Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No excuse for Negligence!!

I have been soooo negligent about posting anything food related in a long time. But I'm on a mission to lose some weight before our big trip to Eastern Europe and I am doing Jenny Craig at home... hardly fare for posting to this auspicious food blog so I am getting my food fixes vicariously by reading the posts and recipes of others.  What a drag!!  But somehow posting pictures of the pathetic portion size of JC food doesn't seem quite appropriate.  But you all wait until we return from Europe.  I will take lots of pics of food on the trip... especially desserts in Vienna!  Toodles for now...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Long, Medium and Close Up

Sherry and I passed this tree on a hike in Bronson Canyon. It was so cool, we had to take pictures. First, from far away.
Then the always useful medium shot.

Last, the close up.

Through the tree, you can see the forest.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More Beerfests???

Not one, but two of our awesome friends e-mailed Noah and I yesterday to inform us of ANOTHER beerfest in Los Angeles. What? More excuses to drink massive amounts of beer? As the tiny blonde one said, "Bring it."

The 1st annual Craft Beer Fest L.A. will be held May 9th, hosted by C.A.B.A.L., perhaps the best acronym ever (it stands for the Los Angeles Craft and Artisanal Beer Appreciation League). According to their site, "A dozen of the state’s best brewers will showcase 26 handcrafted beers while L.A. chefs sling FREE pub grub (gourmet bar nuts, artisan cheese pairings, and vegan snacks). Attendees can try beer treats like ale cupcakes and stout ice cream from the gelato geniuses at Scoops. And a slew of local bands will share the stage with renowned brewers giving tips, and cheese experts lecturing on how to pair beers with food."

Uh, sweet! The event is at the LA Echoplex and is rumored to be taking place from 2-9pm. Of course, the evil beer-hating god Soberus would have Noah and I hosting a baby shower that day, but you know we'll bust our butts to make at least the last three or four hours. Because for $30, why not?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

NYT Mag Recipe Challenge #2 - Grilled Pork Porterhouse with an Apple-Maple-Ginger Sauce

I'm trying to do this thing where I challenge myself to cook at least one recipe a month that's printed in the NY Times Sunday Magazine. I hadn't done one in a while, due in part to laziness and in part to the only tempting thing from the past month being a crazy good, crazy fattening recipe for Tortoni. But last Sunday I opened the Magazine to find a recipe for brined pork chops that I had all but three ingredients for - those being the chops themselves, apple juice and agar. And this recipe has at least 2 dozen ingredients, so, you know, score!
This is another one of those recipes that sounds more labor intensive than it really is. Sure, it takes time, but most of that time the pork chops are sitting in a brine in your fridge. Which means, don't try and do this less than 8 hours before you want to eat it, but come up with something else to do with 7 of those hours.

Sure, the recipe says brine the pork 24 hours. But eff that, I brined for 8 hours and the pork chops were HEAVEN. In all honesty, better than the stuffed pork chops from a few months back. Cause, the thing with pork chops is, it's really easy to screw them up and overcook them. Brining the chops makes the cooking time a little more forgiveable. The chops are going to be moist even if you freak out about getting trichnosis and leave them on for two more minutes JUST TO BE SURE. I love a recipe that makes you look good and this one does.

I served the chops on Monday night with a red cabbage, apple and prune side that was inspired by Clotilde over at Chocolate & Zucchini. The cabbage was a great pairing with the pork, a classic match. And a convenient one, since I had (and still have) a ton of red cabbage left over from the Farmers Market last week. Score Part 2: Electric Score-a-loo.

The only component of the dish I wasn't totally in love with is the sauce that goes over the top, and that may have to do with my lack of agar use, the fact that it made WAY more sauce than necessary and that the apple juice I used was a bit sweeter than I wanted. Used sparingly, the sauce was fine, but too much would make a sweet mess on your chops. Be warned. But don't be scared away. These chops are too good to miss.

