vendredi 31 janvier 2014

Rabbit "Two Ways" - Stewed Legs and Seared Loins

This ancient video footage (shot with the good old web cam) was original posted on my first blog LRN2cook.com. If you actually remember that website and/or this clip, you should win some sort of viewer loyalty award! I said should, so don’t get too excited. Anyway, while this clip doesn’t look that good, and my new voice-over is sketchy at best, it’s still a very nice recipe. If you’ve always wanted to try rabbit, this is the way to go.

Unless you are use to cutting up small animals, please have the butcher trim this rabbit into the individual pieces. Most rabbits are sold whole or by the half, like chicken. But, any meat shop that sells rabbit will have a butcher that will separate the legs and loin for you. As you’ll sorta see and somewhat hear in the video recipe, the key to this dish is the long stewed legs and the quick seared loins. Enjoy!


powered by ifood.tv

1 rabbit, dressed (2 1/4 pound)
1 onion
1 celery rib
1/2 cup chopped San Marzano (or any canned plum) tomato
4 cloves garlic, sliced
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 tbl balsamic vinegar reduce by half
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 tsp fennel seed
fresh parsley, chopped

They’re Bigger, They’re Better, and They’re Back!

This 60-Second Brussels Sprouts recipe just debuted on About.com, and as you may have read, I plan on posting all the video recipes I’m producing for them as soon as they go “live” on their site. I’ve already posted this recipe, shot with the old web cam a while ago, so you may have seen this before. But, I think this brand new version is much better, and the video quality is far superior. 

As you can see below, the video is larger that the regular YouTube embed. This is a bit of an experiment, as I had to widen the post column to make room for the new recipes. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new version and the larger flash player. 
 
Ok, enough techno babble. These really are delicious Brusses Sprouts…believe it or not. I know you may be thinking “delicious Brussels Sprouts” that’s an oxymoron! No, these really are tasty. As you'll see, the secret is the super fast cooking time. Seriously, this could be your new favorite veggie. Like most people, I hated Brussels Sprouts until I had them prepared in the style you are about to see. This preparation is so different than any other recipe I’ve seen for these tiny green cabbages. I really hope you’ll give them a try. Enjoy!

8-10 Brussels Sprouts, sliced very thin
1 tbl olive oil
1 tbl butter
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Almost Famous

Just a quick update regarding the “Blogging to Fame” contest, where my blog has been nominated, and has received a surprising number of votes (to me at least). I think I’m one of the top foodie blogs in the running, and I’m assured of a spot in the final 500 blogs that will be considered by a jury to choose the top blogs. Of course, I did do a whole post and email blast basically begging people to go to the BTF site and vote for me. Anyway, thanks to everyone that took the time to go and vote. And special thanks to Nora from County Durham, England, who is my biggest BTF fan (and ballot stuffer) and head cheerleader.

I recently heard that you can now vote for your favorite blog once a day (did you hear that Mom?), so even if you voted for me the first time I asked (begged), apparently you can legally vote again. I won’t bore you again with the details, but if you are new to this blog you can click the link below and read the short, but scintillating, original post explaining this contest. Thanks!!

Click here to read the original post: Am I Blogging to Fame?

Mario Batali Flips Me Off - See why I'm so wound up!

You know you are a true celebrity chef when you have your own wind-up action figure! While browsing in a local gourmet store, WinkSF in San Francisco's Noe Valley, I came upon this amusing, yet somewhat disturbing metal toy (was this some sort of culinary Chucky?).

First of all, if you are going to put a picture of the real chef on the package, then at least make the toy look the sort of the same. Somehow the metal, wind-up Mario lost about 80 pounds. Teresa, the owner of the store offered to wind him up and I filmed a little clip of Mario showing you how to flip a pancake (or whatever Italian for pancake is, I’m sure they have their own word for it).

I should add, before all you Mario fans attack me, I'm a big fan of his. He is a complete stud on Iron Chef, where he’s almost unbeatable.

I can see a whole line of these wind-up celebrity chef toys; An Anthony Bourdain version that smokes a cigarette and eats a kidney, a Bobby Flay version that, once wound, rubs Chipotle pepper on something, etc. If you have an idea for a wind-up version of your favorite chef, please post a comment.

One day, if this blog really takes off, maybe I'll even have my own wind-up action toy! And, you better believe, it's going to have a nice head of hair.

Watermelon and Feta with Toasted Cashews – Old footage, new narration, watercolor filters, and one really amazing summer salad!

I vaguely remember eating a slice on watermelon as a young child and watching in shock and horror as my grandfather started sprinkling salt on his slice. I said whatever the 5 year old version of “what the hell are you doing?” was. He said something like “it makes it sweeter.” What? Needless to say that didn’t make any sense at the time. Fast forward 30 years later to a café in San Francisco where I was served a green salad garnished with sweet, juicy watermelon, crumbled feta che ese, and toasted cashews. Wow, it was amazing! What a combination of sweet, salty, juicy, creamy, crunchy, and just…mmmmm. Ah ha! I finally understood what grandfather was doing. Better late than never.

