Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cioppino! Classic Seafood from Fisherman's Wharf : The Other San Francisco Treat!

San Francisco, the city by the bay, one of the most interesting and romantic cities in the US., and a source of history and culture. It is a storied place and the birthplace of many things cultural, social, and culinary which have spread across the nation and in some cases the world. Among it's landmarks is Fisherman's Wharf, which in the past was home to the fleet which brought in the catch to the west coast's seafood markets and supplied people all over. It is here in this storied place that the seafood preparation Cioppino was created ( or at least credited) and it is this type of seafood preparation which has become a hallmark of San Francisco's culinary heritage. A merging of Italian and Portugese traditions it provides the US with yet another traditional seafood preparation.

There are many classic seafood preparations which are basically some sort of seafood stew and have a national or regional flair to them. Bouillibaisse in France, Portugese Seafood Stew in Rhode Island, Jumbalaya in new Orleans and Frogmore Stew in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia, are all examples of this type of stew!

For Christmas entertaining this year I decided to make Cioppino, this classic seafood stew from San Francisco. It's a tomato based stew in which seafood is cooked and prepared right before serving. All in all an easy dish to make and easy to serve up with a salad and some great garlic bread. 

Cioppino for those of you who do not know is a relic of the fishing industry in the bay area. Credited to the fishermen who at the end of a long day made up a stew of whatever was avaiable and fresh in a rich tomato based broth and served it up with sour dough bread for dipping. Today's version generally has a variety of seafood including and not limited to clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and fish all cooked in a rich sauce that starts with vegetables and tomatoes and is enhanced by the additions of wine and stock and spices. Garlic being the chief culprite here. no good Cioppino is worth it's sauce without a stiff taste of garlic. 

My Cioppino started with a recipe my family had in it's cookbooks from the 1970's. One which my folks probably got in California and used whenever they made this dish. It's notated in several shades of ink and various hand writings. So I would assume this family recipe went through a variety of changes and tweaks over the years. It also has a few finger smudges and food stains from previous cooking long ago. A reminder that recipes like the stories that go with them keep us as people and families connected to each other and to our pasts.

So if you make this they will enjoy! It's actually very easy although a special occasion dish as the seafood is not exactly cheap. But nonetheless try it for your next small gathering and I am sure you hear your guests singing Che Sera Sera! Happy holidays ya'll!!

Forrest's Easy Cioppino the Other San Francisco Treat!
makes 4 portions and enough broth for 8 so you could double the seafood if you wanted or use the extra broth to dip alot of garlic bread!


1 28 can chopped tomatoes
1 4 oz can tomato paste
1 4 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups V8 vegetable juice
1 cup red wine
1 cup white vermouth
4 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks white and light green parts chopped
2 heads of fennel and some of the leaves chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped finely
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic from the jar
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoons each dried oregano, basil, tarragon
8 large shrimp in shells
8 to 12 clams
12 oz of Cod cut into 4 portions
4 to 8 diver scallops
1/2 pound bay scallops

In a large heavy bottomed stock pot
heat oil till glistening
Add vegetables and cook vegetables till soft
Add spices cook till flavors bloom
Add liquids and tomatoes and bring to a boil
Boil for 10 mins
Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 hours

To serve:

Right before you are ready to eat
Heat broth to boil then reduce to high simmer
Turn timer on for 10 mins
add fish and clams
at 5 mins at scallops and shrimp
When timer sounds check to see if clams are open and turn off the heat
Let sit 2 more mins then serve right away! ( this is critical or seafood will overcook! )
Divide seafood evenly and spoon broth to fill bowls
Serve with a caesar salad and my best ever garlic bread here on the blog! Enjoy Ya'll

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Risotto Stone! Deciphering the Art of Mushroom Risotto,

This Christmas over the holidays we are having guests at the Hedden House in Charleston SC.  I am preparing risotto! Now I suppose that risotto is a go to for me when entertaining because it is so easy and I love it. It is also a dish that folks don't always see down here in Chucktown at dinner parties unlike in New York city. And it helps that  risotto is one of my favorite dishes to make for people. I love when it is placed in front of them all creamy and delicious. I love when I am making it and it comes out perfectly complex and perfectly al dente. In short I love it!

But it was not always so.

I was a novice risotto eater and a virgin risotto cook when I moved to New York. Oh I had had it. At friends houses in Charleston or at restaurants.  I enjoyed it every time I had it. But I did not start making it until I moved in with my old roommate the lovely and talented Miss Cristen Hubbard-Miller, star of the broadway show "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway! indeed it was she who introduced me to the making of risotto at home.  In fact it was right when we moved in together to our newly found apartment in hell's kitchen as a sort of celebration meal for our new abode. She proposed we make risotto for dinner that night. I agreed and she got out an old recipe card, hand written and covered with the patina of home cooking. "Tomato Risotto" was the title, from the "Silver Palate Cookbook" and that's exactly what we made. It came out wonderfully. And I have been making that recipe ever since. In fact when I moved out Cristen wrote me up my very own recipe card on a cute little card with some sort of culinary cartoon on it from one of those "From the recipe's of: " card sets. I have it to this day.

But as time wore on I made a host of different risottos. and of all of them, my favorite to this day is mushroom risotto! Sometimes I put some truffle oil in it, sometimes I put asparagus tips in it, but always mushrooms and always mushroom powder. And I love it.

But making a really good mushroom risotto is not hard. It does take a bit of practice to get it perfect. not to overcook the mushrooms and not to over cook the risotto. It must be served right as it is done and it must be served in a bowl. And it must be eaten with wine, good red wine. Those are my rules. Oh yeah it's also got to be cold out. Risotto for me is not a warm weather dish. It's a hearty stick to your ribs kinda meal.

Forrest's Better than Restaurant Risotto
Serves 3 as main course or 4 as Appetizer course

1 cup Arborio Rice
4 cups chicken stock held warm on stove top in a pot
1 cup light white wine ( NEVER OAKEY CHARDONNAY!! NEVER!!!) or vermouth
1 med onion finely diced
1/2 pound mushrooms sliced ( you can go as crazy as you want here with the kind of mushrooms depending on your budget but white ole button mushrooms will work I prefer to use "baby" portobella mushrooms ( better color and flavor than plain white and a good price point)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves finely chopped
3 tablespoons oilive oil
3 tablesoons butter
1 1/2 cups good parm cheese or your favorite hard salty grated cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons of dried porcini mushroom powder

Note* you can buy this or you can make it by buying dried procini mushrooms and grinding them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. ( Oh just make sure the grinder will never be used for coffee again if you use a coffee grinder, cause it will never taste the same again! It's like the old Viking addage... Rape. Pillage. THEN Burn! It can be a mess if you do it in another order! )

In a saute pan melt 1 tablespoon butter and add 1 tablespoon oil
Add mushrooms and cook till soft. Reserve liquid if any and remove from the heat and hold.
In the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot heat oil
Cook onion till almost tender then add rice
Stir to coat with the oil and cook till just begining to toast a little
Slowly add the wine and cook till almost absorbed then add rosemary and the reserved mushroom cooking liquid
At this point add the mushroom powder
Then slowly add a cup a stock and cook till almost all the liquid is absorbed
Keep adding the stock until about one cup is left in the stock holding pot
This will take the better part of up to thirty minutes.
At this point test the rice, if just tender but still a little "toothsome" aka "al dente", you are done!
If not add the last of the stock and cook till almost absorbed.
Add the Mushrooms,the cheese, the butter and the parsley and stir in to combine till rich and creamy.

