Friday, January 29, 2010

I came home from my holiday feeling refreshed and invigorated.

I am desperately trying to hold on to those feelings but they seem to be slipping through my fingers. 

I'm sliding back into the cycle of grief, guilt and anxiety.

I am sleeping my days away to escape facing reality. I am feeling physically ill and yet I can clearly recall how healthy I felt in the sun and heat of Cuba.

This is not to say that the vacation was not helpful. It gave me time to realize how I might help myself.

One thing I realized on this vacation - it's time for some therapy.

I have no on/off switch on my anxiety. I don't sleep well at night because my mind is whirring away with random thoughts and worries. As a result I'm not fully awake during the day and so I cannot get anything accomplished. And all the while, through every 24 hour period I am in a low state of panic and strangling guilt.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

adventures in cuba

My "relaxing" vacation began with me missing my flight.

That's right, I said "missing my flight." Not sure where the blame lies so I place it nowhere but basically SeaBass booked the trip for me and he said I'd be leaving Tuesday the 18th, which I took at face value - until 2 hours before my flight time on MONDAY the 18th when I suddenly realized the date mix-up

p.s. we live 2 hours from the airport.

So, long story short I had to find my own way to Cuba and to the resort. There were no flights going out the next day to the closest airport so I took one to Havana, which is only 3 or 4 hours away and readied myself for adventure.

I wrote SeaBass the morning after I arrived to fill him in. And now I'll share it with you all.

It's a good story

hey baby,

well, I'm here. I got here at 10:00 last night - that's 8 hours to make a 3 hour journey.
More accurately, that's 4 drivers and 8 hours for a 3 hour drive.

When I got off the plane the airport folks were very helpful and suggested I go to the bus station to get to Santa Clara (the town - the resort is about an hour outside) so, no problem, the helpful guy finds me a driver and we head to the station (25 pesos.) When I get there I'm greeted by a driver (not a bus driver, just some dude with a car) but he seemed really nice (although he didn't speak a word of english) and so we started out. About 5 minutes into the drive he pulls over where a bunch of people are standing looking for rides. He picks up some guy he knows (who happened to be a cuban police officer - in uniform!) and the cop and his gun join us for the ride.

Everything's going along smoothly, when suddenly the car breaks down in the left lane on the highway. No small mechanical problem this, the car was dead! An hour later 2 more guys with cars show up (I have no idea if the cop and the driver knew them or not) and the cop gets in one car and the other guy hooks up the dead car to a tow rope and drives me and my broken-down driver in to town.

I really missed my uniformed cop and the security of the gun at this point.

We drop off my broken down driver and car and the new guy and I carry on. Then we get in to a small fishing town about 1/2 hour from the resort ( I was in the town before, I recognized the giant stone crab in the town square.) We get sort of pulled over by local cops 'cause the driver is driving around aimlessly (while I tried not to look worried and confused.) I had to duck from the cops 'cause tourists are not allowed to be driven around my random dudes - only "taxi officiel" is supposed to drive them. So my driver gets all kinds of nervous and asks me (no english at all so there was a lot of hand  gestures and confusion) if I can stay in the town over night and he'll find me a ride in the morning.

Then I lost my patience - in a super nice and calm way and tried to seem very sweet and touristy and said, "no, I have to go tonight. My family will be worried, they're at the hotel" so, he gets even more nervous about the cops and drives us to a very poor looking building (poor even compared to the rest of town) he leaves me in the car and goes up to an apartment.

About 10 minutes later he finally comes back and tells me he found me a taxi officiel.

Hooray! another 10 minutes and the taxi driver shows up. 1/2 later and I'm at the resort.

The reception desk at the resort didn't have any notes on my situation so they made me pay for the night! worries it got all sorted out today and I got my money back.

Doesn't matter - the place is beautiful. I love my room and the staff is amazing.
p.s. yesterday was such a long day that until i started writing i had totally forgotten about driving along with a cuban policeman! holy crap what an adventure!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

more top chef food porn

Not yet sure what day it is, what time it is or what country I'm in having just returned VERY late last night (i.e. the darkest hours of pre-dawn) and being so over tired, having not yet slept...

I'm not even sure anything I just wrote makes any sense at all!

