Saturday, November 17, 2007

No-Turkey Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

Again this year we were going to be out of town on Thanksgiving, so we decided to have Thanksgiving a week early. We didn't do a turkey because Giao finally convinced Alexis that if turkey were any good, people would eat it more often than once a year. We did a prime rib instead, which was a great success, and way better than turkey. There were about 20 people and lots of food and overall, it was a tasty, good time.

Apple Pie
We used Jonagold apples, for no other reason than that they were available at Costco and they turned out to work very well. They cooked up soft, without being mushy and held their shape. They were sweet, but not too sweet.

Apple Pie
-2 crust recipes (below)
-6 apples, peeled and cored
-1 ts cinnamon
-1/4 cup sugar
-squeeze of lemon

Toss the apples with the lemon, sugar and cinnamon and set aside while you pre-bake the crust. Bake bottom crust on 350, pressed into a pie pan for 10-15 minutes, until just beginning to color. Remove from oven and add the apple mixture. Roll out the other batch of dough and place over the top of the apples, pressing into the edges. Trim excess dough. Poke in several places with a knife or fork to allow for steam to escape. If you do not do this, your pie may explode in the oven. Bake on 35 for about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

-1 cup plus 2 tb flour
-1 stick cold butter, diced

Mix flour and butter with your fingers until it resembles the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add water, 1 tb at a time, until you can form a cohesive ball of dough. Roll or press into a greased pie pan.

Mint, Watermelon and Ricotta Insalata Appetizer
This tasty appetizer was made by our friend, K.

Cheddar Chive Scones
These were not so much of a crowd pleaser this time around as they have been in the past. But we still like them.

-3 cups flour
-1 tb baking powder
-1 tb sugar
-2 ts salt
-1/2 cup chives, finely chopped
-2 cups grated cheddar
-2 cups heavy cream

Combine the dry ingredients. Mix in the cheese and chives. Add the cream and stir until a dough forms. You may need to add a little more cream to get a dough to form. Put the dough on a floured surface and knead a several times, until the dough is smooth. Separate the dough into 2 parts and form each into a disc about 1 in thick. Cut each disc into 8 trianuglar pieces. Spread out the pieces on a large, greased cookie sheet and bake on 400 for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Turkey Made of Fruit
Since our Thanksgiving was lacking a turkey our friends, N and L, came with this incredibly creative turkey made of fruit. Clever and tasty.

Mustard Balsamic Salmon
We thought it might be nice to have an alternative to prime rib, so we made a salmon too. This last minute marinade turned out great.

-2 large filets of wild salmon
-3 tb whole grain mustard
-3 tb balsmic vinegar

Mix the balsamic and the mustard and pour over the salmon on a large baking sheet. Bake on 375 for about 15 minutes, until flesh flakes with a fork.

Chocolate Pecan Pie
This pie is super simple and always a crowd pleaser.

Chocolate Pecan Pie
-1 recipe pie crust (see Apple Pie above)
-1 cup pecans
-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-4 eggs, beaten
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup light corn syrup
-1/2 ts vanilla extract
-1 pinch salt

Combine the sugars, corn syrup, vanilla, salt and eggs. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into a partially baked pie shell and bake on 375 for 45-50 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie
We don't like pumpkin pie, but it's Thanksgiving (almost).

-1 recipe pie crust (see Apple Pie above)
-15 oz unsweetened pumpkin puree
-3/4 cup packed brown sugar
-2 ts each ground ginger and cinnamon
-1 ts nutmeg
-1/2 ts salt
-1 and 1/3 cup half and half
-3 eggs, beaten
-1 ts vanilla extract

In a sauce pot, combine the pumpkin and spices over low heat, stirring for a couple of minutes. This mellows the spices a bit. Dump the mixture into the food processor and puree for a minute. Add the half and half while pureeing, then the vanilla, then the eggs, one by one. Pour into partially baked pie shell. Bake at 375 for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cranberry Sauce
-4 cups cranberries
-juice and zest of 1 orange
-1 cup water
-1 tb fennel seeds, crushed
-1/2 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients and cook over low heat until the cranberries burst and a thick sauce is formed.

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Pomegranate
This was another dish contributed by our friend K. It was the embodiment of fall.

Creamed Spinach
You can't have prime rib without creamed spinach and Alexis' version is very good.

-6 lbs spinach
-5 shallots, diced
-1 head garlic, cloves minced
-8 strips bacon, cut in lardons
-2 cups cream
-salt and pepper to taste
-a sprinkling of nutmeg

Blanch the spinach, drain and set aside. Start to render the bacon in a pan. When translucent, add onions and garlic. Stir frequently until bacon, onions and garlic are browned. Put the spinach in a towel and squeeze as much liquid as possible out, then chop. Add the spinach and the cream and stir to combine. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and continue to cook, stirring every once in a while on low heat for about 1/2 hour.

