Monday, April 28, 2008

Pan Fried Chicken Gumbo

I kind of threw this recipe together on a whim one afternoon, when I had thawed chicken and needed to cook it before it went bad. However, that particular afternoon, I was having a taste for something Creole, and gumbo was on the menu. The problem that I had with making gumbo was that I generally made it with shrimp, and I could never cook the shrimp properly. As you may or may not know, it’s easy to overcook seafood in general, and then it tastes like crap with bad texture. And boiling shrimp then adding it to the cooking gumbo did just that. But not to boil it gave it a boring and unseasoned taste. So this became my solution.

Pan-Fried Chicken Gumbo:
1 pound of sausage, either ground or a smoked links cut crosswise into small discs
2 large chicken breasts
6 cups of chicken stock
1 can of peeled tomatoes with the juice preserved
1 large green pepper
1 white onion
1 bunch of scallions
Several cups of flour for dredging
Salt
Pepper
3-4 garlic cloves
Cayenne pepper
Hot sauce
2 cups of long-grain white rice
Olive oil


Before anything else, put the chicken stock in a large pot and start it simmering at a low heat. Chop all the veggies into small pieces and add to the stock. Drain the juice from the tomatoes into the stock, dice the tomatoes, and add them as well.In a skillet, brown the sausage until the fat has been rendered. Remove the sausage and pat it dry with a paper towel. Once the residual fat has been removed, add it to the simmering stock.Pound the chicken breast to flatten it out, then trim it of extra fat or tendons, and cut the breasts into smaller strips. Dry the strips of excess moisture with a paper towel, then dredge them in the flour until totally covered. Pour a small amount of olive oil into a skillet, covering the bottom and begin to heat it over a medium-high heat. Heating it at a lower heat and cooking the chicken cooler but longer will help to reduce smoking. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken, in batches if necessary, and cook until the chicken is golden-brown on the outside, and white throughout the middle. Once it is all cooked, mince it into smaller pieces and add it to the stock. At this point, have a taste and season with pepper (red and black), salt, and hot sauce to taste. Then add the rice, cover the pot, and let it cook for at least 20 minutes. There will be extra moisture not absorbed by the rice and ingredients. No big deal.

Serve it hot with a little bit of sour cream on top.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Broccoli Braid

My mom introduced me to this recipe a while ago, and it became an instant crowd pleaser with everyone I know who has sampled it. It’s pretty easy to prepare, but it does take some prep work that is a little tedious. So make sure you have some time to devote to making it.

Broccoli braid is a bit of an understatement, not quite encompassing everything that goes into its construction. Broccoli/chicken braided bread would probably be a little bit more accurate. And it’s versatile as well. You can use it for a whole meal or just a snack/appetizer for a group of people.

One more thing to keep in mind; its easier to make two than one.

Broccoli Braid:
2 packs of crescent rolls- nothing sweetened or seasoned. Just the buttered crescent rolls
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 red bell pepper
1 head of broccoli
1 bunch of scallions
2-3 cloves of garlic
1-2 cups of mayonnaise
1 cup of cheddar cheese
Flour to keep things from sticking

Cut the pepper, broccoli, scallions, and garlic into small pieces, and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. They do no have to be as soft as they would be when serving. You’re going to cook them all again. Bake the chicken breast, also at 350, until totally cooked and white through out. Combine all the cooked ingredients in a large bowl, and add the mayonnaise. The exact amount you will use isn’t all together important. Just make sure you are able to moisten everything in the bowl a little bit. After that, mix in the cheese. Take the whole bowl and set it aside while you prepare the rolls.

This part is an imperfect science and takes a little practice, so if you make a mess the first few times, you’re not alone. On whatever surface you use to work the rolls, dust it with some flour first. Then carefully open the rolls, trying not to take them apart. One large, flat piece of dough is that you’re hoping for. Spread the dough out as far as you can without pulling it apart. Employ a rolling pin also dusted with flour if you need to. Once done, scoop out about half of the mixture from the bowl, and place it in the middle of the dough running length-wise. Fold the sides up and press them together at the top, making a capsule of dough around the filling. Repeat the steps with the second pack of crescent rolls and the remaining filling. Bake them at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and serve it up hot.

Monday, April 21, 2008

webisodes

the new thing i've come across in the past few days are webisodes. and yes, maybe i am in fact behind the times at 27, but i'm seeing more and more celebrities who have something to offer besides crotch shots and tabloids about their babies posting webisodes. rocco dispirito is one such celebrity. the first time i had ever heard of rocco dispirito was while watching top chef with my wife about 6 months ago. he was a guest judge, and very impressive in his overall presentation. i've seen a lot of people do guest spots on that show, and a lot of them are jerks. either that or they totally submit to what the other judges have to say about who should move on. he did not.

rocco is a professional chef, author, talk show host, triathelete, and webisoder. he has little 3 minute clips on bertolli's website that show all kinds of little additions to make a meal better. or perhaps to try something you've never seen or heard of before. but while scanning through his webisodes, here's what i picked up inside of about 5 minutes. he has a great book called "rocco's five minute flavor". there are a ton of recipes in there all created with the same criteria. they are all five ingredients or less, take five minutes to prepare or less, and cost five dollars per serving or less. it's a great book and definately worth having a copy.

here is my brief presentation of "chop's 5 minute insight". the premise here is to learn five things about cooking in five minutes or less.

1. just like there are 3 primary colors, there are 4 primary flavors that make up everything we taste; sour, salt, sweet, and bitter.

2. when you are cooking, to brown something is to make it sweeter while to char something (i.e. charbroil) is to make it bitter.

3. extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil is better suited for seasonings

4. standard olive oil is better suited for cooking.

5. pinot griggio is the best catch all wine for itallian food complementing.

My First Tartar

Tuna tartar was one of those things that I never really thought I would like. After all, it’s raw fish. It’s sushi, without the rice…which is actually what makes sushi sushi. So I guess it’s basically sashimi. It's one of those things that I thought I was never quite pretty enough or rich enough to order. But after going to a restaurant in Las Vegas and ordering it on a whim for $26, I figured it was something that could work it’s way into a regular rotation. To that end, I undertook a number of recipes to try to make it at home. Here’s what I found to work the best…
Tuna Tartare:
6 oz. of yellow fin tuna
1 teaspoon of chopped chives
1 teaspoon of chopped shallots
1 juiced lemon
1 oz extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon of chopped capers
Salt and pepper

With a large, heavy, sharp, non-serrated knife, cut the tuna into small cubes. Add all of the additional ingredients, and stir them all together in a large bowl. Place the bowl in the fridge for an hour to chill. Serve it up on some Ritz crackers.

Yes, tuna tartar is just that easy to make at home, and yes, now we can all be embarrassed together that we have spent over $20 on that appetizer. Who knew?

If you are feeling saucy and want to add some flare to the presentation, try this: Take some small Chinese soup spoons (the ones that are flat on the bottom) and crush some crackers in them, almost creating a loose crust. Then dish out small amounts of the tartar into each spoon on the crackers. You will get the contrast in flavor and texture simply in one bite.

The Spanglish

The first one should be among the easiest I think, so I’m going to start with an easy recipe that can be made with minimal effort in a minimal amount of time. It bares the title of the Spanglish Sandwich, a name given by my wife after seeing the movie Spanglish. There’s a scene in which Adam Sandler, a chef in the movie, makes himself a sandwich that looked particularly good to Trina. She asked if I thought I could make it, and not one to shrink form a challenge, I figured I could. This recipe is also available on my other blog, so if you’re bouncing back and forth wondering what you’re looking at, yes it’s the same thing.

Spanglish Sandwich:
2 pieces of bread
2 pieces of cheese
1 egg
1 tomato
Butter
Cooking spray

Butter one side of each piece of bread and place them butter-side down in a large hot skillet. Place the cheese on each piece and melt until the bread is golden brown on the bottom. Yes, this is an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich.

While cooking the bread, on another smaller skillet dusted with the cooking spray, fry the egg until it’s cooked to your preferred temperature. I usually cook mine until the egg is over well and not runny.

Remove everything from heat. Place the fried egg on one piece of bread, the tomato on top of the egg, and close the sandwich with the other piece. Serve it up hot, and enjoy.

A Fundamental Introduction

Welcome to my second blog!

Yesterday was Sunday. Trina was not home, and I found myself watch the show Chefography on the Food Network for the second week in a row. If you haven’t seen it, have a look. It’s a fun show. It’s a lot like an E! True Hollywood story about celebrity chefs. Not long ago, they did a show on Duff Goldman, the guy you’ll see on Ace of Cakes. They’ve done Rachel Ray. And if you don’t know who she is, you’ve been living on the moon, in a cave, with your eyes closed and fingers in your ears. I’m sorry to say that I missed the one about Bobby Flay. But my interests in the show were piqued by the first episode I saw about the man who would help coin the term “Celebrity Chef”, Wolfgang Puck.

My point is I like food. I like to cook food, eat food, talk food, learn food, watch it on TV, learn about the people that make it, and now I want to write about it. I’m not an author. I have neither professional training nor experience in writing. And I’m by no means a chef, or at least not to the point that I could make a living on it. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that “I know food”. I don’t have a well-refined palate and there are still things that I come across and can’t make myself eat because I can’t get passed the color, or what I know it is. All I know is what I like, which hardly qualifies me to be a critic. But upon an introspective review, a lot of people have managed to make their name on only knowing what they like with no formal training. Joel Robuchon, the man touted as the Chef of the Century, had no formal culinary education. He just started in various roles as an apprentice and cooked early and often.

So this will be my food forum. This will be where I come to talk food with people who want to talk food. This is where I will post recipes and stories about how they came to be. This is also where I will post recipes and stories that were utter failures, nearly burning down my house. But what I want to do is make sure I keep it all simple. Chances are, if I was able to make it in my modest little kitchen with my simple tools, anyone can have a go at making what I post. Ceviches, sous-vides, radicchio, and confits, while cool features, probably won’t find their way into my kitchen.

In coming posts, I’ll have all kinds of stuff to look at. I’m not super tech-savvy, but I’m going to try to have fun links and photos. I will have explanations about various inspirations. I’ll have a story about my blog’s title and how I came to choose it. Of course, if we know each other personally, you already know.

So if you read this, pass it along to some friends and like-minded people. See what they think. Share some thoughts, laughs, triumphs, and failures. Have some good food and drink some good wine. Go out and seize a little bit of the good life.