November 22, 2009

The Naked Pint Beer Dinner

The Philadelphia launch of The Naked Pint, an Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer (Penguin Group, November 2009) was a great event. In addition to authors Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune, Los Angeles Best Beer Sommeliers, the event featured beers from local women in the industry including Suzanne Woods, Sly Fox and the Beer Lass blog; Jodi Stoudt, Stoudt's; Whitney Thompson and Tracy Mulligan (Victory); Wendy Dormant (Dogfish Head), Megan Maguire (Ommegang), Seb Buhler (Rogue). Chef Terence Feury offered great pairings including the Chef's Tapas, Seared Sea Scallops with caramelized brussels sprout leaves, meyer lemon and forchette potatoes with Ommegang Rare Vos, Lightly Smoked Duck Breast with Autumn spiced croutons, dates and root vegetables with Dogfish Head's celebrated Raison d'Etre, and Rich Chocolate Cake with Rogue's Chocolate Stout. Keep apprised of our ongoing series of beer events by signing up for our newsletter!

To keep up with Hallie and Christina, follow their blog:

Fork's Butternut Squash Risotto

Chef Terence Feury

1 fall squash (butternut or kabocha), about a pound

3 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

2 shallots

3 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup minced white onion

1 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons finely gratedParmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup Gorgonzola dolce cheese,broken into small chunks

Pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Coat the insides with butter; season with salt and pepper. Slice shallots and sprinkle over the top of the squash. Place in a roasting pan and cover with foil. Roast in oven until the squash is tender (45 minutes to an hour).

Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepot and keep hot. In a large saucepan, sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent, then season with salt and pepper. Add the Arborio rice and cook for a minute until well-coated in oil and slightly toasted. Add the wine and cook on low heat until completely dry. Add 1 cup of the vegetable stock and stir slowly until absorbed. Add another cup and repeat. Add the rest a half-cup at a time until the rice is tender but not mushy. Keep warm.

Scoop the meat from the squash and purée in a food processor until smooth. Stir one cup of the purée into the risotto until it's creamy and smooth. Finish with grated Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the risotto into bowls and place chunks of the Gorgonzola on top; sprinkle with pepitas and more Parmigiano.

September 20, 2009

September 12th Branch Creek Farm-to-Table Dinner

We canceled August 22 for a hurricane that never came, so we were worried when the forecast for September 12th called for 60% chance of rain. A little rain certainly would not put a damper on the dedication of Mark and Judy Dornstreich, owners of Branch Creek Farm, to provide Fork with gorgeous produce. So the Fork trip to Branch Creek Farm continued as planned. A one and half hour drive later, we found ourselves in beautiful Perkasie in Northern Bucks County near Quakertown.

Fork buys from several farms; why choose to highlight Branch Creek? Many Philadelphia "foodies" don't realize that Branch Creek was part of the original movement to bring locally grown foods to restaurants in Philadelphia. Like many of us, we don't find the restaurant or food industry immediately. Mark and Judy started as anthropologists studying food gathering techniques of developing countries. As academics, they traveled to New Guinea, India and other far parts of the world documenting the process of growing food. Their research process made them realize that they didn't want to be bystanders and they would become organic farmers. So when they returned to the US, the two worked for several organic farms to learn the ropes. In the late 70's, Branch Creek Farm was auctioned off and the Dornstreichs purchased the land. Quickly realizing that retail farm sales were difficult, they met an herb grower who was successfully selling to local restaurants. Back then, a handful of restaurants bought herbs from the Dornstreichs, but it wasn't until Chef Aliza Green, at Dilullo's in the 80's, questioned why restaurants couldn't access other local produce. By the time Fork opened in 1997, several options besides Branch Creek existed for restaurants to buy direct from farmers - including Green Meadow Farm, Greens Grow, The Herb Farm and others. At time, buying local was still novel. Today, Chef Feury purchases more than ever, and co-ops such as Lancaster Farm Fresh enable smaller local farms to access the restaurant market.

April 23, 2009

Shanghai Markets

One of my favorite things to do when traveling anywhere is to check out the food markets to see how the rest of the world eats. Here in Shanghai, there are wet markets that sell fresh vegetables, poultry, meat, seafood, fresh noodles, tea, etc. But one of the fascinating markets we went to was a food emporium of sorts. Located on Nanjing Road (one of the main pedestrian shopping areas), these stores have an array of Shanghainese snacks. Because of the humidity in Shanghai, many of these snacks are wrapped in small individual size packets.

Additionally, the market has a huge selection of dried foods - everything from vegetables, meats, fish, shrimp. Over 2,000 years ago, Chinese used wind and sun to dry their food to prevent spoilage and prolong food supply. Today, dried foods are part of their cuisine. I was fascinated by the meat section. Just like every other culture, the Chinese cured their own ham and sausages. They look exactly like prosciutto, but yet they are much saltier.

The ham cannot be sliced and eaten. Usually, it is used to flavor soup or sliced thin to give flavor to cooked dishes.

