Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Now is the time for change.

I have a lot more respect for Jamie Oliver than I used to.  Viva la food revolution!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The luck of the Irish.

My lovely wife K is an Irish lass.  She's not a drunk or a leprechaun.  She just happens to love cocktails and she's just a little bit short.  She also rarely wears green and really doesn't care for U2.  In fact, aside from her sweet freckles and pretty red hair you really wouldn't know she was Irish (kinda like when I tell people I'm Cuban and they laugh at me).  That is of course until I cook some Irish food and then her eyes light up as if St. Patrick himself had flown down and given her a pinch.

So first and foremost in Irish cuisine is Guinness.  It's a meal in it's own right.  I however am not a huge fan of dark beers.  Though I did come across a cocktail that intrigued me.  It's called a Black Velvet .  It's basically half Guinness and half champagne.  Pour the Guinness half way up a champagne flute.  Let the head settle.  Using a spoon to diffuse the force of pouring, pour champagne (or a really dry sparkling wine) over the back of the spoon gently filing up the rest of the glass.  It's so delicious, sparkly and tart but with that fullness and deep chocolate tones that Guinness is known for.

Of course you'll want to serve this cocktail a healthy portion of Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

4 lb corned beef brisket
2 onions, sliced
2 lbs potatoes (russet, Yukon, red bliss, etc..), quartered
1 teaspoon dry English mustard
large sprig fresh thyme and some parsley stalks, tied together
1 head of cabbage
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the brisket into a pot with the onions, mustard and the herbs. Cover with cold water, and bring gently to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Add the potatoes to the pot.  Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in quarters and add to the pot. Cook for a further 1 to 2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are soft and tender.

Slice the corned beef and plate with the cabbage and potatoes.  Serve with spicy mustard and prepared horseradish.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blueacre is the place to be....

I never once ate at the lovely Oceanaire Seafood Restaurant.  The super swank vintage art deco behemoth of a seafood restaurant on Olive.  I'm sort of sad that I didn't but I lost my DeLorean time machine so there's no point on dwelling on the past.  One of my favorite chefs in this still rising culinary town, chef Kevin Davis (Chef/Owner of my beloved comfy go-to joint Steelhead Diner) along with his dear charming wife Teresa Davis have opened Blueacre in the old Oceanaire's digs.  It just so happens that Kevin used to be the executive chef at Oceanaire prior to opening Steelhead Diner so it's a homecoming of sorts (minus the keg stands and getting felt up under the bleachers).  With some minor changes to the decor, Blueacre is more open air and bright color than the classic stylings of Oceanaire, although they did keep a lot of the beautiful deco railings and curves including the amazing revolving front door (of which my fear of getting crushed in can be overcome by the smell of yummy food).  There is also a motif of butterflies throughout signifying metamorphosis which I of course can relate to.  The dining room is giant and pretty and still inviting. Aside from the gawking, uptight business crowd, it still somehow feels cozy.  Perhaps it's just more of that Davis family charm seeping into the woodwork.

But what about the food you ask?  It definitely has Chef Davis' style in the form of Americana seafood fare with some Pacific Northwest focus thrown in for good measure.  On the menu the sections are broken up into sweet categories such as The Briny Sea, Boil and Bubble, and my personal favorite: The Hunger (which of course Kevin promises he didn't steal this idea from me but from the Catherine Deneuve / Bowie vampire film which is where I got the name as well, but I'll just pretend I was an influence in that decision).  So anyways, K and I ordered from a nicely curated selection of local oysters on the half shell.  They came with a variety of mignonettes all of which were delicious.  Then came the Kasu Marinated King Salmon Collars.  They were some of the meatiest, moist succulent salmon collars I've ever had.  If you've never tried salmon collars before, do yourself a favor and get these.  We also tried the Ultimate Blue Crab cake.  It was indeed ultimate but I couldn't decide which I liked better when comparing Steelhead's delicious Dungeness Crab Cake versus Blueacre's Blue Crab Cake.  I suppose I now have two favorite crab cakes in Seattle.  We had some time between courses due to a misfire in the kitchen (which to to be expected right after a grand opening) but were brought out some Dungeness Crab Bisque while we waited and it was so tasty and rich.  Besides, we were enjoying ourselves, our cocktails, and the sun pouring in through the windows and the staff took care of us so we were content.  So after a little bit we received the star of the show, the Crispy Whole Idaho Stream Raised Catfish.  It was a monster of a fish with amazing crispy skin and delicate buttery flesh.  It came with accoutrements to make Vietnamese-esque lettuce wraps.  We were so full by then but we still couldn't stop eating.  I can imagine the difficulty when frying a whole fish this size, but the presentation itself is impressive enough to knock your sock off.  We also had Fried Green Tomatoes but we had to take them home to avoid death by overeating.

