Friday, February 26, 2010

State of the Blog Address......

Well what do we think................Is what we are doing worth reading?? Do we have something to contribute?? OR.....is it all nonsense???

.....I don't think so, I started this blog after developing a strong affinity for the kings of this realm(if you don't know who they are just take a peek at the top right of the page). What I do like is the transparency of this blog....we tend to keep our emotions on our collective sleeve. Mike made the point a couple of weeks ago that we shouldn't just state what ingredient we used and what we did with it......but add some character and approachable reality to what we do........and I think that is a good point. I'll be honest, Mike almost quit the blog a week ago based solely on his passion of making his point the way he thought it would be most affective, that is the beauty of Foodbros. Three different aspects, styles, outlooks, and philosophies.

As far as the state of the blog....I think its blooming and I see nothing but blue skies ahead......I will add this however, we are looking to develop a logo so any of our artistic readers feel free to contact us about your ideas, also we will..."sooner than later".....hopefully....offer catering.

Anyways, Mike is in Florida, Brennan is in Georgia, and I am holding down the fort in South Carolina...never hesitate to contact any of us......more to come soon...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What were you thinking about Ray?

Something like that anyways....Once again, no pictures. We just successfully pulled off the 1st batch of marshmallows. Unbelievable how simple some things are that you never consider trying on your own. No hocus pocus or molecular doodads just water, sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and flavor. Too bad they don't make candy thermometers a bit more durable. Mine lasted about 20 minutes out of the package.
One of my guys had smores on the brain. He took crepes I had made and tried different stuffings. With much collaboration we unravelled Smores into graham cracker crepes, fresh marshmallow inside, hot cocoa in a espresso cup...still working on the rest of the components. Just excited that marshmallows are so easy. Now I want to work on savory meringes like the cooler Voltaggio brother made the one time.
For the marshmallow recipe, no plagiarizing. I used Alton Brown's. Lot's of his recipes work well actually.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One of my favorite things ever


Pickled Apples:


  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup apple juice

  • 1 vanilla bean

  • 2 sprigs rosemary

  • 3 tbsp. sugar

  • 2 tbsp. salt

Pickled Grapes:



  • 1/2 cup Banyuls wine vinegar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire

  • 1 tsp. brown sugar

  • 3 tsp. granulated sugar

  • 1 tsp. salt

Soy Pickled Cucumbers:



  • 1/2 cup tamari

  • 1/4 cup yuzu or lime juice

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

  • 1 tbsp. honey

  • 1 tsp. chili sambal

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

Pickled Fennel:



  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 4 tbsp. sugar

  • 3 tbsp. salt

  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic

  • 3 sprigs of thyme

  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I survived nuclear holocost, biological warfare, desecration of the gene pool by the Jersey Shore cast, and all I got is this crummy teeshirt...

It got your attention yes? Well it's better than calling this post Taco Night, which is what it is. I like tacos. They are in many senses of the word a perfect food. Nutritious, delicious, and a ridiculous number of possibilities. Becca and I.....thanks again for the post Becca, quite well put; we have been scouring the realm of Taconess for almost a year now. At least once a week if not more, I get home in time to peel off the whites in favor of PJ's and explore salsas, chilies, and spice mixtures through the drone of Cash Cab and Jeopardy and a wife who is definitely smarter than me.
I finally broke down and bought the tortilla press I have been eyeballing at Food Lion for the last 2 years. Just couldn't stomach the $16.99. Man, I suck. But it's here and it's awesome. The beast weighs like 5 pounds.
So, where do we start? Proteins. Fish tacos? Really? This may knock one more nail in my coffin but I don't care. Fish tacos sound disgusting. Perhaps in uber fresh and fancy KaliforniaLand, they use quality but over here, I see fish tacos on a menu and I think frozen Talapia. Maybe carbon monoxide Barbie Dolled Mahi or Tuna with ooooohhhh blackening seasoning. That's fancy! What a healthy treat! So yeah, not a fan. Apologizes to those who are, someone steer me in the right direction or Fedex me a proper fish taco and I will gladly rethink this one.

On to meat. MEAT. Specifically beef. Chuck, sirloin, top round, bottom round, side round, ground round, run around..it's beef. Fatty goodness but maybe not the optimum choice for my taco today. Hard to compete with a beautiful, fresh Pico and you feel like your going to die or rupture like the guy in Alien after just a couple. No cute alien pops out either. Just cholesterol.

Pork? Maybe...Small diced pork loin. Kinda dries out quick. Little bit tougher than we might like in a soft shell. There's always tenderloin. Absorbs marinades well. Nice moisture content. Nice texture. Something to think about. Lastly in porkness there is the butt or picnic cuts and the braise. Cook low and slow. Pop in a Harry Potter book on tape and 380 hours later perfection. Shred it. Great for tacos but unless you planned the day before, you're kinda screwed if you get home at 6:30pm and want to eat by 8pm.

