Thursday, December 27, 2007

Let's Get This Party Started Right - Announcing a New Appetizer Category!

Just in time for your New Years party planning; I've added a new video category for Appetizers. Many of the videos I've previously done will make great appetizers or first courses, but I've never had a menu choice for just viewing these types of recipes. Some of the items I picked for the new category were originally filmed as a main courses, but can easily be used as an appetizer also. So, take a look as you plan your festivities in case you've forgotten some of these fabulous finger foods (Now that's some quality alliteration!). Enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wishing You the Happiest of Holidays!

I want to wish all of you, and your families, a very happy holiday, as well as a fantastic and fabulous 2008. I'd like to extend a sincere thanks to all of you for visiting, and contributing to this site. I can't believe the blog isn't even a year old yet. I started posting here in February, but it seems like much longer ago than that. It's been a lot of fun making and sharing these video recipes, and interacting with you. The amount of email and comments I've gotten regarding those who have made my recipes for friends and families (and then taken all the glory without mentioning me) has been staggering, and inspiring.

As you enjoy your holiday feasts, take a few moments to look around the table and remind yourself what a wonderful and magical effect good food can have on people. I will be taking a little break for the Christmas holiday, but will be back soon; filming, posting, and hopefully making some of your food wishes come true. Enjoy!!

Your Friend in Food,
Chef John

Photo credit (c) desi.italy

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Dijon Pan Sauce - Déjà Vu to You Too

I've used pork tenderloin in several video recipes on the site, and I always say the same things; easy to cook, tender, tasty, fast, etc. So, I'm not going to bore you with why I love this cut of pork again. I'm sure you don't want to hear how it needs almost no trimming, and cooks in only about 20 minutes again. No need to explain about the delicious pan sauces that can be made once it comes out of the oven, like this amazing Apple Dijon Sauce. Deglazing, reducing, finishing with butter…you've probably been there and done that.

What I will say however is that if your planning on cooking a holiday dinner, and you're not the most confident cook in the world, you should consider this recipe. It's really hard to screw up, and believe me I've tried. Of course, that's assuming that by now I've convinced you to get a meat thermometer, and you use it on this pork to get a perfect internal temperature for maximum succulence. Teaser Alert: I also will be posting a great, health cauliflower and potato side dish video soon that will be perfect with this roast pork and sauce. Enjoy!
Click here for the transcript and ingredients.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Seared "Wild" Scallops with Pancetta and Leeks - It Only Tastes Hard to Make

The best recipes, especially ones you're making for those holiday dinner parties, are the dishes that only have a few ingredients, are simple and fast to put together, and taste like you spent all day on them. This Seared Scallops with Pancetta and Leeks video recipe I just did for About.com is one of those. It would make a great first course, or you could double the portion for a main course. The three main ingredients go together so perfectly that all you'll have to do is avoid the temptation to add a bunch of other stuff. Your restraint will be rewarded.

Many of the grocery stores are now selling frozen "wild" scallops. I got these at Trader Joes, and they are far superior to the "fresh" sea scallops in the fish case. Those fresh sea scallops are all soaked in a preservative brine to keep them white and prolong the self-life. That's why they have that faint chemical aftertaste, and shrink so much when you cook them. Frozen wild scallops are not soaked in any solutions, and have a much better flavor. They are definitely worth finding and serving. Enjoy!
Click here for the transcript and ingredients.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mushroom Ragout on Garlic Toast - Maybe I Could Be a Vegetarian

No, I couldn't, but when I eat a meatless dish as delicious as this mushroom ragout (pronounced ragoooo), I realize there are plenty of recipes that are just as tasty and satisfying as my favorite meat dishes. Of course, almost anything is good poured over garlic toast, and you'll see a great trick for ultra-fast and easy garlic-scented toast in this video recipe I recently produced for About.com. I did sneak some chicken stock into the sauce, but if you are a vegetarian you can use a vegetable stock and it will be fine.

Whenever I do a video recipe that uses Marsala wine I get lots of emails about what they can substitute. You can't, go get a bottle of Marsala wine. Just regular Marsala, not the sweet dessert Marsala as it is way too sweet to cook with. Ask the person at the wine shop to help you; tell them you are cooking with it and don't want the sweet variety and they will show you the right one. Buy the cheapest one of the selection they give you, and you're all set. Even the least expensive Marsala will be fine for this dish, as long as it's the real stuff, and came from a decent shop. Having said all that, if you must use something else a good Sherry wine (NOT the cooking sherry them sell at the supermarket) will fill in adequately.

Click here for the transcript and ingredients.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Oxtail Stew - A Beef Stew You Can Really Get Behind

This delicious winter stew video recipe, produced for About.com, uses something they call oxtails, but are really just cow tails. Does that make you feel any better? Oxtail stew is probably the most flavorful beef stew possible, as the tail pieces have more connective tissue than just about any other cut of beef you can get, even the shank. This makes for a very satisfying, stick-to-your-ribs (literally, from all the collagen) dish.

