Scalloped Potatoes

17 07 2015

Now this is a dish I do not plan on making more than twice a year. The fat content alone is enough to fill you for at least 6 months. But it’s beautiful and I would eat it more often if my waist and poor heart would allow for it. How could we possibly say no to a bubbly, cheesy, starchy, salty dish like this? It’s stunning. And as it bakes, it just calls to you.

DSC_4110_editedScalloped Potatoes
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
A note about America’s Test Kitchen – I love it. I think everyone should own a copy. It’s insightful, thoughtful, easy to follow, and all the recipes have been methodically tested. I highly recommend the book and especially this recipe, which has a brilliant method for dealing with undercooked potatoes. The potatoes have essentially been par-cooked in the cream/milk mixture almost 75%, before being baked, which ensures that the final product is evenly cooked, despite all those thick potato-y layers. So smart, right? The flavors are also fantastic – not at all bland, and enriched with fresh herbs and the addition of a couple bay leaves. You need this in your life now. But not too much, not more than twice a year.

Ingredients
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/8″ thickness (I used a mandolin)
2 c heavy cream
2 c whole milk
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp table salt (saltier than sea salt)
1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a heavy bottomed pot (Dutch oven would work great here), melt the butter on medium-high heat, then add the onions and sautée until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the potatoes, cream, milk, herbs, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and bring the head down to allow just a light simmer and cook until the potatoes are almost tender. The potatoes should resist very little when poked with a pairing knife. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and discard the fresh herbs. Transfer the potato mixture to a gratin or deep pie dish. I used my Emile Henry pie dish with a bit of leftover, which I placed into individual serving size ramekins. Top with the shredded cheddar cheese. Place pie dish onto a baking tray (to catch any cheese or cream that may ooze over the sides), and cook until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes. This dish retains heat very well, so cool for at least 5-10 minutes before serving. This also allows for the juices to thicken and re-absorb into the potatoes, preventing a soppy mess. Serve and enjoy.

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DSC_4133_editedI inverted the individual ramekin to serve with our rack of wild boar.

I’ve had scalloped potatoes before, but this blows everything I’ve ever had, completely out of the water. It’s been a few days, and we’ve gobbled up the rest of the leftovers, microwaving it just until the cheese melts. It is truly a thing of beauty. Thank you America’s Test Kitchen for another winner.

AnhD





Cinghiale

17 07 2015

Once upon a time when I first started watching Eric Ripert’s Avec Eric, I fell in love with this romantic notion of boar hunting in Chianti. What comes to mind… dignified middle aged men dressed in Barbour gear and heavy hoots, carrying dusty rifles that have seen decades of hunts. In reality – I’m not exactly in Italy, but since many parts of California share a similar Mediterranean climate as parts of Italy, so hunting in California will have to do. Also, hunting is pretty gruesome and dirty and not all that romantic. Some say it’s barbaric or inhumane, but I think that it brings us so much closer to our food. By doing it yourself, you have THAT much more respect for the food because you know where it came from, what it ate, how it died, how it was dressed then butchered. You saw its eyes as the life drained out of it. If anything, now when we kill a boar (or any other animal) and turn it into our next meal, we say a silent prayer of gratitude for its life and our sustenance. I recently read Novella Carpenter’s Farm City, and a lot of her experiences in slaughtering her turkeys, bunnies, pigs, etc. really resonated with me. It’s a great read and one that I highly recommend.

A few weeks back, David went hunting and shot a 150 pound sow. She was field dressed then sent to a country butcher (shout out to Freedom Meatlocker). Two weeks later, I am brimming with anticipation and now have 60lbs of boar in my freezer. In the past, I’ve made wild boar pasta and ragu, but my first dish from this hunt was inspired again by Eric Ripert’s cianghiale dolce-forte, or a “strongly sweet” boar stew. I used a similar flavor profile for the frenched rack of boar that we had. I paired it with apples simmered in a boozy caramel similar to ChefDruck, au gratin potatoes (post coming soon), and homemade bread.

