DOTW: Firelight

Posted by Anita on 12.28.07 7:03 AM

(c)2007 AEC ** ALL rights reservedAs 2007 slips away, our thoughts turn to cocktails we’d want to sip while curled up on the sofa with a good book or a fascinating companion. To my mind, the best drinks for the shortest nights mix spicy holiday flavors with a dash of new year’s sparkle.

We wanted to pair these classic year-end tastes with seasonal citrus, given the incredible varieties gracing our farmers market. Initially, we tried blood-orange juice, elderflower liqueur, and Champagne, but we weren’t happy with the look — it screamed “Jello shot” rather than whispering “cocktail”. When we tried less garishly colored juices, our sparkler felt more like a complicated Mimosa than a cozy evening tipple.

Spying a small bottle of the Charbay Ruby Red grapefruit vodka in a pricey St. Helena liquor emporium, we decided to try a different route to the citrus belt. (Are you turning up your nose at flavored vodka? Don’t. These folks mean business: They use real fruit and old-world recipes. And they’re local. To us, anyway.) The vodka’s grapefruit-peel bitterness tempers the floral sweetness of the liqueur; the bubbly brightens the drink, while Fee’s whiskey-barrel bitters add a masculine depth.

Speaking of the Fee’s: If Santa didn’t leave you a bottle of these delectable drops in your stocking, you need to correct this error yourself. Yes, they’re worth the shocking premium over the cost of regular bitters, and you might have to break down and pay for shipping. If you have to go the mail-order route, you may as well buy a few bottles for friends. No, really… you can thank me later.

A finishing touch of orange bitters reinforces the drink’s citrus-spice scent, without adding any untoward sour or sweet notes. Of course, you can make this cocktail with any sparkling wine — a lovely trait during the time of year when half-finished bottles of bubbly seem to magically appear in fridges everywhere. But for that perfect flame-like glow, seek out a dryish rosé for your sparkler… and get ready to get cozy.

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Firelight
1 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz grapefruit-infused vodka, homemade or Charbay Ruby Red
3 dashes Fee’s whiskey barrel bitters (or 2 dashes Angostura and 1 dash Peychaud’s)

2 oz rosé sparkling wine
1 to 2 dashes orange bitters (preferrably Regan’s)

In a mixing glass with ice, stir together the St-Germain, grapefruit vodka, and aromatic bitters. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and top with the bubbly and the orange bitters.

Drink of the Week, drinks, holidays & occasions, recipes
8 Comments »

 

Dark Days fudges a bit

Posted by Anita on 12.26.07 12:45 PM

(c)2007 AEC ** ALL rights reservedGetting the house — and the fridge — ready for our 10-day Christmas absence was an enormous pain in the ass. Truthfully, I enjoy the puzzle of combining fresh food and freezer fodder to make reasonably coherent meals, but sometimes this happens at the expense of our 90%-local Dark Days Challenge goal.

A case in point: We needed to use up tortillas (local), beans (ditto) and salsa (yep), plus an assortment of cheeses (likewise) — a natural set of ingredients for Budín Azteca, a.k.a. tortilla pie. So we defrosted the last of the local Thanksgiving turkey… and a decidedly non-local batch of mole sauce. We could say that the chiles qualify as seasonings and the chocolate’s a baking supply — both of which are exempt from the challenge. But given that we made and froze this sauce early last spring, long before even our first stab at locavorism, that seems a bit far-fetched.

Our second attempt was less of a stretch. With a half-jar of home-canned tomatoes, a few strips of Fatted Calf pancetta, half a ball of Belfiore mozzarella, and a handful of Far West mushrooms, we had all the makings of a couple of pizzas. We’ll overlook that the frozen pizza dough was made months ago with non-local flour (it’s still an exemption, after all, even if we have found some local sources for grains). Add a salad of Star Route Farms romaine, radicchio, and radishes, and we could call this our first true 90% meal of the week.

Hitting the mark without a single cheat, Tuesday night’s steak dinner featured Prather Ranch ribeye, an assortment of stray Little’s potatoes mashed with Straus cream and Clover butter, and another big salad, this one dressed with Point Reyes Blue and Bariani olive oil. Yum. Friday’s pasta night was another clean sweep: Our usual Bolognese sauce over Eduardo’s, a carrot-and-radish-topped salad, and garlic toast made from the heels of our Acme pain de mie loaf.

