Thursday, December 30, 2010

My tummy hurts...

Tonight started with a healthy salad and then plummeted into an abyss of overly rich food. Actually the true start wasn't exactly heart friendly either. Christmas-time brought some Stilton (English blue cheese) straight from London and some smoked German sausage my way. That was my baseline for the evening. And it was delicious.
Wife Zube's sister made a bedazzling salad of arugula, bacon (obviously), cucumber, cheese, red pepper, and red onion. And that was the end of healthy.
I have made my own version of mussels that are a combination of a TK recipe and from Fore Street (a downtown Portland restaurant). Basically your typical two pound bag of mussels gets cooked in a heavenly mixture of a stick of butter(!), thyme, roasted garlic, white wine, almonds, and dijon mustard. Nice and light...
We then finished with Michael Symon's Chicken, Rosemary, and Chevre Mac n Cheese. Which has only a couple of ingredients: chicken, rosemary, pasta, goat cheese, and 32 oz of heavy cream! It is a succulent delight so hold your judging eyes until they feast on it. The recipe for this doosie is located somewhere in the depths (albeit not that deep) of this blog.

I need to go to bed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

First snow storm of the year and a 10 min drive is at 50 and counting. *sigh*

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For all you food dorks like me out there

Alinea at Home has a post about tips for designing her new kitchen which I skimmed through but then caught a very interesting food nugget at the bottom. Harvard School of Applied Engineering and Science does a class on the science of cooking. As in let's make a mathematical formula that can empirically explain how egg proteins denature (read that as "cook") when certain levels of heat are applied. Blah, blah, blah. Okay that part is not really interesting to us chemical/mathematical mortals but the next link was! They have guest lecturers from molecular gastronomy restaurants! Alinea is a molecular gastronomic restaurant so they had Grant Achatz (the chef/owner) come speak on what he does. His food gets critized for being too un-food like and he has some crazy combinations on the same plate. In the video though he goes through the thought process on how he arrives at the finished product.

Grant Explains It All

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pork chops, sherry, and dates

For the last three Turkey Days I have been evolving a squash, date, and walnut dish that inevitably leads me to have excess dates on hand. The only dish I have in my culinary arsenal is wrapping them in bacon, drizzling with honey, and roasting them into succulent nuggets of pristine gastronomic delight. And while that is a solid way to consume said dates, it just doesn't feed the masses. This year however I am putting an end to that silliness.

I plunked around in my cookbooks and came up with a date and Madeira wine recipe for guinea fowl in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I am fresh out of guinea fowl and Madeira, but I do have some sherry on hand. Hey, they're both fortified wines right? I also have some pork chops from Windy Hill Farms in the freezer as well. Close enough in my book.

So like most other protein with pan sauce recipes we start by getting the pan hot and then getting a nice brown on the chops and fond in the pan. When I flipped the chops I also buried a couple of cloves and bay leaves under them and put the pan in a 350F oven. After 8 minutes or so (really I have no idea how long, but "8 minutes or so" sounds much better then the truth) the pan came out of the oven and the chops removed to a plate to rest. I feel slightly tempted to make a very bad pun about the chops being tired from jumping around in the pan, because saute translates into jumped. But I won't do that.

Now we move on to the pan sauce part. I put a couple pieces (half inch by one inch) of orange zest and half a cup of Sherry into the hot pan and deglazed the fond (repetition technique here, I am embedding fond into your subconscious) using the zest as a sort of organic scrubby pad. This also does a nice job of distributing the oils in the zest throughout the dish. The same idea as wiping a martini glass rim with a twist. Once this boiled a bit I added some turkey stock, chopped dates, and a few small pieces of cinnamon stick and let it all reduce down. Once the sauce came together I plated it all up and we dined.

Three things:
1) I used turkey stock because we just had Turkey Day and the carcass was used to make stock. If you didn't do this or make soup with it then shame on you. *finger waggling*

2) The original reason why I had dates in the first place is for a squash, walnut, date dish. I needed sides to go with the chops so we had sauteed onions and arugula in a walnut vinaigrette and roasted butternut squash.

3) In all honesty this came out okay. Not superb or tear-inducing. I admit I was neglectful of the sauce. I should have reduced the wine down more before adding the stock, and the seasoning was underdone. Next time...

Quickie food notes

Once again Michael Ruhlman has a great post on small gadgets that make a huge difference in the kitchen. Just like most things in life the same goes for cooking; the proper tools make it that much more fun/easy.

Ruhlman's blog

Yankee magazine also did a really neat article on a small town in Northern-ish Vermont called Wolcott. It is how the town has gone green/self-sustainable/locally sourced/etc and is succeeding at it.

Wolcott Vermont in Yankee magazine

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why turkey is like Chinese take-out

Turkey Day has come and passed, tummies have been stuffed, and pants un-done to make room for more pie. It is great to sit down and know that an amazingly high percentage of the rest of our country is doing the same thing with basically the same food on the same day. Pretty uniting, eh?
I have decided that turkey is magical. Magical in the same way that Chinese take-out containers are; you know the white ones that rice comes in? Yeah, the little box that makes you disappointed that "that was all you got" somehow spills forth enough rice to feed a small third world country. Don't know how they do it, but its magic for sure. Turkey's magic is still food-based but it comes in the form of enticing you even deeper into the pits of gluttony. It isn't malevolent, but simply wants to share all it's tryptophanic delights with you and it only has a day or two to accomplish this.

This is actually the answer to the question that we all mutter/curse/whine at some point on Turkey Day: "Why did I eat so much?" Turkey magic. Duh!

For me personally the magic while at the table is pretty standard, but its later that the juice (or perhaps gravy is more appropriate in this situation) really gets poured on. The turkey is still on the counter or tented under foil in the fridge. Purely wonderful elves have done the dishes and family/guests are spread throughout the house making very odd digestion noises, sometimes no so quietly. And then you hear this quiet voice in your ear, that little knock-knock on your psyche. Come eat me. Next thing you know someone walks into the kitchen and catches you chomping madly with both hands actually in the fridge ripping chunks of cold meat from the carcass. Your shoulders are probably hunched, feet spread for balance, and one eye is open wider than the other. You might be taking the time to salt the turkey before consuming but really you are throwing pinches of salt in your mouth and mixing a la minute.

Nine guests and a twenty-three pound bird equals turkey sandwiches for days and days. And the beauty is that only three ingredients are required: turkey, bread, and mayo. Sure there are an almost infinite number of possibilities (squash makes an awesome spread) but let's not fall into the trap of over-complicating matters. Simple is perfect and it keeps the magic alive.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Radishes (and not the dried wafer salad version either!)

I am pretty sure that most, and I mean all, of us have mainly been exposed to radishes in only one form; sliced rounds on a salad. Occasionally they will be fresh, peppery, and crunchy, but the usual state of despair is dessicated, rubbery, and devoid of any flavor that you actually want to have in your mouth. I like the concept of the radish, but once I start consuming I get dubious as to why I was all excited. Don't get me wrong, I like the taste, but it seems like they should just be better.

*The lights dim, a single spot light hits the corner of the stage, and in enters the hero of our story, the Pan Braised Radish*

It never occurred to me to actually apply some heat to these little guys until I came across a recipe that did precisely just that. These are good! Wife Zube ate her first one and sorta did a double-take at the unexpected deliciousness. And another cool aspect of this is that start to finish is about 15 minutes with little attention needed. This is helpful for all you ADHD suffering cooks out there.

We had these hot as a side dish for our main meal, but I am thinking cooled down these buggers could make a cool amuse/canape/something fun to snack on.

After rinsing and trimming the root/green ends the basic goal is to make them all about the same size. Same size means equal cooking time and Grandpa doesn't get stuck with a rock hard radish in his dentures. The general dimensions vary but I would suggest taking your smallest one and halving it unless your smallest one is big then quarter it. If it is huge the 1/6th it... I'm not being that helpful here, eh? Just make them all somewhat similar. Okay...moving on.

