Cheese of the Week: Bucherondin

If Gabrielle and I made a list of all the things we both love, it would probably take up several volumes, but I’m pretty sure Champagne, Mario Kart, and goat cheese would all be near the top.  Due to Gabrielle’s insane schedule, I have what I suspect will be a rare opportunity to write The Feast’s weekly cheese post.  With her in mind, I naturally picked a chevre that we shared together a few weeks ago.

Bucherondin

Bucherondin, courtesy of quinn.anya on Flickr

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Improvisational Baking: Persimmon-Apple Country Tart

Often, when you’re cooking, things don’t go exactly as planned.  I believe one of the keys to being a good home cook is not to do everything perfectly all the time, but to be able to improvise when the shiitakes hit the fan.

Slice of apple-persimmon tart

Slice of apple-persimmon tart

Monday, feeling incredibly overwhelmed by my schedule this week, I decided to do some therapeutic baking.  B brought home three persimmons from the co-op last week that were just aching to be used, but without milk in the house, a cake was out of the question.  I decided on a tart, but then realized I was going to have a problem with the crust.  I somehow manage to frequently forget that I do not own a proper tart pan.  This means I often end up making pies instead of tarts, but on this occasion I mused to my mother about it, and she made the brilliant suggestion to do a country-style tart on a sheet pan, with the edges folded up over the fruit.

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How to Roast Peppers on a Gas Range

When B and I bought our first house almost a year ago, one of the only must-haves on our list was a gas stove.  There are many reasons to prefer gas ranges over electric, but one of the clinchers is the ability to roast peppers on the stove-top.  Having lived my entire adult life in apartments with electric stoves, I didn’t know what I was missing until Brendan showed me the light.  This week, he learned that one of the partners at his firm is in a similar state of darkness, and that settled it: time for a public tutorial.  Once you see how easily it’s done, you’ll be roasting peppers 2 or 3 times a week, like we do… or you’ll be looking for a new home with a gas range.

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Zuni Cafe & The Battle for Best Roasted Chicken and Bread Pudding in San Francisco

Zuni Cafe in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley is rumored to be home of the best roasted chicken in San Francisco — high praise indeed given the city’s love of all things chicken. I will say, this is the best roasted chicken I have ever had.

Zuni's roast chicken

Zuni's roast chicken

You have to be willing to wait (an hour to be precise), but it is well worth it. While it is advertised as roasted chicken for two, I would say it more realistically serves three very hungry people. Each person at our table was able to have one or two sizable pieces and we had leftovers. The chicken was surprisingly moist, with some of the crispiest, most flavorful skin I have tasted. It was clear that they used salt to draw out the moisture in the skin, and you did not have too many different flavors competing or overpowering the chicken itself, which was refreshing. It was topped with a bread salad with currents, a perfect accompaniment.

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Canteen SF – If You Don’t Like It, They’ll Make You Love It

I’m not what I would call a picky eater, but there are a handful of foods I absolutely cannot stand in any incarnation: beans, mushrooms, avocado, and most seafood (squid and octopus being the notable exceptions).   Or so I thought.  Canteen might not have made me an universal convert, but they’ve at least proven that I can be made to eat seafood and mushrooms… and love them both.

divider

Canteen is the brainchild of chef Dennis Leary (not to be confused with the comedian of the same name, minus an “n”), who previously headed up the now-defunct restaurant Rubicon.  I never made it to Rubicon, so I cannot compare the experiences, but at Canteen, Leary has created a charming conflict between informal atmosphere and fine-dining cuisine.  Attached to a dormitory for the Academy of Art, the restaurant boasts no bar, no comfortable waiting area, and no bathroom.  (To use the facilities, walk through the lobby, up a few stairs, and down the hall past half-a-dozen dorm rooms.  It’s on your left.)  With a capacity of no more than 20 people, half on stools at the diner-style counter, Canteen does three scheduled seatings a night: 6, 7:30, and 9:15 pm.  Don’t expect to eat without a reservation.  Tuesday nights are currently prix-fixe, which is a great way for the novice to enjoy Canteen’s choice offerings on a [little more of a] budget.

