Monday, October 19, 2009

Dinosaur Stew

Although there isn't any Dinosaur meat in this (though it would be rad) I couldn't help but thinking that this dish looks completely huge, jurassic and downright dangerous. The combination of the beef rib bones sticking out of the chunky, meaty red caveman sauce and giant rigatoni looks like something a 5 year-old would make if he could cook. Or if some neanderthal had a range and iron skillet in his cave. Well, I unleashed my inner 5 year-old/caveman and Dinosaur Stew is the result. This hearty meal will warm you up during an ice age blizzard, or just a cold day for those of us that live in less exciting times. *Note, do the ribs first because they'll take about 2 hours.

Here's what you need:

For the meaty caveman sauce:
1 pound ground sirloin
Healthy splash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped (or garlic powder, in a pinch)
2 big cans (28oz) of peeled or whole tomatoes. If whole, crush them by hand, arrgggh!
big rigatoni (no. 24)
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
a few shakes of:
hot pepper flakes

For the dinosaur bones
4 or 5 beef short ribs
Olive oil
1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and peper
2 cans of beer
1 cup beef stock or water

Here's what you do:

1) Heat up a good dose of olive oil in a large skillet or pan
2) Dredge the ribs in the flour, shaking off any extra and sear them in the oil, about 5 minutes each side
3) After they are nicely brown on each side, pour in your beer and water, move to low heat, cover and let everything simmer for about 2 hrs. Occasionally check the liquid levels, and add more water/beer as needed
4) With 40 minutes left to go with the ribs, its time to get started on the sauce. First, you need to brown up the ground sirloin, onions and garlic in the bottom of a high sided pan or pot.
5) After the meat is pretty much cooked through, add all the other ingredients and let it come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and let it do it's thing for 30 minutes or so.
6) With roughly 15 minutes left to go, time to start bringing a pot of salted water to a boil. After it's boiling, drop in a good handful of rigatoni per person and boil for 12-13 minutes, or, until its not quite done, and your test piece will feel springy in your mouth.
7) Now we're getting somewhere. The ribs should be about done now, so dump out most of the liquid from the skillet, but save some for flavor bonus points. Drain your pasta and dump that over the ribs in the skillet. For the finale, dump your sauce all over the previous two ingredients, and let it simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes, giving the pasta a chance to cook the rest of the way. Stir it well, making sure everything is covered.
8) Look at the skillet and tell me that doesn't look like a might delicious Dinosaur Stew, with the bones sticking out, the chunks of meat and tomatoes everywhere and the large tubes of rigatoni.

What to listen to:

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
Aside from the obvious naming implications, the music also fits. Classic riff heavy stone-age rock is all you need for making and eating this dish.

What to drink:

Normally I'd say some type of big red wine, but since you already have the beer out, and considering this dish is more meat than pasta, a decent lager will do you no harm. Pilsner Urquell or Czechvar.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old Bay Battered Seafood Fryup

This recipe is fun, delicious, and you'll probably make a huge mess cooking it. The batter is loosely based on a recipe for fried pearl onions from my Batali cookbook Molto Italiano. While his original idea was certainly good, I wanted to make it into a full meal, and also, he had pecorino romano cheese in the batter, which in my opinion, didn't jive as well with the seafood as it did with the onions. I've included some seafood options to fry up in this mix, but by no means is this the totality of choices. Use your imagination! If it's from the sea, chances are it will work great in here. I decided that I'd kick it over to the East Coast with some old bay instead. Glad I did. You will be too.

Here's what you need:

For the batter:
2 Eggs, separated
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup milk (1% or 2%, depending on how thin you feel)
Dash of parsley
Healthy dose of Old Bay seasoning

1 pound peeled pearl onions (the little ones, about the size of a marble)
1 pound large scallops
1 pound previously cooked, de-tailed shrimp
About half a bottle of olive oil for frying

Here's what you do:

1) Separate your eggs, and leave put the whites off to the side for now
2) In a large bowl, combine all your dry batter ingredients, then slowly add your milk and eggs. Whisk it all together, or you can use a fork, or your hand or whatever. Leave this off to the side as well.
3) For your onions, boil them for about 2 minutes then dump them into a bowl of ice, or cold water. Theoretically this is called 'blanching.'
4) For your seafood, you can get a big pan ready, and throw everything in, just to heat it up and cook it a little bit before it goes into the batter.
5) So, with all your onions chilling and seafood slowly cooking, you can now whip up your eg whites into stiff peaks. Not going to lie, I have no mechanical or whisk, so I did this by hand, with a fork. It took me about 30 minutes of solid whipping. I don't recommend doing it my way unless you are dedicated to fluffy batter and/or have a mixer. You were warned.
6) Fold the whites into the batter, until they disappear, but don't be too rough with it, egg whites are delicate creatures and should be treated with care.
7) FINALLY, now we can get to the good stuff. Heat up your oil in a large high sided pan/pot.
8) You'll most definitely have to work in batches here, use tongs dip your choice fryables in the batter, shake off the excess and drop into your oil. Wait until it is deliciously golden on all sides then put into a colander or onto some paper towels to drain and dry. Each time you are finished a batch, sprinkle with some more Old Bay, and shake it around to get good coverage.

There you go, that's it. If this seems confusing or my instructions aren't quite clear, just use your head and think about this in required steps. It's a pretty hard dish to mess up though, and even though you'll have batter splatter all over your kitchen, it'll be more than worth it. Also, very easy to scale this one up, to serve a whole giant pot to some hungry people.

What to listen to:

Florence and The Machine - Lungs
This is a wicked and diverse album. It fits great because its upbeat, and covers a wide range of styles. The cooking process is quick you you'll feel like you'll be doing lots of stuff at once, but in the end its all worth it. Not sure if this has anything to do with the meal, but I love her voice.

