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!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grey Goose Martini

Is there anything else I need to say?

Polish Kielbasa & Cabbage

I picked up some really nice Polish Kielbasa at the market last week. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it - likely something simple. keith, however, had other plans for the sausage. He found an authentic Polish recipe using the sausage, cabbage and potatoes - and then did his own twist. He used 1/2 potatoes and 1/2 yams (really nice touch that added a bit of sweetness to the dish). I know there was some horseradish in there, and some stock...but aside from that he wouldn't let me into the kitchen to see what he was doing. The end result, however, was wonderful - thick, hearty and comforting. Perfect for a fall evening! So I encouraged him to write down his own version of the recipe (he has a folder with recipes he does really well, and over the years we've been together the number of recipes - and the quality of the recipes - has greatly increased). So while I can't give you the recipe, I can tell you it was a delicious Polish meal!


I love it when I see sunchokes in the store - they aren't available often, so when they are I grab a bag full! Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes, are the tuber of a type of sunflower. Amazingly I recently discovered that nearly 90% of all sunchokes in Germany go towards the production of a liquor called Topinambur. I must find Topinambur.

Sunchokes are beautifully ugly on the outside, and can be prepared in any traditional recipe calling for root vegetables. I would guess they make a great mash! They have a slightly nutty flavor that is really quite pleasing. Often I've roasted them, but this time I tried something different.

I peeled the sunchokes - I would think the skin is fine to eat if you scrub them clean. However I was going for a visual so I peeled them and sliced them. And like potatoes or artichokes, they will begin to "rust" when exposed to the air for a short time. In order to stop that, simply placed the peeled sunchokes in some acidulated water - in this case I had a bowl with 2-3 cups of cold water and I squeezed 1/2 a lemon into the bowl. Drop the sunchokes in the water and leave them there until you're ready to use them.

I decided to pan fry the sunchokes in some brown butter. 4 Tbl butter, heated over medium heat until it begins to take on a golden color - don't let it get too brown at first, since you still need to cook the sunchokes. Drop the strained sunchokes into the pan and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, or until they get tender.

I thought the finished sunchokes in brown butter looked a lot like water chestnuts. :) But they were delicious - I pulled them off the heat when they were still just a tiny bit firm in the middle - the texture is delicious. So here's to sunchokes!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Feast: Turducken, Rye Bread Stuffing, Yams stuffed with Apples

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the leftovers linger on. Secretly I always am suspicious of Thanksgiving when it rolls around. It celebrates an iconic event that likely never happened, and only became a national holiday because Lincoln needed a way to make people come together. But still, I do love the idea of the holiday - giving thanks for the wonders in our lives.

I gave thanks for my wonderful husband, who has been the most important person in my life for nearly the last 8 years. I gave thanks for my adoring dog Max who has been the biggest hairy ball of unconditional love I could have ever hoped for during the last 9 1/2 years. I gave thanks for our friends, our families, the world we've created together and the future that is laid out before us. It's been a good life all in all. :)

Now on to the food. So the theme was "stuffed" in honor of the pre-combined turducken I found at New Seasons. Typically a turducken is huge - a 4 - 5 lb chicken (boneless) inside a 10 lb duck (boneless) inside a 25 lb turkey (whole) - kind of like meat stuffing. In THIS case all three birds were boneless so it was more like a turducken roll - fine by me! Much less cooking time and easier to carve.

I needed "stuffed" things to go with the theme. Immediately I thought of apple-stuffed yams. No idea why, it's not something I've ever made before. But yams can really get along with sweet spices, so I thought this would be a natural pairing. I baked the yams until nearly done (about an hour), and pulled them out to cool. I figured the easiest thing to do was to treat them like twice-baked potatoes. So I cut each in half lengthwise and scooped out most of the yam flesh into a bowl. That got mashed with just some butter, salt & pepper and a little fresh ground nutmeg. Meanwhile, in a small pan on the stove I had 2 apples (peeled, cored, and cut up into 1/2" pieces). They were simmering in some butter (3 Tbl), brown sugar (1/2 C), fresh nutmeg (1/2 tsp), cinnamon (1/2 tsp), and allspice (1/2 tsp). I also added some salt (1 tsp) and a touch of pepper (pinch). These cooked for maybe 15 - 20 minutes, stirred often, until the apples were REALLY tender and there was some delicious juice. [Side note - this sugary, sweet juice was the perfect pre-dinner shot for my husband...if you like sweet things.]  I piled the apples into the yam shells evenly, and then covered them with the mashed yams. I made it easy on myself and put the mashed yams in a plastic bag, cut off the tip and evenly distributed the mixture over each. These went back in the oven (350 degrees) for about 1/2 hour to make sure everything was hot and delicious.

