My Guiltiest Pleasures

I’m not talking the shaved frozen foie gras at Momofoku; I don’t mean the Spicy Pork Tacos from Kogi. I definitely am not referring to the “Coffee & Doughnuts” at The French Laundry. What I want here are your dirtiest, darkest, deepest desires that you’d ordinarily be embarrassed to discuss with your fellow gastronomes.

Here are mine, in no particular order because frankly – when the craving strikes, any one of these bad boys can vault to the top of my ‘must have NOW’ list:

*Jalapeño poppers from Jack in the Box w/ ‘house buttermilk sauce’ (aka Ranch).

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These fried bundles of joy brought me many smiles and more than a few pounds in college. I feel sorry for you east coasters that don’t know Jack, because this oddball gem – at least for a fast food menu – is quite literally the definition of a food that is disgustingly delicious. Oh yeah, I use THREE of the ‘buttermilk’ cups for a seven piece jalapeño.

 

*Reddi-Wip original cream, straight out of the can.

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My mom used to harangue me incessantly after catching me wrap my lips around the nozzle of this Thanksgiving pie-finisher. To this day, I keep a can in the fridge just to guide me through those tough days as an adult, if for only a moment to harken back to childhood.

 

*Reese’s peanut butter chips.

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The Pieces are great, the Cups are phenomenal, but these. . .these, allegedly, are for cooking. Too bad at my household they go straight into the freezer, only to be extracted by the handful when that late night hunger pang hits.

 

*Anchovy fillets in a tin.

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Kind of the oddball of the group, and mostly a guilty pleasure because of where they are consumed – at work. I keep a half dozen tins in my top drawer for those post-lunch protein swoons. If you wonder why the guilt, you can ask any of my coworkers, most of whom run for the conference room as soon as the lid is peeled back.

*Mocha Mix.

mochamix
Again, blame my Mom. Despite her Mrs. Gooch’s shopping, margarine mandating, soy cheese buying dogma, she always had that big yellow carton in the house. Poured generously with coffee, forming a soup for various berries or splashing into cereal, the creamy richness of Mocha Mix was a true treat. And now it’s often in my house, consumed similarly. Or, if I’m feeling particularly mischievous, a small glass of pure, unglamorous, I-don’t-even-know-what-it’s-made-out-of Mocha Mix.

 

Can’t wait to hear yours. Off to the kitchen. . .

 

pic of Jack poppers courtesy of violettenewyork.com

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Roasting Chicken in a Bertazzoni

After one month of being kitchen-less, we finally have our kitchen back (photos to be posted later on designstiles). A complete renovation, actually, and it’s awesome. The centerpiece for me – and the one allowance I availed myself – was a 30″ Bertazzoni gas range.

Despite honing my chops (pork, lamb and otherwise) for half a decade of seriously approaching the kitchen, I never really delved outside of our existing repertoire – standard stove, oven, flatware, cutlery, knives. I realize that when both books & chefs constantly focus on improving equipment, it’s paramount. So I figured it was time to finally start upping the ante, especially if we have a beautiful cooking room in which to work.

In researching ranges, I was shocked at the variety. While AGA and La Cornue are absolutely beautiful while maintaining top function, I really don’t have that kind of money to spend on a range. Viking, surprisingly, had poor reviews for their consumer-based product (it’s more a ‘professional’ range). Smeg was nice, so was American Range, but being limited spatially to a 30″ range, we found that the Bertazzoni, an Italian brand, had the best value & performance for the money we wanted to spend. Best of all, our model came with a Bertazzoni hood, a necessity for the power of this commercial-grade machine.

Realizing that this was not a casual stovetop/oven, I watched a few YouTube videos to get acclimated to the range. The features, including convection, a double burner, a simmering burner, high BTU output are far beyond my accustomed methods of cooking and needed a tutorial. Aesthetically, everything from the knobs to the grates to the burners themselves – and that seductive logo – is gorgeous. It really is an awesome addition to the kitchen; hopefully to my cooking as well.

