Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

We had a small event this year - but that didn't mean we skimped on anything. Serious Eats provided much of the inspiration, so although we didn't follow any of the recipes precisely, the essence was there.

The secrets were:

  • Home made cornbread
  • Sausage stuffing (dressing because it was outside the bird}
  • Low and slow sweet potatoes
  • Spatchcocked turkey - recipe here - no need to improve on perfection! I dry brined using 7T and 1T baking powder and followed the storage instructions from here.
  • Standard home made cranberry sauce - using bitter orange marmalade as a flavoring - from this blog post
For the Serious Eats recipes, please follow this link.and search for Thanksgiving. For our meal, please read on.


I was quite suspicious of this cornbread - it seemed awfully wet. But it came out spot on. There is no wheat in the recipe, so no gluten formation. Those friends of ours who have gluten issues are delighted.


15 oz yellow corn meal. We just used Quaker.
6 t baking powder
1t baking soda
2t kosher salt
1t sugar
2 1/2 cups buttermilk (we used left over from making our own butter)
1 stick unsalted butter - melted
3T rendered pork fat (from salt pork that we had rendered for a different dish)
3 eggs


Preheat 10" cast iron skillet in a 375 degree oven. Whisk the eggs into the buttermilk and drizzle the melted butter whisking constantly. Mix the corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar thoroughly. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix quickly. Do not over mix. When the batter is mixed, grease the inside of the hot skillet with the pork fat. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes - until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees.
Leave to cool in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack.

Sausage Stuffing (Dressing)

Because this is not stuffed into anything, I prefer to call it dressing. But either way it was pretty darned delicious. The Serious Eats recipe calls for sage sausage. No luck finding that here, so we substituted.


1 recipe bread pudding (as above) cut into cubes - about 3/4"
1 stick unsalted butter
12 oz sweet Italian sausage
12 oz hot Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion - diced
4 stalks celery cut into pieces the size of the onion dice. Any leaves are fine too.
3 cloves garlic - minced
A small handful of sage leaves - minced fine
3 1/2 cups turkey stock (we used frozen left over from a year ago, thawed) - divided use
4 eggs
1t habanero vodka (aka secret ingredient)
Kosher salt/pepper to taste. You won't need much because the sausage is well seasoned.
1/4 cup minced parsley. 


Place the cut corn bread onto a sheet pan and bake in a 425 degree oven turning occasionally until the outsides are fairly dry and a little toasted. 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, wait for it to stop foaming then add the sausage. Cook the sausage, breaking it up with the wooden spoon until there is no more pink.
Add the onion, garlic and celery. Cook until the vegetables are soft (10 - 15 min(. Do not allow the vegetables to brown. Remove from the heat. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of the stock.
Whisk together the remaining stock, the eggs, habanero vodka, and half of the parsley.
Place the sausage/onion mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the egg mixture and then add the cornbread. Transfer to a 9x13 baking pan (or a 10x14 oval pan) and cover with foil
You can leave it overnight in the fridge. It does firm up.
When ready to bake, cover with foil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. At least that is what the recipe said. I turned the oven up to 400 and it still took an hour for the insides to be properly heated through - probably because I started it out too cold from the fridge.. I had suspected this, so allowed extra time in the timetable anyway. (See this posting from several years ago). And because You want the internal temperature (in the centre) to be over 150 degrees.
Bring out of the oven 15 minutes before serving and sprinkle the rest of the parsley on top.

Sweet potatoes

The good folks at Serious Eats suggested that we warm the sweet potatoes in the circulator at 145 degrees for a couple of hours. Then bake them low and slow. I tried this a couple of days ago, and in a blind tasting we couldn't tell the difference. So ditched the circulator for the big day.
There are also schools of thought about texture. I like them not to be whipped. A rough mash texture. But YMMV


4 large sweet potatoes (Beauregards, garnets or whatever you can get your hands on).
16 sprigs of thyme
1T vegetable oil
1 stick (4 Oz) softened butter
1t habanero vodka (aka secret ingredient)
3T sweet sherry (we had some PX left over from another party, so used that. Good move!)


