5 Star Makeover: Tail Gating with Lobster Sauce Crab Poutine with Oka Cheese

Tail what?  Tail gate was the clever theme our wonderful hosts Lazaro and Natasha settled on for this month’s 5 Star Makeover. Clever and confusing! See I am not a sports fan at all. And I am not alone because the announcement of the theme caused a lot of reaction from my fellow challenge friends. OK so I knew the word but I had no clear concept of what a tail gate party was. I am sure some Canadian sport fans have them but not nearly to the extent of our friendly Southern neighbor.

After a bit of research I understood tail gate food revolved around a grill and pot luck like dishes. Lots of junk food in general too. What could I make that would have a certain Canadian flair, even better if it could have a Québecois touch? Of course! I would make our ultimate world famous fast food: poutine! Now even if the rest of the world thinks this is our national dish…it is not. Let me say it again: poutine by no means is considered fancy.

Yet this is suppose to be a gourmet challenge. Have no fear, Chuck is here! I based my poutine on the Lobster Poutine recipe by Montreal local super star chef Chuck Hughes. This is one of the recipes Chuck prepared on Iron Chef America that helped him kick Bobby Flays’ ass (pardon my French Québecois). What can I say, French Canadian Chuck beating Bobby on Iron Chef America, it was a proud moment for Montrealers!

I made a few bold changes in Chuck’s recipe – not by choice but by obligation. I got to the grocery store pretty late and the fish monger was gone. The young kid taking over the next door deli section was trying to be helpful, resigned himself to package a lobster for me but could not find the price scan and I eventually found canned crab meat. There was also no curd cheese left when I got to the store, which is THE poutine cheese to use. I did however find some Oka Cheese which I thought would make for a good substitute. Curd cheese is kind of bland but Oka packs a punch flavor wise, I just had a hunch it would work. It really did! Please take my word on it and try the recipe, poutine is not a photogenic dish so don’t judge purely on appearance.

hosted by 5 Star Foodie & Lazaro Cooks!

On a funny note this was my first time ever do real French fries…as in deep frying. No one was hurt and nothing was damaged BUT I did manage to set the burner on fire. Half of me was trying not to laugh my head off and the other half was trying to remember how one puts out a fire in the kitchen again? Oh yeah put a lid on it or baking soda.

Ξ Lobster Sauce Crab Poutine with Oka Cheese Ξ
adapted from Chuck Hughes


  • 250 gr crab meat (original recipe 2 large lobsters, 1 ½ lbs each)
  • 4 cups of lobster base sauce
  • 1 tsp cornstarch, dilute in water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6 Yukon Gold potatoes with skins on, washed and cut lengthwise into fries
  • 1 lb Oka cheese, cut in cubes (original recipe cheese curds)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying


To make your own lobster base from scratch see my recipe here, I had some in the freezer already. If you prefer using lobster meat, cook your lobster, remove the meat and make base with the shells.

For the sauce, reduce the lobster base in half. Add a little bit of base to the cornstarch mixture the add it all to the pan and cook until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Next, whisk in butter and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Preheat oil in deep fryer to 300F (148C) and blanch the fries for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and let stand for several minutes.

Increase the temperature of the oil in the deep fryer and immerse the fries in the oil again for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Place on a tray lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Plate fries in a shallow bowl and garnish with the crab and Oka cheese . Pour the lobster sauce over top. Makes 4 servings.


Got a simple recipe up your sleeve? Enter it and thousands of people could be cooking your recipe from the Backpackers Recipe Guide which will be shared with 20,000 hostel and hundreds of travel contacts. To submit a recipe check out how to enter.

Express Harissa “Broth”

Harissa claims its roots are in Tunisian but it is very popular everywhere in Northern part of Africa. The key ingredients in a traditional harissa are bird’s eye chili peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chilis and spices such as garlic paste, coriander, red chili powder, caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. Other options are of cumin, red peppers, garlic, coriander and lemon juice. It is a very adaptable recipe.

Of course recipes for harissa can vary greatly depending in which region you are in or even in who’s house you are eating it. Usually harissa has a paste like consistency which is added as a condiment to recipes like stews, spreads, sauces and cousous.

The version I will show you here is more like a broth consistency and is super fast to make. The flavors are very basic too so feel free to add garlic or coriander or what ever you like. Add it to a soup for a fiery kick or dip some torn pita in it. Let you imagination run wild. This recipe yields about 1/2 cup but feel free to multiply for larger quantities.

Ξ Express Harissa Ξ

1 1/2tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp bird’s eye chili powder (substitute with cayenne)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 cup water
juice of 1/2 lime or to taste

In a small pan add the paprika, the bird’s eye chili powder and the cumin. Add the water to the pan and mix well. Bring the mixture to the point of boiling but as soon as bubble appear remove it from the heat – boiling will damage the natural oil essences of the spices. Add fresh lime juice to taste and let cool before serving.


Got a simple recipe up your sleeve? Enter it and thousands of people could be cooking your recipe from the Backpackers Recipe Guide which will be shared with 20,000 hostel and hundreds of travel contacts. To submit a recipe check out how to enter.

Cinque Terre Memories and a 5 Star Pizza Perfect for a Youth Hostel Kitchen Meal

Quick announcement, my article Reviewing Restaurants – You Be The Critic was published today on the Food Bloggers of Canada site. Please go visit the site after reading this post.

I am sitting here on my couch leafing through the 2 photo albums from my fist backpacking trip though Europe. What a trip it was! It was 1996, I was 22 and I left my mom and dad for my first independent trip where I traveled through 9 countries and 25 cities in 60 days all by myself. It was a whirlwind trip as I did not want to miss a single thing just in case I never got to make it back to Europe. Digital cameras were a new thing back then hence the actual photo albums….I scanned a few pics for you.

This was years before the food blog, the food group or even really realizing my passion for food. But I knew I liked to eat and I was thrilled at the prospect of trying so many new specialties. It was my formative years in ethnic food. Budget was the first priority and before anyone would go spend the day sightseeing we had a few basics that needed to be settled, cheaply: food and shelter. Shelter as usually covered with a Youth Hostel and food took on many forms like sandwiches, pastries, going off the tourist path for a local cheaper joint and the occasional Youth Hostel kitchen.

This was years before the food blog, the food group or even really realizing my passion for food. But I knew I liked to eat and I was thrilled at the prospect of trying so many new specialties. It was my formative years in ethnic food. Budget was the first priority and before anyone would go spend the day sightseeing we had a few basics that needed to be settled, cheaply: food and shelter. Shelter as usually covered with a Youth Hostel and food took on many forms like sandwiches, pastries, going off the tourist path for a local cheaper joint and the occasional Youth Hostel kitchen.

When I was contacted by HostelBookers.com to submit a recipe for the Backpackers Recipe Guide, wow I was flooded by so many memories. This cookbook will be sent out to 20,000 youth hostels worldwide with a selection of cheap, easy and delicious recipes a traveler can cook in a youth hostel kitchen. How exciting it would be to have my recipe in there.

The village of Manarola

I have had my fare share of Youth Hostel meals and they were always fun and communal. There is one meal in particular that really stands out in my catalog of memories. And not just that meal but that destination, that youth hostel and the people I met there! It’s a doozy of a story so sit down and get comfy as I take you back 15 years (yikes), in early October, to a little town called Riomaggiore located in Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. Its a long post and story but I swear you will be thoroughly entertained!

The cool guide to travel with at that time was Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door. Do you remember his show on PBS? His travel show took you through the unknown, the cheap, the secret treasures that you did not find in regular travel guides. It was a great book to find cheap accommodation with sometimes quirky descriptions. And in those days Rick Steves was the only guy talking about Cinque Terre, a rugged stretch of the Italian Riviera composed of 5 villages:  Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

Ξ Pesto and Mushroom Pizza Ξ


  • 12 inch pizza crust
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 5 oz ( 150 gr) firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F /180 C.
  2. Place the pizza crust on a lightly oiled baking sheet (or aluminum paper).
  3. Spread the pesto on the crust leaving a clear edge on the crust.
  4. Top with mushrooms, tofu and the cheese.
  5. Bake the pizza for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Makes 6 slices.

