Home Cured Duck Prosciutto

home cured duck prosciutto

I swear that piles of meat will not become a trend on this site. But I just have to show you this one. What you see above is the result of about six minutes of actual work and two weeks of very impatient waiting. Curing your own duck prosciutto is so easy, it is amazing that any one would even dream of going to a fancy shop to pay through the nose for this stuff.

So how does it work? Basically, you bury a duck breast in kosher salt. I mean, you really bury it. A half an inch of salt on all sides would be the minimum to use. Feel free to add some other flavors to the salt. In this case, I added some juniper berries, allspice berries, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. By covering the duck in salt, you are pulling a lot of moisture out of the meat and adding flavoring as well. This salty environment is not the kind of place that harmful bacteria would be likely to find a safe haven, which is a good thing considering this never gets cooked.

home cured duck prosciutto

After 24-48 hours in the salt (which you have been keeping in your fridge, right?) start digging to extract the meat from it's snowy nest. Rinse off the salt briefly under water and dry throughly. Next, you wrap it in cheese cloth and hang it in your refrigerator for two weeks. It is very important that there is some space around the duck as it hangs. The dry and cool air further dries out the meat which does help for preservation, also gives the meat a wonderful texture. 

Try making it once. Seriously.


Lamb Tartare

lamb tartare

I've never wanted to be a test pilot. Nor a daredevil. Or even a tightrope walker. Nope. Not once. I've never been one to really risk my life for 'the thrill'. But, do I live dangerously? Maybe...

You see, I have no problem with eating a little bit of raw meat. Of course, I don't make it a regular event. And while most people don't have a problem with eating sushi, they have a very hard time understanding why anyone would like to eat red meat without any application of heat. Raw meat actually tastes very good and has a very 'clean' quality.

Of course, I cannot say that eating raw meat is for everybody. Pregnant women, for example, should avoid eating any meat that is undercooked. Check out some safety tips before deciding whether or not eating raw meat is for you. Always make sure you are getting your meat as fresh as possible from a respectable source.

3 oz. raw lamb
1 habenaro pepper, finely minced (seeds optional)
1 egg yolk
3 cups of water, plus 1 cup ice cold water
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan. Seperate the yolk from the egg white and gently drop into the water. Cook for 30 seconds maximum and gently remove from the water. Place the yolk in the remaining cold water to stop the cooking process.

Finely mince lamb, cutting across the grain, into 1/4" cubes. Combine with habanero, salt, and pepper. Place egg yolk on top and serve.


Mushroom & Rosemary Bread Pudding

Sometimes a little decadence doesn't hurt. Especially, when the temperature outside begins to drop. When cold weather starts to seep into my bones, rich and comforting food is the only thing on the brain.

With that in mind, I present this humble bread pudding. Not just for dessert, bread pudding can make a great savory meal to enjoy with friends. A little know-how is all you need for this dish. It is very, very easy to make and the end result is overwhelmingly satisfying. Here's how:

1/2 loaf of bread, torn into bite sized pieces
1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing
fresh parsley, for garnish.
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by soaking the mushrooms in enough warm water to cover. Let the mushrooms rehydrate for at least 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, but reserve the water. Squeeze the excess water from the mushrooms and cut into strips. Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine mushrooms, bread, rosemary, salt, pepper, milk, and eggs. Stir to combine well. Grease the inside of your cooking vessel (loaf pan, small casserole, or any other ovenproof dish) with butter. Pour mixture in and roughly level the surface. Place the entire cooking vessel inside a larger casserole dish. In the larger casserole dish, add enough water to come up to the same level as the bread pudding. Slide the whole thing into the oven and bake for 30 min, or until done. You can check by inserting the tip of a knife into the pudding. If it comes out clean, you are done.

While the pudding is in the oven, turn your attention to the reserved mushroom-infused water. Take the water and begin to reduce it on the stove. The amount of time spent on reducing will depend on how much water you used originally. Reduce until it is just a few tablespoons. Stir in the butter until well melted. Pour with over the pudding just before serving. Garnish with a little parsley and serve.