What to drink:

Beer man, beer! This meal just crys out for beer, and not an overpowering one either. Moosehead in Canada, or some Sam Adams lager in the US. Both east coast beers, both very good.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork with Bourbon BBQ Sauce

The first time I had pulled pork was in Atlanta as a wee lad. I've been hooked ever since. Lacking the necessary smoker (or right now, even a bbq) I've had to rely on the goodness of southerners to make it for me. No longer. After my dad fired me an email talking about the food in North Carolina on one of his golf vacations, I decided it would be time to give it a shot. Now I'm not claiming that this is better than real smoked pulled pork, but for a guy in a studio apartment in LA, it's pretty darn good. What follows is less recipe and more technique. The whole process hinges on getting the best pork you can but other than that, it's light on ingredients. Most likely you'll have everything else you need lying around the kitchen. This is based on trial and error, as well as becoming student of old school southern bbq techniques.

Here's what you need:
- A 5-8 lb pork shoulder (called a Boston Butt.) You can have it either bone in or out, it doesn't matter. They usually have them pre cut and wrapped at the grocery store, but if they don't you can ask and the butcher will be able to give you that cut easily.
- Dry pork rub (you can buy this or make your own, depending on your inclination. DIY recipe is at the bottom)
- Bottle of regular BBQ sauce (again, I'm trying to keep this practical here. You can make your own bbq sauce, as I have done in the past. But for my purposes, going out and buying molasses and brown sugar that I'll only use once doesn't jive with my student budget)
- 2oz bourbon
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- Bottle of apple juice

Here's what you do:

1) Preheat oven to 250F. Make sure there are two racks in the oven, one in the middle and one on the bottom
2) Cover your pork shoulder in dry rub, really massage it in there, and let it sit for about 30 mins, giving a chance for the spice to do its thing
3) Pour some apple juice onto a baking tray, and put it on the bottom rack. You may need to top up the apple juice from time to time, depending on how much evaporates
4) Put your pork on a baking pan and put it in the oven for 8 hrs. Just put it in and thats it, you don't need to move it at all.
5) When the pork is about 20 minutes from being done, dump your bbq sauce into a pan and heat on low, then add some bourbon and vinegar to taste. You can also add some apple juice to the sauce if you want. Stir.
6) After 8 hrs (or internal temperature of 160F, I don't have a thermometer so I just estimate) take the pork out and put in a large mixing bowl. Using two forks, just start pulling the pork apart from itself, it should go pretty easily, considering how tender the pork will be. After everything is all pulled apart, just dump in your bbq sauce mixture and give it a good mixing with the forks.
7) Serve piled high on fresh kaiser buns.

Overall this meal is fantastic as it has little prep work, and the reward is simply mindblowing. Whats more, you can easily scale up this recipe for an epic pork party with little added work. Since modern gas ovens tend to give off a dry heat, the apple juice prevents the pork from drying out while giving it an nice hint of sugar and apple. The addition of vinegar to the bbq sauce thins it out nicely, giving the pork more of a Carolina vibe, rather than the thicker Kentucky/Texas sauces most of us are used to. The bourbon is just an added bonus.

What to listen to: Brock Van Wey - White Clouds Drift On and On
I'm not an emotional guy, but this album is what I would call "heartbreakingly beautiful." Slow builds and sighing releases, strings and vocals all come together for a moving experience. Which is exactly how you'll feel as your first bite of pulled pork is melting in your mouth.

What to drink: Since you already have the bite of the vinegar and the strength of the bourbon, I recommend a nice full hoppy beer. Fat Tire in the US, Cameron's Auburn Ale in Canada.

*For the DIY dry rub
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


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Coffee Crisp

Readers out there (cricket...tumbleweed...) I have something special for you. It's not quite a meal bit rather a delicious drink. I discovered this drink at Magnum's in AZ, which is quite the place if I do say myself. A fine liquor, wine and cigar store attached to a full bar that serves all these things. Buy some wine and a nice gar, go next door, have it corked and lit for you. Done.

Anyway, I testmarketed this drink in Oakville and the residents have eaten (drank) it up. Here we go.

The Coffee Crisp
Here's what you need:

2 oz Van Gogh Espresso Vodka
1 can Guinness

Here's what you do:

1)Mix it.

Music Mix:

You have to play this one fast and loose, and ideally, at high volumes
Japandroids - Post Nothing
(Canadian boys who rock it)


Lime-Chili-Tequila Butter

Yes, hey it's the first post in a while. I'm going to keep it short and sweet, just like the recipe. Just the facts please!

Here's what you need:

2 sticks'a butter
1 jalapeno (finely minced, minus seeds and white crap)
2 oz tequila
1 dash of Cumin powder
1 lime (juice thereof)
A little bit of salt and pepper

Here's what you do:

1) Get the butter to room temp
2) Put butter in a bowl
3) Add all ingredients, mix dem up with a rubber spatula. You might say "but J, the tequila and lime juice don't mix well with the butter!" To that I say "keep mixxing, it'll blend."
4) Place mix in some saran wrap, and wrap it into a cylinder, twisting the ends. Put in the fridge. It will harden into something useful.

Once this good stuff hardens you'll have a fantastic compound butter you can add to steaks, stirfrys, toast or fajitas. Simple yet effective.

Drink mix: Since you already have the tequila out I suggest a man-garita
2 oz tequila
juice of half a lime
couple cubes of ice

Mix er'y thing up in a glass and enjoy. This is what we call a "friendly drink"

Music mix
Rick Ross - Mafia Music

Can I justify this music selection? Probably not. Other than the fact than it's butter and it's Ross the Boss. Everyone likes them both. Seriously though, Officer Rawse has impeccable taste in beat selection.


Saturday, March 7, 2009


Everybody knows what this stuff is. Limoncello is a digestif, and it aids, duh, digestion after a big meal. Maybe you have an Italian uncle who brings it over at every family gathering, or maybe the waiter brought you and your date some after a fancy meal at an Italian restaurant. Or maybe you just like the taste and sip it at home, it don't matter. Today we're going to make some.

Here's what you need:

2 cups grain alcohol (basically everclear, or anything else that's in the 75-80% range)
4 lemons
1 1/2 cups simple sizzurp (the syrup recipe is for sugar or splenda, stick to sugar for the first time around, I haven't tried splenda. Also, remove the fruit from the recipe.)
Mason Jar (or something else freezer-proof)
7 days

Here's what you do:

1) Peel the lemons, you can use a knife or a peeler (peeler is easier). Take care to get just the top yellow part of the peel, don't gouge too deep into the white crap, which isn't conducive to a smooth digestif.
2) Fill your mason jar with the alcohol, add the lemon peels, and wait. For about 7 days, minimum. You can go longer if you want, to get a more lemon-y flavor.
3) When you're ready, remove the lemon peels, and any small bits leftover, (I strained it through a coffee filter) and add your sugary syrup. Mix it together in the mason jar, screw the cap on nice and tight and stick it in the freezer until you are ready to use. It should keep for a couple months at least.

*Note: It is possible to use vodka in this recipe, however due to the lessened alcohol content, you will want to soak the lemon peels in the vodka for at least two weeks, and up to a month. Grain alcohol absorbs flavors quickly, and well, that's why I use it. I've had it both ways though, and they are both tasty, if a bit unique. Also, you can use vodka if you find the double shot power of grain alcohol is too much for you.

It has been said that these make a great gift. I have yet to give/receive one myself, but I'm pretty sure that if someone gave this to me, I would be happy, if not a little impressed. It's better than socks, I guess.

Considering this isn't really 'cooking' per se, and it's spread out over the course of many days, I'm going to skip the music selection.
Needless to say though, that when it's done, you know what you should be drinking, because you've been dying to taste it.

From here the possibility for expansion is great. You can follow this same process, but swap out lemons for meyer lemons, oranges, tangerienes, even basic and lavender.

Shoutout to CHOW for the idea.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kapusta, From the Motherland

Today I'm giving a big shout out to my heritage and Ukrainians in general. This kapusta (Ukrainian for cabbage) is so bomb, but its a classic of all classics. Kapusta, or some variation of this dish, depending on what state food rations were available, is to Ukraine what pasta is to Italians.

This recipe is based on what my Grandma used to make for me all the time to bring to lunch at work. It's got that distinct Eastern European smell, which I love, and can be eaten hot, cold or whenever. I've also simplified the recipe somewhat, but I cleared it with my Grandma, since I'm a young man living in a Los Angeles studio apartment, it might not be too realistic for me to ferment my own cabbage to make sauerkraut, raise my own pigs to make kielbasa or forge my own iron skillet out of scraps stolen from the Iron mines of Minsk. Also, butter is not really a common thing in the eastern bloc, they use pure fat. Yeah, sooo, I don't really need to fatten up for any long harsh cold winter, or need strength working a double shift at the rocketbomb plant, I can use butter here. Luckily, for my purposes, we now have stores where we can buy these things. Yay capitalism.

Here's what you need:

1 medium onion (peeled and chopped)
1 jar natural sauerkraut (try to get one made with only salt, cabbage and water, no vinegar)
half pound of good quality keilbasa (about 6-8 inches in length) (chopped into rough cubes)
a good sized chunk of butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 bay leaf

Here's what you do:

1) Start sauteeing your onion in the butter for a few minutes, until they start to get soft, but not quite brown
2) Add your sauerkraut to the onions, but leave the juices. So you can either drain the entire jar completely, but I recommend just forking it out the jar into the pan. That way you get a little bit of juiciness in the mix, and you have extra juices to add later if need be. Add sugar, caraway, bay leaf at this time too.
3) Stir it all around, on low to medium heat and leave it until it gets nice and soft. After about 10 mnutes, add the keilbasa and then just let it cook on low for another 10.
4) Depending on the saltiness of the sauerkraut, the dish should be salty enough, but if you want, add salt and pepper to taste.

Congrats, you're done. It was that easy. So basic but so absolutely delicious. The caraway seeds are the magic ingredient that pulls it all together in my opinion. Serve it in bowls with a fresh peice of dark russian rye bread.

What to listen to: The cold wind swirling through the trees outside
What to drink. Russian Standard vodka. Straight.
In the eastern bloc, drinking vodka is always meant to compliment food, and it's looked down upon to drink it straight for the purpose of getting drunk. Also, vodka is never for mixing.

(I would recommend a Ukrainian vodka, but apparently they can't get their act together enough to ship some bottles over here. Regardless, Russian/Ukrainian vodka is all the same, heck they invented the stuff.)


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Standard Pizza

Homemade pizza is something I've really been getting into lately, and it all stems from how awesome it is to have a pizza stone. My journey to make my ultimate pizza has been going quite successfully, and I've gotten it down to basically two different kinds that I make. This is the first one, it's basic, but just incredible.

If there's one word I can give to you aspiring pizzaiolos out there, it would be: minimalism. With pizza, less is more. More, is, well, less. Too many toppings and your cooking times get all screwed up, the crust is cooked before the toppings are, and/or you're left with soggy wetness in the middle. Plus, you just spent all that time making your dough from scratch, you want to be able to taste it after all! I have a 2 ingredient max rule, not including cheese. Anything else and I would kindly ask that you leave the room and order from domino's. There is also evidence that too many choices leads to lower overall satisfaction, in life not just with pizza: the paradox of choice. If you are cooking for other people, or if you own a pizza restaurant and are seeking my advice (hey, it could happen...), my advice would be to offer less choice, stick to a few core selections and focus more on making every ingredient great. In essence, it's better to do two things great, than to do five things fairly good.

This is the point where I step down off my soapbox, and step into the kitchen.

Here's what you need:

Pizza Dough

Pizza Sauce
Low moisture mozzarella, the whiter the better (shredded)
Pepperoni (I like turkey pepperoni, don't be weirded out, its actually awesome)

Here's what you do:

1) Heat up your pizza stone in the oven at 500 degrees F, for at least 30 minutes, if not a full hour before cooking. I like my crust thin and crispy, and the hotter the stone, the crisper the crust. Your stone should be on the middle rack, but you can adjust as necessary, (when the stone is cold, obviously): higher = faster melting of cheese and cooking of toppings; lower = faster cooking of crust. Find your happy medium.
2) On your counter or your pizza peel, sprinkle with flour, then take your room temperature ball of dough and squish it with your hand to make a rough circle.
3) Start rolling it out, in all directions with a rolling pin. This is kind of hard to describe properly, without seeing someone doing it, but I'm sure you'll get the hang of it. Again, I like thin crust, so I will roll it thin.
4) Take your dough off the peel (if its not done already) and sprinkle the peel with some semolina flour. This will act like little edible ball bearings that enable easy transitions between peel and stone.
5) Now with your dough back on the paddle, spread out, it's is ready for its adornment. From here on it, if you've ever eaten a pizza before in your life, you know what the drill is: Spread a thin layer of sauce on the dough using the back of a spoon. Put the desired amount of cheese on the sauce, leaving one inch of crust around the edge for strategic thumb placement. Then lay out the pepperoni over top, covering as much or as little as you like.
6) Now it's time to slide the pizza onto the stone. This also take some practice, and I learned the hard way that you cant really move the pizza around for the first few minutes when it's on the stone, the dough is too soft and it will fold. So getting it right the first time is key. I like to slide the peel all the way to the of the oven, then slowly tilt it and bring it forward, leaving the pizza placed perfectly in the middle of the stone.
7) This step is pretty hard to lay down hard and fast rules for, because it all depends on how hot your oven is, and how 'done' you like your pizza. Ignore what your mother said about not opening the oven before the food is done. Just keep checking on it, till you see what you like. Once the pizza starts to cook, you can even slide your peel in and turn the pizza around if you see one half is cooking faster than the other.
8) When the pizza is done to your liking, take it out, and cut it into appropriate shapes with a pizza cutter. Now is the time to bask in the glow of a hard-earned sense of accomplishment. You can eat it right off the pizza peel for that authentic experience.

Now you know how to make a homemade pizza. The heart of this idea is the pizza stone. Without it, in my opinion, a great pizza isn't possible. I have had some pretty good ones, made on a baking sheet, but for your pizza to be truly transcendent (that's what you were going for, right?) the stone is your key to pizza nirvana. From here, the sky is the limit for what kind of stuff you want to put on your pizza, as long as you remember the 2 topping rule.

What to drink: As I mentioned before, I love Fat Tire, especially with pizza. It's got that bread-like flavor that goes superb with some homemade pie. (Fat Tire shares the title of my favorite beer with Guinness)

What to listen to: Led Zeppelin, How The West Was Won, CD1. Seriously. Why not? It's a great live CD, and pretty sure that if you time it right, Stairway to Heaven will come on just as you are about to eat your pizza and experience a truly heavenly experience.


Pizza Dough

Pizza dough. The foundation for any good pizza. Let's do this.

Here's what you need:

3 cups white bread flour
1/2 cup semolina flour (it's more granular, plus you use it for stuff other than baking, as you'll see in a minute)
2 tablespoons quick rise yeast
a squirt of honey
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt

Equipment needed:

Pizza Stone - Quite possibly my favorite kitchen apparatus, aside from my iron skillet, and the oven itself. It's a porous stone that stays in your oven all the time. This will give your crust, or bread, or anything you bake on it a great crispness that you'd find in a pro pizza oven. It stores heat too, so when the oven cycles on and off, you get a nice constant temperature. Not expensive at all, I got mine for $30 at Sur La Table.
Pizza Peel - Some people call it a pizza shovel. Whatever you call it, its the paddle thing that is used to get the pizza flat on the stone and to take it out and move it around. They come in aluminum or wood. I personally like (and have) the wood one, because it just so happened that the wood ones at the store were bigger than the aluminum ones. Larger paddle area = larger pizzas. There's something you need to know about untreated wood pizza peels (or cutting boards, or any wood used in the kitchen) and that's that you need to treat it with mineral oil a couple times before your first use, and again every time you wash it. This video from CHOW explains everything.

Here's what you do, if you're mixing it by hand. I'm not going to give you mixer instructions because I don't have a mixer, plus, the pizza becomes more rewarding after you've put some muscle into it. Also, maybe wear an old shirt, because you will get flour-y:

1) In a large mixing bowl, add the water, salt and honey. Stir it up with a large metal spoon, until everything is more or less dissolved, add the yeast, stir some more, then let is sit for five minutes.
2) Add the olive oil then the semolina flour, while stirring, avec spoon, with your other hand. Once that is more or less mixed, add the remaining flour and keep mixing. At this point, the spoon will be useless against the powers of the dough, so get your hands in there. I like to lightly coat my hands in flour before starting to mix, just so the stick-factor is reduced. Mix till there is a coherent mass. If your dough is too wet and sticky, add small amounts of flour, conversely, if it's too dry, add small amounts of water.
3) Does your dough look like a ball? Good. Okay you're done... No, just kidding.
4) Take out your pizza peel, (or just use an empty counter top) and cover it in flour. Drop your dough on the surface and get kneading. It's pretty much impossible to over-knead dough. Kneading develops the gluten in the bread, which is quite a good thing. This is the time for self-expression, or maybe even a little stress relief. You can pound the dough any which way, stretch it, fold it, whatever. Just follow your heart. Do this for about 15 minutes or so.
5) Wash and dry your big bowl, then coat the inside with a bit of flour. Put your doughball inside, cover it with a paper/kitchen towel and let it rise for about 1 hour. After 1 hour, punch it down, get all the air out of it, and let it rise again for another hour or so, until it doubles in size.
6) Once your dough has risen twice, (and you've punched it down twice) you have some options. Depending on how many people you want to feed, I usually cut the dough in to 4 pieces. Then I'll wrap three in saran rap, put them in a container and then into the freezer. That one baseball sized dough portion will be enough to make one medium pizza, so it can feed one or two, depending on who you are.