I served this pizza for a potluck this weekend and it got rave reviews. This is truly one of the most flavorful pizzas I have ever made and it is so easy to make. Because of the tofu and the good amount of mushrooms, a couple of slices constitute a balanced quick meal. You do not need a lot of utensils besides a spoon, a knife and a baking sheet or aluminum paper. But my favorite part of this recipe is that it will satisfy both vegetarians and carnivores in one dish, not a claim many recipes can make. And who does not like Italian Pizza?

Back then there was only one option for cheap lodging and it was listed in the guide book: Mama Rosa’s Hostel in Riomaggiore. The guide said Mama Rosa met every train that arrived to round up the backpackers. The guide also said she ran her modest hostel with her son Sylvio. Although I doubted she would actually be at the train station a fairytale setting did start forming in my head of this private non touristy stop with Mama Rosa, the vineyards and her hot Italian son. That image got shattered real fast.

Oh yes Mama Rosa was at the train station. Try to imagine a 50 year old woman wearing a bright Barbie pink full jump suit with a bad light blond hair dye job waving her hands like all Italian mothers should announcing loudly:(say it with emphasis) MAAAma ROOOSaaaaaa, MAAAma ROOOSaaaaaa! I picked up my jaw off the Cinque Terre terre and followed her to the Hostel. What a dump! Some online reviews call it a slum and a notorious place. But what was I going to do!  I was there, it was cheap and I was in an isolated part of Italy.

Cactus pears, Mama Rosa's kitchen and outdoor bathroom

The set up was rudimentary at best, I remember the roof of my room was a corrugated roof – it rained and it made that unavoidable musical noise you hear in movies. And the outdoor bathroom was perfectly visible to the people living in the houses above that flank of the mountain, as in they could have seen us on the toilet! The common area was the basic kitchen with a long table.

And when you thought you saw the worst of it, Sylvio teh son made his appearance: carrying a bucket of dirty water the imaginary hot Italian son was actually an ugly and toothless middle-aged bachelor in tattered clothes. As stupid and vain as it may sound I was in shock. And I was not alone as I confirmed with all the girls I met there that we had all imagined Sylvio up into an Italian Stallion. NOT!

Thank god when you are traveling like a backpacker you can put all these things aside and go with the flow. Because you know what? This was one of the most memorable and enjoyable stops on my trip in the end. I met quite a few really delightful travelers there – all with a copy of Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door under their arm.

My first friend was a tall German guy who was also at the train station. It was late afternoon when we got in so not much to do except explore the tiny village. We spotted the vineyard terraces above the village and we decided to go for a stroll through the grapes. Of course to make it to the grapes we had to find out if permission would be granted to climb the old stone stairs leading to the terrace by the 3 typical widowed women, all dressed in black. It was like a militia guards post. A little apprehensive, German guy and I flashed our biggest smiles and said our best Hellos and How are yous in Italian. Well we got the blessing and were allowed to climb up the stairs and stroll in the vineyards. I could not resist and I grabbed a raisin and bit into it. That was the first time I ever ate a raisin right off the vine: it was heaven, sweet, luscious and destined for a great wine.

The next day I joined another small group of travelers who were getting ready to hike the famous walking trail joining the 5 villages. After all that was the point of going to Cinque Terre. I only remember bits and pieces of that hike. I know it took about 5 hours to do including very quick stops and a lunch. I have a very vivid memory of the most quintessential Italian scene I have ever seen in my life: a old man climbing out of his cellar into his house with his feet barefoot and purple from stomping the grapes. I remember the hiking path being so narrow at times it was scary.

Narrow path, Monterosso al Mare beach and a Mediterranean dip

I can still feel the little pricks on my fingers of the cactus pears I picked right of the cactus, a fruit my new friends had never seen. Yes even then I was introducing people to new foods. And my last memory of the actual hike was our destination, the tiny beach of Monterosso al Mare at the end of the day where I was going to swim in the Mediterranean come hell or high water. After all the sun was going down at the end of that cooler October day but I am from Canada and I can handle cold water. And the guy with us agreed to join me. The locals looked at us like we were absolutely crazy.

