27 January 2011

Woodfire Grill - Atlanta

I was fortunate enough to visit the Woodfire Grill in Atlanta last night.  The head chef at Woodfire (Kevin Gillespie) was a contestant on Top Chef Las Vegas (2009). And quite frankly, as someone who hadn't tasted his food, I found his food the most interesting conceptually on that season of Top Chef. He likes smoke. He likes bbq. And he likes fun meats. Do you know anyone else like that?

I really wanted to like Woodfire Grill. But I confess, I didn't like it as much as I wanted to. I started with the wood-oven roasted honey mussels with house made chorizo, potato and spicy tomato broth with grilled bread. There's a new fad, I've noticed, to burn the bread that gets served. I don't mean leave black grill marks on it, but to full on burn the bread. I don't enjoy charcoal in my meal, I don't enjoy burned bread. This would be a minor annoyance if the mussels hadn't had grit in them and were served in what seemed a spicy Campbell's soup. This dish was a a beautiful failure.

I moved on to the wood-grilled Hudson valley duck breast with some sort of cabbage/veggie mush. I liked this dish. The duck, while simple, was perfectly prepared. The cabbage mush, while unappealing to look at, provided a nice acidic contrast to the duck. And the Pinot Noir – Van Duzer that was matched with it went extremely well.

The real success of the evening was the dessert. Banana pain perdu with vanilla ice cream, salted caramel, banana crème anglaise and candied bacon - as described by the waiter, "The best thing I've ever put in my mouth." That raised an eyebrow. And, you know, bacon. Pain perdu is essentially French toast. Except the French toast is soaked in a custard. So yeah, that was tasty. The candied bacon was a nice touch, but loaded on a little heavy. Served with the Tokaji Cuvée Patrícia - Királyudvar. That was magnificent.

A final note - you know that you're in the South when you read the reviews that say, "Good restaurant, but the servings are a little small". These servings were enormous. No way I could have tackled the tasting menu. I watched a man plough his way through the tasting menu, I could only have done it if I'd skipped all my meals today.

All in all, I'm glad I went. But this restaurant isn't Genius. It's merely a good meal.

25 January 2011

Smoked tamarind ribs

Update: Edited quantities after second run with this recipe.

Tamarind is not a flavour often exploited in Western cooking. As it turns out, it goes great with bbq, and we recently used it in our New Year's Eve extravaganza. This is a flavour you want to add to your cooking profile.
7 oz tamarind
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 tbsp soy
6 tbsp hoisin
3 tbsp sriracha
½ cup water
kosher salt (yeah, you're gonna use kosher salt on pork ribs - sue me)
1 rack pork ribs

Mix all the ingredients (save the ribs and salt) and bring to a boil, mixing to break up the tamarind chunks.


Cool over an hour, and sieve out the tamarind. Pour into a ziploc bag and add the ribs. Place in the fridge overnight, moving around periodically to ensure that the marinade covers all portions of the ribs.

Remove the ribs, and bring to room temperature. Meanwhile, bring your smoker to 200°F with hickory or cherry wood. You'll want lots of wet wood chunks, as these ribs can take a ton of smoke. Liber


Liberally salt the ribs. Place on the smoker, and close it up. Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a boil. Boil at least five minutes, but long enough to thicken the marinade into a glaze. Remove from heat.


Smoke the ribs for 4ish hours.

Smoking rib

Paint on the glaze.

Glazed ribs

Smoke for one more hour at 200°F.

Glazed ribs

Remove, slice and serve.

Smoked ribs

This is a flavour you won't normally encounter on smoked ribs. But the flavour is rich and delicious, and was a huge hit the night of our New Year's Party. Delish.

20 January 2011

Marrow bones

Here's an appetizer that'll blow people away. And it's crazy easy. As best as I can tell, there's only one disadvantage to this one. It's kinda nasty looking. So serve this by candlelight.

Marrow bones. You can either carve them off a beef shank, or special order them from your butcher. Either way, you shouldn't have to pay much for them. My recipe is modified from Bones.
4 shank bones
Yep, that's it. Simplest. Recipe. Ever.

Raw marrow

In a small container, cover the bones with water. Add 2 tsp of salt. Soak for 12 to 24 hours in the fridge.

Brined marrow

Remove your brined (and what looks like bleached) bones from the water, pat them dry and place them on an oiled cookie sheet.

Pre-heat your oven to 450°F. Bake the bones in the oven for 15 to 25 minutes. Until the marrow is bubbling slightly and it leaves goo on a tester inserted all the way through.