How about chicken? Ground chicken ok but pricey. Chicken breast fajitas....totally overrated. Sizzling plates don't excite me. Now if the waiter came out with a sizzling plate and his head was on fire, that's exciting. Anywhoo, you can buy a whole fryer bird for $6, braise it for 90 minutes, get all the meat, light and dark, and shred it. That's a nice taco.

Then there is turkey. You have listened to all of this so far and you still say that sometimes, maybe most of the time for comforts sake or speed, you just want ground meat filled taco goodness. Turkey is the path to enlightenment. 90/10 is kinda pricey, 85/15 has cheaper and has great flavor, and if you have the means, buy a bird and grind it yourself.

Fresh or hard shells. Pico or salsa. Limes. Cheese. Beans. Rice. Avocado. Hot sauce. Diced Chilies. And what to spice the meat with? Well, we've opened the door.

A friendly suggestion. Lettuce never fits. Chop some romaine. Put it on the side to prop up your beauties during construction then when half of the goodies have fallen out all over your plate, instant salad to be scooped up with fingers stinging with serrano and lime juice. What a night. Eat six more and go comatose till Conan comes back.


Lastly, I talk a lot of smack about this here part of Flordida I've been the last 7 years. But when it's the 3rd week of February and I'm outside at the Green Turtle, in the sunshine, with a pretty girl, a NewCastle, and good live music, all is well in the world. Nighty night.

Corn Pops!!

Corn leek soup with corn cracklin....

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Dinner at the Georgian Room


A few weeks ago Courtney, me, Mike and Becca sat down to eat at the restaurant that I spent the past three years cooking at. It was a little strange and intimidating being on that side of the restaurant as a diner instead of back in the trenches with my fellow cooks. I loosened up after the first couple of coursed though. It was, by far, the best dining experience I've ever had. The guys threw down for us. Nine courses and, in my opinion, the perfect amount of food. Just enough to where the sight of the mignardise makes you hold your belly and sigh, but in a happy way. Thanks again to everyone in the Georgian Room, if you guys read this. The experience was the perfect way to complete my journey at the restaurant.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

OMG!! Does he, like, cook for you at home, like, all the time?!


That is probably the single most asked question I get after I tell someone that my husband is a chef. Don’t be embarrassed if you have asked me this before, I know you just can’t help yourself. :)
Well, here it is….YES, in fact, he does. And yes, it is awesome. The next reaction I get is almost one of relief when they subtly imply, unintentionally for the most part, that I can’t cook. Which I can, but we won’t get into that (just ask Mike about my meatballs! lol).
The truth is that being married to a chef is pretty great. Aside from the fact that I get to spend forever with my best friend and an awesome human being, I am always learning/experiencing new things from him. I grew up in Texas where we had amazing Mexican food-seriously amazing. La Nopalera is ok in a pinch, but ultimately not even close to being in the same league as real Tex-Mex food. In fact, I would kill for some Chuy’s, Pappasitos, Taco Cabana, or even Casa Ole (I know Michele is with me on this one :) ). My sister still lives in Houston and she knows how to send me in to a jealous rage with a simple text informing me that she is having lunch at Chuy’s right this very minute! Oh to live in a city that has a food scene!
I wouldn’t say that I was incredibly food cultured when Mike and I started dating. I have traveled a bit, so I wasn’t scared of ethnic or adventurous cuisine, but I was leery of things that I would come across that were on my will-not-try list. He would tell me stories about some of the things he had eaten over the years at previous jobs, or while in France and I would politely nod my head, but would secretly cringe at the thought. Really, goose liver?! How could that ever taste good?!
But, that in itself is why it is great to be married to a chef. Food that you once thought unimaginable and disgusting is all of a sudden not so terrible anymore, delicious actually. It’s amazing the technique and respect that goes in to preparing ingredients that the average person would deem, well, gross. Take foie gras. When he explained to me that it was goose liver, I was a little repulsed. Side note here- It can be incredibly insulting to a chef that has painstakingly prepared something that someone will not even try before ‘poo-pooing’ it. Not that they would ever tell you that but trust me, it can sting a little. So, after realizing my faux pas, I agreed to at least try the smallest bite I could get away with. To my surprise, it was delicious. I should tell you that I’m not some renegade chef’s wife that will try anything and everything. I’m not trying to put myself over by any means- I still draw my lines in the sand and there are some things that I absolutely will not try for now anyway.
Mike and I have had some pretty amazing meals at some pretty amazing places; Opus 39, Babbo, WD 50, Morimoto, The Georgian Room and of course Zaitoon to name a few. Most would be surprised to read that our favorite meal actually happens at our house once, or sometimes twice, a week. Yep, I’m talking about the wonder that is Taco Night. There is nothing better than when Mike gets to come home early during the week and make tacos. I’m not talking about the McCormick’s Taco seasoning packet or the Taco Bell box-o-meal that you get on the ‘ethnic food’ isle at the grocery store. We are on a ground turkey kick right now, which makes for great tacos. Ground turkey paired with freshly made salsa or pico de gallo is pretty fabulous.
This part is for the single ladies/guys out there that are ready to pounce on the next dude/chick they see in chef whites. So far I’ve painted a pretty rosy picture, right? This is my one and only warning to you. Be ready to never enjoy another meal out again. I’m serious. Don’t even get me started on when you have two or, God forbid, three chefs together at one meal. They will pick apart every single detail. I’m not going to lie, it can be pretty annoying at times, especially when it is your birthday dinner at a nice place (yes I’m referencing a specific event-you know who you are-lol). How do you overcome this one might wonder. Simple, you must ally yourselves with those chef’s significant others. Not only will they make eating out together fun, but it will also serve as your support group.
The support group comes in handy because the downside of the chef profession, especially if you are part of the resort world, are the late nights and you can forget about holidays. Valentine’s Day that is actually celebrated on Valentine’s Day? Um, what is that? I think I have gotten one real Valentine’s Day with Mike the whole time we have been together (and by real I mean actually on 2/14). We are lucky that Mike works for a privately owned restaurant so we get to share most major holidays together like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Having worked in the restaurant world for six years, I remember all to well having an early Thanksgiving dinner with my family so I could rush to work to serve the other half that couldn’t be bothered. To each his own, but for me, I couldn’t imagine not cooking at home for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Maybe it’s because I know how much it sucks to work on Christmas Eve or Thanksgiving just so you can have Christmas Day off. The key is to surround yourself with people in the same boat.
In closing, I think I speak for Courtney and Kristin when I say how proud we are of our boys. I have watched them for the past six years (God we are getting old!) go from working a pantry station, to working sauté (Thank God they finally got over themselves-lol. you know how you boys were on that station), to working at different restaurants on the same property. Then it was different restaurants in different cities, now in different states. This blog is a terrific way for each of you to showcase how far you have come. You knew it would get sappy with a chick writer. Sorry. :)
P.S. It says posted by Mike, but he doesn't get the credit for this one. :) - Becca

Friday, February 19, 2010

Flounder sandwich......



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A minor retraction

This is what I get for quoting recipes I have written down 25 miles from my computer. If anyone tried my bread recipe or may be thinking about it, I have modified the final recipe. I mis-quoted measurements and forgot about olive oil. But I fixed it. Till next time...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

TADA!!!

Not to shabby for a guy with remedial pastry skills, now if I could up my bread game maybe I could hang with Brennan and Mike...

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The clouds parted, the darkness lifted, and the Dollar General challenge was born....with a breakthrough in tomato sauce


On one of my more clever brainstorming sessions as of late I came up with it. I really wanted to cook again. Outside the confines of work, total freedom, just me, good product, and some friendly competition. Add in a strong desire not to break the bank on ingredients and a need to really push us, the Dollar General challenge was born. Six courses minimum, a small pantry yet to be determined, and all product must come from a 30 minute shopping spree at the Dollar General. No real specifics yet but loosely, the pantry will have salt, sugar, oil, and a couple other items. No fresh produce, no raw proteins......think I gotta buy a better can opener. I just sent out word to Brennan. Chris, any sundays off in the near future?
I'll write more when I get a more concrete rulebook drawn out. I'm excited. This is stripped down cooking. Brennan actually hesitated when I told him. I think he did anyways. All he said was ".....sounds challenging." Absolutely people. This will be bare bones manipulation of product that you have no control over how it came to be cooked, processed, and pumped full of god knows what to make it cost only chump change and have a certified expiration date later than the one stamped on my tombstone. That's not morbid people, just fact. When flying cars are zipping around, people will still be munching on Spam made in the 1980s.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our proud non-offical sponser Dollar General. It's one stop shopping ya'll. Everything you need to feed, clothe, and keep up a household of two or twenty. I'm serious any potential corporate lawyers that stumble upon the blog. No sarcasm here. There is a Dollar General days away from opening up a stone's throw away from the house and it's exciting when you live in nowhereville.
Anyways, I have been struggling with tomato sauce for years. When I say years, like my struggle with bread, I am not exaggerating. There is this plane of being that a simple tomato sauce exists on. So many subtle differences. Tart, sweet, spicy, rich, bitter, acidic; an unbelievable range of palate sensory. Then bring in application ie. for pasta, pizza, proteins. There are so many ways to go with it. All of mine seem to fall flat or are overdone, overworked, overthought, overdumped with too much junk. Until yesterday.
1 spanish onion, small dice
8 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 carrot, shredded fine
1/2 large bulb fennel, small dice
1 T chopped thyme
1 T chopped rosemary
1 t crushed red pepper
3 bay leaf
1/2 C good (chianti or something big) red wine
1 #10 can San Marzano peeled tomato
EVO
1/2 C roasted garlic cloves
1/4 C black truffle shavings
S&P
Sweat then caramelize the mirepoix in EVO...extra virgin olive oil and some kosher salt. Add everything else except the last two. Simmer 35 minutes. Add the last two. Simmer 10 more minutes. Trust me on the roasted garlic and truffle if you can find it. I had leftovers from Valentine's prep, tossed them in just cause and yes, magic harmony. #10 can of tomato is like 3 qts. Enjoy...
PS.... we have a guest blogger this week I hope. I asked Becca, my wife to offer us a little perspective. The topic I threw at her is "so I married a cook, now what?." Should be intriguing I think. No pressure Becca.
Halibut en papillote on the brain.....night night...

