Saturday, March 31, 2007

Better than Pancakes?

The weekend's here and you know what that means! Chef John takes a break, and posts fun, food related stuff he's found on the web. OK, I have to stop typing in the third person. I hope you enjoy this very creative clip I found on Youtube. Man they have cool looking toasters over there. Enjoy!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mushroom Gravy – Quick, somebody find me a slice of meatloaf!

My mother just reminded me that I promised a mushroom gravy recipe clip when I did the meatloaf demo. So, here you go; better late than never. This mushroom sauce can be done with any type of stock, but I used beef stock here since I’m going to be making some more meatloaf (if you haven’t seen that clip, check it out here).

This is usually a 2 pan recipe; chefs normally brown the mushroom in a large sauté pan and then add them to a sauce pan to finish the sauce, but why wash another pan when you don’t have too? So, I’m showing you my patented single-pan method. It does take longer, but the final results will be the same. Be patient, wait until all the liquid is gone and the mushrooms are browning in the butter before you make the roux. Enjoy!

1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 quart beef stock or broth
1/2 stick butter
3 rounded tbl flour
salt and pepper to taste
fresh herb (this is optional, I used Thyme)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls a la Aunt Angela

I had dinner recently at a new restaurant here in Northern California. The featured entrée was a stuffed cabbage roll, and I was very excited! This is one of my all time favorite braised dishes, and if done properly, there is nothing better. Well, it wasn’t. Unfortunately, it was probably the single worst entrée I’ve ever been served (and that’s saying something, since I estimate I’ve eaten out 6,725 times!). I won’t go into details about that meal (yet), but I will say that one of the small problems was that it came to the table WITH NO CABBAGE! I got a meatball, and it wasn’t even a good meatball. So, to purge myself of that horrible experience, I decided to make stuffed cabbage rolls. And, not just any cabbage rolls, my Aunt Angela’s cabbage rolls.

One of my earliest, and fondest, culinary memories was sitting as a young child at my Aunt’s kitchen table, watching her roll these stuffed cabbage leaves. Along with my Mom, Grandmother and Grandfather, my Aunt Angela and Uncle Bill (who’s been mentioned on the site a few times) were huge influences on my early culinary development. She is probably more famous for her amazing pies, but for me, when I think of her cooking, I think cabbage rolls. The only problem is, no matter how closely I follow the recipe hers still will always taste better. That’s just how home cooking is; the only ingredient you can’t add to a recipe list is that childhood memory.

Make sure you have a large Dutch oven with a tight fitting to make these. They need lots of room to braise. As you’ll see in the clip, I was really pushing it with the size pot I used. Of course you can vary this recipe many ways, by using different types and combinations of ground meats. Her original recipe just used all beef, but I added part veal to mine. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 10 large or 20 small rolls
1 large green cabbage
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground veal
3/4 cup raw white long grain rice
1 stick butter
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 yellow onion
1 egg
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 quart beef broth (or water)
1 cup water
1 can crushed tomatoes (28oz)
*Should cook for 2 hours at 350 degrees F., but check after an hour and add more water if they seem to dry)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Smoked Salmon “Gravlox” Part 2 – It worked!

Alright, you watched us prep our Smoked Salmon “Gravlox” in Part 1, which was basically a simple salt/sugar curing mixture. We turned it over after 1 day and it stayed in the fridge for a total of 48 hours (that’s 2 days if you’re a contestant on “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader). Also, remember, we added some smoked spice to the salt mixture so the final product would have a slight “smoked salmon” taste.

I really hope you give this a try. It may seem a bit scary curing your own fish, but it's been done for centuries and besides, like I said in Part 1, smoked salmon and Gravlox in the gourmet stores are really expensive. I didn’t give any serving suggestions. Did you need any? However you currently consume your smoked salmon will work for this house-made version. Ladies and Gentlemen, start your bagels. Enjoy!

Safety Note: Since this has been cured with salt, it will keep, tightly wrapped, for several days in the fridge. But, as the old joke goes, if you need to keep it longer than that, then it wasn’t that good. Believe me, this will disappear quickly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Salmon, Spring Pea, and Ricotta Tortellini with Lemon – And why it’s too bad doors don’t have keyholes anymore!

The origin of tortellini is very cloudy, and several stories exist regarding how it was invented. This one is my favorite, and it totally sounds like something a chef would do! This comes to us compliments of Wikipedia:

“One legend says that this dish is born in Castelfranco Emilia (province of Modena). One night during a trip, Lucrezia Borgia checked into an inn in the small town. The host was captivated by her beauty and couldn't resist the urge to peek into her room through the keyhole. The light inside the bedroom was only made by a few candles and so he could only see her navel. This pure and innocent vision was enough to send him into an ecstasy that inspired him to create the tortellini that night.”

