Winter Cooking Supplies

beans and pancetta

Even in the middle of winter, the SF Ferry Building farmer’s market has some good stuff. I haven’t decided exactly what I’m doing with the Mother Stallard beans (on the right), but Scott is planning red beans and rice for the others. Posts will follow once we have recipes in place.

The pancetta in the white wrapper is going into tonight’s penne alla vodka. I thought I’d posted that recipe but either I haven’t or it’s currently hiding from me. I’ll add the link, or get the recipe online for that one. It’s not exactly authentic Italian (sorry Claudia!) but it tastes great.

OK, All You Bourdain Fans…

Some video is up on YouTube from the recent South Beach Food & Wine Festival. It’s a bit shaky in places — and please note that the audio track is NSFW due to a few F-bombs — but in this video, Tony (ably seconded by guest-star Michael Ruhlman) discusses the Golden Clog Awards, his perennial punching bag Rachael Ray, and some other Food Network personalities.

Kecap Manis Braised and Glazed Pork Belly Over Sake-Mirin Risotto

(Serves six, if you’re lucky)

For the pork belly:

3 pounds raw, uncured pork belly, skin on
2 cups kecap manis*
6 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar*
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce*
3 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (called nouc nam or nam pla)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 round of jaggery (palm sugar)*+ or ¼ cup light brown sugar

1. Crosshatch pork belly, with cuts ½” apart and ¼” deep. Place pork in a bowl, and combine kecap manis, vinegar, soy, fish sauce and lime juice. Pour over the pork belly and marinate 24 to 48 hours, turning occasionally.

2. Preheat oven to 275˚. Place belly, skin up, in baking pan or oven-safe skillet with two cups of marinade and 2 cups water, covering pork half-way up (add more water if needed). Cover pan with foil (or use lid with the skillet), and bake 3-4 hours. Remove pork from the liquid and cool. Cut belly into 1-inch chunks, with the skin on.

3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook palm sugar until it dissolves and turns amber, and gently toss the pork belly chunks, until coated. (Be careful not to separate the belly from the skin).

For the risotto:

4cups water, plus 4cups saké, hot
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons garlic, finely diced
1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice (preferably, Vialone Nano)
1 cup mirin (Japanese rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

1. Combine water and saké and heat. Simmer on low until ready to use.

2. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. And garlic and muhrooms and sauté, stirring, until mushrooms are browned and any liquid the mushrooms have released has cooked off, about 8 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add mirin and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about five minutes. (Did I mention that risotto is all about stirring? It’s all about stirring.)

4. Stir 1 cup of the simmered saké broth into the rice and stir, keeping it at a strong simmer until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, about 1 cup at a time, stirring and waiting until each cupful is absorbed, until rice is creamy but al dente, 18-20 minutes. (This is what separates the Italians from the weenies. Small blisters should be developing at this point, and your palms should be red and sore from all that figure-8 pattern-stirring with the Big Italian Wooden Spoon, but there’s no whining in risotto-making. Oh, no. Suck it up and keep stirring, all’onda (wavy patterns), as the Venetians say, and NEVER turn your back on your risotto, or it’ll dry out and mound up like a plate of spackle. Trust a northern Italian on this.)

5. Remove from heat, and stir in salt, pepper and remaining butter until butter is melted. (This replaces the need for finishing the risotto with cream or cheese, which would work against the saké/mirin flavor.) Pour a glass of cold saké (really good saké is served cold), and, while congratulating yourself, honor the kitchen gods of Mario Batali, David Chang and Ming Tsai, add saké to self – and get a hold of the pork belly before people start coming by “just to pick”.

* Kecap manis (KEH-chop mah-NEES) is a thick, sweet soy sauce from Indonesia, and is available from Kalustyan’s in New York and on-line, as well as Wegman’s. Kalustyan’s also carries the black Chinese vinegar and the dark soy, which is darker and richer than what you find in the supermarket.

+ Palm sugar is available from Bangkok Market in New York and on-line, and is also at Kalustyan’s, I believe.

Seared Foie Gras in a Sauterne Reduction with Caramelized Winter Fruit


1 lobe of foie gras (or four little mini lobes)
2 figs, quartered
2 pears, peeled, seeded and quartered
4 small bunches of rapes (5-6 per bunch) (use the cute little mini-grapes, if you can find them – keep attached to stem)
2 oz. duck fat
2 tablespoons oz. sugar
11/2 cup Sauternes
salt (fleur de sel, if you have it)
black pepper


1. Let foie gras stand for 20-30 minutes before cooking.

2. In a sauté pan, melt the duck fat and sauté pears on medium heat. Add grape bunches and figs, stirring gently, until the fruit juices caramelize. Sprinkle lightly with the sugar and stir once.

3. Reduce Sauternes to ¾ cup.

4. Season the foie gras with salt and pepper, and sear until crisp and golden brown on the outside (rare on the inside), about 1 minute per side. Do not go over time, or foie gras will melt into a puddle of liquid fat.

5 To plate, lay the grape bunch at the top, lay in sliced pears and figs, and top with foie gras. Drizzle generously with the reduction. If you need to reheat the foie, do so on medium-low heat, just to warm through.


You can substitute the fruits quite liberally: use 3 apricots, peeled and sliced, in lieu of the pears, a cup of cranberries (or almost any other kind of berry) instead of the grapes, or add 2 small peeled and sliced apples – Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, etc. – depending on the season.

Veal Marsal-AHHHHH!


1 pound of veal scallopini
2 eggs
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 stick of butter
2 10 oz. packages of mushrooms (baby bellas work the best)
10 oz. demi-glace
2/3 cup Opici Vineyards Marsala (the other Marsalas just don’t compare)
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in hot water.


1. Heat half of the stick of butter and a fat splash of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, until frothy. Gleefully throw in the mushrooms, with wild abandon. Sauté until tender. Remove mushrooms from sauté pan and set aside, in a bowl.

2. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl, and dip the scallopini in them, piece by piece.

3. Dip the scallopini into the bread crumbs and lightly coat. The scallopini are happy now.

4. Add the rest of the butter to he pan, with another splash of olive oil. Lay the scallopini into pan, but leave enough room so the pieces don’t touch. Sauté lightly until golden-brown (about 1 minute per side). Feel free to add butter if needed.

5. Remove the finished scallopini from the pan, and drain on paper towel.

6. This is the fun part. Add the Marsala, and cook for 5 minutes. Admire your deglazing. When it starts looking sticky/syrupy, add in the demi-glace. Splash some of the dissolved (and stirred) corn starch into the sauce to thicken up slightly. Horror! It’s beefy enough, but not wine-y enough! Reel from the shock. Grab Marsala bottle and add in more. A lot more. Cook for 5 more minutes. Taste. The sauce is good, but not great – there should be a rich Marsala taste! There should be a rich Marsala smell coming off of it! There should be fumes! Ma va! Add more Marsala. Calm down. You have plenty of time, and plenty of Opici. Once you realize that, Marsala Nirvana is achieved. This is a state of veal bliss that cannot be taught – merely reached. “Pour not gently into that good night/pour, pour pour/if the Marsala tastes light.”

7. Regain your composure. If the veal is still warm and you’re in a hurry, pour sauce on scallopini and serve. Otherwise, feel free to flip the scallopini into the simmering sauce and let them all lay there happily for a few minutes. Throw family, attracted like sharks by Marsala fumes, out of kitchen. Make them go get you some rosé, and serve. Eh. Va bene.

Mom’s Magnificent Braised Lamb

My mother made this awesome braised lamb for Passover dinner one year and it was easily one of the best things she’s made in a long time – which is saying a lot, considering how good a cook she is. She passed the recipe on to me without attribution, so I don’t know where it came from originally. We’ve tweaked some of the proportions to suit our tastes.

This dish is great for dinner parties, since it doesn’t need a lot of last minute prep work. It’s very rich; any sides you serve with it should be fairly straightforward so that you don’t put your guests into a massive food coma. The last time we made it, we serves some simple roasted potatoes and winter squash as a side dish, plus a full-bodied Pinot Noir. A good time was had by all.


About 3 1/2 pounds of boned lamb (shoulder or leg), rolled and tied
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup washed and finely chopped whole leeks
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken or veal stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 sprigs fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
2 whole scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional: Sprigs of parsley for garnish


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Sprinkle all sides of the lamb with salt and pepper to taste. The lamb should have decent coverage, but don’t go overboard. You can always add more salt and pepper later if needed.

