Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving Weekend: Mole Poblano de Guajalote

For about the last fifteen years, we've been having a pot of leftover Turkey Mole Poblano on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Since some of us had enough of elaborate cooking, we opted for the mole paste in a jar, this year using the Rogelio Bueno mole paste. The one that's most common in the supermarket is Doña Maria. The two sauces are similar, though the Rogelio Bueno is maybe a little lighter, and the Doña Maria is a bit darker and spicier. Just avoid the canned mole paste; it's not as good. (Or make your own, if you have a few hours.) The paste is fairly chalky when it comes out of the jar, with a bit of oil on top. Over heat, add about a quart of broth (we used Swanson's chicken broth) slowly to the paste, stirring and breaking up the paste with a wooden spoon, and then add sugar and salt to taste. The sauce should be thick but smooth. We shredded the leftover turkey and added it to the broth, and stir it in and heat it a bit.
We serve this with tortillas, salsa, and guacamole. This is also often used as an enchilada filling, but we like gathering around the table and making tacos and burritos around the table. Our friends the Rasmussens came over, and we all ate mole, drank wine, beer, and eggnog, and had such a good time that everyone forgot all about dessert.

Debbie picked up some very fresh oysters at the farmer's market yesterday, and we ate the small ones raw for lunch. Today I barbecued the larger ones outside, on a very beautiful sunny afternoon. Debbie made Hogwash, which is a mignonette variant using rice vinegar and jalapeños along with shallots.
BBQ Oysters
Then Stuart shot some potatoes from his spud cannon. The potato goes about 100 yards.
Launching a Potato
We got the tree up and trimmed on Saturday,
Tree and Fireplace
And Sushi seemed to enjoy it.
Sushi Under the Tree

Friday, November 25, 2005

Back to Madoka

We went back to Madoka a second time. We didn't get there until around 9:00pm, after a long and exhasting day in Bellvue with the kids. I made a reservation, but needn't have. I should have blogged about it sooner, because I've forgotten some of the details.

The food was as good as last time. Debbie started with a really amazing crab salad, in which the crab was cooked almost like a crab cake and placed on a bed of greens. I had the American Kobe beef quesadilla, served with a tomatillo salsa. Using Kobe-style beef in a quesadilla seems a little over-the-top, but it was good.

For an entree, Debbie had scallops served with a basil ginger sauce and fritters (of what I don't remember) with a chipotle mayonnaise. It was fabulous. I had a red curry risotto with prawns, mussels, and salmon. Sometimes I worry when I order a mixed seafood dish with salmon, because it often turns out to be overcooked extra-pink farmed atlantic salmon with an off flavor (you all know what I'm talking about!), but this was a nice bit of wild-caught king salmon, just cooked enough to be translucent. The red curry worked really well as a risotto. The rice was cooked perfectly, i.e. not to the point of mushiness, and there was enough sauce to give it a creamy texture and good flavor without overwhelming the rice.

We shared a bottle of another very reasonably priced wine, this time a Riesling from Alsace.

For dessert, Debbie had the white chocolate creme caramel again, and I had apple pie with ginger ice cream. I was pleasantly surprised to get real apple pie; everyone seems to make little tarts with paper-thin slices of apple these days.


There are three things that make this the best turkey ever, and therefore our family tradition. The first is to get a fresh, free-range bird. We got a Diestel from the Town & Country. The second is to brine the turkey for 24 hours using Alice Waters' recipe. Harold McGee has famously pooh-poohed brining, but I think he's wrong. The third is to cook and smoke the turkey on the grill. I use applewood for smoking when I can, but all we could find around here was mesquite and hickory, so we used the latter. I use the "indirect" method where the coals are on the side of the grill, and the turkey is in the middle, dripping down into a drip pan set between the racks that hold the coals. One must be careful that coals or wood don't roll down into the drip pan, which ruins the drippings (I've done that before!) I use a lot of coals and run the vents wide open (with the cover on, of course), which gets it up to around 450 or 500 degrees. This is contrary to a lot of turkey wisdom, but it gives great results, and goes quite quickly. Unless you have a really big grill, you'll burn the wings ends like I did. I suppose I could trim them ahead of time. Every 1/2 hour or so I add wood chips that have been soaking in water to the coals. This generates quite a bit of smoke. If you cook it this way, the skin will turn very dark, and the turkey, especially the dark meat, will get a deep, smoky flavor. The pan drippings also get rather smoky. Cook it until the thick part of the thigh is 165 degF. Some recipes will tell you to cook it until 180 degF, but I think that makes it too dry. Let it stand for a while before carving and the temperature will continue to rise up to 10 degrees. The Diestel website suggests cooking the bird breast-side-down for the first half of cooking, which I might try next time.

This year we visited our friends the Rasmussens in Poulsbo. Debbie and our daughter Catherine joined the Rasmussens in volunteering to help cook and serve Thanksgiving for a community organization in the afternoon. I showed up at their house afterward with the fully-cooked turkey. Debbie made her traditional Apricot-Grand Marnier stuffing from the Silver Palate cookbook, whipped sweet potatoes with brown sugar-pecan topping, really yummy cranberry-orange relish, and cranberry sauce. Demi mashed some Bainbridge-grown organic heirloom potatoes, a traditional sage stuffing, some potato dinner rolls, brussels sprouts with a balsamic sauce, peas with pearl onions, and for dessert, pecan pie. The eldest Rasmussen daughter made a fabulous pumpkin cheesecake.

We've been drinking Navarro Gewurtztraminer with our Thanksgiving turkey every year for almost 20 years, and continued that tradition this year. It's dry but has that gewurtz-y flavor which goes really well with the smoked bird. We also had a bit of Navarro Zinfandel later in the meal.

