Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Family + Thanksgiving = Compromises

As usual when you gather more than three of my family, food compromises become necessary.  However, this leads to deeper questions.

"Oh, you've decided to eat paleo? Great! Now I must change what I fix and serve? Why?"

"You are cleansing this month? Great! You want me to avoid __(fill in the blank according to trend)__? Sure, no problem ...  not."

Ah, but you love them so you try to accommodate. I want to share a little recipe I think you will enjoy.

Start with a quantity of Brussels Sprouts. Peel off the dead leaves (brown or yellow). Without cutting off the root, halve the sprout longways with a kitchen knife. Put half flat side down and shave thin slices from the top toward the bottom and discard the root end. Repeat until all the roots are chopped in thin strips.

Next you chunk mushrooms in small bite size pieces.

Halve the white part of a leek long ways an then slice quarter inch half rings.

Here is where the compromise that triggered the post comes into play. The best way to finish this dish would be to slice 3 strips of bacon in quarter inch pieces, slow fry those to barely crisp and then throw in the vegetables and continue cooking until done. Tonight we will forego the bacon and substitute butter.

Note: A great variation is to add pecan pieces with the vegetables.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Seriously Fall in the Ozarks

As I write, the sky outside is blue but scattered dark gray clouds are thick enough to dim the sunlight as they race overhead. When I awoke this morning, the temperature was close to freezing. Several of my social media friends reported seeing snowflakes. Fortunately for Nancy and I, Arkansas lies far enough South that we are not affected by the first winter storm in the Midwest.

Earlier this week, I thawed a frozen duck I found at the supermarket. Here in rural Arkansas, these sometimes show up near Thanksgiving, and I took advantage of that fact. When it thawed, I filleted the breasts from the bird and detached the leg quarters. On a domestic United States duck, that left little worth eating on the bird carcass.

I seared the breasts for a week night dinner.

The carcass went into a stock pot that I simmered for about 12 hours over the space of two days. The legs and thighs were headed for fat to confit them when I read a persuasive blog post on cassoulet.

Thank you

I decided to experiment and try the way written on the post instead of the way I was taught at Le Cordon Bleu, London.

In keeping with the French farmer origins, I collected what I had or could get. That meant no artisinal garlic charcuterie. I used kielbasa instead. Salt pork, the duck legs and thighs, and some frozen pork cutlets out of the freezer were selected for the other meats.

For the beans, I used what I had, a combination of Great Northerns and Cranberries.

This morning I prepped everything and started to build the casserole.

First I browned the meats.

 I sauteed the onion in the dutch oven I used to brown the meat and added a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste to the onions. I added the beans the aromatics, the head of garlic, and a spice satchel that contained thyme, bay leaf, a few cloves, and about a teaspoon of a spice blend from Penzy's that they label bouquet garni.

To this I added 5 cups of duck stock I had strained and de-fatted. I brought the beans and extras to a simmer and covered it to cook for 45 minutes. I tested at that point and the beans were nearly done. I removed the carrot, celery, and spice bundle. I added the meats and enough stock to mostly cover everything and put the dutch oven in a 275 degree oven, uncovered. At 2 hours I began breaking the crust every 30 minutes and adding water as necessary.

This is the 2 and 1/2 hours in the oven picture.

After five hours in the oven, the crust had darkened and I reduced the oven temperature to below 200 to hold the casserole for dinner.

Amazing flavors.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Story and a Recipe

Al Saab owned and operated the best steakhouse/speakeasy in Tulsa. He was Lebanese and his place catered to Federal judges, oil and gas men, and very high class fallen women. He was a close friend and client of my father. You had to enter his place through the kitchen and if he didn’t approve, you didn’t get in. He fell in love with Nancy the first time he met her and cried whenever we went to his place. We never paid a check, always left with a wrapped side of ribs, and when he closed the place he gave two people the recipe to his tabouli, my father and Nancy.

When Nancy was pregnant, instead of pickles or ice cream cravings, she asked for tabouli so often I was worried the babies would look like Al.

Note: This is a salad. The parsley should dominate the wheat. This means oil and lemon juice are vital to balance the flavors, but neither should dominate the other and neither should dominate the parsley and wheat.

Serves 25 ice cream scoops or 10 full salads.


2 to 4 large bunches of parsley, chopped fine by knife (flat leaf preferred but curly acceptable and cheaper)

1 pound cracked wheat (bulgur)
1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped in .25” dice (Use yellow pepper for a good color contrast)

2 ripe beefsteak or 4 to 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped to .25” dice (save the juice and add to the salad after straining)

Optional: 1 cucumber, seeded and diced to .25” dice

1 large or 2 small bunches green or spring onions, sliced in .25” rings

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons fresh chopped mint

1 to 2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Approximately 6 or 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 6 to 8 lemons


Soak the bulgur in very hot water in a separate bowl until soft.

Combine chopped parsley, tomato, tomato juice, sweet pepper, cucumber, onion, mint, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Add 5 tablespoons of olive oil to the combined vegetable and mix well. Vegetables should be well coated in oil.
Add black pepper generously and 2 teaspoons of salt to vegetables and mix well.
Squeeze bulgur dry by hand and add to vegetables when cool. Mix well.
Juice lemons and add juice from 6 to the mix. Taste. Adjust oil first, then lemon juice, then salt.

Chill and serve.