Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas on the Coast

Just got back from spending the Christmas weekend in Manzanita, on the Oregon Coast, with old friends and new friends. So very pleasant and relaxing, I think I can finally appreciate Christmas' charms.

When not perched on a sofa looking at this...
I was sitting at a table eating this...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


A confession that may perpetuate my singlehood: I don't like sports. More specifically, I don't get sports. I was born without the gene that allows one to follow the movement of a ball through space and time by the force of human will and strength. I like the idea of sports and I like the conviviality that watching sports cultivates. I love foods associated with watching sports both in homes and in bars: nearly every year for the last decade I throw a Superbowl party and serve food based on the competing cities' cuisines. And since I do love commercials, the entirety of sports programming is not lost on me. But short of understanding the significance of when an orange ball flies through the air into a mesh hoop, or when a baseball lands in a mitt without hitting the ground, I am lost. And although football eludes me most, I have been faithfully watching Monday Night Football for the last 2 years, thanks to Laura Ohm.

Laura is probably the best cook that I personally know. She's a baker by trade, and a master of French, Italian, and Chinese cuisines as well as the gamut of everything that can be canned or otherwise put-up. But in my opinion her real gift is in the purest interpretations of American regional cuisines. And there is no better showcase for her talents than during the months of September through December, when every host city of a Monday Night Football game, whether friend or foe, is honored with a glorious supper. Last week, the Bears were at Minneapolis, though the menu of Polish Ring Sausage with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes:
There are probably 12 MNF suppers per season, and I try to make it to most. But here's the thing: after 38 years of life, after hosting at least a half dozen superbowls and after 2 years of spending nearly every Monday night in autumn at Laura and Fred's for MNF, I still have no idea how the hell you watch a football game. None. I sit there: I watch. I watch them move and stop and go back and move again in slow motion. I watch them huddle, watch lines and scratches come and go from the screen, watch coaches cover their mouths with playbooks as they talk into their headsets. I have tried to absorb the fundamentals of the game through osmosis, but it's useless. So perhaps my honorary seat in Laura and Fred's livingroom should go to someone who is football literate, but I won't abdicate without a fight. And there's always the possibility I will learn to love the game. I am a goddam American, after all.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I was in New York last week. Despite the freezing weather I loved being back there and I wish I had planned a longer stay. I did a poor job of taking pictures, most of them are of my friend Julia's dog, Mookie. The only food related picture I got was of this overgrown wasted elf mawing down his McDonalds after SantaCon 2010.

I didn't make it to most of my eating destinations, just let the day and whomever I was with dictate the menu (which I find to be infinitely less stressful or disappointing) and ended up eating amazing kimchi-tofu stew in Koreatown, prunes poached in red wine with mascarpone at Frankies, handmade sliders with American cheese at the soon-to-be RIP Stoned Crow, and overhyped but nonetheless tasty meatballs at The Meatball Shop. But the best thing I ate while I was in New York was at Gottino, a little Italian wine bar in the West Village. And that thing was crostini with a big knob of soft homemade butter beneath 2 fat oil-packed anchovy filets. Fat, salt, chew, cure, perfection. Please note that when I die, I would lie these served at my funeral.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meat Party

My pig, rather, my pork arrived today. The chest freezer is a layer cake of beef, lamb, chicken necks, frozen dog meals, squid, and now pork. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to go about the process; I wish it could be organized with such randomness that whatever I grab when I close my eyes and reach in is what I'll be preparing next. But at this point it would take a concrete mixer to achieve that kind of variety. I believe this means I will be entertaining more...or else selling great cuts of meat out of my garage for cheap. Call me if you want a deal.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


On many Sundays, my friend David comes over for dinner at 6, and AVF at 7. AFV, in case you forgot, stands for America's Funniest (home)Videos. It's been on the air for 21 years. It's hilarious 67% of the time. I'd never watch it if it weren't for David, but now it's a part of what I consider to be the perfect Winter Sunday: wake up and go for a run, read the Times, plan dinner, take Vic to 1000 acres, cook dinner. David comes over for AFV, and when he leaves I watch whatever is on AMC or HBO (right now it's Zombies). Not all of these things get to happen on a Sunday (today I missed the run, the paper and the park), but if David and AFV happens, it's still a good Sunday.

Tonight we're still celebrating Hanukkah. I almost lit the candles, but I can't find the menorah (Yes I still have one, mom). I made braised cabbage (actually, pressure cooked then roasted cabbage), broiled lamb chops with parsley salsa, and potato-sweet potato latkes cooked in duck fat with sour cream and pear butter.

I know, I really have to work on my table settings: a lacey placemat does not a mis en place make, but I was tired of the white tablecloth. Working on it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Look What I Made!

Home-cured guanciale. For one week it steeped in a salt-sugar cure, for almost two weeks it hung in the fridge. Then, after the first frost, it went in the garage for another 3 weeks.

Tonight I decided to cut it down and try it out. It's pretty salty, and quite mineral-y, but after sauteing some with olive oil and garlic and adding it to braised brussels sprouts with sherry vinegar, butter, and a little honey, the salt and funk melded perfectly. What a great way to spend this 4th night of Hanukkah, enjoying my own cured pork.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


So, I hear it's the first night of Hanukkah or something. At least that's what Matt Lauer said this morning; the only thing I am religious about is my skincare routine. But as I was driving home tonight with a pit in my stomach, I remembered Matt's wish that I have a happy Hannukah, and suddenly an atavistic urge to commemorate the Macabee's triumph over their (OUR) foes by frying starches in oil overcame me.

In my opinion, there are 2 kids of latkes in this world: Temple Latkes and Home Latkes. Temple Latkes may be scratch latkes, but they're made in huge quantities and have a gummier consistency and a more institutional taste. I know people who prefer these, and they have a certain charm, but I am not one of those people. (These are the same people who prefer Stovetop stuffing to homemade stuffing. Again, I can appreciate the appeal, but you have to draw the line somewhere). Homemade latkes can vary, but they never get mushy like temple latkes. They are usually hand grated, or, at the very least, produced in small batches. This is how I make mine.

1 medium russet potato
part of a yellow onion
1 egg, beaten
some matzo meal
kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
fresh pepper
oil (I use olive)

First, get a clean tea towel and dampen it. you don't want it saturated with water, just damp. Grate your potato into the center of the towel and follow that with some onion--you only want 2 teaspoons or so of grated onion in all. Gather the ends of the tea towel together and start twisting the potatoes and onions into a ball, over a bowl. Twist out ALL of the liquid into the bowl. Twist again. You want to squeeze all the moisture from the potatoes. Let the water settle for a second, then carefully pour out the water. There should be some potato starch left at the bottom of the bowl. You want it. Incorporate the potato/onion mixture into this, add the beaten egg, and then add a teaspoon or 2 of the matzo meal. Season with a generous pinch of salt and grinding of pepper. Meanwhile, you should have been heating some oil in a pan. Preferably a good, seasoned cast iron pan. This recipe will yield 4 latkes and I recommend cooking the first one on it's own. The subsequent ones will come out better than the first. Drop some of the latke batter into the hot oil and use a spatula to flatten and shape the pancake. Turn it over when it's golden, and drain on paper towels when it's done. Serve with sour cream and apple sauce, or, in this case, homemade pear butter.