If you have never been to
A chain of islands formed in the Pacific Ocean millions of years ago from undersea volcanoes,
All of this said, it’s
I digress temporarily away from regional cooking and cattle ranching to say that I have a love affair with coffee that requires counseling and medication. I actually don’t love coffee. I live for it, as I have written about previously here. Don't give me weak American brewed Sanka or I'll curse you to a fate worse than Greg, Peter and Bobby dealt with in the Tiki episode above. Or lock you in a room with Don Ho crooning "Tiny Bubbles" over and over. And over. Nothing in my mind is better than the coffee grown on the Kona Coast of Hawaii. Rich. Decadent. Deep. It tastes of the volcanoes. The aroma is ancient. Similar for me to wine in a sense. I enjoy smelling it as much as tasting it. It is an experience.
We have a tendency to think of coffee as only something to drink. It turns out coffee is a phenomenal and versatile ingredient that is very misunderstood in the world of cooking. Although not the first to introduce the concept into popular culture, Roy Yamaguchi, widely credited as one of the major forces behind launching Hawaiian regional cuisine, and the founder of
From the Paniolo country on the Big Island we drove to
With the global financial meltdown erupting all around us consumers can currently get very high quality “prime” grade beef for a bargain. Even the Wall Street Journal is commenting on this interesting gauge of consumer spending as it relates to the current state of the economy. I created this version of a coffee crusted grilled steak combining finely ground Kona coffee and Hawaiian pink salt into a rub with a richness of depth that shows off the meat to its fullest. I will say that while I used Hawaiian ingredients for this recipe, you don't have to. Just buy a good coffee bean and use kosher salt and the outcome will still be as a rewarding as watching a hula dancer. For this treatment I combined finely ground coffee, to a level of an espresso ground or finer. Do not grind to a medium texture or the end product will taste like sand. There is no one way to create a rub like this, just use what you like. A lot of recipes use garlic and onion powder, something I am personally not a fan of. In this case, I wanted a bit of sweetness and added brown sugar for additional caramelization of the meat on the grill. I also added cayenne for heat and some smoked paprika to complement the coffee flavor. I lightly coated the steak with the rub and let it "marinate" in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. I think this step really promotes the flavor of the rub into the meat. All in all, the overall approach really worked.
From a steak perspective, any cut of beef will work. I originally intended to do this with a ribeye to play off the salt crusted prime rib we had on the rim at Kiluaea. Given the fact that my local Whole Foods had my go to cut, New York Strip, grass fed and on sale at $9.99 per pound, I went with that. And it did not disappoint.
So in the meantime, if you can't get over to the Islands anytime soon, I want you to turn on "Tiny Bubbles" and go outside and light the BBQ. Put on your best black socks, sandals and your most obnoxiously colorful Hawaiian flower print shirt. Toss on a cowboy hat and a slab of beef and let this luau of flavor begin.
Marinate the Steak
Ingredients for Olive Oil Cake
3/4 C Olive Oil plus extra for pan
1/8 C orange juice
1/2 tsp grey salt or fleur de sel
1 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs at room temperature (recipe uses 1 1/2 eggs)
1 C granulated sugar
1/8 C french brandy
I learned of this beauty on a trip to Argentina learning about the primary force that has shaped this amazing South American country. I am not talking about Eva Peron (Evita), the larger than life "Queen of the people" that made something out of herself from nothing, putting an imprint on her people's psyche and becoming an international cultural symbol of Argentina. I am talking about the beauty, strength and elegance of Argentinian cooking - grilled beef with chimichurri sauce. This is food that means something. It's big and intense like the country it comes from. And full of flavor. It moves people.
Evita was the illigitimate daughter of the mistress to a local aristocrat. Born in 1919, she spent the next 20 years living under the spector of this social taboo while taking all her talents to make something of herself. Her success in cinema and acting allowed her to bridge talent and opportunity together. Her life was one of power, accomplishment and tragedy. Although not a beauty queen, she was treated as royalty by the monarchs and institutions of Europe as Argentina's First Lady and one time populist vice-presidential nominee. By the time she died at age 33, she had ascended to be one of the most powerful political leaders in the country and an international icon.
