Sunday, July 10, 2016

Thai Street food part 2

Another hot Summer night as always, gives me an excuse for cooking outside.  Something I love to do as I suppose it connects me to my caveman past or something. Mostly it's just that I live in a remote, green, redwood forest and standing at the grill as the evening cools the air and everything just quiets down to a whisper makes me happy to be alive.

I'm becoming really obsessed with all foods Asian these days and  last night worked up my courage to make something that is an all-time fav -  either on the street when traveling or as a light starter to a nice restaurant meal.  Satay.

Again, as I'm learning in my culinary adventures, nothing is really hard. I fought forest fires for 2.5 years in my late teens/early twenties.  THAT was hard work.  Making a satisfying and delish meal is nothing more than focus and thought and assembly and attention to detail. And as such my first try at Satay was a complete success.  That is, not to say, it can't get better.  I think my dipping sauce could have been a bit better. It was a little thick.  But I get ahead of myself.

The supplies:
  • A couple lbs (two large) skinless, boneless chicken breast chopped into large cubes.
  • 1/2 cup of hippie peanut butter, chinky if you can find it -- you know the stuff, runny and gooey that you have to stir to thicken properly
  • 1 table spoon (to taste/heat sensibilities) Thai chile paste. I tend toward hot, but your milage may vary.
  • 3/4 a cup of unsweetened coconut milk
  • The juice of two limes
  • A splash of pineapple juice
  • A medium grip of roasted coconut flakes
  • Cilantro
Some bamboo skewers -  soak them in water while you make your marinade.

A hot grill  (600-700 degrees)

So, first you make your sauce/marinade

Plop the peanut butter into a sauce pan over medium heat and add the rest of the sauce ingredients, whisking it into submission until its creamy and smooth.  Don't let it come to boil, we're not cooking it, we're simply blending flavors.  Different levels of chemistry altogether.

When it's the consistency you want (creamy but not too soupy) pour it over the chicken chunks in a large bowl,  toss them about a bit to get them completely coated and then cover with cloth and let it the whole aromatic mess* sit and think about itself for 1-3  hours.

* it's not super pretty at this point, but smells amazing.

When it's grilling time, take your skewers out of the water and load em up with chicken, packed tightly, almost as if you're trying to reassemble the chicken to it's pre chopped state.

Slap em on the grill and turn semi-frequently with tongs until they are firmly crusted over on all sides and cooked  through. This is pretty quick, maybe 15 mins tops depending on how big your chicken chunks are. The end result is a crackle at first bite and an extraordinary juicy, tasty finish.  Best satay I've ever had.  I reserved a tiny bowl of the marinade to use as a dipping sauce and dusted the chicken with chopped cilantro and another squirt of lime juice to finish.


The results are about the prettiest thing to ever come off my grill; chicken that looks like golden ore  and smells like heaven.

For a side I also grilled some fresh cut pineapple spears.  Same grill, but just about 8 minutes, with one flip -- to just char them a bit.

The pineapples and a quick three bean salad made this a super satisfying, high protein healthy meal.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thai Street Food In Canyon

Damn it's hot. Not too hot to cook, just too hot to care or make decisions.  My kitchen is messy, I worked 11 hours in the heat, I have nothing planned and gave up and decide to just go to the store and get a frozen pizza for Patty and Ethan and browse for something that grabs my interest.  I felt like a muttering, cranky old man.

The over air-conditioned aisles and flag-draped suburban matrons browsing for hot dogs and badly limp chicken (July 4th coming up) kind of depressed me and as  I swanked past the butcher shop section.  I saw the saddest prefabbed chicken kebobs in history.  Yet that was my click moment.

Heat -  kebab - THAILAND.  Done and done. I remembered I had a few pounds of sirloin in the fridge, excellent skewers, a working BBQ and tons of Thai spices.


I got some coconut milk, cilantro, a few diff colored bells and some pineapple slices.

