Thursday, June 21, 2018


I have to admit that I have never heard of a Quadrupel IPA.  But, I guess that it was only a matter of time.  Just like the Belgians have their dubbel, tripel and quadrupel (which is probably my favorite styles of beers), it seems that brewers have created their own series of hoppy beers.  At the start of the series, there is the pale ale (or, perhaps due to recent trends, the session pale ale).    Then there is the double IPA.  And, then there is the triple IPA (or, what is often referred to as the Imperial IPA).

And, now, there is the Quadrupel IPA.  I recently had the opportunity to try Hubris from Platform Beer Company.  Having opened in 2014, Platform is one of a series of new brewers who have opened in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.  I have tried some of Platform's beers in the past, like the Citra IPA and the New Merchant White IPA.  Both were very good beers. My father introduced me to the Hubris, the Quadrupel IPA from Platform Beer Company.

The brewers produced the Hubris using Maris Otter, Caramalt, Acudaulated and Carawheat malts, along with Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Amarillo hops.  The brewers used a San Diego Super Yeast and an adjunct of corn sugar.  The result is a hoppy and boozy beer, with an ABV of 12%.

The Hubris pours a dark orange, hovering between a tiger orange or a rust orange depending upon the light.  As the beer is poured into the glass, a thin, light cirrus cloud like foam develops on top of the beer.  The foam slowly gives way, exposing the liquid and its aromatic elements of citrus and floral notes.  

The citrus aromas foreshadow the interesting flavors of this beer. It is full of a range of fruits, such as the citrus fruits one would expect from a very hoppy pale ale.  Grapefruits and tropical fruits.  But, there is  also notes of apricots and peaches in the beer, which one does not find very often in an IPA, double IPA, or triple IPA.  I guess that, just as there are differences in the taste of a Belgian   tripel and a Belgian quadrupel, there are differences between a triple IPA (or Imperial IPA) and a qudrupel IPA.  One other very interesting note is that there was a sweetness in the Hubris (perhaps due to the peach and apricot notes), which was present throughout the beer, especially in the finish.  

The Hubris is part of Platform Beer's small batch IPA series.  I hope that they brew this beer again, because it is definitely worth the price of $9.99 or $10.99 for a six pack.  If the brewers produce this beer again and you find it on the shelf of your local grocery store (in Ohio), the Hubris is worth a try if you like hoppy pale ales with an alcohol punch.  Until next time ...


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Blackened Wahoo

As the story goes, European explorers who reached the Hawaiian islands noted the abundance of a steel blue, slender fish whose quick speed allowed it to chase down fish and squid.  Once the explorers reached the island, they asked the natives for the name.  "Oahu."  The European explorers replied, "wahoo?"  Needless to say, the island retained its name of Oahu, while the "wahoo" moniker was saved for that abundant fish that swam the nearby waters.

The story is probably just fiction.  Let's turn to a few facts.  First, the wahoo is a member of the scombridae, a family of fish that include mackerels, tunas and bonito.  Of all of those fish, the wahoo is probably the closest relative to the king mackerel.  Second, the wahoo is caught using longline and handlines, as well as hook and line, methods.  These are the methods typically used to catch tuna, marlin and swordfish. Once caught, the average wahoo weighs between 8 to 30 pounds, although some could be as large as 100 pounds.  

I have never had the opportunity to fish for wahoo, as I have not yet had the opportunity to fish out on the ocean.  Nevertheless, I have been able to "hunt" for the fish at the counter of the local seafood market.  I found some fresh wahoo fillets at the local market during our vacation.  I was eager to get the fish and cook with it, because it is extremely difficult to find it where I live.  So, I bought a couple of fillets to make a dish for my beautiful Angel and my inlaws. The only question was what recipe to make with those fillets.  

As one would expect, wahoo can be cooked much in the way one would cook tuna or swordfish.  The fillets have a mild texture, with large, circular flakes, and much less of a blood line than their other relatives.  Wahoo can be cooked using any of the typical methods: baking, broiling, frying, grilling, poaching or sauteing.  I decided to make a blackened wahoo.  I separated out the large round flakes so that everyone had one large round of blackened fish and then blackened the remaining pieces to served along the round.  The blackening spice is one of my traditional go-to mixes, which worked very well with this fish.  The texture of the fish stood up to the high heat of the pan and kept its form for service.  Overall, this was a great first recipe with wahoo.  

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

1 pound of wahoo steaks (2 steaks, bloodline removed)
1 tablespoon ground garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground onion powder
1 tablespoon ground paprika powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon dried chipotle chile powder
Few dashes of ground cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons olive oil

1.  Prepare the blackened spice mix.  Combine the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika powder, smoked paprika powder, thyme, chile powders, cumin powder and salt.

2. Prepare the wahoo steaks.  Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil to a bowl.  Add the wahoo and toss gently to coat.  Add the blacked spice mix until all sides of the steaks are coated.

3.  Cook the wahoo steaks.  Heat a pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat until the oil is almost smoking.  Add the wahoo steaks and sear the steaks on every side, about 2 minutes per side.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

120 Minutes

Every beer has a story.... That is how Dogfish Head Ales introduces the 120 Minute IPA, the self-described "Holy Grail for hopheads."  The beer is "continuously hopped," according to the brewers, "with a copious amount of high-alpha American hops throughout the boil and whirlpool," and, if that was not enough, "then dry-hopped with another pallet of hops."  It is no wonder that this beer is marketed toward "hopheads."

However, in my humble opinion, the most prominent character of the 120 Minute IPA, is not the intense hoppiness of the beer.  To be sure, it is hoppy.  But, the 120 Minute IPA is more boozy to me than it is hoppy.  A very hoppy beer to me is something like Fat Head's Imperial IPA, Hop JuJu.  That beer is like being hit in the head with hop punch.  The heavy hop presence in that beer masks the alcohol content in the beer.  But, with the 120 Minute IPA, there is no avoiding the booziness of that beer.  The 15% to 20% ABV is the first and foremost element of the beer that greets the drinker and it does so with every sip.  Nevertheless, the 120 Minute is one of my favorite beers.

The Imperial IPA pours a dark, hazy orange-copper color. The beer exudes a drunken hop aroma, with a lot of that booziness making its way to one's olfactory senses. This is a welcomed greeting, reminding a person that this is a beer to be sipped and savored.  

The 120 Minute IPA is one of the smoothest beers that I have ever had.  It is perhaps the closest example of what a cordial would be in beer form.  There  is some hop bitterness in the background, which reminds you of the fact that ti is an Imperial Pale Ale.  That bitterness is joined by hints of dark fruit, which highlight the sweetness in the alcohol.  

The brewers suggest that, if you find some 120 Minute IPA, grab a few bottles. I second that suggestion, because I ranks this beer among my favorites.  Don't mind the price tag.  It is totally worth it. 


Monday, June 4, 2018

Thisri Kooman (Mussels in Coconut-Chile Sauce)

I have wanted to make a mussel curry for a long time ... a very long time.  Getting the mussels is usually not a problem, because they are now available in many grocery stores.  The challenge usually is making sure you have a good bag of mussels, because the shellfish has a short shelf life.  I can remember the days when I worked at a seafood restaurant having to pick out dead mussels form the bag at the start of the shift.  When purchasing a bag of mussels, you should make sure that the mussels are closed or, if they are open, tap them a couple of times to see if they close.  If they don't close and/or if there are a lot of mussels that are open, then I would pass on the bag and look for another one. 

For this recipe, I found a couple of bags of mussels at a local Asian grocery store.  However, I always try to look for the origin of the mussels.  That information is very important, because there can often be issues with the shellfish.  Just last month, mussels collected from around Puget Sound tested positive for opiods.  Last year, mussels from Maine were found to have a neurotoxin produced by phytoplankton.  The Asian grocery store had mussles from Maine and they were in generally good shape.  The only issue were the few limpids that were also in the bags of mussels.  I did not want the limpids; after all, the goal was to make a mussel curry. 

The next step is to find the recipe for a mussel curry. I found one for Thisri Kooman, which is mussels in a coconut chile sauce.  The thing about mussels -- and, really, about any shellfish -- is that they each have a unique flavor that you don't want to lose in the jumble of other ingredients.  The combination of coconut and chiles provides a good balance of sweet and heat that allows the flavor of the mussels to take center stage.  

This is a dish where I just pile them high and get right to eating.  The only downside to this recipe is that, by the time I finish the dish, I always want more.  Fortunately, this recipe is easy to make.  I just have to get back to the grocery store.

Recipe from Raghaven Iyer, 660 Curries (pg. 282) 
Serves 4

5 pounds of mussels, in the shells
1 cup shredded fresh coconut or 
     1/2 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut, reconstituted
1/2 up firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or sea salt
2 large cloves garlic
2 fresh green Thai, cayenne or serrano chiles, stems removed

1.  Prepare the mussels.  Pile the mussels in a large bowl.  Quickly go through them and discard any broken or cracked shells.  Scrub each mussel (although the ones available at any supermarket are actually quite clean) and remove the beards (2 or 3 strands dangling from one end of the shell).  Tap the shell if it is slightly ajar.  If it closes shut, the mussel is alive and usable.  If it does not shut, discard it, since it means that this is dead.  Plunk the prepared mussels into a colander and give them a good rinse. 

2.  Prepare the puree.  Pour 1 cup of water into a blender and add the coconut, cilantro, salt, garlic and chiles.  Blend, scraping the inside the jar as needed to form a puree.

3.  Cook the mussels.  Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat.  Add the mussels and cover the pot.  Cook, shaking the pot occasionally so they cook evenly, until they all open up, off-white meat, about 5 minutes.  Discard any mussels that remain shut.

4.  Continue the dish.  Add the pureed mixture to the stockpot and stir into the mussel-flavored broth, which will now turn green.  Ladle some of the broth over the mussels to baste them a bit as you cook, uncovered, until the broth has warmed up, 1 to 2 minutes.  Pour the mussel and broth into a large serving bowl and serve. 


Friday, June 1, 2018

Flank Steak Bulgogi

I know,  I know.  Bulgogi is not supposed to be made with flank steak. It should be thin slices of ribeye.  Using flank steak in bulgogi is like the foodie thing to do ... take something traditional and try to do something different with it.  But, in my defense, my beautiful Angel bought me five pounds of flank steak and I had to do something with it.  Something different.  Something bulgogi.

I am not going to get into the history of bulgogi, because that is for another post (like one in which I actually use thin slices of ribeye).  What I will say is that I was looking to make a creative dish, because I intended to use some (and eventually used all) of the flank steak for a dinner for my parents.  I wanted a dish that they would remember.

But, I have to admit, it was not just about making a great meal for my parents.  I really wanted to try bulgogi.  I never have had it (and, despite my effort, I will say I still have never had it).  A nice bulgogi dinner at a Korean BBQ joint is definitely on my to-do list.  And it has been on that list for a very, very, very long time.

So, with five to six pounds of flank steak (which, if you didn't know, is about 1/3 of the flank steak from your average cow), I decided to do a hackneyed idiom and kill two birds with one stone: satisfy my desire to try bulgogi and make a memorable meal for my parents. I scoured the internet for a bulgogi recipe that utilizes flank steak and, surprise, there were a few.  I picked the one that I liked the most, which was from the blog or website of Korean Bapsang, "a Korean Mom's Home Cooking."   The interesting twist to this recipe is the use of pineapple juice.  That is an ingredient that I would not have expected with South Korean cuisine.  Pineapples, not sea pineapples (that is a completely different post for probably a different blog - cue, Andrew Zimmern).   But, I digress ...

The rationale behind using the pineapple juice is to tenderize the flank steak.  As it turns out, pineapple contains an enzyme bromelain, which is used to tenderize meat.  That enzyme is found in fresh pineapple, but not canned pineapple because the canning process damages and destroys the enzyme.  Don't bottle with powdered pineapple (does that actually exist?) or bottled pineapple juice. The recipe calls for a can of pineapple, which runs counter to what I just wrote.  But, if you can get an actual pineapple, and you can juice the hell out of it, use that juice to marinate the beef.

In the end, this is a great recipe if you want a quick way to make bulgogi without adhering to the traditional expectations of the dish and you want to cut a few corners in order to feed your family now rather than in several hours.  It is definitely worth it.

Recipe from Korean Babsang
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the steak):
1 flank steak (about 1.5 to 2 pounds)
2 scallions

Ingredients (for the marinade):
5 to 6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine (or mirin)
4 tablespoons juice from a can of pineapple
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 to 1.5 teaspoons finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Prepare the meat.  Slice the meat (about 1/3 to 1/4 inch thick) against the grain at a steep angle.  Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Add the meat and mix well until evenly coated.   Marinate for at least 1 hour. 

2.  Cook the meat.  Heat a grill pan over high heat and add a few slices.  Lower the heat as necessary.  The marinade may burn if the heat is too high.  Cook until the meat is is cooked through and slightly caramelized, one or two minutes per side. 

3.  Finish the dish.  Serve the meat with any of the accompaniments associated with bulgogi.  In this case, I served it with thinly sliced red onions, scallions and carrots, with lettuce to serve as a wrap.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Scallops Jalfrezi

Jalfrezi could be called the "leftover curry."  During the time of the British Raj, cookbooks included recipes for jalfrezi that consisted of sauteing or frying pieces of leftover meat or fish with onions and spices to produce a thick sauce.  The dish became very popular amongst the British in India during that time.  And, not unexpectedly, its popularity was exported back to the United Kingdom, where jalfrezi dishes are some of the most well liked dishes on the menu of Indian restaurants across the British Isles.

Prior to this recipe, I had never eaten a jalfrezi of any kind.  The most popular Indian recipe in the Chef Bolek household (or at least according to the Chef Bolek stomach) would be a Vindaloo or a Rogan Josh.  (It was very difficult to write that last sentence because, truth be told, I love just about all Indian food, except when it is based on ingredients that I don't like, such as spinach.) 

I came across a jalfrezi recipe in a cookbook when I was looking for a scallop recipe.  This recipe for Scallops Jalfrezi satisfied my objective for finding a dish incorporating scallops and, as a bonus, went straight to my love of Indian food.  So,  I decided to make the dish.  The only thing that was different is the use of the rice vermicelli, but that is only because I had some lying around that had to be used.  It seems only appropriate for a dish that was designed to use leftovers. 

Recipe from 660 Curries, pg. 281
(Serves 6)

Ingredients (for the curry):
1 pound of large sea scallops
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
2 teaspoons Balti masala (see below)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium size green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and
     cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1 medium sized tomato, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

Ingredients (for the Balti masala):
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds from black pods
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
3 fresh or dried bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks (each 3 inches long), broken into smaller pieces
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Make the Balti masala.  Preheat a small skillet over medium high heat.  Add the whole spices, reserving the cayenne and nutmeg) and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds until the fennel, coriander and cumin turn reddish brown, the mustard, cloves and cardamom turn black, the cinnamon and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly, and the mixture is highly fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.  The nigella will not turn color.  Immediately remove from the heat and transfer the spices to a plate to cool.  Once they are cooled, place the spices in a spice grinder and grind until the texture is like ground black pepper.

2.  Marinate the scallops.  Combine the scallops, ginger paste, garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of the masala and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium size bowl.  Toss to coat.  Refrigerate, covered, for about 30 minutes or as long as overnight to allow the flavors to mingle. 

3.  Saute the scallops.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the scallops, marinade and all, arranging them in a single layer, and sear them on their two broad sides until light brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer them to a plate.  

4.  Saute the vegetables.  Add the onion and bell pepper to the same skillet and cook until the vegetables start to turn light brown around their edges, about 5 to 8 minutes.

5.  Add the tomato sauce.  Add the tomato sauce and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until there is a light sheen of oil on the surface of the sauce, about 2 to 4 minutes. 

6.  Finish the dish.  Add the seared scallops (including any liquid) pooled on the plate, the tomato, cilantro and remaining 1 teaspoon of Balti masala.  Cover the skillet and simmer, basting the scallops with the sauce but not stirring too often, until the scallops are firm to the touch but not rubbery, 3 to 5 minutes.  Then serve. 


Monday, May 21, 2018

Brookeville Beer Farm's Quadrupel

Hunter S. Thompson once said, "There is an ancient Celtic axiom that 'good people drink good beer.'"  If that axiom is true, then the Belgians must be really good people, because quadrupels -- a style created by trappist brewers in Belgium -- are really good beers.  In fact, the quadrupel is probably my favorite style of beer.  That is saying a lot, because I like a lot of different styles.

A farm-to-brewery in rural Montgomery County -- the Brookeville Beer Farm --  has produced a very good quadrupel.  I came across this beer by accident.  I was sitting at a local restaurant, which had a tap for some local breweries like Brookeville and Waredaca Brewing.  When the waitress stated that the Brookville beer was a quadrupel.  I ordered one.  The beer was so good that I decided to make a trip out to the brewery to get a growler of the quadrupel.  I brought the beer home to enjoy and to do a blog post, although it took a very long time for me to get around to writing that post.  But, here it is ...

The Brookeville Beer Farm's Quadrupel pours a nice brown color, with some amber hues that show through depending upon the light.  As it is poured into the glass, a thin light foam develops on the surface of the beer, akin to cirrus or cirrocumulus clouds.  The aromatic elements of the beer rise through those foam clouds to reveal a malty, somewhat bready nose to the beer.

The aroma was just the introduction. The taste elements of the beer include banana, bubblegum and a little clove.  There was also some nutmeg or allspice that could be detected, which provided some further complexity to the quadrupel beer.  The mouthfeel of this beer is particularly noteworthy.  It is very smooth, with a slight sweetness that introduces a considerable booziness.  That booziness seems greater than the ABV, which is 9.2% (a bit on the low end for quadrupels).  Thus, this beer stands tall with higher powered quadrupels.

