Sunday, November 27, 2022

Global Disturbance Hazy IPA

There were three trails that could take someone westward: the 900 mile Santa Fe trail, the 2,000 mile Oregon trail, and the 2,000 mile California trail. All three trails have a common starting point: Independence, Missouri. The town was founded in 1827, at first for the Santa Fe trail. Records indicate that approximately 12,000 people used the Santa Fe trail from 1849 to 1859, along with 3,000 wages and 50,000 animals. Between 1840 and 1860, between 300,000 to 400,000 people used the Oregon trail.  Another 200,000 also used the California trail during the same time period. In summary, a lot of people made their way through Independence seeking a life out west. 

The use of trails ended with the rise of the railroads. Those who came to Independence did not continue on to the west. Of course, there is a lot to see and do in Independence. One could visit the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site. There are other mansions or estates - such as the Harvey M. Vaile Mansion and the Bingham Waggoner Estate - that one could visit.

But, if one were a Savage Bolek, he or she would be visiting the local brewpubs. Fortunately, my beautiful Angel got to visit one such brewery when she was in Independence ... 3 Trails Brewing. At this point, I should probably disclose that a close family friend is the head brewer at 3 Trails Brewing, and my Angel was there because he was getting married and the reception was held there. I was unable to attend (unfortunately), but my Angel did bring back a six-pack of beer for me to try. And, I am truly thankful that she did. 

The beer is 3 Trails' Hazy India Pale ale known as the Global Disturbance. The brewer notes, "[o]riginally brewed during a time of uncertainty[,] [t]his beer brings flavors of tropical fruit. citrus and guava derived from the Galaxy and Mosaic hops."  That is a good description of what was to come when I had a chance to try the beer. 

The Global Disturbance pours like a hazy IPA, a yellowish-gold (reminiscent of what turmeric does when it is added during cooking). There is a solid foam that covers the entire surface of the liquid and only gradually gives way over time. The beer does give aromas of citrus fruit, along the lines of grapefruit. The taste falls squarely within the brewer's description: it is grapefruit forward, with hings of other citrus fruit swirling around in the taste of the beer. 

I have always been a little skeptical of hazy IPAs; however, this beer is very good. If you happen to make your way to Independence, I strongly suggest you visit 3 Trails Brewing. There will be no need to go any further west.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Carolina Crab Rice

Mine is a living culture, not one of some 200 years ago. It's a culture that continues to shape our surroundings.

- Ron Daise, Singer/Cultural Preservationist

The above quote refers to the Gullah Geechee, an African-American ethnic group who live along the coastal lowlands, from Jacksonville (North Carolina) to Jacksonville (Florida). The two names cover one people, with Geechee referring to those who live in the Carolinas and Gullah referring to those who live in Georgia and northern Florida.

The story of the Gullah Geechee is a history about culture.  That history can be traced back to Africa, mostly the Western coastline of the continent, from what is known today as Senegal down to Angola.  Their ancestors were slaves, taken by force from their homes and brought to the southeast  to work on plantations along the coast and on the sea islands. These African ancestors originated from different parts of the African continent, especially along the western coast from Senegal down to Angola.  

Rice cultivation along the Niger River
Source: Wikimedia
If one went inland from those African coasts, following rivers into the heart of the continent, one would have encountered the cultivation of rice. Africa has its own indigenous form of rice, Oryza glabberima. Indeed, it is widely believed that rice cultivation first started in the inland delta regions of the Niger River in an area that now falls within the country of Mali. Africans brought that rice to other parts of the continent, such as westward what would become known as the "Rice Coast," which stretched from Senegal to Sierra Leone.

That same coast was also known for a commodity other than rice ... slaves. European slavers brought Africans from that region (and other parts of the continent) to North America to work on plantations. American plantation owners discovered during the 1700s that they could grow rice in the subtropical regions bordering the coastline. Those owners did not know anything about growing rice, so they turned to the slave trade. The plantation owners were even willing to pay a higher price for slaves from Senegal, Guinea and Sierra Leone, with the expectation that those slaves would know how to cultivate rice. 

Rice raft with Gullah Geechee (1904)
Source: South Carolina Gullah Museum
The slaves who were forcibly brought to Georgia and the Carolinas to work the rice plantations became the foundation of the Gullah Geechee culture. Given the relative isolation of their plantations, and the strong community they built over time, the Gullah and Geechee have been able to preserve much of their culture, including ties to Africa. The Gullah language is an English Creole that has similarities to a Sierra Leone Krio, including common terms such as bigyai (greedy) and swit (delicious). Other words in the Gullah language have been drawn from the indigenous languages of Sierra Leone.