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Roasted Rack of Wild Boar and Apples
Boar is a bit tricky and I’m only beginning to learn how to prep it correctly. Boar is obviously gamier than pork but also leaner. This means that the sweet spot in terms of doneness is narrow… going quickly from just cooked and tender to overcooked and chewy. This recipe is a pretty classic pairing – pig and apples. The rack is submerged in a bath of red wine and warm spices overnight to (1) remove some of the gaminess; (2) flavor the meat; (3) the acidic wine helps tenderize the meat. It is then removed, cooked on a hot grill or under the broiler and finished in the oven. The boozy apple glaze is brushed on top for sweetness and shine, and can be served as a side dish.

Ingredients
Marinade:
1 rack of boar
2 c dry red wine (I used a Paso zinfandel)
1/2 c brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
handful of black peppercorns
sea salt and black pepper

Whiskey Apple Glaze:
2 Fuji apples, chopped (my favorite, but Granny Smith would have been better I think)
1/2 c brown sugar
3 tbs butter
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup of whiskey (I used Sazerac Rye, which is on the sweeter side and lends itself well to a sweeter application)
splash of heavy cream
salt

Directions
Combine the boar, red wine and the other marinade ingredients in a ziploc bag or covered tray, and let sit overnight in the fridge. Remove the boar from the marinade and season the boar with salt and pepper. Set aside and allow to come to almost room temperature before cooking.

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In a sauce pan, melt the butter and sugar with the chopped apples on medium heat. Add the cinnamon. Once hot and bubbly, carefully add the whiskey and allow the alcohol to cook off. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan in case any of the sugar has crystallized and whisk as needed to dissolve the sugar. Add a splash of heavy cream and allow to simmer and reduce. Add a pinch of salt. Set aside, but keep warm.

Fire up the grill or preheat the broiler (if you plan to bake) and sear the rack. We are looking for a quick char to add a bit of smoke and lock in some flavor. Brush on a thick layer of the whiskey apple glaze, and either pop into a 375*F oven (if you were broiling in the oven anyway), or finish the meat on the grill. Finish cooking the boar until cooked through. Pork temperature reading should read about 145-150*F. I like to periodically brush additional apple glaze, but that is optional.

Before serving, allow the rack to rest for 10 minutes to redistribute the juices before slicing the individual ribs. Serve with a helping of the apples and scalloped potatoes.

Because of the initial red wine marinade with the cinnamon and nutmeg, this dish has some pretty complicated flavors. The boar itself has been reduced to a bright, light protein with citrus and fruit notes that paired really well with the sweetly spiced apples. I can see this being a great early autumn dish, warm spices and fruit, good for those cooler nights, cozied up with a nice bottle of red. Enjoy.

DSC_4125_editedI still have about 50 pounds of boar to figure out. Luckily, I bought a sausage maker attachment for my Kitchenaid standmixer, and hope to learn the finer arts of sausage making with some of the more questionable cuts of meat. We also have a huge amount of ham, which will likely see their way into our smoker. Can’t wait to share more.

Thanks for stopping by,
AnhD

PS. Haven’t forgotten those scalloped potatoes. This recipe is the best I’ve ever had/made, and I’ll be sharing that in my next post. Stay tuned!





Early Summer

1 07 2015

Just a few photos of these early summer days…

Watermelon DrinkHomemade Watermelon Agua Fresca

TomatoesBackyard tomatoes ready for the roast

DahliasMy dahlias are doing so well!

Dahlias2So pretty! Dahlias (and peonies and anemones and phal orchids and ranunculus) are my fav!

