Archive for September, 2009

Okay, been thinking about Que, no not as in a pool queue, or lining up for a concert in London. Me thinks about Barbeque. Ya know, lick your fingers clean type thing.

NOT your  buddy, hubby, local carnivore lover firing up his grill. That is not  BBQ it’s grilling. Sorry to all you dudes but tossing a piece of meat over a blazing fire, and either cooking it to death hockey puck status or bloody raw does not make you a chef.

Do open really good cold beer & have some tasty snacks (buy them if you must) and lightly grill a burger for 2 mins per side. That is a different story. Trust me your friends will love you. Back to my original train of thought. BBQ!

Great BBQ unless you have your own smoker, buy it! Though you can  cheat and achieve a decent facsimile at home its  just not the same as some dump along the side of the road in KY or Kansas with a pit out back. That stuff will just blow your mind.

But be aware most BBQ places suck. Canned beans, hockey pucks for corn muffins, and enough liquid smoke to kill someone. Ick, I can smell that crap a mile away.  And coleslaw from a 10 lb tub.

Now I have 2 count’ em 2 places I will buy and eat  Que  from. That said here they are.

1) Virgil’s in Manhattan  152 west 44th st ny, ny http://www.virgilsbbq.com

2) Ash Creek Saloon in CT. http://www.ashcreeksaloon.com

Now both have great food! Virgil’s hush puppy’s w/ maple butter are to die for, so is anything on their menu. Is it authentic, no. Does it taste good, yes!

The Creek, their 3 rib combo platter is simply amazing. So are the onion rings, crisp  & not greasy! baked  beans and pulled pork. Brisket non to shabby either.

To Avoid!!

Tennessee Mountain in NYC tastes like out of a box.

Bobby Q’s  in Westport, CT absolutely crapola.

The Cookhouse in CT ~ a chain & very expensive garbage.

So do your self a favour make your own! Smoke a pork shoulder on the grill ( be prepared to invest some time here) or cheat ~ cook low & slow in oven 4 hours, then finish off for that char on the grill. You can  slice  the pork for a  sandwich or shred and toss w/ your sauce for pulled pork. Now we’re talkin! Rub some ribs, dry smoke or blanch then  oven cook low and finish over the coals. Simply a matter of personal preference. Me, I choose to blanch my ribs briefly then cool  dry rub and marinate in the reefer overnite. Next day into a 250 oven for about 2-3 hours adding beer as needed. Then just before time to “get messy” finish for that glaze & crunch on the grill.

Tender ~ falling off the bones meat ~ spicy Dijon potato salad ~ a great roll to mop it all with!~ And if u  don;t know how to make  bbq sauce I  recommend “Bone Suckin” sauce, or anything by Arthur Bryant’s. I make my own of course and also make a kick ass hosin bbq sauce to go on flank or brisket. For the asian flare.

Whip up a batch of coleslaw mine has jicima and julienne granny smith apples and poppy seed vinaigrette. Some homemade creamed corn /cheddar/chive/ corn bread.  Toss together drunken beans ( use canned B&M if u must) just doll them up! You my friend are now good to go.

Save some room for grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream. Maybe even a cookie.

Just a note~ whether you love St. Louis style ribs, baby backs, pork short ribs, meaty thick beef ones, lamb, it’s just a matter of personal choice. Just treat them with respect and you will be richly rewarded.  Enjoy my carnivore friends.

Let me know about your favourite joint, and what makes it special. Please do not use a gas grill for this. Go buy a little weber & use charcoal & toss in some wood chips and herbs. I have something called a smoke~ n~pit. Its ancient, but damn it sure makes some tasty treats.

For those who are curious, google ‘how to make your own outdoor smoker’. It’s easy.

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This will be more of a recipe type post, instead of my  usuall wanderings, stories and food burbling’s that generally emanate from the recesses of my culinary mind. Just remember, I  am a classically trained french chef and pastry chef (yes I do both exceedingly well)

Think of it as a “guideline” as in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean where Jeffery Rush tells Keira Knightly there is no pirates code, they are more like actual guidelines.  That’s how I sail my culinary ship too. Sometimes by the seat of my pants like these brownies I winged up on the fly for a birthday brunch yesterday.  Brownies being loved by all. I made a batch of just plain brownies too, for the purists.

It was heaven from the moment my guest came into the house, sniff, sniff, wow, Vic whats that? Munched on a tiny brioche cinnamon pecan roll, then scarfed a piece of bacon. Said what is that and where did you buy it?  That my  friend, is my brown sugar candied bacon. I made 3 pounds, had 3 pieces leftover. Nice. But I  will save bacon for a blog of it’s own. Along with the individual goat cheese & scallion souffles I made.

So enjoy. Beware a small square will suffice, or you risk sugar shock. If you dare. You are on your own here.

So spray a square glass 9×13 baking dish w/ nonstick spray & line the bottom w/ small piece of parchment paper ( helps to remove them later after they have cooled).

I make what I call fudge finger brownies, but feel free to “cheat” and use the box mix of your choice. (duncan hines in a pinch will suffice). Make a  graham cracker crust, put on the bottom, no need to par bake. Just get it cold, makes spreading the brownie mix easier. Top w/ 1/2 the brownie mix  on top of crust & dot w/ 40z of  tiny cubes of very cold cream cheese, top with  dollops of peanut butter.  I, horrors use Jiff.  My preferred brand.  Sprinkle  with mini marshmallows.

Top with remaining brownie mix. Sprinkle 1/2 cup good chunked chocolate, dark, sweet, milk, what ever you like best. Then layer of chunky chopped macadamia nuts. Take a baking skewer and poke some holes through the batter. Pour 1/2 can or use the whole thing if u like of sweetened condensed milk over the top. Bake at 350% for 30 mins. It will be jiggly. Resist the urge to keep baking. Let cool. Chill. Cut into  squares or diamonds warm 10~ 15 sec in micro serve w/mini scoop vanilla ice cream and I like to sprinkle w/ toasted coconut. I frost with white chocolate buttercream, just to be sure.   Sugar overdrive will ensue shortly, so have a  large glass of cold milk at the ready.

For the vegans~ you can buy dairy free & gluten free brownie mix at the health food store, instead of cream cheese, use tofutti, and organic ground peanut butter. One with just fresh ground peanuts, or make your own. Here is a little known fact, marshmallows contain gelatin, off limits to most vegans, but marshmallow FLUFF!! Yes, FLUFF, is only  corn syrup, dried egg white and vanilla. That’s it. Or you can just leave it out. You can make a sort of version of sweetened condensed milk w/ vanilla soy milk & brown sugar & cornstarch, but just add it at the last 10 mins of baking. Glass of soy milk, scoop of soy ice cream, and you too can eat like everyone else.

But if you start cleaning your house with a massive burst of energy, at 1am you can’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Farm Stand News ~ Fall Harvest

Woo hoo my all time favourite  season is about to be upon us!  Already arriving at my local farms ~ squashs ~ pumpkins ~ apples! To name a few.

Butternut squash ~ Oh sweet biscuits! I have an idea for butternut squash yeast rolls, will post when I perfect it. Turn it into Bisque ~ Rissotto ~ Chunked, roasted, carmelized tossed w/ sauteed red onions  and dried cranberries or cherries plumped in cognac. Some sliced fennel and orange zest. Maybe sprinkle some snipped garden chives. Ya think.

Though I am known to take butternut squash and make a pie w/ currants, shallots and creme fraiche. Incredible does not even begin to cover it!  A very savory and tasty side dish for thanksgiving dinner.

Me thinks, keep this short and sweet and  fill in later with fall foodie ideas. From the Farm Stand. Upcoming, Apples. What was that song/ Apples, apples, apples are good to eat, for breakfast, lunch and dinner and for treats, apples for everyone, and by gosh ~ golden delicious and macintosh! I make an apple & curry soup which is sweet and spicy at the same time.  The obvious, cobblers, baked stuffed, turnovers, my favourite ~ my  mile high apple pie with golden cheddar pie crust  and tiny scoop of caramel swirl ice cream, with walnut sprinkle.

Okay, not one of my better posts, but hey!  I can’t be brilliant with my prose all the time, right.

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Reality Food TV ~ Talent or Trash

Couldn’t decide whether to write about the abysmal lack of talent on reality television, or about living in a Paris garret while attending culinary school! Woohoo some tales to tell there.

Think since tonight is Top Chef, I will start with reality TV. This idea got forming in my head while the lobsters I cooked for  mum and pops dinner were cooling. Even at $5.99 a lb, still a bargain! My hot ( meaning he is very cute) fish guy told me this Sunday and Monday only $3.99. So you can well imagine what I will be cooking later this week, even if only to get the meat into the freezer for those dark days of winter. Coming sooner than I want. Believe daylight savings time ends in 2 weeks? She shudders.

Mind wandering, I come back to earth. Had the TV on, and Bravo was replaying the last 2 episodes of season 1 of Top Chef. Harold ~ Tiffany ~ Dave. Back when they were civilized  and let them sit down during the critique. Now they make them stand like they are in front of a firing squad. Not nice. It was also Kathie Lee Joel’s one and only season, now she was not bad, from what I understand a far more accomplished cook than Padama, just not quite the eye candy. I mean do you really think Salomon Rushdie married her for intellectual conversation. Now I could be wrong here, so take it with a grain of salt.  It is my blog, and I am free to speak my mind.

Believe the first 2 seasons of Top Chef had a much higher caliber of chefly talent Certainly “cleaner” looking, less whiny, and hey where are the hair or beard nets on some of these dudes & doo rag for the chicks. I would not want to taste some sweaty persons food, without their hair being covered, and a bandana around the forehead. Tats and piercings, fine as long as I don’t have to look at them. Though I am rooting for the 2 brothers, they actually seem to have some modicum of cooking knowledge and taste. May the best brother win!

Certainly on Top Chef Masters, first thing Anita Lo did was wrap that head scarf on. Kudos to her! I will go eat at her next restaurant.

Don’t even get me started on Hells Kitchen. Not one of them are chefs, chimney sweeps maybe, and why would you drink like that on national television. That show is baked, cooked, fried, stick a fork in it! It is done.

My favourite foodie shows ~ Iron Chef ~ Bobby Flays “ThrowDown” he is always gracious when he loses ~ Alton Brown ~ Robert Irvines :Dinner Impossible” ~ and of course Guy Fieri  Triple D. Also ~ Ina Garten ~ Lidia B. ~ and any or all of the shows with Julia and Jaques!

My guilty pleasures!

Weeds, well it may be up in smoke ~ True Blood, though Alan Ball should hire the writer Charlaine Harris as a consultant ~ GLEE!! I am in love with show, and it will be on in 30 mins, so I must wrap this up. Fox has a winner with this one.  Just watched one episode of The Vampire Diaries, so the jury is still out on this one.  Next up Survivor! Though have to wait til next year for LOST. Bummer. Hopefully will not have “lost” interest by then! Hahah. Bad Joke.  That my friends is about the extent of my television viewing. If Dr. Who or BBC america ever came to CT I would be in heaven. As is, have to down load those shows. No Mighty Boosch, Flight of the Concords, ah the cultural wasteland cable tv has become.  Til then. Off to get to some Glee.

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Couldn’t bring myself to write this the other day as it is still a mental mind fuck, if I think to long about what might have been. I live in Fairfield County, CT. About a 50 min drive to mid town Manhattan.  The train is about 1 hour, unless you take the express to Grand Central Terminal. I spent the summer of 2001 working in The World Trade Center bldg. Downstairs in the  grand concourse right by the path trains  as Executive Chef of The GreenHouse Cafe not a prestigious job, but the owner Mike H. had like 12 restaurants in NYC! And he was building one for me! At 18 Waverly Place in the Village.  We started in November 2000.  It was going to be called “All About Food”, with a nightclub attached.  Shit my dream come true! Great location! NYU across the street, my vision, creation, my food, kitchen! With someone elses money, how cool was that!

But, we were stymied by building codes,so while AAF languished, I went to work in the  WTC at a  cafe/ restaurant/ glorified food court Mike owned and had just opened. His chef was shite, and sanitation was in the toilet, food costs were skyrocketing.  So Mike was like please come work here til we get set. I figured why not, the money was amazing! Though I loathed the bank of escalators going down. Scared the crap out of me. I hate them! Not so much going down, but coming back up! Adored being in the WTC, knowing the sheer volume of people going through the place thought  I could “talk” up my new venue. Didn’t happen. Give me my coffee, NYTimes and lunch sushi, now! Ah, commuters.

I did learn alot about NYC and permits, etc. How you need tons of $$. Any way, I told Mike when AAF looked liked it might not happen (due to a plumbing issue & NYU) that I was going to take a low key job in CT.

20 mins from my house, cute little cafe/tea shop . Huge mistake. I worked longer hours for about a 3rd of the pay. Now in this industry one knows immediately if a job is going to be great, or if it is going to suck. This one was the latter.  So Sept 6 th 2 days later called Mike said lets talk!  He said meet me at the greenhouse, on the  11th at 9am. Since AAF had been in limbo it wasn’t like it would be to much trouble to reinstate me. Just, that I  had taken a vacation.

Tues pm, Mike calls says his  daughter is super sick, you know I will hire  you back, so lets meet Thurs. Me, okay. My parents were still healthy at the time and just arriving in London for a rather extended stay.

So, I did NOT go to Manhattan that day, what would have been WED, instead driving to my crappy cafe job to quit, heard the news on the radio.  If not for a phone call the nite before, I would have been there. Ground Zero

I talked to my best bud who lives in midtown, she was standing on the roof of her building watching everything burn. Trying to reach her cousin, who happens to be Michael Lomanaco, at the time the Executive Chef of Windows on the World.  Whose life was saved by stopping to buy a new pair of reading glasses before going to work.

At home I waited to hear from my parents  in London. I lost some good friends that day, and scared the proverbial crap out of a few others. Well we are here now so say  a prayer for those who did not make it , and be glad u are here to live life with your loved ones.

Just a footnote, All About Food did eventually open, the following spring! 2oo2. We had a gala grand opening in Trump Tower at the Avon Center on 5th avenue. It was very successful. I went on to be Executive Chef for some of New York Cities finest catering companies! Two of the top three.

For now I am grateful for my daughter, my parents, siblings, and circle of friends. My restaurant ship will come in again, I have no doubt.

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Farm Stand News ~ Tomatoes

Okay start thinking of the song “we have no bananas today”. Sort of the same thing with this summers tomato crop. Total bust ~ a wash out ~ pipe dream! I have plants on my deck looking all leafy and green, may as well hang a “for sale” sign on them. Or better yet, deer here’s your afternoon snack. Come and get it. It’s for free. Yours for the taking.

We have hot house varieties available yes. Something warm and succulent from your backyard garden, sadly no.  Boo Hoo. Ah well it  has been a very wet summer for New England. An judging from the squirrels hoarding, mice in one of my fireplaces, webs everywhere oh ick I hate the creepy crawlies with a passion, I think this winter is going to kick ass. Meaning snow, ice, snow. etc blizzards. Oh I shudder to even think of that. But I am already getting ready, candles, batteries, bottled water et all so I say bring it! That’s the girl scout in me. With 2 house bound parents, I have to be prepared. Forge onward!

Just totally bummed I did not get my summer tomato sandwich. From my garden. Warm flesh. Garlicky baguette. Fresh Basil. EVO. Kosher salt. Fresh ground black pepper. Luscious fruit squirting tomato goodness into my mouth. Fresh mozzarella or goat cheese completely optional. Guild the lily with fresh grilled shrimp or jumbo lump crab meat, save the butter poached lobster for another day.

Obviously you can make this sandwich with a hot house tomato and maybe convince yourself you are enjoying summers bounty from your backyard garden. Nice try. Won’t happen. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for next year!

This will be the first year I will not be canning tomatoes from my garden or oven roasting “my own” for the pantry. You can still do these things, it just won’t be the same. Certainly will not taste the same.

Although my very favourite season is about to be upon us! FALL.  The best of the best. Pumpkins, apples, squashes,homemade breads, cobblers,soups, pies, woohoo! As Arnold once said..I’ll be back.

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This being a Holiday weekend here in Ct ~ The town of Redding always has a once a year book fair. It’s is hosted by the Mark Twain Library, and I inevitably find wonderful old cookbooks! Came home today with a trove of at least 10! Going back tomorrow, as it will be half price day!

Now when I go to these book fairs, I always have with me a printed list of what I am searching for, and those that I already own! So not to “double” up ~ but when I do they usually become a present . Trust me, being my friend is a good thing!

Today’s catch was spectacular!

I landed:

1) The Village Cookbook ~ by the Methodist Church of South Orange, NJ 1947 the illustrations are mind boggling! will pic this one!

2) How to Eat & Drink  Your Way Through a French Menu ~ James Beard  ~1971

3) Wines of France ~ by Alex Lichine ~ 1951 The most comprehensive volume of its day!

4) Betty Crockers ~ Good and Easy Cookbook~ first edition 1954! Score!

5) The Spice Islands Cookbook ~ 1961  A companion piece to their line of spices! Out  of print forever!

6) A Series of French Cooking Lessons  from La Bonne Femme  ~ 1970

7) The ABC of Gourmet Cookery ~ 1946 very slim volume but soo cool.

8 ) Basic Elements  of Fine Cookery ~  Auguste Escoffier

9) The 60 Minute Chef ~ 1947!  By Lillian McCue & Carol Traux ~ mines signed!

10) Sunset’s Barbecue Book ~ 1933 ~ It is priceless!

I spent a total of $5.00 , Yup count em $5! that’s all she wrote, and I have already googled one of my books, and its market value is $150..no bad for a >.50 cent pay out!

I know this blog is not as much fun as I usually am, but wil be back in fighting form tomorrow.

Eleanor Put Your Boots Back On by Franz Ferdinand

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