Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I am officially giving myself a break for the next 2 months while I finish planning the wedding and actually get myself married off. I may post now and then, but don't look for me back until October.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Asparagus, the harbinger of spring. It's a little past spring now as summer is just getting started in the Rose City, but asparagus still has a strong showing at the local markets. Asparagus is one of Brian and I's favorite vegetables and we are always looking for new ways to prepare it.

Earlier this year, when we were planning the menu for my dad's dinner, I wanted to make some kind of soup. We thought about a shrimp or lobster bisque first, but a lot of our menu was already so rich that we wanted something clean and fresh for the soup.

After browsing the various food recipe sites, I came across this recipe from Emeril. It looked simple and refreshing. I especially liked the idea of simmering the woody ends of the asparagus stalks (the part you don't eat) in the chicken stock, infusing it with asparagus flavor.

Creamy Asparagus Soup courtesy of Emeril via the Food Network

3 pounds fresh asparagus, rinsed
8 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup minced shallots
1 cup minced leeks, whites only, well rinsed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, garnish

Trim the attractive top tips from the asparagus, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Cut the woody stem ends from each spear and reserve. Cut the remaining tender stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the tough woody stems, lower the heat and simmer to infuse with asparagus flavor, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard, reserving the stock.

Add the decorative tips to the stock and blanch until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove with a strainer and refresh in an ice water bath. Drain on paper towels and reserve for the garnish. Reserve the stock.

In a medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When foamy, add the shallots and leeks and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved broth and simmer until the asparagus are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

With a hand-immersion blender or in batches in a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. If serving right away, return to medium heat and add the cream and reserved asparagus tips. Cook, stirring, until the soup is warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Alternatively, if serving the soup later, do not add the cream and let cool at room temperature (or in an ice water bath). Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, add the cream and asparagus tips, and warm the soup gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

To serve, place the soup in a soup tureen and sprinkle with cheese. Ladle into demi-tasse cups or small coffee or tea cups, and serve.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sel Gris

This post was written in November 2007 but never published. Why, I don't know.

As the new home of Portland favorite Chef Daniel Mondok - formerly of Carlyle and Olea, Sel Gris has to live up to some lofty expectations.

Ris de Veau: crisp sweetbreads, apple butter,“bacon and eggs”11. Melty-crisp sweetbreads were delicious. The "exploding egg pancake" that came with it impressed me with presentation, but I didn't care for the flavor. Too sweet. Brian scarfed it up happily.

Calamari “fritto misto”: Oregon rock shrimp, preserved lemon, green beans,Italian parsley, halibut gujonette, and walnut bagna cauda 10. I loved this - big chunks of halibut and shrimp lightly fried till crisp mixed with fried lemon and green beans sprinked with parsley. And the walnut bagna cauda is a warm dip of garlic, anchovies, walnut oil and cream. Luckily Brian was busy with the sweetbreads and let me have most of it. Hee hee.

Cauliflower Panna Cotta. Our server Tim brought this out gratis. Yes, it's Tim, the same server from Carlyle. He actually remembered us from our Valentine's Day dinner. That's a good server. Anyway, I loved this! It was cold, creamy and rich, tasting of cauliflower and cheese.

Duck Confit with baby chicories, Roquefort, sherry-shallot vinaigrette 12. Wow, great salad. I love duck, especially confited. This was the perfect venue for it - spicy chicory, intense Roquefort and the acidic dressing.

Endive salad with toasted walnuts, arugula, red wine spiced poached pears, Muscatel vinegar, under a "Humboldt Fog"9. What does under a Humboldt Fog mean? Something about cheese? It was good, too.

I wanted to order the salmon (pan roasted, crevette risotto, foie gras melted leeks, squid and crab "salad", butter poached prawn, coral oil), but I found I wasn't really hungry anymore. God, ya think? Brian went and ordered what would have been my second choice.

Diver Scallops: seared and bacon wrapped, polenta, foie gras béarnaise, figs and fennel 24. Decadence on a plate. The scallops were perfectly rare in the center, as expected, and the polenta and béarnaise gave each scallop bite a blanket of richness.

Daniel Mondok has hit his stride with Sel Gris. We are looking forward to seeing what other amazing creations come out of his kitchen.

Sel Gris
1852 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 517-7770
Dinner Monday - Saturday, 5:30 PM to close


Note: Sel Gris has recently been under attack by foie gras protestors. Please go as often as you can this month to support them. I will. (If you are anti-foie, don't bother spamming the comments; I won't publish your mis-directed diatribe.)