Monday, September 30, 2013

Beef Medallions with Fresh Horseradish Cream – Perfect for the Middle of Fallmer

This time of year can be a little schizophrenic for a cook. We’ve not quite let go of summer and its fast, fresh food; but at the same time, the cooler weather has us craving hearty, more comforting fall fare. This beef medallions with fresh horseradish cream recipe is delicious nod to that kind of seasonal culinary dilemma.

The combination of the sweet, juicy tomato salad base, along with the seared beef, and aromatic sauce works whether you’re enjoying it on a warm autumn day, or cold, rainy night. My only regret is I didn’t have any crusty bread around to soak up all those incredible juices. That's a rookie mistake any time of year!

Like I said in the video, horseradish is easy to find these days, especially in the higher-end grocery chains. It’s usually sold by the pound, so don’t be afraid to ask the produce person to cut you off a smaller piece, as the roots can get pretty big. If you’ve never used fresh horseradish before, I hope you check it out soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
4 pieces (about 3-oz each) beef top sirloin, pounded into 1/4-inch thick medallions
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
flour as needed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the horseradish cream:
2 tbsp freshly, finely grated horseradish root
pinch of salt

Friday, September 27, 2013

Perfect Polenta – Dedicated to Some Fun Girl

Not only is polenta one of the first foods I remember watching someone cook, but it’s probably also responsible for the first time I ever heard someone curse. 

I remember my grandfather standing at the stove, stirring a big pot of the stuff, and every once in a while some of the thick, bubbling polenta would burp out of the pot and on to his hand. He would jump back and yell something, which to my very young ears sounded sort of like, “hey, some fun girl!” 

Of course, years later I realized he was actually saying, “vaffanculo.” I’ll let you translate yourself. By the way, one way to avoid the wrath of the molten mush is to adjust your heat to maintain a nice gentle bubble.

Besides severe burns, there’s not a lot that can go wrong with this recipe. As long as you stir it in slowly, whisking constantly, and simmer it until it’s perfectly soft, you will have one of the world’s great comfort foods, and a beautiful base for any number of stews or braises. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Portions:
4 cups water or broth
1 cup polenta (you can use regular corn meal, but it’s not as easy to work with, and the texture isn’t as interesting)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1/2  cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Note: if your question is, “can you add [blank] to this recipe,” the answer is yes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pork “Al Latte” – Now 100% Milk Free!

This comforting pork stew recipe is exactly the kind of homey dish you want waiting for you after a long, hard week…and maybe a 13-hour drive. Unfortunately, I made this last week, so I couldn’t actually enjoy it today, after a long, hard week and 13-hour drive, but just editing it made me feel better. It was that good.

This stew version is inspired by the classic Italian recipe, “maiale al latte,” or “pork in milk,” but instead of the usual moo juice, I decided to make my own with chicken broth and crème fraiche. I figured I’d get the same basic viscosity and fat content (okay, maybe a tad more), but also a little more flavor, and a better texture once reduced.

I topped it with some fried sage, which is an optional, messy, but delicious extra step, and makes this much more restauranty. Simply heat a 1/2-inch of vegetable oil in a small pan, and toss in some (not wet!) whole sage leaves. Fry until crisp, about 10-15 seconds

The classic preparation involves braising and slicing a whole roast, but one taste and I think you’ll agree it translates beautifully to the stew delivery system. I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 1/2 pound pork shoulder, cut in 2-inch cubes (note: I only had 1 pound, but the recipe will work with another half, which will make four nice portions)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 strips bacon
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup crème fraiche
2 tbsp fresh chopped sage leaves, plus more for frying
salt and pepper to taste
red chili flakes to taste
*Simmer covered for 1 hour, and then uncovered until the meat is very tender, and the sauce is thickened. Adjust with more broth if needed.

Next Up: Pork Stewed in "Milk"

Monday, September 23, 2013

Heading Home After a Wonderful IFBC Experience

I'll be driving back to San Francisco with my partner in crime, Andrew Scrivani, after a very successful and fun-filled IFBC in Seattle. Our session went very well and a good time was had by all, or at least that's what they're telling us. 

