Monday, February 27, 2012

Whole Foods Foggy Bottom Offers a Butchering Class

Image from Google.

When the Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom opened up months ago, I was invited to tour the market before it opened to the public. On the tour of the market, we got to meet the head of the meat department and I asked him if he would consider offering a butchering class. Someone in the group scoffed at the idea and this confused me. Who wouldn't want to know how to properly butcher?

Fast forward to the January 2012 DC Food Blogger Happy Hour at Watershed where I met Kimberly Bryden (some of the most exciting things that have happened to me in the last few years started at a DC Food Blogger Happy Hour. Great ideas come from a bunch of foodies who get together to drink.) She works at Whole Foods and we started a discussion about the new market. I mentioned that I knew a few folks who would be interested in a butchering class. Looks like Kimberly is going to make this happen for us!

The class will be held on March 13th at 6pm. Here is more information:

"Join our expert Butcher Doug as he bones out a whole bone-in pork loin. He will show how to get bone-in/boneless ribs, boneless pork chops, pork tenderloin, tenderloin medallions, baby back ribs, country style ribs, rib and loin end pork roasts, and many more. The class is limited to 15 participants and costs $10. You will get a $10 gift card in return to buy some meat to butcher at home after the class! Sign-up at the customer service booth when you pay for the class."

You can also email Whole Foods to RSVP and then pay the $10 fee on the day of the class. (Subject: Butchering Class on March 13, 2012):

Please only RSVP if you are sure that you will attend the class. There are only 15 available spots in the class.

So basically this class is free which makes it that much more awesome.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

American Lamb Pro Am - March 4th - Hotel Palomar

I am shocked. I am amazed. I am touched. I still cannot believe that I my Lemongrass Lamb Stew was voted in the top four out of thirteen amazing recipes. Being up against some of the best bloggers in the DC area, I mock-trash talked for fun when we started this lamb competition. I was not serious. But I had no idea the force that was around me that would push me all the way to the top. A big thank you to my family, friends, blog readers, Twitter followers (and their families and friends) who asked people to vote for me on Facebook, on Twitter, via email and via text message. Even my co-workers got in on it, rallying their family and friends up to the very last hour of the race.

It wasn't until the clock hit 4pm that my heart calmed down and I could see on the website that I was in the top four. TOP FOUR!

What does this mean? This means that my Lemongrass Lamb Stew will be cooked by the great Chef Adam Sobel of Bourbon Steak at the DC Pro AM. Here are the details:

DATE: Sunday, March 4th, 2012

LOCATION: Hotel Palomar (2121 P Street Northwest, Washington D.C. 20037)

TIME: 3-5pm

WHAT: 4 DC food bloggers (this includes me!!!) team up with 4 DC top chefs to serve up American Lamb dishes and compete for American Lamb Pro-Am supremacy. Local fans will gather to sample the dishes created by the blogger/chef teams, sip delicious wine/beer and vote on their favorite dish.

1. Sylvie Nguyen of Thrifty DC Cook - Lemongrass Lamb Stew working with Chef Adam Sobel of Bourbon Steak

2. Mary Kong of Girl Meets Food - Chinese Roast Lamb with Rice Noodles working with Chef Anthony Lombardo of 1789 Restaurant

3. Russell Warnick of Endless Simmer - Welsh Rarebit Lamb Nachos working with Chef John Critchley of Urbana

4. Lauren DeSantis of Capital Cooking Show - Roasted Leg of Lamb with Caramelized Onions and Fig Sauce working with Chef Nick Stefanelli of Bibiana.

TICKETS: Can be purchased here.

So the competition continues and I am so grateful to be in the running (what is it that people say to sound gracious at awards shows? It is an honor to be nominated?) But lets face it, with Chef Adam Sobel, we are going to kick some ass on March 4th! Booyah!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lamb Banh Mi

It is voting time! Please cast your vote here for my Lemongrass Lamb Stew in the American Lamb Pro Am DC competition.

If you noticed that I did not use all of the Border Springs Farm lamb in Lemongrass Lamb Stew, then you might have wondered what I did with the rest. I sliced about a pound of the leg of lamb into big, thin pieces (thank you super sharp Shun knife) and marinated them for an hour in a teaspoon of minced garlic, 3 tablespoons of Maggi, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons of canola oil. After searing the lamb in a hot cast iron skillet, I placed them in freshly baked French bread with pickled carrots and onions and fresh cilantro and cucumbers to make a Lamb Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich). The banh mi was very hearty and the seasoned lamb was balanced out by the cold pickled vegetables. I added peppered mayonnaise to the sandwich which added a spicy creaminess. I will try diced up jalapenos in the mayonnaise next time.

