Friday, December 14, 2007


The holiday season is upon us once again, and as always we may be looking for a gift for someone special or a co-worker or boss. This is my attempt at providing some advice for the cooking oriented on the receiving end of those gifts. Some, or maybe most of the books included are from the last couple years. Only a couple are recent releases, but all are books that I value in some particular manner and feel are worthy purchases. Hopefully, you'll agree with me and if you give any as gifts, hopefully, those who receive will find some pleasure in their gift and also come away as a more informed, intelligent cook or food lover.

Eggs - by Michel Roux

The Alpha and Omega of egg cookbooks. Very beautifully photographed, amazingly delicious recipes, helpful techniques, and no shortage of egg wisdom.

The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook: Seasonal Foods, Simple Recipes and Stories from the Market and Farm - by Amelia Saltsman
Aimed at getting you out to your local farmers' markets wherever you may live. It is full of simple tasty recipes using fresh in-season, locally grown produce, as well as lots of useful information regarding learning the best way to shop farmers' markets. Great book for someone into the local food and slow food movements.

The Improvisational Cook - by Sally Schneider
Extremely well written cookbook that teaches exactly what it's named. She gives a base recipe and then several variations, as well as explaining key ingredients and techniques. This allows you to start thinking outside of the box well beyond her general variations. Great mental value. Helps with ideas for leftovers, and last minute meals based on something you have in the fridge or garden.

Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium - by Michael Jackson
The quintessential book of Belgian beers by the recently deceased, quintessential beer and whiskey writer, Michael Jackson. It's a must have for anyone who fancies themselves a beer drinker as opposed to a oenephile. Actually, anyone who considers themselves a true oenephile should also be well versed in beer. They have common beginnings and it's just recent historical swings in popularity that have created the high-brow wine movement over low-brow beer. But, times are changing and beer is back (it never left) and great hard-to-find beers are easier to procure than ever before. Belgium is quite arguably the most beer prolific country there is. They produce more interesting, finely crafted beers than any other country in the world. If you are interested in discovering beers in the slightest bit, this is a great guide for you to learn from and use as a buying guide. The beer and whiskey world, and the world in general will greatly miss the tremendous palate and easy writing style of Mr. Jackson.

The United States of Arugula - by David Kamp
A very interesting informative look at how we came to be the gourmet eaters that we are. I couldn't put it down and ripped right through it. Covers James Beard, Chez Panisse, Dean & Deluca, etc. Any true foodie would enjoy this book.

Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. - by David Wondrich
With the resurgence of the popularity of the classic cocktail, this completely informative, highly entertaining book offers 100 classic cocktails along with some new drinks that pay tribute to the original era of the cocktail. Delicious cocktails that will make you forget the tired over-sweetened frat rock trash that bars have been forcing on you for the past 2 decades. It's about time that you can want to enjoy a refined cocktail that will properly accompany your meal and have a bartender that can actually deliver it. This is for all the drinkers that recognize that a martini is made with gin and not vodka. Vodka is a product that didn't gain popularity in America till after the cold war. Let's get back to our roots and enjoy a proper cocktail made the authentic way. Let's also remember to do it with restraint, as always.

The River Cottage Meat Book - by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
This book is beautiful and a well introduced viewpoint on the respectful handling and consuming of meat. Hugh raises animals himself and the book covers the raising/production, slaughter, and packaging of meat in a earnest thoughtful manner. It makes you consider the animals and the sacrifice that they make so that you can consume their meat. It's a perfect book for someone who is a conflicted meat eater and it's a good companion cookbook to Omnivore's Dilemma. Wonderful rustic recipes and vibrant photographs.

The Silver Spoon - by Phaidon Press
Supposedly, Italy's best-selling cookbook for the last fifty years. It's also billed as the "one" cookbook that every Italian passes onto their children and an obvious gift for Italian brides. It is a mammoth volume of what seems like thousands of recipes, and everyone I've tried has been wonderful. Most recipes are simple succinct and not too time consuming. Perfect guide for preparing daily family meals. A must have for any true cooking library.

Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home - by Mario Batali
Simple, easy to grasp, yet not dumbed down classic Italian recipes by Mario Batali. Probably, my favorite of his books. I find this one a useful addition to my library. Great when I don't have a lot of time and am craving some rustic comforting Italian food. A simple Italian cookbook that's not afraid of anchovies, sardines, salt cod, chicken liver, octopus, fluke, goat, lamb, tripe, and rabbit while still providing the reader with more familiar fare like gnocchi with fresh tomatoes.

Beer and Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn't Worth Drinking (Epicurean Trilogy) - edited by Steven D. Hales, foreward by Michael C. Jackson
For beer geeks and general imbibers, a book that provides an introspective look at everything to do with beer and it's use in society. Perfect for any true beer lover. Great intro by the late whisky & beer writer, Michael Jackson. Reason enough to buy the book.

The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater - by Nigel Slater
Exactly what it's called, a year-long food diary from London Observer columnist, Nigel Slater. In a thoughtful, easy reading manner, Slater lists his meals and life happenings as well as original recipes. It's kind of a seasonal guide as well. I turn to it time and time again based on the current date to see what he was eating and how that could influence me to either cook his appropriate recipe or spark an idea for something else. All the recipes I've tried have been very good and very simple. He cooks like a normal person with a normal life and the recipes are inventive and smart; these are not high-end difficult rock star chef recipes. Funny stories, some great tips and overall very entertaining and useful.

What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers - by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page and Michael Sofronski
A simple to understand, very in-depth look at the whole rigmarole surrounding pairing food with alcohol and other liquids including water. If you have any interest in this, then get it. Enough said.

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing - by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn
I've read a good deal of literature regarding curing meats and by far I have found this to be the easiest to understand and having a large varied volume of good useful recipes. Making homemade sausage is a very rewarding endeavor if you have the guts to just do it. It's actually very simple and the results are so much better than store bought. This book is an excellent jumping off point for someone interested in trying Charcuterie, but the book also includes very difficult, time consuming recipes that require much attention. It's a real book, but because it's so well written it is an easy to understand guide to the techniques of Charcuterie.

Thai Food - by David Thompson
This is a serious comprehensive tome on Thai cooking. It's beautifully photographed and includes historical information on the Thai people, as well as detailed ingredient and technique descriptions. These are authentic, unadapted recipes, sometimes with hard to find ingredients and difficult techniques. It's pretty much the best Thai cookbook out there and it's a huge 672 pages with a gob of recipes. Thompson says it best, "This book does ask for some effort from those who follow its recipes, but I feel that it is one of my responsibilities to encourage and expand the capacities of the cook, rather than succumb to easier options. To do less would be a grave disservice to the modern cook, to those ancient cooks and to good Thai cooking."

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - by Michael Pollan
This is a must read for anyone interested in what they are putting into their bodies and the ramifications of that. My favorite book of last year. It still is shaping how I go about living and eating everyday. The book helps you to see the ramifications of every decision that you make regarding purchasing and eating choices. Pollan is an easy to read and understand author. The book is empowering and makes you a more informed human being and that's simply a good thing.

Jamie's Italy - by Jamie Oliver
The Naked Chef goes to Italy and comes up with a really worthwhile genuine slice of Italian everyday family cooking. These are original recipes for the most part based on classic Italian cooking. There was a short TV series that spawned this book and it was highly entertaining. I was excited to get the book after watching the series and I wasn't disappointed in the least. The recipes are accompanied by beautiful photography encompassing both food and Italian everyday life (along the lines of Saveur, but printed on matte paper which softens the feel of the photos.) It feels like an amazing, long, lazy summer vacation.

Everyone, best wishes for a fantastic and enjoyable holiday season.


Sunday, December 9, 2007


Last week we had some cold evenings and I had a hankering to cook something rustic and comforting. I didn't have a lot of time, so I decided to braise a smallish pork loin. I was thinking rosemary braised with white wine. (Rosemary has been working its' way more and more into my diet because I read an article regarding new studies that have found it to be good for your brain. But, until this is proven out I wouldn't go too crazy. Abnormal quantities have caused adverse reactions in some people.)