Oxtail stew is sort of like eating lobster. Once it's cooked, which takes a looooong time, the meat is very soft and succulent, but nestled in the nooks and crannies of the tailbones. Remember that turkey neck you were sucking on a few weeks ago? It's sort of like that only bigger and more delicious. I won't do any lame "if you're not getting enough tail, try this recipe" jokes. Just watch this clip, and get your tail to the store for some of this delicious beef. I'm sure you'll be very happy with the "end" results. Sorry. Enjoy!
Click here for the transcript and ingredients.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Green Bean and Blue Cheese Gratin - Don't Even Try to Count the Calories

The holidays are when we get to do things we deny ourselves the rest of the year. We give and get gifts we can't afford. We get drunk and tell relatives and friends what we really think of them. And, we eat things so rich, decadent, and delicious that we would never think of making other times of the year. Here's one of those I recently produced for About.com.

This amazingly delicious Green Bean and Blue Cheese Gratin video recipe is such a great combination of flavors. I had this dish at a restaurant in San Francisco called Bruno's and it was love at first bite. Green bean gratins and casseroles are nothing new around the holidays, but the addition of the tangy blue cheese makes for a very memorable side dish. Sure it's rich and loaded with butter-fat, but who cares? Did you hear what Aunt Edna just said about you!? Enjoy.
Click here for the transcript and ingredients.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Subliminal Advertising During Iron Chef? Please Alton, Say it Ain't So!

During a recent Iron Chef battle, a McDonald's logo flashed on the screen for 1/30 of a second. This was caught by someone who had Tivo'd the show and they posted the clip on YouTube. The Food Network blamed a "technical" error. As someone who edits video for a semi-living, I've never accidentally put a completely unrelated frame into the middle of one of my videos. My theory is that they did it intentionally, not as subliminal advertising, but for the publicity they knew the controversy would cause. Watch the clip and you be the judge, I'm going to grab a couple Big Macs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Getting Under the Skin for Great Big, Beautiful, Buttery Breasts!

Yes, this is the actually photo of my Thanksgiving turkey. It was probably the most perfect looking bird I've ever roasted, and I owe it all to a simple trick that I usually use on roast chicken. It's putting a flavored "compound" butter under the skin before cooking. Here is a link to the recipe that I just posted on my American Food site.

Below is the video recipe I did of the chicken demo, which uses a different butter mixture, but shows the same technique. By the way a compound butter is just a fancy culinary term for a flavored butter. Enjoy!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dear Santa, I've Been a Very Good Chef This Year. Can I Please Have a Large Block of Wood?

That's right, if you don’t have one yet, a large, thick (at least 4-inches) wooden butcher block cutting board should be on every cooks holiday gift list. One of the great pleasures in the kitchen is cutting on one of these sturdy boards. The feeling of working on these butcher blocks, compared to the thin plastic versions, is hard to describe. It's like the difference between sitting in a large leather recliner and a flimsy folding deck chair. By the way, the prices have really come down the last few years, and they are surprisingly affordable. I really like the combination of the butcher block cutting board as part of a kitchen cart. I actually included this in a list I just did on my American Food site entitled "The Top 10 "Must Haves" for Cooking Great American Food." If you follow that link you can also see some of the models I've suggested with brands and prices.

This video clip produced for About.com shows an easy 3-step method for cleaning and caring for these great cutting surfaces. I just had a question posted about the safety of wood vs. plastic. Both have pros and cons, and I do use both, but very much prefer the wooden butcher block for general use. If cleaned and sanitized, you should have no problems. As you'll see, I use a simple vinegar solution to sanitize. Some prefer a diluted bleach solution instead. There are many online articles regarding these issues, and I invite you to investigate for yourself. No mater how you clean and sanitize them, the third step, sealing the board with mineral oil, is the real key to a long happy relationship with your butcher block. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Introducing Ron Jeremy's Omelet Diet - Warning: This May Be the Most Disturbing 10 Minutes in Culinary Video History!

Adult film star Ron Jeremy, inspired by Christopher Walken's chicken video recipe, decided he would film his "famous" vegetable omelet. What follows is ten minutes of horrific cooking technique, lame jokes, and Ron's mullet in all it's dyed glory. The reason I called today's post the "Ron Jeremy's Omelet Diet" is for the simple fact that this video recipe is guaranteed to make you lose your appetite for several days after each viewing. With all the food you ate over the Thanksgiving holiday, this is the perfect way to trim off a few pounds before the Christmas feasts. Every time you feel like eating something you shouldn't, simply watch this clip and your hunger will quickly dissipate.

By the way, you can now finally admit you've watched a Ron Jeremy video! I was going to warn everyone to not let the kids watch this clip, but he butchers the attempts at dirty jokes so badly they are indecipherable. I'll apologize in advance for the nightmares this video will cause to viewers of all ages. Someone will have to explain to me how this man became the most popular adult film star in the world. Actually, I changed my mind; please don't explain this to me. Lastly, I should warn all of you right now, any comments regarding Ron's resemblance to me, only with longer hair, will be deleted immediately!

Due to a bug with the Safari browser on the Macs I had to remove this embeded video clip. It was playing automatically without the play button being pressed which rendered my warning useless. If you want to see the clip you can click here. Sorry, Ron.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Get a Grip and Have a Great Thanksgiving: How to Properly Hold a Knife

With all the chopping, slicing and dicing that's done around the Thanksgiving holiday, it's no wonder that there are more culinary-related knife wounds reported this time of year than any other. It's a well-known fact that Emergency rooms all over the country stock up on extra supplies to stitch-up these once-a-year chefs (actually, I just made that fact up, but I bet it's true).

