Monday, May 27, 2013

Family Matters

I generally like my double entendres to be a little more lighthearted, but such is not the case. This is just a quick note to let you know that I'll need to take a break from the blog this week to attend to some pressing family matters. I will be back before you know it, and I want to wish all of you a happy and thoughtful Memorial Day. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Curly “Q” Sausage – Get It Twisted

Someone sent me a video link last summer, showing someone spiral cutting a hot dog. The wienercision was done by Blake Smith from, and I remember wondering if this technique would work with parboiled Italian sausage.

Oh, it worked. It worked real good. By the way, I was going to provide a link to the aforementioned video, but Blake ended the demo by putting ketchup on his hot dog, so forget it. Okay, fine, since I did steal his technique, here you go.

Not only does this look very cool, the technique also provides a significantly greater amount of surface area, and when you’re talking about grilling meat, it’s all about the surface area. You could brush barbecue sauce on an un-helixed Italian sausage, but here you’re literally flavoring the sausage inside and out. 

And if you're skeptical about how well barbecue sauce goes with Italian sausage, take it from someone who ate one; it’s a match made in backyard barbecue heaven. I’d like to wish all you a safe and very festive Memorial Day weekend, and I hope you “spring” these curly “Q” sausages on your guests. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pan-Roasted Marble Potatoes – A Short Post About Little Potatoes from a Small Town

You’ll have to excuse the smaller than usual blog post, but I just flew across country, and boy are my arms tired…sorry, not arms, I meant jokes. 

Anyway, I’m back at my mom’s for a few weeks to help her out after some shoulder surgery, and despite a very late, turbulent, and sleepless flight, I had just enough energy left to post this marble potatoes video.

I generally try to stick with ingredients that can be found at any large grocery store, and I hope that’s the case here, but to be honest I really didn’t care, as these were just too damn cute not to film. If at all possible, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

4 stripes bacon, sliced
1 pound marble potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tbsp rice vinegar, or any vinegar

View the complete recipe

Monday, May 20, 2013

Smoked Turkey & Spring Pea Fettuccine – A Pasta From My Salad Days

This rich and creamy, smoked turkey and spring pea fettuccine recipe is inspired by a pasta I learned long ago, working at my first real chef job in San Francisco. 

You may have heard me mention Ryan’s Café in the past, especially if you’ve tried our famous chicken Marsala, and it was at this same restaurant where I learned what I still consider one of the best pasta recipes ever.

As I mention in the video, the original was done with smoked chicken, but for whatever reason smoked turkey is much easier to find at the market. I blame the sandwich industry, but no worries, as the turkey is just as good. There’s just something very special about the way the creamy, slightly sweet, aromatic sauce pairs with the smoky meat. Which reminds me, this is also wonderful with leftover ham.

Regarding what many would consider the dangerously large quantities of cream, I’d like to take a moment to do some math. The recipe makes four appetizer size portions. There’s about 1 3/4 cups of cream used, which is roughly 350 calories worth of butter-fatty goodness per serving. To put that into perspective, those two small ladles of dressing you used during your last trip to the salad bar had about the same amount. So, long story short, relax.

Anyway, now that I’ve armed you with a comeback for when your (probably too thin) friend questions your copious cream usage, I hope you give this very simple, but extraordinarily delicious pasta recipe a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 small or 2 large portions:
8 oz dry fettuccine noodles, boiled in salted water
For the sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 3/4 cup heavy cream (about 34-36% fat)
6 oz smoked turkey, sliced
1/2 cup green peas, frozen or fresh shelled
2 tbsp minced fresh tarragon leaves
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
1 tsp lemon zest
Parmigiano-Reggiano to garnish

View the complete recipe

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Memorial Day, Already?

I can't believe it's almost Memorial Day weekend! Seems like just yesterday I was watching people shoveling snow and scraping ice. Of course, I live in California, and that was on the Weather Channel, but still, seems like yesterday. I blame my beloved Golden State Warriors for making the playoffs, and throwing off my seasonal clock.  

Anyway, the upcoming long weekend is considered the official start of cookout season, and to celebrate I thought I'd repost this collection of grill-friendly recipes. By the way, in addition to looking and tasting great on their own, these dishes all have a proven track record of pairing well with cold beer. Enjoy!! 

Santa Maria Tri-Tip Grilled Lamb Chops
Grilled Pickled Veggies Grilled Korean Short Ribs
Grilled Flank Steak Grilled Lemon Chicken
Cornell Chicken Grilled Barbecue Chicken
Grilled Pork Tenderloin Grilled Asian Skirt Steak
Spicy Tarragon Grilled Chicken Grilled Calabrian Chicken

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Baked Goat Cheese “Caprese” – Hot and Not

No salad will break your heart like the “Caprese.” It always sounds great; creamy mozzarella, fragrant basil, and sweet, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes…what’s not to love? Well, false advertising for one. With very few exceptions, the tomatoes used on these Caprese salads are not sweet, juicy, ripe tomatoes; they’re the opposite.