Braised Hake with Navy Beans

braised hake with navy beans

A few weeks ago, I purchased a pressure cooker. With the colder months around the corner, the thought of making homemade stocks for winter soups had my mind spinning with ideas. But all those ideas unfortunately came to halt when I realized exactly how many hours I would have multiple gallons of liquid sitting at a simmer on my meager stove. Having not yet found that particular tree on which dollar bills blossom forth, my plans were set back until I could find a quicker and more energy efficient method of simmering. Enter the pressure cooker. What would normally take 6-8 hours on the stove can be accomplished in under one hour in a pressure cooker. You can read all about pressure cookers and their benefits here.

In addition to stocks, I also began to get excited about soaking my own beans. During the fall and winter months, I tend to gravitate towards a bowl full of legumes after I get home from work. They are the perfect winter food. So, to test out my new-fangled pressure cooker, I started soaking some navy beans.

Navy beans need to be soaked for at least four hours prior to cooking. It is very important to not add any salt during the soaking or cooking process. While we are leaving salt out, let's leave out anything acidic as well (wine, vinegar, lemon juice, tomatoes, etc.). They can all be added in after cooking. Once the beans are soaked, they only take 12-13 minutes in the pressure cooker, compared to between 1 and 1 1/2 hours on the stove.

1 hake steak, free of pin bones
1 quart chicken stock
1 lbs dried navy beans (can substitute cannellini beans or flageolet)
3 sprigs fresh oregano + 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, soak beans in several quarts of water. Remember that the beans will double, even triple in size. Make sure you have enough water. Soak for at least four hours, changing the water halfway through. Drain beans and add to the pressure cooker, along with the stock, sprigs of oregano, and shallot. Once the cooker is brought up to full pressure, cook for 13 minutes. Consult your manual before using your pressure cooker!

When time is up, release pressure through the pressure release valve. Stand back as to not get burned by the steam. Take a few ladle fulls of beans and stock and place in a saute pan over medium heat. (Save the remainder of the beans to eat at a later date). Whisk in butter until combined. Season the fish with salt, pepper, and chopped oregano and place gently on top of the beans. Cover and gently simmer for five minutes. Flip the fish and cover and cook for four more minutes. Remove fish from heat and continue simmering stock and reduce until it starts to thicken. Taste and season with salt and pepper appropriately.


Rabbit (please don't hate me.)

For the most part, when I mention to some one that I enjoy rabbit, I become the receiver of the world's saddest puppy dog eyes: "But they are soooooo cuuuuuuute!!!" I agree. Rabbits are freakin' adorable. And I do love seeing them running around in the forest just like everybody else. But I also know that they taste as cute as they look. What can I say; I'm an omnivore.

Rabbit is a delicious food that, with proper preparation, can be a delight to eat. With it's fine texture and delicate flavor, it is very important to not over cook rabbit. In fact, everytime I have had rabbit, there has always been some sort of sauce to accompany it. Up until now, my favorite sauce to enjoy with rabbit has been made with wine, prunes, stock, and some butter. Last night's rabbit may have been that sauce's very own Farmer McGregor: chasing it right out of the garden (or in my case kitchen). Taking a more traditional approach, a simple pan sauce proved to be a very tasty variation.

2 front quarters of rabbit
1 small shallot, finely minced
4 tbsp butter
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp freshly ground allspice berries
1 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1/2 cup whitewine
1 tsp mustard
1 oz. cognac
salt and pepper to taste

Season rabbit with salt and some of the allspice. Dredge in flour, shaking to remove excess. Over medium high heat, melt 2 tbsp butter in a saute pan with thyme. When the butter is just starting to brown, remove thyme.  Add rabbit, browning all over. Lower heat and cook gently until well done. Remove rabbit from pan and keep in warm in a low oven, or cover with aluminum foil.

Add 1 tbsp of butter and minced shallot to the pan and brown. When sufficently browned, deglaze pan with stock and wine, scraping all of the fond. Whisk in mustard and remainder of the allspice. Simmer until reduced to just about one quarter cup. Pour in cognac, tilting the pan to ignite the alcohol. BE CAREFUL!

Finally, revmove from heat and gently whisk in the final tbsp of butter. At this point, season with salt and pepper. Serve with rabbit.


Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Lemon and Smoked Salmon

It was recently pointed out to me that I have been severely behind in posting on this blog. Of course, I had many reasons for my lack of presence on the web lately: too busy, too hot, visiting Portland, too hot, not cooking a lot lately, and finally, too hot. But in the end, I have no good excuse. So, I'm back. (Thanks for the nudge, Rachel.)

