Tuesday, September 29, 2009


You've got to check out Ruhlman's BLT challenge results...amazing! I am jealous of the guy who harvested his own sea salt... hardcore!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Low Fat Diet?!? Have I lost my mind?

Posting on this end has been miserable for multiple reasons. No, I haven't stopped cooking, but I've been extremely busy with work, home, kids, etc. Probably the biggest reason for the lapse is...

Yep, as usual, I am a sucker for the infomercial and like to order things late at night after a bender... After 2 1/2 + years away from the gym and "boxing" I was feeling pretty out of shape, jeans getting tight, sweating on relatively cool days, you get the picture. I wanted a kick start. What I really need is a personal trainer and I found one in that freak, Tony Horton. p90X promises to get you in the best shape of your life in 90 days (13 weeks). If you follow the program to a T, there is no doubt this would happen. Basically, this program is based on the concept of muscle confusion and consists of intese exercise 6 days per week. Overall, one could expect to work hard for about 1 1/2 hours! Some nuts even do doubles! I don't know who has this kind of time, but I've adjusted my schedule so that I get up at 5AM and do these workouts before work. I am currently finishing week 9. I can definately see differences, but I don't expect to look like the dudes in the videos as I am genetically predisposed to have a pot-belly and bird legs. With that said, there is also a diet plan that I have followed loosely which has the common thread of being low-fat.

Low-fat diets aren't the best meals for food blogs. I eat lots of stuff like the Nicoise salad pictured below, but as the weather cools, I will most certainly be cooking some good eats on the weekends.

BTW: still making pizzas every week or 2. Some combos to try
1. Pancetta and parsnip (slice parsnips thin and fry until crispy in pork-fat)
2. Red onion and pistacio with a white base
3. Goat cheese with spicy pine nut/currant relish (relish recipe can be found in Luques); basically a spin on her tart
4. Proscuitto, fig, gorgonzola


Thursday, September 24, 2009

From lowly to high and mighty: chicken thighs with tarragon pan sauce

Unless you're trying to cook neck bones (which actually work great for stock) the lowliest cut on the chicken is the thigh. The crazy thing is that it's one of the tastiest parts of the bird. We're so brainwashed into thinking that boneless, skinless is all we can eat, that the industry has tailored it's production and made this one of the highest price cuts. It involves the most labor, but has some of the least flavor of any other part.

Pan fried chicken thighs with tarragon sauce
4-6 chicken thighs
salt, pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup of water or chicken stock
2 tbsp of minced shallot (optional)
2 tbsp of tarragon leaves, minced
2 up to 6-8 tbsp of butter

Enter the chicken thigh. You can get them boneless or bone in, it doesn't matter. If you get them with the bone in, just cut slits longitudinally along the bone as this is the part of the cut that takes the longest to cook (remember the heat sink principle). Season with salt, pepper or whatever you like to put on chicken.

Put a big saute pan on medium high. You can use non-stick, but it's not necessary. Lay the chicken thighs down skin down. Turn the heat to low, drop the temp to low and COVER. There will be no turning this over, you don't need it. Cook 15-20 minutes until the meat the around the bone looks cooked and there is no blood coming from it.

This is where I prefer to use a regular steel, clad skillet. Take your thighs out, set them aside to rest. Add a dry white wine to deglaze the plan, 1/2 cup, medium heat and allow it to start to reduce. Add a cup of water (good) or chicken stock (better), and let this reduce. Add about a couple of tablespoons of minced tarragon leaves (dry will work fine for this), and you can add minced shallot if you like but it's not totally necessary. Add 1 or 2 tbsp of butter when the sauce gets reduced down to spoon-coating consistency to start sort of an emulsion, then add as much as you think you can stand. You're welcome to strain this sauce and use clarified butter instead if you really want to "do it up." Season with salt, pepper as needed. Serve over the chicken or on the side. You will be amazed at how well the tarragon pairs with the chicken, and I'll discuss this in a future post.
For more cooking notes on cooking the chicken thighs (or if you don't believe that you can cook them this way) check out the master Jacques Pepin on More Fast Food My Way, which all episodes are available on video. Advance to about 2:20 to watch how he does it. If you haven't checked out this show, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Easy as 1-2-3, pie and tart dough

Frankly, I was a little intimidated by all these cookbooks with tart recipes. It sounded great, and whenever I had had one, I really liked it, but a recipe that called with 3 1/3 cups of flour plus 2 tbsp seemed a little much. Enter Ratio, and a world of ease.
Tarts are really just fancy pizzas where the dough is made with fat instead of just the 5:3 of flour to water like regular bread dough. The ratio for a plain savory tart is as easy as it gets-3:2:1 by weight. Go find a good round tart pan with a removable bottom (the one we have has a 9 in diameter), and get started.

Basic tart dough
9 oz AP flour
6 oz of chilled butter cut into pieced (stick and a half. No seriously!)
ice water approximately 3 oz
pinch of salt

Want a pate sucre (pie dough)? Add 1/2 cup of sugar to this recipe and you have it.

The key here is consistency of the dough. I find it easiest to use the food processor with a large cutting blade. As with any dough, the amount of water required depends a heck of a lot more the hydration of the flour than on anything else. Case in point: if the flour has been in the freezer, it's dehydrated and requires much more water.

Measure out your butter and flour, and pulse in the food processor until it looks like wet sand. Add cold water a tsp or two at a time until the dough "catches" in the processor. Personally, I think that the wetter the dough, the flakier it will be because that water converts to steam in the oven and will give it the consistency of a croissant.
Flatten the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge until you're ready to go. This achieves a couple of things. Foremost is that it redistributes the hydration throughout the dough, but it also keeps the butter chilled until you're ready for it. You don't want to beat up your flour or the pastry becomes a little tough, like a scone.

For most tarts or pies, you should blind bake. Get some beans that you don't care about, lay some parchment paper down on the tart, and use the beans as your pie weights. Bake at 350-400 for about 30 minutes or so, until the crust is browning, being careful to not overcook.

From there, you can do whatever you want! The tart I have pictured is one where I quick sauteed some yellow squash and onion, adding some tomato, goat cheese, and thyme.

**Keep in mind that while using something with a lot of liquid like tomato, salt them and allow them to drain well before adding to the tart. The other option is put some sealant in the bottom of the tart dough like dijon mustard which groups well with the flavor profile I'm describing.

If you want a sweeter version and you don't have the tart pan, take a basic pate sucre (see above), peel and core 4 apples (Granny Smith or something tart from North GA since they're in season), slice to about 1/4". If you can't use them right away, put them in acidulated water (water with lemon juice) to prevent oxidation. Take your dough, roll it circular until it's about 3-5 mm thick. Lay it on a SilPat. Take your apples and lay them overlapping each other in a circle until you're out of them. Leave about 1.5 inches of margin at the edge of the dough. Fold the edges up, sprinkle some regular or brown sugar over the apples, and bake at 350-400, again lower if you have convection. You can grate some fresh cinnamon or nutmeg on it as well. I'll link to another site for pics until I get mine up. The tart is done when the crust is brown and the apples are cooked, about 30-45 minutes.

**For an added finishing touch, take some apricot jam and spread it over the apples. I've also done this with mayhaw jelly, but you could use anything that compliments the apples, something sweet and tart.

Mystery no more. You'll laugh at how easy this is.

Skate wing grenobloise

Skate wing. Before I really started looking around, I don't think I ever saw it anywhere. It's one of those weird fishes that most seafood retailers probably don't carry. It's among the cheapest fare that you can buy, but if you know how to make the cheap stuff taste good, you can do anything.
First of all, it's a critter much like a ray, with wings, and this is the part that you eat. Some places (Bob's Seafood in STL) sells them skinned for around $5/lb, and Whole Paycheck in Nashville sells it with the skin on for about $3-4/lb. They're not that difficult to skin if you've ever filleted a fish or skinned a catfish, so save your money.

