Monday, June 29, 2015

Sweet Potato Buns – Great for Burgers, and Learning How to Bake Without Fear

Not only does adding sweet potatoes to a burger bun make it more nutritious, delicious, and significantly more beautiful, but it also presents the perfect opportunity to get pass your flour amount phobia, and finally be able to make dough by feel.

Every once in a while, I’ll get an email from someone whose dough was way too wet, or dry, and I always think the same thing; why would you stop? Some actually tell me they had to throw out the whole batch, which is insane. Your dough’s too wet? Add some flour. Too dry? Add some water.

No matter how exact a recipe is written, you simply can’t go by measurements, volume or weight, and expect perfection. There are too many variables that effect how much flour is needed – like a cup of mashed sweet potatoes, for example.

The best strategy is to not add all the flour at once, and only add enough to achieve the soft, slightly tacky dough seen herein. One of the great advantages of video is being able to see what the dough should look and feel like.

Once you get comfortable with not worrying about exact amounts, but rather exact results, the world of bread opens up to you and your new-found powers. Now, you just need to practice, so with that in mind, I really hope you give these amazing sweet potato buns a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 large, 16 medium, or 32 slider-sized rolls:

For sponge:
1 package (2 1/2 tsp) dry active yeast (I used Fleischmann's “RapidRise” Yeast)
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup AP flour

Then add:
1 cup mashed orange sweet potato (also sold as yams)
2 tsp honey
1 1/4 teaspoons fine salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour AP flour, as needed to form the right texture dough (see blog post)

- Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes, or until browned. Large buns may take an extra few minutes, and the sliders-sized may take a minute or two less.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Teriyaki Burgers and a Sweet Potato Bun Tease

Your classic teriyaki burger is usually nothing more than a plain patty, which has been glazed in teriyaki sauce; and by “teriyaki sauce,” I mean a thick, one-dimensional syrup made from sugar, soy, and MSG. If you’re enjoying your third pint at a sports bar, these work out just fine, but good luck adapting them for your next cookout.

Here we’re using a different, drier approach, and adding the key teriyaki flavorings to the ground meat. This gives us a burger or slider with the taste of teriyaki, without having to deal with a sauce. This recipe should work no matter the cooking method, although a medium-hot charcoal grill would be my preference, weather permitting.

No matter how you grill these, I highly recommend they end up on a homemade sweet potato slider bun. Besides another way to tweak the humble hamburger, this clip was intended to be a sneak preview for some rather amazing buns. We’ll post that sometime Monday, just in case you want to add it to your 4th of July menu. So stay tuned, and as always, enjoy!

Ingredients for four (4-oz) burgers:
1 pound ground beef (85/15 lean to fat ratio)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tsp sriracha, or other hot sauce to taste
2 tsp brown sugar

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Butter Puff Biscuit Dough – Faster, Easier, and Not Great for Shortcake

As promised, this is the puff pastry-like dough I used in the apple roses video, and while not exactly “ quick and easy,” this was definitely quicker and easier. Just don’t try and make strawberry shortcake with this stuff.

I wanted to use this dough as the centerpiece of our strawberry shortcake video, but unfortunately the cold pastry was way too hard to cut with a spoon, and so I ended up using a much more traditional, and user-friendly biscuit.   

That aside, as a puff pastry substitute, I think this was a huge success. Hopefully, you saw this in action in the apple roses video, which, by the way, was done with scraps. Besides fruit tarts, I’d love to try this for things like ham and cheese turnovers, and chocolate croissants.

With that in mind, I hope any and all successful experiments with this dough will be shared on social media; mostly so I can copy your ideas. By the way, there seems to a little controversy on YouTube as to the exact number of layers we got, so what say you? I hope you give this butter puff biscuit dough a try soon. Enjoy!

2 cups self-rising flour (You can make you own by sifting together 2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon fine salt)
3/4 cup cold water (add enough water to make a soft, but not sticky dough)
*7 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter (a stick is 8 tablespoons)

*I grated on about 4 tablespoons for the first application, and about 3 tablespoons for the second.
- I generally bake this stuff at 400 F.  Time will depend on what it’s being used for.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Chef John’s "Sunset" Michelada – I Only Refer to Myself in the 3rd Person When I Drink

About halfway through this video production for how to make a Michelada, I realized I was getting paid to drink beer, which made the experience that much more enjoyable, and that’s saying a lot.

This spicy, savory, tangy, amazingly refreshing beer-based cocktail is considered one of the best hot-weather, adult beverages ever. I’ve heard it described as “Bloody Mary meets Mimosa,” which makes me never want to go to brunch again, but it’s also kind of accurate.

While that may not sound like something you would enjoy, most people do, and very much so. And the hotter it is, the more they enjoy, both literally and figuratively.  There’s something about how that slightly bitter, effervescent beer works with the sweet-sour-spicy profile of the other ingredients.

Even though they may seem like odd additions, things like the soy and Worcestershire are very important here, since they bring savoriness, or “umami” as the foodies would call it, to the drink.

I would never wish a horrendous heat wave on anybody, but, if one were to come your way, I hope you give this delicious, and restorative, Michelada “beertail” a try soon. Enjoy!

