Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Subscribe to My New Blog: The Sunday Dinner Revival

Hello Dear Food-G Fans and Followers,

And Happy Valentine's Day. Gosh, I miss you! And I miss connecting with you here on Food-G, but as you know, the time has come to move on to bigger and better blogging.

Many of you contacted me when I announced the big move with cries of anguish. Okay, maybe not anguish. But you were concerned, nonetheless, that you would no longer receive my posts in your inbox, all easy and convenient-like. Well, fear not! For I have made sure that you will be able to receive those same easy and convenient emails from my new blog, The Sunday Dinner Revival.

If you haven't checked it out yet, YOU ARE MISSING OUT on stuff like:

Ad Hoc's Fried Chicken and Potato Pave

My Signature Sweet Skillet Cornbread

or Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken with Bread Salad

Because I know some of you would appreciate a walk through with the new email subscription, I am at your service. Just follow these easy-as-pie steps and every single post (about 2 per week) will show up in your inbox for you to peruse at your leisure.

1. Go to my new fancy-pants blog: The Sunday Dinner Revival
2. Just below my head shot and welcome message you will see two "Subscribe" buttons. Click on the ENVELOPE for email subscription.
3. A window will open (from FeedBurner). Enter your email address in the box and follow the instructions to type the anti-spam code.
4. If you entered the info correctly, a new window will open alerting you that your request has been accepted, and informing you that A VERIFICATION EMAIL will be sent to your inbox. When it shows up (usually within minutes), open the email, click on the link to verify the subscription, and BAM! All done. Now you will never miss a recipe, a story, a photo, or a laugh from yours truly.

Here's another subscription option you might be curious about:

So what is all this RSS business, you ask? RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. RSS allows you to subscribe to all your favorite blogs and websites, but instead of sending the content to your email inbox, it stores it in your own personal RSS Feed page, aka"Reader," aka"Aggregate." Think of it as your personal newsstand, where you have hand-selected every magazine and newspaper on the shelf.

Subscribing via RSS may be appealing if you find yourself signing up for way too many EMAIL subscriptions, and ending up with inbox-overload. You can have your little stack of magazines and catalogs on a "digital coffee table", which is usually easy to find on your internet browser. On my version of Internet Explorer, there's a little RSS icon in the tool bar, which looks like this:

When I click it, a list of the most recent content from the sites I've subscribed to comes up. So if you think you want to become an RSS subscriber (heck, why not do both!), just follow these steps:

1. Go to my fancy-pants new blog: The Sunday Dinner Revival
2. Just below my head shot and welcome message you will see two "Subscribe" buttons. Click on the RSS icon (similar to the one shown above).
3. A window will open, powered by FeedBurner. The best thing to do if you're new to RSS is click on the link that says, "Learn more about syndication and FeedBurner." A page will open that explains all the ins and outs and walks you through stuff like choosing a "Reader". If it all sounds like Chinese to you, just do the email subscription. It's easier : )

And finally, one last humble request: Blogging is a labor of love, and it takes a devoted readership to generate the kind of following that makes the work worth doing. Sharing these recipes and stories with you has been an honor, but I need you now, more than ever, to tell your friends about The Sunday Dinner Revival. Put a link on your Facebook Page, send out an email, whatever works, just help me build an audience so that I can keep bringing the flavor to your table. Much obliged.

With Love and Gratitude,


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Food-G: A Blog in Review

It's been a good ride, but the time has come to close the curtain on Food-G. Don't cry. I'm not abandoning you! Just moving... to a place where you can find all the stories, photos, and recipes you've enjoyed here, but with a clearer mission and many improvements.

My new home is called The Sunday Dinner Revival. Go ahead and take a peek, but please excuse the metaphorical sawdust and cardboard boxes. I'm still putting on the finishing touches. Later this month, I'll invite you to the Grand Opening, once everything is in place.

For now, I think it's important to honor the time we've had here with a little reflection on the Food-G journey. So, get cozy, make a cup of tea, and take a stroll with me down memory lane...

