Friday, February 4, 2011

Changing sides.

Three-thousand miles. It's a great distance for someone to uproot, though many of my friends have move further throughout their lives. It's a vest personal and cultural adjustment for one to make. For a person, it involves leaving comfort, family and friends. For a chef, it involves leaving behind all the purveyors and markets that you came to love and trust. Luckily for me, I had time-a-plenty to do my research before leaving the West Coast. By the time I arrived here in Charlotte, I'd already located my local farmers markets, international food suppliers, gourmet stores and kitchen supply companies. Actually find my way to their doors was an entirely different matter, as Charlotte doesn't have the benefit of Portland's superb urban planning.

Mid-February I'll be attending The Flavors of Carolina, an event for culinary professionals that has been set up at roving locations all over North and South Carolina since 1986. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture lovingly brings all sides of the regional food service community together for a few hours of cocktails and entertainment while we taste state-specific products. Who knows what hidden gems will be uncovered at this event? Personally, I'm hoping to find a few more local cheese producers (the more, the merrier in my mind.) Perhaps to try some of the much-maligned regional wine (It's wine, can it be THAT bad?). More than anything, networking with these artisans will bring me closer to understanding the state of the culinary union in my new home.

Already I've had the fortune to work with and purchase from, some very down to earth, friendly and talented individuals that are working their collective asses off to change the way people view food in Charlotte. Proffit Family Beef. Harmony Gardens. Grateful Growers. Rosemary Pete. Boucom's Best. Farside Farms. Spinning Spider Cheese. These humans are amazing. They believe thoroughly in what they do, and why they do it. Respect and our patronage is all that we owe them. It's required. I have their products at home and in the restaurant, literally eating and breathing their work.

Enough about the local-local-local-local.

I'm finally about to add some photographs to the mix here. Here's to hoping pictures can do the writing some justice. Gonna bring in pictures of the burgeoning backyard garden, the farms, the restaurant, the food, the people.

Keep eating like you give a damn (but don't be a silly vegan).

See you soon

The Bulli

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hello again.

It has been far too long, my friends. There will be no recipes this installment, just the sharing of a few concepts and ideas that I've been playing with over my extended absence from Food Bulli. This is also about getting ya'll up to speed with me. It's been a very full year. Excitement and disappointment were both in attendance. I'm at a new restaurant, working in-house and running the food cart that is associated with it. Job number three is running the vegetable program for Grateful Growers LLC, the farm that supplies most of the pork for the restaurant.

I'm now located in Charlotte, North Carolina. It's a city in dire need of forward thinking people, that want to build something special from the ground up. Housing costs here are 40% of what they are in Portland, so you can make ends meet here in this economy. My new home is located in Charlotte's EcoDistrict. The backyard is huge, and I have many ideas for it. Seating for 20 or more at a communal table, a pit bbq, outdoor bread oven, and many raised beds for my beloved organic produce. My supper club idea from two years back will become a reality here.

Enough about that.

I've never been more serious about eating locally. The restaurant that I work for is a farm-to-table joint, so access to "the good stuff" is extremely easy here. Add in weekly trips to the farmers market, and a willingness to cut down on meat consumption,and before you know it, you're helping out small farms instead of Monsanto or ConAgra. Living in this manner allows you to make a difference in a grass-roots way. You get to know the folks that actually picked your food, and the quality doesn't get any better. The local cheese is magnificent here, the meat wonderful, the produce sublime. The wine however, needs help, but I digress..

There are exceptions to be made in the extreme localvore diet. Wheat flour, olive oil, salt, spices, good wine, and a few other things(I can't in good conscience eat Alaskan Salmon here, trout from the mountains will suffice, I can make Lox with that.) The Carolina seafood is superb, and there's fish here that I haven't eaten(or prepared) much of. I welcome the challenge.

So, all-in-all, with the opportunity to do something new, something meaningful, something that could potentially make a difference in this community, the cross-country move will be worth it. West Coast, I miss you dearly, but what did I accomplish with you? I'm glad we parted ways as friends, not bitter enemies. I'll be back one day to begin our friendship anew. Until then, keep being you, west coast. I'll always love you, I'm just not in love with you anymore.

Thanks for reading friends,

The Bulli

Thursday, January 7, 2010

That's the Name of the Game!