For Each Michelada:
lots of ice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp hot sauce or to taste
1/8 tsp soy sauce
juice from half a lime (use other half to rim glasses with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and chili pepper)
1/4 to 1/3 cup tomato juice or homemade vegetable juice (see below)
1/2 bottle ice-cold Mexican lager (6 oz)
lime slices to garnish

For the vegetable juice (makes about 3 cups):
2 pints sweet cherry tomatoes, washed, drained
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
salt and pepper to taste (unless you use a ton on the rim like I did)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mocha Semifreddo – Bad Technique Makes for a Great Frozen Summer Dessert

I got a request for semifreddo recently, and since it is a massively underrated summer dessert, I decided to give it a go. I love the rich taste, and the fact that you get what’s basically an airy, custard-style ice cream, without having to use a machine. However, it all comes at a cost.

The classic procedure is a little bothersome, since you need to make three separate components – a zabaione, a meringue, and whipped cream – so, I decided to simply use the eggs whole, and make a “zabaringue.” I knew I wouldn’t get as much volume, but I didn’t care.

One of my issues with semifreddo is that they’re sometimes too airy, and the flavor gets spread too thin.That wasn’t a problem here, and yet this much simpler version retained a wonderfully light texture despite the shortcut. I decided on a mocha-flavored semifreddo, since coffee is a pretty manly ingredient, and this sure would make a nice Father’s Day dessert. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Warning: Answering questions about how to use this technique to make other flavors is tough, since there are many variables. Theoretically, if you replace the coffee and liquor, with other “stuff,” then you should get a similar product. Good luck!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
- For the egg/coffee mixture:
 2 large egg eggs
 2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee
1 tablespoon Kahlua
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
tiny pinch salt
 - For the whipped cream:
1/4 cup ice cold heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp sugar
-Combine and freeze until firm. If using a loaf pan, line with plastic first!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Nectarine Salsa – Stone Cold Delicious

I’ve always loved the marvelous contrast between a hot, smoky piece of meat, and a cold, fruity salsa; and this version featuring nectarines did not disappoint. In fact, the only thing that pairs better with this fresh fruit salsa is a basket of crispy tortilla chips.

This salsa will work with any stone fruit, but nectarines are my favorite. They’re usually sweet, even when still a bit firm, which I prefer texturally over a perfectly ripe price of fruit. Having said that, if you do have a few peaches to use up this summer, this is something to keep in mind.

As I said in my closing arguments at the end of the video, if you think fruit salsa is just too weird, then you need to be reminded that tomato, a fruit, is the most popular salsa ingredient of all time. I rest my case…again. Hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 2 cups Nectarine Salsa:
*Note: everything here is “to taste,” so adjust accordingly.
1 cup finely diced nectarine
1/3 cup finely diced onions
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
2 tbsp finely diced jalapeno pepper
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
pinch cayenne
pinch freshly ground black pepper

Friday, June 12, 2015

Beef, Bean, and Beer Chili – What a Great Way to Lose a Beer

As the legend goes, someone was making a batch of chili one day, while drinking too much beer, and due to a series of unfortunate events, a bottle was dropped into the pot. 

By the time it was fished out, the contents had escaped, and a new, delicious version of chili was born. As a former line cook, I'd say that sounds about right.

This recipe reminds me of the decision we’re faced with whenever we make beef stew. Should we deglaze with wine, or just our broth? Both make great, but differently flavored stews, so it really just depends on your mood, and also whether you're willing to sacrifice your adult beverage.

As I mention in the video, hot chili is a very underrated summer menu item. Bring a big ol’ thermos of this to a picnic, or other warm weather cookout, and it makes a great side to those grilled burgers and dogs. Just have some insulated cups around, and maybe some hot sauce, and you’re in business. I hope you give this beef, bean, and beer chili a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 diced onion
2 pounds ground beef
2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tbsp ancho chile powder, or to taste (I like ancho, but any high-quality ground chili pepper will work)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tsp paprika
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (12-oz) bottle of beer
1 cup tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
2 cups water, or as needed
2/3 cup diced green pepper (I used poblano, but a combo of jalapeno and green bell works great too)
2 (12 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed well

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Breaking News! (Actually, a Minor Programming Note)

As many of you know, we've been posting with the same frequency for many years; alternating between three video weeks and two video weeks. One week it's Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and the next it's Tuesday-Thursday. Well, starting this week, whenever we have a two video week, we'll post on Tuesday and Friday instead.

This not only spreads out production a little better, but word on the street is that you get more views on a Friday than a Thursday. I'm not sure why I haven't thought of this before, but better late than never. Don't think of it as having to wait an extra day this week to see a new video, think of it as seeing next week's first video a day early. Thanks, and as always, enjoy!


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Classic Macaroni Salad – Delicious is In the Details

I can’t believe I’ve never posted a video for my take on summer’s most iconic pasta salad. Whether it’s sitting next to some smoky ribs, or just a humble hot dog, this deli-style macaroni salad will always be a crowd-favorite, as long as you pay attention to a few key details.

