christmas cheez-its

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Instead of cookies, I made Christmas cheez-its, powered by Crossroads Farm’s pasilla, esplette, and Hungarian cherry pepper powders.  They were a hit.  I may never bake cookies again.  Especially good served with smoked whitefish dip.  So my present to you is the recipe. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cheese Crackers

Yield: 2-3 dozen, depending on how thick

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into slices when cold
  • 2 cups white wheat flour or wheat/rye combo
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar, or a cheddar/stronger cheese mix like aged gouda
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Smoked paprika or esplette or pasilla powder and sesame seeds for topping

Cut butter into pieces and let sit on counter to soften.  Grate cheese. Add an ice cube to a bowl of water to chill.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor bowl; pulse to combine. Add the butter and cheese and pulse until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add 2 tablespoons water and pulse until the dough falls away from the sides of the bowl and can be formed into a crumbly ball, adding a little more water if necessary.

Divide the dough in two, forming it into a disk if you plan to roll it out, or a log if you’re lazy like me and just want to slice it.  Chill for 1 hour to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Either roll the dough out or slice your log into pieces 1/8-inch thick (no more!).  You may need to let it warm up first on the counter a bit if you chilled overnight for easier rolling. You are aiming for thin, crisp crackers, so take care to make thickness even and consistent.

For Cheez-It-like bits, cut into 3/4-inch-wide squares and poke a hole in the center of each square with a skewer.

Place crackers on parchment-lined baking sheets and brush with egg white, then dust with paprika or the like and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake until the dough is not shiny/raw and barely golden on the bottom, about 20-22 minutes. Store completely cooled crackers in an airtight container.

*Note: I forgot to brush with egg white, so the toppings slid off for the photo.  Follow me at your peril!

 

 

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restaurants open for christmas in eugene 2014

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Looking for a roundup of restaurants open on Christmas?  I’m so thankful that Eugene Cascades and Coast continues to gather up a partial list of some eateries open Christmas and Christmas Eve 2014.  This year, I noticed more Florence and Junction City places on the list, and fewer places listed for Christmas.  Please note that these restaurants are also open on Christmas, among others:

  • Kung Fu Bistro
  • Sizzle Pie
  • Izakaya Meiji
  • SweetWaters on the River
  • House of Chen
  • Sixth Street Grill
  • Empire Buffet
  • Rennie’s
  • Centennial Steak House (Springfield)

If you’re looking to volunteer or have a low-cost meal, see this useful handout from 2012. Some info will have changed, but it’s a good start.

 

10 great pacific northwest cookbooks, plus extras

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I’ve done some thinking on Oregon and greater Northwest cookbooks and other food books after receiving such interest in the cookbooks section of my annual holiday food gifts post.  I thought I’d share them for you, my dear last-minute gifters.  These are books that are not just local, but actually provide singular and excellent recipes and/or comprehensive techniques (not the case with the still-in-print for its baffling popularity, A Taste of Oregon cookbook).

If you can’t get your hands on The Oregonian from 1942 or some of our earliest and most rare cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th century — like the Web-Foot Cook Book (1885), A Portland Girl at the Chafing Dish (1890), or the Washington Women’s suffrage fundraising cookbook (1909) — and you can’t make a visit to the UO Knight Library Special Collections, might I suggest:

  • Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast is a comprehensive system from the esteemed Portland (and former Eugenius) baker/restaurateur.  It provides the intermediate-and-above home baker with techniques to make various starters and big, beautiful loaves.
  • The Paley Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley is one of the classics of PNW regional cooking.  As I wrote in a review in 2009 for Eugene Weekly, “The gorgeous photos and high quality paper make the coffee table-sized [book] a visual treat. […] Some fabulous dishes that can be recreated by the creative home cook, like lamb shoulder on hay and lavender, are just the beginning. I found myself marking so many pages: homemade cranberry juice, ricotta cheese, summer corncob stock for light soups … wow. A section called “Hazelnuts Make Everything Taste Better” and portraits of wild salmon fishermen and mushroom foraging stamp this book as a PNW classic. Some very complex dishes, such as the elk shoulder, are interspersed with simpler preparations, like a mint and fava bean pappardelle or a side of peas and carrots with bacon.”
  • The Grand Central Baking Book, from the same review: “I had to wrestle it out of my editor’s floury fingers. She was muttering something about gingerbread, so I thought quick and baked up some delectable oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and a rosemary bread pudding before she could renew her strength and overtake me. This one’s a delight. Piper Davis, the co-owner of Portland’s celebrated Grand Central Baking Company, has partnered with pastry chef Ellen Jackson in a beautifully produced collection of breads, cakes and sweet and savory projects, all outlined with clear instructions and images on beautiful paper.”
  • James Beard’s tome, American Cookery, is not exactly a PNW cookbook, but it includes recipes distilled from years of writing a column in The Oregonian.  One might likewise check out The Oregonian Cookbook, which has a full chapter on Beard’s recipes, plus another good chapter on recipes by local chefs.
  • Beard’s good friend Helen Evans Brown’s West Coast Cook Book, is the best cookbook from the 1950s I’ve seen and perhaps the only truly regional/locavore one from ’round these parts written in that era, full of historical sources and then-contemporary recipes from up and down the left coast.  She’s witty and has a good palate, too.
  • Scio, Oregon-based Linda Ziedrich’s twin preservation cookbooks, The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Preserves and The Joy of Pickling, are undoubtedly the two books I turn to most often for preserving local produce.  Everything from rosehips to peas to prunes, with most techniques based on her Master Food Preserver training, are covered in the books.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda for the Register-Guard a few years ago.
  • Modernist Cuisine at Home, by a massive team led by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, will delight the science/molecular gastronomists in your home.  This isn’t really my style of cooking, but everyone who enjoys it seems to be thrilled by this giant handbook.  It’s a less giant and more home-oriented version of the 6-volume monster version for the professional cook, which I have perused and written about and exhibited and pondered at length, so I can predict with some authority that the little brother is likely beautiful and precise and gel-dust-sous vide-foamy.

And here are two more for your consideration, not cookbooks but still excellent for the PNW food and bev lover:

  • Lisa Morrison’s Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest came to my attention after taking her class on beer glasses in Astoria, and I did a tiny interview with her for AAA’s Via magazine.  She’s part owner of Portland’s Belmont Station, and knows the PNW beer scene better than almost anyone.  The book provides breweries, beer lists, and pub crawls.
  • The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe, a seed steward, agricultural activist, and Harvard-trained scientist whose vegetable lines are grown by local Willamette Valley farmers to great acclaim.  The book sets out a plan for improving your garden’s health and heartiness by cultivating the most nutrient-enriched foods, like squash (Carol’s own breed of ‘Oregon Homestead’ sweet meat squash, which I wrote about in Eugene Magazine this fall), beans, potatoes, corn, and reaping the best from small livestock, like her heritage Ancona ducks.

And these were the cookbooks I mentioned earlier, just for completion’s sake:

  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book, one of the only cocktail books out there to offer a solid, technique-based guide for the home bartender.  Expect to understand principles and classics, not fancy trends.
  •  Boat, a Whale & a Walrus by Seattle chef Renee Erickson, whose restaurants — modern, chic, vibrant, briny — embody perhaps the epitome of contemporary PNW cuisine.
  • Not a cookbook, quite, but Heather Arndt Anderson’s new book about the food history of our fair City of Roses to the north, Portland: A Food Biography, promises to be filled with fun facts and even some descriptive recipes.  Her Tumblr page is fascinating and reflects her research acumen; be sure to click through to buy the book directly from her or the publisher. It also has a chapter on vintage Portland and Oregon cookbooks.
  • Anthony Boutard’s Beautiful Corn, the best treatment I’ve seen on the science and culinary merit of corn from a mellifluous farmer/writer in the tradition of Wendell Berry.
  • Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home by my fellow Eugene locavore, Elin England, whose second book concentrates on the local Renaissance of staple crops we’ve been experiencing.

Disclaimer:  Apart from the two books I reviewed for EW, I didn’t get any of these books for free, dang it.  Doing it wrong, as usual.  But the pleasure in the purchase is all mine.

 

restaurants open on christmas in eugene 2013

This is the post for 2013. For 2014, click here.EDTHave you seen the new Eugene Magazine food issue?  Rush out and get it now for great profiles on some of our best restaurants, old and new, and ideas about holiday gifts for locavores.  My contribution, the regular column Eat Drink Think, focuses on a local farm, Sunset Lane, that is one of the only commercial producers in the U. S. of that singular winter vegetable, Belgian endive.  I included an updated recipe for braised endive nestled under a blue-cheesy, candied walnut and pear topping.  Perfect for Christmas.

But if you don’t want to cook, you can really help our local economy. The Great Winter Freeze 2013 affected local businesses deeply, so any support we can give to our restaurants in December would be deeply appreciated.

So…here’s my annual roundup of restaurants open on those celebratory days of December!  This year, Eugene Cascades and Coast has gathered a list of some eateries open Christmas and Eve 2013, so go ahead and click ze link for many details.  In addition:

Christmas dinners: Sweetwaters on the River, Shari’s (multiple locations) and Sixth Street Grill, are all open, as listed in the link.  Izakaya Meiji, not mentioned on the list, is also open on Christmas Eve and Christmas.  Taste of India is open, with specials of saag paneer and lamb vindaloo.  Sizzle Pie is open, and there’s a buy-one-large-get-one-free special!  It’s also worth calling your favorite Chinese restaurant to see if they are open.  I hear Fortune Inn is one of ’em.

Christmas Eve dinners: Belly has a special menu, including goose and chestnuts; Rye also has a special menu. Marché Restaurant is offering their annual Réveillon de Noël, details here.  I don’t see any information on King Estate’s website this year, so I’m not sure if they’ll be doing Christmas Eve.

New Year’s Eve Dinners: Izakaya Meiji, Noli, Ox & Fin, Marché, Soubise, and the new Whiteaker establishment, Grit.  Party Downtown and sushi restaurant Mame are collaborating on a NYE extravaganza — seats are going fast, so contact them for a reservation ASAP.

Looking for holiday libations?  Belly has their excellent egg nog; Soubise has hot buttered rum and mulled wine; Party Downtown has MULLED ALE OMGWTFYUM, an old recipe revived by James, tasting of gingerbread and a little bitterness, so ideal for the holidays; and Marché has plenty of bubbly.

Please let me know if you know of other places or specials I should add.

If you’re looking to volunteer or have a low-cost meal, Lane County holds an annual Christmas dinner for seniors.  They’re especially underfunded this year, so please consider donating.  More information on KEZI’s report.  For more programs, including holiday food boxes, see this useful handout from 2012. Some info will have changed, but it’s a good start.

IMG_4988And it might be too late for this last announcement, but worth a shot.  Many of our favorite restaurants do catering, special dinners, and holiday parties.  Give them a call.  I had the great honor of introducing James Beard award-winning author Hank Shaw at a dinner promoting his new cookbook, Duck, Duck, Goose earlier this week at Party Downtown.  It was a benefit for the McKenzie River Trust, and a sold out and wonderfully relaxed, cheerful event. Check out the menu and all the photos here.

another crabby christmas

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Hope you had a happy Christmas, either celebrating or not celebrating.  We had our usual feast of crab.  Just crab.  Nothing else.  Simple, no?  We usually get enough for leftovers — sometimes I make traditional crab soup.  This year, I’m making California rolls from the crab, tobiko fish eggs, and avocado. It’s appropriate, since we had to buy California crabs this year due to the Oregon crab season’s delay.  Not opening ’til December 30.  Argh!

Retrogrouch is from Baltimore, where they eat crabs whole and hot, so we’ve learned instruct Oregon fishmongers not to clean our crabs or (egads) put them on ice, and then I quickly re-steam them with Old Bay and beer.  Boris the cat helps by eating the mustard, the yellowy innards that are harder to eat on a Dungeness crab than on a Maryland Blue crab.  Yes, he sits at the table.  No, he isn’t allowed to do this at any other time.

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We finished off the evening, or I should say *I* finished off the evening, with the rest of my special Tyrkisk peber (a salty, spicy black licorice candy from Finland) cocoa gingerbread cookies.  They are the ugly ones above. And a serving of eggnog bread pudding as a nightcap.

