Offal Good™ » Recipes Chef Chris Cosentino's guide to all good guts. Thu, 07 Mar 2013 00:20:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Straw man Mon, 01 Mar 2010 18:37:55 +0000 Chris Here is a great article written by my friend Daniel Patterson about cooking with hay. I could go on and talk about cooking with hay but I could never do it as well as daniel so I am going to leave it alone and let you read his well written piece .

Straw man

Straw man

A barnyard staple takes a surprising turn in the kitchen.

By Daniel Patterson, Photograph by Amy Herold

It’s difficult to think of a product more symbolic of agrarian life than hay. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time tromping around farms, I’ve seen quite a bit of it—in barns, bundled in fields, used in displays—but I’d never thought of hay as a culinary ingre dient. Until now.

Hay is one of the most exciting and unexpected additions to my pantry in recent memory. It’s not a new idea, though: Hay has been used for centuries in French and Italian cooking, where large cuts of meat are buried in it and roasted either in the oven or in the dying embers of a fire.

In this country, hay has traditionally played a supporting role. The hay-box cooker has been used for more than 100 years, particularly during World War II as a way to conserve energy. The technology is simple: Bring a covered pot—preferably heavy metal or ceramic—full of food and liquid to a hard boil, then transfer it to a box packed with hay and cover it. The hay keeps the heat in the pot, so in four to eight hours, the stew will be cooked, sans fossil fuels.

From a practical standpoint, hay makes a great cooking medium, keeping heat in and diffusing temperature changes. But it’s the flavor that makes hay an extraordinary ingredient to work with. The taste is sweet and herbaceous, and the aroma is incredible, evocative of farms, pastures, and spaces vast and green and far removed from the city.

The idea came from a conversation with my sous-chef. We were trying to find a new way to cook carrots, and he recalled working in a restaurant in France where the chef cooked pork with consommé and hay for hours at a low temperature, until the meat was tender and the broth an elixir. It seemed like roasting carrots in hay would yield similarly delicious results, so the next weekend at the farmers’ market, I found myself shoving a gigantic bale of hay into the backseat of my car.

Back at the restaurant, we used the hay to made a stock. We burned some of the ends first, to give the stock deeper flavor, then covered the hay with water and let it simmer for about an hour. We tossed in young carrots with olive oil and salt, then combined them with hay and a little hay stock in a heavy enameled-iron pot and cooked them for about 30 minutes at 300°F, until they emerged tender and aromatic. It’s a simple process that can be done with any root vegetable.

Hay has made occasional appearances on American menus over the years. Chris Cosentino, the chef at Incanto, recalls a dish offered years ago at Red Sage, in Washington, D.C., where leg of goat was covered with a mixture of hay and clay, then baked—another traditional European technique. Cosentino, who was inspired to buy his own hay, first used it to cook a whole leg of pork. His menu currently features rabbit braised in hay that he serves with nettles and carrots. “People love the flavor,” Cosentino says, “and the aroma is amazing. Every time we pull one out of the oven, you can smell it across the dining room. It’s intoxicating.”

There’s not much to know about cooking with hay. The easiest way to use it is to throw a little into a stew as it simmers, then remove it before serving. If you roast with it, you should first soak the hay in water, then lay it down as a thick bed for the meat or vege­tables. Burning the ends of the hay will give the dish subtle smokiness and depth. You can cover your main ingredient with the hay or not; adding a bit of liquid to the pot will ensure that it doesn’t burn. And if you’re considering eating the hay itself, I wouldn’t. The flavor is great, but unless you’re a farm animal, the texture leaves much to be desired.

Most farms and farm-supply stores carry hay, but because you’ll use it in direct contact with food, make sure it hasn’t been treated with chemical pesticides. And beware: Before you place your order, stake out some serious storage space. A bale of hay is enormous.