Rub the skin of the sweet potatoes with oil, wrap them in foil with 4 thyme sprigs in each packet. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the 300 degree oven until the interior registers 208 degrees. The sweet potatoes should be quite soft.
Remove them from the oven, peel the sweeta potatoes into a large bowl. Beat in the butter and habanero vodka. Add the sweet sherry and beat some more. When the sweet potatoes have reached the desired consistency, transfer to vacuum bags and store in the fridge. To reheat, use the circulator set at 150 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Easier than trying to it on the stove top because you can setit and forget it..

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Squash Salad

In the summer here in Texas there is an abundance of squash - zucchini, yellow squash, crook-neck, 8-ball and a host of others. Our trip to the farmers' market on Saturday yielded some nice, firm zucchini - about 6" long each. Zucchini can be annoying to cook - all that water has to be driven off before they will brown - and then all of a sudden they are black. If you don't drive the water off, they are all limp and mushy - almost able to be sucked through a straw. Am I making them sound appetizing yet? I thought not.

Then I saw this thing advertised. It is a spiralizer. Once you get past the "gluten free" hype and stop trying to pretend that strands of zucchini are pasta, the idea is quite handy. The tool is unnecessary - at least for this dish. A good old-fashioned vegetable peeler is all you need. But the spiralizer did spark some thinking.

The secret to this dish is your choice of olive oil. It would be revolting with a neutral tasting oil. We used a California Koroneiki oil, an oil with lots of peppery notes and a silky, buttery mouth feel.

Ingredients (2 Servings)

4 medium sized zucchini
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 T capers, rinsed and drained
A few sprigs lemon thyme, leaves only chopped finely
A few glugs of high quality, peppery extra virgin olive oil. Probably 1/4 cup
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
1 avocado diced into 1/4" pieces
Crunchy sea salt for finishing


Peel the zucchini, and then slice into ribbons length wise using the vegetable peeler. Discard the core where the seeds are.
Add the tomatoes, capers, lemon thyme, olive oil and lemon juice to the zucchini slices in a bowl and toss to coat. Add the seasoning salt and pepper to taste, and toss again.
Place 1/2 the avocado onto each plate. Mound the squash salad over the avocado. Sprinkle  some coarse salt on the surfaceof the salad. Frind some pepper onto the plate to make it look interesting, serve immediately

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sous Vide corn on the cob

I have had this perpetual search for the best way to do corn on the cob. Kenji at Serious eats turned me on to an approach that turned out fantastic. It involves the vacuum sealer and the circulator. So worth it, and so easy - at least easy once you have the vacuum sealer and circulator!


2 Ears of fresh corn - shucked
2 T butter ( I used home made, cultured butter), but I suspect any would do.


Place water in a large container and set up the circulator. Heat the water to 83C (181.4F). Place the shucked corn into vacuum bags. Ad 2T butter. Vacuum seal the bags and triple seal them.
Place the bags in the water bath at 83C for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, take the bags out of the water bath. Cut open the bags and serve the corn with a little coarse salt.
Serious Eats suggests adding some flavorings to the butter in the bag - we didn't this time, but may experiment later.

Caprese Salad

Kenji at SeriousEats makes some excellent points about Caprese salad. The keys are:

  • Use really fresh tomatoes
  • Use really fresh Mozzarella (none of that supermarket pizza topping Mozz.)
  • Use really fresh basil, and tear it. (From the garden is the best)
  • No vinegar
  • Fruity olive oil
  • Coarse salt.
So I made it his way tonight. Outstanding. I hadn't previously realized what a dulling effect vinegar has. It was so fresh, so tasty this way. I think there will be a lot more in our future.


This is just crazy good. The "Watermelon Ninja" demonstrates a no-mess way of cutting up watermelon. I can't do it any more justice than simply posting a link here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pita Chips

Hardly worth writing about, one might think. But one would be wrong. You can buy some crisp, flavorless abominations in a bag - or you can make your own really simply. I tried using white and wholewheat chips. The white pita made far and away better chips. So here goes.


