Monthly Archives: April 2013

RICH TABLE – KEEPING OUR FINGERS CROSSED

What a year this has been! About this time last year Rich Table was a construction site, and Sarah and Evan were wondering if they could open on time. They were also wondering if they would get enough customers to pay the bills.  Their anxieties have been addressed. The doors of their new restaurant opened right on schedule, and almost from the beginning, they have been busy. One of the biggest complaints on Yelp is that getting a reservation is almost impossible. As proud parents, we know the feeling. When we are visiting San Francisco, we need to call Sarah weeks ahead to make sure we have a table. Sometimes we have had to sit at the bar, and once we only got in when there was a last-minute cancellation.

Great reviews on local food blogs and by Michael Bauer in the San Francisco Chronicle have certainly helped with their popularity, but the excellent service by “celebrity” wait staff, creative cocktails, and – of course – the imaginative food have drawn in lots of repeat customers and regulars.

The chefs have travelled to places as far away as Chicago and Mumbai to cook at the invitation of restaurants and chefs in those settings.

Now, even before the first anniversary of their enterprise, Sarah and Evan are enjoying an experience that once they could only dream of. Along with their friends,  the husband-wife team who operate State Bird Provisions in another part of San Francisco, they are among five finalists for the James Beard Foundation award for the outstanding new restaurant in the United States.

For those of you who don’t know, the James Beard Foundation Awards is cooking’s version of the Oscars. It is black-tie/long dresses in the Lincoln Center in New York City. There are categories for all sorts of food-related honorees, including best chef, best restaurant, best restaurateur, best television show, best cookbook, even best food blog (I am not on the list). There are lots of pre- and post-event parties, so it becomes a days-long celebration of food. I am certain that there is a lot of amazing food at all of the parties and events.

I thought you might be interested in the lists of finalists in two categories: Best New Restaurant and Individual Food Blog, so here they are:

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

  • Empellón Cocina                       NYC
  • Grace                                           Chicago
  • The Ordinary                             Charleston
  • Rich Table                                  San Francisco
  • State Bird Provisions               San Francisco

INDIVIDUAL FOOD BLOG

  • Cannelle et Vanille                       www.cannellevanille.com    Aran Goyoaga
  • Hunter Angler Gardener Cook   www.honest-food.net           Hank Shaw
  • Vinography                                      www.vinography.com           Alder Yarrow

Cookbook, television, and journalism awards will be announced on May 3, 2013. The other awards will be announced May 6, 2013. If you are interested in checking out all of the finalists in all of the categories, go to www.jamesbeard.org/awards

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HAM, POTATO, AND ONION GRATIN – CLEARING OUT THE FREEZER, PART THREE

In my quest to get to the bottom of our freezer, I found a plastic bag containing four thick ham slices separated by waxed paper. I managed to break one of them free and decided to make a gratin of potatoes, onions, and ham. One of our family favorites is Julia Child’s râpée morv andelle (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1, page 153). In that recipe, though, you are supposed to grate the potatoes and finely dice the ham. The ham steak from the freezer seemed too big and thick to suffer the indignity of fine dicing.

I was reminded of a wonderful dish that a Swedish friend of ours always prepared for her Christmas smörgåsbord: Jansson’s frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation). Potatoes and anchovy filets were arranged in alternating rows and then topped with onions, cheese, cream, and eggs. The casserole was baked until the mixture was puffed and golden.  I decided to try that same thing, substituting thinly sliced potato for the grated potatoes and ham cut into bâtonett instead of dice. Scallions would serve as the onion representative.

RECIPE

Ham, Potato, and Onion Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 medium russet potato, unpeeled
  • 1 ham steak, ½ inch thick and about 8 ounces
  • 3 scallions including green tops, cut into ¼ inch rings
  • 4 ounces Swiss (Emmental) cheese, grated
  • 3 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • nutmeg
  • salt
  • pepper

Method

  1. Using a mandoline, slice the unpeeled potato crosswise into 1/16 inch thick rounds. Soak in water until ready to assemble the casserole.
  2. Remove any fat and bone from the ham steak and cut into strips ½ inch x ½ inch x 2 inches. Set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.
  3. Combine the beaten eggs with the cream and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  4. In a well-greased 8 x 8 x 2 inch ovenproof glass pan, arrange an overlapping row of potato slices that have been drained and patted dry.
  5. Next to the row of potatoes, arrange a row of the ham slices. Then begin a second row of potatoes, another row of ham pieces, and finish with another row of potato slices.
  6. Sprinkle the top with half of the cut-up scallions, half of the grated cheese, and cover with half of the egg and cream mixture.
  7. Make a second layer of alternating potato and ham slices, using all of both. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and grated cheese.  Cover with the remaining egg and cream mixture
  8. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350° (175°C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the top becomes too brown, cover with aluminum foil.
  9. When the casserole is golden brown and the potatoes are tender (test with a small knife), remove from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes to set up a bit, and serve immediately while still warm.

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(FAIRLY) QUICK SHRIMP CREOLE – CLEANING OUT THE FREEZER, PART TWO

One of the things I found in the freezer was a big plastic bag of vegetable scraps – carrot peelings, celery bottoms, onion skins and roots, bits of tomatoes – which I had been saving from a couple of months’ worth of cooking projects. For years I have made chicken stock from chicken parts and bones and beef stock from bone. But I never made my own vegetable stock until I picked up a tip from Sara Moulton on her television show, “Sara’s Weeknight Meals”. Save your scraps in the freezer, and when you have enough, put them in a pot, cover with water, and simmer for thirty minutes to an hour, cool, strain, and freeze into cubes to be used whenever you need vegetable stock. Works like the proverbial charm, and forms the beginning of today’s recipe.

The other thing I found in the freezer was a package of shrimp (21-30/pound size), and they became the inspiration and base for shrimp creole. In Louisiana, shrimp creole can be a simple country dish or a fancier version for company dinners and buffets. For that reason, some folks think it is just too complicated for a quick dinner. Too bad, because it is easy to make and fairly fast. This version took me about two hours to prepare, but that was because I was running around finding props and making images. You should be able to whip it up in a flat hour or so.  Served with cooked rice, this recipe should serve 2 to 4 persons.

Something you need to know before you start this recipe is that shrimp creole can be as piquant as you like. For family reasons, we don’t put much heat into Cajun and Mexican dishes, but if you enjoy heat, by all means use the hot sauce with abandon. For this dish – since it is from Louisiana – I suggest either Tabasco or Trappey’s.

RECIPE

Shrimp Creole

Ingredients

  • fresh or frozen shrimp (21-30/pound), shells on – allow 5 to 6 for each serving
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • ½ large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped, including green tops
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8  teaspoon ground bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional or to taste)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon

Method

  1. Peel and clean the shrimp. Refrigerate the peeled shrimp until ready to add to the cooked sauce. Save the shells.
  2. Prepare shrimp stock by combining  the vegetable stock and shrimp shells in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain. You should have about 1½ cups of shrimp stock.
  3. In a 4 quart stockpot, melt the bacon drippings over medium heat. Add the onions, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sweat the onions for 5 minutes or until they are translucent.
  4. Add the scallions, celery, and green pepper, raise the heat again to medium and cook the vegetables until tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in the shrimp stock, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, paprika, and optional Tabasco sauce. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Then add the tomato sauce and reduce heat to the simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer just long enough until the tomatoes are softened
  8. Correct the seasonings, add the sugar and lemon juice. Then add the shrimp and stir them into the sauce until they are cooked and pink – no longer than 5 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately over cooked rice. Allow about ½ to 1 cup of rice for each serving.

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CORNBREAD II: DEANIE HICKOX’S SWEET CORNBREAD

Several months ago, my daughters and I started on a book project about the history of corn, cornmeal, and corn-based recipes. As part of our effort, we got into a friendly competition to find the best cornbread recipe. As a purist, my contribution was totally sugar-free. Sarah submitted this recipe, which has a lot of sweetening including honey. For my taste, it is too sweet to sop up pot liquor or beans. Still, it is absolutely delicous, so much so that it is difficult to resist eating the whole batch by oneself even though it should serve four to six. There is relatively little cornmeal as most cornbread recipes go, and it is almost like a cake. That is why in this post I have presented it as a dessert paired with macerated strawberries and whipped cream.

The recipe came from one of Sarah’s cooking friends, Deanie Hickox, who at one time worked as a pastry chef at Michael Mina’s in San Francisco.  The original version made enough cornbread for a crowd of restaurant customers, so I adapted it for the home baker. You’ll see that my finished cornbread fell a little in the middle.  That was from my using too much baking soda for this altitude (7,000 feet). If you are a high altitude baker,  see the note below

RECIPE

Ingredients

Dry Mix

  • 1½  cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda *(for high altitudes, reduce to 1 teaspoon)
  • ¾  cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Wet Mix

  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 ounces (one stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1½ tablespoons honey

Method

  1. Combine dry ingredients
  2. Mix eggs and butter, and then add other wet ingredients. The order is important to keep the butter from solidifying too much.
  3. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir. Don’t worry about getting out all the lumps. Most of them are lttle clumps of butter that will melt during baking.
  4. In a pre-heated oven, bake at 350°F (177°C) in a greased 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan for about 45minutes. Cover with foil if the cornbread takes on too much color.
  5. Cool for 5 minutes. Then cut into serving-sized squares.
  6. For dessert, add macerated strawberries or other fruit, and top with whipped cream.

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MEATLOAF! – OR – CLEARING OUT THE FREEZER

I have been doing almost all of our grocery shopping for over five years. In fact, my wife says that she no longer remembers her way around the aisles of our local supermarket.  My buying habits are different from those of my wife – not so different that she wants to resume the chore of shopping – but a little idiosyncratic. It may have come from our days of living in Utah, but I try to make sure that we have enough extras of just about everything so that we won’t run out in case of a natural disaster or the unannounced visit of all of our relatives.

