Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 8 Recap

This week on Top Chef....

The cheftestants find a note from Padma in their condo. She directs them to "harvest" the ingredients for the Quickfire Challenge and bring them to the Healthy Choice Kitchen where she and Emeril will be waiting. So they pile into Toyotas - first oohing and ahhing over the ugly things - and head to Taylor's Shellfish Farms.

Micah was the son of a preacher man, and he tells us he grew up Kosher - no shellfish. And now he's pulling them directly off the shoals and popping them into his mouth, as are all of the other chefs. Doesn't get any fresher than that! Josie, who at the end of last week's show was seen getting on the nerves of Stefan (and everyone else), gets caught in some quicksand. Most of the chefs are happy to leave her to sink and disappear, but kind-hearted Micah (who's not really all that kind-hearted - he probably sees it as some sort of merit badge situation) rushes to her aid, along with Stefan, who despite being a douche most of the time, can't really bear to see anything with a vagina go unassisted.

Eventually, the chefs have gathered pounds and pounds of bivalves and head back to the kitchen with them. Emeril is indeed waiting, and he instructs the cheftestants to make either a cold or hot oyster dish for him and Padma to slurp up after 25 minutes time.

Micah - who gets a lot of screen time this week - tells us that he grew up watching Emeril and cooking for him is a bit like what it must have been for Moses meeting God. Aww. Except Micah probably considers Emeril to be Moses....

Time's up and tasting begins. One can't help but think that Emeril and Padma will be pretty horny after eating all of those briny critters. And then one dismisses that idea because it's completely ick.

Speaking of ick, Emeril's not particularly fond of Bart's, Josie's, or TMHCiD's dishes, but he enjoys Lizzie's, Brooke's, and especially Micah's fried oysters. Micah gets the win and a $5,000 bonus, and admirably does not make any references to parting the Red Sea or receiving the Ten Commandments.

Pads wastes no time introducing the Elimination Challenge. She instructs the cheftestants to pair up because they'll be cooking for one of the most exciting sports teams in Seattle. No, not Russell Wilson and the currently-hot Seahawks, nor baseball's Mariners, but a group of lesbians who call themselves the Rat City roller girls. Yes, folks, roller derby has survived the 70s disco era and for no good reason still exists today. It's apparently a great way for tough women to beat on each other while wearing roller skates and hot pants. Brooke says roller derby is like an ultra-violent Ice Capades. But without the sequins, feathers, and Johnny Weir.

Five of the girls on the team have food-related names that are supposed to inspire the pairs of chefs to create dishes for the team's final match after party. These tough chicks, with names like Teriyaki Terror and Jalapeno Business (which I don't quite get - it doesn't sound anything like "none of your," but whatever; the sport is not logical) tell the cheftestants that they want food that isn't fussy, but isn't concession food either.

Before getting to work, the cheftestants are forced to attend a match. Battle? Fight? Hoe down? Whatever it's called when the girls put on their skates and beat on each other. Josie, a fellow lesbian and "athlete all her life," is really into it and she gets louder than usual while cheering on the madness. Her competitors all find her obnoxious and move away down the aisle to avoid her. As they sit quietly and wish for something more fun to happen - Moses meets God, or maybe Josie cheers so hard she flings herself over the balcony onto the ice - she hurls insults at them, calling them "boring," and saying that being there with them was like being there with her parents. Ouch. (Not really. I wouldn't be insulted at all. I'm sure her parents are lovely people. Unless they're just like her.)

Later, at the condo (which has to be sponsored by some product, I just haven't figured it out yet - Pledge maybe? Windex? La-Z-Boy?) the group grouses about Josie. She goes off on them as a whole before singling out Micah, basically calling him a closeted gay man. Guess she forgot that he didn't let her sink in the sand earlier in the day. Maybe he should have.

For this challenge, she's paired with Bart, who says he's a team player and isn't going to let her bother him because Belgians are civilized. Personally, I'm not feeling particularly civilized when Josie starts talking about allowing her Mexican/Filipino/Italian heritage to inform her ability to make teriyaki sauce. That ain't teriyaki sauce, babe.

The other four teams comprise TMHCiD and Brooke, Stefan and Kristin (of course), Lizzie and Micah, and Sheldon and Mustache. They're all getting along just fine when the party starts and the judges arrive to eat. Emeril, Padma, Hugh, and Tom start with TMHCiD and Brooke's table. They're cooking for a skater named Kutta Rump, and they've made a Thai-inspired beef dish with lobster rice and a tart slaw. Their dish is bold and spicy and there are no complaints from the judges. They move on to Josie and Bart's Teriyaki Terror, which they decide is instead, "Teriyaki Terrible." The steak skewers were cooked awkwardly, their forbidden rice was overcooked, and the beet puree on top was underseasoned. Miss Terror herself, who joined them for the tasting, called the dish "unique." Hugh translates this to mean "unique crappy" rather than "unique good."

For Jalapeno Business, Lizzie and Micah made fancy jalapeno poppers filled with crab. Ms Business likens it to "elevated party food," and the general consensus among the judges is that the dish is quite tasty. Stefan and Kristen made something they called "inside out chicken" with corn puree, chicken liver, and eggs. It's a bit much, concept-wise, but good enough to keep them safe for the episode. Finally, Sheldon and Mustache produced a tempura-coated yuzu custard for a chick who calls herself Tempura Tantrum. The custards were meant to be eaten with several dipping sauces to cause a "tantrum in the mouth." Tom threw a tantrum all right, since the custards were soggy city. Nice idea, bad execution.

After at least the seventieth Toyota Camry commercial of the episode, we see the cheftestants in the stew room. Padma comes in to retrieve TMHCiD, Brooke, Micah, and Lizzie, the top toques this week. The judges waste no time in giving the win to the team of TMHCiD and Brooke. It's TMHCiD's first win despite three trips to the top, and rather than be thankful that he finally lucked out, he complains that he'd prefer to win solo. Guess he never considered that he might not have been good enough to win solo?

Anyhoo...Sheldon and Mustache and Bart and Josie are brought out as the bottom teams. The former are complimented on their concept, so it's fairly obvious that they are safe. But Mustache, who has a bug up his butt about Lizzie and Micah's jalapeno popper, decides he needs to question the judges' choice for putting that particular dish on top. He realizes this makes him seem like CJ during the artisan pickle fiasco that got him and Tyler eliminated, but asks anyway. Tom explains to Mustache kindly, like a grandfather explaining something to a slow child, that the jalapeno popper in question was well-prepared and delicious, therefore his question was invalid. He was entirely too nice about it. I would rather have Hugh just tell Mustache that his custard on a stick sucked and be done with it.

