Saturday, November 30, 2013


It's been one hell of a year and I've got a lot to be thankful for. Thanks to YOU for reading my blog! I'm consistently flattered to hear of friends and strangers who find inspiration in my posts, and you inspire me to craft the best posts I possibly can. I'm glad I can simultaneously archive my recipes and share them with you - and because of you, this archive is becoming something I can actually be proud of. Thanks, guys.

Enough with the mushy holiday feelings - let's get cookin!

----- LAMB -----

Since moving to Berkeley last year, I've only ever bought meat at the farmers markets. Primarily from Prather Ranch. For Thanksgiving this year, I procrastinated too long and Prather was sold out of all the special holiday meats by the time I asked. They recommended Marin Sun Farms, which has a butcher shop in the Rockridge area of Oakland. Their website is super groovy and they claim to be conscious stewards of the land, raising deliciously sustainable animals. So I made the trip down to Rockridge.

Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop is in the back of Rockridge Market Hall - A glorious food menagerie, reminiscent of DeLaurenti in Pike Place Market.  I traversed the jungle of imported fine cheese samples, locally carved wooden kitchen utensils, fine wines, and fresh/live seafood. Joy washed over me as I stepped into the Marin Sun Farms corner of the hall - so much beautiful meat! Sausages hanging from the ceiling, coolers full of dog food and stocks, an employee skillfully breaking down an entire lamb in plain view, sweatshirts that simply say "CARNIVORE" on the back, and they have a map detailing where all of their meat comes from and how it gets to the butcher shop (via processing facilities etc., all in CA). Even the employees seemed to be thrilled to be there (always a good sign of a good business).

When I asked the young gentleman behind the counter for a whole leg of lamb, bone in, horror flashed across his face as he told me it would be about 10 minutes. He pulled a full lamb leg from from the walk-in and got a few cuts into it before a salty old man scooped up the lamb leg and ushered the kid to the back. I sneakily watched the older man teach the young guy how to prepare a leg of lamb. This warmed my heart so deeply and brought back many fond memories from when I was learning to be a butcher (though I never truly was). 

Once I had the leg in hand, I had to contact my friend, Trevor, who makes the most amazing lamb I've ever had - lovingly dubbed, "blam lamb". Trevor inspired me to used spices - like cinnamon and coriander, in addition to herbs.

I made a mixture of salt, black pepper, Ceylon cinnamon, and fresh ground coriander. Then I lathered the leg of lamb in olive oil and the spice mixture. To sear this beast, I put a sheet pan directly over two burners on my stove and added some extra olive oil. Searing happens quickly on high heat. A roasting pan would be far better, but sometimes you just gotta work with what you have!

I turned off the heat, removed the meat from the sheet pan and lined it with a bed of onions, garlic, parsley stems, and a bay leaf.

Then I laid the lamb on top of the veggies, sprinkled on the excess spice mix and put it in the oven. After I got it into the oven, I added about a quart of water and a few cubes of frozen homemade chicken demi-glace. Then I covered it with foil and let it braise for 5 hours at 325F.

Before removing this beast from the oven, I carefully poured off most of the drippings into a pot, which I put on the stove to boil down into concentrated deliciousness. 

Since we were biking to our friends house for a Thanksgiving potluck, I deboned and sliced up the entire leg and crammed it into a tupperware. Then at our friends house, I spread the lamb out in a baking pan, covered it in the pan drippings (transported in a ziplock bag), and reheated it in the oven.

Lots of chopped parsley for garnish!

To recap...
Braised Leg of Lamb
1 Whole Leg of Lamb, bone in (7-8#)
~couple Tbsp Kosher Salt
~1-2 tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground
~1 Tbsp Ceylon Cinnamon
~1 Tbsp Coriander, freshly ground
Lots of Virgin Olive Oil
2 Onions, sliced (1 red, 1 yellow)
2 bulbs Garlic, whole cloves
1 bunch Parsley (stems for braising, leaves for garnish)
1 Bay Leaf
1 quart water/stock
Rub meat with spices, sear on high heat, put lamb on a bed of veggies with stock, cover with foil or lid, and braise at 325F for at least 4-5 hours.

----- CORN DOGS -----

I'm not sure why I got inspired to make corn dogs, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I adapted the following recipe from Saveur

Corn Dog Batter
1 cup Flour
2/3 cup Cornmeal
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
Big pinch salt
3/4 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Buttermilk
1 Large Egg

Mix together the dry things, then add the wet things and thoroughly whisk together.

Prepare the sausage! I used Prather Ranch's Apple Bacon Sausage, cut into bite-sized chunks.

Meanwhile, have a pot of vegetable oil heating on the stove. I usually set it to low heat and test if it's ready by sprinkling a tiny bit of flour or batter into the oil. If it bubbles, it's ready. Dust the sausages in flour, shake off excess flour, then dip them in the batter, and then carefully transfer them to the hot oil. A fork works well for dealing with battered sausages.

Fry for several minutes until golden brown. Use tongs to make sure they are cooking evenly and not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Any left-over batter can be fried alone. I added some cornmeal to the left-over batter before frying it to make hushpuppies.

Corn dogs on the left, hushpuppies on the right.


