Monday, November 30, 2009

What do you think?

Posts like the last one aren't particularly fun to write, and I can't imagine they are to read either. What do you like about this blog? What don't you like? What should I do more of? What should I do less of or not do at all? What's your favorite post?

If you could e-mail me or leave a comment giving suggestions, I would be grateful :)

My contributions to Thanksgiving

This year one of the most discussed topics at the dinner table was our lack of a green bean casserole. Its absence, I think, pleased everyone except my grandmom, a rather strict traditionalist. And lack of tradition was somewhat of a theme of the meal. Sure there was turkey and stuffing, but most of the dishes were unique, and were pretty representative of the family member who cooked them. I think I like this. I'm always gonna want turkey and stuffing at Thanksgiving, but as long as we stay rooted in tradition, I'm happy to grow from there- and I think we should.
This year I made a whole wheat panzanella salad with prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula and a sage-sherry vinaigrette.

I also made a roasted sweet potato salad with pine nuts, golden raisins, and parmesan and dressed it with a roasted garlic and rosemary aioli. - This was really delicious, I couldn't stop eating it, and the leftover aioli is great for turkey sandwiches.

Finally I made an apple pie. And that's that. Can't wait till next year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving thoughts?

Wow. Thanksgiving is in three days. Can you believe it? I think I'm still almost in summer mode, I feel like it's September yet I'm already hearing "Baby It's Cold Outside" on the radio. Not that that's a bad thing-- actually it's quite the opposite. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is just so happy and cheery. There's nothing better.

However I feel that all the images and stories of joyous times during the holidays and families opening presents kind of gives a false sense of happiness. I never feel as happy as these little kids do, I feel that holiday spirit emanating from everywhere but myself . I think it's because I don't really "suck the marrow" out of the season as much as I could or should. I think I need to appreciate the season more-- to really live it out, and it starts with a glass of this.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Candy Blondies

I like Halloween (it's capitalized because I do believe it should be a national holiday) candy, but it's really unsatisfying. It's like a rush of sugar that just leaves me wanting more. Even Reese's I feel just isn't substantial enough to be a dessert. I'd much rather eat a brownie, or a cookie. If I'm going to splurge on a treat, it has gotta be dense, gooey and indulgent and it must leave me satisfied.

Recently, I've been making blondies to satisfy this craving. They really taste too good for their difficulty level, and the time commitment is negligible (Total time minutes oven time=about 10 minutes). To add to that, they're made with basic pantry staples and they're infinitely adaptable to individual preference.

Just recently i made these with reese's peanut butter cups, snickers, and candy corn. I only eat brownies medium rare, so I left them very gooey in the middle. They were really fantastic. I gave one to this girl that I'm tryna impress. They were really that good.

Basic Blondie Recipe
(recipe is really easy to remember since it's all 1's)

1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla
1 pinch salt
1 cup flour

1) preheat oven to 350

2) grease an 8w8 pan

3) melt the butter in a saucepan

4) add the sugar, then beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.

5) Fold in the Flour

6) Fold in 1/2 cup to 1 cup of anything you like!

7) Transfer to the pan and bake for about 25 minutes, or to your desired doneness.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pizza for lunch

Over the summer I made pizza non-stop-- it's just such a summery food and when smeared with pesto made from basil from the backyard, there's nothing better. I actually made plenty more dough than I could cook, so I have a lot of dough that's been lying around in a freezer and for the past few days, I've been thawing it, then making pizza for lunch.

Here's yesterday's pizza: pesto, avocado and chicken on whole wheat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What they think about you

High School is really all about what other people think about you. It's true. It really is. You can either accept the system as it is, or drop out. Everyone is subject to it.

Generally people criticize this aspect of high school, saying this is superficial, that you shouldn't care what others think, that everything's different once you get out. Is it really though? And is it actually beneficial to stop caring what others think about you? Will this make you happier?

Whats other think of you is what defines you (if you're happy with whatever definition you get, well then you're above me). It's what makes you who you are and for most people, outside pleasure is what keeps them alive. It's pretty hard to just make yourself happy. Only caring about yourself can be a lonely place.

An example that comes to mind is a restaurant. If I own and make my living off of restaurant, I have to consider the customer first. "Cooking the food you wanna cook" is often more an ideal than a reality. The restaurant is likewise defined by critics and the gain or loss of a star can equate to thousands of dollars. If I'm the owner I better start caring what other people think if I want to be able to continue the lifestyle I'm living.

Thomas Keller is somewhat perplexing example. Throughout his early years he made sure that he was cooking the food he wanted. When he worked at Rakel, and the executive chef made the decision to make the restaurant more casual, Keller left because it wasn't the food he wanted to cook. Somewhat to the contrary, last year Keller changed Per Se to allow walk-ins and created an a la carte menu-- undoubtedly because of the struggling economy.

I think this moderate stance is best. It's unrealistic to completely not care what others think about you, yet it's detrimental and controlling to see yourself through others' eyes. The task becomes finding a happy medium.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spicy Pulled Pork

Pork shoulder braised in chicken stock, harissa and jalapenos.

Pork shoulder is almost always delicious, but the spicy component just takes this to the next level giving your tongue another taste to tangle with.

Alright sorry for the minimal writing, but I gotta go write an essay about James Madison and Thomas Jefferson- who by the way, was a lover of all things French, especially the food.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ideas in Food Dinner

Last Monday was great. I had no school the next day (staff development day?), the Phillies won their game, and I dined at Blackfish for the Ideas in Food Dinner. Though I love no school as much as the next guy, and I am an ardent Phillies phan, the dinner was undoubtedly the highlight of my marvelous Monday. It was a deliciously whimsical meal, and though I do have a few critiques, the meal was overall exciting and evoked new taste sensations.
Smoked Pumpkin Ice Cream with Wild Char Roe, Cranberry, Brittle Walnuts.
- I was really excited when I heard that they would be making pumpkin ice cream. Unfortunately however, the ice cream didn't really taste much like pumpkin. The flavor was overwhelmed by the smoke and by the char. The cranberry however, did a good job of cutting through the smoke and the salty roe to make it overall a good tasting dish.
Potato Chip Soup, Crab, Tartar Sauce.
- This may have been my favorite course, and though I'm not really sure I got the "potato chip" sensation, I couldn't just have one [spoonful]. It was luscious and creamy and the soft crab just melded with the soup very well.
Apple-Cheddar risotto with bacon.
-I thought the flavors in this risotto were spot on--the apples, which were slightly cooked were a porkfect foil to the bacon and there's really no other way to describe the risotto than cheesylicious--however the rice was slightly undercooked and I thought the risotto wasn't as creamy and emulsified as I'm accustomed to. But then again, it was cheesylicious, and that by itself made the dish delicious.
Scallop with chestnut fettuccine, kale (I think) and buttermilk biscuit broth.
- Scallop was perfectly cooked and the chestnut fettuccine were my favorite component of the whole dinner. The buttermilk biscuit broth didn't really taste like anything, and it really didn't add to nor take away from this dish.
Beef Cheek Bourguignon, "onion soup," mashed potatoes.
--This dish was very solid and tasted delicious, however at an Ideas in Food dinner, I expect something new and exciting. I've had these flavors together plenty of times and while they will probably never get old to me, they weren't what I wanted when I signed up for Ideas in Food. Also, some of my carrots were al dente.
Powdered Pierre Robert, pistachio gremolata, white chocolate sheets, bourbon cherries
-- I talked to a bunch of chefs at Lacroix who also had this dish and this was their favorite. They thought it was definitely the most well-balanced dish. I disagreed. I thought the cheese was awesome by itself, and I thought everything tasted awesome together, yet with everything else, I couldn't really taste the cheese.
This was my least favorite dish. I really got no sense of a fluffernutter. The foam tasted like air and the peanut custard was unsubstantial and didn't have a real strong flavor either.

Perhaps I complain too much, but as a chef at Lacroix pointed out to me, these really aren't complaints, they're critiques of some minor flaws in an overall outstanding meal. And indeed, it was great, largely because of its ingenuity. When I go out to eat, I want something that either I couldn't do or wouldn't think of at home. The majority of this meal satisfied both. My economics teacher would disagree, but I definitely consider this meal a wise investment.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chorizo Sauce

Maybe you recall, back in September I wrote about a dinner I planned to cook for a couple describing their likes and dislikes, and asking you all for suggestions. Well I cooked their meal not this past Sunday, but the one before that and in my opinion and I think in the opinion of the diners it was a success. I would definitely go as far as to say that this was the best meal I've ever cooked. The thought, the work and the technique I applied to this dinner far surpassed anything I've done before.

Unfortunately, I can't post about it right now, because the pictures of the dishes are on the couple's camera, and they haven't sent me a cd with the photos yet. Instead, I'll talk about my chorizo sauce, my favorite part of the whole dinner not only because of it's taste, but because of the process involved in creating it.

There it was, a huge pot of chorizo and liquid in a massive pot just sitting in the kitchen. I'm actually surprised that I remember it this clearly, but then again, how could I forget. I was walking back into the kitchen from the dish room, and then I saw it, just sitting there, unattended. I grabbed a few pieces of spicy, delicious chorizo, before the creator of the sauce, Billy came over and said "no try the sauce." I spooned some out and it was incredible complex. It had some many layers of flavor. It was garlicky and slightly sweet- carrots and onions were definitely in there, and spicy from the chorizo. A touch of cream balanced all the flavors. I asked him how he made it while I scribbled instructions in my "chef's journal," where it lay dormant until just recently when it erupted with flavor on a plate with roasted broccoli and scallops.

Sauce making is involved. It takes skill and technique and experience. I remember before I had spent much time at Lacroix, I tried to make a bordelaise sauce from the French Laundry Cookbook--I failed. Another time I tried to make a chicken jus to accompany some roast chicken, and found myself virtually dipping my chicken into water. On an even simpler level, I remember a time at Lacroix when I was put in charge of the vinaigrette for the salad of the day, and I couldn't get it to emulsify. I just stayed broken and had to be scrapped. Average Joe off the street could easily sous vide a chicken breast, but it's much less likely that he would be able to create a thick, rich demi-glace.

Once you get a feel for it though (and I'm really no authority on sauce making) and get a hold of some basics, it's much easier to achieve your desired results. One other thing--using good chicken stock is very important. If you have a good gelatinous stock, your sauce will have nice body and will reduce down to a nice consistency. Store bought stock just won't give you the same body but if it's your only option, use it.

To make this chorizo sauce, render some fresh chorizo in a large pot (I used my beloved Dutch oven). I actually just took the chorizo out of the casing and got it really nice and brown. I then added some onion, garlic, and carrot and just sweated those veggies in the chorizo fat. I then roasted that at 450 for about 20 minutes. Then I deglazed with a little red wine, scraping up all the browned bits at the bottom and adding homemade chicken stock and some sage to cover the chorizo. I cooked it down until it coated the back of a spoon.

In the end I decided not to add any cream, I thought it was perfect as it was. I also decided to leave the chorizo in the sauce, because it was just so tasty. Once you understand the process, it's really all about you, the saucier.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ideas in Food Dinner

Tonight I go to the Ideas in food dinner armed with my camera and my appetite