Sunday, September 19, 2010

Summer Thanksgiving

During my bar exam review, I spent every week day with a group of fellow law students who doubted my cooking chops. In order to squelch their insidious ribbing, I made them ribs (among five other courses). So, I bring you Summer Thanksgiving. In essence, Summer Thanksgiving is just a good excuse for gorging one's self with delicious food and drinking scrumptious drinks.
My first of six course was sort of a picking platter. I had out some great cheeses to dip in truffled honey, including the ultimate Parmigiano Reggiano, Bellavitano (an american-made, but Italian-style cheddar), and some buffalo mozzarella. Also in the first course was home-made pickles in an apple cider vinegar and brown sugar cure, my infamous deviled eggs, and other little treats.

Second course was, as per Jaclyn's request, the above pictured ribs. These are my dry-rubbed spare ribs that are, that's right, done in the oven. I rub the ribs (that's what she said) the night before with my proprietary blend of spices and brown sugar. I place them on a roasting rack and pour an apple cider vinegar and water solution in the bottom of the roasting pan for moisture. In the oven they go for four hours at 250 degrees. After making some of my scratch BBQ sauce, I put a thin coat on the ribs and turn on the broiler to 500 degrees to bubble the sauce into a bark. YUMMY.
The third course was out of order, but was equally tasty. I prepared a seafood fra diavlo with whole wheat thin spaghetti. I apologize about this cell phone picture, but the ones taken with a camera were deleted. This is a basic Napoletano-Italian recipe. It is a spicy tomato sauce with onion and diced tomatoes and as much seafood as you can fit in the bowl. I chose bay scallops, little neck clams, 26-30 shrimp, and mussels (for Marie). Usually, there is scungili (baby squid tentacles) and squid body, but I skipped them not knowing if everyone liked those ingredients. Still, it was nice.

The fourth course, which was supposed to be the fifth course, was a simple seared dry-packed sea scallop. You can read my previous post, here, for the difference between good and bad scallops when you go to the market. The scallops were seared in a combination of butter and olive oil. I also add a few drips of truffle oil and fine sea salt to each plate right before serving. I also served a chilled sweet corn soup with the scallop. This soup was actually the most involved dish, which required its own post, which will be coming soon! I was, however, forced to move this course up because the pork belly needed more time. Thats right, pork belly too!!!

So the fifth course was supposed to be the main and final course. It did not, however, work out that way. For a final course, I chose a whole roasted beef tenderloin accompanied by duck fat-roasted red and yukon gold potatoes. The tenderloin was easy- just salt and pepper on a tied roast (there will be a post soon on how to trim and tie a tenderloin). I roasted it at 450 degrees for 12 minutes to create some flavor, and then roasted at 300 degrees until the internal temperature was at 125 degrees at the thickest part of the roast. This will give you a final temp of about 130 after ten minutes resting for a solid low medium, almost medium rare, but the thiner parts of the roast will be a high medium for those who like to kill the juiciness. The potatoes are really simple. Cube the potatoes and blanch them in boiling SALTED water for 7-9 minutes. Then place in a large frying pan a healthy tablespoon of duck fat. I added thyme and rosemary from the garden to make some damn flavorful potatoes.
Finally, the sixth course was supposed to be the fifth. It did finish nicely, however, as the greens cut some of the delicious abovementioned fat. I served an arugula salad with shaved Pecorino Romano and a vinaigrette comprised of roasted sesame oil and honey/ginger vinegar. That chunk of pig you see there is our home grown (not at my home, but at our butcher's home) fresh bacon, or pork belly (also a post soon on pork belly). This was an asian flavored pork belly braised in soy sauce, tons of garlic, and other things you will have to tune back in to get.

We also had some fine desserts including chocolate covered strawberries and peanut butter, Christa's famous raspberry almond bars, and some delicious Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout. After dinner we went around the table and let everyone know what we were thankful for, as if it really was Thanksgiving. It could have been the overwhelming sense of happiness stemming from our completion of the bar exam, it could have been our huge bellies, or it could have been the copious amount of wine and beer we drank that led to the lovefest. No matter what its origins, it was heart-warning, funny, and a memorable time. Thanks to Christa, Marie, Mike, Jaclyn, Kate and Jess for coming and eating (and not spitting out) my food.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Interesting Beer Concoction

There are very few opportunities in the current beer scene to be smacked in the face by something GOOD and NEW. Some breweries seem to go into an alley behind a row of restaurants and grab scraps from the garbage to use in their "unique new brew." As Dennis Leary so brilliantly indicated, "Wake the $&*# up and smell the maple nut crunch," Watermelon and pizza do not belong in beer. (Watermelon Wheat is by 21st Amendment- usually a damn good brewery, and the pizza beer is by some slack-jaw named Tom Seefurth).

I was fed up with beers claiming to have exotic ingredients flavoring their brew, and further claiming that they tasted good. SO, I was naturally hesitant when I heard that Sam Calagione (fellow Muhlenberg grad) at Dogfish Head was joining with two other spectacular breweries - Victory here in Downingtown and Stone in Escondido, CA- to create a unique herb-flavored ale, but I trusted them. Damn were they right on the money.

So, the beer is a saison, which is a pale ale recipe from France. Traditionally, saison was brewed seasonally in the fall and spring, hence the name saison- french for season. The flavor of a saison is very very mild, and thus is a fantastic vehicle for loading on big flavors, and these man did exactly that. The saison is brewed with parsley, thyme, sage and rosemary.

The beer, upon first sip, has the very familiar taste of a pilsner or lighter pale ale. But then the herbs come through- you get hit with sage and thyme first, but they do change interestingly into parsley, and finally into rosemary. The herby flavor is not overpowering, but definitely present. There are also notes of orange and an ever-so-slight sweetness. We tried it on its own, and they later with a few different foods, including asian flavored pork belly and filet mignon. It was good on its own, but great with food. At $3.99/bottle, I suggest that you by it by the bottle or 4-pack if you want to try it. I will, however, be going back for more. Enjoy.