Monday, February 25, 2008

And the oscar goes to.....

No Country for Old Men takes the best picture! I saw this last week and very much enjoyed it, despite all the bad reviews from friends and colleagues. I also saw There will be blood a while back and greatly enjoyed that as well. Danny boy did an amazing job in this movie as he has with every other role. All in all a good night, with satisfying results.
That’s more than can be said for the bland performance in the kitchen last night. A friend and I decided to make beef Wellington, with no recipe. We scratched it together with things we thought would work and fit into what we thought was Wellington. We then decided on roasted garlic and cheddar mashed potatoes and corn for sides. We used Pillsbury Crescent roll dough and bacon to wrap the tenderloin, and bought a roll of pork pate to top the beef. We almost didn’t have enough pate to top the beef after we ate half of it. I rushed the potatoes and had to mash them for quite some time to get the uncooked pieces spread out. We let the sauce made with the seared beef and bacon jus separate when we put butter in to thicken, so the delicious sauce we had not even 5 minutes before serving, was a curdled mess by the time we were plating. The “Wellingtons” came out fine, albeit, amateur. The mashed potatoes were decent save for the occasional raw bit, and the corn (out of a can) was PERFECT! All in all a fun project that turned out fairly well, considering we had no idea how to actually make beef Wellington. Just goes to show you that getting in there at diving off the deep end of the kitchen can yield very enjoyable results. Here is a proper beef Wellington recipe found on, so you can go in prepared with a pastry recipe and a filling recipe. And remember, don’t rush the potatoes it can make the difference between a great meal and a decent “food project”.

(4 or 5 oz.) filet Mignon1 1/3 tsp. salt1/4 plus a pinch of pepper2/3 c. chopped onion2/3 c. chopped carrots2/3 c. chopped celery1/3 c. plus 2 tbsp. vegetable oil3 tbsp. brandy, 1 c. red wine3/4 tsp. fines herbs1 1/3 tbsp. butterMushroom filling, recipe belowPastry, recipe below3 egg yolks3 tsp. water2 2/3 c. beef broth1 1/3 tbsp. tomato paste2 2/3 tbsp. cornstarch1/3 c. Madeira or other sweet wineDiced fresh mushroomsCarrot curlsCelery fansFresh parsley sprigs
Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper, and place in a shallow dish. Saute onion, carrots, and celery in oil until tender. Add red wine, brandy and herbs. Pour mixture over filets; cover and marinate in refrigerator overnight. Drain steaks, reserving marinade. Saute fillets in butter in a skillet just until lightly browned on both sides. Place filets in pan; cover and freeze 10 minutes. Remove from freezer, and refrigerate 2 hours. Prepare mushroom filling; chill at least 2 hours.
2 2/3 lb. fresh mushrooms, finely chopped1/3 c. mince green onion3 tbsp. butter1/3 c. Madeira or other dry sweet wineSalt and pepper to taste
Place mushrooms in a clean towel or cheese cloth and squeeze until barely moist, reserving juice. Saute mushrooms and onion in butter; cook over medium heat until all liquid is evaporated. Add salt and pepper. Prepare pastry; chill 2 hours.

