Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oh, You Little Dumpling!

I just returned from dinner at a place here in San Francisco called Shanghai Dumpling King, where Michele and I enjoyed their famous Xiao Long Bao, or, as it’s also known, Shanghai soup dumplings. I got the tip from my friend, Amy Sherman, from Cooking with Amy, and she was not kidding. They were so incredibly good.

The photo is of some crab and pork dumplings I just posted on Instagram (btw, if you want to follow my foodie adventures in all their photographic glory, you should get that app). When I got home, I went to YouTube to try and find a how-to video for it, and lo and behold, there was a great one…shot in the exact same restaurant we had just left! I love when that happens.

Anyway, this comes from the fine folks at, and features chef Andrea Nguyen, author of the celebrated cookbook, Asian Dumplings, and Shanghai Dumpling King’s chef and owner Lu Kuang. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creamy Wild Mushroom Ragout – A Triple Threat of Fungi Flavor

This very easy mushroom ragout, not only looks and tastes great, but it one of those magical recipes that shines equally as bright whether you serve it with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We call these dishes, “triple threats,” and they’re important weapons in any cook’s arsenal.

Imagine this under a perfectly poached egg for breakfast – the golden yolk slowly running into the hot mushrooms and creamy sauce; all sitting on a thick slab of crispy toast. It’s almost too perfect to comprehend. I said “almost,” so try to comprehend it.

For lunch, I can’t think of a better meatless meal than this and a cold, crisp green salad. You could score bonus foodie points for using the same vinegar you used in the ragout, to make the dressing.

For dinner, the possibilities are endless. There are very few meat-based main courses this wouldn’t make a very handsome side dish for. Or, used as a sauce for those meats, or even just over a plate of pasta.

As I mentioned in the video, literally any combination of fresh mushrooms will work. If you can’t get fresh wild mushrooms, you can always use the trick of adding some dried porcini or morel to plain button mushrooms. These are now sold at virtually every large grocery store, and their funkier flavors will permeate the porous flesh of the regular ‘shrooms.

Anyway, I’m not in the habit of threatening my readers, let alone triple-threatening them, but I really hope you all give this outrageously delicious mushroom ragout a try soon. By the way, don't forget we showed you all how easy it is to make you own creme fraiche in this video. Enjoy!

1 1/4 lbs mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp butter, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tbsp champagne vinegar, or other wine vinegar
2 tbsp cognac, brandy or sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth or as needed
1 tbsp fresh herb
toasted bread

Monday, August 29, 2011

Leaving New Orleans, Heavier and Happier Than When I Got Here…

And that’s saying something, since I was pretty damn happy when I left. You can tell how much fun a city is, and how wonderful the food is, by how much I post while I’m there. If you notice, there’s been nothing on the blog since Friday, and there are dozens of great reasons for that – busy eating plates of fried oysters like this one, from the Acme Oyster House, being just one. Anyway, I’ll be back in San Francisco tonight, after a great IFBC. Stay tuned for a brand new video recipe tomorrow!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hello from New Orleans and the 2011 IFBC

Just a quick hello to let you know I’ll be in New Orleans this weekend for the 2011 International Food Bloggers Conference. For some background on this event, you should check out my recap of last year’s conference (which, by the way, I wrote high on cold medicine). Seen here is Barnaby Dorfman, CEO of Foodista, kicking off the festivities. These guys literally invented the food blogger conference, for which I’ll be forever grateful. 

The food down here is ridiculously awesome; so don’t be surprised if you see some new Cajun and Creole inspired video recipes in the near future. I’ve already had some amazing fried chicken on bourbon-spiked sweet potatoes, and also tempted fate by eating raw oysters in August. My new friend, David Aman, from DocNO Productions, took me out for some oysters and beer at Pascal's Manale, and you can see the visual proof of my culinary courage below. 
Apparently, it’s fine to eat oysters in the summer, and that old safety warning is leftover from the days before refrigeration, when there was a real danger. I’ve done no independent scientific research, but they tasted fine to me, and I feel great.

I’ll be back in San Francisco on Monday. In the meantime, enjoy!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trippa alla Romana – Do I Expect You to Swallow This Tripe? Yes!

On a scale of 0-to-Chris Cosentino, when it comes to cooking and enjoying offal, I come in at around a 5. I’ve never been big on kidneys, brain, and heart, but I do enjoy fried sweetbreads, grilled tongue, and this Roman-style tripe.

Let’s just get this out of the way now – tripe is the lining of a cow’s stomach. Not sure which one, as I remember from grade school that cows have a bunch of them. You could always Google for more info, but really, what else do you need to know?

This recipe is inspired by three different sources; Mario Batali, where I learned the trick of adding vanilla to the cooking liquid; my grandfather, who I believe made me the first tripe I ever ate; and a great neighborhood restaurant, Locanda, where I borrowed the idea of adding garbanzo beans.

I’m not sure how “tripe” ended up being used as an expression for “something poor, worthless, or offensive,” but culinarily-speaking, it’s none of those things. When prepared in this method, it’s has a pleasantly mild, but distinct flavor.

The spicy, garlicky tomato sauce is spiked with lots of fresh mint, which has a magical affinity for the tripe. When it comes to great sauces for dipping crusty Italian bread, it doesn’t get any better than this. If you like tripe, you’ll definitely love this version.

If you don’t like tripe, or have never tried it, I implore you to chef-up, and give it a try. Hey, no guts, no glory. Enjoy!

For the tripe:
2 1/2 pounds honeycomb tripe
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf
5 quarts cold water
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 oz pancetta
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups marinara sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups tripe cooking liquid, more as needed
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
1 bunch mint leaves, finely chopped

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Up for Bid: The Chef John Experience – Spend a Day Creating a Recipe Video with Me!

You may have read about the sudden and tragic loss my friend Jennifer Perillo recently suffered, and how the food blogger community was rallying around her via #apieforMikey.

In an inspired effort to turn that love and compassion into something even more tangible, Shauna Ahern from Gluten Free Girl, and Maggy Keet from Bloggers Without Borders, have created #AFundForJennie. Bloggers are auctioning off goods, services, and artwork to raise funds that go directly to help Jennifer and her two girls in this time of need.

To support the effort, I'll be auctioning off what I'm calling, "The Chef John Experience." The winning bidder will get to spend a full day with me planning, cooking, filming, and editing a video recipe that will air on Food Wishes. This will include three fabulous meals, and all the bad puns you can handle. Not to mention, the greatest re-gifted swag bag in the history of re-gifted swag bags.

I will take care of all related expenses (you will be seriously spoiled), but you do need to get to San Francisco to enjoy what I promise will be a very entertaining day. I will show you all my secret production methods, and share stories that will shock and amaze – several of which will be true.

If you would like to participate, simply leave you bid in this comments section. You can also send me your bid via email. I'll add a deadline to this auction eventually, but for now I just want to start the process and see where it goes.

If your not interested in this particular auction, but want to help anyway, click this link, or the BWOB DONATE button above, and contribute now! Thank you!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grandma Kelly’s Good Old Fashioned Pancakes Really Measure Up

I was looking over a list of the all-time most popular recipes posted on Allrecipes last week, and there it was at number one…”Good Old Fashioned Pancakes.” Since I’ve never done a classic American pancake recipe video, despite countless food wishes for just that, I decided it was an omen that could not be ignored.

This is from Dakota Kelly, who claims to have found it on a well-worn card in her Grandma's recipe book. Well, Grandma Kelly, if that is your real name, this recipe makes one fine stack of pancakes. Not too thick, not too thin, tender, light, buttery, and delicious.

I’ve always used those exact same seven ingredients, as do 90% of all pancake makers, but like many “pros,” I simply throw everything in a bowl, and stir in enough milk, until the batter feels “right.” I never bothered to write down the formula.

So, as much as I hate to admit it, it was actually kind of fun to use an exact set of measurements, knowing I’ll now be able to repeat these results again and again. I know that boxed mix is convenient, but every once in a while you need to make this kind of recipe from scratch. I hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 12 small pancakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chef John's "Fresh Five" Secret Ingredients

When my friends at Hungry Nation asked if they could come by and film a segment they were doing called the "Fresh Five," I said, "Hells yeah!" Which is kind of weird, since I never use that expression.

Anyway, "Fresh Five" features foodies from Hungry Nation doing a top five list of favorites; things like recipes, kitchen equipment, or in my case, secret ingredients. And, yes, before you do the joke, I'll do it for you…No, I'm not clear on the concept of a secret ingredient. Anyway, the smoked paprika-rubbed cat is out of the bag now, so sit back and enjoy!

Head over to the Hungry Nation YouTube channel to check out the other Fresh Fives, and more fab foodie fun!

Giles' featherblade stew

So here we are in Sussex. I am not especially touched by the number of you telling me to merrily enjoy my holiday and not to bother posting. So I might write a hugely long and boring thing (what's new?) to punish you all.

If only because I know next-eldest sister subscribes to this via email and what with three children under 5 I know she's got nothing better to do than read my old cack for 2,000 words.

Here she is:

(That's Kitty, rather than one of hers. Although hers are sweet, you should see them. You know next-eldest sister from previous posts such as "Ginger Cake" and "Aunty Hannah's Courgette Thing". Adrian Gill once talked to me for an entire starter course about how "pretty" her nose is. This is not the first time that's happened to me. So I think that's all you need to know about her.)

Kitty is entirely recovered, you'll be relieved to know. I paid a private GP £8,000 to come to my house and tell me that she needed antibiotics, because no NHS doctor in a million years will tell you anything needs antibiotics even if it is livid with bacteria. Anyway Dr Abelman gave me some amoxycillin without batting an eyelid and Kitty was on the mend within hours.

(And he ALSO, as those of you who follow me on Twitter will know, gave me painkiller suppositories for Kitty. A lifeline with an infant throat infection, which menas they won't swallow the wretched fucking Calpol. He gave me some Nurofen ones he found in Tel Aviv but I went straight out and bought 2 packs of paracetamol ones at £18 a throw. I would now launch into a very long thing about how completely insane it is that infant painkillers aren't available in suppository form wider and more cheaply in this country, but I fear I would bore you. Further. And also elicit awful tedious jokes about suppositories and the French, which I don't want to hear. I no longer think suppositories are remotely funny.)

Sussex is very nice. I chose the house on the basis that it has WiFi and a tumble drier. The only downer is that I think the woman who owns it used to interrogate people for the Stasi because the lighting concept is absolutely fucking terrible! 100 watt horrors shining right in your eyes or hideous energy savers. Brrr. 

The house is also close to Cowdray Park Farm shop, which is like Waitrose with only the top 5% of the poshest things available and you can buy things like REN skincare and really delicious takeaway quiche for £5. But in all seriousness, the butcher there is first-rate and my husband is practically hysterical with relief because although he claims to be all folksy and down to earth he is terrified of the dark English countryside where there is only a Spar and local boys tear around on dirt bikes. 

The weather has turned slightly and it is very sunny but really quite cold. My packing has let me down a bit,  although I have learned from past mistakes and now abide by these packing rules:

1 Do not pack things you never wear at home because you think you might wear them because you're away. You're away but you're still YOU.
2 Do not pack your shittiest clothes because you're away and so it doesn't matter
3 Allow for one very cold day
4 Allow for one very hot day
5 Allow for one very wet day
6 Pack your entire medicine cabinet
7 and the iPad

I did all that but I didn't quite pack enough warm clothes. I'm not one of those people who always anticipates being freezing and packs fleeces and UGG boots because I am not a sticky fashion person who is always cold because they are so THIN living as they do off handfuls of bombay mix and miso paste. But now I do miss my UGG boots. (Although they are not UGG boots, they are called Celt Boots and they are the most marvellous rip off and available here: I also miss my Crocs. Why didn't I bring them. I fucking love my Crocs. I won't hear a word against them.

Where was I? Oh yes, the butcher at Cowdray Park. The other day, in the third hour of some pretty heroic childcare, my husband made, while Kitty crashed around the kitchen in her walker, a stew from some featherblade, which is a kind of steak cut from the shoulder. I think. I'm never quite sure about cuts. Anyway the butcher said to cook it for 4 hours, which is the kind of instruction we like in this family, so that's what we did.

And it was terrific and very simple.

Giles's featherblade stew
for 2

2 featherblade steaks
1 medium white onion, quartered (which is just a normal onion, rather than a shallot or whatever)
1 carrot, halved
1 fennel bulb, quartered (leave this out if you don't like fennel)
1 kohlrabi, quartered (this tastes like turnip)
1 large strip of orange peel
1 strip of lemon peel
3 bay leaves
5 peppercorns
1 stick of rosemary
some stock - about 150ml
1 glass red wine

Preheat the oven to 150

1 Brown off the steaks in some veg oil for about 5 minutes until brown all over

2 Put in a pot with a lid with all the other ingredients

3 Cook in the oven for 4 hours with the lid on

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stuffed Summer Squash with Merguez Sausage and Goat Cheese – Tastes Like Not Summer Squash

I always smile when I hear chefs say you should never cover-up or overpower the natural flavors of the main ingredient. Yes, sometimes you should, and this Merguez sausage and goat cheese stuffed summer squash recipe is a perfect example.

Show me a person that would honestly claim that these lovely summer squash would have been better had we not stuffed them with spicy lamb sausage and cheese, and I’ll show you a vegan.

This is one of those recipe videos where I want you to pay attention to the concept and the simple procedure, and not necessarily the ingredients I used. There are so many varieties of squash that would work here, and ten times that in sausage/cheese combos.

These stuffed squash will be especially useful if you’re living next door to the “why the hell do they plant such a huge garden?” neighbors. You know the ones; sweet, older couple, eight kids all moved out, and yet they still plant like two acres of zucchini and crookneck squash.

The next time they leave that 20-lb basket on your doorstep, give this amazing recipe a try. Enjoy!

5-6 round green summer squash, halved
4 oz Merguez sausage, or any spicy sausage
2-3 oz fresh soft goat cheese
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
salt and pepper to taste
breadcrumbs and olive oil as needed

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recipe Rifle is away

I'm in Sussex on "holiday" (DON'T bother burgling me, I've got builders in and a friend staying) and I've forgotten the lead that joins my camera to my laptop. So I can't post any photos. And I know you can't abide a post without a photo so I haven't done anything.

But it's a bit of a shame because it's quite pretty round here and my husband is making some kind of daube of beef thing that I think might be worth writing about.

Should I drive into the local village, Midhurst, and see if someone will sell me this essential cable? Or more likely round here I will have to swap something for it like my shoes, or a pair of Levis or something.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ham and Shrimp Gravy – Plus the Recipe for Marital Bliss

I didn’t call this ham and shrimp gravy recipe “shrimp and grits” for two reasons: One, because I’ve already done a video called “shrimp and grits;” and two, I don’t like this served over grits. So, why did I serve it over grits then? Well, you’ll have to watch the video to get that answer, as I divulge that in a little chestnut at the end of the clip

I much prefer this over rice or mashed potatoes. Even pasta would make for a deliciously effective delivery system. I just don’t like how the gravy dissolves the grits, which then kind of runs through the tines of my fork. Having said that, it’s not like I’d ever turn down a plate of this because of such textural concerns.

If you only remember one thing from this video, besides the priceless advice regarding the secret to a happy marriage, it’s my “don’t buy cooked shrimp” advice. If you look at the shrimp section at the grocery store, it’s usually dominated by bags of already cooked shrimp. It may seem a lot easier, but it’s not.

You can now get raw, peeled and deveined shrimp (ideally from the Gulf Coast), which takes almost the same time to cook, as the precooked shrimp does to heat through. When you used cooked shrimp, all those sweet juices that should be running into your gravy have been lost in some processing plant months ago.

In case you can’t find frozen, raw, peeled and deveined shrimp, I believe I shown how to prep those in previous videos. I just can’t remember which ones! Maybe it’s time for a new video tutorial. Anyway, I hope you give this a whirl soon. Enjoy!

4 tbsp butter
6 ounces smoked ham
4 green onions, chopped (the light parts)
1/2 cup small diced celery
1 red bell pepper, small dice
1 large jalepeno, small dice
2 cloves minced garlic, optional
2 tsp Cajun seasoning, or to taste
3 tbsp flour
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I forgot to add, but you should with the broth)
1 pound small, frozen, raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
chopped green parts of onions to garnish

Monday, August 15, 2011

What’s Cooking? That’s What!

Even though it will be business as usual here on the blog and Foodwishes’ YouTube channel, one advantage of the new partnership with Allrecipes will be working with my friend, Michael Ketchum, the host and brains behind

A few years ago, I thought it would be a cool idea to travel around the country for a few months, filming favorite recipes in some of our viewers’ homes. I didn’t have any travel funds for such a trip, so when my sponsorship pitch to Amtrak was politely declined, the idea was shelved. Well, that concept is basically what Michael’s “What’s Cooking?” is all about. 

In each webisode, an Allrecipes' home cook shares the tips, tricks, and stories behind their favorite dishes. Anyway, I wanted to introduce you to Michael and, and hope you’ll head over to take a look at their collection of video recipes. Here, Michael joins Kerri in Hutto, Texas, to capture her making a batch of tender pork spare ribs. You can subscribe to the Allrecipes' YouTube channel here.

By the way, I’ll have a brand new video recipe up tomorrow for shrimp and ham gravy (see photo below). Enjoy!

"What's Cooking? How to Make Pork Spare Ribs

Tomorrow on Food Wishes: Shrimp and Ham Gravy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#APieforMikey: Love and Loss in the Age of Twitter

Monday, my friend Jennifer Perillo lost her husband, Mikey. At age 51, he suddenly collapsed and died from a massive heart attack – with no warning, he was here one moment, gone the next. I heard about this on Twitter.

The initial shock and disbelief was quickly swept away by waves of profound anger. Not directed towards anyone or anything, I was simply mad at the universe for this cruelly random and incomprehensible event.

I’ve only met Jennifer once, spending a few carefree days with her at a food event in Sonoma a couple years ago, but through our blogs, and more so Twitter, we had become good friends. For all its superfluous minutia, the social network not only makes real friendships possible, it makes them inevitable.

Instead of withdrawing into the darkness, and shutting out the world, Jennifer used her social network to share her grief, and help her cope with this unimaginable loss. She did so with a courage, dignity, and grace far beyond anything I could have managed.

Inundated by online friends asking what they could do to help, she suggested making this Creamy Peanut Butter Pie, as it was a favorite of Mikey’s. If you search the hashtag, #APieforMikey, you’ll see a truly astonishing outpouring of love and support. As I tweeted yesterday, if there's a stronger, more generous and caring online community than food bloggers, I don't know what it would be.

As many of you know, this has been quite an amazing week for me personally, with the announced acquisition. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a crazy, hectic week of soaring highs, and gut-punch lows. So, for reasons too trivial to mention, I haven’t made the pie yet, which is okay, since the tribute really isn’t about the pie.

It’s about making something delicious for someone you love, sharing it with them, and then, in Jennifer’s words, “Hug them like there's no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.” This is something Michele and I try and do on a regular basis.