But I wanted to pass on a link to a blog dedicated to all things Top Chef, the aptly titled All Top Chef. There you will find enough Top Chef related info to keep you satiated until the next season begins.

And (now for a little shameless self promotion) you will also find guest posts from yours truly summarizing my adventures in Top Chef cookery.

Top Chef fans rejoice!

Monday, January 18, 2010

top chef experiment: take five (roasted pork loin with polenta, dandelion greens and rutabaga)

I had every intention of making two Top Chef dishes this week, to make up for the fact that I'll be away enjoying the relaxation of warmth and sunshine for the next seven days.

That didn't happen.

I'll explain to you exactly why that didn't happen when I return home safely from my week of all-inclusive solitude. Let me leave you hanging a little by saying simply that I have not yet even begun my journey to my resort destination and already the unforseen adventures and mishaps are beginning.

p.s. Have I mentioned that this will be my first time ever traveling alone?

So, I hope you will all forgive my absence next week and grant me grace based on the fact that this particular dish involved the most multi-tasking and completion of independent components that I have yet endeavoured to master.

This is my first attempt at one of Brian V.'s dishes. It was also the elimination challenge winner from the fifth episode. 

I had high hopes for it even though I'm not a super-huge pork chop fan (pork chop makes me think dry and lacking in flavour.)

I'm also not a big fan of dandelion greens (too bitter)....or rutabaga (a staple in Newfie boiled dinner and therefore forever tainted in my mind) for that matter.

I do love me some polenta though!

The fact that I am not enamored of the main ingredients in this dish is actually what drew me to it. I wanted to be challenged to open myself up to flavours that I typically wouldn't consider cooking or ordering on a menu.

The verdict?

Pork loin? It was moist, tender and yummy. Marinating the loin cut for an hour before hand definitely gave it a texture that I hadn't experienced before.

Dandelion greens? Still overwhelmingly bitter...until combined with the polenta and the pork. Then the bitterness was neutralized and I enjoyed the combination.

Rutabaga? Time to give the turnip a second chance, I say. Also, my love of braised veggies is once more re-affirmed.

Polenta?  Always a winner. I'd never had it with mascarpone before. It certainly won't be the last time though.

As a whole dish I have to say this may have been my least favourite so far. 

Don't get me wrong, it was good. It just didn't excite me or inspire me in any way. I am reminded of the judges suggesting a kind of safety on Brian's part. I can see it in this dish. It felt safe and standard - good but not special.

Roasted Pork Loin with Polenta, Dandelion and Rutabaga

3 5 oz. center portion pork loin steaks

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tbsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1 sprig rosemary
1 clove garlic sliced
6 sprigs thyme
1/2 shallot sliced
sea salt

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup dry polenta
1/8 cup mascarpone
1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 bunch dandelion greens
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 cup red onion diced
1/2 cup oyster mushrooms

2 rutabaga cut into pieces 1/2 inch high and 1 inch diameter
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

Pork Marinade:

Mix together marinade.
Pour over pork chops and marinate covered in fridge for 1 hour.


While pork is marinating heat chicken stock, vinegar, sherry and honey until forms glaze.
Add in butter.
Add in rutabaga and cook until tender (about 30 mins)


Remove pork from marinade and dry thoroughly with paper towel.
Sear pork on stove top until medium to medium rare. 
Baste pork with butter, rosemary and garlic.
Let rest.
Roast oyster mushrooms in pan with pork fat until browned.
Reserve for plating.


Heat whole milk to simmer and pour in polenta. 
Stir constantly for 10-15 mins until desired consistency is reached.
Add in mascarpone and butter.
Season with s&p.


In small saute pan heat butter to a froth.
Add in red onion and cook until translucent.
Add dandelion and lemon zest.
Cook until braised.

To serve:
Spoon polenta on to plate.
Dandelion greens and mushrooms on top.
Sliced pork on top of that.
Rutabaga on the side.

6 months and 3 days (189 days)

I am 3 days late with my memorial post this month.

This has nothing to do with any kind of lessening of import of the 15th day of every month. 

It has even less to do with any feeling on my part that it might be time to stop marking every second, every minute, every hour, every day without Her.

