liberty, justice and oysters for all

Posted on April 13, 2014

Yesterday we celebrated our third annual Oysterfest. It’s a special thing when the stars align to bring together group of people whose shared love of raw mollusks is so steadfast that they are compelled to purchase 200 oysters and eat them all, sitting on a back porch in the San Francisco sunshine*. To repeat this celebration of the ocean’s bounty on the regular, now that’s how you know you’ve stumbled upon an exceptional group of folks—25+ oysters a person is nothing to scoff at. It’s on days like Oysterfest that I can’t believe my luck. To live in this beautiful city with such wonderful friends and exceptional food, I’m living the dream.

oysterfest-round-2

oysterfest-2014-3 oysterfest-2014-4oysterfest-2014-11

If you happen to have a group of friends similarly dedicated to the celebration of oysters and live in the Bay Area, it is easy (and surprisingly affordable) to secure a few bushels of oysters for your enjoyment at the Alemany Farmer’s Market from Point Reyes Oyster Company. Throw your bushels of oysters in a cooler, pour a few bags of ice on top, and get ready to shuck.

oysterfest-2014-7oysterfest-2014-9oysterfest-2014-5

The best way to shuck an oyster (and minimize the amount of shell shrapnel you ingest) is to insert the tip of the oyster knife in the hinge of the oyster, apply firm pressure downwards at a 45 degree angle until the knife tip goes into the oyster and the oyster releases the suction holding it’s shell shut. The two halves of its shell will loosen and you can more easily run your knife around the edges to free the oyster from the shell. Detach the oyster foot from the shell, apply your condiments and enjoy!

Classic Mignonette
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl or jar, mix together the shallot, vinegar and salt and pepper. Let sit for the flavors to combine. Serve a small spoonful over a raw oyster.

oysterfest-2014-8oysterfest-2014-6oysterfest-2014-10

Whiskey Smash 
2oz whiskey
1 oz fresh lemon juice
0.75 oz lapsang simple syrup
4 – 5 basil leaves (or mint)
2 strawberries, sliced

For the lapsang simple syrup, make 2 cups strong lapsang tea and mix with 2 cups turbinado sugar. Stir to dissolve and keep refrigerated. In a cocktail shaker, place sliced strawberries, lemon juice, simple syrup and basil leaves (slapped). Muddle. Add whiskey. Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 8 – 10 seconds. Double strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with sliced strawberries and a slapped basil leaf.

oysterfest-2014-1 oysterfest-2014-2

So make yourself a cocktail, grab an oyster knife and shuck your friend an oyster … or twenty.

oysterfest-2014-12 oysterfest-2014-13 oysterfest-2014-14 oysterfest-2014-15

*The day usually starts off sunny and 65° F, but come 4 pm, the fog is rolling in thick and it’s time to bust out the jackets and blankets.

oysterfest-2014-17-gif

Ps. Last year’s Oysterfest and several phenomenal hot sauce recipes to accompany your oysters.

-Emily

asparagus tart

Posted on April 9, 2014

Spring is here and so are the asparagus! Though we really didn’t experience much in the way of winter this year in SF, I still can’t help but be happy it’s spring. The other night we had the most heavenly asparagus at our friends’ house. Among their many talents, Russ and Kelly have an impressive green thumb. They have a garden plot near their place in Potrero Hill and we were lucky enough to sample some of their freshly harvested asparagus. Sweet Demeter, it was the best asparagus of my life, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some more.

Asparagus Tart | The Answer is Always Pork

So on Sunday before Jordan headed out for work, we went down the Civic Center Farmers Market and picked up two beautiful bunches of asparagus. While these weren’t quite the caliber of Russ and Kelly’s, I was still pretty pleased. Hurray for spring! Hurray for asparagus!  

I decided to turn one of the bunches into a simple tart. The inspiration was from an old issue of Sunset magazine—a phyllo and tomato ‘pizza’ that I used to make at my mom’s house in the summers, but hadn’t made in years. I had some phyllo sitting in the freezer from another so-so experiment, and so this was a snap to throw together. It takes about 10 minutes to assemble, about 20 bake and then you’ve got a beautiful tart to show for your efforts. For a crust that is almost no work, this one is deliciously flaky and satisfying. And, bonus fun fact, phyllo dough is vegan … until you slather it in butter. Easy, fresh and delicious!

