I am simply linking to a great write-up about my favorite restaurant, Dinosaur BBQ.  And it’s about the original in Syracuse, NY.

This BBQ is Not Extinct

” If you haven’t made a pilgrimage to Dinosaur BBQ yet, then you are missing out, plain and simple. I won’t insist you hit up the Syracuse location, although I do feel that going to the original holds a certain appeal. But in this Northeastern dearth of fine BBQ, Dinosaur shines like a beacon to those of us who are fans of tender, smoked meats. Ahoy, it blares, all ye who seek southern comfort food, alight here!”

Corn and Potato Chowder

I realize now that this isn't the most appetizing looking photo. Don't worry, I wouldn't lead you astray

The windchill this past Sunday hit 9 degrees.  I think I can take some credit for the winter chill.  About 4 days prior to the single digit temps I suggested to my wife that perhaps over the weekend I could cook up a batch of Corn and Potato Chowder.  I think had I said “I’d like to drink a mojito on the patio this weekend” we’d be sitting outdoors in our shorts and playing Jimmy Buffet on the iPod because it would turned out to be a 70 degree day.  But since I can only handle about one Buffet song at a time before I want to stuff a pencil in my ear I said “it’s soup season” rather than “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!”  Like most chowders, this is a great cold weather meal.

Some of the fixins'. Potatoes, carrots, parsley, 2 tbps cocaine

I’ve made this soup about 4 or 5 times previously.  It’s pretty much the same ingredients from a Dinosaur BBQ recipe with some minor changes plus the fact that I don’t measure my ingredients so the proportions are of my own creation.  The first time I made this soup I was in the kitchen for a solid hour working my butt off getting everything prepped and cooked.  I wasn’t very happy with the ratio of time spent working to time spent eating the finished product.  So each year I kind of dread making it but I push through the pain because I do really enjoy the soup.  One of the real benefits of being married is that you get to share everything.  So I shared as much of the prep work as possible.  My wife chopped up the onion, pepper and parsley, minced the garlic and grated the carrots.  Oh, I almost forgot – she also did the grocery shopping.  So right away my time from start to finish dropped dramatically.  While she was doing all of that I very slowly poured a Murphy’s Irish Stout into a Tervis Tumbler.  Man do I love watching an Irish stout cascade down the inside of a glass when it’s poured correctly!

Regrettably I digress…

Bacon cooked in butter = what Heaven tastes like

The second part of cutting down on prep time was to not measure anything.  But since it’s hard to describe “put some peppers in it” on a blog, and be of any help to anyone who might wish to try this, I’m going to copy & paste the actual recipe and then edit it until I think it’s about what led me to my finished product.

After posting that photo of bacon cooked in butter I feel obligated to post a photo of some vegetables. But then again, look at the photo above.... IT'S BACON COOKED IN BUTTER!!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 tablespoon butter
  • slices of thick cut bacon, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped into fine pieces
  • 1 small/medium green pepper, chopped info fine pieces
  • salt and black pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 4 russet potatoes, diced
  • 4 carrots, shredded (or diced into fine pieces)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 bag frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • dried thyme, to taste
  • **pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

Melt the butter in a soup kettle or large pan over medium-high heat.  Don’t burn the butter.  Add the bacon (already diced) and cook till crisp. Scoop out the bacon and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.

Pour off all but 1/4 of  the fat from the pot. Toss in the onions and peppers, seasoning them with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook till soft and then throw in the garlic, cooking it all for 1 minute more. Sprinkle on the flour and mix into the veggies. Dump in the broth and potatoes. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or till the potatoes are tender. Add the shredded carrots and corn. Cover and simmer everything 5 to 6 minutes longer to blend the flavors.

Stir in the half-and-half. Season with the thyme, **cayenne, some more salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and the bacon bits you’ve been saving. Give it one last stir.

Lessons learned:

  1. Having my wife do 80% of the prep work really makes cooking go a lot faster.
  2. Bacon cooked in butter is a gift given to us from Heaven.
    1. I end up eating a lot of bacon between the time it is cooked and the time I add it to the soup.  Be warned in case you need to plan ahead and cook some extra bacon for snacking purposes.
  3. Get some hearty bread for dipping into the soup.

** = I skip the cayenne pepper and replace it with a healthy sprinkling of my highly classified homemade barbecue dry rub.  But I would say definitely add cayenne if you want to add some bite to this soup.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

Ever cooked with butternut squash?  We hadn’t either.  That is, until this past fall.  It all started this past Fall when we would get one or two in our weekly CSA subscription.  For reasons that I have no explanation for squash didn’t appeal to me.  So I had zero enthusiasm for squash when it came into season and we started getting it every Wednesday in our weekly pick-up.  That all changed when my darling wife took it upon herself to figure out how to cook this Halloween/Fall decoration looking vegetable.

Long story short – we now love butternut squash.  I no longer look at it like it’s a Fall decoration fit for a centerpiece.  When my wife cooks it I know I’m leaving the table full and satisfied.

I could have picked one of about 4 different recipes that have been regular menu choices in our home over the past few months.  I choose the newest one because when we ate it I said “this needs to be blogged about.”  A light bulb had gone off in my stomach.

Ok, time to fess up: my wife made this so all credit for this post goes to her.

This was largely inspired by Barefoot Contessa “Back to Basics”.   As always, we made some changes along the way.

It's like vegetable candy

Ingredients:

1 – 1.5 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced (3/4″)
olive oil
1 tbs pure maple syrup
3 tbs dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tbs cider vinegar
2 tbs minced shallots
4 oz baby arugula (washed and dried)
1/2 cup walnut halves
goat cheese (ummm, I’m not sure how much.  How about as much as you want…)

When ready to cook:

  1. preheat oven to 400
  2. place the squash, 2 tbs of olive oil, maple syrup, salt & pepper (to taste) in a ziploc bag or tupperware container with lid.  Shake until the squash is well coated.  Spread onto a sheet pan.
  3. roast the squash for 15 to 20 minute, turning once, until tender
  4. add the cranberries to the pan when there is 5 minutes left
  5. while the squash is cooking, combine the apple cider/juice, vinegar and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat
  6. cook for 6-8 minutes, until is reduced to about 1/4 cup (note: I have no idea how much a 1/4 cup is without using a measuring cup.  So just cook until it thickens a bit)
  7. remove from heat, whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  8. place the arugla in a salad bowl, add the roasted squash, walnuts and goat cheese
  9. spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well
  10. sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste

Lessons learned:

  1. I love butternut squash… but you already knew that
  2. I bet maple syrup would be good on about anything.
    1. Emily: You like sugar, huh?
      Buddy: Is there sugar in syrup?
      Emily: Yes.
      Buddy: Then YES!

What we drank with it:
J. Lohr Estates 2009 Chardonnay (CA)
Paradise Springs 2008 Viognier (VA)

Say Cheese

This is part of a series of posts I am going to do about my favorite purveyors of food in the DC area.  We get most of our ingredients from these folks and we’ve developed friendly relationships with some of them which is an added bonus to us because it makes it more enjoyable to visit them.

cheeses

getting artistic with an iPhone and a lap full of cheese

We often find ourselves shopping at Cheesetique in Del Ray (Alexandria, VA).  I used to not be a cheese fan.  It wasn’t that I was anti-cheese, it’s just that my pre-wife experience with cheese revolved around Kraft Singles, Velveeta and string cheese.  In fact, when I was in college and wanted to make a fancy appetizer before dinner I would put pieces of Kraft Singles on Ritz crackers, microwave for 20 seconds and serve!  Yeah, I was high class.  Then my wife came along and opened my mind to a world of dairy goodness.

So back to Cheesetique – it’s part cheese shop and part wine & cheese bar.  My wife loves meeting her girlfriends at the bar there to catch up (and whatever girls do when they get together… my guess is talk about make-up and designer boots).  My preference is the store in the front.  First, the staff are always friendly and 100% not pretentious about the cheese.  They offer great suggestions and always offer samples to help you with your purchase decision.  The cheese selections themselves always have a short description next to them that I find very helpful.  “Made with Guinness” = “I’ll take that one” in my world.  All of these things are all big pluses for those of us that aren’t down with our cheeses.

We tend to always pick 3 cheeses to take home with us.  We’re big fans of cheddar so that’s always 1 of the 3.  We then like to try to pick one soft cheese (goat cheese FTW!) before picking a third for the trifecta.

I suggest making the trek to Del Ray and trying them out.  If you’re coming in from DC you can make it a trip by eating at Cheesetique or one of the neighboring restaurants for lunch or dinner.

More info:
Web: http://www.cheesetique.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/cheese_lady

“Ignore Expiration Dates”

Man smelling expired food

Does this smell funny?

I was reading Slate Magazine’s 10 Most popular articles of 2010 when I found this story: Ignore Expiration Dates – “Best by,” “Sell by,” and all those other labels mean very little.

Take the time to read the article.  It will change the way you think about the expiration/sell by/guaranteed fresh until dates on food products we all buy at the grocery store.

Pheasant and Quail

So the other night my father-in-law surprised us by dropping off some pheasant and quail that he had shot earlier that day.  Talk about farm to table.   The terms were laid out: dinner was going to be at our house the next night.

Not only did we already have dinner plans for the next night but I had never cooked either of these type of birds before.  That’s when a lightbulb went off in my head: “Pretend you are on Iron Chef”.  The judges: my wife aka “I don’t like eating wild game”, my father-in-law aka “Don’t let me down”, and my wife’s brother and his wife, aka “what kind of wine are you going to serve with dinner?”

So I went to my fallback recipe websites: epicurious, cooks.com, gourmet.com.   The common denominator: roast them SOBs! (sons of birds).  Ok, so I get it.  Roast the bird at 350 until the juices run dry.  Boring.  So I closed my computer for the night and didn’t think about it again until the next evening.  2 hours before dinner time I went to the kitchen looking for inspiration.  The outcome is as follows:

Ingredients – Pheasant:

8 breasts
prosciutto – enough to cover each breast
mozzarella – one piece per breast
fresh pepper (NO salt needed, the prosciutto takes care of that)

  1. lay each breast out and place one piece of mozzarella and one piece of prosciutto on top
  2. sprinkle with fresh pepper
  3. roll/fold the breasts and pin with toothpicks
  4. place in a glass baking dish and cover with tin foil

Ingredients – Quail:

8 quail, with or w/o the wings
maple syrup, to coat
champagne vinaigrette, to coat
salt and pepper
thyme
oregano

  1. rinse the birds really well (REALLY well) under cold running water.  Pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. place all the clean birds in a ziploc bag
  3. put the remainder of the ingredients into the ziploc bag
  4. seal and shake to coat
  5. put in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1-4 hours, the longer the better
  6. when about ready to put in the oven, place in a glass baking dish and cover with tin foil

When ready to cook:

  1. Bake at 350
  2. It can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes; so check it after 15 minutes.  Check to see if it is done the same way you would with chicken.
  3. When almost ready to serve remove the tin foil and place under the broiler long enough to brown the tops.
phesant

pheasant breast topped with mozzerella and prosciutto

phesant

Getting ready to roll them up

quail getting a bath of vinaigrette and maple syrup

birdies

Getting ready to go into the oven for a bake

dinner is ready

pheasant cordon blue / mini chickens

finished product

GET IN MY BELLY!

Lessons learned:

  1. The tiny quail didn’t take long at all to cook.  In fact, I accidentally overcooked them.  So they were a tad bit dry.
  2. You don’t get meat much fresher than this.

Notes:

  1. When eating any bird or game that was killed using buck shot make sure you chew lightly and pay attention.  Why?  Because biting down on buck shot can crack your tooth.

What we drank with it:

Here’s a free lesson…

rare/med rare steak

it could be a piece of art work

…this is how a steak should be cooked. ‘Nuff said. End of this blog entry.