At Coi, we haven’t made much of a dent in our stash, which means that there will be hay on the menu for quite a while. So far, we’ve infused oil with hay and used it to confit suckling pig, reserving some of the oil to drizzle into the sauce. We’ve ground salt and hay together to make a crust for beets. We’ve infused it into onion soup, its presence magically transforming a standard flavor into something fascinating and delicious. Hay might not be the same workhorse in the kitchen that it is on the farm, but in my pantry, hay has found a comfortable second home.

Rabbit braised with hay
The chef at Incanto likes to poach baby carrots in the braising liquid to serve alongside the rabbit.

2 2½- to 3-lb. rabbits, each divided into six pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup flour
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 head fennel, cut in half
1 head garlic, cut in half
½ cup white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
1 handful of hay
2 qt. chicken stock

1. Heat the oven to 250°F. Season rabbit pieces with salt and pepper, then dust lightly with flour.
2. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Sear the rabbit pieces one or two at a time, taking care not to crowd the pan. When the pieces are golden brown, remove and set aside.
3. Add the vegetables and cook until they just begin to brown.
4. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until it’s reduced to about 2 tablespoons, occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.
5. Add the bay leaf and hay. Set the rabbit pieces on top of the hay, add the chicken stock, cover the pan, and braise in the oven until the rabbit is tender, about 1½ hours.
6. Transfer the rabbit pieces to a platter and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings

Daniel Patterson is the chef-owner of Coi and a partner at Cane Rosso.

]]> 2 Food & Wine Magazine on healthy Tue, 23 Feb 2010 21:23:26 +0000 Chris

F&W’s editor in chief  Dana Cowin challenges some of her favorite chefs, all masters of indulgent food, to create healthy recipes that even a sausage fetishist would lust after.

By Dana Cowin
Burgers. Fried chicken. French fries. Steak. On menus worthy of dozens of passionate reviews by bloggers and Yelpers, these are the dishes that generate the buzz. I love these foods. Love.

Some people will travel to France to eat at a Michelin three-star restaurant—and I’m not saying that I wouldn’t—but I’ve always been just as happy to travel anyplace I’m promised great fried chicken. In Manhattan, I’ve cracked the crust on the spicy Korean-style wings at Mad for Chicken on 32nd Street, and I’ve rhapsodized about the delicate version at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Perry St., where his son, Cedric, is chef; I’ve also gorged on splendid fried chicken all around Nashville. So it’s with tremendous respect for these marvelous dishes that, as editor-in-chief of F&W, I pose this challenge: Chefs, can you please lighten your food?
While dishes like fried chicken and their buttery or carb-loaded counterparts are super-popular and well-priced, I actually don’t want to eat three days’ worth of calories in one sitting. I’ve gradually lost a taste for too much of that kind of food, and I believe other people eventually will, too. Yes, most restaurants offer a green salad (which, depending on the dressing or mix-ins, still might not make Dr. Oz happy) or a simple vegetable side dish (which often comes with liberal amounts of cheese or pancetta, or both). And yes, there’s usually some kind of fish, but eating it generally feels like a compromise when everyone else at the table is poking their hand-cut, twice-fried chips into house-made ketchup and figuring out how to get their mouths around an unusually large lamb slider. Why can’t foods that are good for you be as cravable as the deep-fried, bacon-wrapped hot dog at Manhattan’s PDT?

One common reply to that question is that fat equals flavor. But what about Thai food? That’s got a lot of flavor—bitter, salty, sweet, sour—and, in general, relatively little fat (just look at Su-Mei Yu’s recipes). Or Japanese food: It’s clean, and its flavors are bright. But, of course, those aren’t iconic American cuisines, which brings us to the second-most-common answer: People yearn for the foods of their childhood, and for many Americans, that means the hot dogs and hamburgers their parents grilled on the Weber in the backyard. Still, I don’t buy it. My favorite fried chicken is the kind I ate at home growing up, but I’m not thinking about that when I reach for the fourth wing at Mad for Chicken. I want it because it tastes fantastic.

Can’t something taste sublime without a burdensome amount of fat and calories? To find out, I went to some of my favorite chefs, the ones who have a cult following for their super-indulgent dishes, and asked them to create recipes that even a sausage fetishist would lust after. What I discovered at first isn’t exactly breaking news, but I’ll share it here anyway: Chefs don’t have a particularly good sense of fat grams or calorie counts. One chef suggested a recipe for a ravioli stuffed with parsnip and bone marrow (bone marrow is mainly fat). But one lovable quality of chefs is that they’re creative and solution-oriented. After some back-and-forth, F&W senior editor Kate Heddings had gathered a collection of six healthy recipes with that wow factor.

“I think chowder is the way to go,” said chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman and Finch Public House in Atlanta. “The very word chowder makes your mouth water.” This from a guy who adorned the entry of Holeman and Finch with a custom-made glass curing case full of pig legs. He came up with two ways to get a chowder’s creamy consistency without fat: adding cubed potatoes and using buttermilk. In Chicago, the Publican’s Paul Kahan chose spelt flour as his secret weapon (spelt is a grain that’s high in protein and fiber) after watching Chris Bianco of Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco—”a yeast-and-flour genius,” says Kahan—make spelt bread. Kahan’s spelt focaccia topped with squash, kale and just a few shavings of nutty pecorino is so good, I’d eat it like a pizza or as an appetizer/side dish combination.

At Gautreau’s in New Orleans, Sue Zemanick cooks indulgent dishes, but in her off-hours, she has a distinctly lighter approach. And in fact, when I spoke to her, she was just coming off a 13-day cleanse, vowing to do it four times a year. That disparity was so extreme that I was particularly impressed she was able to retain the essence of the food at Gautreau’s when coming up with a lightened recipe for grilled pork tenderloin with vegetable curry. In place of coconut milk (one cup of which has 552 calories, 479 of them from fat), she chose coconut water (more often thought of as a drink than a cooking ingredient) and combined it with two tablespoons of full-fat sour cream to get that luscious feeling. It’s a trick the F&W Test Kitchen is sure to remember and use in the future.

What I discovered from this group of recipes, perhaps not surprisingly, was that these talented chefs could make amazing healthy food. And some of them even had healthy dishes on their menus. For a while, Laurent Tourondel, who serves incredible beef and addictive onion rings and popovers at 11 BLT Steak restaurants around the world, offered a Thai green mango–crab salad. Did customers like it? I asked him. “It didn’t move,” he replied. “When people go to a steak house, they want steak. I love the crab salad, but they want steak.” Chris Cosentino of San Francisco’s offal-centric Incanto, though, had a different experience: His sardines are hugely popular. But perhaps that’s because bony, whole-fishy, charred sardines fit into the offal-lover ethos.

And this is the crux of the dilemma. When a healthy recipe matches the mood of the restaurant, it works. But right now, at most of the popular foodie establishments in America, light foods don’t make sense. What we need is a new paradigm: hip, affordable restaurants with a great vibe that reinvent healthy food and make it as cravable as a cheeseburger. I believe that change will come eventually, but until then, I’m going to be picking out the stealthily healthy dishes at restaurants—and making these phenomenal recipes at home.

Roasted Sardines with Olives, Capers and Parsley
Recipe by Chris Cosentino

Chris Cosentino of San Francisco’s Incanto is known for his offal dishes but a hearty fish like sardine, served whole, can also appeal to the nose-to-tail crowd. Cosentino pan-fries the omega-3-rich fish with an exhilarating mix of olives, capers, lemon zest, parsley and chiles. To make this more of a main course, he prepares a crunchy salad of artichokes and sunchokes to eat alongside.

Pairing SuggestionFish rich in omega-3s go best with unoaked wines with few tannins. For Cosentino’s tangy roasted sardines, try pouring a bright New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, like the citrusy 2009 Brancott Marlborough, or a very light red, like the cherry-scented 2008 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages.

Roasted Sardines with Olives, Capers and Parsley
1 lemon, halved, plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 baby artichokes
3/4 pound sunchokes, scrubbed but not peeled
3 tablespoons canola oil
18 fresh sardines (about 2 ounces each), cleaned and scaled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 cup green olives, such as Cerignola, pitted and chopped
3 cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped oregano
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
4 cups baby arugula (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400°. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze the lemon into it. Snap off the green outer leaves of the artichokes until you reach the yellow leaves. Cut off the top third of each artichoke. Using a mandoline or a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, thinly shave the artichokes. Add them to the lemon water. Shave the sunchokes into the lemon water.
In a very large ovenproof skillet, heat the canola oil until nearly smoking. Season the sardines lightly with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet. Cook for 3 minutes, then flip the sardines and add the garlic, olives, parsley, oregano, capers, chiles and lemon zest. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the sardines for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through.
Drain the artichokes and sunchokes and pat dry. Return them to the bowl and add the arugula, olive oil and lemon juice. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the sardines and salad to plates and serve.
One Serving 330 cal, 22 gm fat, 3 gm sat fat, 17 gm carb, 3 gm fiber, 19 gm protein, 810 mg sodium.

]]> 1
Holiday Cheer!! Thu, 17 Dec 2009 19:15:09 +0000 Chris Sorry for the lack of writing as of late I have been a bit busy with some great new things for the upcoming year. I swear they will be really cool.

But to keep you in the holiday spirit I have including a recipe I did for our holiday ham that was featured on SF Foodie.

Holiday Recipe Hookup: Chris Cosentino’s Red Bull and Rye Whiskey Glaze for Ham

Elise Bauer/Flickr
Chris Cosentino

Holiday time, and the party that seemed like such a good idea last month is now keeping you awake at 3 a.m., wondering what the hell you’re going to make without embarrassing yourself. Fear not. We’ve asked some of our favorite local chefs to hook you up with easy-to-fix dishes that’ll kill your potluck panic and let you focus on fun stuff. Like drinking.

What’s a meatatarian’s holiday buffet table without a glazed ham? Sad, that’s what. Only, instead of one of those flabby, saccharine, spiral-cut factory monsters, you can show off a real-live artisanal specimen ― like the Prosciutto Cotto (i.e., “cooked ham”) from chef Chris Cosentino‘s Boccalone Salumeria in the Ferry Building. It’s brine-cured with sugar and spices. Likewise the Red Bull Simply Cola in Cosentino’s glaze is flavored with a mashup of spices, kola nut, and ― for those of you who love a party ― actual coca leaf. By the way, you can preorder a Prosciutto Cotto from Boccalone up until this Sunday, Dec. 20, for pickup Dec. 23 or 24. Call 433-6500.

Chris Cosentino’s Red Bull Cola and Old Potrero Rye-Glazed Ham

Makes 6-8 servings

2 whole cloves
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Old Potrero rye whiskey
6 cups Red Bull Simply Cola
1 boneless cooked ham, approximately 3 ½ pounds ― preferably Prosciutto Cotto from Boccalone

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Make the glaze: Combine the cloves, brown sugar, whiskey, and four cups of cola in a medium saucepan. Heat over a low to medium flame, stirring, to reduce by three-quarters.

Place the ham in a large roasting pan and brush with the cola-whiskey glaze. Pour the remaining two cups of cola into the bottom of the roasting pan around the ham. Baste the meat with the cola and bake, basting every 15 minutes with pan juices, until it is warmed through, and a meat thermometer registers 165°F.

Remove from the oven and let rest at least five minutes before carving. To serve, slice the meat thinly across the grain and arrange on a platter.

]]> 1
Nduja the spicy spreadable meat treat Mon, 02 Nov 2009 19:59:22 +0000 Chris boccalone store

To some the idea of a spreadable salumi is a bit out there, to me it’s perfectly rich, spicy, porky goodness. Nduja is  a classical salumi from Calabria that has spread its way into my heart and others around the country. The most commonly asked question is what do I do with it? There are so many uses; pizza, crostini, bruschetta.  So, here are a few recipes to keep everyone busy for a while, one is from me and the other from the great pastry chef and italophile Gina Depalma.

Warm Nduja & Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

4 servings

4 slices of crusty Italian bread

1 package of Boccalone nduja

3 peeled garlic cloves (2 chopped and 1 sliced in half lengthwise)

5 ripe heirloom tomatoes (preferably a mix of several different varieties), thickly sliced

Zest of 2 lemons

1 cup torn basil leaves

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Zinfandel vinegar

Kosher or sea salt to taste

Coarse ground black pepper to taste

  1. Brush both sides of bread slices with olive oil, then grill on both sides until golden brown with dark grill marks.  Set aside.
  1. In a sauté pan heat 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil over medium flame.  Add chunks of nduja (scoop these out and discard the casing), lemon zest, and chopped garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently then deglaze with vinegar. Remove from heat.
  1. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper.
  1. To serve: Rub grilled bread with sliced garlic clove, layer the sliced tomatoes, top with the warm nduja and basil.
  1. Slice bread slices diagonally and serve.

Seriously Italian: Breadcrumb-Stuffed Vegetables

“Besides being cheap and accessible, breadcrumbs are truly a blank canvas for individual creativity.”


Verdure Ripieni, or stuffed vegetables, are popular in many of Italy’s regions, with varying nods to local ingredients and traditions. Through the ages Italians have always relied on breadcrumbs as an economical and easy way to stretch a few ingredients into something tasty and belly-filling. Although these beauties make a terrific side dish for grilled or roasted meats, they’re hearty enough to be a meal on their own.

Besides being cheap and accessible, breadcrumbs are truly a blank canvas for individual creativity. Remember this golden rule for seemingly simple dishes: when working with only a few ingredients, make sure they are top notch, and treat them with the utmost care. There is far less room for error when a dish has only two or three elements.

Homemade breadcrumbs are best, and most Italians insist on making their own. I picked up a small sourdough boule at the farmer’s market last weekend for mine. I trimmed the crust just a tiny bit and cut the bread into even-sized cubes, leaving them uncovered for about a day to dry them out, then toasted the cubes until they were slightly brown. After a few batches in the food processor, I had a huge pile of tasty crumbs of variegated gold. If you can’t make your own, breadcrumbs from the local bakery are the next best bet. I don’t trust supermarket breadcrumbs. Where did they come from, and when were they made?

I could have used full-sized vegetables, but I found some miniature tomatoes and sweet peppers at the farmers’ market that inspired a diminutive theme. I cut zucchini into thick rounds, and wedged some sweet Vidalia onions. With a small paring knife, I cut the core out of the onions to create a crater to hold the crumbs. I cut the peppers in half and removed the ribs and seeds, cored the halved tomatoes, and made little cavities in the center of the zucchini rounds.

To finish the vegetable prep, generously grease a baking dish that will snugly hold all the vegetables with extra-virgin olive oil, then arrange the vegetables inside, brushing them with more of the oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 375°F.


To season 3/4 of a cup of breadcrumbs, I heated three tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. I had some ‘nduja from Boccalone in the refrigerator, so I melted about an ounce of that into the oil; you can infuse the oil with minced garlic, or a squirt of anchovy paste, or render some finely chopped pancetta, prosciutto or guanciale in the oil to enrich the crumbs.

I mixed the crumbs with oil, and added a handful of minced, chopped herbs: I used parsley, marjoram, basil and mint from our garden. I also added three minced scallions and a few spoonfuls of grated Pecorino Romano; grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano works too. A few squirts of fresh lemon juice ties all the flavors together.


Cram the crumbs into all the nooks and crannies of the vegetables, and create little mounds on top. It isn’t necessary to be neat and fussy since the crumbs that fall between are going to make a delicious “sauce” when it is all done. Store any leftover crumbs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for the next use; they are delicious tossed with al dente pasta and olive oil.

Drizzle over more olive oil over the top, and pour a splash of white wine and enough water into the bottom of the pan to come up about one-third of the depth of the vegetables. Cover the pan with tin foil and bake the vegetables for about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and add a little more water if necessary, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the breadcrumbs are toasty on top.

We decided to make a meal out of our verdure ripieni, serving them with herbed rice and a simple salad—a colorful, economical and nutrition-packed meal.

]]> 0
Word of Mouth NPR Wed, 05 Aug 2009 17:59:20 +0000 Chris please check out the word of mouth NPR show I was interview by Virginia Prescott about offal cookery and the sustainability of it all.

Click on the image to hear the show.

]]> 2
Mint love!!! Mon, 03 Aug 2009 17:46:08 +0000 Chris

I love mint, and there is no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. More importantly, I have found it to be the most widely used herb in Italy. After doing a lot of research I found a few cool bits of info I thought would be great to share.

The mint family, also known as Lamiaceae or Labiatae, is a large family of aromatic herbs which include the likes of basil, rosemary, sage, savory, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and lavender. I use all of these herbs with frequency, but I can’t get enough of the mints. With over 25 species and hundreds of varieties such as bergamot, chocolate, citrus, pineapple, spearmint, and nepitella just to name a few, their range of use is immeasurable. Attached below is a post by the great pastry chef Gina Depalma from Serious Eats.

Seriously Italian: Mint in Italian Cooking

Note: On Thursdays, Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma checks in with Seriously Italian. After a stint in Rome, she’s back in the States, channeling her inner Italian spirit via recipes and intel on delicious Italian eats. Take it away, Gina!


Last week, there was some scuttle on my Twitter timeline about fresh mint. It all started when @ruthreichl tweeted something she picked up from my friend Chris Cosentino of Incanto Restaurant in San Francisco; @offalchris told her that mint was the most widely used herb in Italy. How could that be true? The consensus was that surely basil or rosemary must hold that crown.

I’m solidly with Chris on this one. Mint is indeed a universal ingredient in Italian cooking, grown and used enthusiastically by home and restaurant cooks alike, from the top to the toe of the boot.

This may be a perplexing notion for some of us, because we’ve become used to tasting mint in its most exaggerated and gargantuan form, in breath refreshers, toothpaste and chewing gum. When we aren’t swishing super-concentrated minty mouthwash, we find it blasted into chocolate candies, ice cream or frappucinos. By far, the most tragic misuse of mint is when buds are plucked and poked into desserts as a bizarre form of herbal tree-garnish, destined only to be tossed aside and gathered up with the dishes.

In reality, mint leaves have a far less concentrated flavor and subtle presence, bright, sweetly refreshing and cool. As a culinary herb, mint plays well with similarly bright notes of basil and parsley, and Italians often use it in combination with both. Mint’s bracing crispness can be used to cut the rich intensity of a meaty dish or sauce, and to sweetly compliment the acidity of tomatoes or citrus. Its coolness both tames and highlights the fire of peperoncino.

20090603mint2.jpgIn Italy, mint grows everywhere, wild and untamed, foraged from fields and forests by cooks and the occasional farm animal. It is also heavily planted, as ground cover to prevent erosion or decoratively among flowers and vines. When I was growing up, my mother always planted mint, no matter where we lived. In apartments, she placed mint and basil together in long window boxes, or guerilla-gardened it along the sunny side of our building. When it got too bushy, she picked it and threw it into her pesto, or into a ripe tomato salad with red onion and basil. We dried the leaves on a sunny windowsill and stored them in a sealed crock for use in the winter, to rub on lamb roasts and stir into bean soup.

Are you inspired to try mint in your cooking yet? Here are just a few of the ways Italian cooks like to use mint, from across Italy’s varied regions:

  • In Rome, ribbons of fresh mint are used in combination with anchovy, red onion and peperoncino for Roman-style artichokes.
  • In Umbria, mint is simmered into a braise, or brasato, of veal with porcini mushrooms, with more chopped fresh mint stirred in the sauce and strewn on top before serving.
  • In Marche, mint spikes polenta served with lumache, or snails cooked in tomato, onions, wine, mint and other fresh herbs.
  • In Piedmont, fresh mint is added to agliata—a mortar and pestle mix of garlic, olive oil, mint, basil and lemon juice. This agliata verde is mixed into fresh cheese, spread on crostini, or tossed into hot pasta.
  • In Sicily, minced mint is added along with parsley and basil to caponata, and contributes color and flavor to salads with fennel, olive and blood oranges. And don’t forget my Sicilian-style Baked Cod!
  • In Calabria and Basilicata, chopped mint is added to smoky, charred eggplant salad, with peperoncino, olive oil and red wine vinegar. My Calabrian mom also adds plenty of mint to her famous pickled eggplant and marinated mushrooms.
  • In Tuscany, mint is used in the tomato and bread salad panzanella, tames the assertive flavor of tripe, and brightens wild rabbit and boar ragus. After dinner, it is tossed with sugar and fresh frutti di bosco, or woodland berries.
  • In Venice, mint is to used flavor any number of cold seafood preparations, especially insalata di polpo, or octopus salad, and it is also added to flavor risi e pisi, or rice and peas. Mint is also used in sardine in saor, the classic Venetian preparation of sweet and sour sardines.
  • In the lakes district of Lombardy, mint enhances the sweet flavor of trout and other sweet-water fish, simply sautéed and bathed with olive oil, sweet onion, fresh mint and lemon.
  • In Abruzzo, mint is tossed into tiny polpettini, or meatballs, of veal, mushrooms and farro, topped with a chunky tomato sauce with more mint and fresh basil.
  • In Emilia-Romagna, melons from Reggio are tossed with fresh mint and dribbled with aged balsamico. Mint is also added to a sauce of caramelized onions and a bit of cream to embellish fresh tagliatelle.
  • In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, mint is combined with Montasio cheese in a sauce for polenta or fresh pasta. Mint is also stirred into side dishes, or contorni, of grains, like barley and risotto with wild mushrooms and other mountain herbs.

Besides being endlessly versatile, mint is insanely easy to grow, even for apartment dwellers. Try planting different varieties; in addition to bright green spearmint, try variegated pineapple mint, black peppermint, and orange or chocolate-scented mint. Now is the right time of year; it grows lickety-split, and you’ll have plenty of mint to harvest until the first frost.

]]> 2
Bicycling Magazine gets hungry Fri, 31 Jul 2009 18:32:02 +0000 Chris

Photo credit:

Deft Chef

At Incanto, Chris Cosentino uses locally raised ingredients–including his own—to create classic Italian dishes

By Michael Frank

When Cosentino couldn’t source the meat he wanted for his restaurant, he didn’t change his recipes—he changed the system. That’s typical of the 37-year-old executive chef of the widely acclaimed Incanto, in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, which specializes in Italian cuisine—and an array of meat and fish dishes that some would term adventurous. “Things like blood sausage, jowl, salumi, headcheese—these are as old as time in Italian cuisine,” Cosentino says. He explains that his need for these and other unique items on his menu prompted in-house dry curing, which snowballed into a business all its own. Boccalone Salumeria, purveyor of “tasty salted pig parts,” as the firm’s tagline reads, now features both online and storefront distribution (the latter in San Francisco’s renowned market in the Ferry Building).

Cosentino doesn’t see anything extraordinary in taking over an entire USDA meat-processing facility in Oakland to stock Boccalone, just as he doesn’t think it’s challenging to cook recipes that span the breadth of Italy. “I’m just cooking seasonally,” he says. Maybe after racing 24-hour solos on a singlespeed against pros—as Cosentino did during the late 1990s and early 2000s—he learned to appreciate stiff challenges. Or maybe it’s just that he’s used to taking chances, like in 2001, when he quit his career as a chef to race full time. “I’d get up at 5 a. m., ride, work five hours at the farmers’ market, then ride home— and then get in 120 miles.”

Those farming relationships—”those were my sponsors. The ranchers gave me meat, the farmers gave me vegetables”—are still the backbone of Cosentino’s success at Incanto. “Your food doesn’t come from Whole Foods,” he says. “Food is somebody’s livelihood; getting to know who grows your tomatoes is no different than getting to know the owner of your bike shop.”

