Salt, Time, Smoke

Thanksgiving with Mr. Delicious

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As an American living away from home, Thanksgiving dinner is a perennial matter of great concern. I spent my first Thanksgiving abroad in Nice, France. We decided to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a mixed group of American, French and other nationalities. We scoured the entire region along the southeast of France looking for ingredients like fresh cranberries and molasses.

Most non-Americans do not fully understand how important a holiday it is for us. For many of us (myself included) we would put it above Christmas. This being said I have had many a sub-standard Thanksgiving dinner living around the world. The worst though was in Las Vegas. Without any prior plans we ended up at the Rio Hotel’s buffet for a dining experience that literally made my soul ache.

This is why I made sure to blaze this trail this year. I set out to create the closest facsimile of the real thing that I could possibly create here. Also I had the good fortune of timing being on my side with my newly constructed brick smoker/oven to roast the turkey.

Mr. Delicious Thanksgiving Menu 2012

Apple Wood Smoked Turkey

Traditional Stuffing with Bacon and Dark Stock

Oyster Mushroom Stuffing

Green Bean Casserole with Creamy Mushroom Sauce and Fried Onions

Sweet Potato Casserole with Oat Crumble

1950’s Style Cranberry Salad

Mashed Potatoes

Cajun Dirty Rice

Lots of Gravy

Pumpkin Pie with Créme Anglaise

Starting with the turkey, I had about a 6kg (12lb.) bird that I brined for 12 hours. The brine consisted of 1 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of curing salt for 1 gallon of water. I then added sugar, apple cider vinegar, peppercorns, dried chili flakes and parsley stems. I dropped the turkey into a large bucket I use just for brining and pickling and poured the brine over it. Then I weighted it down with a stack of plates. Since there was not enough room in the fridge I kept it iced down for 12 hours. Then remove and rinse.

Once it was cured, I placed it in front of a fan for about two hours to dry and warm up before smoking. I used a combination of charcoal and apple wood, maintaining a temperature of about 235f (110c). It smoked for about 3 hours until an internal probe reads about 160f (70c). I would later finish it in a hot oven before serving.

My coloring could have been better but it tasted really damn good and the skin still became crisp

Stuffing is a very misunderstood side dish but one of my absolute favorites every Thanksgiving. I was raised on oyster stuffing, but unfortunately I could not find oysters in time (at least I had bacon). There are a couple tricks to making good stuffing. First cook your mirepoix thoroughly before folding it into the bread. Use a good brown poultry stock and season it well. Finally add lots of the stock. Keep ladling more until it can take no more. Then just bake until it’s hot in the center and slather with gravy.

It’s best when the top is crusty but the interior is moist and soft

Also unavailable were fresh cranberries. However I was able to substitute dried with some success. I decided to mold the cranberry salad like you might see in cookbooks from the 50’s and 60’s. This was actually quite simple. I gelled some cranberry juice with sugar and garnished it with slices of orange, persimmon and chopped walnuts. I molded it in a cake pan and just warmed it in water to release it from the mold.

My sweet potato casserole sucked in a big way. I need to find a way to better adapt the local sweet potatoes into this dish. The local camote is much starchier than what I’m used to in the States. The result was a really dry texture that I think could be remedied by puréeing it.

My wife (who is also responsible for my conspicuously better photos), prepared two different types of pumpkin pie, both made from the local pumpkin. One was a classic variety and the other was finished with caramel and chopped walnuts.

Though I have cut back on the number of private events in to focus on Mr. D’s, I do still enjoy an occasional event like this. I like to keep it very casual and unassuming. Thank you to all who attended. It sure as hell beat the Rio…

Crispy Chive Flatbread with Oyster Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Beets and Feta Cheese

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In support of Ministry of Mushrooms’ Mushrooms Go Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, I am offering up a recipe that includes many of the healthy foods recommended to reduce risks of certain cancers including breast cancer. Better late than never, is jumping in the pool here in the last week of the month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so many different food media outlets have been debating about the health benefits and possible cancer risk reduction properties of certain foods. Certain foods such as leafy greens, whole grains and seeds are often recommended to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Also studies have indicated a connection between eating mushrooms and lowering risks of developing certain tumors.

