Cooking tagged posts

Baker’s Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Buns

The Thespian Hall was near empty this time of day. Most of Baldric had not yet risen, or perhaps more realistically had not yet retired. Most were still out enjoying the last few precious hours before Athas’ sun returned to restore the blistering heat to the desert world. Atrix stood in the back pantry pushing aside containers, frantically searching. Finally she was rewarded when she noticed the small wooden chest near the back corner. Clasping onto it she held it close and returned to the kitchen where her father was rolling down muttering under his breath as he went.

Atrix held out the chest carefully as he flipped it open to reveal a dark rich powder. Cinnamon. Atrix’s father inhaled the sweet smell of the spice and smiled. “Were the very sands of Athas made from this, the world would not be so terrible a place child.” He reached in and pulled out a good handful, sprinkling it down into the dough, folding it in with his hands.

Atrix nodded and closed the chest, returning it to the hiding place back among the taverns other wares. Returning to the kitchen to help her father finish crafting the Hall’s well known breakfast. The food that would fuel Baldric for another day. “You must treat the roll as you would a child” her father would tell her. “Be firm with it, but gentle. Give it time to rest when needed and do not be in a rush to have it grow. Your patience will always be rewarded.”

Hours later, Atrix placed the rack near the window and clicked open the shutters; the smell wafting down the winding streets, calling the Hall’s many patrons back home.

The recipe is based on that of grand artificer Alton Brown’s “Overnight Cinnamon Rolls”. The ingredients and amounts vary somewhat, though the techniques remain mostly intact. Best not to mess to much with a good thing. It should be noted that this process takes awhile. In fact, it is probably more accurate to measure the preparation time for this recipe in days rather than hours.

Yes, I know that probably makes you want to run toward the Pillsbury Druid and his insta-rolls, but trust me. Though time consuming, the results are well worth the effort and leave themselves open to tremendous variation. Plus when you show up at the pot luck or group brunch or family reunion and drop these on the table, you win. As we all know, life is about two things and two things only. Eating delicious food and winning.

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Cook’s Recipe: Onion Dip

 

Bertram Grimm found Special Agent Moore at his desk, reclining back in his chair watching a taped newscast. Papers and files strewn about his desk, Moore didn’t notice him approach. He was too busy digging one chip after another into a bowl, drowning each in dip before shoveling it mercilessly into his mouth. Grimm sighed and flicked open his pocket watch, noted the time, then spoke. “Ethan, just because we often need to track down vicious animals doesn’t mean you need to constantly eat like one.”

He reached down, plucked a chip from the bag and with a deft flick of his wrist wove it gently through the dip then devoured it, savoring the punch that accompanied the creamy texture. “Still…in this case I can appreciate your vigor.”

I have always loved onion dip. Paired with the perfect potato chip it remains a snack that I could eat for hours on end; afterward being dismayed, not because I had consumed entirely too much dairy and sodium, but because there were no more chips. I distinctly remember one New Year’s Eve in my youth that was spent on a couch consuming nothing but chips and onion dip for the whole evening. I don’t remember the ball dropping that year, or even what year it was, but I remember the dip.

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What is Steampunk Cuisine?

A trip to the International Steampunk Festival got Jesse and I really excited, and not just because there was an opportunity for us to contemplate signing up for blacksmithing classes, but because we hoped to discover the food and drink that make up the Steampunk universe.  Prior to the festival the closest guess we could come up with was that dumplings would be heavily involved.

So what exactly is “Steampunk cuisine”? Well sadly, the festival did not provide the answers we sought. That is, unless everyone in Steampunk subsists entirely on kettle corn and various fruits dipped in chocolate and served on a stick. However, if we can define it, we can make it and if we can make it, by damn we get to eat it!

Further investigation finds that for an alternate reality (AR), Steampunk’s cuisine is less defined that those of medieval fantasy and science fiction space opera. Thinking of a Renaissance Faire conjures up visages of turkey legs, mutton, tankards of ale, and murky stews bubbling for hours in cauldrons over open flame. All that before we even begin to get into things like Lembas bread and Lemon Cakes. Certainly no one dares traverse the vastness of space without blue milk, tea dispensing food replicators (“Earl Grey…hot”) and of course plenty of Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters to go along with the towels. A little spice never hurt anyone either – blue eyes not withstanding.

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A Year Without a Kitchen

Back into July I moved into a new apartment in New York City. By Manhattan standards it is a “spacious” one bed room flat. With it comes a nice little kitchen not more than a step or two above that which you would find in a college apartment, at least in terms of size. Where things diverge is in the stove (more on that in a minute). Other than that, there is very little counter space and a decent refrigerator which has found itself perfectly placed next to my couch for optimal snack/drink grabbing during marathon movie and gaming sessions.