As summer draws to a close, and as Tropical Storm Hanna tries to blow down my house, I offer this simple late summer/early fall soup. It is quite easy to make and I can attest to it's comforting powers on rainy days. Plus, like all good soups, it will fill your home with its wonderful aroma.

1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 slice good quality smoked salmon, per serving
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 white peppercorns, uncrushed
2 bay leaves
1 good pinch freshly ground nutmeg
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup lemon juice
parsley and smoked paprika to garnish
salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F. In an ovenproof casserole, drizzle olive oil over cauliflower and onion and roast until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Empty casserole dish into large stock pot and add stock, peppercorns, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, removing any scum that might float to the surface. Add cream, and lemon juice and stir to combine. Blend with an immersion blender, or blend in a food processor until smooth. Season to taste.

Ladle into heated bowls and add smoked salmon. Garnish with finely chopped parsely and a pinch of smoked paprika.


Oil Poaching

Just about every cook agrees that poaching fish (especially in court-bouillon) is a great way to gently apply heat without stripping away moisture from the food while at the same time allowing for delicate flavors to be incorporated as well. Lately, I have been craving all kinds of seafood but a standard poach didn't seem to ignite my tastebuds. This time I thought I would try something new. Something I have never done. 

This time, I poached entirely with olive oil.

I wouldn't recommend using your finest green-gold for this as heat, as gentle as it may be, will deafen the fruity notes that your hard earned cash gave its life for. But I would still use an inexpensive extra virgin olive oil. To add some flavor, I heat a smashed clove of garlic in the oil. The oil should come to a temperature of around 140F. Allowing the garlic to infuse with the oil for five to ten minutes with bring out the most flavor. Herbs can also be added at this time, but I wanted to keep it simple. And it can be good to keep this simple as I plan on saving this oil for future poachings and I'd like to keep future options open.

About eight minutes later, out came a very tender piece of cod. We're talking falling apart tender. The fish absorbed some of that great garlic and olive oil flavor and stayed incredibly moist throughout. A little salt and pepper, and the fish was ready to meet its new nieghbors. In this case: a fava bean/ricotta mash and some roasted beets. 


Curried Watermelon Sorbet

Although ice and fruit juice have been dessert buddies for centuries, I didn't get into making sorbet until very recently. Easier to make than regular ice cream, sorbet might be voted the official refreshing dessert of summer. And who could complain?

This sorbet matches the ultra-summery watermelon with a hint of spice through the addition of curry powder. An unusual combination indeed, but it might have you look beyond the simple slices of watermelon provided at picnics.

1 lbs of watermelon, purreed
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp vodka
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients, except for vodka, in a wide skillet over medium low heat. Gently heat, stirring to combine. Adjust sugar and curry levels as needed. Do not bring to a boil, but simmer until sugar is absorbed. (If very watery, you could always cook a little longer to get rid of excess moisture.)

Remove from heat, allowing to cool to room temperature. Tranfser to freezer-safe dish/bowl. Stir in vodka and place in freezer. Check every two hours, scraping with an overturned fork until desired consistency is reached.


The Reddest Prairie of All...

When I started this little blog, I decided it would focus on food. Especially on the cooking of food. But specifically, the direct relationship of cooking and then completely devouring said food.

But, I would like to take a moment for a quick plug that can help everyone. I'm not in advertising or have any background in marketing, but here's my pitch. Don't laugh. I actually thought hard about it. Ready? Okay. Here I go:

People like to eat and go out to eat. They like to go to restaurants. Most restaurants have a "No Shirt? No Shoes? No Service." policy.

Red Prairie Press, run by the ridiculously awesome Rachel Bone, will gladly help you out with the "No Shirt" part. Which means, buying awesome apparel from her can actually help get you into that exclusive restaurant. So swing by her website before you swing by the restaurant and you won't be turned away!

...unless you have no shoes.


Camembert, Radish, and Sweet Corn Cakes

Summer is offically here on Friday, but corn season is well underway. I will gladly admit that I actually believe I could live solely on good corn for months without fail. And while my preferred preparation of this delicious grass (seriously, corn is a grass) is straight off of the grill, my current lack of a backyard leaves that barbecued treat a wonderful but distant memory.

