Friday, November 27, 2009

Pork Tenderloin in Mexican Peanut Sauce

Sauces thickened with seeds and nuts are an old part of Mexico’s culinary patrimony. Pre-Columbian, even. Americans might know some of these moles, such mole poblano—a chocolate-tinged sauce beefed up with ground seeds and nuts often served over chicken or turkey.

Mexico’s peanut-thickened sauces are less familiar. Sure, we know about beef or chicken sate/satay, but pork or chicken in fried chile-and-peanut sauce is drifting into uncharted waters—even for many Mexicans.

Pity. It’s easy to make and tasty as hell. The fried and simmered sauce is thick and deeply flavored with cinnamon, pepper, and chiles.

After tasting a dish of pollo en cacahuate at a San Diego restaurant called Ranas, I dug into my library to compare notes among my Spanish-language food books. The version here I adapted from Filete de Cerdo en Cacahuate in Larousse de la cocina Mexicana. Spanish isn’t my first language, but I'm conversant enough not to starve or go homeless when I'm in Mexico or Spain, so I’m including the original recipe below for anyone who wants to see where I veered from its directions. In Mulli: el gran libro de los moles, Mexican chef Patricia Quintana suggests covering a similar dish—encacahuatado—with a massive amount of ground chiles piquin dusting the top of chicken in peanut sauce. There's enough heat here to suit my taste (it's a chiled peanut sauce, after all, not a peanutted chile sauce), but if that grabs your fancy, go ahead.

No need to fry nuts when perfectly good roasted peanuts are available from the store. Planters or Trader Joe’s low salt versions are fine. If you don’t have access to hoja santa, use two bay leaves and bump up the black pepper just a bit. Not the same anisy kick, but a good flavor, anyway.

Pork Tenderloin in Mexican Peanut Sauce

1 kg trimmed pork tenderloin (two should do it)
1 cup peanuts
3 oz of French bread or roll, into 1” slices
2 tablespoons corn oil
5 g ground cinnamon
salt to taste
1 Tbl guajillo chile powder
2 Tbl ancho chile powder
3 tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 hoja santa (sub two bay leaves if not available)
½ onion (125 g)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp black peppercorns
5 small hot peppers
1 tablespoon sugar
2 chipotle chiles in vinegar
2 cups (250 ml) chicken broth
2 tablespoons cane vinegar
1 cup (125 ml) red wine

Season the tenderloins with cinnamon and salt. Set aside. Meanwhile, fry the bread in oil in a deep heavy pot or Dutch oven until lightly browned. Set aside and brown the tenderloins in the oil. Set aside.

In a blender, grind to a puree the guajillo and ancho powders with the tomatoes, hoja santa, onion, garlic, peppers, sugar, peanuts, fried bread, and chipotle with enough stock to make a pourable paste.

Reheat the oil in the same pot and pour the sauce into it. Fry, stirring, and cook this paste in the oil over low heat 40 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking and scorching. When the sauce thickens, remove the fat that rises to the surface.

Add the remaining broth, the vinegar and wine, stirring until fully mixed.

Add the browned pork and simmer whole 15-20 minutes or until cooked. If the sauce thickens a lot, dilute it a bit with additional chicken broth.

Remove the tenderloins and allow to rest about ten minutes. Slice them into oval medallions. Now, either return the slices to the sauce and serve hot or nap a plate with the sauce, arrange a few slices over the top of that, and serve.

Goes well with fried plantains (right). Leftover sauce can be used to make enchiladas. Be careful on reheating to use a gentle fire and stir often: this will scorch easily.

And the original from Larousse de la cocina Mexicana:

Filete de Cerdo en Cacahuate

1 kg de filete de cerdo limpio
1 taza de cacahuates tostados y pelados
1 pan bolillo en rabandas
2 cucharadas de aceite de maiz
5 g de canela en polvo
2 chiles guajillos, desvenados y remojodos
3 jitomates bola
3 chiles anchos, desvenados y remojodos
1 hoja santa
½ cebolla (125 g)
2 dientes de ajo pelados
5 pimientas negras
5 pimientas de Tabasco
1 cucharada de azúcar
2 chiles chipotles en vinagre
2 tazas (250 ml) de caldo de pollo
2 cucharadas de vinagre de caña
1 taza (125 ml) de vino tinto

Fria el cacahuate y el pan en la mitad de aceiete sin dorar demasiado.

