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French Boeuf, Chinese Hot Pot, Culinary Tours & Thai Flavors Oyster Stew

I ordered Boeuf Bourguignon last Saturday at Brix 25. Mark and I had dinner there with my BFF Linda and her husband Bob, and it was fabulous. I have not ordered beef in a restaurant for nearly 20 years, so this was a momentous occasion! Chef Lyman uses grass fed beef of course, and I had sampled this dish of his in the past off of Mark’s plate, and I had never forgotten it. So I decided to go crazy and have that for dinner. As tender as warm chocolate and certainly as dark, the flavors and texture were as rich and comfortable in my mouth as Etta James’ version of “At Last” is in my ears. Heaven. We all enjoyed our food immensely and the co-owner Katie had this wonderful idea that I loved so much I may just borrow it some time. On the way out we passed by a self serve candy ‘bar’, so lovely to see, decorated in all shades of pink, were several glass dishes in varying shapes and sizes, filled with valentines candies such as conversation hearts and pastel MnM’s. Each guest was encouraged to fill a little cellophane bag with the candies and tie them with the gold twist ties to take home and enjoy later. You start with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine and end with candy, how can you not have a wonderful time here??

On Sunday Mark and I went to mom and dad’s to celebrate Chinese New Year and mom made traditional Chinese Hot Pot (it’s basically fondue with broth rather than oil) which she learned from her cousin-in-law Mae, who is from China. It was delightful! I made a mess on myself slurping noodles and broth and my very favoritest (yes it’s a word!) combo was the bok choy/spinach/rice noodles in the sauces. It is definitely a fun group meal to have and it tasted great making all our own little flavor combos out of our choices of shrimp, scallops, pork, beef, mushrooms, tofu, noodles, greens, and other things. There was cilantro and green onions to top it (though I kept forgetting to use it!) and a couple of different sauces to mix in. Did you celebrate Valentine’s day or Chinese New Year with a great meal? I would love to hear about it! It is the year of the tiger now by the way, so congratulations to you tigers out there!

I had a wonderfully full week and I can only see that continuing. I attended a culinary and agri-tourism workshop put on by the state in Port Townsend and it was a fantastic event to get my creative juices working. We did some farm tours including Hamma Hamma Oyster Company, which I have been visiting since I was a little girl. They have a new building with a little store full of locally produced items, a commercial kitchen and you can view the shuckers as they race through piles of oysters. There is an outdoor area where they are going to make into another commercial kitchen with seating and a great view! This summer I am going to work with them to create a day trip that will combine a cooking class, wine tasting, meal and fun for whoever wants to go! It is going to be a blast and I will keep you posted so you can sign up the minute we announce it. We also went to a place up towards Chimacum called Finn River Farm & Cidery that will make another fantastic day trip, as they have a pizza oven and lots of great activities on and near the farm. It is really close to the Olympic Music Festival and if you go you should definitely stop in to see the place, get some berries and hard cider (which is very much like sparkling wine: dry, delicate and lovely) for the concert.

The best restaurant that we ate at was in Sequim, called The Alder Wood Bistro. Chef Gabriel put out some amazing food and he is fiercely into the local food movement so of course I love that! If you find yourself anywhere near Sequim I cannot recommend this place enough, and I hope that we can get to know Chef Gabriel and his wife Jessica in the future. After the conference I raced back to Port Orchard to attend my first official meeting as a member of the newly formed Kitsap Food & Farm Policy Council. This is some seriously good work we are going to be doing and bringing up awareness of local food and agriculture within the county, as well as making agricultural pursuits more attainable and accessible to everyone. When you go read that article I hope you will look around the site a bit and consider joining the Kitsap Community & Agricultural Alliance, as it is the best $20 bucks you will spend to join anything this year. You will be supporting your interest in local, fresh food and we definitely need that support! I was recently asked to write a column for the “What’s Up” section of the local papers, and you can see my first one here.

Some fun things are coming up including our Ivy is turning 21 tomorrow! We will be toasting her and then if I have time I will stop by the Bremerton Green Drinks event at the Downtown Bremerton Library. 612 5 St from 6-9 and they love it when we RSVP. Bring your own glass and save the earth! These events are always fun and this is special because it is their 2 year anniversary for the group. Join the fun and see what is happening in your community.

Another event that I can guarantee will be super fun is the “For The Love of Wine”
talk and tasting that I am hosting at the Port Orchard Library. The talk is free, and starts at 6 pm at the Library. The tasting is $10 and will be held at Puget Sound Wine Cellers so if you don’t have your reservation call to get one, because it may sell out; the one in Silverdale did!

I have yet another call to action for you: If you know of (or are) any Old Town Silverdale business owners please pass this information on to them: We are having a meeting to discuss the revitalization of Old Town on Monday February 22, 4 pm, at the Port commissioners’ office. The Port, the County, the Chamber and many others will be there. The community at large is not invited to this meeting, as there is not enough room, once we have a general plan down we will have a much larger community meeting to get all the input that we can. For now we just want to see who the major stake holders for Old Town are and what they are willing to do to step up business down there. Building owners count! I have no way to get the word out to everyone so please pass it on and they can call me or email for more info if they need it.

So I wonder what sort of recipe you would like for today. I think I will go with an oyster stew since it is super easy to make and Hamma Hamma is on my mind. I put a little bit of a Thai twist in my recipe because it is really good that way and I keep it easy with a store-bought ingredient. You can leave the thai stuff out if you want to, but I think you want to try it!

1 quart shucked oysters in their liquor (I use medium Pacifics; use any kind you like)
about 1 cup fish stock or clam broth
Salt and black pepper
4 stalks celery, cut in medium-sized pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
Canola oil
4 cups coconut milk
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Thai Green Curry paste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
Paprika
Chopped fresh parsley or lime leaves

Pick over the oysters for shells. Strain the oysters to get the liquor out and hold both aside.

Cook the celery and onion in a little canola oil until tender, season with salt and pepper. Add the oyster liquor and fish or clam broth(should measure about 2 cups)to the pot, and then add the coconut milk and cream.

Heat the butter in a small sauce pan, then whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook just a few minutes, no need to brown this, and add the roux to the stock mixture; stir briskly until thickened and smooth. Add the Thai curry paste (Start with 1 heaping Tablespoon and see if you like the heat level. You can keep adding until you have the level that you are happy with), the lime juice, and fish sauce. Correct the seasonings.

Add in the oysters and mix well; cook until done, about 6 minutes, depending on the size. Top with the fresh herbs, keep warm over hot water until time to serve. (Option: You can blend this soup to make it smooth, or you can hold out the onions, celery and oysters and just blend them together.)

Garnish with paprika and fresh herbs and even some Creme Fraiche if you like.

Eat this and love it!