Friday, March 30, 2012

Grilling Season is upon us

Last June I was asked to be the Grillmaster for a Neighborhood BBQ. I brought my two nephews, Sous Chef Jesse and Sous Chef Sam. On the night before we spent many hours doing prep work as we prepared 3 varieties of burgers & a chicken dish. The night of the BBQ was intense; fed over 50 people. Lots of work, lots of fun. We even had 2 grease fires. The most aggravating part of the BBQ was when someone brought over a package of vegetarian burgers and asked me to cook them. How insulting!

Here is a list of grilling tips which I provided at the BBQ. Included here is the recipe for Cheeseburger of Champions; heavenly burger.

Spring just officially started which means there are at least 6 months of good grilling a head.

Happy Grilling and Eating

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blue Plate Diner

On a recent Saturday evening, I had the thought that Rachel and I should have a date night. The problem was that it was already 6:30pm; no, I know that's not too late to go out to dinner, but it is often too late to find a babysitter. I called Rachel's wonderful sister anyway; She and Ruby are very close. She was headed to a birthday party with kids and was happy to bring Ruby.

Due to the close proximity of where we dropped off Ruby, we went to the The Blue Plate Diner. My experience with this restaurant has been that if you go between 7:00am-2:00pm, you will have to wait for a table. I wasn't sure what to expect for dinner. Much less crowded for dinner which was nice, because you can order breakfast food all day.

The Blue Plate Diner is an institution in the Sugarhouse area. It's a little retro, counterculture joint; part coffee shop, part antique shop. There are wonderful antiques, signs, and trinkets on the walls & shelves. It's a place where no one is in a hurry to go anywhere (this is one reason why the wait can be long). Patrons seem to be enjoying their meal time; not worrying about the next appt. The perfect place for a Realtor/Blogger/Part time stay-at-home Dad.

Rachel had The Greek Bendict (spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, hollandaise, and feta cheese). I had one bite and it was delicious. The hollandaise had the perfect amount of creaminess to it. All of the ingredients were fresh and full of flavor. I know that she enjoyed it because, when the food arrived, she dug in and barely spoke to me.

That evening I was craving a burger; a big, fat, juicy, burger. I asked the waiter what he recommended and he quickly replied: "The buffalo burger with avocado, bacon, bleu cheese, and shoestring fries with cajun seasoning." I said "sounds great." And great it was.

Buffalo meat is leaner than beef which I often interpreted as being less flavorful. Not so here; it is sweeter and doesn't leave the greasy feel in your mouth. It's also not "gamey," which is what I worried it would taste like. The bacon was thick and crisp, the blue cheese was an explosion of flavor, and the avocado and red onion tasted very fresh. I have no doubt that Blue Plate purchases organic vegetables.

You wouldn't think of The Blue Plate Diner as a dinner destination but it most certainly was. Come here, come often and enjoy the moment. You will get lost in your food experience and likely miss your next appointment. But if you are honest with yourself, you want to blow off that appointment anyway.

Happy Eating.

Blue Plate Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 26, 2012

J Dawgs

Back in August, we visited our good friends who had moved to Provo. For weeks they had been telling us about J Dawgs: a hot dog restaurant with a cult-like following in Utah County. It's location right next to the BYU campus coupled with the inexpensive menu, definitely help with the popularity.

I remember that the food was delicious but I don't remember exactly what I ordered. For that reason, I am not going to review the restaurant. What I am going to do is review the recipe for the secret sauce (supposed recipe) that someone leaked to Pinterest.

J Dawgs Secret Sauce:

3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. onion powder

Combine all ingredients in saucepan & heat to boiling on medium heat. Pour over hot dog. Enjoy!

Last evening I was going to make some of my famous spaghetti sauce. Ruby had a fall and comforting her took some time. Not wanting to waste the italian sausages, Rachel recommended we make the J Dawgs secret sauce. It worked out beautifully.

Italian Sausage with Banana Peppers, Pickles, and J Dawgs Secret Sauce

Since Rachel ate at J Dawgs last week, she was the perfect taste tester. She said that it was missing a little "kick." I added a dribble more of soy sauce, a dash more of onion powder and 1 teaspoon on cayenne pepper. This got Rachel's approval.

Try it out and let me know your thoughts. It's quick and delicious.

Happy Eating.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Subtleties of Food

Last week I was making another batch of corn & black bean salad. I shared this recipe along with my story/unwillingness/stubbornness in following recipes on a previous post here. Typically I improvise a recipe or create my own as I prepare any dish; including any that I have made in the past. As I shared in the post, I explained how for many people, this can be aggravating. They want exactness. It works well for me to improvise. Maybe to me, following a recipe is allowing someone to have authority over me; not going to happen :-)

Anyway, back to the corn & black bean salad. I was adding the vinegar, salt, fresh ground pepper, and cumin. I like food to have a kick to it; a wow factor. Whether it be spicy, bitter, sweet, salty, I like to overdo things. Maybe it's a personality disorder. I had Rachel try some. Before she could even give me her feedback I said that I was going to add more vinegar. She said "No, it doesn't need it. Sometimes the subtleties of food are what make it good."  What? Subtleties? Isn't that just another word for bland?

Fortunately I listened to her and left it as it was. I knew that the ingredients would marinate together in the fridge and come out very flavorful. It did. I was grateful for the insight.

Here's to the subtleties of food (and to listening to your spouse).

Happy Eating.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fat's Grill in Sugarhouse

In order to adequately acknowledge the amount of time and money I have spent at Fat's Grill, I thought it appropriate to write about.

Fat's is located right in the heart of Sugarhouse, making it a perfect meeting spot. There are about 8 of us friends from college who get together for lunch on a regular basis. At first, it was picked for the location but we soon became addicted to the food. It has also been a lot of fun to play pool there; free if you order food. More often than not, this is where we still meet on a regular basis.

It has a very clean atmosphere with delicious food. Everything from the appetizers, burgers, wraps and pizzas are wonderful. I actually haven't ordered something here that I did not like. I went once by myself to watch a baseball game and relax. Somehow I managed 4 refills of Dr. Pepper in the process.

Here are some food recommendations when you go: definitely get the Fat's Nachos as an appetizer. They are almost a meal in & of themselves. In fact, one of my friends did order them as his meal not too long ago. In the Wrap category I have tried the Grilled Chicken Caesar Wrap, Buffalo Chicken Wrap and Spicy Chicken Wrap. In the Burger category, Firehouse Burger, Fat's Burger, Pastrami Burger, Fat's Bacon Cheeseburger, Blue Cheese Bacon Burger, TNT Burger and Double Cheeseburger. Go with the TNT or Firehouse is you like it with fire. I have also had the BBQ chicken pizza. The other day, a good friend had the Greek Pizza. He really liked it.

Spicy Chicken Wrap with Fries

Most commonly, I order the Firehouse Burger and the Spicy Chicken Wrap with Fries. The fries are baked with a little paprika shaken on them; delicious. Whatever you order, you will enjoy the food and the atmosphere. Call me if you are going please; I am in the neighborhood.

2182 S. Highland Dr.
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84106

Happy Eating.

Fat's Grill & Pool on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mulligatawny and Cream of Mushroom Soup

In one of last week's posts, I shared about the "Hearty Fall Soups" Class at Orson Gygi which I attended. Fabulous class with delicious food. I have had requests for a couple of the recipes; the Mulligatawny Soup and the Cream of Mushroom. Both are wonderful; especially this time of year. These recipes came from restaurants and yield 12 & 20 servings respectively. Please adjust accordingly.

Mulligatawny Soup:
Chef Ken Morlino, CEC

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
36 ounces mirepoix (mixture of 50% onions, 25% carrots, 25% celery)
6 tablespoons flour
6 teaspoons curry powder
3 quarts chicken stock
1 1/2 cups chicken meat, cooked, diced
3/4 cups green apple, diced
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
12 fluid ounces milk, warm
salt and pepper, to taste

In a saucepot, heat the butter over medium heat, brown the chicken.

Remove chicken, add the mirepoix and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the flour and curry powder and cook to form a blond roux.

Add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the chicken, apple and mushrooms and cook for 15 more minutes.

Finish with the warm milk and season with salt and white pepper.

Garnish with a puff pastry and carmelized apples.

This recipe yields 3 Quarts/12 Servings

Cream of Mushroom Soup:
Chef Todd Leonard CEC

1/4 pound whole butter                                                            
1 each medium yellow onions, peeled and small diced
1 1/2 cups celery, cleaned and small diced
1/2 tablespoon dry thyme
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon shallots, minced
2 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1/4 gallon vegetable stock
1/8 cup cooking sherry, cream sherry
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 quarts heavy cream
1 1/4 quarts whole milk
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon tabasco sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot add the mushrooms, thyme and vegetable stock to create and essance of mushrooms and simmer for about 1/2 hour

In a large stock pot sweat the onions, celery, garlic, and shallots together with the butter.

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

Deglaze with the sherry and reduce a bit to soak up.

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

Temper the cream and milk with some of the hot soup and then add the cream and milk in to the soup and stir well.

Bring to a simmer and season with remaining ingredients and simmer as needed to develop the flavors.

Yields 1 1/4 gallons/20 servings.

Of course since it was taught by a Chef there was a lot of tasting, adding more of this, less of that. As Chef Todd shared with the class, "A recipe is a guide, but the best adjustments are made with your head and mouth."

I look forward to many more wonderful classes at Orson Gygi; including one this week. Enjoy these recipes.

Happy Eating.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Foodie Tour Anyone?

It's that time of year to yes, watch a lot of college basketball, but also to plan vacations for the year. And for me, vacations are planned to experience the most in the area's cuisine. Suggestions anyone?

Should I head on down to Louisiana for some Cajun / Creole Food?

Make a return visit to Scottsdale? It's a Foodies Paradise.

Cafe turkey meatballs with organic whole wheat spaghetti at Cafe Forte, Old Town Scottsdale

Pasta with chanterelles, bacon, tarragon, asiago, and creme fraiche at FnB Restaurant, Old Town Scottsdale

Or should we head to Wisconsin, as was highly recommended by a Co-worker of Rachel. I guess that we could eat a lot of cheese.

Suggestions Anyone?

Happy Eating

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mountain City Chinese

Last week I was planning to meet my Sister for lunch. I threw out a bunch of options, one of which was Mountain City Restaurant: Authentic Chinese Food. Neither my Sister or I had been here in a few years so we jumped at the chance.

After being seated by the overzealous owner, I ordered the Number 3 Dinner for One (even though it was lunch time). It included soup, cashew chicken, sweet & sour pork, and ham fried rice; all for the lovely price of $7.75.

The food was definitely average; The wonton soup was nothing more than boiled salt water with wonton chips and some other unidentifiable items in there. It was very bland. Thankfully my daughter loves eating soup with a spoon so I let her work on it.

The sweet & sour pork was actually decent; the pork was overcooked and didn't have much taste but the batter was sweet and crispy. The ham fried rice was tasteless and had a crunch that made it feel like it was a couple days old. And for the cashew chicken: absolutely awful! The vegetables and chicken are covered with a clear slime. The vegetables are barely cooked; if at all. And the chicken is rubbery and looks really gross and tastes worse.

I believe that the owner means well but she is really annoying. After the 10th time (not exaggerating) of her coming around and grabbing your fork and giving food to your kid, you are ready to leave. I will always remember the look on my sister's face when the owner quickly moved a forkful of rice towards my 8 month old nephew's mouth.

On the drive home, I pondered which fast food drive thru would fix my hunger pains. If you are thinking of going here, don't. Drive 4 blocks west on Murray Holladay Road and go to Pawit's Royale Thai; reviewed here. 

Happy Eating.

Mountain City on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo is a Cajun/Creole specialty that is a mainstay of Bayou cuisine. It's a thick, stewlike dish that can have many ingredients including vegetables such as okra, tomatoes and onions and one or several meats.

My first lesson in making this dish was in a class titled "On the Bayou: Cajun Cuisine." Brian Casson is a great Home Chef originally from the Florida Panhandle. I loved the class it and have been experimenting with Gumbo, Sauce Piquant, and Jambalaya ever since. We even learned how to make our own Cajun seasoning. Gumbo has emerged as a favorite dish for both myself and family.

The Gumbo Preparation is complete

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup celery, coarsely chopped
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup okra, sliced
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 chicken breasts, diced
1 quart chicken stock
1/4 cup Cajun seasoning.
12 oz. andouille sausage (or smoked sausage)
1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
Gumbo file
Steamed basmati rice

In a Rondeau pot cook butter and flour over medium heat until you have a medium dark roux (chocolately texture), about 10-12 minutes. Add celery, bell peppers, onions, and okra, cook for about 5 minutes. Add Cajun seasoning, chicken, and sausage and saute until chicken becomes opaque, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, worcestershire sauce and chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes; sauce will thicken. Serve with steamed basmati rice and file (fee-lay).

I only wish I could save the aroma as part of the photo

Culinary Note: You will notice in many dishes that the flavor base is onions, carrots, and celery; commonly referred to as mirepoix. In the Southern United States, they replace the carrots with bell peppers (such as in this dish), and refer to it as "The Holy Trinity."

The "Holy Trinity" and Roux

This dish is an explosion of flavors which all compliment each other. There is a strong spicy bite with a hint of sweetness which leaves you craving more. Each time I make this, I eat too much; as does everyone around me. I hope you love it as much as we do.

My Nephew Sam who is fast becoming a fabulous Cook. He did all the cooking that evening. 

I am looking forward to planning a trip to the Louisiana Bayou to enjoy more authentic Cajun fare.

Happy Eating.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I'm a Teetotaler

Jeff is currently out of town. Please enjoy this re-print of a previous post.


I'm a Teetotaler

tee-to-tal-er [tee-toht-ler, tee-toht-]
a person who obstains totally from intoxicating drink

This story really begins in April, 2008. At that time, Rachel and I went on a trip to the deep south states of Georgia & South Carolina. It was a fabulous adventure full of sites, relaxation and most importantly, food. While staying on St. Simon's Island in Georgia, we ate at Barbara Jean's Restaurant. To sum it up: it was heaven. If you love southern food & seafood, you will not be disappointed.

I can't even remember my entree (although I'm sure it was fabulous) but I do remember my appetizer: She Crab Soup. This was the first time I had tried such deliciousness. "Rich, creamy and full of crab and a little bite." is the menu's description. "A little bite" is an understatement; I believe that Mace is an ingredient.

Until recently, I had not thought of she crab soup for a while. Was I clinically depressed? Not to my knowledge; Busy? Yes! Our good friends had recently purchased their grandparent's home. As they were giving us a tour, I noticed a recipe for she crab soup in the kitchen window. Come to find out, the grandparents had lived in South Carolina for a time. I studied the recipe and promptly forgot about continuing the tour of the home. Our friends still hold this against me.

Upon studying the recipe, I found that sherry is one of the ingredients. Not having much experience cooking with wine, sherry or any other alcohol, I wasn't sure how to obtain this. I guess that I could go to the liqour store when no one was watching.

Having shelved this idea for a while, I went grocery shopping at Smith's last week. While in the aisle for balsamic & red wine vinegar I noticed "Sherry, Cooking Wine." What? I thought that I would have to go to the liquor store for this. Quickly turning the bottle to read the ingredients, I never saw the word "alcohol." I put the bottle in my cart & immediately thought of how wonderful it will be to tell Rachel about this.

Upon arriving home, I unloaded the groceries and then proceeded to tell Rachel about my amazing karma. "It was right in front of me; just meant to be there" I said. She read the bottle and then showed me on the front label where it reads: "ALCOHOL BY VOLUME 17%." Then she read the first ingredient: "WINE." By now you are probably wondering how I ever graduated high school given my attention to detail. High school was the best ten years of my life.

I was a little embarrassed about my apparent lack of literacy. But I am even more excited about the upcoming opportunity to cook she crab soup. My mouth is watering already.

Happy Eating.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Go-To Salad

Every other Sunday, it's family dinner at my Parent's home. For the past few months, the siblings are responsible for bringing the salad, rolls, and dessert. Initially I brought the salad, and we all fell into our rolls. I have never been much of a Baker, thus keeping me out of the competition for rolls and dessert. That's okay, the salad has evolved. It's delicious and very simple to make. 

