Monday, June 30, 2008

A cocktail classic re(de)fined!

Just so you know, there's been a ton of stuff going on in my world that has precluded regular posting. Sometimes things come out at you out of the blue that leave you spinning. Or at the very least in need a nice refreshing adult beverage! Which is why today's post is very applicable to current situation, and has been a huge help in getting my feet grounded and my mind adjusted.

The sidecar is one of the old school classics of cocktail culture. Traditionally a mix of brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Sweet and tart, the two things that go great together, in one lovely drink. Lately w and I have been enjoying our own take on this standby, owing to her dislike of regular brandy and my continuing infatuation with my Meyer lemon tree. We've dumped the regular brandy in favor of Clear Creek Distillery's Pear Brandy and are using the slightly sweeter yet still sour Meyer lemons instead of the standard citrus. Relaxing, refreshing, rejuvenating. The three R's for right thinking adults!!
*** *** ***
Pear Brandy and Meyer Lemon Sidecar

1 oz Clear Creek Pear Brandy (or other good brand)
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
Small amount superfine sugar spread on salad plate

After squeezing Meyer lemon juice, run the rind around the rim of your favorite martini glass. Dip rim of glass in superfine sugar and slowly spin to coat. Set aside. Fill cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add brandy, Cointreau, and lime juice. Shake vigorously. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist or circle. Sip, enjoy!

Friday, June 27, 2008

"Double coney and an angioplasty, please!"

It's a good day for all Coney Islanders in Portland. Today at 5pm the much beloved Nick's Famous Coney Island at 3746 SE Hawthorne Boulevard is reopening under new owner Tyler Rogoway. After original owner Frank Nudo closed it down last year there was much lamenting among those who have artery clogging me. But not too worry, because along with preserving and restoring Nick's original décor, the old favorites are back. The single and double coney's are rocking it, along with burgers and even though this may cause Frank to wonder what in the hell has happened to the world he thought he knew, Tyler is also offering a veggie-Coney! Something for everyone, all ready to be washed down with some cold, refreshing, malted beverages!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

To sea bass or not to sea bass? That is the question!

I'm trying to be eco-friendly guy here, especially when it comes to things I'm stuffing into my piehole. Michael Pollan said to stop sucking down products with corn syrup in 'em, they're gone. No factory raised, except for my twice-a-year Big Mac...I'm in. Organic, biodynamic, food raised to according to long lost Aztecan moon-phase planting rituals with a sprinkling of human sacrifice? If that's what it takes, fuck yes! But when it comes to fish, there's way too many mixed messages.

Take sea bass, which went into this amazingly delicious recipe below. According to my local New Season's Market fish monger, they don't carry it because of over-fishing, which I've read about. But then I go to Whole Foods here in green-crazy PDX and they have their "sustainably fished" sea bass. Not that Whole Paycheck is the last word in saving the oceans, but I REALLY wanted to make this recipe so I went for it...with a modicum of guilt. If anyone has the real word I'd love to hear it.

In any event, this recipe from epicurious, which I'm sure could be prepared with cod or halibut as well with an adjustment in cooking time, was all kinds of deliciousness. The idea of "en papillote", where the food is sealed in parchment paper (or in this case the easier to use, easier to clean up, and just as effective tin foil) to steam in its own juices and other flavoring agents, is brilliant simplicity. All the this case lemon, thyme, tomatoes, capers...get infused into the fish. Quick, easy, and way effective. Plus the sauce spooned on top of this was crazy good, and especially seasonal now that little cherry tomatoes are just showing up at farmer's markets. Plus it gave me yet another way to use lemons off of my beloved Meyer lemon tree, which after steaming under the fish you can eat peel and all. Both w and I loved this dish, and you know something this easy has got to be in the rotation!
*** *** ***
Sea Bass en papillote

From epicurious:"Traditional papillote takes time and requires origami-like folding. Here, we use foil to make a no-mess pouch; the fish becomes infused with the flavors of tomato, capers, garlic, and lemon."

Makes 4 servings.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 (6-oz) fillets black sea bass or striped bass (1/2 to 1 1/4 inches thick) with skin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 thin lemon slices (less than 3/4 inch thick; from 1 large lemon)
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons drained bottled capers

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil, then drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil.

Pat fish dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Arrange fillets, skin sides down, in 1 layer in center of foil on baking sheet and slide 2 lemon slices under each fillet. Arrange 2 thyme sprigs on top of each fillet.

sea bass just before being sauced

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened, about 1 minute. Stir in capers.

