Thursday, December 29, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
The feasting started Saturday with another non-traditional, traditional Kūčios. This year we violated every rule about dairy and meat, though we started with something a little more traditional:
Smoked mackerel with pickled beets and horseradish sour cream. We served this with Lithuanian rye bread and the mackerel came from Duck Trap in Maine. For dinner we had traditional Lithuanian dumplings (Kuldūnai), bacon buns (Lasineciai) and Vinegretas.
KuldūnaiWe cheated and used won ton skins for the dumpling wrappers and it didn't quite work out the best for us. While The Missus made a fantastic meat mixture, the skins just became soggy and noodley, which made for a very unpleasant texture. We vowed to make the dough from scratch next year.
1 lb ground lamb (not too lean) or ½ lb ground beef and ½ lb ground pork (for fattier
1 med onion chopped
Fresh ground pepper and salt one pinch each
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 pinch salt
Mix filling ingredients together and set aside. Mix together dough mixture and roll out
onto floured surface. Cut out 2-3 inch circles of dough and fill with a spoonful of meat
filling. Fold it in half and press edges down with a fork. Add kuldūnai to boiling water
and cook for 10 minutes or until they all float. Serve with Sour Cream Butter sauce.
Sour Cream Butter sauce
In a pan melt equal parts butter and sour cream until sour cream has pretty much melted.
Pour over kuldūnai.
The bacon buns were simply made with coarsely chopped bacon(I believe she used 3/4 of a pound), crisped in a pan.
Remove the bacon, drain some of the fat and saute in about 1 cp of onions until soft. Season with salt and pepper and mix in bacon and let cool to room temperature.
Defrost your puff pastry according to directions, then remove to a floured surface and cut off squares for the buns.
Roll out to desired size and place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle.
Fold over top and seal to bottom, crimping edges to ensure they don't bust open.
Brush with egg wash and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.
Now, it's not easy to top the Lithuanians when it comes to pork and potatoes, but I think I managed to do it this year with a bacon and garlic encrusted pork roast.
Both the bacon and the roast came from a friend of The Missus who gave them to us for tossing him a few dollars worth of pink salt over the summer. I'd say we more than came out on top in that trade.
The roast was succulent and moist, with a bit of smokiness from the bacon ring.
But, there was more than just pork. There was mashed potato casserole, too! And something green!
Mashed Potato Casserole with Sour Cream and ChivesI cut the recipe in half and added a cup of shredded Cave Aged Gruyere to the mashed potatoes before I set them in the refrigerator. This lent a nice salt and nuttiness that balanced out the 3/4 of a cup of sour cream. I'd say that this was easily the "fat kid" winner at the table this year. It was ridiculously rich(nearly a stick of butter in the potatoes, along with a container of sour cream and cheese) and I kept wanting more of it even when I was past rational fullness.
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, and more for the pan
6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons finely chopped chives
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
1. Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. In a large pot, bring the potatoes, 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
3. Mash potatoes with 10 tablespoons butter, sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Mash in the chives. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Spread potatoes into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.
4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, bread crumbs and cheese. Mix together until it forms coarse crumbs. Crumbs can be refrigerated for three days.
5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the potato casserole and bake until golden and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes.
The greens were a Mario Batali recipe for broccoli rabe that I've made a few times. It's extremely quick and simple and that was exactly what I needed after spending most of the day in the kitchen.
Broccoli Rabe, Pugliese
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 bunches broccoli rabe, trimmed
- 1/4 cup small pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
In a large, deep saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the broccoli rabe, then add it to the saucepan with the water still clinging to it. Cover the pan tightly and cook until the broccoli rabe is tender and just a few spoonfuls of water remain, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and top with the olives
I think I'll have salad the rest of the week.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
(photo from Culture Magazine)
Parmigiano Reggiano. Not pre-grated, not that shit that comes in a canned shaker or is any way, shape or form, pasteurized. We're talking about the "King of Cheeses" for God's sake, so have some respect here. You want the real stuff, raw and imported. You know I love my American cheese makers, but you have my permission--actually, my encouragement--to roll your eyes at the next person trying to sell you 'Parmesan' at the farmer's market. It's not even a distant cousin to the real thing. This is 660 years of traditional cheese making at it's absolutely most perfect execution. What the cow's eat, how the milk is heated, where it's aged--all of it is regulated by law and all of that fuss makes sense after one bite. There is no other cheese as nuanced as Parmigiano, with its perfect balance of creaminess, crunch, sweetness and salt. This is one of those cheeses that, once you have the real thing, you are very hard pressed to use any lesser substitute.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Missus and I to our friends, family and fellow food lovers.