ChickensThese girls are eating my lettuce plants, down to the bare stalk

To more summer days,
AnhD





Elitism and Food

19 06 2015

I have CSA boxes delivered to me, but also have the option of my weekly farmer’s market. I raise my own chickens. I compost. I have half a dozen fruit trees, which will be ripe for harvest later this summer. I have been growing and eating my own herbs, tomatoes, and lettuce.  I like to preserve my own lemons and make my own lemon curd. I homemake the granola I eat each morning for breakfast. I am a new owner of a Vitamix and enjoy fresh fruit and veggie smoothies. I am unabashedly proud/blessed/happy to live in a place where most of my food is grown in-state and within a ~300 mile radius of where I am. Thus by default, I shop local. And I acknowledge that it is an absolute blessing and privilege that not everyone enjoys. But to call the slow food movement elitist? It makes me pause. Our desire to return to a pre-industrialization, pre-processed, pre-packaged way of life – is that elitist? A desire to cook and prepare food the way our grandmothers did – is that elitist? I’m not sure. I acknowledge that cooking this way is not cheaper – a box of instant mac and cheese costs pennies, whereas homemade mac and cheese complete with roux, a variety of cheeses, and whole grain pasta – is easily 5 times the cost. A jug of Tropicana orange juice is way cheaper (and less time consuming), though not as delicious, than manually juicing 2 dozen California-grown navel oranges. But this is the way our grandmothers did it. This is how we are suppose to treat the bounty of the earth – this is how we respect the food. Thomas Keller (perhaps also guilty of being called an elitist) writes in the French Laundry Cookbook (probably the epitome of food elitism) that we must cook slowly and deliberately, “to fully engage ourselves in cooking, to regain the connection to food that we’ve lost in our craving for quick fixes, shortcuts and processed ingredients.” And yet I understand something – that I have the resources to do it the slow way. To do it the more expensive way. To do it the less convenient way. It is definitely an indulgence and requires conscientious decision making to make it a priority. But it is a personal choice, and not one that makes me scoff at Nabisco cookies or Kraft products (trust me – I have both brands in my pantry). So is it food elitism? I remain ambivalent, but this article from the New Republic did make me pause.

EggSammy4

Less Than $4 Toast
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the insanely priced $4 toast here in SF (served at The Mill). It’s been the butt of late night talk shows and Internet memes, and just adds fuel to the elitist fire above. It is actually delicious. But I would much rather take that $4 and turn it into a savory sandwich – and this is it. A sandwich so easy, it doesn’t need a recipe. The best part – it’s all sourced right here.

Ingredients
pesto [Mine is homemade]
2 eggs, fried in olive oil to desired doneness
1 ripe Hass avocado
ripe heirloom tomato, sliced
sliced cheese (optional, but Gruyere would be amazing)
bread [I prefer a good Vietnamese baguette, but use what you like]
fleur de sel
fresh cracked pepper

Directions
Toast bread. Smother it with pesto. Add 2 slices of tomatoes. Lay on the avocado. Top with 2 eggs. Liberally sprinkle with cracked pepper and fleur de sel. Maybe add the slice of cheese. Close up the sandwich. Consume.

EggSammy3

Eggsammy1Definitely enjoying all the flavors and textures in this sandwich. Sure, it’s pretty basic. But when your food is THIS fresh, why bother messing with it. The egg is fried in olive oil (almost like this), with a really crispy white and extra creamy yolk. The pesto still has some bite from the garlic, and is oh-so fragrant, having been picked just minutes before. The avocado adds creaminess, and the perfect foil to the sweet and tangy tomato that’s buried in all the green. I probably could have added some arugula to the mix too. Yum. If this is elitism, maybe I don’t mind being called elitist, after all.

EggSammy2

David is off on a boar-hunting excursion, and I am left to figure out what to do in the event he does successfully bring home a 200+ pound sow. I’m thinking bolognese, stews and ragouts, beautiful BBQ ribs, braised shanks, chopped liver, and of course sausage. In the meantime, I’m shopping for a standalone freezer to hold all the meat that will come back from our butcher. Can’t wait to share more details!

AnhD





Oh The Places You Will Go?

17 05 2015

Graduation season is upon us, and around this time every year, I am confounded by the task of imparting words of wisdom to my high school seniors. What advice should I give to this group of students – all vastly different from each other. Some are incredibly self motivated and ambitious, others are still floundering with day-to-day decisions. Some are very sure of their purpose in the world, and others are still discovering that purpose. There is no single piece of advice that you can give this diverse group of students that would be relevant and true. There is no single platitude that applies to all of them. Except one. Just one common denominator. When these students grow up and pursue their careers, whether they’re off to the prosperous world of investment banking or the dignified calling of medicine or the culturally significant realm of the performing arts – there is a single thread that ties us all. No matter how unique, successful, different, prosperous, intelligent, beautiful, handsome, talented, skilled we may perceive ourselves and see us as separate from or better than another person – at the end of the day, we are all built of the same blood, the same bones, the same flesh. And as such, we must act accordingly. However, the world is constantly asking us to prove our differences. In job interviews and the college application process, students are asked to differentiate themselves from the pool of other students. And this encourages a megalomanic way of thinking that forces us to forget (oftentimes) that we are not so different from our neighbor. This separation dehumanizes our neighbors and we are then able to easily vilify or humiliate or ridicule them. So I guess if I had one bit of advice for my seniors this year, it’s that we need to remember and respect that we are all the same, and only the superficial and material things differentiate us. And because we are not so different, we must treat each other with courtesy and respect and even a bit of kindness, because we are all human and thus deserve that bare basic treatment. I think many of our race, religion and class tensions would be eased if more people remembered this and acted this way.

