52 Foods Week Thirty Five: Pistachios

My first encounter with a pistachio nut happened sometime in elementary school, when I witnessed a friend snapping open the shells of an unfamiliar nut. I became fixated on salted pistachios for some weeks after that, delighting in the precise shelling—far superior to messy peanuts—and always chagrined to find one that was too tight to open. I also loved the taste. To this day pistachios appear in some of my favorite foods, both sweet (baklava) and savory (country pâté), to say nothing of the perfection which is pistachio ice cream.

Realizing that homemade ice cream was easily in reach, and armed with instructions from the Silver Spoon, I set out to find a large bag of pistachios at the Farmers’ Market. I found them from Fiddyment Farms, a Roseville based pistachio grower that offers a plethora of pistachio products, along with plain freshly picked and roasted nuts. A two pound bag was adequate for my experimentation and snacking needs.

Big Bag of Pistachios

I began by painstakingly shelling two cups of nuts. I considered removing the papery inner skins, but thought better of it after realizing how tightly they clung to the nut.

Two Cuts Shelled Pistachios

I threw the shelled pistachios into the food processor and ground them into a fine meal.

Ground Pistachios

This was actually a second attempt at ice cream, because my first attempt never got creamy and was more like frozen milk. Believing that the original problem might have been my use of whole milk rather than a thicker cream, I decided to make the second batch with Strauss Half and Half. Strauss, without question, makes the best milk and cream I’ve tasted.

Strauss Half and Half

I poured the cream into a pot and slowly heated it to a boil.

Heating Cream

Once the cream boiled, I removed it from the heat and added it to the pistachios, then let this sit while I dealt with the eggs and sugar.

Cream and Pistachio Mixture

As a young child allergic to eggs, I learned the hard way that really good homemade ice cream usually entails significant quantities of them. Fortunately, in the intervening years, my allergy has both lessened, and I’ve learned that the important part of the egg is the yolk, which brings me no harm. This recipe called for a heart-threatening eight egg yolks.

Eight Egg Yolks

I placed the egg yolks and a cup of sugar into the pot, and whipped them like crazy until they became very fluffy and pale. This, I realized later, was where I had actually gone wrong with my first batch. Unfortunately, my kitchen lighting is imperfect, so it may be hard to accurately note the color change in the photos, but if you follow this, be sure to whip the eggs for a long time.

Whipped Yolks and Sugar

With the yolks as pale as I could get them, I poured the warm cream and nut mixture into the pot. The yolks immediately rose in the pot, in a transformation that seemed almost like a flower blooming. This was the moment I suspected that the eggs were key to the ice cream, as it didn’t happen the first time. I stirred the mixture together the applied a low flame to slowly bring it to a boil, stirring the entire time.

Switched to a Bigger Pot

As soon as the ice cream boiled, I remove it from heat, and transferred it to a large bowl to cool. At this point, it pretty much looked just like melted ice cream, a good sign.

Chilled Ice Cream

Once the ice cream was fully cooled, the next day in this case, I poured it into an ice cream maker, and watched it freeze.

Freezing Pistachio Ice Cream

We had enough ice cream to fill two containers, one for us and one a thank you gift to our friends who lent the ice cream maker.

Packed Ice Cream

We enjoyed our first scoops of pistachio ice cream alongside a homemade limoncello, a perfect Italian dessert pairing.

Pistachio Ice Cream and Limoncello

All the photos are here.

52 Foods Week Twenty Eight: Rabbit

To celebrate passing the Fifty Two Foods midpoint, yesterday Jen and I threw a little dinner party featuring the best recipes from the first 26 weeks. Since it was Bastille Day, I decided to include a surprise French dish of whole spit roasted rabbit. Though rabbit is a fairly ubiquitous game animal, enjoyed in much—if not all—of Europe, and not uncommon in the U.S. either, it has been forever tied with French cooking for me since seeing the fantastic rabbit skinning scene in Le Grand Chemin when I was young.

After a failed attempt to get a rabbit from Cache Creek Meat, I called a couple butcher shops and tracked down a three-plus pounds specimen at Ver Brugge in Oakland. My rabbit was raised by the Rabbit Barn in nearby Turlock, California. Ver Brugge has been my family’s go-to meat source for as long as I can remember. It was likely the source of 80% of the fish and meat I ate before age 18. Until the fantastic Laurelhurst Market opened, I spent many years in Portland chagrined at how often I had to visit grocery stores for meat rather than a true butcher.

