Thursday, 10 January 2013

Henry Miller got it wrong ... but the Christmas spirit helped us get it oh-so-right.

Henry Miller once said "Americans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or any other condiment which destroys the original flavor of the dish."  I'm going to say it.  He's wrong.  Really, really, really wrong.  Aside from having had some of the best meals of my life in the country to the South, and having a personal love affair with all things hot-sauce, this guy was not lucky enough to have tasted my chili sauce.  Otherwise he never would have said such horrible things.  Did that sound boastful?  *sigh*  Such a delicate and fine line between boastfulness and sheer-unadulterated PRIDE in a recipe that would bring you to your knees ... did I cross the line again?  *double sigh*  Let's begin our story ...

This past Christmas I was in charge of providing my French Canadian flock with baked beans and tourtière for our Réveillon dinner.  This is "my thing".  I've finally got the bean-recipe down to a science and while the tourtière recipe continues to evolve it always brings about great conversation 'round the dinner table that night.  (In all honesty, a table of "frenchies" and one too many festive-beverages normally results in seemingly endless discussions about less-than-earth-shattering-things ... but we'll save that conversation for the therapy couch ...)  Christmas dinner was to be a wondrous buffet of stinky cheeses, pickled delights, pâtés, fresh breads and a veggie-tray large enough to span the Grand Canyon.

My plans for world domination bean and tourtière prep were all in hand.  I knew what I had to tackle for the Christmas buffet.  The list of baking for the neighbours was taped to the kitchen cabinet.  The groceries were set to be delivered.  We were almost packed for our journey up North.  I could TOTALLY get all the baking and cooking done in 4 days.  All while continuing to wrap last minute presents, sip eggnog by the fire with DH and watch holiday films.  I could almost hear the Christmas carols playing in the distance.

Enter "the plague".

I haven't been sick in YEARS (thanks in part to my excessive consumption of raw garlic).  And this sucker KNOCKED ME OUT.  Flat out.  Like "wake up, roll over, wait for death to take you" kind of sickness.  My hair hurt.  And as I rolled over for the second time, thru the haze of death I had a moment of clarity.  And in that moment I saw a vision.  A vision of a fridge PACKED WITH FOOD THAT NEEDED TO BE PROCESSED!!!  I sprang from my bed - I raced downstairs (dodging fur child along the way) ... I then lay down on the cold kitchen floor ... I was in no condition to cook.  Mustering what little strength I had, I made myself some garlic tea, and retreated to the sofa for some PVR'ed Coronation Street.  A box of tissue sat beside me.  I sniffed and sipped and felt sorry for myself.  I stayed there all day.  And went to bed at 6pm.

Day 2 ...  I am stuck in an episode of 24.  I am Jack Bauer.  "THERE'S NO TIME" for sickness!!!  DH offered to do some of the cooking.  But I wasn't ready to give up.  Not yet.  I just needed one more day.  One more day of garlic tea and I would be cured.

Mind over matter.  Mind ... over ... matter.

Day 3 ... The level of panic has risen to an all time high.  There will be no beans.  No meat pie.  No Christmas.  I have ruined Christmas.  It is over.  I go back to bed.

Day 4 ... Miracle cure.  Angels sing.  But there is no time for rejoicing.  Beans got baked.  Tourtière got made.  Neighbours received tins of Christmas baking delivered with love to their doorsteps.  Pickles got pickled.  Veggies got turned into a veggie smorgasbord.  There was no eggnog.  There were no Christmas carols.  There was only FOOD PRODUCTION!

When the last of the veggies had been cut, and the dip was chilling, my fridge resembled a well stocked gourmet food display case.  I turned to my DH (who was the best kitchen helper EVER) and exclaimed "we did it!"  We embraced. 

Then in a torrent of words that young children should never hear.
Words that little Ralphie would have gotten his mouth washed out with soap for saying.
I exclaim with an unrelenting torrent of cursing "I FORGOT TO MAKE THE <expletive deletives> CHILI SAUCE FOR THE TOURTIERE!"

As a French Canadian, tourtière without chili sauce is like peanut butter without jelly, like coffee without cream ... it's like kicking puppy.  It's just not right.

With tears welling in my eyes, I say to DH "you'll have to go and buy some, I just don't have the will to carry on."  Bought chili sauce.  I could almost feel the disappointment in my relatives from long ago.  The dead were shaking their heads.  Wincing at my decision. 

Half an hour later, and DH returns home.  With no chili sauce.  "I couldn't do it.  I couldn't buy the pureed tomato crap laced with preservatives."  He was right.  I was a fool to think we could foist HEINZ Chili Sauce on my family!  I sent him back out into the cold winters night - thankfully we live a few blocks away from an organic grocery store.  He returned with the fixins for homemade chili sauce.  With a renewed sense of possibility and hope, we got to work.  Chopping and mixing and tasting.  The result?  The best chili sauce ever.  Dear readers, if you ever feel like giving up - don't.  You could be missing out on making something fantastic.

Clearly the Christmas spirit was with us in the kitchen that day.  By its side, my French Canadian ancestors cheering us on!  Together ... we achieved what my DH called "the most bitchenest chili sauce".  He has such a way with words.  Oh how he makes me SWOON!

DH's makeshift label ... note the terminology used ... tee hee

In my infinite wisdom I kept track of what we did ... so if you're looking for a chili sauce for tourtière, for your next BBQ cookout, or for eating directly out of the container (there's no shame in that dear reader), grab yourself a pot, some measuring spoons, a cutting board and a sharp knife.  You will also need a veggie peeler, a strainer and a mixing bowl of some sort.  This batch made about 750ml's of finished sauce - finished product will depend on how thick/thin you like your chili sauce to be.  We like ours on the thicker side.
2 pints of organic cherry tomatoes (quartered or 1/6th'ed depending on how large they are)
2x celery stalks diced
2x medium onions diced
1x medium carrot diced (I know this is NOT traditional, but ... s'damn good!)
1x large jalapeno seeded and diced
1T coarse salt
1T mustard seeds
2T pickling spice
1/2c brown sugar (packed)
1/2c white sugar
1/2c red wine vinegar
1/2c white wine vinegar
What to do:
1. In medium sized sauce pan bring to boil the pickling spice, sugars and vinegars.
2. Boil for about 5-7 minutes.
3. Strain liquid into mixing bowl and discard the pickling spice.
4. Put all veggies and liquid back into sauce pan, along with the salt and mustard seeds.
5. Bring THAT to a boil, then drop temp. to a simmer (stirring frequently) until you've reached the desired consistency.  We went for about 15-20 minutes.
6. Remove from heat.  Let cool.  Eat large heaping spoon fulls ... err ... place in mason jar or other container 'til you're ready to serve.
From the Short Stack Foodie kitchen, we hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, and we look forward to sharing our stories with you this new year.  Happy 2013.  Stay plague free.   And eat lots of garlic.  xo 



  1. OMG, I have gone from weeping tears of despair to laughing!!! Glad to hear you survived the plague and all turned out! And I must say, you make the BESTEST baked beans, EVER!!! As for the Tourtière-um, where's our invite??? ;-) Happy New Year, JJ!! Looking forward to plenty of recipes...and invitations!

    1. I thought of YOU and your 7 course fish dinner the whole time I was in "the cooking tornado". I'm glad we both survived the holidays :) Thank you for the kind bean comments - you will soon be rewarded with a top-secret-invitation ... plans are in the works ... it's all very hush-hush ...

  2. OMG OMG you are such a tease!!!!! Can't WAIT!!!!