As I scan the website of my favorite meat purveyor, I see a bounty of untapped kitchen resources. Elk, venison, caribou, wild boar, turtle, goose, duck, squab, my heart skips a beat when I read these names on a butchers case or on a menu. Some of there richest, most dynamic flavors are found in wild game. While traveling the country for my last non-restaurant job, I got to experience many of these flavors personally. Antelope in Wyoming, Peccary in Arizona, Wild Buffalo in Montana, Elk in Idaho, Rattlesnake in Nebraska, Wild Boar in Tehachapi, CA, I will carry these flavors, textures, and smells with me forever.

Wild meat tastes of the habitat that it comes from. Venison from the desert will taste of sage, salt, and juniper. Bear (an omnivore) tastes of the last thing it ate, every time, you want bear that has fed on berries, not fish. Good bear is better than the best pork or beef that you've ever eaten, bad bear tastes like ammoniated diesel fuel. Elk from the forests and meadows of Oregon's Coast Range, is possibly the worlds best meat. Better than pastured beef, richer than lamb or pork, leaner and healthier for you than chicken, it is absolutely one of the best foods you can eat, from the standpoints of health and taste. Wild meat is just that....wild.

Most of you that read this know that I'm always an advocate of eating seasonally. Game is definitely the most seasonal of foods, and Fall and Winter are the times that it should be eaten. Find someone that you know that hunts, and enjoy these few recipes.


Elk Loin Medallions with strawberry-chili sauce:

2 pounds of Elk Backstrap, cut across the grain, 3/4 inch thick
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 medium shallots, chopped
1/2 cup of strawberry preserves
2 thai chilies, chopped fine
1/2 cup red wine
olive oil

In a cast iron pan, Sear the elk medallion until rare/medium rare. Next, saute the shallots, chilies, and garlic in the oil. Add the red wine and strawberry jam. Reduce this mix by 25 percent. Add the cooked elk back to the sauce and warm through. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with roasted potatoes and sour cream.


Stuffed Venison Loin with Asparagus and Morel Demiglace

Morel Demi:
Three pounds of venison bones
1 onion
3 stalks celery
1 carrot
4 cloves garlic
4 oz dry morel mushrooms

Brown the bones at 450 for one hour. Add the bones to a large stockpot with the all the remaining ingredients except for the morel mushrooms. Cover with water. Simmer over low heat for 10 hours. Strain the stock and reduce by 3/4. The flavor should be very intense at this point. Set aside.

Venison Loin with Asparagus:

1 three pound Venison Loin
2 pounds of cleaned asparagus
10 strips of bacon

Make a cut in the side of the loin, proceeding nearly 3/4 of the way through. Lay two slices of bacon on the inside of the cut, and pack the rest of the cavity with the cleaned asparagus. Insert toothpicks to close the incision. Wrap the exterior of the loin with the bacon. Roast in a deep pan at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 140.

To finish:

Take your dried morels and rehydrate them for 15 minutes in warm red wine. Add these to your roasting pan. Add 2 cups of your venison demiglace to the morel/wine mix, and reduce by an additional 15 percent. Finish with 3 tbsps of butter, salt and pepper.

Remove the toothpicks from your roast, and slice into one inch segments. Ladle a little of the sauce over each portion, and you're done. Serve with Garlic-mashed potatoes.


Duck Florentine Salad

2 wild duck breasts
1 bag of washed spinach
1/2 dozen thin-sliced strawberries
1/2 cup walnuts and walnut oil
1 cup Basil leaves
Port wine
Sliced green onions
Salt and pepper

Season both breasts with salt and pepper, sear in a non-stick pan, and cook until medium. Slice thinly. In a separate pan, mix the walnuts, walnut oil, port, and green onions. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the spinach and torn basil leaves with the warm dressing, and separate into 4 servings. Top each salad with 1/2 a sliced duck breasts and sliced strawberries. Argyle Blanc De Noir is a brilliant pairing for this salad.


I hope you give Game an honest try. It can and should be a major part of living sustainably. It's use really does help keep our wild lands in balance. Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Dreams May Come........

Occasionally, from the depths of REM sleep, I get an idea. Something wells up from deep in my unconscious mind, and I'm forced to deal with the concept my brain has given me. When these ideas come to me, I generally find that the kinks have already been worked out. In the past month I have received four or five ideas from the ether, and I'll share a few of them now.......

My new favorite condiment! It doesn't have a name yet, but it smells and tastes amazing.

1 1/2 cups rice vinegar
The zest of two limes, plus the juice
three cloves of garlic, minced
6 thai chilies, chopped
3 tbsp honey or palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
handful of basil, minced
handful of mint, minced
1 tbsp chopped shallot

Combine all of the ingredients in a pint jar, and let them rest in the 'fridge for three days before using.

