Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hard Day's Night

Hi All,

It's been a while since you've heard from me.  Months to be exact.  I'm really sorry about that.  I can't say that it won't happen again, but I can say that I've been thinking about Big Man all this time and trying to figure out how to write more with everything else that is happening.

When you last left your fearless hero, he was a new father and studying for the NJ and NY bar exams.  Months later, I'm still a new father but am now working in a law firm at the schedule and pace of a young attorney.  I passed both exams, and tomorrow will be sworn in as an attorney in NJ.  I still have to send in a bunch of paperwork before being admitted to NY.

Work is interesting.  I like my firm and I like the sophistication of most of my cases.  But it really doesn't leave me much time to write or to even to cook.  Mrs. Big Man has really stepped up her game in the last few months, cooking most of the dinners on the weeknights.

I did have a massive culinary victory on my birthday when I invited 15 people over and made Indian food for everybody.  This was one of my goals, to get some proficiency in Indian food.  I bought a cookbook on the subject, pretty thorough in my opinion.  I'll put up some amazon link at some point in the future to point you to how to buy this book if you are interesting.  Some percentage of the proceeds will go towards justifying the time that I spend thinking and writing about food.

Anyway, while I've been thinking about how to keep Big Man going while also keeping my day job, I think the answer is just to re-adjust some of my expectations about what this blog is.  It began as an experiment, and I made no promises.  But, naturally, pretty quickly in fact, I worked toward improving the look and quality of the content, substantively and presentationally.  I created some recipes, and reprinted a few old favorites, with the hope that maybe at some point in the future, they would be the makings of a cookbook or magazine article.

The truth of the matter, however, is that I'm not Orangette.  She blogs and writes cookbooks with her blog and gets magazine gigs and takes prettty pictures of her husband's pizza shop.  I blog and practice law and raise my son and go fishing and look for a house to buy and spend time with my wonderful wife.  I'm a renaissance man, which means that I'm limited in the time that I can spend on this.  So, going forward, rather than publishing recipes, I will likely stick with pictures and shorter posts.  Brevity if a virtue, they say.  And to the extent that I am up to that task, I'm going to give it a try.

So, I hope this means I'll be writing more.  Maybe not.

Enjoy the pictures!  But if anyone is offended by a pig roast, you might not want to scroll all the way down.

Damn Good Fried Chicken for a Yankee (I cheated, I'm half-Texan).

Beautiful Tomaters

In Texas, Basil is free.

So we eat it with tomaters.

Summer Sweet Salad

I don't totally remember what this is, but it looks delicious.

What is a summer fair without a prize winning rooster?

Lobster Roll in Portland, ME.

I picked blueberries in Bar Harbor.  There were more than I could fit in a paper bag.

It's a salmon, stupid.

We drank well in Maine.

Jersey Tomaters.

Best damn BBQ I've ever had.  Even better with a hangover.

This is what I had for lunch.
Jersey does BBQ, too.

It gets hardcore at the Jersey Shore.  Don't mess wit NJ.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

6 Days

In 6 days I will be taking the NY, then the NJ bar exams.  Looking forward to cooking something soon.  So far, it is just my brain that is fried.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Don't mind me.  I'm not really here.  I'm actually studying for the bar, so I am DEFINITELY not blogging right now about food.  I am way too busy to be doing anything remotely like that.  Although, I do have a couple pictures of pizzas that I've been making.  I've been working on really perfecting my pizza making.  Right now, my pizzas are way better than your average pizza place pizza about 75-85% of the time.  Although, occasionally I do have pizza disasters where you have to scrap the dough off the pan with a paint scraper. 

I have no sage advice about how its done right now, except to say that, yeah, throwing the dough in the air is ACTUALLY necessary to making a good thin crust.  You need the centrifugal force that is only available in a zero-gravity, spinning, floury, environment.  O.K., enough talk.  I have to go.  I really do have to study for this thing.  But here are some pictures in case you are wondering what I'm having for dinner tonight.

Also, my friends Burkett and Katherine had us over for dinner yesterday.  Dinner was amazing, and I got this pretty picture of our first course.  They were extraordinary with grilled lemon squeezed over them!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hello (again)

Where has the time gone?

It's been a forever since I've written anything. Like I said before, I've been busy. Since you last left your aproned hero, I've handed in all my papers, taken an exam, and graduated from law school. Everything was swell, I had family come to town, took a few days to go fishing and relax and visit more family and the next thing I know... Bam! I'm starting bar exam review to get prepared to take the NY and NJ bar exams. What crap!

