Seared steak with pizzaiola sauce

I’ve never been much of a meat and potatoes gal. Don’t get me wrong – I love eating meat and I’m pretty fond of spuds too, but I like my plates put together a little more creatively. This year, for Valentine’s Day, I’m serving steak and pasta, just to spice things up a little. And not any old steak – I’m going for the ‘baseball cut’ – it’s a beautiful piece of very thick top sirloin. I actually prefer these to tenderloin; they’re way less expensive, nicely marbled and super flavourful. I’ll be topping my steaks with a pizza-inspired garlicky-oniony-mushroomy-tomatoey-herby sauce that is delicious enough to eat with a spoon, and even more fabulous over red meat. Add some salad and a robust red wine, and you’ve got a meal that’s sure to make both you and your dining companion swoon. The best part? You don’t even have to shovel a path to the barbeque – this start-on-the-stove-then-finish-in-the-oven method is super simple. I promise.

Perfectly seared baseball cut top sirloin steak is finished in the oven and topped with a pizza-inspired sauce for a fresh new presentation.

Perfectly seared ‘baseball cut’ top sirloin steak is finished in the oven and topped with a pizza-inspired sauce for a fresh new presentation.


For the steaks

  • 2 top sirloin baseball cut steaks (8 oz / 225 g each)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

For the sauce

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large Roma tomatoes, diced *
  • 2 mushrooms, diced
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried oregano **
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

* or 1.5 cups canned diced tomatoes

**many Italian grocery stores sell dried oregano still on the stem; it’s much more flavourful than the dried loose leaf variety


  • Bring the steaks up to room temperature by letting them sit, covered, on the counter for 60 – 90 minutes.
  • While steaks are warming, prepare sauce. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet, over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, mushrooms, tomato paste and oregano and stir to combine. Let cook for 7 – 10 minutes until thickened and vegetables have softened. Remove from heat and let stand.
  • When ready to start cooking the steaks, preheat the oven to 450F.
  • Pat the steaks dry with paper towel and generously coat both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a medium-sized, heavy, oven-safe skillet (cast iron is best) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add 2 teaspoons olive oil and let it heat for 1 minute more. The oil should be almost smoking.
  • Add the steaks and let them sear 2 minutes on the first side. Do not disturb them in the pan – you need to keep them perfectly still to develop a nice caramelized, brown crust.
The key to perfectly seared steaks is to not disturb the meat when it goes into the very hot skillet.

The key to perfectly seared steaks is to not disturb the meat when it goes into the very hot skillet.

  • With tongs (don’t pierce the meat with a fork), flip and sear two minutes more.
  • Transfer the skillet with the meat in it to the hot oven. Set a timer for 8 minutes.
  • After eight minutes, check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the steaks with a digital thermometer. Remove the pan from the oven when the steaks are at 120F for rare or 125F for medium rare.
  • Transfer the cooked steaks to a small plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  • While steaks are resting, gently reheat sauce.
  • Transfer steaks to a cutting board and slice thinly, then fan out on two serving plates (on top of pasta, if you like). Add any juices that accumulated while the steaks were resting to the sauce; stir it then spoon sauce over meat and serve immediately.

Serves 2.

NOTE: Slipacoff’s Premium Meats graciously supplied the fresh Canadian AAA top sirloin steaks (baseball cut) used to develop this recipe. Should you wish to order from their extensive selection of quality products, be sure to use the code cookingwithpaula on their website to get $15 off your order.


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Crispy Cider Vinegar and Sea Salt Roasted Chickpeas

Did you know that 2016 is the International Year of Pulses? I am trying to incorporate a lot more pulses – including delicious, good-for-you lentils, dried beans and chickpeas – into my cooking this year. Like other pulses, chickpeas are nutritional powerhouses. They’re an excellent protein source that’s low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol and a good source of dietary fiber, zinc and folate. They have a bit of a nutty flavour that is wonderfully enhanced by roasting.

Soaking chickpeas in hot cider vinegar prior to roasting until crispy gives them an excellent flavour.

Soaking chickpeas in hot cider vinegar prior to roasting until crispy gives them an excellent flavour.

