The Spenard Starter: A Decadent Brunch Experiment

Some time ago, my lady friend and I were at The Bear Tooth for brunch, where a menu item called The Spenard Starter caught my eye. I love polenta dishes, especially at good restaurants, so I ordered it without hesitation. When it arrived, we were blown away by the decadence: A thick slab of polenta, covered with and surrounded by shrimps, chorizo, and grilled tomatoes. All topped off with a spicy Béchamel and two fried eggs. Savory and delicious, it now ranks as my favorite breakfast in Anchorage (supplanting the German Apple Cake at Cafe Amsterdam).

I was immediately taken with a desire to recreate this meal at home. My first attempt ended up tasty, if not quite as good as they do at the restaurant. What follows is my first pass at the recipe (a work in progress):

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Soup with Friends

Soba Noodles in Shiitake-Shoyu Broth with Asparagus and Egg

The post on Serious Eats that got my attention

Herbivoracious cookbook by Micahel Natkin on Amazon

I wanted to really love this soup.  There were a lot of things that were very attractive about the recipe, including the soba noodles (yum), the inclusion of hard boiled eggs (my favorite soup ingredient), the pan-fried asparagus (a delicous and in-season veggie) . . . On top of all that, I was planning on feeding a pair of meat-adverse women, so the inclusion of tofu instead of meat and the fact that the broth was described as “unami-rich” despite being vegetarian pushed the recipe right to the top of the priority list.

The Occasion

My oldest and dearest friend, and one of my favorite cooking buddies, has just arrived back home in Alaska, so my lady and I invited her over for dinner and to watch the U.S. soccer friendly against Brazil.

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A Long Way of Saying We Made Fried Chicken and it was Bitching

The Boring Background Bit

There were several factors that came together to result in me cooking fried chicken (not a meal I would commonly cook or order out) on Sunday night.  The first being that, based on the advice of Bittman and Ruhlman, I started making my own poultry stock this past winter.  The impact that homemade stock has had on my cooking is so profound, that I vowed to never use store-bought chicken stock again.  The main hurdle with this has been procuring chicken carcasses with which to make said stock (this is actually a separate topic that I would like to expand on later; suffice it to say, I’m roasting a lot more chickens these days than I used to, often for the primary reason I’m in need of stock).  I used up my last bit of stock last week making some risotto, so this weekend I was once again looking for a reason to cook chicken.

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