Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pivovar Herold Golden Revolution

There are a lot of "Imperial" beers out there.  Readers of this blog know of some good Imperial Pale Ales.  There are also Imperial Stouts, Imperial Porters, and Imperial Red Ales.  Indeed, it seems that any beer style can become an Imperial so long as you are able to boost the ABV into the beer stratosphere.  A few months back, I was walking the aisles of a Binny's Beverage Depot outside of Chicago, Illinois when I came across a first for me ... an Imperial Pilsner.  Called "Golden Revolution," it heralds from Pivovar Herold, a Czech brewer in Breznice u Pribrami, whish is south of Prague and southeast of Plsen.

Novelty aside, the bottle also caught my attention.  Revolution is a loaded word for Czechs.  They have endured two notable revolutions, Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution.  But the revolution in this beer has no political or economic overtones.  Instead, it is all about a change in a well-established beer style.

The bottle says it perfectly:

Golden Revolution heralds the arrival of a new Czech pilsner standard.  This handcrafted, dry hopped Imperial pilsner sends a powerful message to the pilsners that have come before.  Echoing the words of one of the Velvet Revolution's heroes as he dismissed the communists, Golden Revolution proclaims, "Thank you, now go away."

Indeed, this beer heralds a different experience when it comes to drinking a pilsner.  When pouring the beer, one clearly sees the "Golden" part of the resolution.  The beer pours a deep gold, which is far different than the lighter color of most pilsners.  The aroma of the beer gives a faint hint of what is to come ... a truly boozy experience.  This beer tastes a lot more like a barleywine than a pilsner.  And there is a good reason for that.  Traditional pilsners, like Pilsner Urquell, have an ABV of about 4.4 percent.  Although not listed on the bottle, the ABV of this beer has to be at least twice that.

The difference between this beer and other pilsners, beside its booziness, may well be due to the "collaborator" behind the scenes.... Dogfish Head's own Sam Caligione. The master of unique brews such as Theobroma and Palo Santo Marron collaborated with Pivovar Herold to make this beer.  This may be one -- and perhaps the only -- time that "collaboration" is not a bad thing.

Make Way for Better Beer ... and

ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Czech Republic

With a belly full of Doro Wat from the start of my culinary journey, I turned my focus to my next destination.  I gave it a lot of thought and decided upon a country that has a lot of importance to me personally.  The country is the Czech Republic.  The importance stems from two things.  First, my relatives on my Dad's side come from Moravia, which is the southern part of the country.  Second, I spent a semester during college studying abroad in the capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague. 

I have a lot of fond memories of the time I spent wandering the streets of the various neighborhoods of a city that is basically one big art museum.  From Hradcany to Mala Strana, from Nove Mesto to Vysehrad, I spent a lot of time taking in the city, stepping into restaurants to get a bite to eat or a pint of very good beer.  Admittedly, I ate at Americanized places (like McDonalds and Little Caesars), but I treasured the times that I was able to eat true Czech food, they way it was supposed to be.  And, of course, I also loved being able to eat that food with good Czech beer, whether it was Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Budvar, Staropramen, or Velke Popovicky.

If there were "pillars" of Czech cuisine, there would be three.  The first "pillar" is meat.  Czech food is not very vegetarian friendly, because most Czech dishes feature a type of meat, whether it is pork, beef, venison or game. The second "pillar" is the dumpling.  Meals often include dumplings, either bread or potato.  The dumplings are actually a very good side, because they are perfect for absorbing the sauces or gravies that are served with the meat.  The third "pillar" is beer.  All dishes come with  -- and some are made with -- Czech beer and Czech brewers make perhaps the best pilsners in the world.

THE MAIN DISH

For my culinary challenge, I decided to make what many call the quintessential Czech dish, Veprove Pecene s Houskove Knedlicky, or Roast Pork with Bread Dumplings.  I reviewed several recipes for this dish and worked off a couple when I made it.  The recipes universally low balled cooking times, which made this dish a little hard to make.  The cooking times for the roast pork, which was roasted at 325 degrees, was really off, short by about a half hour.  The cooking time for the dumplings was also off, as the dumplings could have cooked for a little longer than called for in the recipe.

