Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Green Eggs and Ham

Over thanksgiving i had an opportunity to try cooking on a big green egg with my dad.

This was the first time for me using one of these smokers.

After retrieving a medium sized pork shoulder aka Boston butt, I lightly salted and peppered the pork.

We started a fire and let the egg get very hot, 500 or so.

Then the butt was "seared" for a few minutes on each side in the smoker/grill.

After that was finished we let the egg cool down to around 250 or so and threw on, I believe an oak chunk for smoke.

After a few hours the internal temperature was reading 160.

The big green egg rendered some of the most succulent and flavorful Boston butt I have had in quite a while.

The big green egg is all it's cracked up to be...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tierra Restaurant Wine Pairing

Tierra is an Atlanta restaurant that serves South American cuisine. They recently had a wine pairing that we were lucky enough to attend. When we arrived at Tierra we were immediately greeted with a pisco sour, the South American cocktail that seldom rears it's head above the equator. No sooner did we have drink in hand, a white haired middle aged man in a black shirt and coat introduced himself as Alfredo.

Alfredo is the owner of Billington imports, who sponsored the tasting. Alfredo is Chilean, and has spent the last thirty years bringing some of the best South American wine to the United States. We chatted for quite some time over a couple of pisco sours. Alfredo was unpretentious and totally approachable for a man who’s been in the wine business for as long as he has.

The first pairing was a roasted duck breast over julienne vegetables in piloncillo-ancho pepper sauce with a 05’ Dona Isadora Riesling from Chile. The Riesling was sweet, yet dry which lent itself to comparisons to Viogner. The duck was cooked perfectly, but the piloncillo-ancho sauce I found to be a bit on the bitter side. It could have certainly been a bit sweeter and still have worked well with the duck and Riesling.

The second pairing of the night was a crab empanada, cilantro aioli and greens with an 04’ Catena Alta Chardonnay from Argentina. The chardonnay was the highlight of the night. Not too dry, the Catena had a good balance of crispness and sweetness. The $30 price tag might be a little steep for an Argentine white, but I would definitely pick up a bottle. The crab empanadas were good, though a bit pedestrian, but served a greater role by steering the table’s conversation to the pursuit of the ever elusive North American empanada. Much to the credit of the folks at the table, everyone had actually been to South America and knew what a real empanada entailed.

The main pairing was a petit filet over tacu-tacu with onions-pancetta demi glace with an 05’ Antiguas Reserva Cabernet. The steak and tacu-tacu turned out to be the real stand out of the evening. Tacu-tacu is a Peruvian dish that roughly translated means “left-overs”. Jorge, a native Peruvian, was one of our table mates and gave us a run down on the dish. The Antiguas Reserva tasted like motor oil to me. I couldn’t drink it, but others enjoyed it.

Dessert consisted of fruit compote, cheese and alfajores with an 03’ Catena Atla Cabernet. The combination of the fruit compote and the cheese was excellent. The Catena cabernet was quite good though not inexpensive at all at $50. Of course by that point we were all pretty much drunk and everything was tasting good.

Alfredo began the evening with a short speech in which he said, “People spend their lives pretending to be what they’re not, but after a bottle of wine people become what they really are” or something to that effect. He was right.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

05' Carr

The 05' vintage Carr is a major let down. Not even in the same ballpark with the 04', and not worth the $20 price tag.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Haven't blogged in a while not because I haven't been cooking, I have. It's just that I decided about two months ago to quit eating meat. I'll admit it is not easy making things taste good without using some sort of meat product. I have had some good success with a few things here and there and I am going to share them with you soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Broccoli and Ricotta Cannelloni

These came out quite nicely, however they were even better warmed up the next day.

I used the dried cannelloni tubes from the store. Boil them for about six minutes first then set aside on a cloth towel, they won't stick.

bread crumbs
olive oil
pine nuts
salt and pepper

Keep the same water boiling from your pasta and let the broccoli florets steam over that. When it gets bright green you're done. Toss this into the processor. Pulse it a few times. Add in 1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs, 2/3 cup of milk, olive oil, 1 cup of ricotta, nutmeg and 4 tablespoons of grated parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Puree this.

Spoon this into a plastic zip bag or a pastry bag if you have one. Pipe the filling into the cannelloni, it should make 10-12.

