Saturday, May 30, 2009

What's the matter pancake batter?

So there goes my one post a week goal. Right out the driver's side window on our way back to Tucson. Was it Socrates, Dante, or Nietzsche who asked his students, "How can one truly live if they spend all of their time blogging, and how can one truly blog if they spend all of their time living?"

Maybe I heard it on NPR?


I guess it's kinda like when William was born. He spent just under 6 weeks in the NICU before he was allowed to come home. Sara and I made a pledge to be there every day for touch times, but a month in or so, I had to fly back to Tucson for a funeral, and we came to the conclusion, that we couldn't always be the best Dad or Mom, but that if we worked together, we could be the best parents. I wasn't able to be there every day for my boy, but we always made sure that one of us was there to let him know he was loved and wanted.

So I can't always post every week. So May only has like, what, 3 posts? So I should just shut her down, because some of the blogs out there, there's like a post a day? Those people obviously have not found World of Warcraft, and I need to just let it go, and look at this as a way to get some "me" time in my life.

Alright, I'm all pepped up and ready to cheer for a Junior Varsity Volleyball squad. Just let me stretch for a year or two first.

Tucson was amazing, the boys love their grandparents and the grandparents love them. I ended up making tacos for the open house, by the way, no wings. Makes me a little sad, but maybe I'll do it for the NBA Finals Game 2. Maybe I should have a wing party? Invite guests to bring their favorite wings and beers to match?

This might just happen! Although housework will need to be done... which is okay, William loves to clean.

Ah, William...

So we (my family and my mother-in-law) were making pancakes for breakfast, and William asks his grandma what's in the pitcher.


"Batter?" William tilts his head.

"Yes, sweetie pie, pancake batter." She rubs the top of his head.

His eyes get big, eyebrows are raised in an inverted "V," and that bottom lip starts to protrude in heart broken protest.

"But Grandma, I don't like pancake batter!"

This is entirely my fault.

There are many dangers lurking in the nooks and crannies of my kitchen. Japanese knives, German knives, Mandoline Slicers, Cuisinart attachments... One must be careful when cooking with young ones in the kitchen, and then again, there are different types of scars.

We decided to make pancakes several months earlier for Sara one morning to celebrate the end of her morning sickness. William was so excited. I prepped everything for the dry ingredients, grabbed his stepping stool so that he could have his own station, and set upon the task of teaching my son how to cook.

We mixed the dry ingredients delighting in the plumes of flour "smoke" that wafted from the mixing bowl, managed to get all of the egg and none of the shell into the other bowl, and all of this with much laughter. I am such a good dad! I remember this thought so clearly as I was reaching up into the pantry for a little more sugar.

"I need a spoon daddy!" comes from over my left shoulder. I tell him to grab one from the drawer as I start searching for the vanilla bean paste. I hear the opening of the drawer, my hand closes around the bottle of paste, and as I'm pulling them down, I hear what can only be described as the sound one would make at the dentist's office if their mouth was propped open against their will with that nasty fluoride treatment.

I turn and there, in the middle of the kitchen, is my boy William with the dry ingredients bowl in one hand, a serving spoon the size of Texas in his other, his jaw nearly touching the floor, and his tongue following suit coated in raw flour. He's completely motionless. I guess it's kinda like stubbing your toe. You try not to move, because if you do that stabbing pain will leave your toe, shoot right up leg, and make you double over in a violent yet silent cussing fit. He would have been a statue but for his eyes. His eyes staring right at me welling with tears and wtf?

It was the best Tom Hanks eating caviar impression in "Big" I have ever seen.

"Oh mi hijo..." I say as I am biting my lips shut trying to stem the convulsions of silent laughter. Man, am I the worst friggin' dad, or what!?!

I wipe him clean, give him a hug, and then by the grace of God, a glass of water-- which, no doubt, made a very nice slurry in his stomach.

"I don't like it, Dad."

It was plain, simple, and cut like a knife. The truth shall set you free, and so it did for William, as he split and began playing with his trains...

"They taste better once their cooked!!!" My useless rebuttal fell on deaf ears, and I have since learned my lesson.

Banana Blender Pancake Batter, so as to avoid your toddler eating raw flour and ruining things. Forever.

Adapted from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home:

1 cup flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
tiny pinch of salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 brown and very ugly banana
1/3 cup of water divided.

Start off with the flour, add the eggs, milk, oil, vanilla bean paste, sugar and salt, and blend that for 10-15 seconds. It'll look wrong, but that's okay. Scrape down the sides if needed, and then add the banana and one part of the water and blend until smooth, adding the additional water if needed in small batches.

Refrigerate for an hour.

Heat up that skillet or non-stick frying pan. Pick your poison butter or oil, and be prepared to burn your first two before the others come out just right.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Winging it.

This, will not last forever.

I know for sure that at some point, not only will William not want to kiss his 'little' brother, "Squeaky," he won't want to kiss me either. I'm fully prepared to drop him off a block away from school, but I don't think I'm ready to no longer hear "Daddy!" screamed at the top of his lungs when he hears me walk through our front gate.


I can't believe that I'm about to quote an Oprah Show, this will no doubt please my wife and give my 'CFO' at work more fodder, but here it goes... I remember seeing one about your body language when you come home. What's the first thing your kids see when you walk through that door?

It just stuck with me.

I try to remember that when I'm pulling up to our home. It's even harder when it's that 30 minutes before the guests arrive and you're trying to check things off of your list and make sure that you still have 5 minutes, no 2 minutes to shower, and is your face too scratchy cause you might need to shave too, so make that 1 minute.

I'm getting all flustered just typing that! I always say that the secret to a great dinner party is to have the drinks ready to go before the guests arrive, and if they happen to enjoy one and a half or three before the first course rolls out, they're gonna L O V E everything you're servin' up!

We're heading back to Tucson in a week and a half and I'm cooking for an open house at my mother in law's and I was thinking Chicken Wings might be fun! I think that nothing beats the original Buffalo Wing, but you know me... you gotta try something different right?

Coat 3 lbs of chicken wings with a jar of Harissa. Bag 'em and throw it in your fridge overnight. The next day take 4 Shallots, a tsp of chinese 5 spice, a tbsp paprika, 2 tbsps olive oil, 1tsp fresh rosemary, 1 tsp sugar and 1tsp salt and blend it until smooth. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the wings from your fridge, and add the paste to your bag. Smush it all up until the wings are well coated. I line a half sheet with tin foil and place an oiled rack on top of the foil and the wings on top of that, but you could just bake e in a brownie dish if you wanted to keep the fuss to a minium.

Bake those wings until they're done and you could make a peanut dipping sauce for 'em if you wanted to...

If anyone has a recipe for making those kisses last a little longer, I'm open to suggestions.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Do it for the Halibut.

Cinco De Mayo, sometimes mistakenly translated as "a fifth of Mayonnaise," is often more about the beer or margaritas than it is about the food. Which makes me sad.

On the inside.

On the outside I'm probably the one yelling, "We should totally go camping, like, right now, but only after we collect some firewood and kindling... To the trees!" Tequila does this to me. Tequila has also provided me with many many many stories, which I usually end up telling in lengthy detail when I'm drinking tequila. My Spanish also improves tenfold, but still, I try to avoid tequila when at all possible.

