Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Worst Halloween Treat Poll Results

Halloween has become something more than a single night of supreme indulgence into the world of candy that makes Easter look like a healthy snack break. Now people dress up their houses and yards weeks in advance of the single hallowed night. It’s a sociological phenomenon that a community of people on any other day is willing to kill each other, but on Halloween night is happy to give all the areas children free stuff. In an even more interesting way, we (mostly as children) are not fully appreciative of this offering and have gone on to categorize these free items as some of the worst things ever given to us. I went ahead and made that jump to, “worst things ever,” because who ever decided to mix wax lips into a bag of otherwise digestible items did something truly scary to our digestive systems.

Fresh fruit topped the poll of worst Halloween treats, which is interesting to me. I would have guessed the foodies who read this blog could appreciate some free produce. On the other side, when I was a child the fresh fruit never even made it to our hands as Mom swooped down from above exclaiming, “who gave you this? It’s probably poisoned,” because for whatever reason in the late 80’s sick individuals liked to doctor up their Halloween treats in a very demented, and illegal way. The idea of a ruby red crisp apple has never been damaged more than the dreadful Halloween find of a razor blade hidden inside it. I can’t assure you the majority of that fruit was likely safe, but I can assure you the runner up in this poll is something really nasty. I agree that wax lips are the most disgusting Halloween treat ever imagined. I’m still not sure if you supposed to eat them, just chew on them a little and spit them out, or put them in your mouth and forget about any mastication.

John Campanelli of The Plain Dealer put together a list of Halloween candy and what it says about you if you are giving that candy away this week-end. Thanks for the list John.

Reese's Pieces -- You, like this candy, are still trying to live off your hotness in the 1980s.

Snickers -- It's the most popular Halloween treat, making it (and you) solid and safe. It's also -- as your ex proved -- the first to be traded away for an "upgrade."

Milky Ways -- You are a proud procrastinator, because these were the only candies left at Giant Eagle an hour before trick-or-treating. At least it wasn't 15 minutes before trick-or-treating, or you'd be passing out Nestle Crunches.

Apples -- You enjoy keeping a clean house, and that includes washing soap off your windows.

Mallo Cups -- You stick with things no matter what, whether it's friends, family or Burger Chef, RC Cola and the American Motors Corp.

Necco Wafers -- You're a traditionalist: old-fashioned and old school. Of course, that also means that you're just plain old.

Hot Tamales -- No matter how much you say you love them, it's clear: You hate children.

100 Grand bars -- You aspire for a position of power, like, say, a spot on the county commission.

Bit O'Honeys -- You get more than a bit o' pleasure seeing kids picking away at their molars.

Loose change -- You are generous and practical. Also, your spouse is really good at finding the candy-hiding spot.

Kit Kats -- Like this candy, you are a classic, old standby, which is exactly why your ex texts you at 3 a.m. every Saturday.

Blow Pops -- Your therapist was right: Once you get past the hard outer shell, you're kinda soft and gooey.

Mary Janes -- You are the kind of person who knows a good bargain when you see one, like bags of Mary Janes on sale for 99 cents.

Hershey bars -- You've been hurt before, and you're not about to let anyone or anything into your life, whether it's a friend, a romantic partner or simply almonds.

Gummi Bears -- You love all things rubbery, chubby and soft -- as your last dozen choices in dates confirm.

Tootsie Rolls -- You are a bit impulsive, which is why you are passing out these instead of those 98 Snickers bars you ate last night.

Nerds -- 'Nuff said.

Circus peanuts -- You have such a connection with children that the kids in the neighborhood feel comfortable enough to call you Skip, as in "This house? Skip."

Butterfingers -- You are a wide receiver recently traded to the New York Jets.

Toothbrushes -- You enjoy living a healthy lifestyle, which includes lots of exercise, especially those walks to and from the front door as the neighborhood kids enjoy a year of ding-dong ditch.

Three Musketeers -- Your head, like this bar, is filled with a fluffy whipped matter.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups -- You realize that two great tastes go great together; unfortunately for you, it's sandals and black socks.

Full-sized Baby Ruth bars -- You are a kind and generous soul who sends all your leftover candy to PDQ, c/o The Plain Dealer, 1801 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top Chef Restaurant Wars 09

I have two ideas to convey in the post the first is the idea that a reality show in which contests are judged on their cooking skills should not eliminate a contestant based on things other than their cooking skills. The other idea I have is that in a restaurant, as a whole entity not just a kitchen perhaps the chef and his/her cooking is only a piece of the puzzle that needs to come together for a complete experience.

From the beginning I thought Laurine was a middle of the pack kind of cook. I’m happy for her that she made it as far as she did. From listening to her exit interview I can see she is a pleasant sincere individual who most likely isn’t cut out for cut throat reality TV. Chef Colicchio confirms this in his blog where he writes,

“It is noteworthy that while questioning the chefs at the Judges’ Table, we got the very distinct sense from Laurine that, as she herself confirmed at the very end of the episode, she was ready to go home. Cooking for a competition is, indeed, very different than day-to-day cooking at one’s home restaurant, and we have seen people tire of competing at different stages of the competition every season. While we certainly wouldn’t send Laurine home for such an intangible reason, I think her performance in this week’s challenge reflected that she was done with the competition and wanting to go, and we did send her home for the work she did this week. So it all works out: we don’t want to keep someone who doesn’t want to compete.”

All this personal information aside, the job of FOH was made even more difficult in that that person was made responsible for a dish on that night’s menu. Wow, that is a lot to put on one persons plate. Let’s imagine this….you’re a cook and come into work to find the chef in a suit and tie. He explains he is going to run the front of the house for the night. He will host, expedite, and he has a special that needs to be prepped and served to his specifications. Oh and it’s a very busy night with a VIP 8 top at 7pm. Would I expect the night to go smooth? Yeah, smooth like Pamela Andersons chest. You’re asking someone to do three things they aren’t good at. Why can I assume that a chef is not good at those things? Well because if they were then they would do those things and live a less stressful and more financially sound life on the other side of the line.

I think in future Top Chef seasons they should have a quick fire in which there are two winners who have immunity, but are forced to perform the FOH duties. It’s heart breaking so see someone compete as a chef and lose as a host!

On to the second point. While the chef is responsible for the food, and increasingly so the vibe and reputation of a restaurant, there are many other factors that go into a quality dining experience. I don’t think I’m touching on anything unique here. From the host to the bus buy to the sommelier to the prep cook there are a lot of hands that go into even a few diners having a quality experience. You are going to say to me, “yeah, but the show is Top Chef, not Top Restaurant Team,” and I can see that viewpoint. But this is my opportunity to open even a few people’s eyes to the fact that a chef, no matter how great they might be, what medals or awards they’ve won, or how many hours they spend on TV, they too have a great many of people surrounding them that are getting their hands dirty and deserve more of the praise than they will ever get.

If Laurine would have smooched the judges table, checked on the lamb temp. and buttered them up out the door then I guarantee the outcome would be different. Then again if she was a top chef she wouldn’t have allowed herself to leave the kitchen and leave her comfort zone. I guess it all works out in the end.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pumpkin Skillet Cake

The hard squash season is upon us. Rest assured pumpkin pies, butternut squash ravioli, and acorn squash bisque are being prepared across the mid-west in all types of kitchens. Every year I try to come up with something a little different using these obviously seasonal ingrediants. I have been making a butternut squash risotto with apple cider the past few years, and that comes out quite nice. I found a recipie for a sweet pumpkin waffle, but since I don't have a waffle maker I tweeked the recipe till I got a savory pumpkin skillet cake. They might have a bend toward savory, but a little syrup and they jump right back to the sweet side.

Pumpkin Skillet Cake

1 cup flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon corriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup bacon fat/duck fat/or more butter
1 large egg
1 large egg white

Combine the wet and the dry ingrediants seperatly, then mix them together and wisk untill just incorperated. A few lumps is ok. Have the oven pre-heated to 350, and a well seasoned cast iron skillet on a burner set to med-high. Melt a little butter into the pan, pour the batter into the hot pan and put it right into the oven. Cook this for about 10 minutes, maybe more if you are using a small skillet. The cake should pull away from the sides of the skillet, brown up nice on the bottom, and firm up nicely.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

For dinner tonight

Tonight I'm making dinner at home. This is a bit on the special side since I usually don't cook unless I'm getting paid to....hey, does a doctor go home and do some surgery on the family just cause he's good at it? No. I've put alot of thought into things all afternoon. I finally decided on a classic, yet modernized French dish, "Poulet avec tout dans le réfrigérateur." Which roughly translates into, "chicken with everything in my refrigerator." I'll share the recipie.

