Cookin again


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After cooking late last night, I had some of my shortribs late TONIGHT, with my mom and I splitting a rib, the meat spread on pieces of toasted Italian rustic bread. IOW, real fancy SOS. :lol:

Tell you want, though: this core recipe is good. The meat was literally fall-off-the-bone tender; the sauce, flavorful. Unanimous winner!

I didn’t follow it to a T, but it still kicked ass. I intended to add sliced portobellos, but forgot. Ultimately, I didn’t change any ingredients, but I didn’t exactly follow the ratios, either. I was a little short on wine, but added more beef stock; I used more celery and garlic but less onion and carrot; I used more tomato paste. I suspect there’s plenty of wiggle room in it, considering the ingredients & process.

Next time, I may purée the sauce a bit, and if serving this to guests, I’ll definitely plate it with a sprinkle of parsley and some fresh green onion for a little added bite.

Tomorrow, I should get a chance to actually roast or pan fry my baby Yukon golds to serve with the shortribs.


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Made salads for dinner again. My usual suspects were included: spinach, San Marzanos, carrots, celery, green onion, portobello slices, salami, chicken and ham.

My dressing was that vinaigrette I’ve been making with lemon-infused olive oil, Dijon mustard, tarragon (instead of red wine) vinegar, pepper and parsley.

What was different? Well, I got some nice broccoli sprouts and radish sprouts from a vendor at the Farmers’ Market*. The Brocs add a faint echo of the fully grown plant, and the Rads give a nice herbal bite.

In addition, instead of slicing or grating fresh cheese, I used some Parmesan crisps. Besides the unmistakable parm flavor, the crunch they add is very welcome, assisting the celery.

* he sometimes has other sprouts I want to try in a salad, like sunflower sprouts (kind of nutty) and the occasional onion sprouts (a long time favorite of mine)
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I am a night owl and never liked getting up in the morning. But I can if I have to; if I think it’s worth it,

Well, our local farmers’ market is proving to be worth it. I don’t buy a whole bunch of stuff there, but what I DO buy has been enjoyable. One of the major pickles has got me hooked on a couple of his products, and his pickled tomatoes have been a hit for most of the family. I mentioned earlier in this thread how pickling brine and avocado make for a nice core for a faux vinaigrette, and I think the one he uses for the tomatoes will be killer. Will be trying soon.

The cookie guy is a certified evil genius. I’ve tried most of the flavors he offers regularly, and several of his short run seasonal varietals. From a house in which we usually typically only have a mason jar of blonde Oreos, we now have a half-dozen containers of his products. The mason jar hasn’t been refilled in a month.

The sprouts guy now knows be by name. He has got me loving radish sprouts, and using broccoli sprouts as well. Best of all, he’s been a reliable source for onion sprouts, which I have loved for years, but can’t easily find. He was out of onion sprouts this Saturday, but sold me on garlic sprouts. Winners!

There’s one guy making Mediterranean staples like pita breads, garlic spread, olive mixes and tabouli, all as good as any I can get.

The bacon lady has all kinds of nifty flavors. there’s fresh breads, honeys, veggies, fruits and even some things like hand made tamales and empanadas from local family restaurants.

So, much as I hate mornings, it’s looking like my Saturdays will not be for sleeping in as often as I’d like.


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This plate features gumbo, garlic cole slaw, schnitzel, buttered French bread, German potato salad, and creole oyster dressing.

It was the result of a little “culinary exchange“.

One of my cousins married a nice a German guy- Johnny- who has been bringing home-cooked schnitzel to the last 2 Thanksgivings. Well, his best friend was visiting, and he’s a bit of a foodie, do they did a little tour of some of the great southern food cities. Johnny also claimed he was an even better cook, too.

So he asked if his buddy could cook up some schnitzel in exch for a meal ofsome gumbo- a dish he’d never had. How could I say no?


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In the aftermath of that dinner, I got a lot of requests for recipes. So I took the time to write up my side of the dishes prepared, and sent them out. Now, nobody here asked, but why the hell shouldn’t I do so anyway?

Filé Seafood Gumbo

Gumbo is one of those non-recipe recipes. You’re creating a flavor YOU like, so it’s never precisely the same. What follows is an approximation, a target to aim for. I don’t measure most of my seasonings, preferring to go by taste, because some of the ingredients like sausage are already pre-seasoned, so you’ll need to adapt on the fly.

A general note on ingredients: little here is set in stone. My Mom’s version included diced ham, and when crab was unavailable, she substituted lobster tails. Turkey could be used in place of chicken. The late Leah Chase (owner/operator/chef of Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans) included venison in the stock she made for her gumbo.

Parenthetical numbers after a line refers to the Notes section at the end.