It was only my wife and I eating, so of course we weren't going to take down the whole 2.5 pounds of pork loin in one meal. Again, the question of something different to do with the leftovers. I'm not a big fan of repeating meals. I'm fine with using leftovers to make something different, but not too keen on repeating the experience. I've become a creature of variety.

I was reading Amelia Saltsman's great new book, The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook, and came upon a recipe for roasted pork sandwiches. The recipe used leftovers from another recipe in the book, Roast Pork Loin with Red Currants and Provencal Herbs. It sounded great, but I had already made my braised pork. The recipes used similar ingredients, so it seemed natural that it would work well with the sandwiches.

What sets these simple pork sandwiches apart from others is the delicious sweet-tart grape-onion relish. Amelia calls for late-season Autumn Royale grapes. She describes them in the following way, "large, almost black, and oblong, with a firm, meaty texture and deep grape taste -- from Chandler Farms and Nicholas Orchard...These are not juicy summer fruits, but spicy and dense." She also mentions that Red Flame and Thompson grapes don't work well in this recipe. The Autumn Royales grapes are seedless and ripen late season. Usually mid-September - mid-October, but may well be found in markets through December. You could also look for a couple other seedless black varieties to use, Fantasy and an Australian variety, Black Marroo. I bought mine at Whole Foods. I'm not sure which variety they were, but they were very dark, seedless, and football shaped. They had a deep grape taste, so they seemed to fit the bill.

I truly love sandwiches. I'd choose a sandwich as my last meal. Probably not this one, but regardless, this is still a great sandwich. Simple, elegant and delicious. My tendency towards variety in food went out the window with this sandwich. I made it for lunch the following two days in a row.

adapted from The Silver Spoon cookbook

2.5 pound pork loin or tri-tip pork loin
Needles from 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove crushed / smashed and minced
1/2 yellow onion chopped
2 shallots diced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white vermouth
2 - 3 dashes Peychaud's or Angostura bitters
1 tablespoon white wine vingegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Smoked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Push half of the rosemary leaves into pork and tie roast neatly with kitchen twine. Heat butter and 4 Tablespoons oil in a 6 Quart Dutch over med heat. Add pork and brown nicely on all sides. Add onion, garlic, shallot, thyme, and rosemary. Cook for a quick minute then add wine, vermouth and bitters. Cook about a minute or two till the alcohol evaporates. Then cover and simmer for about 1 and a half hours. Remove the pork and let rest for 10 minutes. Untie and carve into thick slices. Stir vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, mustard, and pepper into the cooking juices. Reduce till slightly thickened.

from The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook

Makes 2 Cups, enough for about 12 sandwiches


3 large onions (about 1 1/2 pounds total), halved
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Leaves from 5 large sprigs thyme
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups Autumn Royale grapes (about 1/2 pound on the stem)
(note: In early summer, substitute 2 pounds of apricots, halved and pitted; in late summer, use 3/4 pound figs, halved lengthwise)


Large baguette or country bread slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic cut in half
Roast pork loin slices, 3 to 4 ounces per sandwich
Stemmed watercress or arugula, preferably wild, handful per sandwich

