Monday, January 24, 2011

Middle Finger To Winter

Hi there today, so are you enjoying the worst time of the year?  The bitter cold, relentless snow, and the morons who can't drive in it?  Its what I like to call old man winter's revenge.  The revenge part was put in to make it sound more dramatic and scary, did it work?  So do you curl up with some pork grinds and pack it in until April?  I know a lot of questions so early in the week huh, oh well I will give you time to compile your answers.

Winter is a season I think that has two personalities.  The one side its what kicks off the holiday season which to me is still magical no matter how old I become.  On the other hand Winter has it's dark side, it is the guest at the party who won't leave no matter how hard you want them to.   As an impulsive eater Winter is like the evil devil on my right shoulder who is telling me, that it is ok, go ahead with the take out pizza you still have jeans that fit and don't forget about the sweat pants with the elastic.

So how do you combat the relentless pounding of old man winter?  I think you first walk outside in shorts and a t-shirt and give it the finger or whatever you deem appropriate.  Be creative, but mindful of your neighbors and the local laws of indecency.  Then what I think you do is plan a picnic, yes a picnic that revolves around everything that isn't winter.  To hell with braising and soups, do something rebellious again be creative. Close your eyes and think summertime barbecue and all the food that accompanies it, imagine you have a perfect tan and everyone hates your sexiness.  

I would say for starters wipe the snow off the grill and fire it up.  Your neighbors will think you are crazy and think you forgot to pay your gas bill.  It will certainly get you a double take and maybe they will return all those "borrowed" tools they have just out of shear paranoia.  Then get the grill white hot and throw some Flintstones style steaks on there and let them sear and cook to perfection.  Then a nice cold pasta salad and some homemade baked beans.  You know the ones where you really bake them instead of just reliying on the talking dog brand.  Then clear some space on the floor in the living room and throw a blanket down and have a Winter picnic.  Make some fruity drinks and close your eyes and pretend its 75 degrees with a slight breeze and all is super awesome.

Now a word to Winter:

Winter you may be a necessary evil, but it doesn't mean I like you or care to enjoy you.  To me you are the frienemy of the all the seasons. I will fight you with every fiber I have and you will not get the best of me.  Go ahead and snow and make my 20 minute commute a two hour one you will not conquer me.  Because I have warm food and friends to get me through.  So take yourself back north where people enjoy you, you are not welcomed here no more.

Now that felt good.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bringing Sexy Back With Short Ribs


Braised Short Ribs


  • 8 whole Beef Short Ribs
  • Kosher Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • ¼ cups All-purpose Flour
  • 6 pieces Pancetta, Diced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 3 whole Carrots, Diced
  • 2 whole Shallots, Peeled And Finely Minced
  • 2 cups Red Or White Wine
  • 2 cups Beef Or Chicken Broth (enough To Almost Cover Ribs)
  • 2 sprigs Thyme
  • 2 sprigs Rosemary

Preparation Instructions

Salt and pepper ribs, then dredge in flour. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven, cook pancetta over medium heat until complete crispy and all fat is rendered.

Remove pancetta and set aside. Do not discard grease.

Add olive oil to pan with the pancetta grease, and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, about 45 seconds per side. Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.

Add onions, carrots, and shallots to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pan to release all the flavorful bits of glory. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.

Add broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged. Add thyme and rosemary sprigs (whole) to the liquid.

Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving. At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid.

(Can also refrigerate mixture, then remove solid fat from the top.)
Serve 2 ribs on bed of creamy polenta, spooning a little juice over the top.

Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta 


  • 1 cup Yellow Cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 4 ounces, weight Goat Cheese

Preparation Instructions

Bring 4 1/2 cups water to a boil.

Add cornmeal to the water in a thin stream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.

Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, adding salt and extra tablespoons of water as needed.

When polenta is done, stir in butter and goat cheese. Check seasonings, and add salt to taste.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Supper Status Update

I must warn you that I have been curbing sugar out of my life, and normally when I do this it affects my brain in ways I can't explain.  Normally it makes me depressed which is always good for a blog post but not for my sanity.

"Update your status with me face to face, I promise I will shower first. "

Sunday is here and that means one thing, Sunday supper.  Yeah Sunday supper, for those unfamiliar, this is where you spend the majority of the day making a dinner or supper and then you and your family sit down and enjoy the food slowly and relish in the idea of being unplugged for the evening.  As a kid we didn't always eat the most gormuet food but we did enjoy our hamburger helper together.  It would be a time where issues would be resolved and stories would be told.  Laughter would be at a constant and I would have to say this time spent are some of my most cherished moments as a kid.  When I remember my Dad's laugh, I remember it from countless times we had Sunday supper.