Spoon hot tomato mixture over fish, then cover with another sheet of foil, tenting it slightly over fish, and crimp edges together tightly to seal.

Just sauced, ready to be sealed up into steamy goodness

Bake until fish is just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness of fish); check by removing from oven and carefully lifting up a corner of top sheet of foil, pulling up sides of bottom sheet to keep liquid from running out. If fish is not cooked through, reseal foil and continue to bake, checking every 3 minutes.

Transfer fillets with lemon slices to plates using a spatula (be careful not to tear foil underneath) and spoon tomatoes and juices over top. Serve immediately, discarding thyme before eating.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bar Avignon: oui, c'est bien!

It's nice when two peoples dream comes true. It even nicer when it coincides with my dreams and desires. Take Nancy Hunt and Randy Goodman, two fixtures on the local food and drink scene for years and two of the nicest people you could ever hope to give your money to. They've been dreaming and scheming for years to open up their own place, a casual spot with an old school Euro-feel where good wine at great prices exist alongside properly made cocktails and well chosen beers. A place with unpretentious and delicious food sourced as much as possible from their numerous local farm connections. Mostly small plates designed to be washed down by myriad refreshing adult beverages. A place where the windows open out to a sidewalk sure to be lined with tables of happy indulgers.

Now do you see why it's my dream too? We went to Bar Avignon's pre-opening party last Sunday and all of us were knocked out by the place (that's a view up and down the bar at left). Warm colors, nice lighting, comfy seats and booths. A long bar with stools and stand-up areas with a well stocked backbar loaded with temptation. Plus the snacks that chef Chad was throwing down were delicious, and if this is a peek into the future I am so there! Bar Avignon opens this Friday, so make your plans to check out one of my new favorite places. As seems to proven more and more lately, Portland's eastside rules!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Myth Busting Marinade!

This is the myth-busters episode of eat.drink.think since I just read a very enlightening article...this one (click here)... By Andreas Viestad on the Washington Post website. You know all those recipes that tell you to marinate your steak or other piece of beef for an hour or so, sometimes all night? Well, forget it! Apparently it has been proven that you get the same effect marinating beef for four seconds as for four hours. Look at all the time you just saved by reading today's post!! You can spend those bonus hours reading more food blogs, more cookbooks, or if you're really desperate, spending time with your family! I won't explain all the details, because Andreas does it better in his article. It makes for very interesting reading, though, so take a look!

Here's Andreas' recipe for a red wine marinade with herbed olive oil. There's also a great recipe for marinated grilled steak. Check it out, and enjoy all that free time!
*** *** ***
Red Wine Marinade and Herbed Oil
from Gastronomer columnist Andreas Viestad

This is a fat-free, full-flavored marinade. Instead of adding oil, Gastronomer columnist Andreas Viestad makes a separate herb-infused oil (using the same spices found in the marinade) that he combines with a bit of the marinade for a post-grilling application to the meat.

For a more intense red wine flavor, boil 1 cup of wine over high heat until it has reduced to about 1/4 cup, then combine it with 1/4 cup (uncooked) red wine to make the 1/2 cup of red wine used in the marinade.

By combining a little herbed oil with a bit of the marinade and applying the mixture to the steak after it has been grilled (see related recipe in Recipe Finder), you will get fresh herb flavors and aromas, the fragile compounds that normally get lost with cooking.

It's best to make the red wine marinade and herbed oil the same day they are to be used.

Makes about 2/3 cup marinade and 4 tablespoons herbed oil

For the marinade
1/2 cup red wine, preferably 1/4 cup red wine reduction and 1/4 cup red wine; see headnote)
1 to 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot
2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 to 2 teaspoon bruised or chopped thyme leaves
1 bay leaf, crushed
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard (optional)

For the herbed oil
Handful various herbs, such as parsley, thyme and (a little) sage
1 medium clove garlic (optional)
1/4 cup olive or sunflower oil
2 to 3 tablespoons Red Wine Marinade (optional; see headnote)

For the marinade: Combine the red wine, garlic to taste, onion or shallot, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, soy sauce and black pepper, and the sugar, brandy or mustard, if desired, in a large resealable plastic food storage bag. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If making the herbed oil, reserve 2 to 3 tablespoons of the marinade in a separate bowl before the marinade is used for the meat.)

For the herbed oil: Use a mortar and pestle to gently crush the herbs and garlic (if using) together. Add the oil and crush together for a few seconds to release flavor. Add the reserved red wine marinade, if using.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Down John! HEEL!!

