Brandade – Hot Cod

There are certain things that if I see on a menu, I will almost always order them, and brandade is one of those things. This amazing dish from the south of France can be made many different ways, but it’s usually some sort of combination of salt cod, potato, garlic, and olive oil.

Once made, it can be eaten as is, or turned into a beautifully browned and bubbly gratin. Actually, forget I said that, as this should always be baked and eaten piping hot, ideally with some homemade crostini.

The biggest (and only) challenge with this dish is handling the salt cod. It needs to be soaked in cold water for a day or two before you can work with it. However, depending on which salt cod you use, the time this takes can vary. If you’ve never used it before, follow the instructions herein, but maybe cut off a small piece once it’s soaked, cook it in a little bit of water, and test it for salt content. It should still be kind of salty, but not unpleasantly so.

As I mention in the video, the final product should get precariously close to being too salty, without going past that point. It's going to be similar to things like smoked salmon, prosciutto, or salami. This is why you should not do any salting, including when you boil the potatoes, until everything comes together.

This is a great recipe for entertaining, since you can make it ahead of time, and bake when you’re ready to serve. You can use one large shallow dish, or do a smaller size portion like I did here. Remember everything is cooked; so all you need to do is heat it through, brown the top, and serve. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 24 snack-sized portions:
1 pound skinless salt cod fillet, soaked in cold water for 24-36 hours, changing water 4-5 times
2 bay leaves
6 springs thyme
1 1/2 cups whole milk
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
8 large garlic cloves, peeled, halved
1 pound gold potatoes, cooked until tender with garlic
1/2 lemon, juiced, or to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp crème fraiche for the top, optional

- Bake at 450 F. for about 20, or until browned

Homemade Beef Jerky – A Real Convenient Store

Until recently, beef jerky was a late night, convenience store impulse buy, and what was in it was the least of your worries at that hour. I’ve had beef jerky where MSG was the most nutritious thing in it, but times have changed. 

Thanks to a new wave of modern day cave-people, eating healthy, high-protein snacks is all the rage, and while you can find many artisan brands out there, making your own is fun, easy, and using this method, relatively quick. 

You can get great flavor with as little as a 3-hour marination, but feel free to go as long as 24-hours. I did half a batch using both methods, and I actually prefer the shorter period, which seems to produce a beefier jerky. Michele on the other hand, liked the longer method, and its spicier, slightly saltier taste.

You can use any lean cut of beef you want, but I think top round is a great choice, as I explain in the video. Whatever you decide to use, please do yourself a favor, and have the butcher cut it for you. Nice thin, even slices are key, so the meat dries evenly. Just tell the butcher you are making jerky, and they’ll know what to do. I hope you give this beef jerky recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 6 (2-oz) portions Beef Jerky:
2 pounds thinly sliced beef top round
3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded tablespoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 generous tablespoon honey
- Marinate for 3 hours or more.
- Bake at 175 F. for 3-4 hours or until dry and leathery

Farro with Wild Mushrooms – So Old it’s New

We don’t get to eat a lot of food that’s identical to what the ancient Romans would have eaten, which is one of the things that makes farro so fun. 

They must have had mushrooms and fermented cream back then, so it’s easy to imagine Cleopatra and Mark Antony enjoying this before an evening of who knows what.

You can buy dry farro in whole-grain form, but I prefer the “pearled” style, where the tougher outer layer has been polished down. Mine took about 40-45 minutes to cook, but that will depend on the brand you buy, as the sizes, and amount of polishing can vary.

I think this makes the perfect winter side dish, and while you could serve it as an entrée like a risotto, for me it’s much better as a co-star. It has a very unique, firm and chewy texture that makes it a great contrast for roasted or braised meat, but all by itself, it could get tiresome. That said, I hope you give this exciting “new” grain a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 portions:
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms (a small handful), *soaked, and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
10 brown mushrooms, cubed
1/2 onion, small dice
2 clove minced garlic
salt to taste
1 heaping cup pearled farro
3 cups chicken stock, divided
2 tbsp crème fraiche
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
grated Parmigiano Reggiano

*Note: You can strain and use the soaking liquid in the dish, but after only 20 minutes it’s fairly weak, and I wanted the extra flavor of chicken broth, so I didn’t use it. If you soak them for a longer time, and/or want to stay vegetarian, then go for it.

Chicken Under a Brick – Worth the Weight?

The problem with posting a video like this "Chicken Under a Brick," is that as soon as it goes live, I’ll start getting emails from people asking if they should do this instead of our other roast chicken videos, like salt roasted chicken, or ultimate roast chicken, or million-dollar chicken, or…well, you get the idea.

The answer is yes and no. You should definitely try this, since it really does produce a gorgeous, juicy, and flavorful bird; and yet you don’t need to, because those other recipes are totally working for you. I know, I’m not being much help.

What I find so interesting about this method is how the weight of the bricks seem to give the meat a slightly firmer, somewhat compressed texture. It’s hard to describe, and I’m not 100% sure it’s even actually happening, but I really believe there’s something unique about this technique.

You should use a big cast iron pan for this, but it will also work in a high-quality, heavy-duty stainless steel pan, or other oven-proof skillet. The key is to heat it very well before the chicken goes in. Other than that, there’s really no way to screw it up, unless you under or overcook it, which won’t happen, since you're going to check it with the thermometer.

By the way, I was kidding about using local, artisan bricks made from reclaimed clay. Since I live in San Francisco, I figured I better clarify that. I really hope you give this fun and effective chicken under brick recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
1 whole, fully-dressed chicken (mine was 3 1/2 pounds)
salt and pepper to taste
dried or fresh herbs on the inside only

- Roast at 425 F. for 25 minutes, turn and continue cooking until chicken is done (165 F. internal temp in thigh). Broil on high for a few minutes to finish crisping skin.

Happy National Pancake Day!

Since there is no National Mancake Day (yet), I decided to use today’s National Pancake Day celebration as an excuse to repost this mucho macho variation. 

These bacon and cheddar corn pancakes were created as a Father’s Day brunch special, and have been very well received. I hope you give these “mancakes” a try soon, like tonight. Click here to see the original post. Enjoy!

Mardi Gras Special: Red Beans and Rice – Comfortably Yum

Any time someone asks the question, “What exactly is soul food,” the answer should always be a comforting bowl of red beans and rice. Just sit them down, give them a spoon, and when they finish, ask them if they understand. They will.

Like I say in the intro, there are thousands of ways you can make this, using all sorts of smoked pig parts and sausages, but there are really only two ways you can serve it – thin and soupy, or thick and creamy.

Once you slowly simmered your beans, and they’re very, very soft and tender, and your meats are falling apart, you’re ready to serve. If you ladle it up as is, you’ll have something that’s fairly loose, with most of the beans still whole. It’s great like this, and based on my travels to New Orleans, the more common style.

However, another popular technique is to smash and stir some of the cooked beans into the mixture as you continue cooking. This creates a much thicker, and creamier consistency, which I really enjoy when I want something a bit more substantial. It’s closer to a chili texture, and I love how the rice sticks to it.

This is totally up to personal taste, so if you’ve never made it before, try some on rice as soon as the beans are tender, and it’s still pretty juicy. Check it out, and then, if you want, you can continue cooking/smashing/stirring to end up closer to where I did.

Regardless of how thick you make yours, you’ll want to soak your beans overnight in cold water before starting the recipe. If you forget, which you will, you can always use the quick method. Bring the beans to a boil in large pot of water, turn off the heat, and let it sit there for an hour or so to soften up, and become easier to digest.

If you put enough meat in it, this is more than a meal, but it also makes a great side dish for barbeque, or pretty much anything. Throw in some collard greens, and maybe some cornbread, and let the good times roll. I hope you give this easy, red beans and recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 8 portions:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
12 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced or cubed
1 cup finely diced onion
3/4 cup finely diced celery
3/4 cup finely diced green peppers
4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 smoked ham hock
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 quarts chicken broth or water, plus more as needed to adjust consistency
1 pound red kidney beans, soaked overnight
about 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
hot sauce to taste

Next Up: Red Beans & Rice

Photo courtesy of Flickr user cookbookman17

What’s Your Foodie IQ?

My friends at Allrecipes.com have been working on some online food-related quizzes, and wanted me to check one out to see what I thought. I was hesitant at first, since I was obviously going to get all the questions right, and have to tell them their test was way too easy, thereby possibly hurting someone’s feelings.

However, much to my chagrin, I only scored a 15. Apparently, the quiz is not too easy. Do you think you could beat Chef John’s score? Find out here!

Baked Alaska with a Lighter? You Betcha!

I’ve always wanted to do a Baked Alaska, and with Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be the perfect time to demonstrate this show-stopping dessert. I just didn’t anticipate coming up with possibly the greatest browning meringue hack in history.

As you’ll see in the video, I made two of these, so I could show you a couple different ways to decorate. After browning the first one with a blowtorch, my preferred method, I started on the second, and for whatever reason the torch stopped working.

I was just about to turn on the oven, where you can finish these at 500°F until browned, when I had an idea. I’d just bought a windproof lighter to use when grilling in the backyard, and wondered if the tiny jet flame that shoots out from the tip would be hot enough to do the job. It was, and it did.

As far as the actual recipe itself, there’s really not a lot that can go wrong. As long as you freeze your ice cream cake thoroughly before browning the meringue, and cook your sugar syrup to 240°F, yours will look just like mine, or better.

There are obviously unlimited combinations of cake and ice cream flavors you can use for this, so I suggest consulting with your Valentine, and giving this easy Baked Alaska technique a try very soon. Enjoy!


For 2 Baked Alaska:
Note: You can make these ahead, including the piping, freeze, and then brown the meringue before serving.

1 1/2 cups raspberry ice cream
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
2 round thick slices chocolate cake

For the Italian meringue:
2 large egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
- beat to soft peak, and slowly add 240 F. sugar syrup (see below)
- continue beating until you have stiff peaks that will hold a sharp line

For the sugar syrup:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water

FLAMBE NOTE: First of all, be careful. Pour an ounce or so of any liqueur (I used brandy but cherry liqueur or Framboise would be even better) into a pan and place on low heat. When it’s warm enough you can it ignite with a lighter, and spoon the flaming liquid over your baked Alaska. Just be sure to turn down the lights!

Lobster Mac and Cheese – Only Looks Hard

Every once in a while I post a video that makes a recipe look way harder than it is, and this “simple” lobster macaroni and cheese is one such dish. The problem has to do with the fact that for this kind of recipe, we’re preparing each of the main components simultaneously.    

While you finish your cheese sauce, you cook your pasta; in between stirs you cut up your lobster, and make your breadcrumbs. Nothing technically difficult, but since I decided to film the steps in the order I did them (instead of prepping things ahead and filming each component start to finish), this does look kind of daunting. It’s not.

You can actually prep these ahead, and bake before that romantic, possibly Valentine’s, dinner. You probably want to take them out and let them warm up for 30 minutes before before baking. By the way, only bake these until the tops are browned, and the inside is just hot. If you leave them in past that point, you’re risking the cheese breaking, and things will get greasy.

As far as the lobster goes, tails are pretty easy to find, and one 5 or 6-ounce tail per person is plenty with the rich, cheesy macaroni. Of course, you’ll want to check to make sure your sweetheart isn’t allergic to shellfish, because that would be a little awkward. Otherwise, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 large portions:
2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 lobster tails (5-6 oz each)
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cold milk
cayenne to taste
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
pinch ground nutmeg
few drops Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 1 generous packed cup)
1 ounce grated Gruyere cheese (about 1/3 cup)
1 generous cup elbow macaroni (1 cup, plus a tablespoon or so)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
*Note: Like I said in video, make sure your mac and cheese mixture is wet and saucy in the pan, otherwise it might get dry when it bakes. Don’t be afraid to add a splash of the pasta water to loosen things up.

For the crumbs:
3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon melted butter, or enough to moisten
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano 

 - Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until browned

Next Up: Lobster Mac & Cheese


Onion Soup and Something for the Slow Cooker People

I’m not sure where you live, but for the sake of this post let’s assume the weather is terrible. With that in mind, I thought I’d repost our two French onion soup recipes, as well as this link to an article by Vanessa Greaves, on using a slow cooker to make caramelized onions.

I have a small, but passionate group of viewers that regularly submit food wishes for slow cooker recipes, but for whatever reason I can never seem to make it happen. To very nominally make up for that, I’d hope you check her post out, and maybe give it a try. If you do, you can use them in either of these great soup recipes. Just click on the title, and away you go. Enjoy!


French Onion Soup


Don't let the bad photography fool you; this is one great soup recipe.

American French Onion Soup


I show how to use an oven to caramelize the onions, instead of the traditional stove top. You know, in case you don't have a slow cooker.

Fresh Raspberry Sauce – Easy and Effective

As promised, here’s the fresh raspberry sauce we served with our recently posted chocolate decadence cake. While originally intended to be a companion video for that dessert, this stuff is so beautiful and delicious, you and your Valentine may not even need the cake.

Like I mentioned in the video, this will absolutely work even if you use frozen raspberries, but nothing compares to the flavor of the sauce if you can somehow find and use fresh raspberries.

Of course, that’s only half the battle, because the real key, besides the fresh fruit, is not overcooking the sauce.  We don’t want to boil and reduce this mixture. We’re not trying to make a thick heavy syrup, but instead a light, fresh, and vibrant pool of raspberry goodness.

This was perfect with our chocolate decadence, but would be equally as effective with pretty much any quality, store-bought dessert; in particular cheesecake, or vanilla ice cream. I’ve checked with the legal team, and even if you put this on something from the market, you’re still allowed to technically call your dessert "homemade."

By the way, if this gorgeous sauce doesn’t help you seduce the object of your desire this Valentine’s Day, don’t be too upset, as it probably wasn’t meant to be. So good luck, and I hope you give this fresh raspberry sauce a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 3 Cups Fresh Raspberry Sauce:
4 half-pint baskets of fresh raspberries (1.5 pounds), rinsed, drained
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste
*0 to 4 tablespoons water, depending on desired thickness

*Depending what you’re going to serve the sauce with, you may want to add some water before cooking the berries. If you want something a little thicker, to serve over ice cream for example, then don’t add any water. On the other hand, if you want and lighter texture like I did, toss in a few tablespoons of water before heading to the stove. Be careful; we’re not boiling and reducing the sauce, so we can’t cook out excess liquid.

Chocolate Decadence - The Eighties Most Iconic Dessert

This “flourless” chocolate cake was all the rage in the 1980’s, and looking back, it all makes sense. As I vaguely remember, the decade celebrated decadent overindulgence, and this dessert is that, and more. By modern standards, this cake is ridiculously rich. In fact, some of you may find it too intense, but most true chocolate fiends will be in heaven.

This was invented by chef Narsai David, in Berkeley, California, and while close to the original, I bumped up the ingredient amounts a bit, so we can use a standard 9-inch pan.  Also, he doesn’t use cayenne. By the way, if you don’t use the same chocolate I did (milk, white, etc.), I can’t tell you what will happen, because I don’t know.

I dusted the buttered pan with flour, because that’s how Mr. David does it, but my sources in the pastry world tell me that cocoa may be a better choice, since it won’t leave a light film. Doesn’t bother me, but I have to write something for these posts. 

Be careful not to overcook this. It goes for a relatively short time in a hot oven, so while mine took about 14 minutes, you should start checking around 13. The top will be just barely set, with a jiggle below the surface. If it’s really soupy, then leave it another minute and check again.

This is best served very cold. It’s easier to cut, and I enjoy the texture more than at room temp. As I mentioned, stay tuned for the raspberry sauce video, which I’ll post on Friday. That will give you plenty of time to practice both for Valentine’s Day. I hope you give this a try soon.  Enjoy!


Ingredients for one 9-inch cake pan (this is extremely rich cake, so you can easily get 12 to 16 servings):
18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (62% cacao)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon flour
5 large eggs, room temp, or slightly warm for best results
tiny pinch of cayenne and salt
- serve with ice-cold fresh raspberry sauce

* Bake at 425 F. for probably 12-15 minutes depending on the oven, until just barely set, with a jiggle below the surface. The cake will firm up as it cools.

TIP: If you want to remove your cake from the pan for presentation, just set it in a pan of hot water for a minute, and it will pop right out. 

Beef and Barley Stew – Cold Enough for You?

We’re currently right in the middle of stew season, and this beautiful bowl of beef and barley would be perfect for your next super-storm. 

Nope, we can’t do anything about our crazy weather, at least according to a handful of climate scientists employed by the oil industry, but what we can do something about, is what we’re going to eat while we watch the snow pile up.

When it comes to stick-to-your-ribs stews, it doesn’t get any better than shank.  There’s so much gelatin-producing connective tissue, that it makes an especially satisfying sauce for your meat and grain. 

Speaking of grain; I use something called “naked barley,” which I thought was just a catchy name for polished, or “pearl barley," but apparently it’s actually a rare variety where the hull comes off naturally during harvesting. I still say it’s a clever marketing ploy, but no matter which barley you choose, you’re still going to just cook it until tender.

By the way, with recipes like this be sure to have some extra broth or stock on hand, in case your stew gets too thick at the end. And yes, you can add extra liquid and easily turn this into a stellar soup. If you can find some fresh horseradish root, I highly recommend trying my snowy garnish. It really adds a nice, little sharp counterpoint to the sticky stew. I hope you give it a try soon.  Enjoy!


Ingredients for four servings:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds beef shank (2 thick slices), seasoned generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
2/3 cup diced celery
2/3 cup diced carrots
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 cup pearl or naked barley
salt to taste (if it tastes bland, you need more salt)
freshly grated horseradish root
- Cook beef shank until tender, then remove, and cook the barley in the stewing liquid until tender. Heat beef in cooked barley. That's it.

Seattle Wins Super Bowl XLIX! The Bones Were Right!

You saw it. I saw it. The whole world saw it. The Seattle Seahawks had Super Bowl XLIX won. All they had to do was give the ball to the best running back in football, and it was over. Two yards, a cloud of dust, and they’re the champs.

But, inexplicably, a pass was called, and defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. It will undoubtedly go down as the dumbest, most ridiculous, and perplexing coaching decision in the history of sports. So, why did it happen?

Did the Patriots have compromising photos of Pete Carroll, and use them to blackmail him into throwing the game? Or, maybe he's crazy? Is he crazy? Or, did New England somehow tamper with the chicken bones I used? Hey, I wouldn’t put it past them. Unfortunately, we may never know for sure, but what we do know is this; the bones were right, again.