Thursday, April 8, 2010

an easter rabbit.

Ok, so for the past few months I’ve tried to go vegan(ish), but I couldn’t resist the idea of cooking up a lavish dinner of Lapin a la Moutarde just in time for Easter.  (I joked with my sister that I cooked the Easter Bunny.)  The process took a few hours, mostly because you use the least meaty parts of the rabbit to make your own rabbit stock.  But the end result was insanely delicious – tender pieces of rabbit, served with a side of vegetables, and lovely glasses of Aligote!

Rabbit with mustard sauce (Lapin à la moutarde)


1 farm-raised or wild rabbit, cut into serving pieces, including the head if possible
1/2 c. smooth Dijon mustard (moutarde forte)
1/2 c. old-fashioned grainy Dijon mustard (moutarde à l'ancienne)
Kosher or flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. dry white wine, such as Chablis
1 c. crème fraîche
2 T. snipped fresh chives

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
2 leafy stalks celery, sliced
Bouquet garni of 6 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and 6 leafy thyme sprigs
6 peppercorns

Optional: A dozen or more freshly pulled white onions 1-2 inches in diameter, peeled but left whole, cooked with water to cover, 1 T. butter, and 1 1/2 t. sugar until the water is evaporated and the onions starting to caramelize.

 Make the stock: In a heavy dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat, and brown the parts of the rabbit that have very little meat (the front of the rib cage) as well as the head if available. (Reserve the saddle, cut in 3 pieces, the thighs, and the forelegs for the dish.) When the rabbit pieces are browned on all sides, add the vegetables (except the bouquet garni), and brown lightly, stirring, for 5-10 minutes. Add the bouquet and water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim. Turn the heat to low and partially cover the pot. Simmer 3-4 hours. Strain, pressing down on the solids and discarding them. Return the stock to the dutch oven or medium saucepan if it is already somewhat reduced, place over medium heat, and reduce by 2/3. Pour into a small saucepan and continue reducing until 1/3 cup remains. Reserve.

Meanwhile, three hours before serving, combine the two mustards with a generous pinch of salt and grindings of black pepper. Smear the remaining rabbit pieces with the mustard, thoroughly covering them, and arranging them in a single layer in a gratin or baking dish. Set aside in a cool place for 2-3 hours.

50 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rabbit, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Open the oven and pour the wine and the reserved reduced rabbit stock over the rabbit, then bake 20 minutes more. Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle the crème fraîche over the rabbit. Return to the oven for 5 minutes more. If using the onions, gently strew them over the dish. Sprinkle with the snipped chives.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

RECIPE: Chole for the Soul

Since it’s been bone-chilling cold in my apartment these days (damn uncontrollable San Francisco steam heaters), I had a craving for something warm and spicy.  I was cleaning out my cupboards and found a bag full of Indian spices that I bought a few months ago when I went through a Bend It Like Beckham-inspired Aloo Gobi phase…which is how I ended up making a nice pot of Chole Masala last night.  It’s pretty easy, and the fun part is that you don’t have to measure anything exactly.  I’ll try to give you some measurements, but really, it’s all about “season to taste”.

You will need:

1 15-oz can of Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 Roma tomato, chopped
1 T. tomato paste
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large piece of ginger (about as big as your thumb), minced
1 t. ground turmeric
½ t. cumin seeds
1 t. Garam Masala
2-4 chopped green chiles, or red pepper flakes (adjust to your preferred level of spiciness)
½ t. salt
Ghee, or olive oil (for vegan version)
Handful of coriander, chopped

In a heated saucepan, toast the cumin seeds.  Then add some oil and sauté the onions.  Add turmeric and a little water (so the spices don’t stick to the pan).  The add chilies, ginger, garlic, and a little more water.  Then add the tomato paste and tomatoes.  Keep stirring and adding water so you get a sauce-like consistency.  Then add the garbanzos, garam masala, and salt.  Simmer everything for 20-25 minutes (or longer) and add a handful of chopped coriander and stir it through.  Serve with basmati rice!

