Cape Breton trip Pt 1: Sangria muffins & brined chicken sandwiches

Staring out the window, nestled with my whole spinal region melting into a backseat pillow, bumping and floating my way towards Cape Breton… yet another time (a gifted time) where the rigeurs and the rigidity of everyday life are left behind like so many un-needed sneakers and bargain books on silly things like the Kabbalah I’m never going to read anyway.  Not to mention, my job, my house, the city of Montreal, and a regularly scheduled program.

Hello Cape Breton!  Well, hello Edmunston, so far.  I’m here with my love and his brother who’s been so kind to drive us the whole way and have the good taste enough to play Guided By Voices, and Monty Python and CBC.  We left yesterday afternoon, after a good 3 hours of Food Packing (read: AWESOME FUNTIME LIZ-INDULGENCE CAR-PIC-NIC CHEFFERY) and 20 minutes of Regular Things Packing (yes, I remembered everything.  Underwear, computer,

not vanilla pods but BEANS! Magic garden beans.

toothbrush, check).  On the road, I’ve already discovered that dairy creamers stolen from highway cafes are a cereal addict’s best friend, and that flakey varieties of cereal are verily muncheable out of anything kinda resembling a bowl, and with chopsticks no less.  I have dreamy plans of making a sticky toffee pudding for my BF’s toffee loving mom-with-a-birthday-on-Tuesday (which will bring the heritage score to Brits: a zillion / Scots: well, also a zillion).

The trick is to use cardboard as a plate. S.M.R.T.

But, being a food-centered blog, I’d be remiss to skip a bit of recap on the car-picnic making action.  It wasn’t hard at all, really.  I needed to rescue some things, so I harvested the last of our current vegetable garden production to twizzle together some ace & spicy peanut noodles with fried peanuts and summer beans and mint.  Haven’t even cracked that yet (it’s still in the motel fridge), but we for SURE started into the mega pesto chicken sandwich of Awesome.  The pesto was also a bit of a garden rescue, after I plucked all the tops off our basil plants and cradled the crunchy leaves in my fists all the way to the kitchen to make that most luridly green spread.  I brined two chicken breasts overnight in a salt and sugar solution.

PS, How to Brine a Chicken Breast:

take: 1 quart of water / 4 cups

1/2 cup sea salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds, bone in, but really whatever will fit in the water)

…. let it sit in the brine solution for 6 hours, or overnight, then cook as usual.  SO MADNESS JUICY, OMG.  Thank you Serious Eats yet again for your so useful secrets.

Once chicken is roasted, get all the meat parts off the bone, then mix with the fresh pesto, spread a big rosemary foccacia on both sides with thick herbed tzatziki, and mound things in this order: Bread, spread, 2 tbsp finely chopped kalamata olives, 3 tbsp finely diced marinated red onions, 1 big avocado sliced thick, salt & lemon, pesto chicken, tomatoes, and fresh spinach dressed with a bit more lemon & salt & olive oil.  Wrap the whole thing tight in plastic and press it tight for a while (I just packed it on the bottom of the bag, under a flat book that ended up doubling as a totally essential cutting board).  YUM.

I threw some meat pies I made a long time in the oven, too (I love my freezer stash).  They were kind of a riff on a pastilla pastry, which is usually made with chicken (I used lamb instead), but the idea of finely shredded meat cooked with lots of butter, fried almonds, cumin, cinnamon and onions, until it tastes like something sultans should eat, then that’s tucked into a crisp-but-sturdy cornmeal pastry shell, and these are so addictive, man, seriously… wow.

Also convenient: I invented a muffin! Well, sort of.  It’s got a cute name.  I ran out of milk while making blueberry granola muffins so I subbed in some sangria I made the other day and it worked SO WELL.  Yes, there is technically rum in those muffins.  And, 80% whole wheat flour, although you’d never be able to tell, they are fluffy as heck.  I’m a huge fan of using granola in muffins, it just seems to give it a texture and taste that totally distinguishes it from cake in any form – craggy and hearty and toasted-sweet, and it never gets claggy the way using straight oats does sometimes.  I even have the recipe memorized, oho.

don’t forget to bring your road-knife!

Blueberry Sangr-ianola Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup granola

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups sangria (you can use orange juice instead, of course!)

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup mild oil

1 1/2 cups blueberries, or a mix of blueberries and peaches

3/4 cup granola (for topping)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line a muffin tray with papers, or grease the cups.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the wet ingredients (sugar through oil).  In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through granola).  In another bowl, put all your fruit in that, and toss with 1 tbsp of flour – this ensures that the fruit stays suspended in the batter and doesn’t sink to the bottom.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just enough to combine.  Fill 12 muffins cups high with batter – there will be lots – sprinkle with the 3/4 cup granola and bake until they are firm, golden and toasty.  18-22 minutes perhaps, but check after 15 minutes because every oven is different, and don’t forget to rotate the pan.

Guess that’s it for now.  Now I’m just contemplating the wonders that is the potential complementary breakfast at a motel, and if I should maybe with pour myself another nice bowl of Frosted Flakes and eat it outside in the surprisingly chilly pre-dawn air in the parking lot overlooking the vista of Edmunston.   More updates later!

Cthulhu Casserole & Pisces Aquaparty

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Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn ..”In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

Not that we’re in the business of raising dark spirits around here.  I mean, sometimes they show up and we talk to them politely, but that’s just good wizard graciousness.  And a casserole shaped like a fictional ancient cosmic Eldersquid seems like a pretty natural and instinctive and not necessarily evil addition to a double-birthday’d Piscean water-theme party, right?  Just evil enough to be delicious, and you know how THAT goes, right?  It was one of those… do you ever put your head together with someone and realize that your forces combined could amount to some righteous mischief?  Well, I pooled my culinary experience with another’s passion for demonic lore and created a most epic pre-party pasta dish.  Not hard to make either AND surprisingly deep-sea delicious….

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INVOLVING!

  • rice vermicelli tossed with fresh pesto
  • lasagnette with fresh squid ink marinara (turned magically swampy and jet black and oceanic-smelling by the ink)
  • shell pasta, obv.
  • swirls of ricotta ooze
  • big chunks of really nice marinated tentacles from the fish place up the street
  • cheeze stuffed tomatoes for the eyes (many eyes)
  • roasted eggplant bodymass
  • and toasted pita wings… rarr rarr rarr

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Make and bake and warm through and Cthulhu!  Suddenly.  And we all carb-loaded before drinking, and later on in the night some random girl ate the whole thing at like 3 in the morning, like she was possessed.  O_O   Ooooo.

So that was my birthday cake, sort of.  (I made another one later but the photo was bad so I won’t post about it.  But it was, for the record, I think, 4 layers of sponge soaked in lemon syrup with a grapefruit/lime curd + chantilly combo and lots of amaretti biscuits on top, pressed into a milk carton and aged in the fridge overnight to become One Lovely Square Thing…. MMMMMFLACKLE, LIKE EATING A CLOUD MADE OF VITAMIN C AND PUFFY SHEEP).  Oh yeah, and there was a fresh blackberry sauce to go with it.

<3 <3