Monday, May 29, 2006

Adjustments required

All this new kitchen gear is requiring some adjustment... As I said, cooking a chicken in the advantium is a major mess. Not quite what I expected. Have to get used to the concept of cleaning out the entire oven interior like it's a pan. Sigh. And loading the dishwasher is going to take a while to "get." The racks are somewhat smaller and they are configured quite a bit differently from what we have known. Heard some frustration from Dave last night over that one. It just takes time (I hope!). The range will take some adjusting too, cleaning the cooktop is a little more extensive since with the continuous top, everything gets messy every time I cook. I'm just going to try to be patient. Not my strong suit but a good exercise for me.

Ducking again...

So I had one duck liver in the freezer, and two more from the ducks this week. So I tried Jacque's recipe for a quick duck liver pate: Dang, that was easy and yummy. Had the other duck breasts last night. No cherry sauce this time, unadorned was very very good. Got the confit cooked and packed away to age for a couple of weeks. Initial reviews are positive :) Today, we're having lamb burgers for dinner. But before that I am trying to roast a whole chicken in the advantium. It is kind of messy, you have to accept that it's going to splatter all over the oven then you have to wash it out. I need to figure out a solution for that.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Tomorrow the remodeling guys will be painting in the kitchen, so I have to get my cooking in today. Went and bought two fresh ducks this morning. Broke them down into leg-thighs, wings, and breasts. With the legs and wings from another duck in the freezer, I have enough to merit making confit. seems to be a good recipe, I've tried a few. But I'm of course as usual not leaving well enough alone. I'm subbing herbs de Provence for just thyme, and instead of curing it in a single layer in a dish I'm putting it all in a ziplock bag. So that's in the fridge until Sunday morning. Good thing I have about five pounds of duck fat already in the freezer for this one. Now for the duck breasts. Tonite two of them will be duck with cherry sauce. I'm using the recipe from Epicurious as a starting point, but using my home-brandied cherries instead of fresh cherries and red wine. I've made the sauce already, and it's interesting. We'll have polenta with gorgonzola and asparagus with it. The other two breasts we'll have on the grill on Sunday, if the weather cooperates. All four of them are in a light salt/herb cure for a couple of hours right now. Guess I'd better go find a nice Pinot to go with tonite's dinner!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Copper River Salmon -- yum

I've never really fallen for the marketing of Copper River salmon. Nor the sky-high prices. But I was up at the Market yesterday (Pike Place Market, the local farmer's market) and one of my fish guys had some Copper River chinook for only $13.99/lb. So I got a nice piece to try for my lunch. It took all of FOUR MINUTES in the Advantium, and it was really great. Moist, great flavor. I only seasoned it with some lemon avocado oil and sea salt. A little fresh asparagus and I had a great lunch for about $7 -- would have paid at least $25 in a restaurant.

I can't hear my dishwasher

I didn't think a dishwasher could be this quiet. What a wonderful thing! At this point I can recommend a Miele -- though you'll need to ask me again in a couple of months after I've really broken it in. The interior dimensions seem a little smaller than the last one, so the baskets aren't as large. But with the extra cutlery tray, there's isn't that stupid silverware basket taking up space in the bottom. I like that, though it's going to take getting used to new patterns of loading dishes.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Lamb meatballs

Had to come up with a nosh for a pinot nior wine tasting. Decided lamb of course made sense, so: 1/2 onion 1 clove garlic drop both into food processor and whirl until finely chopped. Add: 1/2 lb ground beef 1 lb ground lamb 2 t. cumin 2 t. salt 1/2 t. allspice 1/8 t. cayenne pepper Whirl to combine, add 1/2 c dried breadcrumbs and one egg. Whirl again, just until it comes together. Chill at least an hour. Form into 1" meatballs. Convection roast at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Served with some tzatziki, yogurt with shredded cucumber, cumin, salt, and a little mashed garlic to taste. They seemed to go over well, and did match nicely with the pinots we were tasting. Discovered that the dairy kind of smoothed out those that were a little high in alcohol.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sweet potato fries

I seem to be on a quest to find truly great sweet potato fries around Seattle. I've made them myself, but with only two of us it's kind of not worth going through all the mess. I had some really interesting ones today at Palisade. They weren't what I would call crisp, but the outsides were somewhat caramelized, and the insides were really creamy. Well-seasoned, too. I had some at Pig Iron BBQ two weeks ago that were good but totally different, crisper. But what I'd like to find is crisp outside, creamy inside, without overcooking. I wonder if dredging them in cornstarch, they way some folks recommend doing french fries, would do the trick. I suspect I'm about to embark on a set of Cooks Illustrated-like experiments to see what works best. I hope my neighbors like sweet potato fries :-)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Advantium pork chops

