Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top Chef All-Stars: Not a Winter Classic

I got a problem with how this season of Top Chef is completing.

The final episodes of this series are traditionally geared for the final group of contestants (3-5 people, this year its 5) to take some time off, prepare, then reconvene at a special location. This year, is All-Stars. Meaning the best/favorite contestants who didn't win in previous renditions of the show. They are branded as All-Stars, so why aren't they treated as such?

The special location: The Bahamas. Really? All-Star Chef's deserver an All-Star culinary destination. How about Paris? Maybe Tuscany or Tokyo? But the Bahamas? I don't get it.

Then the final 5 show up and have to compete in two utterly ridiculous challenges, neither of which are measures of their culinary accumen. Rather, they are challenged on who can best deal with a farcical scenario. Cooking in farcical scenarios is a staple of the Top Chef series and that is fine mid-season when you are trying to find ways to make them fail. But these 5 have been there and done that. They earned a top notch environment, product, and yes even top notch palettes to serve.

Instead, they got the King of Junkanoo and his crew in a fish fry restaurant sporting a kitchen with fryers (even a broken one that started a fire, which was hilarious to watch), a flat top griddle, and little else.

RIP Carla

Next they take a boat to a deserted atol where they find top notch product but are stuck cooking outside with 50 gallon drum grills burning wood, a selection of tools, and a small table each. They manage to dodge the sand-witch (count it!) but inconsistent heat due to wind and poorly constructed grills really hampers them. Then the guests are the local leadership of the Yacht Club? Furthermore, they had to feature conch, but by feature they meant go snorkeling to catch the conch, shell it, and incorporate the meat into their food. If this is All-Star caliber then Derek Jeter is worth 3 years $50 million.

RIP Tiffany

Just give them the world and let them live and die purely on their on merits all ready.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Palm Beach is literally infested with sharks right now. And they are eating everything. It is literally the Irish Potato Famine for anglers attempting to bring in sport fish species normally present on the beach.

Spinner sharks are always prevalent this time of year, but they normally keep a bit off the beach. You can see them doing their acrobatic spin attacks on hapless prey but that occurs like 200 yards off the beach.


Last night I went fishing and they were right at the beach swimming in the waves likes just like you do on a beach vacation. Even saw one ride a wive, surfing inside the wave if you will, right to the break. I could literally have tackled it in knee deep water. I know a kid caught a 5 ft black tip of 'a beach in Palm Beach county' last week. My sighting was two of them, maybe 4-5 feet gently swimming right along the beach as close as the waves would let them.

Apparently, this has been the norm for the last week at least. According to a local live lining a barracuda (this means he just attached a live barracuda to a hook and cast it from the beach into the water, maybe a 20 ft cast) in an attempt to do battle with a shark.

We swim at this beach all the time, btw.

This was late afternoon, early evening. More and more sharks are sunset approached.

On the upside I did catch a barely legal (11 inch) pompano before the sharks got to thick. It will be dinner tonight.

Food Shall Not be Organized by Nationality

For my purposes on this blog, I shall not categorize food by any nation/ethnicity of origin. I do reserve the right to use descriptors such as 'Indian' or 'Italian' when deemed appropriate. Restaurant reviews don't count; if they label themselves, so be it.

The way I figure it, I'm American and I'm making this food in America. South Florida mostly. Therefore, all food I make is American, in the broadest sense. Feel free to disagree on whatever grounds you want, but this is how my organization system will develop.

How's that for fusion!

Instead I'll be using the Labels (see above) and React tags (which you can use, below) to enforce a simple categorization system.

Facebook: I Think I Hate You

I just really dislike using Facebook. To me, it is basically an automated business card storage container on the internet.

Not that it isn't great for stuff, clearly people are doing fine with it.

But for me, it is mostly aggravating.

1. Please don't ever send me a Facebook message/invite/whatever and expect I got it. If you actually know me and it is actually important, then you know how to contact me via Email/chat/cell phone. Doesn't everyone have a email filter setup to automatically dump anything from Facebook?

Matches: from:Facebook
Do this: Skip Inbox, Apply label "Facebook"

2. I don't want everyone I ever met knowing the random thing I might have posted on Facebook while out drinking. Facebook has these Friend Lists, why can't I setup permissions based on them? All I need is a set of people to which I post anything I want, and another set of people who don't get my posts/pictures/whatever. These set of people is really the 'business card storage' group.