Like a big bowl of candy

1 head green leaf lettuce
1 package pepperoni, sliced julienne style (matchstick)
1 can black olives, sliced
1/2 cup pepperoncinis, sliced
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

Slice lettuce and spread all the ingredients on top.

For an extra kick, add some sliced red onions. Enjoy.

Happy Eating.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Old Bridge Cafe: The Best of Bosnian Food!

About once a week I go to lunch with a friend. In many of my posts he is referred to simply as "friend." A good friend he is but he does not share my adventurous nature of finding authentic foods. If it isn't burgers, fries, sandwiches or BBQ, he is a little hesitant. Last week he texted me about going to lunch. He seemed busy at the time and left the eatery of choice up to me. I texted back: "Old Bridge Cafe, 249 E. 3300 S., 12:45pm." I knew that if I would have explained what type of cuisine, we would not have been going there. Upon arriving and reviewing the menu, he admitted that he had been suspicious of my motives. Too late to turn back now.

Old Bridge Cafe is traditional fare from Bosnia & Herzegovina. There are many items on the menu that you have likely never heard: Buredzici, Zeljanica, Cevapi, Kajmak, Pljeskavica, Beckna Snicla. It all looked delicious.

My friend ordered Cevapi - traditional Bosnian beef sausages. It is served in pita bread with kajmak (cheese spread) and onions. He said that he liked it and I will take him at his word. I appreciate him staying for lunch even after he knew he had been fooled.

For my meal I chose the Stuffed Peppers Dolma. It is three bell peppers and one smaller, much spicier pepper; all stuffed with beef and rice, served with roasted potatoes and pita bread. The stuffing is similar to the consistency of risotto and is spicy, heavy, and delicious. Whatever cooking process they use and spices they add all equals perfection. The pita bread is like none I have ever tried. It was like a meal in and of itself: thick but fluffy and obviously cooked with a large serving of butter.

All of this for $6.99; not a bad price for a great lunch. The food is so filling that I ate a very light dinner that evening.

Will I be back? Definitely! On the drive home I called my Parents to say that we should meet there for lunch soon. My only problem will be what to order; I want it all: Sour Cabbage Rolls Sarma, Cevapi, or Balkan Platter? Maybe I will try them all.

If you are near 3300 S. State St. stop by. The strip mall housing the restaurant is a little run down, but the food is tough to beat.

Happy Eating.

Old Bridge Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 2, 2012

Key West Chicken: Quick, Easy, and Delicious

While in Florida last month, my cousin introduced me to this flavorful dish. We were relaxing after a day spent fishing and were coming up short on dinner ideas. Thankfully there were chicken breasts in the fridge, so he sent me to the kitchen with instructions on how to make Key West Chicken. Last week I was in a similar quandry: evening, tired, hungry, no dinner ideas; found thawed chicken in fridge and it was on. I made a few adjustments from what I learned in Florida but it was delicious nonetheless.

Key West Chicken:

4 Chicken Breasts
1 Jar Salsa
1 Can Black Beans, 15 oz
1 Can Diced Chiles, 5 oz
1 Bag Frozen Corn, any size-just spoon some out
Grated Cheddar Cheese, a lot
Lime Juice, just a squeeze
Salt & Pepper, just a shake
Steamed Basmati Rice

Set the chicken breast on a large sheet of aluminum foil; enough to make a tent of foil over the chicken when closed. Squeeze lime juice over top of chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon a good serving of black beans, salsa, chilis and corn on chicken. Enclose chicken in foil and place on grill (high heat). Cooking time is approximately 20 minutes. When chicken is cooked through, open up foil and scoop in a large amount of cheddar cheese. Close foil, put back on grill for 1 minute, remove from grill, take chicken out of foil and place on bed of basmati rice. Enjoy.

Hint: Always add more salsa than you think you need. If you scrimp on salsa, it still flavors the chicken but leaves it without sauce.

This is a very filling dish. Rachel commented that she would like less chicken and more toppings.

Happy Eating.
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