Espolvoree el filete con canela y sal.

Dore el filete con el resto del aceite y reservelo.

Muela la chile guajillo, cuelelo y reservelo.

Muela jitomates, chile guajillo, chile ancho, hoja santa, cebella, ajo, pimientas, azúcar, cacahuate, pan frito y chipotle.

Cocine esta mezcla a fuego lento 40 minutos, mueva constantamente para que no se pegue. Cuando la salsa espese, elimine la grasa que suba la superficie.

Anada caldo, vinagre y vino sin dejar de mover hasta integrar totalmente.

Agregue el filete entero y concinelo 15 minutos o hasta que este cocido. SI la salsa espesa mucho, rebaje con caldo de pollo.

Repose el filete y rebanelo en frio.

Regreselo a la salsa y sirva caliente.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Rowley’s Gift Guide for Drinkers: Parker’s Wine Bargains

The myth is that wines that cost $25 or less
are worth just what you pay for them
and are never terribly interesting.
This is totally untrue, and with work,
one can unearth these small treasures
that deliver seriously good wine
at remarkably fair prices.

~ Robert Parker

I’ll spend $80 on a nice whiskey, but once a bottle of wine creeps up to $30, I start to lose interest. This is not because I dislike wine: I like it quite a lot, but I’m deeply turned off by snobs of any stripe and the world of wine is lousy with them. There can be such pretense to the very vocabulary of wine, I’d just as soon not hang out with intense “wine people.” My loss: they could probably steer me to some great drinks.

And wine books? Feh. Except for those that give broad overviews, they grow out of date quickly. But Simon & Schuster just released an ephemeral buying guide I’m glad to have: Parker’s Wine Bargains: The World’s Best Wine Values Under $25.

Parker and his vinous staff list over 3,000 value wines by origin and winery, give succinct tasting notes, and include a “best of the best” index for each category.

For a wine piker like me, Parker’s guide is a handy little shopping tool. And it makes a fine gift for those those who—like me—enjoy great drinks but could use some advice of which bottle to pick up.

See the gift guide as it grows here.

See also MxMo XXVI: Hard Drinks for Hard Times.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rowley’s Gift Guide for Drinkers: Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails

Discretely check your drinker’s shelves before getting this one: it might already be there. Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails—now in its second edition—is the most useful introduction to classic cocktails on the market. While other scholars tackle classic drinks admirably, the breadth and depth of Haigh’s book are simply unparalleled.

Richly illustrated with graphics from Haigh’s personal collection of drinking ephemera, the book pulls together 100 recipes (“From Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond”) along with their backstories, origins, and liberal doses of unvarnished opinions about the proper way to make certain drinks or the spirits that elevate them from the merely lovely to the sublime.

The stand-out planter’s punch recipe below I first tasted at Tales of the Cocktail. Haigh reproduces it in this edition with notes on how New Orleans rum collector Steve Remsberg gathered the recipe (including the Secret Mix) from Jasper LaFranc at the Bay Roc Hotel in Montego Bay. It’s a keeper and we’re so glad it’s not forgotten.
Jasper’s Jamaican Planter’s Punch

1.5 oz dark Jamaican rum (Coruba)
1.5 oz Jasper’s Secret Mix (see below)

Add to a 10-ounce highball glass filled with cracked ice. Stir vigorously. Top off with more ice.

Jasper garnished his with a pineapple spear, an orange slice, and a cocktail cherry.

Steve garnishes his with fresh mint.

Jasper’s Secret Mix

Juice of 12 limes
1.5 cups sugar
1.25 oz Angostura bitters
½ whole nutmeg, grated

Stir the ingredients together in a mixing vessel until the sugar dissolves.