In an oven-safe casserole dish that’s large enough to hold the lamb, heat the oil over medium heat. Brown the lamb on all sides; it should take at least 15 minutes. Remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions and leeks to the casserole and sauté over medium-low heat until tender and just turning golden, then add the garlic.

Return the lamb to the casserole and add the stock, wine, lemon juice, tarragon and scallions. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven.

Cook the lamb for 5 hours; by then it should be extremely tender. Remove the lamb from the casserole and set aside.

Strain the sauce into a heavy saucepan. Skim off as much fat as possible. Place the solids in a blender or food processor along with 1 tablespoon of the minced parsley. Puree, adding a little of the liquid if necessary. Add this puree back to the sauce, reheat and check seasonings.

Remove the strings from the lamb. Slice the roast down the middle the long way, and then slice each half into serving-sized slices or chunks. Place the meat into a large bowl or platter; pour half the sauce over the lamb and the rest of the sauce into a gravy bowl. Sprinkle the remaining minced parsley over the top and serve.

Serves 6 to 8 people.


  • Lamb can be fatty, so don’t skimp on skimming the fat or it can make the sauce turn out a little too greasy.
  • This dish can be prepared a day in advance, refrigerated overnight, and reheated before serving without affecting the flavor.

“He-Man” Homemade BBQ Sauce

In honor of Superbowl Sunday and countless BBQs everywhere, here’s Scott’s own recipe for our house BBQ sauce. It works well on both beef and chicken.

Hopefully Scott will still talk to me after I share this recipe with the world!


1 cup red wine (we usually use an inexpensive Chianti)
1 cup dark beer (Guinness)
1 shot bourbon (Jack Daniels)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup mustard (Dijon or spicy brown)
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (more if you like more heat)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large shallots
6 large cloves garlic


Mince the shallots and garlic. Heat the red wine in a saucepan over medium flame until simmering, add shallots & garlic to the pan. Reduce to 1/2 cup wine, add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT for the beer and the bourbon. Continue simmering, stirring regularly, until mixture has reduced enough to coat a spoon.

Remove the pan from the stove, pour the sauce in a blender. Puree the sauce, then return to the pan and continue simmering. Add the beer and the bourbon. Continue simmering until the sauce had reduced enough to thickly coat the back of a spoon without dripping. Remove from heat, cool, and use.


  • We don’t have an immersion blender, but if you did, using one would be easier than having to put the sauce into a blender and then back into the pan.
  • This sauce will keep in a covered container in the fridge for a couple of weeks, easily, but I wouldn’t keep it longer than a month without freezing.

New Blog Alert

My friend and occasional commenter ntsc has started up a food blog of his own, The Art of the Pig.

Any blog that include photographs of a basket weave of bacon strips is definitely worth a visit!

Eat Less, Enjoy More

Scott prepared a roast beef for our dinner tonight. Sadly, although his preparation can’t be faulted, it wasn’t a particularly good meal, and that’s because of the meat. It was poor-quality, and all the technique in the world couldn’t disguise the fact.

Serves us right for buying a Safeway special, I know. We won’t make that mistake again. And in a nice coincidence of timing, this article in the NY Times is another reminder that when it comes to meat, it’s better in every way to eat just one really good cut of beef than five bad ones.

Please, no drive-by sanctimony from the vegan crowd. I’m not interested in removing meat from my diet entirely. I am going to make more of an effort to focus on only buying quality meat from quality sources, even if it means we can’t afford to buy it as often.

Would You Like Some Fries With That?

By way of the Wall Street Journal:

McDonald’s is setting out to poach Starbucks customers with the biggest addition to its menu in 30 years. Starting this year, the company’s nearly 14,000 U.S. locations will install coffee bars with “baristas” serving cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and the Frappe, similar to Starbucks’ ice-blended Frappuccino.

Perhaps they’ll try upselling an apple pie instead of the fries with their coffee drinks. It might be a better match. But still, yuk. I can’t imagine getting a decent coffee from McDonald’s.

I could be mean and say that most of McDonald’s customer base probably can’t tell the difference between good coffee and crap, but that would be a little unfair of me. After all, coffee lovers are made, not born.