Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Slow Cooker Red Curry Beef Pot Roast – Teaching Old Meat New Tricks

When shopping, I like to take a quick peek at the end of the meat case where they sometimes have marked-down cuts that are past their prime. I usually stay away from the smaller, thinner pieces, as they tend to go bad faster, but once in a while I’ll find a big roast, like the one that inspired this delicious red beef curry; and as the old saying goes, the only thing better than a 3-pound chuck roast, is a half-priced, 3-pound chuck roast.

By the way, this “Reduced for Quick Sale” meat is generally fine taste and texture-wise, but the surface of the meat has oxidized, so it doesn’t look very appetizing. Other than that, it’s perfectly fine to use, especially in a slow-braised recipe like this.

I cooked mine on low, for about 7 or 8 hours, until it was fork tender, but if you’re in a hurry, you can do it on a higher setting. Conventional wisdom is that the longer slower method is superior, but in all honesty, I don’t think there's a huge difference, so suit yourself. No matter what setting you use, simply do not stop until the meat is tender.

Some of the most frustrating emails I get, are the ones that say, “I followed your braised-whatever recipe exactly, but the meat came out hard.” Actually, no you didn’t. Every time I give an approximate cooking time for something like this, I’ll always say, “or until fork tender.” So why would anyone stop cooking it while the meat is still hard? I find it as mystifying as I do annoying.

Anyway, assuming you don’t stop, won’t stop, until the meat is succulent, you are in for a real treat. Feel free to add any vegetables you like, and if you want, you can cook them separately and just add to the finished dish. I generally don’t serve this over rice if I use potatoes, but that's just my personal hang up, so don’t feel like you need to deny yourself that particular pleasure. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 giant or 6 regular portions:
2 1/2 or 3 pound beef chuck roast
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 chopped onion
1 or 2 tsp red curry paste, or to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 cups chicken broth
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
1 can (10-oz) diced tomatoes with green chilies (or any diced tomato product)
3 tbsp Asian fish sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 cloves minced garlic
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
juice of one lime
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 pound small potatoes, halved
4 or 5 baby bok choy, sliced
1 rounded teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
To garnish:
chopped roasted peanuts
chopped fresh cilantro leaves

View the complete recipe

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake – You Asked For It!

As promised, here’s the recipe for the chocolate cake that was featured in the orange Crème Anglaise video recipe we did a few weeks ago. In case you missed it, here’s what happened: We uploaded a perfectly fine looking custard sauce video, which no one cared about once they saw this gorgeous looking cake.

Not only did the vast majority of the audience lose all interest in the Crème Anglaise, but they also started requesting the cake be shared in video recipe form. And by “request,” I mean they demanded under threat of grievous bodily harm. Well, it worked.

By the way, you can use any pan for this cake, even a cupcake tin, as long as you’re prepared to adjust your baking time. I’d love to give you specific times, but that will depend on the exact size/type of pan. Best to test early and often with the old bamboo skewer, until it comes out clean.

I joked in the intro that if you messed this up, you should never try to bake anything else again. The funny this is, that’s not a joke. You’ll have to try really hard for this not to come out awesome. In fact, the ganache is probably the trickiest part, and all that entails is pouring boiling cream over chopped chocolate and stirring. I hope you give this ridiculously easy and delicious chocolate cake a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 1 Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake:
Recipe from Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup high-quality cocoa powder (use the best you can find)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the ganache:
4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped or broken into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
*Bring cream to a boil and immediately pour over chocolate. Wait 1 minute and stir until smooth and glossy.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cheese Straws – These Don’t Suck

I took a few things for granted in this cheese straws video. I assumed you could tell how delicious they were as I crunched into them, which is why I never said as much. I also assumed you’d figure out how, where, and when to use them; as I failed to give my usual serving suggestions. I was so taken by the sound and texture of these cheesy sticks, that it just never occurred to me to state such obvious facts.

So, for the record, let’s make this official. These really tasted great, and that’s without any embellishments whatsoever. There are so many things that will work with this technique, including, but not limited to garlic butter, fresh herbs, crushed nuts, and/or literally any dried spice. As far as approved uses, it’d be easier to list things this wouldn’t work with.

Any soup, stew, or bowl of chili would look substantially better with some of these alongside. A few cheese straws will make that sleepy bowl of leftover pasta suddenly seems special again, and substituting them for toast at breakfast is a proven crowd-pleaser. Dipping toasted bread into a runny egg yolk is nice, but dipping with a warm, crispy cheese straw? That goes way beyond nice.