Okay, I think I'm going to make a banana rum cheesecake...



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Where the giants live......


I was reading Mike's blog about his trip to Europe and I started to get a little depressed because I haven't been there YET, but I did start thinking about my trip to Vegas last year. It was probably one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had and I can't wait to go back. Vegas is a culinary hotbed of heavy hitters, every hotel you walk in is lined with restaurants overlooking the casinos. We dropped some serious coin on just eating and believe me we could have spent more. We ate at Michael Mina's Nobhill Tavern, Keller's Bouchon, Todd English's Olives, and still didn't scratch the surface of what the strip had to offer.......

We decided to do breakfast when we went to Bouchon. After years of idol worshiping Thomas Keller, it took me little time to decide what I was going to have.....QUICHE!!! Now that could probably sound a little boring, but go read Keller's words on "The importance of eggs" and it will lead you to him speaking very passionately about quiche. It was by far the best one I have ever had, and so was the frites, and the donuts, even the coffee seemed like it was brewed by the hand of a true craftsman.

Next time I go, I think I'll go to Guy Savoy, or Craftsteak, or Joel Robuchon, cant decide.......cant decide....BRAIN ANEURYSM!!!!!!!!!! Either way, I will be ready with an appetite.......

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The dark age before pictures

Unfortunately, no pictures. My goal is to swipe my wife's old digital to have on hand at the restaurant. I have no idea how to get pics off my phone. Menu was simple, nice, excellent halibut from Iceland. I even kept a head to harvest the cheeks and neck. I soaked them in coconut milk, cumin, and maple syrup then pan roasted in butter. The dessert was a pain. I got a fantastic tuile batter recipe from David Waltuck's Staff Meals of Chanterelle but I had a problem with them softening up after only an hour. This may sound stupid but after segmenting a case of clementines, the drippings were the best OJ I have ever tasted. I did a clementine screwdriver intermezzo for some friends sunday night. What a sorbet they will make!

Just to put it on record and after some constructive criticism, I mean no ill will towards cooks at large or the general dining public. To those who don't know me well, I push buttons intentionally. Sometimes I make Andy Rooney look as optimistic as the dalai lama. I think I've addressed this before. Most times I don't see further than if I was writing to myself. I want people to read this blog. I want people to furthermore be engaged by it, learn a little, and take us seriously. I need to work harder at that. Maybe tone down the potency of things sucking. I just like that word. At the risk of showing my hand, it's all just banter. No harm intended. The real meaty stuff that sticks is all that matters. If you find us intriguing, different, or at least worth checking out once or twice a week, help us spread the word. We are going through some growing pains, viewership is our Advil.

I emulsified the cannellini bean puree with bacon and a rediculous amount of Foie fat. I poach Grade B foie in duck fat for a compound butter and the fat becomes foie gold. It was heavenly. Yes, I borrowed the dessert course from my wife's b-day dinner. Too good to not try again..

Valentine’s Day
Sunday February 14th 2010
1st course
Warm goat cheese tart, crisp prosciutto, macerated mission figs

2nd Course
Pears, candied almonds, clementines, mesclun greens, champagne vinaigrette

3rd Course
Roasted Atlantic halibut, t ruffled cannellini bean puree, wilted arugula and mustard greens, cabernet sauvignon and morel reduction

4th Course
Strawberry gelato, olive oil tuile, mascarpone mousse, Irish shortbread, dark chocolate straws

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our love affair with garbage.......


