I love the fall. The sun feels warm yet there is a certain hollowness to the rays. Step into a shadow and know winter’s on the way. Nights turn crisp, and the air smells like blackberry pie. The first freeze will soon be here, pumpkins are ripening, and I start thinking about long-cooked braises and stews, and the soul-comforting foods of autumn.
With all the rain we had in the Northwest this summer and the nice warm autumn days we have had lately I knew it wouldn’t be long before the foragers would start appearing at our door with amazing Chanterelle mushrooms. I plunge my face into them and inhale their sweet pumpkin-apricot aromas of forest and leaves.
My favorite way to serve Chanterelle mushrooms is sliced and sautéed in some butter with some chopped garlic and shallots, S + P until they are cooked and have given up some of their juices. Add some chopped Italian parsley and fresh thyme. Let the juices reduce a little (especially if you add a splash of white wine and/or chicken stock) which is not necessary but will add some acidity and complexity to the sauce. At the last second swirl in some additional butter to give the sauce some body.
Check and correct seasonings. Brush some sliced La Brea Bakery country bread or rosemary bread with some olive oil and grill it until nicely charred. Then arrange on a plate with a small tuft of arugula.
If you like, add a few drops of white truffle oil which will enhance the mushroomy garlic flavor (and when I say drops –I mean with an eye dropper– otherwise the truffle oil will overpower the dish). Add some generous shavings of reggiano cheese, and serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over everything. And if you don’t want to go to all that trouble–come by Pacific Grill where we are serving this dish while Chanterelles are in season.
She always made hers with Wheat Chex cereal and Cheerios, and added lots of salty Worcestershire and of course real butter, and real garlic (no garlic powder in her musty smelling cupboard), but yes to dried oregano, and lots of skinny pretzels and peanuts, and those big brazil nuts that we kids did not like at all (well really does anyone like those bitter nuts?)–but without (most) of those ingredients it just doesn’t taste right to me.
My good friend Brock insists one has to have Cheetos in your Party Mix and my sister Gayle loves lots of Rice Chex in her’s (I always swapped the extra rice Chex in my handful for the extra Wheat Chex in her’s and always thought I got the better end of the deal…our Bartender Paul swears that his recipe is the best and recently he made a batch that had spaghetti sauce and sun-dried tomatoes that I actually thought pretty tasty!
A chef friend of mine, the late great Billy Pflug even used to put Duck cracklin’s in his gourmet version. Last year, here at PG we deep fried garbanzo beans and julienne salami & pistachio nuts and dubbed it “Chef’s Mix” to great acclaim.
How about yours? Does your family have a secret heirloom recipe?
What indispensable ingredient has to be in your Party Mix for the Holidays?
By the way, also during this month of celebration we are serving two great Champagnes by the glass: Dom Pérignon & Veuve Clicquot at a great price. So get your Merry on! and get down here for some Nuts & Bolts and a glass of Dom or Veuve and let’s celebrate the season—oh and don’t forget to share your secret ingredients with me for your best Party Mix cause I want your recipe to put on my holiday menu next year!
This Fall and Winter we are featuring a new oyster at Pacific Grill that I find particularly delicious. And amazingly when we order them they harvest that very day and deliver them to us a few hours after they pick them up off the beach! You cannot get fresher than that!
Served on the half shell I like them with just a squeeze of fresh lemon. We also make a mignonette sauce (white wine and champagne vinegar) with a little freshly diced horseradish root and fresh cracked pepper. Frenchman’s Point oysters owe their unique flavor to the special surroundings in which they are grown or “terroir”, [ tehr-WAHR]. Originally a word used in wine and coffee appreciation, the term is used to denote the special characteristics of geography that bestow individual unique qualities upon the food product.
Scenic Frenchman’s Point is located at the entrance to Quilcene Bay, which is located at the northern end of Hood Canal,WA near Dabob Bay in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains, one of the most undeveloped bays on Hood Canal, and is bottle-necked so that with every tide change the pristine nutrients of the area flush directly over Frenchman’s Point.
The oysters are located far away from waterfront homes or other developments, and are grown on pea gravel & small rocks (not in mud) and you can definitely taste the difference. The flavor of the oysters is somewhat complex; plump and brimming with meat they have a slightly metallic overtone, finishing with sweet cucumber and a sprite brininess.
They taste like barely-held-together ocean…
Besides offering them on the half-shell, we also serve them as “Shooters” in a shot glass with citrus infused Stolichnaya vodka & cilantro.
We also roast them over a bed of rock salt perfumed with spices with our house-made pancetta and buttered crumbs.
Some of our guests prefer them deep-fried in beer batter and panko– served with house-made tartar sauce and our famous skinny fries, with olive-oil poached garlic cloves & fried herbs.
