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All posts for the month October, 2007

So I’ve been sidelined with the flu the past two days, hence my quiet over the past few days.  Thinking about food is torture right now, though I can now throw together an entire cocktail party based on the BRAT diet.

I’ll try to catch up later this week.

I finished watching tonight’s episode of the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef and I have to say that I find myself a little underwhelmed. Frankly, there is a lot to like about this show and only a little I find compelling.  Sadly, the part that I find compelling is just compelling enough to keep me watching.

I think I just find the whole concept rather silly.  Despite the fact I am familar with the work of Chefs Sanchez and Symon from previous Food Network shows (primarily Melting Pot), I am finding it hard to take these chefs seriously.  While the show is free advertising for each of the chefs’ careers, I have always looked at reality TV to be the domain of the amateur the up-and-comer, and the money-driven.  I also think that through the magic of editing, a lot of the chefs are going to get reputations they may not want.  (The series has made Aaron Sanchez look both apathetic and whiny, Michael Symon incapable of taking anything seriously, and Chris Costentino look like a real jerk.  Though his jerkdom appears to be eclipsed by that of judge Michael Ruhlman, though I think that has more to do with editing.)

Also, despite my love of all things Alton Brown, episode 4’s homage to Good Eats was out of sync with the melodramatic seriousness for which Iron Chef is famous.  If we are to believe this show is the passion of a reclusive billionaire in love with food, why is he allowing Brown to have his moment of silliness where he talks about about food preparation while dodging the behinds of airline food workers?

Oh, and didn’t we already see airline food done in Top Chef

What I am loving is the dishes the are prepared.  I am constantly amazed by the quality and the creativity of the chefs.  Chef Costentino’s continued references to historical food has me drooling to do research on what the past can teach us about modern food.  I have enjoyed the stronger culinary points of veiw offered by Chef Morou and Chef Sanchez.  They are making things that are far outside of what I could hope to do given that time frame.  Then again, the impossible dish is one thing that Iron Chef brings to the Food Network.  Whereas Emeril, Rachel Ray, Brown, Sara Moulton, Bobby Flay, etc. are cooking things that can be repeated (with practice) in a home kitchen, Iron Chef is the domain of the unusual, the outlandish, and the delicious.

I am getting that with The Next Iron Chef and that is why I keep watching.  Even if my two favorite chefs have been kicked out of the competition.

So I’m having one of those nights where I’m sitting in front of my computer trying to figure out what recipe to share and all that came to me was “Recipe: Chocolate Chips.” 

1) Drive to the store 2) Buy cookie dough 3) Drive home 4) Read instructions.

And I think maybe my subconcious is telling me something.  With one major deadline over and another coming up, I think I am going to hug find the boy and make a mess in the kitchen because that’s why I cook.  I cook because my dad pulled me into the kitchen and we made a mess.  The food might not have tasted great (though my Dad is an excellent cook), but we had a lot of fun.

So if you’re reading this, feel free to stop.  Head into the kitchen and make some memories of your own.  I’ll be back tomorrow starting off my first Theme Week covering new and unique spices.  Let’s spend today and tomorrow remembering that food is more than just sustenance for the body, it’s sustenance of the spirit, too.

Well now I’ve stepped in it.  I’ve decided to tackle the topic of how to simmer food.  This is one of those topics that illicits great debate on exactly what the proper way to simmer is, what temperature to use, and how best to deliver heat to the simmering liquid.  Before we get into the particulars, a definition is in order.  Dictionary.com defines simmering as “to cook or cook in a liquid at or just below the boiling point.”  Simmering is also sometimes called stewing, poaching, scalding, braising, and (erroneously) boiling.

In other words, food is placed in a (flavorful) liquid and cooked at a temperature anywhere between 175 to 200 degrees, depending on which cookbook you read.  Ideally, one should shoot for 180 degrees because it is hot enough to cook the food, but cooks the food slower than a 200 degree liquid.  No matter what temperature you choose, it must be less than a full boil (212 degrees) or else you are no longer simmering, you are boiling and that is a different cooking methodology all together.  Also, no matter the temperature, the liquid should have bubbles forming on the bottom of the pan that pop before they reach the surface (unless you are simmering something like oatmeal which just will not bubble.)

What will happen is as the cooking liquid reaches about 105 degrees, the liquids inside the food start to cook out of the food into the cooking liquid and at a 160 degrees the collagen in the food starts to breakdown allowing the food to reclaim juices it lost and some of the liquid.  Which is all well and good except that beef and fish are cooked when they reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees, pork at 155, and chicken is cooked at 165.

So as a cook, you want to get the liquid to a temperature above 160 degrees and keep it there, but the food itself should be pulled out of the liquid when its internal temperature is around 140 degrees.  That means you get to watch a thermometer to make sure the food does not get over done.  Remember the part about simmering at 180 degrees?  That comes into play here.  If the liquid is at 180, the internal temperature of the meat will rise slower than 200 degrees allowing you the cook the freedom to not stand over the pot.