To make the relish, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each onion half into 8 wedges. Finely chop 2 of the wedges, rinse in cold water, and set aside. On a baking sheet, toss together the remaining onion wedges, oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vinegar, thyme, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. Add the grapes and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar, toss, and return to the oven until the onions are soft with crisped edges and the grapes are browned and melting, about 30 minutes more. Let cool briefly, then hand chop or pulse in a food processor to a coarse texture. Spoon into a bowl and stir in the chopped onion. Allow to stand for 1 hour, then taste and add salt, pepper, and/orl more vinegar to yield a bright sweet-tart flavor. You should have about 2 cups. The relish will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Heat a grill to medium, or preheat a broiler. If using a baguette, cut into sandwich-sized portions and split horizontally. Brush the cut side of each bread piece generously with oil. Toast both pieces on the grill or under the broiler. Rub the oiled surface with the cut side of the garlic and lay pork slices on the oiled side of half of the bread pieces. Top each with a handful of watercress or agrugula, spread the relish on the remaining bread, close the sandwiches, and cut in half.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I've been to Belgium before and been through my fair share of beer pubs and pub snacks, but I never ran into this particular pub delicacy, Pottekeis. So, my interest was piqued when I saw it on Glorious Food & Wine. Luckily, I was going to a friend's house for a lite meal and needed to bring something along with a fantastic bottle of Avec Les Bon Voeux. Pottekeis is pretty much an open-faced cheese sandwich. Or more specifically, a stinky cheese sandwich. It's simply a mix of fromage blanc and fromage de Bruxelles. The fromage blanc was the easy part, but the fromage de Bruxelles (Brussels cheese) was something that none of my cheese shops had ever heard of. I pieced together enough info to know that it is a cow's milk cheese which is smooth and spreadable. It's strong odored, salty and sharp. With this info, my cheesemonger and I decided that a Munster from Alsace was probably as close as we could get. He had a beautiful Munster Alsace finished/washed with Gewurztraminer which was very pungent to the nose, but was actually quite mild once eaten. I am still going to hunt for the actual fromage de Bruxelles, so that I have a proper comparison, but regardless, the Pottekeis I made was very delicious.

The Avec Les Bon Voeux went perfectly with it as well. I have been waiting for Brasserie Dupont to release this year's Bon Voeux. It's probably my favorite of all beers. Dupont makes it as their Holiday beer. They originally used it as New Year's presents for their best clients, but it really stands as more than a holiday beer. It's fantastically refreshing in the summer. It's a big alcohol (9.5% abv), sharp, citrusy blonde ale, with lots of yeasty aromas as well as some wheat notes and a bit of peppery spiciness on the finish. Overall, it's a very complex Saison with some sweetness and a pleasant dryness. Bon Voeux can be hard to find, but more than worthwhile to search out. Once that I found it this month, I grabbed two cases of it to last me the year. If you can find it on draft, it is really a tremendous experience, best enjoyed with some pleasant company and some p âté and cheese.


1/2 of a Bellwether Fromage Blanc- 7.5oz - about 3.75-4 oz total.
1 Munster Alsace finished with Gewurztraminer - 4 oz
2.5 tbsps softened butter
1 large shallot finely diced
organic multigrain bread
1.5 tsp cayenne pepper
fresh cracked black pepper
sea salt
radishes sliced into 1/4" thick discs

This recipe will serve more than 4 full slices of bread.

Combine the two cheeses in a bowl and mix thoroughly till smooth. Soften the butter and then whip that in with the finely diced shallot and cayenne. Slice the multigrain or brown bread into thick slices and toast them. Spread the mixture onto the toasts, top with sliced radishes and top with freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste. Enjoy with a fine Belgian golden ale or Gueze.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I am a sucker for Pumpkin. I am a sucker for White Beans. I am a sucker for Kale. That was easy. Last week's Dining section of the NY Times had this Thanksgiving related recipe that I had to try. My wife and I are glad I did. It's a relatively simple straightforward side dish or vegetarian entrée. We ate it over a couple days as entrées.

I used a three pound Kabocha squash from our Farmer's Market and I used organic vegetable broth, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Cannellini beans from Whole Foods. I also found great dried Cranberries there. They're called, "Just Cranberries" by a really good company, Just Tomatoes, that also makes many different dried fruits and vegetables. A name not too hard to forget. The Parmigiano-Reggiano Sini Fulvi they have at Whole Foods right now is also very nice and worth a try. I had just used it last weekend in a Zuni Cafe Cookbook recipe for Bosc Pears with Fennel, Fresh Walnuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, & Balsamic Vinegar. This is also a very worthwhile endeavor and particularly suited to Thanksgiving. From the same book I'd also like to recommend the Air-Dried Beef & Fuyu Persimmons with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar. (the link is to an adaptation that uses Smoked Prosciutto instead of Bresaola) Sorry, I know I'm hooked on that book. If you don't have it, get it. You'll see.

