dinner

I’m currently sitting at my computer with a blanket and a cat on my lap, and wearing a hoodie and house slippers for the first time this year. Sounds like the perfect time to break out a stew recipe.

Pichelsteiner is a very typical stew, found in similar shapes and sizes all over the world. There are several stories to explain its invention, a common trait among stews. One folk tale details how a farmer’s wife fed the stew to a group of marauding soldiers, saving the day (and her family) with this new culinary invention. Another tale explains how a Bavarian chef prepared Pichelsteiner for party atop Büchelstein mountain (allegedly, the name of this dish morphed from there). Finally, the small Bavarian village of Regen, along the Czech border, claims ownership of this dish as well, which they have communally served at the anniversary of their church’s dedication in 1874.

Pichelsteiner shares another feature with other regional stews: it serves as the solution to those pesky leftovers that creep up in the fridge. As truly communal fare, the stew incorporates a spectrum of ingredients available to pre-industrial Germans: mushrooms, onion, carrots, leeks, cabbage, potatoes, and three types of meat. So if you don’t have all the ingredients, or if you have a couple extra that aren’t listed below, don’t fret – there’s a lot of wiggle room here.

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Salad Shirazi is a herb and vegetable salad from the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. It’s enjoyed year-round as a side dish, but is often served as a full meal during the hot summer months. While the vegetables are often diced – giving them an appearance not unlike Pico de Gallo – I have found that using larger chunks give each ingredient a bit more distinction, and results in a livelier eating experience.

There isn’t much to this recipe; theoretically, you could just throw all of the ingredients together and chow down. But I prefer to soak the onions in cold water first, which removes some astringency, and to salt the tomatoes and cucumbers to leech out a bit of their juice. That way, most of the salad’s moisture comes from more flavorful sources, like olive oil and lime juice.

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Shakshuka is a dish of tomatoes, peppers, and poached eggs, ubiquitous in North Africa and the Middle East. Countries across the Middle East, from Yemen to Turkey, claim to have first created the dish, where it then supposedly spread across North Africa. Regardless of origin, I like to think the best Shakshuka embodies many of the countries and cultures that claim ownership of this dish, so I like to incorporate many influences, like Harissa from Morocco, or olives and artichoke hearts from across the Mediterranean.

And that’s the beauty of this dish – there are so many possible variations, all readily available in most pantries and fridges, that this dish can be cooked up most any morning; it only takes a few extra minutes to turn your typical fried eggs into something magical. Today’s recipe hosts an all-inclusive mix of possible additions, a tapestry of what you could use – but if you’re missing an ingredient or two, it’ll still turn out spectacularly. And if you don’t have any pre-made Harissa within arm’s reach, and want to capitalize on the spontaneous nature of this dish, simple replace the Harissa with some tomato paste and cayenne (measurements in the recipe below).

On a separate note, my friends at ButcherBox are celebrating their two-year birthday (just ahead of our youngest son, Elliott!). To celebrate, they’re throwing in a package of two 10oz ribeyes (a $25 value) for new customers’ first orders – that’s in addition to $10 off that The Domestic Man readers already receive by using my affiliate link. I’m a big fan of ButcherBox, and I look forward to receiving my customizable box every month – stocked full of staples and new cuts of beef, pork, and/or chicken every time. This offer expires at midnight on Tuesday, October 3rd, so don’t wait!

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Potjiekos has all of the things I like in a good stew: tender and rich meat, sauce that’s bursting with deep flavors, subtly-seasoned vegetables, and a good backstory. I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately (well, once a week), and digging into the show’s theories and lore, so I’m most interested in the backstory part right now. Let’s dig in.

Cast-iron cooking was first popularized in Europe during the 1500s. During the Siege of Leiden, South Holland, in 1573-1574 (part of the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain), the local townspeople turned to communal hodgepodge cooking to survive – in small cast-iron pots, with any meat and vegetables they could find. This communal dish bore the name hutspot, and remains popular today.

