Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oysters Pablo

This picture may not do these justice but you're just going to have to take my word. Now I know that coming home after work and shucking oysters isn't anyones idea of a good time but if you are having company over the weekend and want to get the party started in your mouth you should give these suckers a shot.

I went to Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen (again) for an after work beer today and I couldn't help but order some of Pablo's Oysters. He has been told time and time again that they are very, very addictive. And they are.

Oysters Pablo
(serves 6)

These oysters have a rich, garlicky chile kick, and I’ll bet you can’t eat just one. They were on the opening menu of Miramonte, and they continue to be a hit at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. People have told me they’re addictive. I think it’s the oyster-garlic combo. Chipotle chiles are smoked dried jalapeños: for this recipe, buy the chipotles canned in adobo sauce. Adobo is a somewhat spicy sauce made with tomatoes, onions, and vinegar. Both the chipotles and the sauce have multiple uses, so don’t throw out the leftovers. I figure on three to four oysters per person, depending on the group and the rest of the menu.

Most of this dish can be prepared way in advance. You can make the sauce and the spinach a day ahead. Shuck the oysters a couple of hours ahead, and loosen them from the shell. Final preparation will just take three to four minutes.

2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced shallots
11/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon good-quality tequila
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (loosely packed) grated Asiago cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Spinach 1 pound fresh spinach leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced

18 to 24 Hog Island oysters or other midsize, briny oysters

Minced fresh parsley, for garnish For the sauce, put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until just combined. Cover and refrigerate until needed. For the spinach, remove the stems and wash the spinach well. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until soft, about 1 minute, making sure they don’t brown. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring, until the spinach is just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes, depending on how wide your pan is. Spread the contents of the pan out on a baking sheet and put it in the fridge immediately to cool quickly. When it is cool, squeeze the spinach to get rid of any excess liquid, and chop coarsely. Place the spinach in a bowl, mix in the chipotle, and taste. If you want a little more spice, stir in a little of the adobo sauce from the can. Set the spinach aside until needed.

To prepare the oysters, fill a large bowl with 2 to 3 inches of ice and water (heavy on the ice) and place a smaller bowl on top to hold the shucked oysters, with as much of their liquor as you can. Shuck the oysters, reserving the cupped sections of the shells. This can be done ahead, but be sure to keep the oysters and shells cold until you are ready for the final preparation.

Preheat the oven to 500oF. Unless you have one of those metal plates that have indentations for the oysters to sit nicely in, use a baking dish that will hold them snugly, or put a 1/2-inch layer of salt in a baking pan and nestle the oysters into the salt. This will keep them from tipping over when you move them in and out of the oven or under the broiler.

To cook the oysters, put 1 tablespoon of spinach in the bottom of each reserved shell and top with an oyster. Spoon any reserved liquor over the oysters, followed by about 3/4 tablespoon of sauce over each. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, keeping a close watch on them and removing them as soon as they are golden brown and bubbly. If they haven’t reached this point when 8 minutes is up, pop them under the broiler for a moment or two. Sprinkle with minced parsley and serve with cocktail forks

Friday, June 27, 2008

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Unless you have been living in a cave you have heard that there are about 1,000 fires in California right now caused by lightening. Napa Valley is just that, a valley. Smoke from these fires has been sitting like a thick layer above us for the last 5 days. It's nasty.

That aside, I babysat my sister's 3 precious kids today so we stayed inside and baked. Among the fresh fruit crisp you saw earlier, we made classic chocolate chip cookies. As you can see, my nephew Spencer hated them.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated [white] sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-ounce package) NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE in preheated 375-degree [Fahrenheit] oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.


Mike's Famous Sangria

My stepdad may not cook much but he can make a mean cocktail. You may remember Mike's Famous Eggnog recipe. It's a holiday staple so don't miss out this year. Trust me.

Well, obviously it's summertime and summertime means cool cocktails in the sunshine. Nothing speaks to that better than sangria especially if you are sitting in Napa Valley and have excess quantities of wine at your fingertips like we do.

What I love about Mike's sangria is that he doesn't chop up fruit and let it sit in there. Rather he squeezes everything by hand and blends it all together. No wonder he is in the wine business. Best part of this recipe is that the ex-Stanford football player has been sneaking this drink into his alma matter games for over 40 years.

The KEY to this is mixing 1/4- 1/2 of each glass with club soda. This gives it a cocktail vibe and makes it a little lighter for daytime and summer boozing.

Mike's Famous Sangria

1 can of frozen orange juice
1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
12 oz of brandy
36 oz of red wine (use frozen OJ can 3 times)
1 tablespoon of bitters
Garnish with lime wedge

Squeeze lime, orange and lemon and add to bowl. Add brown sugar and frozen orange juice. Add bitters, brandy and red wine. Mix well. Add orange slices and chill. Sangria keeps well and improves with age.


Fresh Fruit Crisp

Our farmer's market still isn't quite in full-gear. But when it is, boy, it's awesome. It still needs a couple weeks. So, for now, we have a great selection of root vegetables, peaches and berries. This morning I picked up a couple baskets of blackberries and blueberries and made a crisp using Ina Garten's recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Now, this woman is a hero of mine. Once a budget analyst (yawn) for the White House, she quit it all and moved to East Hampton to open up a gourmet shop. She's never looked back and great success has followed her since. Writing this actually makes me really jealous...

Peach and Raspberry Crisp

(Ina says you can sub for any fresh fruit as I did with blackberries and blueberries. Just wash and add to mixture.)

4 to 5 pounds firm, ripe peaches (10 to 12 large peaches)
1 orange, zested
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed 1 1/2 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 pint raspberries 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of a 10 by 15 by 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish.

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place them in cold water. Peel the peaches and slice them into thick wedges and place them into a large bowl. Add the orange zest, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the raspberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1 more tablespoon of flour. Pour the peaches into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and the cold, diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of the peaches and raspberries. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and reheat in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until warm.


Roasted Peppers Stuffed with Cherry Tomatoes, Onion and Basil

This is an easy one.

I added a little garlic, 1 jalapeno and feta cheese to the mixture and it turned out great. I served this as a side to a coke-lime marinaded skirt steak we grilled with fingerling potatoes tossed in a french vinaigrette.

Roasted Peppers Stuffed with Cherry Tomatoes, Onion and Basil

4 red bell peppers
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
about 3 tablespoons olive oil Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°F and lightly oil a large shallow baking pan.

Halve bell peppers lengthwise and discard seeds and ribs. Arrange peppers, cut sides up, in baking pan and lightly oil cut edges and stems. Halve tomatoes and chop onion and basil. Finely chop garlic and in a bowl toss with tomatoes, onion, basil, 2 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Divide mixture among peppers and roast in upper third of oven until peppers are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Charred Tomato Sauce

I've been a HUGE fan of Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena since it opened a couple years ago. Owner Cindy Pawlcyn is a James Beard award-winning cookbook author and Chef and Owner of Napa Valley's famous Mustards Grill. She is also a co-creator of many renowned Bay Area restaurants. Not bad, eh?

What's great about this place is it's no fuss. Napa Valley can get a little stuffy at times so it's nice to be able to walk in to a place that consistently delivers delicious and fresh food from farms surrounding the area with service that's attentive but laid back and local.

I met my best friend Lindsay there for lunch this week and she suggested that I start with these bad boys you see here.
Once I had them, I knew I wanted to make them at home. The plus about living in California is that I have access to many more ingredients, especially ethnic ones. Spanish stuff? No problem.
This recipe is a little hi-mai (pronounced hi may) which is short for high maintenance but it's so worth it. Come on, take on the challenge.

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Charred Tomato Sauce
Serves 6
12 piquillo peppers

Scharred Tomato sauce
2 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
3 cloves garlic1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and thickly sliced
2 large tomatoes
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1 1/4 pound hanger steak or skirt steak
2 tablespoons olive oil and more if needed
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
3/4 cup diced peeled tomato
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground toasted cumin seed
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Remove piquillo peppers from can or jar. Drain in colander and pat dry. Set aside covered in refrigerator. For the tomato sauce: Toast the dried chiles in a hot dry skillet over medium-low heat. Press with a spatula. Do not toast more than 1-2 minutes. You want the chiles to soften a little and give off a whiff of chile fragrance but not darken. Set aside. Use the same skillet to toast the garlic, onion and jalapeno until caramelized and blackened on edges. Char the tomatoes over a gas flame using a long fork or under the broiler. They should be completely blackened. Cut the tomatoes in half. In a saucepan, place the guajillo chiles, blackened tomatoes, garlic, blackened onion and jalapeno. Add water, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cool the sauce, then pour into a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed. Set the sauce aside while you prepare the stuffing.