If you watched the Wonton clip, we are using the same fold here. So, after making these two dishes, you should really have that technique down. This is a very adaptable recipe as you can use almost any seafood in the stuffing. Even left-over cooked salmon would work. I went with a very light lemon cream sauce with just a touch of parmesan, but these tortellini are also very nice in a light broth, if you want to go low-cal. The combo of Salmon, Peas and Tarragon is a culinary classic, and works perfectly with the sauce here. Enjoy!

5 oz. salmon
1/2 cup ricotta
1/3 cup peas
1/3 cup parmesan
2 tbl fresh tarragon
square wonton skins
salt to taste
cayenne to taste
1 cup cream
1 lemon, zested and juiced
any combo of fresh, sweet herbs to finish sauce; Italian parsley, tarragon, basil, dill, etc.
*will probably make between 50-60 tortellini

Monday, March 26, 2007

Smoked Salmon “Gravlox” Part 1 – From Cradle to Grave

Gravlox, or Gravlax, as it is also spelled, has a very interesting translation. It was originally made by Scandinavian fishermen who coated the salmon with a salt and sugar mixture and buried it in the sand to "cure." So the term Gravlax comes from the word “grav” which means grave, and the word “lax” which means salmon. So there you go, with trivia like that, you’ll kill at that next dinner party!

Now, what I’m trying to do in this demo is to use the classic Gravlox technique, but use a smoked salt in the curing mix to achieve something that will be very close to the store-bought, and VERY expensive, smoked salmon. Lots of people try to smoke salmon at home, but they are using a high-temp smoker which basically just produces cooked salmon with a smoked favor. Now there’s nothing wrong with “hot-smoked” salmon, but what I’m after is that soft, buttery texture of the “cold-smoked” salmon that is sold commercially. I think this just might work! Anyway, check out part 2 and in a few days I’ll show you the results. I will be selling my smoked paprika salt on the site soon, but until then you can use the ingredients I’ve listed below.

Safety Note: If you are worried about eating “raw” salmon, relax. This is technically raw, but “cooks” as it cures in the salt and sugar mixture. Also, you bought top-quality salmon, of course. To be really safe, you can buy frozen wild salmon and thaw that; the freezing process kills any chance of dangerous parasites, etc. By the way, that’s why many Sushi Bars actually use pre-frozen fish.

1 pound fresh salmon, skin on
3 tbl sugar
3 tbl kosher salt (yes, regular salt will work)
1 tbl smoked paprika (or if you like spicy try Chipotle)
1 tbl black pepper
cheese cloth

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spaghetti with "White" Clam Sauce

This is a rerun from my old blog, but I’ve had several requests for it so I posted it today. This pasta dish is always a best seller at Italian restaurants, but very few people try to make it at home. As you’ll see in the video, the sauce only takes about 10 minutes to put together. By then, your pasta will be cooked and you’ll be ready to enjoy this classic dish.

A few VERY important points before we start. Have all your ingredients measured and ready to go. Do NOT drain the clams you’re using. When you separate your egg yolk make sure there is no white. And finally, when the cream mixture come to a simmer turn it off, and leave it off!

By the way, if you are about to post an “Italians NEVER put cheese in their seafood pasta dishes!” comment…save it. I’m half Italian and I love a nice grating of Parmigiano Reggiano on this dish. Remember, we make the rules! Except, of course, for Ranch dressing on Buffalo-style chicken wings instead of blue cheese dressing; then you’re just insane!

1 pound spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini
2 jars baby clams with juice (you’ll need about 2 cups total, juice and clams – this is probably 4 or 5 cans from the supermarket, if you can’t find the ones in the jar I’m using)
1 pint heavy cream
3 cloves garlic
1-2 anchovy fillet
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup grated parmesan
basil to garnish
crushed croutons to garnish
salt to taste

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Real "Slip of the Tongue!"

As I mentioned in a post a while back, I was going to be posting a new cooking clip every weekday, but on the weekends I would start posting humorous and/or interesting food items that I find during the week. Some of you may have seen this slightly naughty clip on my old blog.

This is actress Kate Wislet telling a VERY funny story on Letterman about her friend Cameron Diaz. Before watching this clip please be warned; dont blame us if your kids make you explain to them why this “slip of the tongue” (pun fully intended) is so funny! In fact this will be our first NC17 rated clip. Also, the clip ends with a bizarre tease for an upcoming Richard Simmons appearance - but he is in a giant bird suit, so I guess it’s sorta food related. Enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wonton Soup – When was the last time you got to “swallow clouds?”

