Forget sweaters and changing leaves. Here are ten telltale signs we know it’s fall in DC. Cupcake Challenge 051

1.       Dinner switches from gazpacho to roasted chicken

2.       Mike gets reacquainted with the Big Green Egg

3.       After a summer of crabs at Quarterdeck and Tangier Island, our go-to seafood is oysters at Johnny’s Half Shell and mussels at Granville Moore’s.

4.       Elizabeth starts baking again

5.       Pumpkin beer!

6.       We’re on the hunt for savory recipes starring leeks and butternut squash

7.       We say good-bye to the basil lemontini and hello to the warm duck Rueben at the Poste bar

8.       Too many local apples, not enough apple recipes

Apple Cake 0349.       Kiss the sunglasses good-bye. We go from al fresco dining to cozy lounges and tea houses.

10.    Fall colors bring road trips and local discoveries like Wasmund’s single malt applewood smoked whiskey.

FarfalleOne of the best things about our cookbook challenge has been the opportunity it provides for us to visit with some of the oldies-but-goodies in our collection.  You know how it goes – with each new option, the old standbys fade further and further into the background.  It’s not because of anything they did or didn’t do; sometimes that’s just the way it is.

For us, Giuliano Hazan’s “The Classic Pasta Cookbook” is one of those faithful friends.  Some of our first cooking experiences together while we were dating were taken from this book, which belonged to a friend: a basic pomodoro, a spicy all’arrabbiata, a rich carbonara.  It had served us so well that I gave a copy to Elizabeth for Christmas one year, and I even reached out to the author to ask him to sign it.  But changing cooking habits (we rarely make pasta anymore) and an influx of new cookbooks with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients have relegated Hazan to the bookshelf. 

Filet Post CuringWhen we started the challenge, this was one of the books that we were most looking forward to revisiting.  It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that we would hold onto it, but what dish would we make to test it (and ourselves)?  Elizabeth was flipping through the book when she lit upon farfalle al salmone affumicato.  The handy translation informed us it was “Bow Tie Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Roasted Bell Peppers,” and we knew we had a winner.

Besides…it gave us another opportunity to fire up the Big Green Egg!

Once we had the salmon smoked it was just a matter of making the recipe – details after the jump. (more…)

Smoked SalmonHere in Washington, there’s a magical period of a few short weeks when the weather is absolutely beautiful: warm and sunny, but without the oppressive humidity that tends to camp out for the summer.  Last weekend we found our happy place, and we here at Capital Spice knew just where we wanted to be – outside firing up the Big Green Egg!

While preparing for the June Cookbook Challenge, we came upon a recipe that called for a half-pound of smoked salmon.  At Elizabeth’s mention of the word “smoked,” my ears perked up.  Murphy’s did, too, but that was probably a coincidence.

I had been looking for a new challenge to bring to the Big Green Egg, so the prospect of taking a big filet of raw salmon and turning it into something smoky, salty and delicious was too good to pass up.  A quick visit to the BGE folks’ recipes section cemented it – they don’t even have a recipe for smoked salmon on their site!  I turned to the Egg Head Forum, a message board for Big Green Egg users, and I came across a recipe from a user named thirdeye.  Armed with this guidance, I was ready to go out and get my fish.

Time, temperature and trivia after the jump. (more…)

turducken-boxAfter a brief (and well worthwhile) interruption to fill you in on our efforts with the Bacon Explosion, we now return you to our regularly scheduled write-up: a turducken smoked on the Big Green Egg.

As I revealed in my post last week, I have been wanting to make a turducken for years.  When I lived in Pentagon City and first started shopping at Harris Teeter, I noticed that they carried both a frozen turducken and a smaller turducken breast from Cajun Specialty Meats on a regular basis.  Tempting, right?  All I needed was an excuse (instead I kept coming up with excuses not t0).  And the Super Bowl provided the perfect opportunity.

turducken-finished1On Thursday afternoon I took a trip to the new Harris Teeter on Pennsylvania Ave., SE, where I picked up the only turducken they had in stock.  The cardboard box had that damp feeling that signals a product that has spent time alternately thawing and refreezing…usually a bad sign.  Thankfully, the turducken is such a solid mass of poultry that it would take significant time outside a freezer to thaw (and ruin) it, so ours was still in prime condition when we cooked it.

The results, along with a recipe for a surprisingly tasty andouille sausage gravy, after the jump. (more…)

Turducken image from Amazon

Turducken image from Amazon

<<EDIT 10:19 AM – The Bacon Terrorist has reminded me that he actually suggested using the Big Green Egg when I first brought up the idea of doing a turducken.  “You told me I was insane.”  Since that sounds exactly like something I would say (and regret later), I hereby publicly apologize to the Bacon Terrorist for dismissing what I have now decided is an amazing idea.>>

Okay, I’ll admit I get a bit obsessed about things from time to time.  Smoking a turkey on the Big Green Egg for our Fakesgiving dinner is a great example, but it’s not even the most recent.  My excitement last month upon learning of a new pickle vendor at Eastern Market on the weekends (watch for a writeup soon) was later described by Elizabeth as similar to that of a six-year old on Christmas. 