Poulet avec tout dans le réfrigérateur

1 part too broke to go our proper
1 part sick of fast food
1 part delivery is overpriced
2 part don't even have a job
2 cups of motivation since I've cleaned the kitchen
1/4 tsp spent all my money on bourbon
pinch of anti-social feelings

4 boneless skinless chicken breast
whaterver I find in the fridge

Stir all emotions together till hungery. Sear chicken breast in oil, mix in everything else. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, serve hot. Don't save any leftovers.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Polls, Polls, and more Polls

It seems like every other post is in response to a poll. I’m sorry for this. I haven’t had much to say lately due to my lack of work. Not being in a kitchen kind of leads to a lack of trials and tribulations, and if you want to read about being unemployed just open up the newspaper, so I’ll stay clear of that, trust me. I also have been getting a good number of responses to polls so instead of letting them roll for 2-3 weeks as I’ve done in the past, I’m keeping them open for just 7 days. So look for a new poll soon, and I’ll do my best to find something interesting to post. I’m pondering a personal “best of” post as well as a trip into my personal recipe books.

On a ratio of two to one those polled find cooking a good meal is more rewarding than eating out. I do like these results. Don’t get me wrong. I encourage everyone to go out to eat as much as possible. Then again there is something ultimately wholesome about a good home cooked meal. There is a lot to be said for the theatre of a restaurant; the celebrity chef in an open kitchen with a never ending pantry of unique items along with the wine list, interacting with the server, maitre de, and sommelier, the fancy table top, cloth napkins, crystal stem wares, variety of plates, and most notably the lack of any cleaning up! Sure you may pay more than three times the cost of the food, but the food is only a small part of the experience. The home cooked meal is all about good food and good company. As a chef the food is number one for me also so I completely agree that an awesome meal I cook at home for my family is much more enjoyable, on a very peaceful, Zen level opposed to a night out on the town.

My favorite things to cook at home for myself and my family are very simple things. I have almost perfected the frittata. I absolutely despise browned eggs, so getting a nice tight end product without browning the outside take a bit of patience. And patience isn’t always in surplus when your starving in the morning. That said, I’ve been known to break down on a sweet frittata after a long day work around mid-night. For the family it really is the simplest things: caramelized onions, steaks cooked to temperature, potato gratin, perfectly cooked vegetables, and cutting up anything which makes what they are making go smoother.

Of those who find enjoyment in cooking for themselves I would be interested to hear what you like to cook, what challenges you’ve overcome, or what nagging shortcoming keeps haunting you.

Friday, October 09, 2009

A few random ideas

I went to the Lakewood farmers market this week only to find an empty parking lot. Wow, time flies.

I’m hooked on Bison Burgers. They are available at K&K Meats in the Warren Village Plaza. They seem to stay moist more than beef. I will keep buying them.

If you ever cook something and it doesn’t really come out perfect, especially baked goods, just claim that the recipe is ‘heritage’ from your grandmother and everyone stops complaining about dry biscuits.

Be careful swallowing your gum. I’m still feeling the ill effects.

The wings at the Tradesman Tavern in Parma are some of the largest I’ve ever seen.

Why is the Food Network doing a Next Iron Chef? They are doing fine with Chopped. There is only so much time in my week for reality TV cooking and I’m happy with Top Chef.

Last of the season raw green beans have the perfect snap. I’ve been dipping them in a whole grain mustard and dill cream.

Shortribs might be the most over rated comfort food on the menu. It’s such an insincere cut that gets dressed up for the party, but just isn’t the party girl she used to be.

Have you ever seen cottage cheese on a restaurant menu? I haven’t, and I must ask, why not?

Soup is more than just pureed vegetables. That is what baby food is. Soup is a creation, a balance, something that is more than just the sum of its parts.

SavoryTV is a great webpage I've just discovered. Tons of video content, recipes, and all very well organized.

I’m working on a personal ‘Best of’ post. If you have any suggestions please comment!