Half the fun of doing this blog is the research I do about the various dishes, so I can give you all a little bit of extra info in the posts. Even after so many years of cooking and eating, I’m still amazed at the new things I learn. Of course, most of it comes from wikipedia, so it may be complete BS, but what the hell, most of it sounds like it could be right. Today’s clip is a wonderfully easy wonton soup. So, I thought I better find out what exactly a “wonton” is and where the term came from. I found two translations, and boy, are they different!

The term "wonton" is mostly commonly translated as meaning "irregularly shaped pasta." But, the second translation I found is apparently from a popular Cantonese homonym that literally means "swallowing clouds." So, if given the choice between eating "irregularly shaped pasta," or "swallowing clouds," I’m going with the clouds every time!

When making wonton soup there are two basic approaches; make highly-seasoned, full-flavored wontons and cook them in a fairly plain broth, or make a more plain, subtlety flavored wonton and cook it in a highly-seasoned, full-flavored broth. You know we have to consider that old Yin Yang balance thing. My method, as seen in this clip, is closer to the first style. This is also a great soup to clean out the veggie drawers in the fridge, as almost any thinly sliced vegetables would work in this soup.

As you’ll see, the broth part of this dish is really simple, the pork filling is also extremely easy, but what scares the average cook away from trying this dish is the folding of the wontons. I have you covered! Not only do I show you how to do the basic fold in my clip, but below the ingredient list I’ve also added another clip, of another cook demonstrating three different wonton folds (and as much as I hate to admit it, he does a much better job!). So, after watching my clip, check out his clip also (he even uses a baseball analogy). Enjoy!

For the Wontons:
1 pound ground pork
3 minced green onions
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 1/2 tbl fresh grated ginger or puree
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbl dry sherry wine
1 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
square wonton wrappers

For the broth
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or broth
4 oz sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
sliced bok choy (or any other veggies!)
green onion tops to garnish
Note: according to your taste, you can add more ginger, onion, soy, hot pepper, cilantro, lime, lemongrass, etc. to customize this broth. I went with a very basic broth for the purposes of this demo.

Extra Special Bonus Wonton Folding Demo (thanks to Chris aka cmtoy on YT)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tarragon Aioli – Keeping it real!

Many of you have never had real “aioli.” Oh, you’ve probably had garlic flavored mayonnaise-based sauces and dips many times. But today we’re talking about “real” aioli. Modern aioli comes to us from the south of France and is commonly used as a dip for vegetables, potatoes, as well as fish and meats. It’s more ancient origin is probably the Italian “Aglio Olio” which simple means “garlic oil.”

The reason I say that you may not have ever had “real” aioli is because 95% of what is served as aioli in American restaurant is nothing more than garlic mayonnaise. What’s the difference? Let me explain. Most cooks simply chop, or mince, or blend garlic with mayo, add other flavors, and call it aioli (some freaks of nature even use roasted garlic!!). Now, I don’t want to sound like some kind of food fascist. I have no problem with roasting garlic and stirring it into mayo, but call it a “roasted garlic mayo.” The only real way aioli is made is by using a mortal and pestle. When you crush the garlic in this ancient culinary tool, you are completely pulverizing the cells of the garlic clove which sets off crucial chemical reactions that you don’t get by simply chopping or blending. There are compounds formed during this crushing that produces something called “allicin,” which gives real aioli its amazingly sharp and intense flavor. The follow excerpt is from

“Odorless and stable, alliin is the most abundant sulfur compound in whole, unbruised Garlic. It is stored inside one kind of Garlic cell; in a separate type of cell, an enzyme called alliinase awaits. When the cells are broken open, alliin mixes with alliinase, and in about ten seconds all of the exposed alliin has been converted into a new group of compounds: allicin and its close relatives, which give off the aroma of fresh Garlic.

The beauty of aioli made in the traditional method, with a mortar and pestle, is that a small amount of garlic can flavor a large amount of mayo. Also, this real aioli is so strong and powerful that you don’t need half a cup of mayo on your grilled fish. Just a teaspoon of my version is so intense; it will fully flavor a whole piece of meat or pile of veggies. Also, the legendary health benefits of eating raw garlic are largely derived from this allicin production. Fair warning: if you don’t like garlic, don’t even attempt this recipe. It could kill you. But, if you do love garlic this demo may change your life. And by all means, get a mortar and pestle! I use it for other things besides aioli, like crushing whole spices for dry rubs, etc. Once you have your plain aioli recipe down you can start to experience with various fresh herbs, like the tarragon I used here. I served this under my Salmon Cakes recipe, and it was really good.

2 garlic cloves
pinch of salt
tbl of fresh tarragon
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mayo
dash of cayenne

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wild Salmon Cakes – Canned Fish and Saltine Crackers?…Now that’s Gourmet!

