Monday, November 28, 2011

Eggs Ghetto-dict

The origin of classic Eggs Benedict is somewhat fuzzy.  There are two conflicting stories that seem to be about 30 years apart in age.  Ironically almost everything else in either story is the same:  A banker type named Benedict wants something ‘different’ making  the kitchen produce a dish to their whim of which the maitre d’ ends up manipulating and respectively names Benedict and puts it on his menu.  Seems almost sarcastic as if to say, and I imagine it in a very snotty French accent, “You want to make up your own dish, fine, I will change it and forever connect your name with this horribly annoying preparation.  Ha.”  I’ve never had Eggs Benedict at a restaurant that I’ve actually enjoyed, but I do enjoy the idea of a poached egg on an English muffin.

Unlike what I’ve received on the local restaurant brunch buffet I like my muffin toasted, egg warm, and sauce to be more like a sauce and less like a cloying stabilized pad of cheap butter.   Since making Hollandaise sauce at home for a single portion is totally unrealistic toss that out the window.  Other than that I enjoy my ghetto Eggs Benedict.

 That’s right….Freshly toasted English muffin, runny poached egg, microwaved sandwich style ham, good ole’ American cheese topped with Sirachi hot sauce presented on a fine paper plate.  Hmmmm Hm!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do it Yourself Oyster Mushrooms

Oh they joy of growing mushrooms!

Sometime doing things yourself can make financial sense and be a soul satisfying experience, very much unlike the home mushroom cultivating kit described by Florence Fabricant in today NYTimes. If you are not familiar with oyster mushrooms they are somewhat under satisfying. They lack a very distinctive flavor and/or texture and produce a mostly flaccid slimy cooked fungus product.

Instructions include placing box in a dark place and misting with water. Sounds like a nice place to do some serious reflection. Alone, in the dark, watching a box of mushrooms grow!?! If you escape the self-destructive depression this might induce you can take a picture of your bounty, post it to Facebook and receive a complimentary refill of mushrooms in mulch. Worth a try.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown Part 3

Remember as a kid when you read the mystery/choose your way book in which short episodes where capped with notations like, “turn to page 43 if you think Stephan chooses Culinary Arts or turn to page 52 if you think Stephan sticks with Microbiology.”  In this case, if you are going to work Thanksgiving good for you, but piss off if you think we are going to listen to your bitching about it for very long, and proceed to the next post.  For those of us who will be home bodies I suppose you could invest in some of the coming advice, but that is a questionable proposition at best.

Let’s assume the whole working on Thursday thing didn’t work out.  Oh well, time to move on….to the Liquor Store that is!  Going thru this whole thing completely sober is just ridiculous.  Not going to happen no matter how hard you try.  The same thing will happen completely sane of mind sober as if you are totally insane shit your pants puke on the turkey drunk.  That is you are going to get pushed to the limit of mental tolerance before lashing out at some asinine comment followed with a giggle of innocence meant to lower its infuriating potential.  Screw it, grab a bottle, share it, finish it, but for fucks sake don’t poop your grown up diaper.

My personal list of Thanksgiving libation suggestions goes like this:

Dark liquor: Wild Turkey 101.  Also known as where it all started.

Clear/tasteless:  Smirnoff Blue Label 100 proof vodka.  Just cause it has no flavor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel it going down.  Beside from here on out it’s all cost comparative.

Clear/flavored: Bombay Blue Sapphire Gin.  Don’t waste any extra money on tonic, get a lottery ticket instead.  This Gin will thank you.

Beer:  Steel Reserve.  Best 22 on the market, don’t taste too bad either.

Wine:  Whatever the wife likes, obviously you’re not going to pick out the right wine!

Well, a trip to the liquor store alone might not fly with the high and mighty but a trip to pick up gravy is the exact double whammy that works for everyone.  Start with, “Honey let me run to the store and pick up some turkey gravy,” and trail off into a low mumbling yet 100% honest “and stop off at the liquor store.  Do you want anything?”  See perfectly honest.  Be sure to bring plenty of cash. No not for the liquid happiness, for the gravy since it will most likely be the single thing you can pour over that whole plate of Thanksgiving meal that might make it slide down your throat with the slightest disagreement.

Almost there, the pumpkin pie is almost in the oven.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown Part 2

It’s been a restful wait since the great purge that began on the seventh day out.  Well rested, and most likely still overworked it is time to get cracking again.  Being just another fucking Saturday called in to work let us ride this wave of self tragedy like Kerry Mullis on his favorite long board.  Never mind we are happy to not be mending the lawn, whitewashing the picket fence, shampooing Fido, attending yet another mindless youth soccer match or assigned Glee club taxis duty.  Shifting into mindless drone on the clock is that much easier and damn right it will be come next Thursday when if all goes right we will be sucking up the ironic glory of straddling the high and mighty fence where the waves of guilt and pleasure collide.  The guilt is from others, “oh no poor me had to work today, and everyone misses me, that is the best gift any swell guy like me could give a co-worker on Thanksgiving.”  The pleasure, “Thank the unseen overlord of the universe for saving me from that diabolic spectacle of giving thanks and joy centered around overindulgence and family feud!”

Don’t just come out and ask, one most position himself.  This is like playing tic-tac toe with the devil: mostly ties, but eventually there will be a winner.  Try a one two punch like this for example, “Jee boss, will the company be up and running on Thanksgiving.  We are having the family at my house this year, but I know everyone else has obligations too.  If you need someone in the office I’ll take one for the team this year.”  Funnel the supposed rage on the way home from work.  If this is not easy try stopping off at some dump watering hole near the house set a flutter with college football fans, slug down two shots of tequila, and for everyone’s benefit don’t overdo it.  It is so good when it hit your lips though so go ahead and take two more like a man.  By the time you get home all slant eyed and stumbling don’t dare lie!  Stick this one out.  You DID stop off after work for a drink.  Because, “I’m so upset honey.  I just wanted a nice Thanksgiving with the family, but that fucking soul sucking whore of a boss is making Jhonny and I come in and run the whole place those penny pinching bastards can’t give a hard working man like me a single day off.”  If everything has gone right it is most likely within a short time you will be sitting in the recliner munching a handmade Dagwood, sipping craft beer, enjoying those afore mentioned college football games all the time no one will ever know the better and you can slip away into a deep and well deserved nap.  Mustering up such emotion on que is very taxing.  Wasting it all under fake context next Thursday under the vail of joy and happiness would just be criminal.

Don’t neglect the shrine.  Keep it in a shoebox under the bed, or let it take up the whole nightstand, who cares.  It is yours so be proud of it.  It is my opinion that every good shrine has three tiers:  Level one is made up of the usual and acceptable culprits.  You will likely know them by a single name, Mario, Emerill, Rachel, Martha, Julia, Bobby, Guy, Tony or Gordan.  This is the easiest tier to build as these icons image has been seared into our weak and feable minds over many years and some of us would not know so much as how to order take out without their guidance.  While this top tier is heavily populated.  It can also feel somewhat hollow and emotionally detached as that is why we create the second tier of our shrine.  The second tier subjects are more personal.  Characters we feel more comfortable liking in light of the fact that bitch from work might not feel so inclined to enshrine them.  Level two of the shrine is one that you are willing to share, but only with someone who has also captured the essence of all your mutual first tier suspects.  Most level two subjects are culled from similar places; The Cooking Network, PBS, late night re-runs, or one off appearances that left a lasting impression.  The final tier is very special to most shrine constructers as this is where they keep what would be considered the, ‘ace in the hole’ or the secret culinarian that you hope with all your heart never ascends to the top because they are yours, and yours alone like when you were the first kid to score some porn and actually thought any of the girls in Big Busty Black Butts Volume 63 might be anywhere in your future.  Oh those silly dreams.  After that analogy the now common phrase ‘food porn’ just seems a bit sick, but yes it is, and tier three is your own personal food porn collection.  It’s yours, go ahead and cherish it.  Build it but keep it hidden just like that copy of Volume 63.

Interesting Meat Art

Check out Mark Rydens work.  He is also the cover story for Juxtapose Magazine this month, a great publication for all your modern art needs.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown

The countdown has begun for most normal people; one solid week. We are currently being oversaturated with an absolutely horrid bombardment of overzealous Thanksgiving propaganda. Every media outlet is pumping lies into our skulls at a rate unimaginable to most level headed human beings. I hope you have not fallen ill with this sickness and applied the balm provided in my last post recommending my personal suggestions on how to make Thanksgiving 2011 the best of the past year. I’m sure to speak for many of us when I say we have staved off numerable instances of motivation to get a jump on this holiday, but it is the unfortunate reality that we must face now with 6 days and counting so it’s time to get to work.

First gather up those morbid culinary magazines that subconsciously make most of us feel filthy and inadequate. Indulge your guilty pleasure; go ahead and clip out photos of your favorite celebrity chef for their respective shrine then quickly dispose of the remaining few pages. This will make the coming task much easier. Think back to last year, now demand of yourself to purchase far less food overall. Don’t worry about recipes; they will come….preferable stick to the ones on the back of the Stover’s Stuffing, French’s fried onions, and the plastic skin of the frozen turkey. They are most reliable.

If you are feeling guilty that your ‘The Chew’ or ‘Next Iron Chef’ shrine is not up to par as you imagine that the bitch from work has crafted one of greater depth then go ahead and clip those photos from the newly arrived culinary page turners bemoaning the absolute hysterical euphoria your family (dog) will display upon you trying to jerry-rig a meal out of Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s a lie….no her shrine might very well trump yours, but not for long. Rid your life, my life and the life of your loved ones from this scourge once and for all.

That is enough for the first day of preparation.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Three weeks of Top Chef WTF moments.

Let me start by saying I don’t even bother absorbing any cheftestant’s names until there are less than 10, or I find them uncontrollably annoying so I apologize for not even taking the time to look up their names, but I’m guessing if you have read so far into this post you will know who I’m referring to.

WTF #1 I’m sure there are a lot of people who try out for Top Chef and I can only image the daunting task of wading through all the bull shit, but it seems reasonable to think there are most likely around 100 or so quality applicants. For this season they brought in 32 of them. They all took time off their job maybe even quit, said heartfelt good-byes to their family, and spent a fair amount of cash outfitting themselves, traveling, photo shoots, Bravo spent a decant amount of money on them as well I’m sure. The first guy sent off can’t find the tenderloin on a whole loin of pork?!?! WTF This was one of the top 32 applicants? For that chef somewhere out there who assumes he was #33, man he must be one pissed off motherfucker right now.

WTF #2 We only got three episodes in to find out that even the top 16 have neglected to prepare themselves to bake a god damned cake. WTF Did these wonder chefs not watch any of the past 8 seasons

WFT #3 James Beard Foundation WTF. It seems like every one of these goofballs is blurting out, “I’m a James Beard blah blah blah.” Dear James Beard Foundation, start being a little more selective before the mention of you becomes as meaningless as the words, “organic” “local” or “artisanal”. Please, we have trusted you so far.

WTF #4 Did any of the 18 cheftestants sent away do any kind of prep to be on the show? WTF Guy who ran out of time obviously should have went in his kitchen, set a timer for 20 minutes and figured out how much he could get done in that time. Seafood restaurant guy that bought pre-cooked shrimp WTF I hope no one ever comes to your restaurant again, ever! Unless they want a refund on their gift certificate. Lastly, everyone except the Mexican chef, did you know where season 9 was set? WTF Open a book for fucks sake. Did the idea of authentic Mexican, tex-mex, cowboy, snake or other regional ingredients elude you? Did you pack your winter boots for this trip as well? Click your clogs three times and maybe you will be transported back to Chicago three months ago where you can turn around, walk out of the tattoo parlor, get back in the car and find the big building filled with books called a Library. Someone there will show you where to find a book about Texas and more than a few shelves of cookbooks. Try one with the name Rick Bayless on it for starters.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Success

Top Ten Keys to a Successful Thanksgiving 2011

10. Throw out any current cooking magazines that might erroneously cause you to try something new. You only have one shot at this meal till next year so don’t screw it up.