It does have to do with the fact that life inevitably moves on and no matter how strong my grief is, the force of it still cannot keep the world from turning. I wish that I could crawl into a hole every month on the anniversary - of course I wish that I could crawl into a hole pretty much every day - and some days I do. But for the most part I can't and if I just keep moving I can accept that.

The dark hole isn't going anywhere after all. 

So how was this last month for me? I think I will always remember that it took me six months to reach my limit. I kept pushing myself but I'm there. It took Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years but I'm done.

This month has been filled with growing anger; with ever building resentment; with small annoyances escalating to massive exasperation. 

Rationally I know that it is my own imagination, my own sense of guilt, my own ego, that places everything on my shoulders and then causes me to snap when I feel overwhelmed.

Rationalism has no place here.

I feel constantly on edge. The edge is crumbling away beneath me daily.

All of this is going on in my waking hours (long waking hours, since I don't sleep well.)

When I do sleep, I dream.

I dream of my mother and She is alive. She is so alive that every morning (or middle of the night) upon waking I am forced to relive the horrible fact that She is gone.

That's another thing that has happened this month. 

I thought I was past the stage of picking up the phone to call Mom or expecting Her to walk through the door. I was so glad that I was done with false hope. But it's back.

I don't pick up the phone to call Her. But when the phone rings I often think it's Her. 

When the front door opens in the evenings I turn towards the sound, sure Mom is home from work.

As I walk down the hall at night, I am sure I hear Her breathing in her bed.

I am at my limit.

Last week I booked a vacation finally. I leave tomorrow. Alone, a week alone to think clearly and put things in perspective. Or not. A week to let go and be selfish and let grief take whatever form it will.

Thank you to all of you have been supportive of me and assured me that I deserve this chance to take care of myself. I really don't think I would have booked this trip without you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

beans, beans they're good for your heart...(baked beans and cornbread)

If you had asked me a year ago I would have told you that I wasn't a huge fan of red meat.

If you had asked me a year ago I would have looked you dead in the eye and said, "I don't eat meat in the form of a tube."

If you had asked me a year ago I would have stared you down and declared, "I hate pig meat."

One year later and I'm hosting wild game dinners, writing recipes featuring chorizo sausage and making my own cured pork. 

Obviously a few things have changed.

Here's one more thing I've completely reversed my opinion on - baked beans.

My father often makes baked beans and until recently I would not even sample them. Then one day they started to look very appealing...and taste even better.

So last night I decided to try making them for myself. One thing I wasn't a fan of in my dad's recipe is the salt pork. I don't like the texture of the pork as I'm eating a mouthful of the beans. 

Since I happen to be in possession of a fairly large quantity of very fatty cured pork, I thought I'd give my guanciale a shot instead. 

It occurred to me that the sweet and salty, aromatic and spicy, melt in your mouth creaminess of the guanciale would really lend itself to the sweet, tart, earthiness of baked beans. Given that I was left with barely enough beans to snap a photo this morning, I'd say my hunch was correct.

The guanciale was distinct from the beans but with every mouthful it melted in my mouth and spread it's creamy porkiness throughout the beans. All of the subtle flavours of the cure on the meat also really came through in the dish and added to the overall flavour. 

SeaBass has been after me for some time to make him cornbread and baked beans seemed the perfect reason to do it, so I whipped up a batch flavoured with jalapeno and cheddar to sop up the sauce of the beans. The jalapeno lent a very mild spice to cornbread and accented the mild chili spice of the guanciale. The cheddar added a nice creaminess to the cornbread.

Which is the more reasonable question
A) How did I go 30 years thinking baked beans were disgusting?
B) What the hell has been going on with my appetite since turning 30?

Baked Beans
2 cups navy beans
1/2 lb. guanicale (or bacon, salt pork or combo)
1 onion diced
6 tbsp. molasses
4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dr mustard
1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. worcestire sauce
2 tbsp. maple syrup (optional) 
1/2 cup brown sugar

Soak 2 cups navy beans in water overnight.
Drain and rinse.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place beans in lidded casserole dish.
If using guanciale or bacon give it a quick sear on skin and flesh side in small saute pan.
Remove pork from pan reserving rendered fat.
Add diced onion to saute pan and saute for a couple of minutes.
Chop guanciale, bacon, salt pork into small dice.
Sprinkle sauteed onion and pork over beans.
*Mix remaining ingredients together to form sauce.
Pour sauce over top of beans.
Add enough boiling water to completely cover beans and sauce.
Place dish in oven and cook for 3-4 hours.
Be sure to check on the beans often (every 20 minutes to 1/2 hour.) As the level of liquid decreases add more water or more sauce (see note below) to your liking.

