Posted by: caschaake | March 31, 2010

Braised Chicken Thighs with Leeks and Bacon

Well, it’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog. I gave up on it since I felt like it took too much effort, and a lot of my posts didn’t really have a point. I thought it’d be fun to give it another shot, mostly because I’d like to keep a record of what I cook. I was going to make my first new post about a roasted poblano pepper sauce I made for a pork chop. I emphasize was, because it turned out rather meh. I started typing, and realized I would probably not make the sauce again, unless I made some revisions. So, I decided to wait until I cooked something worth talking about. That particular dish is the title of this post.

There’s a fish recipe out of the Two Dudes One Pan cookbook that I love for its flavor and simplicity. However, I’ve been on kind of a fish binge recently with the opening of halibut seasoning, so I thought it’d be a good idea to mix it up with something different. I made chicken stock over the weekend and had some leftover chicken thighs, so chicken became the protein. The recipe itself is fairly simple. Sear the chicken, then saute leeks, bacon, garlic, thyme, and red pepper until its cooked. Add white wine and chicken stock for the braising liquid, then cook in the oven for about 30 minutes. Simple, right? Well, judge for yourself. Here’s the recipe.

Chicken thighs braised in white wine with leeks and bacon


– 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
– 4 small leeks, sliced
– 1 tablespoon canola oil
– 1 slice bacon, diced
– 2 cloves garlic, sliced
– 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
– 1 chile de arbol, crumbled
– 1/4 cup dry white wine
– chicken stock, or water


Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Pat the chicken thighs with a paper towel, then season them with salt and pepper.

Preheat a (oven-safe) saute pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until it’s hot. Add the canola oil and let it heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken thighs skin side down and sear them until the skin has become golden brown. Flip them and cook another 2 minutes until that side has been browned as well. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Remove excess fat and oil in the pan so there’s about 1 tablespoon remaining. Add the leeks and cook until they’re soft. Add the bacon, and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and chile de arbol and cook another minute.

Add the white wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce the wine by half. Add about a half cup of chicken stock (or water, if you don’t have stock on hand). Return the chicken thighs to the pan. Check the liquid level. If it doesn’t come about half way up the side of the chicken thighs, add enough so that it does.

Leave the pan on the burner until the liquid just starts to bubble. Transfer it to the oven (no lid) and let it braise for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken thighs are cooked. Remove the oven and serve.


Posted by: caschaake | November 28, 2008

Day 1 in London

I’ve only gotten 2 hours of sleep since leaving Santa Barbara on Thursday morning, so this is just going to be some highlights of the trip so far.
We had lunch at the Ship and Shovel, a few blocks from Westminster.  We all had fish and chips and pints of Pickled Partridge, a winter seasonal ale.  This was my first proper English pint, so I was taken off guard at first.  It was warmer than I was used to, and the bubbles weren’t dancing on my tongue.  I still liked it, but I definitely need to get used to the different style to fully appreciate it.
We went to the Winston Churchill and War Cabinets Museum, housed in the bunkers Churchill and his staff used during World War II.  It was fascinating to imagine what it must have been like during that time.  I didn’t know much about Churchill, and still don’t, but I feel like I should read a biography on him.
We went to Spamalot tonight, a musical based on Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.  It was quite hilarious, and I enjoyed seeing parts from one of my favorite childhood movies upon stage.  At the end, the finale involved getting an audience member on stage and dropping a bunch of confetti.  Very entertaining, and also helpful in waking me up a bit.
The concierge had made us a reservation at the Hampshire Hotel, near the theatre.  We sat down and realized it wasn’t an interesting menu, and didn’t even feel like much of  a restaurant.  We decided it was best to just try to walk around and find a place for dinner.  We ended up at Rock Garden near Covent Gardens.  We had a decent cote du rhone to go along some filets and pan fried swordfish.  Desert was a treacle (think caramel) pudding with ice cream. We had some single malt scotch to wash it down.  Not a fancy meal, but it sure hit the spot.

