A Year Of ...

One year into this long strange trip.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of The Weekly Menu.  Since starting that first edition, I’ve written more than 118,000 words, shared more than 200 recipes, and taken … well, a whole lot of photographs of dishes, ingredients and occasionally - my thumb.  I’m working on compiling all of the past year’s menus into an eBook - and it’s already nearly 500 pages long (stay tuned for more about that in the coming weeks).  Because I took a few weeks off here and there, and did a couple of clips show type editions, I haven’t done 52 newsletters yet – but I don’t think that’s a reason not to celebrate. 

It just means I get to celebrate again when I hit that mark.  Like a half birthday.  Or Presidents’ Day.  They’re not real holidays, but who really cares.  They’re a perfect excuse to have a party or a mattress sale. 

So, this week’s newsletter is a bit of a celebratory edition.  While normally small celebrations in our household involve chicken wings and fewer dishes, for this small celebration I went in the opposite direction.  It’s a little more involved and a little “fancier” than some of the menus I’ve shared.  It’s a dinner party menu – though at least here we’re still not really doing dinner parties.  It’s a luxury meal but prepared with some pretty simple ingredients – pretty much everything you should find at your local grocery.

Thanks for joining me on this weird journey – and thanks for sharing with your friends and family. If you’ve enjoyed The Weekly Menu, please consider sharing it - or sharing it again (just click one of those Share the Weekly Menu buttons). 

You can also support my work here by subscribing to my other project, The Chicken Thigh Guy via Fond, a great new recipe app, or by shopping through The Chicken Thigh Guy’s equipment page.

Here’s to a year of The Weekly Menu.

Simple Sourdough Rye with Smoked Honey Butter

I haven’t been including as many breads in menus of late.  That’s not because I’ve run out of breads to share (though sometimes I have to dig pretty deep to come up with something), or because I thought they were more trouble than they’re worth (they can be). Honestly, it’s because this summer has been so hot, and because the air-conditioner in our hundred-plus year old house can’t keep up with 90 degree days and a 400 degree oven.  As a result, there’s been less baking in the summer and less to share with all of you.  That being said, it didn’t seem like a celebratory menu without bread.  To me, bread on the table is essential to a meal feeling like a party.  It’s the perfect thing to fill that gap in conversation, to carry you from one course to the next, and best of all – something to snack on when that one course just isn’t to your liking or to soak up particularly awesome sauce.

Today’s bread is a rustic rye loaf that’s a little heavy – in a good way – paired with one of my favorite spreads – butter spiked with honey and smoke.  I use liquid smoke as opposed to smoking the honey both because I’m lazy and don’t want to break out the smoker, but also because it allows me to better control the level of smoke.  You can use whatever honey you like, but with the flavors of the rye in the bread, I’m partial to the dark color  and  funky almost barnyard flavors of buckwheat honey. Yeah, it looks like peanut butter in the pic above, but it’s buckwheat honey butter - with slightly crystallized honey because it’s been in my pantry for sort of a long time.

250 g bread flour
150 g rye flour
200 g 100% sourdough starter (or 100g water, 100g bread flour plus 3 g instant yeast)
225 g unchlorinated spring water
11 g kosher salt

Add the water and starter (or equivalent) to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Add the bread flour, rye flour, and salt.

Process until a ragged dough is formed.

Turn out into a covered container and allow to rise overnight.

The next morning, using a wet hand to prevent sticking, pull and fold the dough over in the container three times.

Allow to rest 30 minutes, then repeat.  Do this four times total (over 2 hours).

After the final fold, turn the dough out onto a non-floured surface.

Pulling your cupped hands toward you, shape the dough into a ball.  Allow the dough to rest for ten minutes.

Once again, shape the dough into a ball by pulling it towards you to create a smooth tensioned surface.

Flour the ball well and place it flour side down in a banneton or floured towel-lined bowl. 

Cover with a damp towel and allow to proof for at least 2 hours.

Preheat your oven - with a dutch oven or cast iron combo cooker inside - to 425°F

Turn the loaf out of the bowl or banneton onto a sheet of parchment cut just larger than the bottom of the loaf. 