Of all the Oregon wine personalities to be a national food mag wine-celeb, the last guy I would expect to be a publicity hound is laid back Jackson from Cameron Winery, but there he is on page 10 of the July 2008 issue of Saveur, while his "owner", winemaker John Paul is shamelessly mugging in a desperate attempt to draw attention to himself. On the other hand, of all the wineries in Oregon to get pimped hard, Cameron is at the top of my list because if you ever want to drink Oregon wines with integrity, elegance, style, and just plain deliciousness, these are them.

Saveur has a feature in the mag about touring Oregon wine country, where Doug Tunnell's Brick House Wines, producer of equally worthy, equally well-made pinot noir is also mini-profiled. If you don't grab the hard copy of Saveur, click here to see it online (with more pics).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Garden (State) of Eatin'!

Mad props for my man Kevin Sandri and his Garden State cart of edible happiness from our local fishwrap The Oregonian in their annual Diner Guide. Named "Standout New Restaurant of the Year" which is crazy accolades for a cart, you should also click this link to see a video which includes dancing arancini and Kevin's "5-1/2 inches of heaven"!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blue Balled: Don't let this happen to you!

This is awesome. Thanks to Nancy Rommelmann for putting this out there on her blog!

Out of frustration comes happiness!

Necessity, based on the fact that my local meat guy at Zupan's Market totally f-cked up my order last night, was the mother of an awfully delicious invention last night. We were having mom over for dinner and my plan was to make this saltimbocca recipe I saw in the latest Saveur magazine. So I picked everything up...prosciutto di parma, fresh sage, etc. ...on a break from work then head to Zupan's House of Shopping Pain to pick up my veal cutlets that I had pre-ordered, and got the totally blank look from assistant meat dude (who wasn't who I ordered from originally) and found out they had forgotten to cut them, and assistant meat dude didn't know how. So I'm standing there, steam coming out of my ears, while he calls meat manager who was of no help...and oh, did I mention mom is waiting in the car after I picked her up to come to our house?...and I have no main course. It was a very special moment, let me tell you.

I didn't take it out my frustration on assistant meat dude, because he was the innocent bystander in this little butcher counter drama, so I looked around, down and to the right, and saw they had Carlton Farms pork tenderloins on sale for a mere $5.99 a pound. I haven't done much with pork loins/tenderloins lately, preferring instead to explore the slow-cooked goodness that can be rendered from a nice cheap hunk of fatty pork shoulder. But with nowhere else to go I grabbed a two pound piece, and back in the car and home with mom was I. She asked what was wrong, but not wanting mom to think she raised her son all wrong, I managed to leave the expletives out of my narration of frustration (not that she doesn't read enough of them here).

Anyway, back ay home, scotch and h2o for mom, negroni for me to calm my nerves, I started to rummage through the fridge to see what could be made from this admittedly attractive piece of pig. We had some wild morels and shiitakes from the farmer's market that had gotten lost in the drawer, I had the sage leaves, so you can read what I did with it all below. and if I can say, it was really damn good based on the props from mom and w. plus quick and easy. Even if I don't find myself in a bind, I'll be exploring this particular piece of protein in future posts!
*** *** ***

Pork Tenderloin with wild mushroom sauce
serves 4

I didn't take any pics of this one as I was in a hurry and winging it. Trust me when I say it looked gooood!

1- 2 pound strip pork tenderloin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter (divided in half)
2 cups mixed wild mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
Splash of marsala (optional)
1/4 cup white wine

1-Turn oven on to 400*. Rub salt and pepper generously all around the outside of pork. Heat ovenproof stainless sauté pan large enough to hold pork on burner over medium-high heat. Add small splash of olive oil. When oil is shimmering place pork in pan and brown on all sides about three minutes per side. Place pan with tenderloin in oven and cook for about 15 minutes (meat thermometer should read about 130* when inserted into middle of pork).

2-While pork is in oven put olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in medium non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Heat until foam subsides and add mushrooms with a light sprinkling of salt. Sauté mushrooms until soft, about 10 minutes. Add splash of marsala if using, stir, and let evaporate. Pt mushrooms into bowl and set aside.