I also added a little twist of my own to this recipe.  I added a cup of water to the pan after the pork cooked in order to create more of the sauce.  I also added chanterelle mushrooms.  Mushrooms are popular in Czech cuisine and I thought it would be a good addition to the dish.  Overall, despite the difficulties in managing the cooking times, I would say that this dish was a success. 



VEPROVA PECENE (Roast Pork)
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of prepared mustard
2 tablespoons of caraway seeds
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of ground black pepper
1 pound of pork roast
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 cup of beer (I used Pilsner Urquell)
1 tablespoon of corn starch
2 tablespoons of butter
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
8 ounces of chanterelle mushrooms
1 cup of water

Directions

1.  Marinate the pork.  Mix the vegetable oil, mustard, caraway seeds, garlic powder, salt and ground pepper together.  Rub the paste over all of the pork loin roast.  Let the roast sit for 30 to 45 minutes.

2.  Cook the pork.  Heat the oven to 325 F.  Lay onions on the bottom of the roasting pan, pour in the beer and place the roast at the center.  Add the garlic cloves.  The recipes I looked at said that, for a pork loin of one pound, it should take 30-35 minutes.  However, 325 degrees is fairly low and their estimates low balled the timing.  Expect it to be more like an hour.  Baste occasionally.  Also add more beer or water to increase the basting liquid if needed.  Remove the roast and let it rest. 

3.  Prepare the sauce.  Add the water, butter and corn starch.  Stir these ingredients and then add the chanterelle mushrooms,  Stir and simmer until it thickens.

For Service:

For this dish, it is customary to serve it with bread dumplings and sauerkraut.  I was never a big fan of sauerkraut, so I decided to forgo that side.  However, I was intrigued with making bread dumplings and, quite frankly, a little nervous.  I was afraid that I would not be able to make the dish correctly.  My dumplings turned out a little heavy, probably from the use of too much bread.  The recipe called for 4 to 5 slices diced.  I did 5 slices, but 4 slices would probably have been better.  

THE SIDE DISH


HOUSKOVE KNEDLICKY (Bread Dumplings)
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
4 slices of white bread, remove crusts and cube

Directions:
1.  Combine the ingredients.  Combine beaten egg, milk, flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add bread cubes and mix very well until it is incorporated into the batter.

2.  Make the dumplings.  Wet your hands and form 2 small balls from the dough.

3.  Boil the dumplings.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Cook the balls for ten minutes, rolling them occasionally to ensure that all sides are being cooked. Cook for an additional ten minutes (or more).

4.  Plate the dumplings. Remove immediately from the water and cut in half.  Then slice into 1/2 inch slices.  To slice the dumplings, you should use a piece of string rather than a knife, which tends to compress the dumpling when being sliced.  Because the timing was off, my dumplings came out a little thicker than intended and a knife worked okay.  That is no endorsement of using knives to slice dumplings.


In the end, my "trip" through Czech cuisine was a great one. I still need to work on these recipes and I definitely intend to try them again, along with other Czech dishes.  The Czech Republic was definitely an ideal stop after Ethiopia because it provided a great contrast in cuisines.  I always thought I was a "spice" cook, someone who loved to add a wide array of spices to achieve new and interesting flavors.  However, Czech cuisine does not rely upon a lot of spice, and, yet, cooks can still produce very delicious dishes.  I have definitely learned something from this cooking experience.

Till next time...

ENJOY!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gordon Biersch Fest Bier


As Oktoberfest approaches, Gordon Biersch brings out the big mugs for its seasonal Fest Bier.  An unfiltered Munich-style lager, the Fest Bier is generally one of the best seasonals produced by Gordon Biersch.  Maybe because of Oktoberfest.  Perhaps it is those big mugs.

As you can see, the beer pours out an amber color and, although the picture does not show it, the beer did have good carbonation.  When drinking the beer, you can taste the hops, although the hop taste is far less than what you would experience drinking a pale ale.

Overall, this is a very good beer for Oktoberfest, American-style.  However, if you want to truly experience Oktoberfest, Munich-style, I would suggest that you buy a beer Weihenstephan or Hofbrau Haus.

ENJOY!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sinh To Bo

The word for avocado in Vietnamese translates into English as "butter fruit."  Sinh To Bo lives up to that translation, as it is an avocado drink that is smooth and sweet enough to be served as a dessert.