So, we all know we need to eat a lot more salmon. And not only that, but we have to find “wild” salmon. Well, depending on where you live this may not be so easy. And, even if you do find it, maybe you don’t have the confidence to cook it properly. Today, I solve all those problems. Tomorrow I may start working on gas prices, but right now it’s all about the salmon cakes.

I’m using canned salmon for this delicious recipe. Why? Well, first of all, every grocery store carries it. Secondly, caned salmon is almost always wild salmon. And lastly, it’s cheap! I’m not going to go into the wild vs. farmed salmon debate here (you can Google it), but wild is not only more eco-friendly, but it tastes better, and is more nutritious. You could use fresh cooked salmon for this recipe if you have leftovers, but since we are mixing this up with eggs and cracker crumbs, fresh salmon just is'nt necessary, so why spend the extra cash? (you could save it and buy a t-shirt on my site! In fact, I’m thinking of a new t-shirt slogan “I like my salmon, like I like my women…wild! OK, maybe not)

The recipe ingredients you see below are VERY basic. There are lots of ways to customize these cakes; you can add fresh herbs, garlic, green onions, hot peppers, etc., so feel free to experiment. I tend to like my salmon cakes on the “bready” side, but you could add only one egg and fewer crackers if you want cakes that are more “salmony.” The tarragon aioli I served under these luscious cakes will be demo’d next, so stay tuned for that. Finally, as you hear me warn in the demo, canned salmon is NOT completely boneless, so PLEASE spend a few minutes carefully flaking the meat as you prep it to remove all the bones. Other than that small chore, this is a very simple recipe that comes out perfectly every time. Enjoy!

14 oz. can of wild red salmon (or pink)
2 eggs
12 saltine crackers
1 tbl olive oil
1 tbl butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbl chopped capers

1/2 lemon

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring Greens in a Cucumber Vase (pronounced “vaahhzzzz”) - When a plain old salad bowl just won’t do!

Today I’m showing one of those very simple restaurant tricks that anyone could do at home, but don’t. The next time your doing a dinner party and want to “fancy-up” the salad course, try this easy technique. You can do this with a large vegetable peeler if you have to, but I hope that by now you’ve purchased one of those cheap Japanese-style vegetable slicers you see me using in so many of my clips. They really are an incredibly versatile tool and EVERY professional kitchen has one somewhere.

If you have room in your fridge, you can form the “vases” ahead of time and keep them cold until you are ready to serve. By the way, as I mention in the clip, the Salmon Cakes and Tarragon Aioli that I show at the end of the video are a little tease for a couple of demo’s coming up this week. So stay tuned for those. Enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Orzo “Risotto” with Chicken, Sausage and Peppers

Orzo (also known as melon seed pasta, due to its shape) is one of my favorite choices for pasta salad. I really like the shape and texture, and it makes for a very interesting cold salad. Here, I had the idea of using it for a hot dish in the same way one would use an Arborio rice to make the classic Risotto. Instead of boiling the Orzo in salted water and draining, I thought it would be interesting to cook it the same way risotto is cooked, by adding small additions of flavorful stock until it’s tender (or al dente if you prefer). I made that flavorful stock by braising chicken and sausage as you’ll see.

This dish is really all over the place; most of the ingredients are kind of Spanish/Portuguese, there are techniques from India and Italy involved, and just to make things even stranger, I use a chili pepper usually found only in Mexican cuisine. But, none of that matters, this dish tastes great and is really not hard to make. The other good thing is, whoever you serve this to probably hasn’t had it before, so no matter how it comes out you can always say, “yeah, that’s how it’s suppose to be!”

I’ve had many requests for a risotto demo. The reason I haven’t done one is because who wants to watch someone stand at a stove and stir a pot of rice? Well, I tried to edit this to make it somewhat bearable, but the basic technique is the same; slowly adding stock and stirring until its almost absorbed and then adding more. This is a dish that will be great the first time you make it, and REALLY great the second time you make it, as you get the timing down. My orzo took about 15-20 minutes to absorb enough stock to become tender – but that’s just a very rough guide for you since there are so many factors; the heat, size of your orzo, shape of pot, etc. Be brave and enjoy yourself…you're cooking!

By the way, I didn’t mention it in the clip, but I removed the skin and bones from the chicken thighs once they were cool enough to handle, before I added them back into the final dish. Also, this is one of the VERY rare dishes I didn’t add garlic to. The sausage I used had a lot of garlic in it so I didn’t think it was needed. Enjoy.

