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It’s not elitism, we really do eat better stuff.


A beefy take on a classic Pozole

A cold weekend in Detroit with a hankering for Taqueria Lupita's Pozole and a couple pounds of interesting beef parts on hand, with a soup pot in hand and a couple hours before dinner, I came up with the following hearty, warming take on the traditional Mexican dish: the goods:
  • water
  • salt
  • 1lb beef tripe
  • 1lb beef neck
  • 1 qt beef stock
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 tbl tomato paste
  • 2 tbl adobo paste *
  • 15 oz lima beans
  • 3/4 c lime juice (3 limes worth)
  • 3 tbl butter
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1 tsp aleppo pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage, cole slaw sized sliced
  • Fresh cilantro & additional limes for a zesty garnish, as much as you enjoy.
  • Hot sauce as desired
The method: The number one ingredient in this dish is time. It's one of those set and forget slow cook dishes perfect for a weekend where one needs to concentrate on activities outside of the kitchen. Set aside at least 3 hours of simmering time to allow the tripe to soften and let all the delicious bits of the neck bones melt into and thicken the broth. Start the soup pot on medium, melt the butter and add the diced onion & shallots. When the onions are translucent, increase the add the neck bones and cubed tripe, as well as the beef stock. Add water as needed to keep everything covered.  Adjust the heat as needed to keep everything at a tremble. Add the adobo, tomato paste and 1/2 the dry seasonings, reserving the rest. Simmer for two hours or more, give it an occasional stir ad add just enough water to cover the bones and tripe as needed. 30 minutes before serving, add the remaining seasonings, lime juice, lima beans (taking the place of the hominy) and the cabbage, keeping everything at a tremble and stirring as needed. Remove from heat after 15 minutes or when the cabbage is just tender. Remove the neck bones and scrape any clinging muscle away, returning it to the soup. Scoop into serving bowls, garnish with cilantro and a lime wedge. Additional raw cabbage is nice for texture, too. Add heat from your favorite hot sauce as desired. As with any soup or stew, this one is even better on the second day and will freeze and reheat without loss of fidelity. Enjoy! -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Haute Beer?