For two eaters you most likely have 8-10 radishes cut into appropriate sized bits and now you'll need a shallot finely minced. Into a hot saute pan with a bit of oil/butter go the shallots and sweat them for a minute or so. Medium to med-high heat we don't want to scorch of shallots here. The radishes should mostly lay in a single layer and not have to compete for prime real estate in the pan. Add in the radishes (as a side note I keep starting to type turnip instead of radish) and a tablespoon of butter, or more if you are feeling naughty. Next into the mix add either chicken stock or water. Add stock/water until the radishes are half submerged (or half not submerged for you optimists out there) and simmer gently until the liquid is mostly evaporated. At this point you get to eat one to check for doneness. I recommend adding too little liquid at first and then putting more in if needed. Once the radishes are glazed in the stock/water/butter glaze shake a dash or two of red wine vinegar and chuck a small pinch of sugar in. Swirl your raddies around and let the pungent, nose-hair burning vinegar smell die down a bit. Taste to make sure you likey and serve!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Today's disconcerting thought

A friend of mine now works for a small bio-diesel plant and there primary source of oil is restaurants. They have been approaching restaurants and offering to buy their used fryolater oil in order to convert it into bio-diesel. This is taking the oil (in almost every case) away from a massive international company. This company certainly did nothing as "green", eco-friendly, or in anyway constructive. Nope, they take the used, nasty, burnt oil, filter it, and then sell it to the beef industry. Where it goes into cattle feed. And then you eat it.
Once again, please take the time to find a locally raised beef, chicken, and pork supplier. Also, as I have mentioned in the past, Hannaford Nature's Place sticker seems to be sourced from more responsible farms. A couple extra dollars spent will help a local business out and give you a much superior product.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What I should have said was...

...see you in a couple of months. My name is Zube and I am a bad summer cook. That is my confession (and I don't like olives!). Sure I marinade, grill, and all that, but there really isn't any of my soul in it. My summer cooking tends to be more mechanical than passionate, more necessity than pleasure. It is absurdly ironic that when I want to cook the least, I have the largest plethora of produce available. But that is how it is.

It isn't that I didn't eat well during the summer, but rather I ate differently. Fast and furious grilling, quick salads, and lots of marinades/vinaigrettes filled the summer months. Wife Zube made me a burger one day that made a tear fall from my eye and I had a garlic-herb-dijon, hickory-smoked prime rib at Cape Cod that made me dance a jig! (And I have totally stolen that recipe and used it at work and home.)

That being said it is the end of October, fond has sat dormant for almost 5 months, and I am cookin' again! And it feels goooooood. Yesterday I had the house to myself and spent hours prepping for a small dinner party that night. Going through the quiet mechanics of chopping, peeling, roasting, etc. just puts me at ease and sorta re-establishes my being. Sounds cheesy (we did have goat cheese...) and it is, but we all have our thing that recharges our battery. Mine happens to be standing in a kitchen for a couple of hours. Sue me.

A couple of days ago Wife Zube and I realized that we both had Thursday off and that we hadn't had anyone over for awhile. Text message sent, dinner party guest list established. What to cook? Well, in the recent past I had been politely reminded by Wife Zube that I pretty much always make some form of chicken, potato, and veg for the incoming couple. So instead we took it to Fancy Town:

Second Course (first one was camera shy)
Roasted beets and sweet potatoes with watercress, goat cheese, and walnut vinaigrette

Third Course
Spaghetti squash, scallops, red curry, and fresh basil

Fourth Course
Seared duck breast, brussel sprouts, and creamy dijon-garlic sauce

Fifth Course
Braised pork shortrib, glazed purple turnips and carrots

It is good to be back. Part of the side effect of this blog is that it pushes me to make new/different things or else face the consequences of a really boring blog. This is going to be a good winter for food, I can almost taste it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nine days! Yikes!

I knew I was deliquent in posting, but nine days without word is unacceptable! My apologies to you all. Tonight's post is pretty much shooting from the hip, albeit an Asian hip.

It is 11 p.m., Wife Zube is out of town, I just got home from work and cleaned up, and I am hungry. I had originally planned on some form of Asian take-out for tonight, but didn't follow through. But I still want Asian flavor. Huh. I thought about the contents of my pantry, fridge, freezer and came up with this dish. It is a bastardized version of multiple different Asian cuisines, but I am a white honky and I don't know any better.

Epiphany number 1: I have really good chicken stock.
Epiphany number 2: I have fresh ginger.
Epiphany number 3: Enough said.

Here is the dilly-o for tonight's recipe:

2 cups of chicken stock
1 tbs fresh minced ginger
1 tbs miso paste (not really needed, but I had some)
1 scallion sliced thin
some celery leaves
a small handful of rice noodles, you pick which type
1 egg, beaten
crushed red pepper, if you like-a da heat.

Bring the stock to a boil and combine all ingredients except the egg. Cook this until the noodles are just shy of how you like them. While stirring the soup, slowly pour in the beaten egg and then keep stirring for a few moments. Pour into a bowl, wait a couple minutes, and devour.

In retrospect I am happy to have forgotten my take-out fantasy. This bowl of delight was beyond easy, used up random stuff in my fridge, and made my tongue thank me. It is a fair reminder of how delicious food can be made in minutes with basic ingredients.

P.S. Good chicken stock is key for this dish. Actually it is key for any dish that calls for chicken stock. And so on and so forth for beef, veggie, and fish stock. Good stock is what separates most home cooking from restaurant quality. I keep saying to Google it, but one of these days I will post a recipe for it. Until then though, Google is your friend in stock.

P.S.S. The photo is from my phone. I scrounged around but the ol' digital is no where to be found. Let your mind visual the flavor, succulence, and smell that my image completely lacks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celery Root with Melted Onions

Two nights ago my tongue, in a fit of sheer joy, did a back-flip and high-five'd a molar. What would make my tongue do such acrobatics, you ask? Celery root with melted onions is the culprit. The rather benign looking pile of soft, wilted looking stuff is the celery root with onions. This is another TK recipe from Ad Hoc and it is another home run. In traditional TK-style he breaks components down and then loads each step with maximum flavor. This dish needs cooked onions. You could a) simply saute them for about 5 minutes or b) sweat all the moisture out and then simmer them in butter with garlic, thyme, a bay leaf, and peppercorns for 30 minutes. Option A is a fine choice, but B will make you write your mom. (I am killing two birds with one stone, because my mom reads about it here...)

To melt your onions take about 4 cups of sliced onions that have been sliced from end to end, not cross-sectioned. (End to end cut onions hold their shape better when cooked.) Put them into a saute pan over medium heat, and without adding any oil, slowly cook them for about 15 minutes or so. You are removing moisture from the onions and concentrating their flavor at this point. The onions shouldn't really brown at all, but just soften up a bit. Next add in a bay leaf, two whole cloves of garlic that have been lightly crushed, a dozen peppercorns, and some sprigs of thyme. If you have cheesecloth on hand, and I never do, this would be a good time to wrap all that stuff in it. Fancy people call this a sachet. You don't need to wrap it up, but it saves time at the end when you are individually picking peppercorns out... Melt half a stick of butter (in cubes) into the pan, swirling as you do to keep it emulsified. Now the recipe calls for a parchment paper lid. TK has a huge crush on parchment paper lids, and I finally broke down and made one. It took 2 minutes and I think it really made an impact on the dish. I'm not going to describe how to make it, but just go ahead and Google it. It is as easy as falling down and I am sold on it now. The onions are going to gently cook away on medium low heat for the next half hour. Other than stirring every 10 minutes don't do anything else to the pan.

While your onions melt take your celery root (a.k.a. celeriac) peel it, quarter it lengthwise, and thinly slice it using a mandolin or your mad knife skills. (Mandolins are cheap an exceedingly useful. Go buy one. And some band-aids.) Get a pan hot over medium heat, once again no oil, and add the celeriac and let it sit for 10 minutes or so to soften. Then add in another bay leaf, crushed garlic cloves, more thyme, and some canola. Cook until completely soft, 10 minutes or so. Remember to keep the heat on the medium side. You aren't looking for color, but just to cook and soften your veg.

