Saturday, July 30, 2011

Plate-Licking Piccata

It's rare that I lick my plate after eating.  Yes we all say, "Wow, that was so good I wanna lick the plate," but most of us don't really do that.  But you will, if you make this. And it's quick.  And it doesn't have to be fattening.

Here's What You Need:
Chicken Breasts (pounded very thin)
Flour (for dredging)
Salt & Pepper
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/2 cup of chicken stock (use's what really makes you wanna lick the plate)
2 tablespoons of olive oil (that's a guess, I just coat the bottom of my pan with it)
1 tablespoon of butter (that's not a guess.  I really only use 1 tbsp. of butter)
2 tablespoons of capers (again, if you love em, use more)
2 tablespoons of parsley

Here's What You Do:
Pound out your chicken breast, so that it's very thin.  Or you can butterfly it, if you have a really sweet knife and a desire to lose a finger.  But I've already been to the ER for a sliced finger.  It's no fun and it's not cheap.  Plus, pounding the crap out of something is a great stress reliever.

Once you have thin pieces of chicken (I had 4 thin pieces) salt and pepper both sides of your chicken.  Place a saute pan on the stove and add in olive oil at medium heat.  Let the oil heat up while you dredge your chicken lightly in the flour, shaking off any excess.  Once your oil is hot enough (I like to splash a little bit of water in my pan.  If it sizzles like crazy, you're ready to go) add in your chicken and cook about 3 minutes per side until both sides are nice and crunchy looking brown.  That should be the color of a Crayola crayon.  Crunchy Brown.  Crayola - if you're looking to rename crayons, I'm your girl.

Once your chicken is browned and cooked, set it aside on a paper towel, to drain off any excess oil.  Now, what you have is a pan with yummy browned bits in the bottom of it.  Add lemon juice and chicken broth and bring to a boil, scraping your pan with a wooden utensil to incorporate all the flavor from your pan.  Once the liquid begins to boil, bring it down to a simmer for about 5-8 minutes, to reduce and thicken your sauce.  Add in your capers and parsley.  Taste it.  Add in salt or pepper if you need to, but your capers will add a good salty flavor, so be sure to taste it before just seasoning all willy nilly-like.  And right before you serve it, add in a tablespoon of butter and stir it until melted.

Plate your chicken.  I served mine over arugula dressed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Add the sauce over the top.  Eat your chicken.  And I dare you to let that juice go to waste.  So lick your plate.  Don't be ashamed.  No one's watching.  You worked hard (not really) on that sauce.  Enjoy it.  Bottle it.  Use it as cologne, or lip gloss.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chef Crush

Anthony Bourdain might be one of the sexiest men alive.  He's a kitchen God.  He's my ultimate chef crush.  He's 6'4" (I like 'em tall).  He's got a mouth like a sailor.  He allowed himself to go naturally Just For Men Gel for this dude.  He CAN believe it's not butter.  He's a realist.  He writes how he talks.  Gives it to ya straight.  He'll try anything once.  He knows a good knife is probably the only utensil you truly need in a kitchen.  He hates garlic presses.  He won't eat mussels in a restaurant, unless he knows the chef personally.  I can't confirm this, but I bet you won't find a plastic lemon in his kitchen.  And I guarantee he'd love my Food Faux Pas blog.  Hell, he might have already read it (ok, so maybe I'm not a realist ALL the time)! 

I say "I love you" and "I'm sorry" with food...I bet he does too.  We both like a good party.  He's a Cancer, I'm a Scorpio, we're a match made in astrological heaven.  He can't stand Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee, I smell what he's steppin' in.  We both love peasant food, though I might have some difficulty diving into a bowl full of bull balls or pig brains, but hell...I'll try anything once.  He's got that "bad boy" thing about him.  You know...the type of guy you flock to and then run screaming from?  He's smart, mysterious, cocky, pierced, tattooed, has done drugs, and wears leather and cowboy boots! 

I just finished his Kitchen Confidential book.  I loved it.  If you haven't read it, you should check it out.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

When Doody Calls

 Google Images Picture

This is an article I wrote for a local newspaper.  They wouldn't print it.  Their loss.

They’re family members, our best friends.  They eat as well as we do, are pampered more than we pamper ourselves and are often dressed better.  They’re our pets, and with each pet comes responsibility.  However, no matter how loving the owner, it seems that one very important pet priority gets overlooked.

We’ve all experienced it at one time or another.  It starts as a familiar, but offensive odor that leads to a mad search to quickly find, and remedy the situation.  And it almost always turns out to be our biggest nightmare.  A shoe, carpet, floorboard, a bare foot, suddenly covered in your neighbors’ dog Fluffy’s metabolized dinner of lamb and rice.

Before having the inevitable fight with your friendly neighbor about cleaning up after their pets, arm yourself with some reasons why it’s necessary to clean up after our animals and offer some helpful tips on eliminating waste.

The Environmental Factor:
When it rains, pet waste and the bacteria that inhabit it, are transported to our storm drains that lead to our lakes and rivers, making swimming and other recreational activities unsafe.  A common mistake that people make with pet waste is that they think it’s a good fertilizer.  “This is not true and the reason is that almost all dog food is meat based and is not the same thing as cow manure or some other type of fertilizers which are vegetative,” said Lee Bowling of On Doody, a local pet waste removal service.

The Health Concerns:
Harmful parasites are transmitted through dog feces, including hookworms and roundworms, which can lead to serious illness in your pet, as well as in humans.  Additionally, pet waste attracts other unwanted pests, including rats, which are a whole different nuisance.  If dogs could pick up after themselves, they probably would.  But since they can’t, it’s your responsibility to keep their living space clean so they can live happy, healthy lives.

The Community Aspect:
There’s nothing worse than sitting down to an outside summer meal of grilled burgers and fresh corn, only to lose your appetite when an eastern wind, wafting the all-too-familiar smell of an unkempt  yard two doors down, blows through.  Try to be considerate of the people in your neighborhood who spend a lot of time making their homes a place where they can kick back and relax.  Also, take into consideration how hard our community works to keep up the appearance of the Cooper Young historical district.

It’s the Law:
According to the Memphis City Code of Ordinance, section 5-63, it is unlawful for cat (yes, this pertains to you too) and dog owners to “fail to promptly remove and dispose of, in a sanitary manner, feces left by a dog or cat being handled by that person on property, public or private, other than the premises of the owner or handler of such dog or cat.”  You could face charges up to $50 for not being a responsible pet owner.

There are many devices on the market today designed for easy clean up.  You need only to take a trip to the local Petco for an array of disposal choices.

For the environmentally conscious dog walker, they offer biodegradable plastic bags that allow you to safely and sanitarily pick up Fido’s no-no’s and dispose of them in the trash.

If you’re the squeamish pet owner that shudders at the thought of feeling the warmth of Spot’s whatnot’s through a plastic bag, there is a jaw-like device with a long handle that grasps onto waste for quick removal.  Petco supplies the device for both grass and hard surfaces.

If you’re a pet owner on a budget, use an old-fashioned garbage bag or supermarket bag, stick your hand in it, grab the waste, invert the bag, tie it up and throw it away in the trash.

And for you busy pet owners, spend a few extra bucks each week to have someone else clean up after your pets.  Memphis’ own On Doody, a pet waste removal service in Memphis, TN, is happy to come clean up Lucky’s yuckies at a reasonable price.  They currently service many customers in the Cooper-Young district, and are pros at freeing your backyard of waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

And finally, don’t be embarrassed to pick up poop; it’s a crappy job, butt somebody has to do it, and since your pets can’t, that somebody is you.  Your neighbors and other passerby’s will appreciate your responsibility as a pet owner and the stance you have taken to keep the community beautiful.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nothing Beatsa Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza is not only one of the most delicious things to make, it also makes you look like a bad ass in front of anyone who's around to witness the hecticness that it takes to make a grilled pizza.  And don't let that discourage you.  It's not hectic in a bad, scary, gonna-set-yourself-on-fire kind of way.  It's that, "oh my gawwwwd, I don't have enough hands to do all of this at once, and I don't want to burn the pizza crust ...ahhhhhhh!" kind of scary.  It's fun/scary, like walking through a haunted house.

Here's What You Do:   
Make your pizza dough.  I use this recipe

Get your grill ready.  You want your grill hot.  As in brick oven hot.  Like 500+ degrees hot.  So pile on the charcoal.  And be sure to take a paper towel doused in oil and grease your grill grates first, so you don't have stickage issues.  Now obviously you don't want flames, just a really hot ass grill.

Next, get your ingredients ready.  This is not the time to use a lot of ingredients, as the grill is too hot to cook things thoroughly without burning your crust.  I use simple ingredients.  First of all, make yourself an infused oil by adding 1/4 cup of olive oil to a pan.  On medium heat, add in 3-4 cloves of smashed garlic and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook until the garlic starts to brown and soften, don't burn it.  Then I sliced mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil.   

Roll out your dough to your desired pizza size.  You can make small pizzas or large pizzas, but the larger the pizza, the more hectic the process.  Make sure all of your ingredients are ready and right next to your grill.  You won't have time to run inside for anything, so now is a good time to do an ingredient check.

Ok, so here you go.  You have your grill hot as hell.  You have your pizza dough rolled out and ready to slap onto your greased grill grates.  You have your toppings ready.  Now take a deep breath and slap your dough onto the grill.  And let it sit for about 2 minutes.  It will start to bubble up, you can pop these or not, your call.  At this point, you can keep lifting it with tongs and checking to see that it's not burning.  Once you have the desired brown on your crust, flip it over.  This is now the side you will top, as it's already cooked.  Here's where I brush the infused oil onto the crust and add my toppings and seasonings.  Now close your grill for about a minute to melt your cheese.  But keep your eye on it.  Now that you already have one side cooked, the other side won't take long at all.  I'm not kidding.  If you don't keep watching it, you will ruin it.  It will burn.  You will be eating a burnt cracker.  And no one likes a burnt cracker.  Not even me.  

If you want to use additional toppings, that's totally fine.  Just make sure they are cooked.  Cooked mushrooms, bacon, roasted garlic, sauteed onion...all these things will work great.  Things like spinach and fresh herbs can be thrown on during cooking, as they need only to wilt.  The only other uncooked item you might get away with on a grilled pizza is shrimp or scallops, just because they cook fast, but I'm too much of a wuss to try it just yet.  I like to mess up cheap stuff.  And experiment with cheese.  Goat cheese, feta cheese, and fontina cheese work really well.  Another tip: If you get scared you might burn your crust before your cheese melts, move the pizza to a part of the grill that isn't over direct heat and shut the lid.  This way your toppings/cheese will get the 500 degree blast without burning anything.  Then simply move it back to direct heat to finish the browning of the underside of the crust. 

Once your cheese is melted and your pizza is bubbly and your dough is brown and crispy, take it off and let it rest a minute before slicing into it or just folding it over like a sandwich and devouring the heck out of it.  You just made grilled pizza.  You need to pat yourself on the back.  Crack open a beer.  Pour a glass of champagne.  Do a shot of tequila.  Jump up and click your heels.  Do your touchdown dance.  Any or all of the above!  You can officially put the letters G-M after your name, because you are now a Grill Master.  Be proud, my friend.


Friday, July 08, 2011

If you fry it, they will come...

The Spread

You know what's good?  Pimento cheese spread.  I can't remember the first time I was introduced to this stuff.  It might have been one of those weird things my best friend always bought back in college that scared me.  Like canned chili or Vienna sausages.  Something that would sit in the refrigerator, with its obscene color and texture and give me nightmares at night.  And I can't seem to remember what would ever compel me to try such a thing.  Seeing as how it falls into the "salad" category that freaks me out.  But somehow, somewhere, I was fed pimento cheese.  I think it must have been at a wedding or a party where they had little pimento cheese and white bread triangles for an appetizer.  However it happened, I got a good one.  It was homemade.  It didn't come from the store where they put some strange orange coloring in it.  And so began my love of pimento cheese.  I tried the store bought stuff once.  I'll never do it again.  It's really easy to make and it's one of those things that you do to your taste.  If you like spice, add some.  If you don't like a certain cheese, don't use it.  But do try to make this recipe.  It's delicious as a sandwich, served on crackers or spread on celery sticks and it's damn good fried (see below).  And it proves again, that I was a Southerner in another life.

Here's What You Need:
1 package of cream cheese, softened (the kind in the cardboard, not the tub)
2 cups of your favorite cheese (Cracker Barrel cheddar and aged white cheddar is what we used)
3/4 cup of mayo (or less if you're watching your figure...I'm not... I could care less!)
1 jar of pimentos (drained)
1/2 of a small onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
cayenne (to taste)
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Vodka (til you're tipsy...just kidding...just a glug...and if you don't know what a glug is, than you don't need any vodka)

Here's What You Do:
I'm hoping you have a food processor with a cheese grater attachment...otherwise you will have to grate everything by hand, which is not hard, just painful and grueling!  Good luck to you.

Grate your cheese and onions in the food processor.  In a separate mixing bowl, mix your cream cheese with a hand mixture until it's creamy.  Add the grated cheeses to the cream cheese and mix together.  Add in mayo, garlic, and any spices you want to use and mix.  Taste.  Decide if you need something else and add it in, or just enjoy it.  I liked it best with crackers.  

You know what's even better than pimento cheese spread??  Fried pimento cheese balls.  Yep.  You got that right.  Make some pimento cheese, ball it up and fry it.  You'll have people begging you to make them.  Me and my step-dad, aka Bob "the Hammer" Bray were watching this show on television about the best fried foods and pimento cheese balls was one of them.  How could we pass up the opportunity if we were going to make pimento cheese?  Well, we couldn't.  So here's what we did.


We beat up a few eggs in one bowl, added some Panko breadcrumbs to another bowl.  Rolled the pimento cheese into balls.  Dipped the balls into the egg and then into the panko and then fried 'em up for about a minute in 350 degree oil.