As long as you use some nice, grate-able pungent cheeses, and cook them long enough to get crisp, there’s no way these won’t be great. I hope you give them a try soon, and report back with all your brilliant adaptations. Enjoy!

frozen puff pastry
about 2 tsp olive oil , or as needed
about 1/2 cup total finely grated aged cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano, or more as needed
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Raw Kale Salad – Mmmm…Tough and Bitter

I realized after watching the finished video for this raw kale salad that I used the words “tough” and “bitter” about a dozen times. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I used those words because kale is tough and bitter, but when properly prepared, those are valuable assets, not liabilities.

If you slice it thin, and toss it with other tasty treats, the kale mellows out, and serves as a perfect foil for other vegetation. The sweet, wet crunch of raw apple counters the bitterness, and the texture of the leaves elevated from opposite directions by juicy orange and crunchy nuts. It’s quite a scene.

I’m going to do a video for the orange cumin vinaigrette, but in the meantime, the ingredients are listed below. Feel free to copy my salad formula, but this is more of an idea video than an actual recipe. You know what you like, so whatever that is, add it to some raw kale, and see what happens. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 big or 4 small Raw Kale Salads:
1 head green kale
1 persimmon, sliced
1 apple, sliced thin or matchstick cut
2 seedless oranges, cut into segments aka “supremes” (click here for video)
handful of chopped nuts
For the dressing:
1 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard           
1 rounded teaspoon orange zest
1 tsp cumin, or to taste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tbsp orange juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar (or white wine or sherry vinegar)
1/3 cup olive oil, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Friendly Spaghetti Carbonara Reminder

I was channel surfing this evening, when I ran across a chef in New York making an authentic spaghetti carbonara. I've never wanted anything so badly in my life. Having already eaten dinner, self-control prevailed, and I settled for a pretty decent pear. This primal blend of pork, pasta, pepper, egg and cheese is truly one of life's great pleasures, and soul food of the highest order. Just in case you missed it, here's our version. Enjoy!

If you'd like to read the original post, and get the ingredients, follow this link.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Orange Crème Anglaise – Not a Day Late, but 364 Days Early!

As promised, here is the video recipe for the Orange Crème Anglaise recipe we featured in our Grand Marnier soufflé Valentine’s post. You’ll find it very similar to the written version we published beneath the aforementioned recipe, with a couple minor tweaks.

In that version I said to use medium-low heat, but it’s probably best to go for something a little closer to medium. I was erring on the side of safety, but it does take a while to come up to temperature, so don’t be afraid to crank the heat up a little if you’re feeling impatient. Unless you let this simmer, which you aren’t going to do, you shouldn’t really have a problem with scrambled eggs.

I also remembered I like to stir a teaspoon of Grand Marnier into the finished, cooled sauce for a little extra orange kick. Any time you heat a liqueur, the alcohol will evaporate, which does change the flavor. By adding a bit at the end, we get that wonderful orange cognac flavor in all its undiminished glory. I hope you give this easy, incredibly delicious, and versatile dessert sauce recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Crème Anglaise Sauce:
(Makes about 1 cup)
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup white sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Grand Marnier
Once sauce is cooled, add:
1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1 tsp Grand Marnier, stirred into cold sauce

View the complete recipe

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bhel Puri?

My friends Daniel and Mirra from The Perennial Plate traveled through India recently, and just posted this great video featuring one of their favorite street food recipes, bhel puri. I’ve never had it, or even heard of it for that matter, but it looks and sounds amazing. I'm intrigued. Anyway, I just wanted to share the video, and see if any of you have had any experience with this dish. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

“Red Hot” Liqueur – Nicer AND Quicker

There’s an old Valentine’s Day saying that goes, “Candy is nicer, but liquor is quicker.” It’s really a lovely sentiment, but implies you have to choose one or the other. Hopefully this beautiful and delicious homemade cinnamon liqueur will prove that you can use both.

This is dead simple to make, and I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it came out. As I mention in the video, the candy’s spicy cinnamon flavor and sweetness really mellows the burn of drinking straight 80-proof booze. This makes for some very smooth sipping, but at the same time demands at least a modicum of restraint.

I enjoyed mine neat, but imagine this would be great over ice, maybe with a splash of soda. I’m also wondering how it would be in a mug of hot cider, and by wondering, I mean obsessed with finding out. Stay tuned.

I’d like to extend a very special thanks to my friend, and fellow food blogger, Sean Timberlake. Sean publishes Hedonia and Punk Domestics, and he’s the one who turned me on to this brilliant elixir. His only request was that I use the knowledge for good, and not evil. Sorry, too late!