I managed to avoid it altogether this Cinco De Mayo, so you can close up this window if you're waiting to hear all about the room made up entirely of empty mountain dew cans, losing my keys camping, or how Sharpies and passing out don't mix--I guess now you'd call it posting videos up on Facebook? You could chronicle the night's events on your best friend's arms as you dragged him from bar to bar. My friends and I set our alarm for the next morning just so we could see his face when he saw his face after he woke-up.

Priceless and only semi-permanent. What's not to like?

SO this year, after securing the Patron and Sharpies and moving them to an undisclosed location, I set about the task of making some great food to celebrate the return of a good friend. The menu was pretty simple grilled fish tacos with mango salsa, and shredded cabbage:


And beer too. It is extremely difficult to grill without a beer unless you have a thermometer. Not only does the beer help cleanse your palate of all the smoke, it also records the passage of time, all while tasting far better than any egg timer could possibly dream of. True, it significantly lacks the ability to "ding!", but that's what "Cheers!" is for.

Armed with my handy dandy grill timer in one hand and spatula in the other, I grilled this huge piece of Alaskan Halibut, and finished it with a cilantro-lime butter.
Flavored butters can be as easy as you want them to be, and also add a great amount flavor if you don't have the time or desire to do a rub, marinade, or sauce. Here, you simply add one cube frozen garlic, two cubes frozen cilantro, the juice of half a lime, some salt, pepper, and but of course, a half a stick of softened butter. I like to use unsalted.

Who knew I could be a control freak, right?

Right. Which is why I went ahead and busted out the higher end butter for our friend as pictured here to the right. "Same, Same, but Different" Cilantro Herb Butter:
Soften half a stick of unsalted butter, zest one lime, mince a handful of fresh cilantro, on that same zester goes a half a clove of garlic, a small pinch of cumin, a small squeeze of lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. You could double this recipe and have enough butter to finish steamed rice with the following night.

Once the Halibut was just about done, I removed it from the grill, topped it with a hefty amount of butter and tented it with foil,to allow the fish to finish cooking and absorb some of the yummy goodness.

Next came the Mango Salsa. It didn't taste nearly as washed out as it appears. You'll just have to trust me on that one.
The ingredients are all pretty much in the first picture of the post. I really can't think of anything I love making more than salsa. For me, they each have their own personality, and you never know when that jalapeno is going to be super angry, or just mildly put off. Which is why you have to take a bite of the jalapeno my friends. Sometimes you get burned, but it's a sure fire way to tell if the heat is right or not. Dice one Mango, a quarter red onion, one jalapeno, slice 4 scallions, mince a handful of cilantro, squeeze one lime, and add salt and pepper the salsa. That's if the Jalapeno was hot, if it's mild, taste the other one, and use two if need be.

William loved this salsa because he abscounded with the mango pit. The meal was great, the conversation was better, and the amount of wipes it took to clean the mango juice up and get it off of his trains was flat out criminal.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Go Go Gadget Gourmet

"I'd love to make this, but it seems way too complicated."

"I'm never going to buy those ingredients."

"I'll tell you what I like to do with lamb."

"Did you see the Celtics/Bulls game tonight?!?!?!!?"

Okay, so you got me, that last one is me. Seriously, how crazy has this series been? The NBA Finals are going to suck. (Please prove me wrong!!!)

In my never-ending aim to please, I take all of these comments to heart and wonder how I can tailor things to make GnC more accessible. So I stew on them for a bit and 'shocker,' I'm confused. I'm not sure which way to go with these comments.

I could post easy two ingredient recipes:

Bean Dip.

1 big ass can of Rosarita Beans
1 small jar of Medium Pace Picante Sauce

Open, open, mix, and serve.

My cousin kindly reminded me of this recipe not so long ago. Thanks a lot Mrs. bologna, salt, and lemon juice. I used to make this along with the first thing my wife taught me how to make, which subs cream cheese for refried beans.

Go figure, she's Jewish Bean Dip.

1 tub of Cream Cheese
1 small jar of Medium Pace Picante Sauce

Open, open, mix, microwave for a minute (Sara?) and serve.

I still have a couple inches around my waist to prove how tasty this dip really is.

Would I make this now? No, but you should.

Know where you're coming from. Where I'm coming from I'd buy some poblano peppers, roast them on the stove-top, bag 'em, peel 'em, and puree them. I'd zest a lime, finely chop some cilantro, caramelize a couple shallots, and add all of this and a little fresh garlic and salt to creme fraiche. Maybe throw it on top of some pasta and grilled shrimp or poached salmon?

That's what I'd make right now. Tomorrow, might be roasted bell peppers and goat cheese with fresh thyme, red pepper chili flakes and cracked black pepper.

My wife's biggest complaint is that I never make the same thing twice. This can only spell disaster if I open my little cafe.

btw Sandra Lee just popped up on my TV saying she's the "Colonel's Girl..." Does anyone else have a problem with KFC's new Grilled Chicken? Or do you just feel like Ms. Lee is Mrs. Robinson times 10.6875?

I'm back, sorry. As far as new ingredients go, think of it this way, you're not still breast fed are you?

Well, are you?

Gavin, put your hand down.


I'm constantly calling my mom, asking her if my entries are too long, blah blah blah. Her response is always, it's your blog. If people wanna scan, they're gonna scan. If they wanna sit and read the whole thing they can sit and read your entire blog. She pauses here. I know that she has a list of grammar mistakes, she knows I'll throw "style" back at her, and I know she'll always wait for me to ask about 'em.

Then there's the comment of here's what you really should do.

To which I reply, POST THAT IN THE COMMENTS!!!!


It won't make me rethink this over and over and over on my drive in to work and overshoot my exit by two cities.

Then again...

You will find a little bit of everything in here. I promise to put in some simpler stuff that I love. My food won't always require a latest and greatest gadget or smoked, fair trade, and shade grown spices. Although I make no promises that I won't eventually write every recipe for my next drool toy the Thermomix TM31. Anyone have the winning Lottery numbers for this week's draw?

Please keep your suggestions coming. I love the idea of putting in the recipe as the title, but there goes my little piggie who stayed home to write. I really enjoy the writing part.


I really enjoy the writing part.

I think I just made a little "Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail" face. You know the reaction shot: Tom Hanks writes something incredibly witty, and Meg Ryan makes that patented romantic comedy face.

I just made myself Meg Ryanesque... I should stop eating brittle and go to bed.

Or have referenced some Hugh Jackman film, that way I'd be, like, super tough.

This is what happens when my wife leaves town, a man is only as good as the direction given to him. I take back the KFC Grilled Chicken thing. I may never try it, but it's nice to see people branching out.

I'm gonna go see if William has moved from his "Woe is me" sleeping position and cut up some cantaloupe for his lunch tomorrow. Maybe I'll throw some in my lunch with prosciutto, arugula, a little olive oil, and lemon juice.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

iHeart Mom Necklace

So it turns out that I have some younger readers who are interested in cooking. I have a couple of words of wisdom for you.


Fellas, fellas, fellas...

Mother's Day is fast approaching.

Now, the pre-holiday stress might not be bearing down on you like a 747 about to land at El Alto in La Paz, but just like those airliners it's coming in twice as fast.

If your giftometer is pinned at zero, have no fear. I have an old stand-by recipe that my 3 1/2 year old, William, helps me make for his mom. Even those with a fear of frying can do this with never using a skillet. Give it a try and I promise, the only thing you'll say it's missing is William gently slapping you on the face at 6am to tell you it's time to put the French Toast in the oven. At full volume.

So much for letting Sara sleep in on her birthday.

