Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Beef Bulgogi: The first step to world peace

When I picked up my Nephews, Sous Chef Jesse and Sous Chef Sam, and told them that we would be making Beef Bulgogi, they asked, "what is that?" I replied that it's a spicy beef & vegetable dish from Korea. I added that it's likely one of the most wonderful dishes they will ever eat. They were not disappointed.


2 rib eye steaks trimmed of excess fat
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sesame oil (red pepper flakes added to sesame oil)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
6 garlic gloves, minced
2 medium red onions, cut into 1-inch wedges
1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Freeze the beef for 20 minutes (easier to cut). Slice diagonally (across the grain) into 1/8 inch strips. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger. Place the onions and peppers in a bowl; toss with half of the marinade. Toss the sliced steak in the remaining marinade. Let stand for 1 hour.

Marinating the vegetables. The longest hour of your life.

Sous Chef Jesse sauteing up the goodness. If we only had smellvision.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions & peppers; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over high heat. Cook half the meat, turning often, until browned on edges, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate. Cook the remaining meat. Return the first batch and any accumulated juices to the pan; add the onion mixture. Cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve over steamed rice.

Traditionally, in Korea, this is served rolled up in lettuce. I prefer it over rice. Be sure to let the meat and vegetables marinade as long as possible. Also, be sure not to overcook the meat. On high heat, those little steak strips will cook very fast. It's best with a nice medium-rare finish.

Sous Chef Sam quipped that this is one of the best dishes he has ever eaten. It must have been since we made 8 servings but 4 of us finished it all.

Happy Eating.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Anna's Restaurant: Salt Lake's diamond in the rough

Have you ever been on a road trip where you have grown tired (and possibly ill) of only stopping at the fast food chain restaurants off the Interstate? To satisfy the next set of hunger pains, you venture into town a little further, take a back road, and come across places like, "Kurley's Kitchen," "The Brass Lantern," and "The Prospector Restaurant." Some of these restaurants can be diamonds in the rough: great prices, hometown atmosphere, and wonderful food. I have memories of places like this in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee and even here locally in Salt Lake City. One of those local "diamonds in the rough" is Anna's Restaurant.

I discovered Anna's Restaurant back in 2005. It is part truck stop, part family diner tucked into a shopping center. At the time, it was within close proximity to my home & office, leaving me no choice but to patronize the establishment about once a week. The waitress would bring out a Dr. Pepper with lime before I even asked. Life changed; I moved closer into town and my relationship with Anna's all but died.

Last week I was driving south on 900 E. past Anna's. A flood of memories came rushing back. I was to meet a good friend for lunch last Friday and I immediately said Anna's when asked where we should go. How wonderful it was to walk back inside. Same decor, same menus, many of the same people. Most importantly however, same great food. Our waitress even remembered me even though it had been about 5 years.

I ordered the Anna's Club and it did not disappoint. It's a good helping of ham, cheddar, monterey jack, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo served on toasted bread and a side of steak fries. They must buy their produce locally grown as the tomato and lettuce both have a powerful freshness to them. The bacon is extra crispy and creates a perfect marriage with ham and cheese. The sandwich is large and I did not think that I would be able to finish. Nostalgia allowed me to pack it away.

Memory tells me that their burgers and salads are also great. Be careful of the Entrees as one time I got a lamb shank and it was terrible. Their best food is the most basic; but oh how wonderful it is. It's makes me wonder why anyone would pass this place to eat in a chain restaurant. Now that I think of it, everyday I wonder why anyone would eat in a chain restaurant.

Anna's Restaurant
4700 S. 900 E.
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84107

Happy Eating.

Anna's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 25, 2012

To Hopper's, This is a Dear John letter

Dear Hopper's,

Although it pains me greatly to write this letter, we have clearly drifted apart. For about ten years, you and I had a fabulous relationship. I always searched for and found the best in you: Deli Pub Club, Turkey Avocado Croissant, Blackened Bleu Steak Wrap, Pizza Margarita, Smoked Chicken Pesto Pizza, to name a few.

The past two years have been difficult. Our time together has gotten sparse. There was a time when our visits were weekly and always wonderful. I visited you back in March and felt very empty once I left. What use to be one of your greatest strengths, Deli Pub Club with Garlic Aioli, is now lifeless and cold. I couldn't bear to write this letter then, so I came back for a visit this past week. Again, my soul left empty. Your Halibut Fish Tacos, which use to draw people to you, are truly tasteless. The best part of the dish was the Spanish rice. Even the Roasted Red Pepper Soup, which seemed exciting when described, was pretty bland. The complimentary bread seems to be the most appealing thing about you.

Roasted Red Pepper Blandness

Halibut Fish Tacos: pretty on the outside, shallow on the inside.

Maybe you have moved on also, new Chef, new owner, or more processed food. Whatever the case may be, it's not worth analyzing. We are clearly better off by moving in separate directions. Relationships are not worth keeping when it takes so much work to keep them going.

The bustling lunchtime crowd. People use to be drawn to you; now they hide.

Goodbye Hopper's, thanks for the memories.

Happy Eating.

Hoppers Seafood & Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup: Sent straight from Heaven

One of the main reasons that I began cooking was that I felt that a lot of food was dry & tasteless. Therefore I wanted to learn the fundamentals about soups & sauces. A good sauce or soup can make a meal. Cream of mushroom soup has turned into a personal and family favorite. When I mentioned this soup to my brother in Washington DC, he said that his roommate often opens up a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and pours it into a casserole. I was offended; Nothing from a can here, just pure deliciousness.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/4 pound whole butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups celery, cleaned and small diced
1/2 tablespoon dry thyme
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1 quart vegetable stock
1/8 cup cooking sherry
2 ounces butter (for finishing)
1/4 cup flour
1 quart heavy cream
3/4 quart whole milk
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, add the mushrooms, thyme and vegetable stock to create an essance of mushrooms. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

In a large pot, sweat the onions, celery, garlic and shallots together with the butter (1/4 pound butter).

Add the flour to make a roux and stir well to combine.

Deglaze with the sherry; reduce to soak up.

Add the mushroom essance and stir in well to create a veloute sauce; simmer for about 10 minutes.

Temper the cream and milk with a couple ladles of hot soup. Add the cream/milk mixture into the soup and stir well.

Bring to a simmer and season with remaining ingredients.

It's important to layer the flavors. For example, when you add some tabasco sauce towards the end, you will need to allow it to simmer to incorporate. Same with worcestershire, butter, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar. You can't rush art.

Creating an "essance" of mushrooms. If I only had smellvision.

Sweating the onions, celery, garlic, and shallots. They should make a perfume out of this.

Tempering the cream with the hot soup. This keeps you from adding cold cream to a hot soup, pausing the cooking process.

The best recipe for any dish is your brain and your tongue; paper recipes are just a guide. This works well for me but drives other people nuts.

Thanks to Chef Todd Leonard at Orson Gygi for teaching me this soup. I have added this, added that, little less of this, but the fundamentals are the same.

Happy Eating.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Apple Spice Junction: Box Lunch & Delicious

A couple of weeks ago, I met my sister and her friend at Wheeler Farm to let the kids play with the animals. It was a fun visit, especially for Ruby as she loved petting the horses, goats, sheep and bunnies. On the way back to the car someone mentioned that we should go to Apple Spice for lunch. They said that it was just across the street close to 6400 S. What? I have never heard about this place but it sounded good. My Foodie ego was bruised. Thankfully I had enough inner strength to rise up.

Apple Spice is tough to find. No wonder I had driven past so many times without noticing it. Tucked in right next to a Mechanic's shop, it's easy to miss. When you walk in, the place is dark and looks like a mix of a fast food joint and an office building cafeteria. Hardly anyone was eating inside even though it was lunch time. While the location isn't memorable, the food definitely is.

I ordered the cranberry turkey ASJ wrap with clam chowder and a cookie. The wrap had turkey, lettuce, Swiss and cream cheese, and jalapeno cranberry on a wheat wrap. Can you guess which ingredient stuck out most to me when reviewing the menu? it was the jalapeno cranberry. Doesn't that just sound wonderful? And wonderful it was. The cranberry sauce, when coupled with the cream cheese, had the perfect mix of sweet & tangy. It also was a wonderful texture. The could have put dog food in there and it would have been good.

The clam chowder was good but not as memorable as the wrap. It actually might have been wonderful but since I first tasted the wrap, my mind was elsewhere.

First date with Apple Spice Junction was successful. Do I dare venture out to other items on the menu during my next visit?

Happy Eating.

Apple Spice Junction on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 18, 2012

This is a shout out-Tasty Thai's Hot & Sour Soup!

Back in January I wrote a review on Tasty Thai by Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. For my starter dish I got the salad with peanut dressing. It was good but I will never go back to it. Why? Because I went there last week and my friend recommended that I get the hot & sour soup for my starter. Initially I thought of the everyday hot & sour soup at Chinese restaurants. I have been turned off lately by that bowl of sludge so I said no. He persisted and I gave in. Was I ever impressed.

Caution: may be habit forming

There is just enough "fire" to it to hit the glands in the back of your mouth each time you taste it; it leaves you craving more. The onions, peppers and chilis give it some freshness; all bathed in a delicious broth. No sludge here. I barely remember my main dish because and wish that I could have ordered a gallon of this soup. It's that good.

Please stop by and try some. Give me a call when you do; I only live a few blocks away. This could get expensive.

Happy Eating.

Tasty Thai on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bowtie Pasta Salad

Now here is a dish that is delicious and will feed many. Take this to your next social event and you will be a hero. The flavor is great and the dish is filling. I took this to my Sister's house last week for a family get-together.

Bow Tie (aka Farfalle) Pasta Salad:

4 cups cooked chicken (I diced the chicken and pan fried)
1 can pineapple tidbits, drained
1 cup celery, diced
2 cups apples, diced
2 cups seedless grapes, halved
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 12oz package Farfalle (bow tie pasta)


1 cup mayonnaise mixed with
1 cup coleslaw dressing
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta, drain & cool. Add all other ingredients.

Quick prep time and quick cooking time. The pasta takes longer than anything else. This also keeps well as leftovers. Thanks to the Yoho's for sharing this with us.

Happy Eating.

Monday, May 14, 2012

El Chihuahua: A bit of a disappointment

The first time I went to El Chihuahua in the Millcreek neighborhood of Salt Lake, the food was wonderful. That was November, 2010 and I do not remember what I ordered. Last Friday, I went there again as a reunion of sorts with some friends from college.

One of they guys leaned over and asked how hungry I was. I replied that I was pretty hungry after having a light lunch earlier in the day. He said that if I was only moderately hungry that I should get the smothered chile verde burrito from the ala carte menu. It was only $6.00 and also comes with a side of rice and beans. I should have taken his advice.

Ultimately I decided on the Chicken Breast Taco Platter for $13.00. Nothing like paying twice the price for a better meal right? Not this time. It was a lot of food but was lacking in flavor. The chicken had not been seasoned well and had very little flavor. The onions and peppers also were very bland. Overall, I would name it the Bland Taco Platter.

It was truly a let-down as I had been looking forward to this reunion and meal all day. Do I give them another chance? If the first date is great but the second date is bad, do you take the risk and spend your money on a third date?

3926 S. Highland Dr.
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84124

Happy Eating.

El Chihuahua on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 11, 2012

Carmelized Onions: As good as candy

There is something about the thought of onions that makes my mouth water. They sure can make a dish whether it's a yellow, Texas sweet, vidalia, or red onion. I also love slicing & dicing onions. It's some of the first cuts you learn in the knife skills class and can save you so much time.

Just this week Rachel was caramelizing some onions for some roast beef sandwiches. They were some of the most delicious onions that I have ever tasted. It's only fair to pass along the recipe.

Caramelized Onions:

2 Texas sweet or vidalia onions, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Add all ingredients in frying pan, saute until onions are browned. Do not allow onions to get too soft, cook until they are firm but not hard. It's best when they have a snap to them when you bite.

You can add these over meat or potatoes; put in a soup, salad or sandwich; or eat by themselves-it's as good as candy. I have done all of these and love them any which way they are served. You will to.

Happy Eating.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tilapia Fish Tacos

This dish has become a favorite at our home, even for Ruby. What 2 year old doesn't love fish with a coco-lopez lime sauce? There is definitely some prep work involved with this meal but it is worth it.

The ingredients are: Tilapia fillets, corn tortillas, cabbage, coco-lopez lime sauce, cilantro, avocado, limes, and homemade pico de gallo.

Coco-Lopez Lime Sauce:

3 limes, zested (peel shavings)
1 can Coco-Lopez, cream of coconut

Pour coco-lopez into bowl. Add lime zest. Slice limes and squeeze in juice. Whisk.

Pico De Gallo:

1 white onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 lime
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix onion, tomatoes, cilantro in bowl. Slice lime and squeeze in juice. Add salt & pepper to taste.

When the lime sauce and pico de gallo are prepared, place 3 tilapia fillets in fry pan with 2 tablespoons each butter and vegetable oil. Upon turning opaque on the sides of the fish, turn over and cook until meat easily falls apart when pressed. Place corn tortillas in fry pan with high heat and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Cook until toasted-this will keep the tortilla from falling apart when you eat.

Place desired amount of tilapia on corn tortilla (2 stacked together work best). Spoon a good helping of pico de gallo on top and then drown in coco-lopez sauce.

The many ingredients complement each other well. The sweetness of the onions, freshness of the cilantro and tanginess of the lime juice hits the glands in the back of your mouth. The lime sauce is sweet and tangy; also addictive (maybe this could be my substitute for caffeine). Tilapia is a white fish and therefore does not have much flavor. So if the pico and lime juice are good, it will really make this dish.

It's delicious and inexpensive. Thanks to Chef Shawn Bucher for teaching me all the components.

Happy Eating.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Joni's Deli: The Best Lunch Spot

My food wanderings have left me with an insatiable craving for out-of-the-way, inexpensive joints; otherwise know as dives. Two weeks ago, the decision as to where to meet for lunch with a couple friends, was left up to me; a common occurrence. Many times I have driven by a restaurant on the corner of 1700 S. Main St. that caught my eye. I did not know the name of it however, so I told my friends the address. One friend replied that it was Joni's Deli. As I was driving there, I saw Joni's Deli on the south side of the street, further east from the restaurant that I had in mind. No worries, I turned into the parking lot and immediately liked what I saw.

It looked just like something I would search for while on a road trip: local joint, hidden, inexpensive. This place had a cheese steak combo and cheeseburger combo advertised in the window for $8.99 and $6.99 respectively. The first combo sounded great so I entered prepared to order. My heart was broken was Joni told me that they were out of steak. What now? I actually have to read the menu? She then said that if I didn't mind waiting a few minutes, the food delivery guy would be there in a few minutes with the steak. No problem, I ordered a cheese steak, paid, and waited.

And the wait (only 10 minutes) was worth it. The steak was overloaded into the bun and partnered with onions, mushrooms, and peppers. The bun was firm and never got soggy-maybe because I ate it too quickly. The french fries were thick, firm, seasoned, and delicious. The meat had just enough sweetness to it which paired well with the vegetables. Three refills of Dr. Pepper helped to wash it all down.

Yum. I am tempted to drive down there after I write this post. Except that it is Saturday and they are closed.

The interior had a cafeteria looked to it which has never been updated and I hope it never does. It really reminded me of something I would find off a back-woods highway in South Carolina.

Joni's slogan is "No day is so bad that it can't be fixed with Joni's Deli." It couldn't be more correct. Stop by here once a week and your problems will seem so small. It's strictly a lunch time joint and closed on the weekends. See you there soon.

52 East 1700 South
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84115

Happy Eating.  

Joni's Deli on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 4, 2012

Roquefort Pear Salad: Mouth tingling goodness

I wanted to share a recipe for a salad which has received rave reviews.

Roquefort Pear Salad:

1 head green leaf lettuce, cut bite size
3 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
5 oz roquefort cheese
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced thin
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pecans


1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 clove garlic; minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper to taste

Caramelize pecans; blend dressing ingredients; toss salad; layer pears, roquefort, avocado, green onions.

The demand for this salad was intense. This isn't your simple side salad with ranch dressing. This has a bite to it which leaves you craving more. I had 3 servings; you should also.

Everyone assumed that I made the salad. I did not. It was made by the fabulous Rachel. She received the recipe from a great friend. I simply enjoyed.

Happy Eating.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chicken Adobo

When I lived in the Philippines, this quickly became my favorite dish. For my 21st birthday, even though this wasn't the main dish being served that evening by the Datoon family, Nanay made a special plate of adobo just for me. I first made it for Rachel when we were dating and she also fell in love with it (she was hopefully already in love with me but, if not, the food sealed it).

In the culinary world you hear the term "adobo" used frequently in the past few years. This got me excited until I realized that many ethnic cuisines have their own definition of the word. The name "adobo" was taken from the Spanish but the cooking method is indigenous to the Philippines. It means stewing with vinegar.

Chicken Adobo with Potatoes

3 chicken breasts cut into pieces
3 medium size potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 3/4 cup water
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. In a wok or large fry pan, saute garlic until brown. Add chicken, saute until browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Add all ingredients except potatoes.
3. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender.
4. Add potatoes; continue cooking until they are soft and the stock reduced to a light brown gravy.
5. Serve hot over rice.

When I first cooked this for Rachel back in 2003, it had been a while so I went a little heavy on the garlic. It took days to air out my apartment.

The vinegar and soy sauce gives this dish a lite bitterness that makes your mouth water. The potatoes do a perfect job of soaking up just enough moisture-that precise moment when they are soft enough but not falling apart.

I always make extra because it is delicious as leftovers. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as we do. It's a quick dish to make.
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