Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Southern-Style Green Beans – Slow Beans for Fast Times

One of the sadder side effects of the American culinary renaissance we’ve enjoyed over the last thirty or forty years, has been the chronic under-cooking of green vegetables. Sure, there was a time when we cooked everything too long, but now, if it’s not bright green and still crispy, it’s considered ruined.

That’s why every once and a while you have to enjoy something like these slow-cooked, southern-style green beans. These beans are cooked forever in a bacon-spiked, aromatic broth, and when they’re finally done, you’re almost shocked at how good they are. It seems so wrong, yet tastes so right.

I think two hours is perfect, but if your beans are fatter/thinner, you’ll have to adjust the time. What you’re looking for is something that literally melts in your mouth. Vibrant, quickly blanched green beans are many things, but “melt in your mouth” isn’t one of them. I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 handful sliced bacon (6 oz)
1 sliced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato sauce
3 cups chicken broth
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

View the complete recipe

Monday, July 29, 2013

Million Dollar Chicken – Of Course It Tastes Rich!

This take on the Standard Grill’s famous “Million Dollar Chicken,” showed me once again that so many of life’s great culinary pleasures happen when you least expect them. I saw this recipe featured on TV recently, and chose to try it for two main reasons: one, it’s slathered in crème fraiche; and two, it’s roasted over caramelized, chicken drippings-soaked bread.

I know, we had you at “slathered in crème fraiche,” but it was the bread that I was really looking forward to when I pulled this out of the oven, which is why I was so bummed when I thought I'd ruined it. Since I got greedy and used an extra slice of bread, and also used a larger roasting pan, the bread cooked to what would generously be referred to as “golden-black.”

Several times during the glazing at the end, I contemplated tossing them out and simply making a joke about it during the narration, but I’m SO glad I didn’t. I can’t explain why, but not only didn’t it taste like burnt toast, it truly tasted fantastic. For purely aesthetic reasons, I’ll encourage you to use a smaller roasting pan, which will better insulate the edges of the bread, but I wasn’t exaggerating when I described just how great it really was. I promised to stop using the word “unctuous,” but it actually seems appropriate here.

It was so saturated with chicken fat, caramelized juices, and crème fraiche, that the bitterness from the darkest parts of the bread seemed to balance the richness somehow. The point is, if mine was good this dark, one shade lighter should get you even closer to million dollar chicken nirvana. I hope you give this “rich” combo a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
4 1/2 pound whole chicken
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic (original recipe calls for adding a few cloves of garlic in the cavity with the herbs and lemon - I didn't, since I had included garlic in the last twelve things I'd eaten, and was taking a break, but feel free to add!)
olive oil, as needed
3 thick slices day-old French bread (I used sourdough)

For creme fraiche glaze:
1 zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon grated shallot puree
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

- Cook at 450 degrees F. for one hour, then glaze, cook for 10 minutes, and repeat until chicken is done. (Note: If you use a different size chicken, you’ll obviously need to adjust your times. Cook until internal temp in thickest part of thigh is 165 degrees F.)
- The original recipe from the Standard Grill in NYC calls for finishing with Maldon sea salt. I didn't, but that always a nice option.

View the complete recipe

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hot Wheels Pasta – Your Taste Buds Will Be Rollin on Dubs

It only happens once every couple years or so, but sometimes I’ll think of the name of a recipe before I actually have the recipe. This summery, hot wheels pasta is one such dish. Not sure how “hot wheels” popped into my brain, but pop it did, and the next thing I knew I was at the market buying a box of rotelle.

So the “wheels” part was easy, but what about the “hot?” Just as easy, thanks to an assortment of hot and sweet pepper rings. I used about two-thirds hot peppers to one-third sweet, but you’ll obviously adjust to your personal tolerance. The zucchini provided a nice balance, although this is the kind of pasta that will accept any and all other summer veggies.

Besides what to add, you also have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the final taste and texture. I tend to like my peppers and squash just barely tender for this, but if you cook the sauce a few extra minutes before adding the pasta, you will get a softer, sweeter sauce. My version was a little more bracing, with some bite left to it.

On the other hand, you could cook everything even less, and have what would basically be a hot pasta and vegetable salad. Regardless, no matter what you add, or how long you cook it, I hope you’ll be driven to try this great recipe soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 generous cups dry rotelle pasta
2 zucchini, sliced
2 to 3 cups of sliced pepper rings, seeded
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup green onion
1 anchovy filet
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups prepared tomato sauce (use a pinch of sugar if sauce needs it)
3/4 cup chicken stock
Italian parsley
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

View the complete recipe

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Happy Blueberry Month!