The Brookeville Beer Farm's Quadrupel stands as probably the best beer that I have had from the brewery.  I am not just saying that because it is a quadrupel; rather, I am saying that because it is the beer that best fits the style with respect to color, aroma and taste.  Although it is not currently on the taps at the brewery, I hope it comes back soon.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

North Carolina Steamed Clams

Lately, it seems like it has been all about the oyster.  Everyone is talking about the different types of oysters out there, usually while eating a dozen oysters at a raw bar.  Kumamotos, Blue Points, Chincoteagues.   The statement that that oysters are in vogue could be taken both figuratively, and, literally.  After all, there recently was an article about oysters from Canada's Prince Edward Island on the Vogue website.   But, as oysters enjoy their moment in the spotlight, one needs to remember that they are not the only shellfish that can produce a tasty dish.

There is the clam.  It can provide just as much briny flavor as an oyster when eaten raw.  When I worked in the kitchen of a seafood restaurant, I used to shuck both clams and oysters.  I found myself enjoying the taste and texture of clams. However, here is what separates clams from oysters: in my humble opinion, a bowl of steamed clams far surpasses just about anything you can do with oysters.  I enjoy steamed clams more than I do oysters Rockefeller.  I will eat a bowl of those clams with much more abandon than I will a plate of fried oysters.  The only preparation of oysters (apart from raw oysters) than can out perform a bowl of steamed clams, again in my humble opinion, is a properly prepared oyster po-boy.  And not everyone can prepare a proper po-boy.

As I stood at a seafood market with a bag of middleneck clams in my hand, I got to wondering what  it takes to bring that bag of clams to a consumer.   This is where the Internet can actually be a good thing.  It can connect people like me -- who have an interest in how clams are cultivated -- with those who want to share their day-to-day experience harvesting those clams.  Some of those who fall in the latter category, and who also happen to work at the University of Maine, have even established their own "Clam Cam." The website contains a wide range of videos showing hardworking individuals harvesting clams in Maine (work that I think is probably the same for individuals harvesting clams in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina).  Needless to say, it involves a lot of digging in the tidal sand or mud flats to pry the bivalves loose from their hiding spots.   (Commercial clammers use mechanical dredging offshore, but that is far less interesting to me with the exception of the possible environmental impact of tearing up the seabed, but that is a subject for a future post.)

With all of this in mind, I turn to the recipe.  I had in my mind of a curry recipe, but, that recipe was for mussels.  I had neither mussels nor other important ingredients for that curry, such as turmeric or lemongrass. So, I began looking for an alternative that would work with clams.  I found a recipe for Littleneck Clams Steamed in Vinho Verde.  It is a great recipe from Abraham Conlon, the chef at Fat Rice in Chicago.  Chef Conlon used Vinho Verde, which is a great white style of Portuguese wine.  The problem is that I did not have bottle of that wine handy.  However, I was in the Outer Banks and I bought a bottle of the Three White Wine from the Childress Vineyards.  The wine is a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio.  The description of that wine got my attention: grapefruit and lemongrass with an almond finish.  I thought these taste elements would work well with this recipe.  Hence, the substitution of the North Carolina wine turned the recipe into North Carolina Steamed Clams.

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4

100 littleneck or middleneck clams
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh long hot red chiles, stemmed, seeded 
     and thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup of white wine from North Carolina
1/3 cup minced garlic
1 cup of minced cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1.  Prepare the base.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering.  Add the garlic and chiles and cook over high heat, stirring until fragrant and the garlic is just starting to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the clams and wine.  Cover and steam until the clams just open, about 8 minutes.  Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a baking sheet, discard any that done open.

2.  Finish the sauce.  Boil the cooking liquid over high heat until reduced by half, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the minced cilantro and lemon juice.  Add the clams and season lightly with salt and white pepper.   Toss well.  Transfer to a deep platter and serve with lemon wedges.  


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sriracha Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters

Okay, so the glassware doesn't work.  I find that one of the biggest problem with rental properties is the lack of adequate glassware.  That problem became very obvious when I decided to make oyster shooters while on vacation.  My beautiful family and I rented a place in the Outer Banks, right on the shore.   It was the perfect location.  A couple of miles from my favorite local seafood source.  (That is another blog post.)  A couple of blocks from a great little seafood market, the Austin Fish Company

I paid a visit to that market with my father-in-law, and, we walked away with 100 medium neck clams (still another blog post), and a pint of oysters.  The oysters came from Virginia, which was a little of a surprise.  After a couple long walks on the beach, I came across a lot of oyster shells, including some very large ones.  Still, Virginia is close enough to be local for me.  With oysters in hand, we headed back to the rental house to prepare the oyster shooters.  

As for the particular type of shooter, I had a couple things to work with ... Bloody Mary mix and Sriracha.  Combine those two ingredients together and one gets Sriracha Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters.  However, as I noted before, the rental house did not have any shot glasses.  The rental house was a block from a Brew-Thru, which had shot glasses.  Those shot glasses are great for vodka by itself, but they they didn't seem like good ones for an oyster shooter.  (In fact, they are not good oyster shot glasses. They were single shot glasses and you need at least a double shot glass to fit the oyster and the liquid.)  All I had left were round bottomed glasses, which are probably better suited for water or used as a tumbler glass for wine.  

All of this got me to thinking, what would make a good oyster shooter glass.  Clearly, an ordinary shot glass will not work.  I have my doubts that a double shot glass cold really work.   My three prior attempts at oyster shooters -- Oyster Shooters with Tomato, Limes and Chiles, Mexican Oyster Shooters and Andalusian Style Oyster Shooters -- have left me with one firm conclusion ... the best glassware for oyster shooters are the glasses you get from brewery taprooms after doing a tasting.  The glasses are usually hold about five ounces, which is good to hold one (or two) oysters plus the liquid.  All of the prior photos of oyster shooters have used glasses from breweries.  Maybe I just need to visit a few more taprooms that offer souvenir glasses for those who take a tour or order samples.  If I do it enough, maybe I'll eventually have enough glasses for a dozen oyster shooters.  To top it off, I'll come up with an oyster-beer shooter.  The circle will be complete.  

