Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tap the bottle and twist the cap...

Decadence, thy name is Fudge...

Last week I went on a sugar induced flashback-Odyssey and made a batch of fudge. Not just any fudge though, the Big Daddy\Grand Puba\Dennis Farina of 'em all: Mackinac Fudge.

You see, a long time ago in a Galaxy not so far away, I went with Troy (of Crowz Nest fame) to Mackinac Island. It was a time when I was consumed with modems and working at Marco's. I had yet to decide what I wanted to do after high school and a summer vacation away from Perrysburg was something I hadn't had in years. This was July of 1993... (Insert Harp Strumming To Indicate Flashback Sequence)

Lets see: I had a goofy hair cut, bad glasses and was relatively ill-tempered. So not much has changed... Troy, His Mother, His Sister and I went to Mackinac Island for a nice week long trip. Once we arrived, I realized I was in an entirely different world. No cars. No modems. No Fast Food... I was in Heaven.

We stayed at the Windermere hotel and we ate at a variety of exceptional places. One of many places that will always have a place in my heart was Murray's Deli. Some of the greatest coffee I ever drank, I had at Murray's. And don't even get me started on 3 Brother Sarducci...

But what really got me, the point of epic and legendary proportions, was the Fudge. This is THE real deal. This is what being a Master Confectioner is all about! My mom told me to get some and gave me money to bring some back. Yes, she gave me a big bear-hug, said "goodbye" and told me she loved me, but what her eyes said was: Spend that money on anything else and I'll fucking kill you...

There are a few different places to get Fudge on Mackinac. I remember watching the May family make fudge through the window of their shop and being completely amazed. Their control over that molten chocolate was insane. It was magical. It was borderline UNHOLY! I wanted it...

Skipping ahead... I didn't get any Fudge right then and there. Troy and I had breakfast and explored the island. It was later that evening that I got my first taste of what a true culinary experience could be. Troy and I had stopped at Ryba's Fudge in search of some quality sweets after an amazing meal at 3BS. It was then and there that I changed. My life changed...

There are a few amazing moments in history that lead me to do what I do for a living. The first time I had a cappuccino for instance... Or that first time I had Calamari and realized how wonderful it could be when prepared properly. To have that Fudge, at that exact moment in time was perfect. It was destiny. Did I say I was in Heaven earlier? Well, that Fudge was Manna from Heaven...

Years later, I'm still haunted by the flavor and texture of such a divine product. So much so, that I made my own. This recipe comes directly from Ryba's via a book my mom got for me a while back called Mackinac Island Memories...

Old Fashioned Island Fudge

2 C Sugar
1/2 C Half-n-Half
2 One-Ounce Squares of UNSWEETENED Chocolate
2 T Light Corn Syrup
1/2 t Salt
2 T Butter
1 t Vanilla

Combine Sugar, Half-n-Half, Chocolate, Corn Syrup and Salt in Saucepan.
Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until Chocolate and Sugar is completely dissolved.
Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 234F on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat, add butter and allow to cool to 120F without stirring.
Butter a loaf pan and set aside.
Add vanilla and beat vigorously until no longer glossy. (About 5 to ten minutes.)
Spread mixture into pan and allow to cool completely.

Tap the Bottle - YBT
Falling to Pieces - Faith No More
Soulful Strut - Youngholt Unlimited
Oh How Happy - Shades of Blue
Safe From Harm - Massive Attack
Oh! Sweet Nothing - Velvet Underground

Ryba's Fudge

The Windermere Hotel

May's Fudge

Monday, August 29, 2005

She's as sweet as Tupelo Honey...

The last week was a little frustrating. Both of the PC's I keep under my constant care just up and died within 7 days of each other. My Duron was saved merely by replacing the power supply so I'm back to Good with the journaling...

That said, I pulled a Corner Grill this past week and ran out of crucial cooking elements for no reason other than bad planning. I was irked because I wanted to make an Au Poivre sauce for some pork chops we had but realized that we were out of Heavy Cream. I wanted to make some Coffee Ice Cream but realized I don't have enough eggs... And so forth.

Today there is a small crisis in Cinci because some Asshat parked a tanker full of Styrene on some train tracks and left it there... For 9 months. Yup. No one noticed it for 9 months. They noticed it when it started shooting gas 300 feet into the air. THEN they noticed it, but for the previous 9 months - no big deal.

So to honor the mass evacuation surrounding this chemical leak, I brewed some perfect Turkish Coffee, put together a plate of Hummus and pita, and watched the Unrated version of The Dawn of the Dead.

Tonight, I have NO idea what I'm doing for dinner but I do know what I'm doing afterwards: I'm going to chill on the patio with Kerrie and a few Camel Crema smokes, and I'm going to make Cafe de Olla for the both of us. I hope it's raining too, as the sound of the rain in the trees is amazing from where our patio is.

Cafe de Olla
6 T Coarse Ground Coffee
1/4 C Brown Sugar
4 Cinnamon Sticks
4 Cloves
1 Small Orange, thinly sliced.
4 C Boiling Water

Combine all ingredients in a Press Pot and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
Serves 4

Tupelo Honey - Van Morrison
Groovy Situation - Gene Chandler
Most of the Time - Bob Dylan
Into the Mystic - Van Morrison
I am the Cosmos - Big Star

Thursday, August 18, 2005

There's a permanent crease in your "right" and "wrong"...

Yesterday I made the fabled Puerco Pibil.

I can still taste it too... It's every bit as good as Johnny Depp made it out to be in Once Upon a Time in Mexico without all the unnecessary gunplay. For anyone who hasn't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Desperado was alright, but Mexico is far superior. Plus the DVD contains a featurette on how to make Puerco Pibil, which is really the point here anyways - right?

I'll shoot the cook. My car's parked out back anyways...

I had a slight issue with the pork though. It calls for 5 Pounds of Pork Butt but I didn't think I would need that much so I bought a 3 pound chunk of Pork from Jungle Jims. What I didn't realize was that the pork was still on the bone. I'm not fond of boning meat as I am not exceptional with a boning knife. That's what butchers are for, alright? Considering the cost of meat and poultry now-a-days, I generally expect a certain amount of prep to be done for me. I know, I'm a spoiled kitchen whore...

Aside from spending 35 minutes trimming meat from bone and fat from meat, the dish came together flawlessly. I marinated the pork in Orange Juice and Tequila with the appropriate spices, then arranged the banana leaves in my Calphalon Roasting Pan, and slowly cooked the pork for just over 4 hours...

I would put the recipe in this journal, but there is really only one basic version of it and you can get it just about ANYWHERE on the Internets. Personally, I like this guys explanation of the recipe...

I Can Write: Puerco Pibil

Tonight I'll be making BBQ Chicken Pizza. I actually need to get my butt in gear and caramelize some onions. Oh, and get the dough started. And get dessert ready... Ugh, I need a cup of coffee and a nap.

My apologies to Jeb for making Pibil without him and listening to a lot of Sly & The Family Stone today. :/

GROOVES: Sly & The Family Stone
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)
Family Affair
Everyday People
I Want To Take You higher

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dream Weaver, you could get me through the night...

You know, I was pretty excited about my last post. I had a lot of stuff I wanted to get done, and I was ready to bang it all out over the course of the afternoon. Well...

Right after I got done posting, I went out to the kitchen and realized I had no Sugar left in the house. Well, maybe -at best- 1/8 of a cup was in the bottom of the jar. I mean, not nearly enough to do ANYTHING except doctor up a cup of coffee.

So I made nothing Friday. After a nice Sunday of roaming and stocking up on groceries, I was ready to bust out a shload of stuff on Monday. But Monday came along... I got up at 6:00AM with Kerrie, put together her lunch and checked the Daily News (AKA: then posted a few comments in various journals. By around 8:00AM or so, I was feeling pretty tired, so I laid back down for what I thought would be an hour - TOPS. Well, when I rolled over at 1:00PM I realized I was screwed.

Yup, I slept away half the day without ever flinching. Normally I toss around a bit and sleep for no more than an hour and a half at a time. Sometimes your habits just catch up with you and nothing can be done about it. Unless you're me, of course, and drink LOTS of coffee to counter the effects of sleepiness.

Today there will be no slacking. I have to make that cheesecake, some Lemongrass Sherbert, and some peach sorbet. Plus I need to make a new mix-tape for my car. Yes folks, I am again mobile. (Shuddering at gas prices) Saturday morning I went out for donuts and came back with a Chrystler Sebring. How's that for impulse buying?

Yesterday, despite sleeping a F-Load of the day away, I managed to make some amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies. In my humbled and honest opinion, it's way too hard to find a good chocolate chip cookie. They are ALWAYS either very greasy or too dry or packed full of nuts or just plain gross tasting. So here:

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 Cups Flour
1 t Baking Soda
1 t Salt
1 Cup (2 Sticks) Softened butter
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Brown Sugar
1 t Vanilla
2 Large Eggs
3 Cups Chocolate Chips

Pre-heat oven to 375F
Sift together Flour, Salt and Soda in a small bowl, set aside.
In a large bowl, best together Butter, Sugars, and Vanilla. Add Eggs one at a time, incorporating well into butter\sugar mix.
Gradually add flour mix to batter and work dough till just combined.
Stir in Chocolate Chips.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto lightly greased baking sheets and bake for 9-11 minutes or just until golden.

Last night I made Tequila Lime Chicken with roasted Cilantro Potatoes for dinner. Very good indeed, although my grill is getting finicky in its age. I have two settings now: LOW and FUCK-HOT. Needs a little finesse, can you dig it?
Tonight is Fajita night. I'm excited for that. Yes I am...

Gary Wright - Dream Weaver
Dr John - Right Place, Wrong Time
Barry White - Never, Never Gonna Give You Up
Three Dog Night - Never been To Spain
Elvis - C'Mon everybody
Blondie - Heart of Glass

Friday, August 12, 2005

She Said: I could give you the world...

This morning Kerrie and I went down to the Clubhouse for their Continental Breakfast. They call it that, but it's really just Free Donuts, Bagels & Coffee. I am in no way above eating Dunkin' Donuts. A nice raised donut with chocolate icing and a cup of Hazelnut Coffee is a treat well worth partaking in.

Unfortunately, that doesn't last. Eating a donut is just an early morning snack, so by about 9:30 or so I'm hungry again. So this morning I made myself Scrambled Eggs with Parmesan Cheese, warmed Duck Confit and Sour Dough Toast. Yummy.

For today though, I have a busy cooking schedule. I need to make a cheesecake, get my Lemongrass Sorbet done, and possibly make some chocolate chip cookies. That's just stuff I need to get done ahead of time. After Kerrie gets home, I'm sure we'll go swimming and then dinner will be made. Tonight we'll be having grilled chicken legs with Sugarsnap Peas and roasted potatoes.

Speaking of dinner, my Lavender Demi Glace turned out very nice but was overpowered by the flavors surrounding it. I was hesitant to overload it with Lavender for fear of a heavy perfumed flavor but when I tasted it, it was beautiful. When I laid down the steak, potatoes and string beans though, the Lavender seemed to disappear. Very good, none the less.

Yesterday I was feeling a little wonky. Kerrie and I drank an entire bottle of Charles Shaw Merlot -which is nothing unusual, mind you- Wednesday night and it hit me sort of funny. I wasn't hung over, per se, but I felt "tired". We hadn't drank an entire bottle of wine in one setting since just before we left BG so I'm not quite on top of my game. Yup, the man Wes once referred to as a guy with a liver that's "shriveled like a prune" is slowing down. So sad.

But today I feel full of energy and ideas. I've jumped right into my copy of the CIA's Baking & Pastry - Mastering The Art & Craft and I'm easily coming up with new and silly ideas. So we'll just have to see how things turn out this weekend...

"The suspense it terrible. I hope it lasts..."
- Gene Wilder
"If you throw it at a wall, it'll shatter..."
- Wes, on the topic of my liver

The Pharcyde - She Said
St. Germain - Sure Thing
The Classics IV - Spooky
Fatboy Slim - The Weekend Starts Here
Tragically Hip - Grace, Too
Massive Attack - Angel
Foo Fighters - Walking After You
Medusa & DJ Spark - Cold Piece of Work
Morphine - In Spite of Me

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

You're a sweet, Divine Thing...

Today I made my version of Chunky Monkey Ice Cream. As previously stated, Kerrie has developed a slight allergy to Tree Nuts. That's unfortunate because a lot of great things contain Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans... And so forth.

So I make Chunky Monkey without Walnuts here at home. Surprisingly, it's a fairly easy ice cream to make too. The last time I made it, I used Condensed Milk and chocolate chips. I wasn't entirely pleased with the texture of the Ice Cream, but it tasted amazing. Today, however, I created my own version from the ground up.

Jay's Chunky Monkey Ice Cream
4 Egg Yolks
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 t Vanilla
1 t Sea Salt
4 T Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Banana
2 T Peanuts, chopped

Start by Mixing the Egg Yolks with the Sugar until smooth and pale. Set Aside.
In a small sauce pan, combine the Milk, Cream, Vanilla and Salt and bring just to a boil - Stirring constantly so as not to curdle.
Once Hot, add Milk mix to Egg mix in a SLOW STREAM stirring constantly with a wire whip to prevent scrambling the eggs. Once combined and smooth, add cocoa powder and mix thoroughly.
Return custard to sauce pan and place over LOW heat and stir till thick, about five minutes. DO NOT LET CUSTARD BOIL!
Place custard in a bowl and allow to cool to room temp, then cover and place in refrigerator until COLD.
When ready to run through an Ice Cream Maker, Mash up Banana with a fork into a smooth paste. Add to Chocolate Custard and pour into Ice Cream Maker in a slow stream. As ice cream begins to form, add Peanuts 1 Tablespoon at a time.
Once finished, return formed Ice Cream to freezer.

Aww yeah...

Last night, Kerrie and I went to see ROTS at the Cincinnati Mills. It's the movie the die-hard's were waiting for, myself included. But before the movie, we went to the Great Steak & Potato company for sandwiches. I was unimpressed. They smeared my sandwich with mayo and tons of ice-berg lettuce which I found to be super gross. I love a good cheesesteak and these were just nasty. Good fries though.

Tonight Kerrie and I will be enjoying some nice New York Strips I picked out at Jungle Jims this week. I'm thinking of starting with small Caesar Salads, followed by the main plate which will be New York Strips with Lavender Demi Glace, roasted Potatoes and String Beans, followed by my own Peach Cobbler with some Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Oh, and lots of Red Wine.

Next Week, I'm going to do a lot of Southwestern\Mexican cooking. I'm thinking Fajitas, Spice Rubbed Steaks, and the big-daddy: Puerco Pibil. For those of you who have NOT seen Once upon a time in Mexico, this is the dish that Johnny Depp's character always orders in every restaurant he is in. I'm excited because Jungle Jim's carries everything I need to make this dish without any special ordering. (Yes, even banana leaves!)

Also on deck for the rest of the week, Lemongrass Sorbet and a Double Layer Cheesecake w/ Chocolate Ganache. Oh yeah... Giggety Giggety...

Soup Dragons - Divine Thing
Elvis - Kentucky Rain
Piss Artists - I Want You Back
De La Soul - Keeping The Faith

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Come around to my way of thinking...

Today I made (am making) Spicy Mango Gelato.

The base has been made, but it still needs to be run through the Ice Cream Maker. That being said, it tastes so good! I tried a bit of the custard base and was thrilled to taste the sweetness of the mango at first, then the warmth of the cayenne seconds later...

Spicy Mango Gelato
3 Cups WHOLE Milk
1 Cup Sugar
1/8 t Kosher Salt
2 Ripe Mangos
Ground Cayenne Pepper

Start by peeling Mango then chopping the fruit into cubes. Put chopped Mangos into a bowl and sprinkle lightly with Cayenne. (You don't need a lot, just enough to "warm" the finished product.) Put into blender and set aside.
Bring 3 Cups Whole Milk, Sugar, and Salt to a boil in a saucepan. As soon as sugar is dissolved and milk is just it's boiling point, remove from heat and pour over Mangos. Allow to steep for 2 or 3 minutes, then blend thoroughly.
Once blended, strain Mango\Milk puree through a fine strainer into a bowl. (What you do with the left over pulp is your business...) Cover bowl and set in refrigerator to chill for several hours. (Base MUST be entirely cold for this to work.)
Once chilled, run through an ice cream maker till creamy and firm.

I decided on "Spicy" for this recipe because I still have some Raspberry Saffron Sorbet in the freezer. We killed all the Chunky Monkey and Orange Rose ice creams so this was my new creation decision.

As for the rest of the day, I was thinking about Roast Duck for dinner tonight. Not sure yet, as we still have some pork cutlets in the fridge (as well as a few steaks). Lasagne might be a good idea for tonight too... I dunno, quit bothering me already.

Urge Overkill - Sister Havana
LL Cool J - Going Back to Cali
Ugly Kid Joe - Everything About You
Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Country DJs KNOW that I'm an outlaw...

The "heat" has returned to Cinci, so tonight I think there will be quality Pool-Time followed by a nice Tapas style meal...

Garlic & White Truffle Toasted Baguette w/ Gorgonzola Sauce
Flat Iron Filets w/ Balsamic Vinegar & Mixed Herbs
Romain Hearts w/ Provolone and Balsamic vinaigrette
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream w/ Port Wine Syrup

I really like the filets. They are inspired by a dish from Cafe Felix called Bistec la Pincho, and they are one of my favorite things in the world to eat. The flavor is sharp and unmistakable, truly amazing.

Speaking of being amazed, I've been noticing lately that there are more and more recipe's involving Kangaroo popping up everywhere I look. I recently read a recipe in Culinary Trends magazine for Kangaroo Carpaccio. That's right folks! The only thing better than eating Roo's Mommy is eating Roo's Mommy RAW!
Jungle Jim's actually offers Kangaroo meat, but it seems a little impractical to me. Mostly because of the price, I think, but also because Kangaroo meat seems to be a turn-off round'bout these here parts.

None the less, enjoy this article:

Russians LOVE the Roo!