4 c. all purpose flour2 tsp. salt1 c. chilled butter plus 2 tbsp. cubed1/3 c. shortening, chilled1/2 to 2/3 c. ice water
Combine flour and salt in a large bowl; cut in chilled butter and shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle ice water evenly over surface; stir with a fork until all dry ingredients are moistened. Shape dough into a ball. Roll pastry into an 18 inch square on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth; cut into 8 (9 x 6 inch) rectangles. Spread each pastry rectangle with 1/3 cup mushroom filling; top with a filet.
Combine egg yolks and water; brush edges of pastry with egg mixture to seal. Fold pastry over, and pinch together. (Trim excess pastry is necessary). Place Wellingtons, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with egg mixture; repeat after 1 minute. Roll pastry trimming cut into decorative shapes and arrange on top of Wellingtons, if desired. Brush with remaining egg mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Combine reserved marinade, reserved mushroom juice, beef broth, and tomato paste in a saucepan; simmer 1 hour. Dissolve cornstarch in Madeira; stir into broth mixture and cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Garnish with mushrooms, carrots, parsley, celery fans.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I hope everyone had a great Valentine's day, I sure did. To just rehash the week, We went to see Eddie Izzard at the Union Square Theatre on Thursday and stayed at the SoHotel for the night. When we got into the city we took a cab to the hotel and checked in first. From the pictures on the website, the brick facade in the rooms and the lanterns on the night table gave the impression of faux-dive luxury, Bowery style. Upon walking into the room, it turned out to be a dive with faux-luxury. the room was very small, with no phone, and a flat screen TV (part of the faux luxury) with most of the channels not working. I must admit it was cosy and was a very good deal for a stay in New York City. We sat around watching Ocean Force on TV, a show where beach cops lay the legal pipe and arrest drunkards and flashers. Corny, I know, but I was hooked. Then we took a cab to the theatre. When We got in, I told the cabbie, "the Union Square Theatre please". He nodded with a grunt and drove off. After a swerving drive through little Italy and Chinatown, he stopped and read off the fare from the meter, I paid and left a great tip for the quick delivery. Walking out of the cab, we realized that he had dropped us off at a movie theatre in Union Square, not the Union Square theatre. Anyway we went to the show which was great, Eddie Izzard is not like most comics and is refreshing compared to the usual crap that's out there. After that, we walked around finding someplace to eat. We decided to go to the hotel and walk around Soho and Little Italy, wherever we could get something at 2 in the morning. We settled on a 24 hour diner where I got a ham and brie panini with sun-dried tomato mayonnaise for 7 bucks, only in New York....The next day was wide open, so we woke up walked right down the street to Cafe Roma, I think it's called, across from Umberto's Clam House and had a cappuchino and canoli. Then we walked around Chinatown looking for a belt because I forgot to bring one. It took a surprising amount of time to find one in Chinatown and after 20-30 minutes of walking and holding my pants up, I found a shop that had on laying the back. It was coming apart so I talked the guy down to $3 from $5, we were both happy. Afterwards, we did a little more shopping and bought my girlfriend an "authentic" designer handbag. Then we went to the Cloisters, a museum I once went to when I was in high school and always wanted to back to. We agreed to go after Chinatown shopping and decided to take a cab there, being unfamiliar with the subway system. From my recollection, the Cloisters was on 80-something street. When we drove waaaaay past 80-something street, I though either I was wrong or this guy was gonna bury us somewhere. When we finally got 196th street, I was excited to see the museum just the way I remembered it high stone walls in a park away from the crowds and the streets. At the cabbie's and museum employees suggestion, we took a bus and subway back to Times Square. There we ate at a Japanese fast food place, that was not very good and caught a movie called "The Orphanage", which I thought was very very good and creepy as hell. That was my Valentine's day NYC trip, with all it's ups and downs. Although we didn't get to go to a good restaurant, I had ham and brie with pommes fritte, authentic Italian cappuchino and cannoli, and Japanese chicken and Beef with rice and vegetables for under $30, you can't beat that. The hotel although unexpectedly small, is highly recommended for it's price and proximity to popular areas of the city. Hope you enjoyed reading and hope you all find your own way out to the city. I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cheap and in love

So the New Year has been going according to plan. So far this year I have accomplished nothing of note. Day in and day out, the cycle of train, work, train, do nothing for 2-3 hours, sleep, and repeat has effectively broken down my spirit to the point where doing anything different gets me excited. With Valentine’s Day coming up, I’ve made plans to take my girlfriend to the city for a show and stay at a hotel in Manhattan. I was thinking about getting her the same thing I got her last year (nothing), but I decided to spend this year and avoid any confrontation for the next year. I got tickets to see Eddie Izzard at the Union Square Theatre and reservations at the Sohotel, a former flophouse on the Bowery.
I have the show and the hotel all figured out, but I can’t think of where to eat. With all the choices in NYC it’s hard to pick any given restaurant. I wanted to go to Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy, but she hates seafood so I think it would be selfish(shellfish?) of me to go there. I was also thinking of the legendary Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn, but it’s out of my way. One thought was to just skip dinner entirely, since we’re going Valentine’s day evening, and go for a picnic in the park the next day. I think there is a Whole Foods in the Bowery where I can get the requisite brie and crackers, feta-stuffed olives, fresh crusty bread, a great variety of meats and cheeses, and whatever else my thrifty mind can think of (or afford). If all else fails, we can always have beef kebobs and dirty water dogs. God bless NYC.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Over the weekend I’ve made a great personal discovery. I found out what the white sauce is on the chicken over rice platters I wrote about earlier! While this may not seem like anything special (to anyone), it haunted me for years. Now I can share it with everyone else. Hopefully, people who had the same addiction I had will be able to make this on their own and enjoy street meat any day of the week.

“White sauce”

½ cup of plain whole milk yogurt
3 tablespoons tahini paste (ground sesame seeds)
Juice from ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix yogurt, tahini paste, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix in water to get a consistency that can be squeeze out of a typical restaurant-supply condiment bottle. Pour this over sautéed chicken thighs and rice cooked with sazon, and you’ll half-assed see what the craze is all about, nothing beats the original. I’m very curious to see if people will love this sauce as much as I do, so if you happen upon this recipe please respond back with your findings.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The super-bowl is getting closer and closer. And there is no better way to celebrate the biggest game of the year, than to eat until you fall into a coma and hopefully never wake up. The go-to plan for most super bowl parties is: buy a large variety of chips, various dips, pizza, wings, and maybe a 6 foot sub. While these are all very convenient and generally satisfying options, why not change things up a bit for the big game? Setting up a hot dog or chili bar is an easy and fun way to feed your guests with actual food. Just by cooking up a large number of hotdogs and keeping them warm beside a variety of toppings, such as chili, sliced jalapenos, melted cheese, diced onions, and of course the basics (ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut, etc) you can keep your guests happy for the entire game. No fuss, no muss!

If you’re looking to feed an army of sports fans and make your house smell like heaven, cook up a large pot of chili. Here is a great chili recipe that is simple to make:

1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, chopped
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
Crushed red pepper flakes (flakes get hotter when cooked, use accordingly)
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup steak sauce
5 slices bacon
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 package chili seasoning mix
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
In a pot over medium-low heat, combine tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, celery, wine, pepper flakes, bell peppers and steak sauce.
While mixture is simmering, cook bacon until crisp and drain.
Cook beef in bacon drippings until brown; drain.
Stir chili seasoning into ground beef.
Stir seasoned beef, cumin and bacon into tomato mixture.
Continue to simmer until well blended and add beans and parsley then serve.
You can make a whole batch of corn bread or biscuits to serve alongside the chili or you can serve with the typical crackers, tortilla chips, and bread. These are just 2 simple ideas for your super bowl party, the point is to be creative and not follow the chip and dip trend. By differentiating yourself, you can be sure your friends and family won’t forget game day at your house.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Comfort Food, Public-Access Style

On there was a great piece on comfort food, those great dishes that take us all to a better place. It gave the opinions of a variety of chefs and food critics. Some chefs included David Machado, chef and owner of Lauro Kitchen in Portland, OR. He lists his favorite comfort food as Portuguese chicken and rice, this is similar to the Spanish arroz con pollo (you can find a recipe for arroz con pollo on this site). Lynne Rosseto Kaspar, host of “The Splendid Table” lists pasta and tomato sauce as her favorite comfort food saying “When time is short but dear friends must be fed with joy and not pressure, I make pasta with tomato sauce” Those words make a simple pasta and tomato sauce sound all the more better. All of the chefs and writers listed, had great entries, but it was the recipe submitted by John Pence, of “Cooking with Caprial and John” for beef stew and polenta that gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

Beef Stew with Polenta
Serves 4
2 pounds beef stew meat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 cups beef or vegetable stock
1 medium onion
3 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves, chopped
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 shallots, chopped
2/3 cup finely ground polenta
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tablespoon dried
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Springs of thyme, for garnish

Trim the excess fat from the stew meat. In a large stockpot over high temperature, heat the olive oil until smoking hot. Add the beef and brown well on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes. Briskly stir in the 4 cups beef stock thoroughly. Add the onion, potatoes, carrots, and garlic and cook over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beef is tender.
About 10 minutes before the beef has finished cooking, prepare the polenta. In a heavy saucepan over high heat, bring the 2 cups vegetable stock and shallots to a boil. Whisk in the polenta slowly so that no lumps form. Season with salt and pepper to taste, Cook the polenta about 3 minutes, or until it becomes very thick. Stir it well to avoid scorching the bottom. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside.
When the stew has finished cooking, add the thyme, 1 teaspoon pepper, and salt to taste.
Divide the polenta among 4 bowls and ladle the stew on top. Serve immediately, garnished with sprigs of fresh thyme.

Here is the link for the great story by Marina Gordon and Brad Smith

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bad case of calorie counting

News is out today that NYC fast food joints may be required to post calories of their products in clear view of consumers. This isn’t the first time the city wanted to impress the health risks of greasy fast foods to the public. In September of last year, a motion was struck down by a federal judge, adding that it would be more acceptable if it included more restaurants that fast food. Any restaurant that operates at least 15 locations would be subject to the new regulation which would kick in March 31st if passed. New York City also passed a bill that banned trans-fat cooking oils in restaurants last year, in a effort to curb obesity and unhealthy eating choices. I appreciate the efforts made to convince the general public to eat healthier, but to what extent are lawmakers willing to go? A new descriptive menu for all the fast food places in NYC is going to cost restaurants thousands of dollars. This cost to them is a terrible disadvantage in an already saturated market. Furthermore, the further the government is to what I put in my mouth the better. The hopes of putting the calorie count on menus are that people will actually get to see how bad this food really is. I can agree that a majority of people don’t know how many calories a Big Mac or a Whopper has. But I’m positive that everyone who eats these products acknowledges they are bad for you. Show me a group of people who say a daily regimen of McDonald’s Quarter Pounder value meals are a healthy food option, or that a diet rich in cheesy gordita crunches are the key to long life, and I will back any calorie counting bill out there. My point is this; every person capable of speech knows this kind of food is unhealthy. You don’t have to shove the information down the people’s throat (no pun intended), I mean give us a little credit. It all comes down to; let people eat what they want to eat. Stop trying to scare people out of eating a burger or fries and give us enough rope to hang ourselves……enough rope to fit around our super sized necks.