Anyway, stay tuned for a future video recipe tribute to Jennifer and Mikey. In the meantime, I wanted to share this extraordinary video done by the incredibly talented White On Rice Couple, Todd and Diane. This has to be the most powerful, sincere, and touching food video I’ve ever seen. Enjoy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Black Pepper Blackberry Slush – Relax, There's More Food Coming

Very early in my career, I remember being at a somewhat fancy banquet, and after the first course had been served, the waiters came to the table and placed down, what appeared to be a small bowl of sorbet.

I was told it was a "champagne intermezzo." Instead of being happy, I was more concerned that somehow they had forgotten about our main dish and skipped right to dessert. Not wanting to make a fuss, I ate, wondering what going to happen next.

What happened next was a very nice Veal Oscar. Relieved, I admitted to a tablemate the sorbet had caught me a bit off guard. After a few chuckles, it was explained that an intermezzo was a small, refreshing palate cleanser served in between courses.

So, while you are more than welcome to use this black pepper blackberry slush as a dessert, I'm hoping you give it as try as an intermezzo at your next dinner party. Some of you may call this a "granita," and it is very similar, but it's not quite as icy as that. This has a softer, slushier texture.

I made a very small batch, as I only had a half-pint of blackberries, but you can double or triple this easily for a bigger group. You can also make it the day before, "slush it," and keep it frozen until needed. I hope you give it a try soon, but do me a favor, and warn your guests, so they're not worried the meal is over. Enjoy!

1 cup blackberries
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
pinch of black pepper
very small pinch of salt

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This Peach Cobbler Not the Work of a Shoemaker

I’m afraid the expression is quickly dying out, but there was a time when being called a “shoemaker” was the ultimate kitchen insult. It meant that your cooking skills were so weak, the cobbler down the street could have taken a break from resoling wingtips, come into the kitchen, and done just as well.

That little culinary history lesson has absolutely nothing to do with this beautiful peach cobbler, but I’ve been trying to keep the saying alive, and it gave me an excuse to share. Ironically, this recipe is so easy any shoemaker could master it.

I have to thank everyone who chimed in last week when I asked for cobbler recipes and inspiration. I received so many great variations and techniques, and while I didn’t use any one single recipe, I definitely used parts of several.

I hope you don’t have much trouble finding fresh ripe peaches this time of year, but if you can’t, this will still be very nice using canned. Speaking of finding ingredients, one thing I learned from my research was that for whatever reason, self-rising flour was the way to go.

No one could quite explain it, but cook after southern cook report that the self-rising flour performs much better than plain with salt and baking powder added in (see ingr. below). Do you have a theory? Maybe most people’s baking powder is so old it’s not as strong as the leavening in a freshly purchased bag of SR flour? What I do know is how nicely this turned out.

Anyway, I’m going to kick off my shoes, put up my feet, and savor the last of this delicious cobbler. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Reports from people trying this are that the ones made with self-rising flour came out awesome, and the ones using regular flour didn't work well at all. Fair warning! Get some self-rising flour!

For the peaches:
5-6 cups sliced peaches (if you use canned peaches, do not make the syrup)
1/8 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 cup water
1 cups sugar
For the batter:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (real butter! Do NOT use margarine!)
1 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (or 1 1/2 cup AP flour, plus 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and 3/4 tsp salt - NOTE: this does not work as well...get some self-rising flour!)
1 1/2 cups milk

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Food Wishes Has Been Acquired by Allrecipes!

It is with tremendous pride and gratitude that I announce Food Wishes has been acquired by Not only is this tremendously good news on a personal level, but it also means joining forces with the world's number one digital food brand.

While I’ve done a decent job of growing the brand, I’m very much looking forward to having our content in front of a new, significantly larger audience, and that’s exactly what this makes possible.

If you’re worried this move is going to result in fewer, or differently formatted videos, relax. If anything, this move allows me the freedom to produce more content than ever before, and this was one of the main reasons I decided to take the deal.

A million thanks for all your amazing support and generosity. This would not, could not, have happened without you. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Molasses-Brined Pork Chops – More Similar to "The Sopranos" Than You Think

I was so happy with how my Carolina barbecue sauce experiment went, I almost forgot I'd filmed the molasses brined pork chop I slathered all that sauce on. So, I figured I better get cracking and post this before grilling season turns into hockey season.

Brining pork chops is like upgrading to premium cable, once you do it, you can’t go back to basic. You hear people say HBO wins all those awards because they have the big advantage of using the profanity and casual nudity that the network competition can't.

When it comes to brining, the F-bombs and low-cut blouses are the flavor and extra moisture that the sweet, salty solution brings. When compared to your standard grilled pork chops, these brined beauties will surely get better reviews.

