27 November 2008

Thanksgiving: The Cookening

Like with any successful feast-y meal, any successful very large blog post requires serious prep work. And so it's 9:30 Thanksgiving morning and here I begin the chronicling of this year's meal, the first one that I've really cooked for. Posting draft early and will update throughout the day.


  • Mead: LG is bringing this, and it's like liquid joy when mulled. Mead!
  • Wine:
  1. René Barbier Catalunya Mediterranean Red: dry, a little spicy with some nice acidity, and without some of the rawness that I find Spanish reds have sometimes. Another excellent deal from Mariakakis' at $5.99.
  2. La Terre California Merlot: another Mariakakis' special - $4.39 a bottle for all of the La Terre varietals! - AC says, "It's good, I like it." LG says - "It doesn't really have an aftertaste - it swallows well."
  • Horseradish schnapps: my first foray into liquor-infusion gets its debut tonight. I took a nip last night just to test it and it's quite pungent and refreshing. Directions below, and more recipes for infusing here. Plus, when chilled it makes an amazing digestif - dangerous, actually. Goes down reeeeaaaallllly smooth.
Horseradish Schnapps
  1. Wash, peel and slice a small piece of horseradish root.
  2. Put the slices in a clean glass jar with tight-fitting lid.
  3. Cover the root slices with clear, unflavoured vodka - 40% alcohol content (80 proof).
  4. Let steep for 1-2 days in a dark place at room temperature,
    18-20°C (64-68°F).
  5. Shake lightly and taste from time to time. Must not get bitter.
  6. Strain and filter your infusion into a clean glass bottle or jar with tight-fitting lid.

  • Rack of pork: I went to the Carrboro Farmer's Market special Tuesday edition determined to get myself a pork shoulder for long, slow roasting - the good folks at Cane Creek thought they had one but after 15 minutes of searching couldn't find it. However they did recommend a half-rack of pork which looked, well, delicous [that's it below, marinating], so I was sold.
Bacon-crusted rack of pork

Rack of pork, marinating in bacon, mustard and caraway seeds


  • 4 ounces sliced bacon, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1/2 small jar bacon drippings
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • One half-rack pork
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a food processor, combine the bacon, mustard seeds, caraway seeds and bacon drippings
  2. Set the pork rack on a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the bacon paste over all but especiallythe meaty side of the rack and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  4. Bring the roast to room temperature and season all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Set the pork in a roasting pan, fat side up. Roast in the upper third of the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes
  6. Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve the roasts and serve.

Rack of pork, just after roasting

Rack of pork, just after roasting


  • Salad with walnuts and cranberries: AC's specialty
  • Roasted potatoes, sweet and otherwise, and onions: pretty standard; gonna quarter them, salt, pepper, roast
  • Collard greens: with garlic and some red pepper flakes in... butter.
  • Brussels sprouts with walnuts: a very solid favorite - one of the two preparations I often use
Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts


  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, base and outer leaves trimmed, and halved
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan


  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and add the Brussels sprouts.
  2. Cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; drain.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the sprouts in 1 layer and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from the pan.
  7. Add the remaining 1 tablespoons of butter and when melted, add the walnuts and cook, stirring, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sprouts, and stir well to coat and warm through.
  9. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Serve immediately.

  • Mac'n'cheese: TG is making - AC got really excited the other week when a bunch of friends mentioned that they ate mac'n'cheese for Thanksgiving and decided we must
  • Spanikopita: LG is bringing - apparently a psuedo-tradition for her, and no complaints here
  • Biscuits: AC brings the dough

  • Pumpkin pie: verrrry excited for this, which TG is making
  • Chocolate and clementines! LG brought these as a bonus - superb!
More later, but - a great dinner.

20 November 2008

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout: A Second Look

I had a really bad experience with a bottle of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout at Local 506 last year. It was absurdly carbonated, way too alcohol-y and just not good. But Milltown has it on tap as their beer of the month, the barkeep recommended it as being smooth and not too kick-your-ass, and I generally trust their judgment. So I tried it and - it's really nice. You definitely taste a big full beer , but nothing over-the-top, and the aftertaste is really nice, super-chocolate-y and roasted. It's a cold day and this is the beer for't (though my first was a Fuller's ESB, which is really never a bad call).

19 November 2008

Bell's Christmas Ale

After earlier adventures in non-stout beer-making that were sometimes spotty, the good folks at Bell's seem to have really hit their stride. Their Christmas Ale - so new it's not even on the website yet! - is, as befits a winter beer, heavy on the malt. But it's not heavy on the sweet, balancing out the full taste with some excellent bitter hops. Nice full flavor and good for drinking either alone or with food - definitely pix up a sixer while they're out there, as it will be a limited release.

12 November 2008

Steelhead Scotch Style Porter

With chilly weather settling in for at least the medium-term, I was feeling a porter at the beer store yesterday. There were a few varieties in the singles case and I'll get around to them in time; for now, the first, Mad River Brewing Company's Steelhead Scotch Porter. I'll admit to having been pretty disappointed in some of Mad River's offerings in the past - the Double IPA was really just pretty mediocre, maltiness overcoming anything like hops - but decided I'd give 'em another shot. And... it's fine. Nothing really distinctive but nothing bad, either - a pretty decent porter but not memorable. So while not particularly disappointing, not something I'd really go with for a repeat performance. And given the superior brews offered by so many of their West Coast cousins also on offer locally (e.g., Green Flash), really no reason to bother with anything else from Mad River. Sorry guys.