Cut slashes into the top of the loaf to allow expansion.

Carefully place the loaf into the hot dutch oven. 

Cover, and bake for 35 minutes.

Uncover, and back for another 20 minutes, or until a dark crust has developed.

Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Smoked Honey Butter

8 tbsp softened, unsalted butter
1 tbsp honey
3 drops liquid smoke

Combine all ingredients with a spatula or whisk.

If refrigerating, allow to come to room temperature before serving.

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Corn Crab Cakes with Yellow Tomato Jam and Charred Tomato Consommé

This is a variation on a dish I did for a private party a few months ago.  We wanted to feature the amazing summer produce that was just beginning to show up in the farmers markets around town.  There, we went with an Elotes flavor profile.  This time, at the waning end of that produce season, I wanted to include the corn, but really focus on the amazing tomatoes we’re getting in our own garden and at the market up the street. 

You can pick and choose how complex you want to make this dish – the crab cake on its own is delicious.  The chive oil is mostly decorative, but the tomato jam and the consommé really add some depth.  If you find yourself wanting to choose between those two – I really recommend taking the time to make the consommé.  The flavors of the charred tomatoes work very well with the crab, and really – I’d probably enjoy it all on its own.

1 lb lump crab meat
1 piece sweet corn
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp mayonnaise
¼ cup plus 4 tbsp plain bread crumbs
1 tsp finely minced chives
½ tbsp kosher salt
½ tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 egg
Herbs for garnish

Shuck the corn and using a sharp knife remove the kernels.

Add 1 tsp unsalted butter to a pan over medium heat.

Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the corn, and cook for 2 minutes, or until just slightly softened.

Remove the corn from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Add 4 tbsp of the corn, the crab, the chives, salt, pepper, mayonnaise and 4 tbsp of the breadcrumbs to a non-reactive bowl and gently mix well taking care to fully integrate the ingredients but trying not to completely break up the crab.

Shape the mixture into four even pucks.

Whisk the egg with a little water and brush the flat ends of each crab cake with egg wash.

Scatter the remaining breadcrumbs on a plate in thin layer.

Dip the egg washed ends of the crab cake into the breadcrumbs.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp of butter to a pan over medium heat.

Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the crab cakes. 

Cook, turning once, until the breaded sides are well browned, and the mixture is warmed through.

To finish, spoon a disk of tomato jam (below) in the center of a plate or bowl.

Place the warm crab cake on the jam.

Pour charred tomato consommé (below) around the dish – not over the crab cake – and garnish with chive oil (recipe follows), remaining corn and fresh herbs.

Chive Oil

1 bunch chives
1 cup neutral oil

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and prepare an ice bath.

Blanch the chives for 30 seconds in boiling water, then shock in the ice bath.

Remove the chives, allow them to drain, then using a towel, squeeze out as much excess water as is possible.

Chop the blanched chives into small pieces and place in the container of a high-speed blender.

Add the oil and process on high until well combined.

Strain through a fine strainer and allow to settle before using.

Yellow Tomato Jam

4 large yellow tomatoes
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp kosher salt

Coarsely chop the tomatoes.

Add to a large, thick bottomed pot with enough water to cover.

Add the sugar and salt, and bring to a simmer.

Cook covered until the tomatoes are very soft, up to 90 minutes, adding additional water as necessary.

Once very soft, use the back of a spoon or a silicone spatula to press the mixture through a sieve or strainer to separate the skin and seeds from the pulp.

Wipe out the pan, discard the skin and seeds and return the sieved mixture to the pan and cook on low heat until the jam is reduced to about ¼ cup volume.

Charred Tomato Consommé

4 medium red tomatoes
1 rib celery
½ white onion
1 tsp kosher salt
1 sprig thyme
6 black peppercorns

Preheat your broiler on high.

Slice the tomatoes in half crosswise.

Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan and place in the broiler.

Cook until well charred - the time will vary based on your broiler and your tomatoes..

Peel and trim the onion.

Add the charred tomatoes, the celery rib, ½ the onion, the salt, thyme, and peppercorns to 6 cups of cold water.