Posted by: caschaake | November 28, 2008

London Calling

This year, instead of the traditional Thanksgiving, my parents and I are travelling to London.  There are a few reasons for the trip.  One, my parents found some cheap tickets.   Two, they want to get enough miles to earn Platinum on American again.  Three, they haven’t had an overseas trip this year.  Basically, I was left out of the decision-making process.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  I’m incredibly stoked for this trip.  It’s a little odd not being in Texas to watch the Cowboys and Longhorns, gorge myself with turkey, and drink numerous bottles of wine.  Instead, I’ll be in jolly ol’ England, attending a couple musicals or plays, eating at some nice restaurants, and drinking pints at pubs.
We haven’t done the best job of planning this trip, so we only have a loose itinerary.   We’re staying at the Vanderbilt Hotel, the same hotel we stayed at our last time in London.   The things we want to do are see a couple musicals (Billy Elliot and Spamalot), visit the Tate Modern, do a little shopping, and drink a pint at an old pub. Our restaurant plans are less certain.  I had hoped to convince my parents we should eat at Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant.  No amount of begging could overcome the likely price of $1,000 for three people.  We are eating at a “new” Indian place, called Amaya, holder of 1 Michelin star.  I’ve always heard great things about Indian restaurants in London, so I’m excited to try that one.  The others will have to be decided on once we get to our hotel.  That’s all for now, but I’m going to try to revive the blog with this trip and post updates each day.

Posted by: caschaake | November 25, 2008

I generally don’t do salads


Whenever I make anything, I can pretty much promise you it’s not a salad.  I’m just not that into them.  I enjoy some nice greens, but I never put any effort into them.  My typical salad generally consists of spring mix and a balsamic vinegarette, and turns out fairly boring.  However, I have learned one great fall / winter salad that’s inspired from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, and later at Park Kitchen in Portland.  It combines the sweetness of persimmons and the pepperiness of arugula.  Add a light nutty dressing, and you have yourself a nice fall salad.  Before getting to the recipe, I want to point out that because the ingredients are so simple, use the best quality you can find.  Also, some sliced Manchego cheese would be a great way to finish the salad.

Persimmon and Spicy Arugula Salad with a Shery-Walnut Vinaigrette

Serves 4.

4 Fuyu persimmons

4 handfuls (?, I have no idea to measure greens) of arugula, washed and dried

2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot, plus 1 teaspoon finely diced

1 1/2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar

1/4 cup Walnut oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Peel the persimmons and slice into wedges.
  2. To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon salt and diced shallots.  Let sit five minutes.  Slowly wisk in the walnut oil.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning or oil/vinegar ratio to your liking.
  3. Toss the persimmons, sliced shallots, and arugula with the vinaigrette and serve.
Posted by: caschaake | November 16, 2008


I spent this past weekend exploring Portland.  I had always heard good things about the city, but had never been to Oregon or even spent much time in the Pacific Northwest.  My mom had a meeting at the downtown Hilton, so my dad and I flew up to meet her.  It was a great excuse for me to get out of Santa Barbara and escape the smoke from the Tea Fire.  We got in late Friday and headed for Paley’s Place for dinner based on the recomendation of a friend.  The food was fantastic.  I had a house made charcuterie plate to start and fennel braised pork shoulder with sweet potato gnocchi as an entree.  We also had a 2005 pinot from Domaine Serene.

We spent Saturday exploring downtown Portland and the Pearl district.  We started at the Saturday Market browsing the handmade crafts, then walked over to Powell’s Books.  Powell’s is an awesome book store.  I’m not sure how much time we spent wandering the aisles.  I bought the new Paley’s Place cookbook, which will be a nice way to learn more about the food from in the Pacific Northwest.  We had lunch at Henry’s Tavern.  The pizza was ok, but the beer was quite good.  I went with the Ninkasi Tricerahops since I love the bite of hops in my beer.  We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the Pearl District.  One of things I loved about Portland was how easy it was to get around without a car.  Being free of driving meant I could booze midday.  After Henry’s, we checked out a famous Oregon brewery, Rogue Ales.  I had a cask, fresh-hopped, Independence ale.  It had good, balanced hops and some nice floral notes.  To take a break from boozine, we did some shopping.  My dad and I smoked cigars from Rich’s while my mom got knitting tips from Knit Knot.  We walked back the hotel to relax for a bit before dinner.

For dinner, we went back over to the Pearl to eat at Park Kitchen.  It’s a small restaurant, only about 15 tables, with a chic urban feel.  Most of the tables are in a back room next to the small open kitchen.  There are only three chefs working, and since I love food, enjoyed watching how the kitchen works.  I started with a pumpkin ravioli and braised rabbit.  For a salad, I had persimmon salad with hazelnut chips.  It was a fairly simple dish, but I loved the fall flavors and the ingredients were all top notch.  For an entree, I had roasted pork loin that came with a chestnut spaetzle.  We had another great Oregon pinot with dinner, the 2006 Black Cap from the Williamette Valley.  Neither of the wines we had this weekend were classic pinots, as my mom always preferes wines with “balls” (ie, cabs or syrahs).  The wines we had were definitely heavier than a typical pinot, but both at least retained some pinot characteristics.  I was so stuffed from dinner, I skipped dessert and had a sinus clearing 10 year old bourbon from Pappy van Winkle.  I had never had an aged bourbon before, and after getting over the initial vapors, I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I drink a lot of scotch, but haven’t been knocked on my ass by the fumes of a drink in a while.  Kudos to you, Pappy van Winkle.

