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.

Mark Ruins Football

4 09 2008

Football is here again, and I am rejoicing along with all those who will revel in NOT hearing those words “World Champion Patriots” all year long.  But we probably will next year, since they got the NFL’s easiest schedule this season.

Last year I made a simple suggestion to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that would improve my enjoyment of watching football.  He ignored it.  Since I’m used to being ignored (I have four kids you know) I decided to add another suggestion at the beginning of this football season.  So here it is:

End Zone Celebrations

The NFL is often called the “No Fun League” since they don’t allow elaborate touchdown celebrations.  I’m not sure why, maybe it cuts into time better spent on a commercial break.  But these celebrations are enjoyed by fans, players, and members of the media alike.  The only people who seem to dislike them are the owners.

My solution: I propose a new rule.  As long as it’s not taunting, any touchdown celebration goes.  Anything. (Remember when T.O. did the Ray Lewis dance in front of Ray Lewis?  Guts, my friend.)   You want to bring the whole team out and do the Hustle in the end zone, go for it (but practice, please).  So long as it’s tasteful and you keep your clothes on, it’s fair game.  You’ve got 45 seconds until the PAT attempt, it’s all yours, take the stage.  


For any other play celebrations are banned.  With a 15 yard penalty. Heck, I’ll make it easier.  Any scoring play is allowed a celebration.  I loved watching those kickers hurt themselves celebrating a 15 yard field goal.  That’s good television.  But other than that, get back in the huddle or back on the sideline.

It’s really annoying to see players who are supposed to be professionals celebrating after mundane plays. This is much worse than any touchdown celebration.  Remember the NY Giants’ defense a couple years ago with that silly “jump shot” celebration after every tackle they made?  On Monday Night Football, no less.  That made the game almost unwatchable.  Even Al Micheals commented that “This has to stop.”  

So that’s the rule: You wanna celebrate, you gotta score.

The above comments were not intended to be inflammatory and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Mark Ruins Dinner.  If you are a member of the 2006 NY Giants’ defense and would like to come and beat me to a bloody pulp my name is Neil O’Donnell. 

For Christmas buy me Nintendo stock.

31 08 2008

I’ve wanted to do a video game review for ages.  We like video games in our house.  Even Karen likes some games that aren’t marketed towards women.  She likes the Legend of Zelda games and she’s pretty excited about starting Oblivion.  Way cool, I say.  

There are very few games I purchase without reading a review first.  Trust me, it’s worth waiting a week after the game comes out to read a hands-on review of the game.  But sometimes it’s okay to break this rule.  For instance, you’re usually safe buying any of the Nintendo franchises because they’re all great games.  That’s why they’ve become so popular.  The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy are two examples for the Wii alone.  But we recently realized that Nintendo is no longer trustworthy.  

I’ve been wary of Pokemon since the boys got interested in it this spring.  The whole thing sounded like a big money pit to me.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  There are Pokemon cards, action figures, video games, books, tv shows, movies, and now we own them all.  Released in 2007 are the video games Pokemon: Diamond, and Pokemon: Pearl for the DS and Pokemon Battle Revolution for the Wii.   We should have known better.

The Nintendo Wii communicates to the handheld DS via WiFi.  In Pokemon Battle Revolution you can battle your friends or family on the Wii with the little Pokemon dudes you’ve been collecting in your Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl games for the DS.  But here’s the catch.  That’s all this game does.  Battle with little fighters you’ve already got.  There’s no adventure, no story, nothing to unlock or collect.  You just battle.  But you can already do that with the DS games, so why do you need to spend another 50 bucks just so you can see the battle on your TV?  

We actually bought the Wii game before we had any of the DS games, so we were more than a little disappointed we couldn’t play it out of the box.  So, take 50 bucks for a Wii game and add 35 bucks each for two DS games and you’ve got a $120 investment in Pokemon.  You wanna know why I let them play so many video games this summer?  When you spend that much on video games you feel an obligation to use it or you’ve wasted all that money.

END NOTE:  I complain mercilessly about how dull and uninteresting Pokemon is.  But it has (for the moment) replaced Zelda as the video game that the kids play with Karen.  As parents we often look for things to do with our kids that everyone will enjoy, and right now Karen has found that thing.  It’s that thing they wake up talking about and go to bed dreaming about.  They will always remember this as the summer they played Pokemon with Mom.  And if that makes her the coolest mom in the whole second grade, good for her.

Wasn’t an owl supposed to deliver this?

9 04 2008

This is how the letter reads when you’re accepted into a school of magic:

Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Yours Sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

Here’s how the letter reads when you’re accepted into kindergarten at the Catholic school:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Dinner,
Thank you for taking the time to allow your child to participate in the evaluation process for the 2008-2009 kindergarten program at [You don’t expect me to put the name of the school here, do you?]. Our evaluators are pleased to report that your child meets all the criteria to have a successful experience in our program for the coming school year.

In other words, congratulations, your child is qualified to enter kindergarten. Personally I’d rather have gotten the Hogwarts letter.