This year for Mother's Day, we'll pull out the old trusty French Toast recipe again. The recipe varies depending upon whether I have half and half, or whole milk, or heavy cream on hand but it usually goes something like this.

Hold up.

For those of you groaning "French Toast?!?" A)William can do this. I am sure that you gentlemen will be able handle this with the greatest of ease. After all, you don't need a step stool to reach the top of the counters now do you? B)You're telling me you have something better planned than French Toast? (hook me-up!) C)It's time to pull those big boy pants up over your boxers, wash your hands, and get down to repaying the hours of labor your mother put into bringing you forth into this world. Little did she know she'd be spending most of her time cleaning, swatting, and missing your cute little butt.

Here's my first piece of advice you might take with you. Ask questions. My second and frankly more important piece of advice: listen to what she says. The third is pretty simple, and it's usually where most of us men fall short because we were too busy congratulating ourselves for actually listening... REMEMBER WHAT SHE SAID.

Write it down, record a voice memo, or omg txt urself. I don't care how you do it. Update your Facebook Status with it for all I care. C'mon do it!

Does she like chocolate? Pumpkin? Oranges? Maple Syrup? Berries? (Ugh, you, my friend are outta luck if she doesn't eat wheat, dairy, or is vegan... Close this. Now! Run to the chopper! Go to JC Penny's and get the 'I love you mom' necklace. It's your only hope.)

Whatever her response, and she may say she likes anything you make, try to narrow her down to one choice. It'll sure make it easier on you... and her when she goes out to buy all of the things that you'll need. This will feed four nicely. (You might even have some leftovers for Todd.)

5 eggs (three if you don't plan on dropping any on the floor.)
1 loaf of unsliced Challah bread (Egg Bread)
pint of whipping cream
1 cup Whole milk
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar (Omit if your mom chose Maple Syrup)
1/2 cup of whatever ingredient she said she liked (1 cup if Berry)
Your phone to read what she told you.
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon (Omit if Berry)
1/2 tsp Nutmeg (Omit if Berry)
Unsalted Butter
(Optional - Vanilla Bean Paste)

If you can use a bread knife, cut your loaf of Challah in half, set aside the other half for later use, and then into 1 1/2"-2" cubes. If it's pre-sliced bread, take out half of the bread and then maybe cut each slice into 6 pieces. If you are not allowed to use a knife, ask someone else to help you accomplish this task. William has been known to do this by hand. It's pretty funny to watch, but when I tried to cut some of the Titanic sized pieces down to SS Minnow size, he looked at me as if I was destroying his piece of art. It still baked up and tasted fine. It just looked like a pile or three of trains were hiding under the French Toast.

I wouldn't put him past it.

Set aside your works of Cubism, and grab a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour your sugar into said mixing bowl and crack the three eggs into it. Crack your knuckles or do a couple of baseball stretches before you grab your whisk. You are going to mix your sugar and eggs until either your arm falls off or they become light yellow in color. Ask your mom for some breathing exercises. If you're using Maple Syrup, just whisk the eggs alone.

Once you get to that light yellow color, add in your spices, and a tsp of Vanilla Bean Paste if you have it. Whisk that up for a minute. Breathe or switch arms, just don't let your older siblings see you sweat. Add in 1 cup of whole milk, one cup of heavy cream, and whisk until you cry or 30 seconds, whichever comes first.

Don't get all crazy and see how long you can whisk this (you know who you are) you might get sweet butter if you do this for, like, forever.

If you're using pumpkin puree or maple syrup, add this in now and whisk for another 30 seconds or so. If you're wiping "sweat" from your eyes, go wash your hands before you grab the bread. Add in the chocolate chips, or berries now. If you're getting crazy and going with Cocoa Puffs or Fruity Pebbles, hold off and put those in the following day.

(picture out of order, but
really, who will notice?)
Gently stir in the bread so that it has a chance to soak up all that yummy goodness. Cover it with plastic wrap or throw it all in a Gladware container put the lid on it, and refrigerate overnight. Clean up your mess. When your whisk (if it's stainless steel) and mixing bowl (stainless too?) are dry, put them in the freezer. Call it a 'science experiment' if your mom's not too sure about this.

More advice: This usually works for all matter of things that you feel might need to be put in the freezer or stored for a bit.

The next morning make sure your oven rack is in the middle and that there isn't another rack above it. Now, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grab that stick of butter peel down half of the cover and rub it all over a 9" x 13" baking pan. Think mom with a sunscreen stick (butter) and your face (the pan) at the beach (beach?) Can you tell that this is William's favorite part? Poor, poor butter! Now pour your bread and egg mix into it. When your oven is up to temp (ready) put your "French Toast" in the oven.

This will bake for 35-45 minutes. It will rise and poof up, your edges of the bread should turn a golden to dark brown. In the mean time, grab your frozen bowl and whisk, and pour in your remaining cup of heavy cream and a tsp of vanilla bean paste, if you have it. Whisk away young man until it makes a small peak or mountain when you pull out the whisk. Your hands will be nice and frozen. Obviously, you won't care one bit!

Let the French Toast cool for 10 minutes. Grab a CLEAN plate, scoop out a large serving of the French Toast and top with whipped cream. Sprinkle extra berries, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, or whatever crushed dried cereal you think goes best with your masterpiece to garnish.

Your mothers have my number if you need help. Call me, I'll hand the phone to William, and he'll help walk you through it tough guy.

EDIT: I did 1" cubes for this one because it was for a potluck. I didn't have very "thirsty" bread and ended up using 3/4 of a 1lb loaf of Challah, instead of the 1/2 as written above to soak up more of the custard mix. I also had some cream cheese that I put on top before baking (see what I mean about always doing things a little bit differently?) I don't like cooked strawberries so I used those for garnish. Here I used 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup raspberries, and 1/2 cup strawberries (which you could put in the toast. If you wanted to. Eww.)

Sara ran off with the dish, so I couldn't get a "Hero" shot of the final product. I'll post one up on Mother's Day. It'll be completely different, and just as yummy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Same, Same, but Different

"Same, same?" William, my older son, asks me as he attempts to put on his shoes. He lines up the inner curve of his foot with the arch of the shoe, sole to sole. His eyebrows furrow. Something has gone drastically wrong. They lined up perfectly but now they don't fit. He repeats the process with his left foot. That same little crinkle appears between his eyebrows. He looks just like my Grandpa Kirby when he does this.

Wonderment with a little gastro-intestinal discomfort mixed in.

His concern is mounting, he's starting to growl under his breath a little bit, and then he figures it out. He matches his left foot to the left shoe, slips on both of his orange 'hand me down' Crocs, and jumps landing onto his feet more than shoulder width apart. He's got that grin on his face, his arms spread wide, and his fingers shooting straight out of his forward facing palms, "SAME, SAME, DADDY! SAME, SAME!!!"

This phrase followed my wife and I home from our first trip to Thailand. Some people collect postcards, we collect local catch phrases. Our best friends use their own version of "L337 sp34k" for travel. It's a mixture of acronyms, dance terminology, and local phrases that we have acquired on more than a few international trips. For instance, if a hotel isn't up to our standards (it's too much) Karen might pipe in, "KBC?" JD looks at us and confirms, "KBC." Sara and I play 'BC' and say, "We don't want to say here guys." They say, "Thanks anyways," and we Kick Ball Change to the next hotel on a dog eared page in our ratty travel guide. It's a great system, but I hated being the Bad Cop.