Friday, December 23, 2011
(from the bottom, up)
Momofuku Marshmallow, Cornflake and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (adding peppermint candy and chocolate chips to the mix)
Peanut Butter and Bacon Cookies
Pecan Caramel Cookies
Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies (I used left over Cornflake Crunch from the Marshmallow cookie, cocoa nibs, pretzels, dark chocolate chips and marshmallows)
(photo from TheKitchn.com)
One of the best dishes I ate this year had Burrata at the center of it. It was at Bresca, back in March, during Restaurant Week. Dawn and Adam were with The Missus and I, settling in for a four course dinner when the plate arrived. We hadn't ordered it, mind you, but Chef Krista Desjarlais generously surprised us (she knows my love of cheese) with an antipasto course of Burrata, prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, capers, olive oil, aged balsamic and bread. The table didn't speak for over the course of the next twenty minutes. We were too focused and our mouths were too full to articulate how wonderful it was at the time. I think I thanked Chef Desjarlais for the month for her kindness and the amazing food we had that night. Burrata is NOT a cooking mozzarella, it's filled with cream and melty curd, so don't waste it on a pizza. Make a plate, similar to the one that we were served, and enjoy some comfortable silence with some friends over one of the simplest--yet, exquisite--cheeses in the world.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
(photo from NYTimes.com)
We're going to talk French again. You don't really think about domestically made cheeses when the name 'Raclette' rolls around. You think French or Swiss made, melted on roasted fingerling potatoes or crusty bread. Truthfully, I wasn't fond of Raclette cheese until this past year when I was introduced to one by Chef Guy Hernandez of Bar Lola. This one, from Springbrook Farms in Vermont, has completely shattered my illusion and ambivalence towards Raclette. It's painfully more interesting in both nose and paste to the French or Swiss varieties you can by stateside. It's rusty, pink rind gives you a fair bit of warning that the cheese has a nose to it, but the bite is no where near as strong. The paste is creamy, with a bit of a cheddar spring to it. It's a bit earthy, but has a pretty mild nutty finish. I've had it on eggs, melted over a rib eye sandwich and shredded into a gratin. It's become my 'go to' melting cheese over the past few months, but it's great for nibbling as is.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
(photo from Murray's Cheese)
I've encountered people, more than I care to admit, that don't believe that Americans can make wonderful goat cheese that would rival the French, much in the same way they thought about our wine. Sure, it's taken a bit of time (and we're still dealing with those pesky and obnoxious raw milk laws), but I think we're just about there. Some of the natural rind cheeses coming from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery are a prime example of that, like my favorite, Coupole. It's one of the few bloomy rinds that I prefer in their younger state. The milk is sweet, mild and grassy--making for the perfect breakfast cheese to have with a sweet bread and cup of tea.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
(photo from Stacy Camp Photography)
I will openly come out now and say that York Hill Farm, from New Sharon, ME, is one of my absolute favorite goat cheese makers in New England. They were recently featured in a Culture Magazine article on Maine cheese makers and were big winners this past year at The Big E. And the accolades are well deserved. The two cheeses above, their 'Bucheron' and Capriano are two of my favorites. The Capriano is aged about 6 months and the paste imparts a very distinct nutty, sweetness, without the tanginess that goes along with so many goat cheeses. The Bucheron, aged much younger, embraces the tanginess and all its glory. The cream line of the cheese--the one that gets gooier and gooier as the cheese ages--never really gets a lot of body. But, it does loosen up enough to give you that wonderful dual texture and, therefore, dual flavor that makes so many people love this style of cheese.
One thing, though, that strikes me about just about every one of York Hill's cheeses is a mineral note in the milk that cuts a bit into the acidity, which is most prominent in their plain chevre.
If you're looking to track down York Hill's cheeses, I'd do so soon as their milking season is coming to an end. After that, you're waiting 4 long months until the next batch of cheese is made.
Monday, December 19, 2011
They definitely pushed the envelope this year and challenged my cheese pairing abilities more than previous years. I mean, really, how often have I been asked to pair something with Metaxa? Just about never. Port AND Sherry, you say? Together? What crazy, mixed up world is this? Who thought of these things? Why, my lovely friends did. I may have cursed them more than once as I fretted over pairings.
But, enough of my blabbering, let's get onto the booze.
We started the evening on a light and lovely note. The cheese, which I forgot to take a photo of, was the Spanish goats milk cheese, Capricho de Cabra, which was paired with Tupelo honey from The Savannah Bee Company. The drink and cheese paired nicely together with the citrus in the drink meshing wonderfully with the lemony and acidic notes of the cheese.
