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.

New Apples Are All That

Perusing seasonal fruits for menu delectability just got easier. I just introduced myself to Lucy Glow and Lucy Rose apples. They are so good, and so cool. The first flesh colored hybrid Pome I’ve ever seen. On top of the cool color, their friggin’ delicious. The glow, with the darker flesh and golden hued skin tastes and textures like the best Fuji. While the Lucy Rose is like the best honeycrisp I’ve ever had; with some berry notes. Here is a lazy link for info, courtesy of Specialty Produce.

A Little Corny

We joined a lovely CSA  last summer, run by some seriously solid human beans, Agua Dulce Farm of San Diego.  Kelsey and Ben sweat it out in Chula Vista, but also keep it hyperlocal as well when they started the Bancroft Center For Sustainability, which I’m fired up about because that’s ma hood. In our last box we received a bag of corn meal.  Oaxacan Green Dent corn to be precise. Already seeing a Facebook post about it, I knew what it was immediately but was still excitedly surprised. We mulled over how to use it because we really wanted to highlight the corn flavor. Not just use it…but really taste it. We settled on cornbread and it was a good decision. It had a lovely blue green hue and tasted like corn, not cardboard; I know, shocking! 

With our remaining corn meal we made Johnny cakes for breakfast. If you’ve never had Johnny cakes, they are cornmeal pancakes and they are rad.  Below is a recipe and some pictures for you to make your own. Do it, because they are super bomb-omb.

Johnny Cakes

1/2c cornmeal
1/2c water
1 egg
1T oil
1T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3-1/2c buttermilk
1/2c flour
1/4tsp baking soda
3/4-1tsp baking powder

Whisk the water and cornmeal then let sit for a minute. Whisk in the oil, sugar, egg, salt and milk. Dust over the flour and leavening, stir until combined. Cook like pancakes with equal parts oil and butter…don’t skimp on the fat. and serve with something sweet.

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.

Mandarinquats

As it so often does; the process of my dinners reveal a culinary gem that wouldn’t fruit* without the lack of a shopping list.  What I mistakenly called Tangiquats are actually called Mandarinquats.  Lovely little fruit if you’ve ever enjoyed kumquats.  I used thin slices and baked ’em on top of a chocolate torte.  Used the zest in a stuffed strawberry and ate em whole.  Very exciting little fruit with a great sweetness and wonderful flavor.  Here is everything else you’d like to know about them…Specialty Produce.

*punny

Chicken of The Woods

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Beautiful isn’t it?  A farmers market find that I picked up as an interesting new toy for a party.  I was really excited for this mushroom but it was still a known unknown.  I quickly sauteed a little up just to taste test before it was committed to a dish.  Oh man, so bad; tasted and felt like wet like wood  :-|  No worries; a little broth and browning should help…it’ll find its way.  Alas, it did not find its way.  Tried it again a few days later; same thing.  Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever…buy this mushroom.  Apparently, Chicken of the Woods is nothing like Hen of the Woods.  Hen of the woods is friggin’ fantastic and one of my favorite mushrooms.  Side note:  Hen of the Woods are the only mushroom of any real nutritive value, so eat up.  Ohm!

Night out in North County

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I’ve always enjoyed talking to people at my cooking classes. Last year someone recommended Bellamy’s in Escondido. She also wanted me to try a strawberry cream cake that I have yet to do. Which reminds me of a poke cake I needed to try as well :-/ Aaaaanyway; she happened to write it down and it made its way under a fridge magnet. My wife ended up getting a gift certificate there for Christmas and we just now used it :-)
Lovely restaurant.  Offers all the standards I’d expect to keep the locals coming in with a smattering of interest and ingredient change out to keep it chic. Highlights were the beet ice cream, cod skin and oysters, (not one dish). I personally enjoyed the escargot (pictured), because I hadn’t had it in years; also, the “soil” was playful and appropriate.
Definitely worth a try and absolutely somewhere to go if you live in the area.

Sauerkraut

IMG_0290What the hell have we been eating all these years?   I enjoy kraut dogs here and there and I’ll soup up a bottle for a party if need be. But it’s usually underwhelming and always cooked.  Sauerkraut from a bottle is pasteurized, so in essence it boils down to cooked cabbage, (puns are fun).  Which is good, sometimes.  I promise you there is nothing like Sauerkraut in all it’s raw glory.  I’ll take it over kimchi without thinking twice.  The complexity you get from a few pantry ingredients is giggle inducing.  The texture is tender yet bouncy, with crunch and moisture.  Flavors are fruity, sweet, sour, earthy and awesome.  If you’ve never made it before, do yourself a flavor and get after it.  Here is how:

1 organic cabbage
2-3tsp salt
1/4tsp caraway seed
7ish juniper berries
pinch of dried dill

Wash and rinse all surfaces well and wash hands. Thinly slice or shave cabbage into a large bowl; mandolines work great. Add everything else and massage the cabbage until it goes a bit limp. I work it for 30-60 seconds, walk away for 5 minutes and work it another 10 seconds. Pour into a lidded jar but don’t cover. Place small glass bottles inside to weigh down the cabbage. After the jars are weighing it down, add some water to cover and a little salt to help the fresh water. Cover with a towel and place in a cool but non-refrigerated spot for a few days. Once you see a bunch of bubbles…you’re good!

*Notes:
– It is important to have it fully covered with liquid before letting it ferment. The acid you want is anaerobic. – If mold appears on top, just remove it and refrigerate. This is common. – I used too much caraway in mine on accident. I don’t care because it’s f’ing glorious, but it was a mistake. I used 1/3-1/2 teaspoon in the pictured kraut.

I’m sparing you all the fermentation science about lactic acid, and sauerkraut being a probiotic wonderland. There are a gazillion articles about that, I just want you to make it cuz iz good.

Family Vacation 2016

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Had a great family vacation recently with 35 family members who descended on the Idaho panhandle through various means of travel and it was fun from start to end.

What a bounty of life the Northwest is. Even hiking is mellow cause the ground is bouncy and spongy from all the fallen debris and rain. Keeps a bounce in your step while hiking. I crossed a few things off my bucket list and also crossed some off I didn’t even know were on that list.

Like when we were foraging for huckleberries, I found my first wild strawberry. It was so damn cute and delicious. We had many fresh handfuls of huckleberries but on our last day, we were treated to huckleberry pancakes and waffles :-) I’m pretty sure huckleberries are not cultivated and only found in the wild…but I’ll have to Google that.

A pleasantly shocking moment was seeing a skinned bear foot in the river, and a moose that was close enough to make me nervous. Caught a fish with a lure for the first time. Caught and ate lake trout…which is more like salmon then what I know here in California as trout. Went mushroom hunting and found hedgehogs, chanterelles and shaggy manes…or I found their poisonous cousins…not sure cause I didn’t eat ’em. Not going to the northwest again without a couple good wild edibles books.  

Also saw my boys reel in their first fish :-)  Camping is usually cool, but five days of cool is even better.


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