I suppose I should really cook the crabs properly by purchasing them live, but they’d have to hang out for a day and I’m not sure I need that hassle.  Christmas is a day of indulgence for me: no errands, no real cooking, no email, nothing but being present in the moment.  Very hard to do.  I flirt with the idea, occasionally, of following the Jewish Shabbat traditions where one just checks out for a day of rest each week from sundown to sundown, Friday to Saturday, to enjoy the company of one’s family and friends.  Unfortunately, this is difficult to manage when one’s family and friends are connected mainly by internet. :) Not to mention, of course, you wouldn’t see an observant Jew eating crab to celebrate Christmas.  But dunno. Maybe this idea is worth pursuing in the new year.  I need a little more peace.  Don’t we all?

eugene restaurants open on christmas and eve 2012

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Jan Steen’s portrait of a baker and his wife, 17th c.

This post is from 2012.  For 2013, click here!

A skosh late, but here’s the annual update of restaurants that will be open on Christmas in our fair (and currently not raining!) city of Eugene, Oregon in 2012.  What else is open on Christmas?  Please comment with additions to the list.

Christmas Hours:

  • Eugene Coffee Company for all your caffeination needs (8 am – 2 pm). “It’s always a fun and busy day on Christmas at the shop. So few places to go and be with people but we are here for you! And a big thank you to Brandie and Jess for offering to work today! Have a great day everyone.”
  • Izakaya Meiji — open normal hours (5 pm – 1 am).
  • Marché Restaurant — open until 1 pm for breakfast/brunch.
  • Barn Light — 6pm – Midnight (only open until 8 pm Christmas Eve).
  • Sweetwater Grill’s Christmas Buffet — open 12 pm – 6 pm
    $ 45.00 adults $ 20.00 children 5-12 years
  • Sixth Street Grill — open 2-10 pm.  “It’s Tuesday which means it’s Burger-n-Brew night! A charbroiled burger topped with cheddar & swiss, thick smoked bacon, avocado, grilled onions & mushrooms on a toasted bun with mayo, lettuce & tomato. And it comes with fries and your choice of a pint of beer or soda for only $7.50!”
  • If you’re interested in national chain restaurants in Eugene and elsewhere open on Christmas, try this helpful link.

Plus, two special Christmas Eve Dinners (call ASAP for reservations — King Estate is 541-942-9874 ext. 132 and Marché is 541-342-3612):

King Estate’s Specials — Christmas Eve

  • Whole Dungeness Crab with Orange Cranberry Slaw, Pommes Frites, Aromatic Butter and Aioli, $27
  • Holiday Meats: Venison Sausage, Duck Breast Prosciutto, Crispy Pork Belly, Lamb Rillet, Sweet Potato, Braised Winter Kale and Apple Cider Sauce, $28

Marché’s Reveillon de Noel Christmas Eve

A Menu in the Spirit of the traditional Christmas Eve Supper in Provence, $40.

  • Hors d’Oeuvres Varies: brandade in puff pastry, celery salad & anchovy dressing, and tapenade croutes
  • Mesclun avec Fromage Frais de Chevre et aux Oranges: mixed winter greens with goat cheese & oranges
  • Canneloni Aux Champignons Sauvages: pasta with wild mushrooms and truffles
  • or Gigot d’Agneau a la Provencale: roast leg of lamb with herbes de provence, creamy polenta & roasted root vegetables
  • or Bouillabaisse: pacific rockfish and shellfish poached in a saffron broth with fennel and leeks, served with croutes & aioli
  • Les Treize Desserts: lavender honey nougat & hazelnuts, pistachio ice cream & dried cherries, date & walnut cake with tangerine creme anglaise, milk chocolate coins with figs, almonds & orange peel.

it’s all downhill from here

Close to 900 hits on my blog yesterday from people looking for restaurants open in Eugene on Christmas.  Any thoughts, local entrepreneurs and/or businesses who were open and didn’t update your websites?

I am almost hesitant to admit I found Christmas a bit much this year.  But what I found at Safeway, above, took the cake.