Grilled Pork Porterhouse with an Apple-Maple-Ginger Sauce
from Christine Muhlke for the NY Times Sunday Magazine "Field Report", March 1, 2009

For the brine:
1/4 c. maple syrup
5 tbsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. peeled, sliced ginger
3 tbsp. crushed garlic
1 sprig fresh sage
3/4 c. onion slices, cut into 1/4 inch rings
5 bay leaves
2 tsp. peppercorns
6 1 1/4 inch thick pork loin chops (also known as pork porterhouses), preferably Berkshire organic (*I used the TJ's brand, I'm no snob)

For the infused oil:
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. peppercorns
2 tbsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 c. vegetable oil

For the sauce:
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. minced shallot
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 c. apple juice
1/2 c. chicken stock
3 star anise
2 tbsp. minced ginger
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 tbsp. agar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Twenty four hours before cooking (*I did this 8 hours before and it still turned out lovely), stir all of the brine ingredients except the pork into 1 quart of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Let cool to room temperature. Submerge the pork chops in the brine, cover and refrigerate.
2. The next morning (*or at the same time, if you're doing day-of), prepare the infused oil. Grind the coriander, bay leaf and peppercorns in a spice mill or a clean coffee grinder and combine with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Let sit at room temperature. (*Hehe, I just realized I totally never did the spice mill grinding bit, and the oil infused just fine).
3. Make the sauce: in a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and saute until carmelized, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the apple juice, chicken stock, star anise and ginger. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until reduced by one-quarter. Add the maple syrup, vanilla pod and seeds and agar and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Discard the star anise and vanilla pod. Puree the mix in a blender (*I used an immersion hand blender in the pot), then pass through a fine mesh sieve (*I did not pass through a fine mesh sieve because I am lazy like that). Season to taste with salt and pepper. **Now that I think about it, maybe adding a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar may have helped cut the sweetness while preserving the key flavors.
4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill (*or a grill pan for indoors) to medium-high heat. Rinse the meat and pat dry with a paper towel. Brush the chops with the infused oil, then sprinkle lightly with salt. Grill to medium doneness, or until the internal temperature reads 135-140 degrees on a thermometer and the middle is light pink, about 6 minutes per side. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle with warm sauce and serve.

Serves 6

And about that cabbage side? Here's a really simple rundown.

Take 1/2 a red cabbage, cut it in half again, then slice it thinly. Mix it with 1-2 chopped apples (I used Fuji), 8 prunes and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook it in a little oil (1-2 tbsp. max), then after it's reduced a bit, add in about a cup of apple juice and 2-4 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, to taste. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes and serve along side the pork chops.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

25 Things We Love About L.A. # 3 - Belgian Beer Festival @ Lucky Baldwin's Pub

For the past 10 years, the great people over at Lucky Baldwin's Pub in Pasadena have been hosting one of the largest Belgian Beer drinking festivals this side of the Atlantic Ocean. The fest runs for the last 2 + weeks of February and there is now a new follow-up festival in August.

If you love beer like we do, this is the one time of the year to make sure you are in town...To that avail, our friends and family have made this a holiday of sorts with mass group outings the past few years on each weekend of the fest...

What makes this so fantastic is the incredible amount of beer they fly in from Belgian and have flowing through their 60 taps. The brews rotate each day as kegs get kicked and new barrels get delivered. Served in their proper glasses, Chimay taster glasses or one of the unique festival glasses, each beer has its own unique identity, flavor and story. Up and to the left is the beer menu from Saturday Feb 21, Day 8 of this year's festival, signed by the entire clan.

This year St. Feuillien sponspered the festival and one of the highlights was their seasonal Easter Beer. A medium bodied dubbel with a spicy undercurrent and a little sweetness on both the nose and palate, we enjoyed a glass of this each day we visited the fest.

Another favorite of ours and a standard in the Gallerka household is the old ABT 12 from St. Bernardus. Pictured here in one of the LB festival glasses, this brew is the king of beers. Strong, dark and beautiful, # 12 is a rich, smooth, woody, malt filled festival in your mouth with a high alcohol content (10.5%) and is meant to be enjoyed as often as you can.

Unfortunately for us, on the big day trip this year, few of the Dupont or Consondonk beers were available on tap. But never fear, at Lucky's they have one of the greatest bottle selections in the area and we were able to enjoy a big bottle of Avec Les Bons Voeux, pictured here, during our game of bones. Notice the beautiful golden color of the cloudy farmhouse style unfiltered ale, this beer is even better in the bottle due to its refermentation once it is capped. An incredibly drinkable beer and dangerous with 9.5% alcohol content, this brew was originally made for Dupont to give as a New Years present to their family and favorite clients, it's now in regular rotation. Simply an amazing brew.

