Thursday, August 30, 2007

Black Pepper Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Black Cherry Reduction

This succulent dish has all the things I love in a recipe; an easy piece of meat to work with, a super simple sauce that tastes like something that took hours, and the classic flavor combination of hot/tangy with sweet/fruity.

Our meat choice, the pork tenderloin, is one of the most user-friendly cuts ever. It requires about 3 minutes of trimming and you’re ready to rock. The sauce is made in the pan after the meat is cooked and the sweet and tangy fruit sauce pairs perfectly with the spicy black pepper crust on the pork. Since most of these tenderloins are pretty standard size at about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each, 20 minutes at 375F after a good sear in the pan is going to give you a perfect medium almost every time.

By the way, you can use any vinegar and fruit preserve in this recipe and it will be great, although there is something about cherry and black pepper that’s magical. Enjoy!

1 pork tenderloin (not loin)
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup black cherry preserves
salt to taste
lots of cracked black pepper
2 tbl butter

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Watermelon and Feta with Toasted Cashews – Old footage, new narration, watercolor filters, and one really amazing summer salad!

I vaguely remember eating a slice on watermelon as a young child and watching in shock and horror as my grandfather started sprinkling salt on his slice. I said whatever the 5 year old version of “what the hell are you doing?” was. He said something like “it makes it sweeter.” What? Needless to say that didn’t make any sense at the time. Fast forward 30 years later to a café in San Francisco where I was served a green salad garnished with sweet, juicy watermelon, crumbled feta che ese, and toasted cashews. Wow, it was amazing! What a combination of sweet, salty, juicy, creamy, crunchy, and just…mmmmm. Ah ha! I finally understood what grandfather was doing. Better late than never.

This video recipe was pieced together with footage I shot last year when I was just playing around with my new webcam. I found it and decided to add some new voice-over and show you this great salad. Yes, it’s a bit unusual, but one bite and you will be hooked. You’ll get to see and hear both sleeveless and blurry 2006 Chef John, as well as the new and improved 2007 Chef John. So, here’s the clip, a whole year in the making, as they say. Enjoy!

1 small ripe watermelon
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup toasted cashews
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
*optional garnish: some fresh mint or basil

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mo’s Bacon Bar and the Creative Process of an Avant-garde Chocolatier

In yesterday’s Halibut and Bacon post I mentioned a woman who had combined bacon with chocolate. I discovered her on a fellow foodie’s blog, Catherine’s “Chocolate and Sage.” Her name is Katrina Markoff, and she is the Owner and Founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat. This video is a lecture she gave at the TASTE3 conference which was presented at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa. In it, she explains the four step process she uses to create these very unusual chocolate collections.

Yesterday I said I found the lecture both inspirational and ridiculous. After watching it for a second time, I changed the word “ridiculous” to “perplexing.” Ridiculous sounded too negative, which wasn’t my intention. While I was truly inspired by her passion and obvious love for what she does and creates, I was sometimes lost during parts of her explanation of the process. It’s probably because I have no intentional or formal thought process with my cooking, and actually try NOT to think about what I’m doing too deeply. Anyway, I realize it’s a long lecture, but it’s worth watching, and I’d love a spirited discussion and/or debate in the comments as to what your thoughts are regarding her approach. Is she thinking too much, or am I not thinking enough? Or should we all just eat a piece of chocolate with bacon and smile?

I've posted this before, but could this Simpsons clip have been the real inspiration for this candy bar?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wild Halibut Steaks with Warm Bacon Dressing – Mmmmm….Bacon

Yes, it’s true what they say, bacon makes everything tastes better. Even bacon tastes better with bacon. Recently I saw an online lecture by a woman who makes specialty chocolates and she had actually done chocolate with bacon. So, now it’s really official, bacon goes with everything! By the way, I plan on posting her lecture, which I found equally inspiring and perplexing, but that’s for another day.

Today we’re making a very simple warm bacon dressing to go over some pan cooked halibut. With just a few ingredients, and a very simple procedure, we’re going to produce some amazingly delicious results. The smokiness of the bacon is such a great match with the meaty halibut, and the slightly sweet/sour profile of the fresh lemon and rice vinegar brings this all together. Usually at this point I tell you a few ways you can alter the recipe to match your personal tastes…forget that. Make this exactly like I show you. Enjoy!

