Cooking the redbirds

30 01 2009

For all you Cardinal fans, please do not be offended.  All of this is done in good fun.  

Last year I made my Super Bowl prediction based on soup (here’s the link).  I made Manhattan clam chowder, it was a success, and the Giants won in the Chowder Bowl.  This year my team happens to be playing in the Super Bowl, so the pressure has been raised to an all-time high.  If my dinner is lousy and the Steelers lose, it will be all my fault.

When selecting a dish to represent my home city of Pittsburgh I thought first of the Primanti sandwich. But then I’d need to make slaw, french fries, and a burger (along with everything else).  That would require two people in the kitchen, and baby #4 just won’t let that happen.  So in the end I chose a symbolic dish.  Something that I hope happens on Super Bowl Sunday.  Yes, a close game is very exciting, but how about a good old fashioned blowout?  Let’s cook us some birds!

Tandoori chicken was introduced to me by my lovely wife Karen.  It’s not a Trinidadian dish, it’s Indian.  But somehow she had the recipe and the spices and it quickly became my favorite food.  Then she started making her own Tandoori seasoning and it got even better.  For mine I decided to use Gordon Ramsay’s recipe from one of my favorite cooking shows, The F-Word.  Here’s Gordon’s recipe for tandoori paste.  We’re going to follow my progress as if it’s the Super Bowl.  

So how did the game go:

Playoffs: It’s crazy cold in the Burgh.
Yes, the cornish hens come frozen.  I had to thaw them in about two hours so they could marinate overnight.  Luckily they’re small, it worked just soaking them in some water.

too bad the super bowl wasn't last week when it snowed in tampa

Super Bowl Week: The teams arrive in Tampa.  Wow, it’s warm here.
Step 1 of making the tandoori was toasting coriander and cumin seeds.  Makes the kitchen smell good.

it doesn't look like much but a little is all it takes

Super Bowl Week:  Lots of talking, lots of waiting.
Once the tandoori paste was made and the hens were marinating, they go off to the fridge to sit overnight.

it's a lot like watching media day coverage

Super Bowl Week: The Steelers tweak their game plan.
I had planned on just making some rice and broccoli to go with the chicken, but that’s way too boring so I get out one of Karen’s Indian cookbooks.  I find some recipes that use ingredients we already have in the house. 

I used yellow squash instead of zucchini

Gametime!  After a week of practice the work is all done, time to play the game.
Actually once the chicken is done marinating it’s pretty easy to just slide them in the oven at 375˚.

is this Kurt Warner staring down the Steelers D?

First Quarter: The two teams act cautiously, trying to find an advantage.  The Steelers think they’ve found one.
After putting the hens in the oven, I start to prep for the side dishes.  I chop up some onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, and yellow squash for the veggies and get the stand mixer kneading some chapatis, which is a kind of flat bread.  That’s not a picture of them next to the recipe.

they were actually pretty easy to make

Second quarter: Things start moving, and both teams react quickly to each other.
The dough needed to rest for a while and the veggies were ready to go into the pan.  So much going on I didn’t have time to take any pictures.

Third quarter: The Steelers get two big plays from special teams.
I was glad that we had all these Indian spices at home already, because the house smelled great while I was cooking up the veggies.  At the same time I started cooking the chapatis.  We told the kids it was roti, and it was probably the same thing.  Both sides turned out great, and I did make some plain white rice for the boys.

Fourth quarter:  After the surprise play on special teams, the defense does the rest and puts the game away.
The yellow squash and fenugreek were really good and a very nice surprise, but the highlight of the meal really was the chicken.   Jonathan asked for seconds of everything, and even suggested that I “make this again sometime.”  I’d never heard that one before, not even from Karen.

Looks like a six pack of Lombari's for Pittsburgh

So there you have it.  Game over.  It was my first foray into the wonderful world of Indian cuisine, as well as my first attempt to cook cornish hens.  And it was a smashing success.  So, based on this meal, who wins the Super Bowl?  Who do ya think I’d say, even if I’d ruined it?

My pick: Steelers by 10.  It was that good.

If you’re interested in the recipe, click below.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Table for six, please

27 01 2009

This past Saturday was the first time we actually asked for a table for six at a restaurant.  Nathaniel is just now learning how to sit up, and Ben is just now staying seated without trying to climb out.  Apparently an unexpected benefit of us spending all that time with Ben at the high chair at home is that he likes sitting at a table and playing with toys now.  So we sat them together and ate our lunch.

ben thought it was the wine list, nate thought it was onion rings

And Ben looks awesome in his new glasses.





Wookiee Cookies

24 01 2009

For his birthday last year Isaac received Wookiee Cookies: The Star Wars Cookbook.  It was apparently written by someone who, like me, is both a foodie and a Star Wars geek.  It’s complete with pictures of Star Wars action figures posing with each dish.  I thought this was an awesome birthday present.  Oh wait, it was for Isaac, wasn’t it?

They're called that because they're chewy.

I decided to make the title recipe from the cookbook and Jonathan wanted to help.  The Wookiee Cookies are basically chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon added.  Perhaps Wookiees like cinnamon, I don’t know.  I never could understand Chewbacca.  But the cookies turned out well and they were enjoyed by all.  In fact, they were made so late in the evening that I thought they’d go well with a relaxing cup of decaf.  