Instead, I offer this alternative corn dish. This combination of peppery radish, milky Camembert, and pleasantly sweet sweet corn is texturally not unlike another local favorite in these parts: the crab cake.

1 cup sweet corn
4 radishes, finely chopped
2 oz. Camembert
1/2 cup panko flakes
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

In a bowl, mix corn, radish, Camembert, and parsley. Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Add egg and panko flakes and mix thoroughly. Add more panko flakes if mixture is still too loose. Refrigerate for one hour.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Gently form mixture into five small patties and fry for two minutes on one side, or until golden brown. Repeat on otherside until sufficently browned. Serve with a small garnish of parsley.



Truffles, originally uploaded by six course dinner.

A friend moved away last week and I promised to make some truffles as a going away gift. It was warm out when I made them and the heat combined with chocolate's relatively low melting point in such a way as to define their somewhat 'unique' shapes. Upon their completion, I decided that until someone sponsors me for central air conditioning, truffles shall remain cool weather food.

Regardless of temperature, truffles are actually very easy to make. And once you've made them a few times you can really explore different flavorings. These ones are, from front to back:

Peanut Butter Cayenne
and, Mystery....

The 'Mystery' truffles aren't exactly the stuff of Sherlock Holmes. I wanted to identify what kinds of truffles they all were, but leave the last one a surprise. What was the surprise? A whole, fresh blueberry wrapped in the ganache. A nice and juicy surprise!

The recipe I used was from the great Alton Brown, which can be found here.


Chocolate and Brioche Sandwiches with Sesame Crème Anglaise

People who know me will tell you that I am not one for sweet desserts, and even so, dessert itself doesn't even cross my mind frequently. But, you can't serve your friends a meal that doesn't have at least a little something sweet at the end. However, I still refuse to accept that after slowly building up to the main course, one should switch directly to something sweet. So I try to add one 'savory' ingredient into my desserts. This one uses chocolate, but also brioche and sesame. I remember reading somewhere that, "Good bread deserves good chocolate." I can't say I remember who wrote it, but I certainly agree!

This was inspired by a link I saw on Tastespotting. I finally found it again this morning, so check out the original at What Geeks Eat.

12 slices of brioche, cut to the same size
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 cup light cream
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
tahini, to taste

In a sauce pan, bring cream, sugar, and vanilla to just below the boiling point. Mix a few tablespoons of cream mixture into egg yolk and whisk to temper the eggs. Be careful not to cook the eggs. Gently add a little more until eggs are tempered. Return mixture to the sauce pan and bring back to just below the boiling point. Cook until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cool to room temperature before chilling in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

In a double boiler, heat chocolate until thoroughly melted. Spread mixture over each slice of brioche and then stack slices into sandwiches and set aside until almost ready to serve. Toast in a toaster oven until chocolate begin to melt and the brioche is nicely browned and crispy. Do not toast too long: brioche burns easily.

Remove creme and stir in a tablespoon of tahini, adding more to taste.  Spoon some sauce onto a plate and top with brioche sandwich.

Photo by Gino Molfino. Thanks, Gino.

Trout with Manchego, Mustard Sauce

The main course of my recent big dinner composed of trout with a Manchego and mustard sauce. The fillets of trout were briefly cooked right before being served with risotto cakes and a watercress and apple salad.

The Trout

6 small trout fillets, about 6 oz. each
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp mustard
3 tbsp grated Manchego cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

In a sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat until it justs starts to begin to brown. Whisk in flour, stirring constantly to make a roux. Cook over gentle heat until all flour taste has been cooked out. Stir in milk, Manchego, and mustard and combine. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to lowest setting and start to prepare the fish.

Remove any pin bones and season fish.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute fish skin side down for two minutes. Gently flip fish over and continue cooking down, about another two minutes. (Adjust accordingly for thicker fish: 8 minutes total cooking time for each inch of thickness.)

Serve topped with sauce.

Risotto Cakes

1 cup arborio rice
2 tbsp butter
3 cups vegetable stock
2 cups white wine
1 shallot, chopped
1 tbsp Gorgonzola cheese
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
canola oil for frying
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring vegetable stock and white wine to a strong simmer.