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves many

2 cups Bloody Mary mix
1 pint of oysters
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons of Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 bunch of scallions, white parts and green parts thinly sliced
Minced cilantro or celery leaves for garnish

Pour the Bloody Mary mix into a large bowl.  Mix in the lemon juice, lime juice, horseradish and Sriracha sauce.  Add the white portions of the scallions and mix.  Pour 2 tablespoons of the mix into a shooter glass, add 1 to 2 oysters, and garnish with the green parts of the scallions and cilantro (or celery).


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Trappistes Rochefort 10

It has been described as one of the five beers that will change one's life.  Craft beer aficionados who have a special place in their heart for Trappist beers would readily agree with that description.  The beer ... the 10.  The ultimate beer produced by the Trappist monks at the Abbaye St. Remy, near Rochefort, Belgium.

That the beer would have such a distinguished honor comes as no surprise.  Records show that those monks at Abbaye St. Remy have been brewing beer since at least 1595 and perhaps as far back as 1464, which was when Cistercian monks took over the monastery and abbey. 

After a few hundred years, the monks refined their brewing skills to three beers.  Each is represented by a number.  The 6.  The 8.  The 10.  Translated: the dubbel, the tripel and the quadrupel.  That is a very basic categorization of the three beers when put side-by-side with traditional Belgian beer styles.

Despite the long history of brewing at the Abbaye St. Remy, the monks have been brewing the 10 since the late 1940s or early 1950s.  The ingredients include what you would expect -- water, barley malt, hops and yeast -- but also candi sugar and coriander.  

The 10 pours a nice chestnut brown.  There is a slight foam that develops as the beer is poured, but that foam quickly recedes to the edge of the glass, exposing the full liquid to allow the aroma to greet the nose.  That aroma has a certain sweetness from it, such as boozy cherries or molasses, with a light clove note.  As with most beers, the aroma carries over to a certain extent with the taste of the beer.  However, the taste of the 10 is not so much as dark cherry and molasses, but more reminiscent of plums and figs.  There is a certain  je ne sais quoi aspect to the taste.  Perhaps a little banana or clove, which would be more expected from a tripel than a quadrupel.

This is a very, very good beer.  I now understand why most reviewers rank this beer as one of the best beers in the world.  I have had this beer cellared for so long that I forgot what I paid for it.  But, if you happen across a bottle in your local beer store, it is definitely worth it.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Red Snapper Stew

A while back, before Fat Tuesday, I happened to visit New Orleans, Louisiana for work.  My trip happened to coincide with Tabasco Week.  The week-long event featured "restaurant week."  Restaurants across The Big Easy featured special menus with dishes that included the eponymous hot sauce.  While my business trip allowed me to visit some of the notable New Orleans restaurants, like Gallatoire's and and Antoine's, I did not have a chance to try any of the  Tabasco week menus.  That missed opportunity got me to thinking once I returned home from that work trip.  

Mardi Gras was about a week away, and, I needed a recipe  to make a special dish for my beautiful Angel.  The Tabasco Week got me to thinking about a small Tabasco Cookbook that has been sitting on the bookshelf.  I pulled out the cookbook, paged through the recipes and came across a recipe for Red Snapper Stew.

This Red Snapper Stew recipe was just right, because, in the back of my mind, I was looking to makes something different for Mardi Gras.  I wanted to do something different than a gumbo, creole or etoufee. Don't get me wrong, I love all of those dishes.  But, I have made them before.  I wanted to make something new, and, perhaps, learn something along the way. 

Image from Pew Trusts
That something was not what I expected.  As it turns out, red snapper happens to be quite the controversial fish in the Gulf of Mexico.  Fishermen have been hauling in red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico since the 1840s, originally around Pensacola, Florida.  By the end of the century, fishermen and scientists began to notice that the stocks of red snapper were being depleted in the areas where they were fishing.  So, the fishermen moved to other parts of the Gulf. The stocks eventually depleted there as well.  Meanwhile, as shrimping increased in the Gulf, the shrimpers began to catch red snapper fry in the shrimp trawls.  The double whammy made itself present in the overall stock of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.  Simply put, red snapper were being overfished.   

As a result, the federal government imposed restrictions on the fishing of red snapper in federally controlled waters.  Those restrictions set the Red Snapper season for both recreational anglers and federally permitted for hire "components."  That season was only 3 days for the former but 42 days for the latter.  That 3 day season for recreational anglers is where the controversy began.  Where it went next is quite the story.

The man who tries to change the law by breaking it.
As it turns out, in 2017, the Commerce Department's Director of Policy and Strategic Planning -- Earl Comstock -- advised the Secretary of the Commerce Department -- Wilbur Ross -- that the latter should extend the red snapper season for recreational anglers by thirty-nine days.  The new, forty-two day fishing season would, in Director Comstock's opinion, result in overfishing of red snapper and maybe even a lawsuit.  But all of that would be okay, at least in Comstock's view, because it would lead to a "significant achievement," namely, action by Congress to change the rules for the red snapper season.  In other words, Director Comstock counseled Secretary Ross to violate the law in order to get Congress to change that law.  And, in what could only happen in the current administration, Secretary Ross violated the law and extended the season, thereby prompting a lawsuit by two environmental groups.  Those groups wanted decisions to be made based upon sustainability and accountability, not just on fisherman having a longer period to snag a snapper.

Picture from Caller-Times
The lawsuit worked its way through the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to a settlement.  The settlement provided that the extension of the red snapper season was a "one-time action."  This suggests that recreational anglers will not see such a long season again, at least in federal waters.  Given the state of the red snapper stocks, hat may be a good thing. The preliminary estimates show that, after the extended season in 2017, recreational anglers exceeded the catch limits by fifty percent.  Additional extended seasons could simply further deplete the stocks further.  And, the proposed action by Congress could -- just like any action by Congress -- simply make things worse.

