Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cassoulet - Duck, Pork, Lamb, and Beans

This year for Christmas Eve we had a great Cassoulet dinner with family and close friends - about 16 of us. I made the cassoulet from scratch and it turned out really good. It involved butchering 2 ducks, rendering the fat, making the legs and thighs into confit. Used the body and wings for duck stock. I made the breasts into a boudin blanc sausage that was cut up and seared before going into the finished dish. I used the duck livers in a very nice Grand Marnier Duck Mousse that we served on New Years day. A bought, seasoned and cured a pork belly as pancetta for a few weeks and then cut that up and seared it also. I bought a boneless leg of lamb, cleaned it, cubed it and braised it in port. The lamb was used in the cassoulet and the liquid in the seasoned liquid the cassoulet is cooked in. Made a Great Northern bean soup with the duck stock, sausage, and pork belly. Use the meat in the cassoulet and the liquid along with the lamb liquid as the cassoulet liquid. I made a loaf of sourdough bread and Cuisinarted it into crumbs along with parsley, sage, thyme and duck fat as the topping. the above steps required several days (or weeks in the case of the pork) each to develop flavors properly. On the day of the event the meats where all shredded and mixed together. The Beans were cooked and then laid out to dry and develop flavor. The liquid is heated and highly seasoned with vinegar, salt, pepper. In a large Le Creuset I layered layers of beans, meat, beans and then completely added liquid to the rim. then the breadcrumb mixture was pressed over the whole thing and the cassoulet was heated for a couple of hours in a hot oven to meld the flavors.

The cassoluet is VERY RICH so was served in small portions with a simple salad and bread. We then enjoyed a great set of desserts made by Miranda ( a chocolate rulade) and Cindy (a cherry pie). All washed down with some nice French Red Wines.

Even Better Scrambled Eggs

I moved Miranda's Blog on her perfect scrambled eggs forward because I was reading Patrica Wells Paris cookbook the other day and saw a couple of techniques for perfect scrambled eggs that immediately brought Miranda's recipe to my mind. I have enjoyed Miranda's eggs and they are GREAT. However, as soon as I read Patrica Wells recipe I knew there were some wonderful technique options worth passing along. First, Patrica suggests passing the raw eggs after beating through a fine mesh sieve to create an incredible smooth and silky egg. If you have read my blog on "tools of refinement" the Tamis or fine mesh sieve you will know why I knew this was an elevating and easy improvement. The second option that Patrica suggests is cooking the eggs very slowly over medium low heat for about 10 minutes over a water bath while stirring Ala Miranda. This technique which is used for many delicate items allows for infinite control of the doneness of the egg (or custard, chocolate or whatever you are cooking) that prevents the very easy mistake of overheating or overcooking the delicate ingredient. So if you had trouble with Miranda's recipe because of problems of overcooking try this technique and you will become an instant better cook. this technique also allow for incorporation of some truffle oil or creme fraiche (sacrilege per Miranda) if you want to adulterate the whole recipe Miranda is proposing.

From Miranda's Kitchen: Best Scrambled Eggs Ever

Soft Scrambled Eggs in the French Style

serves 2

Note: this recipe is for soft curd "wet" eggs, not firm, dry curd eggs. It is important to not be tempted to add cheese to these eggs. It is also important not to substitute the butter for something else. The key to these eggs is low heat and constant gentle stirring. I highly recommend use of a non-stick pan.

4 large eggs - eggs that are farm fresh (preferably local), organic, and from cage-free hens are superior in taste with their bright orange (very nutrient-rich) yolks.
1 tablespoon organic, salted butter
1/8 tsp garlic powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

Place a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and melt the pat of butter.

In a bowl, crack the eggs and whisk them thoroughly with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Be sure to incorporate the yolks and whites fully. The more you whisk them the lighter and fluffier they will be.