Asparagus Tart | The Answer is Always Pork


Asparagus Tart with Creme Fraiche
1 bunch asparagus (if you can snag ones that are the thickness of a pencil, that would be perfect)
8 sheets of phyllo dough (defrosted either on the counter for a few hours on in the fridge overnight)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup creme fraiche
salt, pepper
parmesan, for shaving on top
a few lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat your oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and pat your asparagus dry.

In a small dish, melt the butter. Spread one sheet of phyllo dough on the baking sheet. Brush the entire sheet lightly with butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo. Continue brushing with butter and layering with the rest of the sheets.

Asparagus Tart | The Answer is Always Pork

Once you’ve stacked the phyllo, spread an even layer of creme fraiche in the middle of the dough, leaving a 1 1/2″ border along the sides. Arrange the asparagus evenly in a row. Fold the phyllo dough up around the asparagus and brush the border with the remaining butter. Sprinkle the asparagus with a little bit of salt.

Bake the tart for 20 – 25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and top with some black pepper and shaved parmesan. Add a squeeze of lemon if you’re feeling feisty.

Asparagus Tart | The Answer is Always Pork

-Emily

Ps. This op-ed about food and health by Mark Bittman from this week’s New York Times is fantastic. Butter is back, and all I can say is 1000 times YES.

citrus olive oil cake

Posted on April 1, 2014

This recipe comes by way of my friend Alexa. The other night over drinks, I mentioned that I was in a bit of a cooking funk and she immediately texted her mother for a recipe to pull me out of it. Some friends, I tell ya, they just get it. This cake is one of her mother’s go-to recipes and after making it, I completely understand why. Perfumed with citrus and Grand Marnier, it is just the right amount of sweet. The olive oil starts to take it to a savory place, but you’re brought back into sweet territory just in time. It’s the perfect cake for people who “don’t like dessert”—not that you should be friends with those people anyway…

Citrus Olive Oil Cake | The Answer is Always Pork

After reading through the recipe, I noticed that it called for Grand Marnier. For those who don’t know, Grand Marnier is an orange-flavored cognac liquor that while tasty, is also very expensive. Usually, I’d just skip the Grand Marnier and call it a day. But, I figured that I ought to embrace my duty as a food blogger and actually determine 1) if 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier makes a difference in taste and 2) if that extra cost actually makes the cake better. Testing ensued!

The Method: Firstly, you can purchase tiny, tiny bottles of Grand Marnier at BevMo for $5 (still spendy, but not terrible for the wealth of information it would provide). In the interest of scientific integrity, I made the batter as if I was making just one cake up until the very end and then separated it out into two bowls. To one bowl I added 1/8 cup Grand Marnier and to the other I added 1/8 cup citrus juice, taking care to stir them equally. I then poured them into the prepared baking dishes and baked them side by side for the same amount of time.

Citrus Olive Oil Cake | The Answer is Always Pork Citrus Olive Oil Cake | The Answer is Always Pork

The Findings: In a blind taste test, Jordan was able to correctly identify the cakes, but he also found both equally delicious. The Grand Marnier does indeed add a deeper, spicier, slightly boozy flavor, but the cake with just citrus juice was still really damn good. Strangely, the cake with the Grand Marnier also rose a bit more—the jury is still out on why.  I slightly preferred the cake with Grand Marnier because it was a bit more complex with a more subtle citrus flavor, but honestly, don’t drop the cash on Grand Marnier if you don’t already have it lying around. If you do, by all means, throw it in. And bring me a cup in a mason jar.

Citrus Olive Oil Cake | The Answer is Always Pork

Citrus Olive Oil Cake, from Celeste Mallot and adapted from Food 52

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest (I used a combination of meyer lemon and orange)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup Grand MarnierPreheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan or two loaf pans.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, slat, baking soda and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest, orange juice and Grand Marnier (if using). Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake for one hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes and then run a knife around the edge and invert the cake onto a plate. Let cool for a few more hours if you can stand it. Enjoy for dessert (or for breakfast, I won’t hide from the truth).

Citrus Olive Oil Cake | The Answer is Always PorkCitrus Olive Oil Cake | The Answer is Always Pork

-Emily

 

rattlesnake

Posted on March 25, 2014

I’m not sure I have much to say other than this is a damn good cocktail, and sometimes you just want a good cocktail. It’s a take on a whiskey sour, swapping the simple syrup of the sour for more complex maple syrup. Trust us, it’s a better match.

Rattlesnake Cocktail | The Answer is Always Pork

Bourbon and maple syrup compliment each other oh so well. A bit of lemon juice brightens it up and the egg white gives you that glorious foam. You can skip the egg white, but I wouldn’t. I’m no scientist, but something tells me the alcohol must kill salmonella.

Rattlesnake
2 oz bourbon or rye (our house bourbon is Buffalo Trace; Willett is a damn good rye, but not for everyday as it is a bit pricey)
0.5 oz maple syrup
0.75 oz lemon juice
1/2 egg white
dash of peychaud bitters

Rattlesnake Cocktail | The Answer is Always Pork

In a large glass, combine bourbon, maple syrup, lemon juice and egg white. Add ice. Shake for about a minute to really get those egg whites frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass. Top with a dash of bitters. Cheers!

Rattlesnake Cocktail | The Answer is Always PorkRattlesnake Cocktail | The Answer is Always Pork
-Emily

how the sausage is made

Posted on March 18, 2014

kitchen-1

Writing a blog is a pretty handy way to make life look pretty perfect. You get to immortalize the best moments and hide the ugly bits… usually by virtue of not mentioning them at all. In the case of a food blog, hiding ugly bits usually means it looks like you eat like a king. Today on The Answer is Always Pork we’re here to debunk that myth and show you how the sausage is made.*

*At least our sausage. Who knows, maybe all those other bloggers do have perfect lives/eat like kings and we got the short end of the stick?

Sometimes this food blogging thing is easy. The dish tastes great, I’m able to get a decent photo, the words flow freely. But most of the time, at least one of the following things happens: a dish turns out weird/bad/boring, it’s dark outside by the time we eat and my overhead tungsten lights make even tasty food look like death on a plate, in the rush of getting dinner on the table I forget to take a photo of the final dish all together, I stare at my computer screen failing to come up with something that will convince you that this is a recipe worth trying.

A lot of dishes are left on the cutting room floor. To call them failures seems a bit harsh, mostly they’re just pretty meh. But, meh isn’t something I really want to write about or subject you to. There are plenty of recipes on the Internet that have meh on lockdown, and my SEO could never compete.

And so for your reading pleasure, some of my most recent mehventures:

  • Salmon wrapped in phyllo that was delicious, but it’s essentially impossible to know when the salmon is actually cooked, which is rather terrifying for most home cooks, especially when you’ve got 5 guests sitting at your kitchen table.
  • Granola bars that were supposed to be studded with chocolate chunks but instead I prematurely added chocolate to the dry ingredients, added the warm wet ingredients to the dry and melted the chocolate completely. Somehow I also thought it was a good idea to add a banana to the mix. It wasn’t, it was weird.
  • Hot wings that were heaven, but the photos are terrible, and who eats hot wings when it isn’t the Super Bowl anyway. Maybe next year?
  • A mushroom pasta that sounded good, turned out ok, but a bit on the dry side. Dry casseroles are such a disappointment. Mostly it was pretty dull, and I’m not sure I can summon the will to finesse it.
  • Soft baked eggs in phyllo cups that absolutely tickled me with their adorableness in person, but I couldn’t get a good photo to save my life. Tragedy.
  • About 7 different smoothie recipes, none of which turned out better than this one that I’ve already shared with you all. We still drink that one every morning.
  • An omelette filled with mustardy bread crumbs that gave me a panic attack each time I made it because all that cooking happened so quickly. Plus, what is more impossible to photograph than omelettes? Except for maybe cassseroles? Lord help me.

Some good, some bad, most need work. We eat a few misses, and a lot of in-progresses. Pretty much every recipe that makes it to the blog I’ve made at least twice, usually more like three or four times, until the stars align and it goes from just dinner on the table to something you people deserve to hear about. Oh the pain of the creative process…

Now to keep things real honest, there are many nights where I combine a few Trader Joe’s ingredients with some random CSA veggies and call it a day. And because if some other food blogger was divulging her cooking reality, I’d want the nitty gritty details, here’s what that looks like. Wrap whatever you’ve got in a tortilla (chicken, cheese, beans, rice, veggies—any combination will do ya), pour some enchilada sauce on it, bake it 30 minutes and boom: dinner. Steam a few TJ’s pork gyoza, sauté up whatever veggies you’ve got lying around with an onion, throw some soy sauce on it at the very end and ta-da: dinner—just try and remember to put on the rice. Bake some TJ’s falafels, spread some hummus and tzatziki on a pita, top it all with some random veggies, hallelujah, you’re fed. These aren’t masterpieces (and I’ve got Mexican, Chinese and Persian grandmas rolling in their graves), but they’re healthier and cheaper than take out. We’re real people fighting the good fight, just like you are, and that fight is fueled by Trader Joe’s.

Today is Sunday, which is usually my cooking day (or it least it was when I wrote this). I’ve got a few projects in the works and I’m hoping I’ll break out of this funk and come up with something good—some signs point to yes? Fingers crossed, no guarantees. I might have a recipe for faux-enchiladas for you next week.

Xo,
Emily

photo (2)

curried butternut squash over farro

Posted on March 12, 2014

I don’t believe in diets. I think diets ruin food for you and for everyone you eat with. Instead I prefer to live by Julia Child’s philosophy—everything in moderation, including moderation. Life is just too short, and you only get one of ‘em. But, I do believe that your body will tell you what it needs if you take the time to listen. After an epic weekend of eating with Jordan’s family (pizza at Pizzeria Delfina, followed up by cocktails at Hard Water, followed up by House of Prime Rib, topped off with brunch at Nopa), my body was screaming for some vegetables.

I love vegetables, and though it might be blasphemous to say so seeing as some folks around here consider bacon a food group, vegetables are probably the only food I could tolerate eating weeks on end. We have salad (or slaw or sautéed greens) with dinner every night, but salad as a meal just doesn’t cut it when you bike upwards of 20 miles a day like Jordan does. Plus, when you write a blog called The Answer is Always Pork, you can’t get away with hawking sissy vegetarian food. This dish is my compromise between the need to detox and the need to fuel my handsome nerdlover’s brain and body.

curried-butternut-squash-farro-1

So here we have a salad that does not mess around. Curry powder takes butternut squash to a wonderful warm and spicy place. Farro is one of the best grains out there—it blows quinoa out of the water; nutty and chewy, you don’t miss meat. Top it all with a lemony-yogurt sauce that adds just the right amount of brightness and you’ve got yourself a wining dinner.

It’s also all kinds of flexible. Instead of butternut, you could use whatever squash you’ve got lying around. Or heck, roast up some carrots or parsnips or celeriac. You can serve it hot, serve it at room temperature, serve it cold. Anything goes. This salad is your oyster. Now doesn’t my detox sound like fun?

Curried Butternut Squash & Farro with Lemon-Yogurt Sauce

For the squash
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon Indian curry powder (depending on how hot and fresh your curry is)
1 tablespoon olive oilFor the yogurt sauce
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/2 lemon juiced
salt and pepper

1 cup farro (I like Trader Joe’s Quick Cook Farro – it cooks in 10 minutes and has great texture)
cilantro, for serving

curried-butternut-squash-farro-2 curried-butternut-squash-farro-3

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel and cut your butternut squash into cubes. Toss with some olive oil, salt and curry powder and spread evenly on a baking sheet. I’d taste your curry powder—mine was very mild and I needed to use quite a bit to actually taste it when it was put up against the flavor of the squash. You can taste a piece of squash part of the way through cooking and if it is too mild, sprinkle on some more curry. You want this squash to pack a punch. Bake 30 – 40 minutes, until the squash is tender.

Meanwhile, mix the yogurt with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.  While the squash is baking, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the farro according to the package directions, drain and toss with a little olive oil.

