Looking Forward…In 2020

I think we are all looking forward to whatever the new normal is going to be. Although my actual cooking hasn’t slowed down, who I am currently cooking for has, as my family has been eating very well.

A random dish from last year: Fresh polenta stuffed with gruyere and served with wild boar sausage and gravy. Crispy kale and herb flowers round it out.

Sooner rather then later, I’ll be back shopping in the markets in some fashion. Practices will change; I imagine I’ll need a mask and removable top to shop before a party. But once I’m at your home, not much will change. I’ll be cooking private dinners for ravenous foodies; which is always great fun. But I love the family vibe and the complications that lie within that type of setting. It’s all fun, like getting a compliment from the grumpy father in-law that proudly “doesn’t like anything”. Or trying to please all the palates for a mutli-generational family of 13. Those successes are just as gratifying as preparing a multi-course fine dining experience.

No matter the occasion, I am excited to bring fresh locally sourced foods into your kitchen. 2020 will end like a flower blooming, and I’ll be here ready to add that flower to a salad…or garnish a soup or something :-)

Hunting Good BBQ

Wedding trip to Raleigh North Carolina took me to parts unknown. Alone in another city with nothing to do but explore and eat? Yes please.

Fried chicken, sausage gravy and pickled okra from Mecca

What to do with time to kill

Eating in any downtown can be fun, especially after walking 15 miles of it. There are always options for fun and food, the only question is: What do you want? Most people are satisfied with trendy places that have fancy whiskey drinks and a large assortment of craft beers. I veer toward history and proof of quality. On my recent trip to Raleigh I wanted ethereal BBQ and fried chicken. Most other things would take a side seat to finding those. Of course I branched out here and there. But nothing ever blew my mind, and I failed on some documentation.

The classics are what I seek

I referenced some life changing fried chicken here. With that in mind, I kept ordering fried chicken at places trying to chase that crispy tender dream. I also pride myself on a top quality biscuit, so when someone boasts best biscuit in the city…I gotta check it out. With all the food in Raleigh I had, nothing made me close my eyes and sigh…except the BBQ. This Eastern style whole hog BBQ chopped pork sandwich was everything I needed and wanted. This sandwich alone allowed me to get on my plane at peace with myself and the world. I ordered another one to-go before I left :-)

Almost perfect pickles…

The biggest ordering mistake I made were these fried pickles. I needed a salad at that point, but didn’t realize it till after I ordered. They were overly salty because the flour dredge was heavily seasoned for other items. With the salty pickles it was too much. However. I still got my answer to the quality of the place and the dish. Yes, over salting was a mistake, but the pickles themselves were either home made, or of very high quality and the cut was great. So overall they told me the place cared about small things. If I were to return and order the pickles. I would be very disappointed if they were salty again.

Overall, Raleigh was clean, safe, friendly and delicious. Cheers to a great town.

Having a Proper Hogwarts Pint…

…or Hogsmeade, depending on age.

A little heavy on the froth, but still scrumtious in the morning.

My wife and I started reading Harry Potter around 2003 while entertaining ourselves on long roadtrips. Over the years we enjoyed the movies, but, for various reasons we only finished the 3rd book. A few years ago we picked the books back up for and with our boys. We ripped through the first three pretty quickly, but they needed to grow up a bit more as the books progressed.

Being the food minded person I am, I couldn’t see finishing off our last movies without trying my hand at two of the most classic beverages in the series. Butterbeer of course, which I’ve dabbled with since ’07, but always coming back to the original online knock off of the theme park recipe. But I’d made that for the boys before; and I wanted something new and exciting. Something with all the delectable notions of Butterbeer. One that kept popping up and sounding yummy was “Pumpkin Juice”. “Pumpkin Juice” comes up a lot during breakfast time at Hogwarts and always held a notion of nourishment and comfort.

Extra cream top butterbeer and chocolate frogs. WANDS OUT!

In reality, anything close to plain actual pumpkin juice sounds gaggy. So I went with a mental mix of pumpkin pie and Orange Julius. Although I didn’t incorporate orange flavor, I would like to try this again someday with that flavor in mind. But this one is wicked good.