It was such a great day. We took the train back to Mama Rosa’s where we bought food for a communal dinner. During the hike we found out Pesto was from this part of Italy so we made a simple dish of pasta with a pesto sauce bought by the ladle in a small shop, got extra cheese and a few bottles of wine in tow. For dessert we enjoyed the sliced cactus pears I had picked – still feeling the tiny shards lodged under my skin. That is how I remember Cinque Terre: rugged in every sense of the word but such a beautiful raw experience. And I owe it all to Mama Rosa and her Hostel!


Got a simple recipe up your sleeve? Enter it and thousands of people could be cooking your recipe from a special cookbook that will be in youth hostel kitchens all over the world. To submit a recipe check out how to enter.

Don’t forget to go check out my article Reviewing Restaurants – You Be The Critic on the Food Bloggers of Canada site.

Celebrating Oh Canada, Moving and Seperation with Rabbit

Before the rabbit we will have a small history lesson if you will.

Today, July 1st is Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadian readers. Canada, under a united constitution, is 186 years old. It was in 1867 that we told the British to go stuff their tea cups and go home! Ironically Prince William and his new princess bride, Kate, are here visiting and celebrating with us Canuks this year.

But that is not all. Quebec celebrates Moving day on July 1st. No, this is not an official holiday or law but it has been tradition to move on this particular day since 1973. The origins actually go back to the late 1700s when the French government forbade the land Lords from evicting their tenant farmers before the winter snow had melted. When the concept of leases began this was set as May 01st but later became July 01st so that students would not have to move during the school year. On the island of Montreal, where Moving Day has its biggest impact, it is estimated that about 1/8th of the population is changing address. It’s a great day to go dumpster diving for furniture too!

Unrelated but interesting note: Canada is 186 years old but the French took possession of Quebec in 1534 (477 years ago) when Jacques Cartier planted a cross on the Gaspé Peninsula. No information super highway back then.

Nope I am not going political on you with Quebec and separation. This is on a much more personal note as this post is dedicated (as promised) to my friend Karyn who is celebrating her 4th anniversary of separating from her ex-husband…..a day she celebrates grandly every year (hey she got out of a non abusive but miserable situation). Congrats hun!

And what better way to celebrate separation then with a BBQ and a whole carcass! I gave her the choice of my pending recipe posts…she chose the BBQ Rabbit. But I actually served this on Father’s Day, confusing I know. Warning sensitive souls may be offended by some of the pictures below (but I bet you are real curious now).

So I bought a rabbit a while back because it was 30% off. I have never cooked a rabbit before but I was no stranger to eating it. I have never had an issue about it. I told a few friends about my purchase and was told flat out NOT to send an invite to that meal. Fine, like, whatever!

But I knew my parents would be delighted. I really wanted to give this a go on the BBQ too which I finally got working and gassed after a 2 year hiatus. So here we go with a BBQ Rabbit recipe.

Ξ BBQ Whole Rabbit Ξ

1  approx 3-pound rabbit, whole but without the head
1 can of beer
1 cup of barbecue sauce, store bought or homemade

Place the rabbit in a pot and pour the bottle of beer over it. Add cold water to the pot until the rabbit is completely covered. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a LOW SIMMER, parboiling, for 20 minutes.

Preheat grill to 400 degrees F.

Remove rabbit from boiling water (drain well) and place directly on grill. Grill on one side for 15-20 minutes, then flip the rabbit. Apply a generous coating of barbecue sauce on the top side of the rabbit and let it cook for another 15-20 minutes. Flip the rabbit over and apply barbecue sauce, letting it remain on the grill for another 10 minutes, being careful to not let the barbecue sauce burn. Cut into pieces and serve. Great info here on how to carve a rabbit.

The result: A little more gammy in taste then if it was cooked in a delicate sauced dish but very good and different. Would do it again.

Canada Day, Canada, Quebec, Moving day,July 1st,cheap ethnic eatz,montreal,rabbit, barbecue, bbq, bbq rabbit, bbq sauce, parboil

Canelés Bordelais

Have you heard of Canelés? Are they a mystery to you? Well l would not be surprised if you have not, they have been wrapped in mystery since the day they were invented. Like a spy in a cloak this French pastry has slipped in and out of history for 3 centuries, not leaving many clues behind.