In case you missed it, Cosentino isn’t shy about his agenda. “We’ve lost the basics of food and family,” he says, “of traditional recipes and of understanding how to cook by using every part of an animal. People say that’s just theater, that I’m obnoxious by suggesting people try warthog asshole or a piece of foie gras. I say judge me by what’s on the plate, by how it tastes.”

Post-Long-Ride Feast
Lobster Puttanesca

Salt, to taste
2 1-lb. lobsters
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic, slivered
2 red Fresno chilies, sliced
1 tablespoon capers
22 anchovy fillets, salted and packed in olive oil
1/3 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 lb. bucatini pasta

This is a fast-cooking dish, so have all ingredients ready before you begin. Prepare an ice-water bath to shock the lobsters after cooking.

In a pot, bring to a boil one teaspoon of salt and enough water to cover the lobsters. (At this time, boil another pot of water to cook the pasta.) Add the lobsters and blanch for four minutes; remove and add to the water bath. When the lobsters are cool, remove the meat from the tail, claws and knuckles. Cube it and set aside. In a saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic and chilies, then the capers and anchovies, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Add the lobster meat and cook for two minutes (and put the pasta into the boiling water; cook until al dente), then add the herbs and tomatoes. Finish with lemon juice and extra olive oil if desired.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately over pasta. Serves: 2

FAT 19.6g
CARBS 184g

More From Cosentino
WORST RACE INJURY: “I crashed at night in Winter Park [Colorado] and popped my patella. They popped it back, and I finished.”
CURRENT BIKE: A Retrotec Half
FUTURE BIKE: “Inglis is building us a hot-dog bike with a warming chamber so we can serve Boccalone hot dogs at the ballpark.”
EAT AT INCANTO: 1550 Church Street, San Francisco; 415/641-4500;

]]> 1
Brains!!! Wed, 05 Sep 2007 00:34:28 +0000 Chris The idea for most of eating brains brings back memories of the original movie Return of the living dead.

raw calves brain

Raw calfs brain about to be poached.

So most people moan and scream like a zombie and act like an ass instead of having the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful creamy cut. Here I will show a recipe for brains, so order your brain fork which any self respecting offal eater should own one of these. Turn on your favorite zombie flick and get ready to eat some delicious brains.

cooked calves brain

The calves brain has been poached very gently in a traditional court boullion for about 5 minutes. then the membrane is removed and its ready to be taken to the next step towards a finished dish.

calfs brains with porcini and capers

calf’s brains with porcinis and capers

In a saute pan over medium heat add a nug of butter and let it brown place the seasoned poached brain in the pan presentation side down. Add the sliced porcinis and place in the oven for 3 minutes remove from the over an flip the brain over and add the capers. Deglaze the pan with lemon juice and a splash of chicken stock, add a bit of butter and let the sauce reduce finish with parsley and serve.

]]> 15
Delicious pig parts Mon, 03 Sep 2007 05:43:37 +0000 Chris pig head chris

To me every part of a pig is absolutely delicious. This head and some bits were dropped off to me on Friday. They came from a duroc hog from biagio a Sonoma meat co-op run by Michael. These parts were put to use quickly for a new dish for the menu Saturday.

pork offal

Raw pork heart, liver and kidneys from 1 animal, before they are cleaned and trimmed for use.

marinated pork offal.

These meats have been trimmed and cleaned of ventricles, membranes and fatty tissues before they were diced and marinated overnight, in a mixture of juniper, allepo chili, thyme, bay leaves, black pepper, and a splash of red wine.
offal cooking on a hot stone

Using a hot stone from Le Sanctuaire , I cooked the pork bits with red onions until they were medium rare. The hot stone cooks like a plancha and caramelizes great without any added fat. Cooking on the stone has a primeval feel to it, as well a it adds a great charred flavor to the meats.
pork offals dish

I have tossed the meats in a bowl with rucola, mint and zinfandel vinegar,with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. And of course I seasoned it with salt and pepper.

]]> 10