Friday, October 27, 2006

Thai Curry

Tofu, cauliflower, sweet potato, and peas simmered in a sauce of coconut milk, tomato juice, water, lime juice, green curry paste, two curry powders, and a dab of vindaloo paste as well. It simmered until all the veggies were super tender and the liquid had thickened to a good sauce. I made a side of spinach wilted in hot oil with mustard and fenugreek seeds, with yogurt added at the end. Rich, hearty, and completely satisfying with another 2004 St. Urbans Hof riesling.

Pulled Pork

This is a tad out of order, but whatever. I put the meat into the marinade after the dinner party and cooked it low on the stove all night. Come morning (about 10 hours later) I separated all the bone and fat from the meat, and strained the liquid, then skimmed it. All the meat, pulled apart into strands, went back in half the liquid (the other half waits in the freezer) and reduced along with tamarind, molasses, vinegars, tomato paste, and spices for another 6 hours or so. By then it was pure magic; I put it in the fridge and this, heated up just right, was our lunch the next day:

The rest of this ambrosia is in the freezer for another occasion. It's safe to say that if you have the time, there's no other way to do this meat.

Salmon Stew

Seeking once angain to consildate leftovers, I took the daikon I had steamed upon return from the road trip and added it to some wild Alaskan salmon along with some of Chris' burdock, the rest of the pumpkin filling and their parsley pesto. I also took the mustard greens from Richard and Susan and sautéed them with garlic. Hearty, earthy, and pretty clean. We opened a 2002 Jadot Beaune "Bressandes" to keep the Burgundy theme going.

Get Together

Chris & Sirkka and John & Debi came over, plus the girls, and I had gone into Kingston to procure a hunk of pork since John and I had been talking about it. Flisher's was closed, but we had left messages, and I banged on the door. Some poor cleaning guy let me in, and Josh coached him over the phone in the art of cutting the sirloin off a whole pig leg on the bandsaw. 9 pounds in all, with the tail still attached, (I cut it off) it went into the smoker for an hour to get some flavor on it. While it was smoking, I cooked half a bottle each of Aussie shiraz and German reisling in a pot with star anise, cinnamon, onion, carrots, garlic, herbs, peppercorns, and cabbage leaves to make a marinade. This went in a big pot along with the smoked meat and into an oven for 5 hours. I took the nappa cabbage from Richard and Susan, shredded it, and braised it with the rest of the reisling, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds, and onion for just as long.

John took some beautiful yellowfin tuna and chopped it superfine into a tartare with chives, then rolled balls of it in toasted sesame seeds and put it in little bowls of grated daikon and ponzu (the real thing, bought on their recent tour of Japan.)

So we began with more green soup, then had the tartare, then pumpkin ravioli which all the kids helped me roll out (using the filling from last time that we froze, and Chris & Sirkka's parsley pesto mixed with sage butter as the sauce) and last the pork, sliced on top of the cabbage with the marinade. On the side, John's pressure-cooked daikon in flying fish broth, and Chris' burdock and leeks. Awesome, even if scheduling prevented the meat from attaining what we had in mind.

We drank, in order, a 1997 "Les Cailloux" CDP which was almost Burgundian, a 1999 Beaux Frères, which might have fooled someone, a 1983 Dujac Clos de la Roche which was over the hill, and a 1983 Drouhin Bonnes Mares which was, in John's words, "the holy grail" of old Burgundy- funky, earthy, still sweet, and transparent.

Chicken Stew

Four chicken legs formed the base of a stew that combined new and leftover ingredients; the kale and cabbage from previous nights, and the last of the chicken/lamb broth plus fresh sweet potato and carrot and herbs from outside. Once tender, I pulled all the meat off the chicken bones and let it thicken some more. Good, and even better the next day for lunch.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dinner Out

We went to Beacon to hear an old friend play chamber music in a beautiful old hall originally built as a library. Afterwards, we went to a place called O II for dinner. Inventive, hearty as the season calls for, and reasonably priced, although the wine list is awful. We ordered 5 small plates and shared them all. First mushrooms in a rich meat reduction with a cap of puff pastry and a crab cake with rhubarb chutney. Then BBQ spare ribs and ravioli with a foie gras filling and lemon sorbet, and last little blue corn soft tacos with short rib filling. The tacos were quite good as a closer, but the ravioli were under-filled and what filling there was had no taste. The sauce and sorbet were nice, but had no richness to contrast with. The crab cake was crispy, savory, and the rhubarb preserves went pretty well with it, and the mushrooms were delicious but the pastry seemed superfluous and the bottom piece was completely soggy. The ribs were competent, but after being used to my "happy ending" ribs it's hard not to be let down. Still very enjoyable, though, and a great and much-needed date night.

Steak and Radish

Beautiful New York Strips from Alaska farms, cooked rare and accompanied by raw grated daikon, as well as steamed slices, with a pan sauce of red wine and Banyuls vinegar and a bit of demi-glace. Eaten with a lovely 1999 Lisini Brunello, which, though young, was drinking well. I bought a bunch of the '99 Brunellos; it will be good fun to see how they age.

Green Soup

So the bounty from Richard and Susan, being far too much to fit in the fridge, was of neccessity reduced by soupmaking. Amazing turnips, radishes, daikon, kale, turnip greens, parsley, cilantro, rutabaga, and leeks became about 2 gallons of rich, velvety green purée, some of which will be frozen and the rest used this week. Food as medicine in the truest sense. I cannot wait to have a garden next year.

Road Trip

I got a ride with John to Great Barrington to hear him play with Club d'Elf again, and the drives there and back bookended the two extremes of the culinary universe. First, a famished and rainy trip over there was saved by a sandwich of Iowa prosciutto and goat cheese on a baguette, all bought at Rubiner's, which had the additional benefit of keeping us from dying later when the food at the club turned out to be the worst I have had in recent memory. All this fancy cooking here shouldn't fool anyone; I am a cheap date when hunger and circumstance require. This food was flat out inedible.

The apogee to this culinary nadir was to be found at our lodging for the night: Richard and Susan have the best home garden I've ever seen, and they gave us bags to fill with whatever we wanted. Thus did many roots and greens come back to Woodstock- see future posts for their glory.

For the trip home we replicated the sandwiches, but with better goat cheese and some Basque marinated peppers. A three foot loaf of bread crammed with perfect prosciutto, cheese, and tangy peppers, cut in half, and the weather for the return was perfect golden fall sunshine with the late leaves glowing. Never was a ham sammich better enjoyed.


More gorgeous lamb chops from Fleisher's, again cooked in a pan, but with an herb rub this time. They went on mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli, with a pan sauce of red wine and broth. This decadent richnes was well met by another 1998 Brusquières CDP, which has an unbelievable nose and good depth.


Burdock, peeled and sliced, cooked in water, soy sauce, and rice vinegar until the liquid cooked off and it was tender. (It actually came within seconds of burning, but I saved it with a splash more water.) The almost-burned caramelization gave the dish a fabulous richness, where the earthiness of the root and soy turned almost to an aged cheese flavor. Also cubed tofu cooked in some of the lamb-chicken broth with peas and carrots, and red cabbage braised with balsamic vinegar and red wine. A fat, juicy Turley zin was just right with the deep end of the (almost) vegetarian spectrum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Chris, Sirkka, and Nissa came over again; what you see here is steak, kabocha squash, and radicchio salad from their garden. For the first course we had a pizza with kale pesto and shiitakes sautéed with a bit of bacon. The steak was marinated in wine, broth, soy sauce, and vinegar, and then the marinade reduced for a sauce. We alternated between a 2002 Sirius and a 2001 Carver Sutro petite sirah; as always the Thackrey won, but the C/S needs more time. A fairer pairing might be the 2001 Sirius against the C/S in a few years.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ma Po Tofu

I have been craving this for a while, and an order from the local Chinese place was not at all satisfying, so I got to work. I made it mild, so Milo could eat it too, and it was well received. Pork from fleisher's, good tofu, and a sauce from the chicken/lamb broth thickened with flour since we have no corn starch. A bit of soy, some vinegar, and peas. Then a pile of spinach and garlic in the same wok to round it out, and a pot of quinoa since there wasn't time for rice. It went well with a "Facets" chardonnay from Gemstone since it had no hot pepper in it.

Turkey Chili

A pound of ground turkey, kidney beans, canned tomatoes and paste, and a panoply of herbs and spices simmered long and low to become a welcome treat after a busy day. A bit of smoked duck fat helped give it depth, and extra garlic made up for the lack of onion. I also splashed a little cider vinegar in to balance the acidity. There was a glass of the Orion left, now five days open, and the aromatics were extraordinary but the tannins still tight. A wine to age as long as possible.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Always save the bones

Everyone is a bit under the weather, so I took the bones from both the lamb chops and the smoked chicken and made a broth with leeks and carrots. After a couple of hours, strained, and with the addition of the trimmings from the ravioli, plus a few ravioli, as well as kidney beans, carrots, half a can of tomatoes, and the rest of the puréed vegetable soup, it became a perfect meal for tired, sniffly people of all ages. I couldn't resist having half a glass of the Orion with it, to see how it had changed overnight; it has opened up but still has a core of opaque tannins. I'll try the rest tomorrow and hope for more evolution.

The next day...

After smoking the trout on Sunday, the fire still had plenty of life left in it, so I threw on some chicken legs for the next day. We had them for lunch, chopped and tossed with homemade mayonnaise, onion, capers, and parsley to make a salad. The leftover risotto became little fried cakes, and we put the chicken salad on the last of the radicchio leaves.

Dinner was simpler than the night before, but still pretty good. Homemade ravioli filled with roasted pumpkin and pine nuts, with a sauce of tomato, apple, oregano, and sage. On the side, sliced shiitake cooked in smoked duck fat with garlic, parsley, and flamed cognac at the end. I wanted to introduce our guests to Thackrey's wines, so we started with a Pleiades XII, then had a 2002 Andromeda, and finished with a taste of a 1997 Orion which is still huge, tight, and needs much more time.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More Friends

Rick and Julie (and little Holden) are staying for a couple of nights, so we celebrated in fine style. First, more soup, from more or less the same mixture of vegetables as before.

We opened a 1998 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne to go with this, and with the next course, little flans of smoked trout. They were actually halfway between flans and souflées, since they puffed up a fair amount. With these went a marinated radicchio salad- Chris left us a big bag of theirs in the fridge.

Next came a roasted carrot risotto- really simple, but it tasted like fall on a plate and sang with a 1983 Drouhin Bonnes-Mares.

Last were lamb chops, with the espresso rub, seared up and served with parsnip/yogurt/truffle oil purée and sautéed bok choy, as well as a pesto of mint and rosemary from outside. The lamb pan deglazed with wine and demi-glace to dribble over all. With this mighty plate went their gift- a 1989 Optima cabernet, which was absolutely gorgeous. Quite a meal.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Old school

Sometimes you just need to go back to the archetypes of comfort food- the touchstones of taste- because you're tired and the seasons are changing, and darn it, there's a pound of bork (beef and pork) from Fleisher's in the fridge. Thus did the following become dinner: spaghetti with a slow-cooked meat sauce involving tomato paste, onion, herbs, garlic, wine and several hours. On the side, fresh arugula tossed with the leftover chard and radicchio from last night, and another Cheze Saint-Jseph.

Dinner party

Chris and Sirkka came over with an amazing basket of treats from their garden:

and we made them into a great dinner. Micro was also in town, luckily, and it was a perfect evening. First, the rest of the puréed soup from before, enhanced with a bit of truffle oil and wild mint from the meadow. Next, seared sashimi of marlin, marinated with umeboshi paste, miso, and honey, which I threw in the pan after the fish seared to reduce it to a thick, tangy paste. This we had with a 1999 Kistler "Les Noisetiers" Chardonnay which was just beautiful.

Then, a sort of homage to smoke, in the form of three different kinds of smoked flavors on the same plate. Chicken-of-the-woods cut into matchsticks became "fries" cooked in some smoked duck fat, while maitake and shiitake caramelized wth a bit of bacon and garlic and parsley. Last some nice big scallops smoked over black lichee-flavored tea in the wok and it all went together with the last of the radish relish from the fridge, and we paired it with a 2002 Gevrey-Chambertin "Clos Prieur" by Esmonin which had the requisite funk to handle the smoke, yet was light enough not to crush the delicate earth and sea flavors.

Last, we made nettle gnocchi; Sirkka and I both recently bought the Silver Spoon cookbook, and she wanted to try making them, and luckily all the rain caused all our nettles to jump up with new growth like it was spring. So I picked a bunch, and they brought the potatoes, and we had the gnocchi with sage butter and parmesan. Chris made chard, and radicchio salad. Awesome, and even better with a 1998 Brusquières Châteauneuf and then, best of all, a 1996 Remirez de Ganuza Riserva which had us all in awe.

Kale 3 ways

Kale pesto has become the go-to way for getting copious greens into Milo; he loves it on pasta (and cauliflower,) and he also loved the two ways we had it: on pizza with goat cheese and in a puréed soup that included more cauliflower, carrot, celery root, onion, and parsley. We had all this green goodness with a 2003 d'Arenberg "Laughing Magpie" shiraz/viognier which, though not as friendly as the 2002, is a mighty wine and has much aging potential.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just right

Needing something clean and healthy, I fell back on maki, always a good way to use up small amounts of leftovers in a healthy way. So the remaining brown rice became rolls around two different fillings: the first, roasted carnival squash puréed with a bit of umeboshi paste and shaken with sesame seeds, and the second kale pesto with fresh arugula leaves in the middle. As an appetizer, 2/3 of a block of tofu browned in a tiny bit of smoked duck fat, then tossed in a reduction of the duck broth/miso soup and some honey. I spun the last of the corn and radish salad plus a few more radishes in the food processor to make a relish of sorts, which went particularly well with the squash maki (and was a pretty pink color.) All this goodness met its match in a 2000 Guigal white Hermitage, which meshed beautifully with the rich tofu and the clean rolls; it has the rocks and candied hazelnuts plus the lovely apricot sweetness to handle everything from umeboshi to the smoked fat.


I was talking to the plumber and discussing variations in sauce recipes from family to family; once he left I knew what needed making for dinner. So a bit of bacon and half an onion browned, then a ton of fresh herbs, garlic, a splash of wine, and a can of tomatoes all simmered while I heated up a big pot of water for pasta. The fettucine tossed in with the sauce just before it was al dente, then parsley, good oil, and salt to finish, and freshly grated cheese on top. A side of sautéed watercress with garlic rounded it out, and a 2000 Cortese Barbaresco "Rabajà" had an unbelievable nose, but was way too young, needing another 5 years at least to relax. Still pretty yummy, though.

Corn, beans, and squash

Roasted butternut squash, stick-blended into the rest of the smoked duck broth, became the first course in another fridge-clearing dinner. The caramelized squash and the smoky broth combined beautifully, and the natural affinity duck has with sweet vegetables really made this one special. The main course was brown rice, pinto beans cooked with onion, cumin, lemon, chile powder, and the smoked fat from the top of the broth, and a salsa of corn, radish, and red onion. Corn, beans, and squash, with a little smoky bird essence- all-American fall food, with a nice German wine: a 2005 Riesling by St. Urbans-Hof.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Still more rain, this time with the closest and loudest lightning I've ever heard (it blew all our surge suppressors and killed the phone) wanted another comfort-centric response, so I schlepped to the store after I thought it broke and got thoroughly soaked on the way home, to the point where a stranger gave me a ride, seeing that my feeble paper bags were about to dump dinner all over the sidewalk. The joys of a small town.

Thus did I procure lasagna noodles, and shiitake mushrooms, and a can of tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. The mushrooms, an onion, summer squash, herbs garlic, and the tomatoes made a sauce that thickened while I cooked the noodles. Then built the thing, and grated parm all over the top. Blanched some kale in the pasta water, then tossed it in ume vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper while the dish bubbled in the oven.

Just great with another 2002 Cheze Saint-Joseph, which is now my favorite under-$20 bottle save Peiades; there was a moment, glass in hand, smelling the wine and the still-bubbling cheese together, that defined perfectly how heavenly a good match can be.

Duck Soup II

This time the broth was all duck; the whole glorious smoked carcass along with an onion, carrots, and parsley simmered for a couple of hours. Then, once strained, more carrot and zucchini plus soy sauce went in to simmer while whole wheat spaghetti boiled since we were out of soba. Finished with scallions and cilantro, and had with a 2002 Jadot Beaune Les Bressandes, it proved another antidote to what seems like eternal rain.


All the other night's ingredients (except the fish, which was gone) went back in the pan after a bit of onion had browned up a bit and then had some scallion and cilantro added to make a beautiful curried fried rice. This time a Trimbach riesling, also 2003 went with it. A nice way to enjoy a variation with subtle differences.

Roast pork

Roasting weather is upon us, so a pork shoulder got crammed with many garlic cloves and then goodly slathered with thyme, more garlic, oregano, rosemary, pepper and salt mashed to a paste in the suribachi. Into the oven, and then some blue potatoes steamed, skinned, and mashed with yogurt and parmesan went on the back of the stove to keep warm while I steamed some broccoli in the same pot. A quick pan sauce of fresh plum, ume vinegar, honey, red wine, demi-glace, and broth reduced, then poured on the meat for color, contrast, and a bit more moisture. A 1999 Lignier Chambolle-Musigny was a good match, but a little thin- probably a tad past its prime.