Walk into any supermarket, gourmet, or otherwise and you'll see what I mean. Refrigerated cases loaded with beautiful looking and bland tasting pre-made food. And it's pricey. If you are going for "gourmet" fast food and the value to deliciousness ratio is out of whack that's a culinary sin.
We can take this a step further and look at "freshly made" items you can find at the grocery store. You know what I mean. "Fresh" pasta. Refrigerated sauces. Pre-shredded cheeses. One word. Say it with me...Flavorless. You know I am right. Frankly, I'd rather have a cheeseburger.
I've been working 12 to 14 hour days the last two weeks on a big deal and I have been pretty tired - hardly a beautiful life for me. Oddly, several of my friends seem to be galavanting off to Europe right now. That's what I need. A break from the drudgery. The Plaza Mayor in Madrid with memories of tapas and sangria. That could work. Lobster grilled over coconut husks at a warung in Bali. I am on that beach mentally right now. Or perhaps the best of the lot. Eating at Ristorante Sibilla in the hills of Tivoli outside Rome. Popes have summered here for centuries. When the Gods on Mt. Olympus got tired of ordering takeout pizza they went to Sibilla for the most amazing pasta you have ever eaten.
When I work hard food becomes even more important to me. And it needs to taste good. So imagine how I rolled my eyes when I got home the other day and a package was waiting for me from the nice people at Foodbuzz, the blog advertising network I belong to. Intrigued, I opened the 16 inch box. It seemed unusually sizable, given the fact that I couldn't recall ordering anything. I opened it curiously pulling out Styrofoam, and then paper, and finally several blocks of dry ice. And what treasure was awaiting me when I got to the end of this culinary rainbow? A package of freshly made Wild Italian Mushroom Agnolotti from Buitoni. Yeah, you are reading that right. Buitoni. The people that make fresh pasta and sell it mass market.
I haven't blogged much lately but felt the need to inject some creativity into my life given the blood sucking world of corporate IT that I work in. A gourmet pasta that Foodbuzz was offering to some of their publishers presented a challenge. I was tired and hungry but I told myself I could whip something up based on what was in the fridge with the agnolotti. I peered into my refrigerator to see what I could work with. Cremini mushrooms? That was obvious. Further in the vegetable drawer I located some fresh thyme. I always have thyme on my hands (cute, considering how hard I have been working lately). An unused shallot lay threadbare, looking sorry for itself. He was in.
I got busy chopping the shallots and caramelizing them with olive oil over a medium heat. I sliced some mushrooms and sauteed them with shallots to a golden brown. Setting aside some of the shallot mixture I deglazed the plan with some Ferrari-Carrano Fume Blanc in the fridge door. Not exactly drinkable as it had been open for about a week but perfect for cooking. A couple of cups of vegetable stock and some chopped thyme went into and got boiled down for 15 minutes while I tossed the agnolotti in to cook. Buitoni recommends 4-6 minutes, gently boiled. I went with four minutes figuring that no self respecting Italian chef would cook pasta and then pour sauce over it. Certainly not the ones that cook at Sibilla. Why not finish cooking the Wild Mushroom Agnolotti in the thyme and mushroom broth to take advantage of flavor infusing and thickening? When the broth reduced, I strained it into a bowl and then added it back in the pan on a low heat with the reserved shallot and mushroom mixture I had sauteed. I finished cooking the pasta on a low heat for another few minutes. Gently placing the al dente pasta into warmed bowl, the broth with slices of mushroom and caramelized shallots was ladled over. A few shavings of fresh Parmesan and some fresh thyme on top finished this little fast food challenge off.
And the result? I am pretty confident the Pope that summered in Tivoli where Sibilla now stands would have genuflected with pleasure. The finished product was exceptional. I must say while I don't typically buy fresh pasta in a store, Buitoni has done an excellent job creating a very high quality product. The pasta has a toothsome but flavorful density. The well seasoned mushroom mixture included cremini and portobello mushrooms and grana padano and Parmesan cheeses. I served this with a Sparkling Rose from Chandon from Napa Valley. I love sparkling wine and champagne with food and this completely worked. A taste of Caramel Fleur de Sel gelato at the end made this experience la bella vita.
