Thursday, December 29, 2016

Brisket rub

We recently bought a new ceramic outdoor "grill". We have had a medium sized Big Green Egg for a while, and we also had a propane based gas grill next door to it. The propane just got to be too much of a pain, so we abandoned it and bought a Primo XL oval ceramic grill to put in its place. That means we can now do 2 whole beef briskets at a time - not that we need to very often. But at this time of the year it is necessary as we give briskets to the police, fire department, home owners' association security group, local TV stations and others. Also we do a big event on the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) where we always serve brisket and pork.

I had a half brisket left over after the pre-Christmas deliveries so I took it to work. At work there is a group of young (and therefore always hungry) developers who like nothing better than BBQ (especially free BBQ). The 7 lbs of meat disappeared in about 15 minutes. And then there was the inevitable question (by some of the non-apartment dwellers who maybe planned to smoke their own meat) what is in the rub? In my kitchen there are no secrets. So here's what I do. You may find the units a bit odd, because they are expressed in "parts" not in any specific base. A part could be a teaspoon, a tablespoon, a cup, a gallon or whatever. But please note, all these are volume measures. I didn't weigh any of them. Also this rub is very suitable for beef, but I don't use it on pork - it is far too intense for pork.

Ingredients - All By Volume

20 parts kosher salt
6 parts jaggery (indian sugar_ or dark soft brown sugar
2 parts paprika (smoked is better)
2 parts black pepper (finely ground
1 part ground cumin
1/2 part garlic powder
1/2 part onion powder
1/4 part cayenne pepper

Note: The fractional parts could be a bit confusing. I could have multiplied it out and ended up with 80 parts of kosher salt. Somehow that would have looked a bit daunting.

And no the ingredients aren't terribly precise.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

GuacaTuna Redux

A while back (in 2009) I created a dish called Guacatuna. The idea was to replace the mayonnaise in tuna salad with mashed avocado. The texture was about the same, but the flavor was better. The mango added a little behind the scenes sweetness.

A couple of weeks I improvised on the idea and combined the avocado with a little mango - keying off this dish . Another success, I am pleased to say.


8oz Fresh Tuna
2 Avocados - flesh scooped out
1 mango - peeled and diced
2 pickling onions - minced (you could use 1/2 red onion, minced if you prefer)
1/2 habanero pepper
1/4 cup olive oil (you may not need all of it. It depends on the avocado)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped finely, Save some small leaves for garnish
a few cherry tomatoes halved
Pomegranate arils for garnish
salt/pepper to taste
coarse salt for crunch
Lettuce for serving, (Butter lettuce leaves or grilled romaine)


Salt and pepper the tuna, then grill it over charcoal until the interior is light pink. Allow it to cool, and then flake into bite sized pieces.
Meanwhile, place the avocado, mango, habanero into the blender and pulse a few times. It will clog up, so thin with a little high quality olive oil. You want it to be smooth and the texture of mayonnaise.
Combine the tomatoes, cilantro, minced onion and tuna with the avocado mixture. Season the mixture to taste.
Serve on a bed of butter lettuce (or as we did with some grilled romaine). Garnish with the pomegranate and cilantro. Sprinkle a little coarse sea salt over the salad and serve immediately.
The wine that evening was the Spier Chenin Bland - which at < $10 per bottle is terrific value for a midweek supper.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Leeks, mushrooms, asparagus

I suppose this is one of those dishes where an exotic name (preferably in an obscure language) is appropriate. But I decided just to be prosaic. It's more one of those, "What do we have lying around?" kinds of dishes. It turned out well, and got the "We can serve this to people" accolade.
To get the asparagus to behave, I cooked the stem ends for a minute before adding the tips.


2T Unsalted butter
3 leeks, white and light green parts, rinsed, and chopped finely
6 oz mushrooms, sliced (We had some white and some cremini, so used both)
1 minced jalapeno pepper
12 oz fresh asparagus cut into 2" lengths
2 T Port (I would have preferred a medium dry sherry, but port was what I could find)
2T water
2 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
salt/pepper to taste
Sea salt to sprinkle for extra crunch


Melt the butter over low heat in a large skillet. Add the leeks and sweat them (adding a little salt) for 4 or 5 minutes, taking care not to brown them. Move the leeks to the edge of the pan, and place the mushrooms in the center, turning up the heat a bit. Cook the mushrooms until they have driven off most of their moisture. Combine the leeks and mushrooms, add the port and the asparagus stalks. Put the lid on the pan and steam gently for a minute or so. Add the water and the asparagus tips, steam for a further 2 minutes with the lid on the pan.
Turn off the heat and immediately add the cherry tomatoes. Stir to combine and serve.

We had this as a main course, but it would make an excellent side dish, perhaps in a warm salad, or as a bruschetta on grilled baguette slices. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mango and Avocado salad

A dinner party dish. It's all about the prep! It can be varied a bit too, depending on which accents you want. This time we used pomegranates - they are just coming back into season, it seems. Thanks Dana, for the prep.


1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into 1/3" chunks
1 shallot, finely diced
2 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into the same sized pieces as the mango
Juice of 2 limes (divided use)
1 Pomegranate (arils only)
High quality olive oil (amount varies depending on the ripeness of the fruit, but around 2T)
2 green lettuce leaves per person
1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted pistachios
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Ahead of time, prepare the mangoes, avocado, pomegranate and onion. Make sure you cover the avocado with the juice of one of the limes.
When ready to serve, combine the fruits and shallot into a bowl and add the juice of 1/2 the second lime. Add 1T of olive oil and taste - checking for consistency.  You may need more, so check carefully.
To plate, lay 2 lettuce leaves on the salad plate, spoon the salad mixture onto the leaves, sprinkle a little more olive oil over the dish, then top with the pistachios and add some coarse sea salt (for crunch). Grate a little pepper on each plate, and serve immediately. 

Lamb Shoulder Chops - Sous Vide and Grilled

It was dinner event time. We had a menu comprising an avocado/mango/pomegranate salad, lamb shoulder chops with salt baked potatoes, roasted tomatoes and roasted cauliflower. This was followed with lemon pots de creme.

This post is about the lamb chops. Shoulder chops are a bit awkward. The bones run in odd directions, but the flavor is fantastic. They can be a bit tough, so our old friends yogurt and sous-vide cooking come to the rescue.


2 cups plain yogurt
20 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
2t coriander seeds, lightly crushed
20 cardamom pods - seeds only, lightly crushed
5 inch piece of lemon grass - bruised
1t Szechuan pepper - bruised
3 cloves garlic, crushed
12 lamb shoulder chops (about 8lb)


Combine the yogurt and spices in a small jug. Put the lam chops in vacuum bags (I used 3 bags, each with 4 chops). Divide the yogurt mixture evenly among the bags, Extract the air from the bags, and leave until ready
Set up the water circulator and water bath to a temperature of 134F (57C) and immerse the bagged chops for 4+ hours. This temperature get the chops to medium rare+. Shoulder meat needs to be a little more cooked than the tender lollipop chops.
The chops are finished on the grill. 
Heat the grill (we used the Big Green Egg) to a high temperature. Open the vacuum bags, and while still warm, pat the meat dry. Place the meat on the grill to brown - and get some slightly smoky flavor. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Shore Dinner

This recipe is adapted from a brilliant idea that we saw on an America's Test Kitchen episode. Prep time is minimal (10 minutes if you are moving slowly). Cook time is short (20-25 minutes) and the results are outstanding. You do need a tall, skinny stock pot, however. It needs to be skinny so the steam can permeate easily all the way through. Ours is an 8qt - sometimes called a pasta pot. Yes there is no liquid added.


1lb Kilebasa sausage - cut into 1/2" thick rounds
2 lbs mussels
3 lbs little-neck clams
2 lbs small red potatoes cut into 1" pieces
6 ears corn, outer leaves trimmed and cut in halves
salt/pepper as needed


Place the kielbasa rounds in a single layer in the bottom of the cold pot. Wrap the mussels and clams in cheesecloth, and tie to make a bag. It makes then easier to remove when all is done. Put the cheesecloth bag on top of the kielbasa. Put the potatoes on top of the bag of mussels/clams. Put the corn halves on next. 

Cover the pot with its own lid. Place the pot on medium heat and cook for about 25 minutes. Check the doneness of the potatoes at about 22 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked the dish is ready. 
To serve, place the corn on a large platter, and then spread the potatoes, shellfish and sausage all around. Strain the liquid to remove any grit and serve separately.

We served it with a Spier Sauvignon Blanc, and home made, crusty bread.

This dish works because the hot air rising from the browning of the sausage hits the shellfish causing them to open slightly and drop their liquid. The liquid turns to steam cooking the potatoes and corn.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Watermelon and Halloumi

We did a Mediterranean themed party, so who better to turn to for inspiration than Michael Symon. So while this is actually using a Cypriot cheese, it fit the bill nicely.  It is a pretty simple recipe, but it tasted outstanding. None left :-(

Refreshing, tangy, tasty and pretty. You can find the original here. I didn't change it up much.


1 small shallot, minced
1 medium clove garlic mashed
kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 T honey
1/2 cup high quality, extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 T chopped mint
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
24 x 1" diameter 3/8" thick rounds cut from the core of a seedless watermelon
24 x 1" diameter 3/8 thick rounds of halloumi
2T vegetable oil
Rice flour/water slurry to coat the halloumi


Mash the garlic with a little salt to make a paste. Place the shallot and garlic in a bowl. Add the vinegar and honey, Mix well. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the almonds and mint, stir well.
Place the watermelon rounds in a single layer in the bottom of an 8x13 non reactive dish. Pour the mixed dressing over the watermelon. Allow to rest for at least an hour and up to 3.hours.
Coat the individual halloumi rounds with a little rice flour slurry. Heat up a cast iron pan over medium heat with the 2T of vegetable oil. Test temperature of pan with a few drops of water.
When hot enough, place the halloumi on the pan in a single layer. When you have laid out the last round, the first round will be ready to flip.
Once the halloumi rounds are cooked, remove from pan and place on top of the watermelon, serve immediately

Monday, April 11, 2016


Rhubarb doesn't get as much visibility as it should here in Dallas, TX. When buying some yesterday I was asked by the cashier at the supermarket if it was like celery... But I digress.

It is a delicious stalk that needs very little attention - making it a great ingredient for smoothies, and pies - or for just plain snacking. And it is really simple to prepare.


2 1/2 lb Rhubarb, top and tailed, cut into 1" lengths
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar.


Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a non-reactive sauce pan. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until some of the juice has rendered out. Turn the heat down to low, put the lid on the pan and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes - until the rhubarb has softened.


Smoothie - equal volumes of chilled, prepared rhubarb (see above), Greek yogurt and ice. Blend until smooth. Add some strawberries if you want extra flavors

Pie filling - use the prepared rhubarb as a filling for a double crust pie or a simple crumble (crisp).

Eat out of hand. The sweet/tart taste of rhubarb makes a delicious snack on its own

Make a sauce to accompany pork. Perhaps add a dried plum to the prpared rhubarb, heat gently and puree.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Duck Salad

Madame and I were too lazy to go to the store - or even anywhere last Sunday. So fridge and freezer diving we went. What did we find?

Some left over frozen (raw) duck breasts, mushrooms, scallions, lettuce, avocados and oranges. Easy - let's make some pan fried duck with an orange/mushroom sauce that will serve as a dressing over the lettuce leaves. Served with a ZD 2001 merlot and we were in heaven. Sadly the 2001 ZD merlot is not easily available. They only made 1470 cases of it. We were lucky to find a bottle or too.

I would have preferred it if the duck breasts had had some fat on them, but beggars cannot be choosers. We made do!


3 T vegetable oil (divided use)
2 duck breasts - skin and fat removed, lightly seasoned with salt on both sides
Segments of 2 oranges
5 scallions, white and green parts only, sliced into 1/4" pieces
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced - about 6 slices per mushroom
1 avocado, diced 
a handful of lettuce leaves, torn
salt and pepper to taste


Heat 1 T of oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add the duck breasts and leave undisturbed for about a minute and a half - essentially until they release from the pan. Turn them over and repeat. Set the duck breasts aside.
Add the remaining oil to the hot pan, followed by the scallions and mushrooms. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for a few minutes - until the mushrooms have wilted. Add the orange segments and any juice, return the duck breasts to warm up.
To serve, make a pile of lettuce n the plate. Pour over the pan juices. Slice the duck breasts thinly, mound on the lettuce and add the mushroom/scallion/orange pieces. Decorate with diced avocado. Grind a little black pepper over the dish.

Voila - about 25 minutes start to finish. It got the "We can serve this to people" accolade. Amazing what can be done with weird looking stuff in fridge and freezer. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cooking with Kenji

Serious Eats/The Food Lab is one of my favorite sites to visit. Kenji applies scientific principles to experimentation with food. He went to MIT, so not surprising that he has a scientific bent.

There of us (all Chris's) went to a cooking demo/book signing at a local Central Market a couple of weeks back. It was all about breakfast. Some amazing hints, an entertaining lecture and delicious food. Too much to get into in detail (hint, buy the book), but now having seen his personality and approach I find the book even easier to comprehend.