Did you know that July was National Blueberry Month? Unless you happen to work for the blueberry industry, or food blog for a living, you probably didn’t. So, what happens with blueberries this month, that doesn’t happen in June or August?

Not much, as far as I can tell, but it does give people like me an excuse to re-post a video like this “Too Many” Blueberry Muffins recipe. If you’d like to read the full post, and get the ingredients, just follow this link. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

“Minute” Chocolate Mug Cake – Can You Really Make Cake in 60 seconds?

No, it actually takes 45 seconds! Turns out I was wrong about mug cakes. I’ve had the belief over the past few decades, that a decent mini chocolate cake from a microwave was impossible. I based this on the fact that every example I’d come across had the texture of a hockey puck.

I assumed the cause was the microwave’s ultra-violent thermodynamics, and that there was nothing anyone could do about it, but then I got to thinking. Maybe there was a way to tweak the existing recipes out there to minimize this problem. Long story short, I tweaked an existing recipe, which minimized the problem.

The secrets were using smaller amounts of batter, and cooking for way less time than has been suggested by others. Once you’ve boiled off all the water in the batter, you are totally screwed, so the idea here is to just barely get to the point of doneness, and stop. For me that was exactly 45 seconds.

I’ve included the power data here, so you can compare it to your microwave. Apparently, I have a 1,100-watt model, which is a very common rating, but of course, if yours is much more or less powerful, you will have to do a few tests to figure out your ideal time.

Now, is this as good as a traditionally baked chocolate cake? Of course not, but it’s certainly close enough. And when you consider the fact it literally takes only a few minutes to make, this should find its way into your summer dessert recipe rotation. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 chocolate mug cakes:
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp melted butter
1/8 tsp vanilla extract (I forgot to add, and it was fine, but I’d put a few drops to be safe)
- Stir well, then add:
1 tbsp shredded coconut (I used unsweetened)
2 tbsp toasted sliced almonds
1 or 2 tbsp mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 1, but it could have used a few more chips)
3 tbsp milk
- Stir well, then add:
1/4 cup flour mixed with 1/4 tsp baking powder
- Pour into 2 coffee cups and microwave on full power for 45 seconds

View the complete recipe

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Friendly Barbecue Chicken Reminder

I saw some almost completely black barbecue chicken recently, which is such a shame, since it's so easily avoided. This happens when people brush on their usually sweet bbq sauce too early, which quickly burns as soon as it's turned towards the hot coals. 

Some believe the solution is only brushing on the sauce during the last few minutes, but that doesn't allow enough time for the flavors to penetrate and pick up the desired smokiness. There has to be a better way!! There is, keep reading.

The video below shows my preferred method for having your barbecue chicken and being able to eat it too. If there's a time of the year to tighten up your chicken barbecuing game, it's right now. To read the full post, and get the ingredients, click here. Enjoy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Homemade Hamburger Buns – Oh, My, God. Becky, Look at Her Bun!

Finding high-quality hamburger meat at the market is a lot easier than it used to be, but the same cannot be said for the buns. They’re never the right dimensions for a decent sized patty; and they’re either made from some insipid white sponge with seventy-three ingredients, or from high-fiber, whole grains, which in many ways is even worse.

A proper bun should be nothing more than a light, buttery, airy delivery system for getting a hot, juicy hamburger into your mouth. Oats, spelt, and flax seeds have no business getting anywhere near this type of operation. That's what turkey sandwiches are for.

Above and beyond taste and texture, the bun needs to be the right diameter to fit a classic half-pound burger, and should be twice as thick as the patty. I guess you could drive all over town looking for these magic buns, but it would be a lot easier just to make them yourself.

They do take few hours, but most of that is rise time, and when you see and taste the results, I’m sure you’ll agree it was well worth the investment. By the way, don’t worry if your buns are slightly irregular in size. We’ll assume you’ll form your burgers with the same precision, so in the end they should match perfectly. I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy! 

Editorial Note: Today’s title will only make sense if you watch the video, and are familiar with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s "Baby Got Back."

