Friday, January 30, 2009

OM NOM Nominations - 1.2

Lots of OM NOM worthy recipes, photos and blogs this week so it was very hard to choose...oh who am I kidding? It is hard to choose EVERY week! Nevertheless, here are the picks of week...

The first choice is a great set of two recipes celebrating the Chinese New Year on Monday. It is a Shumai and Spring Roll dimsum from Cafe Nilson: Cafe Nilson - Dimsum. The year of the Ox rocks!

The second OM NOM goes to The Alchemist Chef with her Aphrodisiacs series. This last one is what caught my eye: The Alchemist Chef - aphrodisiacs grilled peaches but the White Truffle Fondue and Oysters 3 Ways also look great for a Valentine's dinner.

And lastly, with the Super Bowl coming up this weekend I would be remiss if I did not highlight this excellent post on the culinary differences of Pittsburgh and Arizona. Go check it out and vote for your favorite cuisine at Endless Simmer - Super Bowl Food Off.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cold weather comfort food

Even though there is about 10 inches of snow on the ground, Pepper had to go to work today. Boo on that! What's the point of snow if you don't get a snow day to either enjoy it or avoid it???

In any case, we're looking for some inspiration for cold weather comfort food. What do you like to eat when the weather is cold and snowy? (If you live in a warm climate, just humor us and pretend like you live somewhere cold and snowy.)

Get your own Poll!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Game Hens with Apricot Ginger Glaze

Here's an easy and very tasty recipe that we had last night. I love game hens. They are somehow more sophisticated than chicken I suppose because they aren't nearly as popular. And they come in those convenient single servings...or for a lighter meal, save one hen for leftovers and split one hen for two people.

Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Apricot-Ginger Glaze for 2

2 Cornish game hens, backs removed and split in half lengthwise
salt and pepper

2 T. sesame oil
2 T. apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
1 T. freshly grated ginger
1 t. Siracha (Asian chili sauce)
2/3 cup apricot jam

Set oven at 350.
Set the hens on a roasting rack skin side up and brush with oil. Season with s and p and pop it into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until skin is golden brown.

Combine the glaze ingredients until smooth. Brush glaze onto hens and roast an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Monday, January 26, 2009


On Saturday night, Salt and I got a babysitter and decided to try a new (for us) restaurant in Broad Ripple called L'Explorateur. My parents, who live in Indy, joined us for the evening. This was great because the odds of trying a wider variety of dishes with a couple of people who don't mind sharing increased greatly with them along...and my dad knows a thing or two about wine pairings which is helpful when trying out a new place and an unfamiliar wine list.

When you read reviews of the place, the overarching themes you pick up are "French-Asian influenced" "avant-garde" and "experimental" so we were excited to have an unusual experience something like you would expect from Ferran Adria, Grant Achatz or Wylie Dufresne...ok, so our expectations weren't quite that high, but somewhere along those lines. What you might also gather from the reviews is that L'Explorateur is widely inconsistent. One diner will have a fantastic experience filled with exciting and new flavors, while the next person will leave very disappointed with the poorly prepared food and bad service. Needless to say, we were very curious what we would get, in more than one sense.

We arrived for our 7:30 reservation and discovered that we really didn't need a reservation as half the restaurant was empty. Granted this place is off the beaten path a bit, but a half filled restaurant on a Saturday night is never a good sign. The décor and ambiance was great: cool and minimal, with white and pale green walls, dark brown ceilings, candles lighting the way and original art on display. They definitely showed some care in making the place look very high end.

The wait staff was courteous, but not entirely impressive when it came to answering our questions about the menu. We had looked online at their menu ahead of time and saw that they had a three course tasting menu with wine pairings. This sounded like a good idea when trying a new restaurant, but the menu was nothing more than what you could already get a la carte off the menu. That was a little disappointing. One nice thing about the wait staff - they are clearly very particular about assuring that your entire table is served at exactly the same time. As each course was served, four waiters circled our table with our plates and placed them in front of us in well choreographed synchronicity.

On to the food...
A single steamed muscle on a garlic rubbed crostini. It was simple and tasted good, but a little pedestrian for a place that is supposedly innovative.

Escargot Ravioli - both of the ladies had this dish. It tasted good but lacked a little in visual appeal.
Fresh oysters - my dad had this and was very happy with it saying the oysters were just the right size and texture.
Hamachi Carpacio - I had this dish which is served with fresh grated horseradish, crunchy roe and chili oil. By far, this was the most visually stunning dish served and the taste matched: very delicate fish with the zing of the horseradish and chili oil and the surprising pops of roe. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Main course
Goat and sausage cassoulet (pictured) - Salt had this for her main, though I'm not sure if she was able to enjoy it as much as she could have after burning her tongue on the piping hot stew. The waiter really should have given her a heads up on that.
Fresh pappardelle with a pork bolognese - Dad had this one. A solid and well done dish...but a curiously Italian dish for a French/Asian inspired restaurant.
Duck confit - my mother and I both had the duck. It was served with roasted beets and a stuffed jalapeno pepper. Again I was the fortunate one to have the most visually appealing dish. And the taste was good, but not the best duck confit I've ever had.

Chocolate cup cake with caramel sauce
Blueberry tart with porter ice cream
Banana pot de creme
All the desserts were lovely. However, except for the porter ice cream, nothing was too far outside of the norm.

Brown sugar and jalapeno popsicle - Made on the anti-griddle, we finally got something that could be considered avant-garde, though the verdict is still out on whether or not the popsicle was successful. I liked it, but Salt was not so sure.

So the real question when you go to a restaurant for the first time is "will you be going back?" I think now that we know what to expect (read: not very avant-garde) and with a meal that was enjoyable, we may be enticed back...particularly when the weather gets warmer and they open up their outdoor seating area. But with a half filled restaurant on the weekend, I'm curious to know if they'll be open long enough for us to do that.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Get to know Salt and Pepper

We were interviewed by fellow blogger Foodie Pop. It took us a few days to get our answers coordinated, but we finally got them down.

Rules are as follows:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Now...on to the questions:

1. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

Salt: The Complete Works of Shakespeare - everytime you read it you get something new out of it.
Pepper: the actual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy should this book ever actually exist.

2. What is a favorite food memory?

Salt: A post Thanksgiving Brunch - we were living in DC and almost all of our friends were from places other than DC so naturally would leave for holidays. We still wanted to celebrate the holiday with our friends so we organized a brunch a few days after Thanksgiving when everyone got back to town. Also fresh turkeys are ridiculous cheap right after Thanksgiving when stores are trying to get rid of them.

Pepper: New Year's Eve 2006 - we hosted a dinner for 20 people to celebrate the new year. The menu included scallop ceviche, wild mushroom soup, herb crusted lamb, and vanilla panna cotta for dessert. It was a lot of work, but everything came out beautifully and the timing was perfect...midnight came just as we were serving dessert and champagne.

3. A fast food chain offers you $50 a day for the rest of your life to eat one meal off their menu every day. The alternative is they give you a $1,000 a day, but a loved one must now take your place and eat all three meals off their menu. You are welcome to share the money, but only one person can take your place. So for the rest of YOUR life, this person can eat only fast food. Which do you choose and why?

Salt: I wouldn't take the deal.

Pepper: After watching Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me, I can't imagine subjecting anyone to that much fast food. And I'm just not that into fast food. So I'd turn down the deal.

4. Everyone has a favorite dish, or two. Pick one of yours and name a song that makes you feel as good as that dish.

Salt: Food - Eel and avacado sushi roll. Song - No song can make me feel as good as eating this.

Pepper: Food - Roasted duck with rose petal sauce. Song - What a wonderful world by Louie Armstrong

5. If you could interview anyone, who would you choose and why? Anyone, no limitations.

Salt: William Randolf Hearst - there is a lot of speculation about him but nobody really knew why he did what he did. So it would be interesting to get a little insight into what he was up to and what he was thinking...or if he was just crazy. Which would make for a good interview.

Pepper: The Dalai Lama - I've heard him speak in front of a huge crowd, but would love to sit down with him to talk with him one on one.

Friday, January 23, 2009

OM NOM Nominations - 1.1

Ok, here we go with the first OM NOM NOM Nominations.

First up is Hello, Hawaii, How Are You? Pulled Chicken from Coconut & Lime.
Coconut Lime - pulled chicken
I don't know if it is because it reminds me of summer and warmer weather or if the sandwich just looks incredibly tasty. Either way when I read this, I literally started to drool with anticipation to make it. Someone get me a towel. Definitely OM NOM NOM worthy in my book.

Next is a Szechuan Syle Hot and Sour Soup from So Many Cookbooks...So Little Time
So Many Cookbooks - Szechuan Style Hot and Sour

First of all, I like the idea of getting two meals out of one package of pork tenderloins...particularly when we're just cooking for the two of us and tenderloins usually come two per package. That's a lot of pork for two people. Secondly, with all this cold weather in our area, a good Hot and Sour soup just sounds really good right about now...and right in time for the Chinese New Year!

The final choice this week goes to 5 Star Foodie and her Rack of Lamb with Saffron Cream.
5 Star Foodie - Rack of Lamb with Saffron Cream

This recipe gets an OM NOM for being creative, upscale and comforting all at the same time. As an added bonus she includes a dessert recipe for a Fruit Paella which sounds delicious and a great finisher for that meal.

I also want to give a shout out to the Inaugural Luncheon menu which included Seafood Stew, Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney, Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing, Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes, and a Cinnamon Apple Sponge Cake. A big OM NOM NOM to that menu!!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Best TC Line

By far the best comment from Top Chef this season has got to be Fabio's comment last night as he is about to run the front of house for his team in Restaurant Wars..."We could serve monkey ass in an empty clam shell and still win this thing."


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

OM NOM Nominations

OM NOM NOM NOM - the sound of ravenous eating.

Popularized by the character Cookie Monster on Sesame Street, it is now used commonly in speech to denote something tasty.

exclaims "OM NOM NOM NOM" when gobbling down cookies and whatever else goes in his mouth.

The OM NOM NOM NOMINATION will be awarded to the recipes, photos or entire blogs that a. make me hungry, b. make my mouth water, or c. make me go uncontrollably googly eyed and crazy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bacon and Peas Risotto

I tried out this recipe from the January issue of Gourmet last night. A couple of changes I made to it...I doubled the recipe since I was cooking for two and the magazine touted this as a gourmet meal for one. I also added sauteed chopped onion, about a quarter cup of dry vermouth as the first bit of liquid added to the risotto and WAY more Parmigiano-Reggiano than it called for in the recipe...I would guess it ended up being about 3/4 cup of cheese. That's just how I roll.

1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 bacon slice, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1/3 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a small saucepan.

Cook bacon in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring, until crisp. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain.

Add garlic to bacon fat in pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat.

Add 1/4 cup hot broth mixture and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 18 to 22 minutes. (Reserve leftover broth mixture.)

Add peas and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.

Stir in cheese, butter, zest, and juice. Thin risotto with some of reserved broth mixture if desired and season with salt and pepper. Top with bacon.

Yes, Pecan!

Happy Inauguration Day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shrimp Bisque and City Chicken

Last night we celebrated my father's birthday with a quiet family dinner. The menu included veal roast in a Madeira cream sauce, roasted potatoes, and this very delicious Shrimp Bisque. We also made an orange-vanilla cake with Swiss meringue buttercream with fresh red raspberries and candied orange slices.

By the dad shared with me a recollection from his youth about how veal was such an unpopular meat when he was growing up. He said that butchers practically had to give it away. They would chunk it up and put it on sticks for people to deep fry and called it City Chicken.

Velvety Shrimp Bisque

Makes 6 cups, serving 4 to 6.

Shrimp shells contribute a lot of flavor to the bisque, so be sure to purchase shell-on shrimp. Large 21- to 25-count shrimp are a good size to use. If your food processor is small and your shrimp are extra large, process them in two batches. For straining the bisque, if you do not own a chinois, use a china cap or large sturdy mesh strainer lined with a double layer of damp cheesecloth.


2 pounds shell-on shrimp , preferably Gulf or Mexican Whites
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup brandy or cognac, warmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small carrot , chopped fine (about 3 tablespoons)
1 small rib celery , chopped fine (about 3 tablespoons)
1 small onion , minced (about 6 tablespoons)
1 medium clove garlic , minced
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
4 bottles clam juice (8-ounce, 4 cups total)

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 sprig fresh tarragon leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dry sherry or Madeira

Table salt and ground black pepper


1. Peel 1/2 pound shrimp, reserving shells, and cut each peeled shrimp into thirds. With paper towels, thoroughly pat dry remaining shrimp and reserved shells.

2. Heat 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and swirl to coat pan bottom. Add half of shell-on shrimp and half of reserved shells; sauté until deep pink and shells are lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to medium bowl and repeat with remaining oil, shell-on shrimp, and shells. Return first browned batch to skillet. Pour warmed brandy over shrimp and wave lit match over pan until brandy ignites, shaking pan. When flames subside, transfer shrimp and shells to food processor bowl fitted with steel blade and process until mixture resembles fine meal, about 10 seconds.

3. Heat butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until foaming. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and ground shrimp; cover and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are slightly softened and mixture is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until combined thoroughly, about 1 minute. Stir in wine, clam juice, and tomatoes, scraping pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, if any exist. Cover, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to boil; then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened and flavors meld, about 20 minutes.

4. Strain bisque through chinois into medium container, pressing on solids with back of ladle to extract all liquid. Wash and dry now-empty Dutch oven; return strained bisque to Dutch oven and stir in tarragon, cream, lemon juice, and cayenne. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat; add reserved peeled and cut shrimp and simmer until shrimp are firm but tender, about 11/2 minutes. Discard tarragon sprig; stir in sherry, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

Birthday Cakes

These are pictures of my nephew Aidan's 2nd birthday cake.

Here are the pictures of EZ-E's first birthday cake.

Top Chef Drinking Game

Now that I'm in the process of moving all food related posts from my other blog to this one, I thought it would be fitting to start by reposting the most linked to post.

Originally posted on 3/18/08
I was just looking over the Top Chef blogs while eating lunch. Former contestant and now consultant Lee Anne Wong mentions a Top Chef Drinking Game, but does not explain the rules. What a tease.

Thank God for the Internets…I found this over on Mange Mes Briefs.

The Top Chef Drinking Game

The Premise:
There are two teams, although more are likely. One team are the Judges, i.e. Tom Collichio, Gale Simmons, Ted Allen and whomever the guest judge is. I am also grouping the host, Padma Lakshmi, in with this since although she’s not a judge, nor qualified to be one, she nonetheless offers up plenty of fodder for the game.

The second team are the contestants. These are the actual “chefs” in the competition. The season starts out with 15 contestants and week by week they are whittled away until the final chef remains.

The Rules: Here is where we start the game. Any alcoholic beverage could be used but for the sake of simplicity we will consider one drink to be one ounce of spirits, i.e. vodka, tequila, gin, etc… Everybody picked their sides? Okay, let’s go.

The Game:

For the Judges, take one drink …

Whenever the host, Padme, says anything that she is totally unqualified to talk about. This usually ends up being anything that comes out of her mouth so be careful here. You might want to leave this one out of the game or you could end up passing out before the first commercial break.

Whenever head judge Tom Colicchio makes a remark along the lines of “This is Top Chef not Top (whatever)”.

Whenever the guest judge happens to be a chef who’s probably not very well known outside of his cooking region. Take two drinks if he thinks he’s famous now that he’s a guest judge on Top Chef and feels the need to act like a dick.

Whenever judge Gale Simmons mentions Food and Wine magazine, her real employer.

Whenever the guest judge is Anthony Bourdain. Take one additional drink for every pithy comment he says that the other judges are merely thinking.

New one for the current season: Whenever judge Toby Young makes a requisite British Reality Show Judge insult (a la Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsey.) See Toby Young Insult Tracker for more details.

Whenever head judge Tom Colicchio remarks about how he only cares about the food and not about whatever drama happens to be ensuing.

Whenever any judge asks a contestant what their inspiration was for the dish they’ve prepared.

Whenever Tom says "You played it safe" or "You seem to be content in the middle."

For the Contestants, take one drink …

Whenever a contestant says something along the lines of “I don’t care if others don’t like me because I’m here to compete, not make friends”.

Whenever a contestant says they should have no problem with a particular challenge because it’s in their area of expertise. Two drinks if they fail the challenge.

Whenever a contestant attributes their poor performance to being so far away from family and friends. Two drinks when the show is filmed near their home (i.e. filmed in LA and they happen to live in Santa Monica.)

Whenever a contestant expresses concern that they’ve never had experience with an ingredient or appliance that anyone who’s worked in a restaurant should know how to use… like a charcoal grill.

Whenever a contestant makes a “trio” of something. Two drinks if it’s a “duo” or “quartet”.

Whenever a contestant gets excessive with the adjectives in describing their dish. Two drinks if the adjectives sound like they came from a mid 1950’s copy of RedBook, such as “succulent”.

Whenever a contestant accuses another of stealing their ideas, style, ingredient, etc…

Whenever a contestant completely misses the entire point of the challenge. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: Serving poached lobster as your dish in a grilling challenge, creating an amuse for an entree challenge or using the featured ingredient as a garnish at best.

Whenever any plate garnish is purely decorative and inedible.

An addition of my own...Whenever a contestant utters the catch phrase of the season (i.e. "it is what it is" or "throw under the bus.")

Another addition from the comments section: The losing cheftestant saying "it was an honor to cook for you" to the judges.

For both Contestants and Judges take one drink …

Whenever the product placement reaches obscene levels. Just like including Padme in the hosts, this might be dangerous… Apply at your own risk.

Whenever all contestants express complete shock at finding out what a particular challenge will be. Two drinks if it’s completely unwarranted; “This challenge is cooking shrimp?! No!! I’ve never done that before!”

These are just the most obvious. I’m sure there will be more and we will all thank Bravo for keeping us inebriated.