Boycott the doughboy

4 11 2007

biscuit, butter & honey goodness

The biggest shock I received while working in the dairy section at Wal-Mart was just how little cooking we do as Americans. From TV dinners to frozen pizza, so much of what we eat is prepared for us. And no item brought that home to me as much as those Pillsbury biscuits.

I can understand why the crescent rolls are big sellers. I’ve looked up how to make them. They’re time consuming and difficult to prepare. But biscuits are supposed to be a staple of southern cooking, aren’t they? Don’t they come together so fast that your oven may not even have time to preheat? Well those things flew off the shelf. There’s even a local restaurant owner that stops by Wal-Mart and buys them out twice a week. Appalled, I decided to make some myself thinking that if I, a northeastern boy, can make biscuits, then anyone can.

And wouldn’t you know it, Alton made biscuits on Friday’s Good Eats rerun. So I got to see a master biscuit maker in action: Alton’s grandmother. And on Alton’s online recipe for biscuits she even comments that the recipe on the back of the bag of White Lily flour is hard to beat. I live in rural Pennsylvania so I can’t get White Lily flour. So I got this:

Biscuit flour in PA

Gold Medal has their own recipe for biscuits on the back of their bag. Nicole from Pinch my Salt actually posted the recipe on the back of White Lily’s bag. She also did her homework and listed the protein content for all types of flours. That way I knew I wasn’t too far off with this flour. Way cool. (Go vote for her as the best food blog.) So should I use Alton’s recipe, White Lily’s or Gold Medal’s? Well since I’ve got Gold Medal flour I used their recipe.

See, it says “better for biscuits.”  That’s why it costs so much.

Except I didn’t. I watched Good Eats and Alton said to replace some of the shortening with butter and it will taste better. I am fearless in the face of substitutions!

Looking around at the different recipes out there I must say that the one on the back of Gold Medal self-rising flour has twice the fat as all the others. I mean, EIGHT tablespoons of shortening? Really? I tried to use less, but it wouldn’t crumble the way the bag said it would. Oh, and another thing. Grocery stores here in Podunk don’t have all this low fat or fat free buttermilk. No, these biscuits were made with WHOLE buttermilk. Schedule my bypass for next Tuesday please.  (UPDATE: Karen tells me that the local Wal-Mart sells low fat buttermilk, but I really haven’t been in there since I picked up my last paycheck.)

I apparently used a very large biscuit cutter because I only got eight biscuits out. That’s what, one tablespoon of fat per hockey puck, right? They may not have been much to look at,

ugly and ready for the oven

but they browned up kind of nice. And with all that shortening in there my biscuits definitely had flaky layers. They didn’t all rise the same, though, because I made them in my 12 year old toaster oven.

golden brown delicious and full of fat

Okay, so here’s the point. These weren’t a home run, but they were a hit. Even the kids ate them. If a self-proclaimed wannabe in the kitchen can do this well on his first try then anyone can do this. These turned out good and I’ll definitely do it again. Next time I’ll try a recipe with less fat.

See you at the gym.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Commissioner Goodell,

16 09 2007

I would like to watch a football game without seeing 8 commercials for ED medicines. Please make them stop.

Thank you.

My greatest enemy

12 07 2007

Karen’s been after me for weeks to post this.

You’ve heard me rant against my oven. It preheats and then shuts off. It’s sabotaged my creme brulee, cinnamon rolls, and pizza. But it’s never beaten me. All three of those projects came out great. So what could be worse than an oven that shuts off?

It even looks evil, doesn’t it?

A gas grill.

Not just any gas grill, though, an EVIL gas grill. Okay, so perhaps all gas grills are evil.

I just don’t get it. I was great with charcoal. Those were the best burgers I’ve ever had. Come to think of it, I still make pretty good burgers on the grill. I make pretty good steaks on the grill too. I’ve even cooked veggies on the grill. But there’s one thing I’ve never gotten right since I started with this stupid thing.

Well it is called Mark Ruins Dinner


In the picture above you see my latest batch of Jerk Chicken, from July 4th. It was actually pretty funny. We had a guest, and he very graciously said nothing while politely avoiding the chicken altogether. I’ve made chicken at least half a dozen times this year, and every time they end up looking like this. Perhaps I get impatient and that’s why I close the lid, but as soon as I do I turn BBQ into something that’s becoming legendary in our house.

Chernobyl Chicken.

Last week Karen made an unwelcome comment to me, “Why doesn’t Bobby Flay burn his chicken like this?” Because Bobby Flay never cooks chicken on a gas grill. And it’s dead easy with charcoal. You put the coals in the middle and put the chicken around the outside of the grill. He doesn’t even close the lid, ever. The Jerk gets this great blackened skin (not burned) that’s delicious. Cooking on a gas grill with indirect heat is like washing my minivan with a toothbrush. That’s why I’m good with burgers and steaks. When God made cows he said “Thou shalt be cooked over an open flame.”

I used to be a proud non-owner of a gas grill. Now I’m a shamed owner of a gas grill that has truly beaten me. And since my Weber kettle grill died a grisly death last year I’m doomed for at least two summers to tinker, fiddle, and experiment, ultimately burning the chicken anyway.

Like my dad always said “They’re brown when they’re cookin’, and they’re black when they’re done.”