3-When done, remove pork tenderloin from oven (pork should be slightly pink in middle) and place on cutting board. Place the pan that held the pork back on stove top over medium-high heat (be careful, as that handle is hot ass!). Add mushrooms back to pork pan, add 1/4 cup white wine, scraping pan to loosen any porky bits (a.k.a. deglazing) and stir. Add two tablespoons butter and combine until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste. Slice pork and arrange on plates, spooning mushroom sauce on top.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Braised Chicken Curry w/ Yams... a.k.a. Bloggers helping Bloggers

What did you expect me to do, come up with my own idea? What do you think they invented the internet for? That's right, so we don't have to think! That was my situation the other day. Stuck at work with no time to think with chicken thighs about to go over the edge in the fridge at home that needed to be cooked right now before they became their own biological weapons of mass distress. I also was feeling somewhat curryish, so threw Sergei and Larry the search terms "braised chicken thighs curry" and up popped this awesome recipe from the great blogsite Sunday Nite Dinner (this photo also came from their site, because my photos, well, sucked. So thanks in advance SNiD!). The SNiD site documents the eating adventures of a group of friends who take turns satisfying their culinary curiosities. They certainly took care of w and my appetites, and this was an easy recipe, based on one by ex-Food TV chef Ming Tsai, that totally over-delivered for the effort expended (even though I forgot to add the peas at the, no big deal). I only made one change, besides forgetting the peas, which was using bone-in chicken thighs (rather than the called for boneless) which I always find give more flavor. The only bad part of the whole meal was that I would even consider pulling out the braising pot in June, but with our endless, rainy, cold, winter-like, thoughts-of-suicide inducing weather, I may be braising 'til #^&*%#@ July!!!
*** *** ***

Braised Chicken Curry with Yams
Adapted from Blue Ginger: East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai

2-1/2 pounds skinless, bone-in chicken thighs, fat trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons hot Indian curry powder
2 curry leaves or bay leaves
3-4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 large yams, peeled and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes
2 cups frozen petite peas

1) Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken. Heat oil in large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken pieces and brown them well on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Don't skimp on this step; not only does it add color and flavor, it renders fat.

2) Remove the chicken and pour off excess fat, leaving enough to coat the pot. Add onions, garlic and ginger and sauté until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add 3 cups chicken stock and bay leaves. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits.

3) Add chicken thighs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until chicken is tender and pulls apart easily, about 30 minutes. Correct the seasonings to taste. Add yams and additional stock if necessary to just cover yams; cook through, about 20-30 minutes depending on their size. Add peas and heat through, about 1-2 minutes. Serve over jasmine or basmati rice.

Makes 6 servings

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Portland bites and bits!

A few of my favorite local enjoyments, plus a bit of PDX food news....
*** *** ***
Still one of the best dining deals in town is the three course for $24 dinner at Tabla. We went a few weeks ago and loved it. Went again with friends last week and it was still stellar. For your money you get a great app, a primi of pasta or in my case a delicious preparation of De Puy lentils (if these are still on the menu, grab 'em!), and a choice of entrées. All of ours were spot on, and my duck confit leg (left) nailed it. Plus they don't skimp on their portions, and with a bargain like this you'll have plenty of dough left to spring for one of their desserts. If you're going to burn through some $4+ gas going out, you've gotta save your hard earned dollars where you can!
*** *** ***
Also had another great experience at my favorite Thai restaurant in PDX, Mai Thai. Once again w and I were really impressed with the quality and obvious care that goes into ach dish. Everything was perfectly cooked, and plated with an obvious nod to the "you eat with your eyes first" theory. The special daikon fritter appetizer (left) and the Fantastic Tofu entrée were particularly satisfying.
*** *** ***
One of my newest Monday day off traditions (a.k.a. addictions) has been to head down to Caffé Umbria in the Pearl District to have the best cappuccino in town. And what's better than walking into this outpost of Italian authenticity at 11am and having a good percentage of Portland's Italian contingent sitting in Umbria's side room watching an Italian soccer match on TV, yelling, moaning, clapping along with the action. Awesome!
*** *** ***
Another spot I hadn't been to for months is Justa Pasta in NW. My last vist to JP w and I really enjoyed the casual ambience and quality pasta choices. Justa Pasta is a Portland fresh pasta producer who supply many local restaurants. A few years ago they opened the restaurant, and have been satisfying savvy, budget-minded diners ever since. It's really a great deal. You walk in, turn left, and grab one of their menus off the rack. After making your choice from their wide list of pastas (in small or large portions which is a nice touch) and salads, step up to the counter, place your order, choose your table and wait to be satisfied, because I know you will be! I went yesterday with mom for lunch as she lives nearby and hadn't been there. Mom picked their Three Cheese Ravioli with Alfredo (above left) and I had their Fettucine with Bolognese (right). We also shared their caesar, which was a pretty good rendition. Mom's alfredo wasn't too heavy, which is always a concern with this much abused pasta sauce. My bolognese was quite good as well, and I had ordered the very generous large portion, knowing I'd have some leftover for lunch today. At $6.95 for mom's not-so-small dish and $8.95 for my large bowl of bolognese, this is bargain eating at its best!
*** *** ***
Coming Attractions: I just received a press release that in the space previously occupied by the here-today-gone-tomorrow Terroir on NE Fremont and MLK, a new restaurant called Belly will be opening sometime in July. Besides loving the name, their menu looks inviting in that "lots of things look good" way, and quite reasonably priced. Being opened by locals Cameron and Linda Addy who have had experience at places like Gary Danko in SF, and locals Caprial's, Mint, Giorgio's, and Lucere among others, their plan is “to create a place where we would want to eat. Whether on a date, with our toddler in tow or meeting with friends, we wanted a place that met our everyday needs.“ With a nice lineup of starters a couple of pastas and pizzas, and mains that run from a burger, pan-roasted duck breast, halibut, or a culotte steak and fries, it looks promising. I'll keep you updated.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hemingway, Havana, daiquiris.....and me?!

