Thursday, December 31, 2009

Have a Safe and Very Happy New Year!

I want to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! May 2010 bring you an embarrassment of culinary riches. 2009 was a great year for the blog, and with your help and support, this new year promises to be even more exciting. Thanks! And, enjoy!

Don't Drink and Drive!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cream of Mushroom Soup – Pure Liquid Moon-Soaked Earth

I can't believe I haven't posted a video recipe for cream of mushroom soup! It's such a classic cool weather staple, and quite simple to make – as long as you have a few hours to spare.

The secret to this deep rich potage is a long slow caramelization, the key to unlocking the mushroom's magic. Oh, and by the way, I mean that literally. Mushrooms are by far the most mysterious and magical things we eat.

Scientists still don't really understand how and why they grow like they do. While every other food you eat gets its energy from the sun, Agaricus bisporus, the common button mushroom, does not. Some believe mushrooms are powered by the moon, which I find fascinating to contemplate.

This is a very minimalist formula, and meant to transform the browned bits of fungus into pure earthy essence of mushroom. You can use whatever exotic mushrooms you can get a hold of, but it works quite well with the ubiquitous white button mushroom. Enjoy!

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 pounds white or brown button mushrooms, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 rounded tbsp flour
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied into a bundle with kitchen string, plus some picked leaves to garnish
2 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
4 cups chicken broth or stock
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cioppino's Not Cheapino, But Totally Worth It!

When you feel like splurging a little – maybe for that exclusive New Year's Eve party you're putting together – San Francisco's famous Cioppino is a great choice.
This spicy fish and shellfish stew is a big red bowl of yummy, and when paired with a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, it's downright otherworldly.
There are as many versions for Cioppino as there are tourist traps on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf (if you're visiting our city, you've been warned…do not waste your money on an expensive meal down there!).

Some versions use red wine, some white. Some feature a thin broth, while others are so thick you could stand your spoon up in it. They usually all have some type of crab and shrimp, but any and all combinations of seafood are used. As I say in the video, this is not the Cioppino recipe; it's a Cioppino recipe.

I've seriously never made it the same way twice, which is how a recipe like this should be treated. I want you to watch and learn the basic steps, but then go forth, adapt, and find your own expression of Cioppino bliss.

Any serious arguments in the comments as to what should, or should not, appear in a Cioppino will be met with the usual indignation. When it comes to Cioppino, there are two ways to make it – the way you make it, and the wrong way. Enjoy!

2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon butter
1 rib celery, fine dice
1 onion, large dice
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups white wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can (28-oz) tomato puree, tomato sauce, or plum tomatoes crushed by hand
2 cups water, clam juice or fish stock, more as needed to adjust thickness
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
5-6 thin slices of lemon
1 cooked Dungeness crab (about 2-lbs), cracked and cleaned, or 1-lb frozen crabmeat thawed
12 oz fresh cod, cut into 1-in pieces or any other white fish
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound fresh mussels
1/2 cup chopped fresh herb (usually Italian parsley and/or basil, tarragon, or any combination)

View the complete recipe

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Just Call Me Butter, Because I'm on a Roll

Help Wanted! As some of you already know, I'm putting together an American cookbook for Parragon Publishing. If you'd like to help, I'll be posting a series of photos from recipes being produced for the book, and I'd love to have some of you loyal readers testing them.

Beneath the photo, you'll see a link to the written recipe on my American Food site, where the recipes are also being published. Since I'll be doing so many recipes, I'll also be posting a couple videos a week from the collection, but I really want to know if the instructions in the recipes work even without seeing them.

Click here to try this Classic Dinner Rolls Recipe. Please report back! Thanks and enjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays Foodwishers!

I want to wish all of you and your families a very happy holiday and fantastic New Year! I can't thank you enough for visiting and contributing to the site this year. Every day you help me keep the dream alive – the dream of a self-supporting, free video recipe blog where cooks of all skill levels can come to watch, listen, learn and enjoy.

As you enjoy your holiday feasts, take a few moments to look around the table and remind yourself what a magical effect great food has on people. Hopefully it will inspire you to reach even greater culinary heights in 2010.

Michele and I will be taking a little break for the Christmas holiday, but I'll be back soon – filming, posting, and hopefully making some of your food wishes come true. Enjoy!!

Peace and Love,
Chef John

Photo (c) Flickr user kevindooley

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Candied Bacon – Sweet Savory Strips of Party Food Perfection

I got the idea for making these from a guy named Rod Brooks, who hosts a sports talk show on KNBR, here in San Francisco.

Ironically, I was on my way to the gym when I heard hi
m talking about a party he recently hosted, and for an appetizer he had simply set out bowls of cooked bacon. Genius.

I decided to take that idea and make it a little more holiday-ish by candying the strips of fatty pork. Let's face it, the holidays are all about t
aking our favorite things: sports, drinking, toys, food, etc., and enjoying them in seasonally acceptable levels of excess.As I mention in the video, candied bacon is much more than a neat party favor. It makes the best BLT ever, and would make any plate of eggs so much more memorable.

One tip I forgot to mention in the clip – line your pan with foil! The caramelized bacon drippings are a little tough to wash off! Enjoy.

1 pound thick center-cut bacon
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp rice vinegar
black pepper to taste

View the complete recipe

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pop Fewer Buttons this Holiday with a Few Tips from Snack Girl

My friend Lisa from Snack Girl sent me this short video with some of her holiday party survival techniques. Apparently my "eat as much as you can at the beginning of the party to stretch your stomach" strategy is not the best approach! For more info, you can check out Lisa's website (warning: she a Ph.D., so watch your grammar).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Clams Casino – It's Not Gambling, if You Know You're Going to Win

Last month I saw a breathtakingly beautiful clams casino photo (lower right) by the one and only Jaden Hair from Steamy Kitchen.

They were so sexy
, so tantalizing, so enticing, I was literally salivating at the thought of slurping one down. It was pure food porn on the half shell.

Clams casino is one of my all-time favorite things to eat, and Jaden's post had me wondering why it had been so long since I'd made some. I decided a video recipe for this American classic was in order, especially since we’re in the heart of the holiday party season.

Not only is clams casino an easy recipe to prepare, it can be made ahead of time and popped into the broiler whenever you're ready.

The ethereal combination of butter, garlic, bacon, and clams is ridiculously delicious. Make a few trays of these, put some champagne on ice, and get ready to hear a whole lot of "what a great party!"

Thanks to Jaden for the idea, and for letting me post her luscious photo. You can check out her clams casino post here, and get another steamy take on this great appetizer. Enjoy!

12 medium-sized (about 2 1/2-inches) littleneck clams
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 strips center-cut bacon, each sliced into 6 equal pieces
2 tablespoon finely diced red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of salt
chopped flat leaf parsley
lemon wedges
rock salt as needed

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Tease for Two

Here are a couple photos from some upcoming videos, and yes, good guess, they both feature bacon as one of the main ingredients. Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Seed a Pomegranate – There Will NOT Be Blood

I was going to repost my famous "Secret Underwater Pomegranate Trick" video, but the video quality was so horrible (it was one of my first how-to videos) I decided to re-shoot it with the new SLR camera. I'm so glad I did! It looks amazing, if I do say so myself.

There is nothing quite like the sweet/tart explosion of a pomegranate kennel, but so many people avoid this great holiday fruit because of the mess associated with liberating the jewel-like seeds. This video should take care of that.

Any winter salad becomes extra special with a scattering of
pomegranate seeds, and they're also a natural for garnishing all kinds of desserts – pomegranate cheesecake anyone? I really hope you give this technique a try. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Salmon Hash – the Perfect Breakfast for a Jet-lagged Chef

I was so tired from flying cross-country last night, there was just no way I was going to have a fresh, new video to post today. So, I was very happy when I realized I'd saved this salmon hash recipe shot for

I really, really love traditional corned beef hash. It's on my short list of potential "last meals." There are few things sexier than the yolk of a perfectly cooked poached egg slowly flowing over and into a crusty corned beef hash.
The problem is, a steady diet of corned beef hash and poached eggs for breakfast may bring about this "last meal" much more quickly than one would prefer. So, as a more heart-friendly alternative I offer you this recipe. Enjoy!

Note: This video was shot for, so when you click on the video below, you'll be taken to the recipe page there (complete with transcript and ingredients).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (and by open fire, I mean closed oven)

Hello from freezing, icy, snowy, rainy, windy Western New York. I haven’t posted anything in an unprecedented three days, and I'm getting a little shaky, so I was glad that this chestnut video I did for went live.

I've been super busy finishing the final book plan for my American cookbook, and I'm happy to report I've just made my deadline! I'm flying back to San Francisco tomorrow and should have things back to normal soon. In the meantime, here's a quick tutorial for roasting chestnuts – a delicious and very traditional Christmas treat. Enjoy!

Note: This video was shot for, so when you click on the video below, you'll be taken to the recipe page there.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Polish Grandmothers and the Pure Joy of Pierogi

I like cheese, I love pasta, and I adore mashed potatoes, so you can image the pure bliss I experience when I get to eat pierogi. They very well may be my favorite non-meat food.

Pierogi are a classic Eastern European potato and cheese stuffed dumpling traditionally made for festivals and celebrations.

There are thousands of versions using different fillings, dough, and garnis
hes, but this one made for an assignment is fairly typical.

Above and beyond the ingredients, there are also many different ways to engineer the dish. You can make a few big ones, or lots of tiny ones (guess which is easier). You can use lots of stuffing, or just a little. You can boil and toss in melted butter, or you can fry to get a crispy crust as I did here.

My grandmother Sophie, on my father's side of the family, was from Poland, and every time we would drive to New York for a visit, the highlight of the trip was a big plate of her pierogi.

The fact that the trip was seven hours, in the back of a station wagon, in the middle of summer, with no air conditioning, with my father chain-smoking the entire trip, did nothing to diminish my joyous anticipation.

I hope you give these pierogi a try. These would make a great snowy, or rainy day project, and they can be made ahead and fr
ozen for future use. Enjoy!

Note: This video was shot for, so when you click on the video below, you'll be taken to the recipe page there.

1 pound russet potato
1/2 diced onion
2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 egg
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
1 cup flour, plus more as needed

Butter to fry in, sour cream and chive to garnish

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chew Chew Train

A friend I met in Colorado sent me this video link showing Chef Ned Archibald's "Chocolateville." Ned's the pastry chef at Keystone Resort, and every year builds this town from thousands of pounds of chocolate.

My father was a train conductor, and when I was a kid I always wanted to build a huge toy train set-up complete with little town and all the fixings. Of course, the fact that this one's made with chocolate, and lives in a resort surrounded by powdery snow sort of completes the fantasy for me.

By the way, my mother Pauline is doing much better after her shoulder surgery, and I'll be heading back to San Francisco on Dec. 14th. Thanks to everyone who sent their regards and good wishes!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Discount Coupons Available at OpenSky – Just Tell Them Chef John Sent You

I just found out that if you register your email at OpenSky by midnight on Wednesday, you'll receive coupons ranging from $15 to $100 off and 10% to 50% off.

To take advantage, go to the OpenSky Holiday Promotion Page, and when you register enter CHEFJOHN as your favorite shopkeeper.

I've been told every user will receive a coupon, but the first 50 people to sign up using the code above will get a Premium Coupon.

