What the X-Mas?

This time we’ve lost it. What did we do to get here? We’re foodies far gone. With 3 shopping days left before Christmas, we’re awash in gift guides for the food obsessed including barbecue masters, cocktail crazies, pizza pedlars, teetotallers, and would-be expert bakers. Beautiful cook’s tools, refurbished cracked enamel, rusted-over serving spoons that require a tetanus shot after a single use and 24 karat gold cocktail stirrers more likely to stir up a wave of sadness after I finish my second diamondback, alone, on some ignoble weeknight, after I catch my reflection in its glinting surface, stuck to my countertop with simple syrup.

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The greatest fruit in history, the pineapple, has made its mark on 2014. Overcoming its consumable status, this symbol of hospitality is the new jack-o-lantern, and the new bird silhouette on your throw pillow and stationary. Remarkably though, it’s still unable to overtake kale as the new and hot produce item. Cauliflower never happened the way it was forecasted to and with Beyonce wearing kale merchandise, it’s obvious cauliflower is never going to happen. Ignore all the hot new vegetable articles you’ll start seeing this January and know it’s going to be more kale and pineapples for 2015.

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Do I get somebody a Kale sweatshirt, then? Or maybe a gilded pineapple Christmas tree ornament? How about if it’s wrapped in spicy mortadella wrapping paper? This is perhaps the most confusing Christmas shopping season ever for the food-loving. Where we once only had Williams-Sonoma to turn to for extravagant food-related wares, we have everywhere—thanks in part to the great food revolution that was so valiantly fought by Jamie Oliver—now everyone eats food. Sure I can pick up heirloom pears on the way home or easier yet, just point and click over on Food52 but is this what we were fighting for? Apologies for sounding like Charlie Brown but isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas for foodies is all about?

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Luxury and extravagance have always been part of my game but this year I don’t feel right about a paycheque spent on a 15-pound sourdough statement piece. Try to think of the last time someone made a statement with an oversized loaf of bread and you start to realize you don’t want to go down the same path of Roman empires and French kings. Do you want to wear a donut necklace? I’m not sure I want to express my love of donuts so outwardly when the extra 20 pounds I’m already wearing clearly expresses how much I like fried dough. The same can be said for the flask bangle—what does it say about the wearer? All of these negative and complicated feelings arise when all I’m trying to do is share my love of good food with someone else!

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This person—this food-obsessed person we’re all shopping as or for can’t be led so far astray with the likes of these gift guides. The trick with any food gift is to remember that locavorism is still at the core of all our hearts. Food lovers adore shopping local, which makes sense—they’re already willing to go out of their way and delve deeper into their pockets to support the Saturday farmer’s market. The devoted food enthusiast will want you shopping at all their favourite hole in the walls and specialty shops, selfishly, so that business can continue to service them throughout the rest of the year. Maybe that means a new or vintage cookbook, a jar of imported mustard or bottle of Moscatel vinegar. Maybe a gift certificate to their favourite butcher will go over well, after all, everyone could always use a little extra meat money in their pocket and there’s a potential bonus that you could get invited to a prime rib dinner they host after they spend your gift.

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It’s a trying time of year for foodies, not to mention the whole feasting bit and specialty shopping required to impress a shortlist of fussy family members, so as long as you haven’t completely lost yourself after wading through the ridiculous and outrageous gifting options this year has on offer just remember that all the food enthusiast really wants to receive this year are compliments over how perfectly cooked everything is and if they’d be so kind to share the recipe.

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Merry Christmas from Crustcrumbs! And thank you to our bizarre Christmas family of amazing Toronto comedians, Dawn Whitwell, Dan Galea, and Sara Hennessey!

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

It’s been a year since we started Crustcrumbs with a series of Ghostbusters-inspired Lime Slime posts that have successfully managed to haunt our top posts tiles, so accordingly, this year we’re celebrating our Halloversary or Anniversoween (your choice) with another bizarre mashup of childhood nostalgia and food blogging.

For those that don’t remember, after the 1978 Attack of the Killer Tomatoes movie—a kind of less popular Sharknado of its day—in 1990 there was a cartoon of the same name, which acted as my introductory lesson into grotesque foods that I don’t think anyone would’ve ever guessed could have come in useful in my career.

Hot House

Hot House: Beefsteak tomato, bean sprouts, pig tongue, chicken toes, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

To pay homage to this cheesy and not-so-classic cartoon, we thought we’d play around with some different varieties of tomatoes, some of which already look pretty strange on their own, seeping juices as they burst and split from their tender skins.


Legs-A-Tronic: Bali tomato, Silkie legs, glacé cherries, and black-eyed peas.

To add to the creepiness we butchered one of the food world’s hottest birds right now, the Silkie chicken, in addition to some run-of-the-mill chicken feet for teeth and horns, a pig tongue for well, a tongue and mini octopus tentacles to add a slimy alien touch to these fruity nightmarish numbers.

