Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bacon Frosting

An early stocking stuffer gift from keith. Interesting idea - there seems to be bacon flavoured everything nowadays. But I urge you, with every bit of my being, don't try this! For the love of god - it took straight whiskey to get rid of the ick!!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hot Buttered Rum

I can only guess that this drink was created when butter was expensive and rare in many households. Surprisingly smooth and comforting! The only other time I had one it tasted like I was drinking melted butter. This one has a great balance! 1 teaspoon brown sugar, pour in 4 oz hot water to dissolve the sugar. Add 2 oz Dark Rum, place 1 Tbl pad of butter on top to melt.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cookbook Review: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

Another cute and interesting cookbook from Quirk Books. At first glance I thought "oh great - a sandwich cookbook. I can put anything between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich." But alas, the cynical voice inside my head was quickly brought to heel. And that was just because I read the introduction! Side note - I always read the introduction in a cookbook. It gives you insight you might not necessarily gleam (especially if the cookbook isn't organized properly). Susan Russo obviously loves sandwiches - but not just their construction, their history as well. Right away she tells you how this book is going to be different from the others you've seen - this will be the sandwich book to rule all other sandwich books.

What I found most fascinating about this book was that along with every recipe, the author gave us something juicy to read as well. From discussing the origins of the sandwich in question, or talking about the regional influences that helped bring about something as fascinatingly foreign to Americans as the Chip Butty (I'm not going to deny that I've secretly been craving the Chip Butty since I read about 92 - bread, butter, and hot french fries - is that enough to get your mouth watering?), the book is filled with fascinating information about sandwiches. And why are you reading a cookbook about sandwiches if you don't desperately want to know more about them?

The recipes are to the point - it's hard to screw up a sandwich (I say that, and then watch me try to make the 1950's inspired Sandwich Loaf that resembles a layer cake in sandwich form). They're also approachable, and entertaining. This book delivers on it's promise - the sandwich is "among the most democratic of foods. They're perfect day or night." I can easily remember a time when I've had a sandwich for breakfast, lunch and dinner (not all in the same day, of course). And if you don't want to make a sandwich after flipping through this book, I'll be greatly surprised. Not just because of the read, and the recipes - but because of the drool-inspiring photos of each and every sandwich described in the book (photography by Matt Armendariz). The cookbook in all is lots of fun, and even inspirational - it's time I finally learned to make my own Oyster Po'Boy at home instead of waiting for those rare moments when I see it on a menu somewhere!

Scotch, frozen stones, & GT Magazine

This was my last Friday night after work. Lovely.

Braised Rabbit

It’s funny – rabbit is a delicacy. I remember having it as a kid because people in my family hunted (we also had squirrel, lots of deer, and lots of catfish). The first time I had it again, but in a much more delicate and delicious way, was at Lucien on 1st Avenue (at 1st Street) in NYC. It’s braised and served in a delicious mustard sauce, with some huge papardelle noodles. Simply outstanding!!

A few years back I got a whole fryer rabbit from the online store D’Artagnan and attempted to make a recipe by Tyler Florence. It was okay, but I was convinced I had done something wrong. So last week, I tried it again. I picked up a rabbit from New Seasons and pulled out the same recipe for braised rabbit. Oddly enough every rabbit I’ve ever bought comes with a few of the organs still attached inside. Not sure why, not sure I need to do the research to figure out why. I just tore them out and went along my merry way. You do need to chop up the rabbit – it’s not as simple as a chicken (pre-defined sections). I did remove all 4 legs, and then I simply cut across the spine to make 4 more pieces of rabbit. The back has a lot of delicious meat on it, and it’s best to eat it right off the bone. We ended up with 2 legs each (one with a meaty thigh), and 2 pieces of the back (or loin of rabbit, if you will).

It’s an interesting recipe that calls for lots of black olives – something that truly dismayed me initially. Don’t get me wrong, I love black olives. I have fond memories of the black & green olive plate that was out at every single big family feast as a kid. But I wasn’t sure how they were going to incorporate into the braised rabbit dish. Boy was that hesitation unfounded!!

The key to the recipe is the reduction of the sauce at the end. Really, really reduce it. I mean it needs to be thick and delicious. PLUS I made a little addition to the sauce at the end – 2 Tbl butter, and salt & pepper (based on flavor – taste first to see if it actually needs it). The butter made all the freaking difference in the world. The rabbit was tender and moist, and I piled the pieces up over a mash mixture of potatoes and sweet potatoes. Then I liberally poured the sauce over top and piled up oodles of black olives. Here’s the amazing part – as the sauce reduces, the olives suck up so much flavor! They were outstanding!! Truly a decadent meal, and one that is staying in my collection of recipes!! Seriously, I could not stop gushing over the sauce - it was pure taste bliss!

Tyler Florence suggests a side dish of caramelized radicchio with a salsa verde. I didn’t care for the salsa verde – so I simply caramelized some radicchio (one head of radicchio cut in half, sautéed in some olive oil over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes – flipping often – until caramelized and delicious), and then I drizzled the halves with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.

Braised Rabbit
[NOTE: original calls for 2 rabbits, so this is my ½’d version with my own additions]
1 whole rabbit, cut into thigh sized pieces (as described above)
2 cups flour
1 Tbl minced Thyme
1 Tbl minced Oregano
4 Tbl olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh Rosemary
1 whole red hot pepper
1 ½ cups black olives
½ bottle white wine
2 – 3 cups chicken stock
Parsley for garnish (oops…I forgot to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a shallow bowl, combine flour, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Dredge the rabbit in the seasoned flour and set aside.

In a large pot (I used my dutch oven), heat the olive oil and fry the garlic, rosemary and pepper to infuse the oil with their flavors. Remove the items from the infused oil and set aside for use later. Place the seasoned rabbit pieces in the pot and cook for 5 – 7 minutes (original says 7 – 10 minutes, but as soon as you get a nice golden brown you’re good to remove the rabbit) on both sides until the meat is golden brown. Add the reserved rosemary, garlic and pepper back into the pot. Add the olives (whole), wine and chicken stock. Move things about a bit just to make sure none of the rabbit is stuck to the bottom. Place the pot in the oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes (original says 30 – I pushed it to 40, use your judgment on the done-ness of the rabbit).

Once the rabbit is cooked through and tender, remove the pieces of rabbit from the pot and set aside (big slotted spoon works best). Over relatively high heat, bring the sauce to a boil and reduce. Reduce it to the point the sauce coats the back of a pan. Another of my favorite tests is to drag your spoon or spatula along the bottom of the pan – if you can see the bottom of the pan for about a second before the sauce falls back into place, it’s thick enough! Pour the sauce over the rabbit and serve!

English Onion Soup with Sage & Cheddar

Who doesn’t love a good onion soup? I remember one specific moment with traditional French Onion Soup – after my Grandfather passed away, for a long while (before I took a job on a cruise ship out here in Portland, OR) I would pick up my Grandma once a week. I’d leave work early, come pick her up in Westerville, take her to the beauty salon to get her hair done, and then we’d have lunch. We rotated lunch spots, but one of her favorites was Max & Erma’s simply because she liked their French Onion Soup. That would be her entire meal – one crock of soup. And we’d giggle about the stringy cheese. Isn’t it wonderful how easily food ties into our memories?

Over the last few years I’ve had a new favorite onion soup adapted from a recipe by The Two Fat Ladies (seriously love them). It was English Onion Soup – and instead of having cheese melted on top, there’s a hunk of Stilton Bleu Cheese crumbled and melted into the soup. It adds amazing flavor to the dish. This time, however, I tried a different version of an English Onion Soup. I found a recipe by Jamie Oliver and thought I’d give it a go. It intrigued me with sage as a large component of the meal – but more was the fact that the melted cheese on top is cheddar…interesting!! And on top of that – a dash of Worcestershire sauce. WHAT? Insanity – I must put it in my mouth!!

The soup itself is traditional, for the most part. Although this recipe did call for the addition of leeks, which I really liked. I traditionally used 3 different types of onions in my onion soup – white, red, and shallots. So the addition of leeks was a nice touch. Yet what made this soup different from the start was the cooking process for the onions. They aren’t just cooked, they’re slow cooked over about an hour – and you need LOTS of onions because they cook down like crazy.

I’ll make the soup with Stilton at some point this winter, I’m sure. But in the meantime, enjoy this version of English Onion Soup! This recipe does say it makes 8 servings. Or 4 BIG servings – when I make a soup it typically becomes the meal.

English Onion Soup
4 Tbl butter (Jamie Oliver calls for “a good knob of butter” – that’s my best guess!)
Handful fresh sage leaves, and 8 leaves reserved for garnish
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
5 red onions, peeled and sliced
3 large white onions, peeled and sliced
3 large shallots, peeled and sliced
3 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced (original calls for 11 ounces of leeks)
8 cups good quality beef stock (could substitute chicken or vegetable, but why would you?)
8 slices good-quality stale bread, ¾ inch thick
7 ounces freshly grated Cheddar cheese
Worcestershire sauce

Put the butter and 2 glugs of olive oil into the bottom of a large, non-stick pan (I used my big stock pot). Heat them up, and add the sage (I tore the sage by hand into small pieces) and garlic. Once the oil is infused, add the onions, shallots and leeks. Season with salt and pepper, stir everything round again and place a lid over the pot that is slightly ajar to let some of the steam out. Cook slowly for 50 – 60 minutes, stirring often, without coloring the vegetables too much. [Here’s the trick – a good amount of salt added at the beginning helps to keep them from coloring. Medium low heat, and stir them every 8 – 10 minutes to keep them cooking evenly.] During the last 20 minutes of cooking, remove the lid to allow more of the moisture to cook away. The slow-cooking process for the onions gives them an “incredible sweetness and an awesome flavor, so don’t be tempted to speed this up” (says Jamie Oliver).