The recipe calls for the use of sweetened, condensed milk; however, I was unable to find any at the store.  So, I substituted light coconut milk.  Actually, you can substitute any kind of milk. The end result was not as sweet as it should have been, but it was still very good.  I will definitely make this recipe again.

SINH TO BO
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 avocado, cut into pieces
1 cup of ice
1/2 cup of milk
1/3 cup of sweetened, condensed milk

Directions:
1.  Put all of the ingredients together in a blender. 

2.  Blend until smooth. 

3.  Chill and serve.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Ethiopia

The Around the World in 80 Dishes is my own personal, culinary challenge to make 80 dishes from 80 different countries around the world.  After giving it some thought, I decided that there would be no better place to start my Jules Verne-esque adventures than the legendary cradle of humanity itself ... Ethiopia.  Some of the earliest human remains have been found in Ethiopia's valleys.  (Remember Lucy?  Her skeleton was discovered in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia's Afar Depression.)  Given I undertook this challenge to develop my cooking skills, by learning about ingredients and processes used to make these dishes, the country sometimes referred to as the "Land of Bread and Honey" is the ideal start for my own culinary evolution.

The most well known "bread" in Ethiopia is Injera, which is a sour-dough type of bread full of little air pockets, upon which the food is served.  Making good Injera takes a few days, as the batter has to ferment.  However, there are stores that sell the bread and I was fortunate enough to find a local Ethiopian store.  Using pre-made Injera allowed me to focus more on cooking the main dish.

Ethiopian cuisine is traditionally centered around thick stews, known as "wat," that are served on the Injera.  The wat begins with the sauteing of vegetables, most notably onions, followed by the addition a paste (usually garlic and ginger) and the berbere, which results in a very thick, spicy base.  After a couple of minutes, meat (like chicken -- which is "doro" in Amharic), fish or vegetables can be added, along with some water, resulting in the final wat.

THE MAIN DISH

I decided make a chicken wat or Doro Wat, which is also referred to as Spicy Chicken in Red Chili Sauce.  The recipe for Doro Wat comes from the World Cuisine Institute, Ltd., which sells packets of spices for various dishes, including a packet of pre-made Berbere, and includes the recipes for making each dish. The pre-measurement of the spices was helpful in making this dish for the first time.  I've tried to approximate the measurements for purposes of this recipe.



DORO WAT (SPICY CHICKEN IN RED CHILI SAUCE)
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 pounds of chicken
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
4 cups of onion, finely diced
6 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 tablespoons of ginger, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons plus 2 cups of hot water
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1/3 cup of Berbere chili spice (this can be adjusted to alter the spiciness of the dish)
1 tablespoon of nutmeg
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of paprika
1/2 tablespoon of fenugeek
4 Hard boiled eggs

For service:
Injera bread

Directions:

1.  Saute the onions.  Put the onions in a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat.  Cook the onions for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently until they are translucent.

2.  Add the garlic and ginger.  Put the garlic and ginger into a food processor to make a paste.  Add the garlic/ginger paste, along with the olive oil, and butter to the onions and cook for another 15 minutes. 

3.  Add the spices.  Stir in the Berbere powder/paste, nutmeg, ginger powder, paprika and fenugeek, along with 1/2 cup of water.  Cook for about five minutes.

4.  Make the stew.  Add the chicken and the rest of the water to the pan.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, allowing the chicken to cook until it is tender.  The chicken should cook about 20 minutes.

5.  Add the eggs.  Peel the hard boiled eggs and pierce them gently with a knife in 3 places.  Carefully add the eggs and cover them with the sauce.  Continue to cook for 5 minutes.

6.  Plate the dish.  To serve, ladle or place a piece of chicken and an egg on the tray.  Also make sure that you ladle some of the sauce over the chicken.  Tear a piece of Injera using your right hand and use it to pick up pieces of the chicken or egg.  Always use your right hand!

THE SIDE DISH

I decided to make a side dish and beverage to accompany the Doro Wat.   Vegetarian dishes figure prominently in Ethiopian cuisine.   I found a recipe for Yataklete Kilkil.  This is an interesting dish, with vegetables cooked in oil with garlic and ginger.  I forgot to add the green beans (which is okay because I am not a big fan of green beans).  Although the vegetables are cooked, they still remain crisp and only a little tender.  


