Friday, December 27, 2019

Turkey in the Arista Style, with Tuscan Bread Stuffing

For this holiday season, I decided that I would try something different.  Christmas Eve dinner is a well established tradition in my family, with the antipasta plate and wedding soup, followed by pasta with meatballs and sausage. That tradition has produced many great memories for me going back to my childhood. 

Traditions are good, in fact, they are great.  But, at least for me, I felt that I could be missing something if I didn't take a chance and try something different. There was only one question: what to make?

Recently, my beautiful Angel's parents traveled to Italy, spending time in Lazio, Tuscany and Liguria.  I too spent time in Tuscany, which provided me with the inspiration for the dinner.  I spent a lot of time researching main courses, but I wanted to make something that everyone could enjoy.  I ultimately decided to do an Arista, which is a dish that I previously made. Arista is a roast pork dish that is quintessential Tuscan cuisine. The problem with an Arista is that it is roast pork, and, my beautiful Angel does not eat pork.  My Angel does eat turkey, so I decided to apply the ingredients and cooking techniques of an Arista to a turkey.

To be sure, there are not very many turkeys gobbling around Tuscany. (Although, interestingly, there is a highly challenged study that says the ancient Etruscans, who called the area of Tuscany their home around 900 B.C. came from Anatolia, which is currently known as Turkey.) But, the use of a rub of rosemary, garlic, fennel seed and clove pretty much made this turkey smell like a Tuscan pork roast. 

Additional Tuscan flavor and character was added to the bird with the stuffing.  I searched far and wide  on the Internet for a "Tuscan stuffing."  I came across one recipe for a Tuscan Bread Stuffing. This recipe incorporated many classic Tuscan ingredients, such as rosemary, sage and chestnuts.  The use of pancetta is also key, as its fat provides flavor at every level and stage of preparation.  

Overall, this is perhaps the best turkey that I have ever made; and, according, to my beautiful Angel, the stuffing is the best that she has ever had.  This recipe is now the Savage Boleks' standard for a stuffed turkey dinner.  This may be the beginning of a new tradition ... for now.


TURKEY IN THE ARISTA STYLE
WITH TUSCAN BREAD STUFFING
Turkey recipe adapted from Reinhardt Hess & Sabine Salzer, 
Regional Italian Cuisine, pp. 148-49
Tuscan Bread Stuffing Recipe adapted from Tasting Table
Serves many

Ingredients (for the turkey):
1 whole turkey (about 12 pounds)
4 lemons, zested
8 to 10 sprigs of rosemary
10 cloves of garlic
4 teaspoons of fennel seeds
4 pinches of ground cloves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 stick of unsalted butter

Ingredients (for the stuffing):
1 1/2 pounds ciabatta bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
8 ounces pancetta, small dice
1 package turkey liver and gizzards (from 1 large turkey)
2 medium carrots, peeled and small dice
2 celery stalks, small dice
1 large yellow onion, small dice
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 cups turkey stock + 2 cups of turkey stock
1 cup roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup minced sage
1/4 cup minced rosemary
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Prepare the turkey.  Rinse the turkey well.  Pat the turkey dry.  Separate the skin from the turkey so that you can apply the rub directly onto the meat. Combine the lemon zest, rosemary, fennel seeds, ground cloves, garlic, salt and black pepper into a small ball.  Mix well.  Add enough olive oil to create a paste.  Continue to mix.  Once the paste has the desired consistency, apply it to all parts of the turkey, including under the skin.  Reserve some of the rub for basting. Allow the turkey to rest for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

2.  Prepare the stuffing.  Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lay out the bread on a baking sheet and bake until dry, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Transfer the bread to a huge bowl.  While the bread is baking, heat the pancetta in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring often until the pancetta is crispy and the fat has rendered, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to the bowl with the bread.  Drain the fat into a separate bowl.  Add back 1 to 2 tablespoons of the fat to the pan and add the liver and gizzards.  Cook the ingredients, turning as needed until golden and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes for the liver and 8 to 10 minutes for the gizzard.  Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop, then add to the stuffing bowl.

3.  Continue to prepare the stuffing.  Add a little more of the pancetta fat back to the pan.  Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pan.  Sweat the ingredients until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer the vegetables to the stuffing bowl.   Add the butter to the pan and cook until it begins to brown and has a nutty aroma.  6 to 8 minutes.  Turn off the heat and stir in the cream to warm through.  Add the butter mixture to the stuffing bowl with the remaining ingredients (namely, the turkey stock).  Using your hands, mix the stuffing to incorporate.  Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. 

4.  Prepare to roast the turkey.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Stuff the turkey's cavities with the stuffing, and place the remaining stuffing in a baking dish.  Roast the turkey for about 3 hours or until the turkey's internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Baste the turkey approximately every hour with melted butter that has some of the rub mixed into it. Fahrenheit. Once the turkey reaches that temperature, remove the turkey from the oven and cover it.  Place the baking dish full of stuffing in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes to 45 minutes, or until the stuffing begins to crisp on the surface.  Remove the stuffing and set on the stove to cool.

5.  Prepare the au jus.  Drain the liquid from the roasting pan into a separator.  Pour the juices into a pot, along with 2 cups of the turkey stock. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper if necessary.  Bring to a boil under medium high heat and reduce to a simmer.  Allow to simmer until you are ready to serve. 

6.  Finish the dish.  Spoon the stuffing into a serving bowl.  Slice the turkey and place on a serving dish.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Roasted Tomato Relish

Side dishes are a rare post on this blog.  It is not that I don't cook sides to go with the main course.  It is just that most of the side dishes that I make are not, in my opinion, blog-worthy.  However, given that I have not been cooking as much recently as I have in the past, and in light of the resulting lack of blog posts because of that fact, I have begun to write some posts about some of the better side dishes that I make. 

This recipe, Roasted Tomato Relish, is one of those side dishes that merits a blog post. Roasted tomatoes -- especially small ones -- are, by themselves, a very delicious side.  The addition of some red wine vinegar and sugar provides elements of tartness and sweetness that works well with the acidity in these little fruits. Add some additional flavor elements, such as garlic, shallots and mustard, then that side dish takes on a little more complexity.   

This is not just a tasty side dish, it is also a very easy dish to make.  In other words, this is a side dish that may become a go-to on Chef Bolek's house menu.


ROASTED TOMATO RELISH
Adapted from Recipe in CSA Cookbook, page 38
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:
3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
2 shallots sliced
6 garlic cloves, unpeeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 bay leaf

Directions:
1.  Roast the vegetables.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, shallots, garlic oil, salt and pepper.  Spread the vegetables across a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until the tomatoes burst and begin to caramelize.

2.  Saute the vegetables.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and peel the garlic.  Combine all of the roasted vegetables with the vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds and bay leaf in a medium saucepan.  Simmer on medium heat and stir occasionally until the volume is reduced to almost half, 30 to 45 minutes.  The relish should be very thick, syrupy and chunky.  Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf.  Serve warm or chiled.