Not to say I'm not looking forward to being lawyer. But I was also looking forward to a little down time after this semester and it has not come. As we speak, the baby is napping and I'm forced to choose between blogging and getting to eat lunch.

*pause to eat lunch*

Ok, to be fair lunch wins over blogging. But, I guess lately most things have won over blogging. I make no apologies, just saying is all.

In other news, my digital camera broke, so I had to fix the thing all the time while being happy to have an excuse to buy a brand new camera. The Mrs. says that I should wait until I have, you know, actual income, before I buy a new one. I say, yeah, but the baby is always blurry in our pictures and wouldn't it be nice to take a clear, good picture of him before September? I think we both have a point. In the meantime, I fixed the camera that broke, cooked some Mahi-Mahi and took pictures.

I'll preface the pictures by noting that I'm not Mahi-Mahi's biggest fan-fan. First of all, I think it's silly that it is called the same thing twice. Mahi would be a completely appropriate name for a fish. Mahi-Mahi is a bit redundant. Second of all, I think Mahi-Mahi tastes like very tender chicken. Since I am perfectly capable of making very tender chicken out of actual chickens, I see no need to pay three times the amount for a fish that tastes the same. The Mrs. is a big fan of fishes that taste like meat, but I just prefer meat. So, long story short. If you find yourself with some Mahi-Mahi and are wondering what to do-do with it-it, here is one option.  It was baked with some garlic and given a shallot and vermouth sauce.  It was good, just not spectacular. I'll take a stir-fry over this any day.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Did anybody (or did everybody) see that Pixar movie, Ratatouille? It was surprisingly entertaining, especially if you are the sort of person who would read a food blog. Without trying to give away the ending, let it suffice to say that at some point in the movie, they make ratatouille. And their recipe looks really delicious, to the extent that computer animated food can look delicious. But I've made a few different ratatouille recipes in the last few years, and while they all look about as colorful and well-presented as the dish in the movie, they also end up tasting... well... a bit bland.

It is really unfortunate, because whenever I've served ratatouille, my guests tend to be really impressed with how beautiful the dish is, but then I notice that there is plenty left over once dinner is over. I suspected that there is more to this classic dish than just carefully overlapping colorful vegetables.

The thing that sparked my determination to try it again was a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, where Bourdain goes to Provence, France. He attempts to treat his Proven├žal hosts to his own take on the local cuisine and one course that he serves is "ratatouille."

Now, quotation marks might be appropriate there because when the hosts come to the dinner, they tell Bourdain that he has made a very nice dish of vegetables, but that it is NOT ratatouille. So what is ratatouille? I have no idea really. The people of Provence surely reserve the right to discredit any American attempt. But there is someone that I trust who has graciously provided us with a fantastic ratatouille recipe that, if not authentically ratatouille, is at least not bland.

In fact, if this isn't ratatouille, then I don't really care because Julia Child's ratatouille is amazing! No, it's not a carefully presented stack of colorful veggies. It is more like a stir-fry really. And it is damn good.

Just in case a fantastic vegetable recipe isn't sufficient to keep your attention, I also made garlic aioli, another Proven├žal specialty that is basically garlic-bomb mayonnaise. If you think of garlic less as a seasoning and more as a food, then you're going to love this stuff. I ended up spreading some of it on my ratatouille, because the only thing better than enjoying your vegetables is enjoying your vegetables with some emulsified olive oil on them.

So, without further delay, I present my adaptation of Julia's ratatouille:

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

1 large eggplant
1 zucchini
2 tomatoes
2 green bell peppers
1 medium yellow onion
2 cloves of mashed garlic
3 Tbsp parsley
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil

Peel the eggplant and cut it into pieces approximately the size and shape of steak fries. Slice the zucchini the same way. Toss the eggplant with salt and let stand for 30 minutes.

Saute the eggplant in olive oil for a minute on each side in order to brown lightly. Then remove the eggplant from the pan and put it in a dish off to the side. Saute the zucchini in the same manner as the eggplant. Remove the zucchini to the same side dish as the eggplant.

Slice the onion very thin, and slice the green pepper about a 1/2 inch thick. Cook the onion and pepper together in the pan with olive oil for about 10 minutes, until tender but not brown. Stir in the garlic towards the 8th or 9th minute.

