Monday, June 6, 2011


One of the fun things about my job is that occasionally I get to organize parties for the Creative Department and put 15 years of restaurant and catering experience to good use. The agency is growing, and with so many new hires in the last year we needed to throw a mixer. On a recent rainy afternoon I was craving hot fudge and thought an ice cream social would be a good excuse to construct the ultimate sundae bar.

I counted on a 60% turn out of about 100 people, but I was not factoring in a 78 degree afternoon and my co-workers' insatiable thirst for liquor when I decided to make 6 quarts of salted caramel sauce, in addition to suppling hot fudge, marshmallow sauce, pineapple and strawberry sauces, oreo and reese's bits, nuts, fruit loops and whipped cream. I'm not sure if anyone was as excited about the sundae bar as me, which is why I ended up bringing 4 of the six quarts of salted caramel sauce home to my fridge.

If I wasn't worried about how much of this I will end up consuming with nothing but a spoon and Real Housewives marathon, I would be excited for the challenge to use up these 4 quarts, 16 cups, 128 oz of this amalgam of burnt sugar, cream and grey sea salt. Well a challenge is a challenge. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Car Camping

This weekend I went camping, for the first time in maybe 5 years. As with many activities that require some forethought, it's easy to talk yourself out of going. There's always a social event or house project to talk you out of the planning and packing that going camping requires. And part of the hesitation is remembering how great it is to be out of cities and towns and in the middle of a forest or desert with no wifi or phone service, but rueing the fact that there's just not enough time in life to do this enough.

So the first really nice weekend of the year, my friend Jim turned 45 and 9 of us went to the Indian Henry Campground in the Mt Hood National Forest, exactly an hour's drive from my house. I brought a borrowed tent, a sleeping bag, a folding chair, some food, beers and Victor. They had arrived the night before but I had to stay in town for a work event. I missed the big hike that morning, but shortly after I arrived we walked to a beautiful bluff overlooking a swimming hole on the Clackamas River.

Eating while camping is always the best part, whether it's preparing fancy food in a rustic setting, or an excuse to eat the garbage you normally wouldn't buy. For dinner, we made toasted sandwiches, an ingenious invention of Jim's wife Jessica. This river of plastic (sad) represents about 20 different ingredients that we had to choose from to stuff rustic rolls from Little t Bakery. I brought some leftover brisket and chicken liver pate, but kept my own roll pretty simple with a variety of cheeses and brined cherry peppers.

Then they get wrapped in foil and thrown on the grill above the campfire.

Dessert was a decadent chocolate-orange birthday cake that Jess made for Jim.

The next morning, Jim, who roasts beans for Stumptown, prepared our coffee with the type of attentive precision you would expect from a group of car-campers from Portland. I made a scramble with onions, tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and saucisson d'alsace from Olympic Provisions.

Before I left Portland, I made hobo-packs for the morning campfire of red potatoes, onions, rosemary, olive oil and a touch of vermouth. Then topped with some mild chevre after they came off the fire.

Now, my only complaint is that I don't know when the next time I'll have a chance to pursue more campfire cooking.


I took this one awhile ago, it was the base of some salmon rillettes. I've been a bad blogger lately but when I see a photo like this I remember that this is merely an ongoing jornal/photo album about my eating/cooking habits, read by an small handful of people (Hi Mom).

