Porkpourri

It’s funny, a lot of my friends got the Momofuku cookbook and the first thing they tried to make was the ridiculously complicated Ramen recipe.

To me, though, the first thing that stood out was the Bo Ssäm.

All you do is order a pork shoulder from your favorite butcher, say Avedano’s Holly Park Market. Make a sugar and salt rub for a pork shoulder.

Let it sit in your fridge for a day or two. I will warn you, the smell of the semi cured pork shoulder will draw neighborhood dogs. Ignore their pleading eyes and throw it in the oven at 300F.

Get the rest of your dinner in order, like a Plum Frangiapani tart from Mission Pie.

Baste the roasts every hour. Really, who needs air fresheners when you can slow roast a pork shoulder?

And something like 6 hours later, you have a delicious dinner. This was about half way.

Discussing exactly how much longer for the roast. Seemed pretty tender to the fork.

Have some friends over who know how to shuck oysters.

Get set up…

Have them teach you how to shuck.

Though you have to be careful not to stab yourself.

Get rolling on the shucking…

Have some friends over who make beer. My favorite comment of the evening: “You have no idea how hot it is watching my Jewish wife learn to shuck oysters.”

Heck, it never hurts to have a scientist around to remind you about the potential dangers of eating raw shellfish…

Unfortunately, after this things got a little greasy and somehow none of the rest of the photos turned out. Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all.

WOTW–Navarrouge

Spatchcocked Chicken, rubbed with Sage and Spring Onions.

Started Roasting some small yellow potatoes with a couple Rosemary Sprigs. When the potatoes started showing some color, I removed the Rosemary sprigs. Put the chicken on top and roasted until done.

Side dish is a spicy succotash of corn, chard leaves, chard stems, and onions. Made a pan gravy with the drippings.

Served with a bottle of Navarro Vineyard‘s delicious table wine, Navarrouge.

Saturday Night Dinner

It’s been a while since I posted a Saturday night dinner. I figure most folks read for the drinks, but this dinner was to celebrate Mrs. Flannestad’s triumphant return from her travels, so I’ll put it up.

Figs, Plouts, and Plum arranged in the pan for upside down cake.

Batter into cake pan. I based the batter on this one from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake. It was a bit of a pain to make, but quite tasty.

Cleaned Maitake Mushrooms.

Sauteed Maitake Mushrooms with shallots and herbs.

Beautiful Tigerella tomatoes from a Japanese couple at the Farmers’ Market. Thyme and Thai Basil.

Gorgeous!

Tomatoes in a Sherry vinegar and Olive Oil dressing.

Cake Landscape.

Chicken Breasts with a generous amount of sauteed Maitake Mushrooms under the skin.

I like this orzo preparation. You make it more or less like a risotto.

Roasted Chicken Breasts.

Ms. Sweetpea wants to know why I’ve been spending so much time in the kitchen instead of paying attention to her.

I’ve never been much for presentation, at least when I’m cooking at home.

Depanned upside down cake.

Sorry, this is a bit out of focus. We’d had a bit to drink (sentimental favorite, Lazy Creek Anderson Valley Pinot Noir!) and were a little tipsy by the end of the meal.

Yay! My lovely partner in crime is back home!

Fish Pie

Since we were off to some friends’ house for Cocktails & Canapes last evening, I made a pretty simple Saturday night dinner.

Salad with little tomatoes and a Sherry Vinegar Vinaigrette.

Fish Pie is one of those odd English comfort foods that really doesn’t sound all that appealing, but is in fact quite delicious. Make mashed potatoes. Boil two eggs. Poach some white fish in milk with a cut up onion, a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme. The trickiest thing here is controlling the heat on the fish poaching liquid, so you don’t over cook the fish or burn the milk. Pull the fish out of the liquid and strain it. Make a roux. Pour the warm milk into the roux, to make a bechamel and season with dry Colman’s mustard. Crumble the cooked fish into a baking pan including a little extra smoked salmon or haddock. Nestle the eggs in the fish. Pour the bechamel over the fish and eggs. Cover the whole thing with the cooked mashed potatoes. Then pop it into to the oven until the top is brown and it is warmed through.

It really is one of the whitest meals you can possibly have.

Serve with a nice white wine or hard apple cider.

I do not recommend following this dinner with copious amounts of delicious food and champagne cocktails. Especially not several Death in the Afternoon cocktails. Champagne spiked with Absinthe, not a great idea, if you want to remember the rest of your evening.

BOTW–Avant Garde Ale

This week’s beer comes from Port Brewing in San Marcos, CA.

I’m just going to to say it is a delicious beer and quote their label, as it seemed particularly meaningful to me this week:

From the French word “Garde” meaning something worth keeping, this Farmhouse Style Ale is most delicious companion to a loaf of freshly baked bread from the oven. Grab a seat on the porch, some soft cheese and a tree ripened apple from your grandmother’s old orchard. Relax and watch the evening arrive as the afternoon sun is consumed by the illuminating moon over the gardens. We brewed Avant Garde for you, our friends and families. Here’s to things worth guarding over.

Every year we buy Persimmons from the Nuns at the Mission San Jose in Fremont, and every year I make this persimmon pudding from them. I love persimmons, and this is one of my absolute favorite desserts. It used to be up on the Robert Mondavi website, but now appears to have disappeared due to reorganization, so I will put it up here for posterity.

Steamed Persimmon Pudding

Ingredients:
3 very ripe, soft persimmons (about 1 pound) stemmed
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
In blender or food processor, puree persimmons (with skins); set aside. In large mixer bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg to blend thoroughly. Into another bowl, sift the dry ingredients and mix into butter mixture alternately with milk in three additions. Mix in persimmon puree and vanilla to blend thoroughly. Generously butter a 1-quart mold. Pour batter into mold and cover tightly with a buttered lid or aluminum foil. Place a rack in a pot taller than the mold. Place the mold on rack and add enough boiling water to come halfway up side of mold. Cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil.
Steam pudding over medium heat on the top of the stove or in a preheated 325-degree oven 1 1/2 hours, checking frequently and adding boiling water to maintain correct level. Remove mold from pot to cooling rack. Remove lid; set aside mold until lukewarm. Unmold onto plate and serve warm or at room temperature.

Another favorite thing is Salmon with Aromatic Vegetables from Julia Child’s, “The Way to Cook.” It is a very easy recipe, yet is so rewarding and delicious. Lately we’ve been serving it with Quinoa with peas and spring onions.


And, oh yeah, dessert!

Chicken Saute

When I first lived on my own in college, I soon discovered I had almost no cooking skills.

At home or in the dorms, I had never so much as lifted a finger beyond making myself a sandwich from cold meat or baking some cookies. Fried potatoes with onions, eggs, and cheddar cheese were pretty much the extent of my culinary skill set. But, by this time, I was working for a caterer, learning more, and was looking for some supplemental learning materials.

So the next time I was home, I raided my Mom’s bookshelf looking for something to help me out.

I was lucky and found this book. It covered all the basics, including well illustrated knife and cooking techniques. Best of all, the author’s slightly sarcastic voice was present throughout the slim volume. I’d still recommend it to anyone as a great first cookbook.

With a few techniques and some basic recipes, I was soon able to at least make myself a hamburger or steak. Over the years, I think I have made most of the recipes in the book, from the breads to the main courses.

Random cat photo of my personal number one fan, Miss Sweetpea.

For last night’s dinner, I made one of the simple chicken sautes from Mr. Claiborne’s book. Served it with tuscan kale and a baked potato.

These aren’t the most wonderfully or evenly cut shallots. But, doing them, always reminds me of one of my happiest professional kitchen moments. I’d been pretty successful early on in my kitchen career. Ended up as the supply kitchen manager for a small chain of restaurants. But, I was drinking a lot, and not particularly happy in the job, so I quit. Ended up doing a bunch of odd jobs before going back to food service with my tail between my legs, basically starting over from the bottom. After a while of working for a local restaurant, I heard that a bunch of the more talented service and cooking staff were jumping ship to open a new Italian restaurant. It was going to be new, exciting food, with an emphasis on fresh. When they started dinner service, I interviewed to be on the staff. I have to admit I was out of my depth, at that point. I’d done catering, semi-fast food, and short order cooking, stuff like that, never anything upscale. But they liked me, I was a hard worker, and I got the job. Mostly I started in the pantry, prepping the ingredients for the chef and learning as I went. I was really lucky to work with a chef who was interested in sharing her knowledge and expertise and hold us all to the highest standards. One of the best jobs of my life.