So yeah, I'd recommend Blueacre to you.  The food was delicious.  The atmosphere feels luxurious, and the service thoughtful.  Success couldn't happen to nicer people.  Oh, and congratulations on your twins Theresa!  Pay a visit to Blueacre and don't forget to stop off at Steelhead for a Pink Laser cocktail on your way home.

photo courtesy (or swiped from)

Blueacre Seafood
1700 7th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone 206-659-0737
Blueacre on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sovereign State #11: Azerbaijan

Sabsa Govurma Plovu
Azerbaijani Plov or Rice Pilaf
Roasted Lamb Chops with Herb Sauce (pistou) and Toasted Pine Nuts
Limon Sharbati (Lemon Sherbet)

So not that long ago you could have said the word Azerbaijan and I wouldn't have known what the hell you were talking about.  As a child of the Reagan-era cold war I was taught that The Soviet Union was a scary backwards place full of nuclear missiles and the stone faced children of Stalin would use them with no care of the impending apocalypse.  Back to the days of duck and cover.  Those school desks must have been made of some serious special press wood if hiding under it was my last line of defense.  Alas, here were are.  So back then, Russia and Azerbaijan were all part of the U.S.S.R, one big socialist Soviet extravaganza.  But like a girl with a stupid mean boyfriend/girlfriend, eventually they'll want to split.  Essentially all of Russia's girlfriends said "don't call me, I'll call you".  So now the good ole' U.S.S.R is broken up into like 534 countries or something like that.  Okay, maybe it's more like 10 but it seems like a lot.  So anyways, Azerbaijan is a pretty neat country with it's own distinct culture and cuisine.  It's a land of mutton, saffron, pomegranates, chestnuts, and olives.  

Plov is not an appetizing name for a dish.  I realize it's another language but knowing that doesn't make it sound more delicious.  They need to get a marketing person to come in there and jazz up the name.  You know, "Alrighty then, let's say we call it Rice Spectacular, the Azerbajaini treat!"  Plov is Azerbaijan's national dish.  This tasty rice pilaf goes with everything and there are lots of preparations for the dish.  I made a basic style plov which is basmati type rice with saffron and olives.  For the lamb I marinated it in olive oil with lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs for an hour or so.  Then I got a good sear on a saute pan over high heat and finished them in the oven.  For the Azerbaijani herb "pistou" I tossed some fresh cilantro, fresh basil, fresh parsley, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a little plain yogurt into a blender and pulsed until the sauce came together.  Toast some pine nut in a dry pan over low heat.  Delicious.

So in the States sherbet is frozen fruit dessert.  In Azerbaijan it's their national drink.  I made a lemon sherbet with saffron and coriander seeds.  It's very refreshing and I could see it being great on a warm summer day.  I cut down the sugar to 5 Tbsp versus the usual 10 tablespoons so my teeth wouldn't fall out.  It's almost like a spiced lemonade and the saffron give a luxurious feel to it.  Very unique and delicious.  It would be fun to use this as a starter for a yummy cocktail and I can do so not being from Azerbaijan or Muslim and all.  But even on it's own it's super tasty.  No disrespect at all or anything, I'm just a lush and feel that all beverages are better with hooch in them.  But anyways, here's the rated G version of  limon sharbati.

