Saturday, July 30, 2011

Flying Dog Brewery Backyard Ale

When two of the three my interests come together, it is quite noteworthy. In this case, it is craft beer and cooking.  A craft brewer and a well known local chef -- both of which have established themselves in Frederick, Maryland -- have joined forces to create a craft beer.  And not just any craft beer.  A smoked amber ale and an amazing one at that. 

The collaboration is between Flying Dog Brewery and Bryan Voltaggio, the chef of Volt Restaurant.  Together, they have created the Backyard Ale.  According to the label, "[f]rom smoked brisket and artisan cased meats to pork belly, there's nothing like a backyard BBQ with good friends, good food, and (of course) good beer."  These words and phrases -- brisket, artisan cased meats, pork belly and beer -- almost always grab my attention.  And, when looking at a $16.99 bottle of beer, those words were the deciding factor when it came to trying this beer.  

Although a bit pricey, this beer is definitely worth it.  Smoked ales can be a bit touchy.  There can be too much smoke, which makes it seem like you are just drinking liquid smoke, and there can be too little smoke, which makes you wonder if the fire went out a long time ago.  But, this beer finds itself right in the middle, even down to the smoky reddish brown color of the beer. While there is some smoke in it is the smooth, smoke flavor of the beer that stands out.  

The beer has an ABV of 7.5% and an IBU that is barely worth mentioning.  This beer is not about the hops, although Liberty and Perle hops were used in the brewing process. Instead, it is about malts, and, more specifically, smoked malts.

The brewer notes that this beer pairs well with anything that is grilled, charred, broiled, roasted or smoked.  I would definitely agree with the grilled, charred, broiled or roasted, particularly red meats, but also chicken.  As for smoked meats, the beer and the smoked meats may result in a little too much smoke for most people.  

This beer is a limited release.  I found it at a local Whole Foods Market.  Until next time ...


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hatch Chile Rubbed Cowboy Steak

I have pounds and pounds of dried, ground hatch chiles, with different levels of piquancy ... medium, medium hot, hot and extra hot.  I love hatch chiles and use them usually as substitutes whenever a recipe calls for cayenne pepper or the generic "red pepper." 

It had been a little while since I had a steak night.  With my wife meeting some friends for dinner, I decided that I would make up for lost steaks by preparing a hatch chile rub for a "cowboy steak."  I have often wondered what exactly is a "cowboy steak."  If you peruse the recipes on the Internet, as I have, it could be a strip steak, a ribeye, a boneless ribeye, or something else.  At some restaurants, a cowboy steak sets itself apart by usually having a big bone at the end.  In the end, I decided that I would use a bone-in ribeye, which actually turned out to be the perfect cut for this recipe. 

The hatch chile rub that I prepared is rather spicy.  It is one tablespoon of medium hatch chile powder, one teaspoon of medium hot hatch chile powder, and one-half teaspoon of extra hot chile powder, along with various amounts of dried thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and salt.   All in all, it was fine for someone who likes a lot of heat when he eats.  If heat is not your thing, consider using only a teaspoon of the medium, one-half teaspoon of hot and a quarter teaspoon of extra-hot.  You can add some paprika to fill the void.  That is the one great thing about rubs, the permutations when it comes to different spices or different amounts are endless. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-4

1 two pound bone-in ribeye
1 tablespoon of medium hatch chile powder
1 teaspoon of medium-hot hatch chile powder
1/2 teaspoon of extra hot hatch chile powder
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of salt

1.  Prepare the rub.  Combine the chile powders, onion powder, cumin powder, garlic powder, dried thyme and salt.  Mix well.  apply the rub on all sides of the steak, including any crevices in between the fat and beef.  

2.  Grill the cowboy steak.  Heat the grill on medium high to high heat.  Grill the steak for about five minutes and turn ninety degrees.  Grill for five more minutes and flip.  After five minutes, turn ninety degrees and grill for five minutes more.  Cook until desired doneness, with medium rare being about 145 degrees and medium being 160 degrees. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Full Sail Brewing Company Bump in the Night

Full Sail Brewery is an employee owned brewery located in Hood River, Oregon.  The brewery emerged from an abandoned cannery and now has established itself in the craft beer movement.  Full Sail has its core beers, seasonal beers and even session beers.  What has caught my attention, however, are the Brewmaster Reserve beers.  Many breweries have "reserve" series or "Brewmaster" beers; and, those beers tend to be the most interesting or innovative beers that they produce.  

This is the case with Full Sail's "Bump in the Night."  Full Sail brewed this beer in the Cascadian Dark Ale style.  A Cascadian Dark Ale, or CDA is a relatively new style of beer, that has emerged in the Pacific Northwest.  The hallmarks of a CDA is its deep brown or black color, along with its citrus and pine aromas of northwestern hops.  The taste of a CDA is supposed to be a balance between the hops and the roasted malts used in the brewing process.  In many ways, a Cascadian Dark Ale is very much the Pacific Northwest's answer to a Black IPA.

Full Sail brewed this beer for the first time in late 2010 and released it for early 2011.  According to the brewer, the beer is brewed with an array of dark malts, which present a full bodied beer with notes of cocoa and a slight roast.  The brewer also describes the beer as having a big floral citrus hop flavor and bitterness that are reminiscent of an India Pale Ale for 2011, this beer is brewed in the Cascadian Dark Ale style. 