One would think that the settlement would allow red snapper to breathe easier.  However, the current administration has now proposed exempted fishing permits that would allow each of the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas) to regulate the state and federal seasons.  Only time will tell if that is a good idea (but I have my own opinion on that point).

Back to the recipe, I bought some red snapper from my local grocery store along with some fish for this stew.  In the end, the Red Snapper Stew is not what I would have expected. It was not very stew-like.  But, it was very delicious.  The spices worked extremely well together and -- with that Tabasco Sauce -- there was a good kick to the dish.  This is definitely a dish for Mardi Gras.

Recipe from Tabasco's Cookbook (pg. 70)
Serves 6

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/4 pound red snapper or white fish fillets
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron
2 16 ounce cans whole tomatoes, undrained, chopped
1 teaspoon Tabasco pepper sauce
3/4 pound okra, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
Cooked rice

1.  Prepare the fish.  In a medium bowl, mash together the garlic, parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, thyme, bay leaf, allspice and oil, forming a paste.  Spread the mixture on the fish and set aside. 

2.  Prepare the stew.  In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion, pepper and saffron and cook over 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and liquid, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the Tabasco sauce and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.   Add the fish, okra, and shrimp.  Simmer the stew, uncovered, for 6 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork  Serve hot over rice. 


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Inclusio Ultima

As the (translated) story goes, "as a man cub I used to play in the forest, catching the magic light of fireflies, letting it last as long as I could."  The storyteller (now brewer), adds, "I use the very same glass to imprison the spirit of hops.  This is the meaning of Inclusio Ultima, the capture at the eleventh hour, a spell designed to trap the scent to trap the scent of the hope ones at the top of their freshness by adding them directly to the bottle."  This story is not so much what caught the attention of my beautiful Angel and myself.  Instead, it was what was behind the story and the beer.

The Inclusio Ultima is an Italian-style pilsner produced by Klan Barbarrique, a brewer engaged in the Fermentations of the BarbarianThese fermentations involve barrel aging, the use of the champenoise style and/or the infusion of fruit or sour flavors. This explains the Inclusio Ultima, because it is not just any pilsner.  Rather, it is a pilsner produced using the full champagne method process.  The beer is bottle conditioned with hops, and, progressively turned upside down to have the sediments settle in the bottleneck.  Those sediments are disgorged by hand and the bottle is refilled with more beer.  The product is something that one does not see every day on the beer shelves. 

The Inclusio Ultima pours a hazy yellow with a thick, bready foam that resemble thick, floating cumulonimbus clouds.  There is no threat of storms or instability, as the liquid that rests beneath the foam is rather smooth and quiet.  Aromatic elements feature the malts, with the hops providing grass and flower components.  All of those components translate, as one would expect to the taste of the beer.  This pilsner features hops a little more than the typical pilsner.  However, those grass and citrus notes help to provide some complexity to the beer.   The hops also provide a slight bitterness to the finish.  

Overall, this is a good attempt at a pilsner from a country whose beer movement is not known for producing beers of this style.  The pilsner does not reach the levels of some of the best Czech pils beers, but, the use of the champagne method and hops provides a beer that is quintessentially Italian.  Something that shows creativity and sets itself apart.  The oversized bottle sells, if I recall correctly, $19.99 per bottle.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Panama

I continue my personal culinary challenge, Around the World in 80 Dishes.  The next challenge takes me to the República de Panamá.   The name, "Panama," is supposedly derived from an Amerindian word that means "an abundance of fish."  One can understand why the land may have been known for its fish and other seafood because its shorelines grace both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  This geography is reflected in Panamanian cuisine.  During my research, I came across a lot of recipes for ceviche.  The Panamanian version of ceviche usually involves marinating the fish in lime juice, celery and sometimes peppers.

While ceviche has its place on the Panamanian table, I wanted to know what else may be served during a typical Panamanian meal.  After all, Panama's agricultural sector involves the cultivation of many different tropical fruits, vegetables, and herbs, along with raising cattle, pigs and chicken.  This abundance is reflected in a variety of dishes.  Many of the dishes sound familiar, like tamales, ropa vieja and empanadas.  However, there are uniquely Panamanian dishes, such as carimañolas (ground yucca stuffed with ground meat) almojábana (corn-flour bread) and patacones (crispy chips of fried green plantains).

As the foregoing dishes suggests, Panamanian cuisine is influenced not only by the available ingredients (as are all cuisines), but also by an interesting mix of cultures and influences.  According to Every Culture, the largest demographic group in Panama are the interioranos, whose heritage is a mixture of Spanish and indigenous cultures.  There are also sizeable African and native communities, as well as populations of Italians, Greeks, Jews and Chinese.  All of these groups exert varying degrees of influence upon the dishes that are served in the restaurants and homes throughout Panama.


For my challenge, I decided to make Sancocho, a type of chicken soup or stew.  The name comes from the Spanish word Sancochar, which means to parboil.  The dish itself is derived from cocido, a meat stew that is popular in central and northern Spain.  For example, in Madrid, you can find cocido madrileño, a stew consisting of, among other things, pork belly, chorizo, beef flank, bola (meatballs), chickpeas, potatoes, carrots and turnips.  As the Spanish explored and colonized the New World, they brought dishes like cocido, which took root amongst the local populace and evolved over time into dishes like sancocho.

As one could expect, many Latin American countries have some version of sancocho.  There are sancocho recipes from cooks in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. However, in Panama, sancocho or Sancocho de Gallina is the national dish.  It first originated in the peninsular region of Azuero in Southern Panama.  The dish spread throughout Panama, with regional variations emerging.  For example, in the town of La Chorrera (which is located east of the Azuero region), cooks make sancocho with free range chicken, onions, garlic, chili peppers, oregano and ñame (yams).  There is also Sancocho chiricano, which is a specialty from the Chiriqui Province in Eastern Panama.  This version is the heartiest.  It includes all of the ingredients for the basic sancocho and squash, which provides a yellowish color to the stew. 

The ingredients for the traditional Panamanian sancocho are simple and straightforward.  A free range chicken, along with ñame (yams) for flavor and texture, and culantro for flavor and color.  There is a list of other ingredients -- such as yuca, corn, onions, garlic, oregano, ñampí (taro) and otoe (a root vegetable) -- may also be used to make the stew.  Once prepared, sancocho is served with white rice on the side, which could be mixed into the stew or simply eaten alongside it. 

This is the version that will serve as my challenge.  I used most of the basic ingredients -- a free range chicken, ñame, and culantro (although I substituted the closely related cilantro), along with onions, garlic, corn and oregano.

Recipe adapted from What's Cooking Panama
Serves 4 to 6

1 stewing hen (2-1/2 lb), cut in serving pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons culantro, chopped (cilantro can be substituted)
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
2 lbs. ñame, peeled and chunked (potatoes or yams can be substituted)
2 inch section of corn on the cob for each serving (optional)
2 quarts (8 cups) of water or chicken stock
salt to taste

1.  Stew the chicken.  Put chicken pieces into a stock pot with 2 quarts of water or chicken stock. Add onion, cilantro, oregano and green pepper. Cook for 1 hour. 

2.  Add the ñame (potatoes or yams).  Add salt to taste. Add ñame (yams) and cook until the ñame is tender. Add corn last 15 minutes of cooking. 

3.  Finish the dish.  Spoon the chicken and stew into bowls.  Serve with steamed rice on the side.

*     *     *

This culinary challenge represents the first one for Central America, which, until now, was the only region where I have not made a main course based upon a country's cuisine.  This challenge was relatively easy.  There were no complicated steps.  The most difficult part of this challenge is trying to culantro or ñame.  But, if you cannot find those ingredients, the substitutes of cilantro and potatoes or yams still help to make a very delicious soup.   Now, it is time to turn to the next challenge, and, only time will tell where it will take me.  Until then ...


Monday, April 16, 2018

Andalusian-Inspired Oyster Shooters

The overwhelming majority of oyster shooter recipes utilize alcohol as an ingredient.  Vodka, tequila, wine or beer.  Most recipes incorporate one, and, usually in a rather boring way.  Who wants a Bloody Mary Oyster Shooter? Not me.   How about a Lime Tequila Oyster Shooter?  Uh, no.   Maybe a Champagne oyster shooter?  Maybe; but, not today.  Rather, I wanted to make an oyster shooter; and, I did not want to have to use alcohol as an ingredient.

My search for an alcohol-free oyster shooter recipe, other than the ones that I have already made (see here and here), seemed hopeless.  That was until I found a recipe for a Spanish Style Oyster Shooter.  That recipe called for alcohol (namely, vodka), but it got me to thinking.  The principal ingredients of the liquid were the classic ingredients of a gazpacho.  The chilled tomato soup, with its Andalusian origins, got me to thinking that it would be the perfect medium for an alcohol-free oyster shooter.  

While a gazpacho is a very simple soup to make, I decided to make a few changes. First, traditional gazpacho uses bread to thicken the soup.  That is great when you are serving gazpacho as a soup; it is not so great when you are trying to make it more like a drink.  So, I dispensed with the bread, which helped to maintain a lighter consistency.  Second, I decided to add a 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper.  This ingredient helps to provide a small little kick to the shooter.  I think that I will use an entire jalapeno pepper when I make this recipe again, because that little kick got lost in the tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper.   Third, I used Willapoint Oysters, which are farm raised in the State of Washington.  These oysters are sold by the pint, which means that they are pre-shucked.  This saves a lot of preparation time.  In addition, Willapoint Oysters also tend to be larger than other oysters that are available to me, such as Blue Points, Chicoteagues and Salt Tanks.  This larger oysters make for a whopping double Oyster Shooters, as the picture below shows.

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

1 pint of shucked oysters or 24 oysters shucked with
     liqueur reserved
1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cucumber, skinned, seeded, diced
1/2 jalapeno, skinned, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 bunch of scallions, white parts and green parts
     thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Prepare the "gazpacho."  Place the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, white wine vinegar, and jalapeno in a blender.  Blend until the ingredients are liquified.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

2.  Prepare the oysters.  If you buy a pint of oysters, remove the oysters and strain the liquid through cheesecloth.  If you bought the oysters, shuck the oysters and reserve the liqueur.

3.  Finish the dish.  Stir the oyster liqueur into the "gazpacho."  Place 1 or 2 oysters in the bottom of a shot glass, and 1-2 tablespoons of the "gazpacho."  Garnish with the scallions.  Serve immediately.


Friday, April 13, 2018

'Bout Time

Character crafted on the beach.  Those are the words that adorn the can of the 'Bout Time Session-Style India Pale Ale produced by the Outer Banks Brewing Station.  Recently, my beautiful family took a vacation in the Outer Banks and, as we usually do when we are in the area, we stopped by the OBX Brewing Station.  I picked up a four pack of the beer for the vacation.  

The five words describing the beer -- "Session Style" India Pale Ale -- got me thinking about what exactly makes a "session style" beer.  Is it just the ability to drink it easily?  The 'Bout Time does drink very easily.  Is it the lower ABV?  This beer has an ABV of 5.8%, which is definitely on the low end of an India Pale Ale. 

The origin of session beers is generally thought to have began in Britain during the First World War.   Manufacturing employees, including those who worked in munitions plants, worked long hours, broken up by breaks or "sessions" of four hours.   The employees drank beer during those sessions; and, if they drank their usual ales, porters or stouts, that could create some problems when they returned to their jobs of producing ammunition, ordnance and the like.  So, brewers produced easy drinking beers with lower alcohol contents; and, thus, the "session" style was borne. One example is the Whitbread IPA had an ABV that decreased from 4.61% in 1914 to 3.30% in 1918.   The only issue with this example is that 4.61% for an India Pale Ale is fairly low, especially by today's standards.  It was also lower than the Whitbread Pale Ale, which had an ABV of 5.31% in 1914 and 3.83% in 1918.  So, an IPA had a lower ABV than a pale ale?  Now, that is truly a session beer. 

