Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Homemade Potato Chips

Millions of people around the country will getting ready for the Big Game on Sunday. Some will be thinking about point spreads, touchdowns, and if their team will win. But most of us will be thinking about food. Easy to eat food, finger food, snacks. And for me one of the best snacks is just a simple potato chip. Salty. Crunchy. These have three ingredients: russet potato, vegetable oil, and salt. They taste like potato chips. I know that might sound stupid, but it's true. Nowadays, too many commercially available chips taste nothing like potatoes. Some taste greasy and are loaded with artificial flavorings. I saw some chips the other day that said 'chili flavored.' Really? Do we need a chip to taste like a bowl of chili? Don't get me wrong, I like a good bowl of chili, but as a chip flavor...I'm not sure. So, if you're in the mood for a good chip that taste like a potato, try making some at home.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Try This Beer

Stone Ruination IPA

I love the Stone Brewing Company; their beers are bold and sometimes even adventurous. Their Arrogant Bastard ale is great, and I have the Stone India Pale Ale at my house all the time. But the Ruination IPA is exactly what I look for in a big IPA. First off, the name. They named it Ruination because of the immediate ruinous effect on your palate. They claim that when you drink this beer every other food or drink you have afterwards becomes substantially more bland. How cool is that! It's like they're saying 'you're drinking this beer and only this beer right now.' Of course a beer can't just rely on words or a cool slogan, it must deliver. Ruination does. It's a monster IPA that weighs in at 7.7% alcohol and over 100 IBU's (International Bitterness Units- how hop levels are measured). The bubbly white head sits on top of a beautiful burnt orange ale. The hops are present through out the brew. After the first pour, before I got the glass to my nose, I could smell heavy citrus and pine. As the glass got closer everything intensified and I also picked up some peppery notes. The first sip punched me with Centennial hops, one of my favorite variety's. This was actually like biting into the hop flower itself; it had tons of fresh hop flavor. This brew was clearly dry hopped with a massive amount of hops. But to my surprise it was not as bitter as I was anticipating. This medium bodied beer held it's head right to the bottom of the glass. A slight maltyness came through and also a touch of alcohol towards the finish. After all the other flavors had begun to dissipate the hops remained strong. On the bottle the slogan says: A liquid poem to the glory of the hop! That truly sums up this big IPA.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Leftovers: The Cuban Sandwich

I think leftovers get a bad reputation. Most people just don't eat them or just put no effort into them. Certain foods are great as is, or even better, the next day. Beef stew, soup, and even spaghetti and meatballs are awesome the next day. But what about roasts, chicken, or turkey? All those things run the risk of drying out during reheat. You could always hide those leftovers in a soup or a pie. But not everyone has the time to do that I guess. There's always the ubiquitous (hahahah) cold sandwich, but that's boring, especially on a cold night. So, when I have some leftover pork roast, I'm making some Cubano's! A traditional Cuban sandwich is made with ham, roast pork, baby Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, on Cuban bread. The whole thing is layered and pressed together with a sandwich press called a plancha. Nowadays most places use a panini press. Well, I don't have a plancha, or a panini press. So, I used two slate flooring tiles (unglazed, of course). They work well as a pizza stone too; I use them in my oven all the time. Before I assembled the sandwich I cranked my oven up to 500 degrees to heat up the slate. I put the Cuban in between the rocket hot tiles and kept the whole thing in the oven for about 7 minutes. Just long enough to melt the cheese, and squish and crisp up the bread.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Try This Cheese

Great Hill Blue

Some of you have asked 'where's Try This Beer been?' It's coming, I promise. I've been drinking some good beers lately but nothing has inspired me to write anything. This cheese, however, did. I fell in love with this cheese over the weekend. Kris and I stayed at Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, MA Friday night. We were meeting our friends Lisa and Lori later that night for dinner. We checked into the hotel early and went downstairs to Bambara; it's a great brasserie located off the lobby of the hotel. We knew that night's dinner would be a feast, so we ordered some Harpoon IPA's and the cheese platter. Well, the beer was extremely fresh and as hoppy as I've ever had it before. The cheese platter was simple: 3 cheeses, toasted pecans, honey, and lightly grilled bread. Everything was great, but the Great Hill Blue was amazing. If you like a bold, fully flavored blue cheese, this one's for you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Maggie Loving Winter

Maggie was born in Arizona. When we first got her she did not like the snow or cold of New England. But two winters later, she loves it! We think she's part snow bunny.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Pepperoni and Ricotta Pizza

After our trip to Santarpios a little while ago all I can seem to think about is the perfect slice of pizza. Kris and I attempted making our own last week. It was good...but not perfect. I put pizza into two category's: incredible pizza and everything else. Unfortunately, this was the latter. We had great toppings, a great dough, fresh cheeses, and a screaming hot oven with an equally hot pizza stone. Everything was cooking up great; it was slightly charred, the ricotta was oozing, and the pepperoni was giving up its wonderful grease. I took my pizza peel and removed the pie from the oven. I placed it on the cutting board and, of course, took it's picture. As soon as I started to cut it I knew it was going to be good, but not 'incredible'. It was the bottom of the pizza that fell short of perfection. It was not that crispy and chewy crust that I consider a vital part of the perfect slice. I think to achieve that you need a much hotter oven that has an all stone bottom. Or even better: a wood fired, brick oven. Hmmm....I am looking for a new project...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It Was 81 Degrees in Antigua Today

Last year at this time we were on this secluded beach in Antigua. That day was also in the eighties, hot, and humid. We had the place to ourselves; we swam, relaxed, and completely fell in love with that small tropical island. I remember eating conch fritters and drinking native rum for lunch...The forecast in New England for the next couple of days looks brutal. Lows around 2 degrees, highs around 10 and wind chills in the 5 below zero range...I miss Antigua. I wish we were there right now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Eat Food, Not Trends

I love raw tuna. There, I said it.
I love it in sushi, as sashimi, seared but still raw, plain, dipped in Ponzu…if its good quality tuna, I’m eating it. But lately I’ve been reading that raw tuna is ‘passé’ or ‘cliché’ (their words, not mine). The Ultra Food Elite said so. The Uber Foodie Bloggers write about it all the time. You know the types; they go to restaurants looking for any reason to bash the food, chef, service, and then blog about it at 1 AM. Things like this: “The ubiquitous raw tuna…” or “…didn’t anyone tell the chef that raw tuna is archaic now?” and “if I see one more tuna tartar!!” These are the same people who raved how ground-breaking raw tuna was about 10 years ago. And they were wrong then too. Some cultures have been eating raw fish since before recorded history. I guess they’ll have to stop now, it’s not en vogue anymore. But, mark my word, in 10-15 years there will be bloggers saying things like this: “retro raw tuna” or “…it brilliantly transformed me back to my youth.” Claiming that raw tuna is once again back in fashion. Well, I’m not waiting. I’m not following food trends. I’ll base my opinion on the quality and freshness of the tuna, lamb, veal, or whatever is being served to me. So, I’ll let ‘the experts’ argue about what’s in or out. But in the meanwhile, pass the Ponzu.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Sous Vide Diver Scallops on Roasted Corn Relish with Citrus Vinaigrette

Well, I broke out the immersion circulator this week. I've tested it without food and also did some reheating with it, but this is the first time I cooked something in it. I knew it would be seafood so I picked scallops. I love scallops; a fresh seared sea scallop is hard to beat. The first thing I needed to do was find some great ones. Whether I'm searing, deep frying, eating raw, or using sous vide, I'll try to get diver scallops that are dry packed. And that's exactly what these were. I removed the abductor muscle from each one and seasoned with grape seed oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. I vacuum sealed them and placed them back in the fridge while I got the thermal bath ready.

I like scallops raw-rare. But for this experiment I thought I would cook them closer to just over rare; 121 degrees to be exact. So I get the water up to temp and started to work on the roasted corn relish and citrus vinaigrette. The best thing about using sous vide cooking is you can't overcook anything. As long as your water is at the correct temp you could leave those scallops in there for hours. It's great for timing a dish.

When I was ready to assemble the first thing I noticed was the color of the scallops: milky white. Not exactly my idea of a good looking scallop. Everything I read got me ready for this, so I had my kitchen butane torch in hand. I seared up the scallops as good as I could for the first time. I've used my torch many times before on creme brulee but never on a piece of meat. I definitely burnt some and under seared others. Next time I'm using a pan with some butter...and that got me thinking. When I usually do scallops I use a pan with some butter, about 2 minutes a side and they're done. The process that I just did took a vacuum sealer, immersion circulator, and a butane torch. Don't get me wrong the scallops tasted great, but they also tasted great raw. So I'm not sure if cooking them sous vide added anything extra to the dish. I'm glad that I finally broke out the circulator, but maybe scallops were not the best choice for it. For the next time I'm thinking something a bit heartier, like duck or lamb.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Santarpios is a hole in the wall in East Boston. It is a neighborhood bar, plain and simple. It’s got grit and attitude all around; but, it also has some of the best pizza on the planet. From the second you walk in the door you can smell meat grilled over hardwood and fresh pizza cooking. Are there any better smells in the food world? Kris and I went there last week and sat at the bar for lunch. The rough-around-the-edges barmaid asks what we were drinking. I ordered a Jack and coke, because this place is not the type of place where you ask “what do you have on tap?” or “can I see a wine list?” We started off our lunch with the BBQ meat combo. It was grilled homemade sausage and grilled lamb. By the way those are the only two meats on the menu. The coolest thing about sitting at the bar is you get to watch them grill your food. The pit master has many skewers of meat going at once; they sizzle and hiss as the juices hit the hardwood lump charcoal. It becomes very intoxicating and I can’t wait to taste that grilled meat. The plate gets tossed down in front of us with a “here ya go.” It’s served with hot cherry peppers and homemade bread. The two of us are silent as we eat the perfectly cooked lamb and sausage (something Kris never eats). The ultimate bite for me was the lamb with some hot peppers on the bread. The sausage was juicy and was packed with Italian seasonings. When the food on the plate was gone, I wanted more. But the pizza was on its way…That’s right, we came here for pizza. We ordered some more drinks and a pepperoni pizza. The pizza menu is also very limited: cheese, pepperoni, sausage, onions, peppers, mushrooms, anchovies, and garlic. As we waited for our pizza the regulars talked in Italian, did shots of whiskey, and were having a great time. When the pizza was placed in front of us it looked amazing. The crust was slightly charred and the cheese was nicely browned, you could tell it just came out of the oven. I wanted so bad to take out my camera and take a picture, but I just couldn’t. Two reasons: one, it’s just not that type of place, two, I needed to eat this pizza now! And that’s just what we did. The crust was crispy but also had a little chew to it. The sauce was fresh and mild with lots of big tomato flavor. The toppings of sweet pepperoni and the perfect amount of cheese worked wonderful together. I added a little crushed red pepper flake to mine, but Kris enjoyed hers as is. Together, Kris and I finished that pizza. The barmaid came over to us with a grin and said ‘wow, you did it; I didn’t think you had it in ya.” I’ll take that as a compliment any day. We paid the bill, said thanks to the barmaid, and said bye to some of the regulars that we were talking to. Before we even got to the East Boston toll both I asked Kris “When do you want to go back?”
“Soon” she said “real soon.”

Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Homemade Meatballs

Homemade meatballs? Well, of course homemade...right? I always assumed most people make their own meatballs, not buy them from the frozen food section of the supermarket. Man, was I wrong. This week on one of the forums I frequent, a debate about pre-made frozen meatballs got rather heated. I was on the side of: frozen meatballs are not good. They don't look good, they don't smell good, and they don't taste good. I don't care how much bacon you put on them, or how much sauce they are swimming in, they are still pre-made, frozen meatballs. I guess that makes me a 'food snob.' That's cool with me, I've been called much worse. During this debate people said that frozen meatballs are just as good as homemade and are much easier. Easier? Is it hard to make meatballs? I'm seriously asking, because Kris makes the meatballs in our house.

"Kris?" I said.


"Can you make some meatballs tonight?"

"Sure. I just need to pick up a few things at the store, I was going anyway."


Wow! That was easy. She came back from the store with some 85/15 ground beef, added in some seasoning, rolled up some balls, cooked them on high heat in the oven, and then tossed them into a simple homemade sauce. They made some damn good meatball sliders.