Wednesday, 18 May 2011

gathered 'round the food

Some of my favourite meals are ones that take place AROUND something. Like a campfire. Everyone prepares and cooks their own hotdogs, marshmallows, or tin foil dinners. Nothing like fire-cooked food on a warm summer day to make you feel content and ready for a long night of sleeping on the ground.

Other fun family foods have been fondue, raclette, crepes, and hot pot. Meals where we are sharing and preparing a meal around the table. We love how participatory they are, and how the meal can last for hours. Everyone gets their hands in there, and chooses items that they want to eat. We've enjoyed our raclette grill ever since receiving it as a wedding gift - yummy stinky cheese melted and scraped over boiled potatoes and grilled vegetables.

And I love its history - that cow herders would go up into the Swiss mountains with a block of cheese and a sack of potatoes. They would boil their potatoes over a fire, and scrape melted cheese on top. Yum.

Here's one of our favourite raclette recipes to try on a raclette grill (it's a mix of Mexico and Switzerland):

1 avocado, diced
1 tsp garlic, crushed
2 T lime juice
2 T fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 lb (250 g) cooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
raclette cheese, thinly sliced

Toss first 4 ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Grill shrimp in raclette trays. Top with avocado mixture and cheese. Broil until cheese has melted and shrimp are warm (about 5 minutes). Eat!

The idea of crepes as a social-type meal was a new one to us - at a friend's house in France, we made our own mini-crepes on a grill that had 6 little circular sections. We could add our own meat and cheese to make a savoury version, or just have sweet ones with jam, sugar, and Nutella.

Here is a shot from our Christmas hot pot experience at a restaurant in Markham:

around a Christmas hot pot
We were at a friend's birthday party the other night where her Spanish husband cooked up paella for the crowd. So yummy, and interesting to see how it was cooked up on a specially made paella gas burner outside. And I love the history of it: that it was traditionally made by workers in the fields, using whatever ingredients were available. The "bomba" rice is put into the pan in the shape of a cross, even by those who wouldn't consider themselves religious. It's a real social affair - right from the cooking to the eating.

These are my comfort foods - the meals that last forever, with the talking, laughing, and sharing that happens. And my kids? These are the meals they beg for - the special ones where guests are at the table, creating a meal and experience together.

In France, we started a fun tradition called "first week fondue" - a fondue to celebrate the end of the first week of school. We partake in both cheese and chocolate and are fully stuffed by the end. We roll up the stairs to bed, which is a hard thing to do.
around a cheese fondue
Here's our favourite chocolate fondue recipe:

1 really large quality Swiss chocolate bar (dark or milk chocolate)
a bit of milk

For some extra kick, try:
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a tsp ground allspice
  • a tsp cinnamon
  • 2-3 T dark rum or Grand Marnier
  • whipping cream instead of milk

Break up the chocolate bar into smaller chunks. Slowly melt (on low) in a pot on the stove or in the microwave. Add a bit of milk (2 Tablespoons). Whisk it into the melted chocolate. Add a bit more milk if you want to thin out the chocolate a bit more. Eat with: strawberries, bananas, apples, kiwi, mangoes, star fruit, lychees, pineapples, blackberries, chunks of pound cake, pretzels, etc.


    1. Yum...

      We usually do fondue for New Years eve. We do a cheese one for bread and veggies, sometimes an oil one for pieces of meat and then a chocolate one for dessert. It's a tradition that we've done for many, many years now and we love it. But now reading this, I don't think I can wait till New Years for it!


    2. Our family did Christmas Eve fondues growing up. These are great memories too. Chocolate fondue with in-season summer fruit would be a great combination, Suzanne! Just a thought...