Freshly squeezed orange juice
This was actually my most enjoyed drink of the night, though I was a bit worried when I took my first whiff of Metaxa. But, when Professor A. handed me the drink, and I took my first sip, I was absolutely smitten with it. There was absolutely so much going on in the drink, at least from the list of ingredients, but everything in the glass seemed to play very nicely with each other. The loveliest touch was the mint leaf floating at the top. The cheese paired with this one, which came at the recommendation of Dawn and Professor A. was Keen's Cheddar. The honey in the drink toned down a bit of the bite and salt of the cheese, while the salt in the cheese drew out a bit more of the honey flavor in the drink. See how that works there? That's why I love to pair cheeses.
1 egg white
Dash Peychaud Bitters
Topped with lime zest and black pepper
Oh, Adam, where did you get this one again? From Lion's Pride in Brunswick? I have to say, I wasn't a fan. Well, I was at first, when I smelled the drink and the lime zest and pepper beckoned me to take my first sip. And it tasted absolutely NOTHING like it smelled. I wanted the lime to be at the forefront, but mine seemed to be all Gin, with a note of potpourri. I don't think I got through more than a couple of sips before I set it down and went right into eating the Valencay. While everyone seemed to love the cheese--it's a favorite of mine--I'm not so sure that I would have paired this with the Lion's Pride had I known what it would have tasted like. The texture of the Valencay is gorgeous, as Dawn said it seems like the paste is whipped, but I found it much too mild to really balance the alcohol. Perhaps something more in the line of Midnight Moon or Twig Farm Tomme would have been better.
Whispers of the Frost
Whiskey or Bourbon
To be served with slices of lemon and orange
I'll put this in the 'Burny' category, but only because it's pure booze with little added to the drink to cut into the alcohol. I also learned that, apparently, having Sherry and Port together will boggle the minds of some seasoned workers at RSVP. However, I did enjoy this drink and took Vrylena's direction to squeeze the citrus and add it to the glass. The pairing for this was the easiest of the night. Port NEEDS blue cheese. Just straight out, no questions asked, it cries for a blue. The hardest part is whittling down the options. While I thought about the Rogue River Blue, I decided, in the end, to go with something a bit more like Stilton. That led me to Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont, something I find to be very much like a domestic made Stilton. The pepper from the Roqueforti Penicillium brought a nice vibrancy to the drink, while the paste mellowed out the harshness of the drink. This, in my opinion, was the best pairing of the evening.
I love Kate. She's my girl, you know? But, I don't think I've had a more vile drink in my life than this one. Seriously, bring me back to last years gay raver drink, The Grinch, or even the much hated Christmas Pudding we had the first year. Anything but this. One sip. One sip was all I could stand of it. If I had been more inebriated by the time we reached this drink, I would have taken out my lighter to see if it would erupt into flames because that shit was pure alcohol.
1 cup sugar
1 bottle brandy
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1 bottle dark rum
But, it's not really Kate's fault--this was a last minute choice when she realized that the recipe she had was the same one she made last year. So, at the 11th hour, she switched it up not really knowing what to expect. And, it's a bit sad that I didn't really like the drink because she spent a bit of time in the kitchen doing prep work for it.
Now, because I was expecting to pair something with a 'Nog drink, I opted out of cheese this year--realizing last year that it's just too much dairy and creates for a unpleasant existence--and went with chocolate. I made two barks, one with roasted Marcona almonds and the other with a sprinkling of Ghost Pepper salt. Call it a 'Naughty and Nice' pairing. I'm assuming that everyone liked the barks, as there was almost nothing left by the end of the night, but I can't really speak if they went with the drink.
I also made these little bits for the evening, Deviled Eggs with Pickled Beets, from Bon Appetit. They're a bit more work than your average deviled egg, but the end results are more than worth it. If you're looking for a last minute dish to make for the holidays, I'd put these right at the top of your list. I would also recommend Dawn's Bacon Wrapped Apricots with Sage. Don't tell her, but I sneaked a few before the dish ever left the kitchen.
So, this year was a bit of a mixed bag for me when it came to the mixed drinks. But, as it has been the past few years, the true joy of it is just getting together with friends, enjoying some great food, getting a bit of a schwill on and laughing until you nearly pee.
With that... A Happy Holiday to you!