When your onions are sufficiently melted, mine browned a bit, and the celeriac softened drain them both on paper towels. Combine them in a pan to heat them together and add a cup or so of good chicken stock. This helps with the creamy factor.

I didn't make enough of this dish. I used one large celery root for four people and that was a bad decision. From now on, we use one large root per two people. We also had some delicious grilled asparagus and Arista pork chops (also an Ad Hoc number). The frenched pork chops are from DuBreton and the others from Windy Hill Farms.

When in doubt, eat pork.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chicken, Mushrooms, and Cauliflower "Mac"

I have decided to treat mushrooms like bacon. To clarify, I am including them in almost every dish I now make. All foods have different properties (bacon's is that it is awesome!) and mushrooms have the ability to satisfy. They are high in the chemicals (the carboxylate anion of glutamic acid) that contribute to the taste, umami. (Leave it to the Japanese to give a name to the taste that is difficult to explain.) We are use to salty, sweet, sour, and spice as the four primary tastes. However, we are now aware of the fifth taste; umami. It is the feeling of savory, fulfillment, and soul-restorration that comes from eating foods high in it. My favorite example is miso soup. I would always eat it and think that there was something fundamentally awesome with it. It turns out that dashi (a component of miso soup) and seaweed are both quite high in umami! I am a genius.

The color palette of this dish is just shy of institutional boring-ness, but the flavors ran strong! As the photo (And yes, it was taken on the railing of our deck. I thought I would mix up the scenery a bit.) shows we have a big ole pile of cremini and button mushrooms. These were sauteed with about a tablespoon of minced thyme and then had about 1/4 cup of chicken stock ladled in near the end. The chicken stock gave its flavor to the shroomies and picked up flavor from the pan. This became the delectable sauce you see floating around on the plate. It was included because the chicken was un-marinated and needed some moisture. The cauliflower "mac" is blanched cauliflower florets that I mixed in with a cheese sauce. I miscalculated and ended up with far too much cheese sauce, but some would argue that is impossible. The cheese sauce starts with the classic bechamel sauce and then I whip in some grated cheese. I have read about bechamel for years and have just started making it. I think the fancy French name got all big, tough-guy on me and intimidated me away. Well not no mo'! I kicked Mr. Bechamel in the face and now realize the ease and utility of it!

Take two tablespoons of butter, melt over medium heat, and then whisk in two tablespoons of flour. Bring this to a light simmer for a few minutes. Slowly pour in hot milk while whisking until it thickens. This only takes a few minutes and it is like an ankle in a tattoo parlor: a blank canvas. The cheese goes in at the end. You want the milk hot because cold milk will make the sauce seize and then you have to whisk more. A lot more.

Enjoy this dish, we were both quite happy with it, and it was around 8 points on the WW scale.

p.s. good chicken stock makes a huge difference in every dish.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Speaking of yum...


This is a blog I read a lot feel free to click the link on the right hand side of my page to get there. Between Ruhlman's prose/cooking and his wife's photography it is a pretty killer site.

Yikes, that was a fast week!

Time flies by and suddenly I haven't posted anything in a week! On a side note as a restaurant manager, another Mother's Day successfully cooked, plated, and served with only minimal effects to blood pressure.

Life has been hectic and without time to do too much involved cooking. However, I did have time this week to compose a meal with some thought behind it. Sometimes it is those quick little jobbies that come out blazing and make you sit back and smile. This one was tasty albeit not mind-shatteringly stupendous.

What we got here is a case of Pa Zube caught brook trout stuffed with thyme and lemon, and then it was pan-roasted. The glazed carrots from a previous post (still cut with the "oblique cut" method). Lastly some asparagus that was also pan-roasted with lemon and minced shallot. Nothing like wild caught fish to make you feel good about eating. Yum.

My apologies once again for being a bad poster and this one being short. The next one will be better. And remember the first one is free... but then you pay.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Healthy Eating

Americans are catching on to the fact that our diet (the "Western Diet") is pretty much killing us. Processed food has become the mainstay of our cuisine and this is bad. You keep reading about new "scientific discoveries" about this and that, being good or bad, in our diet. The truth is that the diet itself is bad. Consuming oodles of corn by-products and chemicals that we have no idea about is not healthy. Eating vegetables is healthy. Eating meat that you bought from the farmer in the next town is healthy. Moving away from processed foods and towards foods that you get in their raw form is healthy. A friend of mine stopped eating processed foods for one month. He lost 16 pounds. He is an active, physically fit guy, and that was all he did to lose weight.

Michael Pollan put out a little book called "Food Rules" and it is pretty awesome. It contains 64 rules towards healthy eating. He doesn't want you to follow them all, but certainly a few. The rules are common sense, but a good reminder of what healthy food choices are. One of my favorites: "Don't eat cereal that changes the color of your milk."

I don't like weight-loss diet plans. They tend to be one-sided, focused on abolishing some things and main-lining others, and they are short-lived. In my opinion it is better to teach yourself healthy alternatives, cook for yourself, and limit your portion size. And while I am not plugging Weight Watchers, I do like how they operate for the most part. I think that if you were to sit down and read "Food Rules" and the Weight Watcher handbook you would have a pretty dynamite way of eating.

"Food Rules" focuses you on raw ingredients and cooking for yourself, WW teaches you portion control and how to account for what you put in your body. You even get rewarded for exercise! And something I just learned is that when WW assigns you your "daily point value" you are actually suppose to consume that many points! A negative that I see in WW though is they push you towards some foods that aren't good alternatives. Margarine is not an acceptable food. It is hydrogenated corn oil. You don't need more corn.

I have seen WW work and I want to promote healthy eating to my readers. So I am going to try and post a WW point total with my recipes. Does this sound like a good idea to all you readers out there? If not, I can keep it a secret. :)

Seared scallops and shrimp with spaghetti squash "pasta"
Serves two

8 sea scallops
10 shrimp
1/2 red pepper -large dice
1/2 yellow pepper -large dice
1/4 cup red onion -large dice
1 tsp lemon zest -minced
1/4 cup feta
3 cloves of garlic -skin on
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tbs canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook half the spaghetti squash the same way as in "Dinner from the fridge.." but this time put the garlic and 2 sprigs of thyme under it. Roast at 350 until the outside is soft when you push it, about 40 minutes. Take it out of the oven and while it cools saute the veggies, lemon zest, and the sprig of thyme on medium-high heat with 1/2 tbs oil. When tender remove them from the pan, add the remaining 1/2 tbs of oil and cook the scallops and shrimp.
Using a fork, pull the "noodles" out of the squash and toss with the veggies and feta. The garlic cloves should be nicely roasted so peel 'em, chop 'em, and mix 'em in!
Make a pile of spaghetti squash love on your fancy square plate, arrange the scallops and shrimp, and feast away!

Cost per plate ~$6.00
WW points per plate ~8

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Red Onion Pickles

In a previous post I listed pickles as one of my not fancy foods that I enjoy. This is a huge understatement and doesn't begin to address my undying passion/zeal/hunger for all things dill/bread&butter/sour/spicy that are pickles. Where others find solace in a chocolate chip cookie or warm brownie, I want to slurp down a Kosher dill spear. (I like cookies and brownies too, don't get me wrong.) I love the refreshing tang of a nice, cool pickle. My current ranking favorite store bought pickles is, as you may have guessed, the nuclear-green Vlasic Kosher Dill. Yum.

Today we are talking about pickled red onions however and using a recipe that I stole from the "Zuni Cafe Cookbook". The Zuni Cafe is in San Fransisco and they do a pretty killer job of cooking what they want, making it tasty, and keeping it seasonal. Judy Rodgers, the chef, actually modifies the day's menu depending on the weather outside. She will make a nice light soup when it is clear and sunny, and then thicken it up if clouds roll in. Pretty cool, and would be so hard in Maine where the weather changes direction like a squirrel in the middle of a road.