The turducken was easy - in a pan, 350 degrees, covered for 2 hours (this was nearly a 6 lb. collection of birds), then uncovered for 45 minutes or so until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. I let it rest for a bit and then just sliced it right up. It was the taste explosion I was hoping for, but what was interesting was the fat that usually drips away when you're cooking a chicken or (especially) a duck is trapped inside the turkey meat. So yeah, that was a really nice touch! And the cranberry sauce I made went wonderfully with the meat!

The stuffing - I have to say this was the star of the meal, as far as I'm concerned. I love it when I make something up and it really comes together. And for some reason I always use rye bread when I'm making a homemade stuffing. I love the earthy flavor it brings to a dish - it compliments root vegetables like celery and carrots quite nicely. The recipe for this is below - warning, there's a lot of butter in this stuffing but it is damn well worth it. :) Initially for the "stuffed" theme I wanted to make stuffing balls that had a cranberry sauce center. Yeah, that wasn't going to work. So I cheated and when I plated the stuffing I made a little well and piled some cranberry sauce in the center. It worked!

And let us not forget the cocktail. How to do a "stuffed" cocktail? I had lots of suggestions - three cocktails in one (in honor of the turducken); something with jello on. Instead I tried something different. I emptied one of our fantastic silicon ice cube trays and filled them with a mixture of cranberry and lime juices, and then added a spoonful pomegranate seeds in each one. When they were frozen the seeds were on top and they were quite beautiful. So for the drink - SO simple. 2 ounces of cucumber vodka (Pearl is excellent) and 2 ice cubes. That's it! The ice cubes represented the "stuffed" part of the cocktail, and they immediately begin to melt. So your drink is constantly transforming in flavor, and at the end you get to eat the seeds. Touch of brilliance in such a simple way. I'm so modest.

So all in all, great evening and wonderful food. I was so glad I was able to get out of my recent funk quick enough to pull everything together. I love experimenting with new foods on Thanksgiving, and I love trying to top myself every year. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well!!

Rye Bread & Leek Stuffing
1 small onion, chopped
1 large leek, cleaned & chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 slices thick rye bread, crust removed, cut into 1" pieces
1 stick butter (I KNOW!!)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 C chicken stock
Fresh ground pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan (I used my dutch oven) heat 6 Tbl of butter (1 stick has 8 Tbl, reserve the other 2 for later). Once melted add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and salt & pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened.

While the vegetables are cooking, spread the pieces of rye bread out on a sheet pan and bake for 10 - 15 minutes until toasted. Remove and set aside.

When the vegetables have softened, add the chicken stock and bring the mixture up to a bubble. Add the toasted bread and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a baking dish and dot the top with the remaining 2 Tbl. of butter. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes until the top is a little crusty/crunchy and delicious.

Chris' Cranberry & Hazelnut Sauce
1 package fresh cranberries
1/2 C sugar
1 C orange juice
1 C roasted hazelnuts

Quickly roast the hazelnuts in a hot, dry pan for 5 - 8 minutes stirring often. This helps release some of the oils and enhances the flavor. Pour onto a cutting board once heated through and chop.

In a pot over medium heat add the cranberries, sugar and orange juice. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and then cook the cranberries for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring often, until the cranberries have all popped open and the mixture begins to thicken. Add the chopped hazelnuts and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for another 10 - 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened to your desired texture.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving update

The theme has been selected: Stuffed. Sounds simple, right? Here's the idea - I bought a Turducken and went from there (I've never made or eaten one before, so I'm pretty excited). A turducken is a de-boned chicken stuffed inside a de-boned duck stuffed inside a de-boned turkey. CRAZY! A FREAK OF NATURE!! :)

So with that in mind, my plans now include apple stuffed yams (or sweet potatoes...not quite sure yet); and stuffing balls "stuffed" with a center of cranberries and chestnuts. I'm working on a cocktail idea as well. Possibly something savory (cucumber or rosemary vodka) "stuffed" with a small fruit jello-shot (cranberry? apple? - floating in the middle of the drink).

Okay, I feel so much better now that I have a theme and a plan. So now, who wants to join us for my Stuffed Thanksgiving Dinner?

Food on Flickr

Here's a breakdown of food photography on Flickr - not surprising which "category" of food is represented the most:

Desserts 18.3%
Vegetables 17.8%
Poultry 13%
Meat 10.7%
Bread 8.8%
Drinks 7.8%
Dairy 7.1%
Pasta 7.1%
Other 9.4%

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old Fashioned

A sugar cube soaked in old fashioned aromatic bitters, and a twist of lemon. Yes, I'm making an Old Fashioned (using Jim Beam Rye)!

Friday, November 18, 2011's nearly here!

