Pernil al Horno, Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash and Lemony Swiss Chard with Fried Olives, Capers & Garlic

Memorial Day Weekend / 45th Birthday Party.

First, hors d’œuvres: Chicken Liver Bourbon Mousse from Chop (you can find the recipe here), Fromager d’Affinois and some Pickled Purple Cauliflower I made.

For the main course, I went with the Pernil al Horno. You can find the recipe here. I served that with the Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash (I finally decided to bite the bullet and order some of the Rose Harissa from Belazu) and the Lemony Swiss Chard with Fried Olives, Capers & Garlic. We also had a loaf of Sea Salt Slab from little t bakery with some Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter.

For dessert: Salted Carmel Macarons from Pix Patisserie with some Salty Carmel ice cream from Jeni’s.

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To drink… With the hors d’œuvres, we had a bottle of the Anniversary Saison – aged in gin and wine barrels – from Upright Brewing. With the main course, a bottle of Sahati from The Ale Apothecary. And for dessert, a bottle of the Fishing with Hallet – aged Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon barrels – from The Commons Brewery.

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Roast Beef, Rice and Gravy with Sautéed Spinach

If I had to pick a “Last Meal”, this would probably be it. I don’t know what it is about it, but I love rice and gravy.

I don’t really have a recipe for this… I start by roasting two heads of garlic in a small tangine, using bacon fat instead of olive oil – one head for the gravy, the other for the spinach (see below). I use the tops of the heads of garlic that were cut off (and usually two or three more cloves cut in half) to plug the roast (Top Round – about 2.5 lb.) – about an inch apart all over the roast (which is coated with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning). Then I wrap the entire roast in bacon – preferably Beeler’s Garlic Pepper Bacon (which I couldn’t find, so I picked up some pepper bacon from Tails & Trotters at the PSU Farmers Market) – and put it in a roasting pan with a rack. Roughly 30 minutes before the roast is done, move the rack to another pan and put the roast back in the oven.

Now, time to make the gravy. Take roughly 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and mix with the drippings. Then, add enough Tony Chachere’s Instand Roux Mix to create a paste. Then, mix in 2 cups of beef broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat, and add about a cup of red wine. I also add 2 tablespoons of Johnny’s Au Jus Concentrate and at least a tablespoon of tamari. Mince one of the roasted heads of garlic and mix into the gravy. Add about ¾ pound of crimini and/or wild mushrooms (I picked up ½ lb. of Porcinis the day before at the Farmers Market) and cook for another fifteen minutes.

You kind find my Sautéed Spinach recipe here.

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To drink, I went with a bottle of the Undercurrent from Upright Brewing.

Grilled Octopus with Sweet Lime & Cashew Dipping Sauce, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

I have only tried to grill octopus once before – and I set my face on fire. Now I know it wasn’t the octopus’s fault, but I have been a bit scared to try cooking it again ever since. This recipe seemed easy enough that I decided to give it another go.

Grilled Octopus with Sweet Lime & Cashew Dipping Sauce

I thought that this recipe by David Chang would go well with the octopus.

Momofuku’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

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As for what to drink… I went with a 2013 bottle of Special Herbs – brewed with sweet and bitter orange peels, lemongrass, Szechuan peppercorns, hyssop and aged in Gin barrels – from Upright Brewing.

Artichoke and Potato Hash with Merguez Sausage and Harrisa Cream Sauce

This was my attempt to copy a dish I had eaten at Tasty & Sons. I ordered the Moroccan Chicken Hash, but then added a side of Merguez Sausage. I based the recipe on this one that I had seen in Saveur a few years back and then add Merguez Sausage and Harrisa Cream Sauce. I also decided to add some Red Bell Peppers that I grilled with the sausage.

1 lb. small new potatoes, cut in half
1 lb. baby artichokes (about 7 ~ 8)
1 lemon, cut in half
3 tbsp. butter
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. capers
½ cup green olives, cut in half
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Transfer potatoes to boiling water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Drain potatoes and let cool.

Trim away tough outer leaves of artichokes to expose their tender, pale green interior. (For illustrated, step-by-step instructions, see Trimming Baby Artichokes.) Slice artichokes lengthwise into ¼”-thick wedges. Rub artichokes with the cut sides of the halved lemon.

Heat 3 tbsp. in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and cook, flipping occasionally with a spatula, until they are light brown, about 10 minutes. Add artichokes and cook, flipping occasionally, until artichokes and potatoes are golden brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley, capers, olives and garlic. Stir to combine.

Plate the hash, place the grilled Merguez Sausage on top, and coat with the Harrissa Cream Sauce.

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Since it was just a few days after Beltane, I decided to go with a bottle of last year’s Beltane from Propolis Brewing.