Portobello Burger, Pickled Veggies, and Honey Dijonnaise

Who are you fooling with a mushroom burger, right? Maybe you’ve ordered something similar in a restaurant only to regret it upon taking a bite. (That’s definitely happened to me a couple of times.) The problem with most mushroom burgers is a lack of flavor and juiciness. This may sound difficult to remedy, but it’s not. I’ve found that simply marinating mushrooms with herbs, garlic and balsamic gives them that much desired kick. Keeping the portobellos whole also helps them to become extra juicy. They`ll absorb a lot of that marinade and cooking oil, and the more absorbed, the better. You’ll get all those juices and flavors back when you take a bite. You’ll almost think it’s meat. Portobellos are usually the size of a patty, so no fussing around; marinate, sauté in a pan, eat.
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The Basics – Stock, Mayo, and Spices

Here are a few recipes that will set your cooking apart: homemade stock; mayonnaise or, as my fiance’s family calls it, “Food of the Gods”; and a Cajun spice mix, which makes flavoring a snap.

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Coconut Cream Pie

Yesterday at the grocery I spent rather a long time in the baking aisle. I wanted a packet of dried coconut – very finely hashed. Thinking in French of “flocons de coconut,” I looked for “flakes.” You can’t get smaller than a “flake,” I thought; and for my coconut cream pie, only the shortest, finest pieces would do. Cream fillings need to be smooth, not rocky.
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Pan-Fried North River Smelts

I was lucky at the market today. I got my hands on some fresh, ice-fished smelts. The best way to enjoy them is simple; floured, pan-fried, salted and then dipped into a sauce. For the dip, you can pretty much use anything but I went with horseradish, because the zest of it works amazingly well with the fish. If horseradish isn’t your thing, try it anyway – it’s an acquired taste!

These make for a great appetizer but also a great lunch.
Eat the small ones whole. For the larger ones, once they’re cooked, you can easily peel away the spine, leaving you with only the filets.
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Brown Rice Risotto with Roasted Tomato Sauce

In cooking school, we were shown how to make risotto the “right way”. The Italian cuisine teacher came to our class and explained exactly how it was done. Oh man, the guy was so passionate about it. If for one second you stopped stirring the rice, the next second he was right up in your face, yelling. I think at one point, he even shed a tear. Italians take their risotto very seriously, like an art form. But don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple to make.

A traditional risotto is made with arborio rice. It’s cooked by adding stock little by little and stiring constantly. Finally, butter and parmesan are added. They give it that amazing creamy texture. Risotto is usually served as a starter, but it can easily replace normal rice as a side dish.
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Spicy Haddock Fish Cakes with Aioli

Fish cakes, crab cakes, both remind me of beach vacations. Seashore restaurants, seafood take-outs, cold beer, tartar sauce, sun. It’s not summer yet, and I know that back-painfully well; after shoveling the snow from our driveway yesterday, the car still got stuck, and later on we stacked a cord of firewood. But guess what I felt like eating in spite of all the ice and snow? Hint: check the title of this post. I wanted summery fish cakes; classic ones made with mashed potatoes. Crab cakes tend to be more popular in general, but fish cakes, when done correctly, are just as tasty and rewarding. They’re also cheaper to make! Now I’ve got everyone’s attention.
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Open-Faced Egg and Cheese with Maple Mustard

This is the perfect combination; you have sharp cheddar, salty eggs, sweet maple syrup, spicy mustard and crispy toast. You’ll wish you could have this for breakfast every morning for the rest of your life. Well maybe not, but I do. I almost ate two of them this morning but was reminded that four eggs a day might be too much. I guess you could add slices of bacon if you’re a fan, but my advice is to save your bucks because it’s already damn good as it is.
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