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Fresno Chilis Will Change Your Life

12 May

(including recipes for a killer hot sauce, a mini tutorial on delicious pan sauces, pickled chilis, and more…)

Fresno Chili and jar

Fresno chilis and hot sauce

Fresno chilis, which look like a red Jalapeño, have become my favorite chili by far. Milder than a Jalapeño, they still have a nice bite along with a slight, lovely sweetness that makes them more versatile than a Jalapeño or Serrano. Because they can be enjoyed even by people who ‘don’t like spicy’, Fresnos are often called a ‘gateway chili’, as you can see in this excellent history of the Fresno:

Fresno Chilis

I stumbled onto Fresnos a couple of years ago because a favorite chef of mine, Nancy Silverton, throws them in just about everything. I made a marvelous chicken recipe of hers, that uses pickled Fresnos, and loved them so much I started throwing them in and on everything: the pickled Fresnos are terrific on pizzas and in sandwiches, I love raw slices in salads, and a gentle sauté of a sliced or diced Fresno transforms most any main dish or side vegetable. They are also wonderful in my baked omelette.

When I started making my own hot sauce (ridiculously easy, as you will see in the recipe below) I really fell in love. This hot sauce is The. Best.

Fresnos are perfect for pan sauces (see recipe below) as well as in an upcoming recipe that will also change your life, Breakfast Fried Rice. 

If there’s a problem with Fresnos, it’s that unlike the Jalapeño or Serrano, they’re not always available year round. Subsequently, when I see them, I buy out the store, make a few jars of hot sauce, pickle some more, then freeze the remainder. 

So look for the Fresno! Buy a bunch and try these recipes… and be on the lookout for Breakfast Fried Rice!

Click here for the recipes: Continue reading

Best Mashed Cauliflower Ever

23 Mar
CAULI MASHED INGREDIENTS

Ingredients for Mashed Cauliflower

In our current Keto/Paleo/Crossfit/Whole 30 obsessed world, with bread and grains and potatoes thrown into the dustbin, cauliflower has become a favorite food. Makes sense to me! I’ve always been a huge fan. Whether it be roasted simply (my favorite) or covered in cheese sauce or somehow otherwise plated, I love me some cauliflower. 

Perhaps because I’m Cajun and our main starch was white rice, I’ve never been a huge mashed potato fan. Roast or baked potatoes? Oh my. I’ll knock an old lady over for stellar roast potatoes or a loaded baked. But somehow mashed potatoes have only been useful as a reason to enjoy an amazing gravy. (Do you really need the mashed, though? How about a bowl of gravy and a spoon? Or, really, just a bowl of gravy and a biscuit? There you are!)

Yet I’ve fallen in love with mashed cauliflower, though it took me a few tries to get right. I loved the taste from the beginning. But I could never get the consistency quite right… it was always just a touch runny. Sure, butter and cream had something to do with that but, hey, you can’t have mashed anything without butter and cream.

Finally, I had an idea and gave it a try… a little cream cheese added to the mix. Wow. Perfect consistency and same great taste, you’ll never know it’s there.

So.. below… honestly, the best mashed cauliflower you’ve ever had. With a little garlic and thyme added in, even you die hard mashed potato fans might be surprised how much you like it. Even without gravy! But whether on their own (I love these mashed all alone) or with a wonderful pan sauce… upcoming in a soon to be posted post… this mashed cauliflower recipe will become a staple. 

Mashed Cauliflower

A bowl of just made mashed cauliflower… I love it all by its lonesome.

For the recipe, click here: Continue reading

Best of 2018 Pt. 2: Everything else

20 Jan

I posted on my favorite films last week… here are my other favorites of the year:

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

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Hill House

 

Hands down my favorite anything of the year. Anything. By far.

Mike Flanagan’s reworking of Shirley Jackson’s famous novel (he also riffs generously on Robert Wise’s wonderful 1963 adaptation, The Haunting) is, pardon my french, fucking incredible. Even the master, Stephen King, called it “close to genius.” I’ll one up my hero and say it plainly: The Haunting of Hill House is indeed genius. While Flanagan in his revision uses both the novel and film in clever ways, he’s up to something much deeper than just a horror series. At its core, the series is a penetrating and devastating family drama. It’s as if Flanagan took Ordinary People, magnified the emotional depth of that brilliant movie ten fold, then stuck it inside Jackson’s sick and twisted Hill House, “a house that was born bad.” Every episode scared the shit out of me, and each episode also hit me on a powerful emotional level. The intricacy of Flanagan’s time jumping plot is dazzling. When his technique purposefully dovetails into that intricacy, such as in the justifiably famous 6th episode, a series of single takes designed to look like one, the effect is truly mind-blowing. Don’t shy away from the series because it’s scary…  the family stuff is so universal, anyone can relate to the marvelous, human Crain family.  But be warned, it is indeed scary. Flanagan is the best ‘jump-scarer’ I’ve ever encountered. Those of us watching together starting counting how many shrieks each episode elicited from our group. And there’s this one particular scare… well, it’s the best scare of all time. If you watched the series, you know of what I speak. I had to stop this episode midstream and have a couple of shots of bourbon to calm down before I could finish the episode, though my heart was still racing hours later. As a creative, The Haunting of Hill House is the kind of narrative success that is both enervating and energizing. Enervating because I think, ‘Goodness, I could never achieve that, just stop trying” but also energizing because, for a storyteller, this series reaches the peak for which we all strive. I may never reach such a pinnacle but Flanagan and his remarkable team and superb cast of actors certainly make me want to try.

Finally, though I know people who disagree, Flanagans’ twist on Jackson’s famous last line is electrifying.

 

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The Bent Neck Lady

 

BODYGUARD

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Things are going to get intense

 

WHOA. One of the biggest hits ever in the history of UK broadcasting, Bodyguard is a short (six episodes) but far from sweet adrenaline rush I could not turn off. This is ‘call into work sick’ material, because you have to finish it. If you’ve seen it, you know of what I write. If you haven’t, the less you know the better. Richard Madden is stunning as ‘the bodyguard’, he goes deep, goodness and Keely Hawes matches him perfectly. As does the rest of the British cast. Great show, an intense blast to watch. 

HOMECOMING

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Something weird is going on

 

Julia Roberts is having one hell of a year. She gave the best performance of her life in superb Ben Is Back (see last post) and her performance in Homecoming is just as stellar. Yet she’s not getting much attention on the awards circuit… what gives?? Oh well, ultimately, who cares. After 30 years onscreen, she has become one of our best actresses and it was a joy to watch her this year. As for the show itself? Kick. Ass. A subtle mystery that really gets under your skin, I did not hear the podcast upon which the series was based so the story was new to me. Sam Esmail’s decision to approach Homecoming like a classic 70’s thriller in the vein of Alan J. Pakula et al. was a huge turn on to a film buff like me. As was his decision to score the entire series using music from those films. But you don’t have to be aware of that to enjoy. This is another one of those shows I watched and thought, ‘Wow, I wish I had worked on that.” Every performance is terrific, though I have to single out Stephan James and, in particular, Shea Whigham. His turn as a downtrodden DOJ investigator also deserves many more accolades than he is receiving. Finally, the genius move to make each episode 22 minutes instead of an hour made the show incredibly binge-able. Hear hear! Show creators, more of this in the future!

THE TERROR

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The Terror, indeed

 

One of my favorite novels, by the great Dan Simmons, became one of my favorite shows of the year. A fictionalized account of Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition in 1845, this sumptuous adaptation is an atmospheric chiller, no pun intended, superbly directed with an outstanding cast. (Again, those Brits…) You may want to subtitle it, as the accents are pretty thick. Filled with shocks and surprises and deep humanity, The Terror is yet another reason 2018 was one of the best years of television in recent memory.

THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL SEASON 2

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I want to live inside this show

 

Paris! The Catskills! Lenny Bruce! Zachary Levi! Susie! Season 2 of one of the best shows on television was even better than season one. I cannot imagine what they spend on this show and/or how they get away with the production value and music budget. Sublime to watch, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is Amy Sherman-Palladino at her best, which is about as good as it gets. There are too many wonderful moments and performances here to even begin to start listing favorites, but may I say what a joy it was to watch Marin Hinkle’s Rose evolve this season. In the very strong likelihood you see me running around with a plunger over my shoulder, Mrs. Maisel is why.

WESTWORLD SEASON 2

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Brilliant. Frustrating. Westworld.

 

My favorite show of 2017, and, admittedly, an intense obsession, thrilled me for 9 brilliant episodes that came crashing down in the season two finale. I’ve friends I trust who love the finale, however, and I need to watch it again after some distance to see if I can overcome my misgivings. Still, those other 9 episodes. Wow. I watched each one twice without plumbing their depths entirely and am still enough of a fan to re-watch all of Season 2 before Season 3 begins… fingers crossed. 