This is when I began taking photos rather sporadically. I completely forgot to photograph my steamed artichokes and lemon beurre blanc. Here is the only photo I have of Alex's deliciously colorful salad:

Kale, Chard, Chioga Beets, Yellow Beats, Apple, Pear, Ceylon Cinnamon

Believe it or not, in two normal-size backpacks we fit: an entire leg of lamb, pan drippings, corn dogs, salad in a fancy salad bowl, a bowl of parsley, four artichokes, lemon beurre blanc, a six-pack + a 22oz. bottle of beer, and Cards Against Humanity (including 3 expansions). Luckily we only had to do this for a short bike ride.

We arrived at Kate's house, and walked into the most chaotic deliciousness I've ever experienced. Every surface in their sizable kitchen was being used to prepare food. There was food stacked on top of food, and food being "set aside" inside the cabinet next to the plates. There were at least 3-5 people in the kitchen at all times - cooking, chopping, heating, eating, moving, cleaning, prepping, yelling, laughing, and calling for another stick of butter. So much butter. 

Kate made each one of us a damn fine hot buttered rum. Each with our own tablespoon of butter.

We snacked on corndogs and artichokes and played a silly role playing game called Munchkin.

And then there was duck. 

One of Kate's housemates got two ducks from the same producer that The French Laundry goes through. He made confit with the legs and sous-vided the breasts. There were so many of us that we only got a few bites of duck, but oh my, it was divine.

After the duck, we filled up our plates with the next round of food...

Clockwise from about 10-11 o'clock - Gavin's yorkshire pudding, Alex's salad, Ben's cinnamony sweet potatoes, Kate's brussel sprouts, turkey leg, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes #1, Aaron's matzo stuffing, Justin's mashed potatoes.

And then there was lamb, and sweet potato pie complete with marshmallows on top, apple pie, pumpkin pie, whipped cream, bread pudding, and last but not least, Angus's fairy cakes:

I'm likely forgetting something. There was an unbelievable amount of food, and I think we may have somehow ended up with more food than we began with. Thanks for all the delicious food, good times, and mountain of left-overs! ...and thanks for reading ;-)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Om's Chocolate Cake

I believe it was my brother who gave this cake it's name. Our mom made this cake for birthdays and occasionally other special occasions when we were kids. Under all other circumstances we called our mom, "mom", but when referencing this cake, it's not "mom's chocolate cake", it's "om's chocolate cake". It's pretty much the best cake ever, though I suppose I'm rather biased on this topic.

My mom's recipe is actually a photocopy of a recipe from a old Sunset Magazine, with a few hand-written modifications.

The original recipe is titled Almond Fudge Torte, and says it serves about 10 people.

Om's Chocolate Cake
2 tsp Fresh Brewed Coffee
4 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate
3 Large Eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
3/4 cup Sugar
2 oz. Almond Paste
1/2 cup Flour

My mom always used Ghirardelli Extra Bittersweet Baking Chocolate, I ended up using a combination of Scharffen Berger 99% chocolate and Guittard semisweet chocolate chips. This cake is all about intense chocolateliness, I say the higher concentration of cacao, the better!

Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, and make some coffee. When the chocolate is melted, mix 2 Tbsp of coffee into the chocolate.

While chocolate is melting and coffee is brewing, cream together the butter and sugar. Make sure the butter is at room temperature first, it'll make your life a lot easier. If your butter is cold, you can cut it up into many pieces so it will warm up quickly.

Add almond paste to the creamed butter and sugar...

Separate the eggs - whites in a new mixing bowl, yolks in with the butter-sugar-almond paste.

Add the coffee-chocolate to the butter-sugar-almond paste-egg yolk. Also add the flour and thoroughly mix.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Shout out to my trusty vintage Hobart-Kitchen Aid mixer and egg beater that I inherited from my mom when she moved back east to be near the grand kids, et al.

Fold the egg whites into all the other stuff in three parts, being careful not to over mix.

 Butter an 8-inch cake pan and dust it with cocoa powder.

Pour the batter into the pan...

Bake at 350F for 30min. Do not overbake! This cake is better underdone than overdone!

Let cool on a rack for about 10 minutes.

Tap out of the pan onto the rack once it's cool enough to touch and let it continue to cool completely before making the chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze
2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
4 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate

Once the cake is cool, melt the chocolate with the butter on a double boiler. Mix the butter and chocolate together thoroughly. Once fully melted, remove the buttery chocolate from the heat and allow it to cool, stirring occasionally. Let it cool until it's thick and almost solid. Position a chinoise, cheesecloth, or any other fine mesh over the cake and pour the chocolate glaze through it. Keep the cake on the cooling rack for this and put something under it to catch drips. It helps to have a second person help you with this.

Use a spatula to evenly spread the glaze over the cake and down the sides. Then get busy eating all the chocolate off the spatula, strainer, bowls, and anywhere else it might have splattered! I have many fond childhood memories of "helping" my mom clean up from making this cake. 

Allow the glaze to fully harden before serving. This can take several hours at room temperature, or roughly 30 minutes in the fridge. Once the glaze is solid, it's ready to be served, or adorned with additional decorations. 

I made this cake after getting some totally unexpected, incredibly bad news. I was craving a serious cooking project and some serious comfort food. Also I felt the need to express my frustration with several horrible things that have happened to my close friends this year. Also lots of pink edible sparkles. Because everything is better with sparkles. Let's all love each other and live awesome lives no matter what. And if we eat enough cake, we just might poop sparkles.