This video recipe was pieced together with footage I shot last year when I was just playing around with my new webcam. I found it and decided to add some new voice-over and show you this great salad. Yes, it’s a bit unusual, but one bite and you will be hooked. You’ll get to see and hear both sleeveless and blurry 2006 Chef John, as well as the new and improved 2007 Chef John. So, here’s the clip, a whole year in the making, as they say. Enjoy!



Ingredients:
1 small ripe watermelon
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup toasted cashews
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
*optional garnish: some fresh mint or basil

Full Figured Fruit

“I make one little comment about how I really like her pear-shaped figure, and all of a sudden she starts blushing all over.”

Getting Paid for Making Video Recipes? It’s About.com time!

I mentioned a few posts back that I was doing some freelance video production to support this blog. I was pretty vague since nothing was official, but now it is. I am officially a “Food Video Producer” for About.com/food.

I have been working long and hard on an extensive list of assignments for their site. Due to this very necessary outside work, I’ve been unable to post as often as unusual. The good news is that once these recipes are posted on About.com, I will be able to do a post about it, and link to the video on their site. So, even though you won’t be able to play the clip on the blog as you can now, you can at least see me in action. And, as an added bonus, you won’t have to listen to me say “be sure to check the site for the ingredients” as much! The photos you see here are from upcoming recipes that will appear on About.com soon.

By the way, I do plan on doing at least two Food Wishes videos per week, along with the usual array of other edible items. So, that’s the update. I’ve put a link below to my debut on About.com where I did a slightly different version (with new and improved jokes) of the old Watermelon and Feta Salad. Since you seen and read about that one already here, I didn’t bother with a new post.

Thanks, again to all the support and stay tuned for a whole new run of great video recipes on both this blog and About.com.

To see the Watermelon and Feta Salad recipe video, click here!

Black Pepper Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Black Cherry Reduction

This succulent dish has all the things I love in a recipe; an easy piece of meat to work with, a super simple sauce that tastes like something that took hours, and the classic flavor combination of hot/tangy with sweet/fruity.

Our meat choice, the pork tenderloin, is one of the most user-friendly cuts ever. It requires about 3 minutes of trimming and you’re ready to rock. The sauce is made in the pan after the meat is cooked and the sweet and tangy fruit sauce pairs perfectly with the spicy black pepper crust on the pork. Since most of these tenderloins are pretty standard size at about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each, 20 minutes at 375F after a good sear in the pan is going to give you a perfect medium almost every time.

By the way, you can use any vinegar and fruit preserve in this recipe and it will be great, although there is something about cherry and black pepper that’s magical. Enjoy!




1 pork tenderloin (not loin)
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup black cherry preserves
salt to taste
lots of cracked black pepper
2 tbl butter

Angel Hair Pasta with Broccoli and Garlic Sauce - And, why most vegetable pastas aren’t very good

Today's recipe video is a very simple broccoli "alia olia," but it's also a good example of the proper way to use vegetables in pasta. I almost never order veggie pasta in a restaurant. The main reason is that the vegetables are almost never cooked properly, or I should say prepped properly. Take this broccoli pasta as an example. In a restaurant the same ingredients would be used, but all broccoli pieces would be added at the same time. So, by the time the stems were tender the tops would be mush, or even worse, the tops would be perfect and the stems hard and crunchy.
You have to have a game plan when doing a vegetable pasta. If you are using vegetables that have different cooking times, you can't add them all at the same time, yet that's what most people do. One strategy is to cut the longer cooking veggies smaller and leave the more tender veggies larger, so they all cook at about the same time. Another trick is to precook the denser vegetables, like carrots, before combining them with less dense things like squash.
In this pasta, I separate the tops and stems of the broccoli. I basically make a sauce with the diced (and much tougher) stem pieces, and the tender flowers at the end so I get a nice uniform doneness. Anyway, all that being said, this is a delicious way to eat that broccoli all those doctors' keeps talking about. By the way, if you're a Chef that remembers the "garnish the edge of the plate" era (explained in clip), I'd love to get a comment from you. What we're we thinking? Enjoy!
(I'm going to try embeding two video players, from both YouTube and Brightcove, in case one of the sources is down, or one works better on your browser than the other. The Youtube embed is a smaller player, but not as temperamental as the larger Brightcove version.)

Ingredients:
1 pound angel hair pasta
1 1/2 pound broccoli
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Is This Really a Buffalo Bean?

I came across this incredibly bizarre object being used in a window display at a florist shop near my home. I snapped a couple shots, and asked the florist what in the world it was. It was obviously organic in nature, but I had never seen anything like it. He said it was a “Buffalo Bean,” but that’s all he knew about it. He even snapped one open for me and it had a firm white center. I did a quick search online, and while “Buffalo Bean” did turn up quite a few links, I couldn’t find anything looking even close to this. Does anyone out there know what the hell this is? Is it as evil as it looks? Can I cook with it? Help!

