Brownifer Bites: January 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Baked Spaghetti (with recipe)

I apologize for the quick snapshot, the kids were starving and ready to dig in!  I had just enough time as Brownie was cutting to get this picture :-)

As I've said before, we have picky kiddos with very different tastes.  Trying new things isn't always well-received.  This one was a 90% hit!  My daughter didn't like the 'crunchy pieces' - so do beware that the noodles on top can get crispy while baking.  Aside from that complaint, this was devoured in no time!

Now, since it's me .... I use recipes for inspiration.  I don't measure as much, so I can't tell you exactly how much I used, I go by how much I need to make and and what flavors I like.  But I don't have the creative foodie gene, I like recipes.  So here is basically what I did:


Fresh Basil (however much you prefer)
Canned Tomatoes
Spaghetti Noodles
Mozzarella Cheese (I get the longer 'logs' - I think I used two during this recipe with some leftover)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

-Start boiling your water for pasta
-Put canned tomatoes into the food processor until they're chopped up pretty well, but not saucy
-Heat some oil in a pan and cook some minced garlic (however much you want in your gorgeous sauce) until it smells amazing.
-Add your tomatoes and start simmering to cook down, salt to taste - maybe 15 minutes?  The sauce will seem a little watery - but your noodles are going to need that water during baking, so don't panic!
-While your sauce is cooking, get your pasta cooking - remember to only cook it about 5 minutes or just under the cooking time on the package - you only want them partially cooked!
-Cut 1/2 of your Mozzarella into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside
-Drain your pasta and return it to its pot
-Toss the pasta with your tomato sauce, cut mozzarella and basil
-Transfer mixture into your baking dish (whatever size works for how much you're making here)
-Slice remaining Mozzarella and place in a layer over the top of the spaghetti
-Bake until cheese is bubbly (maybe 25 minutes?)
-Cut and serve!

It's cheesy deliciousness that kids will love.  Yes, one picked out all of the basil but .... we take what we can get :-)  Next time I'll just put the basil in the food processor with the tomatoes and they'll eat it anyway! Muahahahahaha

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Brownifer Anniversary Dinner

We like to keep our anniversary private and between ourselves and .. after an expensive and amazing day in Portland on Saturday, we felt like being hermits and creating something yummy at home.  Recently, an old acquaintance of Brownie's gifted us with some Ground Wild Alaskan Mountain Goat.  If you know us at all, you know this was like a little gold nugget that we couldn't wait to play with.

We had some gorgeous pasta in the pantry, so we decided on goat meatballs and some of our home-canned marinara from last summer.  Our marinara by itself is incredible, but the flavor of this goat meat was to die for!!!!  I have never met this acquaintance, but my heartfelt thanks goes out to him for sharing this with us!!!

Happy Anniversary to US!!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Le Pigeon

We've been in a daze since dinner last night. This seems to be the inevitable outcome of dining at Le Pigeon in Portland; the restaurant just never disappoints. I say restaurant, because it isn't only about the chefs. The food they so eloquently prepare is the star, yes: but without every integral player, the experience of tasting impeccable food would be deficient. Let me break it down.

Wolfgang Puck said, "Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors - it's how you combine them that sets you apart." Let me tell you that this statement won't make any sense to you (even if you think it does) until you try Chef Rucker's creations. Honest, well-sourced, humble ingredients fondled and displayed in ways designed to take your breath away and question everything you think you know about putting food together. It's so incredibly daring and sexy. If a dish has ingredients at which I normally upturn my nose, at Le Pigeon I eat it fearlessly. I know and trust that it's a vital part of the flavors Chef Rucker has put together. And I love it. Every. Single. Time.
Seared Foie Gras, wild rice pancake, trout roe, sour cream, green onion, soy maple syrup

Food as music or poetry? Definitely. If Le Pigeon's food is the music, then his staff are the dancers in a flawless ballet. My favorite part of a culinary experience is getting lost in the food and wine so that my senses are swimming in a silvery pool of nirvana with not a care in the world. I shouldn't have to think about a THING but what that sophisticated food is doing to my innocent taste buds. At Le Pigeon I don't even have to choose my wine; they pair it perfectly with each dish I'm being served. And I do mean perfectly. The thing I love about wine (aside from the physical effects) is what it does to the food you're eating. If Chef Rucker's musical food is the peak of perfection, then the wines become part of the crescendo in a symphony written to entice your taste buds into a dancing frenzy you will never forget. Yes, there was a ballet in my mouth last night. (insert jokes here) and I freely admit it.
Scallop Crudo. Scallops, celery root, avocado, green apple sorbet, jalapeno, mezcal
Pan seared rainbow trout, crab, black lentils, five onion salad, chive, tarragon, crab hollandaise

Aside from the wine pairing and impeccable knowledge of each member of the staff on said wines, there are so many other nuances that make the experience amazing. Silverware is never a worry, the used is whisked away and fresh, clean brought in for the next course. If I place my napkin on my chair, table, if it's dangling from a rung on the chair when I get up to use the bathroom, it's neatly folded on the table when I return. The staff asks about food allergies, they know the food, if you're celebrating something special, they're sure to gush and join in the excitement. You are left to think of NOTHING but the food. You know how much I love a well-choreographed dance! 
Beef Bourguignon '2016'. Pinot noir braised beef cheek, potato latke, red onion marmalade, carrots montreal

Cheers to this amazing staff for the warm and inviting atmosphere they create for the guests. I always feel welcome.

The ambiance in the restauraunt (or the beautifully painted sets, if you will) deserves to be mentioned.  It's entirely unpretentious.  The chefs set the tone with their relaxed t-shirt/apron/tattoes ensemble; it's like your neighbor invited you over for some good food.  There may be 90s R & B, there may be gangster rap...whatever they feel like jammin' to while they make you some good food.

Foie gras profiteroles. Foie gras ice cream, foie gras infused powdered sugar, foie gras infused caramel sauce, sea salt 

Speaking of neighbors, you're close by the other guests so that, if the mood is right, you may strike up a conversation with a friendly stranger over your meal.  That person may be wearing a $500 suit and you may be in Levi's and a flannel.  He may be eating a $300 meal while you're splurging on a $14 burger and a domestic beer.  No one cares, no one notices.  It's about the food, not about being snooty and pompous.  There is no room for inflated egos in this inviting atmosphere.  It's a dinner-table-away-from-home.  Bring your bunny slippers.
Stumptown Coffee

Needless to say, anything we eat for the next month will pale in comparison to the experience we had last night.  For now, we're deliriously spoiled and satiated.  And I've rambled on for way too long.

All I really wanted to say was, Chef Rucker:  composer and choreographer of my favorite edible ballet.
After-Dinner Chocolate Mints

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cheese Bar Quickie

Our Day in Portland is coming to a close, we've decided to head to the restaurant to see if we can find parking on Burnside and possibly get a seat at the counter to watch the chefs cook.  But our last stop is Cheese Bar on Belmont.

We decided to be authentic and just order the cheese boards.  They are simple, no-fluff, straight about the cheese.  I like that.  They have awesome wines, microbrews and ciders available and the atmosphere is very cafe-laid-back.

The staff was super excited when we wanted to taste some cheese in the case while we waited on our food.  They interpreted my 'I like the crunchy cheeses...." perfectly and found exactly what kind of cheeses I was talking about.  These people KNOW CHEESE.  No one made me feel like an idiot for only knowing the common everyday cheeses, they just enthusiastically offered me options and steered us expertly toward exactly what we wanted.

We ended up buying three cuts of cheese that we can't wait to make a cheeseboard at home with .... we enjoyed our time here and the staff .... just awesome.  I can't wait to go back and try some of the other things on the menu!

Stop by and get your cheese on!!!  I guarantee you'll learn so much and come away with something amazing and mouth-watering!

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Eve Chopped Challenge

We had such a fun New Year's Eve with friends!  We had two people cooking and each of we wives put together a brown-bag cooking challenge, Chopped-styel!  The guys didn't know what ingredients they would be given and we all drank wine and laughed and talked while they created in the kitchen and the kiddos ran wild through the house, waiting for midnight - it was a blast!

This is Brownie's creation from last night - it was so goooooood!  I love it when he does these challenges and just blows me away!

Smoked tri-tip on top of Jen's fabulous toasted homemade bread w/purple carrot, pickled watermelon rind and berry puree, dollop of orange carrot garlic puree, sprinkled with parsley, chive and fleur de sel!