I've been overwhelmed with the new job. I know, it's no excuse. But I'm worried - typically by this time I've settled on a menu for Thanksgiving, tested some of the new recipes, and generated an excel spreadsheet of the day in order to make sure everything comes out all at once. NONE of that has happened so far this year and I only have one week to go!

So here are some initial thoughts:
Duck...maybe a goose?
sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping (old school - for keith)
some sort of leek soup...or maybe pumpkin?

What is everyone else having for Thanksgiving? Traditional? Non-traditional? HELP! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chicken Meatball and Cheese Tortellini Soup

I found this recipe in the book "Dinner At My Place" by Tyler Florence. I was searching for something comforting - something to soothe me to the core. This certainly hit the nail on the head.

Around this time of year, like everyone else, I begin craving soups and stews. As it begins to get colder I transition into roasts, and big, slow-cooked cuts of meat (as my friend Mary-Ellen recently said "I'd eat a unicorn if it were slow-cooked properly"). This delicious meal had the meatiness I wanted (chicken meatballs) and the warmth of a really good soup.

I made a TON of meatballs. Seriously, so many. We had some as appetizers before the meal. And for all my good intentions of saving 2 bowls of soup as leftovers...I ate out the meatballs, and never got around to finishing off the soup. :)

And truth be told - I made the meatballs the day before and put them in the refrigerator overnight. That worked just fine and gave me less to do as I was assembling the soup.

Chicken Meatball and Cheese Tortellini Soup

for the meatballs:
4 links organic chicken-apple sausage (instead, I used 1 1/2 lbs ground chicken meat)
1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 C whole milk (I used half & half)
1 egg
2 Tbl chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 Tbl for sprinkling
Fresh ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

for the soup:
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 large carrots, cut into circles
1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 quarts reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 black peppercorns
2 Tbl chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 bay leaf
1 lb. fresh refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini, thawed
1/4 C finely chopped Italian parsley
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh parsley sprigs, for garnish
1 crusty baguette, to serve with the soup

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare meatballs by combing loose ground chicken meat (discard casings if using links), bread crumbs, milk, egg, parsley, and 1/4 C grated cheese in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt & pepper, then mix until fully combined. Using a small ice cream scoop (or a large spoon), make balls and set on a roasting tray. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with 2 Tbl. grated cheese. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden brown and caramelized.

While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the soup. Set a large stockpot over medium heat. Add a 2-count of oil (about 2 Tbl), the garlic and the thyme. Gently saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add carrot, onion, and celery. Season with salt and cook for 5 - 7 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and add peppercorns, 2 Tbl. parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

Once meatballs are cooked, scrape them into the pot of chicken soup and add tortellini. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 - 3 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Remove peppercorns and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Sprinkle with parsley and grated cheese. Garnish each bowl with a parsley sprig and serve with torn pieces of crusty bread.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Any vegetarian will tell you that mushrooms cooked right give them the same mouth and tooth feel as tender meat. Why vegetarians want things to feel like meat in their mouths, I'll never understand.

But I LOVE mushrooms. One of my favorite side dishes is simply sauteed shiitake mushrooms, with some butter, olive oil and a small palm-full of crushed herbs de Provence. Cook them over medium-high heat until they get deliciously tender all the way through. In this case, all I did was remove the stems. Sometimes I leave them on (but cut off the very end - tends to get tough), and sometimes I slice them. So warm and comforting...just like meat!


One reader, John, started a conversation with me a while back about garlic - and I completely forgot to post it. Si here is our exchange about garlic:

Garlic...good topic! To be completely honest, I don't pay attention to the "organic" or "non-organic" varieties. In fact the "organic" thing has gone too far, I think, in this country. Virtually anyone who meets a VERY minimum of conditions can label their food "organic" so I'm more likely to buy fresh & local than I am organic - because I know it's probably better because it was grown/made nearby. So I don't think that makes a difference, especially in taste, with garlic. However I do always buy mine loose - not boxed or bagged. I often feel that the ones in the bags or boxes are of lesser quality. I like to pick up a bulb and feel the weight & firmness of it. I have often times bought elephant garlic (for recipes that call for 3-4 cloves) because one clove is huge and the flavor is great. And I have even taken the cheating route a few times and bought a small container of peeled garlic cloves. I hate peeling garlic, so it was out of convenience - but you get to see the cloves and the flavor is usually just as good (if you're really chopping it up). Black Garlic sounds amazing though, and I might just have to buy some. I've never seen it before in stores, so I'm guessing I might have to find it online at a specialty store.