Beer makers have long brewed merely for dudes that just drink beer, and not with food pairing in mind. While in some cases this still makes for a great beverage to pair with food, a good portion of the time this is not the case. Especially here in the U.S. where brewers tend to take traditional styles and amp them up in some way. A good example of this the classic British style the Pale Ale. Medium bodied with a subtle but pronounced maltiness balanced by a mild hop bite, the benchmark of this style is undisputedly Bass. Enter the American Pale Ale... typically lighter in color, equal in body and malt, but way more hops than their counterparts across the pond, Seirra Nevada is probably the ambassador of this offshoot. Other specimens of this phenomenon abound, from Russian Imperial Stouts that drink like motor oil (Old Rasputin) to IPA's that are little more than alcoholic hop flavored beverages (Two Heart). Don't get me wrong, this is not always a bad thing. I'm quite fond of a lot of these over-the-top American interpretations of classic European styles, and in fact Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale is one of my favorite domestic beers. The fact remains, however, these steroid-jacked iterations are often too much beer to successfully pair with any food outside of the realm of pizza. Fear not, though, foodies of the world, as there seems to be a growing number of breweries that are taking food and beverage pairing into account when formulating recipes. Realizing finally what the French have known for centuries, that a beverage can enhance the food it's paired with, and vice versa, a few breweries across the globe have started to embrace this concept. Chefs as well are starting to notice the potential beer holds as an alternative to wine as a beverage to pair with their creations, adding a new spin, more variety,and deeper complexity to the traditional pairing options. In fact there are a couple world renown Chefs that are joining forces with breweries with this goal in mind. To help the breweries understand what the Chef wants to see, what their food needs as far as pairing is concerned, and to help the Chefs understand how the breweries accomplish this. Ferran Adria, known the world over for his ground breaking mad scientist approach to food with his impossible to get into restaurant in Spain, El Bulli, is one such Chef and probably lead the charge. He brought his sommelier team to Estrella Damm brewery and met with their brewmasters. The result of this alliance was "Inedit". A medium bodied, golden-amber colored beer flavored with orange peel, liquorice, and coriander, it goes well with a vast array of foods. From shellfish to light game to salads and charcuterie, the pairing choices are myriad. The breweries website, and accompanying YouTube videos describe the flavors and proper serving methods better than I could, so I've included a link at the end. The only foods I'd avoid serving with this are those with big flavors, such as red meats, grilled or brasied meats, stronger game like venison and bear, ect. For those items, there is another... The brewers at Rogue combined forces with another titan in the food world, Masaharu Morimoto, to come up with their Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale. We've enjoyed this at more than one meeting of the Estate and I've touted it's excellence more than once here, so to avoid sounding like a broken record (or obsessed fan-boy) I'll simply include links to those write ups at the end. There are many other chefs that are getting as involved as Ferran Adria and Morimoto. Does the name Thomas Keller ring a bell? Yes, he's been serving beers as the beverage pairing for certain courses at the French Laundry and Per Se for quite some time now, and in fact his chef at Per Se got together with the local team at the Brooklyn Brewery to craft a brown ale to go in a holiday gift basket for their investors and they had plenty left over to go on the menus at Per Se, the French Laundry and other Keller restaurants. It was so successful their will be more to come from that collaboration. It seems my favorite beverage is finally getting the recognition and status it deserves, putting it firmly in the "luxury" category of beverages due to the myriad of craft breweries springing up that take their beer every bit as serious as the vineyards of Bordeaux. As a chef, beer nut, and home-brewer I've been touting the merits of beer as a potential equal to wine as a food pairing beverage for nearly a decade. In my early tenure writing for this site I dedicated a post to it (link below). This follow up was inspired by a meal we had last month featuring several beer and wine pairings. A meal that also inspired my last two posts... yeah... it was pretty epic... It is one of my fondest hopes that more brewhouses hear this call and join the charge, and more chefs see this potential and encourage it. The result will further the development of both disciplines and produce a more open dialog between brewers and chefs. More fine beers listed on menus under "recommended beverages" for each dish, the exploration of new culinary territory, and a greater sense of pride for all involved. Who won't benefit from that? Jack

The Making of a Great Couple

The featured wines of the evening

Ian and his wife Linda recently made a trip to the northern Michigan wine country of Old Mission peninsula and brought back a pirates cache of wines. So, the mission he set before us, should we choose to accept it, would be to construct a menu around four of the wines they brought back. He sent us the list with the tasting notes and pretty much said, "go crazy!" Due to extenuating circumstances I ended up planning most of the meal. It was a huge learning experience on my part, as I'd never really started with the beverages as the impetus for creating a menu. This did not intimidate me, however, I saw it more as a challenge, and challenges are always a learning experience. At our meetings it's usually a given that once a menu is set Ian will bring wine pairings and I'll have beer pairings in tow, but since the focus of the evening was the food/wine interactions, I thought it best to leave it alone and approach the barley derived offerings from a different angle. I used them as intermezzos, rather than to pair with the dishes on the table. My concept was to use them to bridge the gap between courses, and create a flow of interconnected flavors with each dish and it's wine accompaniment.

Little cups of seawater, naturally self contained, needing little to no alteration...

The first course, as requested by Ian, would be oysters to pair with Chateau Chantal's "Tonight". A slightly sweeter than usual sparkler. With a drop or 2 of Tabasco on the Blue Points that were selected to counter the sweetness of the beverage (and because Tabasco on Blue Points just kicks ass) the mollusks and fizzy made a great couple. The brine of the oysters, the acidity and slight kick of the Tabasco countered and complimented the mild acids, sweetness and carbonation of the sparkling wine. Course one down, and a great success.

The first two beers of the evening.

