Sunday, February 27, 2011

Please Hold The Ego

I hate when I see food and ego get in the way of making a good meal.  I find the more and more I walk through this culture of food I see where people are just making it too complicated.  Now don't get me wrong there is always going to be a market for wacky uber fancy food.  There will always be people that think their fiftey dollar bottle of wine is better than your ten dollar bottle.  Those folks are in another timezone of reality and I hope they enjoy every minute of their egoasm of life.

For me its a trick and a challenge to find satisfaction in taking fresh local ingredients and making them fun and interesting.  I love going to the market with a list and painstakingly finding the best lemon the ripest avacado.  Then heading home and unwrapping your goodies and then deciding what to work on first and what to put in the fridge.  I love to start with cutting something just so I can hone my knife.  I normally walk out on my back deck to do this, it helps me keep my neighbors on their toes.

I see ego at school all the time and I find it to be the one indgrediet that you can buy for free but can't sell for all the money in the world.  Its what can turn any good dish to garbage in a heartbeat.  I never carry a chip on my shoulder when it comes to my food.  The way I see it if you don't like what I make it just means I need to work harder next time so you do.  But if you cook with love you will never fall short to capture someones heart.  Food is not about awards or medals you can hang in your office and its not about fancy chef coats with so much crap on it you look like a nascar driver. No, food is about taking what you have and offering it to another.  Whether that is a fine steak or a ritz cracker.

Be honest with food and you will never tell a lie on the plate. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Real Foodie

Sometimes I am overwelmed with all the TV choices available to you if your a foodie.  Yeah a foodie, I know that term gets thrown around a lot, and frankly it makes me a little queezy.  Queezy in the sense that with the advent of cable channels such as the Food Network and the Cooking Channel now everyone is a foodie or food expert.  Now I have said repeatably that I don't ever claim to be a food expert.  The only expertise I have when it comes to food is knowing when it sucks, unfortunely it sucks a lot.

Growing up in a house that worpished Hamburger Helper, and when I say worshiped I mean I was having tuna helper nightmares  almost every week.  So as a child it was never explained to me that food didn't come out of a box or that you could grow your own food and with some creativity you could create meals.  Also there was no sense of a foodie culture that I was able to see anyway.  There was no internet or food network, your kitchen was all about what was handed down through the years.  Thank goodness for me I had one of the coolest Grandmas in the world who knew how to cook, and cook well.  She showed me how to take raw ingredients and bust out some of the tastest food ever.  Come to find out later that the amount of butter she used would be considered criminal in most states.  I consider her the first foodie I knew, she didn't spend countless hours watching a food channel to learn food.  Everything she learned was in her own kitchen and made with her own two hands.  She knew what was good and baby it was super good all the time.

 I talk to people all the time who are keeping the old ways of cooking alive in their kitchen.  Sharing what they learned from their family and passing it down to their children.  This is important because real cooking comes from the heart.  It starts with a sizzle in a pan and the sound of a knife hitting a cutting board.  A smile across the table from someone who consider you their hero. 

Now that makes you a foodie.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Express Yourself

Sorry for not posting on Valentine's Day but I don't consider myself a lovey dovey guy so I didn't see the sense on faking it.  Although I am always amused by people who feel like they have to go out to dinner for Valentine's Day. Now I can surely appreciate not wanting to destroy the kitchen, and letting someone else do the cooking for one night.  Although by cooking at home you can express how you feel so intimately, a plate of food that says more than you could ever say in a card or roses.  

Expressing love with food seems to have been demonized lately because of the growing obesity epidemic that is cribbling America.  But love can be expressed on plate without stacking it a mile high.  For instance if you know your partner like scallops then don't just take them to Red Lobster.  But what if you went to the store or market and selected the best scallops available.  Then went home and delicately cooked them, maybe basted with brown butter, to the point where they stop just being food but an expression of how you feel and love that other person.  

Food is personal, food is life, and food can say a lot about how you see yourself.  I know people who starve themselves without food, and those drowned themselves with food.  To understand food you don't have to spend a million dollars each week at whole foods.  Understanding how ingredients affect others is the key to developing flavors and building those layers to the point of ecstasy.  This is not hard and trust me it can be done with little knowledge.  Here are some PDF files that can help you become a ninja in no time:

Non Meat/Pantry Essentials

I believe expressing your love towards someone with food is one the most intimate experiences you can share with the one you love.  Of course some wine can always help things along, or at least get you the nightcap.  When it gets to that point you are on your own.

Here is a recipe that is easy, but I think has that sexy factor built in:

Filet Mignon with Mushroom-Wine Sauce


2 tbsp. butter, divided
3 tbsp. shallots, minced
1/4 C. fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
3/4 C. dry red wine, divided (Cabernet is nice)
5 fl. oz. beef consomme
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 (4 ounce) filet mignon steaks
1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. dried thyme
fresh thyme (garnish)

Filet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce

In a nonstick frying pan, saute shallots and mushrooms in 1 tbsp butter for about 4 mins, til tender.