And since we're on the topic of garlic - have you ever tried garlic scapes? I think that's a slang name - they're basically the green shoots of a garlic plant with the tiniest bulb at the end (which would eventually turn into garlic). They are available in spring and are delicious sauteed or chopped into a stir fry. And if you like garlic you should also seek out some garlic flowers - they're generally round & purple. They have a wonderfully mild garlic flavor and are delicious torn up and sprinkled over a salad or even a steak.'d think I like garlic, the way I talk.

Brunch, by Mary-Ellen

We were treated yesterday to brunch by The Lesbians (aka Mary-Ellen and Natalie) at their floating house. Both keith and I are in love with their floating house and want one of our own immediately.

Brunch was exquisite! Kahlua french toast with fresh berries, maple bacon, scrambled eggs, and slow-cooked southwestern potatoes. As usual, I left one of Mary-Ellen's meals full and happy. :)

Of course that could have also had something to do with the scintillating conversation, the homemade bloody Mary mix (a la Natalie), the flowing vodka or the bubbly prosecco. :)

It was a big, gay brunch - The Husbands, The Lesbians and The Boyfriends made sure of that!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

holiday spices

It's that time of the year again. Time to buy what I like to call the "holiday spices." And no matter how many times I heard Jamie Oliver say I should always buy whole nutmeg, for some reason I never have. Until this year. And can I just The flavor is so much more intense and robust when you grate your own nutmeg. Definitely worth the effort. Go buy some whole nutmeg and grate it yourself. Just onto the cutting board. Then smell it. Now taste it. Are you as giddy as I am?

Rose Martini

I'm really trying to experiment with flavors and smells (I'm talking cocktails, but that applies to food as well). I found some rose water and it immediately flashed me back to Dove Bar in NYC. keith and I used to stop in there for happy hour after work when we first moved to the city. They served a delicious rose martini - they even floated rose petals on top. So I gave it a go - ice cold grey goose and a touch of rose water. The rose water can be VERY over-powering, but it was quite nice.

3 milk cheese & sweet Soppressata

Seriously...this snack kicks ass!

Chicken Corn Tortilla Soup

I know I've mentioned it before...but this soup is so darn comforting I can't help myself. I start in a very old-school way - boil an entire chicken. That's right, I chop up an entire chicken and it goes into a pot. I also throw in some savories: thyme, peppercorn, salt, onion, carrot, celery. And I boil it until the chicken is cooked completely through. The result - cooked chicken, and a stock I can use for the soup. I know, you're thinking the chicken won't have any flavor because it's been boiled. Wrong-o, my friend. :)

Next step is to shred the chicken - you want it nicely shredded and make sure to discard all skin and bones. In a new pot, heat up some olive oil and start cooking the vegetables: onions, carrots & celery with a little salt until they begin to soften. Add chopped thyme, chopped garlic, and 1 - 2 chopped jalapenos.

Here's the fun part - in the past I would often use a couple of cans of creamed corn. This time, I DID use one small can of creamed corn (mostly to add some sweetness and for some texture), but I also cut kernels off of 3 fresh cobs of corn. Holy crap I love fresh corn. Once the vegetables have begun to soften, throw in the corn, creamed corn, and the chicken. Mix this through and then add enough of the reserved stock to cover everything by 1 - 2 inches (depending on how big of a pot you have). Season with salt & pepper to taste, and bring to a bubble. At that point, reduce the heat so that it stays at a simmer for about 1/2 hour.

In the meantime, heat up some oil in a pan (I used peanut oil) and fry small strips of corn tortillas, turning once. They will darken a bit, and get crispy. I make a big pile of these because halfway through cooking of the soup, I like to throw in a big handful. They get really soft, almost like noodles, and add a really nice texture to the soup.

Once the soup is finished, ladle it out into big soup bowls (make sure you tasted it for seasoning first). Add a pile of fried corn tortilla strips to the top and you're ready to eat!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spicy Spag

Or rather what's left of it. Comforting, easy and delicious. Heat 2Tbl olive oil in a large pan. Add 1 large can chunky tomato sauce. When it begins to bubble, add 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp oregano, salt, pepper, and 2 Tbl red pepper flakes. Once the flavors are combined, add 1 pound of al dente cooked spaghetti to the pan. Turn the heat off and mix thoroughly. Pile into a pasta dish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, more red pepper flakes (if you're like me) and drizzle with olive oil. It warms you to your soul! And goes great with homemade garlic bread!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Beer me

I've been so quiet! I'm sorry. Starting a new job has consumed my life. I have been cooking - even found some great slow-cooker recipes! I hope to do some catching up this weekend. In the meantime...cheers. Here's a nice Belgian style ale from Colorado. I'm gulping it down as I make some bangers & mash for dinner!

Monday, November 7, 2011


We wandered over to Pope House Whiskey bar last Friday night, after dinner with The Lesbians. Greedy little me got a flight of whiskey. YUM!