself this was not going to be a fine dining meal, filled with challenging techniques and hard to get ingredients. It was going to be a family-style meal, one that anyone with a little kitchen know-how could prepare at home; right in my comfort zone. Although I talked myself into this, I was still slightly awkward when Robin and his wife Karen arrived. After a quick introduction (we had never formally met prior to our cook day), we got right to work with prepping the meal so the turkey breast could get into the oven right away. But after a glass of wine and some chopping under our belts, I relaxed and the rest of the afternoon was a breeze of roasting, sauteing, and meal prep. We chatted about the joys and challenges of living in the North; about great food, restaurants, and chefs; and about our shared love of pork. Chef Robin discussed how he got into the food truck business, and how it provides him with a place to serve “real,” creative food to people. He let us in on future plans for a possible permanent shop, where he could make high-end pub food – such as delicious Con Fit Chicken Wings … I have been dreaming about those for a week now. Kyle ended up having to leave early for work, so he missed out on the meal (but we made him a plate that he thorougly enjoyed later). However, my sister-in-law and her girlfriend showed up for dinner, so we had a great Family Style meal with five of us sharing food and wine and stories. It was an awesome day, and I’m looking forward to cooking with Robin again.

Gluten Free Holiday Meal

Menu (Serves 6):

  • Cider Basted Roast Turkey Breast
  • Roasted Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
  • Pork Sausage Stuffing
  • Brussels Sprouts & Bacon Hash
  • Pumpkin Cake with Bourbon Compote and Maple Bourbon Frosting

 Note: Once we sat down to dinner we realized we didn’t make any gravy. Not that anything needed it – everything had tons of flavour, and the turkey was juicy from the cider baste. However, I have provided a quick, gluten-free pan gravy below in the event you would like to make one for your holiday meal. The recipe for the Pumpkin Cake will follow at a later date.

Cider Basted Roast Turkey Breast

Recipe provided by Chef Robin Wasicuna

1 4-5 lb turkey breast
Salt & Pepper
1 Tbsp dried Sage
1 large white onion
1-2 cups apple cider (alcoholic or non)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Season turkey breast liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the dried sage over the turkey breast. Slice the onion into 4 thick slices. Place the onions in a small roasting pan, and place the turkey breast over the oven. Pour about ¼ cup of the apple cider over the turkey.

Place the turkey breast in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes at 425°F; basting every 15 minutes with apple cider. Turn the temperature down to 350°F, and then continue to roast for another hour to 1.5 hours; basting every 15 minutes with additional cider. Remove from oven when temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Remove string.

Slice and serve.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes

1 large sweet potato
3-5 white or Yukon gold potatoes (about 1.5lbs)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Scrub the potatoes – peel if desired (I did not peel them; gotta get your fiber anywhere when you’re gluten free!). Cut up all the potatoes in 1 inch chunks; place in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl (rosemary through pepper) and stir to combine – using your hands for this is by far easier than a spoon. Evenly distribute the potato mixture to a large baking sheet.

Roast the potatoes at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Alternatively (if you’re not cooking this with the turkey breast), you could roast these for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a 425°F oven.

Sausage Stuffing

Recipe provided by Chef Robin Wasicuna

Note: Robin has provided his recipe to make sausage from scratch; alternatively, you could purchase 2 lbs of any regular pre-made pork sausage – but nothing hot or flavoured! Robin stated that this recipe was adapted from a Scottish family recipe of his wife’s. Karen informed us that she had never heard of bread stuffing until she had a holiday dinner at a friend’s house!

For the Sausage
2 lbs ground pork
½ cup red wine
4 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp fennel sit
2 Tbsp black pepper

Remaining Ingredients for Stuffing
1 large white onion
1 Tbsp dried sage
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

To Make Sausage: Mix all the sausage ingredients together in a large bowl (ground pork through 2 Tbsp black pepper). Once mixed, allow to sit at least 2 hours (ensure you refrigerate it).

To Make the Stuffing: Preheat oven to 350°F. Roughly chop the white onion – toss into a food processor or blender and puree. Combine the pureed onion, sausage meat, dried sage, salt & pepper in a large bowl. Pack into a loaf or cake pan. Bake in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan, slice, and serve.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Hash

Recipe provided by Chef Robin Wasicuna

Note: You will want to purchase a rasher of bacon for this (you’ll need about ½ lb) instead of using pre-sliced bacon. You want to taste the bacon in the hash!

