Saturday, February 27, 2010

Because Covered Pork Chops are not the Same as Smothered Pork Chops

Even though I've always found the name, "smothered pork chops," a little unsettling, it's one of my favorite southern recipes. A beautiful combination of dark, rich onion gravy covering pan-fried pork chops.

While the name may have some other more nefarious connotations, it really is quite appropriate. I mean, what else woud we use? "Covered pork chops," doesn't work. Swamped? Enveloped? Gravyfied? No, smothered pork chops is exactly what these are.

The secret to this very simple recipe is to take your time and really brown the onions well. Short of being totally black, you really can’t cook them too dark. This will give your gravy its deep, rich taste, and just as importantly, its mouth-watering color.

These are definitely going in the cookbook, so as always, if you give them a try, please let me know what you thought. Enjoy!

4 large pork chops, about 1 inch thick
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 rounded tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
4 cups cooked rice, optional

Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy Friday and a Smothered Pork Preview

Wow, what a crazy busy week this was! I tested and photographed 10 recipes for the cookbook, including the succotash recipe immortalized in the last video. The photo below is from the smothered pork chop recipe I did today, and I also had the video camera rolling, so stay tuned for that very delicious plate of pig soon. Have a great weekend!

UPDATE: I just posted the written recipe for this Smothered Pork Chops Recipe on my American Foods site. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sufferin' Succotash? More Like Succulent and Super-Interesting Succotash!

When most of you hear the word, "succotash," you probably don't think of a delicious vegetable side dish, you probably think of Warner Brother's Sylvester the cat's catchphrase, "Sufferin' succotash!" But succotash really is a great, and very underrated recipe.

As I say in the video, this may be America's oldest vegetable recipe, coming from the Narragansett Indian word, "msíckquatash," which according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary means "boiled corn kernels."

You can see from the photo, this is much more than that, combining an array of vegetables including corn, beans, and squash. These three ingredients were such an important source of nutr
ition for the Native American's they were referred to as "The Three Sisters."

The way they cultivated these three plants together was sheer genius. The corn's stalks were perfect for the climbing vines of the bean plants. In turn, the bean's roots captured nitrogen from the air, enriching the soil, producing larger crops. But it was the third sister that really made the system so brilliant.

Squash sends out long, winding vines with large leaves that stay close to the ground. This acts as an edible ground cover, which not only kept the weeds away, but also provided shade for the corn's shallow roots. It also kept the ground moist, which helped the beans grow, which helped the corn grow higher, which made for longer bean vines/yields, etc., and so on. Who knew succotash could be so fascinating?!

Anyway, I hope you give this easy and nutritious vegetable side dish recipe a try. Enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno or other small hot chili pepper, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
4 oz green beans, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 cup frozen baby lima beans, thawed
2 green zucchini, cubed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Food Revolution Will Be Televised

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is a new show that debuts Friday, March 26 on ABC. The series will center on Oliver's ongoing crusade to change the way modern society thinks about food and cooking, especially when it comes to children and school lunches. As someone whose blog is dedicated to encouraging people to cook more fresh foods at home, I'm very excited by this project, and hope it lives up to all the hype.

To get you in the proper revolutionary state of mind, check out this TED lecture Oliver did recently. I've always been a big fan of Jamie Oliver's cooking style, and I think it's great for someone like him to use his celebrity to take on a system so horribly broken. Enjoy!

The Greatest Video of a Cadbury Chocolate Creme Egg Getting Smashed Ever

I know Easter is still a ways off, but I wanted to make sure you had plenty of time to build your own Rube Goldberg machine so you can smash some of those Cadbury Creme Eggs you'll be getting in your basket. To get more info about this incredible clip, here is the original Youtube page. Enjoy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

King Ranch Casserole – Revenge is a Dish Best Served Ironically Named

There are three things all real Texans love: high school football, executing people, and the King Ranch casserole. From what I hear, it's impossible to go to any sort of potluck and not see one of these.

I love posting about these regional culinary favorites, especially when no one knows for sure where the name came from. It allows me to put forth my own, often ridiculous, theory. There is indeed a King Ranch in Texas – they say it's one of the most famous ranches in the world, but as far as claiming credit for inventing this casserole goes, they're not interested. You can't really blame them…a legendary cattle ranch the birthplace of a famous chicken recipe? I don't think so.

Here's what I bet happened. You don’t build a cattle ranch without making a few enemies along the way. To get revenge, someone invented this dish and called it the King Ranch casserole just to annoy them. It was a brilliant plan. Without firing a shot, or bloodying a knuckle, they inflicted the ultimate cattleman humiliation.

Regarding this recipe, I have a few things to explain. I'm testing it for the cookbook, and so I wanted to stay true to the original formula, which explains the cans of soup. Also, as you'll hear me say in the video, I tried to add an extra layer of tortilla on the bottom, which was a mistake. It threw off the meat to grain to condensed soup ratio. Two layers are plenty; so if you make it, take note.

Lastly, since condensed soup is dangerously high in sodium, I didn't add any, but after sampling I decided that it did need some after all. Best to taste the sauce mixture and decide for yourself. Enjoy!

Meat from one cooked chicken
10 corn tortillas
1 white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup of chicken broth
1 can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chipotle
teaspoon salt, maybe

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Rainy Sunday Rerun – Sticky Ginger Garlic Chicken Wings

It's a cool, rainy day in San Francisco, and I still have a very full day of cooking and photography ahead, but I wanted to take a minute to post this picture, and rerun the video, for sticky ginger garlic chicken wings.

I had to make a batch yesterday to photograph for the cookbook, and I'd forgotten how great this recipe is. It's definitely my favorite chicken wing recipe, and the one I find most addictive.

You can make these really mild or super hot, but that's really between you and your endorphins. If by some rare chance you haven't seen or tried these yet, do it. Enjoy!

Get the ingredient amounts here from the original post...

Friday, February 19, 2010

All-American Shrimp Cocktail – Jumbo Shrimp is Not an Oxymoron

Before I knew much about food or dining out, I knew that if they brought shrimp cocktails to the table as an appetizer, we were eating at a "fancy" restaurant. I'm sure I enjoyed the shrimp, but what I really loved was dipping the crackers in the spicy, horseradish-spiked cocktail sauce.

As I got older, I started to notice that while all shrimp cocktails pretty much looked the same, they sure didn't all taste the same. It's really easy to make a bad shrimp cocktail.

Simply use already peeled shrimp, boil them in plain water, and serve them with sauce from a jar. Any "shoemaker" can do that. By the way, this is not an insult to shoemakers, but an old kitchen term for something that tastes like a non-cook made it.

Making a great shrimp cocktail requires the shrimp be cooked with the shells on, and in a very flavorful poaching liquid, called a court bouillon.

It may seem like a lot of extra work, for just a little bit of extra flavor, but it really is the difference. There are a million formulas, but as long as there is salt, some acid, and some aromatics, you can pretty much do whatever you like.

Another tip; get the biggest shrimp you can find. This is a recipe where you want to have something substantial to bite into and chew for a while, so the cocktail sauce has time to mingle and work its magic.

Regarding the cocktail sauce; this is based on what my mother Pauline used to mix up, but I'm sure I put in a lot more horseradish than she did. You may want to add the horseradish last, and do it to taste, if you are not experienced using it. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 servings:

2 pounds colossal shrimp (12-15 per/lb)

Poaching Liquid:
3 quarts cold water
1/4 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
2 springs tarragon
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Old Bay
1/2 lemon
1 tsp black peppercorns

Cocktail Sauce:
1/4 cup horseradish, or to taste
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
few drops of hot sauce, optional
pinch of salt

Thursday, February 18, 2010

These Butterscotch Cashew Blondies are No Joke

I was going to use this request to try my butterscotch blondies recipe as an excuse to post a few blond jokes, but I decided that wouldn't be fair. Judging people's intelligence by hair color is just wrong... anybody could open a box of Cheerios and think it's donut seeds. Anyway, I hope some of you give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Butterscotch Cashew Blondies

Makes 9 bars

1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten together
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted cashews

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to a mixing bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine. Reserve.

In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugars until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, and stir to combine. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the flour mixture. Fold in the butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and cashews.

With a spatula, scrap the batter into a lightly greased 8 x 8-inch in pan or glass baking dish. Smooth to distribute evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before cutting into 9 bars.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rolling with the Lobster Underground

As far as I'm concerned, lobster rolls are one of the best tasting things in the world, and clearly the greatest sandwich ever. Just the thought of those huge chunks of sweet, fresh lobster meat, glistening with mayo, sitting on a warm, buttery, toasted hot dog roll sends me to another universe. This great video by my friend Liza de Guia from Food Curated tells the story of Ben Sargent and the The Underground Lobster Pound. To read the whole story, please visit Lisa's beautiful blog. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Simple Sustainable (and very delicious) Rainbow Trout – It's Almost Too Easy

At the end of the voiceover for this super simple, yet very delicious rainbow trout recipe, I mention that it is an earth-friendly fish to eat. Of course I said that before actually checking, so I was kind of nervous as I Googled it after the fact, hoping that my assumptions were correct. Luckily it's true, rainbow trout is considered a great sustainable seafood choice, and I didn't have to redo the narration.