Remove the inner seeds from the tomato so you just have the outer pulp. Slice the tomato pulps into 3/8 inch strips and lay them over the onions and peppers. Cover the pan and cook on low for 5-8 minutes until the tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Baste the tomatoes with the juices, using a baster or a spoon. Salt and pepper to taste.

Layer the tomato/onion/pepper mixture between layers of the eggplant zucchini mixture, starting and finishing with the tomato mixture in a casserole dish. Sprinkle minced parsley atop the tomato mixture.

Cover the casserole and bake for about 15 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. Baste occassionally. Julia's recipe actually calls for cooking the casserole on a stove, but because of the dish that I used, I ended up using the oven and it worked just fine. I think you can make due either way. You'll know its done when most of the juices have evaporate and become pure flavor in your veggies. Be sure to say something in French when serving.

Friday, April 9, 2010


The Lake has thawed. The Devils are about to begin their playoff run at the Stanley Cup, St. Patrick's day and Easter both came and went. Things are moving quickly folks.

For some reason that is surely related to John Jameson's life's work, I failed to take any pictures of the food that I made on St. Patrick's Day. That was really weak, I know. But, if you were there, you know that there was nothing weak about my Colcannon, which contained a 1/2 lb. of butter, and 1 lb. of bacon. Purely awesome, my friend.

Once spring gives way to summer, you'll probably notice that a lot of cooking expeditions mentioned on the site will change too. I do about as serious a BBQ as someone from New Jersey can do. I smoke ribs. I smoke shoulder. I've been smoking chicken since last year, and this year I'm thinking about smoking some fish.

In the mean time, I'm still pretty focused on perfecting my Chinese food. I could eat Chinese food just about everyday; there are over a billion people on earth who do! Ok, that was a lame joke. I admit it.

Anyway, I've got pictures. There is no guiding theme other than the fact that this is what I've cooked recently. I would give you the recipes, but frankly it's been so long since I made them that I barely remember what was in it.

The first picture at the top is of a tofu and vegetable stir-fry that came out really well. Tofu can be hard to make well, but I've found that using a REALLY hot pan, and getting a good crisp going on the outside does wonders. Also, pat the tofu dry before cooking, knucklehead!

The second picture is of a curry sole stew with sweet potatoes. I had a hell of a time getting the sweet potatoes to fully cook without murdering the fish into a mush, but I found a balance somewhat and it was pretty good.

The third picture is of zucchini mac and cheese with salted chopped chilies. In case you haven't heard, you need salted chopped chilies in your life. Here's how.

The picture immediately above this paragraph was of some noodles with ginger, garlic, and chopped leaks.

Ok, now to other big news. The beer is FINALLY done! Yes, you heard right, I tasted the beer today.

I have to say that it smelled absolutely wonderful. This is some of the toastiest, delicious smelling beer I've ever had. It's also a pretty good looking beer. My wife and son are both redheads, and it seems that my beer is a redhead too now. I don't mind that one bit. The taste is something else though. I made this beer with the intention of producing a hoppy batch of beer with a VERY high alcohol content. I wanted this beer to knock you on your ass. And it does. The beer is at least 10% alcohol. And it tastes like it too. It's a somewhat bitter, very intense flavored beer. The jury is still out on how well it'll age. It might mellow out a bit in the next few weeks and taste like the complex thing that it is.

Friday, March 26, 2010

All Apologies

Hi Everybody,

I recognize that it's been a while since I've written. Fellow law students will recognize the post-spring break, pre-finals period as the time in the semester when one has to get a handle on upcoming deadlines before the shit hits the fan. So, here we are. In an effort to keep the fan pristine (i.e. free of shit), I've had to take a blogging hiatus that, I hope, won't last too long.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tofu Espagnole

Earlier in the week, I made a sauce for some fried tofu that came out really well. You might notice that, yes, there is indeed chicken in this. So... be warned. I only gave up eating solid pieces of meat for my Lenten fast. I didn't give up using broth for flavor.

Anyway, the sauce came out really well. It was full of flavor, warm, and thick. The thickness made the tofu and mushroom stick together to form almost a stew, which just about put the dish into the "comfort food" category because of its warmth and savoryness. The tofu itself held up really nicely to the sauce, not overdone, but cooked in oil for a sufficient period of time to brown the outside of the tofu and give it some texture. I generally find that ghost-white tofu in soup is OK, but I prefer my tofu to have some color on it if I'm serving it as a meal. Per usual, having homemade stock on hand was a must for this recipe. Anyway, enjoy. This dish made me forget about meat for a solid 5 hours.