I enjoy this drizzled over steamed chicken with jasmine rice. Add a little sweet soy, sliced green onion, and sesame seed on top and you're in heaven. This can be used to liven up any Asian influenced food.


Duck and Mission Fig Brule' with Crispy Polenta

Two duck breasts
8 Mission figs
the juice of two blood oranges and the zest of one
1 tbsp + 1/2 tbsp ancho chili powder
1/4 cup honey
I tbsp cocoa
2 4 inch rounds of hard polenta( recipe from "puttin' on the grits")
salt and pepper
4 inch ring molds
corn starch
sugar for finishing
Propane torch

Mix the blood orange juice, zest, honey, and 1/2 tbsp ancho, let rest for 2 hours. Combine one tbsp of cocoa and a tbsp of ancho with a little salt and pepper. Coat both sides of each duck breast with the mixture. Sear each breast in olive oil until browned, but rare. Set aside. Coat each of the polenta rounds in corn starch, and fry each in vegetable oil until golden brown. Slice each duck breast and figs 1/4 inch thick. Set one ring mold on top of each piece of polenta. Toss the duck slices in the honey mix. Layer the slices of duck in the molds, alternating layers of fig and duck, finishing with the figs on top. Drizzle the figs with the remaining honey mixture. sprinkle with a little sugar, and caramelize using the torch. Serve with the '07 Argyle Pinot Noir.


Veal Meatloaf, Bread pudding style

6 ounces chicken livers
2 lbs Veal Breast, slices 1/4 in thick
1 loaf Brioche bread, crust removed, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
6 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy or bourbon
1 cups onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tsp dry thyme
3 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

In a blender, combine the chicken livers, parsley, eggs, and cream. In a shallow saute pan, lightly caramelize the onions and garlic, add the liquor, and reduce slightly. Add this to the mix in the blender, and blend until smooth. In a loaf pan, layer the veal and brioche until full. Pour the blended mix over the bread and veal. Allow to absorb overnight. Bake in a water bath(a larger pan, with a little water in it.) at 325 for 1 1/2 hours, or until the top has browned, and the egg mix has fully set.

Now for the accompanying sauce;

Melt 3 tbsp of butter in a saucepan, add 1/4 cup of whole-grain or dijon mustard. Let the mustard warm through. Add 1/4 cup of brandy and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Reduce by 25 %.

Slice the meatloaf 3/4 of an inch thick. Serve with Garlic Horseradish mashed potatoes, and a spoonful of the sauce.


Let your dreams and fantasies guide you in the kitchen. Properly prepared food will never let you down. You might even create something never-before-seen, and that is a thing of beauty.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Vino Veritas; A guide to using alcohol in food

Translated to English: "In wine there is truth." I'll continue to add that in wine there is flavor, in wine there is value, in wine there is conversation. It doesn't matter if you share the wine with friends or family; if you add it to your stock, your marinara sauce, your desserts, your breakfast. I'll amend the saying further to make it this: In wine there is true flavor. The alcohol in the wine acts as a solvent, allowing essential oils and aromatic properties to fully bloom in your recipes. Without it, all classic recipes seem to fall flat. You find its use in every major food culture. The Asian cultures use rice wines, plum wines, and rice whiskey in their cooking. The Europeans use every variation of fermented and distilled beverage to produce exceptional flavor in their cuisine. Central Americans use beer, tequila, and sugar cane-based liquors to bring out the fullness of their recipes. Americans use, well, whatever we can get our hands on--we like it all.

I'm not going to give you specific recipes this time. A proper nudge in the right direction will serve you just fine. I want to encourage all of you to branch out in your own style, and mimicking me won't get you there. On that note, let's begin.


Say you're making a beef roast for a Sunday dinner. You brown your roast, add your vegetables, and cook for a few hours until tender. Normally you would make a gravy. Try this instead: takes 3 cups of red wine, and add them to the drippings while the pan is very hot. Add 1 cup of beef broth and reduce the whole mix by 75%. When reduced, turn the stove to low, and add one stick of butter cut into small cubes, a few cubes at a time. Use a whisk to stir the sauce. This is a basic Buerre Rouge, or red butter sauce. It is vastly superior to gravy in every way, and a little can be stretched much further than gravy can, as it is very intensely flavored.

You can do the same with roasted chicken just by substituting white wine for red, and chicken or turkey stock for the beef. What you end up with then is a Buerre Blanc.

The same follows with any meat. If the meat is dark, use red wine; for light meat, use white wine.