The Bump in the Night is a good example of a Cascadian Dark Ale.  Its dark brown color, its roasted notes, and the balance with hops make this beer a very good drinking experience.  With an ABV of 6.5% and an IBU of 65, the beer does not have the heavy alcohol or extreme bitterness that may turn off some beer drinkers.
I can see why this beer won the Gold Medal at the 2011 World Beer Championship.  I found this beer at Corridor Wine and Liquor in Laurel, Maryland.  Given its availability is limited to January to March, it is probably not in any stores.  Patience will be needed, along with a little hope that the brewers at Full Sail will brew this beer again for next year.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Basil Coconut Watermelon Salad

For my birthday, my parents gave me The Flavor Bible as a present.  The book is quite intriguing, at least for me, because it provides the best flavor pairings for a wide range of ingredients.  Recently, I found myself standing in my kitchen with a host of ingredients, some left over from a party and some left over from dishes that I have made.  I began to wonder, what goes with what?

Well, I pulled out The Flavor Bible and began to peruse its pages.  Using that book, I was able to match three ingredients together: watermelon, basil and coconut. The watermelon we had in our fridge.  The basil was provided by my mother from plants that my parents have been growing at their house, and the coconut was left over from the Soft Shell Crab Curry, Goan Style. Watermelon + basil + coconut = a very delicious salad.

This is a really easy dish to make.  Just finely dice the fresh coconut, cut the basil leaves roughly and dice the watermelon.  Add some freshly ground black pepper, and the dish is complete.   

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

2 cups of fresh basil leaves, roughly cut
2 tablespoons of fresh coconut, diced finely
2 cups of fresh watermelon, diced
Ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Plate the basil in the center of the plate.  Sprinkle the coconut over the basil.

2.  Add the watermelon over the basil and coconut.  Add ground black pepper to taste.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Fairvalley Cabernet Sauvignon (2008)

"The hands that work the soil, feed the soul."  Those words grace the label of a wine with an interesting background.  The wine is produced by a cooperative of farmworkers known as the Fairvalley Farmworkers Association.  Members of the Fairvalley community established the association in 1997 to manage the wine and cheese production at the Fairview Estate, which is located near the town of Paarl in South Africa.

The Fairvalley Workers Association describes its purpose as to provide assistance to the previously disadvantaged workforce of the Fairview Estate, as well as their future generations and dependents.  The assistance includes efforts to gain ownership of the Fairview Estate, create a sustainable and commercially viable business and establish equal job opportunities for those workers.

To achieve these goals, the Fairvalley Workers Association dedicates all of the proceeds from the sale of its wine for the benefit of the community.  The Association divides the revenue equally between two initiatives.  The first is the establishment of the Fairvalley Ecovillage housing development on the association's land.  The second is a community development project which includes a community center, the employment of a health worker and a full-time social worker, along with funding various community, youth and educational initiatives.

Not only does this wine a model of how companies can promote social justice, but it also a very good example of a Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa.  The wine pours a purple to dark red in color.  The aromatic elements of this wine feature spice, pepper and some fruit, possibly plums or dark cherries.   The spice and pepper are clearly the primary aromas that one gets from the wine.

As one would expect from a Cabernet Sauvignon, the taste of this wine is very earthy.  There flavors include a spice, with black pepper in the front.  The pepper lingers though the finish, at which point it is joined by flavors of dark cherry, blackberry and plum.  This wine has a good body, with some tannins, but neither is overwhelming.  The wine is well balanced and very drinkable.

When it comes to pairing, this wine is best paired with grilled or roasted meats.  Beef, lamb and pork would be good matches with this wine.  Similarly, this wine could also be paired with duck.

These wines are a little difficult to find.  I came across this wine at a wine store in Silver Spring, Maryland.  However, given the benefits that flow from buying the wine, I will definitely pick this wine up when I see it again.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Soft Shell Crab Curry, Goan-Style

As we continue to enjoy our soft-shell crabs that we got from the Outer Banks (the greatest thing about frozen soft shell crabs is that we can enjoy them over time), I have been thinking about how I can use these crabs in different recipes.  I previously made Soft Shell Crab Po' Boys with an Avocado Remoulade.  Now, my mind turned to making a soft shell crab curry. 

I did not want to make just any curry.  I wanted to make a curry in the style of a particular city or region of India.  Two thoughts immediately came to mind -- Goa and Kerala.  Goa, which is the smallest state of India, is probably best known for Vindaloo, a spicy curry that is one of my favorites.  The two most prominent ingredients in a Goan curry are the chiles and tamarind.  I know a lot less about curries from Kerala, although I was able to find a crab curry dish called Njandu Kari, which is Crab Curry with Fried Coconut.  Eventually, I decided to make the curry in the Goan style.  I found a recipe from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, which I used as a guide for this dish.  This meant a spicy curry, along with a few firsts for me.

One of the firsts for me was to make a curry powder from scratch.  Fortunately, the recipe that I was using as a guide provided me with most of the ingredients to make the curry.  The one issue was that I did not have any fresh chiles such as Serranos or Thai chiles.  However, I did have dried chiles, particularly the Indian Sanaam chiles.  I used four of Sanaam chiles to make the curry.  Sanaam chiles are very spicy and, in turn, they made the curry very spicy.  While it was fine for me, it is probably too much for most people.  I would recommend that, for people trying this recipe for the first time, to use two or three Sanaam chiles, which will lessen the heat of the dish.

The other first for me was the use of fresh coconut.  I have never cooked with a fresh coconut before; and, after some Internet research, I was ready to use this ingredient.  For those who don't know (like me before this dish), you need to drain the coconut water by opening holes in the coconut.  There are three spots on the coconut, which are the weakest part of the nut.  Hammer a nail through each spot and then remove the nail to open the hole.  Then hammer a nail through the other end of the coconut to create a fourth hole.  Drain the coconut water and reserve it.  (I used it to make the rice for this dish.)  Then wrap the coconut in a towel and find the nearest slab of concrete.  Begin pounding on the coconut until you break it open. Once the coconut is opened, you need to cut out the flesh and then grate it for the recipe.  The recipe only needs a quarter cup of grated coconut, so you will have a lot left over.  

