Thursday, August 17, 2017

Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q Chicken with White Sauce

As a recreational (and novice) chef and pitmaster, I have spent a lot of time trying to learn all about the different styles of barbecue.  Much of the barbecue literature is fixated on the well known styles of barbecue, such as Texas brisket or eastern Carolina whole hog.  There are many other styles of barbecue, some of which you have to discover by either going to the locale or trying to bring that style to your kitchen.

One such example of a barbecue style is that found in the State of Alabama.  Pitmasters in Alabama smoke pork, ham and chicken, using sauces that are reminiscent of other southern styles, such as the Carolina vinegar sauce.  However, Alabama has a barbecue sauce that is unique to that State's barbecue.  It is a white sauce, used to dip smoked chickens right before serving.  That sauce originated with Big Bob Gibson, who opened a barbecue joint in Decatur, Alabama back in 1925. 

As the story goes,  Big Bob Gibson served pork and chicken at his restaurant.  Gibson used an Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce for his pork, but he needed something for his chicken.  The sauce had to help keep the moisture in his chickens, which were smoked for about 3 hours.  Big Bob Gibson developed a white sauce using mayonnaise.  The sauce gave the chicken a "peppery, vinegary" flavor that helped to keep the chicken moist.  Gibson served this white sauce alongside the Carolina vinegar sauce when he opened his store in 1925.

More than 80 years later, my beautiful Angel's parents took me to Big Bob Gibson's to experience barbecue in Alabama.  I ordered a sampler, which did not include the chicken with white sauce.  I have to admit that, at the time, I was a little skeptical of the white sauce.  Added to that skepticism was my general distaste for mayonnaise.  Consequently, I never tried it at Big Bob Gibson's restaurant.

But, as I noted above, there is the option of bringing the style to your kitchen.  Recently, I decided to  set aside my general distaste for mayonnaise and try the Big Bob Gibson's recipe.  I spatchcocked a couple of whole chickens and put them in the smoker.  I followed the "simple technique" used by the pitmasters at Big Bob Gibson's, namely smoking the chickens over hickory wood, basting the chickens with oil, and then dipping the smoked chickens in that white sauce.   The flavor of the hickory smoke was present in the chicken, especially in the dark meat.  The skin did crisp up, but not to what I would have liked.  (I always need some room for improvement; and, in this case, it is working on how to crisp the skin better.)  

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The white sauce combines mayonnaise with vinegar, prepared horseradish, apple juice and lemon juice.  The vinegar and horseradish give the sauce the kick that one would expect (in my humble opinion) from a barbecue sauce.   That kick gets a little boost from cayenne pepper, but the horseradish is what does the trick for me.  While I followed the recipe in this case, I think that I would add a little more horseradish the next time.    

One final note, the consistency of the white sauce was a little more like a mop sauce than what I would consider to be a barbecue sauce.  That probably explains why the chicken is submerged in the white sauce.   When the chicken was served, I included some of the white sauce in a ramekin or bowl for dipping.


BIG BOB GIBSON BAR-B-Q CHICKEN
WITH WHITE SAUCE
Recipe from Chris Lilly, Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, page 119
Serves 4 to 8

Ingredients (for the chicken):
2 whole butterflied chickens
1 tablespoon of salt
1 cup oil (vegetable, olive, lard)
2 tablespoons black pepper

Ingredients (for the white sauce):
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:
1.  Prepare the fire.  Build a fire (wood or a combination of charcoal and wood) for indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the cooker, leaving the other side void.  Preheat the cooker to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Smoke the chickens.   Dust each whole chicken evenly with salt.  Place the chickens over the void side of the cooker, with the skin side  up.  When the skin on the chicken is golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours, turn the chickens skin side down, basting both sides with the oil.  Sprinkle the cavities of each chicken with pepper.  Cook the chicken for an additional 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add more wood to the fire as needed to replenish the supply of coals and maintain a temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

3.  Prepare the white sauce.  While the chicken is being smoked, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and blend well.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Pour the white sauce into a narrow deep container and position it next to the cooker.  Remove each chicken from the cooking grate and submerge it into the pot of white sauce.  Remove the chicken from the sauce, cut each chicken in half between the breasts and then quarter by cutting between each breast and thigh.

ENJOY!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Market Garden Brewery's Citramax IPA

When it comes to the craft beer scene in Cleveland, as one person it, "the word is out." There has been a remarkable growth in craft brewers.  At one time, there was only Great Lakes Brewing Company.  Now, there are breweries like Fat Head's Brewing, Platform Beer Company, Butcher & Brewer, and Market Garden.

The latter brewery, Market Garden, is located next to my favorite spot in Cleveland ... the West Side Market.  THe past couple of times that I have been in Cleveland and I have made a trip to the market, it has always included a side trip to Market Garden.  That side trip was a necessity, because it offered me a chance to try some very good beer.  Beers like the Cluster Fuggle, an IPA, or the Illuminator, a Doppelbock.

The great thing about Cleveland craft beer is that there are so many choices, even within one brewery.  The bad thing about Cleveland beer is that I can only get it when I am in Cleveland.  However, there has been a recent push for many of these breweries to bottle or can their beer.  And, during a recent visit to Cleveland, I was able to find Market Garden's Citramax in a local grocery store.  Needless to say, I bought a six pack and took it back home with me.  

The Citramax is described as a West-Coast style IPA.  The feature of this beer is in the name - Citra.  The brewers dry hopped this West Coast IPA with organic Citra hops.  The goal was to impart intense tropical and citrus fruit aromas in a beer with an aggressive-boldly bright American Hop character that will leave you craving another.

Mission achieved.  The Citramax pours a golden color with a thick foam.  That foam recedes quickly to the edges of the beer, opening the way for an aroma full of tangy citrus fruits, such as grapefruit and tangerine.  As one sips the Citramax, there is a moderate level of bitterness, encasing elements of those citrus fruits with some pine notes on the edges.  This IPA differs a little from most other IPAs that I have had in that the moderate bitterness is also followed by a little sweetness on the palate.  The sweetness helps to balance the beer, making it more palatable for people like my beautiful Angel who are not big hop heads.

As with most Cleveland beers, the Citramax is available in the Cleveland area. If I recall correctly, that six-pack cost about $9.99 or $10.99.  If you see a six pack sitting on the shelf, it is definitely worth trying.

ENJOY!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fire Roasted Gazpacho with Maryland Lump Crab

My beautiful Angel, Clare, loves gazpacho.   Previously, I made a gazpacho with shrimp based upon a recipe from Patricia Fernandez de la Cruz, who is the wife to Jose Andres. That particular chilled soup was so delicious that it has become one of our favorites.  It was a traditional gazpacho, with raw tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers being blended into a liquid (with other ingredients, such as stale bread) and served with a garnish.

Indeed, a traditional gazpacho is made with raw tomatoes and vegetables.   The raw nature of the tomatoes and vegetables is what, in my humble opinion, gives this soup its fresh character.   And, it is a very delicious character.  However, I did not want to make just another gazpacho.  I wanted to experiment with this dish.  The only question is what tweeks or twists could I do to make something that is just as delicious as the traditional soup.

As it turns out, I was planning to smoke a pork shoulder when I was thinking about this issue.  The thought of lighting the chimneys for the smoker got me to think about grilling the tomatoes and vegetables.  I then did some research and came across a recipe for a Fire Roasted Gazpacho.  The recipe comes from Steven Raichlen, the professor at Barbecue University.  The recipe calls for grilling the traditional ingredients to a gazpacho -- tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers -- along with onions.  It also calls for roasted garlic (which is not an ingredient in the traditional soup).  After all of the grilled vegetables are cool, then you remove the skins and blend them just as you would if they were raw vegetables.  The end result is just as delicious as the traditional recipe.

But, I wanted to experiment a little further.  Rather than using traditional gazpacho garnish, such as diced tomatoes, peppers and stale bread cubes, I decided to garnish this dish with some jumbo lump blue crab.  A nod to Steven Raichlen's roots of growing up in the State of Maryland, where the blue crab is king. It was definitely a great final touch to this recipe.  (It was a bit of a splurge, so you can use lump crab or even claw meat, but don't use special or backfin because the pieces will be too small for the soup).  


RAICHLEN'S GAZPACHO ON FIRE
WITH MARYLAND LUMP CRAB
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 large tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
1 medium cucumber
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 medium sweet onion, unpeeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, unpeeled
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs, plus more for garnish
1 cup cold water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Directions:
1.  Grill the vegetables.  Light a grill.  Wrap the garlic cloves in a sheet of foil.  Grill the tomatoes, cucumber, green and red peppers, onion and garlic until the vegetables are charred all over and almost softened, about 8 minutes for the tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers, about 10 minutes for the garlic and 15 minutes for the onion.  When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, remove the charred skins as well as any stems and seeds and chop them coarsely.

2.  Prepare the gazpacho.  Transfer all of the vegetables, including the peeled garlic to a food processor and puree.  With the machine on, gradually add the 1/4 cup of olive oil, then blend in the vinegar.  Add the 1/4 cup of the herbs, then transfer the mixture to a bowl.    Stir in the water and season with the salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Ladle the gazpacho into bowls, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and serve.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Head Trip

It is the beer with the "kaleidoscope eyes."  That fat-headed man, wearing a monk's robe, who adorns a label that asks you to "[p]icture yourself in a worn tie-died t-shirt" and "your head in the clouds."  All you see is "Belgian malt in the sky." You hear "somebody tells you to sip it quite slowly."  You oblige, and you experience, "spicy phenolics with yeast, fruit and clove.  Showering over your head."  The experience is such that, "you can't help but smile when it drifts past your nose."  You take another sip.  "The aroma so incredibly fine.  Complex fruit, hops, yeast and more clove.  A rich mouthfeel and a slightly sweet finish."

That is quite the description for a Belgian Tripel.  I could just see a bunch of Trappist Monks at Westmalle (where the style is said to have gained its popularity), strolling around the brewery wearing their tie-died Rassaphones, Stavrophores, and even Great Schemas.  All looking up in the Belgian sky while those spicy aromatic compounds rain down on their hooded heads.   

The Belgian Tripel style has its traditional characteristics. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, a tripel should be deep yellow or deep gold, with aromatic fruity esters of pepper, cloves, and citrus or banana.  Those phenols find themselves in the taste of the tripel beer.  a combination of spicy, fruity, and alcohol notes.  The spice comes from pepper notes, the fruit comes from the banana or citrus elements, and the alcohol comes from, well the ABV, which can fall within the range of 7.5% to 9.5%.

The brewers at Fat Head's have created a Belgian-style Tripel that fits neatly within the BJCP guidelines and worthy of an award.  The Head Trip pours a mellow golden color, with a thin foam that sits like lazy clouds on a warm summer day.   The aroma of this beer speaks of malt, with some banana, clove and yeast.  As for the taste,  with a thin level of foam. Aromas of malt, some banana and clove, yeast.  Those phenols find themselves in the taste of the Head Trip. Clove, banana gum, allspice.

This beer is not available where I live, because Fat Head's does not distribute in my area.  However, if you happen to be in the Cleveland, Ohio area, or in another area where you see it sitting on the shelves, this beer is definitely worth a try.

ENJOY!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Oaxacan-Style Grilled Sirloin

I am a very big fan of Steve Raichlen, who is the author of the Barbecue Bible and host of shows such as Primal Grill.   Maybe it is his straightforward presentation of recipes that are easy to understand and replicate.  Maybe it is the line of grills and smokers that are in the background of his shows.  Maybe it is understanding that, during the process of  following recipes, it is okay to make mistakes.  After all, Steve Raichlen has said, "there's no such thing as a mistake in a kitchen, just a new recipe waiting to be discovered.

In the end, I think it is the undeniable fact that Steve Raichlen is synonymous with grilling and barbecue, both of which are among my favorite cooking methods.  Many of his recipes have inspired my cooking, especially when it  comes to my Steak Night meals or Savage Bolek BBQ recipes.  (The Baltimore Pit Beef recipe, which is Steve Raichlen's take on the quintessential Maryland "BBQ" ranks as one of the most popular recipes on this blog.)

One particular recipe, Oaxacan-Style Grilled Sirloin, grabbed my attention and did not let go.  The reference to Oaxacan cuisine was one reason, because I am intrigued by regional Mexican cooking.   For examples, you can check out my Pollo a las Brassas, which is based on street food from Sinaloa, or my Mole Verde Zacatecano, which is based on the green sauce from Zacatecas.

Raichlen's recipe is a nod to a under-appreciated fact about Oaxacan cuisine.  While Oaxaca may be known as the land of the seven moles, simply grilled meats wrapped in tortillas -- carne asado -- are as quintessentially Oaxacan as any of those seven sauces. Luke Pyerson, of the Boston Globe, recounted the experience of searching out carne asado at the Mercado Noviembre 20, a market locate just off the the zocalo or main square.  He described following the scent of grilled meat to the vendors, who served it in corn tortillas along with roasted onions and peppers, guacamole, and anything you purchased from the vegetable vendors at the market.  