When the vegetables are cooked, add the stock. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn on your broiler (or oven) and toast your bread on both sides. Taste the soup – correct the seasoning as necessary. When it’s perfect, ladle it into individual serving bowls and place them on a baking dish. Tear the bread and make it fit over the soup in each bowl. Cover the bread with shredded cheddar cheese and drizzle over a little Worcestershire sauce. Into the broiler (or oven) until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What I'm craving right now - horehound candy

When I was a kid, my Grandpa was my hero (well, he still is). I remember when I began studying the gold rush and the Oregon Trail in school, he started catering experiences and gifts around that. Together we would read old newspaper articles from the time period at the library. And once we read about Horehound Candy - it was popular in those olden days. So we set out to find some.

Eventually a little country store offered up our prize - bags of horehound candy! They had a multitude of flavors, but only "original" would do for us. We opened the bag and each popped a piece in our mouths. The flavor is so distinct...bittersweet is a good enough description. Acquired taste says a lot as well. But we were happy and proud of our discovery, so between the two of us we finished off the bag that week. And from then on we'd share horehound candy together - Grandma never got a taste for it.

So for some reason today I'm craving horehound candy drops. Or maybe I'm missing my Grandpa. It's likely a combination of both. But I think a piece of horehound candy would certainly make me smile.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cook Book Review: Little Old Lady Recipes

Recently I was contacted by someone at Quirk Books and asked if I would review a few of their cookbooks on this site. I was honored, excited, and I love getting free things - especially cookbooks (just ask my friend Larry back in New Jersey who sent me 2 boxes of cookbooks before we moved!). So this is the first review - and while it's technically not something I put in my mouth, it's something that would enable me to make something that I could put in my mouth. So it fits. :)

Little Old Lady Recipes, by Meg Favreau

The concept of this book is quite cute - recipes from Grandmas, basically. The cover suggests the recipes are made with love and lots of lard - fortunately that's a big misrepresentation since there's hardly a mention of lard in the book. Admittedly my favorite part of the book is the disclaimer that is printed right in the front: "...use your common sense when you're cooking recipes from this book (or any other). If you don't like it, don't eat it. And if it smells bad, it's probably rotten. These are rules that'll serve you well in life and in the kitchen." Such truth!

At first glance the book seems homey and cute - there are photos of little old ladies next to recipes, and some fiesty comments peppered throughout (such as this beauty from Gladys, an 84 year old bridge club hostess: "If you are working in the kitchen and someone asks if you want help, immediately remove your apron, hand it to them, and go in the living room to have a drink."). However I was a bit dismayed when I realized that the photos are not necessarily of the little old ladies who created the recipes. Seems like they could have done with at least one photo of food somewhere in the book, but perhaps that's just what I like to see when I'm reading recipes. Upon reading through the book, it all made sense when I realized the author was not some little old lady, but a rather sassy-looking young woman. This isn't a list of her own recipes, but a collection of recipes she pulled from the books created by women's clubs around the country. Actually a cool concept, since those books are not likely to be made available in large quantities - or more likely they cease to exist all together after a few years. So kudos to the author, Meg Favreau, for pulling these all together.

The recipes - they're cute. They do honestly represent a simpler time of life that you can generally count on hearing about from little old ladies. Familiar ingredients with easy instructions - these are the types of recipes many people might have learned from their mothers or grandmothers. I was expecting to see my Grandma's Potato Soup recipe in there someplace. And there's something for everyone - Hot Toddy (yes, that's a drink!), desserts, Bourbon Balls and Matzoth Balls. While none of the recipes are challenging, I imagine the results would invoke some wonderful feelings of comfort. It's likely a great cookbook for a beginner in the kitchen, or someone who prefers an easy time when throwing together a meal. And it would fit perfectly in a stocking hung by the hearth!

Monday, December 5 - Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition

Talk about a reason to celebrate!! Prohibition was certainly an interesting point in this country's history. keith and I recently watched Ken Burn's documentary "Prohibition" - well worth it. It's amazing how similar things are politically to how they were at the time of Prohibition. The issues have changed, but the actions, reactions, and ignorance is still pretty much the same. But I digress...prohibition.