They’re almost always your standard, conventionally produced, picked green and left to redden (not ripen) in the case, tomatoes. They’re mealy, flavorless, and completely undeserving of being paired with ingredients as perfect as mozzarella and basil.

While I’m invariably disappointed by the execution of this classic salad, I do love the combination of flavors, and by using cherry tomatoes, I thought it would translate perfectly for a baked goat cheese appetizer. Did it ever. When you take into consideration the taste, appearance, and ease of preparation, there’s a real chance this could become your new favorite summer appetizer.

By the way, as long as you are using high quality, oven safe ramekins, you can also do these on the backyard grill. Place a piece of foil on the grates, set down your ramekins, close the cover, and cook until the juices are bubbling, and the cheese is heated through.

I hope you give this delicious, and so not disappointing “Caprese” a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
8 oz log fresh goat cheese, cut into 4 equal pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp basil chiffonade
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
freshly ground black pepper and cayenne, to taste
*bake at 400 degrees F. for about 15 minutes

View the complete recipe

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Barbecue Shrimp – So Good, and So Not Barbecued

No one’s really sure why this magnificent dish is called barbecue shrimp, but since it was invented in New Orleans, let’s just assume they had a great reason, and move on to more important issues, like making and eating a huge plate of these.

There are countless ways to make this dish, almost all containing copious amounts of butter, along with garlic, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. This is not something you’d serve to your friend with the bland palate. By the way, can’t believe you’re still friends with that bland palate dude.

Anyway, feel free to adjust and adapt to your heart’s content. My version is fairly light, which is kind of funny to say, since I call for half a stick of butter, but I’ve seen versions that were basically deep-fried in the stuff. So, you know, compared to that, this is like spa food.

As far as seasoning goes, be careful with the salt. The Worcestershire is pretty salty, so you may not want to add it all to the shrimp stock like I did. I used about 3 generous tablespoons, since I like mine pretty salty, but it’s probably safer to just add 1 or 2 tablespoons, and then taste/adjust later on.

Other than that, and finding some colossal shrimp (the bigger the better), this recipe is a breeze. It may not have anything to do with barbecue, but like its namesake, it’s incredibly delicious and another great culinary gift from the south. I hope you try some soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds colossal shrimp
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp Old Bay seasoning, optional
4 tbsp cold butter, cut in cubes
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups shrimp stock (using reserved shells, sauteed in 1 tsp butter, and simmered with 2 cups stock or water for 20-30 min)
juice of 1 lemon
hot sauce to taste 
2-3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
lots of white rice

View the complete recipe

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day!

I want to wish all the moms out there a very happy Mother’s Day! I’m blessed to have two great moms in my life, my mother Pauline, and my mother-in-law Peggy. Both continue to be my biggest fans and supporters, and as I’ve said before, this blog wouldn’t exist without them.

To honor them, and everyone else out there who nurture and take care of others, I give you this inspired performance by future rock star, Teal Greene. While I chose this because of Teal’s heartfelt lyrics, I have to admit his wardrobe choices of baggy, long underwear, sunglasses, and San Francisco Giant’s cap  sealed the deal. Enjoy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chilled Sugar Snap Pea Soup – Ain't Nuthin' But a "P" Thang, Baby!

I’ve never been a big cold soup fan. Where I’m from, cold soup gets sent back, but over the years I’ve grown to appreciate things like gazpacho, vichyssoise, and…that’s about it. Well, thanks to this gorgeous chilled sugar snap pea soup, my repertoire just expanded in a very delicious way.

Traditionally (from what I hear), chilled pea soups are made with English peas, but thanks to the very user-friendly sugar snap, not only is there no shelling involved here, but I think they impart an even sweeter flavor. Speaking of sweet flavor, you’re going to want to contrast that by garnishing with some sour cream or crème fraiche. If you can’t get or have that, then use a few drops of lemon juice or rice vinegar to balance the flavors. 

As far as the mint goes though, I’d make every effort to obtain some, as I can’t imagine another herb pairing as well. Lastly, the Snoop Dogg reference in the title foreshadows a Snoop Dogg reference made during the garnishing portion of the video. For more information, ask your kids. I hope you give this lovely, spring soup a try soon. Enjoy! 

Ingredients for about 6 cups of soup:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup sliced leeks
4 cups chicken broth
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
1 pound sugar snap peas
2 mint leaves
crème fraiche or sour cream, and more fresh mint to garnish

View the complete recipe

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

You Can Count on Monte Cristo Benedict for Mother’s Day Brunch

I always get a ton of food wishes this time of year for creative brunch ideas, and I was thinking about doing some new type of eggs Benedict, when I happened to see a photo of a Monte Cristo sandwich. At first, it just made me want a Monte Cristo sandwich, but after that wore off, I started thinking about how I’d seen these topped with fried eggs before.

