Headcheese! But Where’s The Cheese?

I love going through my pictures in iPhoto because I always pass by a set of pictures that I have originally wanted to share but just completely forgot or just never got around to do. Now that I have this blog, I actually have a way to post these things that I was so excited to share!

So this post is about a project that I was kind of hesitant of taking on, but at the same time was REAL excited to try. Headcheese! So I talked about it with my sous chef, Allyss, and that same day she talked to our head chef, Joey, and by the end of that week, there was a giant pig head on my station for me to play with.

My two friends!

I have been interested in making headcheese for a while. I read about the many different variations there were for making headcheese and I thought that making a terrine out of it would be the easiest way for my first couple of times. I figured that it’s a good way to learn about the pig face since I would have to remove every piece of meat off of that giant pig skull. And boy did I learn a lot! I was flabbergasted by all of the different pieces of meat that come off the face. From the cheek, to the ears, to the meat around the snout, to the tongue, I was just amazed! There were so many different textures from the different parts of the face from the way that the pig would utilize its muscles when it was still alive. And all of it was so tasty!

So I started with brining these bad boys for a good week to help with the texture and flavor of the meat. After the brining stage, I put the pig heads into a large stock pot and then cover with water and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, I discard the the liquid just to get rid of any impurities. I then add pork stock, 2 pig trotters (to help make the stock more gelatinous), and mirepoix and then let the heads simmer for a good 3-4 hours, until the meat is tender.

I then remove the head from the pots and let it cool down enough to be able to touch.At the same time, I strain the stock and then reduced it more than half of its original volume until its really gelatinous and rich. This will be the binder for the pressed terrine.

I then start to remove the layer of skin, discarding all the inedible pieces. I then carefully start to remove the meat from the skull in large pieces so we can cut them down into nice chunks. I reserve all the fat that surrounds the pork cheek as a garnish for the terrine and keep it separate from all of the meat.. I think my favorite pieces of meat have got to be the dark meat that surrounds the eye area and the succulent, juice meat of the pork cheek. I also pull out the pork tongue, remove the layer of skin and save it for the terrine. I save both ears and check if they are done enough because they sometimes take longer to cook than the rest of the face.  All that should be on the skull is….. the skull itself!

The pigs sticking out their tongue. =P

I then line a terrine mold with plastic wrap. I chop up the pieces of meat and fat into small cubes. It’s ok if there are some irregular cubes because it will help with the look of the terrine and make it look a little more rustic. It will also give your terrine some great textures. In a bowl, I combine 3:1 meat:fat and make sure the seasoning is on point.

Pig Face Mis en place.

Bowl of face!

I then start filling the terrine mold and add some stock every time I add meat, making sure that their is liquid throughout the terrine to hold it together. When the mold is all the way full, I wrap it up tightly with the overhang of the plastic wrap, then transfer it to the fridge and put some weights on top to compress it and making the terrine set tightly.

Terrine building!

The next day, I reveal the terrine and slice it open showing the almost mosaic looking terrine that is studded with all the different pieces of the pig face!

The finished headcheese!

Another mold of headcheese.

These are the type of projects I love doing. I love learning about the anatomy of animals and starting with the head was a good start!


April 2012: The Longest, Quickest, Most Stressful, and Most Exciting Month EVERRRR.

It seems as if this past month has been one of the weirdest months in my life. All at the same time this month is what I mentioned it was on the topic. The Longest, Quickest, Most Stressful, and Most Exciting Month EVERRRR. With Seattle Weekly’s Voracious Tasting, 100+ Reservations for Brunch at the Harvest Vine, and the busy two weeks of Seattle Time’s Restaurant Week, it has been an eventful month. But ever since I found out I was a one of the to 30 finalist for the Basque Stage, I knew that it was going to be a very ‘different’ month. But I knew, what ever the outcome, I will take away so much from this opportunity because I already have such a feeling of accomplishment that I now know what I am truly capable of.

All I know that is I have grown these past weeks. From my attitude at work to my everyday life, I feel as if taking part of this Basque Stage has really made me want to better myself at everything I do more-so then before. I was already a hard worker, but I have found a new sense of confidence because of how far I have come. From all of the tasks I have had to do for the application process for the Basque Stage, I have learned so much about myself. I knew that I am a very determined and passionate at everything I do, but I tend to forget that there is no limit to these things. We will all face opportunities when we strive at a limit that we have never seen before and I feel like I am on Cloud 9. I felt like I have put my heart and soul into my Basque Stage Candidate Video, Food Blog Candidate Post, and my Essay (which I will post maybe… unless you all would want to read it.) And not just these things, but also into this blog. I think this blog is the biggest surprise  of this past month. I have now found such an interest in writing in this thing and am so glad I started it. I have a lot to share and hope that people out there are appreciative of the things I write about because I’m writing for you guys. I plan on continue writing no matter the outcome of the Basque Stage because it’ll be a nice reference for my future self to see how far I have came.

I’d like to thank all of you guys who have invested your time on myself and what is currently happening in my life. It’s such an exciting time for me and all of the support is so amazing.

So where do I stand now? I stand in this state of Nostalgia. I find myself recollecting on my Basque Stage Application and thinking that I could have done more. I should have done more. This is a weird feeling because I feel like I’ve already done the best I could do and just hope that its enough. But thats the way I am. Its the way I work. Enough is never good enough, I strive for the best. All I can do now is just is patiently wait the next week and just wish for the best….

P&G: Parsley and Garlic

A blog post about parsley and garlic? Weird, right? But really, I felt like that I could make a pretty meaningful blog post about these two things because these are two ingredients that have really made an impact on the way I work in the kitchen.

Enough Parsley and Garlic for 2-3 days! We go through a lot!

Parsley and garlic are two of the ingredients that goes into almost all of the things we cook. We go through a lot of it in such little time. We treat the two ingredients the same and just finely mince it. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. We take our minced parsley and garlic serious at the Harvest Vine. “When you think you are done mincing, chop for twenty minutes.” This is what I was told the first time cutting parsley and garlic.

The Progression of Parsley

But why all the trouble? Why not just chop the garlic in the robocoupe? Why not just rough chop the parsley? These are the questions that we get from customers or new chefs all the time. The harvest vine has been established for a little more than 14 years and since the beginning, this was the standard that has been set and it hasn’t change. When you put garlic in a food processor, the garlic releases their oils causing them to react differently when it is cooked. There is also the higher chance of bruising the garlic, making it oxidize and taste bitter. We always use our sharpest knives to ensure the best results. The same goes with the parsley. Why take all the time to carefully pick each leaf off the stem, wash it, and then wait for it to dry if all you’re going to do is poorly chop your parsley causing it to bruise and take away the freshness that we are looking for?

The Progression of Garlic.

This is the first task I was put on when I first interned at Txori and the Harvest Vine. It is also the first task we give our interns that we are so grateful for them to join us in the kitchen. From cutting parsley and garlic this way, I have learned so much about the standards of quality that is set in a fine dining establishment. It has taught me to be persistent and attentive to the way I prep not just these two things, but everything that I put my hands on because I believe that you get out as much as the effort you put into it. We only aim for the best.

The Finished Product.

8 Legged Friend: The Octopus

One of the questions we that guests ask us at the most at the Harvest Vine is, “When are you guys going to get Galician Octopus back?” There was a time when my chef would bring in octopus in that were imported from the waters of Galicia. I have never had anything as exquisite as Galician Octopus in my life. I still remember the first time I experienced eating this delicate, most tender, and flavor-packing piece of octopus. It was served perfectly as a pintxo in the Pulpo a la Gallega style at the Harvest Vine’s sister restaurant, Txori. Its a dish where simplicity really shines. All the pintxo consisted of was a slice of the ever-so tender octopus tentacle with a sliced steamed red potato. It was then finished off with some smoky pimenton, very coarse sea salt, and then drenched in a shower of the finest Arbequinia olive oil we had in house. It was the ‘Perfect Bite’. I’ve never had octopus with such luxurious and silky texture as Galician octopus.

Pulpo at Txori Bar.

Sadly, the days of getting Galacian Octopus is long gone as it is a very expensive product to import in. At the time, Txori was open, so it was easy to share the large amount of imported octopus between the two restaurants. But there has been some rumors floating around the restaurant that we actually might be thinking about getting some in so let’s cross our fingers!

Luckily, we are still able to get in some beautiful octopus and baby octopus from Atlantic waters that are just as delectable and tasty! There are so many ways that we can utilize the octopus and all of its part.We serve the octopus in many different variations from the classic Pulpo a la Gallega to using it in a alioli-bathed salad with white beans and chorizo. But what it all comes down to is how the octopus is cooked to make it into the most tender piece of meat ever!

Me and the 8 legged beast!

Cooking octopus is as easy as just putting it in a pot of boiling water and letting it simmer for hours until its tender. But there are a bunch of little things that we do to help make sure that our pulpo comes out as tender as it can get. One of the many myths of cooking octopus is the infamous red-wine cork in the water pot. I have heard from many different people as of why we put the cork in the pot. One reason why is that the tannins from the left over wine on the bottom of the cork helps break down the octopus. I have also heard that its actually the type of wood the cork is made from that helps with tenderizing of the octopus. All I know is that we throw it in and it works like magic!

Only one is needed!

We also use a 3 stage blanching process before we actually leave the octopus in the pot of water to simmer away. So what we do is we bring a pot of water with the wine cork to a boil and then we drop in the octopus. Of course the temperature of the water drops when we throw in the octopus so we then wait for it to come up back to a boil, then we remove the octopus. We then repeat this process 2 more times and on the last time, we leave the octopus in to simmer until its tender!

Our friend after the second time being dunked in hot water.

The way we can tell the octopus is done is by carefully pulling two tenticals away from each other and seeing if the connecting skin between the two legs carefully tear away from each other. It is very easy to over cook octopus, so you got to make sure you check it regularly after the first couple of hours. We then chill it and then portion the octopus for service!

Sectioned Octopus!

From here we are able to portion it any way want from cutting the tentacles into little medallions or to leaving them in larger pieces so they will hold up on the grill. The octopus head is actually one of the meatiest part of the animal so we save them up and then dice them up to use up in a salad for the menu or even for our pintxo, or amuse bouche.

At the Vine right now, we have the grilled pulpo on the menu. We dress the grilled tentacle with a nice marinade of pimenton, parsley, and olive oil and then serve it atop a smooth puree of chickpeas. It’s has the nice flavors of the traditional Pulpo a la Gallega but has that different touch with the nutty flavor and textures of the garbanzo puree.

My Sous Chef's, Allyss, beautiful plate of grilled octopus!


Beef Tongue: The Better Roast Beef

If there is one thing that I try to get guests to try at The Harvest Vine, it would have to be the Beef Tongue. Beef Tongue is just one of those dishes that people seem to be so scared off because of what it is…. a tongue of a cow.  Most of the people who are disgusted with beef tongue usually explains to me that they actually have had it before, usually made by their parents or grandparents, but it was just never good. Well thanks moms, dads, grand mothers and grand fathers. You have ruined something so great to these people and its time for a redemption…

Say Ahhhhhh!

It might not sound like the most appetizing thing to eat, let alone look like something that a human should ever have to put into their mouth, but I feel that is a completely versatile piece of meat. It’s like the better roast beef. When you thinly slice it, it’s perfectly good served cold.  It has the melt in your mouth texture that resembles the texture of a perfect slice of roast beef along with a great red wine flavor and saltiness that it absorbs in the brining process. You can the tongue into thicker pieces and sear each side of of the slice until its peferctly crispy and caramelized and still retain that great texture that the tongue has.

This is the process that a beef tongue undergoes until it reaches ultimate (and very edible) tastiness.

We brine the tongue(s) in a red wine brine with salt, sugar, aromatics, mirepoix, and of course, red wine for atleast 3-4 days. Brining aids with the flavor and texture of the tongues outcome.

Tongue In Brine!

Then we strain the mirepoix and aromatics then discard the brining liquid. We caramelize the mirepoix in hot pans and then add tomato paste and choricer paste then cook it down. Deglaze the pan with red wine and then add everything to the beef tongue and cover with beef stock/water with garlic cloves and herbs.

Tongue ready to be braised!

Braise at 325F for 4-5 hours with turning the tongue half way through until you can poke a knife or skewer through the tongue with no resistance. Then pull out tongue from liquid and let sit at room temperature until cool enough to handle. Strain the braising liquid from the mirepoix and etc and save for later use.

Tongues ready to be pulled out.

Once cool enough to handle but still warm, carefully pull off the skin from the meat from the tongue. You can do this while the tongue is cool, but it is much easier when the tongue is still warm. It should come off pretty easy but to take off skin with out ripping meat off, just carefully maneuver your finger between the skin and the meat, gently separating the two from each other. Otherwise, just go a head and rip that skin off!

The Naked Tongue

Once the skin is off, the tongue is all ready to use! Right now, our work has the tongue on the menu for Seattle Restaurant Week as a salad. The tongue is chilled then thinly sliced and then covered  with alioli (garlic mayonnaise), sliced pippara peppers, sea salt, and a really nice arbequinia olive oil. It’s a really simple salad that really lets the flavor of the beef tongue shine. The pipparas bring a nice acidic kick to the dish and then the alioli brings it all together to really balance out all of the richness of the tongue and the acidity from the pipparas.

Lengua de Vaca

Lengua de Vaca

We also have it on the brunch menu as a bocadillo (a small sandwhich in Spain) where we warm up the sliced tongue and then serve it with braising liquid as a dipping caldo (think like a French Dip, but rather a ‘Basque Dip’). There was also a request for a tongue dish so I made a dish with panaderas potatoes, seared tongue, 2 poached eggs, alioli, and demi. It turned out to be a great dish and the customer even said it should be put on the menu ASAP. We’ll see about that! =]

Beef tongue with Panaderas potatoes and Poached eggs.

This was a great post to me because I love trying to get people to try to be more adventurous and to be not so afraid of food like this especially when they are something as delicious as tongue!

In The Spotlight: My Bookmarks.

In The Spotlight: Bookmarks

So with all the time that we spend on the internet, I’m sure there are many of you guys have ‘bookmarks’ or shortcuts to the sites that you might visit pretty frequently to see if there are any updates or new news too read up on. This post is about the sites that I frequently read whenever I find myself at the computer. These are the sites/blogs that I go too whenever I need some inspiration or just need to read something interesting and new.

My bookmark bar!

1. Blank Palate/TravelCookEat

My Favorite Blog about all the happenings in Spain.

This is probably the one blog I visit the most. The author has created such a great way for readers to feel like they can experience Spanish cuisine from wherever they are reading it from. For the past year and the half, I have been making sure to come by every single Tuesday of every single week to read their weekly post called ‘365 Tuesday’, which was formely known as ‘Pintxo Astearteak’, or, ‘Tapas Tuesdays’.

Tapas Tuesdays were probably the single best thing about my Tuesdays. Even though the only thing the blog post consisted of was a picture and the description of the dish, it was was something I always looked forward to every week. The thing I really enjoy about these posts were how sophisticated it would be for how simple the post really was. Each dish for each Tuesday was specifically chosen for a reason. And that reason is because it was that damn good and seeing each dish makes me so envious that there is no where close to where I am to experience it. After working at Txori (RIP), I have found a love for pintxos so this blog was a great influence on me and the ideas I have while working in the kitchen. Here’s a link to her Top 5 Pintxos of 2011.

When the new year started, she has changed Tapas Tuesdays to 365 Tuesdays which doesn’t just focus on tapas anymore, but broadens it’s focus on what is currently happen all around San Sabastian. It’s a great change and I definitely enjoy it just as much as Tapas Tuesdays!

2. Burnt Lumpia & Jun-Blog

Burnt Lumpia and Jun-blog

These are two great blogs for those new and also very familiar with Filipino cuisine. I’ve grown up eating Filipino food but I feel like I still learn so much about this cuisine I thought I already knew.

Burnt Lumpia is a great blog where the author really shows his personality through his posts. He gives a great perspective about what Filipino food is to him and I find it easy to relate to who he is and what he is trying to portray. He is currently in the works for making a new Filipino Cookbook so it’s been a great time following his blog and seeing the progress he is making.

Jun-blog is a great reference for those who are new to Filipino food. I really like the fact that they have a ‘Glossary to Filipino Cuisine’ that outlines some of the most basic and foundations to Filipino food. The blog is nominated for one of Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards in the Best Regional Cuisine Blog. It’s an amazing thing to be nominated for such an award and it makes me proud that a blog can represent my culture and its food in such a great way.

3. Absolutepunk.net & FreshNewTracks

Fresh New Tracks and Absolutepunk

They say music makes the world go round and I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I need to find some new tracks to put on my phone I look to Fresh New Tracks to find any new music that had just came out. They have a good variety of music to listen to and also gives you a download link to put on your computer. Absolutepunk is a website that I have been following ever since I was in middle school and it feeds my inner-teenage angts with the latest news on not just punk-oriented music, but music of a wide variety. This is my main source of upcoming shows, rumors going on with the music industry, and when new albums are about to drop.

4. Comingsoon.net & IGN.com

Comingsoon and IGN

If there is one thing that Staci and I like to do more its watch movies in the theaters. Comingsoon is my go-to website whenever I want to know about upcoming movies and any movie news about movies that we are excited about. I also am a huge video game nerd so IGN fills my needs when it comes to video game news.


These are the blogs and websites that I check and I got to say that they really have an influence on my everyday life. As much as I try not to sit in front of the computer screen, at least I know that there are places I can go to occupy my time and find out something new that I can share with people.

Honorable Mention:


Basque Stage Candidate Luuk Hoffman

Gotta give my new found friend from the Netherlands, Luuk Hoffman. This is his blog and I got to say that even though he is competition of mine, that he has some pretty amazing stuff. He is only 21 and he has a sophisticated touch when it comes to cooking. I have found so much inspiration from this guy and am pretty excited for all of the things he does and will do. He is someone that everybody should keep an eye out because he’s going to be doing big things!

Thank you guys again and until next time!


Food Blog Candidate Post: Piquillos Rellenos de Morcilla

Piquillos Rellenos de Morcilla

Piquillo Pepper filled with Blood Sausage

MMM.... Blood Sausage....

I chose to do this dish for my Basque Stage application because it was the first dish that had introducd me to what I now know as “Basque Cuisine”. My at-the-time girlfriend had taken me to this restaurant that her Uncle, who is currently my chef now (weird, right?), was the chef of. ‘Txori’ was the name of the restaurant (which means ‘Bird’ in Basque.) and I remember not even wanting to attempt to pronounce that. It was a Spanish bar that served the Basque version of tapas called pintxos. I had no preception of what Spanish food was like and had no idea what I was getting myself into. And the first pintxo to be placed on front me was blood sausage. BLOOD SAUSAGE?! I was so flabergasted. But I knew I had to try it. And my mind was blown. I had found a new love. And I knew that it was the start of somehting big….I ended up interning at Txori, then got the opportunity to work there as well as their older sister restaurant, The Harvest Vine, and had learned how to create this dish as well as many other traditional Spanish dishes.

As delicious as it was served as a perfect pintxo, I think it really shines when placed in a composed dish with the peppery greens of frisee and acidic flavors from the sherry and piquillo vinaigrette.

Blood Sausage is one of my favorite things in the world and it is surprising pretty easy to make. This recipe breaks away from the traditional Morcilla and replaces the rice with apples to help make for a blood sausage with a good balance of spice and sweetness.

Piquillos Rellenos de Morcilla

Piquillo Pepper filled with Blood Sausage

Piquillo peppers

Eggs, for egg batter

Flour, for egg batter


Sherry Vinager

Arbequinia Olive Oil

Piquillo Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Alioli (garlic mayonaisse)


Parsley Oil

Piquillo Vinaigrette

Piquillo Peppers

Sherry Vinegar

Olive Oil



  1. Slice piquillos in half and scrape seeds out of pepper.
  2. Place peppers into blender and with the blender on, add the sherry vinegar and salt. Turn off and taste for acidity.
  3. When right acidity, slowly add olive oil until the vinaigrette is a bright orange color and the consistency is a thick, smooth sauce.
  4. Strain through chinois and then it is ready to be used.

For Blood Sausage

1# Pork Blood

1 oz fat back, grated

1# Fuji Apples, peeled and small diced

2.5# onions, Finely diced

Spice Mix

To Fold In

2 oz fat back, small diced

1/2# fuji apple, peeled and small diced

Spice Mix (for 1# pork blood)

Bay Leaves


White Pepper



Smoked Paprika, Pimenton


Onion Powder

(I’ll supply the ingredients, but you can mess with your own measurements to make the flavor the way you want it. Get creative!)

Ingredients For The Morcilla.


1.  In a wide pan over medium heat, render fat out of fat back and add onions. Sweat until translucent.
2. Add diced apples and saute for 3-4 minutes, until a little tender but still has a crunch.

Apples and Onions!

3. Meanwhile, Place the pork blood into a food processor and puree for 10 – 15 seconds to keep it from coagulating during the cooking process.

Look at how bright the blood gets!

4. Add the pork blood and spice mix to the onion/apple mixture and cook down until mixture is thickened. About 10 – 15 minutes. The blood will cook down quickly and the mixture might look a little tight but it’ll loosen up when pureed.

5. When thickened, cool mixture on a sheet tray until all the way chilled.
6. Puree the mixture until it is the consistency is pretty smooth, but with a little chunkiness of onion and apples down to the size of rice grains.
7. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in diced fat back and diced apples.

8. Trim the open side of piquillos and remove all the seeds and then stuff the blood sausage until it fills the peppers.

To Finish Plate:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Heat pan on medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of pan.
3. Dredge stuffed piquillo into flour until fully coated and then cover in egg wash.
4. Take out stuffed pepper of egg wash and get rid of excess egg then add to the oil. Fry on one side until golden brown. Flip onto second side until golden brown. Then flip onto the last side and finish it off by putting it in the oven.

5. Meanwhile, toss frisee in a bowl with sherry vinegar, olive oil, and salt until greens are properly dressed.
6. Put piquillo vinaigrette and alioli onto the plate.
7. Take out the stuffed pepper from the oven and then add parsley to the hot oil and then spoon the hot oil and parsley over the fried pepper.
8. Transfer the stuffed piquillo onto the plate. Place frisee salad over the piquillo and garnish with parsley and parsley oil.

The Finished Plate.


Hope you guys enjoy this post. I had a great time putting it down on paper and really getting this recipe right.

Thanks again,