What's better than great food, great friends and a great photo to capture the moment? That is what this blog is - creativity from kitchen to camera. We are having a blast looking for challenging recipes (or making up our own!) and documenting the cooking process with serious photographic effort.
Come along with us on our journey to discovering new culinary delights and the making of food-tography!
I found this recipe in one of those little booklets published by a cheese company that you can find in the deli area of Publix. I've since lost the book but I did type out the recipe in my Ziplist account.
I'll post the pictures for now and ask Gregg to post the humorous commentary later on.
Note that I sometimes can't find the Bresso brand cheese but I've tried other brands and other flavors and they all taste great.
Well into my 30s ribs were one of the things I assumed I couldn't cook. One reason was that I didn't know how to make too many things, and what I could make outside of pasta was typically done in a pan. My wheelhouse was pretty cramped. At the age of 30 I had never even cooked on a grill. I was not a real man. I'd had roommates who handled the grilling, so my right of passage never occurred.
A week after my 30th birthday I bought my first home, and my parents gave me a gas grill as a housewarming gift. While I was excited about all the football parties I would be hosting, I needed someone nearby when I made hamburgers and grilled chicken. The price I paid for the tutoring was the ridicule I received. “Tell me something: How do you get that fat without knowing how to grill a burger?” I stood silently staring at the flames, metal spatula in hand, and took the abuse.
Eventually I got the hang of it. Before long I was buying ribeyes and fresh fish. Nothing crazy. And nothing too pricey. You see, another reason I hadn’t attempted ribs is I’m cheap. At about fifteen bucks for a rack it would be an expensive experiment. I’d learned about grilling flat meat most of which fit on a bun. Giving me something significantly bigger would be like handing a camera to a chimp.
I remember visiting Brent & Kim Vreeland in Tampa about a decade ago. Brent is a) one of the roommates who manned the grill when we were in our 20s, and b) one of my early tutors who took great joy in belittling me. Brent’s been a good cook since college, and he’s who I call when I need guidance. For dinner during my visit Brent grilled a whole pork tenderloin over charcoals. As we stood at the grill drinking beers and catching up, I stared at the huge piece of animal over the glowing coals thinking I would have absolutely no clue.
But that was a decade ago, and I’ve come a long way. I’ve graduated from gas grill to smoker (thanks, Tammy), and it’s a fun hobby. About 5 years ago I started having NFL Draft parties. Derek and I would each invite a few friends plus his uncles Josh and Kerry. It would be a testosterone-filled day: Draft coverage on TV, shooting pool in the garage, playing basketball in the driveway, and a lot of meat.
The first year I decided it was time to take on ribs. I sought out a recipe and found a BBQ championship winner called Best Ribs In The Universe, BRITU for short. Coincidentally, the guy who won the title used the same smoker I own. How’s that for a good start?
Yada, yada, yada everyone at my draft party loved the ribs. I was emboldened. My next task was to find a way of making ribs that didn’t take all freakin' day. These efforts have resulted in what I call Coke Ribs.
If you've ever poured a can of cola onto a corroded car battery post, you'll understand what I was thinking. I figured if it could eat that stuff away it would likely do a good job of getting into the meat and tenderizing it. So... I fill my big pasta pot with 2 to 3 two-liter bottles of cola (root beer works just as well) and set the burner on full blast.
While that heats up I cut the racks into 2-rib sections. This allows the cola and then the sauce to penetrate more of the meat.
When the cola's boiling add the ribs and let them cook for an hour. After adding the ribs I start making my BBQ sauce. Here's the recipe. Or goof off for an hour if you're using store bought sauce.
After an hour add the ribs to the sauce to stew for about 20 minutes (I can only fit about a third of the ribs at a time in my sauce pot). Then light the grill and set to medium high.
Twenty minutes later the first batch of ribs come out of the sauce pot, the second batch goes in, and the first batch goes onto the grill for 3-5 minutes per side just to put a little char on the sauce. Hopefully you know to repeat the process with the second and third batches.
Like most people, I love Italian food. We love it because it's delicious, but also because lots of Italian dishes are very simple. Boiling pasta and warming up store bought sauce is about as easy and inexpensive as it gets. You can do dinner for 4 for under three bucks, which is obviously why it's a college staple. But 'easy and inexpensive' has always made ordering in Italian restaurants a bit of a struggle for me. I'm cheap. As a cheap person I have a problem paying $10-15 for pasta and sauce. Even something like chicken parmigiana is still just pasta and sauce with a piece of breaded chicken. I know, many restaurants make their sauces from scratch with fresh ingredients, but it's still just tomatoes, herbs, garlic, and other really inexpensive things. And I'm pretty sure pasta's just water, flour, and eggs.
So when I go to an Italian restaurant and I see the perfect chicken parm topped with gooey cheese delivered to the next table I think: Nice try. I look for things I rarely eat or never tried to make, and that means I'm ordering the scaloppini or the Chicken Francese or the mussels in garlic sherry, but it mostly means I'm getting the Marsala.
I love Marsala. Chicken, beef, veal, pork. I don't care, just slather it in mushrooms and that sauce. I always figured something so good would surely be outside my limited abilities. Then I found out I was wrong. If you care how I found out you can read about it here, but I'm moving on.
I’ve made it a handful of times, and most recently was last week. I walked out back to my 2’ x 6’ farm and picked a red and an orange bell pepper. I went back inside, handed them to Tammy, and said: “I’m making Chicken Marsala for dinner. Turn these into a side dish.” She didn’t miss a beat flawlessly executing roasted pepper orzo. Leave a comment if you'd like the recipe.
Knowing she had her task under control I turned my attention to mine. My recipe for the dish came about from me doing my thing of reading how others made theirs, and then - after getting the gist of the dish - deciding how I would do it.
I pound chicken thin and dust it with flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and whatever else I feel like at the moment. Then I saute' it on medium high to a golden brown in vegetable oil and butter (we always buy one of the fake 0 trans fat spreads, but get a stick of the real stuff for this). Remove the chicken and set aside.
Then I add sliced mushrooms to the pan and keep stirring until they release their liquids and have browned. Then add a cup of Marsala wine and boil on high until it reduces by half. Add a cup of chicken stock and keep boiling about 3 minutes or until the sauce is almost at the consistency you want.
Now return the chicken to the pan, and toss it in the sauce while you warm it through. And as long as the butter's already out...
I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. One thing for which I’m not so thankful is being from South Florida only because it means my favorite NFL team, through no fault of my own, is the Dolphins. Since masochism is apparently a hobby of mine, I’ve also had season tickets for about 15 years. In the mid 90’s things were different. Dan Marino was in his prime, the Dolphins were always a playoff contender, and about 15 of us caravanned down to tailgate together before games and to be extremely unsportsmanlike to opposing fans afterward. I had a full head of hair and a 34” waistline, too, so life was good.
That was a long time ago. The group of 15 has dwindled significantly. People got married. Married couples started families. People moved away. Marino retired. The last few years it’s been just 3 brave souls: Will Chupp, Tim Wheat, and me. Like the unpopular kid staring out the front window looking for people who have no intention of coming to his party, we have 4 seats together with the 4th for people we thought would be eager to join us. It can be a tough sell.
In 2007 the Dolphins went 1-15. We were there every week. Except of course for the game they won. Yes, after sitting in the stands through 6 consecutive home losses as the Dolphins ran their record to 0-13, we couldn’t bring ourselves to make the December trip to the Baltimore game. But that’s okay. We gave our tickets to Tammy’s aunt and uncle and her mom, and they told us all about the dramatic victory. I watched the whole thing from the comfort of my couch right up until about a minute before the game-winning touchdown in overtime when my dog, Jim, decided to haul ass down the street with me behind him losing ground while calling him terrible names.
The thing about that season was we definitely kicked up our tailgating quite a bit. We decided if the play on the field wasn’t going to be very good, at least our food would be; though, sometimes watching the actual game made it difficult to keep it down. We developed a routine of emailing each other on the Monday morning following the latest loss to decide what to cook prior to the next game (i.e. loss). It’s gotten to the point where in June we’re talking about tailgate menus as much as the upcoming season, which is where this post comes in.
I had a craving for a Buffalo chicken sandwich, and I decided to do a grilled thigh version instead of a fried breast. Chicken thighs are freaking delicious. So I stopped at the store on the way home and bought thighs, wing sauce, buns, bleu cheese dressing, and some lettuce and tomato, as well as the most common wing accompaniments: carrot sticks and celery. I’m sure no one needed that shopping list, but it was only one sentence. I’m also sure no one needs instructions, but it should be noted that I bought enough wing sauce in which to marinate the chicken for an hour before grilling (overnight is better) and still have enough left over to drizzle on the sandwich with the bleu cheese dressing. If you want to make your own wing sauce, traditionally it's equal parts hot sauce and butter. Have at it.
Without further ado I give you Tammy's fantastic photography.
A couple of weeks ago we were eating take-out Chinese, and Derek asks, "Why don't we ever make Chinese food?" Now, my version of fried rice is part of the semi-regular rotation, as is Tammy's stir fry done in a wok. Obviously, neither is authentic enough for him, so we were off on a new journey; one in which I would pick a dish, find a recipe, then shop, prep, cook, and serve proudly. For his part, Derek would emerge from his room 10 or 15 minutes later, wolf it down, and when asked what he thought, respond that it was alright. We're a good team like that.
I decided I would take this opportunity to learn how to make Pad Thai. About a year ago, rather than follow a recipe like a normal person, I set out to create a dish based upon what I considered to be Asian staples, and I had a great time, but it kind of sucked. Same for my Orange Chicken. This time I was going to do it the right way like a normal person. Or at least my version of normal, which meant I looked at several recipes until I felt I had the gist of the dish and then decided how I was going to do it.
Here's your list of ingredients:
3 chicken breasts (typically I use 1 breast per person, but this recipe will easily serve 4 and/or yield leftovers unless you have really big eaters)
8 oz. package of Thai or Chinese noodles
3 TBSP soy sauce
4 cloves garlic or a spoonful or minced from a jar
2 cans bean sprouts drained
1 can water chestnuts drained
3 green onions sliced
1/3 cup of cashews crushed
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/8 tsp ground pepper
Vegetable oil for stir-frying
(I decided not to use egg)
Here are some of the ingredients I use.
Cut the chicken into about 1 inch cubes and marinate it in 3 TBSP of your favorite soy sauce for as little as half an hour to a few hours. Then bring a large pot of water to boil. Now it's time to make the sauce:
3/4 TBSP tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (I've substituted mango chutney)
2 TBSP fish sauce
1 TBSP chili sauce
3 TBSP brown sugar
1" ginger peeled and grated or minced or a little of each
Wisk the ingredients together in a bowl.
We're getting to the point where things happen quickly. For this reason, it's a good idea to crush the cashews and slice the green onions before you go on to the next steps.
If your water is boiling, it's time to get about a TBSP of oil going in your wok. When the oil is hot add the garlic and then put the noodles in the boiling water and cook according to package instructions. Mine said 4 minutes. To clarify, there are 2 pots: a wok with hot oil and garlic, and a pot with boiling water and the noodles. You don't want to cook the noodles too early, because if they sit in the strainer too long they'll be difficult to work with.
Let the garlic cook about 30 seconds and then add the chicken. It's important to start the noodles right before the chicken, because you'll need to keep moving the chicken around (i.e. stir frying) for the first few minutes (the chicken will take a total of about 6-8 minutes depending on how big your pieces are, and as I said, my noodles take 4 minutes). If the wok starts to get too dry while you're stir frying the chicken, you can add a little of the stock.
Strain the noodles, add it to the wok, and then pour in the sauce. Using two spatulas gently lift and turn like you're tossing a salad. If you're laughing at that expression, grow up. If I just confused you, forget about it and move on.
Add the bean sprouts, water chestnuts, and ground pepper; continue tossing another minute.
I think one of the most important parts of cooking is also one that people don't usually do and that's tasting as you go. If you haven't tasted it yet, now would be a good time. You may want to add a little more fish sauce.
When you have it tasting the way you want it, you're ready to plate it and top it with the crushed cashews and sliced green onions.