All in all, not a bad week of local eating, given everything else that we had going on.

It’s been a while since we’ve added any new local products to our pantry, but we discovered not just one variety but a whole assortment of dried chiles at the Tierra Vegetables stand at the Ferry Plaza market. Maybe, just maybe, the next time we pop a package of mole out of the freezer, we won’t be fudging at all.

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Budín Azteca
1 to 2 cups shredded chicken or turkey
1/2 to 1 cup prepared salsa
6 to 8 corn tortillas
2 cups mashed black or pinto beans
2 cups mole (recipe follows)
1/2 cup chicken stock, plus more as needed
2 cups shredded melting cheese, such as Jack or mozzarella
sour cream, sliced radishes, and cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a saucepan, warm the beans over medium-low heat, thinning with chicken stock or water to a spreadable consistency.

In a separate pan, warm the meat with the salsa.

In a third pan, heat the molé, thinning with 1/2 cup or more of chicken stock, to a tomato-sauce consistency.

Heat the tortillas in a skillet or over an open flame. Cut each tortilla into quarters and keep warm, wrapped in a clean dishtowel until ready to use.

Set aside 3/4 cup of the mole sauce for later use. Spread a spoonful of the remaining thinned sauce on the bottom of a 9×9 pan. Layer 6 to 8 tortilla quarters on top of the sauce, followed by 1/3 of the beans, 1/3 of the meat, a quarter of the cheese, and another small drizzle of the sauce. Repeat layering until all of the beans and meat have been used. Top the stack with the reserved 3/4 cup of sauce and the last quarter of cheese.

Bake, uncovered, 30 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the casserole is warmed through to the center. If the cheese browns before the center of the pie is heated, cover with foil to prevent overbrowning. (Do not cover before this stage, or you will end up with cheese stuck to the foil.)

Let the casserole sit 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with a green salad on the side, and your choice of garnishes.

—–

Mole de la Suegra
- adapted from Big Small Plates

2oz dried chiles negros
2oz dried chiles anchos
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1T whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
5 to 6 T lard or oil
2 slices french bread
1 large tomato, halved
1 large onion, cut into 4 thick slices
1 large clove garlic
2T salt
4 cups chicken broth
1 disk Mexican chocolate, coarsely chopped

Stem and seed the chiles, reserving the seeds in a small bowl, then gently toast the chiles in a skillet over medium heat just until soft; a couple of wisps of smoke are okay, but do not let them burn or your sauce will be bitter. Cover the toasted chiles with warm water and set aside.

Over high heat, toast the chile seeds lightly, continuously shaking the pan for 30 to 60 seconds. Return the seeds to their bowl. Toast the sesame seeds until lightly golden. Place them in the bowl with the chile seeds and let cool to room temperature. When sesame and chile seeds have cooled, grind them together with the cloves and peppercorns in a coffee grinder.

Put a large bowl next to the stove. In the skillet over medium heat, heat 2T of the lard until it shimmers. When fully heated, fry the bread until golden on both sides. Place the fried bread in the bowl. If needed, add another tablespoon of lard to the pan and caramelize the tomato, 5 to 7 minutes. When heated through and well browned, scoop the tomato into the bowl with the bread. Add more lard, if needed, and caramelize the onion slices and garlic, adding them to the bowl when well browned (7 to 10 minutes).
Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking liquid, and add them to the bowl. Add the ground seeds and spices and 2T salt to the bowl, and puree with a stick blender until smooth. (Alternately, you can blend in 2 to 3 batches in a conventional blender.) Add enough of the chile-soaking water to the puree to achieve a pourable consistency.

In a heavy saucepan over high heat, warm the rest of the lard. Before the fat smokes, carefully pour the sauce into the pan and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and add the broth; simmer 10 minutes. Add the chocolate and simmer an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Use immediately, or cool to room temperature before storing.

