Thai Basil Pork

This weekend, with one confirmed case of strep in the house and everybody generally worn out from a big week, I made some family comfort food.  Thai Basil Pork is supposedly Thai street food.  I’ve never been to Thailand so all I know is, it’s absolutely delicious.

Mrs. NH recommended that instead of pairing it with rice or rice noodles, we whip up some carrot “zoodles” instead.  What we got was an absolutely flavorful dish that scratches an Asian food itch while seeming sorta healthy.

I tweak the recipe a bit each time.  This time, we couldn’t find “Golden Mountain Sauce” so I just added more lime and oyster sauce.  I also tend to add two eggs to the mix, partially to bulk it up some because of my ravenous family and partially just because I love the eggs in there.  Fresh lime is key in this recipe.

It takes a bit of time to make with all of the prep work but once you’re done it is worth the effort.

Now comes the fight for the leftovers.



Homemade Focaccia

Homemade Focaccia

Homemade Focaccia

It has been two days full of cooking around the NH homestead this weekend.  I’ve made and frozen several pounds of crock pot carnitas and crock pot chicken tacos for the return of the NH girls.  I’m also getting ready to whip into meatloaf gravy to be used as pasta sauce and a batch or two of pizza crusts for the freezer to boot.  I’ve also tackled a bread recipe that I’ve always wanted to make – focaccia.

My fondest memory of focaccia is from Monterosso, Italy.  After spending the day on the beach in Monterosso, we stopped in a bakery for a Peroni and wedge of focaccia to take on the boat ride back to the little village of Vernazza.  I just remember that bread being some of the most simple and flavorful that I had ever tasted.  Moist with olive oil and each bite held a little crunch from the generous sprinkling of sea salt on top.  Bolstered by the Peroni and post-beach euphoria, that bread is the pinnacle of flatbreads in my mind.

The recipe I used was from the always reliable “Crepes of Wrath” and was very simple.   If you’re interested in trying it yourself, I would only offer a few observations.  I did mine in my stand mixer and couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.  After adding all of the recommended flour, it still seemed to thin so I added about a 1/2 cup more.  That did the trick.  Also, in the final step, instead of drizzling the olive oil on top of the bread, I’ll brush it the next time for more of an even coating and even browning.  As it was, the top of my bread had zigzags left by the olive oil.

That said, the flavor definitely brought me back to Cinque Terre.   Hmmm.  Time to get planning summer vacation.

Roasted Pork Belly

Roasted Pork Belly

Bachelorhood gives me the opportunity to try cooking some foods that I wouldn’t get the chance to with the whole family in town.  The kids and Mrs. NH are in Texas and I figure they’re eating well so why shouldn’t I?  So when I saw a kilo of pork belly at the Tesco Express last week, I grabbed it.

Pork Belly with Broccoli and QuinoaPork belly is not something I’ve ever attempted to cook.  I’ve eaten it several times out at restaurants and always loved it.  It’s fatty, flavorful and probably isn’t very good for you – which makes it just a little more fun to eat, right?  So after I had the belly in my possession, I had to get a recipe.  I asked Scamp if he had a recipe – I thought this would be a slam dunk.  He’s roasted, cured and smoked just about every mammal and fish known to Kansas and beyond and I figured pork belly would be an easy ask.  Not so.

So I went out searching for a recipe on the web.  I found this one on Jules Food which is a less fussy, slight variation on a recipe from Jamie Oliver.  It’s this simple:  Season your belly with salt and pepper, put it on a bed of sliced onions, blast it for 30 minutes on 450, then lower oven to 350 for 2 hours.  Drool, drool, drool.

The belly came out moist and the skin was all “cracklings” in the best sense of the word.  Unbeknownst to me, the belly I picked up actually had the very tips of rib bones in it Roasted Pork Belly Tacos with SaSoand the flavor of the meat around the bones was the most delicious of all.  I plated it up alongside some Parmesan-roasted broccoli and olive oil quinoa and a glass of punchy Austrian Blauer Zweigelt.  It was really, really delicious.  However, those that are looking to try it should know that a flavorful red wine is recommended to cut through the richness of the meat.  And oh, the meat.  Fork tender and juicy without being oily.  The added bonus at the bottom of the pan were the confitted onions that had cooked to sweet perfection.

Little NH loves bacon and I told her about this recipe.  She said she wanted me to save her some.  Not a chance.  A couple of nights later I made pork belly tacos on corn tortillas with a generous dash of SaSo finishing sauce.  No, Little NH won’t get a bite of this batch but if I ever run across a belly again, Katy bar the door!