OTTOLENGHI SIMPLE: A COOKBOOK04-yotam-ottolenghi-simple-a-cookbook.jpg

I read a lot of novels this year. And some I very much enjoyed. But for the first time, I didn’t have a novel this year I wanted to put on the list. I still read an amazing book, however: Simple, a cookbook by the extremely talented Yotam Ottolenghi. I have all of his cookbooks and use Jerusalem often. (Click here for a post covering that wonderful book.)  For me, if a cookbook is enjoyable to read and gives me just two or three killer recipes I will use for years, I’m happy.  I’ve been cooking a lot from Simple the last few months, however, and after making ten or twelve recipes, I’ve yet to hit one I didn’t love. This is a bonanza of flavor and food joy. (Do NOT miss the “baked rice with confit tomatoes and garlic”… I’m Cajun, rice is one of my favorite foods in all the world, I’ve eaten white rice happily since the day I was born. This is the best rice I’ve ever had, bar none.)  Simple is hands down the cookbook of the year. 

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The best rice I’ve ever eaten

PADDINGTON 2

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Wonderful

I quietly scoffed at a couple of friends who told me Paddington 2 was the best movie of the year. Seriously? Well… I might not call it the best of the year but having just watched this delightful movie, I agree it is one of the best for sure. A visual feast that is creative, clever and ultimately heartwarming in the best way possible, Paddington 2 is one of the very few movies on Rotten Tomatoes to score 100%. Deservedly so. Additionally, Hugh Grant is %@$# incredible in it. Like Julia Roberts, he’s been on screen a long time and his gifts are now innumerable and invisible. Great performance, great movie.

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Our bear goes to prison!

French Fries at Home

10 Aug

Oh my, I love a good french fry.

When all the elements come together — perfect size (thicker than a pencil), perfect texture (crisp outside, tender inside) and salt — there are few things I enjoy more. Particularly with a wonderful homemade aioli on the side. (Yeah, I left ketchup behind a while ago. But feel free… )

I never make fries at home, however, because it is too much of a pain and too much of a mess. Additionally, as good as a home fry might occasionally be, they never match a fry from a restaurant, given restaurants have the equipment to make amazing fries. 

Well, no longer. 

fries vertical

french fries at home

I’ve written before about an amazing chef, food writer and cookbook author I had the great pleasure to come to know, Patricia Wells. Her cookbook At Home In Provence truly changed my life, an experience you can read about here.

In her latest cookbook, My Master Recipes, she details a method of making fries at home that is very simple and doesn’t involve throwing fries into a pot of hot boiling oil. You actually start the fries in room temperature oil on the stove, so the mess is reduced almost entirely.

The result?

The best possible fries imaginable, and not just at home. They rival any fry I’ve had in my favorite ‘french fry restaurants’ all over the country. 

Steak and fries

mmm steak and fries

 

I’ve tried her technique many times now to make sure they really work. (Just taking one for the team, you know, just the kind of fellow I am.) Except for the first time, when I used too many fries and they fell apart, these fries have come out perfectly every single time. Even that first time they tasted amazing; they just were barely an inch long.

I am linking to a more detailed recipe here, which you may want to use as reference, at least your first time. A quicker reminder recipe, for those who have tried it, is below. But, honestly, even if you just use the below recipe, these really are easy and you are still going to have some killer fries! Just make sure you do the measurements right.

You’ll be stunned how easy it is, how the timing works just right every time… and of course, by how wonderful are these fries!

For the recipe, Continue reading

An Easy Fruit Crisp

13 Jul

AND A GLUTEN-FREE VERSION, TOO!

Berry Crisp

Fruit Crisp

If you are anything like me, you love fruit pie but have no patience to make crust. You lost me at rolling pin. You lost me at ‘sift’. You lost me at…

So I’m happy to present to you something just as good as a fruit pie but ridiculously easy. You don’t even have to be that precise, which is a miracle in baking. Seriously… I once started this during dinner, for people who asked for it (people have started to ask for it a lot) so I got up and prepped it, which takes about 10 minutes max. Mind you, I’d had a martini or three so I did it from memory and was pretty damn imprecise with my measuring, throwing this here, tossing this there. And it was still just as wonderful. 

