Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Week: Thai Chicken and Pumpkin Curry

Last week a coworker of mine offered up sugar pie pumpkins to the office. Too many had grown, and he needed to get rid of them. I signed up for five.

Deciding on what to do with the pumpkins has been a fun activity. I want to make a variety of dishes, and pumpkin curry seemed like an obvious first choice since I had almost all the ingredients.

1 small pumpkin (sugar pie is best), seeded and cubed (~ 1 lb)
1 small onion, yellow
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp red Thai curry paste
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp grated palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb boneless and skinless thighs, cubed in to 1” pieces
½ red bell pepper, julienned
Juice from 1 lime
Handful of fresh cilantro on stem (1” long pieces)
¼ cup of fresh Thai basil
Steamed rice

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pumpkin and cook until barely tender (approximately 8 minutes). Drain and set aside.

2. Mix together the red curry paste, the onions and garlic. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the mixture over low to medium heat until the aromas of paste begin to emerge.

3. Shake the can of coconut milk well, then whisk in half the coconut milk, the sugar, and the fish sauce to the pan. Once the oil begins to separate from the mixture, add the chicken and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked. Add the pumpkin, red pepper, and the remainder of the coconut milk. Cook until the pumpkin is fork tender. Add the lime juice.

4. Remove from heat, add the basil leaves and garnish with cilantro.

I will be posting the rest of my pumpkin recipes this week, and - spoiler alert - an amazing halloween manicure tomorrow.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Drinking, Eating, and Running in Healdsburg

This past weekend, I flew down to California for the purpose of running a half marathon in Healdsburg with my mom. The weekend actually played out with importance placed on activities in the order listed in the title of this post. Drinking reigned, eating was secondary, and only tertiary was the pesky 13.1 miles.

My mom and I drove up to Healdsburg on Saturday morning, stopping at the Gary Farrell and Hop Kiln wineries on the way to Kendall Jackson where the packet pickup was held.

Gary Farrell (view from patio shown above) produces what are considered the premiere Pinot Noirs of California. My mom and I were very curious to see how they stacked up against Oregon Pinots. The wines were good, so good that I decided to join their wine club. I had motives other than the good wine, though; I want a reason to wine taste more in California, and joining a wine club is the perfect excuse to take a trip to wine country. I look forward to visiting Gary Farrell again.

Hop Kiln (which really did used to be a hop kiln, check out the picture above) makes mostly typical big jammy California reds. My mom and I were not impressed, but we were visiting Hop Kiln for more than just the wine. We were starving and needed a place that sold food. We picked up a round of Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese and some crackers and feasted like fools. I hope no one was watching, because we attacked the cheese (cutting it with a nail file, I may add) like we hadn't eaten in weeks. 

We met up with my little sister in Healdsburg, did some more wine tasting at the tasting rooms around the town square, got a snack at Healdsburg Bar and Grill - where we drank some beer, then headed to our motel to change into some warmer clothes.  

Our dinner reservations weren't until 8 pm, but we headed back to the square to walk around and maybe do some more tasting.  I don't know how we decided to stop into Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar for some oysters and wine, but we did.  Because, you know, it wasn't enough that we were drinking to our hearts content the night before running a half marathon, we had to add raw oysters into the mix.

I had to take multiple pictures of my little sister before she approved this one for inclusion on PEP.

After feasting on oysters, it was off to Baci for pasta carb loading - finally a good pre-race activity - and more wine. Dinner was spectacular, but I forgot to take any pictures.

Despite all the drinking and eating that occurred on Saturday, my mom and I had a pretty good race. And in the words of one of my sisters friends: Why do we run a half marathon?  For the drinks after, of course!

An excellent weekend all around.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby Back Ribs and Baked Beans

I can confidently say that ribs are one of my favorite things to eat, and they have been since I was a very young child. When I was a kid, I couldn't say my rs properly, and my parents still tease me about my reply each year to what I wanted for my birthday meal: WIBS!

I had a couple packages of baby back ribs from the pork I bought last winter that I intended to grill over the summer. I did not grill them, so I needed to find a good baked rib recipe.

I was talking with a friend last week, and he told me he was going to make ribs for a Sunday football watching party. Since he was making oven-baked ribs that he claims are the best, I requested he send me the recipe. The following are the directions I received, straight from his email.

"So the recipe is super easy...

Take a rack of baby back ribs, thawed, and apply fed pepper flake, onion powder, and a little garlic salt. Cover with a thin layer of dark brown sugar and press it into the ribs.

