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.

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Finding my culinary roots

24 03 2008

yes I’m blogging about British food

There’s lots of Gordon Ramsay on TV these days, and that’s good. He’s good television. You have to respect a man who can swear like that on national television while standing next to his mother. And his British shows that I get on BBC America are way better than the American ones produced by Fox.

Anyway, watching Gordon Ramsay makes me want to eat simple, honest, British cooking so that means that when Karen came home from the store one day with a two pound beef roast I instantly thought of Yorkshire pudding. But guess who didn’t include a recipe for it in his cookbook Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Heaven? Thanks for nothing, Ramsay. So then I try my trusty friend Google and it takes me to this site, where I find Gordon’s recipe for roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. Way cool, let’s go.

Now, I’m sure I will be laughed at by people who know. Blogging about how excited I was to try Yorkshire pudding. Go ahead, it gets even better if you keep on reading.

So you mix the batter together and let it rest, then mix it again. It smells a lot like pancake batter. You put some oil in the cups of a muffin tin and put it in the oven to get hot. When it’s hot you take out the tin and pour in the batter.

They started frying immediately

Stick it back in the oven and cook until risen and golden brown and crispy.

starting to be too many pictures

Take it out and let it cool a little bit before getting them out of the pan. Wait, why are they so stuck? I got out a spoon and had to dig them out, and when I was done the pan looked like this:

I may have left them in a hair too long.

But they tasted okay. Yes, I burned them a little, but what do you expect? They tasted WAY better than the beef. I had put it in the crock pot early in the morning and Karen came home from work pretty late, so it was in there for about 11 hours or so.  How to turn beef into a brillo pad.  When it started I put in one cup of water, and when it was done I got out 3 cups of gravy. If a pint is a pound the world around that means that my beef roast lost a pound of water weight while it was in the slow cooker. That ain’t good eats.

The gravy was excellent.  For leftovers we just had gravy.

A good night for soup

26 02 2008

Freezing cold temperatures, rainy weather. Good for two things. Staying in bed and eating soup. I made the soup and Karen made the sandwiches with some leftovers that she threw together after coming home from work.

soup sandwich and hot chocolate

I was shocked to look back and realize that I’ve never posted about my cream of broccoli soup. It’s such a staple at our house; we have it about once a month during the winter. I’m sure Karen’s getting sick of it these days, but the boys seem to enjoy it. I took the recipe from my favorite soup cookbook and made a few minor modifications.

On an episode of Kitchen Nightmares Gordon Ramsay gives his recipe for a broccoli soup. It consists of broccoli, water, and salt. He pits it against someone else’s and asks a “random” taster “which one tastes more of broccoli?” His may taste more like broccoli than mine, but I’d rather eat mine any day of the week.

If you’re interested in reading my ceaseless ramblings about the making of this soup, feel free to click <more>. But I won’t force you to.

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I’m #1 for Trinidad cooking

7 03 2007

I’ve seen some blogs where they list interesting search strings that bring people to their site from google or yahoo or somewhere else.  Some of those are very entertaining, and it makes me think that my blog must be kind of boring.  But yesterday I got my first hits from people looking for doubles recipes.  And when I went to Google to investigate I found out some interesting things.  Here are some search strings that I’ve noticed, followed by my ranking on Google for them:

The top 10 returns are on the first page.

“How to make Trinidad food”  – #1
“How to ruin a dinner”  – #6
“Farting shampoo bottle”  – #2
“Invisible pizza”  – #10
“How do you get the burned taste out of soup”  – #3
“Farting daddy”  – #3
“Gordon Ramsay rabbit recipe”  – #2
“Mario Batali pizza peel”  – #7
“Invisible string”  – #8
“Bara recipe for doubles”  – #8
“Invisible string trick”  – #5
“Bara for doubles”  – #13

I included two variations on “invisible string” because I get more hits from that search string and its variations by far.

Karen is offended that I am the #1 google hit for “how to make Trinidad food” since I’m not from Trinidad and I’ve only made one Trini dish, and even that I’ve only made once.  Maybe if she posted about making channa and potato roti, or perhaps how to caramelize brown sugar to make Trini stewed chicken she’d be #1.

I’m making pizza this Friday again.  Let’s see what state I can make it look like this time.

My Ungracious Wife

7 02 2007

Well, I went and did it.  I made that rabbit fricassee dish, but not really.  I used so many substitutions that it probably tasted nothing like what it was supposed to.  The recipe for the dish is here, and here are my substitutions: 

First, Gordon called rabbit “a kind of gamey chicken.”  Fine, I used a whole chicken.  I poached everything but the wings, and if you foolishly try to reproduce my efforts I’ll tell you not to poach the legs, but go ahead with the breasts and thighs.  I used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon because the bacon in the supermarket was 98% fat and it was too cold to go to the butcher.  And can you believe that the supermarket was out of heavy cream?  I used light cream with a pat of butter, so you can see where this is going.  I like cremini mushrooms better than buttons, so I used them. 

The rest of the recipe I pretty much followed, and I must say this is the second time I’ve used the “poach then brown” method for chicken breasts, and it turns out juicy and delicious every time.  The sauce is another story.  Everything was going swimmingly until I added the cream and butter.  It got nice and “cafe latte” brown like he said on the show, but it wasn’t really thickening.  So I used more dijon mustard than he said (probably triple) and it thickened nicely.  Except now it tasted very much like a mustard and mushroom sauce.  For future reference, the amount of mustard in recipes is probably enough, and you (I) should find a different thickening agent.   The results are here:


Karen made the salad, which tasted better than the chicken:


Karen said the chicken tasted “okay,” and she was really in the mood for something spicy like a Thai curry.  What, is she pregnant again or something?  These Gordon Ramsay recipes are involved enough that you don’t want to hear words like “okay” or “not bad.”

So I suppose I’m at least living up to the name of this blog.  It probably would have been great with just the 1.5 tbsp of dijon, but there I am, ruining it at the very end.  Karen did choke down her entire portion.  Well, I hope this was entertaining.

He had me until he added the rabbit kidneys

4 02 2007

Gordon Ramsay has had about 20 TV shows, and I must admit I’m kind of addicted to him. My favorite has always been his Kitchen Nightmares show because it’s more than cooking, it’s about running a business. And Gordon’s blind taste tests kill me. Rule #1: If you’re blindfolded and Gordon Ramsay asks “Is this sirloin or porterhouse?” he has most likely fed you lamb or pork.

I’ve made at least one meal from Gordon’s F-Word show, and it was a resounding success, and I think the sauce lends itself to more applications than just chicken breast. My favorite part about F-Word is when he actually demonstrates how to prepare the entree. I’m the kind of cook that, especially with sauces, needs to see it done first or I will ruin it. In my opinion the most important words in any cooking show (or cookbook for that matter) are “You’ll know when it’s done when…”

Rabbit fricassée with tagliatelle

This recipe looks really good, and he had me until the end when he finished off with the rabbit’s liver and kidneys, served pink in the middle. I don’t care if they’re supposed to be pink, I wouldn’t eat it. So the dish as a whole looks very good, and I’m considering it cooked with a whole chicken instead. Karen agreed. She likes the look of it, but holy cow Gordon those organs do not look appetizing.