To lead us into the next course I chose a beer from the Rogue brewery. Their Chipotle Ale, a light beer in Mexican style with mild smoke from the peppers and almost unnoticeable heat. The spice tied into the Tabasco used on the oysters and the smokiness was a crescendo into the curry used in the next food/wine selection. The next offering may have been the star of the meal. An Asian style soup, leaning heavily on Thai influences, that included pork loin, madras curry, a carefully selected small variety of vegetables, and coconut milk. Garnished with fresh cilantro, Bosc pear battons, crushed toasted cashews, and thinly sliced scallions, it met the wine chosen (Brys Estate Gewurztraminer) and it was love at first bite. The wine is a semi-sweet, so I used lime zest in the recipe, rather than juice, since the wine had it's own balance already. So I knew adding the lime juice, and all the acid that comes with it, to the soup could possibly over power the mild acidity of the wine. Lemongrass would be another option, and equally well suited, but I didn't see any when I hit the market. The sweetness of the pears and the brightness of the cilantro made the semi-sweet wine dance on the tongue, while the curry played well with the nose and mild dryness. The toasted cashews did their fair share, too, in bringing out the minute hint of oak in the wine that might otherwise have gotten lost in the melee. Without ever tasting the wine ahead of time, I'm happy to say I nailed this one! Everything about the pairing came together better than I could have hoped for! (Recipe for this soup here) The beer chosen to flow us into the next course was again a brew from Rogue. The Morimoto Black Obi Soba ale. Since I've already reviewed this one, I'll spare you the details, just click that link for tasting notes. It did it's job in tying the curry and pork into the next course. The mild notes of roasted nuts and caramel did well to tie the curry in the soup to the glaze on the roasted leg of lamb, the maple on the squash, and the cranberries in the risotto. (Review of this beer here) This was the main event. Mustard/Plum glazed roasted leg of Lamb, risotto of barley with Michigan cheddar and cranberries, and maple roasted spaghetti squash. This plate was built around the wine 2 Lads Cabernet Franc. While I would suggest using a smaller cut of lamb than a whole leg since not every bite gave the caramelized plum glaze that was the key to the pairing for the lamb and the wine, it still, by no means, sucked! Ian discovered this the hard way, as he went straight for the interior of the leg. Missing out on the glaze, he commented that the lamb wasn't matching the wine very well. Though, he recanted after scooping up some of the glaze in the bottom of the roasting pan, lamenting his decision to go solely for the less done cuts. Can't really say that I blame him though. Duck would be a great pairing as well, if done in a similar style. All that aside, the plate and the wine went together quite nicely. Not as well as the other courses, but by no means a failure. The fruit and berry in the nose and pallet of the wine mingled well with the plums, and cranberries on the plate, while the mustard and maple interacted with the mild tannins in the wine.

After the Lamb, and before dessert.

The next course was a beer chosen to be a pallet cleanser, leading into dessert. This was the wild card, as I had no clue what dessert would entail at this point, but I knew what to look for toward those ends. I was looking for something that was light, acidic, and possibly had some citrus related ingredients. I settled on Dogfish Head's Namaste. I had never had this one before, but by the label it seemed to fit the bill. A lighter beer brewed with coriander, orange peel, and lemongrass, it seemed only appropriate given all the Asian influences of the meal. Not nearly as 'over the top' as most offerings from that brewery, and as a palette cleanser, it did it's job well. By the time i finished a small glass of it I could no longer taste the lamb. Our resident baker, sadly, could not attend this time out, so dessert was a last minute purchase of apple-caramel crumb cake. "Anathema!" you might be screaming right now, especially if you've been following this site AT ALL! Even the best laid plans can fail, however... While not ideal, it did manage to play with the 45 North Peach Cremant well enough (though the spongy texture of the cake was very 'Twinkiesque'). 45 North's Peach Cremant is a light sparkler with white peach juice, so it paired with the apple and caramel sufficiently. Though, by the end of the meal we were almost on overload so the simplicity was probably a good thing. To be honest, I was really hoping to completely miss the mark at least once. Insane, say you? Why would I possibly want to disappoint THIS crowd?! It would have taught me what NOT to do in food/wine pairing, which can sometimes be a more valuable lesson than getting it right. It is my hope that this post gives you a better understanding of the intricacies of food and beverage pairings. Many factors need to be carefully considered to find that perfect match, if such a thing exists. Oak, acid, specific fruits, specific nut, specific berry, and even "dust" flavors are all terms that have been used in wine tasting notes, so the foods paired with them need to ebb and flow with the beverages. Even cooking technique needs to be considered. Coffee and peach? Might sound like an odd pair, but not if you grill the peaches! As we did this summer on our pizza night with a grilled peach turnover and vanilla ice cream paired with a coffee stout. The coffee amped up the vanilla and grilled flavors to a "punch in the mouth" level and the sweetness of the stout put the caramelized peaches on a pedestal. So here's to learning experiences! I hope you have a few of your own in the kitchen. Jack... (Click here for the full photo gallery of this meal) Chateau Chantal Rogue Chipotle Ale Brys Estate Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale 2 Lads Cab Franc Dogfish Head Namaste 45 North Peach Cremant

Flavors That Thai Together

At a recent meeting of the Estate Ian challenged us to come up with a menu around 4 Michigan wines he chose. More details on the menu and wines will be forthcoming. Today I'll be focusing on the soup course, as this recipe was the star of the show, it seemed. Drawing heavily on Thai influences I came up with this pork and coconut milk concoction to pair with Brys Estate Gewurztraminer out of Old Mission peninsula in northern Michigan. Ingredients: 2 quarts chicken stock 14 oz. (1 can) coconut milk 2 ribs of celery, cut in half length wise and sliced thin on a bias 1 carrot, peeled, cut in half length wise and sliced thin on a bias 1 leek, white part only, rinsed, cut in half length wise and sliced very thin 4 small heads of Choy Sum, greens trimmed and chiffonade, whites sliced thin (baby Bok Choy will work as well) (See my chiffonade demonstration here) 2 tablespoons grated Ginger root 6 oz. dry Vermouth 4 tablespoons Madras curry paste 1 pound center cut Pork loin, cut into 1/4 inch x 1/2 inch x 1 inch strips 8 oz. Shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and caps sliced into strips 6 oz. scallion, sliced thin on a bias 1 Bosc pear, cut into batons or very small cubes (hold in cold water with a little lime juice to prevent oxidation) 6 oz. fresh chopped Cilantro 2 tablespoons light oil 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil Zest of 1 large Lime, or 2 small Limes Fish sauce to taste 1/2 pound toasted Cashews, crushed Procedure:

Sweating the veg components

If you go with bone in pork loin, remove the bones and place in a pot with the chicken stock and discarded Shiitake stems and bring to a simmer for at least 1 hour. In a large heavy bottomed pot add the oils and place over medium heat. Once the oils are heated, add the celery, carrot, leek, shiitake caps, and choy sum whites. Saute over medium heat until soft but not browned. Crank the heat up and add the ginger and curry. Saute for 1 minute, until very fragrant, and deglaze with the vermouth. Reduce the vermouth by half then add the coconut milk, lime zest, and strained chicken stock.

The pork goes in for a quick simmer

Once the soup has come back to a simmer, add the pork and fish sauce for salt to taste and simmer for 1 minute before adding the choy sum greens and remove from heat. Allow the soup to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Simmering too long once the pork is added will over cook it and you'll have little strips of drywall floating in the soup, so timing is key on that part. I firmly believe there should be a special prison for people who over cook pork... Or any meat, for that matter.

Garnishing the serving bowls

For service, place equal quantities of the scallion, Bosc pear, and cilantro in the bottom of the serving bowls, and pour the hot soup over the garnish. Top with a sprinkle of toasted cashews and serve. Serves 8 people as a course in a larger menu, less if chosen as a main.

Crushed cashews for a finishing touch

The way I handled the garnish on this dish once again reflects my practice of choosing and implementing garnishes that tie into the dish in a much more intricate way than simply adding color. The sweetness of the pears, the crunch of the cashews and the brightness of the fresh cilantro all added at the very end elevated this soup and further blended the flavors with the wine it was built around. My next post will be a more detailed account of the whole spread and how the food and beverage pairings interacted, elaborating on the photo gallery already posted. As always, feel free to post any questions or comments. Jack

Fatty, Ducky Goodness!

