Saturday, May 31, 2008

Talkin' 'bout ... and their pan-fried steaks. (Pan-seared steaks and sauce)

Come on and eat one, no matter what it takes. They got big bowls of peanuts, Texas taters and ice cold brew. And some animal heads on the walls staring back at you. If you take a friend here, he'll say thanks for bringin' me here. Cause this is a place that's just eat up with atmosphere. So if you're lookin' for some for some food and a place that's neat. Come on out to ... and eat some meat.
Just a blast from the past, circa 1991-1992 from the ATL's very own Longhorn Steaks.
A couple of things to mention about beef tenderloin, and tenderloin in general. I think "Tender is the Loin 1" is one of my favorite Good Eats episodes, and it inspired me to think about things differently. The very thought that you would cut up your own tenderloin that cost 80 bucks seems like heresy. I mean, beef tenderloin should only be roasted at Christmas, right? Wrong. Second is that tenderloin is best when served with a pan sauce. Therefore, tenderloin is one of those things that you wouldn't usually do on the grill. Unless you have a side burner. The other program that I highly recommend is the "High steaks" episode this past week of Top Chef. A lot of information and technique. If you notice the Top Chefs that pan seared their steaks, their pans were at least 1/2 inch deep in oil/butter, mostly butter.

Pan seared tenderloin medallions "au poivre" with demi-glace reduction sauce

If you haven't seen Tender is the Loin part 1, you don't know what you're missing. Step by step video instructions on trimming a beef (or other) tenderloin. The trick is separating chain from good stuff and cutting the pieces to a thickness that will allow them to finish within a similar timeframe. Somtimes you have to butterfly, but that's really a diameter issue.
1. Make your standard-sized medallions, allow them to come to room temperature, make sure they're bone dry. These are very important steps in searing any meat for anything, really. Any water will kill the ability to form a crust, and that's what you're looking for. The water converts to steam and will flavorlessly braise/poach the meat resulting in grey, rubbery nastiness.

2. Crack a bunch of peppercorns. This is the Alton Brown way. Put them in a cloth and beat the hell out of 'em with a rolling pin or some other object. Cracked, not ground. You could use ground pepper, but it's not the same. Cover you tenderloin cuts all over with the peppercorns. Salt them generously with Kosher salt. Nothing else will do, but then you're already exclusively using that anyway, right? If you don't coat your tenderloins with pepper, well then just drop the au poivre, and season as you normally would. Don't even think of adding garlic. It burns acidic.

3. Heat a large non non-stick pan and get it as high as you can stand it. If you don't have a hood, prepare for a smoke out. If you have a side burner on the grill outside, that's cool too. Forget the adage that you can't heat your pans without something in them. If you don't believe it, watch Mario Batali. Every time he puts his fat in the pan, it's already screaming hot.

4. For this, I hate to admit it, but pure butter gives the best flavor. If you do that, you need to run a lower temperature because of it's tendency to burn, and then it's not that great. Otherwise, you can lower the burning point a little by adding oil until it gets hot, then adding butter until the foam is gone. Again, I refer you to the Top Chef "High Steaks" but the point is to not get chintzy with the oil/butter combo. Use more than you think you need.

5. Throw the meat on and watch it carefully, 'cause it'll go quick from this point on. Keep in mind that Ruth's Chris cooks steaks with this ridiculous Salamander that gets temperatures well over 1000 F, and if you like hard outer crust, and uniform medium rare everwhere else, it's the only way to do it. That's why you have to have a super hot pan. You can use your temp probe here the first few times until you get it, and then it's by feel.

6. If you're going to be cooking a lot of meat, it's best to do it in batches and change the oil frequently. It's not omelette cooking (where you are supposed to change the oil after every one) but you don't want your stuff to burn.

