Saturday, February 28, 2009

The money shot: Spanish Lamb and Chorizo Stew

You know you need that money shot in your repertoire. That one thing you know will work? Like Kobe posting up another hapless Laker's opponent. Like Emeril who used to hold up a piece of f*cking garlic and have his sycophantic audience go berserk like he's splitting atoms. Like any bartender in America looking for a huge tip asking me if I want a free drink. That sort of thing. Such was dinner the other night in the 50th Avenue kitchen.

This is something I've done for a couple of dinner parties to great appreciation. This time it was by accident, as the frost covered package I pulled out of the freezer turned out not to be the expected pork shoulder, but instead had somehow, against all laws of nature, turned into a lamb shoulder. I have no idea how these things happen , but in the whole spirit of lemons to lemonade, when I'm handed a three pound hunk of lamb shoulder I'm become one braisy motherf*cker. Also this wasn't for a dinner party, as it was just wand I and our meager appetites....well, her meager appetite and my overfed one. So needless to say this was also dinner the next night and lunch at work for a couple of days.

In any event, this Spanish inflected braised lamb shoulder from the Dean and DeLuca Cookbook (a money shot of a cookbook if ever there was one!) is something you need to throw into your dutch oven at home....soon! The chorizo and smoked paprika add such intense, smoky, spicy flavor and character and that Iberian something-something that makes me dream of dark cafés and bottles of Rioja in an Andalucian village. In fact the DandD book recommended a Rioja as the perfect beverage accompaniment, and they were absolutely right. This is absolutely The only thing you may need to order ahead is the lamb shoulder, as they are sometimes hard to find. But it's worth the effort, as this is one swoon-worthy dish!
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Spanish Lamb Stew with White Beans and Chorizo
From the Dean and DeLuca Cookbook

serves six....or more

6 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound Spanish chorizo
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2-1/2 to 3 pound lamb shoulder, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 cup rich beef stock (I took 2 cups regular beef broth and boiled it down to 1 cup-bb)
14 ounce can plum tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste
2 15 oz cans white beans

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over moderately high heat. Add chorizo and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onions and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes more. Remove contents of pan and set aside.
The flavoring agents: smoky spanish chorizo and onions working it.
2. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to pan and heat until hot but not smoking. Add lamb cubes and cook until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. (Make sure the pan is not overcrowded; if it is, brown the lamb in batches.)
Browning the lamb to seal in deliciousness.
3. When all the lamb is browned, place chorizo-onion-garlic mixture back in pan. Increase heat to high, and add red wine and sherry vinegar. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any caramelized bits. Then, add beef stock and plum tomatoes with their juice. Stir, breaking up the tomatoes with the wooden spoon. Add bay leaves and paprika. If using marjoram, add half of it now. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ready for the oven, and it already looks so good!
4. Bring the liquid slowly to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and partially cover. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove the lid, and simmer another 45 minutes, or until lamb is extremely tender. Remove bay leaves.
Out of the oven, ready for consumption!
5. Add white beans to stew, and stir to combine. Cook over low heat until beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve. If using marjoram, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons just before serving.

Notes from DandD: "The boneless lamb in this delicious cassoulet-like stew makes for polite knife-and-fork eating. This dish tastes best when eaten right after cooking; it will not improve in the refrigerator, as many other stews do. Serve with a green salad and a good bottle of red Rioja."

Friday, February 27, 2009


Just typing that headline makes me salivate. Sadly, I don't see any in my future. Especially since I'll be spending this weekend in Juneau, Alaska. Why, you may ask, would anyone want to go to February?? It has everything to do with love, friendship, and the chance to get a glance at that hot soccer mom/governor. Wait.....scratch that last reason. And it definitely has nothing to do with cassoulet. Could you imagine cassoulet in Alaska: Is that a confit duck leg in my dish or a moose hoof? Since when does cassoulet come with blubber? And what that last bit has to do the reason for this post is nothing, but my mind tends to wander.

The real reason for this post is this column I read at by
"Everyone at that table remained upright; clearly, I had work to do.

By the way DDS, that so reminds me of something you would write! So while I'm up in Alaska this weekend freezing my butt off, drinking with the locals at the Pyramid, and trying not to get my ass kicked for making one too many igloo jokes, I'll be thinking about cassoulet. And salivating.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Memo to self: quit being so stinking lazy!