If you want to transform the whole experience from print to video, I would assume it looked something like this: 


(Note: the first two and a half minutes are about the market, the rest of the video is about Oaxacan crafts and folk art, which is interesting too.)  After reading the article and watching the video, I wished there was an alley of smoked meats in my neighborhood.  Not just for the carne asado, but also the music.  

So, with a very hungry stomach, I made Steven Raichlen's Oaxacan-Style Grilled Sirloin.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed.  It was the best I could do without standing in the middle of the Mercado 20 Noviembre.  Given the ease of the recipe, as well as how tasty the results are, this recipe is going to be added to my quickly growing "go-to" recipes.   It is definitely a great summer recipe and, quite frankly, it is also a recipe that is worth standing in 3-4 inches of snow during the winter time just to grill the meat.


OAXACAN-STYLE GRILLED SIRLOIN
Recipe from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible
Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 bunches scallions, white and green parts trimmed
8 chiles de agua, cubanelle peppers, jalapeno peppers or poblano peppers
Coarse salt
2 pounds of boneless sirloin steak, cut into broad sheets 1/4 inch thick
16 corn or flour tortillas, or more as needed
4 limes, cut into wedges
Guacamole
Salsa

Directions:
1.  Prepare the grill.  Preheat the grill to high heat.

2.  Prepare the vegetables.  If using charcoal, toss the scallions and peppers right on the coals.  If using gas, arrange the scallions and peppers on the hot grate.  Cook, turning with tongs, until nicely charred and tender, about 5 minutes.  

3.  Continue preparing the vegetables.  Transfer the grilled scallions to a serving plate and set aside until ready to serve.  Scrape the charred skins off the peppers with a sharp night (don't worry about removing every last bit.  Cut the peppers in half and scrape out the seeds.  Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

4.  Grill the steak.  When ready to grill the beef, brush and oil the grate.  Generously salt the beef and place it on the hot grate.  Grill, turning with tongs, 1 to 4 minutes per side for well done (the way Oaxacans like their beef cooked).  While you are at it, arrange the tortillas, a few at a time, on the grill for a few seconds to ehat them, then keep them warm in a cloth lined basket.  Transfer the grilled beef to a cutting board and cut it into thin strips or 1/2 inch dice.  

5.  Serve.  Set out the bowls of lime wedges, guacamole and salsa, along with the scallions and peppers.  To eat, place a few pieces of beef on the tortilla.  Place a grilled scallion and half pepper on top.  Top with spoonfuls of guacamole and salsa, and a squeeze of lime juice.  Roll the whole thing up and eat it.

ENJOY!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Bunkhouse at Waredaca

One of the highlights of the craft beer scene in the Free State is the growth of "farm-to-brewery" movement.  I've written about this movement in a past blog post.  The movement grew out of a bill passed by the Maryland legislature that allows farms to brew beer on their premises and sell the beer on premises provided that the beer is brewed with ingredients grown on the farm.   Farmers began to grow hops on their farms, and, with those vines, came a host of new brewers, including Waredaca Brewing Company.

Waredaca has been known more for its horse farm.  The farm consists of about 220 acres of pastures, hills and woodland.  The farm also is the home of about 80 horses.  The drive up to the brewery takes one through those pastures where the horses roam to the brewery, which sits near a small pond or lake, and, which is near where the hop vines grow.  Once at the taproom, customers can try seven or eight beers, such as the Bunkhouse. 

The Bunkhouse is  Waredaca's saison or farmhouse ale.  The Beer Judge Certification Program defines the style as a pale, moderately bitter and moderately strength Belgian ale with a very dry finish.    The aroma and taste of a saison typically has a low fruit or spice, opening the way to the malt and the hops providing the character of the beer. 

To comply with the Maryland law, Waredaca brews the Bunkhouse with hops grown on the farm.  The brewers describe the beer as having an "expressive yeast" with a "super dry finish."  The beer pours a pale gold color, with a decent foam from the carbonation.  As the foam recedes, the combination of malts and hops provide a balanced aroma.  The aroma suggests a very drinkable beer, which is the case.   The Waredaca hops shine through in both the aroma and the taste.  The hops provide a moderate, piney bitterness that one would expect from a saison.  That bitterness is smoothed out by the malts, with a dry finish.  The beer has an ABV of 5.0%, which is standard for a saison.

The Bunkhouse is available at the Waredaca tap room, where you could get a pint for about $6.00 and sit out on the grounds.   You can do what we did and buy a crowler to take home and enjoy while the sun sets.

