Tag, We’re It

Sue tagged me.  And since hers is my favoritist blog ever, I decided I should respond in kind.  No matter how long it took me.

Rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.

2. Share 5 facts about yourself

3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).

4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

So without further ado, 5 facts about me:

1. I was an entrant into the past two Next Food Network Stars. At one point, my video had an 89% approval rating and that was before I voted for myself.

2.  I am a vegetarian, but I still cook meat.  A chef must know how to cook all things, so I still practice meat cookery.  To taste, I put a bite in my mouth and then spit it out.  My wife is used to it.  The people at the Kansas City Culinary Institute are still getting used to it. 

3.  The greatest thing I ever cooked was a ginger filet.  It was a nice organic grain fed filet with grated ginger and a powdered ginger, salt and pepper served with a red wine gravy.  Unfortunately, by then I was a vegetarian and had to spit out my taste bite.

4.  I am writing a game.  This should establish me geekcred.

5.  My favorite color is purple.  This is a huge problem because I graduated from the University of Kansas and our school’s second most hated rival (Kansas State) is purple and white.  Fortunately, I bleed crimson and blue, but I do buy purple pens.

Okay, I am tagging:

Logtar
Bea
Game Dame
Gooby’s Mom
http://seansquawks.com/

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Cheap Entertaining or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof

This idea has really started to resonate with me.  After a Christmas party that carried a nearly $20/head charge, the Super Bowl, and my birthday coming up, entertaining has just been on my mind.  I try to stay away from entertaining as a topic here because there are many excellent blogs that cover it.  However, I did want to make this post.

 

So from personal experience I can say that parties are expensive.  Buying food, wine, beer, and cocktails can cost hundreds of dollars before party favors or plastic china (you know, the good stuff).  These tips will help control the costs and make the party fun.

1. Do Not Be Afraid to Have a Liquor Potluck 

Unless the cook has a reputation as a wine collector or beer expert, she should not be afraid to ask others to bring the booze.  This eases the financial burden on the cook and scratches off at least one store from her errand list.  More importantly, it lets others take a role in the party.  Guests that enjoy wine or have a favorite beer or mix a great cocktail are more than happy to share their passion.  Also, having others share their liquor will broaden everyone’s alcohol horizons.

2.  Make the Expensive Items

While it okay to buy from the store, sometimes this is not always the best strategy.  If a home cook can prepare a dish more cheaply than it can be purchased (barbecued items are a good example) the cook should strongly consider making it rather than buying it.

3.  Leave Healthy at the Store

A party is a time to eat junk food, fried foods, and desserts; all of those things that most people eschew during the normal work week.  This means that the party host does not need to worry about buying the best organic produce, reduced fat cheeses, or leaner cuts of meat.  All of these things cost money though their absence will scarcely be missed by partygoers.

4.  Buy in Bulk

In larger cities, most cooks know someone who has a wholesale club membership or have one themselves.  Because the cook is preparing food for a large number of people, this is the ideal to use those memberships.  If such a store is not available, the cook should still try to buy things is as large of cans as possible to lower the per unit cost.  Lastly, depending on the store, the cook may be able to negotiate a lower price on a larger order.

5.  It is Okay to Limit the Wow

While it is generally good to have one or two signature dishes at a party, not everything needs to be made with filet, lobster, and shrimp.  Sometimes the best dishes are the cheapest.

Ethan’s Egg Recipe

My son Ethan helped me make eggs this morning and this is his recipe:

  • 6 eggs
  • A good 2 second pour of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of pepper
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  When the skillet is hot, coat the skillet with a small layer of non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Add 6 eggs to a bowl and stir to break the yokes
  3. Dump in salt to help Daddy cook
  4. Stand over sink and desperately flick salt from eggs into sink
  5. Add garlic powder and pepper.  Stir vigorously.
  6. Pour into skillet and cook until the bottom layer is mostly cooked and scramble
  7. Continue cooking until the eggs are no longer runny
  8. Serve in a bowl, not a plate with lots of orange juice

Mmmm… Salty…

Happy World Vegan Day!

That’s right, it’s back again for another crazy year.  It’s World Vegan Day.

I know many of you, my readers, are not vegans, which is just fine.  Neither am I.  However, there is nothing wrong with trying vegan recipes every now and then (like my soyrizo taquitos for instance…)

I was vegan once for about three days, but I was just not ready for it.  The diet felt restrictive, but that was before I started to learn how much is out there fore the vegan to eat.  Make no mistakes about it: there is no such thing as a bad vegan cook because eating out vegan is so hard, they must prepare their own meals.

I will admit, some of it takes some getting used to.  Some of the meat replacements appear to only fool those who have not eaten meat in a long while (I’m looking at you tofu dogs), but vegan cuisine made from good local ingredients and well prepared tofu is every bit as gourmet as a $500/plate meal.

So, if you’re stuck in a rut or looking to challenge yourself, try vegan for a meal.  Your tastebuds and your body will thank you.

Food and the Family

So I’m having one of those nights where I’m sitting in front of my computer trying to figure out what recipe to share and all that came to me was “Recipe: Chocolate Chips.” 

1) Drive to the store 2) Buy cookie dough 3) Drive home 4) Read instructions.

And I think maybe my subconcious is telling me something.  With one major deadline over and another coming up, I think I am going to hug find the boy and make a mess in the kitchen because that’s why I cook.  I cook because my dad pulled me into the kitchen and we made a mess.  The food might not have tasted great (though my Dad is an excellent cook), but we had a lot of fun.

So if you’re reading this, feel free to stop.  Head into the kitchen and make some memories of your own.  I’ll be back tomorrow starting off my first Theme Week covering new and unique spices.  Let’s spend today and tomorrow remembering that food is more than just sustenance for the body, it’s sustenance of the spirit, too.

Almost Iron Chef

I had a moment tonight when I felt like I was in Kitchen Stadium competing in Battle: Really Need to Go to the Grocery Store and Stock Up.  In my mind, the Chairman said did his karate chop over a steel lid (or in my case the fridge) and revealed the secret ingredients: a few onions, potatoes, ears of corn, and apples, a screaming baby more hard to please than Jeffrey Steingarten and Anthony Bourdain put together and a wife in a bad mood who walked over to the slowly growing pile of mirepoix and said “Whatever you make needs to have chocolate.”  (Not sure how those two fit under the lid.  Good thing there was no octopus.)

It was not just the challenge of throwing together something nutritious and tasty to a two year old that made me feel like there was a chairman with an open mind and an empty stomach waiting to taste my dish.  It was when I had a skillet going, a stock pot of wine bubbling, and an oven full of roasted vegetables that I knew I had been watching Iron Chef, the show renowned the world across for giving birth to some funky dishes, way too much.  In the oven, I had roasted veggies that I was going to turn into stew using a classic gravy recipe, a hash made from finely chopped apples, potatoes, and corn.  These are not exactly normal dishes, but not that odd.  No, the thing that made me stop and think Iron Chef: I was poaching potatoes in a chocolate wine sauce.

When my wife made her remark about chocolate and walked out of the kitchen, inspiration (and mischief) hit me in the foot (strangely it was about the time I dropped my peeler.)  I uncorked a bottle of sweet red I bought in Herman, MO, threw in 1/4 cup of Hershey’s chocolate powder (no hate mail please), a cup of white sugar, and a large potato I had turned into small slices with a peeler.  I boiled the potatoes until they were done and the wine had boiled down to the point it was runny syrup.  (Is there a culinary term for that?)

I admit, it was the need to make my wife happy and get revenge on her at the same time that produced this dish, but it gave me a shot of confidence.  I felt my food was worthy to join the ranks of Salmon Roe Ice cream and natto beans cooked in soda or Casey’s sriracha ice cream from Top Chef. 

However, my wife, one of the two final judges of the meal, had the last laugh when she pronounced the dish “not chocolately enough” despite a remarkable balance between the red wine and the chocolate. 

Which is okay.  All I needed was a little smoke and melodramatic music, maybe a little commentary, and I would have felt like I was competing for the people’s acclaim and fame forever.

Musings on Chef Ripert’s Comment

During the Top Chef Season Three Finale (Part One) , Chef Eric Ripert made a comment I found jaw dropping.  Brian Malarky had prepared a braised elk dish that he served with a a number of garnishes including the choice of either gorgonzola or rochefort (forgive me if those are wrong, I am going off memory.)  During Judge’s Table, Ripert was aghast that Brian would allow his guests to choose the type of cheese they wanted on their dish.

He stated that Brian was less than a chef because he did not make all the decisions for his guests.

Comments like that make me wonder if I am missing something about the chef’s mind.   My feeling is that gorgonzola and the soft rochefort he chose were fairly similiar in flavor and contrast; one was milder, the other stronger.  It is not like he offered a choice between gorgonzola or cheese whiz.  (Had cheese whiz entered the equation, Brian would have dropped the culinary ball for a number of reasons.)  I just do not feel that Brian was shirking his duty as a chef, rather I think he realized that some people do not like the taste of gorgonzola.

I would love to pick Chef Ripert’s brain about why he felt allowing guests to choose was such a crime.  Strangely, enough, on the same day the episode aired, I was reading Thomas Ruhlman’s Reach of a Chef.  In the book, he tells of an instructor who would not eat the first meal his wife (then his girlfriend) prepared because the chicken had not been trussed.   Both examples illustrate two chefs’ dedication to food that I do not particularly find admirable.

I respect when someone loves food and loves their profession and pours every ounce of themselves into it, but the chicken was untrussed, not uncooked.  Brian gave his guests a choice.  I find these to be culinary nonissues next to serving undercooked meat or poor knife skills.

What do you think?  Is Ripert too harsh or am I not understanding the essense of a chef?