Anyway, this is a great shot of butter. To make the rillettes you can't have it melted and you can't have it cold. Having the time to simply cream it by hand was what having free time is all about.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Clam Dip

This weekend my brother and sister-in-law visited from New York. As is typical, the weather forecast for Memorial Day Weekend was pretty dismal, but I rented my friends' house in Gearhart, OR anyway because the Oregon Coast is pretty great any time of the year. We arrived on Friday and the weather was crappy from start to finish, but when I woke up on Saturday morning the sun was out and the sky was clear. Victor and I headed out for an early morning stroll on the beach; there was a full day planned of breakfast making, seafood mongering, and a trip to Canon Beach. The beach that morning was gorgeous. No wind, low tide, and great sand for jogging. About 2/3 of a mile into our run, Victor got on the wrong side of a testy lab mix and suddenly I was looking at a dog (mine) with a large area of exposed flesh over his rib-cage. We checked Victor into the animal hospital in Astoria and had to leave him there for most of the day to receive anesthesia and stitches. Out plans suddenly abbreviated by the trip to the hospital, we went to the Bell Buoy to buy for fish for dinner, plus for Ken and Jen to try Dungeness crab for the first time. Me, all I wanted was to get the clam dip, which I have been eyeing at the Bell Buoy ever since I started coming there. The traumatic events of the day necessitated comfort food. As soon as Victor was safely back at the house, and while the rest of the guests were taking one last stroll on the beach, I opened up a bag of ridged potato chips and let the mixture of minced razor clams with scallions and cream cheese take me to a happier place. It did not disappoint. Until the moment that I had eaten too much, which was to my regret, many moments before I actually stopped eating it. It was a hard day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fuck You, Gravity

Further evidence that I should not be allowed to own nice things.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Flavor Slab

I guess I am now that person who always has home-cured pork belly on hand. It started out innocently enough: I had a 12-month old pork jowl that needed curing so I made guanciale, taking advantage of the winter weather and using a pretty fool-proof recipe. It lasted a couple months and I finished it off before it had a chance to go off. As soon as it was done I realized I should have started a new jowl already, but lacking any, I found a 13 oz slice of belly in my freezer and gave it the same treatment. Now, I have always intended to make my own pancetta but always lacked the time, or a whole belly, or the motivation to learn the proper tying of the thing. But guanciale and pancetta are basically the same thing: cured, unsmoked pieces of fatty pork, used sparingly in pastas, braises, soups or anything else that would be improved with that distinct combination of salt, meat and age.

Tonight's dinner was parsnips and onion slow cooked with "my" pancetta and tossed in linguine. My homemade pancetta is more minerally than anything I've bought at the store, but allowed to mingle with heat and sugar and fat, it turns everything it touches into succulence. It also lasts longer than any commercial pancetta I've used, despite the fact that it's only cured with salt and spices, no nitrates.

Here's my recipe, which is basically Mario Batali's, with my own modifications based on absent-mindedness:

For every 1 lb of fresh pork belly--or jowl (skin removed),
1/4 C. Sugar
1/4 C. Salt
15 black peppercorns, crushed (or a mixture of black and white)
2 bay leaves, crushed
leaves from a couple branches of thyme

In a shallow bowl with lid or plastic container rub the salt and sugar all over the belly, then the spices. Cover and refrigerate for a week. The salt and sugar will melt into a brine, and you will want to turn the pork once or twice in the week. I've gone over 10 days in the brine as a result of totally forgetting about it.

After a week or so, remove the meat and shake off the liquid. If it's fall, winter, or early spring (days are below 60 and nights are colder) and you have an unheated garage, hang your meat to cure. I have no good advice on how to do it, having struggled with threading a piece of kitchen twine through the meat using a metal kebab and narrowly avoiding stabbing myself in the process. I'm sure that you will be smarter than me. I hang my meat from the bicycle that hangs from the hooks of the rafters of my garage. In the warmer weather, I will make some kind of pork hammock in the fridge. The meat needs to hang for about 4 weeks, until it is firmer and a bit darker than when you began. Again, you may end up forgetting about the meat and letting it go for 5 weeks instead, but trust yourself that you will know if has gone bad by the evidence of mold or an intolerable smell. But since I've experienced neither, you'll have to tell me about it.

Jowl Before
Jowl During
Jowl After

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Passover Tacos

Nothing about these are remotely kosher (starting with the unholy union of meat with milk) but they were uncommonly good: brisket, slow cooked in the Jewish style, with sour cream and the homemade chrain I had made for the previous evening's Passover seder. I knew these were going to be good, but I didn't know how good. Very, very, very good.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Passover was always a traumatic holiday for me because it was when I would watch my mom get high. Her drug of choice: Chrain, the so-bright-red-it-must-be-artificial-yet-it's-not condiment of horseradish blended with beets and vinegar, served traditionally with gefilte fish at a Passover seder. She would dip her spoon in the stuff and swallow. The high came fast: rivers of tears and snot flowing down her face, whooping and gasping and crying, followed by an "Oooh MAN that's hot!!", a brief intermission for cleanup, and then it would start over.

I was reminded of this traumatic chapter of childhood this evening when I started to make my own. The gentile prepared horseradish you buy for your roast beef sandwiches and bloody marys has nothing on homemade chrain. They say that fresh horseradish can vary in heat depending on the time of year you harvest it, but I have never known it to be anything less than hotter than fucking hell. I grated about 10 inches of peeled horseradish root in the cuisinart and then processed it with some of my homemade pickled beets from last summer. Before I had a chance to try it, the chrain settled into my eyes and sinuses and I was gasping for air. Seemed like a stupid thing at that point to put it to my lips, but, well you know where this is going. It singes everything from the inside, elevates your heart rate, dulls then heightens all your senses, and suddenly it's gone. And there you are, holding a spoon in one hand and a napkin in the other, sopping up your nose and moaning for mercy as you continue to sample your demise.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Last night I had a dream I was in an unidentifiable place in the Southern U.S. I was on a holiday of sorts; I remember driving around a big lake picking out some log cabins that I was hoping were going to be my vacation home. There was something to do with the cast from Saved By The Bell, but when I woke up this morning what I remembered most was that it turned into an anxiety dream where I was trying to get to a supermarket before my flight back to Portland so I could pick up some Duke's Mayonnaise. I never got the mayo. And I've never, in my waking life, had the opportunity to sample Duke's, so that's now on the bucket list. Fortunately, in my internet search this morning I learned that I can buy an case of 4 from Amazon for $34.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Southern Fried Rice

I'm a leftovers person. I'm liable to enjoy leftovers more than the actual meal of origin and I like the challenge of figuring out what to do with old potatoes (frittata) or even wilted salad (hippie-style veggie wrap!). Rice, more than anything else, is a cheap and abundant staple that I just can't abide putting in the trash. The other night I made sloppy joes for some friends, one of which is gluten intolerant (for real). I made what ended up being way too much converted rice. Not my favorite rice, by the way, it reminds me of summer camp mess halls. But it felt like the appropriate kind of rice and I had a box I'd been wanting to get rid of. So maybe 1/4 of the rice was eaten on sloppy joe night and the rest is asking, "who's the queen of leftovers now?"

Last night I had a dinner of leftover sloppy joe meat mixed with some of the rice and some cheese mixed in: the kind of meal a divorced dad would cook on his night with the kids. Tonight I got a little more inventive and with a hunk of leftover ham (from a potluck on Saturday) and some fresh collards (from my winter CSA), I made southern fried rice. Just sautee the julienned collards over high heat with salt and garlic, throw in some diced ham and then add a scant cup of cooked rice. Finally tossed in a beaten egg to get that "homestyle" body, some hot sauce and boom: Dad's new girlfriend is coming over for dinner!...metaphorically speaking.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Desk Picnic

Testing out rillettes with David, Jarrod and Marco. Broke out a jar of pickled cherries that have been living in my fridge for a long, long time. Bracing, yet without subtlety. Anyway, the rest will make a good threat to keep around the office if I need to wager any future bets.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


A few weeks ago I met up with Laura and John, my partners in La Musette, to discuss the its future and each individual's participation. I went into the meeting determined to politely decline from this year's event. Why? I don't really know, call it a deep fear of commitment. Last year's Musette was exhausting but exhilarating and even a little profitable. But now that I don't even have a fraction of a foot in the restaurant industry anymore, the challenge of putting together a 2-day French restaurant and getting it right feels like it should belong to someone else. But only 10 ounces of beer into our discussion I could already feel my will caving as we broached: "if we were going to do this again this summer, what I would change is..." and just like that, I've placed myself on board for the weekend of July 23-24, serving up 6 courses with wine pairings, a tour of France a la Tour de France, at Grochau Cellars in Northwest Portland.

