Monthly Archives: December 2011

Ad Hoc at Home’s Leek Bread Pudding & Pan-Roasted Duck

I recently received Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home and couldn’t wait to try it out. I tend to choose challenging, over-the-top recipes without so much as glancing at the required prep time (I guess I never understood the “look before you leap” concept). I figure I’ll be able to wing it and forego necessary marinations, etc. Don’t do it – make sure to read the recipe first.

Three hours later, I had successfully rendered duck fat for the first time, avoided setting my kitchen on fire, and created the most delicious bread pudding to date (it’s that good). I learned I could have done most of the prep work in advance and cut the overall time by one half. Cooking can resemble quite the adventure if you’re not ready for it, but that’s half of the ride.

The recipe is perfect as published in the book mentioned above – Keller’s methods are like a self-taught culinary school. A must buy for any aspiring foodie.



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Dare to be Dungeness

I recently received several emails and texts surrounding a similar phenomenon: “the crabs are here!”… Yes, the boats purveying nets full of dungeness crabs have arrived to harbors of the Bay Area, and foodies alike couldn’t be more excited.

After battling with several aggressive patrons at Fish in Sausalito, I successfully nabbed a few pounds of this desirable, fresh-off-the-boat dungeness crab. OK, so no fists were thrown in the process (sorry to disappoint), but the tact and vigor required for this stuff is definitely understated! Buyer beware. But, it’s worth it.

Definitely worth the dungeness.

Wine Pairing:   Chateau St Jean Riesling ’09

Ginger Garlic Dungeness Crab 

4 2 1/4 lb dungeness crabs (cracked and cleaned – make sure to ask your seafood market for this generally complimentary service)

8 garlic cloves, minced (seems like a lot, but the crab absorbs the flavor nicely)

4 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

1 1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1 1/2 c. chopped scallions

3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 c. dry white wine

Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet using medium heat, and add extra virgin olive oil

2. Add scallions, ginger, garlic, and cilantro, and sauté for 5 minutes, or until garlic is lightly browned

3. Add the crab and white wine, and cook until crab is cooked through, about 18-20 minutes

Enjoy as an appetizer, or combine with noodles or a green salad as an entrée.



Cozy Christmas Nog

I’m not going to lie to you – I’ve hated eggnog for the majority of my life. However, when my Aunt served me this frosty treat at her cabin in Lake Tahoe, I had to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by the beverage’s mild flavor, refreshing frostiness, and nostalgic dash of nut meg to solidify my family’s Christmas celebration.

The recipe is quite easy, as the ingredients are simple and take a mere amount of minutes to blend together:

My Aunt’s Cozy Christmas Nog

Organic, Store-bought Eggnog (with pure cane sugar)

1 oz Rum (per drink)

Dash of Nutmeg


Combine desired amount of Eggnog, rum, and ice in blender, and blend to desired consistency. Finish with a dash of nutmeg and serve in a charming Christmas glass.

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Pizza Pizza

There is nothing better than homemade pizza. Fact.

Although the task of creating the perfect pizza dough involves lots of practice and a few lopsided  test-subjects, you will be surprised with the simplicity of this meal and will make your own pizza for years to come.

I tried this recipe from to create a classic Pizza Margherita, and made enough dough and sauce for a second pizza with Wild Mushrooms, Caramelized Leeks, & Zucchini. The second pizza is without cheese (don’t freak out), since I wanted to focus on the flavors of the vegetables and keep the second pizza light.

Wine Pairing: St. Francis Merlot ’07

Rule #1 when making homemade pizza: invest in a pizza stone. The differences between using a heated pizza stone versus a metal pizza pan are incomparable.

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Naturally Nachos

If you’re in search of an impromptu snack/small meal that will take care of afternoon hunger pains, then consider whipping up some homemade nachos with items already stocked in your kitchen.

Wine Pairing: Layer Cake Primitivo ’08


6 homemade style corn tortillas

Extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups of organic black beans

1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese

1 cup of sweet corn

1 avocado, chopped

1 pint organic cherry tomatoes, halved

1 large shallot, minced

salt & pepper to taste

2 lemons, juiced

1 cup of cilantro

Slice tortillas into sections using a pizza wheel, and sauté in extra virgin olive oil until crispy on both sides. Transfer cooked tortilla “chips” onto a paper towel, and let rest for 15 minutes before assembling nachos.

Place beans in small sauce pan and cook on medium heat until warm. When ready to serve, add cheddar cheese and layer on cooled chips.

Combine cherry tomatoes, shallots, lemon juice, and salt & pepper, to resemble a pico de gallo salsa. Add chopped avocado, and layer on top of beans and chips. Top with corn and cilantro and serve.

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Shrimp, Leek, and Sweet Pea Risotto (two ways)


Risotto, a great alternative to pasta, tends to get overlooked because of its perceived difficulty.

This recipe, intended to impress your next date, is simple, easy to follow, and only requires a bit of patience to yield crowd-pleasing results.

Wine Pairing: Frog’s Leap Chardonnay Napa Valley ’10

If you happen to feel over-zealous and double the recipe by mistake (hey, you’re a hungry chef, after all…), then consider altering unfavorable leftovers to create your next appetizer: Arancini. 

Using the cooked risotto, chop the shrimp into small pieces and stir. Assemble meatball-like balls (about 1″) and coat with flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs. Use extra virgin olive oil to pan-fry, and cook until golden brown and crispy.

Wine Pairing: Villa Nozzole Chianti Classico ’07

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Chicken with Leeks, Cauliflower Parsnip Puree, & Asparagus

I made the mistake of grocery shopping last night with zero plan in mind. After wandering aimlessly for a few minutes, I decided to start with organic produce. When in doubt – work backwards with fresh vegetables.

I discovered parsnips a few years ago at Thanksgiving (my aunt made a truffled recipe that must be tried at a later date), and have recently turned to them for my mashed potato fix. As a root vegetable, parsnips are much lighter than traditional russet potatoes, and when combined with cauliflower they pack a smooth nutty bite that’s unparalleled.

Leeks are like a giant scallion with much more body and flavor, and add dimension to an otherwise ordinary piece of panko breaded chicken breast. Try adding leeks to your next omelette, or combine with mushrooms and goat cheese for an unforgettable bruschetta.

Asparagus, whether chopped and sauteed or baked with salt and pepper, is a very dependable side dish for most protein-centric meals. The strong flavor will compliment the textured leeks and nutty puree, making this gourmet array your next go to comfort meal.

Wine Pairing: Cambria Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard ’09

Cauliflower Parsnip Puree

1 head of steamed Cauliflower (try steaming with organic chicken or vegetable broth instead of water)

3 medium to large Parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 cups of organic 1% milk
2 tablespoons earth balance butter spread
Salt + Pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves
Pea shoots (garnish)
Food Processor
Place prepped parsnips (pieces should be equal in size) in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, or until tender (a fork will go straight through, but parsnip will keep it’s shape and not fall apart). Remove parsnips with slotted spoon and transfer to food processor.
Heat milk and butter in microwave for 1 minute, or until warm.
Combine parsnips and steamed cauliflower in a large food processor, and add the milk, butter, garlic, salt + pepper, and blend until smooth.
Chicken with Leeks
2 organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts (tenderized, sliced into thirds, and coated with egg, flour, and panko breadcrumbs)
3 large leeks, cleaned, trimmed, and chopped
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
Salt + Pepper to taste
1 griddle, using grill side
Extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat griddle on stove, using medium-low heat, and coat with non-stick natural spray (e.g. olive oil or canola oil). Cook sliced, coated pieces of chicken until cooked through, for about 20 minutes (turn chicken every 5 minutes).
Pre-heat large skillet, using medium-low heat, with olive oil, and add minced shallots. Cook for a few minutes, until slightly brown. Add chopped leeks, and cook for about 15 minutes, and add salt + pepper, and garlic slices. Serve on top of cooked chicken.
1 bunch of organic Asparagus, ends trimmed
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt + Pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 375°. Place asparagus on a flat baking sheet, and toss with olive oil, and salt + pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until tender.

Combine the above three elements for a comforting meal, or incorporate as side dishes at your next dinner party.

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