It all began April 24, 2009. It was a time for comfort food and my first post was this recipe for Chicken Jook, aka Congee.

Chicken Jook with Ginger and Scallions
I was living in employee housing, while Noah was away on contract. The economy had just tanked I decided that it was time to focus my writing on food. Noah returned to Juneau that spring, and we found a wonderful place to live for what would be our last summer in Alaska. I miss taking photos from that deck, like this one:

Roast Chicken Brie and Fig Sandwich with Asparagus "Fries"
We soaked up every little detail we could from Alaska, etching details like the sight and sound of a humpback's misty plume into our memories.

There were barbecues:

Crock Pot Pulled Pork
There was berry picking:

View "Tess's Jewel Berry Crisp"
There were warm days in the sun:

Cucumber Watermelon Licuado

The very long days began to grow shorter and before we knew it, it was time to move on:

View "Blueberry Cottage Cheese Pancakes"
We didn't know where we were headed. We only knew we were ready to find home. While we waited for some direction, we hopped on Aunt Pam and Uncle Win's sailboat in Miami, and didn't get off until we reached St. Lucia, 38 days later.

Sailboat Cookery 101
We were grateful to have such a special adventure, and lots of time to stare at the ocean.

View "Do You Fon-Do?"
Eventually, we had to return to our life, and all the big questions that needed answering. Where were we going? And what would we do when we got there?

Have you ever heard the saying, "Leap, and the net will appear?"

Noah and I were called back to the place where we fell in love: Montana. There was a glimmer of a possiblity of a job there for him, which would allow us to know, for the first time in 5 years, where we were going to be in 6 months. It was year round , versus contract work, and it was the kind of position that has very low turnover. It could be weeks before something opened up. It could be years.

We got in the car and headed West on a wing and a prayer. After crashing with friends in Missoula for a few weeks, and deciding we didn't want to sign another lease, we moved into a hotel. We lived there for 2 months, eating continental breakfast, and cooking dinner on our 2-burner kitchenette while we waited and hoped and willed things to work out.

Food-G was there through it all, a constant in a sea of change. In fact, it was in that little hotel room that I wrote my highest hitting blog post of all:

Lady Budd's Basted Eggs
It was also in that hotel room that we found out, in the course of one life changing day, that the offer we made on a house had been accepted, AND a position had opened up and Noah got the job.

Have you ever laughed and cried at the same time? I felt the full rainbow of emotions that day, but most of all gratitude and RELIEF.

In March of 2010 we moved into our very first home. We had gotten a good deal on a little 2-acre spread we named The Ranchito. Fixing it up became a full time job. We moved a lot of dirt and made our first and only house rule: If you don't have a shovel in your hand, you don't get to complain.

Morel Mushroom Crepes
In August, yet another of our lifelong dreams came true, when we brought Pablo home.

View "Creative Dog Treats"
Oh man, was he ever worth the wait. He is the most fun, silly, lovable companion we could have ever hoped for.

Before we knew it the leaves were turning. My new website, The Sunday Dinner Revival, was under construction. I had moved into my newly renovated office, the holidays were just around th corner, and we gave ourselves a much needed break from projects on the house.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Thanksgiving rolled into Christmas,

The Turkeytini. No gravy necessary.
and suddenly BOOM! It's 2011. New home. New job. New life. Heck, it's time for a new blog. And not just a new blog, but one that really digs into the meat of what it is that we've been sharing here on Food-G; a celebration of life's table and all that it brings.

Thank you, dear Food-G readers, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of this journey. You have left comments, shared ideas, offered support, told stories. It has meant everything to me, and I thank you for being the hub of this wheel.

It's time to leap again, into new and exciting possibilities. I hope you'll come with me, and we can continue to gather at my new and improved table.

Big, huge love,


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Buttermilk Pie with...Duck Fat and Vodka Pie Crust?!?!

Last month, around my birthday, my sister Kim called from Seattle to let me know a package would be arriving. Kim is an amazing pastry chef, and said it was being overnighted, so I knew it was going to be something delicious. We had a bunch of friends in town for the Built to Spill show at the Wilma, and they were here when the box arrived.