In a large pot, gently cook shallots in butter until they are just done. Add rice and cook for one more minute. Add one ladle of stock to the rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat on the rice to a simmer, adding another ladle of stock each time the rice absorbs all the liquid. Continue to do so, whole stirring the rice occasionally, until rice is still slightly al dente. Stir in Gorgonzola and chives. Move rice to a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Spread evenly and allow to cool before chilling in the refrigerator until ready to fry.

In a fry pan, bring one 1/2 inch of oil to 375F. Beat eggs in a small bowl, and place flour in a bowl next to it. Remove risotto from the refrigerator and cut into even squares. Dip each square first in the egg and then the flour, coating thoroughly. Fry on each side until golden brown. Drain on a cooling rack.

Watercress and Apple Salad

1 bunch watercress, washed and dried thoroughly
1 apple, preferably Stayman
olive oil
lemon juice
fresh ground black pepper

Slice apple into thin slices and combine with watercress. Top with olive oil, lemon juice, and black pepper.

Photo by Gino Molfino. Thanks, Gino.


Baked Lemon with Mozzarella and Mushroom Crostini

These are not entirely my idea. I'm man enough to admit that.

I first read about baking mozzarella in the rind of a lemon over at Totally Addicted to Taste a few months ago. And I was intrigued. But, not really being an anchovie fan (at least yet...) I began to think about how to change the dish. While I still think I could have done a little bit better, these turned out to me a great starter. 

By the way, Adski at Totally Addicted to Taste is also manly enough to show you where he got the idea.

Here's my version:

6 lemons, halved and flesh removed
1 lbs fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
6 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
12 slices good rustic bread, toasted
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 300F. Heat oil in a saute pan over medium low heat and cook shallots until just translucent. Add mushrooms and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat and mix with parley and mozzarella. Season to taste and spoon into lemon shells. Place on a baking sheet and bake until mozzarella has thoroughly melted.

Remove from oven and serve with toasted bread, spreading cheese over the bread.

Photo by Kyle Van Horn. Thanks, Kyle.

Red Pepper and Yogurt Soup with Grapes and Horseradish

Grapes and horseradish? In the same dish? I know, they are primarily a garnish, but, are you serious?

Hell yeah, I am serious. And seriously delighted with how this refreshing soup came out. I served it warm, but I bet it is equally as good cold. Aside from roasting the red peppers, this could be a really great dish for those summer days when you would just hate to cook something. This is a variation on an interesting soup I found at Nami-Nami.

3 red bell peppers, seeded and quartered
1 cup plain yogurt
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
3 red seedless grapes, sliced into incredibly thin rounds
fresh grated horseradish, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat peppers in olive oil and season with a little salt. Place on a baking sheet and roast until soft. Remove from oven and place in a paper bag. Roll openning of bag down to close. The residual heat of the peppers with create a little steam, making it very easy to slip off the skins.

Chop peppers finely place in a saucepan with stock over medium heat. Simmer gently for 20 minutes. In a large bowl, add 1/4 cup of plain yogurt and one ladle's worth of soup, stirring quickly to combine without curdling the yogurt.  Repeat until all yogurt has been combined and then blend well in a food processor. Season to taste and keep warm until ready to serve.

Garnish with a few slices of grapes and freshly grated horseradish to taste.

Photo by Kyle Van Horn. Thanks, Kyle.


Artichoke and Potatoes with Gruyère and Vanilla

A surprisingly delicious dish that would be a great addition to any meal. The slight sweet and musky flavor of the vanilla plays well against the roasted potatoes and silky artichokes. A little lightly smoked gruyère cheese and alleppo pepper round out the dish.

1 lbs small new potatoes
1 dozen artichoke bottoms
5 tbsp grated gruyère cheese
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 vanilla beans, "seeded" with pods reserved
1 tsp alleppo pepper
1 tsp salt
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Place potatoes in a large skillet with vanilla bean pods and teaspoon salt with just enough water to cover. Bring water to a boil and simmer until water has evaporated off. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and brown potatoes.

Meanwhile, in a baking dish, place artichoke bottoms, vanilla bean "seeds", gruyère cheese, and 1 tbsp olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes. Add potatoes to oven as well if they are not done.

After 30 minutes, remove from oven and season to taste. Plate with remaining olive oil and garnish with alleppo pepper.

Pea and Chervil Mousse

pea and chervil mousse, originally uploaded by six course dinner.

I just love these little egg cups. They are perfect for something small with a lot of flavor. In the past they have held soups, broths, and even juices. In fact, I don't think I have ever even used them for eggs (maybe that needs to change...).