(photo SF Chronicle)
Four months, five if you're lucky. That's how long the season is for this raw sheep's cheese from Major Farm, Vermont Shepherd. And, if you're truly lucky, you'll get a taste of one of the first batches of the season, when the sheep are grazing on lemongrass and clover. Seriously, they send you whimsical cards telling you what the sheep were eating the week the cheese was made. It makes it seriously romantical and may just make you focus on the flavor profile of the cheese, rather than just munching it down. As the season goes on, the flavor becomes less grassy and sweet, taking on a bit of a nuttier, drier profile.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
If I were told that I would be given $1 million tomorrow, but I would have to forgo ever having a taste of Jasper Hill Farms Harbison again... I would take the $1 million, but I would pine for that cheese every day. Seriously, one of the most beautiful and complex cheeses I've had in the past few years. As I've swooned here before:
It starts out smokey, akin to a young Winnimere, then a wash of butter and cream hits, ending with a distinct mustard finish. French's Yellow Mustard to be exact.It's that finish. That lingering, familiar and pleasant acidity separates this from so many in its category. Get it ripe enough and, like the Vacherin, sheer the top and just fucking ladle it out.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
(photo from VanillaGarlic)
Pt. Reyes Original Blue is one of those perfect blues. It's bitey, peppery, salty, crumbly and doesn't kill your palate or, as Gorgonzola's have a habit of doing to me, flood my sinuses with an acidic burn. It's pleasant and the blue most likely to appear in any recipe I make that calls for a veined cheese. Maytag may be one of the best known domestically produced blue cheeses, but Pt. Reyes is one of the tastiest.
Friday, December 16, 2011
(photo from The Cheese Library)
Piave Vecchio is the younger, much overlooked cousin to Parmesan Reggiano. Aged significantly younger (this cheese ranges from young--30-60 days old, to Vecchio Oro del Tempo--12+ months), it pleases the palate with a creamy, nutty paste, filled with those little 'crunchy bits' that people can't seem to get enough of. While your first instinct may be to grab the grater and top some pasta with it, it makes a fantastic nibbling cheese, especially for those who don't like their aged cheese to have too much sharpness.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
(photo from Murray's Cheese)
Vacherin Mont D'or is one of those perfect seasonal, winter cheeses. It's also a food porn cheese, with its gooey, unctuous paste. Its one of those cheeses that you sheer the top off of and ladle out the inside or dip roasted potatoes into on a cold December evening. The paste is smoke, earth and woods. While many may feel Gruyere or Emmenthaler cheeses are the true mark of Switzerlands contribution to the cheese world, they do not hold a candle to a perfectly ripe Vacherin. If only we didn't have such silly raw milk laws in this country that prevent us from ever experiencing a 'true' Vacherin at its peak.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
(photo from Dedrick's Cheese)
It's my "Oh, my" cheese. Let me put this into perspective for you. Butter has at least 80% butterfat. Delice D'Argental comes in at 72% butterfat. And it's cut with creme fraiche, propelling this to the top of my favorite triple creme bries. While many will swoon over a wedge of Delice de Bourgogne, with a butterfat content of 75%, it's the added dimension of the creme fraiche that elevates D'Argental over its fellow countryman. I don't recommend pairings often, but a glass of Champagne or Prosecco is MEANT for this cheese.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
If you're interested, they're asking for 48 hour notice and are taking orders now. In fact, you can order any of their breads with 48 hours notice. How f'ing awesome is that? I now no longer have to hunt around for a good rye bread to serve with my attempt at Chef Krista Desjarlais' Beet and Vodka Cured Gravlax on Christmas Eve.
You can reach them @ 207-773-1997.
(photo from British Fine Foods)
Put down your Tillamook, rewrap your Grafton Village and behold the King of Cheddar. Farmstead, unpasteurized, bandaged and aged at least 10 months, this is my favorite English cheese and I would even push aside a wheel of some of my favorite cheddars(Cabot Clothbound from The Cellars at Jasper Hill and Old Quebec) for even the smallest of wedges.
The flavor profile is grassy and creamy. But, it's the intensity of the raw milk, a bit of a dance and a slight horseradish profile, as the wheel gets older that makes this truly wonderful.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Did you gasp or sneer? C'mon be honest, because when I told a few people what I chose, I didn't know if they were disgusted or questioning my general sanity. I make absolutely no bones about picking out the paisley colored cookbook from Anne Burrell and Suzanne Lenzer. In fact, I'll do it one better by admitting that I actually like Anne Burrell, especially once I realized that, though she may also have spiky blonde hair, she's at least twice as knowledgeable as the other spiky haired person on the Food Network. And, she's actually a chef and not some vapid eyed droid that is seemingly there to model low cut v-neck sweaters.
