Friday, February 29, 2008

"Get Well Soon" Chicken Soup - Take 2 bowls and email me in the morning

This video recipe was shot about a month ago, when my wife and I had colds. This is Michele's surefire cure to the common cold, and she likes to make it as soon as the first symptoms appear. You may have heard about the restaurants in China that are sort of like food clinics, and you order according to your symptoms. Various herbs and spices are combined to cure what ails you, and while there is no scientific proof that these dishes cure anything, as the old saying goes, "they can't hurt."

You'll notice the obvious lack of a voice-over in this video. I just wasn't feeling up to it at the time and figured I would go back and do one later. But, after watching it, and the cold-related production value, I decided to keep it in its original form. This "medicine" is great spiked with hot sauce to really clear the head, and using fresh ginger is also a must, as the dried stuff will not provide the same fabulous fumes. Enjoy!

2 lbs chicken wings
water to cover by a few inches
handful of shiitake mushrooms
4 green onions
red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cups thin sliced ginger
soy sauce to taste
fresh chopped cilantro
hot pepper, optional

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who Fried the Cheese?

Fried Halloumi, native to Cyprus, may be the only food where the word "squeaky" comes up when people are describing this unique cheese. Halloumi is traditionally made from goat and sheep's milk, and is similar to a mozzarella, but denser, saltier, and…squeakier. Let me explain.

What makes Halloumi unusual is it's very high melting point. Because of how the curd is heated, then brined and pressed, the cheese can be fried without melting. This makes for a very cool appetizer or meze, as they would call it in Cyprus. This video recipe I did for shows my favorite way of preparing Halloumi. I think it's best when seared in a very hot pan, nice and brown, and then drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Oh, and about this "squeakiness;" when you bite into the warm, fried cheese, it makes a slight squeak against your teeth. I find the sound and sensation oddly addictive. But, that's just part of the fun - the firm texture, and salty flavor, work great with the sweet balsamic vinegar and cherry tomatoes. Before you send me the "but, where do I find Halloumi cheese?" comments and emails, I'll tell you it's quite common in any high-end
chain grocery store that has a cheese department (which they all do). So get some Halloumi, and get your squeak on. Enjoy!
Click here for the transcript and ingredients.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The End of Chicken Parmesan As You Know It

Not counting pizza and spaghetti, chicken Parmesan may be the most popular Italian-American restaurant entree out there. For many years I've been trying to perfect a home version that didn’t require the breading and frying, but still offered that irresistible combination of tender chicken, crunchy/cheesy coating, and flavorful sauce. These attempts were met with soggy, flaccid results. The problem with not frying the breaded breast is the baked-on coating just doesn’t get crisp enough to stand up to the sauce and cheese.

Well, on Tuesday, February 19th, at 4:45 PM, it hit me like a giant meatball dropped from the leaning tower of Pisa (worst simile ever?). I was watching TV and saw some croutons being sprinkled on a salad. I suddenly had the answer to my crispy/cheesy coating dilemma. The solution to the breading problem was…no breading! I would make the chicken Parmesan like a casserole; chicken and sauce, topped with a crispy, crunchy, layer of cheese and croutons.

What followed was one of my proudest moments as a cook. Not only did the recipe taste amazing, it was also better than any traditional chicken Parmesan I had ever made. When you consider it's lower in fat, takes about 10 minutes to put together, it's no wonder why this is my new favorite recipe. Now I know what Alexander Graham Bell felt like when he got that phone to work…"Watson, come here, I need you…the chicken Parmesan is ready." Enjoy!

UPDATE!! My chicken really was done after 35 minutes (plus resting for 10), but your cooking time may be up to an hour depending on the size, shape, and temperature of your chicken. Please use a meat thermometer to check doneness (155 degree F.)

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
hot red pepper flakes, to taste
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 5, but they were huge!)
2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup chopped basil
8 oz mozzarella, shredded
4 oz Parmesan, grated
1 (5-oz) package garlic croutons

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Canned Cheeseburgers? How do you say WTF in German?

As the old cliché goes, you just can't make this stuff up. The photo you see here has not been doctored. It's directly from the German website Trekking-Mahlzeiten, which offers ready-made meals for hikers. They're selling, for $3.95 euros each, a canned cheeseburger. Of all the food products I've wished existed, I can say that a canned cheeseburger has never crossed my mind. I've added a link to the site in hopes that someone orders one, and writes a review for the site. Frankly, I just don't have the guts to try one myself.