Add 1/2 cup of red wine and 3 fl. oz consomme. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the mushrooms from sauce, set aside.

Boil wine mixture over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup.

Combine sauce with mushrooms in bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, combine combine soy sauce with cornstarch. Set aside.

Sprinkle filets with pepper to taste. Saute steaks in remaining 1 tbsp butter over medium heat, about 3 minutes per side for a 1-inch thick steak.

Reduce fire to medium-low heat; cook steaks until desired level of doneness. Remove from pan, keep warm.

Add the rest of the red wine and beef consommé to the skillet, scraping to deglaze pan and incorporate tasty steak bits into the sauce. Bring to a boil. Boil for one minute. Add mushroom/sauce mixture, cornstarch/soy sauce mixture, and the thyme. Boil one minute, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Place steaks on plate and pour sauce over. Garnish with fresh thyme.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Whining About Wine

So today i want to talk about wine, well really I want to try to understand wine?  No, No, I got it, you drink it with or without food and it makes you happy and drunk.  What I don't understand is this whole complex world that surrounds wine.  Like how you are supposed to look at it, the way you are supposed to smell and taste it.  On the surface it appears to me to be a little snobbish and too fancy for me, or is it?

Lets face it I am a pretty simple guy who can smell BS from a mile a way and I don't like to be handed a pile of crap and be told its roses.  With that said, when we got to tasting the wine today in Mixology class I felt a little left out.  Left out because I wasn't buying into the whole pomp and circumstances that is the five minute dance of tasting wine.  I guess I felt like a snob doing it and I hate feeling that way, its not me.  So when people were sniffing the wine to identify it automatics I wasn't smelling a thing.  I guess I wouldn't let myself just make up something that wasn't true.  While fellow classmates were smelling bananas and currents I was confused because for me it was still just grapes and rubbing alcohol.

Maybe the wine culture is too complicated for me, maybe I don't fit in to this lifestyle.  Wait, maybe there was a way to make wine simple.  A way to make it more accessible to people who don't want to be uber geeks about it, instead they just wants to sit down and enjoy some wine without feeling they need to be wearing ascot and a fur coat.  The only problem with this idea is that I think the complexity of wine is why all the fancy people like it, the idea of it being so complicated that they are the only people that could possibly explain it to you is what makes them feel special. Its like the IT guy at work who comes down to your cubical to fix your computer, and then decides to spend an hour telling you everything he knows about computers and how he would father Steve Jobs baby if they could.  So how do I learn more about wine without getting caught up in the crazy world of tannins and terroir?

I am still working on that last question, this is going to be a journey that will probably result in me spending too much on wine and embracing the nasty morning wine headache.  So I will keep you up to date.  For now I guess I need to find a good place to buy good wine.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Taking Time Back

Time flies by and before you know it you have more hair coming out of your nose and ears than you do on the top of your head.  Always wondered how you could get time to slow down enough to enjoy it.  Is it money or success?  Not sure about that, because money and success is something you'll never feel you have enough of for yourself or enough to impress others to gain their acceptance.   So when does time slow down for you?  For me its when I can just stand and listen to the wind blow or listen to a song that makes me feel something real.

Time is important, and most people who have none would give their right arm to have an extra hour a day.  An extra hour to spend with their child.  An extra hour to take that nice relaxing bath with fancy candles lit.  An extra hour to just sit and let life slow down.

When life tells you your moving to fast, its too late.  Someone passes away and on the way home from the funeral you hear,

" I am going to spend more time doing the important things in life."

A week later your back to killing yourself in your job or trying to be everything to everyone.  Unfortunately, you have become nothing to yourself, and you have failed to impress those people who don't care about you at all.

With the Super Bowl today it would be a great opportunity to take some time back.  Stop worrying about work or all those folks in your life that drive you crazy.  It should be a day that you kick your feet up and just enjoy a good time with the people that mean the most to you.  And by enjoying it I don't mean consuming enough beer and wings to kill a large grizzly bear. Grizzly bears are our friends even though they want to eat your arm.

Looking for something to make for the big game try this:


Chicken wings1 Lb

Garlic cloves, crushed5 each

Rice wine vinegar1 1/2 C

Soy sauce1 C

Water1 C

Bay leaves 3 each

Black peppercorns1 TBS

Canola oil2 TBS

Coconut milk1 TBS

Scallions, choppedas needed

1. Combine chicken wings, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, water, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a saucepot, making sure there is enough liquid to cover chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook 35 to 45 minutes. 
2. Remove chicken from pot. Reserve chicken and braising liquid separately.
3. Pan-fry wings in canola oil until browned on both sides.
4. Add braising liquid to pan and simmer until chicken is heated through.
5. Add coconut milk to pan and stir to combine. Garnish with scallions and serve.