2 halibut steaks (about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
1/2 lemon
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
4 strips of bacon
fresh parsley to taste (about 1/2 bunch for me)
salt and pepper to taste
* I served this on baby romaine, but any greens would be nice

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hello World! It’s me, Chef John…the man behind the hands

I knew this day would eventually come. I realized I couldn’t hide behind George Clooney’s photoshop’d photo forever. When I first start filming and posting cooking videos on the internet about a year ago, I made the decision to never appear on camera. I wanted to be the anti-Food Network Chef, which seemed to be more and more about the Chef, and less and less about the food and the cooking. I also found that most of the amateur cooking videos people were posting looked like audition reels for Hell’s Kitchen. So, since I wasn’t going to appear in the videos, I decided I would just remain completely anonymous. I liked that people would email asking for pictures of me. I liked being mysterious (I had never been mysterious before).

So, why show myself now? I have too. I have recently been contracted to do some “professional” cooking videos for several online outlets (to be named later), and as part of the production I must be seen introducing the recipes. Since I knew it would only be a matter of time before one of my blog visitors saw me on one of these other sites and recognized my sultry voice and nimble fingers, I decided to out myself today.

By the way, just because I’m now using my real photo on the blog, the video recipes will not change. I will still never appear in the recipes, mugging for the camera nor doing puppet shows with an oven mitt. I will not deviate from my original vision of what these videos should be about…the food.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Valerie!

One thing I am VERY careful about when it comes to authoring this blog is preventing it from becoming a “blog.” When I go to read another blog about wine pairing or Thai food, that’s what I want to read about, I don’t want to read about the blog author’s ear infection, or that their cousin just got back from Nova Scotia and wants to share some photos. So, I’ve kept this blog 99.5% about food, with the one exception of wishing my Mom and now my sister Val, a happy birthday. She is a police officer in western New York State, and I should add, a great cook in her own right! I love her famous Chicken Kiev, which is why it’s pictured at the beginning of the post. So, you thought you were going to see a Chicken Kiev video…psyche! Although, the next time I’m in NY, I will be sure to film her making this delicious, garlic butter-soaked recipe.

Since I ripped Paul McCartney’s cooking skills yesterday I thought I would show him doing something he’s good at. Here’s a video of Paul singing Happy Birthday to my sister.

Chicken Kiev photo credit

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ex-Beatle Makes Mashed Potatoes – Hey Paul, don’t quit your day job!

First it was Christopher Walken trying to horn in on my act, now I’ve got Paul McCartney doing cooking videos online! It would be very easy to make fun of this mashed potato video Paul made…so I will. As I watched, I started writing down all the mistakes, wrong information, and bad techniques I was witnessing so I could rip him in this post. But, there were just too many, so I stopped, and just enjoyed it for what it was; A shameless plug for his wife’s cookbook. Wow, she should really have reconsidered her marketing strategy. Paul, while one of the most talented musicians ever, should never be allowed in a kitchen again.

So, instead of me recapping all the ridiculous moments, why don’t you just watch and post a comment as to what were your favorite bits. Here are a few moments I really enjoyed to get you started… the oven mitt puppet show, the “organic” salt reference (when did they start using pesticides on salt?), and the seven times he almost slices his fingers off trying to peel and chop that onion. Hey, Jude, get this guy some Band-Aids!

Just in case you actually want to see how to make perfect mashed potatoes, I’ve included my mashed potato video recipe below. Enjoy!

My Version of the Perfect Mashed Potato

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Beurre Rouge – A red wine butter sauce born during that other French Revolution

Well, it happened again! I get an email asking for a red wine sauce. I reply please check the site, I’ve already posted one. They reply, oh no you didn’t. I check site and realize…oops, I never posted this clip. Excusez-moi. As usual, the standard “this is an old clip” disclaimer applies.

We all learned about the French Revolution in school. You remember, “let them eat cake,” and all that stuff. Anyway, there was another French Revolution that started in the 70’s and it had to do with French Cuisine. It was called “Nouvelle” cuisine which is simply French for "new cuisine." This style was a reaction to the classic “Haute” cuisine (meaning "high cooking"). It focused on lighter and more delicate dishes, without heavy flour-based sauces. One of the darlings of this new style was a simple butter sauce called a “beurre blanc” which was a reduction of white wine and vinegar, finished with whole butter. These lighter sauces became all the rage.