After doing a classic spaghetti preparation with my first attempt at utilizing the stovetop & boiler, I was ready to give the oven it’s first test – a roast chicken. Simple, delicious, yet requiring a keen eye and good temperature management, it would be a good ‘getting to know you’ mutual introduction for me & my Bertazzoni.

The recipe that follows is taken nearly verbatim from Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 4 pound chicken
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of brown sugar
  • bunch of fresh thume
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • full head of garlic, crushed into cloves
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow or brown onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 carrots cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 bulb of fennel, cut into large chunks
  • EVOOroastchickenDirections
  • Preheat oven to 425°, 400° if using convection.
  • Rinse the chicken inside and out
  • dry the bird and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper
  • stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, one half of lemon, half of the onion &garlic
  • rub the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper
  • place the onions, carrots, remaining garlic and fennel in a roasting pan
  • toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and generous amounts of EVOO
  • roast the chicken on an elevated grate above roasting pan for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh
  • turn oven up to 500° for five minutes to crisp skin
  • remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes
  • cut and serve, or just tear at meat and let the juices run down your fingers and arms while enjoying your juicy, delicious delicacy!
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Where’s Your Bread Buttered

This is the second of my *I can’t really prep or cook food right now because we’re renovating our kitchen* series.

Now I want to know about bread. What’s your ranking? With apologies to Baguettes, Matzo, Focaccia, Challah, Crepe, Ciabatta, Ezekiel, Banana Bread, French, Injera & plain white – here’s my list:
1) Tortilla – the ultimate vehicle. with butter, cheese, meat, vegetables, prepared or raw, a good tortilla is the perfect size (both diameter and thickness) to accompany the filling yet also provide sturdy smokey corn flavor. tortillas can also be re-prepared into some awesome dishes, eg nachos chilaquiles etc. gold medal winner for me.
corn-tortillas-recipe-photo-260x260-cnewman-001
image courtesy family.go.com
2) Baguette – if it has that crispy crust, chewy dough and little middle spec of yeasty moisture, it’s perfect. with butter, with cheese, with charcuterie, with nothing at all but a ripped hunk in your mouth, this is the bescht for me.
3) Bagel – I mean super awesome, great texture (again, for me it’s heavily texture-based), perfect chewiness with a great crisp (toasted) so so good
4) Cornbread – even the fake stuff at El Torito. any bready, sweet corn – as long as it’s moist – is awesome with me. add butter or honey and i’m in heaven.
5) Biscuit – almost the same visceral pleasure as cornbread, but a little sturdier. kind of annoying that the perfect biscuits are so flaky that they make a mess so my OCD takes over, but man again butter or honey or just plain biscuits – or with gravy! – dude awesomeness
biscuit
image courtesy made in our kitchen
6) Pita – best conduit for stuffing your face, and it can be packed into a no-mess pocket if the pita is prepared well enough. very convenient, very earthy taste with a subtle toughness, and when slightly warmed it becomes a comforting blanket for any ingredients.
7) French Roll – similar to the baguette but sans the subtle sour tanginess – in other words just the perfect sandwich medium, for which you can use literally any toppings. hell yeah.
french
image courtesy thebakingway
8) English Muffin – the OG Thomas version. i’m a sucker for these, and it may well be because my Mom had them in the house religiously while I was growing up.
9) Pan Dulce – probably the only bread for me that goes equally well for breakfast and dessert without any alteration. Definitely need a good coffee (breakfast) or milk (dessert) accompaniment, though.
pandulce
image courtesy of house of lunit
10) Sourdough – unique and so damn enjoyable heated to a crisp and with butter or cheese. wow.
What breads satisfy your carb craving?
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What’s Your Favorite Donut?

sprinkle

Donuts, Doughnuts, or “doe-no-ugg-huts” as I used to call them on my Friday morning jaunts to Winchell’s or Fosters with my pops in the late 80’s, how I love thee. As a youth, I would go for the rainbow sprinkle, a maple bar and a box (yes, box) of chocolate milk. Absolutely awesome combo on all fronts and exactly what an adolescent needed to start his day.