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
1 small onion, diced
1 cup bacon, large diced
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp Sherry vinegar

Cut off the ends of the Brussels sprouts. Peel apart all the layers of tender leaves and place them in a large bowl – set aside (you can save the tougher middle sections for another use).

Place the bacon and water in a heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook until bacon is cooked through and water has evaporated; approximately 5-10 minutes. Add onions to the pan. Saute everything until the onions are golden brown; approximately 5-8 minutes. Turn down heat to medium, add the Brussels sprouts leaves, butter, salt and pepper, and saute for 3-5 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are soft and cooked through. Add the sherry vinegar, stir everything to combine, and remove from heat. Serve warm.

Pan-Dripping Gravy

Drippings from Cider Basted Turkey Breast
1 ½ cups chicken or turkey stock
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour or potato starch
salt & pepper

Discard solids from the pan the turkey was roasted in. If the pan you used can be heated on the stove top, place over a medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup of the chicken stock to the pan and scrape up as much of the bits off the pan as possible. (if the pan can not be placed on the stove, pour the ¼ cup of stock into the hot pan as soon as possible when it comes out of the oven; scrape up the flavour bits from the pan, and pour everything into a saucepan). Whisk in the rice flour or potato starch, then add the remaining stock. Bring everything to a light boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the gravy thickens. Have a taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warm.

Note: if you have a dry white wine, you could add this to the pan instead of the ¼ cup of chicken stock mentioned above; then add 1 ¼ cup of chicken stock for the remainder of the recipe.


, , , , , , , , , ,


Crustless Broccoli, Bacon & Goat Cheese Quiche

I’m back!! From a whirlwind BC & Back-Again road trip and from taking some time to unpack and unwind! It’s been a hectic few weeks away, and I’m glad to get back into the writing groove. Over the past 3-4 weeks – ever since the packing began – Kyle and I have rarely cooked; perhaps only preparing meals a handful of times. Yikes! We are thankful for family and friends who fed us during this busy time – and for all the great take-out places and restaurants in town too! While it’s nice to have the free time from cooking to get things done, I’ve been itching to get back into the kitchen; and now that it’s fully unpacked, we have started to dip our toes into the cooking pool again – and in a new, snazzy kitchen no less! Seriously – I love this brand spanking new kitchen of mine ours!

While we can’t wait to be cooking up a storm, lately, we have needed to pull from our repertoire of quick and easy dinners so we can get dinner on the table while barely breaking from moving in – and refinishing furniture … because apparently that is a hobby we felt we needed to take up. One of the quickest and tastiest dinners to get on the table in no time? Quiche. I used to love mine with a buttery, flakey crust. But since that’s not an option anymore, we’ve gone crustless around this house. Yes, we could have saved the calories and called it a day – but I prefer to substitute some extra richness elsewhere in the dish. Namely, more cheese, cream instead of milk, and bacon! This takes just a few moments from your day to do some chopping, shredding, frying, beating and blanching; but afterwards, the quiche can be placed in the oven and you can go about your business for another 30 – 40 minutes while it bubbles away.

Crustless Broccoli, Bacon & Goat Cheese Quiche

2-3 slices of bacon, diced
2 heaping cups of broccoli, chopped (about one small head)
6 eggs
½ cup half-and-half cream
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup white old cheddar, shredded & divided
1-2 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a pie plate by buttering or spraying with cooking oil.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a pan over medium heat. When cooked to your likeness, remove from the pan and drain on paper towel – set aside. While the bacon is frying, blanche the broccoli in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain immediately, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Place the cooked broccoli in the prepared pie plate.

In a large bowl, beat together the 6 eggs. Add the cream, salt, nutmeg, pepper, the cooked bacon, and ½ cup of the cheddar cheese. Pour the mixture over the broccoli in the pie plate. Top the mixture with crumbled goat cheese then the remaining shredded cheddar.

Bake the quiche in the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes. It is done when a knife or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.


Lemongrass Pork Vietnamese Noodle Bowls

These days eating gluten free at home has become second nature. The only remaining trace of gluten in our home is the loaf of bread Kyle has for his morning toast or sandwiches; not that he wouldn’t eat my delicious loaf of gluten-free bread, but I’m cheap…and gluten-free bread from the store is not; therefore, Kyle is forced to continue eating his bread. I don’t think he minds. The only times I really become cognizant of not being able to eat gluten is when we go out to eat. Restaurants around the world are becoming more aware of gluten allergies, however, in my small city, I’m still not sure if they really understand the complexity of gluten allergies. I know it may seem narrow-minded of me to think that small-town staff wouldn’t be educated in the ins-and-outs of gluten; but my trust in the restaurant crew wanes when I get a quizzical look from a server or host after I ask about what I can eat when I have a gluten sensitivity. If I have to explain gluten in detail to you, I’m not going to feel confident when you tell me that dish “x” is safe and I could probably eat dish “y.” No thanks, I’ll just have the salad – dressing on the side. I detest the feeling that the staff thinks I’m just being picky; not knowing that I will get sick if I eat even a smidgen of gluten.

It’s after these outings that I long to move to a bigger city – where there are gluten-free restaurants! Or ones that offer vast sections on their menu that state “gluten free.” Places where I know they will take the matter of cross-contamination seriously. Although, I suppose we don’t eat out very often, so I can just look forward to venturing out to these gluten-allergy-friendly joints on trips out of town. In the meantime, I have gotten busy in the kitchen preparing the meals I am craving, but can no longer order when we go out.

I really miss Asian food. Overall the dishes appear to be gluten-free, with the rice & rice noodles, fresh vegetables, and juicy & chewy meats. But it’s the soy sauce that is the main offender (which ends up in many oyster & hoisin sauces). There are lots of gluten-free soy sauces, but as much as I ask the serving staff, I’ve never received a clear answer about what kind of soy sauce is used in their dishes. I suppose tasty recipes have to be kept secret to continue to bring in customers. One dish I was recently craving was a Vietnamese noodle bowl with charred lemongrass pork. I missed the saltiness of the pork and nuoc cham. So I developed this gluten-free recipe and shared it with some friends. I even added some grilled vegetables for added sustenance, and of course served it with my favourite sauce: Prik Nam Pla. This was a hit, and I’ve made it a few times since. The ingredient list may seem daunting – but that’s just because of all the “toppings” to sprinkle over your plain rice noodles – omit and add what you desire. There is not a right way to eat this when you’re catering to your taste buds.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowls with Lemongrass Pork & Grilled Vegetables

The lemongrass pork recipe can somewhat be attributed to Naomi Duguid’s & Jeffrey Alford’s book Hot Sour Salty Sweet. Although there isn’t a recipe that seemed to mirror that charred pork served in Vietnamese restaurants – mainly there was no soy sauce, and most of the pork & lemongrass recipes involved minced meat. So here is my approximation, it may not be authentic, but it’s good. For the pork loin, it is much easier to purchase a pork loin roast – which typically comes in 2-3 lbs. Cut off what you think looks like 1 pound; then freeze the remainder for another use (or for the next time you want to make this dish). Don’t forget to factor in time to marinate this dish – at least 1 hour. To ensure you are not running around trying to get everything prepared at the last minute, cut up all your accompaniments before you start grilling the pork and vegetables. 

For the pork:
1 lb pork loin
1 stalk lemongrass, dry outer leaves removed and tender part finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce – make sure it’s gluten free (beware, some manufacturers add wheat)
2 Tbsp gluten free soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp pepper

For the grilled vegetables:
1 Japanese eggplant
1 zucchini
1 bunch broccolini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp pepper
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil

For the noodle bowls:
rice noodles
cooked pork & veggies
nuoc cham (recipe below or search the internet) – this is the typical sauce served with noodle bowls
Suggested Accompaniments – all optional
carrot, julienne/matchstick cut
2″ piece of cucumber, seeds removed, julienne/matchstick cut
iceberg lettuce, shredded
green onions, sliced
roasted peanuts, chopped
cilantro, chopped
mint, chopped
basil, chopped
Sambal Oelek
Prik Nam Pla

For the lemongrass pork: Cut the pork loin into 1/4″ – 1/2″ slices across the grain. Working with 1 piece of pork at a time, place the pork between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, then pound to about 1/8″ thick – for this you can use a meat mallet, rolling pin, or even a large can of beans/soup. Combine remaining ingredients for pork (lemongrass through pepper) into a large zip-top bag or large dish. Add the pork to the marinade and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Pull pork out of fridge at least 1/2 hour before you are going to grill in order for it to come up to room temperature.