The one thing I will mention is the mayonnaise. None of the drizzle slowly while whisking stuff. No use the stick blender and a tall container. Eggs/water/acid in the bottom, oil on top. Put in the stick, blend for about 20 seconds. Voila mayonnaise. One piece of great advice about the oil. Use a relatively neutral oil at the beginning. If you plan to add a fruity olive oil, then add it at the end and whisk it in by hand.

One of the Chris's had brought back some oil from Nice after a business trip. So of course we had to add that into the mayonnaise. Oh my.

We made some of the mayonnaise with a finely chopped garlic clove blended in. Served as a dip with some naan split open, drizzled with oil, sumac, and salt, toasted for 10 minutes in a 350 oven.

We also used the same garlic mayonnaise as a base for poached eggs on toast. Kenji also taught us an outstanding way to poach eggs. So, home made bread, garlic mayonnaise with poached eggs for supper on a Sunday. It doesn't get a lot better than that.

OTBN 2016

I have posted about Open That Bottle Night before. It was an idea started at the Wall Street Journal several years ago. The idea being that yu share special bottles of wine with friends, tell stories, eat and drink too much (sometimes) and generally have a fun time.
This year we had 11 people - including a special guest, Heather, who had been interning and taking classes in Europe last year. Having her tell us about her experiences working in all aspects of the trade in Burgundy was a real treat.
As usual, the wines were varied. The foods were delicious. The pairings very good and the stories even better. Of course there was drama too. Heather had a difficult afternoon, Cathy had had food poisoning earlier in the week, Chris F had been delayed with his mother in law. All in al it was amazing it all came together.
I had taken a class earlier in the week with Kenji from The Food Lab. He had demonstrated making mayonnaise using the stick blender. So of course I had to try it. Garlic mayonnaise on naan chips served with (of all things!) Cupcake prosecco and a  Cremant de Bourgogne. Heather had brought some creme de cassis from Dijon, so some had kir royales...But I digress.
OTBN 2016 wines

First Course

Chuck and Jeanine are from Louisiana and made an oyster stew/soup (still not sure what to call it - except fantastic). Oysters, artichokes in a creamy broth. And with it, something unusual. A white Chateau Neuf du Pape - Chateau La Nerthe. Mostly Roussane it had a wonderful crispness that cut through the richness of the soup. A terrific way to start the evening. Chuck and Jeanine had spent time in Chateau Neus du Pape and the neighboring town of Orange -where there is an outstanding Roman Theater.

Second Course

Scott and April brought their favorite Sushi - from Gui in Dallas. It is a special tuna roll that the owner makes up for them specially. We complemented it with the Chateau La Nerthe from the previous course - saving their wine for a later time. 

Third Course

Heather made a traditional Burgundian duck confit, served with a cassis sauce and duck fat roasted potatoes. While living in Beaune she befriended a local wine store and brought back some of the Morey-Saint-Denis for us all to try. An oysyanding pairing and some lovely stories from Heather about her time in Beaune.

Fourth Course

Chris and Erin made a Boeuf a la Bourgignon that was another hit. We ate well this evening. It had a lovely silkiness to it - lots of rich stock and a bottle of the Chateau de Beucastel in the dish, and another to taste with it. Another wonderful pairing. The wine had just enough tannin to cut into the richness and meatiness of the dish. Perfect balance. 

Fifth Course

We had decided on a cheese course. At Christmas last year two French colleagues (France and Benoit from the Franche-Comte region of France) had introduced us to Macvin du Jura as a pairing with Vacherin Mont d'Or. Macvin is a "vin de liqueur" - a drink made by adding a pomace brandy (or marc) to unfermented grape juice. It is quite oxidized and earthy. So pairing with the rich cheese was outstanding. We couldn't find another Vacherin, but we were able to find a Jasper Hill Farms Winnimere cheese instead. We pusched thinly sliced garlic into it, poured some of the Chareau d'Arlay macvin into it and baked it. Served with baguettes.


Scott and April brought a delicious Del Dotto Cabernet Sauvignon for us just to roll around in our mouths. Oh my what a delicious, big, rich cab with amazing fruit and structure. We sipped that while letting everything else settle prior to dessert


Cathy and Nacy brought some delicious chocolate mousse cakes and something new to me. The Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir from  the Russian River Valley. For me it was fascinating to have had the very traditional Morey-Saint-Denis from Burgundy and the very much more fruit forward, powerful Belle Glos. Entirely different expressions of the grape, but both absolutely delicious in their own way.


