Wild Food

This started yesterday with a thread on Twitter about the wildest game you had eaten. Now, this was more of a challenge than I would like thanks to the stupid lightning. There are 5 or so areas of cognition, and in testing I still come in above average in all. That said, there is one area where there are issues, which include fun with short term memory, issues working through things when there are distractions, and the fact that memories and data are scrambled. I’ve been told that most of them are still there, but that it will be three years before the brain heals and we can fully access what, if anything, has been lost. I’ve likened it to reaching for something in the drawer where it used to be, and it not being there.

So, the challenge has allowed me to do some exploration and I’m delighted with some of the results. I grew up eating venison, love quail, not so fond of dove, brown and rainbow trout, and have had bream, perch, and a variety of fish. I’ve eaten elk, bison, kangaroo, wild boar, octopus in various forms, squid, whelks, eel, alligator, rattlesnake (I think), goat, lamb, mutton, squirrel, rabbit, snail, brains of various types, and I know I am forgetting some. Now, for some fun.

I’ve always been a foodie, and even worked in a nationally rated restaurant for a while to learn more about cooking. Long before the Food Network existed, I watched cooking and food shows on PBS, which led me to two excellent restaurants in Seattle when I first visited there. I can’t remember the names, and it is frustrating because at one place my compliments earned me a standing invitation to eat at the Chef’s table in the kitchen.

I can still remember that table, and a bit about the layout of the kitchen. I also remember that when you ate at his table, there was no menu. Instead, the Chef and his line cooks prepared things based off of what was fresh, etc. It might start with a golden mouthful of deliciousness or three, or be a larger portion. No set number of courses, and everything was delicious. Sadly, I also seem to remember that the restaurant is no longer there as the Chef passed away.

Seattle was the site of several tasty adventures. The Athenian in Pike Place Market was amazing. When I traveled, I tried to avoid eating at the same place twice. After my first breakfast there, I went back the next day — it was that good. Not only tasty, but huge portions and great coffee. I didn’t feel like eating again until dinner. When I arrived that next morning, I was disappointed to see a reserved sign on the booth where I had eaten the day before, as it had a great view of the harbor. The waitress who had waited on me just smiled, told me not to worry, she had known I would be back and had reserved it for me.

Some of the best Russian food I’ve had outside of Russia was at Kaleenka in Seattle. The best Russian food I’ve had in Russia was at Podvorye in St. Petersburg. I had my driver and translator join myself and a young lady, and we feasted family style there, trying many different things. My inner Hobbit was delighted at the Russian love for mushrooms. Pity I’ll never be allowed to go back to Russia, as would not mind eating there again.

I had heard that it was one of Vladimir’s favorite places, and then either Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern went there and ate for their show. While I enjoyed both shows, it seems that I’ve gotten more good steers from Mr. Zimmern. I love him for introducing me to a cheese monger in Paris, though my wallet continues to curse him every time I go there. Yes, I did indeed meet Anthony Bourdain. The man had his demons, and I ask you to pray for his soul. I can’t remember the name of the cheese monger, but pretty sure I can look it up if needed, and that I may even remember how to get to his shop.

Paris. Ah, Paris. Two quick rules for eating well anywhere in the world. First, if the restaurant has a busker, run. There’s a reason they don’t have repeat business. Second, follow your nose. I’ve had a number of excellent meals in Paris that came from myself or a companion going “That smells good” and tracking down the source of the smells. I remember one night doing that and ending up sitting at a counter watching the mad ballet that is restaurant cooking and having the chef working about two feet away from me. We got to talking and he gave me his list (sadly lost) of the top ten places to eat in Paris.

His name and the list got me into Le Pantruche for lunch the next day. Absolutely the best sweetbreads I’ve ever had. Would love to eat there again one day. The best mussels I’ve had were in Paris. Again, can’t remember the name of the place though I do remember quite well how we ended up eating there. The rule against buskers does not apply to having a companion all but tackled by a member of the restaurant staff because they are wandering around Paris with an antique film camera and the staff member is a photography buff. After a nice discussion on photography, we decided that we would just eat dinner there. Mussels with a bleu cheese sauce was my choice, and they were delicious. Best mussels I’ve had in the U.S. were in Baltimore at a place called Bertha’s.

I also have to admit that one of the worst restaurant meals I’ve ever had was in Paris. I have no desire to remember the name of the place in question, since the meal was not only not good, I had to go back to where I was staying and brush not only my teeth, but my tongue, cheeks, etc. to get the taste out of my mouth. Went to a good place and had oysters from Brittany to have a last good meal before leaving Paris that time.

I remember a LOT of good meals on the local in Iraq. Both embeds saw me eating on the local a fair bit, from Ramadan feasts to one of the most amazing Christmas dinners I’ve ever had. An Iraqi family had adopted some of our troops, and told them that since they were giving up their homes, holidays, and families that they would give them their holidays back. I’m told Thanksgiving had no turkey, but great food. I was invited along for the Christmas dinner, and have photos of the feast in one of my photo books. Pro tip: If in the Middle East, don’t drink three cups of the concentrated coffee and eighteen chais and expect to sleep anytime soon.

Japan was an adventure. When traveling somewhere, I try to learn to say please, thank you, and ‘what would you have’ in the local language. In Japan, I also had to include no shellfish as I am unfortunately allergic to shrimp, crab, and lobster (actually the iodine in them, makes imaging contrast fun). In Tokyo, I wandered into an area that didn’t see many tourists and found my way into a restaurant where if they could get it on a skewer, they would grill it for you. We went from ‘we don’t get many tourists (gaijin) here’ to ‘oooh, try this’ in near record time.

At another establishment, also well off the tourist path in another city, I had either the strangest fowl I’ve ever had or roof rabbit (cat). I decided I didn’t really want to know, and instead focused on the fact it was tasty. Don’t know what it was marinated in, but the smell when it cooked on a small grill at my place was amazing and it delicious. The owner spoke zero English, and my Japanese was/is limited, with a fair bit of it technical from working a joint American/Japanese shuttle mission. Probably for the best.

I also did something on that trip I didn’t think was possible: I unagi’d out. Unagi is a sushi featuring grilled/smoked eel. I probably ate my body weight in it while there. I have not eaten it again, ever, since that trip.

The final restaurant adventure I remember from Japan was eating sushi at a place not too far from the conference where we were presenting papers. The sushi chef was a character, with being grumpy a trademark. Challenge accepted. As soon as he could, he moved me from the side to directly in front of the fish case. I would point and hold up one or two fingers, to indicate how many pieces I wanted. Sometimes, he would shake his head, and point to something else in the case and hold up one or two fingers. Not a clue what they were, but his suggestions were amazing. By the time I was done, he had his hand up more than once to cover a smile.

Best Korean I’ve had was at the much missed Seoul House in Chicago. A nice older Korean couple ran it, and she admitted to me that they served American-Korean until they got to know you (or you were part of the Korean community). Once they knew you, and they knew you could handle it, you would get Korean-Korean. As she put it ‘When we open, we fixed Korean-Korean — customer never come back. We make American-Korean, much business.’ I can’t remember the name of the dish, but it was fire meat with pickled veggies and marinated buckwheat noodles. Seem to remember that there was an egg in there too.

Best Mexican, so far, was at the Cafe Florida in Juarez, Mexico, many, many years ago. It was my first taste of real Mexican cooking, though my real (not official) godmother could do a great job cooking Mexican.

Most interesting food I’ve had recently was at Smoke’N Ash BBQ in Arlington, Texas. American BBQ, Ethiopian cuisine, and some amazing fusions between the two. She’s from Ethiopia, he’s from here, and between them they do some truly amazing food. Highly recommended.

