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Pork shoulder roast

August 30th, 2011

pork shoulder

I cannot stop talking about the pork shoulder roast!  I don’t know if we are blessed here in Portland, Oregon with unusually inexpensive pork cuts (I hazard to guess that we are not and that pork is generally somewhat inexpensive), but I frequently pick up a bone in shoulder for $.99 a lb. and if I get a four pounder, then that good sized chunk of meat feeds a dinner party of six or else it feeds me for a week.  This dinner is easily listed in  the economy meals section of any cooking publication.

Every year I go camping with a bunch of beautiful people and we plan a huge family dinner together out in the woods.  I volunteered to brine and barbecue the pork shoulder roast as the best and most inexpensive way to feed my group of thirty people.  Eyes lit up and smiles crooked and people started cheering when I mentioned that I could quit easily do barbecued pork tacos for the group.  My vegetarian friends sat and silently yearned for my famous pork tacos.

So first thing I did was to keep an eye out for when the sale comes around and buy four big portions of the bone in pork shoulder roast.  Each shoulder is somewhere around four pounds. Into the freezer they go until needed.  Sure it takes a couple of days to thaw out, but with proper planning that is merely a fore thought.  So the process starts many days before the camping trip actually begins.

The four hunks of pork shoulder roast were tossed into a basic brine, with some added chili flakes for twenty four hours.  After I took the from the brine I patted them dry and put a little spicy, Mexican dry rub on them and tossed them on the barbecue with the coals shunted to the side to create indirect heat.  After about an hour and a half I began to hover around the barbecue, occasionally prodding and probing the pork shoulder roast with me my meat thermometer.

I allowed the pork shoulder roast to reach 155 degrees, pulled it and allowed it to rest and cool. I then picked it apart and bagged the meat to go into the refrigerator until we departed for camp the next day.  When the time came for dinner we brought out all the salsas, started frying corn tortillas, heated up the vegetarian black beans.  I decanted the pork shoulder roast into a cast iron skillet, heated it up, and enjoyed a very lovely, delicious and inexpensive dinner out in the forest.


Reuben Sandwich

August 26th, 2011


The Reuben sandwich is safely ensconced in the  American culinary hall of fame.  While this humble sandwich has roots in far Lithuania, it is indelibly assembled with that uniquely American  savoir faire that comes into play late nights around a poker game. This American icon can still be found in smoky poker games, but it also graces many a white table-clothed restaurant with an appearance on  lunch menus across the continent.

Whether the brain child of a Lithuanian grocer, or the meticulous construction of a German delicatessen owner, the Reuben sandwich is now easily explained in a few short sentences. Toasted rye is blanketed with Swiss cheese, smeared with Russian dressing, and draped in sauerkraut.  Corned beef is then mounted atop the kraut and another hunk of toasted rye is place on top to sandwich this beast.  It ain’t for the meek nor the meticulous to eat.

Regardless of the origins of the Reuben sandwich, the structure is there for any person to prepare.  For a restaurant, it can mean something to be known for one of these historic sandwiches.   This addition to the menu adds a little weight, a little bit of culture to the culinary offerings.  There are people who call themselves “eggs benedict people” or “chicken fried steak people,” but there are definitely folks who pride themselves not only on their ability to rate a Reuben sandwich, but also on their ongoing history with the Reuben.  These people will tell everyone they know about the restaurant with the best Reuben in town.

The basic Reuben sandwich can be easily prepared by just about anyone in their own kitchen.  I’m not talking about corning your own beef, or baking the rye yourself, although both of those components can be learned and will add more depth to the sandwich experience.  You can buy corned beef at the deli, or you can purchase it at the grocery store and cook it off yourself, but either way works when making the Reuben sandwich.  The heartier the Rye bread the better the sandwich.

