Sunday, July 30, 2006

Chicken Cacciatore, the real deal.

Tonight's dinner was chicken Cacciatore, a recipe from my new cookbook, "Who Has Nana's Recipe?, by Regina Sullivan (see the previous entry). This was an extremely easy recipe to make and brought back memories of my childhood when my mother would make this dish. The flavor of Regina's recipe was much more intense, though. I used boneless chicken thighs in it and they came out so tender that I had a hard time getting them out of the pan without the thighs falling apart. Served with orzo, it made for a very satisfying meal.

As good as it was, I'm not going to put the recipe here on my site for you, though. I'd rather you order the book for yourself and get the full beneifit of Regina's detailed instructions and family history behind each of her 56 or so recipes. It's worth every penny.


A New Cookbook!

I've gotten a new cookbook, and if you love Italian food, real Italian food, then you MUST order "Who Has Nana's Recipe?, by Regina Sullivan. It's a very nicely put together collection of southern Italian recipes from her family and also includes wonderful stories about her family and why these recipes mean so much to her. If you've read any of my entries below, you know that I think the story behind the recipe is important to appreciate the end product.

Go visit Regina's web site, "Who Has Nana's Recipe?, and place your order. It'll only set you back a mere $18.95 (USD) + $3 (USD) shipping & handling, and she accepts paypal and credit cards.

What are you doing still reading this? Go! Go order it now!

and as always...

Updated Jones Soda blog entry...

I've updated the Jones Soda Photo Submission entry to include Boogie's entry photo...Please take a look and vote.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Devilishly Good Dijon Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs – Do people still bring them to parties like they used to? I never seem to see them anymore, not that I go to that many parties… We still make them, though, particularly for holiday gatherings, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Especially Easter. We’re boiling eggs anyway, so why not make some deviled eggs, too, right?

I’ve had some pretty nasty tasting deviled eggs. People put all kind of stuff in them, like pickle relish, chutney, or the nastiest of all nasties, miracle whip ( I know it should be capitalized, but I just can’t bring myself to do it…).

This is my version of the hors d'oeuvres, refined through many iterations of trial and a few errors. I usually make a dozen halves, plenty for our usual gathering of the 3 of us and Karen’s folks, but I always cook seven eggs instead of just the required 6 (I’ll do the math for you: 6 eggs = 12 deviled eggs). Why seven? Simple – after years of boiling eggs, I’ve learned that I will ALWAYS have one egg that cracks in the pot and turns out all ugly. Making seven assures me of 6 pretty eggs to halve, plus (BONUS!), it gives me one extra yolk to use to make the filling. And with the extra yolk, I can overstuff the eggs a bit. After all, it’s all about the filling, isn’t it?

Deviled Eggs
7 Large Eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
3 Tablespoons Mayonaise (Real Mayo, please, not that nasty Kraft M.W. stuff)
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

The first step, of course, is to hard boil the eggs. Sounds easy, right?

Not so fast… If you do it wrong, you’ll get runny under cooked yolks or over cooked super hard eggs, or a dark green, chalky, sulfer filled, stinky outer layer around your yolks.

Oh, so many things that can go wrong, but there is one really easy way to fix them - and we can thank Julia Child for spreading the gospel on that…(See the Georgia Egg board site for her inspiration).

How To Boil Your Eggs (as described by the Late Great Julia Child, from The Way To Cook, 1989):
The cooking: Lay the eggs in the pan and add the amount of cold water specified. (water should cover the eggs by 1 inch). Set over high heat and bring just to the boil; remove from heat, cover the pan, and let sit exactly 17 minutes.
The 2-minute chill: When the time is up, transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice cubes and water. Chill for 2 minutes while bringing the cooking water to the boil again. (This 2 minute chilling shrinks the body of the egg from the shell.)
The 10-SECOND boil: Transfer the eggs (6 at a time only) to the boiling water, bring to the boil again, and let boil for 10 seconds - this expands the shell from the egg. Remove eggs to the ice water, cracking the shells in several places.
Preventing that dark line around the yolk: Chilling the eggs promptly prevents that dark line from forming, and, if you have time, leave the eggs in the ice water (adding more ice if needed) for 15 to 20 minutes before peeling. Chilled eggs are easier to peel, too.

