Monthly Archives: April 2005

Crockpot heaven alert!!

Long-time readers will know that I really admire the cookbooks of Beth Hensperger. First there was the ‘Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook,’ where she has managed to demonstrate how to properly use a bread machine to make real bread including sourdough and sponges and ‘poolish’ and all the other wonderful old-fashioned breadbaking techniques that go into making real bread. Then there was ‘The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook,’ which covers all things rice cooker from boiled rice to one-rice-cooker meals or deserts.

And now, right after all the discussion about the best way to use a crockpot (see the comments) comes ‘Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook.’ Needless to say, I’m ordering it now…

Still no food posts…

It’s been quite a while since I wrote up a recipe. Partly that is because I’ve started a new job. Partly it’s been because THE book (see picture on the left) is still hanging fire at the printers. Basically when they entice you to get your book printed with them they neglect to mention that they charge a LOT extra to take credit cards and they take 7-9 business days to process regular checks. And they won’t ship to you until you have paid in full AND they take their own sweet time about sending you the final invoice. So really there is almost another four week delay added in to the time they tell you it will take. Plus they took two weeks longer anyway!

So, although I have been cooking, it has been pretty standard stuff – the kind of thing I have written about before. I have lots of left over things to write about but I have to have time to dig out the pictures and rebuild my memory of the event and do on.

The big news is that I have a launch date for the book. May 21st at 11:30 to 2:00 or later at the Berkeley Farmers Market in conjunction with their strawberry tasting event. And May 22nd at 4PM at the Lafayette Book Store on Mt. Diablo Boulevard in Lafayette. There will be refreshments of some kind and everyone in invited to come and bring friends. Four of the authors will be there (me, Dr. Biggles, Stephanie and Ellen. It should be fun!

Mais…mais, c’est ecrivee en Francais n’est ce pas?

Not this post, but the second edition of Blog appetit. The subject this time is lamb and fresh peas (agneau et petits pois). There are already 26 lovely-looking recipes up with more to come, plus the Blog appetit surprise twist of having a real Michelin-starred chef also make a dish. This time around it is Thierry Marx of Chateau Cordeillan Bages, Relais and Chateau de Pauillac en Gironde. And he whips up a lovely Carre d’agneau Domingo Reyes poele et sa mousse de petits pois, croustillant au parmesan (which I think is a Rack of Domingo Reyes lamb with petits pois mousse and parmesan crusts).

It is clear that the world of French food blogs is exploding. Maybe with this example and the IMBB phenomenon, Italian food blogs will also now take off.

I also wish my French were better…

3 of the best

I have written here and elsewhere on occasion about how the traditional food media are not necessarily the best places to turn anymore for food writing. While there are absolutely brilliant restaurant reviewers among food bloggers, this is still one area where traditional media excel. A case in point is the perennial and mostly accurate 100 best Bay Area restaurants from the SF Chronicle. I’m not going to argue with a good 80% of this list and it is based on judgments from people with real experience. And the Chron has one of the best food sections in the country (the only other ones that measure up are the NYT and the LA Times). But they put 3 of the best 100 in my home town (a small suburb). I like all three restaurants mentioned. I go to one of them regularly and the others occasionally. But there are also other places I go to more and that I think are better. Maybe it is time I shone some light on that great little Pho cafe in Pleasant Hill? Maybe I should play up the tandoori joint in Concord more than I already have? But I don’t really want to review restaurants. My food schtick is cooking it.

But back to my main point. I’m pretty sure that the Bay Area blogging community could come up with a 100 best that was a better than this one and that shone some light into the darkness of the unkown places that are hidden gems. Any takers anyone? I’d offer up the following as starter additions/changes: Restaurant Peony in Oakland, Tandoori Chicken USA in Concord, more to come later…

Late, Later, Latest

You have to admire the effort that Viv puts in to her SeattleBonVivant blog. She posts multiple times per day and seems to cover just about everything. She has been a big supporter of the Paper Chef all along and was its first ever winner. So she didn’t let a little thing like being on vacation completely derail her from taking part this last time – a week and a half ago. Instead she was just late – very late. But here is her entry at last – some delightful-looking endive, prosciutto and chevre bites as an appetizer.

And, looking at all the moblogging you are doing, all I can say is that even if you get to eat out at all those fancy places, I still can eat a home-made lamb, pear-chutney and arugula sandwich with the best of them…

…Reflection

So, that lamb. I answered a question about it in the comments section of the ‘Anticipation’ entry below, but for those of you who don’t read the comments (you should), here are the salient points again.

The lamb was falling apart soft. Has a great lamb flavor. The paprika and pepper were subsumed by the overall flavor. The sauce was just flat out rich with strong tomato and garlic/onion/leek components but after that the taste got too complex to break it down. I really liked it and will do it this way again. I am slowly learning that you need to add as little liquid as possible meat in crockpots.

The next part of this post was started by the commenter who asked about my crockpot experiences. They are mostly good because about four years ago Sunset published a great article with six recipes for crockpots that were all good and that’s where I learned the ‘start it or finish it’ (or both) OUTSIDE the crockpot technique. One example was a lovely corned beef in beer mustard sauce where you cook the corned beef in the crockpot with beer and lots of spices and then take it out, cover it with a blend of honey and mustard and stick it in a hot oven until the honey/mustard starts to caramelize. If you can I’d take the crockpot back. I’ve heard that the same brand can differ from one to the next quite widely. We have a large (oval) Rival that has low and high settings. It can hold a whole chicken easily and maybe even two small ones.

So THAT comment spawned a ‘never used my crockpot’ comment from another reader (Kevin) about what kitchen gadgets never got used. First, though, let me say that a crockpot is really good for hot punch drinks at parties (hot mulled apple cider in the winter for example) and also for melting large amounts of chocolate.

