Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Smoked Brisket, Blue Cheese & Beer-Braised Leeks

Elizabeth's parents gave us some Thanksgiving leftovers to take home...the crown jewel was a chunk of smoked brisket.

Elizabeth's father smoked the brisket with applewood I think and kept it moist with a mixture that included apple juice. The end result was a smoky richness with a hint of sweetness...perfect flavors to build on.

I sliced the smoked brisket thin against the grain, then seared them to get a bit of crisp around the edges.

Next, I sliced a huge leek from the farmer's market, sweated it off in some olive oil & salt, then braised the leeks in a Belgian blonde ale. The ale gave the leeks a flavor similar to the smoking process of the bitter-sweet brisket...main flavor of slight hoppiness with malty sweet undertone. I let these caramelize and kept adding the beer in small doses to prevent burning.

We had some Danish Blue Cheese from Whole Foods that would go great with the smoky-sweet brisket & bitter beer-sweetened leeks. This is similar to a Saga Blue...very firm and salty to balance the pungent 'blue' notes.

We pan-toasted some flatbread to get a cripsy base for the toppings. We then arranged the three components with a bit of parsley before enjoying these smoky bittersweet meaty cheesy appetizers.

C & E

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eastern Shore Excursion: Metompkin Seafood Market

On the opposite end of the cooking spectrum from The Machipongo Clam Shack 'lighter fare' is the Metompkin Seafood Market...fried (fresh) seafood that's so good you know it's bad for you!

I love the way that the menu is hand-lettered, crossed out and taped over. I noticed that the price of french fries has been dropping steadily from the scribbled out prices.

There's no dining area inside, just a counter full of fresh seafood and a register. We ordered up some fried clams & fish and browsed the seafood while we waited.

While we waited there was a steady flow of locals coming in and out picking up crab cake guy grabbed a sack of 8...I think his family had sent him on a crab cake run.

These little beauties smelled like the ocean...salty and fresh, with no bad wiffs.

We should've ordered only HALF of this...the portions were enormous. The fish batter was your standard corn-meal base, the fish was flaky & tasted like flounder but I didn't remember to ask what they used until we had left. Plus, I recalled seeing they had alot of fresh flounder for sale.

Fried clams were good, but we'll try the crab cake sandwich next time as it seemed to be the local's pick.

C & E

Friday, November 28, 2008

Eastern Shore Excursion: Chatam & Holly Grove Vineyards

I always knew that the Eastern Shore grew grapes to sell to large-run Virginia wineries, but it's only in the last few years that wineries have begun to spring up on the Eastern Shore.

We stopped at two of these on the way back from of them we had tried before, the other was brand new.

This is the view as you approach Chatam Vineyards. We've tried Chatam's wines before and we really liked their Rose.

The tasting room was bright, clean and friendly. There were several good whites and a decent red (Virginia reds are a little more anemic...but this thinness helps the aromas to come out). We ended up buying a bottle of the oaked Chardonnay.

The second vineyard was Holly Grove and it's rather new.

This is a family-run vineyard with a small tasting room, warm & friendly. He invited us back into the production area, shown here, and went through the stages and techniques of winemaking.

Holly Grove has some delicious Chardonnays that have won a few medals...most prominently a Gold in the Virginia Cup. Our favorite was the '07 Chardonnay...aged with the lees, it had a butteryness and deeper flavor than the '06.

Stop in and visit...Holly Grove is easily accessible from Rt.13 and is located south of Exmore a few miles from Chatam.

C & E

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eastern Shore Excursion: The Great Machipongo Clam Shack

We drove down to Virginia to spend Thanskgiving with family. Wanting to avoid traffic, we took Rt.13 down the Eastern Shore. On the Virginia side of the Shore you'll find one of the best seafoood markets & restaurant...The Great Machipongo Clam Shack.

The GMC Shack is located just south of Exmore in a vacated fast-food restaurant but is lightyears away from the greasy offerings you usually find on 'The Road'.

Fresh steamed shellfish, grilled & broiled fish, soups & sandwiches, you can find a great healty & lite lunch offering and walk away with fresh ingredients for dinner.

Elizabeth ordered a bowl of Maryland-style (red) crab soup; made with claw meat & brimming with vegetables & potato, it was reminiscent of Brunswick Stew.

Here you see my clam-fritter sandwich...similar to an quiche. Served with a fresh 'slaw, this sandwich was an interesting way to have a warm seafood sandwich that wasn't deep fried & battered.

C & E

Monday, November 24, 2008

Veggie, Noodle & Shrimp Bowl

Here's a nice little weeknight noodle dish that Elizabeth usually makes for lunch...I threw some pan-seared shrimp on to to make it a dinner.

