Haute Dog Cuisine

No, I don't cook for my dog. Also - I am NOT a stoner. Yet. What do you think this concoction is?

I made a magical pot of chili over the weekend and that always means chili dogs in the near future. Another night I made fish tacos with mango banana salsa yielding leftover tortillas and salsa. On the long drive home tonight I was craving a quesadilla. Hence, dinner was born! Have you noticed the latest trend in hot dogs? Angus. These are Angus dogs which are nitrite/ate free, and smoked. They are pretty fabulous, as far as hot dogs go. I melted cheese on a single flour tortilla, added a thin line of chili and rolled it up taquito style.

A chili dog quesaquito? Whatever it is, it totally would have one some off the wall, Top Chef Quickfire challenge.


Giada's SNAFU

I am highly critical of TV Chefs. Mostly because I am jealous that I am not one. Some things that I see are truly awful and warrant a complaint. I've been laid up for the last few days and have had plenty of opportunity to see some horrific things.

On Giada at Home, Giada was preparing a Mexican meal. I know there are some Giada devotees that will recreate something just because SHE made it, but I have no desire to see Giada's take on Tex-Mex. She was going to grill marinated chicken and steak - probably for tacos or fajitas. She created a marinade that looked pretty good (I would have added tequila) and then marinated the chicken in the same dish as the beef. Um - no thanks. Unless you're going to cook that beef to 180 degrees, rendering it overcooked and inedible, the beef is not edible for risk of salmonella. Would it have been so hard to marinate them separately? Yuk.

Another gripe I have is chefs not measuring on TV and is clearly not close to the original measurement. The biggest offense is coating the whole bottom of a pan with oil and saying, "Start with 2 Tbsp of oil in the pan." I would love to jump into the TV grab the pan to measure how much was used. This is not to say I follow recipes when I am not testing for a purpose, but you must realize if someone actually follows the printed recipe they will often have different results.


Food 52 365

Fresh Sriracha (aka, home made 'Rooster') from Food52 on Vimeo.

Food 52 is one of the few food sites that I can find something fabulous on everyday. This must smell amazing while cooking! I keep latex gloves around for peppers. I think it's also important to change cutting boards.


Revisiting Wine

To say that it has been a stressful week is putting it mildly. Last night nerves were soothed with Salty Dogs. They were good but I've come to prefer mine made with Izze grapefruit soda and I was using the much more potent grapefruit juice. Tonight I wanted something more delicate. Wine. I used to really love wine. I still do, but beer has taken over as my beverage hobby. I got out a *good* wine glass, not flinching about it not being dishwasher safe, and traveled over to my kitchen wine rack. My wine rack contained: 2 mini-bar bottles of a Frontera cab/merlot adorned with a 'thank you for joining us for our special day' stickers as they were wedding favors, a bottle of Malibu rum, and my propane torch for creme brulee/emergency s'more making. It was kind of depressing. I am grateful for stellar wedding favors, especially ones that reminded me of a very fun evening, but I needed something extra special to soothe my soul.

I should have thought twice about an emergency trip to the State store just before closing time on a holiday weekend Saturday night. Bottles of Jagermeister were flying off the shelves all around me. Everyone was getting ID'd. Their identification said they were 21 but who can tell anymore? All it needed was a strobe-light and an impenetrable cloud of cigarette smoke to feel like the Palladium in 1997. Not my scene. I headed for the Pinot section. It's easy to drop a pretty penny on pinot noir, but I am on a budget. I snagged a 2007 Bear Boat from the Sonoma Coast for a reasonable $11.99. Then I went over to the Cabernet Sauvignons. My favorite wine at Ruth's Chris is the Louis Martini 2007 Cabernet. I was appalled to discover the bottle sells for $12.99. It is at least $16 a glass at the bar! I know that's within traditional wine mark up range, but the budget conscience wino in me was in shock. I bought a bottle of that too as I will stick to martinis and Manhattan's at the steak house from now on. Remembering that the hubby has had an even more stressful week than I, I grabbed him a bottle of his tried and true Jameson's. I may also be plotting some Jameson's and ginger beers for tomorrow.

I make it home and polish the wine glass. How is it that a glass gets dirty while in a closed cabinet? I get out my wine opening equipment and open the bottle with all the flair I learned in bar & beverage class. I hold the bottle the same way I held the bottle of Lambrusco in Bologna, with my thumb inside the bell on the bottom. I pour. I swirl. I do all the pretentious wine tasting motions. They actually have a purpose, I tell myself. I sip. I exhale. I am soothed.

