Archive | August, 2008

Friday 5 – Hot Dog!

29 Aug

By Chris Garbutt

As summertime comes to a close, let’s get back to an old summer classic — the hot dog.

1. What the heck is a half-smoke? Looks like a chili dog to me, but it looks different from anything I’ve tried. Find out the history of this Washington, D.C. favourite here. Although, apparently, it’s not really a hot dog at all.

2. For locavore/carnivores in Toronto, here are some local hot dogs.

3. I’ve seen stuff like this before, but it’s still ridiculous.

4. Did you know that the U.S. has a hot dog season? Did you know that during that season – Memorial Day to Labour Day – Americans eat 7 billion hot dogs? Did you know that works out to 818 hot dogs a second?? Now you do.

5. Gourmet hot dogs – you knew it was coming.

Photo by Flickr user jslander used under a creative commons licence. Apparently, slaw on hot dogs is a West Virginia thing. I think Carolinians would beg to differ.

Southern Comfort

27 Aug

By Stephanie Dickison

I had long been in love with Southern food and the culture around it. Everything is so silky and rich with food like no other cuisine.

Southern cuisine encompasses a lot of different types. Cajun, Creole and Soul Food are the big ones. And don’t forget Southern Barbecue. That gets a shout out all its own.

I think southern cooking has the perfect mix of being mostly simple dishes, but made in a comforting and yet sexy fashion.

I mean, what other culture uses both sassafras and sorghum?

The cuisine uses a lot of seafood – catfish, crayfish, crab, shrimp, oysters – and you’re sure to see pecans, boiled peanuts, sweet potatoes, collard greens, okra, fried green tomatoes, black-eyed peas, buttermilk biscuits, rice, butter beans, gumbo and fried chicken on the menu as well.

I think I like it too because the ingredients are so exotic to those of us outside the area. I mean where else are your going to find grits, hominy, muscadine, mint juleps and etoufee? And chicken fried steak just isn’t something going on here in the T-dot.

And the names are just as evocative – Hoppin’ John, Hush Puppies, and chicory and beignets (powdered donuts, sort of) for breakfast.


I think their pies are way more exciting – peach, pecan and sweet potato, to name just a few – and they make a mean cobbler, something that isn’t quite the same up here in these parts. Cornbread and biscuits are just way more fun than our ol’ regular loaves.

I like the mix of sweet and tart that has been combined in many of their dishes and there is a slow-cooking method to many of the dishes that harkens back to the old days of putting something in the oven or on the stovetop first thing in the morning and letting it do its thing throughout the day, though it doesn’t necessarily take that long anymore thanks to better stoves and quick-cooking ingredients.

Which means, you too can make this sultry fare at home.

Bon Appetit, Gourmet and Natalie Dupree’s Comfortable Entertaining have some traditional dishes that you can make in your very own kitchen:


Southern Fried Catfish

Southern Fried Chicken

Southern Oyster Casserole


Southern Greens

Southern Vegetable Gratin

Southern Cornbread Stuffing with Smoked Ham and Yams

Southern Rice Pilaf Stuffing with Ham, Pecans and Greens

And in terms of some of the ingredients that can’t be found in your area, there are a few online resources that can help:

A Southern Season

Piggly Wiggly

And in case you want to see and taste it for yourself:

Southern Food Festivals

Southern Food & Beverage Museum

China on our minds

20 Aug

By Chris Garbutt

China’s on our minds a lot these days. Something about a sporting event being held there. For those of us whose knowledge of China is limited to the occasional article or a foray into Chinatown for a meal, it’s nice to learn a little more now that the country is so much in the public eye.

I have to confess that my knowledge of Chinese food came from a take-out place in my hometown. (Not this one, but one kind of like it.) My family didn’t order it often (believe it or not, we thought it was too expensive!), but it was a special treat, several steps above pizza. The food came in those foil pans with cardboard tops, and the order was always the same – sweet & sour chicken balls for the kids (and Pine Tree takeout put it in the sauce for you, which I loved), mushroom fried rice for everyone, and moo goo gai pan for my parents. It wasn’t authentic, but for a little kid in small town Ontario, those fluffly chicken balls in the sticky sauce was plenty exotic.

My tastes have matured a little. A little – I still get cravings for the sweet & sour chicken once in a while. Nowadays, I look for Chinese food that’s more authentic, but of course the meaning of authenticity is a slippery one, as we discover in Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China.

In 2005, after five years of living in Beijing, Chinese-American writer Jen Lin-Liu decided to learn to cook. It was a mystery to her classmates in the cooking school, since working in a kitchen was seen as a lowly profession, one that you might do if you couldn’t figure out anything better. Luckily for us, she stuck with it, and brought her readers along on a journey of discovery that took her from the Chinese capital to Shanghai and back, with some detours through the countryside.

Along the way, we learn about classic Chinese dishes, especially xiao long bao. Lin-Liu spends a large part of the book in search of the perfect, most authentic version of the dish, a juicy dumpling made with pork skin jelly and pork belly. The search is not a resounding success – though she finds some great renditions, the closer she gets to the source of “authentic” xiao long bao, the worse each version seems to taste. Still, she offers a recipe, one of nearly 30 in the book, that suggests it is possible to make it in your kitchen, as long as you are patient. For me, the idea of trying to wrap those dumplings without all the jelly squirting everywhere is a little too intimidating!

Lin-Liu also goes into some depth on a couple of classic ingredients. She spends time amongst rice farmers, helping with them with the harvest. She even mounts a defense of the much-maligned MSG.

In her quest to learn as much as possible, the author cultivates several mentors, including one of her cooking school teachers, Jereme Leung, a superstar Chinese fusion chef, and the cook at a noodle counter.

Food is culture, of course, and Lin-Liu opens up not only Chinese kitchens to her North American readers, but also Chinese attitudes, ways of living and values in the 21st century. Timely, and appreciated by those of us who are still learning what this waking giant, with its long history, will bring to us in the future.

Calling All Men

19 Aug

The hippest blog in the manly universe – The Art of Manliness – poses the question: is cooking manly? Well, duh.

Check out this post to enter their contest and contribute to The Man Cookbook.

Monday Review: Chef’s Secrets

18 Aug

Chef’s Secrets: Insider Techniques from Today’s Culinary Masters As Told to Francine Maroukian

By Stephanie Dickison

My friend and Co-Editor Chris Garbutt is going to go crazy for this one.  Since he just got a brand-new barbecue, he’s going to love “How to Build a Three-Zone Fire on a Charcoal Grill” by Steven Raichlen.  And for those rainy days, he’ll probably follow the instructions of Allison Awerbuch and “How to Do Your Own Stove Top Smoking.”

But that’s not to say that there’s not valuable tips and methods for you and I in this little book.

In fact, “How to Ensure a Crisp Roast Duck” by John Villa has me contemplating getting a whole duck to surprise my fella with when he gets home from a business trip and perhaps wow him with my new talents, thanks to Andrew Chase’s advice in “How to Filet an Eel.”

What I garnered most for this lovely book of expertise though, are the simple things that you really want to do well, like “How to Roast a Chicken – Pefectly” by Jimmy Bradley and the odd little things that only chefs come up with like Michael Cressotti’s, “How to Tenderize Octopus with Wine Corks,” and the revolutionary “How to Crisp Tender Greens and “How to Improve the Consistency of a Tomato.”

There are a few recipes throughout and after each chef’s advice, they are asked questions about their favourite food city, kitchen motto and bar snack.  But I bet it’s the advice you remember long after the pages have been closed.

You may think that you know most of what there is to know about cooking, but I assure you that you’ll find something that changes the way you make jus or improves your ganache forever.

And the best thing is that it only takes about an hour or so to read it cover to cover.

You can afford that to become a better cook, can’t you?


15 Aug

Back when Pan first started, I did a piece on the contents of my fridge, along with some fridges of mine who weren’t too shy to divulge their culinary secrets.


It’s amazing to me how much our fridge has changed over the year. Now stocked with organics, whole grains and a ton of healthy drinks, it is barely the same at all.


So we’re asking you, our readers, to share your fridge or just one or two things in it and the story behind it. Is it a slice a cake from your first wedding anniversary still untouched? Did your partner buy something that you would never even consider eating like randy cheese or some exotic meat? Do you have ice cubes in the shape of body parts, unbeknownst to the rest of the family?


Whatever it is, we want to hear about it!


Send your short tale and picture to and we’ll post them as often as we can.


Show us your fridge. I showed you mine.


Stephanie Dickison, Editor

Friday 5 – Fall Foods to Look Forward To

15 Aug

By Stephanie Dickison

It’s not that far away, people. We might as well start to get excited about all the squash, potatoes and stews.  And collecting recipes…

1.  Pumpkin and corn soup!  It doesn’t get much more fall than that.

2.  Well, when the cooler weather hits, fast and easy does sound rather appealing, doesn’t it?

3.  To our lovely vegetarian readers, you’ll want to skip over this one.

4.  But here, I’ll make it up to you with these squash side dishes!  I hope we’re okay now.

5.  Fall’s Most Fattening Foods.  ‘Nuff said.

Watch Stephanie Dickison on Slice TV!

12 Aug

Watch Stephanie in her role as Restaurant Critic on Slice TV’s “The List!

Click here and go to THE LIST – S2 Full Episodes

Click on Episode 24 – Part 4 (6:47 minutes)

Monday Review: Fine Waters

11 Aug

Fine Waters: A Conoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Most Distinctive Waters by Michael Mascha

By Stephanie Dickison

Okay, before you go and get all upset about a book about fine waters, just remember that there’s already a ton on beer, wine, coffee, and the like.  Why not a book about water?

I mean, if you’re going to drink water, why not something a little more special than the brands you find at the grocery store next to the microwave popcorn like Cape Grim, Bernina or Llanllyr Source?

This book tells you the brief history of bottled water, flavours, and even on bottled water etiquette – what foods go with still and what ones to pair with effervescent.

And the bang of the book comes with the 100 Bottled Waters, complete with photos of the bottles (some are pretty swank!).  There are tasting notes, much like you’d find in a wine bible, the region it’s from and its contents.

You might think it’s a silly book at first, but I expect that upon a closer look, you’ll be swept away and looking at bottled waters a little differently.

Friday 5 – Summer Drinks Edition

8 Aug

By Chris Garbutt

1. Just for the heck of it, there’s Tahitian wine.

2. Cool, refreshing, and, uh, savoury: Cucumber-Rosemary gin & tonic.

3. Cold beer. Seems everyone’s celebrating beer this week. My favourites in the summer: Mill Street Organic Lager, Amsterdam Natural Blonde, and Steam Whistle Pilsner. For more on beer in Toronto, check out A Good Beer Blog.

4. I’m not usually one for liqueurs, but two make my list as summer favourites. Cointreau on ice is one. Or you could make this, which I haven’t tried. I love the orange flavour in Cointreau, much subtler than Grand Marnier, which can be a bit cloying. The other is a straight-up shot of the Czech Republic’s Becherovka, served supercold. Apparently it’s made with over 100 different herbs, but to me the strongest flavour is clove.

5. Seaking of liqueurs, here’s a limoncello gelato for dessert.