For the grilled vegetables: Cut the eggplant and zucchini into 4 vertical slices. Trim the broccolini if necessary. Place in a large bowl and combine the remaining ingredients (garlic through sesame oil) over the vegetables just prior to grilling.

Preheat grill to medium-high. This is a good time to bring the water for your noodles to boil. Place all the pork and vegetables on the grill. Grill the pork and vegetables for about 3-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Pull of any vegetables as they are cooked. Meanwhile, cook your rice noodles according to package directions. When vegetables and meat are cooked, transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces (be careful, everything will be hot) – I don’t bother chopping the broccolini, it’s fun to eat whole.

To serve: place approximately 1 cup of cooked rice noodles in a bowl. Top with pork and vegetables and any accompaniments you desire. You can either dish up everyone’s bowls and serve restuarant-style, or place all the toppings on the table and place out bowls of rice noodles and serve family-style, letting everyone top their own dishes.

Serves 4-6.

Nuoc Cham

Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid

juice from 1 juicy lime
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 thai bird chile, minced (optional)
shreds of carrot (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. You can either split this up into individual condiments bowls for each person, or alternatively, place a spoon in the bowl and everyone can spoon over their desired amount. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.

, , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Sundried Tomato & Feta Stuffed Pork

In a week where I found out I will have to be living without gluten in my life for around a year (the horror!), I take comfort in knowing that I Will Always Have Pork. My taste buds are thanking my body for not being a complete failure. (I kid. I realize gluten intolerence/celiac disease are serious conditions)

This recipes combines some flavours that by now I’m sure you know I adore: sundried tomatoes, salty feta, and of course, pork. Oh, but I didn’t just stop at one type of pork. Even though this porky tenderloin would have been fantastic just stuffed, seared, and roasted, I decided to make it all the more delicious by adding more pork. So it was cradled in a proscuitto blanket before being sent to the saute pan to seal in the juices. And it was good.

Sundried Tomato & Feta Stuffed Pork Tenderloin wrapped in Proscuitto

Umm…how is that for a recipe title? I think it encompasses the awesomeness that is this meaty meal.

1 lb pork tenderloin
1/2 cup feta, chopped
6 sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp basil, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp salt & pepper
4-5 slices prosciutto
1 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Remove any silver skin from the tenderloin. Butterfly the pork tenderloin (cut it down the middle vertically, but not all the way through – it should open up like a book), then place it between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it thin with a meat mallet – you’ll want about 1 cm thickness. Set aside. Note: you can also use a heavy can of soup to pound the pork.

Preheat an oven-proof pan on medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine the feta, sundried tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir in 1 Tbsp of the the sundried tomato oil (or 1 Tbsp of olive oil). Spread out the feta mixture along the middle of the pork, vertically.  Starting at the short end of the pork, start rolling it up like a jelly roll. Place the prosciutto slices in a row on your work surface; you’ll want them so they are vertical to you. You will need 4-5 depending on the length of your tenderloin – you want enough that the length of the prosciutto slices lined up equals the length of your tenderloin. Place the tenderloin on top of one end of the prosciutto slices, roll up the tenderloin in the prosciutto.

Heat up the olive oil in the prepared pan. When it’s hot, place the tenderloin in the pan and sear both sides (as you can see above, my tenderloin had to be curved to fit the pan). When you’re done searing, place the pan in the pre-heated oven and roast for 25-40 minutes, depending on desired degree of doneness (we like ours a bit pink, so we only roast for about 25 minutes; but maybe you like yours well-done). Remove pork from oven to a cutting board and let stand, covered with foil, for 5-10 minutes. Slice into 1″ thick slices and serve.

Serves 4.

, , , , ,

1 Comment