I agree with Michael Ruhlman that if I'm having a quick sandwich, Best Foods (or in hs case Hellmann's) out of a jar is what I'm reaching for. But if I want something nicer, richer, more flavorful, say for dipping artichoke leaves or stirring into a dressing (I wish I would've done a nice aioli for my deviled eggs. What a slacker I am!), then I'll try and take the time to make my own aioli or mayo. I don't do it often, but every time I do I'm reminded how easy, fast, AND cheap it is. Plus, it just tastes so much better. So worth the effort. This all came to mind as I read the latest post from Ruhlman. The recipe is his, the beautiful pic is from his wife Donna.
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Homemade Mayonnaise
from Michael Ruhlman

1 large organic egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon/5 grams salt
1 teaspoon/5 milliliters water
1 teaspoon/5 milliliters lemon juice (or 2 for a lemony mayo)
1 cup/250 milliliters vegetable oil

Combine yolks salt, water and lemon juice in a 2.5 quart bowl. Fold a hand towel into a ring on the counter and set the bowl in this ring to hold it steady while you whisk. Using a sauce or balloon whip (whisk), stir the ingredients together.

Add the oil slowly while whisking vigorously. It helps to measure out your oil into a cup that pours well in a wire-this stream; alternately you can start your emulsion by drizzling the oil off a spoon, then pouring the oil after the emulsion has begun. Add a few drops of oil as you begin to whisk; when the emulsion becomes creamy, you may increase the speed with which you add the oil to a thin stream. From the beginning the mixture should be thick enough to hold its shape and look luxuriously creamy. Add the oil too quickly and it will break, that is, it will turn soupy. When all the oil is incorporated add remaining lemon juice to taste. If the mayonnaise is too thick, it can be thinned by whisking in a little water.

If you want to make less, just put in half the oil, lemon juice, and water.

If it breaks, put a teaspoon of water in a clean bowl and start the process over by dribbling in the broken mayonnaise while whisking.
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Lunch at Bluehour then a free sushi buffet? Another tough day at work!

Dining Dilemma: To check or not to check?

In his Feed Me column in the NYT, Alex Witchel takes an imteresting, amusing look at how people handle the coat check. Do you do it? Don't you? And, oh by the way, if you do would you give a lousy buck, thank you very much! He quotes Joe Allen, he of the eponomously named restaurant: “People have a deep resentment about coat check, tectonic in its origins”.
Good stuff, and something to keep in mind.

Plus, appended is what looks like an amazing recipe for prime rib hash (pic at left).....assuming you have some leftover prime rib in the fridge. I mean, who doesn't??

Picture from the NYT

Dep't. of Diversion: Don't tell me this hasn't crossed your mind...

Just saw this very funny old SNL skit vid that I'm guessing rings all too true for so many out there. That's right, you know who you are.....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The return of the Raj: Beer dinner at Vindalho!

If you think walking into Vindalho here in Portland a couple of night's ago and seeing the above laid out as you walk in the door isn't a good sign, then you'd best stay home and enjoy that TV dinner. Me, I'll take the glass of the above refreshing malted beverage....several of them, please. The occasion was a beer dinner sponsored by Vindalho and Beer Northwest Magazine that somehow I got comped to. Okay, it was through the good graces of my sister and her generous friend Lindsey. Vindalho's chef de cuisine David Anderson is not only a kick-ass creator of nouveau and traditional Indian food, but he's also a big beer fan. He and Beer NW publisher Megan Flynn got together and decided to put on what turned out to be a food and beer lovers paradise, with nary an IPA in sight. Four courses of David's sub-continental creations paired with four different beers, mostly local brew with the exception pictured above. How good was it? Pretty freaking good as you'll see. Here's the menu.....
Reception: Spicy Potato Samosas with Mint Chutney, Masala Chicken Wings, and Lamb Kofta
Classic Indian snacks, these were all outstanding, with the accompanying dipping sauces providing a mouthwatering compliment. We had these with the above mentioned beer, a Krait Prestige Champagne Lager from Britain that was nothing less than fabulous. This is a beer that could cause some serious problems for me. Light, elegant, rich, it went incredibly well with all the different flavors. This is brewing greatness!

Appetizer: Black Pepper and Curry Leaf Prawns
These were really nice, not too unusual in their preparation, but the fruity-spicy dipping sauce made it. I'm not a big fruit beer guy, but the Laughing Buddha Mango-weizen from Seattle was pretty restrained, which if you're smushing some mangoes into your beer is a good thing.

Entrée: Pork Vindalho with Saffron Pullao and Crispy Shoestring Potatoes
This was an awesome dish, the slow-braised pork shoulder fall-apart tender and bathed in an intensely flavored sauce (god, I love pork is the perfect piece of meat, always delivering huge rewards for so little money), the rice perfect, the naan bread just right for sopping and scooping. I have the recipe for the vindalho, too, so stay tuned for details! Oh, and the Southern Oregon Brewing Porter out of Medford was absolutely spot-fucking-on, its smoky-chocolatey flavor pairing with the spicy heat of pork vindalho like they were made for each other. As good as a food and beverage match can get!

