48F Supplemental – Old Habits and New Friends

December 28, 2009

I suppose anyone who actually reads my blog and knows why i’m doing it is surprised by the fact that there was no post this week. yes, i am home, amongst those that love me and that i love. i am also in the midst of 3.5 weeks of decadence that i will be paying for in the months to come. and that is alright. i am at terms with it.

tomorrow, my lovely wife is driving me to fort collins so i might visit the odell brewery, one of my favorites. their levity amber ale is a force to be reckoned with and i hope that all my readers manage to give it a try at one time or another.

in the meantime, here is how i have spent the last week on vacation. enjoy the pictorial and please post a comment if you want specifics on any of the below. i would post a full review but hey, i’m on vacation. there will be time enough for postin’ when the drinkin’s done.

cheers,

Wasting no time, beer from the pub in the SFO Airport

Second beer in SFO pub

Anchor Brewery Winter Seasonal in SFO airport

Menu from Anchor Brewery in SFO Airport

Catching up with an old favorite from England

Read about it, had to drink it...

Hands Down, the most unique beer i have ever had... amazing...

great beer, going to cellar a couple for posterity...

There is a reason its called the Czar. check it out...

heavy coffee flavor, i liked but the wife did not...

wanted to get this one on tap at SFO but was almost as good out of the bottle

An old favorite, definitely worth a try

tasty but not the best beer i have ever tasted...

i really enjoyed this one, very smooth back end to the vanilla flavor.

russian wheat ale = tasty

very passable andworth the purchase

i like the russian porter, very very much...

ZOMG, beautiful woman and wonderful beer, i am in heaven!!!

somehow, not as good without the hottie holding it...

i loved the subtle berry undertones to this one, please check it out...


just finished this one, time to select and pour another fabulous brew...


Feast 33 – Intermission/Hawaiian Stromboli

December 20, 2009

it’s hard to believe that finally, after 230 days, i will be getting on a bus in about 3 hours and heading to the airport for my midtour vacation. this is a very good day, very very very good.

i made this last meal of the year for myself with the intention of using as much as possible out of the cupboards. everything left behind was likely to spoil during my vacation so it was definitely to my advantage to use up what i could. given the contents of my cabinets and my own peculiar tastes, here is what i came up with: A canadian bacon and pineapple stromboli with roasted red potatoes and zucchini on the side. quite nice if i do say so myself. as i have a plane to catch, i will be brief but complete.

the stromboli: i cheated a little here and went with store bought puff pastry. wimpy maybe but convenient yes. allow it to thaw for around 45 minutes before rolling it out. during the thawing time, make a quick tomato sauce by sweating down 1/2 of a yellow onion and four cloves of chopped garlic in a bit of olive oil. once the onions are nice and soft, add 1/2 a diced tomato, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes.

tomatoes for the sauce and potatoes chopped

let this cook for at least 25 minutes over medium heat so that the tomatoes soften and the sauce reduces a bit. you can puree it if you like but i was happy with the rustic texture. you can read that as me being lazy, i’m okay with that.

canadian bacon, post oven

meanwhile, grill 5 slices of canadian bacon in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until cooked to your liking. be careful to not overcook, as the canadian bacon is lower in fat content than american style bacon, it will get tough and chewy. cut this into large but not too large pieces.

open a can of diced pineapple.

roll out the puff pastry, folding over and rolling out at least 4 or 5 times to get some nice thin layering. this will help in making the crust flaky in the end product. bonus points for brushing the layers with melted butter or olive oil in between folds but i didn’t have that kind of time today. something about a plane to catch.

filling on pastry

top one third of the pastry with first tomato sauce, then bacon and pineapple and finally some mozzarella cheese. fold over into a nice neat package and seal the edges.

Stromboli formed, pre-oven

bake at 375 for about 25 minutes or until nicely browned.

and post oven

for the potatoes, i took the three small red potatoes that i had left over and tossed them with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper and olive oil. bake in that same 375 degree oven until browned and softened, around 40 minutes. share and enjoy.

potatoes, post oven

i went simple with the zucchini and sliced it into thick slices, tossed it with olive oil, salt and pepper. cook it on the stove top for about 25 minutes until soft but not mushy.

