Friday, October 5, 2012

The Bad Restaurant Reviews- Vetro 1925

 Last night I dined out for peace and gave a restaurant that prompted the longest bad review I'd ever written about anything a second chance. I was feeling charitable. 

 So kick off your shoes and read two reviews of Fayetteville's most expensive fine dining spot, Vetro 1925. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Think We Need to Talk... About Pizza.

          Listen, I'm not unaware of what's going on here. I see you out there, sitting on your laptops and tablets thinking about dinner. I know you're thinking that you could order-in and have pizza delivered and it wouldn't take much. Admittedly any delivery or frozen pizza isn't as good even as going to a local place and getting a pie fresh out of the oven but it's just so easy. Making Pizza at home can't possibly be that easy. Right? You have important TV to catch up on. Big Brother season 8 is crazy. Did you miss the mid-season finale of Breaking Bad too? Man, you have got to catch up. Just do it after you make your own pizza. At home. In your very own kitchen. With a little bit of advanced prep you'll be free and clear to stun your significant other and be the envy of your friends and neighbors.
Mini Portobello Mushroom, sauteed leeks, and bacon

Before you go all getting ahead of yourself there are some very important rules.

Think of them as: The Bastard Chef's Commandments for making Pizza at home. These are fundamentals that you shouldn't ever screw up lest you dare take on the wraith of the pizza gods, or your families ,or partners, or roommates, or anyone that ever ate a good pizza. Ready?

1. Don't buy a store-bought crust.  Those Boboli crusts at Walmart are worthless. You may as well just cut a circle out of that empty Amazon box you keep meaning to recycle. If you can't be bothered to make your own then you shouldn't waste you money putting fresh ingredients on that mess. I'm serious. Don't do it.
2. Pre-Heat your oven.  Let's take a moment and pretend that you're trying to burn your house down. Crank it up to 500 Degrees and leave it there til you almost forget that it's on and wait. When you forget it's still on your oven is ready. 30 minutes is ideal. 
3. Don't over-sauce it. According to the board of pizza practitioners at home (BPPH) 9 out of 10 people over-sauce.  Over-saucing is the death of many a good pie and ruiner of many homemade crusts.
4. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) Let the delivery chains and the local spots overload your pizza with their over-priced specialty pies. Have some respect for your pie and yourself.
5.  Buy a baking stone.  If you're going to do this more than once (which you will). To get the crust to cook the way you want nothing works better. Get a Pizza peel while you're at it. I got both items at TJ Maxx for $25. Why's it worth it?  No soggy bottom pies and a way transport your masterpiece from your cutting board to your oven. Gone are the dark days when magical forces were the only way to transport your pie to  the oven without having to mangle or completely dismantle it. Trust me. I've been there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Didnt Go to the Gym, I'm Grumpy, I Think I'll Make Root Vegetable Curry

I should’ve gone to the gym.  There’s a grumpy guy with a 12” Henkel in the kitchen dicing root vegetables for a curry dish I’m about to make up. I can feel my blood pressure rising. I’m not accomplishing what I want to. I’m not posting to my blog, I’m not going to the gym and work stress is getting cliché. Make sure it’s a good dice on that turnip.  I feel like such a bum. I tend to gravitate to the couch in these situations. Bring up the Netflix and put a fresh 6 pack of a mighty fine IPA in the fridge. Today, I’m drinking Avery in a can. I like the craft beer in a can the same way I like my cheap domestic stuff in a bottle.  The longer I cut these rainbow carrots and sweet potatoes the more relaxed I’m getting. Now I’ve got to mince the garlic and break out the Le Creuset.

So I didn’t work out. I decided I’d get into some traditional curry flavors thanks to the fancy spices I got at Xmas. The Organic turmeric and ground fenugreek seeds mated with the sautéed vegetables makes the place smell like a fancy Indian buffet. Not the gross ones…  a really classy spot. I just need Naan and some Bollywood on in the background. Really.  Next Mission: Make Naan. Instead I’m deactivating facebook again and listening to mopey emo music. I don’t know how the band She & Him managed to make “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” more dramatic than Morrissey’s but they did. God my house smells good.  Where was I?

