Haven’t we been here before?

30 01 2012

Yes, we have.  The last time the Giants and Patriots played in the Super Bowl the Patriots were HUGE favorites, and the Giants won in the final minute, just like I said they would.  Don’t believe me?  Click here. (Shameless plug)

Blogging is fun; I should do it more often.  Picking a team this year was as easy as ever; go Giants.  (To New England fans: This is all meant in good fun; please disregard any statements I may make saying that the Patriots are evil and are coached by Satan.)  Since New York is my team I’m picking a New York dish, and if it turns out well then the Giants win.  Got it?

There are many dishes that are claimed to have been invented in New York.  But for my Super Bowl prediction I need a dish I’ve never made before.  I did a great deal of research in this area (I looked on Wikipedia), and there it was.  Steak Diane.  I’d heard of Steak Diane from (of all people) Gordon Ramsay on Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  Usually made table side, this dish has a sauce that includes brandy cooked flambé-style.  Beef filet plus the chance to burn the house down equals blog gold, people. I may be out of practice but you don’t forget the basics.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

GAME PREPARATION: The Giants bring in a suprise guest for the pep talk.

Now, I know Emeril isn’t from New York.  He’s from New Orleans, but so is Eli Manning, so give me a break.  Emeril’s recipe from Delmonico looked very good, and it’s on the Food Network’s website, so you can go look at it by clicking here.

SUPER BOWL WEEK: Media day stinks, but in a good way.

I took the time to read the whole recipe before I began (I know!), so I noticed it called for some veal stock.  Karen was making beef vegetable soup this weekend anyway, so she also used Emeril’s recipe from the same page to make the stock.  The first step is always my favorite: roasting the beef bones.

If nothing else, this step makes your house smell AWESOME.

GAME TIME!  Nothing interesting happens in the first half.

This could also mean “The Patriots go up by three.”  Since we all want them to lose, this is drudgery.  The next steps are pretty boring, right?  Yada yada yada, trim the meat, slice into steaks, yada yada.

I know what you’re thinking, “Skip to the fire!”  I’m going as fast as I can, but I must include pictures for every step, it’s the law.

HALF TIME! A surprise guest makes an appearance at the half time show.  It’s actually great, but it runs longer than planned.

Who’s the half time performer this year?  Madonna?  I’m predicting that someone good shows up and upstages her.  Why, you ask?  Because while we were prepping everything for dinner a very dear friend of ours showed up for the Super Bowl party.  A week early.  I have the best friends ever.  The house was a nightmare, truly horrific, but they came in and we had a ball while we finished the prep work.  I also had time to dice up some red potatoes, toss them with some herbs and olive oil, and throw them in the oven.

THIRD QUARTER: Finally, the Giants offense starts scoring points.

Sear the meat on both sides in butter.  Chill out, this was dinner for four and I used a tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup of cream.  This is health food.  Anyway, the steaks are doing nicely.

THIRD QUARTER: New York scores points in bunches.

Maybe a touchdown followed by a kickoff-fumble?  Sounds good to me.  I added the mushrooms, onions, and garlic.  I’m starting to get very happy right now, but still apprehensive about what is to come.

FOURTH QUARTER: With a lead, the Giants’ defense puts the pressure on Tom Brady, but it doesn’t work.

I knew the pan wasn’t hot enough.  I tried increasing the heat a little early, but the steaks were just right, the mushrooms were just right, and it was time to burn the house down.  I took all the necessary precautions.  I moved the pan to the kitchen table, away from the microwave above the range and the flammable wallpaper behind the stove (remember the burgers?).  I then added the brandy…

And lit the fire.

Not exactly the WHOOOM I was looking for.  I had Karen taking pictures for me, in case I needed to get the fire extinguisher (and for evidence to send to Allstate).  I try mixing things together and I’m able to manage this:

FOURTH QUARTER: The Giants pressure Brady again and it works.

Interception for a touchdown?  In the Super Bowl?  Tom Brady?  I can only dream.

Here’s what happened: The alcohol all burned off (or so I thought) so I put the pan back on the heat.

