Monday, February 28, 2011

Cocoa Cherry Pork Tenderloin – Based on a True Story

My favorite candy growing up was the chocolate covered cherry. I didn't have them often, but when I did, it was always a special treat. The way that thin, crisp chocolate would break away to reveal the florescent red maraschino cherry suspended in the clear syrup was intoxicating.

I almost never eat them anymore; only on the rare occasion my mother, Pauline, or mother-in-law, Peggy, happen to have some out, usually around the holidays. One such occasion came on my recent trip back to Clifton Springs, NY, and as I enjoyed the sweet treat a strange thought popped into my brain. What about a savory dish that celebrated the same basic flavors?

I remembered seeing Alton Brown use cocoa in a rub for chicken, and since I had a pork tenderloin sitting in the fridge, just a shelf away from a jar of black cherry preserves, I figured, why not?

I really loved how this came out, and while it's obviously an unsweetened version of chocolate being used, the plate definitely had some of the same culinary DNA as my beloved candied cherries. Anyway, that's the odd-but-true story of how this recipe ended up here, and as usual, I hope you give it a try and tell me what you think. Enjoy!

1-2 pork tenderloins
salt as needed
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
For the rub:
2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle
For the sauce:
1/3 cup cherry preserves
1/3 cup white vinegar
big pinch of oregano

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Popping Off About the Oscars Tonight

Photo by Flickr User TimShoesUntied
I'm finishing up my last day of work here at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and fly back to snowy San Francisco tomorrow. This means I will miss the Oscars, which upsets me about as much as missing a dentist appointment, but had I been around I would have done some kind of special Oscar party snack, probably based around popcorn.

So instead you'll have to suffer though this little collection of popcorn-based content from YouTube. The song, "Popcorn," was the first "favorite song" I ever remember having, and below you get to see Will Ferrell dance to it. We also has a spicy popcorn by Pedro Ceja; a Parmesan Popcorn & Chocolate-Covered Cornflakes snack duo from Amy Blogs Chow; and finally, a super-slow-mo of a kernel of popcorn popping, just because. Enjoy!

Will Ferrell Dances to the Popcorn Song

Spicy Popcorn by Pedro Ceja

Amy Blogs Chow: Parmesan Popcorn & Chocolate-Covered Cornflakes

Popcorn Kernel in Slow Motion

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hello From South Beach!

Just wanted to do a quick hello from the 10th Annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Today was the first of three days in the Grand Tasting tent, where I'm serving as Chef Ambassador for Tonnino Tuna.

Here I am standing in front of our table just moments before the gates opened and we were three-deep in hungry foodies eager to taste this great tuna. The fish was sampled very simply with "flavor enhancers" in front of each different variety. The consensus was, as I knew it would be, that the tuna was awesome.

Anyway, stay tuned for more foodie fun soon, including a brand new video recipe I shot before I left. Thanks!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin Medallions – Half the Fat, All the Inauthenticity

Whenever you see those headlines like, "Worst Take-Out Food Choices Ever," on the various websites, you can be sure that sweet and sour pork will be near the top of the list. 

That's because it's usually made from fatty pieces of pork shoulder, cut into cubes, dipped in a thick batter, deep-fried, and finally coated with a super-sugary, thick, starchy sauce.

I'm no shrinking violet around high-calorie food, but classic Chinese-American take-out sweet and sour pork is basically deep-fried, sugar-coated, fatty pork chunks. And yes, once in a while, it's pretty damn awesome (like twice a decade).

For a more reasonable way to enjoy the same basic flavors, I think this pork tenderloin version is a nice alternative. As I say in the video, pork tenderloin is lean, very easy to cook (as long as you can get past those ridiculous fears about slightly pink pork), and the sauce takes about two minutes to prep.

By the way, this is not simply fake Chinese food; it's actually fake, fake Chinese food. The aforementioned death nuggets we call sweet and sour pork are not even remotely close to any kind of authentic sweet and sour preparation in real Chinese cuisine. Or at least that’s what I heard Anthony Bourdain say one time. Now that's research.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this plate of florescent food, and if you're a fan of the Chinese take-out version, I believe you will too. Also, I would suggest tossing in some green onions (the white parts) along with the garlic, and save the green tops to garnish with as I did with the chives. Enjoy!

Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin Ingredients:
For the sauce:
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
reserved pineapple juice from can
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped green onions, white parts, optional
2 teaspoons Asian hot chili sauce (sambal or sriracha), or to taste
1/4 cup water or chicken broth to thin sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste
For the pork medallions:
1 pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut, flattened into four medallions
salt and fresh ground black pepper as needed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 can (8-oz) pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved
4 cups cooked white rice
2 tablespoon chopped green onion tops or chives to garnish

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Heading to South Beach to be a Tonnino Tuna Ambassador!

Well, that's one blog title I couldn't have anticipated writing, but that's exactly what's happening tonight as I board a red-eye for Miami. 

As many of you know, I won the Tonnino Tuna Chef Challenge recipe video contest, and one of the prizes was getting to serve as their Chef Ambassador for the year. As part of my duties, I'll be representing them at the 10th Annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Pictured here is an "Upside-Down" Tonnino Jalapeño Tuna Taco Bite that I created to celebrate the event. Recipe cards will be available at the Tonnino booth at the Grand Tasting, but I've posted the written recipe below, just in case you're looking for a cool app for your upcoming Oscars party. Enjoy!