Alright, back to the Deviled Egg Recipe…

-Dry the peeled eggs gently on a paper towel.
-Slice the egg in half lengthwise with a sharp knife.
-Remove the yolk with a small spoon to a bowl. Be very careful not to damage the egg white. (the bowl should be big enough to hold all the yolks and the fillings with enough room to blend them well).
-Put the egg white half on a large clean plate (or your deviled egg plate if you’ve got one.
-To the yolks, add the Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, salt & pepper, then mash and mix until blended and smooth. Very smooth. If the mixture seems a bit too dry, add a bit more mayo.
-Fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture by piping the mixture into the whites. I do this by putting the yolk mixture into a Ziplock bag and cutting a small piece off the corner (no more than ¼ inch), then using the Ziplock like a pastry piping bag (Don’t use a cheap sandwich baggie – it’ll split from the pressure).
-Sprinkle the filed eggs with paprika (generously, if your me…), then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Scottsdale reviews #1, PF Changs

The first night in Scottsdale, after traveling 1900 miles (and boy, were my arms tired), was a voyage to PF Changs . The chain's store that we visited was on the far west edge of the Kierland Commons. This particular store seems larger than the stores here in Columbus, Ohio, but the food was just as good.

Yeah, I kinda like Changs, especially the Ground Chicken and Eggplant. The online menu says it is "Stir-fried with scallions in a savory soy chili pepper sauce". It's pretty darn tasty, that soy chili pepper sauce...

We were 3 weary travelers for dinner, and after waiting a good half hour for a table on a Friday night (it was even after 9 PM!), we were quite ready to eat. We quickly decided on 2 of our 3 dishes. Jan chose the Eggplant Chicken and I chose the dish that Heather highly recommends, the Kung Pao Scallops. The third of our tired and hungry trio, Jeanne, had never been to Changs before, so she looked to our server, Misha, for a suggestion. He did not let Jeanne down, suggesting the Salt and Papper Prawns. After a delightfully short wait, our plates were served. We each had some of all 3 dishes ("Sharing is caring" as the server pointed out...), and overall, they did not dissapoint.

Although the Eggplant chicken didn't pack near the heat that it normally does at the Columbus (Tuttle) store does, it was warm and satisfying. The scallops were nice, too, though lacking the heat I would expect from something called "Kung Pao". They were cooked perfectly tender and moist, though, without a spec of toughness that has so easily ruined too many of these delicate bivalves. An' I do loves my scallops...

The last dish, the salt and pepper prawns were exactly as advertised and made for a nice balance to our meal. the "sweet mustard sauce" served with the prawns lent more heat than we expected and went well with the scallops, too.

I think Jeanne had the best result at Changs for the night, though. She was not a fan of "chinese food" when we walked into the restaurant, but decided that she could easily go into the Changs in her hometown in Wisconson and enjoy almost anything from the menu now. A very successful journey.

Moral of the story: P.F.Changs is a safe place to visit when you're in another city. The food isn't spectacular, but it is good, the prices were EXTREMELY reasonable for the Kierland Commons area, and staff friendly and helpful. If you like it hot, though, be sure to ask for it.

Oh, and one other thing that I noticed... The hostesses are quite pretty (and very young) at all of the PF Changs I've been to, but at the Kierland store in Scottsdale, ...well, I'll just say WOW and leave it at that...

Go, and enjoy,

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dinner reviews coming...

I've been at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, staying at the beautiful Kierland Westin and enjoying many of he area's best restaurants. I'll be posing my take on each of the nights' meals in upcoming posts. So far the meals have been from:
P.F. Changs (ok, it's a chain, but it was our first night in town, very late and we were really hungry...)
Bobby's, A Mancuso Restuarant
Michael's at the Citadel (catered by them while we dined in the Pavillion at Teliesin West)
Zinc Bistro
The Old Town Tortilla Factory
and there are still 2 more wonderful meals left.

Tonight is the big conference party, the "Cherry Blossom Ball". Our music will be provided by the best rock and roll band in the entire feakin' universe, Rockola, and they're going to have their enire 10 piece group with them. We usually only have the 4 main guys (Bob Tedde, Doug booth, Mark DeCerbo and Larry Grano), and they always put on one hell of a show. Tonight should be spectacular. We're also hoping Doug Booth's son, Cody the Roadie is back... Check out their website. they've got oodles of fun pics from their many gigs.

The food has been fantastic and the company has been great. I'm here with hundred's of wonderful people from all over the US, Canada, UK and Europe, great people that I don't get to see very often. Great food, Great company - I'm a lucky guy this week. It almost makes up for missing my family. Almost, but not quite. I'll be home soon sweetheart. I love you and miss you.