30 September 2009

Alton Brown - trash talker

Okay, this is pretty funny. We watch a bit of the Food Network in our house. But it seems so many of the shows are such utter garbage - the 'Dump & Stir' shows of Sandra Lee, in particular. Well listen to this interview with Alton Brown, where he unloads on "Semi-Homemade's" Sandra Lee:
"semi-sane… semi-out of her freaking mind"

Hat Tip: Food Network Humor

29 September 2009

Knight Salumi Co.

San Diego has a pretty grim restaurant scene, but I have a hard time imagining anywhere better for a home cook. The resources here are truly spectacular.

Case in point: Knight Salumi Co. These guys cure and ferment - yes ferment - their own meats, Italian style, and you can get them at farmer's markets across the city (I prefer the Little Italy Farmer's Market, myself).

The meats from Knight Salumi are very strong flavoured (and while I don't like all of them) their sopressata is crazy delicious. This has a strong fermented flavour and scent (odour? stench? what's a nice way to say that meat smells delicious???), I just love the way it smells. Thrown on a sandwich with some cheese, lettuce and tomato, you've got a 3 minute gourmet lunch. Yum.

Knight Sopressata

24 September 2009

Beef tri-tip

Do I love the book Serious Barbecue enough? Really, we're in deep danger of becoming a cook-the-book blog. My wife has proclaimed that she needn't ever have steak prepared any other than than using Adam Perry Lang's tri-tip recipe.

Beef tri tip

And I confess, that looks pretty good, doesn't it? Well follow the link for the recipe. Last few times I've done it with buffalo tri-tip. But with beef? Even better.

Beef tri tip

Juicy. Layers of bold flavour. And given that tri-tip has a thick end and a thin end, it makes it a lot easier to make one end medium well for my wife, and the other end rare for me.

Beef tri tip

Go make yourself a tri-tip tonight.

22 September 2009

Bbq Chicken

My love affair with Serious Barbecue continues...

I decided to try Adam Perry Lang's chicken. This is his competition thigh recipe, but I used an entire discombobulated chicken. It's a pretty involved recipe (for chicken) but I think you'll agree that the layers of flavour here are really fun and tasty.

Start with marinating the chicken for a few hours in Italian dressing. I hate to say it, but the sight of cold, raw chicken in a ziploc bag with Italian dressing just seems nasty.

Marinating chicken

Am I wrong? Ok, let's cover that chicken up. After it's been in the fridge a few hours, light up a fire in your bbq. We'll be using indirect heat today.

Make a lovely rub of:
¾ cup ancho chile
¾ cup sweet paprika
½ cup sugar in the raw
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Dry rub

Meanwhile, pour:
4 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup water
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp MSG
into a pyrex baking dish.

A brief aside about MSG. A lot of folks think that MSG is bad for you/causes Chinese restaurant syndrome/will make your head explode. Decades of research have failed to find a connection between ANY health problems and MSG. MSG is a natural nutrient found in many foods (indeed, it's the reason that soy tastes good). That said, if you don't want to eat it, and are more concerned with mythology than with yumminess, leave it out. Okay. Rant over and out.

Dry of the chicken slightly and place the chicken in the dish. Sprinkle on that delicious rub. Now the chicken no longer looks obscene.

Rubbing chicken

MMMmmmmm... Cover the dish in foil, and cook at 300°F for 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the grill, and let rest in the pan for 15 minutes.

Grilled chicken

Transfer the chicken to a cookie sheet, and sprinkle on the remaining rub.

Dry rub & chicken

Toss back on the grill, and cook for an additional 45 minutes at 300°F, this time adding some wet hickory wood to the fire to generate a little smoke. While this is cooking, make the sauce:
2 ¼ cups Adam Perry Lang's delicious signature bbq sauce from the brisket post
3 tbsp apricot preserves
3 tbsp pineapple preserves
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 ½ tsp Japanese soy sauce
1 ½ tsp MSG
Remove the chicken from the grill, and slather on the sauce, being careful not to mess up that beautiful crusty rub.

Sauced chicken

Put the chicken back in the bbq.

Grill that chicken

Cook for another 30 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Bbq chicken

MMmmmm... delish. The layers of flavour on here are really fun. And this is a big, bold chicken. So we served it with a cabernet sauvignon.

Wine with dinner

19 September 2009

A lazy Saturday calls for...

a classic Cosmopolitan.


Mix in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain, and pour into a martini glass.
2⅔ oz. vodka (or Citron Vodka)
1⅔ oz. cointreau or triple sec
1⅓ oz. cranberry juice
⅔ oz. lime juice

17 September 2009


I can't wait to get my hands on some of this stuff...

15 September 2009


You know those days. Work sucked, and you didn't get anything done today. Everything failed. Your feet hurt. You're cranky. And you just want to go home and relax, put your feet up, and eat something greasy. But it has to be fast and easy, because you don't have the energy to do something really creative.

Those are the days for bratwurst and a thyme martini, in my books.

Raw bratwurst

This is quick and simple. Parboil the bratwurst in some beer for a few minutes. This is a raw sausage, and you want it to start the cooking at this step. Toss in a few pieces of chopped onion and thyme if you like to flavour it.

Parboiled bratwurst

While the brats are parboiling, light the grill. I prefer briquettes for this, because they get crazy hot.


Once the charcoal is hot, toss the parboiled bratwurst on the grill. Grill until browned nicely on both sides.

Grilling bratwurst

Toast some buns briefly while you get the condiments ready. Like grilled onions.


And you have dinner on the table inside of 20 minutes. Why would you eat hot dogs when you can have this? Yum.


10 September 2009

BLT challenge


Before we dated, my wife and I were friends and labmates for several years. One day after work, we grabbed a couple burgers together at a fastfood place. Part way through the meal, she looked off into space, and looked like she was having a spiritual moment. A faint smile crossed her lips.

"What are you thinking about?" I asked.

"Have you ever had a bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich?"

"Yes," I responded.

"Yeah." She smiled. She had been thinking about a BLT. That was all.

So when Michael Ruhlman announced a BLT challenge, of course I had to take part. The BLT needs no interpretation. It is perfect as is. Here is my BLT.

The weekend I chose to make the BLT was crazy hot here in southern California, so I decided to do it all outside. We start with a grilled ciabatta. Mine is a version of the ciabatta from The Bread Bible, my go-to book for bread. We start with a biga, or a pre-rise. Mix:
5.2 oz all purpose flour
18 tsp yeast
1 tsp malt powder
½ cup water
Mix these first thing in the morning, cover and let them rise for 6ish hours. At the end of that, add:
9.5 oz unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
biga from above
Then beat for a few seconds on low in a KitchenAid mixer for a few seconds on low, raise to #6 (highish) on the KitchenAid for 3 minutes followed by 2 minutes on #4 (mediumish). Add flour, if necessary, to dry out the dough slightly, and pull it off the sides of the bowl. Stop once it pulls off the sides.

Now allow it to rise for 2ish hours in a bowl oiled with olive oil until it triples in size. (On this particular hot day, it didn't take that long).

Now remove that ball of dough from the bowl, and toss it onto a cookie sheet that has been lightly floured. Poke holes in the bottom of the dough, flip it over and fold the edges underneath. Sprinkle with flour, and let rise for 2ish hours.

An hour before the dough is done rising, fire up the grill. I put a fire on one side, and a pizza stone and small pan on the other side. I made a screaming hot fire with briquettes, rather than charcoal, because bread needs to be baked hot. Like 450ish.

When the grill is hot, toss some wet hickory on there, and put the cookie sheet with the bread dough onto the pizza grill. Spritz the top of the dough with water, and toss a few ice cubes in the small pan. You want a brief bit of humidity in there to crust up the bread. Bake until a lovely color, opening as little as possible. For me it took about 30 minutes.

Grilled ciabatta

Let cool. Now throw a grill over the fire, and toss a cast-iron pan over the fire, and fry up some bacon.


Yum. I used bacon that I wrote about earlier.

Now we sliced the bread along the cross section to make nice-sized sandwiches. The tomatoes came from several heirloom varieties grown in pots in our backyard. Alas, the lettuce came from the store. The mayonnaise, described in a previous post.


And we each assembled our own sandwiches. All done outside, smokey, sweet and delicious. A nice way to have a fantastic meal on a hot summer day.


08 September 2009



Homemade mayonnaise has very few ingredients in it. It's basically a vegetable oil and egg yolk emulsion, so it's all technique. Some would have you believe it's difficult, but it's not. It's just a matter of adding the oil slowly enough...

I used the recipe from David Lebovitz, and I love it. It's silky, garlicky goodness. Delish. (Warning, don't proceed if eating raw egg yolks disturbs you in the slightest).

Egg yolk
3 cloves of garlic
½ tsp salt
1 large egg yolk
1 cup (250ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Take the egg out of the fridge and warm the egg to room temperature. Room temperature eggs emulsificate more easily. Mash the garlic in a mortar and pestle or food processor until it's properly turned into a paste.

Mix the garlic into the egg yolk, and then *VERY* slowly mix in the oil. EXTREMELY slowly to start, and quite slowly towards the end. If you add the oil too quickly, you will break it - i.e. the oil will separate from the egg yolk, and you'll have globs of egg floating in oil. You don't want that. I took about 5 minutes to add one cup of oil.


Beat in all the oil, then beat in the salt. That's it. You've just made mayonnaise, and it'll be delicious on your sandwiches. Thick. Creamy. Salty. Yum.


05 September 2009

A lazy Saturday calls for...

a Dark 'N' Stormy!


The Dark 'N' Stormy is a rare bird indeed. It's a copyrighted cocktail. So if you want to make it, and you want to call it a Dark 'N' Stormy, you have to make it with Gosling's dark rum.

But here, we start (as with everything fun) from scratch. Let's make fresh ginger beer!

I used the recipe at Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Seemed like a good start:
2 oz ginger juice (juiced from 1 large ginger root)
4 oz fresh lemon juice, finely strained
6 oz simple syrup
20 oz warm water (cold if using the soda siphon)
116 tsp Red Star champagne yeast
You'll need to sterilize your bottles. I picked up a chemical bottle sterilizant (some sort of peroxide, I think) at the brewing store, same place I picked up the packet of champagne yeast. Follow the directions to clean your bottles. I used the nice capped bottle shown above, because it'll handle the pressure of carbonation without exploding all over your home.

Funny aside: 10 years ago, I briefly got into homebrewing, and made some mead. Mead is fermented honey, and as such, it ferments rather slowly. Well I bottled 5 gallons of mead that I thought was done, and loaded up the wine bottles in my basement. Over the next few weeks, I guess there was a wee bit more fermentation going on in those bottles... One day, my roommate came home and slammed the door, just enough excitement to decarbonate a bottle. It blew the cork out, and sprayed carbonated mead all around the room. Well he rushed over and grabbed that bottle, knocking several more bottles... Pretty soon, there was a chain reaction of wine bottles blowing corks and spraying carbonated mead all around. When I arrived home, half my mead was gone, and he was not amused.

But that is not this story...

Okay, chop up a decent sized piece of ginger root.


And run that root through a juicer or food processor. Squeeze the ground ginger through a fine sieve to recover ginger juice.

Ginger juice

It's an opaque yellow colour. Yum! Mix all the ingredients together, and pour into a pressurizable bottle. Wrong kind of bottle, and you'll be blowing carbonated ginger beer all over your home.

Ginger beer

Let sit for 48 hours at room temperature, then put it in the fridge. You really don't want to go longer than that, or you'll explode the bottle.

Now comes the relaxing part. Mix 1 12 oz Gosling's dark rum with ginger beer to taste, over ice.

Dark 'N' Stormy

03 September 2009

Home-cured, home-smoked bacon.

Raw pork belly

You know how delicious bacon is? It makes everything else better. There's almost nothing better than bacon. Except homemade bacon. As a comparison: store-bought bacon is to tofu as homemade bacon is to store-bought bacon. Yes, homemade bacon is that good. It's meatier, more flavourful, smokier and all-round more delicious. And if you have a charcoal grill, it's really easy to make. All you need is a pork belly, and a few items to cure with. I get my pork belly at my local butcher, or at the neighborhood Asian grocer.

I use the recipe from Charcuterie. You'll need a couple things that aren't available at your neighborhood grocery. Thankfully, everything you need is cheap and available online.

Start by making a basic dry cure:
1 pound kosher salt
13 oz dextrose
3 oz pink salt (also called InstaCure #1, at Sausagemakers)
Now, you make the seasoning blend. Start with something tasty, like bay leaves.


For each pork belly [edit: 3-4 lb pork belly], grind up:
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp black peppercorn
Cure seasoning

Grind 'em into a nice coarse mix. Mix them with:
¼ cup dry cure (from above)
5 chopped garlic cloves
Cure seasoning

Wash the pork belly, dry it off, and rub it all over with the seasoned dry cure.

Pork belly in cure

Place the belly in a ziploc bag, squeeze out all the air, seal, and put it in the fridge. You'll cure it in the fridge for about a week. Every few days, open it up and pour off any extra liquid that accumulates. The salt pulls out a fair amount of water, so don't be surprised to see the liquid accumulate, and the meat firm up. After 7 to 8 days, you'll be ready to smoke.

Cured pork belly

Rinse off the spice and cure in the sink, and pat the pork belly dry.

Cured, washed pork belly

While the pork belly comes to room temperature (for half an hour or so), fire up your grill for indirect heat. I light a small fire on one side of the grill, and put the cured pork bellies on the other side. You'll want a bbq fire around 200°F, and some wet hickory wood to make a little smoke. Lay the belly down skin side up.

SmokerSmoker away

Tend the fire to keep the temperature in the smoker 200°F, adding wet hickory periodically to create smoke. Smoke for 3ish hours (+/- 1 hour), until the pork belly is a lovely color, and the internal temperature measures 150°F.

Smoked belly

Keep in mind, this meat is not cooked. It's not ready to be eaten. Treat this like raw bacon from your grocery store (only more precious - treat it like it's bacon you paid $30 a pound for).

While it's still hot, slice the skin off. I like to use a pair of tongs to hold the skin up while I gently slice it off. It'll end up looking like this:

Cured, smoked and peeled

The belly on the left is showing the side that was facing the grill. The second belly is after the skin has been sliced off the top, and the third one is the smoked belly with the skin still on.

Let the belly's come down to room temperature, at this point either wrap them and freeze or refrigerate them. When you're ready to serve them, slice them thinly on the cross section. This is the only tricky part, slicing them thin enough to get nice-sized bacon slices that are thin enough to render the fat properly. The last inch of belly can be chopped into lardons or bacon bits for serving on salads or in sauces. But you richly deserve something delicious. Fry and serve.

Frying bacon on the grill