Note: I've finished the sweet and sour pork video, and will be posting that tomorrow, so stay tuned! Also, be sure to follow along with me on Twitter for my bite-by-bite coverage of the #sobewff, as we refer to it in the tweets.

"Upside-Down" Tonnino Jalapeño Tuna Taco Bites
Makes about 24

1 small jicama (about 1 1/2 lbs), peeled
1 jar (6.7-oz) Tonnino Tuna Fillets with Jalapeno in Olive Oil
2 tablespoon diced roasted red pepper, or pimento
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground dried chipotle
1/4 cup crushed corn nuts, or as needed

Using a sharp knife, trim the peeled jicama into a cylindrical shape, about 2-inches in diameter. Using a vegetable slicer, or knife, slice the jicama into about 24 "chips" (about 1/8-inch thick).

Drain the tuna (saving the oil for a salad dressing), and add to a small mixing bowl. Pick out the pieces of jalapeño that came with the tuna, and dice fine. Add back to the bowl. Add the red pepper, cilantro, and chipotle. Mix with a fork until combined. Divide the tuna mixture onto the jicama chips, and top with the crushed corn nuts.


There are some things in life that are just okay to do.

We might beat ourselves up about it in the chilly dawn as we feed our tiny, trusting babies Infacol in the hope that wind is what's making her kick her legs and screw up her face and go "MmmmmmmmmmmNNNNNNNNNN!!!!! EEERrrrwwwwwwww!!!!!! *snuffle snuffle* pause HHII - EEEEEEEEE!!!!!!" when she is supposed to be asleep.

But in fact, we should all just relax.

Like it's okay to pay your tax bill a bit late. And it's okay to feel a bit sick when you see the amount.

And it's okay to still, at 30, raise your eyes to the sky and say "Please, please" when you're at the cash machine, in the hope that the machine will give you money, rather than tell you that you've got "insufficient funds".

It's okay to occasionally let your baby fall asleep on your shoulder and then put her down for her mid-morning nap, rather than take her to some far room, close the curtains, put her down while still sort-of awake and then let her cry herself to sleep.

It's okay to not do any laundry for, like, two weeks.

It's okay to hate people more successful than you.

And it's okay to salt your food.

A lot of people really don't think that's okay, though. It's mostly people of a certain age, who grew up thinking that salting your food was the equivalent of churning through 60 a day. Too much salt is bad for your heart, you see.

But what do we mean by too much? The recommended daily allowance of salt for adults is 6g. That's a lot - (see photo above with box of Infacol for scale) - but only if you don't eat any, or much, processed food. For example, a KFC wing contains 1g of salt. One whole gram. Six of those and you're done for the entire day.

I eat barely any processed food because my husband gives me such hell for it, so that means I merrily cover my food with salt. And if you know that you don't eat much processed food either, you ought to be salting your food, conscience-free. Because salt is what makes food tasty (something KFC knows only too well).

So bear that in mind. And next time you're standing at your stove, taking a sip off something off the end of a wooden spoon and feeling baffled as to why it tastes of nothing, reach for the salt - and be brave.

Because, *shush shush*, it's okay. It really is.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coming Soon: Pork Tenderloin Times Two

I'm getting things ready for my flight to Miami tomorrow, where I'll be attending the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. I'll have much more on that tomorrow, but the good news is I'm almost done editing a couple terrific new video recipes. One features my much lighter take on sweet and sour pork, and the other a very sexy concoction inspired by, believe it or not, chocolate covered cherries. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Apple Jicama Coleslaw – Don't Believe Everything You Read in the Produce Aisle

This crispy, crunchy, and extremely refreshing coleslaw recipe features a very under-utilized vegetable found in almost every large American grocery store's produce section – I'm talking about jicama.

In fact, there's a good chance you'
ve never had it, which is a shame. The flavor is very mild, and subtly sweet. It's just perfect for raw salads like this coleslaw, and blends wonderfully with the tart apple and crunchy cabbage.

One problem with jicama is how it's marketed. As you'll see in the video, the label described it as, "a Mexican potato," which is just a terrible comparison. If you want to make something sound unappetizing to an American, have them think they are going to be eating something that's like a raw potato. Yum.

Jicama does have a similar texture to a raw potato, but that's where that comparison ends. It is a little starchy, but pleasantly so, and each bite produces a mini explosion of juicy goodness. So, don't be afraid! I hope you buy some jicama on your next trip to the market, and give this easy side dish recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Apple Jicama Coleslaw Ingredients:
1/2 small green cabbage, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 jicama, sliced into 1/4-inch strips on a vegetable slicer
1 large Fuji apple, sliced into 1/4-inch strips on a vegetable slicer
For the dressing:
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp sugar
hot sauce to taste
salt to taste
1/3 cup crushed corn nuts

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Follow Me, Foodie, Over to Follow Me Foodie

During the video panel discussion I participated in at the 2010 Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, I offered to showcase videos created by any of the young, budding video bloggers in attendance. One such blogger is the lovely and talented, Mijune, from Follow Me Foodie.

Of course when I made my offer, I should have been clearer that I didn't really want videos whose quality and production value were better than mine, but it's too late now. A promise is a promise. Here are Mijune's first two videos – an introduction to her new format, and a review of YEW Restaurant & Bar at The Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver, BC.