Getting started almost 2 months earlier than last year feels good; so does committing to two nights instead of 3. Now begins the phase of designing and testing out the menu. Today I made a batch of pork rillettes for our stop in the Loire Valley. Rillettes is, if you are too lazy to click on the link, meat that has been cooked sloooowly in fat, shredded, seasoned, and fortified with some of that fat to render it a decadent spread for crusty bread and a friend to cornichons and other zesty pickles. My recipe, an amalgam of a few, called for almost equal parts pork belly, pork shoulder, and homemade lard: the widowmaker special. Chopped into 2-inch pieces and assembled in a pot with thyme, bay leaves and a little water, they cooked for about 5 hours.

When sufficiently melted, the solids took a VERY brief spin in the cuisinart with a dull blade I've been saving for this very occasion. Salt, pepper and secret seasonings (nutmeg, clove, allspice and ginger, in the smallest proportions) were mixed, a little of the fat was added back, and a little more fat topped off the jars, for preservation. The rest of the fat is back in the freezer and will go into my next batch, and like a dough starter or vinegar mother, I think it will only get better.

Moroccan Night

Lamb tagine with apricots, green olives and almonds, atop my first attempt at making authentic couscous without a couscousiere. I learned that it is difficult but also that couscous is a pretty forgiving medium, especially when drenched in unctuous, fruity and spicy lamb juice.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I just spent 4 days and 3 nights at the Oregon Coast. Most of it by myself (& Victor), with the objective to get ahead on some writing projects. That didn't happen. Instead I finished 2 books and started the Keith Richards autobiography. I also lost my phone, and that was maybe the most eventful moment of the weekend. Last night, my friends David and Frosty came to the beach after shooting guns in the mountains. I made Guinness beef stew and we drank a bottle of Woodford Reserve that I got in a trade for a pound of coffee beans.

This morning I made chilequiles with leftover corn chips, some eggs, random vegetables and a can of El Pato. El Pato salsas are among of my favorite prepared foods in the world, up there with Hellman's/Best Foods mayonnaise; and you can find it in just about any west coast grocery, including the little market in Manzanita. These were not the best chilequiles I've ever made. I think I prefer to fry up stale corn torillas rather than use chips, and the choice to use Kettle Foods whole grain probably didn't help. Still, when served in this beautiful Dansk paella pan with some broiled cheese, nobody's a critic.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day Massacres

Way back in the 90's, I met this guy at my local bar. We exchanged numbers, and ended up going out for a movie and some drinks. He was a waiter and a musician, and I liked him because he was very cynical. He was very gentlemanly and attentive. I can't remember if we went on one or two dates but he asked me to go to a Jazz concert with him on what happened to be Valentines Day. woah. I offered to make dinner before the show. I was making Marcella Hazan's Hunter's Chicken (fricasseed chicken with wild mushrooms and a little tomato--ok, it was Chicken Cacciatore) when he called to tell me he wasn't going to be able to go out. He told me he suddenly got called into work. Then about 20 minutes later he called back. Of course, you would think, as I had hoped, he was calling back to tell me he got someone to cover his shift. Actually he was calling me back to come clean: he was also dating another woman, who apparently had won. Him being the prize. I left my apartment and went down to The Vern (my local) and got drunk with the regulars. Someone had strewn candy conversation hearts all over the bar and with a very fine felt tip pen, I began writing every cruel and crass letter combination that I could fit over the centimeter-wide confections. Later I took my hot glue gun, affixed them to a black doily heart and had it as a wall piece for awhile. The next year, or maybe the one after that, I had met at a Christmas party about 2 months previous. He was a graphic designer and possibly one of the grumpiest humans to walk the earth, and that was pretty appealing. Now I am trying to remember things that I purposefully blocked out, so forgive me; I think I sent him a card and invited him to a play that I was in. He didn't come to the play, but we did go on some dates, and had what I thought was great chemistry, and right before Valentines Day he took me out to tell me he was not going to be able to see me any more. No other woman this time, it was just me. That year, my 2 housemates and I threw a Valentines Day party (why?). Spurred by S_______'s humiliating rejection, and inspired by the candy hearts that S________ inspired, I mixed up some sugar cookie dough, frosted some hearts with colorful fondant, and worked out my rage with a tube of royal icing.

