Monday, December 22, 2008

Slow Six: Private Times in Public Places

Since I' home for the holidays I have been taking a break from cooking and focusing more on the relaxing. My mom is a way better cook than me anyway, so I let her handle the culinary heavy lifting, and I pitch in by decorating the occasional Sarah Palin-themed Christmas cookie on an as-needed basis.

Initially when I set out to do this blog, I wanted to music and food. I have been all food, no music. So now, today, I will do the inaugural music review from something off my hard drive. Today, you get my thoughts on Slow Six, the rather cool electronic/ambient/orchestral band from New York, and their album Private Times in Public Places.

To start off, this is the type of music I love. All sweeping strings and horns, with the occasional bell drenched in a digital rain that makes you feel paralyzed. The album is three songs long and lasts over an hour, giving each song time to build its own framework, then live, relax and stretch out within it.

"This is your last chance (before I sleep)" starts off with some radio static and low chatter about the Yankees then slowly builds on xylophone swells into a beautiful violin melody. Gorgeous as it is, the violin would have the same strangely haunting effect without the windy flute and low computerized vibrato that the song eventually devolves into.

The other two tracks are similar without being the same. The violin starts off playing a supporting role to the airy bells but slowly diverges onto it's own path, providing letting the bells provide a perfect backdrop to the strings' dramatic finish. This is great album, and it benefits from being listened to as such. This album is more of an experience than most I have listened to recently, and can conjure up a more vivid picture than any album lyrics I've heard.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guinness Rosti

This dish is pretty self explanatory in terms of pure awesomeness. Let's just go down the ingredient checklist: garlic, check. potatoes, check. rosemary, check. guinness, check. Those ingredients in any combination would be deadly-good, but especially great when cooked crispy in rosti form. You may notice that most of the potato dishes I do have garlic and rosemary in them. So what, I like the taste. Make your own cooking blog if you want to do it differently.

Here's what you need:

Potatoes. It isn't a carrot rosti, after all. I like russets. One big one per person.
A whole head of garlic, roughly peeled.
Fresh sticks of rosemary
4 Cans of Guinness
Olive Oil
Sea Salt/Black Pepper

Here's what you do:

1) Preheat the oven to 450. Pour yourself a pint of Guinness from a can. Cans of Guinness are better than bottles, due to the nitrogen widget inside. You get a nice dense and delicious head.
2) Cut up your potatoes into matchstick size pieces. Yes, this can be time consuming if you don't have a mandolin slicer, but just get them all roughly the same size, and not too think. Taste always trumps aesthetics. Feel free to drink your Guinness while cutting.
3) Put your skillet on the stove and turn it up to about 3/4 heat and add some olive oil. When it gets hot enough, throw all your potatoes in, including all the individual cloves of garlic (whole) and a bunch of rosemary stripped off the sticks. Pour in a bit of Guinness into the mix and make sure it gets all up in there. Add salt and pepper. Stir it up!
4) Let this wonderful mixture fry up for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes start browning and getting softer, stirring constantly.
5) Put skillet in oven for 25 minutes.
6) Drink rest of first pint of Guinness. Pour another one.
7) When your rosti starts getting a bit golden brown on the top, after the 25 minutes is up, take it out, wrap a damp cloth around your hand and press down the rosti all over. Be careful, don't burn yourself. You can really compress the rosti any way you like, with a plate that fits, if you have one, or whatever.
8) Put it back in the oven for another 25 minutes.
9) By the time you take it out, it should be nicely crispy and brown on the top and perfectly soft and tasty in the middle. Cut it up like a pizza and serve!

This is really a great meal. Although it takes about an hour to make, its darn well worth it. Especially when watching football, and doubly handy that you have the Guinness there to keep you busy during the downtime. Yum.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Southwest Blackened Chicken Salad

I've probably made this salad 15 times over the past three months. It's fantastically tasty, not too hard to make for a quick lunch and from what I understand, its pretty healthy for you too? I first got the idea from a blackened chicken salad I had at Marmalade, and made some necessary adjustments, the biggest one being the seasoning for the chicken. This salad is always a work in progress, as when I first made it, I just copied the menu verbatim. Then I ditched the dressing; it got in the way of the rest of the salad and made everything into muck. I also started out using store-bought creole seasoning. I thought it was good, but once I started making my own, I vow never to go back. It's that big a difference. Plus, you can tailor it to your specifications. Enough about me, lets talk about blackened chicken!

Here's what you need:

For the creole seasoning:
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper (I like it spicy, if you don't, you can leave it out and add heat as need be)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Just mix it all up in whatever. I used a pint glass and it makes pretty cool layers before mixed. Yay arts and crafts!

For one salad:
Boneless/skinless chicken breast
A handful of cherry tomatoes
A handful of crated cheese, you can use cheddar, monterey jack or whatever, it's your salad.
Half an avocado, chopped up
Spinach or lettuce (chopped) (I sometimes use spinach but it makes my teeth feel gritty, weird)
A bit of olive oil

Here's what you do:

1) Preheat oven to 400 F, turn on the stove and get your skillet heated up too, with some oil in it.
2) Generously pour your creole seasoning on to the chicken, both sides and rub it in.
3) Once your skillet is hot hot hot, drop the chicken into the pan and let it sizzle on one side for about 5 minutes. Once it's done, flip it. You should see nice browning/blackening, and you should smile. Because it will be good. Now put the skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes.
4) In the bowl that you're going to be eating your salad in (or a larger bowl if you are making this for other people) toss in your spinach, cherry tomatoes (whole) cheese and avacado.
5) When your chicken is done, slice it up, drop it on top of the salad and give it a little mix, if at all possible.

Some of you may be wondering "OMG WHERE'S THE DRESSING, ALL SALADS NEEDS DRESSING!??!!!" Do not fear. The juices from the chicken and tomatoes work nicely in coating everything, and once you get the avocado all mushed up in the salad, there is no need for dressing. Trust me, it's better this way.

Now go forth and enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Magnificently Easy Mussels

These are easy to make, and even easier to enjoy. In fact, if you can't make these, something is wrong with you. Please see a doctor. This recipe is my take on my mom's creation. I've simplified the ingredient list to make these acceptable in a more casual setting, but in no way have I affected the taste. Because after all, it's all about the taste.

Here's what you need:

2 lb fresh mussels (they are crazy cheap, and you get them usually in 2 lb bags)
1 onion
2 bottles pinot grigio
fresh parsely
olive oil
some gloves of garlic
1 baguette

Here's what you do:

1) Wash your mussels. Very easy, just give them a rinse in cold water, remove any dangly stuff that may stil be attached. IMPORTANT NOTE: Any mussels that are already opened, smack them on the counter. If they close back up, they are good, if they don't, THROW THEM AWAY. The idea is that you want the mussels to be live when you steam them, long-dead mussels will ruin your day.
2) Chop onion, parsley, garlic. When you start to cry, feel free to watch emotional movie scenes at this time, and blame the crying on the onions. You can also mash up the garlic by pressing on it with the flat side of the knife. Works just as well.
3) Get a big pot, big enough to at least fit all your mussels. Turn on the heat, about 75%, and throw in your onion, garlic and olive oil. Let this mixture sizzle a bit, until you see some browning.
4) Put in parsley, and about a quarter bottle of your wine. You're going to start to smell some wonderful flavors. Now is also a good time to pour yourself a glass of wine, if you haven't done so already.
5) If you have done everything correctly up to this point, you should have a wonderful smelling mixture of ingredients in about an inch or two of liquid. This is good. SO add your mussels. Give it a good stir, put a lid on it and let the steam do it's thing.
6) The mussels will be done before you know it, as soon as the mussels are open, they are done. The worst thing do to is overcook them so be vigilant and don't get too social.
7) Give the whole pot a good shake to mix everything around. Serve, as is, in the pot, to your waiting friends!
8) Open the second bottle of wine, drink that with friends and use your baguette to dip in the mussel juice.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Simple Sizzurp

This is something easy to do, and pretty cool at that due to the virtually limitless combinations you can concoct. For the sake of simplicity when I type this, I'll put up the recipe I made last: raspberry.

Here's what you need:

Raspberries (duh). About two big handfuls of them
Sugar or Splenda*. 2 cups
Water. 1 and a half cups

*Note about using Splenda, if you want to cut the calories way down, you can use Splenda, no problem. HOWEVER. Make sure you buy the Splenda that's specifically designed for baking. The regular stuff you get in packets to put in your coffee is high grade pure Splenda, so it cooks differently, not to mention that it's 600 times sweeter than sugar. That's no hyperbole.

Here's what you do:

1) Fill up a pot with your water, crank up the stove
2) Toss your berries and sugar/Splenda into the water, stir it around, let it boil.
3) Once it reaches the Boiling Point, turn down the heat and let the berries simmer in their own sweet jacuzzi for about 20 minutes.
4) When 20 is up, move the pot elsewhere and let cool down to about room temp. (I forgot to mention, this is a good time to grab a frosty beverage if required)
5) Once your syrup is cool, strain it into a bottle of your choice. You can use anything, I normally use a gatorade bottle with the label ripped off. Or you can use a wine bottle if you feel like it.
6) Put it in the fridge. When it gets fridge-temp, you're good to go.