"Ooooh looky here everybody!" I called. "My sister sent me a birthday package, and I bet it's something we can eat."

Everyone gathered around the big brown box while I slit the tape and opened it up. The air prickled with anticipation. I reached in between the layers of packing material, and pulled out a jar.

"Homemade cornichons!" I exclaimed.

Murmurs circulated around the room..."What the heck is a cornichon? I dunno? Me neither...Some kind of pickle I guess..."

I reached deeper into the box and found a frigid cold plastic bucket. I grasped the handle and hoisted it up, reading the label aloud for all.

"Rendered duck fat," I said. "It's an eight pound bucket of duck fat!"

Many pairs of eyes gazed at me in confusion. The room went silent.

"I get it!" I laughed, "You bring the duck fat, I'll bring the cornichons!"

More silence. More confused eyeballs.

See, Kim's girlfriend Angie and I had this inside joke going on Facebook. She's the chef at this super swanky hotel, and we're always talking shop. Angie and I had decided that she and Kim needed to come to Montana for a visit, so we could chef it up together. "I'll bring the duck fat!" she said, to which I replied, "I'll bring the cornichons." And then we both LOL'd.

Chef humor.

I ROTFL'd, before stashing my bucket of white gold in the freezer. Nobody got it but me and Kim and Ang, but that's okay. I just explained to my pals that sometimes when you're a food person, you get birthday gifts like 8 lb. buckets of duck fat in the mail. Funny thing is, the next day I got a box of hand-crafted Michigan cheeses from my Mom, and a box of Montgomery Inn's pulled pork and baby back ribs, and Graeter's Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream from my bro. I made out like a bandit.

Duck fat delights: Smashed potatoes with sea salt.

I Facebooked Angie to let her know the fat had arrived and we exchanged ideas about all the things I could do with it. Duck Confit, Duck Rillettes, Duck Fat Smashed Potatoes, Duck Fat Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Duck Fat Fries, and ...Duck Fat pie crust?

Yes. Duck fat pie crust. Kim had judged some pie contests this past summer, and told me that hands down, the best crusts are made with a combo of butter and animal fat, like lard. So I thought, why not duck fat? A hasty search revealed that yes, people certainly do use duck fat for pie crusts, both sweet and savory. It has quite a bit of rich, animal flavor, so you want to use a low ratio of duck fat to butter, but apparently It makes a mean crust. 

I also came across the idea of using vodka in the crust. What?!? Yes. Vodka in pie crust.

Replacing about half the water typically used in a pie crust, with vodka, apparently has two benefits. It adds enough moisture for the crumbly pie dough to stick together and roll out nicely. It also evaporates during baking, so the resulting crust is light and flaky, leaving almost no alcohol flavor. If you didn't tell anyone you used it, they'd never know it was in there. My curiosity was piqued.

It just so happened that it was Thanksgiving time and I wanted to bake a couple of pie's for the weekends festivities, one of which was this Southern Buttermilk Pie. 

A college roommate had introduced me to Buttermilk Pie many years ago. I had never so much as heard of it, but one bite, and I never forgot.Think of it as a custard pie, somewhere between Creme Brulee and Flan. You can gussy it up with a fresh berry sauce, but it really doesn't need it.  

Buttermilk Pie is a crowd pleaser, even among lukewarm pie eaters. If you haven't had it, you're missing out. I always wanted to make one, and was reminded of it when I heard Natalie Y. Moore talk about it on NPR's "Kitchen Window." I printed her recipe and it's been floating around in my stack of recipes to try for the last couple of years.

The recipe Moore used is identical to many of the classic Buttermilk Pie recipes available online. There are variations, but Southern reviewers almost unanimously claim that this is the one they remember from their childhoods.