I prepared the Ragout recipe verbatim and it was delicious as is. A great recipe that I'm sure I'll return to again this winter. Kudo's to the New York Times Dining Section. Check out their whole Thanksgiving coverage. There are a lot of gems like this Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest from last Thanksgiving.

(note: The cheese was optional in the original recipe, but I think it totally makes the dish. Therefore, I left it in as mandatory. Do as you wish.)

from the New York Times

Time: 1 1/4 hours

1 3-pound Kabocha squash, sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large leeks, cleaned and chopped, white and light green parts only
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or use 3 cups cooked white beans)
2 cups vegetable broth
3/4 pound kale, center ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese ( 1/2 cup), more to taste
1/3 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped, plus whole berries for garnish
Coarse sea salt, for garnish.
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, peel pumpkin or squash. Trim stem, then halve pumpkin or squash and scoop out seeds (save for roasting if desired). Cut flesh into 1-inch cubes.

2. Spread cubes out on a large rimmed baking sheet. In small saucepan, combine butter or canola oil, syrup, 1 teaspoon vinegar, kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until butter melts; pour mixture over squash and toss to coat evenly. Roast, tossing occasionally, until pumpkin or squash is very tender and caramelized at edges, about 30 minutes.

3. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks, garlic, rosemary and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft and not at all browned, about 15 minutes. Add beans and broth and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Stir in kale, and cheese. Simmer until kale is cooked down and very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in pumpkin or squash and chopped cranberries; season with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Garnish with additional cranberries and sea salt, and serve.

Yield: 8 to 10 side-dish servings; 6 main-course servings

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


The other morning I woke up thinking about crab. I'm sure it was the Surimi sandwich I made last week that set my subconscious mind going. If you subscribe to dream symbolism, it may just mean that I'm crabby or unable to address my own difficulties. It could also mean that I'm craving intellectual nourishment. More realistically though, it probably means I'm craving physical nourishment from the sea. Well, it so happened that we were having some people over for a night of cards. Euchre, being our card game. It's a regional game played in the Mid-West & Mid-Atlantic area that is usually attributed to being popularized by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Every now and then you'll excitedly find someone you have met is familiar with the game and it becomes an amazing bonding point and conversation igniter. Sorry for the digression. The important thing is, Euchre is a four person game. Therefore, I had to come up with something fairly simple and good for a four person group. Lucky for me I had crab on my mind and crab cakes sounded like the right call. I knew the ones I wanted to make, too. I had made them last year after reading The Wednesday Chef's posting on crab cakes where she spoke of Regina Schrambling's LA Times article on the same topic. It's so good, I thought it's worth writing about again.
Side Note: I remembered Regina's article because she takes a dig at surimi, calling it, "that crime against nature." That's not very nice, now is it, Regina?

Back to the crab cakes. I had been toying with a couple different recipes in the past and this current reading had focused my efforts. The key for me with crab cakes is that they be simple. No peppers, celery, etc. All crab and very little filler. Just thick giant luscious pieces of crab meat barely held together by some egg, panko, a little mayo and minimal spicing. You don't want a greasy bread bomb. You want a crab cake. Therefore, jumbo lump crab meat is the only real option. If you're going to make these, commit to it. It's not cheap, but it's good. These particular crab cakes go against the ancient origins of crab cakes or minces. Minces were created for economy as well as to add flavor. There isn't much economy or added flavor in these, but there is a lot of crab flavor. After all, they are called "crab" cakes. Be gentle with these crab cakes, they will not want to stay together. The key is to keep the crab pieces as whole and unbroken as possible and to chill them right after you combine them for an hour before cooking. The chilling helps them to stay together when you cook them.

I think these cakes are great served on their own with some freshly squeezed lemon or with any sauce with some creaminess and spice. I thought avocado would go well and give me the creaminess I wanted without having a mayo based sauce. Our guests we were having over had what seem to be the typical mayo aversions. They didn't need to know about the small amount in the cakes, but the sauce would have been too much. When did mayo become such a bad thing? Regardless, Regina had an Avocado-Tomatillo sauce in her article, similar to a Bobby Flay sauce I had tried before which seemed perfect for an accompanying sauce. I adapted mine from a combo of both of theirs.

adapted from Regina Schrambling
8 servings

1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
1 shallot, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (or to taste)
1/4 cup organic mayonnaise
dash or two of Tabasco or other Louisiana pepper sauce
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Pick over the crab meat to remove any cartilage, trying not to break up the chunks. In a bowl, gently toss the crab meat, shallots, parsley, panko and Old Bay. Again, try not to break up the crab.

2. Gently fold in the mayonnaise. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and tabasco. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Add the lightly beaten egg and fold just until the mixture is well combined.

3. Shape the mixture into eight fat ball-like cakes. (They will flatten slightly during cooking.) Place them on a platter or a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Drape a second sheet of wax paper over the top. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

4. In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Carefully lay the crab cakes into the butter and oil and fry until crusty and browned, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Drain quickly on paper towels. Serve hot, with a chilled sauce or fresh squeezed lemon juice.


6 - 8 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 jalapenos or serranos
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 ripe Haas avocado, halved, pitted, and flesh cut into chunks
juice of 1 lime

Preheat a broiler or grill.
1. Lightly coat the tomatillos and chiles with oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil or grill the tomatillos and chiles till blackened on all sides. When blackened and soft, coarsely chop the tomatillos and stem, seed and chop the chiles. Be careful. They will be very hot.

2. Combine the tomatillos, chiles, cilantro, onion, avocado and lime juice in a blender. Add 1/2 tsp sea salt. Purée until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Serve either warm or chilled.
Note: If the tomatillo sauce is too tart for you, try adding a little honey. But, you'll have to blend it again after adding.

We served the crab cakes with a caesar salad, fresh smoky margaritas and my wife's version of my Grandmother's apple dumplings with homemade ice cream for dessert. Delicious evening. Oh, and some champagne as an apertif.

The guys got killed by the girls in the card game, if you're interested.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Every now and then I crave Surimi. You may know it as Imitation Crab. I know it as delicious, sweet, chewy and shaped into a number of different personas. Since 2006, it's no longer known as "imitation." Now, they'll (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration) refer to it as "crab or lobster-flavored seafood, made with surimi, a fully cooked fish protein." Basically, it's heavily processed fodder fish that is low in fat and high in protein. Pretty healthy. I got into it when I was in college and looking for healthy cheap options for meals. It became a standby for me. Surimi shows up mostly in the U.S. in California Sushi Rolls, but it can be used in a myriad of dishes and sandwiches, such as the Lobster Roll I decided to make.

Surimi was created by the Japanese nearly 1000 years ago. It was perfected by a Japanese chemist in 1960 and helped to revitalize the Japanese fish industry.

Harold McGee, in his book On Food and Cooking, explains it as follows, "Surimi is made by finely mincing fish scraps (today, usually pollack), washing them, pressing them to remove the wash water, salting and seasoning the mince, shaping it, and boiling it until it solidifies. Washing the mince removes nearly everything from the muscle except the muscle fiber membranes and contracting proteins. Salting then dissolves the protein myosin out of the muscle fibers, so that when it's heated, the myosin will coagulate into a continuous, solid, elastic gel in which the other fiber materials are embedded. The result is a flavorless, colorless, homogenous matrix that can be flavored, colored, and formed to imitate nearly any seafood."

See. Easy as pie. Kind of like hot dogs. Or as McGee says, you're eating a "Matrix." Yum! For more info on the process click this link.

I used the lobster flavored surimi in chunks and broke that up a bit in a bowl. I added a diced shallot, a very small amount of organic mayo, lime juice, 1/2 a minced jalapeno, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. I didn't have a hot dog roll or brioche. I went healthy, with sprouted grain bread - though, I did butter it and grill it. Simple sandwich and simply satisfying.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I've been waiting for an appropriate reason to make a first posting for sometime now. I was hoping for something "egg" related to justify the blog's title. So, the other evening I made Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale from Judy Rodgers' fantastic, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and the opportunity for a posting revealed itself. I had some leftover ribs and cooking juice and saved it for the next morning. Judy mentions a way to use the leftovers in the ribs recipe, Eggs Baked in Restes. I tried it the next morning. It was luscious, rich and completely satisfying. The only adjustment to my leftover cooking juice was to add a bit more beef stock and some Carpano Antica Italian Red Vermouth, which I will elaborate on further below.

