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.