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Williamsburg you old dog you.

1 Nov

This past weekend I traveled to Hampton, Virginia to see Disco Biscuits and String Cheese Incident for Hulaween 2010. As an added bonus I got to visit my brother a bit too which meant we had some great food. Before stopping at his house I picked up a 750 of Allagash Black, the brewery’s new Belgian style stout (they’re based in Portland, ME and I haven’t seen their bottles anywhere in Ohio yet). Some Terrapin Hopsecutioner and Hop Karma IPAs out of Athens, GA and a smoked cheese and another great creamy and nutty cheese called Pyreness. Scrumdiddlyumptious to say the least.

This was all a prelude to lunch with my brother at The Blue Talon Bistro – a French comfort food restaurant in colonial Williamsburg with Redmarker Ale on draft and a reasonably priced and decent wine list with a very nice Malbec by the glass. Paired that with a delicious brandade – think artichoke spinach dip in steroids and but no artichokes or spinach but instead … SALTED COD, ohhhh yes please. To follow a delightful green salad and a blackened fish Reuben.

Needless to say, when I ran out of crostini to scoop up the brandade, I started slathering on my sandwich. Thanks to colonial Williamsburg for yet another delicious meal.

If I Should Die Before I Wake

1 Apr

I’d be super pissed because I have just turned 22 and I wouldn’t be able to have my favorite breakfast food — quiche. Also I made this quiche to one of my favorite Biggie songs. First and foremost, my hat goes off to all pastry chefs and anyone skilled in the mysteries of dough. It’s the toughest food obstacle I have strived to overcome and so far, it is just not happening for me. That said, I made a decent quiche dough with the aid of a gratuitous amount of swearing. I started with M. Stewart’s standard recipe for both the quiche tart shell and the insides but added whatever else I wanted. Thankfully, the insides of the quiche were far more impressive than its shell: lots of eggs, heavy whipping cream, milk, flour, shallots, garlic, BACON, leeks and a healthy dose of grueyere cheese. The consistency is something like custard instead of the dense egg cake you usually find in the stores or restaurants. It’s lovely hot out of the oven but call me crazy, I actually prefer my quiche cold the next day. Quiche is often relegated to brunch menus but as a breakfast start to the day it’s pretty perfect — it doesn’t make you want to pass out, a nice protein source and quick (once it’s cooked).

DarkWing Duck

24 Mar

I spent some time over spring break in West Side Market up in Cleveland where I got my hot little hands on quail eggs and duck breasts.  These two ingredients were key to a recipe I’d been concocting in my dreams and of which I was terrified.  Sadly pomegranates are not in season and so couldn’t be the color, crunch and sweetness to this dish – which I believe was part of its downfall.  Not that the dish wasn’t yummy, it just wasn’t there yet and needs some tweaking.  Also there is nothing in this world cuter than a little quail egg or even a dozen.

It’s very simple: place duck breast skin down in a skillet after scoring the skin and let the fats of the bird cook it to perfection while you prepare some stock (either duck or chicken), throw in leeks and shallots in the pan with the duck, serve over pappardelle with fried quail egg on top.  I cut the shallots length wise and peeled away the little cups of shallot to create a nest for the quail yolk which formed the center of a flower of sliced duck breast over the pasta, then poured the stock over top.  Next time I’d love to use rag cut noodles.  It’s more a winter than spring dish and is very comforting but could use some more work.  I consoled myself by pairing it with Southern Tier’s Gemini whose sweet hoppy notes complimented the rich game nature of the duck and its buddies.

JamJamJamGloriousJammmm

17 Mar

Jam is maybe the best thing in the world, next to booze.  Which is why I’ve been making as much of it as possible.  The first batch I created (raspberry and ginger) made my roommate drool and this second one made me salivate/fooled my mother into thinking it was made with rhubarb “but better”.

This one is made with strawberries, candied orange peel, orange juice and a lot of ground coriander.  The coriander oddly has an orange aroma to it when ground from the seeds in a mortar and perfectly compliment the rest of the orange goodies.  There’s a nice juxtaposition of the sweet strawberry aroma and the tang of the jam itself.  Best served on a spoon directly to mouth.

Hot Chip Din

13 Mar

To be a whizz kid at creating homemade pasta is a blessing, one I sadly lack so far.  To compensate, I used Bertagni porcini mushroom tortellini — only my favorite style/shape of pasta ever.  The sauce was on a whim and happily turned out AWESOME.  The usual shallots and garlic with olive oil and butter browned in a pan but with the added bonus of a tablespoon of red curry paste, about the same amount of balsamic vinegar, quick squeeze of a lemon and heavy whipping cream.  Once the tortellini  were ready they joined the sauce in the pan for a quick coating and then topped with a pinch of shredded gruyere.  The curry isn’t overwhelming but mellow, interesting and gives the dish nice color.  I paired this with a Southern Tier Gemini — kind of a sweeter, less hoppy version of most IPAs, what they call a “blended unfiltered ale”, which played nicely off the bite of the shallots and sweet spice of the red curry.  I think it took 15 minutes max, to the beats of Hot Chip and La Roux (hipster version of Tilda Swinton?).

Caprese Nests

12 Mar

An easy, happy little hors d’oeuvre that alters the traditional caprese.  Phyllo dough or pastry sheets (you can find Pepperidge Farm frozen sheets in most any grocery store) rolled thin and cut out with a large heart cookie cutter creates the nest for the ciliegini (“cherries” of fresh mozzerella), avocado, cherry tomatoes, bacon or fried proscuitto and basil fried in the grease.  You take all these little treasures and pile them in the middle of the heart, bundle it up and stick in a buttered muffin tin in the oven at 350° for 13-15 minutes.  The hearts will undoubtedly unfold to reveal their cores — so poetic, I just watched Bright Star — thus creating the nests.  Et voilà.

Posh Shepherd’s Pie

11 Mar

Thought this very simple dish up last night before bed because I was hungry and feeling like a child.  As a kid, and to this day, I like to make a mash-up of the food on my plate — not like a nasty soup but almost alla Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka and the amazing 3 course dinner gum.  Oh also there was no bread to go along with it and given that the bleu cheese semi-fondue mashed potatoes made me snoozy 10 minutes after ingesting them, a biscuit topping would have been suicide.

So I grilled a strip steak, sliced it like flank steak and layered the pieces with bleu cheese mashed potatoes topped with the steak juices and snow peas.  The mashed potatoes require browning a small shallot and one garlic clove (diced) in a sauté pan with butter and olive oil, then adding some heavy whipping cream and as much bleu cheese as you like.  That becomes the cream that will make the potatoes heavenly.

Chicken Skin

21 Jan

Chicken skin is a beautiful, beautiful thing. It starts off slimy and with goosebumps, can turn chewy if sauteed a bit and then golden brown crunchy. To utilize about half a dozen chicken breasts (obviously not skinless), I decided to make a curry the other night. I removed the skin and left it to use later on in the curry. Grab a wok, toss in chopped up chicken breast to brown up with garlic, shallots and onion. Over top pour coconut milk and peas (even if they start off frozen they’ll thaw and cook perfectly within the heat of the curry), then as much mace, turmeric, yellow curry, cayenne pepper as you want. I would have loved to throw in some cherry peppers too but my mother’s palate is a little more sensitive to heat than mine. Cherry peppers are possibly the cutest hot pepper I’ve run into and they have a much sweeter and slightly less spicy quality than jalapenos. They would also give the curry another vibrant color to play off the yellow of the curry powder and the bright green orbs of peas.

While the curry is simmering and melding the spices, start some white rice in another pan. Then while both of those are going, get a small sauté pan, some butter, white wine vinegar and the chicken skins from before. Melt a good amount of butter in the pan, then toss in the skins and pour maybe 3 tablespoons of vinegar over them. The vinegar gives the skin a nice tanginess that plays nicely with the spice and sweetness of the curry. Once the skins shrivel up a bit and brown, drain the liquid from the pan and dump the skins on a cutting board and slice length wise. Then serve the rice in each diner’s dish (preferably a pasta bowl), spoon curry over top and then sprinkle the skin over top. You get a combination of textures: chewy, crunchy, tender and the snap of the peas make this a more interesting variation on the traditional curry.

I felt like it Chili

20 Jan

If there’s one thing I’m head over heals for, it’s chili and cornbread.  I’m a good sharer of food and drink unless it’s taken from me without permission and I’ve been known to get viciously protective of my cornbread and chili.  My last few days at home I found myself overcome by the craving for the aforementioned foods.

Chili:

Can of whole peeled tomatoes

Large bunch of chopped fresh cilantro

Ground beef or “chili meat” as my grocery store labeled it, second time ’round I used bison to AWESOME effect – highly recommended

As much of the following spices as you want = mace, Cajun Seasoning (whatever that is, I just found it in the spice cabinet and seemed like a good idea), cayenne pepper, black pepper

Lemon juice

2 cans of kidney beans and 1 of black beans

3 cloves of garlic and 1 large shallot, maybe one large yellow or red onion

Start it like you start any stew by cooking down the garlic, shallots and onion then browning the meat over it, then layering all the other goodies and let simmer for an hour.  The cilantro should go in at the last moment!  Another golden rule: it’s always the better the next day.

Now for the cornbread.

1 cup flour + 1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup honey

2 large eggs

1 cup heavy whipping cream (or milk if you prefer)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup melted butter

Combine wet ingredients with dry, preheat oven to 400ºF.  I baked mine in a muffin tin for 15 minutes and they came out beautifully.  A nice slab of Kerry Gold doesn’t hurt them either.  In any case, it’s now my favorite chili and favorite cornbread so I guess take my word for it that these dishes are delicious, because they are.

Boozy Floozy

9 Jan

I love a good cocktail: this one was champagne and homemade sorbet.  The only thing missing was some gambling, pretty little cakes and Marie Antoinette as my drinkin’ buddy.

Juice of 4 lemons, juice of half a ruby red grapefruit, teaspoon of lemon zest stirred into chilled simple syrup (1 cup water + 1 cup sugar boiled for 3 minutes).  Pour the mixture into a shallow pan and pop in the freezer until semi-solid.  Fluff with a fork and then freeze until solid.  Put in Cuisinart and blitz it ’til smooth, then put in container and freeze.  I made another batch with juice of 1 ruby red grapefruit+1 lime with a teaspoon of lime zest.

2 loverly spoonfuls of sorbet with champagne over top.  If you want, smush the champagne into the sorbet until you have an awesome slightly boozy slushie.  To be frank, it’s kind of a rip from the Chilean drink tradition of pineapple ice cream with white wine, called Terremoto or “The Earthquake”.  The sorbet is the right amount of tart with a touch of sweet and the champagne only furthers the brightness of the flavors.  Heaven.  This may be the single most “girliest” drink you will ever catch me drinking and it goes down so smooth.

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