Saturday, July 30, 2005

I'm no Superman...

I love Creme Anglaise.

I just do. I can't explain my love of this simple vanilla sauce, but I can tell you how I got to this point...

Flashback to 1994: I was a wide eyed food newbie with no true culinary experience whatsoever, I mean c'mon, my family is mostly German.
I was put together with three other people and our group was assigned different jobs on different weeks. One week, we were in charge of desserts. One of the guys in my group, Jim, brought up the idea of making a Creme Anglaise. I had no clue what he was talking about, but I was on board. Basically, we had to make enough for about 50 people over a 4 hour period of service. Simple, right? Absolutely...

We prepped it, got it on the fire and figured it would take about an hour to complete. The trick to an Anglaise, in my opinion, is the stirring. Constant freeking stirring. So we took 15 minute shifts. Jim started it, I went second, and a girl -whom I have since forgotten anything about- went third. The third shift fucked everything up. She whined about the stirring and the boredom and about the heat and... Okay, the point being that she didn't stick to the plan. She turned up the heat from low to just above medium and stopped stirring. We got vanilla scrambled eggs and had to scrap the whole batch. We couldn't even strain it, it was so gummed up... Disastrous.

Skip ahead to 2002: Jeb, Kristen, Baxter and I go to J. Alexanders one evening for dinner. We all ordered our entrees and went about drinking and talking about working. When the salad came to the table, it was garnished with a croissant glazed with Creme Anglaise. I didn't think much of it in the moments before I ate it, but as soon as I tasted it - I was hooked back in.

I hadn't thought about it for years. The initial failed attempt had long given way to other more spectacular failures. But that night changed everything...

Now I make a batch once or twice a year for various reasons. It's a sweet sauce, so I feel it goes better with pastries or sweet desserts rather than Caesar salads. If you're patient and have a use for it (Croissants, on ice cream, ect.) I highly recommend trying it. I'm going to drizzle some over a few of those amazingly good lava cakes I made the other night...

Creme Anglaise
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 T Vanilla Extract

3 Egg Yolks
3 T Sugar

Combine Milk, Cream and Vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer then remove from heat. Hold aside.
Combine egg yolks and sugar till smooth and not grainy. Gradually stir hot milk into egg\sugar mix.
Return sauce to saucepan, place back on stove over LOW heat.
Stir continually till sauce thickens slightly but DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL.
Strain sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and let cool slightly.
Cover and chill.

Seriously people, LOW HEAT. If you get impatient, you're screwed. And you need to Stir, STIR, STIRRRRRR! If by chance you get fidgitty and start to scramble the eggs, get it OFF the heat immediately and strain it two or three times until it's smooth and there are no lumps. Every second counts, regardless of weather you screw it up or not. Trust me, this sauce is easy but you need to be dedicated to it.

And that's it, I'm done.

Groove to this:
Groove Armada - Easy
Cornershop - Brim Full of Asha
Space Monkeys - Sugar Cane
Bran Van 3000 - Come On Feel The Noize

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Woke up this morning... And got yourself a gun...

I woke up this morning to the sounds of NPR cackling on about CRAPTAH. I rolled out of bed and made Kerrie lunch, and after she left I brewed some coffee and turned on the local news...

I was dismayed to find that a Cinci legend, a culinary giant to south-west Ohio, just up and closed it's doors for good Monday...

-Maisonette- was a restaurant I was very much looking forward to going to. This place was what "fine dining" was actually about. An actual 5-Star French restaurant so close to my front door, I could practically smell it. Apparently they were experiencing declining business in the Downtown Cinci, and their relocation efforts to Kenwood have been seriously hampered by typical zoning bullshit. Although very expensive, going to Maisonette for an evening was a goal I was looking forward to, and now...

On a lighter note, there were some very funny articles I read this past week relating to the food industry. Here are a few:

Burger King LOVES the Coq...

Who HASN'T wanted to extort money from Hardee's?

Yesterday, I made Portuguese Style Pork Cutlets with Skillet Roasted Potatoes and string beans. It was good, to be honest... I at first I wasn't so sure, though. The marinade, which later becomes the sauce, smelled pretty rank. White wine, minced garlic, paprika, cloves, and bay leaves macerating for 6 or so hours then simmered into a slightly thick sauce? I wasn't so sure. But, after reducing the sauce and grilling the cutlets, everything turned out very nice.

Today I'm going to make a Port Wine Caramel Sauce, plus I'm going to make a Port Wine Caramel. A few months back, I screwed up this recipe and was very unhappy about it. So unhappy that I got very short-sighted about the whole thing and scrapped the idea entirely. But a few nights ago, I woke up at -like- 3:15 in the morning and had an idea about it. I could make the firm caramel AND the sauce and pair them with a Chocolate Lava Cake. Word...

Groove to This:
Iggy Pop - Lust for Life (Live version, 1977)
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - Don't Leave Me This Way
The Highgears - Put the Screws to Ya
Rob Zombie & Lionel Ritchie - Brick House 2000
Placebo - 20'th Century Boy

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Finally, a most disgusting heat wave has moved up and out of Cinci. For the past few days, the heat has been well over 90 degrees with such insane humidity that it's been registering up over 105F for almost a week.

Therefore, grilling and exercising have sucked and I've had the AC pumping a constant 75 degrees - 24/7. And to top it all off, I haven't had any coffee since Sunday. Too fuggin' HOT! Thankfully it's only about 70 degrees outside, it's overcast and there is a little rain "thing" happening right now.

So now I can have some coffee, today I'm digging on Chock Full of Nuts (A lil Escape from NY tribute) and thinking about the meals for the next week.

And speaking of meals, I wanted to make a Confit out of the ducks wings I bought last week. I WANTED to... I could not find duck fat anywhere at Jungle Jims and was later told they didn't carry it. I found Beef Bile but no duck fat. Yeah, real nice.

Kerrie's Sister, Bro-in-law, and niece came through this weekend for a nice little visit. While I did no specific cooking, there was some good dessert action that took place. I was asked by Sue, Kerrie's sister, if I intended to learn about confections during my impending pastry studies so I busted out my Caramel Truffles with Sea Salt. There was a sense of amazement when everyone ate them. Kind of a wonderful amusement with trying something new and liking it.

Apparently, though, the big hit was my Orange Rose Ice Cream. One of the less assuming desserts, but certainly one of the best I've ever concocted. Sue even left me a haiku:

The taste of happy
Blossoms in frozen splendor
Oranges and roses.

This week Kerrie's parents will be coming in to stay with us. I'm going to do up a roasted chicken with all the fixins on Friday. Tonight though I'm going to make up some Portuguese style pork chops. I'm not entirely sure about tomorrow though. I still have some Top Blade Steaks to kill off, plus I'd like to have some linguini with sauce.

Next week though, Duck confit with roasted shallots, Caesar salad with Parmesan custard, "something" (TBA) with carmelized onions, and Pork Cutlets with Rosemary Raspberry sauce. (A classic!)

Today's Groove Provided by:
KISS\Phunk Junkeez - I Love it Loud
KISS\Anthrax - SHE
Huevos Rancheros - Beach Blanket Blackout
Wu Tang Clan - In The Hood
ODB - Baby I Got Yo Money
Some Velvet Sidewalk - Mousetrap (Live version)
Peter McConnell - Imperial March (from Force Commander)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Everything of meaning becomes destroyed...

I made a (fairly) classic Demi Glace earlier this week.

I love Demi Glace. As far as sauces go, it is the mother of 'em all. It's rich, thick and delicious.

Demi is basically equal parts Sauce Espagnole and Beef Stock reduced by half then finished with Sherry or Red Wine. It's an amazing compliment to just about any dish, and what's more is that it is a quick fix to many weak dishes.

Like many of the pros, I keep an ice cube tray filled with this stuff and pop some out when I need it. Of course, most pros don't make their own any more, as it takes a long time to make... I started mine around 9:30 in the morning and finished it just before 5:00 in the afternoon. Is it worth it?


My favorite thing to do is make Rosemary Demi Glace, which is what I made the other day. But this coming week I'm going to try a Lavender Demi. I can picture it now...

I'll be sitting in the kitchen listening to the likes of the Manic Street Preachers or Son Volt, slowly reducing the sauce to thick syrup and occasionally stepping out for a clove and a cup of Turkish coffee. To be honest, I like the tempo of the work involved. It's a slow and demanding process. It's somewhat meditative, but it requires Focus. For all the high-stress movement involved with kitchen work, doing prep like this can be a welcomed treat.

Tonight I'll be making Crisp Skinned Duck. I'm excited, but I really should have picked up some Duck Fat while we were at Jungle Jims. Plus I still have to Flat Iron steaks in the fridge that I need to use...

Last night I made a Mayo cake with a reduced Orange Sauce. I garnished it with a light sprinkle of cocoa powder and a caramel truffle. I think Kerrie liked it... (Wink Wink)

Today's Groove:
Manic Street Preachers - Love's Sweet Exile
Staple Singers - Let's Do It Again
James & Bobby Purify - I'm Your Puppet
Sonic Youth - Bull In The Heather
Haircut One Hundred - Love Plus One
Sloan - Underwhelmed

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What you do to me...

Today I'll be making Chocolate Covered Caramel Truffles with Fleur de Sel.

I'll also be listening to a lot of Teenage Fanclub today.

I used to get these glorious lil truffles at Cohen & Cooke in BG, but they stopped carrying them. Then I would get them at the Chocolate Shoppe in Perrysburg, but that's a heck of a drive for 6 caramels.
When Jeb and I would work on SvsS music, we would sit down with Turkish coffee and eat these things while we would discuss our ideas for the sound. They really are amazing...

Monday, July 18, 2005

If ya holdin' up to brawl, then ya missin' the point...

Dennis Miller once made a brilliant point in his book, The Rants, about people who are obsessed with Infomercials and the crap that Late Night Dirt Merchants push on an insomniac society...

"(Ron) Popeil has convinced the American public that there's no need to go to the store and buy a 99-Cent box of Spaghetti when, for $129.95 and a couple days of Labor and Assembly, we can make a perfectly mediocre bowl of Tagliatelle from the comfort of your own Cinder-Block Based Trailer Home..."

That being said, I love making my own ice cream. I love making it myself, but I stick to a few loose rules of pragmatism. Basically, whenever I slip on my clogs and tie that flowing white bistro-apron around my waist, I think like I'm at work. Like I'm in a professional kitchen...

Case in point, I love Vanilla Bean Ice Cream - but I'll never make it at home. Why? Well, Vanilla Beans generally cost anywhere between 8 and 15 dollars a jar, and you usually only get two or three to a jar. After you factor in Heavy Whipping Cream, Eggs, Whole Milk and Sugar, you're WAY in the Red.

On the other hand, I love making things you'll never ever see at your local grocer. Raspberry Saffron Sorbet, Orange Rose Ice Cream, or specially designed Chunky Monkey ice cream for the allergy-prone among us...

I guess I find it funny that people buy crap that they could use so creatively, and waste huge amounts of time completing somewhat complicated tasks for an end result that could have been achieved with a trip to the Grocery Store.

So there...

This past week I did some grilled chicken, as thighs and wings were on sale. I find grilling chicken to be somewhat of a lost art. Mainly, and there is nothing wrong with this mind you, because people just salt and pepper a piece of Chicken Little and slap it on the irons. Again, that's fine but... I feel there is a more defined and enlightened way of doing up a lil Chick-Chick. Essentially, brine the chicken overnight. The difference in the end product is ree-dick-ooh-lass.

2 Quarts water
1/8 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Kosher Salt

Bring Water, Sugar and Salt to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Allow water to cool completely (Over 2 to 6 hours) and add chicken.
Soak Overnight.

No matter what you do after that, your chicken will be infinitely better. This past week I got 5 thighs and brined them all. The first ones I did I tossed with a Lime Vinaigrette and they were amazing. Last night I did up a few with a spicy cayenne based rub and they were equally intense.

So now I'm working out the menu for this week. Tonight we'll have Onglets with the classic Red-Wine butter and roasted potatoes. Highlights for the rest of the week though: I'll be making pizza, roast duck wings, and a cheese-and-wine type meal. We picked up a nice Chorizo\Mozzarella roll, some Italian bread, and Romain hearts at Jungle Jims yesterday, so I'm looking forward to making a big production out of it. Word Bitch! Chorizo like a MuhFuh...

Today's Groove provided by Pharoahe Monch. I'm also digging on Sweet's Greatest Hits and The Crystal Method's Legion of Boom.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I got a Lust for Life...

This morning I woke up and got started with my sunrise-routine...

I made Kerrie lunch (a nice Turkey, Swiss & Avocado wrap with Coarse Salt and Pepper) and checked Fark. I got some coffee going and looked up a recipe for Honey Lavender Ice Cream and just by luck, I noticed a pic in a banner of Anthony Bourdain. Turns out that he has a NEW show on the Travel Channel called No Reservations. This made The Jay very happy...

Bourdain is amazing. Funny thing is that he's an ex-junkie asshole who thinks quite highly of himself, but knows the business on every level. While the rest of the sheep are completely amazed by Emeril and his glorious stunt food, Bourdain has been running a classic French bistro in NYC while traveling the world drinking Vodka with mobsters and eating still-beating Cobra hearts. The man is insane, but he knows his shit....

"Basically, everything that makes this place GOOD would be illegal back in the states..." -AB

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Right Here, Right Now...

Last night I made Linguini with a Marinara and Meat Balls. I love the simplicity of Italian cooking. It's relatively easy, yet it comes out with a generally rich and defined flavor. The recipe for the meat balls, and I love telling people this, I got from Henry Hill's cookbook. For those of you from Lakota, Henry Hill was the center of the story Wiseguy which, in turn, became the movie Goodfellas.

Monday I made a quick dinner of Grilled Balsamic Mustard Pork with Baby Carrots over Mixed Greens. It turned out very nice, suprisingly enough. I'm finding I cook much quicker in my new kitchen with less space than my previous "full" sized kitchen. Weird, huh?

Speaking of the old kitchen, I have some interesting photos of some of my past culinary delights...

Grilled Endive with Prosciutto and Saffron Linguini, White Truffle Olive Oil and Balsamic Glaze

Butterflied Pork Loin with Baby Greens, Citrus Peel Confit and Rosemary Raspberry Sauce

Flat Iron Medallions with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Rosemary Demi Glace

All in all, decent presentation and great flavor combinations. And it tasted good too...

This weekend I'm going to brine some chicken thighs for grilling and I have a nice two-pound skirt steak I'm going to use for fajitas. (Insert Family Guy references here)

Today I'm listening to my own rendition of the music from Metroid and DJ Spooky's Under The Influence. Good Food, Good Music, No Dickle.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

That's the name of the game...

It's been a crazy two weeks...

We've moved, we've worked, we've played.

Truth be told, we ate a lot of takeout for the first week we were here. ("So sad..." - Kerrie) But things are now coming together, as we have found our preferred grocer, organized our kitchen, and settled into a nice relaxing cluttered mess of an apartment.

I have been keeping busy over the last two weeks by cleaning and setting up house. In the extra time I've racked up I've been baking, cooking and playing Metroid: Fusion. This week, in particular, I've made three types of ice cream, an apple crumb pie, lavender syrup, and my favorite meal ever: Flat Iron Steaks with a sherry cream sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and string beans tossed with olive oil. Plus I recovered the Space Jump Ability for the Varia Suit...

Last week, Kerrie and I went to see Batman Begins in IMAX. While at the theater, Kerrie had some Chunky Monkey Ice Cream and found she is allergic to yet ANOTHER type of nut. (Walnuts...) So when we got home, I looked around and came up with a decent recipe for my own Chunky Monkey. When all was said and done, Chocolate Banana goodness was enjoyed by all.

Among the other high points this week, Kerrie and I found the Cinci version of El Zarrape, had pizza at UNO, and enjoyed a leisurely evening at Sitwells drinking coffee, playing Trivial Pursuit and smoking cloves.

As things settle down, it's time for me to find a proper job and start baking full time. I've got lots of great ideas for the coming weeks and plenty of weird Cinci shit to write about... Ah Cinci, home to Riots, The Reds and Les Nessman.