Yellow onions, 3-5, depending on size, chopped fine (1)
Garlic, 2-3 heads worth of cloves, crushed, chopped or minced
Celery 1-1.5 clusters worth of stalks, cleaned and chopped. I mix the sizes of my chopped celery- some chunky, some fine.
Chicken thighs, 3-6lbs
Smoked sausage (beef or beef/pork) 2-4lbs, sliced into medallions (2)
Hot sausage (beef) 2-3lbs, diced as finely as you can (3)
Shrimp (16-20 size), 2lbs, cleaned and peeled (or tail on)
Cleaned crab in shell, broken into clusters (4)
Lump crab meat 16oz
Chicken stock, 96oz
Chicken bullion (optional: 1-2 cubes, to taste)
Dried Bay Leaf, 3-6, depending on size
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Ground Filé (sassafras), @.75oz+ (5)

Roux (6):
All purpose Flour (7)
Oil (8)

White rice

In a stock pot, begin by sautéing your onions, garlic and celery over low to medium heat. After they’ve clarified, remove them from the pot and begin browning your sausage medallions. When your medallions gave some good color, remove from the pot and deglaze the pan if necessary. Repeat the process with your diced hot sausage. Once it is cooked, remove it and begin browning your chicken.

While you are doing the sautéing and browning of the meat, start your roux using approximately equal amounts of oil and flour. In a large non-stick frying pan over low heat, brown the flour in the oil, stirring frequently. (9)

Also, begin cooking your rice.

After the chicken has browned, deglaze your pot, then return all your meat & veggies into the stock pot. Add most of your chicken stock and bay leaf, as well as some of your salt, black pepper and red pepper. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, covered, stirring occasionally. You want a steady slow boil. When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, you will be able to break it apart with your spoon. At that point, reduce your heat to low, and begin your final seasoning with everything except the filé. When you have the flavor you want, add the filé by sprinkling it in a little bit art a time, stirring it in thoroughly as you do. Between the parseley, thyme and filé, the gumbo will provably take on a green/brown hue.

Add your roux, stirring it in thoroughly.

At this point, you could serve this as a chicken and sausage gumbo. Turn off your pot and begin to serve. To make this a seafood gumbo, continue as directed below.

For seafood gumbo, this is when you add your crab and shrimp. (10) Immediately after adding the seafood and stirring it in, turn your gumbo off and cover. After about 10-15 minutes, the seafood will be thoroughly cooked. Check your seasoning one more time, adjusting it if needed.

Serve over rice.


1. Make sure you don’t use sweet onions like 1015s, Walla Wallas, Mauis or Vidalias. Green onions, however, could be used as a substitute, or as a garnish/topper.
2. I usually use just one kind of smoked sausage, but the last time I made gumbo, I had to use two different ones because of limited availability.
3. I make my own hot sausage, but any good creole hot sausage will do. In a pinch, hot sausages from other cuisines, like sujuk, would work, as long as they don’t have strongly flavored exotic seasonings not usually , like fennel
4. Blue crab is traditional, at least in most USA versions of gumbo, but others work as well. These days, we usually use snow crab.
5. If you can’t find filé, look for okra, which was actually the original thickening agent. (“Gumbo” supposedly comes from an African word for okra.). Also, some cooks use both filè and okra.
6. Roux is just flour browned in oil, and serves as a thickener and flavor enhancer. The lighter it is, the more it will thicken the gumbo, but it won’t add as much flavor. A darker roux will add more flavor, but will not thicken as much. Roux can also be made ahead of time and frozen.
7. If someone has problems with gluten, a rice flour is a good substitute for regular flour
8. Something neutral- vegetable, canola, etc.- works best, but I’ve used butter or bacon grease with good results
9. Many people actually make their roux in the stock pot used for the gumbo as a whole. But I have found that using a separate pan for making roux saves time. AND if you burn your roux in the stock pot, you have to clean out that pot and start over- not an issue if your roux is made in a different pan.
10. I have added my seafood directly from the refrigerator or even the freezer with no problems.


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I worked from this recipe for the ONLY cole slaw I ever truly liked- Vincent’s Restaurant (R.I.P.)- but didn't follow it exactly.

1) I used mostly minced garlic from a jar. This was a mistake because it's much milder than fresh. I used more than twice the amount in the recipe, and still couldn't get the flavor right. When I added about a head’s worth of FRESH minced garlic, I immediately tasted the difference. Then I added more. LESSON: use the fresh garlic as per the recipe, and you’ll save yourself time and effort while achieving the proper flavor.

2) I was short a half cup of the apple cider vinegar, and used white vinegar as a filler. Even though the recipe lists it as an option, I think it’s a desperation backup only. It’s too strong a flavor. That led to...

3) To combat the overwhelming vinegar, I shredded carrots into the mix. I think it also LOOKS better with the carrots.

4) When I made this, there seemed to be too much liquid, so I drained off at least a cup before letting it all chill overnight. That liquid is now in a dressing cruet, and will be further fiddled with to make a different vinaigrette.


