Tuesday, September 28, 2010


No those aren’t anemic meatballs, they are snails and they don’t make for a sexy picture. I’m sure if I had stuffed them back in to those decorative shells or scattered some parsley around it might look better, this is the ugly but delicious reality.

Escargot are really quite cheap and very easy to make. I guarantee you will impress all of your friends with your gourmand savvy and Francophilia. The snails are found in a can at the grocery store. Most grocery stores carry them, they are in the supermarket Siberia with the anchovies and sardines teetering way above the tuna fish. They usually cost about $5 for a can of 2 dozen.

Warning - they don’t smell so great when you open the can. Once, after I had just cracked open a can, Jim’s daughter flitted through the kitchen and blithely asked ‘Who tooted?‘ And the dogs always swarm my feet in anticipation, I’m not sure if it’s the can opener or the aroma. They also are not the most attractive looking morsel, they are snails after all.

As for presentation you could mess around with the shells and tongs but mine was an economic decision and really it’s the same thing just in a different wrapper. I got these snail dishes for about $5 a piece at the Cook’s Warehouse. I also put two snails per divot so all 24 snails fit in the two dishes pictured. I put them in the center of the table and everyone shares.

My recipe is adapted from, yet again, Thomas Keller. I, of course, add more booze to the recipe. I also feel you can stretch the recipe further than he suggests, the butter is enough for 4 dozen snails, or two cans. So I will use half and freeze the leftover snail butter and, like last night, in an instant make our house in to a bistro simply by defrosting the butter and opening one of the cans of snails in our pantry. Unexpected company? Snails anyone? I have no sympathy for the snail squeamish, you are missing out, and you’re kind of being a baby.

Escargot - Adapted from Thomas Keller - Serves 4-8 as an appetizer

1 can 2 dozen snails

8 oz. unsalted butter, softened

4-5 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt

1/2 cup Italian parsley

2 tablespoons shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons Pernod

Fresh pepper

Open the can of snails, drain and rinse under cold water. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, put snails in water for 1 minute, the water will just have returned to a boil. Remove snails, drain and rinse again.

Place the remaining ingredients in a food processor and hit ‘on’, turn ‘off’ when fully incorporated. Preheat oven to 450. Place snails in snail shells or in a snail dish or really oven proof ramekins, top each snail with 1-2 teaspoons of snail butter. Place in the oven for 7 minutes, remove, let cool for about 3 minutes before serving. It’s that easy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

I received a box via UPS this summer. I receive boxes all the time, every week, typically containing something for work: catalogs, lighting fixtures, lamps, flash drives, miscellaneous swag, the usual. But this box clearly contained something personal. The box itself had been delivered to a few other people before me and it had scratched out names and places on it. It was a little saggy and tired. I considered this box, what a mystery. I started to open it and then had the revelation that I could check the return address; it was from a man I did not know in South Carolina, a town I had heard of but never been to. As I opened it and I sifted through the crumpled ads from a Sunday newspaper it hit me right before I got to it, ‘Oh the apple peeler!’ I had purchased a hand crank apple peeler on eBay the week before and apparently promptly forgotten about it. My summertime daydreaming of fall foods led me to unconsciously go shopping.

This past spring
Food and Wine published a recipe for sautéed rutabagas. Jim loves the whole pack of them; rutabagas, turnips, celery root, etc. I’m always looking for starch-like alternatives and this seemed to fit the bill. The recipe was called Shaved Rutabagas with Butter and Black Pepper, and that is the entire ingredient list except for some sea salt. The directions are very simple and they are exact as well, it directs to saute for 10 minutes, well, it took me 10 minutes until my dish looked like the one in the magazine. Although I only use one vegetable and the original recipe calls for two. I’ve made this dish a few times by shaving the rutabaga with my vegetable peeler, this results in 3/4” wide by 2” shavings. I was certainly in love with the dish but I wanted something more lacy, ribbon like, because I like vegetables in ribbon form (zucchini, carrots, asparagus). I also thought the crispiness ratio would be improved with less surface area and I wanted to twirl that rutabaga on to my fork. So this brings us back to the apple peeler.

After I had unpacked it from the mystery box and clamped it to the counter Jim tested it with a lemon. Jim didn’t get very far with that lemon besides removing an inch of zest and giving it 3 vampire like puncture marks, but we had mastered the mechanics of it! Last night we gave it a whirl (no pun intended).

Rutabaga Ribbons – Adapted from Food and Wine – Serves 4 as a side dish

1 rutabaga – peeled and shaved in to ribbons
½ stick of unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste

Add the butter to a wide pan, heat over medium to medium-high heat, add rutabaga shavings, sautee for about 10 minutes until the edges become brown. Toss with salt and pepper.

Notes: Jim’s son has adopted the apple peeler as a toy of his. He enjoys playing with it by clamping it and unclamping and cranking the handle forward then backwards and back again and generally just staring at it quizically. So useless kitchen tool moniker be damned, it doubles as entertainment.

You Don’t Die Square

Yesterday I finished reading Frank Bruni’s Born Round. If you have read the book then you will understand the first thing on my mind this morning as I got out of bed was sesame noodles. The irony is I had purchased the book in the Portland Airport with a bowl of noodles from a newsstand. The noodles, looked like a less offensive choice for airplane dining, filling, not so unhealthy (carrots and broccoli and not swimming in sauce) and most important for a 5 hour flight, not stinky so to not offend my fellow passengers or get stuck with onion. Jim did not get so lucky with his chipotle chicken wrap. I was very pleased with my choice, Frank is quite right, they were comforting.