By the way, the second video illustrates why I could never do video reviews. Once you feed me, any semblance of journalistic integrity dissolves like a pinch of salt in a free bowl of soup. Enjoy!

Henry's tit bread

This isn't going to be the start of a descent into a lot of baby chat, I promise. I am aware that a lot of you don't have children, or don't want them. Or have them and don't like them and don't want to hear about anyone else's. So I'm wary of mentioning mine.

Just like I'm not going to mention my cleaner ever again. I mentioned my cleaner last time and "Brian" left a comment saying "Why don't you get off your lazy arse and clean your own house like the rest of the real world." [No question mark.]

I'm lucky - I don't get much stuff like that. So at first I deleted the comment and my aim was to forget about it. But it bothered me.

My husband thinks I'm being silly.

"She's not your cleaner," he said, "she's my cleaner. When you had a job you had a cleaner. You haven't got a job anymore but I do. And professional, working people have cleaners - and X is mine. If you want to fire her and do it yourself, I'll pay you. But you'd be so shit at it I'd have to fire you for incompetence and re-hire X. And I don't have the energy for all that."

As die-hard fans of this blog know, my dad is a former Oxford History lecturer and the author of an academic text on Karl Marx (available for purchase here). So if anyone is going to be very bothered by the question of whether or not I am lazy for having a cleaner, it's me.

I rang Dad to ask what he thought about all this, but as it was 8.30am on Sunday morning, he was too busy working to talk. So I texted my sister, The Hamburgler, instead, because she knows all about this stuff, too.

Me: Would Karl Marx believe that my cleaner is oppressed?
The Hamburgler: He wouldn't believe it, he would know it. But he also 'knew' that chairs were 'really' the exploitation of man. Fucking idiot. It's a chair.

I don't know about you, but that made things no clearer for me. I would like to say something like "I'm not going to fire my cleaner, who has her own family to support, just so that people like "Brian" don't think I'm lazy. Because out of my cleaner and "Brian", guess whose good opinion I'd rather have?"

But that's just me being defensive. And I suspect that not wanting to starve their workers was the main self-defence cry of 19th Century mill-owners. "Put them out of work?" they'd cry. "But who, pray, would feed their children?"

I could fire my cleaner and do it all myself. Do I not because I am lazy? I don't think I'm lazy. But maybe I am. My cleaner is great and she would find other work. But I don't think that's the point. I think "Brian"'s point is that he thinks being a cleaner is demeaning. He thinks it's a shit job and that anyone who hires someone to do a shit job is a shitty person. But I don't think being a cleaner is a shit job.

Perhaps what "Brian" would like me to do is ring all X's clients and get her fired from everything, then she would see the light and go to university and become a lawyer. Or a buyer for Topshop, or some other suitable job for a young woman that isn't cleaning people's houses.
After a lot of thinking like this, I have come to the conclusion that, on balance, it's just best if I pretend my cleaner doesn't exist.

Anyway, I digress.

As I said, I won't go into the foul details, but I had cause the other day to be brought some "breastfeeing bread" by my friend Henry. It is supposed to... how to put this nicely... help things along. I don't think you need to know any more. Or is coyness extra revolting?

Anyway when he turned up with it I was slightly horrified, as it smells a lot like curry because of the fenugreek seeds in it: fenugreek being the active ingredient in aiding... supply. "Oh God," I thought, "curry bread? This is going to be horrid."

But it wasn't. It was fantastic. I mean really, like, "wow" delicious. It's like a very rich soda bread, only better. Superb with any kind of jam and, I suspect, really nice with baked beans. Definitely excellent with cream cheese and salmon, as I ate it just now.
Do not fear: if you don't happen to be breastfeeding, it won't make you spontaneously lactate. And if you find fennel seeds or fenugreek really disgusting leave them out. They are only essential to "nursing mothers" (vomit) but if you're not in that social category and don't like them, don't put them in.

[NB if you ARE breastfeeding and need a bit of help, this does actually work, despite sounding a lot like a load of old hippy cack.]

I must admit to you now that I haven't made this myself, yet. Henry assures me that it is easy and although he's no bullshitter, he is a chef - so his level of competence unevens the playing field a bit.

Anyway, here goes. This is copied word for word out of the first Leon cookbook - this is where my 100wpm touch-typing comes in handy - which is why there isn't any swearing in it.

Makes a 1kg loaf

soft butter
330g strong wholemeal spelt flour
170g strong white flour
5g fast-acting easy-blend dried yeast
2 tsp crushed sea salt
1 tsp aniseeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds - ground
4-g pumpkin seeds
40g sunflower seeds
2.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
300ml warm water
15g extra sunflower and pumpkin seeds for the top
40g pine nuts

Smear a 1 kg loaf tin with butter. Mix all the dry ingredients (except the pine nuts and seeds for the top) together in a bowl large enough to knead the dough in. Add the oil, then the water, stirring until the mixture sticks together. Knead in the bowl for just a few minutes until smooth. You can add a little flour if it is too sticky, but remember the maxim - wetter is better. It doesn't matter if a little sticks to your hands.

Shape, then put into the tin. Cut a pattern in deep gashes on the top and sprinkle the reserved seeds into the gashes; slighty push the pine nuts into the surface and sprinkle a little extra spelt flour (or bran if you have some to hand) all over.

