Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Celebrate the New Year with the Black-Eyed Peas - Let's Get it Started!

I know I just posted an Italian alternative to the New Years' beans and greens, eaten to bring prosperity in 2009, but I figured I'd better do a more traditional version. I am the American food expert on About.com after all, and it would have been bad form not to post a real black-eyed peas recipe today.

This is a very old tradition, and I don't mean like pre-civil war American south
old, I mean really, really old. There are records of black-eyed peas being eaten for good luck on New Year's Day all the way back to ancient Babylonia. For you kids out there, that's way before even cell phones were invented!

This video recipe you are about to visually consume is a variation on something called "Hoppin' John," which is black-eyed peas, rice, and pork stewed together, usually served with some kind of greens and cornbread. For your convenience, and my pageviews, I suggest also clicking on my cornbread recipe video and doing this thing right.

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year! May your 2009 be filled with happiness, new experiences, and exciting challenges. 2008 was a very hard year for everyone, but I have it on a pretty reliable source (a Chef's intuition is a powerful thing) that this coming year will be a lot better. Until then, I'll leave you with this thought - the tougher times are, the better food tastes. Enjoy!

1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
3 strips bacon, sliced in 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound pork neck bones
6 oz smoked ham, diced
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
3 cloves chopped garlic
6 cups water
1 (10-oz can) diced tomato with green chilis
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
cayenne to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 large bunch kale, leaves torn
cooked rice

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pork Barrel Spending and Beans

In honor of the presidential inauguration, the title of this recipe, "Pork and Beans and Greens - Good Luck Making This," has temporally changed to this more Washington-esqe one.

As many of you foodies already know (it's on the entrance exam), a very traditional southern New Years meal is black-eyed peas, or some other type of bean, and greens. Eating this meager meal on New Years day is supposed to bring you great prosperity for the rest of the year.

This video recipe is a lighter and easier Italian take on the classic, and is topped with some crusty, caramelized roast pork. Speaking of the south, you'll see me use a spice rub (a
wet rub, aka "wub") on the pork before roasting for a sort of Italian barbecue effect.

All in all, this is an odd recipe. The pork is not slow-roasted, but cooked at a higher heat for a crusty finish. The greens are not slowly braised, but just wilted. The black-eyed peas have been replaced with cannellini beans. And, I can't guarantee it will bring you the same prosperity as the traditional version. Having said all that, I thought it tasted excellent and I hope you give it a try.

By the way, I will also be doing a traditional version that - with any luck - you'll see before New Years Day. Enjoy!

4 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast, cut in large pieces
for the wet rub:
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic
1 rounded tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil

1 large bunch arugula
1 14-oz jar cannellini beans
1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves sliced garlic

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The Food Wish Favorites Vol. 1 DVD After-Christmas Blow-Out Clearance Event

If you act very quickly (sometime today would be great), you can own your very own copy of our first DVD for the unbelievably low price of $25!

That's right, you can now purchase this future collectors item (for real, not like those Obama dinner plates) for the same price as before Christmas. How can we afford to not raise the price? We've cut out the middleman and passed the savings on to you!

Click on the banner - we have operators standing by!

Photo (c) Flickr user Cosmic Kitty

How Not to Cook a Prime Rib

I've received a lot of great feedback from those who tried the "Method X" technique for cooking prime rib, and the verdict is in.... Guilty of medium-rare perfection on all counts! I'm sure glad you guys didn't screw it up and then try to blame me.

To celebrate our success cooking such an expensive and intimidating hunk of beef, I bring you this short, two-part video of a slightly different method. Enjoy!

Part 1 "Now that's a fire..."

Part 2 "The water seems to make it worse..."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

About 10 years ago my in-laws bought a Prime Rib for Christmas dinner. No matter what meat is served, usually ham, we also do a meat-less lasagna since my sister-in-law Jennifer is a vegetarian

Anyway, I roasted the rib to rosy-pink perfection and served it with a Porcini au jus. It was magnificent. As we sat and ate - you know, one of those meals that are so good everyone sto
ps talking (which for a large Italian family is quite a rarity) - I could see Jennifer starring at the prime rib as she ate her meat-less lasagna and meat-less salad.

All of a sudden she said, "Okay, cut me a slice, I have to try this." I waited a moment to see if she was kidding, but her bloodthirsty stare said "cut the meat, and cut it now." It was, and still is my proudest moment as a chef. Bringing a vegetarian back over from the dark side is usually one of those tall tales cooks tell over a post-service beer.