THAT, people, is flambé.  Apparently there’s a good deal of alcohol in brandy.  I’m screaming “TAKE A PICTURE!” and Karen is screaming “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”  So we have a bit of an action photo sequence.

Zoom!

Wisk!

You’re welcome.

FINAL TWO MINUTES: The Giants’ defense puts the game away.

After all that, I added the steaks back in to baste and finish cooking just a bit.

Served with herb roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli (I know, it’s boring, shut up), dinner was a smash hit.  Jonathan asked for seconds and then thirds, ensuring a big win for the G-Men.

FINAL MINUTE: The refs blow a big call, for the Giants.  But the game’s outcome isn’t affected.

Here’s the problem.  The final step just before serving is to add some chopped parsley to the sauce.  I bought the parsley, I washed the parsley, I chopped the parsley.  I even put it in a nice blue bowl for ease of use when adding it to the pan.  I just forgot.

Would it have been nice? Yes.  Oh well.  Dinner was great.  I predict that the largest margin of victory inflicted by the Patriots this year will be visited on them.  Final score Giants 55 Patriots 20.





Just an excuse to make Jambalaya

2 02 2010

I’ve never made Jambalaya before.  It looks very time consuming and labor intensive.  So that was probably why I wanted to see New Orleans in the Super Bowl.

Two years running I’ve successfully picked the Super Bowl winners using only my cooking as the deciding factor.  Don’t believe me?  Fine.  Go read THIS and THIS then come back to me.  Here’s how it works.  I pick a dish indicative of one of the participating cities and make it.  So far, they’ve been (in my estimation) fairly ambitious meals that I’d never made before.  If the dish is awesome, they win.  If it fails miserably they lose.  The goings on during the preparation directly reflect the flow of the game.  In the end we eat and see who has a big parade on Tuesday.  Bored yet?  Let’s get to it.

This year pits the Saints and the Colts.  So OF COURSE I chose Jambalaya.  How creative.  I will be playing the part of current Saints’ star quarterback and former Chargers “washed up” quarterback (remember that, ESPN?), Drew Brees.  My predictions for the game will be in bold, followed by a brief description of how things went in the kitchen.

OFF WEEK:  The Saints adopt an aggressive game plan.
I searched high and low for all kinds of recipes and in the end picked this one from Emeril.  No thanks to the Food Network, whose web search feature seemed to have been broken last week.  I chose it because of the duck.  Yes, I was enticed by the idea of cooking duck in with everything else because I figured it wasn’t enough work all by itself.  Karen wasn’t sure I could pull it off.  I don’t blame her.

SUPER BOWL WEEK: The Saints arrive in Miami and make a change to their offensive attack.
I live in central PA and andouille sausage is not something I can just go and buy.  Well, I can, but it’s frozen and mass produced.  On the other hand, the local butcher shop has homemade spicy Italian sausage.  No brainer.  I know it’s not authentic; I don’t care.

GAME TIME!  FIRST QUARTER: Drew Brees leaves the game and the Saints get behind early.
See, I was up very late the  night before painting the living room, so Karen suggested I take a nap with the baby.  I did and it pushed dinner back considerably.

FIRST QUARTER: Reggie Bush keeps the Saints within reach.
Why Reggie Bush?  Because he’s the superstar game changer who has mad skills.  In our kitchen this is Karen.  While I napped she did all the prep work.  Go look at that recipe and see how much there is.  She cut up the duck, prepped the peppers, onions, celery, garlic, sausage, and cleaned the kitchen.  Sounds like a punt return for a touchdown to me.

SECOND QUARTER: Brees gets back in the game and the Saints slowly start making progress.
I finally got out of bed and started cleaning the shrimp.  I was very pleasantly surprised at how much was already done.   It went very slowly.

SECOND QUARTER: The Saints’ stars score two quick touchdowns.
Dare I say they heat up?  Yes, in goes the duck to brown, followed by the sausage.