Southeast Asia has provided us with some of our best travel speak. The only phrase that we use (I used it this very morning, in fact) more than "Same, same, but different," came to us during our second trip to SE Asia via our Lonely Planet Book Vietnam, on page 592: phong tam. I'm pretty sure it was JD who noticed that phong tam, bathroom in Vietnamese, phonetically was pretty effin' close to "phone Tom."

Euphemisms ensued.

Nay, they flourished: I need to phone Tom. Was there a phone booth nearby? Did it have the white pages or would I need to bring my own phonebook? Tom is paging me. Tom is paging me on vibrate.

Tom is paging me 911...

Okay, I'm back.

This new addition to our travel lexicon was a boon of unrivaled proportion. It allowed us to talk freely about what all travellers talk about on a daily basis: bowel movements. "Phone Tom" meant BM talk was no longer relegated to busy shopping districts, or the back of a tuk-tuk, location was now a non-factor. We could have dinner in a restaurant with other English-speaking travellers even and talk all we wanted about who had gone to the bathroom. Or not at all, "Tom paged me right when my breakfast arrived, but when I finally found a phone booth and called him back, the line was busy."

"No answer?"

"Not even an answering machine."

"Huh, I phoned him this morning and he wouldn't shut up."

Tom is an incredibly important person to get a hold of. Especially when you haven't spoken to him for a while.

"I'm on the phone!" is often shouted across our home.

Another phrase that we still throw around especially on days like today when it's 100 plus in Burbank, CA, came from my oldest friend, Houston. One lovely 115 degree summer day in Tucson, AZ, he proclaimed on our way home from school that he had Swamp Ass. It wasn't until some 12 years later in SE Asia that it hit me. "I got Swamp Ass people," came flying out of mouth and suddenly it became clear to everyone else, that yes, indeed, they had Swamp Ass too.

Sweaty, no good trying to dry up with your boxer briefs, S-W-A-M-P ASS.

There's no getting around it. You probably had Swamp Ass today if you live in SoCal. Okay, so maybe you didn't write a Swamp Ass Haiku about it, but it was definitely there. I always crave hot and spicy food when the weather gets this friggin' hot. I guess this could be taken the "Blanche DuBois" way, but I assure you I'm not punishing myself.

Now you might be if you make this 'Same, Same, but Different' Noodle Salad using all of the Thai chili peppers.

1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
4 Thai bird chili peppers
1 tbsp Nam Pla (fish Sauce)
Kecap Manis - Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce (or sub low sodium soy sauce plus 1.5 cups brown sugar.)
8 Kaffir Lime Leaves crushed (sub zest of 2 limes)
Canola Oil
1 tsp Black Peppercorns plus some freshly cracked
2 cloves of sliced Garlic
A very lean 1lb cut of beef, like Sirloin. Filet tails would work here as well.
1/2 lb rice noodles (I prefer the Pad Thai size, not the Vermicelli size. If you wand to do this with more noodle than steak, cook up more noodles.)
About a Tbsp of Sesame Oil
Fresh Cilantro
4 Sliced Scallions
1 Sliced Red Bell Pepper
Basil (Thai if you can get it)
Sliced Hot House Cucumber
Wedges of Lime

Alright already, listen up -- if you don't want to buy that many ingredients and make a crazy yummy salad, then just pull out anything that's too crazy. Fry up some thinly sliced beef in garlic, oil, add some basil and black pepper, put it on top of noodles, say, "Same, Same, but Different!" and dig in.

Don't you even think about using Steak-Umms.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Read: Corporate Sponsorship of this blog is still available.

For those of you who are more adventurous, this loosely adapted recipe for the beef* is meant to provide a framework for you to add and subtract ingredients as you see fit. Just read the rest would ya and then decide which way to go.

Thinly slice your Thai peppers, add them to 1/4 cup of Rice Wine Vinegar and a Tbsp of Nam Pla and tightly cover them and refrigerate. Don't use your Gladware, use a glass or Stainless Steel Bowl.

In a SS 2 qt Sauce Pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of Canola Oil, 1 tsp of whole black peppercorns and the slices of Garlic. You're going to stir constantly and cook the garlic until it's lightly colored. At this point add the bruised Kaffir Lime Leaves, 2 cups of Kecap Manis and reduce the heat. Let this simmer for say 20 minutes or so, you just want to infuse the soy sauce and end up with a light maple syrup consistency. You're not looking for a molasses consistency. Remove from heat, and transfer to a heat proof bowl. Divide the syrup into two even parts and add 1/2 cup sake and 1/2 cup Tamari to one part and chill. The other half goes really well on anything from Calamari to Seared Ahi Tuna Steaks.

Man that sounds good.

Pat your beef dry and give it a little cracked pepper. Add enough Canola Oil to coat the bottom a pre-heated skillet and get ready for some smoke and sizzle. Sear your beef on both sides to the level of squeamishness that you can handle. I go rare, you could go raw if you know and trust your butcher. Just don't cook it more than medium-well. Depending on the thickness, 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer back to the paper towel to pat dry and drop it into your chilled marinade. If you're making this a day ahead leave the meat whole. If you're preparing for a meal that's a few hours away, let it rest for 15 minutes, and slice it as thinly as possible before adding it to the marinade.

You could also thinly slice some rib-eye, add some ginger to the marinade and let it sit for 3 hours before you grill it, if the other way is making you squirm.

I'll come back to the beef.

I like to drop the rice noodles in plenty of heavily salted, rapidly boiling water, bring it back up to a boil, and then turn off the flame and let the noodles sit for 10 minutes. Drain the noodles and then rinse with cold water until cool. Add enough Sesame oil to coat them and let them drain in a colander. You could also read the directions on the package, but they won't be nearly as witty.

The hard part is done my friend (see, wit galore!) Yank the beef out, pat it dry, flick off any peppercorns or slices of garlic, and thinly slice it. It's time to plate!

Start with your noodles and add the bell peppers to the top. Place your beef on the salad, top with your scallions and tear a few leaves of basil, cilantro, and mint to boot. Garnish with the sliced cucumber on one side and wedges of lime on the other. There is always the letting your "inner Martha" loose and alternating the lime with every fifth slice of Cuc or so.

Think about it.

Just go grab those pickled chili peppers while you mull it over. These are going to be your dressing for the salad. At most Asian Markets, you can find fried garlic slices, a sprinkling on top of the steak is making my mouth water just thinking about it. Buy some and you'll never eat chicken noodle soup without them ever again. Not even your mother's. (Maybe that's true for you already.) Back to the dressing, you can also add in a little soy sauce to replace the fish sauce, or to add more salt to the salad. You could also make a quick ginger, lime juice and soy sauce dressing if the whole pickled chili pepper thing making you sweat isn't doing it for ya.

Then again, you could just close up this blog and go soak for hours on end in a blistering hot bath.


Same, Same, but Different.

*Recipe for the beef portion is adapted from Simply Ming, and Sushi, taste and technique.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Resurrection vs Reprise

Well, I'm not quite sure how to say this other than I might be headed to Hell at some point.

It's true, yours truly, did not have leg of lamb with my yummy Scarborough Fair Rub, or really any of that menu for Easter Dinner. Now in all fairness, I really was planning on that menu, I promise!

Alas, this is what happens to liars. I get an unshaded parking spot in "115 degrees for the low" Hell. I think this is every Tucsonan's version at least. The only other option for me is enough dirty dishes and nasty tile grout to last an eternity. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I'll let you know by flickering a light once if it's the unshaded parking spot, and twice if I'm in for the scrubbing and bleaching of my after-life.

Impossible? Keep in mind I only have 4 followers, so it'll be way easy to do the whole lights flickering thing. Especially if the other 3 put up their pictures.

My newest 'new and improved' hope is that I actually do one stinkin' holiday dinner before the year is out! The only silver lining with the whole Passover/Easter debacle is that I didn't substitute Prime Rib for the lamb like some people (read: TODD!!!)

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Maybe not...

It feels wrong though, doesn't it? I'm not sure why, but it does. You know as a kid I took communion and ate the "body" then drank the "blood." If just typing that alone gives me the heebie geebies, imagine a super rare, blood red, 'moo' when you cut into it Prime Rib... It's like every single pang of guilt past piled into one juicy hunk of meat just staring you down at the dinner table on Easter Sunday. Repent, repent, repent.

Funny, I don't get that Ghosts of Easter past vibe from lamb.


That image and subsequent chill bumps made me put back the incredibly priced standing rib roast, and get the boneless ghosts-be-gone pork loin roast instead.

If only I had a great recipe to follow for the pork...

Now I'm really done for right? A shameless plug, I know, I know. Back-off, I just might take you down with me!

Using blog as confessional, here was the menu that I finally put together for our families for Easter Dinner as I shopped at 1pm on Sunday:

Maple-Dijon Pork Loin Roast with Spiced Granny Smith Apple Sauce
Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Oven Roasted Baby Carrots and Asparagus with Caramelized Shallots
and for dessert,
Vanilla and Tangelo Macerated Strawberries (with a touch of Grand Marnier)
on top of cream puffs (store bought *blink*)

Sometimes you need to grab a store bought item to make the other dishes shine. I started cooking at 3pm and we were at our best friends house ready to eat at 5:30pm.

So there it is, plain and simple. There's really nothing crazy, or hard to find ingredients, or "28 steps for Vegan chili?" about the menu, but the way in which this is executed leaves time for you to file two insurance claims. Oh, I've got the claim numbers to prove it.

I got rear ended in the grocery store parking lot and offered the disabled woman not to worry about the melon sized dent in my bumper.

I'll just chalk up the dent in my bumper to that's what bumpers are for. I figure this is the appropriate response. She's disabled, I was out of my spot and shifted into D. She clipped my rear and did some nice damage to her car, mine is our family van, and I figure it'll be character building for my older son when I hand it down to him.
So I say, "It's Easter." Her reply, "What does that mean?"


I'm a Unitarian Universalist, this could take a while. I'm having this conversation about Easter in my head, and I realize that she's referring to the accident. I look at her, and my inner argument is interrupted by her words, "Who's going to pay for this damage (to my car)?"

"You are?" I say. I've shifted from magnanimous to incredulous. Is this really how God is going to punish me for balking on my Easter Dinner recipe?!?

"But you hit me." Her words are floating above her head, and I can see where this Sunday Comic Strip is heading. My dinner is slipping away in the next frame, I'm cutting the roast into tiny little chops. I beat the crap out them of until I can see through them my eye showing through a hole in one of the scallopini. The next frame I open up one of my son's TJ's Organic Apple-Mixed Berry Sauce to top 'em with. In the final one I'm serving Salt and Pepper Kettle Chips for the veggies and garnishing with cheese sticks...

I'm still looking for the lesson here. I get hit. I pay 50% of the total damage to her car, my premium probably goes up...

Who knows.

Maybe I'll go save a bug or something to swing me more to the enlightenment side of things.

Then again, maybe Hell is dealing with car insurance companies and claim adjusters... It sure as hell feels like it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passing Over Passover.

That whole thing last post about my wife "having arrived" if she had a washer and dryer only counts for the 11 months in which Passover doesn't occur. For that one month, all she wants is a large formal dining room table, and enough chairs/service to serve, say, 12 people. It was my hope this year to help my wife put together her first Seder.

Minus the whole formal dining room table, seeing as how we'd need to buy a dining room first.

About the only thing we did for Passover this year was leave a place for Elijah.

At the Toddler Table, but I don't think that really counts because the seat was left vacant due to a timeout.

So truly I think the only think that was done similar to Passover was the drinking of the four cups of wine. Except it was in a glass and wasn't exactly kosher...

Oy vey!

Then again, my older son did ask four questions, my Godson kept hiding his food under his napkin only to reveal it later, there was a lot of dipping objects into their water, and there were four children present, though none of them wicked.

I guess every dinner with multiple toddlers is a Seder dinner?

Well, it's not.

She wasn't fooled. By any of it. So it is now my new and improved hope this year to make my boneless leg of lamb for Easter to make up for it. I'll make some salt baked garlic and herb fingerling potatoes, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, creamed spinach or Brussels sprout au gratin, maybe even a roasted yam and sweet corn soup? Too much for 5 adults?

That's my middle name.

This wet fresh herb rub works wonders on rack of lamb or even a bone-in ribeye roast, but who wants to eat beef on Easter?

A Cuisinart comes in handy here, but you don't really need one if you like your hands smelling like garlic, and herbs. I like to refer to this as my Scarborough Fair Rub, I'll even hum the tune while I smack it down and rub it into the meat. I prefer to do this the afternoon before I grill the lamb.

Scarborough Fair "Wet Rub"
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup minced garlic
handful of Fresh Parsley (flat leaf)
handful of Fresh Sage
handful of Fresh Rosemary
handful of Fresh Thyme
Zest of 2 Lemons
fresh cracked Black Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2 to 3 glugs)

Omit the salt if you are going to rub down your lamb and leave it in the ice box over night.

Start with the cloves of peeled garlic, about 8 or 10, throw 'em in the Cuisinart and add the dijon mustard. Pulse garlic until roughly chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add all of the herbs, the lemon zes, a tsp of salt and four or five turns of the pepper mill. If your pepper mill is battery operated and has a light that comes on count to five or so while you grind your pepper. I love mine, and living in California, you can never have too many flashlights.

Don't judge me.

Continue to pulse the herbs, and add a glug of Olive Oil. You may need two more to bring this to an almost pesto like consistency, but not too fine. If you omitted the salt, rub down your leg of lamb, like you went to lamb massage school, roll it back up, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in a big ol' Ziploc bag so every thing stays clean. I have been known to leave a salt shaker right next to the bag in the refrigerator, then again I have also been known to cry out, "Who put the friggin salt in the fridge?" about five minutes later. Whatever you do, don't forget the salt.

If you only have a few hours go ahead and add the salt. The salt aids in the transfer of flavor but it can also leach out all of those lovely juices if left on for too long.

You can take those left over herbs, grab two cups of kosher salt and the whites of two eggs. Roughly chop the herbs, and mix them with the salt and add in the whites. It should look and feel like moist sand. Rub Olive oil over your fingerling potatoes, place the salt mix into a baker (brownie pan) and press the fingerlings into the salt mix. You can also use baby Yukon Golds, or White Rose Potatoes, just be sure that they are whole and have the skin on. Bake 'em a at 375 for 30 minutes or so until fork tender.

I fire up the left and right side of my grill to high and leave the middle burner off. Salt that lamb if you haven't already, and mark it off on each side of the leg of lamb starting with the inner side first. About 4 minutes each side. Insert your probe thermometer (you did go out and buy one at Target right?) and transfer over to the middle grill. Reduce the other burners to medium heat and cook for about 7 minutes. Flip the leg of lamb and cook until you reach 125 for rare, 130 for medium. You'll want to let that lamb rest for five to ten minutes, and it should increase in temperature roughly a degree a minute at that point.

(You can also broil the lamb, but I would do that under a medium broil so the garlic doesn't get that bitter burnt taste.)

Carve up the lamb table side with an electric knife, be sure to smack your lips as you plate it, and when your wife asks for you to pass the salt-run for the fridge.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


A boy is a blessing.-some magnet.

With two (kids), you just love more. -my mother.

I feel like someone poured cough syrup over my life. -me.

Okay. So the first two are true, but the third one FEELS true. Which is worse?

No one tells you any of this as you walk out the door with your second child. It's all smoke and mirrors, do they have your billing address, and smiles as they say congratulations. All the while their subtext is screaming "you won't believe how much laundry there is with two."

At least for me, that 'cough syrup' feeling is the same feeling that I had when Sara told me she was pregnant with our first. There was doubt - We did it?, pure joy - We did it!, and then the weight of the world pressing down on my shoulders - We did it?!? Read: What were we thinking?!?

So bringing this second boy home two months ago, I was starting to feel that weight of the world again. It creeps in as I'm applying for his health insurance, adding in his daycare costs come September, and trying to still find the time to look this kiddo in the eyes and say I love you, more than you will ever know.

Where does this time I speak of go?

Like sands through the hour glass... -my Nana's Soap.

I never thought I'd look forward to the times when it's just me. A cup of coffee. On the toilet. For more than two minutes. It goes something like, "Hi me." "Hi myself," comes the reply just before I fight back a yawn.

Now, if I'm feeling this way (Mr. Can't sleep alone if the Mrs. is away) then I know that my wife must need double, possibly even cubed the amount of alone time that I desire. She is a breast-feeding, diaper changing, burp-cloth/onesie washing, going back to work, mother of two boys machine, whose time alone is much less than mine.

I keep daydreaming of taking off work early, stealing our second son, and sending her to get a pedicure, which would cost $. Hello weight of the world, nice to see you again.

The clouds parted and ray of bliss shone through last week. Did I take off work? Me? Nope. She found reruns of the West Wing on TV at some ungodly hour. Her mood has changed. She is like a new woman. Still quite sleep deprived, but new... kinda like CarMax Mom, I guess?


Anyway, WEST WING!?! I know, right? Who knew Dule Hill could be so catalystastic? Buuud! You have saved me time off from work and $25 a month in nail care! (She never spends that, but the possibility still looms out there in the murky distance.)

When my wife has her own washer and dryer, and can get a pedicure once a month, she will have officially "arrived." Who knew life could be this good?

All of this kiddo talk stems from our best friends having their second child around 5pm today. I am overwhelmed with joy, I'm planning their welcome home meal.

Grilled Cheese Night with Beer.

There are a couple of ways to accomplish this*.

You don't need a Panini Press, but you should get one. A) Do it for America. B) If you do your prep right, it eliminates your need to be in the kitchen. C) It provides "a great conversation piece." -Martha Stewart

So I'm going with more of a guidance counselor recipe here. Techniques, tips, and tricks... I'll be more of your personal Mr. T, s'il vous plait.

Grab about a loaf per 3 people. A baguette will serve about 4. The more varied your bread selection, the wider array of sandwiches you'll be able to create. You can also serve the beer in Amsterdam sized beer glasses.

I'm always a big fan of "cutting" the grilled cheese using a lighter (less expensive) cheese like a sliced muenster or havarti with a more prominent cheese. So you can do a brie sandwich but go half light muenster/half brie. You get the flavor of the brie but not the overwhelming richness of it as you plow through two or five panini. Trader Joe's or Whole Foods are both great one stop shops for a grilled cheese night. I love going to Monte Carlo Deli in Burbank for mine, but hey, not everyone can walk to a local Italian Deli.

Shut it you NYC people yous.

I don't oil my press nor do I add butter to the bread. If you grab decent artisan bread, the cheese should melt through the occasional air pocket and provide the necessary "love" to crisp that bread right up.

A must have on my grilled cheese night is mozzarella on rosemary bread. Friends will walk out the door if I don't have this on hand. This is a lazy man's version of a recipe I found once that had you use ciabatta bread, fresh mozzarella,way too much olive oil, and then skewer that sandwich with a rosemary sprig and grill it. Great on the grill for a first course, but not possible indoors. Way too smoky.

If you love TJ's like yours truly, then grab the rosemary demi-baguette and the marinated braided mozzarella. Slice the baguette in half length-wise and then trim an 1/8" or so off of the bottom, and slice the top so that you are roughly even in size with the bottom. Hand the trimmed pieces to your toddlers or dogs for staying out of the kitchen. Break up the braided mozzarella, sneaking a bit for yourself, and spread it out evenly between your two slices. Grill over medium low heat flipping it over after 5 minutes or so (cream may rise, but grease drops like dead weight.) Cut into mini sandwiches and serve with a nice crisp beer, Moretti would do well here. No, not the rossa.

Speaking of TJ's, during the winter time they do a dried fruit nut loaf that is killer with brie and pears. I breakdown and eat a little wheat when this bread is available. A smoked porter or oatmeal stout goes really well with that one. Maybe two.

Spreads are also a great way to vary your grilled cheese night without going crazy on 12 different types of cheese. A simple basil pesto aoli and sun-dried tomato pesto aoli can brighten up your panini and stretch your lighter cheese. In other words, buy a jar of mayo and some other jarred tapenades, pestos, and goodies, to spread onto your sandwiches.

Don't forget a cold cut bar for your grilled cheese night. A Fra'Mani Soprasetta, Spicy Capicola or Coppa, Black Pepper Salami (Genovese), or even just grilled chicken breast. I shy away from Proscuitto because the only thing that should be "stringy" after you bite into a grilled cheese is the cheese, not some unchewable ribbon of fat or piece of sinew.

Don't get me wrong, wrap up grilled asparagus in it with some mascarpone cheese and aged balsamic, and you might just be getting engaged, if not married a few months down the line.

That's all for now, there is another new baby in my life.

What weight of the world?

*Yes, drink all the beer, get sleepy, and then go to bed is a possibility, good on ya, mate! You'll also need to add a couple Advil and a divorce lawyer in the morning to this recipe if you go that route.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Winner, Winner, Rubber Chicken Dinner?

Maybe you just screamed, "Blackjack!" Maybe you're waiting for the Monty Python Knight to come hit me over the head. Okay, maybe not.

Rubber chickens are like veggie bacon, they gross me out.

There. I did it, I said it. Can someone please clue me in on the whole fake meat thing? I kinda get it, I mean I eat rice flour pasta. That's kinda like fakey fakey pasta, but if you look at the ingredient deck they're fairly similar: Rice Flour, Water vs Wheat Flour, Water. So how does veggie bacon stack up? You're gonna have to trust me on this one: thirty-seven ingredients for Veggie Bacon vs five for this little piggy clogged my heart bacon...

There's no judgment here, just me, as usual, looking a bit confused. Why would someone who doesn't eat meat, want to eat something that's a) manufactured and b) designed to look like meat? It can't be for health reasons, look at all of those ingredients. Yes, quite a few are vitamins and egg whites, but others are artificial colors, and let's face it, hard to pronounce.

Isn't this kind of like getting a blow-up doll fashioned after an Ex?


It is isn't it?

That Monty Python Knight is standing right behind me... I can feel it.

