Monday, June 22, 2009

Seasoned Skewers = FAIL

I don't seem to remember how, but I was in the possession of some Seasoned Skewers, I think possibly spending some leftover change from a Sur La Table gift card or exchange or what not. The idea seems interesting: preseasoned with tasty flavors, and all I need to do is skewer up some meat and veggies, and grill. Easy, right?

The flavor I had was Thai Coconut Lime, so I skewered chicken, shiitakes, red pepper and onion and let them sit for 10 minutes on the skewers. Grill until done, and serve with rice and a rather tasty sauce (2:1:1 sweet chile sauce:soy:lime).

I tried the chicken and a pepper without sauce, and I barely got a hint of flavor. With the sauce, not a whiff. Maybe it'd be better to let the food sit longer, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend these - better off making a rub or a sauce and apply yourself.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gin, my old friend.

Thanks to my good friend Chris, along with a good word from my blog buddy Rob, I am now a tremendous fan of Hendrick's Gin.

My history of gin pretty much starts with a bottle of Seagram's Extra Dry Gin that my across-the-hall-neighbor (and eventual best friend) Alex were bought our first day of freshman year of college. We neophytes decided the best way to rock it was to do shots - from what I remember, it tasted like burning...needless to say, I avoided the stuff for the most part, always coming back for a taste now and again.

However, thanks to some great advice from smart people, I'm enjoying gin once again. Despite the suggestion, I like my G&T with a twist of lime, as opposed to a cucumber slice, of which I'm not a fan.

Trust me, kids...if a self-avowed gin hater (one Mr. Joseph Fritsche) took one taste and couldn't order one fast enough, then this is something worthwhile for you to pick up at the liquor store.

Friday, June 12, 2009

An old friend, and some new cookbooks

Michael, an old friend from college who I unfortunately catch up with only now and again, has a new blog, Klezmer and Kabernet, that anyone who is reading this should check out. Aside from being way funnier than I am, he knows more about wine than almost everyone I know. Since he's going to be blogging about all things oenological (and yes, I did have to go to to find out if that was a real world), and if you want to know more about wine, then I suggest you check it out.

Since I'm on the road to recovery from my separated shoulder, I promise I'm going to start doing some real cooking again, and I can exercise some creativity since I soon won't have to worry about lesson plans for a few months!

So, some of you might remember I've picked up this odd hobby of collecting signed cookbooks. I've recently added two more to the collection:

Burgers, Fries and Shakes by Bobby Flay: ...I suppose should take this time to say that I really don't particularly like Bobby Flay. It could be the fact that I don't get why he's so damn popular. It could be the the impression of arrogance and smugness I get from him. It could be the fact that I don't think the food he cooks on TV is terribly inspired or original. However, I wasn't about to turn down the opportunity to add to the collection... I get to the front of the line with Steph, and he's there and I'm trying to be all excited (Steph, meanwhile, wants to simply punch him in the face) and I hand him the book and try to engage him and....nothing. No affect, no friendliness, no nothing. Just a mumbled "hi" and some quarter-hearted (more like decimal-place) attempt at conversation. Well, now that I was annoyed, I took great pleasure in telling him that I'd never eaten at his restaurant but instead always ended up at Dock's Oyster House, a must when you go to AC. I figured that he was just like that because maybe he was freaked out by an almost-30 year-old guy waiting on line for his autograph...but he was that awkward and nonengaging with everyone! How is this guy still famous?!?

Michael Mina: The Cookbook by...well...Michael Mina: This one is thanks to my parents, who ordered the "Cookbook Tasting Menu" when they went to Michael Mina at the Bellagio on their trip to Las Vegas. No waiting on line here, just a supplemental charge to the menu got the signed book. Instead of ranting, let me tell you just what a genius Michael Mina is.

You know how on Top Chef, everyone tries to make duos or trios on a dish, only to fail because there's no forethought and poor execution? Not Michael Mina's trios...most of the cookbook is based on making a core recipe then expressing it in three distinct and harmonious ways. Granted, even he says that making just one of the trio recipes is good enough for a meal, but that taking the time to do all three is worthwhile. Scallop ceviche? Olive-oil poached rack of lamb? Butter-poached rib-eye steak? Molten cakes? Sign me up.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Top Chef Masters

How stoked am I to see real pro chefs face off? Random thoughts on the cheftestants.

- I'm rooting for my boy Wylie Dufresne, natch, but I don't think he's got the broad appeal that will take him far. The judges won't get his food.

- Hubert Keller is going to bring it home for the old-school French-technique style of cooking. He'll show that classic technique is still relevant and important in cuisine today.

- I like Rick Bayless. Yet another reason why I have to convince Steph to go to Chicago.

- I love Art Smith. He promotes healthy eating and good nutrition habits, and yet obviously enjoys his food. This harks back to an important belief of mine - never trust a skinny chef.

- I don't know any of the judges, nor do I care to. Where the hell is Padma, Tom and Gail?

- I think Liz Falkner is the dark horse, because she can do both savory and sweet. She might win one for the people because of this.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Things I Don't Like: Fish Sauce

I had a recipe in my Barbecue Bible (a must-have for any grilling enthusiast) for Thai chicken lettuce wraps. Essentially, chicken strips marinated in coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, sugar and turmeric, grilled and wrapped in lettuce leaves with a peanut sauce. Sounds good, right?

One roadblock: fish sauce. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about fish sauce:

Fish sauce is a condiment that is derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment. It is an essential ingredient in many curries and sauces. Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, Cambodian, and Filipino cuisine and is used in other Southeast Asian countries. In addition to being added to dishes during the cooking process, fish sauce can also be used in mixed form as a dipping condiment, and it is done in many different ways by each country mentioned for fish, shrimp, pork, and chicken. In parts of southern China, it is used as an ingredient for soups and casseroles.

I've made only 1 recipe that has fish sauce, a shrimp recipe that I did not end up enjoying as much as I'd have liked. I usually would substitute soy sauce, but I was feeling adventurous and thought I'd give the stuff a try again.

To say that the stuff smelled like rotten dirty feet would be an understatement. It's got to be one of the foulest smelling substances I've ever encountered (and I went through 2 semesters of smelling particularly horrid organics). Even though I had hoped the flavor would mellow somewhat during the grilling, all I tasted was nasty feet, and that's even through a particularly seasoned and tasty peanut sauce.

The moral of the story? I don't think I'll be cooking with fish sauce again anytime soon.