Back at the ranch I poured into a bowl (not in this order necessarily):

  • 15 oz coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons of Red Thai chili paste
  • 2 long squirts of Sriracha
  • a glug and a half of Thai peanut sauce
  • a long dribble of pineapple juice 
  • and some chopped cilantro
  • 1.5 lbs of cubed sirloin

A fast two hour marinade (warm and lightly covered, not in the fridge) and then I skewered the meat chunks alternating green and orange bell cutlings and pineapple slices and then out to the BFG2000 (Still after all these years my workhorse of a grill).

6 to 8 mins a side on a super hot (700 degree grill) and we're just talking heaven on earth.

The high heat is important so it sears the baby Jeebus out of the marinated beef and gives it a luscious crust while being super tender and juicy inside.

i will never fear a hot and seemingly uninspired night again.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer BBQ Season: game on

I <3 Summer, who doesn't.  Let me list the things I love about it, in no particular order

  • Heat - yes I like it hot and could live on a beach, given the chance
  • The cool of the evening on the deck after a hot day
  • Margaritas
  • Plum ice cream
  • BBQ ribs.

....Halt.  yes, BBQ ribs should be at the top of the list.   Once the temps starting hitting 80+ my mind turns to bbqing on the BFG2000 grill.

My ribs recipe is one I've been iterating on for about 15 years at this point and I think I may stop tinkering with it after tonight.  It was just spot on parfait.  Super juicy, moist, just dropping off the bone tender with a nice patina of sear for the first bite crunchiness factor.

I'll spare you the 12 iterations to date and cut to tonight and what works so well.

#1  Get good baby back ribs.  See that Safeway?  Keep driving.  Find a good butcher shop you trust  (like Diablo Foods, hint hint) and buy a nice fresh rack or two.

2.  Bring it home and at room temp coat it thoroughly in your rub of choice. I fluctuate between my own creation:  and a local blend called Oakland dust.  Oakland Dust has more paprika than my rub so it's a matter of mood, really.

Anyway,  coat it about twice as thick with your rub as your instincts tell you to, then double foil wrap it tightly and place into a 225-250 degree oven.  With my doddering, olden oven, temp is a bit of a guess, but tonight I put it to 250 and it worked like a champ.  Walk away and do something else for 2 hours -- I spent my two hours building a big fat Greek salad and playing with my dogs.

3.  When two hours is up, remove the now fully cooked and dropping off the bone ribs from the oven and let them cool slightly while you make a brushing sauce:

Le sauce:

#1 fry up a half a pound of bacon and do what you must with the bacon,  but reserve the bacon fat in the pan.


The juice of 3 limes
four tablespoons of organic honey
a tablespoon or more of the same rub you used earler
a dollop of dry sherry

Simmer this for 5-7 mins, stirring until it reduces a bit and is slightly thickened, but not mud-like

4.  Brush this over your cooling ribs and take them to the grill that you've been pre heating at high/stun level for 10-15 minutes.

5.  Quick sear the ribs for 3 mins a side, praying for blasts of flame  (you won't have to pray too hard, the rib /bacon grease helps a lot).

Remove and eat.  Holy Moly! this batch was absolute perfection,  Juicy and falling off the bone but with a certain satisfying crackle on first chomp:

my Big fat Greek salad:

Come on by anytime the mercury passes 85 degrees or so and it's bbq game on.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

weeknight easy chicken landscapes

Chicken is so luscious and satisfying as a meal, not to mention cheap enough to make multiple times a week.  Then of course you get to make stock for soups, stews and risotto with the bones.  Win/wn

Happy was I to find yet another way to cook it; one so easy and so super tasty that it's become my go-to chicken when I don't want to do the whole chicken roasting thing, or a long drawn out braise or the drama of frying.

My new meme is from a NYtimes cooking recipe, and it's killer simple, can be made in 15 mins flat and I guarantee it will be about the most interesting tasting chicken you've ever tried.