The kitchen smells great and the smoke alarm goes off.  There was still a good bit of fat on the duck so I actually drained a little before browning the sausage.  Then the onions, peppers, and celery join the sausage and I’m surrounded by the aroma of sizzling goodness.

HALFTIME: This part is painful.
Yes, the halftime show this year is The Who.  Maybe their walkers will be on stage with them?  No one learned their lessons from the Stones’ halftime show a few years ago or Springsteen last year.  Oh well.  In the kitchen the painful part was filling the pot with chicken stock and cooking the duck for an hour.  Waiting is so hard, but as Alton says “Your patience will be rewarded.”

THIRD QUARTER: The Saints shred the Colts’ defense and take the lead.
Actually this is the part where you shred the duck meat and cook the rice for 10 minutes.   It’s my blog, let me pick the metaphors okay?  Things are shaping up for a very exciting finish.

FOURTH QUARTER: The Colts take the field to tie the game.  All the Saints’ offense can do is watch and hope everything works out.
This is where it gets scary.  The recipe says to return the duck to the pot, add the shrimp, bring to a simmer, cover, and remove from the heat.  Do not open the lid for 15 minutes.   Karen starts to worry that the rice won’t cook.  But I remember Bobby Flay’s jambalaya throwdown and that guy did the same thing.  So I had faith.

FOURTH QUARTER: The Colts tie the game, sending it to overtime.
Now, you would say that this is bad for the Saints, but I say no.  Overtime would cement this as the greatest Super Bowl ever (except for every Super Bowl won by the Steelers).  So, that being said, I opened the lid and tested the rice.  Everything was cooked perfectly.

OVERTIME: The Saints get the ball and score a touchdown almost immediately.  Reggie Bush is named the MVP.
This is where Emeril tells me to add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.  I just added a bit of cayenne, and it was AWESOME.   A bit soupy, and we’ll probably use a cup less stock next time, but wow.

Now, why overtime?  It was 9:00pm, that’s why.  A little late for dinner, but it was a winner nonetheless.  And why a touchdown?  Because for the second time in my life Karen didn’t have to add any extra pepper sauce.  That’s my culinary yardstick folks.  And btw, had it not been for Karen doing all the prep work it would have been an epic failure; we’d have eaten dinner at midnight I’m sure.  So she gets the MVP for this one.

So there you have it.  Saints win 36-30 in overtime and Mardi Gras arrives a little early this year.  What about you?  Who ya got?





White Pizza

6 07 2008

It’s been a long time since I posted about pizza. In fact, it’s been almost a year since I last took a picture of one of my pizzas. That’s because this is called Mark Ruins Dinner, and I’ve found a great recipe and I’ve been using it exclusively with equally great results. But Lately I’ve been trying to come up with variations from our usual fare so I decided on white pizza.

I don’t know a whole lot about white pizza. For instance, what to use as a sauce? Do I just use olive oil? What kind of toppings would go with it? I don’t know. So I did some research on the food network and I found this recipe by Emeril, which uses a roasted garlic sauce. Sounds good, now what?

I started with my favorite pizza dough: Whole wheat and rosemary pizza dough from Pinch My Salt. I’ve tweaked it a little and I hope Nicole isn’t too offended. First, I’ve been using bread flour instead of all purpose flour because Karen told me to, and it works out really well. Also, when adding this flour the recipe calls for three cups, and I use three and a half cups. I was having trouble with the crust being soggy when the cheese and toppings were done, and this did the trick. I’ve also been using the stand mixer to do the kneading for me because I always do it wrong by hand.

The roasted garlic sauce was actually pretty easy to do, but in Emeril’s recipe it’s hard to follow because he mentions the last step first. I will list it here in its correct order.

Roasted Garlic:
2 heads garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a small baking dish with aluminum foil.

Cut the top quarter from each head of garlic and place, cut side up, on the prepared dish. Drizzle with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Turn the garlic cut side down, and roast until the cloves are soft and golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Over a small bowl, squeeze each head of garlic gently with your fingers to expel the cloves. Add the olive oil and stir with a rubber spatula to blend thoroughly. Spread the mixture over the pizza crust.

Yield: Each head yields about 1 1/2 tablespoons, 2 heads about 3 tablespoons

See, that was easy, right? Now, for the toppings. I was thinking simpler is better, so I just put some basil leaves and fresh mozzarella on top.

In all this pizza is okay but it could be better. Even with the basil most of what you taste is garlic. It could use something to lighten it up a bit. To that end Karen isn’t a really big fan right now. In fact I’ve made this pizza twice now (yes, the same exact pizza twice) and this last time she ate none. Neither did Aliyah. Does that count as ruined? When I asked Karen how to make it better her suggestion was to add tomatoes.

At least the picture is nice, right?





Yes, I still cook sometimes

12 05 2008

It’s been a while since I posted about food. This was Mother’s Day weekend, so that means we make some special things for Mommy that we hope know she’ll like. And it doesn’t count unless I feed her something I’ve never made before. If you’re going to make something awful, why not do it on Mom’s special day? But the boys helped me this time, so she had to say she liked it, even if she didn’t.

For months I’ve been dying to try what Alton Brown calls the world’s best banana ice cream. Since we just got an ice cream attachment for the stand mixer, I figured why not. So early Saturday morning I had Isaac go downstairs with me to help me freeze the bananas. After reading the reviews of the recipe I knew to peel them first. After they were frozen and thawed I assembled the ingredients and had Isaac and Jonathan put them in the food processor. After that it was just chill and run the ice cream maker.

That was pretty easy, but then I thought banana – chocolate swirl ice cream would be even better. I saw in one of Emeril’s cookbooks that he uses 6 ounces of chocolate and 2 tablespoons of oil to make vanilla – chocolate swirl ice cream, so that’s exactly what I do. It didn’t swirl. The ice cream froze the chocolate into rock hard ribbons dispersed throughout the dessert. Yummy, huh?

But then I thought “That was too easy, Karen will never let me get away with just that.” So I made this strawberry – almond cream tart to go with the ice cream. Desserts are a lot of fun to make. For this I also read the reviews so I knew to omit half the sugar from the strawberry topping and to add a little extra butter to the crust. It came out really well, thanks to our Carolina strawberries that were very sweet. We’ll have them locally in another month or so I think.

So the desserts went over well, and the everyone enjoyed them. Except for Isaac, who only ate the ice cream. The boys were very proud that they got to help make it. The biggest hit of the day, though, was a beverage made from cran-raspberry juice and soda water. Karen raved about it. Of course she did, it took no effort.





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.

ratatoooeee

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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My oven is evil

20 05 2007

I had this great idea for Mother’s day. I was watching Essence of Emeril a while ago and he made creme brulee. “Wow” I thought to myself. “That’s supposed to be one of the best desserts ever! I should surprise Karen!” and there was one picture in my head:

It’s French!

There aren’t a whole lot of movies that we can watch an infinite number of times and still be entertained, but Amelie is one of them. I like films with subtitles. You can have loud kids and still understand the dialogue. But wait. I was talking about food, wasn’t I?

The first mistake I made was trusting Emeril.  As with watching all cooking shows I thought “I can do that. That’s easy.” But I did’t have those straight sided souflee dishes that I needed. So I went and got some, but they were a bit bigger than he said to use. That was my second mistake, and I’ll explain why later. Oh well, I’ll just have to bake it a little longer, right? My third mistake was purchasing a vanilla bean from the grocery store. Where do you buy your ingredients? I got serious sticker shock paying $13 for two vanilla beans. I would later find out that the local Asian food store sells them for $3 each.

The day before Mother’s day comes I set to work while Karen was out, and everything was going just as planned (you don’t believe me do you?) until I put them in the oven. The recipe said to turn the pan after 15 minutes so everything cooks evenly. Fine, except they’re not done after 30 minutes, 35, 40, 45, 50 minutes. After an hour has elapsed they’re still not set. Not only that but the oven isn’t really hot any more. The oven was still saying “350” but it was nowhere near that. Apparently once it got up to temperature it never bothered switching on again. I’d hear it click on, then off again immediately. And every time I’d open it to check it or turn it the oven would lose more heat. My fourth mistake was trusting my oven. Here’s a picture of my desserts not baking:

Stupid oven

So there are my half-baked desserts sitting in the oven and I’ve got to open the door and let it cool all the way down so I can restart it. I’m now very worried about ruining my desserts (wouldn’t you be?) so I do the one thing I know will save them. I call Karen down from upstairs. I like surprising her, but I’m not willing to risk ruining a dessert made with a $6.50 vanilla bean.   In Trinidad they would adress the vanilla bean with respect due such an expensive ingredient as “Mr. Vanilla Bean.”

With Karen’s help I finish two off in the toaster oven and two in the newly reheated stupid oven.  I’m still skeptical when they come out, and for good reason.   Emeril is no longer my friend.  He showed me everything in great detail until he put them in the oven, then later in the show he showed me the finished product.  But he never showed what it’s supposed to look like when it comes out of the oven.  I’ve heard “Jiggle the pan to see if they’re set” but I’ve never seen it done.  Alton Brown made creme brulee on Good Eats and I’m sure he would never leave out such crucial information. I wish I’d recorded that show.

I had also bought this uselessly tiny blowtorch at Lowe’s the day before. Mistake #5:

Hi!! I’m useless!!!

I’m not really sure what it’s purpose is, but it’s certainly not to make things hot. It took about 5 minutes to caramelize the sugar on two desserts. Fun, huh?

does it always take this long?

Well, after all this drama the finished product turned out great. And it even cracked just like on Amelie.

wow, that was actually pretty cool

Remember when I said about the size of the souflees being a mistake?  Well, the recipe was supposed to make six servings but my dishes were so big it only made four.  The recipe called for two cups of heavy cream and a cup of milk, and also six egg yolks.  That’s right, with each serving you’re consuming half a cup of heavy cream and one and a half egg yolks.   That’s why it’s so good, people.

My final gift to Karen on Mother’s Day was the assurance that I’m hopeless in the kitchen without her. Thanks to Karen and no thanks to Emeril. The most important words on a cooking show are “You’ll know when it’s done when…...”

Stupid oven.





Karen only likes spicy food

8 03 2007

Okay, the title is a bit unfair.  I should say she prefers spicy food.  I just rarely make spicy food.   Who knows, if I were to start making Indian or Caribbean cuisine, I may ruin them to the point that she stops liking spicy food.  No, I think it’s best if Karen handles the exotic cooking in our house.  Anyway, this week I made Chicken Marsala.

I’ve made this recipe once before and we liked it, so I kept it.  It’s from Emeril, who is the first person you think of when you hear Italian cooking, especially on the Food Network. 

chickenmarsala.JPG

I like any recipe that calls for three cups of mushrooms.  Emeril says to slice them, but I like them halved instead:

tubolove.JPG

It’s a lot faster and I just like them better like that anyway.  Here’s the chicken cooking in the sauce:

shroomychicken.JPG

I like this method of cooking chicken breasts; they don’t dry out.  It’s impossible to ruin, right?  Maybe, if your pasta is done on time.  Now let’s talk about my brand new stock and pasta pot, with the included colander.  Big pot plus lots of water plus ceramic cooktop equals 45 minutes with no boiling water.  Ugh.  To use this pot I’m going to need a gas range.  I had to kill the heat on my chicken and cover it to keep it from being ruined.   The recipe said to “boil until thickened.”  Well, dude it was plenty thick.  Here’s a picture of my water not boiling:

stupidpot.JPG

The chicken turned out moist and the sauce was (I thought) kind of nice, although Karen thought it tasted bitter.  All in all I liked it, it was nice and shroomy, but Karen was apparently in the mood for something spicy.  She’s been like that a lot lately.  Perhaps I need to go get a pregnancy test.  Or she may be just missing Trinidad a little more thanks to all this snow.  Next week maybe I’ll make my chilli.

The recipe with my modifications follows

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