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It’s not elitism, we really do eat better stuff.


Bread That Is Short

Rosemary Shortbread I've been on a big shortbread kick lately.  I think it's mostly because they are the buttery little chameleons of the cookie world.  I can be digging around on the spice shelf of our pantry and get about two dozen ideas for accessorizing a basic shortbread recipe, and then the challenge simply becomes choosing which one I want to make first. Over the New Year's Holiday, I stumbled across a recipe for a Parmesan shortbread with rosemary.  Savory and herbaceous, it sounded like a lovely alternative for all of the sweet I usually generate in the kitchen.  I decided to swap out the Parmesan for three-month aged Manchego cheese, which is a sheep milk cheese from Spain.  I pressed a whole blanched almond into the top of each shortbread round, though in retrospect, I wish I had had some Marcona almonds on hand instead.  The finished product was light and buttery, and deliciously herbaceous, with a nice little touch of texture from the almond.  I took it a step further and spread some quince paste on them as I ate them and it was quite a delicious homage to a country I have yet to visit.  The shortbread were accompanied by a glass of Juan Gil Jumilla, some jumbo olives that I stuffed with the aforementioned Marcona almonds, and an assortment of Spanish goat and sheep milk cheeses for an evening of tapas with friends. Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese (or any Spanish cheese of your choosing)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • blanched almonds (or Marcona almonds)
  • quince paste (optional, for serving)
Put the flour, sugar, rosemary, salt and Manchego into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture until a soft dough forms.  You will likely need to add the water to get it to hold together. There are a couple of different ways to prepare your shortbread for baking.  The first method is to put the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, forming it into a loose log.  Roll the dough log in the plastic wrap and twist the ends securely, then chill it in the refrigerator until it is firm - about one hour.  After it has set, cut the log into 1/4" to 1/2" disks, placing them on a cookie sheet.  When I prepared the dough, I simply rolled tablespoon-sized balls of it, setting them on a cookie sheet.  I placed one blanched (or Marcona) almond on the top of each ball, then pressed them flat with the floured bottom of a glass.  When they were all prepared, I set the cookie sheets in the refrigerator to let them set for one hour. Bake the cookies in a 375 degree oven for about 12 to 14 minutes.  The edges will just begin to turn golden brown.  Cool the shortbread on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Spread with quince paste before eating. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for about a week. ~Sara

Where the Wild Things Go

R. Samurai

R. Samurai

Welcome to my introductory post on preparing all things wild. First, let me introduce myself. My name is Pat, aka Redneck Samurai. I have been an avid grocery shopper of the great state of Michigan’s woods, fields, lakes and streams for most of my life. I have enjoyed many of Michigan’s specialties and have developed a bit of knowledge through trial and error, that I'd like to share with you. I’ll do my best to guide you through the basics of preparing wild game. In future posts I'll share my favorite recipes and techniques for preparing your quarry. Here in Michigan we have wrapped up another beautiful hunting season and many of us have a few pounds of something scrumptious in the freezer. Unfortunately, some of my fellow outdoor shoppers don’t know how to prepare their game and the flavors of the wild get lost. Either in the old “hide the gamey flavor" recipes from mom or burnt to a crisp because “ya gotta cook it good, it's wild after all.” There are three things that you need to keep in mind with wild game. First, you can hack any of your favorite recipes that call for a store bought kin of your game. Second, don’t be afraid to experiment, find an interesting recipe and run with it. Third, try to find recipes that will complement your catch and not over power or cover its natural excellence. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me decide what to prepare. Most wild game will have significantly less fat than their “farm” raised cousins. This is due in part to the fact they actually get to live a real life. Oh yeah, and they aren’t shot up with hormones seven times a month to ensure massive muscle growth. This is an important piece of information when preparing wild game. In most cases you’ll have to add some kind of fat/grease or oil when hacking it into a recipe designed for farm raised fare. A good example of this is wild turkey. Your store bought Butterball has more then enough fat, water and “additives” throughout the bird to keep it moist for its full six hour bake. With a wild bird you’ll need to supplement by either packing bacon, bacon grease or duck fat under the skin (any excuse to use bacon). Or you can also rub it down with bacon grease, duck fat, butter, olive oil or peanut oil and keep it covered longer. You’ll also want to procure a good thermometer. You don’t have the room for error that you have in store bought birds. Once that bird hits temperature pull it. The flavors of your harvest can differ greatly based on where your quarry lived and what it had been feeding on. For example, venison harvested from an area that is mainly farm land or orchards has most likely fed on corn, soybeans, apples or what ever the farmer has planted that year. They will have a lighter, sweeter flavor then one that comes from a heavily wooded area. Venison harvested from a forested location have fed on acorns, wild fruits, berries, grass and vegetation resulting in a stronger nutty, earthy flavor. In both cases this is typically what most mush mouths would refer to as the “gamey” flavor. Venison with a more robust flavor is well suited for recipes that call for lamb, pork or goat and marry well with more intense spice and seasoning palettes. They work well in Middle Eastern, Central American, Mexican or any rich flavorful cuisine that can complement its unique essence. They also pair well with aromatic cheeses and herbs. Venison from farmlands work well with lighter styles of cooking. Stir fries, grilling with light glazes or reductions and (American style) shish kabobs with fresh vegetables. They tend to work well in place of beef, veal or pork. Remember don’t hide that delicious flavor, enhance it with your spices and seasonings. One of the most common misconceptions with wild game especially venison is that you have to cook the holy shit out of it. That is absolutely true if you want to gnaw on a wedge of flavorless leather. As I’ve mentioned before wild game is lean, which means it cooks fast and if its over cooked it turns tough, dry and flavorless. As with any meat it should be brought to an appropriate temperature. However, that does not mean you need to turn it to coal. Venison should be prepared no more then medium. I prefer medium rare. If I’m grilling or broiling half inch to one inch think portions of venison it should only see heat for three to four minutes a side. That will result in a nice brown outside with a gorgeous juicy pink inside. As with all meat but especially wild game, let it rest. I know its damn near impossible to not jab a fork in that beast and grab a bite right when it comes off the grill but…… Wait 15 minutes and let all that meat cool a bit and let the juice stay in the meat not on the plate. Until next time, DO NOT FEAR FLAVOR!