Monday, December 14, 2009

RECIPE: Vegan Udon Sushi Rolls

One of my favorite things to eat are nori rolls.  These differ from “sushi”, as I don’t put sushi rice into them, but this version of a nori roll was something I modified after eating something similar this past weekend – it has the carb component (like regular sushi).  It’s a pretty simple and tasty lunch item.  You will need:

Nori sheets (you can use roasted for more flavor)
Chives or green garlic shoots 
Cooked organic udon noods (well drained)
Roasted sesame seeds
Umeboshi paste (optional)

Lettuce, spinach, or any other type of fresh greens

Take one sheet of nori and dab a thin line of umbeboshi paste (depending on how strong of a taste you want of the umeboshi) about an inch to two inches from one edge.  Arrange a handful of noodles on nori, and add sliced avocado, slice tomatoes, chives/garlic shoots, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Top with a handful of greens (I prefer spinach, which is rich in iron).  Roll the nori tightly to create a “sushi” roll, and either eat as is, or cut into slices.  It is absolutely delicious, and quite filling. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

EAT: Beijing Restaurant

Beijing Restaurant
1801 Alemany Blvd
(between Ocean Ave & Ruth St)
San Francisco, CA 94112
(415) 333-8182

I can navigate a Chinese takeout menu fairly well. I stay away from things that look gruesome (chicken feet), gelatinous (jellyfish), or just make me feel bad (shark’s fin). Fried rice and cha siu pork are things that I grew up with, thanks to my family’s Chinese restaurant in San Diego. But that wasn’t what we were looking for when my friend Ed suggested we head to Beijing Restaurant. It was all about noodles and dumplings – two things that, when done well, are like a party in your mouth. Seriously.

 Yao Ming and the owners

Beijing Restaurant is located in the “Mission Terrace” area of San Francisco, on the corner of Alemany & Ocean, in a little red building adorned with lanterns. Kind of out of the way for those of us that live closer to downtown SF, but hey, Yao Ming makes a stop here when he’s in town, so it must be good, right? I came, armed with my artillery of Chinese food “experts” (aka three of my friends of Chinese heritage who like to eat). We sat down and began the ordering process. Be warned, this place takes a little longer than your average Americanized Chinese food place, so if you’re starving (like we were), have a piece of fruit beforehand or something.

First up was the Beef Pancake. I love this dish – crispy layers of fried something on the outside and yummy, flavorful beef in the middle. Served piping hot. Then, they brought out the Zha Jiang Mian – Beijing style noodles. These is a cold noodle dish with fresh, hand-pulled noodles, cucumber, sprouts, and this wonderful hoisin(ish) sauce with bits of meat in it, mixed together. I really loved the cucumber added to the dish, as it made it taste so fresh and perfect for the muggy weather we were having. A word of advice – use the sauce sparingly, as it’s quite salty on its own.

The dishes were coming one at a time, which worked well because it made you enjoy your food (eat slowly!) and there was no way in hell we were gonna fit all the food on our table with drinks and elbows. Our next “course” was the lamb dumplings. I don’t know how to explain it, but when someone does a dumpling correctly, it makes me so happy. Delicate balance of dumpling skin, meat, and sauce. Freshly boiled. Beautiful.

I insisted that we order a vegetable to offset some of the carbs, so the only greens of the evening were the Spinach with Garlic. Then came the Lion's Head meatballs - served in  four pieces.  So tender, so delicious.  And finally…our Flour Balls with Three Flavors. Almost like a cross between a noodle dish and a dumpling dish, I’d had a version of this at Old Mandarin Islamic (another fantastic Chinese restaurant).  I don't really know the the "Three Flavors" is, but I'm guessing, Chicken, Pork, and Seafood.  Just eat it.  It's delicious.

All I can say is, I was so content after our meal. I wasn’t stuffed either, nor did I have that overly-MSG’ed feeling I usually get when I eat Chinese food. I would definitely make the trip out here again – and you should too!

Monday, October 19, 2009

1788 cognac, 1875 wine on sale at Paris auction

PARIS — Over the years, the chief sommelier had forgotten they were there. And when the four bottles of 1875 Armagnac Vieux were finally unearthed from the labyrinthine wine cellar this week, they were covered in a black fungus that looked like matted cat fur.

The landmark Tour d'Argent restaurant, which dates back to 1582, is cleaning out its 450,000-bottle wine cellar, considered one of the best and biggest in the world. It is putting 18,000 bottles up for auction in December, an event that has captured the imagination of French wine lovers.
The restaurant is selling mostly wine but also some very old spirits, like three bottles of a Clos du Griffier cognac from 1788, the year before the French Revolution, as well as the ancient Armagnac, valued at euro400-500 ($595-$743) a bottle. The fuzzy fungus is nothing to worry about — it thrives on the fumes of such spirits and is easily wiped away.

The restaurant wants to cut down on wines it has in multiple to vary and modernize its selection.
"You'll probably see, we've got too many bottles," jokes chief sommelier David Ridgway.
Unlocking a padlocked iron gate, the tuxedo-clad sommelier ushered visitors into the restaurant's underworld, where bottles are stacked floor to ceiling in a succession of caverns. Though everything is registered in a computer, there are occasional surprises, like the 1875 Armagnac, which Ridgway came across while looking for something else.

The wine cellar of the Left Bank restaurant, known for pressed duck and spectacular views of Notre Dame, is a part of its history. A sign marks the spot where a brick wall was built in 1940 to hide the best bottles during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Visitors are offered sheepskin blankets for the chill: 14 degrees Celsius (57.2 Fahrenheit) this week, but dipping to 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 Fahrenheit) in winter.

"I like the wine to live a little bit of the seasons, even though it's temperature-controlled," said Ridgway, a Briton who has overseen the restaurant's wine menu since the early 1980s.

Times have changed since then, Ridgway says. Expensive jewelry or clothes no longer indicate what diners will pay for wine, and it's not taboo now for people to say what they want to spend. Still, he has to tread carefully: Propose a wine too inexpensive and some "people feel we have looked down on them, almost."
Estimated prices at the Dec. 7-8 sale by French auctioneer Piasa start at euro10 ($15) a bottle and go up to euro2,500-euro3,000 ($3,716-$4,459) for each 1788 Cognac, one of which will go to charity.
Among wines on sale are Chateau Lafite Rothschild (1970, 1982, 1997), Cheval Blanc (1928, 1949, 1966) and Chateau Margaux (1970, 1990). The total sale is expected to bring in around euro1 million ($1.5 million).
Buyers can rest assured the bottles aren't counterfeit — a major problem in the industry — because the restaurant bought them directly from vintners. As for the restaurant, the timing of the auction is right even as Europe struggles amid a global economic crisis.

"I'm sure there are some amazing treasures in that cellar, and it's a good time to sell because the wine auction market has really come storming back" after tanking during the early months of the financial crisis, said Michael Steinberger, Slate's wine columnist and author of "Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France."

The restaurant, a family business, was once the summit of French gastronomy, attracting royalty, politicians and film stars. Each duck served comes with a certificate: U.S. President John F. Kennedy ate duck No. 245,200, while Mick Jagger feasted on No. 531,147 and Princess Grace of Monaco savored No. 496,516.
But recent years have brought setbacks. Longtime owner Claude Terrail died in 2006, and his 29-year-old son Andre now runs it. The restaurant, where a prix fixe lunch menu costs euro65 ($97) and a tasting menu at dinner goes for euro160 ($238), long held three Michelin stars but is now down to one.
The economic crisis has affected the restaurant's finances only "a bit," Terrail said, in part because of its name and diverse international clientele. While the kitchen was recently updated, the wine sale may fund more extensive renovations down the line.

The restaurant's name means "The Silver Tower" in French, and all the bottles for sale are stamped with the restaurant's insignia, a tiny tower.

On the Web:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Burger Craving - SO Not Good For You.