Anyway, back to shallots, I’d been doing pantry prep for a while, and getting better at it. Learning the menu and techniques. One day the chef came by my station and picked up the shallots I’d been working on. She looked astounded and told me that they were the most perfectly cut shallots she had ever seen. Just that one casual moment of praise did so much for my confidence that I’ll never forget it.

Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto, Chicken Apple Sausages, and greens tossed with figs, blue cheese, and a raspberry-sherry vinegar vinaigrette.

Boy, the salad really turned out well!

Just mashed a bunch of raspberries in sherry vinegar and then strained through cheesecloth. Added a little sugar, a small minced clove of garlic, and a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard. Whisked in the olive oil.

Even though the figs weren’t the best (figs! such a crap shoot!), it was a great combination.

BOTW — Rogue Dead Guy Ale

The Rogue Dead Guy Ale is a good Halloween beer of the week for obvious reasons. According to the Rogue website it was originally created to celebrate the Day of the Dead and is a German-style Maibock. In practice it is a fairly sweet, malt forward strong ale. Very drinkable, though, I have to admit, after a few it gets a bit cloying for my taste.

I had planned a “Squash Fiesta” for tonight’s dinner. Unfortunately, an afternoon page had me working much of the early evening. Dinner ended up a bit disjointed and very late.

Roasting Beets.

Par roasting delicata squash.

Mmmmmm… Ribeye.

Delicata squash stuffed with Shitake mushrooms, onions, parsnips, celery, sheep milk feta, pumpkin seeds, and breadcrumbs. This was the most successful dish of the evening.

Searing the steak along with chanterelle mushrooms.

Marinated roasted beets and honey tangerines tossed with baby greens. Steak with chanterelle mushrooms. Forgot to take a picture of the finished squash dish.

Owen Roe “Sinister Hand” 2006. Another spooky offering! Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre, with the Grenache over 50%. The lighter nature of this Rhone-style blend worked very well with the meal.

Light’s Out

Mrs. Underhill came back from her trip to New York with a nasty cold.

The best thing it seemed I could do would be to make her a nice Chicken Stew.

Boiled the chicken.

Various root vegetables.

Cooked chicken removed from bones.

Mmmm… Chicken parts boiling.

Mirepoix.

I really should save that schmaltz…

Roux.

Properly cooked roux.

Diced root vegetables.

Stock goes into the roux.

Boiling Away.

Turnips, parsnips, and potatoes go in to the thickened stock.

Fresh sage.

Fresh thyme.

Diced Chicken.

Bread.

Bonny Doon Pinot.

Dinner!

Whew! Just in time for the Light’s Out!

Saturday Night’s Alright

For some reason, since trying the cocktails at the bartender’s competition, I’ve had an idea to try a cocktail which combined strawberries and the St. Germain Elderflower liqueur.

After a couple tries, we thought this one pretty good. It’s basically a riff on a classic cocktail called the “Bloodhound”. Haven’t thought of a name yet. “Bloodflower”? “Flowerhound”? I hate thinking up names.

1 1/2 oz Bombay Gin
1/2 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
dash fresh lemon juice
2 medium strawberries

Muddle strawberries in mixing tin with other ingredients. Add ice, shake well, and strain into cocktail glass.

The rest of the dinner was not particularly vegetarian friendly…

Roasted Red and Poblano peppers marinated in sherry vinegar, olive oil and herbs.

Tomatoes (from our community garden) and basil in a vinaigrette.

Niman Ranch Cowboy Steaks (Bone in Ribeye) with a brown sugar, pimenton de la vera, and porcini mushroom “rub” (based on a recipe from the Babbo Cookbook).

Steaks after some time on the grill over searing hot lump mesquite charcoal.

We got some rather nice butter lettuce at the farmers’ market this AM, and tossed it with the marinated tomatoes.

Mmmm… Steak.