Monday, December 27, 2021

Brother Thelonius

"If you want to understand the meaning of bebop, you have to understand the meaning of freedom." 

Thelonius Monk

For many years, Thelonius Monk wrote and performed music in an improvisational and unorthodox style. His music clearly and unquestionably demonstrated that he understood the meaning of freedom. That understanding gave rise to songs such as Straight, No Chaser, Epistrophy, Blue Monk and Round Midnight. As David Graham once observed in The Atlantic, Monk's "catalog - some 60 to 70 songs, many of them familiar to even moderately serious jazz fans - form the spine of contemporary repertoire." Indeed, Monk's song, Round Midnight, stands as the most recorded jazz composition of all time ... and, for good reason. 

Yet, not everyone was a fan of Monk's music.  One jazz critic described Monk as "an elephant on the keyboard." Yet, that is what makes Monk so special. He flattened his fingers when playing notes, sometimes hitting a single key with two fingers or splitting single line melodies with both hands. Yet, to some, Monk "adjusted his finger pressure on the keys the way baseball pitchers do to the ball to make its path bend, curve or dip in flight."  Sometimes there would be chord changes in Monk's music that seem wrong or out of place. To Monk, those chords were "the logical result of countless hours of musical exploration." 

For years, North Coast Brewing has honored the legendary jazz artist with a Belgian style abbey ale known as the Brother Thelonius. The beer is described as a "Belgian Style Abbey Ale," which does not lend itself to categorization in what is a realm of well defined beer styles - such as the Belgian dubbel, tripel or quadrupel. Perhaps that was intentional, a nod to an artist who sought to free himself from conventional labels.

As for the beer, I am reminded of a quote by Thelonius Monk: "the piano ain't got no wrong notes." The same can be said for North Coast's Brother Thelonius. The beer pours a reddish brown to amber, with a slight layer of foam as the beer is poured into the glass. The aromatic elements of the beer fit quite nicely into the Belgian styles. There are the yeast notes, which are accompanied by scents of banana and sugar. Those latter notes carry through to the taste, which has the  same sensory effects on the tongue as Thelonius Monk playing Sweet and Lovely. There are other elements in the taste of the Brother Thelonius, such as notes of figs and caramel, along with just a faint sense of the hops in the background.

The Brother Thelonious is very much the tribute to Thelonius Monk, as complicated and deep of a beer as Monk was a jazz artist. The beer sells for approximately $12.99 for a four pack of 12 ounce bottles or $8.99 for a 750 ml bottle. It is totally worth it, especially if you do what I do and enjoy the beer while listening to Monk playing in the background. 


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Fennel Rubbed Leg of Lamb with Walnut Romesco Sauce

Julia Child once remarked, "you don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients." That is what fueled this recipe. I was looking for a way to make a really good lamb dish, but I wanted a recipe that is easy to make. 

In the end, I used two recipes. The first recipe was for lamb meatballs with a Romesco sauce. I had no intention to make lamb meatballs.  I actually had a boneless leg of lamb, but the thought of pairing that meat with a Romesco sauce seemed to be the perfect idea.

As an aside, a Romesco sauce originated in the Catalonian province of Tarragona.  It is a sauce prepared by fishermen to be eaten with fish. The basic ingredients for a Romesco sauce include tomatoes, garlic, nuts (typically almonds, pine nuts, or hazelnuts), nyora peppers (a small round red pepper) and olive oil. Beyond those ingredients, there is no standard recipe. Romesco sauces vary by region, by cook and even by ingredients. Thus, one could easily swap almonds with walnuts, or substitute a nyora pepper with a standard red bell pepper or another type of pepper. That is the beauty with a Romesco sauce. One could also add other ingredients, such as sherry vinegar and chipotle pepper, to add additional layers of flavor to the sauce.

I decided to use the walnut Romesco sauce from the lamb meatball recipe; however, I still needed a recipe for the leg of lamb itself.  I found a recipe that had the rub I wanted to use: a simple mixture of fennel and garlic, combined with black pepper and crushed red pepper. I decided to include the parts of the recipe that called for carrots and added some potatoes to the roast. The rest of it is relatively easy: preheat the oven,  put the rub on the lamb, sear the lamb, stick the lamb in the oven, roast until it reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit, pull it out to rest, and dinner is almost ready to be served. 


Recipes adapted from Epicurious

Serves 6-8

Ingredients (for the Romesco Sauce):

  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped walnuts
  • 1 small red bell pepper, halved, seeds removed
  • 1 medium tomato, cored
  • 1 garlic clove, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder or chile powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Kosher salt

Ingredients (for the lamb):

  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds small or medium carrots with tops
  • 1 bag of small mixed potatoes, sliced in half


1. Make the romesco sauce. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Toss bell pepper tomato and garlic with oil on a clean rimmed baking sheet and roast until browned and softened about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.  Remove skin from bell pepper, tomato and garlic, discard.  Puree walnuts, bell pepper, tomato, garlic, oil, vinegar, chipotle chile powder, parsley and paprika in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and ground black pepper. 

2. Prepare the rub for the lamb.  Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind fennel seeds and red pepper flakes. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in garlic and 3 tablespoons of oil.  Evenly rub lamb all over with spice mixture, making sure to work it into every nook and cranny.

3. Sear the lamb.  Reduce the heat of the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat remaining 1/4 cup of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium. As soon as oil is hot and shimmering, add lamb to skillet and cook, carefully pouring off fat as needed into a small bowl and until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Trim tops from carrots.  Place lamb in the center of a roasting pan, pour reserved fat over the lamb, season with salt and pepper.  Place carrots and potatoes around the lamb. 

4. Roast the lamb. Roast the lamb until an instant read thermometer registers 135 degrees for medium rare, about 75 to 90 minutes.  Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes.  Slice the lamb in 1/2 inch slices. 


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Turkmenistan

The history of Central Asia and the culture of its peoples are, to put it mildly, complicated. For Turkmenistan, it is tale of brutal dictatorships, beginning with Russian Czars, then followed by Soviet leaders like Lenin and Stalin (the latter left a truly bloody mark upon the people as he did throughout the Soviet Union). When the Soviet Union collapsed, the dictatorship continued as the communist leader at the time - Saparmurad Niyazov - continued to exercise control with an iron fist. Niyazov gave himself the title of Turkmenbashi or "the Father of all Turkmen." As the "Father," he proceeded to suppress dissent violently and closed institutions like the opera and ballet (claiming they were not Turkmen). 

When the Turkmenbashi succumbed to the one thing he could not control (that is, death), the country was not spared. Niyazov was succeeded by Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who is unofficially referred to as the "Protector." Berdimuhamedow has ruled as President over Turkmenistan for the past fourteen years. Little has changed over that period of time. The government continues to be a dictatorship that is so secretive and closed off, that it is likened to North Korea.

The golden statute of the Turkmenbashi.
(Source: Souvenir Chronicles)
Those who have visited the country have painted a tightly controlled picture. The streets of the country's capital, Ashgabat, are lined with marble, as are many of the buildings.  The capital holds the world's record for the highest concentration of marble buildings, as well as the largest concentration of public fountains. Statues throughout the city (including those dedicated to the Turkmenbashi and the Protector) are adorned in gold.  Ashgabat even boasts of the largest indoor Ferris wheel, which is encased in a building that looks remarkably like it is made of marble. 

Yet, Ashgabat and Turkmenistan are not a paradise. There is substantial darkness hiding within that controlled picture. A visitor is steered by guides to where they want him to go.  Oppression permeates all aspects of life for the Turkmen people and traveling in some areas is "fraught with frustration and nonsensical bureaucracy." For example, government officials deemed air conditioning units in windows to be "unseemly," and, despite the fact that temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer, ordered the removal of the units. 

Waiting in line for food (Source: Asia News)

That darkness also hides significant problems, most notably the fact that a significant portion of the population outside of the capital is impoverished. There has been an economic crisis underlying all of the marble and gold, one that has been characterized by food shortages. In April 2021, there were reports of bread shortages in the southeast of Turkmenistan. It also seemed that it was not just bread that was in short supply.  There were shortages of eggs and other poultry products. As one seller recounted, "the flour comes from the capital Asghabad and we have to buy it at 600 manat per 50 kilograms instead of 400; we pay 3.5 manat for eggs, but above all we have to bribe the guards at the checkpoints, who want more every day." 

Thus, life in Turkmenistan is now defined by standing in line for food, skyrocketing prices at private markets and shortages at state owned markets. To make matters worse, the government subjects its citizens to forced labor, such as sending children and adults, including pregnant teachers, into the field to pick cotton. Meanwhile, the government denies that there are any problems. It brings to mind the adage, "the more things change the more they stay the same." Although having freed themselves from the Soviet Union and its history of abuse and mismanagement, the Turkmen people still deal with shortages of necessities and an abundance of governmental hubris all while enduring violations of thier human rights. 


It is against this backdrop that I approach this challenge to prepare a main course from the country of Turkmenistan. The cuisine shares many similarities with those of other central Asian countries, such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The most notable similarity is the predominance of plov or pilaf (rice with meat and vegetables). There is the legacy of Russian control, as illustrated by shashlyk (kebabs). And then there are the truly Turkmen dishes, such as ishlykly (a Turkmen version of shepherd's pie) and chegdermeh (a mixture of rice, tomato, meat and onions).  

However, I chose to prepare Dograma, which roughly translates to "chopped up."  The name is fitting because it is a shredded meat and bread stew.  I chose this meal because of its simplicity, both in terms of ingredients and preparation. In so doing, I thought that this dish as a type of cucina povera, in which struggling people would use what little they have to make the best meal possible. (This is somewhat a fantasy given the current food shortages in Turkmenistan.) In any event, it is my nod to those impoverished Turkmen peoples who cannot be seen through the dark curtains that enshroud the country. 

In terms of preparing this dish, the principal ingredients are protein and bread. The recipe called for lamb, mutton or beef. I did not have easy access to mutton (which would most likely be the protein of choice), so I went with lamb, which would have been cheaper than beef.  As for the bread, Turkmen prepare corek, which is a leavened bread cooked in an oven  similar to a tandoor.  While I thought about preparing the bread, my lack of baking skills led me to the next best thing: a bag of pita bread.  The recipe advises that pita or naan could be used for a substitute. 

This simple recipe turned out to be a very delicious one. The boiling of the lamb resulted in fork-tender morsels that were relatively easy to shred. It also produced a rather rich broth, created by the melting of the lamb fat into the broth. Perhaps the next time I will make my own corek bread for this dish.


Recipe from Whats4Eats

Serves 4


  • Mutton, lamb or beef stew meat, cubed, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2-3 tomatoes, seeded & chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Naan or pita bread, 4 to 5 pieces
  • 2-3 onions, thinly sliced
  • Salt, to season
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to season


1. Boil the ingredients. Add the meat, water, tomatoes and salt a large pot and bring to a boil.  Skim off any scum that rises to the surface and then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is cooked through and tender.

2. Tear the bread. Tear the pita or naan bread into small (1/2 inch pieces). Add the pieces of bread to a large bowl, along with the sliced onions and a good grinding of pepper. Toss and set aside to rest and mix the flavors. 

3. Shred the meat. Remove the cooked meat from the broth with a slotted spoon. Use clean hands or a fork to shred the meat.  Add the meat to with the bread and onion mixture and toss well. 

4. Finish the dish. Pour the hot meat broth over the mixture in the bowl and then cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the flavors and textures to meld. Portion out into bowls and serve. 

*    *    *

My personal culinary challenge takes me on some rather interesting adventures, even to lands where cults of personality reign supreme while the masses struggle every day. The lesson of these adventures is to focus on those who struggle, learning more about a particular culture and cuisine through their eyes, as opposed to those of the Turkmenbashi or the Protector. I think I did that with this particular challenge. Until next time ...


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The IPA When the Earth Stood Still

For years, Kent Island was always a place where I would drive through, either to get to the Eastern Shore or to return back to Annapolis, Maryland and points beyond. I actually never stopped to visit the island. That all changed recently; and, I got an introduction to a really cool brewery that makes some very interesting and drinkable brews.

The brewery is Cult Classic Brewing.  As its name suggests, the brewery is motivated my old cult classic movies. The tap room is lined with old movie posters and the tap list hanging over the bar sports some brews with cult movie names, such as the Attack of the Strawberry Blonde and the IPA When the Earth Stood Still.  I stopped in to try the beers and grab a bite to eat.  When I left, I took home a six pack of that IPA with an intent to do a beer review. 

And, now, I shall go off the Deep End (1970) and begin the review:

The IPA When the Earth Stood Still does not Psyche Out (1968) anyone. It pours like a classic India Pale Ale. The beer has a deep golden hue. There is a good layer of foam, thick enough to hide The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).  

When it comes to both the aroma and the taste, the beer takes the drinker to but not Over the Edge (1979). If I could point to The Thing (1982) about this beer, then it would be to how it plays to the genre of the west coast IPA. The aroma give hints of the Things to Come (1936), with both piney and citrusy hints.  The taste is a Fantastic Voyage (1966) through the finer points of what defines a West Coast IPA.  There is a good deal of hop bitterness, which sometimes veers between the pine and citrus (although, admittedly, at least for me, it tended to be more of the former than the latter).  There is also a good amount of astringency on the finish, which grips the tongue tightly, as if in fear of something, like Reptilicus (1961) or The Blob (1958). 

In the end, in a world of IPAs, this one truly stands like Gorgo (1961) or Konga (1961) above most of the rest. It stands as a reason, in and of itself, to make a stop on Kent Island and grab a beer.  Until next time ...


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

In Search of Orange Gold: Part Three - Gustav Brunn

Buchenwald, 1938. The site of what would become one of the largest Nazi concentration camps. However, at that time, the camp was just a year old, and it housed only male prisoners. One of those prisoners was Gustav Brunn. The person who created Old Bay.

Brunn was born in the town of Bastheim, Germany in 1893. Very little is known about his early years.  Most accounts pick up at age 13, when Gustav Brunn left school and entered into a tannery apprenticeship. (It was an opportunity to learn how to make leather.) He eventually started his own business, buying skins from local farmers to sell to tanneries. 

German advertisement for seasoning
After World War I, Gustav Brunn decided to enter another line of business.  He recognized that spices were in short supply in post-war Germany.  Brunn developed connections with  spice importers in the city of Hamberg and the country of Holland. With those connections, Brunn opened a wholesale spice business. He sold spices and seasonings to local businesses in Bastheim. He continued to build his spice company throughout the 1920s and the early 1930s. 

However, the story of Gustav Brunn changed in 1933. The Nazi Party, led by Adolph Hitler, seized control of Germany. The Nazis stoked anti-Semitism throughout Germany; and, as a Jew, Gustav Brunn felt the brunt of the racism. Brunn's spice business began to lose customers, as people voluntarily and involuntarily ceased buying his spices because Brunn was Jewish. In addition, his bookkeeper quit  Brunn's spice company out of fear that the Nazis would punish the bookkeeper for working with a Jew. As the hatred and intolerance grew, Brunn decided that it was time to move the family and the business.  

Gustav Brunn decided to move to Frankfurt, a very large city in the Hesse State. Frankfurt is one of Germany's larger cities, and it had a large Jewish population. As of 1933, there were over 30,000 Jews who lived in Frankfurt. Brunn believed that it would be better for him, his family and his business to live and work within that community.  

Frankfurt was not going to be the last move for the Brunn family.  Around the time the family settled in a second floor apartment in Frankfurt, Gustav Brunn laid the groundwork to get a visa. His goal was to emigrate to the United States. He contacted an uncle who lived in Baltimore and completed the paperwork. Everything was in place.  All Brunn had to do is wait.

Then came November 9, 1938, also known as the "Night of Broken Glass," or Kristallnacht.

The Nazis stoked anti-Semitic violence across Germany, including Frankfurt. The violence was even directed at the Brunn family; however, the Nazis ended up burning down the wrong house. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the Nazis issued an edit for all Jews to turn in their firearms.  Gustav Brunn loved to hunt and he owned eight rifles. Brunn complied with the edit and reported to the nearest police station with his son. Gustav went into the station and when he came out, he told his son, "I am not allowed to leave." The Nazis detained Brunn and sent him to Buchenwald.

Jewish men arrested in the days after Kristallnacht standing for roll call
(photo from the Buchenwald concentration camp records
office and available at the U.S. Holocaust Museum)

At that time, it was still possible to "buy" someone's release from Buchenwald. There was a Jewish attorney in Frankfurt who could make the arrangements: 5,000 marks at the beginning and 5,000 marks when the prisoner was released.  The Brunn family paid that price, and, Gustav Brunn was able to leave Buchenwald.  Within one week of his release, Brunn moved his family, and his spice grinder, to Baltimore, Maryland where they settled in a small apartment located on the 2300 block of Eutaw Place.

After settling in the new world, Gustav Brunn tried to get a job. He first sought employment with a sausage maker and then with a spice company called McCormick. Brunn got a job with McCormick, but he lasted only a few days because he could not speak English. That is when Gustav Brunn decided to start his own spice company. He rented the second floor of a building located at 26 Market Place. The location was across the street from a wholesale seafood market. Brunn named his business the Baltimore Spice Company.  He began to sell spices to local Baltimore businesses, such as Attman's Delicatessen, as well as local meatpackers. 

Brunn also sought to sell spices to the local seafood wholesalers.  However, he ran into some resistance, as many of those businesses had developed their own private spice mixes.  They were neither willing to share their recipes nor try anything that Brunn had to offer.  Nevertheless, Brunn thought that he could make a better seafood seasoning than what these wholesalers used. He came up with his own spice mix and he eventually found a small crab steamer around the corner on Water Street. Brunn sold that steamer a five pound box of his new spice mix. The steamer used it and saw his business increase. Emboldened by this small success, Brunn returned to those seafood wholesalers.  He began to sell his spice mix to those wholesalers, who also saw their business increase.  

While Brunn's business began to take off, he still needed a name for his spice mix. He originally named his spice mix, "Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning." One of Brunn's friends, who worked in the advertising industry, suggested that Brunn come up with a different name. The friend suggested Old Bay. It was the nickname for the Baltimore Steam Packet Company. Packet ships were used to transport people where railroads could not take them.  Given the wide bay and its numerous inlets, it was difficult for railroads to establish direct lines. The Baltimore Steam Packet Company operated steamships that took passengers from Baltimore, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia. It had operated this service since 1860.

Thus, by the time Gustav Brunn was naming his spice mix, which was most likely in the late 1930s or early 1940s, the Baltimore Steam Packet Company -- or the Old Bay Line -- was one of the oldest operating steamship companies in the United States. It operated overnight runs, with one ship sailing south to Norfolk while another ship sailed north to Baltimore.  Guests would go to the the restaurant or saloon on the ship to enjoy a dinner of traditional Chesapeake Bay dishes. After the dinner, the guests would retire to their state rooms until the morning when they could get breakfast and arrive at their destination.  These trips continued for years, until the voyage in 1962.  The Old Bay Line ceased operations, but Gustav Brunn's Old Bay spice mix would carry on the name for years and decades to come. 

With a spice mix in hand, now known as Old Bay, Gustav Brunn had to face other issues and challenges in the coming years. Some of those challenges related to the very composition of Old Bay itself. The history of that mix is the subject of the next post. Stay tuned and until then ... 


Friday, November 26, 2021

Arista-Style Turkey with Tuscan Chestnut Stuffing (Savage Boleks' Thanksgiving 2021)

It is interesting how a decision to depart from a tradition could, itself, turn into a tradition.  Nearly two years ago, I decided to try prepare a Christmas dinner that was different than what the traditional Italian holiday meal that my family has prepared for more than fifty years. I prepared a turkey in the style of a Tuscan pork roast. That experience gave rise to a blog post, Turkey in the Arista Style with Tuscan Bread Stuffing. My beautiful Angel loved the meal so much, both the turkey and the stuffing, that I have made the dish a few times since that holiday dinner. And, now, it has officially become the traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the Savage Boleks. 

Yet, a turkey in the arista style is itself a departure from tradition in another sense. Since the dawn of the thirteenth century, an arista has always been a pork roast. That roast evolved over time to what it is today: a mass of porcine goodness covered in a rub consisting primarily of rosemary and garlic, along with other ingredients, such as lemon, cloves and/or fennel seeds. While recipes change, the one constant is that the protein used in an arista comes from some part of a pig, either a roast or the loin. The use of a turkey is a break from that tradition. Yet, it is a good break. The reason is simple: much like pork, turkey meat provides a tableau upon which all of the flavors used in the rub come together to provide a culinary image of Tuscan flavors.  If pork is the other white meat, then turkey is the other, other white meat.

The arista-style turkey is just the beginning of this new Savage-Bolek tradition. Another important aspect is the stuffing and, because I make so much of it, the dressing. (As you may know, it is stuffing if it is stuffed in the bird; it is dressing if it is baked alongside the bird.) This stuffing is a culinary mélange of Tuscan flavors and aromas. It begins with the bread, which is focaccia. The bread is cut up and toasted until the moisture is removed. One then adds in diced pancetta (or, if that person is me cooking for my beautiful Angel, diced turkey bacon), along with diced turkey heart, liver and gizzard (that is, all of the giblets in the package provided with the turkey). This step is followed by the addition of the traditional elements of a stuffing, namely, diced onion, celery and carrots. Finally, just before the liquid (turkey stock) is added, one adds a heaping 1/4 cup of rosemary, sage and the chestnuts. after the liquid is added, the ingredients are mixed well, left to marry for an hour and then stuffed into the bird or placed in a dish to be baked.

This stuffing or dressing is perhaps the best stuffing that I have ever made. One does not have to take my word for it, my beautiful Angel has made similar proclamations. This stuffing or dressing pairs perfectly with the ingredients used to make the arista-style turkey. There are major connections in terms of flavor, with the use of turkey bacon and rosemary. Yet, the stuffing or dressing adds to the flavors of the turkey with the use of sage and chestnuts. 

The recipe set forth below is not the same recipe that I used back in 2019. I have made some modifications based upon my subsequent efforts to make this dish. The two major changes are as follows: (1) I have incorporated the juice from the zested lemons into the marinade, as a way to utilize all of the ingredients; (2) I increased the amount of times that I baste the turkey with the juices and butter from once every hour to once every 40 minutes; and (3) I added an uncovered/covered/uncovered sequence to roasting the bird. While this additional work extends the cooking time a little, it is definitely worth it if you are trying to get crispy, brown skin on  the bird. 

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 and juiced
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

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 bowl.  Mix well. Juice the lemons and pour into a separate bowl.  Whisk in olive oil with the lemon juice and then add it to the small bowl with the dry ingredients to create a paste. Add additional olive oil, if necessary, to create that 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. I roast the turkey uncovered for about the first hour and twenty minutes, cover the bird for the next hour and twenty minutes, and then leave the bird uncovered for the rest of the time. Baste the turkey approximately every 40 minutes with melted butter that has some of the rub mixed into it.  Once the turkey reaches that temperature, remove the turkey from the oven and cover it.  Place the baking dish full of dressing in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes to 45 minutes, or until the dressing 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 and dressing into a serving bowls (one for the stuffing and another for the dressing).  Slice the turkey and place on a serving dish.  Serve immediately.


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving @ Chef Bolek's House

Hellu! I im vriting a pust ibuout vhet I im gung to cuok fur Thuonksgeefing. I hefe-a a reelly beeg tuorkey. I im guing to prepere-a a rub vit luts ouff fennell seeds, rusemery, gerleec, und sume-a pinches ouff clufes and lemun zest. I im zee-a guing tu stuoff zee-a tourkey vit luts ouff chestnuots, ouniuns, celery, cerruts, und, ouff, course-a luts and luts of breed. 

Bork! Bork! Bork!

(translation of English to Swedish Chef courtesy of

Sometimes, especially around events when I am cooking for people other than myself and my immediately family, I can feel a little like the Swedish Chef. Things go wrong. Sometimes they go very wrong. (Like, the oven going kaput and me having to break down a turkey and microwaving it to a finish. If only I channeled the Swedish Chef at that moment in time, I could have at least injected some humor into that catastrophe.)

Those thoughts always hide in the recesses of my mind. I worry about whether the meal that I am about to prepare will be the best that I can make. We are hosting Thanksgiving this year and it is the first one that we are having with guests since 2019.   

To put my mind somewhat at ease, I am preparing a turkey in a style that I have done for recent Thanksgivings. I will be preparing a Turkey in the Arista Style. An Arista is a traditional recipe from Tuscany, Italy, for a pork roast. Records of the recipe go as far back as the beginning of the 13th century.  However, the story about how the dish got its name dates back to the early 15th century, when it was served to a visiting Byzantine patriarch. The visitor was so pleased with the dish, he cried out, "aristos!" The Tuscans looked puzzled and thought their visitor proclaimed "pork." Apparently, they did not understand Greek very well, because the patriarch proclaimed that the dish was "excellent." 

The ingredients that make this dish excellent can be found in the rub.  An arista is heavy on the rosemary and garlic.  Some recipes, including the one that I use, add additional flavors, such as cloves, fennel and lemon zest.  I think these flavors provide for a more interesting and tasty dish. I also think that all of these ingredients work very well with the mild taste of a turkey. That is the main reason why I have taken this pork recipe and turned into a turkey recipe.

In the past, I have prepared a Tuscan chestnut stuffing to complement this Tuscan-style turkey. However, this year it appears that chestnuts are in short supply. My local grocery store has unfortunately let me down, even though in past years it used to have a bin full of chestnuts. I would buy a pound or two of chestnuts, roast them and chop them up myself. No bin this year.  It took visits to four stores before I could find some packaged chestnuts. I guess it will save me some time because I will not have to roast them. However, I think I may experiment a little by mixing in some pecans or pistachios into the stuffing. Both of those nuts have more flavor than chestnuts and I think they could work fairly well with the other ingredients.  That might be a last minute call as I get ready to make the stuffing.

I will be preparing one other dish for this dinner:  cranberry sauce.  I had initially thought of making a Chianti Cranberry Sauce, something along the lines of this recipe. I was simply trying to build on the whole Tuscan theme. After some thought, however, I decided that I would return to a recipe that has served well at Thanksgiving: Cranberry Orange Relish. This recipe has historical roots in the United States, as it is based on recipes prepared in the taverns of colonial Williamsburg.  I found the recipe in a cookbook, entitled, Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook, which I purchased years ago when we visited the area. The recipe is clearly intended for adults, because one of its ingredients is Cointreau. I say that it is intended for adults because nothing is cooked, so all the booziness of that liquor will be present in the sauce when it is served.  The Cointreau macerates the cranberries as the dish rests in the refrigerator overnight. I have since adapted the recipe to make a kid-friendly one, substituting orange juice for the Cointreau. My kids have eaten this version during past Thanksgiving meals and they have liked it.  In the end, this dish usually makes everyone happy. 

Well, that summarizes the dishes that "Chef Bolek" will prepare this Thanksgiving. It is a lot less than a typical Thanksgiving holiday. In the past, I prepared some potato dish (such as my Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Ginger, Cardamom and Honey) and a roasted vegetable dish (like my Roasted Fall Vegetables). However, for this Thanksgiving, I am thankful that our guests will be providing those dishes and more (like an oyster stuffing, gravy and bread). It will give me more time to focus on the tasks ahead.

With that said, I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving or should I say ...

I hupe-a iferyune-a hes a heppy thuonksgeefing! Bork! Bork! Bork!


Thursday, November 18, 2021

Kaki Gohan

It is known as seasoned rice with oysters, or Kaki Gohan, and it comes from Japan. The rice is seasoned with a water that includes of sake, soy sauce and mirin, as well as the oysters' liqueur. This recipe offered a different way for my beautiful Angel and I to try oysters. And, while it was my first attempt at the dish, this recipe illustrates why it is important to make dishes over and over again. It is all a part of the cooking process. 

The directions call for the oysters to be placed in a boiling broth of water, sake, soy sauce and mirin. This much is very interesting, as it could impart a lot of flavor to the oysters themselves. However, oysters cook very fast, shrinking in size and increasing it toughness. Thus, it takes skill and a good eye when making this recipe to avoid a result that would not be as tasty as it could be.  I followed the recipe, but I ended up with oysters that looked like they had been steamed or grilled. They did not look like the oysters in the picture that came with the recipe.

Looking back on this particular cook, I think I know what I should have done. I need to approach the recipe from a different angle. One way is to use the typical means of preparing an octopus. Recipes will tell you that you should not simply plunk an octopus in boiling water, as it will curl up and become difficult to work with. However, if you carefully dip the octopus into the boiling water three times, that helps to firm up the octopus without it shrinking and curling into a round of tentacles. I think a similar approach could be used with oysters in this recipe.  Once the water and other ingredients come to a boil, the oysters could be dipped a few times, for a minute or two, until they firm up along the edges and become opaque. At that point, I think the oysters would retain their meatiness and texture, while having just a hint of the soy sauce, sake and mirin. 

I will follow up with this post when I have a chance to make this dish again and let you know how this alterative approach works.  In any event, this recipe was a welcomed change from eating raw oysters.  


Recipe available at Uncut Recipes

Serves 4


  • 2 jars oysters
  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 thin pieces of ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Prepare the rice. Wash all of the rice, as well as you can to remove all of the starch.  Drain and set aside.

2. Prepare the oysters. Wash all of the oysters, gently in salted water.  Pat dry.

3. Prepare the ginger. Cut the ginger root into thin, skinny pieces.  

4. Prepare the broth. In a pot, add the water, salt, soy sauce, sake, and mirin. Bring to a boil.  Add the oysters and cook for three minutes.  Remove the oysters and set aside.

5. Cook the rice. Put the rice in the bowl of a rice cooker.  Add enough of the seasoned liquid to the rice to reach the line of 2 cups and cook the rice. After rice is cooked, add the oysters and leave for 10 minutes. Then mix and serve.


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Great Lakes Oktoberfest

Anyone who grew up in Cleveland and who loves craft beer knows about Great Lakes Brewing Company. The employee-owned beer company has the distinct honor of being the first craft brewery established in the State of Ohio. While I don't live in Ohio anymore, I never pass up a chance to have a Great Lakes beer when I come across it at a restaurant or in the grocery store.

That was the case recently when I came across a couple of six packs of the Great Lakes' Oktoberfest. The brewery describes its beer as a "Marzen-style lager. It is a reference to the malty style of beer that, for nearly 150 years (roughly from 1840 to 1990), was the primary beer served at the famous Oktoberfest. (The Marzen has since been upstaged by the "Fest Bier," which is now the principal beer served at the festival. 

The historical roots of Marzen beer style lead one to the breweries of Bavaria, most likely during the 1500s. At that time, there were laws that limited the brewing of beer to a period between September and April. (Other factors, such as the weather, similarly made brewing beer in the summer months extremely difficult, if not impossible, to brew lagers like a Marzen.) Brewers typically brewed their beers in March, hence the "Marzen," name  so that they could last throughout the summer months. These beers were typically darker, with more bread and even roasted notes.  However, in 1841, Spaten introduced an amber style of beer, the Marzen, which quickly became the hit of the Oktoberfest. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Marzen style is known for amber-colored beers, which the Great Lakes' Oktoberfest recreates in beautiful fashion. (It should be noted that, historically, the Marzen beers tended to darker hues, with varying shades of brown.) The aroma of the beer is malt-forward, with some bread or toast notes.  Marzen beers have little to no hop notes. As one could guess from the aroma, the taste of the beer should feature the malts and not the hops. While some bitterness should be present, this is not a beer that will feature citrus or pine in any aspect of the flavor. It is all about the malts, which makes for a smoother, more easily drinkable beer.

The Great Lakes Oktoberfest checks off all of the boxes with respect to what one would expect from a Marzen beer (or at least one brewed outside of Bavaria). Not only does its amber hue hit the mark, but the beer is a malty, toasty homage to Oktoberfests of yesteryear.  Not necessarily Bavarian Oktoberfests (one may need to try one of the "Big 6 of Munich" to get that experience - such as Augstiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner and Spaten), but definitely a clear marker for what could be characterized as an American Oktoberfest.


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Ping Gai (ປີ້ງໄກ່), Laotian Grilled Chicken

Certain recipes have the ability to transport someone across the world. This particular recipe took me to a street full of food stalls in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Perhaps it is the Ban Anou night market, just a short distance from the Mekong River. Maybe it is one of the morning markets, such as the Khua Din Market or the Talat Sao Market. It could have been anywhere in the downtown city area where wafts of street food fill the air.

In any event, I am drawn to this region by the smell of grilled chicken. But, not just that chicken. There is so much more. Chicken marinated with a mixture of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and, that very special, fish sauce.  There is something about fish sauce, that umami from southeast Asia, that is intriguing to both the nostrils and the taste buds. Fish sauce features prominently not only in the preparation of this grilled chicken, but also the thin, vinegary dipping sauce that is served with it. The aromas were so intriguing as I made this dish, I could not wait to taste it. And, when I tasted it, I could not wait to make it again. This dish - Ping Gai - is probably one of the best chicken dishes that I have made, and eaten, in recent memory.

The recipe that I found may not be truly authentic, there is a good possibility that it is an interpretation of Ping Gai or ປີ້ງໄກ່, which is translated into "roast chicken." The traditional cooking process begins with a chicken that is halved, and then pounded flat. The recipe I had called for the use of skinless, boneless thighs. I compromised with skin-on, bone-in thighs. Once the chicken is prepared, it is marinated in a sauce consisting of fish sauce, garlic, turmeric, coriander and white pepper. Other spices, such as chiles, find their way into the marinade. Once marinated, the chicken is then grilled over a charcoal flame on low heat. The final dish is then sliced and served to customers with that tangy dipping sauce.

As I noted above, this is one of the best chicken recipes that I have made in a very long time. I say that even though I did not marinate the chicken overnight. I think if I did that, it would have turned out even better.  I also think that the combination of the marinade and the dipping sauce makes Ping Gai an excellent candidate for buffalo wings. Some of the best wings that I have had are grilled, and, between the marinade and the sauce, this recipe is full of flavor. Don't be surprised if you see a Ping Gai buffalo wing post in the near future. 


Recipe available at Allrecipes

Serves several

Ingredients (for the Marinade):

  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, or more to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 10 chicken thighs

Ingredients (for the Dipping Sauce):

  • 2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste


1.  Prepare the marinade. Grind peppercorns coarsely using a mortar and pestle, electric grinder or spice mill.  Chop cilantro finely and transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in the freshly ground pepper, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, oil and cayenne.  Add chicken thighs and toss by hand until completely coated.  Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for 4 to 12 hours.

2. Prepare the dipping sauce. Combine rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic, sambal, fish sauce, cilantro, and honey to make the dipping sauce. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Grill the chicken.  Preheat the grill to medium high heat and lightly oil the grate.  Place the chicken thighs on the grill, discarding any excess marinade.  Cover and grill until thighs spring back to the touch, 5 to 6 minutes per side (a few minutes longer for each if you are using bone-in thighs).  An instant read thermometer should read at least 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice and serve with dipping sauce.


Monday, November 1, 2021

In Search of Orange Gold: Part Two - What Came Before

There is a history behind Old Bay, the iconic spice used in the preparation of steamed crabs. It began long before the iconic little tin can began to appear on store shelves or in kitchens. Some have spent time recounting that history. They have delved into cookbooks and other materials that date back as early as the beginning of the eighteenth century. Their efforts certainly provide a good starting point for discussing the history of the spice mixes that came before Old Bay. However, I think we need to go a little further back than any cookbook.

The reason lies with one simple and undeniable fact: the further back into the history of the United States generally -- or the Chesapeake region in particular -- the more likely it is that the cookbooks were written by people of European ancestry. The history of the region can be told from a far wider range of voices.  For example, the consumption of crabs, oysters, clams and other foods from the Chesapeake Bay began centuries before John Smith ever laid eyes on the region. Likewise, after Europeans colonized the bay region, they brought African slaves who performed the manual labor on plantations, including the preparation of meals. If one is truly going to discuss the history of anything, anywhere, in North America, that history needs to be more inclusive. 

The Algonquin peoples -- including the Choptank, Delaware, Matapeake, Nanticoke and Piscataway --lived along the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River for centuries before the Europeans' arrival.  These native peoples gathered fish, eels, shrimp, clams, oysters and even blue crabs. Researchers have found fragments of blue crab shells in ninety-three (93) different Native American sites, suggesting that the Native Americans relied upon the crustaceans for food.  Some of the fragments have been found at sites that date back to 1,200 B.C., which is more than three thousand (3,000) years ago. This evidence supports the conclusion that the Algonquin peoples relied on blue crabs as part of their diet. Moreover, given the fact that blue crabs were not found in Europe until relatively recently (and, as an aside are now considered an invasive species in Spanish and French waters), it is most likely that the indigenous people introduced the crustaceans to the European settlers and colonizers.

Source: Redbook
Not only would the indigenous peoples introduced the crab, but they probably passed along cooking techniques. I had a very difficult time finding information about now Native Americans prepared and ate blue crabs. At most, I found anecdotes. According to one person who descended from the Nanticoke tribe, her grandmother used to pour scalding water on the crabs (which most likely stunned them) before placing them in a pot to cook (most likely by steam). The person did not provide any further detail as to how her grandmother prepared crabs in the "Nanticoke style." 

Unable to find specific examples of how Native Americans prepared crabs, I turned to more general information.  For example, many of the herbs and spices that could be found in a modern day kitchen were brought to the new world by European settlers and traders. Native American cooks would not have had access to them when preparing crabs, prior to colonialization. Nevertheless, they had access to a range of indigenous ingredients, such as the seeds of peppergrass or Shepherd's Prune (which have a taste similar to white pepper) and dried berries from spicebushes (a substitute for allspice). Still, I was unable to find anything, such as the spices used, by Native American cooks when preparing crabs. 

As they had for centuries, Europeans brought a range of herbs and spices with them. This fact is evident from the early cookbooks, which include recipes for steamed crabs. One of the earliest written recipes for blue crabs read as follows: 

Take the meat out of the great claws being first boiled, flour and fry them and take the meat out of the body strain half if it for sauce, and the other half to fry, and mix it with grated bread, almond paste, nutmeg, salt and yolks of eggs, fry in clarified butter, begin first dipped in batter, put in a spoonful at a time; then make sauce with wine-vinegar, butter or juyce of orange, and grated nutmeg, beat up the butter thick, and put some of the meat that was strained into the sauce, warm it and put it in a clean dish, lay the meat on the sauce, slices of orange all over and run it over with beaten butter, fryed parasley, round the dish bring and the little legs round the meat.

This recipe comes from Robert May's The Accomplist Cook, which was published in 1685. There is a reference to the use of nutmeg when preparing the crabs.

One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Paca, had his own way to prepare crab meat:

Take out the meat and clean it from the Skin. Put it into a Stew-pan with half a pint of white wine, a little nutmeg, pepper and salt, over a slow fire, - throw in a few crumbs of bread, beat up one yolk of an egg, with a spoonful of vinegar, then shake the sauce round for a minute and serve it upon a plate.

This recipe comes from a cooking manuscript started by Miss Ann Chase in 1811. Once again, there is the use of nutmeg, pepper and salt.

Jane Howard wrote a cookbook in 1873 entitled Fifty Years in a Maryland Kitchen.  The cookbook included two recipes for crab stews: one with a cream sauce with mace, cayenne, salt and pepper; and, a second with mustard, cayenne pepper, cloves, allspice and wine. These recipes are the first that I could find in which a variety of spices -- mace, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, mustard, cloves and allspice -- used in connection with the preparation of crabs.  It is interesting that nutmeg was not included in those recipes. 

Howard also included a recipe for "stewing" hard crabs.  This recipe reads as follows: 

Pick the crabs carefully. Season with powdered mustard, cayenne pepper, two or three cloves, a very little allspice, the yolks of two eggs and a small quantity of white flour rubbed with two large table-spoonfuls of butter; to which, if you like, add two glasses of white wine.  Mix together, and stew for quarter of an hour.

There is some overlap with other recipes, such as the use of mustard, cayenne pepper, cloves and allspice. 

Other cookbooks from the late nineteenth century - such as Mary Tyson's Queen of the Kitchen (1870) and Mrs. Charles Gibson's Maryland and Virginia Cookbook (1894) contained similar recipes for crabs. For instance, Ms. Tyson recounted a recipe for "stewing" hard crabs that, although following the similar cooking process as Jane Howard's recipe, included "two blades of mace pounded," cayenne pepper, salt, and "a little black pepper." 

All of these recipes provide the foundation for what was to come.  They show a tradition of using certain ingredients -- such as allspice, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cloves, mace, mustard and nutmeg  -- in connection with crabs and crab meat.  All that was missing was someone to unite these ingredients into a spice mix.  The only question is who that person would be. Until next time ...


Saturday, October 30, 2021

Chef Bolek's Scariest Moments in the Kitchen

Halloween is the time of year when everyone thinks about everything that is scary or spooky. While this particular holiday does not rank among my favorites, I nevertheless got to thinking about what are some of the scariest things that I have prepared in the kitchen since I started this blog thirteen years ago.

I also decided to write this post. I figured that, over those thirteen years, there had to be some misfires, some disasters, or even some questionable dishes that were probably better left un-posted. Then, while going through my old posts, I remembered the cardinal rule of my personal culinary blog: Don't Post the Disasters! For the most part, this rule worked. It probably prevented the scariest dishes from ever seeing the light of day.  

Still, the "word" scary can have different meanings in different contexts.  For example, it could mean the ingredients that strike the most fear in the eater. It could also mean the most frightening-looking dishes ever presented to a guest. Keeping this in mind, here are some of the scariest things to ever grace this blog: 

Top 3 Scariest Ingredients

Over the years, I have cooked with many different ingredients. The idea of learning about those ingredients, how they are used, and their place in the cuisines around the world have propelled me to try things that, as a kid or even as a young adult, would have sent me fleeing in terror.  Here are three dishes that contain some of those ingredients. 

1.  Fried Lamb's Liver and Heart (Khalyat Alkadba Wal Galoob). This dish comes from my Around the World in 80 Dishes personal culinary challenge.  It was the challenge for Libya Don't get me wrong, this offal dish was delicious. The combination of two spice mixes (bzaar and hararat), along with hot chile powder turned this recipe into an amazing dish. I think that, for the average person, a plate of lamb hearts and lamb livers would be scary and off-putting. That is why this dish made the list. 

2. Pig Trotter Curry (Kangchu Maroo).
This is another dish from my Around the World in 80 Dishes personal culinary challenge. It was the challenge for Bhutan. Unlike the recipe for lamb's liver and heart, this recipe did not have multiple spice mixes. It is a simple curry, with only garlic, ginger, and chiles. These ingredients provided flavor to the overall dish, but the absence of those spice mixes meant that one could taste more of the pig's feet.  I loved this dish and it has always been on my list to re-make.  

3. Pork Offal Meatballs (Frattaglie di Mailale Polpette).
While the last dish included pig's feet, this particular dish goes one or two steps further (pun intended). It includes pig neck and pig tails, which were boiled together with the pig's feet to make meatballs. The triumvirate of pig parts was a little difficult to handle and probably could have used a little more binding to keep them together. Needless to say, these are not your Italian grandmother's meatballs. They were still delicious, and, in some respects, just as good as regular meatballs. 

Top 3 Scariest Dishes

While I have done my best to ensure that none of my failures ever see the light of day, I have to admit there are some dishes that still made the blog.  These dishes fall into the "what were you thinking" category.  Here are three of those dishes: 

1. Lobstercake Sandwiches. This dish was my effort to recreate an amazing Lobster Burger dish that I had at Chef Michel Richard's Central. That dish had big chunks of lobster meat held together by the smallest amount of binding.  My "re-creation" was more like a soupy Frankenstein. Frozen lobster meat (bad choice), bolstered with scallops, bound together with a "soup" that left me scrambling to try to save the dish. The end result barely resembled a lobstercake. I couldn't even cut the cheese correctly for the picture.

2. Rockfish with a Trio of Sauces.
 This dish haunts the cook in me.  What was I thinking? Quite frankly, I had the idea of creating a "stop light" trio of sauces that could complement the flavor of rockfish (which I love).  I should have just looked at the red sauce, stopped with the idea, and made a different dish. Each of the sauces was basically an uninspired puree of a different bell pepper.  The only true difference between the sauces was the color. This recipe leaves me shaking my head, and, would most likely leave Chef Gordon Ramsey saying, "what the f___?" 

3. Dungie Cakes with a Yellow Pepper Saffron Sauce.
The last dish draws inspiration from the last two recipes: a forgettable "cake" with a regrettable "sauce." The cake, which was made from dungeness crab, turned out slightly better than the lobstercake, but what really doomed this recipe is the sauce. I can already hear the calls of "c'mon man." A yellow pepper sauce with saffron? Saffron turns everything yellow. What's the point? To have those little red strands poking through the gloppy, yellow mess? Who is going to see the strands with the diced onion and peppers littering the plate?

In the end, it is good to go back to acknowledge one's shortcomings. It is the only way that we learn. For example, I have learned that I am never going to do a stop light trio of sauces. I have also learned that, since that day, I have made some dishes with amazing sauces.  And, finally, while I may not be the biggest fan of Halloween, I do love trying scary ingredients. 

To everyone, I hope you have a Happy Halloween and