I first came across them about a year ago when the social media firm Télégraphe hosted a friendly Canelé blind test competition, an excuse to get together. I found it funny taste testing and grading an unknown sweet treat. But I fell in love with them right away…and also swore at first I would NOT attempt to make them. Well only fools don’t change their minds, right?

Canelés (also often misspelled Cannelés) are a specialty of the Bordeaux region of France. This “cake” is traditionally baked in a small, striated cylinder mold and is characterized by a soft and tender custard center with a dark, thick caramelized crust. The recipe mostly consists of eggs, sugar, milk, flour, rum and vanilla mixed into a light crepe-like batter that is left to rest for 48 hours in the fridge. And they are A-D-D-I-C-T-I-V-E.


Legend has it that Canelés were created and invented in the 18th century by the nuns of the convent of Annonciades in Bordeaux. They were so popular that artisan bakers popped up in the streets selling their Canelé version. These special bakers were given the name “Canauliers” and registered a Guild with the Parliament of Bordeaux in 1663. During 19th century Canauliers disappeared from the artisans list of Bordeaux. In the first quarter of the 20th century the Canelé reappears. It is likely that its current shape comes from the similarity (in French) of the word wave with the word “cannelure” (fluting, corrugation, striations). wiki

And the mystery keeps persisting. I wish I could give you a source for my recipe but honestly I cannot. I have tweaked my proportions by comparing about 6-8 different recipes. No two are the same, so I am calling this version my own, adapted from the original recipe that no one seems to own (supposedly stored in a safe in France and known by only a very few pastry chefs who have been sworn to secrecy). Let’s investigate the sweet conspiracy…


Canelés Bordelais


500 ml (2 cups) whole milk
25 g (2 oz) butter
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
255 g (9 oz) sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla pod
30ml (1/8 cup) rum
140 g (5 oz) flour


  1. Heat milk to 183°F on the stove, add the butter and let it cool completely to room temperature.
  2. In a bowl, beat together the yolks, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and rum.
  3. Incorporate the flour. Mix well then mix in the cooled milk gradually.
  4. Let the batter rest (it will be very fluid), covered, in the fridge for 48 hours.
  5. Fill the Canelés molds almost to the top.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 450°F (230°C) for 15min, then lower to 375°F (180°C) and bake for 1 hour or until they are a dark golden brown.
  7. Remove from mold immediately and absolutely let them cool before eating.

Makes 12 big Canelés (2″ x 2″ mold)


– It is important to cool completely the milk mixture before pouring it over the egg mixture otherwise it could “cook” the dough.
– YES let the batter rest for 48 hours. No ifs or buts…DO NOT skip this step.
– This recipe specifies cooking times for the big Canelé mold where the cavity dimensions are 2″ x 2″.
– Break with tradition: try other alcohols or liqueurs. I only make mine with absinthe now if I have it in my bar. Awesome!

– The traditional recipe calls for tin-lined copper mold. Prepare to pay about $20 a piece. A better option is purchasing a Canelé silicone mold which is still not cheap ($30 to 40) unless you get lucky on Ebay like I did.

Before investing in a Canelé mold I did try out the recipe in a muffin mold. They totally loose their presentation charm, actually probably closer to what they looked like in the 18th century, but the taste was unchanged. You can see them below. Look at the custard-like insides here. This dessert is heaven!

Daring Cooks Meets IIP: Gumbo

Talk about killing 2 birds with 1 stone: 2 challenges, same publish date…SAME THEME! Awesome! And it gets better, I cooked with another daring kitchen member who has a food blog and who just so happens to be a great friend! On the menu tonight for both the Daring Cooks Challenge and the International Incident Party (which is hosted by the lovely Penny at Jeroxie) : Gumbo.

Gumbo is a stew or soup which originated in south Louisiana. It consists primarily of a strong stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable “holy trinity” of celery, bell peppers, and onion. Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used: the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder, and/or the French base made of flour and fat, roux.

DC challenge: Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh. For the entire recipe PFD click here.

My partner in crime is Amanda of The Mindful Table. We met about a year ago through a Montreal food blogger BBQ, realized we actually had a lot of common interests and acquaintances. And then she joined the Daring Kitchen so we exchanged emails and phones calls on various recipes. Finally the stars were aligned for us to cook a challenge together. Amanda’s blog is devoted to local and sustainable food. If you want to learn more about these options, and learn about the organic meats we used in this recipe then check out her post of the gumbo challenge.

International Incident Gumbo Party

Our notes
Neither one of us was enthralled by the idea of so much sausage so we cut back a lot. And once all the herbs and spices were added from the original recipe we found it quite bland so we added a lot more thyme and cumin seeds, chili flakes and cayenne. We also added 3 garlic cloves to the rub. Oh and we did not read about the size of the pan…we used a 4-5 quart….so we only got in half the chicken stock (1.5 quarts) but we got a quite liquid gumbo so no idea why the recipe says 3 quarts.

There was a lot confusion and a lot of improvising…thank god we are both good at that and can laugh it off. It was  really fun night filled with cooking, banter, booze, gossip and laughter. Love you my friend! The gumbo was not what we expected, we found by the end all the veggies and meat had disintegrated. But it was very good to eat. I would not do this recipe again though.

The wine pairing was phenomenal. I researched the best red wines online to go with gumbo and the results were Pinot Noir or Gamay. Went to the SAQ store, asked for the best mid-priced, splurged a bit more for a Californian Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2009…A-MA-ZING with the gumbo.

Here are the recipes we used…

Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo

VERY adapted by Evelyne and Amanda
Serves 10-12


1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) rendered chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
2 large onions, diced
1 organic chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) Creole spice blend
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 pound organic Valens smoked german style sausage, sliced ½ inch (15mm) thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers (capsicum), seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1.5 quarts (1.5 liters) Chicken Stock
2 bay leaves
2 cups (480 ml) (320 gm) (11 oz) sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch (15mm) thick slices
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon (15 ml) crushed cumin seeds
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
cayenne and chili flakes, to taste
4-6 cups (1 – 1½ liters) (650 gm – 950 gm) cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (recipe follows)


1. Season the chicken pieces with the Creole Spices and 3 garlic cloves while you prepare the vegetables.
2. Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.
3. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes.
4. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.
5. Add the chicken; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, 10 minutes.
6. Add the sliced sausage and stir for about a minute.
7. Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.
8. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
9. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.
1o. Add the chopped okra, and Worcestershire. Season with cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne and chili flakes, to taste.
11. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice.

Basic Louisiana White Rice
Servings: About 4 cups


1 tablespoon (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) chicken fat, extra-virgin olive oil, or butter
1 small onion, minced
1½ cups (360 m) ((280 gm) (10 oz) Louisiana rice (we used brown rice)
3 cups (750 ml) Basic Chicken Stock
1 bay leaf
1-2 pinches salt


1. Put the fat, oil, or butter and the onions into a medium saucepan and sweat the onions over moderate heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Pour the rice into the pan and stir for 2 minutes.
3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
4. Add the bay leaf and salt.
5. Cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.


Daring Bakers: Maple Mousse served in an Edible Container

I am so very excited to announce that I was the host for the April 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge. Not only is it a privilege to host such an event (a second time for me) but this is a very special challenge indeed for both myself and Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! (April Daring Cooks host) as we hosted a DUAL challenge: we challenged the Daring Cooks and Bakers to make EDIBLE CONTAINERS. It is all very exciting as it is the first time both monthly challenges cooperate.

In my native province of Quebec (Canada) many families, friends and co-workers organize group outings to our quintessential spring event: the sugar shack pilgrimage. Yes it is almost sacrilegious if one who lives in Quebec does not make their way at least once during March or April to a traditional “Cabane à Sucre”. This huge feast of eggs, ham, pea soup, pork rinds, beans, pancakes, bacon and pies – all drizzled in maple syrup – is enjoyed in the middle of the woods outside the big cities in a large dining hall. Once the meal is over everyone heads back outside to enjoy maple taffy served on a clean bed of snow.