The two causes for 90% of cuts in the kitchen are dull knives and wrong grips. I can't do anything about that dull knife you've been using since I had hair, but I can help with the grip.
When you take a tennis or golf lesson the first thing that's checked is your grip. This video demo I did for About.com shows you the proper way professional chefs grip a knife. This is so important to safe, fast, and accurate cutting. Enjoy

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Squash the Thanksgiving Dessert Competition with this Delicious Brulee!

Yes, yet another gourd-related crème brulee. I did a version of this using canned pumpkin a while back, and while I love the pumpkin version, this is even better! So, since there are going to be all those pumpkin pies around this holiday, why not go with another gourd, and try some butternut squash crème brulee. Why another brulee video recipe so similar to the pumpkin one? Because I was offered money to film it! I told you I've sold out to my corporate masters.

This video recipe, produced for About.com, uses a roasted butternut squash as the base for this "healthy" dessert. Sure it's loaded with cream, sugar and egg yolks, but its squash… come on, it has to be good for you. Besides, since you'll only need half the squash for this recipe, you can also make a nice soup. Stay tuned for a nice butternut squash soup video sometime soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 cup butternut squash puree

3 large egg yolks

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

pinch of salt

Monday, November 19, 2007

About.com: American Food is Live!

Just a quick post to let you all know that the website project I've been working on with About went live on Friday. Thanks for all your patience, support, and kind words of encouragement. If you have been a visitor to this blog for a while you will see some of the content from this site repeated over there, in recipe form, so don't be surprised if you get that 'deja vu' feeling as you look around the site.




Here is the address: americanfood.about.com


It's still very new, obviously, so there's not a ton of content and recipes, but hopefully that will change as I add to it each week. If you have an
y American regional recipes you would like to share please email them to me. By the way, a Guide's success at About is partly based on the number of page views, so please check out the site, as well as spam all your friends and relatives and tell them to explore it as well! I will also send out an email to everyone in my address book, so I apologize if that info is redundant. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Your Salad Forecast: Cool and Crisp with a 100% Chance of Blue Cheese "Snow"

This is one of my favorite restaurant tricks ever. I invented this technique in 1985, after seeing another chef do it at a small café in San Francisco. It is an amazing way to distribute blue cheese over a salad without messing up your fingers, and without having the cheese end up alone at the bottom the of bowl when the lettuce is gone.

This simple trick guarantees a perfect blue cheese portion with every forkful. As you'll see in the video recipe, it does require a plastic rotary grater, which is very inexpensive and easy to find. These graters are great if you ever need to grate large amounts of Parmesan as well, so I think they are a nice thing to have in the kitchen, even if you don't plan on using it to stun your foodie friends with the best blue cheese trick ever! Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

It's Almost That Time! So, Make Your Own Crust and Don't Screw-up the Mashed Potatoes

Those daunting holiday dinners are just around the corner, and while I'm unfortunately still in "can't film any new clips" mode for a few more days, I thought I would post some reruns that may be of use this time of the year. No, I'm not doing a turkey demo. That's the easiest part of the meal. The Food Network's army of talking heads will be doing every recipe and technique ever invented, ad nauseum, for the next few weeks. Not to mention the 8 million how-to-cook-the-perfect-turkey web pages.

So, I'm showing you some of the "harder" things. How to make a simple piecrust, my technique for perfect mashed potatoes, and a few vegetable sides to serve instead of the canned green beans with the canned fried onions. Anyway, here are some links to check out before it's too late:

Home-made Pie Crust: It's NOT that hard.
Mashed Potatoes: Please don't serve gluey potatoes
Roast Sweet Potatoes: So easy, so delicioius
Herb Potato Wedges: Tired of mashed? Check out this old, but delicious clip
Broccoli Gratin: Don't even try to count the calories
Spaghetti Squash: Healthy can be tasty!
Brussel Sprouts: Stop making that face
Stuffed Squash: An excuse to eat more goat cheese
5-Spice Carrots: 5 times better than 1-spice carrots

Enjoy! Lastly, I'm sorry if I don't reply to your comments instantly. It just means I've passed out for a few minutes and will get back to you as soon I come to.
photocredit (c) purpleslog

Saturday, November 10, 2007

WANTED: American Regional Recipes - Don't do it for me, do it for your country!

I'm just about finished with my American Foods site for About.com and I need some help. I'm now trying to gather as many regional American recipes as I can. I have lots of the old standard regional recipes, such as a Cobb salad for California cuisine region, and Johnnycakes for New England, so what I am hoping for from you, my loyal readers/viewers, are lots of interesting local recipes and/or specialties from your hometowns. I know just about every community around the country has one or two unique "local favorites" that would be interesting to share with the rest of the country (and world). The classic example of this would be something like Buffalo Chicken Wings, which started out as a very localized, Western New York oddity. By the way, to all my international visitors, unfortunately I can only use recipes and dishes developed in America.