Scallops with Seared Sushi rice cake, Avacado Sauce and Chili Oil

seared scallops, sushi rice cake, avacado sauce, chili oil We'll be doing a menu overhaul where I work next month so I came up with six new dishes to go on the new, more Japanese focused menu. As it stands, the hot items are a little out of place on a Sushi menu. (see the Lamb chops with a mediteranian marinade and a south american sauce...) This is one of the dishes that stood out at the tastings I've done for it so far. For the scallops: 1 pound U21/25 or U10 scallops 1 cup light olive oil or blended oil such as canola and soy 1/4 cup fresh crushed garlic 1/4 cup fresh grated ginger 1/4 cup finely grated lime zest Procedure: Just place the oil, garlic, ginger and lime zest in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Toss your scallops in the marinade and set aside, or refrigerate overnight. If using the U21/25's you'll get 5-6 servings, if using the U10's you'll get 10. Sushi Rice: 2 cups Nishiki medium grain white rice 4 cups water 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar 1/4 cup sugar 3 Tblspn Kosher salt Procedure: Rinse the rice under cold running water, stirring continuously, until the water runs clear. Place the rice in a lidded pot and cover with water. Place the pot over high heat until it reaches a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes and remove from heat. Allow to stand for another 10-15 minutes covered. That means leave it be! Don't go poking your nose in the pot until it's time! Meanwhile, mix the other ingredients in a bowl to have ready when you turn the rice out. When it's time, put the rice into a wooden bowl if you have one. Any bowl will do however. With a rubber spatula gently fold in the vinegar mixture while the rice is still hot. When completely folded in, and there's no more visible liquid in the bottom of the bowl, set aside to cool to room tempurature. Avacado Sauce: 3 whole avacados, pitted and peeled 1 cup water 2 Tblspn Hon Dashi Bonito soup base 2 Tblspn Yuzu or Lemon juice 2 Tblspn of a light oil Procedure: Put the water and Dashi into a pot and bring to a simmer to disolve the soup base. It should taste quite fishy and salty when finished. Set aside to cool. With the back of a ladel or spoon, push the avacados through a fine mesh strainer into a mixing bowl and whisk in all other ingredients, oil last and slowly. To finish: Place 2 saute pans over high heat and lightly coat the bottoms with oil. If using the smaller scallops, using your hands or a trianglular mold, form the rice cakes into triangles about three inches on each side. If using the U10 scallops, just mold the rice into round cakes of the same diameter of the scallops. Very lightly season the scallops with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and season the rice lightly with salt alone. On small round plates make a ring of Chili Oil just inside the rim. Fill these rings with the avacado sauce, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon until the oil has just reached the inside rim of the plate, or until the pudle of sauce is big enough to leave a 1/2 inch border around the rice cakes. When wisps of smoke are just starting to come up from the pans place the scallops flat side down in one, making sure not to overcrowd them. There should be at least a 1/2 an inch of space between them. Place the rice cakes in the other. Allow both to brown, about 2 minutes, then flip and continue for another 2 minutes. When finished, remove the scallops to a paper towel and place the rice cakes in the center of the avacado sauce. Arrange the scallops in a pyramid on top of the rice cakes if using the U21/25, three on the bottom in the points of the triangle and one on top in the center. Garnish with micro Shiso (micro celery is pictured), finely shredded red shiso, thinly sliced scallion, chives or even chive flowers. Serve! Hope you guys dig that one. The Avacado sauce took me a week to perfect, going through many different incarnations. In the end, as with all Japanese cooking, the simplest turned out to be the best. If you try this one at home let me know how it came out! If you wanna try mine, head up to Ignite middle to end of next month, the new menu should be up and running by then! Later all! Jack

