Wednesday, June 9, 2010

J Dawgs!

J Dawgs is a magical place full of mystery and wonder. That guy up there in the picture? He's the grand wizard. I know they just sell hot dogs, but they are magical hot dogs. Trust me. See, I pointed out in a previous post the difference between a "foodie" and a "gourmet" and yes, a foodie can be excited about a hot dog, and in the case of J Dawgs, should be excited about a hot dog.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Homemade Brats: First Iteration

Ok, so those are the brats. First, they simmer in some sort of amber liquid of undetermined origin. Then, they go on the grill.  That's me man-handling them, and that's my son coco wondering why someone is taking his picture.

I made these with my friend Fish. He has a grinder attachment for his stand mixer. Here's how we did it:

Homemade Bratwurst
  • 4 Pounds 80% lean pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
  • 1 Pound veal or beef (ground beef is all you really need here)
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 Teaspoons ground mace
  • 1 Teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 Cup cold milk
  • 2 Whole eggs, beaten
  • 1 Cup non-fat dry milk powder

  1. Cut pork (and beef if it's not already ground) into 1 inch cubes, and grind it twice through the fine plate of your sausage grinder.
  2. Combine the spices in a 1 quart container and mix with the cup of cold milk and beaten eggs.
  3. Pour the spices, milk and egg combination into the ground meant and mix thoroughly for at least 2 minutes. Use your hands for mixing to assure even distribution.
  4. Add the milk powder to the mixture and combine it all thoroughly with your hands. At this point you can pass the finished sausage mixture once more through the meat grinder if you choose to, or straight into 32-35 mm hog or collegen casings. Refrigerate or freeze immediately.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Coconut Crab Cakes with Coconut Basil Mayonnaise

Coconut Crab Cakes with Coconut Basil Mayonnaise. Need I say more? Recipe follows.

Coconut Crab Cakes
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil (plus a bunch more for frying)
  • 1/2 Medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 Stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 pound lumb crabmeat
  • 1/2 Cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, I chose sweetened)
  • 2/3 Cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons chives, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 5 Cups panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Large eggs, beaten
  • Diced tomatoes, for garnish (whoops, didn't garnish for that pic, did I?)
  • Chives for garnish 
  1. Heat oil in a saute pan, add onion and celery until onion is translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix crabmeat, coconut, mayonnaise, mustard, chives, parsely and 1 cup panko with the onion/celery mixture. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Form into 2-inch diameter cakes.
  3. Roll cakes first in flour, then in beaten eggs, then in the remaining 4 cups of panko, each time shaking off excess. At this point you can plate on wax paper and refrigerate to allow cakes to set if desired.
  4. Heat oil, and deep fry the crab cakes until golden brown, flipping once.
  5. Arrange on a platter and garnish with tomatoes and chives. Serve with coconut basil mayonnaise.

Coconut Basil Mayonnaise
  • 1 Cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 Cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon basil leaves,chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon chili garlic paste (more if you want it spicy, the 1 teaspoon will not make it spicy at all)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and whisk until smooth.
  2. May be prepared a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sauteed Swai Fillets with Green Salad and Honey Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Ok, so I have to admit that Swai is not my favorite fish, but it's inexpensive and if you're going to eat it, this recipe will do just fine. I served it with a fresh green salad drizzled with honey grapefruit vinaigrette.
Recipes follow.

Sauteed Swai Fillets
  • 3 large Swai fillets, thawed, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablesoons garlic powder
  • salt to taste
  • lemon pepper to taste
  1. In large, deep sauce pan or sautee pan, heat olive oil, then add butter and heat until melted.
  2. Add red wine vinegar and give a light stir, then add a pinch of salt and the garlic powder.
  3. Add Swai fillets, and continue cooking over medium heat.
  4. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning onto each fillet.
  5. After about 3 minutes, carefully flip fillets, sprinkling other side with lemon pepper, and continue cooking for about 4 minutes, or until outside is opaque.
  6. Serve immediately, spooning sauce from pan over fish.
Lemon Grapefruit Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1-2 freshly crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  1. Mix all ingredients well, adding the olive oil last, and whisking to combine.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cajun Spice-Crusted Pork Loin with Mango Salsa

Recipe Follows
Cajun Spice-Crusted Pork Loin
  • 2 pound pork loin
  • 1/3 cup Emeril's Creole Seasoning (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat grill on high heat
  2. Rub pork loin with Creole seasoning
  3. Place pork loin on hot grill, turning every 3 to 4 minutes until all sides have dark grill marks
  4. Insert thermometer.  I like to use a wireless thermometer that alerts me even if I'm not watching it. Set the thermometer to alert you at 157 degrees.  
  5. When the pork reaches 157 degrees remove it from the grill immediately. Place it on a cutting board or serving platter and tent it loosely with tin foil. The meat needs to rest so that the juices distribute back throughout the meat and the carryover heat will bring the internal temperature up to 160 degrees.
  6. After the pork has rested for at least 5 minutes, slice into 1/2 inch slices and serve with mango salsa (recipe follows)
Mango Salsa
  • 1 large ripe mango, diced
  • 1 medium size red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine all the ingredients and season well with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for an hour or more.
Emeril's Creole Seasoning
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

  1. Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Ok, so if you read my post about The New Best Recipe, here's your chance to try it before you buy it.

I like blondies because everybody makes brownies all the time, and as far as I'm concerned variety is the spice of life.  So try the recipe and let me know what you think.  Make sure you do NOT overcook them.  Under-cooking them would be much better, so take them out before you think they're ready.  When they get overcooked they get hard and that's not a good thing. Recipe Follows.

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • l teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped course
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 by 9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. fold two 16-inch pieces of foil or parchment paper lengthwise so that one measures 13 inches wide and the other 9 inches wide. Fit one sheet in the bottom of the greased pan, pushing it into the corners and up the sides of the pan (the overhang will help in removal of the baked bars). Fit the second sheet in the pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet. Spray the sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the semisweet and white chocolate chips into the prepared pan., smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil or parchment paper and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1 1/2 by 2-inch bars and serve.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The New Best Recipe

Ok, so about a month ago I told my wife to throw out all of our recipe books.  Why, you ask?  Well, because they are pretty much worthless.  They filled a good part of one of our lower kitchen cabinets and we NEVER used them.  There's a reason we never used them.  Like I said, they are pretty much worthless.  Here's the thing.  You could probably find 1,000 different recipe books with different recipes for the same dish.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  Wrong.  There is something wrong with that.  One of those 1,000 recipes is better than the rest, so why are the others even out there?  The bottom line is that I found that most of the recipes I found in cookbooks were simply sub-par.

That wasn't the only problem.  The other problem is that technique is usually just as important as (sometimes more so than) the ingredients.  None of the recipe books I had did anything to make sure I had the right technique.  They use words like, "combine" and "saute."  Well, there's a right way and a wrong way to combine certain combinations of ingredients in some (probably most) recipes.  So just knowing which ingredients to use isn't enough.  I have learned a lot about proper technique by watching Food Network.  You see not only the ingredients, but exactly how to cook with them.  If you're familiar with Alton Brown (particularly his Food Network show "Good Eats"), then you know that technique matters and you also know that most people are lacking in the "technique department."

So, what's my point?  My point is that most cook books or recipe books are worthless.  They have sub-par recipes and they don't do enough to help the sub-par cook master the techniques that will make him a superior (or even adequate for that matter) cook.

Here's the deal, though.  My buddy Fish gave me a birthday/Christmas present that changed everything.  It's still true that most recipe books are worthless, but there's at least one that breaks the mold.  The New Best Recipe, from the editors of Cook's Illustrated is everything you are looking for in a recipe book.

The title may sound a little presumptuous, right?  How do they know it's really the "best" recipe?  Here's how:

"We start the process of testing a recipe with a complete lack of conviction, which means that we accept no claim, no theory, no technique, and no recipe at face value. We simply assemble as many variations as possible, test a half dozen of the most promising, and taste the results blind. We the construct our own hybrid recipe and continue to test it, varying ingredients, techniques, and cooking times until we reach a consensus. The result, we hope, is the best version of a particular recipe..."

Not only that, but "Because good technique is also critical, we have included 800 illustrations that show you the best way to do everything from carving a turkey to beating egg whites properly to frosting a layer cake to setting up your grill."

And as if that wasn't enough, "And because the right equipment always makes a difference, you'll find valuable information on how and when to splurge on that expensive knife or baking pan and when the basic model will do just fine."

There are over 1,000 recipes, divided into logical categories, all cross-referenced and indexed and just ready to be cooked.

Bottom line, if you are tired of jumping from one cookbook to another, do what I did.  Toss the rest, and stick with the best: