Friday, September 28, 2007

local food round up

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl visits Big Daddy's BBQ :This story is for people who love cupcakes and ribs so much they won't mind spending their Saturday pursuing the best iterations of the genre currently, or possibly ever, available in this great state.

The Star Tribune welcomes fall with pork roast recipes and salutes Dayton's Macy's (it will always be Dayton's to me) 60-year-old Oak Grille, a Minneapolis institution.

Not local, but relevant. In my next life, I’d like to be the cheese columnist for whichever paper has the best food section. The San Francisco Chronicle is my inspiration. Earlier this week, the food section ran a short article about a tomme made in Thomasville, GA. Tommes are easily my favorite cheese, and I'm happy to see American cheesemakers making them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Resolution 07: Clancey's Meat and Fish

For a while now, our friend Apur, a dedicated foodie who always prepares a serious haunch of meat when he feeds us, has been urging Hambone and Spice to visit Clancey’s Meats. Apur and his little family are lucky enough to live in the Linden Hills neighborhood where Clancey’s is located, so they can walk over to the shop whenever they want. Hambone and Spice live all the way over in St. Paul. Visiting Linden Hills, tucked into a quiet pocket of Minneapolis, means crossing The River so we don’t make it over to this gem of a neighborhood often enough.

Hambone and Spice (mostly Spice) resolved to remedy the situation by paying a call on the store. So we visited. As with so many things, I’m wondering how we have managed as long as we have without Clancey’s.

The glass-fronted cases are filled with such gems as assorted cuts of crusty dry-aged beef, ropes of fresh sausage in transparent natural casings, creamy duck rillettes, and vacuum-packed legs of duck confit. Behind the counter, you’ll find owner/sausage-maker Greg Westergreen and Kristin Tombers*. I know their names because they introduced themselves when they heard I’d come all the way from St. Paul to buy meat from their shop, but I think they would have introduced themselves no matter where I’d come from.

The worth of your neighborhood should be measured by places like Clancey’s where the proprietors want to know your name. They’re interested in what you’re eating for dinner and how you’re going to prepare their products. The world needs more places like this.

The sausages here are amazing—filled with only the highest quality ingredients, made on the premises. They boast flavor combinations you haven’t seen anywhere else. On our first visit we picked up turkey-apricot, duck five-spice, and lamb-pine nuts-dried blueberries—each of which we roasted in the oven with quartered red potatoes and served with braised red cabbage and a medley of mustards.

Last night we used a package of Clancey’s pork-shallot-garlic sausage to put one of Mark Bittman’s 10-minutes meals to the test. Using the guidelines set forth in the NYT article, I cut five sausages into chunks and then sautéed them in a bit of olive oil. When the sausages were nearly cooked, I added a bunch of red seedless grapes and a few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. After the grapes were heated through, about 10 minutes, I ladled the mixture onto creamy, soft polenta, enriched with butter and parmesan. What does one drink with porky, garlicky goodness that has mingled with sweet, warm grapes and salty, buttery, comforting polenta? A red fruit-laden, slightly spicy Jaboulet Parallele "45" Cotes du Rhone.

We haven’t yet made a dent in Clancey’s vast meaty offerings so we’ll be returning soon and often. And so should you—it’s my personal mission to send everyone to Clancey’s. Go. Buy sausages and free-range chicken and lamb chops and dry-aged hangar steaks. Introduce yourselves to Greg and Kristin and Erik.

*Partner Erik Sather wasn’t in on my visit.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Happy Autumn!

Even though temperatures in Minnesota have been hovering above 80 degrees, the leaves are changing colors, the squirrels are burying nuts, and the mice are looking for winter homes—all right on schedule. While we could just as easily have grilled, Hambone and Spice got a jump on the new season by fixing a fall dinner last night.

The meal preparation was sort of fussy and protracted by a much-appreciated phone call from a sibling so I set out some nibbles to tide over Hambone and our guest, my brother Nik. We spread a pungent taleggio cheese on Lesley Stowe's dried cranberry and hazelnut-studded Rainforest Crisps and sipped Campari cocktails (equal parts Campari and Punt e Mes vermouth with a splash of soda water).

I pulled together a pear crisp by peeling, coring, and slicing four Comice pears, which went into a 9 x 9-inch baking dish. The pears were tossed with about a quarter cup of crystallized ginger. Fresh ground nutmeg over the pear-ginger mixture. One cup of flour, a half cup of rolled oats, a quarter cup brown sugar, and six tablespoons melted butter were mixed by hand to form a crumbly dough, which blanketed the pears. The crisp baked in 350 degree oven for an hour.

Red romaine leaves and Mark Bittmans' classic vinaigrette recipe with balsamic vinegar constituted the base of a tossed green salad with toasted pine nuts and orange segments. I love sweet, salty, and nutty in my tossed greens.

Our main course was a rich, satisfying wild-mushroom risotto. The weekend prior, Hambone and I had picked up some fresh, vibrant golden chanterelles and a package of mixed, dried woodland mushrooms (from which I mostly used the morels). Martha Stewart has a recipe that calls for both fresh and dried mushrooms, and uses a pretty classic prep with shallots, Arborio rice, dry white wine, and chicken stock and butter and Parmesan cheese to finish.

Hambone and Spice were reminded of how much they each love risotto and vowed that this would be the first of many risottos in the coming months.

A Domaine Lafond cotes du rhone accompanied our meal, which was, by all rights, a fine how-do-you-do to fall.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Local food writing round-up

Invented by the rice reapers in the Albufera region near Valencia, traditional paella basically consisted of rabbit, snails, duck and beans. In a special article for the Star Tribune, Donna Tabbert Long writes about paella and offers an easy recipe for home cooks. Paella is one of the one-dish meals I'm looking forward to making as the coming colder weather suggests warming, comforting food.

Three words: Lamb. Curry. Meatballs. Dara Moskowitz reviews Blackbird Cafe in south Minneapolis, which is run by Table of Contents alum: if you love people, and restaurants, and enthusiasm, and not spending too much on a good dinner, you are going to just love it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

what's not to like about bacon

The geniuses at Vosges Haut-Chocolat, my favorite chocolatiers, have possibly one-upped the nearly perfect savory-sweet combination of their Barcelona bar by adding bacon to chocolate. The new Mo's Bacon Bar features applewood-smoked bacon and alderwood-smoked salt in deep milk chocolate. I can't wait to track a bar down...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Recent meals

1. Chicken breasts marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, and garlic, then grilled; grilled zucchini; chimichurri, which is, hands down, the best chimichurri recipe. It comes from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and it's very flexible. You can use parsley or cilantro, or a combination of both. For the acidic note, you can use lemon juice or vinegar. No matter which green leafy thing we have on hand to use, we always use sherry vinegar, as well as red pepper flakes, good-quality olive oil, garlic, and plenty of kosher salt. Even though we're fans of rustic chopped herb sauces, chimichurri has so many strong components and a fair amount of oil to bind them that the way it works best is to emulsify in a food processor or blender.

2. That pasta I only ever make in the summer when I can get garden-fresh ingredients. I've never written down the recipe, and occasionally have very mixed results, such as when the tomatoes aren't very juicy and I've thrown out all the pasta water so the vegetables aren't very saucy. Last week I made a note to pay attention to the process so I could at least get that down here. Quantities, of course, could vary according to taste, but here's the basic method: saute minced shallots in equal parts olive oil and butter until soft. Add fresh corn kernels from a few ears; incorporate corn with shallot mixture and saute for a few minutes. Add a centimeter of white wine and cover pan to allow corn to steam for a few minutes (Hambone prefers his corn less al dente). Remove cover and add diced zucchini. Season with salt, pepper, fresh thyme, and red pepper flakes. Allow zucchini to brown a bit before adding diced tomatoes. Cook for about five more minutes. Toss sauce with pasta (I used farfalle here, but I prefer orecchiette or conchiglie—something with a cup to hold the goods). This time I added a barely discernible splash of cream to the vegetables before tossing with the pasta, which, beyond a little gussied-up richness, gave the dish a depth of character I hadn't noticed was lacking.

3. Steamed clams, another quick and dirty dish lacking a recipe: I sauteed a quarter cup diced chorizo in a dot of olive oil (just to get it started), then added minced shallots, which I gave a quick swirl in the smoky, densely red oil. Roughly two minutes later I poured a quarter cup white wine (Salvenal Albarino 2004), then added 3 pounds clams (manilas and another larger variety purchased from Coastal Seafoods); covered and steamed for ten minutes. We devoured the sweet, minerally clams, swiping crusty baguette hunks through the rich (slightly briny) juice, all accompanied by the remaining Albarino.

4. Evidence of another sausage fest with the Harrisons, in which we grill a variety of sausages and try a range of mustards. This really deserves a fuller post—especially for the hospitality of our friends not to mention the places where we each sourced our meat—so more sausage news to come. Here, from left to right: asiago-wild rice bratwurt from Kowalski's; lamb-dried blueberry-pine nut sausage from Clancey's Meats and Fish; chicken sausage with spinach and feta (source unknown); and Summit Maibock bratwurt from Kowalski's.