Note: Unlike chicken stock or pasta sauce, we don’t freeze mole directly in quart-size bags. Like other oily sauces — curry pastes, pesto, etc. — we chill and freeze it in 1- and 2-cup plastic storage containers. When fully frozen, the sauce pops out of the containers and can be placed in vacuum-seal or Ziploc bags for longer storage. Be sure to remove the puck of sauce from the bag before thawing, to keep sauce from sticking to the inside of the bag.

locavore, Mexican, recipes
4 Comments »

 

Merry, merry

Posted by Anita on 12.24.07 8:54 PM

(c)2007 AEC *all rights reserved*We hope your holiday — whichever one you celebrate — is brimming with cheer, and your new year will be filled wonderful things to eat and drink.

Thank you for stopping by, subscribing, and supporting us.

And thank you, too, for supporting Menu for Hope. With your generosity, we’ve raised more than $90,000 for the UN World Food Programme — more than half as much as last year.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

holidays & occasions, Menu for Hope
2 Comments »

 

Tick, tick, tick…

Posted by Anita on 12.21.07 12:01 PM

(c)2007 AEC ** ALL rights reservedTime is running out on your chance to win some splendid prizes in this year’s Menu For Hope raffle. Have you placed your bids yet? If not, you may want to check out Pim’s handy list of good bets.

You’ll notice that your chances are still reasonably good to win our Custom Mixology Service, better known as prize code UW08. If you should doubt our cocktail prowess — and who could blame you for wondering whether our blogging chops translate to real-world results? — check this first-hand account of our mad mixmaster skillz at Sean’s birthday party. And honey, as much as the Hedonia boys love us, they wouldn’t tell you something tasted good if it sucked.

No love for our Cocktail Notecards? Shocking, I say. But hey, I’m a big girl. Besides, I’ve made my peace with this little drama in a rather selfish way: The cards arrived from Moo last week, and they’re so damned cute and professional-looking that I’m secretly hoping that nobody would win them and I can keep them for myself.

But that’s not very generous, is it? [Sigh.]

Taking a page from Sam’s brilliant bribery, I’m adding a incentive to this prize. Bid on the photocards — that’s prize code UW07 — any time after noon today, then leave me a comment here with the name you bid under. If you’re the winning bidder and you’ve commented on this post before the prize drawing happens, I’ll include your choice of an 8×8 or 8×10 print of any of our cocktail or food photos.

And in case that wasn’t sufficient incentive to bid, check out this fabulous offer from food writer Rebekah Denn’s new Devouring sEATtle blog: If you’re one of the first five folks to forward your Menu for Hope donation conformation to Rebekah, she’ll send you a cookbook from her stash. How’s that for a win-win?

But you’d better get a wiggle on: The raffle closes tonight at midnight Monday at 9am Eastern time.

Go… Bid. And don’t say we didn’t make it tempting.

Menu for Hope
3 Comments »

 

DOTW: A La Louisiane

Posted by Anita on 12.21.07 7:02 AM

(c)2007 AEC ** ALL rights reservedIt seems like ages ago that we chose Benedictine as the theme for the second edition of Raiders of the Lost Cocktail over on The Spirit World. As November wound down, tasty-sounding cocktails popped up in the comments section, and we all held our breath waiting for the judges to pronounce a winner. The silence was deafening.

About a week ago, I got an email from Andrew, The Spirit World’s intrepid editor, asking me when I’d be able to send him my choice for RotLC winner.

Come again?

Never mind that the previous episodes’ rules had clearly stated “The winner will be chosen by consensus judgment of the TSW staff”. Andrew made it plain that the Powers That Be would not take no for an answer. I was duly deputized to act as their collective liver brain in matters Benedictine.

People, if you think that it was tough for me to choose a mixable yet somewhat obscure spirit, you have no idea how hard it was to pick the winning drink from a batch submitted by friends and colleagues!

But duty called. I printed out a list of recipes — leaving off the names of their contributors — and gathered a double armload of ingredients from the bar. Some promising drinks were doomed from the start, being previously unpublished recipes, or personal variations of classics. Remember, dear reader, the purpose of Raiders is resurrecting the cocktails of yore, finding them a new audience among the modern mixology mavens.

And then there were more than a few that fell outside the bounds of “relatively common ingredients” and “simpler construction”. (Does your neighborhood tavern stock creme de roses? Raspberry syrup? Whole eggs? Mmm, yeah… mine either.)