Home made sauerkraut greatly increases the tastieness of the sandwhcih, but good sauerkraut can be purchased at just about any grocery store.  Although many people heap the kraut directly onto the sandwhich, I recommend giving it a good rinse first in order to soften some of the brininess.  Too much brine will dominate the sandwich and overrule any of the other ingredients from joining in.

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Budget Cooking Videos

August 23rd, 2011


Pop and I were trading budget cooking videos ideas back and forth across the campfire.  Dad was all riled up talking about revolutionizing the way people ate, the way we approached food, even the way we grow it.  Well, not really revolutionizing at all…more like seizing control of the discourse from the hands of corporate control.  He was raised by parents who had been young during the Great Depression, and he had never enjoyed the simple food his mother prepared.  He didn’t know that food was one of the joys of the earth until he joined the army and was shipped to Germany.

In Germany he became enraptured with the culinary world, with all of its lore and tradition.  Intoxicated by Berlin in the 60’s he married a husky voiced starlet from the top of the  top 20, bought a new Volkswagen and shipped the whole gang off to America.  His brush with food, with the cinema, with the ancient culinary traditions became the seed for this project wirtschaftlichkochenvideos (budget cooking videos): food  from farm to table, fabricated with the utmost care by someone whose family had performed this task for generations.

My grandfather was so parsimonious that my grandmother had $3 a week to feed a family of five.  It wasn’t until later in my father’s life, after the foix gras experiments, that he recognized the need for budget cooking videos.  An encyclopedia for folks who want to feed themselves well with very little money spent.  His idea of a budget is to have the staples on hand: rice, beans, sugar, flour, salt, butter, oil, vinegars, etc…The money spent only  for the whole chicken, for the vegetables, for the greens.

“The focus on budget cooking videos,” he would lecture us,” is the sure way to gain a following.”

Not necessarily a following, but a wave of people learning to wrest control of their diet from the grips of Corporate Food. The rising tide of obesity and the resultant cost to our food system meant that inarguably the pendulum would swing back in the other direction and food would again be prepared with integrity.  Hence projects springing up offering budget cooking videos for free.

“20 meals for 20 bucks!” my dad’s suggestion for the first series of budget cooking videos.

“Start with the chicken.  Take the breasts off, butterfly them, wrap them around asparagus and provolone, serve with rice.  Heck! Green beans and Swiss!  Roast the breastless bird and pick the meat clean for fajitas on corn tortillas.  Stew the carcass and make chicken stock to create chicken soup.”

“68 cents a pound? 2.76 for a four pound bird, 3$ more for vegetables and you have four meals,” so his energetic rant would go, “We will show folks the way to do this!”  Come check out our budget cooking videos at


The Whole Hog

August 5th, 2011


My first day at the Country Cat, watching Adam Sappington butcher a whole hog, was probably one of my most memorable experiences at the restaurant.  I came in a couple hours early because I didn’t know anyone and didn’t yet know how this restaurant operated.  I was searching, even before the restaurant  had opened, for this job.  Freshly returned to Portland after ten years of loitering around the Americas I needed to recoup before I was ready for commitment.  So I lived rent free in the basement of some wonderful friends, worked at a burger joint, and rode the bus to work.  Until this opportunity surfaced.

I remembered when Wilwood opened in ’94.  I had just graduated college and was hired at the Black Rabbit at McMenamin’s Edgefield 2 months after opening.  I was 22 years old…the rest of the wait staff were well into their 30’s and very  professional. The idea to  butcher a whole hog was not yet in the culinary jargon back then…chefs were still sprinkling parsely around the rim of the plates!  These veterans had been in the restaurant business for a long time, but the idea to go back to the farm traditions was just beginning.

The knowledge that filled that resturant astounded me and soaked into my young mind.  In 1994 the Farm to Table phenomenon was new, and the thought to butcher a whole hog for a restaurant seemed a waste of resources.  This was before Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential shocked the world and restaurants were merely places to eat, not places to revere, or eventually work.

“Butcher a whole hog,” my boss says,” or turn your back on what food is about.  You have to go back to the basics and understand where your food comes from and how it gets to your plate.  Before you butcher the whole hog, you  have to understand how the animal is raised,  slaughtered,  and how it gets to your kitchen.  Good food ain’t easy.”  That last sentence sums up what humans have been diligently studying for many thousands of years: how to alter the chemical make up of food to maximize nutrition and taste.

I don’t know everything about the restaurant business, but I do know the benefits of being able to butcher a whole hog and  how to use the whole animal.  I know, from personal experience on my grandfather’s farm, that a farmer who loves his animals and treats them with respect will produce the best quality  product.  So come watch us butcher a whole hog at


The Oregon Berry Festival

August 4th, 2011

berry festival

So I was invited to perform a cooking demo at the Oregon Berry Festival and I thought to myself, “Why not? It sounds like fun.”  So I asked my 9 year old little buddy if he wanted to cook with me and he said yes.

“We have to do something with berries, though,” I said,” do you have any ideas?”

“Blue berry pancakes,” said he with a resolute face…and that is how Torin Combs and I cooked blue berry pancakes at the oregon Berry Festival  (well, actually he did all the cooking…)


The Open Kitchen Dinner: Fusion Cuisine Portland style

July 28th, 2011

open kitchen

I walked into Abby’s Table and was momentarily taken aback.  Portland Fusion?  The warm evening, still bright with sunshine, and the flock of well tanned individuals for moment had me thinking that I had chosen the wrong door and been transported to Los Angeles.  My confusion remained until I was seated next to a local farmer, and across from an independent chef and a wine educator: yes, I was still in Portland.

Paul Mones is a a renowned childrens rights attorney who has dabbled with food for the last 30 years.  Today he was assembling a menu with long time collaborator Bruce Cormicle.  I was excited because the menu seemed rather ambitious, and it seemed like the fellows in the kitchen were having fun melding Oregon food with Asian cooking styles.

The amuse bouche was composed of eel squares over grilled pineapple on a sea weed tortilla.  I enjoyed the combination of flavors, but did detect some hesitation in the diners around me when I asked what they thought of the sea weed tortilla.  Bruce announced rather bemusedly that it didn’t quiet work out as he had planned, but he had had fun.  Then it struck me.  This was less a haute cuisine-wine pairing (the wines were furnished by Garnier Vineyards out in the Gorge) and more of a social event for Paul and Bruce to have fun and cook dinner with their friends.

My critics instincts drained, my pen slowed down, and I began pouring the wine liberally and chatting with the pleasant people around me.  We enjoyed the Garnier Suvignon Blanc, especially with the cauliflower soup in kombu broth.  I loved that Paul thickened the soup with edamame because the green-peanut flavor of the edamame slipped seamlessly into the flavors of cauliflower and coconut milk.  Perhaps because of the recent surge in articles decrying the over consumption of salt in America, almost all the plates required a sprinkling of seasoning.  But perhaps my palate is salt-jaded…

The entrees plate was a melange of flavors ranging from coffee rubbed, smoked pork shoulder (I enjoyed that very much!) to green kimchee and local mushrooms that Roger Konka had foraged out at Springwater Farms.  I wasn’t sure how appropriate it was to congratulate a forager on his foods, but I leaned over and did it anyway.  We ordered a bottle of the Pinot Noir, and the entire table was delighted and shocked that it really did taste of an old world Pinot Noir and was actually a little bit too big for the food.  An Oregon pinot that was too tanic for smoked pork shoulder!  Imagine that…

So we ordered the Garnier Vineyards Cuvee Rouge, a blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Grenache.  This wine was supple and delicate with a high enough alcohol (14%) to bite through some of the flavors emanating from the plate.

Dessert was a chipotle chocolate soup served with melon in lime juice and the Garnier Cherry dessert wine.  I generally abstain from dessert, but the dinners around me enjoyed the delicate heat of the soup and I enjoyed quite immensely the aromatic port wine that came from the cherries grown adjacent to the vineyard.

