Monthly Archives: November 2009

bacon-brussels sprouts hash

bacon brussels sprouts hash

Bacon-Brussels Sprouts Hash

It's the day after Thanksgiving. You have leftovers. You don't want any more turkey. What are you going to do?

Make this.

2 large russet potatoes
1/2 cup kosher salt
10 large brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered
3 slices thick-cut bacon, large diced
½ medium onion, peeled and medium diced
1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped thyme

Cooking the potatoes. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch pieces. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with 4 cups of cold water and ¼ cup of the salt. (Trust us. You want to salt the water well.) Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the potatoes until you can pierce them easily with a knife, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain them and set them aside.

Blanching the brussels sprouts. Using the same pot, bring another 4 cups of water and ¼ cup of kosher salt to boil. Put in the brussels sprouts and cook for 3 minutes. Drain them and plunge them in a bowl of ice. When they are cold, drain them and set aside.

Rendering the bacon
. On medium heat, cook the bacon pieces. When they are crisp, remove the bacon from the fat and set it aside.

Making the hash
. Add the onion and garlic to the bacon fat. Cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme and cook until it releases its fragrance, about 1 minute. Add the cooked potatoes and cook, tossing them occasionally in the pan until they begin to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until everything is heated, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Feeds 4 to 5 (or 2 people, if they are really hungry).


making your own spice rubs for pork

spice rub

Danny and I have both taken a lot of classes in our lives. He took Banquets and Buffets in culinary school. I suffered through Modalities of Literary Criticism in college. (Don't ask.) We are both curious and passionate about learning. (And, to tell the truth, we're both usually the kind of students who sit in the back of the class and pass notes. I did understand my students when I taught high school.)

But neither one of us has ever taken a class so useful as the spice-rub class we took with Chris Lilly at Kingsford University.

Chris, as we have written before, is a barbeque genius. In order to create great barbeque, you have to know flavors. This man knows flavors.

When we walked into the classroom, we saw four tables with salts, sugars, spices, and herbs laid before us. (It didn't hurt that the classroom was a lovely open room at a vineyard, the French doors open, the sunlight streaming in.) Chris told us what a shame it is that people rely on pre-packaged spice mixes and rubs. If we're lucky, every meal is different than the last. And one takes longer to cook than the next. Why would you want to spice each one the same?

Instead of thinking in terms of specific ingredients and proportions, Chris encouraged us to think about creating our own combinations from within the four stations. Each great spice rub needs:

– a mixture of sugar and salt

– some form of heat

– transitional spices

– signature flavors

Sugar and salt. There is brown sugar, white sugar, demerara sugar, muscovado, evaporated cane juice, and molasses, among others. Kosher salt, sea salt, iodized salt, pickling salt. Just making combinations of these could last all day. For a pork dry rub, a little more sugar to salt, but not so much that the meat will start to burn from the sugars.

Heat. I've never appreciated white pepper before. It smells a little like old pants to me. Somehow, I assumed it was like white chocolate — a pale imitation of the real thing. But Chris encouraged me to taste it on its own. Nothing, nothing, and then pow! Right at the back of the tongue. Oh! I see. White pepper brings heat at the last. Cayenne is immediate and black pepper is somewhere in the middle. So, if you want an even heat throughout your spice rub, try a pinch of cayenne, a little black pepper and some white pepper. He changed my mind forever about white pepper.

Transitional spices. With the salt and sugar, plus heat, the dry rub already has some good balance. But to bring body, we need more spices. Transitional spices like chili powder, cumin, and paprika give a heft to the spice rub that will carry through the cooking. (I really like smoked paprika, for a really memorable flavor.)

Signature flavors. Chris explained that if we mixed the first three groups together, we'd have a solid spice rub. But to bring our own signature taste to the meat, we needed to pick a flavor, or group of flavors, that would give our spice rub its individual flavor. For example, if we wanted to do an Asian-inspired pork ribs rub, we could mix star anise, ginger, and cinnamon. If we want Indian-flavored pork chops, we could mix turmeric and cardamom into our spice mix. And if we just followed the knowledge of our tongues, and the spices we like with the meat we wanted to cook, we could create something no one else has ever eaten.