In order for this to work today I think you would agree  you will need to go unplugged.  Collect the cell phones and other tethered devices and put them in a basket and turn them off.  I know this will be difficult because some folks just have to check their phone every 4 seconds to see if anyone has updated their status on Facebook.  My opinion I find that Facebook has gobbled up the time in people's lives that was reserved for wanting to really know how someone is, instead we just read a typed status update.  But that is a rant for another day when I crankier.  With the slow food movement growing in popularity in this country I think its important to take time to unplug from what is dragging you down and plug into what can make you alive again.

I think food can be a catalyst to bring people together in ways that most have forgotten.  Flavors can arouse a memory that can be shared with people face to face, instead of a dumb status update on Facebook.  The idea that food is more than just nourishment for our body, but a way to refuel your soul I think has been lost by the cattle troughs we tend to go to when we are hungry.  You know the place, its where you can sit down and get a chicken fingers basket that your digestive system will eradicate instantly, yeah not pretty.  So why not just spend Sunday cooking and reuniting with your friends and family.  Reconnect with stories and laughter that will fill your soul instead of blank space on the internet.

If you have a Sunday supper tradition I would love to hear it.  If you don't, I challenge you to start one and let me know how it goes. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Celery Root: Ugly On The Outside, But Tasty On The Inside

Yield: 4 servings

Butter2 TBS

Celery root, 1 Lb, trimmed, 1 inch dice2 each

Potato, large dice1 each

Onions, medium, chopped2 each

Celery, chopped1 C

Leek, chopped, white part only1 each

Salt and freshly ground black pepperas needed

Garlic cloves, minced2 each

Thyme, fresh1 tsp

Dry vermouth or dry white wine1/2 C

Bay leaf1 each

Chicken or vegetable stock5 C

Extra virgin olive oil1/4 C

Celery leaves, freshas needed

Lemon juiceas needed

Olive oilas needed

Umbrian truffles, black, shavedas needed


1. Melt butter in a heavy, large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery root, potato, onions, celery and leek. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

2. Add garlic and thyme to pot and stir 1 minute. Add vermouth and bay leaf to pot, then increase heat to boil until most of the liquid evaporates, about 8 minutes.

3. Add stock to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and let soup cool somewhat, then puree soup in a blender in batches until smooth.

4. Return soup to saucepan. Blend in olive oil and reheat upon service. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with extra virgin olive oil, celery leaves tossed in lemon juice and olive oil and thinly shaved truffles.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wine and Conspiracies

I think if it wasn't for the grocery store I don't think I would have any idea what holiday I am supposed to celebrate next.  I consider myself pretty slick in a grocery store, I know what I need before hand, and that is normally what I get, unless there is a sale on bear claws then all bets are off.  I noticed on a recent trip to the grocery store that the next holiday that I will be having to celebrate is Valentine's Day.  Or I like to call the granddaddy of all Hallmark Holidays.  I consider this holiday a grand conspiracy between Hallmark cards and all the jewelry stores in the world.  Every year I say I am not going to celebrate this holiday but then I am reminded that I am married, and if I want to remain that way I better make a tasty sexy dinner accompanied by some sort of present normally in a long stem variety.

The dinner part of Valentine's day is something I don't mind to prepare.  I normally have a bottle of wine opened and ready before I even start cooking.  Also I have some music streaming through the stereo and I am singing at the top of my lungs.  And yes I am by myself so to not burn the ears of anyone not even the dog.  But what should be on the menu for Valentine's Day?  Normally I would say something that isn't too crazy and when I say crazy I mean you can make it while drinking a bottle of wine.  This means keep it simple stupid.  This should be something with fresh ingredients and in one plate and shouldn't be too heavy.  This is because you want to make sure you consume twice as much wine as food.  Come on, it's Valentine's day and it falls on a Monday this year, not normally a day where there is a "night cap" if you know what I mean.