On Sunday, my mom and I walked down by the waterfront.  At this point, I probably should add we had some amazing weather this weekend.  I’m assuming mostly clear skies, and temperatures in the high fifties are not the norm for Portland in November.  But, that’s what we had this weekend.  After the walk, we had a nice brunch at Bluehour, again in the Pearl, before heading to the airport.  I had a wonderful time in Portland, and I will definitely be back sometime in the future.  My parents’ flight was 3 hours before mine, but at least that gives me an excuse to try out some of Laurelwood’s beers (the Free Range Red is awesome).

Posted by: caschaake | May 8, 2008

Some SB Food and Wine Thoughts

My parents were in town this past weekend, and I thought I’d write about some of the things we did involving food and wine.

Wine Tasting

  • Palmina – I have a connection to this winery through a friend in my research group.  He’s been kind enough to give me a free bottle of wine, so I am a bit biased.  However, I was generally impressed with most of the wine we tasted here, especially for the price.  We tried the Traminer, Pinot Grigio, Dolcetto, Barbera, Arneis, Mattia (a refosco based blend), and Malbec.  I liked the Barbera, arneis, Mattia, and malbec.  If you’re wondering why Malbec is there along with a bunch of Italian varietals, it’s because the winemaker has a side project with Joe Bastianich.
  • Melville – At Melville, we had two tasting options: regular or small lot.  Wanting to see some of the awesome pinot Melville is know for, we went with the small lot.  We tried Terraces and Carrie’s Pinots, along with Donna’s Syrah and Verna’s Viognier.  I thought the Pinots were good, nothing all that special, which was a bit of a problem for two wines that weigh in at $52.  However, I’m sure I’m in the minority on this because Melville wines generally score over 90.  I got a bottle of the syrah, which I’m anxious to try because I thought it was quite good at the winery.
  • Babcock – It was getting late in the afternoon, so we decided to head to Babcock since it’s just next door to Melville.  At this point, I think my pallette was shot and I was having trouble differentiating between the wines (translation: I was getting drunk).  I think my favorite wine from Babcock was there “The Loin” Cabernet Sauvignon.


  • Downey’s – This was my first time to eat at Downey’s, and it did not dissapoint.  It’s one of the older fine dining restaurants in Santa Barbara having just celebrated it’s 25th Anniversary last year.  We got some of the best service we’ve had in Santa Barbara.
  • Elements – We hadn’t been to Elements in a while, so we decided to give it another try.  In a strange turn of events, we all ordered the burger.  The burger was solid, but the fries were the highlight.  They were incredibly crisp, and the truffle oil gave them a nice kick without being overpowering.

More Wine

  • Stolpman Estate Syrah 2005 – I picked this up from the Winehound to go with the dinner I cooked for my parents.  We all loved it.  If I actually wrote down tasting notes, I’d have a bit more too share, but at $27, I thought it was a pretty great value.
  • Ampelos Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix, 2005 – This may have been the 2006 vintage.  We had it with lunch while wine tasting at Sissy’s Uptown Cafe in Lompoc.  It was pretty big for a Pinot Noir, but it was still disntinctly a Pinot.  This was probably my favorite Pinot of the weekend, but it gets a bit pricey at $42 a bottle.
  • Margerum M5 2005 – A crazy blend of 5 grapes from 12 vineyards.  This was another favorite wine of mine from the weekend.
Posted by: caschaake | March 31, 2008

My First Omelet

I got the itch to try blogging again.  On Friday, I saw an interesting video on Gourmet’s website about making an omelet.  In college, I made a lot of “omelets,” or at least what I thought was an omelet.  After reading a number of technique cookbooks, I think it was more of a folded frittata.  It was decent, or at least edible, but it lacked the creamy interior.  I tried following the techniques laid out in Essentials of Cooking and Jacque Pepins’s Complete Techniques, but with little success.  It seemed like more omelets were ending up in the trash than on the plate thanks to deeply browning the outside while the inside was still raw.  Not wanting to buy 2 dozen eggs a week, I reverted back to simple scrambled eggs.  Occaisonally I’d still make an omelet, but I was scared of high heat, so the result was more like scrambled eggs in shape of an omelet.