Cooked a couple of 1 1/2" thick boneless pork chops in the Advantium last night. I'd put on a rub of salt, brown sugar, and ground ginger the night before, so they were nicely cured. Used the built-in program for pork chops, but of course had to modify it since it only had up to 1" thick as an option. Took about 2 minutes longer. They got nice grill marks on them, which was a surprise. Another surprise was the amount of smoke that got generated and how much of that ended up in the room instead of vented out of the oven. It was a lot. But the outcome was good. Cleaning up the grill pan that comes with the oven was something of a chore, and I was also surprised at all the splatters I had to wipe up. But the cleanup was less than from broiling and the outcome was just as good.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Three down, one to go

We got three of the four appliances installed. That means I'm still without a dishwasher. Looks like we're going to have to re-do some plumbing to pull that one off. Another sigh. But, the fridge is lovely and so nice and roomy! I so love being able to see everything. Getting the Advantium oven up and installed with the two of us was quite the adventure. Suffice to say that I shed a few tears of hysteria but we got it up there and securely fastened. I think I need some kind of a different degree to operate it, though the principles are pretty clear to me. I'm going to try a nice thick pork chop tonite. Sugar cookies the other night were kind of weird, best to not leave them in little balls but squash them some. One challenge is that it cooks so fast that you can go from done to burned in less than a minute. So it will require lots of practice. When you're using just microwaves you have to change to a different turntable and that's going to be a little annoying sometimes I think. But something I'll get used to once I resolve the storage issues for the different pieces. With no dishwasher, and a husband away on business, I'm not going all out with fully using the range. But just the luxury of five burners, including one oblong one that will be ideal for deglazing a roasting pan, makes me all warm and happy inside :) One thing I'm looking forward to is using the lower oven, which can be set as low as 150 degrees, to do some oven dried tomatoes and maybe some jerky. Workers are back tomorrow to work on some other areas, so back to more noise and dust. One thing about living in a condo, you find out all kinds of weird ways things got put together when you start pulling off drywall. Spaghetti electrical, things that look structural but really aren't, jury-rigged infrastructure. Makes it all a little hard because we never know what the next stage will bring in terms of expanded work to be done. At least when we started this we didn't attempt to redline our budget from the beginning, so as the task grows we're not freaking out about going over budget. Yet.

1985 Columbia Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Willow Vinyard

I told you I'd let you know how the '85 was when we opened a bottle for my son's 21st birthday. He wasn't drinking much yesterday afternoon, as he was dreadfully hung over from that ritual of going out to start drinking right at midnight when you turn 21. But I did make him take a sip -- guess we're glad he didn't really want it since it left more for the rest of us :) Because it was incredible. Started out harsh and sharp. Left in the glass for about 20 minutes, it became just like velvet. Soft and smooth, with firm cherry and tobacco aromas and flavors. Good to the last drop. A great match for the rotisserie rib roast we had. And since it was Mother's Day, a nice treat for me 21 years after delivering the best thing I've ever done. I have one more bottle and will drink it very soon, since it is definitely ready.

Friday, May 12, 2006

More restaurants: Andy's Diner & Etta's

Well, Andy's was retro before retro was in. It was the kind of place where I felt I had to order a glass of the house red wine, if you know what I mean, and it seems most of the people there were regulars. Really good onion rings, and great housemade clam chowder. Service was really rushed, we got our soup/salad while we were eating the o-rings, and the entrees showed up when we were halfway through the soup/salad. The steaks are good, and reasonably priced. I had a 10-oz "prime steak" which is what I think is a very rare skirt steak with barbeque sauce. It's good; the hashbrowns that came with it were underdone. The prime rib was fine, nothing extraordinary but at $16.95 for a 12-oz slab, you can't really ask for more. With that we had pasta Alfredo, which while good is *really* garlic-y. Hubby was happy because they have Alaskan Amber on tap. Passed on dessert -- evidently they get their pies at the beginning of the week and by Friday all that was left was cherry and banana cream. I wanted the coconut cream...wanted to compare it to the Tom Douglas' restaurants version I had for lunch yesterday. Oh, well. Another day. Speaking of Tom Douglas restaurants, we had lunch at Etta's yesterday. The day boat scallops were incredible -- about as sweet as I've ever tasted. My halibut was nicely crusted, and I really liked the lemon couscous under it and the harissa viniagrette on top. The coconut cream pie was as good as I remember from several years ago. The chocolate pistachio cake was good enough, but I'm not wild about the almond extract flavor it had. And, unfortunately, there were several pieces of pistachio shell in the cake. Those are really hard, we're glad no teeth were sacrified. Long lunch, expensive lunch ($75) but really really tasty. Server shared that Douglas is in the planning stages of opening a pizza parlor...interesting!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

They're here! They're here!