I remember the first time I tasted  roasted chickpeas, many, many years ago. They were in a foil packet, purchased at an ethnic grocery store in Toronto. I eagerly ripped the bag open, popped a few in my mouth, expecting deliciousness. Instead, it was more like yuck – nothing at all like the yummy treat I had expected. In hindsight, I should have checked the expiry date on the bag as I suspect they were stale and/or rancid. Determined to find a way to like roasted chickpeas, I made a batch at home. What a difference! Light, crispy and full of flavour, these protein packed snacks are great on their own or as a garnish for soups or salads. Play around with other spices if you like – a few shakes of chili powder or smoked paprika, for example. You can use dried chickpeas, which you’ll need to soak and cook, but for this recipe, the canned ones are just as good plus a whole lot faster and easier.


  • 1 can (19 oz / 540 mL) chickpeas, rinsed well
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 mL) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper


  • Pour the vinegar into a medium-sized saucepan. Cover pot with a lid and place on high heat. As soon as the vinegar is boiling, add the rinsed chickpeas to the pot and remove from heat.
  • Let stand 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Drain chickpeas, discarding vinegar. Pour chickpeas out onto a clean dish towel and roll them around gently to dry thoroughly.
  • Put chickpeas in a clean bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to coat evenly.
  • Spread chickpeas out onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast in oven for 40 –  45 minutes, jiggling the baking sheet occasionally.
  • The chickpeas will turn a dark golden brown and get crunchy. If you take them out of the oven too soon, you can always put them back in the oven for a few more minutes later.


  • Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature.
  • Store in an airtight container for several days.

Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups.


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Smoked Cheddar Stuffed Meatballs with Cheesy Beer Sauce

Meatballs are the perfect party food. A perennial favourite, these one-bite wonders are simple to prepare, versatile to serve and easy to eat. You can make them as plain or as spicy as you like, and dish ‘em up with one or more sauces for an extra flavour treat. I have just a couple of rules that I always follow when making meatballs. First, use top-quality ground meat, particularly if you’re not smothering your meatballs in sauce. You want meat that tastes good on its own. Secondly, don’t pack the meatballs too tightly – you’re not trying to win a schoolyard snowball competition. If you compress the meat more than necessary to get it to stick together, the meatballs will take longer to cook and won’t be as tender as they could be. Third, make them gluten-free if you can, so everyone at your party can enjoy them. Fourth: there’s a coupon code for you at the bottom of this post and it will help you enjoy making meatballs even more!

Meatballs stuffed with smoked Cheddar and drizzled with a Cheddar-Beer sauce will steal the show at your next party.

Meatballs stuffed with smoked Cheddar and drizzled with a Cheddar-Beer sauce will steal the show at your next party. Serve them on crostini and they’ll be both attractive and easy to eat.


You’ll note in the recipe below that I chose to go a little lighter on the seasonings for both the meatballs and the accompanying sauce. This was intentional as I wanted the flavour of the smoked Cheddar to have a chance to shine. I suggest resisting the urge to empty your spice cupboard into the meatballs or sauce, however, if you want more heat, more salt, more whatever…go ahead and add it in.  Note that the meatballs can be shaped ahead of time and frozen, as can the sauce. You can easily serve them on a platter with a bowl of the warm cheddar-beer sauce for dipping, but you’ll certainly score extra points for making the effort to serve them on crostini, drizzled with sauce.


For the crostini

  • 1 day-old baguette
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil

For the meatballs

  • 2 lbs (900 g) lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) finely minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) spice blend *
  • 1/4 cup finely ground oats or whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 oz (150 g) smoked cheddar cheese

* I used Steph the Grilling Gourmet’s Meditalian Rub

For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL)) mild-flavoured beer
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) smoked sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 oz (200 g) smoked cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups / 500 mL)


  • To make crostini, slice baguette thinly (1/4 inch) and lay the slices out on a baking tray.
  • Brush bread slices lightly with olive oil and bake in a preheated 350F oven until just beginning to brown (6 – 8 minutes). Flip slices over and bake 3 – 4 minutes longer.
  • Remove from oven and transfer slices to a cooling rack. (NOTE: you can make the crostini several days ahead; once cooled, store in an airtight container.)
  • In a large bowl, combine ground beef, shallots, spice blend, ground oats or flour, spice blend and beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly with clean hands to ensure even distribution of seasonings and egg.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let mixture rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.
  • When ready to shape meatballs, cut smoked cheddar into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) sized cubes. You should get 48 cubes from 150 g block of cheese.
The key to shaping meatballs is to not pack the meat too tightly.