Even after winnowing the wheat from the chaff, we were left with a healthy roster of candidates. We shook, we stirred, we sipped, we shot. We tasted and tested, and resisted the temptation to tweak. When all was said and done, two drinks rose to the top of the pack, and we set those recipes aside for a second night of testing on fresh palates.

The first, Tango No. 2, was dead simple: Equal parts dry and sweet vermouth, Benedictine, white rum, and orange juice. No complicated garnish, no funky glassware, no special equipment. The combination of rum and OJ brought out the Benedictine’s citrus notes, and the two vermouths played well with its herbal components. A well-balanced drink and a serious contender.

But the drink that won our hearts — the one we both tried to sneak away with when judging was done — was the Cocktail a la Louisiane. The lovechild of the creole Sazerac and the yankee Manhattan, the Louisiane’s gorgeous glow warms a jaded soul. We worried a few moments about the “preference to common ingredients” clause, as La Louisiane is best with absinthe. But we rationalized that the bottle of pastis you’re likely to find in most big-city bars is sufficient to make this old New Orleans gem shine brightly.

So, ladies and gents, a round of applause for Paul Clarke of The Cocktail Chronicles, the promoter of this fair libation, and the lucky fellow who’ll pick next month’s signature ingredient.

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Cocktail a la Louisiane
– from Stanley Clisby Arthur’s Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em

3/4 ounce rye
3/4 ounce Benedictine
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
3 dashes absinthe, Herbsaint, or pastis

Stir all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a cherry.

Mixing note: It’s simple to measure three dashes of bitters — they come in a shaker-top bottle, after all. The absinthe’s a bit trickier, and even a slightly heavy hand will throw your drink off balance. To keep the anise in line, we shook the bitters into a bar spoon to get a rough idea of what “three dashes” looked like, then measured an equal amount of absinthe. If you find yourself smitten enough to adopt the Louisiane as your winter tipple, fill an empty bitters bottle with absinthe to keep the ritual simple.

Drink of the Week, drinks, other blogs, recipes
2 Comments »

 

Dark Days does lunch

Posted by Anita on 12.20.07 12:07 PM

(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reservedYou remember last week’s mad locavore dinner streak? This week: Not so much. OK, sure, we managed to hit our baseline — two dinners made from 90% local ingredients over the course of a week. But with the holidays and crazy work deadlines looming, there simply wasn’t time to show off.

Still, we ate pretty well. Our first Dark Days Challenge meal of the week revolved around a fabulous batch of carnitas tacos — Range Brothers pork tucked inside Rancho Gordo tortillas — with Happy Quail poblano chile rajas, Primavera salsa, and a side of Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. Our usual Friday night pasta-fest — Eduardo’s linguine and our homemade sauce — featured a shaved fennel and apple salad made from homegrown fennel, Apple Farm apples, Point Reyes Blue cheese, and Bariani olive oil. As quick weeknight meals go, they weren’t too shabby… even if we only managed two dinners from within our foodshed this week.

But, as I keep having to reminding myself, there are 14 other meals every week.

Pretty much every breakfast we eat meets our challenge criteria. Our eggs and butter are Clover Organic, the bread comes from Acme, the preserves are usually gifts from friends (who use local fruit) or bought from June Taylor. On the weekends, our Saturday market ritual involves a stop at Primavera, where the menu proudly displays the names of the farmers who grow their delectable ingredients. And on Sundays, we fancy up our weekday fare with Fatted Calf or Range Bros. bacon, or homemade breakfast sausage.

Lunch, though, is a mixed bag. When leftovers aren’t an option, things can be pretty grim. The area around my office is mercifully light on mega-chain fast food and rich in gourmet-ish choices, but none of them are particularly locavore-friendly. There’s a branch of Out the Door, the quick-service sibling of San Francisco’s famed Slanted Door restaurant, but the best they can do is “organic whenever possible”.

Twice a week, my options improve significantly.

On Tuesdays, I hop the streetcar down to the Ferry Building for the lunchtime farmers market. During the market, Prather Ranch sells hamburgers on Acme buns, and Donna’s sells tamales and “enchamales”, locally made with some local ingredients.

There’s an array of not-quite-there options inside the Ferry Building itself, mostly local but non-organic, or vice-versa. If you’re feeling particularly wealthy, I suppose you could lunch on Tomales Bay oysters and Bay Area microbrews at the Hog Island bar overlooking the bay, but that’s a wee bit rich for my everyday budget.

On Wednesday, I head to the decidedly un-chic Heart of the City farmers market at Civic Center. I pick up a few midweek provisions, but my real goal is a quarter of a spit-roasted Fulton Valley chicken and a side of basted potatoes from Roli Roti. All things considered, it’s probably my favorite locavore lunch option, and relatively cheap by comparison.

All in all, my best bet for Dark Days lunches is planned leftovers. But, given how unsuccessful we’ve been this last week at actually putting food on our table, it’s a good thing that other options exist.

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locavore, lunch
1 Comment »

 

Speechless.

Posted by Anita on 12.18.07 4:28 PM

2007 Food Blog Awards WINNER!I hope you can all forgive my stunned silence on this subject over the last couple of days:

We awoke Monday to discover that we’d been named this year’s Best Blog Covering Drinks in the Well Fed food blog awards, in what I am assured was an incredibly close race. I’m absolutely floored that we were even nominated in such auspicious company, much less that we won!

(I guess we’ll keep working on Drink of the Week, eh? Not bad for a weekly feature that we weren’t sure would survive.)

Thank you — truly, deeply — to everyone who voted for us, and all of you who stopped by to offer congratulations while we were still dumbstruck and unable to post. We hope you’ll stop by and congratulate our co-winners, favorites both old and new:

Food Blog of the Year – 101 Cookbooks

Best City Food Blog – Becks and Posh

Best Family Food Blog – Lunch in a Box

Best Group Food Blog – Serious Eats

Best Industry Food Blog – Michael Ruhlman

Best New Food Blog and Best Humor Food Blog – French Laundry at Home

Best Food Blog Photography – La Tartine Gourmande

Best Food Blog Post – Gluten-Free Girl

Best Rural Food Blog – Farmgirl Fare

Best Theme Food Blog – Fat-Free Vegan

Best Food Blog Writing – Bittersweet Blog

drinks, other blogs, other stuff
9 Comments »

 

DOTW: Savoy Special #1

Posted by Anita on 12.14.07 7:02 AM

(c)2007 AEC ** ALL rights reservedBefore we get on to this week’s cocktail, we have two bits of housekeeping: (1) Enter to win a chance to bring Drink of the Week to your house by buying a virtual raffle ticket for our Menu for Hope custom mixology prize. (2) Please remember to vote today for your favorite finalists in the WellFed Food Blog Awards. If you’re a new visitor, here’s a handy link to just our drinks content.

It’s hard to think of Prohibition as any sort of positive force, but indeed there are a few improvements in the world of drinks that we can lay solidly at the feet of the Noble Experiment.

In the early years of the 20th century, the few females found in city taverns tended to be …professionals, of one sort or another. With the emergence of speakeasies, it became fashionable for daring young women to join their male friends for a night on the town. By the time of repeal, the presence of the fairer sex in bars was accepted fact in all but the most masculine enclaves.

Another odd side-effect of the dry years was the export of our uniquely American cocktail tradition to other climes. Rather than ply their trade with bathtub gin and other questionable potations, many mixologists took to the seas, heading for saner lands.

One such man, Harry Craddock, left New York in 1920 to become head barman at London’s famed Savoy hotel. Almost single-handedly popularizing the pantheon of mixed drinks in a land where strong ale was the roughest stuff poured, Craddock was obviously a force to be reckoned with. A beacon for ocean-hopping Yanks and Londoners alike, the American Bar’s popularity under his leadership drove the 1930 publication of a drinks manual called, simply, The Savoy Cocktail Book.

Amazingly, the Savoy’s current head barman, Salim Khoury, is only the seventh to hold the title since the 1890s. (There must be something in the, er, water?) He trained as assistant to the legendary Peter Dorelli, and has himself been employed at the American Bar since 1969. Perhaps even more remarkable, The Savoy Cocktail Book remains in print — an updated printing of the latest edition debuted last month — and the American Bar maintains its place as a London cocktail mecca… at least for those with the means to spend £12 ($25) or more on a single drink.