Apart from language, it is rice that provides the Gullah Geechee with the connection to the lands from which they were forcibly taken. The connection was not very simple on the plantations. Slaves first had to remove cypress trees and gum trees, drain swamps (which had alligators and snakes), and create the hydrological infrastructure (think dams, dikes and floodgates) that could be used to irrigate the rice fields. It is estimated that the slaves cleared more than 40,000 acres of land and dug more than 780 miles of canals to provide the foundation for the production of rice in South Carolina.

So, it comes as little to no surprise that a rice dish would be considered as a cornerstone of Gullah Geechee cuisine. I came across a recipe from the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival, from a year with the institution celebrated Gullah Geechee culture. The recipe relies upon one developed by Sallie Ann Robinson, a chef, cookbook author and culinary historian who celebrates the Gullah culture. This particular recipe has some adaptations, which are not identified, nevertheless, the end product is reminiscent of what someone could find on the sea islands of Georgia or along the coast of South Carolina. That end product was also very delicious and, if it were not for the high price for crab meat, would be part of a regular rotation of dishes for me.


Recipe from the Smithsonian Institution

Serves 4


  • 1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
  • 2 cups water
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 2-3 strips of thick cut bacon, diced
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, any color, diced 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 pound of crabmeat, cooked (preferably lump)
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper


1.  Prepare the rice. Rinse the dry rice under cool water 3 to 4 times and drain. Put the rinsed rice into a small pot, cover with 2 cups of water, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover the pot and let the rice cook undisturbed for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, crack the lid of the pot so the rice can stop cooking and set aside. 

2. Fry the bacon. In a small skillet, fry the bacon pieces over medium-low heat until all of the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully remove the bacon pieces and set them aside. Reserve the rendered fat in the pan.

3. Fry the vegetables. Over medium heat, add celery, bell pepper and onion to the pan with the bacon fat and sauté until vegetables have softened and onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add crabmeat and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until crab has begun to crisp. 

4. Finish the dish. Add the cooked rice, bacon and seasonings to the pan with the vegetables. Incorporate all of the ingredients until evenly mixed, turn to low and let cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately. 


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Qiatou Yi Nen

What we eat is an essential part of who we are and how we define ourselves.

- Fuscia Dunlop, Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China

Writer Fuscia Dunlop is a well known culinary writer who has focused her attention on Chinese cuisine. Her books -- such as the one quoted above, along with others like Every Grain of Rice (which one a James Beard award in the international cookbook category -- provide interesting insights and perspectives to many different aspects of Chinese cuisine, including provincial and regional dishes, cooking techniques and ingredients. 

My introduction to Dunlop's work comes with her book, The Food of Sichuan. That food is perhaps known best for its hot and spicy dishes. Those dishes catch my attention given my love of chiles.

Yet, there is more to Sichuan cuisine that the heat of the peppers. As food writer and culinary historian, Andrew Coe, noted for Serious Eats, "Sichuan food is really about a variety of flavors: spicy, flowery (Sichuan peppercorns), salty, sour, sweet, bitter, smoky, etc." I find this description intriguing. I have previously explored the concept of "Ngũ Hành" (as it is called by the Vietnamese), which recognizes five fundamental tastes. This concept actually originated in China, which identifies those tastes as salty (or han in the Sichuan dialect), sweet (tian), sour (suan), hot or pungent (la) and bitter (ku). (Dunlop, The Food of Sichuan at 21.) 

Perhaps one of the oldest references to the five tastes can be found in the Tao Te Ching, the text written by Lao Tzu in 400 B.C.  The text is important to Taoism, a school of thought or religion that teaches how one can live in harmony within the universe. Verse 12 of the Tao Te Ching references the five tastes, although there appear to be many, slightly different translations that basically say the same thing. The translation that I chose is the following:

The five colors make people's eyes blind;

Galloping and hunting make people's heart go wild; 

Goods hard to come by make people's acts injurious.

The five flavors make people's mouth numb;

The five notes make people's ears deaf.

Hence, when the sage man ruled,

He supported the stomach, but not the eye.

Therefore he abandoned that and chose this.

All of the translations basically read as having the five tastes causing one's mouth to go numb, in other words, cause people not to taste

Sichuan peppercorns
(Source: Serious Eats, photo: Vicky Wasik)

In some sense, Lao Tzu's words are representative of Sichuan cooking, which has its own variation on the five tastes. However, in that cooking, the hot or pungent taste is replaced with numbing (ma). 