I stuck to the recipe, pouring the custard into my duck fat and vodka pie crust. The consensus? Well, people pretty much freaked out. I'll admit here that I am a lukewarm pie eater myself, so the appeal of a bomber pie crust is somewhat lost on me, but all at the table, especially my friend Mona, a bona-fide pie crust queen, said it was the best she'd ever had. Noah agreed, and he doesn't make those claims lightly. As for the filling, everyone at the table loved it, and couldn't believe that Buttermilk Pie wasn't more well-known. 

Making a dent in the duck fat
 I promised Mona the recipe, so here it is, for all to see. I think it would make a lovely addition to your holiday table, be it Southern, Northern, Eastern, or Western, but Buttermilk Pie is great any time of year.

Classic Southern Buttermilk Pie
(from Natalie Y. Moore, for NPR's "Kitchen Window")

This recipe is easy as... well, you get it.

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Preheat oven to 325. In a medium mixing bowl combine eggs, sugar, and flour and stir to combine. Add melted butter and mix well. Add buttermilk and vanilla and stir to combine.

Dust the unbaked shell lightly with flour. Pour filling into shell, and use a fine wire mesh strainer to evenly dust top of filling with a bit more flour.

Place pie on middle-rack of preheated oven. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack just below the one the pie is on, to catch any drips. Bake until top is golden and custard is set, about 1 hour. Pie may be served warm, room temperature, or chilled. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Duck Fat and Vodka Pie Crust
(makes 2 single 9-inch pie crusts)

I'm going to buck pie-crust tradition here and tell you that I don't chill the butter. If that's how you make your crust, that's fine, but I'm a lazy baker, and I think it's much less cumbersome to cut the fat into the flour when it's a bit more pliable than the super cold butter most recipes prescribe. When it's a bit soft (but not mushy room temp), you can even use your finger tips to work it in. It still maintains the little bits of fat that make pie crust light, flaky, and tender, and after being chilled for an hour, it rolls out easily, especially when you use the plastic wrap method outlined below.

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cool but not chilled
1/4 cup rendered duck fat (you can substitute lard)
1/4 cup ice cold water
1/4 cup vodka

Combine flour salt and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Slice butter into pats and add to flour along with duck fat. Cut the fat into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, a food processor, or your finger tips. Continue working the fat in until the mixture resembles very coarse meal.

Add cold water and vodka and stir just until ingredients are moistened. Divide the dough into two balls. Place each ball on a large square of plastic wrap, and flatten into circular discs, about 1-inch thick. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling. If pressed for time, you can speed the chilling process by placing in the freezer.

When ready to roll, unwrap the plastic, and place the dough disk in the center of the sheet. Place another large sheet of plastic wrap atop the disk and use a rolling pin to roll out the crust to about 11 or 12 inches in diameter. The plastic omits the need to flour your work surface or rolling pin. Peel one sheet of plastic from the dough, and use the remaining sheet, sticking to the dough, to lay the shell into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the edges and then crimp by pinching with your fingertips, or pressing lightly with the tines of a fork.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Ultimate Smoked Salmon Spread

Last week, I was zipping around town in a holiday frenzy, looking for supplies for an article I was writing on edible homemade gifts. You can read that article, including 6 simple spice mixes, and a recipe for Dark Molasses Cranberry Granola, on Nourish Network. I zoomed to the spice store and the craft store and the fabric store. Then out to the hills to take Pablo for a walk. I zipped back into town to grab something to eat with Noah, while we discussed all the items we needed to put up a tree and hang some lights. Seeing that this is our first tree in our first home in our first hometown, we pretty much needed everything, from tree stand to ornament hooks. More zipping, zigging, zagging, and zooming. A blur of traffic lights, parking lots, and check out lines. We squeezed in a few of the never-ending errands that have come with our first year at the Ranchito-- look at snowblowers, go to the furniture store for the 15th time, pick up some ice melter from the hardware store. Sometime in the late afternoon, as the light was just beginning to fade, I looked at my phone. I had forgotten the ringer was off and I had missed 2 calls.

"#@*&!#@%!!! I missed my massage!!!"

My in-laws had bought me a massage for my b-day (thank you very much), and I had been looking forward to it all week. That morning, I scanned my calendar and thought, "Yay, massage today, 3pm." By the time I realized what had happened, it was 4:30.