But like all legends of a certain age, the American Bar is in need of a spot of nip-and-tuck. Tomorrow night, in fact, the entire Savoy will close for a 16-month, £100 million restoration. No mention is made in press clippings of plans for the American Bar, specifically, but one must imagine that the hotel’s current caretakers realize the pitfalls of tampering too greatly with such an international icon.

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There are least four eponymous Savoy drinks to be found in Craddock’s book. Lacking the sloe gin needed to attempt the Savoy Tango, and the nerve required to build the Savoy Hotel, we were left with two versions of the Savoy Hotel Special Cocktail. Although variation #2 is distinctive, the original below is our preference.

Savoy Hotel Special Cocktail #1
2 oz dry gin
1 oz dry vermouth
2 dashes quality grenadine
1 dash absinthe
lemon peel

Shake* well and strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top.

* Traditional mixology calls for clear drinks to be stirred with ice, and cloudy drinks (those with dairy or juice, in the main) to be shaken — a guideline that appears to be disregarded not just here but in numerous recipes throughout The Savoy Cocktail Book.

The preface to the 1999 British edition (and possibly others) adds to the confusion. After quoting Peter Dorelli on the subject of the proper way to chill a drink — “…the ice should travel the length of the shaker, so that you awaken the drink. If you don’t do this, you are cheating…” — the unnamed prologuist informs us that “There are, in fact, three ways of shaking a cocktail: If opaque or cloudy, shake it; if clear, stir gently; if solid, blend it.”

Hm.

He seems to be using “shaking” as a synonym for “chilling and diluting”. But, then, why are there plenty of recipes that clearly call for a stir?

Obviously, some in-person investigation is required, perhaps a direct follow-up with Mr. Khoury himself. Who’s up for a London trip in, say, spring 2009?

Drink of the Week, drinks
12 Comments »

 

Dark Days goes 7 for 7

Posted by Anita on 12.12.07 1:06 PM

(c)2007 AEC *all rights reserved*Thanks for sticking with us through last week‘s pity party. I’m slightly embarrassed that I bemoaned the end of avocado season and the near-disappearance of local tomatillos, when any locavore worth her salt would just suck it up, file away those recipes for the winter, and learn to love what’s left.

I mean, hell, it’s not like we’re in some snowbound location where all we have to eat from October to May is bitter greens and root veggies. And it’s called Dark Days Challenge for a reason — if it were simple, what fun would that be? So, in the spirit of pushing our eating habits into new territory, we ate seven local dinners in a row.

That’s right, kids: Last week, Sunday to Saturday, we ate within our foodshed every single night. Some meals were a stretch, and we fell back on our exemptions and our “90% local” metric with a vengeance. But we were shocked and awed by the number of specialty ingredients that we could source from right in our back yard if we really looked hard enough.

Case in point: For our first meal, potstickers and a long-bean stir-fry, we were happily amazed to find gyoza wrappers made a few miles south of the house (although almost certainly from non-local flour) at our neighborhood Asian grocer. For the filling, we ground Range Bros. pork butt from the Prather boys. All of the various veggies — ginger, scallions, cabbage, and long beans — came straight from the farmers market. We hit our 90% target easily: everything except soy sauce and sesame oil was local.

Another night, we tackled a new recipe for bibimbap. Although it required imported gochujang — a fiery Korean condiment — for the topping, and both soy sauce and sesame oil for the marinade, everything else (meat, rice, veggies, eggs, sprouts, nashi, and even kimchi) hailed from within our 100-mile radius. Surprised we could cook not one but two authentic Asian dinners from 90%-local ingredients? I sure was.

Rounding out the week, there was a pot of chili with a skillet of sage cornbread, a pan of cheesy lasagne, a big batch of pot pie, and Friday night’s traditional linguine Bolognese — with salads on the side and either local wine or SF-brewed beer each night. We were a little stunned to discover that all of these meals fit our challenge ground rules; We even used local flour for the pot pie’s biscuit crust.

Our last local dinner (pictured above) was the most successful of all, in so many ways. We’re helping a friend recipe-test his upcoming cookbook, and one of the recipes he sent us involved a dish we’d probably never have made on our own. Without divulging too many details of this as-yet-unpublished masterpiece, I think I can say that it was totally worth the lunchtime schlep over to the Berkeley farmers market to get Full Belly Farms wheatberries for this dish, rather than opting for one of the substitutions the recipe allowed.