So, here's the deal, I'm not trained in the ways of the Veganista, so I'm not sure what rules can and can't be broken. It is my hope that this is a truly vegan chili, one that came out my desire to use up some "not so desirable, but not quite ready to compost" veggies. You know the type.

You'll need to go shopping and ask for things in Spanish. You could also order them at, but that's not as fun as mouthing Guajillo in your rear view mirror as you navigate your way to the nearest Latin market. The dried peppers will be fresher there (oxymoronic, I know.) I guess you could start with a local market, but only if you live in the barrio.

Alvarado's throw everything in one pot wonder.*

The variety of dried chile peppers really make the dish, and if you can make tea, you can make this dish. If you have a blender.

1 medium yellow onion diced
1 large carrot diced
2 tbsp white corn meal
Canola Oil
3 Chile De Arbol
3 Chile Mulato
2 Chile Guajillo
2 bunches scallions
3 large zucchini
3 large yellow summer squash
2 gargantuan red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic minced
14oz or so can of sweet corn (drained)
27oz (or less if you like) canned diced mild anaheim peppers (drained)
32oz (or more) canned white hominy (drained and rinsed)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp veggie base (Better Than Bouillon-Whole Foods-is it vegan?)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 quarts hot water (divided evenly)
Salt and Pepper
Toppings for your chili

So start with getting the water hot, grab your Guajillo and Mulato peppers and put them in a bowl, cover them with a quart of hot water and cover with plastic wrap. You might want to rotate/flip the peppers after 10 minutes or so to make sure they are fully hydrated. Once they are nice and soft, remove the peppers and hang on to that water. Remove the stems and seeds, and blend them with about a half a cup of the water. Leave them in the blender, even if your loved one wants you to clean it out immediately after use so it doesn't sit for a week "soaking."

If you have a grill or gas stove, roast your red bell peppers whole, throw those in yet another bowl when they're done and cover them with plastic wrap too. If you don't have a gas stove or grill, add them to the roasted squash. Halve your zucchini and squash and then cut them into 1/2" to 3/4" pieces. Grab one bunch of scallions, cut off the roots, and cut them into 1/2" pieces as well. Put these on a sheet pan, toss in canola oil, add a little salt and pepper and roast at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until roasted. You're looking to get a good color on them, they won't be cooked through.

Get your wonder pot out and over medium heat, add some canola oil. Dice your yellow onion, and carrot, throw those in the pot with the three Chile de Arbols (whole.) Saute until the onions are almost cooked through. Remove the Chile de Arbols, pop off the stems, and add them to the blender. Quickly. Go back to that pot and add the garlic to the pot along with the green chile, corn meal, and vegetable base. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes or so and add a quart of hot water. Reduce heat to a simmer and add in the hominy, tomato paste, oregano, cumin, and coriander.

Peel your red bell peppers and dice them to 1/2" to 3/4". Add the roasted squash and scallions, bell peppers, and canned corn to the pot. Go back to your blender and puree those Chile de Arbols into the others. You can add a "See, I told you I wasn't done with this!" here if you want to. You can also add a pour or two of more "pepper" water if it's too thick. Think ketchup consistency. Once you're there, add about half of the puree to the pot, stir and taste for heat. A little dab will do ya. I ended up using all of the puree, but you might not want yours that strong. Don't worry about the bitterness yet, the sweetness of the corn, peppers and carrots will help balance that out once it's in the chili. If you must, you could add agave or more tomato paste, but I really don't think you'll need to.

Chop up the other bunch of scallions, grate your favorite soy cheese, maybe some cilantro and diced white onion, and get ready to eat a hearty vegan dish with no fake meat! Yeah yeah yeah, a vegan dish with twenty-seven or so ingredients (more if count subs :P) but NO FAKE MEAT!

Now, go eat a bowl of chili after you wash out that blender. Go.

Wash it now. if you don't want to shop at Super A or Vallarta. if you need to substitute peppers.

* "One pot wonder" in no way shape or form means that you will only need to clean only one thing for the evening. Sorry to disappoint.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hey Tax Man!

Due diligence pays.

Out the whazoo.

We decided to get our taxes done early this year (more than a week ahead of the 15th is early,) and ended up getting $50 some odd dollars back from the Fed and owing $600 something to California. The exact figure escapes me....

I go numb from head to toe as I hand our accountant the debit card. My mouth is dry. Tack on another $150 for his services to that figure... I'm itchy. What was that figure again? His mouth is moving---Do I need audit protection? Do I? Is it just me or is it itchy in here? Did he just say audit protection?

It was hard to tell if it was a lump in my throat or if I was stabbing myself with my wallet, whatever it was, it felt like poker night all over again.

6s-10s-8h on the flop, I have the 8 and 9 of spades. Checks all around, I check. 8 of clubs on the turn... checks all around, I bet. I bet big. I have mid trips and am on a straight, flush, four of a kind, straight flush draw. I beat a high pocket pair, two pair, would lose to a higher straight or flush.... I get raised. By my boss. I put the rest of my chips in. He calls.

Pocket 10s.

Two cards and two cards only can save me.

Those same two cards were nowhere to be found in the accountant's office as well.

So you pick yourself up. You want to call a time-out, a quick 20, hell you'd take a knee if you could, but you don't. You say, "Thank you." A "thank you" with this open ended pause that carries an inaudible yet oh so painful "for the spanking."

Times like these call for one thing and one thing only...

Mac 'n' Cheese.

Substitute regular flour and wheat pasta if you'd like, I don't eat either.

1lb dry Brown Rice Penne (TJ's)
2tbsp rice flour (I use sweet rice, fine grind)
1 large shallot diced
3 tbsp butter (6 if you want it "Schnobrich Style")
2 cups milk
2 tbsp warm water
2 pinches saffron
8oz Havarti cheese cut into small cubes
8oz Cheddar shredded
4-8oz of any other cheese you might wanna throw in for good measure
1/2 tsp or so of smoked paprika
1tbsp salt (for boiling)

Take those 2 tbsp of warm water and add the two pinches saffron to it. Like now would be a good time. Do it before you even think about making/reading this recipe.

Boil up some water over medium high heat, you'll need at least a 4qt sauce pan. When that comes to a boil, add the pasta, tbsp of salt and crank the heat up the rest of the way. Cooking directions vary here... If you are going to bake this Mac N Cheese, leave the pasta under cooked, if you are going to eat this right away, cook them all the way through. If you lost big, you could throw some extra saffron into the pasta water for further punishment/self-loathing.

Melt the butter in a saute pan, add the shallots, and continue to cook until translucent. Add the rice flour and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the saffron water, and don't sweat the pieces that will stick to the side of the ramekin, there is work to be done. Immediately reach for the milk and add just enough to make a loose sauce, bring that up to temp, and more milk, bring it back up to temp, add the rest of the milk with the cubed Havarti, and kill the heat. Once you have all of that, you should look over at that pasta you forgot all about. Rinse the pasta in the strainer with some hot water. If you're using wheat pasta, skip that step. Good thing you read ahead, right?

Mix the cooked pasta, the sauce, any of those threads of saffron that stuck to the side of your ramekin, and the shredded cheddar (maybe some fontina too) into a baking dish. Sneak a bite. Tell your loved ones it's to test for seasoning. Take another bite, because that's some good advice and add salt and pepper if you'd like and top with the smoked paprika. Bake @ 350 until bubbly, or eat right away.

Serrano Ham is super tasty. It would be even tastier bathing in this dish, lower the salt if you add this to the dish. Lobster would do fine here as well.

