~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Slides Rule...

Saturday I tossed together some sliders...those wonderful mini burgers which allows one to mix and match it up.

One was a tex-mex with a roasted pepper slice, monterey jack, cilantro and chipolte mayo.  This mayo is great to have on hand in a squirt bottle...perfect on fish tacos, more on that on a later post.  Chipoltles are roasted jalapenos, buy them in the Mexican department in cans which are packed with adobo sauce.  Depending on your burn factor use one pepper and a bit of the adobo sauce to maybe 1/2 cup of mayo in your blender or mince the pepper and whisk with mayo.  Taste...add more pepper or mayo to balance it.  If it's waaay too hot, drizzle in some honey.

Another slider I made was a BBQ style with a basic dry BBQ spice rub I put together, same stuff I use on ribs.  It's a mix of brown sugar, paprika, garlic and onion powder, cumin, salt & pepper, chili powder and a bit of cayenne.  I rubbed the raw patties on both sides with the spice mix and assembled the burger with BBQ sauce (we like Pendleton brand, really good, no high fructose corn syrup)and slaw right on the burger.

The last one was your basic bacon cheese burger.  I made some homemade potato chips with Hawaiian sea salt, cracked black pepper and rosemary...yum!  We got the sea salt on our last trip to the islands but I found out you can find it at a funky little place in Lynnwood which sells...salt!

I also made for fun, a Spanish food thing, traditionally made with "calsots", which is a Spanish sweet onion from Valls in the Catalonia region of Spain.  They look similar to our green onion but larger. You fire these babies over hot coals and blacken them. I picked up some large spring green onions at the Sunday farmers market down the street and drizzled olive oil and dusted them with salt and pepper before grilling.  

As they do in Spain you serve
them with a type of romesco sauce called "salvitxada" (gesundheit!), made with almonds, tomatoes, oil, vinegar, peppers all whirled together into a paste.  Apparently there are festivals in Spain for these. And then you ask, "how the hell do you know about these?", like I stated in my About Me, I watch food shows on TV and pay attention...for instance...this.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


So, more on equipment.  While some are critical, some being great to have...some are evil, rotten, vile items that each time I see one I have no choice, but to call C.R.AP., the Culinary Ripoff Accessory Police.  I have to admit I have gadgets that basically have one use, potato masher, a lemon/line squeezer thing...a mellon baller.  

But some are outright ridiculous.  Take this one, an "onion keeper".  Ya, I have one...it's called a "bag".

Or this one, an avocado scooper-slicer, seriously?  It may work if your avocado is exactly that size.  What's wrong with a knife and a spoon?

Oh, this is my favorite...a banana slicer...because there is no way you can even attempt to slice a banana with a knife, it is impossible.  You must have a scientifically design instrument of exacting specifications, honed to perfection which will cleanly slice through one of the most difficult items to slice known to man! Apparently you peel the banana, then carefully slide the banana into the hole, then the slice-o-ramma party begins.  May all your bananas be the correct diameter.    


So back to knives.  Another knife I would say is indispensable is a serrated knife.  There several types, this one a few people call a tomato knife.  Great for, well tomatoes, other veggies.  Something with a skin to get through.  a great little knife.

This one is great too...a bread knife.  I didn't think I need to spend a wad of money on it so I just picked one up a a restaurant supply store, makes my work
Having at least a few basic knives saves you from constantly cleaning it from cutting raw meat than to garlic then on to breads.

I do have a few old knives that somehow wiggled their way into our kitchen.  I usually only use them if I need to slice open a package of chicken or whatever then throw it in the dishwasher, instead of using my butcher knife then have to clean it after one little use.  I don't wash my good knives in the dishwasher, I think the high heat dulls them faster.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A simple procedure but easy to screw up...

Mac 'n cheese...not the blue box kind, no sir-eee.  I'm talking about homemade, yummy, gooey, cheesy, bad for you, baked stuff (just don't eat it all the time).  Basically its a cheese sauce over noodles.  Big deal, right?...wrong!  It how you do it, a little TLC, maybe throw in some goodies to spark it it up and you have  quintessential comfort food. Baking it adds a whole other level of bliss.

The sauce is of course a cheese sauce, which is a classic "mother "sauce called a bechamel sauce made by whisking a flour/butter roux with milk or cream or half & half or some combination.  You then add cheese which now makes the bechamel a "mornay" sauce...another classic sauce.  It would be goood to know these and perfect them.

One very important note when adding the cheese:  Grate the cheese fine and have it at room temperature before you add it to the bechamel, otherwise you will get grainy sauce which will looks like crap.  If this happens, nothing you do can fix it...you screwed up, remember what you did wrong for next time.  This I found is a key step.  Another is add the cheese a bit at a time over a low flame...not some rolling boil for crying out loud.  Add some, whisk, add more, whisk.  Make sure the cheese is fully melted before you add more.  You get this right and the rest is...well, easy-cheesy!

I used white pepper and threw in some bacon.  As we all know, everything is better with bacon.  And stop thinking.."oh, I need to cut down, watch what I eat".  You are going to eat mac and cheese for gods sake.  If you were that serious you wouldn't be making the stuff in the first place.  Those who eat the most bacon when they die, wins.

Choose a pasta...you know, it's ok NOT to use elbow macaroni...try penne, orecchiette or "small ear" pasta, some type that grabs and pockets the sauce.

So heres mine:

12 oz. noodles (about 3 cups dry)
Cook and remove them before they are done, they will finish in the baking process.

Cook bacon pieces or whatever.

Melt 3 tbl butter...add 1/4 cup flour.  Whisk until smooth.  Add 3-1/2 cups milk and whisk until it coats the back of a spoon, ~10 min.  Add in 3 cups grated cheese a bit at a time.  I use a mix of sharp and "nacho".  Stir this mess until is nice and smooth, don't rush it.  Add in the cooked pasta, season it, add in bacon and pour into a buttered 8x8 casserole dish. Top with some more cheese mixed with bread crumbs, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  Let it cool a bit and put your feed bag on.

The beginning...

Well, here I go.  A blog.   Now what?  Write something interesting stupid.  OK.  

So cooking, recipes, food, equipment, pet peeves and other thoughts.

First things first I suppose...equipment.  I think I will throw in something each post with a food thing and also an equipment thing.

Anyway, equipment.  The first thing for someone who has any interest in cooking better is a proper knife. You don't need a full arsenal of every type of weapon, if you have the basics you will do fine.  First of all a 10" or 12" butcher knife is a must-have, stainless steel...carbon steel knives retain the edge better but a pain to maintain.  Go to a restaurant supply store or kitchen store.  Don't go to some "...mart" or a store at the end of a mall.  Drive to a better store where you should get some customer service.

HOLD the knife, set it down, pick it up..make sure it feels comfortable in your hand, the weight, the handle material and shape...try another, narrow it down, do it again.  That being said, my favorite is a knife I didnt pre-select, it was wedding present, nearly 25 years ago and it still is in near perfect condition.  Its a Gerber 10".  Probably since I have used it for 24+ years is the reason it is my first go-to blade.  Pay a bit more and you wont regret it.

And let me say this...a dull knife is useless and dangerous.  Contrary to how some people may think, a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife, it wont go where you want it, slips off the tomato and thus beginning your trip to the bathroom searching for bandaids for your sliced open digit. A knife is an extension of your hand, it needs to go where you want it to go...exactly.  Hold the knife with your thumb and forefinger grasping the blade.  It's not a hammer so don't hold it that way.

I picked up this sharpening doo-hicky and it seems to do well. 

After sharpening your knife, gently wipe the blade across a white towel, if you did it correctly you should see gray matter from the blade on the towel.