For this dish I grabbed several of the foods from the pantheon of ‘super foods’ that are densely packed with many different nutrients. Chia seeds, for example, have more omega 3 fatty acid than flax seed. I add this and wheat germ to the pizza dough to make the flat bread. The wheat germ adds another huge dose of folic acid, fiber and minerals. The garnish of oyster mushrooms, roasted beets and mustard greens provides your body a bevy of vitamins and minerals, essential to a healthy diet.

However, I’m not really qualified to debate this topic. I’m just the cook. So I’ll teach you how to work with these ingredients to make really good tasting food.

I have a few tricks I like to use when cooking for my son to sneak in nutrition-boosting foods. I like to keep a bag of chia seeds, quinoa and wheat germ around to add to soups and sauces. This flat bread recipe produces a nice thin flat, crispy bread. It has a cracker like consistency and the chia seeds provide a pleasant crunch and nutty flavor. The wheat germ affects the texture less than a whole wheat flour might but still adds loads of nutrition.

First, this crispy chia seed and chive flat bread could be used for a number of purposes. Use it for hummus or eggplant dips or as a pizza dough.

Start by making the dough

3 cups type ‘oo’ flour
1 cup warm water, plus extra
1 tbsp dry, active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tbsp chia seeds
Parmesan for garnish
3 tbsp chives

Combine the yeast with the warm water to activate. Add chia seeds to same water and allow to sit until bubbles begin to appear.

Combine all other ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend together. Add water to dry ingredients and mix together by hand. Add more water only as needed to bring the dough together. Once incorporated, knead the dough for 5 minutes on a floured surface.

Place dough in a floured bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise for about 20 minutes and gently punch down the dough to remove the large air bubbles. Allow to rise for another 30-40 minutes until it has doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the other ingredients

2 small bunches mustard greens, cleaned and chopped
2 cups oyster mushrooms, cleaned and torn
3 red beets, peeled
12 shallots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cloves garlic, whole unpeeled
feta cheese for garnish
canola oil or palm oil

Preheat the oven to 175c/350f. Carefully slice the peeled beets into even 1/4″ slices. Add to a roasting or cake pan with the whole garlic cloves and whole shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in the oven, stirring occasionally until the beets are knife tender.

Preheat a sauté over medium high heat. Once the pan is nice and hot add enough oil to just coat the pan. Add the oyster mushrooms in one layer and allow them to sit undisturbed until they begin to color on the bottom side. Then add a small amount of garlic, a small nub of butter and season with salt and pepper. Toss several times and remove to a plate to cool.

In the same pan over medium heat add mustard greens, garlic and salt and pepper. Slowly wilt down the mustard greens, stirring constantly until most of the water is cooked out but they retain their firm texture. Return the mushrooms with to the pan with the greens and heat them back up together.

Roll out the flat bread

Preheat oven to 225c/450f. With a small amount of flour for dusting, roll out the flat bread to about 1/8th” thickness. Dust a sheet pan with a little flour or wheat germ and lay the rolled dough out on it. Brush generously with olive oil, and season with a little salt and black pepper. Next grate some fresh Parmesan over it and sprinkle with chopped chives (I like to use the white part here).

Place pan in the oven and bake until bubbles form and the bread begins to toast, about 7-10 minutes, then remove from oven.

Garnish flat bread

Lay down beet slices over the flat bread and then follow with the oyster mushrooms and mustard greens. Then sprinkle crumbled feta cheese over the top and garnish with the roasted shallots from the beets.

Return to the oven until all ingredients are hot and the feta softens. Remove and drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with chopped chives. If toasted properly it will hold all of the toppings without buckling under the weight and will have a wonderful crispy texture.

Visit Ministry of Mushrooms’ website for orders or inquiries

Cashew Crusted Leg of Spring Lamb

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In wishing a happy Independence Day to all of my friends here in the Philippines, I decided to showcase some of the best local agricultural products from right here in the Philippines.

I’ve spent just over a year here scouring the markets for the best local products and I have learned a few things. For one, there is phenomenal lamb raised in Negros Occidental. I purchased this leg of Spring lamb from a vendor in the Salcedo Market. I’ve bought lamb from them twice now and the quality was superb both times.