YATAKLETE KILKIL (VEGETABLES WITH GARLIC AND GINGER)
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

6 small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
1/2 pound of green beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 green pepper, diced
2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 jalapenos, stemmed and seeded (if you want more heat, leave in the seeds)
1 teaspoon white pepper
Salt, to taste
6 scallions, cut into pieces.

Directions:

1.  Boil the potatoes.  Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

2.  Saute onions and peppers.  In another pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat.  Add the onions, green peppers and jalapenos.  Cook for five minutes.

3.  Add spices.  Add garlic and ginger, as well as the salt and white pepper.  Cook for 1 minute.

4.  Saute the vegetables.  Add the rest of the vegetables (carrots and green beans).  Stir to cover all vegetables with the oil.  Add the scallions.  Cook on low for 8 to ten minutes.

THE BEVERAGE

For a beverage, I decided to make something that seems to be just as Ethiopian as Doro Wat ... Tej or Ethiopian Honey Wine.  Generally, Tej (pronounced "T'edge") is traditionally made through fermentation.  A little impatient, I found an easy recipe for making Tej, with just three ingredients -- white wine, water and honey.  The recipe I used called for 2 cups of white wine and 2 cups of water, but there was a lot of feedback about how the drink was "watered down."  So, I cut the water in half, making the Tej with two cups of white wine and one cup of water.  The result is very good and complements the spicy Doro Wat.

TEJ (ETHIOPIAN HONEY WINE)
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 cups of white wine (Riesling, Soave, or Pinot Grigio)
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of honey

Directions:
1. Combine the white wine and water.

2. Combine the honey, stirring or whisking to blend the honey with the wine and water.

3. Chill and serve.

*     *     *

In the end, I really enjoyed the Doro Wat, partly because I love spicy food and also because the dish provided a different type of spiciness that I have not really experienced before.  I also enjoyed the Tej, whose sweetness is able to tame the Wat's kick.  As for the Yataklete Kilkil, it was good, but I think it is outshined by the other dishes.  While one day of cooking does not make me an expert in Ethiopian food, it has opened a new window in terms of new ingredients, processes and foods (and a beverage). 

I hope you have enjoyed the little tidbits about Ethiopian cuisine and these dishes as much as I enjoyed making them.  Now, I have to begin planning my next culinary destination.  Till next time ....

ENJOY!

For more information about Ethiopian cuisine, you can check out some of the web sites I visited in preparing this blogpost: Abesha Buna Bet, Recipes Wiki or Wikipedia.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Around the World in 80 Dishes

If you haven't figured it out by now, cooking is more than just a hobby for me.  I have used it to challenge my creativity, my skills and, oftentimes, my patience.  Those who have followed this blog have seen many of these challenges, whether through Iron Chef nights using rather unique ingredients (beef bone marrow anyone), or through creating new dishes based upon my rather vast experience eating in restaurants and reading recipes (bluefish in a lemongrass miso broth over handmade vermicelli). 

Now, I have decided to embark on a new expedition -- to travel the world in eighty dishes.  Over the course of the coming days, weeks and months, I will try to cook eighty dishes from eighty different countries.  The rule is one main dish for each country.  (When I can find recipes for side dishes or beverages, I will make them as well.)  My hope is to be able to create dishes from various countries, learning about the ingredients and processes used to make these meals.  Although these dishes will be far from perfect, I will still post the recipes so that you may join the adventure.

I will still make other dishes and post them to the blog. However, whenever I do a dish that is part of my new challenge, the title will begin "Around the World in 80 Dishes:" followed by the country.  

So, I hope you will join me for these adventures.  It will be a lot of fun.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Oysters with a Peach Champagne Mignonette

Clare and I love fresh oysters. Our favorites are usually Chinoteagues, which come from the Chesapeake Bay. However, we will eat any oysters that we can get our hands on.  A while back, we went to Birch and Barley, a restaurant known -- along with the bar Churchkey on the second floor -- for its craft beers.  However, we saw that there were fresh oysters on the menu.  We ordered the oysters and they were served with a Bloody Mary mignonette.  We went back to Birch and Barley and had the oysters again, only to have them served with a different mignonette. Both mignonettes were very good and it provided different flavors that worked well with the briny flavors of the oysters.

So, I decided to try my own hand at making a mignonette.  This one differs from a traditional mignonette because I did not use any vinegar.  The reason is that I felt the Champagne offered enough of a tart taste that the addition of vinegar would result in an off-taste.  This mignonette is really simple to make.  (Indeed, it takes longer to shuck the oysters than it does to make the recipe).  For this recipe, we used Blue Point oysters, which are available at Whole Foods in Silver Spring, Maryland.

OYSTERS WITH A PEACH CHAMPAGNE MIGNONETTE
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2


One dozen oysters, any variety
1/2 peach, peeled and diced finely
1 scallion, diced finely
1/2 to 3/4 cup of Champagne

Make the mignonette first.  Dice the peach finely and make sure to incorporate all of the peach, including the reddish part by the pit, which provides a little color for the mignonette.  Mix in the scallions and the Champagne.  Set aside.

Shuck the oysters.  Rinse each oyster.  Only use an oyster knife, which you can get at a grocery store, Williams & Sonoma or Sur La Table.  Oysters have an opening in the back.  Work the tip of the knife into that opening and begin to turn the knife to each side, working to loosen the top shell.  Once you can get enough of the knife into the oyster, Begin to push down to lift up the shell. Once the top shell is separated, use the knife to make sure the oyster is separated from the top shell.  Use the knife to separate the oyster from the rest of the shell.  There is a muscle underneath the oyster that connects to the bottom part of the shell.  Cut that muscle.  Rinse the oyster if necessary.

Fill a bowl with crushed ice.  Spoon the mignonette onto each oyster.  Serve the oysters over the crushed ice.


ENJOY!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Iron Chef: BEEF BONE MARROW

I decided to do an Iron Chef night and, this time, use an ingredient that I do not believe ever appeared on either the Japanese or American versions of the Iron Chef show.  The secret ingredient was ... BEEF BONE MARROW.  There are many recipes on the Internet for roasting bone marrow, which is the primary way of preparing it.  Given it was my first time using bone marrow, I stuck to the traditional approach, roasting the marrow at 475 degrees for about 30 minutes (some recipes say 450 degrees for 15 minutes, but I wanted to be safe, but I watched to make sure that the marrow did not become liquid). I then tried to think of different ways to incorporate the roasted marrow into dishes.  This is truly an experiment and I have included these recipes only to show some of the more "oddball" things I try to make every once in a while.  These are original recipes and I would only recommend them to the truly adventurous.




BEEF BONE MARROW CROSTINI WITH CILANTRO SALAD
Serves many

Ingredients:
Crostini
2-3 beef bones
Bunch of cilantro, chopped well.
1 shallot sliced thin
1 lemon, juiced
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Roast the bones for 30 minutes at 450 or 475 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2.  Heat the croutons.  Mix the cilantro and scallions, adding the lemon juice from half of the lemon.  Place the cilantro/scallion mix on the crostini.  Once the bones are done (you can tell when the marrow begins to separate from the bones), scoop out the marrow and divide amongst the crostini.  Drizzle the lemon juice from the second half of the lemon over the crostini.



MASHED POTATOES WITH ROASTED BONE MARROW AND TALEGGIO CHEESE
Serves 2 people


Ingredients:
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into even shaped pieces
1/2 pound Taleggio cheese, cut into small cubes and pads (like butter)
Milk
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, diced
1 teaspoon fresh sage, diced
2-3 beef bones

Directions:
1.  Roast the bones for 30 minutes at 450 or 475 degrees Fahrenheit. 


2.  Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.  Add potatoes and boil for fifteen minutes.  When the potatoes are soft to the fork, drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add milk gradually while you mash the potatoes.  Continue to mash until you get your desired smoothness, adding milk if the potatoes seem dry.  In addition, add some of the taleggio cubes and mix them into the potatoes.


3.  Add the bone marrow and mix well.  Plate and sprinkle the rosemary and sage over the potatoes.





GRASS FED NEW YORK STRIP STEAK WITH ROASTED BONE MARROW AND REUNION PINK PEPPERCORNS
Serves four


Ingredients:
1 pound of grass-fed N.Y. Strip Steak
3-4 beef bones
2 teaspoons Reunion pink peppercorns
1 teaspoon of whole thyme leaves
3 tablespoons rosemary, diced finely
3 tablespoons sage, diced finely
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Roast the bones for 30 minutes at 450 or 475 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2.  Spread the olive oil over the strip steak.  Sprinkle the rosemary and sage over the steak.  Salt and pepper the steak. Cook the steak in the broiler.  Flip the steak after about 6 minutes and cook for 6 minutes more.  You want the temperature to be medium rare.  After the steak is done, wrap it in foil and let it stand for about 10 minutes.