Roasted marrow

Spread the roasted marrow on a piece of toasted homemade bread. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Serve.

Toast with marrow

You're really gonna want to serve this in a dimly lit room. It's, um, kinda grotey lookin'. But rich and delicious. I mentioned bone marrow to a colleague at work today, and he said, "Yeah. Bone marrow is rich and lusty." Well, I wouldn't say it that way. But I guess I don't disagree.

18 January 2011

Smoke, tobacco and blackberry

I've been rather enamoured of Grant Achatz' Alinea cookbook since it came out over a year ago.  His cooking is quite novel, and for someone like me who is interested in smoked food, he incorporates smoke in some pretty interesting ways. The most interesting dish in the book, in my humble opinion, is Smoke, tobacco and blackberry (perhaps not surprising for a smoked meat fiend):
1 ½ cups cream
½ cup milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp kosher salt
5 g cigar (about ½ of a short cigar)
10 blackberries
5 gelatin sheets
1 tsp long thai peppercorns (as described here)
1 tsp smoked salt
mint leaves

This dish uses the flavour of a cigar in the dish. What can I say? It's a novel use of smoke in food...

Chop the cigar

Chop up the cigar.

Chopped cigar

We're going to steep the cigar in cream, milk, sugar and salt to get the flavour of it out.

Cream with cigar bits

Bring the mixture to a boil.

Steeping cigar leaves

When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover the mixture. Allow to steep for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, put the gelatin sheets into ice water to hydrate.

Gelatin sheets

I prefer gelatin sheets over powder simply because they go into solution more easily, and you're less likely to find a chunk of non-dissolved gelatin later.

After twenty minutes have elapsed, remove the gelatin from the ice water and squeeze out the excess water. Stir the gelatin into the steeped cigar mixture, then pour the whole thing through a sieve, to remove the cigar chunks.

Steeped cream

Line a half cookie sheet with cling wrap, and pour a thin layer of the gelatin mixture into the pan. Cover and reserve the rest of the mixture. And put a layer of cling wrap over the gelatin in the cookie sheet, being careful to keep it tight enough that it doesn't touch the cream.

First gelatin layer

Now, finding a perfectly level place in your fridge to solidify the gelatin can be challenging. Having failed at this on more than one occasion, I use the following technique: Put some ice cubes on one end of a large cookie sheet. Gently place the smaller cookie sheet in that pan, and pour some water over the ice, being careful not to get water into the smaller pan. Basically, you're creating a chilling space under the pan, so you can harden the gelatin on your level countertop.

While it is chilling, prepare the blackberries.

Surgically remove the base of the blackberries so that they are perfectly level. Gently set the blackberries onto a piece of paper towel, cut side down.

Surgically altered blackberries

After the gelatin has solidified, remove the small pan from your chilling apparatus, and uncover. Pour the remaining liquid gelatin over the solidified gelatin, and immediately place the blackberries cut side down into the gelatin.

Embedded blackberry

Cover, and place back in your chilling apparatus until the gelatin sets (after that, you can store in the fridge). Before serving, combine the smoked salt and thai peppercorns in a mortar, and grind into dust.

Smoked salt and thai peppercorns

Using a small round, cut out each blackberry, surrounded by cream. Gently place on a plate, sprinkle with the salt and pepper mixture, and set a mint leaf on it.

Blackberry, smoke and tobacco

Serve. What a unique flavour. Smoky and salty, with a bright blast from the blackberry. This is delicious, and much like Achatz' other dishes, best served one per person, as just a single bite.

13 January 2011

Smoked salt

Whole foods charges a lot for smoked salt. Everyone charges a lot for smoked salt. And commercial smoked salt is, quite frankly, awful. The flavour is rather like licking the inside of an ashtray.

If you smoke meat, it's not hard to smoke salt. We start with:
10 tbsp salt (roughly)

Place salt in a non-reactive container. Like Pyrex or Le Creuset. Place in your smoker, while smoking something else. I always smoke my salt while smoking some other source of meat. Like pulled pork. Or brisket.

Smoke your salt at 200-225 °F, in the low-and-slow range for your brisket or pulled pork. 4-9 hours, until it reaches the smokiness that you prefer. You'll notice it picks up colour.

Smoked salt

Smoke until you're delighted by the colour and the smell. Remove and cool. Remove any chunks of crud that have managed to land in your salt. Tightly seal the salt in a container. Smoked salt will add smoky, salty flavour to whatever you add it to (for example, chili or the outside of fish or chicken).

11 January 2011


Every culture has their special dishes. Some, like Italian and Thai food, have found their way into the mainstream. Others, like Mennonite and Ukrainian are less well-known. Well, I have the great fortune to bring to your attention some of the less-well known dishes from my mother's Mennonite family.

Holidays wouldn't be the same for me without bubbat. Not a cake, not a bread, bubbat is a leavened raisin dough that I absolutely love to eat. It's a marvelous thing when fresh, only make enough to serve the day that you're cooking. We serve it with turkey on Christmas and Thanksgiving.
¼ cup sugar
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cups raisins
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 cups heavy cream
Mix the dry ingredients, raisins and all.


Beat the eggs.


Slowly mix in the milk and cream to properly emulsify them. Remember, emulsification works best when done slowly. Especially in the early mixing stages, the slower the better.


Mix the wet with the dry, in a few swift strokes. Given that this is a baking powder-leavened dish, it is imperative that you mix as rapidly as possible, so the baking powder doesn't crap out. Pour into a buttered bread-loaf pan.

Bubbat dough

Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes to an hour. Like cake, we're looking for a batter that you can stick a tester into and come out clean. Serve screaming hot. Bubbat goes best when hot. And it *is* tasty.


Moist and sweet. The perfect carbohydrate complement to a turkey dinner.

06 January 2011

Rack of venison with turkey-venison jus

Rack of venison

Mrs. Dude and I have a deal. Over the Christmas holidays, she gets a traditional smoked turkey dinner (I'd rather have a goose or duck or squab than turkey). We make all the fixings. In exchange, I get to cook whatever I want for the rest of the holidays. I confess, I do end up going a little hog-wild. This year, I walked past the meat counter at Whole Foods, and the rack of venison spoke to me. I had to have it. As an impulse buy, I brought home that rack of venison.

I modified the rack of venison with jus recipe from Meat: A Kitchen Education. The basic recipe for the jus requires some meat schmutz (That is, the brown stains on the pan you get from browning meat). James Peterson supplies the extra schmutz by browning some veal stew meat. I provided it using some turkey schmutz I had from browning some turkey necks. Substitute whatever meat schmutz you have on hand.
1 rack of venison (1 ½ lb)
2 cups turkey stock
turkey (or other meat) schmutz from browning the meat
1 tbsp salt (sel gris)
1 shallot 
Start with a beautiful rack o' venison. Look at that beautiful slab o' meat. Pull it out of the fridge an hour in advance to come up to room temperature.

Rack of venison

After reading Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, I've been experimenting with more different finishing salts. In this particular case, I used a sel gris I got from Penzey's. It's a large crystal salt.

Sel gris

It makes a nice crust when you pat it on the outside of the rack of venison.

Rack of venison

Dust the venison with fresh cracked pepper. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Slice the shallot, and place in the pan under the venison. Place the rack into the oven, bake for 25ish minutes, or until it registers 130°F when you insert a thermometer into the side, avoiding the bone. That'll give you a nice medium-rare venison.

Meanwhile, deglaze your schmutz with turkey stock. I heated the pan I had used to brown turkey necks for a few minutes with the turkey stock in there, scraping periodically.



When you pull the rack of venison out of the oven, transfer the rack to a cutting board and cover with foil to rest for ten-fifteen minutes.

Rack of venison

Transfer the deglazed schmutz to your venison pan. Deglaze that schmutz over medium-high heat. Add turkey stock as necessary to keep the pan from drying out.


Look at that delicious stuff. Finally, pour through a fine sieve shortly before serving.

Turkey/venison jus

Once you've rested your venison, carve into individual ribs.

Rack of venison

Bask in the wonder of venison.

Rack of venison

Love that salt crust.

Rack of venison

Serve with a little jus dribbled on top.

Rack of venison

Delicioso. Two out of three members of the Dude family *loved* it. Mrs. Dude found the venison to be a bit gamy for her taste. I found different parts of the rack to have different amounts of gaminess, but I loved them all. And the turkey-venison jus complimented everything perfectly.

Served with:

served with

04 January 2011

Turkey gravy


Smoked turkey provides a bit of a challenge when it comes to making gravy. How do you catch and maintain quality drippings and schmutz when you have your turkey on a grill? Clearly not insurmountable, but a bit of a challenge nonetheless. Well, why not skip that step entirely. A stock-based gravy, then. I use a small modification to Ruhlman's version of gravy, which you can make in advance, and if you're organized, doesn't need to be some crazy last step.
4 tbsp flour
6 tbsp butter
1 large onion
kosher salt as needed
heart and gizzards
1 cup white wine
4 cups turkey stock
Melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the flour, a bit at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to stir over medium heat while this roux darkens to a nice golden brown.