Not to be sidetracked from this delicious and EASY snack, let's get picklin'! First you need a couple of red onions and a pickle. Throw them all in the food processor or blender and puree to smooth. Drink. AHHHH! Gotcha good! While this recipe does take more effort than that, it isn't much.

Into one stainless steel pot (important or chemical reactions ruin the coloring of the onion) goes: 3 cups white vinegar, 1.5 cups sugar, 1 star anise, 2 bay leaves, 1 cinnamon stick broken up, and a couple of peppercorns. I would have added the allspice berries and whole cloves, but I am sadly out. Bring all of this to a rolling boil. Rolling boil not included in photo below...

While the pot is working on boiling, take two red onions, peel, and slice them into 3/8" rings. Try to get only the nice thick rings and not the thin weird ones.

Once the pot is boiling full-tilt chuck a third of the onion rings in, tuck them underwater, and wait 20 seconds.

At the end of the 20 seconds the vinegar should be boiling and you want to remove the onions to a cooling rack/plate. Repeat this with the remaining two thirds of onion rings. Let the rings cool completely and then do it all again, twice more. In the end your pickled onion rings should have gotten 3 dunks in the tank. At the end let the liquid cool completely and then pour over the rings in a tight-sealing container. They last indefinetely, but you are going to eat them quickly. I like 'em straight, and they serve them on burgers at Zuni Cafe.

A Mitch Hedburg quote for the day:
A pickle is a cucumber that sold its soul to the Devil. And the Devil is dill.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Path to Happy Cooking...

Unless you wear an animal skin for a robe, keep bones in your beard, and club your women you probably use some tools when cooking. Us humans are tool-users, opposable thumbs help, and we have gotten really good at making tools that we both need and don't need. Alton Brown, a food TV personality, shows his disdain for "uni-taskers". These are items that are designed to do one job only. Take the garlic press for example. It presses garlic. I can mince garlic with my chef knife just fine. And then go on to do a plethora of other tasks with said knife. So bottom line: there are a lot of tools that you just don't need. However, there are some crucial ones, and this post is talking about pans. And not Pan, the mythical goat man, although he is pretty cool too. Always has a rad goatee.

Why are good pans important? Would you prefer to drive a Ferrari or a Yugo? Play video games on an Atari or XBox 360? Obvious right? And yet people forget this easy decision when buying pans for themselves. Why spend $50 on a saute pan when I can get one at XXXX for $12? Well just like the Ferrari vs. Yugo it is all about performance. A crappy pan will cook crappily, and will make it very hard to cook properly. Important factors in cooking such as heat retention, heat distribution, and handling are abhorring non-present in poorly made pans. You need to invest a tad more moolah to get the goods, but the nice part is that they will last for your lifetime if you take care of them! And using nice stuff makes it more fun to cook. Cooking is fun and should stay that way. If every time you try to fry an egg it comes out looking like a Jackson Pollack painting, maybe you should fork over some bucks and buy a decent non-stick pan. Correct technique helps too, but that is a different topic.

My personal preferences for pans are Calphalon and All-Clad. If these were car brands they would be Honda and Mercedes, respectively. My non-stick saute pans are Calphalon and my stainless saute pans are All-Clad. As far as pots go I have about a 50/50 mix. I also have some flimsy pans from my early days that I use to boil water and hard-boil eggs. They bring me no joy though. It sounds silly, but I know some of you reading this understand. It brings me joy to heft my All-Clad pan onto a burner, bring it to temp, pour in some oil, see the shimmer, and then hear the sizzle as I lay the meat in it. Just that process alone makes me happy, I am simple.

Buying tip for all ya: I never pay full price. Between and TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshalls you can find Calphalon and All-Clad pans on sale for up to 60% off. Carpe di-pan!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas

Wife Zube and I fell in love over Mexican food and almost ten years later we both still enjoy it very much. Ironically, other than chips, salsa, tacos, and guacamole we don't eat that much of it at home. So I thought I would do something about it!

The thought of melted cheese with a tangy sauce bubbling in an oven makes my tummy growl (this is basically a queso fundido). Wrap the cheese in corn tortillas and smother with the sauce and you have enchiladas. These are easy, cheap, and fun to make!

I bounced back and forth between a Tex-Mex tomato-cumin style sauce and a tomatillo-based sauce, and we settled on the latter. Off to the grocery store I went and was quickly disappointed. While I didn't expect to find fresh tomatillos at this time of the year, I was hoping to find canned crushed ones. Nope. Just salsa verde. And while this is a tomatillo sauce its already got stuff added in and so I couldn't control the flavors as much as I wanted to. Welp, ya gotta roll with the punches sometimes. A purist would have turned away and made a sauce from scratch but I had two thoughts in mind 1) a good chance to do a post using some pre-made items in yummy home cooking and 2) I already had my heart set on ooey-gooey cheese and tomatillo sauce running down my chin as I feasted.

My product list for this dish: a can of salsa verde (*sigh*), cilantro, red onion, chicken thighs, jack cheese, corn tortillas, feta, greek yogurt (or sour cream), and garlic. If you are one of those people with pathological hatred of cilantro I pity you and feel free to omit it. Remember, it isn't your fault, only your gene's. I picked up the chicken thighs because I was going to boil and shred the chicken. The thighs have the most flavor and don't dry out like a popcorn fart in a windstorm like breast does. I also bought a block of cheese and not the pre-shredded bag. Why? Because I like my cheese to be cheese and not cheese with corn starch, potato starch, and other anti-caking additives. A box grater and 30 seconds and WHAM-O! I had my own bag of grated cheese, and it was only cheese.

In the photo we have sliced red onions for garnish, and minced red onion, cilantro, and garlic for the sauce. I just can't resist putting one of my favorite knives in the shot. Not uber expensive, but fits my hand and keeps an edge like you dream about. Well, like I dream about at least.

In a small saucepan over medium high heat I cooked the garlic, onion, and cilantro for a minute or two and then dumped in the can o' sauce. I added a half cup of chicken stock (you can use water instead) and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so to let the flavors blend.

I brought a pot of water to a simmer and cooked off my thighs (chicken thighs, not actually mine) and then shredded them by using two forks and pretending I was a puppy looking for a buried meat treat. When the chicken had cooled a bit I laid down a corn tortilla (microwaving the bag for 30 seconds makes them more pliable and easier to roll) and put a layer of shredded jack and chicken across the entire middle. I did about a 50% ratio on the mix. Make the layer big enough so that your tortilla overlaps by an inch or so when you roll it over. Into an oven-proof pan (in this case Corningware I stole from Ma Zube at some point) they went and I ladled the sauce over them. You want good coverage, but too much sauce can make it overly soupy. I crumbled some feta over the dish and scattered a smattering of the sliced red onion on top of the enchiladas. The oven was at 400F and the dish took about 20 minutes to cook. Actually I don't really remember how long, I just checked to see how they were doing... When they looked melted and delicious I plated them with black beans, guacamole, and some greek yogurt (a healthier alternative to sour cream):

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grilled Leek and Tomato Vinaigrette

Making your own vinaigrette is like putting on sunglasses. It makes you that much cooler and is really easy to do. And by really easy I mean if you have figured out how to wake up in the morning and get to work you have already met and surpassed all intellectual requirements.

You need to know one basic concept and once you have that (which takes just over 2 seconds to understand)you have the Golden Ticket to Tasty Vinaigrette Land! The basic concept to vinaigrettes is that it you only need two ingredients; oil and acid. Any oil will do (canola, olive, walnut, etc.) and any acid will do (wine, vinegar, citrus, etc) to make your greens super-duper tasty. Combine these two ingredients and whisk, or shake, the bejeebers out of it and dress your salad immediately. The possibilities are endless, tasty, and encourage you to experiment. All the ingredients are easy to keep pantry items as well, so you can whip up of succulent salad dressing in seconds while your amazed onlookers gape at your culinary skillz.

There is a third component that plays an extremely useful role in keeping your vinaigrette from separating back out to just oil and acid. It is an emulsifier and it emulsifies through emulsification. (I was curious if a sentence with that word three times would make sense.) Basically an emulsifier (usually egg yolk, mayo, or mustard) binds little bits of acid to little bits of oil and you can see this by the vinaigrette taking on a creamy sheen instead of staying visually separated.

While it is so easy to make your own vinaigrette, there is so much that I could talk about that this post would be very, very long. So I am going to skip to today's recipe and anyone seeking more info/explanation can comment/email for it?

This recipe was originally a "charred tomato vinaigrette" that I made for a special at my work. Buddy and blog follower MisterTB made it at home and added in grilled leeks. I likie, so I made it again with the grilled leeks. Ironically I also made it at work again so my only photo of this dish is on the work grill.

I took a box of cherry tomatoes, tossed them with salt, pepper, and oil, and put them on the grill with the leeks. Leeks grow in sand so it is important to halve them lengthwise and rinse them out between the layers real good like. Nobody likes a sandy salad dressing. I grilled the tomatoes until their little sides split and the leeks until mostly tender. All in all not very long on the ol' grill. Into the food processor they went and I pureed until somewhat smooth. Now the tomatoes have their own acid, but I still wanted a little more so in went a tbs or so of red wine vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. A dollop of mayo was put in to stabilize the emulsion and keep it creamy. I used mayo because it is fairly neutral in flavor instead of a mustard which would have added an extra tang. I wanted the vinaigrette to taste like tomatoes and leeks, not mustard. With the machine running I dribbled in about 3 tbs of oil, stopping every couple of seconds to make sure it was all emulsifying and not getting oily and nastyish. At the end I salted and peppered until I liked the taste. As I previously mentioned I did this at work for a special so this vinaigrette was used there. The dish was grilled swordfish loin over a bed of arugula topped with this vinaigrette and fried leek ribbons.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Food Notes

While this isn't about human food, it certainly pertains to feeding. Birds that is! We got a bird feeder for Christmas this year and put it up mid-January but didn't see a whole lot of activity (none actually) until now. Not only do we have chickadees picking away, but we also have two woodpeckers bamboozling around! They prefer to bang on trees, but I am still giving the feeder credit for their attendance.

In the last ten years premier chefs went from being the cretin in the back of a restaurant slaving away to the current status of rock stars. The recognition of their achievements and the execution of their dishes have cause foodies the world round to crave a peek or document their own experience at high end restaurants. The French Laundry reservations list is booked SIX MONTHS from the day. People have their phones call automatically all day hoping to get in, and most don't. You try that hard for a reservation, wait six months, then drop $300 a person, and it is easy to understand why some people try to record all they can about such a special occasion. I am certainly guilty of looking up photos that people have taken of their meals at restaurants I will never go to. It is a neat sneak peak into high end dining and I appreciate someone taking the time to do it. However, with all things people just take it too far.

Grant Achatz is the chef/owner of Alinea in Chicago and does amazingly complex interpretations of what we think of as food. His meals certainly push the "cooking is an art form" argument even though he doesn't advocate that himself. He just made the headlines again for his blog post concerning people disrupting restaurant functioning due to their zeal for documenting the meal/service/experience. People have been taking photos since his place opened a couple of years ago, but once again we took it too far.

Top Chef Masters premiers tonight on Bravo at 11 pm! I am not a huge fan of reality cooking shows, but this is my favorite. Tonight starts season two and hopefully it follows in the footsteps of last season. There was very little drama and a whole lot of sportsmanship between the master chefs. Instead of the usual Top Chef format of young wannabes, Masters involves current, high end, accomplished chefs that are playing for charity. It is pretty cool to watch what they come up with.

And to wrap it up for today here is a photo of an Alinea dish. I found this photo at

And you can see how a very cool lady is making Alinea dishes her way on the blog Alinea at Home (in my "blogs I read" section).


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Very not fancy foods that I think are yummy...

Gas station hot dogs
Velveta Shells n Cheese
Cheddar Broccoli Tuna Helper


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Roasted Beets

One of the joys that I find in cooking is when I can change someone's mind. When I can present someone with a certain food,dish, or ingredient that they don't particularly like, watch them taste, tentatively at first, and then scarf it down like its their first meal in days. We all have likes and dislikes that are truly part of us, but there are a lot of food dislikes that exist simply because your previous experience is with a bad version. If you have dined at Chez Zube a couple of times, chances are pretty high that you had glazed carrots. They are always a hit, and yet how many people out there don't like cooked carrots. Take three seconds and you can rattle off the most commonly disliked veggies: brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, peas, turnip, and beets. Want to know a secret? No vegetable tastes all that great that has been boiled to death, microwaved, or commercially canned.

Wife Zube continually holds that we will be able to feed our future children glazed carrots and roasted beets while calling them candy. They do have naturally occurring sugars, but it is up to you to bring them out.

These beets are delicious, easy, and will stain your fingers purple for a little bit! Go to your grocer, buy a bundle of fresh beets, and return to your abode. Preheat the oven to 300F and while it warms up wash the beets, trim them, and wrap them in foil with some salt and a tidbit of water.

An hour and a half later pull the packet of veggie candy out of the oven, crack the foil, and let cool slightly. The tip here is that the warmer the beets are the easier they are to peel. Cold beets are a huge pain to peel. I like to quarter the beets right away. When I don't use them right away (but you should) the microwave (a.k.a. jukebox, zapper, etc) does heat them nicely with little side effects. A good dish idea for these succulent puppies is arugula, goat cheese, pecans, beets, and a light (viscousity not caloric content) vinaigrette. Balsamic would work or you can make your own. Not sure how to do that? It is a soon to be posted post! MUHAHAHAHAHA!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm baaacckkk!

Hello once again everyone! I know some of you have been checking in over the last week only to find the blog un-updated (new word I think!), but now I am back from sunny vaca and ready to cook, type, and eat!

It is always interesting to me how the slightest mention of a semi-forgotten food, the sniff of a food memory scent, or seeing a dish go past in a restaurant can generate such powerful desires for that food. You can be calmly walking down your street and the Schwann's truck will be delivering to a neighbor when suddenly your mouth starts to water because you remember having their cheese and potato pierogies sauteed with onions and butter in college. And yes, it was delicious!

This is the situation Wife Zube and I found ourselves in upon arriving at our vacation spot. We were staying just off of Reuben Drive. We both see the sign and then pretty much suggest reubens for dinner at the same time. A street sign. That is all it took. Not even a fancy street sign.

I love every component of reubens; savory corn beef, cheese, Russian dressing, sauerkraut and bread. But even with my glee for those ingredients I have never, ever made a reuben at home! It never even occurred to me to do so. I love pastrami as well and yet have only made those a couple of times also. Just plain weird I think, that these two delicious, easy sandwiches so easily fall wayside to your standard turkey, tuna fish, or ham sammie.

Well despite my seemingly predisposed attitude to not make reubens at home, we sure did on vacation! Bread was toasted up, corn beef fried, sauerkraut was krauted and to-da! One scrumptious sandwich, if not a pretty one:

Feast your eyes on that. Yum.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My apologies on the recent dearth of postings. Wife Zube and I are on vaca and this is the first trial post from the Blackberry. Is this going to work?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dinner from the Fridge...

Time for an improv dinner/post it seems. Per usual we ended up with various tidbits in the fridge and they all need to get used up. I use to be not so good (read that:bad) at utilizing all my groceries and we would end up tossing rotten food. That is a bad Zube! So now I make sure to run the fridge dry before the end of the week. Then we start fresh!

Through my work I ended up chatting with a fella from Pineland Farms in New Gloucester and more specifically from their meat department a.k.a. Wolfe's Neck Beef. It turns out that Wolfe's Neck is a humane, mostly grass-fed, beef source that Hannaford packages as their "Nature's Place" brand. I read something recently about Wolfe's Neck that did raise some question marks as to how earth-huggingily friendly they are or aren't, but I don't remember the details. Either way the fella provided great info as to how they are certified and and accredited for being antibiotic and hormone free! So the Zube household may find itself getting the occasional Nature's Place beef at Hannaford. We mainly try to give our business to Windy Hill Farms as they are VERY local and good folk!

To get back on topic, we had some Wolfe's Neck bistro steaks on hand. The bistro comes from the shoulder (I am pretty sure) and looks vaguely like a little filet mignon, but has much more flavor albeit not as tender. That is how it goes with beef by the way; the more tender, the less flavor, and vice-versa. I love flank steak for its deep, rich, beefy flavor, but a lot of people don't care for it due to chewiness.

After a quick forage through the supplies we came up with asparagus, red peppers, yellow onions, zucchini, and spaghetti squash. I also keep some pesto frozen for moments just like this! The squash needs to be roasted and will take about 30 minutes in a 300F oven, but what to do with the rest? Hmmm. It is almost 50 degrees outside, so let's grill 'em up! So the official name went from "semi-random stuff in fridge" to "Pesto Spaghetti Squash with char-grilled vegetables and Wolfe's Neck Beef bisto steak". The first name makes you wonder if you should eat it and the second name will get you $25 bucks a plate in a restaurant...

To roast the squash simply cut it in half the long way and scoop out the seeds. Give the cut edge a little rub-down with oil, salt/pepper it, and place it cut side down on a sheet pan. If you wanted to be a little fancier you could put some herbs, garlic, or lemon underneath the squash in the hollowed out part. For this dish I am going to skip that since the pesto is going to be a pretty strong flavor and would overpower anything else. To test for doneness I simply poke the outside and see if it has gotten somewhat soft. When it has I take it out, let it cool a bit, and then use a fork to scrape the "spaghetti" out. Mix it with pesto and ka-blam!

Do I want the bistros to be plain or should I add some flavor? I want more flavor so I consult my pantry of usual supplies. Rosemary, oil, salt, garlic. I don't know about you, but to me that screams yummy delicious flavor. I roughly chop up the rosemary and garlic, combine with a couple tablespoons of oil and some salt, and put in a baggie with the bistros for a couple of hours.

The veggies get cut into slices or strips depending on which one, salted, and then simply grilled. I chop them up a bit after the grilling to make them more manageable, but you could keep 'em whole for a different presentation. You can't see the onions in the photo, but I assure you they are there.

The steak grills with the veg so we are ready to chow down and smack our lips! Total busy time for this is what? 20 minutes maybe? Easy, tasty, and pretty darn healthy to boot. See you soon!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks

I have this thing for braising if you hadn't noticed (pork short ribs, duck confit, lamb shanks). There is just something about putting a a big ole chunk of meat in the oven and four hours later it has turned into a meltingly tender meal. The whole house smells so good and feels very homey... enough sappiness, let's talk about eating baby animals!

Lamb shanks are a tougher cut, full of bone and sinew, but very full of flavor. The secret is getting the toughness out and the deliciousness in. Braising tends to cook the flavor out of meat, so a marinade can certainly help keep the meat tasty in itself. It is also important to make a yummy sauce and serve the braised meat pretty hot. The temperature is even more important with lamb since most people don't like the fatty part of it. Personally I like to rub it on my chest and howl at the moon. Getting back to the marinade... I poured about half a bottle of Cab into a pot with sliced onion, bay leaves, garlic, salt, peppercorns, rosemary and brought it to a simmer. I should have burned the alcohol off at this stage, but I was negligent and didn't. Simmering the marinade allows for the flavors to better come out of the added ingredients and meld together. You need to let this cool completely before adding the meat. Just as burning the alcohol off prevents it from "cooking" the meat, you don't want any residual heat in the marinade to do any unwanted cooking. I did however burn the alcohol off after I had seared the shanks and even those these photos aren't in order... here is my first composite image:

After the marinade has cooled completely add your shanks (I put mine in gallon freezer bags) and let marinade 4-6 hours. See you in 4-6 hours... Welcome back! Take your shanks out, pat them dry, and save your marinade. Get your Dutch oven *snicker* nice and hot, add some oil, and sear the shanks on all sides. They look pretty gnarly don't they? Well just wait!

After they are nicely browned remove the shanks and add the marinade in. You want to bring this to a boil for two reasons 1) any impurities from the meat will coagulate and float to the top for you to skim off. Impurities is fancy talk for the brown scum you'll see 2) if you forgot to burn the booze off you can now! See the above image. Once the marinade comes to a boil, light it up! I recommend a stick lighter...

Your oven should be preheating to 350F while you are doing this. Add the shanks back in to the pot. The liquid should come halfway up the shanks. If not perhaps add some water or stock (chicken, veal, beef, veggie, whichever) to get the right amount. I braised my shanks for four hours. The meat is cooked in much less time than that, but the collagen and other chewy things take longer to break down and make the meat tender. It is a good idea to check your hydration level around 3 hours and perhaps add some more liquid in if it looks too low. And then viola!

Mine actually got too dry and I had to add more wine in to make a sauce. However, you pay more attention then I do so you will have a nicely reduced and full of flavor braising liquid for sauce. You can keep it chunky and just spoon it out of your pot with stuff still in it or strain it into a separate pan. I suggest the latter. You can control the sauce better in terms of flavor and consistency. Keep your shanks warm while you do this! Bring the liquid to a simmer and look for viscosity. Does it look thin? Reduce it some more. Does it look thick? Add some water. Once it looks like something you want to slather on your shanks give it a taste and salt/pepper as needed. Serve away!

The finished photos of this post shows the shank (that's the daddy portion up top, and the mommy portion down here) over some beans and stuff. I took a can each of roman and cannellini beans and heated them up with sauteed onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and chicken stock. They went onto the plate first, then a shank, and finally my sauce which was tasty was too thick. We'll call it a glaze.

We also had leftovers and guess what we did... the usual! Had some peeps over and our appetizer was braised lamb shank tacos! Jefe couldn't wait for the photo so the far one is missing a bite...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Broiled Bluefish

On a fancy pants menu this dish could read: "Wild, line-caught Wellfleet bluefish with lemon zest aioli" which it is, but it is also "the fish my dad caught on vacation and my mom's sauce". It is always funny to read a menu, get all excited about something new, and then be handed a plate and realize it's your grammie's meatloaf. Not to say grammie's meatloaf isn't good, but rather you can just make it fancy talk when it is actually meatloaf.

Bluefish is a rather strong, oily fish and if you catch them yourself it is advised to bleed them out. Draining the body of blood helps to lessen the "dark meat" and keep the fresh lighter. You're thinking yum-yum right now aren't you! All this talk of draining...

To help lighten the oily/heavy side of this really tasty fish we pair it with a light, citrus sauce. It just happens to be a sauce that goes on thick instead of thin. We are talking about a lemon zest-red onion aioli. First you need enough mayonnaise to cover your fillet. I like it thick, but you can choose your amount freely. Then you need finely minced lemon zest, garlic, red onion. You want a fine mince because the cooking time will only be a few minutes and you want it all to cook up a bit. How much of each? About this much:

In a completely non-scientific way I am going to recommend a tablespoon of red onion per guest. Use the photo for comparative portioning? Sorry, I really need to get better at measurements.

Mix these three ingredients with the mayo and lather your fillet up. Make sure you put the skin side down and lather up the flesh side... It is important that you pull your fillet out of the fridge (or icebox for our foreign readers) and let it come to room temp. As I mentioned previously the cooking time is short and having your fish all at room temp will help ensure even cooking.

Put your lathered up fillet on a tin foiled covered baking sheet (ease of cleaning tip right there) and chuck it under the broiler, bub! You need to watch this as the aioli (read that the mayo mixture of garlic, zest, and red onion) will start to brown up real quick and will get away from you faster then you can potty break. Once I see adequate browning I turn the broiler down to 400F and close the door. After 7 minutes or so (I totally just made that number up) I pull my fish out and check for doneness. How do I do that? Welp, when fish is cooked past medium the flesh will start to separate easily in what they call "flaking". Due to bluefish being rather oily you can overcook it a bit and it will still be moist and succulent. I look for this much browning on my "wild, line-caught, Welfleet bluefish fillet".

This is a quick post, but it is to help illustrate the fact that this is a quick dish! Don't have bluefish? This technique would be great on salmon, tuna, swordfish, grouper, monkfish, etc. Bon apetit, enjoy, and keep it snappy!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Once again a new post is down the page a bit. I started it earlier this week and I haven't figured out how to bump an old draft to the top of my posting. Please feel free to advise for those of you in the know!


Follow up for the first roasted local chicken...

It was a delight to enjoy. Local, chem-free chickens are usually referred to tasting "extra-chickeny" and I understand why. This one was from Mainely Poultry in Warren, Maine and it was really tasty. Unfortunately, I have no photos due to poor planning and immediate consumption.

I mentioned brining the bird in the original post (The Declaration) and that certainly lent a hand in flavor. Into a 4 quart pot I put 3 quarts of water, some bay leaves, peppercorns, 4 whole garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of salt (brines should taste like the ocean), and 1/8 cup of honey. Bring this mixture to a boil so it all dissolves and flavors mingle, then cool completely. I put my bird in a gallon freezer bag, poured the brine over, sealed it, and refrigerated it for 6 hours.

After the allotted time I removed the bird from the brine, rinsed it off, and then patted it as dry as possible. The bird was trussed and then sent sailing into a ripping hot saute pan with a light coat of oil. When the bottom was nicely browned the pan and bird went into a 400F oven for about 45 minutes. One note concerning the browned bottom *snicker* of an all-natural bird... They brown fast! I actually, embarrassingly, burned my chicken while browning the bottom. I have done a dozen or so birds this way and have my internal timer pretty well set. However, that was for mass-produced chickens and not my local "girl next door". My only thought is that the all-natural bird isn't injected with any solution so you deal solely with skin, fat, and meat. A processed bird has solution/brine in it and as you sear it, the moisture must come out and inhibit the browning process for a bit. Whether that is correct or not, I don't know, but I do know that my new poultry gets crispy in a hurry.

To test for doneness in your roasted chicken you can 1) guess 2) use a thermometer, aiming for 150F in my opinion 3) shake a leg and see if it moves freely. I like option 3 as it makes me feel like I got sweet moves on the dance floor. You know, shakin' a leg and all that!

When Mrs. Chicken was done I took her out and let her rest under foil while I made gravy. Proteins have carry-over cooking that occurs after the direct heat has been removed. The outside of your chicken/roast/steak is still really hot and letting the meat rest before serving does two things. First it will cook the meat a bit more, and the bigger the cut the more it will rise in temperature. You take a three pound roast and it might go up ten degrees in fifteen minutes while chillin' under some foil. Secondly, the juices inside will redistribute back into the meat and keep your slices much juicier. You see the opposite of this when you yank a steak off the grill, rip a chunk out with your teeth, and then the juice pours done your hands/arms as you dance around trying to cool your burning mouth. This is a classic Zube move, just so you know.

After resting and gravy production we feasted, reveled, and grinned with chicken tooth smiles and gravy smeared chins. I am sold. Local > Supermarket.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Glazed Carrots (yeah, I have that much to say about them)

Imagine my excitement when I learned that one of my favorite Ma Zube's recipes was also a technique favored by Thomas Keller! That's like finding out the magical seed you found in the woods grew to be a Bacon Tree! In Bouchon Keller talks about the ease and deliciousness of glazing root vegetables. But you know what? I already knew all about this thanks to Ma Zube and a little side reading. Take that, TK!

Even people who don't like cooked carrots have tried this dish and gobbled 'em up like Hungry Hippos that drank too much coffee. This is actually alchemy due to the simple carrot being transformed into candy. This is a combination of two culinary techniques at the same time. This is easy and you will never look at a carrot the same way again. A Bugs Bunny snack elevated to Really Yummy Dish status.

Smaller carrots work best for this dish as they have more natural sugars. After you peel them, cut them into equal sized pieces. Keeping the pieces equally sized will ensure that they cook evenly and uniformly. You don't want small mushy bits and rock hard chunks. In the past I would cut my into the standard disc that you naturally cut a cylinder into, but now I am fancy! Yup, in my new fancy pants style my knife wielding hands render the whole carrot into tasty morsels via the oblique cut.

To describe the oblique cut accurately...hmm. Welp, the finished product is the photo behind my fond logo. Take your peeled carrot and place it in front of you as you would normally, (If you are a Super Ninja then it goes behind you while levitating). Instead of cutting perpendicular to the axis of the carrot (read that: the long way) cut it at a 45 degree angle. Now roll the carrot a quarter-turn to you. The next cut will also be at the same 45 degree angle, and the cut starts at the top of the carrot where the previous cut ends. Repeat. I hope that makes sense. I might try to video link a demo of this. Mostly just for fun and getting to use our new Flip video. Anywho, you should end up with little two-sided pyramids with a rounded bottom. Again, reference the title photo behind my logo. Also, you can't make too many of these scrumptious treats.

Place your pile of odd pyramids in a pan and add water until just the tippy-tops are peaking through like expectant little children on Christmas Day. (...not sure where that came from...) Plop in a couple tablespoons of butter and turn your heat to medium. The culinary trip you just embarked on is that you are going to make a simple veggie stock in the pan as the water simmers. The sugars in the carrots will dissolve out into the water and make a happy little place for the carrots to cook in.

The goal is to have all the water evaporated at the exact time the carrots are tender and perfectly cooked. So, it is almost better to start will a little less water and then add more at the end if it is needed than having too much and pouring off coveted carrot-sugar water. When the water is gone the next culinary adventure starts in the form of caramelization. Did you just blink and wonder how caramel found its way into the pan? It was there all the time! The simmering water pulled sugars out of the carrots, realized you were only interested in the sugars, got all huffy and sullen about this, and decided to evaporate away leaving the sugars behind. Now those sugars are coating the outside of the carrots and the butter you put in is keeping them greased up and the continued heat is caramelizing the simple sugar into more complex and tasty sugars. (That is one tasty run-on sentence.) You can see this happen as your carrots brown on the edges. Browning = caramelization = Srum. Diddily. Ump. Tious. After you see enough brown edges that you feel good about yourself, chuck your carrots on a plate and feast away! And yes, my spell checker hates me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Adam Sandler and Thomas Keller?

Yo yeah! Adam Sandler's movie Spanglish was about this chef (Adam Sandler) who suddenly hits it big and begrudgingly enters into the spotlight while his private life falls apart. He comes home late one night and needs a comfort snack so he makes himself "the world's greatest sandwich". The consulting chef for the movie was none other than Thomas Keller himself and this is a video link showing Keller instructing Sandler on how to construct the world's greatest sandwich. I think my favorite part is when Keller talks about laying the bacon down in opposing directions so the fat/meat ends compliment each other.
On a complete sidenote, Keller has a Utopian philosphy where there is no "line" or head chef and in its place there are simply people with a like-minded ideal of culinary excellence who get together each day and feed people. You can see this in the movie as the kitchen where Sandler consults his crew has tables seemingly strewn about and not the typical kitchen line setup. Also take note of the omnipresent blue tape that labels everything in the walk-in.

The World's Greatest Sandwich

Saturday, February 27, 2010


There is a new post below the Declaration. I am not sure why it bumped it down there, but it is about tasty shrimp!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Declaration

Sorry for the cheesy title, but I was somewhat stumped for a name. The declaration is that this is the first week the Zube Household has gone to locally raised meat and poultry. Wife Zube and I have talked about this many times over the last year and now we are to the point that we are committed to it. Yup, the food budget is going to take a hit. However, supporting locals and consuming food that is from the next town over instead of from the other coast is important. I know the lady who raises my pork chops. She knows the guy whose chickens she sells. We are talking about good folk putting out good food. The farthest I plan to venture is from Boston and Kinnealey meats. I don't want a penny of my money going to Mr. Big Chicken or Mr. Boss Cow. I want it going to people I know. Welp, I have a locally raised chicken I need to brine so that I can roast it tomorrow. A future post you might ask? Stay tuned.

Shrimp, rosemary, and zucchini noodles

This dish came out of my fridge and freezer from what I had on hand. I don't usually have zucchini on hand, but shrimp (remember the freezer tidbit from earlier?), garlic, and fresh herbs are all things I keep around. If you keep a somewhat stocked inventory in your pantry/fridge/root cellar (man, I wish I had one of those!) it will make impromptu dishes easy, fun, and creative to make. Good food is easy.

To begin!

This first step is made a lot easier with a mandolin. A musical instrument you ask? Well, that might help, but this mandolin is made for slicing things, usually produce, very thin and evenly. As a side note you will absolutely cut yourself with one of these bad boys at some point. Most likely it will only be once (depending on your learning curve) and it will be a bad one. Respect the mandolin or buy lots of band-aids. If you are mandolin-less just use a knife and try to make the slices consistently thin.
Take your zucchini in hand and cut off the ends and take a slice off of one side to make a flat area to start on the mandolin. My fancy mando' has a ceramic blade (read that ultra sharp and ultra good at removing your fingerprints) and a thickness adjustment. I sliced my zuke at 2mm, but for absolutely no particular reason. So, slice away and make some nice "noodles".

Salting zucchini before using them is a handy dandy tip. Zukes have a lot of water in them and while we need water to live, it also dilutes the flavor and can impede correct sauteing. Moisture in a pan will steam the food instead of letting it nicely brown and develop flavor. Think about the difference between boiled chicken and grilled chicken. I spread my ribbons out on a drying rack, sprinkle with salt, and then dab dry later. You will be able to see the water on the zucchini as the salt pulls it out and concentrates the flavor.

Hopefully you have thawed out some shrimp and peeled them. How many you want to use depends on how many you want to eat, but you might want to adjust your noodle count so the dish stays balanced. I actually didn't make enough noodle so mine was a tad shrimp heavy. Hehe, that is mildly oxymoron-ish. Next I finely minced two cloves of garlic and chopped up the one teaspoon of fresh rosemary. If you only have dried rosemary that is fine but you need to alter the amount. I forget if it is less or more with dried vs. fresh. Google it.

Into a medium hot pan with some oil goes the shrimp and don't touch them for a couple of minutes, then flip once. We talked about sauteing shrimp before so I won't repeat myself. Remove the shrimp when they are just shy of perfect.

Add a dash more oil and the garlic to the pan. When you can smell the garlic, about 20 seconds, add the rosemary, stir, and then the zucchini. The zucchini will become more yellow, vibrant, and flexible as it cooks. When it is tender add in your shrimp and toss to combine the flavors. Plate however you see fit!

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Omnivore's Dilemma"

This book is pretty cool. I am only about two-thirds of the way through it, but it has certainly raised my awareness and inspired me. The book is broken up into parts and then chapters within those parts. Part number one is about corn and big agribusiness. To me this part was on the slow-moving, low-interest side, but it did instill a sense of "I don't want to put that in my body anymore" feeling towards big business food. The author, Michael Pollan, does reveal some interesting points about certain organic grocery stores, but all in all I had to struggle a bit.
Part number two though is about grass. To be more accurate it is about how a farm can remove itself from its dependence on antibiotics, growth hormones, and feed additives that the big companies need if you are a capable grass farmer. He follows one farmer and goes into great detail how this specific farm does its best to be self-sustaining. Ironically, in this case self-sustaining means follow the blueprint that occurs already in nature. I won't drag on about this, but reading the grass section has made me want to have enough land to do this on a small scale for me and my families needs at some point. Granted I am a huge dork, but I found this section really, really cool.
I haven't gotten past the grass farmer, but I will make an update when I do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Michael Symon's Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary Mac n Cheese

As the title implies this is 100% not my recipe, idea, or creation. However it is now 100% my favorite "mac n cheese" dish out there. There are two features of this dish that make it completely and mind-blowing awesome: 1) Deeeeeeeelicious! 2) Eeeeeeeeeeasy! Does anyone notice a theme to the recipes I post? They are all easy. Good food is easy. Cook more!
There are only five ingredients to this culinary marvel. 5. Cinco for you Spanish speaking followers. Hmm, if you follow this blog and only speak Spanish then that is the only word you have understood so far... I commend your persistence. Alright, enough foreign speculation, back to the five ingredients. For ease of use I am actually going to make it into a list for you instead of my usual ramble/prose style:

16 oz box of pasta
8 oz goat cheese
1 tbs chopped rosemary
2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs
32 oz heavy cream

Yup, that is the whole kit-n-kaboodle you need in your culinary toolbelt for this one! As mentioned, this is a complete copy of Michael Symon's from his book "Live To Cook". You should buy it. The man loves pig even more than I do. His instructions for this dish leave out a small point: you need to reduce the heavy cream by half and it doesn't mention how long this will take. Perhaps I am sub-par in my cream reducing abilities, but this step takes me about 40 minutes. I bring it to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium. I try to keep the temp as high as possible without the cream boiling over.

Originally this dish was to use up left over roast chicken, but I make it with fresh bird each time. I poach the chicken in the heavy cream while it is reducing to add some chicken goodness to the sauce. After it has cooked 10 minutes or so, depending on what cut of bird, I let it cool and then shred it will forks. I like how the chicken comes out, but to be honest I don't enjoy actually doing it. So I go as fast as possible. To visualize this imagine me trying to frantically dig a hole in sand using just the forks.

After twenty minutes or so, or whenever you feel like it, add in the chopped rosemary to the heavy cream. You want the oils and flavors to leech (not bloodsucker-style) out and perfume the cream. Now is a good time to get your pasta going as well.

When your cream has reduced by half and has nice thick bubbles in it instead of the little wimpy ones it started with, it is time to cut the heat and add the goat cheese.

Crumble the goat cheese up and whip it until it is all nice and smooth. Combine your chicken, sauce, and pasta in one big bowl and go to town! As another little hint: this dish does not reheat. Take no prisoners on this one. Chow!

Monday, February 15, 2010


Valentine's Day and a busy weekend all around has kept me from the stove and keyboard. Not to fear though, I have more posts on the way! Upcoming post topics include, but aren't limited to, the following:

Goat cheese, rosemary, and chicken mac n cheese (courtesy Michael Symon)
Glazed carrots
Grocery chicken vs. local loved chicken
For lack of an actual name: dropped garlic-potato pan-fried tater tots

I don't want to give away too much, so I will stop there. As a side note I mentioned the glazed carrot post to a co-worker who just looked at me and asked, "Do you really have that much to say about glazed carrots?" Um, yeah! Obviously!

Anywho stay tuned and thanks for checking it on me, it is very encouraging to see that folks stop by for a visit!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thomas Keller Video

As you may have noticed I have some links in previous posts. Nothing like a mullet picture to get you hungry for duck confit! Well a very good friend of mine from college days, who runs his own blog, has helped me with my html education, and because of him I can now direct you to a very cool video. I unashamedly enjoy all things Thomas Keller and this video is pretty neat because you get to not only watch the only U.S. chef with two restaurants that have three Michelin stars each give a tour of his newest restaurant, but you also watch him get excited about browning his gnocchi. The man loves food. Happy viewing and thank you Epicurious for the interview!

Thomas Keller makes gnocchi at his restaurant, Per Se.