*I started the cooking process with 1/2 the amount of sauce and added the rest near the end of the cooking time in order to create a very strong flavour.

Jalapeno and Cheddar Cornbread
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup jalapeno finely diced (depending on how much heat you want)
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese (or blend of other cheeses)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
6 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together dry ingredients.
Stir in jalapenos and cheese.
In a separate bowl whisk together wet ingredients (buttermilk, eggs, butter.)
Stir dry ingredients in to wet just until well moistened (don't overwork the batter.)
Pour batter into greased, heavy 9" baking dish (preferably cast iron or glass - the heavier the dish the better.)
Bake for 30-35 minutes (until golden brown on top.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

top chef experiment: take four (southern fried chicken skin with squash casserole and tomato)

Three out of the four Top Chef recipes that I have recreated thus far have been Kevin's.

What's with that?

When I look at the list of recipes that I copied down from the Bravo website (no criteria other than instinctive stomach growling) there is a fair mixture of the different chefs. But something about Kevin's dishes have just drawn me to make them first.

Maybe it's the apparent simplicity of Kevin's food that makes it seem like a good way to wade into Top Chef re-creationism.

Or maybe it's the obvious comfort food aspect of Kevin's cooking. The stick-to-your-ribs ingredients and preparations are perfect for this time of the year.

Still, maybe it's because when I start out to cook one of Kevin's dishes I recognize that my Mom would have loved it. The flavours are bold, but simple. The ingredients stand on their own. There's no completed technique or scientific component to cloud the experience of the food. It's just straightforward good cooking and a wonderful understanding of flavours and how to bring disparate components together on a plate.

The simplicity in Kevin's dishes is derived in part from his focus on local, sustainable and organic ingredients. This is another reason I'm drawn to his recipes. 

When you look at Kevin's food, at the same time thinking about his food philosophy, you can't help but realize the simple logic of a focus on the ingredients in your immediate environment. 

"What grows together, goes together." 


Kevin's food is harmonious. It is comfortable. Most importantly it is damn good.

And that is in no small part due to his food philosophy.

For this week's Top Chef recipe I cooked one of Kevin's finale dishes; the one inspired by his mother. There was something about the decadence of cooking just the chicken skin for the dish (after so many years of eating skinless chicken breast I couldn't resist!) That and the squash puree that Tom Colicchio specifically complimented Kevin on totally called out to me.

Southern Fried Chicken Skin with Squash Casserole and Tomato
1/2 onion julienned
1 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic mashed
* 1 1/2 cups butternut squash diced into even pieces

3 tbsp heavy cram
lemon juice to taste
2 cups cherry tomatoes
skin from one chicken
1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp salt
frying oil
olive oil

* I used 2 small carnival squashes that I received in my Good Food Box. The taste is quite similar to butternut squash but milder.

Chicken Skin:
Remove skin from chicken.
Remove all fat from skin (should have only thin layer of skin remaining.)
Place in small bowl or ziploc bag and add salt, pepper, cayenne, sugar.
Rub mix all over skin.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Blot dry with paper towel.
Fry in oil at 370 degrees until golden brown.
Break into shards.

While chicken skin is refrigerating:
Saute onion and garlic in butter over medium heat until lightly caramelized.
Add diced squash to onions.
Reduce heat to low and simmer until squash in fully tender (about 30 mins.)
Add cream to squash mixture.
Transfer squash to blender (or hand blend) on high.
Season with s&p and lemon juice to taste.
Pass through chinois.
Reserve mixture.

Score tomatoes.
Blanch them in boiling water and then shock in ice bath.
Peel skins.
Season with s&p and olive oil.

To Serve:
Spoon squash mixture onto bottom of plate.
Top with tomatoes.
Sprinkle on chicken skin shards.

I know Kevin wasn't totally on his game in the final challenge and I know that (obviously) it wasn't the favourite dish of the day. But it was still a damn good dish.

For me it was another experience of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. 

