Thursday, May 28, 2015

Deep-Fried Creamy Chicken Gravy – Almost Chicken Croquettes

There are two kinds of chicken croquettes. They all have a crispy, deep-fried exterior, but some are firm, meaty, and nugget-like, while others are much softer and creamier. It was that second kind I was attempting here, and I got so close.

To make a long story short, I used too much butter, and milk, and while they did stay together enough to form the signature, golden-brown crust, the inside was positively sauce-like.

I had no intention of turning this classic into some kind of gimmicky attempt at a viral video, but as I ate them, I couldn’t help but think of how much they tasted like deep-fried chicken gravy. Yes, I sometimes put a little ham in my chicken gravy.

I’ve listed exactly what I used in the ingredient list below, and also a second version, which theoretically would come out closer to actual chicken croquettes. I hope you get this, or that, a try soon. Enjoy!


The Deep-Fried Creamy Chicken Gravy Version:
Makes about 16 appetizer sized portions
2 packed cups finely chopped cooked chicken meat
1/2 cup finely chopped ham
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch freshly ground nutmeg
pinch cayenne
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste

The More Like Chicken Croquettes Version:
Makes about 16 appetizer sized portions
2 packed cups finely chopped cooked chicken meat
1/2 cup finely chopped ham
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch freshly ground nutmeg
pinch cayenne
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste

For breading:
2 beaten eggs
flour as needed
2 cups bread crumbs

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sea Bass a la Michele – Just the Way She Likes It

Whenever I can’t decide on what to do with a piece of fish, I usually opt for this easy and crowd-pleasing technique, which involves roasting seafood after it’s been slathered in a highly seasoned vinaigrette. And by crowd, I mean wife.

The acidic bath seems to do something to the sea bass as it roasts, and not only do you get a very flavorful exterior, but the inside it seems to stay moister and more succulent, than if you just used a spice rub. In fact, Michele loves this roasting method so much, that I decided to name it after her. Also, I couldn’t think of a name, and if I called it Spanish-something sea bass, all the “that’s not Spanish-something sea bass” people would be after me.

By the way, there are a few sustainable sources for Chilean sea bass around, if you look hard enough, and do some research. Having said that, I didn’t do any research. I got mine at Whole Foods, and I assume/hope they’ve done their homework.

When it comes to ways of adapting this technique to your particular tastes, the skies the limit. While we really love sherry vinegar with the smoked paprika, I’ll sometimes switch it up with different combinations; and the same goes for the veggies underneath. No matter what you use, Michele and I hope you give this delicious sea bass recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 portions:
2 thick-cut boneless, skinless Chilean sea bass filets (about 8-oz each)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt, plus some sprinkled on top
1 sliced red jalapeño
1/2 cup sliced green onions
4 or 5 small potatoes, cooked and quartered

Monday, May 25, 2015

Celebrating Memorial Day – Paying Tribute to Those Who Literally Fight for Your Right to Party

Photo (c) Flickr user Vince Alongi
I always feel a little guilty grilling on Memorial Day. Being surrounded by all kinds of tasty food and cold beer seems inappropriate considering the holiday's solemn meaning. Maybe it would be better to honor our vets by eating what they had to survive on while defending our country.

What if instead of gnawing on a stack of sticky barbecued ribs, while sitting in a lawnchair, we dug a hole in the ground, and enjoyed something squeezed out of a pouch instead? There aren't many delicious things that come in squeezable pouches.

So, if the chicken get a little dry today, or whoever made the beans was just going through the motions, don't think of it as a disappointing meal; think of it as unintentional tribute all those brave souls who sacrificed for our freedoms. Enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Braised Lamb with Radishes and Mint (and Anchovies, but Don’t Tell Anyone)

I had a fantastic appetizer recently featuring lamb belly, radishes, anchovies, and mint, which inspired today’s post. It sounded amazing, but I’d only glanced at the description, so when it came, I was more than a little surprised to see the radishes were fully cooked.

This was a new one for me, and I absolutely loved it. Like most root vegetables, radishes don’t have a ton of flavor, but I found them slightly sweet, earthy (duh), and aromatic. Plus, they seemed to have effectively absorbed all the other flavors in the dish.

One thing led to another, and I adapted the approach to create one of the more interesting and delicious things I’ve had in a while. I called it a “flavor bomb” in the video, but “umami bomb” would be more accurate. This was as savory, as savory gets.

Because of all the sweet flavors going on, I decided not to add any sauteed onions or garlic, which is contrary to most braised meat recipes. It probably wouldn’t have hurt anything, and I might try it next time, but to be honest, this came out so perfectly balanced, that I’m a little scared to change anything.

And no, you can't taste the anchovies. That doesn't mean you should tell anyone they're in there, but I did want to mention, in case you're scared. I would like to thank Aatxe for the inspiration, and I really hope you give this strange, but exciting braised lamb dish and try soon. Enjoy!


Makes 4 Portions:
4  lamb shoulder chops (10-12 ounces each)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (or about 2 tsp of table salt)
1 teaspoon black  pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets
1 1/2 cups low-sodium or no sodium chicken broth (the anchovies and spice rub on the lamb usually provide enough salt, plus you can add at the end after sauce is reduced)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 bunches breakfast radishes, trimmed
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
5 or 6 fresh mint leaves finely sliced
1 tbsp cold butter

- Braise at 275 F. for about 3 hour , or until meat is just barely tender, then finish at 425 F. to brown. Serve with de-fatted and reduced sauce.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Classic Strawberry Shortcake – Thanks, Grandpa!

I was visiting my mom last summer, and overheard her and my aunt talking about making strawberry shortcake using “dad’s” recipe. They were obviously talking about my grandfather, which was surprising, since I had no idea he baked.

I remember he did a lot of cooking growing up, but it was things like frittata, meat sauce, or polenta. I never once saw him bake anything sweet. Nevertheless, he apparently gets credit for inventing our official family recipe for strawberry shortcake, which I’ve adapted here.

What he had done was taken the strawberry shortcake recipe off the box of a certain, very popular premade biscuit mix, and added extra “everything,” as my mother put it. So, that’s what I did here, except instead of using the stuff in the yellow box, I used self-rising flour, which I’m pretty sure is basically the same thing.

The only other major change is the original recipe calls for regular melted butter, but as you’ll see in the video, I like to toast mine just a little, to bring out those subtle, nutty flavors. I'm hoping Armand Cianfoni would approve. I really hope you give “our” strawberry shortcake a try soon. Enjoy!


Makes 6 Large or 8 Normal Strawberry Shortcakes:
2 cups self rising flour ((You can make you own by sifting together 2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon fine salt)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp butter, melted, and lightly toasted to a golden-brown

4 pints fresh strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
*add 1 tbsp water, if strawberries aren’t perfectly ripe
3/4 cup cold heavy cream, whipped with a tablespoon of sugar and a few drops of vanilla (watch demo here)

- Bake at 425F.  for 15-18 minutes or until browned.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Memorial Day Grilling Special: Hot Dog Sausage aka “Hot Dogage”

The idea of making actual hot dogs doesn’t really interest me that much. Like French fries, and sushi, I believe hot dogs are best enjoyed out­; preferably at a baseball game, with a cold beer. However, I didn’t say anything about hotdog-inspired sausage hybrids.

This meaty mash-up came about thanks to some lamb kebab experiments. The meat mixture is prepared in a similar fashion, and while the seasonings are totally different, the firm texture of the kebab reminded me of a hot dog’s “snap.”

I wondered what would happen if I did a skewer-less kebab using the same ingredients that would typically go into a hotdog. What happened was better than I could've expected. I ended up with a fresh, mostly beef sausage, that tasted pretty much exactly like a hot dog.

Technically, this ended up being a lot closer to a bratwurst, but I’m pretty sure hot dogs are a more popular search, so that’s what I went with. As always, be sure to season these “to taste.” Just like when making meatballs, you can cook a small piece of the mixture, and adjust from there.

Like I said in the video, if you’re looking for something a little different for your Memorial Day cookout, I hope you give these hot dog sausages a try. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Giants Hot Dog Sausages:
1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef (10 to 15% fat is fine)
1/4 pound ground pork
4 tsp kosher salt (1/2 ounce by weight)
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp granulated onion powder
1/3 cup ice water

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Baked Apple Roses by Any Other Name Are Something Completely Different

Every once in a while, I post a video solely based on something I saw online, and these baked apple roses are the latest example. I saw a photo of these somewhere on social media, and using that one image as my only guide, I whipped up a batch, which was a tremendous disaster.

I assumed that I could figure these out just by looking at the finished product, but that did not happen. I tried doing them free-form, and they completely unraveled as they cooked. I wish I'd taken some photos, but they basically look like they exploded.

So, I decided to find the source of the photo, and see how these are actually supposed to be done, which led me to the blog, Italian Chips. It’s written by a woman named Ana, who’s a Brazilian living in Italy, so I knew I was in good hands.Thank you, Ana!

Other than a couple ingredients, I pretty much followed her technique exactly, except I didn’t use puff pastry.  As I mentioned in the video, I used a new dough I’ve been working on, which is much faster version of puff pastry, that uses biscuit dough. Stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, really hope you give these gorgeous looking, and very delicious apple roses a try soon. Enjoy!

Microwave Note: if you don't have a microwave, just sauté your apple slices in a little bit of butter over medium heat, for about half a minute per side, or until flexible, but not soft. 

Muffin Pan Note: If you use a metal muffin pan instead of a ramekin, I would reduce the heat to 375F., and cook about 45, or until the pastry is well browned.


For 2 Apple Roses:
1 large red apple
2 pieces rectangular puff pastry, rolled less than 1/8-inch thick, about 3” wide by 12 to 14” long
melted butter as needed
cinnamon sugar as needed (1/4 cup sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon)
powdered sugar, optional
- Bake at 400F. for about 45 minutes, or until the pastry is well browned.
- If using metal muffin pan: Bake at 375F. for about 45, or until the pastry is well browned.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Beef Rouladen – German Engineering You Can Eat

For something that looks and tastes as impressive as this beef rouladen, it’s actually one of the simplest stuffed meat recipes I know. Everything happens right on the meat, and after a quick roll and tie, we simmer in the gravy until tender. The beef and fixings flavor the sauce, the sauce flavors the beef, and everybody wins.

Regarding the meat, one of the great things about this technique, is that you can pretty much use any cheap cut of beef they have on sale. I used some round steak, but rump, chuck, flap meat, and other similar cuts will work.

Tell your butcher you’re making rouladen, and they will hook you up with what you need. If they’ve never heard of rouladen, then you should probably find another butcher. As I mentioned in the video, this can be scaled up to any size group. Just use a bigger pot, and the recipe will work as shown. I really hope you give this Rouladen recipe a try soon. Genießen!


Ingredients for 2 Beef Rouladen:
2 (about 1/4-inch thick) slices of cheap beef, about 6 ounces per slice. I used round, but rump, chuck, flap meat, and any other long cooking cuts will work.
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 strips pancetta or bacon
paprika to taste
sliced onion, as needed
6 slices dill pickle
1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the gravy:
2 tbsp butter, added to the pan drippings
1/4 cup flour
3 cups beef broth, veal, or chicken stock
salt to taste

Friday, May 8, 2015

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies – Not for Nothing

As I was making these rosemary shortbread cookies, I couldn’t help but think of one of my many culinary pet peeves, which is when people add some random ingredient to a recipe, just for the sake of making it different. This is not one of those times.

While rosemary may seem like a strange addition at first glance, it works so perfectly in these, that I’d argue they're actually better than the original. There’s something so interesting about how the subtle hit of resinous herb works with this sweet, buttery cookie.

I should mention that the time given is just a guide. It depends on the shape and thickness of your cookies, so be sure to start checking them at around 40-45 minutes. You can pull them as soon as they turn golden, but that depends on how mild a flavor you want.

The longer they bake, the darker they get, and the nuttier the butter gets. Some prefer their shortbread cookies light and mild, while others will let them go until they turn brown. If you haven’t made them before, I’m afraid you’ll have to do some tests. I hope you give these amazing shortbread cookies a try soon. Enjoy!

Extra Credit Project: Make these using a round cookie cutter, and use them to make  strawberry ice cream sandwiches.


Ingredients for about 32 Rosemary Shortbread Cookies:
8 oz (1 cup) cool unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp kosher salt or 1/2 tsp fine table salt
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary (but do not mince, or it may be too strong)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (10 oz by weight)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Warm Calamari Salad – The Best-Laid Plans of Squid and Men

There was nothing wrong with this warm calamari salad, except the most important thing. I’ve had “cast-iron calamari” before, which featured gorgeously seared, almost charred, pieces of squid. While well caramelized, the calamari was still tender and moist, which means it was only cooked for a few minutes, over what must have been dangerously high heat.

I figured as long as I got my pan hot enough, I should be fine. Wrong. Well, technically right, but wrong because I added way too much into the pan at one time. I really needed to do a single order at a time, and it probably would have been fine, but once that whole pound went in, the temp dropped, and you saw the results.

I still enjoyed a flavorful, healthy lunch, but not the one I’d dreamed about. The good news however, was that I ate the leftovers cold, tossed with the same salad ingredients, and it was actually better. So, if you are planning on doing the same recipe, as shown, I would suggest serving it chilled instead. I hope you give this, or that, a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Warm Calamari Salads:
1 pound cleaned calamari
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder
pinch of cayenne
1 packed teaspoon light brown sugar
1 sliced jalapeno, seeded
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste once cooked
For the salad base:
4 handfuls baby arugula
1 can (15-oz) cooked white beans, drained, rinsed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lamb & Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves – Hours to Make, Seconds to Eat, Totally Worth It

There’s no getting around the fact that these lamb and rice stuffed grape leaves, aka “dolmas,” take some time and effort to put together, but at least they’ll all be gone in just a few minutes. What I’m trying to say is, maybe make a double batch.

If you order these at your favorite Mediterranean restaurant, you’ve probably enjoyed the more common meatless version, but I really do love the lamb in these. The technique works the same no matter what you use, but of course, how much rice you use will affect how much liquid you need.

As far as the grape leaves go, I’ve only done these with the ones in the jar, which work great for me. I’ve heard these are even better with fresh grape leaves, but where the heck am I going to get my hands on those in Northern California?

As I mentioned in the video, these are wonderful at any temperature, which makes them a great option for parties. You can put them out warm, knowing that they’ll be just as delicious when they are cold. I garnished mine very simply with lemon and olive oil, but any cold yogurt sauce makes for a beautiful dip. I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 32 Lamb & Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves:
1/2 pound ground lamb
rounded 1/2 cup long grain rice
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon currants
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 large egg
1 jar (16-oz) grape leaves, drained and rinsed

To cook the “Dolmas:”
4 cups chicken broth (tip: use already hot to save time)
Juice of one lemon
drizzle of olive oil

- Simmer, covered, gently for about 45 minutes or until rice is tender. I usually check at around 35 minutes, and play it by ear from there.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How to Fix a Broken Hollandaise Sauce

It happens to the best of us. You did everything right, and yet somehow your gorgeous hollandaise sauce has separated. Your hungry, possibly hangry, brunch guests are sitting down, and you're in the kitchen panicking, since there's no time to start a new one from scratch. What do you do? What...do....you....do?

First, take a deep breath, and by "deep breath" I mean a big sip of your Bloody Mary. Then, do what you see me do in this video. A hollandaise sauce is actually very easy to fix, and only takes a minute. Let's hope you never have to use it, but just in case, I hope you give this great technique a try.