food porn, looking back on 2011 in food, memorable meals, new years

Until Next Year…

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bacon wrapped pork loin, christmas eve, christmas food, holiday gluttony, holidays, lithanian kucios, lithuanian foods, lithuanian traditions, mashed potato casserole

Eatmas 2011

There is a serious holiday hangover happening in our house right now. For nearly 36 hours straight, we were absolute holiday gluttons. We feasted, opened presents and watched ‘A Christmas Story’ at least 1.5 times. It was a wonderful past few days with The Missus, but we probably could have done without a helping of thirds of the Vinegretas. I couldn’t close the refrigerator last night because of how much food we had just for the two of us. Maybe it’s because our families are so far away that we feel the need to overcompensate with an ungodly amount of bacon and puff pastry. But, whatever the reason, we had a fantastic holiday and have a lovely shiney coat because of all of the fat we consumed.

The feasting started Saturday with another non-traditional, traditional Kūčios. This year we violated every rule about dairy and meat, though we started with something a little more traditional:

Smoked mackerel with pickled beets and horseradish sour cream. We served this with Lithuanian rye bread and the mackerel came from Duck Trap in Maine. For dinner we had traditional Lithuanian dumplings (Kuldūnai), bacon buns (Lasineciai) and Vinegretas.


Kuldūnai

Filling
1 lb ground lamb (not too lean) or ½ lb ground beef and ½ lb ground pork (for fattier
taste)
1 med onion chopped
Fresh ground pepper and salt one pinch each

Dough
1 egg
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 pinch salt

Mix filling ingredients together and set aside. Mix together dough mixture and roll out
onto floured surface. Cut out 2-3 inch circles of dough and fill with a spoonful of meat
filling. Fold it in half and press edges down with a fork. Add kuldūnai to boiling water
and cook for 10 minutes or until they all float. Serve with Sour Cream Butter sauce.

Sour Cream Butter sauce
In a pan melt equal parts butter and sour cream until sour cream has pretty much melted.
Pour over kuldūnai.

We cheated and used won ton skins for the dumpling wrappers and it didn’t quite work out the best for us. While The Missus made a fantastic meat mixture, the skins just became soggy and noodley, which made for a very unpleasant texture. We vowed to make the dough from scratch next year.

The bacon buns were simply made with coarsely chopped bacon(I believe she used 3/4 of a pound), crisped in a pan.
Remove the bacon, drain some of the fat and saute in about 1 cp of onions until soft. Season with salt and pepper and mix in bacon and let cool to room temperature.
Defrost your puff pastry according to directions, then remove to a floured surface and cut off squares for the buns.
Roll out to desired size and place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle.
Fold over top and seal to bottom, crimping edges to ensure they don’t bust open.
Brush with egg wash and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.


Now, it’s not easy to top the Lithuanians when it comes to pork and potatoes, but I think I managed to do it this year with a bacon and garlic encrusted pork roast.

Both the bacon and the roast came from a friend of The Missus who gave them to us for tossing him a few dollars worth of pink salt over the summer. I’d say we more than came out on top in that trade.

The roast was succulent and moist, with a bit of smokiness from the bacon ring.

But, there was more than just pork. There was mashed potato casserole, too! And something green!

Mashed Potato Casserole with Sour Cream and Chives

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, and more for the pan

6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons finely chopped chives

2/3 cup bread crumbs

2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

1. Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. In a large pot, bring the potatoes, 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

3. Mash potatoes with 10 tablespoons butter, sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Mash in the chives. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Spread potatoes into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.

4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, bread crumbs and cheese. Mix together until it forms coarse crumbs. Crumbs can be refrigerated for three days.

5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the potato casserole and bake until golden and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes.

I cut the recipe in half and added a cup of shredded Cave Aged Gruyere to the mashed potatoes before I set them in the refrigerator. This lent a nice salt and nuttiness that balanced out the 3/4 of a cup of sour cream. I’d say that this was easily the “fat kid” winner at the table this year. It was ridiculously rich(nearly a stick of butter in the potatoes, along with a container of sour cream and cheese) and I kept wanting more of it even when I was past rational fullness.