So, without further ado ...

Adapted from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
Serves 2-3

4 soft shell crabs, cleaned
1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
6 cloves
8 cardamom pods (I used 2 black pods and 6 green pods)
1 tablespoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of ground fenugreek
3 tablespoons of canola oil
2 medium onions, one finely diced, one sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2-4 dried chiles (such as Sanaam chiles)
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced
1 fourteen ounce can of coconut milk
1/4 cup of freshly grated coconut
1 heaping tablespoon of tamarind paste
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt, to taste

1.  Make the curry mix.   Toast the peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves in a dry skillet until fragrant, about a couple of minutes.  Then take it off the heat and let it cool for a minute.  Grind the spices into a fine powder.  Add the coriander, cumin, fenugreek and chiles.  Grind to incorporate the chiles and spices with the other spices.

2.  Begin the saute.  Saute the chopped onion in one tablespoon of oil until soft without browning them.  Add the garlic and ginger, continuing to saute for about two more minutes.  

3.  Blend the ingredients.   Take the onion mixture and put it into a food processor or blender.  Add the spice mix and puree the onion mixture.  While pureeing the mixture, add the water.  

4.  Saute the soft shell crabs.  Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan on medium high heat.  Add the soft shell crabs, top down.  Let the crabs saute for about three to four minutes and then flip them.  Cook them for another three to four minutes.  Remove them from the heat and cut each soft shell into quarters.

5.  Add the coconut and onions.  Pour the coconut milk into a pot and heat it over medium heat until it simmers.  Add the sliced onions and grated coconut and let it cook for three to four minutes at an active simmer.  

6.  Finish the dish.  Add the curry and mix well.  Add the tamarind paste and mix again.  Salt to taste.  Mix in the crab and cook until heated through.  Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro. 

Overall, I really liked this dish.  I think it was close to a Goan curry, because it was very spicy.  However, it was too spicy for Clare.  So, in that respect, I needed to pay a little more attention to the heat level.  After all, my Angel is my continuing inspiration for cooking and it is important for me to make sure that she can eat my dishes.  Until next time ...


Friday, July 22, 2011

Domaine Pignard Beaujolais (2009)

When one thinks of the French region or department of Burgundy, the first wine that comes to mind is the wine that shares that name.  There is more to Burgundy than, well, Burgundy.  

For example, growers cultivate Gamay grapes (which are also known as Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc), which winemakers use to produce Beaujolais.  The name originates from the historical region of Beaujolais, which was located north of Lyon, France, straddling the Rhône and Saône-et-Loire départments.  The grape vines in this region were first planted by the Romans, who planted the vines along trade routs that followed the Saône valley.  During medieval times, it was the Benedictine monks who grew the grapes and produced the wines in this region.  Wine production continued over the centuries, but the wines were generally confined to the region.  It was not until the railroads came that distribution of the wines became more widespread. 

Today, Beaujolais has its own Appellation d’origine contrôlée ("AOC").  This AOC covers all of the Beaujolais villages.  The rules of the AOC provide that the wine must be at least 9% in alcohol.  Wines that have 10% or more in alcohol are referred to as Beaujolais Supérieur.  Beaujolais wines are produced using only the Gamay grapes, a varietal that grows well in the alkaline soils of the region.

Domaine Pignard was founded in 1953 by Marcel Pignard near the town of Arnas Villefranche.  The wine pours a deep crimson red with purplish hues.  The aromatic elements of this wine feature bright fruit, like raspberries and cherries, with just a little bit of spice.  The flavors of this wine follow the aromas.  Raspberries, cherries and other red berries.  The body of the wine is very light, which is due to the characteristic lack of tannins in the Gamay grape. I think that the light body of this wine affects the finish.  Most of the fruit was in the front of the wine, leaving little of the raspberry and cherry flavors for the finish.  Still, this wine is easy and enjoyable to drink; and, before you know it, the wine is gone. 

I found this wine at Corridor Wine & Spirits for $9.99 a bottle.  It is a cost-efficient and good introduction to Beaujolais wines.  Based upon this wine, I definitely want to try more Beaujolais wines, perhaps a Beaujolais Cru.  But that will have to wait for a future post.  


For more about Beaujolais wine, check out Wikipedia.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Honey Mustard Coleslaw

For a side to the lobstercake sandwiches, I decided to make a Honey Mustard Coleslaw.   Everyone knows that coleslaw is basically a cabbage salad.  What you may not know, and I certainly did not know, is that the cabbage salad originated with the Romans, who prepared shredded cabbage with vinegar, eggs and spices.  While ancient Romans may have shredded cabbage for a salad, the term "coleslaw" is of Dutch origin, suggesting that the culinary history of this dish may have stopped in other countries along the way.  The trip included the addition of mayonnaise, a development in the 18th century, which has given us with the coleslaws of today.   For more on the history of coleslaw, as well as other salads, check out The Food Timeline.

As I have noted in prior posts.  I am not a big fan of mayonnaise and, whenever I can, I try to find substitutes.  For this coleslaw, I was able to substitute mayonnaise with a combination of honey and mustard.  I was able to find a recipe from a supermarket website that was easy to make, particularly in its call for the use of pre-shredded coleslaw.  I would rather shredded my own cabbage, carrots and other veggies.  However, I was short on time and went with the pre-packaged stuff.  In the end, this dish turned out okay.  In the future, I might tinker with the ratio of mustard to honey. 

Adapted from Whole Foods Market
Serves 2-3

2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
1 package shredded broccoli slaw mix
1/4 cup of stone ground mustard
1/4 cup wildflower honey
1/2 teaspoon of celery seeds
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Ground pepper, to taste

1.  Put the onions and coleslaw mix into a large bowl, combine and set aside.

2.  Put mustard and honey in another bowl, and stir until both are mixed well.  Add the lemon juice, celery seeds, salt and pepper and mix again.

3.  Pour the mixture over the coleslaw mix. Mix well and cover.  Place the coleslaw in the refrigerator for twenty minutes.  Toss once more and serve.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lobstercake Sandwiches

Lobster burgers.  For foodies who live in the D.C. area, thoughts turn to the dish made "famous" by D.C. Chef Michel Richard at his restaurant Central in downtown D.C.  I can remember the first time (and, in fact, the only time) that I had the lobster burger at Central.  The burger was exquisite, big chunks of lobster meat held together by the most minimalist of binding.  I enjoyed every bite of that burger, and, I have always wanted to recreate that burger at home.

This recipe is NOT the recipe for Michel Richard's lobster burger.  First, that recipe calls for the use of fresh lobster.  Two pounds of meat from fresh lobsters costs a lot of money.  So, I substituted meat from frozen lobster claws and joints.  This probably had an impact on the preparation of the burgers.  Second, I could not get the mix to the right consistency.  The mix was too soupy, preventing the lobster from binding properly into a burger shape.  In an effort to save the dish, I decided to add bread crumbs.  The additional ingredient turned what was supposed to be a lobster burger into something more like a crabcake.  A "lobstercake," if you will.

My lobster burger - turned - lobster cake still turned out well.  Well enough, at least, for me to post the recipe.  I have to admit that I do not necessarily intend to make this dish again.  My future efforts will be aimed at recreating Michel Richard's lobster burgers.  That said, when my best efforts go awry, then I will make more lobster cakes and enjoy them immensely. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-4

2 pounds of lobster meat (frozen lobster meat, thawed)
     (use fresh lobster meat if you have it)
1 large tomato, cut into slices
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 pound of scallops
2 tablespoons of milk
1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
2 teaspoons of fresh cilantro, chopped finely
Ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

1. Make the lobstercakes.  In a food processor, puree the scallops for a few seconds until smooth.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of milk.  Add the garlic powder, ground black pepper and salt.  Fold the scallop mixture into the lobster.  Add the bread crumbs and mix thoroughly.  Make two patties and put them in the refrigerator.

2.  Saute the lobstercakes.  Heat the olive oil in a pan.  Remove the patties from the refrigerator and when the oil is hot, add the patties.  Cook the patties for five minutes on each side (just long enough to cook the scallops used in the binding.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir Rose (2008)

Like many Oregon wineries, Stoller Vineyards has a special place for my beautiful Angel and me.  Stoller is a 373 acre vineyard located on the southern slopes of the Dundee Hills.  The area, known as "Corton Hill," was originally a turkey farm.  (This is the reason for the turkey on the label and the cap.)  The land was purchased by the Stoller family in 1943 and the rest, as they say is history.

Stoller Vineyards was the second stop on our two day tour of wineries and vineyards in the Willamette Valley or Oregon.  While we sat at a table in the tasting room, we tried a rose wine produced by Stoller.  We were both amazed at how good this wine was and, when we left, we took a bottle of the wine for us to enjoy at a later date.  Fast forward more than two years and we decided to open this bottle for our Fourth of July celebration.  

The Rose is produced from Pinot Noir grapes grown on the vineyard's Dundee Hills property.  Stoller uses grapes from the JV or "Junior Vines." 

The wine pours a light reddish color.  Despite my best efforts, I could not get a picture that does justice for this great wine.  The winemaker describes this wine as being full of strawberries, a description that I think is right on target.  Even after three years, the wine still has a bouquet that is very fruit forward and the fruit is strawberries.  As for the taste, the Stoller Pinot Noir Rose features those strawberries, along with some pears.  Both the pears and the strawberries are featured in all aspects of the wine's taste, from the front to the finish.

A Pinot Noir Rose, or any rose wine for that matter, can be paired antipasti or salads that feature citrus fruits or tomatoes.  The rose can also be paired with shellfish, such as oysters and clams, as well as fish and other seafood such as lobster. The wine can also be paired with poultry, like chicken and maybe even turkey.  

Clare and I picked up a bottle of this wine from Stoller's tasting room for $20.00.  More recent vintages of this wine are most likely available online at the vineyard's website.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Soft Shell Crab Po-Boy with Avocado Remoulade

In a prior post about soft shell crabs, I noted that, as a cook, the months of May through September are special to me.  During this time, fresh soft shell crabs are available at local supermarkets and seafood markets.  On our way back from our Outer Banks vacation, Clare and I bought a dozen jumbo soft shell crabs from Endurance Seafood in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.  While I normally buy soft shell crabs fresh, Endurance Seafood was sold out of fresh soft shell crabs.  All they had left were frozen soft-shell crabs.  Still, I could not pass up the opportunity to buy those frozen crabs because it would provide me with a supply of those delicious crustaceans for experimenting with different dishes. I have previously used two of the jumbo soft-shell crabs as part of my Iron Chef Night: Vidalia Onion cooking experience.  However, my mind still works on recipes that we could make for the remaining soft shells that are sitting comfortably in our freezer.

 One recent recipe that I decided to make was Soft Shell Crab Po-Boys with a Remoulade.  Although I like remoulade sauces, I am not a big fan of mayonnaise, which is usually a principal ingredient in a remoulade.  I cannot say that I avoid mayonnaise altogether, because many people have witnessed me eating a tuna salad or chicken salad sandwich.  However, if I can avoid the ingredient, I will do that, even if it requires additional steps or searching out new ingredients.  Fortunately, I came across a recipe for an Avocado Remoulade.  I made this recipe as a topping for the Soft-Shell Crab Po-Boy Sandwiches and it was a great success.  This recipe will be my go-to whenever I need a remoulade.