Anyway, giving edible gifts like chocolate is very traditional on Valentine’s Day, so why not a drinkable gift? And if you do decide to bottle some up, don’t forget your own customized warning label, as it will really show how much you care. I hope you and your Valentine give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 1/2 cups of “Red Hot” Liqueur 
1 cup Red Hots candy
2 cups cheap vodka

Monday, February 11, 2013

Grand Marnier Soufflés – Rising to the Occasion on Valentine’s Day

Presenting this gorgeous Grand Marnier soufflé to your Valentine at the end of a romantic dinner would certainly impress, but imagine actually making this while they watch.

What a golden opportunity to show off your cooking skills, and a flair for the dramatic; not to mention the countless innuendos and double entendres such a scene would afford. Afraid it won’t turn out, and you’ll completely embarrass yourself? Too bad! No guts, no glory, and by “glory” we mean…glory.

The good news is, contrary to popular belief, and many cartoons, soufflés are actually very easy to make. I hope after a few viewings of this video, and maybe a practice run or two, you’ll realize just how simple this really is. Of course, to make things a little exciting you can over-fill these like I did, which can cause some wild and unpredictably shaped soufflé tops.

I think they still look super cool, but if you stop filling a 1/4-inch from the top, they generally will rise a little straighter. Having said that, anyone who’d complain about the shape of a soufflé top has some serious issues, and should probably be asked to leave immediately.

By the way, I do have a Crème Anglaise video recipe in the works, but for now you’ll have to rely on the simple written recipe below. As I mention in the clip, this is an extremely impressive dessert “as is,” but when you pierce the top of that hot, steaming soufflé, and pour in the silky, sexy sauce…well, you saw the video. Let’s just say it’s a very nice touch.

Speaking of nice touches, if you’re still looking for that extra special Valentine’s Day dessert for your extra special Valentine, I hope you’ll put aside your fears and give this a go. You really should get lots of compliments. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 Grand Marnier Soufflés:

2 (8-oz) heat-proof ramekins, brushed inside with melted butter and coated with sugar.
Note: Mine were closer to 7-oz, which is why I overfilled them as you saw. This amount of batter should fill two 8-oz ramekins. Amounts may vary depending on volume of your eggs/meringue, so don’t be surprised if you have a little more or less.
2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons melted butter
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cold milk
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup white sugar
powdered sugar to garnish finished souffles

View the complete souffle recipe

Crème Anglaise Sauce:
(Makes about 1 cup)
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup white sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp Grand Marnier
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk everything together in a small, but heavy saucepan. Place over med-low heat, and cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula being scraped across bottom, until the mixture is hot, and thickens slightly. The mixture should not come to a simmer (but close). The temp should be around 180 degrees F. when it’s done. Remove from heat, strain to remove any over-cooked particles of egg, and let cool.  If you want, you can add some fresh orange zest to the sauce as it cools. Serve ice cold with hot soufflé.

View the complete sauce recipe

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Searching for Answers!

Did birds that ate this bread have anything
to do with the problem? Of course not,
but I didn't have any related photos.
I’ve received a number of emails regarding problems with the search engine in the sidebar. All of a sudden it’s not returning all the correct results. I have no idea why, so I thought I’d see if any of your more technologically inclined readers may have a clue.

The search box is just the basic Google widget that comes standard with the Blogger template layout I’m using. I can’t switch over to WordPress or other platforms right now, so if that’s your suggestion, thanks, but we’re looking for solutions with the current layout.

By the way, the search box at the top left of the window in the black strip does work, but returns entire blog posts instead of detailed search results. If you have any ideas on a fix or replacement widget or code, please pass them along! Thanks!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fish Stew – Sexy Is As Sexy Does

You often hear people describe food as “sexy,” but I’ve always believed it’s really more the occasion and company that makes a meal sexy. Put your Valentine across a candlelit table, pour a couple glasses of wine, and no matter what you serve up, sexiness will ensue.

Having said that, it certainly doesn’t hurt to hedge your bets and serve up a naturally sensuous dish like this simple, but sophisticated fish stew. This is great for you less than confident cooks, since your timing doesn’t need to be that precise. Did I mention there’d be wine around?

You can actually do everything ahead, up until adding the fish if you want. Since the pieces will cook in between 5 and 10 minutes, when you’re ready to eat, simply bring the mixture to a boil, add the fish, and simmer until done. You can also hold the stew over very low heat for a good 15-20 minutes without major problems, in case, well, you know.

