BOTW–Double Trouble & Chilayo

First, just a reminder that Sunday, May 22, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

When I was growing up, my sister and I weren’t really allowed into the kitchen. Basically, about the only things we were allowed to do were load and unload the dishwasher and decorate Christmas cookies. Especially since the family roles were very traditional, even if I displayed some interest in cooking, men were really only allowed to grill things outdoors in our house.

Consequently, I was sent off to college with very little idea of how to feed myself. I survived the first couple years on dorm food, Ramen, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

But then I went and spent what little money I had saved on Comic Books and Records, so I had to get a job. I also needed to an apartment outside of the dorms, so I didn’t have to spend summers at home with my parents.

I really don’t remember how I ended up getting a job at Brat und Brau, I don’t think it was anything more than a random job application submission. Anyway, after they determined that I was unsuited for service work, I was assigned to the job of getting the dining room in order for lunch service, including setting up the salad bar and popping the corn.

Somehow, I parlayed this experience at Brat und Brau into a job as a prep cook in the catering department of a local deli chain.

It was there that I realized that I really enjoyed cooking. I mean at first I didn’t make anything more complicated than my typical bachelor food: fried potatoes with bacon, eggs, and cheese, but I sort of sunk into it and started to absorb the business and culture.

I’d always felt a bit like an outsider, and the people at the catering company were people I felt more comfortable with than a lot of the friends I had grown up with. They were outsiders. In the 1980s and 1990s, cooking was not yet really a reputable career, and my parents weren’t exactly thrilled with this new direction. I even tried to drop out of college my junior year and just cook, but they wouldn’t let me, “We’ve paid for your tuition this far, you WILL graduate.”

Anyway, I did eventually graduate, with a lovely and useful Bachelor of Arts in English, but as soon as I had finished college, I went into cooking full time at a local Southwestern Restaurant.

At the Southwestern restaurant, I was initially thrilled, this was really good food. Or, well, it seemed to be at the time. But then I started reading about actual Southwestern and Mexican Food, Mark Miller and Diana Kennedy were my first two big authors, and realized what we were serving was, well, not that good. A mishmash of Italian-American comfort food and Southwestern food, even though we were using decent ingredients, it bore no resemblance to any of the dishes I made from Ms. Kennedy nor even Mr. Miller.

Along with the early influences of Ms. Kennedy, Mr. Miller, and the Chinese Food Books of Nina Simonds, one of the people who has been most influential on me later in life is Alton Brown.

I always really like people who get down to the basics and demystify things that seem too complicated. Or, well, things that other people have made seem too complicated. Sure, cooking is complicated, but there are methods which allow us to understand it, and even generally end up with predictable outcomes.

I really like that he has always been on the side of demystifying food from a technical perspective, but not only that, but that he has championed American Food and Food Culture. He even seems like a sensible man.

I recently learned that Alton Brown has decided to stop producing new episodes of his Good Eats show on the Food Network, after a mere 249 segments and something like 10 years. Get sad about the end of a TV show? Especially one on the Food Network? Seems a little pathetic. But, I am. You can make fun of me now.

The first beer this week, is the Orchard White from the Bruery.

Orchard White is an unfiltered, bottle conditioned Belgian-style witbier. This hazy, straw yellow beer is spiced with coriander, citrus peel and lavender added to the boil and whirlpool. A spicy, fruity yeast strain is used to add complexity, and rolled oats are added for a silky texture.

I didn’t read the label at first, and was like, “What’s that flavor?” Put on my glasses, checked the fine print. Oh right, Lavender. Well, at 5% ABV or so, the Orchard White is easy drinking and enjoyable. Spiced Wit Beers are not generally my favorite Belgian style, but this isn’t bad, despite the Lavender, maybe on a hot day, when you’re feeling a little floral. Interestingly, I recently read that the Bruery is reorganizing its beer production and varieties, and to make room for other things in its schedule will be discontinuing the Orchard White.

Monty, however, is not impressed, with all this boring monkey talk about beer and food preparation. Until all this blah blah is over, he will be waiting on his chair at the table.