11 November 2008

Notes on Two Soups d'Italia

This week, after two huge soup successes, I decided that I'm not really a huge recipe guy. Sunday night was a Tuscan white-bean-inspired, and tonight a Pasta e fagioli kindof. But, you know - I'm pretty sure I've never had either of those soups. And didn't read a recipe. So here's more or less how I made the soups, both of which received good reviews:

Tuscan White Bean [inspired]

  • Center cut ham steak
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Butter
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Chard (or another hearty green of your preference - kale would also work here)
  • White wine
  • White beans [fresh if possible, of course]
  • Whatever else is in the fridge that seems like a good idea


  • Cut ham into small cubes and set aside
  • Dice garlic and onions; tear chard from stems and cut stems into small sections; wash beans
  • Set large pot on medium-low heat and put in a generous amount of butter
  • Add garlic for a minute, and then onions, stirring until clear
  • Add chard stems and stir in; pour in a little wine
  • Add beans and a little more wine; let it cook down
  • Add ham and stir thoroughly; add a bunch of water now, raise heat to medium and cover
  • When boiling, add chard for a few minutes, and turn heat back to medium-low
  • If there's anything else you want to throw in, do it, and simmer until eating. Salt to taste.
  • Serve with a whole buncha bread
Pasta e Fagioli [kindof]


  • chicken bones
  • collard stems
  • aduki beans
  • beans of some other sort
  • onions
  • sweet potatoes
  • potato
  • salt
  • clove
  • ziti or similar pasta


  • It doesn't have to be chicken bones and collard stems but that's what was in the freezer. Basically, set a pot to boil and make stock for about an hour with what ya got.
  • Fish the bones and stems out; throw the bones, cut the stems into small pieces and set aside
  • Set pot to medium heat
  • Chop onions medium; dice potato and sweet taters small
  • Add all veggies, beans included, and stir
  • Add cloves and whatever other spices you want
  • Cover for 10-15 minutes or so
  • Uncover and raise to boil again, adding water if necessary
  • Add pasta and cook for a minute or two longer than dictated
  • Serve with parmesan grated on top, and with plenty of bread on the side
As an aside, I realized that the above soup is actually absurdly healthy - fiber, protein, carbs, veggies and very little fat. Definitely make sure you cook the beans enough to get them falling apart, makes it a really lovely hearty texture.

02 November 2008

Uh-oh! Soup

Forgot that I had Soup Collective today until... about half an hour ago. Thankfully, a quick search of the fridge revealed there was plenty to work with. So, Uh-Oh! Soup:


  • Lamb stock
  • Onion (small)
  • Spring onions (a few)
  • Mild red peppers (many)
  • Pinto beans (soaked)
  • Rice (cooked)
  • White wine
  • Italian spices
  • Garlic powder
  • Bay leaves (if you're into that sort of thing)
  • Olive oil
  • Water
  • Salt to taste
  • UPDATE: Large number of pre-cooked greens - collards, mustard greens, kale. Could be engineered to cook these simultaneously but that's not how this went


  • Chop onions finely, peppers coarsely
  • Heat oil on medium-low in a large pot
  • Add onions (both) and sauteé for a minute or so
  • Add bay leaves, garlic powder, Italian spices and continue to sauteé, adding more oil as necessary
  • Add pinto beans and sauteé
  • Add peppers and cook until they begin to soften
  • Add wine and cook until it begins to reduce
  • Add stock and as much water as is necessary
  • Cover, and cook for... as long as necessary
  • When soup is basically ready, add rice and cook for another couple of minutes - should soak it up fast
  • Add pre-cooked greens and cook for a while longer. Make sure greens are cut into smaller pieces or, as I did, retrieve from pot with slotted spoon and cut with scissors. Also - make sure you made the greens spicy (helpful when mustard greens are part of the equation)


  • Not sure yet! Will update later
  • Okay - delicious.
UPDATE: Okay, bit the bullet and added leftover greens and broth. We shall see!

UPDATE 2: Despite idiotically burning my tongue, greens definitely add a kick and heartiness. Good call, JKD.

UPDATE 3: Still needs a little more time for beans to properly soften but, adding a little more water, it proceeds apace. Also, no need for rice with greens now providing plenty of body.

UPDATE 4: Okay. Success - this is a damn fine soup, somehow. smalljones advises that this verges on Caldo Verde - and me with leftover mashed potatoes sitting unused in the fridge! Oh well - next time, and this functions well as is.

01 November 2008

3Cups Back Open!

Very happily, 3Cups is now open in their new location at 227 S. Elliott Rd. in Chapel Hill (next to Great Harvest, just down from the ABC store). Thew new store is much bigger, better wine selection, better flow throughout. Can't walk there anymore but it's great to have them back - picked up half a pound of Kuta roasted yesterday and can't wait to grind it up.