Black Currant and Balsamic Gastrique – Simple Complexity

This video recipe produced for About.com is my take on a classic French sauce, the Gastrique. In its most basic form it’s simply a caramelized sugar and vinegar reduction. The modern Gastrique is usually a vinegar reduction combined with some type of fruit, either fresh, or in jams and preserves. The reason for the “Simple Complexity” in the title is the fact that this sauce is ridiculously easy to make, yet the number of potential combinations is virtually infinite.

The complex layers of flavors that can be achieved by mixing and matching different fruits and vinegars is what makes this such a fun sauce to make and serve. You could use the exact same technique you’ll see in the video and make a new version every time you serve this for the rest of your life. By the way, if you have any smoked duck breast laying around, the combination of Black Currant preserves and aged Balsamic vinegar I used was perfect. Enjoy!

The Pan of Olive Oil that Launched a Thousand Emails

Well, maybe not a thousand, but I did get quite a few requests for the sauce that went with the homemade pasta my Uncle Bill made during my trip to New York. We did two videos together, one was the “Homemades,” and one was an amazing chicken recipe called Chicken D’Arduini. In that post I said I would try to demo the olive oil sauce that went over the homemade fettuccine. Well, I haven’t filmed that yet, and have lots of great excuses why, some of which are even true.

So, in the meantime, since it’s such a simple sauce, I’m just going to talk you through it. You can see most of what’s happening in the photo of the pan. I can’t give exact amounts because it’s just not that kind of sauce.

While the pasta is cooking (I think we cooked about 2 pounds), put a heavy sauté pan on low heat. Add lots of olive oil, maybe a good cup. Add 5 or 6 anchovy fillets, and 4 cloves of minced garlic. Sauté on low until the anchovies melt and the garlic begins to sizzle. Add some chopped fresh basil and some hot pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Do NOT brown the garlic. Turn off the heat. In a large pasta bowl, cut up a stick of butter into small pieces. Grate about a cup of Parmesan cheese (the real stuff!). When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the pasta bowl, and toss with the butter for a few moments. Pour over the olive oil mixture, and add the grated Parmesan (save a little for the table), and toss until everything is coated. This is best served as a side dish due to its obvious richness, and was great with the Chicken D’Arduini, as it would with any similar recipe.

This is not the type of pasta to eat if you are thinking about grams of fat, or calories, or those new “skinny jeans.” In fact, this is a dish best eaten when your brain is completely void of all thought. So, clear your mind as you slurp the buttery, salty, spicy, garlicky, cheesy goodness. Enjoy!

A Celebrity Chef’s Worst Enemy? David Letterman!

For this weekend’s filler clip I’m posting this very amusing bit of video from the David Letterman show, featuring Jamie Oliver. I’m a big Jamie Oliver fan. I like his simple approach and real enthusiasm (unlike many TV Chef’s who just turn on the passion for the camera). Famous Chefs have been going on Letterman for years to plug books, shows, new restaurants, etc., and they all have basically the same experience; as they are trying to cook their signature dish, Mr. Letterman is goofing around, asking bizarre questions to distract them, drinking olive oil, pretending to burn or cut himself, and generally doing everything possible to prevent the poor Chef from finishing his or her dish properly.

It’s basically a running gag by now, and several Chefs will no longer appear on the show for fear of being made to look like a fool again. Well, Jamie Oliver does a great job in this clip of holding it all together. He actually keeps Letterman under control (sort of), finishes the dish (which looked great), got his plug in for the Children’s School Lunch Program he was involved in, and, my personal favorite part of the demo, tells guest Tom Cruise “to be a man.” By the way the dish he was making was a Thai noodle dish that translated to “Fairy Purse.” Insert your own joke here. Enjoy!

The Creative Culinary Process – You have to be fearless when re-working the classics!

Late night talk show host (and Chef) Jimmy Kimmel, gives us a great look inside the sometimes difficult process involved in taking some common recipe and trying to put a new twist on it. All Chefs face this dilemma at one time or another; you think you have a great idea to improve a classic dish, but it’s met with skepticism and/or disdain. Should you just give up? Or, should you trust your instincts? It’s one of the most challenging aspects of a Chefs existence, and I think this inspiring clip captures it beautifully. Enjoy!

Testing, 1, 2, Testing

Blogger recently added the feature of uploading video directly into these posts. So I thought I would test it out with an older, low-res, yet still incredibly delicious chicken recipe I previously posted using the standard YouTube embed. I'm curious if there is a big difference in quality. The other obvious advantage is I could post videos that would only be available to visitors of this blog, since I could avoid the need to upload to video sharing sites first, just to get the flash embed code.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't feel bad, I'm not that sure either. Anyway, we are basically comparing the two clips. Any and all input is welcome, especially from tech nerds.

