Archive for October, 2011

Corn Grits

October 26th, 2011

Grits

The consumption of grits is a long standing tradition of Southern Cuisine.  The culinary ritual of grinding corn  by a stone meal comes to us from the Native Americans and thrives today all over the south and anywhere else that is influenced by regional American cuisine.  Southern food, someone said, is the only uniquely American of foods.

There exists a passionate streak in every southerner when it comes to the proper cooking, holding and consumption of grits.  Every man and woman in the south has at one point or another eaten a bowl full of the milled corn and has an opinion on it.  Salt, butter and time on low heat  suffices for the preparation of this meal.

When people ask me what grits are and their faces remain blank after I have replied  “milled corn” I go on to explain that they are similiar to polenta.  That inevitably receives an “ahh” of recognition and we continue on with the conversation.

Grits at the restaurant come from South Carolina.  I tell folks that Adam polled the confederate states to find out which had the finest product.  South Carolina won.  Every once in a while someone asks us to add cheese to it, and occasionally a variation of cheese grits becomes the bed for some charred, sweat protein appetizer.

The preparation of corn grits is such a fundamental part of our American cuisine and really an extremely economic method of feeding the family that everyone should know how to make them.  It is really quite easy, and if you come check us out at duckspoon.com you can find out how to make corn grits and how to braise a hog shoulder and put yourself a pretty inexpensive but very tasty dinner for the family.

Cheers!

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Razor Clams

October 24th, 2011

razor clams

Razor clams are by far my favorite mollusk.  Sure there are the ubiquitous manila clams in some sort of broth with toast points or some other form of bready dipping instrument. Mussels I generally only enjoy if I have pulled them off the rock myself and cooked them shortly thereafter.  I am unfortunate enough to being at odds withe the royal mollusk, the oyster.

There is a hunting season up and down the Pacific coast, and one should check with the locals to find the best clamming spots.  Razor clams are an ellusive find and even though they are legless and inert by the time they get to your plate, they can motivate some speed when they are in their element (sand) and sense the intruding cleave of the hunting shovel digging into their space.

Proper gait must be adorned (the Oregon coast is notoriously wet), sufficient lighting gathered (for the early morning hunting of razor clams), and the tools must be aqcuired.  Now one can hunt with the humble shovel, but  must be quicker than a snake to reach into the freshly excavated whole to capture the prize.  The fastest, easiest way to claim the fifteen clams allotted to you by law is to use a clam gun.

Razor clams will attempt to flee if they sense any movement in the sand around them.  The clam gun is a cyclindrical tube that plunges down around the blow hole of the clam and, before they can dig deeper, pulls up the vertical column of sand it is loitering in.  A little bit of cleaning and a little bit of shucking and the razor clams are ready to enter the kitchen.

Like I said, I love razor clams and will eat these fresh mollusks above almost any other seafood (I come near to fainting in pleasure when I can eat fresh sea urchin).  The frozen clams are really very good as well.  Order some up, come visit duckspoon.com and see how we cook ‘em fried in butter, and see whether you too fall in love with razor clams.

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Vegetarian Video Recipes

October 19th, 2011

The vegetarian video recipes category in duckspoon.com is in dire need of sustenance.  Until relatively recently there were no vegetarians in Germany where my mother came from.  My dad, of Missouri stock, grew up in Eastern Washington on a farm with a meager food budget: food was something to be endured until he escaped into military service and the tradition of real food was revealed to him during his service in Western Germany.

Duckspoon.com is emphatically desirious of all kinds of food information, but is sorely lacking contributions from the vegetarian side of the woods.  There is vegan salad dressing, balsamic soaked tomatoes, aspargus draped with hollandaise, but there are virtually no vegetariaon video recipes with the main course consisting of vegetarian fare.  My history and that of my family comes from western culture and so I have little experience with any other.  I could take Ayervedic cooking classes, and vegan cheese making courses, but that’s not what I am trying to do with duckspoon.

Once someone learns to cook, to break free of the corporate food complex, they could expand their horizons by watching vegetarian food recipes, ayurvedic food recipes, or even tips on weight loss all withought sensationalism and intrusive advertising.  My whole goal with this food/education/business project has been to supply education for free, but get paid a enough to stay in business.  I need folks who have history in vegetarian culture to help me spread the knowledge of food.

Vegetarian video recipes is not the only catagory that I need help populating: vegan recipes, dairy recipes, sugar free recipes are all areas that require attention.  My team (a buddy with  camera and me) will continue to pursue recipes to fill the site, but we are still prying recipes out of my father’s mental recipe book.   I have a few ideas for vegetarian video recipes, andI have friends whom have more.  My buddy with the camera grew up seventh day adventist and I would love to get some time filming a few of his grandmother’s recipes.

Although I am striving to include more vegetarian video recipes in my collection, I have to be honest and admit that while recipes from my father’s repertoir are yet unfilmed I will endeavor to get those locked down first.  Which is where you come in.  Please help me grow duckspoon; help me teach folks how to cook; please help me increase the vegetarian video recipes on duckspoon.com.

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Pork Brine

October 12th, 2011

brining pork

The basic pork brine is merely a ratio of salt to sugar to water.  From there one may add the chili flakes, the dark rum, the thyme and whatever other herbs happen to catch your fancy at the time of brining.  Simple cuts of pork, such as the loin or the chop, do not require as long a brine as say the chunky shoulder or the burly ham, but the brine ratio remains the same.

At the Country Cat the guys brine the  chicken, cure and smoke both our bacon and our country ham, and even give the steelhead a light brine.   The  pork brine is basic: 4 cups water to 1 cup brown sugar to 3/4 cup salt (there are of course some spice and herb additions but I will keep secret about those in an effort to not tarnish the mystique of our little diner).  Go sample the bacon and tell me if you have had better.

I frequently roll into work with food questions on my mind.  The pork brine is kind of an old hat (the restaurant has been open 4 years and so I have had more than sufficient time to cross examine everyone in the kitchen as to the secrets of the brining recipe) and my question generally change with the seasons and with the seasonal produce that comes through the back door.

The pork brine basic guideline is one which I was able to take home and adjust it and tinker with it to match whatever I happen to be cooking.  A lot of the times pork is on the menu, because of its relatively low cost, and because of what I have learned at the Country Cat.  The most basic and cost effective use of the pork brine is to take a bone in pork shoulder (frequently $.99 a lb at the local grocery store) brine it over night and braise it.

On duckspoon.com I have filmed the pork brine and the braising of the already brined pork shoulder.  It becomes an extremely tasty and cost effective way to feed the family and still have left overs that may last a few days.  Once you have the basic brining system down then you can whip up your own version of the pork brine, depending on how spicy or herbal you want it and enjoy.

Come check out the simple and cost effective way to do a pork brine at duckspoon.com!

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Chorizo and Eggs: spicy breakfast for everyone

October 6th, 2011

chorizo eggs

Chorizo and eggs is a spicy, heart warming, belly filling breakfast that, along with some black coffee, is meant to get you up and working a good long day.  Chorizo is a Spanish/Portuguese/Mexican/ Latin American sausage that varies depending on which country and which region you are tasting it at.  Although I have enjoyed chorizo tapas in Spain, chorizo burritos in mexico, I was first introduced to this cured pork sausage in Alaska.  Food experiences are only sometimes limited by geography.

I was 17 years old, cooking during the day at the Cookhouse in the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, and Jose, the chef who had emigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico would make chorizo and eggs for the kitchen crew for breakfast.  That breakfast was meant to last us through a very busy lunch rush as the hordes of tourist from the three cruise ships rampaged around the small town and packed our tiny restaurant.

We served fresh caught salmon and crab and halibut, so to begin the morning with some spicy chorizo and eggs was a treat and definitely kept the motors revving as we decapitated dungeness crabs and flipped one pound burger patties for hours: our burgers were big enough for a family of four to fill up on.  My dad had hung a noose from the rafters and a sign behind it reading “Hang the cook if it don’t taste right”…no one was hanged while I was there.

Chorizo and eggs wasn’t the only Mexican breakfast that we had at the Cookhouse, but it was the most memorable…even though we were knee deep in some of the best and freshest seafood in the world and cooking quality steaks served with crab meat and Bearnaise sauce.     No, the chorizo and eggs elicited the spice, flavor, allure and charm of warm Mexico in a cold climate where folks worked eighteen hours a day when there was light.

Chorizo and eggs is really a very simple recipe and I filmed Adam, my dad’s one time student, cooking it for breakfast for the family one blustery January day.  So come visit duckspoon.com, check out our version of this timeless classic, go to your local latino market to pick up some chorizo, take it home and cook it.  See if you don’t perhaps fall in love with chorizo and eggs too.

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Lentil Soup

October 4th, 2011

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“The lentil soup recipe,” he says, as I am pacing up and down the kitchen with my phone’s ear piece in.

“But Pete,” I interject,” I have all kinds of soups frozen right now, chicken and grilled corn, roast squash and garlic, gazpacho…none of it?  Just that one soup?  You are telling me that your broke butt is so flush that you don’t need some of these freshly frozen, hand made soups for free?”

Pete is my dad’s best friend and he lives up on the mountain and doesn’t get down very much to buy food, and generally buys processed food.  I had just made a big batch of soup from duckspoon’s lentil soup recipe and frozen it in single-serve, quart size bags.  Soups can be very economical to prepare and freeze for use, and I generally keep a stack of frozen soups on hand.

As much as I love cream soups, they don’t freeze well.  Sometimes it would be nice to whip out  a crab bisque instead of whipping out  the lentil soup recipe or the chicken chowder.  Chowders don’t freeze well with the potatoes in them either.  The potatoes break down and make the soup kinda starchy.  It’s best to freeze just the basic soups and add what you need to as you reheat them.

My dad’s lentil soup recipe is by far one of the most economical, healthy and easy soups to keep on hand in the freezer.  I use the freezer because I don’t often get a chance to spend an hour or two in front of the stove preparing dinner.  Instead I prepare it in advance, a cooking binge I guess.  Pork shoulder, whole chickens, bags freshly made from the lentil soup recipe all inhabit my freezer out in the garage…all at my disposal.

The lentil soup recipe is a symbol of duckspoon.com’s mission statement: to teach folks how to cook good, inexpensive food and feed their family healthy meals.  You can learn to fabricate a turkey out, or butcher a whole hog, or even how to 5$ dinners to feed a family of four.  My dad’s lentil recipe soup is a perfect example of that.

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