1/2 pound orzo pasta
6 chicken thighs (seasoned with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper)
1 lb. Linguisa sausage (or any spicy sausage)
1 quart chicken stock
1 red bell pepper
1 green Pasilla or bell pepper
1/2 yellow onion
1 tbl paprika
1 tbl cumin
1 tbl Herb de Provence
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
fresh parsley

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fast Food Freestyle - Because that's how I roll

While I still plan on posting a new cooking clip every weekday, on the weekends I thought I would start posting other random, fun and/or funny foodie items I've found surfing the web. This clip I found on Youtube is a perfect example of something you may see posted on my "off"days. The next time you are rolling through a drive-through, maybe try ordering like this kid did. I mean what do you have to lose? They usually get your order wrong anyway! Enjoy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spaghetti Squash 101

Please Note: This is another older clip that I'm moving from my old blog, so a few of you may have seen it before. And, I know it's not exactly "squash season" but as I've already said on several other posts, I want to eventaully have my complete video recipe library on this blog. Also, the sound is not great,but it's still worth a look if you've never tried this great squash.

This is such a great vegetable for many reasons. It has a nice, subtle sweet flavor. It is almost foolproof to cook. And, it looks like spaghetti! You may have seen this under some fish cheeks in another clip, as it is a fantastic base for so many things. This clip just shows the basic steps to preparing the squash, but my hope is that you watch this demo and invent some wonderful combinations, and then report back to me!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Butter Bean Prawn “Scampi” – Culinary confusion at its best!

Growing up in upstate New York, any time my family would go out to eat at an Italian restaurant there were always the same two shrimp or prawns dishes on the menu. They were “Shrimp Cocktail” and “Shrimp Scampi.” By the way, as you hear me try to explain during the clip, the only difference between shrimp and prawn is size. I use both terms synonymously in my clips, and can’t pretend to really care that much about which is the correct term. I believe bigger shrimp are called prawns and smaller prawns are called shrimp. Hurry, someone call Alton Brown!

The funny thing about “Shrimp Scampi” is that the term “Scampi” was used to describe a style of dish; one where the shrimp are cooked in a garlic and butter sauce. But, “Scampi” is actually the plural Italian name for a shrimp-like creature that is really a small Norwegian lobster (Nephrops Norvegicus). Confused yet? Just have a glass of wine and enjoy the clip.

My one twist on this classic recipe is the addition of Butter Beans. I love the contrast in textures between the tender prawns and the creamy beans. I used lemon juice here as the acid, but a nice dry white wine also produces a great version. I didn’t add it in the clip but a big pinch of hot pepper flakes is highly recommended, and while the parsley is traditional, basil or dill will also work great as the fresh herb addition. The original dish I enjoyed as a child was always served over pasta, but here I used my carbo allowance on a couple of toast points to soak up the amazing sauce. Enjoy!

1 pound peeled and de-veined prawns (16/20 per pound size)
12 oz jar butter beans, drained
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
2 tbl butter
2 tbl olive oil
2 tbl fresh lemon juice
2 tbl water
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
hot pepper flakes (optional)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

“Faux-Smoked” Wild Red Rock Cod – More delicious culinary cheating!

This is another of those older clips some of you may have already seen from my old blog, but as I stated before, I do eventually want to have all my clips over here. Besides, I just got in from Vegas! So pardon the re-run if you've seen it, and if you're new to the site this is a great trick. One last note; I had a few emails after the Sole "Dore" clip saying that I should have done "egg then flour." That is one way, but there are many ways. That "Dore"method uses flour first then egg to achieve more of an egg batter. Egg and then flour (the more common method) gives you more of a starchy coating. The point is they are both delicious and you should use both methods. Here I use the "flour then egg" method. This method, I believe, keeps the fish moister and is safer for the novice cook worried about their fish drying out. OK, enough with the preface, here's the real post...

One problem with cooking thinner, flakier types of fish is that you are basically limited to sautéing, poaching, or baking. It is almost impossible to grill these thin fillets over coals since they tend to fall apart quickly. I guess you could try one of those cage-type fish holders, but I’ve never had too much luck with those.

So I came up with this idea. I used the same “Dore” technique you saw in our Sole Dore clip, but I added some Spanish smoked paprika which gave the fish a wonderful, yet subtle, char-grilled smoked accent.

Many people don’t realize how many types of paprika are available. I always stock four types in my pantry; Hot Paprika, Bittersweet Paprika, Sweet Paprika, and Smoked Paprika. You’ll find these at you local gourmet store, as the supermarket will probably only have the regular Sweet Paprika. You can also check online of course.

As I usually say, any white flaky fresh fish fillets will work. By the way, what is sold as “Red Snapper” in most stores is actually Rock Cod. True Red Snapper is not as common. I topped the fish with a nice, homemade Remoulade sauce (AKA tartar sauce) which I’ll demo also.

