Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Linguine with broccoli rabe and pancetta

Hey, time-strapped and uninspired: how 'bout we find another way to tell Rachael Ray to go fuck herself? Fry some chopped pancetta with garlic and shallot until crispy, add chopped broccoli rabe (and what the hell - some swiss chard from the garden) and a few good hard cracks of pepper, toss with linguine and a dollop of crème fraîche to wet the noodles. Top with Parm Redge. Dinner is served.

Enjoy with a Côtes du Rhône Grenache blanc (we had a $10 bottle that was very drinkable). Yes, I've been drinking a lot of white lately. Red wine still feels like a phase I went through when I was sleeping with guys who watch Brothers Quay films and listen to Laurie Anderson records. I'll grow out of it, I promise.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

White Bean and Bratwurst Soup with Mixed Spring Greens

Even though we've been getting more breaks from the cold and rain (and miraculously, they've been falling on weekends), winter typically likes to thumb its nose at us here in the Pacific Northwest, telling spring to go fuck right off. Today is one of those days - I think it was in the 50s and rainy all day. Oh, there were intermittent "sunshowers" (which are a lot less interesting than golden showers), as if rainbows make it all worth it? Fucking hippies.

Anyways, this just gives me the chance to make some soup while doing a little spring cleaning of my fridge and freezer. I still have a bag of weisswurst and bierwurst from Edelweiss (my favorite German deli - they make the best reuben I have ever eaten, washed down with the only beer they have on tap: Spaten. Seriously, would you have it any other way?) from a couple months ago, a bag of mixed greens (baby swiss chard, kale, mizuni and collard), and the fresh thyme is about spent. Since I always keep a few cans of beans in the cupboard for fast dinners (and the frozen French lentils ended up being a dry brick beyond salvation), I made this satisfying soup. Also, the Hubz had his gums excavated with a fucking Goedendag today and can't chew much.

Zuppa Toscana (al Tedesco)
This is a basic Tuscan kale, sausage and white bean soup, but since I used German sausages I thought I'd rename it. Enjoy with crusty bread and a crisp Reisling (or a shot of whiskey and a painkiller, if you've just had your gums scraped). Serves 2 with two days' leftovers.

1 tsp olive oil
1 small-ish onion, diced
1 tbsp minced shallot
2 large bratwurst (I used one bierwurst and one weisswurst)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 or 4 handfuls of chopped baby greens (I get a bulk mix consisting of chard, kale, mustard and collard)
7 c chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 fat pinch of red chili flake
1 15oz. can of white beans such as cannelini or Great Northern

In a large pot, saute the onion and shallot in the oil for a minute, then add the garlic, thyme and brats and cook until the sausage is browned. Dump in the greens and stir to wilt, then add the stock and chili flake. Add copious amounts of fresh ground black pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes (or the amount of time it takes to set up this blog post). Add the beans, undrained. While the thick, starchy liquid will give the soup body, it made my stomach squeal a little (so take some Beano if you must).

I leave you with this disturbing image.

Sacramento, CA, and Ellensburg, WA are just civilized enough to leave me wanting for a little trouble, although I do have a photo from a Joe's Crab Shack that is, as far as I can surmise, nothing more than a family-friendly Hooters. Instead of wings, they have buckets of shrimp. And the girls, while of similar exuberance and insipidity, are slightly more clothed than your common Hooters girl.

The Bitch is Back

Okay, I guess I'm ready to come off of blogging vacay, since it's been two weeks, I'm not in the field and living out of a hotel (seriously, those 50-60 hour work weeks were destroying my appetite for a hobby that consumes an additional 4 hours of my day), and I've been passing out those cute little blog business cards that Foodbuzz sent me. God forbid anyone should actually look at my blog and see what a fucking hack I am.

I'll post some food later today. As always, I have a fridge full of brassicas: baby kohlrabi (and their greens), broccoli rabe and some beet greens mixed with baby kale and swiss chard. I also have some amazing smoked sturgeon (thanks, Dad!) that made lovely little fish cakes with lemon-thyme aioli last week*. Now I'm brainstorming a way to use the last 10 ounces without resorting to flaking it into a pasta salad.

Thanks to everyone who gave a shit that I was gone. The guilt was definitely a factor in getting off my lazy ass.

*Pulse minced onion, celery and shallot in the magimix, add the flaked fish and pulse until a nice, fine flake is accomplished. Add chopped parsley and a little lemon zest, an egg, a little olive oil and fresh cracked pepper (won't need any salt - there's plenty on the smoked fish already). Coat in panko and either fry until golden or spritz with cooking spray (I use a Trader Joe's canned oil that is 100% canola oil and no silicone) and bake at 400 for about 10-15 minutes on each side. I baked mine because I'm finally getting around to trying to drop those 10 pounds of quitting smoking weight that have crept on since January.

The aioli was a bullshit fake because I had used the last egg in the cakes, so I had to use store-bought mayo (gasp!) and it was even low fat mayo to boot. Oh, don't look at me like that. Adding Greek yogurt, a squirt of lemon juice, some dijon mustard, fresh herbs and black pepper transformed it into a surprisingly decent accompaniment to the fish cakes. Was it even aioli any more? Fuck if I know.

Serve with a mixed green salad dressed simply in olive oil and lemon juice or white wine vinegar, and a sprightly Gewürztraminer such as a
2006 Thomas Fogarty. (Peter B. and Norm: I actually looked at the label this time - aren't you proud?)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I haz it. It's not you, I swear. It's me.

As you have perhaps noticed, my blogging has been languishing for the past few weeks, and I think I'm just getting burned out on the Everything. Playing Folklore on the PS3 is giving me more excitement than telling you all about what I made for dinner (politely overlooking the music in that trailer, which sounds like an excrutiating Japanese Coheed and Cambria). So I'm taking a wee break until I get my groove back.

In other news, I'm in Sacramento until Friday. Not really any earth-shattering cuisine here, but the weather's nice and the hotel offers free cocktail hour in the lobby.

I planted my corn and artichokes last weekend. While getting ready for the airport yesterday, I looked out the window in time to see a couple of scrub jays going to town on the corn seed. They probably think they're entitled, since they put all those nice acorns in my garden. I'd send my cats out after the little motherfuckers, but my cats are afraid of corvids. Can't say I blame them - crows and jays are as clever as they are irreverent.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Perfect roasted chicken

Yes, you're looking at perfectly-roasted chicken sitting atop 3 different starches (orzo and the last of those sweet Nantes carrots and Klamath Pearl potatoes), all covered in garlic-herb gravy. I'm getting really burned out on all the extra hours, the weather is back to shitty (has been for the past few weeks), and I need carbs and gravy. It's Pacific Northwest "fuck the pain away" and beats a Xanax any day of the week.

A prissy little Draper Valley chicken, all spatchcocked and ready to go. I slit out her spine with a cheap Chinese cleaver for a quick stock. Some parsley stems and roasted duck bones from the freezer were good supplements. I stuffed her skin with a dozen smashed garlic cloves and massaged with olive oil, kosher salt and cracks of pepper.

So here's my problem: like a teenager with Don't Knock Her Up jitters, I always end up pulling it out a bit too soon. Even when I use the digital thermometer and let it beep its ass off at the right temp, when the skin is tawny, crackly perfection, and the juices are running clear from the thigh, when I start carving I end up elbow-deep in pink salmonella juice. Why does this always happen? Yes, I let the bitch rest before I start. I even propped it on a rack this time so the juices would drain (a stroke of genius: a steamer basket fits perfectly into the Le Creuset as a roasting rack, and I now realize this is imperative for really sublime fond and drippings). Always with the pink juices though. It's infuriating.

