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Sunday, February 19, 2017


Somewhere along the way, the superstar status of bone broth seems to have blurred the line between broth and stock. Stock or broth? Bone broth or bone stock? Are they the same? Although both are prepared in very similar ways, stocks are classically made with bones, aromatics, and vegetables while broths are made with meat, aromatics, and vegetables. However, because most bones for stock might have particles of meat attached to them and meat for broths might contain bones, the line blurs. That said, bone broths are simmered much longer than typical broths, giving them the collagen rich character of long simmered stocks. In essence, they are a hybrid of both. Call it what you may. Stock. Broth. Bone Broth. Bone stock. Bone juice. In any form, it's fabulous. So, whether you slurp it from a mug or use it to fortify soups and stews, it's a handy thing to have in your back pocket, refrigerator, or freezer at any given time.

What's in a name?
Having been schooled in stock making, I'm on team stock.

Guinness Caramelized Onion Soup

While store bought stock would have been fine, I wanted the deep beefy nuance of a collagen infused long simmered stock. With a little effort and a bit of time, stocks basically take care of themselves. Aside from some occasional scum skimming, they're pretty much hands off and fuss free. Good things come to those who wait, so bone up and enjoy the ride.

Roasting the bones and vegetables gives any stock depth, body, and intense flavor. Typically, the two are roasted separately. With a watchful eye, they can be roasted together. I scattered 4 pounds of meaty Marksbury Farm beef neck and shank bones onto a sheet pan along with 1 split leek, 2 chopped parsnips (unpeeled), 2 chopped carrots (unpeeled), 1 Large quartered Spanish onion (skin on), and 1 halved whole garlic head (skin on). After drizzling the meat and vegetables with olive oil, I seasoned them with salt and cracked black pepper before sliding them into a blistering 450 degree oven. After 30 minutes, I pulled the bones from the oven, brushed them on all sides with tomato paste, and returned them to the oven for an additional 30 minutes.

Blistered and caramelized, I pulled the roasted bones and vegetables from the oven, tumbled them into a large stock pot, deglazed the sheet pan with 1/2 cup sherry vinegar to release the browned tasty bits, and scraped the juicy fond into the stock pot. After covering the bones and vegetables by 2" with about 12 cups water, I added a few sprigs of fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, fresh parsley, 10 whole peppercorns, and 3 bay leaves. I brought the water to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, moved it to a back burner, and let it rip, skimming the scum from time to time.

Stocks and/or bone broths can simmer up to 24 hours. While 4 hours is a good start, a longer cook allows the collagens to seep from the bones and melt into the stock. I took a little under/over wager on the cook time. After 8 hours, I strained the stock through a cheese cloth-lined chinois into a clean stock pot, discarded the solids, quickly cooled the stock in an iced water bath, ladled it into mason jars, and slid it into the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Caramelized Onions.
Cry me a river.
Low and slow wins the race when it comes to coaxing the natural sugars out of sliced onions to achieve silky sweet onion candy. The standard method requires hovering over slowly bubbling onions for a very long time (sometimes hours), gently stirring them as they gradually soften, collapse, and caramelize from the heat. While a slow cooker ( on a 10 hour setting)  would have alleviated the fussy attention, onions simmered in a slow cooker tend be softly browned rather than deeply caramelized. Direct contact with heat was key.

Crank the oven.
After slicing 5 pounds Spanish onions into 1/4" half moons, I tossed them into an oiled cast iron
dutch oven, added 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper. I mixed the onions until they were coated with the oil, covered the dutch oven, and slid it into a 450 degree oven.

On 1 hour intervals, I pulled the onions from the oven, gave them a quick stir, covered the pot, and returned them to the oven.

After 3 hours, I pulled the onions from the oven and placed them over a medium flame on the stove top. After allowing the onions to saute for a second or two, I deglazed the pot with 1/4 balsamic vinegar, a splash of Irish Whiskey, and 1 cup dark Guinness Stout Beer. When the beer reduced by half, I added 5 cups of the reserved gelatinous beef stock, 2 bay leaves, and fresh thyme. I brought the soup to a boil, reduced the heat, let it simmer for 30 minutes.

I ladled the hot slippery soup into oven safe crocks, slammed back a shot of Guinness, floated toasted Sunrise Bakery baguette croutons over the soup, smothered the toasts and crocks with mounds of grated Irish Kerrygold Dubliner sharp cheddar cheese, and slid the bowls under a broiler.

When the bubbling molten cheese blistered from the flames and oozed down the sides of the crocks, I pulled them from the oven and let them settle down before finishing with a sprinkling of flaked sea salt and fresh thyme.

