Monday, September 27, 2010

An under-appreciated cuisine...

"Die Kochkunst ist wie die Musik dazu angetan, Freude zu bereiten und den Menschen über sorgenvolle Zeiten hinwegzuhelfen".
"The art of cooking, like music, is meant to give pleasure and to tide people over troublesome times."
           Nika Standen Hazelton.

(Hungrily thinking and salivating on my keyboard).
Tackle a dish from another culture...which one? Not French or Italian. So many...I love my Scandinavian cooking, but thats too familiar. Irish? Delicious, but still to familiar, I want a challenge. Something I love, but don't cook to often...German! That's it!

German food, I think, is truly an under-appreciated cuisine. With such a robust history and landscape, German cuisine is both complex and elegant, with it's cuisine basically changing somewhat based on geographical location. From the cool northern style, taking cues from its Scandinavian neighbors. The Central style that is rich, filling, and doesn't hesitate to use good food as an excuse to drink (the traditional Westphalian peasant breakfast wouldn't be complete without schnaps...prost!). The southern style in the Rhineland, is much lighter and relatively simple and casual.

I wanted to recreate a classic German dish that may not be that well known in the States.
Hammel Koteletten mit Zwiebelsosse, or Lamb chops in onion sauce.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Dry the Lamb chops with a paper towel (I like three to four per person) season with salt and pepper. In a heavy skillet large enough to hold the chops (or work in batches), melt some lard or oil over high heat. Brown the chops, and transfer to a casserole dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Turn down the heat to medium Drain the fat in the pan and add some butter, when the butter stops making noise add one large finely chopped onion. Cook until soft and caramelized. Stir in a little flour and mix well. Then while stirring, slowly add a cup of heavy cream. Reduce a bit until the sauce is smooth and thick. Add some nutmeg and taste, re-seasoning if necessary. Strain out the onions and return the sauce to the pan.Add about 1/4 pound finely diced smoked ham to the sauce and stir to incorporate. Carefully pour the sauce over the chops and bake for about thirteen to fifteen minutes, or until you think your chops are done...don't overcook them it would be a travesty.
Serve this with whatever you long as you serve it with potatoes and bier!
This was to be my Challenge #2 post for the Project food blog challenge... unfortunately my computer has been freaking out the past couple of days and I wasn't able to post this until too late...damn, thats life.
Good luck to all of you...this is the Gastronome signing out... ... ...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My last supper

What makes a food blogger? What makes a foodie? One way I have used to find out more about new foodie friends is to ask them about there last supper.

Have you ever sat around the table with friends or family after a long drawn out meal and played "my last supper"? I have asked this question many of times to my professional Chef and Foodie friends alike. The answers are usually very interesting, and always make you hungry.Sometimes the answers are a little shocking, vegetarians talking about roast suckling pig or whole roasted joints of beef or lamb. People with food allergies going out with a bang, and having Thai Peanut satay that would usually put them in the hospital or worse...a last supper indeed!

My story has changed here and there depending on my current cravings, tastes, and the season. But those of you who know me, would know that there will always be and abundance of bacon and pork in general (seriously life without pork...would it be worth living?).I think if it really came down to it and I had my say, I would let gluttony kill me. Not a bad way to go I don't think. Doing what you love most and eating yourself to death. Of coarse I would hope to fall into a food coma before I exploded from the massive food consumption, or before the meat sweats set in. Either way it would be better than the guillotine.

I couldn't have just a last meal, I would need a whole day devoted to eating everything I've ever truly loved or haven't yet had the chance to indulge in; and for those of you who do not know me personally, I really do eat like a hobbit. I've been called a giant hobbit many of times, which I take as a complement... ... On to the feast!

I would awake early in the morning just as the sun is rising, the warmth of the sun on my face and the smell of Coffee and freshly baked banana bread in the air. I would sit at my porch table lazily listening to the birds chirp and feeling the cool breeze against my neck as I wake up sipping my coffee and covering the bread with a good smear of homemade butter.As I'm eating my second breakfast will be cooking. A perfect breakfast of Duroc bacon, scrambled eggs with toast, and perhaps some gravad lox…along with one of my sourdough waffles and a pint of Guinness.
For Elevenses I will have a bowl of strawberries freshly picked from my garden and drizzled with lavender honey and washed down with a couple flutes of Champagne, Krug 1947 (if anyone has a bottle, let’s do lunch).For lunch, a single one inch thick bone-in Berkshire pork chop simply pan fried with salt and pepper (you shouldn't mess with perfection), and a raw Gravenstein apple sliced thinly. I would drink a goblet of Westvleteren 12 Trappist ale. Additionally I would love some fried pickled herring and Skåne aquavit.
For tea, I would have a cuppa from the joy of coffee in Dublin (don’t let the name fool you, some of the best teas I've had were found here, a must for lovers of the leaf), and a madaline or three.

On to dinner, or what shall hereby be know as…the feast of death!
With my guests gathered around the table we will start with caviar, sea urchin and vodka (to get the juices flowing), followed by Kumamoto oysters, fugu sashimi (being my last meal, now would be a good time to try it) with either a sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, or a dry German Riesling.
Next a braised pig cheek and boudin noir, aside a creamy potatoes gratin, with an arugula salad and a Russian river valley pinot noir.Lastly before desert, roasted bone marrow with fleur de gris, dandelion, parsley and sourdough with a Château d'Yquem sauternes. Now if I haven’t yet passed out from the consumption of food, and all the booze! I shall have a slice of apple pie à la mode and one last glass of the oldest Irish whiskey I can find.

