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.





Lucky numbers

31 01 2011

See, in this year’s Super Bowl the Green Bay Packers are trying to win their 13th NFL championship, while the Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to win their 7th.  Get it?  Lucky Numbers?  Oh, never mind.

For reference, My previous Super Bowl picking posts (all correct) can be found by clicking here and here and here.  I will say thank you to my one fan, Jes, who asked me a couple weeks ago when I was going to be writing this post.

For three years I’ve correctly picked the winner of the Super Bowl merely by cooking a dish from that city.  Manhattan clam chowder predicted the Giants to beat the Patriots, Jambalaya produced a win for New Orleans last year, and in Super Bowl XLIII Tandoori chicken was the difference with my Pittsburgh Steelers.  Only that’s not really Pittsburgh food, is it?  Sadly, no (although it would be nice).  Thankfully the Black and Gold have seen fit to offer me a second chance, and I shall take up the mantle with pride.

The rules for these posts are simple.  I pick a dish I’ve never made before based solely on what I feel like cooking.  I assume the role of my chosen city’s star player, and as it goes for my dish it goes for their team.  And when all else fails I never pick against the Steelers.  Honestly I could have made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for this post and said “Wow!  That was great!  Steelers win.”  But that’s not as much fun.  Instead, I shall be making pierogies.

In bold letters you will find the progress of the game based upon the progress of the meal.  Following this is the explanation of my cooking, step by step.  And lots of pictures.  This year I will be taking the role of coach Mike Tomlin, since he is by far my favorite person on the Rooney’s payroll.  Besides, we’re the same age and, yes, I wish I was him sometimes.

WEEK OFF: The coaches do their research, studying their opponent looking for a weakness.
I searched extensively for a recipe (I googled it), and I found a food blogger from Pittsburgh (Hooray!) who had a recipe and great photos of its results.  Go visit the Brown Eyed Baker and tell Michelle I said hello.  Here’s a link to the recipe:

Homemade Pierogi from the Brown Eyed Baker

SUPER BOWL WEEK: The Steelers arrive in Dallas and get worked over by the press.  They hold together, but it’s ugly.
It’s my blog, I pick the metaphors, got it?  Anyway, step one was to mix the dough.  It was a multi-step process but the longest part (and the hardest to know if I was doing it right) was “working the dough until it loses most of it stickiness.”  I have no idea what that means, but here it is:

Karen asked me “Is it supposed to be that dry?”  How should I know?  I’ve never made a dough remotely like this before.  I put it in the fridge and let it sit overnight.

GAME TIME!  The Steelers win the coin toss and kick off.  They feature a strong running game on offense.
See, I was going to cook this meal on Sunday like I normally do, but Karen was already making something.  I decide Monday is best.  Besides, Karen wanted me to make some chicken-corn soup on Monday anyway and I thought it would go great with my pierogies.  I am also very good at making soup.

FIRST QUARTER: The Defense shows up big.  The whole team rallies.  Tomlin tweaks the game plan.
This was too easy.  The bacon is Casey Hampton.  It was actually between him and Flozell Adams.  From everything I’ve read you can put as many embellishments as you want in the filling, so although it wasn’t in the recipe I know very well that bacon makes everything better.

And if Casey Hampton is the Bacon then James Harrison is the onions.  This was my first deviation from the recipe.  It calls to saute the onions in butter, but all that wonderful bacon grease was already in the pan, so I used that instead.  I’m a genius.

FIRST QUARTER: The offense moves the ball at will against the Packers’ defense, but it’s still not pretty.
Shredding the cheese.  This I couldn’t pass up.  And yes, it’s a terrible metaphor but I don’t care.  When I was at the store I saw this beautiful Wisconsin Colby-Jack and exclaimed “MWUAHAHAHAHA!”  But as it turns out, this step isn’t really negotiable anyway.  You do want delicious pierogies, right?

After shredding the cheese and boiling the potatoes I mash everything together.  Also, I forgot to mention that I chopped up some chives for the filling as well.  Karen didn’t think I should post a picture of the filling at this stage because it didn’t look very appetizing in this state.  Whatever.

SECOND QUARTER: A substitute makes a huge difference in the game, but the Packers’ defense holds.
I took the dough out of the fridge, rolled it out, and cut out the rounds.  At this point Jonathan came in the kitchen and asked to help.  So I put the filling on each round and showed him how to moisten the edges and fold them in half.  It actually makes the work go faster so I was happy.  Jonathan will therefore play the part of Doug Legursky, playing center for the Steelers due to the injury to the usual starter, Maurkice Pouncey.

At this point I started worrying about my metaphors.  The filling was smelling very good, and I knew it was because of the cheese.  If the cheese was the best part of the pierogies, and they were a success, does that mean that the Packers actually win the game?

THIRD QUARTER: The Steelers finally start looking good, but then lose their lustre quickly.
After the pierogies were formed they looked pretty good.  I was starting to get excited.

Then I boiled them.  It’s funny.  The recipe said that they float to the top when they’re done.  It also said it would take 8-10 minutes.  Mine took no more than five.  But after they were done boiling they looked odd.  I rinsed them off just like it told me to, but there was still a pretty thick layer of starch on the outside.  I was hoping for a big finish in the skillet.