So I wanted to share a bit of my maple syrupy home with you for this months’ Daring Bakers’ challenge. Now the dish I am offering up for preparation is not at all a traditional recipe but rather my own creative inspiration which includes some of the “Cabane à Sucre” elements. Since Lisa and Ivonne challenged me to include an edible container I decided to make a Maple Mousse served in a baked Bacon Cup. No worries bacon fearers, we have alternatives for you.

This challenge will really please those with both a sweet and salty tooth as the combination of bacon and maple syrup is flabbergastingly good. I played around with 3 different bacon cup sizes and each one was different when it came to the sweet/salty balance ratio. I have a strong sweet tooth and surprisingly my winner was the largest bacon cup because it held more mousse. Feel free to experiment with your presentation as well: add a meringue, add melted chocolate, nuts, etc, and drizzle more maple syrup on top of your creations. Have fun and I can’t wait to see what you will all come up with.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://www.thedaringkitchen.com/!

Recipe Source:
Bacon cups where inspired by not martha and 59kilos
Nut Crust were taught to me by a friend, no source, but posted at Cheap Ethnic Eatz
Maple mousse is adapted from Jaime Oliver is not my boyfriend
Vegan maple mousse was inspired by this recipe at Suite 101
Meringue, finally, was adapted from Woman and Home

• Putting aluminum foil on the muffin pan heat-proof bowls is essential or they will be stuck to the form. Be gentle when removing the aluminum foil from bacon cups.
• Bacon shrinks a lot so make sure weave is tight on the form. Tuck the ends of the bacon strips inside otherwise they will curl while cooking. A good idea is to insert 4 toothpicks where the crisscrossed bacon meets in the weave.
• For the nut bowls, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups of crushed.
• In the maple mousse recipe, after the gelatine has bloomed (softened) in the cold whipping cream, the gelatine MUST be heated to melt completely…contrary to popular belief. Follow the directions as described and never let gelatine boil or it will become stringy and unusable.
• If you make the meringues let them cool in the oven once they are baked… just don’t forget to turn off the oven when they are done. This cooling process will help then dry out nicely and be crispier.
• the taste of maple syrup cannot be substituted but yes there are substitutes for the recipes if really obliged. At least you can do the challenge with it. For 1 cup (240 ml) Maple Syrup try:
– 3/4 cup (180 ml) corn syrup plus 1/4 cup (57 grams) butter plus 1/2 teaspoon maple extract (optional)
– 1 cup (240 ml) Honey but totally different taste
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed, 1 cup boiling water, 1 teaspoon butter, 1 teaspoon maple extract or vanilla extract. Place granulated sugar in a heavy skillet. Heat until the sugar melts and turns brown. Meanwhile, place brown sugar into a heavy saucepan. Pour water over brown sugar and bring to a boil without stirring. Add caramelized white sugar to the melted brown sugar in the saucepan. Simmer, stirring often, until syrup is thickened. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter and maple or vanilla extract. Yield: about 1 cup

Mandatory Items: There are 2 mandatory components to this challenge. You must make one of the 2 maple mousse recipes listed below and you must make an edible container in which to place your mousse for presentation.

Variations allowed: If you have health issues and restrictions of course adapt as necessary. There is a regular maple mousse recipe and a totally vegan one. For the edible container you can let your imagination run wild, the recipes I have included are suggestions. I have listed a couple of other ideas in the Additional Information section. The meringue recipe is optional.

Preparation time:
Bacon cups: preparation 15 minutes, bake 25-40 minutes depending on cup size, cooling 1 hour.
Nut Crust: preparation 30 minutes, baking about 15 minutes, cooling 1 hour.
Maple mousse: preparation 15 minutes, cooling 1 hour, refrigeration 1 hour.
Vegan maple mousse: preparation 10 minutes, refrigeration 1hour.
Meringue Time preparation 15 minutes, baking 45 minutes, cooling 2-3 hours.