By the way, make sure you check and see if your dining partner likes fish and wine, as this would be a horrible choice if they don’t. If they do, you’re in business. Almost any type of fish or shellfish will work in this, as well as any small, cute potatoes. Just don’t forget to peel the middles, as it's kind of a big deal. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 tbsp butter
1 large leek, chopped
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sliced fennel root
1 pound small red potatoes
cayenne to taste
1/2 cup cream
1 pound boneless fish filets
1 tbsp chopped tarragon

View the complete recipe

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cajun Chicken Ragu – An Old and Misspelled Mardi Gras Classic

Many years ago, at a small neighborhood restaurant in San Francisco, a young cook got to do his very first menu “special.” It featured pulled chicken, Cajun sausage, and peppers stewed in a rich, spicy gravy; and was served over grilled French bread. 

Not sure what to call it, the inexperienced, but handsome cook described it as a, “sort of Cajun ragout of chicken,” which made it on to the specials board as, “Cajun Chicken Ragu.”

Yes, I was that young cook, and the following recipe is pretty close to that historic dish. While I did enjoy it over the grilled bread back in the day, a gravy this awesome really deserves to be served over a big pile of rice. These are the kind of things you learn as you mature. That, and make sure you spell out your specials to the disinterested waiter writing the chalkboard.

Anyway, since I’m not going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras (I’m allergic to feathers and drunk tourists), I thought I’d dust off this old, personal favorite, which while not totally authentic, certainly celebrates those fabulous Cajun/Creole flavors.

As I mentioned in the video, this works with any kind of chicken, raw or cooked. As long as you simmer the gravy to an appropriate thickness, and make sure your meats are fully cooked, and heated through, you should be in bon shape. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large portions of Cajun Chicken Ragu:
6 slices of bacon, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
large pinch of salt
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 cups cold chicken broth
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
8 oz andouille sausage, sliced
2 or 3 cups pulled chicken meat
1/4 cup chopped green onions, plus more to garnish
*check for salt and seasoning, and adjust at the end!

View the complete recipe

Monday, February 4, 2013

Great News! The Bones Were Right!

You can see here that the bones are clearly
indicating the older "Harbaugh" would win.
If you lost money betting on the 49ers because of our chicken wing bone prediction, I have some really great news for you. Upon further review, the bones were correct! As you can see from the photo, the bones actually spelled out an “H” and a “+” symbol; and not an “SF” as we’d originally thought.

The “H” clearly indicates that a “Harbaugh” was going to be the winner, which was true, and the “+” revealed it would be older brother, John. So basically, the problem was that the bones were too accurate.

For future reference, when brothers
are coaching against each other, do
not look for the city! Live and learn.

Our original call was based on looking for a city, or team mascot; but since football’s collective consciousness was focused on this historic brother vs. brother coaching battle, we should have calibrated for that instead. My bad.

Anyway, even though you probably lost your ass because of this little misinterpretation, I’m sure just knowing that the bones’ streak of correctly predicting the Super Bowl outcome is still intact makes you feel a lot better. Plus, you can always bet double next year to make up the difference. You’re welcome!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Enjoy the Game! And, Don't Be "That Guy"

I hope you all have a great day watching the game, enjoying lots of tasty treats, and most of all, rubbing it in your skeptical friends faces when our prediction comes true, again. I'm assuming this isn't your first Super Bowl, but just in case you are new to attending SB parties, this video may help you out. Please pay special attention to the "no talking during the commercials" part, especially if there are lots of females in attendance. They have to put up with our screaming and yelling during the game, so the least we can do is shut up while they watch what they call, "the best part." Enjoy!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Potato & Chorizo Mini Quiches – One Last Super Bite for Your Super Bowl

To all of you that have been requesting mini-cupcake videos: this mini quiche recipe may be as close as I get. I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to get excited about buttercream when I have chorizo, potato and manchego in the house. Okay, one’s a sweet treat and other is a savory snack, so it’s not a fair comparison, but on the bright side, this intro paragraph is done.

This little baked bite is very loosely based on the Spanish Tortilla, and not only is it dead simple to make, but the versatility of the technique allows this to be adapted to any occasion. From ruckus Super Bowl celebration to black tie Oscar party, these mini quiches will always be a crowd-pleaser.

I’d almost be insulted if you didn’t make changes to the ingredients to tailor this to your tastes, but I do recommend that little dab of aioli on the top. I spiked a classic, garlicky aioli with some smoked paprika and chive, and it really made these treats even more special.  I hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 24 Mini Quiche:
4 oz Spanish chorizo sausage, small dice
2 tsp olive oil
1 russet potato, small dice
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable spray, as needed
8 large eggs, beaten with pinch of cayenne and 1/2 tsp salt
(Note: there are 10 eggs shown in the video, but it made too much, so I cut down to 8)
about 2/3 cup grated manchego or cheddar cheese