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.