Let steep in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Store in a bottle in the refrigerator.
Vintage Spirits retails at $19.99. You can score a discounted copy at Amazon, but at $12.95 it’s slightly cheaper still through Mud Puddle.

See the gift guide as it grows here.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Rowley’s Gift Guide for Drinkers: Pre-Prohibition Cocktail Books

If you’re buying holiday presents for modern “cocktailians,” chances are they’ve got strong opinions about the proper way to make old drinks such as an Aviation, an Old Fashioned, a Japanese Cocktail, a Monkey Gland, or a Hari-Kari.

Set yourself up for being served some tasty beverages down the road by buying your little drinker some of Greg Boehm’s reproduction bartender manuals that include these drinks and hundreds more.

Under the Mud Puddle imprint, Boehm publishes facsimile editions of-out-of print cocktail manuals with introductions by modern drinks authorities such as Robert Hess, David Wondrich, Ted Haigh, Audrey Saunders, and Brain Rea. While original copies of some titles can go for hundreds of dollars through antiquarian sources or eBay, the Mud Puddle versions—which are near clones of the originals—can generally be had for under $30 each.

In general, the books document not just cocktails from bygone eras, but also recipes for country wines, cordials, syrups, and bitters. Of my thousands of recipe books, these are some of the tomes I mot enjoy plucking from the shelves. They are a must for anyone intent on getting serious about their cocktails.

For the record, here’s O. H. Byron’s 125-year-old recipe for the Hari-Kari

Make a whiskey sour large enough to half fill a brandy glass or tumbler when strained, and fill with seltzer or Vichy to suit the party.
Dress with fruits in season.
From The Modern Bartenders’ Guide
O. H. Byron (original 1884)
Mud Puddle Books 2008

Order this and other reproductions here: Mud Puddle Books

See the gift guide as it grows here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2nd Annual Northwest Eggnog Competition

Tomorrow night, Uptown Billiards Club in in Portland, Oregon is hosting the 2nd Annual Northwest Eggnog Competition. I'll be down in San Diego, but it sounds like area alcoholists, including Craig Hermann and Jeffrey Morgenthaler, are already gearing up and will be attending the best eggnog throwdown.

If I were anywhere within 40 miles, I'd be there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
7:00pm - 9:00pm
Elephant's Deli on NW 22nd Ave., Portland

* * *

As a side to this event, I've got to share this email I got from my buddy Barry. Barry lives near Elephant's Deli, so I called him today to let him know about the event, but also that I didn't yet have all the details.

Now, Barry uses Google's voicemail which also sends him an email with the (supposed) text of the call. I left him a message this afternoon suggesting that he check out the eggnog competition. Didn't know the details other than Morgenthaler tweeted about it. The gist of the message was to look into it because I was going to be in San Diego, didn't have any more info than that, and I didn't want to send him on a snipe hunt.

I busted out laughing at the worst transcription job I've ever seen. This is the complete gibberish that Google sent him as the text of my message:

Hey. It's Phil Shay are you talking about and I just remembered something on the road earlier in the week in Portland atthe post club. Olson's Deli which, I think it's just like of spring away from you tomorrow night. We're having some kind ofPortland bartenders. 8. Not competition and Jeffrey, Morgan dollar will be there. He's a bartender. Clyde common andhave a good point, and several others at least 10 times. I'm not sure which, but it sounds like something that might bekinda fun to do this. It's indeed. That's where it is on another LSATs telling them somewhere and he's got some free time. Idon't know what it is. I don't know any details that would you expect all at home and it's 7 a goes on facebook on 7 mycomputer and tomorrow so I'll be offline mostly for a week or so. Yeah, so give us a while and really do talk to them, cosI'm guessing I was just like swamping doing to our last time when you called. So that's why I was referred, but he's did alot of the virtual church on it. So with the lose of the pros and cons and I haven't had any problems so far as I can, I'd. I'ddefinitely love it and let me point out, it's because I know I have to the pickup the canoe colossal at. If you could. That'spretty cool. So yeah. Catch you later. Bye.