Another wonderful beer that is only available by the bottle is the #10 from the Trappistes Rochefort. This one is a true sipper. Well balanced, dark and sugary, you can really taste the alcohol in this 11.3% winner. Served in its proper glass, the complexity of this beer really comes through with dark dried fruit flavors popping through the rich malty taste. We rarely find this beer here in LA on the shelf at Bev Mo, but I was reminded how much I love this beer on a recent trip to Paris when we visited La Cave a bulles, a boutique beer shop in the 4e. Simon, the owner and a true beer connoisseur, was showing us all the wonderful Belgian style French made Noel beers, when we came across a bottle of this and he reminisced on how the #10 was the beer that made him love beer... If you are ever in Paris, we fully recommend a visit to his shop.

A beer you can find easily here in LA and the name of the sister pub of Lucky's, Delirium Tremens is one of our go to staples when we are looking for a classic golden lacy Belgian to wash down some mules frites or fish and chips. Pictured here are the family of Delirium Beers: Delirium Noel (left), Delirium Tremens (middle) and Delirium Nocturum (right).

So to recap all that wonderful and tasty beerformation we have, here's a list of some of the beers that stood out to us and hopefully you can try too on your next trip to Brussels or over to Lucky's if that plane flight proves to be too expensive...

Affliglem Noel (A 9%) Spicy Noel with straw, hay, caramel/brown sugar flavors

Avec Les Bons Voeux (A+ 9.5%) Spicy yeast, with tart fruit and floral tones

Cherish Kriek (B+ 5%) Cherry beer with a funky taste

Corsondonk Brown Ale (A 8%) Murky, dark brown in color, dried fruits, bread and a little bitter

Corsondonk Pale Ale (A- 7.5%) Bread and fruit. Golden and a ton of head

Delirium Tremens (A- 9%) Golden, lacy and easy to drink

Dulle Teve Tripl (B+ 10%) Yeast, flowers, sweet molasses

Dupont Foret (A 7.5%) Earthly, yeasty and delicious with floral, fruit and spicy flavors

Dupont Saison A (6.5%) Herbal, light earthly with notes of fruit. Unfiltered Farmhouse style

Gouden Carolus Ambriol (B 8%) Dark amber with slight fruit sweet scent. Lots of alcohol flavor

Gouden Carolus Tripel (B+ 9%) Classis triple with yeast and citrus flavor

Grimbergen Double (B+ 7%) Apple, clove, with some spice and a bitter finish

Kapitell ABT (A- 10%) Complex yeasty funky malt taste. High alcohol flavor

Mannekin Pis (B+ 4.5%) Lemon, orange blanche style with a little bread and spice

Maredsous 10 (A 10%) Dark orange in color with malty slightly tart taste. Earthy hops abd a little bitter

Roquefort 10 (A+ 11.3%) Caramel, dark fruit with slight spice and high alcohol taste

St. Bernardus ABT 12 (A+ 10.5%) Dark, malty & smooth with hints of dark dried fruit and strong musty, woody flavors

St. Feuillien Easter Beer (A 7.5%) Burnt sugar, tropical fruit, lots of underlying spice

t Smisje Special (B+ 12%) Very strong caramel flavors and a high alcohol content

And don't miss out because the Belgian Beer Festival was just extended through this weekend so head over to Lucky's and enjoy some of the finer things in life!

Lucky Baldwin's Pub
17 S. Raymond Ave,
Pasadena, CA 91105

Cave à bulles
45 rue Quincampoix
75004 Paris

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

25 Things I Love About LA #2 - The Burbank Airport

LAX gets all the play, but any smart, centrally located (read, non beach-dweller) Angeleno knows that Burbank airport is soooo much better. Basically if you're flying anywhere on the West Coast or in the Southwest (or via Southwest) or to NYC (via Jet Blue), this is the way to go. Parking? A breeze. Check-in? A snap. Security? Definitely not going to make you pull your hair out.
And have I mentioned the lovely, outdoor baggage claim in Terminal A? So much nicer than waiting in the nasty, flourescent lighting of the LAX baggage claims. Trust me, I've done that three times in the last two months. Blech.

So thanks, Burbank Airport, for almost making flying fun again. Oh yeah, and if you're flying out of Terminal A, there's a decent bar near the center of the Terminal that serves beer, wine and cocktails. Booze definitely makes flying more fun.