Instinctual Evidence

At this point I really should just follow my instincts.

I read a recipe, think, “Well, that’s not going to work;” but, intrigued, try it anyway. And then it doesn’t work.

Last night it was a romanesco-calabaza gratin. Baked “uncovered” for 30 minutes, then topped with cheesy-nutty breadcrumbs and baked for another 30, I was sure the top layer of veg would never soften adequately without covering for the first half of baking to allow a bit of steaming. End result, it was edible–almost delicious–but it could have been softer.

My instincts paid off with the main course for my menu project though. Although I didn’t love the way this dish photographed, the flavor was outstanding. Read the back story here.

Roasted Pork Loin, stuffed with Beer & Vinegar Braised Cabbage
Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pork
3-4 lb. Pork Loin
2 T coarse mustard
20 g Neutral oil

For the Cabbage Stuffing
200g Vidalia onion, emincer
1 t. caraway seeds
½ t celery seeds
1 small head green cabbage, sliced in ½” strips
1 small head red cabbage, sliced in ½“ strips
100g carrots, julienne
4 oz cider vinegar
12 oz Unibroue Ephemere Ale
Pinch of sugar
20g butter, Salt & pepper

For the Sauce
Pork trimmings (including bacon rind removed from salad lardon)
100 g onions, mirepoix
2 garlic cloves, smashed
400 g tomatoes, quartered
30 g bourbon or rye
1000 g pork stock
5 g Chervil, hacher
5 g Parsley, hacher

For the Gastrique
85 g brown sugar
85 g cider vinegar

For the Pork Stock
6 lbs. pork bones
450 g onions
450 g carrots
3 celery stalks
50 g tomato paste
225 g tomato scraps
100 g mushroom trim
80 g leek greens
½ head garlic
Bouquet garni

For the Stock

  1. Roast the bones in an oven set to 375º until golden, stirring occasionally and making sure sucs don’t brown too quickly.
  2. Add onions and carrots and continue to roast until starting to caramelize.
  3. In a large pot, sauté leek and mushrooms until caramelized, add tomato paste and cook for several minutes. Add tomato scrap & let the juices reduce significantly.
  4. Add roasted veg and bones & cover with water. Add bouquet and bring to a boil. Simmer for 6 hours, adding water as necessary to keep submerged. Skim as needed. Strain and chill.

For the Stuffing & Pork

  1. Sweat onions in neutral oil until translucent and just starting to color.
  2. Add seeds and allow the flavors to bloom for a few seconds
  3. Add carrots and cabbage and sauté briefly.
  4. Add ale, vinegar & sugar and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to simmer & cook until the cabbage is tender.
  6. If necessary, pour out excess liquid & add butter, sautéing to coat cabbage.
  7. Place in a colander and allow to drain while it cools. Set aside.
  8. Butterfly the pork loin, season both sides with salt and pepper and then brush just the inside with mustard.
  9. Layer the cooked cabbage on the loin, leaving a ½” boarder and roll loin back into shape. Secure with butcher’s string.
  10. Sear all sides of the roast in a pan with neutral oil.
  11. Place in the oven preheated to 375º and roast until a thermometer inserted in the center of the roast reads 145º.
  12. Remove from the oven and let rest before slicing. Deglaze pan with stock and add back to sauce.

For the Sauce

  1. Brown pork trimmings and bacon rind.
  2. Add mirepoix and garlic and caramelize. Degrease and flambé with bourbon.
  3. Add tomatoes and allow them to release their juice and reduce.
  4. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and reinforce for at least 30 minutes. Strain.
  5. In a separate pan, melt brown sugar until it reaches a dark caramel.
  6. Add vinegar to deglaze and cook until combined.
  7. Bring reinforced stock to a boil, reduce to nappant. Add gastrique bit by bit until a balanced flavor is achieved. Add herbs.

 Heirloom Bean Salad with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

4 cups Eye of the Goat beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
15 g Worcestershire
2 bay leaves
1 onion, split in half
400 g plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane
30 g Cider Vinegar
15 g Dark brown sugar
15 g Mustard
85 g Neutral oil, plus more for tomatoes
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered appropriately4 Green onions, sliced on the bias
Salt and black pepper
5 g Chervil, hacher

  1. Rinse the beans and cover with fresh water in a russe along with bay leaves and onion.
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 ½ hours.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare dressing by slicing plum tomatoes in half, tossing with oil, salt and pepper and placing upside down on a sheet tray.
  4. Roast tomatoes in an oven set to 300ºF for about one hour. Remove from oven and allow them to come to room temperature.
  5. Place in a food processor along with garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.
  6. Strain and then slowly drizzle in oil, either whisking by hand or returned to the processor on low, to create an emulsion.
  7. When the beans are ready, drain and toss the hot beans in the dressing. Chill.
  8. Add the tomatoes, green onions and chervil, toss, adjust seasoning and chill.

 Pommes Rissolées

 4 Starchy Potatoes
Neutral Oil

  1. Cut potatoes into spheres with a melon baller.
  2. Just cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
  3. As soon as the water comes to a boil, strain and allow potatoes a few minutes to dry out.
  4. Sauté potatoes in neutral oil until golden. Degrease.
  5. Add butter and finish in an oven set to 375º.

 For Service

  1. Place bean salad in the center of a plate. Lay a few slices of pork atop, nap with the sauce and place a few rissoléed potatoes around the plate.

 Drink Pairing

 Unibroue Ephemere Apple (white ale brewed with green apple must)


Unexpected Fame

Photo courtesy of bkgreenmarkets

I entered the annual apple pie bake-off at my local farmer’s market.

After that, everything went wrong.

I decided that I would prep all my pie components on Saturday and then assemble and bake the pie on Sunday, the day of the competition. I’m pretty bad about following that age-old rule of never making something for someone that you haven’t made before–so the pie was basically an experiment.

I started with a pecan crust. Having never made a nut crust, I figured I would just cut some of the flour from my usual pie crust and sub in pecan meal. It all seemed to go fine & after chilling it rolled out well. I left the rolled crust in the fridge to rest overnight.

I made a bourbon-brown sugar apple compote. It tasted awesome. I chilled it and put it too in the fridge.

On Sunday morning I awoke, padded up to the kitchen, noticed my refrigerator had been left ajar, proceeded to freak out, and resolved my mind to make it work. However, my crust was far too warm/soft to roll up or fold up or transfer in any way and fell apart. Thus I proceeded to pat and patch it into the pan–I’d planned to do a rustic edge anyway, so thought this fine. I assembled the rest of the pie–crises mostly averted, I went to rest while my crust set in a 425 oven for 10 minutes.

My fire alarm went off.

Back in the kitchen there was smoke billowing from my oven. No actual fire, thank goodness–I assume something must have spilled onto the oven floor. Convinced my wayward crust and once great compote would now taste like barbecue, I turned the oven down to 350 to finish baking. The smoke stopped.

Upon removal, I let the pie rest. I’d made it in a spring form, so took off the sides, allowing it to cool a little faster. Ready to go, I tried to transfer it from baking dish to serving dish: the crust caved in.

I proceeded to freak out.

Oh well, it’s only one quadrant.

I took the pie anyway since I had a friend coming to enter the contest as well. And I didn’t want to let my market manager down, as she knows me by name…

And then I won.

And now people on the neighborhood blog are asking if they can buy one.

It just goes to show you: figuring out the world is impossible.

Figuring out this salad was pretty easy though. It was the first official course of menu project & you can read all about the inspiration here.

7 Component Salad
Yield: 8 Servings

280 grams baby romaine
8 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
8 halves deviled eggs
200 grams bacon
150 grams Parmesan Cheese, cut into ½” shards
300 grams green peas
200 grams celery, macedoine
Chives, for garnish

For the Dressing
1 egg yolk
1 T Dijon
¼ t salt
½ t sherry vinegar
½ t lemon juice
1 t granular sugar
Cayenne pepper, to taste
150 g neutral oil
Celery Leaves, hacher
Water, as needed

For the Deviled Eggs
4 hard boiled eggs
bacon fat from the lardon
1T mayonnaise
½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ t cayenne
30 g sweet pickles, brunoise
2 t chives, minced, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Dressing

  1. Combine egg yolk, mustard, salt, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and pepper in a bowl.
  2. Whisk the oil in gradually to create an emulsion and until you’ve reached the desired consistency (adding water to loosen if necessary). Add celery leaves.

For the Bacon:

  1. Remove the rind and cut the bacon into strips ½” long
  2. Cut the bacon strips into lardons, approximately ½” wide.
  3. Sauté the lardon until they render out most of their fat.
  4. Set aside and reserve bacon fat.

 For the Peas & Celery:

  1. Prepare each, separately, à l’anglaise, refresh in ice water, and then combine and set aside.

 For the Deviled Eggs:

  1. Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Refresh Eggs in ice water for several minutes and then peel.
  3. Slice eggs in half. Set the whites aside and put the yolks into a bowl with mayonnaise, mustard, cayenne and salt. Mash the yolks into a paste and then add rendered bacon fat until it reaches the desired consistency.
  4. Stir in the pickles and 2 t chives.
  5. Put the yolk mixture into a piping bag and pipe into the egg white cavities.
  6. Garnish each egg with paprika and a 1 inch piece of chive.

 For the Water Chestnuts:

  1. Rinse well and peel with a vegetable peeler.
  2. Slice into ¼” rounds.
  3. Rinse again & set aside, in cold water.

 For Service:

  1. Lightly dress lettuce and place a layer on each plate.
  2. Dress the pea and celery mixture and fill a 2” ring mold.
  3. Set 1 egg half atop each mound. And remove ring mold.
  4. Drain water chestnuts & dress. Place 3 slices on each plate.
  5. Place 3 pieces each of the bacon lardons & Parmesan shards around the plate.
  6. Garnish with minced chives.


Each course require a beverage pairing, for this one I chose a Rose Spritzer. More on why here.

Drink Pairing

Rosé Spritzer
Yield: 8 drinks

1 bottle Château Tassin Rosé from Wineberry  
4 oz. Cherry Heering Liqueur
Seltzer Water, to taste
1 Lemon
1 Lime
8 Maraschino cherries

For the Maraschino Cherries
1 pint sour cherries
1 cup unrefined sugar
1 cup water
1 cup Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
3 black peppercorns
1 sprig thyme

For the Maraschino Cherries

  1. Put sugar, water, peppercorns, thyme and a pinch of salt into a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add cherries (they can be pitted, but leaving the pits in does lend additional flavor). Return to a boil until they’ve turned bright red.
  3. Pour into a holding vessel and add liqueur. Let rest until they’ve reached room temperature. Chill.

For the Cocktail

  1. Fill cocktail glasses half-way with ice.
  2. Slice both the lemon and the lime thinly. Lightly twist one round of each over 8 glasses to release the essential oils & then drop the round into the glass.
  3. Pour 2 ounces of wine into each glass.
  4. Pour 0.5 ounce of cherry liqueur into each glass.
  5. Top with seltzer, stir gently, garnish with cherry & serve.