Chila2

Chilaquiles with Salsa Verde
Adapted from Source: FoodNetwork

I’ve been having a long hankering for chilaquiles, and while many places around here serve it, I wanted to challenge myself and make it from scratch. Chilaquiles are essentially a brunch version of “nachos.” Lightly fried chips topped with a any variety of veggies, sauces and meats. This dish was originally created to use of leftover staples like tortillas and salsas. This recipe in particular produces a wonderfully fresh and zingy roasted salsa verde that is simmered before smothering a bed of fresh chips. The homemade chips are a great base for the salsa and all the toppings. It’s easy to make for a crowd, or even just for two – the individual ingredients can be separately stored and thrown together whenever you’re ready to eat. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few of my own toppings – roasted corn, a fried egg, pureed black beans, bits of avocado – all optional but so wonderful in this brunch dish.

Ingredients
Salsa Verde:
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed
3 fresh serrano chiles (add more for more heat)
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large onion, rough chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chicken broth or more as needed
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chilaquiles:
20 6″ diameter corn tortillas, dried and cut into strips
Salsa Verde
1/3 cup cotija or queso fresco (I prefer the saltier cotija over the melty/oozy queso fresco, but your choice)
kernels from 1 roasted corn on the cob
2-3 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Mexican crema (optional)
1 sunny side up egg (optional)
1 cup black beans (optional)
1 avocado, diced (optional)
vegetable oil

Chila4

Directions

To make the salsa, place the tomatillos, chiles, garlic, and onion on a lined baking sheet. Place directly under broiler (>500*F) until the vegetables are slightly charred and soft. Flip the veggies as needed for an even char. The veggies will smell very aromatic and will release a lot of liquid. Add all the ingredients into a blender along with the fresh cilantro and chicken broth. Blend to combine and adjust seasoning as needed. Add more broth or water as needed for desired consistency. Set salsa aside.

Chila5

To assemble the chilaquiles, pan fry the tortillas in batches until browned and crisp. Drain the tortillas on paper towels and discard the oil. Add about a cup of salsa verde for each serving of chips to a hot pan and bring to a simmer. Then, add the chips to the pan and cook until some pieces are soft but not mushy. Transfer to plate and top with cheese, roasted corn, thinly sliced radishes, cilantro, crema, beans, and egg(s) as desired. Serve and enjoy!

Chila3

Chila1

When I spoke to last year’s graduating class, I spoke of ambition and goal-setting and progress. I was quoted last year saying – “Don’t be complacent or stand still, because you will already have fallen behind on a planet that’s constantly moving forward.” Well this year, I’ve changed the beat of my drum a bit. Call it maturity or wisdom or age – but what’s becoming increasingly important to me is that human connection and that love and kindness reserved for others. It’s been a bad year in the news – a lot of conflicts. Conflicts that are rooted in misunderstanding and lack of kindness. Lack of patience to understand our neighbor. Too much emphasis on differentiating ourselves from “the other” and not enough conversations on our commonality and collaboration. So if we wish to see a better and brighter future, we have to ask our young and aspiring graduates to course correct. To do what previous generations have not been able to do. That would truly be success. That would truly be progress.