This is the first year in over a decade that I did not make my signature Valentine's Day cookies. When we opened up Half & Half they became a showpiece and a labor of love, and sometimes just labor. My kitchenaid mixer broke awhile back I haven't replaced it. It sounds implausible that I could go that long without one, but my will to procrastinate is very, very strong. I thought it would be a relief to take a break this year, but it feels a bit like phantom limb.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Super Bowl Sunday Blog Post

I've been putting off the "Super Bowl Sunday Blog Post" for a few nights now. Maybe because writing about it means that football season really is over and I have to wait 8 months before MNF and my nascent education of the game resumes, for I am like a bud only starting to blossom. Perhaps this signifies a bigger sea-change for me; March Madness isn't far off.

I was worried about the Super Bowl menu being too redundant: Polish-American fare from one cold winter climate meeting German-American fare from a colder winter climate results in plenty of and possibly too much meat and starch and cheese. But as I sat down with the task of really getting to the regional specialties (or at least in my fantasy world), I was able to design a menu with both subtle contrasts and harmonies. For the first of 3 courses, we had Wisconsin beer cheese fondue made with cheddar, comte, a touch of worcestershire and a can of Hamms, my favorite domestic beer. The secret to making a smooth "American" style cheese fondue is to whisk in some flour or cornstarch while it's melting, and whisk the shit out of it until it's uniform. This will keep the fat separating from the liquid and probably keeps the fat from exiting your body once consumed. This was served with chunks of light rye and grilled kielbasa. Laura also brought the makings of a Wisconsin cheese plate with limburger, liverwurst, pumpernickel and pickled herring.

To represent Pittsburgh in the starter category, I made a tray of Primanti Bros-style sandwiches. When I first heard about these, I thought, "Where has Pittsburgh been all my life?" because though I have been putting cole-slaw and french fries in my sandwiches for years, to do this commercially seems heaven-sent. I lifted a recipe from a local Pittsburgh paper for the authentic coleslaw recipe (sweet and vinegary) and just made frozen french fries ("fast food" thin-style) and used the house-cured honey ham and smoked beef from Edelweiss deli, as well as provolone, a touch of mayo and good old yellow mustard (the last two ingredients probably inauthentic, but they felt right in the moment). As expected, these sandwiches did not disappoint.

Two guests reportedly dipped their Primanti sandwiches in the fondue. Had I followed suit, I might not be alive today. We ate the first wave of food with the knowledge that there were two more courses on their way, but hindsight is 20/20 and it really did no good. By halftime the heartiest eaters were starting to panic over the lack of expanse left in their stomachs. Fortunately, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania's finest cheap beers seemed to help. While the Black Eyed Peas put on one of the worst half-time shows in history, I grilled some brats and fried up pirogies.

The brats steamed slowly in beer and onions for about 2 hours prior. The pirogies were filled with mashed potatoes, melted onions, cheese and sauerkraut. House Special. I filled and cooked them earlier that day and then pan fried them with more caramelized onions and bread crumbs. Believe it or not, I also managed to watch the game, which by all accounts was pretty good for a Super Bowl. It was over before anyone was ready for more food, but dessert didn't care. Laura made a rhubarb-raspberry fit for a Wisconsin Junior League cookbook and Piper brought the makings for banana splits, which were invented in Pittsburgh. Neither I nor any photographers were sober enough to capture the dessert. An alka-seltzer, some strong coffee and a little post-game air jam-band helped with the overall sensation of drowning in food. This week has been all brown rice and vegetables.

Monday, February 7, 2011


This past weekend was the most intensive 2 days of cooking that has passed in awhile. On Saturday we celebrated David Kennedy's birthday in grand fashion: with a baked potato/ salad bar party. In case you think that might sound either antiquated or boring, please observe:
This included your usual salad bar vegetables, bacon, chopped ham, cheese, cheese sauce, broiled broccoli in cheese sauce, creamed spinach, curried mushrooms, Vern Chili, sour cream, butter, and homemade ranch, 1000 island and green goddess salad dressings. This was actually more Storm and Mike's production, as hosts and art directors of the event. I made my famous chili, the mushrooms, and 2 cream pies: banana and coconut. Though the coconut went first, and was more structurally sound, banana is always my preference. My BCP, developed back in the Half & Half days when I was toying with opening up a pie shop, has brown sugar in the custard and a gingersnap cookie crust which gives it a subtle toffee-ness without becoming a cloying banoffee affair. At the moment I am without a stand mixer, and my handheld does not achieve the kind of power needed to get a truly stiff cream. Nevertheless, I managed to get a pretty portrait of BCP:
I would have taken more photos from the birthday but David hijacked my camera and had himself a photo shoot without noticing the low battery light flashing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jewish Flu Shots

It's cold and flu season, and nearly everyone I know is sick or has just been sick. As a result, I live in constant anticipation of catching "it." Is my throat sore, or am I just thirsty? Is that a sinus headache or a hangover? Do I have a fever, or am I just allergic to work? Today really did feel like the onset of something so I decided to break out the emergency chicken-soup kit.

Back in the 90's, I was going to open up a food cart selling Jewish soul food (always ahead of my time). To help in my research, my mother compiled all the recipes for matzo ball soup from herself, my grandmothers, and my great-grandmother. It is no longer in pristine condition, but nothing as useful and important as this should remain unmarred. I usually choose my matzo ball recipe based on yield and time commitment, so tonight, solo and lazy, I followed Grandma Elma's in the top right corner.

Grandma Elma made a coveted and impenetrably guarded chicken barley soup, a recipe she took to her grave. My mother, her daughter in law, thinks her secret was "too much salt." I don't remember Grandma Elma's matzo balls, probably because nobody would ever let her make anything but her signature soup. Her matzo ball recipe is as basic as it gets:
2 eggs
2 Tbs chicken fat
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup matzo meal
1 tsp salt
let stand at least 1/2 hour
There is no indication of cooking time, I guess that everyone knows you boil matzo balls 30-40 minutes, the shorter the cooking time the denser they will be. I switched out the water for club soda, because I had it. I also added the slightest amount of dill to the mixture, and should have added extra pepper and even the tiniest amount of nutmeg.

While the balls cooked I heated up the broth with carrots and onions. I made this stock in the early fall. It was very rich and authentically Jewish tasting, so I labeled it so:
Grandma Elma didn't like that many people, but she did like me. And if she were alive I think she would endorse my stock. The secret was chicken necks.

Here's the thing: you make matzo ball soup or chicken soup for other people, you don't make it for yourself. If you yourself are sick, you open up a can of Progresso. You don't go to the trouble of making yourself homemade matzo balls. Why? Because you can't be bothered to think of things like, "it would really be special with just the tiniest amount of nutmeg" or, "I don't have any schmaltz, better render some before I get started." Who are you trying to impress?