Vegetable Quinoa Soup
I'm going to refrain from giving the recipe for this soup because, really, it was not very good. I think it could have been good, had it been made right before dinner, as opposed to sitting on the stove over low heat all day, but basically, the quinoa was too cooked and it turned the soup into a thin mush.

Dinner Rolls
This is Alexis' mom's recipe and these rolls are always a hit.
-1 pint milk
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 cup butter
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 package yeast
-1/4 cup warm water
-1 and 1/2 ts salt
-1/2 ts baking soda
-1 ts baking powder
-flour (there is no predetermined amount, read recipe below)

Scald the milk and remove the film from the top. Add the butter and the sugar to the milk and stir to dissolve. When milk is cool to the touch, add the egg and stir to combine. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, wait 10 minutes, and add it to the mixture. Then add enough flour to make a thin batter. Let this rise on the counter, uncovered, for 2 hours. Add the salt, baking powder, the baking soda and enough flour to make a stiff dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and store in the refridgerator for 24 hours before using. Pull off small pieces of dough, roll into balls and place in a greased muffin tin. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Horseradish-Garlic Crusted Prime Rib (above and below)
We made some mistakes this time around, but this piece of meat turned out great anyway. Basically, because last time we made a prime rib, there was no jus, and we read somewhere that a great way to make sure there is jus is to add some broth to the bottom of the roasting pan prior to throwing the meat in the oven. This was a very bad idea. In the end, there was no jus and we ended up braising the meat in the beginning rather than creating a nice crust. The meat was cooked about 1 and 1/2 hours before we thought it would be and thus we had to remove it from the oven, cover it with foil and leave it on the counter until our guests arrived. That was not the end of the world, since it held its heat well, and we think we learned from our mistakes.

-4 heads of garlic
-2 jars prepared horseradish
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 tb salt
-13 lb prime rib

Drizzle the garlic with olive oil, wrap the garlic in foil and bake on 400 for about 45 min to an hour, until the garlic is soft and brown. When cool enough to touch, peel the garlic and put the cloves in a food processor. Add the olive oil, the horseradish, the salt and the pepper and puree until smooth. Season the prime rib with salt and pepper, then slather the prime rib with the garlic paste. This can be done up to 24 hours before you put it in the oven, but should be done at least 4 hours beforehand. Place the prime rib on a rack in a large roasting pan and bake at 500 for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 225 and bake until the internal temperature of the prime rib is between 105 and 110 (for rare). Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Serve with creamed spinach and horseradish.

Mmm. That's a good looking piece of meat.

Sausage-Sourdough Stuffing

-1 loaf sourdough, cubed
-6 sausages
-8 stalks celery, diced
-3 carrots, peeled and diced
-1 onion, diced
-4 eggs, lightly beaten
-1 can chicken broth
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 handful fresh sage leaves, chopped

Remove sausage from casings and sautee until browned, breaking up the sausage into small bits while cooking. Remove the sausage from the pan. In the same pan sautee the onions, carrot and celery until translucent. Pour the egg and broth on the bread and stir to coat. Add the sausage, sageand veggies to the bread mixture. Spead the mixture in a large baking pan bake on 350 for 30-45 minutes, until crust is nice and brown.

Mashed Roasted Squash
Instead of mashed potatoes, we did squash this year.

-4 squash (like butternut or delicata)
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1/2 stick butter
-salt and pepper to taste

Cut squash in half lenghwise and scrape out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a large baking sheet, flesh side up. Cover with foil and roast on 375 for about an hour, until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside. When cool enough to touch, scrape the flesh into a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until smooth.

Brussel Sprouts with Blue Cheese
Brussel sprouts are the veggie everyone hates as a kid, and only when you get older do you realize that your mom wasn't trying to torture you, she actually likes brussel sprouts. These are a particularly tasty version.

-3 lbs brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 cup crumbled blue cheese
-5 shallots, minced

In a large pan sautee the shallots in a bit of olive oil. When translucent add the brussel sprouts and sautee over medium heat, stirring frequently until they are tender and browned. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the blue cheese. Remove from heat and serve.

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Ask a Chef: Hiro Sone

This week we bring you the second installment in our "Ask A Chef" series. This time Hiro Sone of Ame in San Francisco and Terra in St. Helena was kind enough to answer our questions via email. Although we've never had the opportunity to eat at Terra, we have eaten at Ame and absolutely loved it. The food was inventive and terrific and the decor is sparse but stunning. Here's the Q&A:

What's your favorite kitchen tool?

My hands.

What's your favorite cookbook?

Currently, Au Pied de Cochon.

What chef do you most admire?

Martin Picard

What's your favorite dish that your mom makes/made?


What's your food philosophy (in a sentence or two)?

Treat ingredients and food in the way you would like to be treated.

What's your favorite dish to cook at home?

Fried chicken.

What do you think is the best food city?

San Francisco

What's your favorite kitchen trick/tip?

