Jason


Note: JLH v1 is back with another guest post! 🙂 Let’s show him the love he deserves~

A few weeks back Jacquie sent me a link for a Columbia Crest recipe contest. All that was required of participants was to use a Washington State ingredient in a dish that could be paired with one of their wines. I debated between starting with either a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz since I love red wines, but once I settled on blackberries as the star of the dish, I knew the spiciness of the Shiraz was the way to go.

If you’re curious, the prize is a 3 day/4 night trip for two to New York City (including air fare and hotel accommodations), a dinner at one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants, and a chance to prepare your meal with him. The fact that Bobby’s the sponsor may or may not be a good thing because my recipe is based on a technique out of his Mesa Grill Cookbook. Several months ago I made his Peanut Chipotle Ribs but didn’t write about them and even though they tasted good enough to warrant a post, they weren’t my finest (or last) effort so I decided against it. The baste I made turned out too thick but the cooking technique was great so I applied it to my recipe below, but this time I kept my baste thinner.

My recipe below seems complicated because of the laundry list of ingredients but it’s really just a few sauce fundamentals. Most of my sauces start with the basics – oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper – and vary from there depending on what the sauce is for. I knew I was using blackberries and Shiraz for the base, but I wanted to make it a little more rib appropriate; thus the molasses, honey, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce were next in the pot. If you hadn’t already guessed, those ingredients plus a tomato product make up a standard BBQ sauce. To get the tomato flavor but keep it unique I used sun-dried tomato halves instead of the commonly used ketchup. I considered adding some heat to go along with the sweet and sour of the sauce, but I knew the chili rub would take care of balancing the dish in its entirety.

Btw, I’m hoping that if I win they’ll just give me a helicopter ride to the city as a substitute for air fare and hotel. Heck, they can even throw in another dinner if they want, but mostly I want to throwdown with Bobby Flay, mostly.

Blackberry Ribs (1 lb pork spare ribs)

Chili Rub

Remove the stems from 3 dried ancho chiles, 4 dried guajillo chiles, and 4 dried cascabel chiles. Dice them up and toast in a cast iron skillet over medium/low heat for about 1-2 minutes. Don’t let them burn; the smoke they create is killer on the eyes and lungs. Thrown everything into a spice grinder and presto, you have an au natural chile rub.

**Note: for this recipe, stop there for the chili rub. However, if you have some leftover (and I did) you can make a homemade chili powder. All you have to do is add some dried oregano, cumin and paprika. I don’t add salt or pepper because I prefer to salt/pepper my food as I cook it since different dishes require different amounts. Also, you can add onion and garlic powder if you want but since I usually cook with the fresh versions, I left that out as well. I really don’t know the ratios to be honest, but basically if you combine the cumin/paprika/oregano separately but in equal proportions, it should be about the same amount as all the chili rub. Not sure if that made sense…

Dry Rub

salt
pepper
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tablespoons chile mix (recipe above)

Liberally salt and pepper the ribs all over. Next, rub about 1 tsp of cumin on the top of the ribs. Then rub in a good portion of the chile mix to the top of the rack. You want to get a nice thick coating. You can rub into the bottom too but be sure to sear that side as well (later steps). Cover the ribs and let sit in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Baste

1 tsp olive oil
1/3 bottle Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz
12 oz fresh blackberries
¼ medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1.5 tbsp honey
1 tbsp molasses
1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 halves of sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar

½ cup of Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz
2-3 cups of water
¼ cup of fresh chopped ginger

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a medium size saucepan. Toss in the red onions and garlic and sweat the onions slightly (do not caramelize). Add 1/3 bottle Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz and the blackberries. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and then mash the blackberries a bit with the back of a wooden spoon. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes longer (make sure the baste doesn’t reduce too much and become thick. It’s a baste, not a paste).

Remove the sauce from the heat and discard about ½ of the blackberries. Add the remaining mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.

Return the sauce to the sauce pan and add the rest of the ingredients up to brown sugar. You can go ahead and preheat the oven to 500 degrees now. Let simmer again for another 5-10 minutes for the flavors to meld then add back to the blender to puree again. It should be thin enough to pour in a steady stream. Mine was the right consistency but if you find yours too thick, add a little water to thin it out for basting.

Cooking Ribs

If you haven’t already, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Add oil to a roasting pan large enough to fit the entire rack and warm over medium-high heat. Sear the top of the ribs (or each side if you added dry rub to both sides) for about 5 minutes until the crust is nicely browned. Remove the ribs and most of the oil, add in the remaining three ingredients (2-3 cups of water, ½ cup of the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Shiraz and the ginger). Set the roasting rack into the pan and place the ribs on top so they remain above the liquids in the roasting pan. Carefully place the ribs in the oven on the lowest rack (basting before you begin) and then baste every 15 minutes. The ribs should cook in about an hour to an hour and a half. A meat thermometer should register 175 degrees since these are pork ribs.

Take them out when they are done and then let them rest for about 10 minutes. Carve and enjoy!

 

Another post from our wonderful guest writer, JLH v1!

When Jacquie and I got married we had tons of gift certificates from generous friends and family to many different stores. Now, as I’m sure you can gather from this blog, we had no choice but to spend the credit on foodstuffs. Fortunately, Jacquie let me get a few things I wanted too – a waffle iron, a mini deep fryer, and a meat grinder with sausage making attachment. I have been grinding meat for my burgers since day one and though I have yet to use the stuffing tube, I have finally completed the grey area between those two and made breakfast sausage.

Surprisingly, sausage is simple to make – it’s pork and spices. That’s it. After doing a little research I decided that breakfast sausage was the only one for me. There are of course tons of different sausages out there but I love breakfast sausage the best, or maybe it’s tied with chorizo. That might be the first one I encase. In any case, Jacquie will link to the awesome breakfast-dinner in a separate post so here is my recipe for breakfast sausage.

1 lb pork chops*
1 lb pork butt*
2 tbsp maple syrup (the purer the better)
2 tsp ground sage
2 tsp kosher salt salt
2 tsp white pepper (all the recipes I saw suggested black pepper, but I like white pepper better)
½ tsp marjoram
1 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of cloves

I froze the pork then defrosted it most of the way so when I chopped it up they were more like ice cubes. That actually turned out to be a good strategy because as I ground it up, it didn’t get too warm (though my hands did get very cold). Anywho, I ground the pork, mixed in the herbs all at once, then ground it again. Covered it all with some plastic wrap and let it refrigerate overnight.

By the way, the * is to note that next time I would mix in a fattier cut of meat or throw in some pure pork lard. Even though the flavor was spot on to any respectable breakfast sausage, it turned out a bit drier than I like.

Today’s post is from our guest writer, the original JLH!:

I usually don’t feel the need to add onto Jacquie’s restaurant reviews, partly because we discuss most of the stuff over dinner and partly because I proof her postings so I subtly inject my comments that way. This time however, if I had injected my comments into her latest review it would have been far too obvious because Jacquie cares little about alcohol.

As she mentioned briefly, Jacquie ordered a mint julep and it was by far one of the best I’ve had. Mint Juleps are simple in practice –

  1. Prepare a mint simple syrup the night before by boiling 1 cup of water and 1.5 cups of sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Throw in about 15-20 sprigs of mint and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight so the syrup is infused with mint flavor.
  2. When preparing the drink, add a few mint leaves to a rocks glass (or stainless steel cup if you’re authentic), add a quick splash of bourbon and then muddle. Add a large handful of crushed ice, and then add a 2:1 ratio of bourbon to simple syrup until the glass is filled. A traditional garnish of fresh mint sprig is optional.

– but delicate in execution. If you think it’s easy you can try one of Wildwood’s and then compare it to mine, which for some reason turns out to taste just like bourbon over ice with a little mint flavor. It’s going to take much more practice for me to get it right.

So anyway, the mint julep at Wildwood was surprisingly delicious. As for the rest of the bourbons, well, the list was excellent. I hate saying that one bourbon is better than another, or pick a favorite, mostly because bourbons are not meant to be created equal.

If I was pushed to pick a favorite though, I’d say that Maker’s Mark is it because of it’s versatility in my drinking world. Maker’s Mark is excellent served neat, with Coke, or in a Manhattan, which are my three favorite drinks. I would go so far to say that a Manhattan with something other than Maker’s is not a Manhattan. Side note: Babbo has the best Manhattan in the city – I enjoyed it so much that I called them for the recipe and served their version on my wedding day.

But Maker’s obviously isn’t the best on the market – in fact I love Hirsch and Pappy much more in regards purely to flavor – but you’ll be paying 3x as much for these upper echelon bourbons. Regarding Wildwood’s selection, I was impressed because:

  • It had a few things I love (i.e. Hirsch, Pappy and Four Roses) giving it my stamp of approval
  • It didn’t list Jack Daniels under the bourbons
  • Most importantly, it had selections I had never heard of, which is a rare but excellent happenstance

At this particular dinner I chose to try the Parker Heritage, which turned out to be a whole new bourbon experience. Honestly, I can’t begin to properly review bourbons with my limited knowledge, but I can say that the Parker’s Heritage isn’t for the faint of heart. I would never introduce someone to bourbons using this one, but for someone that enjoys scotches or bourbons or even finer rums, I would tell them to try it. It turns out that not only is this limited edition, but it’s cask strength, which gives it the extra umph that I respect.

By the way, that extra “umph” is why I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to newbies. It’s an intense combination of flavors that may be a bit much – the best I can liken it too is shoving tons of dark chocolate in your mouth. Not because the bourbon was chocolaty, but because as wonderful as choclate is, shoving mounds of it your mouth is a sensory overload and can be too much for novices. For the record, I love that sensory overload.

Anyhow, I’d suggest using Jacquie’s excellent recommendation for the BBQ and foodstuffs, but if you want my opinion on which bourbon to order, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

And now I leave you with a picture of the mint julep I made while watching the Kentucky Derby, in none other than a fleur de lis rocks glass.

