Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lamb Stew

We drove to Vermont to meet Mat & co. with our big cooler full of goodies- among them, lamb bones and stew meat. Upon arrival, I set to work browning the bones, cubing the meat, and adding garden mirepoix plus carrot, parsnip, and turnip, then adzuki beans, herbs, garlic, and water to cover. Peas (also from our garden) went in just before serving. While it was going, I baked sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli, and pulled a 1999 Beaulieu Georges de la Tour reserve from the cellar.

I almost grabbed a 1997 Beringer reserve instead, but having loved the 1992s we had last year, I wanted to give them more time. The BV was very good, and perfect with the stew; I'm going to let the other one sit for a bit longer and then try it again. Having the last of the Lirac to start brought us to the Cab from an interesting direction. It lacks the earthy, cedary notes of the Beringer, but with age it might develop something similar. For now, it's a big, supple, grapey, tail-wagging labrador retriever of a wine.

Return Home

Post-Chicago, something clean and simple was urgently needed. This is broiled mahi-mahi with a salt-dried sudachi zest crust over brown rice and braised fennel and turnip with some peach chutney on the side. I opened a really nice Lirac but I forget the info since we took the rest to Vermont and left the bottle there. I'll fill it in later- it was just as good the next day with the lamb stew.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Dinner

Whenever we go to Chicago for a holiday I like to give Christine's Mom a break by doing the cooking. This time around I tossed a bag of activa in my dopp kit just in case, because the pea soup gnocchi got me thinking about other gnoccification possibilities. Filet of beef was the focus of the meal, so I began by using the activa to glue bacon around it in rings, plus gave it a little rub with salt, pepper, herbs, and coffee. Then the rest of the activa turned a big ol' tub of ricotta into beautiful gnocchi after a night in the fridge; they browned up perfectly in a little butter, and then I tossed them in parmesan.

For sides, I made arugula-horseradish pesto, brussels sprouts, mashed parsnips with horseradish and vanilla, and shiitake mushrooms cooked with aromatics and a bottle of red wine. Christine's Aunt brought mashed potatoes. I figured the leftover meat would be sandwiches the next day, so I sliced the filet thickly into steaks so that each one got a slice of bacon around it. We drank a 2004 Château de Saint-Cosme Gigondas and then a 2003 Ceretto Barolo "Zonchera" which I wisely decanted 5 hours before dinner. Both delicious, though the Barolo has more going on in that gorgeous transparent way they have. The next night, the last of it- about a glass- that had sat in the decanter the whole time was even better.

For dessert I poached big pears in a gewurztraminer-vanilla syrup and made a cointreau-lavender-eggnog crème anglaise to go on top, which sounds great (and was yummy) but you try explaining the virtues of that to a bunch of kids when there's a behemoth of a chocolate cake from the cheesecake factory next to it on the counter.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pea Soup Part 2

So the experiment worked; I pushed the pea soup through a tamis and added a bit of activa, then piped it onto wax paper and let it sit in the fridge overnight (it's uneven because I don't have a pastry bag; I just cut the corner off a ziplock.)

Then I cut the snakes into gnocchi and gave them a quick boil just before serving. We had invited friends over, and then two more at the last minute, but fortunately there was enough food. I had braised a pork shoulder with onion, carrot, beer, cider, cinnamon, star anise, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, thyme, soy sauce, agave nectar, and balsamic vinegar for 5 hours until it was falling apart, and also done more of the cubed turnip from the previous night (but with rutabaga as well this time.) I tossed the soup gnocchi with the roots and served the meat on top of it with the strained and reduced braising liquid thickened with our BBQ sauce. A dollop of cranberry tapenade on top (taken from Aki & Alex) was the perfect finish- sweet/savory, spicy, and tangy.

Chris made a huge pot of their kale that he had hacked out of the snow before dark, and it was incredibly sweet. We drank a 2001 Domaine la Millière Chiateauneuf, then Chris & Sirkka's 2006 Ridge Three Valleys zin blend, then a 1999 Cakebread Benchland Select cabernet. I had thought to follow the CDP with a Burgundy, but the pork was so rich that the New World sweetness of the Ridge and Cakebread were the right way to go. A really lovely winter meal with great friends.

Family Style

There's nothing quite like having a fridge full of goodies to inspire well-rounded meals. This time it was wild Alaskan salmon and a variety of roots and greens that got me going. I broiled the salmon with herbs, 5-spice, and sesame seeds on top. A cubed turnip caramelized and softened with half an onion in olive oil, collards softened a bit with garlic, and I made a salsa with fresh orange juice, cherry tomatoes, avocado, cider vinegar, and togarashi. Mashed sweet potatoes on the side. Happy happy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I found a partially cooked duck breast from an earlier meal in the back of the fridge tonight while figuring out what to make for dinner. Problem solved. Milo helped me season and oil the fingerling potatoes- with lots of whole garlic cloves thrown in- prior to roasting them in the oven. I sliced and sautéed the duck in a bit of duck fat to brown it, then tossed in shredded kale and daikon to use up the fat. We opened another jar of the peach-habañero chutney from early fall and the plate was complete.

As perfect a match as the duck and chutney are, and as lovely an accompaniment as rosemary potatoes are to almost anything, the kale and daikon were the dark horse of this meal. Enriched with a little fat, but still al dente and bright, gorgeous green, and with the tangy, earthy crunch of radish, they tied together everything else and had the profound sweetness that only perfectly fresh greens in season can produce. Some may like their greens wilted into porky oblivion, but I'll take mine actually green every time. Comfort food should also have nutrients left in it; it is food, after all.

For the wine, I popped a 2000 Dead Arm, since I'm in the process of trying to figure out which few of my Australian purchases of 3-4 years back not to sell; I really don't dig the movie-candy and cream cheese frosting flavors I get from so much of them these days. After careful tasting, though, the Dead Arm stays on the keeper list. It's just too good, funky, and unique to part with. A dark, sweet nose and quick fruit gives way to some fascinatingly stubborn structure with a real ass on it. Also, the wife loves it, which is a not insignificant part of this calculus. You can have my Dead Arm when you pry it from my cold, dead shoulder.

Pea Soup Part 1

I took Aki & Alex's "Hydrocolloids at home" class on Saturday, and had an idea during class that this was the first step toward realizing. Nice, traditional pea soup with a little bacon and mirepoix and a long simmer to get it all soft. A good winter meal, especially with sautéed pak choi on the side and the first of our 2006 Siduri Willamette Valley pinot. They make some of my favorite New World pinots, and though this is not one of their superb single vineyard wines, it still has the tang, funk, and fruit it needs. (It's also less than half as much.)

Part two will reveal if my idea is a good one.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Venison Chili

We're lucky to have Kenny as our neighbor; in addition to plowing our driveway he also gives us venison around this time of year (he and his brother are both hunters.) So I set right to making a chili worthy of such a great treat. To begin, I sautéed onions in smoked duck fat, then added the meat to brown. Next, a variety of dried spices- chili, cumin, cinnamon- plus herbs, cocoa powder, and pepper. Then, soaked red & white kidney beans, a can of tomatoes, some beer, and a slash of cider vinegar. 2 hours later, the chili was perfect on brown rice with beer and a side of cauliflower with a cheddar/yogurt/porcini sauce plus a dash of truffle oil. And twice as good the next day for lunch.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holiday Party

Liz had her annual holiday party, and it was as wonderful as ever. The food, wine, and company were outstanding. The guys even played a few tunes; Liz has a piano, Chris brought his bass, and Billy played a saucepan with a spoon. Highlights included Gerard's togarashi roasted halibut, Liz's artichoke pizza, and my now-traditional duck sushi on black rice with cranberry-wine reduction and pickled black radish. Wines included a 1992 Sirius "Doomed Vines" Petite Sirah (the last year from that vineyard; it was sold and the 120 year-old vines ripped out) compared with a magnum of the 2002 Sirius. Amazingly different. Also, a Sine Qua Non "Papa" Syrah, a 1994 Marqués de Cáceres Gaudium, and a 1999 Gorelli Brunello "Le Potazzine."

Barbecue Sauce

I had some requests from the gang for more of my barbecue sauce; I made some for last year's holiday party and it was enthusiastically received. So I pulled out the big pot and got to pouring, stirring, tasting, and adjusting. The main ingredients are molasses, tomato and tamarind pastes, balsamic and cider vinegars, and red wine, with smoked espresso, sriracha, ponzu, and various dried spices adding complexity. It's a little different every time, but this batch is particularly good. Next week I'm going to defrost the slab of ribs in the freezer and take the sauce for a spin (provided it's warm enough for me to deal with the smoker, which is covered in snow right now.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Quick One

I normally never buy the skinless, boneless chicken pieces, since the fat and bones are essential for flavor and stock-making, but it's what they had at the place I went shopping. At least they had thighs. I marinated them all day in lemon and tangerine juice with garlic, ginger, cardamom, yuzu kosho, and rosemary, then threw them in the wok, followed by pak choi and some of the marinade thickened with flour. Served on brown rice. Not counting the marinating, or turning on the rice cooker beforehand, this took 10 minutes from the first sizzle to the first bite, which was great because I spent all day in the (freezing) woodshop with a tiny space heater.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Last year, we got a pass on December; it was so warm that the daffodils came up and we raked up the willow leaves just before Christmas. This time around, not so much. Snow, sleet, wind, and freakin' frigid. So tonight, ironically, the freezer yielded the bulk of our dinner. Sweet potato gnocchi dough left from Thanksgiving, mirepoix, and kale were the bulk of it, supplemented by request with cranberry sauce- slightly undersweetened, with cider, ginger, and tangerine juice.

The gnocchi got a dressing of mirepoix sautéed with diced salt pork, the kale blanched in gnocchi water, the cranberries went on the side. The mirepoix, buttressed by the salt pork, gave off the beautiful, evocative smell of home. I was hoping to keep the frozen veggies until later, but given that there's more light in February than November, it may be that our garden will provide us more towards the end of Winter, especially since there are a lot of yummy roots locked in the soil (provided everything else survives under the plastic.)

In the interest of full disclosure I haven't had the cranberries yet, since they would wreak havoc on the heavenly alchemy currently swirling in my lead-free stemware: a 1978 Drouhin Vosne Romanée "Les Suchots"- which I opened fully expecting to be cooked, since others of the bargain Burgundies I bought this summer have been- but is instead singing a diaphanously elegant swan song as it fades from glory. Damn.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Power Lunch

Last night I made mushroom risotto (a chicken carcass needed brothing) with shiitakes and dried porcini. Today I rolled it in nori, and the chick pea curry (warmed) in tortillas with pickled serranos. Pickled beets on the side. Yum. The pickled things are really doing it for me right now, and I love dispatching leftovers efficiently.

Restaurant Secrets Revealed!

Have you ever wondered why your homemade Indian food never quite achieves the rich, satisfying depth that even the cheapest restaurant delivers all the time? There are two reasons. The first is that if they're any good, they grind their own spices fresh every day. The second is butter. Clarified, yes, but butter. And cream. In copious quantities.

I discovered this shocking- SHOCKING- fact the other night when I absently glugged the last of some heavy cream left from Thanksgiving into both the mixed hardy garden greens (mustard, chard, mizuna, etc. and the chick pea curry with sweet potatoes. I did this because we didn't have any coconut milk and didn't want it to spoil, and the cold weather encourages heartier fare, but when all was served, I couldn't believe how "authentic" it tasted.

Who knew?

You're welcome.

Locavore is OED WOY

I just learned that the OED's word of the year has been announced, and it's Locavore. Hooray. If recent history has taught us anything, controlling the terminology is a prerequisite for leading and winning the debate.

Friday, November 30, 2007


I am so very, very lucky to be able to head down to the city on short notice and have dinner at Kris & Ken's house; they always have the best food, wine, and company possible and thus my gustatory horizons never fail to be widened. Wednesday night was no different. Herewith the summary:

Aperitif: 2005 Wegeler riesling Wehlener Sonnenuhr

Sea bass with daikon sprouts and olive-olive oil sauce
1997 Jose Michel Brut Champagne

Salad with wood pigeon and (my) duck prosciutto
1989 Clos des Papes

Filet of beef wrapped in bacon, twice-roasted potatoes
2000 Roty Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru "Les Fontenys"

1988 Jaboulet Hermitage "La Chapelle"

1989 Moulin Touchais Coteaux de Layon (my contribution)

The champagne was a treat. Delicious.
The Clos des Papes was sublime. Unbelievable. Ken: "An experienced lover."
The Gevrey-Chamb was not the right wine to follow the CDP, but over time it softened and got kind of funky. (Average white band vs. P-Funk funky in comparison.)

We tasted the Hermitage blind, and I actually guessed it, but opened my mouth just as Kris told us, so I don't think anyone believed me. A weird year, and it makes me very excited to open the 1989 that I bought in Paris back when the dollar was worth somewhat more than toilet paper. We all enjoyed the Moulin Touchais, even though it's more of a spicy first course wine than a dessert wine due to the extreme acidity which balances out the sugar.

Overall, an exceptional night. Tasting these great wines with some real age on them in the company of people who have such astonishing palates is an extraordinary pleasure and privilege. I have to give Mary's new wine venture a plug at this juncture; for anyone who's looking to find a superlative price to quality ratio in their wine choices, check out the just-launched Thoreau Wine Society.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


It's like Thanksgiving leftovers, but nothing on the plate is actually from that meal except the cranberry-wine reduction. The rest of it is a duck breast, seared in a pan, along with zucchini "latkes" and brown rice with kale cooked in the rendered fat (this is actually a zucchini picked AGES ago- before the first frost- and stored in the bottom of the fridge; I've slowly been using it up.) Meat juices and some of the peach-habañero-lime basil chutney added final flavors. A 2002 Jadot Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er cru "La Dominode" was a pretty snuggly companion to this high/low hybrid. Plus the new square plates are allowing for awesome new compositions, although this one is a tad crowded. So there's that.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Alla Carbonara

Fettucine. Salt pork. Quail eggs. Cheap chard from the fridge. Hit the spot.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Notes & Pictures

The numbers:
8 adults, 11 courses, 7 bottles, 6 hours.

The pictures:

Duck and pear:

Melons are long since out of season, so these are local organic red bartlett pears. This duck took about three months to cure, but was SOOOO worth the wait.

Leek & Gruyère tart:

A dribble of truffle oil and grating of Indonesian long pepper on top put this one into orbit.

Celery root-leek-potato soup:

Local milk, veggies from the garden, and passed through a tamis for ultra-velvety texture. Wild chives for garnish.


These frostproof greens are making a big difference to our quality of life right about now.


The kimchi juice firms up the scallops a bit, and gives them a rich flavor. I cooked the eggs in a bit of smoked duck fat.

Squash broth with ham "ravioli":

I got the gelatin-filtered squash broth idea from Derrick, and added the smoked ham ravioli (glued together with activa) to make it more substantial. Great (even better than the scallops) with the Gewurtz.

Marrow bone w/buckwheat "risotto":

A nice combination of wintry flavors: fat, grain, intense meat reduction. Another particularly good wine match with the old Burg.

Plating the gnocchi (picture by John):

After boiling, I browned them in the rendered duck fat with sage leaves. This "Thanksgiving on a plate" idea worked really well; it was the essence of bird, creamy potato, sweet tangy cranberry, and wild greens, and satisfied Christine's desire for something traditional.

Duck confit:

No pictures of the cheese. Sorry. Here's the panna cotta, though:

This tasted like essence of pumpkin chiffon pie (also to please my wife,) with a super-tangy sauce that did a good job of conjuring the lemon-stuck-with-cloves flavor I was shooting for.

Last, the tart:

Out of focus- but by then, so was I- a nice way to finish like we started, with pears and crust, and an ice cream I'm pretty proud of. The port added a wonderful hazelnut complexity to the whole thing.

On the whole, it came out much as I had hoped. Everyone was thoroughly full and satisfied without being stuffed, and there were hardly any leftovers to deal with (except for duck bones to make soup.) It hit some traditional notes, went to some newer places, and stayed pretty solidly local with the ingredients.

Thanksgiving Menu

Home-cured duck prosciutto, red bartlett pear, maple-balsamic glaze
Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru brut rosé

Leek, gruyère, and pine nut tart

Celery root-leek-potato soup
2001 Guigal Hermitage blanc

Winter salad of mâche, claytonia, minutina
Walnut-Sherry vinaigrette

Kimchi juice-marinated diver scallop with braised pan di zucchero
Quail egg, guanciale, kimchi, pan sauce
2001 Lucien Albrecht Gewurtztraminer Cuvée Marie

Ham "ravioli" with squash-apple-walnut filling
Clear squash consommé, togarashi

Beef marrow bone
Buckwheat "risotto", beef-saffron reduction
1983 Joseph Drouhin Bonnes-Mares

Duck confit
Sweet potato gnocchi, cranberry-wine reduction, nettle purée
2000 Carver Sutro Petite Sirah

Local cheeses:
Bayley Hazen (VT,) Kunik (NY,) Toussaint (NY)
1997 Teofilo Reyes Ribera del Duero

Pumpkin panna cotta
Yuzu-clove syrup, lemon balm
1999 Paul Delesvaux "Sélection de Grains Nobles" Coteaux du Layon

Wine-poached pear and chocolate tart
Applesauce-Calvados ice cream
1991 Dow's Vintage Porto

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Close Enough

I think turkey is overrated. We can get good heirloom varieties up here, but lacking the means to deep-fry one or the patience to smoke one out in the cold and rain I'm opting out. Even smoked or fried it's still pretty bland, and so big that you have to eat it for days after. To me, the holiday is about family, eating, and gratitude with a strong focus on seasonal ingredients, not about eating what everyone else eats just for the sake of tradition. So bring on the duck confit.

Since we're not having turkey for Thanksgiving, tonight I made up for it with turkey burgers (seasoned with herbs, garlic, arugula, wine, duck fat- because it's too damn lean- and togarashi) served with cranberry ketchup (cranberries, a couple of canned tomatoes, vinegars- cider, balsamic- and maple syrup.) Kimchi and beet pickles on the side. Organic spelt English muffin. More of the Jaboulet Vaqueyras. Basta.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Buckwheat Two Ways

I got a couple of things done today, chief among which the ham ravioli- smoked ham glued together with activa and with a filling of acorn squash, apple, pine nuts, onion, ginger, spices, and an egg yolk. There were a few left, and some of the buckwheat mixture, which, like risotto, made great supplì with a bit of aged gruyère and an egg-cornmeal coating. So for an appetizer, to christen the new small plates (it's like freakin' Christmas all up in here) I put a buckwheat ball with arugula and a ham dumpling with maple/balsamic sauce on the oval ones and then dutifully took a picture:

The ham ravioli were good- sort of like inside-out gyoza, very sweet and savory at the same time, with the unifying magic of pork. Next was dashi broth with soba, the ham trimmings, and a side of blanched kale:

The wine was a Susana Balbo "Crios" torrontes, which goes with all things Asian-inflected and otherwise, provided they're not too spicy, given its amazing lychee flavors and good acidity.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


For some reason, this came together perfectly- flavors, textures, and portion sizes were all just right. Crosscut lamb shanks braised with mirepoix and a bit of lemon and wine until they were nice and tender. Parsnip roasted with whole garlic, rosemary, oil, and coriander seeds until crispy/creamy (and so sweet after some frost.) Buckwheat "risotto" simmered with lemon, savory, marjoram, parsley and scallion. I tossed a winter salad of mâche, spinach, and some of the winter lettuces that are still soldiering on. It all worked famously, and we drank a 1999 Prunaio which is still pretty tannic, but with more time could be something special. It's officially braising season, and this was a nice beginning.

Egg Drop Soup

In a combined effort to make room in the fridge and also make us something healthy, I wrangled diverse leftovers into a decent egg drop soup for lunch. Scallops, tofu, chicken broth, liquid from half a can of tomatoes, garlic, ginger, scallions and two beaten eggs added up to something that did not taste at all like leftovers. I sprinkled some of the kabocha seed-togarashi gomasio I made yesterday for Thanksgiving on top to finish, and we added sambal oelek to taste since I can't make anything too spicy. Now there's some space for all the things yet to be made before Thursday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Oy, Again With The Pasta

One of the problems with Thanksgiving is that it's easy to eat badly for days beforehand since all the time and effort in the kitchen are in the service of delayed gratification. So this evening, after much toil on prep, I whipped up a quick roux-thickened, pancetta enriched milk and tomato sauce with some minced dried porcini, dried tomatoes, garlic and herbs and tossed penne in it, followed by a bag of our frozen peas. I finished it with a bit of white truffle oil and a grating of breadcrumbs (from a really stale hunk of bread) that I actually meant to stir into the sauce for some extra thickening and textural interest. Simple, and hearty- kind of like staff dinner. Tomorrow I'm going to try to spend a bit more time on our food.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Oxtail stew. At Chris & Sirkka's house, with such a rich variety of roots and leaves from their garden that I won't bother to list it, all pressure cooked with wine for 45 minutes and served over polenta with fresh raw milk stirred in at the end (yes, from the same cow we get ours from.) We drank a 2003 Jaboulet Vaqueyras and a 2005 Langhe Nebbiolo by La Spinetta. Life is good, even in the harsh cold wind that knocked our power out for a bit this afternoon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


A trip to the market for Thanksgiving-related items led to scallops, and a cauliflower, which is one of the first vegetables I've bought since May. The rainy day just seemed to want roasted cauliflower, and there's something about the sweetness of scallops that seemed like a good fit. So I marinated the scallops in kimchi juice to make a sort of ceviche, but not really long enough to "cook" them (though I did try one, and it's worth doing again for a longer soak) and roasted the cauliflower in the oven. Refried polenta, warmed kimchi, a pan sauce deglazed with a little wine all matched flavors and colors pretty well for a rich and subtle combination. On the side, to provide some raw green balance, a salad of chiffonaded chard, mustard, and sorrel that worked really well; the heat of the mustard was countered by the almost creamy chard and sweet sorrel, and the walnut/balsamic vinaigrette accentuated all those qualities, as did a 2003 Trimbach reserve pinot gris.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This was originally going to be my birthday dinner, but I postponed it until Christine was back: a hanger steak (NOT a hangar steak, unless you cook airline food) cooked sous-vide at 135˚ for 75 minutes and got a quick sear in the iron pan to brown the outside. Polenta, endive-umeboshi mash, and a reduction sauce of fresh raw cream from Pepper (pop locavore quiz: do you know the name of the cow(s) you get your milk from?) with pancetta, dried porcini, garlic, herbs, and lemon juice completed the plate.

The meat was really tender, uncharacteristically so for this cut, which I credit to the cooking method. The sauce was rich and decadent, and balanced well by the bitter, tangy mash. I made the polenta a little on the wet side so it would pool nicely on the plate. If we weren't both so tired, I would have opened something fancier, but another 2003 Cheze St. Joseph Cuvée Prestige de Caroline did the requisite Syrah-steak dance and was interesting enough for the strong flavors of the garnishes. Don't you just love the little line of juice around the polenta?


But not what you're thinking; Christine got back yesterday with birthday presents, (among which, some beautiful plates) Turkish delight with pistachios, and a camera stuffed full of pictures of boring things like Hagia Sophia and all the Greek ruins along the Aegean coast- which I already visited and dutifully drew like 16 years ago. But I did find one pertinent picture. Turkish food, like Greek (but don't let either hear you say it) is very good but very limited; pretty much the same menu everywhere you go, but the ingredients are fresh and local. (This is true for Mediterranean Turkey- farther inland the cuisine may well change.) In any case, here a typical plate of appetizers, which in keeping with the nature of appetizers the world over are better than the main course and thus inevitably ruin your appetite because you ate too damn many. Hence the name.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Quick Change

Again seeking efficiency, and short on time for dinner, I repurposed the chicken and soup from last night into a nice curry. Japanese yam and zucchini simmered in coconut milk, the soup, the pesto gravy, vindaloo paste, spices, and lemon juice. I added the chicken at the end to warm it through. We had pappadums and mango chutney for an appetizer since Milo was "very very hungry." I had a 2006 Sancerre by Franck Millet which is one of my favorite whites right now- for the money (15 bucks) it goes with so many things and works well by itself as an aperitif if people drop by.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Christine gets back on Tuesday, so Milo and I had a pretty mellow birthday; Wednesday night I'm going to cook a hanger steak sous vide and make some decadent accompaniments, but for tonight a puréed soup of leek and celery root (with the very last of the vegetable shepherd's pie thrown in for depth and efficiency) and then pan-roasted chicken seasoned with ras-el-hanout, sudachi powder, salt & pepper, and garlic with a kale pesto gravy and kimchi. Not elegant at all, but the soup was a big hit and the pesto gravy was one of those "duh" moments when I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it sooner. I opened a 2001 Leflaive Meursault to compare to the last of the Montagny from the other night; they both did fascinating things with the soup. I got two books: McGee's On Food And Cooking, and Weiskopf's Yaje: The New Purgatory. Opposite extremes of the spectrum to be sure, but I'm equally excited by both.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


In the mood to play more with my new toy, I vacuum sealed some wild salmon with ginger, garlic, lemon thyme, 5 spice, and sudachi powder. Cooked for half an hour at 47˚C and served on brown rice with a kale-endive pesto, kimchi, and a tomato-blood orange sauce. The beauty of salmon like this is that it looks raw, yet pulls apart like cooked, and the vacuum really helps the flavors get into the fish. Next time I might toss it in a hot pan for just a minute to crust the top, but there's something to be said for the pure silkiness all the way through.

This kimchi is so good and so addictive that I'm going to start another batch next week so we don't run out. In keeping with the fun, experimental mood, I opened two wines that I knew would be fine, even better, after a day or two open: a 2005 Boillot Montagny 1er cru and a 1999 Parent Chambolle-Musigny. Neither was stellar, but each did play off different aspects of the meal with some success and it will be nice to have them around to try with something totally different in a day or two.

Pizza Party

We had a few friends over, with a total of 5 more kids, because Milo wanted to have a pizza party. I made four: potato, (our almost very last) kale pesto & dried tomato (mixed with a bit of basil pesto and the endive-umeboshi mash) zucchini (our very last) and shiitake-guanciale (sautéed in a pan with garlic and parsely until nice and caramelized.) The last two were with homemade tomato sauce and local mozzarella. I've pretty much perfected my dough recipe, and with the convection oven at 500˚ and a $3 tile from Lowe's in the oven they come out pretty crispy and authentic. The key is to get the crust nice and thin. Jackie brought some local ice cream. There were no leftovers.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


If Christine were here, I would have made this into sushi, but containing hurricane Milo while preparing dinner requires some compromise. I did get a chance to play with my new (used) water bath, which is all that matters. Trimmed grass-fed organic ribeye cooked sous-vide at 130˚ for a bit over an hour, then seared in a skillet to get a nice brown on the top and bottom. Sliced thin over Thai black rice with a rich mash of endive, ume plum, garlic, and oil, it covered a lot of ground with a few ingredients. To celebrate my return to meat and wine, I opened a 2004 Mongeard-Mugneret Savigny-les-Beaune "Les Narbantons" which is slowly opening up but needs quite a bit more time to show its stuff; if it lives up to its nose it will be a good value.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


A perennial favorite, and great kid food that also satisfies a more sophisticated adult palate, I find that this is one of those dishes- like penne all'arrabiata- that is deceptively hard to get just right. The key (apart from cooking the pasta properly) is the integration of the various strong flavors into a near-seamless whole within a sauce that has to be just reduced and oily enough to coat the pasta. When it's done right, it sings four-part harmony and transcends its humble status; it becomes the perfect plate of pasta, the Platonic Penne.

Bachelor Party

Christine is in Turkey for a week, so it's just Milo and me which means I get to play around with healthy and refined versions of kid food to keep us both happy. Last night was a good example; I used the leftover mashed sweet potatoes and a chicken carcass to make a shepherd's pie with a cornucopia of garden goodies. The chicken made a simple broth, while kabocha squash, carrots, onion, leeks, scallions, radish, potatoes, celery, and herbs (all from the garden) had a quick sautée, sprinkle with flour, and then addition of broth to bubble and thicken. Poured into glass dish, topped with mashed sweets, and baked, it hit all the right creamy comfort notes while still being super-healthy (and the squash and potatoes were perfectly al dente.)

There's little that's less photogenic than shepherd's pie, so I'll make do with the bread I made yesterday morning. I did the full recipe in the big Dutch oven this time, and it worked really well; the sides gave the loaf good height and shape, and the steam before I took the lid off made for the best crust yet. The only trick is leaving it in the oven long enough, since it requires a lot more time to bake through than the smaller size.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


The anti-Halloween, if you will. Super clean and healthy to compensate for all the sweets. Brown rice, with three complementary preparations on top: seitan braised with onion, radish, carrot, ginger, garlic, and scallion; freshly-dug burdock simmered in water with a pinch of salt; a purée of collards, mustard greens, and sorrel with lime. Milo LOVES burdock, and told me so. This was a nice case of making satisfying food for the family while still keeping to the requirements of my "Dieta."

Soon the kimchi will be ready (and I'll be able to eat it) and then this type of food will get a boost to an even higher level. One of the best parts about a garden is the ability to make fantastic condiments to give winter food some excitement and spice.

Scene Stealer

Chris & Sirkka gave us some fennel since ours is done, and it completely dominated this meal. Sautéed and then braised a bit to soften- with only oil, lemon, salt, and pepper- it was meltingly smooth, sweet, and sublime. The pan-roasted salmon (well-done by request) and mashed sweet potato/Japanese yam combination were fine, even delicious, but the fennel was on another plane entirely.


Here's Milo in his chef outfit, enjoying a lollipop. Surprisingly enough, he figured out the whole say-trick-or-treat-and-get-free-candy thing pretty quickly. Astonishing. The parade was fun, and we ran into all our friends, all in costume.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Last night we had our first frost, and the row covers worked well to protect the less hardy greens. My hope is that we'll be able to keep some things going at least as far as full Winter, if not longer for the kale and collards. Those I planted a month ago will have a great head start in the spring if they survive. In any case, it will be a good chance to learn about what does well and what doesn't, and whether some more robust winterproofing is in order for next time.

Tonight I made falafel for the first time in a long time, which is odd because it's so easy and so good. The key is to soak and then cook the chick peas early in the day so all that's needed come dinner time is to fry them up and assemble the garnishes. These included fresh radishes, pickled beets, hot and mild garden salsas, mixed late greens (arugula, mustard, mizuna, sorrel) and of course tahini (but with an avocado mashed in for good measure.) A very nice balance between the crispy fried and the crunchy raw ends of the spectrum, all tied together with creamy sauce and a little spice.

The other accomplishment today was the crock of kimchi- two perfect cabbages, carrots, scallions, a couple of radishes, garlic, ginger, and a minced cayenne pepper combined in salt water- in a week or so I'll check its progress. I'm pretty excited for this; it's so healthy and so good and will help wake up many winter favorites. All our hot pepper preparations are going to require lots of beer or riesling this winter.