Category Archives: Food & Booze

Bored Stiff With Brussels Sprouts

I love Brussels sprouts, but I was getting a little bored with the usual preparations.  Here’s the alternative.

Brussels Sprouts

1/2 pound bacon

1 pound brussels sprouts

2 large shallots

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons maple syrup

salt and pepper

1 pomegranate (optional)

    1. In a large saute pan, cook the bacon until crispy, remove to a cutting board (don’t drain) and dice.
    2. Pour off the bacon fat and wipe out the pan with a paper towel, but don’t wash.
    3. Cut off the stem end of the brussels sprouts and place any loose leaves into a large mixing bowl.
    4. Slice the brussels sprouts thin with a knife or with mandolin, peel shallots and slice into the thinnest rings possible and add both to the bowl.
    5. Drizzle olive oil and maple syrup into the bowl and toss everything to coat evenly.
    6. Return pan to  high heat until almost smoking.
    7. Working in small batches, fry sprouts, seasoning with salt and pepper.
    8. Plate sprouts in a mound and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

    Mini Mac And Cheese

    I realize my mac and cheese recipe is a beast, so I am fine tuning it for people who don’t want a 30-pound batch (fools). This one (barely) fits in a standard 8×8 Pyrex baking dish. With the proper cheddar, it is probably the best mac and cheese in the entire world.

    Macaroni and Cheese

    3/4 pound elbow pasta
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for the dish
    1.5 cup panko flakes
    1 pound extra sharp cheddar
    4 ounces Monterrey Jack
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1.5 cups whole milk
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1 rounded teaspoon dijon mustard
    1 teaspoon sriracha (or other hot sauce)
    Optional: 1/2 cup cooked mushrooms, chorizo, or cubed ham; a handfull of fried shallots or crumbled bacon.

    • Note 1: the only salt used is in the pasta water, so season the water before adding noodles.
    • Note 2: In place of a baking dish, you can use several ramekins for individual portions. These can also be frozen before baking.

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, butter a square Pyrex baking dish and grate cheese while pasta cooks.
    2. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.
    3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and integrate the panko and one cup of cheese. Remove from pan and set aside.
    4. Return the pan to the stove and melt the remaining butter.
    5. Add flour and pepper and stir constantly over medium heat for three minutes.
    6. Whisk in milk, bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly and simmer for 3-5 minutes to thicken.
    7. Add cream, cheese, mustard, sriracha and pasta water, and turn off the burner. Stir until sauce is smooth.
    8. Incorporate the cooked pasta and pour into the buttered baking dish.
    9. Spread panko mixture across the top and bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbly.

    One Pan Brisket and Mash

    My intern demanded that if I were to justify her labor, she should learn a thing or two, so we made dinner together last night.  I had a 3.5 pound brisket in the freezer from Edgar (the grass-fed cow I split with friends) and she was craving mashed potatoes, so this is what we whipped up.  The whole meal was made with one pan and one bowl, so she wouldn’t have too many dishes to do.

    • 3.5 pound beef brisket
    • 1 bottle red wine (minus 2 glasses, which we drank)
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
    • 1 quart beef stock
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • All-purpose flour
    • 8 cloves garlic
    • 1 14-ounce bag frozen pearl onions
    • 4 yukon gold potatoes
    • 2 large shallots
    • 6 medium carrots
    • 3 celery stalks
    • 1 large sweet potato
    • 1 cup dried stone fruit
    • Fresh thyme, for garnish (mysteriously absent from these photos)
    1. Season the brisket all over with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (we used about 1 tablespoons each) and refrigerate for at least an hour.
    2. Set the oven to 350 and deal with peeling your veggies and cutting them into 1-inch pieces.
    3. In a large, oven-safe pan, simmer the wine and bay leaf over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half.  Discard the bay leaf, and add worchestershire sauce, and stock.  Pour the liquid into a non-reactive bowl and set aside.
    4. Return the pan to the stove, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and turn up to high.
    5. Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and dust with flour.  Once the oil is shimmering and nearly smoking, seer the meat for 4 minutes per side, until well browned.
    6. Remove the pan from heat, lift the brisket with a pair of tongs and pour the pearl onions and garlic into the roasting pan to form a single layer and then place the brisket on top.
    7. Pile the remaining veggies around the brisket and pour in the wine sauce.
    8. Cover the pan (foil is fine if it is too tall to put a lid on it) and put it in the oven until the meat it fork tender, about 2 hours.
    9. Remove the brisket to a board to rest for 10 minutes.
    10. While the meat rests, pour off and reserve the roasting liquid and mash the vegetables in the pan before plating (For gravy, return 1 pint of cooking liquid to the pan with a tablespoon of butter and a pinch each of basil, oregano and thyme.  Return to a simmer and whisk in 2 tablespoons flour,  simmering 7 or 8 more minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Season with salt and pepper as needed).
    11. Plate a flattened scoop of mash, topped with fanned slices of brisket, drizzle with gravy and garnish with fresh thyme.

    Street Food Survey

    Street food is a big deal all over the world, but right now it is especially a big deal in San Francisco. Last weekend was Eugeapalooza: the Streetcart Wars, this weekend is La Cocina’s Street Food Festival and next weekend is Eat Real Fest, not to mention Off the Grid which happens every Friday at Fort Mason and may be spreading to other neighborhoods soon.

    I’ve been threatening to quit my day job and sell food on the streets of San Francisco for a while now, and I need your guidance.

    [SURVEYS 1]

    My Lamb Takedown Experience

    I want to post a quick piece on what a great time I had before and during the Lamb Takedown last weekend. This was my first public cooking competition, and although I didn’t win, the experience of planning, cooking, serving and socializing was spectacular!

    Matt Timms, was the ideal organizer and deserves public recognition.  He put together the event, secured a perfect space at Thirsty Bear (with free drinks for the cooks!), got 300 pounds of lamb donated by American Lamb, which cut the costs to competitors greatly, as well as fabulous prizes, and he emceed the event in a way that kept everything running smoothly.  I never heard a single complaint, which is rare in a room with 250 foodies.

    My plan was to play to the versatility of lamb as a protein.  I tend to think of it, as many do, as a meat found primarily in Greek and Indian food, but really it works in so many ways. I crafted a very straightforward lamb meatball (well, 300 straightforward lamb meatballs) seasoned with shallots, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice that is really tasty on its own, but works with a broad spectrum of flavors.  To compliment, I produced a diverse array of sauces and slaw in every color of the rainbow (literally), plus beige and encouraged the eaters to customize them as they saw fit.

    I ultimately went with a red marinara, orange sweet and sour, roasted yellow pepper coulis, green mint yogurt, blueberry chili sauce, spicy purple slaw and a beige mushroom gravy. People would ask which was my favorite as they stepped up to the overwhelming selection of squeeze bottles, but I couldn’t pick just one, so I described the applications of each.  I told people that blueberry chili was only for the brave, which goaded a few into putting down the yogurt and giving it a try, and several came back to tell me that the blueberry was their surprise favorite.  I pushed the sweet and sour sauce, because I made a gallon by mistake, and encouraged the mint yogurt as a good balance to the heat of the slaw.

    I was fortunate enough to bring along two amazing and lovely assistants, Lizz and Sara who were a blast to hang out with and saved me from unforeseen disaster time and time again, and who rooted for me relentlessly when I wasn’t willing to do enough self-promotion. The highest praise I got was at the end of the day when a woman I believe to be the mother of the overall winner asked for a to-go cup of slaw to put on her son’s pulled pork sandwich later.  She told me not to tell him, because he makes his own slaw, but she would rather use mine.  A couple of professional chef competitors were complimentary as well, including one guy who said I must have cooked to meatballs sous vide to make them so moist, and I had to burst his bubble and tell him that I simply baked them.

    As things were wrapping up, several people stopped by on their way out to tell me that I got their vote, or that I was robbed, which totally made my day. I was utterly exhausted, but overwhelmingly delighted by the whole day and am looking forward to the next competitive culinary challenge.

    Lamb Meatballs

    I got great feedback on these meatballs yesterday, even from professional chefs who asked me about technique and seemed impressed, and one gal told me she loved them because they reminded her of her mother’s home cooking in India. I thought I would share the recipe.  It makes a big batch, but they freeze well.

    Lamb Meatballs

    makes 96 golf ball size meatballs

    • 5 large shallots, cut into pieces
    • 5 cloves garlic
    • 2 tablespoons bacon fat
    • 2 tablespoons cumin
    • 1 tablespoon allspice
    • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons coriander
    • 3 tablespoons salt
    • 2 tablespoons pepper
    • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 2/3 cups breadcrumbs
    • 5 pounds ground lamb

    Blend shallots and garlic in food processor until nearly a paste but still chunky.  Saute shallots and garlic in bacon fat for five minutes, until soft, but don’t allow to brown.  Add spices and stir for a couple minutes to make a paste.  Allow to cool for a few minutes so it doesn’t cook the eggs, then stir in syrup and eggs and then bread crumbs.  Incorporate thoroughly into the lamb and refrigerate one hour.

    Preheat oven to 375 and split the meat into 6 equal pieces, split each of those into 4 equal parts and then quarter those quarters and pack each into a sphere (Note, after the first few, you will get a sense for how the proper size feels in your hands and you can add from bigger ones to bolster the smaller ones). Arrange on two sheet pans and bake 12 minutes, flipping once half way through.

    Meatball Mayhem

    As posted last time, I’ll be competing in tomorrow’s Lamb Takedown.

    To emphasize the versatility of lamb, I’m making a straightforward meatball with a wide array of homemade sauce choices.

    So far, I’ve confirmed the following:

    • Red – Marinara
    • Orange – Sweet and Sour Sauce
    • Yellow– Roasted Pepper Coulis
    • Green – Yogurt Cucumber Mint Sauce
    • Blue – Blueberry Chili Sauce
    • Beige – Cream Gravy

    Possible additions include

    • White – Cheddar Cheese Sauce
    • Purple – Cabbage Slaw
    • Black – something berbere- or harissa-based

    San Fran Lamb Takedown

    I’ve been toying with the idea of leaving the desk job to sell meatballs from a cart.  I’ve never made a meatball in my life, but it seems totally reasonable.  I have also never cooked lamb before, so of course, rather than making a couple of dinners at home from tried and tested recipes that only I will taste, I decided to enter a contest instead.

    The Lamb Takedown will be happening Sunday August 8th at Thirsty Bear in San Francisco.  Tickets are only $15 and get you samples from the 20 different contestants, including my lamb meatballs with a rainbow array of sauce options.  Hope I see you there!  I’ve also started a new Twitter account @MobileMeatball

    Huevos Kibbutz

    Shakshouka is the Israeli equivalent of Huevos Rancheros or the Turkish dish Menemen. Here’s my take on the theme, which makes an amazing, complete breakfast that will impress.

    If you are expecting a date to end after breakfast, or you are having someone over for brunch and would rather hang out over coffee than over the stove, you can make this dish the night before, then just reheat it, crack in some eggs and toss it in the oven for a few minutes.

    This dish is also great because you can make with just one pan, one knife or a mandolin and one spoon.

    Huevos Kibbutz

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 large shallot, thinly sliced
    1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
    1 roasted green pepper, thinly sliced
    1 roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
    1/2 teaspoon paprika
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1/2 teaspoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1 small bay leaf
    1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
    Salt and pepper
    3 large eggs
    1/4 cup grated parmesan or any other cheese
    1/4 cup chopped scallions
    Crusty bread

    1. Add the oil to an ovenproof skillet and cook the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion becomes soft and translucent. Add peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Add the paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin, sugar and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

    2. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    — This is where you can let the pan cool, cover it and toss it in the fridge overnight.—

    3. Preheat oven to 400. Bring the sauce back to a simmer on the stove (this would also be a great time to toss in some chopped up, cooked bacon, if you’re into that sort of thing), then crack the eggs over the sauce and transfer the pan into to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft and runny, about 7 minutes. Garnish with cheese and scallions and serve immediately with crusty bread for dipping.

    Note: To roast peppers, hold them with tongs over the flame on a gas stove until black and blistered on all sides, then rub off the skin under cool tap water.

    Make Steak

    A colleague asked me sheepishly for recipes the other day because, she admitted, she doesn’t know how to cook meat. I was shocked, because she is an amazing baker, and I have had many tasty delights created by her hand. I am starting off with a foolproof steak procedure. It’s hardly a recipe; there just isn’t that much to it.

    Simple Steak

    1 1-pound New York steak, about an inch thick, room temperature

    Sprinkle both sides with salt (twice the amount you would expect) and fresh cracked pepper.
    (I also use the generic spice blend from Trader Joe’s that comes in a grinder, but it isn’t crucial.)
    Get a skillet flaming hot while you olive oil both sides of your steak.
    Put the steak in the pan, prettiest side down and sear for 4 minutes to get a great crust.
    Flip the steak, sear another 4 minutes and remove to a plate to rest for 10 minutes.

    That’s it.