Zucchini cooking away

simple meal, great results. a beer would have been nice but i didn’t feel like buying a six pack to leave in my fridge over the holidays. so, i had naught instead.

meal plated, ready to consume mass quantities

i will most likely post about my holiday meals but if i do not, the next feast is scheduled for the tenth of january. who knows what but i’m sure it will be cooked with the bitterness of a man who was forced to come back to korea.


Feast 32 – Self Indulgence/Hash Browns

December 14, 2009

There is no doubt, this meal is all about me… Eddie is gone on vacation, i am 7 days away from mine and i wanted to make something that i enjoy simply for me. this is a meal that i had been intending on documenting for quite some time as i have been making it on a fairly recurring basis. its my favorite weekend late morning breakfast and i hope you enjoy it as well. it is deceptively simple for just how damned good it is, please don’t stray from trying it out because of its simplicity.

Greg’s Hash Browns with Over Easy Eggs:

all you need for this one as far as cooking implements is a large mixing bowl, a box grater, a spatula and a frying pan. it makes for easy clean up and a relatively quick one plate breakfast that is satisfying at a real base level.

Start with a medium red potato and a yellow onion. Grate the potato, peels and all and drain of liquid. Peel the onion and grate it as well.

Potato and Onion Grated

Next, roughly chop three slices of bacon into lardons. Also chop 1/2 of a jalapeno and 1/2 of a habanero.

Chopped Bacon and Peppers

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the potato, onion, bacon, peppers, 1/4 cup of olive oil, a sprinkling of sage and a few generous twists of salt and pepper.

Ingredients mixed for hash browns

Transfer to a frying pan that is heated well over a medium high heat, around 5 1/2 on my crappy electric stove. fry for about five minutes or until the edges of the hash browns start to brown and curl up a bit. divide into two even portions and scoot to the back half of the frying pan.

Hash Browns spread evenly over the frying pan

Flip the two hash browns and fry two eggs over easy on the front portion of the frying pan, sprinkling with a twist of salt and pepper. about the time that you flip the eggs to cook the second side, top the hash browns with half a chopped tomato, a healthy dose of Tabasco sauce and grated mixed mexican style cheese.

Hash Browns and eggs cooking

when the eggs are done, transfer them on top of the hash browns and let cook for a few more minutes. carefully lift onto a plate and enjoy the decadent goodness. it could serve two people or one healthy appetite for a sunday morning.

Hash Browns with Eggs, Ready to eat

This meal is best served with a fresh cup of french press coffee while sitting on your ass on the couch watching whatever happens to be on. there is a certain pleasure to decadent indulgence served up with a side of sloth.

Did i mention i have seven days until my vacation?


Feast 31 – Ad Hoc Cookery

December 7, 2009

I find myself growing more confident in my cooking as the months drag slowly by. This meal is ample evidence of that confidence and, at the risk of sounding arrogant, proof that I have developed some skills over time. Instead of agonizing over recipes and following an exact formula, this week I simply developed a sketched outline of what I intended to make and proceeded to simply make the dishes. I had read through a few recipes and developed some thoughts on where I wanted the meal to go but at the end of the day, I just pressed on and made the dishes the way I thought they would be best.

As is the norm, I made three dishes this week, centered around the concept of a cordon bleu. To this I added garlic mashed potatoes because they go so well with this sort of dish, onion-sage gravy for the mash and a creamed spinach dish. None of these preparations are earth shattering but they are all very solid and provide a great meal without too much stress of failure. All in all, it took around two and a half hours from motivation to plating the dishes.