Just across the way, in the same market there is a vendor selling local cashews, done. The cashews are raw and very sweet. He sells them all unsalted but the salt is not missed.

Cashew Crusted Leg of Spring Lamb

1 bone-in leg of lamb

1 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup honey

2-3 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves garlics, chopped

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Remove the leg of lamb from the fridge a good hour or so before beginning so that it warms up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 200c/400f.

Pat the leg of lamb dry with paper towels. Drizzle olive oil on the lamb and smear all over the surface. Season liberally with salt and pepper all around.

Place on a roasting rack or a sheet pan lined with a wire rack and pop it in the oven.

Allow to roast for about 30 minutes or so, until it begins to color. Turn temperature down to 160c/325f.

While your lamb is roasting (you could also do this ahead of time) prepare your crust. Mix together Dijon, honey, herbs, garlic and shallots.

Pulse your cashews in a food processor, or if your like me, pound them in a mortar and pestle. I like irregular pieces of cashew for texture.

Monitor the internal temperature of your lamb with an instant read thermometer. Stick the probe into the thickest part of the meat without contacting the bone. When the temperature reaches about 50c/120f remove it from the oven and increase the temperature to 175c/350f.

Smear the Dijon mixture all over the top of your leg of lamb. Then sprinkle your crushed cashews over that until you have a nice even and thick coating.

Return it to the oven. Monitor it closely at this stage so that the nuts do not burn. When the cashews are nicely toasted, remove it from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes in a warm place (like the Philippines).

When it’s time to carve, pick up the narrow end by the bone, resting the fat end on the cutting board. Cut straight through the meat, perpendicular to the bone. Then cut following the bone to create nice half circle cuts of meat. It’s always best to carve thicker cuts of crusted meats or you will lose your crusting when you carve it.

Notice these are carved into thicker, steak-like cuts. This is cut across the grain of the meat, making the lamb more tender.

Depending on how your lamb is butchered, you will be left with a leg, thigh and hip bone. There will also be some meaty trim left on the bones. Do not waste!

There is plenty of flavor still to offer here. The trim I removed with a paring knife and marinated for shawarma and the bones went into the lentils pictured above.

Enjoy your holiday!

French Food for the Soul-Beef Bourguignon

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I told you I am a confessed francophile and I stand before you unapologetic. This one is a fundamental of French cuisine, much like coq au vin or escargot.

Beef Bouguignon was historically a country or peasant food. As the name indicates it originates from the region of Burgundy which lies south of Paris between Dijon and Lyons. Burgundy is best known for its wines, which are in my opinion the best in the world for both white and red. However its contributions to French cuisine are numerous, including escargot, Dijon mustard and Jambon Persillé.

This one is a rather labor-intensive process, especially if you make your on stock for it. I know it’s a lot of work so I’ll provide a couple shortcuts for the slackers to cut back on the time. So let’s move on to the basics for preparation.

Several cuts of beef will work just fine, like chuck or even short rib. Look for a braising cut that has good marbling. I realize that most reading this are probably not going to make their own beef stock. I will post on the topic of stocks at a later date to persuade more of you to do this but for now if you want to use a packaged low-sodium beef broth it will substitute ok. It will just have a little less soul.

Also the garnish, in classic French cuisine, is known as garniture grande-mère. It’s a combination of mushrooms, lardons (thick pieces of bacon) and glazed pearl onions. Glazed pearl onions can be rather labor and technique intensive to pull off for many home cooks. If you are uncomfortable with the process you can simply roast them in a hot oven with salt, pepper and butter.

Many modern interpretations of this dish, including Thomas Keller’s, use potatoes in the recipe. My rigidly traditional French inner-grandmother will not permit this though. Traditional Beef Bourguignon is always served with noodles.

Beef Bourguignon

1 kg (2 lbs.) beef chuck or any braising beef

1 bottle dry red wine

6 oz. bacon slab

2-3 white onions, large dice

2-3 carrots, large dice

1-2 celery stalks, large dice

3-4 garlic cloves, whole

1 tbsp tomato paste

4 cups veal or beef stock

1 bunch fresh thyme

1/2 bunch parsley

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup flour

canola oil

salt and black pepper

for the garnish

25-30 pearl onions or shallots

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp sugar

500 g mushrooms (I used Ministry of Mushrooms oyster mushrooms)

2 shallots, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

300 g fresh pasta, such as fettuccine or tagliatelle (or make your own)

Cut your bacon slab into thick strips or lardons.

Cut your beef into 1 1/2″ cubes, drain and dry the meat on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and dust with flour.

In an oven-proof Dutch oven cook your bacon lardons until brown and crispy. Remove and set aside in a large bowl.

Add canola oil and begin searing your beef in batches until it is brown on all sides. Once all the meat is browned set aside with your lardons. It is very important to brown the meat well because this is what will give color and flavor to your stew later.

Reduce the heat to medium add the celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Cook until soft and slightly caramelized.

Preheat oven to 325f/175c.

Add tomato paste and red wine. Cook until reduced by 50%.

Return your beef and lardons and add your stock. Tie the thyme (reserve about 5-7 sprigs for later) and parsley stems (reserve the leaves for garnish) together and add to the liquid. There should be enough liquid to barely cover the beef.

Bring to a simmer, skimming off any fat or scum that rises to the top then cover and put in the oven.

Let braise in the oven for about 1 1/2-3 hours or until the meat is very tender. When it is complete remove the meat then strain the sauce through a sieve. Check the sauce for seasoning and consistency. If it’s too thick add water. If it’s too thin reduce.

Brown and meaty!

While this is going prepare garnish.

Add your peeled pearl onions or shallots to a sauté pan. Add butter, sugar and enough water to cover about half way. Cover this with a lid or parchment paper and cook on low heat. Add water as needed and cook until a paring knife passes easily into the onions. When they are finished, reduce the cooking liquid and glaze the onions with the liquid. Or, if you don’t feel like doing all of this, just toss them in salt and pepper and roast them in a hot oven with butter.

Preheat another sauté pan on high heat. Add canola oil and cook your mushrooms in batches. Allow them to sit still in the pan and caramelize. Once they are brown on one side add butter garlic, shallots, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper and toss.

Caramelized oyster mushrooms

Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the package, or if you’re like me, make fresh pasta dough and roll them out by hand. When the noodles are cooked, toss them in butter and chopped parsley.

My hand-rolled country noodles were a labor of love

When all is complete, plate your noodles first then spoon on generous heapings of braised meat and garnish with the mushrooms and pearl onions. Add a little chopped parsley for color.

Now there is only one wine that can grace the table alongside Beef Bourguignon, and that is Burgundy. Look for a full-bodied Burgundy that can stand up to this hearty dish such as a Côte de Nuits.

Sounds like a lot of work, huh? Well that’s because it is and that’s why we have people like me. Need help? Give me a shout!

Zucchini Blossom and Kesong Puti Fritters

This was a really simple but good appetizer I made my friends Dwight and Mylene at when they came to visit last night. Zucchini flowers are widely available right now in the markets and the kesong puti (a Filipino white cheese, similar to fresh mozzarella). I purchased it from Something Different in the Salcedo Market. If the kesong puti is unavailable where you are you can sub fresh mozzarella or even a Mexican queso blanco.

This recipe will need to be adjusted to account for variables in moisture and to your personal taste. I recommend frying a test fritter and either adding flour to thicken or milk to loosen the batter. For a sauce I made a roasted tomato mayonnaise. Both the batter and the sauce can be made up to a day ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

For the batter

2 cups zucchini blossoms

1/2 cup kesong puti, diced

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper

oil for frying

for the sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

16-20 cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 a lemon

olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350f or 175c. Toss the tomatoes in olive oil and place on a small roasting pan. Roast in the oven until the tomatoes shrink by one half in size.

Place the tomatoes with all other sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill and set aside.

Start a pot of salted water on high heat. Prepare a large bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil add the zucchini blossoms and boil just until they soften. Strain and immediately shock in the ice water. Remove after they have chilled and squeeze out the excess moisture.

Sauté onion and garlic until softened then allow to cool. Mix the egg with the milk then add into the flour. Mix until smooth. Fold in the zucchini blossoms, onion, garlic and kesong puti. Adjust consistency if necessary and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat a pan with enough oil to shallow fry the fritters. Spoon the batter into the oil. Flip them once after they are browned. Remove to a paper towel whenbrown on both sides. Serve with the reserved sauce.