Had a great time at the Puyallup Fair on closing day—the weather was perfect, blue skies and sunny—but the food we ate was terrible.
The classic Fisher fair scone that I eagerly purchased had a congealed raspberry jam that didn’t –or wouldn’t—melt into the warm biscuit. The butter tasted inferior, and the biscuit itself was broken into pieces inside its nostalgic little waxy bag.
A couple people I was with wanted lunch, and I had heard Ed Murrieta of SouthSoundEats.com rave about the smoked Turkey Legs at the Young Life booth. So three of us tried them. Mine was very hot but awkward to eat—with no real tables nearby. The leg was gristly with all those annoying little bones to deal with, and most disappointingly—it did not even come close to tasting like turkey. It was very salty and not really smoky at all, in fact it tasted like it had been brined which would account for the interior color of the meat being as pink as ham with a similar consistency. After walking through one of the crafts buildings still struggling to eat it (and it really just tasting like salty ham on a stick) I threw it away…
After a few rides we decided to detour into the Beer & Wine Garden to rehydrate after eating the salt bomb posing as a turkey leg. A small beer was $6 and the medium size (20 oz) was $8. Kinda steep we thought…
I tried a $10 glass of the delicious Pepper Bridge Red blend from Hightower Cellars~the grapes come from Red Mountain. Next was a stunning 2007 Cabernet from Saviah Cellars, Walla Walla. This wine received 93 points from Wine Spectator–it had luscious brambleberry fruit with French oak vanilla, a nice undertone of espresso, and a loooong finish. Perfect.
After a few more rides (the Zipper never fails to terrify me) and the obligatory ride up Extreme Scream at sunset, I was ready to end my day with the justly famous onion fair burger. (Last year I got duped into trying the Earthquake Burger and regretted it—huge yes, but not satisfying, in that elemental best-burger-in-memory kind of way, like the Frisco Freeze of your childhood, or insert your own childhood burger memory here. So off we went in search of the perfect fair burger, which can be a little confusing as so many of the burger places tout themselves as having the best burger at the fair.
A couple of friends opted for a “healthy” dinner (from a booth the name of which escapes me) of rice and veggies and pork or chicken on top (at the Fair?? Are you kidding?).
And then in the distance, there it was–Hamburger Myers “The Burger That Made the Fair Famous (since 1922)”. I was so excited. The woman at the counter asked if I wanted cheese and onions. (Of course I want cheese and onions). The intoxicating smell of griddled onions wafting through the air as you walk the fairgrounds says “fair” to me as much as the smell of cotton candy and warm raspberry scones.
I watched the young teenager assemble my burger. The buns were disappointingly not being griddled, the cheese was put on the meat un-melted, and then a huge glob of cooked onions mounded and smooshed on top of the cheese (I guess they feel the heat of the onions will do the melt-job on the cheese, so why bother actually melting it on the meat?) The lady handed me my burger and explained that I could add mustard and ketchup, which I did.
I took my first bite and I cannot adequately convey my disappointment.
A couple others in the group went for the venerable Sales Family Krusty Pup (since 1923).
My group of 8 friends and I spent around $800.
Find some ripe melons at your grocery store or local Farmer’s Market. Papaya is particularly delicious in this tropical Thai-inspired salad.
The other day I chopped some crisp juicy watermelon into large cubes, added some cantaloupe and ripe orange-fleshed honeydew melon. Then I added some halved grape tomatoes, and avocado. The tomato is really delicious with the melons.
For a little spice I chopped a jalapeño –including seeds–and added some peeled and minced fresh gingerroot, chopped green onion, fresh spearmint and cilantro to the fruits. Next I carefully tossed the fruits with a good amount of a good quality fruity vinegar. Raspberry vinegar is good, or white balsamic. Add a little salt to taste and squeeze some fresh lime juice. If you want to play up the tropical inspiration find and add some chopped kaffir lime leaf to the salad.
You can turn the salad into more of a main course with the addition of some salad shrimp if you like.
Refrigerate for a little while to allow the flavors to blend, and serve well-chilled. Delicious and beautiful it will be the hit of your next summer barbecue.
My Great Grandmother Cassidy lived in a beautiful antebellum-style home near the state capitol in Olympia. The front yard was dominated by a gigantic Bing cherry tree. As children we used to go visit Grandma Cassidy and I couldn’t wait to climb the stairs to the grand second level porch, and reach out and pick some juicy black-red cherries. My brothers and I would try and see who could spit the pits the farthest off the balcony towards the street below. Sadly, after Grandma sold the property to the state, her beautiful mansion was torn down–along with that huge Bing cherry tree, to make room for more state government buildings.
Several years ago when I was chef of this beautiful restaurant Rix in Santa Monica CA, we came up with a great summer-y salad using Bing cherries–and we named it “Cherry Love”.
The salad is on our menu now, and is very popular with our guests. It consists of baby spinach leaves, feta cheese, sweet Walla Walla onions, roasted pistachio nuts, and a vinaigrette that we make from the cherries.
Italian for raw—crudo is a fusion dish —similar to Japanese sashimi, but with Italian/Mediterranean flavors instead of Japanese.
Recently I showed you a crudo of raw ahi tuna with Summer black truffles.
Today we are featuring a crudo of thinly sliced raw scallops with extra-virgin olive oil, lime juice, cracked pepper, slivered mint & cilantro—and sprinkled with vanilla salt. [Sea salt that has been infused with a scraped Tahitian vanilla pod].
The unusual combination of flavors against the buttery richness of the raw scallops is delicious.
Like our flatbreads, the crudo changes frequently, so this particular version may not be on the menu the next time you visit Pacific Grill.
It is a great starter, and the fluted tart pan in which they are served makes for a great presentation. And is easy to throw together—and a great attention getter—at your next party.
Our flatbread dough is similar to pizza dough, but we don’t knead the dough–we just throw it together and stir it until it forms a sticky mass. We then retard it over night in the walk-in to develop the flavor, then assemble the tarts the next day, before baking them off to order.
HINT: You don’t want to put too much flour in this dough or it will make the crust tough and not crispy.
Put whatever toppings you want onto the dough just like you would a pizza. And bake it in a blazing hot oven for around 10 minutes or until the top of the crust is brown around the edges and the cheese is bubbly and browning.
After you finish baking the flatbread push the removable bottom out of the pan and cut the pizza right on the pan into about 8 equal sized pieces. Then drop the pre-cut flatbread back into the tart pan, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped Italian parsley just before serving. If the flatbread needs it you can stick it back into the oven a minute or two or under the broiler to give the cheese more color—but watch it like a hawk cause it will burn fast!
Oh and by the way—our flatbreads sell-out quickly and change every few days—so don’t expect this particular flatbread on your next visit to Pacific Grill.
As most of you know–salads and vinaigrettes can be a real wine buster–the residual vinegar remaining in your mouth and tongue ruins the wine’s balance, and making the wine seem overly acidic and undrinkable.
I came up with a roasted grape salad, using the grape’s own juices collected after roasting and making a mild grape vinaigrette and scraping a vanilla pod also into the vinaigrette for added richness and buttery-ness to try and mimic a flavor profile found in wine.
The acid in the grapes after roasting were tamed and enriched, and the grape flavor enhanced, but still had enough acid to make the vinaigrette not too cloying.
For a crouton I love grilled bread. I took a variety of cheeses and blended them with a bit of white wine and garlic and pureed it in the food processor, then thickly slavered the cheese onto the grilled bread and toasted the cheese in the oven until gooey and caramelized.
This combination of flavors was delicious with the wine–and curiously–with either a red or a white.
|When I had my restaurant in Aspen many years ago, I worked with a wonderful chef, Susan Sinnicks, who was from Charlotte, N. Carolina. She was talented, and being from the south, of course—very polite.|
So I had to create a dish to honor Susan which became “Miz Susan’s White Trash Salad”. It had cornmeal breaded fried chicken on it and instead of croutons we added small crispy hushpuppies.
The salad was a huge hit! I had never made hushpuppies before—indeed at the time I didn’t even know what they were. So Susan made a batch, and wrote down a recipe right then out of her head that was perfect, addictive, and delicious.
Hushpuppies, as you may already know, are a southern side-dish commonly served with fish. They supposedly got their name when fishermen tossed pieces of fried batter to their hungry dogs (instead of the fried catfish) & said: “now–hush puppies”! I don’t know if that story is true, but it is a good story.
Later when I was working in Hollywood CA, as chef of the infamous Monkey Bar restaurant, I came up with an appetizer that was a cross between a hushpuppy and a crabcake that we named Crab “Puppies”.
This appetizer became one of the most popular on my menu. In fact one record producer used to drive up to the door and phone the front desk before he valeted his car, to make sure that we hadn’t yet sold out.
I used Miz Susan’s basic hushpuppy recipe, although I used a bit less black pepper and crushed red chilies, and I also added some cilantro, and of course Dungeness crabmeat. We served the Crab Puppies with a homemade Black Pepper Tartar Sauce, and a squeeze of lemon.
The other day I decided it was time to bring the appetizer back to my menu here at Pacific Grill. It has become a hit again, all these years later.
I love the way the sweet molasses and cornmeal play against the rich crab, cut by the heat of the chilies and pepper, brightened by a squeeze of lemon. The rich tartar sauce helps quench the tingling heat on your tongue, and you can’t help wanting to take another bite…
Tasting them again after all these years sure reminds me of Susan, her talent in the kitchen, generous smile and laugh, southern charm, and great hugs.