So, if you have a recipe you can send me please click this link and email me the text. The preferred format would be a MS Word document attachment, but it's fine if you just put it in the email body text. If there is a story that goes along with the recipe, that would be even better (even if you have to make one up). Please let me know where this recipe is from (what part of the country) and include your full name if you want the recipe credited to you. I can only accept "your" recipes, I can’t use anything you just copy and paste from a website. Thanks in advance for anything you would be able to send me, and anything that makes the site will feature you as the recipes creator and you can brag to all you friends that you are now a published culinary author!

photo credit: (c) Flickr user Rick

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Escargot Bourguignon – My Slowest Video Recipe Ever

This video, produced for About.com, features snails cooked in the traditional style of the Burgundy region of France. Do I like snails? No. Do I like Escargot Bourguignon? Yes, because the escargot are drowning in copious amounts of garlic and parsley butter. Do I think that most of the viewers will make this recipe? No. Do I think that some viewers that always wanted to try them will now go for it? Maybe. Do I think this is the most question marks every to appear in the first paragraph of one of my posts? Yes. Should I stop writing like this? Yes.

This is the classic French method for preparing the slow-moving (which makes them easy to run down) delicacy. While it is true these are basically common garden snails, the ones you buy canned, imported from France, are especially plump and flavorful. I believe they are fattened on a special diet of foie gras and truffles before meeting their fate, but I’m not positive about that part. Anyway, this holiday season, when you’re in that fancy gourmet shop buying that gift basket for the person that you can never figure out what to give, pick up a can of snails, some tiny forks, and a very large bottle of wine …and enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 stick of softened butter
1 tbsp minced shallots
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
black pepper to taste
salt to taste, I used about 1/2 tsp
*this is enough for about 32 snails

Monday, November 5, 2007

I Am American Food! …and Other Blog Updates

I did it! I'm just not sure what "it" is yet. I graduated from About's guide program and will now be the guide for the new "American Food" site. I still have to complete a certain amount of content before it goes live in a week or so. Once it does go live, I will have a better idea of how the balance between the two sites will work. As those of you that visit About.com's sites, all the guides have regularly updated blogs. So, eventually you will be able to get your daily-recommended amount of Chef John from two sources.

Good News, Bad News

The bad news first; for the next week or so, I will pretty much will be working exclusively on finishing the American Foods site. I will also be filming some video clips for About, but for the near future no "Food Wishes only" clips. I will, of course, post the About clips I've already done for them as soon as they go live (like the Tuna al Tonno). I will be posting an Escargot video that just aired. Mmm…. snails, I mean, mmm… garlic butter!

The goods news is hopefully the income from the About site, along with the clips I produce for them, will be enough to keep this old chef out of a real job in a professional kitchen (60 hour work week = no blogging), and will allow me to continue to grow and expand this site, and it's foodie resources. Once the About site is build, it's just a matter of maintaining it, and I will be able to get back to a normal schedule, except now I will be able to pay my bills with money, instead of ravioli!

Culinary School Update

Yes, I still plan on putting all the large corporate culinary school out of business. Unless, of course they make me a huge offer to buy my site. I am working with someone right now in determining whether the course should be done as online classes, or as a collection of DVDs. As far as a time frame, I don't expect to have anything available until April 08. This also is related to the newly found income sources, as I will be able to afford to take off some time and just work on the culinary course, as I have done in acquiring the About gig(s).

And the Winner is….Me!

For the second consecutive month I have won the coveted iFoods.tv "Member of the Month" competition! I didn't announce anything the first time I won (I wanted to make sure it wasn't a fluke), but now that I've won two months in a row, I'm going to start rubbing the other competitors faces in it! If you want to check out the site,click this link. It's run by Niall Harbison, one of Ireland's best chefs, and they award points for uploading video clips and photos, etc. Quite frankly, I have crushed the field thus far.

Googlicious

I would like to thank Google, and their army of robots (that will eventually take over the world, and enslave us all) for raising my page rank to a 5 out of 10!! No, I don't really know what that means either, but hey, 5 is higher than 4, right? If any web-marketer techno geeks care to explain the ranking to us normal folk, please do.

Flagcake photo credit: Flickr user Owwee

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

San Francisco Here We Come... Have Some Pumpkin Brulee While You're Waiting

My wife and I are headed back to the City after a hectic, but very enjoyable visit to New York for my sister's wedding (see previous posts). We had a great time at the wedding, and I even managed to finish the About.com try-out. Now, I just have to wait to hear if I am chosen for the job. Regardless of that decision, I'll be back to a normal filming schedule in a day or two. Thanks for your patience, and while we are in the air, here is a nice seasonal re-run that I think you'll enjoy. Even if you already saw this clip, and made this delicious Pumpkin Brulee, go ahead make it again. Remember how good it was? Original post text to follow:

This is a great seasonal twist on the restaurant classic, and also a really great reason to use a blow torch! I recently had a request for a pumpkin flan. While I love to satisfy my viewers every culinary whim, sometimes I just can’t do it. The problem with a pumpkin flan is that the starchy, slightly grainy texture of the pumpkin puree would ruin the smooth, silky mouth-feel which is what makes a flan, a flan. You would basically be left with a crust-less pumpkin pie.

So, I decided to show this delicious Pumpkin Brulee whichs makes for a great winter dessert. The texture is actually closer to a pudding than a classic crème Brulee, and of course, the star of the dish is the crisp, “Brulee,” sugar top. This is great for your busy holiday schedule, since you can make them the day before and then finish torching the sugar before you serve. Crème Brulee blow torches are very easy to find in any kitchen store or online. You also should have a set of oven-proof ramekins. I use mine for many recipes, both hot and cold.


Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
white sugar
pinch salt

Friday, October 26, 2007

Where’s the Beef? It just fell out of the back of a truck, and is now running all over the road!

Today is my sister’s wedding, and I wanted to thank everyone for all the nice wishes and thoughts, and also for all the comments regarding my About.com try-out. I passed the second stage and the final decision comes on Monday. As I said before, I’m sure there are lots of great candidates, with more time, and no weddings to go to applying, so I’m not getting my hopes up too high, but I still appreciate all the encouragement I’ve gotten on this blog.

By the way, regarding the title of the post; my sister Val and fiancé Rick first met when she was a new police officer and received a call that a large truck carrying cattle had the back gate come open and dozens of very large and annoyed cows were running all over the road and terrorizing the surrounding areas. Rick, who is also in law enforcement, happened to be in the same area, and got a call from the dispatcher to help the local cops (Val) round up the cattle. So, that’s how they first met, and the rest is history!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life is Just a Bowl of Top Ramen Noodles

I get lots of email. Lots of great inspiring email, with great questions, and great compliments for me and my videos, and the occasional bizarre request that makes me chuckle. And, while it’s tempting to post some of these, I never have because of the obviously self-indulgent, self-serving nature of such an act. I can’t imagine coming to your favorite food blog and reading a post like “Hey everybody, check out this email and how great they think I am!” Well, I’m making a one-time exception, and posting an email I received today.

As you know from the last few posts, I’m in the middle of a very intense and time-consuming try-out for a position with About.com. If I get it, it would allow me the freedom to continue producing a steady supply of free video recipes for your viewing pleasure. I’ve been up working late into the night, and generally feeling overwhelmed, as I try to get as much done as I can before leaving for my sister's wedding Wednesday. So, the following email came at just the perfect time. Thanks Ginny, you made my day, and I feel like I have gotten my second wind, and will actually somehow pull off finishing this project during my trip. By the way, the email was inspiring enough, but the “P.S” about Rachel Ray made me laugh out loud, and is what really pushed me out of the darkness and into the light. From one former starving, Top Ramen-eating student to another, thanks again!! Here is the email verbatim, followed by an old post I did about Ms. Ray,in case you've never heard of her.

Hi Chef John,

I discovered you on you tube and you are quite a comfort. Just want to say thanks for the great/ entertaining/ informative/delicious videos on your website. I love cooking but find myself short on cash occasionally. Some nights when all I’ve got around are some ramen noodles or a frozen T.V. dinner, (and I just can't bear to eat one more) I turn on the computer and watch a few of your videos. Somehow, it is possible for me to live vicariously through the screen. Basically I feel more satisfied just by watching your food rather than eating mine. Trust me, if I had the extra cash I would be sure to send some your way so I could get some Culinary Karma. Keep up the good work,
Ginny

P.S. Who is Rachel Ray?

Mmm..mmmm…mmmm, Rachael Ray

I like Rachael Ray. There, I said it. It’s not her cooking, or her bubbly on-air personality, or her ubiquitous EVOO, or her 30-minutes meals (wow, she made a tuna melt in 30 minutes!). It’s simply the fact that every other “real” Chef in the country hates her. They talk about her like she is somehow ruining the entire culinary landscape like some kind of inedible weed. She doesn’t claim to be a Chef; she’s just a cute, perky home-cook that has fun in the kitchen, cooking simple, easy to make food. So, to these high and mighty, foam-making, agar agar-loving, sous vide-obsessed, micro-green sprinkling “real” Chefs, I say lighten up! Come on, she just made little meatloaves in cup cake tins! Yummmoo!

Now, I have to admit, I don’t watch her 30-minute meals show, or her talk show (is it still on?), but I do watch her “$40 a day” show. Why? For one reason, and one reason only… the sound/noise she makes after taking that first bite of every meal on the show. It goes a little something like this, “mmm…mmmm.” Whether you’re a fan of the show or not, I hope you enjoy this clip I found on Youtube. Mmmmmm, enjoy!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Back By Popular Demand…The Secret Underwater Pomegranate Trick

I already ran this video demo a long time ago, but when my mother sent me a photo of some “Sweetheart” pomegranates (below right), I thought it would be perfect timing to rerun this clip since this is pomegranate season. By the way, I had never seen a non-red pomegranate before, but she reports the insides are as red and delicious as the traditional varieties. This is a short, but hopefully useful demo for how to remove all those pomegranate kernels without making a big mess. These are great on any fall/winter salads or soups, and of course desserts.
Photo credit, top left, © divenmisscopa

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Important Blog Update: It's all "About" Me, and My Sister's Wedding

For the next two weeks there will be a significant decrease in the frequency of posting videos and other content. I will be leaving for New York next Wednesday for my sister Valerie's wedding, and will be gone a week. In other news, I have applied for a Guide position on About.com to manage one of their new food categories. In order to qualify I must go through a 2 week training period. Once that is over, my work is judged against the other applicants and a guide is chosen. The course is quite involved, and between currently working on that, and leaving for New York, it will be very hard to post much at all.

So, don't be alarmed if you see days go by without any updates. This blog is in no danger. It's healthy, the traffic is continuing to grow, and as soon as I get back, and finish my assignment for About.com, I will resume my regular schedule of prolific production.

I know, I've gladly spoiled you over the last 9 months with almost daily updates, and hundreds of free video recipes. So, I really blame myself for all the emails and comments I'm about to get about me being a lazy, selfish bastard who would rather attend his sister's wedding than stay in San Francisco and film recipes. I completely understand, and it was very tough to choose between my only sibling, and total strangers that I only know through anonymous online comments. I hope you understand my decision, and thank you in advance for your patience. ; -)

The "Chef Hat" Pumpkin - Best Gourd Ever!

My mother-in-law Peggy picked this rare "Chef Hat" pumpkin last weekend and I could not have been happier. I've been complaining for years that botanists and scientists were spending way to much time trying to develop crops that would help feed impoverished countries, and not nearly enough time and efforts developing custom shaped gourds like this. Finally, my voice is being heard, and it's about time! I mean a pumpkin variety shaped like a Chef hat; now that's something I think we all can enjoy. My next request? A pumpkin that comes filled with ready to use pie filling, instead of all those slimy seeds. Okay, UC Davis Agricultural Genetic Engineers, please get to work!

Speaking of large gourds the 34th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off was just held in Half Moon Bay, California. And the winner was… Thad Starr! His record 1,524-pound pumpkin (pictured here) crushed the old record by 300 pounds. I heard on the news that he was a “stay-at-home” father from Pleasant Hill, OR. That makes sense. I don’t think many 9 to 5’ers are winning these types of competitions.

Remember when pumpkins were round and orange? How am I supposed to steal that thing and smash it on the neighbor that used to give us apples for Halloween's porch?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Merluzzo Pasta Puttanesca - Pimp My Cod!

Merluzzo is Codfish in Italian, and I just thought it would look cooler in the title. In case you've never heard of a "Puttanesca" sauce before, it's Italian for "in the style of the whore." I know, it sounds appetizing doesn’t it? But, it really is a fantastic and fast pasta sauce that can be prepared and tossed on plain pasta, or used as a base for a more complex recipe as I have done here. I've taken the basic Puttanesca sauce and added fresh codfish and Arugula to create a very nice, and quite healthy seafood pasta. By the way, it tastes much better than it looks! The black olive tapenade I added makes for a sort of grey and muddy looking sauce, but when you dress it up with a little parmesan on top and more red pepper flakes, it suddenly becomes much more attractive (insert your own prostitute joke here).

Now, as far as the story behind the Puttanesca sauce's origins, there are many stories, some more "colorful" than others. It is pretty much agreed upon that Naples was the birthplace, but that's about all that people don't argue about. What follows are the most common explanations of this delicious sauce; the ladies of the night made this pasta sauce because the irresistible aroma would help draw in customers. It was created as a quick and cheap meal the ladies could eat in between customers. It is hot, spicy, and fast, as are the woman for whom it's named.

Regardless of the true origin, it's a great sauce, and one that should be part of your regular pasta rotation, no matter what your own personal level of virtue happens to be. I've made this version much lower calorie by reducing the usual amount of olive oil and replaced it with stock and wine. Enjoy!




Ingredients:
1 pound fresh cod
2 cups chicken or fish stock (or water)
1 pound pasta
1 cup white wine
2 tbl anchovy paste
2 tbl red pepper flakes
6 cloves garlic
2 tbl olive tapenade or chopped olives
1/4 cup capers
1 bunch Arugula (about 2-3 cups)
2 tbl olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lemon Soufflé Pancakes - Beat it, just beat it!

I was recently commissioned to do a video recipe demo for About.com on the topic of "folding." Of course, this culinary technique is most commonly preformed when introducing egg whites into some type of batter. I was going to show "folding" using some sort of soufflé recipe, but since I already had a cheese soufflé recipe clip on the blog, I decided to use it on something much more common, the humble pancake. 
Every homemade pancake recipe, and almost every store-bought mix, calls for eggs. In almost every case the eggs are simply mixed into the batter and the recipe relies on the baking powder to make the pancakes rise. This is usually fine, but if you use the little extra step of separating the eggs and beating the egg whites, you will create "soufflé" pancakes that will rise to a whole other level...literally. By "folding" in the stiff egg whites, you are introducing millions of tiny air bubbles that expand when the pancake is flipped. As you will see in the video, the site of the pancake rising in the pan is pure magic. Well, actually it's pure physics, but people like magic better than physics.
So, I'm not sure if this is a "folding" video with a bonus pancake recipe, or a pancake demo with a bonus cooking technique included. But, who cares, you're making soufflé pancakes! By the way, this trick will work for any pancake mix that calls for eggs. Enjoy!
Ingredients: 3/4 teaspoon lemon zest 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/3 cup vegetable oil 2 cups milk 2 eggs, seperated

Monday, October 8, 2007

Frittata "Flattata" with Bacon, Potatoes, and Greens

In case you don't know, a frittata is rustic Italian omelet-like concoction. The main difference between an omelet and a frittata, is an omelet is cooked on the stove and served folded, but a frittata is only partially cooked on the stove top and finished under a broiler (or sometimes oven), and served sliced into wedges. What is a "flattata?" It's a made-up, Italian-sounding word. The new pan I used was a bit larger than the one I usually use (12-inch vs.10-inch), so when I sliced it, it looked much flatter that I expected… it looked like a, well, flattata. One of the fun things about cooking, and creating recipes, is you get to name them anything you want; no matter how ridiculous. So, this was deemed the "Frittata Flattata."

Just like omelets, you can use almost anything in these, but this classic combination of bacon, Swiss chard, and potatoes I used is highly recommended. Bye the way, I don't want you to think of this as a breakfast item. It's a wonderful meal anytime of the day or night. You'll hear me mention my Grandfather at the end of the video. He used to make frittatas quite often, but instead of finishing it under the broiler, he would cook it halfway, then put a plate on top of the pan, flip it over and slide it back in the pan to cook the other side. Sometimes it would stick, and only part would "flip," and other times the hot oil would drip on him as he performed this somewhat high-risk maneuver. It was during these moments that I learned all the really good Italian curse words I still use to this day. Enjoy!



Ingredients:
8 eggs
6 strips bacon
1 clove garlic
1 potato
1 bunch Swiss chard
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper to taste

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Time for Sushi? No, Sushi for Time!

Some headlines just write themselves. So, there I was, wracking my brain trying to figure out the perfect gift for my Sushi-loving friend (you know… the one that’s always forgetting things in the oven), and then I saw it; a Sushi (Nigiri to be completely accurate) kitchen timer! How serendipitous!

Okay, I’m sure this sounds like a fish tale, and it is. Well, at least the part about looking for a gift for a Sushi-loving friend. I ran across this very ironic gadget (raw fish on a timer for cooking things?) in the same shop I found the Mario Batali toy, WinkSF. I figured I would post this is case you actually do have to find a gift for a Sushi-loving friend (you know…the one that’s always forgetting things in the oven).

Friday, October 5, 2007

Is This Really a Buffalo Bean?

I came across this incredibly bizarre object being used in a window display at a florist shop near my home. I snapped a couple shots, and asked the florist what in the world it was. It was obviously organic in nature, but I had never seen anything like it. He said it was a “Buffalo Bean,” but that’s all he knew about it. He even snapped one open for me and it had a firm white center. I did a quick search online, and while “Buffalo Bean” did turn up quite a few links, I couldn’t find anything looking even close to this. Does anyone out there know what the hell this is? Is it as evil as it looks? Can I cook with it? Help!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Black Currant and Balsamic Gastrique – Simple Complexity

This video recipe produced for About.com is my take on a classic French sauce, the Gastrique. In its most basic form it’s simply a caramelized sugar and vinegar reduction. The modern Gastrique is usually a vinegar reduction combined with some type of fruit, either fresh, or in jams and preserves. The reason for the “Simple Complexity” in the title is the fact that this sauce is ridiculously easy to make, yet the number of potential combinations is virtually infinite.

The complex layers of flavors that can be achieved by mixing and matching different fruits and vinegars is what makes this such a fun sauce to make and serve. You could use the exact same technique you’ll see in the video and make a new version every time you serve this for the rest of your life. By the way, if you have any smoked duck breast laying around, the combination of Black Currant preserves and aged Balsamic vinegar I used was perfect. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mario Batali Flips Me Off - See why I'm so wound up!

You know you are a true celebrity chef when you have your own wind-up action figure! While browsing in a local gourmet store, WinkSF in San Francisco's Noe Valley, I came upon this amusing, yet somewhat disturbing metal toy (was this some sort of culinary Chucky?).

First of all, if you are going to put a picture of the real chef on the package, then at least make the toy look the sort of the same. Somehow the metal, wind-up Mario lost about 80 pounds. Teresa, the owner of the store offered to wind him up and I filmed a little clip of Mario showing you how to flip a pancake (or whatever Italian for pancake is, I’m sure they have their own word for it).

I should add, before all you Mario fans attack me, I'm a big fan of his. He is a complete stud on Iron Chef, where he’s almost unbeatable.

I can see a whole line of these wind-up celebrity chef toys; An Anthony Bourdain version that smokes a cigarette and eats a kidney, a Bobby Flay version that, once wound, rubs Chipotle pepper on something, etc. If you have an idea for a wind-up version of your favorite chef, please post a comment.

One day, if this blog really takes off, maybe I'll even have my own wind-up action toy! And, you better believe, it's going to have a nice head of hair.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Exotically Delicious 5-Spice Carrots - And, Gratuitous Gong Sound Effects!

I've had a lot of requests lately for easy, but different, vegetable side dishes. So, today's video recipe is an extremely easy, yet unusual, carrot side dish using one of my favorite "secret" ingredients; Chinese 5-spice. This spice mix was invented literally thousands of years ago, and is suppose to season food in perfect balance with the five elementary flavors of Chinese cuisine (and all cuisines for that matter); sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory.

The most common blend is equal parts ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cloves, and pepper. Some versions also use ground ginger and other spices. In fact, as you'll see (and hear…warning: gratuitous sound effects ahead) in the video clip when I looked at my 5-spice bottle's ingredient list I got 7 spices! It had the usual five, but I also got ginger and licorice. I actually could have called it 8-spice, but I only counted the two peppers as one ingredient in the clip. Seven is my lucky number, so that's what I went with.

To me, roasted carrots are so far superior in flavor and texture to the usual boiled or steamed versions. The dry roasting intensifies the sugars and when combined with the Chinese 5, 7, or 8 spice mix, the results are quite delicious. This is the perfect holiday veggie side dish. If you watched the Cider-braised brisket video recipe, you saw these luscious carrots surrounding the bowl. Enjoy!





Ingredients:
6-8 large carrots
2 tbl vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
salt to taste

Saturday, September 29, 2007

George Clooney Update

Many of you may have been wondering what Clooney has been up to since he lost his gig as my online sidebar avatar. I’m sorry to report the news is not good. Apparently he took the dismissal much harder than anyone could have imagined. For those of you that are new to this blog, George served as a celebrity look-a-like for my profile photo for many months (you can see him pictured below during happier times). Once my secret identity was made public by About.com, I replaced Mr. Clooney’s photo with my own, and told him that his services would no longer be needed. At the time he sounded fine with it, and said he still would like to “stay friends.” We’ve all heard that one before.

Anyway, my Hollywood sources tell me that since he was removed from the site, he has really let himself go. As you can see from the photo, he has gained about 50 pounds, and friends say he basically lives on hot dogs, chocolate Pop-tarts, and root beer. George, if you are reading this, please get a hold of yourself! You still have the movie career, and all those beautiful women, and all that money. You’re going to be okay. You just need to move on.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Angel Hair Pasta with Broccoli and Garlic Sauce - And, why most vegetable pastas aren’t very good

Today's recipe video is a very simple broccoli "alia olia," but it's also a good example of the proper way to use vegetables in pasta. I almost never order veggie pasta in a restaurant. The main reason is that the vegetables are almost never cooked properly, or I should say prepped properly. Take this broccoli pasta as an example. In a restaurant the same ingredients would be used, but all broccoli pieces would be added at the same time. So, by the time the stems were tender the tops would be mush, or even worse, the tops would be perfect and the stems hard and crunchy.
You have to have a game plan when doing a vegetable pasta. If you are using vegetables that have different cooking times, you can't add them all at the same time, yet that's what most people do. One strategy is to cut the longer cooking veggies smaller and leave the more tender veggies larger, so they all cook at about the same time. Another trick is to precook the denser vegetables, like carrots, before combining them with less dense things like squash.
In this pasta, I separate the tops and stems of the broccoli. I basically make a sauce with the diced (and much tougher) stem pieces, and the tender flowers at the end so I get a nice uniform doneness. Anyway, all that being said, this is a delicious way to eat that broccoli all those doctors' keeps talking about. By the way, if you're a Chef that remembers the "garnish the edge of the plate" era (explained in clip), I'd love to get a comment from you. What we're we thinking? Enjoy!
(I'm going to try embeding two video players, from both YouTube and Brightcove, in case one of the sources is down, or one works better on your browser than the other. The Youtube embed is a smaller player, but not as temperamental as the larger Brightcove version.)

Ingredients:
1 pound angel hair pasta
1 1/2 pound broccoli
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cider Braised Beef Brisket - Slow Food for Fast Times

Braising is such a great cooking technique in general, and in particular for the new cook. It's such a forgiving method; The meat is always moist, the timing doesn’t have to be exact since it’s virtually impossible to overcook, and easy to put back in to cook longer, and best of all…most braised recipes make there our sauce or jus (natural juice)!

This is a classic beef brisket dish I learned from a German chef many years ago. As you'll see in this video recipe, it takes about 10 minutes to prep, and after a nice, leisurely 3-hour braise, you have an amazingly aromatic, and succulent brisket.

This is a great dish any time of the year, but it is especially perfect on that chilly fall night, or for that holiday dinner party. Since the average brisket runs about 5 to 6 pounds, it’s great for entertaining. And the leftovers? Forget about it; there is nothing like a brisket sandwich.

There is an aroma that this dish produces as the apple cider, garlic, and rosemary vapors somehow escape the tight foil wrap and waft throughout the kitchen and house that no scented candle has ever come close to surpassing. This is a great meal, and the best kind of aromatherapy. I served it with a new carrot dish I just developed that uses Chinese 5-spice with some surprisingly results. I will show that video recipe soon. It was a perfect match for this dish. Enjoy.





Ingredients:
5 pound beef brisket
6 cloves garlic
1 tbl dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste (this needs to be seasoned generously)
1 pint apple cider
2 tbl olive oil
1 yellow onion

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Full Figured Fruit

“I make one little comment about how I really like her pear-shaped figure, and all of a sudden she starts blushing all over.”