For the stuffing: Using a very sharp chef's knife, mince the steak. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add steak and saute until caramelized and browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add onion and garlic and lower heat a little to cook until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes more so the tomato releases its juices and the steak is tender. Chill the stuffing for at least 30 minutes so it will be easier to work with.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 375F. The piquillo peppers tear easily, so handle them carefully. Hold in the crook of your hand between your thumb and forefinger, like an ice cream cone. I like to use my fingers, of other hand, to carefully place stuffing into the pepper. Use about a rounded tablespoon per pepper. Lay pepper down on flat plate and press a little. As you fill the peppers, lay side by side. When ready to serve, spread a half cup of the charred sauce in a heatproof dish and lay the filled peppers on top. Place in oven for 8-10 minutes just to heat the peppers. Return the rest of the charred tomato sauce to a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Spread a few tablespoons sauce on each plate and top with 2 stuffed piquillos. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.

Note: Piquillo peppers are sweet and rich Spanish red peppers smoked over wood fires. In the United States, they are available only in jars or cans.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


My sister got married last weekend which explains why I have been so MIA from the blog. Don't worry, I'm back.

One of the most anticipated events of the jam-packed weekend was the rehearsal dinner the groom's parents hosted at Terra. Now, I've never been to Terra but you better believe that I have heard of it. In fact, it's my brother favorite restaurant on the planet and he has their cookbook at home. Terra is a fine dinning spot located in St. Helena which lies in the heart of Napa Valley. It has the third highest rated wine list in the San Francisco area and is booked year-round.

Our first course showcased burrata which is one of my favs. Burrata is a delicate cheese from the mozzarella family that has a unique texture from the cream that exists in the inside. I'm not joking, this stuff melts in your mouth. When you see this on a menu, order it. This is a rare treat but I hope to see it more often now that I am in California full-time.

The remaining courses were excellent but the burrata was the highlight for me. The nicest thing about being back home is that we are not short on fabulous restaurants. Off to Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen today which never disappoints. Look for that post soon!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quinoa Salad with Pickled Radishes and Feta AND Greek Grilled Scallop Sandwiches

My mom doesn't like "trendy food" but when I got the new issue of Food and Wine Magazine in the mail this week I couldn't help but try to recreate these dishes from some noted new stars. Pairing these two recipes looked great on the plate and they went very well together. I subbed arugula instead of pea tendrils (someone please tell me where you expect you to find these by the way) and I left saffron out of the Greek yogurt sauce because I am too cheap. The feta in the salad is key because is adds some much needed saltiness so don't skip.

Quinoa Salad with Pickled Radishes and Feta

1 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 medium radishes, very thinly sliced
1/2 pound thin green beans
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 large English cucumber—halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 ounces Greek feta cheese, thinly sliced

1. In a small saucepan, bring the red wine vinegar to a simmer with the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the radish slices. Let stand until cool, about 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the green beans until they are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse the beans under cold water until cool. Pat the beans dry and cut them into 1 1/2-inch lengths.
3. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover and simmer over low heat until all of the water has been absorbed, about 12 minutes. Uncover and let stand until cool, about 10 minutes.
4. In a medium bowl, toss the cucumber with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the quinoa with the parsley, lemon juice and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Drain the radishes and add them to the quinoa, along with the beans, cucumber and feta. Toss well and serve.

Greek Grilled Scallop Sandwiches

1/4 cup Greek-style whole-milk yogurt
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small black plum, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 large sea scallops (1 1/4 pounds)
2 thin slices of prosciutto, cut into thin strips
36 pea tendrils (1 cup)

1. Light a grill. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, saffron and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
2. Brush the plum slices with oil and grill over high heat until lightly charred, 30 seconds per side. Brush the scallops with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill them over high heat until charred and just cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
3. Cut each scallop in half crosswise. Place a plum slice on the bottom half of each scallop. Lay the prosciutto strips over the plums, then top each one with 2 pea tendrils and cover with the scallop tops. Secure with toothpicks and put 3 on each plate. Top each scallop sandwich with 1 teaspoon of the yogurt sauce and garnish with the remaining pea tendrils. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and serve.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grilled Peach and Pears over Bibb Lettuce with Pistachios, Gorgonzola Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Grilling fruit is underrated. No question. Not only does it add texture, it bring out the sweetness of fruits that people love so much. I am proud to say that my sister and I made this recipe up. We started knowing that we wanted to grill peaches, thought Gorgonzola would pair well and why not add some pears to that and... hey! there are pistachios in the pantry.