This video was posted by cookbook author and photographer, Carol Marty, on the blog Every Bite - Karen & Carol, and shows a brief snippet of our "show." You can read her post here, and/or follow her on Twitter. Thanks for sharing, Carol!

I'll be back in town late Monday evening, and hope to have a brand new video posted sometime on Tuesday. Stay tuned, and as always, enjoy!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hello from Seattle!

As I mentioned last week, I'm in Seattle for the 2013 International Food Bloggers Conference, and want to apologize in advance if I'm unable to answer questions and respond to comments over the next few days. Feel free to reply to each other until I'm able. Thanks!


Chia Chocolate Pudding – Sort of a Pet Project

If you’re my age, you can’t hear the word “chia” without thinking of the famous 1980’s commercial, and its “cha cha cha chia” jingle. That did make it a little tougher taking this seed seriously as a legitimate recipe ingredient, but as long as you manage expectations, it proved its worth beyond a gardening option for lazy people.

If you’re looking for a rich and decadent chocolate pudding then keep moving. As nutritious as this “superfood” is supposed to be, you can’t expect the same results substituting bird seeds for eggs, butter, and cream. That said, if you’re craving something sweet, relatively chocolately, and comparatively healthful, then chia seeds may be a good option.

Chia seeds are all the rage right now, and are usually seen in breakfast pudding form. In fact, I learned about them after seeing this on my friend Elizabeth’s blog, Saffron Lane. I’ve never been a big breakfast pudding guy, so I decide to do a dessert for my first attempt. Plus, I needed an excuse to use chocolate covered hemp seeds.

They're incredible easy to work with, and I look forward to doing more experiments. If you have any tips or tricks I should know about, please feel free to pop off. And if you’ve never tried using chia seeds before (the pet plant doesn’t count), I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 servings:
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
1/4 tsp vanilla
a few grains of salt
1 cup milk
chocolate covered hemp seeds, optional

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homemade Sriracha – A Hot Sauce Worth Crowing About!

If I had a dollar for every “I can’t find Sriracha, what can I use instead?” email I’ve received, I could eat at every Thai restaurant in town, twice. I usually say to use whatever hot sauce they can get, but alternatives like Tabasco and Frank’s (I don’t put that sh*t on everything), just aren’t the same. No offense.

So, instead of continuing to help people fit spicy, square pegs in hot, round holes, I figured it was time to show just how easy it is to make your own homemade sriracha. I’ve listed exactly what I added below, but when you get to the end of the process, it’s very easy to adjust with extra salt, sugar, and/or vinegar if need be.

I used about 75% red jalapenos, also sold as “Fresno chilies,” and about 25% red Serrano chilies, so this version is probably a bit spicier than the Huy Fong Foods “rooster sauce,” which you’re probably more familiar. 

I don’t want to sound “cocky,” but the flavor, color, and texture are remarkably close. Now, if I just pronounce it right. It sounds fine in my brain, but something happens in my mouth on the way out.

Anyway, this is a fun project, and a really delicious, must-have hot sauce. I hope you give homemade Sriracha a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 1 1/2 cups Sriracha:
1 1/2 lbs of red jalapenos and red serranos, stems removed
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar

Next Up: A Certain Hot Sauce

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Suspect Heading North on 5

I’m driving up to Seattle this week for the 2013 International Food Bloggers Conference, and since I’ve never done the drive before, I was wondering if anyone has any great food recommendations along the way? I’ll be staying on Interstate 5 all the way from the Bay Area, stopping about halfway for the night. Thanks in advance for any tips that come this way!

The video below was shot the last time I was in Seattle for this event, and it features one of my favorite things to do when traveling; improvised hotel room cuisine! If you’re interested, you can read whole story here. Enjoy!

Hotel Room Cup O' King Salmon

Friday, September 13, 2013

Salad Lyonnaise – A Super Salad from a City of Meat

How great is Salad Lyonnaise? Lyon is considered the meat capital of France, and yet the city’s most famous, and reproduced dish is probably this simple frisee salad. Now that’s some delicious irony.

Don’t worry…this salad is far from vegan. The mildly bitter greens are dressed in a shallot and Dijon dressing, it’s spiked with a generous handful of crispy lardons, or bacon in my case, and topped with a runny egg.