Another success for the Open Kitchen.  Granted we didn’t all have farmers at our tables, and their were no hippies with flowers in their hair chanting songs of sustainability, but we all had fun eating adventuresome food and rubbing elbows with Hollywood producers and novelists and lawyers in their off hours.

Open Kitchen Feast: Oregon Game and Belgian beer pairing

June 15th, 2011

open kitchen

Sitting at the same table with the brewers of the beer has its benefits.  I attended the Open Kitchen Dinner this last Sunday which featured a five course meal from Chef Andrew Garrett paired with beer from Ambacht brewery over in Hillsboro.  I sat across from Brandy Grobart and Tom Kramer, the brewers and owners of the Belgian style ales coming from the Ambacht Brewery.  Not only was I able to evaluate the beer with the personality of the brewers as the back drop behind it, I was generously topped off towards the end of the dinner.

I skipped the Amuse Bouche of oyster en la half shell for personal reasons.

The first course: SuDan Farms chicken liver pate with pomegranate balsamic gastrique

This was paired with the Matzobrau.  Yes, beer made with Jewish Matza, about 10% of the mash is donated Matzo ends.

I liked the pairing.  The earthy, umami-laden pate had a delicate, sensual touch of fruit with a hint of thyme.  A bite, and then a dutifully moderate sip of beer.  It was fantastic, the toasty, wheaty burst of beer complemented the range of flavors still lingering on the tongue.  The experience was not dissimilar to drinking a a buoyant, liquid piece of coarse country bread dashed liberally with dollops of herbed pate and scatters of bruised pomegranate .

The golden rye came next paired with a NW bouillabaisse.  The broth was a tad cold (I watched as the Chef ladled all 30 ceramic boats with the brothy seafood before he sent them out) but the citrus/seafood paired nice with the grassy, refreshing beer.

The next little enjoyment was the spiced boar filled ravioli.  The pasta was made with duck eggs and so had an enjoyable elasticity to it and the roasted, braised pulled boar meet had a slight chilied heat pleasant to taste.  The light golden ale had just enough sweetness to bind the flavors together.

The rack of lamb was well paired with the pie cherry pale.  The sweet hints of cherry offset the roasted protein flavors of the lamb.

The last course was a chocolate cake, with sour cream cherry with bing cherry pinot noir syrup.  The beer paired with this little extravagant morsel was the pie cherry dark.  And successfully paired it was: the fruity, chocolate roasted malt of the beer was splendid and carried the salty-cream filling of the cake.

The Open Kitchen is an ongoing event that challenges chefs, farmers, vintners and brewers:  none of this is explained to the chef; none of this can be regurgitated en rote from a recipe book; none of this is easy.  So many chefs shy away from criticism and the spotlight of the media, that it is a lovely opportunity to have a young chef invite you into the intimate, personal kitchen of the mind.  Bravo, Chef Andrew Garret, a dinner well done!

Thanks to Ambacht brewery and especially Brandy for supplying that delightful taste of the golden rose ale made with rose hips.

Junior Chef Cook Off: a duckspoon family event

June 9th, 2011

farmers market open

junior chef

On June 5th we opened up the 2011 season of the Montavilla Farmers Market with a cooking demonstration focused on having family fun in the kitchen. Three local chefs, all nationally acclaimed, showed up that 80 degree partially cloudy sky (it’s Portland!) with youngsters in tow.

Tim Daly, from the Cheese Bar, showed with his daughter Hannah and her friend.

Adam Sappington from the Country Cat showed up with the boys, Atticus and Quinn.

Kenny Hill from Trebol showed up with his daughter, but 3 month old baby girls aren’t allowed to compete.  So Helena and little Iris showed up to stand in.

