Cooking like Keller, Part Three: Pomegranate Glazed Quail, Caramelized Cabbage

Pomegranate Glazed Quail with Caramelized Savoy Cabbage, from the Ad Hoc cookbook

Pomegranate Glazed Quail with Caramelized Savoy Cabbage, from the Ad Hoc cookbook

The third installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”

Over the course of this blog, I think we’ve established that my husband and I are practically professional eaters. There was the full lobe of foie gras downed in a single seating at Au Pied de Cochon and the time that we pre-gamed a 10-course dinner at an elegant Italian restaurant with back-to-back meals at two other restaurants…before heading to a serious pork-athon the next day.

Then there was our three-day road trip to Napa. We knew we needed to make the most of our time since we had no idea when we’d ever be back — this is always our excuse for gorging ourselves — so we planned to get in as many meals as our stomachs would allow.

We left Portland at 5 am on a Friday morning on a mission to drive nearly non-stop to San Francisco. I say nearly because we made a pit stop in Redding for my very first In-N-Out burger. Hours later, we suffered through an excruciatingly good meal at Incanto, followed by a two-course brunch at SPQR the following morning.

From there we went to Yountville where we pillaged the paté case at the Fatted Calf, a lovely charcuterie shop, before venturing on to our hours-long dinner at the French Laundry. The very next morning we hit up Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc for brunch, stopped at the Bouchon bakery for sweet treats and then started our 10-hour drive back home.

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Spicing Up Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

Lamb Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

Lamb Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

While I’ve made my fair share of mayonnaise, salad dressing and even ketchup over the years, there are quite a few condiments that I have never tried to make myself — things like curry paste, mustard and harissa. While I’ve been curious to try my hand at these, in the end laziness and convenience have always won out.

However, a recent recipe for homemade harissa from my friends of Gourmandistan piqued my interest. It seemed like a fun challenge and I was curious to taste the end result.

The whole process seemed more daunting than it turned out to be and in less than 20 minutes I had a beautifully smokey and spicy spread. I should confess that I have a deep hatred for caraway (something my husband seems to find equally baffling and entertaining) so I’ll straight up admit I omitted it, but the garlicky mixture of cumin, peppers and tomato was still finger-licking good.

Homemade Harissa

Homemade Harissa

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Lamb tartare, foie gras and other tasty treats…

Lamb tartare with cornichons, capers and lemon

Lamb tartare with cornichons, capers and lemon

Every summer, I look forward to cooking with my husband and my good friend DB for a dinner benefiting the Portland Fruit Tree Project. This year marked our fourth year together, cooking for roughly 40 people, and I think we even manged to top last year’s dinner which was quite a feat.

My husband, being a chef, puts together the menu. DB and I just trade our time and culinary skills for beers and burgers afterwards. It’s a pretty good deal, considering all the sampling we do as we cook. I never turn down an opportunity to sneak bites of foie gras torchon!

The dinner takes place in an urban garden called Tabor Tilth. Connie, the owner, is extremely knowledgable and even has interns who live with her so they can learn the secrets of success urban gardening. She has everything from elderflowers to mulberries to tabacco growing in her yard. For a more in-depth look at Tabor Tilth, check out my post from 2 years ago.

While Connie is serious about what she does, the whimsical aspect of her house never fails to entertain me. These are some of the cool things I spotted in her kitchen this year. (The fact that she raises meat rabbits makes her rabbit art all the more fun to me.)

Bunnies of Tabor Tilth

Anyways, fun art aside, this post is dedicated to the snacks we served as our dinner guests started to arrive and began their guided tour of the garden. My husband tries to incorporate fruit into the dinner as much as possible, as well as making use of items that Connie grows, so this dinner is really an ode to fresh seasonal produce.

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Rabbit with Spaetzle 2.0

Rabbit and spaetzle in a creme fraiche-mustard sauce topped with crispy shallots.

Rabbit and spaetzle in a creme fraiche-mustard sauce topped with crispy shallots.

Throughout the ten years we’ve been together, my husband has worked at many different restaurants. This means that I have quite happily eaten at least a meal or two at each one. Out of all of the places he’s been, it’s actually the same restaurant that was responsible for two of my favorite dishes. While he no longer works there, I often ask him to make them for me at home.

One dish, my favorite of the two, is a beautiful combination of roasted cauliflower, chili flakes, breadcrumbs and homemade chitarra pasta. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and be totally satisfied.

The other is a creamy compilation of braised rabbit, spaetzle, herbs and crispy shallots. It is the stuff dreams are made of.

Who could possibly resist this?

Who could possibly resist this?

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It isn’t really Christmas without the pickled herring

Homemade Swedish Pickled Herring

Homemade Swedish Pickled Herring

People often take me for being either French or Italian, which I am, but they often don’t realize that I’m actually half Swedish as well. So Swedish that my maternal grandmother (Mormor to me) was born in Sweden and didn’t come to America until she was almost 8.

Having Scandinavian blood means that (if you’re lucky) you’ll spend Christmas Eve opening presents and enjoying a serious smorgasbord of goodies — from homemade headcheese and potato sausage to spritz butter cookies and rice pudding. If you’re not so lucky, there will also be lutefisk and pickled herring present.

I’m (kind of, sort of) kidding on the last one. Half of my family seems to love the pickled pieces of fish while the other half — myself included — glad pass over it for another slice of ham instead. The lutefisk seems to have an even smaller following — I think the taste for that ended with my grandparents. I certainly have never seen my mother try a piece.

But just like most edible family traditions, the older you get, the more curious you become at the process of making them. This is the first year that I was able to spend the weekend before Christmas with my grandparents, and I asked if my grandma would wait until I arrived to make the herring.

She happily agreed. Maybe she thought that if I helped to make it, I’d be more willing to eat it. (Just between us, that will never happen. Ever. Sorry Mormor!)

Regardless of whether I enjoy eating it, I did enjoy watching her prepare it.

The first thing to do is secure your herring. My grandma used to buy whole fish and would have to gut them and clean them herself. These days, around late November she makes calls to fishmongers looking for Icelandic herring fillets. This year she found a small fish shop that promised to have some for her the week before Christmas.

When I arrived, the fish had been soaking in cold water overnight — unrefrigerated, though in a cool place.

Herring Fillets

Herring Fillets

pickled herring goodness

Adventures in Dim Sum: Chive Dumplings

Chive Dumpling Dim Sum

It’s old news that I love dim sum. I love it so much that I’m slowly learning how to make all of my favorite dishes at home — from scallion pancakes to pork dumplings to bean curd rolls. Every time I start a project, I get a little nervous that it won’t turn out but besides one horribly failed attempt at soup dumplings, everything has been incredibly delicious.

I have been dying to make these chive dumplings forever. I even spent a good amount of time last summer tracking down the elusive wheat starch that was needed for the dough. Finally, the weekend before Thanksgiving, my partner-in-crime DB came over for a little dim sum party.

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