For family gatherings, I like to meet the recipe in the middle, just reducing the liquid less, and adding Roux (a cooked mix of 50% flour to 50% butter) to thicken the gravy. Just make sure to cook the gravy long enough that the raw flour taste is gone. DON'T USE CORNSTARCH! IT RUINS SAUCES!


Try poaching Salmon in Pinot Noir--It's delicious and healthy.


BBQ sauce

I think that any BBQ sauce worth making needs two things to be special: a pint of whisky and a pint of beer.

Put both in a pan and reduce by 50%, then add some tomato (sauce, fresh, ketchup--it doesn't matter). Next add your choice of spices: mustard powder, chilies, cumin (necessary), coriander, black pepper, chipotle (necessary), chili powder (necessary), garlic, onion (both necessary). You can really add anything that you want. Next, thin the sauce by adding 2 cups of cider vinegar and a half-cup of molasses.

This a basic BBQ sauce. I add two times this many ingredients to mine to make it taste the way I want. The variations are all up to you. Just make sure to put it in the blender at the end to get it smoothed out.


Scottish Ale Chowder

1 lb thick, center cut bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 lbs fingerling, Yukon Gold, or red potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large red onions, 1/4 inch slices
1 quart heavy cream
2 22-oz bottles of Pikes Kilt Lifter Ale
16 oz of chicken stock
1/2 stick butter
4 oz. each of the following: blue, sharp cheddar, Parmesan, and swiss cheeses.
salt and pepper
4 oz roux

Brown the bacon in a large stockpot, then add the butter and sliced onion. In a separate saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer and whisk in the roux. Let the cream thicken (3-5 minutes) and add the cheese, letting it melt. To the bacon add the beer, potatoes, and chicken stock, and reduce by 1/2. Slowly add the cream mix to the beer, stirring to incorporate. Let this mix reduce by an additional 10-15%; by that point the potatoes
should be fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper, and the soup is ready to serve.


I hope this gives you some further inspiration in the kitchen. I apologize for taking so long to add this article, but working as a chef again is taking most of my time and energy. Get out or stay in, just eat!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Fungus Amoung Us: A Sourdough Primer

A Fungus Among Us: A Sourdough Primer

Wild yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is everywhere, in every season. It is on the strawberries you eat in spring, the best of the July cherries, and the grapes ripening in October. The first leavened bread was baked thousands of years ago, around the same time as the first beer was brewed, and the first grapes were crushed for wine. It came to greet the dawn of agriculture on this planet. It supplies our bodies with B vitamins, and gives us the ethanol to brace our spirits and fuel our vehicles.

I'm going to show you how to capture this beneficial and wily creature.


This one is not commonly used, but it's my favorite.

Grape Sourdough Starter

1/2 pound of red table grapes OR 1 cup of raisins, soaked in warm water for 2 hours.
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tbsp raw sugar
Warm water
One glass or ceramic container with a loose fitting lid
Rubber band or string.

In a blender, puree the raisins with the water, or the grapes without water. Transfer to a small sauce pan and bring to a quick boil. Set aside. Once cooled to room temperature, add the raw sugar and two cups of flour. Stir in enough warm water to make a smooth batter. Now things get tricky. I like to set the container with the batter in it and covered with the cheesecloth, either outside or by an open window overnight, just to guarantee exposure to the wild yeast. After that you can move it to a warm, dim corner of any room. Let it ferment for 3-5 days, or until you see the mix riddled with bubbles and smelling vaguely "beerish". If the mix settles, you'll need to stir it a little. I like to use a chopstick that has been wiped with vodka or hydrogen peroxide. If the mix smells "off" or rotten, or has a colored film on top, discard it and start again. If everything looks good, then you're ready to make bread.


Sourdough Yukon Gold Starter

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup unbleached flour
1 tbsp raw sugar

Combine potatoes and water in a small stock pot or medium saucepan. Cover and boil until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain cooking liquid into a large glass measuring cup. Reserve potatoes for another use.

Transfer 1 1/2 cups of potato liquid to a large ceramic or glass bowl. Add flour and sugar to the bowl; stir to combine. Cover bowl with cheesecloth and let stand at room temperature until the starter begins to ferment and bubble, about 4 days. The starter is now ready to use. Again, if it doesn't look or smell right, don't use it.


Starters are alive and need care. A properly cared for starter can live for more than 100 years. There are boulagers (Breadmakers) in France and Italy that have used the same starter for centuries.