No 8 of diamonds or 7 of Spades needed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Giving Thanks on St. Patrick's Day

Okay, so one might not exactly invite the in-laws, the "once a year" friends and their out of town guests, and the obligatory "alone for the holiday" co-worker to give thanks over green beer, corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes (in no particular order.) However, yours truly still gives thanks every single St. Patrick's Day. No, not for beer. That's more of a done-with-work daily thanksgiving for me.

The thanks that I give every St. Patrick's Day is to my Nana, Dora Alvarado. She got her butt to the hospital a day early and gave birth to my father on the 16th of March. Had she given birth on the 17th, being a good Catholic, she would have named her son Patrick.

P-A-T-R-I-C-K, Patrick.

Patrick Guillermo would have then begot Patrick Miguel some 22 years later, and 30 years thereafter fully put my first son in danger of being named Patrick as well. Surely you can see how this would have created catastrophic results on the time continuum.

For all of time, or as Andre Benjamin puts it: "Forever? Forever ever? Forever ever?"

Thankfully my father was named Fernando Guillermo, he begot Fernando Miguel, and after all of that, we named our first son William, and I only use my legal name on my taxes. Which was another catastrophe of sorts this year, but I'll get to that in another post.

So back to the corned beef I say! There is a great glaze recipe in The Silver Palate, I think it's the Back to Basics one--it's gray. Use Dundee's Bitter Orange Marmalade, and a spicy Dijon for this recipe. Score your already boiled way past dead Corned Beef, lightly glaze it, and throw it in the oven. Keep glazing it every ten minutes or so. You can stop here and you'll have a great hit (next year or for for St. Patty's in July,) or you can look at that left over glaze and say to yourself, "I should make a savory caramel with that."

Take that left over glaze, add 1/4 cup of brown sugar, about 1tbsp and a half of apple cider vinegar, and put it in a 2qt sauce pan. Bring it up to a rapid boil, and after it has been bubbling away for two minutes add in 3 tbsp of unsalted butter one tbsp at a time, whisking constantly, and waiting for one to dissolve before adding the next. Once that last pat of love has been incorporated, pull it off of the heat and let it sit. You can get cute and put the sauce in a little jar, with a green and white gingham ribbon, and cut a faux leaf clover out of flat-leaf parsley for garnish.

Or you can lick the whisk every time you walk by as you plate the dinner and give thanks for not being named Patrick.

*edit* - "I would like to apologize to my -1 or so readers, none of whom are named Patrick, or even have names that start with a "P."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cheers & Co.

Sometimes it's not what ends up on the plate, the heart that goes into a dish, or the latest fancy pants mail order all-in-one chopper/peeler/laundry sorter. Nope. Sometimes it's all about the beer and the company you keep.

Such was the case this evening, when at some point between marking the first side of the NY strip steak I was grilling, I looked over at my dad and we were both taking a swig of our beers, our heads bobbing in tacit agreement that-man, it just doesn't get better than this.

I look down to see my older son standing at the side of the grill wafting the steam from the mushrooms into his face. He wants to know why the "smoke" smells so good. "They're mushrooms," I say triumphantly.

Here's where the story doesn't get interesting. My three and a half year old is not about to say, "Wow dad, I never knew mushrooms could smell so good, how do you do it?!?" Nor is he going to eat mushrooms due to some secret recipe that will shortly follow suit.

Secret Recipe:

Cook 1 lb 1/4" sliced Crimini or Italian Brown Mushrooms with
1 diced medium Shallot over medium heat
in 2 tsp Olive Oil,
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce,
1 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar or wine if you wish,
a pinch or two of Sugar,
and Fresh cracked Black Pepper.
Finish it off the heat with 1 Tbsp Butter and steak drippings.

He stares me down through the mushroom vapors.

He's sure I'm full of it...

When I finally win the stare off, he calls me 'a silly,' admonishes my dad for standing so close to the grill, and he's off.

My dad shakes his head and tells me how much faster things are with your second child, I listen, turn the asparagus, and really, all I can think about is how much I wish these steaks would take a little bit longer to cook.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Salt, Pepper, and Maple Syrup

A pig never had it so good.*

It's been soup weather all this week in lovely Burbank, so what's one to make? Wedding Soup? Cioppino? Caldo de Queso? My wife's eyes start to light up... She's thinking Tortilla Soup is coming out next, and out of my mouth comes Grilled Pork Chops. The look on her face can only mean I'm cleaning up afterwards.

I prefer bone-in double cut pork chops, but we happened to have boneless loin chops, which will do just fine if you watch 'em closely. So to this well trimmed lean cut of meat, I added some fat. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me at the time. Next came the cracked black pepper, and few hours back in the fridge. Yes, I think it helps the flavor, but more importantly, my older son wanted me to play trains.


You don't need trains to make this recipe work. You don't need wine either, but I poured myself a glass anyway. Right next to the wine was my good ol friend Brandy, which got me to thinking, I should make a sauce for these beauties. So I grabbed her, some maple syrup, a couple granny smith apple, a good lookin' shallot... and some more fat... some butter. I turned around, grabbed some salt, all-spice, and my bottle of olive oil and headed out for some quality time with my grill.

I salted up those chops, oiled my grill, and coughed as I tried to lay down my chops through the carcinogenic smoke screen I had just created. A couple of caramelized sliced apples with shallots and brandy later, I had just enough time for another glass of wine before I had to flip and then coat the pork chops with maple syrup.

I forget what veggies I made, the chops were so good.

And I love veggies.

4 Pork Chops
2 Granny Smith Apples
1 Medium Shallot
Maple Syrup
Olive Oil
Black Pepper
Viognier (or a Vernaccia if you plan to have me over)

Extra virgin olive oil will do just fine, rub about a tablespoon on for every four chops. Grab a plate. Put down a long piece of plastic wrap on it. Crack some black pepper onto it, throw down a well oiled chop, crack some more pepper, throw down another chop, black pepper, chop, pepper, choppepperchoppepper plastic. Wrap up those little pigs and throw 'em in the fridge to get yummy. Four hours maybe? Pull them out 3o minutes before you want to cook them (an hour if they're bone-in), and separate them into a single layer. Leave the plastic wrap to cover your well oiled bundles of joy, and keep them out of reach of your toddler. I'm just saying.

Salt them before you grill or pan fry them. Glaze the cooked side with the maple syrup. Don't get all sloppy with the syrup. Cook them to your liking or buy a probe thermometer from Target so that you know the specific temperature at which 'leather' occurs.

Preheat your griddle over medium heat.

So you can go one of eight ways here: skin on, or off, soft or crispy, sliced or diced. Once you figure that out, match your peeled shallot with your apple. Pour a tsp of olive oil onto your griddle or non-stick pan. For soft apples start them first, for crisp apples add both at the same time, then some salt and pepper.

Unless you are an experienced pyro, turn off your flame and add a pour of brandy when your apples start to get some color.

Please be careful here, I'm getting nervous about you doing this and I'm second guessing myself right now.

Finish it with a pat of butter, a pinch of all-spice, and I think I added a small amount of syrup here to to tie it all together. Or maybe some dijon mustard and ginger?

Better save that for another rainy day.

*Undercooked or raw pork is no bueno, then again, serving apple topped leather might ruin your street cred. My grandpa would want to remind you "Don't use the brandy if you don't have a fire extinguisher." The alcohol vapors can still ignite if the pan is too hot, flames or no flames.

Now go trim your eyebrows before you make this!