Friday, January 14, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things.......

Alone. I am alone in the kitchen on a Saturday? No plans, No kids, No cars that need to be worked on. Just me. So what to do? Well?....Make something man!
OK, so with no plans other than to make dinner for two and the whole day to do it. I just wanted to wander about the yard and kitchen and see where it took me to.
One thing I noticed was that we had a bumper crop of citrus. My God I hadn't taken the time out from my busy days to even stroll through the abundant paradise that was right in front of me. The smell of Navel orange and Meyer lemons just waifed through the air on this beautiful warm day. closing my eyes I breathed deeply filling my lungs with God's perfume.
One of my favorite things are grilled citrus. doesn't matter if it's limes, lemons or oranges. Charring them over an open grill brings out all of the natural sugars as they get nice and caramelized. I don't put anything on them prior to grilling just slice them and pop them over an open flame, or under the heat of your broiler.

I am really starting to get into dry toasting or grilling. We get so used to pouring Olive Oil over everything we do. If you dry toast your onions and tomatillos and chili peppers prior to making salsa, you will end up with an entirely different taste and more authentic. charcoaly perfection.

Simple yet perfect natural flavors. grilled chicken with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper along with slices of roasted Poblano pepper and my favorite a slice of fresh Tomatillo, yup, fresh not grilled  I love the taste and texture of a fresh Tomatillo. it tastes like a warm summers day.
A bit like chewing on a stalk of sour grass as a kid. 
Back out to the yard to cannibalize my favorite tree that will never grow because it calls to me in the night and I have to come by and rip it's leaves off.
That would be my poor Bay leaf tree or Laurus Nobilis
I planted it more than a year ago and I never let it grow because I am constantly raiding it for it's fragrant leaves. I will have to plant another one so I can raid one and let the other grow.

If you don't have one of these growing in your yard, I tell you to run and not walk to your nearest nursery and demand your shrubbery! A fresh leaf of this plant put into a soup or Adobo chicken will transform it into another dimension and once you go fresh you will never go back to dried.
I also roasted off about 2 lbs of garlic. We put this stuff on everything. It's Italian Chanel No5!  

Just tossed them in a pan drizzled some olive oil on them with some salt and pepper, covered them and threw them in a 300 degree oven for about 2 hours.
OMG!! I use this for everything. toss a few in some mashed potatoes or stir with some fresh mayonnaise. OMG!! I have to go, that damn tree and that jar of garlic are calling to me again!!



Friday, January 7, 2011

Tobin James Wine

Tobin James 2007 Ballistic Zinfandel is an amazing bargain of a wine. I found this gem at the local wine shop for $17.99 a bottle. I am a huge fan of the red wines that come from the Paso Robles region of the Central coast of California. The reds here tend to be deeply colored and rich mainly because of the intensity of the sun, with fairly bright acidity due to the cool nights.

California’s Central Coast is geologically different from other California wine growing regions. Unlike others with deep, rich fertile valley soils, there are four general soil types in the Paso Robles AVA primarily formed from weathering granite, serpentine, shale and limestone, with shale and limestone being the most predominant bedrock types. Soil diversity is the norm and a vineyard block may commonly contain several different soil types.
I love the rich velvety taste and texture that an old vine zin gives you. Nice acidity makes this a great food wine. It was a touch alcoholic with our lightly spicy food, but well-balanced and elegant afterwards. A good value wine.
 I enjoy most wines at about 13% alcohol as I find of the shelf "bargain" wines are truly no bargain and most have an alcohol content between 12% and 13%.

I f you only enjoy wine on occasion, I believe you owe it to yourself to go to a wine shop and ask questions. You can find great wines under 20 bucks a bottle and this is one of them.

Blackberry jam. it is all about the jam in this bottle
very fruit forward
slight pepper
no spice
Elegant on the tongue
Very slight oak
Cherry cordial thick



Tobin James Winery
8950 Union Road
Paso Robles, California 93446
Tasting Room Hours 10-6 daily