Both Danny and I were blown away by this class. It's the kind of tutelage we needed. And if you think about these four categories when you make your next rub for barbeque or braising, you could create some truly extraordinary pork dishes.

Our Spice Rub for Slow-Braised Pork Belly

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons turbinado (or demerara) sugar
pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel pollen (or ground fennel seeds)
1 tablespoon garlic powder (or granulated garlic)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 star anise, ground into powder
1 teaspoon thyme, fine-chopped

Combine all the ingredients.

You have a spice rub.


tacos al pastor

tacos al pastor

When they put this plate in front of me, I almost stopped breathing for a moment. That red sauce, the casually curled corn tortillas, those slow-simmered cubes of pork. It looked so good.

My patience wore thin as I hovered the camera above the plate, waiting for it to feel like the right shot, so I could dig in. Danny didn't wait. He dug in immediately. Just one more shot….

There. Fork ready.

These are tacos al pastor, as served at the Mexican restaurant on our island. We waited months to go, because we had heard the little place had gone entirely Tex-Mex, dumbing down the spices to make the Americans feel more at home. However, the first time I went, I was impressed. My friend Tara said her enchiladas nopales were the best she had ever eaten. Danny and I went back, with another friend, and ate another good meal.

And then these tacos al pastor.

Now, I have a feeling these aren't entirely authentic, even though I told our waiter (the one in the place who spoke the most English), “Please make them for me the way you would eat them, okay?” His eyes grew excited at that. Clearly, he loves these tacos too.

However, traditional tacos al pastor, which originated in Mexico City, contain pork that is cooked shawarma style. Marinated for days with spices, herbs, and chili peppers, the pork cooks slowly, with a fresh pineapple ring on top of the meat. (Apparently, an enzyme in the protein breaks down the meat, which makes the final tacos insanely tender.) With all the immigrants to Mexico City, perhaps some Mexican chefs adapted the method of cooking meat slowly, hanging upside down on a rotisserie from the Lebanese chefs in town. Now, this cooking practice is firmly entrenched in the culture of Mexico City.

Everyone has a different recipe for how to prepare and cook it, of course. There is no one right way. This is the stuff of heated food arguments, after all. Rick Bayless has a recipe for a shortcut method for tacos al pastor (in case you don't have a vertical rotisserie and a meat hook in your kitchen). This one from Bon Appetit looks great to me. And I'm guessing that these guidelines from Mex Grocer are probably the closest to Mexico City we will experience here.

I'm pretty sure our local Mexican restaurant did not hang their pork from a rotiserrie. This meat came in cubes, instead of shaved-off shreds of tenderness. However, I didn't care. The flavoring was spicy and fruity, the meat nearly fell apart at first bite, and I could not stop eating them.

Good enough for me.

Have you eaten good tacos al pastor? Where? When? And do you have a recipe you'd like to share? We'd love to see it.

Casa Bonita
17623 100th Ave Sw
Vashon, WA  98070


ham at the Hotel Healdsburg

ham at the Hotel Healdsburg

You know how, when you visit most hotels, you get a “complimentary breakfast” with your stay?

I use the quotes because most of the time that is no one's idea of a good breakfast, even if it is free. Dry toast, slightly burnt, or an overly chewy bagel, if you're lucky. Fruit, most of the time out of season and bruised. Lukewarm coffee. No thanks.

However, if you should ever have the chance to stay at the the Hotel Healdsburg, you will change your mind forever about that complimentary breakfast.

The restaurant in the hotel is a Charlie Palmer restaurant, so we assumed that dinner would be good. (The folks at Kingsford took care of the rest of our meals, so we don't know how the Dry Creek Kitchen really is.) We didn't expect breakfast to be fantastic. And free.

I could describe it all, but that's not necessary. Just know if you ever go there, you'll have a lovely light-filled room, white tablecloths, hot coffee, everything fresh, and more than you could ever eat in one sitting.

The bacon was crisp. Perfectly crisp, not burnt and not flubby. And that ham. That ham was just-enough salty, with just-enough fat, and a pleasant smoky taste that lingered in the mouth wonderfully.

I wish I knew from where that ham came.

We might just have to go back.

Dry Creek Kitchen
Hotel Healdsburg
317 Healdsburg Avenue
Healdsburg, CA 95448

Tel: 707.431.0330


pulled pork from Chris Lilly

pulling the bone from the pulled pork

We experienced some wonderful moments at Kingsford U, too many to write in one space. S'mores by firelight while listening to a live band. Incredible molasses-drenched pork ribs on the sidewalk in front of Pican. Spice rub classes and wine-blending classes at the Seghesio Vineyards. But if you asked Danny and I to name the ultimate moment of the entire decadent trip, we'd say the same: that pulled pork.

Oh lord.

Chris Lilly, who is a champion pitmaster and wins barbeque competitions across the United States, learned how to make great barbeque at his wife's family’s restaurant, Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. He is the master of this.

He said that at every single barbeque competition he has entered with this pulled pork recipe, he has won.

After watching this unveiling, and eating this pulled pork, we understand why. This was the best pulled pork we have ever eaten.

Chris showed us how to inject the pork butt with his special marinade, then coat it in a spice rub and intoxicating flavors. He put this butt, along with 11 others, into the giant smoker on the grounds of the vineyard, at 9 pm. The next day, he told us, he had been up at 3 in the morning to check the temperature, and then again at 6. At 9 am, he turned off the smoker and let the pork sit, until we gathered before him at noon.

Look at how easily that bone slides out of the meat, like a knife coming out of water. That was some tender pork.

pressing down on the pulled pork

Chris put his hands into the pork and pressed down with his fingertips. The meat simply fell apart under his hands.

You should have seen the barrage of us photographers, circling around the meat like buzzards, our cameras teeth. We wanted to eat. The least we could do was capture the images.

pulling apart the pork

And then, fingers massaging the meat, slow and sweetly, making the pieces separate and fall into pink goodness.

Those are actually Danny's hands. He was itching to get his fingers to this. Chris showed us all with the first pork butt, then let bloggers take over.

(We photographers kept snapping.)

Halfway through this, Danny looked up at me, and I could see the excitement in his eyes.

chopping up the pork

If you find this photograph distasteful, you probably shouldn't be reading this site.

For the rest of us, look at that pulled pork fly. Chris told everyone to channel our passions into the knife. This woman certainly did.

pulled pork

In the end, after sliding away bone, pressing, massaging, chopping, gathering, and chopping some more, that 12-hour-succulent pork butt became this pink-flesh-with-char-on-the-outside beautiful pile of pulled pork.

Tell me you're not hungry now.

final pulled pork

All that preparation ended up on our plates.

That's spicy coleslaw with Chris Lilly's fantastic pulled pork.

I wish you could have had some. But, I wouldn't have shared mine. I needed every bite.

p.s. The recipe for this is in Chris Lilly's amazing cookbook, Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book. When it has arrived to our home, we'll share the recipe with you. Soon.


Kingsford University

sunny Northern California

We took a vacation last week. A vacation of barbeque, Southern food, friends and fellow writers gathered around a long table in a wine cellar, languid naps in a soothing hotel room, wine-blending classes, and 12-hour-slow-cooked pork butt sandwiches.

We needed this.

For the past few months, Danny and I have been hunched in front of the computer any moment our little one is asleep. (I've been here too many hours that she was awake, as well.) You've read some of that work here, and some at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, but most of it you won't be able to read for another year. We have been working on the final edits for our cookbook, due out next fall. When we weren't making sure the language of recipes was clear as water, and re-working phrases for essays, we were in the kitchen, baking and cooking, again and again. We wanted to make sure everything worked.

Thank goodness for bacon and eggs in the morning. The great meals we have shared on this site helped get us through.

We finished, late at night, our eyes bleary with tiredness. We pressed send. We felt proud. Still, it was a long slog. For months, we spent too much time inside on beautiful days, and now it's winter in Seattle.

Three days of Northern California sunlight like you see in the photographs above? It was just what we needed.

(Thank you to the Hotel Healdsburg for making everything so beautiful, and thus so easy to photograph.)


We could never have afforded a vacation like this on our own, of course. Anyone with conceptions of bloggers being rich? Think again. Many of us on this trip admitted (and felt better for it) that our lives vacillate between these occasional perks and wondering if we can make rent the next month. This was a press trip, sponsored by the good folks at Kingsford Charcoal. They brought us, and a clutch of other food writers and bloggers (some of whom were our friends before we met in Berkelely on Tuesday), to Northern California for a three-day extravanganza of food, wine, and barbeque.

When Danny and I first learned about this, we thought, “Hell yeah!” We love barbeque. We love Sonoma County, where we spent the bulk of the trip. However, we didn't know how much we would appreciate the thoughtful effort of the Kingsford team in making this an authentic experience. Tell you the truth, we sort of worried we would be receiving a sales pitch, like people having to listen to the hour-long talk on time shares to get a free ski weekend. None of it. Instead, the Kingsford people assembled people who respect each other, put us together, and let us experience the joy of grilling and barbeque.

As Drew (the head guy we met from Kingsford) talked about the first night, over dinner at Pican in Oakland, there is something humble and lovely about a barbeque. No one feels the need to impress the way we do when we throw a dinner party, or go to a fancy restaurant. Instead, it's family and friends, gathered around a fire, talking about their lives. For a few moments, we forget the economy, the war, our difficulties at work. We just share our stories and wait for those ribs to be crisp and dripping with sauce.

Also, there's fire. Watching these science guys light the briquets at the Clorox Technical Center in Pleasanton made everybody happy. Sunshine, green grass (fake, by the way), and lighter fluid. After we had spent a couple of hours inside, watching super-smart chemical engineers make briquets from scratch and calibrate  how quickly they lit, we were excited to be outside, watching the real thing.

However, I have to tell you, we were fascinated. As our fellow food blogger, Chef John at Food Wishes, put it: “I'll be honest, of all the things I'd always wanted to learn more about, charcoal briquets wasn't one of them. But I was honestly fascinated by the process, and what could have been a long morning went by quickly.”

Did you know that in the making of briquets nothing is wasted? The wood comes from waste wood that probably would have ended up in a landfill anyway, and the process constantly recycles waste products and puts them back into the briquets. Honestly, we had no idea about this. It made us both feel better to be supporting a product we already buy. (Most of us do. Kingsford dominates most of the charcoal market.)

Most of us were pretty thrilled with this trip already. Most food bloggers are geeks at heart. Give us food, graphs about food, and chances to take pictures of food, and we're set.

And then we went out to Healdsburg.

Seghesio vineyards

We spent the next two days at the Seghesio Vineyards, a family-run winery in business since 1895. Their zinfandels and Italian-style wines were a big hit with the group. But the gracious hosts, this wonderful family, made us feel so entirely welcome that no one wanted to leave after the end of the trip. (Thank you, Pete and Cathy.)

The chef at the Seghesio Vineyards, Jon Helquist, prepared wonderful meals for us, including making everything gluten-free for me. (That's pretty great when the last evening's meal meant grilling our own pizzas on barbeques. I never expected to be treated so equally there.) He worked for years at Chez Panisse, so you can imagine the food: great ingredients, simple preparations, rustic and wonderful.

Everything felt human and connected, filled with inspiration and the desire to make us feel welcome. The first night we were there, the evening ended with music under the stars and s'mores stations by fire pits within a circle of bales of hay. Our daughter danced to her first live music and everyone had smiles as wide as the sky.

pulled pork

And what, you may be wondering, does this have to do with pork?

Everything, of course. Are you kidding me? Pork is the best meat for barbeque. We ate a lot of fine pork on this trip.

Besides, Chris Lilly, who is a champion pitmaster and barbeque competitions across the United States, accompanied us on this trip. Listening to him talk about competitions, and how they make barbeque at his family's restaurant, Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, made this trip even better than we imagined. We can't wait to cook from his incredible new cookbook, Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, including the recipes for rubbed and grilled pork loin with apple-barbeque sauce and turnip greens with smoked slab bacon. For goodness' sakes, one of the biggest chapters in the book is called Ode to Pork. We'll be sharing some of Chris's tips with you here.

One of the best parts of the entire trip was listening to Chris explain his process for cooking pork butt, low and slow. He injected it with a brine and cooked it for 12 hours. You should have seen the swarm of us photographers hovered over the dark-char crust on the pork butt, the way the marshmallows had looked when we pulled them out of the fire the night before. Then, Chris pulled out the bone as easy as pulling a book off the shelf. He put his hands in the meat, slid in his fingers, and everything simply melted. We all lifted up our cameras to say “Ahhhh.”

You'll have to wait for the photos, and the recipe. I'm hungry again.

At the end of the three days, we all received diplomas from Kingsford University. These were the best classes we had ever taken. And no homework!

Thanks, Kingsford.


best places to eat pork in San Francisco

cheese and prosciutto plate

We've been home from San Francisco for awhile. (In fact, we're headed back down there tomorrow, for an exciting three-day event that involves pork! More on this soon.) And yet, I could still write more about our meals there.

All good things come to an end. We have recipes to share, restaurants in Seattle to visit, tips and techniques to give you that might make you step into the kitchen again.

I'll end our San Francisco saga here.

When I was doing research for where to eat in San Francisco and its environs, I kept googling, “Best places to eat pork in San Francisco.” Now, we figure, if someone else stumbles on this from asking the same question, well… we're happy to share.

All things pork at Contigo

Boccalone salumi

Carnitas at Tonayense

Porchetta sandwich at Il Cane Rosso

Pork shoulder at Incanto restaurant

Pork sliders at Sellers' Markets

Prosciutto ice cream at Humphry Slocombe

Whiskey fennel sausage at Dottie's True Blue Cafe


Bouchon Bistro in Napa

The Fatted Calf (in Napa)

Now, go eat!


pork paraphenalia at Heritage

heritage pigs

In Napa, just around the corner from The Fatted Calf, sits a shopping arcade like no other. Oxbow Public Market is open and inviting, with spice stores and wine bars, cheese merchants and cupcake stands. Every stall calls to you, if you love good food.

And then there is Heritage Culinary Artifacts.

head cheese mold at Oxbow

“Heritage Culinary Artifacts is the ultimate source for premium culinary antiques that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional.”

Walk around this open space and you'll find antique head cheese molds. Cast-iron, heavy enough to withstand the test of a well-worked kitchen, and yet beautiful at the same time.

Well of course. Who doesn't need this for her house?

(Danny would probably use it, if we could ever afford it. This would never just sit on a shelf.)

old sausage stuffer at Heritage

A sausage stuffer. From the 1920s. Now that's some sausage making. Was this for a commercial kitchen? Or a giant farmhouse kitchen?

These people were serious about their sausage.

(I'm not sure we'd use this one. Lovely, though.)

pigs — cash only

I wish I knew the story of where this came from.

hello, pig (at Oxbow

We started laughing when we saw this. That face! I had to crouch on the ground to see him and snap this.

Heritage Artifacts is clearly a work of love from its owner, a former sommelier with a love for all things related to food. Each object has been hand chosen, a work of art and useful too (or sometimes just funny). And we swear, half the place is pig paraphenalia. If you love all things pork, this is the store for you.

Heritage Culinary Artifacts
Oxbow Public Market
610 First Street, Stall 14
Napa, California 94559



lunch at Bouchon

How do you describe a perfect meal?

I don't mean the best meal of our lives. We've eaten a few of those, and our definition keeps expanding of what the next one should be to top the last. Those meals, however, can be a little exhausting. Hours long, white linen tablecloths, elbows off the table please — those dinner stand out in the mind later, but my back may not be that comfortable in the middle of it. Some of the best meals of our lives cost us more than we want to say.

I mean a perfect meal. The one where every bite, from start to finish, just tastes right. No real fuss. No big expectations. Instead, pleasant surprises and tastes that sang out of warmth and comfort, cooks in the kitchen working hard and enjoying it, white plates and forks scraped across them.

A good lunch.

That's what we had at Bouchon Bistro when we were in Napa Valley. A perfect meal.

wine glasses at Bouchon

This meal with our good friends, Helen and Anita, was so lovely and comforting that we didn't even order wine. We didn't need it to enjoy our time. We admired the glasses, lined up here, side by side.

However, the company, the ambiance, and the food was enough on its own. That tells you something.

baguettes at Bouchon

I can't even eat this bread and I enjoyed the fact it sat on the table. It smelled heavenly: yeasty and warm. I listened to its crunch as Danny tore off a piece, and I approved. He smiled and didn't even try to hide it. Sometimes, he feels bad if he eats gluten and I can't have it. Most of the time, he tells me, “Oh, you're not missing much.” Sometimes, Danny's face will say that the bread or pie is great, but he feigns indifference. But with these baguettes, he couldn't hide it. “Oh, these are good.” Helen and Anita agreed. I just smiled.

I knew the charcuterie  plate was coming soon.

charcuterie platter at Bouchon

The colors on this alone should tell you how enticing this charcuterie plate was. The vegetables were delicately pickled, just a touch of tang without being overpowering. They were, of course, the complement to the pork. Salami, saucisson sec, little squares of porky goodness. We each took a slice, nibbled daintily — only because we were forced to by the size of the servings — and oohed and ahhed.

This disappeared far too fast.

boudin blanc at Bouchon

However, the charcuterie plate lasted longer than this boudin blanc did on my plate.

Boudin blanc is a hand-stuffed sausage made from pork, a white sausage, meaning without blood. (All that is saved for the boudin noir, or black sausage.) This one was refined, polished to a fine glow of a taste. The skin crackled underneath my teeth and the center was soft as mousse, with a little jiggle. It looked so good I didn't even stop to focus this shot properly.

Oh well, you'll have to imagine. It's long gone now anyway.

The pork at Bouchon, and everything that came with it, tasted right. This is a Thomas Keller restaurant. Of course every detail is perfect. We've never eaten at the French Laundry, so we don't know if a meal there would feel as complete. However, Bouchon is the bistro, the casual place, the place where you order frites and they arrive piping hot in a metal cone, the paper not stained with grease, and a small salt cellar next to them. Everyone in the dining room seemed happy — particularly when our daughter was giggling and eating sausage while waving at half the room — and everyone had a good meal.

We'd eat every bite again, particularly that boudin blanc.


6534 Washington Street

Yountville, CA 94599


Makin’ Bacon at the Herbfarm.

We've been gone for a bit. Sorry about that. The final edits for our narrative cookbook, which will be published by John Wiley and Sons next fall, are due this week. We've been buried in baking and tweaking and typing. Everything else except playing with our daughter came to a halt.

We're back now. We're almost done with the book. We're proud of the work we have done. Wait until you see the recipe for bacon-wrapped pork belly!

Danny and I have not decided how we want to celebrate when we complete the manuscript and press the send button. There are so many great restaurants in Seattle. We do know, however, if we could afford it, we'd be running to The Herbarm's Makin' Bacon dinner.

You may remember that we were lucky enough to eat at The Herbfarm in August. We will never forget that meal.

Some might say we should never eat at the Herbfarm again, just to preserve the memory of that perfect experience.

Did you just meet us? And have you seen this menu?


Mangalitsa pork cracklings? Ham bone soup with chard? Berkshire-pork-head-and-leek terrine? Caramelized pork belly with duck tongues?

Be still my heart.

To top it all, look at this dessert: wild chanterelle-tapioca pudding with prosciutto, sage, and candied black walnuts. Oh, and quince tarte tatin with bacon-oatmeal ice cream.


That was the sound of us fainting.

We can't go to this dinner. But you? Oh my, you have to go.

The Herbfarm

14590 NE 145th Street
Woodinville, WA 98072

(425) 485.5300