The version I’m showing today is the red wine version of the classic beurre blanc. I usually force you to get the procedure by watching the clip (multiple times, I suspect), but just this one time I’ll give you a brief procedure below, so the sauce doesn’t “break” or separate.

A couple of nice steaks
1 minced shallot
1/2 stick butter (2oz)1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste

1. Remove steaks from pan and turn off heat.
2. Add shallots with 2 tsp of the butter.
3. On low heat, sauté shallots until lightly browned.
4. Deglaze with vinegar, cook until almost evaporated.
5. Add wine and cook on med-high heat until reduced by half.
6. Turn off heat and whisk in butter, adjust for salt and pepper.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chef John’s Now “All Shook Down!”

As many of you know, I’ve been threatening lately that I might have to “get a real job” to help support this site while it continues its steady climb up the blog food chain. Of course a real job would mean less time to spend filming and, long story short, more pirated Simpson’s clips instead of delicious new video recipes. Well, that hasn’t happened yet (alright, everyone take a couple seconds and look at the donation button on the sidebar…OK, back to the post), but I have been given a great opportunity to spread my ‘food wishes’ to a larger audience.

Last week I was named “Associate Food Editor” of's daily culture website All Shook Down. I will be sharing posts, photos, and videos from this blog, as well as covering other online foodie news. I’d like to thank the SFWeekly and Village Voice Media for this great opportunity.

For those of you not familiar with the SFWeekly, it’s a great alternative newspaper in San Francisco, and required reading for anyone that wants to know what’s really going on around town. I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship. Hey, does this mean I can now get media credentials for the Press Box at the ball game? I really should do a story on those garlic fries. I’ll have to check on that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Savory Peach and Mozzarella Fresca Bruschetta on Walnut Bread – Is this the best summer hors d’oeuvre ever?

Yes, maybe it is. You saw a quick “raw” version of this pictured in the Dolores Park picnic post a few days ago. This is the “gourmet” version served on toasted walnut bread and made even more delicious with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. In this video recipe you’ll see why I am nominating this for “best summer hors d’oeuvre ever.”

Here’s my case. You don’t have to turn on the oven. You get to use up those amazingly sweet, middle of summer peaches. Anything served on toasted walnut bread is great. The combination of the sweet fruit, the nutty, crisp bread, the creamy, tangy cheese; all brought together with a drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkling of black pepper and flaky kosher salt is perfection. You just have to try it and then you can be the judge.

They are also very easy to eat in two quick bites, without making a mess, which makes them ideal for that summer patio party. Another advantage is that they can sit out for a while without deteriorating. Now, if you are turned off by the idea of putting salt and black pepper on peaches, you have to get over it. You are missing out on an incredible combination of flavors. Besides, this video recipe is just a warm up for the upcoming Watermelon and Feta salad. Enjoy!

fresh peaches (make sure you are buying “free-stone” peaches!)
mozzarella fresca
walnut bread
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Favorite Food Network Star – Alton Brown

When people hear I’m a Chef (or at least that I play one on the internet), they always ask the same two questions. What kind of food do you cook? And, who’s your favorite TV Chef? The first question’s one I can never answer, since I cook everything I can get my hands on. I never understand that first question, and usually give some smart-ass response like, “edible foods” or “the kind you buy at the market.” The second question is easy; Alton Brown. His sense of humor, his entertaining delivery, and his scientific (yet simple) approach to food is what really makes me such a big fan. Besides, his jokes and puns are almost as bad as mine!

Here is a short, and I think inspirational, interview he did on the Big Idea recently. It’s an interesting look behind the man and his show, Good Eats. Enjoy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Chili-Rubbed Pork Chops – Somewhat, but not quite Blackened

The first culinary fade I can personally remember, was the “blackened” craze of the early eighties. Led by Paul Prudhomme, one of the country’s first “celebrity” Chefs, it seemed like everyone was coating every thing in Cajun spices and cooking it in white-hot cast iron pans until black. Now, this was a really delicious method IF done correctly, at very high heat, in a professional kitchen (which has powerful exhaust fans to remove the cloud of smoke that’s invariably produced).