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mammoth Lakes Part 1

And then it hit. The biggest storm in 100 years, and I swear I heard Sam the Snowman say that as we struggled for the last 20 miles up hill, on roads covered with black ice and with visibility down to it's bare minimum to keep the Pathfinder on the road. We bypassed the signs 5 miles outside of Mammoth that the CHP's put up that say "Chains required, Hell we had 5 miles to go and I wasn't going to stop now for chains.
The temperature gauge in the car was pegged at 8 degrees as we rode into town. 8 degrees? I had no idea the gauge went that low.  The entrance to our hotel was just a hole in the snow and after seeing the hotel we changed it's name to the Overlook hotel as it was buried under 15 feet of snow!
we had to drive below that overhang of snow to enter the parking structure. One sneeze and that snow mass would have buried us. White knuckle driving at it's finest.
 Icicles hung down like Nosferatu's fingers at the front door of the hotel, Curling up like frozen and dead appendages beckoning us to dare to enter. At 8 degrees outside. Hell, we didn't care we ran through them and into the hotel. Once inside we found everything to be normal. a fireplace was glowing and there was an indoor pool with steam coming off of it. My God outside was filled with dancing Jeffrey Dahmer shadows as snow laden trees were lit up by car headlights and they're silhouettes created ghastly stretched arms from their branches that spread over the highway trying to pull you into a ditch. But inside? cozy warm.
Mammoth over Christmas 2010 had more snow then any place on earth! and was stunning and glowing like a Bjork dress in morning.

When we awoke the next day the place looked like we were transported to Whoville. Truly beautiful and we wanted to go outside and sing "Welcome Christmas" as it was truly Christmas day and the sun was up. The Grinch had come, but once again he couldn't take Christmas from us.
Food. we needed food. I didn't come to ski or snowboard as I blew my knee out years ago surfing, yup not only does Charley not surf, but Charley doesn't snow board or ski. Snow mobiles? yup, they have cup holders on them. Charley do that.

 Baby and I headed out alone to grab a bite as no one else was up yet. We drove around and first stopped at Schat's Bakery and Cafe.

My God the aroma that came from this place was amazing. Yeasty warm inviting like being wrapped up in the warm Cinnabon cream cheese frosted bosoms of a 1966 Raquel Welch from One Million Years BC.
Stacked to the ceiling with fresh baked goodies.

But we decided to try somewhere else. Which was probably a good thing because I could have devoured an entire bakery case like a giant chipper shredder. We were craving burgers and a beer. we drove over to the Fireside Burgers & Tap
 The menu looked perfect. But looks are deceiving.

I ordered the Fireside Burger. an Angus beef burger with Pastrami and Swiss cheese. Ok, Angus beef is a breed of cattle that is either a Red Angus or Black Angus. Black Angus being the most popular breed of cattle in the US. Within the Angus beef spectrum you have a ton of certifications. You have certified. Which the Fireside has on it's menu and a good grade. Not the best but good and then you have just the term "Black Angus", which really means nothing. It doesn't denote any certification of quality or breeding. But Certified does and it's usually moist and juicy.

The burger came out looking awesome. Dripping with Pastrami. The Pastrami was juicy and moist and the bun was warm and soft. One bite into it and I realized why when I ordered it and asked for it to be medium rare. the cashier looked at me with a puzzled look. the meat was dry and gray like the meat from a Jack in the Box taco. You know we love them for what they are. warm gray meat on a soggy oil saturated taco shell. we expect that and they are a cult classic for being what they are. But this burger should not have been this way. you could tell that the beef was from frozen patties.
Not good eats here. But the beer was perfect. I always like to try the local beer where ever I go.
There is a brewery up here that is fantastic. Called, what else, but the Mammoth Brewing Company.
It was delicious, crisp and refreshing just like a good lager should be.
The other beer is a Real McCoy Amber, very Munichy and malty. yummy.
Stay tuned for more adventures and culinary eplorations as we continue our journey and discover more culinary treats in Mammoth Lakes, California.

Cold Chow


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Killer Fried Chicken!!

I remember years and years ago watching an interview with Wolfgang Puck where he was asked what was his favorite "American" food. He went on and on about how he thought that the American could do better in the kitchen, OK, this was over 20 years ago and he was right, at the time. But he also said and not facetiously, that he thought Kentucky Fried Chicken was one of the best things he had ever eaten.
And I agree. When I was a wee little foody I remember my mom taking us to KFC when she could afford it, which was not very often as she was a single mother of three who worked full time and refused to go on public assistance. we have learned so much from her.
Anyway. I was hooked on this stuff. It was heaven to me. the sweet fried smell of those secret 11 herbs and spices and the heat ripples coming off a perfectly cooked leg as I had to have one even before getting into the car in the cold of winter. Running with a chicken leg in my hand like it was an Olympic torch as I held it up high over my head.
So for awhile now I have been trying to replicate this secret 11 herbs and spice concoction in my kitchen, and I did! 

It has taken awhile to do it. But I think I pretty much nailed it. I came up with 13 secret herbs and spices, I had to one up the old Colonel of course. Above is a shot of the raw chicken after I applied the batter. I use a simple egg wash to coat the chicken first and then roll the wet chicken parts in the Killer Fried Chicken mix. then I let them sit for 10 minutes before frying them to golden perfection.


I don't like to use the cast iron skillet to fry my chicken. I don't really like the black or semi burnt parts that it gives fried chicken, I know that in the South, these burnt parts are prized, ehh, not for me I like perfectly golden fried chicken that has an even look and texture. I use a large sauce pan with a heavy bottom and pour in one 48 ounce bottle of a neutral tasting oil such as vegetable or corn oil.
Here's a trick for you. If you don't have a proper thermometer to check how hot your oil is, you can use the tip of a wooden soon. Just submerge the spoon into the oil and hold it. Take a look at the and see if bubbles are coming of it, if so, your oil is ready and should be about 350 degrees.

I fry them in batches with pieces that are the same size, turning every few minutes to get them frying evenly.

OMG! this stuff is so good. It's like poultry injected with crack!! 

I could literally eat an entire hen house at one sitting and end up blubbering like Renfield catching imaginary flies and giggling to myself.

So you might ask, Where is the recipe for this heavenly food of the God's concoction?
Well......I'm not gonna post it! hahahahahahaha......It's mine all mine! 

Ok, ok, I'm really not going to post it. it took me forever to come up with it. But if you ask really nicely I will send you some of this heavenly mixture and you will be hooked on poultry crack like I am.

Killer Fried Chicken chow!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Pink's open's at Harrah's Rincon Casino!

 Pink's, the Hollywood legend opens it's newest location at Harrah's Rincon Casino in the Northern part of San Diego.  And I cannot be happier about it, Pink's is one of the most iconic Southern California cult eateries out there. I rarely miss an opportunity to stop at the Los Angeles stand when I am in the area. And now one is a little closer to home.
This place has been open since 1939 and has been serving Hoffy hot dogs from day one. Hoffy by the way is another iconic food maker and in Los Angeles as well.  I know there are a ton of food / hot dog rule makers out there. Ok so even Dirty Harry uttered the phrase "Nobody... I mean NOBODY puts ketchup on a hot dog", But then again Sudden Impact wasn't the best Dirty Harry film either.
We are in Southern California and we not only put ketchup on dogs but Tapatio and Sriracha sauce as well. And oh  by the way, Both Tapatio and Sriracha sauce are both made in Los Angeles.

  And at Pink's we put chili on them, Lot's of Pink's secret recipe chili. I can eat two or three no problem.
But it's Orson Welles that holds the record of eating 18 at one sitting!! And it's where Bruce Willis proposed to Demi Moore. This place is the keeper of the heart and soul of the city.

Pink's is right there with In-N-Out Burger another cult food Southern California company. There was nothing like cruising down Melrose eating a Pink's chili dog and looking at those crazy Angelyne billboards in the 1980's.

All of the best of Southern California culture met at Pink's the epicenter of it all to eat hot dogs.
Every low rider and Rat rod, starlet and star, stage hand to studio exec, all met and ate here.  And still do.
If you are from SoCal then you know Huell Howser and Cal Worthington , MoonaLisa and Elvira and you definitely know Pink's.

Hot Dog Facts and Trivia:
* Believe it or not, nearly 500 franks are eaten every second every day in US alone.
* In 2009, about 10 billion dogs were consumed by Americans.
* About 15% of these numbers are hot dogs bought from vending carts.
* More than $1.6 billion were also spent on dogs in 2009.
* Every 4th of July, at least 150 million frankfurters are consumed.
* During the Hot dog Season, approximately 818 (or roughly 7 billion) dogs are gobbled down by American hot dog lovers every second.
Most wiener carts and stands are found in big cities. Regular customers are those people who are too busy with their careers that often they find no time to cook real meals for themselves, or to even sit for a full half an hour and enjoy a gourmet dish in a restaurant. Time is too precious and limited for them.
And so to make the most of their time, they go to the nearest cart, order for their favorite wiener and toppings, pay for it and done. They eat the dog with much gusto while on their way to their meeting or office. This is the very reason why franks became the staple food for highly urbanized and very busy individuals.
But which US cities consume much of these hot dogs?
Here are the top five cities that consume a great amount of franks all year round.