I didn't have schmaltz. I did have some duck fat. The matzo balls were overcooked, and could have used that nutmeg, but delicious anyway. I ate this while doing my W-2's for Half & Half, the very last step in finishing up 2010 and the business.
The china, incidentally, was Grandma Elma's. (Grandma, if you're reading this somewhere: Yes, it's true that most the salad plates smashed in the shipping, and I have accidentally broken most of the dessert bowls, but I'm pretty sure I can order Noritake replacements on the internet).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

RIP Bears/Jets

At the risk of offending Laura, I was sad to learn today that we would not be having a Bears/Jets Super Bowl XLV. I was hoping to make some Chicago-style beef sandwiches vs meatballs. Or Chicago hot dogs vs. NY pizza. Or Chicago pizza vs. NY hot dogs. Before my dreams were killed, I prepared a "good luck" apple pie for the Bears/Packers game and for National Pie Day.

Meanwhile, I've had a breakthrough since my last post about football: I kind of get it. Once I finally understood the concept of "downs", it all started to click...more or less. Which is great, or would be great, if one of "my teams" had made it through today's gauntlet. Oh well, now I have a couple weeks to plan a Green Bay/Pittsburgh menu (hint: I've had a hankering for party subs).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Babytime BBQ

My friends Mary and Niki had themselves a set of twins last month. The least I can do is sign up to bring meals to the new sleep deprived moms. In the years since my friends started having babies, I've noticed that not only have new baby meal deliveries become the norm, they've also become hyper-efficiently organized through the magic of facebook and google doc spreadsheets. As a Virgo who was raised by a librarian, I actually think I might be pretty good at developing some kind of software/iphone app for post-natal baby meals...hmmm...

In any event, it was my turn on Sunday and I still had some spare ribs from last year's pig. I slow cooked them in the oven with this 6 hour recipe but accidentally put the smoked paprika in the rub and made a bbq/finishing sauce with the remaining meat juice, yellow mustard and worcestershire sauce. Trust me, it was better than it sounds. I made some really simple braised mustard greens and then got weird with my starch component: butternut squash mac and cheese.

Now this came to me as a result of 1) feeling like new parents need all the vitamins they can get and squash is full of those and 2) having a ton of frozen squash in the freezer from my CSA. I'm not, nor do I want to be perceived as someone who likes to cut the fat out of regular recipes, but it really was good with half the cheese and milk that would normally go into mac and cheese. And most of all, I love how it looks like it's made out of artificial cheese!

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
(serves 2 new parents)

3 cups cooked elbows (I used whole wheat from about 1 cup dry)
1 cup cooked winter squash*
knob of butter (that's 1 or 2 tablespoons) plus more for pan
1/2 cup milk
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 cup (more or less) grated cheese--your choice!
breadcrumbs or panko

Preheat oven to 400 and prepare your pan by greasing it with some butter. Then in a 2-4 qt saucepan, melt the butter. Add the milk, then the pureed squash, and whisk vigorously until smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the cheese might be salty too. Add cheese and continue to whisk so that it looks like queso cheese sauce. (You can also do squash then cheese then season--maybe that makes more sense.) Fold into the noodles, and pour into baking dish. Sprinkle on a little cheese for the top, breadcrumbs or panko, and then dot with a little butter. Bake for 30 minutes, until sides are bubbling and surface is golden brown.