11 Steps to Begin Cooking like a Pro

It’s time to demystify what happens behind closed doors in great restaurants. Have you ever been inspired by what you ate in a really nice restaurant? Then you try to impress your friends replicating this wonderful dish only to come up flat. Even recipes and cookbooks don’t teach you how to cook. If you have ten different cooks cook one recipe you will have ten very different dishes.

Truth is there are a lot of tricks to the trade but don’t waste your time seeking out exotic,secret ingredients or outlandish cooking techniques.The best way to hedge your bet on making good, consistent food is to follow basic fundamental principles of cooking. These won’t make you a chef, but they’ll make 11 steps closer.


1. Mise en Place

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This is a French expression that literally means “put in place.” The significance of this in the professional kitchen is paramount to the success of a service. Everything is organized and prepped. Vegetable garnishes are chopped and blanched, proteins are portioned, sauces are finished. Think ahead. What utensils will you use preparing your dish. Get them out and put them in place. Your meat will need to rest when it comes out of the pan, right? Have a plate ready for it. The key is everything is in place before  it is needed.

Messy kitchens make messy food. If you have to scramble to find the spatula to remove the fish from the pan, the fish is over-cooking whilst you scramble. Those precious seconds you spend chopping those tomatoes going back to the fridge to find parsley while cooking will cost you the freshness of your dish.

2. Seasoning


I’m not talking about 11 different herbs and spices. I’m talking about salt and pepper. Use it. As a rule of thumb you should season everything you want to taste good. Which is, well, everything. Bland food is probably the number one amateur cook’s mistake. Ditch your salt shaker. This is not a kitchen tool. I recommend keeping a small dish of sea salt or kosher salt next to your stove as well as a good pepper grinder. Preground pepper sucks. This leads me into my next tip.

3. Taste everything

Don’t assume your food tastes good. Good chefs taste constantly as they work. Is the seasoning correct? Does it need more acidity? Does something smell or taste off? You should taste at several different stages to ensure your food tastes good. Don’t let it get to the table before you figure out it tastes like shit.

4. Keep it simple

The fewer things you put in a dish the less the chance you will have something go wrong. Keep your dishes simple and focused and don’t try to show off all of your tricks at once. You’ll find you have less flavor clashes and your food will be better.

4. Mirepoix

Ok, last French term, I promise. Mirepoix is commonly considered to be the combination of carrots, celery and onion but can be any combination of aromatic vegetables such as leeks or shallots. The difference between a broth simmered with just meat and simmered with meat and mirepoix is in complexity and aromatics. This is one of those little steps to elevate your cooking.

5. Buy good ingredients

If you want your food to be good, you need to start with good ingredients, right? I know it’s a cliché, but how many people actually do this? Foods undergo a chemical change as they get older and they do not taste the same. If you start with semi-wilted produce or freezer-burnt meat you should not be surprised that your final product is sub-par.

When you go shopping for ingredients you should be adaptable to what is good (or bad) in the market. I really wanted to make halibut, but all of the halibut looks like crap. Maybe I should consider a different fish?

6. Listen to your food, no really!

Burned your potatoes? Dried out your fish? Odds are you weren’t properly controlling temperature. Smell it and observe. Do you smell something burning? Is it crackling madly in the pan? Maybe you should adjust the heat.  Observe your food with all five senses and you will get all the clues you need. As moisture evaporates and the food begins to dry out the sound will change. This is a clue that your dish might burn soon.

7. Take it slow

Is your stew at a full boil? Turn it down or it’s going to dry out. When you are braising or slow roasting, take it slow for best results. High temperatures will result in tougher and drier meats.

8. Fresh stocks

Fresh stocks are the blood that courses through the veins of a professional kitchen. They are like magic. They make things taste good. At home I like to make batches of chicken, beef or pork stock and freeze it in portions. This way you have an ace in the hole. Anytime your making a soup or sauce it will instantly add depth of flavor.