Add the eggs to the skillet and stir gently but thoroughly with a soft spatula to incorporate the eggs and melted butter. Continue to gently stir the eggs to prevent a crust from forming on the bottom of the pan and encourage the egg mixture to heat slowly and evenly. Frequent stirring (but *gentle*) is essential in the first few moments of cooking.

Continue to stir the eggs (at this point, if you like a very soft, pillowy scramble you should continue constant stirring; if you want your soft eggs to have more pronounced curds, stir gently and then let the eggs rest for 30 seconds or so, then repeat). When finished (about 5-7 minutes), the eggs should still be creamy (they will not look "dry" but are fully cooked). Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

How to Cook A Rabbit - Cafe Juanita

Cafe Juanita offers the most refined Northern Italian Cooking in the Seattle in my opinion. We have blogged about the restaurant a few times in the last few months as we love it so well. Miranda has done a good job of describing our post Christmas visit. I will just say that I have had great Rabbit many places and Cafe Juanita is by far the best - and most consistent. The Sweetbreads, another favorite of mine that I always order when they are on any menu, were outstanding as well. If you love these two items or if you have never tried them I would really recommend you go to Cafe Juanita and try them.
As to Miranda's question on patrons asking restaurants to change menu items I am of two minds - I pretty violently object to asking for changes in menu items because you think you "don't like" some ingredient - however on this occasion This is not at all how the situation was handled. Our server was so knowledgeable and thoughtful in telling us, as folks very interested in cooking, how each dish was done. Miranda casually inquired if it would be a bad thing to leave out the truffle oil (a VERY STRONG tasting ingredient that is almost always overdone - not here by the way as it turned out) and she volunteered that that was absolutely no problem. The conversation also turned at some point to Amy's not coming because she is nursing a baby who is allergic to dairy. The waitress basically said the kitchen will definitely work around any allergy. Knowing the quality of the kitchen at Cafe Juanita I suspect there would be a different, but still very good dish produced without dairy - but yes, I agree it would not be the dish on the menu that the chef envisioned. Like Miranda I hate to mess with a great kitchens vision. I also think people are too closed minded about what they do and don't like - go out to eat as an adventure. But, I think it's awesome that Cafe Juanita is capable and willing to cook off the menu for legitimate reasons.

Thoughtful Northern Italian in Kirkland: Cafe Juanita

Restaurant Name: Cafe Juanita
Location: 9702 NE 120th Place, Kirkland, WA

Helmed by recent James Beard Best Chef Northwest winner Holly Smith, Cafe Juanita offers up lovingly prepared, artful food. Neither too small nor too big, too pretentious nor too laid-back, the restaurant setting is warm and inviting (yet still elegant) with an open kitchen through which you can watch the magic happen at a comfortable distance.

I've had the good fortune to eat at Cafe Juanita several times over the last few years, with a visit a few nights ago being the most recent of these trips. There were four of us dining (all writers on this blog) and so we had the opportunity to sample widely across the menu. This opportunity, however, was not seized - too many of us lusted after the braised rabbit (one of Cafe Juanita's house specialties).

The food here is excellent and beautifully prepared and presented and we did manage to at least try several starters, including the Rabbit Livers and Kidneys with caramelized onion, toasted anchovy, and currants, the Veal Sweetbreads with Fried Capers and Parsley, and the Carne Cruda of Wagyu Beef. Of these, the Carne Cruda really shone. It was prepared very simply with high quality olive oil, lemon, sea salt, a mince of chives and raw shallot, and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. It was topped with a poached quail's egg and arrived looking ever-so-slightly unappetizing (minced and in a mound on the plate) next to thin slivers of crostini. But, one bite dissolved any squeamishness the presentation might have inspired. The sweetbreads were also great - crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside - and abundant. Indeed, all the portion sizes at Cafe Juanita are big (maybe a hair on the side of too big?).

