Cooking tagged posts

Game of Thrones Style Memorial Day Feast

Summer unofficially kicks off with the celebration of Memorial Day. Beaches and pools are open, the weather (generally speaking) starts to cooperate, and grilling related commercials dominate television. For the first time, we can actually say that “winter is NOT coming.” No celebration would be complete without ample food and drink, but sometimes we’d rather just skip the menu planning and move onto the part where we devour delicious food in between the clinking of glasses.

This year, we’re going to try and make your party planning easier, by designing a feast suitable for any party celebrating the beginning of the summer season. And when planning a feast, where else would we take inspiration from than Game of Thrones?  What does George RR Martin’s epic have to do with Memorial Day? Nothing, but who says  we can’t celebrate both? Also, considering what is on the horizon for that show, we may all need a bit of a pick me up afterward.

Read More

Cook’s Recipe: Beer Braised Pork Tacos

The mood in the Thespian Hall is raucous. Another long Athasian day has ended, and the merchants and adventurers finally taking shelter from the oppressive heat are restless. Atrix dodges back and forth among the tables, refilling ales and trying to settle customers who claw at her, some of them literally. The drink will only sustain them for so long, Atrix retreats to the kitchen to find her father curiously doting over several large pots.

“Father, we’ve no food to serve. You said the bounty was great this evening, but nothing’s left the kitchen all day.” Her father holds up a hand. “Peace Atrix. The world – well, what’s left of it – isn’t going anywhere, and sometimes glory comes to those with patience.” As he speaks he extracts a long fork from one of the pots and begins shredding a gargantuan slab of meat. The juices flow off of it as the meat falls to pieces, the smell of spice and ale wafting up to Atrix’s nose. Her father smiles,”Time, a stout fire, and the finest cuts of mekillot in Balic are all we need to quell the hunger of the masses. Come, bring the platters and don’t forget the sauces! The Elven chiles were especially fresh…”

Read More

Cook’s Recipe: Green Chile Crema

My love for green chiles is well documented. And while using them as a topping for everything from a cheeseburger to eggs Benedict is great, eventually you start looking for more creative ways to incorporate them. Enter, the crema – a term for a cream based sauce that is generally the consistency of thin yogurt. It usually involves steeping or cooking various flavors in a base of heavy cream.

In this case we’ll be using green chiles, which work fantastically in a crema because the cream and the heat from the chiles balance each other nicely. You’ll still get the heat from the peppers, but then immediately the refreshing cool of the cream.

Remember, dairy counterattacks Capsaicin really well because of the fat molecules. Add in a few more flavors to round things out and you’ve got the perfect green chile delivery system. It also acts as a nice ying and yang with a good barbeque sauce.

Read More

Armory Review: Robocup Measuring Cups

My assortment of kitchen utensils keeps getting weirder and weirder. What started with just some nerdy mugs blossomed into fine items like Pastasaurus and Mix Stix – it makes my kitchen look like someone stapled together Think Geek and Williams-Sonoma catalogs. It also means I own a lot of weird stuff that looks cool.

The Robocup Measuring Cups by Kikkerland sound like a great idea. It is four plastic measuring cups (quarter, third, half and one) that stack up to form a 50s-looking robot. Robocup looks great all stacked together on my shelf, but there is more to measuring cups then just how they look.

Made up of ABS plastic, Robocup is a solid construct – too solid for my liking. The oddly shaped pieces mean actual measuring isn’t the easiest. The awkwardly sharp angles make for items that just aren’t that useable – measuring cups have handles for a reason! If Robocup was made of a softer, more flexible rubber, he would work a lot better. At least it’s dishwasher safe!

While I don’t see myself using Robocup very often (I’m sticking with my beaten set that originally belonged to my grandmother), there’s no denying how cute the guy is. If you have a kid who wants to help out with baking (or you’re trying to find a way to get the kid to be interested in helping), these cups are a fun way to do that.

Read More

Cook’s Recipe: Lemon & Basil Pasta Salad with Grilled Shrimp

Bertram Grimm sighed softly as he walked through the garden. This was always Andrea’s specialty. He hadn’t known it at the time, but now he could see that her penchant for cultivating such a diverse array of flora may have been partially due to latent magic. That didn’t matter now, and despite all of his attempts, he’d only been successful at keeping a few select herbs alive long enough for them to bear results.

He frowned for a moment at the basil plant, which had taken over much of the space, uncertain what to do. Taking out his pocket watch, he noted the time, then being sure no one could see over the fence, muttered a small incantation and pointed at the plant. Invisible tendrils of force swept over the plant and several basil leaves were snipped and as if carried on a soft breeze, landed gently in a bowl beside the planter.

Grimm laughed a bit as he retrieved bowl to go back inside. He always did when he risked crafting a universal paradox all to complete a mundane task. It didn’t matter the danger, the magic always made him feel closer to his beloved. Checking his watch once more he stepped back into the kitchen now sure of his intentions. Tonight called for something light, a pasta salad perhaps. Andrea would have liked that.

Read More

Cook’s Method: Garlic Bread and Too Much of a Good Thing

Garlic bread may be one of the more ubiquitous foods out there. You’ll find variations on it in all sorts of cuisines which makes tracing its origin nearly impossible. The most obvious answer is to look at Bruschetta in Italian cuisine, but that’s almost as arbitrary a point as anywhere else.

Going to a restaurant menu doesn’t really help us any further as garlic bread is no longer relegated to the domain of a side dish. Many restaurants, Italian or otherwise, now serve garlic bread, garlic knots and whatever other derivative you can think of as stand alone appetizers regardless of how the rest of the menu is formulated.

With so many places making it you’re going to run into your fair share of good and bad. My ex-girlfriend adored garlic bread with cheese, so much so that in the course of a year in college I think I tried garlic bread from 50 different restaurants (if I’m exaggerating, it’s not by much). When garlic bread is really good, it might be the part of a meal you remember most. When it is bad it’s just a huge let down.Like many other dishes, garlic bread isn’t hard to make or expensive at all (thankfully), but with some extra care for ingredients and a little diligence you can make it amazing.

To make good garlic bread we need to talk about three key features: the bread, the filling and the cheese. Traditionally, cheese hasn’t been a major part of the dish, but it appears more and more. I suppose you could leave it off, but why would you? Especially since I have discovered the perfect garlic bread cheese, but more on that in a moment.

Read More

What is American Cuisine?

Ponder this question for a moment. What exactly is American food? If someone asked you how would you answer?

There are some pretty obvious answers, but rather than a unifying theory of food, you’d probably just answer with individual examples. Those examples aren’t going to be totally correct either. Pizza? Nope, that’s Italian. A hot dog? Sorry German. A really great steak dinner? Sorry, but you’ve got France to thank for that one. Maybe, the hamburger? Actually it is also derived from German cuisine. Apple pie? They’ve been making pies in Europe since the dawn of time. And while turkey might be American, the roasting of birds also has a long and proud tradition in Europe.

The only thing you can call “American Cuisine” and be accurate, is barbecue, Pure and simple. Within barbecue there are many regional permutations which resemble the same differences that you find within cuisines all over the world.

The rest of the cuisine is made up of various derivations and bastardizations of the other cuisines of the world. Several factors contributed to this. We lack some of the same ingredients in both character and quantity. Large immigrant populations who brought traditional cuisines to our shores were forced to adapt to different resources. Many of those groups began to interact and their cuisines fused together. Still other traditions were simply lost to history with the passing of generations.

So I guess the answer to the question is the same one we can use when asked what is America?

A melting pot. The ultimate in fusion cooking. I would love to see Outback put “a fusion restaurant” sign out front but I sense that might lead to confusion.

Read More

The Absolute Value of Sausage

Every ingredient in the kitchen has a value. It is easier to define the value of certain ingredients over others, for example eggs. If we were to apply a numerical score to every food item eggs would score extremely high. They can be the main focus of a dish or provide the necessary additions to pull a recipe together.

Ignoring individual cuisines or regional cooking practices (rice will certainly score a higher value in Asian cuisines than in German) the three highest value ingredients might be water, salt, and eggs.

Part of what makes seeing the value in those three easy is that they are base ingredients. It is not difficult to think of recipes that require their addition for a vast array of reasons. However when we look at a more complex ingredient, like chicken or sausage it becomes harder. We tend to focus more on applications where it is the star ingredient and thus it’s overall value is diminished because if it isn’t the center of the dish, we are less apt to use it.

Yet looking closer we see that proteins can be just as valuable. Think of all the uses you can derive from chicken stock; which requires chicken to make.

Read More

The Cook’s Method: Calzones and What’s in a Name?

A calzone by any other name is just a stuffed bread. Call it a calzone, Stromboli, Empanada, or some regional Italian name like Panzerotti and what you have is a savory type of turnover. We could also throw the term pasty in there to really confuse things. Regardless of what we call it, all of them are some kind of dough or bread that is filled with varying ingredients, sealed and baked or fried. The perfect kind of snack or meal: delicious, versatile and simple.

For purposes of this “method” we’ll use the term stuffed bread, even if it isn’t completely accurate. Stuffed breads are a staple at my family gatherings and I’ve employed them at the few parties I’ve hosted myself. They take virtually no effort, can serve several people at a time, and because of their simplicity adapting them to individual tastes isn’t nearly the chore it usually is. Plus, their composition makes keeping them warm and ready to go easy, which is important when you’re trying to guess when those perpetually late guests will arrive.

Read More

Cooking Will Set You Free

You may not currently be aware, but you could be a prisoner in your own life.

In Medium Raw, Anthony Bourdain’s latest tome about the world of food, the grand wizard offers a chapter on “virtue” and puts forward the idea that all men and women should learn to cook, even at a basic level starting around the age of puberty. He goes on at length discussing some of the reasons many young people cannot or do not cook and ends with a list that he argues should stand as all the basic cooking skills that people should learn. These range from rudimentary knife skills, to roasting a chicken and making soups.

It is a smart and engaging chapter, but he doesn’t quite go far enough in arguing why we should all know how to cook. Sure he talks about the importance of family meals to social stability, the health aspects of home cooking as well as cost savings; but frankly the answer is much simpler than that. You will never be independent unless you know how to cook.

Let’s repeat that. You will never be independent unless you learn to cook. You may pay your own rent, tie your own shoes and even wipe your own ass. However, if you can’t cook there’s no difference between you and the infant sucking on mom’s teet, except that the kid is probably getting more action than you are.

Read More