3.  Slice the steak.  Spoon the roasted bone over the steak and drizzle the peppercorns and thyme leaves over the marrow.

ENJOY!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Schneider Weisse Hopfen Weisse

Schneider Weisse is a well established German brewery that specializes in wheat beers. It lays claim to being the oldest wheat beer brewery in Bavaria.  Generations of Schneiders have been brewing wheat beer and now the brewery produces basically as many different beers as there have been Schneiders.  The beers include the Original, the Blonde and the Hopfen Weisse.

The Hopfen Weisse pours a nice golden color with a foamy head.  I noticed pouring the beer that there was quite a bit of yeast that went from the bottle into the glass.  The beer has a slight aroma of banana.  There is a lot more banana in the taste, along with a little clove, although both are somewhat outmatched by the alcohol.  The beer has an ABV of 8.2%.

Overall, this is a good beer, although not one of my favorites.  It sells for $3.99 a bottle and is available at many stores like Whole Foods and Rodmans.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bluefish over Handmade Vermicelli in Lemon Miso Broth with Ginger Carrots

I decided to make original dish inspired by some Japanese flavors, like miso and ginger.  I did not use any recipes for this dish.  Instead, I bought a bunch of ingredients -- including bluefish, lemonsgrass, miso broth, and shiitake mushrooms -- and used a little creativity to come up with a dish.  

This dish has four main components -- bluefish, handmade vermicelli, lemon miso broth, and ginger carrots.  Each component is prepared with basic cooking techniques.  When all of the components are assembled into the dish, the different flavors blend very well and make an interesting dish.  (P.S., the flowers are edible.)

BLUEFISH OVER HANDMADE VERMICELLI IN LEMON MISO BROTH WITH GINGER CARROTS
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

Ingredients (for the Bluefish):
3/4 pound of bluefish
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the Lemongrass Miso Broth):
1 packet of miso broth
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into segments and halved
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
4-6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Ingredients (for the Vermicelli Pasta):
4 cups of flour
6 tablespoons of cool water
(You can use pre-made vermicelli)

Ingredients (for the Ginger Carrots):
1 medium carrot
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons of ginger, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Directions:
1.  Heat a pan on medium high heat.  Add the sliced shiitake mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Remove the pan and set the mushrooms aside.

2.  Prepare the miso broth according to the instructions.  Add the lemongrass and heat, but do not boil.

3.  Mound the flour and create a volcano on a flat surface, like a pastry or pasta board.  Add thee tablespoons of water  Add some flour to the water and begin mixing the water with a fork, continually adding flour until the pasta starts to develop.  When the pasta begins to take shape, take it into your hands and continue to add flour.  Once you have the pasta in a ball, begin to knead with the palm of your hands.  Knead the pasta for about eight to ten minutes, adding flour if the pasta seems wet.  Shape the pasta into a rectangle.  Cover in plastic wrap and let sit for about ten minutes.

4.  Using a hand crank pasta machine, begin rolling the pasta using the widest setting.  Run it through a couple of times, and then move to the next setting.  Repeat with each setting until the pasta is a thin sheet.  Cut the sheet into 8 to 10 inch pieces.  Use the angelhair/vermicelli extension and run each piece through.  Hang the pasta to dry.

5.  Heat a pot of water on high until it boils.

6.  Heat a pan on medium high heat with 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Add the bluefish and saute for about five minutes.  Flip and saute for five minutes more.  Flip once last time and check to see that the fish is done (i.e., the flesh begins to flake).

7.  While the fish is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium high.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the carrots and ginger and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add a little more oil if necessary.

8.  As the fish and the carrots are almost finished, add the pasta to the boiling water.  Cook for only two minutes and strain.