Equipment required:
• muffin pan or 6 small ½ cup capacity heat-proof bowls
• heat proof shot glasses for smaller bacon cups
• aluminum foil
• scissors
• knife
• toothpicks
• baking tray
• food processor or zip-lock bag and a rolling pin
• various sizes of mixing bowls
• wooden mixing spoon
• rubber spatulas
• whisk
• small pan
• blender or hand mixer
• baking parchment or silicone mat
• piping bag or large zip-lock bag

Bacon Cups:

• 24 thin slices good quality bacon

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
2. Take a muffin pan or 6 small ½ cup capacity heat-proof bowls, turn upside down and carefully form aluminum foil covers on the back of 6 muffin cups or the bowls.
3. Taking 2 strips of bacon at a time crisscross the strips over the backs of the muffin cups and cut to size a tad longer then the bottom part of the cup. Now use 1 to 2 more strips to cover the sides of the muffin cups in a weaving fashion. You want a full tight weave because bacon shrinks a lot. For smaller cups I used a shot glass with a square of bacon for the bottom and I wrapped 1 strip around the side.
4. Tuck the ends of the bacon strips inside otherwise they will curl while cooking. A good idea is to insert 4 toothpicks where the crisscrossed bacon meets in the weave.
5. Place muffin pan in a cookie tray to catch drippings. Bake in oven for about 25 to 40 minutes, or until the bacon is golden and crisp but not burned.
6. Cool completely, a good hour, before removing your cups delicately from the foil.

Nut Bowls:

• 1 1/2 cups crushed nuts of your choice such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
• 1 egg, beaten, at room temperature
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces

1. Use a food processor or a zip-lock back with a rolling pin to crush your nuts if whole, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups crushed. You want it somewhat coarse.
2. In a bowl mix the nuts with the beaten egg and the sugar.
3. Take 6 small ½ cup capacity Pyrex cups or a similar container and line the inside with aluminum foil. Spread ¼ cup of the mixture in the bowl, all the way up to the sides making sure you have a thin and even clean layer all around.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. until the nuts are golden and fragrant (about 15 minutes). Let cool completely before unmolding.
5. Melt chocolate (either in the microwave or over a double boiler). Dip the rims of the cooled nut bowls in the chocolate. Place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened and is set.

Maple Mousse:

• 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
• 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)

1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

Vegan Maple Mousse:

• 1 package (12 oz.) soft silken tofu
• ¾ cup (14 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup
• 2 tsp agar-agar

1. Let tofu come to room temperature. Using a food processor, blender, or hand mixer, blend tofu until just smooth.
2. Sprinkle agar-agar on the maple syrup and let it rest for 10 minutes. Heat maple syrup on the stove to a boil and then let it simmer 5 minutes until the agar-agar has dissolved.
3. In a food processor, blender, or a large bowl, blend the tofu with the maple syrup until creamy.
4. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Remove from the fridge and divide among your edible containers.

Meringue (optional):

• 3 large egg whites at room temperature
• ¾ cup (165 g./5.5 oz) sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F/150 degrees C.
2. Put the egg whites in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer beat for a few minutes until the whites become stiff. Now add the sugar, a little at a time, whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and the mixture won’t fall out.
3. Place baking parchment on to a clean baking sheet. Using a spoon or a piping bag, dollop the meringue into circles that fit inside the rim of your edible cups. (See mine, I wanted height but they fell a bit…which is OK…freeform art)
4. Put the tray in the oven, then immediately turn the oven down to 250 degrees F/130 degrees C. and bake for 45 minutes.
5. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for a few hours.
6. Place meringues as decoration on your maple mousse which has already be spooned into your edible containers.

Have fun and be creative when making your individual cups. Add chocolate here, place a meringue there, dip or drizzle chocolate or extra maple syrup. You are limited only by your imagination!

Additional Information:
You can try microwaving your bacon, not tested.
For vegetarians and vegans you could try this Tofu Bacon recipe and make a bowl with it, not tested.
Tuile Bowls would be a great other edible container option.

About Maple Syrup:
Here is a Food Talk article I wrote about the Quebec Sugar Shack season.
I found a great video on Making Maple Syrup on You Tube


*Note: The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of gluten-free ingredients. If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it. If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. Please consult your physician with any questions before using a product you are not familiar with. Thank you! 🙂