In regards to the Short Ribs recipe, it is really really good, but next time I will increase the proportion of beer to beef stock used and possibly a bit richer beer than the Chimay Red Label ( go for something with a tad more sugar, but definitely stay away from something too hoppy. For instance, Maredsous Brune, Bornem Dubbel or Lozen Boer Abt. ) I also did not do the mustard glaze. I just simply broiled the ribs wet with beer jus and that worked fine. Judy is very big on pre-salting meat and letting it rest overnight. Her Roast Chicken recipe which utilizes the pre-salting is close to perfection. Everyone should try it at least once.

adapted from Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Choose a shallow baking dish appropriate to the amount you are making. I used a small cast iron pan. The leftover braising liquid should be about 1/2 inch deep in the pan before eggs are added.

per serving:
~ 3/4 cup leftover braising liquid
~ 1/2 cup scraps of boned short rib meat and vegetables from the braise coarsely chopped or shredded
To correct the liquid (as needed):
A splash of beef stock and Italian Sweet Red Vermouth (Carpano Antica)

1 or 2 eggs
freshly cracked pepper
garlic clove
extra virgin olive oil
rustic bread - I used rustic French and some Flax seed flatbread

Preheat oven to 500 degrees
Reheat the braising liquid on the stovetop in your cooking dish over medium heat. Reduce heat and stir in meat scraps and vegetables. Bring to just a simmer. Reduce till the liquid is almost the consistency of maple syrup. Be careful that it doesn't become to salty from reducing too far. Thin more as needed if it is already too thick with beef stock, sweet vermouth or Chimay or other beer originally used. If too acidic, add a pinch of sugar.

Crack the eggs into the center of the pan. Barely prick the surface of the yolks to help prevent them from setting a rubbery skin. Cook on the top rack of the oven and bake for approximately 5-7 mins.

I served it right out of the pan with toasted garlic rubbed bread drizzled with grassy olive oil and black pepper.

Side Note:
Carpano Antica Formula Italian Sweet Red Vermouth
Carpano Antica is the "ancient formula" red vermouth made by Branca Italian Products. It has been hard to get in North America, but it's not too hard to track down. Branca is known more so for their popular digestif Fernet - Branca. Carpano Antica sets itself more as an apertif, but holds it's own as a digestif or dessert wine. It incorporates similar botanicals as some Bitters such as Amaros, but it is more pleasant, sweet and full. Some consider it the best of red vermouths. It's great in many cocktails, Manhattans, Negronis, and what some consider the true Martini, gin and red vermouth. I also love to use it in a tequila cocktail, La Rosita. Serious Eats has a nice article on vermouths if you would like to know more.

1.5 oz Cazadores Reposada Tequila
0.5 oz Dry Vermouth
0.5 oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Red Vermouth
0.5 oz Campari
Fill a shaker 2/3 with ice. Add the ingredients and shake several times. Strain into your favorite chilled glass.


I know some of you will be asking where the Short Rib recipe is. Well, it's in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which I think is a must have on your book shelf. I'm going to put together a post of what I consider to be the essential books for any cook's library sometime soon. Until then, I'll give you this link because I don't think it's right to post more than one recipe from a book at a time. This is a link for the Short Ribs in Chimay Ale. The only difference in how I prepared it is: I used a combination of Chimay Red Label and Beef Stock, I used white peppercorns, and I used regular cut Short Ribs I had the butcher at Whole Foods cut for me instead of the Flanken Ribs / Korean style Ribs. Also, I didn't use a slow cooker. I did it per the recipe and braised in the oven at 300 degrees for 2 & 1/4 hours.