I cleaned the table just for this picture

They did.  But, like most things, I got impatient toward the end and the cookies got bigger and got squished together in the oven.

maybe I should just eat these now

Oh well.  I took a page from the cookbook and got out our LEGO Star Wars dudes for a quick photo shoot.

Han shot first you know

your cookies are weak old man

The cookies make for very realistic looking terrain, don’t you think?





How do I cook a cardinal?

19 01 2009

Last year I used my cooking to predict the winner of the Super Bowl.  (Click here for the link)  It worked with amazing accuracy, but I had no idea just how much affect my cooking has on the outcome of football games.  Let me explain.

We had a friend over to watch the games this weekend and so we decided to cook as if there was a party.  I made a bunch of food that was heavy on the prep work and light on cooking effort, so we could watch the game relatively undisturbed.  Then the Eagles started to play badly and Arizona took a big lead early in the game.  It was then that I realized something.  Our menu consisted of chili, cornbread, and chips and salsa.  Southwest food!  

super chili

Then I realized something else.  Even though Ben was dutifully wearing a Steelers jersey, Karen had dressed Nate in red.

getting him Troy jersey tomorrow

See? Even Nate was shocked that the Cardinals won.  These two minor infractions cost Philadelphia the game, I’m sure of it.  So now I understand that my cooking has some mystical powers to it, giving me the power to change the fates of NFL teams.  I apologize to the city of Philadelphia, but I didn’t discover this power until after halftime.  Perhaps it was the wings I made a little  later that sealed the win for the Steelers, I don’t know.  I took Bobby Flay’s dry jerk rub recipe and made some jerk wings, and these were some birds that really bit you back (just like the Ravens) when you bit into them.

Have no fear, Steelers nation, I won’t be cooking again until I find a recipe for Primanti sandwiches.  And also, does anyone know, are cardinals game birds or something?  Maybe  close to pigeon, I could cook a squab.  

I’m even afraid to heat up the leftovers.





My superpower

13 01 2009

Hi.  My name is Mark and here’s my superpower.  I can watch the Steelers in the playoffs and still keep quiet enough that two babies can fall asleep on my lap.  Ben hasn’t been feeling well and required a lap to sit on all day on Sunday.  And Nate was, well, he was being Nate.  

he can still wave the terrible towel while sleeping

So I had two babies on my lap while Karen made dinner and helped Jonathan glue candy fish to a cutout of a snowman for kindergarten.  Ask her about that one, I have no clue.

Some good did come out of it.  Nathaniel got his first lesson in waving a Terrible Towel.





Cred

10 01 2009

I’m no chef, and that’s probably why you should never take my cooking advice.  But it seems as though you need to have a good reputation to garner any respect around the dinner table.  Let me explain. 

One of my favorite shows it Top Chef, and season 5 is currently showing.  And one of my favorites this year just got voted off.  His name is Eugene, and he was born in Hawaii and trained in kitchens in California, but never went to culinary school.  He started out as a dishwasher and worked his way up to being head chef in a restaurant.  To me, he’s already beaten the odds.  But this past week he made a dish that had everyone scratching their heads.  He used daikon, which is a Japanese root kind of like a radish.  He used a vegetable peeler to make thin strips of daikon and then cooking them like fettuccine and serving them with a tomato and basil sauce.  EVERYONE HATED IT.  I believe the sentiment was “What was he thinking?” by both the chef-contestants and the judges.  They made it sound like the worst food idea ever.  

But here’s the thing.  When I saw him introduce this dish I recognized it.  I saw it in the cookbook by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto (the most awesome chef in the world).  

It's my life's goal to eat at his restaurant.

I also saw him demonstrate the dish on Emeril Live.  Here’s a link to the recipe from Emeril’s show.  Here’s a video of the same demo on Martha Stewart’s show.

So here’s the question. Does Morimoto have enough authority that everyone gave him the benefit of the doubt, but Eugene doesn’t rate as much?  Or was everyone thinking “The old man’s gone crazy!” when his book came out?  Or didn’t they hear about this at all? 

Whatever.  I’m making this dish in the very near future to see if it is really that terrible of an idea.  I’ll keep you posted.





Making the new year happy

4 01 2009

“This is the worst Christmas vacation ever!”  said Isaac on Friday evening before bed.  And he was right.  Starting Christmas day, somebody in the family was sick every day, and for a few days it was three out of the four children.  And when that happens nothing gets done.  The dishes don’t get washed, the floor doesn’t get mopped, the boxes don’t get recycled, and the blog doesn’t get updated.  But here, on the eve of their return to school, Daddy made up for all that by making a grand dessert.  

No, we didn't save any for you.  Sorry.

Karen started things off with the perfect dinner, as usual.  Then I got to make the dessert from a cookbook received as a present from my now-favorite sister in law.  It’s by George Duran, the “Ham on the Street” guy, and he calls it Chocolate Soup.  I can see already that I’ll get a lot of use out of this one.  When describing this dish George says “I love soup.  I love chocolate.”  And yeah, it was good.

But really, is it possible to mess up a recipe with this many ingredients?  

Don't make fun of my brittle vanilla bean

Probably, but this was good.  It wasn’t silky smooth or divine or anything, but it got rave reviews around the table.  It was like eating really good hot chocolate with a spoon from a bowl.  You know, like fancy people do.  So thanks to Aliyah, I promise we’ll make this the next time you visit.