Cheesesteak Sandwiches with Homemade Buns


We didn’t have plans for Sunday.  Mrs. NH was kind enough to brave freezing temperatures to go for a quick supermarket trip while the girls and I puttered around the house and watched vacation home movies on my newly reconditioned Windows Media Center.  Of course in the Not Hemingway household, a day without plans usually leads to cooking of some sort.  This Sunday was no exception.  Over the course of the afternoon we churned out a hearty Italian vegetable soup, chicken salad, homemade soft sandwich buns and cheesesteak sandwiches.

We’ve made cheesesteaks before but have always been at the mercy of awful Czech supermarket rolls.  Czech bread is an absolute abomination.  The problem is, there is a wide selection of shapes and sizes of buns and rolls at the supermarkets but all taste pretty terrible.  The sandwich buns are always awful, dried, grainy affairs.  To add insult to injury, they have a picture of the American flag on the bag.  Not cool, peeps.  Not cool.

BunsOn Sunday I took matters into my own hands and made the sandwich buns that I had been threatening to make for years.  I followed this recipe that I found online and was quite pleased with the results.  The finished bun was firm and dense but fluffy – just firm enough to hold up to our gooey cheesesteaks and I can only imagine they would be a fine match to a juicy burger.

For the cheesesteaks I halved and sliced two large onions and caramelized them over low heat.  After they finished I set them aside and threw a little over a pound of super-thinly-sliced sirloin, trimmed of the majority of fat.  I’ve been making these sandwiches ever since we moved here and have learned a few things along the way.  There’s no need to freeze your beef to get thin slices – just make sure you knife is sharp.  Also, get your pan as hot as it will go before throwing in your beef.  As it hits the pan it gives off lots of liquid.  If your pan is hot that evaporates and your beef gets a nice brown crust.  If the beef is cooked slowly, it boils in its own juices and that ends up in tough and spongy meat.  Not good.  Last but not least, make your sandwiches like they do in Philly.  Mrs. NH and I frequented Pat’s every chance we got and we always ordered our steaks “wit’ Wiz.”  That’s with Cheese Whiz for any of the uninitiated.  It’s an everyman twist on some real comfort food.  Adding provolone just seems to high falutin’ now.

Paired with the new buns, the steaks were out of this world.  With no tough bun to contend with, I really appreciated the tenderness of the steak, the sweetness of the onions and the salty, tangy punch of the Whiz.  We paired our sandwiches with some sweet potato fries and a couple bottles of Delirium Tremens.  Now that’s a Sunday dinner.  Thanks for the memories, Passyunk!

Salmon Tartare

There’s something fishy going on at  It’s a guest commentary from the culinary troubadour, Fredericksburg Flash.  He first brought you a commentary on the Salt ‘ till ya Drop post a few years back.  The spirit has moved him again and he’s decided to contribute even more great food experiences to the blog.  This man has tasted food in more countries than I can count so if Flash says it’s good, take note.  Welcome back, Flash!

6 March, 2012, by Fredericksburg Flash

Awhile back while traveling, Mrs. FF and I saw an item on the menu that piqued our curiosity. It was listed in appetizers as Salmon Tartare.

Something must have had a greater attraction, because we did not order it that meal. It has always been in the back of my mind, and last week I decided I would experiment with a recipe. I should explain that Mrs. FF and I both really enjoy cooking but I rarely use a strict recipe. I will attempt to give you the building blocks I used, but feel free to add your own flavor touches.

Start with a skinless salmon fillet. Cut into 1/2” chunks and in a nonreactive bowl, squeeze the juice of a couple limes over the salmon. As in ceviche, the lime juice “cooks” the fish. Stir to expose all of the fish to lime juice. I then refrigerate for no more than 2 hours. Now I add Dijon mustard and whole grain mustard. Add just enough to coat the fish. This also acts to stop the cooking process. Next add capers, sea salt and lots of fresh dill weed. Cover to seal and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the flavors marry. I served it with a slice of just baked “One Minute Ciabatta”, as previously presented on NH’s blog. Mrs. FF and like wine…all kinds of wine. Not being wine snobs, we don’t always follow all of the”Wine Rules” We chose a Merlot from Cap Rock Winery, Lubbock, Texas. We also had a baby spinach salad with a light coating of quality olive that we recently brought back from Tuscany.

I think presentation is always a major part of the meal. We had purchased 16, two ounce martini glasses from Crate and Barrel. We’ve used them for other appetizers and drinks, and they worked well for this. I’m pretty sure this will be featured at our next home dinner party.