On other thing about this recipe, many seafood po-boys involve deep frying the fish or shellfish.  You can certainly deep fry soft shell crabs.  For this recipe, however, I sauteed the soft-shell crabs.  I believe that soft shell crabs taste best when they are lightly dredged with flour and sauteed on a hot pan with butter. This recipe simply reflects my personal preference.  If you want to deep fry the soft-shell crabs, just heat enough oil in a pot or a deep fryer to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Remoulade adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the Soft Shell Crabs):
4 soft shell crabs
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of chipotle powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons of butter
2 small french loaves
1 medium Vidalia onion, sliced
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
Lettuce leaves
French bread (or just any other bread or bun)

Ingredients (for the Avocado Remoulade):
2 avocados, cut, peeled, and cut into large dice
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
1 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon or other mustard
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Make the remoulade.  Add the avocado and lime juice in a food processor.  Pulse until blended.  Slowly add olive oil, pulsing until you get the desired consistency.  Add minced shallots and parsley and continue to pulse until combined.  I pulsed it a little more to maintain the consistency that I wanted, but you do not have to do that.  Remove the sauce to a bowl, add the mustard, salt and taste and stir until incorporated.

2.  Prepare the soft shell crabs.  After washing the soft shell crabs, dry them and set them aside. Spread the flour on a plate and add the spices to the flour.  Mix the spices to make sure that they are incorporated throughout the flour.  Dredge the soft shell crabs in the flour and shake off the excess flour.

3.  Saute the soft shell crabs.  Heat the three tablespoons of butter on medium high heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the soft shells carefully, shell side down.  Let the soft shell crabs cook for about four to five minutes, then flip the crabs.  Cook for about three to five minutes more.  Remove the crabs.  

4.  Plate the dish.  Construct the po-boy sandwiches by first cutting the bread in half and slicing down the side.  Spread some of the remoulade on both sides of the bread.  Place the soft shells on the bread and top with sliced onions, heirloom tomatoes and lettuce.  Then add a nice heaping spoonful of the remoulade on top.  Serve immediately.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Much Ado About Molting

My beautiful Angel, Clare, and I love soft shell crabs.  I have previously blogged about our experience taking a cooking class to learn how to cook soft shell crabs at the Outer Banks Epicurean.  (I strongly recommend checking the place out if you are in the Outer Banks, whether it is to pick up something to eat, take a cooking class or check out the wines and other sundries that are for sale there).  During our cooking class, our instructor told us about Endurance Seafood, a local seafood company located across the street from her store.  Endurance Seafood has a crab shedding operation where they farm the molting crabs to produce soft-shell crabs that are distributed to restaurants and markets along the eastern United States.  I sensed an opportunity at the time to learn more about soft shell crabs are farmed, as well as to learn about how a small, family owned company could contribute so much to the culinary world, not just in the United States, but also around the world.  

Endurance Seafood is easy to miss, even if you just cross the street from the Outer Banks Epicurean.  The operations of Endurance Seafood are located in a building tucked behind the owner's house.  As we turned onto the gravel road, which had been the route of tractor trailer trucks just a couple weeks before, we approached an unassuming building. We got out and spoke with Kristina (if I recall correctly, I am really bad with names).  As we discussed our order, Kristina informed us that we were too late to see the molting of the soft shell crabs, which had occurred a couple weeks before.  Nevertheless, she offered Clare and myself the opportunity to see how a crab shedding operation works.   

Generally speaking, the molting processes begin with the first full moon in May.  The crabs will give a sign that they are ready to molt, which takes the form of red dots that appear on their back fins.  When the crabs molt, they can shed their exoskeleton within two to three hours.  At that time, crab shedding operations will separate the crabs from the shells.  If this does not happen, the hardening process will continue and one is left with a larger, hard shell crab.  The molting processes continue each month around the full moon until September.  This means that there is a supply of fresh soft shell crabs being available between May and September.

A crab shedding operation, such as the one at Endurance Seafood, will have tens, if not hundreds of tanks.  In each take, there will be a couple hundred crabs.  That means thousands, or tens of thousands, of crabs just waiting to shed their exoskeletons.  Once they shedded their shells, the crabs are sorted by size, given labels such as Primes, Jumbos, Hotels and Whales.  Endurance Seafood then ships the crabs, while they are still alive, to distributors, including some at the New Fulton Fish Market, where those soft shell crabs may find themselves in restaurants not only in the United States, but elsewhere around the world.

The opportunity to take a look beyond an ingredient is a truly special experience, at least for me.  This is an aspect of my hobby that I wish I had the time and opportunity to explore more often.  Perhaps I need my own television show on the Cooking Channel, or better yet, joining Andrew Zimmern and Tony Bourdain on the Travel Channel.  I guess I can dream ...


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Big Bob Gibson's Eight-Time World Championship Pork Shoulder, with Eastern Carolina and Memphis Barbecue Sauces (Savage Boleks' Barbecue 2011)

Seeking a change from the grind of working on the L & N Railroad, Bob Gibson first opened his barbecue joint in 1925.  He began with pork and hickory wood.  Over the years, he and generations of Gibsons who followed have built Big Bob Gibson's into something of an institution in Decatur, Alabama.  By the time I made it there, more than eighty-five years after it first opened, Big Bob Gibson's serves not only pork, but beef, and chicken as well.

I still remember the day that Clare's parents took us to Big Bob Gibson's restaurant in Decatur, Alabama.  I ordered the big platter of barbecue, sampling pulled pork, brisket and ribs, along with sides.  I wanted to taste as much of Big Bob Gibson's barbecue as I could.  While I could not finish the large plate of food that had been placed in front of me, it was probably some of the best barbecue that I have ever tasted.  (I realize I have opened myself to challenges about what is the "best" barbecue, my response to all of them is bring some of your best barbecue by and I will try it.You may win me over, but I need to taste it first!)

Recognizing how much I loved Big Bob Gibson's barbecue, Clare's parents bought me the Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, which is full of recipes for different types of barbecue, along with hints and suggestions from Big Bob Gibson's pit master, Chris Lilly.  What immediately got my attention is Big Bob Gibson's Eight Time World Championship Pork Shoulder. If I had to choose a favorite BBQ, it would be pulled pork.  I love brisket, ribs, and links, but there is something about pulled pork.  If given the choice, it is almost always the BBQ that I order.


So naturally, the type of barbecue that is most associated with the Savage Boleks' BBQ is pork shoulder.  My Angel and I have two annual Savage Boleks' BBQs and both times I did the base preparation of the pork shoulders using the hints, advice and recipes provided by Chris Lilly and Big Bob Gibson.  For the most recent BBQ, I used the Big Bob Gibson's Eight-Time World Championship Pork Shoulder recipe.  I smoked the pork shoulders using a combination of 50% hickory and 50% apple wood. I also added apple juice to the liquid bowl.  As I pulled the pork shoulder and tasted the meat for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by the smoky, yet sweet flavor of the meat.  Overall, my efforts were a great success.

Source and adapted from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, at 53-54 
Serves a lot of people

Ingredients (for the Dry Rub):
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons garlic salt
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper 

Ingredients (for the Injection):
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 

Ingredients (for the Vinegar Mop):
1 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 slices of lemons

2 pork butts, about 7 pounds each 

1.  Mix all of the ingredients for the dry rub in a small bowl and set aside. 

2.  In a separate bowl, combine all of the injection ingredients and blend together until the sugar dissolves.   Using a meat syringe or flavor injector, inject the meat evenly at 1-inch intervals from top to side, using the entire amount of the injection solution.  Once the solution has been injected into the meat, apply the dry rub to the meat in an even coating.  Make sure that the dry rub adheres to the meat.  Wrap the pork in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.

3.  On the day of the smoking, mix all the ingredients for the vinegar mop in a small bowl. Set aside.

4.  Remove the pork from the fridge while you start the smoker. If using a Weber Smokey Mountain, use hardwood charcoal.  After you have gotten the charcoal lit, use a mixture of hickory and apple wood chunks.  Once the smoker reaches 225 degrees, add the pork shoulders to the smoker.  Smoke the pork shoulder at 225 degrees to 250 degrees until the meat reaches 190 degrees, after about 10 to 11 hours. In the last few hours, usually beginning with the seventh or eighth hour, begin to baste the meat with the vinegar mop.  Baste the meat every hour thereafter.

5.  Remove the pork from the smoker and let rest for 30 minutes. Pull the pork, reserving any visible fat.  I generally smoke the meat the day prior to the barbecue and, when reheating the meat before the party, I mix in some of the fat to help keep the meat moist. Sprinkle on some of the leftover vinegar mop, mixing with your hands to incorporate.


For each Savage Boleks' BBQ, I try to make different barbecue sauces to go with the pork shoulder.  For the first BBQ, I made Big Bob Gibson's own sauce, which I made from scratch using the recipe from the cookbook. Unfortunately, I did not make enough and it was gone very quickly.  For the second annual barbecue, I decided to make two sauces.  The first sauce was a vinegar-based Eastern Carolina Sauce, which was inspired by our recent vacation in the Outer Banks.  The second sauce was a tomato-based Memphis sauce.  I thought this sauce would provide our guests with two good options -- between a tart sauce and a sweet sauce.  Both sauces are from the June/July edition of Saveur Magazine.

From Saveur, No. 139 (Jun./Jul. 2011) at 112.
Makes 2 cups

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. crushed red chile flakes
1 tbsp. hot sauce
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. paprika

1.  Combine the vinegars, sugar, chile flakes, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and paprika in a storage container.

2.  When you are going to use the sauce, heat it in a pot until it is warm.  Add the sauce to the pork by spoonfuls until you have enough to flavor the pork.

From Saveur, No. 139 (Jun./Jul. 2011) at 112.
Makes 2 cups

2 cups ketchup
⅔ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1½ tsp. mild hot sauce
1½ tsp. onion powder
1½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dry mustard powder

1.  Bring the ketchup, vinegar, both sugars, juice, Worcestershire, pepper, hot sauce, onion and garlic powders, mustard, and 1 cup water to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan. 

2.  Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring, until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Overall, the Second Annual Savage Boleks' BBQ was a great success.   Everyone enjoyed the pulled pork and the barbecue sauces, even combining the sauces together to create an Eastern Carolina/Memphis pulled pork sandwich.  Eventually, I will turn my attention to the Third Annual Savage Boleks' BBQ, but I have still have a year to prepare for that.  Until next time ...


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jamaican Jerk Chicken (Savage Boleks' BBQ 2011)

My beautiful Angel, Clare, and I are trying to establish a yearly barbecue.  The plan is to smoke pork shoulders and make pulled pork sandwiches, which serve as the centerpiece of the barbecue.  However, I also include a second protein.  Last year, for the first annual Savage Boleks' Annual BBQ, it was D.C. half smokes.  For 2011, the supporting role for the Second Annual Savage Boleks' Annual BBQ was the Jamaican Jerk Chicken.  I originally intended to use the Jerk Chicken recipe that I used for my Around the World in 80 Dishes challenge. That recipe is an amalgam of a couple of recipes for Jerk Chicken.  It worked well for one batch, but I was a little nervous about using to make a lot of chicken.  So, I decided to revert to the principal recipe that I used, which was really easy to double or triple or even septuple (or whatever is the word for doing something seven times).

