Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pacific Northwest Seafood Feast

INGREDIENTS: (serve the seafood feast with sliced French bread and green salad on the side)

(for the crab cakes)

2 large (2 1/2 lbs. weight each) Dungeness crabs, meat removed (about 2 lbs. crab meat)
1 shallot, minced fine
1/2 a celery stalk, minced fine
1/2 a red bell pepper, minced fine
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
5 drops Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. olive oil

1) Combine all the ingredients apart from the butter and olive oil in a mixing bowl and season to taste.
2) Form the crab cake batter into 12 patties and leave them in the fridge for one hour, covered. Chilling the crab will help it keep its shape when pan-fried.
3) Heat the butter and oil until just smoking over high heat and fry half the cakes, turning them over after about five minutes and cooking until each side is crisp and golden-brown. Repeat with the other six patties, placing the crab cakes on a paper towel to cool slightly.

(for the shrimp)

2 lbs. fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 white sweet onion (Walla Walla is great), chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 tbsp. minced fresh Italian parsley
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

1) Heat the olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and red pepper flake for approx. 5 minutes, until onion is translucent.
2) Add tomatoes and press with a slotted spatula to incorporate the tomato into the oil, cooking for 5-7 minutes more.
3) Add the wine and saute 2-3 minutes, until the alcohol has burned away partially.
4) Saute the shrimp until all sides are pink, and no longer. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.

(for the Za'atar aioli)

1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey
2 tbsp. Za'atar

1) Combine all the ingredients, whisking rapidly with a fork or wire whisk--alternately, combine in the small bowl of a food processor. Season to taste.

(for the beer)
1 bottle Widmer Drifter Pale Ale

Open beer. Enjoy together.

We were out with the infamous Messrs. Jim LeMonds and Larry Moorehead at Porky's, a fine beer purveyor in our hometown of Longview, Washington, and we sampled this on draft--it's surprisingly awesome. Widmer is a decent beer, but this is a great pale ale. It has lovely sweet red grapefruit notes, hardly any bitterness, and finishes with lush malt and tangerine tones. If you can get your hands on it, throw some back. We think it would pair fabulously with the fresh, sweet, savory seafood dishes we made for our feast.

We're in Washington! The feast was chez Farber residence, and we ate fresh shrimp and crab until the shrimp and crab were no more. Dungeness isn't available on the East Coast as far as we know, and it's the best crab ever. Here's my mom and dad--you'll notice my dad happens to be holding an advance reader's copy of a certain book.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Breakfast Strata with Beet Greens and Gruyere


1/2 your leftover day-old French baguette, cut into 16 1/2-inch rounds
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 3/4 cups half-and-half
6 large eggs
leafy greens from 3 large beets, washed thoroughly and chopped, stems removed
1 onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
6 oz. (2 cups) grated Gruyere cheese
2 oz. grated Parmesan
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp brandy (optional)
1 bottle Maredsous 10 Tripel from Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat NV

1) Heat the oven to 225 and bake bread slices in a single layer until completely dry and crisp, about 40 minutes, flipping them midway through baking time. Don't skip this step--it's vital to the texture.
2) Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a skillet and saute the onion and garlic until translucent.
3) Add chopped beet greens, season, and cook until just wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Place greens in a small mixing bowl when finished cooking and set aside. Some water will likely accumulate in the bowl--drain this, pressing greens with a spoon or spatula.
4) Oil the inside of a casserole dish with remaining olive oil.
5) Arrange half the bread slices in a single layer. Cover with half the beet greens, then half the cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, greens, and cheese.
6) Whisk eggs in a bowl; then incorporate 1 tsp. salt, pepper to taste, Dijon mustard, half-and-half, and the brandy if desired. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread layers, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge overnight weighted down with a box of sugar, bag of flour, heavy plate, etc. Don't skip this step either.
7) In the morning, let the dish stand at room temperature for at least half an hour, while heating the oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top, then bake strata until puffed and golden, 50-55 minutes. Cool 5 minutes.
8) Open bottle of Maredsous 10.
9) Enjoy together.

One of Gabe's favorite beers, and one of mine as well, we got turned on to this sucker when I worked at the glorious Markt restaurant, which served (and still does today) only Belgian imports. What a great beer this is, and if you're having a festive brunch (I firmly believe that stratas require the presence of houseguests), what could be better than drinking a delicious, yeasty, pear-and-passion fruit nosed, 10% alcohol brew? Maredsous 10 is a little bit lighter in viscosity than you get from many other Belgian tripel styles, and a few people tend to take exception to this, but I think it's an asset. You get some caramel in the mouthfeel, but the alcohol is never present and it doesn't veer (as a few of these do) toward wondering after a sip whether you'll ever taste anything else again.

So long as you follow the directions for the custard, which is based on a template from Cook's Illustrated (, you can put literally anything you want in a strata. Cheddar. Asparagus. Ham. Shrimp. Smoked salmon. Red bell pepper. Herbs. Sausage. Snausage. Velveeta. Leftover roasted veggies. Pesto. Shrooms. Marijuana. Sky's the limit, kids.

Look who was here when we made strata! Josh and Brian! Hooray! We wandered around Christmas shopping and ate many, many Corner Bistro Burgers (pictured--finest burger in NYC, in our opinion), and sang songs with the hilarious piano player at one of the last, best, and oldest piano bars in the Village (Duplex), and generally made merry. Can't wait to visit them in Seattle, and cruise Pike's Place grabbing fresh things for Josh to cook for us.