Baked Egg in Avocado

Who would have thought that two of my favorite flavors in the world, egg and avocado, would go so well together?  The recipe is straightforward.  Put your egg in the avocado where the seed would have been (hollowed out a little more to fit the egg), and then put the whole shootin’ match on a cast iron skillet or oven safe plate in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until your egg looks done the way you like it.

The egg was very flavorful surrounded by the avocado.  The fruit was warm and firm but not a weird consistency.  I topped mine with a little bit of SaSo for an extra kick in the flavor department.

Having tried this recipe, I’m now curious about what other great egg avocado parings there are out there.  Avocado in egg salad, maybe?  The possibilities are endless.

Croquetas de Jamón, Albóndigas en Sofrito y Alcachofas Laminadas – Hecho en Casa

I could have opened up a restaurant in downtown Madrid last night.  This amateur chef was firing on all cylinders.  Heck, I was even firing on cylinders that I didn’t know I had.

Making croquetas has always been something that I have wanted to do – successfully.  I tried it once with my dad about 20 years ago, back when I was a kid just home from a year in Spain.  We failed.  Miserably.  The croquetas were burnt blobs.  The failure scarred me and I had not tried to make them again, until last night.

Just back from India, I got a hankerin’ for something that was, well, not curry.  Having recently excavated a nice chunk of frozen jamón from the freezer, I decided to put it to use in the croquetas.  I used the recipe from La‘s website.  I ended up changing the proportions quite a bit since the 1/2 lb of jamón that the recipe called for made for too meaty of croquetas.  I used some smoked sweet paprika and nutmeg in the batter, just to bring out the flavors I love.

They were a huge success.  Mrs. NH and Little NH gobbled them up as fast as I could make them.  But I didn’t stop there.

I also wanted to try my hand at fried artichokes, just like in Barcelona’s Ciudad Condal.  These always seemed like an impossible dish to make, due to the cleaning of the choke and thin cut that they needed to have.  Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did.

First, I pulled off the green outer leaves and then cut of the top prickly portion of the artichoke.  Using a baby food spoon (thanks, Scamp!) I scooped out the fuzziest part of the inner choke, right above the heart.  I then halfed it and set to running it through on the “thin” setting on my mandolin.  Finally, I fried them in about 1/2 inch of olive oil and finished with a liberal sprinkling of sea salt.  Wow.  Two home runs in one night.

Finally, I decided that to round out this feast, we needed Little NH’s new favorite tapa – albóndigas (meatballs).  We did a pork variety with a delicious sofrito from José Andrés’ “Made in Spain”.  Little NH helped mix the meat and made all of the balls herself.  I fried them up and added them to the sauce to simmer for a good hour until we chowed down.

Not content to do a feast of tapas half way, I opened the pack of duck jamón I had in the fridge and Mrs. NH prepared fresh pan con tomate.  It was a meal that I would have been thrilled with at any Spanish tapas bar in el barrio gótico or on Cava Baja.  The fact that I had it while sitting on my couch, made it all the better.


Duck Ragu on Fresh Fettuccine

I can’t believe the food we manage to turn out from this kitchen.

Yeah, no [kidding].

That’s a slightly redacted conversation my wife and I had last night as we cleaned up the kitchen after turning out home-made fettuccine topped by a succulent Duck Ragu. It was one of the more labor intensive and sophisticated dishes we have ever made. It’s also one that I would have been happy to serve to any discerning foodie.

Being a Sunday, we had time to cook this one. Good thing, as I ended up doubling the cooking time that was originally on the recipe. We adapted ours from the Mario Batali Duck Ragu recipe. His original steps only called for about 1.5 hours of simmer time. Ours had a good three hours. Our version also had a lot more wine in the sauce and we substituted prosciutto for the mushrooms. Consequently, the ultimate dish was a deep, ruby-red with really intense flavor. We made a thick (#5 on our hand-crank pasta maker) fettuccine noodle to stand up to the robust, rustic sauce.

Rounding out the meal on the drink side was a bold 2007 Querciabella Chianti Classico.  It was a classic meal on a cold Sunday evening.

So, as the folks in America were gearing up for some world championship football in the form of the Super Bowl, I was snug in my bed, with a belly full of world-class food.  Not a bad trade-off.  Admittedly, mine didn’t have commercials.

Sherried Duck Empanada Recipe

Duck Empanadas

After a ridiculously delicious Saturday night, I found myself in the house on a rainy, cold Sunday.  I also found myself with two duck leg/thigh combos in the fridge and a wife that blew me away by saying, “Let’s make duck empanadas.  I’ll make the dough.”  Giddyup!

A few hours later, I was cradling a puffy, golden sherried duck empanada in my hand marveling at the result of husband and wife teamwork.  In the other hand I was holding a glass of la Gitana Manzanilla.  On my face was a big, fat grin.

Here’s how it all went down…

For the Filling:

2 leg/thighs of duck (skin on)
salt and pepper
1/2 can of beer
1 diced red pepper
1 diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup dry sherry (Not La Gitana Manzanilla!  But an oloroso would also be good in this recipe.)
1/2 cube beef bullion
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder

Season the duck with salt and pepper and pour the beer in the bottom of  a casserole.  Bake covered for 2 hours on 350°F.  Bone and shred the cooked duck and discard the skin.  Reserve the beer and duck fat juice from the casserole.  Place the shredded duck meat aside.

Sauté the pepper, garlic and onions in the oil and gradually add spices, bullion and sherry.  Let the sherry cook off and then add some more.  Add a few spoonfuls of the beer/duck fat juice for flavor.  Add shredded duck and cook until moisture is an empanada filling consistency.

For the Dough:

Have your wife find a good empanada dough recipe and then say, “Thanks for doing this!” a lot while she rolls the dough and fills the empanadas.  Oh, be helpful and turn on the oven and chill the Manzanilla.  She’ll be grateful.

Homemade Flammkuchen / Tart Flambée Recipe

Everybody that has ever visited this site knows that Mrs. NH and I are absolutely bonkers about Flammkuchen.  Well, last Saturday we had some foie gras that needed a home and a boatload of Flammkuchen toppings (recently purchased in Munich) that also needed to be used.  That, combined with friends that like to eat almost as much as we do, made the perfect impromptu party.  It also helped that the friends in question came with a nice Swiss Pinot Noir.

So, there we were.  A Saturday night after trick-or-treating, with a new recipe in hand and people in the house.  We had to get it right.  As far as I can tell we did.  It takes some work but was worth every second.  We made four pizzas for five adults and they disappeared – even with foie gras and other appetizers.  I guess we worked up quite an appetite (and thirst!) keeping up with the kids on their quest for candy.

The dough is a staple, introduced to me by Scampwalker.  However, we came up with the method for perfection on the spot.  We made the dough, flattened it and then grilled it lightly on both sides.  After that, we brought it in the house, put it on a heavily cornmealed pizza paddle, dressed it and then popped it on a pizza stone in a very hot oven.  The results were nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Awe inspiring because the turned out perfectly and awe-inspiring because we had never done them before.  In fact, I was so awe-struck that I didn’t remember to take any pictures.  Use your imagination.  [UPDATE: That’s a photo from batch a couple weeks later…]

For the Dough:

1 pkg dry yeast (or about a teaspoon of active cake yeast)
1 tsp sugar
2/3 cup warm water
1 2/3 cups flour (all-purpose or half and half with whole wheat)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

Mix yeast & water to proof for 10 minutes.

Put metal blade in food processor, pour in flour and salt, and turn on machine. Pour yeast through tube and process for 45 seconds. Add oil and process another minute. Dough should ball up… if not, add a bit of flour until it does.

Let it rise for an hour in a ball (covered in a greased bowl), then cut in two to make two 10-inch pizzas, and let rise again (15 minutes or so is usually enough.  Grill the crust until golden with grill marks on each side.  Then, take of the grill and bring it in to be topped and finished in the oven.

For the Topping:

2 cups crème fraiche
2 cups chopped ham
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
ground black pepper

Sauté your onions in olive oil until translucent.  Then add the ham and pepper.  Spread the crème fraiche on the crust, then sprinkle it with the cooked onion and ham mixture all the way out to the edges.  Put on a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven until crème fraiche begins to bubble.  Slice in wedges and enjoy!

Cherry Tomato Parpadelle

We cooked this up for the first time this spring a few nights ago.  It’s really fast and easy and works with about any pasta.  Parpadelle just happened to be the noodle of the night that night.  It is essentially cherry tomatoes and garlic sauteed until they split open in generous portion of butter and olive oil.  A little salt and pepper and some shredded fresh basil to finish and you’re in summertime pasta heaven.  Observe:

Zucchini Pasta

If you looked at the posts from the last few days you would think that all I do is get wound up about the election campaign.  There’s a little more to my life than that.  I also like to eat.

I managed to figure out how to cook the Zucchini Pasta that I just had in Nerano, Italy.  I fried the zucchini in olive oil and used Parmesan and butter for the sauce.  It was about as close as you could get.  It was delicious.  Had it with a Sicilian red and Greco di Tufo.  Hey, it was a big week!

Zucchini Pasta
Zucchini Pasta