Feast 48 – The End

April 30, 2010

queue the Doors, Mr. Mojo Risin sending a message to his beautiful friend, all that… yup, finally, a little over a year after starting this adventure, it is finally over… i am actually typing this post in the international concourse of Incheon Airport in Seoul, waiting to board my plane in a little under an hour. yup, it is most certainly over. well, the seclusion of the 48 feasts, this particular project… but, as i mentioned, the journey continues in my follow-up project, Forever Feasting!

Ok, get ready… here is the lesson that i learned over the last year, the one thing that cooking these 48 feasts has taught me… ready? suspense is killing me, i’ll tell you that quite honestly. here it is. The food is not the most important thing. i know, crazy talk, considering this is a cooking blog but the overwhelming lesson that i have learned is that no matter how perfect the ingredient, no matter how flawless the cooking technique, regardless of the precision timing of the preparation, none of it really matters without the people you care about. meals are just empty calories that keep you alive without the company of others. the meals, at the end of it all, are more about the people than they are about the food.

and so, for the capstone to this project, i decided to go with a twin bookend to the feast before the feast, the first meal documented in this blog… that meal was prepared for friends and family as a farewell on my departure to korea. now, a year and a bit later, i decided the most appropriate messure was to cater my own going away party, one last little treat for the girls of the VIP club and a bit of mindless self indulgence for me…

The menu is a bit varied on this one, two primary reasons… firstly, i was cupboard cleaning, trying to maximize use of what was in the cabinets to prevent avoidable waste. secondly, being the nice guy that i am, i asked the girls at the VIP what they would like me to cook, no limits, whatever, just name it… you can imagine my disappointment when the first request was for fried rice. a bit pedestrian for my tastes and being in korea, not exactly exotic. with some pushing, i managed to also get a request for hotwings, pasta and broccoli cheese soup. i added to those three type of bread (gotta use up that flour!) and there you have it, a full days cooking and quite a meal.

pausing for plane ride from Seoul to Tokyo, will continue to update this after i get network access again, enjoy the work in progress and ignore the rough notesw before, since i am in transit, i need to keep things somewhere…

Chicken Wings are one of my absolute favorite “bar foods”. they are convenient, easy to make and have an infinite variety of flavor possibilities. i owe a great debt to Alton Brown for my chicken wing prep method, it was he that first showed me the method of steaming the wings to defat them prior to the roasting step. because of my space limitations in my far away kitchen, i used a roasting pan with a rack elevated over an inch or so of water for the first cooking step. this method works admirably well and even given the options of stove top steaming, i am likely to continue doing it this way. For this meal, i made ten pounds of wings with two different flavor options. i decided on doing a mango pepper wing and a traditional Tabasco flavored wing. the first step for both is obviously the same, steam the wings in the aforementioned roasting pan in batches in a hot oven for about 30 minutes per batch. cool the wings. For the actual cooking stage, roast them in a dry pan at 375 for about 20 minutes, turning once. if they aren’t browning up to your satisfaction, well, cook them a bit longer 🙂

The Mango Pepper wings: this recipe resulted in my absolute favorite quote of the year. overheard after someone got their first taste of these fiery treats: “Those wings are a violation of the Geneva Convention…”. ok, i did go out of my way to make them a bit on the hot side. to my credit, almost all of them were gone by the end of the evening so they must have had some redeeming qualities. it was a source of constant amusement to see people’s reactions when the first taste gave them a little sweetness and then the fire kicked in and they rushed for bread or beverage. yes, i am easily amused.

(still updating, give me a break, back with my family and actually have a life again… i promise to complete the final entries in the next 48 hours)

Chicken Wings
-Mango Pepper
-Black Olive and Pepper
-Jalapeno and Tomato
-Black Forest Ham and Gruyere
Fried Rice
Broccoli Soup


Feast 47 – PORK CHOP SANDWICHES???!??!?!!!

