Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's For Midnight Snack

I love food.

I love eating late at night as well.

I know this is not conducive to looking like the Hulk, but every once in a while a guy has got to let himself enjoy some of the more simple pleasures of life.

Here we have a beautiful Romano, a peppered salami, Triscuits, and a chocolate espresso stout I made over a year ago.

As C.S. Lewis would (I'm sure) agree, these are very real shadows of how great heaven itself is.

Why do I post this? For this reason...take a little time to enjoy the culinary greatness of the world around you sometimes.

Forget about the amount of fat, carbs, protein, or red #5 a product it has in it and just enjoy it.

Try new food or old favorites. Stretch yourself and make something with the things you have in your house, includes less than five ingredients and takes less than 15 minutes to get together.

Enjoy food.

Savor all of life.

Is there some food you eat late at night every once in a while? I'd love to know what it is.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Easy Apple Tart

This is a super easy recipe that looks very pretty when served. You can change it up however you like, add caramel sauce, nutmeg, whatever you like to eat with apples. In these pictures I made the apple tart even more simple than the recipe. I didn't add cinnamon or vanilla-honey sauce and I served it with vanilla ice cream.

1 sheet of puff pastry
4 apples
lemon juice
brown sugar
¼ c honey
1 Tb vanilla
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Place the puff pastry on the counter to let it thaw. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. As you are slicing them, place them in a bowl and every once in a while sprinkle lightly with lemon juice, cinnamon and brown sugar.
(Not too much, you want to be able to taste the sweetness of the apples, not just sugar)

Cut puff pastry into thirds and put on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Arrange apple slices over lapping down the center of each puff pastry.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.
Mix honey and vanilla together until smooth.
Remove tart from oven and place on serving platter. Drizzle with vanilla honey mixture then dust with powdered sugar.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two New Brews

Today a few more beers make their way towards my cellar (read: closet).

On the left is a Saison I've named "I'm Mostly Belgian Myself." This prestigious title is due to the fact that I took a Belgian Saison recipe and messed with it a bit. Made my own candi sugar and used a yeast strain that is a bit different. It is all Belgian, just not all the "right" stuff.

On the right is my version of Black Butte Porter. I have conveniently titled it Mack Suit Porter because...well...I wanted to rhyme at the time. Shoot, there was another rhyme right there. They say you should never mess with a good thing. I usually ignore "they". Home brewing is supposed to be part art and part mad science. This one is a bit different than last time in that I used a different porter yeast, it has a bit more alcohol than last time, and I'll be aging it with twice the amount of Jack Daniels and oak. Just goes to show that I am a real American...bigger is better.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why My Wife Is Better Than Your Wife

The above is my fathers day present (my wife has a self confessed problem with waiting to give people gifts). It is a 12" stainless steel fry pan from All Clad (read: as awesome as it gets).

I felt the insatiable urge to use said pan immediately upon opening it. The only proper thing to do in the Meeks household to christen a pan of this nature? Caramelize onions.

I decided I would bring you all along for the ride and let you in on the experience as well.

To begin with, you will need butter. Don't be afraid. It is real food and it is (moderately) good for you. While it is hard to gauge exactly how much you will need a rough estimate is a tablespoon for every onion.

If the very mention of this makes your left arm go numb thinking about the heart attack that is on its way remember...this is a powerful flavoring ingredient...not a main course.

Caramelizing onions takes a long time. Not a lot of work, but you are going to have to dedicate some time to love these natures of wonder if you want the real deal. Therefore make it worth your effort and do a bunch at one time. This batch was used today on a bunch of pizzas, but I often will make more than I need and let them sit in the fridge, tempting me to get creative. Being good (or at least decent) in the kitchen often depends on whether or not you have good stuff laying around to use. Have these and you wont be sorry.

Once the butter is melted over medium heat and it has stopped bubbling add the onions. In this case I added five. Immediately toss them to coat them in the wonder that is rendered fat from milk. Then toss in a few hearty pinches of kosher salt. This will help draw out water.

Dont worry about the pan to much. Stir whenever you feel like it, but not constantly.

Ten minutes in or so you should have something like this. Onions are just turning translucent. If they are sticking to the bottom the heat is to high or you got scared and skimped on the butter. Slap yourself in either case and correct the problem. the heat now goes to low and you continue to chill with the Food Network wanna be chef routine of whipping the pan frantically like you are making meringue.

Get a beer and go outside.

This is going to take a while.

Now we are getting somewhere. Nice and brown. You could stop right here, but you shouldn't.

Sneak a taste.

Don't drop the fork.

I told you the butter would be worth it.

Here is the final product. The onions are so rendered out that they are almost forming a paste. This stuff could be spread on bread and you would faint.