This concludes my dough recipe. I have been working on pizzas for a few weeks now, trying different doughs and procedures, and this is the one I like the best. Now you know.

But you may ask, "Yo, I wanted pizza, not dough, your blog sucks."
To you I say, "Yes, I understand, I split up the posts for pizza and dough, so it's easier to link back to. And YOU suck."

What do drink: We'll considering you'll be making this ahead of time, I would suggest something non-alcoholic like an Arnold Palmer. But then again, if you're making it the night of, then definetly Fat Tire. Yes, that's my final answer.

What to listen to: Making dough is a pretty organic procedure, especially when mixing and kneading by hand, invariably you'll want music to reflect this: Devendra Banhart, Rejoicing In The Hands

Now, lets get pizza!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mexican Mussels

Hey, Yo. I realize it's been a few days since I posted up a new recipe. I have been cooking, certainly, just I have been devoting a lot of my time to playing (nerd alert!) Myst III, and thus not posting. But that's another story for another time.

Let's get down to brass tacks.

Mexican Mussels are, in all likelihood, not eaten in Mexico. But just like chicken balls are "chinese food,'" for my purposes, the stylings of Mexican cuisine provided me with a delicious dinner, authenticity be damned!

Here's what you need:

2 pounds mussels, cleaned, debearded
6 Corona (if you've read my other recipes, you know what the other 5 are for)
1 Poblano pepper (chopped)
Bottle Tobasco Chipotle Sauce
A couple gloves of garlic (chopped)
Limes (or lime juice)
*Chorizo Sausage (uncooked)

*this ingredient is optional, if you're planning on eating the mussels as a meal, then put it in to beef up the dish and give it some more complex flavor, if as an app, you could leave it out for a fresher/lighter tasting starter.

Here's what you do:

1) In your iron skillet, heat up the chorizo (if you're using it), the garlic and the pepper, until all cooked and brown. Oh yeah, medium heat.
2) Add your bottle of beer, and a bit of lime juice and a healthy dose of the smokey Tobasco Chipotle, and let that start to bubble
3) Add mussels and cook, uncovered, while giving it a few good stirs, until most the mussels are open, you can feel free to add some more splashes of beer or lime juice as you stir.
4) When the mussels are cooked, give a final splash of beer, lime juice and thow on some cilantro, give one final stir and serve in the skillet.

What to drink: Tequila shots all around! Then enjoy that Corona.
What to listen to: This meal is quick and can easily get any party started. Therefore you'd want to listen to some music that is quick and can get a party started. Girl Talk, Feed The Animals perhaps?


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Texas Chili with Dusted Onion Straws

Texas is the official birthplace of chili, and any chili enthusiast will tell you that real Texas-style chili doesn't contain beans. Indeed the use of beans or other fillers like pastas are banned at most of the big time chili cookoffs.

I developed this recipe from scratch pretty much with no clear plan going into it, as to how I wanted the final product to turn out. I just had two criteria: meaty and hot. SO I went to work, tinkering with the chili as it simmered until I got a final product that I was happy with. And boy was I happy with this one. I thought, lets top it off with some southwest seasoned and dusted fried onion straws. Sure why not. The end result was certainly in the all-time top 5 dishes I have made, ever.

A note about this recipe, first I should call it something cooler than, "Texas chili with dusted onion straws." I'm working on that one, but I'm open to suggestions. Second, the exact measurements would be impossible to give so I'll just put a rough estimation. I'm sure you can experiment for yourself to find something that works. The cubed beef really makes the dish outstanding, so I'd recommend it, (cubing it yourself, what I did, doesn't take long) over ground beef. Also be advised, if you want this for dinner, start making it after lunch. The longer it simmers the better, 2-3 hours is my magic number

Here's what you need:
For the chili:
2lbs Top Round Beef (cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 case of Mexican beer (I like Model Especial, but Corona or Tecate or any other Mexican beer will do the trick)*
2 ancho peppers (chopped)
1 jalapeno (slit down the middle)
1 white onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
chilli flakes
1 small bottle of Tapatio hot sauce (the best hot sauce ever, in my opinion)
salt and pepper
1 8oz can of tomato sauce
smoky mesquite BBQ sauce (I used Stubbs')
beef stock
cheddar cheese (grated)
*Note, you only use once can for the actual recipe, but takes about 3 hours to make, so you want to be well hydrated during that time.

For the onion straws/rings
1 white onion, chopped lengthwise into thin rings
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup of my Cajun seasoning, or if not, seasoning salt
vegetable oil

Here's what you do:

For the chili:
1) Brown your beef cubes in a skillet, drain them, then transfer to a large pot.
2) Turn the large pot on low heat, it will be at this temperature for the rest of the time. Add all ingredients except for oregano, garlic and cheddar cheese. Just dump it all in, I used the entire bottle of Tapatio, and about a quarter bottle of BBQ sauce. You can just set the cheese aside for now, it's for topping the chili once everything is done. It's best to start off with less beef stock rather than more, you can always add more later to thin the chili out. Simmer for one hour, covered.
3) Add oregano and garlic. Stir. The reason why I held off putting these two ingredients in until later, is that if cooked too long they can tend to get bitter. Let simmer for another hour, uncovered this time.
4)Taste test! See how you like it, does it tickle your taste buds? Grab another beer. Add more spice as needed. If it is at the perfect spice level right now, then take out the jalapeno, remember how you just slit it down one side? The longer you leave it in, the hotter the chili gets. It's your chili, do what you want. Also, judge the consistency of the chili, if it is getting to pasty, add either more beef stock or more beer, if it is still too watery, never fear, simmering with the lid off will let it slowly reduce and thicken up, concentrating all the flavours into one power punch. From now on, just let it simmer, uncovered until it reaches the desired consistency.
5) Once it's done, spoon it out into a bowl, top with grated cheese, and on top of that, put some of your delicious onion straws (see below). Pair with a nice cold crisp Modelo Especial.

