Wednesday, June 29, 2011


At the end of April I cut the cable cord. I'm proud to announce that I'm still cable free. Another round of Top Chef Masters happened without me. I'm pretty sure out of the three finalists (Traci Des Jardins, Mary Sue Milliken, and Floyd Cardoz) you can guess who were not the winners. But that's OK because sometime you catch something that's pretty amazing that you might have missed before. If you want to see insane pressure and a lot of French men crying you might want to check out the documentary Kings of Pastry over on PBS.

This is Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer. He is one of three chefs that the documentary follows as they compete in the M.O.F., or the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France). The M.O.F. finals for pastry chefs is an excruciating three day competition where sixteen chefs compete, not with each other but against themselves. All sixteen could win but I doubt that's ever happened. Not only is there no cash prize but once you get past the semifinal and are selected as one of the sixteen to compete at the finals, you spend a great deal of time and money preparing, practicing and honing your skills. Skills like glass blowing. The object above? That's not a piece of art glass, that's sugar.

Looks like botany also helps. All recipes are prepared at the site of the competition in that three day stretch. It's a brutal exercise these chefs put themselves through.

This is Chef Philippe Rigollot as a normal person...

...and this is Phillipe's brain after the M.O.F.

I highly suggest you see why poor Phillipe ends up looking like this and just how many of the competitors end up wearing the red, white and blue collar. One suggestion though.... a huge meal before watching or at the very least, have easy access to a good pastry shop.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cauliflower Gratin

As we know from earlier blog postings, I like cauliflower. Not everyone shares my love and that's a shame. One who is not shy with her cauliflower affections is Dorie Greenspan. If you're not familiar with her excellent cookbook work or her website, I highly suggest you visit. Her latest posting is a Cauliflower Gratin. With bacon. And cheese. You know what's coming next.

orange cauliflower

This is the cauliflower I purchased. It is an orange cauliflower. I didn't buy it because it was orange, I bought it because it was on sale for over a dollar less than the normal white cauliflower. Why did they develop an orange cauliflower? Apparently we can blame Canada for that. An orange breed of cauliflower was discovered in a Canadian marsh and the smart Canadians realized that Americans, being the doofuses that we are, would just love to have orange cauliflower for dinner. It was like striking orange gold for those wily Canucks. There's also a purple cauliflower. I don't know if the Canadians had anything to do with that variety. If the scientists combine the two into some freaky purple and orange combination then I'll know they are just messing with us.

cauliflower gratin

Back to Dorie's recipe. She's not only making a gratin but she's expanding her use of a Bram, which is a large clay baker. I do not have a Bram but I do have a clay baker I bought for five bucks at an antique store. The clay baker was not an antique but for five bucks I didn't care. The two major differences between Dorie's Bram and my clay baker is that her Bram is large and upright and more importantly is glazed inside. I mention the glazing because much like a wok imparting a flavor of wok hei on your food, so will a an unglazed clay baker impart a flavor (let's call it clay bak-hei) on food.

cauliflower gratin1

Still it's bacon, cheese and cream oozing throughout tender chunks of cauliflower. What's not to like?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weenie Summer Fun

Who knew Weenies would be such a hot topic this summer??? How do you handle your weenies? (no emails...please) Maybe you're a classic sort of Weenie guy?

Or maybe you enjoy a more realistic approach?

Perhaps you favor chaps and Stetson?

Maybe your like your Weenies with a more Asian flair?

(Don't forget the Hot Cock Sauce)

Don't go for the whole Weenie Scene? Could I interest you in something a little sweeter?

The Mud Flap version?

Which ever way you like to roast 'em or toast 'em, let's be safe out there.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Supper

Beautiful whole wild mackerel on sale at Whole Foods today. Thought I'd steam it in a salt crust.


Once it was all steamed and released from it's salt oven, made a little sauce of olives, tomatoes and capers.



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maryland is for Crabs

As some of you may have noticed, I was absent last week. It was for a good cause, I assure you. I was celebrating my roots. I was in the bosom of my family, bringing the hammer down on a righteous pile of Maryland's finest hard shell blue crabs.


I was in crab heaven. I can't remember the last time I got high from inhaling copious amounts of Old Bay but don't you know, eating crabs is like riding a bike. Once you learn the rhythm and the tricks, you never forget. Your hands know what to do without even thinking. I'm betting I could be in a coma and if someone put a pile of steamed hard shells on my hospital bed, my hands would pick up a knife and start popping off legs.
I worry about the Chesapeake Bay and the crab population. Every spring I ask my mother for the crab forecast. Will it be a good year, a rebound year or will it be another depressing year as the mighty blue crab follow the oysters into the lore of yesteryear, where old timers speak of both as never ending. Even I can remember there being four sizes of crabs available in the crabhouses, small, medium, large and jumbo and you didn't need to run down to the payday loan with your car title to pay for two dozen jumbo. Those days are long gone.

crab pile

As are the days when I could easily eat a dozen crabs in one sitting. Still the picking was good and the meat was sweet. There were even enough left over to bring home some lump meat. Couldn't let that go to waste. But what to make with my precious half pound of meat.

crab stack 2

Crabcakes were a given but I have to thank Patrick O'Connell for idea of using fried green tomatoes as the "bread" of my crabcake sandwich. Frankly I'm pissed for not thinking this up myself. That particular recipe is in his cookbook, Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine. There you'll find a beautiful refined dish with pickled okra, a sweet corn relish with a tomato vinaigrette. Here, instead, you'll find my barbarian's offering of a crabcake slider cradled in the tangy, crunchy grasp of panko green fried tomatoes.

crab stack 1

This was almost a photo optional post because fried green tomatoes are best right out the fry pan and crabcakes? Let's just say I'm like Daffy Duck in Ali Baba Bunny....


Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Cheese Does Not Stand Alone

It is a happy time. Happy because it's not snowing, the temperatures are above fifty and I can walk around my neighborhood without fear of falling and fracturing a bone or two due to icy precipatation. However that was never really a bonified fear since years of sitting on my ample ass in front of a computer has given me enough cushion to ward off any serious injury from slip and falls. Still having reached the half century mark amongst the living, I still enjoy a walkabout around the paved pathways that intertwine around the village of Prairie. For one thing, my neighbors are much better gardeners than I am. I drag my camera along to copy their successes in the hopes of planting their inspirations.



The walk isn't just about the floral bounties. It's about exercise and rewards. It's getting out of the house and back into the world. You can't bring back the dead by ignoring the living. So I walk. Although for me, there's still got to be a purpose. Hence the destination.

better cheddar sign

The Better Cheddar is a just a smidge over a mile from my front door on foot. Is anyone surprised that I set up a domicile a 30 minutes' walk from a well stocked cheese shop that gives out liberal samples of all their cheeses? We won't even talk about all the other goodies they carry. The only thing that would make it a perfect foodie treasure trove is if they sold blue crabs by the bushel out back.


But since they don't I'll have to settle for a cold bottle of Cheerwine soda. There's just something about drinking a cold soda out of a glass bottle on a hot summer's day that's extremely satisfying. Lately the sample I've been hitting on the most is this delicious Iowa cheddar. It's the kind of cheese that makes you want to run home for your cookbooks and recipes. Mac and cheese would sing, eat it out of hand with a crisp pear or maybe a souffle if you've got the time and patience.

prairie breeze cheddar

Yes, some of that found it's way into my messenger bag for the trip home. Luckily Oreo only wanted a belly rub from me and not a little nibble on my cheese. No time, Oreo, got to get home and fire up the stove.

oreo kitty

I decided on something I could snack on while at work. Cheese straws. Virginia Willis' Cheese Straws to be exact.

cheese straws1

Rewards. Hard work, exercise and fresh air deserve rewards. Simple cheese straws works for me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Inferno Sauce

Time for another entry into the hot and spicy sauce arena. This one comes from an unexpected corner of the world....IRELAND???

Mic's Chili sauce

Mic's Chili , as far as I know is not available in this country. However if you're in Kilcoole, County Wicklow, go crazy.