Friday, June 23, 2017

Crab Flake Salad

If you took the Baltimore & Ohio's Capitol Limited from Washington, D.C., you would have had the opportunity to have a special experience on one of the Martha Washington dining cars, with the wooden interiors, white table cloths and the very fancy china.  The surroundings would have raised expectations about the offerings on the menu.  Guests would have expected fine cuisine, whether it was an appetizer, salad or main course.

That is what I thought when I saw the recipe for Crab Flake Salad in the book Dining on the B&O.  The recipe calls for an equal amount of "large crab meat flakes" and "small diced hearts of celery."  It also calls for "a creamy mayonnaise made with lemon juice instead of vinegar, with a garnish of quartered hard boiled eggs.    Although the recipe appears in Dining on the B&O, it originated in the quintessential cookbook, The Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad Book.  

Despite this pedigree, there was something about a "creamy mayonnaise" with lemon juice that did not seem appealing. It is probably because I am not a very big fan of mayonnaise.  The question became, however, what to substitute for mayonnaise.  I decided to draw from another crab recipe, the West Indies Salad (which is one of my favorite lump crab recipes).  The West Indies Salad uses vinegar, rather than mayonnaise.  In my humble opinion, vinegar works much better with crab meat than mayonnaise, and, it is probably healthier too.  I also decided to use finely diced onions, which are used in West Indies Salad, along with the finely diced celery used in the Crab Flake Salad.

The end result is Chef Bolek's interpretation of the B&O's Crab Flake Salad, which I have to say was very, very good.  The celery actually added an additional flavor that is not in the West Indies Salad, and the use of the vinegar kept the salad lighter and provided a good, sharp taste to contrast with the sweetness of the crab meat. 

Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 33-34
Serves several

1 pound of jumbo lump crab, picked
1 heart of celery, diced finely
1 sweet onion, diced finely
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Cracked black pepper
Sea salt

1.  Marinate the crab.  Line the bottom of the bowl or dish with half of the diced onion and celery.  Add the crab meat.  Spread the remaining onion and celery over the crab meat.  Add the cider vinegar to the water and then add the oil, whisking it all together.  Drizzle the mixture over the crab meat and vegetables.  Drizzle the mixture over the crab meat and onions.  Let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. 

2.  Prepare the salad. Gently mix the salad.  Place some lettuce leaves on a plate and spoon the salad over it.  Serve with crackers. 


Saturday, June 17, 2017

A New Project in the Bluegrass State

Whenever we travel, my beautiful Angel, Clare and I like to check out the local scene.   We look for interesting things to do, cool restaurants to try, and, of course, a brewery or brewpub to check out.  Recently, we made a trip to the Bluegrass State to visit with close friends who live in Louisville.  

We arrived the day before and decided to check out the town, with one of the stops being, of course, at a local brewery or brewpub.  We have been to Louisville in the past, and, I have been to Bluegrass Brewing and Against the Grain, both of which are very good.  But, this time, we wante to try something different.   I asked Google for the nearest breweries or brewpubs, and, it responded, "Holsopple Brewing."

Holsopple Brewing opened in February 2017 in the Lyndon neighborhood, which is not too far from Shelbyville Road and I-264.  The brewery's owners -- Sam Gambrill and Kristy Holsopple -- opened the brewery with a tap room that features 8 drafts.  When we visited the tap room, we were greeted with beers that spanned different brewing styles from the classic pale ale and single-hop india pale ales, to a lager, pilsner and even a dunkel.   The tap room also had games and crayons, providing some kid-friendly activities while the parents sample the beers. 

Clare and I tried a few of the beers.  Clare ordered the Hefeweizen, which was a good effort at the beer.  I tried the Project Alpha "B" IPA, which I believe is one of their efforts to brew a single hop India Pale Ale.   I also tried their Paula Pilsner, which was a very crisp and clean pilsner.  It was a good contrast to the hoppy Project Alpha B IPA.