#1 Los Angeles
The biggest and heaviest consumers of dogs in 2009 are the people of Los Angeles.
# 2 New York
New Yorkers spend more than $101 million for franks alone annually. And the most interesting thing is that this number is actually increasing regardless of the city's lesser population compared to other bigger cities.
# 3 San Antonio and Corpus Christi
#4 Baltimore and Washington
# 5 Chicago was surprised that Chi town came in 5th. By the way, what is that neon green relish stuff made of anyway? I don't think it's legal in this state.

So jump into your hoopty and head to Harrah's Rincon Casino and throw down a few dogs!



 Harrah's Rincon Casino
777 Harrah's Rincon Way
Valley Center, CA 92082
(760) 751-3100

Saturday, December 4, 2010

La Torta Cafe

If i had a choice of last meals, Man, this place would be a consideration. Mexican taco shop meets deli and does it extremely well. I never understood why places like Subway and the rest of the franchise sandwich places make it. I mean, I don't get the concept of a salad on an air puffed roll with a fly over of cold cuts. Doesn't work for me. But this place does.
The place had it's start more than 10 years ago with a small busy cafe on the main drag in the La Mesa village. They started to expand around this time as well. There used to be one by SDSU.  Then they just disappeared off the map? Until last year when the owner decided to open up again in La Mesa at the site of where  All'Italiana used to be. And it's the same quality and quantity as I remember it to be.

Huge portions on these torta's. Everything has flavor and works well together.

 The bread is where it all starts. It's fresh and light and there to hold the massive sandwich together.
I ordered the Beef Machaca torta. I am a machaca maniac. I can't get enough of this stuff. If done right it is sublime, like a Mexican pot roast, tender and flavorful, and that's how my torta was. just so tender and full of slight chili spices.

The home fries they serve with the sandwiches are very good. and there are a ton of them. I also am a huge fan of the salsa they have in red plastic squirt bottles. very nice stuff. Lot's of thought went into this menu and it shows.

I also like the fact that this place serves grilled chili's as a condiment. they go so well with the torta's.
But the most pleasantly surprising  dish on the menu is the Tortilla Soup. I have never been a fan of this soup. Most places you order it from just destroy it. It's supposed to be a mild broth soup with veggies and beans and tortilla strips placed on top so they soften and melt into the liquid. And the Tortilla Soup at La Torta nails it perfectly. I had heard from a few folks that this is the best soup in town and I'm gonna have to agree it's pretty tasty.

 On a cold day like we have been having here lately this stuff is magic.
Here's a shot of the menu, which has traditional taco shop offerings as well, which are very good, but don't match the sheer perfection of the torta offerings.

So after you put up that Festivas pole, head out to La Torta in La Mesa. You won't be disapointed.



La Torta Cafe
8356 Allison Ave
La Mesa, CA 91941
(619) 741-6230

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Homemade Bratwurst

Ahhh the humble Bratwurst.  One of the great food treats that come from America's beautiful immigrant history. Specifically given to us by German immigrants who settled into and around the Wisconsin area and popularized in Sheboygen County during the 1920's.
There are so many different versions and recipes of this great sausage that it took me quite awhile to nail down a recipe that was simple and as close to a Wisconsin style Bratwurst as I could get. Man, Delving into finding a recipe for this humble link was no easy task as I encountered literally 75 different recipes, All are very specific and of course no leniency in altering the recipe at all, or you will suffer the wrath of Bratwurst purists everywhere. Some recipes called for beef and pork or veal and pork, or a combination of all. Some had raw eggs in them. While others had potatoes and dry milk in them. Wow, it literally is spread across the ingredient spectrum.I mean even the Gods of Charcuterie, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn in there book, aptly titled, Charcuterie have a Brat recipe that calls for eggs and cream.
So I really had to think of this for awhile and I tried a ton of experiments. I wanted to find the essence of the flavors that make a Brat well, a Brat.
As I listened to one of the quintessential jazz albums for inspiration, the 1957 album Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section and specifically the song Tin Tin Deo it came to me, like a perfect jazz free form melding of individual players coming together as the musicians on this album did one day in 1957, and in one take. Listening to this album and specifically that song, and the manic drumming of Philly Joe Jones you can smell rock and roll coming around the corner, Like running home for dinner on a Sunday afternoon and catching a whiff of your mothers cooking, man, you can smell it, but you don't know what it is, but you know it's gonna be good. So I came up with this recipe, clean, simple and it combines all of the Bratwurst flavors that I love.
Fresh ingredients are always the best way to go. I always wait until the local store has Pork Butt on sale. and I don't really know why this cut is called "Pork Butt", because it's actually from the shoulder.