Note* If you want to add white truffle oil at the end right before you serve I wouldn't blame you! If you don't like truffles I am sorry for you!

Serve warm with more cheese on the side. Enjoy Ya'll!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Le Bonne Soupe!! French Onion Soup for the Les Halles of Fame!!

On 54th street in New York down the way from the impressive entrance to the Peninsula Hotel is a little shop front with white awnings and wide open windows staring into a charming eating area and bar  known as Le Bonne Soupe!

Le Bonne Soupe is a institution even by New York Standards. It's been there since the 1970's and once you pass into its dinning rooms you see that not much had changed since then either. Upon entering I was taken back to being very young and going out to eat at any of the hometown restaurants that exsisted in the 1970's. Plain white walls are bedecked with movie posters plastered right onto the walls and brightly light brown burnished wooden beams which line the corners and the roof like bad English Tudor style wall supports lend charm. It screams sort of old, but sort of new, and definitely made in the 1970's! That along with the brass pots holding green plants and a floor which reminds one of the wood veneer planks used to furnish prefab homes, scratched and used. A patina of years of dining and cooking and eating lies on every surface. In essence a place with character and charm, but bare bones about it and dated. What once was new and chic, is now used and charming.

The Menu, although my dining companions told me has changed slightly over the years, still holds to the same style of French food that it always has had. This is not bistro food. No, it is more a "ladies who lunch" meets French cafe gone "Magic Pan" rogue. French, but with a twist towards the classic American restaurant approach grown out of the 60's and 70's. Where everything comes with a salad and french fries and wine is served mostly by the carafe. All suspects were present. A salad with a "cafe" style dressing which is flavored with chicken stock according to my friends, large carafes of red wine, and french fries served in a metal canister neatly lined with parchment paper.

Now all of this sounds less than amazing I guess. But please don't think I am decrying the quality of the dining experience I had at Le Bonne Soupe, I am not! In fact I really enjoyed it. It is the namesake of the establishment however that really gets the notice for why this place is still around, the Soup!

French Onion Soup or  Le Onion Soupe Gratine'e is a classic French dish very popular all over the USA. Usually served up in a little crock it comes to the table all bubbly and cheesy and piping hot. Well at Le Bonne Soupe they make what I would describe as quite possibly the best onion soup I have ever had in a restaurant. The key, the broth. I mean this broth was so beefy it almost tasted like liquid beef. Amazing. And the cheese and the bread were perfect. The onions soft and caramel in colour and so hearty. In a word it was Yum!

French Onion Soup, it's origins are food legendary. In the cafes of the Les Halles district of Paris, countless bowls of this soup are served. Once chic Parisians stopped after parties for a nightcap and soup, and at dawn wholesalers and truckers working at the market there came in for a bowl of it. But now onion soup is not so chic, and the market is being moved out of the city. These days many who come for the soup are tourists who gawk at each other and believe that they are seeing the "real" Paris. In any event it is a great soup and it is to be enjoyed in the colder weather.

So I was inspired to make some of this soup for the holidays. I mean it's a great meal idea. A big bowl of cheesy toasty soup, some fresh salad with a cafe dressing and crusty bread and butter and you have an amazing meal. I love it anyways.

I referenced a recipe in a old cookbook I have from Sunset Magazine and tweaked it just a bit. In any event it is good and if you want a little "Good" Soup give it a try the time and effort are worth the results. Enjoy!

Les Halles Onion Soup Gratine'e!
makes abut 6 servings

For the Stock

( Note: To bump up the beefy quality of the stock I actually start with commercial Beef Stock/Broth and add to it)

2 pounds beef shank bones of marrow bones or bones with meat on them
2 quarts Beef Stock or Broth
2 cups red wine
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
In a coffee filter place the following ( fill then tie shut with twine)
2 bay leaves
4 whole pepper corns
2 cloves
1 bundle fresh thyme
2 peeled garlic cloves

Place bones in a roasting pan and roast for 1 hour
Then place everything in a pot bring to a boil then simmer on low heat for 2 hours on the stove. Strain after cooking and hold.
makes about 2 quarts.

For the Soup

6 Medium to large yellow Spanish onions
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups beef broth
1 packet chicken bullion
1 1/2 cup red wine
1/3 cup port
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup brandy
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup diced Gruyere
3 1/2 cups croutons
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere


Slice onions into fine ribbons
In a pan melt butter and oil place onions in a saute stirring occasionally on low heat till caramelized about 20 to 40 mins.
Add 1 1/2 cups red wine then add
1/4 cup brandy and 1/4 cup sherry
deglaze the pan and cook for about 5 mins.
Pre heat oven to 375 degrees
In a pot add onions, stock chicken buliion and port wine and bring to a boil add dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste
Cook 5 mins then turn heat to medium low. Hold till ready to serve.
When ready to serve, Pour soup into earthenware soup crocks
Add divided diced cheese then top with croutons
Cover with a layer of the shredded cheese.
Place into oven for 20 mins
Then turn on broiler and brown the top.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Meatloaf Wellington meet your Waterloo!!

Beef Wellington is probably the most amazing meat dish from the British kitchen. I mean there are strange names for English food like Spotted Dick, Bubble and Squeak, and Steak and Kidney Pie. They all are parts of the British culinary heritage. But Beef Wellington is something special.

When I was about 19 my family took what we would later recall as our "Grand Tour" of Europe. It was a multi week trip where we went and saw the great cities and sites in Europe. And in each city we ate our way through the culinary heritage of each place the best we could. Now London was the last stop on this tour. And back then the English food world was not what it is today. In fact it was pretty lack luster with the exception of true haute British Cuisine.

It was there in London at one of the great dining rooms where I had Beef Wellington for the first time. Carved off a large piece of Filet which was on a rolling cart table side. It was a presentation I will not soon forget and a taste which to this day remains unrivaled.

So what is Beef Wellington you may ask? Well it's actually very simple. It's a preparation of the filet of beef which is quick seared and then cooled. Wrapped in a pastry dough which is stuffed with a mushroom duxelle ( finely diced cooked mushrooms) and foie gras! It's then baked to golden perfection and served warm in slices. Pretty simple and pretty decadent! The origin of said dish is unclear. It may have been named after the 1st Duke of Wellington who brought Napoleon down at the battle of Waterloo. Who is said to have loved beef, mushrooms cooked in Madeira wine and truffles as well as foie gras in puff pastry. Or is may just be the patriotic naming of the french dish which is similar "filet en croute". Or as the Two Fat Ladies describe, named for the shiny military boots of the same name, "Wellingtons", as the pastry's shiny exterior resembles the shine of the boots.

