Yay Spring! Ramp Gougères

Ramp gougeres Chicago rampsA few weeks ago when the weather finally turned gorgeous, my friend Chef Julius Russell and his wife Jada stopped by for a visit to catch up. As you can imagine, food was one of the topics and Chef told me all about some really cool things he was doing with ramps this spring. I mentioned I hadn’t gotten any yet and he said he’d get me some to play around with. A couple of weeks later on Memorial Day we got together with them (and the Martins!) for an impromptu cookout and some ramps were delivered. Even though these ramp gougères were not served, it was still a pretty awesome party! (more…)

Coppa – Here’s Where Curing Pork Gets Serious

Home cured CoppaCoppa. This is the one where I’ll look back and say ‘that’s where it really began.’ Of all the curing I’ve done in the past year this coppa is my best. I’ve wanted to make some since I first got Salumi but had to learn how to walk first with some smaller, quicker cures. I’m now jogging. As I slowly progress to bigger, more flavorful cuts, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a whole leg hanging in the curing fridge. When that time comes please remember, it began with coppa. (more…)

Bresaola – Home Cured Dried Beef

Home cured bresaolaWhen we were in New Orleans a few weekends ago we ended up eating dinner at an Italian place where one of the appetizers on he menu was a simple salad of arugula, parmigiano reggiano, and bresaola. I pointed it out to Cheryl and said something like ‘you know that beef I cured and hung downstairs? well this is what it’s going to turn into.’ Of course, we ordered it.  (more…)

Yellow Lentils with Pickled Ginger and Watercress

Yellow Lentils with Pickeld Ginger and watercressAs promised here’s the second part of last week’s NOLA inspired dish of Ginger Beer Pork Cheeks. These lentils are a really flavorful side dish which, while fantastic when paired with the pork cheeks, can easily stand on its own as a separate dish or even side salad. Like revenge I think they’re best served cold to contrast the cooked pork. (more…)

New Orleans Inspiration: Ginger Beer Pork Cheeks with Basil Apricot Ginger Sauce

Ginger beer pork cheeks with apricot ginger basil sauceNew Orleans. How can a chef or home cook not draw inspiration from the Crescent City? It’s a very unique culinary city and I really don’t think there’s any place on earth which compares to it for the vibrant and diverse food combinations you discover there. As well as all of the other outrageous stuff of course. There’s so much good food and in such varieties, oysters, beignets, creole, seafood, Cajun, French, Spanish, you can eat and eat and eat. If you’re in a bit of a creativity rut like I’ve been lately, New Orleans is just the ticket to get back on track. (more…)

Beurre Manié and French Style Spring Peas

French PeasThis week I’m kneading things up a little bit (wait for it…) and incorporating a simple yet useful technique into the post. Cheryl picked up a package of shelled peas at Trader Joe’s so I made some French peas to go with our Sunday dinner roast. Since I’d made this dish before, I knew there was a recipe for it in my CIA cookbook (the school in my hometown not the spy agency), but I had forgotten about a certain trick used to thicken the sauce; mixing in a butter-flour combo at the end to make a rich, smooth, buttery sauce which envelops the peas. (more…)

Curried Lamb Salad – Finishing Off A Leg of Lamb

Curried lamb saladThis week we had a few leftovers in the house from Easter, mostly leg of lamb and some pastel colored hard-boiled eggs. Initially I thought maybe I’d do a post on egg salad since national egg salad day (seriously?) occurred last week. Yes I know, egg salad can be boring but it triggered the following chain of thought: “hmm egg salad is boring…how do you spice it up…add some curry maybe?…eggs, chicken…maybe some curried chicken salad….wait I have leftover lamb…maybe I’ll make some curried lamb…hang on…curried lamb salad!” And that, valued readers, is how inspiration sometimes strikes me. (more…)