Ingredients for 8 large hamburger buns:
1 package (2 1/2 tsp) dry active yeast (I used Fleischmann's “RapidRise” Yeast)
1 cup very warm water
1 large egg
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 pound all-purpose flour (about 3 1/2 cups)
Note: add a 1/2 cup of the flour to the yeast and water, and then the remainder before kneading
for the tops:
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk
sesame seeds
*bake at 375 degrees F. for 15-17 minutes

View the complete recipe

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Spicy Peach Coleslaw – An Apple Is an Excellent Thing – Until You’ve Tried a Peach

You may remember this peach coleslaw from such video recipes as, Grilled Coffee and Cola Skirt Steak. It was a beautiful match, and as I ate, I couldn’t help but wonder why you don’t see peaches used in these cold cabbage salads more often.

People have no problem loading up their ‘slaws with grated apple and diced pineapple, so it can’t be an anti-fruit bias. I think the real reason is that a perfectly ripe peach is such an incredible experience, that it seems almost criminal to consume it any other way.

I think George du Maurier put it best when he said, “An apple is an excellent thing – until you have tried a peach.” So, is that it? Just too good to not eat as is? That could explain some of it, but just in case the real reason is that you simply hadn’t thought of it before, I’m posting this. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6-8 portions:
1 pound thinly sliced cabbage
2 diced peaches
1 tbsp thinly sliced chives
for the dressing (everything is “to taste”):
2 generous tablespoons mayo
1 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sambal chili sauce
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and cayenne to taste

View the complete recipe

Monday, July 15, 2013

Grilled Coffee & Cola Skirt Steak – Two Great Drinks = One Fantastic Marinade

I’ve made hundreds of different marinades over the years, but for some reason, cola had not appeared in any of them. One reason is that I never drink soda, so it’s simply not around, but above and beyond that, it always sounded more like a gimmick to me, invented by some marketing guru at Coke. Boy, was I wrong.

This coffee and cola marinated skirt steak was the most delicious thing I’ve grilled all year. The cola provides a unique sweetness, which is balanced beautifully by the bitterness from the coffee and dark grill marks. The marinade (probably technically a brine) made the already uber-juicy skirt steak even more so, as well as absolutely fork tender.  There wasn’t anything I didn’t love about this recipe.

Speaking of fork tender, this is dependent on two key things – that you slice the meat against the grain, and you don’t cook it too rare. As you’ll see in the video, it will be very obvious which direction you need to slice, so that shouldn’t be an issue. As far as doneness goes, I really think that somewhere around medium produces the ultimate skirt steak texture.

I have no problem with rare meat, but rare skirt steak can be chewy, and you also want enough heat to melt the marvelously marbled meat’s fat. In fact, I’d take a medium-well piece over a rare piece any day, and I can’t think of another cut of beef where I’d say the same thing.

So, if you’re looking for something a little different at your next backyard barbecue, I really hope you give this grilled coffee and cola marinated skirt steak a try. It was amazing. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 whole beef skirt steak, about 1 1/4 pounds (no need to trim, except for any obvious large chunks of fat)
salt and cayenne to taste
For the marinade:
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp ketchup
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary (or 1 tbsp freshly minced)
1/4 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup strong, freshly brewed coffee
1 (12-oz) bottle cola

View the complete recipe

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Touching Video on Chicken Doneness

Although I’ve had many requests for it, I’ve not done a video on how to tell the doneness of steaks using the old “press test.” It does work once you get a feel for different cuts of meat and thicknesses, but these variables make it trickier than some chefs would have you believe.

However, when it comes to chicken breasts, it can be a reliable guide, especially when you don’t have an instant read thermometer handy. Hey, it’s a long way from the backyard grill to the kitchen drawer when you’re lugging around a full beer.

Anyway, my new YouTube buddy, Ariyele Ressler, just did a fun video on the subject, and since we're right in the middle of grilling season, I thought I’d share. Life is just way too short for dry chicken breasts, so check it out. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I've Been Alive for Exactly 50 Years!

I'm going to take a few days off for my birthday, so please pardon any delays in answering emails or comments. Now that I'm old, I have to pace myself. ;) Thank you!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

B.L.T. Pasta – I’ll Have the Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato…Hold the Sandwich

I love Twitter for many reasons, but stumbling upon recipe ideas is probably my favorite. I recently saw a picture posted by my friend, Mardi from eat. live. travel. write, for something called, “BLT Pasta,” and I immediately had one of those, “why didn’t I think of that” moments. By the way, I have four or five of those moments a day.

Since I get so many food wishes for pasta recipes, I figured I would give it a go. Plus, as luck would have it, I had some arugula in the fridge just begging to be used. I knew that this combination would taste great, but I wasn’t prepared for just how great.