9.  To plate, first put the vermicelli in the middle of the plate with the shiitake mushrooms.  Ladle some of the miso broth over the pasta and mushrooms.  Place the bluefish on the plate and then put some of the ginger carrots on top of the fish.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

West Indies Salad

One time, when I was in Birmingham, Alabama visiting Clare's parents, they made a great crab salad known  as a West Indies Salad.  According to legend, a restaurateur named Bill Bayley created the salad in 1947.  Bayley claimed to have thought of the salad while sailing through the West Indies.  Bayley made the West Indies salad and sold it at his restaurant/store, aptly called Bayleys.

I used a recipe from Saveur.com to make this dish, which is very easy to make.  It involves the layering of finely diced onion and crab, which marinates in a mixture of ice cold water, vegetable oil and cider vinegar.  The salad should be served on a bed of lettuce with crackers, like stoned wheat thins.  The next time I make this salad, I might add a few of my own "twists," such as a pinch or two of crushed red pepper.

WEST INDIES SALAD
Serves many

Ingredients:
1 pound of jumbo lump crab meat
1 sweet onion, diced finely
1/2 cup ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
Black pepper, to taste
Salt to taste

Directions:
1.  Marinate the crab.  Line the bottom of a bowl or dish with half of the diced onion.  Then add the crab meat.  Spread the remaining onion 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 onions.  Let it rest in the refrigerator for two hours or overnight.

2.  Prepare the salad.  When you are ready to serve it, gently mix the salad.  Place some leaves of lettuce on a plate and spoon the salad over it.  Serve with crackers.



Tip of the hat to Frank and Geri Savage.  For those who want to know more about Bayley, check out the following website.

ENJOY!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fat Head's Hop Juju Imperial Pale Ale

There are few things better than a nice glass of fresh craft beer.  And, right now, the beers of one of the best craft brewers out there -- Fat Head's -- is only available from the tap.  Fat Head's originated in Pittsburgh, and it is known for its "headwiches," which are huge sandwiches that would normally be reserved for Adam Richman to conquer on the Travel Network show Man v. Food.  However, Fat Head's North Olmsted, Ohio location is adding to the restaurant's fame for a completely different reason.  At the North Olmsted location, brewmaster Matt Cole produces some of the best beers that I have ever tasted.  He has produced a wide array of beers -- from Kolsches to Baltic Porters, from Imperial Pale Ales to Christmas Ales.  And, whenever I'm in Cleveland, I try to stop by Fat Head's to try whatever is the latest beer Matt has on tap.

This time, it was Matt's Hop Juju Imperial Pale Ale.  Imperial Pale Ales are one of my favorite beer styles and this beer lives up to what makes these beers truly great.  The Hop Ju Ju is all about the hops.  From the nose to the taste, one is inundated by hops.  The large amount of hops used in this beer creates a bitterness that is treasured by hop heads like myself.  The punch this beer provides is not just the hops, but it is also the alcohol.  The ABV of this beer is about 9.0%.  And, as the above picture shows, it is served in a small glass, rather than a pint glass.

This is truly a great beer and, for anyone who loves hops and happens to be in Cleveland area, I would recommend that you stop by and have a glass -- while it lasts.  The beer is available only on draft.  Fat Head's is working on bottling the beers, but, as of this post, the bottling has not taken place.  The picture below is the "label" of the beer, which I think is cool:

Still, I would prefer to stop by the restaurant because there are usually ten Fat Head beers on tap.  I would recommend that, after having one Hop Juju, you try another one of Matt's beers, like his award winning Headhunter IPA or his Up-in-Smoke Porter.

ENJOY!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sokol Blosser Evolution (NV)

When Clare and I were enjoying our wine tour throughout Willamette Valley, Oregon during our honeymoon, our tour guide took us to Sokol Blosser Vineyards.  One of my co-workers suggested Sokol Blosser Vineyards, because her relatives are the family behind this winery.  Our tour guide was kind enough to  arrange for us to have a complete tour of the vineyard.  The tour provided us with the opportunity to see how Sokol Blosser made its wines -- from start to finish.  This was one of the most detailed wine tours that we took during our honeymoon  And, as our guide gave us the tour, she carried a backpack with some of Sokol Blosser wine, so we got a chance to try the wine as we learned about the winemaking process and the different wines that the vineyard produces.