Suspended in the soup beneath the slightly charred cheddar ,the sweet caramelized onions punched through the creamy saltiness of the melted cheese, the buttery soft crunch of the toasted croutons, and the subtle bitter undertones of the stout-spiked stock.

Tipping a hat to ubiquitous French Onion Gratinee, Guinness caramelized onion soup is a booozy slap happy rough and tumble riff on the iconic classic.

Bad to the bone.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Steam Heat

Bao down, there's a new bun in town.

Steamed instead of baked, Chinese bao buns are pillowy puffs of simple yeast dough that can be filled with a variety of sweet or savoring ingredients. Centuries old, bao buns are becoming wildly popular outside of their traditional dim sum trappings. Although typically stuffed with saucy Chinese barbecued pork ( char siu bao) or roasted Peking duck,  they can be filled with just about anything. Rules are made to broken. Everything old is new again, so choose your fillings, gather some garnishes, and get your steam on.

Steamed Bao Buns With Sticky Duck.

I sprinkled 1 package active dry yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer and added 1/2 cup warm water. When the yeast started to bubble and foam, I added 1 1/2 cups bread flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baling powder, 1/2 cup warm milk, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Using a dough hook, I mixed the dough until it turned a bit shaggy before adding 1/2 cup bread flour to bring it together. When the dough pulled away from the bowl, I turned it out onto a floured board, kneaded it for 5-10 minutes, shaped it into a ball, slid it into a clean bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise.

After doubling in size (about an hour), I punched down the dough and turned it onto a floured work board. From what I understand, most folks pinch off small bits of dough and roll them into individual discs. I cut to the chase and rolled the dough into 1/2" thick slab and used a 3" ring mold to cut out even discs. Rule breaker. After brushing the tops with vegetable oil, I
folded them in half and set them aside.

Steam Heat.
I lined a double tiered 10" bamboo steam basket with trimmed parchment paper, punched holes through the paper to allow the steam to penetrate both layers, and nestled the buns into the steamer. After filling a 10" wide pot with 3" water, I cranked the heat to high. When the water came to a rapid boil, I carefully placed the steamer basket on the pot, let it rip for 10 minutes, killed the heat, removed the buns, and set them aside.

Duck. Duck. Bao.
A while back, I picked up a gorgeous farm raised  whole duck from Joe Weber (Farmer Joe, Salvisa Ky), at the Chevy Chase Farmer's Market. After breaking down the duck, I tossed the breasts into the freezer and used the legs, thighs, and fatty carcass for duck confit. That journey to duck fat heaven left me with two gorgeous plump duck breasts on reserve. Fast Forward. Few things crack my knees more than pan seared medium rare duck breast.

Being mindful not to cut into the flesh, I scored the fat on top of two breasts and set them aside. I knew I needed a finishing glaze for the quick pan seared duck, so I tipped my hat to the flavor profile of slow braised Chinese barbecued pork.

After dissolving 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon light brown sugar in 2 tablespoons warm water, I added 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons hoisen sauce, 2 tablespoons shooxing wine, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 cup local honey, and 1 teaspoon 5 spice powder.

Hot skillet? Nope. To allow the fat to render slowly for shatteringly crisp skin, I seasoned both sides of the duck with salt and cracked black pepper before placing them skin side down in a cold cast iron skillet. After turning the flame to medium, I let the breasts coast until the fat slowly melted away and the skin caramelized, about 6 minutes. When the breasts easily released from the skillet, I flipped them over, cooked them skin side down for 3-4 minutes until they registered 135 degrees, and pulled them from the heat to rest.

While the skillet was still hot, I added 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 minced shallot into the sizzling duck fat. Just before the garlic teetered on the edge of overly browned, I deglazed the skillet with 1/4 cup shooxing wine, scraped the flavorful fond from the bottom of the skillet, let the wine reduce by half, and added the reserved sauce. When the sauce settled into a syrupy glaze, I pulled it from the heat, let it cool, and slathered it over the warm duck.

After slicing the breasts on a thin bias, I tucked the duck into the bao buns and drizzled them with additional sauce before finishing with quick pickled julienned carrots, fresh cilantro, shaved fresh radishes, slivered Thai chilies, and sesame seeds.

Boom to the bao.
The simple inherent nature of the steamed buns parlayed into perfect neutral canvasses for the big flavors spilling from their gentle airiness. Tender, juicy, and cradled in crisped fatty skin, the candied duck melted into the puffy soft bread.  While the pickled carrots added punchy bright acidity to cut through the sweetness of the jacked up caramelized duck, wisps of cilantro, biting chilies, and sesame seeds balanced out the party with fresh stinging crunch.

