Shrimp Ceviche

For one of our themed wine dinners a few years back I opted to make a ceviche as one of our two dishes to contribute. I’d never made it before, was honestly rather intimidated by the idea of relying on citrus juice to cook the seafood, but was pleasantly and deliciously surprised by the result. Each time I’ve made the dish I’ve based it off of Simply Recipe’s Ceviche recipe but switched up the seafood mix. Scallops and shrimp, white fish and scallops, just shrimp…as long as everything’s an equal size and the seafood ends up being two pounds worth, just about anything will work. It’s cool, refreshing, flavorful, and perfect for these hot summer days. (Plus, the latest time I made it I opted to serve it in my grandmother’s vintage shrimp cocktail dishes, it looked so cool.)Shrimp Ceviche


Pickled Things

  • Herb Crusted Salmon with Onion Caper Topping and spring risotto
  • Beets
  • Shredded Beets
  • Pickling liquid

Growing up, I always loved pickles. Especially “Bread & Butter” style ones, sweet and tart at the same time and I could eat a dozen in a sitting. During the summer my mom would make quick pickles with the cucumbers from our garden just sliced up with some rice wine vinegar (often a flavored one with dill or other herbs) and those were just as tasty. Now I’m finally moving on to other pickled vegetables. For the longest time I was dubious of pickled beets (were they really that color? Answer: yes) and other veggies as it just seemed that the texture would be really odd. But when we joined our CSA we would get beets, cucumbers, red onions, and oftentimes we weren’t quite sure what to do with them. I roasted the beets once, but then decided to be adventurous and try them pickled…they’re really tasty that way!

For a recent spring potluck meal I made pickled shredded beets, using our mandolin to shred the beets into matchsticks (and chopping the beet green stems as well) then concocting a pickling spice mix (I think I used this recipe from Williams-Sonoma) and combining that with equal parts rice wine and cider vinegar. I didn’t pre-cook the beets, just put them into the hot pickling liquid and that quick cooked them. They were a hit at the potluck so definitely will go on the roster to make again.

Another good pickled topping recently discovered is pickled red onions. We made the Salt Baked Herbed Salmon with Onion and Caper Vinaigrette from Food52’s Genius Recipes cookbook and the salmon turned out wonderfully flavorful and moist and the onion topping was one of my favorite parts of the dish. That sauce ended up on tacos, eggs, salads and anything else I could think to put it on as we were going through the leftovers.


Egg Breakfast Sandwiches

Fried Egg Sandwich

Weekend breakfasts in the Beker household have often become egg-centric. Our CSA includes a dozen fresh eggs in their twice monthly deliveries and (for better or worse) we don’t eat a lot of eggs during the week, so the weekend is our chance to catch up.

We started with simple fried or scrambled eggs (either quick or slow, either method ideally resulting in soft, custardy eggs). However, I have always been a fan of the breakfast sandwich (confession: McDonald’s Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit is a road trip favorite) and wanted to recreate them at home. We had English muffins, smoked Gouda, bacon, eggs…everything needed for a tasty breakfast sandwich. So in the last few months we’ve veered to the handheld breakfast making variations with different cheeses, either frying (being sure to place the yolk so it is directly against the top piece of bread so when you squish everything together it results in a tasty yolk “sauce” that absorbs into the top) or, more recently, scrambling the egg, and serving it atop a toasted, cheesed English muffin.

The scrambling approach I was always a bit leery of as I could never figure out the right approach to get a non-falling-apart egg, until I came across the Bodega-Style Egg on Food52. It really is “stupidly easy.” Crack your egg(s) mix with some salt and pepper, pour in your pan, add cheese (if desired), and leave them be until they’re cooked, then fold so they fit on your bread and serve. To be honest, I don’t leave them completely alone, I will swirl the pan so that the eggs are spread out and as thin as possible but no shaking, stirring or scraping is required. Top it with a bit of Sriracha or other hot sauce, and you have a great, full flavored, and super easy, breakfast (or lunch, or dinner).


Bacon-wrapped Chorizo-stuffed Dates

  • Mise en place
  • Ready for the oven
  • Fresh out of the oven
  • Ready to eat!

I first encountered this dish at Mas Tapas in Charlottesville, Virginia and have ordered it every place I’ve seen it since. The combination of sweet and salty, sticky and crunchy is just amazing. For Wine Dinner: Tapas Edition we decided to opt for a recipe from Food & Wine Magazine that tossed a bit of chorizo into the mix as well, we were not disappointed!


Wine Dinner: Tapas Edition

  • Table setup (from the stairs)
  • Table setup from the French doors
  • Rose on ice
  • IMG_1013
  • The wine lineup (the next morning)
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  • IMG_2155
  • IMG_2156
  • IMG_2157
  • IMG_2158
  • IMG_2159
  • IMG_2160
  • IMG_2161
  • IMG_2162
  • Spicy Roasted Chickpease
  • Gazpacho with Basil Cornbread Croutons (Leggs)
  • Gazpacho with Basil Cornbread Croutons (Leggs)
  • Bacon-wrapped Chorizo-stuffed Dates
  • Sausage and bean stew (Fabada Asturiana) (Leggs)
  • Sausage and bean stew (Fabada Asturiana) (Leggs)
  • Jamon Tasting (Golds)
  • Roasted Mushrooms (Claire & Andy)
  • Grilled Spiced Pork (Claire & Andy)
  • Saffron Ice Cream with Crispy Jamon Chip (Golds)
  • Tres Leches Ice Cream (Golds)

We had tried in previous years to hold a wine dinner outside and were unfortunately thwarted by an inopportune rainstorm. This year, however, we lucked out with a beautiful 70 degree, low humidity, partially sunny Saturday evening. We moved our dining room table outside, brought out our ever so fancy sheet of plywood to expand the table to seat eight people and set everything up. It’s always wonderful to eat outside and much food and wine was consumed and merriment had (per usual) that night.

The menu was:

Spiced Roasted Chickpeas (Bekers)

Gazpacho with Basil Cornbread Croutons (Leggs) with Amas de Guerra

Bacon-wrapped Chorizo-stuffed Dates (Bekers)

Sausage and bean stew (Fabada Asturiana) (Leggs) with Berola

Jamon Tasting (Golds) with Alleme 2014 Txakolina

Roasted Mushrooms (Claire & Andy) with Vega Sindoa 2013

Grilled Spiced Pork (Claire & Andy) with Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja Riserva 2005

Blood Sausage with Toasted Bread and Olive Oil (Golds) with LZ Vinedos de Lanziego Rioja

Clam, Mussel, Shrimp and Chorizo Paella (Bekers) with Juis Canas Rioja 2008 Reserva

Roasted Patatas Bravas with Double Garlic Aioli and Red Wine-Braised Chorizo (Bekers) with Luis Canas Crianza Rioja 2009

Saffron Ice Cream with Crispy Jamon Chip & Tres Leches Ice Cream (Golds) with Pedro Ximened Bodegas To Albala 1983 Gran Reserva


Sean Brock’s Roast Chicken

  • Searing the chicken in cast iron
  • Half chicken
  • Making the gravy
  • The final dish, chicken, potatoes and gravy

After the success of the roast pork from the Heritage cookbook and wanting a simple tasty dinner the night before Valentine’s Day, I delved into the cookbook again to see if Brock had a take on simple roast chicken, and he did. Utilizing the ever wonderful cast iron skillet the chicken is first butterflied then split in half, then browned and pressed in a cast iron skillet to wonderously crisp up the skin then finished in the oven. Served with stacked scalloped potatoes, garlic confit and a simple lemon herb gravy from the chicken drippings, this was just what was needed on a chilly winter night.


Potato Stack Scalloped Potatoes

Potato Stack (Scalloped Potatoes)
Potato Stack (Scalloped Potatoes)

After the first few attempts at thinly sliced potato dishes Jeremy came across this recipe on Food52. It promised crispy, flavorful potatoes stacked up in little compact towers and baked inside muffin cups. Sounded simple enough and simplicity definitely won out. The tops were crispy and browned, the middles were soft, cheesy and very flavorful with the rosemary and butter. Plus (if we had had enough muffin cups) really easy cleanup!

So this recipe definitely wins out of all the scalloped potato recipes so far and will be added to the dinner repertoire.


Sean Brock’s Heritage Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder with Tomato Gravy

  • The spices: Salt, fresh ground black pepper, hot Hungarian paprika and brown sugar
    The spices: Salt, fresh ground black pepper, hot Hungarian paprika and brown sugar
  • Dijon mustard brushed over the pork
    Dijon mustard brushed over the pork
  • Seasonings added on all sides and ready for the oven
    Seasonings added on all sides and ready for the oven
  • Three cups of whole tomatoes and their juices
    Three cups of whole tomatoes and their juices
  • Freshly ground cornmeal
    Freshly ground cornmeal
  • Toasting the cornmeal
    Toasting the cornmeal
  • Right out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes or so
    Right out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes or so
  • Pull-apart tender with a great flavorful crunchy crust
    Pull-apart tender with a great flavorful crunchy crust

We procured Sean Brock’s Heritage cookbook after hearing many wonderful things from various food-wise sources (and enjoying eating at both Husk and McCrady’s on our anniversary trip to Charleston, South Carolina in 2013). The weather in Williamsburg this week was very cold (verging on bitter), so that, combined with us having the second half of a six pound pork shoulder thawing out in our fridge, meant that having something slow roasted sounded like a great option for a weekend meal with friends.

We didn’t tweak a thing for the pork recipe aside from the cooking time as the original recipe calls for a six pound bone-in pork shoulder and we had a three pound boneless shoulder. We put the meat in at 8:30am and after four hours or so checked it every hour to see if it was pulling apart tender yet. By the time we were ready to eat at 5:30pm the meat was perfectly tender and only needed gentle pulling apart to portion it out. I think our piece of pork has less fat than usual as we didn’t end up with any juices to baste with and make the glaze, but things still turned out very juicy and tender (and I loved the crunchy, spicy exterior).

For the tomato gravy we had all of the ingredients in the pantry however we did not have fine white cornmeal so we substituted the yellow corn grits we did have and spun them through the food processor first to get a finer grind. As the cornmeal was toasting it smelled like bacon flavored popcorn, yum (note to self, need to try popping popcorn in bacon fat). Even though the gravy is super simple (just bacon fat, cornmeal, San Marzano tomatoes, salt and pepper) it really did pair well with the pork and was quite tasty on its own as well.

This was the first time we’ve cooked out of Heritage, but after the success of the dishes tonight, certainly won’t be the last.

Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Meat, Entree
Cuisine: Southern
Serves: 12
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder (also called butt; about 6 pounds), skin removed
  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  1. Preheat the oven to 250F. Place a rack in a roasting pan.
  2. Combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper, and paprika in a small bowl and blend well.
  3. Using a brush, paint the top only of the pork with the mustard.
  4. Pat on the seaoning mixture.
  5. Place the pork on the rack in the pan and roast, uncovered, for about 14 hours, until the meat is tender but not falling apart; baste it occasionally with the pan juices during the last hour to make a glaze.
  6. Remove the pork from the oven, transfer it to a platter, and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Reserve the juices in the roasting pan, skimming off any fat from the top as the pork rests.
Recipe from Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook Copyright 2014



Potato Gratin

  • Freshly washed red bliss potatoes (any waxy potato will do)
    Freshly washed red bliss potatoes (any waxy potato will do)
  • The mandolin comes in really handy here for making 1/8 inch slices
    The mandolin comes in really handy here for making 1/8 inch slices
  • Making a garlic paste
  • Four tablespoons of butter
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
    Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Adding the half and half
  • Letting things come to a boil and stirring frequently
    Letting things come to a boil and stirring frequently
  • Spread evenly into a 9x9 pan
  • Topped with Gruyere
  • Golden brown deliciousness
    Golden brown deliciousness

I have been on the lookout for a good “standard” potato gratin recipe for years. It seemed every time I tried making the dish the potatoes were underdone or the flavor just wasn’t up to par with what I’ve had at a restaurant, so when I came across a potato gratin recipe from Food 52 for a “gratin that cooks in half the time…and lets you have control all the way through” I had to try it.

Technically I think the dish turned out well, the potatoes were cooked through, the sauce was creamy, the cheese browned, but I definitely under-seasoned things. I deviated from the original recipe and added about 1/3 cup of milk to the potatoes when they were boiling as it just didn’t seem like there was enough liquid there to cook with. I should’ve trusted the recipe on that step, once the potatoes settled into the pot and were stirred periodically there was more than enough milk there and I think my additional liquid made the end result runnier than it was supposed to be.

You’re instructed to season to taste right at the end of the boiling-potatoes-in-milk step of the recipe and I thought things tasted ok at that point, but by the time everything had baked together (and the potatoes absorbed the half and half) the result was a bit on the bland side. I added cayenne pepper as well as the nutmeg the recipe called for and was hoping for a hint of heat to cut the super creamy sauce but I think I was too light-handed with that too.

I would also use a different cheese than Gruyere for the topping. For one, at least in Williamsburg, Gruyere was a bit difficult to find and rather expensive. Second, aside from allowing the top to brown and getting a little golden-brown-deliciousness there was little flavor that the cheese added to the party. It was also only added to the top of the gratin and not integrated at all. So next time I will use a cheese like cheddar, swiss or similar and and integrate it throughout the layers of potatoes as well as on top.

So, overall, a good recipe base, but lots of license can be taken with the seasonings and toppings to jazz it up, and next time that’s just what I’ll do.