Monday, May 27, 2013

Garlicky Shrimp





As most of you know, the Cicadas are back which means I’m saving money on dog food.  Really.  Who needs to scoop dried morsels of organic lamb, sweet potato, chickpea, white truffle, whatever is in that 50 dollar bag of guilt when there is a seemingly infinite supply  of cicadas in the field. My wife commented on how soft the dog’s coat is. Of course it is, that’s what a couple thousand grams of protein each morning will do for a dog.

So as I listen to the drone coming from the trees, I can’t help being fascinated by the plight of the cicada.  I mean, 17 years underground and then just two weeks on shore to do one thing, the nasty.  I get it. I mean, if I was down under for that long and got a 14 day furlough I would do as the cicadas do and start rubbing my abdomen hoping to attract the attention of this gorgeous bug.



That’s my wife. Beauty.   

The second thing I’d be getting busy with would be cooking, and soon after eating.  That is assuming I had acquired the same skill set I have now while sucking sap from roots of trees for the past 17 years. I can’t imagine it’s easy to use a cleaver underground.

If I only have 14 days then I’m having my 14 favorite meals.  I’m not breaking it down into breakfast, lunch, dinner. No one wants to look at 42 item list (can you even come up with 14 different breakfast items?), no, I am eating one meal each day.  Remember, I’ve been underground for 17 years so my metabolism is a bit sluggish..

So here goes. From bottom to top.


Cuban Sandwich
Fresh Fish (and I will compliment someway)
Crusty Bread, EVOO, Sea Salt, Prosciutto
Large Salad, Bacon Dressing, Poached Egg
Garlicky Shrimp, Pasta
French Onion Soup
Artichokes, pan roasted with garlic and lemon(and grilled octopus)
Chicken Pot Pie (my kids will be there helping to destroy it)
Pizza (homemade, of course, blog forthcoming)
BLT
Fried Chicken( it's coming,too)
Over easy eggs (Farm eggs please)

One and two are close. I can eat fried chicken until I explode.  Over easy eggs are like an epiphany in food in my opinion. Crispy whites, runny yolks….ahhhhh, worth the 17 year wait.


Cicadas are not on the list. A buddy of mine took his dog’s advice and tried one last week, said it tasted like a peanut cracker.  No wonder my dog is happier than a garden tethered goat.

Their cousins of the sea, however Garlicky Shrimp are on.  Hang with me and I’ll show you how to make them sweet and tender.

 24 medium shrimp
 5 T butter
 1 T garlic pasted
 1 cup parsley chopped
 3 roma tomatoes diced
 ½ cup basil chopped

First, peel and devein your shrimp and then cut it in half length wise.  This is important.



Chop, dice and paste your parsley, basil, tomatoes and garlic. 



 In a saucepan melt your butter, turn the heat to LOW, and add the garlic.  We’re going to slowly cook the garlic in the butter while whisking the whole time.  



Take your time here, it should be five minutes before your butter foams like this.


Add the shrimp and continue cooking on low heat. This is the key.  I’ve seen so many cooks sear or grill shrimp on high heat. The result? Rubber. Not mine.  Slow she goes is the money here.

The shrimp will begin to turn opaque.


And almost done.


And ready. Now and the tomatoes, parsley basil and a splash of white wine. Remove it from the heat. 

See that?


Pour this goodness over some noodles and enjoy.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Advertisement


So I get this call from the suits upstairs. It seems my sponsor ( The Space Downtown ) isn't exactly thrilled with all this talk of showering with bubble bees and chasing Guinea Hens around my yard.  It seems I need to focus more on the events we are doing at the Space.

I get called  to a meeting on the top floor as I tried to explain myself.

"But I have this really cool idea about a cicada blog!"  I exclaimed!

No response.

Just then a couple big bald guys picked me out of the chair, carried me over to the elevator. One of the guys ( who had really bad teeth), poked me in the chest and whispered, " blog about the Space or else".

Whew.

So last night our client wants some rustic Italian food, so we try. The above picture is pan roasted artichokes with lemon, thyme and garlic





  
Here's another version this time with white anchovies.



A line up of Bruchettas, Ham and Brie, Artichokes w/ Marinara, Gorgonzola w/ House made Jam


Vincent's Potato Bread.