Chef Burrell's resume is a pretty long and respected one, she is probably most recognized for her stint as Mario Batali's protege and sous chef from Iron Chef America. She's been on a slew of other shows, and was the most recent cast-off from "The Next Iron Chef." While, lesser known than Rachael or Sandra, I'm guessing that she could easily cook circles around the others from the FN sisterhood, all while wearing her knee length skirt, no less.
Her book has the usual suspects: favorite tools and pantry staples, as well as a guide to her lingo (fond="Crud"; "BTB"=bring to a boil) and a lovely forward by Mr. Batali. When you get to the heart of it her recipes are mostly, and understandably, Italian influenced and pretty decent. Without a doubt, they are definitely geared towards those looking to graduate from easier cookbooks, but aren't quite ready to put out a Thomas Keller level dish. There's a whole chapter on homemade pasta, one of her specialties and one which I would have enjoyed if I had a pasta maker, but the recipes can easily be made and adjusted to use dried. Her 'Piccolini'--or, as she calls them "My little nibbles"--recipes are some of the most interesting, especially the one for the Mortadella Mousse.
The recipes that I did make--one for braised short ribs, mac and cheese with bacon and 'cheeeeeesy' polenta (her added vowels, not mine)--were good, but no different than ones I had made previously. Solidifying, again, that this is not a book for someone who knows their way around kitchen.
Her teaching background definitely comes through from the beginning of the book. She stresses the importance of simply reading the recipe all the way through and the value of having your mise en place organized before one bit of food is cooked. She tries to condition the reader to think like a professional chef before they make any attempts to cook like one (or, in this case, a 'rock star') and organization is key in that. Her voice is a bit flighty and light, but enthusiastic, much like how she comes across on screen. But, I do have to say, I have never seen a cookbook with so many exclamation points in my life and I'm still not sure if I found it annoying or campy. Oh and every recipe ends with some weird one line like the one for the Mortadella Mousse: "It's a bologna cloud!" I wonder if she's easily distracted by shiny things.
So, this isn't for the Joel Robuchon set. In fact, the person you probably want to buy this for hasn't a clue as to who Joel Robuchon is. Let's be honest, "Cook Like a Rock Star" is not going to make any of the Top 10 lists this year, but if you have a friend or family member that wants to build up their skills, learn a few interesting recipes and doesn't mind the color pink, then this might just be the gift for them.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
See that? That, my friend, is Nigella Lawson covered in salted caramel. Apparently she is, "In the middle of a love affair" with it. So much so, that she covered herself in it for the latest issue of Stylist magazine.
And this is Rachael Ray posing in FHM a few years back. A bit of a 'Farmers Daughter' thing ya got going on there, Rachael.
Sexy British Cooks: 1
Sexy American Cooks: 0
Sunday, December 04, 2011
It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I've been fighting something off and, worse yet, we're speeding our way into the busiest time of year for me at work. My back was screaming from lifting well over a literal ton of product and my mind was buzzing from being constantly bombarded with questions. When I left work, I was beaten and tired. Then I found myself walking across Monument Square and felt beckoned by the sign for Cobblestones. Truthfully, I hadn't revisited the site since Henry the VIII's vacated and it was a mixture of hunger and curiosity that led me inside.
I was extremely happy that I did. Granted, I was a bit thrown by the quote from FromAway that is plastered across the front window:
"A workaday sandwich shop as designed and imagined by people who clearly think about and care a lot about sandwiches."It's a nice, apropos quote but I just found extremely weird that a quote from a blog would be used so prominently to advertise a business. But, if it draws the curious and gets people in the door, then whatever works, right?
But, we're not talking about my personal feelings about that (and it's in no way personal towards either the shop or the blog) it is completely rooted in finding it weird that blogs, in general, are used to promote/market a business. But, you know, TV shows and movies are starting to use peoples Tweets to promote their shows... so, yea... I guess that's where this is going.
Anyway, back to the sandwich.
I ordered the Hot Boston Brisket Pastrami, served with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, deli mustard and grilled on Marbled Rye. I lucked out by walking in five minutes before their door closed. If I had missed the opportunity... If I had just been five minutes later... My day would have ended on a much fouler note than it did because this sandwich was exactly what I needed. Perfectly peppered and tender Pastrami was definitely the star, cut thick and piled generously on the rye. And, c'mon, who in their right mind DOESN'T like Marbled Rye? If that's you, then you're no friend of mine. The onions were a bit of a throw away for me, though they did add a nice sweetness against the biting whole grain mustard.
While different, I will say that the owners of Cobblestones may actually be putting out a heartier, more satisfying sandwich than the former occupants. My visit may have been completely on a whim, but the wonderful, 'just exactly perfect' sandwich I had, on a not so perfect day, will bring me back for some of their other tempting offerings in the near future.