In a pinch you can use a low sodium packaged broth but be sure to read the ingredients to make sure you can pronounce all of the ingredients. However the little cubes though are unacceptable. I don’t know about you but where I come from chickens are shaped like a damn cube.

9. Fresh herbs

Fresh herbs add fragrance and flavor to a dish. They freshen otherwise dull flavored foods. I use a ton of parsley and thyme and I will use fresh about 20 times more often than I use dried. A handful of fresh chopped herbs thrown into a dish at the end can really enliven it.

10. Preheat that pan

Many home cooks are afraid of heat-don’t be. Harness it and wield it like a sword. Whenever you are frying or searing it is essential to preheat your pan. For example, you want to sear pork chops or a steak. If you add them to a luke warm pan and cook it, the moisture will leach out of the meat and pool around it. Then you will steam it to a very unappealing grey color. Put your pan on the fire until you see a light wisp of smoke, then add oil and then your meat. You hear the sizzle? That’s the sound of that moisture immediately evaporating when it touches the surface of the pan. In the absence of moisture, the sugars in the meat will be able to caramelize, giving you a nicely browned meat.

11. Hot food, hot plate

Ever wonder why your pasta turns cold 10 seconds out of the pan? If you put hot food on a room temperature ceramic plate it will suck the heat right out of your food. Chefs will always heat the plates the food is served on so that the food stays hot longer.

Well that’s a start. Come back to for more professional cooking tips in the future and also post your questions in the comment section. I’ll answer them all. In the mean time begin practicing these tips and you will see you will avert culinary disaster.

Chicken and Oyster Mushroom Red Rice Paella with Roasted Vegetables

I spent about 30 minutes contriving a whimsical presentation. I hate myself.


Since living in the Philippines I have had more paella than I had collectively my whole life. I really do love the dish but sometimes get the urge to change it up a bit. My friend Marco Lobregat from Ministry of Mushrooms (more on this later) asked me if I could create a recipe using his mushrooms, to which I happily agreed. Somewhere in there I missed the part where it was supposed to be a healthy recipe. Hmm…kind of a tall order for a cook who specializes in melting animals and then putting them back together again. I was really thinking of a heart-stopper. At any rate I took the challenge and here it is.

Organic Philippine red rice

I decided to use a local red rice instead of a refined rice, inspired by my visit at Mamou. Both red rice and oyster mushrooms are loaded with minerals and antioxidants and are very good for you. The only fat used is extra virgin olive oil. Feel free to substitute what you like and what’s available to you especially for the garnishes. The same could be done with seafood or with eggplant instead of asparagus. Quail eggs are purely optional but damn tasty. Here are the ingredients:

Serves 4-6 people

For the broth:

40 g dried mushrooms

1 large carrot, peeled, large dice

2 stalks celery, large dice

1 medium onion, large dice

3 cloves garlic, whole

3 bay leaves

chicken bones and trim (see below)

leek tops (see below)

10 whole black peppercorns

several sprigs fresh thyme

several parsley stems


For the rest

1 whole small chicken

1 cup red rice

125 g fresh oyster mushrooms (larger pieces can be torn)

1 medium onion, small dice

1/2 cup leek bottoms, small dice

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 lb asparagus (approx)

10 small whole tomatoes

10 whole shallots (sibuyas tagalog)

10 quail eggs, boiled

fresh parsley, chopped

fresh thyme, whole

extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper

Everything on the right is for the broth. I removed the breasts from the bone because they're more valuable in the broth. I left the wing on the breast to the first meaty first joint, but the rest of the wing goes to the broth

First chop all of the vegetables for the broth and add them to a stock pot. Then break down your chicken as above and add it to the vegetables and cover with water. Add  the herbs and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30-45 minutes skimming and scum or foam that comes to the surface. Strain out the solids and reserve the liquid in a sauce pot. Take out about a cup of the reconstituted mushrooms and roughly chop them and reserve. You will have extra mushrooms now, which will be great for a soup or pasta.

Click on the image to visit Ministry of Mushrooms' Facebook page

Preheat your oven to 200 c or 400 f. One a sheet tray or roasting pan, align all of your tomatoes, shallots and asparagus so they are segregated and not mixed together as they will have very different cooking times. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pop the in the oven, removing each one as it finished cooking. Set aside.

Next preheat a paella pan on medium-high heat (if you do’t have one an ordinary sauté pan will work fine). Season Add enough extra virgin olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan and add your chicken skin-side down. Cook until golden brown. With the exception of the drumsticks, I only cook the chicken pieces on one side at this stage to crisper and brown the skin. Once the skin is brown remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the fresh oyster mushrooms to the hot pan. This is where it gets tricky. Don’t do anything. Don’t move them and don’t season them. If you do either they will release moisture and turn grey instead of a nice brown. Once they brown you may add salt and pepper a couple whole sprigs of thyme and stir. They will cook quickly so pay attention. When they have browned and softened, finish with chopped parsley, remove and set aside. Bring your broth to a low simmer.

Now add the leeks, onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the red rice and toast slightly, stirring constantly. Add about two cups of the hot broth and lower heat to a simmer and add your reserved reconstituted dried oyster mushrooms. As it dries up add more broth. Now open a beer and relax because this is going to take a while. As it cooks the liquid will thicken so make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. Keep stirring and adding liquid as needed. If you run out of broth, that’s ok, just use water.

Once the rice begins to soften, add your chicken back to the pan skin side up. Simmer in the liquid until the chicken is cooked through. Remove again until the cooking of the rice is complete.

Red rice takes a while to cook and it’s kind of hard to overcook. I cooked mine for about an hour. Once the rice reaches the desired texture you can start garnishing your paella. Arrange the chicken, vegetables and quail eggs however you like and allow the liquid to dry up and the bottom to crust.

The lazy method

Like I said, the red rice takes a while. So if you want to make it easier just add it to your rice cooker with a 1:1.5 ratio of rice to water and cook as normal. When the water dries up it will be par-cooked and still hard. Then add it to your paella pan just before you add the broth. This should save about 20 minutes of hands-on time.


Secrets to better Bolognese



The most basic of Italian comfort food, the simple meat ragù, can be anything from decadent to mediocre. The choice is yours. Hailing from the Emilia-Romagna city of Bologna, hence the name, this meaty sauce of a stew-like consistency has been the domain of Italian grandmothers for ages. In Bologna they serve this with a tagliatelle noodle but I used spaghetti.

I won’t dwell too much on traditional preparations as tradition varies wildly from household to household. In the real world we work with the ingredients we have at our disposal. For example, in Italy this would be made with pancetta but in my fridge I have bacon (always). If you have any trim from salami or prosciutto chop them up and throw them in the pool. However I did not so here’s how I’m going to do it today.

Mise en place

There are several crucial points to elevate a crappy spaghetti sauce to a well-prepared Bolognese sauce. One, get good meats and skip on the ground stuff. Get whole cuts and slice them into a very small dice. They’ll brown better and braise better with the added advantage of knowing exactly what’s in your meat. Also cut your aromatic veg into a very small dice so that it blends into the ragù and doesn’t get too chunky.

So we’ll start by prepping all of the vegetables. Keep it small. Now prepare all the other mise en place you’ll need to complete the dish. Open your can of tomatoes, your wine, etc.

Then we move on to the meat. You’ll probably get tired of all the chopping by now but keep focused on the prize.

It will all pay off in the end. When the meat is chopped season it liberally with salt and pepper also add chopped thyme and chili flakes and allow to sit for an hour or so covered in the fridge.

Once all of your prep is complete and ready you may begin the cooking process. Preheat a large, shallow pan until it’s quite    hot. Add the olive oil and butter. Add all of the meat with the chopped thyme.


Now this is called browning, so we’re looking for brown, not grey. Fry the meat on high and stir continuously. When the meat is brown add all of the vegetables. Cook until the vegetables are soft.

Now begin adding the wet ingredients. Add the tomato paste and cook down until slightly caramelized. Then add the red wine and reduce. Finally add the tomatoes and stir. I like to dry out the pan again at this stage and caramelize the tomatoes a bit. Add water to cover.

Reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for a minimum 2-3 hours (but I would recommend 4-5 hours). Add water as needed to adjust the consistency. After it has simmered add the heavy cream and simmer for a few minutes more. Then finish with the fresh herbs. Before serving always adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and the consistency with water.