Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Turkey and more turkey

A few days ago, I decided to make braised turkey legs. I'm pretty sure I've posted about that here before, specifically about my hesitance to use the phrase "turkey osso buco," which I've seen applied to similar recipes. Publix didn't have turkey legs, so I wound up getting them from Gino's, an Italian market on Johnson Street. I luckily got the last two turkey legs that they had. Apparently things are tough all over as far as turkey is concerned. I had one of the butchers there saw each leg in half , leaving me with two small drumstick-sized pieces and two softball-sized bulbs of turkey and bone. All four pieces were browned in olive oil and the rendered fat from some diced pancetta in my dutch oven and then braised with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomato paste, chicken broth and about a cup of red wine.

I finally got around to visiting Hollywood Vine, our neighborhood wine shop. I told the guy I wanted an inexpensive red that I could braise with and also enjoy drinking. Previously I've always used inexpensive sangiovese reds like Monte Antico. He suggested a Spanish red, Casamaro. I had a taste and at $12, it was the winner.

Really, an osso buco comparison really isn't that off base for this dish. The dark turkey meat does have similar qualities to veal shanks in color and richness. The turkey legs also have that thin sheath of fat that veal shanks do. Plus there's the whole marrow-infused-sauce thing. After a few hours of braising on the stovetop (Renee was going to use the oven for a cake), I pulled the turkey legs and served them with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes that I'd whipped with heavy cream infused with a good crumble of cheap Goya saffron. I figure if I'm making a cheap osso buco I can make a risotto milanese stand-in as well, right?

The following day, I had an enormous bowl of turkey legs and thick, gelatinous broth. I decided to try to replicate a dish I'd had with duck several years ago. I spooned out a cup or so of the cooking liquid, heated it, strained it and then reduced it by about half. I then steamed some broccoli rabe and set it aside. I reheated some turkey meat, pulled it from the bone and set that aside as well. I then threw everything in a large pan, heated it gently and tossed it with some penne pasta and lots of little chunks of gorgonzola. It wasn't identical to the dish I remembered, but it was quite good.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dining out more often

Now that I'm finally getting into a bit of a routine with school, pay and free time, Renee and I have been able to go out to eat a bit more often. Last Wednesday night we went to Beef Eater, an Argentinean steakhouse right around the corner from our apartment. I've passed by the place practically every day since we've lived in Hollywood, so it was about time that we got it together to check it out. I'd also heard several good things about it via Chowhound. They all proved true. As promised, the steaks were inexpensive ($11.50 each for a rather large skirt steak and a vacio, which is akin to a flank steak) both served with a side. We also split a huge salad of beets, artichoke hearts, iceberg lettuce and fat red slabs of tomato with blue cheese dressing. The Argentinean Malbec (Lopez, I believe) was the least expensive red on their list, aside from the house wine. It was unimpressive, but the excellent steak more than made up for it. The meal began with a few crispy dinner rolls and a large bowl of chimichurri, a thin paste of garlic, parsley and oil that's an excellent foil for the richness of the beef.

Yesterday, on our drive down to Key West, we took another Chowhound suggestion and stopped at El Puerto de Vallarta, a small Mexican restaurant in Homestead. Just a minute or two from the turnpike exit, El Puerto de Vallarta sits on a corner of US1/Dixie Highway, surrounded by autobody shops and other Mexican restaurants that, from the outside, could pass as autobody shops. Inside, EPdV's 10-or-so tables were dimly lit by the several muted televisions all showing MTV Tres. The music, from what I recall, was Spanish-language covers of old American radio hits. I distinctly recall hearing covers of "My Way" and Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover."

EPdV specializes in seafood, so that's what we went for, starting with jaiba rellena, stuffed crabs. The palm-sized blue crab shells were stuffed with a seasoned mixture of crab meat and perhaps some fish and topped with melted cheese and a drizzle of crema, a thinner version of sour cream. Next came my ceviche Vallarta, a helmet-sized plastic clam shell brimming with fat chunks of shrimp and thin slices of fish marinated in lemon juice, cilantro and slivers of red onion. It was truly amazing, both in its freshness and size. Renee went for the caldo de pescado, an equally enormous bowl of fish soup. The brick-red broth was light, slightly briney and full of large tender pieces of fish and thick rounds of carrot. Another high point of the meal was a michelada–an icy, salt-rimmed mug of beer (Dos Equis) spiked with lime juice, chilis,Worcestershiree sauce and pepper. Renee found it repulsive, but I thought it was great–spicy, bracing and ice cold. I think EPdV might become our standard lunch spot for trips to or from Key West. Hopefully next time we wont' have such a bitch of a time getting back on the turnpike.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bee Heaven Brunch

For Renee's birthday last weekend we had brunch at Bee Heaven Farms in the Redlands, a farming community near Homestead and Florida City. I'd originally heard about the event through an email from the local Miami Slow Food convivium. The brunch was part of several events held in the area that day, including a tour of the Fruit and Spice Park, a tour of Schnebly winery and then a potluck for local slow foodies. As Renee had to work later that day, and it was about 50 miles away, we only made it to the brunch.

Bee Heaven farms operates a CSA program that serves Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, as well as the Keys. I've been trying to convince my dad to get a share this season, but I"m not sure if he'll go for it.

