Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lee's polenta and sausage cast iron skillet fritata


  • 6 duck eggs (If you use regular eggs you may need to add one)
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (I am limiting dairy.  Cream or 1/2 and 1/2 can be substituted)
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan (You just can't replace good parmesan
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 shallot sliced thinly
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 3 patties Italian Sausage
  • 1/4 cup fresh peas
  • A dozen baby asparagus, or 1/2 dozen adult asparagus split length-wise
  • 1 cup sliced spinach
  • 1 cup sliced oyster mushrooms
  • 6 sprigs tarragon
  • Sea Salt and mixed peppercorns
  • EVOO 
  • 1 tube polenta (choose your flavor or plain) 
  • 10" Cast Iron Skillet
  • Optional second skillet or frypan for prep


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place a rack in the middle.
In a mixing bowl break the duck eggs, add the milk (Coconut or cream) and 2/3 the parmesan and whisk until a little frothy.  Slice the tarragon into very thin slips, and remove any stems, reserving one sprig for garnish.  Slice the red pepper into thin strips.  Slice the shallot and garlic into thin strips.  Of using full sized asparagus, snap off the bottom and slice each one in half along the lenth.  Destem the spinach. Slice the oyster mushrooms into small pieces.
In a cast iron skillet, sauté the Italian sausage over medium high heat until browned. Break into last joint of the finger sized or smaller chunks.  Remove to drain on a paper towel. 

Add a couple tbsp. of olive oil to the hot skillet, loosen any shreds of sausage from the bottom of the pan.  Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the garlic just starts to brown.  Add the oyster mushrooms and sauté them all together until the mushrooms are browned and the onion is browned DO NOT BURN THE GARLIC.  Burnt garlic is bitter. Regulate the skillet heat accordingly.  Remove to a separate container with a slotted spatula.

In the remaining oil sauté the red pepper, wilt the spinach, remove to separate container with a slotted spatula.
All of the above can be done ahead of time. Ingredients do not have to be hot to be used.
In a NEW 10" SKILLET or after thoroughly cleaning the skillet used to sauté everything, pour 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil into the pan and thoroughly coat the bottom and sides.  Slice the polenta tube into 1/2" thick slices and cover the bottom of the oiled pan. Any remaining polenta, crumble and use to fill in the gaps. Your goal is a 1/2" thick crust on the bottom.  Over a medium high heat cook the polenta until it starts to sizzle and brown on the bottom.  Do not attempt to flip it.

While the polenta is cooking, scatter the cooked Italian sausage chunks over the polenta, breaking up any too large chunks and distributing evenly.   Scatter the cooked pepper, shallots, garlic, mushrooms over the polenta and distribute evenly.  Add about 2/3 of the tarragon on top. Add the peas and spinach and distribute evenly. 

Once the polenta starts to brown, pour the egg/coconut milk and parmesan mixture over the other ingredients, distributing evenly. 

Lay the asparagus on top of the egg mixture.  Grind fresh sea salt and distribute it evenly over the top to taste. Grind fresh mixed peppercorns evenly over the top to taste.  Scatter the remaining tarragon over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup parmesan over the top. 

Place the hot skillet into the 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.  At 30 minutes increase the heat to 375, and bake for 10-15 more minutes or until the top is just starting to brown and the center is firm.  It may be BUBBLY but the center should be firm and leave no residue when you touch it with your fingertip.  A toothpick should come out clean.  Remove the pan from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes (do not cover). Add sprig of tarragon to top and serve warm. Should come out of pan nicely with a pie server and knife (if not you didn't add enough olive oil, make sure more is on the pan next time before adding ingredients).  Makes nice leftovers too.

Serve with a semi-dry reisling or semi sweet white wine. 

Oven, baking and set time: About 40-45 minutes total
Prep time: probably 20 minutes
Pre-cooking sausage etc. time: 20 minutes
Total time 1:15 min or so

Copyright, Lee Drake, all rights reserved

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Elizabeth's sweet potato with red curry coconut

Sweet potatoes with red curry coconut

From my sister Elizabeth Drake


6 Medium Sweet potatoes
3 Tsp Red Thai Curry
1 Tsp peanut or vegetable oil
3/4 cup lite coconut milk
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
3 Tbsp butter

  1. Roast the 6 sweet potatoes till soft and peel and mash
  2. In a wok, heat 1 Tsp oil till it just begins to smoke. Add 3 Tsp Red Thai Curry and stir fry until fragrant
  3. Add 3/4 cup coconut milk (be sure to include both solids and liquid if not using a lite coconut milk
  4. Bring curry and coconut to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
  5. Simmer for 5 minutes
  6. Mix in 1/8 cup of maple or agave syrup, and 2 Tbsp of butter until the butter is melted.
  7. Whip in potatoes with a mixer or masher
  8. Transfer to a broiler safe pan, put the remaining 1 tbsp of butter and 1/8 cup Maple or Agave syrup on top and broil under the broiler in the oven until toasted on top
  9. Serve hot

Serves 6-8 easily - maybe more.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dr. Woodie Flowers on the Future of Education

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Woodie Flowers and all he has done for FIRST Robotics.  He has a unique and interesting perspective on education , which I think deserves a view here.  Some of what he says though isn't consistent.  He says we should have automated and adaptive software to teach subjects - fair enough, but he also says we shouldn't teach to a test or evaluate students based on multiple choice. Most of the adaptive software I've seen needs an assessment to determine if the learner has learned before they move on to the next subject. What does he propose to replace that? Not much really.

Similarly he indicates we should use big data to evaluate teacher performance and teaching best practices and apply them across the board.  Again though - to use big data to make these sorts of projections and assumptions the data must be gathered in the first place - benchmark data, progress data, effectivity data and demographic data.  All things that require some sort of testing and evaluation to determine how well people are learning, and what is actually working.

I would love to see his proposed non-test way of gathering the data required to make these kinds of analysis - truly - because if he can do that he's invented something VERY valuable.