Steam heat.
Hot buns.
Sticky duck.


Sunday, January 15, 2017


Dressed up or dressed down, fresh lobster is special, indulgent, and sexy as all get out.
Whether fast and furious like a beach side romp on strewn newspapers splashed with sticky drawn butter or prepared  slow and steady finished with a booze-infused cream sauce, eating fresh lobster is unabashedly decadent.

While I'm totally game for a down and dirty lobster boil, I'm a hopeless fool for the retro antics and lobstery punch of an old school Lobster Newberg.

Lobster Newberg, created at Delmonico's in New York during the late 1800's, is a simple magical amalgamation of lobster, cream, stock, sherry, brandy, herbs, and aromatics. Served over toasted bread, rice, or puff pastry vol au vents (pastry shells) Lobster Newberg is a romantic throwback to demure extravagance. Although there are great shortcuts for quicker results. sometimes it's fun to bring out the big guns for a labor of love.

Lobster Newberg.
An old fashioned lobster date.
Slow and steady.

So, I haven't killed or cooked a live lobster since my school days. While options abound for already prepared lobster, I needed the bodies and shells to fortify a stock, so I picked up two 1 1/2 pound live lobsters from the Lexington Seafood Company and kept them packed on ice while I prepped for my date.

I filled a very large stock  pot with enough water to cover 2 live lobsters (about 14 cups), added a handful of whole black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, and 3 halved lemons. After cranking the heat to high, I slid the lobsters into the freezer for 10 minutes to put them to sleep. When the water came to a rapid boil, I added 1/2 cup salt, removed the lobster from the freezer, and slipped them head first into the boiling water. When the water came back to a simmer, I let the lobsters cook for 6 minutes (until they turned bright red) before plunging them into salted iced water to stop the cooking process.

They make lobster bibs for a reason. Or wet suits. Cracking lobster is messy business. Dodging flying cracked shells and splattering lobster juice, I worked over a large bowl to salvage the precious drippings. Once cooked and cooled, I ripped the tails from the heads, sliced them in half, removed the meat (reserving 2 halves) and set the heads aside. After cracking the knuckles to remove the meat, I added it to the tails and went after the claws. Claws can be tricky and prickly. Using the dull side of a chef's  knife, I cracked the claws on opposing sides, carefully pulled them apart, and slipped the meat from the broken shells. I split the bodies in half, reserved the tomalley (liver) for other shenanigans, discarded the innards, chopped the outer shells into large pieces, and set them aside. Cracked, smacked, and covered with lobster bits, I slid the dispatched  tender lobster meat into the refrigerator, and moved on.

I love making stock.
After heating 3 tablespoons canola oil in a stock over a medium flame, I smashed  the lobster shells into smaller pieces to expose more surface area to the heat, and tossed them into sizzling oil. When they started to toast, I added 3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste and tossed it with the broken shells. As the tomato paste started to caramelize, I deglazed the pot with 3/4 cup brandy and fired it up. After the flames died down, I added 1 1/2 cups chopped celery, 1 cup chopped onion, 3 chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped fresh fennel, 2 cups pureed Elmwood Stock Farm canned diced summer tomatoes, 1 cup dry white wine, 8 cups water, 2 bay leaves. and 4 sprigs fresh tarragon. I brought the stock to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, skimmed the scum, and let it rip for 1 1/2 hours before straining the stock through a cheesecloth-lined chinois, mashing the solids to extract as much flavor as possible.

Working over a medium flame, I melted 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a heavy saucepan and added 3 tablespoons flour. When the flour/butter mixture formed a smooth blond paste, I added 1 cup sherry, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, salt, ground white pepper, and 4 cups lobster stock. I brought the sauce to a boil, reduced the heat, and let it simmer for 20 minutes before adding 1 cup heavy cream. After letting the sauce thicken until it coated the back of a spoon, I pulled it from the heat, and set it aside.

I warmed the reserved lobster in melted unsalted  butter over a gentle low flame before nestling the pieces around puff pastry shells feathered with lightly dressed baby lettuces. After napping the lobster tails, knuckle meat, and claws with the sauce,  I finished with a faint drizzle of Sriracha lemon oil.

With a delicate bouncy bite, the buttery sweet meat countered the tickling acidic heat from the lemony Sriracha as it swirled and puddled through the creamy sherry-spiked sauce.While the baby lettuces provided perky fresh bites, the airy puff pastry added crisp flaky crunch.

Lobster on lobster.


