What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

I have no will or energy for cooking, so we started calling in a radius out from my home to find a fun place to eat. God knows the family needs festival this year. The good thing is, we found something close. The bad thing is, I think I could buy a new motorcycle for […]

I have no will or energy for cooking, so we started calling in a radius out from my home to find a fun place to eat. God knows the family needs festival this year.

The good thing is, we found something close. The bad thing is, I think I could buy a new motorcycle for what it’s gonna cost.

What are you folks doing (or if you read this after, what did you do)?

Good Cupcake, Bad Cupcake

I may be in love with the wearer of this tattoo. Or the artist who did it. Or something. Click the image for a bigger version. Tattoos byAmanda Cancilla and feet belong to Alicia (dig the toenails). Found on All Things Cupcake via a random search for cupcake images.

I may be in love with the wearer of this tattoo. Or the artist who did it. Or something. Click the image for a bigger version.


_albums_ll104_GreenEyedLillies_goodandevilcupcakes.jpg

Tattoos byAmanda Cancilla and feet belong to Alicia (dig the toenails). Found on All Things Cupcake via a random search for cupcake images.

when chocolate pigs fly

There are certain perfect foods in the world. We could come up with a few each; say, an apple, or a sea urchin, or an egg. The foods that are complete, satisfying, a compliment to other foods. For you it might be a cheese, or a pork chop; it might be toast or a wedge […]

There are certain perfect foods in the world.

We could come up with a few each; say, an apple, or a sea urchin, or an egg. The foods that are complete, satisfying, a compliment to other foods. For you it might be a cheese, or a pork chop; it might be toast or a wedge of just-sharp-enoug cheddar. It might be a piece of dark chocolate, rich and glossy with cocoa butter.

One such food, most of us could agree, would be bacon. Oh, to be sure, there are vegans and vegetarians out there who might object or disagree. They surely speak from envy, though, and earn our pity. Poor, poor folk, denied the pleasures one of life’s most noble beasts, the pig.

Now, one of the characteristics of perfect foods is that, while we might incorporate them into other things, they seem complete and perfect as they are. How does one improve upon, say, chocolate? How can chocolate be better than in it’s most pure and simple state?

Well, interestingly enough, one can add bacon:


flyingpig.jpg

No, I am not kidding.

Someone bought me this the other day as a lark; last night, after my very last bottle of ’03 sinister hand, I had one of my rare must-have-sweet-treat moments, and thought, well, there’s that absurd chocolate pig, why not? (sinister hand makes me do silly things).

So I broke into the pig.

On first bite, it was simply rich, smooth, dark chocolate. After a moment, though, the palate encounters vague smoke, salt, and textures both vaguely chewy and slightly crunchy.

If you’d asked me, what’s in that, I’d have been hard put to say; something smokey? Something herbal? Whatever was in it, I’d have said, give me more, and now.

As one chews successive bites, the elements become more clear. There is, without question, bacon and salt as recognizable elements of the flavor; yet they in no way interfere. After two of three bites, I wondered why there isn’t always bacon in chocolate.

Now, I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest expert on chocolate; but I can’t think of a piece of chocolate that ever pleased me more.

I must have more. And quickly.

making stock

My dear friend E asked me about making stock recently, and I figured I might as well do this in a blog entry instead of an email, so as to better share the wealth. I make stock all the time. Basically whenever I have enough roasted birds carcasses collected in my freezer. I’ve talked about […]

My dear friend E asked me about making stock recently, and I figured I might as well do this in a blog entry instead of an email, so as to better share the wealth.

I make stock all the time. Basically whenever I have enough roasted birds carcasses collected in my freezer. I’ve talked about this before, but I didn’t really talk technical.

Stock is simple. It’s easy. If you think it’s difficult, you’re working too hard on it. In a nutshell, all you’re doing is putting bones, and usually vegetables, in a pan with water, and simmering for hours. That’s pretty much the whole story. You’ll find books – like Michael Ruhlmann’s Elements of Cooking – which will leave you thinking you need to devote days to making veal stock or why bother. Ruhlmann’s book is great, but he makes that mistake of speaking as if to experts when giving basic tips. Yeah, I’m sure his results are great, but so are mine even when I do everything different that he says.

Make it easy, or you won’t do it. You’ll buy a box or a can.

Read more “making stock”

chef space

I swear, I’ve been trying to sit down and write something – blog entry, even a blog commen – for more than a week now. I can’t sit still. I can’t concentrate when I sit down. I’ve been off work since Dec 22nd, and had no travel plans nor major projects; I’ve been on call […]

I swear, I’ve been trying to sit down and write something – blog entry, even a blog commen – for more than a week now. I can’t sit still. I can’t concentrate when I sit down.

I’ve been off work since Dec 22nd, and had no travel plans nor major projects; I’ve been on call for work all week (the team I support are working the week, lucky to get xmas and new year’s days off). Luckily those of us in support were not asked to be on site, but since one of my team’s out on maternity leave (and oh-my-god was she cute pregnant; young, indian, 5 foot tall in shoes – wait, I’m distracting myself), one’s on vacation in Iowa, another someplace on the border between india and pakistan visiting family, I wound up one of two who’s still home for the holidays.

So mentally, I’m still 30% at work; xmas day while my kids un-wrapped gifts, I was checking for trouble tickets from my iPhone. This seems to have had the effect of making me not want to be anywhere near my computer when I’m not tending to dire emergencies involving software licenses and batch queueing ratios.

What I have done, though, is cooked. And I’m reminded how much more I like cooking than I do working. I’m reminded how good it feels to make something simple for no reason other than because I felt like it.

My family – and by that I mean my in-laws, my family consists of a mom who won’t leave the house ’cause of a combination of emphysema and a panic disorder, and my own immediate family of four – postponed the usual xmas eve dinner til the 30th this year. This was traumatic; IJ (my mother-in-law) plans things with dalek-like determination; every single detail alike, year to year, decade to decade. But this year, we lost two major figures in the family drama. Holmes, my father-in-law, passed away last february after a short, brutal struggle with cancer, and auntie Glenna went last summer. No one in the family, apart from IJ, (who seemed to be over all this long before it happened, again, putting one in the mind of cyber-beings) wanted a business-as-usual family xmas. One one else could face that, so we’re doing it different this year.

IJ does the turkey – the exact same turkey as last year and the exact same turkey as 1997 – and peas, and various jell-o salad type things. Other family members are bringing ten thousand sweet treats for after. I’m doing tasty, carb-a-riffic side dishes.

As I write this, I’m waiting for a pot of yams-or-sweet-potatoes (I never can remember what the difference is) to boil. I’ve a foil packet in front of me, the scent of roasted garlic wafting from it; later, that will go into mashed yukon golds. A few minutes ago I put a baking dish of creamed onions on the ‘fridge, and in a moment, I need to figure out what’s going in these yam-things (I’ve never made them, and so for once need a recipe).

While the potatoes boil, later, I have a shrimp cocktail to put together, big fat prawns and a traditional cocktail sauce, heavy with horseradish but too light on cayenne for my taste (few in the family are chili heads, apart from me and ruby).


The yams – crisp-topped with sugar and pecans, scented with vanilla and cinnamon – came out wonderfully, or so eyes and nose tell me. I do not understand serving these as a side dish beside ham or turkey; no they are a sweet dish and should come after the mean. But nevermind, they will be good and those who find sweet and savory more complimentary than I do will enjoy them.

Onions are now in the oven, topped with a cracker and bread crumbs; this year I tried browning the onions in butter before adding the cheese sauce, and it looks and smells like a good choice. Seven or eight hundred small yukon gold potatoes now sit in a big pot on my stove. In a few minutes they’ll be combined with a roasted-garlic cream, butter, milk, hawaiian sea salt and white pepper.

This post should have pictures, because it’s pure food porn. But hell if I can be bothered to find the camera. I’m in chef space now.

(I posted this WAY before it was done, I meant to just upload and not publish. New version of ecto, still a few bugs. Fuck it though, I guess it’s done now.)

Chad’s Dad’s Black Bean Hummus

This is what I meant to post when I started the aimless ramble that became the next entry; my recipe for Black Bean Hummus. That entry went off into something else so here it is on it’s own. I got a new food processor for xmas, and of course then needed to make pureed things. […]

This is what I meant to post when I started the aimless ramble that became the next entry; my recipe for Black Bean Hummus. That entry went off into something else so here it is on it’s own.

I got a new food processor for xmas, and of course then needed to make pureed things. I pulled out one of my favorite party-dip recipes, and decided to use it as a side dish with grilled lamb. It works *really* well as a side dish, and really, could not be much better for you with all the beans and lime and so forth.

This dinner was so good, my family demanded the exact same dinner two nights later, which I made, and it turned out even better the second go round.

Chad’s Dad’s Black Bean Hummus

1 15oz can *unseasoned* black beans (you could use fresh cooked, but I never do); drained and lightly rinsed (you can skip the rinse if you want a darker color and beanier flavor)
1/3 cup FRESH SQUEEZED lime juice
1 large clove garlic, chopped or smashed (or more to taste, if everyone’s eating it)
1/2 cup natural-style peanut butter (not that skippy crap)
1-4 jalapenos, chopped and de-seeded (to taste – it will take a LOT of chilis before it starts to taste spicy; I sometimes use serranos, and I’ve used habenros without making it mouth-hurting)
1 whole bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed (you could use parsley if you’re one of those cilantro-hating freaks)
salt to taste (it usually needs quite a bit)

Add garlic and lime to food processor, process until the garlic is well minced. Add peanut butter, and continue to process until smooth, adding water by quarter teaspoons if needed to get the PB moving. Add beans and chilis, and process til smooth (again, adding water if needed). Taste, and adjust salt (and usually, add more chilis). Should be a smooth, spreadable consistency, but not runny. Add cilantro and pulse just til well incorporated; too much processing will turn the dip green.

Garnish with thin lime slices, olives and cilantro leaves, dust with cayenne, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with toasted pita and blue corn chips.

This recipe came to me via my friend Chad, a truly beautiful human being. We used to share season tickets for 49ers games, and every home-game sunday we’d trek to Candlestick Point at ungodly hours of the morning, rain or shine, to tailgate with our crew of friends. These are the people who owned motorhomes just for tailgate parties, the people who’ve been going to games since kezar, the people who go no matter what.

Chad used to bring this wonderful dip once in a while; when I first tried it, I was amazed. What the hell is is, I asked, because it was gray and unlovely. I’m sure I objected, stating that hummus isn’t made from black beans and peanut butter, you can’t call it hummus, but then I tried it and all was forgiven; it’s that fucking good.

Where did you get this recipe, I asked? “From my dad,” he said, and ever since, that’s been it’s name, Chad’s Dad’s Black Bean Hummus; I even contributed it to a cook book under that name one time.