Saturday, August 30, 2008

Over the past few weeks, things have been crazy. The summer is winding down and work started winding up. It's not like being a kid anymore, where I could just goof off all summer until the very last minute, THEN get back into work mode. But that's for different post...

Just because I've been busy, doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. Some of the highlights recently include:

Braised Pork Belly

Pasta Bolognese

Chef's Salad

Cinnamon Chipotle Grilled Chicken

Profiteroles with Coffee Ice Cream

Lemon Cream Cake

With Labor Day upon us it's time for one last all-out BBQ bash. Food, grilled lovingly, and drinks, mostly of the Rum persuasion... That's what it's all about.

"There used to be a time when we took a guy like you out back and beat you with a rubber hose. Now you got your DAMNED Unions..."
- Brian Cox, Super Troopers

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Burbank's Real Barbeque

Kerrie and I had dinner at Burbank's Real Barbeque last night.

It was a lazy, early dinner too. The place was pretty dead, which is usually the sign of death, but the food was impressive.

Kerrie had the Pulled Pork sandwich. I had the Hickory Smoked Brisket, and I have to say that I was seriously happy after tasting it. Last year, Kerrie and I ate at another local BBQ joint and I had the brisket. The smoked brisket... It was sub-par at best. The smoke was, very obviously, Liquid Smoke. While I'm not offended by the use of liquid smoke in general cooking, to try and pass it off as authentic BBQ and charge out the ass for it is despicable. So last night, when I bit into that perfectly tender Brisket, the smoke flavor filled me with joy. It was real...

The meal was reasonably priced, the service was good, and the food was excellent. I certainly look forward to going back, possibly on a night when they do live music. Overall, I couldn't have asked for a much better meal.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goodbye Children...

Isaac Hayes is dead. That, to me, is very sad.

In a weird sort of way, I kind of grew up on Isaac Hayes. Looking back, he was involved with so many of the things I found entertaining as a kid...

As a performer, Hayes was an impeccable musician and had a knack for choosing "cool" movies to star in.

I love the theme from "Shaft". It's iconic in it's sound and it's outlasted so many other pieces of crap from that period. And let's not forget that he WAS A-Number 1, The duke of New York in what was undeniably John Carpenter's best film evar, Escape from New York. But really, who didn't love his character Hammer in the film I'm Gonna Git You Sucka?

Being that this is a food blog, no Isaac Hayes memoriam would be complete without a South Park mention. Isaac Hayes played Chef, and despite the hypocrisy surrounding his leaving the show, he was just as impressive at voicing a cartoon character as he was at performing music.

One of the most comical South Park bits was when Chef sang the song Chocolate Salty Balls. Yeah, the song is nothing but sleazy double entendres, but get this: There really is a recipe for Chocolate Salty Balls...

Featured in his 2000 cookbook, Cooking with Heart & Soul, Hayes gives a small back story about how he had once made them for Matt Stone and Trey Parker and how it ultimately became one of their funniest segments.

So in honor of Mr. Hayes, I present to you: Chocolate Salty Balls

1 C Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/4 Corn Syrup
1 Cup Milk Chocolate Bits

1/4 t Salt (not Kosher)
3 T Confectioners Sugar

In a bowl, mix the Graham Cracker crumbs and Corn Syrup.
Using a Spoon or Melon Baller, shape into balls and set on wax paper. Hold in refrigerator.
Using a double boiler, slowly melt the chocolate.
Gently dip the Graham Cracker balls into the chocolate and place on the wax paper to allow to set.
In a small bowl, mix the Salt and the Confectioners Sugar.
Once the chocolate has set, rolls the balls in the Salt\Sugar mix.


Isaac Hayes' goofy-assed association with Scientology notwithstanding, he was a gifted performer on so many levels. He is one performer I will miss. Also, if I find out that his death was due to one of those Purification Rundown things, I'll make it my life's work to meet Tom Cruise solely for the purpose of kicking him in the nuts.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

One of my favorite meals, without any doubt, is Penne with a homemade Ragu sauce.

This is the meal to end all meals. An intensely flavored tomato sauce laden with obscene amounts of beef and pork, this meal is surprisingly easy to make so long as you're patient and have the time to devote to it.

First, a little back-story... One of the defining moments in my wanting to become a cook (and who would one day evolve into a chef) was after the first time I saw the movie Goodfellas. Gritty and violent, this movie largely revolved around food. One of the many sequences was dedicated to Henry Hill trying to get a coke deal together while cooking an elaborate meal for his family and the babysitter\drug mule.

With the release of Henry Hill's cookbook in 2002, I was finally given a little insight to what that meal actually consisted of. Interestingly enough, I used the basic structure of the recipe but was reluctant to follow it to the letter. The original recipe called for Pork Butt and Veal shank, but I prefer a more modest version using Italian Sausage and Beef Shank. Additionally, I use my own meatball recipe and, of course, had to use wine.

Penne with Ragu (Meat Sauce)

Olive Oil
1 lb. Italian Sausage, cut into 1" pieces
1 lb. Beef Shank
I medium Onion, Minced
6 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped
1 T Flour
1 C Dry Red Wine
Two 28oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
Meatballs (Recipe follows)
12 Leaves Basil, chopped
1/4 Parsley, chopped
Cooked Penne, generally 3oz per person

8 oz. Ground Beef
1 Shallot, minced
1 Egg
1/4 Cup breadcrumbs
1 t Salt
1 t Pepper


Begin by mixing Meatball ingredients in a bowl and portioning into 8 small balls.
Cook Meatballs in a pan until browned on all sides. (It's okay if their not done all the way through, they'll be in the pot with the sauce for hours...)
Set Meatballs aside.

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat and sear the Beef Shank on Both sides.
Remove from pan and set aside.
Saute onions in the same pot until translucent and add garlic and Flour.
Quickly stir Onions, Garlic and Flour together making sure not to burn Garlic.
Add wine and allow to reduce by 2/3.
While wine is reducing, chop Beef Shank into chunks reserving the bone.
When Wine is reduced, add the two cans of Tomatoes, stirring to mix with wine thoroughly.
When Tomato sauce begins to bubble reduce heat to LOW and add Meat Balls, Beef Shank and Bone, and Italian Sausage.
Allow to simmer over LOW heat for 4 hours. skimming any foam that rises to the top.
During the last 15 minutes of the previously mentioned 4 hours, add the chopped Basil and Parsley. Also, check the sauce for seasoning adding salt and pepper if needed, and\or 1 T Sugar if to acidic.
Serve over Penne with shredded Parmesan.


One thing to note, is that I throw that piece of bone in for two reasons. The most obvious being that the meat will simply fall off the bone before the end of the cooking. The second reason is because I love marrow. The marrow will "melt" into the sauce over the course of those 4 hours. (Wow, even as I type this I am craving marrow with Sea Salt and cracked Pepper...)

Kerrie and I had this meal with a Crane Lake Zinfandel and a loaf of freshly baked Italian Bread. Several thanks to the Commodore for the fresh Basil.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I'm huntin' down Jimmy Page...

My goal of searching out great BBQ restaurants has taken the usual backseat to various other adventures. Working, sleeping, paying bills... Nonetheless, the notion that there is some truly great Bar-B-Q out there is always in the back of my head, and the real problem is that I just need to get motivated.

Recently, our travels took us to an interesting place called Raydell's Redneck Bar-B-Q.

Seeing the trailer on the back end of this place, admittedly, gave me a bad feeling. Entering the place, however, was a different experience all together. It wasn't a dumpy assed dive like I had anticipated, but it was a cozy and nice looking family restaurant.

The food was first class Bar-B-Q all the way. The portions were huge, they tasted great, and the prices were extremely reasonable.

Kerrie had a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and french fries. I went straight for the ribs. The food was really good. For the price I had expected less, so you can imagine my delight when they brought out a plate with so much pork that my side items came out separately.

It was a great meal, and very reasonably priced. Not at all what I was expecting, but hey... I like being wrong in these instances.

Thanks to Claire, Sue and Greg for recommending it!

Mojo Nixon - Redneck Rampage
Jerry Reed - Westbound & Down
Dean Martin - Walk the like
Ween - Piss up a rope