6 Plain white pita chips
6T olive oil
Salt to taste (about 1t)


Pre-heat oven to 350F - 325 if using wholewheat pita. Cut each pita into 6 pie-slice shaped pieces. Open up each piece so that the inside is completely exposed.
Place the pita pieces rough side upwards on a wire rack over a sheet pan. Brush each piece with a little oil and then sprinkle on some salt. Place the loaded wire rack and associated sheet pan into the middle of the oven. Bake for about 11 minutes (slightly longer for whole wheat), turning the rack around front to back (not over) about 1/2 way through.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Cover.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Coleslaw with buttermilk dressing

Now that we make all of our butter, we are often left with buttermilk to spare. Because we culture the butter, the buttermilk has a bit of a tang. Ideal for coleslaw we thought. And we were right.

Ingredients - Dressing

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup pickle juice
1 t hot sauce
2T cider vinegar
2T spicy brown mustard
salt/pepper to taste

Ingredients - Slaw

1 head green cabbage chopped into small pieces.
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced finely
3 large carrots, peeled and grated


Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients. Combine the cabbage, carrot and onion, add the dressing and toss.
Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Simple but not easy - cacio e pepe

Some good friends introduced us to the Roman dish - Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and pepper - in this case black pepper). It has very few ingredients, is simple to make but everything has to be just right. I made it this evening as a rehearsal for an event next weekend. Madame (who generally sneers at anything pasta) was blown away by this. So thank you Rocco and Judy.


2T kosher salt
6 oz bucatini - preferably extruded through bronze nozzles to get that slightly rough texture - ideal for holding sauce
1 1/2 cups Pecorino Romano - salty sheep's milk cheese
3 T butter (divided use)
1 t cracked black pepper


Bring 1 gallon of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente (this is what makes it simple but not easy). Meanwhile, melt 2 T of butter in a large skillet. Add the cracked black pepper and toast the pepper until you can just smell it. Again, simple but not easy.
Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the rest. Add the drained pasta to the butter/pepper skillet. Add all but a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, cook for a minute or so. Turn the heat down to low and add the cheese and remaining tablespoon of butter tossing quickly with tongs.
Serve in warmed bowls.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grilled Romaine and peapod salad

The back story. We have decided to grow peas this year. And much to our surprise, they have started producing. Not a lot yet, but the young, tender freshly picked peas were just demanding to be eaten. So, what to do? Peas and mint are classic. Radishes provide a spicy bite, red peppers some extra sweetness, Romaine as a base and avocado/steamed eggs for richness. It all came together remarkably easily. Grilling the romaine really helped. Technically it wasn't grilled, but griddled on the ridged side of the cast iron griddle.


1 Dozen whole young pea pods (if fresh, then no need to blanch, but blanch in hot salty water for 15 seconds if store bought)
1/3 Shallot minced very finely (yes it really is that little)
6 Radishes sliced thinly. 
A bunch of mint (probably around 20 leaves) chopped small.
1 Diced red pepper (1/4 " dice)
1 t white sugar
4 T cider vinegar
1/2 t habanero vodka (or any other hot sauce to taste)
10 T neutral oil
2 T Finishing oil (I used a high quality extra virgin olive oil
1 Avocado cut into 1/2"  pieces
1 Romaine lettuce heart split in 2 pieces lengthwise and lightly oiled and seasoned with salt/pepper on the cut side.
2 eggs steamed like this (for 6:45 instead of 6:30 to get the yolks a little firmer) and peeled like this
Pepper to taste
Coarse sea salt to finish and provide crunch


Make a vinaigrette combining the mint leaves, vinegar, sugar, both oils, hot sauce, and shallot. Leave to steep for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the vegetation.
Add the red pepper, radishes and pea podsto the vinaigrette and mix thoroughly.
Cook and cool the eggs.
Heat the griddle until it is "rocking hot". A drop of water on it will sizzle like fury. Place the romaine cut side down on the griddle surface and cook for a couple of minutes. You want a nice char on the cut surface. It will hiss and steam a bit. Turning on the vent hood would have been a great idea if I had thought of it soon enough.
Peel and dice the avocados. Slice the eggs in half.
Assemble the salad, pouring the veg laced vinaigrette onto the hot romaine hearts. Add the avocado and egg halves. A couple of grinds of pepper and a few coarse salt crystals finished it off.