The problem was that everyone was trying to do blackened fish, pork, chicken, and steak at home and the results varied greatly. The smart home cooks did this outside on the BBQ and made out OK. Many however tried to simulate this “looks great on TV” dish in the kitchen and the sounds of smoke alarms rang out across the land. If fact, I have a conspiracy theory that Chef Prudhomme was “on the take” from the Smoke Alarm companies. Of course, I can’t prove any of this.

This Chili-Rubbed Pork Chop video recipe is a kinder, gentler version of the “blackened” cooking technique. We start on high heat, but cook the chops on medium, and then finish the cooking by wrapping the chops in foil. This produces a very moist chop, as the meat has time to “rest” as it finishes cooking. Also, when you unwrap the boneless chops, there will be several tablespoons of the most wonderful natural juice (or Jus for our French friends). Almost any spice mix will work with this technique so take this method and make it your own. It was a great combination with the Sweet Corn, Shiitake Mushroom and Arugula Sauté recipe we already posted. Enjoy!

2 boneless center-cut pork chops (about 7oz each, about 1 1/2 inch thick)
1 1/2 tbl vegetable oil
salt to taste
Spice Rub:
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp all spice
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ancho chili powder
cayenne to taste (optional)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Cuisine Spontané" with a View - Doing Lunch in Dolores Park

"Cuisine Spontané" is just a fancy French term for wandering around a market, without any preconceived plans, grabbing whatever looks enticing, and then heading back to the kitchen to create a meal in a sort of culinary stream of consciousness. It’s a really fun way to cook. By the way, I’m sure there are a few soccer moms out there reading this right now thinking, “wow, I do that like 5 times a week…so that’s what it’s called!” And you thought you were just rushing through the grocery store throwing things in the basket.

For my wife Michele and I, this "Cuisine Spontané" approach was applied quite deliciously to a recent picnic lunch we enjoyed in beautiful Dolores Park. It ended up being a two-course meal. The elements were picked up on 24th Street in Noe Valley, on the same walk I wrote about in the Farmers Market post.

The first course was spicy chicken served in heart of romaine lettuce cups with fresh cilantro. We bought a pint container of some wonderful stewed chicken at a small Taqueria. It was falling-apart-tender and cooked with onions and peppers in a light, but fiery, tomato and chili sauce. This location also served as the source for our plastic silverware, napkins, and a small plastic cup of chopped fresh cilantro.

We finished this two-course meal with some ‘fresh out of the oven’ walnut bread, topped with creamy Mozzarella Di Bufala Campana (Italian Buffalo Mozzarella cheese) and slices of perfectly ripe peaches from Farmer's Market. The sweet, juicy, golden peach with the snow-white, slightly tangy cheese, on the dense, nutty bread was truly amazing.

It would have been a great picnic lunch without the view, but eating with the San Francisco skyline as our backdrop just made everything taste that much better.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sweet Corn, Shiitake Mushroom and Arugula Sauté – Why does it taste like truffles?

Before I get into this recipe, and how it came to be, we have to talk about a somewhat shocking ingredient choice I made. Yes, in the middle of summer, I filmed an amazingly delicious sweet corn recipe…and used frozen corn! I already had the shiitake mushrooms and arugula for this dish, and was just about to go out and get some delicious fresh, just picked, sweet corn at the local produce market when I made the mistake of opening the freezer.

There it was, a bag a sweet corn. It had been in there for a while, so I was sure it was freezer-burned and I would just chuck it out and go. Unfortunately, I checked it and it was fine. Damn. I thought I better taste it; it’s probably not sweet. It was really sweet. Damn. So I decided to be a good, frugal Chef and use it for this recipe. The good news for you is this was so delicious with frozen corn, I can only imagine how incredible it’s going to be with freshly shucked corn!

I had this combo as a side vegetable recently and found it a very interesting combination of flavors. The earthy mushrooms, sweet corn, and slightly bitter Arugula mixed wonderfully together. In fact, as I enjoyed it with some grilled chicken, I kept smelling and tasting truffles. There was something about these three ingredients that combined to produce a truffle like flavor profile. Maybe my molecular gastronomy friends can explain why this was.

I realize that shiitake and truffles are both fungi, but it was more than that. In any case, it was really good, and I’m sure you are going to enjoy this simple and tasty vegetable dish. You vegetarians can add vegetable stock instead of chicken of course. On the other end of the spectrum, you omnivores may want to think about starting this with a little bit of bacon, before adding the mushrooms. Either way, enjoy!