From DK’s in Santa Monica to Dough in Bedford Stuyvesant, these tasty treats have seen a renaissance in the last few years.

That renaissance may or may not have been led by my great friend in Brooklyn (late of Los Angeles), a platinum-palated gentleman with a weakness for the fried fritters. I imbibed in many a crumbly pleasure with this man as he enlightened me with his understanding of donut nuances from texture to flavor gradient to type of dough. He regaled me with mythological stories of donuts that quite literally melted upon first taste; we chased these treats both up Ventura Blvd. and down Figueroa Street.

And alas, we’ve both moved on – but I still enjoy a damn fine donut and I’ve come to the awkward realization that an
Apple Fritter
is actually my favorite of these delectable wonders. I often ask myself, is the apple fritter even a donut? Is it technically a pastry? Is it cake?

I’m not sure of the answer in fact, but I do know that I’ve only ever purchased one of these delicacies at a donut shop. And no other pastry/cake/donut can match the pseudo-crunch of the edges and the spongy cake of the center. It’s a texture thing, and the fresh tartness of the apple is a perfect counter to the frosting sweetness. So there it is, my favorite donut.

What’s yours?

applefritters

 

photos courtesy of myinnerfatty & somethingfortheroad

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Superb Simple Summer Salad

We are currently sans kitchen at Magnolia Gardens, which means trying some creative (read: simple) recipes. Without a sing with a modicum of water pressure, dishes are kind of disgusting to scrub in the bathtub, and food bits will sully any oft-used sinks. Thus, we’re left to paper plates, plasticware and when absolutely necessary – thoroughly scrubbing (with paper towel) any real silverware or plates that are ‘must use.’

Thus, salads are high on the priority list and grilling becomes second nature. It’s summer, so fortunately both of these things are perfect for the season – a cool salad doesn’t generally involve cooking (all you need is a plate and a fork!) and grilling only involves foil and tongs. Perfect complementary cooking approach – and this dish combines both into one beautifully composed quasi-meal.

Most importantly, burrata is now available at the Ralph’s down the street, which makes me and The Missus very happy. We recently found out about burrata (in a peach salad, no less) – it’s mozzarella with a cream ‘filling,’ a decadent, hearty addition to a salad. Excited to utilize the burrata, and knowing we had peaches, I opted for an apple, a pear (both of which I had), arugula & an heirloom tomato to round out the dish. I was a bit leery about the tomato being included with peach, apple and arugula, but I couldn’t resist the tart crunchiness a perfect heirloom provides.

And it worked. Hopefully you enjoy this really easy, perfect-for-summer salad.

peachpearburrata

Ingredients

  • one good slab of burrata
  • two peaches, sliced into thick rounds
  • one apple, diced into small cubes
  • one pear, diced into small cubes
  • one heirloom tomato, diced
  • basil, chiffonaded
  • handful of small arugula leaves
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • fruity extra virgin olive oil

for the dressing

  • 1 tbsp, balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsbp, honey

Directions

  • whisk vinegar and honey in small bowl. cover and set aside
  • plate apple, pear, arugula and tomato into two equal servings
  • grill peach slices until slightly charred with nice grill marks (1 minute). turn over and grill other side for 30 seconds. set on plate
  • place burrata on top
  • sprinkle basil evenly
  • add salt and pepper, to taste
  • drizzle EVOO, to taste
  • serve while finishing off your special glazed grilled chicken drumsticks

 

 

 

 

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Afternoon Cheese Plate

A cheese plate is one of my simplest culinary pleasures. I always make sure to have several hard cheeses & at least one soft cheese on hand for those lazy afternoons where cooking is just too hot. Or annoying. Or time-consuming.

