hibernation

 

We all know the saying – when life hands you lemonade, make lemonade.  What do you make when life hands you cancer?  The answer, apparently, is everything you can.

It has continued to be quiet here as we’ve had some big changes in the past month and a half.  We finally moved into our house, officially settling into our new hometown.  Along the way throughout the weekends of hauling boxes and furniture, a pesky cough kept bugging me.  Once the moving was done, the unpacking commenced.  After many exhausting evenings and long weekend days, our house finally looked like a home.  Our home.  But still, that pesky cough continued.  Labor Day weekend came and with it, a five year anniversary.  B and I celebrated our marriage with the best of them, treating ourselves to a luxurious couples massage and a wonderful five course tasting for our celebratory dinner.  Then, I crashed. 

Completely void of energy, struggling to breathe and generally feeling awful, I went to the doctor again and again until I finally got a chest x-ray.  Turns out, something was wrong.  A CT scan revealed a mass in my lung around which my lung had collapsed.  A hospital stay and a few biopsy procedures revealed the worst – I have lung cancer.  Not what you’d expect to hear as an otherwise healthy 30 year old non smoker.  But, life hands you a few curveballs every now and then, and this one was a whopper.  The prognosis is good, the support we have is amazing, and I’m eternally grateful to and in love with my wonderful groom who has been a rock throughout the emotional rollercoaster ride we’ve been on the past few weeks.

Needless to say, it is going to continue to be quiet around here for a while.  I hope to have the strength and the inspiration to cook some amazing things over the winter months and if I do, I’ll share with you here.  In the interim, we’re stockpiling with every good freezeable item we can think of to carry us through the dark days when I struggle for energy.  But spring will come – it always does.  And when the world begins to spring forth with new life, I’ll be right there with the trees and the flowers.  I’ll hopefully be sprouting a few new hairs by then and will be able to step away from the dark, cold winter and into a new year with a new purpose and a renewed appreciation of how wonderful life truly is.

Wishing you good health and hoping you are surrounded by those you love,

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

lowcountry boil

I guess I got what I wanted.  I said I wanted to move to a place that was warmer.  Turns out, we moved to Devil’s Lair, USA.  Ok, it is hot out there kids.  And guess what?  Living in a second floor apartment above a bay of garages where the sun beats through the windows throughout the afternoon and evening doesn’t really do much to ease that heat.  If our fans die this fall, I won’t blame them.  I’ve worked them to the bone (or blade, as it were).  I’m literally counting the days until we move into our new house and abandon this inferno (five days!!).  It turns out having a tiny kitchen in the world’s hottest apartment doesn’t really inspire one to do much cooking.  I lovingly fold down the pages of my favorite cooking magazines, earmarking the pages for a summer day in the future.  But in the interim, there’s no way in Hell I’m turning on that oven.

We’ve also been a bit busy, as you’ve noticed from our lack of updates here and from previous posts’ commentary.  Quick meals have become the standard routine around here, mostly so I can hustle my buns back to the spot where both the fan and AC vents blow cool breezes across the room.  Either that, or I’ve spent too much time lounging at the pool, desperate for a cool dip while simultaneously ignoring the crazy neighbors’ tales of snapping photos of homeless people in the dark or their next tattoo artwork featuring images of Samuel L. Jackson next to Scripture.  I’m really not kidding.  Five days…

There are a few tastes of summer I cannot manage to live without, and this one happens to fall into the categories of No Oven, Quick, and One Pot Wonder.  It is a combination of seafood, vegetables, meat, spices and deliciousness rolled into one meal.  And the best part?  It is messy and goes wonderfully with an ice cold beer.

A Lowcountry Boil goes by many names – shrimp boil, Frogmore Stew – but the gist is the same no matter what you call it.  A handful of aromatic spices, seasonings and citrus get dumped into a big pot.  Fill with water, bring to a rolling boil, and start adding things in.  In this instance, the late, great Gourmet magazine forgoes the traditional Old Bay seasoning and jazzes things up with Cajun seasonings and cayenne pepper.  A bit of lemon, bay, and garlic later, and even I am tempted to jump in for a zesty little splash.