It’s terrific with peaches, which are fresh right now. But I love it even more with mixed berries: blueberries, blackberries and raspberries combined. Or just one of those, if you have a favorite. Or mix in peaches, too, with all the berries. (Don’t peel the peaches, no need for that… see? Easy!)

As noted in the recipe below, if you need gluten free, just substitute Almond Flour for the regular flour. The consistency is a little different but it tastes terrific. I often do it with almond flour anyway because I love the flavor of almonds so much. 

GlutenFree crisp

Gluten-free version made with almond flour

For the recipe,  Continue reading

Your dream breakfast is here

25 May

Expletives were heard the last time I served this. The phrase ‘your new crack‘ as well. And while it is a breakfast dish, you can have it any time of day. I certainly do. It’s a killer late night dish, for instance, after an extra long day at work or, well, whatever you’ve been doing late night.

I give you my Skillet Chilaquiles, a bastardized, easy version of the traditional Mexican breakfast. 

Skillet Chilaquiles2

Skillet Chilaquiles

True chilaquiles are tortillas sautéed in a spicy red or green sauce, often with shredded chicken mixed in. Fried eggs sometimes are served on top. Given my obsession with eggs, it’s no wonder I devised this version over the years using eggs as the actual sauce. What you end up with are tortillas, still a bit crispy, coasted with a luscious sheen of eggs, cheese and chilis. 

Try it once and, like me, you will start keeping all the ingredients on hand.

Chilaquiles ingredients

Ingredients for Skillet Chilaquiles

SKILLET CHILAQUILES  Continue reading

Cauliflower Pizza Crust ? A MUST TRY

11 May
Pizza Ingredients

Ingredients for Pepperoni Pizza with a cauliflower pizza crust

With Gluten-Free/Paleo/Ketogenic interest remaining at a fever pitch, it seems everyone is looking for terrific recipes with low/no carbs and no gluten. I myself am following the Ketogenic Diet; the older I get the more difficult it has become to lose weight and keep it off, damn it! (That gin has no carbs is a lifesaver.) But even if you couldn’t care less about avoiding gluten, today’s recipe — homemade pizza with a homemade cauliflower crust — is a mind-blowing must try. I’ll say ‘damn it’ one more time because this pizza is so damn good.

Pizza!

Pepperoni Pizza with a cauliflower crust

I owe this stunner to my wonderful friend Jeff, an amazing chef who constantly teaches me about cooking. He stumbled onto the recipe, perfected it and encouraged me to give it a try. Jeff and his husband Owen, btw, are in the ‘could care less’ about avoiding gluten camp. In fact, they eat more gluten than any people I’ve ever met… and yet both are annoyingly super slender. I’ll say “damn it” one more time in envy. Fortunately I love them too much to stay very annoyed. 

Continue reading

Winter Greens Lasagna

11 Mar
Lasagna

Winter Greens Lasagna

Everyone loves lasagna yet I know great cooks who won’t bother to make it at home, myself included for a long while, because it seemed too much work. 

Not true, not true!

I’ve learned over the past few years lasagna can be pretty damn easy to make, particularly when someone reveals to you, as my great friend and great cook Tiffiny told me, that you don’t have to boil the lasagna noodles. That blew my mind, given the one time I tried to boil the noodles, then layer them, was a nightmare of near biblical proportions.  I never got that tray of lasagna into the oven and I never tried again until Tiff told me, no you don’t have to do that. Just layer them into the lasagna out of the box.  Genius.

Ultimately, lasagna is simply layers of flavors you stuff in the oven and bake. Yes, the layers themselves determine how good it will be and you want to make sure it isn’t too dry. But particularly with some quality store bought ingredients, you can prep and layer a terrific homemade lasagna in 30 minutes or less. Lasagna also sits beautifully so you can prep it on a Sunday, have it ready to shove in the oven when you get home Monday and then have wonderful leftovers all week. 

Continue reading

Spicy “Get Well” Chicken Soup

5 Feb

I’ve been sick for a month and I never get sick. Apparently the whole world is feeling it. For me, every time it seems over, with my defenses down a different bug comes barreling in and takes over. Plus, try as I might when I don’t feel well, I don’t eat well. Comfort food city, you know?

But I hit a wall this weekend: “I’ve had enough of this $@#%~!” 

So I created a spicy chicken soup designed to shock my system with fresh, healthy and spicy ingredients, something I could detox on all week. 

Spicy Get Well Soup

Turns out, though, it also happened to end up one of the best soups I’ve ever made. This is light, fresh and incredibly healthy soup with a spicy kick.  But you don’t have to have the flu to love this soup. I’m even having it for breakfast. It’s that good. 

If you do have the flu, an appetizer of my garlic salad and a bowl of this chicken soup will have you well on the way to recovery. After a weekend of eating both, I seriously feel 100 times better.

And so I present to you: 

TOM’S SPICY “GET WELL” CHICKEN SOUP

This is a great “throw a bunch of stuff in a pot without worrying too much about the amounts and it still comes out amazing” kind of recipe. You could easily vary the ingredients and it will turn out well. But use the specific ingredients noted here the first time you make it to get the genius. Then you can start messing with it.

Continue reading

Best Cookbooks 2017

13 Jan

Better late than never, right?

These lists can be a bit silly because I obviously did not read nor cook from every cookbook released this year. I am a proud cookbook whore, however, and read and cooked from quite a few. These are the cookbooks I particularly loved this year, you can’t go wrong with any of them. 

And remember, if you are building a cookbook library, always a great thing to do, I have a good primer here: Building Your Cookbook Library Vol. 1.

On to the best… If you don’t want all five (!!!), see which food type strikes your fancy and pick that one. Or just buy:

GJELINA

 

Based on the recipes from one of Los Angeles’ most highly acclaimed restaurants, this is my cookbook of the year. From the wonderful recipes, much easier than you might expect, to the technique beautifully taught including marvelous pantry items to have in your cupboard and fridge, this is a book I will use the rest of my life. These are rustic dishes exploding with fresh vegetables and amazing flavors. Fish, chicken, beef, lamb, soup, vegetarian… the book has it all. I also love how easy the book is to use… many cookbooks have spines that make them difficult to prop open on the counter. Gjelina has a wonderful spine I wish every cookbook publisher would mimic. It easily flops open and stays open right where you want it. Read, cook and enjoy.

Continue reading

Simple Fruit Tarts

24 Aug
tart

watercolor by Frances Newcombe

This post should actually be entitled Fruit Tarts for Dummies…  or rather, Fruit Tarts for A Dummy. Because, listen, if I can do this … I, me, someone with absolutely no patience for baking or dough or measuring exactly or any of that silliness… if I can do this, you can do this. And you will be so happy.

Fruit trees are one of the many benefits of living in Southern California. Not just fruit trees, but bountiful fruit trees that need very little upkeep. I am as bad at gardening as I am at baking (that patience issue) yet I have in my yard lemon trees, orange trees, apricot trees, a pomegranate tree, a kumquat tree, avocado trees, a macadamia nut tree and a glorious fig tree that goes crazy in season. Consequently, I’m always looking for ways to use the fruit.

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Prepping Fruit Tarts

I’ve written before about Patricia Wells, a chef whose writing and cooking had an incredible influence on my life. In her book At Home In Provence, there’s a gorgeous Apricot-Honey-Almond Tart you can also make with figs. It looked so incredible, and so easy, I had to give it a try. My first attempt turned out so well I kept making these tarts over the summer, in different variations, to master the tarts and see which fruits worked best. And so I give you below my slightly tweaked take on her recipe.

Did I mention how %@$# incredible they taste? Wow, are they wonderful. This recipe slays everyone by both beauty and taste. Anyone you serve the tart will have no idea how simple it is (and there’s no reason to let them know!) They’ll look at you like you had Patricia fed-ex the tart from her kitchen in France. Because it’s best served room temperature, it’s perfect not only for your home but to bring to a picnic or to a potluck. My goodness, these taste good. And they are light as well! While gorgeous, this tart is the opposite of a heavy, dense dessert. But you get all the pleasure just the same. 

Apricot Tart

apricot tart, right out of the oven

ONE NOTE: Hearty fruits such a stone fruits or figs are best with this recipe. The blueberry and raspberry versions I tried tasted great but those soft fruits started to break down into mush by the time they were finished cooking.

***!!! As an added treat this week, my beloved friend Frances Newcombe did some art for the post, including a downloadable PDF of the recipe – click here to download what you see below.

For the recipe and download, click here: Continue reading

Garlic Salad, My Most Requested Dish

10 Aug
GS Ingredients

Ingredients for Garlic Salad

Given all the food I cook, it should be annoying that something so ridiculously simple as my garlic salad would be the dish people currently request the most. Annoying, that is, if I didn’t love it myself and could eat it every night.

And often do.

GS - salad

Garlic Salad

I say its “my” garlic salad because I landed on this recipe after many, many attempts and variations. But to be honest, it’s my attempt at recreating a favorite dish from growing up, Mama Colichia’s House Salad. Colichia’s Italian Village was opened by Mama Colichia in 1935 in Port Arthur, Texas. I’m not sure the original location but when our family was going, which was often (same for much of my hometown), the restaurant was in the Colichia’s house on Proctor Street. The tables were set up in the living room and dining room and Mama Colichia worked out of her kitchen. 

The food was pure old fashioned Sicily and absolutely wonderful. I always ordered either the Veal Parmigiana (mostly) and the lasagna (on special occasions). The Spaghetti and Meatballs were also a town favorite. But the most remarkable dish that came out of that kitchen was the house salad Mama Colichia served with every meal. She made each salad by hand right before it came out of the kitchen. She used — and pardon my Texas-French — a shitload of garlic and distilled white vinegar. Good Lord, that salad. You can live on it.  We would talk about it as a family, obsessing on it. My dad, whom Mama Colichia loved, thought for years she put a dash of Dr. Pepper in the salad, because she used a Dr. Pepper bottle to hold her vinegar. (It works great!) You could see her making the salad when the swinging door dividing the kitchen from the dining room would swing back and forth when the waiters walked through the door. 

While Mama Colichia passed years ago and the house on Procter is no longer an Italian Village, her children and grandchildren still run updated versions at home and I always slide in to have the salad. 

Over the years, I’ve tried different variations to see if I could get close. I’ve finally ‘mastered it’, if you can call the rather ramshackle recipe below mastering. No matter. I will in no way claim this is a good as Mama Coilichia’s, but if/when I ask people what they want for dinner, I hear this the most. And so I give it to you.

Don’t be scared of the garlic. It’s good for you and you will love this.

Oh, and when I made this salad to take the pictures for the blog, I ate the whole bowl. It’s all I ate for dinner, with a martini, so don’t think I’m a pig. And I’m a rabbit, I love all salad in general. But yes I ate the whole bowl. It’s that good.

GS garlic salad

My dinner

For the recipe, click here: Continue reading

Killer Easy Soft Tacos

4 Aug
Soft Taco Ingredients

ingredients for soft tacos

I may be of Cajun heritage but growing up in Texas, Tex-Mex was easily the most consistent staple of my diet.  Our family ate Tex-Mex all the time: at least twice a week at restaurants (El Charro, I miss you so much) and ground beef crispy tacos frequently at home. Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy remain one of my favorite foods in all the world, something I cannot seem to find anywhere but Texas, a version worth eating, at least.

In college, I ate these amazing enchiladas at least three times a week. I always had them as part of the “Deluxe Platter”, a standard on any Tex-Mex menu. The “Deluxe Platter” consists of a first course which is a large plate consisting of one Crispy Beef Taco, one Bean Chalupa, some Chili Con Queso and a Guacamole Salad. Then comes the second plate of two Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy, a Beef Tamale and Rice & Beans. With flour tortillas on the side.

Deluxe platter

A Tex Mex Deluxe Platter

Yes, three times a week. Minimum. Seriously. And I loved putting the enchiladas into a flour tortilla, which I would imagine to some is a terrible faux pas but who cares when you can be this happy.

I was a bit shocked when I moved to California after college. While there’s just as much Mexican food in Los Angeles, it’s very different than Tex-Mex. Shredded beef tacos instead of ground beef? Red Sauce on enchiladas not chili gravy? Corn tortillas with soft tacos, not flour? Black beans instead of pinto peans?

What on earth were these people thinking?

I was quite grumpy about a new type of Mexican my first few years here… although the side effect of not eating a Deluxe Platter at least three times a week was that I lost 25 lbs in my first two months in Los Angeles without even trying. And I’ve come to love the more interior Mexican food of California but I still love Tex-Mex the most.

Another great Tex-Mex dish is soft tacos, which are always made with flour tortillas, not corn. Breakfast tacos – a flour tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, pico de gallo and bacon or sausage – are heaven and easy to make. We consumed mass quantities of breakfast tacos in college at 3 AM, usually at The Lazy Daisy on Guadalupe which was conveniently located a block from our fraternity house. (Lazy Daisy, I miss you so much.) But I love grilled steak and fish soft tacos as well.

Steak Tacos

Steak Soft Tacos

Let me give you, then, an easy and wonderful dinner you can make quickly when you have all the ingredients on hand. Even better, if you live near a Trader Joe’s, you can get most everything you need in one shop, save canned Chipotles, which you should always have in your pantry anyway.

Take my word for it, people go nuts over these soft tacos.

For the recipe, click here to  Continue reading

A Killer Southern Supper

7 Apr
Chicken Thigh dinner

Pan roasted chicken thighs with long simmered green beans, Lady Cream peas, and rice & gravy.

Like most true Southerners, I was raised on fresh peas and fresh beans. To this day, one of my favorite meals is a big ol’ pot of either one. (A big ol’ pot of greens, too, of course, but that’s another post altogether.) In our house growing up, a pot of peas or beans and some cornbread was all we needed for a very satisfying meal.

Given my obsession with chicken thighs, however (well documented on this blog… here and here, for instance), I figure beans and peas can only be improved upon by a genius new chicken thigh preparation. Add in maybe my favorite food in all the world, rice & gravy (yes it is a single entity), and you have a killer southern supper like no other. So I give you:

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs in a Mustard Tarragon Cream Sauce, with Long Simmered Green Beans, Lady Cream Peas and Rice & Gravy.

I must note that most cooks wouldn’t serve peas and beans on the same plate. Too much! Overdoing it!

Whatever.

I will admit that when I first starting serving this meal, it was only the chicken, peas and rice & gravy on the plate:

Chicken Dinner 2

A divine plate of food for sure. But a little color on the plate is nice, as is a green vegetable.  I certainly could choose broccoli or spinach or even greens of any type. But can there be too much of a good thing? In a word, no. Thus, I couldn’t resist going full bore southern and adding my long simmered green beans. 

If you’re looking for heaven on a plate, this is it.

Below you will find the recipe for the chicken thighs I’ve developed the last few months, as well as links to recipes for the Lady Cream peas and the green beans.

As for the rice & gravy, just make some white rice (yes, for this, it must be white rice) and cover it with the pan sauce from the chicken.

Did I mention this was heaven on a plate??

Click here for the recipe and to Continue reading

Drop Dead Drop Biscuits

9 Dec

Those who follow my blog regularly are well aware I don’t bake. I have no patience for precise measuring nor, even worse, weighing anything. (So ridiculous! Not gonna happen.) Which means if I post a recipe that involves dough and baking, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt the recipe is easy as can be. And near impossible to screw up. And pretty damn good!

I present to you, Drop Biscuits.

biscuts-final

Drop Biscuits

I stumbled across this recipe a few years ago, tried it, tweaked it and have been throwing these together ever since. While they may not be the most beautiful biscuits ever created, they are a breeze to make, they taste great and are quite fluffy inside!

Depending on how you flavor them, they are wonderful with butter and/or for mopping up delicious juices on your plate. Another plus is that they freeze beautifully. So you can make a big batch in an hour or so, freeze some and then during the holidays whenever you’d like warm biscuits with a meal just pull a few from the freezer, rewarm them in the oven and in minutes you will have what people will think are fresh biscuits. 

I served these just recently on Thanksgiving, warmed in the oven straight from the freezer, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. People had seconds. When I made them the week before, I did not have baking soda, I used the wrong amount of yogurt, and they still turned out just as intended. Once all I had on hand was crème fraîche so I tried that… again, they worked perfectly. Friends will be seeing a lot more of these in the upcoming weeks.

Give them a try. You will not be sorry.

Click for the recipe: Continue reading

Thanksgiving Ideas

18 Nov

Note: This is a repeat of last year since, well, these are some of the best Thanksgiving recipes you can find and I am making them again. I will be posting new ‘side dish’ recipes on Monday for more ideas…

Below find my personal Thanksgiving favorites. This is a bit of a ‘best of’ but there are a couple of recipes new to the blog and I stand behind each, they will not do you wrong. 

GRAMERCY TAVERN’S CRANBERRY DAQUIRI

Cranberry Daiquiri

I wrote about this one for Christmas but it is perfect for Thanksgiving as well. Make the cranberry syrup now, it will keep in the fridge all through the holidays. I love this because it is not too sweet. Divine.

For the recipe, click here.

THE JUDY BIRD

Russ Parson's "Judy Bird"

Russ Parson’s dry brined turkey is justifiably famous. The ‘Judy-Bird’ is hands down the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. Perfect crisp skin, delicious moist meat. It is also the easiest recipe imaginable. NOTE: It needs to sit three days with the salt brine so get your turkey now!

For the turkey recipe, click here.

FOR THE REST OF THE THANKSGIVING RECIPES, CLICK HERE > Continue reading

Antipasto, Please

30 Sep

Antipasto is a bit if a catch-all. Literally defined as ‘before the meal’ antipasto can and does include almost anything, depending on who is preparing it, and it can be served in a variety of ways… as a platter of unmixed items, as single items on a buffet or as hors d’oeuvre, or, my favorite way, combined all together for a mixture of divine goodness.

antipasto-ingredientsOlives, meats, cheeses, marinated vegetables, pickles, peppers… these are wonderful ingredients all that when combined create not only a terrific appetizer but a fast and delicious lunch or light supper.

Antipasto is also practical as you can also prepare it in a few minutes on a Sunday and then use it in a variety of ways during the week. This is a perfect excuse to use mostly jarred items so I almost always have in the pantry the ingredients I need.

It may not be the most attractive dish you’ve ever made but did I mention how incredible it tastes?

For the recipe, click here:
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When Friends Cook, Vol. II

4 Sep

I cook so often for people it’s always a treat when someone cooks for me. Case in point is my close friend Chris Boghosian. Chris is not only one of the best people I know, he’s also a wonderful cook. I’m lucky enough to have him drop by at least twice a month for dinner. About half the time I’m able to cajole him into doing the cooking.

I’m also lucky because while he loves my kitchen and loves cooking here, he’s often irritated I don’t have some utensil or device he wants to use. Which means he usually shows up with said utensil or device as a gift so he has them on hand when he works his magic in my kitchen.

(Yes, there is a method to my madness. I’ve even added three incredible knives to the kitchen this way, thank you Tiffiny, Tee and Dennis.)

When Chris cooks, I usually request his chicken thighs. They are, simply put, The. Best. Chicken. Thighs. Ever. Chris makes light of this in his recipe below, but don’t let him fool you. I am not being overly hyperbolic here. It’s the truth.

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BEST. CHICKEN. THIGHS. EVER.

So without further rambling on my part, here is Chris (with a couple of italicized asides from me):

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Your Ultimate Green Salad

11 Aug

Oh my, do I love salad. Of all kinds. Cobb Salad, Antipasto Salad (coming soon), Cole Slaw, Greek Salad, Salad Nicoise, Panzanella (OMG), Tabbouleh, Caprese… I can’t get enough. And while my ‘last meal’ would probably include a Caesar Salad, ultimately my favorite salad is a green salad. Of a very specific kind.

Green Salad Ingredients

Green Salad ingredients

One reason I love green salad is that I love lettuce. Love. It. Basically, I’m a rabbit. Years ago I saw my dear friend Tanja eating lettuce out of a bag like potato chips and I thought, ‘Yep, that’s another reason why we are such good friends.” Crispy, crunchy heaven, that lettuce. The basis for all green salad.

The term green salad, however, can conjure an image of a pitiful scattering of withered lettuce served for free before something better arrives. As the late great comedian John Pinette said, “Salad is not food. Salad comes before food. Salad is a promissory note that food will soon arrive. If my brain sees a salad it says ‘Something good is going to happen soon, wait right here.'” This might be true at a low-rent diner but it misses the genius of an amazing green salad.
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A Killer “No-Cook” Summer Pasta

30 Jun
Summer Pasta Ingredients

Ingredients for a fresh summer pasta

My favorite season is Fall for a variety of reasons, not least of which is I look best in fall clothes and it’s all about me. Summer is wonderful, however, because summer means fresh vegetables everywhere. If a bounty of fresh veg doesn’t mean happiness to you, you haven’t been served vegetables the right way.

I have a good friend who refused to eat vegetables, no matter how I served them. Only after years of cajoling did I convince her to try some of mine. She is now a vegetable freak, she can’t get enough. One night she finally explained, “My mom used to take broccoli and boil it until it was white. That’s how she cooked all our vegetables. I thought that was how vegetables tasted!”

Makes me want to weep for vegetable haters everywhere.

blossoms

Summer’s Bounty

While we covered a great way to cook vegetables in an earlier post about roasting (Sunday Night Vegetable Roast) another of my favorite ways to eat fresh vegetables is with pasta. In the fall when not in season, roasted vegetables are a wonderful combination with pasta. But when you have vegetables fresh off the vine, there’s no need even to cook them! Trust me on this.

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