A little while later, after chuckling that Frontera retweeted my tweet about using a *good* wine glass (after all, it was their wine that I passed up tonight!) I decided to complete a more formal tasting of the Bear Boat. It has a shorter finish than I like, but is grassy and prune-y which I love. I stick my nose as far into the glass as it will go. I ponder that maybe that's why I'm not more of a wine person - I don't have that iconic extra long nose that is made for sticking into wine glasses. What do I smell that I did not expect at all? I smelled it repeatedly to confirm... cooked cabbage! It doesn't taste like cooked cabbage but I can't deny that is exactly what the smell is. I don't find it unpleasant but I am confused about it.

Regardless, the wine and ritual of the wine has served it's purpose.


I Didn't Order a Side of Bacteria with That!

As I get older I am definitely more conscious of germs, bacteria and other pathogens. From being in the food biz I've taken too many classes on cross contamination, hand washing and how to keep patrons from getting sick. Maybe this is why some things I see in restaurants & bars really bother me. Here are a few of the violations I see too frequently:
  • Bottle opener in the pants. The standard uniform for female bartenders of happy hour places are the ubiquitous black stretch pants and a revealing top. Neither of those options provide a sanitary place to tote a bottle opener. Too often I see it tucked in the side, against the bare skin of the bartender. That is why I will only order draft beer or mixed drinks when I see that. Gross. Also note: pockets are also not acceptable places to carry bottle openers.
  • Check holder in the pants. I saw this one just the other day. You know that sleek black folder that usually has a credit card logo on the front that your check arrives in? I usually only open these with a napkin. Too often I find them tucked into the pants at the lower back of a waiter. In the violation I witnessed this week, the waiter also had pants that were too low, so I saw the holder stashed immediately touching his underwear. Luckily he wasn't my server or the manager of that establishment would still be talking about the scene I caused. Gross.
  • Refilling fountain beverages with used glasses. This one is not as obvious, but - if there is a glass that has been sipped from, it should not be placed anywhere near a fountain soda dispenser or beer tap. It's the same as going back to a buffet with a dirty dish, just an easy way to spread germs. I know it can burden a restaurant to use fresh glasses all the time, but I'd soon rather be given a disposable cup than think about what germs my glass encountered on that trip. This is made even more gross with a used straw sticking out of it.
Stay tuned for more to come. What do you see that bothers you in restaurants?


More Pizza Pizza

"Never trust a round pizza." - Todd English

Yes, I've been on a pizza kick. It's cheap, takes to fridge leftovers and is delicious. After seeing this slide show on SLICE I had to give the grill a try. I finally grilled pizza for the first time! True, I'm not reinventing the wheel - but what a revelation. Now I don't have to fret about keeping the oven on 500 for 3 hours while I heat my stone and bake away in the summer!

You need to have all your ingredients ready to go. There is no running back in the house for something forgotten. In this case, I made the dough and let it rise while I prepped the 4 kinds of cheese, pepperoni, broccoli, quick tomato sauce and some smashed garlic in olive oil to brush on the dough.

Using my 25% whole wheat dough, I made 4 large pizzas. One white because the Hubby loves white pizza. I smeared ricotta and shredded provolone and Asiago and sprinkled broccoli florets and drizzled that all with the garlic oil.Another was smoked Gouda with grilled pepperoni. That's right, I grilled pepperoni before putting dough on the grill. The result? Salty/crispy deliciousness. I didn't dare try to grill tiny round slices of pepperoni so I had to cut it in a more grill friendly shape. It paired well with the smoked Gouda but we found ourselves eating all the pepperoni off that pizza all throughout dinner. Another was a traditional margherita with fresh mozzarella. The fresh mozz was a mistake, giving off too much water when it melted gently. In a 500 degree oven this is not a challenge - but on a grill it does not fare as well. The last pizza had traditional low moisture mozzarella and my quick sauce of crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano. Did you know that it is loads of oregano that gives pizza sauce it's distinctive taste? It's too much oregano that gives frozen pizza that unbearable flavor - as well as sugar.

Pizza grills very quickly. Trying to capture photos while still on the grill led to some extra charring. Not having a larger table to set the finished pizzas on as well as my camera led to an interesting setup on the hood of my car. My neighbors were intrigued at the smell of a bread oven coming from my driveway and thoroughly amused at the setup on my hood - conveniently not pictured!

Expanding culinary horizons

Today I finally got to try Honest Tom's Taco Shop! It's a funky taco truck that I heard about through Twitter or Facebook. Aside from their usual spot in University City during the traditional school year, they smartly started popping up in Logan Circle near the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul on Fridays during Lent - to sell fish tacos. I appreciated their novel marketing and rave reviews, so I had to get there.