7. When the meat's done, set aside to rest. This is a critical step, also. If you have a good crust, but the meat's not done, put it in the oven in foil at low temp (250 or so) while you're working on the rest of it. Don't just keep cooking it on the pan. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

8. When you're done cooking meat, you should have a nice pan full of semi-burned black and brown goodness. POUR OUT THE OIL, NOT THE GOOD STUFF, the so-called fond. Turn your heat down to medium, and deglaze the pan. You can do this by pouring your favorite red wine in there a cup or 2, and use a wooden spoon to scrape off the bits and clean the pan with heat and liquid. Once the pan is clean, throw in some dark stock, and change your temp to an small bubble simmer. If you have demi-glace or even oyster sauce (asian condiment) add it when you add the stock. Keep reducing until the sauce has the consistency of cooking oil. Slice the meat, drizzle the reduction, and voila!

Serve with home made french fries (JW see the Les Halles cookbook-remember blanch first, rest, then fry at 375), and like Tony Bourdain suggests, serve some expensive wine in Dixie cups just to show 'em who's their daddy.
The reduction possibilities are endless, so experiment. Balsamic vinegar reduction, port wine reduction, cognac reduction. You will be less impressed when you go out to eat. This s**t is TOO easy! I think it's one of the cheapest things for a restaurant to prepare, and I've stopped ordering it when I go out unless I just want to see how they did their sauce.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Divine Inspiration

Kudos need to go out to JW and to Alton Brown. After reading about JW's beef au poivre at Les Halles and following up by a reviewing of the "Tender of the Loin Parts 1 and 2" by UGA grad Alton Brown on Good Eats (doesn't eveyone have that on their DVR?), I've been inspired to get to cooking.

Sometime this weekend I'm going to go to Sam's and pick up a whole beef tenderloin and and make me some beef au poivre. It seems very counterintuitive to cook such a good piece of meat on the stovetop alone but I'm willing to expand my horizons.

OG- The fazol is a blight upon the land that should be destroyed immediately. Never before has sauce tasted more bland, pasta been further from al dente, and bread been harder. My Sicilian ancestors are ready to rise up out of the grave to remove such a detriment to good eating from the land.

To HELL with Tech.

93 days to kickoff.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pulled Pork!

By request of the G-man, here's how I do pulled pork...No doubt that if you have the time and equipment, Haddock's 36 hour cooking method is the best, NO DOUBT. However, I generally lack patience and my spouse would murder me for spending this much time and effort on what she refers to as barbeque. She's from Misery remember -

Today, purchase bone in pork shoulder ~ 8 to 10 lbs and your favorite dry rub. I sometimes make my own, but more often use Stubb's. In your kitchen, prep the pig by carving off any skin and large layers of fat. Rub pig generously with your spices. Wrap in plastic wrap, atleast 2 layers and toss in the chill chest.

Monday morning about 12 hours before you want to eat (can be as little as 10 hours). Take pig out of fridge and soak your wood for smoking (I like hickory, apple, or cherry). Plan on about an hour for soaking and warming your pig. Light your egg and regulate temp to about 250. When ready to cook, toss on about 1/2 of your smoking chips and set your egg up for indirect grilling. Place an aluminum pan under the grill grate to keep the fat off the fire. Throw the unwrapped pork on fat-side up. Close the egg and go make your mop.

I like a simple mop:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
A splash of Worcestershire or Dale's
A splash of oil
Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste (about 1 tsp of cayenne is generally enough)

Mix these together and set aside.

After about an hour on smoking, quickly open egg, mop and close. Do this every hour. Somewhere between 2 and 3 hours toss on some extra soaked woodchips when mopping. Around the 4th hour, turn the pig upside down. Around 6 hours, start checking the temperature. You are trying to get to around 190 degrees. Be sure your probe is not touching the bone. You may want to check in a few places. Anything over 170 degrees is safe to eat, but will not have the same appearance as the pork that has reached higher temperatures.

When done, remove from grill and wrap in foil and toss into an empty cooler lined with kitchen towels. Let the pork rest for about an hour. Remove the pork from the cooler, unwrap and pull using 2 forks. If using BBQ sauce, toss about 1 cup of sauce in with the pork and transfer to an aluminum pan. If you finish early, cover and place in a 175 degree oven & drink plenty of beer until your guests arrive.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Whaddya got, Loran?