Dessert: Chocolate-Orange Spiced Mousse with Coconut Tuille
I could've eaten about ten servings of this, and I was looking around the table praying someone would drop dead so I could steal theirs. No such luck though, so I had to content myself with scooping every last molecule out of my dish. The chocolate and orange were in that just right proportion you always hope for, but rarely get. With the strangely tart Cascade Brewing Cuvee du Jongleur was this tart-fruity concoction that cut right through the sweetness of the dessert. I'd tell you more about the beer, but frankly in the haze of dishes and drinks I kind of forgot.

This was my first beer dinner, and it nailed it. It was a nice break from all the wine dinners I've been to, which can run a little dork-centric. David's cooking at Vindalho was really something special this night, and this place is right back on my radar!

Less water, better pasta?

Another interesting article in the NYT by the man whose job I almost envy above all others, food scientist/guru Harold McGee. He is proposing, to the tsk-tsking of Italian grandmothers everywhere, that maybe we all could cut back on the amount of water we use to boil pasta. His experiments seem to point out that using as little as 1-1/2 quarts of water does just as good a job as the usual 4-6 quarts we all usually use. Now when he actually presented his findings to über-Italian cooking grandmothers Lidia Bastianich and Marcella Hazan they reacted with lukewarm enthusiasm. Still very interesting info contained herein, with the point that not only do you get good results, but the energy savings are not insignificant. A rather delicious way to burnish your "going green" cred.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Importance of Cupcakes

The always entertaining Corby Kummer has another hunger inducing piece in the new issue of The Atlantic about cupcakes and the ongoing popularity of these frosted mini-cakes. He also laments how hard it is to get a really good cupcake....

loyingly cute cupcake shops may seem passé in New York, but they continue to thrive there, and new ones seem to open across the land by the month. Silly and disappointing as most of these shops are, the craze is worth keeping—if only, like the audiences at La Scala, to keep applauding till the performers do better."

His piece is not only worth salivating over, but also educational. Did you know "...a Hostess cupcake has 180 calories. A blueberry muffin at a typical Starbucks has 360...." His main problem is with the two seemingly simple parts of these adorable desserts that turn adults into kids again, the cake and the frosting. Click the link above to read the piece, and be sure to watch the video for a visual representation of what every cupcake should be. Meanwhile, I'm on my way to hit my favorite Portland cupcake purveyor, Saint Cupcake...........

cupcake pic from The Atlantic
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: take a few minutes to let the real world, in this piece on Afghanistan, intrude on your food dreaming. I wouldn't bring it up if it wasn't important!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: 5 Guys Burgers and Fries; Spella Caffé; EVOE

I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire. I wanted to earlier, but never made it. Now that I've seen the Academy Award ass-kicking they gave the American movie industry, I'm still a little leery. It's almost a matter of no way can they meet my expectations. My friends are about 70/30, loved it/meh, and I know it's theater worthy, but still.....
Right out of the bag and looking a bit worse for wear, but it's all about the flavor, right?
I bring that up as a prelude to my visit to the new-to-PDX 5 Guys Burger and Fries out in Beaverton. This east coast chain was also much anticipated, kind of like if In-n-Out came to town....which they haven't....yet! I read a mention in our local fishwrap, and have a good friend who swears it's the deal. I did a post about its opening and got about the same 70/30, love it/overrated feedback. So today I made the trek to the 'burbs to check it out. I am nothing if not a huge burger fan. From the perfection that is the Castagna Café burger and fries to my twice yearly Big Mac. So while I lust after the great burger, I'll also slumdog my way through fast food on occasion.
The kitchen at 5 Guys, where esprit de corps seems to be in abundance. Go, you'll see what I mean. And, no, I didn't photoshop the "place order" sign in.