The second beer is Hops on Rye from Firehouse Brewing. I really know zilch about this beer and brewery other than a friend recommended it to us. Looks like it is brewed at a sports bar chain which has locations in East Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. The beer isn’t bad, a Rye based IPA, but I think Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye is a more, uh, elegant example of this style. Mrs. Flannestad enjoyed it more than I, it seemed just a little unpolished to me.

One of the first dishes I made from Diana Kennedy’s “Art of Mexican Cooking” was a pork stew called Chilayo. Like most Mexican dishes, there’s a bit of semi-labor intensive prep on the front end, and then its pretty easy. Preheat your oven to 300. Basically, soak some chiles in boiling water, then puree them with onions, garlic, and spices. While that is going on, cut up some pork stew meat (this was a very nice piece of Kurobota pork shoulder from Avedano’s Holly Park Market), pour warm water (or stock) over it, start it simmering. Add the pureed chiles and a half pound of quartered tomatillos. Cover and move to the oven and cook until the pork is tender. I served it with Rancho Gordo Cranberry Beans (cooked with a ham hock), Plain Brown Rice, spicy braised chard, and warm corn tortillas.

Definitely Good Eats.

Fava Beans…

To be honest, late Winter and early Spring are about my favorite time to live here in San Francisco. The rains are over, the hills are green, and there’s tons of delicious produce. It is just hard to hold too many grudges against the universe this time of year.

One of my favorite late winter treats is fresh fava beans. Though whomever discovered the best way to prepare them was ambitious. Maybe not quite as ambitious as the first person who ate an Oyster or an Artichoke, but still, they’re kind of a lot of work. Not hard work, but slightly tedious work. First you have to get the beans out of their out of their fuzzy shells.

Then you have to blanch and peel the individual beans. Put the water on for your pasta and start shelling. By the time you finish getting the beans out of their shells, the water should be boiling. Drop the shelled beans into the pasta water for a minute or two. Prepare an ice bath. Pull the beans out of the water and drop into ice bath. Now for the fun part. Using a paring knife, slit the skin of the bean opposite the stem. Squeeze the stem end of the bean and pop the meat out of the bean. It may take some practice so the bean meat does not fly across the room. Repeat until all beans are peeled. Some beer and music will be necessary.

One of my favorite fava bean dishes is pretty simple: Fava Bean Pasta with Pancetta. Put on some water for pasta. Clean the beans (see above). Chop some onion, garlic, and fresh herbs (Marjoram or Mint are nice complements to the flavor of fava beans.) Chop some fairly thickly sliced Pancetta. Sweat the pancetta until it releases its tasty fat. Remove the pancetta from the pan and raise the heat. Add the garlic and cook briefly until fragrant. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add fava beans and return the pancetta to the pan, (a little crushed red chile if you like it spicy.) Add a splash of chicken stock (if you are being strictly Italian, Water). Cover and cook until the fava beans are tender. In the meantime, cook your pasta (Note: for some reason, after blanching fava beans, your water will turn an ugly green brown. As far as I know, this is harmless.) Pull the pasta from the water and add it to fava bean mixture. Add minced herbs and toss, loosening with pasta water if necessary. Top with freshly grated parmesan. Serve with crusty bread and, of course, a nice Chianti.

Taco Tuesday Feb 22, 2011

Taco Tuesday.

An Al Pastor, Chile Rojo Chicken, and Chile Colorado taco from El Metate. Sorry about the White Balance.

We had tickets to see Justin Townes Earle this last Tuesday, so didn’t have time for any homemade tacos.

I like Mr. Justin Townes Earle, think he is a talented singer, guitar player, and song writer, but some of his “schtick” made me a tad uncomfortable.

He talked a bit about how he had been scheduled to perform at last year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, but had been unable to attend. He explained that he had ongoing problems with substance abuse and incarceration (concert crowd cheers), and that he had actually been in jail when he was supposed to be performing at Hardly Strictly. He said the problem was he liked the alcohol and the cocaine, but that once he started, he liked it just a little bit too much, starting in the shower in the morning (crowd cheers) and continuing throughout the day until somehow he always ended up in jail (crowd cheers).