Touchy the Tooth

Touchy the Tooth: Green Zebra tomato, pumpkin seeds, baby octopus, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

With no access to pig’s eyes and no stomach for extracting goat or fish eyes, we went with something a little more rated G: black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

The "Mother Clucker"

The “Mother Clucker”: Hugh’s tomato, Silkie wings, beak, and cockscomb, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

We took graphic inspiration from the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes 1978 movie poster and 90s toy line, and mixed that up with the witty word play of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards of the 80s. Collect them all!

Ugg and the Gang

Ugg and the Gang: Tomatillos, chicken toe nails, octopus tentacles, black-eyed peas.

Happy Halloween and thanks for all the support over the last year! We hope to keep making weird and fun posts that, at the very least, entertain ourselves and continue to let us play with our food.

The Finale: Plumtopf Rumtopf

Well we took long enough before our last addition in our mini rumtopf series. It wasn’t our intention to make this the only thing on Crustcrumbs over the past four months but here we are. We’ve been keeping extraordinarily busy over the summer and fall with barely a chance to catch our breath but thankfully, when these blue plums showed up at the market, I was able to focus my bleary-eyed attention over to them so we could put this rumtopf to rest.

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These late-summer plums found under the label of blue plums, prune plums and Italian plums, not only make a satisfying deep purple preserve after their skins have bled into their flesh and preserving liquid but they also make for the ideal fruit for the lazy preserver—such as myself—because their pits practically fall out after slicing them open.

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Our rumtopf is now full or our favourite summer fruits, drowning in overproof rum, and suspended in enough sugar to keep it preserved for the next 50 years—not that we’ll be keeping it around that long. Come Christmastime, when we decide to crack it open (and rest assured there will be photographic evidence) the fruit and liquor will make it into our trifle bowls and cocktail coupes. The important thing to remember will be that the mix of alcohol and sugar is sky high making whatever we use it in a deceptively evil dish that’s able to knockout anyone who dares to overindulge.

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6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

You’ve wisely decided to skip the restaurant scene this year. Who needs the added pressure of getting a reservation on Valentine’s Day, anyway? You’re not an amateur. You can pull off a romantic evening at home, no problem. Just have to figure out what to serve. Best advice we can give you is don’t fuck it up.

Sugared Roses

All menu planning, the way I see it, is a manipulation of your guests. How hungry do you want them to be when they take their first bite of the main course? How full should they be when they finish dessert? Are you worried they’re going to eat and run and if so should you plan to eat the minute they arrive so they understand the party doesn’t end when the meal is over? These are decisions you need to make before you decide what food you want to serve.

Sugared Roses

Valentine’s Day has its own set of rules for menu planning. We talk a lot about traditional eating around here and Valentine’s Day is no different. Do you go for the obvious aphrodisiacs with oysters and chocolate or do you get sentimental and make your partner’s favourite? Maybe you want to make something you both have fond memories of. Listen, all food is good but sometimes Valentine’s Day isn’t the time for it. This is our list of six disastrous dishes to avoid.

Anything with Parsley

Parsley is one of my favourite herbs in the kitchen. There are several parsley salads I make throughout the year but all of them are banned on Valentine’s Day. You might be thinking, you both love Middle Eastern foods. Remember how you met at that shawarma place after a particularly awkward night of goth karaoke? You may be thinking tabbouleh is a good option on the menu but don’t do it. It’s like rule one of romantic menu planning, unless you want to spend the rest of the evening grooming each other’s smiles, ridding them of a seemingly endless field of parsley.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Tabbouleh from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Heavy Food

Sure it’s mid February and all you really want is comfort food and why not? Everyone loves macaroni and cheese, right? Well if your plan is to follow dinner with going straight to bed to have cheese dreams, you really need to consider something lighter. If you want cheese maybe splurge on some Coeur de Neufchâtel and have a nibble before dinner.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Macaroni and Cheese from The Farm by Ian Knauer

Food That Makes You Go Poof

You know enough already to leave high fibre foods off the menu tonight. Beans and lentils are not sexy foods, no matter what your vegan friend tries to tell you. Jerusalem artichokes at first glance and to the uninitiated locavore might seem like a good choice. A bit different, in season, and known for their luxurious creamy texture, they’d make a great side. The other, lesser advertised bit of information on Jerusalem artichokes is that apart from them being high in fibre, they also contain inulin, a complex sugar that can’t be broken down easily in digestion. Nothing in your evening following this meal will be quiet, that’s for sure. You might well have served a bag of dried apricots for dinner.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

A Pan Fry [of Jerusalem Artichokes] with Duck Fat and Bay from Tender: Volume 1 by Nigel Slater

Spicy Food

For some, spicy food is okay but you’d better know that going in. A bit of spice tonight is what you want because it speeds up the metabolism and gets your heart racing. It also clears the sinuses, which is the biggest problem. There is nothing worse than needing a nose tampon to stop a relentless flow of “cleared sinuses” at the dinner table. If this doesn’t apply to you, then carry on.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Goan Pork Vindaloo from Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Literal Food

It’s good you’re being creative and really thinking about the menu but it can be easy to take it too far. Stick with heart shaped candy and boxes of chocolate. Eating animal heart tonight – though I’d recommend it on other nights – is not appropriate unless you’re into some Star Trek Klingon role play and you need to fortify yourselves on the heart of a beast before fracturing a few clavicles.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Grilled, Marinated Calf’s Heart from The Complete Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson

Phallic Food

It’s a double standard for sure that you could absolutely serve a meal of oysters and papaya tonight but geoduck is off limits. Blame society’s imbalanced views on the sexes and really weird looking seafood. Sashimi is a very good idea for Valentine’s Day. It’s light and fresh tasting, simple to prepare and luxurious. Geoduck sashimi though creates too many Lorena Bobbitt-like scenarios. It’s just bad foreshadowing for the events to follow in the evening. At best it’s going to remind your partner of the time she had an online dating profile and was bombarded with numerous photographic come-hithers.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Geoduck Sashimi from Serious Eats: The Nasty Bits by Chichi Wang

Robbie Burns Day: The Morning After

Into our second miserable cold snap of January, we’re in need of some seasonal eating that goes beyond soup. It’s part of the Crustcrumbs mandate to address eating traditions, so we weren’t about to let Robbie Burns Day pass us by and with it, the only chance to eat haggis for the year. There aren’t many other foods that have such pomp and circumstance follow them out to the table before they are formally addressed.

Minced Haggis Fry

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Even in the address it’s noted that haggis is not exactly something we tend to fawn over compared to other dishes but that, I think, is what makes it special. I hope it’s also what makes it okay to say that we skipped over the traditional ceremony and went straight for the leftovers.

Minced Haggis Fry

This is haggis for the morning after. A haggis is ideal to make a breakfast mince fry up because it’s dense with oats, liver and aromatic black pepper. I’d go through with the whole haggis ceremony actually, if only to have these leftovers the next day. Though pretty damned tasty on it’s own, I also can’t resist a bit of brunchery tinkering, adding a golden breaded and fried soft-boiled duck egg to top off this glorious mound so that the yolk can ooze its way through the mince adding to its gravied texture. Boiled potatoes are mandatory just as tatties were the night before.

Scotch Caesar

A Scottish-Canadian beverage seems only too appropriate for a haggis breakfast. Enter in the Scotch Caesar. This is especially tasty if you happened to have any remnants of single malt scotch at the bottom of a formerly beloved bottle from the previous night. Since that’s an unlikely case though, I’d suggest trying a blended scotch for this cocktail, such as Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend Scotch. It’s excellent in cocktails and if you wanted to get fancy, you could infuse it with shiitake mushrooms, though it would be a far cry from being Scottish.

So lets toss in a Scottish prayer and get to the food.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Minced Haggis Fry

Minced Haggis Fry

Enough for 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small (approximately 150g) yellow onion, finely diced
1 leek, sliced into thin half moons
1 large carrot, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1lb cooked haggis, casing removed
100ml red wine
4 whole tomatoes from a can, crushed with your hands
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 large white potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thickly
salt to taste

Slick a large heavy-bottomed frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add in the onion, leek, carrot, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat for 5-10 minutes until the carrots just begin to soften. Slice the haggis into large rounds and add to the pan with the vegetables, breaking it up as it softens. Add the wine, tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 5 minutes more until everything holds together in a cohesive mix. Adjust the salt to taste.

In a medium saucepan filled with cold water, add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Add a generous amount of salt to the water and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.

To serve, mound the the mince on a plate with the boiled potatoes tucked up alongside.

Breaded and Fried Soft-Boiled Duck Eggs with Haggis

Breaded and Fried Soft-Boiled Duck Eggs

Makes 6

6 duck eggs, at room temperature
946ml sunflower oil
50g all-purpose unbleached flour
1 large chicken egg, beaten
65g panko or other fresh coarse breadcrumbs
salt to taste

Lower each duck egg carefully into a medium saucepan of gently simmering water and cook for approximately 6 minutes depending on the size of your eggs. Immediately plunge the eggs into cold water and leave to cool completely before peeling. Be very gentle when peeling the eggs as the whites will be just set and will break if handled roughly.

Begin slowly heating the oil in a medium saucepan until the oil reaches 375°F.

While the oil is heating, roll each egg separately in the flour, then dip into the chicken egg, then coat in the panko. Deep fry the eggs in the oil for approximately 20 seconds until the coating is a light golden brown. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel and serve warm.

Scotch Caesar

Scotch Caesar

Makes 1 cocktail

2 oz scotch
1/2 oz bottled clam juice
4 oz tomato juice
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes tabasco
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of celery salt
grating of fresh horseradish
grating of black pepper
fennel fronds, for garnish

In a tall glass filled with ice add everything except the horseradish and black pepper. Stir thoroughly to combine, garnish with a grating of horseradish and black pepper, then the fennel fronds.