There are infinite varieties on cheese plates, and many are more elegant than mine – charcuterie, anyone? – but when I get the afternoon munchies, I get my:

cheeses I’m not a cheese snob, nor even an aficionado. I like to try new cheeses, and will grab anything that looks interesting at Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Parmigiano Reggiano is the backbone of my cheeseplate 99% of the time. It’s just so versatile and pleasing, complements basically everything. Dutch Rembrandt is another favorite, it’s an aged gouda. I tend to like the Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, but the cheddars don’t generally mesh well with too many other ingredients (below). Emmentaler Swiss is another crowd-pleaser, but delve into whatever you like.

crackers the more variants, the better – but I like them with a firm crunch; Croccantini are classic cracker buddies.  even Wheat Thins work in a pinch

herbs an oft-overlooked aspect of a robust cheese plate, herbs provide both a flavor & aesthetic pop. basil is the most all-encompassing herb and Italian parsley has a natural flavor affinity to most of the hard cheeses, but cilantro is pretty versatile as well. I’ve used Mexican mint or sage, but both are limited in the scope of flavors they can partner with.

peppers peppers actually begat the genesis of the cheese plate at Magnolia Gardens. jalapeños, serranos, habaneros are all perfect; I prefer to have all three, in fact, so you get the classic ‘stoplight’ flavor string of red, orange/yellow & green. adds a perfect punch and a nice crispness to the bite of cheese/cracker/herb &

honey credit goes to my wife on this one, as she loves to dip the crackers (specifically Croccantini) in the honey prior to adding the cheese, herb and pepper. the sweetness of the honey comforts the spice of the pepper as well, so it serves an additional purpose in that regard.

fruit grapes cleanse the palate perfectly, and actually work with most of the nutty cheeses. apples add a great crispness and can be a sweet or tart addition, and pears accentuate the cheese with a sweet succulence. berries can be added as well for a sparkle of color and a juicy addendum between bites of salty, nutty crunch.

nuts not pictured below, slivered almonds or diced pecans pair well with the honey and nearly all cheeses.

cheese

So whatever your iteration, a cheese plate should be a consistent inclusion in your snack rotation.

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Peanut Butter Bacon Bites

Bacon = everybody’s guilty pleasure. Extra crunchy peanut butter = all things considered, my favorite snack food. Maybe, just maybe, my favorite food period. A combination of the two might be crunch overload for some, but it’s right up my texturally-oriented alley. Combine some natural sweetness with the honey and add a nice carb-laden vehicle for oral delivery and well. . .you have what is arguably the most crunchily satisfying snack on the planet.

Perfect for tailgating parties (where the idea was born in 2012), picnics, bbqs, kids’ parties or just plain munching – this is a truly awesome – and easy! – snack.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb, high-quality bacon
  • 4 pieces bread – I used a sliced kaiser roll here, but plain white bread is ideal. The softness combined with its ability to crunch properly upon toasting is perfect.
  • peanut butter – I prefer extra crunchy (a brand called Krema is my favorite – literally 100% peanuts, and left in nice-sized crunch bitelets)
  • honey, enough to drizzle a complete layer on the peanut butter

pb1

Directions

  • really fry the bacon to a good crisp, but don’t let it burn. once crisped properly, set it on a paper towel and let it rest
  • if you are using white bread toast until crisp; any other kind of bread toast lightly
  • spread crunchy peanut butter on bread evenly while toast is still warm [if you keep your peanut butter in the refrigerator, leave it out an hour before you start this recipe]
  • drizzle honey generously over the peanut butter but don’t overdo it
  • apply bacon evenly on toast
  • eat open- or closed- faced
  • grab some milk, this is a definite mouthful guaranteed to leave you smiling

pb2

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Blog Crossover

Today I featured a recipe on my fatherhood blog, Me & Felix Bae.
It’s simple, it’s intended for a baby & it’s honestly delicious. For an ‘adult’ version I’d add more salt & pepper plus celery, green onion and parsley toward the end. Still really simple, and maybe an idea for a future appetizer – a soup inspired solid. Hmmm. . .Anyway, Check it out – hope you enjoy.

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Seriously Simple Summer Salmon Salad

Ahhh, to be young again. And eat carbs with everything. And not have to think of creative ways to eat salad and pretend to enjoy it even though it’s only enjoyable because it’s healthy.