I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know, the sinking kind that comes from knowing that not only did you miss something, you screwed up someone else's day. Time and money were surely lost for the massage therapist. I called the spa.

"Hi, I had an appointment today, and I . . . well I don't know what happened. I think I got caught in a holiday time warp."

The receptionist laughed and said, "Yeah, I think that's been happening to people. We've had a lot of spaced appointments this week."

It was kind of a relief to know I'm not the only one. I was reminded again of the holiday mind melt reading my friend Kate's blog, A Life Like This One, where she likened her holiday state of mind to a, "Category 5 hurricane." And she reminded me that this is a time of year for togetherness, celebration, family, friends, and peace. Somehow, we have to hold that sacred, and make choices that create space for what's important.

In the whoosh of December, it's easy to miss the important things. My lesson this year is that as I enter the month of December, it's best to check my ambitions at the door. For example, while on deadline for that article, I needed to come up with a dish to pass for a Christmas party. I told Noah I was going to make salmon dip, then roll it in cream cheese and build a snowman, complete with a little path of grass clippings fashioned out of dill, a scarf made of shaved carrot ribbon-- complete with fringe, peppercorn eyes, and thyme stems for arms. Oh the edible wonderland I was going to create!!

"And when are you going to write this article?" Noah asked in reply, bringing me back to Earth.

"On second thought, maybe I'll just mix it up and put it in a bowl, " I said, "...with a dill sprig."

So that's what I did. And it was easy, and it was good, and ya know, it was enough. I made a lot of progress on my article that day, and felt relaxed going to the party, ready to bring some holiday cheer versus holiday stress. Oh that tightrope...she's a thin one. I wish you luck in walking your own this holiday season, in finding time to sit and admire the lights, to watch the snow fall, to remember the magic we knew as children, when it was our parents who were working their butts off to create happy holiday memories (Thanks Mom).

I had that massage, finally. After offering my heartfelt apologies for spacing out last week, the massage therapist generously gave me a most healing hour. She took me back home, back to center, where I am here, and only here. No zipping, no zooming, no doing, just being; aware of the truth that the important thing is not to impress people with salmon dip dioramas, but to show up.
So when it's your turn to bring a dish to pass, and you want to make something that comes together quick, but is still special enough for the season, try this salmon spread. Just remember not to spread it, or yourself, too thin ; ) 

Smoked Salmon Spread (makes 2 cups) 

This recipe was originally published in my Local Flavor column for The Juneau Empire. You can view the article here.

There are many ways to make salmon spread but, at least in my mind, this is the ultimate. Addicting, easy, and luxurious. Popular go-withs for salmon spread are buttery crackers (I like Late July Organic’s Classic Rich Crackers because they’re light yet sturdy), pumpernickel cocktail bread, bagel chips, or Lavosh-style flatbread.

8 ounces smoked wild Alaskan salmon (use hot smoked, aka "kippered" salmon, not lox)
4 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
2 tablespoons capers, drained and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional, but they add some nice texture)
2 teaspoons cream horseradish
2 teaspoons finely chopped dill, plus extra for garnish (or fresh chives)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Break the salmon into small pieces, discarding skin and bones. Set aside.
2. Place the cream cheese in a medium, microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on high, 30 seconds or until softened.
3. Add all remaining ingredients (except salmon) to the cream cheese and stir to combine. Add flaked salmon and using a rubber spatula, fold into mixture until thoroughly coated.
4. Place in a serving dish, and garnish with extra dill. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. May be made 1 day in advance.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thai Beef Salad

Happy Holidays Food-G readers! We are one full week into the season of eating-- pun intended! Are you ready for something lighter yet?

Ahh the holidays... So good for the soul. So bad for the pants button. It's amazing how quickly it happens too. Over the course of a long Thanksgiving weekend I think I ate my own body weight in turkey, stuffing, gravy, pie, chex mix, prime rib, baked potatoes, and more pie . This morning, in the mild fog of a friend's super-fun Christmas Bash, I am reflecting on last night's hors d'oeuvre dinner: shrimp dip, salmon dip, spinach dip, queso dip, cured meats, cheeses, asparagus rolls, grilled beef skewers, and a couple of lil' smokies thrown in for good measure.

Don't get me wrong, I love the season's eatings (sorry, couldn't help it). Holiday food is so good, especially when consumed with family, friends, and a glass or two of holiday cheer. But in between feast days, it feels good to restore balance.

Noah and I fell in love with Thai Beef Salad in the little Australian surf haven of Byron Bay. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but theirs became the hallmark for what would become our quest to recreate the ultimate. It's been eleven years since that trip to Oz, and we've had plenty of time to nail down a version we love. So without further adieu...

Thai Beef Salad (serves 4)

Topped with slices of marinated tri tip, still warm from the grill, this is a salad that will satisfy every part of you. One of the best parts is the Nam Jim dressing: salty, sour, spicy, sweet, and totally oil free.

There are a lot of components here, but this meal lends itself to some superb piggy-back cooking. Marinate a little extra beef and use the leftovers to make this Vietnamese Steak Sandwich. Add a little of the Nam Jim dressing to rice noodles, throw in some pickled carrot (from the steak sandwich), along with chopped cucumber, bell pepper, bean sprouts, peanuts, cilantro, and crispy shallot and you've got a light and zippy noodle bowl to take to work.

1 or 2 heads bibb lettuce (depending on size), washed, dried, and torn into pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into matchsticks
Thai Marinated Beef (recipe below)
Chopped green onion
Fresh cilantro leaves
Dry roasted peanuts, chopped
Crispy Shallot (recipe below)
Nam Jim Dressing (recipe below)

On dinner plates, arrange lettuce and top with chopped pepper, carrot and cucumber. Add slices of marinated and grilled beef, and garnish with green onion, cilantro, peanuts, and crispy shallot. Drizzle lightly with Nam Jim dressing and serve.

Thai Marinated Beef
The pineapple juice in this marinade helps tenderize otherwise tough cuts of beef like flank steak. If using a large piece of tri-tip, cut into smaller hunks for more even cooking. Lightly score flank steak in a cross-hatch pattern before grilling to prevent the meat from "curling". Let rest 5 to 10 minutes after removing from grill, and always slice across the grain when serving.

2 to 3 pounds flank steak or tri tip (tri tip is fattier and more tender)
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 lime, zest and juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
pinch chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

Combine all ingredients, pour into a large plastic Ziploc bag, and add meat. Marinate 4 to 6 hours before grilling over medium-high heat, 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until desired degree of doneness has been reached.

Crispy Shallot

1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced shallot
pinch salt

Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Add oil, and when shimmery add sliced shallots and salt. Cook, stirring 7 - 10 minutes or until dark toasty brown. Watch closely. They can burn quickly at such high temps if neglected.

Nam Jim Dressing

2 med. garlic cloves
pinch salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3-4 bird's eye chilies, seeds removed for less spicy version (or sub. a pinch of chili flakes)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons palm sugar (best), raw turbinado sugar (better), or light brown sugar (good)
2 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot

Combine the garlic, salt and chilies in a mortar and pestle and grind to a paste. Add cilantro and continue to pulverize. Combine with sugar, lime juice and shallot and stir until sugar has dissolved. Alternately, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until well-blended.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkeytini: A Thanksgiving Cosmo

Thanksgiving, year by year, is rising in the ranks as my #1 favorite holiday. There are a number of reasons for this:
  • Aside from some serious grocery shopping, the spirit of Thanksgiving hasn't been diluted with consumerist hype they way some other holidays have. 
  • It's a holiday with no dividing lines, at least within the U.S., it's a holiday everyone can celebrate. 
  • It's all about food. On Thanksgiving, we unite around the table to do two things: give thanks for our bounty, and EAT! We fill our bellies together, and appreciate the blessing of fullness.
  • It's simple, it's beautiful, it's delicious, and it's all about the most transformative force in the Universe: Gratitude. We each have things to be thankful for, and somehow, reflecting on them inspires generosity. Gratitude, I've found, works like that every single day of the year.
  • And of course there's my newest reason, which I'll present to you in just a moment.
Last Thanksgiving I shared a story with you called, "Spirit of the Raisin," about bringing deep presence to the ritual of eating. It's one of my all time favorite posts, but this Thanksgiving, I offer you a different flavor of holiday spirit: 