Tofu Espagnole

14 oz. Package of Firm Tofu
2 Tbsp. Peanut oil
2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Flour
3 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Baby Bella Mushrooms
1 or 2 Sprigs of Fresh Tyme
1/2 tsp Salt

You'll need a very large skillet for this recipe, or you can use two medium-large pans.

Heat oil in large skillet on high heat. While the pan is warming up, drain the tofu and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut the tofu into 1 inch by 2 inch by 1 inch rectangles. It is easiest to do this while keeping all of the pieces together in the same shape that they came in the package such that when you are finished cutting the tofu rectangles, they are all still neatly stacked together into one big rectangle.

Add the tofu to the pan, gently stirring every 3 minutes or so. The tofu should begin to brown on all sides. While the tofu is cooking, rinse, pat dry, and slice the mushrooms. When the tofu has browned on each side, add the mushrooms to the pan. Continue to stir, this time every minute or so.

When the mushrooms have begun to soften up and release their water, push the tofu and mushrooms all to one side of the pan, leaving as much room as possible on the other side for making the roux.

On the empty side of the pan, melt the butter in the pan, being careful to keep the butter all on the empty side of the pan and not mix with the tofu and mushrooms. Do not burn the butter! Once the butter is half or mostly melted, add the flour and mix with the butter until it forms a paste. Bring the paste closer to the middle of the pan and stir quickly until the paste darkens to a light to medium brownish color. Once your roux is brown, slowly add the stock and mix rapidly with the roux so that a brown sauce forms. Once the roux is fully incorporated into the stock, combine the tofu and mushrooms with the sauce. Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce, tofu, and mushrooms until the sauce is reduced by half. Shred the thyme with your fingers and add to the sauce while it is reducing. Add salt only at the end (since your sauce is reducing, early salting will just get concentrated later on). Serves 3-4.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Some Stale Bread

Well, the first batch of maple sap came in. Much of the bucket contained snow, despite it being mostly covered. But it seems to me like I had a decent amount of sap, about a gallon or so, and that I was on my way to making at least, like, two tablespoons worth of sap. Alas, another setback. Once I boiled off most of the sap, I had a maple syrup-like substance. It was sweet, with the sort of smoky rich flavor that real maple syrup has. But it also came with a shockingly bitter sort of flavor that really overpowered any good effects from the sweetness. It basically tasted like a combination of maple syrup and poison.

There's a pic of sap boiling off. Anyway, I've taken steps to better cover the spouts and will come back and check my containers on Friday for more sap. I did have a good time drinking beers with my grandfather while we tried to boil off the sap on his wood burning stove. It didn't boil much, but I had a few Long Trail IPAs that were really nice.

This past week, I made a few noteworthy dishes. Most of them are pretty basic. For instance, last night, I made some pea soup. Sorry, I'm not going to write out a pea soup recipe for you. Mine is pretty straightforward. Have a ham bone left over, buy some Goya split peas, soak 'em overnight, and follow the directions on the bag with the exception of bouillon cubes and flavor packets. Use your homemade broth dummy!

The croutons I threw onto my pea soup are worth expounding on, though. This is especially true since I've been making a lot of bread lately, and not all of it is great. So, as discussed previously, one of the things you can do with crappy old bread is make croutons with it. And it's really easy too. I used a food processor, but you really don't have to. If you have a garlic press, that would be helpful, but you could just chop the garlic and rosemary very finely.

Rosemary-Garlic Croutons

1 Tsbp. Chopped Rosemary
1 Clove Finely Chopped Garlic
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cups of "Experienced" Bread, cut of shredded into crouton-sized bits.
1/2 tsp. salt

Notes: I don't generally condone cooking with extra virgin olive oil. The point at which extra virgin olive oil begins to smoke, chemically decompose, and lose its flavor and nutritional value is often lower than the temperature that it can reach while in a hot pan. This is called an oil's smoke point. But, our croutons aren't getting pan-fried or broiled, they are just going to soak up that oil, garlic, and rosemary flavor and get a bit of a crunch.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix oil, garlic, salt, and rosemary in a medium sized bowl. Use a food processor if possible, or just chop and mix with a spoon or fork. Add the bread and gently stir the bread so that it soaks up as much oil as possible. Spread the bread around on a flat surface. Discard any extra oil (or put it on your salad if you really love garlic and are in the sort of relationship where garlic breath won't be a dealbreaker). A baking sheet works best, but a casserole dish works too (just takes longer if the croutons are piled up). Put the mixture in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Stir if necessary halfway through. After 25 minutes, check to see how crunchy the bread got. It will vary depending on how stale the bread started out, how much oil it absorbed, the size and depth of the container, and whether you had to double stack the croutons. Give 'em another 5-10 minutes if need be.

Sorry I didn't take a picture of the final product. We were hungry! Besides, you know what croutons look like.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Poached Pear, A Tapped Maple, and Some Momofuku-like Homecookin'

By now you might have recognized that I like to make things from scratch. So, the first of many announcements for today is that I tapped some maple trees at my grandfather's house this weekend. I've got my mom and grandfather recruited to the cause of homemade maple syrup, and will be back at the house to check on the trees sometime over this coming weekend. I don't have extremely high hopes for this project, but it seemed easy enough, and if it works, what a grand success! Of course, my Vermont-based family members have all made syrup before and are not at all impressed. But, the NJ crowd will surely be in awe when I douse my blueberries pancakes with syrup that's fresh from Lake Hopatcong.

In other news, you may find that many of my recipes over the next couple months are vegetarian or pescatarian in nature. I've given up meat for Lent, so there it is. I did it partially because I like to really challenge myself for Lent and give up something that is very dear to me. Additionally, I've been struggling to reconcile my love for the taste of animals with the ethical implications of supporting an industry that profits off of disease and torture. I'll kill animals and eat them, but that doesn't mean that I don't care about how they are treated.

Apparently David Chang of Momofuku fame agrees with me. He had something really interesting to say about sustainable meat in his new cookbook, which I got a chance to peruse over the weekend:

"Pigs have heads. Every one of them does. Farmers do not raise walking pork chops. If you're serious about your meat, you've got to grasp that concept. And if you're serious about sustainability and about honestly raised good meat-which is something we're dead serious about at Momofuku and we try to get more in touch with every day-you've got to embrace the whole pig.

A farm turns out a head on each beautiful, well-raised pig, but nobody's rushing eat it. That's where the cook steps in: you take it, cook it, make it delicious. That's the most badass way you can connect with what you cook: elevate it, honor it, lavish it with care and attention-whether you're slicing scallions or spooning out caviar or boiling up half a pig's head. Turning ingredients into food, and sometimes almost literally turning a pig's ear into a silk purse, is what cooks do in the kitchen" See Momofuku Cookbook, p. 201.

Chang goes on provide a recipe for "pig's head torchon" which looks nothing like a pig's head and sounds pretty amazing.

Speaking of Momofuku, I did make a Momofuku inspired ramen with shrimp, some scallions, and a slow-poached egg. The slow-poached egg concept is another thing I pulled out of that cookbook. Pretty cool. Basically, you put an egg in hot water, kept around 140 degrees or so for 40-45 minutes. Keep the egg off the bottom of the pot though to prevent overcooking. I put it in a metal vegetable steamer-type colander. Whenever you're ready, crack open the egg and you've got a perfect poached egg that is cooked whites and goey, beautiful yolk. Made me feel like a rock star when I tried it.

The shrimp ramen came out really, really good. I have become somewhat of a master broth maker, and this time I used a mixture of chicken broth that had also simmered with some mean-as-hell roasted Jamaican hot peppers, combined with some shrimp shell broth. It just made it extra-seafoody. You could try it with the shrimp broth or just regular broth.

And since we're sharing pictures. I took a picture of a super freak of a mushroom that was in the package of mushrooms that I bought from Whole Foods. It was too weird not to take a picture of it and share with you.

The recipe that I want to leave you with, though, actually comes from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. It is really simple and, if presented well, an absolutely beautiful dessert. Did I mention that it's freaking delicious? Here it is:

Poached Pears
Adapted from Les Halles Cookbook

1 bottle of somewhat cheap red wine
1 cup of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise pieces
4 pears, peeled and cut lengthwise

In a medium pot, combine wine, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil, and let boil for 5-10 minutes. Add the pears, cover, and let simmer for about a half an hour or until the pears are soft and could be eaten with a spoon. Remove from heat, uncover, and let cool. Serve the pears with the sauce they were cooked in and/or with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8 meager appetites, or 2-4 gavones.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter Root Stew

After our rich Saturday eating extravaganza, beginning with lunch at Les Halles (which is my new favorite restaurant by the way) and ending with dinner at Egan & Son's new location in West Orange, NJ, I figured I would make something less rich and more wholesome for Sunday dinner. Based on what I had left around from the food co-op, I decided to make a stew of various winter roots. My only concern was that it could end up being somewhat boring.

We've all made those dishes before where you know that it will be edible and you know that it will be more or less good for you, but you don't know if it will be exciting or something that you'll want more than a few bites of.

So, in the quest for flavor, I ended up using my chicken broth and about a pint of beer to give the stew a hearty, yet tasty flavor. Once that broth and beer mixture combined with the juices of the carrots, parsnips, onion, celery root, etc, it was pretty damn flavorful. I was also a little stumped on how to season it. I could toss in some maple syrup, maybe throw in some apples and cinnamon. I ended up with salt, pepper, some cinnamon and some nutmeg. Not too much though! The spices were subtle, which made it really nice. Boring, it was not. Although, it was interesting how the flavors of the root vegetables all seemed to blend together. It was difficult to tell whether you were eating a piece of turnip or a piece of celery root. It all sort of blended together into a delicious flavor; one that is sweet, but savory and evokes sitting by a nice warm fire on a cold winter day.

Next question was whether or not to add a meat. I happened to have a really nice piece of smoked Kielbasa that my upstairs neighbor gave me after a trip to the Polish butcher. I chopped into bite sized pieces and threw it in there. This way, there really wasn't enough meat to take over the thing and turn it into a meat stew. The Kielbasa just added a little something, turning the stew from a side dish to a main course. Vegetarians could totally go without the Kielbasa and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. Carnivores can go crazy and throw in a slab of bacon-which I had considered, but decided against in light of the order by the Mrs. to "don't make anything rich". Another idea would be some beef to stew in with the veggies. You get the idea here. There is ample opportunity for improvisation.

Winter Root Stew

1 pint of dark beer (I used my homemade brown ale)
About 1 Quart Chicken Stock (can substitute with any stock, including vegetable)
1 onion, minced
3-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 celery root
2 sweet potatoes
1 turnip
1 acorn squash
2 white potatoes
2 red potatoes
4 carrots
4 parsnips
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp olive oil OR butter
1 Kielbasa sausage (or 1 lb of thick cut bacon)

Note: You'll want to use a dutch oven for this. If you don't have a dutch oven, you could just use a pot and keep it on the stove, although I liked not having to tend to it by putting it in the oven.

In a large dutch oven or large pot, warm the oil (or butter) on medium-low heat on the stovetop. While the pot is warming, mince your onion if it is not already minced. Add the onion and saute while mincing the garlic. Add the garlic and saute until golden brown. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Chop the root vegetables into pieces approximately just small enough to fit onto a tablespoon. They will soften up after they are cooked and can be broken into bite-sized pieces with a spoon by the eater. Add the root vegetables to the pot. Next add the chicken stock and beer to the pot so that it just about covers the vegetables. Use as much stock as necessary to cover most of the vegetables.

Next, chop the kielbasa into spoon-sized pieces and add to the pot. Stir all of the contents of the pot around so as to mix them up and disperse the sausage throughout the pot. Now turn off the stovetop and put the pot into the oven for about an hour. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the vegetables and amount of liquid added to the pot. Cook until the vegetables are soft and steamy. Add salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg after removing from the oven and then stir the contents again. If you do not have a dutch oven, simply the pot the on low heat, stirring occasionally for about an hour.

Serves 4-6

Don't forget to save any leftover broth from the pot. Freeze and add it to your next dish!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Obsessions of a Mad Man

I might be losing my mind. Or, at the very least, I am getting recklessly disorganized. This is a really bad thing for me, because I'm somewhat absent-minded to begin with.

Today, I really really thought that I had to go to school for a symposium that my law journal was putting on. So, as I saunter in to school, imagine my surprise when I arrive at a different symposium, put on by a different journal. Oh no.