She had been a vegetarian since high school, and except for a little fish here and there, it had probably been five or six years since she had eaten meat. I sat in complete awe as she torn into that slice of beef, making all the right noises and smiling like only perfectly cooked meat can make you smile. It's a facial expression that no salad has ever produced.

I now refer to this as "the Christmas Miracle," and we reminisce about it every year. By the way, it's Jennifer's birthday today and I get her the same thing every year, a pot of lobster bisque that has become somewhat of a Christmas Eve ritual for the family.
Happy birthday Jennifer!

And a very Merry Christmas to all of you from Michele and I! You've helped make 2008 a breakthrough year for Food Wishes, and I can't express how much I've appreciated the support and participation. I look forward to an even better 2009 and wish you all the same. Enjoy!

Peace and Love,
Chef John

Photo (c) krisdecurtis

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mascarpone Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage - It's the Best Thing Since Wonton Skins!

If I suggested you make homemade butternut squash ravioli as an appetizer for your holiday meal, what would you say? You'd say no. That's because you would envision some long complicated process fraught with disappointment.

People throw around the "best thing since sliced bread" line for all kinds of things, and rarely do they deserve such a tribute. Ready-to-use wonton skins, however, are not only the "best thing since sliced bread," they are better than sliced bread…much better.

Anyone can slice bread (except those cooks on Hell's Kitchen), but how many people make paper-thin, perfectly round wonton skins. Hopefully this video recipe shows you just how easy ravioli can be when using this easy-to-find, and very liberating product.

I've used them for tortellini, pierogi, dumplings, ravioli, and yes, even wontons, all with terrific results. There are eight million known ravioli fillings, so once you get this simple technique down you have a lot of recipes to try. I've also posted a few (very) old videos that use the same product. Enjoy!

1 cup cooked butternut squash
1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 package round wonton skins
butter, garlic, and sage as needed

More Wonton Magic - click on title to read original post
(Warning: old videos with minimal production value)

Wonton Soup

Salmon Ricotta Tortellini with Spring Peas and Lemon

Monday, December 22, 2008

Perfect Prime Rib of Beef with the Mysterious "Method X"

Many people become paralyzed with fear when faced with having to cook a really expensive cut of meat to a perfect medium-rare.

Prime rib of beef may be the best example -- everyone sitting around the holiday table; drinking, laughing, waiting for you to appear from the kitchen with a magazine-cover-worthy slice of beef.

The method you'll see below is something I've really wanted to test for my American Food site. The problem is I normally don't have prime rib laying around to test recipes on. But, while grocery shopping this w
eek, I noticed a great sale on small prime ribs and was able to snag a 3.75 beauty for $18.00. That's enough for four servings, and a great deal any way you slice it.Okay, here is the formula for "Method X." The rib is brought to room temperature (this is CRITICAL), and seasoned anyway you like. Then you multiply the exact weight times 5 minutes. For me it was 3.75 x 5 = 18.75 minutes. This is said to work for any size prime rib.

The rib is cooked at 500 degrees F for exactly that many minutes. Then the oven is turned off. You wait 2 hours, without opening the oven door. Then you remove the prime rib and slice into the juiciest, tenderest, most perfectly medium-rare meat you've ever seen!

NOTE: This is a specific formula for achieving a perfect med-rare prime rib. I have no info on altering it for other degrees of doneness. (although I would say don't spend money on this cut if you like your meat cooked more, since it will get dry. I've also included the recipe for my seasoned butter below. Enjoy!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Prime rib is very expensive, so no matter what method you use (traditional or Method X), you should always have a probe-style thermometer inserted so that the internal temp can be monitored, to avoid any chance of over-cooking. Set the probe alarm (125 F. for medium-rare) just in case, and pull the roast from oven even if there's still time left on the timer.

Seasoned Butter Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp Herb de Provence

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chicken Cacciatore - The Official Recipe of Bad Italian Hunters

For decades I've made and enjoyed chicken cacciatore without ever realizing what a terrible name it has. Chicken cacciatore basically translates to "hunters-style chicken." So, what's wrong with that you say? What kind of lame-ass hunter settles for chicken??

Are you telling me the proud, cunning hunters of Italy have allowed their official dish to use chicken as the main ingredient? Where's the dangerous wild boar? How about hard-to-shoot pheasant? I mean how hard is it to hunt chicken? My hunting skills are only slightly better than Paris Hilton, yet I could shoot a damn chicken.