Back to the gas range for a moment. It is a thing of absolute beauty. Everything is sturdy, well crafted and in perfect working order. I’ve been around restaurant quality ranges before and this one is just below that quality.  Just the type of high powered stove that I always envisioned having. Growing up in a home with an electric stove I yearned for  a gas range that could deliver the caliber of heat and power I saw all over cooking shows on television. I dreamed of roasting my own peppers right on the stove top and heating up pans in a matter of moments rather than having to wait for the unreliable (and often un-even) coils to heat up. To say that a dream of mine was realized with this new stove would be an understatement.

Here we are eight months later and I have used the stove and the kitchen exactly twice. Two times in eight months. Approximating things a bit, that comes out to about 700 meals that I could have made. Two out of seven hundred is pitiful, depressing even. For many people this might not seem like a big deal, especially in New York City. I am literally surrounded by food establishments (and I’ve got the piles of take-out menus to prove it). To someone that cooks all the time, and prefers to do it from scratch as much as possible; this is a tragedy. My initial reaction regarding the situation was equivalent to the bookworm who breaks his glasses when sitting next to a pile of books. There was time now! I tried to make the two meals count… 

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The 7 Greatest Movies about Food

Cooking is vastly under represented in movies. For some reason, the gastronomic arts have never really been given their just desserts on the big screen to the extent that one would think. People, in general, love eating food, and the popularity of Food Network/Top Chef/Discovery Channel’s food shows/Hell’s Kitchen, etc. show that people also enjoy watching food. So it would seem like a natural transitions to bring those things to the movie theater. Instead, food is relegated to a minor character. A scene here or there, a mention or funny aside between a few characters in between moments of intense drama or cars blowing up. Rumor has it, Keanu Reeves is working on a film about being a chef, so I guess our salvation is at hand.

All is not lost though, because the quality of food films is pretty high, even if the quantity is severely lacking. What follows is a breakd down of the greatest “movies about food” of all time. The criteria is not so much if the movie is great (though that certainly is part of it), but rather how the food is represented and the experience that brings. The cinematography, how the food is treated,  matters. The best food movies make you hungry, make you yearn for the food on-screen so much that you imagine you can taste what’s being served.

The ultimate rule  is that food has to be an integral part of the film, you can’t just have a scene where people sit down for dinner. Even one scene where food or a recipe is mentioned isn’t enough. If that were the case, The Godfather would be #1 on this list simply for including the scene when Clemenza teaches Michael how to make sauce. “You never know you might have to cook for 20 guys someday.” And Goodfellas would certainly get a mention for teaching us all that the best way to chop garlic is with a razor blade.

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Cook’s Recipe: Apple, Chestnut, and Cornbread Stuffing

from delish.com

Thanksgiving is never complete without stuffing or dressing. They are essentially the same thing, except stuffing is cooked inside the turkey while dressing is made in a casserole and baked in an oven. Most of us probably eat dressing, but call it stuffing. Either way, all the best stuffings are delicious and work to bind the rest of the meal together. My family employs a tri-stuffing philosophy when it comes to Thanksgiving. A traditional bread stuffing, a wild rice and sausage stuffing that is outrageous, and this; my cornbread, chestnut, and apple stuffing. It came out of a want to create a stuffing recipe based on cornbread, which always seemed like it would be the perfect based for a Thanksgiving dish. The recipe is inspired by one from Food&Wine magazine that called for Challah bread and broached the idea of using nuts as well.

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Cook’s Recipe: Epic-Level Chili

Whomever it was that said that a fellowship could survive on Lembas alone was a lunatic. When adventuring into the depths of unknown evils or simply venturing forth into the icy clutches of a winter’s eve, it is comforting to do so after a rich meal of substance. A full stomach helps fuel a strong mind to steel itself against any adversary, no matter how ghoulish, gigantic, or grotesque it may be.  

Yet be warned, would be warriors of the walk-in! This chili is not for those with weak dexterity scores or fortitude saves. This is not simply a heat and serve dish. This, is EPIC LEVEL CHILI. Combining a variety of the Cook’s disciplines to craft a singular hearty and sumptuous dish. A perfect accompaniment to a weekend spent watching padded ogres and giants duel over a leather sack or after a long day of slogging through a dungeon delve.

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Gollum’s Recipe: Gollum Juice

Photo from Serkis.comOne would imagine that speaking all day in a raspy whining voice, mixing in various throaty coughs and noises, would irritate your throat. In the case of Andy Serkis, who portrayed Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, his voice was destroyed day after day.

In order to combat the utter annihilation of his vocal cords Serkis drank what he termed “Gollum Juice” which, as he describes it, “which was made of honey, lemon and ginger. So we used to make up big jugs of it with warm water and I used to drink that on set everyday, lots of it everyday.” (BBC Newsround) . Curiously, no actual recipe for the drink exists, as Serkis never described the proportions of all the ingredients. Aside from helping to soothe the pain from excessive singing or voice acting Gollum Juice serves as a fantastic little remedy for a sore throat or cold.