Pumpkin Juice 2c filtered water 1/3c pumpkin puree 1/4c pure maple syrup pinch of pumpkin pie spice (TJ’s is best)
Small pinch cinnamon
Small pinch salt
1/4tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4tsp lemon juice
1/4tsp vanilla
1 organic free range egg
orange food coloring to look desired

Puree in a blender and serve chilled or over ice

ButterBeer
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
½  teaspoon butterscotch extract
Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda

In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer.
Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4c of the heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature and add the butterscotch.
In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes.
To serve, divide the brown sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about 1/4 cup for each glass).

Good Times and Great Food In East San Diego

For most around the county, Jamul is a bit of a trek. Being in Spring Valley keeps me close to a burgeoning San Diego market. Great for people looking toward affordable housing, and a bit of separation in an ever growing city. My children’s school was recently granted farmland in Jamul to do with as we please. We are excited about the possibility of creating our own ongoing CSA for our school families. But right now we are only getting going, with about 200 pumpkins. Pumpkins are pretty easy and will produce fun results by mid October. Hopefully a productive simple crop will wet our appetites for something more complicated.

The same weekend I was planting pumpkins. I also had a small family dinner party at a really amazing air bnb deep in Jamul, (pictured above). Twas a casual party with a loving family. A perfect last job before my July 4th vacation to Pismo beach…

“Team Building Exercise 1999”

Team building exercises were something I was a part of often when I worked in the Bay Area. Not as much down here but that might be my marketing. I like team building exercises. They’re fun, exciting and rewarding; and getting work mates together outside of work is always a hoot. The last group I did was actually two years in a row. Not a third as they moved to Canada, but it was fun both times. The hosts were foodies so we did alot. It got crazy with 15 people in a medium kitchen :-o, but we it got done with smiles and laughter.

Appetizer cheese dish
Chicken wings of some awesome flavor
Lightly smoked fresh fish
Ceviche or shrimp cocktail
Ribeye with umami mushrooms
Curry sauce for naan
Grilled carbs–naan as mentioned, pizza, panzanella salad

Although they can get crazy and busy, my goal is always to keep everyone involved, engaged and eating a delicious meal at the end.

I remember one time we broke everyone into teams with a knife and cutting board. They got to choose ingredients from a big table and utilize anything else in the room. There was a sink, microwave and dishwasher. I got to taste all the entries and it was awesome. The winners used the dishwasher to steam some salmon :-)Grilled veggies that are not usually seen on the grill

I can’t not think of this when I say team building exercise.

 

 

Staying In Vacation Mode

Vacations can be crazy and tiring, especially if you’re coordinating people and especially if you have kids. Staying in “vacation mode” is real and important. Ever had the feeling you need a vacation after your vacation? That’s where I come in. You already rented a great house. Having me come in to cook a mind blowing dinner while you throw the kids in the pool and refill cocktails is a smart decision.

Let me paint a picture for you…


It’s vacation night 3 of 4. You’ve already done Legoland and the beach, but you spent this day at the zoo. You pull back to your rental around 3:30 and as you carry in the sleeping children, you realize you only have an hour or two to chill before you need to start getting everyone ready to go out for dinner. Feeling hungry, you attack some of the leftovers from the night before in the fridge. A cocktail sounds nice but you have to drive and wrangle the kids in a little bit, so you forgo.

After showers getting ready and parking; you are 10 minutes late looking at your phone seeing a message from your mother in law wondering where you are. Dinner was some good, but mostly “just ok”. Full, you pile everyone back in the car just to come back home to have the kids still be hungry. Bummed you missed the sunset on your deck, you put the kids to bed, pour a glass of wine and finally exhale with your love.

Or…I arrive at your place and create a memorable and highly delicious dinner with apps and dessert, served at your leisure. You get to relax, relax with your kids, relax with your parents, relax with your love, relax in the pool, relax chatting up the chef whirling around your kitchen. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you to watch the sunset.

Desert Salad

New ingredients are the best Jerry…the best! Platforms for new textures and flavors beget new textures and flavors.  As soon as I pull in a new ingredient, old standbys become fresh fodder for new avenues.  Stumbled upon these barrel cactus fruits and whipped them into a “Desert Salad” that was high on interest and flavor. Along with the cactus, which I boiled in lightly salted water until tender then nipped the tops. I tossed in 4 different types of date, pickled radish and boiled peanuts; dressed with lime/peanut water vinaigrette.