I sent the kids into the market, they grabbed the fresh produce and cheeses and breads and raced back to the kitchen stations to make some food. It was great to have my original duckspoon crew there plus some new folks helping the chefs out and filming all the fun. Thanks guys!

The audience voted by submitting tokens or cash into the voting boxes and we raised $192 for the Dougy Center. Thanks everyone!

This is just a sneaker promo as I dig into these little cutie culinary videos and excavate all the little gems and focus on their actual recipes. Stay tuned!

Portland Monthly article about Duckspoon’s Junior Chef Cook Off

June 4th, 2011


Top Chef: the Next Generation

Local kids get the chance to outshine familiar local chefs at the opening day of the Montavilla Farmers’ Market.

Posted by: Allison Jones on Jun 02, 2011 at 01:00PM


Whisks, forks, beaters, and measuring spoons deck out the trophies for the Junior Chef Cook-Off.

Prepare your awwwwws: TheMontavilla Market is kicking off its 2011 season this Sunday, June 5th, with the Junior Chef Cook-Off. Five young cooks will be paired with a notable Portland chef assistant to prepare a dish made with ingredients straight from the farmers market.

Chefs from The Country Cat,Trebol, and Cheese Bar will hand over the knives and step into sous chef roles for the day. After shopping for their cook-off among the farm-fresh produce and artisan products at the farmers’ market, the junior chefs will prepare a custom dish to serve the audience.

Here’s the line up of Portland’s next top chefs:

-Helena Bockstadter (age 11) and Iris Roy (age 3 1/2) and their assistant Chef Kenny Hillfrom Trebol.

Quinn (age 6) and Atticus (age 8) Sappington and their assistant Chef Adam Sappington from The Country Cat

Hannah Daley (age 11) and assistant Chef Tim Daly from Cheese Bar.

Farmers’ Market visitors will have the chance to vote for their favorite dish by donating market tokens or cash. All proceeds will go to the Dougy Center, which provides a safe atmosphere and counsel for grieving children and families. The Junior Chef who raises the most money will be named the Montavilla Farmers Market 2011 Junior Chef Champion, and will get an awesome trophy decked out with the tools of the trade.

The forecast for Sunday looks great – 80 degrees and sunny – so grab your totes and head out to support local kids and local produce!

Montavilla Market 7600 Block of SE Stark St.
Sundays from 10am – 2pm, June to October

What will you be eating in 20 years?

May 18th, 2011


Whether you take the position supporting the existence of global warming or not the evidence is piling up that it is affecting our food sources: “globally wheat yields are down 5.5% compared with what they would have been with no climate change and maize yields are down 3.8%” (The Economist, Hindering Harvests. May 7-13th).  Yet even though wheat and corn are down, soya is staying stable, and, at low levels of change, humans can adapt.  We have the ability, anyway if not the political will.

Crop yields are down.  The desire and ability to purchase protein is increasing.  The reliance on corn, and hence petroleum products, to raise factory farmed beef is exacting a large toll not only on corn supply, but on the environment as well because nutrients are leached from the soil by the constant use of petroleum fertilizers.  Where are we to find a protein that will satisfy the growing demand and yet still be sustainable.

How about looking to the smaller denizens of our world?  In Columbia Big Butt Ants are a delicacy and can sell for 10 times the amount that coffee sells.  These ants are only available once a year, and must be alive when they hit the frying pan, but they high light some possibilities of growth in the food industry.  Next year the U.N. will be holding a conference on edible insects to investigate the possible effects on world hunger.

Krill oil is also gaining popularity as a supplement because it has many of the same oils, essential fatty acids and omega 3s that salmon does: but without the same susceptibility to mercury poisoning that accompany extended time in the oceans.  There is even a shift to micro greens in many restaurants and markets because of the high nutrient levels, and quick growing time.  The focus on sustainably raised, nutrient rich food is growing and with the globe becoming warmer every year our food paradigms may need to shift.

Perhaps we should start thinking outside the burger box and listen to the menu that mother earth has laid out for us.