Monday, October 21, 2013

Feta and Buttermilk Salad Dressing

Salad Dressings are one of those elements in a dish that absolutely makes or breaks a salad. I love salads but I have to admit I mostly love salad dressings. I mean there is a delicious taste that comes with incredibly fresh salad fixings dressed ever so simply and seasoned perfectly. But as we most all know the salads we as Americans typically eat at home come from the super market. Are not totally fresh and need a little help. Plus trying to get your kids to eat salad greens usually can involve pulling teeth. And that's where dressing comes in. If you have a tasty dressing you can get kids and adults alike to eat their daily greens.

I also love rich flavorful salad dressings with a creamy base over most thin vinegary dressings. There are exceptions but for me that's really pretty much a rule. So when thinking about eating salads which I am doing more of these days. I wanted to bring the flavors I love into the mix. Feta cheese is for me one flavor that makes veggies sing. I love the tang and to ramp that up buttermilk seemed a perfect partner. Greek salads are one of my favorite things with oregano and feta and kalamata olives all mixing in briny sourness together. This dressing sort of takes any group of humble salad fixings and elevates them to a new height with a touch of greek flair.

Feta and Buttermilk Dressing with Tarragon and Herbs

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces French Sheep Feta or buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled
In a bowl, whisk together ingredients through salt and pepper. Add the cheese and whisk lightly, leaving small chunks of cheese visible. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Yield: 2 cups

Monday, October 14, 2013

Oktoberfest Menu: The Midwest Makes It Best: Brats, Apples and Onions and Raclette with New Potatoes

The American Midwest is really called the heartland for a reason beyond it's geographical location. It's called the heartland because that's where so many of the ideals we take as "all American" reside in a way that other parts of the country just don't embody them.

Strong working class communities and craftsmen as well as farmers and tradesmen made the Midwest a place which created the work ethic we speak of yet today as the "Midwest work ethic" and more inclusively the "American work ethic". It was the proving grounds for major US. industries and the backbone of the industrial machine which made up much the power base for growth which has fueled the American dream after the second world war.

The Midwest was a place that saw a huge influx of immigrants from central and northern Europe during the mid to late 1800's and early 1900's. Chicago a city in the center of it all had large ethnic neighborhoods which grew up along side one another preserving in some respect the language, traditions and foods which those people brought with them from their homelands. Many of these foreign traditions and foods slowly found their way into mainstream American life. Some are represented yet today by regional holidays, regional traditions or regional foods.

German and Scandinavian immigrants were two of the largest groups to move into the area. Their influence can yet be felt all over the region. Festivals celebrating various food and cultural traditions are common and they are often well attended and woven into the area's holiday seasons.

So I have spoken before of my sojourn in the land of cheese and dairy better known as Wisconsin. I worked for about a total of one  and a half years of my life at the Fireside Theater. I got to see a lot of that state while I was there and became very interested in the local food scene. I later spent time working in Milwaukee and got to know some of the German heritage foods that are popular in that town.

When we think of German traditions popular in the US. today one comes to mind immediately. Octoberfest which is celebrated in southern Germany as a form of harvest festival has found it's way into the American landscape and has become a fun beer and food festival celebrated all over the US.

So I wanted to make a dinner the other day that sort of evoked the whole Oktoberfest thing. I decided on Brats which I love. I also wanted to make sides that would be fun and a little different. So a very fall and very German thing is baked apples and onions. I wanted to ramp that up a little bit so I decided to add chopped sweet and hot cherry peppers and the result was delightful. Sweet apples baked soft with the sharp and sweet contrast of the onions and then the chopped peppers added a spicy unexpected The brats were first slowly simmered in beer then thrown in with the apples and onions to bake to a golden brown.

The other part of this menu was the side dish. Potatoes boiled and served with melted Raclette cheese which is a Swiss and French dish garnished with pickled veggies. I decided on a oven version melting the cheese over sliced boiled potatoes and crisping the top with the broiler right before serving.

It all came together. Browned and crisped skinned plump Brats piled over a mountain of roasted apples and onions spiced unexpectedly with the cherry peppers joined creamy melted Raclette on soft boiled potatoes with cold pickled veggies and onions. It was delish. Served with a German style cole slaw it was an amazing meal. Here is the Brats apples recipe more to follow. Grab a beer and enjoy ya'll!

Brats roasted with Apples, Onions and Cherry Peppers 

8 Fresh Bratwursts from the Butcher
2 bottles of pilsner style beer
4 red apples cored and sliced into wedges
2 spanish onions also cut into wedges
6 to 8 sweet and hot cherry peppers roughly chopped

In a pot add the beer and 2 to 3 cups of cold water
Bring to a boil turn off the heat and cool for 15 mins
Add brats
Let sit in the liquid for about 30 mins
Drain and remove the brats

Turn oven on to 350

Next on a sheet pan toss the apples the onions and the peppers with some olive oil with salt and pepper and some garlic powder
Place brats on the bed of the apples and onions and place in the oven for about 20 mins then turn the brats over and place back in the oven for another 20 mins.

Remove from the oven and platter the apple and onions then top with the brats and bring to the table.
Serve with a potato side and a salad. I did a Raclette which is a traditional Swiss dish it's so easy!

15 small boiled potatoes cooled slightly and then sliced.
1 lb Raclette cheese sliced
1 large red onion sliced and quick pickled
1 large jar of Pickled Veggies
1 small jar Cornichons french styled pickles

Place the sliced potatoes in a small oven proof dishes
cover with the cheese
place in the oven till cheese melts them place under the broiler till bubbly and slightly brown
Serve with the brats and apples.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Clam Chowder Fall's First Soup from Summer's Inspiration

Not that anyone would be surprised that I am writing about a rich creamy seafood soup, but there really is more than meets the eye to my love of this soup. It's just like many dishes I have shared on this blog that have a place in my personal history or the history of my friends and family.

Clam Chowder has long been one of my favorite things since I can remember. I  just love it's texture and silken goodness, lingering on the spoon and gently cooling until it can be eaten when served up properly hot and fresh. My grandma ( Maternal)  who lived with us growing up made it sometimes at home and I loved it. When I was in college my friend Chris Schaffer introduced me to the Fish Market a chowder House in Alexandria Virginia where one paired steaming bowls of chowder with large flagons of beer. And of course it was on the menu at the D Hall (Dinning Hall) at JMU where I went to school. Later in life I attended a wedding in New England where the rehearsal dinner centered around a "Chowder and Salad Bar", which was actually really awesome.

All of these previous encounters pale when placed next to my exposure to this and various other seafood dishes during my first and subsequent stays on the Cape in Provincetown. As those of you know who read this blog I am a big fan of Provincetown in my culinary life as well as regular life adventures there. I go to Ptown every year for at least a week and no Summer would be complete for me without a trip to it's iconic shores. For me, Ptown is home to classic New England seafood dishes and what is more classic than Clam Chowder.

Now waxing poetical about Ptown is one of those things that I have done before on this blog. I think it's such iconic a place in terms of it's statuesque New England beauty, that it defies description a little. In fact for me it is really a very magical place. A place where the light and the sea and the sky all come together as one. Every year I buy a piece of art to remember my summer by. And then in the deep Winter I can gaze up at my walls and remember the glory of those magical Summer days in Ptown. When all is right with the world and there is no problem that can't be solved by spending time in the Sun doing something fun, a great happy hour at Tea Dance and an evening of cooking or dining out and going out on the town till the early hours. All around just fun.

There are many many recipes for clam chowder that vary in their ingredients and their subsequent taste and texture. Some people like a thick chowder and some like a thin chowder. Either way it equals delicious. It's all a matter of personal preference but I prefer a little body to my chowder. Thin chowder just seems sad to me. So here is my recipe for bringing the  essence of Summer seafood and Summer memories back into your kitchen and onto your table even if the Winter is raging outside. Enjoy Ya'll.

Forrest's Clam Chowder ( makes 9 cups)

For the roux 1 cup flour and 3/4 cups butter
5 bottles 8 oz of clam juice for a total of 5 cups
5 medium potatoes peeled and diced medium
2 large onions diced medium
2 stalks celery finely diced
3 tablespoons butter
6 strips of bacon diced
1 1/2 pound diced clams
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup light cream
2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of sherry vinegar


In a pan saute the bacon till done remove and drain discard the grease
Saute onions and celery in the butter till soft and translucent but not brown
To this pot add the potatoes and clam juice and pepper
Bring to boil  and cook till potatoes are done then reduce heat to low
In another pot add the butter and flour and cook till slightly browned and the flour taste is cooked out
Slowly add the milk till the sauce thickens
Add the two pots together add the bacon and cream and the Worcestershire
Slowly simmer till thick and all combined. If too thick thin with milk.
Add clams just before serving then simmer a few minutes and serve.