Ingredients in no specific amount:
  • 2 sticks of Soba buckwheat noodles
  • carrots, matchstick cut
  • edamame beans, steamed
  • cilantro leaves
  • seasame seeds
  • sauce (order in lessening amount) - sesame oil,rice wine vinegar, lime juice, brown sugar

C & E

Unique Philly Sandwich: Roast Garlic Pork & Broccoli Rabe

We grabbed this sandwich from Steaks on South St. It's made with roast garlic & pork, filled with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.

It took a little longer to make that your average cheesesteak, but it was worth it. The guy serving it up asked me "Are you ready for an awesome sandwich?!?!"

If you like sharp strong flavors then this sandwich is for you...biting bitterness of the rabe, the cheesy sting of provolone, the deep sweetness of juicy roast pork & garlic all melded together perfectly.

C & E

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Butternut Squash Risotto Redux

After the success Elizabeth had with her last Butternut Squash Risotto, she decided to amp up the presentation factor.

We cut the neck off a medium sized Butternut squash; then we split the bottom sphere in half. IMPORTANT! Slice a small bit off the bottom of each bowl so that the halves will stand up without rolling over.

While I peeled and cubed the neck, Elizabeth scooped out the seeds, then scooped out a bit more flesh to make room for risotto.

Place the squash bowls in a 375 degree oven, cut side down and coated with a thin layer of olive oil on exposed squash.

While the squash cooks, begin making your risotto. Here's the basic ingredients for that step:

2 cups chicken stock & 2 cups water, simmering in a pot
1/2 onion diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 tblsp butter
Parmesan cheese to taste

Here's how you make risotto...but if you now how to 'risotto' then go to it!

Also Elizabeth toasted some pumpkin seeds (pepitos), then sauteed the reserved squash cubes for 10 minutes and finally crisped some whole sage leaves.

By the time your risotto is ready, your squash should be done. Pull it out, stuff it in the bowl, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, Parmesan cheese and diced squash.

C & E

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Brussles Sprouts Technique - Pluck the Leaves

Here's another example of how you can introduce Brussles sprouts to people who may have been turned off by the little green globes in the past.

Here we sprinkled in some pine-nuts and dried currants and drizzled with olive oil.

Same technique as before:
  • Pull the first four or five leaves off each sprout, then cut the base off what's left of your sprout-nub.
  • Cut the remaining nub in half and pull it apart with your fingers. Discard any chunky bit.

C & E

Weekday Dinner: Savoy Cabbage, Sausage & Whole Wheat Penne

Here's a recipe we've been fixing for a long time after spotting it in an edition of Cooking Light. I usually halve the amount of pasta they call always seems like carbo overload.

This easy for a weeknight because you can make the leek, cabbage & sausage mixture all in one skillet and boil your pasta at the same time. It all comes together in the same pan.

This is Cooking Light's version...I think our cabbage was a bit greener and cut in larger pieces, which gave it more chew.

C & E

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fast Apps: Seared Diver Scallops on Pancetta & Brussels Sprouts Leaves

After a spectacular couple of weeks cooking with autumn greens, we were left with three lonely Brussels sprouts. Strolling through Whole Foods, we spied some U-10 Scallops that would make a perfect appetizer.

Elizabeth manned the scallop station here, creating a perfect sear on the humongous U-10s. Cook them on medium-high heat, keeping a close eye on the scallop.

Don't bother with cooking according to minutes...sear your tops & bottoms, then watch the side of the scallop...when the watery, translucence goes away and you get an elastic touch, wait a moment or two more then it's time to pull them off the heat.

The sprout leaves to me are the coolest thing about this recipe. I always hated Brussels sprouts (whole, halved or quartered) because they were green chunks of semi-sulfurous bitterness. But if you peel the sprout, leaf by leaf, the eggy sulfurous character goes away and you're left with a mellow leafy-green.

Pull the first four or five leaves off each sprout, then cut the base off what's left of your sprout-nub.

Cut the remaining nub in half and pull it apart with your fingers. Discard any chunky bit.

We rendered some chopped pancetta in a hot pan (you could use thick-cut or slab bacon), then added the Brussels sprouts leaves.

Once the leaves wilted and took on a slight char, turn off the heat and splash it with a scant tablespoon or so of an acid...we used sherry vinegar, but red-wine vinegar or apple cider would work.

The final result...sweet seared scallop, salty crispy pork bits and slightly sour & bitter bite from the leaves.

C & E

Recipie Research: Hillbilly Eggrolls

One of the things I miss most about the Norfolk restaurant scene is The Taphouse...a great mix of good food, beer and outdoor patio kickback dining. The greatest thing they ever served on their menu were Hillbilly Eggrolls.