Regardless, the breast was perfection and the gravy was amazing with a medley of roasted liver, shitakes and spring onions. I nestled the shitakes and onions under the chicken to roast (but on the rack, so they stayed moist but not swimming in fat and jus). Some parsley and thyme provided a kick of green to jostle the triptophan sedation.

Anyway, I'm tired. I'm gonna nuke some of these leftovers and tuck in to a new episode of Top Chef.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ostrich burgers and animal fries, junebug lust and brome seed in my socks

What a fucking week. I got a sunburn that may warrant a trip to the dermatologist's office, leaving me with cracking and peeling on my ears and shoulders that feel like I spent a fortnight moving refrigerators. I needed a full recovery day of napping and Nintendo before I could muster the energy to write about it.

Monday was mostly a travel day, but offered a couple of charming joints. Johnson's Drive-In in Acampo sported a somewhat limited menu (that albeit included an ostrich burger that's to die for).

Delicious, juicy ostrich - the "other red meat." Burgers always taste better when lovingly slung by a butch dyke in a do-rag. The drippy ketchup and melty American cheese dumbed it down to the pedestrian levels expected by local folks and the road-weary. Unfortunately, the French fries tasted of days-old oil, but thank god fish isn't on the menu.

A some-hour drive south brought us to our hotel and a dearth of culinaria. The only store within 15 miles was a Mobil Food-Mart. Fortunately, every little shit town has a joint called "(Some Dude's Name)'s Roadhouse". In Kettleman City, it's Mike.

Tragically, they did NOT have salisbury steak (I was crestfallen), but they did have liver and onions. Topped with bacon! How could I say no? I channeled my inner geriatric and ordered without a shred of irony, with my potato mashed and my salad dressed in thousand island. I don't take this shit lightly.

The misuse of the apostrophe makes me want to choke someone. Seriously. IT'S NOT POSSESSIVE, PEOPLE!

Other selections included the California-style chicken burger, but since you had to request avocado I wondered what made it California-style. My compatriats had said California burger, steak and eggs, and Heineken. One, a fellow foodie, tried my liver (but failed to share my enthusiasm).

The following day I was trying to ramp down the grease and red meat scene in my intestines, and opted to eat some chips and salsa with some store-bought guac. It's kinda nice - since they grow so much produce in California, these simple things taste really good. Even the ubiquitous free oranges from the hotel lobby were succulent and chin-dripping sweet orbs of sunshine.

Wednesday I went for the In-N-Out Burger experience. I'm a huge fan of Can Only Find it Here specialties, fast food meibutsu being no exception. Travelling with natives offered a peek into the secret menu, and I ordered a Double-Double with Animal-Style fries. "Animal-style" means coated with gooey cheese, grilled onions, and "spread" (a mélange of ketchup, mayonnaise and pickle relish). "Spread" and "animal-style" are not evocative of fast food, but of something else.

Day 4 was another long one - by then we had covered more than 30 miles of spiny grassland overlaying gypsum and ancient sea floor on foot. Some of the guys wanted to drive a few miles out of the way for a steak at Harris Ranch, and even though I really just wanted to shower and get drunk, I tagged along. Since we looked like we'd been in the sun and dust all day, we were seated in the Ranch Kitchen instead of the nicer side of the restaurant. I took a quick paper towel bath at the restroom sink like a common hobo.

I didn't take any photos in there, and now I can't think of any reason why. Shrug.

I had the prime rib sandwich au jus (medium rare) with fries and a green salad, the rest of the crew had tri-tip in either sandwich or steak form, with various sides. The sandwich was delicious, the meat of excellent quality, but the service was gastropodan. It took at least 15 minutes before anyone even acknowledged our presence after being seated, another 15 or 20 before our order was taken, another 15 to see our drinks, you get the picture. This, at 5:00 on a Thursday.

I guess that's it. I'm home for the week, yay for home-cooking.