Despite the lack of a recipe, the principle ingredients are clear. In some ways this is like a tea, except that the ginger serves as the ingredient that “steeps” in the warm water. Both Jesse and I have used this recipe on a number of occasions, especially when trying to remedy sore vocal cords from a night of singing at the bar or an all night Rockband party, but that is a tale for another time. For now, here’s a recipe, ingredients and all, for Mr. Serkis’ famous remedy.

(photo from Serkis.com)

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Top Chef Just Desserts: Alignment is the Spice of Life

This week on Top Chef: Just Dessertswas anything but ordinary. The fourth wall was broken, we saw one cheftestant leave, and another return. Regardless of this upheaval, we’ve finally settled all of the players into a spot on the graph and to no one’s surprise, chaos reigns.

Seth – We almost decided to remove Seth from the graph entirely, he is such an anamoly and outlier it’s almost impossible to classify him. We postulated that chaos would swirl around him for the better portion of the season and in the end, it ended up consuming him and became his undoing.

Morgan – Continues to be the most confusing character this season. Certainly seems to have good intentions and his work during the bake sale and how emotional he became talking about his son hints at a good presence; but stealing the butter and his brief moments of intensity give us pause. He definitely seems to have his game plan together, we just aren’t sure if it’s for good or evil yet.

Eric – A few wins and more consistency will do wonders. Eric is clearly the class of the show when it comes to good personalities. The generally happy and often times “ah shucks I’m just a baker” attitude has made him an endearing character. He also shows the most improvement of any contestant, making him a formidable foe moving forward.

Malika – It had been lingering around since last week and in this episode Malika finally decided to pull the trigger and leave the show; having lost interest. We aren’t completely happy with her place on the graph, but sometimes working with inferior data is required.

Heather – The only chef to really see her place on the graph shift, we had her solidly pegged in the lawful good realm. A chef who was only on the show to compete and do it well, but avoid the fights. We were most definitely wrong, given her indignation after not being named the individual winner despite being part of the winning team this week.

One of the way through the show and it’s no surprise that the chaotic realms are rather full. We hypothesized before the show that this would be the case, though the population of the evil realm tends to surprise us just a little. Is there a predilection for pastry people to be more evil than other culinarians? Probably not enough data to tell, but it does mean that the latter portion of the show could be explosive. An interesting note is that three of the stronger players (Morgan, Eric, and Erika) are all “outliers” when it comes to the alignment of most of the cast. Perhaps their more even tempered focused methods will ultimately win out in the end, only time will tell.

The graph returns in a few weeks as we continue to follow the swirling and ever shifting alignment of the cheftestants. In the meantime, a few things to ponder. How can Heather C be allowed to win if she was already booted off the show once before? Haven’t we already proven that she isn’t “the Top Chef”? And, will the producers of Just Desserts have a similar challenge upcoming to the “Restaurant Wars” that its parent show is so well known for? Possibly steal a concept from Food Network and have them engage in a “cupcake war”?

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Mixologist’s Recipe: The Dark Wanderer

 The campfire flickers, dancing in tune to the cool desert air as it whips around it, casting eerie shadows across the flats just outside of Lut Gholein. While an older man sleeps on a bedroll, every once in a while mumbling gibberish to himself, a dark figure sits cloaked at the outer edge of the light, starring off into the darkness. Raising a weathered cup to his lips, he drinks a smooth blend, tinges of intense spice flaring up at the end of each sip, hinting at the figure’s own personal affection for warmth. In the distance, strange noises cry out from one of the deserts many creatures. The Wanderer pays it no attention. His mind is elsewhere, drawn away by a vision of  an armored hero arriving in Lut Gholein by caravan this very morning. Smiling for a moment, the Wanderer finishes his drink then turns to the sleeping man. “Marius!” he calls. The older man stirs and is instantly alert, eyes darting from side to side in search of danger. “Be still Marius, no harm has come, we must go, time is turning against us.” With a wave of his hand, the fire extinguishes, as Marius lights a lamp and the pair continue on into the heart of the desert, first light slowly beginning to creep over the horizon.

Apologies for the small bit of fan-fiction there, but it seemed wholly appropriate to introduce our new beverage that bears the moniker of the dark lord incarnate in Blizzard’s epic RPG (soon to be getting a three-quel, and by soon I mean when it’s done) Diablo II.

Johnny Walker Black, which is aged 12 years before bottling and sale, is the base for the drink. Other whiskeys or scotches can be used, but part of the character is this drink is its smoothness, so lesser whiskeys will tamper with that to some extent. Another main issue with the drink is balancing the sweet and the heat, which is why dry vermouth is specifically called for, not sweet. The soda will provide enough sugar to the drink.

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