Sorry to have to call you out, Italy. Don't feel too bad; you still have your cooks, artists, lovers, and opera singers to be proud of. All that being said, chicken cacciatore is a very delicious dish, and this video recipe shows my favorite version. Enjoy!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole roasting chicken, cut in quarters
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 large onion, sliced (so they hold together, slice the onions "with the grain" in the same direction as the lines of the onion, instead of across the onion like they are usually sliced)
8 oz fresh mushrooms, quartered
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 springs rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 red bell peppers, sliced
2 green bell peppers, sliced

* Please help support free video recipes, and visit my new sponsor, MOZO Shoes. Find out why chefs (like me) are buzzing about their great shoes!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Taking the Scrap Out of Scrapple

I did this scrapple video recipe for my America food site on About.com, and decided to make a couple minor changes to the original recipes - like leave out the main ingredient.

Scrapple, a Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast staple from days gone bye, is basically a bunch of hog scraps (you don't want to know) bound together with a cornmeal mush. Once cooled, it's sliced, fried, and "enjoyed."

This more user-friendly variation uses polenta as the binding agent, and is studded with pieces of pork you can actually identify and would eat on purpose, like pork shoulder and ham. This is the perfect day-after-pork-roast breakfast.

Now that I've guaranteed a flood of email and comments from insulted Pennsylvania Dutchmen who swear by the heirloom recipes, I will say this slightly usual morning side dish is quite tasty with a couple eggs, and certainly fills you up for a long day of doing whatever they do all day in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Enjoy!

Click here for ingredients and recipe transcripts

* Please help support free video recipes, and visit my new sponsor, MOZO Shoes. Find out why chefs (like me) are buzzing about their great shoes!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hey PAL! Strange European Video Format Causes International Incident

UPDATE: According to a British friend of the site, most DVD players now will play both formats. Let's hope!

Original post follows:

It has come to my attention that for some reason DVDs made in America don't play on European players. We use NTSC over here, and they use PAL over there. What? Why? Aren't all DVD players made in Japan? Hey Japan, thanks a lot, way to go.

So, I'm not sure if these will work or not when you international customers get them. If not, I will try and burn a PAL version and send you another one. If I can’t, I will refund your money of course. Sorry for this inconvenience, but who knew?

Photo (c) sunshinecity

Only 7 Days Until 3 Shopping Days Until Christmas!!

But, there's still time to order this year's hottest gift, the Food Wish Favorites Vol. 1 DVD! How are you going to look at your children's tear-streaked faces and explain why they're the only kids on the block that didn't get a copy of this DVD? Don't order a copy for me, or to help keep the site going, do it for the children. They are our future. God bless you, and as Tiny Tim said, "God bless us every one!"

Also, if you are using Amazon to order gifts, please go to the store from this link so I get a little taste. Thanks!

Monday, December 15, 2008

"There's Nothing in the House" Salmon Cakes with Creamy Corn Relish and Tarragon Drizzle

This Salmon Cakes with Creamy Corn Relish video recipe reminded me that some of the best, and most satisfying cooking I do seems to happen when there's nothing to work with. Of course, I don’t literally mean nothing, that would require the ability to conjure things up, and my training in the dark arts is relatively minimal. I mean no obvious fresh ingredients to use.

I recently found myself in this predicament when a driving rain made a trip to the store seem like a poor choice when compared to a lo
ok-around the pantry and freezer. What I found led to one of the more delicious lunches I've had this month. These salmon cakes are so easy, so cheap, and since canned salmon is always wild salmon, very healthy.

You'll also see me use a couple spoons of crème fraiche, which I showed you how to make in a recent video recipe. You can sub milk or cream, but why? Make some crème fraiche.

Anyway, next time you're at the store make sure you pick up a bag of frozen corn and a few cans of salmon. You never know when you're going to have to cook with "nothing." Enjoy!

Salmon cakes ingredients:
2 (7.5 ounce) cans red salmon
2 tbsp capers. chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp tarragon mustard (or Dijon and some chopped fresh tarragon)
1/2 lemon, juices
1 egg
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
olive oil

For the corn:
8 oz frozen corn
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or fresh hot pepper diced)
3 tbsps crème fraiche, or milk, cream, sour cream
salt to taste

For the sauce:
1/2 teaspoon tarragon mustard
2 tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste

* Please help support free video recipes, and visit my new sponsor, MOZO Shoes. Find out why chefs (like me) are buzzing about their great shoes!

Gingerbread Haka

A special holiday-themed dedication to New Zealand's national rugby team, the famous (and feared) All Blacks, and fellow ruggers everywhere.

Here's the real haka performed by the All Blacks. The looks on the opponents faces are priceless.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Free Rice - It's So…What's the Word I'm Looking For?

I wanted to let you guys know about freerice.com, a brilliant and very addictive vocabulary-building website that donates rice to the U.N. World Food Program based on your performance.

For each answer you get right, they donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but the game is so addictive that by the time you're done you will have provided enough free rice to feed a small country.

Tis' the season for doing kind things for others, and what better way than helping fight world hunger playing a game and learning new words? Please check it out, and pass along the Free Rice URL to others. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just For Making You Hungry (and maybe start a batch of no-knead dough)

The first photo is a lovely white pizza done by one of my protégés, Jairus. He sent it in with the name "no-knead lamb shank pizza," which would have been very cool, if it had been true. He admits this was actually done with leftover pork, which I have to say trumps lamb shank as a pizza topping any day.

The second photo is "awesome Ciabatta" as its creator Claude describes it. I can only assume he learned everything he knows from watching the site. I can see no visible signs of unnecessary kneading. Thanks fellows.

Lastly, a video disproving one of the great bread myths of our time - that you can eat a slice of Wonder Bread in less than 60 seconds.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shanks for Everything - Slow-Roasted Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Rosemary

There are some recipes that require absolutely zero technique. This video recipe for super-simple, stick-to-your-ribs, slow-roasted lamb shanks is a perfect example. You add like three ingredients, wrap them up, and a couple hours later you are enjoying succulent, fork-tender lamb.

It almost seems too good to be true, and you keep trying to think if you missed something, but you didn't. The shanks do almost everything for you. Lamb shanks, and all shanks for that matter, are loaded with connective tissue that melts during the slow roasting and creates that rich, sticky, satisfying texture and flavor.

When buying lamb shanks, look for ones that are the same size. The foreshanks are smaller than the hindshanks, so be sure the butcher isn’t giving you some of each. These are so delicious that guests will fight over who gets the big shank, and it could get ugly. Enjoy!

PLEASE NOTE: ABOUT.COM NO LONGER SUPPORTS EMBEDED VIDEO...Click here TO SEE VIDEO AND for ingredients and recipe transcript.

Monday, December 8, 2008

No-Knead Mania Makes Previously Posted Pizza Dough a Dinosaur

My love for the no-knead method has now been extended to my pizza dough recipe. You know the saying, "if it's not broken, don't fix it?" Well, when it comes to my pizza dough I'm glad I ignored that chestnut.

My pizza dough recipe wasn't broken, but I fixed it anyway
, and am very glad I did. As I expected, the magic that is no-knead bread, adapted beautifully to this purpose.

After one day, and almost no effort, I had enough soft, and supple dough for 2 regular, or 4 small pizzas. As you see in the video recipe, I ended up making a "white" garlic pizza, which was one of my childhood favorites as prepared by my grandmother.

This pizza, made from not much more than garlic, olive oil, and cheese, really shows off the character of the dough. Give this dough a try, and maybe even give white pizza a spin. Enjoy!

Dough Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/4 tsp sa
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup wheat flour
2 1/2 cups AP flour
cornmeal as needed

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Bite your teeth into the ass of life…"

This is my favorite scene, from my favorite food movie of all time. It's from Big Night, and features Ian Holm, giving a pep talk to Stanley Tucci, owner of a neighboring rival Italian restaurant. If you want to feel the agony and ecstasy of the restaurant business, rent this movie.

Holiday get-togethers can spur long, heated debates among family members about which DVD to rent after dinner. Well, here is a suggestion everyone should like. The movie is sweet, sad, hilarious, and shows everything that's great and horrible about the food business. Warning: This clip contains adult language. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Nice Rack of Lamb - A Classic Roast Rack of Lamb with Dijon Gratin

I know times are tough, but if you can somehow scrape together enough money for a couple racks of lamb, you'll have yourselves a very merry holiday roast. Rack of lamb isn't cheap, but when compared with other special occasion items like prime rib, tenderloin, duck, goose, etc., it's about the same price, and you have almost no waste.

If you can swing buying local lamb, more power to you, but for most of us, trimmed rack of lamb will be coming from Australia or New Zealand. The good news is the meat is usually excellent quality, and very consistently sized.

This means you can achieve a nice medium-rare doneness relying mainly on time, and not feel. There is something terrifying to the average home cook when forced to poke meat to t
ell if it's done or not.