For our entree course (as I mentioned above), most of us went for the Rabbit Braised in Arneis. This dish is rich, hearty, and delicious. I had one of the specials, which was a seared skate wing served with brown butter sauce and olives. It was...just okay. The skate wing was a little mushy and not so very flavorful on its own. It was served with an avocado puree that paired very well with the fish and ultimately saved the dish. For dessert we all indulged in a flourless chocolate cake (described very aptly by our server as being like "the inside of a truffle") topped with a malted chocolate ice cream. It was very good, but not transcendent. For wine we moved through several bottles of Barbera d'Alba.

Despite the few criticisms included above in my description of the food, I want to clearly convey that I really love this restaurant. The dishes are always inventive and fresh and inspiring. On previous visits I've had some of the most transportingly-good risottos I've ever tasted and a salad described simply as D'Anjou Pear with Pine Nuts, Parmigiano, and White Truffle Oil that was anything but simple or dull in its flavor. Cafe Juanita also offers a cocktail course where they pair a variety of lovely, fizzy drinks with a bit of cheese, nuts, or fried morsels (in the tradition of the Italian Aperitivi).

The service here is always great, too. Our server on this particular visit was very gracious and full of information about the wine, the individual components of the different dishes, and so on. She also said something that has stuck with me and made me ponder. When my brother-in-law mentioned that my sister was on a no dairy, no soy diet (because of her allergic baby) and had thus decided against joining us for dinner, our server said the following: every dish here is literally made to order. We can accommodate any food allergy or food dislike our diners have. Though a dish may be served off the menu with cream or butter or truffle oil, these elements can be left out of those dishes if a diner wishes it.

Now, on the one hand, this seems the epitome of the fine dining experience. Each plate is attentively and carefully prepared and the whims of the diner are catered to; nothing in the kitchen or at the pass escapes the notice of the chef. But, on the other hand, this seems at odds with the notion that we might seek out a dish that is authentically the cuisine of a particular chef. When each dish can be modified by leaving out some element (some perhaps providing some last minute essence of flavor, such as truffle oil, and others contributing body and richness, such as fats like butter and cream) then the dish is inevitably altered and diminished from how the chef intended it to be served. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Surely it is nice to know that my sister need not miss out on great dining experiences because her baby can't digest dairy. But it also makes me wonder about the integrity of the dish (which has no doubt been carefully conceived and prepped). I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this issue.

Indeed, perhaps this is best pondered over a steaming plate of braised rabbit at Cafe Juanita.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lee's Asian on a cold West Seattle night

Restaurant Name: Lee's Asian
Location: 4510 California Avenue SW (West Seattle)

Lee's Asian is good Chinese food (not mind-blowing or spectacular, but good). If I were to pick out one flaw of this West Seattle spot, it would be the fact that every dish seems to be sweet. (Most are also fried, but I don't really consider this a flaw). As my husband pointed out, sometimes sweet and meat is not so sweet (did that make sense?).

But, in general, the food here is fresh and super-flavorful. The place is no-frills - an unassuming storefront on California Ave with your standard Americanized-Chinese restaurant decor. But the smells that hit you as soon as you open the door are a harbinger of good things to come.

The food comes out hot, steaming, (often fried) and (as I mentioned) sweet.

On our last visit we had the honey glazed walnut prawns (a dish that is basically fried prawns coated in a sweet mayo sauce and sprinkled with candied walnuts). This may sound and even look really gross, but I swear to you that its awesomely different and delicious. We also tried the fried 7-flavor beef (which I remembered from a previous visit as 9-flavor beef that had not been fried) which is a true symphony of spices (but would have been better had it not been fried). The General Tso's chicken is just what you'd expect (nothing special here). A standout dish, though, was the garlic sauce green beans (crisp, fat beans in a gooey garlic-y sauce).

If you like the sweeter flavors of Asian cooking and don't want to break the bank....Lee's Asian is a good bet.

Lee's Asian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brooklyn Supper Club

Last Saturday night we got together with our friends Lisa and Aaron and Joanne and Frank at the latters' Brooklyn apartment for a night of culinary and oenological excesses. The theme for the evening was tapas, so everyone brought the makings for a dish or two to cook and share over the course of the evening...along with a fabulous sangria (courtesy of Aaron and Lisa) and plenty of great Spanish wine. Poor Floyd, Joanne and Frank's dog, could only look on in envy.