Storage and feeding of the starter: Put the loose lid on the container and store it in the refrigerator. Feed the starter every 2 weeks. Begin each feeding by discarding all but 1 cup. Mix 1 cup of flour and 1 cup warm water into the remaining mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature overnight. Replace the lid and return it to the refrigerator.


Sourdough Tomato Focaccia

1 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup grape starter
1 tbsp dry yeast
3 cups + one cup flour
1 tbsp sea salt
3 tbsp raw sugar
2 cups warm water
Olive oil
1 cup shredded parmesan

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, three cups flour, salt and starter. In a separate glass container, combine the yeast, sugar, and 1 cup of warm water; wait five minutes and combine with the other ingredients. Add the remaining water and stir to a soft but solid consistency. If it's too wet, add some of the extra flour; if too dry, add a little more water. Form into a ball in the bowl, using olive oil or butter to moisten the surface of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 4 hours. Divide the dough in 1/2, placing each half on separate oiled baking sheets. Smooth the dough out until a half inch thick. Dimple each portion of dough with your fingertips, and drizzle with olive oil. Let the dough rise for an additional hour. Set oven to 425°.

Bake each focaccia until light brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for 3-4 additional minutes. Remove and serve with good olive oil for dipping.


I've found that these starters can be added to any recipe by omitting 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour, then substituting 1 cup of starter. For sweet recipes, the potato recipe works better; for savory, use the grape version.

I'm attempting to give you ideas that can improve your cooking abilities daily. I hope you can use them to bring a little more life to your everyday meals.

Puttin' on the Grits!

If you're hungry and you don't know where to go, why don't you eat what your hunger fits...putting on the grits. Sorry, I had to go there.

No matter what you call them--Grits(Deep South), Polenta (Italy), Corn Mush (Rural West Coast), Pop (South Africa)--they all come down to one single item: ground corn.

Zea Mays, a tropical grass native to central Mexico, was first domesticated thousands of years ago. Once integrated into the culture of Mexico it became so revered that the Aztec people would literally weep if they saw it spilled on the ground. It is one of the few plants so far domesticated that, if we were to stop growing it as an agricultural crop, the plant as we know it wouldn't exist within 10 years. It simply cannot survive without human intervention.

When explorers brought this wonderful plant to Spain, it became so popular that its use quickly spread across Europe and Africa. Today there are few countries that don't grow or use corn, so the culinary uses are endless.
Basic Polenta Recipe:

6 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 cups polenta (a.k.a corn grits - a coarse ground degerminated corn)
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup white wine
black pepper

Boil water and salt in a large pan. Whisk in polenta and continue stirring until polenta remains suspended in the water. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring with the whisk every couple of minutes, scraping bottom of pan and preventing sticking. Whisk in the butter, wine and black pepper. Add salt to taste. The mixture should be thick but not lumpy. If it's too lumpy, add a little water and whisk to fix the problem.

At this point, the polenta can be served right away or it can be poured into an oiled pan and chilled for firm polenta. I personally prefer the firm variety.

Some additions for soft polenta:

Shrimp and grits--my favorite southern shrimp recipe.

Saute 1/2 cup of chopped bacon or fatback until crispy, add 1/4 cup chopped onion with 2 cloves chopped garlic. Next add a pound of peeled gulf shrimp and 2 tbsps of butter and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream and a small handful of chopped parsley. Cook for 1 additional minute and pour over the soft grits/polenta.
Northern Italian--a great side dish for herb roasted chicken.

To the finished soft polenta, add crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, chopped parsley, and toasted pine nuts or hazelnut pieces.

Firm Polenta additions:

To prepare the firm polenta, cut thoroughly chilled polenta into rectangles or squares, and brown in a teflon pan with butter, or grill until warm.

Dried Cherry Sauce--for wild game, pork, or game birds.

Saute 2 tbsp garlic, 1/2 cup dried cherries, and 1 tsp chili flakes in olive oil. Add 2 cups of dry red wine, 2 tbsp honey, a pinch of dry thyme and and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Reduce to 1/4 volume. Place the warmed polenta on a serving plate, top with your sliced meat, and drizzle both with the dried cherry sauce.


Wild Mushroom Polenta

Follow the instructions for basic polenta, but before adding the water, saute one pound of mixed wild mushrooms, a chopped onion, and 3 minced garlic cloves in butter. Follow the rest of the directions to the letter. This can be served soft or firm.


Try making it for breakfast with butter and salt. Then drizzle with it maple syrup or sprinkle with brown sugar.

It can be served at any time of day, with any sweet or savory topping. Polenta is so underutilized, I challenge each of my readers to try using it at least once over the next week. I dare ya'!