Words, then, to the effect, “I’ve made it this far, and haven’t died or killed anybody. It will happen again. I don’t see a reason to change unless I kill someone, and I don’t see that happening. If you love me, get used to it.”

He then dedicated this song to, “Knowing better, but still fucking up.” (Crowd Cheers, loudly!)

Saturday Night Dinner: Feb 12, 2011

We’ve had some nice weather the last couple weekends, so Mrs. Flannestad has been lobbying for grilling.

The problem being, even with the nice weather, it still gets dark really early.

This weekend was so nice, though, that I couldn’t put it off any longer, even if I was grilling in the backyard with a flashlight.

Cut up and marinated a chicken with fresh Oregano, Garlic, Lemon Juice, Mustard, and Black Pepper.

Sliced an eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Halved some small Zucchini. Salted liberally and basted both with olive oil. Two Red Peppers.

Started the coals, I’m a huge fan of grilling over Lazzari Lump Mesquite. I start them with a chimney starter and usually have them up and going much quicker than charcoal briquettes in a starter, or with, horror, lighter fluid.

Chiffonade half a bunch of basil, minced 2 cloves garlic, teaspoon hot pimenton de la vera, splashed in olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Grilled Red Peppers until evenly charred. Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini. Chopped and tossed with seasonings.

Made a two person batch of Cous Cous with Scallions, herbs, pine nuts and currants.

Grilled Chicken.

Pretty decent meal, served with a bottle of Emtu 2007 Russian River Vineyard Pinot Noir.

When I’ve made grilled chicken for in-laws, they have sometimes asked why my chicken turns out so well and theirs is always dry.

I don’t go in for brining. I maintain the best grilled chicken is first off, quality chicken. Best to buy it whole and cut it up yourself. I usually just quarter the chicken or maybe cut it in eighths. Then you have to leave the bones in and skin on, or it will dry out too quickly. Beyond that, just mind your fire and your meat while it is on the grill.

Super-Bowl Vegetable Hot Dish

Too much meat and rich food lately, thinking of the idea of a vegetarian Cassoulet.

Improvisation leads to the following:

IMG_20110206_191106

Super-Bowl Vegetable Hot Dish

1 Cup Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman Beans
Soak for a couple hours and cook with…
3 Garlic Cloves
4 Sprigs thyme
1 Bay Leaf
Salt

1 Head Cauliflower, broken down to florets
Salt and Olive Oil
Pecans, chopped
Roast in hot oven, remove, and toss with:
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 tsp Hot Spanish Pimenton
1 TBSP Chopped Fresh Oregano
Dashes Sherry Vinegar

1 Bunch Tuscan Kale, washed, stemmed and chopped.
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped.
1 Anchovy Filet
1 tsp Tomato Paste
Red Chili Flakes
1 tsp Dry Marjoram
1 Cup Pomi Strained Tomatoes
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
Saute Garlic briefly in hot oil. Add rest of ingredients and simmer until tender.

Tree Oyster Mushrooms
Salt and Olive Oil
Roasted in a hot oven.

Crumbled Feta Cheese

Bread Crumbs

Layer ingredients in a casserole dish: Beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, kale, feta. Repeat and top with bread crumbs. Bake in 350 degree oven until browned and cooked through.

Server with Warm Pita Bread.

Bachelor Pizza and Belgian Pale Ale

Michele was out of town, so time for some boy, dog, cat fun!

Beach Walk in the morning and a Bachelor Pizza and Belgian Pale Ale (Or B.P.A.B.P.A.) Night!

Crazy Day at Fort Funston!

Surf all the way up to the trail down to the beach, hardly room for a small dog to run, and only then between larger waves. We all agreed it was the highest we had ever seen the surf.

So a tramp through the woods and field were necessary.

Cats beware!