FOURTH QUARTER: Troy Polumalu  scores a defensive touchdown.
All this time I was also making the chicken-corn soup, and at this point Karen came home from work and finished it off.  I was very grateful.  Yes, Karen is now playing the part of Troy.  She is the superstar in our kitchen.  Plus, she’s got beautiful hair.

FINAL TWO MINUTES:  The Steelers’ defense puts the game away, led by James Harrison.
Well, he was the onions, was he not?  The final step in the process is to saute some sliced onions in butter, and when they were soft add the pierogies and pan fry until crisp.  At this point even Karen was looking optimistic.

GAME OVER!  The Steelers win.  James Harrison is named MVP.
Even Karen said they were great.  The best part was the crispy outside, and guess what else?  The soup was GOLD!  How cool is that?  Thanks to some saffron, which was actually in the recipe.  I wish I’d had some black beans to serve on the side.  But no matter, this dinner was awesome.

MY PICK: Steelers 24, Packers 20.





Blackened Chicken

18 05 2010

Two weekends in a row.  Not the kind of trend I was looking for.

It was our first BBQ of the year.  I was obviously out of practice.  I lit the coals with the chimney starter, and once they were ready I spread them evenly in the grill and put some new coals on top.  I didn’t want them burning out before the chicken legs were cooked.  What happened next was predictable.  I put the burgers on first, while the new coals were still warming up.  Once they were cooked I started with the drumsticks and wings.  By that time the new coals were burning and the grill was about 5,000 degrees.  I did my best, but they were still horribly burned on the outside and, you guessed it, raw on the inside.

We finished it up in the microwave, and Karen assures me it’s good once you take the skin off.  Whatever.





Pepper Steak

2 03 2009

Every Valentine’s day the local butcher shop has beef tenderloin on sale.  And every time we get tenderloin we make a roast (this roast) because, well, it’s really good.  I tend to stick with winners when dealing with expensive cuts of meat.  As a result I’d never made a filet steak and now I had a perfect opportunity.  You see, I was planning a surprise dinner for Karen.  One thing I’ve learned is that if you’re planning a surprise dinner and they might come home late, a roast is a bad idea.  If you think that special someone is coming home at 6:30 and she comes home at 8:00 then you’re stuck with a really overdone roast.  But steaks cook quickly.  Steaks can be prepared while they watch, preferably after the kids go to bed.

Most of my culinary knowledge comes courtesy of Alton Brown.  And it is on his show that I was first introduced to Steak au Poivre.  (Here’s the recipe)  It’s got just a few ingredients.

Pepper, cream, and brandy works for me

Step one is to season the meat all over with salt.  Then crush the black peppercorns and press them into the meat, covering both sides.  Then cook the steaks.

No I didn't set off the smoke detector

When the steaks are done take them out and let them rest.  Then pour in some brandy and let the alcohol cook off.   Now I’ve read elsewhere (like Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook) that to make the sauce you need veal stock and demi-glace, but Alton just adds heavy cream and that’s good enough for me.  Let it reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.  You’re done.

It's almost done here, but not quite

Now I looked for more interesting things to serve it with than merely potatoes, but I haven’t seen many who mess with tradition.  Who am I to disagree?  I served mashed potatoes and a green salad that, I’ll admit, I asked Karen to make.  But I made 2/3 of dinner.

Nice dinner, yes? Only if the kids are asleep.

I did, however, overcook the steaks.  They were medium well to well, just a tiny bit of pink in the middle.  Too bad.  I’d rather they moo in pain when I cut into them.





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.





I’d have taken a picture, but where to begin?

28 07 2008

Ever have one of those meals where you don’t just ruin one thing, you ruin everything?  Read on.

This is (for the most part) a PG-rated blog, so I’ll say that dinner Saturday evening was a comedy of errors.   Karen and baby had come home from the hospital on Thursday, so I bought some steaks and was ready for a good cookout.  A friend had given us some vegetables from his garden, and coupled with some stuff that we’d grown, I could make a nice grilled vegetable dish, and all that was left was corn on the cob.  Karen wanted some mashed potatoes too, so that was her physical activity for the day.  And lastly we decided to steam some broccoli for the boys since they don’t like the grilled vegetables.

While shopping Saturday morning I assumed we’ve got most everything for the grilled veg.  I got a red onion just to be sure, but that’s it.  Come to find out all I had from my friend’s garden was two yellow squash.  Oh yeah, and the red bell pepper we’d grown had gone bad this week while we were at the hospital.  So now my grilled veggies consist of two yellow squash, a red onion, and some tomatoes.  No zucchini, no red pepper, no roasted garlic.  I suppose that’s when I gave up on it.  Karen tried it, but that was about it.  I went ahead and steamed enough broccoli for all of us. 

I then set about undercooking grilling the steaks.  I grilled them, covered them, and let them rest.  When I started slicing them I realized that they weren’t rare, they were in fact raw.  Nice.  Back on the grill they go.  After the second time they were at least cooked to temperature.

Broccoli.  Let’s see, it’s green and looks like little trees?  You cut them up and steam them for, how long is it again?  Maybe I didn’t cook them long enough, maybe the water stopped boiling.  Whatever.  They were undercooked as well.  I’d say it was like biting into a stick, but I didn’t even try it.  All I had was the steak, corn on the cob (made by Aliyah), and Karen’s mashed potatoes. 

I was so frustrated I left the dishes where they lay and cleaned up the remnants of my failure the next morning.  I’d blame this one on the new baby, but you’d never buy it.  What’s this blog called again?





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?