On my way over to 18Th and Vine St., I asked someone who works in the cafe if he'd like some tacos. He wasn't sure what one was. It gave me pause to remember that not everyone travels with their own personal gourmand to expand their culinary horizons.

I had the sweet potato tacos which even as a non-vegetarian I loved! Fresh guac, pico de gallo and what was either a homemade flour tortilla or one that was shown extra special love on the griddle out of the pkg. It was grand.

The lesson? Share your food and your lunch plans! You never know when you can brighten someones day and treat their tastebuds.


Crowd Pleasers

I love chocolate anything. I've eaten chocolate covered tortilla chips and potato chips, chocolate bars with bacon, chipotle and various salts. I can taste differences in chocolate as if I'm sipping fine wine or describing a great craft micro brew. Thanks to the various food allergies/aversions/phobias I assume are present at gatherings of more than 6 people or so, I hesitate to bring chocolate when I am responsible for dessert or an extra treat. Enter blondies.

Easy to make, essentially a bar cookie, blondies are brownies without the chocolate. They are great plain, but are also pantry friendly to accept the scant 1/4 cup of leftover nut hanging around. I've made them with half whole wheat flour, and have even substituted some olive oil if I was short on butter and a trip to the store would derail me when I'm in "the zone". My favorite combination is pressing salted cashews in the top and sprinkling with toffee pieces before baking.

In my vast cookbook collection I couldn't find a blondie recipe so I turned to the Gods of Google. I stumbled upon a fantastic blog, Whipped - complete with a post full of alliteration as a nod to V for Vendetta! You can whip it up on a whim and feel like a whiz and share the wonderment that is, BLONDIES!


Frog Burger

My first time email blogging is a burger review! Had some extra time after work before attending an author event at the Free Library (Steven Raichlen!) so I trotted across the very difficult to navigate on foot Ben Franklin Pkwy.

Frog Burger's been getting lots of press over it's chub-burger, touristy named "Love Burger" which features TWO grilled cheese sandwiches for buns! I can rarely resist but here I did and got a standard cheddar cheese burger. They didn't ask for a temp but mine came out a juicy medium. Acceptable for a place I'm not good friends with yet. I also had jalapeƱo fries and a Kenzinger Ale from Philadelphia Brewing Co ($2 @ happy hour!).

It was well executed. For a gourmet burger stand I want more than a potato roll fresh from a bag for a bun, even though it was grilled. Nor am I a fan of the almost shoe-string cut of the fries. Yet what it comes down to is this : Is it the best burger on the Parkway? YES. Is it destination burger worthy? NO.

What I wonder is, how did they get the license to do this? I know a little too much about opening a business in this neighborhood and it ain't easy! Outdoors and serving alcohol? Who did they blow? Service was great, BTW.

Frog Burger
Address: under the metal airplane on the lawn of The Franklin
Hours: 12-8pm 7 days/wk

Sent from my iPhone


Deep 'Za

Do not stand between me and a craving. Ever. The other day it was deep dish pizza. I've had both kinds of Chicago deep dish pizza (in Chicago!). The first - the stereotypical kind which consists of at the very minimum a two inch layer of mozzarella topped with a one inch layer of sauce. Cut into it right out of the oven and you will have cheese lava on your table. To me, this is best eaten at room temp or cold the next morning. It's tasty, but it's like ordering a 'Philly Cheese Steak' at a random pizzeria in Florida when what you should really have is a 'Cheese Steak' from Cosmi's, a tiny unassuming deli in deep South Philly.

The second deep dish pizza is the one you spend waiting an hour for a table for, even possibly standing in vehicular traffic because the sidewalk is too crowded with people waiting for the same table you are. It's from Pizano's which I've already mentioned. What to do when you can't head to Chicago on a whim for a pizza craving (and a visit with my Godson!)? Get out the Google and slice some mozzarella.

I had tried to recreate it before. I used my standard pizza dough recipe in my deep dish clay baker, pre-baked the crust, added sliced mozz and some toppings. It was OK. The crust was all wrong. You can't have a crispy/chewy crust with mile high toppings. My latest research revealed some cornmeal in the crust. It made sense to me. Cornmeal would retain crunch but minimize chew. I decided to replace 25% of the flour with cornmeal and set out to make the dough. Every time I make pizza dough I recall how I LOVE to make dough and don't make it often enough.