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Cheese of the Week: Parrano

For the last year, I have endeavored to come up with the perfect balance of different cheeses to put in my Mac n Cheese. As I have already mentioned, my mother is a fabulous cook who is very health conscious, but occasionally growing up she would make this incredible Mac n Cheese. She uses fontina, gruyere, and parmesan with a bechemel sauce with sauteed onions and ground black pepper, all in layers with bread crumbs on top-YUM. But, like the stubborn, independent daughter that I am, I wanted to create my own ideal cheese combination. So for the past year, on my quest to become a truly competent and diverse cook, I have been trying to find that magic combination of cheeses. Some of the top contenders have included: gruyere, fontina, parmesan, goat gouda, cheddar, but the right cheddar, not too sharp (Irish cheddar) but not too mild (orange cheddar), maybe Australian cheddar… okay you get the point, the bar is set high. Enter Parrano- a cheese so fabulous that it could substitute for the combination of the five above, and it has its own Wiki page.

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How to Make Tamale Pie – Recipe & Pics

Tamale Pie

Cornbread Tamale Pie

Tamale pie: If you don’t know what it is, it’s time to get wise.  When I first suggested it to Brendan, after he brought home some organic ground beef and fresh corn from our local co-op, he had no clue what I was talking about.  He’s now asking for it on almost a weekly basis; it’s just that good.   And really, what’s not to like?  Saucy, spicy ground meat with peppers and onions, topped with a cheesy cornbread crust, sprinkled with freshly chopped cilantro… if your mouth isn’t watering from the description, take a good hard look at my photo (to right).  I bet I know what you’re having for dinner.

The appeals of this dish are many.  Obviously, there’s the flavor, which (like most casseroles) only improves with age.  It’s also very straight-forward to make, and is easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand.  Ground beef, ground bison, ground turkey… it’s all gravy.  Got a can of tomatoes hanging around?  Use it.  Over-ripe tomatoes sitting on your kitchen counter?  Roast and purée them.   Little pieces of cheddar, pepper jack, and manchego in your cheese drawer?  Grate ’em up and toss ’em all in.  I improvise every time I make tamale pie, but for those of you who like a recipe to stick with, I’ve documented last week’s process for you, to help you get started.

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Cheese of the Week: Chevrot

I grew up in an unusual household- I know we all say that, but really, it’s true.  My mother was years ahead of her time, trying to serve me all non-processed, organic food. Being the five year old that I was,  I wanted fruit roll-ups and sugar cereals like my friends were having, but the one area that I never protested at all was cheese.

Chevrot

Chevrot and Baguette

My mother spent a few years of her childhood in France, and is an educated lover of cheese.  She shops frequently at Market Hall in Rockridge, which, if you have not been there, it’s well worth a visit.  The cheese shop there has everything from the best cheddar to truffle butter but in my mind, there is nothing better than a goat cheese from France. Enter Chevrot, my favorite cheese from childhood, which is in itself laughable that a young kid would crave this goat cheese.

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Apple Stuffing Recipe – My Mini Canadian Thanksgiving

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving, and I’m half Canadian, so I think it’s only appropriate I have half a Thanksgiving dinner.  The important half… No, not turkey.  Stuffing.

Now, I realize that stuffing is an intensely personal food item.  Everyone has their favorite kind, usually whatever their mama or grandma made.  Well, you’re all wrong.  This is the best stuffing recipe in existence.  (And yes, it’s the kind my mum made.)  When I was tiny, I remember her putting it inside the bird, but my sister became a vegetarian when I was still pretty young, at which point Mum started baking it in a casserole dish.  That’s the way I learned to make it, which I guess technically makes it dressing and no longer stuffing, but technicalities be damned: it’s delicious.

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Oven-Fried Chicken & Healthy Homemade Tater Tots

Healthy Oven-Fried Food

Healthy homemade oven-fried chicken and tater tots with roasted broccoli

I’m not someone who really craves fried food.  I’m lucky that way.  In fact, I often dislike it; the way the grease coats the inside of my mouth freaks me out.  But I do understand the concept’s appeal — biting into something crunchy to discover something juicy or soft or gooey inside.  I’m a sucker for a good textural contrast.  And there’s also the whole issue of my other half, who is unabashedly passionate about fried food, and especially fried chicken.

Enter my oven-fried chicken recipe (second from top).  The first time I served it to him, he told me he’d be happy to eat it over the “real thing” any day.  (He still occasionally orders fried chicken when we go out, but he’s never asked me to make it at home since.)  This week, when he brought home chicken breasts and organic cornflakes from our local co-op, I immediately knew the score.

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