The key to shaping meatballs is to not pack the meat too tightly.

  • To form golf-ball sized meatballs, scoop out approximately 1 tablespoon of ground beef mixture by hand and flatten into a disc.
  • Place a cube of cheese on the disc and fold the sides up around the cheese.
  • Make sure cheese is fully enclosed by the meatball but do not compress meat any more than is needed to seal the cheese inside.
  • Place the finished meatball on a clean baking tray.
Once you've formed the meatballs, they can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to bake.

Once you’ve formed the meatballs, they can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to bake.

  • Repeat with remaining meat mixture and cheese cubes, placing the meatballs approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on the baking trays.
  • Refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake and serve.
  • To bake, preheat oven to 350F. Bake meatballs for about 20 minutes (longer if frozen), or until they reach an internal temperature of 150F.
  • Note that some of the cheese may seep out during cooking, but you easily pick up both the cheese and meatball with a spatula and place on crostini before drizzling with sauce.
  • Serve warm.

Makes approximately 4 dozen meatballs.

NOTE: Slipacoff’s Premium Meats graciously supplied the lean ground beef used to develop this recipe. Should you wish to order from their extensive selection of quality products, be sure to use the code cookingwithpaula on their website to get $15 off your order.

MeatballFinal_pinnable copy


Posted in appetizer, Entertaining, Make Ahead, Meat | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chicken, Broccoli and Mushroom Crepes

I remember as a teenager thinking that crepes were so delicious and exotic, they must be extremely difficult to make. Shortly after I first tasted them in Quebec City, I went to Paris and saw sidewalk crepe stands all over the city. I was amazed at the speed and consistency with which crepes were being prepared. When I finally got up the nerve to try making crepes at home, I couldn’t believe how simple the process was, and, more importantly, how versatile these thin pancakes can be. While I’ll always have a soft spot for crepes filled with fruit and smothered in a sweet sauce, I really love savoury versions as well.

Savoury crepes like these delicious chicken, bacon and mushroom-filled ones are easy to prepare.

Savoury crepes like these delicious chicken, broccoli and mushroom-filled ones are easy to prepare.

Feel free to switch up the vegetables in this recipe to suit your taste, or to use up whatever you have on hand. Peppers, carrots or asparagus would all be delicious, to name just a few substitutions. Note that you can prepare the crepes up to a month ahead of time and freeze them stacked between parchment sheets in an airtight container. The filling can similarly be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. It’s best to assemble the crepes the same day you’re planning to serve them, though they can easily rest in the fridge for up to 8 hours before baking. Serve crepes with a salad and you’ve got a delicious brunch, lunch or dinner menu that’s sure to impress.

For the crepes

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt
  • For cooking: 2 tablespoons (30 mL) melted butter

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chicken breast, cut in small pieces
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) broccoli florets, cut small
  • 1 cup (250 mL) mushrooms, thinly sliced

For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) each salt and pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.65 mL) ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/3 cups (340 mL) milk
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) milk


  • Make the crepe batter by using a blender (or stick blender) to combine the eggs, salt, flour and milk. The mixture should be smooth and have the consistency of heavy cream. If it’s lumpy, pour it through a strainer. Let sit at room temperature 30 – 60 minutes.
  • Prepare the filling by heating 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy duty skilled over medium heat. Add the chopped chicken and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring often, until chicken is starting to turn golden and is cooked through.
  • Add shallot and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Transfer chicken, shallot and garlic mixture to a clean bowl.
  • Add half the remaining oil to the same pan and sauté broccoli for 3 – 5 minutes until just tender. Add to the bowl with the chicken mixture.
  • Add remaining oil to the same pan and sauté mushrooms 2 – 4 minutes until tender. Add to the chicken and broccoli.