After it rose for a little over an hour, I oiled the clay baker, set up the dough and baked it. If you put the toppings on raw dough, you will get raw dough under cooked toppings in your finished product. While it was baking I sliced the mozz, sauteed mushrooms with some onion, spread on some crushed tomatoes (the sauce cooks along with the pizza), sprinkled it with oregano and some thick slices of Sicilian pepperoni which would self-fry in the oven and become little pepperoni crackings by the time it was cooked. All baking is done at 500 degrees, don't be shy about oven temp! After 20 minutes of cooking and 10 minutes of resting (this is crucial and hard to resist) the feasting begins.

The dough recipe will yield leftover dough. If I was thinking ahead I would have popped it into the freezer for deep dish pizza on demand in the future, but I spread it out and topped it with some of the leftover sauteed mushrooms and Asiago cheese so we had a little appetizer while the pizza was cooling.

How to Cook Everything, Except Shrimp

It's never been a secret on this blog, that I would eat shit - if Mark Bittman cooked it and declared it was fabulous. I adore his food philosophies about cooking techniques, flavor combinations and serving styles. You won't find him making anything that includes molecular gastronomy, and the iPhone app that accompanies his book is the bee's knees.

There is ONE area that I have major differences of opinion with him about. The timing on shrimp cookery. His recipes repeatedly list shrimp cooking times that if you followed, would yield chewy, overcooked, inedible crustaceans. Here's just one example. If it took 10 minutes to cook you would cry at how much shrimp you've wasted. I've even emailed him about a recipe that appears on epicurious of his where all the reviews talk about the dish being wildly overcooked. No response.

Now, I can grant him this ONE oversight - but I'm tickled how it is so consistent.


Uova in Purgatorio

If you've learned anything about me from my blog, you know that I love witty food! Eggs in purgatory falls in that category. This morning's breakfast is in honor of some well spoken gentlemen who got us out of bed by ringing our doorbell. Now, it was almost 11am so we can't be angry but anyone who disrupts our slumber on the weekend is subject to penalties.

Our at-home date movie last night was the recent remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 with John Travolta, Denzel Washington and the dude who plays a bad guy in every single movie, Luis Guzman. This tangent will make sense in a moment, I promise. I prefer the 1974 version of Pelham with Walter Mathau and Robert Shaw (the rugged sailor from Jaws) but that isn't important. The new Pelham features all the typical, iconic, NYC scenery. The ride over the Manhattan Bridge looking down on the South Street Seaport was the view of my daily commute. The other side of the bridge has The Watchtower, which was the distribution site for the well known Jehovah's Witness publication. I made note of it to Paul, because it is indeed an impressive building soon to be for sale if you're in the market. I have $120 mil laying around, don't you?

This morning our doorbell was ringing. By the chime I knew it was the front door, not our most used kitchen door. That is the best thing about wireless doorbells, having a different chime for each door - highly recommended. This told me the people at the door didn't know us so I sent Paul out of bed to see who it was. It was two men passing out The Watchtower! I believe this is only the second time I've been called on by this group since living in PA. NY and AZ were much more active.

Finally on to my witty food. I thought I was being all professional roasting breakfast sausage for this morning while we ate dinner last night. Turned out I forgot about them in the oven and well, we didn't have any breakfast sausage for this morning. I did have some leftover tomato sauce (a staple in my fridge) and some fresh mozz that had to be used up. Everyone knows how I love poached eggs, so I poached eggs in the tomato sauce, added some heat (it is purgatory, it can't be all pleasant) and placed the finished product atop slices of the fresh cheese to melt and I poured coffee. Tasty and witty.


Cotton Candy Seafood with Jose Andres

I am not a fan of molecular gastronomy. I am a fan of Jose Andres, what he has brought to this country, and what he gives back.

I am also a fan of now knowing how to add video here. Watch out world!

You Say it's Your Birthday?

"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie." - Jim Davis, creator of Garfield.

Preparations were underway for my Father-in-law's 70th birthday. The party was to be a surprise, at a casual Italian restaurant nearby. Our family tradition states that although there is a party planned, there will also be a mandatory after party. While there was an equally traditional pound cake birthday cake for the restaurant, my Mother-in-law was baking an apple spice cake for the after party. "He asked for carrot cake, but I don't know how to make that, so he's getting apple," she said. A light bulb went off in my head. I have carrots and a kick ass recipe for carrot cake cookies! Time to make a present to accompany the bottle of well aged single malt Scotch to mark the occasion.

Notice the picture is NOT carrot cake cookies. Here is the progression of my baking energy on a Saturday morning after a late Friday night out: 1 - Thinking, "Gee, I have to go to the store to get some more butter and cream cheese for the cookies." 2 - Go to the store, but also stop at Chick-fil-A to bring home their irresistible chicken biscuits for breakfast. 3 - Eat breakfast, lay on the couch because I'm still not fully awake and now have a full stomach. 4 - Think, "I really need to start the cookies." 5 - Continue to lay on the couch. You get the idea. The clock was ticking and we absolutely could not miss the surprise part of the party. I decided a carrot cake would save labor time. Throw it in the oven, cook, cool, frost. Easy-peasy as Jamie Oliver would say.

