Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bone Marrow Mashed Potatoes

One of my favorite ingredients to cook with is bone marrow.  It is the soft, flexible material inside of bones that, when raw, is relatively firm, but when cooked, is soft, oily, fatty, and buttery in texture.  When I make bone marrow, it often does not last long enough to be used in a recipe.  I just pull out a small spoon, scoop out the marrow and eat it right on the spot.  In my moments of greater discipline, I am able to use that incredible delicious ingredient in dishes such as those that I made as part of my incredibly rare Iron Chef Event.

Sometimes, it is not necessary to come up with a bunch of  different recipes for bone marrow.  Instead, it is better to go with something simple.  And there is nothing simpler than making bone marrow mashed potatoes.  It is just mashed potatoes with some bone marrow added just after you add the milk and butter.  That one ingredient does more to add flavor to the mashed potatoes than either the milk or the butter.  (Let's face it, those two ingredients are more about getting the right texture for the potatoes.  They have little or nothing to do with the flavor of the potatoes.)  Bone marrow adds a beefy undertone to the potatoes, which is especially good when those potatoes are served alongside ... a ribeye or strip steak.

While some may think that using bone marrow just adds another step to the already simple process of making mashed potatoes, I think it is definitely worth it.  In fact, bone marrow makes every dish definitely worth the effort. 

Recipe from John Whalen, 
Prime: The Complete Prime Rib Cookbook, pg. 172
Serves 6 to 8

8 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
4-6 large beef marrow bones, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
Coarsely ground black pepper
Fresh sea salt

1.  Roast the marrow bones.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, placing the rack in the center of the oven.  Place the marrow bones on a baking sheet, transfer to the oven, and then cook for about 15 minutes, until the marrow is nicely browned.  Remove from the oven and let stand.

2.  Prepare the potatoes.  While the marrow bones are roasting, place the potatoes in a large stockpot and fill with water so that it covers the potatoes by 1 inch.  Place the stockpot on the stove and bring to a boil.  Cook the potatoes by boiling for about 20 minutes until you can pierce the potatoes with a fork.  Remove the pot from the heat and drain the water, leaving the potatoes in it.

3.  Mash the potatoes.  Using a potato masher or fork, start mashing the potatoes so they begin to break apart.  Gradually mash in the half-and-half and butter, tasting the potatoes as you go along, until you arrive at the perfect blend of creamy butter, mashed potatoes. 

4.  Add the marrow.  Scoop the marrow from the bones and add to the potatoes, along with the rosemary.  Mix thoroughly, and then the season with the coarsely ground black pepper and fresh sea salt.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Blackened Tilapia with Roasted Pepper and Corn Salsa

Tilapia seems almost ubiquitous.  After shrimp, canned tuna and salmon, tilapia is the most consumed fish in the United States.  It is also, as I have previously blogged, almost entirely farm raised.  Those tilapia farms are spread out across the world, with the largest concentrations in China, Indonesia, Egypt, the Phillippines and Brazil.  It is hard for a consumer to keep track of how fish are raised when the raising is being done thousands of miles away from one's home.  

However, it is possible to raise tilapia in your backyard.  There is a rather small industry out there that is willing to help you start your own tilapia farm.  There are a host of businesses with websites, such as and www.worldwideaquaculture, which provide the starting point.  After having read through a couple of the websites, it is clear that tilapia farming involves more than filling your kids' plastic pool with water and dropping a few fish in it so they can swim around.  It is also involves a lot more than dumping a bunch of fish in your neighbor's in-ground pool.  

Indeed, at, there are a series of seven steps to be taken by anyone who is considering the conversion of their backyard into a tilapia farm.  The first step -- take a quick inventory of your motives and readiness.  That seems like a very good start.  Why do you want a tilapia farm in your backyard?  The website tries to help you by asking, "if you grow enough fish, will you barter them with your neighbors for other goods or services?"  How many fish will it take for my neighbor to cut my lawn?  How many fish can I give to a neighbor's teenage kids as compensation for babysitting my children for an evening?  How many fish does it take before all my neighbors refer to me as "that fishy guy?" 