It was a fine meal indeed, and everybody had a great time.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Brouwers Cafe Redux

I went to Brouwers just after it opened, and thought the food was so-so. Yesterday I returned for lunch, and I am pleased to report that it was much better this time. They're pretty empty at lunchtime, which is perhaps not surprising for a shrine to Belgian beer. I had a bratwurst (made by Uli's), served on a pile of warm sauerkraut mixed with coarse Dijon mustard. The bratwurst was browned but not overdone, and the sauerkraut had a good, homemade flavor. I also had a small side of fries, which were great, as one should expect at a Belgian restaurant, served with some garlicky aioli, much better than the aioli I had last time. The menu also has more choices than it did last time, including some stews which looked intriguing, so I'll have to go back and try those.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Let's Go to the Pub for a Pint!

When I was younger, I spent some time with some friends who live in Glasgow. Pretty much every activity was followed by the suggestion, "let's go to the pub for a pint," which we did. The pub we usually went to was right around the corner, though sometimes we went to the pub a little farther away, which was at the forefront of the nascent (20 years ago) "real ale" movement. I assume by now most pubs in Scotland serve "real ale." One thing we didn't do much of at the pub was eat; the food was not very good.

To this day, Debbie and I will say to each other, in a bad imitation of a Scottish accent, "let's go to the pub for a pint," but now we end up at the Harbour Pub, which is right above Eagle Harbor in the town formerly known as Winslow, now downtown Bainbridge Island. It has lovely views of the harbor and out to Seattle beyond, and a fairly large deck for sitting outside during nice weather (though they recently installed a comically large umbrella on the deck, for some reason.) There's a fire burning in the corner, very pleasant on a cold evening.

Unlike the pub in Glasgow, this one does have good food. They use organic produce and natural, free-range, etc., meat. Great fish and chips, a nice big greasy bacon cheeseburger, along with some more interesting items, including the Killer (life affirming) Shrimp, and some good salads. Washington has its share of "real ale," and Harbour House has a good selection. They have a full bar, but I've never bothered with a cocktail.

It's 21 and over only, which is good and bad--we can't take the kids, but we don't have to put up with anyone else's kids either ;-) They also don't have two TVs on either side of the bar blaring out Sportscenter every minute of the day, which is kind of nice--if I want to watch TV I'll stay home. For "pub food" and the like in an all-ages format and still a killer view, Doc's down the street fits the bill. The food isn't as good, but it'll do.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ghandi Redux

My previous post about Ghandi, the Indian restaurant on Bainbridge Island, wasn't very complimentary. Michael, who works there, commented that the food and service had improved, so we gave it another try.

Now that they keep the place clean, the space is pleasant, nicer than a lot of Indian restaurants. Another thing I like is that they have a good selection of northwest microbrews, rather than just the usual Indian lagers. Whether I like the food still depends on what I order. I've liked the spinach with paneer, the koftas, the pakoras, and the samosas. The tandoori is not bad, but I still wish they wouldn't put cooked onions on top--they make it a little sweet and sticky. Twice now I've gotten Naan that was undercooked (i.e. the dough was raw), so that's something they need to work on.

If you're in the Bay Area, Ajanta in Berkeley is my favorite sit-down Indian restaurant, and Vik's is great for a snack or informal lunch.

Friday, November 11, 2005


We wanted some Phở, and weren't willing to schlep the whole family across the sound, so I decided to make it. I used the recipe in Mai Pham's Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table. It takes a while, but the result is a good, authentic-tasting broth.

It starts with 5 pounds of beef marrow bones and 2 pounds of beef chuck. You cut the piece of chuck in half, and then put it all in a pot of water to cover, and heat until boiling. At the same time heat 6 quarts of water in a stockpot. Then you boil for 5 minutes, and throw that water out, taking a lot of the inital scum with it. Then the bones and meat go into the stockpot, to which 1/4c of fish sauce and 3Tbsp sugar, a 6 inch piece of charred ginger, and 2 charred yellow onions are added. (You char and peel them over an open flame). This gets simmered for a while, skimming scum and fat. After 40 minutes or so take one piece of the beef chuck out, and put it in cold water to cover for 40 minutes. Then slice up the chuck and put it aside. Then the broth gets simmered for another 50 minutes, at which time you toast 6 star anise and 10 cloves in a pan until fragrant, put them in cheesecloth, and add them to the broth. After another 1/2 hour, skimming all the while, take out the spices and onions, add a tablespoon of salt, and it's ready. I simmered it quite a bit longer, because it was done before anyone was ready to eat.

Cook some pho noodles in boiling water for just until chewy(20 or 30 seconds) and then put them in a bowl with some thinly sliced raw sirloin (freeze it a bit first), and some of the cooked chuck. Bring the broth to a boil and add it to the bowl. Garnish with scallions, cilantro, and thinly-sliced yellow onion, and serve with the usual pho plate of goodies (thai basil, sawtoof leaf herb if you can find it, bean sprouts, sliced lime, vietnamese chili sauce, sliced peppers, hoisin). On the table, add your favorite goodies and eat quickly before the noodles absorb too much liquid. I like some of the other stuff they put in pho, like tripe and tendon, but Mai Pham doesn't tell me what kind to use or how to prepare it, so I'll have to look around.

The pho turned out great. I probably could have gotten the broth a little clearer. It was a lot of work, and it might be easier to get on the boat and go to Pho Hoa. The only trouble is, darling Catherine hates pho.

I also made goi cuon for an appetizer, which we ended up eating all of in the afternoon because they were so good.