Best pulled pork barbecue is Bar-B-Cuties in Nashville; best ribs belong to Fresh Aire barbecue in Jackson, Georgia; and, honorable mention to Fincher’s Bar-B-Que in my hometown of Macon, Georgia who saw it’s work fly in space as the late Sonny Carter’s special meal. Not sure about now, but back in the day the astronauts got to request one meal per flight, and Sonny wanted Fincher’s — and got it.

Best Indian I’ve had was in Pitlochry, Scotland at a mom&pop place who’s name I can’t remember. Best German is split between two places in/near Landstuhl, Germany. Best Greek was a mom&pop who’s name I can’t remember in Salt Lake City. If you ever head to Normandy, can recommend a couple of places near/on Omaha Beach.

This has been fun, and while not remembering all the names, I’m delighted with how much I do remember. Thinking back on this has made me smile more than once. Good way to start the day.

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Two Variations On Broccoli Cheddar Soup

The Final Product

Sunday, I made a batch of broccoli cheddar soup. New recipe, designed for those on Keto, and to do one batch, I had to get enough ingredients to do two batches. Works for me on more than one level, and it gave me the chance to experiment. The first batch was okay, but not quite where I wanted to be. Today, I made a batch with a slightly modified recipe, and then I added a Morroccan-style chicken to it.

Ingredients

1/4 white onion, finely diced

2 stalks of celery, finely diced

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 cups chicken stock

4 cups chopped fresh broccoli

2 cups heavy cream

16 oz. block of extra sharp cheddar, grated

8 oz. block of sharp cheddar, grated

salt

smoked salt

pepper

sweet and hot smoked paprika (optional)

1t Zanthan gum (optional)

Directions:

Sweat the onion, celery, and garlic (add salt and pepper to it as you start, I use a bit of smoked salt to add to the flavor) over medium heat until soft. Add the two cups of stock, put lid in place, and let simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Then, add in the broccoli, re-cover, and simmer over medium heat for an additional 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream, stir, re-cover, and simmer an additional 10 minutes on slightly reduced heat. Add grated cheddar a handful at a time, stirring until dissolved, repeat step many times. If you are going to use the Zanthan Gum to thicken, take some of the soup and use it to make a slurry with it, then add it to the soup. Re-cover and let simmer for another ten minutes. Taste, adjust as needed, and add smoked paprika at this point.

Halfway There
Halfway there

PRO TIP: don’t try to use pre-shredded cheese from the store. The agents they use to keep it from caking will prevent it from dissolving. If you are melting cheese, always grate it yourself.

Pre-cooked Chicken Awaiting Its Time To Join In

Today, I used the above, and added to it with the broccoli some diced chicken thighs that I had coated with olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked pepper, and Ras El Hanout, then cooked up before I started the soup. Plan to experiment more with chicken and Ras as I really liked how it tasted. The chicken I did today really seems to work very well with the soup, making it into a complete meal (IMO).

Enjoy.

Moroccan Stew

I’ve bought a pressure canner to do some canning this summer, and one of the things I want to can are what I call complete meals. That is, they have everything in them for a complete meal. I’ve also been wanting to play around with some spice mixes that came my way: berbere and Ras El Hanout.

Berbere is Ethiopian and there are possibly thousands of variations. The one I got is not as hot as some, but does pack some nice warmth if not heat on top of some interesting flavors. Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend (though an Algerian-born acquaintance swears it is Algerian). It has a little bit of warmth to it, and some amazing and exotic (to American palates) flavors.

I’d experimented a small bit with them, when the idea of doing a stew popped into my head. Thus, I did a trial run this weekend and have very much enjoyed the results.

I started by cutting chicken thighs up into cubes, coating them with olive oil, then hitting them with salt, pepper, and a healthy dose of the berbere mix. They went on skewers and into my smoker at 350 degrees to roast.

While that was going on, I diced up a yellow onion and began sweating it in the pot. Once it got where I wanted it (translucent for the most part, bit of caramelization), I added in dice portobello mushrooms, diced zucchini, and diced fire-roasted tomatoes. I then added salt, pepper, and several tablespoons of the Ras El Hanout mix.

Most of the chicken then came off the skewers and into the pot. No, not all of it as I did some quality control, in fact a bit more than normal as it was very, very good. Once in, I let it simmer for a while.

I had it for dinner last night, and it was delicious. Rich, full of flavor, and a decent amount of heat that helped the other flavors pop without being too hot if I share any of it. Three containers (potentially up to six single servings) in the freezer.

The only thing I think I would do differently is to add crushed/minced garlic to the onion as it was sweating. The garlic should work well with both spice blends, and add a bit more depth to an already rich dish.

For now I’m calling it Moroccan stew, but since it is a blend of Moroccan and Ethiopian, need to come up with a better name. Maybe next time inspiration will strike with a name to go with the recipe.

Paleo Pancakes

So I don’t lose it, here’s my current recipe for paleo pancakes.

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup packed almond flour
  • 2/3 cup arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 t apple cider vinegar
  • water
  • coconut oil
  • Options: almond extract, vanilla, nuts, cinnamon, ground clove, ground nutmeg

In a bowl, beat the 8 eggs until well blended. Then add honey, any extracts or spices or nuts, salt, and the baking soda and beat until thoroughly mixed. Then, add the almond flour and beat until smooth. Then add the arrowroot and beat until the mixture is smooth. Then add the coconut flour and repeat. Add water to get the desired consistency.

Cook in a skillet on the stove in coconut oil. Makes 10-12 pancakes.

Enjoy.

Trying Something Different

It has been a wet and wild Saturday. The rain started yesterday and was a bear. Today has seen yet more rain, winds, and other delights. Good news is, only small limbs down in the yard and no flooding here — though I am hearing of flooding elsewhere in the Indy area.

Given the weather, I only made one stop when shopping. They were out of one thing I wanted (adobo sauce), so I modified my plans a bit.

In the slow cooker, I have put down one layer that was a large white onion sliced fairly thick. On top of that went about a dozen boneless and skinless chicken thighs. On top of that went two cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, along with one can of mild and one can of medium enchilada sauce. On top of that went another large white onion that was sliced thick.

Tomorrow morning will tell the tale if this worked as I wanted. Even if not, I hope to get something tasty as the temps are to drop next week. Hoping to have tasty, somewhat hot, chicken with lots of good onion to eat here next week (or so).

Hope you are all having a good weekend!

Hope It Was Good

I went non-traditional this year, and did a nice ribeye steak seared in a brown butter sauce. Deglazed the pan with some vermouth, then threw in a mix of mushrooms to sautee in the deglace and brown butter sauce. Added a little more butter, a bit of balsamic, and had a very tasty treat. More soon, had to go out of state on Boxing day for business, going to see where today takes me.

Thanksgiving Update

Sorry to be away so long, but the allergic reaction set me up for catching the upper respiratory bug that is going around. Better, but still fighting it. That said, I did manage some decent food for Thanksgiving. Smoked a turkey breast that I had injected and coated in chipotle butter. Enjoyed it that day, along with cauliflower mashed “potatoes” and a keto-friendly chocolate mousse made with coconut cream. After freezing some packages of sliced turkey, chopped up the rest and mixed with mushrooms, goat cheese, broccoli, cheddar cheese and fresh mozzarella (and other delights) and put up four helpings of turkey hash. Then, I made stock out of what was left of the smoked turkey breast, and boy howdy did it turn out great — smokey flavor, flavor from the turkey, plus some of the spice came through as well. Put up one container of it, then used the remaining (after a bit of reduction) to make soup out of the leftover broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach — after adding a mix of mushrooms as well. Blended it, added some cream and sharp cheddar cheese and got some amazing soup. Other than that, have been trying to do as little as possible and focusing on getting well. Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving.