  • Make the sauce by melting the butter in a clean small saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the flour, salt, and nutmeg. Stir to blend well and let it cook for 2 minutes until thickened and smelling a bit like cookies.
  • Add the milk then cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened, about 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Add the cheese and whisk until it has melted. Remove from heat.
  • Scoop out 1/2 cup (125 mL) of sauce to use as a topping and set aside.
  • Add the remaining sauce to the vegetable and chicken mixture and stir gently to combine. Set aside while you cook the crepes.
  • To cook the crepes, heat a non-stick crepe pan or skillet over medium-high heat. While skillet heats, whisk the batter that has been resting.
  • Brush the hot pan with melted butter then pour about 3 tablespoons batter into the skillet and swirl the pan to create a thin layer approximately 6 – 7 inches (15 – 16.5 cm) in diameter. Don’t worry if they’re not perfectly circular – once you fill and fold them, no one will ever know. Cook for about one minute, until the top appears dry, loosening the sides of crepe with a rubber spatula.
  • Flip the crepe and cook it until golden-brown spots appear on second side, about 1 minute. Turn crepe out onto a plate. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with butter and stacking crepes on plate, layering parchment paper between them.


  • Once you’ve cooked 8 crepes, preheat oven to 350F.
  • Brush the bottom on a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) shallow glass or ceramic baking dish with the remaining melted butter.
  • To assemble, place 3 tablespoons of filling in a line down the middle of each crepe. Roll up each crepe and place them, seam side down, in the baking dish.


  • Thin the reserved sauce with 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of milk then drizzle over the rolled crepes and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until bubbling.
Assembled crepes can be refrigerated up to 8 hours before baking.

Assembled crepes can be refrigerated up to 8 hours before baking.

Serves 3 – 4; recipe can easily be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.


Posted in brunch, casserole, cheese, Chicken, eggs, Entertaining, Main DIsh, Make Ahead, make-ahead, One dish meals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Potato and Cheese Pierogis

Until last week, I mistakenly thought pierogis – those pillowy soft, addictively delicious filled Eastern European dumplings – were too fiddly to bother making at home. I changed my mind after looking through a box of kitchen gadgets where I discovered a collection of empanada presses and Asian dumpling moulds. I have used them to make miniature fruit turnovers, but they’re ideal for the job of forming pierogis as well. You can easily pinch the dough rounds shut by hand, but the mould makes it a very fast, easy task.

I had a great laugh at the instructions on the back of the three-pack of dumpling moulds I’d picked up in Toronto’s Chinatown. The packaging described the product as “Family Necessary” and offered the following instructions for use: “Places on the model the stuffed dumpling skin. Places on the stuffed dumpling skin the stuffing. As soon as along the hypothes is model, is pressing the forming gently then.”  If you, like me, don’t know what the heck that means, see below for clearer wording and a little collage of the process. Don’t be daunted by the length of the instructions – I just tried to break the directions down into really clear steps. While this recipe makes two dozen pierogis, you can easily double or even triple it as pierogis freeze beautifully.

Homemade pierogies are vastly superior to the frozen ones available at many supermarkets.

Homemade pierogies are vastly superior to the frozen ones available at many supermarkets.



  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt

Potato filling

  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated old Cheddar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.65 mL) ground nutmeg

Onion topping

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • Sour cream, for serving

Special equipment: a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, 2 1/2 inch ravioli/dumpling maker


  • To make the dough, put flour and salt in a large, broad mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre then add egg, water and oil to the well. Carefully beat the liquids together with a fork but don’t try to mix in the flour yet.
  • Once liquids are well combined, stir the mixture with a spoon, pulling flour from the sides of the bowl into the centre. You should end up with a soft, slightly sticky dough.
  • Transfer the dough to a clean work surface that has been dusted with flour and knead it for 5 minutes, adding a bit more flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Dough should be smooth and elastic.
  • Cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap and a clean towel and let rest on the counter for one hour.
  • While dough rests, make filling by peeling potatoes and cutting into one-inch sized pieces. Place in a saucepan, add just enough water to cover by 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) and add salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain then mash well with a fork.
  • Add cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg to mashed potatoes and stir with a fork until well blended.
  • Let potato mixture cool for a few minutes then scoop out by the rounded teaspoonful and shape into balls with your hands. Make 24 balls in total and set aside. Note that there may be a little filling left over, depending upon the size of your potatoes.
  • Prepare the onion topping by melting butter in a large, heavy duty pan over medium-low heat. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are just starting to turn golden brown, about 20 minutes. The onions will complete their caramelization when you fry the pierogis.
  • To shape the pierogis, roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper to less than 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out 24 rounds with the 2.5 inch biscuit cutter or trace around the top of a similarly sized drinking glass with a sharp paring knife to create dough circles.
  • Place a dough circle on the opened dumpling press and put one potato ball in the centre of one half of the press. Dip your index finger in a dish of warm water and run it around the edge of the dough then gently close the press to pinch the edges together. Carefully remove the pierogi from the press and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
You can shape and seal pierogis by hand but a dumpling press and biscuit cutter of the same size make it a very fast and easy job.

You can shape and seal pierogis by hand but a dumpling press and biscuit cutter of the same size make it a very fast and easy job.

  • Repeat with remaining dough. Freeze the prepared pierogis for at least one hour prior to cooking; this will help them keep their shape.
It's a good idea to freeze pierogies before cooking so they will be less likely to burst open.

It’s a good idea to freeze pierogies before cooking so they will be less likely to burst open.

  • If not cooking immediately, transfer the pierogis to an airtight container and freeze up to two months.
  • To cook the pierogis, remember that the dough is essentially pasta, so you want to boil it first before crisping it up in a frying pan.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a teaspoon of salt. Carefully add the pierogis in batches to the water, being sure not to overcrowd the pot. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking together, then use a slotted spoon to remove from the pot as soon as they float up to the surface.
  • You can either transfer the cooked pierogis into the pan with the cooked onions, or put them on a baking tray lined with a clean tea towel, or paper towels, to rest until you are ready to finish cooking them immediately prior to serving.
  • Finish the cooking process by cooking the pierogis in the onions over medium-low heat until the pierogis are starting to crisp up and the onions are browned.
  • Serve warm with sour cream on the side.

Makes 24 pierogies.


Posted in Fruits and vegetables, Main DIsh, Make Ahead, make-ahead, Snacks, Vegetables, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)

For winter warming, there’s not much that beats a hot bowl of soup. In my neighbourhood, there are several great spots to enjoy pho, the Vietnamese soup that has entrenched itself as a worldwide favourite. I feel inclined to add my voice to those who insist on proper pronunciation – say FUH (rhymes with DUH), not FOH, please and thank you.  While it takes a little bit of time to prepare the fragrant, beefy broth, this recipe makes a big batch so you can freeze it in smaller portions and then you’re just minutes away from enjoying a warming bowl of soup whenever the mood strikes. While the method to make the broth may seem a little complicated, it really works and gives you that deep, rich taste that makes pho so satisfying. I’m no pho expert, but I think this version is super delicious.

Warming Pho or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup is a delicious dish to prepare at home.

Warming Pho Bo or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup is a delicious dish that you can prepare from scratch at home.


For the broth

  • 1 pound (454 g) lean ground beef
  • 2 onions, cut into sixths
  • 12 cups (3 L) low-sodium beef broth
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) thinly sliced ginger root
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole star anise pods
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) black peppercorns

For six large bowls of soup (decrease quantities if just making a bowl or two)

  • 1 pound (454 g) boneless striploin steak, trimmed
  • 1 pound (454 g) rice noodles (1/8 inch wide ‘pho’ style)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped green onions
  • 2 cups (500 mL) fresh bean sprouts, rinsed
  • Hoisin and sriracha sauces
  • Lime wedges


  • To make the broth, cut the ground beef into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces and place in a large, heavy pot (big enough to hold at least 5 – 6 litres).
  • Add just enough water to cover by about an inch (2.5 cm) and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes then pour mixture through a colander, discarding liquid. While ground beef is in colander, rinse under hot running water for a full minute. This step gets rid of impurities that will cloud the broth.
  • Rinse out pot well, then return rinsed ground beef to the now-clean pot.
  • Add the onions, broth, 3 cups water, fish sauce, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, sugar, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer the broth, with the pot just partially covered, for one hour.
  • Strain broth first through a colander set over a large bowl or second clean pot. Discard beef, onions and seasoning.
  • Strain the broth a second time through a sieve or strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth.
  • Measure out broth as you return it to a clean pot; add water as needed to make 12 cups of broth. Taste and adjust sugar or salt if needed to suit your preference.
  • At this point, the broth can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to six months.
  • To assemble soup, place steak in freezer for up to an hour so it firms up; this will make it much easier to slice.
  • While steak is chilling, prepare all the other ingredients. Put them on a platter if you want to invite guests to assemble their own bowls of soup.
Basil, cilantro, green onions and beansprouts are common Pho toppings to accompany rice noodles and thinly sliced steak.

Basil, cilantro, green onions and beansprouts are common Pho toppings to accompany softened rice noodles and thinly sliced steak.

  • Heat broth, covered, to the boiling point then reduce to a simmer to keep warm.
  • Also while steak is chilling, put rice noodles in a broad, shallow dish (a ceramic or glass baking pan works well) and cover with very hot tap water. Let soak for 15 minutes, stirring gently once or twice with a fork as they soften to ensure they are not sticking together.
  • Thinly slice frozen steak and lay out slices in six portions, slices overlapping.
  • When ready to serve, drain noodles and divide among six deep bowls that can hold about 3 cups each. Lay portions of steak over the noodles.
Thinly sliced raw beef will cook to medium rare almost instantly when you pour the hot, fragrant broth over top.

Thinly sliced raw beef will cook to medium rare almost instantly when you pour the hot, fragrant broth over top.


  • Immediately ladle hot broth over top. The raw steak will immediately cook to medium rare in the broth.
  • Garnish with cilantro, basil and green onions.
  • Serve soup with lime wedges; offer guests little dishes to which they can add hoisin and / or sriracha for dipping.

Serves 6.







Posted in Asian, Beef, Entertaining, gluten-free, Lactose-Free, Soups and stews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Warm Poutine Potato Salad

It seems like there are two camps of cooks and eaters in January, after the holiday season. There’s the “I’m only going to eat healthy things in moderation” group, as well as the “I’m not buying any more food till I finish up what’s in the house” group. While I flirt with the notion of sauntering over to join group A, in reality I eat pretty healthy meals all year round so I don’t feel like I have to radically overhaul my diet or my menus in January. Plus, it’s winter and it’s cold. I want comforting things. I guess that puts me in group B, which is actually kind of fun – like a simplified ‘black box’ challenge. I know what the required ingredients are, and all I have to do is figure out a tasty way to put them together.

That’s how this recipe came to be. I found a bag of cheese curds in the freezer (that’s right: buy them on sale and freeze them. It’s brilliant!) and I had potatoes, celery, onions and an open carton of beef stock on hand. Of course the curds made poutine spring to mind, but I wanted something a little lighter, fresher and less salty (there’s that group A business creeping in….) so this was  my solution. There are three things I love most about this super easy warm salad: it’s delicious; you can serve it as a main course or a side dish; and it truly only takes 15 minutes to prepare. Much like I keep reaching for my favourite cozy sweater, I suspect this is going to be one of my go-to dishes this winter. My family is thrilled.

Warm Poutine Potato Salad is the best of both worlds combined in one delicious dish!

Warm Poutine Potato Salad is the best of both worlds combined in one delicious dish!


  • 1.5 pounds (.7 kg) potatoes *
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) coarse salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons (22 mL) butter
  • 1.5 tablespoons (22 mL) flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) beef broth
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced onion
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) diced celery
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) white vinegar
  • 1.5 cups (375 mL) cheese curds
  • Minced parsley, for garnish

* I used baby red potatoes because that’s what I had on hand; any potatoes will do.


  • Wash and cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Place in a broad saucepan and just barely cover with cold water.
  • Cover pan and bring potatoes to a boil over high heat, then sprinkle with coarse salt. Reduce heat so potatoes are boiling gently.
  • While potatoes cook, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes until the mixture starts to smell like baking cookies.
  • Add half the beef broth and whisk continuously until thickened and smooth.
  • Add remaining beef broth and whisk until well blended and smooth.
  • Add onions and celery. Increase heat until mixture comes to a gentle boil. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 – 5 minutes to soften vegetables.
  • Add pepper to taste. Resist the urge to add salt because the potatoes have already been salted and the cheese curds will add a good salty flavour as well.
  • When the potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes) when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, drain well. Toss them in the hot pan they cooked in for a moment to allow any residual moisture to evaporate. Sprinkle vinegar (this gives the potatoes a nice potato-salady tang without being overpowering) on top and toss for 30 seconds more.
  • Divide the potatoes among four to six warmed bowls (or place in one larger serving bowl).
  • Ladle the hot gravy over top of the potatoes and sprinkle with cheese curds and parsley. Serve hot.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.



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