Random Meals, Recipes, Travel

Quebec Part 3: Cooking in My Childhood Kitchen

One of the fun part about going home this time, was spending more time at home and getting to cook a little, rather than only eating out. While we made a lot of meals at my parents’ home, there are a few that were particularly meaningful. Of course, all this was especially fun  too as I was in my mom’s kitchen. While I never enjoyed cooking that much growing up, I did like eating so I could still remember where most things were (to my husband’s despair).

My best friend’s wedding pies

My first big day in the kitchen was particularly special as it was for my friend’s wedding. As part of the wedding weekend celebrations, I wanted to make fruit pies. So simple but so good when made from scratch.

The other part that turned out to be special was that I unknowingly used my late grandma’s apron and dough blender. It was only when my mom got home that she noticed and mentioned it to me. The apron was cute and filled with memories…and so thin that it didn’t protect me at all from all the flour I used to make the dough. 🙂

The pie filling was made with local strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and fresh basil from my mom’s plant. I started my using cornstarch as a thickener, but when I wasn’t getting the consistency I was hoping for, my mom revealed my grandma’s secret pie filling thickener: small tapioca pearls! Apparently, this is actually a common way to thicken fruit pie, but I had never heard of it before. It worked like a charm!

Since I tend to always improvise my pie fillings, I was certainly hoping it would be good. Thankfully, everyone seemed to enjoy it! I was also pretty proud of my crust decorating skills…since I am not usually the artsy type. My friend actually I bought the pie at a store, which is the best compliment… after it tasting good, of course! 🙂

Making fruit pizzas with the kiddos

I love seeing my friends’ children when I visit, and I especially love to see them interact. It’s the new generation of our friend group! I asked two charming kindergartner ladies to help me make an extra special dessert during one of our get-togethers: fruit pizzas! I made the giant sugar cookies before the event to make sure they would be cooled on time. The girls asked for pink sauce, so we mixed mascarpone cheese, maple syrup and raspberry jam. They mixed their sauce, helped me cut the fruits (with butter knives, of course) and each made a pizza they were very proud of. It was so much fun to make something with them that I would normally do at work with the kiddos in my class. They proudly served their pizzas to everyone and we were delighted (despite a few grown-ups slightly more worried about the possible germs) to give them a try.

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My parents’ anniversary dinner

Since my parents were about to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary in July, Jeff and I offered to prepare dinner for them, on our last night in their home. We weren’t planning anything too extravagant, just a nice meal to share all together.

The first idea was for Jeff to make his infamous spinach-crust pizza. My dad loves pizza and my mom was exciting at the idea that he might also enjoy a healthier version. To make sure my dad would like it, Jeff went all out with a meat lovers edition: pepperoni and bacon. He had to adjust to my mom’s blender which wasn’t quite as powerful as our beloved Vitamix but, in the end, it still worked out great.

Meanwhile, my fisherman uncle offered us some fresh trout he had caught in the river that morning. While I wasn’t familiar with trout, I figured there was no better time to taste it than when it is literally just off the line. After some thinking, I decided to grill them en papillote, meaning wrapped in an envelope of aluminum foil. Since my uncle had already removed the nasty bits, I simply added a drizzle of olive oil, a few slices of lemon, sprigs of fresh dill and thyme, and a bit of sea salt to each fish, folded it back together and wrapped each fish individually. We grilled them for about 4-5 minutes on each side, checking one of them before removing them all from the grill.

To go with the fish, I made a simple mayonnaise by mixing 1 egg and 1 cup of olive oil with an immersion blender. I then added lemon juice, fresh dill, salt and Dijon mustard to taste, until I got a flavor I liked.

Eating the fish was a bit of a project as we had to carefully take it apart to avoid accidentally eating the small bones but it was definitely flavorful.

For dessert, I decided to make choux à la crème (cream puffs). Originally, I was hoping to make a praline filling or drizzle (as a nod to the delicious praline beignets my mom and I enjoyed in New Orleans), but due to lack of time, I simply melted dark chocolate to put on top, sprinkled some coarse sea salt, and asked my brother to buy a can of whipped cream on his way to dinner. This simpler version still turned out good enough for us to get through the entire plate of puffs.

It was definitely a lot of fun to cook in my mom’s kitchen during this trip. It brought back many memories of hanging in the kitchen while my mom would cook. It was also a fun challenge to see how it would be to cook and bake without being in the comfort of my own kitchen with my own tools. I was happy to see that even with a few things that were a bit harder to do, everything turned out really well. And while I enjoy returning to my favorite restaurants when I go home, there’s nothing quite like spending time in my childhood kitchen.

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