Add to that mix some fresh new potatoes, delicious sweet corn, smoked sausage, and shrimp, and you’re set.  I mentioned easy, right?  Wash the potatoes, clean up the corn and halve it, thaw and rinse some shrimp (no peeling!!) and you are done.  While all of that yumminess is rolling around in the pot, you can whip up an equally easy Spicy Horseradish sauce.  A few squirts from a handful of condiments (or splatters, in the case of my ketchup bottle) and your sauce is complete.  Can’t get any easier right?

One of the best parts of this meal to me is that it begs for company and it begs to be eaten outside.  Cover a table with a pile of newspapers or a throw-away table cloth and dump the contents of the pot across the table.  Roll up your sleeves, grab a cold beer from the cooler, and jump in.  Eating with your fingers is highly encouraged, as the intent is for you to grab handfuls of sweet corn, a few bite sized potatoes, and shrimp that you peel before dunking into the sauce and devouring.  You can use a fork if you must.  But it won’t be nearly as fun.

lowcountry boil

adapted from:  Gourmet magazine

5 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning

2 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 lemon

2 bay leaves

8 cloves garlic, smashed and skins peeled away

12-15 small red potatoes

3-4 ears sweet corn, cleaned and halved

1 package smoked sausage

1 lb. shrimp (I prefer 26-30 count)

1/3 c. mayonnaise

3 Tbsp. ketchup

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

Find the largest stock pot you have.  Place Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper in the pot.  Halve the lemon and slice each half into quarters.  Squeeze the lemons into the pot and place the remaining lemon pieces into the pot.  Add smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves.  Fill about 2/3 full of water.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add potatoes and sweet corn.  Boil for about seven minutes.  As potatoes and corn are boiling, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, Dijon mustard, and horseradish in a small bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Add smoked sausage to the corn and potatoes.  After about five minutes, add shrimp.  After two minutes, remove from heat and pour mixture into a waiting colander.  Once drained, return to pot, dump across a prepared table, or transfer to a large serving dish.  Serve immediately with Spicy Horseradish dipping sauce, plenty of napkins, and ice cold beer.

To the inventor of the Air Conditioner,

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

They say girls like receiving flowers.  Turns out I like eating them.  Don’t worry, your flowers are safe.  I don’t go around and willy-nilly pick off a peony or snap a rose off of a shrub and munch away.  But if I see squash blossoms, zucchini flowers or whatever you choose to call them, guaranteed my heart will start to beat a little faster. 

My interest in floral consumption started several years ago when we were new homeowners.  You see, our former hometown had a huge, amazing farmer’s market each Saturday morning to which we would routinely ride our bikes.  I quickly learned that the trendy items that were quick to sell out early each weekend included bright orange squash blossoms.  A little internet browsing later, I found multiple delicious sounding recipes and soon enough, bunches of blossoms in hand, I was cooking.

Now this summer has been a bit crazy.  My dates with the weekend farmer’s market have been far less than regular.  Instead, trips along the long stretch of highway between Kansas City and Des Moines filled our weekends as a “Sold” sign appeared in our yard and boxes and packing tape began to fill the empty floor spaces inside our house.  Instead of hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks for the 4th, we hauled boxes and furniture under the relentless Midwestern sun.  It seems I’m also death to air conditioners this summer, with no fewer than six repairs and one new air conditioner under my belt between the two residences.  And you wonder why it has been a bit quiet here?

And so we closed the chapter on Des Moines and in this brief respite from moving (albeit not from the heat – thank goodness for a working AC!), I’ve found myself strolling in the morning sun, gazing across tables filled with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, berries, and wait – squash blossoms!  I beelined through the crowd, leaving B to apologize to the people I cut off or cut in front of as I made my way to the table and grasped my treasures.  In our new barbeque-centric hometown, it seemed only appropriate that we make this recipe first.

ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

recipe:  adapted from Bobby Flay

2 bunches of fresh squash blossoms (keep in water like regular flowers and refrigerate for up to 1 day – they are delicate)

1 1/2 c. ricotta

1/2 lb. best quality pulled pork (you can certainly smoke your own, but we usually buy from our favorite BBQ joint)

1/4 c. barbeque sauce

2 c. rice flour

2 c. ice water

Canola oil

1/3 c. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Snip squash blossoms from stems and place in a large bowl filled with cold water.  Gently swish around and let any dirt or debris fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove flowers and tip upside down to remove any excess water.  Peel off the sepals (long green leaves at the base of the flower) and gently open the flower petals.  Note: you may find a few little bugs, this is common as the flowers are typically open when picked and the bugs get trapped inside.  It is worth noting that I found a bee once, so do be careful (this was 1 out of hundreds of squash blossoms, so odds are you won’t find a bee).  Gently pull out the stamen and set the blossom on a towel to dry.  Don’t worry if you tear the flower slightly.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

As blossoms dry, combine ricotta, pulled pork and barbeque sauce in a medium bowl.  Season to taste and set aside.  Combine rice vinegar, Dijon, and honey in a small bowl.  Whisk thoroughly and begin slowly drizzling in olive oil.  Continue adding oil until mixture is emulsified.  Season lightly with salt but liberally with black pepper.  Taste and adjust to your preference.  Set aside.

To fill blossoms, gently push about 1 tsp. filling down to the base of the flower.  Continue to fill until you are nearly to the top of the flower where the petals start to flare out.  If you have torn the flower a bit, wrap the edges together to form a seal and lightly twist the tops of the petals together.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

Fill a large frying pan about halfway with canola oil and heat over medium high heat.  As oil is warming up, combine rice flour and cold water.  Stir well to combine.  Dip a blossom into the rice flour batter and place in hot oil.  Repeat with four or five other blossoms, depending on the size of your pan.  Fry for about 2 minutes per side and carefully remove from oil.  Stir rice flour batter again and repeat with four or five additional blossoms.  Repeat until all blossoms have been fried.

Serve immediately while hot with black pepper vinaigrette.

Stay cool friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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tipsy golfer

Man, it is hot.  Our little apartment has the benefit of being on the second floor, above a bay of garages, with the blazing western sun beating into the few windows during the late afternoon hours.  After multiple maintenance requests, we were finally told that the second floor apartments struggle to maintain anything cooler than 70 degrees during the summer.  Ha!  We’re lucky if our thermostat dips below 80.  Thank goodness there is a pool in our complex…

So it was with much anticipation for air conditioner awesomeness that B and I climbed into the car and headed back to our former hometown to check on our little house with its forlorn “for sale” sign and to visit with friends and family.  Wouldn’t you know our luck?  Midway through night one (the coolest of the weekend), the condensor motor decides to go to Appliance Heaven and we’re stuck in a house with no screens.  Morning dawned hot and sticky and the neighborhood children covered their ears as I fought with the screens on our ancient double hung windows amidst a steady stream of profanity.  The effort and frustration proved to be more than my sweat glands could bear, and I retreated to the cool basement leaving B to fight with the last of the devil-spawn screens in our bedroom.

In weather like this, I can’t seem to get enough liquids.  Mind you, there is plenty of ice water to be had, but sometimes I want to spruce it up a bit.  *Blasphemous statements ahead*  When the sun is beating overhead and the apartment is a balmy 85 degrees without hope of a breeze, I can’t seem to find joy in my glass of supposed-to-be-cool room temperature red wine.  And while a nice cold beer does the trick on round 1, any future attempts at quenching my thirst with another leaves me with a full stomach and a still unslaked thirst.  It appears I am beered out.  I told you, blasphemy indeed!

There is one beverage that I adore once the summer sun dances in the blue sky – lemonade.  When I am searching for an adult version, I do enjoy a vodka lemonade, but I had my fair share on the floor of the dance clubs during my college days.  My poor liver…  Instead, today as I wandered through the aisles of the grocery store, filling my cart with fixins for many “no-cook” and grill-ready meals this week (read: no way am I turning on that blasted oven), I passed an end cap filled with Arizona teas – among them, the Arnold Palmer.

Now I don’t know much about Mr. Palmer’s personal beverage preferences beyond the half iced tea-half lemonade concoction bearing his name, but I would like to think that he’d appreciate a grown up version once he was finished with the back nine (or maybe before he started the back nine?).  Lucky for me, there is a liquor store right next to the grocery store stocked with multiple sweet tea vodkas, and I was off to the races.  When I returned to the apartment to see the dog passed out on the linoleum floor, desperate for a cool respite, and B closing the shades to the punishment of the afternoon sun, I knew it was time for a Tipsy Golfer.  Or two.

tipsy golfer

recipe:  jb’s pour house

2 oz. sweet tea vodka of your choice (but how can you pass up one with Carolina in the name?!)

2 oz. lemon vodka

1/2 c. lemonade

Fill a highball glass with ice.  Add 2 oz. sweet tea vodka, 2 oz. lemon vodka, and fill the glass the rest of the way with lemonade (about 1/2 cup).  Stir, garnish with lemon slice if desired, then enjoy as beads of condensation run down your glass.

Cheers, friends, stay cool!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2011 jb’s pour house

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veranda cooler

Don’t you just love long weekends?  Memorial Day weekend has to be one of the best given it signals the unofficial start of summer.  The pool opened, I got the obligatory sunburn, the grills throughout the neighborhood wafted their seductive smoke, the ping of metal baseball bats echoed off of the buildings from the neighboring ball fields, and best of all, neither B nor I made the drive down that boring stretch of interstate.  Yes, it is our official first drive-free weekend.  You’ll have to forgive me for being a bit quiet here, but you see, I’ve been out exploring my new town with my now permanent-resident husband.  We’ve eaten out a lot and there really hasn’t been much to share with you.  I promise, that will change.  I think my checking account demands so…

Thankfully, I am not yet sporting my first mosquito bite of the season, but I have been bitten by the summer bug.  Maybe it was the smell of the coconot tanning oil at the pool (not mine, I’m waaay too much of a white kid to even attempt that) or the scent of sweet corn roasting over a flame at the farmer’s market in town, but I’m off to the races when it comes to summer cooking.  The oven has been given permission to slump into hibernation with the purchase of a new charcoal grill (with handy wheels for future tailgating for our hometown teams) and the fridge is filled with white and rosé wines, chilling and waiting to drip beads of water across our countertops.

My thoughts kept turning to the cantelope chilling in the refrigerator.  I’ve decided this is the summer of cocktails and I’m prepared to explore as many as are necessary to find the perfect summer beverage.  Maybe it was all of the exotic scents from the oils and lotions at the pool, but I kept returning to the thought of a cucumber-melon combination.  And it couldn’t have just a name, it had to have the name that evoked thoughts of summer.  I’ve been looking at a lot of real estate lately and the large wrap-around porches of a certain neighborhood nearby have been calling out to me.  Call it inspiration, call it summer in a glass, I call it a Veranda Cooler.

veranda cooler

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1/2 c. cubed cantelope and any juices

1 tsp. powdered sugar

2 oz. chilled vodka

2 oz. chilled cucumber liqueur, such as Thatcher’s Cucumber liqueur

Puree cantelope and powdered sugar.  Pour cantelope puree, vodka, and cucumber liqueur into a cocktail shaker filled with ice (or a tupperware container in the absence of a proper shaker, a la me).  Shake well and pour all contents into a highball glass.  Drink, preferably on a patio.

Welcome to summer, friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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seared scallops with meyer lemon beurre blanc

Our days are numbered.  Finally.

I rushed home with takeout sushi, hoping to beat B to the apartment.  I had failed.  As I walked into the house and tried to keep Brix from having a heart attack, I saw the bottle of bubbly on the counter and as I pushed the door the rest of the way open, I saw my husband.  I went to greet him with a hug and kiss as I always do, but this time was superceded by my congratulations.  He got a job in Kansas City.  Five long months of living apart were finally over.  I thought I could keep it together.  I failed again.

I sobbed as I hugged him tight, so thankful for the end to be in sight.  I sniffled through the opening of the celebratory sparkling wine and wiped tears away as the glasses were filled with the golden liquid.  It was a special wine (the same he had used in his marriage proposal) and I’ll tell you this – that wine, with a side of good news, tasted damn good.

But, if you know anything about me by this point, you know that I can’t call a celebration complete with a meal carted into the house in styrofoam containers and a plastic grocery bag.  We needed a little J & B style celebration.  We spent a great weekend together with beautiful weather and a plethora of activities in our new hometown.  I wanted to close the weekend with something special and decidedly spring.  Fat asparagus and delicate sea scallops seemed like a fantastic idea, but I needed a little more to push the meal to celebratory mode.  Remember how I said my favorite food was sauce?  Enter beurre blanc.

Beurre blanc is like risotto to me, meaning, once you get the technique down, you can play with it and modify it as your heart desires.  With the richness of the scallops and the bright asparagus, I wanted to counter the additional richness of the sauce with a bright splash of Meyer lemon.  To me, Meyer lemons taste like a honeyed, herbal version of a lemon.  Some call the flavor a cross between an orange and a lemon, but there’s something deeper under the surface that enhances the dishes in which it is included. 

One of the best things about this meal is that it comes together in a flash – the scallops take just minutes to sear and the sauce pulls together as fast as butter melts.  All of this was a good thing, because we were anxious to open another bottle of bubbles to celebrate our good news.  Sadly, the meal ended as all do – no food remaining and too short of a time had passed.  As B packed up the car yet again and I walked to the car with Brix, I greeted our weekend ritual of parting a little differently.  I was sad to see him go, certainly.  But I didn’t cry, unlike the other 21 Sundays since this began.  I had cried tears of joy on Friday.

seared scallops with meyer lemon beurre blanc

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 lb. sea scallops, rinsed and patted thoroughly dry

1 c. dry white wine, such as chardonnay

2 Meyer lemons

3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp. black peppercorns

2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (preferrably European style)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Canola oil

Combine white wine, zest and juice of Meyer lemons, shallot, rosemary, white wine vinegar and black peppercorns in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil until reduced to about 1/3 cup.  Strain remaining liquid into a small bowl.  Discard solids and wipe out the saucepan.  Return the liquid to the saucepan and place over medium low heat.  Begin to whisk in butter, one cube at a time, until butter is thoroughly incorporated.  Do not let sauce sit without stirring and do not let it boil, or you will break the sauce.  Once all butter has been incorporated, season to taste with salt.  Reduce heat to low and remove pan from heat.  Alternately place pan back on heat and whisk often as scallops are cooking to prevent sauce from breaking.

Place a large skillet over high heat.  Add about 1-2 Tbsp. canola oil.  Season both sides of scallops lightly with salt and pepper.  Place scallops in pan and sear, about 2-3 minutes, being careful not to move scallops once placed in the pan.  Turn scallops over and sear for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve immediately with as much beurre blanc as you like!  (You may want a piece of bread to sop up all of the deliciousness.)

Fin.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2011 jb’s pour house

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vanilla bean-lavender pot de creme

Spring never fails to amaze me.  After the dreary cold days of winter have finally passed us by, suddenly the landscape wakes up and bursts forth in spectacular shades of green, pink, purple, red, yellow and on and on.  The trees are nearly done blooming here, but the tulips now wave like little flags in the breeze.  The new-lime color of the budding leaves has turned over to kelly green and the smell of freshly cut grass perfumes the air.  Spring is new, starting over, beginning again.  I think it is time B and I had a little spring in our lives as well.

We’ve made it through the winter, through the long lonely drives on weekends, through the tears every Sunday.  If only we could turn those driven miles into airline miles, we’d be jetting off to a white sandy beach and cocktails with umbrellas in no time!  But the newfound scars on the suitcases and the spinning numbers on the odometer say otherwise and I hope, on this festive day, that the end is in sight soon.  We’ve traveled this yellow brick road for a while, admittedly more wearily than we care to admit on some days, but I think we’re rounding that last bend along the way.

It was with hope for the end of this journey that sent me into the kitchen and sent pots, pans and mixing bowls flying.  I was in a mood for something special, something decidedly spring.  I was in the mood for dessert.  This doesn’t happen often, my sweet-toothed kin can attest to that.  But there I was, staring at a bag of plump vanilla beans, when seredipity struck and I found myself rummaging through my borrowed organizing bin looking for my dried lavender. 