Mealtime at my house is normally about 8:30 and it’s never boring.  Someone gives me a random veggie or some spices they never use and I amass a collection of random ingredients in my fridge until it is so chaotic that  I decide to incorporate everything together . So I’m doing the curry thing. Whenever I get in the kitchen and I’m grumpy I throw the pans around with a ferocity usually reserved for big cover nights in a tiny restaurants. I chop and dice and mince and try to make something I haven’t made before. This is also usually when stuff goes bad. If I was working I’d be in the weeds. I’d have all my eggs in one basket and the basket would be on fire and I’d need 11 of the 12 eggs. Really, I just burn something or forget something because I’m trying to get fancy. But tonight my kitchen smells awesome. Even if it sucks because I overcook it because I’m distracted cooking and writing at the same time a stranger walking past my house could stop by and ask for a table.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Leftover special: Salad Nicoise Sandwich

Salad Nicoise Sandwich Recipe #
I grabbed a beautiful piece of tuna at the meat market and couldn’t decide what to do with it. I cooked it last night and it was waiting in the fridge for me when i made it home from work. Obviously this isn’t an authentic salad nicoise. I didn’t have any greens. I had fresh baked ciabatta.  I think i managed just fine.

This is chicken scratch but you get the idea:

2 slices fresh bakery quality bread
1 Egg (boiled and chopped)
Leftover Tuna - Cold. Sliced or broken up to fit on bread.
1 tbsp capers (drained)
2 tbsp Nicoise olives
2 sprigs fresh dill (or some dried)
2 tbsp finely sliced red onion
1/2 tp anchovy paste
4 cherry tomatoes seeded & sliced
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 C Mayo
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

I started by combining the wet ingredients in a bowl and whisking them together with a spoon.
then I tossed in the red onion, capers, dill, olives,  and tomatoes to get them coated and marinating together.

Once this was finished I filled a small pot w/ cold water dropped in my egg and and brought it to a boil. Once it hits a rolling boiling I turn it down. After it’s finished (about 10 min) I put it in an ice bath to stop the cooking and cool it off. I like my yolks set but not chalky.

Then I toast my bread. I used ciabatta because we’ve got a great local bakery that makes a mean Ciabatta. I use a cast iron skillet @ med heat with a pat of butter and a drizzle of canola oil.

Assembly is fairly easy. I coated the bottom slice of bread with the mayo based sauce and some veggies. I just spooned it onto the bread sloppily. I topped that with the sliced egg and then arranged my salmon on that. I topped the salmon with veg & poured the rest of the sauce over the top. just to be dainty I added another few small sprigs of dill. No big deal.

It’s good for 2 sandwiches. If you had greens a light salad would be awesome. I can see endive or arugula some good sharp green. You could save a drizzle of the sauce and add a few grinds of pepper for a salad dressing and this would be an awesome impromptu meal made up of leftovers.

Just plan on pan searing some for dinner sometime and tossing in an extra filet and saving it for this.  If I’d had green beans left they would’ve probably made it on the sandwich too.
Is it lunch time? I think I’m hungry again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cooking and blogging and living and all that other shit I don't have time for:

It's November? When did that happen? Somehow my personal life got a little crazy, my work life got a little hectic, and I went on a pretty crazy drinking spree.

Question and Answer with myself:

Have I been cooking? Yes. Often. I am taking the helm with family thanksgiving and planning a French themed dinner for the girl I've been dating. Lots of fun stuff. Oh, and there was a Chili Cook-Off on Sunday I entered.

Why aren't you writing any of this in your blog? I'm weird with the writing. It's not like Facebook or Twitter or any of that bullshit because I want to devote some time to it. Those social networking things exist as time wasters and I've been spending my time wasting it on FB and not on writing all the recipes for the awesome food I've been cooking.

Can you give us a Sports Center type highlight reel of some of your recent dishes? Why, yes. I'd be happy to.  Hangover annihilator chili:

1. chili paste from dried chili peppers, ground pork, bacon, tri tip, and short ribs.
2. Quick curry. Frozen shrimp simmered in a coconut milk and curry mix. I made it over rice and over ramen. ( i even did a Vegan version)
3. Speaking of Vegan I've got the Portabello tacos pretty squared away.
4. Rocked Out a family dinner w/ Grilled & Broiled Salmon, Rosemary Orzo, and a fresh parsley and roasted cherry tomato salad
5. Chipotle nachos likeamotherfucker. They're awesome. There are pics everywhere.
6. Braised chicken thighs in a white wine sauce w/ wilted kale (need I say more?)

there's a few of the better dishes I've been meaning to write about. Notable mention to the pulled it out of thin air strawberry bread pudding and the mini cornbread muffins with the duck fat oiled muffin pan. Yum.

Vacation, kickball, birthdays, broken down cars, bosses leaving work, work trips, etc.

I'm in this for the long haul. Whether I write here or not I'm storing it in my head and planning on ways to get it out.

I think I've got some fun food stuff coming up. Look for pictures on my facebook fan page for Bastard Chef and back here. I'm going to try and update this at least every week.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ingredient lists that look like chicken scratch

From the counter top to the fridge, from the notebook in my computer bag to the dashboard of my car, and on the back of my AT&T bill are ingredient lists for recipes.

My tiny kitchen in my tiny apartment is getting overworked. I am getting overworked. By the time I've eaten dinner and attacked my kitchen there's just not enough fuel left in the tank to formulate recipes or write concise sentences. Wait-- who am I kidding? I never write concise sentences.

Me having a blog is supposed to be a place to store all of these things but by the time I've written them down and eaten my meal and loaded my dishwasher and had a beer it's the farthest thing from my mind. I need someone that takes good dictation.  I need 2 more hours a day to spend compiling updates and writing my drunk cooking PSA's and coming up with all of the other one-off subjects I want to discuss here. The cooking isn't the issue. I cook all the time regardless of whether I write about it or not. I have cooked chili, curry, Mexican, vegan, vegetarian, Italian, and good old-fashioned American in the last week. There's no rhyme or reason for cooking specific types of food in my house. There's just a fridge that needs cleaning and a pan I just rinsed out.

Maybe I should photograph all of this chicken scratch and do a photo montage of various recipe ingredient lists. Or, I can show you how I cook what I cook. Put my recipe for what I cooked between the 2 or 3 dishes I used as ideas for my dinner.

Lets just suffice it to say that I need more time in the day. I'd love to tell you about chili and dinner rolls and cheesy corn stuffed cornbread but I need more time. More time Or a secretary. Alright I'm rehashing previous paragraphs so I'm moving on.

If there's something you'd like me to cook

If there's a cooking question you'd like to ask

If you want me to cook you dinner

If you want a recipe from a picture you saw on facebook

Don't be shy to ask me about it/for it. That might motivate me to get it posted and put it up here for you and a few other people to read.

and I sware, muh hand ta gawd... I'm posting more recipes this week.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Healthy living and my Vegan Kitchen Sink Panzanella Salad

           I get pretty pissed off when the iPad eats my posts. Blogger's new interface isn't too iPad friendly with the auto-save. Allow me to collect my rant and pick up where i left off.
          I've read Michael Pollan, I read Mark Bittman, and I've already watched all of those food documentaries on Netflix. I've even seen the one about the Buddhist hippie guy in Nor Cal who won't waste any food. I also follow some snout-hoof guys on twitter. Look, I'm all foodie-ed out. I know you know this. So when you guys get on Facebook or rent Food Inc. and start trying to tell me about how fucking great the current batch of food docs are and how we really need to change our habits you can hold your god damn tongue. I'm excited that you signed the petition to join Jamie Oliver's food revolution and I saw that you reposted the link to the 'schools taking chocolate milk out of cafeterias.' I'm happy you're starting to get it but when I see you at walmart and your cart is stacked full of lean cuisine I can't help but wonder if you see the irony. Wait, it's organic frozen dinner? That makes it better. You're winning. I guess irony is dead.

         Even I shop at the land 'o lard (Walmart). I'm not hating on overweight people. that's legitimate. Heart disease, diabetes, the western diet's effects on the Japanese... yeah, yeah, I know about all that shit too. Corporate corn? Yes. I once had a friend tell me that they had given up corn on the cob because of Cargill. Some people are totally missing the point. My point, I'll get back to it. There's a recipe in here I promise. I am the guy who has the basket but takes as long as the soccer mom with the cart because the checker is having to ask me what a Leek is and look up the code for ginger root. It takes forever. Everything I buy is perishable. I mean, I do a "U" shaped loop through the store hitting all of the fresh veg, some bread, some smart chicken, some Greek yogurt, and I'm out. It normally brings up a conversation with the checker about food or how expensive eating all fresh stuff is. Even when its on my scale. I like starting those conversations because I feel like I get to explain eating healthy and how I make it work. I strictly follow the kitchen sink method. Use it til its gone. Don't let your greens go bad. Waste not, want not. I buy small-ish scale because I only cook for me. I buy what looks freshest and whats in season so there's no method to my veggie shopping madness. That means that sometimes I get some weird leftovers or fridge lingerers. By the end of the week (or the start of the next week if I had a paticularly long weekend)  the fridge looks like I'm on some crazy fad diet or someone else does my shopping for me.
            So, the other night when i was feeling famished and looked into the fridge I was frightened by the sad array I had in front of me. Upon a quick inspection I found: 4 wrinkly romas that look like your grandpas testicles, 2 shallots starting to go south so (1 full shallot), half a thing of capers, some Trader Joe's kalamata olives, 2/3 of a roasted bell pepper, some basil from my dying basil plant, a bit of oregano from my mom's garden, and 1/3 of a loaf of stale ciabiatta that was starting to grow tiny stars of mold on the top. Other than some condiments and some eggs that was it. But I had a stroke of culinary genius.  I could throw a Panzanella salad together and the things i had on-hand would be perfect.

Batard Chef Kitchen Sink Panzanella Salad:

1 Shallot peeled and cut coarse,
2 large cloves garlic
1 tbls capers
4 (I had 3 good) roma tomatoes ripe or roasted
1 tp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tp brown mustard
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil (it's all i had left) + 1 tbls
1/4 C Kalamata olives
1/2 tp sugar
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1/2 C mixed or your favorite salad greens
bunch fresh oregano
bunch fresh basil
1 roasted red bell pepper

first things first, you need to cut the hard crust and random mold off of the bread. Your bread not crusty or moldy? You're better off than I was.

 1. Preheat oven to 325 and cut hard crust from bread and tear into small pieces, put into oven safe pan and drizzle w/ 1 tbls oil.
2. toast bread crumbs for 10-15 minutes until starting to get crisp
3. combine vinegar, capers, garlic, basil, oregano, mustard, sugar, into a food processor. Pulse  as you slowly drizzle in the 1/4 of oil to emulsify. set aside
4. chop bell pepper, tomato, and olives coarsely
5. pull bread from oven and allow to cool slightly
6. Combine bread crumbs, tomato, olives, and dressing into a serving bowl. Mix.
7. place in fridge and let rest until cool so the flavors can marry. about 20 minutes

To Plate: arrange the greens in the center of the plate and using a serving cup arrange a portion of the panzanella on top. garinsh with kosher salt and fresh pepper.
Panzanella Salad Awesomeness

I didn't have quite enough olive oil so I added some canola. you want the bread to be breaking down and very soft.

I know this is surprising because there's no bacon, duck fat, or cheese and if you can guess where I'm going... this shit is straight up vegan. that's right. I just gave you an awesome vegan recipe. the bread is satisfying, it's got that good briny flavor from the capers and olives and the roasted tomato and pepper makes it pretty fantastic.