Sesame Noodles - Serves 4 - Adapted from Tyler Florence

6 ounces soba noodles

2 Tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons peanut oil

3 garlic cloves minced

1” piece of ginger peeled and minced

1/3 cup green onions, green part only sliced

2 teaspoons red chili paste (I use the rooster)

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

juice of a lime

hot water

4 asparagus stalks, chopped in to small rounds and blanched

1 carrot, chopped and blanched

2 mushrooms, chopped

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

2-3 tablespoons toasted peanuts

Bring water a boil and cook the noodles for 3 minutes, remove from heat and rinse under cold water. Place the noodles on a towel to drain, toss with sesame oil and place aside. Heat peanut oil in a pan on medium heat, add in ginger, garlic, onions and chili paste and saute for about a minute or two. Reduce the heat to low and add in peanut butter, sugar, vinegar, lime juice and soy sauce stirring until the sauce becomes creamy and incorporated, keep the hot water on hand and add in to thin the sauce, Tyler recommends 6 tablespoons, I use closer to 4, the consistency is up to you. Add the noodles to the sauce and toss to coat, add in veggies and 3/4 of cilantro and mix again. Garnish with peanuts and remaining cilantro.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The apology continues...

Yes, the bird again. I am really starting to appreciate it’s versatility, it’s tofu like qualities to take on other flavors. It’s cheap too and it just makes people happy. I had chicken and dumplings for the first time the other day at my neighbors Kevin and Lisa’s restaurant. Gobbled it up. And so the new love affair continues. I saw this in this month’s Food & Wine: ‘Tea Smoked Chicken’. Sounded exotic. The picture was beautiful and so was the chef that created it and the recipe came with a pedigree. Now, outside of Thanksgiving, I usually don’t spend multiple days preparing a dish and certainly rarely go through the numerous steps called for to create this recipe; I’m impatient and such recipes seem fussy. But I was intrigued and the chef, Andrea Reusing, promised it would deliver and for some reason I trusted her, she looked trustworthy and she used the word ‘doozy’. The reality is I don’t know why this woman has not yet published a cookbook. Andrea - I would buy it and I’d buy copies for my friends. Please publish a cookbook. Until then I will use all the recipes in this month’s Food and Wine again and again.

When I rolled out my first try at this Jim and Jayme decimated the bird, picked it clean, n o t h i n g for the dogs, at all. Jayme declared it the best thing I’ve ever made her and Jim said he thought it was damn good and not to change a thing. Jayme then went on to boldly state it was better than the Thomas Keller chicken I constantly make. Take that TK. Girls rule. We had it again last night and I could not wait to get home for lunch today to eat the leftovers. It is a total home run.

I served it, as Andrea recommended, with green beans with her XO sauce. Perhaps that’s another blog, but let me say that the XO sauce was awesome. The blog momofukufortwo.com recommends giving XO as a gift; I’d be happy to have it as a gift. And if I know you and you’re reading this - you might be getting it for Christmas because I know have a lot of tiny dried shrimp in my fridge and not a whole heck of a lot of recipes that call for them. I also served jasmine rice and the ginger scallion dressing Andrea recommends for the chicken. The sauce was baffling to me, vegetable oil, scallions and ginger, that’s it, not heated up, just vegetable oil, ginger and scallions; I was very confused. It actually went great in/on our rice but that chicken is so special it did not need the addition of any sauce, so I say skip it.

Andrea calls for two birds, I used (1) 31/2 lb. bird both times, I did not reduce the amount of brine or smoking ingredients she recommends for both birds. For some reason I could not find loose black tea, so I cut open 10-12 Tazo teabags to create the needed quantity of loose tea. Obviously the type of tea you select will effect the chicken. I found a 50/50 combination of Earl Gray and a less pungent black tea worked the best.

My advice would be to do this on a weekend, make it a Sunday night dinner and start the brining Saturday. Be patient, read all the directions about 7 times before embarking; I know I did. The result is a stunner. I plan to tea smoke a whole bunch of things. Next up, Andrea's Carmel Lacquered Pork Belly.

Tea Smoked Chicken - From Andrea Reusing


2 quarts water
6 garlic cloves - smashed
5 dried red chiles
4 star anise pods
3 tablespoons honey
(1) 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
zest of an orange removed with a vegetable peeler
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup soy sauce
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine everything in a pot and bring to boil, allow to simmer for 10 minutes, let cool. While the brine is cooking I gather the smoking ingredients and but in a container for use the next day.

Smoking Mixture

1/2 cup jasmine rice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons loose black tea
4 star anise pods, broken into pieces
4 dried red chiles, broken into pieces


(1) 3.3-3.7 lb. chicken
vegetable oil
1 Tsp. crushed Sichuan peppercorns, crushed

When the brine has cooled to room temperature place the chicken in the pot, making sure it is covered in brine and place in fridge for 24 hours.

Remove chicken from brine and pat dry, coat with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and peppercorns. For the smoking I used a broiler pan on my stove top. Wrap the bottom portion of the broiler pan 2x in heavy aluminum foil, spread the smoking mixture on the half of the pan over the burner, put the broiler rack on top and the bird on the broiler rack. Tent with foil making sure there is a good seal all around. Turn your kitchen vent fan on now and preheat oven to 375. Turn up the burner to high for 2 minutes, reduce to medium for 3 minutes, turn off heat and keep bird covered for 5 more minutes, uncover and let rest for 10 minutes. Andrea then recommends you cook the bird at 375 for 35 minutes and then at 425 for another 35. I found after turning up the heat I only needed another 15 minutes until the bird was completely cooked. Let rest for 10 minutes prior to carving.