This is probably the first time that Cupcake has ever been served in such exalted company. It was a fun evening with everyone telling their stories, laughing and generally letting their hair down. Each year we do one of these - with different people we are reminded what a great time can be had with everyone telling stories, bringing interesting wines and lovely food. Thanks to all who came.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Israeli CousCous Salad

This dish is adapted from something we saw on America's test kitchen. We tried it with the usual tweak here and there. Took it to a party and it was pronounced very good. For a change, the ingredients are measured by volume.
The recipe is a bit fiddly with lots of steps, but well worth it.


3T olive oil
2 Cups Israeli Couscous
2 1/2 cups water
2 Shallots sliced finely
1/3 Cup red wine vinegar
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1 t Dijon mustard
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
4T Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 bunches of aarugula (rocket). Not terribly precise I am sorry to say
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
5 oz crumbled Feta
1 pomegranate - arils only
6 oz chopped, toasted pistachios
Coarse sea salt to taste


Place the 3T olive oil and the couscous into a cold pan. Heat on medium until the coucous is lightly toasted.  Immediately add the water, stir and put the lid on. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes (could be a minute or 2 more or less) until the water has dissolved. Turn the heat off and leave covered for a few minutes
Combine the vinegar, sugar and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and leave until cool
Meanwhile make a dressing by combining the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and mustard in a large bowl.
When the couscous is cooked, lay out in a single layer on a sheet pan until completely cooled.
Wash the arugula and mint, remove the arugula stems. Place the couscous into the bowl with the dressing. Add the strained, pickled shallot. Toss quickly. Add the arugula and mint, toss again. Add the peas and pomegranate and toss again. Finally add the feta cheese and pistachios. Toss one final time. Shake some coarse sea salt over the salad and combine.
Serve after resting for a few mintes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

khachapuri - First attempt

A facebook friend had been traveling in Georgia (the country, not the US state) and mentioned that he had had a fabulous dish - called khachapuri. He suggested that I try making it. He knows that I am a sometime baker and so would relish the challenge.

This is the finished dish..

A small loaf of bread filled with gooey cheese and an egg baked in the hole. He was right, it is delicious - and pretty easy. The dough is a bit soft and wet, so it is tricky to handle, however.

Ingredients - Bread

1 t yeast
pinch of sugar
70 ml luke warm water
70 ml luke warm whole milk
15 ml olive oil
200 gm bread flour
5 gm kosher salt

Ingredients - Filling

200 gm queso fresco (or other soft crumbly cheese)
50 gm fresh goat cheese
a little milk to make the texture a paste
2 large eggs


This bread has a lot of yeast for the amount of flour, so it has a tendency to rise very quickly. I retarded mine by keeping it in the fridge. Partly because we didn't eat it the day we expected to. It had to sit for 24 hours longer than anticipated.

Dissolve the sugar in the milk/water and add the yeast. Allow to become foamy - about 10 minutes

Mix in the flour, oil and salt and knead for about 5 minutes by hand. You may find you need to add a little more flour to stop it being too sticky.

Allow to rise until about double original volume. This is largely a temperature thing. If you do it in the fridge at 37F (2C) it takes about 24 hours.

When ready to bake, set a pizza stone (or upside down baking sheet) in the oven and preheat to 500F - yes it really is that hot. Allow to heat for at least 45 minutes.

Make the cheese mixture by creaming the cheeses - adding a little milk if necessary.

Shape the dough into 2 equal sized balls and roll each out until it is 10 inches (25cm) in diameter. I did it on parchment (greaseproof) paper.

Put 1/4 of the filling on the first round, leaving a margin of about 1" (2.5 cm) all the way around.

Roll one side of the circle towards the center. You want to stop about an inch (2.5 cm) before the center. Roll from the other side so you have a center channel. Twist the ends to make small knobs. 

You will have made little boats.

Divide the rest of the cheese mixture between the boats

Repeat with the other round.

Bake the boats on the pizza stone or baking sheet for 15 minutes. The cheese mixture will be all bubbly and gooey.

After 15 minutes, crack an egg into each boat - you may need to poke the filling first to make room for the egg. Return to the oven and bake for 4:30 - until the white is set, but the yolk is still runny.

Serve with a green salad - and in our case a glass of pinot noir. I would imagine that a really nice 
Belgian Trippel would go well.