2 cups fresh corn
2 cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
large handful of arugula
1 clove garlic
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbl olive oil
1/2 tsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Finding a New Farmers Market in the Greatest Food City in the World

Sorry New York, Paris, New Orleans and all other metropolises that would lay claim to that title, but when it comes to food, San Francisco has to be the most blessed place on earth. By the way, when I say “San Francisco” I mean the entire Bay Area; that includes our culinary muse (and home of the original Gourmet Ghetto) Berkeley, as well as Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Can there be any other place on earth that’s home to so many great Chefs, amazing restaurants, diverse cultural influences, and magnificent array of local ingredients.

On a sunny Saturday, in the middle of the day, in the middle of summer, in the middle of the City, I stumbled upon a Farmers Market I didn’t even know existed. My wife and I were taking a walk to a neighborhood called “Noe Valley,” for some picnic supplies. This ‘hood is known for it’s great shopping; a long stretch of small, funky shops selling all things edible and otherwise.

About halfway through our expedition I saw a modest collection of tents and booths set up in a small parking lot. As we entered the lot, I realized we were standing in a Farmers Market full of the most colorful and delicious looking fruits and vegetables I had seen all summer.

Now, I’ve been to the large downtown Farmers Markets in San Francisco hundreds of times and, always to my disappointment, have never remembered to bring my camera. So, that I happen to be carrying my camera on this particular walk, and would accidentally find this unknown-to-me market, seemed very ironic. Am I using “ironic” correctly here? I hate when people use ironic in the wrong context. Did I just do that? Someone will let me know I’m sure.

Anyway, the light was perfect, the tables were piled high, and I snapped away (in between sampling copious amounts of perfectly ripe stone fruit), getting what I think were some pretty good pictures you see throughout this post.

The peaches were perfect. The speckled red and black plums from Santa Rosa were amazing in both color and taste. The flowering basil screamed at me to make pesto. The seedless Thompson grapes, warmed by the sun called me over for a few samples as the vendor looked on wondering if I was going buy any. Next time, I promise. A serpent’s nest of heirloom cucumbers sat next to a basket of Roma tomatoes so bright they were practically glowing. I made a mental note to buy some Feta. And, no Farmer’s Market would be complete without the obligatory toy box of mixed sweet peppers.

The only photo here that wasn’t part of the market is the “just a scrumptious as it looks” fig bread. This was from the Noe Valley Bakery a few blocks away. I’ve been buying this fig bread for over a decade, always serving it with a ripe Cambazola cheese and fresh strawberries. And with that last shot, I put away the camera, and we headed toward our picnic in Dolores Park. Thank you San Francisco. After all these years you still manage to surprise and seduce me in the most unexpected and wonderful ways.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Broiled Salmon glazed with Romesco Sauce – aka Salmon glazed with “whatever”

Today’s video recipe will expose one of the great faux-gourmet tricks of all time. In the back of everyone’s refrigerator there is usually a collection of dressings, sauces and condiments. Many are almost gone, containing just a few tablespoons, yet you just couldn’t bring yourself to throw it away the last time you cleaned out the fridge. Thank goodness you didn’t! These last few spoons of “whatever” spread on some fresh wild salmon filets and then glazed under a hot broiler can produce some amazing “gourmet” results.

In this video recipe I used one of my favorite condiments, Romesco sauce, which is a spicy Spanish roasted red pepper and almond pesto type mixture. You may have seen me use this in a delicious stuffed summer squash recipe a while back. But, as you’ll hear me say in the clip, this can be done with almost anything; salad dressings like balsamic or lemon pepper, almost any aioli or mayo based sauce, any style bbq sauce, even pesto or olive tapenade will work. Since salmon goes so well with so many flavor profiles you have lots of options. The only thing to be careful with would be something that has a very high sugar content, which may burn before the salmon is cooked, since we are broiling the fish. If you do use something like a honey mustard dressing, you may want to cook it a little further away from the heat.

After watching this recipe, please, go out and buy some wild salmon (frozen is fine!) and go hunting in the back of your fridge. I would love to read your comments on what you found and used and how it came out. Enjoy!


