Sunday, February 18, 2018

Cast Iron isn't a good conductor

For all of the great benefits of cast iron for skillets, flat tops, etc. One thing that I overlook is that it doesn't actually conduct heat very well. It has great thermal capacity, but it needs careful treatment if you want even cooking temperatures.

This thought came about when I was making the excellent English Muffin's from Stella Parks' book "Bravetart".  The muffins had all the flavor, but weren't as puffy as I wanted. So I pinged Ms. Parks on twitter. She opined that the griddle was too hot, so the outsides set up before the middle could rise properly. Her recipe was quite specific - heat to 350F. If I had an electric griddle with a temperature control and a thermostat, it would have been easy. But I don't. So I had to guess using my cast iron flat top.

After that less than satisfactory outcome, it was clearly time for a gadget - in this case a surface temperature thermometer. I didn't want to go the full Alton Brown, but I did want to do a little experimentation. Off to AceMart (my local commercial kitchen supply store) where I found this jewel for $39.

Quite a revelation. I turned the burners to medium and started heating the flat top. First mistake! I had them too high. After 5 minutes the surface over the burners was about 375 and the middle was 280.

Turned burners down to their lowest setting. Waited another 10 minutes. Now the ends where the burners are was 410 and the middle was 375. Everithing far too hot for what I needed/wanted.

Moral of the story:

  • Believe the experts when they say heat your cast iron slowly
  • It gets up to temperature unevenly
  • It's really hard to tell when it is at the temperature you want (unless you practice a lot)
  • It's still the best surface for  stove top frying

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Valentine's Day - 2018

When I am home for Valentine's Day, I always try to make something a little extra special for dinner. This year was no exception, but because it is midweek and we are both working I didn't have all day to slave over the stove.
This dish was grilled romaine with roasted beets, diced red pepper, warm Israeli couscous all with a bitter orange dressing. Oh and we had some sous vide chicken thighs left over from a different dish, so added that too.
To make it vegetarian or vegan use oil instead of bacon and omit the chicken.
It did get the "We Can Serve This To People" appellation, so I guess madame liked it!

Ingredients - CousCous 

3 strips bacon cut into small pieces (for vegetarians, use olive oil instead of bacon)
1 small shallot diced finely
1/4 cup Israeli couscous
1/2t smoked paprika
1/2t sumac
1 medium carrot diced into 1/4" cubes. Size matters here for the speed of cooking
1/2 cup boiling water

Ingredients - The Dressing

4T bitter orange orange marmalade - jelly only, no peel strips
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup high quality olive oil (a finishing oil)
salt to taste - remember that in this dish there is bacon that is itself salty

Ingredients - The Rest

1/2 red pepper diced into 1/4" pieces
2 medium roasted beets diced into 1/4" pieces
1 cooked chicken thigh diced (optional - we happened to have one left over)
1 romaine lettuce heart halved lengthwise
Coarse salt

Method - CousCous

Do the couscous first as it takes the longest. 
Gently render the bacon in a large saucier. When the bacon is rendered, add the shallot, couscous and spices. Cook over medium heat, stirring or shaking frequently for about a minute - until the couscous is lightly toasted. Add the carrots and boiling water. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed. This is about 10 minutes. When the couscous is cooked,  turn off the heat and allow to stand until ready to serve (at room temperature)

Method - Dressing

In a large bowl whisk together the ingredients, ad let stand. Whisk again immediately before use.

Method - The Rest (And Final Assembly)

Grill the romaine on a medium/hot griddle - or over a gas/charcoal grill if you prefer. When it is slightly charred, transfer to an individual plate. Place the room temperature couscous on one corener of the plate. Some of the chicken on another corner. Dress the romaine with a teaspoon of dressing. Pile the diced red pepper and beets onto the romaine. Add 2 more teaspoons of dressing. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a nice, crisp white wine.  In our case a South African Sauvignon Blanc.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Cauliflower Soup

This soup is adapted from a recipe on Americas Test Kitchen. We made/served it for a major dinner party. This is a scaled back version, so the water may be slightly out of proportion. It can be adjusted at the end as necessary.
The beauty of this soup is that it has all the richness of a cream based soup - but with no cream. There is some butter in the recipe, but I suspect that it could be made vegan with the use of a neutral oil. I haven't tried that though.
You don't need to be very precise with the cutting, it all goes into the blender at the end, anyway.

Picture Courtesy of Jim Brewer


2T butter (substitute oil perhaps)
1 large leek, white and light green parts only. Sliced finely and thoroughly washed
1/2 yellow onion (NOT Vidalia or 1015) sliced thinly
1/2t kosher salt (there will be more salt later)
1 large head of cauliflower (divided use - 2/3 and 1/3)
4 cups water
Kosher salt to taste
Chipotle in adobo for garnish
Jalapeno corn bread/pepita croutons (or any other crunchy croutons)
Very coarse sea salt for crunch.
Finishing oil for drizzling


Soften the leeks/onions in the butter/oil over medium low heat. Add the first salt as they begin to soften. Do not allow them to brown.
While the leeks and onions are softening, divide the cauliflower, making sure that there are no green leafy bits. Slice the stalks thinly and put them with the 2/3 side. 
When the leeks and onions have softened, add the 2/3 cauliflower and the water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes - until the cauliflower is cooked through.
Then add the remaining cauliflower to the pot and simmer for another 12 minutes (take the time from when the pot reaches simmering temp).
Transfer the contents of the pot to your blender and blend until very smooth. Note, of course that this is hot and will probably attempt to splash out of the blender, so make sure you have a towel around the blender and press the lid on tightly through the towel. If in doubt blend in batches for safety.
Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer - to remove any lumps that the blender missed.
Adjust the texture using boiling water. Adjust the seasoning, remembering that you will be adding coarse salt later.
Serve in warmed bowls with croutons and chipotle. Add a little  swirl of olive oil and the crunchy, coarse salt.
Take a bow!
We served this with a nice Chardonnay from Nickel and Nickel.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Strange Bread

I recently bought Stella Parks's wonderful dessert cook book, "BraveTart". Of course I had to try some things - so the recipe for a Japanese style bread was attempted.  It didn't turn out as intended, but it was wonderful, nonetheless.
There were several issues.

  • I had a timing problem - was due to meet some friends for lunch so didn't quite give it enough time
  • The recipe called for malted milk - but I didn't have any
  • The coconut oil/fat that I had was very strongly coconut flavored
But apart from that, it was a matter of improvisation.

I did have some dry non fat milk lying around, so I thought it might be cool to add that instead of the malted milk powder. But, of course, I wanted some toasty flavor. So i baked it in a 350 oven for 8 minutes to get it toasted. It worked a treat!

Also, because this was from an American cook book, most of the measurements are in lbs/oz not in metric measurements.

The technique hydrates some of the flour with hot liquid first - a way to get water into the recipe without making everything too sloppy. 

Ingredients (Paste)

1 1/2 oz AP flour
6 oz 2% milk

Ingredients (Bread)

15 oz AP flour
2 oz sugar
2 oz toasted milk powder
1 1/2 oz virgin coconut oil (solid)
2t active dry yeast
5 oz 2% milk
1 oz half and half
1 1/2 t kosher salt

Method (Paste)

Mix the flour and milk together in a saucepan. Heat gently stiffing occasionally until the mixture thickens. Keep it on the heat until the flour mixture comes away from the sides of the pan (while you are stirring with a silicone spatula).
Let the paste cool for about 20 minutes

Method (Dough)

Dissolve the sugar in the milk/half and half. Add the yeast and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
Combine the flour, paste, salt, coconut oil, milk powder together in the stand mixer. Add the salt and the milk/yeast mixture, stir to combine and then knead for 15 minutes (in the mixer). It needs to be kneaded until the dough window -panes.
Cover the dough and leave to rise for about 45 minutes in a warm place. It should be a bit fuffy. 
Set the oven to 350 and preheat for 20 minutes.
Turn out the dough and shape into an 8" square. Fold the dough like you would fold a business envelope.  Pinch the edges together to make a seam. 
Place in a loaf pan, seam side down and leave to rise a second time until the top of the loaf is just above the edge of the pan.
Bake for 45 minutes at 350. Internal temp should reach around 202 degrees.
Turn the loaf out of the pan onto a wire rack. For at least an hour before cutting it.
Eat with mashed avocado - or just with butter and jam.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Spicy Pecan Brittle

This was to be part of the dessert for a formal dinner - if it lasted that long.  Fortunately it did. It turned out a most tasty, more-ish candy with a perfect texture. Definitely will be made again. It does have a little butter so it is not vegan.


2t kosher salt
2t ground cinnamon
2t smoked paprika
pinch of cumin (fine ground)
pinch of cayenne (more to taste depending on heat of cayenne pepper and desire to store
2t baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1cup corn syrup (I used 2/3rds plain, and 1/3rd from Rockwall.)
1/2 cup water
8T (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups pecans (raw, roughly chopped)
1T Vanilla essence


Warm a rimmed baking sheet in a 250 oven for about 30 minutes ahead of time.
Whisk together the salt, cinnamon, paprika and cayenne until well combined
In a sauce pan whisk together the sugar, water, corn syrup and vanilla and bring to the boil (medium low). and heat to 300 degrees as measured by a candy thermometer (after about 15 minutes)..
Stir and remove from heat. Add the water and stir again.Add the butter and allow to dissolve. 
Put the pan back on heat with the thermometer visible. 
Add the chopped pecans and stir thoroughly.
Pour the brittle onto the warmed baking sheet and allow to cool (about 6 hours).
Break into small pieces and garnish appropriately.

Rotkohl - Allow lots of time

This sweet/sour red cabbage dish was part of a formal dinner party that we had last Saturday. It made enough for about 16 people as a side. The proportions are not exact (sadly) because there was some improvisation needed. But here it is approximately. You can tell by the color if you have enough vinegar.  The dish needs to stay bright red looking. If it goes too dark or faintly purple, there isn't enough acid.


1 head red cabbage (about 4lbs, shredded)
1 1/2 yellow onions (about 1lb) sliced thinly
2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and sliced
8 cloves inside a spice bag to make them easy to find in the finished dish
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar (Ideally you would use apple cider vinegar and a bit less, but we were out!)
10 T sherry vinegar (optional n- unnecessary if using apple cider vinegar)
1/4 cup of sugar (to taste)
3 t kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Combine all the ingredients in a large pot (these fit into a 7 quart dutch oven). Bring to a simmer gently. Cover and simmer for at least 90 minutes. By all means crack the lid and taste to make sure the balance is how you want it.
After 90 minutes, uncover and allow some of the liquid to evaporate (another 30 minutes). By this time the cabbage should have softened but should still be slightly firm.
Remove the spice bag and serve hot as a side dish with your main course.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sharpening Knives

I admit it, I am a klutz - with lousy eye sight and worse eye/hand coordination. So the perennial problem that a cook has, "How to sharpen knives and keep them sharp?"

I have tried a variety of methods:
Pay someone to do it ($5.00 per blade gets expensive)
Use an electric (e.g. Chef's Choice) sharpener
Use a hand / pull through sharpener
Use a whetstone
Something else?

For various reasons, none of the methods were particularly satisfactory. The best was to have a pro (e.g. Rolling Stone in the DFW area) do it, but at $5.00 per blade the prices was getting crazy - 8 knives, 2 x year. You do the math!
Most electric sharpeners are too "greedy" for my liking - i.e. they take too much metal off the blade. The hand/pull through sharpener didn't deliver great results.
I can't manage a consistent angle on the whetstone, so I went hunting for something easy to use and that did a great job..
On the Serious Eats web page, there was an advertisement for a home belt sharpener. Belt sharpeners are what most of the pros use, so I figured there was a sporting chance that I could make one of these work. The sharpener in question is the E5 from Work Sharp .
So, on a whim I bought one.
It's very effective (at least for my western angle blades). I didn't buy the Asian guides (yet...). Also only have one grade of grit for the sanding belts. But I dare say I will experiment with different grits as well.
The knives came out incredibly sharp. The tool was foolproof (well Chris Proof which requires an even higher degree of ease). I have a carbon steel Sabatier knife which is dark gray in color. So it is easy to see how much metal the sharpener has taken off. Very little! So it meets my don't be greedy criterion.
A nice (but rather short) ceramic honing rod came with it. I alternate between that and my conventional steel. The ceramic rod does a nice job, however.
All in all I am very happy with the sharpener. Finally found one that suits me.

Full disclosure: After I had bought it and used it, I was contacted by the company for a review. For the review, the company did give me an Amazon gift card. That card will be used for more belts

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Eggplant with orange juice and oil

A group of us were staying in an AirBnB in Buenos Aires. We were working together on a very cool project and staying in a very nice house. 5 bedrooms, plenty of bathrooms, pool, outdoor parilla (grill) and a well stocked kitchen. The challenge was always, "What shall we do about dinner?" Of course being in Argentina that was often answered by, "Let's go to..." (one of several nearby great restaurants serving hunks o' beast). This evening, though we decided to eat in.
My contribution was this dish - there is a plentiful supply of oranges here, so why not see what happens?
Note: The egg plant are not the usual globe (Italian) eggplants. These are thinner skinned and light purple in color.


Juice of 3 oranges
1/4 cup neutral oil
3 cloves garlic
1 t soy sauce
1/2t hot sauce
3 Chinese egg plant peeled and cut into 3/4" thick medallions
Salt to taste


Combine the wet ingredients. Soak the egg plant slices in the wet mixture.  Pat them dry and grill over the coals until nicely marked and soft.
Place the slices on a warm platter and drizzle the marinade over the still warm egg plant. Toss lightly to incorporate the dressing.
Sprinkle coarse salt on top and serve hot or at room temperature. It's good either way.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A "Chopped" candidate

This evening's dinner felt like something out of the TV program "Chopped". A bunch of ingredients and a timer - make dinner. The ingredients this time were 1 butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, pepitas and goat cheese. There was some fresh oregano lying around too, and the usual pantry staples. Turned out absolutely delicious!


1 Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4" cubes
2T vegetable oil
5 sprigs of fresh oregano
12 cherry tomatoes
2 oz raw pepitas
2 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Salt/pepper to taste


Pre-heat the oven to 450F. Toss the butternut squash pieces in the oil, then salt and pepper them liberally, adding the oregano. Spread the squash pieces over a rimmed baking sheet. Place them in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes add the tomatoes. Let cook for 10 minutes. Then add the pepitas. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the crumbled goat cheese and place the pan back in the oven for the cheese to melt.

Serve piping hot with a nice red wine - in our case a Chianti.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Chicken Refrigerator Soup

A refrigerator soup is one where you have a whole bunch of stuff lying round, and need to use it up - in a potentially unusual way. This one was no exception. Wee were leaving for the weekend and needed to make dinner the night before. How we had the ingredients is a bit of a mystery. What happened to them was awesome.
I had bought too many chicken thighs a few days before. The packaging had me with 2 bone in, skin on chicken thighs left over. Also there was 3/4 of a red onion. That meant to me "make stock". So into  the stockpot went thee thighs, onion and water. Simmer for an hour (so the meat was still viable and the stock was OK (weird color because of the red onion, but tasty. Shredded the chicken (removed the skin, of course) and we now had the basis of a soup.
We had an acorn squash lying around and some celery, carrots, yellow onions, and red potatoes on the day that soup making was required. So how hard could it be? The bonus surprise was that the acorn squash cooked right down and thickened the soup all by itself. So no need to puree anything.
Start to finish 35 minutes.


1T neutral oil
1 small red onion diced
4 small carrots cut into 3/4" lengths
3 ribs celery sliced into 3/4" lengths
3 cups chicken stock (defatted)
Hot sauce to taste (we used our home made habanero vodka - aka secret ingredient)
4 medium red potatoes - quarered
1 acorn squash peeled, seeded and diced
Shredded meat from 2 cooked chicken thighs
2T crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened)
Salt/Pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a saucepot or dutch oven until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, celery, turn the heat down and sweat for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and hot sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and squash. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes - until the potatoes are just cooked. As you stir the soup here, the squash will disintegrate, thickening the soup.
Add the chicken and peanut butter, stirring thoroughly until the peanut butter is fully incorporated. 
Serve piping hot with crunchy salt.   

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


A friend of ours had bariatric surgery recently. So he eats far less now than he used to. It's important that what he does eat is really tasty, healthy and nutritious. He doesn't want a lot of potatoes - he simply doesn't have the capacity for them any more. And no carbonation in anything - so no beer (or soda).
So the upshot was to make a one dish meal with chicken... But of course it needed to be amped up, so here goes. The ngredient list looks pretty intimidating, but I would imagine you would have most of the ingredients in the pantry. And yes we did "serve this to people" and Madame said we could!
And, full disclosure, I adapted this from a Serious Eats recipe - Thanks again Kenji


1T olive oil
9 chicken thighs (that's because 9 fit into my largest skillet!), bone in and skin on, seasoned with salt and pepper
8 oz bacon chopped into small pieces crosswise
1 large red onion (that's because we had a red onion - white or yellow would be fine too) diced
1 fennel bulb - diced in the same sized pieces as the oinion
1 head green cabbage shredded like you might for coleslaw
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2T coarse grained mustard
2t habanero vodka (aka secret ingredient)
3 cups chicken stock
2T white sugar
3 bay leaves
12 thyme sprigs
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 and position a rack in the middle. I used the convection bake setting, so it doesn't matter quite so much where the rack is. I had these potatoes (for Madame and me) salt baking on the middle shelf.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a 12" saute pan. Make sure it is shimmering and that there are little whiffs of smoke. Place the thighs SKIN SIDE DOWN into the hot pan. Do not cover with a lid, but do use a splatter guard if you have one. Leave over medium heat undisturbed for 8-10 minutes. The skin should brown and start to crisp up.
Once the chicken has browned, flip it over and cook on the other side for 3-5 minutes - just to get some color.
Transfer the chicken to a warm plate and add the bacon to the pan. The bacon will need to cook for 3-5 minutes. It crisps and darkens a bit.
Pour off most of the fat in the pan and then add the onion and fennel and cook until soft and very slightly brown. Again about 3-5 minutes.
Add the cabbage (it will look like the pot is overflowing, but it does wilt down sum. Keeping the pan on medium heat cook the cabbage until some of it gets a slight char. You will need to keep tossing it in the pan because there is so much of it. 
Add the vinegar, mustard, secret ingredient and deglaze the pan.
Add the chicken stock, thyme, bay leaves, and sugar and bring to a simmer.
Nestle the chicken skin side up in the simmering stock. It is vital that the skin of the chicken be above the liquid. 
Put the pan into the preheated oven and "bake" for 35-45 minutes. My instant read thermometer registered a scary 200. But the chicken was fine. Skin nice and crispy. Certainly any pathogens had been obliterated. 
To serve, place the chicken onto a serving platter or bowl. Cover with the cabbage and remaining liquid. Garnish with fennel fronds, and serve.

A bit of work for a Tuesday - total elapsed time about 75 minutes. But a good chunk of the time was spent with the dish in the oven.

Now I have some left overs for lunches. Except, of course, I forgot to take any to work today.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Baked Vacherin Mont d'Or

Vacherin Mont d'Or is a French washed rind cheese from the Franche-Comte region of France. It is traditionally made from raw (unpasteurized) milk. It is typically made in the autumn/winter months when there is not enough milk to make Comte. It goes on sale in September each year.

The cheese itself is made in rounds of 400gm (14 oz) which are in spruce boxes. Often hard to get in the USA - you have to have an outstanding cheese monger (like the amazing Scardello in Dallas)

A way of serving it is to bake it with some of the local wine (Macvin) and a few slices of garlic. Macvin is a bizarre almost wine. It is a mixture of barely fermented grape juice and marc (a liqueur made from the left over skins, seeds and stalks resulting from pressing the grape juice).

The Macvin that we used is a Chateau D'Arlay - typically sold in 1/2 bottles. We also made a variant of a Vacherin Mont D'Or using a Jasper Hills Farms Winnimere cooked the same way. 


1 400g Vacherin Mont D'Or 
2 garlic cloves, sliced very thinly
3 T Macvin


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Remove the lid from the cheese, leaving the cheese itself in the box. Lay the box on a sheet of aluminium foil. Fold the foil tightly up the sides of the cheese box. This makes sure that the box does not come unglued.
Create slits in the cheese in various places with the point of a paring knife. Go as deep as the cheese, but take care you don't go through the bottom of the box. You want about 16 slits overall evenly spaced. I do them in concentric circles, with the outer circle starting about 1/2" from the outer edge. 
Insert a garlic sliver into each slit, pushing down until the top edge of the garlic sliver is below the top of the cheese.
Once you have filled each slit, pour the wine over the top surface of the cheese, allowing it to top off the slits.
Place the cheese on a baking sheet and put into the pre-heated oven on the middle shelf. 
Bake for around 20 minutes (check at 16) until the top is bubbly and the inside gooey.

To Serve

There are a couple of ways to serve this. My favourite is to serve with some charcuterie and awesome baguettes. But it is also served as a main course with a salad and boiled potatoes. The gooeyness of the cheese coats the potatoes making a sublime pairing. To drink, serve the remaining Macvin (remember it comes in 1/2 bottles so you will need more than one) .

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Asian Slaw

We were asked to bring a dish to a party last evening. We knew that there would be bbq at the party, so figured that some kind of a slaw would be a good dish to bring. Enter an Asian version inspired by my go to team at Serious Eats.

Note this takes well over an hour to make, but it is pretty low involvement

Ingredients - Dressing

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2T Soy sauce
1t toasted sesame oil (or chili sesame oil if you have it. If so reduce the amount of the following)
Some form of hot sauce - preferably one without vinegar. we used "Srirarcha" and habanero vodka.
2 cloves garlic (squished into a paste with a little salt)
2T freshly grated ginger
3T smooth, plain peanut butter (unsweetened)

Method - Dressing

If you measure the oil first and then use the same measuring cup for the honey, the honey flows out more easily. 
Whisk the oil, honey, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and spicy ingredients together. Stir in the garlic and ginger. Finally combine the peanut butter and stir/whisk until incorporated. Leave to stand for up to an hour to incorporate the flavors. Note that there is little salt in the dressing. The soy sauce provides some salt. The cabbage is salted in the next step. There is enough residual salt so it is not necessary to salt the dressing. The small amount of salt added to the garlic is to help with the making of the paste. So when you taste the dressing by itself,  it may seem under seasoned.

Ingredients - Slaw

1 head of green cabbage (about 2lbs) shredded
2T kosher salt
3 large, older carrots peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
3 scallions white and light green parts sliced on the bias
1 red pepper cut into small dice
2 or 3 hot chiles (we used cayenne peppers) chopped very finely) (if desired)
8 oz packet of edamame cooked and chilled
4 oz roasted salted peanuts chopped roughly

Method - Slaw

Lay the cabbage in a strainer or colander and sprinkle with the kosher salt. This will draw out some of the water and keep the cabbage crisp. Leave this for about an hour to drain. Roll the drained cabbage in a kitchen towel and squeeze the water out. This may end up with 1/2 to 1 cup of water.
Combine the slaw ingredients (except the peanuts) in a large bowl. Add the dressing in 3 additions, mixing the slaw after each addition. This ensures that the coating will be even - no pockets of undressed cabbage.
Add the peanuts and mix the slaw for the last time.
Chill and serve within a couple of hours after mixing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pie Dough

Like all dishes this one starts with a story - and a little known secret. First the secret. Cartons of 18 eggs (in the US) are usually fresher than 12s - at least in my local supermarket. Yesterday was no exception. A whole week fresher.
So, with convenient storage for 12, a carton of 18 looked to be inconvenient. Then it hit me. Quiche would take care of the rest. But I needed a pie crust. Not to worry, Milk Street came through. Erika Bruce took ideas from a variety of places to come up with the genius recipe below.


2t Corn Starch
3T cold water
1 Cup + 2T  All purpose flour
pinch salt
10 oz butter, cut into 1/2" cubes and chilled (If using unsalted, up the amount of salt to 4 pinches)
2T Full Fat sour cream


Whisk together the corn starch and water. Microwave on high for 30-45 seconds. Until a clear gel is formed. Chill the cornstarch/water gel.
Measure the flour into the food processor. Add the salt and run the food processor to incorporate and aerate. Add the cornstarch gel. Pulse 5 or 6 times (1 second pulses) to incorporate.
Add the butter and sour cream. Run the food processor continuously until the dough mass forms a mass,
Remove the dough mass from the bowl, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
To use the dough, roll it out as normal. Not the dough is smooth, but not elastic.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Eggplant, Fairy Tale Hybrid, , large

We had visited a local farmers' market last weekend. One of the farmers had these really cute fairy tale eggplants. These are small, variegated eggplants - about 2 -3 inches in length. Very tender and delicious, with none of the bitterness associated with the more conventional Italian eggplants. They are best cooked roasted in a hot oven with some good oil and shallots. We also roasted cherry tomatoes and shishito peppers from the garden. At the same farmers' market, there was a stall selling interesting salad greens. So we bought some Mizuna for the salad. A lemon juice/rice wine vinegar based vinaigrette, grilled bread (home made that day, of course) and there was dinner. Yup it did get the "we can serve this to people" accolade, so I was pretty happy with the result.


2 1/2 lbs fairy tale eggplant, sliced in half lengthwise
1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved pole to pole
1 large shallot, finely minced (divided use)
1 1/2 cups olive oil (divided use)
30 shishito peppers
1t dry mustard (e.g. Coleman's)
1/2t freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 head mizuna
2 slices country bread, brushed with olive oil and grilled
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar


Pre-heat the oven to 350 (fan assisted) or 375(conventional). Add 1/2 the chopped shallots to 1/4 cup of olive oil. Swirl to coat. Add the eggplants and shishitos. Place the tomatoes, eggplant (cut side up) and shishitos on a wire rack over a sheet pan. Make sure that all of the oil/shallot mixture is spread over the eggplants. Roast in the oven for 15-20  minutes until the eggplants are softened and slightly brown. The shishitos will cook slightly before the eggplants, so watch them carefully. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile make a vinaigrette, combining the mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, remaining shallots, and remaining oil.

Spread the mizuna in a serving bowl and pile on the roasted vegetables. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the warmed vegetables  (you will use maybe 1/4 of the made up vinaigrette - save the rest for other salads). Hand the grilled bread separately.  Serve with a crisp white wine (in my case the "On the White Keys" from Arietta. Madame had a South African Sauvignon Blanc from Spier. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Salads for the arayes

In this post, I described the amazing Lebanese sandwiches - arayes. To go with them we made a couple of salads. Water melons, tomatoes and local feta seemed to be the way to go. Home made yogurt, home grown mint made a good tzatziki. All in all pretty tasty. The dishes were:

Watermelon, watercress, feta and pistachio salad
Cucumber, tomato and onion salad

The tzatziki quantities are approximate. Also, the tzatziki needs at least 2 hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to combine.

Ingredients - Watermelon salad

3 cups cubed watermelon (cubed like this)
1 bunch watercress
5 oz feta chopped into 1/4" cubes
1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
6T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the best finishing oil you have)
Coarse salt to taste


Combine everything except the salt. Add the coarse salt just before serving, so that the juices don't run out of the melon.

Ingredients - Cucumber, onion, tomato salad

A few lettuce leaves 
3 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded, 14" pieces
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 slice of white onion, 14" thick chopped finely
juice of 1/2 lemon
4T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (again the best that you have)
Coarse sea salt added just before serving.


Line a salad bowl with the lettuce leaves. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion in a bowl, add the lemon juice. Just before serving, toss in some coarse salt and stir. Add to the serving bowl that has the lettuce leaves liner.

Ingredients - Tzatziki

3 cloves garlic - mashed to a paste
1 1/2 cups strained (Greek) yogurt
Handful of mint leaves chopped finely
3T white wine vinegar
1t tahini
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the best you have)
salt to taste


Mix the garlic into the yogurt. Add the mint leaves, vinegar, tahini and oil. Stir throughly and check the seasoning. You may need to add a little salt. Chill for at least 2 hours.

arayes - aka lamb-a-dillas

We saw a recipe for arayes in Cooks Illustrated this week. The idea looked so good that we just had to try it. When I described it to a dinner companion (a Texas Boy) on Friday evening, he said that just like quesadillas only with lamb. Hence the name.
The result is a really crispy, slightly smoky sandwich which can be eaten out of hand.  But it also makes a substantial meal. Because the recipe makes quite a few of these, we needed some victims (aka volunteers) to try them out. They came, they ate (and, I think, they liked). If not there was always the MacDonald's on the way home. Even though they are Kiwis, they are far too polite to tell me if they had to stop on the way.
We served them with a couple of salads and some tzatziki. They turned out ( the arayes, not the guests) as well as expected. And there are left overs!
The salads will be described in another post. Suffice it to say that the Coppell Farmers' Market was a source. And especially the la-ti-da farms feta.


1 large white onion cut into pieces
1 cup oregano (leaves and stalks)
1/2 cup lemon thyme (leaves and stalks)
zest and juice of one lemon
1T whole cumin seeds
1T whole coriander seeds
2t black pepper corns,
2t coarse sea salt
1t red pepper flakes
1/2" cinnamon stick
1/4 cup good (but not best) olive oil
1 T smokey paprika
2 lbs lamb leg, cut into 3/4" cubes. Chilled in the freezer for 30+ minutes.
6 x 6" pitas


Pulse the onion, oregano and lemon time in the food processor until the onion is quite small. 8 or so pulses. You may need to scrape it down. Turn out into a bowl.
Grind the spices finely in the spice grinder, adding the coarse salt as that helps to grind them. Add the ground mixture, paprika, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil to the onion/herb mixture.
Mince (grind for my American friends) the lamb twice using the coarse die. You need to do it twice because the lamb fat is unevenly distributed. The second grinding distributes it better.  I added a couple of table spoonfuls of the onion mixture to the grinder at the end to encourage all of the meat to come through.
Mix the lamb with the onion mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Use hands (mine are now really soft) or a silicone spatula.
Chill the lamb mixture for a while (at least an hour)
2 hours before cooking, slice the pitas in half (I use a serrated knife for this) horizontally. So for each pita you have two 6" disks of pita.
Mound the lamb mixture in the center of a pizza half, spread almost to the edge and top with the other half of the same pita.

Squeeze flat and wrap in cling wrap, refrigerate for a couple of hours. 
When ready to cook, fire up the grill (I used the Primo) with so that the coals have a nice ash coating. Grill the sandwiches directly over the coals until the pitas a crispy. Turn the pitas over and grill on the second side.  Time on the grill is about 7 minutes per side 

Remove from, slice into quarters and serve immediately.

Friday, August 4, 2017

We can serve this to chefdave

While on vacation with Dave Gilbert and friends this summer, he made a vegetable curry using Thai red curry paste. It was outstanding. Even better it was easy enough to add some kind of protein or filler to it and have a substantial meal. It was easy to do, so I thought a reprise would be in order.

Little did I know that there was an accolade from Madame that is even higher than "We can serve this to people". This dish garnered a "We can serve this to Chef Dave". So I figured it should be added here so I remember what we did.

Ingredients - Curry Base

1 can coconut cream (No, not sweetened coconut cream a la Coco Lopez)
2 small cans of Thai red curry paste
1 white onion, cut into spoon sized pieces pole to pole
2 cilantro bunches (stalks and leaves separate)
2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced very thinly
4 kaffir lime leaves sliced in to thin strips
1 can coconut milk
3T Fish sauce
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3" cubes
2 lbs carrots cut into 1/3" cubes
2 large egg plants , peeled and diced into 1/3" cubes. Also dice the peeled trimmings into a very fine dice, they will thicken the dish.

Method - Curry Base

Skim the thickest cream from the can of coconut cream into a large Dutch oven. Heat over low heat until it breaks down and becomes oily. Immediately add the curry paste from the cans and stir while frying the paste. Add the onion, cilantro stalks, ginger, and kaffir lime leaves and sweat for about 10 minutes - until the onion has softened. add the remainder of the coconut cream can and all the coconut milk + the fish sauce. Stir until combined. Add the potatoes and the carrots and enough water just to cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes - until the potatoes are nearly cooked.
Meanwhile prepare the egg plant. After 10 minutes add the egg plant to the pot, stir to mix and simmer with the lid on for a few minutes (until the eggplant is cooked and the potatoes are soft, but not mushy). Some of the egg plant will disappear and thicken the liquid, while some will maintain integrity.


Once the base is made,m it can be used to cook a variety of proteins. In the Bahamas, we used some of the fish that the guys caught in the afternoon. Also possible to use chicken, or if you want the full vegetarian experience, some soaked chick peas (garbanzo beans).
It is a matter of slicing the fish or chicken (about 4 oz per person) very thinly and immersing in the hot curry. The fish/chicken are cooked, by simmering in a matter of minutes.  If using chickpeas, the same approach is adopted, but no slicing. They take a little longer, especially if they are a bit firm to start with. No quantity is given here, but for 2 people, one small (14oz) can would work for 2 people.

Serve with a squeeze of lime juice and finely minced cilantro leaves.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The 40th Birthday Pig

A group of friends were in Spanish Wells (Bahamas) to celebrate one of the party's 40th birthday. The birthday dinner was to be a hog, cooked in a china box. The hog and the box were shipped up a couple of days before on a ferry from Nassau. Even though there were several chefs and a couple of of wannabees (myself included in the wannabees), I was the only person with any kind of experience of a china box. I have a friend in Dallas who has one, so asked him for advice once all the piece parts had arrived. He injects his with a flavorful liquid - we didn't have that luxury. We decided to brine ourfs - after all we had a giant brine source right outside the back door. The house was on the beach.

We didn't have all of the required apparatus, so there were some interesting "make do" activities. The first question was how to get the thing flavorful since we were fresh out of injection tools. Then how to manage the china box, acquire charcoal, etc.

Because the meat is not directly over the coals, it is OK to use match light or lighter fluid. The nasty petroleum fumes don't get into the meat. Since I couldn't locate a chimney, we used match light. Of course having to make sure we didn't lose eyebrows, arm hairs, local vegetation while working with it. I don't think that the headline, "Man sets fire to Spanish Wells while using a china box" would have been ideal.


For the brine

4 large white onions roughly chopped, skin and all
6 large carrots unpeeled, roughly chopped
6" piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 cup red pepper flakes
2 gallons tap water
2 gallons sea water
50 lbs ice
5 lbs salt (3 Morton's table salt tubs at 1lb 10 oz each)

For the hog

1 ~40 lb hog, dressed with liver, heart, lungs, kidneys removed and split. In a cooler with 20 lbs of ice to keep it cool while the brine is being made.
8 small cans of Thai red curry paste
1 cup oil (we had olive, but any neutral oil will do.
4 cups Carolina mustard mop sauce


The Brine

Note that there is no sugar in this brine since that will tend to burn in the china box.
Put the onions, carrots, red pepper flakes, ginger and tap water into a large sauce pot. Bring to a simmer and add the salt. Stir to dissolve. This will make a very concentrated brine. Add the sea water. stir and allow to cool.
In a cooler, add 30 lb of ice - to cover the hog. Then pour over the cooled brine. This will dissolve a considerable amount of the ice (especially as it was pretty warm outside). As the ice melts, it dilutes the brine, but if the cooler is effective enough it doesn't hurt. In fact with a long brining time like this, it does no harm to become a little more diluted.
Leave the hog in the brine for 15 - 18 hours. It becomes a battle of allowing it to come to air temperature and dry out a bit prior to cooking vs the flies. We ended up sealing the china box with the hog inside and then checking periodically to shoo away the flies. Also put some of the offal out for the flies to discover - an old trick I learned in Malaysia, growing up where refrigeration was less advanced than it is now.

The Hog

Combine the Thai red curry paste with the olive oil and mix thoroughly. With a few hours to go before cooking, remove the hog from the brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub the skin and the interior with any flavorants you want. We used the Thai curry on one half and the Carolina mop sauce on the other.

Place the hog in the box, and cover with foil to keep the flies off it. Do not put the lid on the box yet - not until it is hot. About 3 1/2 hours before time to eat, pile up 14 lbs of charcoal onto the lid of the China box (still not placed onto the box) and light the charcoal. We used match light so it became quite the conflagration.
Once the flames have died down, spread the coals with a metal spatula, so they become even. We didn't have a spatula, so I used a large saucepan lid.

After an hour add another 6 lbs of charcoal - remember this was match light. I treasure my eyebrows, so adding match light charcoal to an already very hot lid was an advanced maneuver. The trusty saucepan lid came into play.

After another 30 minutes remove the lid and turn the hog over. Rub the interior with your chosen rubs. By this time the skin was nearly done. But the inside was still pretty raw. Then after another hour, repeat the charcoal addition procedure. This time it didn't catch, so we needed to improvise a long taper (rolled up paper towel) to light it from a suitable distance. The small cigarette lighter would have been much to close for comfort.

After one more hour, we tuned the hog over one more time to dry off the skin some more and to crisp it up. 

We didn't have a thermometer at hand, so had to rely on the old, "How loose are the joints, and what does a piece of meat cut off the haunches taste like? method".

She was done, so with much ceremony she was transferred inside and this was the result.The assembled company found her much to their liking.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This was one of those warm Texas evenings, a bottle of rosé , pita chips and the great outdoors kinds of recipes. We had a few red peppers, some pine nuts, olives, capers, anchovies and "secret ingredient" lying around. So of course a dip was the answer. Served with an Argentinian rosé (Pinot Noir).  Bagel chips as an accompaniment and we had very happy tummies.
It turns out that there are quite a lot of ingredients in this. But we happened to have them all to hand.


3 Red Peppers - roasted and cut into pieces
1/2 cup pine nuts - toasted
2T olive oil (not extra virgin - it becomes bitter with the use of the immersion blender)
1 salt packed anchovy
6 Niçoise olives, pitted
1T capers rinsed and drained
1t Habanero vodka (aka secret ingredient). May substitute any hot pepper sauce, but if vinegared, reduce vinegar in overall recipe
2T Sherry vinegar
Salt to taste


Place all the ingredients except the vinegar and salt into the immersion blender's beaker and pulse until almost smooth. Crunchy peanut butter texture is what you are aiming for.
Taste once the desired texture is attained. Add salt (if necessary) and sherry vinegar to taste.
Chill and serve with pita chips

Saturday, April 15, 2017

One Dish Asparagus

Asparagus and Mushrooms - A Light Dinner

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
Time 15 minutes
Skill Easy

This dish came about because asparagus is so good this time of year - and we wanted a quick and easy one dish meal. Mushrooms and asparagus are a match made in heaven. Some shallots and a couple of eggs, oh my!

You can use plain white button mushrooms, creminis, shiitakes, or any other exotic mushrooms for this. Be careful of the woody stems of shiitake mushrooms though.