I made a basic ragu with just a chopped onion which was sauteed first. I added a can of tomato sauce and tomato paste. A couple of cloves of chopped garlic and time. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for a while.


Spoon some of the sauce into a dish. Lay the cannelloni over the sauce and sprinkle grated parm over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fettuccine with Pesto

This turned out really good.

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons of parm
2 tablespoons of pecorino
1 large bunch of basil
olive oil
2 cloves garlic

Add basil, salt, and garlic in a processor and pulse. Add in the nuts and the olive oil and pulse.
Add in the cheese and run. Drizzle in more oil if it is too tight.

Toss with fettuccine.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Potato, stilton soup

"What's tater's?" - Gollum

Well, I finally found a little inspiration and I brought my A game. I happened to be in a different part of town and on a whim I decided to stop in on small boutique grocery store, a sort of Whole Foods, only smaller.

It was really a pretty neat place because it had lots of premium produce and beef without the carnival-like atmosphere you find in Whole Foods from all of the posers being in the same place at once.

I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, other than just scouting out some potential ingredients for paella in the near future. But I spied some good looking bacon and bought a pound of that. I then happened across some nice looking potatoes. Then I knew I had to find some Roquefort.

After an interesting chat with the lady at the cheese counter about mozzarella, I came away with a good sized chunk of Stilton instead. It was half the price of the Roquefort.

I diced four pieces of the bacon and let them crisp up in a soup pot with a little olive oil.

I sliced up one white onion very thin and added that into the bacon after about 5 minutes.

One clove of minced garlic after the onions caramelize.

I cut the potatoes into small chunks. They were called "white creamers". I threw them in with the browning bacon and onions. Add a bay leaf and a pinch of cayenne pepper. One tablespoon of butter, as well.

Sauté these together for about 3 more minutes then add two cans of chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Fish out the bay leaf.

Pour the soup into a food processor and pulse it 6-8 times until the potatoes are fairly well creamed. (I am about to buy one of the hand held devices to avoid having to transfer stuff.Use that if you've got it.)

Return the soup to the pot.

Add 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Bring up slowly to a simmer, not a boil. Add in the Stilton and stir. Make sure the cheese is thoroughly melted.
I served this with a little crispy bacon and some crumbled Stilton on top.

Off the hook, as they say...

Cooking music: Calexico

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Easy Meat

"You gotta be crazy, you gotta have a real need
You gotta sleep on your toes, and when you're on the street
You gotta be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed"- Pink Floyd

I must admit that I have been in a cooking slump lately.

Not only have I not been motivated to cook, I really haven't been too enthusiastic about eating either.

Everything just seems blase, it must be the heat.

So I decided to do a pictorial recap of some of the summer's food and post some pics that didn't make it onto the blog....enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Smoking with Doug

" We turned the lights down low and had a party on the patio." - ZZ Top

A couple of weekends ago I went over to my friend Doug's house where his friend Tommy was smoking chicken, pork, and salmon among other things.

Above you can see two beer can chickens cheek to cheek.

Below the two chickens was about an eight pound Boston Butt and a huge piece of salmon.

I found out that this particular Weber smoker is known as the "bullet" and Tommy was particularly adept at smoking on it.

The coals are in the very bottom that you can access by way of a door on the side.

He had some "chunks" of hickory that were soaked prior to going on the coals. He prefers them to chips.

Just above the coals sits a "drip pan", that was about half filled with beer before we put on the meat. (You can see it on the left)

On top of that was the first grate. He loaded the butt and the fish on this level.

The two chickens were placed on the top grate.

He had a digital thermometer hanging inside the body of the smoker. He kept it at 250 or below the entire time.

After 2 hours we pulled the salmon off. It was the best salmon I can remember eating in a very long time.

After about 4 hours we pulled off the chickens.

About 2 hrs after that the butt came off, which I forgot to sample.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gipsy Kings

" Le le lei le le lei le le lei
Le le lei le le lei le le lei" - Gipsy Kings

Okay, so this isn't a blog about cooking, however a fair amount of eating was done, so it fits within the theme.

On a sweltering night the Gipsy Kings came to town...

So the wheeled cooler was dusted off and packed down with Corona and Carr and ice and glasses and pasta and Gouda and prosciutto and, well you get the picture.

Contrary to what the naysayers would have you believe, Chastain Amphitheater is the best venue in Atlanta, don't believe me? What other place lets you bring glass beer bottles in? The silence is deafening.

Beer bottles aside, the best part is, you get to bring in bottles of wine. And so we did.

And that bottle is starting to wear off right about now...


First time ever arriving at a show too early...

Vardaman to cop, "Can we park here?"

Cop, "It's alright with me."

Gotan Project "Lunatico" cd played before the show, very cool.

It was too damn hot, but the show was good, though not anything to write home about.

I suspect a good time was had by all...

Le le lei le le lei le le lei
Le le lei le le lei le le lei

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Get Ready

Now might be a good time to dust off a copy of Atlas Shrugged....

Monday, August 6, 2007

Chicken Saltimbocca

Heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a large pan. Sautee the pieces until golden brown and then remove.

Use whatever mushrooms you have available. I used these shitakes on the left. Slice the mushrooms while the chicken is browning.

You are supposed to use chicken breasts for this, but I used chicken tenders instead, which are cut from the breast.

Pound the breasts out with a mallet until they are about a quarter of an inch thick.

Salt and pepper.

Lay a slice of good proscuitto across each of the breasts. Add a sage leaf on top of the ham.

Fold the pieces in half and pin the sides
together with a toothpick. Dredge each piece in flour.

Drink wine.

Heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a large pan. Sautee the pieces until golden brown and then remove.

Use whatever mushrooms you have available. I used the shitakes below. Slice the mushrooms while the chicken is browning.

Drink wine.

I made an appetizer beforehand with some mozzarella, tomato, shaved parmagiano, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (I forgot the basil.)

Add the mushrooms to the same pan along with a chopped shallot and sautee for a few minutes.

Add one cup of Marsala wine to the mushrooms. I used Malbec, because I have never found any Marsala wine.

Drink whatever wine you have.

Add the chicken pieces back to the pan simmer until reduced to about half. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of butter after the liquid reduces.

I almost forgot...the first thing you do is fry some sage leaves in a little oil and set aside for later, don't eat them all before the chicken is finished.

Garnish the chicken with the sage leafs and shaved parm.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

No Knead Bread

"You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and the people ate outside at tables on the sidewalks so that you saw and smelled the food." - Hemingway

It sort of smells a little like Paris around here whenever we bake bread.

The blogs have been raving about "no knead bread" posted on the New York Times last year by Mark Bittman. It is originally from Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery.

It really is an excellent way to make very good bread.

In a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl, combine:

3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix well to combine dry ingredients


1 1/2 cups water

Mix together with a spoon and then cover and set aside until the next day.

The next day the dough will look something like this.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Tacos Dorados

Over the weekend I grilled some beef, a shoulder roast and a flat iron steak. It had been a while since I had made any tacos so I decided to use the meat from the day before for some filling.

The first thing I did was make some guacamole, from the same recipe you can see here.

I wanted to give that a chance to marry together for a while before I served the tacos.
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 onion coarse chop
1 garlic clove
1 jalapeno pepper chopped
4-6 ounces of boneless shoulder roast (or whatever you have)

Put all of these ingredients into a processor and pulse fairly well.

Meanwhile, heat a little shortening in a hot pan. When the grease is hot add in the pureed mixture. Bring this to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about half an hour.

Season with salt, pepper and cumin.

The mixture should reduce a fair amount, it shouldn't be runny when you spoon it.


I use the store bought corn tortillas. I heated the cast iron skillet and added enough oil for about a half inch depth. The tortillas have to be flash fried. Don't skip this step.

When the oil is hot, fry each tortilla for about 3 seconds per side. If you don't do this they will crack when you try to roll them and fall apart. (Yeah, I tried skipping this step before.)

The filling will make about 10-12 tacos.

Lay out some paper towels to take the tortillas to after flashing them. After all of the tortillas are finished spoon in a large spoon full of the filling and roll them. Insert a toothpick to hold them together.

Fry the tacos 3 or 4 at the time for about 2 minutes per side or until they are golden brown.

Remove them to paper towels to drain.

When all of the tacos are done you can lay them out on a platter and garnish with some sour cream and guacamole.

I thinned the sour cream out with a little cream so it spoons easier.

