Columbia Area Career Center Culinary Arts results at SkillsUSA

April 7, 2014

I know it takes unseen hundreds of hours of practice to build a state champion, but the Columbia Area Career Center’s Culinary Arts program makes it look as close to automatic as you can get. Year after year they take top spots at both the state and national levels, a testament to the kids’ hard work, the quality of their instructors and the investment the district has put into the program. It’s a juggernaut. Proof again today from the 2014 SkillsUSA State competition:

Chormaic Sullivan – 1st place Culinary Arts (RBHS Senior)
Austin Scoles – 1st place Commercial Baking (RBHS Senior)
Bailey Lawson – 2nd place Commercial Baking (RBHS Junior)
Jacob Ventrillo – 5th place Culinary Arts (RBHS Junior)

Read the CACC’s entire post here and congratulations to students and instructors.

No points for second place

April 3, 2014

So apparently I’m only the second-best blogger in town. This puts me on par with such silver medal-winning nominees/losers as William Least-Heat Moon, Café Berlin, Chim’s and Ozark Mountain Biscuit Company. Do better next year, guys. Do better.

Authentic Foods

April 1, 2014

My latest piece for Columbia Home – on “authentic foods” – is out. And while I recommend subscribing to the print edition, the online version of the story is much more comprehensive. We visited Bamboo Terrace, Coffee Zone, Las Margaritas and KoJaBa and ate very, very well. Angelique’s photos are awesome too.

Authenticity is a slippery prospect in the realm of food. That Italian tomato-based pasta sauce we all know and love? New arrival. Pad Thai as the very essence of Thai food? It’s brand new in the grand scheme of things. And noodles originated in China, so can they really be authentically Italian or Thai anyway? Heck, Italy wasn’t even a country until 1858.

So authenticity is tough, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know it when we see it. Mexican street tacos, chickpea dip, marinated and grilled meat and fiery Sichuan stir-fries are so emblematic of the cultures that created them that we don’t need to fuss too much with their provenances.

Check it out the full thing here.

True/False 2014

February 27, 2014

As I have chronicled before – and would be obvious to anyone who’s attended before – True/False is not on our calendars for the food we’ll eat. It’s all about the movies (and usually, walking in the bitter cold between movies). People are in a hurry and restaurants don’t much go out of the way to run special to-go menus and whatnot. I guess the upside’s just not there. That said, there are still good options and here a few tips I’ve developed over the years:

  1. Plan ahead. Know where you’ll be walking at lunch and dinner times and plot out your plan of attack. You may not have enough time to wing it.
  2. Take a few steps off the beaten path. Just walking a block out of the main downtown core of True/False will reduce the crowds – and restaurant wait times – considerably. Think Chim’s Thai Kitchen, Coffee Zone, Casablanca, Billiards on Broadway, etc.
  3. Multi-task. If you’re planning on getting in 16-plus movies in three days, you’re going to be doing some walking, fast. Why not eat on the go? Cafe Poland has great borscht they serve in to-go cups and Kaldi’s and Uprise do a good job with to-go sandwiches.
  4. Caffeinate. This is a long slog of a weekend, equal parts pleasure and pain (great overall vibe matched with domestic violence movies, orca-torture movies, atrocities in Indonesia/Rwanda/Afghanistan movies). Sometimes you need a pick-me-up, and while Columbia’s always loved its coffee, the last few years have reached a new level. Shortwave Coffee opened this week next to Kampai Sushi (another good, hidden gem for this weekend). Also see Fretboard Coffee and Kaldi’s.
  5. Coffee can take care of your mornings, but something stronger may be necessary by the evening hours. Top Ten Wines serves great wines by the glass, International Tap House is a playground for beer-lovers and 9th Street Public House is now open.

Some other recommendations:

Uprise Bakery – One of the few places that run T/F-specific items, Uprise feels like the film fest’s beating heart. Pre-made baguette sandwiches you can take into the theater, a chance to run elbows with a director at the bar. Every True/Falser should make at least one stop at Uprise. And this weekend, their excellent soups will come in handy.