Okay, maybe it's just not natural to get so excited about new appliances. But, as I told the delivery guy (who looked about 15 years old, by the way, but was incredibly competent) I've been wanting a professional-grade fridge for most of my adult life and so today is kind of a milestone in that sense. I'm all verklempt...give me a minute... Oh, they aren't installed yet, though the fridge is plugged in. But the sad thing is that until I get the water connected and the fridge pushed back into its retaining bracket, I can't even open the doors to look inside. Delayed gratification, I guess. Hubby will be home from work early to help me get all the connections made for that and for the new range. Tomorrow we'll tackle the dishwasher and the Advantium microwave. Dang, that fridge is HUGE! Seven feet tall, three and a half feet wide. One rather imposing expanse of stainless steel in my not that big kitchen. It (and the other appliances) really brighten it up, though, with all the reflecting of the light. I haven't cooked a meal in almost two weeks now. Feels like withdrawal to me. I'll cook on Sunday at mom's, we're going to christen their new BBQ rotisserie with a standing rib roast. That ought to be interesting. Just a simple salad and roasted new potatoes and asparagus on the side. And a big chocolate cake for dessert :) Since we're celebrating my recent birthday and my son's 21st birthday. I'm hoping that a highlight will be a couple of bottles of 1985 Columbia Red Willow Cab (my son was born in 85, natch). Will of course let you know how that turns out.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hooked on a microwave?

Doing this kitchen remodel has brought one thing home to me -- I'm addicted to using a microwave oven. Actually, my family was a fairly early adopter of the appliance, I remember having one when I was in high school. In those days, we used it for defrosting and heating water, mostly. But now? I make risotto and polenta in it, heat up my lunch, steam vegetables, do the water heating thing, and on, and on...but there's one catch: Right now, I don't have a microwave oven! I will again in a few days but have been going through withdrawal since Saturday. I didn't realize how important it was to the rhythm of my cooking. Sort of like the food processor, for making fine purees. Sometimes you just get used to doing things a certain way. (And, by the way, if you've never made risotto in a microwave oven, boy is it the best tool for that job!)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Notes on a couple of well-known Seattle restaurants

While we're remodeling the kitchen, we're eating out a lot more. And since one of us just celebrated a birthday we took the opportunity to go a little more luxe than usual. That meant dinner at Daniel's Broiler on Lake Washington this week, for starters. Daniel's has a great view, even if it is raining (which it wasn't). The steaks, while quite expensive, are very good. My filet was "like buttah" as a prime steak should be. And my husband couldn't finish the porterhouse (but it made great steak salad the next day). The creamed spinach is about the best we've had at a steakhouse, and they do a good job of keeping it a nice bright green. The yukon gold mashed potatoes are a good choice for potato, not a puree or too drippy, with some nice lumps for texture. I would not recommend getting the tomato and onion salad unless tomatoes are really in season; while the server told me they had "great" tomatoes, it was still obvious they were out of season beefsteaks. Go for the mixed green salad instead, hubby thought it was great. Sunday is the best day to go, since every bottle under $100 on their wine list is half-price. Be forewarned that there aren't that many bottles under $100, but there are some good ones. Second "pull out the stops" dinner was at Salty's on Alki. It was a beautiful day (two in a row!) so the window table we had gave us a great view of downtown Seattle. The king salmon was fresh so I had it roasted on top of a potato/chorizo fritter. I thought the fish was a little overdone but still tasty, and the fritter was about 3" across with the fish served on top of it. It was together a nice texture and flavor combination, and went really well with the Laeticia pinot noir I had. The fruitiness cut through some of the fat of the fish and stood up well to the spiciness in the chorizo. But the star of dinner, as it always is at Salty's, is pastry chef Jane Gibbons' white chocolate mousse cake. You get a free piece on your birthday, too :) It is incredibly light and really rich at the same time. We had a whole cake made for our wedding reception last year and it was the hit of the party. Worth it sometimes just to stop in there for dessert. Off to someplace else tonite. I can't wait for our new kitchen to be finished, but the eating out is kind of a treat, at least for a little while...I'll get some new ideas to try when I'm back at the stove.