As an added bonus, this was a 100% local meal — perhaps our first? — using Marin Sun Farms beef, homemade chicken stock (from local chicken carcasses), farmers market veggies, Bariani olive oil, homegrown herbs, Anchor Steam beer, and a jar of those Mariquita tomatoes from our home-canned stash. Not a single exemption to be found beyond salt and pepper… Mmm, delicious.

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Now, I’d love to share the recipe for that stunning beef dish, but alas I am sworn to secrecy until the book is published.(EDIT: Matthew, the book’s author, kindly corrected my oversight: A very similar recipe was published last spring as part of his Culinate column, Unexplained Bacon.) In the meantime, I can highly recommend our second-favorite meal of the week. This recipe makes enough to serve 8, so we froze half of the filling to use later in the winter. For a quick weeknight meal, all we’ll have to do is whip up a batch of cheddar biscuits, reheat the filling, and wait patiently by the oven.

Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Crust
- adapted from Gourmet, November 2007

Filling:
1 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, medium (1/2-inch) dice
2 celery ribs, medium dice
1 large parsnip, peeled, cored and cut to medium dice
1 tsp chopped thyme
3 T chicken fat or olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
3-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup shelled English peas
4 cups leftover chicken, medium dice

Crust:
2 cups flour (we used 1/2 all-purpose and 1/2 whole wheat)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup coarsely grated sharp Cheddar
1/4 cup coarsely grated Dry Jack (or Parmesan)
4T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2T leaf lard, well chilled and cut into 1/2 pieces
- (or substitute 2T more unsalted butter)
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup cream, half-and-half, or milk

Sautee the vegetables and thyme in the chicken fat or olive oil over medium-low heat until soft but not browned; add salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle the sauteed vegetables with flour and cook, stirring well, for 2 minutes or until the flour loses its powdery consistency. Stir in the stock, scraping up any browned bits. Add the peas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken, and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

The filling can be cooled and refrigerated (or frozen) at this point. Cook refrigerated filling within 24-48 hours; frozen filling will last 3 months if properly stored. If using immediately, lower heat, cover, and keep warm until topping is ready.

Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat oven to 400°. If using previously made filling, reheat thoroughly over low heat before proceeding.

To make crust: Sift together all dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the cheeses and toss to coat with flour mixture. Add butter and cut into the flour using a pastry blender or your fingers until dough resembles a coarse meal. Add the dairy products and stir just until dough comes together; do not overmix. Set aside.

Transfer the filling to two pie pans or a 13×9 casserole. Drop the biscuit dough in 8 large portions on top of the hot filling, leaving space for filling to bubble up, if possible. Bake for 35 minutes, or until biscuits are risen and golden brown. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

cooking, locavore, recipes
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Among talented friends

Posted by Anita on 12.10.07 8:00 AM

Food Blog Awards 2007EDIT: A warm welcome to all the folks clicking over from WellFed Network. Our homepage is rather focused on Menu for Hope right now, so here’s a quick link to all of our drink-related content.

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Right alongside Menu for Hope, there’s another big event in the food-blogger community this time of year: Well Fed Network’s Food Blog Awards.

Cruising through the categories, I was jumping up and down when I saw so many of our friends recognized for their talents: Jen (Theme and Blog of the Year!), Shuna (Chef and Industry), Sam (City and Photography), Matt (Photography), Biggles (Theme), and the Ethicurians (Group, of course).

And, please, someone tell me how I can possibly choose between my two Seattle pals Molly and Shauna — oh, no, and Shuna again, too?! — in the Best Post category!

So you will understand why I am tickled pink that Married… with Dinner has been nominated as a finalist in the Best Blog Covering Drinks category, alongside a pair of well-known wine bloggers and such august cocktailians as Paul Clarke (the inventor of Mixology Monday) and Jeffrey Morgenthaler (the father of Repeal Day).

Wow. I’m flabbergasted… thank you. As they say in Hollywood: It’s truly an honor just to be nominated in such amazing company.

If you’d like to VOTE for your favorites, the polls are open until Friday at midnight.

other blogs
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