2 six ounce salmon filets
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbl of romesco sauce, or “whatever”
*broil under high heat for 6-10 minutes until sauce is glazed on and salmon is cooked

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The One That Got Away

This is what an artichoke looks like when it somehow eludes the Chef's clippers and gets to flower. These delicious “vegetables” are nothing more than the large flowering buds of a thistle plant (Cynara scolymus). It is not uncommon in San Francisco to see them planted as ornamentals. I’m not sure if “pretty” is the right adjective; “interesting” is probably more like it. Personally, I prefer mine much younger, and served with a garlic aioli.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Glazed Peaches – A Perfect Pairing in 2 Parts

Ahh, the perfectly ripe peach. My momentary guilt for not just eating it raw was quickly forgotten as soon as I tasted this amazing sweet and savory summer combo. By the way, this was filmed last summer before I even thought about wearing a Chef coat while shooting (thanks mom). So, that’s me in the lime green Polo shirt cooking this truly delicious recipe. This was one of the first recipes I ever filmed for the web (insert standard lower video quality disclaimer here), and it’s still one of my favorites. This was actually posted here back in May, when I converted a bunch of older clips over to this blog, but since peaches weren't in season yet, I doubt too many people payed much attention.

Everything on this plate works so well together, and it’s also a very easy recipe with just a few ingredients. While I used a fresh, ripe peach, jarred or canned halves will work in a pinch. This juicy fruit is first caramelized with aged balsamic vinegar and then used in a salad sitting next to sliced, roasted pork tenderloin. As you’ll hear in the recipe I refer to another meat trimming demo (how to trim a butcher steak), as I remove the “silver-skin” from the tenderloins. Don’t bother looking around the site for that, as it no longer exists, although I plan re-shooting that one soon. I also prepare a very simple pan sauce to finish this amazing dish. This recipe demo is broken into 2 parts because of its length. In Part 1, we make our glazed balsamic peaches, and prep our pork tenderloin. We also “bruise” some rosemary …hey, that fragrant rosemary had it coming! In Part 2, we finish the pork, make our pan sauce, and “plate up” with our glazed peaches and salad. If you’ve only used peaches for summertime desserts, give this a try. You will think about our fuzzy friends in a whole new way. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

whole pork tenderloin (not loin)
3-4 rosemary sprigs
Black pepper and salt to taste
2 fresh peaches
2 tbl butter
2 tbl aged balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
olive oil
mixed greens
slice of toast to garnish

Note: If you are using fresh peaches make sure you get the "freestone" variety, not the "clingstone.” For more info on the difference, click this link to wikipedia.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Turkey Chili – Mooooooove over Chuck!

The recently posted Garbage Plate video generated the most comments and emails of any clip I’ve done so far. That wasn’t surprising due to the shocking nature of that dish. What I did find amusing though was the several requests I got that asked for my Chili recipe so that viewers could make the Garbage Plate at home. So, I decided to show this very easy, and quite delicious, Turkey Chili.

As you’ve heard me say in many clips and posts, the main reason people don’t cook at home is the prep work required. While most people enjoy cooking, they just don’t enjoy all the slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing. So, I try to compose these recipes so that they require the least amount of work possible. This one is a good example; except for chopping an onion and a few cloves of garlic, you are pretty much just stirring a few times, and listening to this tasty chili simmer away.

Feel free to make this same recipe using beef (ground chuck being the best choice). But, I’ve been using ground turkey in my chili for a while now, and enjoy it almost as much as the higher fat beef version. I’ve heard Chefs on TV say, “This turkey chili tastes just like one made with beef!” No it doesn’t. Why? Because a turkey isn’t a cow. I know, a shocking revelation! Ground turkey just doesn’t have the same fat content and texture of a nice ground chuck, so we have to do a few tricks to counter this. We’re going to cook it for a long time so that the turkey is as soft and succulent as possible. I also served mine with some beautifully ripe slices of avocado that gives the final bowl another layer of silky richness. By the way, don’t let the cocoa powder in our chili spice mixture throw you off! It’s only a small amount and it really works. Enjoy!

2 1/2 lbs ground turkey
2 cans pinto beans (12oz cans)
1 cup tomato puree
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic
1 onion
Secret Chili Spice Mix:
1/4 cup ancho chili powder
1 tbl cumin
1 1/2 tsp chipotle
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbl paprika
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
*my chili was garnished with sour cream, diced jalapeno, cilantro and avocado

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Easy Cheesy Potatoes – If you think the name is bad, wait until you see the video quality!

