Tuesday, October 26, 2010


So, after six months of silence, what could bring me back to the world of blog?

But perhaps first, why did I leave? One week after my last post, I got a job. A no shit job with 40 hours of hard, draining work and only two days off and very little energy for cookery.

But inspiration strikes. As does competitiveness.

Cousin Gas (whose blog went on hiatus just about the same time mine did) has returned with a harrowing tale of her toddler daughter shitting in the bath.

My inspiration, however, is not so gross, but rather a reminder of the awesomeness of cooking. And one sorely needed after two weeks of noodles-in-a-cup lunches.

After work last night I stopped off at the grocery store, for random staples, and grabbed a package of three thin-cut steaks. Three bucks for three steaks. Can't beat that.

Anyway, today I decided to whip them up for lunch. I decided a simple preparation was what I wanted. So inspiration struck, and I improvised this little number; Garlic Minute Steaks.

First off, do you own a Needler? Why not?!

Mine is also known as a "48-Blade Meat Tenderizer", but they come in cheaper variants with as few as 16 blades. It looks as much like an instrument of the Spanish Inquisition as the French Kitchen. I originally bought it for making cube steaks, but I realized it had much more to offer when I saw Masaharu Morimoto working over a whole chicken with one on Iron Chef America. Since then I use it whenever I do a marinade or brine, to get flavor deeper into meat.

In this case, I work over my steaks with the needler, then rub it with minced garlic, which gets into all the little holes the needle made. Neat trick, if I do say so myself. I use jarred minced garlic largely out of laziness, but remember that it is also packed in olive oil, so the meat gets oiled as well.

Then needle the steaks again, to drive more garlic in.

Season with black pepper and a bit of kosher salt (but not too much; reason later). Whip out your cast iron of choice (I used a griddle), melt a quarter to a third a stick of butter on it, then slap on the steaks before the butter burns.

Being thin, they cook quick, so we want screaming high heat. Experiment with the exact settings on your stove and cooking time for optimum results. What we want is a nice sear outside, with the desired doneness (medium rare for me) inside. Turn only once.

Remove and sit to rest. Season further with some alder-smoked sea salt.

What's that? You say you don't have any alder-smoked sea salt?

Why not?!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My God, it's full of stars

A little post-birthday daytrip to Portland.

Setting aside my guilty pleasure breakfast at a McDonald's out of town, and the primary purpose of the visit (books, another of my gluttonous appetites), I had lunch at Jake's Famous Crawfish. Dunno how famous they really are, but I like to think I'm doing my part.

I first discovered this gem at 401 South 12th in the Pearl Disctrict, a few summers ago. On trip to San Francisco to visit family (who, coincidentaly, read this blog, Hi, guys!), I had planned a half-a-day in Portland, but I was delayed by the asshattery of the rental car company and had time only for dinner.

That time, at the height of summer, I sat at a table on the sidewalk, enjoying a crawfish boil in the delightfully warm twilight. But the cajun feast is limited to the Dinner Menu, alas.

I disapprove of time-of-day dependant menus. Any place that proudly announces "Breakfast All Day" gets an extra star in my mind. And my father once legendarily threw a hissy fit when he couldn't get a cheeseburger at McDonald's at 9am.

"But it's a McDONALD'S! That's what you DO!!"

He's not a breakfast eater.

Anyway, the server helpfully suggests that Jake's Etouffee would be a good choice "If you want something with crawfish." I have no idea what an etouffee is, but what the Hell.

I also order a calimari appetizer, one of my benchmark foods. Like the French dip or clam chowder or all-day pancakes, calimari is one of the indicator species of a restaraunt for me. I think highly of any place that can do it right.

The calimari is delicious; lightly fried, just enough saltiness. There are three dipping sauces. One is the obligatory cocktail sauce, with a pleasant sinus burn denoting the use of fresh horseradish. Second is a decent but nondescript mayonnaise based sauce often misidentified in America as aioli (true aioli is nothing more than garlic, olive oil and maybe a little egg). But the star is the little cup in the middle, wherein lay a green thing that looked like a salsa verde, but was actually quite sweet, with hints of cilantro.

I forgot to ask the server what it was, and will be kicking myself until the next time I go back there.

(By the way, I prefer "server" to "waiter" or "waitress" or God save us from "waitron". "Waiting" implies idleness. Servers are doing shit.)

Then came my etouffee. Turns out it's a crawfish and shrimp stew.

I don't normally think much of fancy plating, but I had to take a picture.

Something about the whimsy of the intact crawfish perched atop a pile the the flesh of his shrimpy stewmates is delightful.

The stew itself was quite tasty. It lacked the bright spices of the crawfish boil I had hoped for, but the earthy stew still had plenty of dark fire.

After a bit of shopping and a visit to the world's smallest offically designated park (15 inches across), I arrive at the most anticipated non-book related stop of the day.

Voodoo Donuts. (Ankey and 3rd)

I didn't bother to take a picture of it, since it isn't much to look at, so here's a picture of the box they put my donuts in.

If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know, they also sell panties with their logo. My cousin's birthday is coming up, and I thought about getting her a pair, but maybe there are some things you don't get a married woman for her birthday.

Also, they only take cash, I only had a twenty and I didn't want to cut into the donut budget.

The above pictured pink box contained a Voodoo Dozen, which is when you allow the register jockey to choose your donuts for you. I could have gotten a second dozen without repeating a donut, but there are limits to reason. And that twenty.

I also got, for my parents, a pair of the titular Voodoo donuts...

And for myself...

That's right. The Bacon Donut!!
Your brain will fight it, but just let it sink in.
It's actually a Mable Bacon Bar, which was one of the major draws to hitting Voodoo in the first place. Something such as this must be tasted.
And it is GLORIOUS! The salty and the crunchy and the just-slightly charred baconness married perfectly with the sweet, slight tang of the maple icing and the fluffy pastry beneath.
What genius, what visionary brought us this gift? For surely there will one day be a monument to his glory.
You will note that I'm eating it in the car. I am proud to say I made it out of Oregon before digging into my prize.
I pulled over at the first rest stop.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Game

Sometimes the potential of a new recipe with potential is more exciting than a new recipe coming out perfectly the first time.

Tonight's dinner was a chili recipe I got from Rachael Ray's magazine. (Don't judge me. It was an impulse buy. Not like I have a subscription or anything.)

It's a "Redeye Mole Chili". Redeye is a type of gravy featuring coffee, and mole (MO-lay) is a savory Mexican chocolate sauce mostly associated with chicken. So the chili includes both coffee and chocolate, which I found intriguing. It also included ancho chiles, which are smoked, roasted pablano chiles, and cinnamon.

The recipe came out alright, but there's room for improvement. And I am jazzed because I can see what it needs. The game is afoot, Watson.

With the coffe, unsweetened cocoa powder and anchos, there are a lot of dark, earthy flavors, but without a lot of freshness to balance them.

Some sweetness is called for, a yellow onion, for a start, instead of the white (raw, chopped red onion is also added at the end as a garnish). I'll replace the roasted chiles with fresh ones to bring some fruityness, and use chipotle powder (my new favorite spice) to maintain the smokiness.

The ground beef was a mistake, too. Cubed beef next time.

Fresh cilantro added at the end, instead of the ground coriander. Broke my own rule, there; when ever possible, opt for fresh herbage.

Cut the bacon too big, too.

This process is how we make a recipe our own.

PS; I'm pretty sure I'm using "chili" and "chile" properly, but I would not put money on it.