OpenSky is a new online shopping site where I've been invited to be a shopkeeper. You can read a little more about it in this post. My store is still being stocked, but there are lots of great stores already up and running, and the coupons will work in any of them. Enjoy!

Photo credit (c) Flickr user desi.italy

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This Arroz Con Pollo Recipe (Chicken and Rice) Could Save Your Life

I wake up in a strange kitchen with no windows. I have no idea how I got there. All the doors are locked. I am alone. There is a note on a nearby table.

"You're to cook dinner for six people tonight, using anything in this fully stocked kitchen. You will not be told who'll be eating your food, or even what country you are in.

When it's ready, ring the bell on the table, and then lock yourself in the room at the back of the kitchen. There's a selection of old People Magazines for you to read while you wait.

If they enjoy your offering, you will wake up back in your San Francisco kitchen with no memory of this evening. If they do not like what you've made, you'll be terminated."

Well, that's just great – and I never even got to see the first season of Mad Men. Okay, so the preceding science fiction scenario is a little far-fetched, but if that were my predicament, what would I prepare? That's a no-brainer –Arroz Con Pollo, also known as Chicken and Rice.
Everybody likes chicken and rice. Just about every major culture has some sort of version of this archetypal recipe (by the way, people from minor cultures please save your emails). This is pure down-to-the-bone comfort food that I'm sure my mysterious captors would love. In fact, I'd bet my life on it. Enjoy!

Tech Note: This video recipe was filmed a while ago on my regular, non-awesome HD equipment. I used to think this stuff looked pretty good, but now, not so much.

Note: To see how I cut up a chicken into serving size pieces, watch this Buttermilk Fried Chicken video recipe!

1 whole chicken, cut in serving pieces
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/3 cup sliced green olives
2 tbsp capers
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tsp fine table salt)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups white long grain rice
4 cups chicken broth

Friday, December 4, 2009

An 18-Minute Lecture on Spaghetti Sauce?

My buddy Lenny from ChezUs turned me on to this video lecture by Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell on the subject of spaghetti sauce and the nature happiness. I've used these TED Conference videos before when traveling to pick up the slack in content, and always find them fascinating. I hope you do as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Exclusive: December Wikio Food and Wine Blog Rankings

Clara Chappaz, the US Community Manager at Wikio, has given me an exclusive opportunity to reveal the December Wikio Top 10 Health Blogs, before their official publication date. Food Wishes comes in at a very respectable number 17! Thanks for your continued interest and support.

Here are the Wikio Top 20 Food and Wine Blogs for December:
2Diner's journal by Frank Bruni - New York Times

3Ed Levine Eats
5Eater LA
6Eater SF
7Wine Library TV
8101 Cookbooks
10Eating L.A.
11The Girl Who Ate Everything
12The Amateur Gourmet
13Serious Eats New York
14Kalyn's Kitchen
15Starbucks Gossip
17Food Wishes Video Recipes
18Baking Bites
19Not Eating Out in New York
20Bay Area Bites

Wikio Blogs

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Oven Smoked" Pulled Pork Shoulder: Featuring SFQ – The Original San Francisco-Style Barbecue Sauce

Pulled pork shoulder is such an easy recipe, and a great item to enjoy with your SFQ, that I wanted to get this video up before I left for New York. As some of you know I'm headed out to help my mom for a little while and won't have an opportunity to post much from there.

The conventional method for cooking pork shoulder is low and slow, but this recipe is really low and slow – like 210 degrees F. low and 12 hours slow. The result is an incredibly soft and succulent piece of pork, perfect for pulling.

Since I don't have a smoker (at the time of this posting), and most of you don't either, I thought I would show you a little trick I would have learned in the Army had I enlisted. As you'll see, I cook the pork in a covered Dutch oven with a couple of ramekins of water into which I've added a small amount of liquid smoke.

I've never been a big liquid smoke guy, but this method seems to scent the meat with a nice subtle smokiness without getting in the way. The extra moisture also allows for a very humid cooking environment, always a good things when doing pork shoulder. Enjoy!

3 1/2 lb pork shoulder roast
3-4 tbsp dry rub
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
SFQ barbecue sauce as needed

Monday, November 30, 2009

Maryland Crab Cakes – The Good News is They're Almost All Crab, and the Bad News is They're Almost All Crab

This video recipe for Maryland crab cakes is the first official full-length clip posted using the new Canon HD SLR camera. In addition to watching what I hope you find to be a delicious looking crab cake recipe, I would also like to know if you have any suggestions for the video specs.

I saved this in iMovie at a size of 1280 x 720 HD, set at 24 frames per second. It looks good, but a little "jumpy." Would 30 frames per second be better? I also saved it at "High" quality, not "Best," which would have made th
e movie like 800 MB!

Anyway, back to the food! This video will hopefully show you what crab cakes
are supposed to be like. A real crab cake is basically a fried lump of crabmeat, held together with a minimum of filler.

As I explain in the video, this makes shaping them a little challenging, but once they are in the pan and browned on both sides, they are far superior on every level. Your basic restaurant crab cake is probably less than 40% crabmeat, which is why they are generally tough and bready.

These are closer to 75% crab, which is a blessing and a curse. Since the crab content is so high, you really can't make these unless you have a nice pile of super fresh, sweet, high-quality crab. Even using the correct technique, these special occasion appetizers will only be as good as the crabmeat used.

So if you can't get real lump crabmeat consider this video recipe food porn. Watch, enjoy, and just imagine yourself in the scene. However, if you can get your claws on some fresh crab, give these cakes a try. Enjoy!

1 pound fresh crabmeat, the lumpier the better, well drained
8 saltine crackers
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt to taste
cayenne pepper, optional
butter for frying

View the complete recipe

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to give a sincere thanks to all you smart, funny, interesting, dedicated (and I'm sure very attractive) readers of this blog. You make publishing this blog the wonderful pleasure it is, and thanks to your support 2010 promises to be Food Wishes' best year ever!

Don't be afraid to eat and drink a little too much today. Remember, you can always burn it off by watching football on the couch later. Enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Huckleberry Jam – Possibly in HD!

I finally got a new camera! A beautiful Canon T1i (thanks for the advice Danielle!). I've been dying to improve the still photography on the blog, as well as have something that can take decent low-light plate shots with when I'm in restaurants.

When I got home from the store I went immediately to YouTube to get some tutorials for using it. Thankfully there were lots of photographers who had posted videos on what all the buttons do (so many buttons), as well as some pretty good SLR photography basics.

It was during this initial research that I discovered something wonderful and unexpected. My new camera apparently has a really nice HD video feature! Bonus. So this quick and sticky video recipe for huckleberry jam was basically done as a test to see how much better the quality would be.

In addition to not really knowing how to make jam (I just winged it from memory of one I made like 15 years ago), I have very little experience with HD anything. Some folks on YouTube already commented on the video, regarding how to save the video in iMovie to take advantage of the higher resolution. I saved it at 640 x 480, but have been told I need to save it at 1280 x 720.

I know I also have to change the movie settings to letterbox to match the camera's video dimensions. If any of you former A/V clubbers want to chime in with recommendations for using this camera for HD video, I'd love to hear it! Thanks and enjoy!

1 quart berries
4 cups sugar
1/2 lemon
1 box pectin powder (1.75 oz)

* You should refer to the box directions for best results. I was more interested in the camera, and so I just made this from memory. It tastes great, but at the time of this posting it hadn't chilled long enough to analyze the firmness, or lack there of.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What is Up?

I wanted to do a brief post today to get you up to date on all the newest developments, and also to give you a heads-up on my plans for the holidays.

I Guess They'll Let Anyone Write a Cookbook!

If you follow me on Twitter you probably know, but I'm officially announcing here on the blog that I've signed an agreement with Parragon Publishing to do a cookbook!