The clever bit of this recipe is that the liquid from the mushrooms steams the asparagus and the eggs. If using white mushrooms you probably won't have to add any water.

You can, of course add any herbs/spices that interest you. I think a little nutmeg would be nice. Could also see thyme (a natural complement to mushrooms) being a nice addition.


1 T neutral (I used olive) oil
1 Medium shallot diced very finely
12 oz Mushrooms (sliced) - 1/4" (5 mm) thick slices. Use the stems too, but see caution above
1/4 t cayenne pepper (optional)
2T Dry sherry or white vermouth
3 T water (if necessary)
1 lb Fresh asparagus 1 1/2" (3 cm) pieces cut on the bias
2 - 4 whole chicken eggs
Salt/pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a medium (8") skillet. I prefer not to use non-stick, but that is a preference. Add the shallots and sweat for a minute or 2 until they are translucent.
Add the mushrooms to the skillet and sprinkle a little salt over them to encourage them to release their liquid. cook briefly (3 or 4 mor minutes) until the mushrooms have wilted and given up some of their liquid.  Add the cayenne (if using) and stir to incorporate. Add the sherry or vermouth.
Place the asparagus stalks on top of the mushroom/shallot mixture and put a tight fitting lid onto the pan. Steam for 30 seconds. Add the asparagus tips and, again, place the lid on and steam for a further minute. Check the liquid and if the pan is looking dry, add up to 3T water.
Break the eggs and individually place the eggs on top of the asparagus. Keep the eggs well separated, The recipe will accept up to 4 eggs, but you may not want to do that many.
Place the lid back on the skillet and allow the contents to steam for 3 1/2 more minutes - until the egg whites are set and the yolks are the consistency you want. The asparagus will be just cooked
Remove the lid adjust the seasoning to your taste. Serve immediately, making sure that any juices in the bottom of the pan are scooped up and drizzled over the dish.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Brisket rub

We recently bought a new ceramic outdoor "grill". We have had a medium sized Big Green Egg for a while, and we also had a propane based gas grill next door to it. The propane just got to be too much of a pain, so we abandoned it and bought a Primo XL oval ceramic grill to put in its place. That means we can now do 2 whole beef briskets at a time - not that we need to very often. But at this time of the year it is necessary as we give briskets to the police, fire department, home owners' association security group, local TV stations and others. Also we do a big event on the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) where we always serve brisket and pork.

I had a half brisket left over after the pre-Christmas deliveries so I took it to work. At work there is a group of young (and therefore always hungry) developers who like nothing better than BBQ (especially free BBQ). The 7 lbs of meat disappeared in about 15 minutes. And then there was the inevitable question (by some of the non-apartment dwellers who maybe planned to smoke their own meat) what is in the rub? In my kitchen there are no secrets. So here's what I do. You may find the units a bit odd, because they are expressed in "parts" not in any specific base. A part could be a teaspoon, a tablespoon, a cup, a gallon or whatever. But please note, all these are volume measures. I didn't weigh any of them. Also this rub is very suitable for beef, but I don't use it on pork - it is far too intense for pork.

Ingredients - All By Volume

20 parts kosher salt
6 parts jaggery (indian sugar_ or dark soft brown sugar
2 parts paprika (smoked is better)
2 parts black pepper (finely ground
1 part ground cumin
1/2 part garlic powder
1/2 part onion powder
1/4 part cayenne pepper

Note: The fractional parts could be a bit confusing. I could have multiplied it out and ended up with 80 parts of kosher salt. Somehow that would have looked a bit daunting.

And no the ingredients aren't terribly precise.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

GuacaTuna Redux

A while back (in 2009) I created a dish called Guacatuna. The idea was to replace the mayonnaise in tuna salad with mashed avocado. The texture was about the same, but the flavor was better. The mango added a little behind the scenes sweetness.

A couple of weeks I improvised on the idea and combined the avocado with a little mango - keying off this dish . Another success, I am pleased to say.


8oz Fresh Tuna
2 Avocados - flesh scooped out
1 mango - peeled and diced
2 pickling onions - minced (you could use 1/2 red onion, minced if you prefer)
1/2 habanero pepper
1/4 cup olive oil (you may not need all of it. It depends on the avocado)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped finely, Save some small leaves for garnish
a few cherry tomatoes halved
Pomegranate arils for garnish
salt/pepper to taste
coarse salt for crunch
Lettuce for serving, (Butter lettuce leaves or grilled romaine)


Salt and pepper the tuna, then grill it over charcoal until the interior is light pink. Allow it to cool, and then flake into bite sized pieces.
Meanwhile, place the avocado, mango, habanero into the blender and pulse a few times. It will clog up, so thin with a little high quality olive oil. You want it to be smooth and the texture of mayonnaise.
Combine the tomatoes, cilantro, minced onion and tuna with the avocado mixture. Season the mixture to taste.
Serve on a bed of butter lettuce (or as we did with some grilled romaine). Garnish with the pomegranate and cilantro. Sprinkle a little coarse sea salt over the salad and serve immediately.
The wine that evening was the Spier Chenin Bland - which at < $10 per bottle is terrific value for a midweek supper.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Leeks, mushrooms, asparagus

I suppose this is one of those dishes where an exotic name (preferably in an obscure language) is appropriate. But I decided just to be prosaic. It's more one of those, "What do we have lying around?" kinds of dishes. It turned out well, and got the "We can serve this to people" accolade.
To get the asparagus to behave, I cooked the stem ends for a minute before adding the tips.


2T Unsalted butter
3 leeks, white and light green parts, rinsed, and chopped finely
6 oz mushrooms, sliced (We had some white and some cremini, so used both)
1 minced jalapeno pepper
12 oz fresh asparagus cut into 2" lengths
2 T Port (I would have preferred a medium dry sherry, but port was what I could find)
2T water
2 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
salt/pepper to taste
Sea salt to sprinkle for extra crunch


Melt the butter over low heat in a large skillet. Add the leeks and sweat them (adding a little salt) for 4 or 5 minutes, taking care not to brown them. Move the leeks to the edge of the pan, and place the mushrooms in the center, turning up the heat a bit. Cook the mushrooms until they have driven off most of their moisture. Combine the leeks and mushrooms, add the port and the asparagus stalks. Put the lid on the pan and steam gently for a minute or so. Add the water and the asparagus tips, steam for a further 2 minutes with the lid on the pan.
Turn off the heat and immediately add the cherry tomatoes. Stir to combine and serve.

We had this as a main course, but it would make an excellent side dish, perhaps in a warm salad, or as a bruschetta on grilled baguette slices. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mango and Avocado salad

A dinner party dish. It's all about the prep! It can be varied a bit too, depending on which accents you want. This time we used pomegranates - they are just coming back into season, it seems. Thanks Dana, for the prep.


1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into 1/3" chunks
1 shallot, finely diced
2 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into the same sized pieces as the mango
Juice of 2 limes (divided use)
1 Pomegranate (arils only)
High quality olive oil (amount varies depending on the ripeness of the fruit, but around 2T)
2 green lettuce leaves per person
1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted pistachios
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Ahead of time, prepare the mangoes, avocado, pomegranate and onion. Make sure you cover the avocado with the juice of one of the limes.
When ready to serve, combine the fruits and shallot into a bowl and add the juice of 1/2 the second lime. Add 1T of olive oil and taste - checking for consistency.  You may need more, so check carefully.
To plate, lay 2 lettuce leaves on the salad plate, spoon the salad mixture onto the leaves, sprinkle a little more olive oil over the dish, then top with the pistachios and add some coarse sea salt (for crunch). Grate a little pepper on each plate, and serve immediately. 

Lamb Shoulder Chops - Sous Vide and Grilled

It was dinner event time. We had a menu comprising an avocado/mango/pomegranate salad, lamb shoulder chops with salt baked potatoes, roasted tomatoes and roasted cauliflower. This was followed with lemon pots de creme.

This post is about the lamb chops. Shoulder chops are a bit awkward. The bones run in odd directions, but the flavor is fantastic. They can be a bit tough, so our old friends yogurt and sous-vide cooking come to the rescue.


2 cups plain yogurt
20 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
2t coriander seeds, lightly crushed
20 cardamom pods - seeds only, lightly crushed
5 inch piece of lemon grass - bruised
1t Szechuan pepper - bruised
3 cloves garlic, crushed
12 lamb shoulder chops (about 8lb)


Combine the yogurt and spices in a small jug. Put the lam chops in vacuum bags (I used 3 bags, each with 4 chops). Divide the yogurt mixture evenly among the bags, Extract the air from the bags, and leave until ready
Set up the water circulator and water bath to a temperature of 134F (57C) and immerse the bagged chops for 4+ hours. This temperature get the chops to medium rare+. Shoulder meat needs to be a little more cooked than the tender lollipop chops.
The chops are finished on the grill. 
Heat the grill (we used the Big Green Egg) to a high temperature. Open the vacuum bags, and while still warm, pat the meat dry. Place the meat on the grill to brown - and get some slightly smoky flavor. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Shore Dinner

This recipe is adapted from a brilliant idea that we saw on an America's Test Kitchen episode. Prep time is minimal (10 minutes if you are moving slowly). Cook time is short (20-25 minutes) and the results are outstanding. You do need a tall, skinny stock pot, however. It needs to be skinny so the steam can permeate easily all the way through. Ours is an 8qt - sometimes called a pasta pot. Yes there is no liquid added.


1lb Kilebasa sausage - cut into 1/2" thick rounds
2 lbs mussels
3 lbs little-neck clams
2 lbs small red potatoes cut into 1" pieces
6 ears corn, outer leaves trimmed and cut in halves
salt/pepper as needed


Place the kielbasa rounds in a single layer in the bottom of the cold pot. Wrap the mussels and clams in cheesecloth, and tie to make a bag. It makes then easier to remove when all is done. Put the cheesecloth bag on top of the kielbasa. Put the potatoes on top of the bag of mussels/clams. Put the corn halves on next. 

Cover the pot with its own lid. Place the pot on medium heat and cook for about 25 minutes. Check the doneness of the potatoes at about 22 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked the dish is ready. 
To serve, place the corn on a large platter, and then spread the potatoes, shellfish and sausage all around. Strain the liquid to remove any grit and serve separately.

We served it with a Spier Sauvignon Blanc, and home made, crusty bread.

This dish works because the hot air rising from the browning of the sausage hits the shellfish causing them to open slightly and drop their liquid. The liquid turns to steam cooking the potatoes and corn.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Watermelon and Halloumi

We did a Mediterranean themed party, so who better to turn to for inspiration than Michael Symon. So while this is actually using a Cypriot cheese, it fit the bill nicely.  It is a pretty simple recipe, but it tasted outstanding. None left :-(

Refreshing, tangy, tasty and pretty. You can find the original here. I didn't change it up much.


1 small shallot, minced
1 medium clove garlic mashed
kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 T honey
1/2 cup high quality, extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 T chopped mint
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
24 x 1" diameter 3/8" thick rounds cut from the core of a seedless watermelon
24 x 1" diameter 3/8 thick rounds of halloumi
2T vegetable oil
Rice flour/water slurry to coat the halloumi


Mash the garlic with a little salt to make a paste. Place the shallot and garlic in a bowl. Add the vinegar and honey, Mix well. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the almonds and mint, stir well.
Place the watermelon rounds in a single layer in the bottom of an 8x13 non reactive dish. Pour the mixed dressing over the watermelon. Allow to rest for at least an hour and up to 3.hours.
Coat the individual halloumi rounds with a little rice flour slurry. Heat up a cast iron pan over medium heat with the 2T of vegetable oil. Test temperature of pan with a few drops of water.
When hot enough, place the halloumi on the pan in a single layer. When you have laid out the last round, the first round will be ready to flip.
Once the halloumi rounds are cooked, remove from pan and place on top of the watermelon, serve immediately

Monday, April 11, 2016


Rhubarb doesn't get as much visibility as it should here in Dallas, TX. When buying some yesterday I was asked by the cashier at the supermarket if it was like celery... But I digress.

It is a delicious stalk that needs very little attention - making it a great ingredient for smoothies, and pies - or for just plain snacking. And it is really simple to prepare.


2 1/2 lb Rhubarb, top and tailed, cut into 1" lengths
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar.


Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a non-reactive sauce pan. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until some of the juice has rendered out. Turn the heat down to low, put the lid on the pan and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes - until the rhubarb has softened.


Smoothie - equal volumes of chilled, prepared rhubarb (see above), Greek yogurt and ice. Blend until smooth. Add some strawberries if you want extra flavors

Pie filling - use the prepared rhubarb as a filling for a double crust pie or a simple crumble (crisp).

Eat out of hand. The sweet/tart taste of rhubarb makes a delicious snack on its own

Make a sauce to accompany pork. Perhaps add a dried plum to the prpared rhubarb, heat gently and puree.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Duck Salad

Madame and I were too lazy to go to the store - or even anywhere last Sunday. So fridge and freezer diving we went. What did we find?

Some left over frozen (raw) duck breasts, mushrooms, scallions, lettuce, avocados and oranges. Easy - let's make some pan fried duck with an orange/mushroom sauce that will serve as a dressing over the lettuce leaves. Served with a ZD 2001 merlot and we were in heaven. Sadly the 2001 ZD merlot is not easily available. They only made 1470 cases of it. We were lucky to find a bottle or too.

I would have preferred it if the duck breasts had had some fat on them, but beggars cannot be choosers. We made do!


3 T vegetable oil (divided use)
2 duck breasts - skin and fat removed, lightly seasoned with salt on both sides
Segments of 2 oranges
5 scallions, white and green parts only, sliced into 1/4" pieces
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced - about 6 slices per mushroom
1 avocado, diced 
a handful of lettuce leaves, torn
salt and pepper to taste


Heat 1 T of oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add the duck breasts and leave undisturbed for about a minute and a half - essentially until they release from the pan. Turn them over and repeat. Set the duck breasts aside.
Add the remaining oil to the hot pan, followed by the scallions and mushrooms. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for a few minutes - until the mushrooms have wilted. Add the orange segments and any juice, return the duck breasts to warm up.
To serve, make a pile of lettuce n the plate. Pour over the pan juices. Slice the duck breasts thinly, mound on the lettuce and add the mushroom/scallion/orange pieces. Decorate with diced avocado. Grind a little black pepper over the dish.

Voila - about 25 minutes start to finish. It got the "We can serve this to people" accolade. Amazing what can be done with weird looking stuff in fridge and freezer. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cooking with Kenji

Serious Eats/The Food Lab is one of my favorite sites to visit. Kenji applies scientific principles to experimentation with food. He went to MIT, so not surprising that he has a scientific bent.

There of us (all Chris's) went to a cooking demo/book signing at a local Central Market a couple of weeks back. It was all about breakfast. Some amazing hints, an entertaining lecture and delicious food. Too much to get into in detail (hint, buy the book), but now having seen his personality and approach I find the book even easier to comprehend.

The one thing I will mention is the mayonnaise. None of the drizzle slowly while whisking stuff. No use the stick blender and a tall container. Eggs/water/acid in the bottom, oil on top. Put in the stick, blend for about 20 seconds. Voila mayonnaise. One piece of great advice about the oil. Use a relatively neutral oil at the beginning. If you plan to add a fruity olive oil, then add it at the end and whisk it in by hand.

One of the Chris's had brought back some oil from Nice after a business trip. So of course we had to add that into the mayonnaise. Oh my.

We made some of the mayonnaise with a finely chopped garlic clove blended in. Served as a dip with some naan split open, drizzled with oil, sumac, and salt, toasted for 10 minutes in a 350 oven.

We also used the same garlic mayonnaise as a base for poached eggs on toast. Kenji also taught us an outstanding way to poach eggs. So, home made bread, garlic mayonnaise with poached eggs for supper on a Sunday. It doesn't get a lot better than that.

OTBN 2016

I have posted about Open That Bottle Night before. It was an idea started at the Wall Street Journal several years ago. The idea being that yu share special bottles of wine with friends, tell stories, eat and drink too much (sometimes) and generally have a fun time.
This year we had 11 people - including a special guest, Heather, who had been interning and taking classes in Europe last year. Having her tell us about her experiences working in all aspects of the trade in Burgundy was a real treat.
As usual, the wines were varied. The foods were delicious. The pairings very good and the stories even better. Of course there was drama too. Heather had a difficult afternoon, Cathy had had food poisoning earlier in the week, Chris F had been delayed with his mother in law. All in al it was amazing it all came together.
I had taken a class earlier in the week with Kenji from The Food Lab. He had demonstrated making mayonnaise using the stick blender. So of course I had to try it. Garlic mayonnaise on naan chips served with (of all things!) Cupcake prosecco and a  Cremant de Bourgogne. Heather had brought some creme de cassis from Dijon, so some had kir royales...But I digress.
OTBN 2016 wines

First Course

Chuck and Jeanine are from Louisiana and made an oyster stew/soup (still not sure what to call it - except fantastic). Oysters, artichokes in a creamy broth. And with it, something unusual. A white Chateau Neuf du Pape - Chateau La Nerthe. Mostly Roussane it had a wonderful crispness that cut through the richness of the soup. A terrific way to start the evening. Chuck and Jeanine had spent time in Chateau Neus du Pape and the neighboring town of Orange -where there is an outstanding Roman Theater.

Second Course

Scott and April brought their favorite Sushi - from Gui in Dallas. It is a special tuna roll that the owner makes up for them specially. We complemented it with the Chateau La Nerthe from the previous course - saving their wine for a later time. 

Third Course

Heather made a traditional Burgundian duck confit, served with a cassis sauce and duck fat roasted potatoes. While living in Beaune she befriended a local wine store and brought back some of the Morey-Saint-Denis for us all to try. An oysyanding pairing and some lovely stories from Heather about her time in Beaune.

Fourth Course

Chris and Erin made a Boeuf a la Bourgignon that was another hit. We ate well this evening. It had a lovely silkiness to it - lots of rich stock and a bottle of the Chateau de Beucastel in the dish, and another to taste with it. Another wonderful pairing. The wine had just enough tannin to cut into the richness and meatiness of the dish. Perfect balance. 

Fifth Course

We had decided on a cheese course. At Christmas last year two French colleagues (France and Benoit from the Franche-Comte region of France) had introduced us to Macvin du Jura as a pairing with Vacherin Mont d'Or. Macvin is a "vin de liqueur" - a drink made by adding a pomace brandy (or marc) to unfermented grape juice. It is quite oxidized and earthy. So pairing with the rich cheese was outstanding. We couldn't find another Vacherin, but we were able to find a Jasper Hill Farms Winnimere cheese instead. We pusched thinly sliced garlic into it, poured some of the Chareau d'Arlay macvin into it and baked it. Served with baguettes.


Scott and April brought a delicious Del Dotto Cabernet Sauvignon for us just to roll around in our mouths. Oh my what a delicious, big, rich cab with amazing fruit and structure. We sipped that while letting everything else settle prior to dessert


Cathy and Nacy brought some delicious chocolate mousse cakes and something new to me. The Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir from  the Russian River Valley. For me it was fascinating to have had the very traditional Morey-Saint-Denis from Burgundy and the very much more fruit forward, powerful Belle Glos. Entirely different expressions of the grape, but both absolutely delicious in their own way.


This is probably the first time that Cupcake has ever been served in such exalted company. It was a fun evening with everyone telling their stories, laughing and generally letting their hair down. Each year we do one of these - with different people we are reminded what a great time can be had with everyone telling stories, bringing interesting wines and lovely food. Thanks to all who came.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Israeli CousCous Salad

This dish is adapted from something we saw on America's test kitchen. We tried it with the usual tweak here and there. Took it to a party and it was pronounced very good. For a change, the ingredients are measured by volume.
The recipe is a bit fiddly with lots of steps, but well worth it.


3T olive oil
2 Cups Israeli Couscous
2 1/2 cups water
2 Shallots sliced finely
1/3 Cup red wine vinegar
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1 t Dijon mustard
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
4T Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 bunches of aarugula (rocket). Not terribly precise I am sorry to say
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
5 oz crumbled Feta
1 pomegranate - arils only
6 oz chopped, toasted pistachios
Coarse sea salt to taste


Place the 3T olive oil and the couscous into a cold pan. Heat on medium until the coucous is lightly toasted.  Immediately add the water, stir and put the lid on. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes (could be a minute or 2 more or less) until the water has dissolved. Turn the heat off and leave covered for a few minutes
Combine the vinegar, sugar and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and leave until cool
Meanwhile make a dressing by combining the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and mustard in a large bowl.
When the couscous is cooked, lay out in a single layer on a sheet pan until completely cooled.
Wash the arugula and mint, remove the arugula stems. Place the couscous into the bowl with the dressing. Add the strained, pickled shallot. Toss quickly. Add the arugula and mint, toss again. Add the peas and pomegranate and toss again. Finally add the feta cheese and pistachios. Toss one final time. Shake some coarse sea salt over the salad and combine.
Serve after resting for a few mintes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

khachapuri - First attempt

A facebook friend had been traveling in Georgia (the country, not the US state) and mentioned that he had had a fabulous dish - called khachapuri. He suggested that I try making it. He knows that I am a sometime baker and so would relish the challenge.

This is the finished dish..

A small loaf of bread filled with gooey cheese and an egg baked in the hole. He was right, it is delicious - and pretty easy. The dough is a bit soft and wet, so it is tricky to handle, however.

Ingredients - Bread

1 t yeast
pinch of sugar
70 ml luke warm water
70 ml luke warm whole milk
15 ml olive oil
200 gm bread flour
5 gm kosher salt

Ingredients - Filling

200 gm queso fresco (or other soft crumbly cheese)
50 gm fresh goat cheese
a little milk to make the texture a paste
2 large eggs


This bread has a lot of yeast for the amount of flour, so it has a tendency to rise very quickly. I retarded mine by keeping it in the fridge. Partly because we didn't eat it the day we expected to. It had to sit for 24 hours longer than anticipated.

Dissolve the sugar in the milk/water and add the yeast. Allow to become foamy - about 10 minutes

Mix in the flour, oil and salt and knead for about 5 minutes by hand. You may find you need to add a little more flour to stop it being too sticky.

Allow to rise until about double original volume. This is largely a temperature thing. If you do it in the fridge at 37F (2C) it takes about 24 hours.

When ready to bake, set a pizza stone (or upside down baking sheet) in the oven and preheat to 500F - yes it really is that hot. Allow to heat for at least 45 minutes.

Make the cheese mixture by creaming the cheeses - adding a little milk if necessary.

Shape the dough into 2 equal sized balls and roll each out until it is 10 inches (25cm) in diameter. I did it on parchment (greaseproof) paper.

Put 1/4 of the filling on the first round, leaving a margin of about 1" (2.5 cm) all the way around.

Roll one side of the circle towards the center. You want to stop about an inch (2.5 cm) before the center. Roll from the other side so you have a center channel. Twist the ends to make small knobs. 

You will have made little boats.

Divide the rest of the cheese mixture between the boats

Repeat with the other round.

Bake the boats on the pizza stone or baking sheet for 15 minutes. The cheese mixture will be all bubbly and gooey.

After 15 minutes, crack an egg into each boat - you may need to poke the filling first to make room for the egg. Return to the oven and bake for 4:30 - until the white is set, but the yolk is still runny.

Serve with a green salad - and in our case a glass of pinot noir. I would imagine that a really nice 
Belgian Trippel would go well.