Jacquie has quite the affinity for book stores, which is awesome because it’s much cheaper than shoe stores and I have something to do while she’s browsing. A few weekends ago she allowed me to tag along on her cookbook shopping “spree” at Borders. We probably sat there for a good hour opening up cookbooks and reading them in order to find the perfect ones for her collection. This included The Bread Bible, Molto Mario by our guru, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and even something for me, the Mesa cookbook.

When we got home, I read mine cover to cover (there’s some good info in there about spices and drinks too, it’s not all recipes) and decided that the first thing I’d try out is a soup. And I did the following night when I made his Green Pea & Green Chile Soup with Serrano Ham and Mint-Cumin Crema (page 44).

Firstly, most soups are fairly easy to make. If you want to make a carrot based soup all you do is boil the carrots until their soft, blend them up, and add little of the soup stock to thin it out. Same thing goes for a cucumber soup or a zucchini soup. In this case, it was peas for me. One interesting point to note is that homemade stocks hold a distinct advantage over store bought stocks for the simple reason that store bought isn’t necessarily made with chicken bones. Using bones in the stock like Jacquie does means your stock will have a much richer flavor. It’s not imperative, but if you can make homemade I’d recommend it. (We buy most of our food fresh and items rarely go into the freezer. We save the leftover parts of veggies and we buy whole chickens instead of just the breasts and legs. It’s like a vicious cycle. Our freezer is already full with ice, ready chicken stock in ice cube trays, an ice cream maker bowl, and chicken bones and vegetable remnants for the aforementioned stock, leaving little room for TV dinners of frozen veggies)

This first recipe actually turned out to be a perfect example of how I utilize cookbooks or recipes. I think of them more as a guideline or framework because if you really wanted Bobby Flay’s soup you’d actually go to Mesa Grill, not come over to my apartment. If you’re visiting me, you want good food and good drinks. Thus, in this recipe I made a few substitutions and a few additions (tasting the soup along the way), either for necessity or by choice. We didn’t have Serrano ham within arm’s length, but we always have some prosciutto in the fridge so we used that instead. Prosciutto worked just fine, though I would suggest having a HOT pan when crisping ham because my first batch was kind of soggy

The next substitution I used was sour cream for the suggested crème fraiche. To be honest, I have zero idea what crème fraiche tastes like so I can’t tell you if it changed the flavor dramatically. What I can tell you is that not too much is used in the soup itself, and just a little bit more is used in the crema, so I’d guess the difference isn’t too dramatic.

My final addition was a little chile en adobo sauce. Once we finished making the soup, which was comprised of 95% sweet peas with the other 5% being sour cream, honey and roasted poblanos, it was pretty sweet. Therefore, I used the adobo and chipotle to offset the sweetness with a little bit of smokey goodness. Honestly, it was good the way it was but it was more of a crowd pleaser with the last minute addition.

So that’s that, my first Flay foray. I would suggest adding some fresh cracked black pepper right before you serve it. Oh yes, to get the crema to look cool I actually messed up the first few bowls practicing (I made seven of these things). After a couple I realized that I should just drizzle it on the soup in a straight line, then use the back of the spoon to create the effects. Without further adieu, here’s the pic of the final product. Enjoy~

Jason

We are starting something new on the Equivocal Epicurean! My more assertive husband Jason has very lovingly volunteered to help spice up the blog a bit! He will post a bit about his gastronomic adventures in the kitchen as well as share some of his often random, yet poignant thoughts. I hope you enjoy them both as much as I do 🙂

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Well, luckily for me the wifey has decided to allot me some space on her blog. Ideally I would start my own page, with my own cool backgrounds, and have my own cool site name, but I’m lazy. This is much easier – I just have to type stuff out in the Word document then Gmail it over to Jacq and she’ll take care of the rest. Nice deal, eh?

I decided to break my postings into two categories: food and other. The “other” postings will mostly be my thoughts on certain subjects, whether it is politics, sports, business or just random stuff I find interesting. This is more or less a means for me to be heard since Jacquie has wisely started tuning me out. The food postings will fall under the heading “One Flay at a Time” because right now I’m going through Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook and cooking his dishes.

Let me firstly say that I advocate cooking to taste, not just following a recipe. However, you gotta learn from the pros if you want do really well. I’ve been playing around in the kitchen with my own barbeque sauces (yes, from scratch) and grilling techniques (smoking up the apartment because I haven’t a balcony) for the past year or so, but now I’m ready to ramp it up a bit. By utilizing Mr. Flay’s recipes I’m more concerned with learning the techniques he uses in his preparations and his sauces. Also, out of respect for him, I won’t be posting his actual recipe; instead I’ll give you the page number it’s on so you can follow along. Likewise, I’ll do my best to structure it so you don’t have to own the book to enjoy my postings. The idea will be for the reader to see what I did wrong, what I suggest, and what I improvised, which should allow you to learn from my mistakes when you experiment.

The first posting should come shortly, hold your breath…

Jason