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!