This is a website I sort of stumbled across by accident. This may not be pertinent to everyone, but if you've ever listened to a UGA radio broadcast, particularly the postgame, you'll know exactly what this person's talking about.
Problem is, at UGA and the extended Bulldawg Nation, making fun of Larry and Loran, as easy as it might be, is about like making fun of one of your relatives. They're your relatives, after all.
As bizarre as it is sometimes, God do I miss football season!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mother's Day Meal for Jennifer

Jen loves Italian food, especially pasta. This is good b/c I love making Italian food and pasta. Everything is simple and impressive if done well. For Mother's Day, I made an Italian feast with recipes adapted from Batali.

For appetizer, winter caprese salad...I know it's not winter, but if you can't get good 'maters and you love them, this is the way to go! The key is slow-roasting the 'maters which concentrates and enhances the flavor.

For 4 servings
6 plum tomato halved
3 cups basil leaves
~ 12 bocconcini (little mozzerella balls)
2 T pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup EVOO
~ 1 oz parmesean cheese
S & P

For tomato: Heat oven to 200 degrees. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, S &P, and place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for about 2 1/2 hours. Let cool and remove skin. You can refrigerate these with some of the olive oil for about a day before serving.

For the basil sauce/pesto: Combine torn basil leaves and parmesean in a blender or food processor until well chopped. Add oil and blend until smooth.
To serve: Place 3 half tomatos cut-side down on an appetizer plate, arrange 3 bocconcini around the 'maters. Drizzle the basil sauce around to your liking and sprinkle with pine-nuts.

This pesto stuff is especially good as a dipping sauce for warm, crusty Italian bread. Tastes alot like the sauce used at Bone Fish Grille.

Next, pasta. Who knew that homemade pasta was so easy? All you need are eggs, flour, a pinch of salt and maybe some olive oil or water. Basic recipe is 100 grams flour to 1 large egg. Traditionally you would make a well in your flour and beat the egg in slowly with the tines of a fork, followed by about 10 minutes of kneading. Traditionalists will wax and wane poetically about kneading doughs...I say screw those guys, I use a food processor and then my KitchenAid stand mixer to do the kneading. The Italians use 00 flour, which I've never seen in my life. AP works fine, as does "pasta" flour which has durum semolina that gives a texture more like dried pasta. For 4 servings increase to 400 grams flour and 4 eggs. You can experiment, like I did here for a richer dough...I used 3 eggs + 3 egg yolks + 400 grams flour. It's also fun to add some blanched/chopped spinach. The green dough lends itself well to lasagna. After about 10 minutes in the KitchenAid, the dough looks like this.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for about and hour and then break out the pasta roller. Cut dough into managable pieces, a flattened piece about the size of your palm usually works well and run thru the widest setting on the pasta roller about 10 times, folding into thirds before each time. This kneads the dough a bit more and makes a silkly smooth, elastic pasta. Repeat atleast 5 times on the next 2 settings, then only once on the rest of the settings until the dough is the desired thickness...I like to go to #6 for fettucini, #8 or #9 for ravioli. Here's my pasta roller...

Cut the sheets into managable pieces and lay between some dish towels dusting lightly with flour until all the dough has been rolled.

Finally, cut your pasta, twirl into nests on a kitchen towel, dusting liberally with flour to prevent stickage. Sit aside until ready to cook.

To cook bring a huge pot of water to a rolling boil with a handful of salt. Drop in the fresh pasta and cook only for a few minutes, tasting every minute. If you use AP flour, the pasta will cook in about 90 seconds or so. If you use the "pasta" flour and use a thick setting like I did, expect about 5 minutes.