The greens were a Mario Batali recipe for broccoli rabe that I’ve made a few times. It’s extremely quick and simple and that was exactly what I needed after spending most of the day in the kitchen.

Broccoli Rabe, Pugliese

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 bunches broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup small pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
  1. In a large, deep saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the broccoli rabe, then add it to the saucepan with the water still clinging to it. Cover the pan tightly and cook until the broccoli rabe is tender and just a few spoonfuls of water remain, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and top with the olives

And, to top it all off, we had cheesecake. Both nights.

I think I’ll have salad the rest of the week.

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12 days of cheesemas, aged cheeses, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, italian cheeses, parmigiano reggiano, raw milk

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 12


(photo from Culture Magazine)

Parmigiano Reggiano. Not pre-grated, not that shit that comes in a canned shaker or is any way, shape or form, pasteurized. We’re talking about the “King of Cheeses” for God’s sake, so have some respect here. You want the real stuff, raw and imported. You know I love my American cheese makers, but you have my permission–actually, my encouragement–to roll your eyes at the next person trying to sell you ‘Parmesan’ at the farmer’s market. It’s not even a distant cousin to the real thing. This is 660 years of traditional cheese making at it’s absolutely most perfect execution. What the cow’s eat, how the milk is heated, where it’s aged–all of it is regulated by law and all of that fuss makes sense after one bite. There is no other cheese as nuanced as Parmigiano, with its perfect balance of creaminess, crunch, sweetness and salt. This is one of those cheeses that, once you have the real thing, you are very hard pressed to use any lesser substitute.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Missus and I to our friends, family and fellow food lovers.

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Mother F**king Holiday Cookies

I’m in the thick of it now–holiday madness at work. On my days off this week I’ve baked approximately 15 dozen cookies to give to friends and coworkers. I’m burnt out and reeling from a pretty fucking big sugar crash. So, without breaking out the hyperbole… I’ll just give you some holiday cookie recipes.


(from the bottom, up)

Momofuku Marshmallow, Cornflake and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (adding peppermint candy and chocolate chips to the mix)
Peanut Butter and Bacon Cookies

Pecan Caramel Cookies

Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies



Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies
(I used left over Cornflake Crunch from the Marshmallow cookie, cocoa nibs, pretzels, dark chocolate chips and marshmallows)

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12 days of cheesemas, Bresca, burrata, cheese advent calendar, cheese pairings, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, maplebrook farms vermont

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 11


(photo from TheKitchn.com)

One of the best dishes I ate this year had Burrata at the center of it. It was at Bresca, back in March, during Restaurant Week. Dawn and Adam were with The Missus and I, settling in for a four course dinner when the plate arrived. We hadn’t ordered it, mind you, but Chef Krista Desjarlais generously surprised us (she knows my love of cheese) with an antipasto course of Burrata, prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, capers, olive oil, aged balsamic and bread. The table didn’t speak for over the course of the next twenty minutes. We were too focused and our mouths were too full to articulate how wonderful it was at the time. I think I thanked Chef Desjarlais for the month for her kindness and the amazing food we had that night. Burrata is NOT a cooking mozzarella, it’s filled with cream and melty curd, so don’t waste it on a pizza. Make a plate, similar to the one that we were served, and enjoy some comfortable silence with some friends over one of the simplest–yet, exquisite–cheeses in the world.

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12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 10


(photo from NYTimes.com)

We’re going to talk French again. You don’t really think about domestically made cheeses when the name ‘Raclette’ rolls around. You think French or Swiss made, melted on roasted fingerling potatoes or crusty bread. Truthfully, I wasn’t fond of Raclette cheese until this past year when I was introduced to one by Chef Guy Hernandez of Bar Lola. This one, from Springbrook Farms in Vermont, has completely shattered my illusion and ambivalence towards Raclette. It’s painfully more interesting in both nose and paste to the French or Swiss varieties you can by stateside. It’s rusty, pink rind gives you a fair bit of warning that the cheese has a nose to it, but the bite is no where near as strong. The paste is creamy, with a bit of a cheddar spring to it. It’s a bit earthy, but has a pretty mild nutty finish. I’ve had it on eggs, melted over a rib eye sandwich and shredded into a gratin. It’s become my ‘go to’ melting cheese over the past few months, but it’s great for nibbling as is.

