Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Farm Fresh

I like simple food.  Food that showcases the ingredients. 

It blows my mind how good something can taste with the simplest preparations when the ingredients are great.

In this case a few farm fresh eggs, cooked in a little bit of butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Beer Cooler Suis Vide

I watch the food network a lot, read food magazines, cookbooks and the Wednesday food section of the New York Times. I love learning about food and food preparation. I love to try new food, processes and techniques.

On technique that I thought was out of my reach was Suis Vide. Not that i wouldn't be able to do it, its just that the equipment used is really expensive.

Suis Vide is french for "under pressure." The actual cooking method is cooking something in a vacuum packed bag (this is wear they get "under pressure") submerged in water.

I guess it doesn't seem that hard but seeing as you need a vacuum sealer ($100 for a cheap one) and an immersion circulator ($800 for a cheap one) it seemed beyond my house hold cooking repertoire.

I was wrong.  I discovered this method.... The zip lock bag, beer cooler method.... (that's not an official name)  Sure sounds kinda, redneck (good thing we are living in Tennessee now ;-) )  But whatever works right.

Sceptical? I was too, but think about it.  The bag just needs to hold the food in, keep the water out and be able to withstand the heat of the water your cooking.  A zip lock works fine for this.  The immersion circulators whole purpose is to keep the water at a very precise temperature for long enough to cook the food in the bag to the desired doneness.

So here's what i did.

Bought a cooler, some zip lock bags, Fillet and some red wine.  I then filled the cooler with Hot water straight from my kitchen sink.  My water happened to be 137 degrees which happened to be the perfect temperature for a MR steak.

I seasoned the Steak with salt and pepper and then seared it for about 30 seconds on each side in a very hot pan.

I put the Fillet, about 1/2 cup of wine and a pat off butter in the bag and sucked as much air out of the bag as i could.  (I sealed all but a tiny bit of the zip lock and stuck a drinking straw just into the bag and sucked the air out... I worked pretty well.)

Next i put the fillet into the cooler shut the lid and let it set for about 2 1/2 hours....

After two and a half hours i took the bag out and seared it once more for about 30 seconds on each side and served it.  
It turned out beautifully!!  Perfectly Medium Rare from edge to edge.  I was pretty impressed with how well it worked.

The water temperature only dropped 3 degrees throughout the cooking time which was a lot less than i expected.  It turns out that coolers do just a good a job of keeping things hot as they do keeping thins cold.

Much of sous vide cooking is done over much longer cooking times and for those the beer cooler would not work unless you were continually adding hot water  to keep the temperature up, but then that would seem to take away from at least part of the benefits of sous vide.

I'm not sure if the beer cooler is going to be a regular tool in my cooking tool arsenal, but I'm sure that I will use it again as the possibilities are if nothing else intriguing.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Divine Hash Browns

Shea and I love to eat out. Clearly this is no surprise to most of you. We especially, well at least up until we moved out here to Tennessee, loved to go out for breakfast. We love eggs, we love toast, we love coffee and of course... we love breakfast potatoes.

Most breakfast potatoes are good. It's hard to go terribly wrong with potatoes fried in butter and served along side eggs. But they are almost never great. Most seem to fall somewhere in between edible and pretty good. Most...

A few years ago, sitting in a diner across the table from Shea somewhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I sat staring down at a plate of eggs, bacon and hash browns, probably with a look of child-like glee pasted all over my face, thinking that the bite of potatoes I had just eaten was divine.

I'm pretty sure that on that cold rainy morning, God himself was making hash browns in that greasy spoon of a diner. They were perfection. Every bite was crispy, buttery, salty and potato-ey.
They did not want for anything; not ketchup or hot sauces, not salt or pepper, not even a broken egg yolk pooling into them on the plate.

Before I knew it they were gone, and my eggs and bacon stood untouched. I seriously considered ordering another plate of hash browns but was afraid that the next plate would just disappoint.

I had just eaten perfection... how could you improve on that?

But even more importantly... how could I replicate that at home?

A few months ago I came across an article in the New York Times Magazine about the perfect hash browns. I was reminded of that diner in the U.P. and once again got excited about the possibility of once again tasting "divine" breakfast potatoes.

I decided to make them.

It turns out that they were strikingly similar to the ones we had in the U.P. And although I was slightly disappointed to find out that they had probably not been made by God himself, I was happy to know that mere man could make hash browns like this. A little divine... and definitely good eats.

If you plan on making these, make sure you read the whole recipe and notes first. They aren't hard, but do take some planning ahead.


4 Yukon Gold Potatoes

Note: I have made this a few times and the type of potato really does matter.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Peel the potatoes and place them in a large pot of cold water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and cook until you can poke a bamboo skewer through a potato, 40 to 50 minutes, being careful not to overcook. Drain and set aside to cool and dry completely, preferably overnight in the refrigerator. (over night seems to be best. That way when you wake up to make breakfast they are ready to go already.)

2. Meanwhile, clarify the butter by melting it in a small saucepan over medium heat. When foam forms, use a spoon to remove and discard it. Cook, skimming, until the butter stops bubbling. Take care not to brown it. Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth and reserve. You should have about 5 tablespoons.

Note: you could use vegetable oil instead of clarified butter but the flavor is not going to be as good. I actually just clarify a bunch of butter and keep it in a little Tupperware container in the fridge. It will last even longer than unclarified butter and is great to have on hand.

3. Heat a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Grate the potatoes on the large side of a box grater into a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix lightly. Add 3 tablespoons clarified butter to pan, swirl until it begins to melt and add the shredded potatoes. Cook until golden brown and crusted on the bottom, almost (but not quite) burned in parts, about 15 minutes.

Note: Don't be afraid to let it cook. It will be almost burnt but it will also be delicious.

4. Use a wide spatula to flip the potatoes, or quickly invert the pan onto a dinner plate and gently slide them back into the pan. Add remaining butter around the sides of the potatoes and cook the second side until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Cut into wedges or spoon onto plates. Serve with eggs, bacon or whatever.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes

2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups + ½ cup buttermilk
½ cup (2.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted but not hot
vegetable oil for the pan

1. Combine the oats and 2 cups of the buttermilk in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (I only refrigerated for about 2 hours, but it was still delicious)

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the remaining ½ cup buttermilk, the eggs, and then the butter into the oat mixture. Fold the flour mixture into the batter.

3. Brush a large nonstick skillet or griddle with vegetable oil; heat over medium heat. Spoon scant ¼ cups of the batter onto the pan. Cook until the sides of the pancakes start to look dry and the bottom is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip, then continue to cook until the second side is also golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining pancakes, adjusting the heat if necessary. If you’d like, you can keep the pancakes in a 200 degree oven on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet until the whole batch is cooked.



Friday, January 15, 2010


Smoothies are a great healthy way to kick start your metabolism and your day!

We made this smoothie this morning:


  • 4 ounces plain, low-fat soy milk
  • 4 ounces pomegranate juice
  • 4 ounces frozen banana (we used fresh)
  • 4 ounces frozen strawberries
  • 4 ounces frozen blueberries
  • 4 ounces frozen raspberries


Combine the soy milk, juice, banana, strawberries, blueberries, and the raspberries in the carafe of a blender. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 8 hours.

In the morning, or when the fruit is partially thawed, put the carafe on the base of the blender, start at the lowest speed and slowly accelerate to medium, until you achieve a vortex. Blend on medium for 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and blend for an additional minute. Serve immediately.

Tips: We did not leave the fruit overnight to thaw. We simply put it all in the blender when we got up, went and got ready and 30 min. later it was ready to blend and drink before we hit the road to start the day.

Do you have any great smoothie recipes? Let us know!

Shea & Richard

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hail Caesar Salad

Richard and I love Caesar salads. Every restaurant we go to, we have to try their take on the dish. And with a pretty basic lost of ingredients, it's amazing how many different ways there are to prepare it.

Just recently, watching Good Eats, we discovered where the famous salad came from...

Cesar Cardini, an Italian born restaurant owner, tossed the first Caesar salad at his restaurant in Tijuiana on July 4th, 1924. The restaurant had been unusually busy that day and many supplies had run out. According to Cesar's daughter, Rosa, he put the salad together with what was on hand and tossed it table-side to add flair. It caught on. Over the next 20 years, the restaurant, which relocated to L.A. after Prohibition ended, prospered and began bottling and retailing their dressing.