The brewers at the OBX Brewing Station produced the 'Bout Time IPA session ale with El Dorado and Azecca hops.  Their work and those hops produced a beer with a copper or light rust color, which one would expect of an India Pale Ale.  The session nature of this beer is evident in both the aroma and taste of this beer. The aromas are there, with some pine bitterness and grass coming out in the nose of the beer.  But, unlike a typical IPA, those elements are not loud.  Their smoothness is consistent with the nature of a session beer.  Likewise, the taste taste elements -- such as the grapefruit notes -- are well rounded and impart some bitterness that quickly recedes after each sip.  The session-style takes what would be a very hoppy IPA and makes it a very good pale ale, at least in terms of the hoppiness and bitterness.  

A four pack of the beer is available at the OBX Brewing Station and, if you happen to be in the area, it is worth the $11.99 per pack.  Until next time ...


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Djbouti

My personal culinary challenge -- Around the World in 80 Dishes -- takes me to a country where making a main course may seem like a daunting task.  If you were to find yourself in this country, you would see a land of dry shrub lands, volcanic formations, and sandy beaches.  Indeed, it is the hottest piece of inhabited land in the world.  If you ventured into the country looking for water, you might come across a lake, known as Lake Asal, with the highest salt contents in the world.  The water would be undrinkable, but you could marvel at the chimney-like mineral formations created by the evaporation of the water.  If you haven't guessed it by now, you would be standing in the Republic of Djbouti.

A long time ago, the land constituting Djbouti was part of the legendary land of Punt.  (The ancient Egyptians referred to the land as "Punt," or "God's Land" because of the plentiful resources that could be found there.)  Fast forwarding through time, thee land was thereafter ruled by various sultans for hundreds of years from the thirteen century to the nineteenth century.  However, as that latter century came to a close, in 1894, a colonial power -- namely, the French -- established French Somaliland.  It remained a French colony for nearly 80 years.  Colonization ended with a referendum in 1977, which led to the establishment of a presidential republic and the present day country of Djbouti.  

The country has a diverse population.  The largest ethnic groups are the Somalis, who comprise 60% of the population and the Afar, who comprise 35% of the population. The remaining 5% consists of Ethiopians, Yemeni, and Europeans (mostly Italians and French).  

These cultures provide a window into the culinary influences that have shaped Djbouti cuisine.  That cuisine is a mix of Somali, Yemeni and French influences.  There are even some Indian influences in some of the dishes.  Proximity also has left its imprint on the cooking and dishes of Djbouti, with many Middle Eastern spices finding their way into the food eaten by everyday people.  Ingredients like cinnamon are added to spice blends, while saffron is also used in some dishes.   All of these influences played a role when it came to my decision as to the main course that I would make for my challenge.  I wanted to choose a dish that showed the diversity that can be found among the people of this small country.  


That diversity is best illustrated by the dish of Skoudehkaris, which is often referred to as the national dish of Djbouti.  To make this dish, one sautes onions with a spice blend that draws from many Middle Eastern ingredients.  These ingredients include cumin, cinnamon and cloves, along with cardamom (an ingredient used in subcontinent cooking).  After the onions have softened, lamb is added and browned in the pot.  Tomatoes and water are then added to create a stew, which is then finished with some long rice, which helps to soak up some of the liquid.  The end result is a dish that draws from the land of Africa and the spices of the region to produce a dish that, in some respects, resembles a biryani from Pakistan or India.  

Recipe from Global Table Adventures
Serves 4

1 pound of lamb, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1-2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 can of diced tomatoes (14 ounces)
1 cup of water (more if needed)
1/2 cup of long grain rice
Freshly ground black pepper

1.  Saute the onions.  Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot.  Add the onions and the spices (cumin, cloves, cardamom, cayenne, and cinnamon) and cook until soft and fragrant.  

2.  Brown the lamb.  Add the lamb and brown it a little.  (Push the onions out of the way so that the meat has contact with the pan.) 

3.  Cook the lamb.  Add the tomatoes and the water.  Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the lamb is tender.  Add pepper and salt to season.

4.  Add the rice.  Add the rice and 1/2 cup of water if needed. Stir, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes until the rice is tender.  


After having made Skoudehkaris, I needed something to serve with the lamb and rice mixture.  The recipe that I used recommended Laxoox, which is a sponge-like bread.  Laxoox -- or Lahoh, as it is known -- is a bread that can be found in Djbouti, along with Somalia and Yemen.  Thus, the preparation of this bread, which is a lot like the injera prepared in Ethiopia, allows me to bring together the other culinary influences upon Djbouti cuisine.  Those would be the influences of the Somali and Yemenis.

Injera is typically made with teff flour, but the recipe for Laxoox calls for a combination of all purpose flour, wheat flour and millet flour.  If you are like me and you don't have millet flour, just use some more wheat flour.  The end product may not be as good as when you use millet flour, but, if you are like me, it works and saves you some money by not having to buy a package of a type of flour that you will not use in the foreseeable future.  

Serves 4

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups of water

1.  Combine the ingredients.  Add the flour to a bowl.  Then sprinkle on the yeast.  After that, add the salt and sugar.  Add the water and whisk all of the ingredients.

2.  Refrigerate the dough.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.  Remove from the refrigerator and place on the counter for a few hours.  When the mixture begins to bubble or froth, it is ready.  

3.  Make the bread.  Heat some oil in a stainless steel or cast iron skillet.  Add a ladle of the mixture and use the ladle to spread it out to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cook gently until the bubbles form and the surface dries out.  There is no need to flip, just cook until the underside is golden and it is cooked all the way through.

*          *          *

It has been quite a while since I have made a main dish from a country in Africa.  Six (6) of my thirty (30) challenges have involved African countries.  Of those six, I think that my preparation of Skoudekaris and Laxoox may have been the most successful challenge.  The Skoudekaris was very delicious.  The lamb was tender, the sauce had a good kick, and the Laxoox provided a wonderful tableau for the food. Overall, it was a big victory cooking the main dish of a very small country.

Time to prepare for the next challenge.  Until then ...

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