The French bread I used was from Trader Joes. It was the kind that is sold partially baked and that needs to be baked for 10 minutes before it is ready to eat. One of my favorite places to get French bread is at Banh Mi So 1 in Falls Church. The bread is baked fresh everyday and a nine inch loaf is only 55 cents. Gotta love delicious, fresh bread that costs less than $1.

And I have to give credit to Olga from MangoTomato for this idea. She suggested I make a lamb banh mi and I am glad she did. Yum!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lemongrass Lamb Stew

My pantry is really full and I need to do something about this. It has become somewhat ridiculous. I have containers of food products that have been sitting in the kitchen for over a year and I have yet to do anything with them. My problem is...I have a disease. There is no name for it but the closest name would be "Recipe reading-over-excited-food-shopaholic." I get inspired by food TV, food magazines, foodie friends, food blogs, recipes on the back of labels of the food products in my kitchen, and etc. Then I think that I must cook that recipe right away and I go out and buy the ingredients and then something happens and I get distracted. I'm serious. This is how it works in my life.

A dish that I have wanted to make for a long time is a Vietnamese stew called Bo Kho. Bo Kho is normally made with beef and is rich in spices; cinnamon, paprika, anise, cloves, ginger, chili. My favorite thing about this stew (and with many Vietnamese dishes) is that beef tendon is used and it gives the stew a rich, fatty flavor. This stew has been made easier to make because there are packets of spices that you can purchase that will save you money and time. All the necessary spices are mixed and ready for you to use.

When I first agreed to be part of the lamb cooking competition, I knew I wanted to make an Asian style stew. Well, I actually wanted to make fifty different dishes but my life as a full-time, "just-for-fun-cook" has not begun yet. So the fact that I had a packet of Bo Kho spices in the kitchen made this an easy decision.

The four pound, boneless leg of lamb given to us by Border Springs Farms was beautiful. The meat was this deep red color, it smelled fresh, and it was an all-around great piece of meat. I purchased some lamb at a Halal market a few weeks ago and the meat was much drier and much more difficult to work with. It just showed me the difference between getting meat from a market versus getting it directly from a farm.

While I was prepping everything, I could hear the voices of the family members who have taught me to cook Vietnamese food in my head. "Just a little of this, just a little of that." "Heat the soup until you see little bubbles. Then it is ready." "The skin of the ginger should be thin. If it is too thick, it is old ginger and will not be good." My family never cooked with recipes. They cooked by the look, the smell, and the feel of the ingredients. So this recipe might reflect this.

Lemongrass Lamb Stew

3 pounds of lamb, cubed (keep some of the fat on the meat)
one large onion, diced
4 medium carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 cups of warm beef broth
6 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass, outer layers removed, cut into 2 inch pieces
(*note use the tender, bottom part of the stalk)
2 bay leaves
2 star anise
3 tablespoons of ketchup
1 oz of Bo Kho Spices (found at Asian markets)
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
¼ cup of flour
2 tablespoons of fish sauce

Place oven rack at the lowest position in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 300F.

Use a paper towel and dry off the cubed lamb. Lightly dust the lamb with flour. Heat up a lightly oiled cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Place the pieces of lamb on the skillet but do not overcrowd the skillet. Each piece of lamb should have its own space. This will have to be done in batches. It took about two minutes for each piece to get a good sear and produce crusty brown edges (crusty brown edges equals serious flavor.)

Place the cooked pieces of lamb into a 6 quart Dutch oven. Sweat onions, garlic, and slices of ginger in the cast iron skillet (still on medium-high heat). You want to cook them for about 3 minutes. Then sprinkle the Bo Kho spices on top, stir and cook for only 30 seconds. You basically just want to heat up the spices but you don’t want to cook them for too long because they will burn and produce a bitter taste. Toss the mixture into the Dutch oven with the lamb.

Pour the beef broth into the cast iron skillet and turn the stove on medium-low. Add a tablespoon of flour and whisk the mixture until the flour dissolves into the broth. Add the ketchup and fish sauce. Using the whisk, scrap the bottom of the cast iron skillet to get all the flavor that cooked onto the bottom of the skillet into the broth. After a minute, pour the broth into the Dutch oven.

Place the Dutch oven on medium-low heat. Add the bay leaves, star anise, and carrots. Bend the lemongrass to so that the outer stalks are ripped a bit. This will allow the lemongrass flavor to seep into the stew. Drop the stalks into the pot. Add enough water to reach the highest point of the lamb. Mix the liquids up a little bit. Cover and bring to a simmer. Place into oven and cook for three hours.

Once the pot has come out of the oven, take the lid off and allow the stew to cool. Remove the star anise, ginger, lemongrass, and bay leaves. If the stew is not thick enough, you can also remove the pieces of lamb and use an immersion blender to blend the vegetables into the juice and simmer. I’ve done this many times and it gives the stew great body.

This stew is nothing short of wonderful. The ginger gives it this great fresh taste. The spices come through beautifully. The carrots give the stew a natural sweetness. The lamb is tender and has great flavor. This is soulful food.

There are a few ways that this stew can be served. I enjoyed it over Jasmine rice but you can also serve it with a toasted French baguette or over Chinese egg noodles. Top the stew off with sliced shallots and cilantro. If you would like a spicier stew, I would recommend adding some whole dried chilies to the pot before it goes into the oven.

Hope you enjoy it!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Avocado with Sweetened Condensed Milk

It is such a simple, delicious pleasure. I grew up eating ripe, creamy avocados with sweetened condensed milk. I have memories of an auntie spoon-feeding a bunch of us kids this treat and wanting to push all my cousins aside so I could get more. Now as an adult, I get a whole avocado to myself. No need to push or elbow anyone.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winter Herb Garden



My dinners have been so sad without fresh herbs to top them off with. As you can see, I didn't "winterize" my garden. Instead, I neglected my garden and let the cold take it away. The strange thing is, there are some plants that have survived. The marjoram is blooming. It is the one in the far right on the ground and up against the wall (sorry for the dark image). I have no idea why it is blooming but I have left it alone and allowed it to blossom. The parsley is also doing quite well. It has not grown at the rate it was during the summer but the leaves are green and fragrant. The thyme, rosemary, and sage are disappointing me because I thought there were the sturdier plants. They are somewhat green (mostly brown) and when you break the leaves, the flavor is no where near as intense as it was during the summer.

I mourn my basil the most. It had grown into a monster of a basil plant during the summer and made many homemade pizzas delicious. I can't wait for summer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

11th Annual Sugar and Champagne Affair - February 1, 2012

The 11th Annual Sugar and Champagne Affair is sold out. You might be wondering why I would be so silly to post about an event in which there is no hope of purchasing tickets to eat delicious food from some of the best chefs in DC. I'm not a cruel person. I promise. Well, I'm not cruel most of the time and this is one of those times.

I'm writing about this event because you can still help the Washington Humane Society even if you can't buy a ticket for the affair. If you are an animal lover and you want to contribute to the non-profit, please consider submitting a donation here. You can also help by volunteering. And if you are interested in attending a Sugar and Champagne Affair, keep an eye out for the 2013 date. I'm sure it will be amazing.

I leave you with Norah Jones' lyrics to "Man of the Hour."

"It's him or me
That's what he said
But I can't choose
Between a vegan and a pot head

So I chose you, because you're sweet
And you give me lots of lovin' and you eat meat
And that's how you became
My only man of the hour

You never lie
And you don't cheat
And you don't have any baggage tied to your forefeet
Do I deserve, to be the one, who will feed you breakfast, lunch,
And dinner and take you to the park at dawn
Will you really be
My only man of the hour

I know you'll never bring me flowers
Flowers they will only die
And though you'll never take a shower together
I know you'll never make me cry
You never argue
You don't even talk
And I like the way you let me lead you
When we go outside and walk
Will you really be
My only man of the hour?
My only man of the hour.
My only man of the hour."

Bartolo Nardini Amaro

Before I met Marshall, I enjoyed appetizers before dinner and desserts after dinner. After a year and some months, I found myself saying things like, "Oh, that dinner was so delicious. Time for a digestif."

Yep, instead of craving a chocolate cake after dinner, I find myself yearning for sips of the amazing liqueur you see pictured above. My first taste of this Bartolo Nardini Amaro was at Fiola. It was introduced to us by the super-friendly and informative Jeff Faile. Most of the time, I don't enjoy drinking liqueurs straight. When I sipped this Amaro, I was surprised by the slightly sweet, carmelized, chocolatey, coffee taste of it. It was light. It was refreshing. It was FABULOUS.

The taste of this Amaro stuck with me. I thought about it for days after trying it. Marshall was so delighted that I actually enjoyed an Amaro that he called up Joe from ACE Beverage and asked him to order a bottle. Now this delightful drink is available to me every night and I love it.

If you are interested in learning more about making cocktails, making punches for parties, building your own cocktail bar, or are interested in learning more about what to order when you go to a craft cocktail bar, check out Scofflaw's Den. The guys behind the blog are now doing personal consulting and are even teaching classes at Last Exit. They can even help you create a signature cocktail for a special event.

***Full Disclosure: I have a personal relationship with one of the men behind Scofflaw's Den. Just wanted to be sure I was honest here.