On Friday, I saw this video about how to make a proper omelet.  I decided I had to try it again. On Sunday morning, I took out my omelet pan, set it on the burner, and cranked the heat to high.  Because we have an electric stove in our apartment, I wasn’t too worried about it over-heating.  Most of my other attempts were over a gas stove (which I prefer), and controlling the heat can be a little more tricky.

I mixed together 2 eggs, a little milk, then added salt and pepper. I whipped them to a consistent blend with a fork.  I tossed in about a half tablespoon of butter into my hot pan.  It sizzled, but didn’t burn.  A good start.  I shook and swirled the pan around, waiting for all the butter to melt and the foaming to stop.  Then, I poured in the eggs, and waited 5 seconds.  This is when the skin, or cooked exterior, forms.  After those 5 seconds were up, I grabbed a couple forks and held them like in the video.  I stirred the top of the eggs, trying to get the center to scramble.  I also shook the pan with my other hand, somewhat chaotically and certainly not as gracefully as in the video.  But, after only about a minute, the center looked cooked and the outside wasn’t burnt.  A success!  At least until I tried to fold it.  My pan doesn’t have a very good lip, so getting the omelet out of the pan requires some careful fork maneuvering.  As I was transferring it to the plate, it partially fell apart, but I really didn’t care.  I finally made a classic French omelet.

Posted by: caschaake | November 9, 2007

Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Mustard-Rosemary Pan Sauce

Now that I’m back from Japan, I want to get back to blogging about cooking. I’m waiting for inspiration to strike so I can change the name of this blog to something more clever. Until then, here’s a recipe I came up with over the weekend. It’s nothing fancy, so I’m sure it’s been done many times before. I was walking past the meat section at Von’s when I noticed a small, frenched rack of lamb in the case. It was wrapped by the store instead of the usual prepackaged crap. It was a little more than I wanted, but I decided to grab it since it would make a nice dinner for one. However, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, so I put off buying ingredients to go with it. Unfortunately, I never got back to the store. When Saturday night rolled around, I still had a rack of lamb with just my usual pantry plus some fresh herbs. I looked through Culinary Artistry to get some flavor ideas, and decided a mustard sauce should pair well with the lamb. Plus, I had fresh herbs I could toss in, as well as some garlic and shallots. I used the same technique from my earlier steak post, that is searing the meat on the stove, roasting the meat in the oven, and making a sauce while the meat rests. Making the sauce consists of sauteing some aromatics, deglazing the pan with a liquid, reducing the liquid, then adding a liaison (thickener) to get the right consistency. I scaled the so it serves 2. Also, it may be worth trying to deglaze the pan with a little white wine for some bite, then adding broth to get the amount of sauce you want.

Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Mustard-Rosemary Pan Sauce

The mise

  • An oven, preheated to 350 F
  • An ovenproof frying or saute pan, preferably stainless steel
  • A plate for resting the lamb
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tongs
  • A whisk
  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut oil
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic (a large clove), minced
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon grainy brown mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped


  1. Prepare your mise. Turn the oven on, take out the pan, pull the lamb out of the fridge, chop the veggies, and organize the measurement utensils you need.
  2. Preheat the pan over medium high heat for about 3 minutes.
  3. While the pan is heating, pat the rack of lamb with a paper towel, then season it with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the peanut oil to the pan and wait until it’s hot and shimmers.
  5. Put the lamb in the pan. Sear it for about 1 minute and 30 seconds on all sides.
  6. Put the entire pan in the oven until it reaches the desired doneness. How long you ask? That depends. My rack took 9 minutes in my oven for medium rare to medium. Yours may take 7, or it may 12. The best way is to check it after 6 by feeling the meat. It should be a little spongy but with some give, like the tip of your nose or the part of your palm right next to your thumb.
  7. Take the pan out of the oven, and transfer the rack to a plate. Cover it with some aluminum foil. Also, cover the handle of the hot pan with a dish cloth so you don’t burn yourself. Or don’t cover the handle and burn yourself. You’ll only do it once. Trust me.
  8. Place the pan you just used to cook the lamb on a burner over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots. Stir them around until they’re fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. Add the chicken broth to deglaze the pan. Use the tongs to scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Crank the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil off, or reduce, the liquid until you have about half left, or 1/4 cup.
  10. Add the rosemary, then turn off the heat. Whisk in the mustard until its incorporated. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter at a time, then taste the sauce and adjust for salt.
  11. Cut up the rack of lamb and put it on serving plates. Spoon the sauce over lamb, and you’re ready to eat.