One smoked turkey breast
Lunch!
Turkey hash
Stock after simmering all night…
Cooling the stock outside in the mix of sleet and snow…
Some very delicious soup!

Mrs. Broughton’s Asparagus Supreme

Another that needs to get back up for the holidays. It was a favorite of mine, need to look at how to make it keto…

Equipment:
Knife
Egg slicer (optional)
Casserole dish
Boiler
Grater
Oven

Ingredients:
3 large cans white or green asparagus
2-5 hardboiled eggs
1/2 -1 cup grated cheese
1.5 cup cream sauce
1/2 cup blanched almonds (sliced or slivered)
1.5 T butter
3 T flour
pepper
salt
1.5 cups hot milk

Directions:
Cream Sauce for Asparagus Supreme
Melt butter and add seasoned flour and stir until well blended. Gradually add hot milk while stirring constantly.  Bring to boiling point and boil for 2 minutes.  Add cheese just before pouring over the asparagus.

Slice eggs.  Add grated cheese to the cream sauce.  Place alternating layers of asparagus, sauce, eg, and almonds in casserole and bake 20 minutes at 350-375 degrees, or until golden brown.

Options/Extras:
First, I always double the cream sauce, and more than double the cheese.  What is above is NOT doubled. 

Use good cheese in the sauce, and I had great luck using real smoked cheese as a part of the mix.  I used some good sharp cheddar, a real smoked cheese, and one other type (can’t remember, used what was in at the cheese store) to add flavor. 

Also, I prefer to use the sliced almonds, and to toast them a bit beforehand.  Adds to the flavor and the crunch

Powers Pepper Jelly

Realized that this is one of several recipes I need to get re-posted.

Pepper Jelly has been an important part of Christmas for as long as I can remember. In the summer, Dad raised bell pepper and hot peppers in our garden, and come the fall he (and later we) would make pepper jelly — usually two or three cases of it — to give at Christmas. To say that family and friends looked forward to it is an understatement, and so did we. It was not unusual for Dad and myself to polish off a jar (along with a block of cream cheese and most of a box of Ritz crackers) “testing” it to be sure it was good.

Dad’s recipe has been semi-guarded for some time, but I have decided that now is the time to share it with the world lest it be lost. One of the things that has helped make this year a good Christmas for me is that I grew hot peppers (the drought was not kind to the bell peppers) and made a batch and have shared it with family and friends. It is good to continue some traditions, and so I share this one with you.

Hardware:
Large pot
Cutting Board
Knife
Food gloves
Large pourable container
Strainers (I use at least two, one medium one fine)
Jelly Jars
Measuring cup
additional container
Jar funnel
Canner

Ingredients:
1 cup finely chopped hot peppers
1 cup finely chopped bell peppers
13 cups white sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar (use only real!)
Green food colouring
1 box Certo

Dad used, and I use, a mix of hot peppers. Usually about half a cup are home-grown jalapenos and the other half are home-grown small Thai peppers. This year, I used home-grown Thai, jalapeno, habanero, and one home-smoked jalapeno. It is not necessarily the heat, but the flavors that count. That is also why you need to be sure to use real apple cider vinegar and not the artificially flavored stuff that so many places try to pawn off. Always read the label…

Trust me: use food gloves while handling and chopping the hot peppers…

Prepare jelly jars and lids per directions. I run my jars through the dishwasher with heat-dry on, and it is an excellent sterilizer.

Put all ingredients except Certo into a large saucepan/stockpot. Bring to a rolling boil, cut off the stove, and let cool for 10 minutes. Strain into pourable container, add about three drops of food colouring and the packets of Certo. Stir well without adding a lot of air, then pour into the jelly jars. A uniform green colour lets you know that everything is well mixed. There is usually a bit left over, so pour into spare container to let set and serve as your “proof” batch for taste-testing. Seal. Dad could always get them to seal as is, but I never have so I bring a canner to the boil and can for about 10 minutes.

Enjoy.