I was reading Jose Pizarro’s beautifully photographed book ‘Spanish Flavors’ and started massively craving the robust flavors of a perfectly cooked Spanish meal heady with garlic, smoked paprika and finished with a drizzle of fruity Spanish olive oil. I drooled as I flipped through the pages of food porn imagining myself sitting at a tapas bar sipping on a glass of Cava or perhaps Txacoli with plates of charred octopus and crispy Flamenquin waiting in front of me. Or maybe digging into a real Paella with its socarrat, the crispy, crunchy, caramelized rice stuck to the bottom of a pan that anyone who truly understands the virtues of Paella fights for. Somehow I managed to maintain enough presence of mind to write a list of dishes I wanted to tackle later that night, hopped into our car and headed to the market. I do this all the time, I attempt to have a ‘menu’ prior to shopping and never manage to come home with any of it intact. Every single time I get completely waylaid by the richness and diversity of offerings. I guess I just love food too much to be constrained in that way or maybe it’s just not the way I think. The third more feasible explanation is that my dear mother thought of a wonderful creamy blanquette de veau at the exact moment of my childbirth, forgetting she wasn’t at the table, squeezed a bit too hard, and perhaps cut off air circulation to my brain at a critical moment resulting in a mild form of menu amnesia. Whatever you call it, I have the struggle every single day.
After visiting all my favorite purveyors, I decided to let their products lead the charge and dictate the parade of dishes that would march into my stomach. Here’s what I came up with. As usual I cooked way too much food and invited the in laws and neighbors over to share in the Bacchus bounty of our table.
Tails and Trotters: Secreto
What is the secreto? Ask ten butchers and you will get ten different answers, maybe eleven. If you search the internet you will be confounded with even more with answers varying from Wikipedia’s straightforward “It is the pork equivalent of the skirt steak” to James Peisker’s answer in a fantastic Chicago Tribune article entitled ‘The Secret of Secreto’ in which he was quoted as saying “”Completely different parts. A guy from Argentina told us it was the culotte off of pork chops — the cap. So if you have your pork chop section? Imagine it as a rib-eye and (waving his hands) you have a rib-eye cap. You have the same muscle in the pigs,” Peisker said, disillusioning me a little more with each word. “Chris went to Curate (in Asheville, N.C.) and they were serving ‘secreto’ and it was the inner skirt steak. And then (noted Detroit chef and ‘Charcuterie’ co-author) Brian Polcyn in a demonstration said that it was the top blade steak, which we call the paleron.”” Tails and Trotters lists it as pork brisket and since I bought it from them I will stick to that. I served Podnay’s Pit Barbecue sauce on the side.
- 1 Tablespoon Smoked Maldon Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Smoked Spanish Paprika
- 1 Tablespoon cracked Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Harissa Powder
- 3 pounds Pork Secreto
- Mix all the salts and spices together.
- Dry rub the pork secreto and let sit for 30 minutes while you prepare your smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Smoke at about 250 degrees for five hours, or until you've "trimmed" off enough pieces that your wife suspects there may not be enough for her and the boy child..
Jacob’s Creamery: Parmesan as good as Reggiano and Sweet Butter
Lisa Jacobs is the cheesemaker at the four year old Jacob’s Creamery. I have to love her story, as she relates on her web site, “some people look at my product offerings and assume that I was pried out of a 40-pound block of perfectly aged cheddar! Or that I came from a long line of dairymen and cheesemakers. The truth is I was born in Dublin, Ireland and immigrated to the states at a young age”. She started as a law student well on her way to become a lawyer then saw the light and was captivated by a story of farmers living in the Alps and making cheese. She ended up taking a three day intensive cheese class from Ricki Carroll, the cheese goddess, in the Berkshires (Massachusetts). Having lots of French blood cursing thru my veins causes me to stop at any artisan cheese stand at Farmer’s Markets and buy massive quantities of cheese, butter and dairy products. I apologize I have no pictures to share but everytime I go to the PDX market I am to busy trying to get the last pieces of her outrageously yummy parmesan, cheddar, bloomy, gouda or whatever else she has made to snap some shots off. Cheesemaking is an art and Lisa is an artist in the greatest sense. Buy all her cheese, well except the parmesan… save that for me.
The salad is so simple I didn’t write a recipe. Take one box of baby arugula, two zucchinis that were cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler and two ounces Parmesan sliced with a vegetable peeler dress with two tablespoons olive oil, two teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar and just enough sea salt and black pepper. Plate it, eat it and enjoy!
Linda’s Brand Crab: beautiful dungeness crab meat and pristine Willapa Bay Manila clams
If you want high quality local seafood from small fishermen than this is your catch, pardon the pun. Linda’s Brand started as a few fishermen catching dungeness crabs fished off the Oregon and Washington coast 35 years ago. Eventually they formed a collective with a few more small fishermen and clam/oyster farmers and marketed directly to people under the name of Linda’s Brand. Every week they show up at the areas farmer’s market with delicious fresh seafood. I never can resist their Manila clams or crab meat. I made two seafood courses, Crab and Shrimp Croquetas and Joan’s favorite Linguini with fresh Clam sauce.
- 3 ounces Butter
- ¾ cup Flour
- 2 cups whole Milk
- 5 ounces Shrimp Stock (or Chicken Stock)
- 4 ounces Dungeness Crab meat
- 8 ounces Oregon Bay Shrimp
- 2 Tablespoons chopped Parsley
!Breading and Frying the Croquetas
2 cups Flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- Vegetable Oil
- Melt butter in heavy gauged stainless steel pot.
- Add flour and stir with wooden spoon over low heat for five minutes.
- Mix milk and stock and slowly add to hot flour/butter mixture whisking all the time.
- Cook ten minutes, adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.
- Off heat add crab, shrimp and parsley.
- Cool in refrigerator overnight.
- Roll into golf ball sized balls.
- Roll in flour, then beaten eggs, then panko.
- Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a deep, heavy bottomed pan.
- Drop croquetas in one by oil being careful not to splatter yourself to brutally with hot oil.
- Fry till golden brown.
- 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 ounces Butter
- ½ sweet Onion, diced super fine
- 4 cloves Garlic, mashed
- 1 Tablespoon fresh Thyme, rough chopped
- 1 teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
- 1 cup White Wine
- 2 pounds Manila Clams
- 4 ounces more Butter
- 1 pound :Linguini
- Heat olive oil and butter till butter melts and begins to foam.
- Add onions and saute till translucent, about five minutes.
- Add garlic and thyme and continue cooking to the smell excites your palates and causes the first bit of drool.
- Add the red pepper flakes and white wine, bring to a light simmer.
- Add Manila clams and cook till they open.
- Whisk in butter, adjust seasoning, toss in cooked linguini and feast!
Local unpasteurized grass fed milk: Orange, Cardamon and Vanilla Panna Cotta
- 1 - ¼ teaspoon Gelatin
- 1 Tablespoon Water
- 2 cups Heavy Cream
- ¼ cup Lavender Honey
- 6 Cardamon Pods, smashed
- ½ Orange, zest only
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 3 drops Orange Blossom Oil
- Mix gelatin and water and let sit for a few minutes. Reserve.
- Bring cream, honey, cardamon and orange zest to a light boil, add gelatin and remove from heat. Infuse for ten minutes then strain.
- Add vanilla and orange blossom oil and pour into small ramekins and refrigerate till set, about five hours.