In the end, I still departed from the original recipe. When it came time to making the rub, I increased the amounts of  ground cinnamon, ground pepper and thyme.  Instead of using a teaspoon or two of each, I used a tablespoon or two. This makes the recipe a little less Jamaican because allspice is usually the most prominent spice used in the rub.  Still, the additional cinnamon and black pepper helped to increase the sweetness and spiciness of the rub used to marinate the chicken.  A true Jamaican jerk recipe also calls for Scotch Bonnet peppers (or habanero peppers), which have a very high rating on the Scoville Scale, with anywhere from 100,000 Scoville Heat Units to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units.  (By contrast, a regular green pepper has 0 Scoville Heat Units and a jalapeno pepper has between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville Heat Units).  Knowing that everyone does not like foods as spicy as I do, I decided that I would use the minimum number of peppers (2 per batch) allowed for in the recipe.  (Actually, I used slightly less than 2 per batch.) I also seeded the peppers and removed the veins along the side of the peppers to help reduce the piquancy of what are some of the hottest peppers out there. 

Adapted from
Serves 4-6

3 pounds of chicken (such as legs or thighs)
1 bunch of scallions
3-6 cloves of garlic minced
1-2 tablespoons of minced ginger
2-6 Scotch Bonnet chile peppers, minced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of ground allspice
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of dry thyme
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of lime juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil

1.  Marinate the chicken.  Add all the ingredients to a large, non-reactive bowl, refrigerate and marinate for at least 2 to 3 hours, preferably overnight.

2.  Grill the chicken.  Wipe off excess marinade and grill the chicken pieces over a slow fire until cooked through.  The cooking times will vary depending upon the size of the chicken pieces and the number that you are grilling at the time. 

Grilling the chicken provides a great char to the chicken that contributes to the overall experience of eating this chicken.  If you cannot grill the chicken, you can roast the pieces in a 350°F oven until cooked through, which should take thirty to forty-five minutes.  I've roasted the chicken and it still turns out delicious.

After having prepared this chicken for a lot of guests, I have to say that the dish turned out well.  The unique twist of increasing the cinnamon and black pepper gave the chicken a rather unique, but very good, taste. While Jamaicans may take issue with the twists, I think that experimenting with recipes in this way is one of the greatest things about cooking.  Fortunately, it worked out well in this case.  


Friday, July 8, 2011

Scarti della Patata con le Polpette d'Agnello (Potato Scrap Pasta with Lamb Meatballs)

Recently, I made some gnocchi by hand, but I made too much of the potato dough.  I had about a pound of leftover potato dough and did not know what to do.  I could make more gnocchi, which was an appealing idea, but I wanted to try something different.  To make matters more difficult, I left the dough in the refrigerator.  As a result, it was much more moist than before.  After giving it some thought, and some extra flour, I decided to make my own potato pasta.

After adding the flour, I rolled out the pasta by hand until it was its desired thickness -- or thinness depending upon how you view these types of things.  I used a pizza cutter to make the noodles.  My noodle cutting skills are a lot like my math skills.  Very sketchy.  Despite my best efforts, I could not cut the noodles evenly.  I had some wide noodles, some not so wide and some thin noodles.  Then there were the odd shapes created with the edges of the rolled pasta.  In the end, I decided that I would just call this dish, potato scraps or, to make it sound a little fancier, "Scarti della Patata."  This means potato scraps in Italian.

I also had a pound of ground lamb in the fridge.  I made some lamb meatballs (my favorite) to go with the pasta.  In the spirit of doing something different, I used some different spices, like coriander and toasted onion, to make these meatballs.  I did not go crazy ... I still used basil, oregano and red pepper.  The taste of the meatballs was different, but, still tasty.   

Finally, to complete the change, I forewent the usual Parmigiano Reggiano and shaved some aged Asiago cheese to garnish the dish.  Different tastes, but always a good meal. 

(Potato Scrap Pasta with Lamb Meatballs)
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

Ingredients (for the Pasta and Sauce):
Leftover gnocchi dough (about 1 pound)
1 can of San Marzano tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
Dried basil, to taste
Dried oregano, to taste
1 1/2 cup of water
2 cups of chicken stock
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the Lamb Meatballs):
1 pound of ground lamb
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of toasted onion
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1 cup of bread crumbs
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

1.  Make the meatballs.  Mix all of the ingredients together and form small balls.  You should be able to get seventeen meatballs for a pound of ground lamb meat.   

2.  Brown the meatballs.  Heat the olive oil in a saute pan on high heat.  Brown the meatballs in two batches.   Set the meatballs aside.  Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery and saute the vegetables until translucent.  

3. Begin to make the sauce.  In a separate pot, add the tomatoes and, with a masher, break up the tomatoes.  Add the water and turn the heat on high.  Once the tomatoes begin to boil, add the meatballs and the chicken broth.  Let the sauce return to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

4.  Make the pasta.  Use 1 to 2 cups of flour to help reduce the moistness of the pasta if necessary.  Flatten the dough to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.  Use a pizza slicer to slice the dough into noodles.  Separate the noodles and sprinkle them with flour.

5.  Cook the pasta.  Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add the noodles.  When the noodles begin to float, they are done. Drain the noodles and then return them to the pot.  Add several ladles of the sauce and mix so that the sauce coats the noodles.  

As for the gnocchi recipe, without which this recipe would never have happened, that will have to wait for another day.  I wanted to include step-by-step pictures, which I did not take when I made the gnocchi.  So, until the next time that I make gnocchi ...


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nils Oscar Swedish-Style Barley Wine

Traditionally, barleywines come in two styles ... American and English.  Take a look at the Beer Judge Certification Program's guidelines and there are just two styles for barleywines.  19B or English barleywine.  19C or American Barleywine.  Generally speaking, English barleywines tend to emphasize the malts in their flavor, while the flavor of American barleywines tend to focus more on the hops used to produce the beer. Until very recently, I only thought I had two choices when it came to barleywines ... 19B or 19C.

Well, Nils Oscar, a Swedish craft brewery (actually owned by a much larger brewery) provides a third choice -- a 19D if you will -- known as "Swedish-Style Barley Wine." It was a little difficult to find some background information on Nils Oscar, who was an actual person.  Living around the turn of the twentieth century, Oscar traveled to the United States to work in restaurants for a while.  Eventually, he returned to his native Sweden and opened the Nils Oscar Brewery & Distillery. 

So, what makes a Swedish barleywine different from the American and English counterparts? I cannot say that I know the answer that question.  What I do know is that the beer pours a copper color.  The aromatics of this beer are very much like an American or English barleywine, full of alcohol, with a some malts and a little fruit. 

The taste of the beer is much more English than American, emphasizing malts over hops.  The emphasis of the malts over the hops may be the result of the use of specialty malts grown on the brewery's farm, Tärnö Manor.  After all, I had specialty malts made from grains grown on my own estate, I'd probably make sure those malts figured prominently in the taste of the beer.  The taste also had a smokiness to it, not as much as L'Abri de la Tempete's Corps Mort (which was brewed using smoked grains from a herring smokehouse), but enough to provide this beer with its own character.

Overall, this is a good beer that could be served with roasted meats, potatoes or other starches, and some of the stronger types of cheese out there.  Or, you could do what I did and just enjoy the beer by itself.

This beer is available at beer and wine stores that have a large selection of foreign beers, like Corridor Wine & Spirits in Laurel, Maryland. 


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Villa Solais Vermentino di Sardegna (2005)

In my quest to discover new grape varietals and new wine styles, I find myself on the island of Sardinia (Sardegna).  Researchers have determined that the cultivation of grapes -- and most likely, the production of wine -- goes back to 1,200 B.C.  Further research has determined that some of the oldest grapes in the world have been found in Sardinia.  Wine cultivation grew during ancient times, when the Phoencians established settlements along the coasts of the island.  However, it was not until the arrival of the Catalans (later the Spanish), that grape cultivation and wine production really developed. 

Sardinia has a couple of native grape varietals.  One of those native grapes is the Vermentino grape.  The Vermentino is a late ripening, white grape that can grow under some fairly adverse conditions.  One of the more prevalent wine styles produced with this grape is the Vermentino di Sardegna.  This wine style has its own a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) that covers the entire island of Sardinia.

The Villa Solais Vermentino di Sardegna is produced by a co-op called Cantina di Santade from grapes grown on the island's southwestern, coastal area.  In that region, the soil consists of clay and volcanic rocks.  The wine is produced with 70% Vermentino grapes and 30% Nuragus grapes (which is another native white grape).  The label states that, after being harvested, the grapes are soft pressed and fermented at 16 degrees Celsius, the left on the lees for an additional time to maintain the freshness of the aromas and provide a pleasing roundness on the palate.

I have to say that the aromas and the tastes of this wine were a little muted, probably due to the fact that I held on to this wine a little too long.  Six years is a very long time to hold on to a white wine and, over time, the aromas and tastes begin to mellow.  However, other reviews generally find the aromas and tastes that you would expect from a white wine, such as pear, apple and cantaloupe.  Minerality is another flavor, which is expected in light of soil where grapes are grown.  

The winemaker suggests that this wine could be served with seafood and white meat, such as chicken or turkey.  I served this wine with the Insalata dell'Aragosta or Sardinian lobster salad. 

I got this wine at VinoMatique, which used to be in Berea, Ohio. Unfortunately, that great store has closed its doors.  I would definitely consider buying this wine again, if only to try it sooner to get a better appreciation of the aromas and tastes in the wine. 

For more information about the history of wine in Sardinia, check out TLC Cooking.  For more about the Vermentino grape, check out Mario Batali's Babbo Restaurante's website.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Insalata dell'Aragosta (Sardinian Lobster Salad)

Two recent events converged to make this dish possible.  Recently, while perusing the frozen seafood section of my local supermarket, I saw a bag of frozen lobster claws.  I began to think about what I could do with that lobster meat. The other event was the realization that I had a white wine from Sardinia that had to be served, because it was of the 2005 vintage.  What does one like me do when I have a Sardinian white wine and some lobster?  Make a Sardinian Lobster Salad

Seafood salads are common throughout Italy and are often made with whatever fish, shellfish or other seafood is readily available.  In the waters around Sardinia, there are spiny lobsters.  The spiny lobsters differ from the lobsters in the waters around the United States, because they do not have claws.  So, here I am, making a Sardinian lobster salad with lobster meat that would not be found on the lobsters around Sardinia.  It is kind of like watching a movie that is supposed to be set in Rome, Italy but all of the signs are in English and the White House is in the background.

Still, the recipe worked and the dish was very good.  The only problem was the lobster meat itself.  Frozen lobster meat is cooked and, in order to use it, you basically have to cook it again.  I steamed the lobster meat, which did the job, although some lobster meat ended up being dried out.  If you can afford live lobsters, it is probably best to use them for the dish.  

Adapted from
Serves 3-4

1 pound of lobster meat, precooked
1/3 cup of high quality olive oil
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 pound of heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, sliced or chopped
Ground, pepper to taste

1.  Make the dressing.   Buzz the lemon juice and garlic in a blender, then drizzle olive oil slowly so it emulsifies.  

2.  Plate the dish.  Arrange the arugula on the plate.  You can also add mint leaves and basil leaves.  Place the lobster meat on the arugula and add the vegetables.  Spoon the dressing over the salad.  Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper over the salad.