Brunch consisted of fresh corn tortillas topped with scrambled Bee Heaven eggs, guacamole from their avocados and what I assumed were their homegrown black eyed peas cooked with carrots and potatoes. There were also lots of fresh herbs like shiso and oregano, as well as garlic chives (I think). To drink we had iced teas of lemongrass and limeade and allspice, both sweetened with the farm's honey. For dessert, there were preserved guava shells and cubes of firm, salty farmers cheese.

After eating, we got a tour of the farm, which included their avocado groves, bee hives, mobile chicken hutches (which I'd recently read about in The Omnivore's Dilemma), tropical fruit trees and the storage are for all the CSA deliveries. We tasted some coco plums and I even managed to come home with some curry leaves, which I've yet to find in stores here in Hollywood. I probably wouldn't have even noticed the enormous curry bush had it not smelled so strongly.

Although you can't see it here, there are wheels on the corners of this chicken pen so that it can be moved around the property, allowing the chickens to forage and fertilize in different areas.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


The last time I was home, my brother and I were invited over to our neighbors' house to make tamales. Although I've made tamales myself several times and always thoroughly enjoyed it, I usually put it off because there's a fair amount of labor involved. Especially if it's just me that's making them. My neighbor Carrie treats the task like it's as easy as making toast. Maybe that's because she has three sons around the house to (ideally) help. This time it turned out that my brother and I were the help. He's a big fan of tamales, and hers in particular, so he was eager to lend a hand.

The masa or dough recipe was based on one from Rick Bayless, but after we'd measured the broth and lard (hell yes, lard) the rest we just sort of eyeballed. The filling was a mixture of pork and chicken with tomatoes, broth (I think) and spices. I didn't get the number of that truck either.

Tying tamales has always been something I regarded as unnecessary, but, as I was the guest, I did as I was asked. Actually, they're much, much prettier that way, and they can take a little more shuffling and stacking in the steamer too. I just may have been converted to tamale tying.

Carrie's husband Tom also made some killer roasted tomatillo salsa, as you can see in the second photo.

In return, I took Carrie out for Nicaraguan tamales at a small grocery on White Street next Saturday morning. Compared to the ones we made, the "nacatamales" are monsters--wrapped in banana leaves and foil and trussed with twine. The filling of chiles, pork, mint, rice and potatoes was quite a bit different too.

(As a side note, I told myself I'd keep the apologies for sparse posting to a minimum. So there.)

Monday, October 03, 2005


"Unlike lychees, the meat is a peachy color and the seed is round."

That would be the fifth sentence from the 23rd post on I'm Cookin' Here. Why? Well, I was tagged for this 23/5 meme by s'kat and the food.

The instructions are as follows:
1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas...

I don't know that there were any hidden agendas or meanings in this post. I was just describing some spanish limes/quenepas.

As this meme was one of the things kick-started me back into action here, I think I'll do the same thing to Kitchen Monkey, in hopes that he'll post an update as well. I think I'm supposed to tag five people to do this, but, well, no.

I know, I know...

It's been over a month and a half since I've posted. That's behind us now.

Some sort of recap is in order, however. I'll have you know that I haven't been totally idle. I'm writing daily for Slashfood, and still doing my weekly "Quick Bites" column at The Herald, where I've also started doing dining reviews such as this and this.

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One of my recent columns was about blue crabs, like the one you see here. Actually, truth be told, that claw wasn't connected to a crab when the picture was taken. It must have come loose in transport. I took advantage of that and snapped lots of photos, as that was the only one of nearly 20 huge, sapphire-colored claws that wasn't trying to bite me.

In my blogging absence, I've also been home to Key West a few times.

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We grilled some sardines from the Waterfront Market.

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I hit up 5 Brothers more than a few times for a midnite and a buchito.

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And I also spent a few evenings at the family gin mill.

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There was also the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival in September. Telluride has a great farmer's market, which is where I found this tigger melon.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Pan Cubano

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This is what I miss up in Sarasota. Really.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


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Fresh yellowtail marinated or "cooked," if you will, in lime juice, cilantro, jalapenos, red onion and tomatoes. Not too many better ways to take advantage of the fresh seafood here. I would love to make ceviche more at home, but the places up there that I trust to have fresh seafood are a bit of a hike from where I live. This isn't something I would do with a tilapia filet from Publix ("They're still nice and frosty," the seafood guy once told me with pride.)

Kent Mango

Let me just say that I hope there are still enormous hills of these mangoes at Robert Is Here when I go back on my way to Sarasota. I'll surely pick up more than a few. After settling for those hard, stringy Tommy Atkins mangoes for a while, this seems like an entirely different fruit. I know I compared the monstera to custard before, but really, it's very accurate. The flesh of this mango has no fibers and it literally melts under the pressure of your tongue. Uncut, the smell was noticeable from across the kitchen. Once I'd sliced off the cheeks or lobes from either side of the seed, the aroma became much more intense. Aside from that distinct and pronounced sweetness that mangoes have, I could also taste some acidic, lime-like notes, and maybe even something a little heavier, almost like vanilla.
I had heard the meaty sections of the mango referred to as cheeks before, but in browsing another mango site, I also heard the red patch near the stem end referred to as the shoulder. I like the functional metaphor.