What is it good for?

- French onion soup (do the diligence and get them this dark, use good stock and you will be in heaven.)
- Pan sauce pasta (think a little white wine, some stock, add the cooked noodles, hit with fresh herbs, Parmiggano, mouth.)
- Burger or pizza topping (used in small quantities it can turn around even your horrible decision to buy the 3 for 5 dollar Tostinos...almost.)

So how was the pan? Something to behold. It was better than I expected and I am stoked to have it.

I have the best wife in the world.

I am sure yours is great...mine is just better.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Of Singularities

There are certian things that only happen once. It might be once a day (lunch) or once an hour (the vast majority of you checking your Facebook). Today we partook of something that only happens once a year.

That we got to put said thing in our mouths was even better. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Growing garlic is a no brainer. It is easy, mostly maintenance free, and is...well...garlic. What you might not know about garlic is that it grows a scape that houses a bulbils.

No, I am not kidding.

You are welcome for giving you an awesome conversation starter at your next akward Facebook meetup.

These scapes must be cut off if you want healthy sized bulbs of garlic. What this leaves you with are some of the gardens most tasty remnants.

The hardest thing to do is to decide what to do with them. This is in no way due to a lack of options, but the very opposite. Only one real rule is in play with something this special...don't screw it up. This includes burning it, boiling it, or using it in conjunction in ANY way with cream of mushroom soup. This also takes into account that you should not put it in something that will kill all flavor of such a special gift.

My mind automatically went to stir fry. Chicken, ginger, a bit of soy, sake, sesame oil, toasted sichuan pepper corn, a touch of salt, thai basil to finish and a bunch of scapes was all I needed.


Here is the finished product:

Now, this is the point at which I am supposed to tell you that the dish was a revelation, the best ever, "pure awesome", or something. Not going to happen.

What did the scapes taste like? Garlicky green beans.

What I can say about the meal it is that it was good. I enjoyed it over a few beers with my good friend Daniel Crosby (we tried 4 types...don't you wish you were here?) and my lovely wife. We ate, drank, and talked about anything that came to mind. All the while we enjoyed a once-off dish that included an ingredient that we'll most likely not eat again this least from our garden. This all made the dish memorable and special.

Grow something and eat it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

For My Father...The Vegetarian

I will not comment on my dad's recent move towards not eating anything with a pulse. My infatuation with cured meats should state my position clearly.

I figured that in honor of my dad's desire to spare Bambi, Babe, and Thumper I would post a recipe for a great salad using quinoa...a wonder food if there ever was one. This very well may be my favorite cold salad of all time. We got the recipe from epicurious and it is wonderful.

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa Salad

2 tsp grated lime zest
2 Tb fresh lime juice
2 Tb melted unsalted butter, cooled
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 cup quinoa
1 c black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

- Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter, oil, sugar, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper in a large bowl.

- Wash the quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve each time.

- Cook the quinoa in a medium pot of boiling salted water (1 Tb salt for 2 quarts water), uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, and then set sieve in same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don't worry if lid doesn't fit tightly) and steam over medium heat until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and remove lid. Let stand, still covered with towel, 5 minutes.

- Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

In our part of the world tomatoes are still a not-too-distant reality. Store bought are beyond a joke as they taste like soggy cardboard on a good day so we don't use them. In a few months we'll be inundated with them from the 6 tomato plants in the garden, but for now, the salad just has to make do without them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Roast Chicken Heaven

There is something amazing about roast chicken. Skeptical? Thomas Keller, one of the most well respected chefs in the world, gives his recipe for his preferred way of cooking the delectable bird at the very beginning of his amazing book 'Bouchon'. This book includes stuff such as 'Foie Poele Aux Oignons Et Figues Aux Epices' (Liver and Onions with Figs) and other wild and pretty incredible dishes, but the roast chicken comes first.

I am a big fan of simplicity in the kitchen. Eating something that can only be described as "spicy" or "sour" is bad mojo. If you can't tell what is in the dish it probably has to much. I could tease this theme out to all of life, but this is a food blog and not my soapbox for'll have to come over and eat for that.

This chicken will actually be used principally for a taco filling I am making tomorrow, but for now it is late and I have salted and peppered chicken skins along with a great and strong hefeweisen to keep me company.

Here is the process quick and dirty:

- Heat oven to 450.

- Clean chicken with cold water inside and out.

- Dry chicken inside and out

- Liberally salt and pepper chicken inside and out.

- Truss chicken. (Check youtube if you don't know how)

- Place in roasting pan or cast iron skillet.

- Place in oven for 40-50 minutes.

- When inside reads 155 on meat thermometer remove.

- Let rest for 15 minutes.

- Chow down.

Roasting at its easiest...and probably its best.