Friday, April 22, 2022

Blackbeard's Breakfast (Revisited)

"On your way now. And tell the world that you sailed with Blackbeard."

- Blackbeard

If one sailed with Blackbeard, what would one eat? Historical accounts noted that, generally, pirate vessels generally stocked themselves with meat, vegetables and perhaps even fruit. There are stories of how one pirate - Francois L'Onnais - offered in 1666 to leave the port of Maracaibo if he was supplied with 500 head of cattle. Another pirate, Henry Morgan raided a Cuban town seeking a ransom of 500 cattle. Even when they were successful, pirates still had issues. For example, what do you do with 500 cattle at sea? The possible answer lies with another pirate, Jean Tocard, who occupied the Mexican port city of Tampico in 1682 for the purpose of slaughtering cattle. 

Notwithstanding these stories about cattle, the cuisine aboard a pirate ship could hardly be equated with the menu of a steakhouse. Fresh ingredients don't last long with the salty air of the open seas. After the first few days or weeks, the menu aboard a pirate ship would feature more salted and pickled options than fresh meat or vegetables. That fresh steak would have more likely been a salted strip of jerky better used as a belt than as something that could be digested in a stomach.

I write all of this because I got to thinking about this question as I poured a bottle of Blackbeard's Breakfast, a porter brewed by Heavy Seas Brewing just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. What would Blackbeard's breakfast actually look like? Once I took a sip of the beer, those thoughts quickly subsided.

Instead, I got lost in the pitch black color of the porter, graced only by the caramel notes of the foam. Those are shades or hues that probably resembled the salted, jerked meat ate by pirates after weeks at sea. In any event, the brewers note that the beer is their take on an imperial porter, and, in that regard, an oily black beer is right on target. 

The Blackbeard's Breakfast also hits all of the other notes for an imperial porter. There were the aromatic elements of the roasted malts, twisting together with the aroma of the dark Sumatra coffee from Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company. (I always like it when brewers incorporate local ingredients and locally-owned businesses as part of the creativity in the brewing process.) I could also get the faint whiffs of the alcohol coming from the beer being aged in bourbon barrels. That aging also made its way into the taste of the beer, with a strong bourbon backbone upon which the coffee notes and roasted malt flavors were layered, as well as the ABV, which is 10%.

Heavy Seas' Blackbeard Breakfast is perhaps one of the best imperial porters that I have had in recent memory. In fact, it may the best one that I have had in a very long time. If you can find it on a store's shelf, it is definitely worth the price. However, given it is only a limited release, chances are one will have to wait ... just like a pirate ... for a fresh new release.


P.S. As it turns out, I previously reviewed Heavy Seas' Blackbeard's Breakfast over two years ago. I did not realize that fact until after I posted this review. In any event, the previous review can be found here

Friday, April 15, 2022

Ragu di Turchia Bolognese

The recipe, Ragu Bolognese, has graced this blog on more than one occasion.  I first made a Pappardelle with Spicy Lamb Ragu back in 2012 using a recipe from a cookbook by Josh Wesson, a renown wine expert. A few years later, in 2016, I made another recipe, Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, based on a recipe out of the Eataly cookbook. This second recipe brought me closer - in fact, very close, to the original dish. 

However, if one wants the authentic dish, then one has to travel to Bologna, a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. This region is considered the culinary capital; and, the city of Bologna is often considered the home of this pasta dish. After all, it is Ragu Bolognese. The association between the city and the dish is so strong that the Bologna Delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine patented the recipe with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce in 1982. 

While the patented recipe can be found online for anyone to enjoy, I decided to make my own twist to this famous dish. The original Ragu Bolognese calls for the use of beef (as in the patented recipe) and pork. My beautiful Angel does not eat beef or pork, but I wanted to make this dish for her. She eats turkey, so I substituted the ground turkey (a mixture of 85% meat, 15% fat) for the beef. I also dispensed with the pancetta (and, for that reason, I relied upon a ground turkey mixture with a higher fat content). Finally, the authentic (and patented) recipe calls for "a little broth." My guess is that a little broth means a little beef broth. Once again, to make this dish for my Angel, I used a little turkey stock.

These changes pushed this dish outside the scope of an authentic, traditional Ragu Bolognese. While it may not be authentic, the thing about this dish is that it has evolved as it has traveled beyond the borders of the region. Recipes in other regions of Italy have substituted pork for beef, even going so far as to use small meatballs as called for recipes in Abruzzo or Calabria. And, then there are the variations on the pasta used to make the dish. Perhaps that discussion is best left for another post at a later time. 


Recipe adapted from Travel Emilia Romagna

Serves 4


  • 2/3 pound of ground turkey (preferably at least 85%/15%)
  • 3/4 cup carrots, diced
  • 3/4 cup celery stalk, diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 5 3/4 cups of tomato sauce or peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 glass of dry white wine
  • 1/2 glass of whole milk
  • A little turkey stock
  • Extra virgin olive oil or butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 glass of cream (optional)


1. Begin sautéing the ingredients. First dice then chop the pancetta with a mezzaluna knife. The melt in a terracotta or aluminum thick pan of about 7 inches deep. Combine 3 tablespoons of oil or 1/4 cup of butter and the finely chopped vegetables and let them gook gently. Add the minced meet and mix well with a ladle until it is cooked and it "sizzles."

2. Continue cooking the mixture. Pour in the wine and stir gently until the alcohol is completely evaporated.  Add in the passata or peeled tomatoes, cover and simmer slowly for about 2 hours, adding broth when necessary, then add the milk at the end to counteract the acidity of the tomato. Season with salt. In the end, when the sauce is ready, according to Bolognese use, add the cream if it is to season dry pasta. For tagliatelle, use as is.


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Vietnamese Grilled Oysters

Thanks to aquaculture, oysters can be found pretty much anywhere in the world, even in places where one may least suspect their presence. One such place is Vietnam. While the shellfish industry is not a traditional one, oyster cultivation has taken root in Vietnam, spanning over twenty-eight (28) provinces from the north to south of the country.  Given most of the oyster production is sold for local consumption, there is little chance that an oyster from Vietnam would grace a seafood market on the other side of the globe. 

It has been said that "oyster farming is cushy." Those words came from the first oyster farmer in the Long Hoa commune, which is found in the Can Gio District just outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The oysters are placed in cages, or hung from ropes on rafts in March, which the farmers tend as the oysters grow. After about four or five months, the farmers begin to harvest the oysters. The harvesting continues for the rest of the year and into the new year, ending around the time of the Tet holiday. The harvested oysters then make the trip to the nearest processing facility. 

In doing the research for this post, I found the two different methods of oyster farming -- cages or ropes, to be really interesting. The first method, cages, is fairly self explanatory. The cages are situated on structures that keep them off of the bottom. The structures also keep the cages in place, where their contents -- mesh begs -- allow oysters to grow. The other method involves the use of rafts, with ropes that hang down from the rafts. The oysters grow on the ropes.

Oyster cultivation using rafts and ropes in
Van Don District, Quang Ninh Province in Vietnam
(Source: Cuisine of Vietnam)

According to one oyster distributor, Vo Tien Chuong, the Vietnamese prefer to eat raw oysters; however, their cuisine does feature dishes such as sour oyster soup and oyster floss. The latter dish is an almost dried mixture of oyster meat, shrimp, pork, fish sauce and salt. While oyster floss made it to the list of dishes that I will make some day, I decided to approach the interplay of oysters and Vietnamese cuisine from a different angle. 

More specifically, I wanted to further explore the Vietnamese concept of "Ngũ Hành" or "Ngũ Vi." This concept is otherwise known as the five elements. When it comes to cooking, there are multiple levels of quintuple elements. For example, there are the five flavors: spice, sour, salty, bitter and sweet. There are also the five textures: crispy, crunchy, chewy, soft and silky. There are even the five cooking methods: raw, steamed, broiled, fried/grilled, and fermented. East Asian cuisines generally, and Vietnamese cuisine in particular, have achieved an amazing balance among the elements at every level. 

I found a recipe for a "zesty Vietnamese dressing" that demonstrated this balance, at least as it came to the five flavors.  Running down the ingredient list, I saw how each item could fit in the balance. The chiles provided the spice. Lime juice perhaps contributes the sour or bitter flavors. Fish sauce definitely imbues a salty umami flavor and there can be no dispute that honey adds sweetness to the dish. 

Together all of these ingredients provide that balance that contributes to an overall amazing flavor of a sauce that could be served alongside or on top of oysters. While I have made many a mignonette sauce to go with raw oysters, I think this cause could perhaps be the best one for oysters served in any of the five cooking methods, thereby achieving balance in yet another, albeit indirect way.  


Recipe from Irena Macri

Serves 2-4


  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely diced
  • 1/2 long red chile, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar/syrup or raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 or 2 dozen oysters


1. Prepare the sauce. Mix or whisk all of the ingredients in a bowl. 

2. Prepare the oysters. Shuck the oysters, removing the top shell but leaving the oysters in the bottom shell.  Spoon 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon (depending upon the size of the oyster) over the oyster.

3. Grill the oysters. Heat a grill on high heat. Add the oyster shells and grill for 2 minutes. Remove from the grill and serve immediately. 


Friday, April 1, 2022

Chicken Wings with Momofuku Octo Vinaigrette

If there was ever a show that I came close to binge watching, it was Ugly Delicious, a Netflix show starring Chef David Chang. I loved the show because it is one part cooking, one part history and one part honesty. I watched the first season, and, then watched it again. It made me think about what side I would take on the debate as to what is authentic pizza. It got me thinking about the history and contribution of African-Americans to American cuisine before I really took the plunge into High on the Hog, both the book and the Netflix series. It even got me questioning whether I would favor the Chinese dumpling over the Italian ravioli. 

Much of the television I watch now involves food, directly or indirectly. However, few shows actually get me thinking about it. I began to look into Chef Chang's restaurants and I wanted to try one out. However, I was unable to find one that was near me. I then started looking for cookbooks, but, honestly, I have not bought one. His most popular one, Momofuku, still sits on my wishlist. 

In 2019, I finally made it to one of Chef Chang's restaurants. It was Momofuku in Las Vegas. I was in Las Vegas for work and, once that was done, my beautiful Angel joined me for a few days. I took her to this restaurant and we had one of the best meals that we have ever had in Las Vegas. 

Ever since then, I have always wanted to make a dish based upon Chef Chang's recipes. However, as noted above, his cookbook has remained on my wishlist, rather than in the cart. Nevertheless, this year I came across a recipe for chicken wings that used Momofuku's Octo Vinaigrette. The combination of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and chiles seemed perfect for a chicken wing recipe. I printed it out and decided to make it as part of my Super Bowl spread for this year. 

The actual recipe is not from David Chang's cookbook; instead, someone else modified and simplified the recipe. I used that modified recipe, which worked well. The one change I would make relates to the cooking process. As provided in the recipe, I baked the wings. Baking wings is a healthy way to prepare chicken wings, but it does not always provide for the best preparation. In the future, I might put the wings under the broiler or on the grill. This would help to crisp the edges, which would definitely help in the presentation department. 


Recipe by David Chang, Momofuku, as adapted by Steamy Kitchen

Serves 4


  • 3 pounds of chicken wings, tips saved for another use
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chile pepper
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1. Prepare the chicken wings. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place the chicken wings on the parchment paper in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

2. Prepare the vinaigrette. While the chicken is baking, combine together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, large enough to fit all of the wings. 

3. Finish the dish. Toss the wings in the vinaigrette to coat.