Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – Legend of the Fall

This roasted butternut squash soup is probably my favorite fall soup of all time, which is why I’m so shocked we haven’t posted a video for it before. It’s cheap, easy, nutritious, and absolutely delicious; and should probably go into the once-a-week rotation for a few months at least.

As I mention in the video, there’s really no great reason to simmer this for an hour like I did, but I think it does help harmonize the flavors, not to mention humidify your home. A cold, rainy day just looks better through steamed-up windows.

If you’re feeling like something a bit more substantial, try this topped with a handful of crispy bacon. Of course, I wouldn’t say no to some diced ham either. Add a hard roll, and you can’t get a better autumn meal. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 portions:
For the sage brown butter:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6-8 large sage leaves (or a lot of tiny leaves like I used in the video)
For the soup:
3 1/2 pound butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots
6 garlic cloves, peeled
sage-infused brown butter
2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
6 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar)
cayenne to taste
creme fraiche and chive to garnish

Friday, September 25, 2015

Borscht-Braised Beef Short Ribs – It Sure Beats Beets

Even though I often joke about naming dishes a certain way to help with the search engines, I rarely actually do. Mostly because I don’t get a bonus for extra traffic, but with this borscht-braised beef short ribs, I fully admit to intentionally not using the “B” word.

I would hate for someone who thinks they hate beets to not even watch the video. I figured if we could trick them into at least seeing the dish in all its colorful glory, they’d simply have to give it a try. Unless they don't like beets, and gorgeous things.

By the way, I can totally relate to the “I don’t eat beets” people, as I am one. I’ve never been a big fan, but in certain things, like borscht, I love them. With that simple soup as an inspiration, I thought the flavors would work nicely with the rich, fatty short ribs, and they sure did.

Will this be enough to change your mind about beets? There’s only one way to find out. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces, seasoned generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup cubed carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 pound beets, cut in large pieces (about two large ball sized beets, cut in eighths)
2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- Optional step: when you taste your finished sauce, if you want to add some acidity to balance the sweetness, adjust with a splash of white vinegar.
- Garnish with sour cream and chives

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Crispy “Peking Duck” Lettuce Cups – Faster, Easier, and Better?

I was going to say that one of these days we’ll actually make a proper Peking duck recipe, but that’s probably not going to happen. That takes multiple steps, several days, and requires a place to hang the ducks to dry. Most modern homes don’t have a duck drying room.

However, using this relatively quick and simple technique, we can achieve something kind of similar, which many people would say, all things considered, is even better. Well, maybe not “many people,” but I would say that. These were really, really good.

Regarding the Chinese five-spice seen herein; mine contained cinnamon, anise seed, cloves, ginger, and fennel; but these ingredients can vary. Believe it or not, despite the name, many contain more than five spices, as things like pepper, nutmeg, orange peel, and cardamom, are also common additions. The good news is, for something like this, any combination of those will work.

If you’re not into lettuce cups for whatever reason, you can also use this technique for serving whole duck legs. The only difference is, don’t cut them up. Since this is something that can be made well ahead of time, it works nicely for large groups. Just simply reheat, and crisp up the skin before serving. I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
6 whole duck legs
1 tbsp veg oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder
3 green onions, cut into large pieces
5 garlic cloves, halved

For the sauce (everything here is to taste, so please adjust):
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 lemon juiced

Serve in lettuce cups, garnished with cucumber, green onions, and sesame seeds.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Poached Pears “Belle Helene” - Why Escoffier Really Created This Dish

They say Auguste Escoffier created this dish in honor of the opera, La Belle Helen, but we chefs know the real reason. How else are you going to use up bruised pears in such a delicious and beautiful way? Okay, so maybe that wasn’t his motivation, but as you’ll see in the video, it sure does work great.

The recipe is very straightforward, so instead we’ll go into your options for the chocolate sauce, as well as what to do with all that extra simple syrup. We have two chocolate preparations that will work for this (and have been linked). The first would be our easy hot fudge recipe; and the second, and more traditional choice, would be the classic chocolate ganache.

If you follow the link to the later, you’ll be taken to our Boston Cream Pie video, where you’ll see the technique for creating a classic ganache, but you’ll probably need to adjust the ratio of cream to chocolate. Generally it’s equal parts chocolate and cream, but if you want something more pourable, then 2 parts cream to 1 part chocolate (by weight) would work better.

As far as the extra vanilla poaching liquid goes; you’ll want to strain it, pour it into some cool looking bottles, and give it away as edible gifts. The taste is incredible. Better than the pears, if we’re being honest, and would make a fantastic holiday treat for the wannabe mixologists in your life. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 poached pears:
6 cups water
zest and juice of one lemon
4 bosc pears, cored and peeled (you can also use Anjou or Bartlett)
1 split vanilla bean, or a few teaspoons of vanilla extract
3 cups sugar
Simmer for about 20-25 minutes, depending on size and firmness

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Peanut Curry Chicken – Check Please!

There’s a show called “Check, Please! Bay Area,” which features three locals who try each other’s favorite restaurants, and then compare notes with host, Leslie Sbrocco. We get lots of great ideas for places to try, and every once in a while I hear about a dish that I really want to make, and this peanut curry chicken is the latest example. The restaurant was called Old Skool CafĂ©, and the dish was “Abu’s West African Peanut Butter Stew.” 

I was working while it was on, and not paying full attention, but I remember thinking that it sounded like something I’d like to try soon. That was a year ago. 

Last week, Michele and I ended up going there, and I finally had my chance to order the stew, and reverse engineer the recipe for a video. Except, I didn’t order it. I have this mental defect where have to I order fried chicken every time it’s on a menu. Michele was no help, since she has the same affliction with shrimp and grits. 

Anyway, someone ordered it at the table next to us, and I overheard them discussing it, which provided plenty of inspiration for this version. I decided to not follow any specific recipe, but instead do a simple composite of every peanut curry I’ve ever come across. 

Unlike Abu’s stew, and many others, I didn’t use coconut milk, as I feel that’s a little too sweet and rich for the peanut butter. I loved how this came out, and I can’t imagine it being any richer. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 large portions:

For the spice blend:
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
                                                                                  
2 1/2 pounds chicken boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup ketchup 
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (I recommend using an all-natural style that doesn’t contain sugar. If you use the regular stuff, you won’t need the brown sugar called for below). 
1 packed tablespoon brown sugar 
about 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, depending on desired thickness 
1 pound zucchini, cut into chunks 
1 red bell pepper, cubed 
1 green poblano pepper, diced 
1/2 cup roasted peanuts 
chopped cilantro and fresh lime to garnish 
serve on rice

Friday, September 11, 2015

Smoked Trout Schmear – Because There’s No Cool Way to Say, “Spread”

Schmear,” on the other hand, is impossible to say without sounding cool. Try it, you’ll see. You also have to love a recipe whose name describes what you’re supposed to do with it. You make a schmear, and then you schmear a schmear.

Names aside, this smoked trout schmear is incredibly easy, and very versatile. Obviously, it’s great spread on any kind of bread or crackers, but slathered atop a freshly toasted bagel may be it’s finest expression.

By the way, this is one of those recipes were you almost have to ignore the exact ingredient measurements I give below, since the ideal amount of salt, acidity, and heat are very subjective. Equal proportions of cream cheese and smoked trout is a good starting point, but everything else should be added “to taste.”

Smoked trout is relatively easy to find in any of your fancier grocery stores that sell smoke salmon, and unlike its more common cousin, I think it provides a richer, more interesting flavor, especially in spreads like this. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


2 trout boneless, skinless fillets (about 5-6 ounces total), checked for bones and crumbled
6 ounces cream cheese (3/4 cup), softened to room temp
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1 rounded teaspoon hot prepared horseradish, preferably homemade
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1/2  lemon, juiced (about 4 teaspoons), or to taste
2 teaspoons fresh chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How to Make Your Own Prepared Horseradish – Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

Every time I use horseradish in a recipe, I get e-mails from people asking me how they can make it at home. They mention they can get the fresh root, but can’t find anything already prepared in the jar, which in some cases is hard to believe – like when the email originates from New York City – but regardless, this is still a very worthwhile thing to learn how to make.

Worthwhile, and somewhat painful, if you’re not careful. As I mention in the video, the fumes produced by this process are very intense, and will cause burning eyes and runny noses, if you’re not in a well-ventilated space. Having said that, using a little common sense, it’s really not that bad, and so totally worth it.

This really is quite easy if you have a food processor, but if you don’t, a heavy-duty blender will work, although you may have to add more water in the first step, to get the mixture fine enough. You can also grate this very fine on a microplane, but that would probably only be practical if you’re making a smaller amount.

Once your horseradish has been ground finely, the technique is very simple. I like to wait two or three minutes (this is supposed to make it hotter), before adding the salt and vinegar. Then, I’ll simply process, adding as much water as necessary, until I have a nice, smooth, creamy mixture.

And while this looks like something from the grocery store, the flavor is incomparable. Intensely hot, and aromatic; this is the real deal. So, whether you’re one of these people, who lives in a place where they don’t have jarred horseradish, like apparently New York City, or you always wanted to try and make some yourself, I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 3 cups: you read this please in here
1 pound peeled, cubed fresh horseradish root
cold water as needed (about 3/4 cup total)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup white distilled vinegar

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Next Up: Homemade Prepared Horseradish

Due to the Labor Day holiday, today's regularly scheduled video will air tomorrow instead. We'll be showing you how to make your very own prepared horseradish, using the fresh root. Spoiler alert: It's hot. Very hot.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Alabama-Style White BBQ Sauce – An Almost Labor-Free Sauce for Your Labor Day Grill

This incredibly easy to make Alabama white barbecue sauce was invented in 1925 by Robert “Big Bob” Gibson at Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q restaurant, in Decatur. When I first read this bit of culinary history, I had to smile, since I actually know the guy. Well, sort of.

I’ve been to two bbq “boot camps,” run by champion pitmaster Chris Lilly, who trained under a guy, who trained under Big Bob Gibson. Hey, that’s only three degrees of separation. Ironically, Chris never made, or used the white sauce on anything we cooked, but still, I know a guy, who knew a guy, who knew THE guy.

Some people find this concoction quite strange, but not me. It’s eerily similar to the Cornell chicken marinade, which I love. In fact, Mr. Robert C. Baker, the creator of the aforementioned recipe, may have borrowed the idea from Big Bob. I would investigate further, but I have real crimes to solve.

Don’t let this mixture’s appearance stop you from trying what is a devastatingly delicious marinade, baste, and sauce. One tip for basting on the grill: make sure you do it towards the end of cooking, and not over too-high heat. You don’t want flame-ups, as that will cause an off taste.

I brush on two or three applications to each side, over more indirect heat, and as you see in the video, it sears on nicely. As a table sauce, it’s great on any of the traditional barbecued meats, but since it’s really just a salad dressing, it’s also wonderful for making potato salad, coleslaw, and grilled vegetables. I hope you give this white barbecue sauce a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 3 cups of sauce:
2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup prepared extra-hot horseradish
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tsp yellow mustard
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pork Chili Verde (Green Pork Chili) – Green and Sometimes Browned

As I mentioned in the intro, this chili verde was one of the first recipes I ever learned, and also one of the first times I was forced to question proper culinary technique. Having just learned the importance of browning meats in culinary school, I was, at the same time, working for a chef who rarely did. 

Whether it was pork, chicken, or beef, he simply cut up the meat, threw it in a pot with the rest of the ingredients, and simmered everything until tender. By the way, he claimed that he had learned how to cook these recipes while traveling through Mexico. I remember sheepishly asking about this, and his response was something like, “Well, that's how they did it, and it tastes good to me.” He was right, it did. 

In fact, it tasted great. It was then I realized that this whole cooking thing might be a little more complicated than I had imagined. So, which is really the best method? There’s no answer for that question, which is frustrating. Having said that, I do think browned meat is always going to add extra flavor, so I usually do it. The point is, everybody’s right.

Regarding the pickled red onions I used on top of my chili: I was going to save this for a video, but it’s so ultra simple that I’ll just tell you right now. Slice some red onions, add a pinch of salt, and cover with red wine vinegar. Leave this overnight in your fridge, and the next day you’ll be looking at one of the most gorgeous garnishes ever.

They’re wonderful with everything from salads, to charcuterie, to cheeseburgers; but my real hope is that you enjoy them on a bowl of this delicious green pork chili. I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 large portions:
2 tbsp vegetable oil (heat to almost smoking before browning meat)
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (aka pork butt), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 to 3 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
about 10-12 tomatillos (about 4 cups once quartered)
3 jalapenos, seeded
1 poblano chili, seeded
6 cloves peeled garlic
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, or as needed
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 pound Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
freshly ground black pepper
sour cream and pickled red onions to garnish

- Simmer pork and sauce for an hour, add potatoes, and simmer until everything is tender.