Warning: this is a clip from last year, shot with my web cam, and was never posted here with the other “bad old” clips due to audio problems. I had a few fans of my original blog asking for it (demanding to be more accurate), so I simply did a new voiceover and decided to post it as is.

This video’s horrible production value (I almost called this post “The Blair Witch Potato”) is more than made up for in that this really is a great recipe and technique. I really love potato gratins, but the thing I don’t enjoy, especially when I’m in a hurry is the slicing and layering. This video recipe shows you a shortcut method to achieve a very similar final product with much less work. You’ll have to watch to see how this is achieved since I don’t want to spoil the suspense and tension of the clip (unlike “Blair Witch” which we all knew was staged, and there weren’t really any ghosts).

You can use any cheese in this dish, of course, but I think a nice sharp cheddar is the way to go. I used a beautiful hunk of English Farmhouse Cheddar and it was great. Especially with the apple and shallot reduction that went over the pork loin I served with these potatoes. Also, I used low fat 1% milk for this dish. I would resist the temptation to use cream in this, as I think it makes it this recipe too rich. Enjoy!


6 russet potatoes
2 cups milk
3 green onions
6 oz. cheddar cheese
4 tbl butter
salt and pepper to taste

*Bake at 400F until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Garlic, Fennel and Orange Grilled Chicken Thighs – When your brain wants Chicken, but your heart wants Italian Sausage

You’re about to see a delicious culinary compromise. I was craving some grilled Italian sausage, but had a package of chicken thighs in the fridge waiting for me to grill them. What to do? My Uncle Bill (he of the now famous homemade pasta and chicken D’Arduini video recipes) makes a great Italian sausage scented with fennel, garlic and a touch of orange zest. He makes these before Christmas, cures them in his cellar, and cooks them on Christmas Eve after Midnight Mass. They are sublime. So, that’s really what I wanted, but as I said I had chicken to work with. I decided to use the same basic flavors to marinade the chicken to see if I could impart some of the magic of those sausages I was dreaming about.

Did it work? Yes and no. The chicken turned out to be very delicious. Anything grilled on a fire, after being marinated in garlic, fennel and orange is going to taste great, so on that level it was a great success. The only problem was it made me crave my Uncle’s sausage even more! By the way, if you’re wondering how I prepped my grill so the skinless chicken wouldn’t stick, go check out the Tandoori Chicken video recipe clip. Also, I like to garnish grilled meat dishes like this with the same fresh herb that I use in its dry form in the marinade. Since there was some dried oregano in the Italian herb mix, I finished my platter with some beautiful flowering oregano. This is just another great reason to plant some herbs, whether it’s in your backyard, rooftop, or windowsill. Enjoy!

10 boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 cloves garlic
1/2 orange, zest and juice
1 1/2 tbl kosher salt
1 tbl dried Italian herb mix (oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, thyme)
1 tbl sweet paprika
1 tbl black pepper
2 tbl fennel seed
1 tbl olive oil

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Black Mission Figs, over a Fire, under the Fog

It was one of those San Francisco evenings when the fog comes in disguised as a light mist. Easier to feel than see, I could hear its tiny sizzle as it slowly floated down onto my quickly dying coals.

The flank steak had been grilled and was resting, but my work was not over. I had fresh figs to grill before the damp evening claimed my fire. Not just any figs; deep dark purple, perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy Mission figs.

A drip of olive oil moistening their soft skins, on the grill they went. As the heat from the glowing embers began to expand the soft interiors, the surface of the figs tightened and became shiny. Soon small cracks appeared, and the sound of their sweet syrup dripping into the coals told me they were done.

Back inside the steak was sliced thin and scattered atop a tangle of wild arugula. The still warm figs joined the plate, as did a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. A grind of black pepper and pinch of sea salt were the only garnishes needed. We ate in smiling silence as the fog disappeared into the darkness. There is no video record of this extraordinary meal. Some things are better left to the mind’s eye.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Fire-roasting Peppers – Beauty is way more than skin deep!