The cordon bleu: the first and largest departure from tradition was my meat selection. Traditionally, this would be made with a cut of veal or even chicken but the combined factors of cost, availability and flavor preference pushed me to use pork. I found a selection of top loin cuts that looked to be about the right size and a good ratio of fat to meat to ensure a tender and flavorful entrée. First step is to pound the pork cutlets out as flat as possible with the flat edge of your meat mallet. Be sure to work evenly and carefully around the edges to prevent any tearing of the meat. Any break in the surface and your filling will end up in your cooking medium which is not a good thing.

size comparison of flattened/unflattened cutlets

Once you have your cuts of meat flattened, set aside. While I was flattening out my pork cuts, I baked half a cluster of garlic in a 350 degree oven until the cloves started to soften. Once they are soft enough to mash, squeeze the cloves into a small bowl and mix with three tablespoons of soften butter. I got all crazy and broke out the immersion blender, mostly because I really like my immersion blender. It’s a toss-up as to if my favorite tool is the immersion blender or the crock pot, lets just say I have no plans to part with either any time soon. Now… take your flattened pork cutlet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and layer on one half of the cutlet a slice of gruyere, a tablespoon of the garlic butter, two thin slices of black forest ham and a second piece of gruyere.

First layer of filling on cutlet

Fold over the other half of the cutlet and press the edges to seal. I gave it a few taps around the edges with my meat mallet but use your own judgment on that one. Just ensure that it’s properly sealed and your melted goodness doesn’t end up leaking into your oil. I let the formed cordon bleus rest while I prepared the other dishes so insert a pause at this point and get everything else together. When everything else is cooking merrily along, bread the cutlets by dredging in seasoned flour then a beaten egg and finally, breadcrumbs. Fry in medium-hot oil until nicely browned on the outside, turning once to ensure even cooking on each side.

Cordon Bleu after frying

Transfer to a paper towel lined dish to drain for about two minutes before plating. Bask in the appreciation of your dinner guests.

Potatoes chopped for mash

The potatoes: The thing I like most about mashed potatoes is how damned simple they are to make. It’s a real hands off dish when it comes down to it. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in 4 medium sized red potatoes, cut into eights, unpeeled. Boil this until they begin to soften. If you pick one up on a slotted spoon, you should be able to break it apart with a push from a fork or in my case, a finger. Once the potatoes are soft enough, drain them in a large strainer. Return the strained potatoes to the pot you boiled them in and drop in 4 tbsp butter, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup heavy cream and six cloves of slivered garlic. Mix well with a hand blender until they have a smooth consistency and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with gravy.

Onion-Sage Gravy: this dish starts with half an onion finely chopped and sweating down in a bit of olive oil. Once the onion is softened, add flour (gauge the amount on how thick the gravy is, start with about 1/4 cup but adjust as needed… the liquid and flour balance is a tricky thing), a tablespoon of sage, and salt/pepper to taste. Stir the mixture over the heat until the flour begins to brown a bit. Then, pour in about a cup of milk and stir until everything is completely incorporated. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue stirring as the gravy heats up and comes together. Its critical that you continue stirring to discourage the formation of clumps in the gravy. Adjust seasonings as desired and serve over the potatoes.

The Creamed Spinach: this dish most of all expresses the ad hoc nature of todays cookery. I had seen a few recipes but in the end I decided that making a baking spinach dish was not all that deep and I could probably work it out. Take a bag of salad style spinach greens and blanch in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes until the leaves wilt. Drain well and transfer immediately to an oven proof dish. Put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes to completely stop the cooking, this will preserve the nice bright coloration of the spinach. While the spinach is cooling, sweat down a whole yellow onion in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. You want the edges of the onion to just start to brown but not completely caramelize. Your spinach should be cool by this point so remove it from the freezer and drop in the softened onion.

Jalapenos sliced for spinach dish

Julianne cut two jalapenos, one green and one red for color variation for a nice appearance in the finished dish. Add these to the spinach along with 1/2 cup of cream and a liberal twist or three of salt and pepper. Stir well to mix evenly. Top with a layer of breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Share and enjoy.

Spinach before topping with breadcrumbs

The watchword for today’s meal was subtlety. None of the flavors reached out and slapped you but each of the three dishes had subtle flavorings that carried the dish and made the overall plate a well rounded meal. I was very pleased with the results, especially the ingredients ratio of the cordon bleu. It is very tempting to go overboard with fillings on dishes like cordon bleu but with a nice thinly pounded cut of meat you get a much better balance of flavors by practicing restraint. The meal was topped off by another serving of the fine Leffe which is again the best beer available here currently.