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12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 9


(photo from Murray’s Cheese)

I’ve encountered people, more than I care to admit, that don’t believe that Americans can make wonderful goat cheese that would rival the French, much in the same way they thought about our wine. Sure, it’s taken a bit of time (and we’re still dealing with those pesky and obnoxious raw milk laws), but I think we’re just about there. Some of the natural rind cheeses coming from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery are a prime example of that, like my favorite, Coupole. It’s one of the few bloomy rinds that I prefer in their younger state. The milk is sweet, mild and grassy–making for the perfect breakfast cheese to have with a sweet bread and cup of tea.

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12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 8


(photo from Stacy Camp Photography)

I will openly come out now and say that York Hill Farm, from New Sharon, ME, is one of my absolute favorite goat cheese makers in New England. They were recently featured in a Culture Magazine article on Maine cheese makers and were big winners this past year at The Big E. And the accolades are well deserved. The two cheeses above, their ‘Bucheron‘ and Capriano are two of my favorites. The Capriano is aged about 6 months and the paste imparts a very distinct nutty, sweetness, without the tanginess that goes along with so many goat cheeses. The Bucheron, aged much younger, embraces the tanginess and all its glory. The cream line of the cheese–the one that gets gooier and gooier as the cheese ages–never really gets a lot of body. But, it does loosen up enough to give you that wonderful dual texture and, therefore, dual flavor that makes so many people love this style of cheese.
One thing, though, that strikes me about just about every one of York Hill’s cheeses is a mineral note in the milk that cuts a bit into the acidity, which is most prominent in their plain chevre.

If you’re looking to track down York Hill’s cheeses, I’d do so soon as their milking season is coming to an end. After that, you’re waiting 4 long months until the next batch of cheese is made.

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Obscure Holiday Cocktails III

It’s that magical time again, folks… Holiday inspired drinking time. This year marked our 3rd incarnation of Obscure Holiday Cocktails, hosted by the lovely Dawn and, the equally as lovely, Adam. Seriously, he’s a beautiful man.

They definitely pushed the envelope this year and challenged my cheese pairing abilities more than previous years. I mean, really, how often have I been asked to pair something with Metaxa? Just about never. Port AND Sherry, you say? Together? What crazy, mixed up world is this? Who thought of these things? Why, my lovely friends did. I may have cursed them more than once as I fretted over pairings.

But, enough of my blabbering, let’s get onto the booze.

The Good


Christmas Bellringer

Gin

Cointreau

Frangelico

Freshly squeezed orange juice

Orange twist

We started the evening on a light and lovely note. The cheese, which I forgot to take a photo of, was the Spanish goats milk cheese, Capricho de Cabra, which was paired with Tupelo honey from The Savannah Bee Company. The drink and cheese paired nicely together with the citrus in the drink meshing wonderfully with the lemony and acidic notes of the cheese.

Greek Airmail

Metaxa

Lime juice

Honey

Q tonic

Bitters

Mint

This was actually my most enjoyed drink of the night, though I was a bit worried when I took my first whiff of Metaxa. But, when Professor A. handed me the drink, and I took my first sip, I was absolutely smitten with it. There was absolutely so much going on in the drink, at least from the list of ingredients, but everything in the glass seemed to play very nicely with each other. The loveliest touch was the mint leaf floating at the top. The cheese paired with this one, which came at the recommendation of Dawn and Professor A. was Keen’s Cheddar. The honey in the drink toned down a bit of the bite and salt of the cheese, while the salt in the cheese drew out a bit more of the honey flavor in the drink. See how that works there? That’s why I love to pair cheeses.

The Weird

Lion’s Pride

St Germain

Gin

1 egg white

Dash Peychaud Bitters

Lime juice

Topped with lime zest and black pepper

Oh, Adam, where did you get this one again? From Lion’s Pride in Brunswick? I have to say, I wasn’t a fan. Well, I was at first, when I smelled the drink and the lime zest and pepper beckoned me to take my first sip. And it tasted absolutely NOTHING like it smelled. I wanted the lime to be at the forefront, but mine seemed to be all Gin, with a note of potpourri. I don’t think I got through more than a couple of sips before I set it down and went right into eating the Valencay. While everyone seemed to love the cheese–it’s a favorite of mine–I’m not so sure that I would have paired this with the Lion’s Pride had I known what it would have tasted like. The texture of the Valencay is gorgeous, as Dawn said it seems like the paste is whipped, but I found it much too mild to really balance the alcohol. Perhaps something more in the line of Midnight Moon or Twig Farm Tomme would have been better.

The Burny

Whispers of the Frost

Whiskey or Bourbon

Sherry

Port

Powdered Sugar

To be served with slices of lemon and orange

I’ll put this in the ‘Burny’ category, but only because it’s pure booze with little added to the drink to cut into the alcohol. I also learned that, apparently, having Sherry and Port together will boggle the minds of some seasoned workers at RSVP. However, I did enjoy this drink and took Vrylena’s direction to squeeze the citrus and add it to the glass. The pairing for this was the easiest of the night. Port NEEDS blue cheese. Just straight out, no questions asked, it cries for a blue. The hardest part is whittling down the options. While I thought about the Rogue River Blue, I decided, in the end, to go with something a bit more like Stilton. That led me to Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont, something I find to be very much like a domestic made Stilton. The pepper from the Roqueforti Penicillium brought a nice vibrancy to the drink, while the paste mellowed out the harshness of the drink. This, in my opinion, was the best pairing of the evening.

Tom and Jerry

12 egg(s)

1 cup sugar

1 bottle brandy

Pinch of ground allspice

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

1 bottle dark rum

milk

nutmeg

I love Kate. She’s my girl, you know? But, I don’t think I’ve had a more vile drink in my life than this one. Seriously, bring me back to last years gay raver drink, The Grinch, or even the much hated Christmas Pudding we had the first year. Anything but this. One sip. One sip was all I could stand of it. If I had been more inebriated by the time we reached this drink, I would have taken out my lighter to see if it would erupt into flames because that shit was pure alcohol.

But, it’s not really Kate’s fault–this was a last minute choice when she realized that the recipe she had was the same one she made last year. So, at the 11th hour, she switched it up not really knowing what to expect. And, it’s a bit sad that I didn’t really like the drink because she spent a bit of time in the kitchen doing prep work for it.

Now, because I was expecting to pair something with a ‘Nog drink, I opted out of cheese this year–realizing last year that it’s just too much dairy and creates for a unpleasant existence–and went with chocolate. I made two barks, one with roasted Marcona almonds and the other with a sprinkling of Ghost Pepper salt. Call it a ‘Naughty and Nice’ pairing. I’m assuming that everyone liked the barks, as there was almost nothing left by the end of the night, but I can’t really speak if they went with the drink.

I also made these little bits for the evening, Deviled Eggs with Pickled Beets, from Bon Appetit. They’re a bit more work than your average deviled egg, but the end results are more than worth it. If you’re looking for a last minute dish to make for the holidays, I’d put these right at the top of your list. I would also recommend Dawn’s Bacon Wrapped Apricots with Sage. Don’t tell her, but I sneaked a few before the dish ever left the kitchen.

So, this year was a bit of a mixed bag for me when it came to the mixed drinks. But, as it has been the past few years, the true joy of it is just getting together with friends, enjoying some great food, getting a bit of a schwill on and laughing until you nearly pee.

With that… A Happy Holiday to you!

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12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, major farm, sheep's milk cheese, vermont shepherd

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 7


(photo SF Chronicle)

Four months, five if you’re lucky. That’s how long the season is for this raw sheep’s cheese from Major Farm, Vermont Shepherd. And, if you’re truly lucky, you’ll get a taste of one of the first batches of the season, when the sheep are grazing on lemongrass and clover. Seriously, they send you whimsical cards telling you what the sheep were eating the week the cheese was made. It makes it seriously romantical and may just make you focus on the flavor profile of the cheese, rather than just munching it down. As the season goes on, the flavor becomes less grassy and sweet, taking on a bit of a nuttier, drier profile.

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