Partially due to to laziness, I have been subsisting on a mostly vegetarian diet.  I can't muster the energy to roast a chicken or marinate and cook pork chops during the week.  I've been fortunate enough to get tons of great produce from farmer's markets and Berkeley Bowl (love love LOVE BB, but it's all the way on the other side of the Bay so I can't get there that often).  The veg diet is wonderful - but sometimes, you just want something meaty like a burger.  You know?

So tonight, I went down the street from my house and ordered from Johnny Rockets, a chain that specializes in old-fashioned style burgers.  A little on the pricey side, and everything is a la carte, but I figured the quality is better than Mickey D's so what the heck.  I ordered a Rocket Double - two meat patties with tomato, onion, lettuce, cheese, and special sauce (Thousand Island) on a bun.

As I waited for my order, I happened to see the Nutritional Information pamphlet.  This bad boy has......wait for it....1,193 calories.



That's what I said.

When I got my burger home, I took off a patty out of guilt.  It was still delicious...but that spin class is sounding reeeeally necessary right about now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So Long, Sweet Summer...

As the fog and mist creep back into the Bay, I had to post some photos of summer desserts.  Two of my favorite things to make:  tarte aux quetsches, and a strawberry custard tart. 


1 fully baked sweet tart shell (recipe below)
1 batch pastry cream
1 lb strawberries

Fill the tart shell with pastry cream. Hull and slice the strawberries, reserving one perfect strawberry, and arrange in a circle on top of the pastry cream. Put the one reserved strawberry in the middle.

Sweet Tart Dough
(Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom
rolling pin

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Toss the pieces of butter with the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. (If you don't have a food processor, you can use a pastry cutter, or, if you are really in a pinch - two knives.)  Lightly stir the yolk, and slowly add it, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To roll the dough into the pan: Butter tart pan with a removable bottom.

* If you want to roll the dough, chill it for about 2 hours before rolling (unless you've used frozen butter and the dough comes out of the processor firm and cold, in which case you can roll it immediately). I find it easiest to roll this dough out between two sheets of plastic film – make sure to peel away the film frequently, so it doesn't get rolled into the dough.
* You may also use the press-in method - you can work with the dough as soon as it's processed. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

 Prick the bottom with a fork four or five times. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes (I do it for nearly and hour) before baking.  It will help prevent the crust from getting giant air bubbles.

To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon (or prick it with the tip of a small knife). Bake the crust for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.

Pastry Cream
(Tartine - awesome, awesome book)

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Add the salt, place over medium-high heat, and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, slowly drizzle about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 minutes. The mixture must come just to the boiling point (slow bubbles, not boiling vigorously, or you will curdle the eggs, yuk). Remove from heat and immediately pour through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into 1 tbsp pieces and whisk into pastry cream 1 tbsp at a time until smooth.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming and put in the refrigerator to cool.


1 1/2 C of unbleached flour
1 stick unsalted butter (frozen, cut into small cubes)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbl. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 Tbl. ice cold water
egg wash (1 egg mixed with 2 tsp. milk)
Tart filling:
1.5 lbs. small plums, halved and pitted
2 Tbl. cassonade (raw sugar)
egg custard (2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg +1/4 cup sugar —- tempered with 2/3 cup of hot milk)
Directions for tart crust:

Cut the dry ingredients with the butter until you have pea-sized pieces. Add the egg yolk and cold water. Stir and combine. Add enough cold water until the mixture clumps in your hand.  Next, place the dough onto some plastic wrap and form a flat disk. Wrap and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.  Roll the dough to about 1/8 in. thick and gently place it on your tart pan. Using your fingers, gently mold the dough to fit the tart pan and crimp the edges. Put the whole thing back in the fridge for about 15 min. or so.

Then, in an oven preheated to 350F, blind bake the tart shell for 15 minutes.

Next, arrange the plums on the tart in whatever way you feel  - you can see how I've done it in the photos.  Bake the tart for 15 minutes – the plums will begin to soften.
Take the tart out of the oven and pour the custard into the tart, making sure it surrounds all the plums. Sprinkle the tart with cassonade.

Brush the outer crust with a little egg wash. Lower the oven to 325F and bake for another 30 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.

Bon apetit!