*if you're starting from scratch, half and scrape out the core of a butternut, kabocha, acorn or any other hard winter squash. Rub with a little oil, roast at 425 until flesh is super soft. Let cool, then peel and puree in food processor. Remainder can be frozen for soups or whatevs.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

coastal Living 2, part iv

On New Year's Day we left the 80's and said hello to the 90's with this fusion benedict:

Buttermilk biscuits with ham, spinach, poached eggs and a ridiculous curry sauce from Vij's . Then we watched a few episodes of The Golden Girls, cleaned up the cabin, and returned to 2011. To me, it makes perfect sense to celebrate the ascent of a new decade with nostalgia for times past...but all the same, I think I can wait awhile to find out how I will remember the last ten years.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Coastal Living 2, part iii

Our totally 80's New Years Dinner. We started around 2pm with a couple rounds of gin fizzes: my favorite new holiday tradition. And because the fizz itself dates back to the 1880's, it qualifies in our 80's meal. Around 6 we began the meal's preparations with salami, cheese and triscuits...honestly, is there really a better cracker out there than the original triscuit? One of my earliest memories is of hiding underneath the dining room table, eating triscuits and cream cheese. This was the 1970's, but triscuits are timeless.

I shucked a dozen oysters with my beloved oyster knife...

And then proceeded to defile them by attempting to go "Rockefeller" via improvisation. Sometimes, this just doesn't work. To be fair, they weren't disgusting. Storm said, "They taste like pizza!", which, bless him, he meant as a compliment. I'm not showing the photo now; maybe after I've perfected them I'll do a 'before and after post' on Oysters Rockefeller, but let's move onto our second course, Dungeness crab cocktail:

Also, please admire the last vestiges of my NYC manicure, inspired by the Rothkos at MoMA.

Our main course was Penne alla Vodka and broccolini with sausage, both flawlessly executed by Storm:

There was much debate over how much pasta to make for 6 people. The recipe called for one pound and served 6, but we all felt like we'd want more and be sad when there was no more to be had. Of course, 2 pounds was waaay too much. Multiple glasses of champagne and a few more rounds of gin fizzes didn't give any of us the kind of judgement needed to abstain from more pasta. By 11:40 we were drunk, painfully full, and sacked out on couches watching the Bourne Ultimatum on a 13" TV. But our midnight toast was so inspired, I feel completely redeemed: Alka Seltzer with crushed ice and lemon wedges:

Dessert really should have been a nice white chocolate mouse with raspberry coulis, but instead it was warm chocolate chip cookies and Patrick's homemade candy bars. And that was New Year's Eve 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coastal Living 2, part ii

For our New Years weekend, we somehow ended up with the theme of "80's Cuisine." How did this happen? Naturally, it was decided over a few bottles of wine. I took over dinner duty on Thursday night and eased into the theme with a ham, broccoli salad, braised cabbage and a potato gratin dauphinoise.

The cabbage and broccoli are both adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc. The ham came from my pig and was cooked, covered, in a 325 oven for a couple hours, glazed with mustard and brown sugar and finished with the potatoes. The gratin was one of the best I've ever made, and had I remembered the nutmeg it would have been even better. The key is to cook the potatoes in cream before baking the dish. The beauty of a gratin is that it can withstand high or low oven temperatures and unpredictable cooking times; if souffles are the Veronica of the baking world, gratins are a true Betty.

The next day, I combined the leftover potatoes, cabbage and ham and improvised my own version of bubble and squeak, a British Empire comfort food, for lunch. With some dijon on the side, this was almost better than from whence it came:

Potatoes Gratin Dauphinoise

butter for gratin dish
2lb potatoes
3 C. heavy cream (yes, you can cut with milk, but at this point, why?)
2 cloves of garlic
salt, pepper, fresh nutmeg
1 C grated gruyere or comté

butter a gratin dish and set an oven to 375. Gently begin heating cream in a big enough pot to hold the potatoes. With a mandoline, slice potatoes to about a 1/8" thickness. You want them as thin as they can get without falling apart before they make it into the dish. Add the potatoes to the cream as you slice, and avoid letting them sit out lest they oxidize and turn grey. Let the cream and potatoes come to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes, without letting them get to a hard boil. Season with salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg. Pour the potatoes and cream into your dish, spread the cheese on top, and then bake until brown and bubbling, maybe 30 minutes, but don't sweat it. It's ready when you are.