The dish: Fettuccine with oyster mushrooms, sweet garlic and arugula adapted from Mario
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

15 cloves garlic

2/3 cup sweet red vermouth

10 ounces oyster mushrooms

4 T unsalted butter

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch arugula, stemmed, washed and dried

1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

Bring 6 qts of water and 2 T salt to a boil in a large pot meanwhile, in a 10 - 12" sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the garlic and sauté until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from heat and add the vermouth. Replace the pan onto the burner, add the mushrooms and butter, and bring to a boil. Reduce by half then remove from the heat and keep warm. Cook the pasta until tender and then drain. Add to the mushrooms and stir gently over medium heat for about 1 minute to coat the noodles. Add the arugula and toss until wilted. transfer to serving dish and toss with the cheese.

I finished the meal with veal marsala and a tirimisu from the Fresh Market...Jen was pleased. If you want to know how I made the veal...I can post that later.


PS. I have lots of problems with formatting on this blog. Note the spacing problems. Is there a formatting tool somewhere?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Summer Menu

One of my favorite cook-out menus is from July 2004 Bon Appetit. All recipes can be found at Epicurious. I made this for some of Jen's friends last weekend. Still a hit.

1) Clams with jalapeno, lemon, and basil (I usually don't buy clams, so I made a compound butter with jalapeno, lime, and cilantro and used as a dipping sauce for snow-crab legs.
2) Black bean, jicama, and grilled corn salad
3) Barbecued tri-tip with caramelized red onions topped with a red wine BBQ sauce (I use flat-iron steak if tri-tip looks crappy)
4) Skillet corn bread with roasted poblano & oregano
5) Roasted red pepper salad with bacon dressing and pine nuts
6) For desert, Ghirardelli double chocolate brownies (use the mix, it's awesome) served hot with some B & J's vanilla ice cream


What the **** just happened?

Again, Tech, you are clearly your own worst enemy. Thanks for making it so easy.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New York City

A few weeks back, Jennifer had a weekend conference in NYC. I hadn't been in quite a while, and Jen had never we went! We were unable to secure any hotel for 3 consecutive nights, so we hotel hopped all over Manhattan (South of Central Park). Of course I viewed this as a perfect opportunity to eat myself nearly to death and after 3 days and about $1000, I almost succeeded.

First thing I did is purchase a Zagat guide from Habib. Habib was selling Zagats, falafals, and porn. I chose the 2008 NYC Zagat Restaurant Guide and started to scan any 26 and up joint in the neighborhood. Luckily (so I thought), Esca, a Batali/Bastianich Italian seafood joint was only a few blocks away. Zagat rated a 27... Usually you wouldn't be able to get a reservation at such a place, but you'd be surprised with only 2 people how many openings are will get the worst seat in the house, but hey, you're sitting down.

Atmosphere was about what one would expect. Nice but not overdone. Curteous waitstaff, who actually weren't that knowledgeable. We started with some supposedly fresh sardines. I nearly gagged on these. I don't like sardines from a can, Jen loves them and thought these were OK. We'd had some nice ones in Baltimore that I really enjoyed. These were simple enough. Grilled with some olive oil...that's it. 2 measley sardines grilled in olive oil for about $18. Things weren't starting off well... Until, Jen's second course. She ordered maccheroni alla chittara with lump crabmeat and sea urchin. I cannot begin to tell you how awesome this was! Homemade pasta pressed thru the chittara tossed in a rather robust buttery seafoody sauce. I've never tasted sea urchin before, and I'm not sure my description could do it justice, so I'll just say it was scrumptous. I choked and ordered ricotta gnocchi, the description said light and ethereal...they were heavy and tasted like biscuit dough...they were served in cold tomato sauce that tasted like pureed canned tomatoes...I'm not joking, this was one of the worst Italian dishes I've ever had outside of my own kitchen ('cept maybe Fazoli's, sorry G). I told Jen that I could make these 1000 times better and did as soon as I got off the plane in Augusta, just to prove that gnocchi are good eats...Mario's chef let me down. For our entree, we decided to split the "Ippoglosso" a Digby bay halibut with braised leeks and baby spinach. I was excited about this one, but again disappointed. Fish was pan-seared/pan-burnt on one side and dry as a chip. Totally overdone...should have sent it back, but it was so small, after Jen and I each had a bite the dish was nearly gone... Oh well. The only saving grace to the meal was a reasonable "wine by the glass" menu. Each "glass" came as a 1/2 caraffe. So after 2 each (probably about 3/4 bottle of wine), we didn't care that the appetizer, my pasta, and our entree sucked. Didn't order desert b/c the night was young. I'm thinking about emailed Batali and letting him know that his name is at risk if he doesn't pay more attention to his growing number of thing you know, we'll be ordering frozen/reheated pizzas from Mario Express in Hartsfield-Jackson.