Still a beautiful day.

Decided to make some pizza and drink this lovely Belgian Pale Ale from Ommegang. A hybrid of Belgian Ale Yeast and American style hopping.

Toppings were corn, mushrooms, bacon herbs, and feta cheese with some last of the season small tomatoes.

Monty would like some pizza, too, please!

Turned out pretty well, but I was reminded that simple crusts made of just flour, water, and yeast, turn out much better with an overnight sponge or starter. More character. As a friend put it, “otherwise they just end up tasting like they’ve been baked on a pretzel.”

When I mentioned some of the dishes I usually make when Michele is away, one of the chefs at work asked, “Are you making Jambalaya because your wife doesn’t like it?” Hm, no, Michele loves Jambalaya.

I tried to think of something that all the bachelor dinners I’ve made for myself have had in common, and all I could think of was pork. Sausage, Bacon, Loin, Chops, you name it, a bachelor dinner must contain pork.

Feeling Italian (Part 2)

As I continue to work Sunday through Friday, it has been a bit of a struggle to make my one day a week off count. Get all the errands run, get some posts written, and, most importantly, spend some quality time with Mrs. Flannestad and our dog Monty.

A while ago Michele got me a copy of David Tanis’ cookbook, “A Platter of Figs“.

I promised to make her some things from it, but after a persimmon cake which wasn’t as good as our usual recipe, I hadn’t gone back and tried anything else.

So for this Saturday night, the first we’ve had together in a while, I opted to do a whole menu.

Feeling Italian (Part 2)

Steamed Fennel with Red Pepper Oil
Roasted Quail with Grilled Raddicchio and Creamy Polenta
Italian Plum Cake

First things first, headed to the Alemany Farmers’ Market Saturday “morning”, with the hopes of finding as much of the produce as possible.

Stopped at the Tomatero Farms stand and were thrilled to find Raddicchio.

Dapple Dandy Plums (my favorites!) from Ferrari Farms.

We only found some questionable looking Fennel, so I hedged our bets with beautiful beets from Blue House Farms.

Also some Maitake Mushrooms from Far West Fungi, part of a sekrit plan to “improve” Tanis’ menu.

After some fortifying Sopes and squash blossom Quesadillas from El Huarache Loco, we headed home with our spoils.

A bit later in the afternoon, we headed up to Cortland, to Avedano’s Holly Park Market, where we perused our meat options.

No quail today, so we consoled ourselves with a whole Chicken (head on!) from Soul Food Farms.  As is usual, there was a little sticker shock with the price of a Soul Food Farms product.  “I just paid what for a whole chicken!?”  As this was our first time with this producer, we crossed our fingers that the flavor, and good feelings from supporting a small producer, would make it worth the price.

Monty and Squeaky Blue Ball (his favorite).

A nice family dog walk at Crissy Field, then back home to start cooking dinner.

Got home, Michele put on the music, while I cut up the chicken and started a simple stock with the chicken neck and back bones.

Made the Plum Cake.

Washed the beets and started them in the oven to roast.

The Fennel was indeed questionable, so decided to reprise a recent invention.

Nose to Tail Beets (or perhaps “Leaf to Root”?)

Ingredients:

1 bunch beets
2 cloves Garlic, sliced
Oregano
Thyme
chile flakes
raisins, chopped
olive oil
Chicken or Vegetable Stock.
salt

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 400.  Cut stems and leaves from beets.  Wash and clean.  Wrap in aluminum foil package, salting and adding a bit of olive oil.  Roast until tender.

Wash Beet greens and stems.  Chop stems into 1/8 inch pieces.  Slice Leaves.  Heat saute pan and add a couple tablespoons olive oil.  Add garlic slices and cook a couple.  Add Beet stems, Oregano, Thyme, salt, and Chile flakes.  Saute until tender.  Add beet leaves and splash in some stock.  Add raisins, cover, and cook until leaves are tender.  Check salt and add more if needed.

When Beets are cooked, rinse under cold water and remove outer skin. Cut into Eighths and add beets to pan with greens and stems.  Toss to mix and serve warm.

Started the Polenta. Roasted the Maitake Mushrooms.

Roasted Chicken.  One of my big issues with the recipe for the Squab was that they didn’t bother to use the fond from the roasting pan.  David! You’ve got a Pancetta and Squab fond, and you’re not going to at least make a pan sauce? Lazy!

So after the chicken was done, I started dripping based roux in roasting pan. Added the Chicken Stock I’d made. Finished pan sauce with Roasted Maitakes and some of pancetta which had been used to wrap the chicken.

Opened the wine.

Drin that bottle.

Carved the chicken and served it forth, perhaps not as beautiful as it would be at David Tanis’ house or Chez Panisse, but what can you do? I’m just a home cook! If it tastes good, I’m done.

Dinner.

And it was a really tasty chicken.  Totally worth the price, for flavor alone.  The good feeling of supporting a small producer, and happiness from making an amazingly delicious special dinner for my wife, were just icing on the cake.  An awesome Saturday night, I definitely made this one count!

Bachelor Dinner, July 23, 2010

Bachelor Dinner.

Boy, I haven’t posted a Bachelor dinner for a while!

But all the recent bachelor dinners have been Jambalaya. There’s only so many times I can post that recipe.

Recently we were visiting family in Wisconsin, and I was called upon to make Guacamole.

When I was doing that, I was reminded I haven’t made any Mexican dishes for ages.

Horror!

So for this Bachelor Dinner, I decided to dig waaaaay back into my past, and make chicken in a tomatillo sauce.  And by way back, we’re talking nearly prehistoric, late-1980s, when I first discovered Diana Kennedy’s “Art of Mexican Cooking”.  I probably made this as a dinner special when I was working as a manager at Pasqual’s in Madison, Wisconsin.

This dish, with its sweet-sour, spicy sauce, when served with corn tortillas and garnished with feta cheese and cilantro is truly one of my favorite flavor combinations. Hard to beat, and the leftovers, (should there be any,) make great enchiladas.

Chicken in a Tomatillo Sauce with Chipotle Peppers

Ingredients:
8 Pieces Chicken Leg and/or Thighs (you could also use chicken breasts, but why would you?)
2 TBSP Olive (or other) oil
1 Pound Tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 can Chipotle en Adobo
3 Cloves Garlic
1/2 White Onion, halved
2 TBSP Pepitas (hulled Pumpkin seeds) toasted and ground
Chicken Stock (maybe)
Honey or Sugar (maybe)
Salt
Cilantro, Picked and Chopped
Feta Cheese (or queso blanco)
Corn Tortillas

Method:
You can go two ways with the Tomatillos. Either poach them or roast them. If you are a traditionalist, a la Diana Kennedy, you will probably poach them. If you are a modern cook, a la Rick Bayless, you will probably roast them. Either way, you want them to be poached or roasted until they feel like little water balloons. They will probably not all reach this state at the same time, so remove them carefully from the water or oven as they cook, and add them to a blender or food processor. If you let them go too long, they will split.  Not horrible, but you’re either losing flavor into your poaching liquid or messing up your roasting pan.  No disrespect to Ms. Kennedy, I roasted them in a pre-heated cast iron pan.

If you are roasting, also include your garlic and onion in the pan. Turn as you do the tomatillos, and remove last after all the tomatillos are cooked through. Add the onion to the blender. Peel the garlic and add it to the blender. Open the can of Chiles en Adobo and grab 3-6, depending on your preference for Spiciness. Chop them roughly and add them to the blender. Add the Ground Pumpkin seeds. Pulse until well pureed. You may need to add chicken stock, if it is particularly dry (unlikely).

While the vegetables are cooking start another straight sided saute pan over medium heat. When it is hot, add the oil. Brown the Chicken on all sides and remove from the pan. Turn off the heat, but leave the oil in the pan. (It should be noted, that in traditional Mexican cooking, with its lack of oil and appropriate cookware, you would not brown the chicken.)

If your saute pan has cooled, turn the heat back on and pour the tomatillo sauce into the pan. Heat briefly and check the seasonings. If it is too tart, add some sweetener. You will need to add a fair bit of salt, as the sauce up to this point is only vegetables. Add chicken to sauce, cover, and cook at a low heat until done, turning the chicken from time to time.

When chicken is done, remove from sauce and place in warmed serving bowl. Turn the heat on the sauce up to high and reduce until the liquid level is similar to apple juice. Pour over Chicken. Garnish with Cilantro and crumbled Feta Cheese. Serve with Corn Tortillas and a side dish.

Serves 4 with a side dish.

Bachelor Dinner.

Fat Tuesday, 2010

Fat Tuesday at Chez Flannestad.

Soaking Beans

Beans and aromatics.

Cajun Triumvirate

Cajun Triumvirate.

Sangre de Toro

Rancho Gordo Sangre de Toro Beans.

Roux

Flour into hot oil.

Roux

About half way there.

Saute Veggies

Veggies into the cooked roux.

Cornbread

A nice skillet corn bread.

Fixins

Bar prepared.  How many drinks can you think of with these ingredients?

Choose Your Own Rye

Choose your own spirit for the Sazerac!

Gumbo

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo with Okra.

Beans & Greens

Beans with Collard Greens.

Anita MADE a fantastic King Cake.

I am slightly disturbed by this photo.  OK, I may not have been thorough in removing all the bouquet garni from the beans.

Guests included the lawyer, the ice cream maker, IT Manager/Musician, the artist/DJ, and the blogger/photographer/tech couple.  I dunno, sign of the times that just about everyone has a “slash” in their life’s work, but doesn’t quite have the same ring as, “Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker.”

Our new acquaintance, the ice cream maker, and I have been working on Sazerac Ice Cream.  We’re up to Iteration 4 now, and while still a work in progress, this one was the best so far.  It is tough to get enough of the Whiskey flavor and still have the ice cream freeze.  We served the Sazerac Ice Cream with Anita’s King Cake.  Mrs. Flannestad got the Baby!  Guess that means she’s making the cake next time!

BOTW–La Goudale

My super hero wife was again away last weekend, this time in LA working on a ridiculously high profile project for what she calls “The Place”.

I had an evite to a fantastic party, but was feeling like I needed a bit of downtime.

Between B.A.R. certification, friends being in town, and birthday celebrations, recent events had gotten a bit off the rails.  Too many blurry nights.  I really needed a night at home with the dog and cats to regroup.

Everything better with pork.

But I was just feeling too lazy to put together my usual bachelor dinner, a pot of jambalaya.  Fortunately, bone-in chicken breasts were on sale at Good Life.  I rubbed them with Gremolata, put a sage leaf under the skin, and draped some, (unfortunately not Boccolone,) Pancetta over the top and threw them in the convection oven at 375F.  Then I covered some potatoes with water and set them to boil.

La goudale.

La Goudale appeared this week at our local grocery.  Interestingly, the brewers claim La Goudale is based on, “…an original medieval recipe, Goudale is a historic name.”

La Goudale.

I tend to like lighter Belgian Saisons and Singles, which seem to be relatively rarely brought into this country.  Just kind of tired of overly “big” beers.  You can keep your triples and your Imperials.  Just give me something nice that goes well with food and doesn’t hit me over the head with the hammer of sweetness and alcohol.  Goudale fits into this profile, being fairly dry, not overly sweet, or particularly strong.  Initially not seeming overly complex, it did show some enjoyable subtleties of flavor as it warmed.

Mmmmm.

Pulled the breasts out when they hit 145F.  Sauteed some sliced spring onions and spinach in butter.  Drained and smashed the potatoes.  Stirred the sauteed veg into them along with some sour cream.

Dinner.

Sliced the chicken breast and served it with the potatoes.  Shoulda maybe made a pan sauce, but like I said, this was a lazy, bachelor dinner, not an impress the significant other kind of thing.