Friday, November 17, 2017

Flashback Friday - Cherpumple Pudding

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This post originally appeared on on November 16, 2012.

Cherpumple. It's a funny word, isn't it? Kinda like "turducken." Exactly like turducken, as a matter of fact. That particular funny word is a portmanteau combining letters from the words turkey, duck, and chicken; the dish it refers to comprises a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck which in turn is stuffed into a deboned turkey. Poultry on poultry (on poultry) action, and an interesting dish to serve for Thanksgiving dinner.

Like the turducken, the cherpumple combines multiple elements into one over-the-top dessert. This combination of cherry, pumpkin, and apple pies bound by cake was created by humorist Charles Phoenix after noticing that his family tended to take small servings of each of several desserts served during a typical holiday meal.

While I'd happily eat turducken, I think three pies, each baked into a layer of cake, and covered with cream cheese frosting, is like a nightmare starring Paula Deen. Or maybe Sandra Lee, considering that the original recipe calls for frozen pies, cake mix, and canned frosting. BUT...I think the combination of flavors, at least of the pie components, would make for a pleasant holiday sweet.

Rather than dealing with pies and such, I opted for a much simpler solution: pudding. A nice tapioca pudding, flavored with pumpkin and spices, and topped with a compote-like mixture of sauteed apples and dried cherries.

Cherpumple Pudding

1 large egg
2 3/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Minute tapioca
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons dried cherries

Beat the eggs and milk together in a saucepan, then stir in sugar and tapioca. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Mix together pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. When tapioca has cooled somewhat, stir in the pumpkin mixture. Pour into a bowl that has a cover, or cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Cook apple with butter and brown sugar until the fruit is tender and the sugar is syrupy. Stir in the cherries and cook an additional few minutes, until they plump up. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.

When ready to serve, spoon some of the tapioca into a bowl. Top with some of the apple and cherry mixture. Garnish with a dollop of freshly-whipped cream, if desired.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

B&O Brasserie Springs into Fall with New Menu

Along with all the other holidays that populate this time of year, one of the biggest causes for celebration in the Minx household is when B&O Brasserie puts out its new Fall menu. We always look forward to seeing what Chef Scott Hines and his sous chef Tyler Johnson have created with all the robust Fall ingredients and comforting flavors that we associate with Autumn. Since we were also finishing our Whole 30 diet, the chance to finally indulge our cravings for bread, sugar, and alcohol was pretty tempting.

We started with the first cocktails we've had in a month. The Minx chose a full-bodied blended red wine while I picked something from their special Fall cocktail list. The "Monkey Business" matches Monkey Shoulder scotch with one of my great-grandfather's favorites Drambuie, along with Ramazzotti amaro, Fernet Branca, and black walnut bitters. A bruleed banana slice is cheekily perched on top to round out the monkey theme. The scotch and scotch-based Drambuie add a smoky quality while the amaros and black walnut bitters bring a touch of bitterness to balance the almost maple-like sweetness.

We were then treated to a collection of new appetizers starting with the housemade seasonal sausage, (which on this particular evening was a cheddar andouille) served with a red cabbage"sauerkraut" that was more sweet than sour, and an earthy mustard made with black mustard seeds and black garlic. All this dish needs is a bit of crusty bread and it could be a meal unto itself.

Restaurants aren't always successful in selling offal and other unusual animal parts to their customers, like the sweetbreads Chef Hines put on the menu earlier in the year. They were amazing, but diners aren't always receptive to trying new things. The Buffalo pigtails are doing well so far, and we could see why. They're the B&O's take on all of the various "Nashville" and "Buffalo"-style spicy meats that are popular right now, but with bits of succulent pig tail taking the place of the usual chicken. The tails are brined before frying, which makes them crispy on the outside and unctuous on the inside. They are coated with a spicy sauce that was just right for our palates. One has to be careful of the many small bones, but it's always fun the dig into this kind of dish. Housemade bread and butter pickles and celery hearts add touches of crunch and acidity.

Given sous chef Tyler Johnson's Italian cooking background, there's bound to be some pasta on the menu and the pumpkin raviolo is a terrific Fall entry. The al dente pasta is stuffed with calabaza pumpkin, goat cheese, and a perfectly runny duck egg yolk. Each bite is rich and creamy with the comforting flavor of pumpkin. The raviolo is topped with a hazelnut picada (a Spanish pesto-like sauce) and crispy Brussels sprouts and herbs are sprinkled on top. I could go for three or four of these as an entree.