Speaking of the devil ( and oh he is one) , that's him, partner of 22 plus years.  Good god, we're like an old married couple, minus the bickering. 

Prosciutto wrapped Melon.



And the star of the show, Roasted Chicken with Green Olives, Capers, and Lemon.  There of course were some other dishes, Osso Buco, Caprese Salad, Caesar, but I was a little in the weeds so I couldn't get pictures of them.




Finally a dessert trio. That's Lavender Macaroon, White Chocolate Torte, and a itty bitty Raspberry Fruit tart.

That's what we do here at the Space Downtown.  On premise catering tailored to your needs.  The food is live, meaning it's not coming out of some hot box sitting in a catering truck.  We live it, we love it, and your next event, dinner party, needs to be with us.

That should make my sponsors happy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Barbecue




My wife bought me an electric toothbrush the other day.  I’m not sure whether it was a gift or a warning shot.  Either way, my oral hygiene has been upgraded.  A couple minutes with that thing is like a trip to the dentist office, minus the flossing lecture.

I have to stay focused. That is, when using an electric toothbrush (let’s call it ET).  I’m so zeroed in while using ET I have to turn my back to the mirror like Miles Davis. Almost 50 years of staring at my mug while brushing. Done. Over.

It’s naturally unnerving to stick something electrical in one’s mouth. I was taught at a young age not to toss the blow dryer to my sister while she bathed.  So putting this miniature buzz saw in my mouth takes some getting use to.  My tongue is terrified. The minute he sees ET, he recoils to the back of my mouth like “Whoa, what the hell is that thing?”

Oh yeah, little warning.  Never let ET out of your mouth while still on. Otherwise, he will make your mirror look like the windshield after a 10 hour summer road trip in New England (meaning, lots of bugs, and lot of toothpaste, nevermind).  Just take my word for it, it’s a mess.

All this speak about tooth brushing has me thinking of BBQ, since nothing else south of Oreos will make a mess of your mouth like it. So I will share with you my recipe for Pulled Pork Barbeque. This is the one we use for the Pork Taco at Bang.

Full Disclosure.  I am NOT throwing my cowboy hat into the barbecue ring. Barbecue folks have to be the most passionate people in food, and the hostility over which is best (Carolina, Virginia, Kansas City….) is something I don’t need in my life. I’ve already lined up security for myself and my family once this blog goes out.  It wouldn’t surprise me if some Texas henchman appears at my front door with a sawed off special pointed at my boca.

You won’t need 12 hour slow cook for my BBQ, but I will ask you to do one small trick. Brine it.  It’s easy.

3 lb piece of pork shoulder


1 gallon of water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup Kecap Manis
1 2 inch piece of ginger
12 garlic cloves

Bring the water to a boil and add the rest. Simple.  Let it cool before you put the pork shoulder in for an overnight.

Place in the fridge. Now go to sleep.

Now if this too much for you, you can wave the white hanky now and head to Gordonsville to see my boy Craig Hartman at the Barbecue Exchange.  Craig is an elite chef from the likes of Clifton and Keswick who one day decided to go whole hog ( pun of the day) into barbecue ( a dangerous combination ( a real chef and BBQ) , albeit good for you and I). In business since 2009, Craig spreads the barbecue love by featuring different styles, kind of an ambassador of barbecue one might say.

If you are still with me and it’s the next day then pull the pork from the brine, set a skillet to high heat and liberally pepper the meat.


Sear it to a nice brown. This will take several minutes.  Then add the big 3. 


1 cup Kecap Manis
½ cup Sirachi
4 T five spice powder

It should look like this


Now, let’s get a little messy with our hands and rub all that goodness into the pork. Now we’re looking like barbecue.

Break out your foil and cover this love tenderly, then bake it at 325 for four hours.  After which, it should be fork tender and falling off the bone.



Pile it on a bun with your favorite slaw and you’ll be heaven.

Now that I've opened my mouth about barbecue, I might need to change my identity.  Anyone know where I can get a fake ID?



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day Strawberry Shortcake







Happy Mother’s day to my Mom, and thank you.

It was my mother who got me into cooking, even after my disastrous first attempt at a dinner party.  It was 1987 and I was in the software field, (you know, that industry going nowhere). I wasn’t terrible at the job, more so beleaguered by my cubical place in a vast corporation. In other words, I don’t like sitting down while I work. 