Maybe it's cocktail kismet, but the very day I came home from the wine shack in dire need of refreshment and decided to make a daiquiri while I awaited w's arrival home (a daiquiri is something I hadn't thought of...and never made at home...until recently when we had them as one of our "house" cocktails at our recent wedding reception. They were quite delicious!). While sipping this rum-based bit of adult enjoyment, I was online and came across this article in the Wall Street Journal's online edition about Ernest Hemingway's daiquiri, called the Papa Doble. I had forgotten abut EH's penchant for consuming gargantuan quantities of this drink at his favorite Havana bar La Florida, which he called "Floridita" (although under his entry on wikipedia they have a picture of the La Bodeguita del Medio bar, which they say was his regular haunt. When you consumed as much hooch as "Papa" I'm sure you were a presence at...and under...innumerable bars. Besides, we all know how dependable fake-ipedia is). Hemingway and me. The similarities are, I think you'll agree, eerie: Hemingway loved the daiquiri, I love the daiquiri. Hemingway loved to travel and live large, ditto for yours truly. Hemingway was a great writer, I'm, enough of that.

Anyway, this is really just an overlong introduction to my recipe (adapted from the New American Bartender's Handbook) for what I think just may be the perfect daiquiri. With the magical sweet complexity of the rum and the balancing tartness of lime, this is a great escape while you sit on your patio dreaming of old Havana!
I know there's something historically wrong with what's being depicted on this vintage postcard from La Florida bar, but I just can't put my finger on it..........
*** *** ***


2 oz. (60ml/4 tbsp.) light rum
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. superfine sugar (you can use regular sugar, just give it a couple of extra shakes)
Lemon twist for garnish

Fill cocktail shaker halfway with ice, add ingredients, shake as if your life depended on it, strain into martini glass, add garnish, and enjoy!

Note- Further info for you cocktail geeks: The New American Cocktail handbook also says that the daiquiri had originally been invented by miners in the Daiquiri mountain range in southern Cuba. La Florida bartender Constante Ribailagua perfected the drink that Hemingway made famous.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"Um, do you have something, oh, I don't know...a ittle less depressing?"

So very sad! Is this the worst restaurant table in New York? According to the voters at it is. Check out the other candidates on this blog post. Too funny!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Four star cooking at my house? Hell yes!

Eric Ripert, superstar and four-star chef at NYC's Le Bernardin has nothing on me. Well, except for better equipment, years of experience, and a battalion of prep slaves, plus movie star good looks and that damn French accent. But other than those minor differences, we're pretty much alike. At least as far as this Ripert recipe came out.

I had picked up a beautiful piece of fresh cod fillet at our local Wednesday farmer's market here in PDX, and was as always looking for new inspiration. I checked on epicurious and this Ripert recipe popped up. If anyone knows their way around a piece of fish, it's Ripert. He made his 4 star chops by turning out stellar interpretations of classic French preparations, mostly seafood focused. So with that as my inspiration, how could I not try it?

Final verdict? This was really tasty. The fish was perfectly moist, the sauce was excellent. Complex, silky smooth, not a thick curry, so if you wanted that I suppose you could reduce it down, but I think Ripert's point was to have it more of a broth. And the baby bok choy cooked in the buttered water water was genius, something I'd never heard of. Maybe my plating wasn't up to four-star standards, but this dish nailed it!
*** *** ***

Cod with Coconut, Lime, and Lemongrass Curry Sauce
Makes 4 servings.


The Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced
1-inch knob ginger, thinly sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon Madras curry
3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup fresh coconut milk, or canned
4 cilantro sprigs
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

The Cod:
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 7-ounce cod fillets, 1 1/2-inches thick
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

The Garnish:
1/2 pound butter
Fine sea salt
9 heads baby bok choy, divided in half (quartered if large)
1/4 cup kosher salt

Special equipment:
2 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillets

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Two of the wonderful flavoring agents: kaffir lime leaves and sliced lemongrass

To make the broth, melt the butter in a small sauté pan or wok over medium heat.
Add the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves and curry and sweat until tender and with no color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and cilantro, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine chinois and set aside.

Divide the 2 tablespoons of canola oil between the skillets.
Place over high heat until oil is just smoking. Season the cod on both sides with salt and pepper. Put 2 pieces of cod in each skillet and sauté until golden brown and crusted on the bottom, about 2 1/2 minutes. Turn and sear on the other side for 30 seconds. Put the pans in the oven and roast until a metal skewer can be easily inserted into the fish and, when left in the fish for 5 seconds, feels hot when touched to your lip, about 6 to 7 minutes.

The cod fillets, just out of the oven looking good. Top that Ripert!

In a large pot, heat 4 quarts of water, the butter, and the kosher salt.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the bok choy and cook until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a sheet pan in the refrigerator to cool quickly so they retain their bright green color.

To serve, reheat the sauce and finish with the lime juice.
In each of 4 bowls, place a piece of cod. Place 3 to 4 pieces of bok choy around the cod. Pour the sauce over the cod and serve immediately.

Add the coconut milk and cilantro, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine chinois and set aside.

Divide the 2 tablespoons of canola oil between the skillets.
Place over high heat until oil is just smoking. Season the cod on both sides with salt and pepper. Put 2 pieces of cod in each skillet and sauté until golden brown and crusted on the bottom, about 2 1/2 minutes. Turn and sear on the other side for 30 seconds. Put the pans in the oven and roast until a metal skewer can be easily inserted into the fish and, when left in the fish for 5 seconds, feels hot when touched to your lip, about 6 to 7 minutes.

In a large pot, heat 4 quarts of water, the butter, and the kosher salt.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the bok choy and cook until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a sheet pan in the refrigerator to cool quickly so they retain their bright green color.

To serve, reheat the sauce and finish with the lime juice.
In each of 4 bowls, place a piece of cod. Place 3 to 4 pieces of bok choy around the cod. Pour the sauce over the cod and serve immediately.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Seven deadly sins? Count me in!

I saw this while surfing on notcot. These wine glasses are awesome. Called the Seven Deadly Glasses. British designer Kacper Hamilton came up with the concept because: “These red wine glasses are based on the 7 deadly sins. Each glass encapsulates a sin, which is revealed through the ritual of drinking. The ‘7 Deadly Glasses’ are about celebrating passion and encouraging the user to be sinful......"

Like I need help with that. If I was any more sinful I'd be walking around with horns on my head and a pitchfork. Let's see...Wrath? Check. Greed? Check. Pride? Check. Gluttony? Are you fucking kidding me...Double-check! Lust; envy; sloth? Check; only when my dining companion orders something better; and usually the morning after.

Click on this link to see for yourselves!
Photo from notcot

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Out of the archives, onto my plate!

This is another of those recipe finds that make all that shredding and tearing up of food magazines worthwhile. In fact, I tore this one out about two years ago on one of my futile magazine recycling binges, where I swear I'm going to whittle down that pile of saved Gourmet's, Bon App's, Saveur's, etc, tear out the recipes that look good and file them away under the proper heading (dinner/dessert/soup/blah-blah-blah). Unfortunately all I end up with is another over-stuffed file folder with this mish-mash of unorganized recipes from various sources, and within a few months another pile of neglected food magazines.