Serve with a crisp, cold white wine. We served a Spier 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Asparagus and Shiitake

This recipe is (very slightly) adapted from Americas Test Kitchen. The episode was broadcast a week or so ago, and can be found here. Slight modifications included adding some of our "secret ingredient" (aka habanero vodka) for some heat and the habanero floral flavors and poached eggs for added body.. This is a simple (but not necessarily easy) dish. It only takes a few minutes, but you do have to resist the urge to fiddle with it. I don't know how critical the quantities are - I probably had more shiitake than the original recipe called for, but that was fine by me!
The poached eggs are not in the original recipe, but poached egg yolks and asparagus are such a great combination.


14 oz bunch of asparagus (no more than 1/2" diameter) cut into 1 1/2" lengths. Woody bottoms removed
6 oz Shiitake mushrooms sliced into strips the same thickness as the asparagus
1 T Neutral oil
2T Soy sauce
1T finely minced (or grated) raw ginger
2T Dry sherry
1t Habanero vodka
1T Jaggery (indian brown sugar)
1t Toasted sesame oil
2T Water
2 Eggs, poached
2 Scallions (green parts) thinly sliced on the bias for garnish.


Heat the oil in a 12" non stick saute pan over high heat until almost smoking. (Thin wisps of smoke are OK). Add the asparagus/shiitake in a single layer, turn the heat down to medium and leave to fry while you make the sauce/glaze, and start to poach the eggs.
Whisk together the soy sauce, ginger, sherry habanero vodka, sugar, sesame oil and water in a small bowl. 
When the asparagus.shiitakes have been in the pan for 2 or 3 minutes, turn them over to cook on the other side. The idea is to get a little char on the asparagus. When they are charred all over, add the sauce, stir and cook to evaporate. The steam from the liquids will finish cooking the asparagus.
Pile into bowls and serve with a poached egg on top of each bowl.
Maybe garnish with some scallions (green parts).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mixology Party

We decided that it would be fun to have a party that was themed around cocktails and food. Often hard to do because the flavors can clash. However after much conspiring with cocktail meister extraordinaire, Chris Dempsey, we came up with a menu and an approach that would work. Next trick was to find victims (I mean guests) who could be forced to try the food and drinks. Yup, we managed that too. So now we had to do it.
Chris has a portable bar, so it made setup really easy.

Photograph Courtesy of Andrea Willis

Photograph Courtesy of Jim Brewer
The cocktails were Caribbean inspired

Photograph Courtesy of Jim Brewer
so the food had to be as well.

This is the escabeche that we served with the Ginger in the Islands cocktail

Photograph Courtesy of Jim Brewer

for which this is the recipe

The little numbers on the place cards were the initial seating positions. There were 14 people at 2 tables - 1 for 10 people and the "kids table" with 4 more. To make sure that the "kids" weren't left out, we wanted to make sure they were rotated into the grown-ups table. So, each place card had a number on the inside too. At the end of the course, the guests looked at the number on the inside of the card to see their next seat. Then adjourned to the bar where Chris made the next cocktail and talked about it. We scurried in the background clearing plates/making sure glasses were clean, etc. for the new seatings.

The napkins changed colors too - each course had one of the Jamaican flag colors.

The next course was a jerk pork dish - Usain Bolt's Aunt'a recipe no less. Served with red/yellow sweet potatoes and flour/corn dumplings.

For dessert we made lemon pots au creme - but with a slight twist. We infused some star anise into the dish as well, and served the dish with pernod in small liqueur glasses and a single ice cube to get the cloudiness.

Photograph Courtesy of Andrea Willis

The basic pots au creme recipe is here - . The difference being 5 star anise pieces and rum instead of brandy. The recipe was scaled up to use a US quart of cream.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jerk Pork

This dish is, apparently, Usain Bolt's favorite. It is adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe which in turn is inspired By Usain Bolt's Aunt Lilly. It is unbelievably rich, but very tasty. I guess that the sprinter requires a lot of calories. By the time you have added dumplings and yams (well in our case sweet potatoes) you have a potentially very high Calorie course. Again this was done for a good sized group of people, so the amounts look huge. Starting with 10lbs Pork Belly. Fortunately we have a good connection (Ali Morgan at rare edibles in Dallas). She was able to source a big piece of Berkshire pork belly for us. So big that I will be using some of it to make bacon.

