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.



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.

My first fry

24 09 2008

A while ago I posted about eating chili cheese fries from the Hot Dog Shoppe back home.  Since I’m not back home any more I decided to try my luck making my own chili cheese fries.  I say luck because things don’t always go so well when I try out a new cooking technique.  I’d never deep fried anything at home, and the possibility of me burning down the house (again) added a little excitement to the kitchen.  And I needed the distraction since Big Ben was getting sacked 147 times by the Eagles on Sunday.

Step one of my quest involved tweaking my chili recipe.  I decided on something less chunky than my usual awesome recipe, and to use ground beef because it would allow the chili to flow down into the fries, melding the flavors and, wow, I’m making myself hungry again.  ANYWAY since I’ve been making my own Italian tomato sauce for a while now I figured it’s a simple thing to make a more midwestern tomato sauce.  Of course I did.  Here’s how it went:


1lb. ground sirloin
2 Chipotle chiles
1/2 red bell pepper
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1Tbsp. Chili powder 
1 1/2 tsp. Cumin

FIrst thing I did was roast the tomatoes.  Don’t ask why, I just did.  Until the skins were charred and easy to remove.  Then I diced up the onions, bell pepper, and garlic and put them in the pot with a little canola oil to sweat.  Once the onions were translucent I added the tomatoes and Chipotle chiles.  I let that simmer for about a half hour and then pulverized it with a stick blender.  In a separate pot I browned the ground beef and then combined it with the tomato sauce and added the chili powder and cumin and let that simmer a while.  Done.


I shredded some orange cheddar and monterey jack cheeses and tossed them together in a bowl.  Done.


1 gallon canola oil

This was the fun part.  I went out and got a mandoline slicer just for this occasion.  Check out those blades.

Very cool.  It slices fries like this:

Impressive, huh?  Here’s where I originally put the plate to catch the cut fries.

Yeah, that first set of fries ended up on the table instead of the plate.

So I went to my source for all things culinary (That would be Alton Brown) for advice on deep frying.  I learned that peanut oil is most used for frying, but we’ve got a peanut allergy in the house so we’ll just play it safe and get something else.  Safflower oil (whatever that is) has the same high smoke point as peanut oil, but we can’t get that out here in the country, so I had to use canola oil, whose smoke point is 435°, which was a surprise to me.  

The very first thing you read about deep frying in Alton’s book is that it’s scary.  Hot fat contacts the water in your potatoes and causes bubbles, and if that overflows your pot and you’ve got a gas range your house burns down.  Because of this I kept my fire extinguisher handy and I didn’t take any pictures during the frying process.  Two reasons: I didn’t want to be distracted, and I also didn’t want any evidence for my homeowner’s insurance to use against me.  Alton says to use a two step frying method.  He suggests 2-3 minutes at 300° then take out the fries and let them cool to room temperature, then back in the oil at 350° for another few minutes until they brown.  That way they’re flaky on the inside and crispy on the outside.  Here’s the problem, though.  When I did this the oil went back down all the way to 215° when I put the fries in the first time.  And the second time the oil went down to 275° or so.  As a result they were in there for 10 minutes or so the second time while the oil got back up to temperature.  So I’m thinking if I ever do this again I’ll ignore that first frying step.  The potatoes will steam on the inside while the oil is heating back up.

And then, right after I put the second batch of fries in and the bubbles reached all the way to the tippy top of the pot, when my horror was at its zenith, my sister called.  Karen told her politely that I’d call her back, I was too busy screaming.  She didn’t hear me shrieking in terror, but trust me, I did.  But alas, the oil did not boil over and the house did not burn down.  I didn’t need my trusty fire extinguisher.  And the fries were darn good.

Chicken revisited

15 07 2008

A dad in a hurry + a grill that’s too hot + too much chicken on the grill at one time = Mark Ruins Dinner.

Should I have known better?  Yeah, probably.  Here’s a picture of the chicken after it had been on the grill for 5 minutes:

Impressive, huh?  Karen knows that it’s bad news when I’m cooking dinner and all of a sudden I run upstairs to get my camera.  After I took the picture I moved the smaller pieces to the gas grill where the veggies were cooking.

You know, that Weber cookbook Karen got me last year has a reference at the beginning that tells you how many briquets are needed for low, medium, and high heat.  I should probably glance through that.

A little reward, you’ve earned it…

29 11 2007

This is my 100th post. I always knew I was this long-winded, but I didn’t know you had it in you to stick around this long. Thank you. For your diligence I reward you with a story that is now legend in our household lore.

The Burgers

It was October 2006 and raining and really too cold outside for grilling, but we’d made burgers for the grill. Karen’s mom was visiting so I wanted to “treat” her to my hamburgers. Well, we have an indoor grill, and let’s face it, cooking with a gas grill isn’t real BBQ anyway.

For those of you unfamiliar with our kitchen we had a Jenn-Air range that was about as old as I am. And Jenn-Air ranges come with an indoor grill insert and, well, let me show you what it looks like:

is this really that illustrative?

