THE RESTAURANT TABLE THAT DIDN’T EXIST

image0The other day I had a phone call from the past.  An old restaurant customer passing through town wanting to connect.  He was taking the opportunity to tell me how much a specific dinner in ROXY’S BISTRO had helped him at a difficult time.  Did I remember?    Of course.   I had seated him at the best table in the house.

The best table in our restaurant did not exist.  Our restaurant was not large.  It was more the size of the small bistros one is accustomed to in France.  We had just forty chairs in the dining room and four more chairs in “the vault”.  The vault was the original vault for the building. It made an intimate dining room for four very good friends.

This is how the best table in ROXY’S was created.  It was a very busy night.  Every table in the restaurant was booked.  A regular customer walked in hopeful I could squeeze one solitary diner in for  dinner.  He looked tired. In need of care and nourishment.  He was a judge and involved in a particularly long and unpleasant court case.  I couldn’t send him away. Into the dark night.   Hungry.   He had his responsibilities and we had ours.  And ours was to feed the hungry . To nourish their souls. 

“I have one table.  You won’t be able to order off the menu.  It’s crowded.  A bit hectic and definitely on the warm side, but I can promise you, you won’t leave hungry.”

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 I sat him at a table barely large  enough to hold a plate and a glass of wine.  Wedged into a corner, his knees tucked in to avoid flying waiters, our kitchen began to feed this hungry soul.  As each order was filled a nibble of this a taste of that landed on the best table that didn’t exist.

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He watched the ballet of kitchen.  The line working quietly in perfect unison.  As carefully choreographed as a ballet.   Night after night the dance is repeated.  Everyone knows the steps.   Quiet, calm, and the occasional laugh as waiters and chefs worked together.  We were a family.

Our customer finished his meal.  Then sat late into  the evening, reluctant to leave the warmth and comradeship he had experienced at “the best table in-house”.  The table that didn’t exist.

This is a blog from several years ago.  I love that ROXY’S BISTRO still exists in the memories of those who dined in our restaurant and those who worked with us and shared our passion.   The hours were long.  There were few days off and even less holidays but for my husband and myself they were absolutely the best working days of our life.   And  happy  the two line chefs in the above photograph of the kitchen are still part of our lives.   

A RUSTIC FRENCH APPLE TART THAT’S A ”DOODLE” TO WHIP UP.

 

When I made desserts for our French restaurant they were  outrageously elaborate.  It was never just chocolate cake but  a  dense flourless creation –  bete noire with creme anglais and raspberry sauce.  I went through gallons of cream making   Grand Marnier souffles, creme brulee and praline ice cream with salted caramel sauce.     Desserts in our restaurant, Roxy’s Bistro, were extravagant, rich creations  to indulge the senses.

Now I prefer a simpler style of baking.  This recipe is the quintessential  country French apple tart.    This  wonderful  version  is great for beginner pastry makers  because you don’t have to worry about rolling the pastry into any particular shape.

The pastry for this pie is so delicately flaky it whispers as you cut into it.  I’ve just  dusted the pie with icing sugar, but if you want to gild the lily a few drifts of softly whipped vanilla flavoured  cream would be lovely.

The markets are filled with dozens of different kinds of apples.  Slip into my kitchen and bake with MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

CREME BRULEE . . . the perfect dessert to compliment a very French dinner.

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Crème Brûlée is like Coco Chanel’s little black dress.  Perfection in its simplicity.  Perfection in its execution.   Designed to impress but not to over-power.   Always in good taste.  And the memorable ending to any dinner.

If you only make one dessert in your life – make it crème brûlée and make it yours.  My new recipe is similar to the dessert we served in our restaurant ROXY’S BISTRO, but I have simplified it and made it practically fool-proof.

Generally I make the classic version – with vanilla.  Or,  feeling creative I’ll poke around in the drinks cupboard and use cognac or Grand Marnier as the flavouring.    One can even put a generous dab of jam in the bottom of the ramekins before you pour your custard.  Like Chanel’s little black dress – the possibilities of changing this recipe are endless.

This recipe contains only three ingredients – eggs, cream, sugar and flavouring.  It takes just a few minutes to whip up then into the oven it goes.

Put on your apron and come into MRS BUTTERFINGERS kitchen and make CRÈME BRÛLÉE.

 

 

HOW TO USE A HUNDRED YEAR OLD SAUSAGE MACHINE and MAKE THE PERFECT BOEREWORS SAUSAGES

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Does this not look like a Rube Goldberg invention?

It is a sausage making machine.

It is more than one hundred years old and belonged to The Good Husband’s grandfather.

More than one hundred years ago in Kitchener Waterloo, Ontario  it made good German sausages.

We ran our restaurant kitchen at Roxy’s Bistro in the classic French manner.  NOTHING was wasted.  When this monster of mechanical genius showed up in the kitchen we were happy cooks.  Scraps of veal became veal and fennel sausage,  ends of pork tenderloin morphed into fat, juice spicy sausages  and  other house made sausages became a favorite menu item.

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Our son-in-law Michael has spent a great deal of time in South Africa.  We made these south African Sausages , or Boerewors,  especially for him.   There are many recipes for this type of sausage, and according to our expert sausage eater Michael – this recipe is spot on. Click on SOUTH AFRICAN SAUSAGE, BOEREWORS  for the recipe.   If you don’t have a sausage machine attachment for your Kitchen Aid Standing Mixer, you can make the mixture into patties of meat and saute or grill them.

LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF PEACHES

Life becomes very, very good when you take delivery of a box full of peaches.  Peaches picked just hours ago.  Perfect, big, juicy peaches.  My dear friend and neighbor Angela  shared this incredible bounty with me.  We  thought all these peaches, so little time.

Peach cobbler

Peach pie

Peach ice cream

Peach crisp

Peach up-side-down cake

Vanilla poached peaches

Peaches eaten over the kitchen sink.  The juice running joyfully down your arms.

Peaches grilled on the barbecue and served with French vanilla ice cream.

Peach chutney

Brandied peaches

Peach Melba

Or … the most sublime dish to come out of ROXY’S BISTRO’S kitchen.  Peach chicken with sweet red peppers and sweet red onions, laced through with brandy and indulged with cream.   Grown men would swoon over this decadent dish.

Life is just a bowl of peaches!

SUBLIME VANILLA ICE CREAM

Here is the recipe for making ice cream if your name is Celil.  First of all you milk your sweet cow Daisy.  Then you separate the cream.  Chill it.   Meanwhile the Shush Sisters (two delightful piggies) anxiously await the results.  This is how one makes ice cream on the Farmy.

This is  the classic French custard-style ice cream.   We made it almost every day, year and after year, at ROXY’S BISTRO.  It is from LENOTRE’S ICE CREAMS AND CANDIES, heavenly recipes by Gaston Lenotre, France’s master of desserts.   You can be as creative as you want once you’ve mastered this basic recipe.

VANILLA ICE CREAM

6 egg yolks (always use large eggs)

2  generous  cups whole milk

1 generous  cup sugar

1 generous  cup whipping cream

l vanilla bean split open lengthwise, or 1 tsp. top quality vanilla

Heat milk to almost steaming.  (add the vanilla bean and then remove it when the custard is finished cooking.  Do not add vanilla flavouring at this point.)   Stir in sugar until completely dissolved.

I’ve doubled the recipe.  It is wonderful to have home-made ice cream tucked into your deep freeze, and it really isn’t any more work.  This recipe was made using our incredible Rhode Island Red farm eggs.  The yolks were such a deep colour the vanilla ice cream was a delicate shade of yellow.

Whisk your egg yolks well.    Now add a little hot milk slowly (about half)  to the egg yolks, whisk again.    Pour this mixture back into the saucepan containing the rest of the milk.

Cook over low heat until custard coats the back of the spoon STIRRING CONSTANTLY.  Do not overcoat your mixture as it will curdle- then you are really in trouble.

Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in the whipping cream.  Allow to cool and then refrigerate to be sure your custard is completely cool before putting it into your ice cream maker.   Add vanilla now or remove the bean.

Nothing absolutely nothing is better than ice cream,  still soft,  right from the maker.  It is your reward.  Grab a big spoon and indulge.

Pack in small plastic containers to store.    How simple was that.  (if you have an ice cream maker).   This recipe gives you twice as much ice cream as the most expensive on the market… and at less the cost.  Bon Appetit!!

TOMATO BASIL SOUP …. Roxy’s Bistro’s signature soup

This soup was such a favorite at ROXY’S BISTRO we would make gallons every week.  It’s a great soup because you can  make twelve months of the year.   There are two important elements.   You use canned tomatoes(but you must use top quality Italian canned whole tomatoes).  The chicken stock should be a rich, flavourful home-made stock.

TOMATO BASIL SOUP makes 6-8 servings

1 medium onion finely diced

2 fat cloves of garlic, finely minced

2-3 tbs olive oil

salt, finely ground pepper, and red pepper flakes

1 generous tb dried basil

1 generous tsp dried oregano

1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes (Italian)

2 tb tomato paste

4 tb (2 oz) butter

4 generous tb flour

2 cups home -made chicken stock

In a large pan, over medium heat saute the onions with a good sprinkle of salt, more grinds of black pepper than you think you need, and around 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.  When the onions become translucent (don’t brown them please) add the chopped garlic and saute for a couple of minutes more.

Put this onion mixture into a large sauce pan.    Add the basil and oregano, canned tomatoes and the tomato paste and turn your heat to simmer.  Let this cook away while you are preparing the roux.

In a medium sized saucepan melt the butter.  Now add the flour and cook the flour for a few minutes.  Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour as it cooks.   Increase the heat a little.   Add the chicken stock and using a balloon whisk stir the sauce until it thickens.  Make sure your sauce is lovely and smooth with no lumps.

Add the sauce to the tomato mixture and still well.  Now add the cream.  Mix well and pour into your soup bowls.  Garnish with a spoonful of sour cream and fresh basil or flat leaf parley.  Bon Appétit!!