Other than having to wait a few hours for all that sexy, semipermeable membrane-on-membrane action to take place, this recipe is incredibly easy. Dissolve salt and molasses in water, toss in the chops, and wait. And what do you get from such little effort? A pork chop that's seasoned from the inside out, with a firm, but very moist texture.

I brined mine for about 6 hours, but according many osmotic experts, as little as one hour per pound of pork chop is adequate. For me, that would have been about 45 minutes, but since I learned this trick from a chef that used to leave these overnight, I can’t bring myself to brine them any less.

Whether you cover these with a Carolina barbecue sauce, or some other shiny glaze, I hope you decide to upgrade to premium pork chops soon. Enjoy!

4 thick double-cut loin pork chops
For the brine:
1/2 cup kosher salt (only use 1/4 cup is using fine table salt)
1/2 cup molasses
4-5 whole cloves
1 cup boiling water to dissolve salt
7 cups cold water

Sunday, August 7, 2011


It is 1am and I am lying on the single bed in the nursery staring at the ceiling, listening to Kitty's shallow breathing in the cot next to me. She has just fallen asleep.

She is very ill. Strep throat, a doctor will say two days later. She was boiling - boiling - to the touch with fever when I arrived at her bedside. I got myself ready to adminster some life-saving Nurofen but she didn't want it - gagged and vomited a little bit down herself in protest. So I jammed as much in her mouth as I could, changed her pukey sleeping back, walked her round, waited for her to nod off and then lay down braced for a sleepless night listening to her whimper.

It's a terrible noise, a baby whimpering in its sleep.

And as I lay there in the dark listening to the whimpering and to the nursery clock ticking and the aircon whirring I thought for the first time in a long time "At least I'm not in Australia."

That is my thing, my "At least I'm not..." thing.

I ended up in Australia in the late summer of 2001. I went out with no clear idea of what I was going to do but my sister was out there for a year and I was bored, so I went. My sister was working in some snazzy bar and going out with a very posh Australian - yes they do, in fact, exist - called Jimmy. He was terrific, Jimmy - he was hilarious. Tall with dark hair and long dark eyelashes like a girl. He was always stealing his flatmates' food - usually dinky little take-out pots of spicy asian-fusion salads - late at night when drunk and peckish.

"Hmm..." he would say, his head in the fridge. "What's Polly got in here? A little snacky-snack for Jimmy before bedtime?"

Anyway you get the idea.

I couldn't stay in Sydney with them so I took off up the East Coast. It was boring. I had a shit time. There was one okay week where I worked on a cattle farm and I should have stayed there mucking out the horses and working in the bar, but I moved on in the wrong belief that there was more to see.

What happened instead was that I unwittingly became a thief.

It happened like this:

I was sitting about in some hostel or other with a girl who was going home soon. "Just going," she said "to have a quick rummage round lost property for some flip flops. Mine are broken."

"Is that a thing you do?"

"Yeah there's always great stuff in hostel lost properties. These Miss Sixties?" She said, pointing at her jeans. "Alice Springs. This bag...?" etc.

So off we went to the lost property box. There was nothing that fascinating except a shitty brown t-shirt with red Japanese writing on the front that I thought looked quite unusual. I tucked it under my arm and thought no more about it.

Three days later I was sitting in another dull, depressing hostel somewhere hot and crappy, wearing my scavanged t-shirt, and an angry Irish girl stormed up to me.

"Where did you get that t-shirt?" she demanded. "It was stolen out of my bag. Why have you got it?"

And here is where it went wrong. Why didn't I just say "Found it. Lost property in X. Is it yours? Have it back!!"?

I don't know why not. What I did say, however, was "My sister gave it to me."

Why did I say that? WHY?

Maybe I thought she wouldn't believe the story that I'd found it in lost property and scream "Thief!" at me. I can't be bothered to recount exactly what happened in the days that followed but it was nasty. The angry Irish girl and her friend accused me to everyone they could find of having stolen her t-shirt. And the Eastern Coast of Australia turns out to be a very small place. I somehow kept up with my lame story that it was mine.

They followed me up the coast for three days, telling everyone at every hostel that I was a thief. Hissing at me as they passed me that I was pathetic. Then one day the angry Irish girl's friend came up to me and said that they'd called the police. By then I had lost all sense of perspective and couldn't see that it was obviously total fucking rubbish. I'd had enough. I hadn't eaten for about three days or really slept. I am an anxious person, you see, and being accused of being a thief is something I can't really style out.

I went to my rucksack and took out the t-shirt. "If I give this to you," I said. "Do you promise to leave me alone and never speak to me again?"

I saw, on the girls' face, a flicker of doubt that she and her angry Irish friend were right.
"I'm not an arsehole, you know," she said.
"Sure," I said, and handed her the t-shirt.

Then that night, in the middle of the night, I split. I took a taxi to a hostel well off the beaten tourist path, filled with cattle station hands and middle-aged women travelling cross-country to see newborns. And that was that.

It's bothered me for years, that incident - although with hindsight I didn't really do anything that bad. Just really thick. But still, I have never told anyone that story. Not. A. Soul.

(A week later I arrived back in Sydney and went straight out and got a tattoo. I've always wondered if the two things are connected.)

The day before I flew back to London the twin towers collapsed. (It was interesting getting on an international flight via the Middle East on 12/09/01, I tell you.) Then about three years later, Jimmy killed himself. I won't go into how. And I simply don't know why. Oh, and someone gave me fucking chlamydia.

So that's why however crumby things are, I'm glad I'm not in Australia.

Although I think I am one of the few people to have enjoyed the film.

I have newly fallen back in love with my husband. Not that I was ever out of love with him but in the last few days I have been crawling around after him screaming "I love you! I worship you! Please marry me!"

The thing is, he comes into his own when there's something wrong with the baby and I am simply vomiting in a corner with anxiety, ringing NHS Direct and crying. My husband takes charge, shooes me out of the nursery, won't let me near the baby monitor and makes me dinner.

All we had in the house was some beef, which he decided to roast - "Although I know we're not celebrating or anything," he said. "I know we're all in mourning because Kitty's got a cough."

And he wanted to make a gravy to go with it.

Gravy is something that can appear daunting but actually it's okay if you give yourself a bit of time.

For gravy, you need:
1 The pan that something has roasted in
2 Some shitty alcohol (even this is optional, really)
3 Some flour or cornflour
4 Some stock or vegetable cooking water

Roughly to make a gravy, take the roasting pan and "de-glaze" with shitty cooking wine. This means you place the pan over a medium flame and pour in some alcohol, about half a wine-glass full I'd say. Then you scrape at the pan and get all the roasty bits and sticky bits off the bottom.

Then reduce this until it becomes glossy-ish round the edges. Reduce the heat and take the pan off the flame. Sprinkle over some flour - about a tablespoon. With the pan off the heat, mush this all round until it is a paste.

Now add some of your liquid - either stock or some veg cooking water - to the pan still off the heat. Mix this round until vaguely combined.

Then put the pan back on the heat and add some more sloops of stock or cooking water. Simmer it briskly until it starts to thicken thanks to the flour.

Pour over your roast dinner.

Then take a Valium. Or three.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mahi Mahi Ceviche Ceviche

The last time I posted a ceviche recipe video, I almost had to hire a security detail to protect me from angry Peruvians. I'd done a bay scallop and mango ceviche, and within minutes of uploading, highly annoyed South Americans were demanding I change the name, since what I had made was NOT a ceviche.

It seems as though there are some very strict views on what may and may not go into a ceviche, which is too bad, since the technique begs for accessories. Thankfully, I'm no fundamentalist, so I was free to make this version.

One traditional ingredient I omitted was the sliced onions. Personally, I don't like the sharp bite of the raw onion in this recipe, so I decided to use chives instead. I'm pretty sure I'm in a very small minority, as most people consider the sliced onions an absolute necessity, so feel free to add those in.

This mahi mahi ceviche requires a little bit of knife work, but when you consider the seasonal advantage of not using the stove, and just how tasty this really is, I think it's all worthwhile. You can also use shrimp, scallops, swordfish, and snapper.

By the way, sorry about that extra "ceviche" up there, but it's not often you get the chance to publish a symmetrical post title. Enjoy!

3/4 to 1 pound fresh mahi mahi
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
pinch of dried oregano
pinch of cayenne
2/3 cup equal parts fresh squeezed lime and lemon juice
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup orange segments
1/2 cup thinly-sliced red or white onion (or chives instead)
2 tablespoons julienne radish
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This Blueberry Clafoutis Didn’t Get My Goat (Cheese that is)

I’ve had this wacky idea to try a berry-studded goat cheese clafoutis, so when I saw these gorgeous looking blueberries at the market, I figured the time was right. 

I had a couple ounces of leftover chèvre in the fridge, and was very excited to see if this possibly odd, but fundamentally sounds idea would work. And, everything would have, if I had only skipped breakfast that morning.

That morning I woke up starving, and facing a pile of emails and other less fun computer-driven busywork. So without thinking (literally) I whipped a nice cheese omelet, using the aforementioned cheese. D’oh!

It was a delicious mistake, and one I forgave myself for very quickly, but it also presented me with a tough choice. Go back out to the store, or just make a good, old fashioned, plain blueberry clafoutis. Laziness prevailed, and here you have it.

So, while I’m very proud of this clafoutis, I can’t help but wonder how much better it would have been with that faint, but tangy accent from the cheese. Maybe you could give it a try and let me know? I was simply going to add it to the blender and mix it right into the blender.