If everything goes as planned, it will
eventually be four cookbooks , all focusing on American food (or at least what I consider American food).

I can’t give any firm dates or titles yet, but you will be the first to know. In a
ddition to the regular distribution channels, I'll be able to sell them here for a special discount price, only available to my loyal Food Wishes fans. Stay tuned for more info in the coming months.

The Open Sky Project

I was contacted recently by an ecommerce start-up call Open Sky, and asked if I would b
e interested in being a "Shopkeeper" for their Home & Garden category. Their mission statement is "to connect consumers to experts and the products they love and use." Since I get so many emails about what products I use and recommend, I decided to go for it.

My Open Sky store is just getting started, and they only have a few products sourced so far, but eventually you will be able to find a wide range of my favorite kitchen and cooking-related products. By the way, the shopkeepers are given a share of the revenue, but NOT paid to endorse specific products.

One reason I decided to get involved was the company's founder is John
Caplan, who was one of the founders of They've also signed on some very high-profile foodies including one of my blogger role models, Michael Ruhlman. Stay tuned!

Now Warming Up in the Bullpen…

My mother Pauline is having some work done to her shoulder in a few weeks, so I'll be traveling to New York to help her out, and steal more of her recipes. I keep telling her she is too old to become the first female short reliever for the Yankees, but she just won't listen. She thinks this surgery will add at
least 5 mph to her fastball, and who am I to argue.

SFQ and a Very Special Surprise Package

I will make the official announcement on Cyber Monday, but this year's "please send me some money because I'm going broke doing free videos" holiday gift offering will include a sneak preview of my wife Michele's soon to be famous San Francisco-style barbecue sauce, SFQ. The package will also include a small wooden bonus gift that will be sure to cause a "stir" (literally, that's your clue).

Last year many of you supported the site by forking over your hard earned cash and purchased the Food Wish Favorites Vol. 1 DVD, containing 12 recipe videos that you could have watched for free online. I hope we can expect the same fantastic effort this year. It makes a huge difference. Stay tuned!

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

If you've been following the blog for a while you know things always slow down a little bit around the holidays. That will certainly be the case this year, especially with the unexpected travel back east, the cookbook project, gift package sales, and all the other normal holiday distractions. So, if you see a few days go by in between posts, do not be alarmed! I'm fine. Just really busy. Enjoy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Red Curry Butternut Squash – When it Comes to Side Dishes, the Food Gods Hate a Coward

As you decide on what to include in your fabulous array of vegetable side dishes for the upcoming holiday feasts, keep one thing in mind. No guts, no glory. For some reason, normally adventurous cooks when faced with a house full of hungry relatives, play scared.

It's probably driven by the desire to want everyone to enjoy everything (you know that's impossible, right?). Serving something too exotic just doesn't seem prudent. I take a different approach. Since these holiday meals are one of the rare times we get to serve multiple side dishes, I think it's the perfect occasion for springing a surprise or two.

This lovely red curry butternut squash certainly fits the bill. Sweet, spicy, and mysterious – this turkey-friendly side dish won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for those at the table that let it work its magic, it promises to be one of their favorite parts of the meal.
Like I said, there are plenty of other side dishes on hand, so even if the worse case scenario happens and everyone from little Billy to Grandma Jean agrees this is the worst squash dish ever, so what? There are seven more sides to pick up the slack. Besides, after the third bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau who's really going to care?

If you've never worked with red curry before, be careful. It's really spicy, and you can always add more as it cooks. To be safe, you can even cut my measurements in half for the spices and then adjust. I hope you give this interesting butternut squash side dish a try. Enjoy!

3-4 pounds butternut squash, peeled cut in 1-inch cubes
1 bunch green onions
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp red curry powder (I used McCormick)
1 tsp red curry paste (I used Taste of Thai)
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
1 rounded tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce (or sub to-taste with soy sauce or salt)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
*adjust for salt and heat before serving

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do You Feel Lucky? Well, Do You? Carnation Evaporated Milk's Loaded Potato Potluck Favorite

I'm not sure how popular potluck dinners are these days. You don't hear the term as often as you used to. Maybe it's our litigious society… "Hey, your baked beans made me sick, you own me one billion dollars," or maybe it's just not called a potluck anymore.

Potluck was kind of an odd name, implying that you would be damn lucky to get anything edible. Well, this loaded potato casserole recipe from Carnation Evaporated Milk would certainly improve everyone's odds of getting at least one thing that was delicious.

Who doesn't like a loaded potato? I mean, besides people that don't eat cheese and/or bacon. This super simple, but ultra satisfying retro American classic is sure to make your fellow potluckers smile.

Since this video was sponsored by Carnation, I followed their original recipe pretty much exactly, but this type of casserole screams out for personal customization, so feel free to jazz it up as you see fit. Enjoy!

A Message from the Sponsor:

It's that time of year when we’re all looking for a little more inspiration in the kitchen. You’ll find plenty of that in this Holiday Recipe Guide from Carnation Evaporated Milk, sponsor of this post.

One delicious idea is to substitute Carnation Evaporated Milk for regular milk in your go to recipes. It makes all kinds of dishes richer and creamier.

Get your Holiday Recipe Guide as a downloadable PDF or by email

8 medium potatoes (about 2 1/2 to 3 lb. total), peeled and cut into equal chunks
1 cup Carnation evaporated milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups (8-oz. pkg.) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, divided
sliced green onions (optional)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Learning the Easy Way at Kingsford University

This past week, Michele and I spent three wonderful days at something called Kingsford University. "KU," as it's called in charcoal-related academia, is an event sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal in which food writers and bloggers are brought together to learn all about how charcoal is made, watch demos on the finer points of grilling and barbecuing, and of course enjoy lots of great food and wine.

I'm happy to report we all passed with flying colors (although a few of the other bloggers paid some nerds to do their homework). We even received a diploma! After I finish this post I'm going to start looking into some grad school options.

The master of ceremonies was world champion pitmaster Chris Lilly. Chris is vice president of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, and Kingsford Charcoal spokesperson. He was really fun to listen to, and I learned quite a bit. I've sprinkled in a few videos of Chris below, so you can get a little taste of what we enjoyed.

The trip began Tuesday evening. After checking into the beautiful Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, we headed out to dinner and introductions at Pican in Oakland. We met our fellow bloggers (a complete list of attendees with links to their blogs will be added to the bottom of this post as soon as available!), Kingsford reps, and other dignitaries, and enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by Chef Dean Dupuis.

Dinner began with a perfectly crispy fried chicken appetizer (now that's the way to start a meal!). I was even asked to demo my now famous chicken wing de-boning technique. I assume they were mocking me, but I did it anyway. Will this chicken wing trick become my "Freebird?" (FYI - that was a vague, dated Lynyrd Skynyrd reference)

I enjoyed a nice piece of grilled Loch Duarte salmon with root veggie puree and smoky savory cabbage. Michele had the southern classic, shrimp and grits. Everything was great, and as we ate we chatted with our fellow foodies – discussing the differences between food blogging and food writing, and how it's been years since any of us has actually had a hot meal.

At these affairs, no one eats until the pictures are taken, lots of pictures, at every conceivable angle and composition. This shouldn't be taken as a complaint – it's a very small price to pay for the great food and even better company.

The next morning we headed to the Clorox Technical Center in Pleasanton, CA to learn all about charcoal briquets. I'll be honest, of all the things I'd always wanted to learn more about, charcoal briquets wasn't one of them. But I was honestly fascinated by the process, and what could have been a long morning went by quickly.

Like most wannabe backyard grill masters, I already use Kingsford charcoal and really didn't need any convincing it was superior. My own anecdotal evidence the few times I've had to use the bargain brands showed that this stuff is clearly better, but I didn't know why. Now I do.

We watched them make a batch from scratch, and also got to see this really cool room were they do hundreds of burn tests a day. They were really excited to show off a newly designed, "ultra briquet" that promises even better performance despite being lighter and more eco-friendly.

We were not allowed to take photos inside the labs where they showed us the secret proprietary methods with which Kingsford charcoal is made and tested, but outside we did see live comparison demos and testing verses the alternative brands. It wasn't even close. Give or take a few minutes, their briquets lit twice as fast, were ready in half the time, and lasted twice as long. Class dismissed.

After lunch we headed up to the gorgeous Hotel Healdsburg, located in the middle of Sonoma's beautiful wine country. The remainder of KU was held at the Seghesio Family Vineyards and hosted by Peter Seghesio and the rest of his amazing family. The family has been making wine in the area for four generations, and to be able to enjoy their wine during the next two days of classes and demos was a great treat.

We attended a special dinner prepared by Chef Jon Helquist, formerly of the venerable Chez Panisse, in the winery's beautiful Redwood Room. The food was classic northern California fare – fresh, local, seasonal food simply prepared and served family style.

The highlights included Chris Lilly's barbecued pineapple sweet ribs, grilled Tuscan-style game hens, locally foraged wild mushrooms, and charcoal grilled fingerling potatoes with salsa rustica. Chef Jon's offerings were paired with an array of Seghesio's highly regarded Zinfindels.

That evening Chris Lilly showed us his famous low and slow method for cooking pork shoulder (see video). In between his many tips and tricks, we were treated to some very entertaining war stories from the championship barbecue circuit. A live band and s'mores cooked over small fire pits brought the evening to a sweet and smoky end. By the way, this is a man clearly willing to suffer for his art, as he had to get out of a warm bed and come back at 3 AM to tend the fire!

Chris Lilly's Low and Slow Barbecued Pork Butt

Note: this video shot with an iPhone in the dark.

The next day we enjoyed the fruits of Chris' late night labor with what was probably the tastiest and most succulent pork butt I've ever had. After being pulled and chopped, the moist, smoky meat was turned into slaw-topped sliders. Speaking of fruits, they were served with chili-rubbed skewers of grilled banana, pineapple, and persimmon. I thought this was an ingenious and inspired pairing.

After lunch we participated in two hands-on demos. We got to blend our own Zinfandel varietal with the help of Pete Seghesio and his talented team, and yes, it was as fun and interesting as it sounds!

We also formulated our own custom dry-rub spice mix. Chris Lilly showed us a great 4-step process for making a spice rub, which I will explore in more detail in an upcoming article for my American Foods site.

Kingsford University came to a delicious
and interactive end as we made and grilled our own pizzas over charcoal. After Chris demo'd an insanely tasty Asian-influenced spicy shrimp pizza (see video), we headed around to the back of Seghesio's wine cellar where a long line of kettle grills waited for us with already glowing charcoal topped with pizza stones.

Chris Lilly's Charcoal Grilled Spicy Shrimp Pizza

After everyone had made a pizza (or three), into the wine cellar we went to share our offerings with each other. The meal was made complete with an impressive array of salads and side dishes from Chef Jon's kitchen, as well as more of Seghesio's delicious wine. What a special way to end a very memorable experience.

Special thanks to Chris Lilly and everyone at Kingsford Charcoal! Who knew learning about charcoal and grilling could be so fun and delicious? I'd also like to extend a very special thanks to the Seghesio family for being such gracious and generous hosts!

You can find a lot more information at the Kingsford Barbecue Facebook page. Enjoy!

Read other recaps on Kingsford University by these very talented bloggers:
The Bachelor Guy
Use Real Butter
Food Woolf
Pork, Knife, and Spoon

Kingsford University Class of 2009!