Moving a step or two forward, as it turns out, you can use your kid's pool to start your tilapia farm.  Who knew?  But, one must first check with the local regulations to see if you can have such a farm in your backyard.  My local jurisdiction has none, so there is nothing in my way starting my own gangbusters tilapia farm (except, perhaps, my beautiful Angel who may want to keep the backyard for other purposes).  

Of course, I would need a budget, and, equipment. The folks at note that "tilapia can be grown successfully in a variety of environments, including ponds, cages, raceways and tanks."  Those same folks add, "[u]rban farmers have even reported growing them in trash cans."  (I think if I used garbage cans, I'd get an "AVOID" rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.)  But still, a working water spigot, a garden hose, and my kid's pool are all components of a starter tilapia farm.  All I need is the fry and some time and then I will be on my way.

Well, not really.  All of this is in jest.  To be sure, one could start a tilapia farm if he or she had the resources, the time, and the know-how.  The websites can certainly provide the know-how, but I think I am lacking in the rest of what is needed.  But, it is fun to dream about it.

Turning to the recipe, I decided to make a blackened tilapia with a roasted pepper and corn salsa.  This is a pretty straightforward and simple recipe to make.  I started with a traditional blackening spice - cayenne, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano.  But, I added a few other spices, like cumin, celery seeds and ancho chile powder (for a little smokiness).  The salsa is also fairly simple and it adds some color as a garnish to the fish.  The ease in terms of making this dish is why a blackened fish with some sort of salsa is a go-to recipe for me.  

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the tilapia):
2 tilapia fillets
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil

Ingredients (for the salsa):
1 green bell pepper, roasted, diced 
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced finely
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1.  Prepare the tilapia.  Mix the paprika, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, celery sides, cumin, cayenne pepper, ancho chile pepper and salt together.  Apply the mix to the tilapia, making sure that the entire fillet is covered.

2.  Prepare the salsa.  Heat the butter over medium high heat.  Add the onions, jalapeno peppers and garlic, along with the dried oregano and thyme, and saute until the onions are translucent, about five minutes.   Add the roasted bell pepper and continue to saute for a couple minutes more.  

3.  Pan-Fry the Tilapia.  Heat the canola oil over very high heat.  Add the tilapia fillets and pan fry for about four  minutes.  Flip the fillets and continue to fry for about 3 minutes more.  Remove from the heat.

4.  Finish the dish.  Plate the tilapia.  Spoon the salsa over the middle of the fillet.  Serve immediately.  


Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Sprecher Series, Part Two ... the Dubbel

A Wisconsin brewery decided to brew the series of Belgian beers.  The first of the series, which I have already reviewed, is the enkel.  Historically, an enkel is a light beer brewed by trappist monks from a basic recipe.  It was the beer that they would have in the monastery, rarely making out of the building for other people to enjoy.  

The next beer in the series is the dubbel.  This beer appears to have originated with the Trappist Abbey in Westmalle.  The monks brewed a stronger version of a Belgian brown ale, which, unlike the enkel, was sold to the public in 1856.  Other breweries followed, producing their own dubbel style beers.

I have reviewed only one dubbel on this blog in the past, Sierra Nevada's Ovila Dubbel.  The beer had a caramel color, with aromatic and taste elements of apples, caramel and raisins.  The question is whether one could expect a similar experience drinking Sprecher Brewery's Dubbel.

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, a dubbel pours a "deep reddish-bronze" color with an aroma that provides hints of "chocolate, caramel or toast," as well as "[m]oderately fruity esters (usually including raisins and plums, sometimes also dried cherries)" and even banana or apple.  The flavor provides hints of the same elements as the aroma, with some spice or pepper notes. 