But every now and then I actually do look through the folder, and find something that reminds me why I go through this exercise in seeming futility. The other night I pulled out this oldie from the September '04 Bon Appetit. w and I always love whole fish when we go out (the fried fish at Malay Satay Hut here in PDX with what is basically a Thai fruit salad on top kills!), but I rarely make it at home. Yet almost every time I do it turns out pretty freaking good and reminds me to quit being such a whole fish slacker, especially when we have ABC Seafood so close to our house. ABC is a wholesale/retail Asian market that supplies a lot of other markets (like Uwajimaya) and the savvier restaurants around town. Their prices are amazing, and it is also the best place around to get whole live Dungeness crab for home cookin'. Anyway, that's the back story. The main point is this was really delicious...spicy, savory, really complex and rich yet not heavy. I subbed whole tilapia for the red snapper (cook about 5-8 minutes longer if you go this route) since ABC was snapper-less and it worked just fine. This is one of those really fun, interesting dishes that I used to dream of making but never thought I would (or could). Now I smugly have it in my repertoire, and can't wait to show it off again!
*** *** ***
Red Snapper Baked in Indian-Spiced Yogurt
From Bon Appetit

2 cups (lightly packed) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups (lightly packed) fresh mint-leaves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
4 jalapeno chiles, seeded, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
2 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 2-pound whole red snappers, scaled, gutted, or one 4-pound side of salmon

1-Using on/off turns, puree cilantro, mint, lime juice, jalapenos, garlic, and ginger in processor. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in yogurt, sour cream, cumin, chili powder, sugar, and salt.

Ready to stir cilantro puree into yogurt mixture

Putting yogurt "schmear" on fish to marinate

2-Cut 3 diagonal slits (in picture at top of post) through skin down to bone on each side of both whole fish (do not cut salmon if using). Pour half of marinade into 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Place fish in dish. Pour remaining marinade over fish to cover. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Properly marinated and ready to pop into oven

3-Preheat oven to 450 F. Transfer fish to large rimmed baking sheet (do not scrape off marinade). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake fish until flesh is just opaque in center, about 25 minutes for salmon and 30 minutes for snapper. Using 2 large metal spatulas, carefully transfer fish to large platter and serve.

Feeding the fetish!

Quick memo to fellow Portland taco cart fetishists: Kiko's Taqueria Uruapan (conveniently located right across the street from the wine shack on the corner of SE 13th Av and SE Lexington St.) now has added chorizo to their menu. Just so you know, I took a field trip across the street to investigate this latest development and they rock! Nice and meaty, non-greasy, spicy bits of pork sausage goodness. Plus all their other tacos for a mere one dollar each are the best taco buy in town!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Eating spring: Asparagus, Meyer Lemon, and Pancetta Pasta

Every time I wander out in the backyard behind the wine shack, I always look longingly at my beloved dwarf Meyer lemon tree. I get excited by it not only because I love the bright, happy yellow fruit that hangs from it, but also I love the fact that I can grow any kind of citrus here in soggy Portland (this spring especially... this weather has been fucking brutal!). It's been producing a bounty of lemons lately, and I'm always trying to come up with new ways to use them. I've had following rolling around my food-obsessed dome for a couple of weeks now, and last night was the time to put it to the test. I had this feeling that the sweetly tart Meyers would get along perfectly with fresh spring asparagus, plus I have several chunks of portioned out pancetta just waiting in my freezer at home and any opportunity to use the glory that is a cured pork product is one not to pass up!

So after remarkably little effort and a kitchen filled with this mixture of head swirling and appetite inducing scents...garlic infused olive olive oil, fried pancetta, tart-sweet citrus....I have to say that this was absolutely freaking delicious and racked up a huge score on my pleasure meter. Served alongside a crisp bottle of Sancerre, this was food and wine heaven!
*** *** ***
Asparagus, Meyer Lemon, and Pancetta Pasta
serves 4


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Four or five smashed, peeled garlic cloves
1 Meyer lemon, cut into thin slices and chopped up, saving the juices
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut on the bias into 1" pieces
4 to 5 ounces pancetta, chopped into 1/4" dice
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 pound dried pasta
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1-Put large pasta pot with water on to boil. When it comes to a boil, add three tablespoons salt and pasta and cook to desired doneness (I admit, I'm not a big al dente guy).

2-Put olive oil into large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat, add garlic cloves and let them infuse oil, turning occasionally. Remove cloves when they turn golden brown (do not let them burn!). Add chopped pancetta and fry until crisp, approximately 8 minutes. When pancetta is crisp, carefully drain off about half of rendered fat.

3-While pancetta is cooking bring small saucepan of salted water to boil. When it comes to a boil, add asparagus and cook for three minutes. Quickly remove from heat and dump into ice bath to stop cooking. Set aside.