Speaking of entrees, the Minx ordered the coffee-crusted pork chop. Chef Hines told us he was channeling his Jewish heritage with this dish--at least part of it--through the large potato latke at the bottom of the plate. Traditional accompaniments for latkes are applesauce and sour cream, and he chose to riff on those with a smoked apple butter glaze and a charred leek cream. Of course adding a fat pork chop to the dish, one with a fine grilled flavor, throws the whole homage out the window. No matter, it is a delicious sacrilege.

In Maryland where there is an over-abundance of deer, venison is about as Fall as you can get, so I ordered the rack of venison with juniper spaetzel, braised red cabbage, and bing cherry bordelaise. Venison can be a little tricky to cook because it's rather lean, but my venison was tender and juicy. The spaetzel was redolent of juniper berries and a hint of orange while the red cabbage brought acidity and the bordelaise added the right amount of sweetness. I tried to restrain myself, but I picked up the bone and chewed off every last bit of meat.

Although it wasn't officially a new Fall menu item, we were also treated to a plate of their carbonara. While it doesn't contain bacon like traditional carbonara, this dish does have garlic cream, delicata squash, Swiss chard, and grana padano cheese. The pasta itself is made in house with a chitarra, a device that creates ribbon-like strips of pasta somewhere between linguini and fettuccini. This was about as perfect a bowl of pasta as I've ever had, and I don't say such things lightly.

The Minx and I were concerned that, after not having any sugar or dairy for one month, the desserts might cause us some upset, but in the interest of food blogging, we soldiered on. I ordered the dark chocolate mocha cake and the Minx had the sticky date pudding. Choosing dark chocolate over milk was an inspired choice since it brings a deeper, less sweet flavor to this fluffy cake. The accompanying chocolate cremeux adds a richness, and the mascarpone ice cream offers another creamy texture. I particularly liked the bit of crunch provided by the generous scattering of cocoa nibs. I would've eaten it all if the Minx hadn't given me the evil eye.

Her sticky date pudding looked like a mini bundt cake and was quite sticky as advertised. It also came with whipped cream and toffee sauce, but the real surprise was the tuile made with bacon fat. The bacon flavor really came through and added an almost savory quality to break up the sweetness of the dish.

Fall brings a great many delights that we look forward to every year, not the least of which are the hearty meals associated with the Autumn harvest and the colder weather. Once again, B&O Brasserie has a Fall menu that will give you the warm, comforting feels that are so much a part of the season.

B&O Brasserie
2 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland, 21201

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Flashback Friday - Kofte with Pistachio Sauce

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This post originally appeared on on November 19, 2012.

You may recall from my recap of Time Machine Chefs back in August that I expressed admiration for chef Silvena Rowe, of the restaurant Quince in London's May Fair Hotel. Her ballsy attitude on the show made me check if she had any cookbooks available in the U.S. - and yes, she does! A couple, actually, and I chose to buy Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume: Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean, mostly because I liked the idea of purple citrus. :) While no actual purple citrus were harmed during the reading of that book, by the time I was done with it, I wanted to cook every recipe. I even bought a jar of grape leaves, which I have never used before.

The recipe that stood out most for me was for lamb kofte with pistachio sauce. Kofte are meatballs or small patties made from ground meat, and I just happened to have some ground lamb in the freezer. There were also pistachios and tahini kicking around for the sauce, as well as the last vestiges of our garden's fresh mint and all of the recipe's required spices. (Find the recipe here.)

Toasting and grinding the pistachios was the most difficult and time consuming part of the process. Well, not that either the toasting or the grinding part of the equation was difficult, but cleaning out the coffee grinder that I used for the purpose was not fun. (We have two - one for coffee, one for other stuff.) The sauce ended up tasting more of the tahini than the pistachios, which was a little disappointing, but the kofte were wonderful. I had swapped out the currants in the recipe for dried cherries, and they lent a lovely sweetness to the savory spice- and mint-flavored patties. I also chose to serve some home-made preserved lemons as a garnish, and their juicy salty tang was a perfect accent.

