Tonight we dine in Hell

6 01 2008

Bad movie tie-in, I know. But the smoke from this one was so caustic that maybe it’s not too far off.

can you see it through the smoke?

I started with the typical inspiration: The Soup. I’m getting pretty cocky these days with soup, adding and replacing ingredients as I please. It hasn’t ended in disaster so far. This time I took the recipe in the book as just a general outline to follow since I obviously know more than those hacks at the Culinary Institute of America. Sorry, but when you hear the words potato and sour cream what do you think? Chives. It’s not rocket surgery.

So I had a good idea for the soup, but what about the sandwich? We’ve got chicken breast, but how many different kinds of chicken sandwiches can you come up with? Well, I had this recipe from Mario Batali’s cookbook for a whole roast chicken called The Devil’s Chicken (Pollo al Diavolvo). It involved rubbing the almost-cooked chicken down with a paste of dijon mustard and crushed black peppercorns. But the true beauty of this recipe was the “salad” side that he included. It used flat leaf parsley, halved cherry tomatoes, and red onions sliced thin. We’ve made this with lots of different dishes, and even used it in sandwiches before. Karen has added sliced baby cucumbers into the mix somewhere along the way as well. So I took this idea and turned that paste into a marinade for the chicken breast. Way cool, Mark’s the hero.

I’ve said it before. When I’m cooking meat on the stove top I use high heat. I don’t know why, so don’t ask. The end result tends to be smoke. The dinner isn’t always ruined, but sometimes the windows get opened in January. And it’s worse on the second floor. You see, we’ve got this set of stairs from the kitchen to the second floor so all the smoke goes straight up. Add a quarter cup of black pepper to the fog and you’ve got something that’s near impossible to breathe.

The chicken was scorched past recognition cooked perfectly, and the soup was also a hit. The compliments sounded something like this:

“Good *cough* dinner, hon. I really like *choke* the *cough* chicken. *hack*

bring your fire extinguisher

For the second time ever in her life in my cooking career, Karen didn’t need to add pepper sauce. A quarter cup of black pepper will do that. I, however, needed a half gallon of milk to make it through the meal. And some eye drops.

Read the rest of this entry »

In praise of soup

5 12 2007

This is what Pennsylvania looks like this week:

global warming is a good thing

That’s Fahrenheit folks, not Celsius. So what’s the cure for all this cold and snow? A plane ticket to Trinidad? Probably, but soup is cheaper.

good soup yum yum

There is nothing on earth that warms you up like soup, so to all you prospective visitors from the Caribbean be warned. I’m a soup nut.

Luckily Karen had suggested Italian wedding soup this past weekend and we had all the ingredients on hand. That way I didn’t have to leave the house and go to the store. Lots of accidents out there. In the past we’ve built a Frankenstein soup using these two recipes:

Wedding soup from Food Network Kitchens
Wedding soup from Giada

This time I used Giada’s recipe straight up. Except for one thing. She said to grate the onion. Onions are wet and slippery and I like my fingers thank you. I diced it as small as my knife would make it. Wedding soup is pretty easy once the meatballs are made. I made them kind of big this time, it was tough to judge at the beginning how big they would turn out. And some of them fell apart in the soup. Who knows, maybe that’s supposed to happen. I’ll keep thinking that way.

don’t tell me they don’t look good.  I don’t want to hear it.

Neither recipe called for acine de pepe, but we put some in anyway. We like it. Karen dumped in about a cup. And it turns out that a cup of acine de pepe is approximately 12 billion little pasta balls.

Soup was good and Karen was pleasantly surprised to see it already making when she came home.

Beans are neither musical nor fruit

14 05 2007

It started out as a simple search for a can of chicken noodle soup. I opened up our pantry and started moving around cans of beans, tomatoes, and broth looking for this elixir of life for Jonathan, who isn’t feeling well. He’s been puking every night after dinner. It started this weekend, and oddly enough, I cooked all weekend. So I’m looking for chicken soup but we don’t have any. What we do have, however, is beans.

beanspantry1.jpg beanspantry2.jpg

Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, baked beans, refried beans, black eyed peas, if you want beans we have beans. In all we had twenty-five cans of beans in our pantry and I thought to myself “Well, the boys can’t have soup tonight, but I can.” So I took two cans of black beans and made some black bean soup. My next problem came when I made the soup. Now I’ve made this soup before. You take two cans of black beans, a tomato, some cilantro, cumin, oregano, some hot peppers and some water, blend it all together and then heat it to a simmer.  Simple, and it always tastes great. But this time I had this really big deep green poblano pepper that I used, and holy cow if that soup didn’t look green when it was all said and done.