A bit of cream, eggs, and sugar later, I had the makings of a pot de creme (don’t pronounce the “t”).  A silky, elegant custard, pot de creme is the precursor to creme brulee.  It is a little looser, a little more unctuous, and decidedly easier given there’s no need for a torch to caramelize the sugar.  What can I say?  I couldn’t bring my entire kitchen with me to this little apartment!  So I had to make do.  Boy, we’re roughing it, huh?  The combination of heady vanilla beans and floral lavender create a dessert that sings along with the robins in the backyard.  It was something out of the ordinary, something fitting for a hopeful future.

vanilla bean-lavender pot de creme

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

2 c. heavy cream

 2 vanilla beans

1 tsp. dried culinary lavender (I use Penzey’s)

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

1/2 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and using the back of the knife, scrape the seeds from the bean.  Place the vanilla bean halves, seeds, and lavender in a medium saucepan with the cream.  Bring to a slight simmer over medium heat.  Remove  from heat, cover, and let cool for about 30 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract to the cooled cream mixture.  Strain the cream into a large mixing bowl.  Place the egg yolks and sugar in a medium mixing bowl or stand mixer and cream until light yellow in color.  Add about 1/3 of the cream mixture to the eggs, mixing constantly.  Add the cream/egg mixture to the remaining cream, mix well.  Place four ramekins in a large baking dish.  Divide the cream mixture evenly among the ramekins.  Fill the baking dish with hot water until the water reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Take care not to spill any water into the ramekins. 

Carefully transfer the baking dish into the preheated oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes until the center is barely set (the sides of the custard will remain fairly stable but the centers will move around like Jello when jiggled).  Carefully remove from the oven and chill until cooled, at least 2 hours.  Serve.

Here’s to the Emerald City…

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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braised pork with pepperoni sauce

Hello, Spring?  Did you forget you were supposed to stick around for a while?  While I do love your friend, Summer, quite a bit, I was planning on spending a little more time with you.  But you’ve run off and instead 90 degree temperatures have crept into our weekends.  Ok, so it was still too hot to make the pepperoni sauce.  But a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

The recent finale of Top Chef All Stars saw the judges enamored over a dish of braised pork with pepperoni sauce from Chef Mike Isabella.  I was intrigued.  I’ve had plenty of pepperoni on my pizza but I’ve never had it in a sauce.  The next morning, as I browsed the internet looking for clues as to how to make it, I stumbled across a very high-level overview of the general ingredients and directions.  I was off to the races. 

The braised pork and the sauce are easy enough – not much chopping, not much prep, but certainly a bit of cooking time.  Normally, running an oven at 375 degrees for 3 hours isn’t that big of a deal.  It is a big deal when it is 86 degrees out.  And yes, this was the cooler day of our weekend.  So the oven went on, along with the newly repaired air conditioner and soon the house apartment was filled with the aromas of pork, pepperoni, fennel and tomato.  It smelled exactly the way you would want it too when coming in from the brisk outdoors.  Oh wait…

Soon enough, the timer sounded and as I stood at the counter shredding pork and sneaking bites when B wasn’t looking, I knew this would be the last hearty meal we’d see in our kitchen for a while.  As I alternated between shredding pork and wiping sweat from my brow, I hoped the sauce was worth the added heat.  I plated pillows of golden polenta and piled shards of pork across the top.  As I ladled the bubbling pepperoni sauce over the pork, wisps of steam danced up to my nose and suddenly, I was very hungry. 

We tucked into our meal with fans blowing around us and as our bellies filled with the warm, meaty sauce and juicy pork, our foreheads glistened with sweat.  It may have been from the hot spring/summer day, it could have been due to the warm filling dish, or it could have been from that, uh, second/third glass of red wine we guzzled, but it was worth it.  This dish was a great way to send Winter packing and if it is still cold enough near you to crank up the oven, I’d say go for it.  If like us you are enjoying the start to Summer, go for it anyway, but turn the AC down a few notches before you do!

braised pork with pepperoni sauce

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1/3 lb. pepperoni, thinly sliced and diced into small pieces

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, seasoned liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/4 tsp. smoked black peppercorns

1 c. dry white wine

2 c. water

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 24 oz. whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed (reserve tomato sauce for another use)

3 c. chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place about 1/4 of the diced pepperoni in a large oven-proof casserole with a tight fitting lid.  Heat over medium high heat until pepperoni starts to crisp, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove pepperoni and set aside.  Add onions and olive oil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook onions until caramelized, about 12-15 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and set aside.  Place pork shoulder in pan, fat side down, and increase heat to medium high.  Sear on all sides until golden brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add garlic cloves, 2 tsp. fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper and 1/4 tsp. smoked black peppercorns.  Stir constantly until garlic is golden, about 1 minute.  Add white wine and water.  Return pepperoni, onions and pork to pan.  Cover and braise for three hours, turning roast over once halfway through cooking time.

As pork braises, place olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add onion, garlic, remaining fennel seeds and crushed red pepper.  Saute for about 3 minutes or until onion starts to become translucent.  Add pepperoni and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add crushed San Marzano tomatoes and chicken stock.  Let simmer on medium low for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pepperoni has softened.  Remove from heat and working in batches, puree.  (Note, if using a blender/food processor, very carefully puree in small batches as liquid expands when hot and will spill out of blender/processor)  Return sauce to sauce pan and continue to simmer until sauce has reduced and has thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove pork from oven and shred using two forks.  To serve, place pork over polenta or pasta and drizzle with pepperoni sauce.

Here’s to a whole new world of pepperoni!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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mortadella pizza

Well, I had the best of intentions.  I was all groceried up and ready to tell you all about a certain pepperoni sauce heard ’round the world, but then Sunday happened.  Sunday – in all its 90 degree glory.  Sunday – in an apartment with only west facing windows through which the sun beat unmercilessly until the grace of a storm and cold front finally provided relief.  The sauce is coming, but we’ll have to wait for either a screen door and a glorious cross breeze or a cooler day.

You may recall me telling you about my sister’s continual recipe request for items which have never passed my lips, yet I am supposed to provide instruction.  Well, it finally happened.  In October of 2009, GQ magazine published an article in which a thin crust (gasp) Chicago pizza was named the best in America.  My sister immediately requested the recipe for the mortadella pie.  I’m a little behind on my list it seems.  When I finally got around to making it last week, I was interrupted in my preparations by said sister, requesting yet another recipe.

“I’m a little busy on another request of yours,” I had texted back.  Here’s the kicker – she didn’t even remember requesting the recipe in the first place!  So, I guess we’ve gone full circle.  I know my sis will continue to send requests my way which doesn’t bother me, as I’ll keep playing and trying new things.  I guess it is a way to keep the creative juices flowing.  And at least in the short term, it offered an opportunity to create a delicious spin on an old favorite.

Full disclosure – as with most of my sister’s requests, I have absolutely no idea if this tastes anything close to the real deal.  But that’s ok.  Whether this can hold it’s own against the original remains to be seen, but in the interim, we have a pretty tasty pie on our hands.  I wanted the base to be simple as the spotlight was really intended to be on one thing and one thing only – the mortadella.  While you can buy a pre-made dough from the grocery store, I’d recommend making your own as I did here or swinging through your favorite local pizza joint and asking to buy some dough.  They’ll give you funny looks guaranteed. 

I also wanted the sauce to be delicious but not competitive with everything else going on.  So I simply reduced the liquid in a can of San Marzano tomatoes and once thick and to my desired consistency, I dressed lightly with a few dashes of oregano, a glug of olive oil, and a light sprinkling of salt.  To top the pie, I sliced orbs of fresh mozzarella into disks and quickly brined them to add a little salty bite but also to form a thin skin on the cheese to prevent it from turning too watery in the hot oven and causing the dough to be soggy.  A few minutes in a very hot oven later, and you have the makings for a delectable Margherita pizza.  Yum.  But wait!  We aren’t done yet, kids.  This baby gets topped with slices of mortadella ladened with peppercorns and pistachios.  A quick sear in the oven and the mortadella begins to curl and the edges slightly crisp.  It’s done.

As you take that first bite and the string of cheese forms a tightrope between your mouth and the retreating slice of pie, you can thank my sister.  I know I did.

mortadella pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. warm water

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

3 c. flour

1 24 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes

3/4 tsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/4″ thick

1/4 lb. mortadella

Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir and let sit for 10-20 minutes or until bubbly.  Add olive oil and salt and fit the mixer with a dough hook.  With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add flour.  Continue adding until all flour is gone.  Turn the mixer speed up and let the dough mix until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Place about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a clean large bowl.  Place dough in bowl and toss around several times until surface is coated with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest overnight.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a working surface and begin to roll dough out to desired size (recommend 14″ to 16″ so as not to be too thin).  Lighly oil a large baking sheet and place dough onto it.  Fold edges of dough over itself to make a crust.  Set aside.  Place San Marzano tomatoes in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Continue boiling and crushing tomato pieces with a wooden spoon until sauce has reduced to about 1/3 it’s original volume and desired consistency has been reached.  Add oregano, olive oil and salt.  Set aside.

Place about 2 Tbsp. kosher salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add about 1/2 c. very hot water and stir until salt has disolved.  Add enough cold water to come up to about 1/2 to 3/4 of the side of the bowl.  Add mozzarella slices and brine for about 15-20 minutes.  Drain.  Spread sauce across dough and place mozzarella slices across the sauce.  The cheese will not cover the entire surface.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove pizza from oven and top with mortadella.  Bake for another 5 minutes.  Slice and serve.

I heart pizza.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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roasted asparagus with black pepper zabaglione

It’s Sunday again.  That’s come to mean a few things around here.  One – I’m going to make a big meal.  Two – We’re going to eat ridiculously early (at least compared to our normal 8:30 p.m. or later).  And three – by 6 p.m., I’m going to be alone in our apartment again, sitting with Brix and waiting for Friday once more.  I’ve sort of come to dislike 6 p.m.

Once upon a time, I interviewed for a Food Editor position with a culinary publication.  In my preparations for the line of questioning to come, I knew I was likely to be asked one of two things.  What would be your last meal? or What is your favorite food?  Either question is extremely tough for me to answer.  My last meal would be a smorgasbord of favorite things – fried green tomatoes doused with lemon juice and Frank’s Red Hot, asparagus with bearnaise, eggs benedict with hollandaise, shellfish of any kind drizzled with beurre blanc, roasted chicken with white wine gravy, creamy polenta with a garden fresh chunky tomato sauce, french fries and white truffle aioli, and before I knew it, I had the answer to my favorite food.  Sauce.

B laughed when I first told him that sauce was my favorite food.  But it’s true.  Anytime I make anything that has a sauce, a salsa, a reduction or the like, I almost always double the recipe because I know we’re certain to find that particular serving dish to be the first one emptied.  And I’m not the only guilty party.  B’s just as likely to pile on the sauce as I am, although he somehow finds a way to be more prudent with the ones loaded with eggs or butter.  That’s ok though, more for me!

So it came to be Sunday once again.  Having kicked off the blog almost a year ago with a recipe for a sweet zabaglione (zab-ah-yōn), I thought it was fitting to celebrate our almost-anniversary with a savory version of the same sauce.  The verdant thin stalks of spring asparagus make a perfect vehicle for a decadent sauce, but even more so when roasted until tender and the spears become crispy and nutty.  And while the pronunciation of zabaglione may trip you up a bit, the creation of it couldn’t be simpler.  Egg yolks and white wine are whipped to soft peaks then punched with freshly ground black pepper for a lively kick.  The addition of butter adds richness and creaminess to the lush sauce and a light dusting of grated parmesan rounds it out with a salty bite.  Asparagus, and Sundays, never had it so good.

roasted asparagus with black pepper zabaglione

adapted from mario batali

 

1 lb. fresh asparagus, spears trimmed and peeled if necessary

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

4 large egg yolks

1/4 c. dry white wine (such as chardonnay)

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

4 tsp. parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roll asparagus until thoroughly coated and roast for 15 minutes.

Prepare a double boiler and bring water to a slow simmer.  In top pan/bowl of double boiler, place egg yolks and white wine.  Whisk over gently simmering water for about 6 minutes or until doubled in size and soft peaks are forming.  Add butter, 1 Tbsp. at a time, until thoroughly incorporated and melted.  Add 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.  Fold in to incorporate.  Place asparagus on serving plates and top with about 2 1/2 Tbsp. black pepper zabaglione.  Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. parmesan and serve immediately.

Waiting for Friday once again,

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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