With this cut you really don't have to add additional fat to it, as the Pork Butt cut, I have found usually has the proper amount already.

I bought a two pack of "Butts", for .99 cents a pound. After cutting off a huge hunk to make a pork roast with I was left with around 15 Lbs of Pork. the recipe below is for 5 Lbs of sausage as I didn't think anyone would want to make the large quantities I usually do. The recipe that follows is a two day event.

The first thing you have to do is cut your meat into cubes that will fit into your grinding machine. I use a Kitchen Aid , This is the most valuable tool you will have in your kitchen. You can see the fat cap in the above picture, You want to keep this as fat is the very most important ingredient in sausage making. You will have to cut away the connective tissues as they will not only cause Hell in your grinder , but aren't very tasty.
There is a bone in this cut, so be careful and cut around it. Your work will be amply rewarded. Remember good cooking is an art and takes time. This is a two day process. On the first day you will cut and clean your Pork meat and then grind it and season it. Then you will let it sit and let the flavors mingle together over night.
Then you will put the meat into casings.
And remember to roast off that leftover bone for your dog. As you can see Cali is a very happy girl.
Make sure that after you cut your meat into the desired size cubes and that you place the meat in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. You have to keep the meat very cold as the continual grinding will start to heat the meat and melt the fat. we are not too much worried about keeping the meat cold for sanitary purposes right now. It's mainly to keep the fat from melting. If it does melt, then you could end up having a sausage that is very mealy tasting. No fat, No fun.

After you grind your meat, Back into the freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up the fat. at this time you gather your spices together.

Then add the spices to your very cold ground pork. Do this by hand to get a good mix. Your hands will get extremely cold doing this, so make sure you can heat them up under warm water and dive in again. Now it's very important  to mix the spices in as evenly as you can.
Your mix should look like this when you have it all incorporated.

Ok, So now that you have your meat ground and your spices well incorporated. It's time for a test patty, or two, to be cooked off.

Remember that the spices will get more pronounced as the ground mixture sits for a night. Test here for texture and taste the spices. You can always add more in the morning, So I wouldn't add any today. you can always add you can't subtract.


 Add the 1 Cup of fresh cold water to your ground pork and mix in by hand. This will help moisten the meat and it will go through the stuffer much easier.
Test again the mixture by frying up a small batch. this is the time to adjust your seasonings and this is the place where a lot of people go wrong. Don't add to much salt, let the sweetness of the pork come through. I find the biggest problem with mass produced sausage is that the makers add tons of salt as a flavor and not as a flavor enhancer. In this case less is more.

I buy hog casings at my local butcher shop for .30 cents a foot. it's expensive but they are fresh. You can source them through the internet as well. You will need 10-12ft of casings for this recipe.

Load up your KitchenAid stuffer with your casings.

Tie a knot in the end of the casing. Ok let's get stuffing. I do this myslef, but you might want to have someone help you if this your first time. You must always have one hand on the sausage stuffer as you need to continually feed and fill the casing. Do not over fill!
Easy right? It will be after you do it a few times.And the results are outstanding! the best homemade Brat you will ever have! hehehe..I can't wait for the Brat police to knockwurst on my door.
Let the sausage roll off your stuffer in one link. After you are done, then go back and twist them into 6 inch individual links. There is actually a method of twisting these things that won't get you aggravated. I must say that I haven't mastered this twisting part yet.


5 lbs Pork Butt also called Shoulder
3 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp grated Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Ground Coriander
1/4 Tsp Celery seed
2 Tsp Fresh Gorund Black Pepper
1/8 Tsp Dried Marjoram
1 1/2 Tsp dried ground Ginger.
1 Cup Cold Water

10-12ft Hog casings

This recipe to me brings out all of the Bratwurstian flavors that mainly work off of the Nutmeg and Ginger.
I hope you enjoy it.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...