Here is the blogger video upload of The "Ultimate" Roast Chicken at same size as the YouTube version:


Here is the regular YouTube flash embed of the same clip:


Here is the blogger video upload of The "Ultimate" Roast Chicken:


Well, so what do you think?

Mo’s Bacon Bar and the Creative Process of an Avant-garde Chocolatier

In yesterday’s Halibut and Bacon post I mentioned a woman who had combined bacon with chocolate. I discovered her on a fellow foodie’s blog, Catherine’s “Chocolate and Sage.” Her name is Katrina Markoff, and she is the Owner and Founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat. This video is a lecture she gave at the TASTE3 conference which was presented at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa. In it, she explains the four step process she uses to create these very unusual chocolate collections.

Yesterday I said I found the lecture both inspirational and ridiculous. After watching it for a second time, I changed the word “ridiculous” to “perplexing.” Ridiculous sounded too negative, which wasn’t my intention. While I was truly inspired by her passion and obvious love for what she does and creates, I was sometimes lost during parts of her explanation of the process. It’s probably because I have no intentional or formal thought process with my cooking, and actually try NOT to think about what I’m doing too deeply. Anyway, I realize it’s a long lecture, but it’s worth watching, and I’d love a spirited discussion and/or debate in the comments as to what your thoughts are regarding her approach. Is she thinking too much, or am I not thinking enough? Or should we all just eat a piece of chocolate with bacon and smile?




I've posted this before, but could this Simpsons clip have been the real inspiration for this candy bar?

Ex-Beatle Makes Mashed Potatoes – Hey Paul, don’t quit your day job!

First it was Christopher Walken trying to horn in on my act, now I’ve got Paul McCartney doing cooking videos online! It would be very easy to make fun of this mashed potato video Paul made…so I will. As I watched, I started writing down all the mistakes, wrong information, and bad techniques I was witnessing so I could rip him in this post. But, there were just too many, so I stopped, and just enjoyed it for what it was; A shameless plug for his wife’s cookbook. Wow, she should really have reconsidered her marketing strategy. Paul, while one of the most talented musicians ever, should never be allowed in a kitchen again.

So, instead of me recapping all the ridiculous moments, why don’t you just watch and post a comment as to what were your favorite bits. Here are a few moments I really enjoyed to get you started… the oven mitt puppet show, the “organic” salt reference (when did they start using pesticides on salt?), and the seven times he almost slices his fingers off trying to peel and chop that onion. Hey, Jude, get this guy some Band-Aids!

Just in case you actually want to see how to make perfect mashed potatoes, I’ve included my mashed potato video recipe below. Enjoy!



My Version of the Perfect Mashed Potato

Cider Braised Beef Brisket - Slow Food for Fast Times

Braising is such a great cooking technique in general, and in particular for the new cook. It's such a forgiving method; The meat is always moist, the timing doesn’t have to be exact since it’s virtually impossible to overcook, and easy to put back in to cook longer, and best of all…most braised recipes make there our sauce or jus (natural juice)!

This is a classic beef brisket dish I learned from a German chef many years ago. As you'll see in this video recipe, it takes about 10 minutes to prep, and after a nice, leisurely 3-hour braise, you have an amazingly aromatic, and succulent brisket.

This is a great dish any time of the year, but it is especially perfect on that chilly fall night, or for that holiday dinner party. Since the average brisket runs about 5 to 6 pounds, it’s great for entertaining. And the leftovers? Forget about it; there is nothing like a brisket sandwich.

There is an aroma that this dish produces as the apple cider, garlic, and rosemary vapors somehow escape the tight foil wrap and waft throughout the kitchen and house that no scented candle has ever come close to surpassing. This is a great meal, and the best kind of aromatherapy. I served it with a new carrot dish I just developed that uses Chinese 5-spice with some surprisingly results. I will show that video recipe soon. It was a perfect match for this dish. Enjoy.





Ingredients:
5 pound beef brisket
6 cloves garlic
1 tbl dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste (this needs to be seasoned generously)
1 pint apple cider
2 tbl olive oil
1 yellow onion

Warning: Chef Trying to Do Something Much Harder Than Cooking

I will be working on the blog's template this weekend, so depending on when you are checking in, the blog may look a bit askew as I try to widen the left column to accommodate even larger, higher-res videos. I got permission to embed the new recipes I've been doing for About.com, and they play at a size larger than my left hand column. So wish me luck, I'll need it.

Simply Roasted Artichokes - Wrap and Roll

Today's video recipe clips is so simple it's hard to call it a recipe. It's more like an anti-recipe. As you'll see below I just list the ingredients, no amounts or measurements. This is how 95% of cooking should be done. So many people would enjoy cooking more, and make better food, if they got there faces out of those cookbooks and just started cooking. They treat the act of cooking like some scientific procedure (by the way, this rant excluded delicate baked goods, so save your emails).