So with all that thrown at you, here is how to simmer:

  1. Make a flavorful liquid.  Just like boiling, you want to cook the food in something that has some taste to it.  There are a number of options: poaching in wine, broth/stock, or brine.
  2. Bring the liquid just barely to boil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
  3. If you are simmering cold food, add it now.  If not, wait until step 5.
  4. Turn the heat down so the liquid just stops boiling.
  5. If you are simmering warm food, add it now.
  6. Watch the simmering pot until the food is thoroughly cooked.  If the liquid starts to boil, lower the heat slightly, and pull the pot off the burner until the boiling dies down.

Any questions?  Feel free to send them my way.

Thanks to Ochef for giving me the temperatures at which the liquids and collagens breakdown.

In a episode of Dinner: Impossible, Chef Robert Irvine was tasked with preparing a cocktail party for a fashion designer in New York.  During this challenge, he put together an amazing spread of finger foods including some awesome looking chorizo taquitos (he also did a salmon mousse which inspired the one I blogged on earlier.)

A few days after I watched the episode for the tenth time, I had a day at home and plenty of time to cook so I went to my local Whole Foods and browsedthe aisles when lo and behold what did I see?  Soyrizo…soy-based chorizo.

Now, my experience with chorizo is that it is very greasy.  In the hands of an untrained chef, chorizo can overpower everything else in a dish.  But this…this was soyrizo.  Could it be good or would I be just another untrained chef?

When I got home, I squeezed the soyrizo into a bowl (despite the fact it was packaged to looked like sausage, it was really a paste) and cut it with some sour cream (Robert used creme fraiche, but I had not thought to buy any.)  I then rolled up the taquito, pan fried it until crispy and served it with some guacamole.  It was awesome!

What you need:

  • One package of soyrizo (all I can buy locally is Melissa’s Produce in the same size.)
  • 4-6 tablespoons of sour cream (depending on your preference)
  • one package of flour toritillas
  • olive oil
  • To make the guac: 4 avacados, 1/2 a red onion, 1/2 tomato, 1 jalapeno, 2 limes, 1/2 bunch of cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic powder
  1. Squeeze the soyrizo into a bowl and spoon in the sour cream.  The more sour cream is added, the more the mixture begins to taste tangy and sour.  Personally, I am not a big fan of sour cream, so I stop at four.  Some may go as high as six tablespoons without overpowering the soyrizo.
  2. Heat the mixture in a skillet over medium heat.  Stir to prevent burning.  Remove the mixture before the sour cream separates.
  3. Coat each tortilla with the soyrizo/sour cream mixture and roll into a cigar.
  4. Preheat a skillet over medium.
  5. Determine how many taquitos you can fry in the skillet so that there is space between them.  I have a ten inch skillet and I can comfortably put in four at one time.
  6. Add one tablespoon of olive oil per taquito you are going to fry.  Wait a few seconds for the oil to get hot.
  7. Cook the taquitos on one side until it gets crispy, about 2 minutes.  Flip and cook the other side an additional two minutes.
  8. Remove to a cookie rack or a plate lined with paper towels to get rid of excess oil.
  9. Repeat until all taquitos are cooked.
  10. To make the guac, remove the fruit of the avacados, dice the tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos and mix in a bowl with the juice of the limes, some cut cilantro, and salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.

That’s it.  This dish is good even for nonvegetarians as the soyrizo is packed with spicy flavor, but is not nearly as greasy.

Enjoy!

This is another recipe I created in my quest for chicken for the next issue of BIAO Magazine.  I really liked how it turned out with several different flavors going on at once: the citrus tang of orange with the spiciness of ginger and a little soy and garlic to bring it all home.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 6 oranges or 1/3 cup of orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  1. Trim any excess fat from the chicken and cut into cubes if desired.
  2. Roll the oranges on the counter.  This will make them easier to juice.  Cut each orange in half and squeeze out the juice into a bowl.
  3. Make a marinade by combining the orange juice, grated ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir vigorously.
  4. Taste the marinade.  It may be a little strong, but it should generally taste like something you would want to eat.  If not, add a little more salt and pepper.  Retaste.
  5. Add the chicken.  If you have time, marinate in the refrigerator for up to thirty minutes.  If you need to get dinner on the table quickly, go ahead and move to step 6.
  6. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and dump the chicken into skillet with the marinade.  Cook until the chicken has an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  7. Serve over rice or lettuce leaves.

Enjoy!  And if anyone tries this recipe and the plum chicken recipe, tell me which one you like better!

Hi everyone,

I have added an “Editorial Calendar” to the site which shows what you can expect each day from the site.  If there is anything that you do not see or if you have any feedback, please email me.

I am also announcing Theme Weeks.  Every other week, I will be presenting four different recipes centered around one theme or ingredient.  If you have a theme, please shoot it my way.  I’d love to hear it.

Lastly, I want to start a recipe exchange amongst my readers and other food bloggers.  If you would like to guest post on Blog Well Done, if you have a recipe you would like me to try and then review online, or if you need a guest poster, please contact me.  I would love to have other passionate foodies post their recipes, secrets, and food tips.  In particulary, both vegetarian and vegan cuisine are underrepresented on the blog, so if anyone knows a good veg*n recipe, I’d love to hear about it.

Also, I am a food writer who never gets tired about writing about the latest dish, so I would develop a new recipe for your blog using guidelines you give me!

I was inspired to write this post while standing at the cheese counter trying to find a good soft goat cheese and wearing a facial expression nestled comfortably between bewildered and desperation.  I was trying to find a cheese for one of my wife’s favorite dishes (queso al horno) and I found myself totally mystified by both the array of cheeses and the fact that I had a very definite picture of what I wanted in my head and nothing that lay before me appeared to match it.

Immediately I was thankful that I was at Whole Foods.   Yes, I know it is a supermarket, but Whole Foods attracts good people who are knowledgeable and passionate about their work and they carry high end product.

Realizing I was a bit lost, I asked one of the people behind the cheese counter about the various soft goat cheeses.  My choices were  immediately narrowed down to three.  Then it got hard again.  Which one?  The white goat cheese, the white goat cheese or…the white goat cheese? 

Then it hit me.  Any cheese shop worth its salt would allow me to sample.  So I asked with a bit of hesistancy if I could try a sample.  The nice lady was more than happy to give me the opportunity and in doing so, solved the mystery of which cheese I should buy.

It also reminded me that that I do not really like plain goat cheese, but that’s another story.

 So when going to buy cheese and the shredded stuff will not do:

  • Go to a reputable cheese seller.  A locally run cheese store is best, but Whole Foods is good, too.
  • Ask questions.  If the person behind the counter does not know the answer or is unfriendly, go somewhere else.  Find someone passionate about their work.  The final dish can only benefit.
  • Sample.  You will not know its good unless it hits your taste buds.  On the other hand, remember you are buying cheese, not bucking for a free dinner.

Anyone have a favorite goat cheeses or favorite goat cheese recipes?

Over the weekend, I picked up a copy of Robert Irvine’s Mission Cook, a biography/recipe book from the hard nosed, no-nonsense, skilled beyond measure chef from Dinner: Impossible.  If you have not seen this show, it is amazing.  Supposedly, Robert is given no foreknowledge of his task for the show, things like catering a governor’s inaugral ball or feeding hundreds of people a fashion designer’s party, and he is only given eight to twelve hours to buy and prepare the food.

He goes from zero to buffet like no man I have ever seen.

All hero worship aside, his book is well worth the read.  The man has lived an amazing life, starting with the opening pages where he recounted a tale from his days in the Navy where he had to feed over three thousand people who were escaping war torn Yemen with only what he could quickly bring ashore from his boat.  Amazing.

Even better, the recipes are not impossible.  They can be tackled and mastered easily by people of all skill levels including a rib recipe in the first chapter than I have commited to memory.

So Robert, if you read this, I got a Dinner: Impossible for you.  Let’s feed a few hundred people with me as your only sous chef.  Let’s see how you pass that mission!  (Somehow I think it would involve him sending me for groceries while he did all the work. :)) 

Which is okay as long as I get to chop something with his $250 a piece titanium coated knives.

In a recent article for BIAO Magazine, I was asked to put together a healthy cocktail party spread.  I decided to make the centerpiece of the spread a chicken dish that would focus on that elusive combination of light and tasty.  I tried several different recipes before finding the one that worked best with party concept.  You will have to find a copy of the magazine to see which chicken made it, but here’s one I liked that did not quite fit the theme.

  • 4 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 2 tablespoons of salt plus one more pinch
  • 1 tablespoon of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of mustard powder 
  • 5 plums (I used 2 black, 3 red, but you can use all of one type), diced in quarter inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 serrano chili, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider (apple or grape juice would also work)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  1. Trim the fat from the chicken and cut into cubes no more than one inch by one inch.  The size of the chicken is not as important as keeping the cubes roughly equal so that the chicken cooks evenly.
  2. Make a spice rub by mixing the Mix the salt, pepper, and mustard in a bowl.
  3. Coat the chicken with the spice rub and set aside for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the plums, pinch of salt, ginger, garlic, and serrano to a skillet over medium heat.  Cook for about three minutes.
  5. Add the cider and put the heat on medium low.
  6. The sauce is ready when the cider is reduced by half.  It should still be a little runny as it will be cooked again with the chicken.
  7. Heat a second skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.   When the chicken is almost cooked, ladel in the plum sauce and continue to cook until the chicken is finished.  (You may need to do two batches.)

Serve over rice with a side of soy sauce.