4 fillet of rock cod (red snapper or similar fish)
spice mix (1 tbl black pepper, 1 tbl salt, 2 tbl smoked paprika)
2 tbl olive oil
2 tbl butter
3 eggs
ap flour, as needed

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On the Road to Las Vegas – What happens there definitely won’t stay there

I thought I would post a quick update for all of you waiting patiently for a new recipe clip. I’ve leaving Giants Spring training with a record of 2-1, and everything I’d heard about spring baseball in the desert turned out to be true; beautiful sunny weather, small ballparks where you’re right on top of the players, cold beer, hot dogs, and lots of well-oiled bare skin. Other than that it wasn’t that great. I don’t like to post without photos so here is a couple from the old ball park. The first is a culinary student from Scottsdale cooking Bratwurst, and the second a Chicago Cubs fan who I assume likes to eat Bratwurst.

I can now admit it; this was not just a vacation. I actually had a bit of business to take care of, which went very well. It looks like I’ll be doing some work as private chef for several of the SF Giants this season. Before you ask who, let me say that similar to doctors and mob lawyers, private Chefs’ clients expect a certain level of confidentiality, so I’m not saying who.

I’m headed to Las Vegas for an overnight stay, and then back to San Francisco on Wednesday. I hope to post Wednesday evening and then get back on the “new post every day” schedule you’ve hopefully grown accustom. Again, I thank you for your patience and I can’t wait to get back to the City and start cooking for you all. I have lots of requests to do and during these long drives I’ve been brainstorming some crazy new ideas. Well, we must be getting close; I just saw an “All You Can Eat” billboard…wish me luck!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Cactus League Here I Come!

Chef John (as I write about myself in the third person) will be taking a small vacation to Arizona to take in some spring training baseball. So if you don't see any new posts for a few days, and/or I don't reply to your comments or emails, I apologize in advance.

Every spring, for about 20 years, I’ve tried to figure out a way to get down to the San Francisco Giant’s Cactus league spring training. Until this year I was 0 for 20. The streak is over! Thanks to a confluence of good luck, good timing, and great in-laws, I’m headed down there for a few days of sun and fun.

Now, since the Giants haven’t won the World Series since I’ve been in San Francisco, and since I’ve never been to Spring Training, I can’t help but think there may be some connection. The way I figure, since I’m going to be down there this year, helping them get ready, they should win it all (beating the Yankees in 7). You heard it here first.

By the way, I’ll try to post a few items from the road. There must be some desert Internet cafés somewhere. Stay tuned and…Go Giants!

Chicken Marsala a la Ryan’s Cafe

Certain dishes have a special place in my heart and this is one of them. The first real restaurant job I had in San Francisco was at a small place called Ryan’s Café. It was run by a husband and wife team, Michael and Lenore Ryan. They were true “foodies” before that term had even been coined. This Chicken Marsala dish was the most popular dish on the menu and the first one that I was taught. I had cooked with wine a few times at culinary school, but this was the first time that it had really hit me what magic could be created by adding the right wine to certain ingredients. Every time I make this dish, I fondly remember that 23 years old cook (with full head of hair), so thirsty for knowledge, just drinking it all in, both literally and figuratively.

Marsala wine originates from the Italian city of Marsala, which is in Sicily. It is similar to the more commonly know Spanish Sherry, and like Sherry is a wonderful wine to cook with. It has a complex, slightly sweet flavor that makes it the perfect choice for this great chicken and mushroom dish I’m demonstrating today. Be careful when buying your bottle of Marsala. You don’t need anything too expensive, but make sure it’s just regular Marsala wine, and not “Sweet Marsala” which is a desert wine and too sweet for this dish. This same recipe can also be made the with Sherry or Madeira wine with very nice results.

2 boneless chicken breasts, skin on
1 shallot minced
2 tbl fresh parsley
3 tbl butter
2 tbl olive oil
1 tbl flour
5 white mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup Marsala wine
1 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Braised Lamb and Eggplant Cous Cous – Easy, exotic, and a great case for gender bias!

Today’s post is perfect for the person that’s afraid to try anything that seems exotic because they think it’s going to be hard to prepare. Cous Cous has to be one of the easiest things on the planet to make. Can you boil stock and pour it into a bowl of Cous Cous? Then this dish is for you. This was a hard demo to edit down to a reasonable length, so I did go pretty fast with some of the steps and I thought I better give some additional info to help you follow along. So, I’ve put a few steps along with the usual ingredient list.

