Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

On Monday I mentioned that I had gotten myself into a bit of a sticky wicket by offering to run the kitchen while my wife hosted a business retreat. News that we’d have both gluten-free and vegan dietary restrictions gave me serious agita, as I am not well-schooled in cooking for non-meat-based diets.

With a little research and some creative thinking, though, I managed to pull it off. Cooking double-purpose menus meant that I overdid it a little on the quantities, but hey, leftovers, right? (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

We have houseguests staying with us this week, which naturally reminded me of the time my girlfriend’s parents came to dinner.

Let me ‘splain.

As part of her new business, my wife is hosting a retreat for some of her colleagues. They are staying with us for the week, during which they’ll all confab and meditate and plan and strategize and bond as a team.

Since my direct involvement is neither required nor particularly useful, I offered to do two things:

  1. Do the cooking and washing up.
  2. Otherwise stay out of the way.

Regular readers know that I am an unabashed omnivore; my recipes are almost always omnivorous or “omnivore adjacent.” Knowing that, you can imagine my reaction when, after planning menus and making shopping lists, I learned that one of our guests is gluten-free and another is vegan:

DON’T PANIC

(more…)

Read Full Post »

I learned to cook from my father. He thought there was one temperature setting: Volcanic. He cooked everything fast and hard. “Braise” was not part of his vocabulary.

It took me a long time to unlearn that — burning through too many pieces of non-stick cookware was part of that re-education — but now I thoroughly appreciate the value of the entire heat spectrum. While the sear and the char are still part of my cooking toolbox, I am now quite familiar with the simmer, poach, braise, and other “go easy” settings.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a perfect example of “go easy” cooking. A few simple ingredients combined with proper (low) heat make for a lovely, light entree. I use capellini (angel hair) as opposed to the traditional spaghetti because I think it lends itself better to the thin, light sauce. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Despite its many advocates, I loathe brie.

Even so, every year or two, when the opportunity presents itself, I give it another try just to see if, somehow, my taste buds have changed and I now agree with the world at large.

To date, I still don’t like brie.

I was reminded of this today when discussing the relative value of spending $500 on a meal for two in a Michelin star restaurant.

My position was that, a few times in a life, it’s worth it.

My opponent took the position that, like getting kicked in the gonads, it’s not. His opinion was that, beyond a certain high-dollar threshold, you’re just showing off. In addition, he informed me that my statement was flatly false, as he’d had a few high-end meals during his life and, in each case, it was never worth the money.

He did not realize that he had just proved my point.

You see, if he had not experienced those few very expensive meals, he’d have had no basis on which to form an opinion (other than his own preconceived notions). This is the essence of prejudice: to condemn a priori a book you’ve never read, a movie you’ve never seen, a meal you’ve never tasted, a person you’ve never met.

For my part, I’ve had three very expensive meals in my life.

The least enjoyable was at Morton’s, a high-end steak house here in Seattle. The most enjoyable was a fantastic meal with a great family of friends at Canlis (also here in Seattle). The most memorable was at the restaurant in the World Trade Club, located (when the WTC was still a thing) in the Ferry Building along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

Were these meals worth the price these high-end restaurants charged? I mean, was the food, the preparation, the presentation, the service, and the atmosphere all worth the money paid?

No (though Canlis came damned close).

Were the experiences worth the price? Meaning, was the meal plus the company, the occasion, the conversation, and the memories gained worth the price?

Without question: Yes.

As a result of each experience, I gained something. After each meal, I knew more about what to expect from high-end dining. I had new anecdotes with which I could entertain, edify, inform. Most importantly, I now have real-life data on which to build an informed opinion. Just as, years ago, I gained first-hand knowledge that allows me to judge whether something is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, I now have first-hand knowledge of fancy-schmancy dining.

Would I spend that kind of money regularly? Fat chance.

Would I spend that kind of money on a meal in the future? Count on it.