**Timing of this dish is key, make it the last thing you make unless you have a heat lamp in your kitchen. If you leave it out too long, it will be dry and even the butter sauce won't be enough.

Skate grenobloise

1-2 skate wings, skinned, boned
1/2 stick butter
2 tbsp capers
half a lemon, seeded, cut into wedges. Can sub lime
Flour for dredging
Salt, pepper for seasoning
Cilantro or flat parsley for garnish

This one's so easy, you won't believe it. Take your skate wing and lightly season with salt and pepper. Dredge lightly in flour, and saute at medium high heat. Cook it all the way through, this isn't one you would necessarily want to make a crudo from.
Take your skillet (or saute pan) and melt half a stick of butter over moderate heat. Add a couple of tbsp of capers, and some seeded lemon or lime wedges. Garnish and serve immediately.

Seriously, that's it.

Fish fry. Sort of.

You might not think about this. Imagine if you will, that you're at your favorite bait store. C'mon, you've got one. Would you think of taking the minnows home and cooking them? Probably not, but I've got to tell you, find the right kind and you might be in for a pleasant surprise.

When there was no sand, we at the smelt.

At the local chain grocery store a few weeks ago, they had fresh smelt that had been gutted and beheaded. Perfect! Set up for deep fry (sauce pan with canola, peanut, or vegetable oil at around 350-375), lightly flour the smelt, and let 'em rip. The result? Miniature fried fishy goodness! Fresh crispy minnows, anyone? Serve with a hot sauce aioli, spicy mustard sauce, horseradish sauce, etc.

If you can find these suckers, you won't believe how good they are.

In abesntia

I think you could use that to describe any of us with regard to posting, or to UGA's defensive secondary, but not A.J. during the Arkansas game.
Howeverit, ASU is a classic setup game for us because we're feeling like the offense is unstoppable (which is not true), we may believe anyone that says this is the easiest opponent we've had (possible), and that we're looking ahead to LSU (likely).
Can you believe that at UGA the offense has to bail out the defense? Somewhere, David Greene is shaking his head and chuckling out loud. Then again, if we stop the bleeding and beat UT and Vandy, we're right there in the East. Clearly, some of the main issues for UGA are

  1. turnovers
  2. defensive front applying pressure
  3. linebacker play
  4. secondary
I never thought we'd be confident in the offense, scared to death of the defense.

What I'll look for on Saturday night:

  1. Proper defensive adjustment. If you didn't find this yet, I highly recommend it. I'm glad to see how some folks spend their time, makes my life easier.
  2. Fewer mental breakdowns on both offense and defense. No kidding.
  3. Continued resiliency. We've been down by 10+ in each of the last two games and come out with the W.
  4. Expanding the offensive packages. If Branden White is in the game, the ball's going to him, right? More AJ, more tight ends, more Michael Moore.
Continued smart performance from the Ginger Ninja, Joe Cox. Maybe he did have the flu afterall.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The enigma that is the 2009 'Dawgs

Holy what the...?

It's been awhile since any rants or raves on here. The summer was busier than predicted for various reasons. But I'll start this with saying that we've seen quite a bit of variety from the 'Dawgs so far this season, and you only have to look at the USC game to see just about every wrinkle and twist that can happen in a game.

A few things are clear and worthy of mention.

  1. Joe Cox is better than he showed at the OSU game, but that was a wretched pick 6 against USC.
  2. The Blair Walsh project is going pretty well, with two kicks now over 50 yards.
  3. We appear to have a TON of young speed all over the place (Boykin, Smith).
  4. Richard Samuel is improving, and appears to be a bruiser.
  5. Quick: name 2 other linebackers other than Rennie Curran.
  6. The coaches LOVE the directional kick, but few can figure out why.
  7. AJ Green is awesome, but has a nagging tendency to fumble.
  8. Reshad Jones is better, but the refs are trying to choke him.
  9. We're not going to win many games if the turnovers continue.
  10. The red zone defense is good, and they've had PLENTY of practice.
  11. The team appears to be resilient and can take a punch.

Any other thoughts?