To serve, mound some farro up on a plate. Scoop on a healthy helping of squash and top with the lemon yogurt. Or throw it all in a tupperware and eat it like a heathen with your hands in the park because you forgot a fork. Either way, enjoy!

-Emily

curried-butternut-squash-farro-4

on pear galettes and worrying

Last weekend, Jordan and I cooked a special dinner together. It was our standard birthday/anniversary/Valentine’s day meal—a beautiful steak, buttery potatoes, a good bottle of wine. We have it just a few time a year and it’s wonderful every time.

I remember the steak dinner that started this tradition, I think it was our third anniversary.  Jordan cooked at his parents’ house. I was on break from college. He made steak au poivre, roasted fingerling potatoes, beet salad and a dark chocolate souffle. I still have the menu he typed up for the occasion. (Can we just pause for a second an appreciate that he typed a menu for the occasion, adorable.) The meal has been a constant of our relationship ever since.

Now that a few years have passed, we’ve worked out all the kinks. Jordan handles the steak, usually simply grilled and finished with butter. I make the sides and dessert. Dessert is the only part of the menu that changes and this weekend I decided to make a pear galette.

pear-galette-7

So it was Saturday afternoon and I was standing in my kitchen making the galette. Now, those of of you who know me well, know that the type of experience I’m about to tell you about doesn’t really happen to me. I’m pretty solidly grounded, and frankly, if this happened to you and you told me about it, I’d probably think it was a little new-agey and nuts. Now putting all that aside, as I stood there slicing the pears for my galette, I was transported. For just a few minutes, I felt like the person I’m meant to become. She was calm and confident and capable. I folded the dough up around the pears and I knew in this very concrete way that everything is going to be alright.

It’s been an especially anxious year, full of lots of worrying on my part about big things and small (but mostly big, if we’re honest).  And so it was such a relief to just know that everything is going to be ok, that I’m going to be ok. Knowing that this happier, calmer version of myself is out there and that I’ll get there some day—even if it isn’t today or tomorrow or this year—put me at peace in a way nothing else has. I’ve tried to reason myself into feeling this way for months, but it took this unexpected, out of body experience to actually get the message across. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, I have a pear galette to thank for that.

pear-galette-6

As for the pear galette, it was divine. Comice pears are perfect for pie—the texture can stand up to baking and they don’t get too sweet. The galette has just enough spice to accent the flavor of the pear, but doesn’t overpower it. I’d recommend you hurry and make your own before comice pears are done for the season.

Comice Pear Galette, with inspiration from Lindsay Shere, a longtime pastry chef of Chez Panisse
For the crust (makes two)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
about 5 tablespoons ice water

For the galette
3 comice pears, peeled and sliced thin
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
sugar for dusting

In a food processor, combine flour and salt. Remove the butter from the fridge and cut into 1 inch cubes. Add them to the flour mixture. Process until the butter chunks are about the size of peas. Add the water and pulse a few times to combine. Divide into two equal balls, flatten into 1″ thick discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

pear-galette-1 pear-galette-2

Preheat your oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the pears and slice them into thin slices. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar and spices. Dust a surface with flour and roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. In the center of the dough, sprinkle the flour mixture. Arrange the pear slices in a mound on top of the flour mixture. Fold the dough up around the filling. Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with a heavy dusting of sugar.

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and back for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until browned and bubbly in the center. You can also form the galette, cover in plastic wrap and return it to the fridge until you want to bake it.

pear-galette-5pear-galette-4

I like to serve mine warm with ice cream and usually put it into the oven as we’re sitting down to dinner. It’s also really good for breakfast. Just say you need to take a good photo for your blog. Enjoy!

-Emily

pear-galette-8

 

louisiana style beans and rice

My mom used to make red beans and rice for us as kids. It was the only holdover from the time she and my dad spent living in New Orleans while he was in medical school. And we were obsessed. It’s probably still my favorite dish that she makes. Now, whenever the kids are coming home, she’ll throw a batch in the crockpot and we’ll feast when we arrive. That drive from San Francisco to Sacramento, whew, you can really work up an appetite.

beans-and-rice-2

I wasn’t planning to to make my mom’s red beans and rice this time around. I’d actually found a recipe in David Tanis’ beautiful book The Heart of the Artichoke for an Italian-ish black eyed pea stew and that was more or less what I was working towards. But one taste of those beans after they’d been simmering with a pork neck bone for a few hours and I knew a New Orleans infusion was in order.

It was a good call, it’s probably always a good call. Maybe beans just shouldn’t exist outside of red beans and rice … or cassoulet … or burritos … or baked beans … hummm. Anyway, if you want a taste of my childhood, here it is.

Calypso Beans and Rice, in the style of my mom’s red beans and rice
1 lb dried beans, I used Calypso beans because they were cute, but kidney beans are the traditional choice
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 slices of bacon, cut into lardon
1 smoked ham hock or smoked pork neck bones
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more if you like it hot
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt, pepper
2 teaspoons hot sauce (we like Crystal, but Tabasco was my dad’s hot sauce of choice growing up)
White rice, andouille sausage (if you’d like, we didn’t have any), and more hot sauce for serving

beans-and-rice-1

Soak the beans in a large bowl of water for 8 hours or overnight.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven over medium-low heat, sauté the bacon pieces until they render their fat and begin to brown. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. If your bacon is fatty, you should have enough oil to sauté the onion in, but it it isn’t add a bit of olive oil or duck fat (when you live in this house you have a jar of duck fat in the fridge so why not make good use of it?) to the pan.

Add  the onion to the pan. Sauté for 5 – 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Likely they’ll pick up some of the more browned bacony bits left behind in the pot. That’s good news. Add the garlic and sauté another minute more.

Add the beans, bay leaf and 6 cups of water. Be sure to throw in your ham hock at this point also. We had some delicious smoked pork neck bones from a pig my mom bought over the summer from a customer of hers, and so I threw those in instead. You could skip the smokey meat bit, but I wouldn’t recommend it—it adds a tremendous depth of flavor to what’s an otherwise pretty bland food.

Turn the heat to low and let your beans simmer away, until they are tender. Mine took about 2 – 2.5 hours. After your beans are sufficiently tender, add the worcestershire sauce, cayenne, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Add the hot sauce to taste.

About half of my beans were falling apart into a beany puree as I stirred. Depending on the texture of your beans, you might want to puree about a third of the mixture and add it back in if they don’t seem to be falling apart into mush on their own. It’s best to have some beans that are more whole and some that become more of a bean sauce.

If you’re using a ham hock, you’ll probably want to pull that out and pick off the meat and throw the meat back in. This might happen on it’s own, but discovering a little hammy nublet when you’re thinking it’s just beans, that’s good stuff.

beans-and-rice-3

Serve on a bed of rice with more hot sauce on the side. My mom will usually sauté up a few andouille sausages, slice them and top the beans and rice with them. You could do so too if you felt inclined. Bon appetit!

PS. I’ve never been to New Orleans so I can’t honestly say how authentic my mom’s red beans and rice are, but I can guarantee that they are delicious. Her recipe is probably some California-Louisiana fusion that real purists couldn’t possibly endorse, but for me it will always taste like home.

beans-and-rice-4

buckwheat crêpe gâteau

Sometimes, when you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed by the challenges the universe has decided to throw your way, there’s really not much you can do but bake a cake. I won’t elaborate on the details because these types of details aren’t fun for anyone, but I trust you’ve all been to a similar place. A place where there is nothing you can do but put one foot in front of the other, and bake a cake.

Fortunately, I’ve got a slew of cakes for the baking. There’s Jordan’s favorite chocolate cake, there’s a perfectly citrusy loaf cake, there’s my Nonnie’s carrot cake, and now there is this cake. A cake made of crepes. Mostly it just looks pretty, but let’s not discount how a pretty thing can lift the spirit.

It can.

crepe-cake-3

Buckwheat Crêpe Gâteau
For the crepes
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together the flours, eggs, milk, salt, sugar and vanilla. Let the batter sit in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. Once the batter has rested, heat a nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat. When the pan is hot, pour in about 1/4 cup of batter. Swirl the batter around the pan by tilting the pan, first to the right, then towards the back, then to the left, then to the front. Let the crepe just hang out there for a few minutes, don’t poke at it, don’t try and peak—both of these will result in a sad, probably ripped, subpar crepe. Be strong, resist the temptation.

When the batter has formed thin skin and there are bubbles throughout, use a spatula to coax up the edges. Then, using your fingers or a spatula, flip the crepe. Let it cook another 30 seconds or so and repeat with the rest of the batter. Cool the crepes before assembling the cake.

For the cream filling 
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
a pinch of salt
maple syrup for drizzling

In a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer, combine the cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. Whisk until a fluffy cream forms.

crepe-cake-1

To assemble the cake, put a crepe on a large plate. Spread a thin layer of cream and top with another crepe. Repeat until you’ve used all of the filling and all of the crepes.

crepe-cake-2crepe-cake-4

To serve, cut into slices and drizzle with maple syrup. It’s good for dessert. It’s even better for breakfast the next day. Dessert for breakfast isn’t to be discounted either.

-Emily

crepe-cake-5

 

cheese pupusas with pickled slaw

We were in the car on our way to go surfing last weekend when Jordan turned to me and said, “Let’s make pupusas”. “Sure, let’s do it,” I replied without blinking an eye. It was decided, pupusas for dinner. What about the winding drive up Highway 1 made him think of pupusas, I have no idea. What I do know is that when you’ve been cooking and writing about it long enough, you tend to dive headfirst into this type of thing. We stopped questioning each other’s food whims long ago. Semi-obscure regional dish, why not. Grind our own meat for a three pound loaf of country pate, seems reasonable. Wedding cake in one hundred square feet of kitchen, it’ll be fun. Unlike most other areas of my life, the kitchen seems to be the place where I have the guts to just go for it. No questions, no fear, no regrets. Behold, PUPUSAS!

pupusa-7

Now isn’t that pretty. Maybe I should get ‘no fear, no regrets’ and a sexy papusa tattooed on my arm as a reminder to be more adventurous in the rest of my life …

Pupusas are traditional dish from El Salvador. They’re basically a corn dough that is filled with a mixture of cheese, beans or braised meat, flattened into a half inch thick disc and then pan fried or cooked on a grill.  Although I do indeed have an adorable Salvadoran grandma, I haven’t yet had the chance to learn how to make pupusas autenticas. It’s on my list, but in the meantime, I’m working off of this recipe. It’s a fusion of a several recipes found on the internet, and despite it’s lack of pedigree it turned out pretty dang delicious. It’s hard to go wrong with cheesy corn bread topped with tangy spicy slaw, wouldn’t you agree?

Pupusas de Queso con Curtido 
For the pupusas
2 cups masa harina (Maseca is a common brand, Bob’s Red Mill also makes one)
1 1/3 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated mozzarella, monterey jack or quesillo cheese
butter or oil for cooking them

First, grate the cheese. Then make the masa. In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, salt and warm water. Using your hands, mix the dough until a soft and just slightly sticky dough forms. You’ll just need to knead it for a minute or two. If it is too crumbly, add some more water. If it is too wet, add a few tablespoons of masa harina. Let the dough sit for 10 – 15 minutes to let the masa harina fully hydrate.

pupusa-2

Shape the dough into eight 2″ balls. Press your thumb into the center of the ball and pinch it into a bowl shape using your thumb and fingers. Fill the hole with about a tablespoon of cheese (or other filling like refried beans or braised pork). Pinch the edges of the bowl closed to cover the cheese. Then flatten the ball into a disc using your hands. Flatten a until the disc is about 1/3″ thick. Repeat with the rest of the balls of masa. Refrigerate until you’re ready to fry up the pupusas.

pupusa collage

We made this little video of how to shape the pupusas if my explanation above confuses more than it helps. Cinematography is not a strength here at the Answer is Always Pork, but this will get the job done.

For the curtido
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

pupusa

In a large bowl, combine the sliced cabbage, carrot and onion. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, oregano and chili flake. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour over the cabbage mixture. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt some butter or heat some oil. Cook the pupusas, about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown all over and deep brown in spots. You’ll see the cheese start to ooze out of them. Serve topped with the curtido, plus some guacamole, crema and salsa if you’re a Californian and bastardizing traditional foodstuffs is right up your alley. Buen provecho!

pupusa-8

-Emily

Older Posts