Just as with my ongoing litigation of Brie vs. My Taste Buds, I think some experiences are worth the indulgence a few times in our lives. For me, I like to see exactly what all the shouting is about so that I might determine for myself whether or not I agree with the world at large.

Aside from the thing paid for, there’s the experience of the thing.

That is where I find value.

k

PS. Full disclosure: I was a guest at both Canlis and the WTC, and had a gift card that covered part of the bill for Morton’s. (I’m a fairly tight-fisted old fart.) I did, however, see the menus, and was aware of how much the meals cost.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Simple LivingPierre Troisgros is a giant in the world of cooking. This dish — one of his masterpieces — was said to have changed the face of French cookery back in the ’60s, when he and his brother Jean won their third Michelin star.

Like most culinary masterpieces, it is a thing of elegant simplicity…if you have what is needed. Fish stock. Creme fraiche. Sorrel. I will tell you how to make the first two, but fresh sorrel is difficult to find, even in season. I’ll give you a workaround for that, too. See the Notes section, below.

This recipe is not difficult, but it may take you to foodie places you’ve never been before.

Trust me, though. This dish is so worth the journey.


Salmon à la Troisgros

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 thick (or 4 thin) salmon fillets, deboned and skinned
  • 2 cups fish stock (see Notes for easy recipe)
  • 2 medium shallots, chopped finely
  • 2–3 white mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons dry vermouth
  • 1 1/4 cups creme fraiche (see Notes for easy recipe)
  • 4 ounces fresh sorrel leaves, washed and stemmed (see Notes for substitutions)
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into eight knobs
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Coarsely ground salt and pepper

Procedure

Prepare the Salmon

  • Debone the fillets: Run your fingers against the grain to feel the pin-bones and pull them out with pliers or strong tweezers.
  • Skin the fillets: Place each fillet skin-side down on a cutting board and, with a thin, long-bladed knife, slice just between the skin and the flesh.
    • The skin and bones can be used in making the fish stock (see Notes).
  • Trim the fillets: If you have two thick fillets, using the same cutting board and knife, slice them in half through the thickness (i.e., knife blade held parallel to the board) to make four fillets of equal thinness.
    • Some recipes call for pressing the fillets down to flatten them further, but I feel this destroys too much of the texture, especially if you cannot find high quality salmon, so I say avoid it.

Prepare the Sauce

  • Combine fish stock, shallots, and mushrooms in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook down to a glaze (10–15 minutes at high boil).
  • Add wine and vermouth. Cook down further, reducing once more to a syrupy glaze (5 minutes or so).
  • Add creme fraiche and boil until thickened (2–3 minutes).
  • Pour sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Clean out saucepan, return strained sauce to it, and return pan to stove over a medium heat..
  • When rewarmed, add the sorrel leaves and let them cook for about 30 seconds only. Remove from heat. Add the butter, a few knobs at a time, and stir gently to melt and incorporate.
  • Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Final Procedure

  • Prepare serving dishes to receive sauce and fish.
  • Bring a non-stick skillet up to medium-high heat.
  • Season the less-pretty side of the salmon with salt and pepper.
  • Place the salmon in the hot skillet, pretty side down (seasoned side up). Cook for 30 seconds, then turn, and cook for an additional 15 seconds. (Don’t fret, the fish will continue to cook on the plate, in the sauce.)
  • Ladle sauce into each plate (include some of the sorrel), and place salmon (seasoned side down) in the sauce.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Pairs very well with salad of melon (honeydew or casaba), arugula, and slivers of cold-soaked green onion.

Notes

This dish requires three things you may not have in your pantry or fridge: fish stock, creme fraiche, and fresh sorrel. You can easily make the first two and get around the seasonal vicissitudes of the sorrel harvest. Here’s how.