By the way, unless you’re some kind of crazy person, you’re going to need some crispy croutons or crostini to finish this masterpiece off. Here’s a link to the ones I used for this, sans Parmigiano-Reggiano. You’ll also want to taste and adjust the dressing to your liking. I use a 2-to-1, oil to vinegar ratio, as I think you need some acidity to cut the richness of the bacon and egg yolk, but you may not want it as sharp.

As I joked about in the video, this is so tasty, it may be the only salad that has a chance to be picked as someone’s last meal. There’s good, and then there’s death row good. Anyway, I’ve been dying to film this old favorite, and I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

For 4 generous portions:
2 heads frisee lettuce, aka curly endive, or use arugula
8 oz bacon (or pancetta if you want to experience something closer to real lardons)
4 large eggs
1 tbsp chives
For the dressing (makes extra, about 3/4 cup total):
1 generous tbsp minced shallots
1 generous tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup lightly flavored olive oil

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sorta Porchetta

One of my all-time favorite street foods in San Francisco is Roli Roti’s famous porchetta sandwich, served at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. For those of you not familiar with the perfection that is the porchetta, it's a loin, and possibly other cuts of heavily seasoned pig parts, wrapped inside a pork belly, which is then roasted until the inside is tender, and the outside is crispy and crackling. It’s then sliced and served on a crusty roll with salsa verde.

It’s insanely good, and something I've always wanted to try doing at home. Of course, a real porchetta feeds like 20 people, so I wanted a version that would be better suited for a smaller group. 

I decided to try using a small pork shoulder roast. The plan was to mimic the same flavors, but cook it more like pork loin, instead of the usual fork tender, falling apart state we associate with this cut. Pulled pork was not what I was after here.

It worked wonderfully, although you do need to slice it nice and thin. We’re only cooking this to 145 F. which is not high enough a temperature to break down all that connective tissue. All in all, I thought it was a very successful experiment, especially when you consider how much we scaled this down. 

What it didn’t feature however, was that crispy skin, also known as “the best part.” I wish I’d thought of it before I finished the video, but what I should have done was fried up some diced pancetta (un-smoked Italian bacon) until it was perfectly crispy, and topped the sandwich with that! That would have put this already fine faux-porchetta over the top! I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 very large portions:
2 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast, butterflied open, and slashes made all over the connective tissues
olive oil as needed
1 tbsp kosher salt (2 tsp for inside, and 1 for out)
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp chopped sage leaves
2 tbsp chopped rosemary
6 cloves minced garlic
zest from a large orange
2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- Stuff, tie, salt, and refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours
- Roast at 450 F. for 15 minutes
- Reduce heat to 250 F. and roast another hour, or until an internal temp of 145 F.

For the vinegar sauce:
1/2 anchovy fillet
1 tsp hot chili flakes or to taste
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup freshly chopped Italian parsley

Bonus How to Butterfly Meat for Rolling Video! 


Friday, September 6, 2013

Cronuts! Part 2: The Sights and Sounds

As promised, here’s the finale to our two-part cronut extravaganza! The series concludes with me frying the two batches – the first half fried as prepared in the last video, but the second half of the dough received an additional tri-fold, which resulted in a much higher, but less crispy cronuts.

Both were very good, and the second batch was more impressive looking, but I’m thinking that for a true croissant/doughnut hybrid, thinner and with less layers may be the way to go. 

Of course, if you’re going to fill yours with vanilla custard, as is the custom in NYC, then the taller, airier cronut is probably a better delivery system. Rest assured, further exploration is inevitable.

In case you’re wondering, the second half of the dough was frozen overnight, and then thawed in the fridge until soft enough to work with, so it seems as though making and freezing this would not be problem. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Note: These cronuts were fried in grapeseed oil, at 350 degrees F. for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Click here to watch Part 1.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cronuts! The Doughnuts That Make People Go Nuts! Part 1: The Dough

I’m assuming that since you’re on a food blog you've probably heard about “cronuts,” but just in case, here’s a quick review. 

This croissant/doughnut hybrid was invented by Dominique Ansel at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City. It became an overnight sensation, and now people stand in line for hours just for a chance at getting one of the precious few that are made each day.