So after taking a couple cooking classes, I attempted a dinner party for my family.  They were the type of classes filled with middle aged women, and me, sipping white wine (them sipping, me slurping), and fumbling over gourmet dishes put forth by a woman chef with the heaviest Texas accent ( Italian she pronounced High-talian) I had ever heard.

The first course was a spring onion veloute soup.  It was finished with a couple egg yolks just prior to serving.  At the time I had no idea I was creating an emulsion, only that the yolks gave the soup a rich, luscious finish. The soup was not bad.  The second course was a crust-less Quiche Lorraine which fell to pieces when I unmolded it. I assemble this mess on plates and covered it with a beurre blanc sauce (eggs covered in butter).  The third course was a bay scallop gratin (more eggs).  In the midst of panic, I used my mother’s cast iron skillet to sauté the scallops, which, after a couple splashes of white wine, turned them into charcoal colored nuggets.   Even the gratin sauce (even more eggs) couldn’t hide this mess.

Eggs. I was using them at an alarming rate. Looking back, I have to be thankful my parents didn’t need a series of artery splints by meals end.

So as a readied the main course (Beef Wellington),  the kitchen was a in a state of disaster. I was out of my league and ill prepared to pull this dinner off and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was in the weeds. 

My mother and sister’s came to the rescue, wiping down the every surface in the kitchen, scrubbing the vast array of pots and pans I had dirtied, all the while assuring me everything was fabulous.  I knew better. It was then my mother noticed the humming.  It wasn’t coming from the overloaded dishwasher or garbage disposal, it was coming from me.  There I was,  humming, amidst all the bedlam in which I had just created,  I was lost in the act of cooking.  It was then she said something to me which would be her first and only piece of vocational advice.

            “You should be a chef.  You’re happy when you’re cooking”

I could have quit that night.  Underneath the humming was shame and embarrassment for the meal I had prepared.  Yet that piece of advice, words of loving encouragement from the very person who had prepared countless meals for me and my siblings, sent me into a lifelong love affair with cooking. 

Thank you, mom. I love you.

Sniff.

You didn’t think I was going to let you out of here without a recipe, did you?  If there’s one dessert that screams mother’s day its strawberry shortcake. It’s seasonal, pretty, and makes a hell of a lot more sense than baked Alaska.  I didn’t mention my attempt at that monstrosity at the above dinner party. Dear Lord.

Let’s make something simple.  Sift together the following.

3 cups Flour
½ cup Sugar
1 ½ T Baking Powder
1 t Salt


Then

6 oz butter cut into cubes
1 ½ cups half and half
1 egg

Work in the butter into the flour mixture.  You can use a pastry cutter. I prefer my hands because there no sweeter smell in cooking then flour, sugar, butter mixture.  It should look like course sand.


Whisk the egg and half and half together, then add it to flour butter mix.  Stir until its incorporated.  It should be batter like. Pour into a 9 inch round cake pan and cook at 350 for 12 -15 minutes.  


Unmold the shortcake onto a baking rack and let cool for at least an hour.  In the meantime cut your strawberries into a bowl, and send a thankful thought to your mom for putting up with shenanigans you put forth while a child/teenager.  

( Are my knives spooning?)

Add ¼ cup of water to the same amount of strawberry preserves.  Nuke this for 30 seconds or so until it forms a syrup.Once your shortcake is ready, cut it in half horizontally.   With a pastry brush, paint the undersides of the cake with the syrup.

Next, whip 2 cups of heavy(or whipping) cream with ½ cup of powdered sugar until it forms stiff peaks.  Spread half of the whipped cream on the base of the shortcake, then layer with strawberries. 



Cover with the other half of the shortcake and repeat.


Walla!

You can refrigerate for a couple hours.  Place this cake in front of your mom, your mother in law, or your wife on this happy day. 

Happy mother’s day!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Taste like Chicken





So why did the Guinea Hen (Chicken) cross the road?)

 
That’s corny but here’s what’s not. When the girls of the house learned my next entry would be about Guinea Hens, they flipped out. It was like I had just stormed into the kitchen with a fully plumed be-headed peacock in one a hand, a bloody hatchet in the other. I suppose their thinking is it’s not proper to prepare (much less talk about) any bird that doesn’t rhyme with picken. So if the idea of cooking Guinea Hen startles you, every time I mention Guinea Hen, you think Chicken.   

