Ratatouille goes down easier than Shrek

28 06 2007

Honestly I couldn’t stomach Shrek the Third at all. It was awful. Ratatouille, on the other hand, is great. How do I know? I made it last week.

All this time I thought the rat’s name was Ratatouille and then I find out his name is Remy. Ratatouille is apparently just a dish with a really silly name. When I heard that I figured it would be something silly where you whisk eggs into a foam and fold them into puff pastry or something. (The French don’t care what they eat, so long as it’s difficult to prepare.) It’s actually kind of like a vegetable stew.

I looked at the Food Network and Cooking Light and found three recipes that looked promising, so Karen and I took something from each recipe and made it work. Okay, Karen tinkered with the recipes, but would you trust me with something like that? Me neither. Notice a recurring theme that when Karen is around to keep me in line I don’t ruin dinner.

Here are the recipes we found:
Grilled Ratatouille from Bobby Flay
Grilled Ratatouille from Emeril
Grilled Ratatouille from Cooking Light

Step number one was to cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and peel it. Then you liberally salt both halves all over and let it sit for about an hour. This apparently draws out all the bitter juices and it works; there were a lot of drippings in that pan. While it was sitting I put it to drain on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Then you fire up the grill.

The first thing to set on the grill was a head of garlic cut in half, per Emeril’s directions. We thought roasted garlic sounded killer so I did it. How’d it look afterwards?

garlicy yummyness

We couldn’t salvage the top half. Apparently there was too little garlic and too much of that papery covering; it caught fire. But it did add a nice smoky taste to the half we did use. It seemed kind of odd to be grilling vegetables and leaving the meat on the stove to cook, but when in Paris, right? I charred the outside of some of the vegetables (I’m not enjoying my experience with gas grilling) but that’s okay, I peeled them when they were done.

veggies on grill YUM

I always read recipes and say to myself “Emeril is nuts, I’m not doing that.” This was one of those times, and don’t you make the same mistake I did. Emeril said to slice the red onion and put those slices on the grill. I thought “I’ve grilled onions before and the middle rings of onion fell into the flame. I’ll just quarter the onion.” Guess what, it came apart anyway and I still had to grill the onion on foil. It would’ve cooked much better had I sliced it. So slice the onions.

See, I did make a mistake, but it wasn’t ruined.

The yellow squash that we had was a couple weeks old and unusable so we didn’t. I’m sure that’s my fault too.


People say (don’t ask who, just people) that ratatouille can be served cold, hot, or at room temperature. People also say you can make it a day in advance so that the flavors can come together. I think we liked it warm, and it was definitely better on leftover night, so go ahead and make it the day before your big BBQ pool party (invite us over). This recipe makes a ton of food, and over rice it makes a great vegetarian leftover night all by itself. Not exactly man food but I did make it on the grill!

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This is why I get the food network

25 06 2007

Good Eats is by far the best food show ever. If my kids watch your cooking show and say “Play that again, Daddy” you know it’s great. And he always uses the most important phrase in any cooking show: “You’ll know it’s done when…

I made cinnamon rolls this week. I’d made them before (and by “I” I mean Aliyah made them, but it was my idea) and they’d turned out great. This time I figured I’d document the process for posterity.

Alton showed me how to make them but some of these things I don’t have access to. Like a stand mixer.  Wanna know a good reason to get a stand mixer? I couldn’t quite get the butter mixed in all the way at the beginning with a whisk. Not soft enough I guess. See?

it was the best i could do

So I made Alton’s recipe with some changes. Here is my whisk attachment:

my whisk attachment

Here is my dough hook:

my dough hook

Have I told you that I hate my oven? Well, not for long. The oven switched off again. I swear the previous owners left just before everything in this house broke.  So twice now a $30 Wal-Mart toaster oven bought twelve years ago has come to the aid of a $2000 Jenn-Air downdraft convection oven.

It’s not just that the range is broken, what about my cinnamon rolls? They were half cooked after an hour. See what happened to my nice quiet Monday morning breakfast to finish off Karen’s vacation week? We went from this:

peaceful breakfast

to this:

rolls in the toaster oven, cooked 4 at a time

It’s still a great recipe, and if I can do it on the first try you know it’s good. I’ll have to do this again once our new oven is delivered.

PSA #1: Pork Cooking Temperatures

24 06 2007

I tried being funny about it, but apparently there are a lot of people out there who want to know about eating pork medium rare or rare. So here’s my first official public service announcement about food safety. You wanna know if you can eat pork medium rare, here’s where to go:

USDA Cooking Temperature Fact Sheet

Yes, there are approved cooking temperatures for medium and well-done pork. If that wasn’t enough, the Food Network has (I hope) done some research and come up with their own recommendations, including one for medium rare pork. We in our house think they’re crazy, but I suppose there are certain prejudices that you grow up with and you can never get rid of.

Food Network’s take on USDA Cooking Temperatures

I hope this takes care of everyone’s needs, thank you for visiting my blog.

Triumph of the Black Knight

21 06 2007

I swear these toys are (individually) as I found them. Yes, I moved them to a new location to take the picture but that’s it.

Go away you stupid english kunigits!

We’ve been playing lots of Legend of Zelda video games lately.  By “We” I mean everyone in our house with two hands.  For you guys out there, yes that means I married a girl who’s into video games.  Cool, yes, but the downside is that we position for console time.  Guess who wins.  We’ve taken a few months off from them but lately Karen’s been playing Twilight Princess on the Wii and the boys have been loving it.  They’ll watch her for a while and then she’ll let them try if she’s getting killed, it’s fun for everyone.

But then two days in a row came with no video games. It’s summer! Can’t I play all day, every day? Well, no, but all this Fighting Evil inspired Jonathan to break out his knights and castles and play with the swords and battle axes and such.

What I found amongst the pile of toys was the Black Knight riding proudly atop King Arthur’s white horse. I also found the Dark Castle flying the flags of Camelot with the armor & helmets (and one can only assume the heads) of the brave knights who fought and died in vain to protect it from the Black Knight.

For a bunch of games rated “E” (except for Twilight Princess) Jonathan really took the theme and ran with it.

Pizza lesson #1: circles!

19 06 2007

Yes, here it is. My moment of triumph, my shining glory.

success!  Let’s open a pizzeria!

Karen did most of the work.

Karen and I made pizza together Friday night so she could show me what dough is supposed to look and feel like. Karen thinks I’ve been pushing too hard when I knead the dough. I mixed the batter and kneaded the dough. Karen sliced the toppings, rolled the dough into CIRCLES for pizza and assembled the pizzas. I put the boys in their aprons so they could top their own pizza.

silly in the kitchen

I also put the pizzas in the oven and monitored their cooking. Yes I’m making it sound like I did more than just stand there watching Karen work. Here’s the dough after I kneaded it.

I may be small but I’m drinking milk!

Did I tell you I hate my oven? It doesn’t self-clean any more, and it shut off again while cooking pizza #2. We really need to have it repaired / replaced. Karen loves the downdraft and convection though.

We used a different dough recipe this time (from Mario Batali of course). Karen suggested using bread flour instead of all purpose flour and it was the best dough we’ve ever made. Plus there’s wine in it. A wine that drew the attention of the guy at the liquor store such that he complemented my taste. I didn’t have the heart to tell him “I only need a quarter cup, it’s going in pizza dough.”

Pizza with our standard toppings

Next we decided that while we’re making Mario’s dough we may as well make a pizza from the same show. Plus we had the fresh mozzarella in the fridge. He called it Classic Pizza Napolitana and it’s got slices of fresh mozzarella and basil leaves on it. Karen suggested adding some tomatoes on top. It was close to being the best pizza I’d ever had.

pizza napolitana before cooking

Remember the soup nazi from Seinfeld? They’d taste his soup and then say “Oooo, that’s good. I gotta sit down.” That’s how good this pizza was. It’s only Friday and already it felt like Father’s day.

Below I’ll put our recipe adapted from Mario’s.

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I Rock!

17 06 2007

Another Father’s day come and gone with no Corvette or jet pack.  I’m hard to buy for; all the things I want are expensive and specialized.  But this year Karen and the boys got me something that truly made me smile.

I Rock!

Indeed I do.

Medium rare pork can kill you

15 06 2007

If you’re looking for pork cooking temperatures, I have links to the USDA and food network suggestions here.

Sorry, but I must use this post as a public service announcement. Some of the things that people are looking for when they visit my blog have gone from kinda boring and mildly amusing to kinda disturbing and creepy.

These are actual search strings people entered, I couldn’t think this stuff up.

alton brown medium rare porkAre you trying to kill yourself? Sheesh.

How do they make boneless turkeythey start with a boneless egg.

eating maggotsI’ve never prepared maggots, I wouldn’t even know how to gut them.

alton brown’s toy puppet I don’t think he sells them. go away.

“shave my head” turkeycome on, the turkey legs weren’t that bad, were they?

stupid blowtorchafter seeing some of the other searches I HOPE you’re cooking with it.

what should mark cook tomorrow?yes, tell me. I’ll blog about it.

pictures of butchering rabbits searches like this should be monitored by the FBI.

choke my chickenHow does my blog even show up from this search string? Go ahead, enter this into google. You’ll see my blog nestled in nicely among tons of gay porn.

punishment of wifeOnce again, this is not that type of blog!

paint room roller hat “he said” smiledare you on crack or LSD?

bumbo polyurethane stainsee, my problem is that I sit and try to figure out what they meant, only it makes my head hurt.

Yeast Puppets!!! They are on Alton tonight!!!I know!!!! Aren’t they cool?

zuko man zuko man he can do what a toastThose words, they don’t go. Together. Stop, brain hurting.

pros & cons of drinking decaffeinated coffeepros: you won’t get the runs. Cons: you won’t be awake to enjoy not having the runs.

washing off wallpaper pasteI think you’re better off burning your house down.

One down, seventy-six to go…

11 06 2007

So Kindergarten is over and today (being Monday) was the first official day of summer vacation.  Is it too early to start counting down the days until August 27? 

We’re here to drive you crazy

Today we set some ground rules.  Rule #1:  There will be no TV or video games before lunch.  I learned this lesson a few years ago.  If they start playing video games after breakfast they end up doing it all day.  (This morning, before Karen even left for work at 8:10, they had the TV on.  No no no.)  Mornings are for constructive play and / or fighting with each other. 

Rule #2:  I will not argue about Rule #1.  If any child tries to argue about Rule #1 on any given day there will be no TV or video games that day.  I will not argue about the same thing every day this summer.

So far nothing new.  Now for a new rule.  Rule #3: If I hear screaming and / or hitting BOTH boys go to time out on beds in seperate rooms.  I don’t care who started it, I don’t care who’s fault it is.  Let’s call it a “cooling down” period.  This rule is for their own safety.

Rule #4: You must leave Daddy alone while he’s on the toilet.  No knocking, no asking questions from outside the door, no bothering Daddy because you know he’ll give in to make you go away.  Leave Daddy alone!  As a result of this rule Daddy will be spending most mornings on the toilet.

Rule #5: There will be no ice cream before lunch.  I can’t believe I even have to say it, but Isaac nagged me all morning today for a root beer float.

I’m also going to have to schedule something for them to do each day after breakfast.  While I’m drinking my coffee I need to keep them from nagging me for TV, video games, and ice cream. 

Isaac is supposed to read 20 books over the summer.  If he completes his mission he’ll get to take part in a day off picnic at a park during the first week of school.  Talk about delayed gratification.  I think that’s cool.  We’ll have to visit bookstores and the library to help him out.  

Long story short, I need to make some plans for my days with these three.  We’ve got some state parks within an hour’s drive, so I think we might take some day trips and picnic lunches. 

This is my resume. Eat it.

10 06 2007

On Memorial Day weekend we went out as a family for dinner and a movie. We saw Shrek 3 and we had dinner at Red Robin. As bad as the movie was, the dinner made a much more lasting impression.  Red Robin says on their menu that they have the best bacon cheeeseburger “in the world.” And it oughta be for $8.79, dontcha think?

Bacon cheeseburgers are in the top 3 of my favorite foods.  I won’t even tell you how to do it, what else goes on it, just do it well and I will stand on the tables and sing your praises.

I asked the waitress if it was really the best bacon cheeseburger in the world. Guess what she said.  So I ordered it.  It arrives (hooray!) and after we get the boys situated with their meals I dig in. Immediately I’m disappointed. Shredded lettuce? Really? How much do I have to pay to get some green leaf lettuce?  I’ll save you time and just say that all I really tasted was the mayo and tomato, everything else was just there for texture. Honestly I could’ve done better at Burger King. I was losing faith in humanity so I came to a decision. I’ve got to make one of my own and restore balance to the universe. Karen didn’t care; she thinks I’m crazy but she agreed to get some bacon at the local butcher’s when she gets everything else.

Remember when I said I just don’t get gas grills? I think I figured out why. This thing just doesn’t get as hot as charcoal. I’ve got to close the lid to make the chicken brown at all, and if I leave it closed too long this happens:

chicken with a side of cancer

I made everyone else’s food first, and then set to work on my masterpiece.  I got this cast iron skillet at Target with a removable handle.  Awesome!  Here’s my cheese melting over my perfectly cooked burger and my bacon sizzling next to it. Don’t they look happy together?

oh yeah!  Build the whole thing outside!

It wasn’t perfect but it was certainly better than theirs. If I were to start cooking at Red Robin their food sales would instantly triple I’m sure. All I’d have to do is bring in one of these and I wouldn’t even need an application.

yummy bacon yummy cheese yummy burger

It’s still missing something, I’m thinking perhaps a mushroom sauce. If anybody has any ideas for making one I would be very grateful.

Also of note: Last week we went to Fuddrucker’s and I ordered their bacon cheeseburger.  It was definitely better than Red Robin’s but it took so long for the food to come out that I forgot to pay attention to how it tasted.  If the dining room is deserted it shouldn’t take 20 minutes to make three sandwiches and some fries.  The kids will only sit still for so long.

Bake & Mark

7 06 2007

To all yuh Trinis out there, I apologize in advance for what you are about to see.

Bakes.  The Naparima Girls High School Cookbook also calls them “floats,” which is a more descriptive name than “bakes” since they’re fried.  And when they puff up (quite spectacularly) in the oil they do indeed float.

Wednesday was Jonathan’s birthday so he got to choose what was for dinner.  Karen gave him some choices and he chose fish.  When the kids say “Yay! Fish!” in our house it means one thing: Bake and shark.  But we don’t have shark available here usually so we use catfish or (even better) tilapia.

Question to the Trinis.  About a month ago I actually saw mako shark steaks at the local butcher / fishmonger.  I thought this meal was prepared with fillets since they’re fried and they’re so thin.  But Karen said the steaks would work.  My inner Trini is coming out so I don’t trust her.  What do you think?

Back to my point.  Karen worked 9-5 on Wednesday so I decided to make the Bake & Shark.  Karen has her own recipe for bakes but I couldn’t find it so I looked in the Naparima cookbook.  It looked easy enough.  I added the flour, salt, baking powder, and a little bit of the water and started mixing it with a spoon.  Horrified, Aliyah took over.  Apparently you’re supposed to use your hands when mixing bread dough.  Who knew?  Aliyah kneaded the dough and shaped the bakes while I seasoned the fish. 

Unrelated side note: The Naparima cookbook has a recipe for green seasoning and it makes a cup.  Does anyone make a cup of green seasoning at a time?  I thought people made 5 gallons at a time to give to everyone in your family.  But I don’t know for sure because Karen’s green seasoning comes from a good friend of her mother.

So I’m supposed to fry the bakes and the fish at the same time, and I’m as good at multitasking as I am with substituting ingredients in recipes.  Aliyah made the first few bakes really small because she knew I’d need a few to ruin before I got it right.  Those things went from white and raw to black and burned in about 15 seconds.  “You’d better turn them now” she says.  Oh well.

It’s not burned, it’s blackened.

Most of the bakes turned out okay, but Karen didn’t say anything about the fish.  I assume that means they were seasoned properly, but I’m afraid to ask.  I did burn myself while turning one of the fillets.  I then overcooked it and then dropped it on the floor when I was taking it out of the skillet. 

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