In any event I wanted to make a cheaper version for a dinner I have coming up during the holidays. So I came up with this. I love meatloaf. Especially when it's done right. So having seen this sort of thing on Pilsbury recipe boxes I thought why not just take it up a notch. So I did and here is the results. This recipe is actually very easy. It does take time because you have to prepare the meatloaf but if you don't want to buy filet that's your tradeoff! Other than that it's just cooking Mushrooms and assembling the dish. Give it a try and surprise your holiday revelers with how good meatloaf can be! Enjoy!

Meatloaf Wellington

For the Meatloaf

3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups sliced yellow onions
1 cup chopped celery very fine
3 tablespoons Madeira wine ( or sherry) plus more for sprinkling
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal
1/2 bunch Italian parsley finely chopped
1/2 bunch chives chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 eggs beaten well
2/3 cup milk
2 1/2 cups Japanese Panko breadcrumbs ground fine in food processor

Preheat oven to 350
Add butter to pan
Saute onions and celery slowly till very soft and caramelized
Add wine and reduce till absorbed
Place in a bowl and cool
Add meat and spices mix
Add eggs bread crumbs and milk and mix
On a lined baking sheet shape into a loaf
Sprinkle with wine
Place in oven and bake 45 to 50 mins.
Remove and allow to cool

For the Wellington

1 sheet puff pastry
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 6 oz package of foie gras mouse
1 pound baby portobello mushrooms diced in the food processor till fine but not mush
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons Madeira Wine or Sherry
1 teaspoon dried thyme
S and P to taste
1 egg yolk beaten

Saute Mushrooms in a pan with butter till cooked add wine and dried thyme salt and pepper to taste
Let cool
Roll out pastry till 1/4 thick on floured board
Slather the meat loaf with the mustard all over
Place the meatloaf on one side of the pastry
Spread the liver mouse over the top in a thick layer
Top with the Mushroom mixture
Fold the pastry over the meat and secure in by folding it under the meat and crimping the edges under to seal.
Carefully lift the loaf onto a baking lined and oiled sheet
Brush the pastry with the egg yolk
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 mins or until the pastry is puffed and browned
Transfer to a platter and serve with a brown sauce

Brown Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm beef stock
1 tablespoon Porcini Mushroom powder (optional)
1 Tablespoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Madeira Wine
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt butter and flour and cook till browned
Slowly whisk in the stock
Add spices and wine and vinegar
Season and serve


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Swiss Miss, Alpine Cheese Fondue the Swiss Way

When I lived in Switzerland and was young and foolish I did not appreciate the culinary experiences I was having in the land where God vacations. I mean He may live everywhere, as every place loves to claim to be God's country, but true as those claims may be when God needs a respite from the work He is doing I am sure that he vacations in Switzerland.

The Swiss landscape is beyond my ability to describe. It truly is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Perfect in Summer and glorious in Winter it holds all the perfection that God's creation ever wanted to have. Mountains and lakes, high Alpine pastures and lovely valleys. Cities so old some of them feel like they sprung out of the mountain rocks they are built on. In short, it is a living postcard.

The Swiss are a funny people. Secluded and cloistered for centuries away in their mountain lairs they are not immediately the warmest of folks. But I found and with few exceptions that once you breach the outer polite yet chilly exterior the Swiss are welcoming and warm and thoughtful people. Restrained in emotive embrace yet somehow endearing.

From the high Alpine pastures comes in the summertime a quality of milk from the cows there that is exceptional. After visiting a homesteading family in the mountains once I had the opportunity to experience the ancient ways of making cheese in a barn and baking wholegrain ( Vollcornbrot) bread in a wood oven tht was the way for centuries. I met this family in the farmer's market where they sold their goods and they invited me and my companion to visit them on their farm. Because we had no car this included a trip up the Alps in his truck one day after the market. And I mean a ride in the back bed of the truck! Sitting in the back of the truck as we pulled out of the town and left the valley behind I was amazed at the views as we climbed ever higher into the mountains. The main road gave way to a byway and soon I found myself on hairpin turns on a mountain road staring hundreds of feet down into the valley we had left long behind. It was glorious.

When we arrived at the farm we were greeted by the Klaus' wife Anna and their two toe headed adorable children. We got a tour and then were shown to the barns where we sampled the sweetest milk I have ever tasted right from the cows. It was incredible. They then showed us their small but very efficient cheese making hut. That was followed by a visit to the wood fired bake shop that Klaus used for his breads for the market. They grew certain ingredients on the farm themselves and got others from local farmers. It was incredible. We had a meal with them a simple fare, Bread cheese and fruits and vegetables from the garden. In truth it was one of the freshest meals I have ever had.

Fondue would be another dish I experienced through the invitation to dinner at a family's house in town where I was staying. The wonderful thing about Fondue in Switzerland is has none of the intimate romantic notions that surround it here in the US. Somehow here fondue and fondue restaurants cater themselves as the lovers mealtime, a sexy way for two people to share a meal. Not so in the land where cheese was born. It is a communal meal meant for sharing and convivial times with family and guests. The rules traditionally are simple, if the lady drops the bread in she had to wash the pot which she used to prepared the fondue, if the gentleman drops the bread in he has to wash the pot and kiss the lady! Kinda fun and I guess romantic but when it's a family around the table it's just fun good eats and if Mama doesn't have to do dishes and gets a kiss out of it so much the better.

So Fondue, is according to Wikipedia SwissFrench, and Italian dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (réchaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese. It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s but its origins stem from an area that covers Switzerland, France (Rhone Alps) and Italy (Piedmont and Aosta valley).

Since the 1950s, the name "fondue" has been generalized to other dishes in which a food is dipped into a communal pot of hot liquid: chocolate fondue, in which pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, in which pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil.
Konrad Egli of the Chalet Swiss Restaurant is credited with introducing it as a mainstay in New York in the 1950's. He also is credited with the introduction of beef Fondue at Chalet Swiss and the  invention of chocolate Fondue which made it's appearance in the 1960's. Throughout the 50's 60's and 70's home cooks entertained with Fondue pots and were the champions of preparations table side for their dining guests. Such meals made the guests feel like they were part of the "action" and certainly Fondue was one of those meals. 
So here is a simple Swiss recipe I have from my host family in Switzerland I have carried around all these years. As you entertain this holiday season think about Fondue as a wonderful way to share a meal with friends and loved ones. 

Easy and Authentic Swiss Fondue
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Emmentaler cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Gruyère cheese
  • 1 triangle double cream (laughing cow) cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cherry brandy (Kirsch)
  • Cubed French bread, ham and vegetables 

  1. Rub garlic clove into the inside of the fondue pot. Bring wine and lemon juice to a low boil in a heavy saucepan; add cheeses, pepper, and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese melts.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and cherry brandy. Stir mixture into cheese; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a fondue pot, and keep warm. Serve with cubed bread, cubed ham, mushrooms, and steamed brussel sprout halves.
  3. Enjoy Ya'll!!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Easy Breezy Covergirl Eggless Caesar Salad Dressing

Ok so I already have a great Caesar salad dressing which I posted last year ( You can check it out if you want ). But I was recently asked to attend a dinner party hosted by Fred Tessler (of the Denver Tesslers ) where he made an spread worthy of Ina Garten's envy! There was a pork roast, a cauliflower gratin ( not mine), a savory bread pudding, and to start with a delicious Caesar salad. He wanted to make his dressing for me which he was very interested in me trying as he had had mine before and enjoyed it. But he had a plan.