Ingredients (marinade)

16 green onions (trimmed, but both the white and green parts)
2 heads garlic
3 Habanero peppers
24 stalks of thyme - leaves only
8 fresh bay leaves - no stalks
2 t ground cloves
2 t ground all spice berries
1 t ground nutmeg
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup Jamaican rum
2 T honey

Ingredients (bonus flavor)

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
12 whole allspice berries
1 habanero sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup water
1 t kosher salt

Ingredients (everything else)

10 lbs pork belly. Remove some of the exterior fat, but you do want to make sure that you leave plenty. Do remove the skin if the pork still has skin on.
6 large yellow onions sliced.
12 fresh bay leaves
6 lbs sweet potatoes (mixture of yellow and red) cubed into 3/4" cubes
8 oz AP flour
3 t baking powder
pinch salt
2 oz masa harina (corn flour, usually used for making tortillas)
1 cup water (for the dumplings)
2 oz unsalted butter
oil for frying (unmeasured, but generally shallow)

Method (marinade)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If it won't blend, add a little oil. 

Method (pork)

Cut the pork into 1 12" cubes. Cover with 1/2 of the marinade and leave to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 300F. Oil a saute pan, heat the pan until you just see some wisps of smoke. and start to brown the pork. At these quantities, you will want to work in batches. It is important to get the meat browned. Better to do in 3 or 4 batches than to overcrowd. Place the browned meat into a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. With the last batch of meat, add the onions to the pan and stir, scraping the brown stuff off the bottom of the pan. Add a little salt at this stage. It helps the onions release some liquid which in turn deglazes the pan somewhat. Pick the meat pieces out and add them to the dutch oven. Continue to sweat the onions until they are soft. Add the rum and cook down. I suggest that you briefly turn the heat off, add the rum, and then turn it back on. You don't want the rum catching fire and spreading. When the rum is almost dry, add the remainder of the marinade. and 2 cups of water. Stir to combine.
Pour these contents over the browned meat in teh dutch oven. Stir well to combine. Cover and place in the oven for 3-4 hours. Check every now and again to make sure it has not dried out. It will release a lot of fat. Depending on your sensitivities, you may want to pour some of the fat off.
Meanwhile make the bonus flavoring by bringing the liquids to a boil, adding the flavorings, simmering for a few minutes and allowing to rest. Strain the liquid and discard the solids. The bonus flavorings are there to boost the flavor of the dish as it nears the end of the cooking time. This was not in the original recipe, but the long cooking time had dulled the flavors a bit, so this boosted it back up. Add the strained bonus flavors at about 30 minutes before serving
Also, about 30 minutes before serving remove the prok from the oven and crank up the heat to 400F, Bring the sweet potatoes to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain and dry. Heat the butter and a similar quantity of oil in an oven proof (not nonstick, and make sure the handle isn't plastic) saute pan. Transfer the sweet potatoes to the hot saute pan and place in the hot oven. They will take about 15-20 minutes to brown and cook through.
Make dumplings by combining the flour, masa harina, salt and baking powder together with the cup of water. You will have a sticky dough. Knead a few times, and form into a log about 1" in diameter. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Break off pieces of the dough about the size of a ping pong ball. Roll into a sphere and then flatten the ball into a disk. Boil the disks in the water for 12-15 minutes. They wil initially sink, but then float. I flip them over about 1/2 way through. They become nice and puffy.
Transfer the pork to a warmed dish - bringing as much or as little of the fat as you want. Do make sure you get the thick, tasty onions and other juices, though. Serve with the dumplings in the dish and the sweet potatoes handed separately.

Escabeche or Escoveitch

Or just pickled fish.
This is a large recipe that I haven't scaled back yet. It was a starter course for dinner for 14 people. And yes there were left overs. The fish was red snapper, procured from our local fish-monger - TJs on Oak Lawn in Dallas. I had the fishmonger fillet the fish and remove the skin and pin bones. A major time saver. The dish takes a long time to make - but is not particularly labor intensive. It has to rest, refrigerated at least overnight.


2 cups white wine vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t granulated sugar (I think raw sugar might be more interesting)
1 cup juilenned carrot
1 cup julienned daikon (not traditionally Jamaican, but was a decent substitute for chayote
1 habanero pepper sliced thinly into rings
12 allspice berries
1 large yellow (sweet) onion sliced into thin rings
Neutral oil for frying the fish.  May need to clean the pan between batches
3 1/4 lbs red snapper fillets
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup (more or less) seasoned flour (salt and black pepper seasoning)


Bring the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to the boil. Add the carrot, daikon, habanero, allspice and onion. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes and set aside over very low heat to keep warm.
Rinse the fish fillets in water to which the lime juice has been added. This helps remove some of the fishy flavors. Dry the fish, cut the fish into 3/4" pieces and dredge in the seasoned flour.
Heat the oil in a large skillet until it is shimmering. Shake excess flour off the fish, then fry the pieces until nicely browned and almost cooked through (a couple of minutes/side). If you have to work in batches, at some point the flour from previous batches will start to burn and get nasty. When that happens, pour off the browned flour and oil. Wipe the pan and re-oil/reheat.
Place the cooked fish in the container in which you wish to serve it, and pour the reserved pickled carrot and daikon over it. Make sure that the liquid covers all of the fish and the vegetables are sitting on top. Cover the dish with cling wrap and refrigerate at least overnight or up to 24 hours.
Serve garnished with a sprig or 2 of thyme.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

OTBN 2015

We hosted another "Open That Bottle Night" event on February 28. Same format as usual - we asked our friends to bring a bottle of wine, a story about it and a dish that paired with it. And as usual, the guests stepped up.
The 2015 OTBN Wines

David and Sandra demonstrated the "MollyDooker shake" and shared a delicious bottle of "Carnival of Love 2011" paired with Sandra's Salmon Creole. The wine is 100% Shiraz, hard to find and bottled with nitrogen - so it doesn't age fast. The shake releases the nitrogen and replaces some of it with air, so the wine aerates fairly quickly. Fascinating mixture of flavors - all the usual Shiraz spice, but some warm, almost chocolatey notes. Quite the experience

Stephanie and Fabian told a hilarious story about mislaying a bottle of Sbragia, calling the winery, getting a new bottle and then discovering the original in the car. That was certainly our gain, the 2009 Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon was outstanding. Paired with stuffed baby bella mushrooms - delicious.

Fred and Sarah brough a 2012 21 Gable Spier pinotage served with lamb sosaties.  Lesson learned - none of us knew that the South African pintoage (except Fred and Sarah of course!) is a cross created from the Cinsaut grape and the Pinot Noir grape in 1925. Cinsaut was known as Hermitage in South Africa - hence the name. Sosaties (or Malay hebabs) are lamb kebabs marinated with curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, bay leaves, vinegar, milk.... Then skewered with pieces of dried apricot between. Lots of mouth excitement there.

Rebecca regaled us with hilarious stories of her times in Italy - and brought a 2012 Barbera D'Alba from Bruno Giacosa. Paired with dates stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in pancetta and drizzled with truffle oil. Another winner of a pairing.

We made Guacatuna - tuna salad using creamy avocados, sweet chili, green onions, and fresh seared/rare tuna. Served on grilled home made bread, and topped with crunchy sea salt. The recipe is here. Served with the very flinty/minerally 2002 Vina Gravenia from Rioja. The wine had been shown at the TexSom conference in Dallas 5 years ago, and tasted well then. So as our last case dwindles, it seemed appropriate to share it with friends.

Before the serious event got started, we had some NV Cremant de Bourgogne from Val de Mer, and to finish a bottle of the extremely well priced Costieres de Nimes Perrieres  - a Carignan, Grenache, Syrah blend from the very southern Rhone. Some chocolates (M&Ms! and dark chocolate/pomegranate balls) went nicely too.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Devilled eggs - but the technique is important

I saw this video a couple of days ago, so immediately had to find an excuse to try it. It works as advertised (much to Madame's surprise).


4 large eggs
1 T mayonnaise
1t habanero vodka
1t sweet pickle juice
1T tarragon mustard
salt/pepper to taste


Using this approach , cook the eggs for 10 minutes. Immediately plunge into iced water. Use the technique from the video to peel the eggs (and it works flawlessly). Scoop out the cooked yolks, mix with the remaining ingredients and reintroduce to the whites. Serve cold with some grilled bread.

You can, of course, add any flavorings to the egg mixture

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Soba noodle soup

After the success of the cold soba noodle salad, madame thought it would be nice to have a soup with soba noodles in it. I figured that cooking the noodles in the soup would probably make it cloudy, so I did things separately. Using the technique that I learned from Chef McDang - make a flavorful broth quickly and then cook the chicken in it. Similar technique to this. But I didn't have any lemon grass or galangal on hand.
Madame gave this the "We can serve this to people" accolade.


4 oz Soba noodles cooked for 4 1/2 minutes, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
1/4 cup fish sauce
4 kaffir (Thai) lime leaves
1 serrano pepper cut into thin rings (more or less according to desired spiciness)
6 green onions (white and green parts used separately
1 1" piece piece of ginger chopped (no need to peel, it will be strained out)
1 medium carrot cut into 1/4" cubes
3" daikon root peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (yes this really was between the 2 of us) sliced into thin strips
Cilantro leaves to garnish


Place the water, fish sauce, lime leaves, serrano rings, green part of the green onions,
and ginger into a medium saucepot. Bring to a simmer, and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain and retain the broth.
Bring the broth to a simmer again, and add the carrot and daikon. After 30 seconds, add the sliced chicken and continue to simmer for about 3 minutes (until the chicken is cooked through).
Place some noodles in the bottom of a warmed bowl, and ladle over the chicken, broth, carrots, daikon. Garnish with some cilantro leaves.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Soba noodle salad with clams

We wanted something light for dinner this evening. Having recently had cold soba noodles as a salad at a nice restaurant, I thought it might be nice to try to reprise it. It didn't come out the same, but it was awfully good.
Here's what it looked like

The wine was a Tavel Rose.

Ingredients - Dressing

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 t toasted sesame oil
8 scallions - white and light green, sliced thinly
Juice of the core of 1 Cara Cara orange
1 t finely minced ginger
3T Rice wine vinegar
1t dry sherry
1T granulated sugar (to taste)

Method - Dressing

combine all the ingredients, taking care to keep the scallions whole. Set the dressing aside.

Ingredients - Salad

Supremed segments of a Cara Cara orange. 
4 oz soba noodles
1 carrot shaved into strips using the vegetable peeler
4T roasted peanuts
12 clams steamed open
Some lettuce leaves

Method - Salad

Cook the soba noodles in boiling, salted water for 4 1/2 minutes. Drain, rinse and allow to cool. In a non reactive bowl, combine the noodles, carrots, peanuts and the dressing.
Steam the clams until thy just open and lay them on top of the salad. They should remain slightly warm.
Serve in small bowls.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baked Patagonian Toothfish

The perennial problem with dinner parties is in trying to find dishes that can be prepared "a la minute" and still being around for guests. So in preparation for an upcoming dinner, I thought it would be fun to do a baked fish dish - perhaps with some strongish tapenade flavors. I was planning to use cod, but my fishmonger didn't have any true cod, so I used Chilean Sea Bass (aka Patagonian toothfish). You want a thick, firm white fish that can stand the heat of the oven.
Today's was practice. So the ingredients are probably a bit off. Also I cooked about 1 1/2 lbs of fish for 2 of us for a Saturday lunch. Clearly too much.

Ingredients (Tapenade)

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1T capers, rinsed
1 clove garlic chopped
1 medium shallot chopped
1t habanero vodka (I make this by steeping dried habaneros in vodka)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil. 
A small handful of parsley leaves
2 anchovy fillets
A few grinds of black pepper


Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined. There will be a few small olive chunks - you don't want a paste.

Ingredients (Fish)

2 Roma tomatoes sliced very thingy longwise.
1/2 medium yellow onion sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb firm, thick white fish. I did this in a single piece, but for the party we will do individual pieces
3T olive oil
1/2 quantity of tapenade
pepper to taste


Combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic, 1t of the oil in a mixing bowl. Leave to stand. Pat the fish dry. Oil the fish. Lightly oil a baking dish (I used a low sided enameled casserole dish).  Place the fish into the baking dish skin side down. Make a few (depending on the way you have portioned the fish) deep slits in the top surface of the fish. Spread the tapenade directly onto the fish, rubbing it into the slits. Shingle the tomatoes on top of the fish. Top with the onion/oil/garlic mixture.
Bake in a 450F oven for 20 minutes, leave to rest at least 10 more.