While I start getting excited that obnoxious Josie might be leaving this week, Bart confesses that he not only made the meat portion of their dish, but also the overcooked rice and underseasoned beet puree. Josie only made the sauce, which apparently wasn't bad enough to even mention. So Bart goes home for lack of seasoning. Nice guys always finish last. Civilized ones at least.

Next week - the cheftestants visit old challenges from prior seasons.

Posted on

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Minxeats!

May the day bring you all your heart desires. And cookies.

Posted on

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 7 Recap

Sorry this post is late this week - you have to understand that Christmas cookie-baking takes precedence over Top Chef.

So what happened this week? Umm...lots of stuff. Lots of product placement. That's getting to be the thing this season, isn't it? This week's first product is Reynolds Wrap, and the only female chef to win Top Chef, Stephanie Izard, is on hand to plug the shiny aluminum-based stuff. The wrap is actually the theme ingredient of this week's Quickfire Challenge. Every ingredient is wrapped in it, and the cheftestants can use only Reynolds Wrap as their cooking vessels. But they can make anything they want! Well, anything they want to make from the ingredients they happen to unwrap from the pile of unidentifiable silver-colored objects in the pantry. It's the luck of the draw.

Some chefs were luckier than others. Some were also smarter. TMHCiD, for example, thought he was picking up a pot full of herbs but actually got a pineapple. Because pineapples feel exactly like pots of herbs. (What sort of "herbs" was he looking for?) A shame he didn't pick up two objects that were completely different from what he imagined them to be because I could then make a joke about him being foiled...again. Or maybe it's best that I not get that opportunity. In any case, Bravo beat me to it, because according to their Web site, they've titled this episode, "Foiled Again!" I'm not sure if I should feel clever or dumb because I had the same thought as the network.

After thirty minutes of Full Metal Jackets, Padma and Stephanie taste the chefs' dishes. They're not much impressed with Brooke's bacon dish, or Micah's near-raw lamb chop, or Mustache's chicken. But Sheldon, Danyele, Stefan, Josie, Bart, and Kristen did make good dishes. Kristen made a very successful sponge cake (thankfully she didn't get stuck with an onion or sardines) and wins the challenge and immunity from elimination in the next one.

Which is...

...sort of an advertisement for Remlinger Farms Berry Festival, only they don't mention "Remlinger Farms Berry Festival" nearly as often as they said "Reynolds Wrap." For this challenge, the chefs have to battle head-to-head, creating a dish using an assigned berry, and making enough food to feed 150 Festival attendees. The six chefs who came out on top in the Quickfire get to choose one of the chefs who didn't fare as well as their opponent. Except for lucky Kristen, who doesn't have to battle anyone. Well, apart from Stefan and his affections. The losing member of each pair will be up for elimination, and will be selected by the Festival attendees.

After the chefs pair up and receive their berry assignment, they scurry to shop. Stefan is going to battle TMHCiD, and the bitchery begins pretty much as soon as they get back from the store. While Stefan cuddles with Kristen on the sofa of their condo (she is very tolerant, and young) TMHCiD dings him for purchasing frozen tuna. Stefan is confident because the product he bought - saku block ahi tuna - is sashimi grade and customarily used in sushi bars around the world. In fact, most tuna is frozen before being consumed. Just because it appears fresh at the fish counter doesn't mean it was not frozen at one time.

Anyhoo...the chefs head to the venue and find they have to cook under a big tent with very little counter space and too few blenders. There's much elbowing and jostling and possibly some biting but eventually everyone gets their food done.

Has anyone else noticed that Micah seems douchier with every episode? Perhaps in an attempt to seem less prick-y, he tells us that he and his babymomma have named their kids after foods - Rutabaga and Kumquat. or something like that.

The cheftestants then cart their shit to pairs of booths where they can finish assembling their dishes and serve the crowds.

While they're setting up, Tom does a walk-through, which he seldom does anymore. Stefan and TMHCiD are still at it, with Stefan confident that he can beat the pants off a 53-year-old, and TMHCiD still bitching about the frozen tuna. Not only does he not like the fact that its frozen, but also that it's not sustainable. Ah, Rick Moonen isn't even in this episode but we still feel his presence.

The bitching dies down long enough for the judges and attendees to taste the cheftestants' dishes.

Mustache and Danyele have used blueberries in their dishes. While Mustache's dish is delicate and light, Danyele's chicken terrine is rubbery and her crostini is too thick and crunchy. The blueberry element - a mostarda - isn't quite a mostarda.

Josie is making her raspberry spring rolls to order and slathering them with raspberry mayonnaise. She's her usual jolly self, but that leads Gail to wonder sotto voce if she's high. The amount of time it's taking Josie to put her food together is annoying the guests. Meanwhile, Lizzie's pork with bacon and raspberries is getting her all of the votes.

Sheldon and Micah used strawberries in their dishes. Sheldon's summer roll, unlike Josie's, was very successful, while Micah's fried chicken and biscuit needed more strawberry flavor.

TMHCiD was so busy picking on Stefan, he didn't notice that putting an element as powerful as chorizo in a dish as delicate as white gazpacho was a bad idea. The meat overpowered any gooseberry flavor there may have been. Stefan's frozen tuna crudo, on the other hand, was a big hit. And he tells us he wouldn't flush his poop with TMHCiD's soup.

Ah. young middle aged love. Makes me really miss the Stefan/Fabio bromance from season 5.

Brooke and Bart both had blackberries, and for the most part, both made good dishes. Brooke's multi-element pudding smacks of s'mores, and Bart's blackberry soup is outstanding. A shame he ruined it by putting a piece of salmon in it. Please, chefs - let this nasty fruit and seafood pairing act as a reminder that fruit and seafood should never be paired.

Finally, Kristen battles herself with a lovely tayberry and goat cheese concoction that has the judges swooning.

Later, back in the stew room, Padma comes in and calls for TMHCiD, Josie, Bart, Micah, and Danyele. They have made the worst dishes of the day and are duly spanked before being sent back to bring out the winners. The judges and Festival attendees alike favored the dishes of Sheldon, Stefan, Brooke, Mustache, Lizzie, and of course Kristen, whose dish was most favoritest, winning her a cool ten thousand smackeroos.

When they go back to the stew room to gloat, Stefan tells the losers that "wifey" won the challenge. "Wifey" doesn't seem annoyed.

The losers go out once again to face Gail, Padma, Tom, and Stefanie (who needs some conditioner, stat). They say that no matter how many times TMHCiD says he's not making excuses, he's making too many excuses for his bad dish. Josie's dish didn't have a clear flavor of raspberry, and the faint whiff of weed in the air around her booth wasn't enough to change the judges' minds. Bart redeemed himself with his delicious soup, so the nasty salmon bit could be forgiven. But Danyele's terrine was just too much like bad lunchmeat, and she got the axe.

Back in the stew room, Stefan and Josie go at it. At this point, I shut my brain down so don't know what exactly was the topic of contention, but I'm sure we'll see it all over again at the top of next week's episode.

Posted on

Happy End of the World!

Wait - we're still here?
Image credit: Corbis

Posted on

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chicken and Cannellini Bean Stew

We like to eat early because, well, we just do. So when the Ravens play a 4pm game, it cuts into our dining schedule a bit. The best solution is to make something that can be served at halftime, either a quick supper of nachos or pizza (homemade, of course) or a long-cooked stew of some sort. We had done chili already for a game earlier in the season, and leftover Thanksgiving turkey nachos fit the bill for the Ravens game against the San Diego Chargers, so I decided to make something completely new for the game against arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

Chicken thighs, sausage, and white beans are a great combination, especially when teamed up with tomatoes and garlic. Lots of garlic. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread for a tasty supper that doesn't involve a lot of last-minute prep.

Chicken and Cannellini Bean Stew with Sausage

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
pinch of salt
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes and their juices
2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken broth
6 - 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper to taste
polenta or rice

In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until browned on all sides, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Add a bit of olive oil if the sausage sticks to the pot. When the sausage is mostly browned, add the onions and pinch of salt. Cover pot and cook five minutes, stirring once or twice, until onions are soft. Stir in garlic and oregano. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Add tomatoes, beans, bay leaf, and chicken broth and stir to combine. Tuck chicken thighs into the pot, making sure they're submerged as much as possible.

Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat to low and cover pot. Cook for 90 minutes - 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When chicken is falling apart, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with or over polenta or rice. Serves 4-6.

Posted on

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Quick Trip to NYC

I like to visit New York a couple of times a year, mostly to sniff perfume, but also to eat. I hadn't been up there since January, so it seemed like a good idea to visit the big city during the Christmas season. My train was getting in to Penn Station just before 11am, the time when Shake Shack opens, and I felt that would be a good way to start my day.

Shake Shack has been generating long lines and tons of good buzz since it opened in Madison Square Park in 2004. There are now six locations in New York, two each in DC, Connecticut, and Florida, one in Philly, and two in the Middle East (with London coming soon). The world is apparently obsessed with burgers. I love them myself and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. As with the Five Guys' hoopla, I find it's mostly much ado about nothing. The Shack Burger is a fine, tasty burger. The edges are slightly crisp, the cheese is melty, and the bun is properly squishy. It's a good fast-food-style burger. Nothing orgasmic, earth-shaking, or life-changing. I'd eat it again if it were in front of me, but I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to do so.

Single Shack Burger
Later in the day, I hoofed it from 5th and 58th to the Time Warner Center at 8th and 59th. Why is it that a three block walk across town feels like 10 blocks? Up several escalators, I found A Voce. (You may remember that the restaurant's executive chef, Missy Robbins, cut her finger so badly in the first episode of Top Chef Masters season 4, she had to leave the competition.) I had tried to make a reservation the day before, but was told by Open Table that no reservations were available for that evening. I decided to walk in and take a chance. If they had nothing for me, I'd head up another floor and try Chopped judge Marc Murphy's Landmarc. But the hostess was able to seat me at a two-top facing the bar, where I was attended to by a handsome and charming young waiter. The service was really quite fantastic at A Voce - attentive, yet casual. At one point, my waiter wanted to know how I was doing with my appetizer, but he couldn't get close enough to my table to speak to me, as a water boy was in the way. He merely raised a questioning eyebrow and gave me a thumb's up. I nodded in affirmation, he smiled and walked away. I didn't even have to stop chewing.

Funghi al forno: roasted trumpet mushrooms, fonduta, mache, hazelnuts
The meal started off very well. There were a number of appetizers I wanted to try, but I settled on the funghi al forno. The roasted mushrooms were almost meaty in texture, and indeed required a steak knife to slice into manageable pieces. The fonduta - a truffled cheese sauce - was incredibly rich, yet not overly so. Once the mushrooms were gone, I found myself reaching for a piece of focaccia to sop up the remaining sauce. The hazelnuts added a toasty nutty crunch to round out the dish. Really lovely overall.

Speaking of lovely, that focaccia came with a dish of whipped ricotta with fresh basil, drizzled with olive oil. Good thing there wasn't a spoon with it, otherwise I might have embarrassed myself by eating it straight from the container.

Pici: cocoa pasta, duck bolognese, golden raisins
While the first course was successful, the pici that I ordered for my entree was a total disappointment. Pici is a hand-rolled pasta, somewhat like a thick spaghetti. Imagine making a snake of modeling clay by rolling it between your palm and a table top, and you've got pici. Because they're somewhat thick and about  4" long, picking them up with a fork is like wrestling with a bowl of tarantulas. They're not easily twirled, so a fork full had random ends hanging out in each direction, some of which were happy to slap me in the face as I brought the fork to my mouth. Eventually, I used my knife to cut them into shorter bits. In any case, awkwardness was the least of the dish's problems. The sauce was a bolognese in name only. It had an agrodolce (sweet and sour) thing going on that could have been quite delicious had the sauce had any other thing going on, too. The tiny nubbins of ground duck (which could have been any meat - turkey, rattlesnake) served as a textural element only, and I couldn't taste the cocoa in the pasta. After three or four bites, I was bored with the dish. Thankfully, it wasn't a large portion, so I pushed on and finished it, knowing that a doggie bag wouldn't safely survive the three-plus hours it would take me to get home.

On the side, I had a generously-portioned bowl of beets. I suppose it was sized for the table, but I love beets so a mess of them is fine with me. They were served chilled and topped with finely chopped pistachios. Some of the beets tasted citrussy, others tasted slightly pickled - there was definitely more flavor in the side dish than in my entree.

Since I had a glass of wine with dinner, I passed on dessert. It was just as well, as I was presented with a mignardise of two very soft, house-made, limoncello marshmallows. One bite was enough sweetness for me.

I love New York. I love dining in New York. Sure, I'm disappointed sometimes, but I am always happy to have the opportunity to try popular restaurants and formulate my own opinions about them.

Shake Shack
300 W 44th St
New York, NY 10036
Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

A Voce Columbus
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
A Voce Columbus on Urbanspoon

Posted on

Monday, December 17, 2012

Charm City Gourmet

Seems like every week a new food truck hits the mean streets of Baltimore City. Charm City Gourmet is one that showed up at UMB not too long ago. While most trucks serve straight-up street food, tacos, burgers, sandwiches, and the like, Charm City Gourmet takes it one step further by offering some more elegant items as well.

The first thing I sampled was the scallops with sweet cream corn and prosciutto bacon. I got four handsomely-sized scallops for $9.00 plus tax. NINE DOLLARS. Suck it, you overpriced scallop-scalpers! These babies were perfectly cooked (albeit a tad salty) and came with a super buttery creamed corn and crispy fried prosciutto chips. And it was served in a plastic martini glass. No kidding. There was even a little garnish of thyme. Hard to believe this was a food truck lunch, but it was, and a very satisfying one at that.

Next time around, I tried the pulled pork sandwich with slaw, and it did not disappoint. The pork was meltingly tender, and unsauced, so the porky flavor sang out. The griddled roll was a nice touch. The slaw was fresh and crunchy.

On my most recent trip to the Charm City Gourmet truck, I ordered the schwarma. It had big chunks of tender beef packed into a fat pita with a bit of cucumber, tomato, and onion salad and tahini. It was a bit messy to eat, so I resorted to using a knife and fork. I think I would prefer sliced rather than chunked meat, but the flavors were good.

Charm City Gourmet also sells lobster rolls, shrimp rolled in kataifi and fried, ribs, and fancy chicken tenders, among other things. It's a pretty well-rounded menu, something for everyone, but particularly seafood lovers. Mmmm...scallops.

Charm City Gourmet
1101 St Paul St Ste 405
Baltimore, MD 21202
443) 765-4051
Charm City Gourmet on Urbanspoon
Posted on

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tostitos Homecoming Party Bowl

Not that we can thank our service men and women enough, but this was a fun thing to do.

On December 13th,Tostitos turned football dreams into reality for a group of unsuspecting military veterans. This one-of-a-kind on-field surprise party – created to celebrate the homecoming of veterans who have previously served overseas – was complete with legendary college football players and coaches, including Bobby Bowden, Urban Meyer, Kurt Warner and Marcus Allen; actor and screenwriter, Owen Wilson; sideline reporting with actor, Eric Stonestreet, and a performance by chart-topping musical guest, Gym Class Heroes.

Thirty unsuspecting service men and women arrived onsite at Cerritos College just south of Los Angeles ready to play a casual game of flag football to benefit Got Your 6 and the Pat Tillman Foundation. Unbeknownst to them, more than 12,000 fans were eagerly awaiting their arrival, ready to cheer them on as they entered the jam-packed stadium. While suiting up for the game, legendary college football coaches Bobby Bowden and Urban Meyer arrived announcing they would each be leading a team, calling the plays and coaching their respective players to victory.

The service men and women were then joined by former college and professional football greats Marcus Allen and Kurt Warner who revealed they, too, would be joining the game to play alongside the veterans. As the players ran through the tunnel and took the field, they were greeted by the thousands of cheering fans, a group of cheerleaders and the sounds of two full-fledge marching bands, making it clear that something big was happening. When the game was over, the party continued with an exclusive musical performance by the Grammy-nominated musical group, Gym Class Heroes.

Highlights from the surprise party were captured on film and will be televised nationally during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl broadcast on ESPN on Jan. 3, 2013.

Posted on

Flashback Friday - December 7, 2012

This post was originally published on 1/11/2010. Seems like a good post to make a reappearance in December. Especially considering the cute Christmas-theme mugs in the photo.
Hot Buttered Rum

In the late 80s, my family started a new tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve (possibly because Mom never could wait to hand out gifts). Because our house was so big, we set up the tree in the hallway near the front door to make sure everyone could gaze upon its Santa-festooned glory and mountain of gaily-wrapped packages on a frequent basis. The hallway was always drafty (as was the whole house) so I came up with the brilliant idea of drinking hot buttered rum as we tore through the wrappings.

We all enjoyed the warm, creamy libation - particularly my Cocker Spaniel. I had set my mug on the floor behind me and didn't notice that he had consumed several ounces of rummy goodness. Within minutes, he became a mean little drunk, snarling at the family and eventually hiding under a chair in the living room, far from the rest of us. (He apparently liked a good stiff drink on occasion and had once helped himself to a Pimm's Cup during a croquet party held on the front lawn.)

While not recommended for your canine friends, I do recommend that grownups partake of a nice steaming mug-full of hot buttered rum on a cold day. I like to keep a tub of "mix" ready in the freezer - just add rum and boiling water.

Hot Buttered Rum Mix

1 lb room-temperature butter
1 lb powdered sugar
1 lb brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 quart room-temperature vanilla ice cream

Cream all ingredients together and store in a covered container in the freezer.

For each drink

1 1/2 ounces rum
boiling water
freshly grated nutmeg

Add rum and 2 tablespoons of batter to a mug (more if your mug is large) and top with boiling water. Stir together and garnish with nutmeg.

Posted on

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 6 Recap

This week, the episode starts out once again with scenes from last week's stew room. The chefs are cowed after hearing that there would be no winners because of the sheer suckitude of all of the dishes. There's no real squabbling, but Stefan seems pissed off and Brooke is crying. We imagine she's crying because she did poorly, but maybe Stefan made a pass at her - who knows?

