February 2011

They love their veggies!

Check out the Southwestern braised beef short ribs I was bragging about making for Valentine’s dinner. They were divine, to say the least.

Here are some more fun and delicious-looking recipes and articles that have caught my eye this past week; both from the site I run and from some pretty sweet-looking foodie blogs.

Affordable Italian bubbly for any celebration (even if you’re just celebrating a Tuesday)

Biofuel from beer? Turning brewing waste into natural gas

Cheese secrets you mite not want to know: The crawly critters that influence cheese

Top of the hops: Hopslam, Hoptimum and all of the beer hype

‘Want to Make’ List:

I think I’ve got a sweet tooth this week!

Shortribs 5

Braised beef short ribs are the epitome of “high end” comfort food. They can often be found on restaurant menus, cooked with classical French or Asian flavors and bearing a somewhat hefty price tag. I think many people have the misconception that they’re pricey because they’re technically difficult or labor-intensive to prepare, but those preconceived notions couldn’t be father from the truth.

Yes, at the grocery store beef short ribs aren’t as inexpensive as stew or braising meat, but getting the result of tender, succulent, fall-off-the bone meat is so worth extra cost. And this “fancy” restaurant dish can be prepared right in your own kitchen (culinary degree not required). Making braised short ribs at home is definitely worth the effort, and they are, in fact, pretty effortless to prepare. They even create their own sauce while they cook.

For a twist on this classic dish, I’ve put a Southwestern spin on it, using spices and flavors commonly found in Southwestern cuisine and — my favorite bit — tequila. Serve them on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes or sweet corn polenta (as I’ve done) to soak up the flavorful, gravy-like sauce.

top_chef_logo_lgThere was a whole lot of shadiness going on in last night’s episode Top Chef All-Stars. Apparently, Jersey Mike is even more devious than we’d expected and will stop at nothing to claw his way to the top. Needless to say, I was not amused with his recipe-stealing antics last night. Instead of “Jersey Mike”, we should start calling him “Judas Mike”.

I digress.

Paula Deen started out this episode preaching about the joys of deep-frying and challenging the chefs to create their own deep-fried masterpieces. Again, we saw Blais using liquid nitro. Not a “gimmick” you say, Blais? C’mon, we know you’ve got so many more tricks up your sleeve you could be using instead!

Anyway, Judas took the win with Blais’ his fried chicken oysters in oyster gravy dish. Antonia’s fried avocado and shrimp “salad” would have won, but she had a brain fart and forgot to plate up two portions. I was just surprised that no one did anything with copious amounts of butter.

top_chef_logo_lgWe’re now down to 6 remaining chef’testants on Top Chef: All-Stars and they’re all close enough to the finale to start getting the wafting smell of success (or utter failure).

If you hadn’t yet heard Paula Deen is the guest judge for the Quickfire tonight and challenges the chefs to create a deep-fried masterpiece in 30 minutes. Can their oil even get hot enough to use within that amount of time? And, big surprise, Blais is using liquid nitrogen to “fry” his dish. This after he claimed on Twitter last Sunday: “re: my use of nitro. It’s an ingredient. Not unlike oil. Actually, about as cold as frying oil is hot, with as many uses. It’s not a gimmick.” (I’d like to think he said that as a direct response to us on the Top Chef Podcast for calling him out last week for overusing that trick.)

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs are cooking for a cause: They have to cater a seafood dinner for a at a charity event benefiting Gulf Coast fisherman and Chef John Besh will be playing guest judge. The twist: six recently chopped chef’testants are brought back to play sous chefs and, of course, are chosen at random. Oh the stress and hilarity that will ensue!

Preview video highlights:

Update on last week’s ‘Roundup’ post: the short ribs were A-MAZING. I did them with a Mexican/Southwestern twist, with chipotles in Adobo and tequila (among other things). Keep an eye out for the recipe and photo on my blog this week!

Here are some more fun and delicious-looking recipes and articles that have caught my eye this past week from some pretty sweet-looking foodie blogs.

top_chef_logo_lgIt was a very zany episode of Top Chef All-Stars last night, between the loud, crazy antics of the Sesame Street characters during the Quickfire and then the madness that ensued at the Target lock-in challenge. I was mentally exhausted after watching, to say the least.

The Cookie Quickfire with the Sesame Street characters as judges was fun and lighthearted (except for Dale whose name is never uttered with that phrase). For some reason, Blais just didn’t get that an ice cream blob doesn’t equal “cookie” — in fact, it doesn’t even qualify for “ice cream cookie sandwich status”. I really liked Dale’s use of sweet and salty in his cookie and thought it was a fun take on the challenge (despite his dislike for making cookies). And did anyone else catch Elmo calling Antonia’s brown splooge cookies “cow chips”. Get it? Because “chips” kinda sounds like “sh*t” when you say it really fast.

The Elimination Challenge was like one long Target ad. I liked the concept of cooking using only ingredients and utensils found at Target — but that was about it. They could at least have had a spending limit or challenge to feature Target’s healthy/organic products. And why in the heck was it at 3 a.m.?! Yeah, I get it that they wanted the chefs to have free reign of the store, but c’mon! No wonder Dale’s “stoner food” tomato soup and grilled cheese won — because that’s the only thing you’d want to eat at 3 a.m.

top_chef_logo_lgOn tonight’s episode of Top Chef: All-Stars, the chefs are drawing inspiration from two very American concepts: Sesame Street and the supercenter.

The Quickfire Challenge is to create “the perfect cookie” that satisfies the discerning tastes of The Cookie Monster, Telly (the purple guy with the big nose), and Elmo. How much do you want to bet Carla does her happy/hyperventilating dance when they announce that Sesame Street characters will be the guest judges?