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Oyster Dressing

This is one of those recipes you kinda go by feel & flavor. For this batch, we used:

6 16oz containers of oysters, processed.*
2lbs 73/27 ground beef
One pack 1.25lbs chicken gizzards & hearts, cleaned. (It was a mixed package- either/or will work. If you can’t get them, just use extra ground beef.)
Canola oil (or any relatively neutral flavored oil)
.5 sticks unsalted butter
1.5 sticks salted butter
3 yellow onions (finely chopped)
1 bunch green onion (finely chopped)
@2 heads of minced garlic
1 bag seasoned bread crumbs (we’ve also used crushed Ritz or Townhouse crackers or even unsalted matzoh crackers...while adding other seasonings)
1 bunch fresh parsley (finely chopped)
3 dried bay leaf
Black pepper (to taste)
Cayenne pepper (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Thyme (to taste)

One 6.5 qt or larger flat sided sauce pan or dutch oven

To pot, add enough oil to almost coat the bottom. Sauté veg over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

While that’s cooking chop or process the gizzards & hearts so it resembles ground beef. Remove veggies from pan, add unsalted butter and sauté beef & gizzards until nicely browned. Return veggies and stir in while adding your seasonings except the bay leaf. Add half of your remaining butter.

Slowly add the processed oysters to pot while stirring. Add the bay leaf when all of the oysters are in. Let that cook a while over medium to medium-high heat- it will be fairly soupy, so you want it to reduce a bit.

After it’s reduced some but is still slightly soupy, reduce heat to medium/medium-low, add the bread crumbs and the last of your butter. This is when you fine-tune your seasoning. The mix will reduce more and thicken a lot, so stir relatively often to prevent sticking.

The end result should be a texture almost like a finely ground meat.

Sometimes, we then bake it on low heat for @20min at 220F in a casserole dish with added bread crumbs or crackers & butter for presentation. Last night, we did that just to reheat it from the fridge.

* doing oysters in the processor is something of an adventure. Do too many at a time, and the liquid will seep down the center. We avoided that mess somewhat by processing them while still slightly frozen.

Also you don’t want to process them into a puree...not ALL of them, at least. At least half of them should only be processed to the point of being a very lumpy mush


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1) one of my cousins married a very nice woman a few years ago. He lives out of town, so we don’t see them very often. But they attended one of our Thanksgiving festivities for the first time a couple years ago, and his wife wanted to bring something- a banana pudding. Not my fave, but who am I to be ungrateful? I’m glad my folks raised me right, because she makes the best damn banana pudding I’ve EVER had. (I may have mentioned this before.)

Well, they visited us post holiday this year, so we got the pudding all to ourselves. So I’m looking at this thing as I post: layers of pudding, cream cheese, some kind of cake, and a distinctive banana flavor (from the fresh bananas she used) pervading the whole thing. This is next level bananna pudding.

2) went back to a really South American fusion place today and had a beef ribeye sandwich that was sort of like a cuban and sort of like the HMS Titanic. I’m glad they cut it in half, because that was all I could get down, it was so huge- from my elbow to my knuckles. And it wasn’t just QUANTITY, it was QUALITY as well. I wolfed down the first half it was so damn good. I took the rest home- I suspect my Dad will attempt to kill it tomorrow. The next time I go to this place, I know I can’t have this sandwich and any of the typical apps unless I’m sharing it.

3) in other sandwich news, I went back to Weinberger’s a couple days ago (see below for why) and fulfilled a promise to myself to try yet another of their 150 different ones. The last time I went in, I said I’d get a mufaletta or a lobster roll. I got the lobster roll...and yet another lesson. Just looking at the filling in the butter toasted hoagie roll, it looked a little dry. In fact, my dining company suggested I go get some mayo. But I tasted it first, and realized it didn’t need a damn thing. Weinberger- who teaches sandwich making at a culinary school- achieved a perfect mix of lobster, fresh green onions, celery, lemon juice and all his other ingredients. Adding mayo would have disrupted the flavor balance. And no, it wasn’t dry. It just had a bunch of shredded lobster meat in it,

4) I went to Weinberger’s because he said he might be able to help me with a project. I have the family recipe for hot sausage, but over time, it has evolved from it’s original form to include 2 different commercial spice mixes, which happen to contain some spices that are already in the base recipe as well as overlapping with each other. I want to return it to its roots. But to do that, I need to get precise measurements of the ratios of the spices used. In addition, I’m going to need to be able to include some of those spices in very tiny amounts- at least, if I don’t exclude them. Mr. Weinberger is (hopefully) part of that process, because he mentioned that he knew of food labs that could analyze the samples and break them down.

To use the information, once gathered, I’d need some tiny measuring implements. Well, I now own a set of steel measuring spoon going: 1/4 tsp (tad) => 1/8 tsp (dash) => 1/16 tsp (pinch) => 1/32 tsp (smidgen) => 1/64 tsp (drop).

Soooooooo cute!