Saturday, September 29, 2007

George Clooney Update

Many of you may have been wondering what Clooney has been up to since he lost his gig as my online sidebar avatar. I’m sorry to report the news is not good. Apparently he took the dismissal much harder than anyone could have imagined. For those of you that are new to this blog, George served as a celebrity look-a-like for my profile photo for many months (you can see him pictured below during happier times). Once my secret identity was made public by About.com, I replaced Mr. Clooney’s photo with my own, and told him that his services would no longer be needed. At the time he sounded fine with it, and said he still would like to “stay friends.” We’ve all heard that one before.

Anyway, my Hollywood sources tell me that since he was removed from the site, he has really let himself go. As you can see from the photo, he has gained about 50 pounds, and friends say he basically lives on hot dogs, chocolate Pop-tarts, and root beer. George, if you are reading this, please get a hold of yourself! You still have the movie career, and all those beautiful women, and all that money. You’re going to be okay. You just need to move on.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Angel Hair Pasta with Broccoli and Garlic Sauce - And, why most vegetable pastas aren’t very good

Today's recipe video is a very simple broccoli "alia olia," but it's also a good example of the proper way to use vegetables in pasta. I almost never order veggie pasta in a restaurant. The main reason is that the vegetables are almost never cooked properly, or I should say prepped properly. Take this broccoli pasta as an example. In a restaurant the same ingredients would be used, but all broccoli pieces would be added at the same time. So, by the time the stems were tender the tops would be mush, or even worse, the tops would be perfect and the stems hard and crunchy.
You have to have a game plan when doing a vegetable pasta. If you are using vegetables that have different cooking times, you can't add them all at the same time, yet that's what most people do. One strategy is to cut the longer cooking veggies smaller and leave the more tender veggies larger, so they all cook at about the same time. Another trick is to precook the denser vegetables, like carrots, before combining them with less dense things like squash.
In this pasta, I separate the tops and stems of the broccoli. I basically make a sauce with the diced (and much tougher) stem pieces, and the tender flowers at the end so I get a nice uniform doneness. Anyway, all that being said, this is a delicious way to eat that broccoli all those doctors' keeps talking about. By the way, if you're a Chef that remembers the "garnish the edge of the plate" era (explained in clip), I'd love to get a comment from you. What we're we thinking? Enjoy!
(I'm going to try embeding two video players, from both YouTube and Brightcove, in case one of the sources is down, or one works better on your browser than the other. The Youtube embed is a smaller player, but not as temperamental as the larger Brightcove version.)

Ingredients:
1 pound angel hair pasta
1 1/2 pound broccoli
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cider Braised Beef Brisket - Slow Food for Fast Times

Braising is such a great cooking technique in general, and in particular for the new cook. It's such a forgiving method; The meat is always moist, the timing doesn’t have to be exact since it’s virtually impossible to overcook, and easy to put back in to cook longer, and best of all…most braised recipes make there our sauce or jus (natural juice)!

This is a classic beef brisket dish I learned from a German chef many years ago. As you'll see in this video recipe, it takes about 10 minutes to prep, and after a nice, leisurely 3-hour braise, you have an amazingly aromatic, and succulent brisket.

This is a great dish any time of the year, but it is especially perfect on that chilly fall night, or for that holiday dinner party. Since the average brisket runs about 5 to 6 pounds, it’s great for entertaining. And the leftovers? Forget about it; there is nothing like a brisket sandwich.

There is an aroma that this dish produces as the apple cider, garlic, and rosemary vapors somehow escape the tight foil wrap and waft throughout the kitchen and house that no scented candle has ever come close to surpassing. This is a great meal, and the best kind of aromatherapy. I served it with a new carrot dish I just developed that uses Chinese 5-spice with some surprisingly results. I will show that video recipe soon. It was a perfect match for this dish. Enjoy.





Ingredients:
5 pound beef brisket
6 cloves garlic
1 tbl dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste (this needs to be seasoned generously)
1 pint apple cider
2 tbl olive oil
1 yellow onion

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Full Figured Fruit

“I make one little comment about how I really like her pear-shaped figure, and all of a sudden she starts blushing all over.”

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Creative Culinary Process – You have to be fearless when re-working the classics!

Late night talk show host (and Chef) Jimmy Kimmel, gives us a great look inside the sometimes difficult process involved in taking some common recipe and trying to put a new twist on it. All Chefs face this dilemma at one time or another; you think you have a great idea to improve a classic dish, but it’s met with skepticism and/or disdain. Should you just give up? Or, should you trust your instincts? It’s one of the most challenging aspects of a Chefs existence, and I think this inspiring clip captures it beautifully. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Broiled Salmon Glazed with Dijon and Rice Vinegar, circa 1988 - Do two ingredients count as a "recipe?"

I was just starting my first day at the Carnelian Room; a huge, busy kitchen at the top of the Bank of America Building in San Francisco. I was very young, and very nervous, and wanted my debut to go as smoothly as possible. Luckily I was assigned to the Fish Station, which was run by a very nice fellow named Phil. He told me that all he needed me to do was make the salmon for a banquet that night.

He said it was a French/Asian style salmon dish made with Dijon and rice vinegar. I was told to "grill off" (mark on the grill, but not cook all the way) the salmon filets and get them set up on sheet pans. No problem. It took about an hour or so, but I did a nice job and they looked great with their perfect diamond shaped grill marks (10 and 2’oclock, for you Culinary students out there).

Then he told me to make the glaze for the salmon. I asked him where the recipe was. He laughed and said there wasn't one. He was going to tell me, and I was going to remember it, or it would be my last night there. I was starting to sweat and pulled out my little note pad I always kept in my pocket (another tip for you cul students, always have a pen and paper) so I could write the recipe down. He said something to the effect of “put that f**king thing away!” He said if I couldn't remember this recipe then I had no place being in a kitchen. Then he said, take a quart of Dijon and mix it with a quart of rice vinegar, and brush it on the salmon. That was it; half Dijon, half vinegar. We both had a laugh and I realized this was a very mild rookie hazing I had just endured.

Anyway, this simple two-ingredient combo is a really great salmon glaze. The sugar in the seasoned rice vinegar caramelizes under the broiler, and the sweet, salty vinegar works perfectly with the tangy mustard. While the original, circa 1988, only had two ingredients I've added a couple of optional things, some Sriracha hot sauce and a pinch of salt. Nowadays they call this fusion cuisine. Back then they called it a great way to make a young cook sweat! Enjoy.



Ingredients:
2 salmon filet
1 1/2 tbl Dijon
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
salt, if needed (rice vinegars can vary in sugar and salt content)

Monday, September 17, 2007

French Toast - The Fancy Brunch Restaurant Style

So, you think you know how to make French toast? Maybe you beat a couple eggs, a splash of milk, a quick dip, fry it up in some butter, drizzle with a little syrup? Sounds pretty good, and for 95% of the world that is what they consider "French Toast." But, if you want truly amazing French toast, give this classic restaurant method a try.

The main difference is the bread is sliced thicker, it's soaked in a custard batter (really, really soaked), and then after being brown slightly in a pan, it's baked. That is the real secret. The baking cooks the custard inside the bread and gives it an unbelievable texture. The outside is crisp and golden, and the contrast between the two is magical.
The problem with just pan-frying is by the time the inside is really cooked, the outside is too dark and bitter. You can use thinner bread, of course, but then you don't get the same creamy, custardy, almost bread pudding-like texture, as from the thicker slices. Give this a try. The one extra step of baking it is sooo worth it. When you bite into this, I'm sure you'll agree. Enjoy!



Ingredients:

6 thick slice of French bread

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

butter for frying

maple syrup?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

They’re Bigger, They’re Better, and They’re Back!

This 60-Second Brussels Sprouts recipe just debuted on About.com, and as you may have read, I plan on posting all the video recipes I’m producing for them as soon as they go “live” on their site. I’ve already posted this recipe, shot with the old web cam a while ago, so you may have seen this before. But, I think this brand new version is much better, and the video quality is far superior. 

As you can see below, the video is larger that the regular YouTube embed. This is a bit of an experiment, as I had to widen the post column to make room for the new recipes. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new version and the larger flash player. 
 
Ok, enough techno babble. These really are delicious Brusses Sprouts…believe it or not. I know you may be thinking “delicious Brussels Sprouts” that’s an oxymoron! No, these really are tasty. As you'll see, the secret is the super fast cooking time. Seriously, this could be your new favorite veggie. Like most people, I hated Brussels Sprouts until I had them prepared in the style you are about to see. This preparation is so different than any other recipe I’ve seen for these tiny green cabbages. I really hope you’ll give them a try. Enjoy!

