Friday, June 23, 2017

Crab Flake Salad

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A New Project in the Bluegrass State

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chicken Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

B&O Egg Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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

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

THE CABOOSE

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

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

THE OLD OX

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

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

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

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

THE LOST RHINO

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

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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wine Club - A Dinner on the Baltimore & Ohio

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

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

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

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

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

MAIN COURSE
Chicken Maryland

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

DESSERT
Banana Snack Bread with Banana Ice Cream

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

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Black Ankle Vineyards Leaf Stone Syrah (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Octopus with Chorizo and Potatoes

With a long coastline stretching across the northwestern part of Spain, Galicia is well known for its seafood.  Cockles, clams, shrimp, and even barnacles.  For me, however, what the Galicians have been able to do with octopus that is simple and amazing.  It is simple because it is just a few ingredients.  The octopus, paprika and potatoes.  Those three ingredients, bonded together with a very good olive oil, give rise to pulpo gallego or polbo a fiera, the traditional Galician octopus dish. 

The key to preparing octopus is in the tenderizing of the meat.  Generally, there are two ways to do that.  One could pound the heck out of the tentacles with a flat tenderizer.  I have never cared for this method.  Rather, I prefer the second method: to boil the tentacles.  There is a catch to this second method.  It is important to dip the octopus in the boiling water three times before submerging it in the boiling water.  The dipping of the tentacles helps to set the tentacles (in other words, helps to keep them from curling to much).  It also helps to protect the skin during the cooking process. 

Once you get the cooking technique down, cooking octopus is very easy and it is an ingredient that I have worked with on a few occasions.  

Recently, I was looking for Spanish recipes for octopus and came across one from Food & Wine.  This recipe takes the ingredients of the classic polbo a fiera and goes one step further.  A Catalonian step.  The recipe adds chorizo, which most likely originated in Catalonia, to the Galician combination of octopus, paprika and potatoes.  The addition of pork seems like a natural fit, providing not just additional flavors, but also an added level of richness to a great dish.   


OCTOPUS WITH CHORIZO AND POTATOES
Recipe from Food & Wine
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 3/4 pound of octopus tentacles
3/4 pound of potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch dice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 ounces of cured Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 teaspoons of thyme, chopped

Directions:
1.  Prepare the octopus.   Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil with the onion and bay leaves.  Using tongs, carefully dip the octopus into the boiling water 3 times, then leave it in the water.  Cook the octopus over moderately low heat until tender, about 1 hour.  Remove from the heat and let the octopus stand in the water for 10 minutes.  Drain the water.  Cut the octopus into 1/2 inch pieces. 

2. Prepare the potatoes.  In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and add salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer over moderate heat until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Toss the potatoes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the thyme.  Season with salt and pepper. 

3. Finish the dish.  In a grill pan, cook the chorizo over moderately high heat until warmed through, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.  Add the potatoes and octopus to the pan and cook until hot and the potatoes are golden in spots, about 5 minutes.  Add to the chorizo, season with salt and pepper and toss.  Drizzle a little more olive oil.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Morocco

Every culture has its proverbs, but, when it comes to the Moroccans, a lot of those proverbs relate to food.  For example, "you can count the number of apples in one tree, but you can't count the number of trees in one apple."  Or how about, "[w]hat you have put into your kettle comes out into your spoon."  Or, perhaps my favorite, "feed your guests, even if you are starving." 

As interesting as these food proverbs may be, words cannot fill a belly.  So, for this challenge, I decided that I would make a main course based upon the cuisine of the country of Morocco.  The starting point for a discussion of Moroccan cuisine is the same as for many other cuisines: it is a melange of influences, including Arabic, Anadalusian, and Mediterranean ones.  Moroccan cuisine has also been influenced by another source: the Berber culture.  

The Berbers are an ethnic group that are unique to Northern Africa.  At one time, they inhabited an area stretching from Morocco to Egypt, and from Algeria to Niger.  Today, the Berbers are principally (but not entirely) located in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.  The Berbers have a variety of societies and ancestry, united together by a common identity and language.

The Berber influence on Moroccan cuisine is evident in the use of couscous, as well as the tangine.  When the Arabs came to the region, they brought spices (such as cinnamon, cumin, ginger and saffron), dates, dried fruits and nuts, which were incorporated into those dishes.    The Arabs also brought olives and olive oil, which became ingredients useful in Moroccan cooking.  Then, there was the French, who left their imprint on Moroccan food and cuisine, particularly with respect to pastries.

But it was the Berber influence was never extinguished, and it continues to shine in many dishes, including the one that I selected for my challenge: Mechoui.  

MAIN COURSE

Mechoui (or as the Berbers would call it, "Meshwi") is the Moroccan equivalent of barbecue.  It is the roasting of a whole lamb or goat over a pit fire.  The roasting is usually done as part of a celebration or an event.  The lamb or goat is prepared with a spice rub with melted butter (as opposed to a dry rub or one using oil).  Once the rub is applied to the meat, it is then placed over the fire and roasted.  As it cooks, the celebration unfolds and, once it is ready, the hungry guests are in for a treat.  

There are a wide variety of Mechoui recipes on the Internet, which involve different proteins (chicken, beef, lamb, goat, etc.) and different spice rubs.  For this challenge, I borrowed from three or four different recipes, using the common techniques while keeping an eye on the interesting twists from one to another.  Ultimately, it was a recipe from New York Times Cooking that was the principal recipe I used.  The end result was incredible!


MECHOUI (MOROCCAN ROAST LAMB)
Recipe adapted from several sources, including this
one from the New York Times Cooking
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
5 pounds of boneless leg of lamb
3 ounces of butter, softened
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, slightly toasted and grounded
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, grounded
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon pimenton
6 garlic cloves, smashed into a paste with a little salt

Directions:
1.  Prepare the lamb.  Trim the lamb of any extraneous fat, but leave a thin layer of fat covering the meat.  Use a sharp paring knife, cut slits all over the lamb.  Lightly salt the meat on both sides and place in a large roasting pan.  Mix together butter, cumin, coriander, paprika, pimenton and garlic.  Smear butter mixture over the surface of the meat.  Allow the meat to come to room temperature.  Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Roast the lamb.    Roast the lamb uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until it shows signs of beginning to brown.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees.  Continue roasting for 1.5 to 2 hours, basting generously every 15 minutes or so with buttery pan juices, until meat is soft and tender.  If the surface seems to be browning too quickly, tent loosely with foil and reduce heat slightly.  In this case, remove loosely with foil and baste the lamb.

3.  Finish the dish.  Transfer lamb to a large platter or cutting board and serve hot. 

SIDE DISH

My personal culinary challenge usually, but not always, includes side dishes, appetizers, or even drinks.  For this particular challenge, I decided to make a side dish based upon a recipe that I found on the New York Times Cooking website.  The recipe is for Chickpeas with Mint, Scallions and Cilantro, and, it was included as a Moroccan recipe.

The recipe calls for rehydrating chickpeas, but that is not required.  An alternative is to use canned chickpeas, as I did.  In that case, the instructions are a little different.  Rather than cooking the rehydrated chickpeas for 45 minutes, I boiled the water for about 15 minutes, to infuse the water with the onion and cloves, and then cooked the chickpeas for about 10 to 15 minutes in the boiling water.  This will warm the chickpeas and infuse them with the flavors without turning them into mush.  Then I would continue with step 2, incorporating the chickpeas into the olive oil and other ingredients.  Once the side is completed, it is a perfect complement to the Mechoui or Meshwi.  


CHICKPEAS WITH MINT, SCALLIONS AND CILANTRO
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 pound chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
1 onion halved, with each half stuck with 2 cloves
2 bay leaves 
1 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
Salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric or small pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

Directions:
1.  Prepare the chickpeas.  Pour soaked chickpeas into a colander to drain and put in a medium-size soup pot.  Add water to cover by 1 inch and bring to a boil.  Add onion, bay leaves, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons salt.  Skim off and discard any rising foam.  Lower heat and simmer gently for about 45 minutes.  

2.  Continue cooking chickpeas.  Drain hot chickpeas (reserve both for another purpose such as soup) and discard the onion and aromatics.  Return chickpeas to pot and add olive oil and turmeric or saffron, stirring to distribute.  Taste for salt and adjust.

3.  Finish the dish.  Transfer to a warm serving bowl.  Mix mint, scallions and cilantro together and sprinkle over top.  Serve warm.

*     *     *

In the end, this was another successful challenge.  The Mechoui (or Meshwi) turned out a perfect medium rare, and the spices on the rub came through as you eat the lamb.  As I noted above, the chickpeas were the perfect side for this dish, with additional levels of flavor coming from the turmeric, mint and cilantro.  Yet, as successful as this challenge was, I did not have a whole lamb and I did not roast that lamb over a fire in a pit.  The challenge was a success given my limitations     Now, if I could only find a whole lamb goat and, if my beautiful Angel would let me dig a pit in our backyard, I could recreate the entire Berber/Moroccan Meshwi/Mechoui experience.  Until that happens ...

ENJOY!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Roasted Green Beans, Mushrooms, and Onions with Parmesan Breadcrumbs

A while back, our family had a fruit and vegetable CSA allotment. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which is a program where you purchase the produce directly from a local farm.   The CSA provided me with an opportunity cook more vegetables.  I created a "CSA Challenge," which pushed my culinary abilities by cooking dishes that included beets, turnips and sweet potatoes.

For this challenge, I had green beans.  My typical side dish for green beans is to blanche them for a couple of minutes to preserve their color, and then saute them with a little butter, salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Occasionally, I add some slivered almonds.  While this side dish does the trick, especially when you do not have a lot of time to cook a meal, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to prepare the beans with ingredients that I would not typically think of when I am pondering green bean recipes.

I came across a recipe that included, among other things, mushrooms and "parmesan breadcrumbs."  Neither ingredient is one that, at least for me, I would generally associate with green beans.  So, I decided to make this recipe.  The result is a rather colorful dish, with the different colored green beans, the red onions and the brownish mushrooms.  The parmesan breadcrumbs add a "crunchy-ish" kind of texture that gives a hint of parmesan cheese, which helps to make this dish work.  


ROASTED GREEN BEANS, MUSHROOMS AND ONIONS
WITH PARMESAN BREADCRUMBS
Recipe adapted from Delish
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds of green beans, trimmed
1 medium red or yellow onion, sliced into rings
8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, sliced
8 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Juice from 1 lemon.

Directions:
1. Prepare the vegetables and mushrooms.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  On two rimmed baked sheets, arrange green beans, onions and mushrooms.  Toss each with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast until deeply browned, about 30 to 35 minutes.  

2.  Toast the breadcrumbs.  In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add breadcrumbs and oregano and cook, stirring constantly until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan.

3.  Finish the dish.  Squeeze lemon juice over roasted vegetables and top with Parmesan breadcrumbs.

ENJOY!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Oyster Shooters with Tomato, Lime and Chiles

This is the best recipe ever invented. Period.

No, seriously.  This recipe of Oyster Shooters with Tomato, Lime and Chiles makes me rethink why I have made the nearly one hundred recipes that are already in the index to this blog.  After having one of these oyster shooters, I began thinking, "why in the world did I spend all that time making" this recipe or that recipe.  I could just spend every night making this recipe.  Some dicing and slicing.  Some mixing.  A little waiting.   A little more work.  And, the best recipe ever invented.

I have to say, my hats off to the person who thought: "what if I combined tomatoes, citrus and chiles with tomatoes?  And then added raw oysters."  You deserve a James Beard Award or three. Quite coincidentally, that is where I found this recipe ... on the James Beard Foundation's website. 

Now, for you to agree, you have to love eating raw oysters.   Atlantic oysters, Pacific oysters. Malpeques, Miyagis, Blue Points, Wellfleets, Rappahanocks, Olde Salts, Chincoteaques, Chop Tanks, Kumamotos.  You name it, you have to be willing to eat it.  And, if you eat raw oysters, then buckle up, because you are in for what is truly a gastronomic roller-coaster ride.

The ride begins with the acidity from the tomatoes and citrus.  As the tomato, lime and orange hit the tongue, it is followed by the oyster, which, depending upon the type used, can add a little brininess.  As you finish the shooter, you get the spring onion and cilantro, as well as some of the heat from the serrano pepper.  It is the embodiment of the perfect combination of complementary and contrasting flavors.

I have actually made this recipe a few times before posting it.  I have to admit that, each time, I cheated.   The recipe calls for a dozen oysters, shucked.  The process of shucking oysters, which I have done countless times in the past, can take some time to complete.  My beautiful Angel, Clare, found a very convenient workaround: buying a container of pre-shucked oysters from North Carolina.  Although I cannot remember the specific type of oyster, it is most likely Crassostrea Virginica, the common Atlantic oyster, which is prevalent in the waters around North Carolina.  The pre-shucked oysters reduce the prep work, making this a very easy recipe to enjoy after a long day at work. 


OYSTER SHOOTERS WITH TOMATO, LIME AND CHILES
Recipe by Andrew Hebert
Serves 2-4 (or 1 Chef Bolek)

Ingredients:
1 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 serrano chile, seeds removed, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon 
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon of finely grated garlic
Pinch of salt
12 oysters, shucked
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/ cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
Combine the tomato juice, ketchup, serrano chile, all of the citrus juice and zest, ginger, garlic and salt.  Mix well and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.  When ready to serve, pour about 2 tablespoons of the tomato mixture into each shot glass.  Add a shucked oyster to each glass.  Garnish with a pinch of scallions and cilantro.  Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve very cold. 

ENJOY!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Barrel Aged Butcher and Brewer

It has been more than a year since I did a beer or wine review.  The reason is simple.  I was posting fewer and fewer recipes due to the lack of time that I had to write the posts.  I was also cooking less for a period of time, but I was still having a beer or a glass of wine.  I did not want Chef Bolek to become a beer or wine blog.  So, I decided to hold off on any further beer or wine reviews until I started cooking more and started posting more.  

Well, I am cooking more, but not posting more.  Nevertheless, I realized that a total hiatus of beer and wine reviews may not be a good thing.  This is particularly true when it comes to beers or wines I may never find again. i come across some beers and wine by happenstance.  One of those beers was the Big Belgo Bourbon Stout from Butcher and Brewer.

I was in Cleveland for a while about a year ago when I was in a local grocery store that just happens to have a large beer selection.  While I was perusing the beers, I came across one bottle of one beer that stuck out.  It was sandwiched between multiple selections from other breweries.  Just one beer.  For one brewer.  And it was a brewer that I had never heard of before. 

For those who know me, the name is something that naturally caught my attention.  Butcher and Brewer.  It is a local restaurant, market and brewery located in downtown Cleveland.  Its menu offers a range of cured meats and cheeses, along with small and big plates.  As for the beers, the Cleveland Brewing Company provides the brews, which run the gamut of styles.

The Big Belgo Bourbon Stout is a "Belgian-Russian" Imperial Stout that is aged in bourbon barrels.  I am not quite sure what is a "Belgian-Russian" Imperial Stout.  While the Belgians brew a variety of dark strong ales, I am not sure there is a history of Belgians brewing Russian Imperial Stouts (as that style originated in England). 

Nevertheless, this Belgo Bourbon Stout makes one forget about history and classification.The beer pours a pitch black, as one would expect a Russian Imperial Stout.  A thin foam builds up and quickly recedes to reveal the beautiful blackness beneath.  The aromatic elements of the beer feature the bourbon up front.  The mellow tones of the bourbon greet the nostrils, followed by a slight oak of the barrels and a little of the yeast.  As for the taste, it is first and foremost bourbon whisky.  The bourbon is such the star that it shines over the other elements, such as the yeast and malts.  Those back-up elements are there.  A slight note of coffee or chocolate lingers in the background.   I would have liked to have tasted a little more of the malt, but it could not make its way out of the bourbon.  

Overall, this is a very good beer. As it turns out, this is not the first Belgo-Russian Imperial Stout that I have tried.  (I previously reviewed an offering from Stone.)  While I have grown to like the taste of bourbon in a stout, the strong bourbon presence makes this a definite sipping beer.  One that can be enjoyed while writing a review about it.  The beer definitely makes me want to return to Cleveland, and, check out the Butcher and Brewer in person.  If the beer is this good, I can only think of how good the charcuterie could be....

ENJOY!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Laos

My personal culinary challenge -- Around the World in 80 Dishes -- has figuratively taken me around the world.  I have made a main course based on the cuisine of countries From Andorra to Australia, as well as many places in between.  The next challenge takes me to a region where I have not a challenge ... southeast Asia.  The next challenge requires me to make a main course from the country of Laos.  But, first, a few quick notes about Laotian cuisine.

While Laos is nestled in between Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, its cuisine sets itself apart from its neighbors.  Laotian cuisine tends to be spicier than Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine, due to the use of local chiles. A cornerstone of many dishes is the use of sticky rice, which could be served with breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Those chiles and fresh herbs -- including galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass -- contribute pungent, spicy notes to dishes.

Many of those dishes may be more familiar to people than most realize.  Over the years, many Lao emigrated from their home to neighboring countries, particularly Thailand.  Some dishes that are assumed to be Thai, are actually Lao in origin.  Indeed, in southeast Asia, there is a shared heritage between the Thais and Lao, as well as the Vietnamese and Cambodians, that many dishes of each country's cuisine share common characteristics of those prepare by cooks in the countries. 


MAIN COURSE

Whenever I select a main course as part of my Around the World in 80 Dishes culinary challenge, my research often turns up what is labelled  the "national dish" or "official dish" of a country.  However, what really interests me is not what someone or some people call a country's "national dish," but what is commonly eaten by the people of that country. 

In the case of Laos, that dish would be Larb (or Laab). Generally, Laotian larb is a meat salad prepared with vegetables, fish sauce, lime and chiles served on lettuce with even more vegetables.  The result is a spicy, slightly sour dish that sets it apart from other larb dishes, such as those prepared in northern Thailand.  I have made the Thai version in the past using pork, as well as a version with shrimp, so I have a basic idea as to how to prepare the dish.  (It's kind of like cheating, but in a delicious way.)

Larb can be made with any protein, such as beef and chicken.  Beef is difficult to find in Laos, but it seemed appropriate given that the dish is often used to mark special occasion such as a housewarming, the birth of child or a holiday.  If I was in Laos, I would more than likely have the dish made with chicken, pork or duck.  (All of which sounds delicious, by the way.) 

BEEF LARB
Recipe from Bois de Jasmine
Serves 4 as appetizer, 2 as main dish

Ingredients (for the dish):
1 pound ground beef
4 shallots (2 sliced in thin rounds, 2 minced)
5 spring onions, sliced in thin rounds
2 garlic cloves, sliced in thin rounds
2 hot chile peppers, sliced in thin rounds
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of fish saucea
2 tablespoons of khao khua (roasted rice powder)

Ingredients (for the garnish):
Herbs (spring onions, mint, cilantro)
Lettuce leaves
Cucumber, sliced
Chiles, sliced (to taste)
1 lime, sliced
String beans (optional)

Directions:
1.  Make the khao khua.  Put two tablespoons of rice into a frying pan without oil and toast, stirring frequently, over medium low heat until it turns brown and smells well-toasted.  Remove from the stove adn crush into powder. 

2.  Make the Larb.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, then add the sliced shallots, garlic, spring onions and chiles.  When they have browned, add the beef, sugar and fish sauce.  Once the beef is well cooked, add more salt, lime juice and adjust the seasonings.  Set aside and let cool.

3.  Finish the dish.  Toss beef with herbs, minced shallots and roasted rice powder.  Serve with garnishes on a side.  

*      *     *

This challenge was inspired by my desire to make larb, and, it was -- like my prior efforts -- a very delicious dish.  The relative simplicity of the dish makes it one that could be made quickly after a busy day at work.  It is one that I will make again ... and again ... and again.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A (Non-Traditional) New England Clam Chowder

I am back.  It has been several months since I have posted anything on this blog.  I have been cooking, although not as much as I would like or with the experimentation that fuels this blog.  The problem is that I have not been writing blog posts, because things have been very busy around here.

Still, the recipes mull around in the back of my mind.  One such recipe is this New England Clam Chowder.  I made this chowder for the Savage Boleks Super Bowl Party, as the dish representing New England.   

Indeed, clam chowder is a quintessential dish in New England.  The history of the dish can be traced back to at least the 1700s, but it rose to prominence in the region in the early part of the 19th century.  The chowder gained a wider audience when it was described by Herman Melville in the classic, Moby Dick.  Melville described clam chowder served by Trys Pot, a chowder house in Nantucket, Massachusetts.  Melville wrote in some rather tasty terms:

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained.  Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me.  It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. 

Fast forward one hundred and sixty six years and you find myself getting ready to make a big pot of New England Clam Chowder for my family and friends.  While I have made clam chowder in the past, this dish represents my best effort to date. And, after much thought, I think there are two reasons for that.

First, I decided to alter the recipe in one major way.  The original recipe, which I got from Bon Appetit called for cherrystone clams, which would be chopped into "bite size pieces."  I bought littleneck clams, which are smaller than cherrystone clams (you get about 7-10 littleneck clams per pound, while you get 6 to 9 cherrystone clams per pound).  Given they were smaller, I decided not to chop the clams.  This left small, whole clams in the chowder.  Something that I think would be reminiscent of, albeit slightly larger than, the "hazel nut" sized clams described by Herman Melville.

Second, I decided to use hickory smoked bacon, rather than just plain old bacon. This choice goes against convention.  Traditional clam chowders are made with salt pork, which is not smoked.  Most restaurants substitute un-smoked bacon.  The rationale behind the use of un-smoked bacon is that one wants to enjoy the brininess of the clams, which could get lost with smoked bacon.  Given I decided to keep the clams whole, rather than chop them into pieces, I decided to take a risk and use smoked bacon.  I think the risk paid off, because it added another layer of flavor to the chowder.

In the end, I think my family and friends enjoyed this chowder.  I certainly liked this chowder a lot.  So much that the thought of writing this blog post persevered even through the most busiest of times.  There are other posts like this one, although they will have to wait for another day.


NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves many

Ingredients:

10 pounds of littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, minced
1 large onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
6 cups clam juice (or reserved broth from steaming clams)
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Flat leaf parsley, chopped
Oyster crackers

Directions:
1.  Steam the clams.  Bring clams and 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat.  Cook until clams just open, 8 to 10 minutes (discard any that do not open).  using a large slotted spoon, transfer clams to a large rimmed baking sheet; set broth aside.  Let clams cool slightly, pull meat from shells and discard the shells.  

2.  Make the base.  Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add celery, onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add reserved broth (or 6 cups of clam juice), potatoes, thyme and bay leaf.  Bring chowder base to a simmer.  Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.  

3.  Add cornstarch slurry.  Stir cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl to form a slurry.  Stir slurry into chowder base.  Return to a boil to thicken.

4.  Finish the dish.  Remove base from heat.  Discard bay leaf.  Stir in reserve clams and cream  Season with salt (if needed, because the brininess of clams varies) and pepper.  Divide chowder among bowls and garnish with the parsley and serve with oyster crackers.

ENJOY!



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