See? Now, you can visualize the progression...

Grilled Peach and Pears over Bibb Lettuce with Gorgonzola Cheese, Pistachios and Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 white peaches, wedged
2 pears, wedged
1/4 shelled pistachios
1 bibb lettuce
1/8 cup of homemade vinaigrette (See Bitsy's vinaigrette recipe)
1/2 Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Wash lettuce. Place two leaves on each place. Heat grill to high. Brush wedges lightly with olive oil. Place wedges on grill and flip to desired doneness, about 2-3 minutes. Place wedges on lettuce. Crumble cheese on top of salads and pepper with pistachios. Drizzle dressing over and salt and pepper to taste.


Pork Tenderloin with Bing Cherry and Balsamic Sauce

My little sister is a great cook. Her approach is California cuisine at its finest. Think fresh, think simple, think family style. That's her.

So when she came home the week before her wedding, we decided to pull a dinner together and eat outside to enjoy the long and warm Napa Valley summer nights we are so blessed to have and unwind before a week of madness.

My mom had a tenderloin in the fridge and knowing that cherries are in season my sister suggested a sauce of some kind. We went online and found this simple recipe on Epicurious. However, we decided to juice half of an orange into the sauce and that panned out to be a pretty damn good idea...

Pork Tenderloin with Bing Cherry and Balsamic Sauce

1 pork tenderloin
1/3 cup bottled balsamic vinaigrette (we used our own balsamic dressing instead of the bottled balsamic. I would suggest this so it's not so oily)
1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
3/4 cup dried Bing (sweet) or tart cherries, washed and pitted
1/2 orange, juiced


Heat grill on medium. Cook tenderloin 12 minutes per side. Tent foil over so it 'bakes' it while it grills.

Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot to skillet; stir until softened, about 1 minute. Add broth, cherries and bring to boil and sauce is slightly reduced, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer pork to platter and top with sauce.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lucy's Artichoke Dip

My brother Clark and his wife Lucy hosted dinner at their Hidden Valley, CA home last night for 3 guests. Their home overlooks a lovely lake with views of Mount St. Helena in the background. It was a beautiful landscape for a delicious dinner. We enjoyed a glass of wine on the deck and snacked on this simple yet delicious dip beforehand. You can make variations of this recipe. I would suggest adding green chilies, green onions or the classic coupling of spinach. Bon appetite!

Lucy's Artichoke Dip
2 cans of artichoke hearts
1 1/2 cup of mayo (PLEASE no Miracle Whip EVER!)
1 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain artichokes from cans and add to bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix to coat. Place in baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and raise temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for 5-10 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

2008 Napa Valley Wine Auction

I've got the golden ticket!

I have to say that it's fate that the timing for my move just happened to fall on the eve of Napa Valley's biggest event of the year, the wine auction.

Thanks to my childhood friends, Lindsay and Sean, I was able to score a last minute pass to the sold out event. Wineries from all over the valley pour while an all-star restaurant line-up showcase their best bites.

The wine auction upsets locals. It's a long day, hot, attended by pretentious tourists and the streets are a parking lot. All of our friends were there and my step dad (above) poured his coveted Zinfandel and Cabernet wines. More DUIs are handed out before dark than anywhere else on the planet. That's why I high tailed it to the city for the weekend after Thursday's event.
Unlike everyone else, I was into it. I showed up hungry, thirsty, camera ready and very excited.


Steak Frites with Herb Butter and Creamed Spinach

Men love steak frites. So when I decided to cook dinner for my step dad, I decided that I would recreate a Chicago steak house style dinner that would leave him happy and pleasantly full. After all, it pairs quite nicely with his delicious Cabernet.

I bought two New York strip steaks at the store and made herb butter to serve with it. Right now, we only have parsley and rosemary in the garden. I grabbed a little of each, chopped it up, mixed it with a half stick of butter and scooped it out in a nice ball. Anytime you grill steak please make sure to season generously. There is nothing worst than a great piece of meat with no seasoning. A crime.

I've made these frites a couple times before and it's been a trial and error process. Finally, I figured out how to make them crispy because in the past they have ended up soggy. Just slice them into skinny strips and let them go more than you think in the fryer (I use my wok). They'll be ok. Just watch the color.

Now, on to the creamed spinach. Believe it or not, I have never made creamed spinach before. I have to say that it is easy and a big time crowd pleaser so it's no wonder why it's a steak house staple.

I fried bacon and chopped it up in crispy pieces. I spread evenly on top, covered it with some Parmesan cheese and popped in the oven for a nice crust on top.

Shaw's Creamed Spinach
4 servings
5 slices thick cut bacon
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan
3 spinach bunches (I highly advise on not using frozen spinach but for larger groups (8+) you could do a mix to save $)
1/2 yellow or white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. cream
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoon butter

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

Fry bacon and set aside. Add butter to pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute for 4-5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add flour and stir until powder disappears. Heat cream in microwave fro 45 seconds and slowly add to pan. Once cream is heated and smooth, add spinach. Cook for 3 minutes.

Chop up bacon into small pieces. Pour spinach in baking dish. Sprinkle bacon on top and Parmesan on top of bacon. Pop in oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Beer Can Chicken

The greatest part about being home is seeing old friends. Especially friends that love to eat and drink just as much as you do. So when I got the invite from my good friends, Lindsay and Sean, to meet them in Napa for dinner, I didn't skip a beat. See you there. Bells and whistles.

Sure enough, our dinner rocked. In fact, I ran home to blog about the Bounty Hunter's famous beer can chicken. I mean, look at this sucker. How can it not be down-right delicious?

Let's just say that I am dragging a friend from out of town back there on Sunday. This chicken is worth writing home about. It's got a jerk rub that's got such a kick that I bought a bottled water for the car ride home. They wouldn't share the rub recipe with me but you can make it up as you go along. Here is the recipe from the manager of Bounty Hunter, Will Wright...

I would add some red chili flakes, cayenne pepper and why baste it a little with a mixture of Tabasco and Tecate... Also, you can pop in oven at 375 degrees instead of grill for hour and a half.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention that Bounty Hunter is a SWEET wine bar with a bunch of high-top tables. So you may go for the chicken but leave with some pretty tasty wine finds...

Bounty Hunter Beer Can Chicken
Sunday, April 13, 2008

4 pound chicken
1 can of Tecate beer
1 lime
Upright holder for beer can chicken

Spice rub:

Chef’s notes: Makes enough for 20-40 chickens. Store it in a ziplock bag.

5 pounds pre-mixed Cajun spice
1 cup fennel seeds
1 cup coriander seeds
1/2 cup dried thyme
1/2 cup dried oregano
1/2 cup smoked paprika
1 tsp. Coleman’s dry mustard
1 tsp. tumeric

“And a few of our own secret spices. Feel free to add any of your own favorites.”

Toast all seeds until you can smell a strong aroma, then allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Grind in a spice/coffee grinder.

Add these and the additional spices to Cajun spice.

Clean and rub chicken with spice blend, 20 to 30 minutes before placing it on the grill.

Place aluminum foil on grill. Open and pour out about one-quarter of a can of Tecate, then place the can in holder.

Place the chicken, cavity down, over the can and holder and pin wings back so they don’t burn.

Squeeze half a lime in the neck of the chicken, and use it to cork the neck to trap in the moisture.

Grill covered on low-medium heat for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer placed between the thigh and backbone reads 165 F.

Pull chicken off and enjoy!


Holy Napa Valley

I swear, I'm a genius.

To think that just one month ago I pondered whether or not to risk it all and take a leap of faith to pursue the wine and food world. Although the going away parties were teary, this is the best idea I have ever had in my life.

I've been a resident in Napa for 3 days after living in the midwest and east coast for some time. Turns out, I just happened to land on the eve of the valley's biggest event of the year; the famous Wine Auction. This place is abuzz, packed with traffic to boot. I don't care. Put me in traffic. I have a sunburn, a new tennis racket and I have reconnected with so many folks from growing up that it's silly.

Welcome home. Or that's what I tell myself. Between the wine auction parties and the glasses of Cab that I share with my stepfather that he crafts just a mile from our house on Howell Mountain, I'm in heaven.

Tomorrow I am off to the city with a fishing license in my pocket. My sister is taking me to an annual party on Muir Beach where we will catch our own fish and cook them right on the beach with other foodies. Be sure to look for that post.

I'll be working at Duckhorn Vineyards this summer. Duckhorn is a valley legend and I am so excited to be a part of the team. More to come on that, too.

Great to be home, Napa. Hope you are ready.