Now for the good. I love Bistro food and Jen loves Tony Bourdain. So we had to drop into Les Halles for lunch the next day (BTW) it's colder than it looks...
What would I order...easy...predictable...perfect. Gratinee des Halles, a nice burgendy, followed by steak au poivre & frites. Enough said, it was wonderful! Nothing flashy, just a relaxed atmosphere & tasty victuals. It really had the feeling of a neighborhood hang out. Actually, we couldn't pin-point any other tourists while we were there...

The remainder of our meals there were nondiscript. Most pretty good. Had a few meals in Little Italy...lunch on Saturday should be mentioned. Jennifer was in her conference and I had all day to screw around. Thought I would walk to the Time-Warner Center and check out Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery. Doubt I'll ever be able to eat at Per Se or The French Laundry, so what the hell, I'll have the man make me a sandwich! Atmosphere total mall. Sitting at a community table with some very annoying locals who felt the need to lecture me on politics...they suspected I wasn't from NYC...wonder what tipped them off? Sitting under a huge Samsung with a beautiful view of the escalators, I ordered lobster/black-truffle mac & cheese. This thing nearly killed me. Nova Scotian lobster, pasta, black-truffle, gruyere cream, rich, rich...loved it...couldn't finish it...could barely walk back to Grand Central Station. BTW-$35 for mac & cheese...should have seen it coming.

Perhaps the coolest thing about NYC was the market at Grand Central Station. They have every ingredient that you could never find in your local mega-mart. Truffles, foi gras, zucchini blossoms, pea shoots, exotic meats, squab etc...they even had ramps! Should stop in if you're ever there and check it out. Finally, the subway is clearly the way to get around Manhattan...sorry for rambling. I'll do better next time.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cinco de Mayo recipe

Sorry I let this one go by. I had some camera malfunctions as mama forgot to charge the bat'ry. It combines some good Mexican food with the grill. Inspired by last month's FW, in fact that's the link to the recipe as it was described. I'll just add some extra tidbits to it.
Arrachera a la parrilla; tortilla de maiz; crema de elote con rajas.
Grilled skirt steak, corn tortillas, salsa, creamed corn with roasted poblanos.
Skirt steak
Get two full pieces of skirt steak, make sure they're clear of silverskin. I have had some variable luck with finding this at the grocery store. If you ask, they usually have it, but it might be frozen. Not preferred, but it will do. Skirt is not the same as flank steak. Flank is oblique muscle, skirt is diaphragm, and hanger is diaphragm in contact with kidneys which does change the flavor.

Season only with salt, pepper, and lightly coat with olive oil. This is going to be quick, and you need a super-hot fire. Alton Brown on Good Eats describes actually putting these directly on the coals. Bold. Sear 5-6 minutes on one side. If it flames up, don't worry about it. 3 min or so on the other side. Cut on the bias. THAT'S IT! The idea is black outside, pink inside. Sounds like the punchline to a Newman joke. (insider MCG thing)

Options: you can marinate this overnight with some combination of ginger, lime zest (or deactivated lime juice), but a brining solution is probably overkill. The only other thing I'd say is that you have to think about how to serve this. You can make tacos with it, but think about the size of the meat and how it's going to behave with a taco. If you make it like this and cut it like it's described, you'll have two pieces about 3-4 inches long per taco. One bite, blows the whole thing up because it's a pretty chewy piece but it's got a bunch of flavor. I've been in restaurants that serve this alone.
When you buy these at the grocery store, how do you heat them up? You could throw them right into the microwave, but you'd be a moron. You could also wrap about 10 or so in a damp dishcloth and microwave them, that's better. Or, you could dampen them a bit and throw them suckers on the grill! That's what I'm talkin' about! Super hot fire, be quick about it, or you're going to have baked chips. Which isn't so bad, either. They do need some moisture because they get really dehydrated in the fridge. Alternative: on a skillet with a touch of oil or cooking spray. Don't let them brown. Like any good dough, they need to steam and blacken a bit. Or you can make your own. I'll get to that before to long. I just got a tortilla press that I bought at world market.

Creamed corn and poblanos
Take your pick. Cheat like I did and use a small can of creamed corn. Take two poblanos and throw them on the grill, too. Blacken them on all sides. Pull them off, let 'em cool, and then peel them. Seed, core the peppers, and cut diagonally into strips. Throw your large stainless skillet on your side burner or stove top, and heat it up to medium high heat (electric? 7/10). Add some oil to coat the base until it just starts to smoke, and throw in a diced onion. Let it go for a while, throw a couple of cloves of minced garlic, be careful not to burn them. Add a cup of sour cream, the corn, and the poblanos. Probably need a little bit of water in there, too, to give yourself a liquid that can reduce. This will take about 10-15 minutes total, and you can prepare it first while your stoking the coals for the other stuff.
Serve all with thin-sliced limes, and sprinkle a little cilantro over the top.

Viva la Matthew!

The Great Grill Debate

Highly encourage any of you to pick the latest Food and Wine. In it, there's a discussion about buying a grill with a detailed comparison of grills priced 300 vs 1000 vs ridiculous.

They also have an article about the ceramic cookers, and talk about a couple of other brands out there that are competition to BGE. I looked them up, and here's what I found:

Kamado ceramic. According to FW, the "Faberge egg that cooks." As you can see, quite ornamental, IMO outlandishly so. But it does make you wonder if you could tile a BGE. Price you ask? How about starting at $2000. Oddly enough, they also make gas versions.

Next is the Primo XL Oval. This is, to my knowledge, the only one that comes in this shape. It's kinda curious how 2 of the main companies that distribute these are in the Atlanta area. This is apparently the only one that's made in the US. 20 year warranty which is not as good as the BGE or Grill Dome. It does have adjustable cooking grates, boasts greater cooking space, has a firebox divider. You can get stainless steel shelves for it also.

Next up is the Dragon Fire Kamado grill. I don't really know antyhing about this company, and I don't think they have a website, but I do know it's Chinese. You can track this down on The company is Szhongmao. It looks like a black BGE. The do add that the tables for it are made of bamboo which I assume is like kudzu over there, they're just trying to get rid of it. The stand and side table are included; who knows, maybe the lead smoking chips are free. 25 year warranty on ceramics, the link to the website didn't work.,

Finally, there's the Grill Dome which are distributed somewhere off 85 and Steve Reynolds Blvd in the Atlanta area, even though they're made in India. These have a shiny finish, they come in multiple colors, and they also have different heights available. The newest is an extra extra tall. They are comparable in price to the BGE, and in some instances cheaper. Oh, and they also come in a metallic copper color, even though it's not on their website yet, which is unique. Lifetime warranty.

And of course, the BGE. Everyone's familiar with them, but it still stands in my mind as the gold standard. Bunch of accessories, lifetime warranty if you buy from a dealer, etc.

There's a great comparison chart of all but the Kamado on

It's a typical situation In these typical times Too many choices... Well, everybody's happy, everybody's free We'll keep the big door open Everyone will come around Why are you different Why are you that way If you don't get in line We'll lock you away...It all comes down to nothing... DMB