Slowly bring the water to a very low simmer.

Cook for 1 hour.

Strain through a clean towel. 

Serve warm.

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Celery Salad Redux

I included a celery salad in a menu way back in November of 2020.  This is sort of a redux, another simple take on a salad made with humble celery.  It’s not a joke.  Celery makes a great salad.  While you can simply slice it, dress it, and toss it on a plate, you’ll find it’s a more enjoyable ingredient if you take the time to peel the stringy side of each rib.  I use super sharp, inexpensive Y-peelers for more kitchen tasks of this sort, and they’re perfect for this one.

I love the texture of puffed grains in salads, and I’ve included instructions for making puffed faro here.   FaFaro’s an ancient wheat variety, usually prepared like rice or as a porridge.  It has a nutty flavor that’s a great compliment to the assertively vegetal nature of the celery.  You can find it in most grocery stores – usually shelved with quinoa and other hippy grain stuff – but if you don’t want to fuss with it, I suggest substituting lightly toasted walnuts.

4 ribs celery plus leaves
1 large or two medium apples
1 small red onion
¼ cup puffed Faro
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

Trim, peel, and  thinly slice the celery diagonally. 

Place the sliced celery in cold water.

Peel, trim, and thinly slice the onion from end to end.

Peel, and cut the apple into matchsticks.

Peel, trim, and crush or microplane the garlic.

In a non-reactive bowl, mix the lemon juice, garlic, and mustard. 

Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes. 

Whisk in the oil.  

Drain the celery.

Toss the apples, celery, parmesan,and onions with the dressing.

Arrange on the plate and top with scattered puffed faro.

Puffed Faro

¼ cup faro
1 cup neutral oil

Prepare the faro according to package directions.

Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature.

Spread the cooked faro in a thin even layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Place in the oven and heat until the faro is dried.

Heat the oil in a thick bottomed pan until it reaches 350°F.

Quickly fry the faro so that it puffs and crisps.

Remove with a spider or strainer and allow to drain on a paper towel.

Cool completely before using.

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Short Ribs Braised with Coffee, Molasses and Spice

Long, braised short ribs are one of my favorite fall and winter dishes. That’s the long and short of it. Get it? I’m hillarious.  Slow cooked until they soften and release all their copious gelatin into the braising liquid, they’re almost impossibly rich.  I’ve played around with a lot of different recipes for a braise – tomato based, soy sauce and ginger, red wine, but one of my favorites is to slowly cook them in coffee and spices.  In the past, I’ve leaned toward chipotle pepper as the spice to accompany the coffee – aiming for sort of a Mole flavor.  This time around, I went with molasses to amplify the sweet bitter nature of the coffee, and anise, peppercorns, and bay.  The resulting sauce is fragrant, sweet,  and just a little bitter.  It really cuts through and compliments the richness of the meat.

Instead of potatoes, I’ve paired this with a cauliflower puree that serves double duty as a sort of seconds sauce.  One piece of advice:  make sure you cook the cauliflower completely.  Like cook the crap out of it. Kill it to death.  One little bit of raw cauliflower will make the puree taste weird and horseradishy and unless that’s what you’re going for … just don’t.  It’s not good.

A little crown of fried onions adds some texture and flavor and if I was a king of something, I would totally demand a crown of fried onions because fried onions are amazing – even if that crown would probably end up looking like it came from Outback Steak House.

Oh, and I made twee little fancy carrots because they had them at the farmers market this weekend and they were too pretty to pass up.

4 bone in short ribs (not flanken cut)
4 cups brewed coffee
4 cups beef stock
2 tbsp molasses
4 cloves garlic
4 pieces star anise
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Peel and trim the garlic.

Brown the short ribs over high heat in an oven proof pan.

Add the coffee, beef stock, molasses, whole garlic cloves, star anise, bay leaf, and peppercorn to the pan.

Bring the pan to a simmer, then transfer to the oven.

Cook uncovered for 1 ½- 2 hours.

Turn the meat over.