The perfect date.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Slurp. Suck. Repeat

It's prime time for oysters.
Served with mignonette sauce, cocktail sauce, horseradish, or hot sauce, briny plump raw oysters on the half shell are downright sexy. That said, on occasion it's fun to jack things up and turn on the heat.

Skillet Roasted Oysters with Spiced Compound Butter.
Compound butters are the simplest way to add punch to just about anything. Make them in advance, chill, and stash them away until needed.

A little dab will do you.
I tossed 1 stick softened room temperature unsalted butter into the bowl of a stand mixer before adding 1 tablespoon Green County Cacklin' Hen Jalapeno Hot Sauce, 2 tablespoons minced shallot, 2 minced Henkels hot red peppers, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, flaked sea salt, cracked black pepper, and the zest of 1 lime. After whipping the butter into a frenzy, I scooped it onto a 10"x 10" sheet of plastic wrap, gathered the butter to the edge, formed it into a loosey-goosey log, and rolled it into a bumpy cylinder. After smoothing it out, I twisted the ends of the plastic wrap to compact the butter into a tight roll and slid it into the refrigerator to chill.

Aw, shucks..
Oyster shucking can be a challenge. Practice makes perfect. Diligence, patience, an oyster knife, a sturdy dish towel (or a meshed oyster glove), and a glass of wine help make it much easier.
After scrubbing, rinsing, and patting dry  2 dozen Blue Point oysters (from Lexington Seafood Company), I  used a dish towel to secure each oyster cupped side down, carefully wedged the tip of an oyster knife into the hinged end, and wiggled the knife to pop open the hinge before sliding the knife across the top shells and slicing the abductor muscles from bottom shells to release the flesh . Being mindful of the precious oyster liquor, I tossed away the top shells and nestled the oysters into a large cast iron skillet layered with chunky rock salt.

 I topped each oyster with 1/4" discs of the chilled compound butter and slid them into a blistering
450 degree oven. When the melted butter bubbled around the slightly curled edges of the oysters ( about 5 minutes), I pulled them from the oven, let them rest, and finished each oyster with a splash of fresh lime juice.

Stained with spice, the  soft oysters poached in the steaming hot butter, gently rendering the slippery raw flesh almost creamy and custard-like. Plumped from the quick blast of heat and teetering on the edge of barely cooked, the brackish oysters popped through the bold overtones of smokey heat. While the fresh lime provided bright acidity to counter the buttery oyster jus, flecks of minced shallot and hot peppers added biting fresh crunch.

Slurp. Suck. Repeat.
Puttin' on the Ritz.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Roots And Stalks

I'm a celery junkie.
Smear pimento cheese into crisp celery stalks and I'm a happy camper. Pony up a few  nubs side by side with chunky bleu cheese as a side kick for Buffalo chicken wings and I'm set. Spear leafy topped celery sticks into potent bloody marys and color me buzzed. And yes, I plead guilty to swiping snapped off broken pieces of celery through the peanut butter jar, much to Michael's chagrin. All of that said, I'm an absolute fool for long cooked braised celery. Smack a platter of juicy pot roast in front of me and I'm all over the celery, scooting the meat aside for garnish.  It is what it is. My lusty affair with celery.

Celery is a classic flavor building block for almost everything. While we may not even know it's there, we'd know it if it wasn't there. Usually relegated to supporting character, I brought it front and center.

Celery Soup with Horseradish whipped cream.
I kept it simple and clean.

The root of it all.
I trimmed, washed, and chopped 1 large bunch (about 2 pounds) organic celery and set it aside. After slicing 2 large cleaned leeks into thin half moons, I sauteed the leeks in equal parts butter and olive oil (2 tablespoons each). When the leeks started to wilt, I added 1/2 cup chopped Casey County candy onion, 1 clove minced garlic, a pinch white pepper, and flaked sea salt. Just before the onions started to take on color, I deglazed the pan with 1/2 cup white wine, let it reduce by half, and added the reserved celery. For body (in lieu of a starchy potato), I peeled and chopped 1 pound celery root and sliced the attached celery root stalks before tossing them into the pot with the simmering celery. When the wine evaporated, I added 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 1 teaspoon celery seed, and 6 cups water. I brought the celery stock to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, covered the pot, and let it rip for 40 minutes.

When the vegetables were tender, I used a blender to carefully puree the soup in batches, passed it through a fine sieve to remove the fibrous solids, and returned the velvety soup to the hot pot. I brought the soup to a gentle simmer, splashed it with fresh lemon juice, and added 1/2 cup cream fraiche. After swirling the cream fraiche through the soup. I finished with quenelles of horseradish whipped cream, fresh celery leaves, and slivered radishes.

Drinkable celery.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Acorn Squash. Hold The Brown Sugar.

I fall for buttery brown sugar-glazed acorn squash as much as the next guy.  Amping up its inherent sweetness with a sticky caramelized glaze seems to be the go to prep for the pint sized squash.  That said, acorn squash doesn't have to be a one trick pony. Swirling it through a plumped  bread pudding laced with nutty gruyere cheese and sauteed baby kale takes it from to sweet to savory without missing a beat.

Savory Roasted Acorn Squash Bread Pudding 
A fun little riff on a fall favorite.

I halved 2 Casey County acorn squash, scooped out the seeds, brushed the flesh with olive oil, and seasoned them with salt and cracked black pepper before placing them cut side down onto a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. After halving a third acorn squash and removing the seeds, I used the ribs as a guideline to slice the squash into half moons, brushed them with olive oil, seasoned them, and fanned them onto a separate parchment-lined sheet pan.

I slid the squash into a preheated 350 degree oven, let them rip for about 45 minutes until they were tender, pulled them from the oven, and set them aside.

I sauteed 2 cups finely chopped baby kale in 2 tablespoons olive along with 1 minced shallot, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, salt, and pepper. When the kale started to wilt, I pulled it from the heat and set it aside to cool.  After beating 4 large eggs until they were frothy, I added 2 cups 1/2 and 1/2, and whisked the two together until they were well incorporated before pouring the custard over 8 cups cubed Sunrise Bakery focaccia bread.

When the squash was cool enough to handle, I slipped off the skins and chopped the softened flesh into 1/2" ragged pieces. After folding the sauteed kale into the pudding mix, I added the chopped squash and 1 cup grated gruyere cheese before ladling the bread pudding into buttered muffin tins (12 muffins) and sliding them into a preheated 375 degree oven. When they puffed up and browned around the edges (about 35 minutes), I pulled them from the oven, ran a sharp knife around the edges to release them from the tins, and brushed the tops with melted unsalted butter.

Still warm and dripping with butter, I nestled the bread puddings onto chopped  baby kale splashed with a lemony vinaigrette before finishing with crunchy pomegranate seeds and a sweet/tart pomegranate  gastrique.

Roasted acorn squash bread pudding.


Brown sugar not included.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dancing To The Beet.

Hey, over here. I'm over here. Way over here.  I'm the beet loving beet-stained guy dancing on the other side of the invisible line separating beet lovers and haters.  Come on over. Cross the line. It's mighty fine in beet land.

Red. Purple. Golden. White. Candy-striped.
Hidden beneath dirt-caked skins, beets are nature's jewels that radiate deep earthy sweetness. Polarizing to a fault, they bewilder and beguile. I'm beguiled.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Terrine.
Layered and pressed in a terrine, the creamy tang of whipped goat cheese brightens the roasted sweet earthiness of thinly sliced red and golden beets

Beet it.
After washing and trimming 1 pound each red and golden beets, I rubbed the beets with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper,  placed them into separate  aluminum foil packets, added a splash of water to each packet to create steam, sealed the packets, and slid the beets into a preheated 375 degree oven.

When the beets were knife tender, about 50 minutes, I pulled them from the oven, opened the foil to release the heat, and let them rest until they were completely cooled.

When the beets were cool enough to handle, I used paper towels (and gloves) to gently slip the skins from the beets and used a mandolin to slice them into uniform 1/8" cuts.

Whip it.
I brought 10 ounces goat cheese to room temperature, added 3 ounces room temperature cream cheese, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon ground white pepper before using a hand mixer to whip the goat cheese into a creamy spread.

After spraying a  bread tin with cooking spray, I lined the pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 6" overhang on all sides.

I layered the golden beets in double overlapping layers on the bottom of the pan, piped a zig zag flurry of creamed goat cheese onto the beets, drizzled olive oil over the beets, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and repeated the process using alternating layers of golden beets, red beets, and goat cheese.

After gently pressing the beets into the bread tin, I pulled the plastic wrap over the top to seal the terrine, nestled a piece of cardboard trimmed to fit within the sides of the tin, topped the terrine with 2 heavy cans, and slid the terrine into the refrigerator to chill overnight.

With the terrine thoroughly chilled and compressed, I pulled the beet terrine from the refrigerator, removed the plastic wrap, and used a very sharp knife to slice the beets into 3/4" pieces. After trimming the sides for clean edges, I finished with olive oil, flaked sea salt, shelled pistachios, and fresh basil.