April 30, 2010

ok, everyone that knows me probably realizes i have an underdeveloped sense of humor that in a lot of ways never really left middle school. i’m ok with that. a combination of factors, not the least of which was my own self satisfaction of using the term PORK CHOP SANDWICHES! in my blog led me to this weeks meal. it helps of course that one of the things left behind by eddie was a bag of pork chops. can’t let the go to waste now can we?

let’s get this out of the way… anyone who is confused at my unbridled amusement at the mere mention of PORK CHOP SANDWICHES!, please follow this link and then get back to me. after you stop giggling uncontrollably, continue on with the blog. if for some odd reason you fail to see the humor, perhaps my blog isn’t really for you after all…

ok, simple meal this week, the aforementioned pork chop sandwiches (which i will stop capitalizing, i got it out of my system now) topped with caramelized red onions, mushrooms and gruyere cheese with pan fried broccoli. tasty to say the least but simple on the relative scale of things.

everyone who reads my blog knows by this point that i love my slow cooker. crock pots are one of the absolute essentials in my opinion, they work magic on just about any type of meat. so, i took the three pork chops left in the freezer, liberally salted and peppered them and tossed them into the crock pot. add to this a bottle of sam adams noble pils and a bit of sage. cook for eight and a half hours, turning often. remove any excess fat and all the bones, not just the excess ones. drain and cool slightly.

meanwhile, slice up a medium sized red onion and about six white mushrooms. saute these in a saucepan over medium heat with a knob of butter until the onions brown.

once the onions and the meat is ready, slice up a few large slices of king’s sweet Hawaiian bread. toast the bread on both sides under your broiler. top one slice of bread with the stewed down pork chops and the onion/mushroom mixture. add to this two slices of gruyere and broil until the cheese melts. enjoy and try not to laugh about the video while enjoying your pork chop sandwiches.

I wanted something simple and understated to go alongside this but something quite tasty. that’s not asking for much is it? so, i settled on broccoli, touch fried in butter with just a bit of salt for seasoning. easier done than said, melt a large knob of butter in your saucepan and add in the broccoli, frying until the tips become crisp and slightly blackened, turning once and once only. serve immediately.

it was a simple meal but one that was very satisfying. it served the purpose of helping to clean out the cupboards and gave me an immense dose of humorous satisfaction. yup, i liked it…

(working on the laptop in the airport, having issues uploading the pictures, they are forthcoming)

Jumping the gun

April 25, 2010

yeah, yeah, i still need to post the recaps of meals 47 and 48, i plan on doing it in the next 24 hours… however, gun jumping in progress, i have begun the skeletal outline for the follow-on project, Forever Feasting! I hope you all will continue along with me on the journey of culinary exploration that we have begun over the last year. i am far from done and i look forward to the fresh ideas my wife, daughter and son will bring to the table, pun fully intended.

well, bags to pack, posts to write, check out the new blog and enjoy…


April 25, 2010

no, my cooking blog has not devolved that far… this is not a post about a meal composed of spam… however, as odd as it seems, even a little blog like mine gets its share of spam comments to my postings, caught by the ever efficient wordpress spam filter. i check the comments marked as spam just to make sure that no legitimate posts are cruelly slandered with a spam tag, pretty much on a daily basis. usually they are inane links to commercial ventures having nothing to do with cooking and simply get immediately deleted. however, tonight, as i check the filtered messages, i am rewarded with a stream of gibberish which i felt compelled to share. its dada poetry at its finest. enjoy.

“Heat Strategy,complete colleague average occasion show fish special picture side sequence consider build answer capacity security convention parent accompany labour baby limit spend press row method attach herself route link position none individual criminal time alternative value hill succeed detailed medical central listen shoulder wonderful cat must lift tour indicate generate sex access back drive just beginning heart chain strike lay second publication aircraft watch hide variation planning give sir answer income system representation advice care must member close story allow insurance increase tree somewhat intention woman able recognise suffer existing degree that boy”

read what meaning you will into it, i enjoyed it for what it is. its almost joycean in its beautiful randomness.

Final Feast Preview

April 11, 2010

I don’t want to remove all reasons for everyone to read the last week of the blog so just a little tease… i’ve decided to make feast 48 the perfect bookend to the beginning of the project, the feast before the feasts. to this end, my plan is to cater my own going away party. stay tuned for a final menu of bar food slated for Saturday the 24th, the night of my going away at the VIP club.