You can use this mixture in lots of stuff, the most obvious one being drinks. Vodka, fizzy water and a touch of this sizzrup is delicious. Also, feel free to use literally any fruit you can think of, or combinaitons thereof to make different flavors.

I used this recipe with cracked black pepper actually. One table spoon of whole black peppercorns, and one table spoon crushed black pepper. It's an interesting flavor combo to say the least. If I were to do it again, I would say to use less sugar. I DID however, spread this syrup on a seared ahi tuna steak and it turned out superb. I highly suggest it.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bone-In Ribeye PART II

Everything's done and cleaned up.

It was pretty good, with some minor negatives that I'll keep in mind for next time. But I guess it would be prudent to continue where I left off. Ingredients, check. Instructions, here we go.

Here's what you do:

1) Preheat that oven to 450
2) Wash potatoes (leave skins on, obviously)
3) Chop dem taters. I made mine into roughly golf ball sized pieces, if golf balls were weirdly polygonal.
4) Before you resume with the potatoes, put your skillet (it has to be a skillet, not a pan) on the stove and blast the heat. Let it get nice and hot.
5) Put the 'tatos into a pot with nicely salted water and bring to a boil. As soon as that's done drain the water out and throw in the oil mixture that you have from ribeye and get everything evenly covered. Let them just hang out for a while in the pot, to dry out.
6) Dump the potatoes onto a baking pan, and toss it in the oven for about 25 minutes. What you're going for here is nice some browning. Feel free to take out the pan and give it a shake as you see fit.
7) Pour yourself a drink. Drink it. This is an important step.
8) Take your beautifully marinated ribeye, put it on the skillet, let it sizzle on one side for about 5 minutes, flip it over, and put it in the oven for about 10 minutes.
9) If you timed it right, and took about 5 minutes to drink your drink before doing the steak bit, you should be able to take everything out of the oven and it will be ready for consumption. When everything is out, give it one last drizzle/brush from the remaining garlic/rosemary/oil you have. This is where I messed up a bit, I got the timing off, so my steak was ready before my potatoes. It turned out pretty decent though.


Now Marinating... Bone-In Ribeye

I'm pretty excited about this one. I was thinking lamb for dinner, but Ralph's was having an incredible sale on bone-in ribeyes. Normally, ribeye is not my first choice, but the bone-in makes all the difference. I had to get it cut in half too, because one full rib is gigantic, about 2.5 pounds.

I'm doing something loosely based out of Cooking with Jamie. It's gonna be soild. Rosemary, which is pretty much my favorite herb, is playing a huge role in tonight's dinner. As it should. I also bought some fresh branches of Rosemary today, it was like $1.20, and it will come in handy. You'll see why.

I'm gonna make rosemary roasted potato chunks to go with it.

Here's what you need:

1 Rib of Beef
White potatoes
Head of garlic
Branches of rosemary
Olive oil

I will post up the rest once I'm done actually doing it. Basically I'm going to mix up a oil/rosemary/lemon/garlic concoction. Since I don't have a brush, I'm going to follow Mr. Oliver's suggestion and grab a handful of rosemary branches and just use that as a brush to slather it on my rib. Also, since I don't have a mortar and pestle to smash up the flavors, I'm just using the bottom of a coffee mug. I'm going to let it marinate for a couple hours while I watch football. Simple and functional. He's a smart guy, that Naked Chef.

Wine for the night: Ruffino Chianti, its a pretty nice big manly wine. Perfect for what I'm eating.

Super Simple Tuna

This is mind bogglingly easy. It tastes great, and you can make it in under two minutes.

Heres what you need:

Fresh Ahi Tuna steaks, medium thickness (if you get it from the fish market, make sure they take out the black blood vein for you. Also, good fresh tuna should smell like the sea. Fish that smells fishy is old, and not what you want.)
Lemon juice

Heres what you do:

1) Heat up your skillet, to about blazing hot.
2) Salt and pepper on each side of the tuna steak.
3) Toss it on the skillet, literally all you need is 30-45 seconds each side. What you want is to keep the middle almost raw, and get a little crispy crust on the outside. Trust me, its what you want.
4) While its still in the skillet, squeeze some lemon juice on it. Savor the sizzle.
5) Take it out of the skillet, and enjoy immediately.

Enjoy those omega-3's!

My Kitchen MVP

I picked up this hunk of iron at REI for like twenty bucks. It has been worth every penny. I use it every- or every other day. I would highly suggest it as a solid building block when developing a kitchen toolkit. It's especially great for pan seared steaks, because you can go straight from the stove into the oven. I also like it because its nice and heavy, makes you feel like a man when you cook a piece of meat.

My iTunes

Anyone who knows me or has seen my iTunes knows this: I am fastidious about my library. I know there are some people who really, truly enjoy listening to Track 07 by Unknown Artist. I can't blame them, Track 12 by Album 03 is one of my favorite songs of all time.

For me, the 'show duplicates' button is essential to my mission. I also like album art. And I also know that I'm not the only one like this, in fact I would suggest that I'm in the majority of people.

I find it makes my personal listening experience more enjoyable. Try it out, it may makes yours a little better too.

This message is brought to you by Jordan.

Rosemary Fries

This is a dish I make all the time, it's a classic. Like lots of stuff I cook, its from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver. Love that book.

Anyways it is actually pretty fun to make, and it goes superb with virtually any meat dish.

Heres what you need:

Big Russet Potatoes (1 per person, 2 if you're a man beast)
Rosemary (Jamie says fresh, but lets be realistic here)
Sunflower oil
Sea Salt

Heres what you do:

1) Fill up a pot about 2/3 full with your oil. You can be fancy and use a thermometer to see when it reaches 350 degrees or you can use the potato method, courtesy of Mr. Oliver. Throw a slice of potato into the oil, when it rises to the top and starts to get crisp on the outside, your oil is good to go.
2) Cut your taters into like McDonalds size sticks. Since I'm here living by myself, I don't have the luxury of using my mom's mandolin slicer, so I kick it old school. I actually like cutting them by hand, you get a more personal feel for the food. Although it might get tiresome after cutting up more than 3 taters, whatever suck it up.
3) Pat your fries down before you toss them in the oil! DON'T FORGET THIS STEP. I didn't do it once, and all the excess starch made the fries stick together in one big clump, not cool.
4) Drop your fries in the oil. Just don't splash it around. You can do it in sessions, this way the oil gets nice and flavored, and you don't have to use as much to begin with.
5) Throw a good amount of rosemary into the oil. This can be done at any point.
6) When they are golden delicious brown, take 'em out, pat them down, crush up some sea salt on those bad boys and enjoy!

Seriously, its not that hard once you get the hang of it. It's also a real crowd-pleaser, you will be mr. (or mrs.) popular in the kitchen. And the best part, since it looks like you are doing lots of work, you use it to your advantage to get bystanders to fetch you a Guinness.


My T-Giving Dinner

I'm Canadian, so I already had my Thanksgiving dinner with the family. So, I would be hanging out by myself for American Thanksgiving, and I decided to use to the time to make a mini feast. Heres what I ate.

Roast Duck with Orange Marmalade and Grand Marnier Sauce
Garlic Smashed Potatoes (skins on, obviously)
Apple/Bacon stuffing
Greg Norman Santa Barbara County Pinot Grigio

Not going to lie. My meal was pretty bomb. I impressed myself at how well it turned out. I cooked my stuffing in a large 12" iron skillet, which I would certainly recommend. That way you maximize stuffing surface area, and the top gets brown and crisp.

The potatoes were also great, its a pretty standard dish though. Hard to mess up. I like to leave the skins on (something my old catering boss taught me, and you get lots of vitamins!) In addition, I like to quarter the potatoes before boiling them. If the chunks are any bigger they dont get done evenly all the way through. Any smaller and they absorb too much water.

The duck was delicious. I secured the rights to my moms recipe. The key here is to roast the duck once, for 1 1/2 hours, take it out, let it cool completely, cut it up, and put it back in for another 30 mins. This way, I am told, the oils seperate from the meat, and you are left with tender juicy meat, and crisp delicious orange flavored skin.

Overall, 9.5/10

Introducing my blog

Hello Internet,

Welcome to my blog.
It is one blog consisting of two parts.

I have quite a bit of music on my computer, (roughly 10,000 songs). Flipping through my itunes the other day I realized that there was a bunch of stuff that had gotten lost in the sea of sound. Some of those "lost" albums are actually pretty good. So, here what I'll do. I will play a random song, or use the genius playlist and whatever song comes up, I will review that album. Pretty straightforward.

Cooking is great because you get to eat your work, and I have a ton of spare time on my hands to get it done. I have limited kitchen utensils beyond the basics, but I still manage to make some pretty delicious dishes. So I will post up the recipes that I cook. Think of it as a food diary, sort of? The point is to show that you do a lot, with a little, and that you don't need to be all fancy-pants to feed yourself.

That's it, just two parts.

I hope you enjoy it.