I am a little obsessed with salad dressings especially Caesar dressing. And I love the Eggless Caesar dressing at Hillstone or Houston's restuarant. Dressing sadly are why I eat salads really. I hate to admit that, but it's really true. Salad without a good dressing is just ... well not that tasty. I have taken Fred's idea and expanded on it a little. So here is an easy and quick eggless caesar dressing for you to try this holiday season if you want to try something different. I love caesar salad, a lot of people do the Cheesecake Factory alone serves 1000's of them every month. So I hope you like this easy dressing. Enjoy!

Eggless Caesar Dressing with Fresh Herbs 

8 Anchovies
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup  plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice ( fresh not from the green bottle)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
3/4  to 1 cup of good olive oil


In a food processor add everything but the oil and pulse till combined
Then add oil little by little with the machine running till the dressing comes together and you get a thick yellow dressing you may not use all the oil. Done! Will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

1970's Style Cooking : Winter White Wine Chicken AKA College Chicken

I love the night life...I want to boogie....on the Disco around oh yeah! ....ah the 1970's I don't really remember them. I was so little. However, it seems nowadays people are rediscovering the better parts of the style, furniture, decor, fashions and even foods that made the 1970's what they were. As a very little boy I have fond memories of my mother in big made up hair and long flowing dresses ready for parties with bright makeup and earthen bottles of Lancers rose wine from Portugal. And my Dad in a leisure suit....OK that NEVER happened, but the Lancers wine did!

Check this out!

See! Oh yeah and speaking of food trends lets talk about crock pot dinners. All day long cooked and braised meals all in one pot! Braising without the oven. And clean up was a breeze!

Now I love a crock pot and I love braised meat dishes in these colder days during the holiday season and on into the Winter months. Actually I love braised foods in general. They are easy and generally call for cheaper cuts of meat mostly beef, lamb or pork, which after long periods of cooking have their proteins broken down and give way to become juicy soft and delicious! Sumptuous indeed!

Virginia was the first State I lived in that had truly colder weather. I went to college in Harrisonburg, Virginia at James Madison University, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. It's a small town, well it was then. Even though it was a small rural town, with the University being there, it had a somewhat vibrant and interesting culinary scene. Well... it at least had some good bar food.  In any event, one of the things I learned as a student was that being able to cook and invite your fellow students over made you very popular! I mean who had the money to eat out and who had the time to even cook. And someone else cooking for you, forget about it!

But home cooking in the late eighties in college was not what it was today. There were no television food gurus like Ina Garten and Bobby Flay to lead you through to a successful meal. There was the Frugal Gourmet on PBS. And reruns of Julia Child, but hardly the cacophony of information available today. So what did one do? Well you relied on cook books and on lessons learned at home. And you came up with solutions and ideas on your own.

So it was in college that I conspired with my roommates to prove that braising was a delectable way to prepare roasts and stews. Chop up some meat, some veggies pour in some liquid put on the crock pot and voila! My two roommates were from rural farms in Virginia and had grown up cooking like this in the winters all their lives. I came from the slow cooker suburban world so this all made sense. Together we would pool our resources divvy up the jobs and then cook for the day.

Well all I have to say about cooking in college was it did not matter what it was but it had to be cheap! And lets face it chicken was cheap. So chicken was always being eaten. But after months and months of boring chicken breasts I thought about cooking the chicken like a stew. Hardly original, Coco Vin not withstanding, I still thought I was pretty savvy to come up with this dish back then. Of course since then I have realized that nothing I have ever tried is original. Perhaps I have made things better, but never can I lay claim to inventing a dish someone has not thought of before me. Whew!! Pressure's off!

So what is Winter White Wine Chicken. It's chicken stewed in white wine, bacon, mushrooms and onions and finished with cream and served over buttered egg noodles. Tada! Like I said hardly original but let me add in a few comments that will make you appreciate this dish a little more. Firstly, it is very 1970's Graham Kerr ( aka the Galloping Gourmet). Why you ask? Well it's French in it's essence ( mock Coco Vin) which was very popular in the 1970's in the US. Secondly, it uses white sweet wine which was popularized then in the 1970's ( "chill a cella" or "cella-brate ) Hey, You gotta know what this is. Here...

Will the fun ever end on this blog! Did you see all the famous actors in that commercial, Wow!

 And thirdly it's a one pot meal that can be served table side which was also a big trend then! So Graham Kerr and the 70's obviously were at work in my head when I made this! Well that's what I might say now!

Of course in college it was because of a need to make things easy and cheap. And remember chicken is cheap! But in any event I got out this old recipe the other day and was reminded that the things I learned in college whether in Marketing class of in the kitchen are still relevant and in this case tasty, so please enjoy Ya'll!

White Wine Chicken over Buttered Noodles ( serves 6)

3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into thirds
3 cloves garlic minced
4 leeks white and light green parts only chopped into disks ( OK in college it was 2 medium onions)
1/4 pound pancetta cubed or 6 strips of bacon chopped
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 lb white button or baby bella mushrooms halved
1 bottle riesling wine
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 bunch of fresh thyme tied as a garni
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 lb egg country style Pennsylvania Dutch noodles cooked and buttered with chopped chives


In a heavy braising pot brown the bacon then add the garlic oil and the leeks and cook till soft then add chicken cook slightly then add the bay leaf, the thyme bundle, S&P and the whole bottle of wine. Put a top on the pot and cook for about an hour at a good simmer. Then add the cream and mustard and tarragon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer till reduced slightly and the sauce is thickened which takes about another 30 mins. 15 mins before serving throw in the mushrooms. Remove the thyme and the bay leaves.

Serve over the noodles. Enjoy!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cauliflower Au Gratin an Ode to West Town Tavern, Chicago Illinois

Susan Goss is an amazing chef. She and her husband have opened and run two of the best restaurants in Chicago I know. And I have never met her, but I have eaten at her restaurants. Several years a ago when I was acting at the Fireside Theatre in Fort Atikinson, Wisconsin, my friend Eric came to visit me and we took a trip on my days off from the show down to Chicago where my brother was working at the time. My brother ate out all the time because he was living out of hotels. So needless to day he was a great source of knowledge when it came to the dining scene in Chicago.

One of his favorite restaurants was a place called Zinfandel which  had the distinction of only serving "American" food and sourced everything from the ingredients to the liquors and wine from the 50 states. No outside sourcing. Susan Goss was the chef. It was a clever gimmick I suppose but the results were really sweet. The menu featured really well done American dishes with classical preparations and elegant touches. Very thoughtful she would include a monthly "State" special menu which would feature the foods and products from a particular state. The month I went there it was Hawaiian month, and that was fun!