Take it slow…just relax and cook.

What's your favorite (non-cook) book?

Currently, salt.

If you were not a chef, what would you be?


What do you view as the most challenging ingredient to work with?

All of them.

Do you have any new projects in the works?


Ninja or Pirate?



Friday, November 16, 2007

Dinner at Cafe Majestic, San Francisco, CA

We went to the Cafe Majestic for a friend's birthday. We'd never been there but found it tasty and elegant, yet fairly laid back.

Amuse Bouche

Beef Tartare - $12
Well executed if unoriginal formulation.

Pan Seared Sonoma Foie Gras - $17
Seared Foie, what's not to love?

Crab Salad
Although crab and avocado do not a particularly novel combination make, this was a well executed, fresh, flavorful salad.

Gnocchi - $17
Giao has a theory that gnocchi is never better than the first time you eat it. This dish only added more evidence to that. It was too busy, adding little to the gnocchi, which was good.

Pear Gelato
A bit sweet, but it tasted purely of pear.
Food: 1
Decor: 2
Service: 2

Cafe Majestic
1500 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94109

Health Code Violations

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Pumpkin-Cranberry Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Alexis wanted to make a fun, non-traditional Thanksgiving dessert and settled upon cupcakes. She modified a basic pumpkin cupcake recipe from and added 1 cup of chopped, fresh cranberries and came up with a lovely cream cheese frosting.

Cranberry Pumpkin Cupcakes:
-2 cups flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 cup packed light-brown sugar
-1 cup sugar
-1 2 sticks butter, melted
-4 eggs
-2 cups pumpkin puree

Mix all the dry ingredients. Whisk all the wet ingredients together. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Spoon into paper cupcake cups in a muffin tin and bake on 350 for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
-8 oz cream cheese
-1 stick butter
-1 lb powdered sugar
-1 ts vanilla
-1 pinch salt

Mix all ingredients with a hand mixer or a stand mixer and frost the above cupcakes, when cool.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dinner at R&G Lounge, San Francisco, CA

Giao had a working dinner at his company's chinese restaurant of choice: R&G Lounge. Though the food at dinner is cooked better than at lunch, the service was comically bad. About halfway through the meal, the entire staff broke and to eat, leaving absolutely no one to tend to the tables. Giao doesn't quite remember what all the dishes were called because each ordered and then shared family style.West Lake Minced Beef Soup - $10 for a bowl
It was a lot less gelatinous then it was at lunch, so I liked it more.

Giao isn't a big fan of chinese mayo, so he didn't enjoy this deep fried shrimp covered in it.
Chicken with Cashew Nuts - $11
Pretty standard.
Steamed Sea Bass
We were sitting next to the fish tanks so we saw them take this fish out. Tasty and fresh.
R&G Lounge
631 Kearny St
San Francisco, CA 94108

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dinner at LarkCreekSteak, San Francisco, CA

Giao revisited LarkCreekSteak with his bosses to celebrate his one year anniversary at his company. They've raised their prices a bit since the last time.

Amuse Bouche

classic buttermilk biscuits - $6.95
served with andouille sausage, maple and pecan butter & seasonal compote

Dry Aged Ribeye - $43
Since it wasn't on his dime, Giao ordered the dry aged ribeye again. The price has gone up, but it didn't blow him away like the first time. It is still a very good steak though.

pomegranate braised red cabbage - hobbs' bacon, apple - $7.50

herbed spaetzle - chicken veloute - $7.50

Crisp Potato Pancake - $7.50
845 Market Street, 4th Floor, Ste 402
San Francisco, CA 94103

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Chicken Noodle Soup (with Kelp Noodles)

Chicken noodle soup is something we often miss in our efforts to reduce the amount of refined carbs we eat. Fortunately, we've found kelp noodles, which, when boiled, taste just like glass noodles and make a fine substitute for regular noodles.

-3 chicken breasts, diced
-4 carrots, thinly sliced
-6 ribs celery, diced
-2 packages kelp noodles, chopped
-1/2 onion, diced
-6 cans chicken broth
-pepper to taste

Sautee the veggies in a bit of oil for a few minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the noodles. Simmer until noodles are tender. Add the chicken and cook for a couple minutes, until chicken is just done. Season and serve.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Warm Sunchokes with Basil and Fried Quail Eggs

We rarely ever have a vegetarian meal, but this one was satisfying. Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) taste vaguely of artichoke, but have the texture, when cooked, of a very creamy potato. We had some quail eggs lying around and so we fried them up and served them on top of the sunchokes.

-10 sunchokes, peeled and cut in 1/4 inch slices
-1 handful fresh basil, chopped
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 cup chicken broth
-8 quail eggs

Place the sunchokes in a sautee pan with the chicken broth and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the sunchokes are tender but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh basil. Set aside. In another pan, fry the quail eggs. Place on top of the sunchokes and serve with an easy mixed green salad.

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