So how did 5 Guys measure up? For a fast food burger their hand-formed beef patties are pretty rocking. They come two patties to a burger (I had the bacon cheeseburger), are properly cow-like, meaning pretty clean tasting and not industrial fatty (I would also never eat the plain patty off of my Big Mac by itself. It needs all that other shit they layer on it to make it edible) like McD's. Thicker than our own Burgerville chain's patties, with cheese that was melty-gooey and the bacon not bad, and a bun that held together. I'd have to rate it pretty highly. The fries were the best part. Thicker cut, fried in peanut oil and lightly salted, with good starchy texture, they are way above other chain fries. They also post a sign (pic at left) on the wall telling you where that days spuds came from. Today's were the pride of Warden, Washington. Word to the wise: the regular order of fries at $2.79 was plenty big enough for 2, maybe 3 people. They have big boxes of peanuts in the shell set out to munch in line or at your table, and in their aw-shucks-we're-just-regular-folks shout out, they let you throw the shells on the floor. Schticky, but kind of cool, too. So would I make the special trip to Beaverton from the east side just to indulge? Eh, probably not. It was okay, and while I like the hand-formed patty thing it wasn't transcendant, and I can get any number of just okay burgers at any number of bars in town...with a beer!
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So I'm driving back into town, thankfully out of suburban mall madness, and decided to cut through downtown to have one of the legendary coffees from Andrea Spella's cart on SW 9th and Alder, Spella Caffé. To reference the open, not all legends live up to the hype. Spella does. From his hand-roasted beans to the perfect hand-pulled espresso, this is what every coffee bean dreams of becoming. You did know coffee beans have dreams, didn't you? The espresso in the picture, that perfectly chocolatey looking dab in the cup, maybe two tablespoons of caffeinated pleasure with it's lightly foamy crema floating on top? THAT is exactly what I want to see when I order a doppio espresso. Not this half a cup of watery, thin, bitter swill sloshing around a cup like 90% of places give you. I want body and texture. I live for the roasted, bittersweet chocolate taste with a sublimely smooth finish. I need to feel the love. At Spella, it's all about one man's love, passion, coffee, and the pursuit of perfection. Bravo, Andrea!
*** *** *** *** ***
So yesterday, after a pokey morning and my gut-busting breakfast torta from Por Que No, hunger slowly crept up on me about 4. Luckily, with the magical chef's table at EVOE about a two minute drive from our front door (I know, we could've walked...heck, we snowshoed there before...but that pokey feeling hadn't quite gone away) relief is never far away. Kevin was as usual throwing down his usual dazzling array of simple, flavor packed small plates. The EVOE blackboard menu always presents almost too many options, because with me, the more I see, the more I want. Luckily, w is always there to talk me down, so we you ever just "settle" at EVOE....on, among other things, this......
Lomo (cured pork loin) with a mache salad
Baby calamari, achingly tender and delicious, with an almond, pea,
and mint dressing on toast. AMAZING!!

We also had some perfectly seared scallops with grapefruit and avocado and a hearty nettle dumpling soup. Both, again, delicious. I am continually astonished at the value and beauty of the food at EVOE!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

America deceived? The SHOCKING truth!!



And I'm sure I'm not the only American who is crushed by disappointment when we open our bag of heart disease from the local fast food chain and are find out the reality is somewhat different than the advertising fantasy. Well, maybe not as shocked as this guy, who has apparently made it his mission to alert all Americans to the deception that lies in the drive-thru lane. This is some disturbingly hilarious stuff that I just saw a link to on Nancy Rommelmann's blog. Too funny. Make sure you read his Wendy's Baconator review. Hopefully this guy's a fast writer, because at the rate he's going dude's heart is bound to explode at any moment. And take note of the ads on his site....all google generated ads that tell you, ironically, "to click here to lose ugly belly fat".
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.:
Prix fixe pleasure at Portland's Tabla Bistro!

It hurts so good

What I just finished eating for Sunday breakfast:
The Breakfast Torta from Por Que No: 7" of porky love shoved in my mouth.......wait, did that sound somehow wrong? What I'm sayin' is this is the famous PQN tinga pork (spiced/shredded)-with gooey cheese-sour cream-and fixin's sandwich that will leave you moaning in pleasure and in serious need of a tummy massage!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Caipirinha where'd I put that damn thong??

Smoke in a Drink Bad:
bacon-smoked bourbon at Belly Timber in Portland, or any smoked hooch that all the new "mixoligists" are doing at bars around the country. Guys...and girls...leave it alone already!

Smoke in a Drink Good:
Laphroig Single Malt Scotch....mmmm...peaty goodness.
The Caipirinha Cocktail...I'm guessing the national liquor of Brazil, Cachaça, gets its smoky character from the oak barrels it's aged in. However they do it, shaken up with a little lime and sugar it makes a kick ass cocktail. A caipirinha is kind of mojito-like, refreshing, the perfect sweet-tart mix, and with that crazy Cachaça complexity. Man, that shit's good! The other night after work I had an urge for something different than the usual negroni or martini. I had a neglected bottle of Cachaça in the bar that seemed so lonely, so to make it and me feel better it was time to put some samba on the stereo, wiggle into my my thong, and whip up a caipirinha and get my Barzilian groove on. Of course I soon realized that I didn't have a thong to put on...which is probably for the better. Talk about a crime against humanity to anyone who might get a peek at my lily white ass....the horror!! But even without the thong, my cocktail was simple, fast, and delicious. Obrigado, Brazil!!
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Caipirinha Cocktail
serves 1

3 oz. cachaça
5 or 6 lime pieces from a lime cut into eigths.
1 tablespoon sugar

Place lime pieces and sugar into bottom of cocktail shaker and muddle until well combined and all mushy. Add cachaça and large ice cubes. Shake for about 15 or 20 seconds, and pour into 5 or 6 ounce old fashioned glass. Garnish with lime.