Unfortunately, the place closed after a kitchen fire and a few years later she and her husband opened West Town Tavern. It was a place based on basic midwestern table fare, elevated, but not so fussy that one would not recognize it. I ate there too and it was really good. What I loved about Susan's food is that it had all the elements of each iconic dish but were well thought out and executed with clever or intelligent precision. Comfort food gone good!

One of the sides I had there was a cauliflower gratin that really was something else. It was well seasoned and rich. It was also well balanced not becoming overwhelmingly thick and rich but with a picante finish. Now I love gratin and I immediately filed this away. Growing up I remember my Grandmother who lived with us would make baked cauliflower in mustard cream. I actually like this dish and she usually made it when we would have pork chops. It went well with them.

Cauliflower is an awesome vegetable and it can be inspired. I love it pureed and I love it fried. But mostly I love it in a stupidly rich picate sauce with cheese! So I have tried to meld my love of Susan's recipe with my memory of my Grandmother's. I think it came out well. Give it a try. Let me know. Enjoy Ya'll!

Irene and Susan's Cauliflower Gratin in Cauliflower Mustard Cream ( as re-imagined by Forrest)

2 Heads Cauliflower ( I sometimes use frozen 2-3 bags or about 3lbs )
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 cup minced peeled onion
2 cups heavy cream
2 heaping tablespoon Grey Poupon Mustard ( I add a little more sometimes I like Mustard )
1 and 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves 
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs


Cut the cauliflower into small florets
Chop up the stems finely and reserve
(if using frozen cauliflower chop 2 and 1/2 cups of florets up for above)
Blanch florets in boiling salted water 6 to 8 mins
Quickly cool in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, reserve
Saute the shallots till soft in olive oil, then add chopped stems and cream and cook together
Bring to a boil and simmer until stems are very soft.
Puree in a blender and season the cream with the Mustard, horseradish, nutmeg, salt, pepper and rosemary and 1/4 cup parm cheese
Mix together with the florets and pour into a buttered baking dish
Mix bread crumbs and remaining parm cheese and sprinkle on the top evenly
Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 mins until top is golden and gratin is bubbling. 
Let stand at least 10 mins before serving


Saturday, November 24, 2012

New American Cooking, Smokey Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Horseradish and Sour Cream

OK. So Thanksgiving is over. But the holidays are just beginning and if you are like me you are getting ready to find a way to perk up those dinners you might be having for friends and or your family which celebrate the season.

There are all the usual suspects to be found on my Thanksgiving dinner table. The turkey, dressing (aka Stuffing), you know all the regulars, but I have an aversion to one of the mainstays of the holiday table. The sweet potato! Well, that is till this year. You may well ask why do I not enjoy the potato of sweet with it's brilliant orange color and deep sweet flavor. Eh...who knows but I guess it has to do with liking regular potatoes so much I can't imagine sweet potatoes taking their place. But as I said this year was different.

Now the sweet potato is probably one of the earliest indigenous foods that the Pilgrims took over from the Indians when they landed in the New World. Sweet potatoes were a mainstay in the Indian diet all over South, Central and North America but it would have been one of the crops that the settlers saw and tasted along with corn that they saw themselves also planting. So needless to say in the early part of the culinary history of our country the sweet potato was pretty common. Sweet potatoes are not Yams and should not be confused with them. Yams were brought to this country by Christopher Columbus to his credit, and are from Africa. It was not until the rise of the white potato that Americans crossed over into eating the sweet potato as an afterthought. Mostly popular in the American South sweet potatoes graced the tables of my family my whole life. And I never really liked them. "Healthy", "Good for You", were all phrases attached to this vegetable's name. ( tell a kid that and it's never a good thing) And for me the worse part was... they were sweet. And while I like a little dessert now and then, I have already discussed how I would rather eat a bag of doritos over a gallon of ice cream, so I definitely did not enjoy the sweet flavor aspect at all.

As an adult I have come to appreciate the sweet potato for it's place in the culinary pantheon, but I still would rather eat creamy salty buttery white mashed potatoes any day! Also while I do enjoy a traditional preparation of the sweet potato as a casserole, it is cloyingly sweet and seems to almost be a dessert. However, this Thanksgiving it was requested that I make sweet mashed potatoes. So I did. However, I decided to try them the way I have prepared white mashed potatoes before, that is with savory ingredients. And I have to say... I not only liked them, I loved them! I used sour cream as the dairy element and I used Horseradish as the flavor choice. I also used a touch of my favorite secret ingredient liquid smoke as a background flavor and a touch of honey to compliment the sweet in the sweet potatoes. They came out really well and were a huge hit during the meal. In fact two people took them home with them. So here's the recipe. maybe you can mix it up a bit this season and find a little savory in your sweet.

Smokey Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Horseradish and Sour Cream

3 pounds of sweet potatoes washed peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup dairy sour cream
1/2 jar prepared horseradish (more or less depending on the potency and your taste)
1 1/2 Tablespoons honey
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon black pepper
4 drops to start with of liquid smoke add more after you taste the potatoes, it should be a background flavor so keep that in mind or it will end up tasting like charcoal!

Boil the sweet potatoes in highly salted water till they pierce easily with a fork about 25 mins.
Drain well and rinse again with warm water to drain off some of the excess starch
Mash roughly
Add sour cream
Mash into the potatoes
Stir in the Horseradish and the honey and season well to taste, you might want to add more salt and pepper. Add in the liquid smoke and taste, add more to your liking if necessary! Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why I am thankful on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. It is a holiday that brings into one's minds eye soft and cozy images of times spent with special people at special places and in special circumstances with special foods. As children it can be a magical time, as a part of a holiday haze that serves as a precursor to Fall's ending and ushers in the Christmas season with all it's joy and pomp. It's a time when the construction paper laden bulletin boards in the classrooms would switch from Halloween's black hats and orange cats to multi colored fall leave cut outs laced with with pumpkins and turkeys and maybe a pilgrim's hat. It was a long weekend off from school and playing football in the backyard with the neighbors kids. It was a family and friend gathering time, and that time was precious. It was truly special. This is what I remember about Thanksgiving growing up.

As with so many parts of our national traditions the entertaining industry and media have created whole campaigns around the Thanksgiving Holiday The magazine industry has for years spewed out at us in images and articles ideas which would have us picture Thanksgiving as a Norman Rockwell painting come to life with all the sights and smells of a picture perfect world. Not that we all live in that Rockwellian Paradise, a parade of 1950's picture perfect families and houses decked to perfection with all the trappings of the season. Indeed some of us, maybe a very few, are blessed few live in a world like that. But most of us don't. We live in real families with real people who are not perfect and who, by the grace of God, somehow find their way through to loving and supporting one another and keeping it together. Therefore Thanksgiving can play various roles in our family's journey whether it be our birth family or chosen one. It can be a healing time and a time for reflecting on ourselves and our families, friends and our world and our place in it and in other peoples lives.

Too often holidays like Thanksgiving bring up sad or depressing memories or thoughts for people. That is a sad thing indeed when it should be a holiday when we focus on being thankful for what we have instead of focusing on what we don't have or feel deprived of. A story from my past reminds me of how grateful I should be and how I should count my blessings on Thanksgiving instead of wishing for something more.

When I was touring with the national tour of "Oliver!" the musical, I spent a Thanksgiving in California. It was a warm and wet day and we had two shows back to back. Now I tried to arrange for my cast mates and myself to have a nice "holiday" meal but when push came to shove we really did not have enough time to go out to a formal dinner, nor did everyone want to spend the money to do so.

Disheartened I decided to go with the flow. But when it was announced that we were going to Jack in the Box for dinner I about flipped out. I mean really it;s Thanksgiving!! Nonetheless I went with the flow, saddened further by missing my family and friends elsewhere and saddened by the circumstances. However, when we got to the Jack in the Box ( which is a fast food restaurant for those of you who don't know)  that is when I was really shocked. The restaurant was completely crowded and full. Full of families having dinner, parents and their kids. Full of people eating alone in silence, eating at the friggin Jack in the Box on Thanksgiving!!!

Suddenly I was ashamed of feeling badly about not having my special dinner on this special holiday. Indeed, all the years I was a child or even an adult I never once had anything like this as a holiday meal, let alone a time where my parents would choose to take me to something like that whether by choice or circumstance. Indeed I had only known a practically Norman Rockwell existence compared to this. And suddenly I was filled with gratitude. Graditude for my past, for my family, and for my friends from the show who I was with, who I loved and loved being with wherever we were. I was so grateful.

So this Thanksgiving when I am gathering around whatever table it may be with friends and loved ones I want to remember how blessed I am to have what I have, and try to resolve when the holiday is long past and all there is left is turkey sandwiches from the icebox and mountains of dishes, that blessings are all around and I should be grateful for all of them large and small and not be disheartened or discontent but be the change in the world around me for good giving back a little of what I have been given.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. And thanks for reading my blog all year. I would love to know who is out there reading and looking, so make comments on posts you like and give me feedback on what I can so to improve. Peace!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Mohonk inspired Roast Chicken with Dijon and Parsley Seasoning and the Reason a Roasted Chicken means comfort!

Fall is in the air here in New York. Actually one could say it's flying through the air what with Hurricane Sandy and then the storm that even as I write this is beating at my windows with the first snow fall of the year. I suppose that if we had not just endured the blackouts and the flooding this would just be a big messy storm. But I think everyone is a little bit on edge about the weather.

Fall still remains my favorite time of year. Recently I had the chance to go hiking up at Mohonk with A. It was fall and the leaves had turned half way to colors, the air was cool and crisp. It was stunning!  Mohonk for those of you who don't know is an old Quaker resort and camp which was founded by a Quaker family at the turn of the last century. It is a majestic old hotel set on top of a small mountain which has a crater lake at it's center. It's actually quite the resort these days with a top of the notch spa and a 4 star resort rating. Aside from the hotel itself and the gardens around the property it has winding hiking trails all over the property and into the land reserve next door And there are gazebos everywhere. Yes gazebos! Made of the timbers and branches of the forests that surround them. It really is so  beautiful! It is a peaceful place and affords you the opportunity to meditate and get away from the world a little. A cause the original Quaker owners championed!

                                              This is Mohonk Mountain House

                                            This one of the many gazebos with a vista

So over the years Mohonk has slowly changed from a very conservative and family oriented vacation spot to a more upscale and chic destination. Not that all that much is different. But they do serve alcohol now in a lounge and dinner comes with a option for wine. But the dinning experience at Mohonk remains an interesting experience. For years it featured a large dinning hall and family style meals centered around the idea of breaking bread together and creating community. Now that had been somewhat updated but the seating is still very communal and the vibe is very friendly.

Now you might ask what does Mohonk and roast chicken have to do with one another. Well only that one of the so called heritage meals there is a roast chicken half, served with "marbled" potatoes and onions. And when the fireplace is roaring and the mood is festive you eat that chicken dinner and you recognize why people associate a roast chicken dinner as the homey meal number one in the world. It just feels like comfort and home.

At my house roasting a bird in the oven is a lovely thing! The house fills with wonderful aromas and the warmth of the oven gives the house a toasty goodness wrapped in flavors you can smell. I have decided to find the perfect recipe for roasting chicken this year. So as part of this project, I started to think about how to give a chicken the same attention we give a turkey. And I came up with the brining method of soaking the bird over night in a solution designed to plump up the bird's taste. But that's a commitment and what if you don't have the time? So I thought why not slather the bird with a marinade and let it sit in the fridge a few hours and then roast it. Not exactly brining, but the skin will take in the flavors from slathering it with a marinade and then baking it after it's stood awhile in the fridge to marinate seemed smart. I also wanted to try something other than the "slather it with butter" method so common with roast chicken. It was really good!

So that's what I did and it came out so well I may never make chicken another way again. It's delish. So without further adieu I give you the recipe for your fall table, enjoy Ya'll!

Forrest Ultimate Roast Chicken with Dijon and Parsley Sauce

A couple of notes.

1) I used a 7 pound bird for this you could use 2 smaller ones to feed 4 to 6 people
2) I used Herb de Provence as my herbs
3) I bought a really really strong dijon mustard for this recipe
4) you could brine your chicken overnight in a solution but I did not have the time, it would probably             add a lot to the bird's overall flavor

This recipe could not be easier

Step one:

In a small bowl stir together till it forms a green thick but viscus paste

4 heaping Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup dried parsley leaves
2 Tablespoons Black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons Herbs of your choice dried ( I tried Herbs de Provence for that French flair)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons rosemary flavored oil ( if you don't have this just increase the regular olive oil
salt to taste

Step two:  wash and clean your chicken then salt and pepper generously inside and out
Step three:  slather chicken well with the sauce
Step four:  place chicken wrapped in plastic in the fridge for 2 hours
Step five: bring out and let come to room temp  and salt and pepper it again
Step six: Heat oven to 375 bake chicken in middle of oven for 60 mins then reduce heat to 350 and  bake for another 30 mins check to see if the leg moves freely to see if it's done
Remove from oven let rest at least 15 mins then carve and serve

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bourbon Vanilla Buttermilk Milkshakes

So this is a recipe whose time has come for fall! Who doesn't love milkshakes. Well I was reading one
of my favorite blogs that I follow Noble Pig , and she had a recipe for these Bulgarian Buttermilk milkshakes with Vanilla ice cream and Bourbon.

Well I have been making Vanilla Bourbon Milkshakes for awhile. I made them many years ago for an On the Plate event and have made them for parties ever since. The reason I like them is simple, they are an easy no fuss dessert, and let's face it they are pretty awesomely tasty!

Well the idea of using buttermilk sounded awesome. I mean I love finding uses for buttermilk in foods. I just love it's rich bitter flavor and how it can enhance flavors. Buttermilk reminds me of my Big Mama, who had a glass of buttermilk everyday of her life I think! Now I did not have anything but regular old American buttermilk not finding the Bulgarian variety, and that's what I used in place of the regular whole milk I would normally use in my recipe. Well they came out great so give them a try. They are an easy and different taste for your holiday desserts. Enjoy Ya'll!

Bourbon Vanilla Buttermilk Shakes

6 large scoops of vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 shots of bourbon
Canister of Real Whipped Cream

Place all ingredients in a blender and whirl whirl whirl!! Pour into 4 glasses, top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes, it's all in the memories!

James Beard the anointed Dean of American cookery said famously that American cooking is what Americans cook at home. That could not be more true of our most famous and fabulous food holiday, Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving so much. I mean what's not to love. A holiday which celebrates the bounty of our nation with the cooking up of a groaning board's worth of foods which are indigenous to these shores and historically bound to the founding of our nation by both our European and Native American forefathers. These foods were integral to the survival of the Pilgrims as they made their first year in the New World and as such they formed the background of the foods that they may have put together for that first feast to celebrate their survival.

The main stays of the modern Thanksgiving meals is founded around the mighty Turkey. It's a noble roasted bird that anchors a meal rich in starches, vegetables and salad side dishes along with sauces and relishes. It is good. Many of these dishes are associated so closely with this meal that even if they were originally from some other source they are iconically associated with the day of Thanks feast. The most iconic of these is probably stuffing.

Indeed, Stuffing is definitely one of dishes that is most high on everyone's list of Thanksgiving foods. There are as many types of stuffing as there are cooks. I mean it's so interesting to me how iconic the flavor profile of the stuffing that one grew up with can be for people. There are stuffings that are meaty, seafood laden, veggie full, and use various starches and bread types. But what they all have in common is they are intended in some way to accompany the bird. Cause let's face it, on Thanksgiving, the bird is the word!

As you might have noticed if you have been following my blog, I grew up in a southern household, albeit a transient one. Being a military family we carried our heritage with us. My folks were very interested in us understanding where we were from and grounding us in our family's history and southern background. As such there were foods which were always present like grits and collards and lots of chicken and rice.

For holidays we had Ham on Easter, Hoppin John on New Years Day, and for Thanksgiving we always had a cornbread and pecan stuffing the likes of which are hard to find. I say that being that it is my family's stuffing and tradition, but I have been making this stuffing for years here in New York and people can never get enough of it. It's so rich and delish that people actually remember it from year to year and ask to make sure it's present on our Thanksgiving Table.

So here is the recipe, it's actually very very simple and makes ample dressing to bake on the side as well as stuff your bird. So here's to the first of my Thanksgiving posts, and if you want to try a new stuffing recipe this year, give it a go and let me know what you think. Enjoy Ya'll!

Forrest's Famous Thanksgiving Pecan Cornbread Stuffing Recipe

1 1/2 bunches of celery finely chopped
2 very large white or yellow onions finely chopped
3 8 oz bags Pecan halves and pieces crushed but not powder
1 very large loaf Italian or Peasant Bread cut up into crouton sized pieces and left out to dry for a day
2 large pans or 4 boxes of Jiffy cornbread baked and crumbled
2 boxes salad croutons garlic slightly crushed
4 cups chicken stock
3 Tablespoons garlic powder
2 Tablespoons dried Thyme
1/2  spice jar Sage dried ( as in jar from the spice isle)
2 Tablespoons dried Oregano
1/2 package stuffing seasoning (Bells is what I use)
1 pound of butter melted
4 eggs beaten
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large bowl of tin combine and mix the breads
Saute the onions an celery till soft, season then the add the crushed pecan pieces saute till the flavors bloom, add the seasonings till also they bloom.
Add stock and remaining ingredients then pour over the bread mixing gently till combined taste and season with salt and pepper. Add eggs and mix to combine. Mix should be fairly wet.
If too dry add more stock or water.
Place in a buttered large casserole dish or dishes and or stuff bird with the left overs from one dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 mins. Bird will bake in it's own time. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Falling into Pot Pie for Fall, Short Rib Pot Pie with Dark Beer and a Collage of Vegetables


Pot Pie. Even the name conjures up the most delicious visions of flakey crust and deep flavored sauce with chunky fillings and rich aromas. Got you hungry?

Well it was Monday and I had the day off and I decided to invite my friends over for a little supper at the Kitchen at 7th and 20th. I had been thinking all day about comfort foods I was looking forward to in the chilly Autumnal weather and so I decided why wait for it to get any colder. I got out some wintery vegetables and some short rib meat that I had already cooked for another purpose and went to town.

Pot Pie's are a delicious relic of old English cookery that is rooted in the Middle Ages and has it's origins in the winter kitchens of some castle somewhere, when preserving the food was part of the purpose for stewing the food and topping or encasing with the pie crust. That led to peasant cooking and eventually pub fare and that takes us to today where the lowly pot pie is still the favorite of people all over in bars and Irish Pubs here in the U.S.

Now I don't pretend to have any kind of story about Pot Pies because I never ate them growing up. They were not in the family cooking vocabulary. They are however, one of the things I learned to love along with Gyros and Brussel Sprouts when I left home. So while I can't entertain with a personal anecdotal tale of Pot pie lore I will give you my thoughts on them and why I made this one. I think pot pies generally have become the dumping ground of lots of potatoes peas and carrots in gloppy white sauce with bits of chicken in them. I wanted to do something different. And I think that steak and kidney pies are good but not exactly what I would have as a pie base.

So I picked my favorite braising meat of all time, the short rib. And because I am sensitive to the overload of potatoes I choose my favorite wintery veggies and added some regular favorites and decided to forego the starch. And I decided that I wanted a rich sauce, brown and beer based like a good flemish stew. So with those ideas in mind I give you this Short Rib Pot Pie recipe which is very easy and very tasty. So try it out and enjoy, Ya'll!!


2 lbs cooked Beef Short Ribs, cut to 1/2” x 1/2”
3 cups Beef Broth
3 cups stout beer
¼ cup butter
1 cup Diced Carrot (separate into ½ cups)
1 cup Diced Celery (separate into ½ cups)
1 cup Diced Onion (separate into ½ cups)

1 pound mushrooms sliced
1 cup pearl onions
1 pound brussels sprouts halved
1 Tbls Fresh Thyme
2 Tbls Dijon
3 good shakes of Worcestershire Sauce
7 Tbls Flour
4 Tbls butter

1 Tbls garlic flavored oil
1 cup grated sharp cheddar (English Cotswold is nice)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Sauté ½ of the diced vegetables and thyme until golden
Add beer and 2 cups of broth

Cook down till reduced 1/3 add mustard and W Sauce
Make Slurry of flour and remaining broth
Add and stir till thickened allow to cool
Place brussel sprouts and pearl onions on baking sheet and toss with oil and salt and pepper
Bake covered at 350° for 30 (until just tender then cool)
Add ribs, vegetables and the raw mushrooms to the sauce and mix together gently
Cut  4, 5” rounds from your favorite pie dough
Fill 4 pot pie bowls

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of grated cheese over
Fold over dough and crimp closed
Poke a vent in the top
Bake at 400° for 20 to 30 mins or until the top is golden brown

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Meatball Madness and the New York Wine and Food Festival: Classic Norwegian Meatballs

I have recently completed working the New York Wine and Food Festival here in NYC.  It is one of my favorite albeit trying projects I do every year with my company and have done for the last five. Wow, five years, that's a long time. Well anyway one of the events which came about this year was called Meatball Madness. It was an celebration and a total homage to the mighty Italian meatball. That's right Italian meatball, not meatball in general but Italian meatballs. Now don't get me wrong there are probably many folks including me who enjoy an Italian meatball but really, do you have to limit it to just that type, can't there be room for other kinds of meatballs? Now this exclusivity probably has something to do with the fact that Giada De Laurentiis is the host for the evenings festivities and her shows are centered around Italian Cooking. Hence the Italian slant to the event. However, after five years I have to say i was tired of the taste and flavor profile being only red sauce and basil with cheese. I mean there are so many creative cooks out there why not open it up to the broad range of flavors and ethnic spices that could be really impressive as a show of culinary inspiration. I mean who doesn't love a meatball by any name!

So with that in mind and a rainy Monday evening I set out to make a meal which would be a direct antidote to the singular Italian flavor profile of meatballs I had had at the festival. Meatball Madness indeed! I would make an Americana meatball with a country flavor profile and a Scandinavian twist!

Growing up in my family we split the heritage factor in 2 parts. One part southern and one part Norwegian via the Midwest queen city of Chicago. It's the norwegian part that figures in on the meatball front. Now here in the states Swedish foods and Swedish style ( thank you IKEA) has sort of overshadowed the rest of the Scandinavian peoples that have food and cultural heritages. Hence, Swedish meatballs not Norwegian meatballs are what everyone knows about. But I am here to tell you the Norwegians know a thing or two about meatballs as well. They differ in flavor profile and in the sauce or gravy. But most importantly they are NORWEGIAN and not Swedish! Cause calling them Swedish just pisses off the Norwegians!!!

So when I go about making meatballs I follow my Grandmother's lead and make them in the fashion if not in the direction of a Norwegian meatball. You could even say that the classic midwestern meatball came from the Scandinavians who came to these shores and settled in great part in the Midwest states. Either way I wanted to reclaim the meatball from my east coaster friends who grew up feasting on meatballs in Sunday gravy. I also decided I would make some side dishes to go along with these meatballs. Traditionally Norwegian meatballs are served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jelly. it really is a comfort food meal and I love used to love them as a boy. I can remember they would always make an appearance around the holidays. On a buffet for a party or served at a dinner they could always be counted on for some delicious fun!

Now I don't cook for a crowd everyday but that is certainly one of the recipes I reserve for those occasions. Today however I wanted to take it up a notch. So I tweaked my Grandmother's recipe and came up with one that is a little bit different. I use a little  bacon in the meatballs and has the also uses a rich cheese and sour cream sauce as the gravy. So give them a try and let me know what you think! Enjoy Ya'll

Norwegian Meatballs from the Gabrielson Family Recipe

For the Meatballs

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry bread crumbs (I like crushed panko)
1/2 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
6 pieces finely chopped bacon

For the Gravy:

3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or sour cream
dash cayenne pepper
1 dash white pepper
optional: 4oz of gjetost cheese shredded

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, bread crumbs, onion and seasonings. Let stand until crumbs absorb milk. Add meat; stir until well blended. Shape into 1-in. meatballs. Place on a greased jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400 degrees F until browned, about 18 minutes. Set aside.
  2. For gravy, melt butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Saute onion until tender. Stir in flour and brown lightly. Slowly add broth; cook and stir until smooth and thickened. Blend in cream, cayenne pepper and white pepper and cheese. Gently stir in meatballs; heat through but do not boil.

Serve with my potatoes colcanon if you want to really kick it up!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Braised Red Cabbage, a Fall a Recipe for the Best Time of the Year

Fall is like no other time of year as far as I am concerned. The minute Summer really lets go of her grip on the planet and cool fresh breezes blow through the city I am so excited. Everything seems to pull itself back together. The hot sticky heat and humid conditions that raged through the Summertime give way to tight crisp and cooler temps which invigorate and which inspire. Fall is a culinary crossover from the bounty of the Summer garden to the end of the harvest as well as the preparation time for the Winter. Foods not enjoyed as much in the heat become available and appetizing once more as the cooler weather signals of desire for comfort. Preservation of the last of the Summer's bounty through pickling and canning come into play and we desire richer deeper flavors than the one's we sought in the the Summer's heat.

Fall makes me think of colors and hues darker than summer. where the sky can be a brilliant blue but the crisp nip in the air elevates that blue to something extraordinary and sings with the Autumnal hues that it backdrops. The scent of chimney smoke and damp leaves brings back memories of Autumns past, first day of school, fall football games, college semesters, first jobs perhaps out of school, or the first time we sent our own children off into the world in whatever phase that might be, from kindergarten to military service. Fall always seems like a beginning to me, even if it is signaling the end of a cycle.

Fall makes me want to gather in for the impending Winter those parts of my life which I was freer with in Summertime. It is studious and serious and a time to get things moving. Accomplishment seems more precise and less relaxed than during the warmth. And the foods we eat take on a serious note with more complex and concentrated flavors, an earthy meaty quality if you will.

Now fall is a wonderful time for sumptuously prepared vegetables and vegetable dishes. I mean as we move into the fall the veggies become a little more solid and they can be prepared in the most wonderful of manners. Squashes, pumpkins, brussel sprouts, root veggies and leafy greens all seem to prosper in the cooler fall temperatures. And they all seem to go along with the season and the comforting foods we want and crave during this season.

One of these veggies is Cabbage. Now I love cabbage. I really do, in cole slaw, in cabbage rolls, in salads, in potatoes colcanon. I really love it when it's well prepared. I mean lets face it cabbage can be that veggie that has the funky smell or is boiled to death in a pot of water and becomes a bad version of itself, faded and stinky.

But when prepared carefully and artfully cabbage can be amazing. Red Cabbage cooked down with some vinegar and sugar mix seems like a very common way to prepare it. But a REALLY good version of this type of dish is hard to find. This version of that common recipe is a really good one and I am sure and if you try it out you will agree. 

Forrest's version of Braised Red Cabbage with Goat Cheese

1 Medium sized head of red cabbage
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon balsamic glaze or sauce ( optional )
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup water
4 oz soft goat cheese ( Cherve)

In a pot melt butter and oil
Cook cabbage and let begin to soften
Add the rest of the ingredients
Stir to combine and let cook covered on medium heat for 60 mins, if it gets to dry add more water
Add one ounce of the goat cheese and let melt in and stir in
When ready to serve crumble the remaining goat cheese over the top and gently stir
Serve in a bowl or on a platter and save a few bits of the cheese to dot the top with as a garnish.
Enjoy ya'll!