I wanted to serve something different just before the main course of my recent big dinner and I thought a savory mousse would be an unexpected and delicious idea.

Inspired by another savoury mousse recipe in the wonderful Spanish cooking tome 1080 Recipes.

1 package frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup homemade mayonniase
1 1/2 cup boiling water
2 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 tsp chervil
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, process peas until smooth. Add mayonnaise and process further until smooth.

Add gelatin to boiling water to dissolve and then add a little bit at a time to pea/mayo mixture. Mix well until smooth, adding chervil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into serving vessel, in this case I used egg cups. Garnish with chervil and refridgerate for at least two hours or until set.


An Actual Six Course Dinner!

I've finally lived up to the title. I shopped for, cleaned the apartment for, prepped for, cooked for, and served for a few great firends this past Sunday. Usually my dinner parties are either four or five courses, but hey, this blog isn't titled SIX COURSE DINNER just because it sounds good! So I'm raising the bar for myself. And I think I will keep it there. Unless outside forces conspire against me (farmers market shuts down, meteors, third Bush presidency, etc.) I'm gonna shoot to keep the course number at six.

Because of my apartment's, well, let's just say climate control issues, I can only usually do this type of thing in the spring and fall. I'm hoping to maybe get another one in before summer's long days have a chance to destroy all will desire to even go near an oven. Enough chit chat, here's the menu:

I - Lemon Baked Mozzarella and Mushroom Crostini

II - Red Pepper and Yogurt Soup with Grapes and Horseradish

III - Artichoke and Potato with Gruyere, Vanilla, and Alleppo Pepper

IV - Pea and Chervil Mousse

V - Trout with Mustard Manchego Bechamel, Risotto Cakes, Apple, and Watercress

VI - Grilled Chocolate Brioche with Sesame Cream

Judging by the very clean plates (before they were even anywhere near the sink) I think I did well. The Artichoke and Potato was probably the hit, which I am very pleased about. I think it was my favorite as well. Recipes will all be up shortly. And thanks to my guests for bring great wine, big smiles, and empty bellies. You are awesome.


Broccoli and Asparagus Deep Dish Pizza

After reading about making deep dish pizza in a cast iron skillet at Everybody Likes Sandwiches, I knew I had to give it a try. Such a great idea for making a quick dinner with plenty of left overs for lunch. (Unless of course breakfast wins out. I tend to believe that pizza may be at its prime first thing in the morning.) I decided to load my pizza up with asparagus and broccoli, two vegetables I have been craving lately. Mixed in you will find tomatos, shallots, and a healthy dose of farmers cheese as well. Great suggestion on the cheese!

I started off cooking the broccoli and asparagus with a little sherry and a splash of soy sauce until they just started to get tender. While I shredded the cheese, I preheated the oven to 475F. The dough was stretched to fit into an oiled cast iron skillet. Then the toppings went in just before the skillet went in the oven.

deep dish vegetable pizza

Thirty minutes later (20 to bake and 10 to cool - cast iron really holds its heat!) I dug into some very tasty deep dish. Nothing like what you can find in Chicago, but still pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, it was so good I forgot to take an 'after' photo. Just Imagine the above with nice golden melted cheese and perfect crust and you've got the idea.


Kale = Goodness

Adding kale to tomato sauce (in this case: half marinara, half vodka sauce) is so delicious. Move over spinach, pasta just got a new best leafy green friend.

Just sayin' s'all......


Cool and Rainy Day

So far April has been a relatively warm month. With three days within the last week having hovered around 80F, the unseasonably warm weather is probably a harbinger of summer stickiness. Since I have been highly unsuccessful at house swapping with anyone from the southern hemisphere for the summer, and since today is cooler and rainy, I thought that I would enjoy some mussels before I will start having to worry about the summer heat increasing the likelihood of gastro-Russian roulette.

Mussels with Bacon, Sherry, and Rosewater

2lbs. mussels
1 cup sherry
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 strips of bacon, diced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp rosewater
crushed red pepper
parsley, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon in a large saucepan until crispy over medium heat. Add butter and garlic and cook until just before garlic starts to take on any color. Pour in sherry and rosewater. Bring to a boil and add crushed red pepper. Reduce to a simmer and add mussels. Cook, covered, until mussels have opened. Move mussels to a bowl. Season broth to taste (if too salty from the bacon, a good squirt of honey is a nice touch). Ladle broth over mussels and garnish with parsley.