On top of that, being a thrifty shopper, I take advantage of bargains, so when there is a toofer- one, or even better a three-for-one sale I can’t resist. One result of this practice is that our freezer has become packed with packages of meat, poultry, and fish.

Periodically my wife stacks all of the frozen goods on the kitchen counter and issues an ultimatum, “Get rid of all of this before you buy any more.” I am currently working under one of those early warning messages. Today’s recipe is the result of my efforts and is based upon my wondering about what to do with a package of ground turkey that has been languishing at the bottom of the freezer compartment for months. Part of the reason for that is that I am not a big fan of ground turkey. Another reason is that I can’t think of anything to make with it.

So, with some frozen ground beef that was also in the freezer, I decided to make meatloaf. Now I know that everyone who reads this blog is likely to have his or her own favorite meatloaf recipe, and I also know that most readers are looking for ways to make something fancy, exotic, complicated, or all of those things.

Sorry, I hope that you will bear with me on this one, because the meatloaf turned out pretty good – that meaning you couldn’t taste the ground turkey. The best part was that there was enough left over for cold meatloaf and ketchup sandwiches the next day. And after all, that’s the reason most folks make meatloaf in the first place.

RECIPE

Turkey/Beef Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 2 thick slices French bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 jumbo eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha hot chili sauce
  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup finely minced parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground bay leaf
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 pound ground beef (85% fat)
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon

Method

  1. Tear the French bread into pieces and put in the bowl of a food processor. Process into coarse crumbs and then transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add the milk to the bread crumbs and let stand for 5 minutes until the milk is completely absorbed.
  3. Stir in the eggs, ketchup, chili sauce,  onion, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme, bay leaf, and lemon juice.
  4. Then add the ground turkey and ground beef. With a large spoon or, better, your freshly washed and dried hands, mix the ingredients until they are well combined.
  5. If you are a perfectionist, brown a small ball of the mixture in a small hot skillet, taste, and correct the seasonings. If you are more casual, like me, pack the meatloaf mixture into a large (9x5x2½ inch) greased bread pan.
  6. Arrange the bacon strips on top of the meatloaf so that it is completely covered. You may have to cut the bacon strips into pieces to do that.
  7. Cover with foil and bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 300°F (150°C) for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the foil and place the loaf under the broiler until the bacon is brown and crisp.
  8. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, cut into ½ inch slices, and serve.

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MORE EAST TEXAS CORN – SPOONBREAD

A well-made spoonbread is haute cuisine cooking with corn. There are lots of recipes for spoonbread, but many of them are not much more than a version of cornbread. The version I love is more like a cornmeal soufflé, and baking one requires many of the methods and techniques used to make a soufflé. According to Bernard Clayton in his classic, The Complete Book of Breads, spoonbread was developed by accident in colonial Virginia when a batch of cornbread was forgotten. To me, that seems likely to be apocryphal because spoonbread – at least this recipe – uses entirely different techniques from cornbread.

When we were dating, my wife, Susan, often made spoonbread at my request. She had many special dishes that proved she was a great cook, but without a doubt, spoonbread was one of her major achievements. After our children became old enough to have favorite foods, spoonbread was one of them, so much so that Susan sometimes made two separate spoonbreads for one meal.  

During our most recent visit to East Texas, Susan made spoonbread  for her brother, sister, and brother-in-law. I flew in for a late dinner, and all I got was a dab. That was better than nothing, though, and many a late diner has missed out on Susan’s spoonbread.

 

Some recipes call for added cheese. This version gilds the lily with added ham, mushroom duxelles, and scallions. The cheese can be added by serving the spoonbread with Mornay sauce. You don’t have to add all of those things. The basic model is good enough to keep you coming back for more.

For this post, I combined the dressed up spoonbread with fresh asparagus and braised lamb shanks – both go well with Mornay sauce.

RECIPES

Ham and Scallion Spoonbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 extra-large eggs, separated
  • ½ cup cooked Black Forest ham, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup finely diced sautéed mushroom duxelles, squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup scallions, finely chopped, including the green tops

Method

  1. In a  4-quart saucepan, combine the cornmeal and milk. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until the cornmeal is soft.
  2. Remove the cooked cornmeal from the heat. Then stir in the salt, baking powder, melted butter and additional milk.
  3. Beat the egg yolks until foamy. Stir into the cornmeal mixture. Mix well to reduce lumps – you won’t be able to get rid of all of them.
  4. Stir in the chopped ham, mushrooms, and scallions.
  5. Beat the separated egg whites to form stiff peaks. By thirds, fold the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Do not beat.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased two-quart soufflé dish and bake for 1 hour  in the middle of an oven preheated to 325°F (163°C).
  7. Serve immediately while the spoonbread is still puffed.

Mornay Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup grated Swiss cheese
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • juice of ½ lemon

Method

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat
  2. Stir in the flour and cook for several minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
  3. Add the half and half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens.
  4. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese until it is completely melted.
  5. Stir in the lemon zest and juice and adjust seasonings.
  6. Keep warm until ready to serve with the spoonbread.

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