Friday, September 30, 2011

Elysian Brewing Company Night Owl Pumpkin Ale

I was standing in front of the seasonal beer selection at a local store when I saw the Elysian Brewing Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.  The Elysian Brewing Company was founded in 1995 by three individuals: Dick Cantwell, Joe Bisacca, and David Buhler.  The brewery opened in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. The brewery has expanded over the years, establishing its own brewpub called TangleTown.  The brewery also opened Elysian Fields, a large brewpub near Qwest Field and Safeco Field.  At these locations, Elysian Brewing Company serves a total of almost twenty of its own beers, including the Night Owl.   

Elysian Brewing brewed the Night Owl using over seven pounds of pumpkin per barrel.  The brewer provided more information on its website. More specifically, roasted and raw pumpkin seeds were added to the mash.  Pumpkin was also added to the mash, kettle and fermenter.  The brewer spiced the beer during conditioning with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice.  In addition, the brewer used Pale, Crystal and Munich malts, along with Magnum hops in the brewing process. 

The Night Owl pours a dark orange/copper color, with a thin layer of foam that quickly recedes to the edges of the glass.  The aromatic elements of this beer include pumpkin, along with a darker cinnamon or sugar.  What sets the beer apart from others in this style is that, unlike other pumpkin ales that I have tried, the aromas of this beer feature pumpkin more than the spices.

The Night Owl has a lighter body than other pumpkin ales that I have tried.  The primary taste of this beer is also the pumpkin, with the nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and other spices complementing that flavor.  As the pumpkin and spices give way, the beer has a slightly dry finish.  

This beer has an ABV of 5.9% and an IBU of 18.  It is available at beer stores that have a large selection of craft beers, like Gilly's Craft Beer and Fine Wine in Rockville, Maryland.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Barbecued Octopus with Arugula and Mint

While I was on my vacation, I was standing at the seafood counter at a local grocery store when something caught my eye ... a whole octopus.  I've cooked with octopus before, as part of an Iron Chef challenge involving the "secret" ingredient of mussels.  However, this was a big octopus, weighing in at about one and one half pounds.

I must have walked by the seafood counter at least three times, with my cell phone in hand, googling recipes for a whole octopus.  This was a little daunting for me.  I scrolled down, page after page, looking for a recipe that I could do.  I was just about to give up when I came across a recipe from the one person who is probably my most favorite and admired chef ... Mario Batali.  Feeling safe with the knowledge that Chef Batali knows a lot more about cooking than me, I looked at his recipe for Barbecued Octopus with Escarole and Mint and decided that I would give it a try.

I immediately encountered a problem. The store did not have any escarole.  However, I decided to substitute arugula because I thought the peppery taste of arugula would be paired well with the mint.  After adjusting some of the recipe to take into account that the octopus I bought (which was one and one-half pounds) was much less than the three to five pound octopus called for in the recipe. 


BARBECUED OCTOPUS WITH ARUGULA AND MINT
Adapted from Mario Batali's recipe on Food Network's website
Serves 3-4

A big octopus, about 3' in length
Ingredients:
1 octopus (about 1 and 1/2 pounds, cleaned)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zest
1/2 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch of fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of ground sea salt
1 bunch of arugula
1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves, chopped

Directions:
1. Simmer the octopus.  Place octopus in cold water with a cork and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about fifteen to eighteen minutes.  Remove, rinse and cut into four pieces.

2.  Marinate the octopus.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, red pepper, oregano and black pepper.  Marinate the octopus pieces for about ten minutes.  

3.  Grill the octopus.  Preheat the grill while the octopus is simmering in water.  Place the octopus pieces on the grill.  Cook for about five minutes per side.  Return the octopus to the marinade and cut into bite sized pieces.

4.  Plate the dish.  Arrange the arugula leaves a plate.  Arrange the octopus on the plate and sprinkle with the mint.  

ENJOY!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fusilli con Gambero (Fusilli with Shrimp)

My beautiful Angel does not eat meat and, when I made a Fusilli con Salsicca dell'Agnello for her parents, I decided to make a separate sauce with shrimp for Clare.

When buying shrimp, never focus on the size.  Descriptions like medium, large, extra-large and jumbo do not mean anything.  The most important consideration is the "count."  The "counts" may seem a little confusing, but the one thing to remember is that a count is the number of shrimp that are in a pound.  So, when you see a number like 21/25, it means that there is 21 to 25 shrimp in a pound.  

Generally, when I am using shrimp in a main dish, I look for a 16/20 count, which means that 16 to 20 shrimp in a pound.  That means that a portion is about 1/4 of pound or 4 to 5 shrimp.  By contrast, when I am using shrimp in an appetizer or a salad, I will usually look for 21 to 30 count or 31 to 35 count.  These shrimp will be smaller than the 16/20 count, but they will not be too small.  Depending upon the recipe, I will consider 36/45 count, but I will generally steer toward smaller counts like 31 to 35. 

For this recipe, I used 16/20 count shrimp that were from the Gulf of Mexico.  These shrimp were harvested off the coast of Texas and looked great when I cooked them. Different sizes of shrimp can be used, with only a minor change to the cooking time. 



FUSILLI CON GAMBERO (FUSILLI WITH SHRIMP)
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
3/4 pound of fresh fusilli
1/2 pound of fresh shrimp, deveined and deshelled
1 large clove of garlic, diced finely
1/2 onion, diced finely
3/4 of a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of red chile flakes
2 teaspoons of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Saute the garlic and onions.  Heat the olive oil on medium heat.  Add the garlic.  Cook for one minute.  Add the onions and continue to cook for about three to four minutes, until the onions are translucent.  Stir occasionally to prevent the garlic from burning.

2.  Add the tomatoes and spices.  Add the tomatoes.  Using a masher, mash the tomatoes until they are broken up well.  Add the basil, oregano and chile pepper flakes. 

3.  Add the shrimp.  When the tomatoes begin to boil, add the shrimp to the tomato sauce.  Continue to cook until the shrimp is opaque and firm, which should take about two to three minutes. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and stir well.

4.  Cook the pasta.  While you are preparing the sauce, heat a pot of water until it is boiling.  Add the fresh fusilli to the boiling water.  Cook for two minutes.  Remove the pasta from the water and add it to the tomato sauce, with a little of the water from the pasta.  Stir very well until the pasta is covered with the sauce.  Add the fresh basil.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Vinhas Altas Vinho Verde (2010)

One of the latest trends in white wine is Vinho Verde, a white wine produced in Portugal.  Vinho Verdes are also a fairly difficult wine to blog about.  It takes a little time to get information about the wine, and even longer if I want to include something about the winemaker.  When I reviewed the Opala Vinho Verde (2009), I was able to get enough information to talk about the background about this wine, including the types of grapes used and the DOC established for the wine. 

Recently, when I was working on the latest installment of my Around the World in 80 Dishes Challenge, I was able to try another Vinho Verde.  The challenge was Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony.  As part of the challenge, I was making Camarao Mozambique.  One of the ingredients in that dish is 1/4 bottle of white wine and, given the origins of the recipe, Vinho Verde was the recommended wine.  So, I bought a bottle of the Vinhas Alta Vinho Verde (2010).

The Vinhas Alta Vinho Verde is very similar to the Opala Vinho Verde.  The wine pours very light and clear, with heavy carbonation.  As the picture shows, there were a lot of bubbles that danced up the sides of the glass.  The aromas of the wine include crisp apple, some pear and even a little grass.   

After taking in the aromatic elements of the wine, I could taste green apples, just after taking the initial bite.  Not just any green apples, but apples that had marinated in a wine like Moscato.  The Vinhas Alta Vinho Verde has that sugary sweetness that is very reminscent of dessert-style Moscato wines. This sweetness provided a little different character to the Vinhas Alta, separating it from the Opala.  

As for pairing, I paired this wine with the Camarao Mozambique, a spicy shrimp dish from Mozambique.  I had restrained myself a little in terms of the spice, which was a good thing because it allowed the wine to shine a little more.  Other than somewhat spicy dishes, this wine -- like most Vinho Verdes -- pair very well with seafood dishes, as well as chicken dishes that include citrus (like lemon juice or lime juice).  

This wine is good, although I think the Opala Vinho Verde a little more.  This wine is available at local grocery stores and wine stores.  It is a bargain value at about $8.99 a bottle.

ENJOY!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Uinta Brewing Company Punk'n Ale

There is a high chain of mountains in northeastern Utah known as the Uinta Range.  The mountains are the highest range that runs from East to West in the continental United States. At a little lower altitude, there is Uinta Brewing Company, a craft brewer located in Salt Lake City.

Utah and Salt City are not known for craft beer; yet, Uinta has been brewing beer there since 1993.  The brewer has expanded over the year, growing not only its operations but the distribution of its beer. Recently, both Clare and I were visiting one of our local craft beer stores.  We came across a six pack of Uinta Brewing Company's Punk'n, an ale brewed with pumpkin and spices.  Ordinarily, this beer is available from October to December; however, we were fortunate enough to try the beer a little early. 

The Punk'n pours a light orange in color, with a little foam.  The brewer describes the beer as having hints of vanilla and cloves.  For me, the highlights of the aromatic elements feature more cinnamon than either vanilla or cloves (although there is definitely cloves in the aroma).  

The body of the beer is very light, a little more than I expected.  Cinnamon not only provides the primary aroma, but also the primary taste of the beer.  Cloves, nutmeg and allspice seem to follow the cinnamon, but they are more secondary.  

The brewer suggests that this beer is best paired with food that contains nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.  Suggested dishes include roasted turkey, squash or pumpkin ravioli, peach cobbler or pumpkin cheesecake.  I was a little more adventurous in the pairing, pitting it against the Mozambican dish of Matata.  The reason is that Matata is traditionally made with pumpkin leaves and, while I used spinach as a substitute, I thought the beer would work well with the dish.  As it turns out, the pairing was pretty good.  The spices in the beer provided a complement to the more earthy flavors of the clam and peanut stew.  

The Punk'n has an ABV of 4.0% and an IBU of 10.  The beers are available at beer stores that have a larger selection of craft beers.  

ENJOY!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Grass Fed N.Y. Strip Steak with Bone Marrow-Sage "Chimichurri"

If someone were to ask me to identify my favorite ingredient, I could quickly focus on a handful of ingredients. One of those ingredients is bone marrow.  The health benefits of bone marrow are still under study, but there are some preliminary findings that are very favorable.  Bone marrow is full of polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Those are the good type of fatty acids, as best demonstrated by one of the most well known polyunsaturated fatty acids ... Omega 3.  Bone marrow also contains iron, phosphorus and vitamin A.   However, the most interesting nutritional fact about bone marrow is that it contains alkylglycerols or AKG.  Alkylglycerols are a form of lipid that stimulate the generation of white blood cells known as neutrophils, which are cells of the immune system that defend against bacteria and fungi. AKGs are also believed to stimulate the production of microphages, which are immune cells that actually digest pathogens and foreign invaders.  

The common wisdom is that if something is that good for you, as bone marrow seems to be, it could not possibly taste good.  I am happy to say that this is where the common wisdom fails. In this recipe, bone marrow is used as a substitute for olive oil and sage is used for a substitute for cilantro and parsley.  The substitutions created a great flavor pairing ... bone marrow and sage ... that led to a great sauce to top a New York Strip Steak. 

GRASS FED N.Y. STRIP STEAK WITH
BONE MARROW-SAGE "CHIMICHURRI"
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves  2-3

Ingredients:
1 N.Y. Strip Steak, about 3/4 to 4/5 of a pound
3 marrow bones
1 teaspoon of pink peppercorns (substitute black peppercorns)
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons of fresh sage, chiffonade
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of ground sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper

Directions:
1.  Roast the marrow bones.  Set the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the marrow bones in the oven and cook them for about thirty minutes.  Remove the bones from the heat and scoop out the marrow into a bowl.  

2.  Cook the strip steak.  Start the broiler.  Season the steak with salt and black pepper on all sides.  Cook the steak to the desired doneness.  

3.  Prepare the "chimichurri."  While the steak is cooking, add the bone marrow and the other ingredients (sage, black pepper, peppercorns, sea salt, crushed red pepper) to a food processor.  Use the food processor setting and pour in any liquid fat from the bone marrow.  (If there is no liquid fat, use about one to two tablespoons of olive oil.)  

4.  Plate the dish.  Slice the strip steak and spoon the "chimichurri' over the meat.

ENJOY!

For more about the health benefits of bone marrow, check out Thatsfit.ca.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Panther Creek Cellars Vista Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir (2006)

As a winemaker, Panther Creek does not have its own vineyards.  There are benefits to not having your own vineyard.  Most notably, the winemaker can choose to make wines using fruit from different sources.  I have previously reviewed Panther Creek's Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir (2006), where the winemaker obtained all of the grapes from the Shea Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley. 

Both Clare and I purchased the Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir during our honeymoon, when we also picked up another Panther Creek wine, its Vista Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir.  The Vista Hills Vineyard is a forty-five acre vineyard located in the Dundee Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) of Willamette Valley.  The family owned vineyard grows Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes.  The Pinot Noir grapes are Pommard clones, which originated in Burgundy, France.  And, when they are not bottling their own wine under the Vista Hills Vineyard label, they sell their fruit to local winemakers, like Solena, Panther Creek. 

I could not find any information on the 2006 wine, but I did find the winemaker's notes for the 2007 wine.  While wines can differ from year to year, those notes can provide a guide.  Panther Creek describes its wine as having bright, ruby tones.  This wine is brighter than many of the Oregonian Pinot Noir wines that I have tried. The aromatic elements of the wine are very fruit forward.  The winemaker describes the aromas as having berries, rose petals and cloves.  I can definitely see the berries and even the cloves.  The rose petals did not seem to come forward in the bottle that we tried.  As for the taste, I think the wine had flavors of raspberries, strawberries and other bright fruit, as opposed to dark cherries or plums.  The winemaker describes the wine as having the flavors of strawberries, cream, brandied cherries, and earth tones.  While I think this is a very good wine, I did not pick up all of the flavors that the winemaker suggests.

A bottle of Panther Creek sells for $40.00 per bottle.  It is available from the winemaker's website.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Coriander Sesame Bluefish

While perusing the selection at Southern Maryland Seafood, I saw that they had some really nice, fresh bluefish fillets. The bluefish, Pomatomus Saltatrix, is a game fish found around the world.   In the United States, bluefish migrate up and down the east coast, moving north in the spring and returning south in the fall.  Bluefish can live for up to twelve years and grow to about forty inches long, although the bluefish in the Chesapeake Bay (where I live) usually only reach about twelve inches in length. They are closely related to jacks, pompanos and roosterfish.

Bluefish are truly an interesting species of fish.  The most striking feature of this fish is its razor-like teeth.  Those teeth are often the bane of fishermen, as the bluefish have the ability to strike and steal the bait.  Those teeth also tear into herring, mackerel, anchovies, striped bass and shad, which are part of the bluefish's diet. Indeed, bluefish will strike at most anything, even at things that it would normally not eat, including humans.  The voracious nature of the bluefish, as well as its teeth, have earned the fish the nickname of "marine piranha."  

Personally, I really like to cook with bluefish.  This recipe is a collaboration between myself and Clare's father, Frank.  After purchasing a good sized fillet, we pondered over how to prepare the fish.  Frank suggested that we use Asian flavors, such as sesame oil.  I thought that was a great idea and, together, we made a wet and dry rub incorporating a variety of Asian flavors to use on the fish.  This recipe is excellent and it is definitely one that I will make again.


CORIANDER SESAME BLUEFISH
A Chef Bolek Collaboration with Frank Savage
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 pounds of bluefish fillet, cut into four steaks
1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 tablespoon of ground onion
1 teaspoon of ground garlic
2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Sambal Oelek
2 tablespoons of canola oil
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of ground sea salt
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds

Directions:
1.  Marinate the fish. Mix all of the dry ingredients (coriander, onion, garlic, black pepper, salt) together.  Mix all of the wet ingredients together.  Baste the bluefish steaks with the wet ingredients and then sprinkle the steaks with a good amount of the dry ingredients.  Let the fish stand for ten to fifteen minutes.

2.  Roast the fish.  Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the steaks in the oven to cook for fifteen minutes.  Turn on the broiler and finish the fish for about five minutes under the broiler.  

3.  Toast the sesame seeds.  After about ten minutes, heat the sesame seeds in a dry skill on medium high heat.  Toast the seeds.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Remove the fish from the heat.  Sprinkle some of the toasted sesame seeds over the steaks.  Serve immediately.


ENJOY!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Belgium Brewing Company Grand Cru Abbey Ale

New Belgium Brewing Company produces some great beers, such as its Fat Tire Amber Ale.  However, the beers that truly get my attention are the special or limited edition beers.  These beers include those that are part of New Belgium's Lips of Faith Series. The Lips of Faith Series are small batch beers, usually produced for internal consumption.  I've previously reviewed one such beer, the Le Fleur, Misseur? Ale, which involved a very good use of Brettanomyces.   

Fortunately, Clare and I have a couple of friends in Colorado who provided us with a couple bottles from the Lips of Faith Series.  I decided that these beers deserved special treatment.  Not only would I do a review of the beer, but I would also research the food pairing for each beer.  Based upon my research, I would create a Chef Bolek Original dish.  I would serve the dish to Clare and myself while we tried the beer. 

The first beer that our friends provided us is New Belgium Brewing's Grand Cru Abbey Ale.  After every one thousand batches of beer brewed by New Belgium, a batch of the Grand Cru Abbey Ale is brewed.  The Grand Cru is a nod to the Abbey Ale, which was New Belgium's first beer.  The Abbey Ale has collected sixteen medals at the Great American Beer Festival, seven of which were gold medals.

The brewer uses an array of ingredients to brew this beer.  There are five malts used to make this beer, including Chocolate, Carapils, C-80, Pale and Munich malts.  There are also three hops used in the brewing process, including Willamette, Target and Liberty hops.

The Grand Cru Abbey Ale pours a nice amber and gold color, with a nice foam that hugs the edges  elements of the glass.  The aromatic elements of the beer foreshadow the alcohol in the beer,  which, after all, has an ABV of 9.5%.  The aroma is far more complex than alcohol.  There are also aromatic elements such as vanilla, sugar, cloves, and rum.  Some of these elements carry over to the taste of the Grand Cru.  At least for me, the beer is full of flavors that are associated with trappist beers, such as cloves, as well as cloves and caramel.  

In terms of food pairing, the brewer provides several suggested pairings on its website; however, one pairing caught my attention ... a roasted vegetable stew with dumplings.  Drawing my inspiration from roasted vegetables, I developed the dish, Seared Sea Scallop on a Roasted Root Vegetable Puree. The puree is made from roasted root vegetables, such as leeks, onions, carrots and radishes.  What ties the flavors of the puree to the flavors of the Grand Cru is the use of certain spices.  In particular, I used clove and coriander, which are intended to complement the clove and banana flavors in Grand Cru Abbey Ale.  The cloves and coriander also tie the root vegetable to the flavors of the protein ... the pan seared scallops.

For my first time creating a dish in order to pair it with a beer, I think I did a fairly good job.  I still have a lot to learn, but that is one of the reasons for this blog.  

With this beer, New Belgium declares, "[t]oast to the monk's virtue and have a heavenly experience."  In this case, both Clare and I toast the our friends' kindness and have enjoyed a very, very good beer.

ENJOY!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pan Seared Scallops with Roasted Root Vegetable Puree

This dish represents a first for me ... a challenge to create a dish specifically to pair to a beer. The beer is the New Belgium Brewing Company's Grand Cru Abbey Ale.  After reviewing the brewer's website and perusing the recommended food pairing, there was something that caught my eye.  Roasted vegetables.  Those two words started the creative process.  Carrots, garlic, leeks, onions, radishes.  There were a lot of choices when it comes to ingredients.  Ultimately, I decided on a selection of root vegetables -- carrots, leeks and radishes -- along with some vegetables that I had lying around the kitchen, like onions and garlic.

There were also choices when it came to preparation.  While I had been thinking about the ingredients, I chose scallops as the protein.  The question then became: how do I "pair" the vegetables to the scallops?  I had to answer this question before I could ultimately pair the dish with the beer.  I decided that the roast the vegetables and then puree them to the something that approached the consistency of mashed potatoes.

So, in the end, I had Pan Seared Scallops with Roasted Root Vegetable Puree.  The dish turned out well, the pureeing of the different root vegetables resulted in an interesting texture for the puree.  This texture could be smoothed out for people who like things like smooth mashed potatoes, by the addition of a couple of tablespoons of milk or heavy cream.  Since I like my mashed potatoes with some texture, I did not add anything to the puree, other than some coriander and toasted whole cloves, which tied the dish together with the beer


PAN SEARED SCALLOPS WITH ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLE PUREE
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients:
8 bay scallops  
1 bunch of carrots (approximately 8 carrots)
1 bunch of radishes (approximately 10 radishes)
2 leeks
1/2 sweet onion
6 cloves of garlic, roasted
8 cloves, toasted
1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme chopped
Handful of thyme sprigs
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Roast the vegetables.  Cut the root vegetables (leek, radishes, carrots, onion) into even size pieces.  Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Add the thyme sprigs.  Mix the vegetables so that all are well covered with the oil, salt and pepper.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Roast the vegetables in the oven for about thirty minutes. 

2.  Make the puree.  Remove the vegetables and add to a blender.  Toast the cloves in a dry pan until fragrant and add them to the blender with the coriander. Puree the vegetables, spoon into a bowl and cover. 

3.  Saute the scallops.  Heat the 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan on high heat.  Add the scallops and sear on one side for about eight minutes.  Flip and continue to cook until the other side begins to develop some color, about four to five minutes more depending upon the size of the scallops. 

4.  Plate the dish.  Plate the roasted root vegetable puree in the middle of the plate and place four scallops on the puree.  Sprinkle some of the chopped thyme and serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Bruery Saison de Lente

Like many craft brewers, the Bruery started with Patrick Rue brewing batches in his home as a diversion from his first year in law school.  The first beer brewed by Rue was a reddish ale with Cascade hops.  Since that modest start, Patrick Rue has created an established craft brewery in Orange County, California with a range of year-around beers with names like Mischief and Loakal Red.  He has also developed an array of seasonal specialty beers, such as the Saison de Lente.  

The Saison de Lente is a spring ale brewed in the Belgian Style Saison style.  The brewer describes the beer as golden in color with a wild and rustic Brettanomyces character.  This description hearkens to the other "Brett" beers that I've tried, like the Orval Trappist Ale and the New Belgium Le Fleur, Misseur? Ale. Personally, I love beers brewed with Brettanomyces or "Brett," because the yeast produces flavors that you cannot find anywhere else.

The Breuery's Saison de Lente is brewed as a Belgian Style Saison Ale, much like the Orval or the New Belgium.  The beer pours a cloudy gold color, which is a result of the beer being unfiltered.  As it is poured, the beer produces a substantial amount of foam.  This is to be expected because the "Brett" yeast have been quite active during the bottle conditioning.

The foam gradually gives way to aromas of citrus fruits, wild flowers and even a little grass.  These aromatic elements are not as "wild" as other "Brett" beers that I have tried.  As one begins to taste the beer, he or she is immediately reminded of the wild yeast, which produce a range of interesting flavors.  There is a bitterness up front, that seems like a mix of lemon and sage.  Both the lemon and sage continue through the middle and give way before the finish, which is very dry.  There is a little pepper in the background, but not enough to really stand out.  At the end, there is some hoppiness, although it, like the pepper, does not rise over the other other flavors in the beer. 

This beer has an ABV of 6.5% and has 35 IBUs.  The Breuery releases the Saison de Lente between March and May of every year.

ENJOY!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Smoked Mullet Spread

Striped mullet fish, or Mugil Cephalus, can be found along the coastlines around the world.   In the United States, various species of mullet (such as white mullet and striped mullet) are most prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic.  The biggest fisheries in the U.S. can be found in Louisiana, east of the Mississippi River, and in southwest Florida. 

Mullet school in large populations, and fishermen use cast nets, strike nets or beach seines, fishermen are able to harvest the fish in a manner that results in little bycatch.  These fishing methods have led some, like the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, to rate Striped Mullet as not only a sustainable option, but a "best choice."  Cooks often use the oily flesh of the mullet, as well as the roe, in dishes.  The mullet also has an economic importance because, when not being incorporated into local dishes, fishermen use the mullet as bait to catch larger species of fish, such as billfish.

Mullet are rather intriguing fish themselves. Although the most noticeable feature of the mullet is its relatively large eyes, it is the rounded head, inconspicuous teeth and thin lips are more noteworthy.  The teeth and the lips are a gateway to a stomach that has a gizzard like structure.  I say all of this because the teeth and lips are perfect for a fish with a diet that consists of zooplankton, dead plant matter and detritus.  Striped mullets will feed along the top layer of sediment, sucking it in, along with micro-algae and detritrus, using the gravel it consumes in its gizzard to digest its food.

During a recent trip to Eastern Market with Clare's parents, we came across whole Striped Mullets at Southern Maryland Seafood.  While we were principally there to buy some sockeye salmon for smoking, we decided we would experiment with a mullet as well.  We purchased a mullet, which averages between two or three pounds, and were on our way.    

When it came to smoking, I only had three woods available: mesquite, hickory or apple.  Mesquite and hickory would not work with this fish (or, for that matter, any fish).  This left the apple wood.  I had purchased the apple wood when I made the Big Bob Gibson's Eight Time World Championship Pork Shoulder for the Savage Boleks' Second Annual BBQ.  I decided to use apple juice in the liquid bowl to help add a sweetness to the oily flesh of the mullet. 

Clare's father did some research on the Internet and came across some recipes for a smoked mullet spread.  The recipes could be broken down into two categories.  First, there are recipes that call for the use of cream cheese.  Second, there are recipes that are based upon sour cream.  We decided to go with the first category, cream cheese.  We added some fresh herbs, such as chives and tarragon, along with a healthy number of splashes of Tabasco sauce.


SMOKED MULLET SPREAD
A Chef Bolek Collaboration with Frank Savage
Serves many

Ingredients (for the Brine):
1 fresh whole mullet (about 2 pounds), cleaned and gutted
     with head and backbone removed
4 cups water
3/4 cup of Kosher Salt
1/2 cup of light brown sugar

Ingredients (for the Spread):
8 ounces of cream cheese
1/4 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon of fresh chives, chopped finely
1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon, chopped finely
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon of Tabasco 
 
Directions:
1.   Brine the mullet.  Combine the water, salt and brown sugar to create the brine.  Add the mullet to the brine and allow the fish to rest for about forty-five minutes. After forty-five minutes, remove the fish and set it out to air-dry.  

2.  Prepare the smoker.  Start the fire in the smoker.  Once the fire is set, add some pieces of apple wood to start the smoke.   the smoker is ready when the temperature is between 200 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

3.  Smoke the mullet.  Add the mullet and smoke it for about one hour.  The internal temperature should reach about 140 degrees Fahrenheit and the meat of the fish should be easy to flake. 

4.  Create the spread.  Remove the fish. Using a fork, pull the flesh off of the skin.  Once you have removed all of the flesh, break it into small pieces.  Combine the fish, cream cheese, tarragon, chives, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.


This is a great recipe.  The mullet contributes to this dish, not by adding a heavy smoke flavor to the cream cheese, but by adding texture.  The one thing I would note as a word of caution is to be conservative in the use of tarragon, because it has a strong flavor that could overshadow the fish if too much is added.

ENJOY!

For more about Striped Mullet, check out the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How It All Began, Exactly Five Years Ago Today ...

I thought that I would take a break from the recipes and reviews.  The reason is that today -- September 14, 2011 -- is a milestone of sorts for me.   Exactly five years ago to the day, I was on a plane crossing the Atlantic bound for Bologna, the capital city of Emilia-Romagna in Italy.  I had booked a nine day vacation through the Smithsonian Institution.  The vacation was aptly called the "Joys of the Italian Table." Along with about two dozen other tourists, I had the opportunity to learn about the foods and wines of Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.  The tour leader was Francesco Ricchi, a Tuscan born chef who owns one of my favorite restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area ... Cesco Trattoria in Bethesda, Maryland.

The importance of this five-year milestone cannot be understated.  Before taking this trip, I actually did not care about cooking.  I worked in a restaurant to make money for college.  I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up the kitchen hierarchy until I was working the sauté station.  The problem was that it was my second job.  I had a forty-hour a week office job and this cooking job was something I did in the evenings and on the weekends to earn extra money.  It was a horrible job.  I made anywhere from $5.00 to $5.50 per hour, working several hours per shift in a hundred degree kitchen.  After working at this restaurant, I did not want to have anything to do with cooking.

That was until my "Joys of the Italian Table" vacation. I had the opportunity to see a completely different side of food and cooking.  I was able to develop an appreciation of the ingredients, the cooking or winemaking processes and, perhaps most importantly, the significance of food and wine to the Emilian-Romagnan and Tuscan cultures.  

Put simply, if I had never experienced the "Joys of the Italian Table," I would not have thought about cooking as a hobby and a means of relaxation.  If I had not started cooking, I would have never cultivated an interest in exploring the history of foods and their importance to cultures around the world.  And, perhaps most importantly, I would have never started this blog.

I could write a very long blog post detailing everything I ate and drank, as well as all of my experiences during that trip.  I can still recall almost all of them vividly in my mind, and, many of those experiences have been incorporated into past blog posts and will be incorporated into future blog posts.  For this post, I decided to use my editing skills and put together a short video piece from the pictures that I took during the trip.  These pictures tell a story of my experiences. I added a little dramatic music, Andrea Bocelli's O Sole Mio, because I thought the music was appropriate for the impact that this one vacation had on my life.  (And, yes, I purchased the song prior to using it in the video.) 

So, without further ado, the Joys of the Italian Table as I experienced it:  

video

That trip was the start of a very long culinary journey for me.  Since that time, I have rekindled my interest in cooking, as well as a desire to learn not just about other cooking, but also about cuisines and cultures. I have begun to share what I have learned, both in terms of cooking and cuisines, through this blog. That journey may seem slow at times (especially when it comes to the Around the World in Eighty Dishes or planning future Iron Chef Nights), but I am taking my time to learn and share as much as I can.  I look forward to all the new experiences to come, as well as all of the dishes I will make. 

I hope that everyone who visits this blog enjoys reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them.  Speaking of which, I think it is time to get back to those posts.  Well, until next time ...

DIVERTI!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Mozambique

My culinary adventures take me to Mozambique, a large country located in southeastern Africa.  The history of Mozambique can be best simplified and summarized by three emigrations.  First, there was the emigration of Bantu peoples, who brought agriculture and farming to the area around 300 A.D.  Second, there was the arrival of the Swahili and the Arabs, who established commercial and military ports in the land that would become Mozambique.  Third, and most significantly, there were the Portuguese, who colonized the country in the early 16th century.  The Portuguese controlled Mozambique as a colony for more than three hundred years, leaving an indelible print upon the culture and cuisine of that country and its people.

The Portuguese influence is perhaps the most apparent when it comes to the ingredients used by Mozambican cooks.  The Portuguese introduced cassava and cashew nuts as crops for agriculture, along with maize, rice, sorghum and potatoes.  The Portuguese also introduced the use of certain spices, such as bay leaves, coriander, garlic, red sweet peppers, chile peppers, onions, paprika and wine. 

Moreover, this influence of the Portuguese extends beyond ingredients and reaches the dishes prepared in Mozambican kitchens.  For example, Mozambicans have their own version of Feijoada, the Portuguese bean stew and condiments like Piri-Piri Sauce.  They have also incorporated roasting methods introduced by the Portuguese to create dishes such as Frango a Portuguesa (Chicken, the Portuguese way).

For this challenge, I wanted to go beyond the influence of the Portuguese and reach for a dish that is reflective of the indigenous peoples of Mozambique.  I decided to make Matata, a clam and peanut stew enjoyed by local Mozambicans.  The principal ingredients for this stew are simple -- clams, peanuts, pumpkin leaves -- highlight the local nature of the dish.  However, I could not complete the meal without at least doing one dish that is influenced by the Portuguese.  That dish is Camarao Mozambique, which is as fiery shrimp dish that is heavily influenced by chiles and wines of the Portuguese. 

THE SAUCE

Before making Camarao Mozambique, I need to make one of the ingredients for that dish, Piri Piri Sauce.  This sauce is basically a hot pepper sauce that combines Portuguese and African influences.  The Portuguese contributed the peppers, which originated in the New World.  Explorers and traders brought the peppers to Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique.  In Mozambique, the peppers acquired the name of "piri piri," which is "pepper pepper" in Swahili.  This recipe is adapted from one by Jorge Jordão, the chef at Zambi, a restaurant in Maputo, Mozambique.  I could not find the right red chiles, so I used red bell peppers and added some ground Mombosa pepper, which is said to be the descendant of the peppers brought to Africa by the Portuguese. 


PIRI-PIRI SAUCE
Recipe adapted from Saveur.com

Ingredients:
2 red peppers
1 teaspoon of ground Mombosa (Piri Piri) pepper
     (you can use more if you want a more spicy dish)
3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 clove of garlic

Directions:
Add all of the ingredients in a blender and puree into a chunky sauce.

THE APPETIZER

With the sauce, I can turn to the Camaro Mozambique.  As noted above, Portuguese explorers introduced chile peppers to Mozambicans.  However, it was the Mozambicans who combined those peppers with shrimp.  In doing so, local cooks created a dish that has become very popular, not only in Mozambique, but also in Portugal itself.


CAMARAO MOZAMBIQUE
Adapted from ChopOnionsBoilWater
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
7-10 threads of saffron
1 pound of shrimp, deveined but not deshelled
1/8 cup of olive oil
1/8 cup of water
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons of butter
1/4 bottle of white wine (like a Vinho Verde)
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1 tablespoon of hot crushed red pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup, flat parsley, coarsely chopped (optional, for garnish)
Portuguese piri-piri sauce , to taste

Directions:
1.  Steep the saffron.  Put the saffron in the water and let it steep.  You could let it steep overnight, but usually I just let it steep for fifteen minutes to thirty minutes.

2.  Saute the shrimp.  Place a deep saucepan on medium-high heat, when the pan warms, add the olive oil. When oil begins to shimmer add the shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink.  Remove the shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep the juices and oil in the pan. Put the shrimp aside and keep them warm.

3.  Saute the garlic.  Add the garlic to the pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes until golden.  Do not let the garlic brown or burn.

4.  Make the sauce.  Add the saffron and water, wine, paprika, crushed pepper, hot sauce, and lemon juice. Bring this mixture to a boil, adjust to a lively simmer and allow it to reduce and thicken slightly.

5.  Finish the shrimp.  Return the shrimp to the pan and continue simmering, stirring frequently for about 2-3 minutes.

6.  Finish the sauce.  Add the butter to the pan stirring frequently. Once butter melts, stir one more time, remove from heat and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

THE MAIN COURSE

Finally, I turn my attention to the main course, which is the subject of the Around the World in 80 Dishes Challenge.  The main course and challenge for Mozambique is Matata, a clam and peanut stew with pumpkin leaves.  I had to make two alterations to this recipe.  The original recipe called for the use of canned clams.  There is nothing wrong with using canned clams (other than the fact that clams are living shellfish and once removed from their shell, clams have to be preserved).  I had access to fresh cherrystone clams and bought three small bags of clams to use in this recipe.  The one drawback to using fresh clams is that I had to shuck them, which is time consuming but well worth the effort.  The same goes for the peanuts.  Bottles of peanuts line shelves in a grocery store; however, I bought fresh peanuts and shelled them myself. 

However, the original recipe also calls for pumpkin leaves.  Unlike the clams and peanuts, I did not have a source for fresh pumpkin leaves.  The authors of the recipe (and authors of other Matata recipes) anticipate the lack of pumpkin leaves.  They suggest fresh spinach leaves as an alternative.  I readily accepted this alternative and proceeded to make the dish. 


MATATA (CLAM AND PEANUT STEW)
Adapted from the University of Pennsylvania's African Cookbook
Serves 2-3 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of chopped onions
1 ounce of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped peanuts
1 tomato, diced
2 cups of clams, chopped
1/2 tablespoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
3/4 of a pound of fresh spinach

Directions:
1.  Saute the onions.  Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat.   Add the onions and simmer until soft, but not brown.

2.  Add ingredients (except the spinach).  Add the peanuts, tomato, clams, salt, black pepper, and red pepper.  Stir and simmer for about thirty minutes.

3.  Add the spinach.  Add the spinach and cover the pan.  When the spinach has wilted, the dish is ready to serve.

4.  Plate the dish.  Matata is usually served over rice.  Plate some rice in the center of the bowl and spoon the Matata around the rice. 

*     *     *

Overall, I think this challenge was a success.  I was most pleased with my variation on the Piri-Piri sauce.  I confronted a lack of red chiles by substituting ingredients to still achieve the desired result ... a spicy sauce.  My efforts also made for a sauce with more complex flavors, sweet up front, followed by vinegar with a kick in the end.  The Camarao Mozambique and Matata also turned out well for the first time that I made each dish.  I was surprised how much I liked the Matata, given the fact that I am not a big fan of spinach.

With this challenge in the books, it is time to turn to the next one.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

For more about the cuisine of Mozambique, check out Food by Country.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Duck Rabbit Brewery Barleywine Ale

There is a craft brewery in Farmville, North Carolina that bills itself as the "Dark Beer Specialist."  The Duck Rabbit Brewery was founded by Paul Philippon, a university philosophy professor.  Drawing from his teaching experience, he chose the duck rabbit diagram, which looks like a duck or a rabbit depending upon the viewer's perspective.  The Duck Rabbit produces four year around ales, including a brown ale, porter, red ale and a milk stout.   When Clare and I were visiting Ocracoke Island, we came across a little store with a big beer selection, including the Duck Rabbit's Barleywine Ale. 

I've reviewed barleywines in the past, such as the Nøgne-Ø 100, the Schlafly Reserve Barleywine Style Ale and the L'Abri de Tempete Corps Mort.  I've even reviewed and contrasted the difference between beers brewed in the English barleywine style, such as the Almond 22 Torbata and those brewed in the American barleywine style, such as the Troegs' Flying Mouflan.  Perhaps the one thing that these barleywines have in common is that they each have their own distinctive style.

I can now add the Duck-Rabbit Barleywine to this list.  The beer pours a dark honey or gold color, with a wispy thin foam.  The aroma of the beer suggests alcohol, but speaks of malt, bread, and toast flavors.  There is also a presence of caramel and toffee in the aroma of the beer.  These flavors also are featured in the taste of the beer, but there is also a significant presence of hops in the finish.  The hops contribute a piney or citrus flavor so that each sip seems to gradually run the spectrum from malt to hop.  At least for me, the Duck-Rabbit barleywine seems to unite the American barleywine and English barleywine styles, combining the hop flavors of the American style with the malt flavors of the English style.

For me, barleywines are perhaps some of the most difficult beers to pair with food.  When I have difficulties with food pairing, I do my research and, in this case, it is to consult Garrett Oliver's book, The Brewmaster's Table.   The head brewer at Brooklyn Brewery, Oliver is also a member of the Slow Food Movement and a font of knowledge when it comes to pairing beer with food.  In his book at pages 163-64, he suggests that, at least for English barleywines, the beer scan be paired with meats like lamb or boar.  (I wish I knew that before I drank this beer because I have a couple of cinghiale -- Italian wild boar -- recipes I've been wanting to try.)  Oliver also suggests that this style of beer can be paired with cheddar cheeses, goat cheeses, and caramelized desserts.  And, as always, you can do what I did and just enjoy the beer by itself. 

As I noted above, we found this beer in North Carolina; however, I have seen Duck Rabbit beers on the menus at restaurants and in some beer stores with larger selections.

ENJOY!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fusilli con la Salsicca dell'Agnello (Fusilli with Lamb Sausage)

While perusing the stalls of Eastern Market, I was struggling to create a primi or first dish for a meal with Clare and her parents.  Typically, in Italy, a primi is either a soup, salad or pasta dish.  My mind was focused on a pasta dish that incorporated form of meat (and, for my Angel, shrimp) along with a simple red sauce.  

Thus, I had two choices to make.  First, I had to decide upon a pasta.  I chose freshly made fusilli, primarily because I did not see the pappardelle hidden in the back.  Fusilli is a pasta that may have originated in Naples, the capital of the Italian region of Campania.  There are several possible sources for the name.  Some believe that the pasta got its name from fusile or fucile, which is the Italian word for "rifle."  The rounded, spiral shape of the pasta is supposed to represent the groves in the rifle's barrel. Others point to the Neapolitan dialect where fuso is a word that refers to spindle. 

After choosing the pasta, I had to decide upon the meat.  There are a lot of choices at Eastern Market, but I ultimately selected fresh lamb sausage.  The use of sausage provides one handy shortcut ... it provides not only the meat for the dish, but also some seasoning.  It is important to keep that in mind because if you add the normal levels of seasoning, you may end up with a dish that is -- depending upon the type of sausage you use -- too salty or too spicy.  I chose a regular lamb sausage, which did not have any chiles or peppers in it.  

One last note, when working with sausage, I ordinarily brown the sausage first.  However, I wanted to try something different, that is reflected in this recipe.  Rather than browning the sausage, I added the sausage to the tomato sauce and cooked it in the sauce.  I did this because I wanted to break up the sausage into as small of pieces as I could.  It took longer for the sausage to cook, but the end result was still very good. 


FUSILLI CON LA SALSICCA DELL'AGNELLO
(FUSILLI WITH LAMB SAUSAGE)
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 3-4


Ingredients:
3/4 pound of fresh fusilli
1/2 pound of fresh lamb sausage, removed from casings
1 large clove of garlic, diced finely
1/2 onion, diced finely
3/4 of a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of red chile flakes
2 teaspoons of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1.  Saute the garlic and onions. Heat the olive oil on medium heat.  Add the garlic.  Cook for one minute.  Add the onions and continue to cook for about three to four minutes, until the onions are translucent.  Stir occasionally to prevent the garlic from burning.

2.  Add the tomatoes and lamb.  Add the tomatoes to the onion/garlic mixture.  Using a masher, mash the tomatoes until they are broken up well.  Add the basil, oregano and chile pepper flakes.  When the tomatoes begin to boil, break the lamb sausage into small pieces and add to the tomato sauce.  Continue to cook until the lamb is cooked. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and stir well.

3.  Cook the pasta.  Heat a pot of water until it is boiling.  Add the fresh fusilli to the boiling water.  Cook for two minutes.  Remove the pasta from the water and add it to the tomato sauce, with a little of the water.  Stir very well until the pasta is covered with the sauce.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pub Dog Hoppy Dog Pale Ale

For the past ten years, Pub Dog Pizza and Drafthouse has quietly brewed beers while other Maryland breweries, like Flying Dog and Heavy Seas have grown and garnered a lot of attention.  The brewpub has two locations, one in Baltimore and the other in Columbia.  Pub Dog produces a wide range of beers, from a White Dog (an orange wheat beer) to a Black Dog (the stout).  Recently, Clare purchased a bottle of the Hoppy Dog.

The Hoppy Dog is billed as an India Pale Ale.  An IPA is a moderately hoppy style of beer, with some bitterness from the hops.  Whether it is an English IPA or an American IPA, the beer should have a floral, citrusy aroma, a hoppy but not too bitter taste, and a clean finish. While the Hoppy Dog is good, it falls a little short of an IPA, showing itself to be more like an American Pale Ale than an India Pale Ale.

The beer does pour a golden color with a thick foam that has a very long retention time.  The aromas of the beer is a little floral and a little hoppy.  The aroma of the hops is not overwhelming.  The hops show through in the taste, but, like the aroma, the hop flavor is not overwhelming.  This is a pale ale that would appeal to people who normally steer clear of India Pale Ales or American Pale Ales because of the fear of bitter or citrusy tastes.  This is a very drinkable beer, kind of like a session beer.

Pub Dog's Hoppy Dog Pale Ale has an ABV of 5.4% Clare found this beer at Gilly's, a local beer store.  The beer should be available at beer stores around Maryland.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Smoked Sockeye Salmon

Salmon has a very important place in the culture of Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest.  The tribes long believed that if someone mishandled the fish, the great spirits of the sea would drive the salmon from the waters.

It is known as the Legend of the Lost Salmon.  Briefly, the Creator told the people that the salmon, which had been created especially for them, had to be treated in accordance with certain rules.  The people initially followed those rules; however, over time, they became careless.  They stopped following the rules and the salmon vanished.  As the people walked the river, they were shocked that the salmon were gone.  They came across a dead salmon and all cried out that, if they were only given one more chance, they would do better.  They also thought if they could revive the dead salmon, the salmon would return to their waters.  

The tribe called a council and asked one of their most venerable members, Old Man Rattlesnake, to help them.  Old Man Rattlesnake went to where the dead salmon laid and crawled over the salmon four times.  When he crawled over the salmon a fifth time, something magnificent happened ... Old Man Rattlesnake disappeared into the fish and the salmon awoke.  The people learned their lesson about taking care of salmon and the fish returned to the streams. 

The Legend of the Lost Salmon is not just a story passed down by generations of Native Americans; it has a moral that transcends cultures and nationalities.  We all have to "follow the rules" when it comes to the fauna and flora in our environment.  Our failure to do so could lead to us losing them.  This morale is especially true when it comes to fish, because our activity has decimated the stocks of many fish around the world, including salmon. Today, there are a lot of rules when it comes to the fishing of  Pacific Salmon and Alaska Salmon, including Sockeye and King Salmon.  These rules have led watchdog groups like Seafood Watch to give these fish the "Best Choice" when it comes to sustainable fish.

Recently, while visiting Eastern Market with Clare and her parents, we stopped by Southern Maryland Seafood and saw some beautiful fillets of wild Sockeye Salmon.  We decided that we would buy a two pound fillet of Sockeye Salmon.  Our plan was to smoke the fish.

Smoking fish involves choices.  Before the smoking can begin, one must decide on how to "cure" the fish.  There are two methods: wet cure or dry cure.  A wet cure is a brine with a base of water, salt and sugar (as well as other ingredients).  A dry cure is a rub, usually consisting of salt and sugar (as well as with other herbs and spices).  Once a choice has been made with respect to the cure, the next decision to make is the method of smoking the fish.  Once again, there are two choices: cold smoking or hot smoking.  Cold smoking involves cooking the meat with smoke at temperatures of 85 degrees Fahrenheit or less.  By contrast, hot smoking involves cooking the meat with smoke at temperature between 120 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit or more. 

Ultimately, we decided to use a wet cure and the hot smoking method to smoke our Sockeye Salmon fillet. We created a simple brine for the fish and let the fish rest in the brine for about forty-five minutes.  While we were air-drying the fish, we decided to smoke the fish using apple wood.  Most often, salmon is smoked using alder wood, but apple wood is a tame wood that imparts a sweet smoke flavor to meat.  After about an hour, we pulled the fish from the heat and were treated to an amazing meal.


SMOKED SOCKEYE SALMON
Adapted from Great Salmon Recipes
Serves many

Ingredients:
2 pounds of sockeye salmon
4 cups water
3/4 cup of Kosher Salt
1/2 cup of light brown sugar

Directions:
1.   Brine the salmon.  Combine the water, salt and brown sugar to create the brine.  Add the sockeye to the brine and allow the fish to rest for about forty-five minutes. After forty-five minutes, remove the fish and set it out to air-dry.  

2.  Smoke the salmon.   Prepare the fire for the smoker.  Once the fire is set, add some pieces of apple wood to start the smoke.   Ideally, you do not want the temperature to exceed 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  (It is better for the temperature to be less than 200 degrees.)  Add the salmon and smoke it for about one hour.  The internal temperature should reach about 140 degrees Fahrenheit and the meat of the fish should be easy to flake. 

3.  Finish the dish.  Remove the fish from the heat and allow it to return to room temperature. Serve immediately.


ENJOY!

For more about smoking salmon, check out the Gourmet Food Store.  For more about the Legend of the Lost Salmon, check out Native American Indian Legends.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Sometimes the most simplest of recipes can result in the most delicious of dishes.  This is one such recipe.  A handful of small tomatoes, generous amounts of salt, black pepper and sugar, and liberal drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Add the heat of an oven and the end result are some amazing roasted tomatoes.

I used cherry tomatoes for this recipe; however, the great thing about this recipe is that any type of  small tomato could be used.  This recipe would also work well with Roma, plum or grape tomatoes.

One last note about this recipe.  Do not use aged balsamic vinegar. It is simply too expensive and to fragile to be subjected to heat for any period of time.  It is okay to use a balsamic vinegar of lesser quality.  As an alternative, you can simply withhold the aged balsamic vinegar until after the tomatoes are roasted and then drizzle it over the tomatoes before serving. 

OVEN ROASTED TOMATOES
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
12 small tomatoes of any variety
Sea Salt, to sprinkle
Ground black pepper, to taste
6 cloves, smashed
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Balsamic vinegar

Directions:
1.  Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange on a baking sheet with the garlic cloves.  Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle the sea salt, ground black pepper and sugar.  

2.  Heat an oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Roast for twenty-five or thirty minutes. 

ENJOY!
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