Par For the Course(s)

Here is what we made:

Cured Salmon and Pea Ravioli with Smoked Paprika Brown Butter

Frisee, Peach, and Fennel Salad with Ginger Mustard Vinaigrette

Chicken Confit, Carrot/Celeriac/Beet Slaw, Roasted Cauliflower/White Bean/Pimento Salad

Honeycomb Ice Cream with Blueberry Sauce

Did I mention it was for 30 people? A new personal record. Everything turned out really well. I have mention that none of this would have ever been even near possible without my good friend Evan, who worked on this menu for many hours, bought a ton of groceries, and with whom it was an absolute pleasure to cook alongside again. And also to Kyle, who took the photo at the top of this post as well as risked permanently dying his hands red as he sliced the beets. Well done, Kyle.

And thanks to all who showed up! I'm so glad to be able to share what I love with so many great friends all at one time!


Big dinner coming...

Tomorrow, my friend Evan and I will be cooking a dinner for 35 people. It is all part of been asked to guest chef at a local bi-weekly underground communal restaurant. And we couldn't be more excited.

We've spent our time honing in on our recipes; perfecting our ideas to the point where we are very happy with what we have come up with. I don't want to give too many details away, but there will be four courses all which will progressively exhibit our delight for springtime.

I will post some photos and recipes after the dinner. Stay tuned.


Introduction, States of Limbo, and Roast Chicken

It's your standard Sunday afternoon in early March here. It's relatively sunny with only a small amount of cloud cover. And the temperature is holding steadily in the mid-40's. Overall, it is starting to look like a very nice day.

And thus begins a state of limbo.

My state of limbo is currently caused by the fact that it is early March. The days are starting to become noticably longer and the temperatures at night no longer require the use of long underwear and thick comforters. My brain, tongue, and stomach (three of my four favorite organs) have all had enough of winter's bounty. No longer do I crave the stews, roasts, and soups that instantly warm you from head to toe and then back up to your head again. You know the kind. The kind that delightfully stays with you for days, like an out-of-town friend. The leftovers that you actually look forward to eating, knowing that flavors have continued to mingle, creating whole new networks between each ingredient.

It just doesn't get cold enough anymore for these dishes. Yet, at the same time, I am in no way prepared for the lighter foods of spring. This is a dilemma mostly because I must go food shopping today. My winter stockpiles have almost depleted having preferred to stay in under a warm blanket than risk heading out into the cold only to wander the refridgerated produce aisles of my local grocer. That's the last thing I need.

I am sitting here pondering what to make for dinner tonight. I have a few errands to run today and one them is a trip to the supermarket. (The Sunday Farmer's Market doesn't start up around here until May.) But you don't just go to the market. You need a strategy; a gameplan. Otherwise, you come home with two packages of those hot dogs that have a 'cheese' filling. Trust me. It is not a pretty sight. I need something that will bridge the gap between late winter and early spring. I need something that fills my apartment with wonderful smells that comes from food that will not sink in my stomach as fast as the U.S. dollar.

I need a chicken. The perfect choice. When was the last time you heard someone complain that their chicken was too heavy? Never. A simple roast chicken with vegetables is exactly what I need. No complex sauces, just a bird atop some carrots, onion, celery, and maybe some fennel. Perfect.

Since spring is only a few weeks away, I figure that pollen will be a nice choice. Fennel pollen. The fennel at the market just doesn't seem all that attractive today, and I remember the fennel pollen I had at home which was given to me by my parents for Christmas (Thanks again, Mom & Dad).  With all my ingredients ready, it's time to begin.

Roast Chicken with Fennel Pollen Butter 

1 tsp fennel pollen
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 six pound chicken, rinsed, dried, and salted
3 medium carrots, roll cut
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F and chop all vegetables. Mix fennel pollen and butter until well combined and rub all over the chicken under the skin. Spread one tbsp of the olive oil over the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Use the remaining olive oil and coat chopped vegetables. Place vegetables in appropriately sized cooking vessel and nestle the chicken on top. Cook uncovered until the juices where the thigh joins the body run clear when pierced. Let chicken rest before attempting to carve.