So your food sits on the grill grates (on the right), under that is the heating element, and under that is where those knobbly looking things go. They’re heavy and they have wire supports for the heating element. Apparently they do a good job of collecting grease too, but we’ll get to that. We’ve cooked steaks on the grill before with moderate success. It’s actually not a bad idea for when it’s raining. But we’d never cooked burgers on the grill before, and I figured it would be just like steaks. Oh, and another thing, this time I left the heat turned all the way up to high. And why not? Charcoal grills have no real heat control anyway, right? I’m not really sure what the instructions say to do in this instance, but real men don’t need instructions, right?

So I’m cooking burgers. I’m the man, I cook the burgers. They’re about three quarters done and I see this tiny flame peek out from underneath the heating element. Hmm. A little bit of grease, it should burn itself out soon, I think. It doesn’t. It starts growing. Apparently burgers have a lot of fat in them, but then I already knew that. I turn the heat off. The flame (at this point I should say flames) keep getting bigger, until they are reaching up and licking the bottom of the microwave.

“help” I say very sheepishly. From the dining room I hear Karen say “What now?”

“f- f- fire” I say sheepishly. Everyone comes in. Karen, Karen’s mom, Karen’s sister. At this point I’m thinking two things: Where are the boys? Ben is asleep in his swing, Isaac is asleep in bed, Jonny is in the bathtub. The other thing I’m thinking is Who the f— puts wallpaper behind a stove? Seriously, shouldn’t there be tile back there? The previous owners of this house did nothing right.

Wait, the stove is still on fire. I’m wishing at this point that we had a fire extinguisher. Karen put a pot lid on the grill, but the fire is under the grill so that doesn’t work. We don’t have enough baking soda. So we all wonder what to do. How much time until the wallpaper catches fire? I make an executive decision. Everything has to go. I grab my kitchen tongs and, starting from the top down, I take each piece individually outside to the back porch.

“WAIT!” says Karen, “Save the burgers!” I can see the headline now: Woman Rescues Burgers, Serves Them To Firemen While Her House Burns Down. Once the burgers are safe I take everything else outside in the cold and rain.

The burgers weren’t very good, but now we have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

Later that week the same exact thing happened to Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America. That’s why I like him so much. He’s so much like me. He put the fire out by emptying a box of kosher salt on it. Good to know.

Labor Day Chicken

4 09 2007

The saga of the charcoal grill now complete, I turned my attention to what to cook first on my new purchase. Well, chicken, of course! But how? I must admit that those grilling books Karen got me are a bit intimidating. Bobby Flay likes to play around with gourmet ingredients that I just didn’t have time to shop for, so I opened up Weber’s Big Book. Karen got some small NY strip steaks and I knew we were having drumsticks, that’s about it. Then Karen told me that she bought veggies to make a new BBQ staple of ours, ratatouille. Very nice. While the coals are warming up I can cook the veggies on the gas grill. So let’s fire up the charcoal.

Hello my old friend, it’s been too long:

hello fire

Yes, I’m a pyro at heart. Veggies cooking and coals warming:

one cookin’, one warmin’ up…

Karen thought I was silly for using both grills at once. I reserve the right to be silly.

Then there was the small matter of the chicken. There was a recipe for “Margarita Chicken” in the book so I made the marinade and set the chicken aside for a few hours. It called for tequila but I didn’t have any so I used rum instead. The book also had a recipe for salsa that it said would go well with steaks, so I made that too. I tried to take a picture of the chicken cooking, but my camera is being stupid. Too many things to focus on I suppose, I’ll just have to buy a new camera. So did I burn the chicken?

neener neener

No. To all you who thought I was crazy when I said it was the gas grill’s fault for burning the chicken, I give you positive proof. Add ratatouille, some steamed potatoes (that were on the grill a little too long), and some salad made by Karen and you’ve got dinner.

Labor day dinner

I’m back. Football this weekend. My house. Go Steelers.

steak and salsa

Click <More> for the recipes, with our modifications. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello world!

31 01 2007

My first post ever and let me tell you, this is going to be one entertaining blog.  Reading my exploits in the kitchen will make you feel very good about yourself, and confident that you are a better cook than me.  Case in point:

I’m making soup.  Soup is easy.  Soup is pretty forgiving.  I’m following a recipe.  I’m good at following recipes, or I like to think I am.  In the recipe it calls for “crostini.”  A very fancy italian word for croutons.  Great, so I go buy some bakery bread, cut it thin (like it says in the recipe) and toast it, right?  The toast goes in the toaster oven, and the results are in the header picture.  If you can’t see it, here it is again:


Wow.  Smoke (but no fire) pours out of our poor longsuffering toaster oven, causing my six year old to cry out in fear that I’m burning the house down.  This is not unfounded, but that’s another post.  So I try again, this time setting it lighter, but once again my eye strays from the toaster oven a bit too long:


Ugh.  On the third try I get it (kind of) right and I only have to throw away one piece of toast.  The result of the dinner is here:


I know it doesn’t LOOK appetizing, but it was in fact quite tasty.  And it was pretty simple to prepare as long as you know how to make toast.

I had been toying with the idea of this blog for a while now, and after tonight’s dinner I knew it was meant to be.