They not only crossed the road, they invaded our property last week (the Guineas, not the girls, who have been firmly in charge of this place since day one), noisy and acting like they owned the place, kind of like Hells Angels (both of ‘em).  I really didn’t mind (the former group).  If I did I could have just released the hound.




That’s Leonard, not exactly a hound, but he’ll chase anything with half a heartbeat and
I ‘m sure he’d give them plenty reason to roost. I just admired them.  They remind me of bus load of elderly women getting dropped off at an outlet mall.  “Cackle, cackle, talk, talk, wait up Marge, is that a sale? My bunions hurt. That bus driver is cute….”  Just having a time of it, eating tics and mosquitos, that alone should be reason for a law requiring us all to have them. Why they are not the state bird of half the northeast I do not know.  They should at least be Connecticut’s.

I guess it’s all for the better.  You can’t eat state birds, and let me tell you, that’s a good thing because these birds are delicious.  So as I watch them in the field I can’t help imagining one of them on a plate.  Seriously, I’m not a natural born killer, more so a butcher, so it’s unlikely I will be ringing any of their necks but in the event I have a postal moment (or just get really hungry) you might find one of these birds on your milk cartoon.

I wouldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do. I can’t catch them.  I’m getting slower and they can fly. It’s not fair.  It’s much easier to go to online at have one overnighted.  Grocery stores don’t normally carry them, they don’t exactly fly off the shelves (get it, fly off…nevermind), but they should because they taste better than, not like, chicken.

 I’m going to ask you to bring your A game to this cooking show because I am going to demonstrate something that will have your dinner guest exclaiming “you should open a restaurant!”  Take my advice and don’t.  But do pay attention here.  Here is a Guinea Hen dressed.



I never have understood that term because to me she looks undressed. 

Dice the following:

1 cup onions
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup carrots
1 T garlic pasted
1/2 cup white wine
5 springs of fresh thyme

I’m going to get on my chef soapbox now and preach a bit about birds.  I wouldn’t roast a Guinea whole.  The breast and legs are different, the former tasting, chickenish (a good one), the latter more turkish, the bird not the country.  So we’re going to break them down, that is, cut them into parts.

Start with the leg.  Make an incision just inside the thigh, cut until you feel the leg free.  Now grab what would be the knee (if she was a running back), and pop the hip bone free. Now cut to remove the leg. Do the same for the other side,

Yeah, I know the picture is blurry, try holding a camera and cleaver at the same time. My regular film crew called in sick from the Mayo, or something like that in Spanish. It was loud and they were slurring their words, not sure.
For the breast, find the breast plate. It’s hard to miss on a Guinea.  Insert your knife on the left side and slice between the meat and the carcass.  Keep the pressure of the knife against the carcass. Use your other hand to peel back the meat.



Once you’ve freed the breast, you will arrive at the wing. I like to cut through the joint here so that the wing is still attached. Repeat for the other side.

Let’s braise the legs first as they take longer to cook.  Season with salt and pepper, then brown them skin side down in the pan.

Turn them over, add your onions, carrot,celery, and garlic.  Add a splash of white wine and the thyme.  Add another ½ cup water.


Cover with lid, and place in the oven ( 400 degrees).  This should take 40 minutes to cook.  Meanwhile, throw this little bonus in the oven also. That’s sweet potatoes, rosemary, basil, lemon, olive oil.



Your welcome.

Now season the breast, and sear them skin side down.



Once they are good and brown, turn them, place them in the oven for no more than five minutes.   You could actually finish it on the stove top, but these bouts of browning are actually splatter festivals and you need to volunteer right now for kitchen clean up duty.




Remove both pans from the oven and let both parts of the Guinea rest while you assemble the rest of your meal. 






  
  My daughter, Devan  took the photo below.  Looks like something out of a cookbook. 



 Mine has Kale, of course, and the Sweet Potatoes I showed you above.  Lay the braised leg on top of the Kale, slice the perfectly cooked breast, nap with the braising liquid, and you might be looking at this.




I was, and trust me, I was happy.