Finished Meal Plated and ready to eat

It’s bittersweet that this is the last meal Eddie and I will have until next year as he is leaving on vacation this Thursday. Unequivocally, I am happy for him, a bit jealous that I have 13 days now to go and two meals that I will be flying solo for. Its strange, this project was original envisioned as a solo outing but fortune brought Eddie and I into the same orbit so it evolved into a shared experience. This does however offer some latitude in my next two meals, no real constraints in timing and only myself as an audience. So, I have decided to do a couple of non-dinner excursions, the first of which will probably be a Eggs Benedict with homemade English muffins and hollandaise sauce. Meal 32, scheduled for the evening before I finally fly home to see my family will be a dolled up version of a hash brown dish I have become addicted to for breakfast. I’ve been wanting to share it for quite some time and I look forward to giving it the “feasts treatment”.

Also, I plan on documenting the two meals I am making for friends and family while home, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve so be sure to check in over the holidays.


Bar Food 3 – Epic Failure

December 2, 2009

I appreciate irony. it makes me smirk when i recognize the world balancing out in a humorous way. it appeals to the cruel side of me. tonight, it’s a dish best ate cold to be sure…

so, now that the pool league season is over, Yumi, the owner of the VIP where Eddie and I play pool is throwing us a party, pizza, beer, celebrate a good season and have a good time. well, if nothing else, i was raised with manners. i couldn’t dream of coming to a party, even one in my team’s honor without bringing something… ok, food and drink are covered, no need to venture into that territory so… i decided to take a dessert. not just any dessert but a kick ass, in your face, giant new york style cheesecake. everyone loves cheesecake, its so decadent you feel like you need a shot of penicillin after eating it. so yeah, cheesecake it is. i went shopping today instead of my normal thursday shopping trip in order to make it and give it a nice overnight chill. all is well, great recipe from epicurious: New York Cheesecake, a nice relaxing evening of videogames, catching up with season 3 of Eureka and baking a dessert. hell, i even bought a brand new spring form pan specifically for the job tonight. i needed one anyway, or so i told myself.

oh, did i mention irony? yeah, i think i did. well, here it is… i make the graham cracker crust, line the pan and blend together the ingredients for the cheesecake. it looks good, smells good and tastes good (of course i try everything along the way, how else would i know how it’s going to turn out?)… the directions call for a pan underneath the springform pan in case of leaks… in case of leaks, hah! well, the only pan i have that is big enough for the job is my pizza pan. unless we have a leak like a failed dam, it should be plenty big enough to catch some drippings. so, cheesecake on the pizza pan, pizza pan in the oven. my pizza pan is a bit big for the oven but it squeezes in nicely on the rails that hold the racks in the oven. so, oven at 550 as required, cheesecake in the oven. 12 minutes, during the wait, i start reading the reviews of the recipe. numerous people are talking about how the top of their cheesecake was scorched by the high heat in stage one… well, i can’t have that, scorched cheesecake is not appropriate. nope.

so, i open the oven and…

the pan that i put under the cheesecake to prevent drips tilts forward, dropping the entire cheesecake into my oven, down the front of the door and under the heating element. it was there to prevent spillage and it ended up causing the whole damned thing to end up inside my oven! get it, isn’t it funny? oh, i’m laughing… i’m laughing hard.

wow, we get irony and sarcasm in the same post… you are lucky readers!

No cheesecake and i got to clean up this damned mess. yeah!

***ADDENDUM***
to paraphrase Kaelthas (sorry, wow geek moment) “New York Cheesecake was merely a setback”… i went ahead and made a pumpkin pie which is more of a pumpkin tart i guess in that it is free standing with a partial shell on the bottom. based on the recipe at epicurious The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie but i still wanted a graham cracker crust so guess what? i made mine with a graham cracker crust. its still cooling so i probably should have waited to transfer it but i’m impatient. i narrowly escaped cracking it, bad enough there is a blemish on top from my testing knife insertion that grew a bit. anyway, here is a photo, review to follow tomorrow after i actually get to try it.

oh, and did i mention, taking pumpkin pie to the bar means i will have to supply the girls with a can of whipped cream. if thats not the lead in to a bad porno, i’m not sure what is…

Pumpkin Pie cooling