Along with the cactus and dates, I lucked out on my first green peanuts, which has been on my mind. Boiled peanuts can easily become a new obsession, after all, I love beans and I love peanuts and I love simple. I boiled them with water, salt, sugar, toasted/charred dried red chile, vinegar, garlic and onion. So good and addictive. Unfortunately I didn’t make anymore at home as I underestimated green peanuts perishability.  I also wanted to touch on a trip I took to the Colorado river recently. On our way there we passed some gigantic date farms which plugged dates into my brain for a week before I came upon my salad dates; hence the “Desert Salad” theme.  The river also supplied some tasty treats.  The kids fished and  pulled in some little Blue Gills.  The next day we sauteed up the little fillets and they where shockingly delicious…like whoa!

Totality Or Bust!

Took a trip with my brother to Columbia, South Carolina for the eclipse.  Although traffic hindered us and we had limited time, good food and giggles were abound.

Our first stop for awesome was Dogfish Head in Arlington. I consider Dogfish in the argument for best brewery in the U.S.  A favorite of mine I rarely(if ever) get from a tap here out west.  I ordered  a flight and was instantly gratified that it met and exceeded expectation.  It was a kick to the head reminder of how much I enjoy great beer.
I flew into D.C because my brother lives there and our plan was to head to SC the next morning.  We did; with ibuprofen and itunes, we arrived at our shady, but “not as shady as we thought” motel outside Columbia..10 hours later.  After a good stretch and a text to my wife about the hole in our bathroom door, we surveyed our dinner choices and settled on Fuddruckers.  Mind you, we were beat, it was 9:00, and we were too far from downtown. We thought an easy, good burger was fine, just as long as they served beer.  After we walked in, I noticed a sign from across the street at another place we hadn’t seen.  

Indian AND Mexican food

I pointed it out to my bro and we b-lined it.  It was a good decision.  Although there was no noticeable Mexican, the Indian we had was great.  I got to introduce my brother to paneer, and their Chole Bature was on point.  Other highlights of the trip were my first boiled peanuts, and probably the best damn fried chicken I’ve ever had.  I was looking to see D.C a bit upon our return, but alas, another looooong traffic day put the kibosh on that idea.

Not only will I be boiling peanuts and frying chicken in the near future, I’m looking forward to utilizing the boiled peanut into my cuisine.  Boiling peanuts takes them back to their legume roots as they become soft and absorb whatever flavor they are cooked in. The ones I had were probably over cooked as they were very soft, as was the shell.  We chewed up the whole thing and spit out the fiber, it was glorious.  I had a vision of a Carolina tostada that will soon be realized.

Peruvian Scallop Ceviche “Tacos”

This dish originated a month or so ago at a dinner party I did for a 50th birthday.   When I got in contact with Bryan from Whissel Realty a couple days later.  This delicious little creation was all I could think about.  It was a fun experience taping this episode of East County Eats, everyone was professional, flexible and upbeat.   Thank You Bryan, Kyle and Shasta and thank you for representing East County!

 

 

 

 

Seafood and Eat It

Had a lovely time cooking a 10 person dinner party the other night.  Seafood for a 50th birthday was requested;  I went a bit overboard on the seafood request…gigitty.

I was fired up to cook a few items this night.  Hooked some beautiful Opah abductor and Monchong at COP.  While the latter isn’t totally unknown, the flavor and texture is just melty love that will always get a look. The abductor is daunting because it looks like the fishy blood line on a tuna.  Instead, it’s like fish beef…or, the elusive land grazing cow fish, found herding through Mission Valley during flood season.  Totally badass and steaky with a meatier texture then tuna or swordfish.  I was excited about a few other things on this party as well.  The asparagus lettuce was rich, buttery and umami.  The bay scallops were my favorite.  I had a vision that I knew would crush, and it didn’t disappoint.  The combination had that balance and flavor blast that makes you totally weak in the knees.

Peeled and stuffed apricots/ fuji apple / parmesan / truffle 
Charred and buttered baby turnips
Thai pickled watermelon
Kalamata, feta and truffle duchess potato
Baby brussels with honey walnuts

Golden beet soup with chèvreberg / pistachios / roasted beet
Grilled Opah abductor with grilled tomato/ sauteed potobello / beef jus / soy/ sherry vin
Charred carrot and chile calamari  salad / feta / pickled white strawberries/ dill / huge lime supreme / strawberry dust
Ceviched baby scallops with corn chimichurri / avocado / crispy potato skin
Herb painted Monchong/ broiled broccolini / Japanese purple yam / asparagus lettuce / blood orange butter
Macerated strawberries / coconut tuile / mascarpone / egg caramel