This video recipe has it all when it comes to beginner fish cooks. Trout is a really mild flavored fish, it's readily available, and usually comes cleaned, boneless, and ready to cook. Because it is so thin and delicate, it only takes a couple minutes under a hot broiler and you're ready to enjoy. In fact, I can see some of you novice cooks watching and thinking, hey, this seems too easy…what's the catch? There isn’t one.

The sauce here, if you can even call it a sauce, is a simple brown butter, spiked with a little lemon and parsley. Since trout is such a light fish, this minimalist preparation is perfect. If you are feeling adventurous, try some variations on the Italian parsley – almost any of the tender, sweet herbs – dill, tarragon, chervil, etc., will work beautifully here.

Whenever I post a basic fish recipe like this, I'm always hoping to convert a few of you, "I don't like fish," or "I can’t cook fish," people. You really are missing out, and you only have so many good fish-eating years left. What are you waiting for? Enjoy!

2 whole boneless rainbow trout
salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or other herb

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cookbook Testing: Grilled Salmon with Fresh Mango Salsa

If any of you foodwishers can make it to a grill, I'd love to know what you think of this grilled salmon and mango recipe. This is going in the cookbook, and while I really like the dish, it never hurts to have a few of you fine foodies give it a test run. Enjoy!

Grilled Salmon with Fresh Mango Salsa

Makes 6

6 (6-7 ounce) salmon fillets, boneless and skinless
2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon vegetable oil
For the Mango Salsa:
1 large ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and diced small (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoon red bell pepper, diced fine
2 tablespoon red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeño
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne, optional
salt to taste
lime wedges to garnish

In a mixing bowl, combine all the mango salsa ingredients and set aside. Let sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. May be made the night before, and refrigerated until needed. Toss well before using.

Brush salmon lightly with the vegetable oil, and salt generously on all sides. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill the salmon for 5 to 7 minutes per side until lightly charred, and cooked to your desired doneness. Serve with the mango salsa, lime wedges, and salt.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Make a Solid Foundation for a Special Valentine's Day with Hot Chocolate Stones

You have to be careful when making someone a homemade gift for Valentine's Day. There's a very fine line between, "Oh, you are so thoughtful, romantic, and creative!" and "You cheap bastard!"

To hedge your bets, this beautiful box of chocolates would look even better in a gift bag with a few other tokens of your love, like perfume and lingerie. That said, if this is all you manage to offer this holiday, once the object of your affection bites into these smooth, rich, warm-from-the-pepper chocolate stones, how could they be disappointed?

Whenever I post things like this, I always get lots of questions, like… can I use milk chocolate? Can I use skim milk? Do you know where I can get a date for Valentine's Day? Let me save you some time, and answer "no" to all of those.

I'm not a candy maker, or a pastry chef, so I just don’t have the experience to tell you how you can alter the recipe. All I know is this works as shown – both as a formula and technique, as well as a sexy alternative to more expensive, less personal gifts. Enjoy!

8 ounces good dark chocolate
1/8 tsp chipotle pepper or cayenne
big pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
cocoa to dust
sexy black bow with the word "Love" across the top, or something similar

Friday, February 12, 2010

Coming Tomorrow: Valentine's Day Special – Hot Chocolate Stones

Orangette Tarte ala La La

This video recipe for Orangette Tarte is from my new friend Chef Leslie Newton, from Lala Cooks. I think this classic combination would look very sexy on your Valentine's Day dinner table. She's just starting out in the video recipe game, so I thought I would give her a little taste of the smart, funny, and good-looking group of people that makes up this blog's readership. You can check out her blog here. Enjoy!

I'm going to have a quick and easy chocolate truffle video recipe up tomorrow for you slackers who failed in any and all other attempts to do something romantic for your better halves. It's almost unfair how much love you'll get back if you make a batch for your sweetie, but hey, that's chocolate for you. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Leftover Special: Quick and Easy Spinach Toast

Am I busy? Does Popeye have freakishly large forearms? No matter how crazy my schedule gets these days as I approach the deadline for all this cookbook production, if I don’t have at least something to post for you, I start to sweat and shake like one of those starlets on Celebrity Rehab (I don't watch it, but I hear things).