With this background, we turn to the Sprecher Brewery's dubbel.  The beer pours a dark brown in color, but there are hints of bronze or copper in the appearance.  As the beer warms, hints of caramel and fig greet the nose, with a slight cherry element too.  The fruits -- figs and cherry -- carry through to the taste of the beer.  These elements are joined with notes of plum and caramel, both of which are brought forward by the malts used in the beer.  Those malts are accompanied by a slight hop presence.  However, as one would expect with a dubbel, the hops play a secondary role, giving some balance to the sweetness of the malts and providing some dryness to the finish.

Overall, this beer fits squarely into the dubbel style.  The contrasts between the enkel and dubbel illustrate the progression in the Belgian beer styles.  The reviews of other beers in the Sprecher Series will be forthcoming, until then ...


Monday, February 12, 2018

Roasted Fall Vegetables

There is an old adage when it comes to wine, "don't choose a wine by the look of its label." A label's design is intended to  catch a consumer's eye, without regard to the specifics of the wine, such as the grapes used, the terrior, and/or the process.  Yet, most people purchase wine based upon the label.

Recipes are a lot like wine.  One should not choose a recipe based upon the picture.  The photograph, much like a wine's label, is designed to get the attention of the browser.  

This recipe represents an instance where I did not follow that old adage.  I was looking for a colorful side dish to go with a roasted turkey.   While surfing the Internet, I came across a recipe from Colorful Recipes that had a picture of colorful roasted vegetables.  Based upon that picture, I decided to make this recipe as that vegetable side dish. 

And, as I expected, the finished product did not come close to the picture that initially grabbed my attention.  That is the problem with choosing things based upon sight alone.  It is important to learn more about the recipe, such as the ingredients, cooking process and cooking times, before making a decision.  Once can say that the old adage applies to just about everything, not just about wine or recipes but also books or even people.  In the end, it is important to look beyond the first impression and really get to know what or who you are working with. 

Recipe adapted from Colorful Recipes
Serves 6  to 8

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 pound green beans
3 small-medium carrots, peeled and cubed
8 ounce baby bella mushrooms
1/2 red onion, cut into wedges
1 head of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
Fresh thyme, to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place all of the ingredients on a large baking sheet. Toss well with the oil, vinegar and herbs.  Bake 45 to 50 minutes until fork tender.  Serve immediately.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

T.O.R.I.S. the Tyrant

It used to be that there was a cap on the ABV of beers in Ohio.  12% and not a tenth or hundreth of a percent more.  That changed in 2016, when Governor Kasich signed House Bill 37, which lifted the cap.   (By the way, that is the only good thing Governor Kasich has done.)  

As one brewer noted, "freedom from alochol limitaiton in Ohio has finally been granted in 2016," adding that this new found liberty "has allowed us to brew T.O.R.I.S."  The brewery is Hopping Frog,   The brewery is located in Akron, Ohio and has developed a niche for high powered beers.  Before 2016, those beers ranged in the 8% to 9%  range.  But, the lifting of the cap has allowed the ABV of at least one Hopping Frog beer to rise.  That beer, as noted above, is the T.O.R.I.S. or Triple Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout.  Indeed, the ABV rose so high, that it reached 13.8%.  A level exceeded only by a few beers that I have tried, such as Mikeller's Black (19%) and the Bruery's Geuze (16%).

There is something to be said about a triple oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout.  Google the phrase and the T.O.R.I.S. is basically the only result.  A one of a kind.  And it shows when sipped, almost perfectly.   

The T.O.R.I.S. pours a thick, dark, viscous liquid.  It is not just engine oil.  It is like dark crude, almost tar.  That crude and tar like appearance actually carries through to the body of the beer.  This is the first beer that I have had that actually clings to the edges of the glass when sipped (it becomes much more apparent toward the end).  

The aromatic and taste elements of this beer ironically trend toward the sweet.  The aromas feature raisins, candied prunes, and perhaps chocolates that might come in a box around the holidays. The taste is full of sweet, boozy cherries, which one would expect with an ABV of 13.8%, along with notes of oatmeal, cocoa and chocolate.  The finish has a heavy, roasty bitterness that mimics the feel of wine tannins on the tongue.  

This beer is not for the faint of heart or those who like to say "dilly, dilly."  It is for a certain segment of craft beer lovers.  Those who love high powered beers that are not only unique, but make a statement.  Kind of like hitting the bullseye on an archery target with, not a bow and arrow, but an anti-tank weapon.  If you see this beer on a store shelf, buy it.  Store it (like I did).  And enjoy it (like I did).  


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Glazed Roast Loin of Pork

Over the holidays, my amazing family and I paid a visit to Colonial Williamsburg.  I have always been a very big history buff, and, spending some time along the main road (East Duke of Glouchester Street) is a very enjoyable time for me.  While I like visiting the different period shops, it is the taverns that really get my attention.  Places like Josiah Chowning's Tavern and the Kings Arms Tavern.  Each trip inevitably includes a visit for a meal at one of those establishments.  As I sit in the restaurant, I try to let my mind wander a little and picture what it would have been like  during the Revolutionary War era.  

The history buff and the cooking buff could not pass up an opportunity to buy The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook.  And, after every visit to the colonial town, I get the urge to make something out of the book.  I have already made Hoppin John, which was for New Year's Day.  The claim that eating Hoppin John on that day is supposed to bring good luck. 

Well, this year, I decided to double down on the wish for good luck.  It is also claimed that eating pork on New Year's Day is supposed to bring good luck as well.  So, I decided to make this Glazed Roast Loin of Pork dish from the Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook.  The cookbook does not provide any backstory to this dish, such as whether it was actually served at the taverns during the mid to late 1700s.  However, it does provide some insight.  While residents in early Virginia favored beef, travelers passing through the area preferred pork.  (Cookbook, pg. 120.)  However, the hot temperatures during the summer made it very difficult to have fresh pork on hand for dishes like this roast loin of pork.  The pork would be salted and smoked, which became the foundation of the famous Virginia ham.  However, in the winter, hogs would be slaughtered, which would allow for fresh pork to be stored for a short period of time, such as around the New Year. 

Although I mostly stuck to the recipe, I ended up not cooking the loin as long as it called for in the instructions.  The reason is that my loin was slightly smaller than the six pound loin called for in the recipe.  This also prevented the roasted loin from getting a good color from the glaze.  Nevertheless, the end result was very good, especially when the pork is dipped in the apple brandy sauce.   

Recipe from The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook (page 131)
Serves 6

Ingredients (for the apple brandy glaze):
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup apple brandy

Ingredients (for the apple brandy sauce):
3/4 cup apple jelly
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 small onion grated
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon bottled horseradish, drained
1/2 cup apple brandy

Ingredients (for the roast):
1 whole pork loin (6 pounds), with chine bone separated
     (not removed entirely from the bone, at room temperature)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon 

1.  Prepare the glaze.  In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, cloves, allspice and apple brandy.  Mix well.

2.  Make the sauce.  In a small saucepan, combine the apple jelly, lemon peel, lemon juice, onion, ginger, horseradish and brandy.  Warm over low heat until the jelly has dissolved.  Cool and set aside. 

3.  Roast the pork.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  On an oiled rack in a large roasting pan, place the pork roast. Roast until the internal temperature registers at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Thirty minutes before the end of the roasting time, skim and discard the fat from the roasting pan, leave the drippings.  Brush the pork with the glaze several times during the last 1/2 hour of cooking.  Transfer the roast to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.  

4.  Finish the sauce.   Skim off and discard all of the fat from the pan, leaving the drippings.  Set the pan on the top of the stove and pour in the sauce.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to pick up any roasting bits from the bottom of the pan.  Taste for seasoning and strain into a warmed sauce boat.  Cut the loin into thick slices and pass the sauce on the side.