I decided to use crème fraiche as the main sauce ingredient, and it worked beautifully. It was just rich enough, and the fermented cream’s subtle nuttiness was an excellent foil for the smoky meat, sweet tomatoes, and bitter greens. As I mentioned in the video, crème fraiche is pretty easy to find, but of course we’ll encourage you to follow this link and make your own.

If you can’t find or make some, just use heavy cream along with a squeeze of lemon juice to mimic that essential tanginess. Thank you Mardi (and Twitter) for the inspiration, and if you’re looking for a quick, easy, and very summery pasta idea, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz bacon
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp lemon zest
2 cups halved cheery tomatoes
3-4 cups roughly chopped arugula or other salad greens
2 cups macaroni, cooked, drained
grated Parmesan

View the complete recipe

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mexican Grilled Corn “Elote” – The Last Grilled Corn Recipe I’ll Ever Need

I know a recipe came out well when my wife Michele says something to the effect of, “we can never have this made any other way, ever,” which is exactly what she said after tearing through two ears of this amazing Mexican-style grilled corn. She wasn’t kidding.

I have no idea how authentic this is, as I’ve never had this in Mexico, or even prepared by actual Mexicans, so let’s play it safe and just say this was inspired by “elote,” as it’s called. I’m sure there are hundreds of variations, but the one constant seems to be the final step, which consists of grating copious amounts of Cotija cheese over the seasoned ears.

Cotija can be found in any large grocery store (at least in California), and for me it’s like a bland, slightly drier Feta cheese. I know that doesn’t sound especially appetizing, but when combined with the creamy chili mayo, and the smoky grilled corn, it’s absolutely to die for. In a pinch, Parmesan or Feta would work, but I can’t imagine it being as perfect.

There should be no shortage of fresh corn on the cob this time of year, so I highly encourage you to get some (twice as much as you think you are going to eat), and give this amazing recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

corn on the cob, boiled in salted water for 5 minutes, drained
melted butter, as needed
grated cotija cheese, as needed
For the chili mayo (makes enough for about 8 ears):
generous 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp ground ancho chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
juice of one lime
salt to taste if needed

View the complete recipe

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer Squash & Sausage Stew – Supply and Demand

This simple squash and sausage stew represents my idea of the perfect summer supper. It’s very comforting, relatively fast, wonderfully flavorful, and helps solve a problem that’s existed since neighbors started planting gardens; what to do with all that squash.

If you’ve ever planted squash, you know that there’s no stopping this force of nature once it starts producing. Just a single row of plants will yield enough for you, your immediate family, your extended family, your secret second family, your neighbors, traveling salesmen, and anyone else who happens to cross your path.

Far from simply hiding the humble vegetable, this recipe lets the squash be the star. As long as you follow my pleas to let everything get nice and soft and tender, a very fine bowl of food awaits you and your crusty hunk of bread. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 tsp olive oil
1 pound Andouille sausage, or other spicy, smoked sausage
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth, or as needed
2 pounds summer squash, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut in 2-inch chunks
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
grated parmesan cheese, optional

View the complete recipe

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

As many of you know, our annual July 4th tradition is usually a video featuring four girls playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” on the Trombone, but this year I decided to switch things up when I saw this video of Doug Smith performing Sousa’s classic on the guitar – something I didn't think was possible. I hope you all have a fun and safe Fourth of July. Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Shrimp & Pasta Shells Salad – And They (incorrectly) Called It Macaroni

I really wanted to call this a "macaroni salad," since that’s what people sitting around picnic tables call it, but I decided to be technically correct (for once) and call it a shrimp and pasta shells salad. Hey, I'm no slave to Google's algorithm.

Macaroni is a specific type of elbow-shaped pasta, so while all macaroni is pasta, not all pasta is macaroni. Raise your hand if you missed that one on your SAT. Anyway, now that I have enough “macaroni’s” in here for the search engines, we can move on.

Actually, there’s not a lot left to discuss. This is a very straightforward, and quite adaptable recipe. I list a few potential additions in the video, but this is the kind of thing you can really make your own. Hey, you could even do it with macaroni. I hope you give this easy, and crowd-pleasing summer salad a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions:
For the dressing:
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp ketchup
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp salt, or to taste
cayenne to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
The rest:
12-oz package pasta shells
1 pound bay shrimp, or other small cooked shrimp, drained well
1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup diced celery
salt and pepper to taste

View the complete recipe