So with that in mind, I decided to film this short, but oh so delicious, video recipe for a spinach toast – the sort of simple vegetable tartine I should really be eating for lunch more often.

As I say in the clip, the true measure of a cook's chops (not those kind, the other chops) is what do they do with the leftovers. Anyone can make food taste good the first time, but then what? This spinach toast was so good, I'm thinking I'll make another batch of creamed spinach just so I can use it for this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Six Super Sexy Valentine's Day Menu Ideas

These recipes have been chosen for a few very good reasons; they are all easy to make, not too expensive (well, except for the first one), and are guaranteed to drive your dinner guest wild with desire. That's right, guaranteed!


If you feel like splurging a little, San Francisco's famous Cioppino is a great choice. This spicy fish and shellfish stew is a big passionate bowl of yummy, and when paired with a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, it's downright otherworldly.

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.

Chicken Marsala a la Ryan’s Cafe

[chicmar250.jpg]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. This was one of the first recipes that showed me what wonderful magic could be created cooking with wine. A great romantic chicken dish.

Roast Lemon and Herb Chicken

[chick2-1.jpg]This classic recipe for roasted chicken is inspired by the late, great Julia Child. What better choice for a romatic winter dinner than this beautiful bird? You and yours will love the way this roasting chicken scents the whole house with its amazing aroma.

New York Strip Steak with Warm Caramelized Mushroom Salad

If your date is a red meat eater, this very sexy strip steak topped with warm, caramelized mushroom salad is sure to get rave reviews. The earthy mushrooms really amplify the beefy flavor of the steak – and the sherry vinaigrette and fresh tarragon are perfect accents. This was done to feature grass-fed beef, but will work with standard beef as well.

Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce

[redclam.jpg]A table sporting this simple-to-make pasta, some crusty bread, and a bottle of nice wine would be a great setting for any dinner, but when you add the whole Valentine's Day theme, it's about as romantic as it gets. This is also a very afforable meal, so you'll have a little left for chocolates. Don't forget the chocolates.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Potato Pancakes – Squeeze and Be Squeezed

These sexy looking potato pancakes would sure make a nice looking first course for your Valentine's dinner. Here you can see that I've finished them with a little smoked salmon, sour cream, and dill, but you can use them as a base for many other combinations.

If you want to splurge a bit, maybe a dollop of caviar, or if you want to go the other direction, simply garnish with applesauce and sour cream. Some other ideas I really like are crab salad, sautéed mushrooms, and caramelized onions.

But, before you get to the big decision of what to top these golden-brown beauties with, we have to talk about squeezing. The one and only way to not get perfectly crispy potato pancakes is to not squeeze them properly.

I just finished the written recipe that will go in the cookbook, and when I looked at it, I couldn't believe how long and wordy it was. I mean, potato pancakes are a very simple recipe, but for some reason it takes a long time to describe how to prep the potatoes.

More than half the procedure was dedicated to grating, soaking, draining, and squeezing the potatoes. If you don't thoroughly squeeze all the liquid from the potatoes, the pancakes just won't crispy up as well.

Once cooked, you can keep these crispy in a warm oven until your, what I'm sure will be a very memorable, Valentine's dinner is ready to begin. Besides making a great appetizer, these are fantastic for breakfast. In fact, you could use that as a little leverage later in the evening, if you know what I'm saying. Enjoy!

2 1/4 pounds russet potato, peeled
1/2 yellow onion, peeled
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
vegetable oil, as needed
3-4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
4 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Eating Las Vegas

This was going to be a top 10 list of favorite tastes from my recent culinary tour of Las Vegas, but as I started going through the over 700 photos I took, I realized there was no way I could pick just 10.

I lost count on day two, but I estimate we sampled about 130 separate dishes – and don't even get me started on the drinks! You really have to go there to truly appreciate it, but the staggering array of world-class food, eye-popping restaurant design, and army of star chefs, all in such close proximity makes Las Vegas foodie heaven on earth.

The dining scene in Vegas has become so grand that you almost forget about the sex, gambling, and other more established forms of debauchery...almost. It's still Sin City, but the sins are less about morality, and much more dietary in nature. Go ahead – have a second slice of foie gras, who's going to know?

As I washed my hands in the restroom next to Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas, I listened to a French language lesson over the PA. I learned that, "Est-ce que c'est un éclair dans votre poche, ou êtes-vous simplement heureux de me voir?" means, "Is that an éclair in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?" That, as the kids say these days, is so Las Vegas 2010.

So without further ado, here are my favorite food moments from the trip. Enjoy!

I love seeing and tasting new things, and this butter/olive oil spread really tickled me. What a great idea. Shallow wells pressed into a dish of butter, filled with olive oil, then garnished with peppers, herbs, coarse-ground black pepper and flaky sea salt. I shall try to hide my disappointment the next time I'm served plain butter, or just olive oil. Why can't I have both?

This was enjoyed at a great luncheon hosted by Vegas Uncork'd at Vintner Grill.

Passed hors d'oeuvres before a big meal are supposed to serve two purposes. First, provide a little bump in blood sugar so you can effectively keep up with that, "Are short ribs the baby arugula of meat?" cocktail conversation. Second, to tease your taste buds and stimulate your appetite without filling you up. This crab salad on apple chips, also from the Vintner Grill, was perfect.

So that I could feign at least a small amount of journalistic integrity, I was really hoping this limoncello sorbet-topped oyster would be as terrible as it sounded. Sorry, but it totally worked. I'll admit, I did only use about half the amount scooped on top, but the icy lemon slush on the wet, briny oyster was delicious. I had three, but could have easily eaten a dozen. This was served at Aureole in the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

If you're going to do a tartare these days, it better be great. This exquisitely presented Waygu beef tartare was. Some wondered whether the fattier beef would work in a raw presentation. It did. Garnished with a perfectly poached egg yolk, pickled mustard seeds, and crispy chocolate wafer, this offering from Chef Shawn McClain at Sage in the Aria Resort, was an easy choice for this list.

From the same meal at Sage, this magnificent plate of smoked sturgeon, honey crisp apple, bacon chips, and fromage blanc proves once and for all that people who say fish and cheese can never be served together are idiots.

I was really hoping I would run into Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill in Caesar's Palace. I felt that given the opportunity I should probably apologize for all those chipotle jokes I've done over the years at his expense. All kidding aside, this blue corn pancake filled with barbecued duck, garnished with habanero chile-star anise sauce was inspired. In the true test of a great first course, every bite was as good as the first.

Before a memorable lunch at the Fiamma Trattoria & Bar in the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, master pasta maker and chef Carlos Buscaglia gave our group a hands-on pasta making class. He demo'd how to make gnocchi, angelotti, and ravioli, and said after we were done, they'd cook what we had made, so we could enjoy eating the fruits of our labor. Not to disparage the pasta making skills of my fellow food writers, but thankfully he was kidding. This pasta trio of lobster and truffle gnocchi, butternut squash angelotti, and short rib ravioli was otherworldly.

As some of you may know, I used to teach in the Le Cordon Blue program at the California Culinary Academy, so I was excited when I found out we were going to get a tour of the LCB Las Vegas. After our tour we had a great scallop dish created by Chef Jason Labahn, who used a locally grown squash in three ways; fried, pureed, and as a foam. How good was it? When was the last time I featured something with a foam on this blog?

Super chef Hubert Keller, co-owner of Fleur de Lys Restaurant at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, served a truffled onion soup that was beyond delicious. I tried to sip as slowly as humanly possible, and when it was gone I was actually sad.

This extremely slow-brasied beef short rib with bacon and mushrooms, from Chef Sean Griffin of Prime in the Bellagio, is the least creative thing to make the list. By the way, that's no insult, in fact, I think it's quite a compliment. It was just a beautifully cooked piece of meat – perfectly seasoned, perfectly sauced, and paired with a bright green chive spaetzle. Contrary to popular belief, less is rarely more, but in this case it was.

Why in the world haven't I done a chimichurri sauce video yet? It's such a great accompaniment for grilled meats, and was stellar on this huge, dry-aged, bone-in filet of beef at Botero, a truly gorgeous restaurant in the equally impressive Encore at Wynn Las Vegas. The little tart of caramelized onions was a perfect foil to the tangy, herbaceous sauce. My only regret is this wasn't the kind of dinning room where you can just grab the bone and gnaw off the last scraps of succulent meat. Oh well, life is a compromise after all.

If you're keeping score at home, this is the third offering from the Vintner Grill. This braised wild boar tagliatelli was so mind-blowingly good that had one of the servers spilled an entire pot of boiling hot coffee in my lap, I would have finished the plate before going to the hospital. Simply the best wild boar preparation I've ever had.

I'm not a huge fan of savory ingredients in sweets. I always feel like the chef is trying too hard when I see things like bacon and smoked paprika on a dessert menu. But no one could argue the perfect logic behind this combination of pear tart, black pepper crisp, and blue cheese ice cream. This was also from Sage in the Aria Resort.

Finally, what better way to end my list than with this chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream, served in a wooden naked lady lollipop holder? This very happy ending is modeled after the huge fertility goddess sculpture by Columbian artist Fernando Botero, which is the centerpiece of the restaurant. When I move to Vegas to start my food-based religious cult, this will be one of the first idols we worship.

So there you have it. My woefully inadequate, yet earnest attempt to recap an amazing week in Las Vegas food. I want to thank my very gracious and generous hosts, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, for sponsoring a trip I won't soon forget. I also want to thank all the restaurants and hotels (especially Palms Place, which rocked) mentioned in this piece for providing me with such excellent food and service.

Last, but not least, a heartfelt thanks to all the other culinary journalists (real
journalists, not bloggers like me) who provided such great company; and the talented professionals from R&R Partners, Aerial, and Rooster for their expert guidance, and endless patience and grace. Thank you.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Creamed Spinach – King of the Steakhouse Side Dishes

While in Vegas, I had a marvelous steak lunch at the Strip House, located in the Planet Hollywood Resort & Ca
sino. Along with the beautifully aged steaks, we enjoyed two stellar sides.

One was a potato dish called Potatoes Romanoff, which Executive Chef John Schenk says he learned from his mother back in Buffalo, NY. I've posted the written recipe for Potatoes Romanoff on my American Foods site, in case you want to give it a go.

The other was my favorite non-potato steakhouse side dish, creamed spinach. Since creamed spinach is one of the side dishes I have to do for the cookbook, and since I haven’t had a new video up in a while, I decided to film this recipe while its creamy deliciousness was still fresh in my mind.

There is only one real secret to great creamed spinach…you have to really squeeze out all the water after you wilt it. If you do, the buttery béchamel sauce coats the spinach to form a thick, satisfying pile of greens that you can almost stand a fork up in. If you don’t, you will be amazed at how the water from the spinach turns your thick, tasty sauce into a pool of pale green disappointment.

Creamed spinach is an easy recipe, but it used to require quite a commitment to make, since washing and picking spinach is tedious and really no fun at all. Nowadays, big bags of pre-washed, baby spinach are common at the supermarket, which makes this recipe a snap. Enjoy!

1 stick butter
24 ounces baby spinach
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 whole clove
4 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper, to taste
large pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

We've Made the ABC News Top 10 Super Foods for Super Bowl Sunday!

Our little slider recipe video is number six on a list of 10 Super Bowl foods as chosen by the ABC News / Health + Wellness Center! Okay, so don't let the name fool you – it wasn't picked for its nutritional value, but for its proven ability to rock your game day buffet table.

Since this is ABC's Health channel, in addition to the recipes, you can check the caloric value of each item so, as they say in the post, "you'll know just how many hours you'll have to spend in dance class, miles you'll have to bike and laps you'll have to swim to work off Sunday's food fest." Don't worry, it will be totally worth it.

This list was written by Monica Nista, and keeper of Mona’s Apple.

Don't forget we have our own list of Super Bowl snacks, including some of the best chicken wing video recipes, ever.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Super Bowl Griling and BBQ Crash Course

Thanks to my just concluded trip to Vegas, I'm still a day or two away from a new recipe video. I've been catching up on my cookbook recipe production and photography, as well as finishing off a very delicious looking "best of Vegas" recap.

In the meantime, here's a series on grilling basics by Chris Lilly. I met Chris while attend Kingsford University last year, and in addition to being a heck of a nice guy, he's a very good teacher. I don't really do cookbook reviews, but I'm a big fan of Chris's Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, and have added a link here in case you want to check it out.

are some simple, beginner-level instructions for cooking seafood, chicken, pork and beef. Since Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest non-summer grilling day of the year, I figured some of you may pick up a tip or two by checking these out. Enjoy!

Home Sweet (Neon and Sequins Free) Home

I'm finally back in San Francisco after six magical days in Las Vegas. I just started going through the over 700 photos I took, and hopefully a handful will be good enough to share with you. A million thanks to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for hosting such an amazing trip. The food and drink were over-the-top great, and I can't wait to finish the recap. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 1, 2010