For an added, non-traditional bit of groove in case you're short on Stan Getz & João Gilberto in your playlist, may I suggest while enjoying a caipirinha getting your Snoop Dogg on with this...

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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: exceeding expectations with this awesome Butternut Squash Risotto!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bazaar in L.A....José Andrés four star food circus

I happened upon the LA Times four-star review of Spanish chef José Andrés restaurant Bazaar in the new SLS Hotel. If the review doesn't have you salivating, the video will!

James Beard Award Nominees, PDX version

The James Beard Foundation just announced the semi-finalists for the Oscars of the food biz, their 2009 restaurant/chef awards (click here to get to the whole list), and Portland is well represented. It's worth checking the full list to see who's getting props around the country. Here's the local flavor....

Higgins Restaurant and Bar

Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon

Why I'm not nominated in this category I have NO idea. Must be some political vendetta. Bastards!!
David Adelsheim, Adelsheim Vineyard, Newberg, OR
Stephen R. McCarthy, Clear Creek Distillery, Portland, OR

Scott Dolich, Park Kitchen
Daniel Mondok, Sel Gris
Andy Ricker, Pok Pok and Whiskey Soda Lounge
Charlene Rollins, New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro, Talent, OR
Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon
Cathy Whims, Nostrana

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cookie Love

As I said in the post about the marvel that was the Pumpkin Carrot Cake, w does most of the baking around our kitchen. To which I am most grateful. Fatter, but still grateful. Her blueberry scones are the stuff of breakfast legend. Her regular pumpkin cake is awe inspiring. And I'm not saying this just to get her to bake more desserts. She sees right through my rather lame manipulations. Her oeuvre is dinner party tested and approved. And now comes these stupidly delicious ginger spice cookies. There is no one who doesn't like ginger spice cookies. If they don't, then they haven't had these ginger spice cookies. You will not...I repeat, WILL able to eat just one of these!
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Ginger Spice Cookies

from epicurious
yield: Makes about 30

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup (lightly packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses

Combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar, shortening and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets. Spoon sugar in thick layer onto small plate. Using wet hands, form dough into 1 1/4-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to touch, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 minute. Carefully transfer to racks and cool. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Regional Recipes: Goan Shrimp Curry

I've mentioned this dish a couple of times before (here and here), and both times it has been freakishly good. I'm mentioning it again as it is my entry in the Regional Recipes blogging event over at Blazing Hot Wok, where authoress/Regional Recipes El Jefe Darlene has chosen the food of India for this month's theme.

I got this recipe from NY Times author Elaine Louie who was doing a One Pot column last year, where food you can make in, you guessed it, one pot, was featured. This is a recipe from NY chef Suvir Saran who makes it at his restaurant Devi. The state of Goa where Saran had this, is India's smallest, and known for its fiery cuisine. Every time I've had it I'm reminded of how with the simplest prep, Indian food delivers such huge flavor. If you haven't made this, then might I suggest you give your palate a thrill!
*** *** *** *** ***
Blazing Hot Wok
Goan-Style Shrimp Curry
Adapted from Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur, Devi

Time: 25 minutes

1 1/3pounds large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/8teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4cup canola oil
4 dried red chilies
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3 cups canned chopped tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro.


1. Place shrimp in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, and add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne. Mix well and refrigerate.

Chilis, onion, and ginger creating aromatic magic!

2. In a deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine oil and chilies and stir 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and cook for 1 minute longer. Add ginger, onion, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt and sauté until onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, ground coriander and turmeric and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomatoes. Stir, scraping sides and bottom of pot, for 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.

The skillet of steaming curry deliciousness just before stirring in the cilantro.

4. Stir in curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil, and add shrimp. Bring to a simmer and cook until shrimp are opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro. If desired, serve with rice.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings.
Cooks note: in her article, Louie mentions how Suvi Saran, who created the dish "sometimes poaches scallops and salmon in the sauce, or blends it with potatoes, cauliflower and green beans." In other words, feel free to riff off the basic sauce.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dinner party, part 4: Having my cake and eating it!