Put the tin into a large plastic bag that can be tucked under the tin to leave the loaf enclosed with plenty of air. Leave until the dough has doubled in size. This will take about 2-2.5 hours in a warm kitchen.
Bake in a preheated oven at 230C for 20 mins then turn down to 200C for another 20 minutes.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shrimp Cooked on Himalayan Pink Salt – I Sherpa Hope You Like It!

I've always wanted to cook something on Himalayan pink salt, but I just can't for the life of me tell you why. I knew that flavor-wise there couldn’t be any real difference between cooking on pink salt, and simply seasoning with it, but that didn’t seem to matter.

Just the idea of cooking on what's basically a slab of crystal, appealed to some indefinable internal force inside of me. Having said that, I still reserve the right to continue to mock those people that wear crystals for their healing properties, because that's just nuts.

Anyway, back to these shrimp. As I summarize in the video: it was fun, I'm glad I did it, but I don't think I would do it again, unless it was for some showy, interactive first course.

There's no doubt letting your guests cook their own shrimp on hot, pink salt would definitely be a neat way to start off a dinner party.

Above and beyond the Himalayan pink salt experiment, the
ultra-simple shrimp preparation seen here can be easily adapted to your trusty non-crystal saute pan.

You'll be pleasantly surprised how good seared shrimp are with nothing more than a pinch of cumin and cayenne. Just don’t forget the salt! Enjoy.

Note: After you cook on it, the salt block can be scraped clean, rinsed off (even though they said not to), and wiped dry. It's a completely antiseptic surface and can be reused as many times as possible.

1 pound large shrimp
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt to taste if using conventional cooking methods

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Chip Off the Old Pink Block

Tomorrow, I hope to have a new video up where I cook on a hot slab of pink Himalayan salt. I've been wanting to try this for a while, and finally found a nice piece of this sexy salt in a neighborhood grocery store. Will it work? Will it crack? Will it be too salty, or not salty enough? Will it taste like Yeti? Stay tuned!

Osso buco

The best thing about working at the Evening Standard, which I did from 2005 to 2007, (although for fuck's sake don't tell the Student Loans Company that - as far as they're concerned I was missing presumed dead in western Namibia and therefore do NOT owe them any money for that tax year), was my boss.

He was so great because he'd always say "well done". It didn't really matter what you'd done, he'd always just say "well done". I mean, not if you'd done something bad. If you'd done something bad he'd say "oh dear". And then when you put it right, he'd say "well done".

Call me simple as a drooling gun dog, but that worked on me. Although I'd had nice bosses in the past, none of them had said "well done" with the frequency and fervour of Sebastian.

"Seb I got you a sandwich," I'd say.
"Oh well done," he'd say.

"Seb I rang Antonia Fraser about that thing," I'd say.
"Oh, well done. What did she say?" he'd say.
[She almost always said "fuck off", by the way]

"Seb I forgot to put through all those payments," I'd say.
"Oh dear," he'd say. "Can you do it now?"
"Yes I'll do it now," I'd say
"Oh, well done," he'd say.

You get the picture. On Fridays, I used to get us both chicken shwarmas from Ranoush Juice, just opposite the Evening Standard's offices in Kensington. Ranoush Juice is one of a chain of Lebanese places that will be familiar to Londoners, and not to anyone else. We'd eat the sandwiches at our desks, stinking the place out. On Fridays at the Standard there was nothing to do after about 1pm because there was no paper until Monday. So at about 3pm Seb would say:

"Okay, well done, you can go home now." And off I'd go. You see? I literally hadn't done anything, and he's say "well done". Awesome. It did wonders for my productivity. I would write 100 or maybe even 200 words a week in that place. Phew!
A note: our Friday lunches only lasted until Ariel Sharon had that heart attack; it turned out that his favourite food was chicken shwarma and Sebastian didin't want any after that.

Needless to say, I cried tears of genuine sadness when I left the Evening Standard to go and work at the Independent. And in the 12 months that I worked at the Indy I don't think anyone ever said "well done" to me. Not once. Ever.

As you can imagine there were no tears of sadness when I got the hell out of there.

But I had been infected with the habit of saying "well done" to everyone, about everything. It's a great motivator. I do it to my husband all the time.

"I put a wash on," he'll say.
"Oh WELL DONE," I'll say.

Recently, my husband has been mostly making dinner and I find that, even though before I had the baby he promised he would do a lot of cooking, it's vital to say "WELL DONE THIS IS DELICIOUS WOW WOW WOW" when we sit down. And it works because he's really kept at it.

Last night we had Osso Buco, which is one of those things that has a mystifying name but is really quite a simple thing. It's basically veal shin stew and it incorporates bone marrow, which makes the whole thing very glossy and sticky. Osso buco means "bone with a hole", which is a pretty unromantic description - but that's the Italians for you.

Sorry no photo but Kitty was freaking me out all night and the picture somehow never happened. But it's super-tasty, trust me.

When you go to a butcher to get your meat for this, you can ask for either some veal shin (you want rose veal, obviously) or if you like, "osso buco", which is the name of the cut. I know it sounds a bit like going in and asking for some "spaghetti bolognese", but it isn't.

This is a mash-up of Hugh FW and Claudia Roden in that Hugh does not include tomatoes and Claudia Roden does.

This is a pretty rich dish so you really only need one slice of veal shin per person. It is traditionally eaten with a risotto and gremolata but I won't go into that here because Kitty's only just gone to sleep and I need to go and have a shower before the cleaner gets here. I love my cleaner, but why does she always want to come at lunchtime?

Osso buco
For 2

2 slices veal shin
1 large handful, or about 50g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
some veg oil for cooking, plus a large knob of butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 medium onions (i.e. not massive, white onions), chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped - do not be tempted to be clever and use more than one carrot here because too much carrot makes everything very sickly sweet
1 large glass white wine, doesn't matter what
250ml ish light stock - pork, chicken - if you've got a bit less than that you can top up with hot water, do not fret
3 tomatoes (if you want, don't if not - I think they're nice though), skinned. You do this by making a cross in the bottom of the tomato with a knife and then putting them in boiling water for 2 mins and then the skins come off. The riper the tomato the easier this is
salt and pepper

1 In a large pan or casserole dish that goes on the hob, heat together a long sloop of veg oil and the knob of butter. Dust the veal shin in the seasoned flour and brown all over then set aside.

2 To the pan add the garlic, onions, celery and carrot and cook gently until soft. I find the best way to do this without burning everything is to cook it on the lowest possible setting for at least 15 minutes. You may have a better way of doing it, in which case don't let me stop you.

3 Put the veal pieces back in the pan - flat side down so that the marrow doesn't all fall out, then pour in the glass of wine, turn up the heat and sizzle until it's reduced by about half. Add your stock, topped up with water from the kettle if you need to - (mine has a fucking LEAK, it's so annoying... need a new one... any recommendations?) - and some salt and pepper, bring it all to a very gentle simmer, put a lid on it and cook for 2 hours.

4 And that's basically it. Turn the meat once or twice during cooking and keep an eye on the liquid level - if it looks like it's drying out, throw in some more stock or water. After 2-ish hours take the lid off, turn the heat up and bubble to reduce the sauce a bit.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Artichoke and Spinach Stuffed Shells - A Lesson in Leftovers

I love cooking with leftovers, and this artichoke and spinach stuffed shells recipe is a perfect example of why. There's something very satisfying about turning a dish of tired leftovers into a vibrant new creation. It's also great exercise for your cooking muscles, which should never be confused with your following-a-recipe muscles.

When you follow a recipe, you're tying to manipulate food into something fabulous that fits some beautifully idyllic description, or looks like some photoshop'd picture in a cookbook. When you're cooking with leftovers, you don't have as lofty of a goal. In fact, your usually just trying to keep something from going straight into the bin.

Much like a sports team that has nothing to lose, and plays great because of their free and easy attitude, the same thing often happens when cooking with leftovers. In fact, if I weren't so jetlagged, I'd come up with some brilliant metaphor for living life with this same approach.

Due to dangerously high quantities of food at our Super Bowl party (by the way, how 'bout dem bones!), I found myself with a significant amount of leftover spinach artichoke dip. I've always enjoyed spinach and ricotta stuffed pasta shells, so I thought I'd see if I could turn this fairly unattractive dish of food into something slightly less unattractive.

As you'll see from the video, I think I succeeded. The would have been too long had I included the making of the béchamel sauce, but we've done that one many times, and you can see that recipe video here. I just made a standard batch of white sauce, and tossed in a handful of grated Gruyere.

Anyway, I hope this video inspires you to take a look around the fridge, and fearlessly, and without any grand expectations, make something into something else. Enjoy!

Technical Note: Do not adjust your monitors! This was filmed at my mom's home on a dark winter's day, so the lighting is not very good. Although, it is kind of fitting for the subject.

Artichoke and Spinach Stuffed Shells Ingredients:
(recommended as a side dish)
3 cups leftover spinach artichoke dip
1 generous cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
juice from one lemon
1 box jumbo shells
1 batch béchamel sauce with 1 cup of grated cheese added to it at the end
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chef John is Flying High

Chef John is currently flying cross-country, back to beautiful San Francisco. In addition to typing in the third person, for no apparent reason, Chef John is plotting a whole bunch of exciting new video recipes. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Last Minute Valentine's Day Dinner Ideas: Keep it Simple Cupid!

"Cupid's Span" Photo (c) grahamc99
We're not going to judge you, much. Sure, you had weeks to plan a nice dinner for that special someone, but you waited until today to actually figure out what you're going to serve. And, since you don't really know how to cook, you're now panicking wondering what you can possibly pull off without a practice run. Nice going.

Relax, we have you covered. Here are some very sexy main course ideas that can be pulled off by even the most inexperienced cooks and lovers (those two things usually go hand in hand). Just click on the recipe's title, and you'll be swept away to the original post, where the rest will be up to you and cupid.

I want to wish you all a very happy Valentine's Day. Remember, food IS love. Enjoy!

Besides all the great opportunities for double entendres using the word "rack," this is a simple piece of meat to cook. If you're lucky enough to have a Valentine's date that enjoys a nice big piece of red meat, this is a fabulous choice. 

Also, one rack makes two perfectly sized portions, which will work out nicely unless you have some things planned we don't know about. And if you do, please keep them to yourself.

I use this amazingly simplistic sauce on a piece of grilled salmon in the video, but it will work for any cooking method. If you are comfortable pan searing or broiling a piece of fish, this super sexy sauce will take it (and maybe you) to another place. 