All told, we had a fabulous time and every morsel we ate was delicious. Since the evening was such a success, I thought I'd share some of our recipes with you.

Frank prepared his tortilla espanola and perfect Spanish crostini crisped with olive oil and garlic and topped with spicy medallions of chorizo and thick shavings of Manchego. Joanne turned out fabulous bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds (recipe below) and stuffed mushrooms. Aaron made transcendently good lobster bruschetta (recipe below). I offered up my spicy artichoke dip (recipe provided under the post "Great Fall Appetizers on this blog) and crab cakes (recipe below), and Lisa topped it all off with rich, decadent chocolate fondue.

We hope you enjoy the recipes to follow!

Joanne's Bacon-Wrapped Dates

serves 6

40 pitted dates (Joanne recommends big juicy medjool dates)
40 slices of bacon
40 roasted, salted almonds

Stuff one almond inside each date and wrap the date with a slice of bacon. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and sear the bacon-wrapped dates, turning as needed until the bacon is crispy on all sides. Drain briefly on paper towels and serve warm.
Note: Joanne also suggests adding nuggets of blue cheese to the stuffing.

Aaron's Lobster Bruschetta

serves 6

3 1 1/2lb live lobsters
1 Italian baguette (for 12 slices)
15-18 small vine tomatoes (or half that number of larger ones)
10 large leaves of fresh basil
6 oz extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs butter
1/2 of a white onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs freshly ground pepper
2 lemons
1 avocado
1 bunch of cilantro sprigs
Fresh parsley, chopped
12 lobster chelipeds (small legs for garnish)
6 lobster antennas (for garnish)
9 small rubber bands

One day ahead: steam the lobsters for approximately 27 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes and then remove all the of meat (keep the meat portions (claw, tail, etc. intact). Cut the tails in half lengthwise and remove the innards. Save the chelipeds (small legs) and antenna for a garnish (to prepare: center 2 antennas between 4 chelipeds and crosstie with rubber bands). Refrigerate garnishes and lobster meat overnight.

To prepare for serving: chop the tomatoes, removing as much of the seeds and juice as possible (discard seeds and juice). Finely dice the onion, garlic, and basil. Combine tomato, onion, basil, and garlic with the salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and toast the baguette slices on a baking sheet until golden (approximately 10 minutes).

Place a large skillet over low heat and melt the butter. Warm the lobster meat in the butter (turning to coat and warm both sides) for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and slice the claws and tail meat into pieces.

Using three serving plates, place 4 slices of toasted baguette around one lobster cheliped and antenna centerpiece. Add cilantro sprigs to the garnish.
Place a layer of the tomato mixture on top of each bruschetta slice, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, top with a cilantro sprig and add a reconstructed section of sliced lobster meat to finish.

Place sliced lemon wedges among the bruschetta and sprinkle the serving dish with parsley. The bruschetta can be served with dollops of guacamole (use the avocado called for in the ingredient list) or with tomalley.

Miranda's Crab Cakes
serves six

1 lb fresh jumbo lump crab meat (picked over to remove shells)
6 green onions thinly sliced (white and palest green parts only)
1/2 large red pepper, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup mayo
1 Tbs smoked Spanish paprika (or to taste)
1 tsp powdered garlic
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup freshly ground breadcumbs from high quality bread
1 Tbs minced fresh chives
Canola oil or olive oil for frying

Rinse and drain the crab and pick over the meat to make sure there are no shells mixed in. Place the crab in a medium-sized mixing bowl and set aside.

Mince the green onions, red pepper, and celery. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skilled. Saute the vegetable mixture until softened (approximately 5 minutes). Season with salt to taste. Let cool slightly and then add to the crab.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the mayo, lemon juice, 1 tsp olive oil, paprika (be sure to use smoked, spicy Spanish paprika), and garlic powder. Mix well and taste. Adjust seasonings as desired - including adding salt to taste. The aioli should be spicy, smoky, and slightly tangy. It should have a strong flavor and not taste like mayo. Add more spices if needed.

