Jambon, Speck, Proscuitto, Virginia Country Ham, Jamón Serrano and Jamón Ibérico

Meat has been cured since ancient times.  Dry cured hams have been a favorite in France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal for centuries.  Americans, particularly those in the South and the names Smithfield and Surry are legendary in this area, carried on this tradition with smoked hams, fattening them with tasty peanuts, beech nuts, hickory nuts, acorns and fruits.    

All of these hams are salt cured and aged.  Some are smoked over fragrant hardwoods.

While we love everything French and American, and whilst the Italian prosciutto is the best known the world over, we prefer Spanish ham which usually has a more uniform texture, more intense flavor and is usually less moist than other cured hams, because of the long curing stage.  In fact, every European country seems to have its own specialty on cured hams.  But pig rearing is Spain dates back to antiquity and once the pig was harvested, it was dry-cured to last the family for an entire year.  Jamón serrano is a type of jamón (dry-cured Spanish ham), which is generally served raw in thin slices, or occasionally diced for use in cooking.  Today, Spain is the world’s leading producer of dry-cured pork.  Serrano means from the tierra or the mountain range, where the European white (it’s really pink) pig is curred.  Jamón Ibérico comes from the black Ibérico pig, which has smaller litters and is more difficult to put weight on quickly (compared to the white pigs), hence its higher price and gamier flavor, which we prefer.  These Spanish hams are often thinly sliced and served on a slice of pan tomate.

The German Black Forest ham is commonly available world-wide and is smoked over pine and fir and coated with beef blood to give it a black exterior. Very lean and tender, it […]

By |October 1st, 2011|Cuisine, Recipes, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Jambon, Speck, Proscuitto, Virginia Country Ham, Jamón Serrano and Jamón Ibérico

White Anchovies

Anchovies – whether white boquerones, freshly cooked, salted, or smoked, are a classic Spanish tapa, an Italian addition to an antipasti platter, and a French delight.   Boquerones are tender white anchovies lightly pickled in vinegar and olive oil.  Salted anchovies are silky and tender, definitely different from your typical over-salted canned ones.  Smoked anchovies are incredible with a tender smoky flavor.  Be prepared to spend $40/pound for the good ones.

In addition to just serving them on their own with a slice of toasted and sea salted and olive oiled bread as a tapa or as part of an antipasti platter, we also use them in:

Black Truffle Pasta

By |October 1st, 2011|Cuisine, Recipes, Surf and Fin|Comments Off on White Anchovies

Truffe – Black and White Truffles, the Diamonds of the Kitchen

La Truffe Noir – Black Truffles together with White Truffles the Diamonds of the Kitchen

Truffles cost more per ounce than gold, or at least white truffles still do.  The perceived value of the truffe is far removed from its real gastronmic value that it has become caught up in snobbery and hype.  But the high prices are better understood when you consider that truffle production is 500 times lower than 100 years ago and demand is 50 times higher than supplies available.

Our friend in Paris once had an English girlfriend who invited him home to London to visit her parents.  He planned to make an impression and brought Burgundean truffles along with him and woke up early the next morning to make French omelets for the family, with a few slivers of truffles sprinkled on top.  The girl’s father went to the ice box to grab a bottle of catsup to the Frenchman’s dismay and he attempted to explain the value and culinary uniqueness of the truffle which would be hidden by the ketchup.  The father replied, “I always take my eggs with ketchup.”  On the next visit with the girl, he arrived with her at Charles de Gaulle airport to “discover” he had left his passport behind and there was not enough time to go back home and retrieve it.  Voila, the French way of avoiding the problem without a conflict!

Scientists say that there is a volatile alcohol in truffles that has a strong musky character related to testosterone, so perhaps this is the real reason we are attracted to them.

The truffle is the fruiting body of an underground mushroom.  Seeds, call spores, are dispersed through fungivores, animals that eat fungi.  Since the 18th Century, truffles as have been […]

By |October 1st, 2011|Cuisine, Recipes|Comments Off on Truffe – Black and White Truffles, the Diamonds of the Kitchen

French Press Coffee

The French press, also known as a press pot, is a 19th century French invention that brews an above-average cup of coffee, if you use the right  beans. It is more flavorful than the speedy and convenient drip American coffee maker and is just shy of the robust flavors of espresso.

Its French name is cafetière à piston, but is more commonly known by its brand names, such as Bodum or melior, or simply a cafetière.  

The personalization of a morning cup of coffee is part of the fun of using a French press and can be anywhere between 2-5 minutes of steeping, before the plunger is slowly pushed while not allowing any of the grains to pass.  A very coarse grind is recommended, which is a 1/10 on our grinder.

We like Zabar’s French-Italian roast for use in our French pressed coffee.  We find it has the right balance for this sort of use.

Making coffee in a French press coffee press is not complicated, and is more flavorful and aromatic than those having gone through an American paper filter and drip machine.  You can also use it to make tea, in a pinch.

A conical burr grinder is recommended over a blade grinder because it gives a more consistent grind.  I believe you cannot have it too course, so crank the grinder to the coarsest setting.

Heat the water just short of boiling, either on the stove or (heaven forbid, in the microwave if you are that pressed for time).   Use the best filtered water available (to eliminate chlorine and hard water tastes), but bottled is unnecessary in most places.

Place the coffee grounds into the coffee press. I like it strong, the French way, so we use 4 heaping tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee per 8 oz of water, but adjust to […]

By |September 24th, 2011|Café, Cuisine|Comments Off on French Press Coffee

La Pavoni Espresso Machine

When traveling in Fiorenzi, Italy, I decide to embark on a journey to make café, espresso, and cappuccino at home, having seen the Italians do it with success both at home and in restaurants.  I wanted to give up my French press and stove-top espresso “machines” in favor of a real machine.  I stumbled into a  cooking store which features over 100 varieties of real espresso machines and the clerk spoke perfect English after hearing my crude Italian.

He asked, “How may at your house that drink coffee?  I replied, “most of the time just me.”  He said, “Do you have a few minutes in the morning to read the paper or are you rushed for work?”  I said, “I have a few minutes.”  He added, “How many would be the most, say for a dinner party?”  To which I replied, “Eight.”  He said, “Then, this machine” and pointed to a La Pavoni Professional.  I quickly added, “But wait, there are hundreds here to look at, how can you so quickly dismiss them all in favor of this one?”  He said, “Look, I can sell you a Fiat, or a Ford truck, if you wish, but you look like you can afford this Ferrari and, if so, I can teach you how to drive it and you will never look back at the others after having fallen in love with this Ferrari.”

So, he picked a box with a La Pavoni modelo Professional 0,42 gallons espresso machine and made his way to the counter.  By the way, I don’t recommend hand-carrying back one of these machines from Italy, especially after 9-11, as it was interesting enough before 9-11 at the airport x-ray machines, not so much in Milan where the attendant looked at his screen and then his supervisor, who simply said, […]

By |September 24th, 2011|Café, Cuisine|Comments Off on La Pavoni Espresso Machine

New Posts

Please check out all my new posts…which are hidden under separate pages and therefore don’t show up here. 


Mardi Gras

La Buche de Noel


House Wine

Hungarian Partridge with Gin & Juniper Berries

Pheasant Confit

Four-legged Friends
Gary Ruppel
Rim Chung

Friends from the Sporting Road

Jim Fergus

By |September 22nd, 2011|Cuisine, Dog Training, Fishing, Fly Tying, Recipes, Uncategorized|Comments Off on New Posts

Made in Italy – Book Review 5/5 (*****)

‘”Made in Italy ” is my cookbook of the year.  If I had to choose one place to live my entire life, Italy would be hard to beat, as the food is unsurpassable and it varies from town to town.  The countryside is beautiful and the food stuffs are abundant.  This book covers all of those beauties of Italy.  So many books are take-offs on television celebrities, featuring dumbed-down restaurant favorites simply catering to the home cook.  If you only buy one Italian cookbook, buy this one.  Locatelli’s recipes are the real deal, many from his restaurant, and the reminiscences from his life.  It is large and covers everything from risotto to panettone.  While many of the recipes are complex and will require adventures to the market for ingredients, most are simple and easily tackled for the home chef looking to present the finest dishes that Italy has to offer.