ENJOY!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Big Creek Vineyard's Frontenac (2017)

"Frontenac is what you grow when you can't grow Cabernet Sauvignon."  That is what the nice person at the tasting room for Big Creek Vineyard told me as I sampled Big Creek's wines with my beautiful Angel.  She tried to explain that, given Big Creek's vineyards are in Pennsylvania, which is slightly too far north for Cab Sauv grapes to grow well, the winemakers have cultivated Frontenac to produce a wine that could stand side by side with a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Frontenac is a truly American varietal, because it is a hybrid grapevine produced with Landis Noir grape with a native Vitis Ripara grape that is more resistant to the cold.  And, it can get very cold at the University of Minnesota, where the varietal was first crossed and tested. After successfully creating the hybrid varietal,  the vines made their way to vineyards, where winemakers used the grapes to produce dry sweet wines or rose wines. Some winemakers have even used Frontenac to make port (as I note below, I can totally see that). 

Located near Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, Big Creek Vineyards takes the Frontenac grape and produces a single varietal wine that, as I note above, is intended to stand on its own like a Cabernet Sauvignon wine.  The tasting was very interesting, and, I have not seen Frontenac wines around where I live (perhaps because Cabernet Sauvignon grows a little better around where I live), so I decided to buy a bottle and do a review. 

The Frontenac pours a solid crimson, almost burgundy color.  The color is very deep, almost impenetrable, suggesting a bold wine.  The wine's aromatic elements are expected, with cherries being front and center. I had some difficulty pulling other aromatic elements from the wine, and, my research did not produce much in the way of descriptors for the Frontenac grape.  (There was a lot about Frontenac Gris, but that is a white grape.)

As for the taste, I can totally see why this grape would make a great grape for port wines.  It is a solid wall of cherries, but not any cherries.  The types of cherry flavor one would expect from a port, just without the aguardente or, in cheaper versions, everclear. The fruit is so forward, that one cannot really discern any other taste elements, such as earthiness, in the wine. 

As the first Frontenac wine that I have ever tried, I have to say that Big Creek Vineyard hit it out of the park.  I would never expected a wine like this being produced in the State of Pennsylvania, as opposed to Maryland or Virginia -- or, for that matter, California or Washington. If you happen to find yourself in the Poconos, or, more specifically in Jim Thorpe, check out Big Creek Vineyards and this Frontenac wine. Until next time...

ENJOY!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Chef Bolek's Oyster Stew 2019

A little more than one year ago, I first encountered the Oysterfest.  A festival surrounding the oyster, the iconic shellfish of the Chesapeake Bay (and, yes, elsewhere, but as someone in the Delmarva, there is only the Bay). The very first thing that I did was serve as one of 500 judges in a taste testing of oyster stews.  I did a post about that experience, which you can find here.  I had such a great time trying the different entries of oyster stew, that I decided to make my own Chesapeake Oyster Stew.

One year later, I returned to the Oysterfest, ready to serve as a judge at the oyster stew competition.  There were only four contestants this year.  Oyster Stew A was very good, but it was lacking a little something in my opinion, although it is hard to explain what exactly was that "something."  Oyster Stew B was very good, and, it helped that I got a few full oysters that I was able to enjoy along with a slight kick in the background of the stew.  Oyster Stew C was good, in that it had the smoky notes that one can get using bacon.  The big drawback was that no one skimmed off the grease, which left a reddish film on the top of the stew. Oyster Stew D was somewhat avant garde, relying upon the flavor of the oyster liqueur than the oysters itself.  Overall, I decided that Oyster Stew B was the best.  As for all of the other judges, a majority chose Oyster Stew A.

After that event, I was inspired to create a new oyster stew for 2019.  I decided to draw from the avant garde nature of Oyster Stew D, but to use actual oysters.  I wanted to make an oyster stew without cream or milk.  That is truly thinking out of the box as that cream or milk is a fundamental characteristic of this type of stew.  The substitute came in a triumverate of liquids.  First, I decided to use white wine, and, in this case, a Chardonnay. The best wine would be an unoaked wine or a slightly oaked wine (which is what I used).  Second, I decided to use clam juice, which gives a taste that works well with seafood soups. (It is great when one cannot find seafood stock.)  Third, I did what every self-respecting cook does when making oyster stew, I used the oyster liqueur. 

The one other major change that I did is to use ham hocks, as opposed to bacon.  The difference is significant because, due to the high salt content of a ham hock, there is not as much grease in the pan as with bacon.  I crisped up the pieces of ham hock to provide some texture elements in the soup, but I had to add a little oil to prevent everything from simply burning.  

In the end, this so-called "avant garde" style of oyster stew was a great experiment.  The only thing that was missing is what I love in oyster stews ... that slight hint of smokiness that comes from the use of bacon.  Perhaps it will find its way back into the Chef Bolek's Oyster Stew 2020. 


CHEF BOLEK'S OYSTER STEW 2019
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

Ingredients:
16 ounces of oysters, with liqueur reserved
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup of red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup of clam juice
1 cup of white wine, such as Chardonnay
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped
2.5 ounces of ham hock (wiping off most of the salt), diced
3 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:
1.  Saute the ham hocks and vegetables.  Add the oil and heat a medium sized pot on medium high.  Add the ham hock and saute, stirring occasionally, until it begins to crisp.  Add the onions, celery, potatoes, bay leaves and thyme.  Continue to saute until the onions become translucent, and the celery and potatoes begin to soften, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add more oil if the bottom of the pot becomes dry to avoid burning the ingredients.

2.  Add the liquid.  Add the wine and stir the ingredients.  Then add the clam juice and the oyster liqueur and stir again.  Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat.  Continue to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

3.  Add the oysters.  Add the oysters to the stew.  Cook for about three to five minutes until the oysters are opaque.  If your guests want their oysters cooked a little more, let it go for an additional minute or two.

4.  Finish the dish.  Pour the stew into individual bowls.  Add a few oysters to each of the bowls.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Green Hatch Chile Hot Sauce

Most people know that I love hot sauce.  If one were to open my refrigerator, he or she would find at least four different hot sauces in there.  Walk a few feet to the cupboard, and he or she would find another two or three hot sauces on the bench.  At one point in time, I went through a 5 fluid ounce bottle of Tabasco sauce every several days.  

Given my love for hot sauce, I have always wanted to make my own.  I have looked through many different recipes, using a wide range of peppers.  However, I never made any of them.  As much as I wanted to make hot sauce, there was always something else that I ended up making.  I needed something to get me to do it.

That "something" was a bunch of fresh Hatch chiles. I bought a bag of those chiles at a local grocery store.  My intent was to grill the chiles or roast them, serving them as a side.  However, there were a lot of chiles in that bag.  As time went by, I decided I had to do something with those chiles. Given the Hatch chile is my favorite chile, I decided to make that hot sauce. 