The Project Alpha beer is the second in a single hop IPA experiment of the brewers, with the goal being 26 different single hop IPAs.  From what I could tell, the Project Alpha B IPA is brewed with cascade hops.  As you can see from the picture to the right, the beer pours a orange color with a thick foam covering the surface.  The aromatic elements feature the hops, with the citrus notes, but also a fair aroma from the malts.  This balance carries through to the taste, with the result being a good balance between the hops and the malts.   This balance helps make this beer a little more approachable to people who are usually turned off by very hoppy IPAs.  

Overall, our visit to Holsopple Brewing was a good one, especially given this brewery has been only open for a few months.  If you happen to live in Derby City, you should check it out.  When we make our way back to Louisville, we will definitely make another stop to see how the brewers and the beers have evolved.  Until next time ...


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chicken Maryland

Little did I know, but Chicken Maryland is quite the recipe.  The recipe was born as the Old Line State's answer to traditional southern fried chicken.  Where cooks throughout the American south fried chicken in pots full of oil, lard or shortening, cooks in Maryland pan-fried the chicken. They then finished the dish by adding cream to the pan to create a white sauce that would be poured over the crispy chicken.  This recipe is much like Maryland, something that draws from tradition, but is still unique in its own right. 

If that were the end of the story, a Chicken Maryland recipe might not be that interesting.  However, Chicken Maryland made its way into the news, with the first reference to the recipe or dish appearing in a newspaper in 1886.  Several years later, the recipe began to appear in cookbooks.  And, not just any cookbooks.  The recipe appeared in Fannie Farmer's The Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1896.  Decades later, a recipe for Chicken a la Maryland in the iconic French cookbook, Ma Cuisine written by August Escoffier.  The dish became so popular that it even appeared on the dinner menu of the Titanic, although I don't know if any of the passengers enjoyed the dish because that menu was for the day the ship sank.  Despite the tragic end of the Titanic, the recipe for Chicken Maryland continued to live.  The dish appeared on the menu for guests  who traveled on the Baltimore & Ohio's Capitol Limited from Washington, D.C. to Chicago. 

Chicken Maryland's travel through time has given rise to many different variations to Maryland's take on southern Fried Chicken.  For example, Auguste Escoffier's version of Chicken a la Maryland featured a side of fried bananas.  The bananas were perhaps a nod to the fact that the largest city in Maryland, Baltimore, was once a key port for the import of bananas from Latin America.  By contrast, the chefs and cooks on the B&O left the bananas off the plate and served the Chicken Maryland with its version of a corn fritter.

For this recipe, I blended the B&O's recipe for Chicken Maryland and Escoffier's version of Chicken a la Maryland.  The former recipe uses whole chickens, spatchcocked, with each serving being half a chicken, while the latter recipe allows for the use of chicken breasts.   I decided to use boneless, skinless breasts because I felt that they would be easier to work with on a frying pan.  I then decided to '86 the frying pan and to just bake the chicken.  This made the recipe healthier.  After getting the chicken ready, I turned to Escoffier's recipe for a bechamel sauce that could be poured over the chicken.  Finally, I decided to serve the dish in the style of the B&O cooks, with a corn fritter as a side.  The two recipes helped to produce a dish that is perhaps one of the best ones that I have made in a long time.    

Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 71-72
and the Spruce
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken):
2 chickens, spatchcocked and split
     (or use boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 egg beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bread crumbs, as needed
Butter, melted as needed
Bacon, 2 slices per servings
Bechamel or cream sauce, 2-3 serving,
Corn Fritters, 1 per serving

Ingredients (for the bechamel or cream sauce):
2 1/2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

Ingredients (for the corn fritters):
15 ounces of corn, frozen, canned or fresh
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
3/8 cup flour

1.  Prepare the chicken. If you are using whole chickens, cut the chickens into portions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip the chicken in the beaten eggs and then the breadcrumbs.  Arrange in baking pans with 2 slices of bacon.  Brush the chicken with butter.

2.  Bake the chicken.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.

3.  Prepare the bechamel sauce. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste. Continue whisking, cook for about 2 minutes, and then gradually – 1/3 cup at a time - add the milk. Continue whisking and cook until the sauce is completely heated through, smooth, and thickened. Remove from the heat and season with the salt and nutmeg.