Cook for another 1 ½ -2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Remove the meat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Strain the solids from the liquid and allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, and settled, skim the fat from the braising liquid (alternately, all previous steps can be done the day before and the meat and liquid refrigerated separately overnight).

Return the strained and skimmed braising liquid to the stove top, add 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, and bring to a simmer.

Cook until the sauce has been reduced to ½ cup.

Swirl in 4 tbsp softened butter.

Warm the meat in the sauce, portion, and serve with the sauce, stock glazed carrots, cauliflower puree, and fried onions.

Garnish with herbs.

Stock Glazed Carrots

8-12 small, top on carrots
1 cup high gelatin beef stock or 1 cup beef stock plus 2 tsp powdered gelatin
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp unsalted butter or rendered beef fat

Peel and trim the carrots.

Add the butter to a pan over medium heat.

As soon as the butter has stopped foaming, add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, or until very lightly colored on the surface.

Add the beef stock and salt and simmer until almost all the stock has evaporated.

Toss the carrots well in the reduced stock to glaze.

Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Puree

1 1lb head of white cauliflower
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt

Clean and trim the cauliflower, discarding any green parts or darkened pieces. 

Break into large pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.

Add the salt and cauliflower and cook uncovered until the vegetable is very soft – about 30 minutes.

Drain the cauliflower and transfer while still hot to the container of a high-speed blender.

Add the butter and process until smooth.

Taste and season with salt.

Crispy Fried Onions

1 large onion
¼ cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Neutral oil for frying

Peel, trim, and remove the ends from the onion.

Make a single cut, from end to end, halfway though the onion.  The goal is to turn the rings into long strings.

Thinly slice the onion crosswise.

Place the onion slices in a non-reactive bowl and season with salt.

Allow to rest on the counter for 30 minutes.

Drain any liquid from the onion and toss well to coat each piece with flour.

Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan to 350°F.

Fry the onions until crisp and well browned.

Drain on a paper towel.

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Unstructured Tart Tatin with Honeycomb, and Frozen Yogurt

If you’re a frequent reader you know that I usually end up with deconstructed or unconstructed or re-imagined desserts because I’m bad at plating fancy desserts.  Usually, this is true.  Not today – well, at least not as much as usual.  Today’s dessert is intentionally deconstructed.  Basically – because I spent some time at an apple orchard this weekend and because I was making puff pastry for another project - I wanted to make a Tarte Tatin.  But Tarte Tatin with all its unfussy-Frenchness didn’t seem quite right for the rest of the menu.

So I just broke it down into bits and pieces.

Also I can’t tell you how much it’s driving me crazy that I plated that slightly off center. No wait, I can tell you that.

It’s bugging me.

A lot.

Just not enough to reshoot it.

2 large apples
1 sheet prepared puff pastry
½ cup granulated sugar
8 pieces star anise
1 tbsp unsalted butter
4 pieces honeycomb
Fresh mint as garnish

Place the sugar in a dry pan over medium low heat.

Cook undisturbed until the sugar has completely melted and begun to caramelize.

Add 1 cup of water – be careful it will spatter and cook until the caramelized sugar is dissolved.

Add the star anise and simmer for 20 minutes.

Allow syrup to cool completely.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Roll out the puff pastry, and using a large ring cutter, cut out 8 disks.

Place the disks on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Using a pancake turner or spatula, turn the disks over, then place an additional sheet pan on top to weigh them down.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the disks are browned and crisp.

Remove from the oven and allow the pastry disks to cool completely.

Peel, trim, and remove the stem and blossom ends from the apple.

Cut into thick disks.

Add the butter to a pan over medium heat.

Once the butter has stopped foaming, brush the apple disks with the star anise syrup, and add to the pan.

Cook, turning occasionally and brushing with syrup until the apples are soft and browned.

To serve, brush the pastry disks with star anise syrup, and sandwich the caramelized apple between them (off-set the top for appearance).

Top with a quenelle of frozen yogurt, a piece of honeycomb, and  garnish with mint and star anise syrup.

Frozen Yogurt

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup granulated sugar

Whisk all ingredients together and process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.