Anyway, goat cheese or not, this recipe is a great way to enjoy fresh, summer fruit, and as I mention in the video, this technique really lets it play the starring roll. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

butter as needed
pint of blueberries
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Nigella's mexican lasagne

I once read in a magazine - I forget which one now - a problem on the problem pages that went something like this:

Q. My husband refuses to pick his towel up off the bathroom floor. It drives me demented. How can I punish him?

A. Instead of wanting to punish him, why don't you think to yourself, as you pick the towel up off the bathroom floor, of all the nice things he does for you without you asking? It is little act of devotion like these that keep marriages going.

Here are some of the annoying things that my husband does:

- He doesn't pick up the bathmat off the bathroom floor
- He clears his throat in quite an annoying way
- He steals my car key because he can't be bothered to find his, then accuses me of having used, and lost his key (thus forcing him to use mine).
- He will turn to me and say "Shall I have a shower? Or not?"
- If the TV is on and he wants to say something, rather than finding the remote and pausing the programme he will shout "PAUSE!", which is my cue to find the remote (under his bum, usually) and pause the programme for him so he may deliver his opinion.
- He will suddenly decide that the house is a mess and pick things up randomly (an unopened letter, a pair of flip flops, a baby's toy) and say "What's the story with this? Should it be here?"
- He will walk into his own kitchen and wonder aloud where we keep the knives, forks, salt, pepper, plates and so on

Here are some of the annoying things that I do:

- I pick at my cuticles. Constantly.
- I clear my throat in a nice way. But I do it ALL the time
- I never open my post, particularly anything that looks financial
- I interrupt all the time.
- I give my husband death stares
- I am a sluttish washer-upper
- I call the baby "Kitty-Cookan-TIS"
- I sometimes only empty half of the dishwasher and then wander off to do something else and forget to unload the rest
- I throw money (his) at any problem
- I leave the area around the toaster a mess, attracting ants and wasps.
- I don't make the bed

Here are the nice things that my husband does for me:

- He doesn't make me go and get a job
- He does my tax
- He takes out all the bins and deals with the compost
- He sorts out the cars, the tax for the cars, the maintenence of the cars
- He doesn't make me see people I don't like
- He'll make any phonecall for me that I'm too scared to make
- He cleans all my hair out of the trap in the shower

Here are the nice things that I do for my husband:

- I hang up the bathmat
- I always make sure there is enough deodorant, shampoo, showergel etc in the bathroom
- Ditto for the kitchen
- Ditto stamps, birthday cards and wrapping paper
- I sort out dinner, pretty much every night
- I will fire anyone that he feels too guilty to fire
- I don't give him shit about going out and getting drunk
- I don't give him shit about his swearing or bad taste jokes
- I don't give him shit about doing more childcare

Whenever my husband has done something annoying and I feel enervated, I always run those lists through my head. It's what my marriage balances on, like a fat elephant on a plank of wood on a ballbearing. But a few years ago, I realised that my husband was NOT aware that there was this careful balancing act going on. He did not think, as he ignored my throat-clearing, cuticle-picking, death-staring grotesqueness, that he was simply keeping up his end of the bargain. He believed that he was bearing the brunt of marital irritation, while I sailed through life blithely un-irritated. One day, things exploded in a terrible row about me not making the bed.

I won't lie, there were tears.

Then I explained about the list. About the importance of acts of devotion. And he got it, more or less.

And that's why I'm always sorting out dinner; it's part of the deal. It's why I try to find new things to cook, rather than just doing a roast chicken or pasta over and over again. If it's going to be my area, I might as well having a big repertoire. It makes everything easier.

Which explains why I tried out this Mexican Lasagne, by Nigella. I thought it looked fun although like everything that used canned tomatoes, it ends up tasting a lot like canned tomatoes. But it's a good one to have up your sleeve to pull out when things are getting a bit samey.

This is not Nigella's exact recipe but it is close enough. The exact one can be sourced easily on the internet.

Mexican lasagne
Serves 4 hungry people, or 6 less hungry, with a salad

1 pack flour tortillas
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can sweetcorn
1 can black beans
2 red chillies
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch coriander
2 tsp mild chilli powder
1 red pepper, roughly chopped, or a jar of peppers in oil, chopped
two big handfuls cheese - manchengo, monteray jack or cheddar

Preheat oven to 180

1 Chop the onion, garlic, chillies and red peppers and sweat in a pan with some veg oil for about four minutes, then sprinkle over the chilli powder and cook for a further 10 minutes over a low flame. Then add the tomatoes and chopped coriander and simmer for about 10 minutes.

2 In a separate pan put the black beans and the sweetcorn, heat up and mix around.

3 Now layer the tomato sauce, bean mix, grated cheese and flour tortillas (2 per layer) to make up a lasagne. I'll leave you to decide the best way of doing it, but it's good to finish off with a layer of tortillas and then cheese for a bubbly brown top.

4 Bung in the oven for 30 minutes.

You can eat this with yoghurt or guacamole or any other Mexicany-type thing you can think of, while you ponder the secrets of martial bliss.

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