Fast broil Devil chicken

Simple simple simple

#1 Get a bunch of bone-in thighs or leg segments.  Salt and pepper to taste

Then make up this easy potion:

1/3 cup dijon mustard
1/3 cup of finely diced, almost minced onions  (sweet, red, shallots, scallions -  your choice)
2 tables spoons honey
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

fork it violently to blend.

Heat your broiler to full on.

when it's hot, place the chicken on foil into the broiler, skin side up

cooke for 6-8 miuntes until you have a nice light browning going on.

Flip the chicken and apply about a teaspoon of your devil potion per piece and put it back in hte broiler

cooke 6-8 minutes till you have a golden red crust

flip the chicken yet again and heavily coat the topside and then back into the broiler for an additional 6-8 minutes

Done, it's as simple as that.   A crackly hot/spicy outer layer and super tender juicy on the inside.  This is the real thing.

Serve with, well, I like Mashed potatoes a lot (here my grandma's recipe).

Devil chicken  mountains plus cloud-like mash potatoes with a hovering ghostly moon wine glass.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Red Beans and Rice: Soul food for any soul under the sun

I spent about 10 years on the road mixing FOH sound for a Blues/Rock icon.  A good gig which took me around the world a few times and to every state in the US except Alaska and oh crap, I think that's the only place in the world we missed.  As a crew member working 18-20 hour days  (something my current gig coworkers don't understand about how my current work ethic got tattood onto my dna) I remember a lot of good times and some less than fun times. But I also remarkably can recall almost every crew meal from every gig.  It's uncanny. Ex: The Cabooze, Mn 1989.  Overcooked ribs and bland beans or phenomenally bad pizza which my cohort Whit had (with a bartender raving about how they were the best ribs in Minneapolis). har!

What I can recall also was what has become a legend in my mind; the single flat our best meal  I ever had.

1990 Jazz and Heritage in NOLA.  Two shows, one for our band and the second subbing for a suddenly sick BB King.  Great show, good times in the blues and music capital of the world.  Felt like I was on top of the world, getting paid to mix shows at this level.

After the gig I took a walk to wind down.  NOLA is great anytime, but at Jazz and Heritage it is just alive with people and about the most interesting city imaginable.  I walked by alone letting myself wander a bit, not really caring where i ended up.  The only downside was the sticky 104 degree heat which was pretty intense, but it was a day off after a good gig, I had no worries, was in no hurry to do anything. in particular.

It was damned hot though and after an hour or so of walking I was just sweating through my shirt and feeling a big dogged and about ready to pack it in and head back to the hotel, when what did I spy?  A neon sign of a flashing beer mug way down almost hidden in a shady alley with ivy growing up the brick walls around it.  I was sucked down the alley like a moth drawn to a flame and when I got under the sign and stood in front of an open door, I felt the blast of massive AC. Heaven indeed.  I walked in and placed myself at the stone and tile bar, ordered two beers (to take out the waiting period between #1 and #2) and ordered some red beans and rice for the strength needed to walk a few miles back to the hotel.

What came in about 10 minutes was the most satisfyingly hot and savory dish I have ever had, bar none. Better than reindeer steaks in Norway, better than sushi in Osaka, better than barbecue in Chicago. Simple, pure and aromatic sausage, beans and rice. perfectly cooked.  I could taste heat from a few different sources, basil and parsley winding around smoked sausage and soft yet almost crunchy red beans.  And the bottle of Jalapeno based hot sauce which was placed within arms reach by the barkeep was like nothing I'd ever had and remains to this day, my main hot sauce for anything - eggs, rice, soups, salsa.  Bat's Brew hot sauce from Baton Rouge.

I have been working on recreating that dish for a few months now, and tonight I got close.  It's not 104 out in Canyon, but it is a bit sticky out in this weird May drizzling rain.  Here's what I did.

Soaked 1.2 lbs of small red beans overnight  (I am so virtuous).

Bought a pound of smoked Portuguese sausage cut up into half rounds and fast sautéed them to slightly crisp in a table spoon of oil.

Adding 3 more table spoons of oil, I dumped in two finely diced onions and 8 cloves of crushed and minced fresh garlic and tossed them about until they were opaque, not burned in any way.

Next came a large stalk of celery, finely diced and a whole green pepper chopped

Five more minutes of sauté and it smelled like the afterlife.

I then just dumped the whole bean shebang in to the mix, added a tiny bit more water and set it to low simmer for around 2 hours -- till the beans hit that soft with a slight bit of crunch (that is the hardest part of this recipe)

Aromatics added just as it comes to a simmer:
a 1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne
a teaspoon of sage and one of dried basil
1.25 teaspoon of black cracked pepper
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
some salt if you swing that way

Got my rice going -- long grain with a teaspoon of ginger, cause I like ginger

For the last fifteen minutes of simmering, I pulled about a cup of the beans out and mashed them with my Irish potato tool, placed them back in the pot along with some chopped green onions and a cup of chopped fresh parsley

Omg omg omg  such a fine meal. Soul filling for sure.  And topped with a blast of Bat's Brew. though depending on how adventurous you are with the cayenne and red pepper flakes, you may not need the Bats Brew.  You can buy it from Panola Pepper company via the Internet tubes.  I can't recommend this strongly enough. Get some and you WILL thank me.

Pass the cornbread pls......And I believe I'll have another one of those cold IPA's as well.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Meeces in places

I don't know what got into me. I actually planned and shopped for three nights of cooking fun all at once instead of the usual, well hrmm, it's 4:45, what do I want for dinner tonight?
Tonight: long form Ragu - 2 hours of slow-simmered home made Italian sausage in miropoix, fresh tomatoes and bell peppers over penne.
Tomorrow: soaking beans I am for red beans and rice with andouille sausage and Bat's Brew NOLA hot sauce.
Sunday: Thai red curry w/ sauté chicken mondules -- zeroing in on this recipe, hotter but not burning and more O.G with each batch.

I gots my gawdamn meeces in places.

I feel so adult whenever I plan things out.

Ragu on the hoof. So hard to resist eating it for 2 hours till the pork become all velvety and rich

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Angry Pasta!!

I like pasta. Or as I called anything red with pasta when I was a kid "Spaghetti."  It was probably the first thing I ever cooked for myself that tasted like real food -- not just boiling a hot dog or grilling a burger which being a California boy, I could do as soon as I could walk.  And for the longest time I always made it the same way - like my mom.  Her recipe was embedded into my DNA as "Italian Spaghetti." An onion, some hamburger meat and some cans of Hunts tomato sauce with some dried oregano mixed in,  spooned over Spaghetti.  I never dreamed there was stuff like  penne, or farfalle or rigatoni.  No, just nice standard spaghetti with ground beef, an onion and 2 cans of tomato sauce, that's what I got. And what I learned to love.

When I moved out on my own, this was my signature  (read: only) dish and I eventually began to make bold experiments, like bell peppers and mushroom and basil and marjoram, each batch slightly different with more elements and aromatics added till it was a spectacular explosion of what can only be described charitably as chaos.

But now twenty years later I've reversed engines and gone back to as simple as simple can be, allowing a few strong flavors to shine on their own and not be masked in the fog of stovetop wars.

Now my go-to weekday night pasta which I do 2-3 times a week and think about it hard each time, is the pure and delicate Arrabbiata.  "Angry pasta."

It start with the simplest of ingredients*:

*this is super cheap too = added benefit of feeding 4 or 5 people on about $4 worth of produce and pasta

  • 8 Roma tomatoes
  • My best olive oil
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Red pepper flakes
  • fresh parsley from the garden
  • bonus:  fennel seeds ground or pressed in a mortar and pestle -  my spirit animal

The fresh tomatoes are halved and then grated into a large bowl to create a sauce sin pelle. Into the sauce I pour a glug of my best olive oil and a half dash of salt.  That gets set aside for a while.

About 6-8 cloves of garlic get pressed almost to he point of just being pulpy garlic juice in my motar/pestle, then minced.  

Yo, I'm ready!

A deep skillet is heated med low, leaning toward low and 3 tbls of olive oil or so is put in cold. 

Now usually to sauté you heat up the skillet hot and then add the oil, but for this I start it all together on a very low heat and let it come to fruition together. 

I add in my garlic and a large dash of red pepper flakes and kind of nudge them around a bit. Nothing much happens at first  (low low low heat).  But then after a bit, slowly they start to just kind of tremble and vibrate as the oil begins to heat.  It's critical that you watch the heat like a fox staring into the hen house.  You need to just shimmer the garlic to opaqueness, no browning or burning it as this  slow heat method opens the garlic to let the oil infuse it slowly.  If you can hear it sizzling, it's too hot. If the garlic and pepper flakes stop their little hippie spinner dance, it's too low.   Delicate, delicate. These things are delicate and require your full attention.

 When the aroma from your kitchen begins smells like any side street in Palermo, anytime, toss in a half a handful of that parsley you went out and cut from the garden, washed in cold water to make it stand up to a crisp attention, then chopped it roughly before tossing it into the undulating skillet.  

About a minute later when you can smell the blended richness taking over and the parsley is limp but not burnt, stir in the tomato sauce*  (roughly 15oz of your grated red sauce) and turn the heat up to high to bring the sauce to a full boil then down to a simmer.

*If you don't feel you have the time or energy to hand grate your tomatoes, by all means get a can of salt and herb free diced tomatoes from the store. But stay away from pre-fabbed canned tomato sauce, you don't know where it's been.

Taste taste taste.  It may be perfect as is.  That has happened to me once, maybe twice  But it likely needs fresh ground pepper, some more red pepper flakes if it's too meek or (my fav) some fennel to sweeten it a bit to counteract the red pepper flakes if you got too over zealous while adding that  large dash  (a glass of red wine is marvelous when cooking especially with friends and conversation, but two can be too much and effect your judgement when adding aromatics) of red pepper flakes earlier. Maybe some more garlic powder or a light dust of black pepper.   Make it just how you like it, it's all good. But you should never lose the piercing bite of the red pepper flakes. Angry, not emotional..... That is your mantra.

Simmer and taste and simmer some more to the desired viscosity.  I like mine slightly thickened but still a tiny bit runny at the extremities.  Kind of how my body feels most days as I leave my mid-youth behind forever, but your milage may vary.  When you have it in the state where you want it, remove it from the heat till the pasta is ready.    You didn't forget the pasta, did you?  Dang, I hate it when that happens.  Actually the whole process here takes just slightly less time to achieve then boiling water and readying your pasta, so start that large pot of salted water at the same time you start crushing and mincing your garlic.  It's soul killing to have the arrabbiata ready and smelling like twilight and a glass of red wine in Sicily and then having to wait 13 minutes for your water to boil and cook the pasta.

I like this dish with any pasta really, mostly favoring penne or chitarra (a thick spaghetti, about twice normal size) while Patty likes farfalle.

When the pasta is just edging past al dente, strain it in your colander,  shake to fluff and then dump into the skillet, now back on the stove top and cranked to medium high.  Stir and blend while the sauce comes back go a simmer and cook off the remaining moisture  (or add a half a ladle of the pasta water if you need to go the opposite direction) Throw in the fistful of freshly chopped parsley while you're heating it through and sweating out the last of the al dente and you're good to go.

Plate it and grate fresh Parmesan, or Assiago cheese and give it one more blast of cracked black pepper

Angry pasta  (Arrabbiata)

This is pretty much simple aromatic perfection.  But I won't yell at you  if you add elements to taste.  I like some Italian sausage and if I  have a half an onion I need to use up before it darkens or half a green bell or some fresh basil, I'll use them all with abandon.  There is no hard and steady rule.  you can't really call it Arrabbiata if you add all that, but it sure does all taste good.

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