For the Elimination, the chef’testants have to invade the local Target store in the middle of the night and create a dish using whatever they can find in the aisles. Does this include items not normally thought of as “edible”, like tires or notebooks?

Preview video highlights:

  • Angry Dale claims that he “isn’t a cookie person.” Big surprise there. No, I see him as more of a marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter sandwich kinda guy. (*sarcasm*)
  • “Is there ever going to be a challenge where he [Blais] doesn’t use liquid nitrogen?,” asks Jersey Mike after learning Blais is making a cookie with it. The answer from now on in the season is “no.” I fear that Richie thinks going back to his molecular gastronomy roots may win him the title.
  • Angelo is sporting some fabulous black knee-high socks with denim shorts whilst cooking in Target. Ange-NO! This isn’t Wal-Mart! And I thought he was supposed to be the “fashionable” one of the group.
  • Jersey Mikes tastes Angelo’s soup and says it’s “missing something”, thus prompting Angelo to freak out and season the hell out of it. Do I smell sabotage?

This week’s question: If the chef’testants were Sesame Street or Muppets characters, which ones would they be?

Check out the preview videos below.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Remember that beef stew I talked about making two weeks ago in my new cast iron dutch oven? Yeah, we ate it all before I could photograph. It was darn good. Needless to say, I’ll be making it again soon, tweaking the recipe a bit and, of course, sharing it with all of you lovely people.

As for this amorous evening, I’m (well, “we are”) staying in. Why spend the money on dining out when you can whip up a heartfelt, gourmet meal at home? On the menu: Mexican-style braised beef short ribs over cheddar polenta and some sort of tasty green bean dish for a side (fresh ones, of course). As for dessert, I cheated and bought it from a secret supplier with the initials C.F. ;-)

Here are some more fun and delicious-looking recipes and articles that have caught my eye this past week; both from the site I run and from some pretty sweet-looking foodie blogs.

Liquid love: Valentine’s Day cocktails to enhance your amorous efforts – Since tequila happens to be my aqua vitae of choice, here are some fabulous cocktail recipes with tequila as the star ingredient to enhance your amorous efforts — or drown your singleton sorrows in.

My Blue Valentine: The god of love’s role in the discovery of blue cheese – Did you know that the mischievous Ancient Roman deity, Cupid, is legend to be the reason we have blue cheese? Blame it on him and a couple of horny shepherds.

Score some points on Valentine’s Day with this strawberry “tiramisu” trifle – This Hallmark holiday is a great excuse to indulge your sweet tooth, and with this easy and elegant recipe you’ll be able to impress your special guest(s) with a swanky-looking final course that you spent practically no time preparing.

Top Chef Podcast – All-Stars Ep. 9: Funny business – Whether you watch the show or not, our review of it is top notch snark and an all-around good time. Listen to us (attempt to) recap this episode and the hilarity that ensues.

Trifle 4_smWhen you think about Valentine’s Day, what first comes to mind? For most people, it evokes images of roses, Champagne, and chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. But for some, the first thing that comes to mind is a decadent dessert. (Well, for me at least.)

I know this is hard to believe, but there are many people out there who don’t like chocolate. When brainstorming up a Valentine’s Day dessert recipe, I wanted something simple to prepare but still classy-looking like a dessert you might see at a restaurant, not to mention something that could please almost anyone’s palate (chocolate haters included).

Tiramisu seems to be a favorite confection for many, but making it can be somewhat complicated and time consuming in the preparation — and not all of us are skilled pastry chefs here. I did want to utilize the ladyfingers, mascarpone cream and liquor-infused elements of the dish, though. And then it hit me — trifle! One of the easiest, throw-together desserts man (and woman) has ever created. Trifle is also a great quick-fix for a make-ahead or last-minute treat as the the components are simply layered atop one another, traditionally in a clear glass container to give it a nice presentation.

This Hallmark holiday is a great excuse to indulge your sweet tooth, and with this easy and elegant recipe (below) you’ll be able to impress your special guest(s) with a swanky-looking final course that you spent practically no time preparing — and they’ll be none the wiser. The ingredients are also pretty inexpensive, and because it’s strawberry season here in Florida, you can pick up a pint of them for a few bucks.

top_chef_logo_lgDuring last night’s episode of Top Chef All-Stars, we got to see a few things that are no longer “cool” (pop culturally speaking): fondue and Jimmy Fallon.

For the Quickfire, the chefs had some fun with fondue and had to judge each others’ creations, each picking their top three. Blais stuck to liquid nitrogen-filled roots and made some sort of cold chocolate fondue, Angelo massacred a “deconstructed” salad/shooter/fondue dish, and Dale made Phondue (a fondue consisting of the Vietnamese dish pho) which won him the challenge because of its great flavor and creativity.

The Elimination Challenge was probably one of the biggest surprises they’ve seen all year: making guest appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The chefs had to take pictures of dishes on a big screen with their cell phone cameras, and whichever picture they ended up capturing was the dish they’d have to prepare for Jimmy’s birthday luncheon.

Supposedly, it was Fabio’s first time cooking a burger (or “boorger”, in his words) and he just didn’t grasp the concept that a burger has to be juicy and not taste like a hunk of meatloaf. Carla, on the other hand, was over the moon that she got to cook chicken pot pie and did a kick ass job of it — and we all thought she’d pass out from over-excitement when she found out that’s what she was making. I also have to give it to Antonia for busting out a great dish containing beef tongues, something she’d never worked with before.

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