Well – I can’t help with the fountain of youth; definitely don’t advise eating carbs nonstop (do as I say, not as I do); but I can definitely provide at least one salad that’s guilt-free, delicious, light and perfect for summer. Oh yeah – it’s simple. Literally ten minutes and you’re good to go. Ready? I bet you are – especially if you’re on the west coast and your supermarket is flooded with this fresh, wild caught keta salmon (aka dog salmon, no joke).

Keta is only $4.99 right now at my local Ralphs, and that was impetus enough for me to buy three pounds, and has me thinking about going back to get about ten pounds to freeze. Apparently, keta is the most abundant type of salmon and thusly the least commercially valuable. The texture is as luscious and buttery as sockeye, but it lacks the wallop of clean salmon flavor. It’s a lighter fish with a lighter flavor, which may appeal to your friends or family that is not particularly fond of salmon.

Regardless, I love it and this salad – especially on a beautiful L.A. summer day – was perfect. Enjoy.

summersalmonsalad

Ingredients

  • fresh, wild caught salmon – skin on (keta, sockeye, copper river preferred)
  • spinach, handful of fresh leaves
  • roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • capers, a pinch
  • fennel fronds, torn
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • brown sugar, to taste
  • serrano pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • peanut oil

Dressing (optional)

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp ponzu sauce
  • 1 tsp, Sriracha
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • lemon zest
  • fennel fronds, torn

Directions

  • heat oven to 375°F
  • season salmon liberally with salt, pepper & brown sugar
  • heat grill pan on stove
  • set spinach, tomato, red onion, capers on plate and salt lightly
  • add peanut oil to grill pan
  • apply lemon juice and pepper to leaves
  • once oil shimmers, add salmon skin side down
  • grill pan should be very hot, circulate peanut oil (be careful!) as salmon skin is searing
  • turn heat down to medium-hot
  • let salmon grill for 4 minutes
  • remove pan from stove, put in oven for 6 minutes or until desired doneness
  • remove grill pan from oven, immediately remove salmon from skin and onto wooden surface
  • let salmon cool 2-3 minutes, place on bed of leaves
  • serve with or without dressing
  • if cooked properly, the salmon skin should be absolutely PERFECT for removal within ten minutes of the grill pan being removed from heat. I am a salmon skin junkie and relish this ‘chef’s treat’ each time I make salmon. Would theoretically be good crumbled on salad, but it never makes it past my mouth.

 

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Not Chicken Parmesan

We’re theoretically eating a low-carb diet this week, which may or may not have everything to do with our venture to Vegas this weekend. It’s the first time in my life I’ve tried any sort of approach nearing low-carbs, and essentially the only tenets I’m holding loyal to are:

no bread, no pasta, no flour, no rice, no dessert, no crunchy snacks outside of carrots.

Not too infuriating, and still allows for some creativity and luscious eating if done properly (and also, an overdose on Krema chunky peanut butter, which is 100% pure peanuty nuttiness). That said, Bon Appetit had a great ‘New Chicken Parmesan’ recipe from their ‘boneless, skinless’ recipes feature, and it’s not only delicious, it was incredibly swift. Delicious, unique, swift and borderline low-carb?

I served this one with mashed fauxtatoes (cauliflower + garlic + cream cheese, recipe later) which was a great pseudo-carb complement.

not chicken parmesan

Ingredients

  • boneless, chicken chicken breasts
  • freshly shaved/grated parmesan
  • mozzarella – we used the real deal, sliced thiny
  • grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • EVOO
  • garlic, diced
  • basil, full leaves
  • 2 tbps fresh oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • brown sugar

Directions

  • place tomatoes in mixing bowl with generous EVOO, garlic, oregano. let marinate for 10 – 30 minutes
  • preheat oven to 500° F
  • set tomatoes on roasting sheet
  • use remaining oil (from tomatoes) to dress chicken, then season with salt, pepper, sugar
  • place chicken atop the tomatoes, roast for 12 minutes (assuming 8 oz. chicken breast; adjust accordingly)
  • pull out chicken, drape mozzarella over chicken and return to oven
  • roast for 2-4 additional minutes or until melted and properly browned
  • serve, swallow and smile!

 

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