So now I've taken about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the city for apparently no reason at all. For the first five minutes after realizing this, I was pretty peeved with myself. But then I thought, wait! I've stolen an afternoon in the city with nothing to do. Sweet! I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch and then do a little shopping.

Now, when I say shopping, I'm not talking about Madison Ave. here. No, I'm more interested in Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleecker St and Patisserie Claude on West 4th St. I wandered around with two aims, 1) I wanted to eat good food and 2) I wanted something to read.

When I first came to the conclusion that I would be attending law school in Greenwich Village, I was less than thrilled with the neighborhood. Those who have visited New York City before might be surprised to find out that I didn't want to spend all of my time in the Village, but that is precisely the point. So many of my experiences in the Village, before going to school there, involved being mobbed by tourists and the bridge and tunnel crowd. Never mind that I am now the bridge and tunnel crowd myself. I wasn't always. I was hip once. Dare I say a hipster! No, I didn't wear an ironic trucker hat but I sure did have a band in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and it doesn't get much more hipster than that.

But since spending nearly three years in the Village, I've come to find places to call home. Places that are neither overrun by NYU undergrads, nor stinking with the foul stench of tourists who think that Bob Dylan still plays at the Cafe Wha?. Not that I'm against tourists or tourism per se, in fact, sometimes I am a tourist (although not in New York). But they sort of have a way of destroying the thing the makes people want to come in the first place, don't they?

Anyway, today's meander through the Village in search of happiness and something to eat was a really nice escape from everything going on in my head. And I returned home with all sorts of goodies.

My first stop was Pearl Oyster Bar where I had a nice glass of wine and 6 raw oysters. These oysters were really good, although I can't say that I've gotten over my squeamishness from chewing a snotty shellfish. I'm trying though. I ate an oyster only once before, but it was more like taking a pill than enjoying a fine delicacy.

After reading Anthony Bourdain describe the taste of his first oyster, I've resolved to try again and to learn to love them. People think that if they don't like something that they are forever imprisoned from enjoying that thing, but they are so wrong. You can learn to like almost any food if you try it enough times. Case in point, I used to despise olives. So many people whose opinion I respected loved olives, however, so I resolved that I would learn to love them. First I started by eating olives soaked in vodka. I had already learned to love vodka. Soon, I was tasting good quality olives, and enjoying it. Now, my mouth waters at the prospect of a fine olive. I suspect that oysters will be no different. Smart people seem to enjoy them, and there must be something to it. So why shouldn't I learn to love them too? If nothing else, it is an admirable approach to life.

The Mrs. says we already like enough expensive things, and so we shouldn't be going out and looking for more costly habits, but I disagree. The world is a richer place the more things that are in it that I love. Let oysters be one of them!

Next I went to Patisserie Claude, a small French Bakery staffed by small Spanish people. Both are charming. I love the Napoleons, so I got two to share with my wife. They also make a little quiche that I have gotten twice now and have never intended to take home. I have them warm it up and I eat it immediately, walking down West 4th St. with the sort of satisfaction that is normally associated with getting one's back scratched.

After Claude, I went to Murray's cheese shop where I bought a triple creme soft cheese to spread over my homemade bread this evening, and a French Onion Melt sandwich, which is Gruyere and caramelized onions on whole wheat bread. I ate the sandwich on the PATH train back to NJ. This made me feel a little guilty, especially when I saw the pregnant woman sitting across from me look at my sandwich and sigh in quiet resignation. I would have gladly offered her some, but who was accept half a sandwich from a total stranger on the train? Sorry!

I then stopped in a book store and bought a book for me, Anthony Bourdain's The Nasty Bits, and a book for the little man, This is Texas.

Last, I stopped for some flowers outside of the PATH station. Turns out everyone gets presents today. We had homemade fettuccine, served with butter, sauteed garlic, some fresh chopped basil, and Parmesan cheese. My fettuccine needs work but I'm getting the hang of it. Delicious nonetheless,

Tomorrow should be even better! The Mrs. and I are going back to the city tomorrow to see Wicked. We got tickets for Christmas, babysitter included. What good fortune! Before the show, I made reservations at Les Halles for lunch, the bistro where Anthony Bourdain calls home. Ok, Ok, I might be obsessing on Anthony Bourdain a little bit. But the guy sure can write (which I try to do), and he travels a lot (which I'd like to do), and he is supposed to be a damn fine cook (which I try to be). So, it's hard not to sweat the guy a little.