I don't typically review products in my blog and would not have gone out of my way to have bought this product if it hadn't been sent to me. Grazie to Foodbuzz and Buitoni. We really enjoyed this. I guess I need to re-visit the original premise of this post. I think I am beginning to like fast food.
Recipe for Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Caramelized
Shallots, Thyme and Mushroom Broth
1 package Buitoni Riserva Brand Wild Mushroom Agnolotti
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
8-10 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2-3 T olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 T thyme, finely chopped (divided use)
2 cups vegetable broth or stock*
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for grating
Crusty French or Italian Bread
In a medium saute pan heat two TBSP of olive oil. Add shallots and cook until soft and beginning to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add mushrooms and saute until slightly golden about 5 minutes. Add additional TBSP of olive oil if the pan is to dry while the mushrooms first start to cook. When mushroom are nearly done season with salt and pepper. Remove 2/3's of the shallot and mushroom mixture to a small bowl.
Raise the saute pan to a high heat. Add wine and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until the wine has evaporated. Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and 1/2 of the chopped thyme. Bring the broth to a boil and reduce to 1 cup. Taste for seasoning and adjust with additional salt and pepper if necessary. While the broth is cooking down heat a separate 3 quart saucepan with water and bring to a bowl. When water is boiling add in agnolotti and cook gently for four minutes. Meanwhile strain the broth into a bowl pressing the solids with the back of a spoon to extra out any remaining liquid. Discard the solids. Wipe out the saute pan and add the strained broth back in over a low heat. When the pasta has finished cooking for four minutes transfer it to the saute pan with a slotted spoon. It's OK if a little of the pasta water makes it into the broth, that only adds to the finished product. Cook gently for 2-3 minutes.
Using the slotted spoon, place the ravioli in two warmed bowls. Ladle the sliced mushrooms and shallots over the top and pour any remaining broth into the bowls. Grate the Parmesan cheese over the top and sprinkle with the remaining fresh chopped thyme. Serve with bread on the side to dip into the broth.
* The type of vegetable broth or stock you use will change the outcome of this dish as there are so many different types. I used Pacific Garden Organic Vegetable Stock for this. They use tomatoes as part if the broth base giving it a richer texture and a darker color. A lighter stock, such as Swansons will provide a somewhat different outcome, more "en brodo" style the way tortellini is served in Italy. No less delicious, just different.
Oh I have had the good fortune of eating in some
of the best restaurants in the world. World famous Guy Savoy's namesake temple to gastronomy in Paris (twice). American legend Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Yountville. Le Cirque 2000 in New York. And perhaps, my favorite of the lot. Restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain. They are all wonderful. But they are not barbecue. You can have a passion for cooking. But no cuisine (other than French or Basque, perhaps) is considered "a passion". Except that is for barbecue.
I thought about this passion long and hard. And then I pulled out my crock pot. You probably think I need a slap in the face. But I'll get to that later.
3-4 lb pork butt or shoulder
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce
Kentucky Black Bourbon BBQ Sauce
1 cup Heinz ketchup
1/2 cup Heinz or similar chili sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 TBSP prepared yellow mustard
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP bourbon
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper, with more to taste for heat
2 cups sliced red or green cabbage
1/2 carrot grated
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 TBSP sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
11/4 tsp pepper
4 soft hamburger buns
Put 2/3 of the sliced onion on the bottom of a 6 qt or larger slow cooker/crock pot. Lay pork roast over the onions. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and lay remaining onion slices over the top. Set cooker on "High" for 4 to 5 hours. Do not break the seal of the lid. Remove pork to a cutting board and let rest for 5 mins. Drain liquid and discard onions in slow cooker. Chop the pork into 1 to 2 inch pieces and add back into the crock pot. Add chopped onions and 1 1/4 cups of BBQ sauce and stir. Cook for an additional 4-5 hours on "Low" stirring 2 or 3 times. Using two forks, shred the pork.
Kentucky Black Bourbon BBQ Sauce
A neighbor's tulip garden in Mill Valley
Meyer Lemons down the street
California Poppies in our front yard
Organic Strawberries from the San Rafael Farmer's Market