Where did we get our taste from? Honestly, as a regular ol' Amurican, where did it start? Let's get deep here. Really, let's get introspective, uncomfortable, and start pointing fingers. As a whole, we are finally starting to come out of it, whatever (it) is, and get on board the ship the seemingly rest of the world has been sailing on for centuries, but I want a witch hunt.
100 years ago this country was nothing more than immigrants and a select amount of townies who arrived a few hundred years before and cleared the slate of any native culture that might have proved somewhat established or interesting. So what happened? All of these cultures, fresh off the boat so to speak....I mean literally, check the records at Ellis Island; and 50 years later, their kids trade in a host of amazing food history for TV dinners? What happened? Was there too much? An overload of culture that refused to assimilate to the point of apathy? I love where I grew up. I love chicken wings. No really, I am using a word, to some The word about a deep fried bone wrapped in fatty goodness. I would use the "L" word on the 1st date with a chicken wing, even if it scared her off. Anyways, transplanting down here, I love southern food too. But the man/woman who created the chicken wing and the man/woman who created biscuits and gravy were not far removed from parents who came across the ocean with a host of food history and sure they created a new nitch but what about the off days? Were these people really ok going to Howard Johnsons or eating Stouffer's chipped beef?

When did these children of immigrants accept bastardized versions of what they grew up eating at home? Did the quick fix, land of opportunity, work till you drop, always on the go mentality that is America, assimilate the masses that hard? It makes me sad. Ask anyone young their backround. English, irish, polish, russian, latin american, african, phillipino, japanese; got to add Amurican on the end because so few even know who their ancestors were let alone what they ate like. That's where I make my stand. When did we non descript, mutts of culture call places like Olive Garden italian cooking? Whose ancestor decided that all authentic Mexican dishes were served slathered with sour cream, iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato, and shredded white American cheese? Did Geneal Tsao even know that he had his own chicken?

So what happened? Did we just get lazy? The rest of the world has gone on with their food love, lore, and at large seems to have beaten off the commerialized American machine with a pretty big stick. Is that a gross overgeneralization........maybe not so much. Yes, there are infected markets with McD's and the like but I guarantee, 99% of the native people still know and devour their country's library of cuisine.

Where does that leave us? Where does that leave me? I remember doing a report @ Paul Smith's my alma mat......the place I graduated from, and no I don't remember how to spell that word; and I did a report on cooking after the birth of the microwave. Chicken, turkey, steaks, cakes......that's right, baking a cake in the microwave.

We veered of course. Thankfully cooks in America are fighting back. Not all of them and not everywhere. But there are pockets. We are drawing the battle lines. We will not put up with this forever. We will infect everyone we can with an overall urge, desire, we will hook them on real food coming from real places, and bring history and respect back to the mainstream. Every man, woman, and child should taste the true foods of where they came from, savor in them, and be proud.

And if us cooks can make a buck or two while we're at it, not a bad gig. Maybe one day we'll share bits we keep for ourselves like duck skin or the fatcap on a prime rib.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Hiatus


Right on Brennan...

Really, smack that dough around like she owes you money. But how did you of all people master the intricate art of cut and paste video? No offense but what else are you hiding? I'm computer retarded and I still woop your butt at Halo or Bond everytime we play. Not fair but thanks for the visual.

That's all I have this week. Really. Valentine's has me in the shop 12-13 hours a day this past tues. till sunday. I'll post the menu in the aftermath. Just wanted to say hi, razze my snuggle buddy, and say, hope readers have a great V Day. Go support your local, sustainable restaurant scene. Capital Grill, Cantina Laredo, PF Chang's, and God help me Cheesecake factory are NOT local or sustainable. Don't get me started on the damn all you can eat soup or breadsticks antichrist.

Share something meaningful with the one you love or adore. Try Thai for the 1st time. Drink sangria over tapas. Ponder the menu at a vietnamese Pho dive; go for the rare beef. Cuban, portuguese, hell, a french bistro w/ pate and a decent cheese selection. Valentine's day is about bonding, shared experience, growing together. Let those who hopefully know best, really mean to, and pull it from scratch through mind and heart give you a memorable experience and warm your bellies and hearts. 99% guarantee, none of the above mentioned does heat bag, cut, serve cooking.
Eat well, drink well, sleep well....rest well....Till next time.

French Baguette dough (gluten developed)

video

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just to clarify


I was going to post a video for the visual learners, like myself, that would illustrate what Mike meant a couple of posts ago when he said "bread likes it rough." I'm having trouble getting this specific video to upload but I'll keep trying. You'll know when the gluten is starting to develop when it releases from the side of the mixing bowl and begins to slap violently against the metal as it's being kneaded. That's the sign that it's almost there. Then you use a technique called checking the window. Pull a little bit of the dough from the mixer and begin to spread it gently with your fingers. The dough should be able to stretch almost until it's translucent before it breaks. When it's there you can start your first proofing, which is my favorite step because you actually get to see your dough come alive. It allows the dough rest and create gasses through fermentation which causes it to develop flavor and expand so that it's easier to manipulate. Proofing can take from 20 minutes to an hour and a half depending on how warm your surroundings are, how warm the water is that you use, how humid or dry your surroundings are, and the age of your yeast. Yeast that's younger tends to become active quicker than older yeast. Heat and humidity will also speed up the process. I'm in the baking world right now so hopefully more techniques and visual aids to come. This one is a fennel raisin bread that is being shaped into a batard or torpedo.

video

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Red Pepper Gnocchi..