The Turkeytini
(Makes 2 cocktails)

This Thanksgiving-inspired cosmo is a festive, rosy-hued cocktail. Some very good friends gave us a beautiful bottle of Yazi Ginger Flavored Vodka from Hood River Distillers, which I highly recommend if you can find it. If not, use plain vodka, and toss a few coins of freshly sliced ginger root into your cocktail shaker. Hubs and I really enjoyed the uh, "recipe testing" for this one. ; ) 

In a cocktail shaker combine:

4 ounces Ginger Flavored Vodka (or substitute plain and toss in a few slices of fresh ginger root)
2 ounces cranberry juice
Juice from 1 freshly squeezed grapefruit
Juice from 1 freshly squeezed lime

Add plenty of ice, shake well, and pour into martini glasses. Garnish with one of the following:

A twist of grapefruit peel
A slice of lime
A thin slice of fresh ginger

Enjoy! But please, not if you are driving. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving dear Food-G readers. I will be counting you on my gratitude list in a very big way tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tuscan Style Pot Roast : A Ski Bum's Dinner

Fall has ended here in Western Montana. Boom. Done. Kaput. Finito!!!

Last Wednesday a cold wind blew the last of the leaves away and fleece jackets were traded for down ones. Stylish sportster caps were traded for knit woollies with ear flaps. Anklets and running shoes were traded for thick Smartwools and winter boots. The snow began to fall in white waves, dusting, melting, dusting again, and now, staying put. Big flakes are flying this very moment, and the view from my office looks like a freshly shaken snow globe. The heat of summer is so fresh on my skin, it's hard to believe our highs this week are in the single digit range.

The ski areas are set to open right on schedule, and that makes me a very happy girl. Skiing is what brought me to this state 15 years ago. Oh, that and college ; )  It's also what overlapped my path and Noah's. I met him on a weekend trip to Big Sky. He was a lift operator there, and a snowboarder. He had long hair like The Black Stallion, and it was love at first sight.

As soon as we started dating, Noah got me into snowboarding, and I haven't really been skiing since. Maybe once a season, but I fell as madly in love with the sensation of surfing through deep, cold smoke powder, as I did with Noah.

That's me after doing some backcountry riding in Rogers Pass, B.C., New Years Day 2008

 I've been a knuckle dragging shred betty for the 14 years we've been together. Now, in keeping with what has become our, "Life Under Renovation," all that is about to change. Noah and I are switching to skis.

Non-skier/snowboarder types might miss the significance of this transition, but to us, and to our clan of Montana snow bums, this is BIG. By no means am I abandoning my beloved snow stick, but all I can say is that I haven't been this excited to hit the slopes, well, since the heli ski industry stole my favorite riding buddy 5 years ago. See, Noah had this dream to be a heli ski pilot in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska. These were the mountains we watched in ski movies, back when he was bumping chairs in Big Sky. It was a good dream, and he did it for about 4 ski seasons in a row, collecting some of the most spectacular memories a person can claim.

Noah flying the A-Star in Alaska's Chugach Range.
Note**: In case you have no idea what heli skiing is, he dropped skiers off on the tops of those mountains, and picked them up after they had skied to the bottom.

The only problem-- nay, 2 problems: 1) We had to endure 3 solid months  and most of the ski season apart, and 2) The pilot doesn't get to ski!!!!!

Okay, maybe he got to ski a little. There's Noah in the yellow circle, coming down the backside of the Mendenhall Towers. Juneau, AK.

That's Noah, and that's why I love him, but I am very glad he's back now. We have remodeled our set-up for our new life, and some new two-plank adventures.