What an interesting concept - to place all of the evils of humanity on alcohol. In my humble opinion, the only reason things are (typically) used in excess is often because they are taboo or illegal, at least in this country. By making alcohol out to be this great sin, it ends up being glamorized and misused (much like other taboo, marijuana...but again, I digress). Our country has one of the highest rates of alcoholism in the world - and I can only believe it's mostly due to the fact that it is so restricted. Think back, wasn't that first sip of beer exotic and exciting because you were "too young" for it? Remember those college parties where you first had some box wine - you felt like so much more of an adult because you weren't supposed to be drinking it. And think back to that glorious age: 21! At that point you could already vote, die for your country, and drive...FINALLY you're now allowed to order a glass of wine with dinner!!

So all that being said...I suggest we all raise a glass on Monday to the anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. A cute little article in Huffington Post (IMBIBE: 5 Ways to Toast Repeal Day) suggested five old-school cocktails that could help you celebrate, including the El Presidente, the Boulevardier and the Fallen Angel. So drink up - if you're of government determined age, that is.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


For years I've bought capers in glass jars that are floating in a brine solution. For years I've read and listened to people like Mario Batali (not in person...on his shows...seriously I WISH I knew Mario Batali) tell me that I should buy salt-packed capers, because the taste is amazingly fresher. Well I finally did as I was told. I found a jar of salt-packed capers. They require a tiny bit more prep than the brine-soaked ones. At least 10 minutes before you need them you simply need to shake out your desired amount into a small bowl, and then soak them in water for 10 minutes or so. Drain them, and they're ready to go. All the salt melts away and doesn't impact the flavor. And speaking of flavor - so much more true and sharp. The brine-soaked capers often just taste like the brine they come in. So if you are wondering about capers, go for the salt-packed. It will make all the difference in the world!

Prosciutto-wrapped Shrimp (and sides)

'Inoteca on the Lower East Side of Manhattan inspired me to make this simple and delicious dish at home. So every now and again, when I walk past the seafood counter and see some AMAZING shrimp, I can't help myself. I truly wish I could find real prawns, or better yet some langoustines - but alas, those are never anywhere to be found. However the other day at New Seasons Market I was scoping out the shrimp and started hopping in delight. They had a HUGE pile of hefty shrimp that had literally been brought in from the ocean that morning. After I picked myself up off the floor (come on, I'm not overreacting - even in the best places you almost always see that the shrimp had been previously frozen), I got 20 massive shrimp for dinner. Next, a quarter pound of thinly sliced prosciutto and dinner was shaping up!

I won't even bother with a recipe, it's so darn easy. The shrimp were fresh so they needed to be cleaned. This took about 3 times longer than it did to cook the entire meal, but that's okay. I was in my happy place in the kitchen. :) If you have never cleaned your own shrimp, it's not that difficult - just a bit time-consuming. They always come without the heads, so no worries there. You simply need to peel off the shell and legs - but absolutely leave the tail on. Then with a sharp knife, slice down the back of the shrimp (not too deep, maybe 1/4 inch, if that). Your incision will reveal a dark line inside the shrimp. That's the digest tract. Simply scrape it out, or pull it out - just get rid of it. Then move on to the next shrimp. Give them a good rinse before going on to the next step. Carefully pull apart your thin slices of prosciutto and wrap one (or in most cases, 1/2 of one) piece snugly around the meat of the shrimp. Once they are all wrapped, heat a little olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Lay the shrimp in the hot pan making sure they are all in contact with the pan. 3 minutes, turn, 2 - 3 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through and the prosciutto gets a little crispy on the outside. Absolutely delicious.

I knew I'd be making a rice dish as a side - it was simply some sauteed onions and garlic with capers and black pepper mixed with the brown rice. However the other side dish was a bit more fun. Raw slices of tomato and avocado drizzled in a bit of a salsa verde of sorts. I took some gorgeous tomatillos, cut them up along with some garlic, lime, red onion, salt & pepper. This all went into the blender with some olive oil. Once blended, I simply spooned it out over the raw veggies. Scrumptious!!

A note about tomatillos if you're not familiar with them. They're delicious! That's not all I was going to say, though. Sometimes I cut them up and heat them in a pan with salt, pepper & oil and they become a great base for a salsa. They are versatile and so green in flavor. The papery substance surrounding them is not edible, so be sure to remove it. And then wash them thoroughly - there's a layer of stickiness that surrounds the flesh and you should remove it. Otherwise, cut up and enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cooking with wine

I love it because it means I'll also be drinking wine! :)

Tonight I'm braising a rabbit in white wine, stock, and black olives (among other things). Photos & recipe to come!!