The only question is what type of hot sauce to make.  Given my love of Tabasco sauce, I decided that I would make a more vinegar-forward sauce.  I went back through those hot sauce recipes and found a good recipe at This Mess is Ours.  

The Hatch chiles that I had were not very spicy, so I was looking at making a very mild hot sauce.  I could have easily slipped in a habanero or scotch bonnet pepper, and, no one would be the wiser.  I have to admit the thought crossed my mind.  

In the end, I wanted to make a pure Hatch chile hot sauce.  Three ingredients - the chiles, distilled white vinegar, and Kosher salt.  As pure of a hatch chile hot sauce as one can get. 

I don't regret that decision. Although the sauce is very mild in my opinion (as most of the hot sauces I have tend toward extra hot), it was a great first effort.  


GREEN HATCH CHILE HOT SAUCE
Recipe from This Mess is Ours

Ingredients
1 pound of fresh Hatch chiles
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt

Directions:
1.  Prepare the chiles.  Rinse the chiles and dry them.  Slice off the stems of the chiles. 

2. Puree the chiles.  Place the chiles in a food processor with the Kosher salt.  Puree the chiles until a coarse puree is created. 

3.  Slightly ferment the chiles.  Transfer the chile puree to a glass jar with the lid loosely screwed on.  Let sit at room temperature for 12 hours to allow for a little fermentation.

4. Continue the fermentation.  Add the vinegar, stir the contents, and loosely screw the lid on again.  Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature for at least 24 hours but up to 7 days.

5.  Puree the mixture.  Add the contents to a food processor, process until the mixture is smooth.  

6.  Strain the mixture.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, using a spatula to make sure that all of the liquids are extracted from the mixture.  

7.  Finish the hot sauce.  Bottle the liquid and refrigerate for up to four months.

ENJOY!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Karas Classic Red (2016)

Who knew that Armenia made wine? As it turns out, the country of Armenia stakes the claim to being one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. In fact, the oldest winery -- dating back approximately 6,100 years -- is located in the village of Areni. For centuries, grape vines have been cultivated in the valleys of the South Caucacus, producing wines that seem to receive little fanfare.

Perhaps part of the problem is that, at least in more recent times, the grapes don't always go toward traditional wines.  During much of the twentieth century, when Armenia was the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, a larger proportion of the grapes went to the production of brandy or sherry, as opposed to table wines.  Moreover, much of the production was destined for other parts of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, with very little making its way outside of the Iron Curtain.

Since it regained its independence, there has been growth in the production of red wines.  Many of Armenia's provinces -- from Aragotsotn to Voyats Dozr -- have vineyards and wineries, producing wines from grapes seldom heard outside of the Country of Stones.  Grapes such as Lalvari, Kakhet, Areni and Khndogni.  Winemakers also cultivate more well known varietals, such as Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Tannat.  I came across one such wine on my birthday, when I ordered a bottle to accompany a dinner of kebabs at a local Persian restaurant. 

The wine is the Karas Classic Red (2016), which is produced in the Armavir region of Armenia.  Due east of Armenia's capital of Yerevan, the Armavir region holds a special place in the country's history.  It has a long history, but the central event in that timeline is the 1918 Battle of Sardarabad.  The battle pitted the Ottoman Empire, which sought to take advantage of the collapse of the Russian Empire, by attacking the Armenians. The Armenians fought back at that battle and stopped the Ottoman advance.  It is said that the Armenians' victory at Sardarabad saved the Armenian nation.

The history of Karas wine is not as long or contested.  Karas is the Armenian word for "amphora," the vessel used in classical times to store wine.  The family that owns Karas had left Armenia long ago as part of the diaspora, finding their way to Argentina.  However, they made their way back to their native Armenia, returned to the Armavir region, and established Karas, producing a range of wines, including the Classic Red.

With that background, the Karas Classic Red is a blend of 35% Syrah, 35% Cot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Tannat. The Karas pours a deep ruby red.  The aroma gives hints of bold red fruit, such as juicy cherries and strawberries.  Wafts of something more earthy, more expected from someplace with the nickname of "Country of Stones" can be found on the nose.  Some slate, some pebble, some kind of stone can be found in the aroma.

As for the taste, this wine is relatively bold, presenting a taste that is full of ripe, red cherries in season.  Indeed, the cherries are so bold that, in some sense, they take on a candied note.  That note is somewhat softened by other dark fruit on the palate, such as a little blackberries. 

The taste, along with the aroma, was quite the surprise to someone like me, who had no idea of Armenian wine.  This Classic Red left me wanting to learn more about Armenian wine, as well as searching out a few wine stores that carry bottles of this blend.  (Fortunately, I have found a couple in my area.) If you find a bottle, which goes for between $14.99 and $16.99, you should buy a bottle and learn a little about Armenian wine.  Until next time...

ENJOY!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Cape Town Lamb

Like many countries, South Africans have developed their own style of barbecue, which is called "braai" or "grilled meat."  Although that term is Afrikaans, the word has become so eponymous in South Africa that each of the twelve official languages recognizes "braai" as what many would call  barbecue. Not only has the word been adopted into all of the languages of South Africa, but the social custom of a braai is enjoyed by all social classes, from the rich to the poor.   

The subject of barbecue is one that is near and dear to my heart.  I have spent a lot of time learning about different barbecue styles across the United States and around the world.  When I came across Steven Raichlen's recipe for Cape Town Lamb, I decided that I had to look a little more into the South African barbecue generally, and, this recipe in particular.  

There is a lot of information out there about the social custom of a braai.  A braai is like a potluck, centered around a wood fire over which different meats are grilled over direct and indirect heat.  The meats include sausages, kebabs, marinated chicken, pork chops, lamb chops, and even steaks.  If the braai takes place near the coastline, it is not uncommon for fish to appear on the grill. Once the meats are finished, they are served alongside side dishes and salads. 

I could go more into a braai, but that may very well end up as part of my culinary challenge, Around the World in 80 Dishes, to prepare a main dish from South Africa. 

Unlike the braai, I had a much more difficult time learning about the history of the Cape Town Lamb recipe.  Every thing I found ultimately led me back to Steven Raichlen and his Barbecue Bible book.  With that said, I turned to the recipe itself.  There is some information in that recipe that provides some insight.  The use of soy sauce and Chinese hot mustard is a nod to the Asians who have made their way to South Africa, as is the use of ginger, as the largest producers of the root include China and India. In other words, the use of these ingredients gives us a glimpse into the diversity of the people who call the Rainbow Nation their home. 

I made a couple of changes to the recipe.  Although this recipe calls for a bone-in leg of lamb, I decided used a boneless leg of lamb, which was tied up so that it was a tight ball. This helped to ensure that the meat cooked evenly. It was also a necessity given my second change.  The recipe calls for indirect cooking. I decided to go full-on barbecue, smoking the meat with a combination of apple and pecan wood. I smoked the lamb in my Weber Smokey Mountain, and, a boneless leg of lamb fits better int that smoker than a bone-in leg of lamb.

In the end, I think this recipe produced a very tasty lamb barbecue dish that, much like barbacoa, opens one's eyes to how different peoples approach a common cooking technique.  


CAPE TOWN LAMB
Recipe from Barbecue Bible
Serves 12

Ingredients (for the lamb):
1 bone-in leg of lamb (6 to 8 pounds) 
     trimmed of any papery skin
6 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slivers
6 thin slices of peeled fresh ginger, cut into thin slivers
(Optional: apple and pecan wood for smoking)

Ingredients (for the glaze):
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons hot Chinese style mustard
     or one tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:
1.  Prepare the lamb.  Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, slits about an inch deep all over the surface of the lamb.  Insert a sliver of garlic and ginger into each slit.  Place the lamb in a non-reactive roasting pan and set aside while you prepare the glaze.

2.  Make the glaze. Combine the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, mustard, lemon huice, minced garlic adn ginger in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Cook the glaze until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Remove the glaze from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Let cool to room temperature. 

3.  Continue to prepare the lamb.  Pour half of the cooled glaze over the lamb in the roasting pan, brushing to coat it on all sides.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator, for 3 to 8 hours (the longer the better).  Refrigerate the remaining glaze, covered.

4.  Prepare the grill. Set up the grill for indirect grilling (preferably, you'll have built a wood fire; let it burn down to glowing embers), place a large drip pan in the center, and preheat the grill to medium.  Toss the wood chips on the coals.  

5.  Cook the lamb.  When ready to cook, place the lamb on the hot grate over the drip pan and cover the grill.  Cook the lam until done to taste, 1 to 1 1/4 hours for rare (internal temperature of 120 to 125 degrees); 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours for medium rare (130 to 135 degrees); 2 hours for medium ({145 to 150 degrees).  Start brushing the lamb wit the remaining glaze during the last 45 minutes of grilling, brushing it two or three times.  If using a charcoal grill, you will need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side every hour. 

6.  Finish the dish.  Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and brush it one last time with glaze, then let it rest for 10 minutes for carving.  While the lamb rests, heat any remaining glaze to serve as a sauce with the lamb. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Vietnamese Mussels

I am a very big fan of mussels; and, fortunately, the bivalves can be found on menus at many restaurants. The prevalence of mussel dishes takes on interesting dimensions when they are found on the menus of different ethnic restaurants and, to a somewhat lesser degree, when they are found on the menus of American cuisine restaurants who are dabbling in ethnic cuisine.  Really, if you want to see how a mussels are used in Italian cuisine (for example), the best thing in my humble opinion is to order the dish at an Italian restaurant.  Likewise, if you are like me and really looking to go outside the box, you would be perusing the menu at a Vietnamese restaurant to see if there are any mussel dishes.

The thing about eating mussels at restaurants is that most mussel dishes are overpriced. There are two reasons for this reality.  First, mussels have been relatively popular in recent years. Second, mussels are perhaps the most difficult shellfish to deal with. They tend to die very quickly.  While working as a cook at a crab house, one of my initial prep tasks was to go through the bags of mussels and discard the bad ones. Oftentimes, I would discard a quarter of a bag.  In other words, supply and demand.

However, one can buy a one or two pound bag (which would be upward of $7.00 for a bag), grab a few ingredients lying around the kitchen, and make a mussel dish that could sell for $12.00 to $15.00 at a restaurant. That is what I did in this case, after finding a recipe for Vietnamese Mussels. The recipe requires only a few ingredients, such as a carrot, scallions, a lime, fish sauce and sugar.  The end result is a great appetizer.


VIETNAMESE MUSSELS
Recipe adapted from PEIMussel.com
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 pounds of fresh mussels
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/2 cup of water
4 teaspoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 bunch of scallions, green parts sliced

Directions:
1. Prepare the mussels.  Rinse the mussels under tap water.  Tap any mussels that are open and throw away any mussels that do not close after being tapped and rinsed.  Set aside.

2.  Prepare the steaming liquid.   In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the carrot, lime zest and lime juice, water, sugar and fish sauce.  Bring to a boil.  

3.  Steam the mussels.  Add the mussels and cover with a lid.  Turn the heat to high and cook until steam pours out from under the lid and the shells are open, 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit covered for about a minute.  Discard any mussels that do not open.

4.  Plate the dish.  Plate the mussels, pour any of the liquid form the pot over the mussels, and garnish with the scallion greens. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Arista, Patate Rosse Arrostite, Cavolo Nero

It was Florence, Tuscany. The year was 1430.  The Byzantine patriarch, Bessarion, was visiting the city, which was the center of an oligarchic republic at time.  The visit of the patriarch was an occasion to celebrate. Accordingly, along with the other bishops and cardinals, Bessarion was treated to a feast that included a roasted pork dish.  After eating some of that roast pork, the Bessarion exclaimed, "aristos!" His Tuscan hosts looked at him and then at each other.  After all, what the Byzantine patriarch said was Greek (literally). The Tuscan hosts thought Bessarion was shouting the Greek word for pork; instead, he was really saying "best" or "excellent." 

This is a great story, but it is most likely a culinary myth. "Arista" goes back at least one century before Bessarion set foot in Florence.  Records apparently include references to the roast pork dish going back to the 1200s.  Regardless of when it first appeared, the dish has become one of the culinary cornerstones of Tuscan cuisine;

Indeed, arista is in many ways the porcine equivalent to Bistecca alla Fiorentina, another Tuscan culinary classic.  Like bistecca, arista combines garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper into a crust that infuses those flavors into the meat.  Arista can also be made using a crown roast or a rib roast, which are probably as close to a bone-in cut like a porterhouse.  However, most recipes for arista focus more on cuts like the pork tenderloin than roasts.  Moreover, unlike bistecca, arista works best when it is roasted slow rather than with a sear over extremely hot coals.  

Most arista recipes are relatively the same.  This recipe is a Chef Bolek original insofar that I have taken what I liked from dfferent arista recipes, including some of my own additional ingredients, like the crushed red pepper. 

For this dish, I decide to pair the roasted pork with side dishes of roasted red potatoes (patate rosse arrostite) and sauteed black kale (cavolo nero).  The red potato recipe is rather basic, drawing upon the fundamental ingredients of the rub for the pork roast (rosemary, garlic, salt and black pepper) to underscore the complementary nature of the roasted potatoes.  As for the kale, I am not a big fan of the leafy cabbage.  Still, I am a big fan of balsamic vinegar, which provides some sweetness to balance out the bitterness of the kale. 

In the end, I was just cooking for myself, not a feast for bishops and cardinals.  Yet, as the picture shows, it was nevertheless a personal feast.  Just a couple of bites of the roasted pork is all the explanation one needs for why this recipe has survived over at least 800 years. 


ARISTA, PATATE ROSSE ARROSTITE, CAVOLO NERO
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 6-8

Ingredients (for the pork loin):
1 boneless pork loin roast (about 3 pounds)
4 springs of fresh rosemary, chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 tablespoon sea salt (or more if desired)
1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper (or more if desired)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil (or more if desired)
1 cup of water or white wine

Ingredients (for the red potatoes):
2 pounds of red potatoes, washed, cut into large pieces
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, chopped finely
1 tablespoon of garlic, minced finely
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Ingredients (for the kale):
1 bunch of Tuscan kale (or kale), 
     leaves and stems roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 shallot, minced finely
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Balsamic vinegar 

Directions:
1.  Prepare the pork loin.  Brush the pork loin with the olive oil.  Salt and pepper the pork loin generously on all sides.  Then add the minced garlic and rosemary on all sides.  Allow the pork loin to rest for 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.  

2.  Prepare the red potatoes.  In a large bowl add the potatoes, olive oil, garlic and rosemary.  Salt and pepper the potatoes.  

3. Roast the pork.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the pork loin roast in the center of a lightly oiled roasting pan.  Add the potatoes around the pork loin roast.  Cook uncovered for 45 minutes.  Check the loin roast and the potatoes. Raise the heat to 450 degrees and cook for another 30 minutes to brown well.  Remove the roast when the internal temperature reaches around 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  Allow the roast to rest for 10 minutes before carving. 

4.  Prepare the kale. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the stems, garlic and shallots.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heart to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until the stems soften.  Add the kale leaves and increase the heat to high.  Cook, stirring the leaves until they have wilted, about two to three minutes.

5.  Finish the dish. Carve the roast into thin slices and serve with the potatoes and kale.

ENJOY!  

Friday, October 11, 2019

Chesapeake Paella

Recently, as I get myself back into cooking, I have been wanting to make dishes for which I have a strong affinity.  It may be a particular dish, or, particular ingredients.  The problem is trying to find a recipe from which I could work to bring those beloved components together.  I often spend a lot of time looking at recipes, thinking about the preparation set forth therein, and how I could change it or adapt it to something that I want to make and eat.

That is the process that I used when I came across a recipe for a simple shellfish paella.  I love paella, and, I have made that dish a couple of times in the past.  Those efforts were more "earthy," with the use of turkey, artichokes and green beans.  The thought of cooking a shellfish paella was intriguing to me.  But, the thought did not end there.  I went on to think about how I could change the recipe to incorporate some of the flavors and ingredients that I like.  My thoughts turned to familiar shellfish and seafood, such as crab, clams and oysters, all of which can be found in my beloved Chesapeake Bay.

And, the result of my thinking process is a Chesapeake Paella. There are certain ingredients that play a central role in the culinary history of the Chesapeake Bay: crabs, clams and oysters. That triumvirate of seafood would be the center of my paella.  The Chesapeake Paella was ready, at least in concept.

Making that concept a reality, required the solution to a big problem.  Each of the  main three ingredients is that they have wildly different cooking times.  Unshucked oysters become plump morsels in a couple of minutes.  Clams take several minutes longer, depending upon the size.  Soft shell crabs ordinarily take a few minutes in a saute pan, but they would take much longer in the paella pan.  So, I decided on a particular order and process.  The clams would go in first and be covered to allow the heat to start the cooking process.  When the clams started to open, then I would add the oysters and cover again to cook both at the same time.  While the clams and oysters were cooking, I would prepare the soft shells in a separate skillet, adding them to the paella when the crabs were almost finished.

The end result of this effort was a very good paella that drew its essence from the Chesapeake Bay.  I really liked this paella, but, with practice, I think that this could become a really good paella.


CHESAPEAKE PAELLA
Recipe adapted from Simple Shellfish Paella 
by Andrew Zimmern
Serves 6-8
Ingredients:
2 cups of paella rice
2 teaspoons pimenton (hot smoky paprika)
1 minced onion
2 tablespoons minced parsley
3 minced garlic cloves
2 pinches saffron
4 cups seafood stock
2 cups of clam juice
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of white wine
1 cup of clam juice
8 ounces jumbo lump crab meat
8 ounces of little neck clams
8 ounces of raw oysters
2 soft shell crabs
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
6 ounces of Spanish chorizo sliced thin

Directions:
1. Begin the paella.  Place a paella pan (12 inch or 16 inch) over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add the olive oil.  Immediately add the onion, garlic, saffron, pimenton, rice and stir, cooking until all of the ingredients become toasty and aromatic.  Keep scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid scorching or burning of the ingredients, but still working toward carmelization of the ingredients.  

2.  Add the liquid.  First, add the wine and stir as you go.  Then add the clam stock and stir as you go.  Finish by adding the seafood stock, continuing to stir as the liquids simmer and start to be absorbed into the rice.  Lower the heat and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.

3.  Add the seafood. Add the crab meat and stir gently so as to not break up the lumps . Add the clams and asparagus, cover for a few minutes, until the clams begin to open. Remove the cover.  Add the oysters and cover again for only a few more minutes, until the oysters begin to firm.  Remove the cover.  Continue to cook for about 5 minutes.  

4.  Cook the soft shell crabs.  While you are adding the seafood to the paella, heat the 1 tablespoon of white wine and butter in a separate small pan.  Saute the soft shell crabs until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. 

5.  Finish the dish.  Once the rice is just past "toothy" but not mushy, and the remaining liquid is like a sauce, remove the paella from the heat.  Season with salt to taste and sprinkle with the parsley.

ENJOY!


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Chesapeake Bay Oysters with Green Mignonette Sauce

It is common to serve a mignonette sauce with raw oysters.  It is a sauce typically made with minced shallots, vinegar and and freshly cracked black pepper. Personally, I think a mignonette sauce is boring.  I almost never use it when I order raw oysters at a restaurant; and, at home, I usually don't bother making it.  

Occasionally, I look for a way to take a boring mignonette sauce and make it into something that I would actually want to grace a raw oyster that is sitting in its shell.  On rare occasions, I try to come up with my own mignonette sauce.  In the end, I more often than not just use a little Tabasco Sauce or grated horseradish with my oysters.  No sauces.

A while back, I came across a recipe for a green mignonette sauce.  The recipe actually looked interesting and, if I dare say so, it looked tasty.  While shallots are used in the recipe, rice wine vinegar and mirin are used as substitutes for vinegar.   The addition of jalapeno and fresh parsley give the mignonette sauce a little character and kick.  Blended together, with a little lemon juice, the result is a sauce that was worth putting on an oyster. 


CHESAPEAKE BAY OYSTERS WITH GREEN MIGNONETTE SAUCE
Recipe adapted from from Veryvera
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 dozen Chesapeake Bay oysters, rinsed and shucked
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Juice from 1 lemon

Directions:
1.  Prepare the sauce.  Blend all of the ingredients in a blender.  Pour into ramekins to serve with the oysters.  

2.  Finish the dish.  Provide each guest with a ramekin of the sauce.  Spoon a little of the sauce over each oyster.

ENJOY!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Tonga

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since I last undertook one of the challenges that is part of my Around the World in 80 Dishes.  That last challenge was to cook a main course from the country of Ghana.  The dish was Jollof Rice with Goat, one of two dishes that I have made with goat (the other was a Guyanese Goat Curry).  As I return to this challenge, I wanted to do something completely different, something completely new. 

As I perused my previous challenges, I noticed that I have not made a dish from any of the nations in what could be referred to as Polynesia, Melanesia or Micronesia.  These three names refer to the regions of islands in the Pacific Ocean.  Polynesia consists of a variety of islands, including the countries of Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.  Melanesia includes Papua New Guinea, the Soloman Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu.  Micronesia includes the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. After giving it some thought, as well as a review of recipes, I decided that my next challenge would be to make a main dish from the Kingdom of Tonga.

As with most islands in the Pacific Ocean, Tonga had a rich history long before the arrival of the colonizing powers such as the Dutch, British, French or even the Americans. The earliest evidence of settlement among Tonga's 169 islands dates back to between 1,500 to 1,000 B.C.  This settlement is believed to have been part of the Lupita, who were the predecessors to the Polynesian peoples that eventually settled on the island.  That latter settlement was dated to around 888 B.C.  Tonga grew in power and influence, led by a line of succession of rulers known as the Tu'i Tonga.  The "Tu'i Tongan" empire reached its height in the 12th century, and began to decline thereafter.

Speeding up the history lesson, the Tongans eventually came into contact with Europeans, first Dutch explorers in 1616 and later the British, the Spanish and the Americans in 1840.  Fast forward a few hundred years and Tonga became a protected territory of the United Kingdom in 1900, which lasted until 1970. During this time period, as was true throughout its history, Tonga retained its sovereignty and was the only island nation to retain its monarchy. This independence sets Tonga apart from other Pacific nations.  

MAIN COURSE

While I love to discuss history, the challenge is to cook a main course based upon the cuisine of a country.  The cuisine of Tonga, like any country, is defined by where it is located and what one could find there.  As a collection of islands in the Pacific Ocean, one would expect that seafood plays a key role in the cuisine.  To be sure, there are a wide range of seafood dishes, but, one dish that I kept coming across is 'Ota 'Ika, which I decided would be centerpiece of this challenge.

Put simply, 'Ota 'Ika is a Pacific Islander version of ceviche. It consists of fish marinated in citrus (usually lime juice) for a period of time, usually an hour or so.  What sets aside this dish from the Latin American versions of ceviche is that 'Ota 'Ika is served in coconut milk.  The sweetness of the milk balances the citrus of the lemon juice.

'Ota 'Ika is traditionally prepared in Tonga with the moki or blue cod, which is a species of trumpeter fish.  However, that particular species of trumpeter fish is found in the waters around Australia, New Zealand and, of course, Tonga.  In other words, it was not available where I live.  I tried to find alternatives, such as Trevally, but I still had the same problem.  Eventually, I decided to use a fish that is used for ceviche, such as snapper.

One last note, check to see if the fish is "cooked through."  If the pieces are still raw in the inside, let it rest in the citrus for longer, up to 24 hours.


'OTA 'IKA
Recipe from the Otango Daily Times
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
2 pounds of fresh fish (such as moki or blue cod)
Juice of 4 to 5 lemons
3-4 spring onions, chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 2/3 cup of coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1.  Prepare the fish.  Wash the fish, cut into small bite-sized pieces and put into a bowl.  Squeeze the lemons and pour the juice over the fish.  Mix well, cover and place in the refrigerate to marinate for at least a half an hour to an hour or overnight.  

2. Prepare the vegetables.  Chop the spring onions and tomatoes.  Slice the peppers.  Peel the cucumber, slice in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon.  Cut the cucumber into bite sized pieces.  

3.  Finish the dish. Take the fish from the refrigerator, add the cucumber, tomatoes, peppers and spring onions.  Pour over the coconut cream over and mix well. Taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.  Serve chilled with taro, cassava and kumara.

*     *     *

It's been a long time since I did a ceviche.  The last time may have been when I did my challenge to prepare a main dish from Ecuador, which was Black Bass ceviche.  My effort to produce 'Ota 'Ika was not much of a success.  I followed the directions, but the fish was not "cooked" all the way through. It turns out my "small bite size pieces" were not small enough and/or it needed more time or citrus juice to complete the process.  While I am a big fan of sushi, I was not going to take a risk.   Not every dish can be a success, but I learned a lesson (which is just as important) ... make sure small bite sized pieces are indeed small, bit sized pieces.  

Until next time ... 

ENJOY!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Bluejacket's Mexican Radio

The lyrics go something like this, "I feel a hot wind on my shoulder / A touch of the world that is older / Turn the switch and check the number."  If you can imagine Stan Ridgeway singing those words, then you would have the opening to the 1982 hit, Mexican Radio by Wall of Vooodoo.  The song was inspired by the unregulated Mexican AM stations

Those lyrics went through my head when I first encountered the Mexican Radio beer brewed by Bluejacket Brewery in Washington, D.C. The Mexican Radio is a sweet stout, brewed with not only oats and milk sugar, but also ancho chile peppers, vanilla beans, cinnamon and cacao nibs. In other words, it is brewed in the style of a chile beer. In some respects this beer is a lot like the song, an offering inspired by a "style" of beers that is not very well regulated.

There is a Beer Certification Judge Program ("BCJP"), which has extensive notes about different styles of beer: what they should look like, what their aroma should smell like, what are the expected taste elements of the beer.  When it comes to a chile beer, the most the BCJP has to offer in terms of guidelines is "30A. Spice, Herb or Vegetable Beer" or "SHV Beer."  This category does not provide much in the way of guidelines, leaving the style open for interpretation and experimentation.

I have reviewed quite a few chile beers in the past (because they are one of my favorite beer styles). These beers include 5 Rabbits' 5 Vultures, New Belgium's Cocoa Mole, Ska Brewing's Mole Stout, New Holland's El Mole Ocho, and both Stone Brewing's Crime and Punishment.  There are common threads in these beers.  First, the beer either is a variation of a pre-existing beer, that is, a beer already brewed but now with chiles added (like the Stone beers) or it is a new beer usually based on a preexisting style, such as a stout.  Second, the chile typically used in the beer is the ancho chile or chipotle chile, probably because of the heat and smoke characteristics of the peppers.  When it is a new beer, the brewing typically includes other spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, cacao, etc.

Bluejacket's Mexican Radio stands as one of the best, if not the best, chile beer that I have ever had.  I had it a couple times when I ate at The Arsenal in Washington, D.C. However, Bluejacket now has a tasting room adjacent to the restaurant and four packs of the beer are available for carry out. 

The Mexican Radio pours a pitch black, which one would expect with any stout.  However, unlike some stouts, the beer does not have a viscous appearance, having a medium body that is masked (perhaps Lucha Libre style) by a thin cinnamon-colored foam.  The aromatic elements suggest some of the ingredients other than the chiles, such as the vanilla and cinnamon.  The sweetness of the oats and milk sugar help to soften the aromas.  As one sips the beer, the ancho chiles make their presence known upfront, but the taste is rounded out by the cinnamon and the cacao nibs.  The vanilla and the milk sugars round out the flavor, providing a softness that blunts a little of the heat from the chiles.  Overall, the Mexican Radio presents perhaps the most balanced chile beer that I have ever had. 

With an ABV of 8%, the Mexican Radio is a very drinkable beer, that is best experienced while sitting and relaxing on one's deck. The beer has limited availability, either at the Arsenal restaurant or the adjoining taproom.  If I recall correctly, it sells for about $15.99 for a four pack.  Until next time ...

ENJOY! 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Project Maryland BBQ: Part 4, Free State Smoked Pork Shoulder

While every barbecue style is defined by a principal protein (beef in Texas, pork in North Carolina, etc.), that style is never limited to just that one protein. Pitmasters also work their magic on other proteins, adding their distinctive regional approaches to the resulting barbecue.

In this multi-part series, Project Maryland Barbecue, I have been exploring what would be true Maryland barbecue if the Free State had its own regional barbecue style. Part 1 generally focused on the elements of a regional barbecue, such as protein, rubs, sauce and wood.  Parts 2 and 3 turned to specific elements of what would be Maryland barbecue.  The discussion in Part 2 explained why, of all the proteins that could be smoked, the principal protein of Maryland barbecue would be chicken. With the protein in place, Part 3 turned to the sauce. Despite the range of sauces,  from white to red, from tomato to vinegar, the discussion in Part 3 explained why if Maryland barbecue had a signature sauce, it would be tomato based, but lighter and thinner than a Memphis based sauce or Kansas City sauce.

Part 4 takes us to the next logical extension of a BBQ style ... to other proteins.  There are a few options, such as beef, pork, lamb or mutton.  If there was to be a secondary protein for Maryland style barbecue, I think it would more likely than not be pork.  There are three reasons.

First, pork figures a little more prominently in Maryland agriculture than beef, lamb or mutton.  Maryland ranks 30th in the United States in terms of the number of hogs and pigs in the State, while it ranks 41st when it comes to the number of cattle in the state. By the numbers, there are over 7,000,000 hogs and pigs in the Free State, while there are only about 197,000 cattle in the state.  More pig farms than cattle ranches supports the conclusion that pork would feature more prominently than beef in a barbecue style. 

Second, the regional barbecues surrounding the state have pork as their primary protein.  The Carolinas are all about pork, whether it is whole hogs in eastern North Carolina or pulled pork in Western North Carolina and South Carolina.  In addition, ham features prominently in Virginia.  The prevalence of pork not just in the State of Maryland, but also nearby States, also supports the conclusion that pork would feature in any barbecue style in the Free State.

Third, a review of the menus from BBQ joints in the State of Maryland features a lot of pulled pork. This factor is a little less reliable than the first or second reasons because BBQ joints often try to feature a range of barbecue, including beef, sausage, and other offerings.  However, when one drills down to what the joint is known for or what it promotes, it is more often than not pork, and, more often than not pulled pork.

So, if there was a Maryland Barbecue Style, and, if there was a secondary protein in that style, it would be pork.  And, more specifically, it would be pulled pork.

With that in mind, I decided to smoke a pork shoulder.  When it comes to pork shoulders, one of the keys is the rub.  After doing some research, I decided to use a rub created by a native son to the State of Maryland ... Steven Raichlen.  I utilized his basic rub, which happens to be my go to rub for barbecue for both pork and chicken. The rub has the perfect balance of paprika, garlic, onion and salt, with the added flavor of celery seeds.  The one thing that this rub lacks, at least in my humble opinion, is a little heat.  If you are a chilehead like myself, then adding a couple of tablespoons of cayenne pepper could provide the requisite heat.

So, in the end, if there was a Maryland Style of barbecue, pork could also figure into that style, with a pulled pork that could be served with the Maryland style sauce.  Stay tuned for the next segment in Project Maryland BBQ, because, who knows where it may lead!


FREE STATE SMOKED PORK SHOULDER
Pork Recipe adapted from and inspired by Steven Raichlen
Rub recipe from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible
Serves many

Ingredients:
1 Boston Butt Pork Shoulder (6 to 8 pounds)
Chunks of apple wood

Ingredients (for the rub):
1 cup sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 cup brown or white sugar
1 cup sweet paprika
1/2 to 1 cup coarsely ground or cracked black peppercorns
3 tablespoons granulated garlic powder
3 tablespoons granulated onion powder
1 tablespoon celery seed

Directions:
1.  Marinate the pork butt. Combine all of the ingredients for the rub. Season the pork shoulder on all sides with the rub, massaging the rub into the meat.

2.  Prepare the smoker or the grill.   Set up the smoker or grill for indirect grilling and get a fire going.  Preheat the smoker or the grill to about 250 degrees.

3.  Smoke the pork butt.  Place the pork but, fat side up in the middle of the grate over a drip pan.  Toss a handful of soaked wood chips (soaked for about an hour) on the charcoals.  Cover and smoke the shoulder until it is the color of mahogany, about 7 to 9 hours.  The internal temperature should be about 195 degrees.  This will require the addition of fresh charcoal every so often,  After about 4 hours of smoking, check the fire and the shoulder.  At this point, it may be appropriate to wrap the shoulder in aluminum foil for the rest of the smoke.

4.  Finish the smoke.  Once the pork shoulder reaches the requisite temperature, remove the shoulder from the smoker and let it rest for about 15 to 30 minutes.  Pull the pork and serve immediately.

ENJOY!


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Wild Boar Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

Last Mother's Day, the Savage Boleks took a little road trip to Virginia wine country. Our prior forays into this country focused mostly on central Virginia, around Charlottesville, as well as the edges of the Blue Ridge mountains. The destination this time around was a little further north, to the northern Virginia region, around Leesburg. 

Our first stop on our road trip was Stone Tower Winery in Loudoun County, Virginia.  The winery itself is perched atop Hogsback Mountain, consisting of 50 acres of vines.  The vines feature the traditional French varietals (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, etc.).  Those grapes are cultivated and ultimately used for the namesake wines.

The winemakers also produce a second line of wines known as Wild Boar Cellars.  They source the grapes used to make these wines from outside of the property.  The grapes are brought to Stone Tower and the wines are produced at the estate.   This second line of wines provides the winemakers to explore and experiment with different varietals or the same varietals that they grow, but just from a different terroir.  

While we sampled quite a few wines, my beautiful Angel and I ultimately bought a bottle of the Wild Boar Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.

This Cabernet Sauvignon pours the deep, garnet red or burgundy red one would expect from the varietal.  The wine does not drink like a Cabernet Sauvignon from, say, California or Washington State.  The aromatic elements of the wine feature the traditional scents of dark berries, but they are not as strong as a Cabernet from, for example, Paso Robles.  Likewise, the taste elements feature those berries, with a slight hint of pepper, but it is more mellow than what would be a typical Cabernet Sauvignon in my humble opinion.  There is a nice hint of the oak in the wine, which helps to round it out. 

Even though they are made with the same grape, Cabernet Sauvignon wines can vary in significantly in terms of aroma and taste.  Perhaps I have gotten too use to bolder wines, because the Wild Boar surprised me a little.  Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise and I would definitely pick up another bottle.  However, one has to go to the vineyard to purchase it.  That means a return trip for the Savage Boleks.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

D.C. Pulled Pork with D.C. Mambo BBQ Sauce

When it comes to food, sauces often become symbols of cities or even entire regions.  Think of Alabama White Sauce, the thin white velvety sauce that slowly drips off of a whole smoked chicken.  There is the East Carolina Vinegar Sauce, a somewhat transparent sauce that slightly glazes the pulled or chopped pork but makes its presence known with a stiff kick from the vinegar and peppers.  And there is the Kansas City Barbecue Sauce, with its thick, sweet, tomato-based sauce that and the list can go on.

All of those sauces are traditionally used in barbecue, to provide additional levels of flavor to the smoked meat.  I have spent a lot of time reading and learning about barbecue sauces and, during this effort, I discovered that Washington, D.C. has its own iconic sauce.

It is the Mambo Sauce.  And, it has quite the history ...

That history begins in Indianola, Mississippi.  Argia B. Collins Sr. was born there but emigrated north as part of the post World War II migration in the United States.  Collins made his way to Chicago, where he opened a barbecue joint, Argia B's BBQ, on the south side at Forestville and 47th Street.  At that BBQ joint, Collins created what he called "Mumbo Sauce," a mild barbecue sauce.  He drenched everything he sold -- hot links, fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried fish -- in his Mumbo Sauce.  Eventually, Argia B. Collins Sr. trademarked his sauce in 1957 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Collins' sauce, as well his food, became very popular, with Argia opening a total of ten store fronts.  Other restaurants on the south side of Chicago, especially those serving barbecue and fried chicken began making a mild sauce similar to Mumbo Sauce.

There is a separate claim to Mumbo Sauce, which was made by Charlene Archie. She claims that the sauce originated in Washington, D.C. with a restaurant called Wings N Things, which was located at the intersection of 7th Street, NW and Florida Avenue, NW, near Howard University.  Wings N Things operated from 1962 to 1978. While the restaurant eventually closed, the sauce lived on.  Soon it found its way to menus throughout the District.  One could find Mumbo Sauce being used by Chinese and Korean restaurants, as well as served with fried chicken. 

Eventually, D.C.'s Mumbo Sauce would be bottled and sold in stores by Capital City Mumbo Sauce; and, that is when the story takes a turn.  Argia B's BBQ learned about the D.C. version of Mumbo Sauce and then sued Capital City in court.  The principal allegation was that the use of the term "Mumbo Sauce" violated the trademark obtained by Argia B. Collins, Sr.   Capital City fought back and the case was ultimately decided in 2013, when a court ruled in favor of Argia B's BBQ.  As a result, at least in D.C., Mumbo Sauce became Mambo Sauce. 

Mambo Sauce combines the taste elements of sweet and sour, spice and salt; and, it does so in a very balanced way. How that balance is achieved has been the subject of much debate.  As one writer observed, "get five people into the room and you'll get six recipes for mambo sauce."  Nevertheless, there are some commonalities among the various recipes.  The sweetness comes from ketchup (or tomato paste).  The sour or tartness comes from vinegar.  The salt comes from soy sauce.  The spice comes from hot sauce.   With this in mind, I turned to my cooking.

The recipe that I used contains these four ingredients (tomato paste, vinegar, soy sauce and hot sauce), as well as a couple of other ingredients that find their way onto most mambo sauce recipes. While I could have incorporated the sauce into a range of dishes that I make (as I have made Chinese and Korean dishes), I decided to use it in the traditional way ... with barbecue. I smoked a Boston butt and mixed in the sauce after pulling the pork.  While I am a big fan of spicier sauces, I have to say that I was truly impressed with how a very basic and mild sauce can still shine and be the star of the dish.   



D.C. PULLED PORK WITH D.C. MAMBO BBQ SAUCE
Rub recipe from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible
Sauce recipe from American Food Roots
Serves many

Ingredients (for the pork):
1 Boston Butt pork shoulder
Chunks of apple wood

Ingredients (for the rub):
1 cup sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 cup brown or white sugar
1 cup sweet paprika
1/2 to 1 cup coarsely ground or cracked black peppercorns
3 tablespoons granulated garlic powder
3 tablespoons granulated onion powder
1 tablespoon celery seed

Ingredients (for the BBQ Sauce):
1/2 cup of tomato paste or ketchup
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup of pineapple juice
1 cup of sugar
4 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1.5 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce

Directions:
1.  Marinate the pork butt. Combine all of the ingredients for the rub. Season the pork shoulder on all sides with the rub, massaging the rub into the meat.

2.  Prepare the smoker or the grill.   Set up the smoker or grill for indirect grilling and get a fire going.  Preheat the smoker or the grill to about 250 degrees.

3.  Smoke the pork butt.  Place the pork but, fat side up in the middle of the grate over a drip pan.  Toss a handful of soaked wood chips (soaked for about an hour) on the charcoals.  Cover and smoke the shoulder until it is the color of mahogany, about 7 to 9 hours.  The internal temperature should be about 195 degrees.  This will require the addition of fresh charcoal every so often,

4.  Make the Mambo Sauce.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine all of the ingredients for the sauce.  Simmer, but do not boil, for about 20 minutes to marry the flavors and thicken the sauce. Taste and adjust to your preferences.

5.  Finish the dish.  Once the pork butt reaches the temperature goal, pull the pork out  and let it rest for about 15 minutes.  Pull the pork and then mix in some of the Mambo sauce.  Serve immediately with a side of Mambo sauce.

ENJOY!
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