Recipes are great for what ingredients you may want to use, but should be treated as an idea-started, not some government mandated edict. Cooking times are also useful, so we'll look at those, but as far as following a recipe to the letter when it comes to amounts of ingredients, I say "use the force Luke." We all have an inner Chef that will guide us as we cook, without the shackles of the measuring spoons and digital scales. "Top potatoes with 1 tablespoon of minced chives" ….what?? If I see that Food Network "Barefoot Contessa" lady measure parsley to sprinkle on something one more time, I going to lose it.

I much prefer proportions to recipes. For cous cous it's one part stock to one part cous cous, for dressings 3 to 1 oil to vinegar usually works out nicely, etc. If you visited a professional kitchen a few things would jump out at you right away. How fast-paced it is, how much cursing is being done, and how few recipes you see. So, today's artichoke is a celebration of the non-recipe; trim some chokes, drizzle some lemon and oil, stick in a garlic clove, sprinkle on some salt, and roast until delicious. I expect some comments from new cooks saying "but we need the measurements because we are not as experienced as you." No you don't. Use the force. Besides how do you know yours isn’t going to come out better because you used a little more or a little less of something? Cook, taste, adjust, and enjoy.

*Bonus foodie points if you are the first commenter to tell me what horrible Chef error I made on the plate in the photo.



Ingredients:
artichokes
lemon
garlic
olive oil
salt

The "Chef Hat" Pumpkin - Best Gourd Ever!

My mother-in-law Peggy picked this rare "Chef Hat" pumpkin last weekend and I could not have been happier. I've been complaining for years that botanists and scientists were spending way to much time trying to develop crops that would help feed impoverished countries, and not nearly enough time and efforts developing custom shaped gourds like this. Finally, my voice is being heard, and it's about time! I mean a pumpkin variety shaped like a Chef hat; now that's something I think we all can enjoy. My next request? A pumpkin that comes filled with ready to use pie filling, instead of all those slimy seeds. Okay, UC Davis Agricultural Genetic Engineers, please get to work!

Speaking of large gourds the 34th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off was just held in Half Moon Bay, California. And the winner was… Thad Starr! His record 1,524-pound pumpkin (pictured here) crushed the old record by 300 pounds. I heard on the news that he was a “stay-at-home” father from Pleasant Hill, OR. That makes sense. I don’t think many 9 to 5’ers are winning these types of competitions.

Remember when pumpkins were round and orange? How am I supposed to steal that thing and smash it on the neighbor that used to give us apples for Halloween's porch?

Garlic, Black Pepper, and Fennel-rubbed Flank Steak with Grilled Oranges - aka Party Steak!

You have to love the flank steak; so easy to cook, almost no trimming, relatively lean, and perfect for a party since it’s slight change in thickness from one end to the other allows for slices of medium rare and medium well off the same piece of meat. This very interesting recipe has something I always appreciate in a dish; it makes its own sauce. As you’ll see in the video recipe, we used the juice from some grilled oranges with the natural juices from the steak to create a fabulous looking, and tasting platter of beef.

While this dish may appear to be inspired by Italian or Spanish influences (which it is), it’s also a take on one of my favorite Chinese dishes; spicy orange beef. I love to grill flank steak with a highly flavored rub of garlic, fennel, salt and black pepper. I wondered what would happen if I added a little orange to the marinade, and then I got the idea to caramelize some orange halves on the grill, and squeeze the juice over the meat after it was cooked and sliced. It was an amazing combination, and one you must try. I did a recent video recipe with some orange and fennel grilled chicken thighs, that was very good, but this went to a whole new place. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 flank steak (about 2 pounds)
1 tbl fennel seeds
2 tbl black pepper
2 tsp salt
3 oranges
2 tbl olive oil
4 sprigs rosemary
4 cloves garlic
cayenne pepper to taste

Wild Halibut Steaks with Warm Bacon Dressing – Mmmmm….Bacon

Yes, it’s true what they say, bacon makes everything tastes better. Even bacon tastes better with bacon. Recently I saw an online lecture by a woman who makes specialty chocolates and she had actually done chocolate with bacon. So, now it’s really official, bacon goes with everything! By the way, I plan on posting her lecture, which I found equally inspiring and perplexing, but that’s for another day.

Today we’re making a very simple warm bacon dressing to go over some pan cooked halibut. With just a few ingredients, and a very simple procedure, we’re going to produce some amazingly delicious results. The smokiness of the bacon is such a great match with the meaty halibut, and the slightly sweet/sour profile of the fresh lemon and rice vinegar brings this all together. Usually at this point I tell you a few ways you can alter the recipe to match your personal tastes…forget that. Make this exactly like I show you. Enjoy!



Ingredients:
2 halibut steaks (about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
1/2 lemon
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
4 strips of bacon
fresh parsley to taste (about 1/2 bunch for me)
salt and pepper to taste
* I served this on baby romaine, but any greens would be nice

Exotically Delicious 5-Spice Carrots - And, Gratuitous Gong Sound Effects!