Rack of lamb with a simple mustard sauce

Posted by: caschaake | November 8, 2007


Tuesday was our final day in Japan.  We only had a short time in the morning, so we went over to Ropponggi, the international district in Tokyo.  It seemed like a very cool area, but we were only there long enough for my dad to look at his watch and tell us it was time to get back to the hotel.  We grabbed our bags, then had a quick yakitori lunch at the hotel.  After a quick cab ride, we were at Tokyo Station and ready to take the Narita Express to the airport.  My parents were flying out of a different terminal, so once we got checked in, it was time to say good-bye.  Security was a breeze.  There wasn’t a line because there were so many metal detectors.  I realized one of the things I’d miss most about Japan was its efficiency.  I wandered around the shops a little, trying to decide if I wanted any duty free.  I didn’t see any good tequila, and the scotch selection was limited, so I saved my money.  The plane ride back was short, under 9 hours.  When I arrived in San Francisco, I had no problem with customs, but immediately realized I wasn’t in Japan anymore.  Everything seemed loud.  I saw people yelling into cellphones (absent in Japan), kids running around screaming (didn’t see this either), and poor fashion choices (a guy weighing in at around 3 bills, wearing a bright neon orange t-shirt).  But, at least I was home.

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Posted by: caschaake | November 7, 2007


On Sunday morning, we walked over to the Path of Philosophy for a quick walk before getting on the Shinkansen to travel to Tokyo.  I’m not sure how much philosophizing I got done, but it was a relaxing stroll to say the least.  We didn’t have time to walk the whole thing, or even visit temples along the path because our train left in the early afternoon.  So, after hitting the halfway point, we walked to a main street and found a cab.  Two hours later, we were zipping through the Japanese countryside on our way to Tokyo.
Our stay in Tokyo was brief.  We got to our hotel at around 5 or 6 pm.  Since there wasn’t much we could do before dinner, we settled on enjoying drinks and cigars in the bar on the 40th floor.  For dinner, we went to a fusion Japanese restaurant.  It was similar to Hamcyo in Kyoto, but more modern.  We had a hell of a time finding it.  We only had the English spelling, and every sign we looked at was only Japanese characters.  Eventually we found someone who told us it was on the top floor of a shopping center.  Once we arrived at the restaurant, we settled into a private tatami room.  We  opted for the 9 course set menu since we had no idea what was good.  We were served a variety of things, from sushi to steak.  I think the steak and sushi stand out in my mind as the best.  There were a couple of odd things my parents refused to touch.  That didn’t stop me though.  The thing I remember most was a slimy brown thing that may or may not have been a slug.  Really, I have no idea what it was, nor could I describe what it tasted like.  I tried it, and let’s leave it at that.    
Monday was our only full day in Tokyo.  We had no idea what to do, so we rode the subway to some of the districts.  We started at Ginza, the big shopping district.  We went through one of the department stores, and my dad found himself a nice scarf.  I found some 7 jeans, but they were about $300!  I guess only the rich get to have their asses wrapped in designer denim in Japan.  For lunch our plan was to eat near the fish market.  Once we got there, my parents realized they weren’t in the mood for sushi, so after a brief glimpse into some of the stalls we went to Asakusa.  Asakusa  sounded like it would be interesting, but it felt more like a Japanese tourist trap.  We saw the most popular Buddhist temple in Tokyo, then took the subway to Akihabara.  Akihabara is the electronics district.  There were a ton of stores with about any kind of gadget you’d want.  After more walking, it was approaching dinner time and our feet were tired.  We took the Ginza line back to the hotel, and relaxed with our usual drinks and cigars with the Tokyo skyline as our backdrop.  Dinner that night was shabu shabu.  I had never had it before, and I’m not sure if I’d be eager to have it again.  Shabu shabu is a hot pot, or pot of boiling broth in the center of the table.  You drop in thinly sliced wagyu beef until it’s cooked, then dip it in sauce and enjoy.  Chopstick skills are of the utmost importance to avoid making a mess.  We made a very big mess.  The beef was great, but I prefer my expensive beef cooked medium rare and served with salt, pepper, and maybe some butter.  We had an enjoyable meal, but at the end of it I was ready for some Western cooking.  Luckily, we were headed back to the US the next day.

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