Any night now, I will have the first of the season's snow dreams. The kind where I can do anything, huck any cliff, rip any chute, thread my way trough perfectly spaced trees, the snow falling in glittery clouds as I pass. Flying, floating, on bottomless powder with a face full of snow, headphones blasting Beastie Boys. I'm giddy just thinking about it. I wonder though, will my first snow dream of the season find me on one plank, or two?

Mmmmm.... On to winter food. Ski food. Warming-up-after-a-day-in-the-snow food. This pot roast uses lots of flavor and slow braising to turn a cheaper cut of beef into a luxurious supper.

Tuscan Style Pot Roast
(4 to 6 servings)
Adapted from a recipe for Italian Pot Roast or "Stracotto" in The Joy of Cooking. I used their technique of piercing holes in the roast and stuffing with a fresh herb paste to infuse the meat with flavor. I also added complexity with some aromatic spices in the tomato-based braising liquid. Many Italian Pot Roast recipes mention that it is almost always served with polenta, but I couldn't resist the tender bite of some long linguine pasta paired with the meaty-rich tomato sauce. For an ultra-nutritious and lower-carb option, try serving over roasted spaghetti squash.

P.S.- The leftovers make great oven-toasted sandwiches. Split open a soft hoagie or kaiser roll, top one half with some of the sliced roast, and a bit of the tomato sauce. Top the other half with sliced mozzarella or provolone. Place open-faced on a baking sheet, on middle rack of oven, under the broiler until heated through and cheese is bubbling. Toss in a handful of chopped fresh arugula or spinach if you like. 
2 1/2 to 3 pound chuck roast
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup water
A dash or two of ground cinnamon
A dash or two of ground clove
A dash or two of ground allspice
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 - 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Using the garlic, and fresh herbs, either make a paste using a mortar and pestle, or very finely mince. Using a small paring knife, make about a dozen deep slits in the roast, and stuff with  about half of the herb mixture, setting the rest aside for later use. If necessary, wipe excess herbs from surface of roast with a paper towel, so they don't scorch when you brown the roast. Sprinkle the roast on all sides with 1 tsp. kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Heat a medium (5-quart), non-reactive dutch oven with a tight fitting lid, over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan, and once heated, add the roast. Sear the roast until well-browned on all sides, monitoring the heat so that a nice brown crust (i.e. fond) forms in the pan without scorching. This may take up to 20 minutes.
See that nice brown crust both on the roast, and in the pot?
I'm rather fond of "fond."

Once browned, remove roast from pan, and set aside. Immediately add chopped onion, carrot, celery, and water. If you have some, sliced mushrooms would also make a nice addition. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any browned bits from bottom of pan. Saute until vegetables are very soft, 7 to 10 minutes.

Add ground spices, red wine, and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and let bubble until liquid is reduced by half. Add crushed tomatoes and remaining fresh herb paste, and stir to combine. Nestle the roast into the sauce, spooning some of the liquid on top of roast. Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to lowest setting possible while still maintaining a low and slow simmer.

For a small roast like this, it's best to flip the meat about every 20 to 25 minutes. I used to think pot roast was done when the meat shredded easily with a fork, but by that point, the meat is not only stringy, but dry. The meat will be tender and more juicy if it is not cooked to the "shred" stage. A roast this size may be done in as little as 1 1/2 hours, but may take up to 2 1/2, so give yourself some leeway with dinnertime. The Joy of Cooking recommends testing for doneness by slicing 2 small pieces from end of roast. If the inner slice is firm-tender and a bit moist, the roast is done. There may even be some pink in the center of the roast.

If necessary, skim fat from top of cooking liquid once the roast is done. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove the roast from the liquid, slice across the grain, 1/4-inch thick, and serve with polenta, potatoes, or pasta, and generous scoops of the sauce. A simple green salad and the rest of the red wine make lovely accompaniments to this soul-warming meal.

Here's us at the beach, on a little island outside of Cordova, on one of my visits to heli ski "man camp".

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