Long story short, I decided to simply make an open-faced version of the famous stuffed sandwich, and top it with poached eggs, and hopefully a new American brunch classic was born. Of course, I'll let you decide, but there was nothing I didn’t love about this plate of food. Okay, the salad was kind of phoned in, but the rest was awesome.

The base is a variation of our famous Restaurant Style French Toast recipe, which marries perfectly with the ham, cheddar and havarti. It was so tasty you really don’t even need the poached eggs. Actually, forget I said that. Do the eggs. If only so you can pop those yolks, and watch them run. Besides the eating, that has to be the best part.

I’ve also re-posted a poached eggs demo below, since poaching your eggs ahead of time is the only way to go, especially if you have a larger group. By the way, you can hold the Monte Cristo bases in a warm oven while you pull the rest of the meal together. I hope you give this new Benedict a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
For the batter:
2 large eggs
1/4 cup cream
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
4 thick slices of French bread
1 tbsp butter
8 slices ham
4 slices cheddar cheese
4 slices havarti cheese
chive to garnish

How to Poach Eggs 

View the complete Poached Eggs recipe

View the complete Monte Cristo Benedict recipe

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lemon Bars for a Lasting Mother’s Day Impression

Mother’s Day is coming up, and since so many of you brave souls will be attempting a celebratory brunch, I thought I’d post this much-requested lemon bars recipe, in case things don’t go as smoothly as anticipated. 

Preparing brunch can be tricky anytime, let alone under mom’s watchful (aka “extremely concerned”) eyes. Can someone please get her a mimosa and walk her into the garden?

So, even if a few poached eggs break, or the toast gets a little too golden-black, no worries! If you finish the meal with these gorgeous, and absolutely impossible to mess-up lemon bars, she'll be as proud as she will be impressed. Our moms may have taught us the importance of a good first impression, but its America’s restaurateurs who discovered the importance of a delicious last impression. There's nothing like a well made pastry to make one forgive a tough steak.

Other than a baking dish, there’s no special equipment or techniques required. Both the shortbread base and the lemon custard take only minutes, and are simply hand-mixed in a bowl. 

Basically, if you can move your arm in a circle, and effectively set a timer (there’s one on your phone), your lemon bars should look just as good as these (maybe better – see meringue note below). Anyway, whether you’re going to make these for Mother’s Day or not, I hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 16 Small Lemon Bars:

For the shortbread crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup room temp unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
Bake crust at 350 degrees F. for 22 minutes

For the lemon layer:
2 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes
Garnish with powdered sugar; or top with *meringue (the extra egg white whipped with 1 tablespoon of sugar) and brown with torch.

*My Meringue
If you decide to turn these into lemon meringue bars, do yourself a favor and actually measure the sugar. I couldn’t be bothered to check a recipe, so I only tossed in a teaspoon of sugar, and it should be closer to a tablespoon. The technique is the same; beat the extra white to the ribbon stage (where drips of white stay on the surface for a few seconds), and then add the sugar and continue whipping until you have nice, glossy peaks. My “by eye” batch worked fine, but it was a little too dry, and not quite sticky enough. Be advised.

View the complete recipe

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Those Other Tortillas

I know we've done flour tortillas on the blog, but I've not yet attempted the far more intimidating corn version. Why do they scare me so? I'm not sure, but it's a real problem. Anyway, one of these days I'll muster up the courage to give it a go, but in the meantime, here's a demo from my buddies at showing the basic method. Can it really be this easy? Enjoy!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shrimp & Jalapeno Nachos for Cinco de Mayo or Cinco de Anytime

These simple and addictive shrimp and jalapeno nachos are not only a nice alternative to more common versions, but a great reminder of how this iconic snack was actually intended to be served. Contrary to current fashion, nachos didn’t start out as a giant pile of chips drenched in ladles of florescent gold cheese sauce.

The earliest versions were made by simply broiling a single layer of cheese-topped chips, which were then garnished with jalapeno peppers – simple and elegant, with every chip genetically identical to the next. Over time we’ve added hundreds of toppings, as well as replaced the broiled (real) cheese with something that you can also use to grease an axel.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the aforementioned version just as much as the next guy wearing pajama jeans, but once in a while it’s good to revisit a simpler time in American snacking. If you’re planning to party, I wish you a fun and safe Cinco de Mayo, and hope you give these very tasty chips a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Portions:
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (I used 50-60 per pounds size, which are ideal for this)
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp ground chipotle pepper
salt and pepper to taste
50-60 large tortilla chips, or as needed
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced very thin
about 3 1/2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
avocado creama (1 avocado, 1 cup sour cream, and juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes; liquefied in a blender)
sliced cherry tomatoes and freshly chopped cilantro to garnish

View the complete recipe