Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Huxley CK452 Superdog

Dave commissioned this painting for my birthday. I was blown away! He was very mysterious for months, hinting at something big and I never could have guessed what it turned out to be. The artist is Sirron Norris who did some murals in the Mission district that I've long admired.

Everything in the painting really happened in real life. Huxley was CVFBAE the research beagle, who tested experimental heart medication CK452 before he retired from research and got adopted by us. He's got a permanent tattoo on his ear that marks him as CVFBAE. He hates cats and water, and his favorite toy is his rainbow ball. He loves visiting Lucca Ravioli with me and plunging his head into my shopping bag and sniffing the cheese and salami in it. He loves to lick the remains of anything I've made in my trusty orange Le Creuset pot. And, we all know he is a wine cork connoisseur! We also like to imagine that the drug he was testing gave him superpowers so that he has a double life as a superhero during the day while we are out working.

Time to take Huxley out for a long walk! He's been cooped up all Christmas with relatives visiting and would really enjoy a long walk and a chance to sniff out more chicken bones left by the mysterious Chicken Bone Man all over the Mission!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tripas À Moda do Porto

The story goes that when Henry the Navigator was preparing his ships to conquer the port of Ceuta in North Africa in 1415, he asked the people of Porto to donate supplies to stock the Portuguese navy and they did, so generously, that all that was left to eat was tripe. Thus, the people of Porto became known as "tripeiros", or "tripe eaters". "Tripas À Moda do Porto", or Tripe in the style of Porto, is a traditional Porto dish that we knew we absolutely had to try when we were in Porto. This we did, appropriately, at a restaurant called "Tripeiria".

It was really quite delicious. Tripe wasn't even the main ingredient, it was almost a garnish next to the white beans and the sausage that made up the main part of the stew. The stew was served over rice.

When I got home, I decided that it was time to try my hand at cooking tripe. I live in a neighborhood with a butcher that carries three types of beautiful, snowy-white tripe next to the other cuts of meat that I buy, so it was not a problem to procure some good tripe for my experiment. The recipe came out of my Jean Anderson Portuguese cookbook:

I have grown to appreciate this somewhat previously under-used cookbook more and more since our trip to Portugal. The recipe for Tripas À Moda do Porto is quite time-consuming: the tripe is first cooked very slowly in the oven for 3 hours together with aromatics, before the beans, proscuitto & sausages are added and cooked further for another hour and a half. The result is a little different from the tripe we had in Porto, being much more tomato-y than we remembered, but retains the essential character of the authentic dish. The recipe made so much tripe that we were eating leftovers for quite a few days. I forgot to take pictures the first night we had it. The picture below was taken after the 3rd reheating in the oven, after which the stew had lost a lot of liquid. It was originally more soupy, perfect over rice, like the authentic dish we had in Porto.

The wine was, unfortunately, a rather uninspiring red, one of a few bottles of Portuguese red that we had bought to try out. I was glad I got around to cooking with tripe. It isn't as scary as it might seem at first. Although, the recipe was so time-consuming I don't know if I would make it again. Perhaps for a special occasion! A dinner party, perhaps, with adventurous eaters? I told my mother-in-law, who is a pretty adventurous eater, about the dish, and even she said that it would be OK if I didn't make it for her the next time she visits!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Portuguese dessert in search of a better name

Why would you name your dessert "Rancid Cake"? This is precisely what we saw on the dessert list at a popular neighborhood restaurant in Lisbon. After a huge meal of garlic bread soup and salt cod baked with potatoes, we weren't really interested in dessert but took a look at the menu anyway, and this cake, because of its unusual name, caught our eye. Dave made up his mind immediately that he had to have it. The waiter explained that that the name had come about because of the use of "rancid butter" but followed with the promise that it was a very good cake. We decided to focus on the waiter's assessment of its deliciousness rather than on the potential rancidity of one of the ingredients, despite the opposing nature of these two details. And it was very good. I couldn't detect any hint of rancidness in it at all.

Anyway, after we came home, I saw an entry for "Putrid Cake" or "Bolo Podre" in another one of my Portuguese cookbooks:

The recipe does not use butter, but olive oil. The author theorizes that perhaps in the old days, the olive oil might have gotten rank or rancid, resulting in the unfortunate name, but prefers the alternative meaning of "podre" ("depraved" or "corrupt") to describe the influence of a rich and decadent cake.

Naturally, I had to make it to follow one of our Portuguese dinners. The list of ingredients is very interesting: finely ground anise seeds, 5 eggs in a total of 2 cups flour, olive oil, honey, and almost two cups of booze from a combination of tawny port, white wine and brandy. The top is supposed to crack as seen here:

We paired it with a semi-sweet madeira that we had brought home from Funchal, Madeira. This wasn't even the best madeira from our total Portuguese vacation haul:

but even so it was way better than the average bottle you can buy at your local wine store back at home. I can't wait to get into the other, better stuff!

So, what was the rest of the dinner like that I made to go with the Putrid/Corrupt Cake? I started this post backwards with dessert, but the rest of dinner was no less good. We had the Portuguese meatballs that I've made before again, this time paired with green beans with garlic, fresh coriander leaves, olive oil and lemon from the same cookbook that gave me the cake recipe. This is one of the best ways to prepare green beans that I have come across!

The Douro wine, made with Port grapes, was from our local gourmet purveyor of all things Iberian, The Spanish Table in Berkeley. It was a winner!