The one time I cooked rabbit previously, Easter 2004, it came out a little dry. To avoid this fate, I planned to go with a one-two punch of a marinade for moisture, followed by a mustard paste while it cooked. For the marinade, I went with a slightly simplified version of fellow Reed alumni Steven Raichlen’s French Game Marinade from Barbecue! Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters & Glazes. The marinade is a mix of red wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, juniper, thyme, garlic, black pepper, clove, bay leaf and a splash of gin.

French Game Marinade Ingredients

I cooked the ingredients in a pot ’til boiling, then let them cool before pouring them over the rabbit in a large bowl.

Bringing to a Boil

As I prepped the rabbit, I was lucky to discover that it included the kidneys and liver. It only took a few minutes to realize that I should make up a little rabbit pâté.

Rabbit Liver

While the rabbit was marinating, I minced a shallot and chopped the rabbit liver into small pieces. Then I pulled out a jar of rendered pork fat I keep on hand.

Pork Fat

I placed about two tablespoons of pork fat in a small pan to melt.

Fat in a Pan

I threw about one tablespoon of the shallots into the pork fat and let them cook a couple minutes.


When the shallots became translucent, I added the liver and cooked it for a few minutes until it was done.

Liver and Shallots in Pork Fat

With the heat very low, I added a splash of cognac and a little fresh ground pepper and some salt.

Courvoisier Is Key

The cooked liver and shallots went straight into the food processor, where I added about two tablespoons of raw, unsalted pistachios.

Some Pistachios

I pulsed the liver, shallots and nuts then added a tablespoon of unsalted butter.

Blend with Butter

A few more pulses and the pâté was well blended. I put it in a small glass dish then placed it in the fridge for about 5 hours to come together.

Finished Rabbit Pâté

My beloved Beaker & Flask frequently features a fantastic rabbit dish where the rabbit is cooked with a nice mustard glaze. With this in mind I whipped up a paste that would stick to the rabbit giving it some extra fat to hold in the moisture while it cooked. I started with two tablespoons each yellow and brown mustard seeds as well as a tablespoon of dijon mustard.

Mustard Seeds and Dijon

I mixed these with a tablespoon each of butter and salt, and two tablespoons each of olive oil and Herbes de Provence for a thick, flavorful paste.

Herb and Mustard Paste

I let the rabbit marinate for five hours, turning it about once an hour. When it was ready for cooking, the wine had turned it a lovely purple.

Five Hours in the Marinade

I brushed off the juniper berries and peppers, patted the rabbit dry, then spread the spice paste all over it.

Herb and Mustard Pasted

The rabbit was now ready to go on the spit. I speared it then secured it compactly in the center.

Securing the Rabbit

I prepared the Weber for indirect heat with two piles of Lazzari mesquite charcoal, and set the rabbit turning on the rotisserie. The Weber rotisserie is absolutely one of the coolest cooking accessories I have ever purchased. I use it all the time, with all manner of meats, and it never fails to deliver an amazing meal. It’s worth every penny if you have a Weber kettle grill.

Rabbit on the Spit

To bump the flavor up another notch, I added some pecan wood chips periodically as the rabbit cooked, lightly smoking it.

Pecan Chips Over Mesquite Charcoal

I pulled the rabbit after two and a half hours, removed it from the spit and let it rest about 10 or 15 minutes before enlisting Leon, the purveyor of amazing bacon, to carve it up.

Rabbit Resting

Rabbit Liver Pâté:

1 rabbit liver, chopped
1 tbsp. minced shallot
2 tbsp. pork fat
1 pinch fresh ground pepper
1 pinch salt
1 splash cognac
2 tbsp. unsalted pistachios
1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Sautée shallot and liver in pork fat. Reduce heat to low, add cognac, salt and pepper.

Remove from heat and place in food processor. Add pistachios and pulse until well mixed. Add butter and pulse again to combine.

Place in small dish. Chill for at least 5 hours before serving.

Spit Roasted Rabbit:

1 rabbit
For Marinade:
3 cups red wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. gin
2 tsp. juniper berries
2 smashed cloves garlic
2 tsp. black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
For Paste:
2 tbsp. yellow mustard seed
2 tbsp. brown mustard seed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. Herbes de Provence
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. salt

Combine marinade ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil then cool to room temperature. Pour marinade over rabbit in a non-reactive container. Cover for 5 hours, turning rabbit as needed to cover evenly.

Mix paste ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Remove rabbit from marinade and pat dry. Cover all sides with paste.

Thread rabbit onto spit and secure tightly in center. Tie legs together if necessary. Cook over indirect heat for two and half hours. Add pecan chips and mesquite as needed to maintain smoke and heat. Let rest 10 minutes before carving.

Finished Rabbit

All the photos can be found here.