While Sokol Blosser produces some amazing pinot noirs, it also produces an outstanding white wine -- Evolution.  This wine a blend of nine grapes, Some are well known grapes, such as chardonnay, gewurtz-raminer, pinot gris and white riesling.  Others are less known, like slyvaner, muller-thurgau, muscat canelli  and semillion.  The exact blend is proprietary, with the percentage of each grape used in the blend being a closely-held secret. 

When pouring Evolution, you are greeted with a clean, crisp white wine.  The wine is a very light in color, with a nose that includes peaches, vanilla and spice.  When you taste the wine, you definitely get the taste of peaches.  This is a very drinkable wine.

Evolution pairs very well with spicy foods, providing a refreshing taste after the burn of the spice.  As far as I am concerned, I'd drink this wine with any food. 

The vineyard includes the "tag line" for this wine is "Luck? Intention?" on every bottle.  As it goes, "it hardly matters," because this is one of the best white wine blends that I've tasted.  This wine is available at some restaurants and at Whole Foods.  It sells for $16.99 or $18.99.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Risotto dei Maiali che Cercano i Tartufi

After having made Seafood Risotto and Risotto dello Zafferano con il Calamaro ed i Pettini, I decided to make a risotto with meat.  A lot of meat. This recipe includes two types of pork: pancetta and rubbed black forest bacon.  However, the meat is balanced by the use of mushrooms and sage.  

Finally, I decided to use truffles.  Well, not actual truffles, because those sell for about $100 a pound.  Instead, I used a little truffle oil, which provides the hint of that earthy ingredient.  

For me, this recipe represents the first time that I let my creativity go wild.  As I made this recipe, I pictured pigs hunting through the forest for mushrooms and the elusive truffle.  You can taste the truffle, but you cannot find it.  This picture led to the name -- "Risotto dei Maiali che Cerchano i Tarfufi" -- roughly translates as the Risotto of Pigs Hunting Truffles.

RISOTTO DEI MAIALI CHE CERCHANO I TARTUFI
Serves 2-3
A Chef Bolek Original

Ingredients:
1/4 pound of pancetta, diced
1/3 pound of black forest bacon, diced
1 package of dried porcini mushrooms (rehydrated, with mushroom liqueur reserved)
1 cup of arborio rice
3 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of white wine (I used Orvieto, a very good Umbrian wine)
1 package of sage
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 clove shallots, diced
1/2 medium-sized sweet onion, diced
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Truffle oil

Directions:
1.  Rehydrate the porcini mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms and set aside.  Strain the liquid and reserve it for use later.

2.  Combine the chicken stock and reserved mushroom liquor in a pot on high.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Then add the crushed red pepper and a few sage leaves.  Stir and heat until it is very warm but do not let it boil.  

3.  Heat a medium sized pot on medium.  Add pancetta and saute for about four to five minutes. You want to cook the pancetta for a while to draw out the fat, which will help to cook the rest of the risotto.  Stir occasionally to avoid burning the pancetta. After the fat is drawn out, which takes about 5 minutes, add the onion, shallots and garlic.  Saute these ingredients for about 4-5 minutes, allowing them to sweat and to mix the flavors with the pancetta.  Stir occasionally to avoid anything from burning.

4.  Now, add the arborio rice.  Stir the rice to make sure that it is coated with the pancetta, onion, shallot, and garlic.  All of the rice should be covered.  You should mix it only for only about a minute or so.  Then, add 1 cup of white wine.  Allow the wine to be absorbed by the rice, stirring occasionally to ensure that it does not burn on the bottom of the pot.

5.  Once the wine is almost absorbed (but not entirely), add about a cup of the chicken stock/mushroom liquor to the rice and continue to stir occasionally.  Once this liquid is absorbed by the rice, add another cup.  Continue to add the stock/liqueur until the arborio rice is al dente (tender but not too crisp). 

6.  When the arborio rice is becoming tender, heat a separate pan on high.  Add the bacon and begin to saute the bacon.  After 3-4 minutes, add the mushrooms and sage.  Continue to cook the bacon, mushrooms and sage for another 3-4 minutes. 

7.  When the arborio rice is al dente and the bacon is cooked through, combine the bacon/mushroom/sage mixture with the arborio rice and stir it very well.  Drizzle olive oil infused with truffles over the risotto and mix it again very well.  Plate it by spooning a large amount into a bowl.

ENJOY!
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