One of our favorite caesar recipes comes from Alton Brown. It contains a light, citrus dressing and homemade croutons.


  • 1 loaf day old Italian bread (of course Richard made his own)
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 heads romaine lettuce, inner leaves only
  • 7 grinds black pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 6 drops Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut 1/2 to 3/4-inch croutons from the loaf of bread and place on a baking sheet and put into the oven until dry but not browned.

Use a mortar and pestle to mash the garlic with 4 tablespoons of oil and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Strain the oil into a skillet over medium heat. Add the dried croutons and fry, tossing constantly until all of the oil is absorbed and the croutons turn gold. Set aside.

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the eggs and cook for 1 minute. Chill in ice water to halt cooking. Set aside.

In a very large bowl, tear lettuce and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining kosher salt and the black pepper. Add the remaining olive oil. Toss well. Add the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Break in the eggs. Toss until a creamy dressing forms. Toss in Parmesan cheese and serve with croutons.

Bon Apetit!


Monday, January 11, 2010

St. Francis

Richard and I had been hearing the hype about this place for months. And after a failed attempt to eat dinner here a few months ago (perhaps if we had actually looked at their website we would have realized that they aren't open on Mondays, but we tend to make last minute decisions in the car) we finally made it.

Dave Rex, the GM and part owner of the venture, has worked for both of us in the past and we were excited to see what was in store knowing his food and design background.

It definitely lived up to our expectations.

We had the forbidden rice bowl (made with black rice, which neither of us had ever tried) mixed with fresh vegetables flown in exclusively from a small farm in California and topped with a light sweet and spicy sauce. The rice was cooked perfectly and the vegetables were fresh and full of flavor. It was a great vegetarian option.

We also tried the roasted pork chop with sweet corn polenta, brussel sprouts and a whole grain mustard sauce. Its availability is limited so get there early and order it before they run out. Between the two of us we could barely finish it, the flavors were so rich and heavy; but we were determined. It was too good to leave any bite un-ravished.

At this point we were sure it couldn't get any better. The pork chop was near perfection and had far exceeded our expectation of this or any restaurant.

But then we had the warm sticky toffee pudding with sweet cream gelato. I'm actually drooling while I'm writing this; it was that good.

My only complaint about it was that I wanted more. More caramel sauce and more gelato. More, more, more. My hips, however, are happy.

The restaurant itself is young. Many things are unfinished and unpolished. But the atmosphere is warm and urban and the food speaks for itself.

It's definitely worth the drive... just don't try and go on a Monday. ;-)


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Almost No Knead Bread.

It's about time we got back into this blogging thing...

This post is inspired by a buddy of mine. The other day he asked me for a good easy bread recipe.

I gave him the recipe that follows... Not only is it it easy, but it yields some of the best tasting bread I have ever made at home. I almost feel like I'm cheating every time I make it.

I would love to take credit for it as my own, but I stole it from Cooks illustrated, who actually stole the idea/methodology for a recipe the New York Times printed a few years back (see link: who in fact took it from this guy Jim Lahey, who kinda revolutionized the way home bakers are baking (takes a breath).

You'll will see what I mean when you make the bread.

A few notes before you begin:

An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid yields best results, but the recipe also works in a regular cast-iron Dutch oven or a heavy stockpot.

They suggest using a mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser, (I use whatever I have in the fridge, it's never Budweiser, but it always turns out great)

The bread is best eaten the day it is baked but can be wrapped in aluminum foil and stored up to 2 days.

Ok now the recipe.


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface (or like the dough used in these pictures 2 cups AP and 1 cup whole wheat)

1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces)

1 tablespoon white vinegar


1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

(don't over think this first step... don't kneed it at all just mix until it comes together. Also the closer you get to an 18 hour fermentation the better the flavor)

2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside a 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger (about 2 hours).

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 205-210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

I know that the total time it takes from start to finish is long, but the actually time working on the bread is only 10-15 min.

So planning ahead is a necessity- but one that's well worth the wait.

Bon Apetit.