I've had a lot of requests lately for easy, but different, vegetable side dishes. So, today's video recipe is an extremely easy, yet unusual, carrot side dish using one of my favorite "secret" ingredients; Chinese 5-spice. This spice mix was invented literally thousands of years ago, and is suppose to season food in perfect balance with the five elementary flavors of Chinese cuisine (and all cuisines for that matter); sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory.

The most common blend is equal parts ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cloves, and pepper. Some versions also use ground ginger and other spices. In fact, as you'll see (and hear…warning: gratuitous sound effects ahead) in the video clip when I looked at my 5-spice bottle's ingredient list I got 7 spices! It had the usual five, but I also got ginger and licorice. I actually could have called it 8-spice, but I only counted the two peppers as one ingredient in the clip. Seven is my lucky number, so that's what I went with.

To me, roasted carrots are so far superior in flavor and texture to the usual boiled or steamed versions. The dry roasting intensifies the sugars and when combined with the Chinese 5, 7, or 8 spice mix, the results are quite delicious. This is the perfect holiday veggie side dish. If you watched the Cider-braised brisket video recipe, you saw these luscious carrots surrounding the bowl. Enjoy!





Ingredients:
6-8 large carrots
2 tbl vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
salt to taste

Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce - One of my "Go To" Favorites

There are certain recipes all cooks have that form the base of their culinary repertoire. These are recipes that are fast and easy, that they can create from memory, with no notes, in any kitchen, for any group, any time of the year. Some Chefs refer to these as their "go to" dishes. This red clam sauce is one of my "go to" recipes.

It's incredible simple to make (much easier than saying "canned clams" as you'll hear in this clips running gag). It takes about 15 minutes start to finish. It's bursting with flavor, yet only uses a few ingredients and except for crushing a couple cloves of garlic, requires no prep. This sauce is great on any pasta, but I enjoy it best on angle hair or spaghetti. And, yes, I DO put some Parmesan on my clam pasta, thank you very much. Never say never when it comes to food. Some Chefs (fascists) say you can never put cheese on seafood pasta, never, ever, never. Well, while I agree that Parmesan would not be a great choice on some seafood pastas using very light, delicate varieties of fish and sauce. On this red clam sauce and its strong, bold flavors and meaty clams, the Parmesan tastes wonderful, and no one can prove me otherwise.

Please note while watching the video recipe the secret to what I think makes a great pasta dish. Under-cook the pasta by a minute, drain it, add it back to the pot (off the heat of course) and pour over the hot sauce, cover and let everything meld together for a few minutes. The hot sauce and steaming pasta will finish cooking and the pasta will absorb all those amazing flavors. I can't believe it when I see a plate of plain pasta with the sauce just ladled over! Anyway, give this a try and maybe it will become one of your "go to" recipes. Enjoy!

1 pound pasta
2 cans (6.5 oz) chopped clams in juice
3 cups tomato sauce (plus 1/4 cup water to rinse jar)
1 cup good white wine
1 tbl anchovy paste or 2 fillets
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbl capers
2 tbl olive oil
Parmesan to taste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh herb to taste, basil or Italian parsley

Merluzzo Pasta Puttanesca - Pimp My Cod!

Merluzzo is Codfish in Italian, and I just thought it would look cooler in the title. In case you've never heard of a "Puttanesca" sauce before, it's Italian for "in the style of the whore." I know, it sounds appetizing doesn’t it? But, it really is a fantastic and fast pasta sauce that can be prepared and tossed on plain pasta, or used as a base for a more complex recipe as I have done here. I've taken the basic Puttanesca sauce and added fresh codfish and Arugula to create a very nice, and quite healthy seafood pasta. By the way, it tastes much better than it looks! The black olive tapenade I added makes for a sort of grey and muddy looking sauce, but when you dress it up with a little parmesan on top and more red pepper flakes, it suddenly becomes much more attractive (insert your own prostitute joke here).

Now, as far as the story behind the Puttanesca sauce's origins, there are many stories, some more "colorful" than others. It is pretty much agreed upon that Naples was the birthplace, but that's about all that people don't argue about. What follows are the most common explanations of this delicious sauce; the ladies of the night made this pasta sauce because the irresistible aroma would help draw in customers. It was created as a quick and cheap meal the ladies could eat in between customers. It is hot, spicy, and fast, as are the woman for whom it's named.

Regardless of the true origin, it's a great sauce, and one that should be part of your regular pasta rotation, no matter what your own personal level of virtue happens to be. I've made this version much lower calorie by reducing the usual amount of olive oil and replaced it with stock and wine. Enjoy!




Ingredients:
1 pound fresh cod
2 cups chicken or fish stock (or water)
1 pound pasta
1 cup white wine
2 tbl anchovy paste
2 tbl red pepper flakes
6 cloves garlic
2 tbl olive tapenade or chopped olives
1/4 cup capers
1 bunch Arugula (about 2-3 cups)
2 tbl olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan

Happy Birthday Valerie!

One thing I am VERY careful about when it comes to authoring this blog is preventing it from becoming a “blog.” When I go to read another blog about wine pairing or Thai food, that’s what I want to read about, I don’t want to read about the blog author’s ear infection, or that their cousin just got back from Nova Scotia and wants to share some photos. So, I’ve kept this blog 99.5% about food, with the one exception of wishing my Mom and now my sister Val, a happy birthday. She is a police officer in western New York State, and I should add, a great cook in her own right! I love her famous Chicken Kiev, which is why it’s pictured at the beginning of the post. So, you thought you were going to see a Chicken Kiev video…psyche! Although, the next time I’m in NY, I will be sure to film her making this delicious, garlic butter-soaked recipe.

Since I ripped Paul McCartney’s cooking skills yesterday I thought I would show him doing something he’s good at. Here’s a video of Paul singing Happy Birthday to my sister.



Chicken Kiev photo credit

Time for Sushi? No, Sushi for Time!

Some headlines just write themselves. So, there I was, wracking my brain trying to figure out the perfect gift for my Sushi-loving friend (you know… the one that’s always forgetting things in the oven), and then I saw it; a Sushi (Nigiri to be completely accurate) kitchen timer! How serendipitous!

Okay, I’m sure this sounds like a fish tale, and it is. Well, at least the part about looking for a gift for a Sushi-loving friend. I ran across this very ironic gadget (raw fish on a timer for cooking things?) in the same shop I found the Mario Batali toy, WinkSF. I figured I would post this is case you actually do have to find a gift for a Sushi-loving friend (you know…the one that’s always forgetting things in the oven).

French Toast - The Fancy Brunch Restaurant Style

So, you think you know how to make French toast? Maybe you beat a couple eggs, a splash of milk, a quick dip, fry it up in some butter, drizzle with a little syrup? Sounds pretty good, and for 95% of the world that is what they consider "French Toast." But, if you want truly amazing French toast, give this classic restaurant method a try.

The main difference is the bread is sliced thicker, it's soaked in a custard batter (really, really soaked), and then after being brown slightly in a pan, it's baked. That is the real secret. The baking cooks the custard inside the bread and gives it an unbelievable texture. The outside is crisp and golden, and the contrast between the two is magical.
The problem with just pan-frying is by the time the inside is really cooked, the outside is too dark and bitter. You can use thinner bread, of course, but then you don't get the same creamy, custardy, almost bread pudding-like texture, as from the thicker slices. Give this a try. The one extra step of baking it is sooo worth it. When you bite into this, I'm sure you'll agree. Enjoy!



Ingredients:

6 thick slice of French bread

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

butter for frying

maple syrup?

George Clooney Update

Many of you may have been wondering what Clooney has been up to since he lost his gig as my online sidebar avatar. I’m sorry to report the news is not good. Apparently he took the dismissal much harder than anyone could have imagined. For those of you that are new to this blog, George served as a celebrity look-a-like for my profile photo for many months (you can see him pictured below during happier times). Once my secret identity was made public by About.com, I replaced Mr. Clooney’s photo with my own, and told him that his services would no longer be needed. At the time he sounded fine with it, and said he still would like to “stay friends.” We’ve all heard that one before.

Anyway, my Hollywood sources tell me that since he was removed from the site, he has really let himself go. As you can see from the photo, he has gained about 50 pounds, and friends say he basically lives on hot dogs, chocolate Pop-tarts, and root beer. George, if you are reading this, please get a hold of yourself! You still have the movie career, and all those beautiful women, and all that money. You’re going to be okay. You just need to move on.

Happy Labor Day… only 113 shopping days until Christmas!

Wow, is summer really gone already? That was fast, but then again, it always is. Is it really just the old saying “time flies when you’re having fun,” or do those extra long days screw with our sense of time? Who knows, but it does seem like I was just writing that Memorial Day post.

I hope you all enjoyed this summer, and were able to cook and eat lots of great food. I appreciate all the visits, and comments, as the blog has really grown rapidly the last few months. Special thanks to all of you who helped spread the word about Food Wishes. It’s been a lot of fun learning and using the new equipment (I took the plastic off one of the manuals the other day), and I hope the videos will become even better, and more enjoyable for you.

So, as days grow shorter, sunflowers go to seed, crunchy leaves cover the lawn, and some idiot tells you how many shopping days until Christmas, take heart; we are entering the prime cooking and eating time of the year. I hope you will visit this blog often for ideas on filling your fall and holiday tables with an array of delicious and somewhat healthy recipes. Finally, here’s to all the poor cooks, chefs, and other hospitality workers that celebrate Labor Day by working. Don’t feel too bad though, they’ll catch up after work…they always do. Cheers!


Btw, the sunflower photos were taken on a recent walk through San Francisco. You can even see parts of the beautiful Victorian they were planted in front of.

Back By Popular Demand…The Secret Underwater Pomegranate Trick

I already ran this video demo a long time ago, but when my mother sent me a photo of some “Sweetheart” pomegranates (below right), I thought it would be perfect timing to rerun this clip since this is pomegranate season. By the way, I had never seen a non-red pomegranate before, but she reports the insides are as red and delicious as the traditional varieties. This is a short, but hopefully useful demo for how to remove all those pomegranate kernels without making a big mess. These are great on any fall/winter salads or soups, and of course desserts.
Photo credit, top left, © divenmisscopa

Broiled Salmon Glazed with Dijon and Rice Vinegar, circa 1988 - Do two ingredients count as a "recipe?"

I was just starting my first day at the Carnelian Room; a huge, busy kitchen at the top of the Bank of America Building in San Francisco. I was very young, and very nervous, and wanted my debut to go as smoothly as possible. Luckily I was assigned to the Fish Station, which was run by a very nice fellow named Phil. He told me that all he needed me to do was make the salmon for a banquet that night.

He said it was a French/Asian style salmon dish made with Dijon and rice vinegar. I was told to "grill off" (mark on the grill, but not cook all the way) the salmon filets and get them set up on sheet pans. No problem. It took about an hour or so, but I did a nice job and they looked great with their perfect diamond shaped grill marks (10 and 2’oclock, for you Culinary students out there).

Then he told me to make the glaze for the salmon. I asked him where the recipe was. He laughed and said there wasn't one. He was going to tell me, and I was going to remember it, or it would be my last night there. I was starting to sweat and pulled out my little note pad I always kept in my pocket (another tip for you cul students, always have a pen and paper) so I could write the recipe down. He said something to the effect of “put that f**king thing away!” He said if I couldn't remember this recipe then I had no place being in a kitchen. Then he said, take a quart of Dijon and mix it with a quart of rice vinegar, and brush it on the salmon. That was it; half Dijon, half vinegar. We both had a laugh and I realized this was a very mild rookie hazing I had just endured.

Anyway, this simple two-ingredient combo is a really great salmon glaze. The sugar in the seasoned rice vinegar caramelizes under the broiler, and the sweet, salty vinegar works perfectly with the tangy mustard. While the original, circa 1988, only had two ingredients I've added a couple of optional things, some Sriracha hot sauce and a pinch of salt. Nowadays they call this fusion cuisine. Back then they called it a great way to make a young cook sweat! Enjoy.



Ingredients:
2 salmon filet
1 1/2 tbl Dijon
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
salt, if needed (rice vinegars can vary in sugar and salt content)

Hello World! It’s me, Chef John…the man behind the hands

I knew this day would eventually come. I realized I couldn’t hide behind George Clooney’s photoshop’d photo forever. When I first start filming and posting cooking videos on the internet about a year ago, I made the decision to never appear on camera. I wanted to be the anti-Food Network Chef, which seemed to be more and more about the Chef, and less and less about the food and the cooking. I also found that most of the amateur cooking videos people were posting looked like audition reels for Hell’s Kitchen. So, since I wasn’t going to appear in the videos, I decided I would just remain completely anonymous. I liked that people would email asking for pictures of me. I liked being mysterious (I had never been mysterious before).

So, why show myself now? I have too. I have recently been contracted to do some “professional” cooking videos for several online outlets (to be named later), and as part of the production I must be seen introducing the recipes. Since I knew it would only be a matter of time before one of my blog visitors saw me on one of these other sites and recognized my sultry voice and nimble fingers, I decided to out myself today.

By the way, just because I’m now using my real photo on the blog, the video recipes will not change. I will still never appear in the recipes, mugging for the camera nor doing puppet shows with an oven mitt. I will not deviate from my original vision of what these videos should be about…the food.

Chef John’s Now “All Shook Down!”

As many of you know, I’ve been threatening lately that I might have to “get a real job” to help support this site while it continues its steady climb up the blog food chain. Of course a real job would mean less time to spend filming and, long story short, more pirated Simpson’s clips instead of delicious new video recipes. Well, that hasn’t happened yet (alright, everyone take a couple seconds and look at the donation button on the sidebar…OK, back to the post), but I have been given a great opportunity to spread my ‘food wishes’ to a larger audience.

Last week I was named “Associate Food Editor” of SFWeekly.com's daily culture website All Shook Down. I will be sharing posts, photos, and videos from this blog, as well as covering other online foodie news. I’d like to thank the SFWeekly and Village Voice Media for this great opportunity.







For those of you not familiar with the SFWeekly, it’s a great alternative newspaper in San Francisco, and required reading for anyone that wants to know what’s really going on around town. I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship. Hey, does this mean I can now get media credentials for the Press Box at the ball game? I really should do a story on those garlic fries. I’ll have to check on that.