On it's own, the chicken skin was pretty salty for my taste and the tomatoes, well, I wasn't sure I understood their role at first. The squash, on the other hand I could eat anytime, anywhere,  under just about any circumstance.

A bite of all the components together though? Suddenly the chicken skin is refreshed by the tomato and balanced again with the earthy squash. The citrus of the squash cuts through the density of the chicken and adds brightness to the raw tomato.

Each ingredient is most effective in bringing out the notes of the others.

Another Top Chef success!

Any requests for next time? Dishes? Specific chefs?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

maxwell silverhammer

On December 30th SeaBass and I brought this home

"This" is Mr. Maxwell Silverhammer,

We adopted him from our local SPCA as a Christmas present for Dziadzio (SeaBass' grandfather.) 

You see, Dziadzio has talked of nothing but having a puppy of his own ever since baby Dolan 
came along.

So, when the SPCA got a litter of Shepherd/Huskies right before Christmas it seemed perfect. The deal was that SeaBass and I would bring the puppy home with us for a little bit to take care of the potty training and some basic obedience and then Dziadzio would have his very own furry companion.

And he would stop feeding Dolan forbidden treats, letting her off her leash thinking it's funny to watch her run away and generally corrupting and wreaking havoc with my puppy.

Many who heard this plan laughed at me and insisted that I would not be able to give Max up.

It's true that I have a serious soft spot for animals. 

That's probably an understatement.

When I go on vacation to resorts I end up with all the feral cats on the grounds waiting for me outside my room and hiding under my table in the restaurants.

I feed the neighbourhood raccoons.....from my hand.

If someone tells me a dog is mean I take it as a personal challenge to befriend the animal.

All that being said, I was totally prepared to give Mr. Maxwell Silverhammer up to Dziadzio. I'm not saying it was going to be easy but I had already talked myself through it, reminding myself that I would see him often.

Also, I may adore animals in general and dogs in specific. But I am not insane. And the facts of the house I live in are this:

We already have the aforementioned bestest doggie-pants in the world, Dolan



Ringo and Wheels

And Roxy (who is feeling a little camera shy)

Oh, and did I mention that my neighbour recently sort of abandoned her cat and so now he lives here? 

Ironically, his name is AWOL. 

So yeah, the idea of a third large dog in the house was less than appealing, even to me.

Fate has intervened though. Fate in the form of SeaBass' meanie-pants grandmother and aunt who have apparently decided that Dziadzio is not "allowed" to have a puppy.

You would think they could have decided that before this happened.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

uh oh.

I have a very bad feeling that I'm on the edge here.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm on the edge of exactly, because I'm surrounded by this dense fog that's keeping me from sensing it clearly. 

But I have a very strong suspicion that I'm balancing on the very precipice of an extremely long drop down a jagged, rocky cliff that could tear me to pieces, only to flail me into churning, stormy waters ending in what will probably be a merciful drowning.

It's not looking so good.

I've just about reached my limit on the taking care of everyone else front.

Monday, January 4, 2010

top chef experiment: take three (dashi with miso cured cod)

I think the name of  this dish is a bit misleading. However, to list all of the starring components in the title might cause you to faint from hunger before you even get through reading it.

This is one of those special dishes where, to quote the great Tom Colicchio (and other random, lesser notables), "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Bites of each ingredient on its own are tasty in their own right. But a single bite including a taste of each component part makes the dish a whole other thing; an experience unto itself.

Yes, I'm gushing. 

But the thing is, I'm in awe of someone who can take all these separate ingredients and make them work not just as a harmonious whole but also showcase each ingredient independently of the rest.

I'm gonna go ahead and guess that that's part of what made Michael Voltaggio the winner of Top Chef this season.

So, about the dish...

I know it seems a bit summery for, well, the dead of winter but it was just what I was looking for after all the holiday heaviness. Refreshing and light.

An important note, I used Atlantic Cod, not Black Cod as in the original.

Did you know that Black Cod isn't even really Cod, it's sablefish? 

No? Neither did I.

"Knowing is half the battle."
                        G.I. Joe (Real American Hero)

I am very aware of the issues of sustainability and over-fishing of this fish. In fact that's partly why I chose to use it and not Black Cod.

