Thursday, January 30, 2014

Italian Sausage Chili – Another Super Bowl

It’s been a while since we posted a chili recipe, and what better time than right before the Super Bowl? When it comes to feeding large groups of hungry sports fans frugally, there’s nothing like a big pot of chili. That’s right, more money for beer.

While I’ve added pork to ground beef in chili before, I’ve never tried it with all Italian sausage, and I loved the results. We Italian’d this up even more with cannellini beans and a touch of basil, but other than that, it’s a fairly classic chili (everywhere except Texas and Cincinnati).

Putting basil in chili may sound a little odd, but the sweet, aromatic herb is absolutely perfect with these big, bold flavors, which is why you’ll find it in things like spicy Thai curries and Vietnamese soups. It actually has me thinking about adding coconut milk to a beef chili, along with the basil, but that one is still in the brainstorming stage.

In the video, I mention not to drain the meat after you brown it. This is a common instruction in chili recipes, and is intended to drain off fat, but you also lose lots of flavorful juice. Instead, keep and reduce the juices as you finish browning the meat, and skim the fat off the top later. Everybody wins. I really hope you give this great chili a try soon…like Sunday. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 servings (you can double or triple for larger groups easily):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 1/2 pounds Italian sausage
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup tomato puree
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 (12 ounce) cans cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
*plus more water as needed during the two simmering stages
*garnish with sour cream, avocado, red onion, and basil!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bacon Jam – Take That, Fruit!

At the end of the video, I joke that if this bacon jam were the only thing you served at your Super Bowl party, people would still leave raving about the food. That wasn’t a joke. Such is the profound deliciousness of this magical, spreadable bacon.

I’ll have to admit that the first time I heard about bacon jam, it didn’t strike me as a very good idea. I loved the part about frying tons of bacon crispy, but then you want me to add it to a bunch of wet onions? Why would I do that? As usual, I was wrong. Despite losing its crispiness, the intense caramelized bacon flavor, and sweet/tart/peppery punch of this “jam,” more than make up for it.

While I'm officially posting this as another Super Bowl snack idea, its potential uses go way past the big game. One taste and the mind reels with possibilities. While impressive served simply on a chip or crisp, this stuff will turn a grilled cheese sandwich into something beyond our world…and don’t even get me started on the hamburger applications.

Such pleasure does not come without its price, however. This takes some time to make, and there is expert-level stirring involved, but what a small price when you consider the final results. Whether you do this for your Super Bowl party, or other festive occasion, I hope you give this amazing bacon jam a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 3 1/2 cups of Bacon Jam:
1 1/2 pound bacon, cooked crisp, chopped fine
2 tsp butter
2 tsp reserved bacon fat
4 large yellow onions (about 3 pounds), diced
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tsp fresh picked thyme leaves, divided (1 tsp cooked in, 1/2 tsp at the end)
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1/2 cups water
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Happy National Chocolate Cake Day Eve

Monday is National Chocolate Cake Day, and ever since I posted this Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake last year, the emails have been coming in with one rave review after another. As you’ll see if you check the original post here, I can’t take credit for the recipe, but I am happy to field the compliments. Anyway, if you’re looking for a great chocolate cake with which to celebrate everyone’s favorite chocolate cake-related holiday, then I hope you give this a try. Enjoy!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jerk Chicken Wings – Classic Jamaican Super Bowl Food

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of this before, but what more perfect marinade and glaze for a Super Bowl hot wing than a Jamaican jerk sauce? These jerk chicken wings were so flavorful, so different, and so additively delicious, that I may have eaten my last Buffalo wing. 

Okay, I didn’t mean that, but these really are amazing; a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. I'm usually pretty casual about you changing my recipes, but I’m going to have to insist you not change any of the key ingredients, which are, every one of them. 

I guess this could work with other hot peppers, but the fiery, super-fruity Habanero (or Scotch Bonnet if you can find it) is critical for achieving true magic here. You’ll find them in any decent market, and they are very expensive per pound, but they’re very light, so three or four certainly won’t break the bank.

I mention in the video to marinate at least 8 hours in the fridge, which is the preferred method, but if you’re in a hurry, like I was, you could just leave it out on the counter at room temperature for two hours instead. Keep it covered, and give it a stir every 15 minutes or so, but that will get you pretty close to the colder, slower refrigerator method.

So, if you’re looking for a little change of pace this year, why not take a break from those same old wings (sorry again, Buffalo), and give these tasty jerk wings a try instead? Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 24 Jerk Chicken Wing Drumettes:
3 lbs chicken wings
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
6 garlic peeled cloves
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
3 Habanero chili peppers, seeded, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly picked thyme leaves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/3 cup fresh lime juice, about 3 juicy limes

Blend all ingredients and marinate 8 to 12 hours in the fridge; or 2 hours at room temp.
- Bake 20 min at 450 F.
- Paint and turn, bake 15 minutes more
- Turn and paint, and bake 10-15 minutes more, or until well-browned and tender.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Happy National Pie Day!

