# Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For the first time in years I got a chance to cook Thanksgiving dinner at my house, and it was a blast.  I tried something I don’t think I’ve ever done before, and made an entire menu out of a magazine article.  I made pretty much the whole Thanksgiving menu from the latest issue of Chow magazine, which is rapidly becoming my favorite foody rag. 

I did the “turkey two ways”, which involves removing the legs, brining the carcass, and cooking the legs separately in a confit, i.e. covered in oil in a casserole and baked.  The legs especially were a big hit, as it’s something out of the ordinary.  I’ve never tried a confit of duck before, but I think now I may give it a try some time.  I’ll also never cook a turkey without brining it again.  It came out moist and juicy, with a fabulously crispy skin. 

The stuffing was also a bit hit.  It included some Italian sausage, fresh sage, and chestnuts.  Very flavorful, and easy.

I think the biggest hit with the crowd was the corn dish, which involves heavy cream, roasted red peppers, and chevre.  Very much more interesting than the standard corn with butter, or creamed corn.  (We won’t even talk about corn souflee/hot dish.)  I also made the green beans with bacon (can’t go wrong there) and the acorn squash with red onions and currents, which I liked but didn’t go over with the crowd.  Winter squash can be a hard sell, which I don’t get, as I love it. 

In addition to the magazine recipes, I also made some sweet potatoes, which I chopped into bite-sized pieces and then tossed with some sliced banana and a few prunes in some heavy cream with a little honey, rosewater and cinnamon and then baked until tender.

We rounded out the meal with my Mom’s wonderful pumpkin cheesecake, and her (justly) famous cranberry chutney (which, sadly, is almost gone already).

The menu worked out so well I’m really thinking about trying their Cuban Christmas menu next month.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 11:19:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, November 14, 2005

This worked out really well…

I started with some baby shiitake mushrooms I happened to have (little ones about the size of button mushrooms) and some leftover corn on the cob, so I worked from there.

I got a red bell pepper, chopped it, and sauteed in olive oil until they softened up a bit, then tossed in the mushrooms, and the corn (cut from the cobs).  When that had heated up a bit, I added a box of Imagine Foods new Creamy Sweet Potato Soup, and maybe another 1/2 box of water. 

Seasoned with salt, white pepper, a little thyme, and some ground mace, which worked really nicely with the sweet potato.  I had intened to sprinkle the tops with some green onions, which would have completed the color balance, but I totally spaced it.  Next time.

It came out really well.  Just the thing for a cold and blustery night.

Monday, November 14, 2005 8:49:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 01, 2005

We’ve passed it a bunch of times, but finally decided to try the (relatively) new noodle restaurant in Sisters (OR) called Soba this weekend.  I’m glad we did.  It was great. 

They have a pan-Asian menu, including rice bowls and noodle dishes spanning pretty much all of Asia.  The kids both reported the Teriyaki chicken rice bowl to be superlative, Vikki liked the Cha Siu Ramen, and I had great luck with the Singapore Street Noodles, which were rice noodles in a light curry sauce with cha siu and shrimp. 

I can’t wait to go again and find out what “Crouching Noodle, Hidden Soup” tastes like. :-)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005 5:54:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I’m a huge fan of meat pies, but in the past I’ve had limited success.  Last weekend I finally hit the jackpot though, with (IMHO) the best chicken pot-pie I’ve yet made.

I started by melting about 4 T. of butter in an oval casserole (love my LaCruset) on the stove, then added a chopped onion and let it brown a bit.  That was followed by some celery, chopped carrots, and mushrooms.  When most of the water had cooked out of the mushrooms I threw in about 4 T. of flour, cooked briefly, and added around 3 cups of chicken broth and maybe 1/2 cup of half-and-half, and a can of peas (fresh or frozen would have been better, but that’s what I had), and leftover chopped chicken, and brought it to a boil for a bit on the stove.  I seasoned with salt to taste, some black pepper, dried sage, and a little thyme.  It looked a little thin, so I added a little cornstarch and water until it thickened a bit.

The oven, meanwhile, was pre heating to 425°.

The I whipped up a quick batch of biscuits with about 2 cups of flour, 1 t. of salt, 3–4 T. of butter (lard would have been better) and cold milk until it came together.  I dropped the dough in biscuitty shaped on top of the chicken mixture and popped the casserole in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the biscuits were well browned.

It worked out really well.  Not too runny, but not gluey, nice crunchy biscuits on top, very flavorful.  Hopefully the leftovers will work out well too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 5:53:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

This weekend I got a couple of little cans (about the size of small cat food cans) of pre-prepared Thai curry paste.  The recipe on the can said use the whole can with two cups coconut milk, et. al. for a green curry.  Great, said I, I never have enough time to make my own, so lets give it a go.  I figured that such a thing would be scaled for howlies, rather than Thais, but how wrong I was.  I made up a batch last night with tofu, Thai eggplant (the little green ones), bamboo shoots and some canned straw mushrooms. 

The flavor was fantastic, but it was so hot that even I was a bit put off, and I consider myself to be a pretty dedicated chile-head.  Wow, it was hot.  My wife found it almost inedible, and the kids wouldn’t go anywhere near it. 

Ah, well.  Now I know.  I think these may have actually been a Thai brand (I didn’t look that closely).  Taste Of Thai makes some pre-made curry paste that’s a bit more moderate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 5:44:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
Scott turned me on to Slashfood this week.  What a great site.  They just finished a whole day of pumpkin recipes, and some of them sound like real winners.  Yay for food!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005 5:39:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, October 10, 2005

Having grown up on hippy vegetarian food, I just can’t resist the allure of trashy food.  Many of the American classics that I never got to eat as a kid, I can’t pass up as an adult.  Meat loaf, biscuits and gravy, CFS (Chicken Fried Steak to the uninitiated), etc.  I even have a soft spot (as I discovered eating in the college cafeteria) for chipped beef. 

This weekend I indulged in that most sublime of all sausage-based dishes, the chili cheese dog.  There’s nothing about those that isn’t good.  It’s important to use really cheap ingredients.  I went with Tillamook Cheddar instead of the classic American, since I just can’t bear to buy that stuff, but cheap trashy hot dogs and canned chili are a must.  I’ve tried using home-made chili and good sausages, and it just didn’t do it for me. 

I remember as a kid we’d go visit my Aunt in Anaheim, where they had Der Wienerschnitzel franchises.  Best chili cheese dogs EVER.  Guaranteed to be all over the inside of the bleached white paper bag by the time you’d gotten 10 feet from the drive-in. 

In the summer when I was a kid we’d stay with our grandparents in Sacramento, and one of my Grandpa’s favorite hangouts what a place called Vick’s.  Classic diner.  Homemade shakes, all things grilled, everything came with Lay’s potato chips.  We invariably ordered these hotdog sandwiches that consisted of Oscar Meyer weiners on Wonder bread with American cheese(food) and French's mustard.  With iceberg lettuce for good measure.  The whole thing went into the grilled-cheese sandwich machine.  Ahhhhhh.  Nothin’ like it in the world. 

Quite a change from the bean spread and green onion sandwiches at home. 

Monday, October 10, 2005 6:50:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned trashy Chinese take-out place.  Unfortunately, we can’t seem to keep one in Hillsboro. 

When Vikki and I first moved out here almost 12 years ago, just about the only restaurants at all in Hillsboro were two take-out Chinese places, just down the street from our house.  They are long gone, unfortunately.  There’s a pretty good Chinese buffet place down the way, but it’s just not quite the same.  Since they focus on the buffet, the takeout choices are pretty limited. 

After a long drought, we got a new place up by the airport, but discovered last night that it, too, has gone. 

Of course, we’re kind of ruined for good by frequently visiting my Mom in Seattle, who lives quite near one of the best Chinese restaurants EVER, Snappy Dragon.  If you are ever up that way, check it out.  You’ll never look at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant the same way.

Monday, October 10, 2005 6:34:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The week before last my wife and I were at a private camping event with a bunch of our SCA friends.  Every year, one of our friends rents a forest service cabin up on the NE side of Mt. Ranier, out of Natches, WA for a week, and many people come to hang out.  This year Vikki (my wife) and I got to stay the whole week, which was very relaxing. 

One of the things we do every year is try out new and different cooking techniques, preferable things that would have been done “in period”, or as would have been done in the past, for you non-SCA wonks.  A couple of years ago we rendered lard for the first time over a fire, and this year I made beef tallow.  Vikki often makes cheese over the open fire, etc.

Many years ago one of our friends got the idea for what we’ve come to call the “Law Breakfast”.  In old Irish (brehon) law, there were laws about what different people were entitled to at meal time according to their status.  Since the woman who rents the cabin in nominally the clan chieftan, we make breakfast according to what would be entitled to a chief.  This includes things like milk, beer, butter, and “condiments”.

Our interpretation has become:

  • Cold roast chicken (easy to prepare ahead and freese, and really good for breakfast)
  • Smoked fish (also easy to prepare ahead, although this year we didn’t so there wasn’t any)
  • barley cakes (barley flour, eggs and milk, cooked like crepes) with butter and honey.  We usually try for a whole honey comb, but this year just honey.
  • Milk
  • Beer (it’s what’s for breakfast)
  • Sometimes oatmeal

It makes a great breakfast.  The barley cakes are particularly popular.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 12:02:23 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I went out to the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island last weekend, and when faced with the wealth of fabulous produce decided I must make borscht.  The had some lovely beets, and it just sounded really good.  A perfect fall soup.

Anyway, I started out with some stew beef and some ham, browning each a bit, then added an onion or two and some garlic and browned some more.  Then I tossed in a can (big one) of crushed tomatoes, since I like borscht on the tomatoey side.  I also added about two extra cans of water at that point.  Then came a carrot, and some celery.

That simmered for around an hour, until the beef was starting to get pretty tender. Then came beets, which I had previously baked until they were tender (about 1 1/4 hours at 350°) and chopped, one diced apple, and a bunch of fresh shell beans (maybe 1 1/2 cups worth).  Simmered another hour, then added salt, pepper and dill weed.

I served it with a big bowl of potato and cheese pirogi, and some sour cream.  Not only was it pretty darn tasty, but there was plenty left over for another time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 11:48:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]