Hutspot cooking was carried by Dutch explorers who arrived at the Cape of Good Hope (in present day Cape Town, South Africa) in 1652; over time, the dish started to incorporate new spices brought in from the Dutch East India Company, and took on the name Potjiekos (“small pot food”), using a small three-pronged cast-iron pot called a potjie pot, and cooked over an open fire.

Potjiekos eventually spread throughout South Africa when Voortrekkers (Dutch pioneers), dissatisfied with the then-British colonial administration of Cape Colony, migrated eastwards in 1837 into much of what makes greater South Africa today. Locals appreciated the practicality of potjie pots over their traditional clay pots, and they were integrated into several tribal cuisines – often to cook maize-based porridges such as putu or pap. It’s striking to see these medieval cauldrons take root in a place so far from their origin, and it’s a testament to the adaptability of humankind.

Today, Potjiekos remains a communal dish, cooked outdoors among friends (and a bottle of wine). If you are comfortable with cooking over an open fire, it’s definitely worth the extra effort. For everyone else, adding a bit of liquid smoke can replicate the experience while remaining in the kitchen. I even added Instant Pot instructions below the recipe, for good measure. This dish can be made with any meat, from lamb to chicken to fish, but I prefer the naturally rich flavor that comes from simmering oxtails.

Potjiekos is distinct from traditional stews in that the ingredients are not stirred together until right before serving; instead, the vegetables are layered over the meat and steamed, giving each ingredient its own distinct flavor. Additionally, you don’t want to add much liquid to the pot – just enough to cook the oxtails – since the vegetables will release plenty of liquid as they steam.

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One of my new favorite discoveries while developing recipes for my next cookbook is the versatility of green bananas.

I’m definitely comfortable cooking with plantains, both as a hearty side (see: Mofongo and Mangú) or as a complement to dishes like Jerk Chicken, Picadillo Cubano, and Ital Stew. As I started to dig a bit more deeply into Caribbean cuisines, I grew to appreciate the simplicity of just grabbing a few unripe bananas and giving them a quick boil – their texture is not unlike potatoes, but with a rib-sticking quality that is maybe a tiny bit more satisfying than your typical boiled spuds. They even do well in a cold salad, like this week’s recipe.

Guineitos en Escabeche (Pickled Green Bananas) is an excellent example of how you can take seemingly discordant ingredients – bananas, onion, garlic, olives, and vinegar – and come up with something that blends together pleasantly (and unexpectedly). Escabeche is a process of marinating food in a vinegar solution, most commonly used to preserve delicate fish in the Mediterranean and Latin America. For this dish, which is most associated with Puerto Rico, bananas take the center stage; try it as a side for your next summer cookout!

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I’ve been in a Thai food mood lately, as evidenced by last month’s Green Papaya Salad recipe. The flavors that are ubiquitous in Thai cooking – namely coconut, fish sauce, lemongrass, and lime – make for excellent summer eating.

Tom Kha Gai is a soup that often takes a backseat to its hot-and-sour sibling, Tom Yum. Both share several ingredients, but today’s recipe also contains coconut milk, which gives the soup a smooth flavor and tends to be a bit more filling, too. I first developed this recipe in partnership with my friends Brent and Heather for their blog, That Paleo Couple, and liked the results so much that I added a tweaked version to Paleo Takeout in 2015. The recipe you find below is what appeared in the book.

As its translated name (“Chicken Galangal Soup”) implies, this soup is best experienced with galangal, a rhizome (underground root) that is most similar to ginger. Ginger will work in a pinch, but consider buying dried galangal if you don’t have access to the fresh variety; dried galangal keeps well and works great in soups like this Tom Kha Gai. Same goes for kaffir lime leaves, which are easily reconstituted in warm water.

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Greetings from Virginia! We made it to our new home in one piece, and no worse for the wear. I’m still in the process of organizing our new kitchen, and acclimating to my new stovetop and oven, but I figure by next week’s recipe this new kitchen will feel like old hat to me.

Along with our other belongings, we ended up hauling up some frozen meat that we just didn’t have a chance to cook through before the big move. I’ve now made it my personal goal to use them all up by the end of the summer–starting with about 4 lbs of pork shoulder from my friends at ButcherBox, which I used in today’s recipe.