I get so many emails about how much people love this recipe – so you can go forward with confidence. By the way, confidence is a proven aphrodisiac.

This bowl of pasta passion is so easy, so delicious, and so satisfying, you'll forget your trying to make someone fall in love with you. Which is perfect since that always makes it much more likely to happen. 

Be sure to find out if your date likes spicy foods before pulling out the sausage for this recipe. It can also be made with milder, sweet Italian sausage. Another tip: buy and use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to show them you're serious.

Shrimp and grits is a very simple recipe, as long as you get all your prep done before you start cooking. The shrimp only take a few minutes to sauté, so you don't have time to run around chopping scallions or juicing lemons. 

Once everything is assembled, this recipe is a snap. You can make the grits a bit ahead, since they stay hot a very long time – [insert your own special Valentine's "they stay hot a very long time" reference here!]

A Bonus Valentine's Day Video from Food Currated!

This gorgeous video is from my very talented friend Liza de Guia, and features Matt and Allison Robicelli, from Robicelli’s Cupcakes in New York City. Be sure to check out the full blog post here! Enjoy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Duck with pineapple, chilli and soy

I have lately started to do a thing that I call Russian Roulette shopping, where I go to Waitrose and just hurl whatever the fuck into my trolley. I don't want to make any boring sweeping generalisations about pregnancy and new motherhood, but it is just a fact that for the last three months I haven't been going to the shops with as gimlet an eye and as sharp a purpose as I might have done, say, six months ago.

So as I roll round the joint, cracking open huge yawns, I'm all, like celeriac? Sure, why not. Five aubergines? SURE. Some pigeon? WHAT THE HELL? Then I come home and look at it all and think "Oh God alive, what am I going to do with all this?

But something always emerges from the chaos in the end.

Rightly, this ought to be called Ready Steady Cook shopping. But Russian Roulette Shopping sounds better, even though the parallel doesn't work one bit. What do you want? I gave birth 10 days ago.

Last week, Russian Roulette shopping scored a real home run. In amongst the okra, dragon fruits and sugar snap peas, I had somehow purchased two duck breasts and a large pineapple. Do I remember buying them? No. Perhaps it ought to be called Amnesia shopping.

As luck would have it, my husband found a recipe for duck and pineapple in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Meat cookbook and set about it, like the trooper he temporarily is. He always turns to Hugh in moments of crisis because he believes the River Cottage Meat Book to be butch despite beating Hugh soundly at pool about 2 years ago. My husband is the most terrible hustler never trust him.

I was sceptical about the recipe. Duck and pineapple? Surely absolutely gross? No. Absolutely fantastic. Like something you would get in a very, very upmarket Chinese place. We ate it sort of laughing, going "I can't believe you made this," and "No I can't believe I made this, either. Cheers!"

We ate this with red rice (obviously) and some creamed cauliflower. But in truth, this would have been better with white rice and some broccoli sauteed with nam pla or oyster sauce.

So here we go:

Duck with pineapple, chilli and soy

This recipe can be found on p.366 of the River Cottage Meat Book

For 2
2 duck breasts
1/2 a pineapple
3 tbs dark soy sauce
1 tsp soft brown sugar or honey
3 garlic cloves, chopped
golfball sized bit of fresh ginger, finely sliced (we didn't have any and it was great anyway, but if you had some, that would be a bonus)
1 fresh red chilli, chopped. Seeds in or out. Up to you.
2 spring onions, chopped
few twists black pepper

Preheat your oven to 220C

1 Cut 2 slices from your pineapple half 2cm thick, cut into chunks and set aside. Chop up the rest and get the juice out, somehow. HFW says squeeze it with your fist. We have a juicer so FINALLY there a use for the enormous buggery thing, but if you are not stupid credulous twats like us and do not have a jucier, just do it the best way you can see how.

2 Make a marinade out of the pineapple juice (there ought to be about 3-4 tbsp) and the soy, sugar/honey, garlic, ginger, chilli and black pepper. Make some slashes in the duck breast and leave in the marinade. Ideally for a few hours, but 10 mins will make a difference.

3 Wipe the marinade off the breasts and sear them quickly in a hot pan in some veg oil. They need about 2-3 mins each side, just to brown the underside and crisp up the skin.

4 In a small roasting tin, make a bed out of the spring onions and lay the breasts on top and then pour over the marinade. The idea is that the breasts poach in the marinade so you need a roasting tin or oven proof dish that's quite small otherwise the marinade will just wash out everywhere and won't do an effective poaching job.

5 Roast these in your hot oven for 8-10 mins then remove from whatever they were cooking in and leave to rest somewhere warm. Do not chuck out the marinade.

6 In a small pan with some veg oil fry the pineapple chunks, turning occasionally so they get some colour. Sieve everything that's sitting in the duck-roasting-receptacle into your pineapple-chunk-frying pan and sizzle to reduce to a syrupy sauce. Poke the pineapple pieces around so they coat well.

7 Return the duck to the pan and turn a few times to coat. I always find it much more clement to slice things like duck breasts before eating, so you don't spend your evening sawing through a huge thunk of meat. Spoon over the sauce and pineapple chunks before serving.

Here is a picture of (part of) the baby because you know you love it you soppy fools.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Chocolate Mocha Pot de Crème - Now, What's for Breakfast?

Easy "no-bake" chocolate mocha pot de creme
The real goal of any hot Valentine's Day date isn't to make a great dinner; it's to make a great breakfast for that same person the next day. With that in mind, we're going to need something a little richer, sexier, and more decadent than usual.

Luckily, richer, sexier, and more decadent is exactly what this chocolate mocha pot de crème recipe is all about. Sure, it's basically just a soft, coffee-flavored chocolate ganache, but when you serve it out of those cute little demitasse cups, top it with some thickened cream, and dust it with cocoa to simulate a petite cappuccino, there's nothing basic about it.

On a less romantic note, let me make a little disclaimer about this dessert's composition. If you make it with other types of chocolate, other dairy products, or other sweeteners, I can't be held responsible for it's aphrodisiacal effects.

I'm sort of a one trick pony when it comes to this stuff, so without sounding too lazy, if you're wondering about the difference between 70% and 85% chocolate, or if half and half will work instead, you should probably Google a reliable source. Or better yet, just make it exactly like this – it was really good.

Having said that, you are certainly free to put your own subtle flavoring twists on this, like a bit of orange zest instead of coffee, or as I joke about in the video, a little pinch of cayenne. I really hope you give this a try for Valentines Day, and good luck with that breakfast. Enjoy!

Here is the same video embeded with Vimeo for our European friends who can't view though YouTube!

Ingredients for 4 Chocolate Mocha Pots de Crème
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into very small pieces (as small as corn kernels)
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
very tiny pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine's Special: Average Betty and Fabio Sexy-Up Chicken and Rice!

I'm still in West Chester, PA, after a fascinating day of training at QVC. Since I have no new video recipe to share, I'll have to do the next best thing, and use somebody else's. 

Here's my buddy Sara from Average Betty getting all female on international playboy, and Top Chef All-Star, Fabio Viviani, who in return gets all Fabio on her. Together they bring you a rustic Chicken Marsala recipe served with an unusual, but erotically charged Strawberry Champagne Risotto. This menu is so Fabio and Average Betty, it hurts.

I've posted my slightly less steamy version below, and it's one of the recipes I always recommend for Valentines Day, especially for new cooks. It's fast, easy, and always impresses that special someone. I hope you enjoy both videos!

Be sure to check out the full blog post on Average Betty, which includes recipes and lots more information! 

Chef John's Chicken Marsala

See Chef John's original Chicken Marsala post here, and get all the ingredients and more info.

At QVC Learning How to "Move Product"

Hello from chilly West Chester, PA! After being postponed a week due to weather, I finally made it to QVC for a training session in preparation for a future appearance to promote the cookbook. It's going to be tough to reply to comments and emails for the next day or two, so I'll thank you in advance for your patience. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff is one of those things that is almost always referred to as a "classic" dish, because "classic" is what people call things that were eaten a lot in the Seventies. I get the feeling menu turnover was a lot slower in the Seventies than it is now (although if I never see another chicken liver parfait with toast on a menu it will be 8 million years too soon) and so I think most of England lived on beef stroganoff from 1970 to 1979.

And like most "classic" dishes, beef strog is entirely brown and made mostly from cream.

My husband made this for me last night. He is very "classic" - i.e. he was made in the Seventies. Actually, he was made in 1969, but that's beside the point. He does this very well and isn't stingy with the cream.

I've got no idea how close this is to a "classic" classic beef stroganoff, but I find that there is always some terrifying and mad ingredient in "classic" classic recipes for slightly bygone things, like a pint of mustard, or tripe or sambuca or 18 anchovies.

Anyway, this is a lovely thing. I'm always very into meat with a slightly sour accompaniment, like pot roast chicken and gherkins for example. The sour cream in this fulfills that purpose, but you do need to know that there is a sour element to this because that might not be your bag at all.

We ate this with red camargue rice.

Beef Stroganoff by Giles
For 2

2 steaks - rump, fillet, whatever, just make sure it's suitable for frying
2 big handfuls of mushrooms
1 large while onion, or a lot of shallots (nice) or 2 medium onions, chopped finely
1 long sloop of tomato ketchup
1 large glass shitty white wine, or vermouth, and about half a glass of brandy
salt and pepper
1 small tub sour cream - that's about 100 - 150 ml.
1 dried chilli (if you fancy it, it's not essential)

1 Sautee the onions and mushrooms gently over a low flame in some groundnut oil. If you wanted this extra-rich, you could put in a knob of butter, too. But don't use butter only because it will burn. I like Nigella's thing of sprinkling some salt over the onions to help them sautee rather than burn. It works - just a generous pinch sprinkled over will do the trick.

2 Slice up your steak into strips and then get another frying pan really nice and hot and fry that off. It's important to do this in a separate pan because the onions and mushrooms will leak a lot of water and if you try to cook the steak in it, it will just sort of steam and be gross. Frying it in a separate pan fast and hard will give the surface of the steak a chance to char, which will make it damn tasty.

The cooked-ness is up to you. My husband has totally gone off very rare meat and now thinks that the trick to keeping steak tender is to cook it fast and hot until done sort of medium and then rest it.

3 Turn back to your onions and mushrooms. Turn up the heat and pour in the brandy. My husband got this to set light, which I wasn't expecting and scared the shit out of me, I don't mind telling you. I don't think you have to set light to it if that kind of thing freaks you out (and what normal person isn't freaked out by flames leaping to one's kitchen ceiling?) just cook off the alcohol. Then throw in your glass of shitty white wine and cook that down too.

4 Scrape the onions and mushrooms in with the steak and set that on a medium heat. Add the ketchup - just a long squirt - and mix that in - then add in the sour cream and stir in. If you don't have any sour cream, you can use normal cream with some lemon juice in it. My husband added the juice of a whole lemon and said that was too much, so you could try with the juice of half a lemon instead.

Eat, feeling nostalgic.

And there you were thinking that I was going to be writing all about the baby.
Ha ha. Joke's on you.

Why is Chocolate So Popular on Valentine's Day? Because it Works!

I'm not saying that homemade "Good for One Full Body Massage" gift certificate you're making for your Valentine isn't going to be a huge hit, but just in case, you may want to whip up one or more of these sexy chocolate desserts. Enjoy!

The marriage of warm, crispy-edged bread, peppery olive oil, bittersweet chocolate, and briny sea salt is sublime.

Along with the chocolate come the simple additions of milk and seltzer water. The magic of this drink is how the minimalist design produces such a rich, yet refreshing chocolate beverage.

You have to be careful when making someone a homemade gift for Valentine's Day. There's a very fine line between, "Oh, you are so thoughtful, romantic, and creative!" and "You cheap bastard!


The cake in this recipe is simply acting as a pastry cream and chocolate ganache delivery system. A Boston cream pie is all about the pastry cream and ganache. 

I always thought the saying should have been, "you can't have your chocolate coins and eat them too." I mean who wants to keep cake around? It gets stale.

These dense, dark, and dangerously addictive cookies feature a dose of black pepper and cayenne. If my wife, Michele, a renown foodie, calls these her favorite cookies, you know they rock!

For you single guys that aren't handsome, don't have money, and can't play a musical instrument, this may be the only arrow in Cupid's quiver. But take heart, it is a devastating weapon when used correctly.

Chocolate mousse is a surprisingly easy "fancy" dessert you can make for your Valentine's dinner. This video recipe shows my favorite basic chocolate mousse recipe, with the addition of a little dash of chipotle pepper - which really does some strange and wonderful things.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fresh (Really, Really Fresh) Brown Butter Perch Cooked on Ice

This video recipe for brown butter perch features my first on-ice cooking demonstration, and if I could've woken up before 8 AM, it would have featured my first ice fishing demonstration. I've always felt that an alarm clocks' effectiveness has an inverse relationship to how nasty the weather is.

I love perch. I love everything about them – the sweet, delicate flavor, the striking coloration, and the stubborn fight they put up for their size. So, when some friends of mine invited me out to their little slice of frozen heaven to ice fish for them, I jumped at the chance.

I will resist the temptation to steal my own thunder, and explain in detail what you're going to see. In fact, I usually only do that when I need another paragraph to wrap around a third photo I really want to add. But, I will say that the recipe you're about to see can be easily recreated in your kitchen, and is perfect for those of you who continue to claim you can't cook fish.

The key is getting the butter to a perfect nutty brown. Technically it's still butter, but something happens when it's toasted like this, and it really does become another ingredient altogether. Add some freshly-plucked-from-ice-water perch, and a little squeeze of lemon, and we're talking involuntary eye rolling.

I'd like to thank my dear old friends, the Fitzpatrick's, for inviting me to their top secret perch hole(s), and for having such incredibly cute kids. I haven’t smiled this much editing a video in a long time. Enjoy!

Bonus Coverage: Check out this great ice fishing post by my friend Tamar on Starving Off the Land!  

8 oz Fresh perch fillets
2 tablespoons butter
lemon as needed
For the seasoned flour:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon fine salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and/or a tsp of Old Bay

Saturday, February 5, 2011

If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake....

... but I didn't, so I got you a baby instead.

Kitty Coren

It's funny. I've been secretly worried out of my mind for the last 30 years that I'll be a terrible mother. Just like I didn't learn how to drive until I was 28 because I was so worried about being a shit driver, about driving absent-mindedly into lamp posts, or when drunk.

But then I finally learnt how to drive and it turns out that I'm a fucking brilliant driver. Like, seriously great. I can even park.

I mean, it's a bit early to tell whether babies are easier or harder than cars, but at the very least I'm not scared anymore. And you've got to start somewhere.

So, welcome to Recipe Rifle, Kitty cat. It's kind of like quite a shit food blog - but it's all yours.

(Back soon,
E xxx)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Predicting the Super Bowl Winner with Chicken Wing Bones

I feel kind of guilty. I've been publishing this blog for four years now, and I this is the first time I'm letting you in on my magical method for picking the Super Bowl winner. I can't tell you how or where I learned how to do this (long story short, I'd be killed by a very tall, dreadlocked gypsy if I did), but I can tell you it's a sure thing. 

Normally, I'd never give insane advice like withdraw your children's college funds, and bet everything on the game, but here, it would be crazy not to. ;-) Enjoy!

Speaking of Buffalo Chicken Wings – They're Now Available in Convenient Dip Form

My friend, Stephanie Gallagher,'s Guide to Cooking for Kids, just posted this video recipe for an Buffalo Chicken Dip. If you want all the taste of Buffalo wings without the bones, check out this easy appetizer. You can get the ingredient list here.