Sunflower Waffle Company will be selling chicken and waffles from the parking lot across from Uprise/Ragtag. Perfect late-night snacking.

Ozark Mountain Biscuit Company – My current favorite local food truck – since Pepe’s closed for the winter – will be shuttling between The Root Cellar, The Bridge and Cafe Berlin all weekend.

I have several movies at Jesse Hall this year, so South 9th Street will be important. I foresee slices from Shakespeare’s, healthy smoothies from Blenders, beers at International Tap House and sandwiches from Quinton’s and Heidelberg.

Addison’s is a long-time festival supporter and promises to be able to crank out sandwiches and other festival-friendly dishes within 10-15 minutes, even at busy times. If you have a few minutes to spare, the two downtown breweries – Broadway Brewery and Flatbranch Pub and Brewing – are well-worth a visit. Sycamore Restaurant remains my personal favorite place to grab a drink and have some apps. Restaurateurs generally report an uptick in vegetarian requests this weekend, which is why Main Squeeze will be hopping. A Buddha Bowl and a smoothie will gladden the heart of many a doc-weary festival-goer. Next door is International Cafe, great for hummus, falafel and other Middle Eastern foods (soups are great, too).

Creative Combinations

February 21, 2014

ColHome

My most recent assignment for Columbia Home was on “creative combinations,” and they found four good local examples for me.

When it comes to food, creativity can be a hit-or-miss prospect. For every jolt of inspiration that cashes in on its potential, there are a dozen duds, such as kimchi carbonara and fish ’n’ chips ice cream. It takes skill and restraint to harness inventive food combinations and make them work. Here are four local spots doing just that.

Read the whole piece here.

*For what it’s worth, all four creative combinations were good – but the es alpukat at Les Bourgeois was on a different level. Cool stuff.

Friday Links

January 31, 2014

I was on KFRU yesterday morning (you’re welcome about the advance notice) talking about Lucky’s and a few other notable notes. We took an alarming number of calls about “Bubba Burgers,” whatever those are. One thing we didn’t get to because of time was Glenn’s Cafe. I’ll make a few more visits before doing a full review but my initial take is, “Go for lunch.” The 8th Street Burger, fries and cup of gumbo one day had me enthusiastic about their relocation downtown, but a full-on dinner experience last week was comedically poor. So, take it easy, go for lunch and let them work out their dinner kinks.

In other news, the Columbia Area Career Center was named one of the top 100 high school and technical culinary outposts in the country. If you’ve watched them over the years you know this is an honor but not a surprise – and it didn’t come without hard work by both instructors and students. Congrats all around.

A couple of must-reads from The Washington Post this week - this tragedy and this tragedy.

You need to check out 20 historic black and white photographs colorized. And here are some more. And here is what the world looks like to a bird. Michael Pollan explains how we ended up with all of this dishonestly priced food and makes the point that, 

In a sense, cheap food has subsidized the collapse in wages that we’ve seen. Part of repairing the whole system will involve paying people more and internalizing the real cost of producing this food.

 

Friday Notes

January 17, 2014

You may have heard about the original La Terraza in Peachtree Plaza closing. Turns out the property was recently sold and the new landlord was difficult to deal with. This is unfortunate because Christian and company had put a lot of work into the interior, even recently opening a new section of the restaurant. What you probably haven’t heard is that they will be opening a new restaurant – Mi Tierra – in the former Sky-Hi Grill location on Old Highway 63. I’m told the menu will be largely the same as La Terraza’s and they are hustling to open very soon. Meanwhile, the Forum La Terraza is open for breakfast, so…chilaquiles! Also,

  • There was a great, great review by the NYT’s Pete Wells this week, who you may remember for his demolition of Guy Fieri’s Times Square circusteraunt. So many wonderful lines, like, “Think of everything that’s great about fried chicken. Now take it all away.” Enjoy.
  • People seemed kind of jazzed up about the opening of Lucky’s Market this week. The 597 hits this blog received is an all-time one-day high. That said, I’m still running second to Mike Martin for Inside Columbia’s “Best local blogger” category with one week left in voting. Oh well.
  • Sauce Magazine ran a short rib taco recipe from a St. Louis restaurant and we made it this week – it’s brilliant. Go buy some short ribs from Show Me or Missouri Legacy and get busy.
  • I’m a big fan of kids learning early how to behave in restaurants, but I don’t think it would ever have occurred to me to take mine to Alinea. Yeesh.
  • We’re headed to St. Louis for a weekend soon, so if you’ve hit a place we need to check out, please let me know.