Pork Adobo is one of my favorite pork dishes to make. You’ll find an old recipe here on the blog, and there is a version of Pork Adobo in each of my printed cookbooks. Today’s preparation is easily my simplest: you cover and roast the pork at a low temperature for an hour to keep it tender, then you uncover and roast it at a high temperature for another hour to crisp it up and reduce the sauce.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the dish, from Paleo Takeout:

Adobo, often considered the national dish of the Philippines, is a method of stewing meat in vinegar. The word adobo itself is linked to a Spanish method of preserving raw meat by immersing it in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and paprika. When the Spanish observed an indigenous Philippine cooking method involving vinegar in the 16th century, they referred to it as adobo, and the name stuck. The original name for this dish is no longer known.

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Yesterday, we celebrated Memorial Day here in the US. Previously known as Decoration Day, it was first celebrated after the American Civil War to honor those who had died in the war. It later expanded to encompass anyone in the Armed Forces who had died while in service to the country. As a tradition, families would gather to put flowers on the graves of those who had fallen, and would follow it with a potluck meal. It became a Federal holiday in the 1970s, and is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

Today, Memorial Day means a lot of things to a lot of people – honoring fallen service members, family gatherings, the start of summer. From a culinary perspective, Memorial Day ushers in the start of grilling season (although that varies by region).

Each year, as I drag my grill out of the shed, I try and take a moment to remember those who gave their lives in defense of their country – regardless of the country they died serving, or the policy decisions that got them there. Having served in the US Navy these past 17 years, it hits close to home; I find myself recognizing more and more names of fallen service members each year. Human history is wrought with stories of people dying when they probably rather wouldn’t have, and I think it’s worth the time to reflect on that from time to time.

I’m a day late in posting my favorite grill recipe of this year, mostly because I’m currently on assignment in a different part of the country, and away from my usual churn of recipe development. Luckily I had this recipe set aside for summer, and it’s the perfect time to share.

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Potato pancakes are kind of a big deal in many homes, and everyone has their own method. There’s a lot of speculation as to what goes into making a good pancake, and my guess is that’s because it’s easy to mess up such a seemingly simple dish. Too many eggs and your pancakes are rubbery; too much flour or starch, and they’re too dense. Some insist on using cooked potatoes, while others insist you can’t.

Today’s recipe is my take on a middle-of-the-road potato pancake. It’s not tied to one specific culture, but takes cues from several approaches; mostly, I like the heft of Belorussian dranikis, but the crispiness of Jewish latkes.

Many recipes use wheat flour to ensure that the potatoes stick together, but I’ve found that my favorite approach is to re-employ the starch from peeled potatoes: dump them in a water bath and allow the starch to settle at the bottom, then pour off the water to use as a binder. This step takes an extra 10 minutes, but is well worth it in terms of reducing food waste (and saving money buying tons of potato starch).

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For those of you following my recently updated approach to recipe development, you’ve probably already guessed that the recipes in my new cookbook will cover a variety of traditional and international dishes. So far we’ve highlighted cuisine from France, the Caribbean, and the American South. Today we’ll be exploring Scandinavia, with this Norwegian Lamb and Cabbage Stew.

Originally from Western Norway (Vestlandet), Fårikål has become a widely-loved autumn staple, to the point where it was named Norway’s national dish in 1972. Scandalously, in 2014 the Norwegian Minister for Food & Agriculture demanded a new national dish be voted on–via email, no less! Fårikål won by a landslide, grabbing 45% of the vote and easily beating out Kjøttkaker (meatballs) and Raspeball (potato dumplings) for the top spot.

The traditional preparation of this dish couldn’t be simpler: layer some lamb, salt, and cabbage in a pot, then add water, potatoes, and peppercorns and simmer until everything is tender. I made a couple tweaks to complement the dish, such as dropping in the potatoes later in the process (so they don’t lose their body), and broiling the meat at the end for a nicer texture. In the end, this is still one of the most basic stews you’ll find anywhere, but Fårikål carries with it a rich flavor you may not expect from such a simple preparation.

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