The recipe here is a classic fancy hotel presentation; the rack is roasted, topped with Dijon mustard and breadcrumb crust. Since the lamb is "Frenched," which means the fat between the rib bones is trimmed out, this is a very easy to crave roast, as you just cut between the bones and serve. Enjoy!

* Please help support free video recipes, and visit my new sponsor, MOZO Shoes. Find out why chefs (like me) are buzzing about their great shoes!

Click here for ingredients and recipe transcript.

Friday, December 5, 2008

DVDs Shipping Tuesday

Here is the final cover design I sent to the folks producing the DVDs. They will be ready to pick-up Tuesday afternoon, and I will try to get as many mailed as possible.

There are still lots left, so if you haven't ordered one yet, please do. Don't make me beg, because I will.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shepherd's Pie - the Opposite of Baker's Lamb Chops

I've never been a shepherd, but I have done a fair amount of mentoring. As hungry as that made me, I can only imagine the appetite a shepherd must build up after a long day of chasing sheep (not to mention how sleepy they must get when they have to do inventory). So, it's no wonder this incredibly comforting casserole called shepherd's pie was named in their honor.

Fair warning; this video recipe is another entry in the Kraft cooking video challenge, and is dripping with enough product placement to make Will Smith cringe. Notwithstanding my shameless attempt to win some corporate cash (I'm doing it for all the Nico's out there), this really is a good recipe with its combination of ease, frugality, and homey goodness.

Shepherd's pie recipes are traditionally done with lamb, but are great with any ground meat - turkey and beef being the most popular modern versions. Give this great casserole a try, and watch everyone flock to the table. Enjoy!

1 lb lean ground beef
3 tbsp flour
3/4 cup beef broth or stock
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp ketchup (or Kraft red pepper dressing!)
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrot, corn), thawed and drained well
1 1/4 lb gold or red potatoes, cut into large chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
3/4 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Greek Grape Leaf Wreath - Festive and Filling!

I had a request recently from the Greek food guide on About.com, Nancy, for a video recipe for a dish called "Rolo me Abelophylla," which is a meat, rice and cheese loaf in grape leaves. I decided to do a vegetarian version using lentils since I've always enjoyed cold rice and lentil salads, and thought this combo would be perfect with the grape leaves. It was.

When you add the tangy feta, and consider the very holiday-ish design, this would be a fantastic item to bring to that Holiday party. Imagine the look on everyone's face when you walk in carrying this! Suddenly their cheese ball doesn't look so hot.

If you decide to attempt this fairly easy ring of rice, you can find jarred grape leaves in any Greek market, or high-end store. Nancy suggests using the dried leaves if you can find them - these are boiled to soften and are larger and easier to use. But, the brand you see in the video in the larger jars worked fine. Enjoy!

* Please help support free video recipes, and visit my new sponsor, MOZO Shoes. Find out why chefs (like me) are buzzing about their great shoes!

Click here for ingredients and recipe transcript.

DVD Update!

From the looks of the poll there seems to be enough interest for me to go ahead and have a 100 DVD's pressed. Please hold your order requests until tomorrow when I post the official order page. Here are some facts and figures.

The DVD is titled "Food Wish Favorites Vol. 1"
It will feature the following 12 videos, which I chose to give the recipient a wide range of techniques, styles, and one-liners.

This should serve as a great introduction to the site.
Chicken Gumbo
Shrimp Jambalaya
Farmer's Cheese
No-Knead Bread
Ginger Chicken Wings
Chicken Parmesan Bake
Braised Beef Merlot
Lamb Chops
French Onion Soup
Split Pea Soup
Real French Toast
Mushroom Veggie Burger

  • The cost will be $25 and includes shipping and handling.
  • Each disc will be signed and numbered to avoid future controversies in natural history museums.
  • Only 100 DVD's will be offered at this time, on a first come, first serve basis, unless you are a friend, relative, have donated money before, or are willing to make me an offer I can't refuse.
  • Discs will be shipped out using regular first-class mail (only the best for you guys), and will be mailed by December 15th.
  • Due to time constraints and present workload, I can't do any custom messages or gift-wrapping. The DVD will be in a real jewel case made from the finest clear plastic.
  • SORRY, but I can only ship to USA for now, but will soon research the shipping costs for international purchases. UPDATE: INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING NOW AVAILABLE!

That's all for now. More tomorrow, and then you can start flooding me with orders!

I'll have a new recipe video up later today.