I topped mine off with a little radishes as well.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Osso buco

I happened to be in the grocery store early when I ran across some veal shanks. The only reason I mention this is because they tend to disappear quickly, so most times you won't ever see them. I took advantage of my luck and promptly added a package to my cart.

veal shanks
olive oil
1 carrot chopped
1 onion diced
1 celery stalk chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups white wine

Start by browning the veal shanks thoroughly. If I had a dutch oven I would have started off in that, but since I do not have one I started in a pan. Once the shanks are well browned remove them. Add the carrot, onion, celery and thyme into the same pan. Cook until the onions are soft about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, chicken stock and wine, deglaze the pan and bring to a boil. I then transferred the contents into a casserole dish that contained the awaiting veal shanks and what liquid had settled out of them from earlier. If you have a dutch oven just add the shanks back into it. Slap it all into a 375 degree oven for 2 hrs or until the meat is falling off of the bone. It is possible to overcook veal shanks...


Heat one can of chicken stock on the stove, just under boiling.

Finely dice a small onion. In a medium sized pan heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the onion until it is translucent. Add in a pinch of saffron while the onion is cooking. Add in a cup of rissoto and just let it sort of fry for a minute or so. Now, you need to have whatever it is you are drinking nearby because you cannot leave the stove for the next fifteen to twenty minutes. In my case it was Carr cabernet sauvignon, I'll come back to that later.

Add in chicken stock a ladle at the time and stir it into the rissoto. As the rissoto absorbs the liquid add more as necessary. Continue to do this until all of the stock is in the rissoto. When all of the stock is absorbed add in a tablespoon of butter, stirring the whole while. Make sure to sample the rissoto to see that it is al dente but not cruncy, this is important. If it is still crunchy keep stirring.

Once you have it where you want it, add in a half a cup or so of pamigiano reggiano. I had pecorino so I used that instead, which worked out well.

Take the rissoto to a platter, top with the veal shanks and some of the stew liquid from the shanks. Pour another glass of wine and enjoy!

Joseph Carr, the best wine $20 can buy!

If you see it buy a case.

Habas a la rondena

It has been a long time since I have cooked any "Spanish" dishes and since it's the height of summer I decided it was about time. I was once in a second hand book store when I stumbled upon a book called "Spanish Cooking" by Pepita Aris.
With said book in hand, I went home and promptly set it on fire by turning on a burner while it was lying on the stove.

It rained all day Saturday and the grill was out of the question, so it was a good day to work in the kitchen, so i got the formerly mentioned charred tome down from the shelf.

The first recipe is called Habas a la rondena, or lima beans with ham, Ronda style. Aris writes, "So popular is this fresh bean dish all over Spain that it is sometimes called espanola instead." The book is broken out into regions and she has this recipe in the Andalusia region of Spain, which is also the birthplace of Flamenco music, a personal favorite.

2lb - Lima beans frozen
1 1/2 cups chopped Spanish onion
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup diced ham
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt, pepper
4 hard boiled eggs
1 red bell pepper diced

I sauteed the onion in the olive oil until it was quite well done and almost caramelized. I used a Vidalia onion instead of the red onion. Toss the ham in with the onion and fry for a minute or so. Add the frozen lima beans into the pan. Honestly, I think 2lbs was too much, I should have stopped after the first bag, which was a pound. I then covered the pan with a piece of foil and let it cook for about 10 minutes on med high. I chopped the boiled eggs while that was cooking. When the beans were done I transferred the pan to a large bowl added in the egg and bell pepper and tossed well.

It was very good warm, but it was even better today after being in the refrigerator overnight.

The second "Spanish" dish was also from Andalusia, pinchitos morunos, or small spicy Moorish kebabs. This is technically a tapa.

1 lb pork, (I used boneless ribs)
2 garlic cloves
2 tspn salt
1 tspn curry
1 tspn paprika
1/4 tspn dried thyme
black peper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon juiced

Crush the garlic with the salt in a mortar, then work in the other ingredients.

Cut the pork into bite sized pieces. Marinate the pork and allow let sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

I soaked the skewers for 20 minutes prior to adding the pork. Skewer the pork. Cook under the broiler about 3 minutes a side. Alternatively these would be perfect on the grill as well.

Last step: Open beer, play Paco de Lucia, eat...

I wasn't joking about setting the book on fire. You can clearly make out the rings of the burner...