I preheat the oven, grate the carrots, decide that I know more than the food geniuses at Epicurious and alter their recipe. I sub half the sugar in the recipe for brown for added flavor and moisture, reduce total sugar by 25% just because, add a cup of raisins because carrot cake SHOULD have raisins, sub ginger extract for fresh because that's what I had in the pantry. I go to get my cake pans and... I don't have any cake pans! I use disposable ones because recipes require so many different sizes I don't want to stock them all. Also, I don't have to be delicate with disposables, worrying about scratching a dainty non-stick surface, etc. I didn't have any! What I did have was a small arsenal of disposable muffin tins leftover from a healthy muffin kick a few months ago. I also had cupcake cups. I was in business!

In the end, cupcakes are more work than cakes but less work than cookies. No one had the hassle of slicing a cake, and the look on my Father-in-law's face when I handed him one of 3 containers and told him these were only for him was priceless. ♥


I Love Breakfast!

Scrapple. It's one of the things I didn't know existed until I moved to Philadelphia. Also in that category: water ice that's different than Italian ice, cheese steaks made into hoagies, and people that dance down Broad St on New Year's Day in lavish costumes. It can be elegantly referred to as breakfast pate, or not so elegantly as a breakfast hot dog - as in, you do not want to ask what's in it. Nevertheless, when cooked properly it is crispy on the outside, lovely and soft on the inside and porky all over. This morning I served it atop a thick slice of cornbread with a maple syrup drizzle alongside a fluffy delicate mound of scrambled eggs. Not pictured: hot dark roast coffee. It's going to be a tasty weekend.


Snowed In

Here in Philadelphia we're having the snowiest winter ever. Ever. Recently, during the second blizzard in a week, I was in full baking mode after reading every status update and planting every Farmville acre on Facebook. I whipped up this recipe from Epicurious for brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. The frosting was a peanut butter - butter cream. In my head it would taste like a Reese's peanut butter cup. Turns out, the frosting tastes exactly like a nutter butter cookie. Yum! The cupcake didn't pair well with the frosting, however. It was a rich brownie but the texture was distracting from the flavor of the frosting. A soft devil's food cupcake would be the perfect combo with this terrific frosting. That did not stop us from eating them all, and dueling to defeat for the last one.

It's snowing again today. Maybe it's time to turn the chocolate and peanut butter combo into a cake?


Darkly Dreaming Dexter

I love Dexter! Who doesn't? I also don't have Showtime so I'm 2 seasons behind via Netflix. No spoilers, please. Watching a series via DVD in marathon sessions is also more rewarding than a weekly fix for me. When I watch a disk I get to see the opening credits 3 or 4 times in one night. It gave me something to think about besides an average Joe guy that happens to be a vigilante killer. That chops up criminals. And throws them in the bay.

The opening credits are all about Dexter's morning sequence and he is such a good serial killer he has breakfast everyday. My concern is the order of events. After shaving he cuts a piece of ham steak and sears it. And eats it. Then he fries an egg in brown butter and breaks the yolk, serving with a splash of what I hope is hot sauce. And eats it. Separately from the ham. He then brews a pot of French press coffee and squeezes blood orange juice. I get the symbolism but blood orange juice isn't especially good for drinking straight. Dexter then puts on his shoes and lastly his shirt and heads to his job at the police station with too much SPF on his lips. At least that's why I assume his lips are always purplish-pink on the show.

Who cooks the components of breakfast separately and eats them in a similar fashion? Coffee cannot wait until the end either. It should be sipped leisurely while you ponder the crappy day ahead, or grill your significant other about their day to come, right?

I'm going to go make sure the air conditioner doesn't have any glass slides in it.

Since you been gone...

It's been nearly six months since I've blogged. I've certainly been eating and cooking in that time yet have developed a preference for sharing food stuffs through facebook. With share buttons and status updates from my iPhone, I can facebook in my sleep. Yes, I used facebook as a verb. Your point?

I will try to be here more often and not stress over including perfect pics with every post and not succumbing to the anxiety of thinking my every self published monologue will be the next cover story for the NYT Dining and Wine section. Can you see how stressful I can make this? I hope you'll come back & leave a comment or two so I don't think the only people that read this are East Asian autobot spammers.

Speaking of Spam - I've still never had it! I might have to change that soon. And blog about it.