3. While I'm not going to lengths to protect my identity/personal info on this blog, I'm not exactly broadcasting such information either. I have no problem with people being anonymous on the Internet. My picture isn't even here. Is nobody else a bit torn about internet anonymity? I don't really want my digital interweb existence to be an extension of my real world life. I want it to make my real world life easier. Maybe I just watch to much Battlestar Galactica, but I really don't need a virtual copy of myself floating around the Internet trying to become self aware and going all MCP on me.

4. I'm not paranoid.

5. I tried setting up a 2nd Facebook account using a pseudonym, but they go to lengths to stop this. I can't link two Facebook accounts to 1 phone number or the same email address! Argh. Plus the confusion of having to figure out which account i'm dealing with is even more aggravating then dealing with 1 Facebook account. This is right out.

6. I use plenty of other social media tools. Like this one I'm typing on right now. Twitter is useful when used appropriately; I like the simplicity. Google Buzz makes my life easier, although its a bit limited at this point. LivingSocial deals are kinda like social media and they save me money! Facebook costs me time. LinkedIn is a boon.

7. Pretty sure I'm not paranoid.

Dear Starbucks Cashier

No, I'm not saying anything in Italian just to get a cup of coffee. You will respond to small, medium, or large or if I'm feeling especially incredulous, simply 'the middle one' or the 'cheapest one'.

Nor will I refer to you as some 'Barrista' which is clearly a made up job title.

And when I order a double espresso you respond 'double espresso', thus successfully verifying what I ordered. I'm not referring to it as some preposterous Euro-centric vowel laden warble.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Curry Shrimp

I do two versions of curried shrimp, both are pretty easy. The first is a great appetizer because it goes right on a cracker or chip. But that is for another post. This Curry Shrimp I made last night for dinner. This is potent stuff, heavily seasoned. The shrimp are cooked separately so the masala doesn't totally dominate the shrimp flavor. It would be good, and more traditional on rice, but I'm using pasta. I would use gnocchi if I had them. Potatoes would be good as well; in fact, I had it for breakfast with boiled fingerlings, excellent combo.

From Cooking

Not pictured, farfalle pasta.

You could really use any spice blend. I tried this combination and its pretty good. If you are really lazy, its about 3-4 tablespoons of a store bought powder. Badia does a decent yellow curry powder but the McCormick Signature Collection Red Curry powder is better.

Coriander, fennel seed, fenugreek, white pepper, cardamon - Twice as much coriander as fennel. About equal amount of fennel seed and fenugreek and pepper. 6 pods cardamom. Grind into a powder using a coffee grinder.

Turmeric, about a tablespoon. I like turmeric, I use a heavy hand.

Cayenne to taste.

Everything in Place:
From Cooking

There's the farfalle!

Only chopped 2 of the 3 carrots, as they are quite large. It about the same volume carrot as onion.

I hit the diced tomatoes with the IMMERSION BLENDER!!! (this is the appropriate way to describe the coolest power tool in a kitchen) resulting in a pureed consistency. I want a smoother sauce because this will go over pasta, but it works just fine with diced tomatoes.

Everything in Place 2:
From Cooking

Heavy cast enameled cast iron pot with canola oil and a tablespoon on cumin seeds. They sizzle for about 2 minutes in the oil before the onion goes in. Flavor country.

The frozen shrimp are on a steamer rack with water below.

Control Flow:

Steam pot on high with lid. Should take about 15 - 20 minutes to cook the frozen shrimp depending on size and stove power.

When done (they can be a hair under cooked as they will finish in sauce) move shrimp the ice bath to stop cooking. If they are not peeled, do so later while the masala simmers.

Aside - It is interesting my stove appears purple in the picture, its actually red.

I used the shrimp water to cook the pasta for some added flavor. It's almost a quick stock, i guess. So add some water to the pot, above half way full, then back on the heat to boil.

Heavy pot gets a liberal coating with canola oil and tablespoon of cumin seeds and medium heat. Seriously, use canola. Generic vegetable oil probably is fine, but don't use olive (flavor profile and low smoke point) or peanut (won't mesh in the masala).

Cumin will start to pop and sizzle. Let it for a minute or so.

Add onion. Cook for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally. They will just start to brown around some edges.

Add garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes.

Add homemade curry powder, stir, cook for 1 minute.

Add tomato and some salt. Stir.

Add half can of coconut milk. Cook and stir.

Note - Proportion of coconut milk to tomato is done to taste. I think minimum 2-1 tomato to coco is needed. I actually added a little more at the end.

Add carrots. Stir. Lid on. Stir it occacionally.

Let this simmer for at least 10 minutes. My heat is down to 2 and it still got a strong simmer going. It can simmer for longer, mine went almost 30 minutes due to dog walk, shrimp peel and waiting for pasta to cook.

Drop the pasta (this one says to cook for 10 minutes, i'll do 8 and let it finish in masala), time your accordingly.

Pasta goes in masala. Some cooking water can go with it, not problem. I used a slotted spoon for the transfer.

Peeled and ice bathed shrimp go in next.

Kick the heat up a bit, stir it all together to a consistent temperature.

From Cooking

I'd put a sprig of cilantro for color if I had it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cupcakes? Why?

What's the deal with cupcakes? How long can this fad last?

I should start the next fad in baked goods: Brownies.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Orioles serving Natty Boh: Print the playoff ticket!

Our hero's keep doing things right...finally. It is a slow climb to the top, but here is one more step on the ladder.

Mr. Boh is back on tap at Camden Yards.

Personally, I think they should brew the stuff right in the warehouse.

Leftover Breakfast: Frittata Grilled Cheese

There is nothing more rewarding about working from home then making breakfast from leftovers. And I love a good breakfast sandwich.

Let me start by pointing out there is no wrong way to make a grilled cheese sandwich. But there are some techniques I think work better. This is a slower, lower heat method, but if you have the right tools and bread, high heat fast cooking makes a great sandwich as well. See Alton Brown's technique.

1. Bread. Cut thin enough that heat can readily pass through it. It shouldn't be to dense. If you can see through it a few spots that's great.

2. Bread quality. The better the bread the better then grilled cheese. I like a multi-grain. Publix bakery does a 5 grain sourdough (not available in every store for some reason) and its perfect. Get them to cut it thin (see tip 1). I stopped buying 'manufactured' bread awhile back. Take that PepperidgeArnoldWonder jerks!

3. Cheese. There needs to be some shredded cheese in the middle. Anything will get the job done but meltability and flavor will affect the final product. I like the Artisan blends (particularly the Mexican blend) Sargento makes. This is much easier then dealing with a block of cheese, but if you really want to go gourmet, shred your own.

4. Fat. Fat goes on the outside of the bread to get that golden brown, crunchiness. Butter or olive oil are the best options. Mayo and margarine are also popular solutions but I think both suck.

5. Heat. You must cook it hot enough to brown the bread, but low enough that the heat penetrates the sandwich before burning the outside! Medium low.

Back to the leftovers. I have the bread, cheese, and butter along with fresh tomato slices (Pine Island, FL...thank you local winter crops) and the leftover 'flat' frittata discussed yesterday.

Frittata was in plastic wrap, so I tossed the package in the microwave for 1 minute on half power.

I'm using a All-Clad steel pan for this job. Medium low heat. The butter goes in early (pan isn't pre-heated yet). Add 1 piece bread to melted butter in pan.

Construction order:

1 bread slice
tomato slices

I like to press the sandwich. Big spatula does the job. Weight it down with a big can of beans if you don't want to hold it. It will take anywhere from 2-5 minutes depending on your heat and pan.


Repeat on other side.


This was a great adventure in leftover breakfast sandwiches.

Espresso along side it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday frittata brunch.

I had no food until Saturday, fresh out. But I did get the new Food & Wine magazine (March 2011), I'm planning on making some selections. Starting with the Spinach-Arugula Frittata on page 61.

Not surprisingly (to me at least), I made several alterations. I have no arugula. However, my fridge does contain the spinach along with leaks, radicchio, and everything else. Oh, I'm replacing fresh thyme with fresh rosemary as well.

Here is by customarily brief summary of the published recipe, with my changes.

Fresh spinach
Leaks, chopped
4 eggs
5 egg whites
Fresh grated parmigiano
Canola oil
Peppers, sliced thin, I'm using those little sweet peppers
Chopped rosemary

A frittata is basically vegetables (or whatever) saute'd. Then pour in eggs. Finish in the over and it fluffs up all nice.

I'm using two different pans. The first is a Calphalon 8 inch Infused Anondized skillet (not coated) the other a 10 inch cheap coated pan I got from Marshalls. Which cookware will reign supreme!


Poach the spinach until wilted, drain, pat dry.

I'm doing the same thing in both pans.

Medium-Low heat.
Shallot and peppers for about 3 minutes.
Leaks for about 3 minutes.
Radicchio for 1 minute.
Wilted spinach for 1 minute.

Whisk the eggs, egg whites, and some parmigiano.
After the saute, pour eggs into the pans. (add a little more oil before eggs if pan is looking dry)
It will start to set on the edges.
Put pans in 400 degree over. (top shelf according to Food & Wine) for about 4 minutes.

Non-Stick Pan results:

Notice the nice even browning. But it's not very fluffy.

Here's the anodized pan result:

It's not as pretty (it stuck a little) but it is fluffy. We liked this version better.

To be fair, I suspect I needed more egg in each pan, particularly the non-stick (since it is a bigger pan). More egg mixture should allow the egg to fluff up nicely. Also, I used to much oil. 2-3 tablespoons should be adequate.

Fishing in Jupiter

Went fishing Saturday morning. If there is one thing I have learned about fishing: It's not about catching fish.

Sawgrass Park at the south end of the A1A bridge in Jupiter, FL. I'm actually under the bridge on the fishing pier. Middle outgoing tide, steady wind from the north, and live shrimp in the water. Guy down the pier just caught a blowfish.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Invented a Drink: You Name It

Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry juice. It's one of the healthy juices intending to increase your brain power.

2 parts juice
1 part vodka
1 park bourbon (cheap stuff)
4 parts club soda

Mix over ice.

Should be good with a lime wedge.

Fruity, but not sweet.

Name to be determined by comments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Vij's Coconut Curried Vegetables

One of my favorite cookbooks is Elegant & Inspired Vij's Indian Cuisine

The spice combinations employed in good Indian food are a real attraction for me. I have a full stash of whole spices used in Indian food (your local Indian market is best and cheapest place to stock up). I like the India Palace on the West side of West Palm Beach. Haven't tried the restaurant but the market is great for spices, rice, and even some fresh produce (sometimes they have fresh curry leaves).

Back to the curry. You can find the recipe at Vij's restuarant site, go to Recipes then Coconut Curried Vegetables.

I find myself making this dish almost once a week. It is delicious, nutritious, great leftover, and pairs with most any protein or just with rice. Plus the variations are endless. I never knew cauliflower could be this good.


If you don't use eggplant the sauce won't thicken as well but the flavor is quite good. The eggplant does give it a different dimension though.

I like to vary the types of peppers used. Poblano, bell, sweet italian, whatever is handy.

I like it best if its not to strong on the tomato. The coconut milk really comes through this way. If you don't care for coconut milk (looking at you, Attia) then by all means, up the tomato content.

Gratify Gastro Pub

This evening me and a friend headed out to watch the Maryland v Miami game and down a few beers. Duffy's would be the normal sports bar option but we wanted something better.

Enter Gratify, a Gastro Pub in West Palm Beach. Here is the Google Place page where you can find my review based on previous dining experiences.

We sat at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, two HD Tv's perched overhead. Much better way to watch the game then Duffy's 15 small TV's at a distance. Other then a nice 8 minute run in the 2nd half, Maryland looked pretty bad. But that's another discussion, if your really interested here is a good discussion.

Gratify specializes in small plates and good beer. Perfect. We aren't particularly hungry nor have any desire to drink Light anything. I started with a draft Palm, a nice Belgian pale ale. We split two small plates, the BBQ Sliders and something I realy wanted to try, tater tots. The tots were great. Golden brown and crispy outside with almost mashed potato innards. I believe the insides contain some meet and onion along with a few others. Too bad its not on thier online menu, which is out of date. They should use SandwichBoard. The sliders I have had before and really like. A classic shredded pork on foccacia with a little slaw on top. Great with the beer.

Back to the beer! 2nd round goes to the bottles. I had the Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale, a potent brown that definitely would go with a cigar.

Overall, a very good time at the Gratify on a Wednesday night. This place is great for doing sports bar stuff with better food and way better beer.

Side note: Semi-talented rapper T.I. was playing a concert in the amphitheater across the street from Gratify. I could actually see the stage from my seat at the bar. To bad there wasn't much good to see. Or hear.

Don't Skimp on Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is a mainstay in the kitchen. Right now it is lining a sheet pan to cook bacon in the oven. Cheapy foil would end up with a bacon grease mess all over everything.