Sunday, December 28, 2008


The GW Bavarian Sausage Co. is located about a mile from my back door. It is a marvelous old time German Meat market. It is a tiny store located on a hard to reach street behind a lot of car dealerships. They do a brisk business. It usually takes 1/2 hour to 45 minutes to get in and out-especially on peak days like Saturday. In addition to all kinds of sausages-including some Italian and Polish as well, they have real Black Forest Ham and all sorts of wursts. I chose this weisswurst for breakfast this Sunday. White and delicate, supposed to be veal and pork flavored with cardamom and parsley. It is an already cooked sausage-not smoked. To heat you steep the sausage in hot water-do not boil or you will burst the casing, when the sausage is hot peel the casing off and serve with a sweet mustard. Since it was breakfast, I had to add grits and some sauteed peppers-not an especially traditional German accompaniment-I think they eat them with pretzels.

Complimentary beers are always available while shopping at GW's, so I suggest making it a sort of happy hour shopping excursion-enjoy a beer while checking out all the intriguing meat products they make.

Christmas Duck with Apple and Dried Plum Stuffing

I have a conflict with the word prune. It simply has no sex appeal what so ever. Not that I demand an endless parade of sensuous and constantly tantalizing dishes, but I just can't say "I'm eating duck with prunes for Christmas!"-and be happy with that bland, dreary description. It lands with an unlovely clunk on my ears. But if I change prunes to dried plums, it has instant charisma, it sounds more chic and turns that clunker into a sexy jazz chord. In other words, "a plum is a plum is not a prune"-with apologies to Gertrude Stein. All semantics aside this really is a tasty and classic dish (usually done with goose rather than duck). This stuffing recipe is based on a recipe that my friend Richard Perry makes every year at Thanksgiving for turkey. I've added some apples and a duck. Thanks Richard!

3 cups dried bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced celery
1 apple, diced
1/2 cup dried plums, soaked over night in cognac and coarsely diced
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1Teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Chicken stock-as needed

Saute the vegetables, fruits, and seasonings in the butter over low heat for about 10 minutes until they are sweated and translucent-do not brown.

Add the bread cubes and toss gently, add some chicken stock to moisten the stuffing and stir gently.

This stuffed the duck nicely, but the recipe would probably have to be increased for a larger fowl.

I wanted to use my Geaorge Foreman counter top rotisserie, so I stuffed the duck and sewed up the duck really well and trussed it pretty tightly before putting it on the spit. I roasted it for about 2 hours, and it turned out beautifully, I had to empty the drip pan a couple of times, reserving all that delicious duck fat of course.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Warm Tea Smoked Lobster Salad with Gold and Red Beets

The combination of lobster, lightly smoked over burning brown sugar and tea leaves (my adaptation of the ancient technique of Chinese tea smoking), and roasted beets may seem odd, but I promise you they are delicious together. The Lobster is smoked ahead of time and just barely warmed before serving. The beets are best roasted the day before serving and left to sit in a dressing of fresh lemon juice and olive oil overnight to fully develop their sweet nutty flavor.

Just before serving, I put the beets and lobster in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes to warm. To serve, arrange the beets on a platter with the lobster on top and bathe the entire salad in tarragon buerre blanc.

To Roast the beets:
2 medium sized golden beets
2 medium sized red beets
1/4 Tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the beets and trim the top and root, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.
Roast in a preheated 350 degree oven until they are easily pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. When the beets are cool enough to handle simply slip off the skin with your fingers, or pare them with a knife. Slice the beets and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little bit of fresh lemon juice and EVO over them, season and chill-best if made a day ahead.

To Smoke the Lobster:
2 Lobsters
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons fragrant black tea-I used Jasmine

Perform the "Coup de Grace" by severing the lobsters heads between the eyes. Steam the lobsters for 8 minutes, crack the shells slightly so that the smoke can more easily penetrate the lobster flesh. I use a small electic smoker. Place a disposable aluminum cake pan in the bottom of the smoker, and spread out the brown sugar, sprinkle the tea leaves over the sugar and turn on the smoker. Place the lobsters on a rack over the sugar and tea and cover. The brown sugar disolves and burns the tea, creating a delicious smoke. When the smoke is evident, turn off the smoker and let the lobster sit in the smoky environment for 10 minutes. No longer than 10 min utes because you do not want to overwhelm the delicate lobster with too much smoke. Let the lobsters cool and then pick the meat from the shells and cut into bite sized chunks. Can be made ahead and refrigerated until needed.

Tarragon Buerre Blanc:
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Salt to taste and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons of minced fresh Tarragon

Combine the shallot, wine and vinegar in a non-aluminum saute pan and reduce until the mixture is a syrupy glaze. Turn off the heat and add the butter, bit by bit and shake the pan to incorporate it-resist the temptation to stir or whisk as you get a fuller volume sauce by shaking the pan. Season the sauce with the salt, pepper, and Tarragon. This sauce does not hold well and should be made close to serving time.

To Assemble the Salad:
Gently reheat the lobster and beets in a preheated 325 degree oven, just to warm them slightly-do not let them get too hot. Arrange the beets on a serving platter and top with the lobster, drizzle the Buerre Blanc over the beets and lobster.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rye Bread and Short Ribs Braised in Borscht

I think bread and a hearty soup make one of the best winter meals I know. Last night-Temperature 8 degrees-after a stressful afternoon at The Galleria doing gift buying, I came home to this soup and bread. In the morning, first thing I prepped the soup and placed it in a 250 degree oven right before I left for shopping. Second thing I mixed up the bread dough for a long first rise. When I returned home, I punched down the bread dough and made loaves, letting it rise again for a bout 1 hour. I took the soup outside to quick chill. When the bread went into the oven, I retrieved the soup to de-fat the top and slowly reheat. It was a really satisfying supper, especially considering my alternative of eating at the dreaded food court.

Rye Bread (makes two loaves)

3 1/2 cup bread flour

3 1/2 cup rye flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1 Tablespoon salt

2 Tablespoons of wheat gluten

2 cups milk

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup molasses

2 Tablespoons of butter

1/4 cup golden raisins

4 Tableespoons dry yeast

Mix the flours, cocoa, salt, and gluten in a mixing bowl.

Heat the milk, honey, molasses, butter, and raisins, stir until the honey, molasses, and butter are melted. Let the mixture cool to body temperature (stick your finger in the mixture, and it should feel neither cold nor hot)

Add the yeast to the milk mixture and let proof for 5 to 10 minutes, if the yeast is good it should be bubbly and foamy.

Stir the milk-yeast mixture into the flour mixture and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. I use my kitchen aid mixer with the dough attachment. Let the dough rise in a warm place for a couple of hours. Rye flour doughs rise more slowly than wheat flour doughs.

After the dough has doubled in bulk, punch down and knead again slightly, before forming into two loaves, let rise again-the dough should be warm from the first rise and will rise more quickly on the second go around.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when thumped.

Short Ribs Braised in Borsht

I used to eat a soup like this when I lived in Chicago at a restaurant called Mel Markon's located somewhere North of the Gold Coast, but South of Diversey and East of Clark-it may have been in the old Beldon-Stratford Hotel, but I'm nor sure. It's really good when it's cold outside.

4 cups of sliced cabbage

4 cups of tomato juice

1 small onion, sliced

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper

2 pounds of beef short ribs

1/4 cup flour, salt,and pepper

2 Tablespoon of vegetable oil

In a dutch oven, combine the cabbage, tomato juice, onion, lemon, sugar, and season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer over gentle heat.

Dust the short ribs with the flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

Get the oil hot in a saute pan and brown the ribs.

Place the ribs on top of the borsht, cover with the lid and braise in a very slow oven (250 degree oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Chill the soup and defat before reheating and serving the soup.

Best served with crusty brown bread.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Arroz con Pollo

This comforting Spanish dish probably has as many variations as there are Hispanic countries. Spaniards, of course make it, but they also make it in Cuba, Peru, Puerto Rico, and on and on. Some recipes call for bell pepper, some for olives, all sorts of add ins. I didn't add bell pepper or olives, but I did add peas and a few threads of saffron. Usually I add some Chorizo, but I didn't have any on hand for this one. I usually use chicken thighs because they are so flavorful, but all parts of the chicken are welcome.
6 chicken thighs
2 cups of rice (short grains like arborio are best, but I used long grain)
1/4 cup each of diced carrot, celery, and onion
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of Saffron threads
1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, as needed
Salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas

In a Dutch Oven or 12 " iron skillet, brown the chicken, skin side down, over high heat until the skin is browned and some schmaltz has accumulated.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and hold on a platter. Lower the heat to medium low and add the rice and stir to coat with the schmaltz and cook slightly until the rice becomes opaque, as for risotto.

Add the vegetables and seasonings to the rice and stir to combine. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Place the thighs, browned skin up on top of the rice, and add any accumulated juices.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1/2 hour, add extra stock, if the rice becomes too dry.

5 minutes before serving, stir in the peas and return to the oven.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mozzarella and Proscuitto Stuffed Veal Chop with Pepperonata

For the chops:

4 eight ounce veal loin chops

4 thin slices of mozzarella cheese

4 thin slices of proscuitto

olive oil for brushing the chops

Salt and pepper

Cut a slit into the side of the loin portion of the chop.

Wrap a slice of the mozzarella with a slice of the proscuitto, and stuff into the slit in the side of the chop.

Brush the chop on bothe sides with the oil and season.

Grill to desired doneness, about 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare.

Serve with some Pepperonata spooned across the top.

For the Pepperonata:

2 red peppers, cut into large dice

1 medium onion, cut into large dice

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup capers

1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoon of minced parsley

Salt and pepper

Saute the peppers, onion, garlic, and pepper flakes in the olive oil over low heat until they are slightly caramelised, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the vinegar and sugar and cook one more minute to incorporate.

Off the heat add the herbs, salt and pepper, and taste.

Delicious served warm or cold