4-When pancetta is done, turn heat down to medium-low and add lemon (with the juices) and asparagus and heat through for a couple of minutes. When pasta is done, drain and return to pasta pot and add pancetta mixture. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Serve immediately, passing remaining cheese for sprinkling on top.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Summer's coming. Are you ready?

You know you'll need it in your summer repertoire. You know your friends will be asking for it. At some point this summer the question for you is: "Will you be able to satisfy your friend's needs?" Because I care, I am here to save you, and all of America, from the shame of the "disappointed guest".

When you throw down the chips, spoon out the homemade guacamole, this perfectly delicious, and perfectly balanced margarita, will put the smiles on everyone's faces. Three ingredients, made in a 2-1-1 ratio. Summer thirst quenching is that easy! Get ready, 'cause you know it's coming!!
*** *** ***

The Perfect Margarita

2 oz good tequila
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice (save one half of squeezed lime)
1 oz cointreau (or in a pinch triple sec)
Kosher salt

1-Using half of already squeezed lime, run around the edges of martini glass. Sprinkle kosher salt on a flat late. Dip and twist edge of glass in salt to coat.

2-Fill cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add tequila, lime juice, and cointreau. Shake vigorously. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with lime wedges. Relax. Enjoy!

Bourdain, telling it like it is...again!

Why I love Bourdain's writing: You know he's going to speak his mind in his usual entertaining, scorched earth way. This snippet from his post of five days ago about his guest judgeship on Bravo's "Top Chef":
"As for me? I could give a rat's ass who the producers or Bravo want to win or not win . What I've traditionally used the Glad Family of Bags for would probably not make a good commercial. When I read the surprising announcement that Michelob, a beer I don't drink and don't much like, was going to be "sponsoring" my Bravo blog, I advised them that I felt compelled to disappoint them."

Monday, June 02, 2008

A tale of two markets (w/ a delicious ending!)

After my somewhat traumatizing $22 chicken experience last week at one of our many farmer's markets here in PDX, I had another eye-opener this past Saturday. On Saturdays' here there are two main farmer's markets. One is downtown in the city center park blocks. Very attractive setting, GREAT vendors, where all the "foodies" and wannabes go. It's a great market, but gets crazy crowded (and I preface this next comment by saying I am a huge dog lover, and our beloved Chopper brings us untold happiness, but having said that would all you market shoppers leave your big fucking dogs in the car. It's bad enough with today's giant strollers that parents have, but when you see people with their big labs, newfies, and other oversize mutts, tugging every which way, blocking the flow of an already overcrowded pedestrian walkway, it's time to get a little awareness, don't ya think? Besides, I don't think Fido gives a rat's ass about whether baby artichokes or white asparagus are available!). Then there is the market in the Hollywood neighborhood on the eastside. Much smaller, low key, but with all your basic needs covered without the throngs of people who need to "be seen" downtown. And oh yeah, much lower prices.

Take my haul Saturday. I was in a risotto frame of mind, and made a beeline for the mushroom guy at the Hollywood market. Now there is a great mushroom guy downtown, too. The fungal glory that are morel mushrooms are in high season right now. Mmmmm, morels....earthy, intense, simply amazing. Price downtown: $35 a pound. Price at Hollywood market: $20 a pound. Difference in quality: zero! Plus most other offerings are at this market are at least 10-20% less. Give me a less popular location and better prices any day. Like my experience with the chicken, if we're ever going to get everyday people on board this whole buying locally, sustainably, and any other trendy adjective you want to use, something has to give price-wise.

So what did I make with all this foraged from the forest goodness? Check out one of my all-time favorite, easy, and sensationally delicious go-to dishes. This recipe that I adapted from Gourmet magazine and Anthony Bourdain, is guaranteed to get raves from your crowd!
*** *** ***

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 4-6 servings.

3/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock or good quality broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 lb fresh wild mushrooms such as morels, shiitakes, porcini, chanterelles, or hedgehogs, trimmed and chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon white truffle oil* (optional)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Bring stock to a simmer in a 4-quart pot and keep at a bare simmer, covered.

Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until browned and soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a bowl.

Cook shallots in 2 tablespoons butter in same saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Pour in wine and stir until almost completely absorbed.

Ladle in 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring, until absorbed. Continue simmering and adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring very frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 16 to 18 minutes. (Save leftover stock for thinning.)

Remove from heat and stir in remaining tablespoon butter, sautéed mushrooms, truffle oil to taste (if using), cheese, chives, and salt and pepper to taste. If desired, thin risotto with some of leftover stock.