Cous Cous is a tiny, granular type of pasta that is as delicious, as it is simple to prepare. Usually considered Moroccan, this is also a staple in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The amazing thing about couscous is how fast it “cooks,” and how versatile it is. As long as you have some type of flavorful stock to prepare the Cous Cous, the meats and vegetables can be varied in countless ways.

Regarding the gender bias reference in headline; it has been claimed that female eggplants have more seeds than male eggplants. Those tiny white/grey seeds are what give eggplant it’s slightly bitter flavor, so Chefs are said to favor the male eggplants. Anyway, I show you how to “sex” an eggplant, and we also test the male vs. female theory. Wow, I feel like that “Myth Buster” guy. Enjoy the clip!

4 cups couscous
1 quart chicken stock
2 pounds lamb shoulder chops
2 eggplants
1/2 onion
1/2 cup diced tomato or sauce
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried Herb de Provence (or Italian herb mix)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 oz feta cheese (optional)
fresh herbs to garnish (mint, parsley, etc.)

* Season lamb with half the salt and pepper, brown well on both sides in a bit of olive oil in Dutch oven, remove and set aside.
* Add onion, rest of salt and pepper, sauté for 5 minutes.
* Add eggplant and sauté for 5 minutes.
* Add tomato, garlic, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, cumin, Herb de Provence, sauté for 5 minutes.
* Add stock and lamb, bring to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 2 hours.
* Remove lamb.
* Strain braising liquid from eggplant and reserve (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).
* Remove meat from bones and add to eggplant mixture, keep warm.
* Bring reserved stock to boil and pour over “oiled” Cous Cous (see clip)
* Cover tightly for 5 minutes, fluff and serve as shown in clip.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Chocolate Lava Cake – Is this the World’s most delicious mistake?

Legend has it that this dessert was the result of a major catering disaster. The dessert for this particular event was to be individual chocolate cakes, but someone took them out of the ovens to soon and the centers where not cooked enough and still liquefied. Well, there was no time to take them off the plates and cook them more, so the Chef simply had his wait staff introduce the dessert as Chocolate “Lava” Cake! Brilliant! Now, whether this is true or not, I don’t know for sure, but it totally sounds like something a Chef would do. If you have a better story email it to me and I’ll start using it.

Regardless of how it was born, it sure is good. I used very dark chocolate, but you can use semi-sweet or milk chocolate if you prefer. If you’ve watch my clips regularly you know I’m not big on measuring ingredients, BUT when you’re doing baked desserts you really do need to be accurate. So measure carefully. By the way, this was a view request and the photo he sent me (pictured above with the fruit) had no copyright info with it. I did use it in the clip and hopefully no one gets too upset. If you did happen to take this photo, and are upset I’m using it without permission, please email me and I will credit you
. Enjoy!

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2 extra large eggs
1 extra large egg yolk
5 tbl butter
3 tbl sugar
3.5 oz. dark chocolate (this is one standard chocolate bar)
3 tbl flour
2 tsp cocoa powder
*Bake at 425 F, in water bath for 15 mins.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Eggs Benedicts – The last 2 episodes to make this brunch classic!

Hopefully you watched the hollandaise demo we just posted, and you are ready to fearlessly finish this delicious egg dish! So, the sauce is done, now you need to poach the eggs and finish the plate. In this first clip, I show the basic restaurant technique for poaching eggs. Due to the high-volume of a brunch service, it is almost impossible to poach eggs “to order.” They are poached ahead of time and held in cold water until final plating, when they are re-heated in simmering water for a few minutes. This method also works great at home for smaller batches as you’ll see. Once you’ve poached your eggs and have them in cold water you are free to set up the rest of the plate and all you then have to do is reheat them as I’ll show you. Ok, here we go with the poaching clip. Immediately following is the final plating and some cruel teasing on my part.

Now that we have our eggs ready we can plate this beauty up. Now, as you’ll hear me say in the clip, I didn’t waste time filming how to toast an English muffin and fry up a couple pieces of Canadian bacon. If you need help with those techniques you can email me and I’ll make fun of you in private. VERY IMPORTANT: make sure you are using a warm plate! Since the sauce is just warm, not piping hot, and the eggs are also just warm, it is CRUCIAL that the plate is warm, as well as making sure the English muffin and Canadian bacon are hot. If you need some potatoes to serve with this dish, please check out our Homefries demo. Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Hollandaise 101 – Can a sauce really sense fear?

Re-run alert! Yes, viewers to my old blog may have seen this clip before, but it’s such a key sauce to master, I wanted to have it on this new blog. This sauce can be used on many other things besides eggs; like grilled asparagus and poached salmon. But, since the most common use is on the famous Eggs Benedict, I will also demo how to poach eggs (secret restaurant method) and how to finish the final dish. Stay tuned for that. Now, let’s get our Hollandaise on.

I’m going to show you a new and terrifying method for making this classic Sauce. I don’t use a double-boiler, but rather cook the egg yolks directly over a low flame. I find it faster, easier, and with less chance of under-cooking the yolks. (Warning, you may scramble a few before you get it, but once you get the feel you’ll never do them over water again!) Please note, it’s hard to see on the video, the bowl is never actually touching the flame, but a few inches above.

You’ll hear me say in the clip that this is the way to control the heat in the eggs. Most importantly, be brave! Like bees and dogs, a Hollandaise can sense fear. If you are afraid it’s going to “break” or separate, then it will. I believe this so deeply I had the slogan printed on T-shirts, which coincidently, I’m selling on the site! Hey, I think this is the first clip that actually features one of my products. Did I just “sell out?” If you are interested in getting one of these shirts just click on the picture and you'll be whisked away (pun intended) to my CafePress online shop. Anyway, good luck with the Hollandaise, and let me know how it came out. Enjoy!

1 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1/2 lemon
salt to taste
cayenne or tabasco sauce to taste

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Perfect Mashed Potatoes – Breaking the Cycle of Generational Potato Dysfunction

Well, I just posted a meatloaf clip so I thought I would re-post this mashed potato demo. Every day, all across the country, people sit down to plates of lumpy, watery, sticky, gluey, pasty mashed potatoes. This demo will hopefully show you the proper techniques to turn out perfect mashed potatoes every time; always light, fluffy and lump-free.

It’s not hard, but it does require breaking some bad, old habits you may have. Making mashed potatoes is one of those comfort foods that you probably learned from your mother. If she used waxy red potatoes, then that’s what you use. If she mixed them for 20 minutes and ended up with something resembling wallpaper paste, then that’s what you do. Well, it’s time to face a harsh reality…your mom may not have known what the hell she was doing. There, I said it. Now, if you mom’s mashers came out great and she taught you well, fantastic! But if you do suffer from this generational potato dysfunction, then watch and learn. As they say, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood (mashed potato-wise at least).

I suggest NOT using a non-stick pot for these, as I will be using a metal wire-style potato masher.

Serves 4
3 large Russet potatoes
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Friday, March 2, 2007

Classic “All American” Meatloaf

This recipe is a version that Alton Brown did on Good Eats. I’ve added a few extra ingredients, like mushrooms, which I believe helps make a very moist meatloaf. Do I feel bad stealing Alton’s recipe? No, because he stole it from someone, who stole it from someone, and so on and so on. I've tried many recipes and this is my favorite for flavor, texture and it's just plain easy to make.

I believe this is the first demo I make you dust off your food processor for. I know they are a pain to drag out and clean, but they are crucial to this recipe! The real secret to this method is the veggie puree we add to the meat and bread crumbs. Not only do these aromatic vegetables add tons of flavor, more importantly they add moisture to the mix. Most “bad” meatloaves are nothing more than giant baked hamburgers.

Another important tip is to use a digital meat thermometer to check for an internal temp of 155° F. This will produce the best final product. The times I give can be very tricky since all ovens are different and you may not have shaped yours exactly the same as mine. When you go by internal temps you take the guess work out of it.

Stay tuned, as I will show you my mushroom sauce recipe that I garnished this beautiful loaf of meat with. In fact, it just stopped raining here in Northern California, so there should be a nice selection of wild mushrooms to use. Enjoy!

2 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80% lean)
1 carrot
1 rib celery
1/2 onion
1/2 red bell pepper
4 white mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
2 tbl olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp olive oil

2 tbl brown sugar
2 tbl ketchup
2 tbl Dijon mustard
hot sauce to taste

Thursday, March 1, 2007

“See-through” Herb and Potato Crisps – Worst Demo Ever?

Of all the things I’ve demonstrated on this site, without a doubt, this will be the one that the fewest viewers try. Why? Well, basically we’re going to spend 45 minutes, risk slicing off our finger tips, and when we’re finished we are going to have (if everything goes perfectly) about 10 translucent potato chips with leaves of herbs embedded inside. So why bother? I’m not sure. Just watch the demo and it may make sense. For the hardcore foodie, this may actually be interesting, for the rest of you, not so much.

If done properly (which will probably take you 4 or 5 times) this does make for a very cool garnish. And, for the select few that actually make and serve these, you may get one of your guests to ask, “Oh my God! How did you get the herbs inside that potato chip?!? This is the culinary equivalent of the old ship in the bottle mystery. Enjoy!

fresh herb leaves (Italian parsley, oregano, tarragon, etc)
1 large russet potato
2 tbl olive oil
salt to taste (after cooked)