Anyhoo...this week, the cheftestants meet at the Product Placement Kitchen to find Padma standing with an old lady. Not just any old lady, but Marilyn Hagerty, now-famous critic for the Grand Forks Herald. The podunk paper printed the 86-year-old's positive review of the town's much-anticipated Olive Garden and overnight, she became an Internet sensation. She's even got a book deal with Tony Bourdain. (Makes me think I should have been more positive in my review of the Melting Pot.) Since North Dakota is nowhere near Seattle, I have to wonder if there's any reason other than novelty that Ms Hagerty is judging the Quickfire, but I think it's safe to assume that the answer is "no."

For this Quickfire, the cheftestants must pretend it's the holiday season. Christmas in July, if you will. The challenge is to create a sweet and savory holiday dished based on each chef's family heritage. For the sweet part of the dish, they need to utilize this week's sponsor, Truvia, the artificial sweetener made from the stevia plant. And don't tell me that shit's natural. I've tasted the stevia extract they sell at the health food store, and that stuff, while it has a bit of sweetness, is harsh and licorice-like in flavor. It needs a whole lot of processing to get that nasty taste out. Not only do they need to use the sweetener, the cheftestants also have to battle to use one knife, which Lizzie pulls out of the knife block. She tries to hog it first, but Mustache grabs it and slices and dices everything he can get his hands on before he has to surrender it to the next person in line. Meanwhile, the others are using the meat slicer, the front edge of a spatula, anything that seems like it could cut or chop.

After thirty minutes, Padma and Marilyn do the rounds. Brooke becomes worried when Padma calls her apple pie with cheese "homey," and smug Micah sneers when Marilyn says she's never seen a tamale before.

Stefan has made potato latkes because his ex-wife--whom he married and divorced twice--is Jewish. Marilyn quips that if he marries the same woman twice, he's not particularly creative. In the end, she thinks that Bart's chicken and waffles has too many things going on, while Micah's tamale - which she calls a taco - is too dry. She likes Mustache's johnnycake and Stefan's potato latkes, but it's Brooke's apple pie with cheese that steals her heart and earns the chef immunity in the next challenge.

Marilyn is shown the door and two actors enter the stage. Anna Faris, who's been in absolutely nothing I have ever seen, and her husband Chris Pratt (ditto) are Washington natives who are in town for a "holiday homecoming" party. In June. Anna is preggo and eating everything in sight, and both of them are foodies, so they want the party food to be primo. Lord knows why they went to Top Chef if they want good food, but they're probably also media whores who just wanted to be on television. Stefan thinks he has something in common with Anna because they've both been on Entourage. Like I said - media whores.

The cheftestants have five minutes to find out exactly what the Pratts like to eat before they head off for shopping and prepping. But first - they have to do a special shoot where they ooh and ahh over another product placement. The winner of this challenge will get a new Toyota Prius, which is conveniently parked around the corner. Stefan says he could use the car to make deliveries for his restaurants and takes the opportunity to plug his Web site, (I don't know why I'm plugging him, since the fuck unfriended me on Facebook last year. I suppose I still find him entertaining.)

After shopping, we see the chefs running to the kitchen. As he gets to the double doors, TMHCiD slips and falls, which is rather gratifying to see. At least I enjoyed it.

After several hours of prep, during which time Mustache is making pork to "redeem" himself from last week's tenderloin debacle, the chefs wrap up their goods and head over to the party venue, Chihuly Garden & Glass. The place is gorgeous, btw, and the Web site is worth a visit.

The chefs set up and the guests arrive, most of whom seem to be shrill women. "Hiiiiiii! How are YOUuuuuu?!!??!" is heard over and over again as the guests greet each other. Ack. I don't know how anyone can concentrate with that noise around them. It's like being in the monkey cage at the zoo, only with better perfume. Some of the chefs aren't doing so well. Micah is having issues with his celery root puree, and both Danyele and Eliza are experiencing toughness issues with their meat. There's probably a dirty joke in there, but I'm too tired to come up with one.

Soon the judges arrive, including Rick Moonen (who once employed TMHCiD) and Gail Simmons, who is looking extremely boobaceous tonight in a tight pink dress. Padma is wearing a weird dark quilted shirt and no pants. The judges make the rounds with guests of honor Anna and Chris, starting at Belgian Bart's station.

They take several dishes back to a table for tasting and practically have orgasms over Brooke's lamb-stuffed squid. It's not until the second round of dishes that we start to hear complaints about the food, so it's clear that the cheftestants really stepped up after last week's extreme fail. One chef who doesn't fare so well is Eliza, whose elk was unevenly cooked and bland. Gail tries to see the brighter side of things by mentioning that her huckleberry sauce brought a much needed hit of acid to the dish. Chris Pratt, whose sense of humor was probably finely crafted in middle school, takes the opportunity to ask if the judges had indeed all taken a hit of acid. Nobody laughs.

Back in the stew room, much later, Padma calls out TMHCiD, Kristen, Brooke, and Sheldon. They made the best dishes of the night. TMHCiD's chowder - which was based on a recipe learned from Rick Moonen - was "money," and Sheldon's pork belly with congee warmed the cockles of their hearts. But Brooke's stuffed squid dish was the best and most daring, and showed she was willing to work hard, despite her immunity. After her win, they head back to the stew room, where Brooke sends out her fellow cheftestants to face the music: Eliza, Micah, Mustache, and Danyele.

Danyele has been given a loser edit through much of the episode. It's clear that she's nervous and not performing to her potential. Her wild boar chops were bland and boring. Micah's puree was fibrous, and Mustache most definitely did not redeem himself through pork. But it was Eliza's elk that was most disliked, and resulted in her being sent home. When she gets the verdict, she tells the judges that she won't shake hands with them because she's got a cold. But she cooked for them. And then back in the stew room, she gives everyone else a hearty hug and kiss.

Next week: everyone has the flu.

Posted on

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Food Market

After being urged by several different people to try the Food Market, we did, with some delicious results.

The place is popular. Seriously. We eat dinner early, partly to miss the crowd, partly because we're old. By 6pm on a Saturday, the place was hopping, and getting louder by the minute. The music was loud, the people were louder, and the restaurant has no sound-absorbing materials at all, apart from the barely-padded banquette seats. So bring earplugs and a hearty appetite because there's lots to try.

The menu at the Food Market has categories like "little," "small," "big," and "in-between," which translates as "finger food appetizers (plus a soup)," "appetizers that require a fork," "entrees," and "sandwiches." (You're welcome.) Absolutely everything sounded like something we wanted to eat, so it was a bit hard to narrow down our choices. Eventually we settled on two littles, two smalls, and one in-between to share.

The Amish soft pretzels were less the stereotypical salty twists and more like buttery bread fingers (think Aunt Annie's). The generous portion of beer cheese fondue was spiked with jalapeno and had a nice kick. It was so good, we hated to waste it; even after the pretzels were gone, we kept the cheese sauce as a dip for french fries and the tasty foccacia that was brought to the table when we arrived.

Amish soft pretzels, beer cheese fondue
The meatloaf fries were fat little fingers of very good, very moist, homestyle meatloaf, dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. Complete overkill, but quite tasty. I think I might enjoy the meatloaf more if it were served in a more traditional manner.
Meatloaf fries crispy tempura
ketchup & black pepper beef gravy
At this point, after only two courses, I was getting full. The next two dishes that arrived were thankfully somewhat lighter. Yes, the pork belly seemed lighter than the meatloaf, probably because it hadn't been deep fried. Not that there's anything wrong with deep frying....

There was a nice ratio of fat to meat on the chubby chunk of belly, which can sometimes seem too fatty. (Not that there's anything wrong with fatty....) The brown sugar topping added a perfect amount of sweetness and married well with the toasted pecans. My favorite dish of the evening.
Brown sugar pork belly, petite greens, toasted pecans,
cherry tomatoes, bangin’ honey mustard vinaigrette

We also ordered the chopped salad, which the kitchen thoughtfully split for us. It wasn't quite a chopped salad, as the lettuce was whole and the sprouts were cut in half, but it was an interesting combination of flavors, and quite autumnal. I thought it was odd that the sprouts were warm, and everything else was at room temperature, and felt the macadamia nut crumble was merely a texture and not a flavor, but Mr Minx gobbled it up. And he's not a fan of either beets or cooked carrots.
Chopped salad lemon cream cheese, roasted brussels, beets, 
carrots, mac nut crumble, cranberry vinaigrette
Finally, we shared the Pat LaFrieda burger, which the kitchen again split for us. The saltiness of the bacon predominated, rendering even the pickles mute. But the meat was perfectly cooked, and the bun held up to the large amount of filling. The crinkle cut fries on the side were a touch of nostalgia.
Pat LaFrieda Burger diced bacon, lettuce, tomato, 
onion, sesame bun, cheese, pickles
And then we ordered dessert. I was tempted by the sound of pumpkin cannoli, but would have preferred a single large cannoli to the three small ones. I'm more about the filling than the shell, which was a bit dry and dense.
Pumpkin Cannoli
Mr Minx ordered the Heath bar bread pudding, which was lovely and moist, but far too sweet for my taste. The plain whipped cream was a welcome relief from the sugar overload, although it's probably odd to look to a pile of what is essentially whipped fat to lighten anything.
Heath bar bread pudding
I have mixed emotions about the Food Market. I love the concept, always love small plates, but think it really takes some advance knowledge of the dishes to put together a meal that feels like a meal, rather than a sundry combination of snack foods (granted, we did perhaps order oddly). Several of the diners around us were ordering big plates only, which might be the way to go. And speaking of other diners - the tables are fairly close together, so it's easy to overhear conversations. For instance, the table of annoyingly giggly female 20-somethings to our left threw out a few bons mots, my favorite being, "ooh...the Baltimore Club looks really good. Except for the shrimp salad." (A Baltimore club is generally a crabcake paired with shrimp salad. Without the shrimp salad, it's a crab cake sandwich.)

That said, I'd like to go back and try a few more things. The pork belly was seriously good (everything was, in its own way), and both the cracker fried oysters and lil' lamb porterhouses seem like items I'd really enjoy. And they have scallops, which almost always turns me on.

The Food Market
1017 West 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
(410) 366-0606

The Food Market on Urbanspoon

Posted on

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shellback Caribbean Rum

When I was offered the opportunity to sample Shellback rum, I jumped at the chance. Rum has long been one of my favorite spirits, and the closer we get to Christmas, the more spirits come in handy. If you catch my drift.

You might be wondering what a "shellback" is, exactly. No, it's not a turtle. A shellback is "an experienced sailor, revered for his nautical progression and courage, who has achieved the landmark triumph of crossing the equator." I am far from a shellback myself, having never been remotely close to the equator. However, I have been to the Caribbean, and I likes me rum. Aaarrr!

There are two Shellback rums: Silver, a lovely smooth spirit with a delightful vanilla nose; and Spiced, which is flavored with cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, cassia, allspice, and vanilla. The spicing is subtle, but there's also a bite that I like quite a bit. They're both nice with a bit of cola, but even better with ginger ale. And of course there are several yummy-sounding recipes for both Shellback rums on the Shellback Web site, like Hot Buttered Cider and the Bloody Money.

Shellback Spiced Rum and Ginger Ale
Shellback has recently become available in Maryland, and can be purchased at a liquor store near you (call for availability) including Beltway Fine Wines. Personally, I think they'd make a terrific holiday gift for friends and family members who enjoy a tipple now and again (as I do), and I'm sure they'd be amazing used to booze up a fruitcake.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats.

Posted on

Monday, December 10, 2012

Brussels Sprout Hash

In the same week I spotted this recipe for brussels sprout hash at Serious Eats, we purchased a tree-trunk-sized branch o' brussels sprouts at the supermarket. There are a lot of sprouts on one of those branches, and while I really didn't want to be eating them every night for a week, it was a much better deal than purchasing one of those little cups of sprouts or buying them loose (6x as many sprouts for $2 more).

Since I had decided that hash was a fine idea, I pushed the whole lot of them through the shredding blade on the food processor. Half of them were put into a freezer bag and tucked away for another time, and the rest went into a large saute pan with a mess of onions and some olive oil. I thought that bacon would be a great addition to the hash, but as we didn't have any, I had to find an alternative.

Meanwhile, I popped a couple of pork tenderloins in the SousVide Supreme. Mr Minx had suggested that I use Asian flavors on the pork. I knew there would be leftovers, so to keep the meat somewhat neutrally-flavored, I seasoned them fairly simply with tons of garlic, a good tablespoon or so of freshly grated ginger, and an equal amount of gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes). That way, we could eat the leftovers as tacos or in a pasta sauce as well as fried rice or a stir fry. I also made a simple dipping sauce for the meat with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.