As for gadgets. Crockpot – used when I want to make a big meal for the family but will be gone all day. Rice cooker – most frequently used and best value gadget of all time – we got ours for $3 new in a going out of business sale. Bread machine – used about the same as the crockpot – if I don’t have time to hand bake the bread I do it overnight in the machine. Kitchen Aid – less used than it should be because we don’t have a good place for it and it is trouble to move. Blender – frequent manufacturer of salsas, sauces and smoothies and more. Toaster – everyday. Electric kettle – multiple times per day. Ice cream maker – rarely used. Electric pasta maker – used in spurts – actually makes very good pasta but is a royal pain to clean. I think that is the majority of the electrical ones.

Non electric – too many to count.

So, what are all your gadgets and uses (don’t mention obvious things like knives and microwaves)?

Anticipation…

I am looking forward to this evening. I got up at 6:30, pulled a butterflied leg of lamb out of the fridge, carefully patted it dry with a paper towel and rubbed it with garlic, salt, cajun spices and smoked paprika. Then I browned it on the stove on low while I made the kids’ breakfasts and lunches (melon, scrambled eggs and toast for one and sausage, pear chutney and arugula sandwiches for the other). Then I removed it to the crockpot, rapidly softened three green garlics and a leek in the leftover oil, threw in half a cup of sherry to deglaze the pot and added all that to the crockpot. Then I stirred three tablespoons of thick tomato paste into the crockpot, set it on low and left. In 7 more hours I anticipate a very nice supper…

The next Paper Chef is toqued

I thought Fatemeh at Gastronomie had a really tough decision to make this time. There ended up being 15 entries from 12 different blogs and I can safely say that I would be happy making, serving and eating every single one of the entries (not all of them were entrees – bada-boom).

However, Fatemeh had a decision to make and make it she did. You can find her decision(s) here.

I learned a great deal from the entries this time around. I also thought the standard was superb and I was very happy that many of the participants felt their creations were good enough to add to their permanent repetoire of dishes. Thank you all for taking part. The Paper Chef will return next month, starting at noon of Friday May 6th. About a week or so before that we’ll start collecting more ingredient nominations.

Roundup of entries for Paper Chef #5

Wow! It is rather hard to add up how many entries we have for the Paper Chef this time around. At least two blogs posted entries by more than one person and more than that entered more than one item. Fortunately, I don’t have to sort it all out – that’s up to Fatemeh of Gastronomie, the ‘winner’ last month. I put winner in quotation marks, because, of course, the real winners are all of us who get to see these wonderful creations. And I really mean wonderful – there are some absolutely stupendous entries this time. Plus we also have been spun tales of woe and bedevilment involving pets, work, drainage systems, the unfortunate tendency of seasons to be opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, island living and the lack of green garlic. And one entry is the first ever blog entry ever for that blog. Not the first ever Paper Chef entry (that’s true of several here), not the first ever blog event entry (also true of several) but the christening of a brand new blog! We are honored. I won’t tell you which entry goes with which slice of life – you’ll just have to read them all!

To recap, this month’s randomly chosen ingredients were: goat cheese, sherry vinegar (but substitutions were allowed for other high-end vinegars) and prosciutto. The ‘seasonal’ ingredient was green garlic (also, I am now told called spring garlic and young garlic and not available in the autumn of southern latitudes). In my defence, if you read the full instructions carefully, I did anticipate that last one and allowed any vaguely close approximation like spring onions or plain old garlic.

Without further ado, here are the nominations in no particular order. If I missed someone yell out loud and clear here and to my email owenl1998 at yahoo dot com…

Braised Garlic With Prosciutto and a Sherry Wine Vinegar Reduction
Rachael at Fresh Catering

Cheesy egg puffs in ham cups, topped with spicy ginger sauce and crispy garlic
Daffy at KitchenCrazyDaffy
Daffy gets a special shout-out here – I believe this is her fourth Paper Chef – and she usually does the whole thing while also going to France for the weekend (or so it seems…)


Goat Cheese & Prosciutto Quittata with Sherry Gastrique

Chopper Dave and Mrs Deedop at Belly Timber

Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Sarah at Cooking with the Headhunter

Chicken Roulades with Sherry-Vinegar Cream Sauce
Caryn at Delicious! Delicious!


Macaroni in Goat Cheese

Lyle at Crocodile Caucus


Green Garlic and Goat Cheese Cheesecake AND Squid Stuffed with Seafood and Green Garlic Risotto AND Prosciutto and Goat Cheese “Candy”

Orion and Rebecca at The Confabulist

Proscuitto and Goat Cheese Roll Up Appetizers AND Goat Cheese Dip with Asparagus/Prosciutto Spears
Biscuit Girl and Biscuit Boy at You Gonna Eat All That?

Garlic chive and Goat’s Cheese Ravioli with Sherry Vinegar Reduction and Prosciutto Shards
David at A Banana in Australia

Sushi A la Alice (at least five kinds of sushi using green garlic and sherry vinegar sushi rice and green garlic wasabi)
Alice at My Epicurean Debauchery


Proscuitto “crackers” with herbed chevre and balsamic caramelized onions

Emily at Baking Beast

Acckk! (as Opus used to say)

I somehow missed out
Chicken Roulade with Sherry Vinegar Sauce
Molly at spicetart

And one more who had trouble posting:

fig, goat cheese and prosciutto won tons
Sarah at The Delicious Life

Paper Chef Running Late

I start a new job today – after many months of being unemployed. So I am not going to have time to get to rounding up the entries until later this evening. So, you officially have until 7PM PST today to get an entry in. (See below – Friday’s entry – if you want to know more about this month’s ingredients and the rules). I’ll write them all up late this evening.