For the Onion Straws
*These can be called straws or rings, doesn't matter, it all the same. Depending on how thin you cut them, they could be either! Maybe I should call them something different. Like I said, I'm working on it.
1) Get a big Ziploc bag or Tupperware container with a lid. Put your flour and Cajun/seasoned salt in there too, and mix it all around, so you end up with a nice rusty coloured flour.
2) Toss your onions into the flour mixture, seal it nice and tight and give it a good shake. You want complete 360 degree coverage. Your onions should be a little damp from the natural onion juice, but if they aren't then just wet them down with a paper towel, to help the flour stick.
3) Heat up your oil in a medium sized pot. Heat it up pretty hot so we can flash fry these suckers.
4) A few at a time, drop your onions into the oil, stir them around a bit so they don't get stuck together, keep the in for about 5 minutes, then take out and pat dry. Repeat until all your onions are crispified. Feel free to eat them by themselves or as a topping on your chili.

Although this meal takes a long time to make, it's actually pretty easy because you aren't doing anything most of the time. Let the stove do the work for you. But the end result is something, delicious and hearty, easy and cheap to make. Plus, it's endlessly customizable. It also stores really well in the freezer for later days.


Drink: Modelo Especial
Listen: Sigur Rós, Agaetis Byrjun, Takk, and Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
Three albums here should span the whole process from start to finish. Chili is a very contemplative activity if you think about it, and you can't rush it. Much like the glacial music of Sigur Rós. I've organized the three albums to match the trajectory of cooking chili. As things start to get exciting, around when you start making the onions and you get to eat everything, it gets more upbeat, fun and climactic!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Irish Mussels

This recipe is my attempt to reverse engineer a dish from Flex Mussels, a restaurant I've never been to, and who's food I've never tried. It started out as a small shack in PEI, then to a small shack in Manhattan, to a larger shack in Manhattan. I thought it looked like a genius idea though, so why not? Mussels with Guinness, caramelized onions and toasted walnuts. Let's do this.

Here's what you need:
All the quantities here I've based on 2lb of mussels. I can eat 2lb of these myself, but as an appetizer, plan on about 1lb per person
2 lb mussels (east coast, PEI are great)
1 Can of Guinness for mussels, 1 Can for the Cook
1 white onion, chopped
Walnuts, chopped
Vegetable oil

Here's what you do:
1) Toast/Roast your walnuts at for 10 minutes at 350F. Just spread them out on a pan and toss em in, nothing to it
2) In a large iron skillet, put your onions in and a bit of vegetable oil, enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. (Why veg-oil and not olive? Well veg-oil has a higher smoking point, better for this purpose. Now you know.) Turn to medium heat and give the onions a stir to coat everything with oil and let them sizzle. In about 10 miuntes, when they start to begin caramelizing, I like to add a bit of sugar as a catalyst, and for overall deliciousness. So just sprinkle some in and stir it around.
3) While your onions are caramelizing, and your walnuts are toasting, take this time to clean your mussels. Debearding is easy, just pull the stringy stuff towards the flat opening of the mussel and give it a good tug to remove it. Throw away any mussels with cracked shells, and any mussels that are open, give them a good whack on the counter. If they close up, you can eat them, if not, that means the mussel is dead and you should throw it away. Don't be a hero.
4) After about 25-30 minutes of good solid onion caramelization, we get to the easy part. (Yeah, it gets even easier!) Dump in your can of Guinness, your toasted walnuts and your mussels and give it a good stir. Now all you have to do is wait for the mussels to open up and you're done. I like to stir up the skillet while the mussels are cooking, that way it gives the beer and onions a chance to seep into the mussels and really get a nice flavour goin' on there.

Easy as that. You can even serve the mussels right out of the skillet to the waiting masses. It's got that nice, form follows funciton feel...forever. Five F's...or was that 7?! My skillet has high enough sides that I could probably fit about 3 lbs mussels max, any more than that and you'd need to tranfer the ingredients to a pot, but everything still works the same.

A note on the toasted walnuts. They're great as a snack, I find myself just buying them and toasting them to have around the house.

These mussels paired with the belgian frites (a.k.a. moules et frites) are dyy-noo-miiite.


Drink: Harp Lager (you could also go with Guinness, I just figured you might want to switch it up a bit, and you get the nice hoppiness of a pale lager)
Listen: Kings of Leon, Only By The Night

Belgian Frites

First and foremost let me quote Paula Deen, from her show that is on right now, making onion rings. "Putting a deep fryer in my kitchen was the best thing I ever did. Us southern girls earned the right to have a fryer handy at all times." How awesome is she.

And now for a beautiful segue, let's make belgian frites! Belgian style frites (they hate when you call them fries) differ from regular fries because they are fried twice. Once at a lower temperature cook it all the way through, then once again to quickly crisp the outside. Frites are one part of the superhero lunch duo, moules et frites. Incidentally, that is what I had for dinner last night, and am now sharing with you.

All you really need are russet potatoes (1 big one per person) and some sunflower oil.

Here's what you do:
1) Cut your fries. True frites have no skins on them, so you can peel your potatoes first, I decided to leave the skin on and it worked out just great. You want a nice thick cut fry, a centimeter or two in diameter, a bit bigger than McD's. The thicker fry will absorb less oil and should theoretically be healthier. Square off all the ends of the fries, as it both looks nice and it you won't get burnt tips.
2) Soak the frites in cold water for about 5 minutes, just to wash all the starch off so they don't stick together. Pat them dry.
3) Heat up your oil in a pot, to about medium temperature if you're using a stove (6 on the dial?), and when its hot (you know, using the potato trick: when the oil is cold, drop a scrap of potato in, when it starts sizzling and floats to the top, you're ready to rock.)
4) Add your fries a few at a time to the oil, not too many, other wise the oil will cool too much and you're cooking times will be all off. Total disaster. Well, more like minor inconvenience, but still, don't do it.
5)After about 7-8 minutes, take the fries out and let them relax on some paper towel, or a cloth or whatever, for about 30 minutes. This is the key stage, where the flavour is about to get locked in.
6) Crank up the oil to a decently high temperature. Whatever it was the first time, make it hotter. We want to make these frites nice and crisp.
7) Put the frites in for 2 minutes then remove, pat dry, dust with salt serve with some mayonnaise for a tasty treat courtesy of the Belgians.

Simple yet delicious, what more could you ask for?


Drink: Heineken, from the can, why mess with greatness?
Listen: Supertramp, Crime of the Century

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ya Salty Sea Dog!

What's the deal with salting the water before you boil pasta?

I will defer to Robert L. Wolke, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, food columnist for the Washington Post and author of the book "What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained."
There is a very simple reason for adding the salt: It boosts the flavor of the food, just as it does when used in any other kind of cooking. And that's all there is to it.
At this point every reader who has ever paid the slightest attention in chemistry class will object. "But adding salt to the water raises its boiling point, so the water will boil hotter and cook the food faster."
To these readers I award an A in chemistry but a D in Food 101. It's true that dissolving salt - or really anything else, for that matter - in water will indeed make it boil at a higher temperature. But in cooking the rise is nowhere near enough to make any difference... Adding a table spoon (20 grams) of table salt to 5 quarts of boiling water will raise the boiling point by seven hundredths of one degree F. That might shorten the cooking time by half a second or so. Anyone who is in that much of a hurry may also want to consider rollerblading it from the kitchen to the dining room.
There you have it. My buddy Mario Batali once said, "good Italian pasta should taste like it was cooked in the sea." So salt accordingly. A note on "What Einstein Told His Cook", it's actually quite fantastic, and I would highly recommend it. Kitchen chemistry explained, in layman's terms. Maybe its just me who loves reading that type of thing but hey, that's just who I am.

Panko Please!

Q: Ever wonder how your favourite Japanese eatery always gets their shrimp to be so light and fluffy, but also with the requisite crisp- and flake-factor that you so desire?

A: Panko breadcrumbs. You can buy them at the store or make them yourself for a buck. Easy breezy Japaneasy.

Panko breadcrumbs are made with white bread, no crust. Some say wonderbread works best, I just hollowed out half an Italian loaf. As long as it's white sans crust, you're good to go.

Just get some bread, and if you have a food processor, great, then shred the bread so you get nice fluffy pieces. IF you don't (I don't) you can do what I did. Just ball up your bread and grate it on a cheese grater.

Spread the flakes on a baking pan, put it in the oven for 6-8 minutes at 400F, shaking the pan once or twice while they are in there. Don't let them get toasted or browned. That's it. Then you can store them in the freezer for a couple days even weeks if need be, to crispify anything you want really.

Lobster + Mac + Cheese

Before I start I'd like to point out that this dish almost didn't get made. Not from a practical standpoint (impossibility, lack of ingredients/skill) but for a more philosophical reason. Traditionally, in Italy at least, it would be unheard of to pair fish in pasta with cheese. The flavours of the cheese were thought to sour, and overpower the delicate fish. Indeed, you want the to speak for itself without burying it under loads of ingredients. The fish might have something interesting to say, after all, it has been in school all its life! HA!

This goes doubly for lobster.

So, with some internal debate, I decided that I'd go for it anyways and use body meat. You can get it from your local fishmonger, and its not that expensive anyway, plus it involved less labour in the preparation stages. I made this dish in a skillet and when it gets baked it looks pretty cool, melted cheese crisped by the hot iron, heck yes.

So here's what you need, for the pasta:

Half cup unsalted butter
Half cup flour
2 cups half and half cream
Cayenne pepper
3 cups old cheddar (shredded)
2 cups gruyere (shredded)
1 lb elbow macaroni

...and for the lobster:
Third of a cup of panko breadcrumbs (see post about panko creation, real easy)
1 lb lobster body meat, chopped (cooked or uncooked, doesn't matter, but I bought mine freshly steamed at the fish place and it worked out fine)
A bit of butter, aww yeah

Here's what you do:
1)Preheat oven to 350F please. And thank you.
2)Boil your macaroni in heavily salted water (why salt your water? I will explain, but it has nothing to do with water boiling faster.) Boil till it's allmossst done but not quite.
3)So in your trusty skillet, melt the butter till its bubbling on medium heat. Now this is where a semi-deft touch is required. Add your flour a little bit at a time, whisking furiously until its all incorporated. IF you just dump it in, you're an idiot and you will have the worst tasting, chunky and purely bad cheese sauce ever. So whisk for a minute or so, then slowly add the cream in the same manner as the flour. Keep stirring until everything is more or less creamy. Once you are satisfied with your cream, turn the heat off and add your cheeses, cayenne and s+p and mix it all up until the cheese is melted.
4)Dump your mac into the cheese sauce you just made and mix it all up real good, then put it in the oven for 30 mintues.
5) While the mac is in the oven, melt a scoop of butter in a pan, once it melts, turn off the heat, add the lobster, panko and grate some parm-reg over it and give it a good stir.
6)When 30 minutes is up, take the skillet out of the oven, turn the oven to broil (full heat), and spread your lobster mix out all over the top. Put it back in for 8 minutes. When you take it out, you'll have a deliciously cheesey, but more importantly, crunchy top.

Some notes on lobster + mac + cheese. First of all, it was great, but I think that the mac and cheese bit would be just as good without the lobster, and I'm going ot try it again with some nice chorizo or polish sausage, yeeaaah. Going to back to what I said above, I believe that lobster with melted butter is truly a great dish and doesn't need to be enhanced with cheeses or mac. So if you want, you can use this recipe sans lobster and you're golden. Second, play around with the cheese selections, maybe you want all cheddar, or marscarpone, or cheesewhiz! It don't matter, do what tastes good.

So there you have it. Oh yeah, a nice Belgian Pilsner goes smashingly with the l+m+c.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

5 Albums I Like Right Now

I've decided I'm better at writing lists than actual record reviews. Besides there are enough people out there who do that already. I will stick to posting stuff, old or new, that I'm digging at the moment.