I'm a Newfie (half-Newfie anyways) and my family in Newfoundland was greatly affected by the moratorium placed on the cod fishery by the Canadian government 15 years ago. 

Atlantic Cod is part of my heritage, and I wanted to give it a moment in the culinary spotlight (however faint the spotlight of this blog might be.)

There is some good news for the Atlantic Cod. It is being successfully farmed and wild Cod stocks have recovered to the point where limited fishing is being once again allowed off the coast of Newfoundland.

Proof cod fishing has re-opened? We have a freezer full of the stuff, brought back from my Dad's trip "down home" this past summer.

But now back to Michael Voltaggio and his delicious creation.

It's been a while since I cooked anything Asian inspired. I almost forgot how much I love it. 

Each ingredient was so vibrant but so balanced. All the bright citrus contrasted with the earthiness of the dashi broth and the delicate cod.

And then there was the watermelon. That was the most surprising part of the dish for me. I wasn't totally sure how watermelon would fit in with citrus, fish and Asian flavours. But the watermelon really tied everything together. 

So amazing!

There was a lot of prep for this dish (my arm hurt from zesting) but the actual cooking was totally simple.

And so good! Did I mention it was good?

Here's the recipe:

Dashi with Miso Cured Cod
(adapted from Michael Voltaggio)

1 lb. fillet cod
1 cup miso paste
1/4 cup mirin
1//4 cup tamari soy sauce
5 sheets kombu
3 cups water
1 cup bonito flakes
2 cups shitake mushrooms (sliced very thinly)
1 tbsp. grated ginger
3 oranges (zest and juice)
3 lemons (zest and juice)
1/4 cup soy sauce
6 roma tomatoes (peeled and sliced thinly)
1 bunch green onions (green parts only) sliced thin
1/4 large seedless watermelon 
1 lime (zest and juice)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Mix miso, mirin, and tamari soy sauce together.
Spread on sheet tray.
Place fish on tray flesh side down.
Marinate for an hour.
Place kombu in pot with 3 cups water.
Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat.
Add bonito flakes.
Steep mixture for 3 minutes.
Place sliced shitakes in a bowl and pour steeped kombu mixture through a strainer and over the mushrooms.
Add ginger and allow to come to room temp.
Chill mixture over ice bath.
Add orange, lemon and lime zest and juices, tomatoes, green onions and soy sauce.
Cut watermelon into 2 inch thick rectangles and marinate in lime zest, juice and olive oil.
Remove fish from marinade.
Wipe off excess cure and Pat dry thoroughly with paper towel.
Cut into serving sized portions and slowly sear in a pan with oil (skin side down.)
Sear until skin is crispy then flip and finish cooking.
Allow fish to rest.

Place marinated watermelon in bowl and spoon in dashi broth.
Place fish on top.
Garnish with green onion.

Friday, January 1, 2010

happy new year and happy charcuterie

I was surprised last night to find that I was having a harder time with New Year's Eve than I had with Christmas.

I suppose the symbolism of New Year's had something to do with it.

I think our little family managed to get through Christmas by avoiding many of our usual traditions. But New Years, well midnight arrives no matter how hard you try to ignore it. The calendar year rolls forward whether you're prepared or not.

SeaBass and I originally planned to go out for dinner and then see a movie that would run through the big moment - I like passive aggressive avoidance. It works for me.

But at the last moment neither of us could bring ourselves to leave my father.

I'm not sure yet if I'm glad we made that decision or not. Because it was a really rough one.

I'm glad it's over.

So, in the spirit of a new year and a renewed focus let's talk food, shall we?

My guanciale is ready. And it's a beautiful thing.

The finished product is really everything I hoped for.

It's like pancetta on steroids.

The strong pork flavour is perfectly balanced with the creamy fattiness.

I really like the cure I used this time. The heat of the crushed chili flakes is in harmony with both the saltiness and sweetness of the sugar in the cure. The rosemary and thyme enhance the natural porkiness and beautiful fat.

Today I fried some guanciale and enjoyed it on it's own to get a real sense of the flavours and texture. 

By frying the pork on lowest heat you can see how you release all of the fat that will lend incredible flavour to any dish. The end product is crispy and wonderful and I am further in love with all things pork.

I hope the success of this experiment doesn't go to my head!