Breakaway Cook

The Greenest County Fair on Earth

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be partnering with the Marin Farmers Market — to my mind the best green market in the Bay Area by a wide margin — this coming week at the Marin County Fair, dubbed “the greenest county fair on earth.”  Wednesday through Sunday, I’ll be teamed with various farmers, who will provide me with their tasty yields. I’ll then cook and demonstrate some breakaway-style dishes based on those ingredients. Here’s the lineup of farmers and demo times:

Wednesday July 2: David Retsky, County Line Harvest. They tell me they’ve got great Costada Romanesca squash, so definitely something with that.

Thursday July 3: Steven Kashiwase, Kashiwase Farms.  Stonefruit is peaking, and that’s what I’m getting. I’m thinking a nice ginger-laced chutney.

Friday, July 4: Albert Strauss, Strauss Dairy. Perhaps a yogurt based summer fruit salad with sauteed ginger, shallot, and mint

Saturday, July 5: Kevin Lunny, Drake’s Bay Family Farms — clams! I’ll likely give them some kind of umeboshi treatment.

Sunday, July 6: Doug Stonebreaker, Prather Ranch. Pork loins. Toasted spices and chutney will almost certainly be involved…..

Daily cooking times are 1, 2:30, 4, and 5 pm. PLEASE come by and say hello! It should be a pretty great fair this year. Lots of info here.

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The Kitchn, Part II

Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn has another nice story on breakaway cooking, please check it out!

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Spicy Tangy Yogurty Roast Chicken

South Asians have long known about the magic that occurs when yogurt meets spices meets chicken. Classic chicken tandoori, though, contains no skin—it’s stripped off by the cook prior to marinating and roasting. But I LIKE skin. So I came up with this recipe of stuffing the spicy yogurt under the skin, and roasting it the usual way, using the bulletproof technique of increasing temperature as the bird cooks, till the skin crisps up as bronzed as you like (and, if you’re like me, you like it very bronzed and supercrisp).

Gently separate the skin and the meat with your fingers. Mix yogurt, star anise, coriander, fennel seed, and tumeric, and spoon it in there. I’m betting this would be even better if left to marinate in the fridge overnight, but it was still marvelous with no marination. Crazy moist.

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Potato Puffs With Plantains and Yogurt

I put this post on the heels of the breakaway meatballs post because . . . it’s really the same idea! My mystery box included a few pounds of Yukon Golds, and I thought it might be fun to simply boil them, add some stuff, form balls, coat with spiced breadcrumbs, and bake. The “stuff” was Greek yogurt, a plantain that needed to be used up, fresh thyme, s&p, and an egg to bind it all. Breadcrumbs were old ciabatta, toasted coriander seeds, and s&p. Spray with olive oil and voila! They’re surprisingly light; one expects the blast of cream and cheese in such a concoction, but the only fat in them was the yogurt (ok, it was full-fat yogurt), so they had a springy, jaunty feel to them, and they perfectly complemented a rib-eye steak and some sauteed carrots.

The variations on this dish are endless: you could do pesto-yogurt combo, or just throw in tons of chopped herbs. You could add spinach that’s been cooked and wrung dry and finely chopped, or you could give it an Indian ride and saute onions in fennel, coriander, and cumin. I’m tempted to mix cooked potatoes with miso and go that route. Or, for real nirvana, mix in some rendered duck fat and plenty of salt!

It’s a good formula — if anyone tries any variations, please report back!

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Breakaway Meatballs

Well I have another 40 or so one-pound packages of what is surely some of the area’s greatest ground beef, since the quarter-cow was delivered a few weeks ago, and am dreaming up crap to do with it. I haven’t made meatballs in quite a while, and had some Mexican-ish touches conveniently lying around, so the pound of ground beef got mixed with:

  • sauteed onions
  • garlic confit
  • minced jalapenos
  • minced pickled carrots
  • an egg
  • chopped dried cranberries
  • fresh coriander
  • Mexican oregano
  • ground chipotles
  • breadcrumbs soaked in milk, then squeezed

I then made about 10 extra large balls out of all that, and whirred up a crust for them: toasted coriander seeds, cumin, peppercorns, sel gris, and a few crusts of old bread. The balls got rolled in it, placed on a silpat, and baked in the oven till crispy and well-done. They were quite spicy, and served simply with a baked potato and a good salad. Couldn’t photograph them in their just-cooked state — it got too dark outside! But you can imagine — deeply browned and yummy-looking.

There is something useful about looking at food pre-cooked, too, though; it sometimes gives you just enough hint to let you know you’re on the right track.

Just one of these was enough — well ok two — to feel happy and sated, so we had plenty for leftover lunches. Today I made a meatball sandwich with some homemade bread, chutney, and avocado, and plan on doing the exact same thing tomorrow, which is when I know I’ve hit upon a winner!

Any meatball makers out there? Got any tips I should know about?

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Are You What You Cook?

I’m honored to be a guest panelist in the upcoming Asian culinary forum, to be held on July 21 at the Ferry Plaza, where we’ll be talking about global influences in Asian food, Asian influences in global food, and plenty of other interesting stuff. Please come if you can and introduce yourself if you do!

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Sushi Masters Tomorrow in Sacramento

Tomorrow evening I’ll be emceeing the national sushi championships in Sacramento, an event known as “Sushi Masters.” Several hundred maestros have already competed in various regional events, and now it’s time to crown a winner among the six chefs left standing tomorrow night. I’ll be doing Phil Donohue-style mike reporting, live in the middle of the action. If we get any video out of it, I’ll be sure to link it here!


Lots of fun! The chefs were very nervous, though I did my best to try to get them to relax. A raucous crowd, much more so than one would expect, with a local chef packing in an entire section of hooting supporters. Grand winner was Tomaharu Nakamura, veteran chef at the Sanraku Four Seasons in SF. His “signature roll” was a truly stunning display of creativity and daring — it was vegetarian, and he used BROWN RICE! I’m hoping I can find some photographs to link to ; it was a marvel to behold, and utterly delicious. I’m doubly impressed that the judges — a hardcore group of grizzled and traditional Japanese men involved in the food world in various capacities — could recognize that the top prize in sushi could go to someone this unorthodox. The entire world would stop eating meat if food tasted one-tenth as good as Nakamura’s wild-eyed creations.

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Squash and Collard Soup with Homemade Beef Stock

The other day I roasted a huge batch of beef bones, since they came with my recent purchase of the amazing meat raised by Mike Gale at Chileno Valley ranch (four of us split an entire cow, yielding roughly 110 pounds of meat each — more on this later if anyone’s interested). In they went at 400, and out they came an hour later, browned and marrow a-bubble. After making a tasty little snack of toasted Tartine country loaf schmeared with marrow, avocado, and lavender salt, I threw them in two big stockpots, covered with water, and simmered for about six hours. I let it sit overnight, and in the morning each pot had a solid inch of fat on top. That got skimmed and used to make some seriously good French fries, and the stock was poured into eight ziplock bags and frozen.

Today I pulled a bag out and let it thaw. Meanwhile I chopped up a yellow zucchini, some de-backboned collard greens, a bunch of green onions, and sprinkled in plenty of smoked paprika salt and freshly ground pepper. The stock was added to that, then everything got blended in the VitaPrep. It was good, possibly even ethereally good. Another excellent quickie soup for the lunch repertoire.

It’s a rare treat for me to make beef stock — I wouldn’t really seek out 10 pounds of bones, roast them, do all the icky de-fatting (it gets *everywhere*), but when they’re presented to me in a bag, I certainly will. I normally use, and am happy with, the organic beef stock sold at TJs and Whole Foods in the tetrabox. I have a hunch my homemade would prevail in a blind taste test, but not by that much — maybe not enough to make it worthwhile on a regular basis. But then again, I did get eight quarts out of it . . . .

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Smoked Trout, Redux

I grew up eating trout for breakfast and for dinner, and love it pretty much unconditionally, no matter how it’s prepared. Possible all-time favorite breakfast: trout (pan-fried in cast iron), poached eggs, good crusty bread, and plenty of coffee. The feeling of total satiation it gives is unmatched.

Smoked trout used to be hard to find, but it’s now widely available (thank god). It’s been promoted in the breakaway kitchen to basic fridge staple, always there, along side the eggs, butter, cheese, et cetera. There’s nothing like a quick hit of pure smoky protein when you’re lazy but hungry, and it’s fabulous just tossed into a salad. I get mine from the good folks at Monterey Fish.

And then you can get slightly fancier, as I did the other day with the appetizer shown above. I simply combined smoked trout (chopping it fairly finely with a knife), greek yogurt, meyer lemon juice and zest, good olive oil, some chives, and a good dusting of sumac, which gave it not only the hit of tang I was looking for, but also a lovely bronze color. Spooned on to good crackers. This was a fun appetizer to make, and to eat. With a glass of supercold rose champagne, it really lit up the neurons responsible for that “Oh, yes!” feeling.

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