As disturbing as the thought of a canned cheeseburger is, what really bothers me about the photo are the garnishes. I'm assuming it doesn't come dressed with lettuce and tomato, and that these are just "serving suggestions" to make the whole thing seem less horrible. But, cucumbers? Cucumbers? Do German's put cucumbers on their cheeseburgers? Imagine the shame for the citizens of Hamburg. It's enough to make you want to move to Frankfurt.

Thanks to a tip from scallywag, here is a live taste test of the above mentioned canned cheeseburger! I don't speak German, but you really don't have to in order to understand this review. Enjoy?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day!

They say the fastest way to someone's heart is through their stomach. I have always found this to be true. Since I've never had money, looks, power, or musical ability, it must have been the cooking. My beautiful wife Michele has been my Valentine for 17 years, and we actually met Valentines week at the first real restaurant I worked at in San Francisco.

If, for whatever reason, you find yourself without a Valentine this year, take heart. Keep watching the videos, keep cooking and experimenting, keep making the people you care for wholesome delicious food. It's only a matter of time before that special someone falls under your culinary spell. Enjoy!
Photo © Osvaldo_Zoom

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blackberry Crisp - This Recipe Has Been Berry, Berry, Good to Me

You may notice this video recipe looks and sounds a bit different. That's because it's not produced for! I just felt like filming a dessert recipe, and uploading it to YouTube, just like the good old days (and by "good old days" I mean the days before I ran out of money filming free video recipes). This very simple, and quite old fashion berry crisp recipe, is perfect for those of you looking for a sexy, non-chocolate, Valentine dessert.

Any berry will work in this (even frozen if you must), but the dark, sweet blackberries are my favorite. Served barely warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it just doesn't get much better than this. And, because there is some oatmeal mixed in with all the butter and sugar, it's practically health food. By the way, it will also give you a second reason to put on a pot of coffee after your Valentines meal. Enjoy!

4 cups fresh blackberries, washed, drained well
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup quick cooking rolled oats
pinch of salt
1/2 stick softened butter (4 tbsp)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Art with a Side of Fries

When I saw this video for the first time I thought to myself, "is there any artistic endeavor worth wasting perfectly good French fries?" Well, as it turns out it there was. As you'll see, this artist uses nothing but a sheet of white paper and some delicious grease to create a very impressive portrait. Enjoy!

Photo © jslander

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sea Bass with Braised Celery Root and Roasted Beets a la Traci Des Jardins

This delicious dish is from Traci Des Jardins (seen below giving the recipe one last look), who demonstrated it during my recent trip to the Ahwahnee Hotel. I've simplified the procedure a bit for the home cook, but the soul of the dish remains unaltered. The recipe, which features seasonal winter vegetables, and a light, aromatic broth/sauce, is simple, elegant, and full of flavor.

I've always said that the easiest way to describe "California cuisine," is to give someone a recipe to try. They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Well, a good recipe is worth at least that when trying to give someone an idea of what California cuisine is all about.

This link is to the Sea Bass with Braised Celery Root and Roasted Beets recipe page on my About site. I was unable to do a video of Chef Des Jardins creating the dish, but the recipe is very straightforward. Any firm white fish will work in this dish, in case you can't find bass. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Life Before IHOP - Hi, My Name's Johnny, and These Are My Cakes

You've just been transported back to colonial America. You've been up since dawn, doing colonial stuff, and you're hungry for breakfast. You open the cupboard to grab a couple of Pop-Tarts to toss in the fireplace. There are no Pop-Tarts. You decide to settle for some pancakes, and reach for the Bisquick. There's no Bisquick. Okay, you decide to make your own pancakes from scratch. You check for the flour and baking powder. Again, you are denied. The only thing you have is ground corn and water. What do ye do…what do ye do?

Make Johnnycakes!
This video recipe, I did recently for, shows how to make America's first pancake, the Johnnycake. Nowadays, the Johnnycake is nothing more than a regular pancake batter with a little cornmeal sprinkled in, but that's not what it used to be. I decided to stay true to the earliest johnnycake recipes I could find, which were just fried cornmeal gruel. The Indians showed the early settlers how to make a basic cornmeal mush, which pretty much kept them alive in the early days, before Pop-Tarts. Well, if you have leftover cornmeal mush around, and some bacon fat, and a frying pan, you can turn that cornmeal into the surprisingly delicious Johnnycakes. Check out this video recipe, and experience what breakfast was like 300 years ago. Enjoy.
Click here for the transcript and ingredients.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Quick Hello From the Picturesque Ahwahnee

Its been a great few days, and Michele and I have had a very memorable time! I can’t wait to get back and share some of the culinary inspirations with you all. The Ahwahnee Hotel is unbelievably beautiful; it's architecture and design in such perfect harmony with the majestic surroundings. Here are a few images I took of the hotel. Enjoy!