The most important things are to not rinse the macaroni, and to let it cool before adding the dressing. If you add it while the pasta is too hot, the mayo sort of melts, and you get a greasy salad. By letting it cool, while tossing, the macaroni gets nice and tacky, and will grab the sauce a lot better.

I mention in the video, I don’t put as much sugar as many of the web’s most popular versions call for. For this much dressing, a half-cup of sugar is not uncommon, which for my taste is way too much. Since we’re adding all those sweet veggies, just a spoon or two is all you should need.

As long as you follow the technique shown, you can tweak the vegetables and dressing ingredients to your liking, but no matter what you put in, try to let it sit overnight before serving. The flavors will develop, the macaroni will fully absorb the dressing, and all you’ll need to do is taste, adjust, and serve. I hope you give easy salad a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 portions:
1 pound (4 cups) uncooked elbow macaroni, cooked in well-salted water
For the dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise, plus an extra spoon as needed
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 or 2 tbsp white sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup green onions, white and light parts
1 cup finely diced celery
3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced green pepper (I used poblano and jalapeno)
1/2 cup grated carrot

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bacon and Egg Doughnuts! Perfect for Real and Made-Up Holidays

I’ve always wanted to try making some kind of sweet/savory bacon-studded fritter using pâte à choux, also known as that stuff you make cream puffs with. It’s such beautifully rich, eggy dough, yet fries up to a surprisingly light, puffy texture.

Today is National Doughnut Day, as you know if you’ve been on Twitter in the last 48 hours, and so I decided to give it a go, and called it a "doughnut" in a cheap attempt to garner extra National Doughnut Day web traffic. That's also why I keep mentioning National Doughnut Day.

I went full breakfast theme, and topped mine with a little maple syrup, but feel free to get your beignet on, and cover them with a pile of powdered sugar. That’s not my preference, due to the mustache issue mentioned in the clip, but people with hair-free lips seem to like it.

Whether you’re going to surprise dad with a plate of these for Fathers Day, or you just want to tell your friends and co-workers you made bacon and egg doughnuts, I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 to 10 small Bacon and Egg Doughnuts:
(this is a half a recipe, so I would highly recommend doubling everything)
6 strips bacon, sliced, browned, cooled, and chopped (save some for the tops)
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp cold water
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
vegetable oil for deep frying
maple syrup to garnish

- Fry at 350 F. for about 7 minutes, turning often, until puffed and well-browned
* If doing in batches, hold in a warm oven

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Grilled Garlic & Herb Shrimp – Why We Grow Our Own

Now that we all have our very own culinary herb gardens, I thought I’d post a recipe that takes full advantage. This grilled garlic and herb shrimp recipe is very easy, IF you can just walk out into the backyard, and pick a handful of your own fresh, green sprigs.

Without that luxury, you’d have to buy four different bunches, and probably only use a little of each. What a waste. However, these are so amazingly delicious, if you don’t have a garden, you should do exactly that. Then plant the herb garden. 

While you're out buying stuff, pick up a mortar and pestle, if you don't already have one. A blender or food processor won't produce the same intense flavors as this primitive tool. It's all about the compounds released by the crushing, or at least that's what I've been told.

Try to get the largest shrimp you can find, since that will allow for maximum grilling time, which equals maximum caramelization, which is where so much of the flavor comes from. So, whether you have an herb garden or not, I really hope you give these great grilled shrimp a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 servings:
*Note: I just guessed at these amounts because it’s that kind of a recipe.
2 pounds 16/20 peeled and deveined shrimp
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1/2 cup of fresh picked and chopped herbs
I used basil, Italian parsley, oregano, and lemon thyme (everything works, but be careful with rosemary, as it can be over-powering)
About 4 to 6 tbsps of olive oil, or as needed
- Use 2/3 for the marinade, and save the other 1/3 for the sauce

For the sauce:
Reserved garlic herb marinade
Red chili flakes and cayenne to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
season to taste

Monday, June 1, 2015

Grow Your Own Culinary Herb Garden – Yard to Table

I mentioned several times during this ‘how to plant your own culinary herb garden’ video that I’d give a lot more specific information on the blog, but now that I’m here, I realize there’s not much more to tell you.

Herbs are very easy to grow, and besides basil, which doesn't like to dry out, they only require occasional watering. Any well-drained soil will work, but your best bet is to grab a bag of ready-to-use planting mix. Feel free to double check with the person at the nursery, but it’s basically potting soil with benefits. And, I did say nursery. Drive the extra mile, and talk to people that just sell plants.

I consider these herbs must-haves, but there are many more varieties you can try. I’ve done things like tarragon and cilantro in the past, and while they are a little more temperamental, they can be successfully cultivated.

Nothing beats being able to go out into the garden, and just take a pinch of this and a pinch of that. When you consider the cost of one of these plants is just a little more than for a single bunch at the market, why not have a few pots around, even if they’re on the windowsill? I hope you plant your garden soon. Enjoy!

NOTE: I’m not a gardening expert, so asking me specific question about soil types and weather issues will result in many a guess. My advice would be to use this video as an inspiration, and then check out some local gardening websites.