Chila6

Thanks for reading,
AnhD





Butter My Biscuits

22 04 2015

One of my (many) dreams in life is to live on a farm. Preferably about 30 minutes outside a big city (San Francisco) with easy access to a small downtown (obviously with cute restaurants and good food) and freeways, but with enough room to host my brood of chickens, geese, herd of baby goats, swarm of bees and all my puppies. I also want to grow my own fruits and veggies, and have beds of beautiful flowers that I can cut for dinner table centerpieces. I want to host my friends and family on our farm, for weekend picnics under the orchard or a small intimate dinner amidst the vines. By day I’ll don my pencil skirt and button-up blouse, but on weekends – you’ll see me in my wide-brimmed sun hat and garden galloshes. I essentially want to be Martha Stewart.

Biscuits-Whole

Cheddar Bacon Biscuits
Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients
6 slices of bacon, small diced then fried until crisp then crumbled
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 stick (8 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 sprigs of green onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. buttermilk

Directions
Preheat an oven to 425°F.
In a food processor, throw in the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, pepper and butter. Pulse until small crumbs form. Add the cheese and half the bacon, and continue to pulse the food processor to mix thoroughly. Add 3/4 cups of buttermilk and 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon fat, and pulse just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very wet and sticky.
Using a 3 oz ice cream scoop or a large tablespoon, scoop out 12 biscuits and drop right onto a greased parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the top of each biscuit with the remaining 2 tablespoons of buttermilk.
Bake the biscuits until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Biscuit Split

Cheddar Bacon Gravy
Source: Food

Ingredients
Remaining bacon crumbles from above
2 tbs bacon fat from above
2 tbs all-purpose flour
2 c milk
1/4 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1 sprig of green onion, thinly sliced

Directions
In the same pan you used to fry the bacon, discard (or use in the biscuit recipe above) all but 2 tbs of the bacon fat. Once hot, add the all purpose flour and whisk vigorously to dissolve the flour, but without burning it. It should resemble a viscous white fluid. Add the milk, and continue to whisk. Let the gravy simmer and thicken for 10 minutes or so, continuing to whisk so the bottom of the pot does not burn. Once thickened, add the cheddar, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer and whisk until the cheese is all melted and incorporated into the gravy. Remove gravy from heat and add the spring onion. Serve with biscuits.

Biscuit Gravy

Biscuit Open

We have made these biscuits 3 times in the last 3 weeks – and they disappear in a heartbeat. My arteries are probably hating me right now, but my love handles are enjoying every buttery, bacony bite. Because the ingredients in both the gravy and biscuit are similar, this is a match made in heaven. I dare say, it takes the spot of peanut butter and jelly. Yum. In my dream world, I would serve these biscuits during those aforementioned weekend brunches or picnics under the orchard, on a long, rustic, wooden table with aged benches. The biscuits would be wrapped in a red and white checkered kitchen linen, then placed in a cute little wicker basket. To serve, I would unceremoniously place one on a white vintage plate, then generously douse it with cheddar bacon gravy. We would all eat in silence – only the occasional oohs or aahhhs would escape from our mouths. And after, we would wash it all down with refreshing mimosas and nap late until the afternoon.

Comatose,
AnhD





Confessions of a Reluctant Gardener

16 04 2015

Maybe I need to take a friend’s advice and do some blog rebranding…

Dahlia

Ranunculus

Lettuce

WeepingCherry

Up to this point, I have had very limited experience planting anything (terrariums aside). But I’ve found it surprisingly fun and really rewarding. After a day of work, I really like being knee-deep in soil. The earth is musky yet sweet. And there’s just so much life, if you take a second to look around – a pulsating moth pupa or a shy earth worm. And you literally reap what you sow – our plants have been sprouting nicely. From the fruits and veggies to all the lovely flowers we’ve planted. It’s only been a few weeks, but each day, I can see each plant grow a little taller, spread a little wider – this really tickles my need for instant gratification. And our baby chicks have also grown up so quickly, into little majestic pullets. In another month or so, they should begin laying, so I’m looking forward to sharing more details on that.

Chick1

Chick2

But alas this is a food blog – I did manage to capture this image before devouring a dozen of the most amazing cheddar and spring onion biscuits. I’ll be sharing a recipe shortly. These little pockets of buttery, bacony biscuits are just perfect with gravy. I’m going to give Jacob’s Pickles a run for its money.
CheddarBiscuit

Thanks for stopping by and until next time!
AnhD








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