Remove from heat, and set aside the roux.

Meanwhile, finely mince the onion, the heart and gizzards.

Melt the remaining butter in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent. Toss in the heart and gizzard bits.  Turn up the heat to medium-high. Continue cooking, until you start to develop a nice layer of brown schmutz on the pan and on the outside of the meat, about 8 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the wine. Stir to remove any delicious brown stuff on the bottom of the pan. When you've removed all the schmutz from the pan, add the turkey stock. Add back the roux, a bit at a time, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Simmer over low heat for thirty minutes, to reduce slightly and to meld the flavours. Serve.

This gravy is easily as rich and flavourful as anything you make directly using drippings from the pan. And the convenience of making it a bit in advance, combined with the sheer ridiculous flavour, makes it a no-brainer to add to your turkey feast.

02 January 2011

Happy New Year.

A tradition has developed in the Dude household over the last 3 years. Dr. Ricky comes to town from Houston and we have a kitchen extravaganza of sorts. This year we celebrated by serving 11 dishes to bring in 2011. If we continue on that path, 2020 looks to be a challenging New Year's Eve...

The menu:


You'll notice there are 12 dishes there. We included an extra so that we could drop one out and still reach 11. The 11 dishes we served:

Duck fat confited russet potatoes and miso glazed calabasita squash:

Confit potatoes and miso-glazed calabasitas

You know you're having fun when you are blowtorching a relative of zucchini. Indeed, guests walked in just as the blowtorch came out.  A great visual to set the tone for the night.

Hamachi sashimi Peruian-style:

Hamachi sashimi Peruian-style

After slicing and seasoning the fish, hot oil was dripped onto the fish. Nice way to start the meal, I'm going to be cooking with sashimi quality fish more often.

Roasted brussel sprouts with mint and sambal olek:

Roasted brussel sprouts with mint and sambal olek

Another surprise hit. Brussel sprouts and mint.

Smoked tamarind pork ribs with slow-roasted apple:

Smoked tamarind pork ribs with slow-roasted apple

Ribs will get a post of their own in the future. But they were marinated in tamarind, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin and sriracha. Then smoked for 5 hours over pecan wood, and glazed with the reduced marinade.  Yum. Served next to slow-roasted apple.

Bagna cauda with vegetables:

Bagna cauda with vegetables

This one is becoming part of the canon. Dropped out the anchovy paste, and used whole anchovies instead. Delicious.

Two bacons with raclette on toast with shiso:

Two bacons with raclette on toast with shiso

Two bacons were a home-made, home-smoked bacon, and a buckboard bacon from Cochon butcher in New Orleans, fried and layered onto a home-baked bread. Smothered in melted raclette cheese and served with a spot of shiso on top. Yum.

Deep-fried chicken liver with Sichuan salt and rhubarb sauce:

Deep-fried chicken liver with Sichuan salt and rhubarb sauce

Comment of the night: "You keep making me eat things I don't like. Like chicken livers. And you make me like them!".

Savory huitlacoche cheesecake:

Huitlacoche cheesecake

The hit of the night. This cheesecake compensated for being one of the most unattractive pieces of food I've ever seen. It's grey. The cheesecake looks like mortar.  But what flavour.  Corn truffles indeed.

Smoke, tobacco and blackberry:

Smoke, tobacco and blackberry

Taken from the Alinea cookbook.  An unusual mix of smoky, acid and salt.

Yuzu/Meyer lemon cream tart:

Yuzu/meyer lemon tart

We used the same recipe as the lemon cream tart. Substitute yuzus (6) and Meyer lemon (1) for the lemon zest. Most of the juice came from the Meyer lemons, and we used a shortcake crust.

2003 Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey Sauternes:

2003 Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey Sauternes

Brought by one of our guests. This sauternes provided a lovely break. Crisp, sweet and complex. Really, really nice.

Sahlep saffron ice cream:

Sahlep saffron ice cream

A take on the Turkish ice cream dondurma.  A lovely saffron flavour with an unusual texture.

Some of these will get full out posts of their own in the future. But for now, I wanted to share our New Year's Eve with you.

Happy New Year one and all.