I realize it’s almost over, but I just heard from my friend, and world-famous pie guru, Kate McDermott, that today was National Pie Day. To celebrate, I decided to repost my personal favorite pie video – the strawberry rhubarb custard pie!  This sweet/tart pie is ultra-simple to make, and a great way to enjoy rhubarb’s bright, unique flavor. Click here to see the original post and ingredients. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Our 2014 Super Bowl Prediction!

Once again, it’s time I let you in on my magical method for picking the Super Bowl winner, using the ancient gypsy art of Buffalo chicken wing bone reading. I can't tell you how I learned to do this, or why anyone in their right mind would take it seriously, but what I can tell you is this... the Seattle Seahawks will beat the Denver Broncos. Guaranteed. It's a lock. Bet the kids' college fund.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I’m partnered with, which is based in Seattle, and run by fanatical Seahawks fans. So, a cynic might say this pick was made to simply keep the corporate overlords happy. Well, if that were the case, why would I even mention it, and raise suspicions? Maybe you think this is some sort of vague, cryptic message telling you to actually bet on the Broncos? Well, that’s just ridiculous.

Anyway, good luck, and I’ll apologize in advance for bumping you up into a higher tax bracket after you collect your winning. You’re welcome, kids. Enjoy!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Shrimp Etouffee – Desperate Times Call for Delicious Measures

I won’t go into the sordid details of how I came into possession of substandard shrimp, but it did afford me the opportunity to demo a few tips in this shrimp etouffee video, just in case you ever find yourself in the same boat. 

I have absolutely no problem with frozen shrimp, which is a good thing, since that’s the only kind you can buy; but when making recipes like this, I prefer a larger size, and definitely with shells on.

Making a rich shrimp stock from the sautéed shells is one of the secrets to a great etouffee, but besides loss of flavor, I find smaller, already-peeled shrimp retain much more water, which leaks out when cooked; thinning and weakening every sauce in their wake.

A little sear can release a lot of this excess liquid, which can then be reduced in the sauce. This also makes the final moments of the dish pretty easy, as these small shrimp only take a few minutes to cook through. 

Of course, if you do buy some nice 16-20’s (jumbo-sized), go ahead and make the stock (see technique here), and give the shrimp a nice pan-sear first before finishing the recipe as shown. With Mardi Gras coming up soon, you have the perfect excuse to give this delicious recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 4 large portions:

Spice Blend (everything is “to taste”):
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp paprika

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 pounds peeled and deveined raw shrimp, seasoned with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp of the spice blend
3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup diced onions
1/3 cup celery, sliced thin
1/3 cup diced green pepper, sweet or hot
remaining spice blend
2 generous tbsp flour
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock (including shrimp juices added in)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
salt to taste
1/4 cup sliced green onions
4 portions cooked white rice

Friday, January 17, 2014

Beast Mode Vodka? I’ll Take an Anchor Steam!

My friends at created this unique drink to celebrate the Seattle Seahawks, their garish team colors, and their borderline-insane running back’s favorite candy. Seattle is well known for having the loudest, craziest fans in the league, and if this drink catches on, it will certainly prove the later.

I live in San Francisco, and will be rooting for the Niner’s, so there won’t be any of this freaky fluorescence flowing at my Super Bowl party, but if you are a ‘Hawks supporter, I invite you to watch the video and give “Beast Mode Vodka” try. That way, if your team loses, at least you’ll have a horrible hangover to look forward to! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kentucky Beer Cheese – Love at Third Bite

Very few love Kentucky Beer Cheese at first bite. As you crunch your first taste, the palette quickly identifies a sharp cheddar cheese spread, but then stale beer fills the nose, and you instantly think, “I should have gone clam dip.”

But after three or four bites, you stop thinking about your college dorm room carpet, and your palette adjusts to the unusual flavor profile, and this humble cheese spread becomes as addicting as any I’ve ever had. In a way, it’s sort of analogous to drinking your first beer, but that’s a whole other post.

The texture is much smoother and creamier than it looks, and that little hint of raw alcohol provides a fermented funkiness in the background that is the key to the recipe. Well done, Bluegrass State. Well done. By the way, you can upgrade the beer if you wish, but then you will not be eating real Kentucky Beer Cheese.

People around those parts may argue about the amount of pepper, or if you should throw in a chunk of cream cheese or not, but everyone agrees that this spread requires a cheap, domestic beer. Preferably from a can.

So, if you’re looking for something a little different for your Super Bowl party, I hope you give this Kentucky Beer Cheese recipe a try. If it’s a big hit, you can bring it back for your Kentucky Derby party. I’m sure it’s fabulous with mint juleps. Enjoy!