9. Cook the Turkey same as the past 10 years.

8. Cook the green bean casserole same as the past 10 years.

7. Cook the stuffing same as the past 10 years.

6. Try not to cook twice as much food as needed. Lying to yourself that anyone really will enjoy leftovers is not part of anyone’s reality.

5. Throw out any forthcoming cooking magazines that extol the fantastic creations that can be made with Thursday’s leftovers. The dog will enjoy this much more than your human friends.

4. Secretly volunteer to work that day.

3. Invest in one top shelf bottle of liquor. Don’t overdo it as the climax of positive results has the potential to spiral downward rather quickly.

2. Find the best gravy you can and consider applying it in heavy doses to everything you plan to and/or in an act of compassion toward the cook place on your gloriously overflowing Thanksgiving plate.

1. Take great pains to capitalize on the openness of other to let you watch football, nap, and overindulge. Consider it resting up for the rest of the year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Savory Fall Quick Bread

Apple-Fig & Blue Cheese Quick Bread
with Port Wine Curd

For the bread:

Two cups AP flour
One tblsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
One tsp black pepper
One half tsp thyme

Three ounces crumbled blue cheese
One and a half cups tart local apple, grated
One half cup dried figs, rough chopped

Three eggs
Two thirds cup milk
Four tblsp melted butter

Mix dry ingredients before tossing in cheese and figs till the pieces are separated and coated in flour. Wisk eggs and mix with other wet ingredients before gently combining with four mixture. Be careful not to overmix and be aware the batter will be very thick. Cook in a nine by five inch loaf pan that has been coated with butter at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning it out to rest until cooled to room temperature.

For the curd:
Two cups port wine
One each star anise, cinnamon stick
Three whole cloves

One and one third cups sugar
Four whole eggs
One and three quarters sticks of butter (seven ounces)

In a heavy bottom saucepan combine wine and aromatics, reduce wine over medium heat by half. Remove aromatics from wine. Off heat add sugar and butter. Return pan to low heat and add the eggs once the sugar has dissolved. Whisk constantly until curd is thick enough to hold marks from the whisk. Push this mixture through a fine sieve and chill with a cover of plastic wrap pushed onto the top of the curd in an effort to prevent a toothsome skin from forming.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Wish List

Things I would really like….like right now!

Octopus, foie gras, brioche, Wild Turkey, raw oyster, real/good sushi, sturgeon with truffled leeks and black lentils, Allegrini Amarone, aged Manchego with truffle honey, Dogfish Head Raison D Etre, fennel, Italian sparkling water, oil cured olives with Bulgarian feta and grilled lamb chops with rosemary, ice cold tap water.

I would like to be making sweet potato brioche, lobster consume, pork pate, gougeres with real gruyere cheese, Makers Mark gelee over foie terrine with pickled cherries, broccoli-beer-cheese soup, vanilla panna cotta, Brown chicken stock….in large amounts.

I would like to go to Crop, Noodlecat, Phnom Penh, Chinato, anywhere authentically ethnic.

Things I’d like to do less of: drinking diet soda products, eating white bread and Idaho potatoes, not being able to bend my knee, eating without a conscious, thinking about reacting without acting at all.

Sometimes it's the simple things you desire the most....other times it's not that simple.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Focaccia at home

Bacon-Onion Focaccia Bread

One package instant yeast

One and a half cups warm water
One tsp honey
Five cups AP flour
One tblsp salt
One tblsp black pepper
Six tblsp EVOO
One tblsp Italian seasoning blend

Seven slices of bacon, medium dice

One sweet onion, medium dice
Four garlic cloves, rough chop
One and a half cups mashed potatoes

Bloom yeast in water with honey. In a sauté pan brown bacon and onion, add garlic and cook another 3 minutes, lastly add the herbs. I used yesterday’s mashed potatoes so I put them in this pan to warm up. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl then the water. Kneed this mixture for 6 minutes. Blend in the bacon mixture and work the dough another 2 minutes. Return to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let raise 2-3 hours.

After the dough has risen turn it out into an oiled baking dish about 18x11x3 inches and bake in a pre-heated oven for 35 minutes until golden. After removing dish from oven let the bread rest in the pan for ten minutes before removing it to a wire rack to finish cooling.