Feast 46 – Fee Fie Foe Fum

April 9, 2010

Originally, I had planned on doing a Cuban meal this weekend. However, I am a fickle being and decided on the spot Friday afternoon that Cuban was not what I was in the mood for… I went off tangentially from a desire for a scotch egg and developed an English meal consisting of Scotch Eggs, Cornish Pasties (both savory and sweet) and creamed cabbage with bacon. Mmmm, bacon. I have to thank Gary Rhodes for this one, once I set upon the idea of a scotch egg and a Cornish Pasties, flipping through his New Classics led me to the Creamed Cabbage with Bacon which suited me just fine.
This meal was equal parts nostalgia leftover from my family’s time in Oxfordshire and a product of my own predilection for things involving meat and potatoes. Oh, and did I mention bacon? As anyone that’s ever discussed food with me can attest to, I hold it as a universal truth that anything can be improved with the addition of either bacon or chocolate. However, adding both to the same dish would probably not work out so well. But, I digress. Bacon… mmmmmm.

Scotch eggs with sausage layer formed

The Scotch Eggs: I decided that this would not be quite right without me messing about a bit with it. I decided to go with chorizo instead of standard sausage on the eggs, both from personal preference and hey, I’ve got three weeks until I pull up stakes and shuffle off the immoral coil. It’s all about the cabinet cleansing and using what is available.
So, for the three scotch eggs, bring a large pan of salted water to boil and add in four room temperature eggs. Yeah, I said four… you absolutely have to test the eggs for doneness and the best way to do that is obviously to eat one. So, add in one extra egg for your little chef’s treat, confident in the fact that you are doing it to ensure your final product is cooked to perfection. Boil the eggs for 7 1/2 minutes and turn off the heat. Let the eggs cool slightly and then run under cold water. Shell the eggs and rinse to remove any stray bits of eggshell. Meanwhile, dice up a shallot and cook until translucent in a bit of butter. Mix this with three links of chorizo, casings removed.
Add a pinch of mace, 2 tsps or more of fresh sage and the zest of a lemon. Mix well by hand, its very visceral and satisfying. Coat your three eggs in a thin layer of the sausage mixture, pressing gently to get a nice even layer with no breaks. Refrigerate for 45 minutes or so to set the eggs. Bread the eggs by coating in beaten egg and rolling in bread crumbs. Two passes through makes for a better crust, just try to not make too much of a mess. Deep fry for about 6 minutes until golden brown.

Scotch Eggs draining on paper towels

Slice in half to serve, warm or cold according to your preferences.

Filling the Pasties

Cornish Pasties: Reading the history of Cornish pasties, I learned that originally the crust was to be hard enough to withstand a drop down a mineshaft. I personally aimed for something a little lighter and flakier, if you recreate this recipe yourself, try not to drop them any large distance, they will likely not survive. However, if carefully transferred from baking pan to plate, they will taste pretty damned good. There is open debate on if the ingredients for a pasty should be cooked at all prior to filling. I took the middle ground on this and while all my vegetables were added simply sliced and raw, I seared the beef on both sides before chopping it for inclusion in the filling.
Take a 1/2 pound of a relatively nice cut of beef and salt and pepper both sides. Sear in a hot pan to seal each side, not enough to cook through but simply brown the surface. Slice into bite sized pieces and mix in a large bowl with one diced potato, one diced onion and a diced parsnip. Add salt, pepper and sage to the mix and set aside. Make a pie crust from 1 1/3 cup of all purpose flour, 8 tbsp butter, 1/8 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of salt and 2 -3 tbsp of ice cold water. Cut the butter into the flour with the other dry ingredients until the mixture starts to come together in a rough crumb texture. Add just enough of the ice water to make a workable dough. Knead well and then roll out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut rounds from the dough using a small plate as a guide. As I made 2 savory and 2 sweet pasties, I of course made four rounds. Layer these on a plate with a little dusting of flour to prevent them from sticking and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup of frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup of frozen peaches, 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup of sugar and the zest of a lemon in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until most of the liquid is cooked out of the fruit compote. Cool mixture.

Pasty fresh from the oven

Fill the pasties with the savory and sweet mixtures, two apiece, leaving a 1/4 inch border clear to allow for a good crimp around the edge. Cut small slits into the upper surface of the pasty to vent steam during cooking. Brush with beaten egg and bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 – 60 minutes, until the pasties are nicely browned. Serve and enjoy.

Cabbage cooking away

Creamed Cabbage with Bacon: This recipe is dead simple and extremely tasty. I am always struck when the simpler preparations turn out this good, again this was a dish that I just couldn’t stop eating, there were definitely no leftovers… using the pan that you seared the beef in, melt a knob of butter and sweat down a large thinly sliced onion. Using the same pan as the beef allows for all that delicious fond to impart a great flavor to the dish. Once the onion is softened and slightly browned, add in three sliced of chopped bacon. Cook until the bacon is almost done. The original recipe called for the bacon to be cooked crispy separately but I opted for the single pan method. Add 1/2 a head of shredded cabbage to the pan, stirring well to distribute the tastiness of the bacon and onions. Cook down until the cabbage begins to soften and then add about a 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Stir well and cook down until the cream develops into a lovely sauce. Salt and pepper to taste and serve nice and hot.

Meal Plated and ready

This was a great meal with really satisfying leftovers. I look forward to trying these in the future, probably with turkey sausage to appease my wife but I am sure that it will be tasty nonetheless.

Feast 45 – Russian Regalia

April 9, 2010

There is no doubt, I enjoy things a bit on the unusual side. This being said, one persons commonplace is another exotic. For me, I would have to say that caviar doesn’t find its way onto my plate very often. Or at all to be honest. The closest I usually get is a bit of masago in my sushi maki. Which is tasty, of course. However, I had a craving this week to take that step to try out some caviar. I saw it also as a shameless excuse to indulge in some vodka and have it match the theme… it’s all about the theme. So, I decided to go with a few traditional-ish Russian dishes, centering around the use of caviar on the main entrée.

So, three dishes, as per norm, starting with blinis and caviar, alongside Istrian Gnocchi with Truffle Cream and some Fried sauerkraut cakes with kielbasa to finish it off. Quite satisfying in an extravagant sort of way. Truffle cream and caviar in the same meal? Color me convinced. The three recipes were sourced from epicurious (go figure) and followed fairly closely. I did a bit of modifications on the Blinis, they called for using a pancake mix, I went ahead and made some savory pancakes from scratch and simply topped them with caviar. A dollop of sour cream would have been nice but unfortunately, I large plate of nachos the night before reduced my sour cream supply to zero. Such is life, it still turned out nice…

Blini on the griddle

The Blini: I went the simple route with this, mixing 1 cup of flour, 1 egg, 1 cup of milk, a tsp of baking powder, a twist of salt and a drizzle of olive oil in a mixing bowl. Add to this a nice dash or oregano and marjoram. Stir well and cook on a hot griddle until the surface develops air bubbles. Flip and cook a few more minutes until brown. Serve immediately topped with chilled caviar and sour cream/smoked salmon if you have it available. I didn’t but that’s ok 🙂

Gnocchi formed and ready to cook

The gnocchi: The original recipe can be found here and I followed it fairly closely, just halving the quantity based on my solo dining. I think this recipe deserves a closer look, perhaps my technique was a bit off… my gnocchi turned out a bit denser than I would have liked. Instead of truffle butter, I used a fresh knob of butter with a drizzle of truffle oil to finish it off. Same basic principle and it’s what I had on hand… the flavor was outstanding, I am sold on anything with truffle oil, I can only imagine the absolute ecstasy that a real fresh truffle would bring. Perhaps it’s best that I never find out, I would probably be in very poor financial shape if I got too used to the flavor of truffles.

Sauerkraut Cakes frying away

The Sauerkraut cakes with Kielbasa: the primary issue I had with this recipe is that kielbasa is so damned tasty, I couldn’t help snacking on it, both cooked and uncooked. Just thinking about it now, I really wish I had some left over… mmmm, tasty. Anyway, simple to make and fairly quick. Drain the kraut really well and mix in the eggs, scallions, flour, salt and pepper. Form into flat cakes and shallow fry in hot oil until brown and crispy. Drain well on paper towels. Meanwhile, slice up your kielbasa into 1/2 slices and fry both sides to brown. Top the sauerkraut cakes with the kielbasa and eat immediately. That last pasrt is probably unneeded, these things are so tasty that you will have a hard time not eating them immediately.

Overall, a fancier meal than your average that had a fairly low effort level and prep time. It was enjoyable to cook and even more so to eat.

Meal Plated, ready to eat

Also, the vodka helped a lot.