Limon Sharbati

1/8 teaspoon saffron
1 untreated lemon, juice and zest of
1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
5 tablespoons sugar

Dissolve the saffron powder in 1/2 cup water.
Chop the lemon peel fine and place in a container.
Pour over the peel 2 cups of freshly boiled water and add the coriander seeds. Allow to steep for 4 hours.
Strain and mix in the lemon juice and sugar. Add the saffron infusion and serve the sherbet well cooled.

For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nuthin' but a po girl.

So the thing is, I have my reservations about certain holidays.  It's those "drinking" holidays that seem to make me sad.  You know, holidays like Mardi Gras, St. Pattys Day, The 4th of July, Lent (okay, maybe not Lent).  It seems like ever year, these holidays arrive and every idiot fratboy tough-guy crawls out from  their "man-cave" to stir up trouble.  Their intentions: all you can eat holiday food, get wasted on holiday booze, beat up holiday wimps, start a holiday riot.  Seriously, here in Seattle it seems like every Mardi Gras a building in Historical Pioneer Square gets burned down and couple of dozen hate crimes have to be ignored buy the police.  It's crazy, you don't see this kind of junk happening on Easter Sunday.  "Dude, I'm gonna eat like 76 Easter eggs, 6 choco-bunnies, like a hundred Peeps and then I'm gonna drink Zombies until I blackout and then I'm gonna go flip over cars at the church parking lot.  Easter frickin' RULES!"  That never happens.  

But anyways, I love to celebrate these holidays as idiot free as possible so this Mardi Gras we celebrated at home.  Stir up some Sazeracs, turn on some good French music (not Zydeco music, I can't listen to that stuff), and whip up some Shrimp Po-Boys and a pot of Gumbo Z'Herbes.

Gumbo Z'Herbes

3 tablespoons butter
½ cup tasso ham, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
½ cup sliced green onions
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon filé powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 cups sliced collard greens
2 cups sliced mustard greens
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
6 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
½ lb. tasso ham, chopped
2 cups crawfish tails, cooked
salt and pepper, to taste
white rice, cooked

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the tasso, sauté until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the celery and onion, and sauté until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the green onions, parsley, and garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in the filé, oregano, and Cajun seasoning. Add the collard greens, mustard greens, and spinach.

Add 2 cups of the chicken broth and stir. Cover and cook on low heat until all greens are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes . Remove from the heat. Purée the mixture in a food processor and set aside.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in the same soup pot and add the flour, whisk until smooth. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns light brown, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the remaining broth and bring to boil, whisking often. Add the green purée and the the tasso ham and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the crawfish tails and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over hot rice.
recipe adapted from Louisiana Cookin by Wynton Marsalis

Monday, March 1, 2010

You're so open faced.

It's a simple concept.  Toast bread, top bread with tasty topping, eat.  Every culture has a sandwich.  All you have to do to make a sandwich seem fancier is remove the top layer of bread and make it smaller.  Now you have canape, crostini, open-faced sammich.  You can put pretty much anything on a crostini.  For instance, here I made crostini topped with Spanish lupini beans, spicy chicken sausage, smoked fontina, and fresh tarragon.  I finished them with a little white truffle oil and fennel salt.  The possibilities are endless.  Now get out there and make some fancy sandwiches.  What will you put on yours?

Dark Rye Crostini with Spanish Lupini Beans and Spicy Chicken Sausage

18 slices dark rye, crust removed, cut into 2 triangles each
olive oil
1 cup lupini beans
1 lb spicy chicken sausage, cooked and diced(any sausage would work well)
2 Tbsp pickled goathorn peppers, minced
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 /2 lb smoked fontina cheese, sliced with a peeler into thin strips
fresh tarragon
white truffle oil
fennel salt

Heat a grill pan over medium heat.  Drizzle olive oil on the toast points and grill 2 minutes per side until crispy.

Mix the beans, sausage, peppers, and parsley.  Top the toast points with the mixture.  Then put a few slices of the fontina over the sausage and bean mixture.  Garnish with a few tarragon leaves and a drizzle of truffle oil and a pinch of fennel salt.  Eat over a plate because it's messy.  Yum.