Because I was now leaning in a vaguely-Asian direction, I chopped up some Chinese sausage and fried it until crispy. When the hash was cooked, I stirred in the sausage.

Eventually, all of the elements came together. After five hours of cooking at 135F, the pork was lightly pink inside and extremely juicy and tender. The garlic and ginger flavor had permeated the meat, and even the flavor of the gochugaru (although not the heat - it's a fairly mild pepper) was obvious. The hash was delicious - it reminded me a bit of sauerkraut in texture, although of course it was not sour - and would make a really nice accompaniment to a holiday turkey dinner. We rounded out the meal with some mashed potatoes, and a simple salad of julienned apple seasoned with several tablespoons of lemon juice.

There were leftover sprouts, which we ate the next morning topped with fried eggs, in a variation of the Serious Eats recipe.

Brussels Sprouts Hash

1 cup sliced onion
olive oil
pinch salt
2 Chinese sausages, skinned, quartered, and sliced
3 cups finely shredded brussels sprouts (about 1 lb), rinsed and drained
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan set over medium heat, cook onion in a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt until soft and starting to brown. Remove onions from pan and add sausage. Turn up heat and cook sausage, stirring regularly, until sizzling and brown. Remove sausage from pan and set aside.

Return onions to pan. Add brussels sprouts and an additional tablespoon of olive oil. Stir well, then cover pan and turn heat down to medium. Cook until sprouts have wilted and softened, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

Serve topped with reserved Chinese sausage.

Serves 4.

Posted on

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 5 Recap

This week's Quickfire Challenge might be considered cruel and unusual punishment, as the sleepy cheftestants had to rouse themselves at 3:45 AM and get to the famous Pike Place Market, home of flying fish and the original Starbucks outpost.

Not only that, but it's Stefan's 40th birthday. (A belated happy birthday to Stefan!) He's worried that the "birthday curse" that struck down so many of his teammates in season 5 may resurface this season just for him.

Padma greets them in her jammies and a sour look on her face. She's accompanied by the much more chipper Daisley Gordon, who happens to have two establishments at the Market. Apparently he thinks it's a swell idea for the cheftestants to cook breakfast for the farmers' market vendors who will be arriving shortly.

The catch - breakfast must be on a stick. Another catch - it's a team challenge. The fourteen cheftestants must pick a partner with whom to work. It's still pretty early on in the competition, so not everyone is not pal-sy yet. (Pal-sy, not palsy, dammit. Ok. Friendly.)  Josie ends up with Eliza, who learns that Josie is a "my way or the highway" type of person.

An even worse pairing is the Mustache and TMHCiD; we already know they hate each other's guts. Either that, or are in love with each other but can't admit it just yet. (It's the mustache, I'm sure.) Stefan, surprisingly, doesn't pick Kristen, but he does get a pretty girl in Brooke. (I wonder why he hasn't started hitting on the only obvious lesbian in the group, Josie. Is it because she's taller than he is? Or is it because he's also a "my way or the highway" person and their highways are going in different directions?)

Daisley provides a pantry of ingredients for the cheftestants, but they have to set up their own "kitchens" with equipment from the nearby Sur la Table and $500. And everything - including the cooking - must be achieved in 45 minutes. Rush rush hurry hurry! Big Belgian Bart slips and falls with his panini press and it conks out while he and Sheldon are trying to cook their "green forest" breakfast sandwiches. Other cheftestants are making crepes, pancakes, or tacos, except for Lizzie and Danyele, who manage to grab only pancetta and berries from the pantry table so can't really make much of interest.

Time goes fast, especially when 50 portions are needed, and soon the hungry hordes are shoving skewers into their mouths. I have to wonder how many people stabbed themselves that morning. Soon, sleepy Padma and Daisley, who have tasted all of the wares, give the verdict. Josie and Eliza's pancake stack on a stick is a disappointment, and Lizzie and Danyele's meagre berry offering fares likewise. On top are, surprisingly, TMHCiD and Mustache, and Sheldon and Bart, who get the win despite the broken panini press. They also get immunity from elimination in the next challenge, and believe me - they will need it.

Everyone will, actually. The next challenge stymies all and sundry. The cheftestants must remain in their incompatible pairings and create a dish using one of the more unusual ingredients produced by market vendors. They draw knives to see who gets stuck with the rose petal jam and who gets stuck with the salmon candy, and then have to get to work immediately. There's no day of rest this time, no day of shopping and napping. They're making lunch, and it needs to be served in two hours.

This time, the market itself serves as the chefs' pantry, and they run around picking up both the theme ingredient of their dish, and other stuff they might need. They cook their grub at Marché, which is one of Daisley's restaurants. The kitchen can't accommodate fourteen chefs working at once, so four teams get to work first while the others heckle them. At this point we really get to see how dysfunctional some of the teams really are. Mustache and TMHCiD realize that this challenge is important, and do their best not to get on each other's nerves. They politely agree with the other, despite not really agreeing. Mustache isn't keen on the idea of cutting a pork tenderloin into steaks before searing it, but he does it because TMHCiD suggested it. He's also not thrilled with TMHCiD's grits, but he claims they're fine. Oh boy.

Team CJ and Tyler seem to get along fine, but CJ, despite having only one testicle, has some real cojones. Their team has to work with spicy dill pickles, so he suggests a pork burger. Tyler counters with a chowder garnished with pickle fritters, which sounds outside-the-box and daring, but CJ insists that if they do something other than a burger, Tom will say "why not make a simple burger to highlight the pickle?" Tyler, who has adopted the "I can't do anything right" attitude of every child's favorite cranky donkey, Eeyore, can't argue his point. Although he should.

Meanwhile, Padma, who doesn't get to change out of her jammies or comb her hair, is joined by Hugh, Gail, Tom, and the artisans who produced the special ingredients being maltreated used by the chefs. The first four Dysfunctional Duos emerge from the kitchen and present their dishes. And each one is a huge fail.

Stefan and Brooke had rose petal jam, which they used for a glaze on a tough duck breast and as a sauce on cloyingly sweet red cabbage. Uh-oh. Stefan doesn't seem to have any mojo this season. TMHCiD and Mustache get a thumb's down on both the grits and pork elements of their dish, with the added criticism that they didn't use the truffled popcorn particularly interestingly. Micah and Kristen, who had to use cheese curds in their dish, killed the ingredient. And I mean that in a literal, death sorta way. Finally, Sheldon and Bart present their salmon candy with sweet and sour salad that doesn't have enough salmon in it. They actually seemed to get the least amount of criticism, but its still good they have immunity.

While the tasting is going on, the other three teams are in the kitchen. Josie seems particularly impatient with Eliza, who just wants to be allowed to cook something. They're using cardamom bitters, and it annoys me that Josie says "cardamoN" every time. When it's their time to present, their dish gets dinged for being too fishy. And dirty - Padma gets sand in one mouthful, while Gail gets a rock. That'll learn ya to clean your shellfish properly, folks! Lizzie and Danyele have made a dessert with the special chocolate they're assigned, and the judges are all appalled. Hard to mess up chocolate, but they have managed quite well. Finally, CJ and Tyler's pork burger is judged. For some odd reason, they chose to put it on a crumpet, which is extremely porous (think untoasted English muffin) and became soggy fast. Tom thought they should have been more imaginative than a burger.

The lunch was an unmitigated disaster, and the judges felt bad for the artisans whose products were so horribly tortured in the name of lunch. Tom is in a snit and declares that nobody will win the challenge or the 10K bonus prize and stomps into the stew room to let the cheftestants have a piece of his mind. He tells them that they suck and that a whole team will be going home for its suckitude. And they'll be further tortured by having to wait until the next day to find out who is going home. The chefs cry.

The next day, Tyler continues to Eeyore, saying if it's his time to go, it's his time to go. This pisses Mustache off for some reason. Guess he doesn't think it's his time to go if it's his time go? Will Seattle's Finest (no, that's not a brand of coffee) need to be called in to escort him off the set when it is indeed his time to go?

The cheftestants head off to the guillotine, but only three of the teams are actually at risk - CJ and Tyler, Stefan and Brooke, and TMHCiD and Mustache. Stefan is shitting his pants over the "birthday curse," and Brooke isn't particularly pleased at the prospect of sharing his potentially bad karma. I'm hoping that TMHCiD and Mustache are sent home. "John" and "Josh" are so much easier to type, but since I've started calling them TMHCiD and Mustache, I feel like I have to stick with it the whole way. So it's just better for me if they both go.

But that's not the way it goes down. While Tom and the gang hated - hated - their pork and grits, and they hated - hated - Stefan's overly-sweet cabbage that tasted like someone's grandmother, they despised - despised - CJ's pork burger. Tom says, "why did you do something so moronically simple as a burger?" and CJ says, "but I heard you in my head, saying that I should do something moronically simple like a burger." Nobody laughs. CJ then asks if the judges liked the dessert that Lizzie and Danyele made, because he thought it was an "abhorrence," which of course is a feeling and not a thing, but we can't expect chefs to be as facile with language as they are with a knife. Hugh said maybe so, but the burger was worse. Ouch.

The judges can't make up their mind who to send home. One of them really hates Stefan's dish, one loathes TMHCiD's, and one wants to gouge his eyes out at the thought of CJ's. Gail has to be the tiebreaker. She apparently chooses the pork burger, because CJ and Eeyore are sent home. Too bad. I feel sorry for Tyler; unfortunately, he doesn't have half the balls that CJ has, and arguing against that burger might have saved them. Or...his chowder may well have sucked, too.

Two more chefs down - twelve to go!

Posted on

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Michelin Guide Apps for Apple

Michelin (yes, the tire company) has been putting out their famous Red Guide, the oldest and best-known European hotel and restaurant guide, since the turn of the last century. In 2005, Michelin came to the US with the publication of their first New York Guide, and later added San Francisco and Chicago to their repertoire.

The books are fantastic, but people on the go might appreciate the new phone apps. While they're not available for Android users just yet, Apple users can check out the new Michelin Guides 2013 for San Francisco, New York, and Chicago on their iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads by downloading the new Michelin apps from the iTunes store.

Normally $4.99 each, this week only they're available for $.99 each.

Once you've downloaded your apps, make sure to like the Michelin Guides on Facebook to participate in a Virtual App Tour this Friday, December 7th at 12pm EST. The tour will focus on each city's app and how it functions. There will also be a daily Instagram contest, starting today, with 10 free apps given away each day.

Speaking of Michelin Stars, congrats to one-time Next Iron Chef contestant Dominique Crenn for the two-star rating of her San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn. This makes her the first female chef in the US to earn two Stars - quite the honor.

Posted on

Tyler Florence in Baltimore

Food Network's Tyler Florence has a new cookbook - hot off the presses yesterday - and will be in the Baltimore area to promote it. In Tyler Florence Fresh, he shows that using fresh, unprocessed foods, whether from the farmers' market or the grocery store, is easier than one might think.

Tyler will be at the Williams-Sonoma in Annapolis at 12pm on Saturday, December 8th, and at 6pm that same evening, he'll be at the Wegman's in Hunt Valley.

To whet your whistle, here's a recipe from the book. As soon as I get my hands on some smoked olive oil (even if I have to do it myself) I'm trying it.

serves 2-4

1 whole (3-1/2-pound) free-range chicken
1/2 cup smoked olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1-1/2 pounds baby creamer potatoes
in assorted colors

Citrus Salsa
2 limes
1 navel orange
1 grapefruit
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 breakfast radishes
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Flowering cilantro buds
Fleur de sel

Roast the chicken. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone and discard it. Flatten the chicken and cut it in half through the breast so you have two halves—each with a leg and breast. Rub all over with some of the smoked olive oil, ensuring it gets in all the crevices. Season all over with salt and pepper.

Set the chicken in a large roasting pan over two burners and heat over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chicken halves skin-side down and sear for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over, add the potatoes to the pan, and drizzle with more smoked olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the joint between the thigh and drumstick reads 160° to 165°F. The potatoes should be golden on the outside and tender in the middle. Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes.

Make the citrus salsa. Use a sharp knife to cut away the rind and pith from each of the citrus fruits. Holding the fruit over a bowl, carefully cut between the membranes to free the segments. Let the juices and segments fall into the bowl. Add about   cup extra-virgin olive oil to the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cut the radishes into very fine matchsticks on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Fold them into the citrus salsa, and add the chives.

Serve the roasted chicken with the potatoes and citrus salsa, and garnish with flowering cilantro. Season with fleur de sel.

Posted on