4.  Prepare the fritters.  Pound the corn, mix with the flour, butter, eggs, salt and pepper.  Heat butter or oil on medium high in a pan.  Ladle the mixture into the pan and do not overcrowd.  Fry for about 5 minutes and flip.  Fry until the fritter is brown.

5.  Finish the dish.  Plate one of the chicken breasts to one side of the dish, ensuring that the bacon remains crossed over the chicken.  Plate the corn fritter next to the chicken.  Pour the bechamel sauce over the chicken breast and the bacon.    

Saturday, June 3, 2017


Beers brewed with peppers are quaint.  And I have tried many in my time.  Some draw inspiration from Oaxacan Moles, such as New Holland's El Mole Ocho or Ska Brewing's Mole Stout, which inevitably include the use of chiles like ancho peppers.   Other brewers just brew beers with chiles, like Rogue's Chipotle Ale.  With these beers, it is more about the heat, rather than the style.  

While I love Mole beers, I have to say I am also a big fan of the chile beers as well.  That is what drew me to Stone Brewing's Crime, a supped up version of its Arrogant Bastard.  The Crime is a blend of the Arrogant Bastard and the Oaked Arrogant Bastard, both of which are aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and then finished with jalapeno, serrano other chile peppers.  The brewers produced this beer for, in their words, "those who adore both pain and pleasure (but mostly pain), those who should know better and those who don't know better."  They continue, "[t]he result is something unsuitable for the faint of heart, mind or palate."

Well, I am certainly not one who is faint of heart, mind or palate, especially when it comes to chiles.  I have over a dozen different types of peppers and chiles in my spice drawer and pantry, covering the entire range of the Scoville scale.  So, I'm game for this beer.

I bought a bottle of Stone's Crime, 2015 version. According to the brewers, the beer is "hoppy with lots of oak and malt."  I would agree with that assessment.  The hops are clearly present up front, competing with the peppers' piquancy.  The malts are present as well, but they definitely play a second fiddle.  This role is not only secondary to the hops and the peppers, but also the bourbon.  

As for the finish, the brewers note that there is a "[l]ong finish [that] reveals oak, vanilla, bourbon and malt that produce caramel flavors with peppers adding a pleasant tamarind, subtle tropical fruit flavors and significant heat."   Once again, the brewers are mostly on target.  There was definitely oak and bourbon, but I could also sense the vanilla.  These elements came together, and I somewhat sensed the a caramel flavor with a tamarind note.  I did not sense any tropical fruit flavors though.  There was, however, a good sting from the peppers.  Much of that heat was felt on the back of the palate and throat as the beer went down.  

Overall, this is a great beer and a good companion to Stone's Punishment, which I previously reviewed.  In some respects, this beer is better than Punishment because the chiles do not completely overwhelm the other aromatic and flavor elements.   Definitely worth a try.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

B&O Egg Sandwich

It is just an egg sandwich.  That is what my beautiful Angel and I kept saying to ourselves as we were preparing that dish for our Wine Club.  It is just an egg sandwich.  But it is a pretty damn good egg sandwich.  Why? Because it proves that you can make a very good dish with a very simple recipe.

This particular recipe originated in Grafton, West Virginia.  According to Dining on the B&O Railroad, the authors visited a signal tower and spoke with the railroader who worked there. The author asked the employee about his favorite food, which was an egg sandwich that he had every day for lunch.  The recipe is basically an egg between two pieces of toast with a dollop of Miracle Whip.   A simple recipe that brought a lot of satisfaction to a worker, day after day, year after year.  A very good dish that is the product of a very simple recipe.

The railroader's egg sandwich was not an official recipe of the B&O Railroad, although a fried egg sandwich did appear on a menu in the railroad's dining car on March 17, 1960.  The author of Dining on the B&O did not have the recipe and I could not find it.  And, while the railroader's recipe was very good for him, both by beautiful Angel and I wanted to make a couple of changes to make this recipe even better, but still very simple.

First, I decided to '86 the Miracle Whip and add some lettuce and a tomato.  I have never been a big fan of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.  I rather dispense with that and add something that is a little healthier, like a slice of tomato and some lettuce.

Second, my beautiful Angel suggested that we sprinkle some Old Bay on the egg, giving a nod to Maryland.  This is after all a B&O Egg Sandwich and that "B" stands for Baltimore.  I thought that was a great idea.

Finally, we decided to present the sandwich as an open faced sandwich.  By getting rid of the extra piece of bread, we opened the sandwich to a far more pleasant presentation.

With these three changes, we gave this recipe our own touch.  In the end, at least in my humble opinion, this is a far better sandwich.   I have included the original recipe, with our changes listed as options.  Feel free to try both versions  Either way, a simple recipe produces a very tasty sandwich. 

Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 28-29
Serves 1

1 or 2 eggs
1 or 2 slices of toast
1-2 tablespoons butter
Kraft Miracle Whip, optional
1 tomato slice, optional
Lettuce, optional
Old Bay, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Prepare the egg.  Melt 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter in an 8 inch non-stick omelet pan or skillet over medium heat.  Break open eggs into pan and immediately reduce heat to low. Cook slowly until the eggs are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken, but not hard.  Break open the yolks and flip over for 15 seconds until cook.  Do not salt the eggs before or during cooking.  Salt can cause the eggs to become tough during cooking so for best results, salt eggs only after cooking.

2.  Finish the dish.  Toast the bread, place eggs on toast and spread Miracle whip (optional) on one slice of toast.  Salt and pepper to taste.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Caboose, an Old Ox and a Lost Rhino ... A Journey Through Northern Virginia Craft Beer

A year ago, for my birthday, my beautiful Angel took me on a tour of Maryland's farm breweries, such as Red Shedman and Milkhouse Breweries. This year, the tour went across the Potomac to the State of Virginia.   The Old Dominion State has a lot of craft breweries.  Until a week or two ago, the only craft brewery that I visited in Virginia had been Port City (which, by the way, is a very good brewery and whose Porter I have previously reviewed).  My birthday celebration took me to three different breweries in Northern Virginia ... a caboose, an old ox and a lost rhino.  The trip touched the whole range of brew styles.


The first stop was Caboose Brewing Company in Vienna, Virginia.  The brewery is located at end of an industrial complex (as many craft breweries are).  The Caboose had over twelve beers on draft,  providing a wide range of styles to choose from.  I decided to do a flight of beers, so that I could pick from that range.  I tried the Crazy Train Tripel, the Citra Session IPA, the Stop, Drop & Doppelbock and the Gandy Dancer, which was a Schwartzbier.

All four beers were very good, but my favorite was probably the Crazy Train Tripel.  Setting aside my preference for Belgian beer styles, the Crazy Train hit the mark when it came to the style.  Elements of bananas and cloves were both on the nose and the palate, with the slight sweetness from candy sugar.  With a 9.0% ABV, there was a little booziness in the background.  The Doppelbock was also very good, with a light coffee taste accompanied by some raisin notes.  While this beer had an ABV of 8.2%, it was lighter than the tripel and a little deceiving in that respect.  The Schwartzbier also represented its style well, with the roasted malts suggesting dark roast coffee and well toasted bread.   The Citra Session IPA was good, providing a little citrus bitterness that one expects with a session pale ale.


The next stop was Old Ox Brewery, located in Ashburn, Virginia.  The name comes from one of the oldest roads in Loudoun County, which connected farmers to the markets.  Old Ox is a familiar name, as I have seen six packs of their beers -- such as the Alpha Ox Session IPA and the Golden Ox Belgian Style Golden Ale -- in local grocery stores.   However, I have to admit that I never had their beer, before this trip.  

