Friday, May 6, 2011

For a tasty Derby Day ...

The Kentucky Derby is an excellent, and strange, sporting event. It’s the exact opposite of other sporting events. We expect the athletes (the human ones) to be small and light and to avoid making contact with the others. It is only two minutes long, which leaves no room for boredom, as with baseball, soccer or hockey. And, it gives beer drinkers an excuse to imbibe a cocktail with a French-sounding name infused with pretty little herbs. Also: gambling.

The day of the Kentucky Derby is also an excellent day for eating. The Super Bowl may have nachos, pizza and all, but the Derby allows for richer, more refined binging. Yes sir, I will have another handful of buttered pecans sprinkled with cayenne pepper and brown sugar with my bourbon.

If you have not already planned a celebration for Saturday’s Derby, you should consider it. Listed below are some ideas for drinks and eats. I named each after a fictional racehorse.


Start your day off right with sugar, butter, bourbon and espresso. It’s a bourbon ball and a couple of shots of espresso. I had never heard of a bourbon ball until this story on NPR. A bourbon ball is a chocolate confection with a butter cream center infused with the liquor. And the alcohol from the bourbon is not cooked off, though the confectioner on the radio said it’s not enough to impair you. Combine that with some espresso and you’re OK to operate heavy machinery.

Indiana Pants

This is rolled oysters – a Louisville delicacy – and fried lemons. This one is easy because you can batter and deep-fry both at the same time. Bathe your oysters in an egg, milk and cornmeal batter, then roll them in crackers (I’d use buttery Ritz), then fry. For the lemons: slice them thin, then dunk in that same batter; instead of crackers, coat them in a mixture of Panko, cayenne, black pepper and salt. Serve it all with aioli or mayonnaise mixed with adobo sauce and minced chipotle peppers.

Yes And No

You have to eat pecans. There are many recipes for improving on an already perfect snack – especially this one.

Lazy Diplomat

Salted watermelon and whiskey. You really don’t need to salt the watermelon, but I once knew a guy who put salt on all his fruit, and the salted watermelon was really good. I’ve never combined watermelon with whiskey before. But I know that some people infuse fruit and liquor to make liquor fruit. But I’d suggest having the watermelon and whiskey separate – it’s fancier.


This might be best for a small gathering, or if you’re just sitting around on Saturday afternoon and want to make a hearty lunch: a fried catfish po-boy with a lager tallboy. Catfish is good because you can still get it fresh if you live far from the ocean. Get a couple of filets, dip in cornmeal and any other spice you like and fry. Serve on a crispy bun with spinach (or tomatoes) and mayonnaise. Or, deconstruct it and serve deep-friend catfish fingers wrapped in spinach with mayo on the inside, or on the side. And you already know that lager complements any fried food. I suggest the tallboy size because the lead-up to the Derby is a couple of hours.

Good luck on your Derby Day, and may you eat well, drink responsibly and pick the right horse!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Don't Forget the Limes and Salt

!Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

I'm celebrating tonight by making carnitas tacos, saffron rice, refried beans and of course the usual condiments: cilantro, queso fresco, crema, lime and fresh avocados. I use a lot of lime, cilantro and cumin in my recipes - for that fresh, authentic flavor.

Walter, our fearless leader (who happens to be a professionally trained chef) also brought in some goodies for us today.
Homemade veggie pico de gallo!
It had three kinds of peppers, carrot, onion, avocado, corn, chili's and tomato with fresh lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper. This was a very crisp, refreshing take on your classic pico.

And what would a celebration be without the tequila?
Patron seems to be the favorite around here - CHEERS!

How are you celebrating Cinco de Mayo?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The eels

The power of good food writing is funny. I do not eat meat. But I could not help but salivate when I read James Prosek's essay in the May issue of Saveur about wild eels. Just a little bit. The essay explores the unheralded eel as classic American cuisine. Prosek explains that these slippery, wild water creatures spawn in the mysterious Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean, and then migrate to freshwater up and down the Atlantic coast. This part of the essay in particular, describing Prosek’s early eel-catching forays in southern Connecticut, made me curious about eating eel.

“Joe skinned the eels we caught, slicing around their heads and pulling the skin back like a sock from a foot. Then he cut the grayish blue meat into chunks, leaving the spine in the center, dusted it with garlic salt, and grilled it over charcoal. The eels’ copious fat dripped into the flames, causing them to jump and char the meat. We ate each chunk like corn on the cob, chewing around the spine; the meat was dense but delicate, with a flavor like a cross between seafood and meat.”

Maybe it’s not so much the eels that I’m interested in, but the experience he describes in cooking them. I can’t catch a wild tofu brick, skin it and roast it over an open flame, its fat stoking the fire. I probably could not even stir up a bundle of vegetables in the wild without committing larceny. It’s not like asparagus or carrots are growing wild in the Cascade Mountains (maybe they are, but I would not be able to spot them).

If you’re in the mood to try eels, contact Delaware Delicacies Smoke House in Hancock, New York. Maybe they can send you some. Or, depending on where you live, strap on a pair of leather gloves, wade out into your local freshwater headway late at night and try to grab some eels. If it were me, I'd sprinkle on some oregano. But definitely don’t forget the charcoal and garlic salt.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rolling out a new line of Tovolo products ...

Our Tovolo silicone ice cube trays have been flying off the shelves ever since the Wall Street Journal wrote a story about the importance of perfect ice cubes. They recommended the Tovolo tray – specifically, this one – because it generates large ice cubes that melt slowly, so your drink won't get watered down.

But Tovolo (which has an office here in Seattle) makes many other great products. You should check them out. Carolyn, our diligent product builder, just finished updating with over 100 new Tovolo products.

There’s a line of silicone spatulas that come in an array of cool colors like cotton candy, raspberry fizz, sea foam, green apple and soymilk. There’s also a bunch of holiday, sports, and horticultural-themed turners – ever flip an egg with a two-dimensional basketball?

But two product lines stand out. One is a line of pie molds. They come in a couple of different shapes (an apple, a heart, a star, a pear, etc.), which is fun, but the really cool feature is that you can use these to shape dough. I want one so I can make a homemade version of those delicious Hostess apple (or cherry) pies. You know the ones: two for $1 at your local convenience store, packaged in a loud wrapper, and they come with that sheen of brittle glaze.

Then there’s the ice cream sandwich mold; another home solution to a convenience store classic. For some reason, an ice cream sandwich always seemed too complicated to me to reproduce at home. Like you needed some special factory equipment to make them just right. Apparently not; all you need is this Tovolo cookie mold, a log of cookie dough and a dollop of your favorite ice cream (I’d choose Breyers all natural vanilla, the kind with the little black flecks of vanilla bean mixed in – but that’s just me).

So how about this: at your next summer picnic (or graduation or Mother’s Day jam), bake a couple of portable apple-shaped apple pies, a tray of ice cream sandwiches and a bowl of lemonade swimming with a half dozen Tovolo king-sized ice cubes. And do not forget to save some ice cream for on top of the apple pies!