8-10 Brussels Sprouts, sliced very thin
1 tbl olive oil
1 tbl butter
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Warning: Chef Trying to Do Something Much Harder Than Cooking

I will be working on the blog's template this weekend, so depending on when you are checking in, the blog may look a bit askew as I try to widen the left column to accommodate even larger, higher-res videos. I got permission to embed the new recipes I've been doing for About.com, and they play at a size larger than my left hand column. So wish me luck, I'll need it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

"Excuse Me Waiter, There's a Shoe in My Garlic Chicken"

I've heard the food at the Great China Buffet in Nanuet, N.Y had a lot of soul. What I didn’t realize was they didn’t mean "soul," they meant "sole," as in the prep cook's shoe! Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the human garlic press.

An employee at a store next door to the Great China Buffet, saw this cook crushing garlic outside the restaurant with his shoes. He snapped some photos and sent them to the Rockland County Health Department. In the understatement of the year, John Stoughton, from that public health department was quoted as saying, "We would not consider a person's shoe a proper instrument to use in food preparation."

The restaurant was cited and the employee is no longer employed there. He was not available for comment, but friends said he really feels like a heel.

Photo credit: Dan Barreto and the The Journal News

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Simply Roasted Artichokes - Wrap and Roll

Today's video recipe clips is so simple it's hard to call it a recipe. It's more like an anti-recipe. As you'll see below I just list the ingredients, no amounts or measurements. This is how 95% of cooking should be done. So many people would enjoy cooking more, and make better food, if they got there faces out of those cookbooks and just started cooking. They treat the act of cooking like some scientific procedure (by the way, this rant excluded delicate baked goods, so save your emails).

Recipes are great for what ingredients you may want to use, but should be treated as an idea-started, not some government mandated edict. Cooking times are also useful, so we'll look at those, but as far as following a recipe to the letter when it comes to amounts of ingredients, I say "use the force Luke." We all have an inner Chef that will guide us as we cook, without the shackles of the measuring spoons and digital scales. "Top potatoes with 1 tablespoon of minced chives" ….what?? If I see that Food Network "Barefoot Contessa" lady measure parsley to sprinkle on something one more time, I going to lose it.

I much prefer proportions to recipes. For cous cous it's one part stock to one part cous cous, for dressings 3 to 1 oil to vinegar usually works out nicely, etc. If you visited a professional kitchen a few things would jump out at you right away. How fast-paced it is, how much cursing is being done, and how few recipes you see. So, today's artichoke is a celebration of the non-recipe; trim some chokes, drizzle some lemon and oil, stick in a garlic clove, sprinkle on some salt, and roast until delicious. I expect some comments from new cooks saying "but we need the measurements because we are not as experienced as you." No you don't. Use the force. Besides how do you know yours isn’t going to come out better because you used a little more or a little less of something? Cook, taste, adjust, and enjoy.

*Bonus foodie points if you are the first commenter to tell me what horrible Chef error I made on the plate in the photo.



Ingredients:
artichokes
lemon
garlic
olive oil
salt

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Getting Paid for Making Video Recipes? It’s About.com time!

I mentioned a few posts back that I was doing some freelance video production to support this blog. I was pretty vague since nothing was official, but now it is. I am officially a “Food Video Producer” for About.com/food.

I have been working long and hard on an extensive list of assignments for their site. Due to this very necessary outside work, I’ve been unable to post as often as unusual. The good news is that once these recipes are posted on About.com, I will be able to do a post about it, and link to the video on their site. So, even though you won’t be able to play the clip on the blog as you can now, you can at least see me in action. And, as an added bonus, you won’t have to listen to me say “be sure to check the site for the ingredients” as much! The photos you see here are from upcoming recipes that will appear on About.com soon.

By the way, I do plan on doing at least two Food Wishes videos per week, along with the usual array of other edible items. So, that’s the update. I’ve put a link below to my debut on About.com where I did a slightly different version (with new and improved jokes) of the old Watermelon and Feta Salad. Since you seen and read about that one already here, I didn’t bother with a new post.

Thanks, again to all the support and stay tuned for a whole new run of great video recipes on both this blog and About.com.

To see the Watermelon and Feta Salad recipe video, click here!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Garlic, Black Pepper, and Fennel-rubbed Flank Steak with Grilled Oranges - aka Party Steak!

You have to love the flank steak; so easy to cook, almost no trimming, relatively lean, and perfect for a party since it’s slight change in thickness from one end to the other allows for slices of medium rare and medium well off the same piece of meat. This very interesting recipe has something I always appreciate in a dish; it makes its own sauce. As you’ll see in the video recipe, we used the juice from some grilled oranges with the natural juices from the steak to create a fabulous looking, and tasting platter of beef.

While this dish may appear to be inspired by Italian or Spanish influences (which it is), it’s also a take on one of my favorite Chinese dishes; spicy orange beef. I love to grill flank steak with a highly flavored rub of garlic, fennel, salt and black pepper. I wondered what would happen if I added a little orange to the marinade, and then I got the idea to caramelize some orange halves on the grill, and squeeze the juice over the meat after it was cooked and sliced. It was an amazing combination, and one you must try. I did a recent video recipe with some orange and fennel grilled chicken thighs, that was very good, but this went to a whole new place. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 flank steak (about 2 pounds)
1 tbl fennel seeds
2 tbl black pepper
2 tsp salt
3 oranges
2 tbl olive oil
4 sprigs rosemary
4 cloves garlic
cayenne pepper to taste

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Testing, 1, 2, Testing

Blogger recently added the feature of uploading video directly into these posts. So I thought I would test it out with an older, low-res, yet still incredibly delicious chicken recipe I previously posted using the standard YouTube embed. I'm curious if there is a big difference in quality. The other obvious advantage is I could post videos that would only be available to visitors of this blog, since I could avoid the need to upload to video sharing sites first, just to get the flash embed code.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't feel bad, I'm not that sure either. Anyway, we are basically comparing the two clips. Any and all input is welcome, especially from tech nerds.

Here is the blogger video upload of The "Ultimate" Roast Chicken at same size as the YouTube version:
video

Here is the regular YouTube flash embed of the same clip:


Here is the blogger video upload of The "Ultimate" Roast Chicken:
video

Well, so what do you think?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Rabbit "Two Ways" - Stewed Legs and Seared Loins

This ancient video footage (shot with the good old web cam) was original posted on my first blog LRN2cook.com. If you actually remember that website and/or this clip, you should win some sort of viewer loyalty award! I said should, so don’t get too excited. Anyway, while this clip doesn’t look that good, and my new voice-over is sketchy at best, it’s still a very nice recipe. If you’ve always wanted to try rabbit, this is the way to go.

Unless you are use to cutting up small animals, please have the butcher trim this rabbit into the individual pieces. Most rabbits are sold whole or by the half, like chicken. But, any meat shop that sells rabbit will have a butcher that will separate the legs and loin for you. As you’ll sorta see and somewhat hear in the video recipe, the key to this dish is the long stewed legs and the quick seared loins. Enjoy!


powered by ifood.tv

1 rabbit, dressed (2 1/4 pound)
1 onion
1 celery rib
1/2 cup chopped San Marzano (or any canned plum) tomato
4 cloves garlic, sliced
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 tbl balsamic vinegar reduce by half
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 tsp fennel seed
fresh parsley, chopped

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Pan of Olive Oil that Launched a Thousand Emails

Well, maybe not a thousand, but I did get quite a few requests for the sauce that went with the homemade pasta my Uncle Bill made during my trip to New York. We did two videos together, one was the “Homemades,” and one was an amazing chicken recipe called Chicken D’Arduini. In that post I said I would try to demo the olive oil sauce that went over the homemade fettuccine. Well, I haven’t filmed that yet, and have lots of great excuses why, some of which are even true.

So, in the meantime, since it’s such a simple sauce, I’m just going to talk you through it. You can see most of what’s happening in the photo of the pan. I can’t give exact amounts because it’s just not that kind of sauce.

While the pasta is cooking (I think we cooked about 2 pounds), put a heavy sauté pan on low heat. Add lots of olive oil, maybe a good cup. Add 5 or 6 anchovy fillets, and 4 cloves of minced garlic. Sauté on low until the anchovies melt and the garlic begins to sizzle. Add some chopped fresh basil and some hot pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Do NOT brown the garlic. Turn off the heat. In a large pasta bowl, cut up a stick of butter into small pieces. Grate about a cup of Parmesan cheese (the real stuff!). When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the pasta bowl, and toss with the butter for a few moments. Pour over the olive oil mixture, and add the grated Parmesan (save a little for the table), and toss until everything is coated. This is best served as a side dish due to its obvious richness, and was great with the Chicken D’Arduini, as it would with any similar recipe.

This is not the type of pasta to eat if you are thinking about grams of fat, or calories, or those new “skinny jeans.” In fact, this is a dish best eaten when your brain is completely void of all thought. So, clear your mind as you slurp the buttery, salty, spicy, garlicky, cheesy goodness. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce - One of my "Go To" Favorites

There are certain recipes all cooks have that form the base of their culinary repertoire. These are recipes that are fast and easy, that they can create from memory, with no notes, in any kitchen, for any group, any time of the year. Some Chefs refer to these as their "go to" dishes. This red clam sauce is one of my "go to" recipes.

It's incredible simple to make (much easier than saying "canned clams" as you'll hear in this clips running gag). It takes about 15 minutes start to finish. It's bursting with flavor, yet only uses a few ingredients and except for crushing a couple cloves of garlic, requires no prep. This sauce is great on any pasta, but I enjoy it best on angle hair or spaghetti. And, yes, I DO put some Parmesan on my clam pasta, thank you very much. Never say never when it comes to food. Some Chefs (fascists) say you can never put cheese on seafood pasta, never, ever, never. Well, while I agree that Parmesan would not be a great choice on some seafood pastas using very light, delicate varieties of fish and sauce. On this red clam sauce and its strong, bold flavors and meaty clams, the Parmesan tastes wonderful, and no one can prove me otherwise.

Please note while watching the video recipe the secret to what I think makes a great pasta dish. Under-cook the pasta by a minute, drain it, add it back to the pot (off the heat of course) and pour over the hot sauce, cover and let everything meld together for a few minutes. The hot sauce and steaming pasta will finish cooking and the pasta will absorb all those amazing flavors. I can't believe it when I see a plate of plain pasta with the sauce just ladled over! Anyway, give this a try and maybe it will become one of your "go to" recipes. Enjoy!

1 pound pasta
2 cans (6.5 oz) chopped clams in juice
3 cups tomato sauce (plus 1/4 cup water to rinse jar)
1 cup good white wine
1 tbl anchovy paste or 2 fillets
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbl capers
2 tbl olive oil
Parmesan to taste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh herb to taste, basil or Italian parsley

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy Labor Day… only 113 shopping days until Christmas!

Wow, is summer really gone already? That was fast, but then again, it always is. Is it really just the old saying “time flies when you’re having fun,” or do those extra long days screw with our sense of time? Who knows, but it does seem like I was just writing that Memorial Day post.

I hope you all enjoyed this summer, and were able to cook and eat lots of great food. I appreciate all the visits, and comments, as the blog has really grown rapidly the last few months. Special thanks to all of you who helped spread the word about Food Wishes. It’s been a lot of fun learning and using the new equipment (I took the plastic off one of the manuals the other day), and I hope the videos will become even better, and more enjoyable for you.

So, as days grow shorter, sunflowers go to seed, crunchy leaves cover the lawn, and some idiot tells you how many shopping days until Christmas, take heart; we are entering the prime cooking and eating time of the year. I hope you will visit this blog often for ideas on filling your fall and holiday tables with an array of delicious and somewhat healthy recipes. Finally, here’s to all the poor cooks, chefs, and other hospitality workers that celebrate Labor Day by working. Don’t feel too bad though, they’ll catch up after work…they always do. Cheers!


Btw, the sunflower photos were taken on a recent walk through San Francisco. You can even see parts of the beautiful Victorian they were planted in front of.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Celebrity Chef’s Worst Enemy? David Letterman!

For this weekend’s filler clip I’m posting this very amusing bit of video from the David Letterman show, featuring Jamie Oliver. I’m a big Jamie Oliver fan. I like his simple approach and real enthusiasm (unlike many TV Chef’s who just turn on the passion for the camera). Famous Chefs have been going on Letterman for years to plug books, shows, new restaurants, etc., and they all have basically the same experience; as they are trying to cook their signature dish, Mr. Letterman is goofing around, asking bizarre questions to distract them, drinking olive oil, pretending to burn or cut himself, and generally doing everything possible to prevent the poor Chef from finishing his or her dish properly.

It’s basically a running gag by now, and several Chefs will no longer appear on the show for fear of being made to look like a fool again. Well, Jamie Oliver does a great job in this clip of holding it all together. He actually keeps Letterman under control (sort of), finishes the dish (which looked great), got his plug in for the Children’s School Lunch Program he was involved in, and, my personal favorite part of the demo, tells guest Tom Cruise “to be a man.” By the way the dish he was making was a Thai noodle dish that translated to “Fairy Purse.” Insert your own joke here. Enjoy!