I started first with the rarest beers offered on the board that day ... a collaboration between Old Ox Brewing and Ocelot Brewing, which is another Virginian craft brewery.  The beer was named Sir Oxcelot, and was a Belgian Quadrupel.  (Remember, I am a big fan of Belgian beer styles.)  This Quad,  rang in at a whopping 14.3% ABV.  This makes any description about it being boozy perhaps the most obvious statement one could make about the beer.  Still, the beer poured a nice dark brown, with notes of toffee and caramel in both the nose and the palate.  There was also some dark berry notes which I could not really place. 

Although one beer would have been enough, I did not know when I would be back in Ashburn, Virginia.  So, I also tried the Hoppier Place Powder to the People Imperial India Pale Ale.  This beer was relatively lighter when it came to the ABV, registering just 8.5%.  This ABV ensured a smoothness to the Imperial IPA, but the hops were aggressive enough so that the piney notes gripped the edges of the tongue with every sip.   Both are great sipping beers, which allowed me to sit back and relax a little with my beautiful Angel, as we watched our kids try to understand corn hole  (Needless to say, they did not quite get the game, but they nevertheless had fun trying to get the beanbags through the hole.)  

The two beers - the Sir Oxelot and the Hoppier Place -- were both very good beers.  I wish were bottled or canned, because I would have bought a couple to go.  Needless to say, I just bought a six pack of their Hardway Summer Lager. 


The last stop was the Lost Rhino Brewing Company, which was just a mile or two from the Old Ox.  Just like Old Ox, I have seen various beers from Lost Rhino in the grocery stores; and, I had not tried any of them before this visit.  The tap room had about eight different beers on tap, some of which were styles that I had not seen at either Caboose or Old Ox.  I decided to try a couple of them.  

First, I decided to try the Meridian Kolsch.  This was perhaps the lightest beer that I had tried during this trip.  It was refreshingly different, with a light yellow appearance that could have been mistaken for a hefeweizen.  The kolsch was a well balance of malts, both Pilsner and wheat, with just a hint of hops.  An easy drinking beer, as most kolsch beers are.   The only question was which beer to try next.  Having had an easy drinking beer, it was time to try the exact opposite.

That would be the Alphabrett beer.   This is a Belgian-style brown ale.  It is first brewed with a Belgian yeast (St. Bernardus) and then is aged for two years in wooden barrels with Brettanomyces or "Brett."  This is the name for wild yeast, which were in the barrel.  

The result is a very sour beer, which would probably turn off the casual beer drinker.  However, if you are someone who loves craft beer, especially trying something different, then this is the type of beer you should seek out and try.  The Alphabrett pours a light, wooden brown, and its aromatic elements provide advance warning of the sour notes from the wild yeast.  The flavor of the beer is a sour, slightly puckering green apple.  The Alphabrett was a great way to end an adventure through Northern Virginia craft beer. 

In the end, another successful expedition through craft beer of a region.   I can't wait until my next birthday.  Too bad I have to wait a year.  Until that time ...


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wine Club - A Dinner on the Baltimore & Ohio

It is a bygone era.  When rail was king and pretty much the principal means by which one could travel long distances.  During the height of its reign, railroads like the Baltimore & Ohio strived to provide passengers with the best experience that one could on the rails.  One important aspect of that experience involved food.  

That experience unfolded on the dining cars.  From the 1920s until the 1970s, the B&O railroad used dining cars on many of its lines, such as the Capitol Limited, which ran from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, Illinois.  A dining car usually had a crew of six: two cooks, three waiters and a steward.  It was their job to prepare meals from scratch for dozens of guests.  The fact that the cooks could prepare those dishes from what could be best described as cramped quarters, while servers brought the food out to guests while the train was moving, meant that these individuals had to be very skilled at their jobs.  

For our next wine club, we will be trying to recreate a three-course dinner aboard the famous Capitol Limited.  If you took that train from Washington to Chicago, you would have had the opportunity to try dishes from the Chesapeake region.  Each one of these courses is selected from the book, Dining on the Railroad, which uses original recipes used by the cooks, with additional explanation and tips to help make the dishes in one's home.

A Duo - B&O Egg Sandwich and Crab Flake Salad

The first course is actually two dishes.  First, we start with the B&O Railroader's favorite ... the B&O Egg Sandwich.  The recipe comes from Grafton, West Virginia, where there was a signal tower where the railroader who worked there ate the sandwich every day for lunch.  Second, we will serve a crab flake salad, which will take jumbo lump crab marinated overnight and served over lettuce with crackers.  We are going to take a different approach to this recipe, foregoing the mayonnaise based sauce for a vinegar marinade, based upon the recipe for a West Indies Salad

Chicken Maryland

This recipe dates back to the 1960s.  It is a recipe traditionally made with a half chicken per order. We will probably use just chicken breasts or quarters, but, if I feel ambitious, I might just break down a bunch of chickens.   The chicken could be baked or fried, but, in our case will most likely be baked.  The chicken is served with a bechamel or cream sauce and a couple strips of bacon.  We'll finish the dish as it was served on the B&O Railroad ... with a corn fritter. 

Banana Snack Bread with Banana Ice Cream

Bananas were big on the B&O (little known fact ... bananas were a major import that came through Baltimore).  We will end the night with a double banana dessert - a banana snack bread (loaded with bananas and walnuts) with banana ice cream.

As always, recipes are subject to change.  We will see you soon!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Black Ankle Vineyards Leaf Stone Syrah (2010)

A while back, I decided that I would pause doing wine and beer reviews on Chef Bolek, because I thought that I needed to focus on more cooking posts.  I did not stop trying new wines and beers; instead, I just did not review any of them.  But, then I got to thinking ... some of these wines and beers I may never get to try again.  These reviews are my way of trying to put down some of my thoughts.  Without such reviews, any of those insights would be dependent upon my memory and, given how busy I have been, would be most likely lost over time.  

One such wine is the Black Ankle Vineyards Leaf Stone Syrah (2010).  This wine is one that I have had in the past, but, for which I never wrote a review.  My beautiful Angel and I drank the bottles we had, and, that was it.  Or so I thought.  

A year or two ago, Black Ankle Vineyards reached into its library and released some of its wines to its club members (which, fortunately, includes my Angel and me).  One of the library wines is the Leaf Stone Syrah.  This wine is made with 100% Syrah grapes that are estate grown.  The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, of which 65% were new oak.  According to Ed Boyce, the owner of Black Ankle Vineyards, the wine has "juicy, complex flavors," and "was still improving."  That was in April 2013.  Just think about how that wine would be four years later ... in May 2017.

The 2010 Leaf Stone Syrah pours a deep crimson velvet color, suggesting a robust northern Rhône syrah.  The use of 100% Syrah grapes would get someone thinking about French Rhône appellations such as Côte Rôtie or Cornas, both of which produce Syrah wines using solely that grape.  According to Wine Folly, the best wines from Côte Rôtie offer aromas and flavors ranging from black raspberry, black currant, violet and chocolate, along with elements of olives, bacon fat, white pepper and charcoal smoke.  (Bacon fat and smoke?  Now, I am hungry.)  By contrast, the wines from Cornas are some of the most tannic, with elements of blackberry jam, black pepper, violet, charcoal, chalk dust and smoke.    That is quite a range.

The Black Ankle Leaf Stone Syrah does not have the strong tannins of a Cornas Syrah, and, the flavor profile borrows a little from both Côte Rôtie and Cornas.  There are definitely ripe raspberry and currant elements to both the aroma and the taste, which are somewhat jammy, but there is also some lighter fruit such as strawberry on the palate.  I did not sense any bacon fat or smoke, but there is an earthiness, especially in the aroma, of some chalk and oak.  This wine has aged very well, and, it represents one of the oldest wines that I have reviewed on this blog.

I have previously reviewed a Leaf Stone Syrah (2008), which was more of a blend.  I noted that wine was perfectly paired with beef or lamb dishes, whether grilled, broiled or braised.  This wine is an even better complement to such dishes, because of how it aged and how its flavor elements would pair well with red meat.  Or, it could just be enjoyed on its own, as this wine has been as I wrote this review.  

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