There are few things that have captured my imagination longer than the turducken.  The word – at once descriptive and mildly off-putting – refers to a Frankenstein’s Monster of poultry.  Take a deboned chicken.  Stuff it inside a boneless duck.  Now shove both of them inside a partially deboned turkey (leaving the legs and wings intact, of course, so the creation still looks like an average turkey).  Add several types of stuffing, at least one of which usually includes sausage, and you’ve got a turducken.

Big Green Egg

If you’re like me, that description only makes the turducken sound more appealing (if you’re more normal, it probably makes you a little ill).  Ever since I learned about the existence of the turducken – thank you, John Madden – I’ve been dying to try one.  Give me a little bit of credit, though: I’ve recognized and respected the fact that the only possibly appropriate occasion for serving a turducken is a Super Bowl party.  And somehow, the timing has never been quite right to attempt the cooking… (more…)

side-by-side2We’re headed into the home stretch, turkey-wise.  If you took one of my suggestions over at DC Foodies and ordered a fresh turkey, you’re probably getting ready to pick it up today or tomorrow.  If you bought your bird frozen, it should be thawing in your refrigerator by now.  If you’re planning to brine your turkey (and I can’t think of any good reason why you wouldn’t), you should be dunking it in the brine no later than tomorrow morning to give it at least 24 hours to soak in that juice-preserving salty goodness.

So we figured we’d report back on our highly scientific survey regarding smoked vs. roasted turkey.  As you may recall, we here at Capital Spice tested the two methods side-by-side using two halves of the same brined turkey for our Fakesgiving festivities earlier this month.  Now, with more than 50 votes cast, our analysts at Thanksgiving Headquarters are calling this race early.

Here in DC, lopsided electoral victories are hardly newsworthy.  Even so, we were surprised at smoked turkey’s level of support in our poll.  The results as they stand right now have smoked turkey holding onto 70 percent of those polled (37 votes).  Roasted turkey conservatives hold 11 percent of the vote (6 votes), and undecided (or hungry) voters who opted for “Both” make up 19 percent of the electorate with 10 votes.

smoked-turkey2Maybe it was the beautiful lacquered look of the smoked half, with its crispy skin and delicate smoke ring…

Maybe it was the subtle interplay between the richness of the smoke and the light, salty bite of the brine…

Most likely, it was the fact that the vast majority of you who found your way to our comparison did so while searching for some combination of “Big Green Egg,” “turkey” and “smoked” or “smoking.”

Whatever the reason, the people have spoken – and they say it’s time for a change.  So join us this November in welcoming a new direction for America’s holiday with a brined and smoked turkey.

If you do decide to try your hand at smoking your turkey this Thanksgiving, please drop by and let us know how it turns out.  And if you’re in the DC area and want to enjoy a smoked turkey but lack the Big Green Egg or a similar device for smoking it yourself, let Rocklands do the work for you.  Metrocurean has the details on what they’re offering, and it looks great!

We’ve already headed out to spend (Smoked) Turkey Day with family, so you may not hear from us again until the weekend (damn food comas).  Whatever your plans, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving – and check back soon for plenty of food and restaurant news just in time for the holidays.

Thanksgiving is about tradition, and here at Capital Spice we’re thankful that our families have such strong and unique traditions surrounding the holiday.  With our families’ traditions as a model, we decided to try our hands at a variation on a Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, calling it “Fakesgiving” and inviting some of our friends over to share the holiday-inspired meal.

There’s lots to tell about the meal, but we thought the turkey warranted a post all its own.  Our original plan was to buy a 16-pound turkey from the Organic Butcher of McLean, brine it for a day and then smoke it on the Big Green Egg, but the first bird they brought in for us weighed in at more than 24 pounds! 

We were overwhelmed by the prospect of that much turkey, and we knew there was no way we could fit a bird of that magnitude inside the Egg.  Thankfully, the butchers said it would be no problem to order up another fresh bird for us the next day.

As it turns out, the next turkey they received was almost 23 pounds – still a gigantic bird relative to what we were looking for.  But time was no longer on our side, so we decided to take the bird in its entirety and then break it down at home.  This would allow us to cook it more quickly, and it also permitted us to conduct a taste test (always fun) by cooking the same turkey two different ways.

Smoking on the Big Green Egg (and a visit from the DC Fire Department), roasting in the oven, and a side-by-side comparison after the jump. (more…)