Shanghai Street Food

In the US, most Chinese restaurants serve Cantonese style cuisine, as a result, Shanghai cooking is one of the lesser known styles of Chinese cooking. It is much heavier and meat-centric than Cantonese-style food; in fact with over 20 million residents, you can find any style of Chinese cooking, or any type of international cuisine, for that matter! One of the best known examples of Shanghainese foods are its street foods. As you walk down the crowded streets, you can find street food at almost every corner. Soup dumplings are one of everyone's favorites. And three days into the trip I have definitely had my share of soup dumplings. They can be made with just pork or with pork and crab roe. The key to the soup dumplings is congealed soup stock which they mix into the dumpling filling and melts when steamed. Another major difference between the dumplings I've had in the US and those here (besides the fact that they are made to order!) is the thin dumpling skin here which never seems to break when you eat them. One "long" (笼) or one bamboo steamer with about 8 - 12 dumplings cost from 5 RMB to 50 RMB with an exchange rate of roughly 7 RMB to US Dollars! So one "long" is 70 cents at the street stand! Always be careful when eating hot soup dumplings because the juiciness may come squirting out. Usually they are served with Chinese vinegar and ginger slices.

Another common version of a dumpling is a lightly fried bun (sheng jian bao 生煎包) which are also filled with pork, cabbage and a touch of soup stock. The difference is that these buns are slightly larger, and have a little yeast. They are made on a huge round very hot frying pan, covered with a bamboo or wooden lid. The pan is constantly turned so it is fried on the bottom, but steamed on the top. It's finished with sesame seeds and green onion. Be careful, they look so good, but they are really hot because when they are cooked, the fat from the pork melts and keeps the stock really hot. According to my brother, he hasn't met anyone who hasn't burned their mouth or squirted hot oil all over their shirt the first time eating them!

April 22, 2009

Shanghai Adventures in Eating

After a 13 hour flight from Chicago, I finally arrive at my brother's apartment in Shanghai. He's been living here for almost three years, and this is my first visit with our entire immediate family. Mark claims that all there is to do in Shanghai is eat, shop and be massaged. What's wrong with that? With only 7 days in Shanghai, I'm looking forward to staying put.

As soon as I arrive, I'm offered a plate of Lion's Head Meatballs, a traditional Shanghainese casserole of large braised pork meatballs and greens, prepared by my brother's personal chef Gina. All my life I was under the impression that this is a Shanghainese dish, but Gina tells us that they originated in Yangzhou, a City near by Shanghai , and that they are just meatballs to Shanghai residents.

1 pound ground pork butt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tsp cornstarch
2 T chicken stock or water
1 T rice or shaoxin wine
1 tsp sugar
white ground pepper to taste
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, finely minced
1 tsp sesame oil
(water chestnuts, finely chopped, optional)
extra cornstarch

2 T vegetable oil
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp sugar to taste
3 T soy sauce
1 pound napa cabbage, cleaned

Mix cornstarch and chicken stock together in a small bowl. Set aside. In a larger bowl, mix ground pork, egg, scallions, ginger, sugar, pepper, sesame oil and cornstarch mixture Allow mixture to sit for 30 minutes or so. Add more cornstarch if the mixture is too wet. Then form the pork into 6 - 8 patties.

Heat oil in a saute pan. When oil is hot, add meatballs and brown over high heat until the outside is seared and caramelized approximately 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. When meatballs are browned, remove from heat. Using the same pan or casserole dish, bring 1/2 cup chicken stock and soy sauce to a boil. Lower heat, add meatballs. Add more chicken stock if necessary to cover the meatballs. Slowly braise for 10 minutes. Add cabbage and seasoning to taste.

March 6, 2009

House Cured Duck Prosciutto

Last week's Chef's Bistro Dinner focused on artisanal foods that Terry and his formidable team (Andrew Wood and Mike Ryan) made themselves including some house cured duck prosciutto and house made agnolotti pasta followed by some monkfish tails that Terry's favorite fishmonger, Tony McCarthy, brought in. With the exception of the monkfish which was extremely tasty, the meal almost brought me back to vacations in Tuscany where cured meats and home made pasta were the beginning of every meal including lunch!

Although it takes advanced planning, duck prosciutto is very easy to make at home, and is a great addition to any antipasto plate, or salad. As the starter for this week's dinner, the duck prosciutto was sliced thin and served aside a few thinly sliced pieces of seared duck breast, cassis mustard and a baby mustard green salad with celery root. The baby mustard green salad was sourced from Green Meadow Farm in Lancaster County. The spiciness of the mustard greens complemented the cassis mustard and fattiness of the duck.

We used moulard duck breast because the breasts are bigger and fattier than Pekin Duck. For home use, curing 4 breasts at a time seems reasonable and the shelf life of the duck is good if properly handled.

Duck Prosciutto

Approximately 2 lbs or 4 pieces of good quality, fresh moulard duck breast

1/4 tsp whole cloves
1/4 tsp whole allspice
1/4 tsp juniper berries

3 pounds kosher salt
3/4 pound sugar
1/4 tsp pink sea salt

red wine or red wine vinegar

Grind together cloves, allspice and juniper berries in a spice grinder. In a large bowl, mix together kosher salt, pink sea salt and sugar. Add spices and mix well.

Place salt into a shallow dish/tray and bury duck breasts into salt for 48 hours (36 hours for pekin duck breasts). Remove from salt, rinse off with red wine. Hang in a cool spot in your cellar. (The hanging spot should be less than 70 degrees Farenheit and 60% relative humidity, otherwise the outside will become too hard.) After one week, check to ensure uniform dryness. If the duck is not uniformly drying, then you should start all over with a new batch in a more humid location). If everything is drying properly, then you can let it continue drying for a total of approximately 2 weeks. The breast should be spongy on the fat, but not on the meat. Mold may develop, but that is part of the aging process! After the duck has dried, wipe off any mold with red wine or vinegar, slice and enjoy! Any sliced meat that is not immediately consumed, should be wrapped and refrigerated.