Oh, well done, Google.
Your friend,
Phil Shay


Monday, November 16, 2009

Rowley’s Gift Guide for Drinkers: Saffron Swizzle Sticks

Swizzle sticks—those little wooden dowels heavily encrusted with big, beautiful rock candy crystals—are easy enough to find in shops catering to the tea and coffee crowd. Those you’re likely to find are either uncolored clear or caramel sugar. Root about in candy stores, Asian markets, and baking supply houses and you may come up with a riot of colors—blue, magenta, orange, green, or even just bags of cheap raw amber lump crystals.

But if there’s a market in your community that supplies Middle Eastern foods, drop in, poke around, and see if you can’t find a box of the Persian saffron swizzle sticks known as nabat. Nabat is not just flavored with Iranian saffron, but when it’s in swizzle stick form, it often sports whole threads. Used as stirring sticks, they imbue hot drinks with funky, earthy sweetness.

Me? I especially like them in Rock & Rye, a drink that lets the musky, floral, and slightly bitter saffron play its lingering, seductive background notes.

Indian Foods Company sells a 9-stick box of nabat for about $11. The same box at North Park Produce, one of my neighborhood stores in San Diego, runs $4.

See the gift guide as it grows here.

Rowley’s Gift Guide for Drinkers: Introduction

Got a cocktail enthusiast in your life but are at a loss for a holiday present? I’ve got some ideas.

Every year, my family asks what I’d like for Christmas. Truth be told, I already have nearly everything I want. My wish list is either so modest (lunch and a movie with friends) or extravagant (a vintage BMW R75 or a old school Moto Guzzi) that I don’t really expect them as gifts.

But I do have notions for others who, like me, enjoy a drop of spirits on occasion. For the next several weeks, I’ll throw out sporadic ideas for books, bottles, tools, and the small things that make drinks and drinking better.

Next up: Saffron swizzle sticks.

See the gift guide as it grows here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rowley’s House Pickles with Pimento Dram

Every few months, I put up a few jars of mixed pickles for my lunches and occasional dinner if we’re grilling burgers or brats. Recently, I’ve begun spiking those batches with the Jamaican allspice liqueur called pimento dram. The change is good.

Pimento, as allspice is known in Jamaica, is the berry of a Caribbean myrtle tree (Pimenta diocia). It’s one of the few spices native to the new world and—in the US, anyway—is often included in baked desserts. Those who know it in cocktails, however, or in the cooking outside the US understand its savory role well. In fact, it’s responsible for the characteristic taste of Jamaican jerked chicken and pork, and can be found in sauerkraut, ham brines, pickled fish, jugged hare, picadillo, and Indian curries. I’ve also used it in shrimp ceviche and bread & butter bar eggs.

Here, I used a dose of it to oompf up our house pickles. If you don’t have any pimento dram on hand, you can either order some from Haus Alpenz here, substitute lightly toasted and barely cracked whole berries…or see Paul Clarke’s directions for making your own here at the Cocktail Chronicles.

Rowley’s House Pickles with Pimento Dram
(based on a recipe from Quick Pickles by Dan George)

Vegetables & Prep
3 lbs Kirbys or other small, thin-skinned pickling cucumbers
3 Tbl kosher salt
4 Tbl olive oil
1 lb mixed heirloom carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
3 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange) chopped into 1” chunks
1 large onion, peeled and chopped into 1” chunks
10 fat cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

Spiced Pickling Syrup
5 cups cider vinegar
3 cups brown sugar
2 Tbl Creole or Dijon mustard
1 Tbl each brown and yellow mustard seed
1 Tbl pimento dram OR 1 tsp dry toasted and cracked whole allspice berries
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
1 4” cinnamon stick
4 bay leaves

Trim ends of cucumber and slice each into thick coins (about ½” thick). In a stainless steel or glass bowl, toss sliced cucumbers and salt. Mix gently but thoroughly. Refrigerate cucumbers and salt for 1-2 hours.