Have a great weekend.

Lucky’s Market Opens

January 14, 2014

After a decade of dormancy and decay, Lucky’s Market officially breathed life into Columbia’s most depressing corner this morning, opening their cheery doors for business at 8:00 am. The Colorado-based, full service grocery store focuses on high quality, organic and, when possible, locally-sourced foods. On a tour last night both beverage manager Marcie Davenport and the marketing manager, Shelly (doh, last name no get!) said that while Lucky’s aims high, they desperately want to remain accessible to the entire community.

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“I really want to put good food in people’s hands,” she said, adding “Lucky’s is a judgement-free zone. We’re not here to preach.” For a store that owes at least a small debt to spendy shops like Whole Foods, Lucky’s may be better equipped to do that than you think. Two pints of strawberries were on special for $.88. Mom’s Best cereals were two for $3. Store-baked* breads were $5…for two loaves. They will run “ridiculous” weekly specials like this to draw customers in for fresh produce. Word is $.19 mangoes are on the way.

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The meat and deli sections will appeal as well. All deli meats are seasoned, cured and smoked in house and meat is sourced locally “as much as possible.” A “Made in Missouri” placard designates local (or at least state-produced items) throughout the store. The butcher section is currently helmed by the head meat manager for Lucky’s corporate office, who is training the staff. Guys, the meat – and especially the fish – looks amazing. In fact, go buy some fish there right now. I’ll wait right here.

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Davenport says the beverage section will be a work in progress. “We’ll have something for everyone, see what people respond to and go from there. We want everyone to be able to shop here.” And so they can. Customers seeking the Bud Lights and Millers of the world will find a cooler labeled “Old Standbys,” while craft beer aficionados will be able to wet their whistle as well. A quick glance revealed some unfamiliar (to me) brews like Goose Island Ten Hills Pale Ale and hard-ish to find stuff like Ska’s Decadent Imperial IPA. Bottles of Urban Chestnut are in the house. There’s a large wine selection too as well; regular tastings will be held.

Lucky’s is also clearly angling to be more than just a grocery store – they want you to hang out. There’s a “liquid lounge” near the front of the store where you can taste and purchase – and then shop with – coffees, beer or wine. The selection last night included an imperial stout from Perennial, which will improve any grocery store experience. Classes and monthly “tasting fairs” are in the works (the first being January 26).

Produce is understandably light on the local stuff right now, but what they do have is gorgeous, reasonably-priced and diverse (four kinds of beets!). There’s a juice bar in the veggie section too.

All in all, it looks to me like Lucky’s came to play. The staff are helpful and eager to please and will work on the (totally understandable) check-out kinks with a smile and a laugh. They’ll tell you how hard they’ve been working to get the place open. They’re proud. Bottom line: you should check it out. And the grand opening “bacon-cutting” tomorrow at 10:00 am would be a perfect opportunity.

Lucky’s Market
7:00 am – 10:00 pm
111 South Providence Rd
Columbia, MO 65203
Phone: (573) 442-2128

* Lucky’s breads are par-baked at a corporate facility and finished in the store. They look really nice either way. And a variety of Uprise Bakery breads are available for purchase as well.

Zaxby’s

January 9, 2014

Zaxby’s, as you may have heard, is a popular southern-based fried chicken joint. They specialize in chicken fingers and sandwiches and people seem to dig their fries and dipping sauces. Two opened in Columbia this past Monday and I happened to be near one while running errands during lunch today. Here are my thoughts.

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First, they’ve done a nice job (a la Applebee’s, I suppose) of tying in some local flavor to the decor. Lots of Mizzou and SEC memorabilia. That’s nice. And the service was understandably (and suffocatingly) chipper for day four. The food came out before I’d even been handed my change, so there’s that too. But we’re here for the chicken, right? Right. Anyway, it’s not that great. The chicken tenders do indeed appear to come from an actual chicken, and I they had a little more pull to them than some, which sort of disintegrate when you bite into them (a good thing to me). They were cooked perfectly. Other than that, well… The breading is lightly applied, pretty salty. “Salty” is what I got out of it. The fries are what we all enjoyed out of Ore-Ida bags growing up. The coleslaw and Texas toast were just utterly pointless. And the sauce, blech. It’s basically remoulade mayonnaise. Or maybe it’s mayonnaise remoulade. Either way it’s mayo with a dash of heat and tartness. The whole collection is pretty dull, if inoffensive.

The ultimate test came with a to-go order for Mrs. SMEs. She had identical thoughts: Zaxby’s is fine. Not as good as Lee’s, not as good as Chick-fil-A. So, give Zaxby’s a shot for yourself, but you might want to dial the expectations back.

Dish of the Year

January 9, 2014

Malaysian Curry Chicken in Hot Pot – Bamboo Terrace

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It’s hard to imagine the same people behind the late, not-so-great Great Wall Chinese Restaurant over by the mall are also responsible for Bamboo Terrace, which opened by the Walmart on West Broadway in 2012 and has been made into – arguably – Columbia’s best Asian restaurant. Tasting the freshness of the ingredients they now work with and the pride they clearly take in every dish, one can only guess how much it must have hurt to serve crappy steam-table “Chinese” food. Having trained in China and worked in kitchens from New York City to Las Vegas, they knew how to make the good stuff. They just weren’t sure Columbia was ready. A year and a half later, I think it’s safe to say that we were. It’s also safe to to say that Celeste Chen, John Jiang, Ming Lu and Xiu Lu finally have something to be very proud of indeed.

Traditionally Americanized goodies like House Special Lo Mein, fried rices and Mongolian beef will satisfy the less adventurous. The wonton soup will delight all comers. But there’s more – lots more. Chicken with Basil Leaf is a Thai-style stir-fry that’ll keep you reaching for the bowl of rice (and, even with soup and egg roll, will set you back just $7.25 at lunch). Japanese-style udon noodles are thick and comforting and my son’s favorite. Stir-Fried Sole Fish pairs bright, fresh-tasting fish with crunchy sugar snap peas and pickles, a surprising addition that gives the dish a fun, sour kick. The lettuce wraps are wonderful. Finally, Bamboo Terrace’s specials and the no-longer-secret Chinese menu give executive chef John Jiang free rein to serve stir-fried duck with tofu and a steak and beef lung dish, served cold, that blew me away and won over even a squeamish Mrs. SMEs. Something for everybody here.

But the dish I kept coming back for again and again last year, a dish that offers the highest ceiling and general appeal, is the Malaysian Curry Chicken in Hot Pot. Tender cubes of chicken thigh and chunks of potato are simmered in a spicy, basil-scented coconut curry broth. I haven’t been to Malaysia, so for me it’s southern Thailand in a bowl – a very large, very hot clay bowl with a lid. Everything cooked just right, balanced and composed, order after order. It even works as takeout, though I recommend you eat in – the attentive staff and charming matriarch of the operation being part of the fun. Plus, they (finally) have a liquor license, so you can beat back the heat in anything you order with a couple of Tsing Taos (they’re also more than happy to dial down the heat – just ask).

Bamboo Terrace
3101 W Broadway, Suite 101
Columbia, MO 65203
(573) 886-5555

Best Chinese Restaurant In An Unfortunate Location

December 27, 2013

ABC Chinese Cuisine
3510 Interstate 70 Dr SE
Columbia, MO 65201
http://abcchinesecuisine.com/

This one isn’t too tough. ABC Chinese is tucked away on the far side of the traffic snakepit that is the I-70/I-63 intersection. Plenty of people have found the place though, and whether the people in the booths are medical staff from one of the many health care facilities nearby or are actually making the conceptual leap over the highway, ABC is rewarding them with solid Americanized Chinese food and a whole lot more of the real stuff than anyone else in town.

Dim sum, a sort of Chinese tapas, is available at all times and offers diners a few dozen choices ranging from entry level to grad school. There’s something for everybody at ABC (I like the spicy noodle soup, pork shu mai and any of their “Homestyle Dishes”). Naturally, there’s karaoke at night. The service is earnest but everything can come off a tad awkward at first. You may be asked if everything is fine every three or four minutes. You may have to chase your server down for the check. And do you pay at the table or at the hostess stand? Never mind, ABC is worth the trek and any oddities of service will be more than compensated-for by the food. And while you’re out there, be sure to stop in at Hong Kong Market for the best Asian produce and products in town.

Black Eyed Pea Soup

December 27, 2013

Originally posted in January of 2012. It’s well worth a revisit.

This is one of our favorite soups, and one we don’t just relegate to January 1 or thereabouts. It’s a hearty, warming soup perfect for any cold day. It’s adapted from a recipe by Chef G. Garvin. We usually don’t use all the sausage, preferring a thinner soup. I also stirred in some cooked lacinato kale this time around, just because. It was awesome. Feel free to tinker; this one’s a forgiving test subject.

Black-Eyed Pea Soup

3 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped shallot
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 lb. andouille sausage
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 t red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper to taste
2 15-oz. cans black-eyed peas
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 T hot sauce
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Thinly sliced green onions, for garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in onion, celery, shallot and garlic. While this cooks for a minute or two, dice the uncooked sausage. Add half of the sausage to the pot and stir.

In a saute pan heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Brown the remaining sausage. Once brown, use a paper towel to soak up excess oil in the pan. Set sausage aside.

Add butter, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste to the onion mixture in the pot. Let cook for 3 or 4 minutes.

Add black-eyed peas to the pot and cook for a couple of minutes. Add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes, then stir in cream and hot sauce.

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and top with green onions*, browned sausage and cilantro.

* – The original recipe called for fried leeks. Feel free to go that route. We go with green onions because it’s easier and lighter.

Best New Space

December 26, 2013

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Günter Hans
7 Hitt St
Columbia, MO 65201
(573) 256-1205
gunterhans.com

Some might find $10 for a (maaaybe) 3-oz. pour of basic Portuguese red a bit steep. The cheese plate, allegedly an “Assortment of Europe’s Finest Cheese,” is a middlebrow assemblage of Edam, Havarti, Swiss and so on – nothing smelly or funky or runny. Cotswald is the lone interesting inclusion. So I’m not sold on Günter Hans from a food standpoint yet – though the “bretzels” are indeed very good and I haven’t had a waffle – but as a place to grab a beer or gelato, it’s drop-dead gorgeous. The patio will be a stunner come warmer weather.

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Best New Place to Watch a Game, Work, Drink a Beer, Drink a Beer While Working, etc.

December 26, 2013

International Taphouse
308 9th Street
Columbia, MO
http://www.internationaltaphouse.com/columbia/

We always knew International Taphouse opening in Columbia was going to mean an staggering expansion in the amount of beers available in Columbia. They backed that promise up with some serious delivery. An ever-evolving selection of 50-some beers on tap and hundreds more by the can and bottle. If you’ve been to any of their other locations, you figured you’d get that. What we didn’t know was just how amazing the space was going to be. It’s phenomenal. From the two dozen or so HD TVs to the comfortable seating to the lightning-quick wi-fi, this is the place to be. I want to move in. They don’t serve food? Who cares? The place is a temple to beer and television. Order some Shakespeare’s.

Best of Columbia: SMEs Edition

December 18, 2013

You may have heard rumblings about a certain “Best of Columbia” contest that is underway. If not, go vote for your favorite restaurants, musicians and – ahem – bloggers soon. I beg you, for it cannot be said that there is any justice in a world where Lonnie Ray’s is tied with Bandana BBQ and is getting lapped by Buckingham’s and Lutz’ for “Best barbecue restaurant.” Evil is afoot, and only right-thinking food lovers stand in the way. Hop to it.

In the meantime, I’m going to make a few choices of my own. No voting save my own dining experiences over the year. The categories will be slapdash and entirely made up by yours truly (and are subject to change). They may include:

  • Best Restaurant You’re Not Going To
  • Best Chinese Restaurant In An Unfortunate Location
  • Dish of the Year
  • Best Cheap Eats
  • Restaurant of the Year

Maybe a few others I haven’t thought of. Feel free to send ideas. In the meantime, the…

Best Restaurant You’re Not Going To

Read the rest of this entry »

Tico time

December 9, 2013

Costa Rica pan2

Well, we’re back from two weeks in Costa Rica, a nation of astonishingly diverse landscapes and wildlife, proud and hospitable people and even some pretty decent food here and there. There is quite a bit of work and family stuff to catch up on so a full write-up will be a few days coming, but to tide you over, some quick notes:

  • Patric Chocolate got some well-deserved pub from the Tribune last week. I will say that we visited a coffee and chocolate producer in Costa Rica and while theirs was good, it simply paled in comparison to Alan’s products. The depth of flavor he achieves just blows everything else I’ve had away.
  • The SEC Championship game ended in disappointment, but we still have a local champion in Sporting KC, who won the MLS Cup for the second time Saturday (and in an epic series of penalty kicks, no less). The bad soccer news is the the Unites States got grouped with Ghana, Portugal and Germany for the first round of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
  • I’ll be doing a bit of work for Columbia Home magazine in the coming months. My first piece for them, on CoMo restaurants pairing desserts and drinks, is in the Dec/Jan issue and is available online.
  • Interesting that somebody at a Kansas City-area Sonic thought this would be a good idea.
  • Inside Columbia‘s “Best of Columbia 2014″ voting is open and, in what I think is a first, yours truly is up for best blogger. We are lucky to have a number of active local bloggers, so get over there and vote away.

Chicken and Potato Curry

December 4, 2013

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet” has become our go-to resource for Southeast Asian cooking over the past year or so. Nearly every recipe is fantastic, and the pictures and background info are top-notch as well. It’s not a new book (published in 2000), but you need to add it to your Christmas wish-list. Basil chicken, pho, spicy greens and this little number below – everything’s tremendous. You can thank me later.

Chicken and Potato Curry (serves 8)

1 1/2 pounds chicken (breast, thigh or combination of both)

Salt and ground pepper

2 lbs. potatoes

2 cups water

3 dried Thai chiles, soaked in warm water

2 T minced garlic

5 small shallots, coarsely chopped

2 T vegetable oil

2 T Thai fish sauce

2 cups coconut milk, 1/2 cup of thickest milk set aside

8 kaffir lime leaves

1/2 cup chopped scallions (optional)

1 cup cilantro leaves

2-3 T store-bought red curry paste, just in case

Cut chicken into 1 1/2″ pieces and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside while preparing the potatoes and spice paste. Chop potatoes into 1 1/2″ cubes and place in a pot with 2 cups of salted water. Bring to boil and cook for 8 minutes, then remove from heat.

Chop chiles and pound in a mortar with shallots, garlic and a pinch of salt. You can do this in a food processor if you don’t have a mortar and pestle (or sense of decency). Set aside.

Heat a large pot or wok and add oil, then stir-fry the chile paste briefly, until starting to brown. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently for several minutes. Add fish sauce and cook until chicken is nearly cooked through, approximately 6 minutes (if using a combination of light and dark meat, start with the dark first, then add the light).

Add 1 1/2 cups of the thinner coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups of the potato water and the potatoes themselves to the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, the cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

Add the lime leaves and 1/2 cup of remaining thicker coconut milk and return to simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Note: This is where we kicked it up with pre-made red curry sauce…it was a touch bland before that.

Stir in scallion greens and transfer to large bowl, garnishing with cilantro and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve with rice and pass  a small bowl of minced Thai bird chiles loosened with a few dashes of fish sauce for doctoring to individual preferences.

Kale, Bean and Sausage Stew

December 2, 2013

Beans with Kale and Portuguese Sausage

One of our more successful first-attempt recipes ever – especially in terms of ratio of work to deliciousness – was this one, which I adapted from a Bon Appetit magazine recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
8 ounces andouille or other sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick (I used the outstanding CACC andouille)
1 medium onion, sliced
6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
2 T tomato paste
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 small piece Parmesan rind (optional)
2 chiles de árbol or other dried chiles (or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
1 large sprig thyme
2 large bay leaves
2 cups chicken or turkey broth
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can garbanzo beans (or other beans)
3-4 cups kale, mustard greens, whatever you have on hand, cut into 3/4″ ribbons
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

PREPARATION

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for about two minutes.

Add wine and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot and stirring occasionally, until wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add Parmesan rind, if using, chiles, thyme, bay leaf, broth, tomatoes, and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 mins. Remove from heat and leave covered. Go run some errands, take a kid to soccer practice, whatever.

Reheat at mealtime, add a squeeze of lemon, season to taste and serve, preferably with some habanero vinegar or Tabasco.

Friday links

November 22, 2013

Walmart

Four members of the Walton family are collectively worth more than $100 billion – greater wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans combined – but their employees are taking up collections so they can have Thanksgiving dinner. Just let that sink in for a second. And yes, I get that this could/should be looked at as a warming act of kindness, but the visuals (and underlying disparities) are not good.

Elsewhere, a professor of Christian Ethics takes on the evils of factory farming. Charge up the Kindle, cuz Michael Pollan has a new book out on the ways cooking makes us human. Jimmy Kimmel and Mario Batali went to some random guy’s house and cooked dinner. Kleenex nearby? Good. Listen to friend and fellow food lover Maria Oropallo tell her granddaughter (and KBIA) why “everyone was very happy and very sad at the same time.” Chicago fired back over Jon Stewart’s epic (and legit) takedown of deep dish pizza as “tomato soup in a bread bowl.” I don’t really understand Macadoodle’s (the 80s-era signage, the hideous building they designed and built on purpose, etc.), but I’ve been in and they do have a rockin’ wine selection (beer, less so). Also, it’s that time again, people:

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal.

I just love decorative gourd season.

Finally, the must-watch for the week is highlights of the second World Cup qualifying match between Portugal and Sweden. Portugal won the first match so Sweden needed to win by two in the second to go to the World Cup. Each team is made up of ten piles of leaves and one cartoon superhero – perfect human specimen Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal and Swedish anger bear/black belt Zlatan Ibrahimovic – and those two traded haymakers all second half. It was amazing.

Topic: Turkey

November 20, 2013

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Turkey tips, in no particular order.

Start with a good bird. For several years we’ve been buying our turkeys from Country Neighbors Farm. They sell chickens, mostly, to The Root Cellar and Broadway Brewery and Hy-Vee, but in the fall it’s turkey time. The birds are smaller but fattier and just plain tastier than conventionally-raised CAFO birds. And as I found this year with our early Thanksgiving, they’re far more forgiving. Despite overcooking by a solid 15 degrees, the meat was perfect.

The whole garbage in, garbage out mantra should seem obvious at this point, but most people are still buying conventionally-raised turkeys from factory farms. Missouri’s the fourth-leading producer of turkeys in the U.S., but very few are raised on a farm like Country Neighbors.

Quick aside: If they won’t let you visit the farm, you have to wonder what they’re hiding. Laura at Country Neighbors will welcome you out there…and you have an excuse to visit Emmet’s.

Anyway, the average return to the producer for a turkey is $0.50 per pound and the grocery store’s only going to charge you $1.50/lb. (some, considerably less), so you can see the incentive to cut every possible corner. I paid $60 for two turkeys I picked up from Laura – 24 lbs. worth. You’ll pay a little more for retail at The Root Cellar – $50 for a 15-16 pounder or $65 for a 16-20 pounder – but it’s worth it in every way. You do need to order quite soon, however, as processing happens Monday, November 25 and most are spoken for. Call The Root Cellar at 573-443-5055.

Brine. You have to brine the turkey. Salt, sugar, garlic and some aromatics. I rarely measure any of these but it always works out. For the faint of heart, Brook Harlan is here to help (and I love the idea of “carving” the turkey before cooking it). Brine your turkey.

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