Hillbilly Eggrolls disappeared for a short while from the menu and although we wanted to try and decipher the mystery without using chunky eggroll skins, we didn't have access to good spring roll wrappers...until we moved to Philly.

Hillbilly Eggrolls are your standard eggroll/springroll made with:

1 lb. Cooked Ham
1 can Black-eyed Peas
4oz. Gruyere Cheese
10oz. Cabbage
1pkg. Spring Roll Wrappers

Serve with Texas Pete or Tabasco dipping sauce

(Beware! This yields about 1 1/2 to 2 dozen rolls)

A quick Google search revealed that nobody has a good recipe even more reason to try and figure this one out.

Attempt #1

-Ham & Cheese were sliced into large matchsticks
-Cabbage was wrapped uncooked

You can see roughly the amounts added to a single roll.

Deep-fried in 375-400 degree peanut oil (canola is fine, but peanut gives more flavor) here's the results.

Attempt #1 was decent, but when the cabbage cooked down in the wrap, it left alot of vacant space in the roll...not very satisfying. Plus the cheese didn't' really blend in well.

Attempt #2

Elizabeth had a better idea...cook the cabbage beforehand so that it wouldn't wilt in the wrapper.

Next, we diced some of the ham a little smaller to match the size of the black-eyed peas. Also, we shredded the cheese so that it would fold into the cabbage and flavor it without running out.

The end result was perfect. The rolls came out of the hot oil bath plump withHillbilly goodness...chunks of ham, strong cheese flavor and little punches of beany texture, all dripping with hot sauce.

Now that we've got the third and final member of the Decadent Springroll Trio...Duck Confit & Dried Cherry, Philly Cheesesteak, & Hillbilly....although the Duck confit is a little too upscale...maybe we'll try the Redneck Eggroll...pork BBQ, cabbage and pickles.

C & E

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Road Trip: Sly Fox Brewery

We'd planned on going to Winterthur Gardens but the grounds were absolutely drenched from a week of rain, so instead we stuck to the byways. After having some great craftbrew from Sly Fox, I wanted to check out one of their two breweries, so we cruised out to Phoenixville in the Mustang.

After cruising up the Main Line, then doing some 'car-commercial' quality driving through a few hollows, we landed in the parking lot of the Sly Fox brewery.
It wasn't that interesting on the outside. Located in a shopping mall, it had a small patio ourside...but it's what's inside that I was after.

Here's Mini-Guinni...the O'Reilly Stout served in a small sampler glass...look at the perfect pour on the glass. The nice thing here is that you can get a sampler of 5 beers for $6.

Here we have, from left to right:
  • Aurora IPA - A very hoppy ale, with a lot of body...try it once just to say you had it
  • Berliner Weisse - A summer sipper...thin, smooth, slightly sour/citiric
  • O'Reilly Stout - A dry stout for Guinness-drinkers
  • Black Raspberry Reserve - Not terrbily sweet at all...which is a good thing
  • Saison Brune - Had that good 'barnyard' character that comes from saison...malty goodness
You can tell from the uneven pours in the picture the first two we went for...Elizabeth took a sip on the Raspberry and I went straight for the Saison Brune. I have to admit, my favorite beers lately have been those you'd find in N. France/S.Belgium...saisons and biere de garde...welcome diversions from German wheats.

C & E

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Celeriac & Brussels Sprout Risotto w/ Proscutti Leaves & Lamb

Here's the inspiration Elizabeth ran across.

...and here's the result of some farmer's market finds...celeriac & brussels sprouts. Elizabeth whipped up her signature risotto recipe and we then added the ingredients to the finished risotto. Here's the components:

1 cup arborrio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 leek, sliced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 cups chicken stock & 2 cups water, boiling
salt & parmesan sprinkles to taste

and here's what you do with that
...but if you now how to 'risotto' then go to it! To give it a theme, just throw in any ingredient when the risotto is 5 minutes from being done.

This is the FIRST time we actually used ALL FOUR eyes of the gas stove here. On the main eye, (lower left) we've got your standard risotto recipe going....and the accompanying pot of broth that you use to ladle your stock into the rice one cup at a time.

Top right is a pot of celeriac root, cubed and boiled. Bottom right is a pan of brussels sprouts with 1 tbs of olive oil sauteed, then a 1/3 cup of water to steam it.

The main trick to the sprouts is to pluck each leaf off the sprout individually; I cut the base off of the sprout and peel off the layers like an artichoke. I chop the remaining nubs up or discard the knobby part. Now you've got a nice pile of leafy sprout goodness instead of quartered hunks of green gobs.

To give a meaty foil to the leaves of brussels sprouts, we pan-crisped some proscutti and then served it with the risotto. Finally, we seared up a slice of lamb leg ($1.69 @ Super Fresh...yum!) cooked rare and sliced on the bias.

C & E