This change may be a nod to the use of Sichuan peppercorns, which are not actually pepper. Instead, they are the berries from the prickly ash tree. There are two types of Sichuan peppercorns: red, which provides earthy notes; and green, which provides more floral notes. Both types share something in common. When eaten or tasted, Sichuan peppercorns cause a numbing sensation. They could, in the words of Lao Tzu (however translated), cause "an injury" or "numbness" to the palate. 

Sichuan cuisine even adds another taste: umami (xian) or fragrant (xiang), creating six or seven tastes. Taken together, all seven tastes provide a window into the complexity that can be found in this regional Chinese cuisine. 

Eager to explore these seven tastes, I started selecting recipes from The Food of Sichuan to make in my home. I thought that it would be best to start with some of the simpler recipes. One such recipe - Qiatou Yi Nen - stood out. It is a fairly easy recipe, with the only difficulty arising with a couple of the ingredients. (I still cannot find Sichuan pickled chiles.) Nevertheless, I worked with what I have - including Sichuan peppercorns - to make this dish. The end result was perhaps one of the greatest chicken dishes since I made Chengdu Chicken with Black Beans, Chiles and Peanuts, which happens to be another Sichuan-inspired recipe.

Qiatou Ni Yen focuses primarily on the salty and hot tastes (as well as the Sichuan taste of numbing), both of which comes from the variety of chile and chile-based ingredients. As I move on to other recipes in The Food of Sichuan, my hope is to explore how the cuisine incorporates the other three (or, if we include the other Sichuan element, four) taste elements into the dishes. 


Recipe from The Food of Sichuan, pg. 204

Serves 4


  • 10 ounces of boneless chicken thigh, preferably with skin
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 6-8 scallions, white parts only
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan chile bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped salted chiles or coarsely chopped Sichuan picked chiles
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon ground chiles
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cooking oil (ideally a mix of half lard and half rapeseed oil)
1. Prepare the chicken. Place the chicken on a chopping board, skin side down. Use a knife to make shallow, parallel cuts into the chicken at 1/4 inch intervals and then make similar cuts at right angles to the first ones (this cross-hatching will help the flavors to penetrate the chicken and speed up the cooking).  Cut the chicken into 1/2 to 3/4 cubes.  Place in a bowl, add the potato starch and Sichuan peppercorns, along with 1 1/2 tablespoon cold water and mix well. 

2.  Prepare the other ingredients.  Cut the scallion whites into 3/4 inch lengths. Place in a bowl and add the ginger, chile bean paste, chopped chiles, ground chiles, salt and 1 tablespoon of oil.

3. Cook the chicken. Heat the rest of the oil in a seasoned wok over high heat.  When the oil is sizzling hot, add the chicken and stir-fry. As soon as the pieces have separated, add the bowlful of aromatics.  Continue to stir-fry until the oil is gorgeously orange in color and the chicken is just cooked (test one of the larger pieces by cutting it in half to make sure). Serve immediately. 


Monday, November 7, 2022


I am becoming more and more convinced that the best way to prepare a whole turkey or a turkey breast is to treat it like a pork roast. It all started a few years ago when I decided to prepare a turkey in the style of an arista, which is a way in Tuscany to prepare pork roasts. I prepared the rub - an amazing mixture of rosemary, garlic, fennel seeds, cloves and lemon zest. That arista-style has become my go-to recipe, and, indeed, perhaps one of Chef Bolek's signature recipes. 

There also happens to be more than one way to prepare a pork roast, as this blog readily demonstrates. If you check out My Personal Cookbook or the Recipe Vault, you can find several different types of pork roast recipes.  

Recently, I decided that it was time to try to prepare a whole turkey or turkey breast in another pork roast style. As I noted above, there are a lot of different ways to prepare pork roasts. Ultimately, I decided to try to prepare a turkey in the style of a Puerto Rican lechon or pork roast. 

A few caveats at the outset. I have yet to prepare a pork roast in a lechon style. So, it seems a little presumptuous to skip over the pig and head straight to the turkey. Still, I had a turkey breast in the deep freeze and no pork roast on hand. So practicality won over technicality. A found a recipe for a turkey done in a lechon style -- or pavochon, with el pavo being Spanish for turkey -- on The Spruce Eats and decided to make it. 

The recipe had a bonus: I could make my own adobo spice mix. Adobo is typically made from garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and oregano; however, there are versions that include turmeric (like this one) and citrus zest. As you may know, the use of turmeric -- the golden spice -- turns everything to a golden yellow color. Everything including the outside of the turkey breast. 

Still, the recipe is relatively easy to make and the end product was good for a first time. To be sure, the next time I want to make lechon, it will be with a pork roast. 


Recipe for turkey from The Spruce Eats

Recipe for the adobo spice mix adapted from The Spruce Eats

Serves Several

Ingredients (for the adobo spice mix):

  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

Ingredients (for the turkey):

  • 1 head of garlic (cloves separated and peeled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons adobo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 turkey (about 14 pounds) or turkey breast


1. Prepare the adobo spice mix.  Combine the salt, granulated garlic, oregano, black pepper, turmeric and onion powder. Whisk the ingredients together until well mixed.

2. Prepare the marinade.  Mash the garlic and salt into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add the peppercorns and adobo. Continue to mash the ingredients into a paste. Stir in the olive oil and apple cider vinegar into the mash. Rub the mixture under the skin and in the cavities, as well as on the skin, covering the entire turkey. Tie the legs together with twine.  Let the turkey rest at room temperature for 2 hours. 

3. Roast the turkey. Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast the turkey for about three hours or until the breast meat reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the thigh meat reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit. 

4. Finish the dish. Once the turkey reaches the proper temperature, remove from the oven, cover and let rest for about 30 minutes. Carve and serve immediately.


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Yakitori Negima

Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.

- Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain's words provide an apt description for one of the simplest, but perhaps, greatest kebabs in the world ... Yakitori. Even the word is simple, translating to "grilled bird." Small bite sized pieces grilled over a charcoal grill, sometimes basted with a particular sauce or other times just a sprinkle of salt. These particular chicken skewers a truly a unique culinary experience. 

The history of yakitori dates back to the middle of the Meiji Period, around the 1880s and 1890s. (However, there are references to grilled chicken dishes going as far back as the Kamakura Period, the fourteenth century, and the term "yakitori" is said to have appeared in the oldest Japanese cookbook, Ryori Monogatari, which was produced during the Edo Period in 1643.)

Yet, it may have been pigs who led the way. Before yakitori become widespread, there was yakaton, which was pork offal skewers, which were first made in the Kanto Region of Japan (which includes, among others, the city of Tokyo). It is said that these pork offal skewers led the way for the chicken skewers that became yakitori. Food stalls -- or yatai --started popping up across Japan, from which vendors offered skewers of grilled innards from the expensive game birds served by from restaurants. The grilled skewers became a way for Japanese to enjoy grilled birds, which were often too expensive to bun the restaurants.

It took some time to get used to the smells of these stalls. For many Japanese, the smells of roasted or grilled meat was distasteful. Vendors began grilling their skewers using a particular type of coal, binchotan coal. This coal gets very hot, burns cleanly, but produces its own smoky aromas, which not only mask the smell of the grilled fowl, but also provide a smoky taste to the skewers. Vendors also started applying a tare, a sweet and salty sauce that added more aromas and flavors to the meat. 

There are many different types of yakitori, with each type focusing on a particular part of the bird or chicken. The most common yakitori is Yakitori Negima (ねぎま), which consists of bite sized pieces of chicken thigh skewered along with pieces of scallions or long onions. This particular yakitori includes the preparation of a tare, which is a sauce consisting of soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. The sauce is brushed on the skewers during the grilling process, as well as served alongside the skewers.

This recipe seemed like the perfect start for the trifecta of yakitori recipes that will serve as the latest installment of my Kebab-apalooza series. Come back and check as I head further back into the origins of yakitori, including the preparation of kebabs using chicken offal (like hearts and gizzards). 


Recipe from Curious Cuisinere

Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken):

  • 8 bamboo skewers
  • 1 pound chicken thighs, cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 6 scallions, cut in 1 inch pieces

Ingredients (for the tare):

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


1. Prepare the grill and the skewers. Preheat the grill to a medium-high to high heat, roughly 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Soak the skewers in water for 10 minutes.

2. Prepare the tare. In a small saucepan, mix the soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heart. Reduce the heat to medium heart and set it aside to cool slightly. Once cool, divide the sauce between two small bowls. One will be used for brushing the raw meat, one will be used for serving. 

3. Prepare the skewers. While the sauce is simmering and resting, remove the skewers from the soaking water and skewer the chicken and scallion pieces, leaving a little room at each end for easy turning.

4.  Cook the skewers. Cook the yakitori skewers over a hot grill for 2 minutes on the first side. Flip the skewers and cook for an additional 2 minutes on the second side. Flip the skewers again and brush them with the yakitori sauce. Flip and brush the skewers once more. At this point, the chicken should be firm and the sauce should be beginning to caramelize and create a nice glaze on the chicken.

5. Finish the dish. Transfer the cooked yakitori to a platter and brush them once more with the yakitori sauce (using a clean brush and the second bowl of yakitori sauce that has not been used for the chicken as it cooked).