Four Tet - Pause
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Arkells - Jackson Square
Hauschka - Ferndorf
Blackfilm - Blackfilm

Friday, January 16, 2009

Saltimbocca alla Romana (with sage)

Big shout out to Molto Italiano for this one. (and to my gf's mom for getting me the Mario Batali cookbook for Christmas!)

How to explain this. The English translation of this is roman-style veal cutlets with sage. I guess the best way to describe this is like an Italian version of my beloved (to eat, not to cook) Austrian veal schnitzel. It's basically a pared down version, minus all the bread-y breading, sauce-y sauces and overall heaviness. That aside, how could you not love anything wrapped in prosciutto and fried in butter?

Here's what you need:

Veal cutlets, lets say about a compact disc sized cutlet per person
Fresh sage leaves (one for every veal cutlet)
Prosciutto Di Parma (again one slice per cutlet, and yes it does make a difference that its Di Parma, or at the very least Italian, domestic North American stuff really doesn't compare)
A pile of flour
S+P (the uush)
A stick of butter about the size of an iPod nano (gotta keep it current, for the kids)
Dry white wine (sauv blank, shar-doe-nay, or if you're going to be drinking it as well, peeno greeg)
Le Wedge du Limon

Here's what you do:

1) Pound your veal a bit to get it nice and thin, if you don't have a meat tenderizer (I don't) you can just as easily pull a Rocky Balboa and just give it a few hammers with your fist.
2)Wrap each piece of veal with a slice of prosciutto, put a sage leaf on top and stick a toothpick through it to keep it altogether.
3) Spice up the flour (which you have piled on a dish) with some S+P. Drag the veal through the flour a few times to get it thoroughly coated
4) Heat up a skillet and toss half your butter in, wait till it's bubbling then put your veal in the pan, cooking each side for about 2 minutes
5) Take the veal cutlets out for a minute, keep the pan on and add about a two second pour worth of white vino. Add the rest of your butter and stir it all up until everything is melted and good.
6) Drop the veal that you set aside in the sauce just for a minute max, just to heat it up and get it coated with sauce, not too long now. Take them out and serve right away with a lemon slice per plate

I just had this for dinner, with the bone marrow as an app. Mario B's got his signature all over this dinner.

I think by now we've realized that I wouldn't post a recipe that I didn't think was good, so I will spare you the sales pitch on how much you're going to enjoy your meal in about 5 seconds. Pour yourself a nice glass of wine and enjoy life. Because life is good.

Roast Bone Marrow

The concept of using a band saw to slice an animal's leg bone to scoop out the inner marrow with the sole purpose of eating it does not appeal to some people. That's fine. If it does tickle your fancy then ahoy! More for you and I good friend!

Next time you're cruising the local butchers and you see a bunch of 3inch bone segments all wrapped up like the Christmas present you never wanted, think of this post. Think of the potential. I promise you won't regret it.

I had the marrow in this particular fashion as an app at PizMo a couple months ago and the sheer deliciousness of it has not been forgotten. I picked 5 segments up at Ralph's today for 3 bucks. Can't go wrong. But you came here to cook, not to read. Onward and forward.

Here's what you need:

Bone marrow segments, 2-4 inches across (2 per person if you are a good host)
Sea salt
Italian Bread
Olive oil
*Optional garlic, if you decide you want garlic, just roast a head of garlic a la 2 posts previous.

Here's what you do (don't laugh its actually this easy):
1) Preheat oven to 450
2) Put bone segments on a baking pan or skillet, and bake for about 15 minutes, until the top of the marrow forms a little crust, but before it starts to run. I prefer to use a skillet because the resulting fat that gets left behind forms a nice natural non-stick coating on the skillet for future use.
2) With about 5 minutes to go, slice your Italian loaf, brush some olive oil on the slices, and toast the pieces
3) When the marrow is done, take it out, sprinkle some coarse salt on top and serve it. Let your guests fork out the marrow onto the toast, with some salt and garlic if they/you choose.

Keep the bones, and boil them to for some crazy delicious beef stock that you can use for anything really, from boiling potatoes to making stew to cooking pasta in for a meat sauce.

If you have never had marrow before, I guarantee that you have never tasted anything like it and it will blow your mind into a million little pieces (not a fictional statement).
If you have had it before, well then, by all means, enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


First post of Y2K+9.

I was at home for the holidays and my mom pretty much dominates me in cooking so I just let her do everything. I did make mussels as an app for christmas eve, but then she showed me up with a lobster/scallop/shrimp lasagna with creamy white wine sauce. Very tasty. It was my idea. Seriously it was, lobster prices are in the tank (pun 100% intended) and you can grab them cheap these days.

This weekend I'm going to make a lobster mac and cheese, so stay tuned.

BUT that's not the point of this post. I haven't been out grocery shopping since I've been back, I just bought rye bread and milk. I was hungry and saw that I had a head of garlic in my fridge. Instantly, I thought... LUNCH!

The classic, roasted head of garlic on dill rye bread. It's almost like I'm back in the old country. Just for the record I'm not claiming that I invented this, nor am I pretending to enlighten anybody on how to make it with some special skillz. It's more to serve as a reminder incase you forgot how good roasted garlic spread on rye is.

So easy, so delicious, such wonderful breath.

Here's what you need:

1 head of garlic per person
olive oil
tin foil

Here's what you do:

1) Preheat the oven to 400F
2) Peel all the outside skin off your head of garlic, but you don't have to be too meticulous.
3) Cut off about the top quarter inch or so of the head, just so you can see the inside of the garlic.
4) Drizzle some oil on it, sprinkle salt and wrap each head in some tin foil.
5) Put it in the oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on how soft and squishy you want it.

When it comes out you can literally eat it straight out with a fork or squeeze it out on to bread, or even use it as a puree for later dishes. It's the best. And dirt cheap. And healthy, from what I understand.