Drain and rinse the salted cucumbers under cold running water.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large non-reactive saucepan, then sauté the carrots, onion, garlic, and bell pepper pieces at medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to sweat and just begin to soften—about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small frying pan, dry roast the mustard seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom pods, and allspice berries (if using) over medium high heat just until you hear the seeds begin to pop. Transfer to a medium nonreactive pot. Break the cinnamon and lightly toast it. Add it with the remaining syrup ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cucumbers to the vegetables in the large saucepan. Toss gently to combine. Bring the pickling syrup back to a boil. Pack three large preserving jars with the vegetables. Add pimento dram (if using) to the syrup, pour the hot liquid over the vegetables, and seal the jars. Set the jars aside to cool. Once cool, refrigerate.

Yield: slightly less than 1 US gallon/4 liters

Monday, November 9, 2009

Listen: Rowley Talks Homemade Liquor on WHYY

Now, you, too, can hear the mellifluous and dulcet tones of Matthew Rowley waxing geeky over liquor.

Though I sometimes doubt the wisdom of saying yes, I rarely turn down a radio interview. A few weeks back, I mentioned that I'd visited Chef Jim Coleman while I was in Philadelphia. Coleman is host of WHYY's weekly radio show, A Chef's Table. We talked about the history and legality of homemade liquor. During the interview, Coleman asked me about the most unusual spirit I'd come across in my travels. I wrote about that awkward moment here and here.

Now, the (edited) interview is up on WHYY's site without those awkward comments that make producers panic. I've snipped an mp3 of just my segment here.

If you want to listen to the whole show, though—including an interview with German chef and historian Walter Staib—click here, then scroll down to the bottom of the page.

The image above is the first page of Chapter 1 from my book Moonshine.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lost Abbey Gingerbread Cake

Serpent’s Stout is out now. Drink some now, eat some later.

Last year, I spent the better part of a Friday night with brewer Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey just north of San Diego. Before that, cheesemonger Zeke Ferguson, photographer John Schulz, and I began with lunch under the hop vines at Stone Brewing’s beer garden. We ended up at Lost Abbey among racks of oak barrels, eating cheese, breaking out funky chocolates, and sampling a load of Tomme’s specials, including some vintage bottles he pulled out so we could taste the variations over years. All in all, it was a great night.

It also made me more appreciative of Lost Abbey beers, so I’ve been scoring more of them since then. This week, I grabbed a stout. At 11% abv, Serpent’s Stout is a seasonally available beer (early winter) in a 750ml corked bottle. It’s a very dark, malty beer, light on the carbonation, with an almost creamy texture. Given its notes of chocolate, molasses, and even coffee, I immediately realized how well it would work in baking.

After lightly chilling the bottle, I poured out 8 ounces, then savored the rest as Tomme intended. The portion I set aside went into a dense, dark, moist gingerbread cake that carried over the lingering taste of Serpent’s Stout with undertones of molasses and racy ginger. Photo to the left courtesy of

Adapted from Claudia Fleming’s Guinness Stout Ginger Cake in The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, this version contains slightly more ginger and double the cardamom of the original.

Lost Abbey Gingerbread Cake

1 cup Lost Abbey Serpent Stout
1 cup molasses
½ Tbl baking soda
3 large eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup canola oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ Tbl ground ginger
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1 ½ Tbl peeled fresh gingerroot, grated or finely minced

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9- X 5-inch loaf pan, line the bottom and sides with parchment, and grease the parchment. Alternatively, butter and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan or ring mold.

(1) In a large and deep saucepan over high heat, combine the stout and molasses and bring just to a boil. Turn off the heat immediately, stir to mix thoroughly, and add the baking soda. The resulting foam will subside after a few beats.

(2) Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and both sugars in a bowl, then whisk in the oil.

(3) In a separate bowl, sift the flour, then whisk in ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.

Combine the stout mixture (1) with the egg mixture (2), then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture (3), half at a time. Add the fresh ginger and stir to combine.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until the top springs back when gently pressed and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Do not open the oven until the gingerbread is almost done, or the center may fall slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Because of the canola oil, this cake keeps at room temperature for several days. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or just plain with a cup of coffee or tea.

Goes well with:

Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights at The Lost Abbey’s tasting room.

Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey
155 Mata Way, Suite 104
San Marcos, CA 92069
(800) 918-6816