ENJOY!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Carolina Chicken Bog

The story of chicken bog begins during the 1800s in Horry County, South Carolina. According to CraveFW, who recounted passages from a book on Southern barbecue written by Eric Spigner, Captain Henry Buck owned a plantation along the Wacamaw River, not too far from the Pee Dee River.  Buck owned 100 individuals as slaves; and, according to the accounts, he compensated these people for their work.  Buck also allowed these individuals to plant their own vegetables and raise their own livestock.  With that livestock, the made their own sausage, ham and bacon in a building that they used as a smokehouse. 

Two of the slaves were said to be extraordinary cooks.  These slaves -- Gibby and Pody -- boiled chicken, sausage and spices in a cast iron pot.  After the chicken was done, the cooks removed the meat and separated it from the bones.  They added rice to the pot.  Once the rice was done, the shredded chicken was returned to the pot.  The result was a delicious, moist dish of chicken bog. 

A classic South Carolina chicken bog is a simple dish to make.  The principal ingredients can largely be counted on one hand: chicken, smoked sausage, rice, salt and pepper.  With that handful, cooks have created a wide variety of chicken bog recipes.  I chose one from Cooks Country, which relies upon the main ingredients and makes a few adjustments. For example, the recipe calls for chicken thighs, which have more flavor and hold up to cooking better than chicken breasts.  The recipe also calls for the use of onion and garlic, along with chicken broth, which helps to develop a deeper, more flavorful cooking broth.  That depth is a good thing because, depending upon the smoked sausage you use, the smoke can often rival, if not overpower the chicken.

Other bog recipes use additional ingredients, such as fresh herbs, bell peppers and other vegetables. Some recipes go further, calling for the cook to add gizzards, cockscombs and chicken feet to the pot. For this effort, however, I think simpler is better (and tastier) in this case.  

After all, simplicity is the key.  That is how the Gibby and Pody would have made it for their families back on that plantation.  I'll save the gizzards, cockscombs and chicken feet for the next time. 


CAROLINA CHICKEN BOG
Recipe from Cooks Country Eats Local, pp. 98-99
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
6 (5 to 7 ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces smoked kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 onion chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups long grain white rice

Directions:
1.  Brown the chicken.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking.  Cook chicken, skin side down, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer chicken to plate.  Discard skin.

2.  Continue cooking.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot and return to medium heat.  Add sausage and onion and cook until onion is translucent and sausage begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add broth, chicken, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is tender about 30  minutes. 

3.  Cook the rice.  Remove chicken from pot and set aside.  Stir rice into pot, cover and continue to cook over low heat until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Shred chicken into bite size pieces, discard bones.  Gently fold shredded chicken into rice mixture.  Remove from heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

O.T.W.O.A.

The message is clear on the can: "[a]nd so it was written ... According to the Mayan and Hopi Calendars, the 'transition from one world age to another' will happen on December 21, 2012."  Well, that was over four years ago and, if I am not mistaken, I am currently typing this blog post.  So much for the transition that the Mayans and Hopi predicted.  

Nevertheless, the brewers at DC Brau paid homage to that single date with Imperial India Pale Ale called On the Wings of Armageddon or O.T.W.O.A.   It is a single hop Imperial IPA brewed with Falconers Flight hops.  These hops are known for floral, citrus and tropical fruit elements, with an emphasis on lemon and grapefruit flavors. These characteristics of this hop varietal are matched with Pale, Cara-60, and CaraPils malts and malted wheat.  This blend of a single hop with these malts provide a very hop-forward beer that has a good malt backbone.  

The O.T.W.O.A. pours a hazy, orange color.  The haze of the beer is capped by a light foam, which dissolves into thin strings resembling a galaxy.  (The Mayans and Hopi always looked to the stars.)  The aromatic elements highlight the features of the Falconers Flight hops, particularly the citrus notes.  The brewers also note there are elements of white grapes, grapefruit, light bread and biscuit notes.  I get the grapefruit (as that is citrus), as well as the bread and biscuit notes from the malts.  As with any Imperial IPA, the taste of this beer is hop-centric.  There is a significant lemon and grapefruit presence, but some piney notes. The ABV of 9.2% is present with some subtle boozy tones, but it is not overwhelming.  Just a reminder that this is a beer to be sipped and enjoyed slowly.  

I am a big fan of DC Brau beers.  After all, I have reviewed five of them in the past.  I have to say that, of all the DC Brau beers that I have tried, On the Wings of Armageddon is the best beer that the brewers make.  It is so good that it is worth the $14.99 to $19.99 that you have to pay for a six pack. 

ENJOY!

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!
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