Note, of course the temperature of your oven, the type of dish and the thickness of the fish will factor into the timing. So watch the fish after 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chicken in Milk with butternut squash

I won't post the recipe here - but here's the link. It isn't a Chris original, I pinched it from Jamie Oliver - he deserves all the credit.

However there are a couple of caveats:

  • Do make sure that you use whole milk. 
  • The amount called for is an Imperial pint - i.e. 2 1/2 US cups
  • The garlic is a bit more harsh than I was expecting.
  • It is probably a good idea to squeeze the garlic out from its peel. The recipe calls for unpeeled. I cooked it that way, but then found that the skin was annoying. Squeeze the garlic out on to the chicken
  • Do make sure that the chicken is a snug fit. You want the milk to come above half way up the chicken
I served it with some butternut squash - done in a way I had never tried before (and yes this is mine!)


1 butternut squash - thin end cut peeled and cut into 1/4" medallions, the bulb end peeled, seeded and cut into wedges.
Light coating of oil for cast iron griddle
Salt/pepper to taste
Small pat of butter to coat the squash after fruing


Microwave the medallions for 15 minutes on 50% power - essentially cooking them through. Do the same with the wedges but for a shorter time - about 10 minutes.
Heat the griddle on medium high heat until a drop of water dances and steams. Lightly coat with oil (I used grapeseed) - don't bother with extra virgin olive oil, it is too expensive and any flavor compunds are lost at this temperature anyway.
Fry the medallions and wedges until well browned on each side (about 5 min/side). Season, toss with butter and serve.
I used these as a base to serve the chicken on. Quick, easy, delicious. Ticks all of the boxes.


Saturday, January 17, 2015


During the evening of the first of the big (fortunately not everything in Texas is bigger) earthquakes in the Dallas area, we were having dinner with some friends at FT33. Matt McAllister dropped by the table and asked how we liked the butter. It was very good, very much in the European cultured style. He mentioned that it was made in house. Of course that conversation provided the inspiration to go off and make some. Madame was away for a bit, so that seemed like the ideal time. I wanted to make sure that I had time to find a cleaning crew if it went badly. I cultured the cream using some store bought creme fraiche, but didn't culture it for long enough. The 1 quart of cream, 4 oz. of creme fraiche yielded 21 oz of butter.


1 Quart (US quart - 32 oz, 4 cups....) heavy whipping cream
4 oz creme fraiche
3/4 t kosher salt


Stir together the cream and creme fraiche. Leave in a warm place for 24 - 36 hours until the desired level of tanginess is reached. Note, I was too impatient, and the place wasn't warm enough.
Refrigerate the cream mixture until ready to make the butter.
Chill the bowl of a stand mixer. 
Pour the cream into the mixer bowl, and beat with the regular mixing paddle (not the whisk) on a medium slow speed. The cream will go through stages. After a few minutes it will have increased in volume and then thickened to the texture of whipped cream. That took about 1/2 the time - about 10 minutes. (Note that whisking cream for whipping is a much faster process). The cream volume then decreases and the cream becomes the texture of icing. All of a sudden, the cream separates into a thick fatty substance (proto-butter) and a milky liquid (traditional buttermilk). At that point the mixture sloshes about in the bowl. The buttermilk has a tendency to want to jump out of the bowl. The solids + paddle + buttermilk give much opportunity for mess making.
When the butter has reached that stage, transfer it to a fine mesh strainer, lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth. Allow the buttermilk to drain. Squeeze the solids to force more liquid out.
Rinse the solids with a lot of water (while in the cheesecloth, but don't dilute the buttermilk). Turn the butter onto a cold counter, knead it a bit by hand (it didn't show signs of melting). Flatten it, ad the salt and then knead for longer to incorporate the salt.
Form a log in parchment paper, place the log inside a plastic sealable bag and refrigerate.  

I drank the buttermilk immediately. It was fantastic. Not that acidic, slightly off flavor and disgusting texture of the stuff in a green carton.