Why all the hype? Very simple – it has the shape and flavor of a doughnut, yet features the crispy, flaky texture of a buttery croissant. What’s not to hype? Anyway, after seeing like two dozen new reports on the craze, and receiving a scary number of food wishes for it, I decided to give it a go, if for no other reason than to save a few of my NYC friends the humiliation of being Instagrammed standing in that line.

Since I’ve never tasted a cronut, what follows is purely an educated guess, but I think I got pretty close. Maybe one of you New Yorkers will mail me one, so I know for sure? My game plan was simple. Make a slightly sweet, yeasty, doughnut-esque dough, which I’d then layer with butter, using the classic croissant technique.

It’s a procedure I do all the time, as in once, back in culinary school, thirty years ago. So, instead of going by the book, or even looking in a book, I winged it, and not only that, I streamlined things too. Instead painstakingly pounding out perfectly sized slabs of cold butter, I decided to try simply spreading softened butter instead. I also threw caution to the wind, and pulled off the rare and terrifying “double fold and turn,” and lived to tell the tale.

Like I said in the video, we’ll cover the final results in Part 2, but spoiler alert…these were awesome. I did two different versions, one regular, and one with an extra “fold and turn” which resulted in a taller, and even more impressive cronut. Stay tuned!

Ingredients for 16 Cronuts:
1 package dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup warm water (105 degrees F.)
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 rounded tablespoons white sugar (add an extra if you want a sweeter 'nut)
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound all-purpose flour, more as needed
6 ounces soft, unsalted, "European-style" butter (12 tablespoons)

Fist steps:
- Combine yeast and warm water, and let sit five minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the flour and the European-style butter, and whisk to combine.
- Add the flour, and knead for about three minutes or until a soft sticky dough ball forms.
- Wrap dough in plastic, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Roll dough out into roughly a 18 x 9-inch rectangle.
- Proceed with butter as shown!

View the complete recipe

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Tomato and “Dirt” Salad You’ll Really Dig

It’s not unusual for me to steal a recipe idea from a local restaurant, but it’s not everyday that I’m inspired by something I eat at a bowling alley. This happened recently at the Mission Bowling Club, a fun and funky, six-lane bowling alley located just a few blocks from our home, which despite the cacophony, features some of the City’s best bites.

In addition to an otherworldly fried chicken appetizer, and a “granulated,” aged beef burger some (including my wife Michele) consider the best in the City, the MBC also features daily specials, and one such offering was described as an “heirloom tomato salad topped with a crispy rye crumble.”

That sounded great to us, and our server vouched for its excellence, so we happily included it among our starters. What we didn’t know at the time, was that our server had defied the kitchen and refused to use the dish’s official name, “tomatoes and dirt.”

She made this stunning admission as we raved about its deliciousness, and admitted to going rogue and changing the name because she just didn’t think that “dirt” sounded appetizing. What?! I thought this plate of tomatoes and “dirt” was just about the most creative thing I’d heard/seen/tasted in a while.

I was this close to going into that kitchen, ratting her out, and maybe getting a free dessert for my trouble, but thought better of it, and decided to quietly finish the salad, knowing that I would share it here, dirty name and all.  Anyway, this is my version, and I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Small Portions:
8 oz burrata cheese, or fresh ricotta
Enough freshly sliced tomatoes for 4 portions
Wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
Fresh sliced basil leaves
For the crumbs:
2 tbsp olive oil, more if needed
3 large brown mushrooms, minced fine
big pinch of salt
3 slices of dark rye, made into crumbs
1 rounded tablespoon ground almonds (aka almond meal, almond flour, or just crush your own)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Surf is Usually Tougher Than the Turf

I’m sure you’ll have no problem coming up with lots of meaty ideas for tomorrow’s Labor Day cookout, but new and exciting seafood options can be a little more challenging. So, just in case you’re going to eschew the traditional four-legged fare, here are some alternative ideas to surf through. If any of these catch you hook, line and sinker, just follow the link in the caption to see the original post, and get the ingredients. Enjoy! 

Grilled Tuna with Fresh Horseradish

Grilled Salmon with Garlic, Ginger & Chilies

Grilled Swordfish Bruschetta

Fennel-Smoked Salmon