I hope to try other recipes from this book over the coming months and will post my adventures here. In the meantime, do try the recipe for yourself.

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Monday, November 06, 2017

Spotlight On - The Brewer's Art

Not sure if anyone knows, but I've been writing a restaurant column for the City Walker App Blog. The purpose of the app itself is to give visitors a local's-eye-view of a city, so they are able to experience it in the same way residents do--on foot. (Not that anyone actually walks anywhere anymore.) The blog offers a bit more detail; I have endeavored to take users on a stroll through the city while pointing out restaurants along the way. In addition to the walking posts, I have been writing others that put certain favorite restaurants of mine in a spotlight. I thought I could share those here with you.
If you find yourself in the Midtown Baltimore neighborhood of Mount Vernon looking for a place to indulge in some serious food and even more serious beer, go to the Brewer’s Art. Named Esquire Magazine’s “Best Bar in America” for 2009, it also made the list of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Bars in America 2015, and Gayot’s Top 10 Brewpubs in the US 2017. As far as I’m concerned, the place deserves every kudos.

Brewer’s Art has 60 or so seasonal beers, many in the Belgian style. My personal favorite is the GPT, an intoxicating 9% ABV tripel spiced with green peppercorns that is available for a very short time in the winter. I’m also a fan of their regular year-round also-available-in-stores Resurrection (a full-bodied abbey brown ale) and Beazly (a golden “devil” ale). The latter was originally named Ozzy, after the Black Sabbath singer and MTV reality star, until a cease-and-desist letter from Mr Osbourne put an end to things--ten years after the brew was introduced. I guess it just took him a while to notice. (Note to our neighbors with the dog named Ozzy: you may be next.) And lest you think the Brewer’s Art is only a beer bar, I can reassure you that there are fancy house cocktails (and any classics you’d like) and a modest wine list as well.

Situated in an elegant rowhouse mansion on a somewhat quiet block of North Charles Street, the Brewer’s Art also shows a fair bit of artistry in the kitchen portion of the establishment. The restaurant’s chef is Andrew Weinzirl, who worked previously at Maggie’s Farm (which he also co-owned), the Wine Market, Chameleon Cafe, and the Dogwood, all very well-regarded Baltimore-area restaurants with strong farm-to-table sensibilities. The menu at Brewer’s Art has, in the past, had strong European influences but Chef Weinzirl’s approach is a little more on the global side. One can still get a dish of pierogies or steak frites, but a recent menu also offered red lentil croquettes in a curry laksa broth that got rave reviews from foodies. Weinzirl has also incorporated beer into several menu items, including a soup of Beazly with celery root, chicken, and dill creme fraiche. He also uses Beazly to steam spicy sambal cockles and to brine the pasture-raised chicken available on the lunch and bar menu. Obviously a very versatile beer, that one. (I’d have no problems if it had been named after me.) Weinzirl has even used spent grain left over from the brewing process in a cornbread appetizer. As they say, waste not want not!

Among always-on-the-menu favorites are the rosemary garlic fries. For some reason, people have gotten it in their heads that they are cooked in duck fat, but that’s never been the case. Isn’t rosemary and garlic enough? They’re delish nonetheless, and come with a side of mayonnaise, in the Belgian style. The frites are available in both the dining room and in the bar, but that’s about all their menus have in common, at least at dinner time. If you have a hankering for a burger (the beef comes from local Roseda Farms) with cheddar, beer onions, horseradish pickles, and BA’s version of “animal sauce,” then you’ll have to eat it in the bar. That also goes for the cheesesteak sandwich. And it’s not just any old beef cheesesteak (this ain’t Philly)--it’s a lamb cheesesteak, topped with smoked provolone. And roasted mushrooms. And broccolini. When faced with a difficult decision such as this--eat in the dining room or eat in the bar--sometimes the deciding factor is the noise level. On a rollicking evening (pretty much every evening), the decibel level in the bar can be high. Those of us with more sensitive ears might prefer to eat in the dining room, which is a little more reasonable as far as noise is concerned.

No matter what you end up doing at the Brewer’s Art--spending some time at the bar tasting various of their fine beers or having a full-blown meal--it’s definitely a place worth stopping by, even if you’re not already in the neighborhood.

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