Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday Dinner

On this American holiday turkey is the center piece, but most of the time the big bird is over cooked and dry. I have been cooking chicken the last few years with good results. I make a double breast roulade with a traditional sausage stuffing. Since its all white breast meat, the cooking is even and there are no bones to worry about. I also made sweet potato puree, roasted carrots, stuffing and pan gravy. Very fast and easy after everything is prepped the day before, it all cooks in about the same time. With dinner done and cleaned up its time to sit in front of the fire with a glass of good wine.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Very Quick & Easy Asian Inspired Soup

The weather has now turned cold and rainy, I will now hate to admit that it is Winter. Time for cold weather foods that are slow simmered like soups and stews. I had the idea for a soup and its my take on the classic chicken noodle soup, the inspiration comes from San Francisco's Vietnamese restaurants. Only a few simple ingredients with little effort. Rice noodles, chicken, cilantro, ginger, Thai basil and lime. Start by slowly simmered a whole chicken in lightly salted water with garlic and ginger for about a hour till tender, then shred meat and set aside. Rehydrate the dry noodles in hot water till soft and place a mound in a big prewarmed bowl. Add the shredded chicken on top of the noodles and pour hot broth over, garnish with chopped cilantro, basil and sliced chili peppers. This soup can be garnished with extra items like bean sprouts, chopped peanuts and a squeeze of lime.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Playing with Fire

My restaurant like a lot of others has a big variety of hot sauces available as a condiment, they are good but sometimes that's just not enough and I have to make a batch as well. There is a trend now in making very spicy sauces, so that's what I did. The searing heat from peppers comes from capsaicin which is a compound found in chili peppers, there is a scale for measuring the hotness of chili peppers which is known as the Scoville scale. The hottest chili available now is a little known pepper called Naga Jolokia or better known as Ghost chili with a Scoville measurement of over 1000,000, that is just way too hot and asking for a lot of trouble. Number two on the hot list and the pepper I used is the Habanero chili or scotch bonnet on a scale of between 100,000-350,000. By comparison the jalapeno is much "cooler" at 2,500-8,000. I made the fiery sauce by simply grilling habaneros, tomatoes and onions, next simmering them with garlic, white vinegar and salt till soft. Then blended till smooth and strained. People in the restaurant are a little scared to try it at first but when they do, find that it has as much flavor as heat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day Trip to Napa Valley

Entrance to the Caves

Endless Barrels of Wine in Caves

Napa Valley Vineyard

Late Season Cluster of Grapes

When I need a quick weekend get away trip, my first choice is one of the local beaches, my second choice is a trip to the wine country. The first wineries are only a quick half hours drive away. This last weekend was clear and very warm for this time of the year, I was also surprised to see that the grape vines were now just starting to turn colors and there was still some grapes left on some vines, they were starting to shrivel up like raisins and had a very intense and sweet taste like honey, this is what late harvest wines are produced from and why they are sweet.One of my favorite places in the valley is Rombauer vineyards which is right off the sliverado trail near St. Helena, they make really nice wines and the hillside views of the valley are amazing. If the name sounds familiar its because its the same family that wrote the very popular cookbook "The Joy of Cooking".
Rombauer Vineyards, 3522 Silverado Trail, St. Helena, Ca 94574 707 963 5170

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Ramp Restaurant & Bar

The city of San Francisco is surrounded by water on three sides and with this much water front property you would think that there would be lots of restaurants on the water, there are only a few but the only only one with its on private dock is The Ramp Restaurant. Its tucked away and almost hidden in the middle of a working ship yard surrounded by massive ships in dry docks, it is well South away from the tourist areas of the city. Its a funky blue collar hang out for locals who come for a drink and good burgers, fried calamari and other classic bar items. In the summer the huge outdoor patio has live Latin music on weekends with taco or oyster specials. I have been going there for years and sometimes also by boat which can be a a lot of fun.

The Ramp Restaurant & Bar, 855 Terry Francois St, 415 621 2378

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cowgirl Creamery Cheese

Marin County California has a few good cheese making companies and one of the best is the Cowgirl Creamery based in the small coastal town of Point Reyes Station in a area of rolling hills dotted with grazing cows, the same cows that produce the milk for the creamery. It got its start in 1997 and has grown in popularity while maintaining small hands on techniques. They make around eight different varieties with many winning awards from many National competition's. My favorite is Red Hawk which is a triple cream cheese with a brine washed rind thats then aged for six weeks and very good.

Cowgirl Creamery at Tomales Bay Foods 80 4th Street, Point Reyes Station, Ca 415 663 9335

Monday, November 09, 2009

Lots of Little Tacos

Avocado, Tomatillo Salsa, Queso Fresco, Cilantro
A Nice Piece of Pork with Spices

Pork Taco

Chorizo Taco
A quick and easy snack (or main meal if you eat lots of them) are these little soft tacos made with a variety of savory fillings. These are not the standard American ones with the crispy shells, grated cheese and sour cream but tacos made from small four inch (101.6mm) corn tortillas with just a few fillings. The taco fillings I made were pork shoulder cooked in my pressure cooker with Latin spices and dry chili peppers till it was falling apart tender, Crumbled Chorizo sausage, a hot sauce made with grilled tomatillos, Serrano peppers and avocado, Guacamole, Chopped cilantro and crumbled Queso Fresco to finish. These small two bite tacos were amazing and packed with lots of flavor. The next morning I used the same condiments for Chorizo and egg tacos.

Tomales Bay Road Trip

I had family in town this last weekend and with beautiful weather a trip to the North Coast seemed like a good plan and it turned out to be a great idea. A lack of wind or cool fog and with blue skies made driving the rolling hills toward the coast a stress free trip. We ended up at the Southern end of Tomales bay and immediately headed to my favorite oyster farm, The Tomales Bay Oyster Company. There are a few at the bay and this one is great with reasonable prices on oysters, clams and mussels. Me and my brother bought four dozen small oysters to share and with a bag of pre cut lemons and ice to keep the oysters cold it was a quick drive on highway one to the nearby beach. Warm sun and cold oysters were perfect.