By |September 17th, 2011|Book Reviews, Cuisine|Comments Off on Made in Italy – Book Review 5/5 (*****)

The Ultimate Field Picnic

I was sent a copy of this article on the ultimate picnic party wagon, which is a proper English wooden trailer converted for tailgating for polo matches.   Polo Magazine- Party Wagon Article. I then discovered Christy’s auction of Patricia Kluge’s estate in Virginia, and found that after the Kluge divorce, John Kluge remarried and built another house nearby.  This incredible picnic hamper is the piece de resistance  of the auction.  click article from the New York Times which appeared in December 2005.

Apparently in the 1980’s by the Kluges commissioned the London firm of Asprey, jewellers and silversmith to the British Royal Family, to fashion this picnic hamper containing a full service for sixteen. The wicker trailer holds some 15 wicker cases, each fitted with brass handles and leather straps, with battery-powered hot and cold boxes and a water pump, cases for Bernardaud Limoges china, Baccarat crystal, Asprey silver cutlery, a staghorn bar service, two folding mahogany tables and 16 chairs, complete with the “K” monogram.  The set was estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for some $144,000.

Although  wicker carryalls have been used since the 1700s, the picnic basket was born in 1901, when British luxury-goods retailers like Asprey started stocking hampers filled with tableware for motorists to enjoy on country drives.  See more at and

By |September 13th, 2011|Cuisine, Fishing, Foxhunting, Picnic, polo, Uncategorized, Wingshooting|Comments Off on The Ultimate Field Picnic

Food is Like a Beautiful Woman

Food is like a beautiful woman: It is sometimes more dramatic and more appealing simply and honestly presented. You can embellish a dish to catch the eye, but it doesn’t mean that the taste will be truly satisfying.
I love bistros which may have started out as places to grab a quick meal but they suggest to me an informal, comfortable restaurant where the food is flavorful and straightforward. The cooking is familiar, like the meals you might enjoy at home, sometimes with simple recipes, but often personalized by the chef and the change of seasons.  In France, we can find something for everyone at bistros. In America, steakhouses such as Morton’s, Del Friscos, Elway’s, and others often cater to replicate the best bistros. But the best food in France is still cooked at home and we have collected recipes that we like to eat (and cook).
I am often asked about my style of cooking and how I selected these recipes. It’s simple–they are the best recipes I have found.  If you have a better one, please post it to me.  I’ll try it before I post it, if it is better, I will take down the one I have and use yours.  Usually the recipes start out on things learned in the kitchen, but also from our experiences eating all over the world. Ultimately, they cater to my personal tastes. I think it is more fun to cook what I like to eat. This is a collection of my favorites. My wife often appreciates the simplest of recipes, as many of them do not take a lot of trouble to clean up after, which is her task after mine as the chef. But, whenever possible, we try to simplify, if it does not sacrifice taste.
I suggest that you start out […]

By |August 3rd, 2011|Cuisine|Comments Off on Food is Like a Beautiful Woman

Spring Lamb

Now is the time of year for spring lamb.  Nick de Toldi, our friend in France, recently discussed with us one of the dishes cookable with the terrine de Soufflenheim, but there this “best seller” of the bourgeois dinner parties named “Le gigot de 7 heures.”  It is an old recipe that lived a sort of revival in the late 1980’s.  In Nick’s opinion it was re-launched by a clever guy who purchased the original Auberge Ravoux in Auvers sur Oise (where Van Gogh died) and who wanted to serve only “vintage” cuisine. The guy was Dutch and very cleverly explored some old cook books and was serving a shortlist of
very original and talented good things at very fair price. The mistake to avoid for this dish is to use a too expensive lamb. In France for a leg of lamb you have 3 levels of price: 1/ Prime French young
lamb, for which the leg costs around 60 euros. 2./ Imported from Ireland or Scotland probably at 30 euros for the same sized leg. 3/ Imported frozen from Australia or New Zealand dropping at 12 euros for the same size leg. The most expensive is only for light cooking serving the meat “rosé”.  The UK ones can go either long or shot cooking and the NZ ones are very good for all sorts of heavily cooked or spiced tajines, couscous, curry, Daubes d’Avignon, gigot de 7 heures,  etc… (and even for the French Asado, usually cooked somewhere along the sporting road).

As for lamb stateside, try to find a small local producer.  We have one here, selling ones which are every bit as good as the French ones.  As for imported ones, Costco provides a nice de-boned leg of lamb which is perfect for the French Asado or gigot de 7 heures.

By |June 6th, 2011|Cuisine|Comments Off on Spring Lamb