  • Fish Stock
    • Fish stock is quick and easy, and for this recipe, you don’t need much (two cups). I like a very simple fish stock, with few additions. Use trimmings from fish like the skin from the salmon in this recipe, or use the shells you saved from the shrimp or prawns you peeled last week.
    • Take 4–6 ounces of fish trimmings, shrimp/prawn shells, and/or fish meat. Avoid hard shells like crab (they add too much mineral taste) and molluscs (too little flavor). Put it in a pan with three cups water. Add half an onion. Bring to a low boil for about 30 minutes. Strain off the broth.
  • Creme Fraiche
    • You cannot substitute sour cream here — too sour — but you can substitute heavy cream and a last-minute dash of lemon juice. Making creme fraiche isn’t hard, though.
      • Take two cups heavy whipping cream and pour it into a glass jar. Add three tablespoons buttermilk. Stir, cover, and let sit at room temperature 8–24 hours, the longer the better. It will thicken and develop a slight tang. Great over omelets, it’ll keep in the fridge for a week or so.
  • Fresh Sorrel
    • Good luck finding fresh sorrel out of season — or in season, for that matter — and you cannot substitute dried sorrel. Some folks will substitute spinach, but it lacks the acidic flavor this dish requires.
    • I recommend substituting fresh arugula. It adds a peppery/radishy flavor, and is available year-round. Prepare it exactly as the sorrel, but toss with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice after you stem the leaves.

k

 

Read Full Post »

PlumsWant to bring a little pizzazz to that sandwich? Want to add some zip to that cold-cut platter? Here’s a suggestion. A complex mix of flavors — earthy, sweet, tangy, spicy — designed to enhance rather than smother.

Cook up a batch of this, set it in the fridge for a couple of weeks to mellow, and enjoy.

Plum Chipotle Chutney

Makes about 4 pounds

Hardware

  • Glass jars and rings/lids for preserving (optional, for long-term storage)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds plums, halved, stoned, and chopped
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • Scant 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped (use an oiled knife to keep them from sticking to the blade)
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon black/brown mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon sweet (not hot) paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle
  • 1  2/3 cups red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar (or 2 cups light brown sugar plus 2 tablespoons molasses)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Procedure

  • Put all the ingredients (except sugar and salt) into a large pot over a medium heat and stir well.
  • Bring slowly to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes until plums are tender.
  • Stir in sugar and salt, and stir until dissolved.
  • Keep at a light boil for 20–30 minutes, uncovered, stirring to keep it from sticking, until it thickens.
  • Store in the fridge for two weeks to mellow. It’s great right away, but it’s better if it rests for a while.
  • Optional: For long-term storage, spoon into sterilized jars, seal, process, and store for up to 6 months in cool, dry place.

Notes

  • If you’re not going to share or can the result, make a half recipe. Four pounds is a lot of chutney.
  • I prefer to roughly chop my plums/onions, as this gives more texture to the chutney. If you prefer a more homogeneous texture, chop finely.
  • For a smokier flavor, use smoked paprika.
  • You can substitute raisins or sultanas for the cranberries.

k

 

Read Full Post »

PlumsKnife in hand, I begin my work.

The plums are warm from their rest in the summer sun. I select one. Its dark skin, freshly washed, stretches taut over soft flesh. I slice down its back, then prize it open like a clam, revealing the yellow-green flesh and the hard, brown stone within. With a twist, I free the pit and toss it aside; the split flesh I keep.

Next.

Bees bumble by, drawn by the honeyed scent of open fruit. They helicopter down into the basket to sip at the fruit-flavored dewdrops. I take care not to disturb them as I select my next victim.

The hummingbirds zip in with a buzz, grouse at me for being too close to their feeder. I move with deliberate slowness, encouraging them not to fear.

In the spruce above me, a dove mourns. She weeps until her boo-hoo-hooing annoys her neighbors and the ravens chase her off with a flap of feathers.

My hands grow sticky with juice; my fingernails are stained by the blood of slashed skins.

The drying racks fill.

Split plums, dark-winged butterflies, packets filled with long afternoons and the sun of summer, they will warm my soul come winter.

k

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: