2. April 2010 04:56
Yesterday was my annual worst day of the year. It comes every year sometime between February 1st and April 15th, I’m never exactly sure when it will happen. It is the day that I have to sit down and do my taxes. Now I don’t mind paying my fair share of taxes. We all have to support all these wonderful government programs that in spite of all our grumbling, do actually help to make our lives a little bit better. It’s just that actually filling out a tax return is such a convoluted mess that it totally and completely frustrates me and eventually ruins my mood for the remainder of the day.
However, something kinda cool and groovy happened yesterday during all this turmoil. I started thinking about some shrimp I had grilled up as part of a Mexican soup and what I could do to make them even better. So sometime between figuring out how much interest I had collected on my savings account and figuring out how much interest I had paid on my mortgage, I came up with this recipe. Ms Cocktail and I promptly made this last evening and it was every bit as good as my imagination told me it was. Enjoy.
24. March 2010 04:37
While a pita is a type of unleavened bread, "PITA," the acronym, has a much different definition. It means Pain In The Ass. And that is exactly what making mayo by hand, without an electric mixer or blender, is all about. However, the results are better than a mayo done in a mixer or blender, so much so that it makes it worth the extra effort, in my opinion.
The ingredients differ slightly from the blender version most notably in that only the egg yolks are used. Hopefully, your arms are in good shape because at some point you will use them both.
23. March 2010 08:47
Previously I spoke about having preservatives added to the mayonnaise you buy in the local mega mart. Since I can no longer buy preservative free mayo, I’ve taken to making it myself. It is a remarkably easy thing to do...just try and have a good old fashioned glass container available to store it in. If you can’t find a mayo jar, look for a glass pickle jar. The tops have a good seal and don’t have paper or thin cardboard inside that disintegrate when you wash them out.
You’ll want to run your blender at about medium speed for this. Mayo can be a little funny in that once it thickens up, it will start to get runny again if you keep messing with it so don’t over blend it. One more little thing you may find that as you’re blending; the mayo will thicken to the point where there is liquid floating on top that won’t blend. Stop the blender and with a long handled spatula, dig down to the bottom of the container and "burp" the mayo. An air bubble formed and stopped the liquid from moving vertically in the blender!
17. March 2010 03:23
I don’t have a lot of time this week for writing blogs. I’m prepping for one of my annual events I have at home, Basketball, Bourbon and Barbecue. It is essentially a two day orgy of, you guessed, it, basketball, bourbon and barbecue, timed to coincide with the first two days of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. I have people coming and going from my place over those two days and that means I have 6 meals to prepare for an unknown number of people. Yes, there is the real possibility that people get over-bourboned and that they spend the night, therefore I provide breakfast as well. So two lunches, two dinners, and two morning after breakfasts means lot of prep work needs to be done.
8. March 2010 03:42
Over this weekend, I had the reason to go poking around my freezer(s) looking for stuff. I came up with the usual assortment of things like bags of frozen peas, carrots and corn, some rockfish filets from Ms Cocktail’s cousin, a couple of tubs of mole from the last time I made it, a tub of chipotle chile sauce for fish, a couple of chicken breasts, 2 racks of baby back ribs, 2 bags of shrimp shells and a bag of chicken bones. Now, I know that you are all asking, what the hell are shrimp shells and chicken bones doing in the freezer? Shouldn’t you have thrown them out?
The answer is no, I always save these types of things when I can. You can add to this list beef, pork and fish bones. The reason? I make my own stock from them. Anyone who cooks always has stock around. Go to your cabinet and pull a can or box of stock out and read the list of ingredients. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
1. March 2010 06:10
Way back in the day, Ms Cocktail and I used to frequent an establishment in Willimantic, Ct called the Victorian Lady. Not only was it the best restaurant in all of Willimantic, it also had the huge bonus of being staggering distance from our abode. That meant that we could get stupid drunk and not have to worry about driving a vehicle. So to recap, good food + walking distance = many fun (perhaps forgotten) nights.
One of the things on the menu there that totally rocked was an appetizer of steamed mussels. They would steam them with a touch of garlic and a touch of wine. It was a nice light little taste. Being the seafood lover that I am, I was hooked on those things. When we moved out of Connecticut to Pennsylvania, mussels were one of the sea foods that we could still get. So I set a out to recreate this recipe in my own in you face style.
23. February 2010 06:13
To anyone that has ever been to New Orleans, the city is about much more than just Mardi Gras. The architecture, music, culture and cuisine make it a special city in so many subtle and different ways. However, there is a certain sense of unbridled passion that appears there during Mardi Gras. Friendly faces are everywhere, there crowds of people aren’t nasty, but looking to extend a helping hand as everyone let’s go of their inhibitions for just a little while.
For those of you that have been following me here and on Facebook, you’ll know that I threw a dinner party last Saturday and that it was a Mardi Gras themed meal. I know, it was just a little late seeing that the previous Tuesday was Fat Tuesday, but seeing as the previous weekend was Valentine’s Day, well, we just didn’t want to stack our celebrations.
Those same people will also note that I’ve been talking about dialing in the recipe for Hurricanes. Having been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I’ve also had the pleasant experience of having a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s in the heart of the French Quarter. It is after all, the quintessential New Orleans drink. So I dutifully set out to duplicate that drink for this dinner. In those regards, I failed. However, I did come up with something almost completely, but not totally unlike a Hurricane that was extremely delicious in it’s own right. So I trotted it out as a pre-dinner drink and it was very well received (BTW, I served several items that I’ve previously blogged about, but the Cajun Grilled Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms were the food star of the evening). However, since it wasn’t a Hurricane, I asked our guests to come up with a name for this concoction. It was our friend Kim that came up with the name of Who Dat Daiquiri and it is this name that the drink shall be known as going forward.
10. February 2010 07:21
There was a time when I didn’t live in the snow covered wastelands of Northern Virginia. I lived in the snow covered hills of Central Pennsylvania, specifically in State College, Pennsylvania, home of the Pennsylvania State University. I did however, have a good friend that I’ve known since high school who did live in the snow covered wastelands of Northern Virginia, specifically Manassas, Virginia home of…well, pretty much nothing unless you like Civil War museums.
Now this friend, we shall call him Damian since that’s his name, had gone and gotten his pilot’s license. That alone should have been a bone chilling thought but being a good friend, I was very supportive of any endeavor that provided personal growth, no matter how dangerous that growth might be. One fine spring morning, I get a call from Damian announcing that he now had his pilot’s license and that he was going to buzz up to State College and pick up Ms Cocktail and I and where would we like to go?
8. February 2010 06:28
I know. You’re asking yourself why would I ever want to make this myself when I can just buy a package of the dry mix, add some butter and/or milk and be done with it? Well, the answer is actually pretty simple. It is just about as easy to make it from scratch as it is to make one of those mixes and it tastes a damn sight better this way. The only thing that puts people off is that you should use a double boiler to make it. The reason for using a double boiler is so that you limit the amount of heat getting to the eggs and that they don’t set too quickly. A professional chef can skip the double boiler and make the sauce over very low heat. That means lots of practice for everyone else.
Ok, so the whole idea behind hollandaise sauce is that eggs are used to help thicken the butter to make a sauce. In order for this to happen, there needs to be lots of little bubbles in the eggs for the butter to get in to so that when the egg sets, the butter is trapped inside. That is why you have to beat the eggs quickly and often, before, during and after adding the butter to the eggs. A wire whisk is the preferred tool for doing this as it helps to make a lot more little bubbles than any other type of implement you could choose.
So with these thoughts in mind, here’s how to make Hollandaise Sauce.
25. January 2010 04:55
The company I used to work for had offices all over the world but the particular department I worked for had offices in Northern Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia. It happened that I had to travel down to Atlanta on several occasions and while I was there, my co-workers introduced me to a world of Southern cooking that I hadn’t known existed before. Yeah, there were the traditional things like pecan pie and peach cobbler (just as an aside, it seems that every other street in Atlanta is know as Peachtree. There is Peachtree Boulevard, Road, Street, Peachtree Industrial, it is enough to drive you batty) and grits and stuff like that. But there is also this wonderful collection of stuff known as Brunswick Stew.
Now oddly enough, It is Brunswick County, Virginia for which this stew is named. The story goes that an African American hunting camp cook named Jimmy Matthews, concocted a squirrel stew for his master, Creed Haskins, in 1828. He named it in honor of his home county. Several other towns and places also try to lay claim to this stew including Brunswick, Georgia where a 25 gallon iron pot has been erected as a statue with the claim that this was the vessel that Brunswick stew was first made in back in 1898. Regardless of the actual origins, this stew has been become a loved part of Southern cooking.