Recipe: Smoked Chicken Snack Wraps

Best party snack ever

Best party snack ever

I had a party to cook for and was in the frame of mind for a finger-food aesthetic with real-meal fulfillment. This plan for large southwestern influenced snack-wraps was my solution. These are time-consuming, but the raving of the party guests days and weeks later has proven beyond all doubt that this dish is worth the effort. The protein portion of the program is chicken breast which I had prepared with a sweet & spicy rub, than slow smoked over cherry wood until cooked through and left to rest until cool before slicing to fajita sized strips. If you don't have the time to slow-smoke chicken, definitely use Penzey's Smoked Paprika as part of your seasoning to heighten the flavor of the chicken. The software:
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers
  • 3-4 tbl Olive Oil
  • 16 oz. Shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
  • 1 cup fresh Cilantro leaves, picked and muddled
  • 12 Green Onion tops
  • 1 Lime, halved for juicing
  • 1 lb. Smoked Chicken Breast
  • 12 large flour tortilla flats (I used spinach and tomato colored wraps for visual interest)
  • 1 Cup Spicy Mayonnaise (A made my own, the recipe is included below.)
  • Penzey's Salsa Spice Blend for mild
  • Penzey's Fajita Spice Blend for added heat
  • Cocktail picks to use as fasteners
Quarter the Bell Peppers, coat with Olive Oil and fire-roast until the skins begin to char, leaving the meat still firm. The pre-roasted peppers tend to be mush, so use the peppers raw if you can't roast them. With the Chicken and Bell Peppers cool, slice to thin Fajita size strips. Thinner is better, it will be easier to work with and you can certainly double up during assembly to your desired quantity. the assembly linePrepare your work area with a sheet of wax paper. Lay out a Tortilla flat and apply a thin coat of Spicy Mayo. In the center of the flat, arrange a line of Chicken, Onion, Cilantro and Bell Pepper. Give it a quick squeeze of Lime Juice, sprinkle liberally with Shredded Cheese and Salsa or Fajita spice blend and then roll tightly. Visually divide into thirds, and secure the roll with a cocktail pick in the center of each third, then with a sharp large chef knive, make your cuts. Move the three rolls to your serving dish and repeat for the remaining flats. Since Mayo is involved, serve these sooner rather than later. They're best at room temperature, but if you must wait, Refrigerate! This Spicy Mayonnaise, which is a hundred-fold better than any pre-packaged concoction on the market is as follows: Spicy MayoThe Software:
  • 1 Cup Plain Mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp Ancho Chile Powder
  • 1 tbl Aleppo Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder (for color)
Mix all of the above together until smooth and uniform in color and refrigerate for an hour. Remove when you're ready to assemble the wraps and give the Mayo a second just before use. Avocado, Bacon, Jalapenos etc all have great potential, as does a good dose of ground cayenne pepper for added heat - however I'm unable to include them in this recipe as first hand experience. If you come up with some good variations, let me know how they turned out in the comments. Enjoy! -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

The Chef’s Bookshelf: Culinary Artistry

caChef's Bookshelf: Food can be art. There is some debate on this in the culinary world right now, but in my mind there is no question. To me it comes down to the very definition of the term, aesthetically pleasing. Be it to the ears as with music, the eyes as with paintings and sculpture, or multiple senses as with film. Food transcends all of those in that it engages all of the senses! The sound of a steak searing in a hot cast iron skillet or on a grill, the smell of garlic, the texture of the perfectly mashed potato, the artistic visual composition of a plate.... and let's not forget the taste... the MOST important aspect! As a child I thought (and so did most of my family) that I would grow up to be an artist. My grandfather, a hobbyist woodworker, made me my first easel for my 4th birthday. That's how early I was showing the creative impulse. In high school I took every art course they offered and my father had instilled in me a great appreciation for music, so there are more than a few bands in my history as well. But a few short years after graduation I lost the urge for visual art, painting, drawing, sculpting ect. By this time I was already years into my current career as a chef, but that background has served me very well. Mostly in the way I think about food, as a composition. I had been rolling the comparisons to fine food and fine art around in my head for some time when I happened upon this book. "Culinary Artistry" Needless to say, the first chapter immediately caught my attention, and after acquiring it (birthday gift from the perfect woman, thank you Sara!) I was NOT disappointed! I read it twice, cover to cover. Half way through the first time I thought, "I should be bookmarking this! Every other page is amazing!". Filled with interviews with chefs at the top of their game, seasonal ingredient charts, classic food and wine pairing lists, menus from the aforementioned chefs, and discussions on the validity of comparing fine food and fine art, I fell in love with this book! It's another essential for aspiring chefs, and foodies alike. The contributors list reads like a 'who's who' of American chefs, and the last chapter alone is worth the price of admission. So it looks like I grew up to be an artist after all. I just hope I can live up to that moniker. Jack