So what have we learned today?  First Valentine's day is conspiracy between Hallmark and every jewelery store in the world.  Secondly, when preparing Valentine's day dinner you should consume a 2:1 ratio of wine to food.  And finally, I may have a slight drinking problem considering how much I just talked about wine and its just after 9am.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To Serve And Be Served

Here is an easy question, what is the worst service you ever received in a restaurant?  Since I live in the land of box format eateries i.e.(Applebee's, O'Charleys, etc)  I have a million different stories of bad service.  Most involve a waiter or waitress not simply listening and having about the attention span of an ant.  They are more interested in getting back to their phone so they can OMG to their boyfriend about how much they hate their job.  Meanwhile I am wondering if my drink will ever be refilled.  To get bad service usually means that either you got a bad server or the kitchen is a train wreck. Either way your probably not going back to that restaurant for a long time if ever.

Since I have been at Culinary school I have seen all ends of this endless circle of excellence and disaster.  I have worked in the school kitchen and I have served in the dining room class.  If your not in the industry then you just expect to get great service and great food every time, right?  Before the doors open this is the wish of everyone working, trust me.  To have a perfect service is an expectation that you will dream about, but will never happen.  What separates a good restaurants from bad one is how they can work together to overcome the train wreck and make it seamless to the customer.

Yeah so the cook is hungover, too bad cook and make it taste good.  Yeah so the waitress just had her boyfriend break with her, so what you better have a smile on your face and treat each table like its your grandma or Sister Ann from St. freaking Mary's.  Is this harsh?  Heck yeah it is, and that is what makes this industry one of the hardest to work in on a daily basis.  Because the customers coming into your restaurant don't care about any of your sob stories, they just want their drink refilled and their food correct and hot and served with a smile.

So if you are in the industry and you thought this post was uncalled for then I would say, the world need ditch diggers too.  As for you Mr. or Mrs customer I would tell you to not pay for crap.  If you feel your food sucked don't pay for it, because your food and your dining experience shouldn't be like a slap from a clown.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BBQ Sauce On The Brain

When the weather takes a nasty turn I find myself inside and I think about condiments.  My favorite one is BBQ sauce, yes I consider it a condiment and I like to use it on almost everything.  Here is a recipe for a pretty darn good BBQ sauce.  It calls for 2 bottles of beer I should suggest two for the recipe and two to drink while making. 

Yield: 8 servings

Bacon, smoked, diced (or one ham hock)8 Oz

Onion, large, smoked, coarsely chopped1 each

Garlic cloves, smoked, chopped4 each

Ancho chilies, stems and seeds removed2 each

Arból chiles, stems removed2 each

Cracked black pepper1 TBS

Worcestershire sauce2 TBS

Beer, 12-Oz bottles2 each

Ketchup2 C

Hot pepper sauce6 dashes

Lemons, juice of2 each

Kosher salt2 tsp

1. Place bacon in a small sauce pot and cook over medium heat until crisp. Add smoked onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add ancho and arból chiles to pot and cook until chiles start to toast. Add cracked black pepper and deglaze pan with Worcestershire sauce and beer. Reduce sauce until it starts to thicken, then add ketchup and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes. Season sauce with hot pepper sauce, lemon juice and kosher salt. Strain barbeque sauce through a chinois and reserve.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Thin Line

With the new year if gives us time to reflect and look forward.  Hopefully in a positive manner, hopefully its an opportunity to get excited about the challenges ahead and the unseen rewards of just being alive.  For me I always look to be positive and hope for the best but then I come to, and realize with everything there is a thin line of BS that most people want to ignore.  Well I am the one who looks for that line first and then I go from there and evaluate. 

This is not the best way to muddle through things including food and all things culinary because will make you one grumpy person.  I can't just watch a simple cooking show without first ripping it apart with my cranky suggestions or culinary corrections.  I am not proud of this, but after one year at Culinary school I consider myself a genius of all things food.  I am kidding, I am no genius of anything, to be a genius you have to be a smart I am just cynical.  Which along with my sarcasm makes for a pretty hilarious time when watching the Food Network.  Hey I would love to make the jack these folks make for making grilled cheese ten different ways but for now I will sit on my fat butt and enjoy myself by looking for the thin line of BS.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cooking With Friends

A few weeks back my friend Bill Early asked me to help cater a dinner for about 70 folks, I immediately said, "hellz yeah."  So while you are watching boring football I will be making some awesome food with friends.  If we take pictures of the food I will update this post later. 

Here is the menu:
  • Prosciutto di parma with aged manchego and Arugula on Crostini
  • Seasonal Bruschetta
  • Seared scallop with caramelized brussels sprouts with vinaigrette
  • Quinoa cake with aged balsamic, seasonal vegetables and fried sweet potato matchsticks
  • Bison Slider with aged goat cheese on mini bun
  • Chocolate Chiffon Tart and Fresh fruit tarts