Tear up chunks of fresh, good quality bread and grind into breadcrumbs in a food processor. Add 3/4 cup of the aioli, 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs, and the minced chives to the crab mixture and stir well to combine. The mixture should bind together and should be relatively easy to form into small cakes. If the mixture seems too dry, add more aioli. If it seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs.

Heat oil in a large skillet (oil should be about 1/4 inch deep). Shape crab mixture into cakes (these can be little appetizer-sized cakes or larger dinner-sized cakes). Fry in the hot oil (oil should sizzle and bubble up around the cakes) until dark golden brown. Don't undercook the cakes - you want them to be crispy on the outside. Carefully turn cakes with a spatula (be very gentle or they will break apart) and brown them on the other side. Remove from oil and drain briefly on paper towels. Serve cakes hot with a dollop of the remaining aioli on top (you can also sprinkle the aioli with more paprika or with diced chives or fleur de sel as a garnish).

Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Intimate Italian: Dell'anima in Greenwich Village

Restaurant Name: Dell'anima
Location: 38 8th Avenue, NYC

To celebrate our first six months of married life, my husband and I made a reservation at Dell'anima restaurant last Sunday night. After wandering contentedly through the "Second Lives" exhibit at the Museum of Art & Design (which we recommend!) and whisking along among the lighted trees lining the city's winter streets we had worked up a good appetite. Dell'anima satisfied our cravings and then some.

Like every restaurant we've eaten at lately (Casa Mono and Boqueria), Dell'anima (which means "of the soul") is an itty-bitty little place. The atmosphere is one of pleasant noise and clatter (the music and many conversations blending in and out of the sounds of pans ringing on the fiery burners of the stove in the open kitchen and the hiss and sizzle of many wonderful foods being prepared). If you like a hushed place where you whisper sweet nothings to each other, this might not be your spot. Even on a Sunday night, Dell'anima hops.

When we arrived our coats were whisked away and we were promptly seated at a narrow table in view of the open kitchen. (Eating at places where the table has to be pulled out so you can get to your seat also seems to be a theme in our restaurant adventures lately!). We were then left for a pleasant interlude to peruse the menu and eavesdrop on neighboring diners' conversations.

Having heard good things about the bruschetta spreads here, we opted for three spreads to start - the fresh ricotta with sea salt (pure, creamy, irresistible goodness), the chickpeas with preserved lemon (tart and addictive), and the rapini pesto with walnuts (perfectly spicy and olive-oily). These spreads were served as a trio with thick, crusty, crostini that was hot and just salty enough to be delicious with no spreads at all.

After another pleasant pause (during which were happy to be mesmerized by the frenetic action in the open kitchen) our main courses arrived. We had the Risotta alla Pilota (a lovely, light risotto flecked with small chunks of house-made sausage and salumi bound together with a flavorful stock enhanced with pecorino romano) and the Agnolotti (fresh tubes of pasta filled with sweet puree of delicata squash and swimming in a salty brown butter sauce with sage and hazelnuts). These were just fabulous; the pasta is all made in-house and it's very tender. The only complaint I could possibly muster would be that the butter sauce served with the Agnolotti was ever-so-slightly too salty (and I am an avowed salt fiend). But, otherwise everything was pretty perfect.

Though we were absolutely stuffed we felt obligated to try a dessert (after all, how could we write a good review if we hadn't at least tried one of every course! See the sacrifices we make for you, our readers?). Dell'anima is not a dessert-focused place. There were only two offerings - a flourless chocolate cake and an espresso-almond cake. Both were pre-prepared (though surely made on-site). We went for the chocolate cake. It was moist and flavorful but frankly was just good and not great. In the end, we decided to view this as good news: instead of wasting room on mediocre desserts, next time we can have more wine or try one of the great appetizers on offer.

In sum: yum! For three bruschetta spreads, two main courses, one dessert, and two glasses of wine we forked over $115 (including tip). Not at all bad for such great fare. Dell'anima is well worth a visit. Given how crowded the place was early on Sunday night, though, I'd suggest a reservation!

Bon Appetit!

Dell'Anima on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Simple Goodness at Boqueria

Restaurant Name: Boqueria
Location: 53 W. 19th Street, NYC

We popped into Boqueria for what we hoped would be a cheering lunch after a cold, brutal Saturday morning fighting crowds at Herald Square. Things, unfortunately, did not get off to a good start. Even though there were tables open, the hostess asked us to wait while the staff "sorted things out." She gave us a menu and promptly disappeared. As we stood there in the entryway, feeling a little befuddled, we perused Boqueria's offerings. The menu was uninspiring at first glance, almost boring. My husband pulled out his iphone and started searching for another place to try.

The hostess must have sensed the imminent nature of our departure plans because she soon swooped in and took our coats and whisked us to a table. We perched at the raised tables (stools and elevated banquettes serve as seating) and waited for our waitress. She arrived, seeming put-out. But, we were there and we were, we gave it a try...and boy were we glad we did!

The food was wonderful - simple, incredibly flavorful, and cleverly constructed. The white bean soup sounded flavorless and boring on the specials board but was extremely slurpable once it arrived all salty and delectable in a glistening pork stock. A dish labeled and described only as "Choripan" turned out to be a delightful sandwich composed of fat coins of spicy chorizo slathered with raisin puree and nestled in a perfect baguette - the salty and sweet offset each other most fabulously. The patatas bravas were crispy (twice fried) home-fry style potatoes tossed with smoked Spanish paprika and drizzled with garlic aioli.

We also tried one of Boqueria's cheese plate offerings - the La Serena, which was a creamy, every-so-slightly bitter soft sheep's milk cheese served with quince paste and a sweet nut and fruit bread. All of this was rounded out with a tall glass of house-made, super-tart (super-good) lemonade for me and a generous pour of Javier Sanz Villa Narcissa Verdejo. This Spanish varietal was new to us - its like a Sauvignon Blanc but with a fuller body. When we asked the waitress more about it, she kindly wrote down not only the varietal and producer but also two shops where we could find it.

In the end, our bill came to about $60 for two (including the tip). The service hiccups at the beginning and the seemingly dull menu initially obscured what turned out to be a great little restaurant and a wonderful meal.

Boqueria also has another location in SoHo.

Boqueria on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bouchon - French Bistro in the Napa Valley

Bouchon Bistro has locations in Yountville and Las Vegas. We have eaten at both locations several times with mixed - from awesome to just OK - results. Bouchon is definitely the least consistent of Thomas Keller's restaurants - and I believe I understand why. Unlike all of Keller's other peerless restaurants Bouchon has an a la carte menu and suffers from too much success. I have found that to get a great, and I do mean great, meal here you need to arrive very near the start of service. At the height of service the place is too busy, noisy, and rushed to enjoy yourself or for the kitchen to keep up with. Late in service they are out of things and basically things kind of fall apart. But on its stride this is truly great Bistro food.

If you are a reasonably good home chef Get Thomas Keller's Great bistro food cookbook Bouchon and make the perfect recipes for yourself. follow his great technique descriptions, follow the recipes exactly, and you will have a dinner as good or better than the restaurant.

Bouchon on Urbanspoon

Ad Hoc - Can Thomas Keller Do Family Meals?

Yes, he definitely can. Thomas Keller does everything Food better than anyone else and his family meals restaurant ad hoc is another proof of this. The basic format, like it's fine dining siblings, is a prix fixe, single multi-course offering. ad hoc, however, is a $48 comfort food menu. The menu is based around several outstanding meals that vary by day of the week. The ad hoc fried chicken is already a cult favorite of home chefs and I will share the secret (brining the chicken in a very intense brine) and recipe with you:

Ingredients for Brine:
1 gallon cold water divided
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
8 large or 12 small bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns not ground
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2-3 lemons
1 brining bag, stockpot, or doubled plastic trashcan liners to be used for brining. Needs to hold bird(s) as well as allow fully submerging in one gallon brining liquid.

Combine 1 cup of water and all other ingredients including lemon rinds in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to combine all ingredients.

Remove from heat to cool and discard lemon rinds. To brining container add the birds (2 chickens cut into pieces, the 3 quarts of cold water, and then now cooled (can be fairly warm) contents of the saucepan. Make sure chicken is completely submerged. Refrigerate overnight - up to 18 hours.

After brining time is up drain and discard all liquid, wash off birds, get rid of any herbs, etc sticking to bird. Use paper towels to dry and then keep refrigerated for up to 8 hours till ready to Fry.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
2 cups buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper or use a wire rack. Let sit for 20 minutes and then redredge the chicken in buttermilk and flour before frying.

In a very large pot or dutch oven, heat oil to 360°. Use enough oil to deep fry the chicken. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches until golden and crunchy and the internal temperature is 160°F/60°C (about 20 minutes).


Chicken should be at room temperature when you’re ready to cook.

This fried chicken is great hot, cold or room temperature.

Food and Wine Magazine has a good explanation of the above recipe and technique - also at their web site. search on Thomas Keller Lemon Brined Fried Chicken.

Ad Hoc on Urbanspoon

La Foret - Classic country French above San Jose

La Foret on Urbanspoon In the forested hills (La Foret) above San Jose sits an old world french country restaurant that is the top Zagat rated restaurant in San Jose - and justly so. This little spot offers either prix fixe or ala carte fine dining offering many outstanding classic French treatments of top quality ingredients. They are especially know for their game specials and their beef. Do not forget the Grand Marnier Souffle for Dessert. It's a charming creekside location and a nice drive as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pearl Restaurant, Not Shiny Yet

Visited on 12/10/08
Location: Seattle - Eastside

There are precious few restaurant gems on the Eastside. So when I saw that Pearl had replaced the old Trader Vic's in Bellevue I was ready to find a new one. Fortunately for me, my wonderful wife was gracious enough to take care of our four and a half month old daughter so I could go out with a co-worker for some Christmas shopping and dinner.

As you walk into Pearl you are greeted with a bustling bar area and a very "happening" decor. Unfortunately, once seated we immediately noticed that it was nearly impossible to hear the waiter, or each other - perhaps a result of the arched bamboo ceiling that appears to be the last vestige of the previous tenant.

For appetizers, the foie gras was good, with a tayberry (blackberry and raspberry fruit hybrid) sauce, but I was not a fan of the croutons it was served with, as it ruined the whole flavor and texture for me. We also tried the calamari, which was also good. The accompanying sauce had a nice bite to it, but was not overpowering.

We had finished the foie gras and were halfway through the calamari when our main dishes suddenly showed up. That was a bit jarring, but OK. Why couldn't they have timed things a bit better? I had sablefish and it was terrific - cooked perfectly. The honey-miso marinade was a great accompaniment and it was ringed with mushroom caps and crab dumplings. My co-worker tried the Wagyu sirloin steak, which was good but a bit chewy. The beef came with a large mound of smashed potatoes that were bigger than the steak itself, and a generous portion of veggies. The entrees were so huge however, it makes ordering appetizers totally unnecessary. We did try one side of the truffle fries. However they were served in a lowball glass with too much truffle oil yielding terribly soggy fries as all the fries at the bottom of the glass suffered.

Don't bother with dessert either. We tried the white chocolate banana cream dessert which was fine. However, the triple chocolate dessert was a total mess. It was described as essentially a warm chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream. The ice cream was fine, but the cake... oh my! I tried to use my spoon to eat some and couldn't even get through the outside. I could barely crack the outside with a fork. The inside was totally dry, very hard, not warm, and basically inedible. I have to say it's the worst dessert I have ever been served as it seemed overcooked and at least a day old. I have had better McDonald's apple pies and the prepackaged desserts at the cafe at work that were better. I couldn't eat a bite of the cake it was so bad.

Overall Pearl has some good things going for it. The main dishes showed promise, the decor is very well done, wine list substantial and Northwest, but in general Pearl seems to be just another average American restaurant trying to masquerade as fine dining by offering the same foods. It has some glaring problems, including the noise, too large entrees, slightly overpriced dishes, and the dessert situation. Currently the only way to eat here is to order entrees only, you will get generally well prepared food and plenty of it. Unfortunately that formula is all to common among many popular American restaurants causing Pearl to lose some polish.

Pearl Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 8, 2008

From Miranda's Kitchen: Roasted Salmon with Corn & Avocado Salsa

Roasted Salmon with Corn & Avocado Salsa

Serves 3


1 lb wild-caught salmon fillet
1 whole avocado, ripe but not too mushy
1 fresh jalapeno
1 tsp minced fresh cilantro
2 ears of corn (or 1 cup frozen sweet organic corn)
1 vine-ripened tomato
1 large lime
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt & Pepper


For the salsa:
If using fresh corn, blanch the corn for approximately 3 minutes in rapidly boiling, salted water. Drain the corn and cut the kernels from the cob. If using frozen corn, gently thaw the corn in water in the microwave. Do not overheat the corn.

Dice the tomato and jalapeno and toss them in bowl with the corn (for a spicier salsa leave the jalapeno seeds in the dice, for a less spicy salsa, remove the pith and seeds before dicing the jalapeno). Add the cilantro. Cut the avocado into 1/4" pieces and add to the corn mixture. Add 1 Tbs olive oil and all of the juice from the lemon. Toss the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub olive oil into the flesh side of the salmon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Once oven reaches preset temperature, heat an oven-safe large skillet on the stove top. Add 1 Tbs of olive oil. Add the salmon fillet (it is best to cook the fillet whole) to the skillet, skin-side down. Sear for 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast the salmon for approximately 15 minutes.

When the salmon is done, remove it from the oven (carefully, with a pot holder - the skillet handle will be HOT). Cut the salmon into portions and plate each portion. Pile a generous scoop or two of the salsa on top of each piece of salmon. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, if desired.

Bon Appetit!

Brunch At Spring Hill - Best Brunch Seattle Restaurants 2008

On Saturday Cindy and I met Jeff, Amy, and Lyla to try out Spring Hill Restaurants new Brunch service. To say the least, it was AWESOME! Newly opening on Saturday and Sundays from 10 AM to 2 PM we were the first ones in the door. The menu features the same fresh, local, in-house made products, and incredibly delicate cooking techniques you experience at Dinner Service here.
We sampled a lot of the menu items. We started with a couple of orders of the apple beignets with cold creme anglaise - WOW! Everything was good but this was the best. Fresh squeezed juices, presse coffee, tea - and for Lyla a nice bottle of breast milk ( not normally on the menu). Lyla was a happy little angel by the way.
We then moved on to the wonderful array of small plates (not so small of course). Duck ’ s eggs benedict with artisanal ham, dahlia bakery english muffin, herbed hollandaise; baked eggs with chanterelles, grilled scallion, grilled bread, house made apple smoked bacon; wood grilled hangar steak ( s trawberry mtn., or. ) with scrambled eggs with teleme(best main menu item); house made spicy sausage; Beecher ’ s cheddar bread pudding; and finally, awesome hashed brown potatoes.
We, of course could not finish everything but we tried hard.
They also make a Proper Quiche (Thomas Keller Bouchon 2" thick 2-3 days prep time version) which you almost can't find in the USA (where we think a quiche is a soggy egg tart). they also offer their incredible Burger, a yummy looking Waffle, or Saiman.
If you are impressed with high end treatment of breakfast - this is the place. It instantly became my winner of Best Seattle Brunch for 2008.

Spring Hill on Urbanspoon