At a recent R.E. meeting I went a little overboard on the decadence quotient... I did a duck dish with whole ducks prepared 2 ways, and it was one of the best meals we've done to date. Pan seared breast and a confit of the leg. In this post I'll be focusing on the confit. It's a long process, but don't let that scare you, it's well worth it! Easy, relatively cheap, and one of the greatest culinary delights you will ever encounter. Duck is my favorite bird, hands down. The breast is like steak and the leg is heavenly. So here's my recipe for duck leg confit. Ingredients: 4 raw duck legs 1 pound dark brown sugar 1 pound kosher salt 4 oz. ginger, sliced Peel of 2 oranges 10 thyme stems, whole 5 garlic cloves 10 juniper berries 8 black peppercorns Rendered fat of 2 ducks (all but the skin on the legs) Lard and/or bacon fat if needed (and it might be) Procedure: Pat the legs dry and set aside. Mix the brown sugar and kosher salt well and in the bottom of a container that will fit all four legs without touching, layer in and pat down gently half of the mixture. Place the duck legs on top and press in gently, then cover with the remaining mixture. Place in the refrigerator and place a light weight on top (I used the pan containing the 4 breasts, but a pan full of ice will suffice) and leave to cure for 6 hours. While the legs are curing, strip the skin and fat off of the duck carcasses, cut into small pieces, and place in a pot over low heat. Render out as much fat as possible, strain out the remaining skin and refrigerate for later use. After the 6 hours, rinse the legs clean under cold running water and pat dry again. Store in the cold box until ready to use (within the day).

Legs in the pan, ready for broiling.

Place the garlic, sliced ginger, orange peel, and peppercorns in the bottom of a cake pan with high enough walls to rise above the legs. In another pan on the stove, melt the reserved duck fat over low heat. Place the legs in the pan with garlic, ginger and orange peel, skin side up, and put under the broiler until the skin is brown. Keep a constant eye on this part of the procedure, it will go from brown to black pretty quickly, but a little black won't ruin it. Once browned, pour in the warmed duck fat. If the fat does not cover the legs by at least 3/4 add more by means of bacon fat (preferred) or lard, or both. Toss in the juniper and thyme. Once the pan has cooled a bit from the broiling, cover with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and put in a 225 F degree oven for 3 hours. At this point pull it out every 20 minutes or so and check on it. If the leg bone does not twist out of the meat with little pressure from a pair of tongs, it's not ready yet. Ours went for close to 4 hours before it was done.

Browned legs with the reserved duck fat, bacon fat, and lard added. Try not to touch yourslef if there are children present...

At this point you can store it in the 'frige or freezer for up to 6 months, but once you've tasted it, I doubt it will last the rest of the evening! Pull the legs out once they're cool enough to handle and pull the meat from the bones. It should fall off with little to no effort. The meat can be added to pretty much anything with stunningly great effect! Or just eat it by it's self with appropriate sides! Or hell, eat it by it's self! I tossed it into a saute of mushrooms, onions, roasted redskin potatoes, toasted pecans, dried cherries, wilted spinach, and a port wine and duck stock pan sauce... (if you're lucky I might just post that recipe too...) topped with a spiced and seared duck breast... Yeah, we are THAT crazy-decadent at R.E.!

The finished Confit. A gentle twist of that bone sticking out will tell you when it's done.

It may be a long process, (up to 12 hours long...) but do NOT let that deter you! It's well worth the time involved, and you can blow the socks off of any guests you might have for a dinner party! At our gathering I think only about half of the finished product was used in the featured dish... the rest was gobbled straight out of the fat! This served 4 people, for 2 just cut the recipe in half. This is probably the most affordable of all the pillars of fine dining and haute cuisine... More time involved, sure, but time well spent! The next best thing to Foie Gras, in my opinion, and way more affordable! So go buy a fuckin duck already! The breasts are perfect medium rare, and combined with this recipe, are a great way to showcase the versatility of the bird. Jack