Today’s clip is a very basic kitchen technique on roasting and dicing a bell pepper. While you may have seen it done on TV before, I want to make sure you understand that you should be doing much more than simple burning off the skin. Every time I see this demonstrated, the chef simple blackens the pepper and removes the skin, either by rinsing or scraping. The problem, as I’ll explain in the video recipe, is that the skin blackens fairly quickly, while the pepper is still uncooked. I believe that you not only want to remove the skin, but you also want to roast the pepper over the fire to soften the texture and sweeten the flesh. Also, the little trick I show you at the end on how to get “diamonds” instead of the boring old squares is a nice technique to add to your rapidly expanding repertoire.

Now a special message for all my fans that have electric stoves…I’m Sorry. You can’t do this on an electric burner. You can sort of do it under the electric broiler, but it’s not as easy. You’ll just have to go outside and fire up the old grill. If you’re just doing one or two, you could use your Crème Brulee torch. Or, the next time your visiting your friend with the gas range you can bring along a bag of peppers. I’m sure they won’t mind at all. Finally, if you get my Bobby Flay joke in the middle of this video, then you watch way too much FoodTV. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Food Wishes - The Highest Ranked Blog in the World!!

That’s right, and the screen shot I took of the Technorati blog ranking stats proves it! Part of my usual weekend site admin duties is going over to Technorati to check my blog’s rank. You can imagine my excitement when I realized I was now the author of the top ranked blog in the world. Well, that didn’t take long. I guess I better call my broker and begin discussing my IPO.

The blog has been climbing steadily in rank ever since I first began tracking these statistics a few months ago. Back then, Food Wishes was ranked like 120,000th. At first, I was kind of depressed that after all the hard work I hadn’t even cracked the top hundred thousand blogs. But when I saw that the total number of tracked blogs was an amazing 71 million I felt a lot better, since that put me well within the top 1%. Last week when I checked I had climbed to the 70,000th ranked blog. So, I figured at that rate of ascent it was only a matter of time before I took over the top spot. I just didn’t think I would pass 70,000 blogs in one week.

Well, much to my chagrin, I soon found out that Technorati was doing some type of site maintenance and that every blog in the world was given the top ranking for a few minutes. When they finished their work I saw my real rank; a respectable and still rapidly climbing 60,930. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fava Beans 101 – Inside the “Russian Nesting Doll” of the Bean Family

It’s a shame when people don’t get to experience some great culinary pleasure simply because they don’t know how to work with the product. Fava beans, also called Broad Beans, or Horse Beans, are a good example of that. These beans are a favorite of Chefs worldwide because of their beautiful color and unique flavor. Unfortunately, for the average grocery store, or vegetable stand shopper, they are just those big, ugly, green pods that get passed over for the more familiar green string beans. I hope after watching this demo (and the next video recipe to follow) that you will run out and buy a big pile of these wonderful beans and begin to enjoy them, as they deserve to be. If you don’t find them at the grocery store, check the local farmer’s market.

Yes, as you’ll see, there is a little bit of work involved in preparing these beans for whatever recipe you are planning to use them in, but when you consider how delicious they are, it’s definitely worth the effort. I compared them in the title to Russian Dolls since the part of the bean you eat is actually a seed that is encased in a think skin, which is encased in a large green pod. Once liberated, these Fava beans are an incredible addition to so many dishes. They can be eaten plain, added to pastas, risottos, soups, or in salads, as I use them in the next demo. This clip is really just part one, of a two part video recipe. In the next video I’ll combine them with butter beans, roasted peppers, garlic, lemon and mint to create a cold bean salad so delicious it defies description. So, stay tuned for that. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

My sources in LA tell me that when actor Christopher Walken heard that a certain George Clooney look-a-like was doing cooking videos online, he became enraged and demanded his personal assistant film him making his “famous” roast chicken and pears. And to think, all this time I thought Mr. Walken was a great actor. After seeing this surreal and somewhat disturbing cooking clip, I realized that he hasn’t been acting at all. He really is the creepy, monotone-voiced character we’ve seen him play all these years.

What’s even worse than this guy blatantly stealing my act, is the fact he cuts off the video just as a cat jumps up on the counter and heads for the chicken. What happened next? Is there going to be a sequel? By the way, on the very rare chance Mr. Walken sees this (or his people see it and call my people), I’d like to say I’m just kidding and please don’t hurt me.