Ingredients for  about 3 cups Kentucky Beer Cheese:
16 ounces of cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup flat beer

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chicken & Mushroom Chimichanga – A Thingamajig of Beauty

As legend has it, many years ago in Tucson, AZ, a woman accidentally dropped a burrito into a deep fryer. She started to blurt out a common Spanish swear word, but remembering her kids were in the kitchen, yelled out “chimichanga!” instead. She let it fry golden and crisp, and the rest is culinary history.

If you’re wondering, Chimichanga translates to “thingamajig,” which is fitting, since that’s kind of what this is. A thingamajig stuffed with whatever. In this case, whatever was a very tasty mixture of chicken, mushrooms, poblano chilies, and pepper Jack cheese.

While that particular combination is highly recommended, this is more of a technique video, so when it comes to the filling, I encourage wild experimentation. We used raw chicken here, but Chimichangas are also great for using up leftover, cooked meats. Just cube it up, toss it in when the vegetables are done, and proceed as shown.

And don't feel like you have to stay in the Tex-Mex zone. This versatile, folded and fried tortilla could make a fantastic delivery system for all kinds of ethnic foods. Anyway, no matter what kind of filling is used, or how it’s seasoned, I think everyone will agree that it’s never a good idea to curse in front of children. I hope you give this delicious son-of-a-gun a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
(exact measurements are not critical, as you can stuff these with anything that fits)

For the filling:
1 tbsp vegetable oil, divided (half for veggies, half to cook chicken)
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced poblano peppers
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
12 oz boneless skinless chicken breast meat, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chipotle, smoked paprika, or other hot or mild ground chili pepper
pinch dried Mexican oregano
1 or 2 tbsp cold water to deglaze pan once chicken is browned
4 ounces grated pepper Jack cheese

4 large flour tortilla (at least 10-inch wide)
1 egg white
2 tbsp vegetable oil for pan-frying
sour cream, guacamole, and salsa to garnish, optional

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Celebrating National Peach Melba Day!

According to both reliable sources and food bloggers, Monday, January 13th, is National Peach Melba Day. My first thought was this would make a great excuse to repost our version; but then I had another more disturbing thought...why was a recipe featuring the quintessential  summer fruit being celebrated in the middle of winter? Any ideas?

Anyway, I've worked at more than one establishment that served this using canned peaches, so don't let that peaches aren't in season thing stop you from enjoying this oddly-timed food holiday. Click here to read the original post and see the full recipe. Enjoy!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chicago Italian Beef “Stew Meat Edition” – The Deep Dish Pizza of Sandwiches

I’ve always wondered how stewed beef would work instead of the traditional sliced roast beef for Chicago’s famous Italian Beef Sandwich, which is kind of weird, since I’ve only had the classic version a few times, and never actually made it myself. 

I figured if you’re going to roast a hunk of beef, then slice it and put it back in the juices, why not just cook the meat in a broth to begin with? How had the fine people of Chicago not thought of this obvious adaptation? Were the same people running the Cubs also in charge of civic recipe improvements? Was Kanye West somehow to blame? And another thing; why the hell would the Bears give Jay Cutler that new contract?

Anyway, once I finished my mad experiment, I realized that this wasn’t an improvement on an old sandwich at all; it was just a new sandwich. While the flavors are similar, the texture and overall mouthfeel of this sandwich is completely different. It’s much closer to pulled pork in that respect, but delicious nevertheless.

So, while this ended up not being the Chicago Italian beef breakthrough I had hoped for, it did make for a fine lunch, and if you’re looking for a manly hand-meal for your next shindig, I hope give this tasty, and very juicy sandwich a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large sandwiches:
1 1/2 or 2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 2-inch chunks, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. to taste
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp white vinegar
3 cups chicken broth, or enough to cover meat by an inch
4 crusty sandwich rolls
1 cup drained Giardiniera (pickled vegetables), chopped into a relish
- Brown meat and simmer covered in the remaining of ingredients until tender

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Potato & Parsnip Gratin – Less Parsnips is More Parsnips

Parsnips are a nutritious, uniquely delicious root vegetable, which we should all be enjoying on a much more regular basis, but I think I know the reason why we don’t. The problem with parsnips is that they taste too much like parsnips.

The earthy taste and licorice nose is almost too much when served in their pure form, but when mixed and mellowed in something like this classic potato gratin, you get a much more user-friendly way to enjoy this cheap and easy to find root. Of course, I'm sure the low-carb folks would argue, but that's only because they're irritable from the no carbs.

By the way, you can also use this same exact technique for other subterranean treats like turnips, rutabagas, and celery root. As I said in the video, while this makes a fine side dish to almost anything, it’s also a stellar brunch potato for those occasions when hash browns just don’t seem cool enough. For that, and many other reasons, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions Potato Parsnip Gratin:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp melted butter
3 Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
2 smaller parsnips (about 12 ounces total)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) crème fraiche, divided or heavy cream and a tsp of white vinegar)
1 cup chicken broth
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
cayenne to taste
375 F. for 45-60 minutes

Monday, January 6, 2014

Saba Braised Lamb Shanks – A New Find and an Old Rule

This absolutely delicious saba braised lamb shanks recipe will hopefully serve two very important purposes. First, to expose anyone currently unexposed to the wonderful world of saba (seriously, Google it). This thick, sweet, syrupy substance is basically cooked-down wine must (grape juice plus seeds, skins, and stems). It’s very similar to aged balsamic vinegar, and although I’ve only recently discovered it, I consider it a “must” have.

The second part of the mission is to reinforce an old rule of thumb for braising meats, which goes something like, “Don’t stop cooking until it’s tender and awesome!!” Sounds simple, right? Yet, I get emails all the time saying my short rib, pot roast, or lamb shank recipes didn’t work because “the meat wasn’t tender.” Sorry, but that’s all you, Chef Took-it-out-because-the-timer-rang.

The only reason tough cuts of meat, like these lamb shanks, don’t get tender enough, is because people go by time instead of common-sense testing. In the video I say to roast, covered, at 200 F. for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, before starting the final glazing step, but that’s just a guess. I don’t want you to stop when the timer rings, but only when the point of a knife goes into the meat easily.

Remember, a lamb shank cooked 30 minutes too long is still a succulent and delicious thing. The same cut cooked 30 minutes shy? A chewy disappointment. Not to mention all that dental floss you’re going to waste. So, now that there’s no way your lamb isn’t going to come out all moist and tender, the only thing left to do is find yourself some saba, and give this great winter dish a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
(I used a 9x12-inch dish)
4 lamb shanks
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper   
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 large onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled, slightly crushed
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup saba or aged balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary to finish sauce
- Roast 30 min at 450 F. uncovered
- Add liquid and roast covered at 200 F. about 3 hours, or until knife tender
- Uncover, roast at 350 about 20-30 minutes, or until very tender and glazed. Turn in sauce several times during this final step.
- Strain and reduce sauce
*Note: 3 hour braising time will vary depending on size of shanks.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Soup Weather

From what I hear, this could be the coldest winter in decades, and although that plush Snuggie does a decent job of keeping you warm (and fashionable), there's nothing like a steaming bowl of soup when it's freezing outside. Here's a small, but comforting collection of my all-time frigid weather favs.

Of course, it's absolutely gorgeous today in San Francisco, and isn't even winter for half the world, but I always like to tailor these recap posts to the least fortunate (weather-wise) among us. So keep warm, inside and out, and as always, enjoy!

Bumblebee Soup

No actual bees were harmed in the making of this awesome soup. 

Spanish Bread and Garlic Soup

More proof that when it comes to food, the Spanish are winning. 

American French Onion Soup

I forget what makes it "American," but it must be something great. 

Cream of Cauliflower with Bacon Gremolata

Did we mention the bacon gremolata?

Minestrone Soup

First ballot "Winter Soup Hall of Fame" inductee. 

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Might seem a little more spring-ish, but that's the idea. It warms while it reminds. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Creamy Bay Scallop Spaghetti – An Almost Perfect Post-Holidays Pasta

After all those rich, complicated, and time-consuming holiday recipes, I’m always craving something light, fast, and easy; and this creamy bay scallop spaghetti is all that and more. Literally “more,” in that this is not light, but quite delicious, and in roughly the time it takes you to boil spaghetti, the sauce should be just about ready.

With some similar recipes to this, the chef will have you remove the scallops as soon as they’re seared, to be added back right at the end. Sounds smart since these little mollusks only take a few minutes to cook, but I think it’s a mistake. Yes, the scallops will be smaller and firmer using my method, but the trade-off is a much more flavorful sauce.

Sometimes cooks are so afraid to overcook and ruin something, they never extract as much flavor as possible. Sure, if you boiled these bay scallops another ten minutes or so, they’d get start getting dry and rubbery, but here they’re still plenty tender and moist enough, and I think you’ll agree the sherry sauce benefits significantly.

Regarding the sherry wine: If you can’t have or don’t want to use it, you’re on your own with replacements. While this would probably still work with none, or any number of sort-of-sweet, sort-of-acidic substations, I make mine with sherry, so I can’t tell you what will happen if you stray.

The meat’s another story. Feel free to switch out the scallops with any cubed protein, so really, if you think about it, I just shoed you like a dozen new recipes. You’re welcome! I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 appetizer-sized portions:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound bay scallops
2 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp lemon zest
pinch red pepper flakes
1/3 cup sherry wine
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon or to taste
8 oz cooked thick spaghetti
2 tbsp Italian parsley, divided
Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste