36 Handles

January 30, 2016 – It was bacon night at 36 Handles.  Bacon mac & cheese.  Bacon on a stick.  Even bacon in my Bloody Mary.

36 Handles, of course, takes its name from the number of beers on tap.  It’s another brainchild of Richard Righton, the British native who wound up  as a successful restaurateur in El Dorado Hills, California.

I have visited his other restaurant, the Relish Bar, where the theme is martinis and burgers.  I enjoyed the Relish Bar.  I enjoyed 36 Handles more.

36 Handles is a British pub.  Bangers & mash.  Shepherd’s pie.  Fish & chips.  Guinness and steak pie.

It’s popular.  I stopped by in the late afternoon for an early dinner.  The young lady working the maître d’s desk told me there was no seating available between six and ten o’clock.  Every seat was taken.  I promised to eat fast.

I started with a Bacon Bloody Mary.  It came with the usual salad garnish as well as a piece of bacon curled around a swizzle stick.  The Bloody Mary was spicy and good.  Even better when I added several drops of Tabasco.  Where I come from Tabasco makes everything better.

They were offering bacon on a stick and pork belly in a sweet chili sauce for appetizers.  I wanted both.

The waitress brought thick slices of skewered bacon.  Meaty.  Salty.  Bacon as it should be.  Delightful.

But it was overshadowed by the pork belly.  Small cubes of juicy pork belly doused in sweet chili sauce.  Bacony.  A little bit salty.  A little bit sweet.  Amazingly palatable.

For an entre I chose corned beef mac & cheese.  It was a winner.

A bowl full of pasta awash in melted white cheddar with chunks of corned beef and sweet onion.  A sprinkle of panko over the top added a little crunch.  So flavorful.

The food was so good I never got around to trying any of the 36 beers on tap.  I suppose I’ll have to go back.

36 times.

Vinegar-Sesame Oil Sauce for Chicken

January 2, 2016 – I’m starting to like this fusion thing.  After excellent restaurant experiences at Casa in Anchorage (Korean-Mexican) and Aji Japanese Bistro in California (American-Japanese), I thought I’d try more of it in our kitchen.  An American comfort food, roast chicken, with a light Asian influenced sauce.

The other trend in cooking that is fascinating to me is the abundance of new spices and combinations of spices.  It opens up a world of flavors we never considered only a few years ago.

I had some chicken that I wanted to bake.  I always use chicken thighs.  The juiciest, most flavorful part of the chicken.  But to each his own.

I sprinkled some rosemary salt over the thighs.  I’d never seen rosemary salt until recently.  Rosemary has been one of my favorite spices forever.  Mixing it with salt doesn’t take away from the wonderful rosemary flavor.  It just makes additional salting unnecessary.  In fact, be careful.  I’ve found rosemary salt alone to be sufficient.  But then my theory is you can always add salt.  It’s a lot harder to take it away.

I also sprinkled the chicken with paprika.  Just a little something to give it a slight smokiness.  A depth of flavor.

I needed a sauce.  Something to dribble over the thighs.  Most of the recipes I looked at were soy sauce based.  That wasn’t going to work.  I thought the soy sauce would overpower the delicate flavors already complementing the chicken and make the whole thing too salty.  I decided to drop the soy sauce and replace it with something else.

Sesame oil.  Just a little.

I used hot sesame oil.  We like our food spicy.  Mild sesame oil will work just as well.  Just don’t over do it.  A little will go a long way.

I also used pecan oil in the wok.  Pecan oil has a very light, delicate flavor that tends to bring foods to perfection.  It never wants to be the star ingredient itself.  It has a high smoke point so it’s easy to work with.  And has a long list of health benefits.

That’s why I decided to use pecan oil.

Also my cousin sent us some pecan oil for Christmas.  There was that, too.

My wife made a panzanella, an Italian bread salad as an accompaniment.  Triple fusion.  American-Asian-Italian.

This recipe produces a light, slightly sweet sauce that goes well with both the chicken and the panzanella.

Chicken Thighs with Vinegar-Sesame Sauce

8 Chicken thighs (or your favorite chicken parts)                                                 Rosemary salt to taste                                                                                             Paprika to taste                                                                                                                  1 tablespoon pecan oil (or whatever oil your cousin sent you for Christmas)                   2 green onions, chopped                                                                                                    2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                                      2 slices ginger root, shredded                                                                                           3 tablespoons rice vinegar                                                                                                 1 tablespoon hot sesame oil (or mild if you prefer)                                                            5 tablespoons water                                                                                                          1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.

Lay the chicken pieces on a large, flat rimmed pan.  I usually cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Makes clean up a lot easier.

Place the chicken on the middle rack of the oven.  Cook for about an hour, checking occasionally to avoid over cooking.  It should be nicely browned and still juicy when it’s done.

To make the sauce:  Stir fry the green onions, garlic and ginger in the oil over medium heat in a wok or wide-mouth skillet for about a minute.  Add the vinegar, sesame oil, water and sugar.  Simmer for about two minutes while continuing to stir.

Lightly drop thin streams of the sauce over the chicken pieces for serving.

Bon temps!