Last night was Tomasso's 1 year anniversary so we offered a flat 25% discount on every check with a free desert station. Despite our frugality these days I was allowed to get some grouper and run a special. The dish had a roasted red pepper potato puree(which sold extremely well I might add). So.....after last nights aftermath, I have all this red pepper potato puree(for those of you who have never worked with me I have an extreme tendecy to over do it). I wonder................... What should I do with all this puree???I decided to see if I could make a dough somewhat like a gnocchi and use it again in a different way. I was extremely pleased with the results, the color came through and the texture was fantastic, my only issue was the loss of the red pepper flavor from adding additional ingredients. I solved this problem by keeping some of the puree for a sauce. As far as the dough was concerned, I was most worried about the fact that the puree had a substantial amount of cream and butter in it, and how would this affect the dough. For what its worth, I thought it worked perfect, it felt like a regular gnocchi dough. Furthermore, the end result justified the means......

Caraway Crusted Grouper, Roasted Red Pepper Gnocchi with Kalamata Butter, Basil Oil

Monday, February 8, 2010

Back to nonsense....


So I've done what I thought prudent and posted a 3 parter about real meaty recipe cooking. It was rough. I mean it actually took real thought. Normally I go into irreverant nonsensical rambling and it's fun and easy. Actual advice on how to create in a kitchen is way too much like work. But I hope someone tries it out. I hope it works. 8 years of R&R go into that bread recipe. Sorry some parts are vague. Please really do track me down if you try it and have issues.

But anyways, I'm thinking about a blog. A couple actually. We ate at the Georgian Room saturday. 10 courses, 4 1/2 hours. That's one. I'd like to talk about this country's horrid fascination with butchering then popularizing bastardized versions of world class cuisines like Mexican and Italian. Lastly, I'd like to talk finally about Totinos pizza. I officially ate my last one friday night. Well, for the time being. They are horrible for you and it's time to eat better @ 1am. But I'd like to discuss why it is that so many of us find them heavenly. Until then...good luck and eat out but not at chains, they are killing food in America.....

For all the "Foodies" out there....

This is a list of the top 30 restaurants in the United States from Opinionated About Dining. There is also a breakdown of regions. Definitely gave me some new places to investigate.....

Stir....

Just picked this up a couple of days ago. Barbara Lynch certainly has found a way to make Italian food seem a bit more approachable. For the price, I think this book is a steal......and if you want to know more about her, check out her website...

Last Night's Amuse

Seared Scallop, Tomato Clam Cous Cous, Scallion, Balsamic

The picture quality is embarrassing I know. When I get everything from Jville up here I'll have better equipment, until then I have to live through the foggy lens of a cell phone.

Anyone tried Mike's bread recipe????? I'm starting on one that I want to make olive crisp with....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bread is near at hand or stomach...whichever, we're almost done..


Fatty thought he was helping by keeping watch on the prep table. In the beginning there was bread. Let us finish. With any luck, you have a stand mixer. If not, with any luck, you have forearms like Popeye. Here are the possibilites. Make one dough, split up the starter to make multiple flavors of dough, or either of the above and reserving some of the starter and continue to feed for the next time you want to make bread. You can even put the extra starter in the fridge and it kinda puts it to sleep so you don't have to feed it everyday.

Lets say that you are going to make two breads. Split the starter in half. Add half to your mixer w/ a dough hook attachment. Add 2 T sugar, 1 t kosher salt, 1 T malt extract/barley malt, 1/4 C extra vigin olive oil, and 3 C semolina flour. If you don't have semolina use the bread or HG flour and if that is not gonna happen, use AP flour. Add whatever flavoring you like. Begin to spin the dough.

You want this sucker to fight back. Continue to add AP or HG flour till it forms a ball. It should be firm, not sticky. Now once you get a firm ball, let the mixer run at medium speed for 10 minutes and let it have it's way with your dough. It's ok, dough likes it rough. You are creating texture. Next, cover the whole bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and put somewhere warm.