As I’m sure I’ve made clear, when it comes to dessert I’m a huge cake guy. Not to limit myself though, because honestly when to comes to dessert I’m a huge dessert guy. w does most of the baking in these parts, and she indulges my cake fetish quite regularly. For the perfect ending to our dinner party last week she pulled this recipe off of, of all places, the Libby’s Pumpkin website. This cake was, even through the fog of far too many bottles of wine, incredible. Topped with the maple cream cheese frosting from Leite’s Culinaria (this is frosting, btw, that will have you asking your significant other to shed their clothes so you can spread it on their bodies and lick it off. It’s sexxxy!), it is almost not to be believed. So good, that when one of our guests asked for some to go, I almost said no, and then when I saw the next day that she had walked out and left it in our fridge I was actually giggling with glee. Not the slightest feeling of “oh, maybe I should call Kate and let her know”. Just me going “oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!” Sorry Kate, but I dig this cake….
Out of the oven, waiting to be frosted in sin!
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Pumpkin Carrot Cake
Adapted from Libby’s
Yields - 12 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1-1/4 cup (about 3 medium) carrots, grated
1 1/4 cups nuts, chopped, divided

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease two 9-inch-round cake pans.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in small bowl. Combine milk and lemon juice in liquid measuring cup (mixture will appear curdled).

BEAT eggs, pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, pineapple, carrots and milk mixture in large mixer bowl; mix well. Gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Stir in coconut and 1 cup nuts. Pour into prepared cake pans.

BAKE for 35-40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. To assemble the cake, frost the top of one cake, place the other cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.

FROST between layers, on sides and top of cake with frosting. Garnish with remaining nuts if desired. Store in refrigerator.

pic top left from Libby's
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: watch out, they're coming for you!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dinner party, part three: Getting my braise on!

Do people in Florida or San Diego ever braise anything? Is it ever cold enough to get your juices flowing for a slow cooked hunk of protein? Where you want to walk into a warm kitchen filled with the smells of savory ingredients slowly coalescing into a greater good? Hey, the South: do you? I know slow cooking is traditional in lots of Latin American countries, so I assume it works. I suppose it has to do with the fact that as soon as it's nice enough to cook outside here in Portland, say in July, we tend to abandon our ovens here and fire up the 'ques.

That thought just fired across my synapses because in the cold and wet that seems unending this winter, I not only feel the need to braise, it's almost like I HAVE to braise. I need that warmth and comfort that mysteriously gets transferred from my Le Creuset into my body. For the entrée portion of our dinner party last Sunday, I had meat on my mind. Slowly simmering, tender, robustly satisfying beef. Barolo Braised Beef, which I've made before, seemed the perfect solution. It's always amazing that you can take a chunk of tough, inexpensive chuck roast, and through a few simple steps, a few hours where it is left alone, and a little bit of kitchen love and turn it into something so good. This recipe is money. I've dome it three times now, and each time it turns out spectacularly well.

the tool of choice...9-1/2 quarts of high performance pleasure!

One note: as Bill Buford gave up in his excellent book Heat, where he spent time in the Babbo kitchen working the line, DON'T use Barolo for the red wine called for. You may have enough $40+ bottles of Piedmont greatness in your basement, but I don't, and neither does the Babbo kitchen. As Buford points out, they use cheap merlot in the Babbo version and it works just fine. I had an inexpensive southern Italian Nero d'Avola and it was fine.

Wine Pairing:
In this night of a mind-numbing number of bottles of wine, I started this course with a fabulous magnum of 2004 Ugo Lequio Barbera d'Alba that was absolutely perfect. Where we went from there starts to get a little bit hazy. The point is this sublime bottle only confirmed my opinion that Barbera from a good producer in a good vintage may be the best food wine in the world!
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Barolo Braised Beef
adapted from epicurious
from epicurious: "Beef improves in flavor if made 3 days ahead. Cool completely in sauce, uncovered, then chill in sauce, covered. Reheat, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven until hot, 25 to 30 minutes, then slice meat."

mise en place (or prep as most of us call it), the key to stress free cooking

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) boneless beef chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 lb sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
2 (6- to 8-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine such as Ripasso Valpolicella, Gigondas, or Côtes du Rhône (or as noted above, cheap-ass red!-bb)
2 cups water

Special equipment: a 4- to 5-qt heavy ovenproof pot with lid

1-Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

2-Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Meanwhile, pat meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown meat in hot oil on all sides, about 10 minutes total. (If bottom of pot begins to scorch, lower heat to moderate.) Transfer to a plate using a fork and tongs.
the flavoring agents bubbling away right before the addition
of our beefy guest of honor
3-Add pancetta to oil in pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sauté, stirring, until garlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4-Transfer meat to a cutting board. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard along with herb stems. Boil sauce until reduced by about one third, about 5 minutes, then season with salt. Cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices and return to sauce.

notes: I was cooking for 7 and grabbed a 4-1/2 pound piece of chuck roast from my meat guy. Don't forget that as the meat braises merrily away it also shrinks in size. We had a couple of meager slices left. For a piece that size I also bumped up all of the other ingredients proportionally, except I didn't add any extra water. Also you will probably have some sauce left over. If yes, I added some canned San Marzanos to bump it up the next night and made a bad-ass pasta sauce!-bb
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.:
Crack olives...just add gin!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dinner Party, day two: Soup's on!

Those appetizers and beverages from yesterday's post disappeared rather quickly didn't they? Told you so! Now that the appetites are whetted and the cocktails have started to have their desired effect, it's time to go to table for the first course. A soup course is one of the most underappreciated, overlooked, and easiest courses for home entertaining. I'm not talking big bowls filled to the brim here. Just a cup or so per person with a few slices of ciabatta (if you're in Portland preferably from Pearl Bakery) will provide just the right bit of tastebud titillation without stuffing everyone so much they won't be paying proper attention to the killer entrée to come. With a main course of braised beef, I thought a veggie soup would be perfect. Light, but with a nice gingery bite (that's the chopped ginger at right, waiting to work its flavoring magic!), this parsnip-carrot soup is really delicious. Blended to a silky smooth texture, with a beautiful yellow-orange color. I made it about three hours ahead of time and the flavors really came together by the time I served it. With a little thyme sprig garnish (you could also give it a squiggle of crème fraiche), this looks amazing.
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Parsnip, Carrot, and Ginger Soup
makes 6-8 first course servings

1 pound parsnips, peeled (about 2 large)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
12 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 4 medium)
1-1/2 qts. chicken broth or stock, more if needed
1-1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup whipping cream or half-and-half (optional...I did it without and preferred it that way. This soup is rich enough on it's own.-bb)
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tbsp. sweet vermouth (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh thyme sprigs, sour cream or crème fraiche for garnish

1-Cut the larger ends of parsnips lengthwise into quarters; if there any woody cores cut those away. Cut all parsnips into one inch chunks. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are soft and translucent. Add the ginger and stir one minute, then mix in the parsnips and carr5ots and cook five minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil., reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft, about one hour.

2-Puree the vegetables with the broth they are cooked in (preferably using a blender. a food processor or hand blender will never deliver that super smooth texture-bb), adding more broth if necessary to reach the desired consistency. When all the vegetables have been pureed, add the thyme and nutmeg. Thin the soup with broth or cream as necessary, then reheat without letting boil to allow flavors to meld. Add the vinegar and vermouth if desired, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3-Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with thyme sprig (or place sour cream or crème fraiche in a squeeze bottle and finish soup with a quick squiggle) and serve.

WINE SUGGESTION: I happened to have a magnum of Duval-Leroy Champagne that was demanding my attention and it was fabulous, as real Champagne has the tendency to be. Other great options would be a crisp Friulano from northern Italy or a fruity/spicy Gruner-Veltliner from Austria.
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Pinot noir heaven....a magnum of 1999 Thomas Pinot Noir!

Is "rodent filth" a flavoring agent?

Q: What do the following have in common?: “insect filth,” “rodent filth” (both hair and excreta pellets), “mold,” “insects,” “mammalian excreta,” “rot,” “insects and larvae” (which is to say, maggots), “insects and mites,” “insects and insect eggs,” “drosophila fly,” “sand and grit,” “parasites,” “mildew” and “foreign matter” (which includes “objectionable” items like “sticks, stones, burlap bagging, cigarette butts, etc.”)

A: According to this article in the NY Times, "the F.D.A.’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition establishes acceptable levels of such “defects” for a range of foods products, from allspice to peanut butter."

Mmmm....yummy! While you read this rather disturbing article, I'll be outside digging up a new garden bed to grow my own.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A dinner party in four days. Day One: cocktails and apps

So you want to have a dinner party, do you? And let me need inspiration? I thought so. That's why we read these food blogs isn't it? I mean besides the obvious "killing time at work" reason. Well, since you have a need (and mouths) to fill, let me help you out, because last Sunday I had a kick ass post-holiday dinner party for those who work at the wine shack. Everyone was left full, happy, and drunk, so I guess it was a success. Here's what's going to happen: each day for the next four days I'm going to lay this out for you with apps/cocktails, first course of soup, entrée, and dessert. By Monday you'll be fully ready to wow your friends and earn much love from those who are fortunate enough to be graced with an invite to your table!

I know my friends well enough to know that when they walk in the door, and after the hugs are spread around, they want something in their hands. Hopefully liquid and with a little kick. Here's a list of cocktails and links to the recipes that will give everyone the proper pre-dinner glow:
- Hendrick's Gimlets
- Campari Aranciata Cocktail
- Negroni
- Manhattan Cocktail
- Margarita
- Sidecar Cocktail

You might also want to stash a bottle or two of prosecco and white in the fridge, too, just in case anyone pulls the unexpected and decides on a grape based drink. w tends to roll this way, so it's best to be a good Boy Scout and be prepared. Of course with alcohol beginning to course through their systems, it's incumbent on you, the responsible host, to have something for your guests to eat. Do yourself a favor...make it easy and have them ready when you pour the drinks. You'll be too busy with the greetings and tending to dinner prep to be whipping up last minute apps. You can take the easy way and do the cheese thing, which isn't ever a bad idea. But with a bare minimum of extra effort, you can make the two starters I laid down that absolutely nail it, are delicious, can be made a couple of hours ahead, plus they look pretty damn good on the serving platter.....
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Piquillos con Atun
A classic Spanish tapas, these are fabulous. Use good canned tuna in olive oil. I love the Ortiz brand from Spain.

1 Jar (7.6oz) Piquillo peppers
1 tin Bonito tuna in olive oil
Extra Virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup Capers
Lettuce, washed and drained (optional)

1. Combine tuna in a bowl, draining off about half of the oil. Replace about half of the drained oil with extra virgin olive oil.
2. Break the tuna up into large chunks and add the capers.
3. Hold the peppers so that they form a cone in your hand and stuff with the tuna mixture.
4. Place each stuffed pepper onto the bed of lettuce (if using) or platter. Sprinkle the whole platter with capers and drizzle with olive oil.
Chorizo Deviled Eggs w/ Chorizo Chips
Who doesn't love deviled eggs? Throwback food at its best. And very open to imaginative interpretation! I wanted to stick with a Spanish theme for our apps, so chorizo was the natural choice. Figure at least 2 egg halves per person.

8 eggs
1/4 cup Spanish chorizo, finely chopped
16 thin slices chorizo for chips.
Smoked Spanish paprika to taste

1- Put eggs in saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to a boil. When water comes to a boil, remove pan from heat and cover. After 15 minutes carefully place eggs into ice water bath to cool. Let cool for 20 minutes or so.
2- While eggs cook, crisp the chopped chorizo in a small non-stick skillet. Set aside on a paper towel to drain. Add chorizo slices to skillet and cook to crisp, turning once or twice. Set aside on a separate paper towel to drain. (oh, you may want to make more chorizo chips than you need, because they're really fucking good and once you nibble one, you'll want more. FYI, ya know?)
3- Slice eggs in half lengthwise (a really sharp knife is very helpful here) and place yolks in small mixing bowl. Set egg white halves aside. Add mayonnaise to yolks and mash to desired consistency (I like my egg yolks a little stiff). Add paprika to taste; add chopped chorizo, and mix together. Salt to taste. Carefully fill each egg white half with yolk mixture and add chorizo chip on top. Arrange on platter and serve.
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Pernil is the pork shoulder that dreams are made of!

La vie est belle....

...for my friend DDS on her recent trip to France. She just returned, and I was just getting caught up on her last posts. I came across this description of a meal she had at a tiny little restaurant in the south, and just had to share food love with all of you. I commented to her that I was both resentful of and happy for her. Click here to read a description of perhaps the ultimate French meal. Now pardon me while I wipe the saliva off of my keyboard...........

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: Apps at Castagna Café

I've been meaning to get this up since last Sunday, but, um...forgot. So hopefully when you go by Castagna Café they'll still be on the menu. But if not, you know whatever is there will more than satisfy you, so no huge loss. But just in case, these two are firmly in the don't-miss-this appetizer category. Just the thing to warm up your palate for the greatest burger in America (certainly better than Five Guys in the last post, ya know?).
Foie Gras (swoon) Toasts with Sauterne Gelée. This is how it's done, class!
Trés Tapas: mini-salt cod croquettes; shrimp with aioli; and sardines with fresh salsa.
Three amazing, distinct, yet complimentary flavors. Awesome!

If it's good enough for Michelle Obama...

A report by David Sarasohn yesterday on our local fishwrap's website details the local opening of a branch of the In-N-Out Burger of the east coast, Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Back in the District it is apparently pilgramage worthy, and Michelle O took her White House staff to one recently. Hand-formed burgers, and according to Sarasohn, awesome fries: "Five Guys take their potatoes seriously, not to say personally." The Portland outpost is out in Beaverton. Anyone been, either east coast or locally?