Let sit for an hour.

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Put into a baking pan that is deep enough so when you cover the pan with foil, it doesn't touch the ribs (not a necessity to not touch them).

Brush liberally with Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. Cover pan with foil and place in the oven.

At hour one remove and baste liberally again with sauce. Back in oven covered with foil.

Do the same at hour two.

At hour three, remove from oven and baste liberally. Kick temp up to 400 and put back on oven uncovered for 15 min or so to just dry the sauce on the ribs a little bit.

Remove and pull the ribs out. Let sit for 15 minutes. Split into chunks of 3 ribs.

You can use the drippings as a sauce if you skim a bit of the fat off. Serve with Bush's honey baked beans.

As a leftover idea, hand pull the leftover rib meat and mix with a little of the leftover beans. Toast two slices of white bread and put a slice of Swiss on it, some jalapeño slices, and the pork/bean mixture. Eat as a sandwich.


Yum is right. I followed the directions exactly, but instead of serving with Bush's beans, I made my own baked beans.  Here's the recipe.

8 cups cold water
2 3/4 cups (1 pound) dried Great Northern beans
4 strips bacon
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 cup beer, preferably  pale ale
2 cups water
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt

1. In a large stockpot, bring the cold water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let soak for 1 hour. Drain in a colander and rinse the beans.

2. Heat a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until golden, turning once. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat.

3. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up the browned bits from the bacon, until golden brown. Add the beans, beer, water, molasses, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, dry mustard, and paprika. Coarsely chop the bacon and add it to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 3 hours. Add water as needed to keep the beans covered. During the last half hour of cooking, remove the lid and don't add any additional water to the beans. When the beans are done, stir in the salt just before serving.

I even used the leftovers to make a sandwich, as instructed. I did deviate from the recipe a bit by using a baguette instead of white bread. Mmm.

Two delicious meals.

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steamed Dungeness Crab and Crab Cakes

I spent a couple days last week in Cannon Beach. It feels wrong to go to the coast and not bring back fresh crab. I mean, what is better than a dungeness crab feast?  Nothing.

I bought two huge crabs and had every intention of gorging myself on them, but after finishing one I was way too full to continue. So I cleaned the meat out of the other one to save for another meal.

The next night, I made crab cakes with that meat. I had every intention of following a Cooks Illustrated recipe, but while looking for that recipe I came across this post.  What better way to pick a recipe than to have someone else try four recipes and write about them?  One of the recipes had this analysis:

"My notes on Katie's recipe start with "pure, unadulterated crab." This is a great recipe if you have fantastic, fresh crab and love to let it shine. It held together better in the pan than it fared in the oven. Perhaps because it was the 4th one I flipped, I started to get better at being gentle. It's very similar to the Cooks Illustrated recipe in terms of flavor, really just without the green onion. So if you love letting the real crab flavor shine, this is a fantastic choice."

My reaction was (1) thank goodness I didn't rely on a Cooks Illustrated recipe because green onions make me gag and (2) this sounds PERFECT for my fresh and delicious crab meat.  Katie's (from Good Things Catered) recipe is as follows.

Real Maryland Crab Cakes

1 lb. fresh lump crab meat
1 egg
1 Tbsp light mayonnaise
1 slice bread, crust removed, soaked in milk
1 tsp old bay seasoning, plus extra for topping
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
3 Tbsp oil

1. In large bowl, combine crab, egg, mayo, bread, 1 tsp old bay (or more if desired), salt, pepper, parsley and mix to combine thoroughly.

2. Pat into 4 inch cakes and place into fridge to set for 20-30 minutes.

3. In medium fry pan, add oil and heat over medium low heat until almost smoking.

4. Place cakes into pan carefully, making sure not to break, and let pan fry until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Carefully flip cakes and let pan fry until other side is golden brown, about 5-8 minutes more.

6. Carefully remove cakes from the pan and place on paper towel lined plate.

7. Sprinkle tops of cakes with old bay and serve immediately.

This recipe was also perfect for me because other than bread and milk, I had all the ingredients. I very much did not want to venture out into the down pour and cold outside, so I substituted about 3 Tbsp plain breadcrumbs for the milk soaked bread. You know, even if I had milk and bread, I might have subbed it for breadcrumbs. The thought of soaking bread in milk makes me gag.

I also made some tartar sauce, but it wasn't very good, so I am not going to share the recipe I made up.

I love crab.

Bon appetit.