It didn’t come out in the picture, but trust me it was green.  With Karen’s help I tweaked it enough to save the flavor but the presentation would make Shrek proud. New rule: For the black bean soup use red peppers.

So the title is a little boring; Karen told me I couldn’t use the word “fart.”

How I impressed myself, it isn’t too hard to do.

14 02 2007

I didn’t sleep too well on Sunday night.  The idea of ruining a very expensive cut of meat was weighing heavily on my mind.  I mentioned to Karen my idea for Valentines day Monday morning and (as usual) she suggested some improvements.  How unlike her.  They were actually good ideas, and I implemented them grudgingly.

Thanks to old man winter, Karen had Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday off, so we decided to have V-day dinner Tuesday night after the kids went to bed.  That way could enjoy a leisurely dinner without worrying about bedtime.  Which was good, since dinner started at 9:30. 

Let it first be said that Karen trimmed the roast for me.  I don’t want to take credit for everything.

Have I told you Alton Brown is king?  He presented an impossible-to-ruin tenderloin roast recipe on “Tender is the Loin 2,” and I followed it with one minor alteration.  Instead of seasoning the roast with cumin, I used thyme (at Karen’s suggestion).  There are only three main parts to this method: Season, Sear, Roast.  And you must eat tenderloin medium-rare, it’s the law.  Here’s me searing the meat:


Alton and I disagree on so few things, but final roasting temperature is one of them.  He says pull from the oven at 135, we do it at 140-143 and we like it better that way.  It does carry over a bit, and the results were pleasantly pink.


Remember that soup from my first post?  Well I made it again with some modifications.  I didn’t use the crostini and I changed the mushrooms from creminis to morels.  Thank you to Mario Batali for the soup, it went perfectly with dinner.

Who really cares about dinner when there’s a dessert with Bailey’s in the ice cream, Kahlua in the brownies, and chocolate sprinkled on top?  Please visit Pinch my Salt for this wonderful recipe, the results were stellar.


One word: Wow.

 Click more for the soup recipe. Read the rest of this entry »

Valentine’s Day

5 02 2007

I am currently ruining Valentinte’s day dinner.

I did not do this for blog fodder, I swear.  I was leafing through one of my soup cookbooks the other day looking for inspiration for Valentine’s day.   Karen probably won’t get home that night until 8:30, so I was thinking about something light and then a dessert.  Luckily Karen already found a dessert here

I found this recipe in one of the cookbooks for “Medallions of beef with caramelized onions in a red wine broth.”  It says the red wine broth can be made and frozen weeks in advance, which is good, because with three kids I don’t think I’ll be able to prepare a really involved dish that night.  So I make the broth.  It calls for three fifths of wine.  Holy crap.  Whatever, I go ahead and buy it, right?  Right, but after browning the beef and the onions it says to add a little bit of wine and let it boil down and caramelize.  Apparently this will cut through the bitterness of the wine.  Or something.

I caramelized the wine.  Oops, did I say caramelize?  I meant I burned it.  Badly.  There was a layer of charcoal on the bottom of the pot so thick that was very hard to scrape off afterwards.  So I finish making the broth.  It says to season it to taste, but I’m not sure if it tastes burned or not.  I strained it through two layers of cheesecloth, so the vast majority of sediment is gone, and I think that took most of the burned taste out of it. 

So here’s my problem:  I could give up and toss it down the drain and I know that there’s really no way to save a broth that’s been burned, but I’m kind of desperate to.  There’s $40 worth of wine in this broth.  My other thought is that I don’t want to be so emotionally attached to this broth that I also ruin $15 worth of beef. 

Yes, I know I spent a lot of money on this meal, but I figured going out to eat would be equally as expensive, and we don’t have to pay a babysitter. 

It’s all Karen’s fault for buying me the cookbook and for working late on Valentine’s day.  Actually she came home before I had a chance to freeze the broth and she remarked how badly things were smelling in the house.  Before she could turn around I had frozen it, and she’s convinced I dumped it, and that she’s deeply offended me. 

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.