Monday, April 30, 2012

Heading Home!

Michele and I are heading back to San Francisco after a fantastic 2012 Passport to Dry Creek Valley! I forgot to bring that wire that lets me download the photos I took, but hopefully tomorrow I can show you what we served. 

Pictured here is a iPhone shot of our "Tonno del Dry Creek," which was some incredible pork confit from Dehesa (you'll be hearing a lot more about them soon), topped with picked onions, and "hearts on fire" greens. 

By the way, I will be posting a brand new video later this evening featuring an odd, but very delicious ham, asparagus, and ricotta pizza, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hello From Healdsburg!

Michele and I are in Sonoma for the 2012 “Passport to Dry Creek Valley.” If you've been following this blog for awhile, I'm sure you've read about this event before, but if not, here's a little taste from last year.

We'll be doing the food
at the gorgeous Frick Winery for the 16th consecutive year! Despite all the hard work, it's a lot of fun and we look forward to this every spring. I'll be back Monday with a new video, and hopefully some decent photos of this year's offerings. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Salmon in Parchment – Terrifyingly Easy

Cooking fish in parchment paper is incredibly simple, and yet fairly terrifying for a novice cook. Since the seafood is encased in paper, there’s really no good way to check if it’s done, and so you’re basically going on time and experience, and this can be scary for even grizzled old chefs.

The good news: if you use a large, center-cut salmon filet, about 8 or 9 ounces, and cook it for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F., you’re going to be very, very close. After making this a couple times, you’ll adjust your cooking time to suit your personal needs, and once you dial it in, it’s a foolproof technique.

So, where and how do you get some professional parchment paper? It’s as easy as finding a donut…literally. Every single bakery in existence has a box of parchment paper sitting on a shelf somewhere. It comes in large boxes, containing thousands of sheets, and if you’re nice and/or offer them a few bucks, they will happily give you some.

And the great thing about parchment paper is that it’s so thin, when they pinch you off a quarter-inch from the top of the pile, they’re actually handing you hundreds of sheets. So, for a mere $5 bribe, you’ll have a couple years worth of paper. 

Anyway, once you’ve acquired the parchment, the rest is easy. Just make sure your fish is completely thawed. It doesn’t need to be room temp, but if it’s still ice-cold, the cooking time will be longer. Also, be sure whatever vegetables you include in the packet are pre-cooked enough to finish during the 15 minute cooking time.

By the way, in addition to cooking “en papillote,” parchment paper it’s also perfect for those occasional proclamations and decrees. Speaking of which, I hereby proclaim that this was really fun and delicious, and I decree that you give salmon in parchment a try soon. Enjoy!


2 large, center-cut salmon filet, 8 or 9 ounces each, boneless-skinless
2 sheets of parchment cut into large heart shape (the surface area of half your “heart” should be a little bigger than the size of a large dinner plate)
seasoning to taste
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil or butter
cooked potatoes and veggies as needed.
*Note: I served mine with a very light mustard aioli, which was simply mayo, Dijon, lemon juice and a touch of garlic.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F., then let sit 4-5 minutes before cutting open.

View the complete recipe

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

American French Onion Soup – Easy Just Got Easier

French onion soup is a very easy recipe. So, it’s a little ironic that this American French onion soup is an attempt to make things even easier. Then again, taking ideas that don’t need improving, and changing them anyway, is a time-honored American tradition.

Instead of going “French” on the onions, and cutting thin slices, we’re doing more of an extra large dice. I like the flavor and texture this cut provides, and there’s no danger of being chin-slapped by a long, steaming strand of onion. 

To make the caramelizing step a bit easier, we’re going to use the oven. You can just toss the onions in, stir it once in a while, and wait for them to brown. You don’t have to stand there and watch as closely as you would on the stovetop, and since the oven is blasting the pan with heat from all sides, you get a nice even color. 

The last Americanization is a departure from the classic gruyere cheese. My love for gruyere is borderline inappropriate, but keeping with the theme, I decided to go with a 50/50 blend of extra-sharp New York cheddar and mild Monterey Jack. It was wonderful, and a nice change of pace. 

Regarding the ominous vinegar warning in the video – I think a little touch of sherry vinegar really balances the flavors perfectly, but like salt, everyone’s palate is different. So, if you haven’t used it before, it may be a better to just add the vinegar, to taste, to the finished soup. Drip a little in, taste, and adjust. 

Anyway, spring weather means plenty of cool, rainy days, and what better way to enjoy those than with a nice bowl of onion soup? Whether American, French, or some other yet-to-be-discovered cultural variation, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy! 

Ingredients for about 2 1/2 quarts of soup:
6 large yellow onions, cut in large dice
1/2 stick unsalted butter salt and pepper to taste
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 tsps sherry vinegar, or to taste
3 tbsps dry sherry wine (do NOT use “cooking wine”)
4 cups high-quality beef broth
4 cups high-quality chicken broth
buttered croutons
shredded extra-sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese (you’ll need about 1/3 cup per bowl)

View the complete recipe

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mmmm...Cream of Turned Mushroom Trimmings

I'm not sure how many of you tried "turning mushrooms" after seeing our post Friday, but just in case, this cream of mushroom soup will help you put those carved beauties and any trimmings to delicious use. When you're done admiring your knife work, chop them up, and enjoy one of the best soups ever invented. I've also added links to some of my other favorite mushroom recipes. Have a happy Earth Day, and as always, enjoy!

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Just Chicken and Mushrooms
Beef Short Ribs Braised with Wild Mushrooms and Tomato
Beef Medallions with Caramelized Tomato Mushroom Sauce
Creamy Mushroom Pasta Yan Yan

Friday, April 20, 2012

How to “Turn” a Mushroom – An Earth Day Weekend Special!

I’ve really never gotten that excited about Earth Day, and this year is no different. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge fan of the planet (especially love the gravity), so on Sunday, April 22, I will be giving thanks to Mother Nature, as well as all the heroes who fight the good fight to keep her happy and healthy.

However, for an old food blogger like me, a “holiday” like Earth Day is more about key words and search engines than seabirds and algae. And of course, if you’re going to do a tie-in for Earth Day, you can’t get any “earthier” than mushrooms.

This video for how to turn a mushroom represents another classic technique I learned in culinary school, which was really never applied in a restaurant. Along with things like aspic and ice carving, turning mushrooms is one of the things that chef instructors LOVE to teach. Not to impart vital skills to their students, but to simply show-off…and that’s exactly why I’m showing you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Braised Red Cabbage – That is All

No matter how basic or boring an ingredient or dish is, I can usually come up with something to pontificate on, but for this lovely braised red cabbage recipe, I’ve got absolutely nothing.

I could go on about how I’m not sure what that color red is called, but I did that in the video. I could joke about taking one for the team, and keeping this side dish purely vegetarian for a change, but there’s nothing funny about not adding bacon.

I could suggest a few easy ways to turn this into an amazing one-dish meal, by adding some smoked sausage or leftover pork ribs, but that’s probably so obvious that I’d be insulting your intelligence.

Or, I could have gone into a great, old prep cook anecdote about how I won $10 from a pastry chef in 1987 by juggling red cabbages on the hotline during service, but that would have meant making up the story, since it was actually cantaloupes.

No, I’m not going to mention any of that. I'll simply suggest that if you want an easy, gorgeous looking, and very tasty vegetable side dish, then you should give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4-6 portions:
2 tbsp butter
1 small Red cabbage, sliced thin, about a 1 1/4 pounds
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup red wine
2 tbsp red wine vinegar, or to taste
2 tbsp white sugar
pinch of caraway seeds
salt and pepper to taste
*Note: there are SO many ways to tweak this recipe! Raisins, currants, shallots, onions, leeks, apples, and pears are just a few things that rock in this recipe.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to Turn Corned Beef into Pastrami – Abra-ca-deli!

Great pastrami is not the easiest thing to find west of the Catskills, so a few years ago I embarked on a mission to find a way to turn the common corned beef into something similar. My goal was to come up with a reasonable substitute that could be done in less than a day at home, without a smoker, or any other special equipment. Impossible? No!

As you'll see in this video, I came up with a fairly easy method, which really worked well. While this homemade pastrami may not be exactly what you get at those famous New York delis, it's tender, very tasty, and piled between a couple slices of rye, makes a great sandwich.

The spice blend is fairly traditional, except for the smoked paprika addition. This gives the beef a nice, very subtle smokiness without having to worry about the considerable time/temperature management required by an actual smoker.

By the way, this is a pretty fiery rub. If you’re scared, you may want to reduce the amount of pepper(s), and/or leave out the cayenne. However, if you want the punch of a spicy, intensely aromatic pastrami, then this recipe will have you smiling, from the first mustard-shmeared bite to the last. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: No, you are not going crazy. We did do this video post before, but it was filmed for, and played only on their website. That old post is no longer up, and being replaced with this one. Thanks!

(Note: the dry rub should make more than you need)
3 to 5 pound corned beef brisket (should be the ready-to-cook variety)
1/4 cup fresh, coarsely ground black pepper
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp garlic oil (mix 2 crushed garlic cloves with vegetable oil, and let sit for one hour)
heavy-duty aluminum foil

View the complete recipe

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's National Grilled Cheese Day!

...or at least that's what I heard on Twitter today. Who decides these things, and how do they pick the day? Don't know, and don't care, because it give me an excuse to post our famous Inside-Out Grilled Cheese Sandwich! Follow this link to read the original post, and as always, enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mustards Grill’s Mongolian Pork Chop – Video No. 700 Was All Me

Every once in a while, I post a recipe that I’ve received exactly zero requests for, and this gorgeous Mongolian pork chop is the most recent example – sort of ironic, considering this is video 700, and I’m celebrating the milestone by going rogue! 

While 95% of the videos you see are inspired by actual “food wishes,” sometimes I’ll remember something so delicious, I just have to add it to the library.

One of my favorite restaurants anywhere is Mustards Grill, located in California's beautiful Napa Valley. Mustards is owned and operated by chef Cindy Pawlcyn, and for decades has been serving the best kind of new American comfort fare. While I love all the food, the standout dish is their famous Mongolian pork chop.

This is my slightly simplified version, but still very close to what you’d experience at Mustards. She adds a little green onion to the marinade, and I would’ve also, had I not forgotten it at the market. She also puts a touch of cilantro in the mix, but I prefer to use it freshly chopped to garnish the cold mustard sauce (something I should have mentioned in the video, but did add to the ingredient list).

Once marinated, these pork chops can be cooked any way you like, but for the true experience, you’re going to want to cook these on a charcoal grill. For me, it’s the smokiness that brings all these flavors together, but pay special attention to my warnings about direct high-heat.

Once the chops are marked with magazine-quality lines directly over the white-hot coals, I open the grate and push the charcoal away from the center of the grill, so that the meat and flammable marinade isn’t directly over the intense heat. This ensures all that delicious smokiness, with none of that annoying, “Hey, Honey, I think the pork chops are on fire.”

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Napa Valley, I highly recommend you stop in to Mustards and enjoy this great American treasure. But, if that’s not possible, or you simply can’t wait, then give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 Portions:

For the pork and marinade:
two 10-ounce bone-in, extra-thick, center-cut pork chops
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, light parts, minced

For the mustard sauce (this is enough for 4, but I didn't want to use 1/2 a yolk!):
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 or 3 tablespoons hot mustard powder, such as Colman's or Chinese style (add to taste!)
3 tbsp sugar (their sauce is on the sweet side, so feel free to add this to taste)
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream (click here to see how to make your own)
cayenne, to taste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp turmeric 
freshly chopped cilantro leaves, optional

*If you want the “real” original recipe, here's a link to check out.

View the complete recipe

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cottage Fries – America’s Forgotten Fry and Most Delicious Roofing

While they don’t get the same love as French fries, home fries, or steak fries, cottage fries more than hold their own against their potato side dish fraternity bothers. 

And, unlike their French cousins, these easy cottage fries actually crisp up quite nicely in the oven, and as I described in the video, resemble fat, succulent potato chips. I don’t know about you, but to me there’s nothing about “fat, succulent potato chip” that doesn’t sound good.

They’re called cottage fries because they supposedly look like the shingled roofs on those cute little houses you see in the movies and on travel brochures. Appearances aside, I find serving and eating something associated with “cottages” to be just a little more relaxing and civilized than other less vacation-y potatoes.

I used Yukon gold potatoes, which as you’ll see, worked fine, but I do prefer the slightly starchier russet. I would avoid any of the red varieties, as they have a much waxier texture, and don’t get as crusty as other types.

I also used a silicon mat to cook mine on, but you’ll get even crispier edges if you use foil, or put the sliced potato directly on a non-stick baking sheet. Of course, the seasoning options are only limited by your imagination and self-control.

I love Herbes de Provence in this, but literally any fresh or dried herb will work here. Keep in mind, these chips are great just seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, so you’re cooking from a position of power – don’t try and do too much. I hope you give these great change-of-pace “fries” a try soon. Enjoy!

russet potatoes, sliced into 3/8-inch thick rounds (about 4-oz per portion)
enough olive oil to coat
cayenne, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to taste

View the complete recipe

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I tried another batch of pavlova, but this time piped it out as individual rings. It worked well, and oddly enough cooked in about the same time as the larger one we just did (they did get more color, but the texture was very similar). I know some of you asked about doing smaller versions, so here's the visual proof it will work. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wishing You a Happy Easter!

I know that Easter is a religious holiday, but for me, it'll always be associated with this sweet, shiny, aromatic bread. If you grew up in an Italian-American home, chances are pretty good you enjoyed something similar, but if you haven't, you must give this recipe a try! This originally aired back in 2009, and the link below will take you to that post for all the details. 

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, whether you're celebrating Easter, Passover, or just a beautiful spring day. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Pavlova – Cracking Up Down Under!

This crispy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside, baked meringue is named after Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova, who must have done one mean "fouetté en tournant." Some people think they can dance; some people know they can dance; and some people get desserts named after them in New Zealand.

Why she inspired what is basically a large, crispy marshmallow isn’t completely understood. By the way, Australia also claims to have invented the Pavlova, and this controversy is the main reason people from New Zealand and Australia hate each other. Update: I've been informed that New Zealand and Australia do NOT hate each other, but enjoy more of a proud rivalry.

This is an odd dessert, but one that’s a lot fun to make and eat. It's also fat-free…that is, until you pile on the whipped cream, but at least it starts off fat-free. Fresh fruit, especially berries and kiwi are standard fare, and it’s the tartness of the acidic fruit that balances the sweet, gooey crunch.

As you’ll see in the clip, I indulged in a little bit of culinary exhibitionism, and tried a new presentation based on the old, “if you can’t beat’em, join’em,” school of thought. Instead of worrying about a few cracks around the edge, I decided to go full-shatter, and the results are here for all to see.

I kind of liked it, but I’ll let you be the judge. Is it visually arresting? Cool? Annoying? Or, like my friend Tamar from Starving Off the Land implied, does it cause you to think about how badly your driveway needs repair?

Looks aside, strawberries are piled sweet and high at the markets right about now, and this would make a lovely dessert for the holiday. Anyway, I hope you give this a spin…or as I should say in honor of Ms. Pavlova…a fouette! Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4-6 Portions:
3 large egg whites, room temp is best (I think I said 4 in the video, but 3 is what I actually used!)
*Note: do not get ANY egg yolk in the whites, or this will not work.
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsps cornstarch
3/4 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
whipped cream and fresh berries as needed

View the complete recipe

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter Special! Mint-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Honey Vinaigrette

This mint-crusted rack of lamb was inspired by a lamb steak recipe we did a few years ago, which featured a minted honey vinaigrette. I loved how the sweet, herbaceous dressing worked with the subtly gamey meat, and that memory filled me with confidence as I planned out this video.

Lamb is obviously a popular Easter menu option, and while I have no problem with you slathering your meat with green mint jelly…really, I don’t…my mom’s fridge always had a jar of the stuff…I do hope you’ll consider this slightly higher-end application.

I know some will be extra curious about the blanching of the mint, but I’m afraid my less-than-scientific answer may leave you unsatisfied. I learned a long time ago that if you give your green herbs a few-second blanch before using, the heat locks in the color, and they stay nice and green in whatever you’re preparing.

Of course you can Google for more information, or better yet, you can simply make the recipe in blissful ignorance. Speaking of bliss, one of my favorite things about rack of lamb is just how easy they are to cook. As long as you own a digital thermometer, you’re going to have to try really hard not to get pink, juicy meat. They’re not cheap, but there’s almost no waste, and the meat is mild and very tender.

By the way, yes, those are sweet potato tots! And no, I can’t show you how to make those at home. The recession has hit the U.S. tater tot industry very hard, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to put any more of those fine folks out of work. Anyway, if you’re looking for an easy and impressive option for Easter dinner, I hope you give this a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Portions (*note: I only did one rack for 2 portions, so amounts in video may look off):

2 racks of lamb, trimmed, about 1.25 pounds each
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp vegetable oil for searing meat

For the crumbs:
1 cup mint leaves, blanched, squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste
1 or 2 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the mustard mixture:
1/4 cup regular or herb Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey

For the honey vinaigrette:
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

View the complete recipe

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Only An April Fool Wouldn’t Try This Pasta Primavera

Every once in a while I get an urge to remind you about some previously posted, seasonally appropriate video recipe. Today, it was seeing an old photo of our pasta primavera that inspired my need to re-feed.

Many of our fresher (greener?) viewers may not have seen this classic springtime pasta before, and if that’s the case, run, don’t walk, to the nearest farmer’s market, fill a basket with fresh green veggies, and get cooking. You can click here to read the original blog post, and get all the ingredient amounts. Enjoy!