After it has doubled, maybe an hour and a half, punch the air out of it and form it into a ball, oblong, whatever you like. Wipe a sheet tray with olive oil or dust with corn meal, place dough on it and cover again and let sit another hour. Lets prepare for the end. I suggested trying a oven thermometer to see if it runs as the dial says it is. Electric ovens are unreliable. Put one rack on the bottom level with an empty sheet tray on it. Put one more rack at the medium level. Crank it up to 475F. When it is up to temp, take a razor and put a couple slits on the top of the dough. This will help it to rise and it looks nifty. Take a spray bottle of water and spray the dough lightly. Take about 6 ice cubes and toss them onto the sheet tray in the oven. Lastly place the bread into oven middle shelf and close the door.

Water, why water? Long story short, water or more importantly steam lubes the outside of the dough helping it stretch and rise. It caramelizes the sugars in the flour on the outside of the bread creating a crust. Big Note....don't open the oven. Don't matter how curious you may be, don't touch it. You'll let the steam out and most likely get a faceful of heat that would love to make you challenge Quasimoto in a busted face-off. After 10 minutes drop the temperature down to 375F and now you may peek, carefully, at your creation. You may need to turn it every so often to even the browning. Depending on the size, this could take 25 to 40 minutes to finish. This is where Wonderbread turns to a crusty love machine of flavor. Be patient. While you wait, I would look for somewhere to cool your bread that has a mesh or rack appearance. A flat bottom will create steam and the bottom of the bread will loose it's crunch. When your not sure if it's done there is only one thing to do. Pull it out. Hold it upsidedown with a towel or something and tap the bottom. It should be hard and hollow. For real, it should sound like rap a tap tapping on George W's noggin.

Now you have bread. If you have any problems or need help sourcing ingredients, just comment me and I'll do my best. Or here...this is my email mbarbour41880@hotmail.com. Happy eatings.

PS...some say bread is best fresh. I don't know. Letting it cool, slicing it, brush it with olive oil, and grilling it or under the broiler is fantastic.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ahhh ingredients, desert islands as we see....


Ok..... next step.....

I'm talking about bread if you don't keep up. I would feed the sucker. Same as last time. Here's where lots of variance may start. Can you find semolina flour or high gluten/bread flour or malt/barley extract? Look in the hippy stores. The crunchy, nag champa drenched grocery hide outs and you may have some luck. That's going to make the final steps well.....closer to what we might want. At least try to find bread flour.

It has a higher starch content. This means that basically it will fight you back if you mess with it. Opposed to regular all purpose flour, HG(high gluten) forms stronger bonds when you work it, and creates texture. Wonderbread uses SAL flour meaning Sucks At Living flour.

Next we should talk about possible flavor options. Fresh herbs, nice oils, salts, olives, cheeses, spices......all of these can be worked into your bread depending on your likes and dislikes. Take a minute or two. Think about what you want your first bite to be, then think about the second loaf....they don't have to be the same.

Take this opportunity as you feed your new baby to ponder the inevitable conclusion....your complete and utter satisfaction and etherial joy of creation that you can eat.....and bathe in butter or olive oil.
Don't worry, if you actually have read this and started, you are so far above anyone. Feed your starter every day, ponder this next move, and think about this. A sheet pan/cookie tray, spray bottle, a thermometer to see what temp. your oven actually cooks at, ice cubes, and a bat to smash and fend off those who smell the finished product...or zombies...for real, you have to be prepared, I only have so much room....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

22 Years of Wonderbread got me where?

Yes, yes, about time. I have been wordy and long winded thus far. Let's get to the meaty stuff. I have been obsessed with bread since my time in France. Always loved it but barely glimpsed the real scope of how far a shadow it cast. Not all bread comes in a rectangle, perfectly sliced, with a brown sponge wrapper call a crust by some.
Some breads bite back. In fact some breads refuse to let you in at all without a fight. I have tried to recreate sourdoughs, baguette, bagels, you name it. I have tried the entire "idiom" of bread. Blast you Chris for using such a killer SAT word before me. I digress.
I have had horrible luck.
Flour, sugar, salt, yeast, water. How on earth could it be so complicated?..........it is. I started messing with bread in 2002. I never worked in a bake shop. I finally started to understand bread last year. I love bread. I love making it. I love that I kind of understand it a little bit. I want anyone interested to make a loaf that warrants the reaction I got out of Brennan the night of my wife's b-day party. I was explaining a course or something and he literally told me to shut up, eyes wide like the mad hattter, and told everyone that they had to smell the loaf he had just cut into.

So here we go:
1 T dry yeast
2 t sugar
1 t kosher salt
3 C AP flour
H2O

Forget what you have read about bread AKA if you have a bread machine from Walmart, put in attic, furnace, don't care just don't let what you are about to make see the enemy. Start with 1 1/2 C cold water in a mixer, Kitchen Aid, or bowl. Add the yeast and sugar. Mix. Add a cup of flour and salt. Add rest of flour. Mix till it forms a pliable lob of dough. Like soft play-do. With plastic wrap, cover the actual dough lightly, then cover the whole bowl with plastic wrap. Put somewhere relatively warm; on top of oven overnight, on top of fridge, you get it, anywhere warm.
You are doing two things. Yeast and sugar are friends. Yeast and starch in flour are friends. They all hang out. Yeast does not like salt. They dated the same guy way back when, met up at a frat party one time, there was a slap till you drop fight, you get the picture. Yeast and sugar start their own party. The air we breath has it's own fraternity of yeast. You get flour, yeast, sugar, and the natural fraternal brotherhood of yeast and it's a rager. All this nonsense means that overnight, your starter as we will call it will grow. It will breath, literally. The yeast and sugar create oxygen which makes the dough bubble, natural yeasts in the air will slowly start to work themselves in creating FLAVOR and more bubbly.
Next day, feed the monster. This is a living thing. Not in a bad way. In a beautiful way. Bread, beer, cheese, wine,..these things are alive. Be ok with it. America is a petrie dish. Annoyingly so. Take 1 C warm water, 1 C AP flour. Uncover the beast. Peel the second layer of plastic off and mix in the water and flour. When it's all good and mixed, cover back up....just one layer over the top of the bowl this time and put it back to sleep.
Let it be. It's wants to be left alone. Tomorrow night we'll work on flavor...
Pictures....yes, yes...That's Becca taking a wiff and the other is me, Brennan chugging a beer and the bread station directly below his lushy elbow....altumura loaf already shown, rosemary thyme loaf, and kalamata loaf to be sampled w/ goat milk butter, parmigiano reggiano butter, and EVO w/ various sea salts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Forget all other pasta recipes and make this one your baby


1000g. Farina 00' flour, 3 eggs, 27 yolks, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup milk. You can't over work this dough. If time allows you, let it rest over night(a couple of hours will due if your in the weeds). This is your dough for any stuffed pasta you want to make. I'm a sucker for the trumpet shaped tortellini as opposed to the closed shaped. The high walls make for a perfect resting place for sauce and other hidden components you want to incorporate into the dish. A chef that I've worked for, who's better than I'll ever be gave me this COMMAND, "don't anticipate how your guests are going to eat, you make them eat your food the way you want them to." When you compose a dish you have components balanced to stimulate all angles of the palate. The only problem is that the diner doesn't always eat the food the way that you want them to. So you plate your food in a way so that they have to eat all components of the dish together the way you intended them to. The trumpet shaped tortellini is the perfect example. Pipe your filling onto a sheet of pasta dough about 3 wide. Fold the sheet over as if your about to make agnolotti. Seal the the dough with the appropriate ring mold and cut half moons. Hold the half moons up side down with the flat side facing out. Egg wash the left point and connect the right point to it. With your thumb, gently push down on the middle to flatten the bottom. The center should kind of resemble a belly button.

My Revalation in Progressive American Cuisine...

Sorry for the delay Mike, thats the luxury of having two other minds to meld(live long and prosper, thats my movie quote for this post). Circa 2007, I was finishing up culinary school and working at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotel in Orlando, FL. After almost a year at the hotel I finally got my transfer to Todd English's Blue Zoo(check out their blog, Bluechef) and at this point I thought I was a pretty good cook. Long story short, I realized that there was MUCH MUCH more for me to learn. We were in the middle of a small menu change and one of the dishes called for pea puree. As I read the MOP, I saw a vaguely familiar ingredient....."xanthan gum"...??? I knew I had seen that word on ingredient tags of commercial products, but what were we going to use it for. I was amazed to watch this unassuming powder thicken and stabilize the puree as it rained into the blender. From that moment I was intrigued, enlightened, and hungry to see what else I somehow missed. Unfortunately, my path had me leave Orlando before I had sponged up all the knowledge I could from the zoo. That is when I discovered this vast world of information on the Internet, that is why I started this blog, at that is how we learn to think progressively about the manipulation of whole foods. These new techniques and ingredients are what help us find ways to make liquids into solids, fats into powders, and pearls out of Pernod liqueur. Rarely a day goes by that I don't run through a gauntlet of blogs from chefs that are smarter than me so I can be better myself. Its part of the idiom of an accomplished chef, to hand down the knowledge.

Obviously Mike, Brennan, and I are just getting settled in with this blog and honestly I still spend the majority of my time on the page design. However, we will make sure to post more actual recipes and techniques that we find success with as we iron out the blog into a "well oiled machine" along with our individual culinary philosophy. Thanks for reading and don't hesitate to offer feedback.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where be-est thou?

Pick, really, where you at? Your public awaits. They're tired of my schtick. Write something already. The pig demands it.....I wish you could have cooked with us man. We need to come to you next time...peace out my partner in gayness...