Looking back I don’t think I will have over eaten, nor will I have over drunk. I will have had just enough to place myself contently in a box…now just one more cup of coffee before I go.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Porktastic day, Part two: crispity clouds of porkaliciousness.

Snack Time!
Chicharrones, for a simple pork fix there is nothing better...except for maybe bacon. Nothing like some deep fried pork skin and an ale to sustain you until dinner, and nobody makes them better than 4505 Meat's Ryan Farr. These crispity clouds of porkaliciousness are a textural miracle, they are crunchy yet melt in your mouth like only chicharrones can. They are subtley spicy and sweet without taking away from the delicate porky flavor.
I paired the chicharrones with a Rogue's Somer orange honey Ale, which was a great idea! The unfiltered sweet wheat and malt character of this ale went wonderfuly with the pork and the orange peel and chamomile lent a refreshing herbal note to cleanse the palate.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Porktastic day, Part one: The Fatted Calf.

The glory that is The Fatted Calf, if you haven't been lucky enough to visit this temple of meat and all things cured and holy...its time to go! 
The Fatted Calf offers a variety of Meaty goods, Sausages, Pâtés, Confits, Salumi, and weekly specials. 
They are an artisan Charcuterie shop that does it right, using natural, organic and hormone free meats. Everything is done is small batches by hand. I know this because this is the first place I learned to break down a pig, working along the side of Taylor Boetticher, Charcuterie/ Butcher ninja master and great teacher.

For lunch I had the Pork Pastrami Sandwich. A tasty little thing with a fresh and crunchy cabbage slaw, a zingy grain mustard sauce and a well made rustic bread. A must try. 
On a side note if you haven't had the Porchetta Sandwich, you gotta get one...or two of those!

Stay tuned next time for crispity clouds of porkaliciousness...

Fatted Calf
The Oxbow Public Market
644 C First Street
Napa, CA 94559

Friday, July 30, 2010

Risotto & homemade stock...

First things first, all risottos made at home should be made with a homemade stock. There is no reason not to have some homemade stock on hand if your a truly serious cook. I'm not saying that bought stock is necessarily bad...its just not as good. 
Homemade stock is the easiest thing in the world to make as long as your making something else that involves bones (unless your a vegetarian...then use veg). I made ribs the other night and decided to go with the age old culinary trick of boiling my ribs before throwing them on the grill. This was a thought out tactic, because when you through in pork and bones into water it yields a delicious stock; as long as you add a few extra ingredients that you should already have in your pantry and fridge. 
Chop an onion, a couple of carrots and some celery, toss them into the water. Add a couple of Bay leaves and some spices of your choice and your golden. Let the stock simmer and reduce, then your left with a very simple and tasty stock, where before you just had water that you would have thrown out anyway. 
(I hope I don't sound too snarky, I'm a bit tired and even the thought of throwing out water that could have been utilized makes me grumpy at the moment).
Cremini mushroom and Bacon risotto: 
This is one of the best risottos I've had in a while; we all know how to make risotto so I'm not going to go into detail on how to make a proper risotto, I'm just going to give you the ingredients I used.
Carnaroli rice (feel free to use vialone nano or arborio, there just as good)
White wine (I used a Sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand)
Cremini mushrooms
Local Bacon (Black Pig Meat Co.)
Shallots (sautéed in bacon fat...of coarse)
Parmagiano Sarvecchio (you can use Parmagiano Reggiano or other hard cheese)
Homemade will make some right?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Humboldt Fog & Turophilia

The enigma that is Humboldt Fog. This hand crafted artisan goat cheese from Cypress grove Chevre, is both soft and slightly crumbly, ripened yet incredibly fresh tasting and looks like a slice of cake...but is of coarse cheese.
Humboldt Fog has a beautiful ribbon of vegetable ash that runs through the middle and along the edges. A delicate softness reminiscent of a cream cheese and flavors that are subtly nutty and delightfully tangy. This cheese is Cypress groves signature cheese and has won several awards, including first place in the American Cheese Societies prestigious competition.
Try serving Humboldt Fog with Apples, honey, cashews and thin crackers. Or in late Autumn after foraging from a mushroom harvest with sautéed wild mushrooms, crusty bread, cured meats and a tart fruit spread like Lingon berries or lemon curd.
Turophiliacs  (lovers of cheese) check out there website for more information on this and other Cypress grove Chevre.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Endless Journey

Have you ever really tried to figure yourself out? It can get complicated, especially as most of us are continually evolving in many different ways. We are always learning, and therefore finding out new things about ourselves. I've been on what is inevitably an endless journey to find myself and figure out once and for all what I really want to do with my life.
One thing that always comes back to me, always, is food. Food sustains us and nourishes us. It is the centerpiece of all our social gatherings. The one thing that all humans have in common is we like to eat. Some of us love to eat more than others, and therefore find that we also love to cook... so we can eat more. We love to cook so much and want to share all we cook with everyone, so we get this crazy idea that we want to start writing about food too! I once wrote that food consumes my time as much as I consume food itself (which is a lot).
So we are continuously eating, cooking, writing and truly learning about ourselves in the process.
What I have learned about myself lately is that I really love writing and not just about food, but about anything and everything . I enjoy it so much that I have recently started writing a novel (I'm about three chapters in...and I love it!). Consequently giving my blogging a temporary spot on the back burner.
I have missed writing my blogs and am making an effort to balance my life out in all categories...with all this eating, has to come exercise.
So my endless journey least for now I know I'll be eating, writing and hopefully sharing some interesting notions with you.