Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ted Kennedy's Annual Lenten Diet

Lent is here again, and while I am more of a lapsed Catholic than anything else, we always try to give up something for Lent. Since we do like to party over here it makes sense for me to give up Carb's, and Alcohol during this period of time that lasts till Easter.

I love flour, bread, potato's, and sugar, beer, wine, and spirits, but it doesn't really like me, so I use this time of year to shed the excess weight put on during the Holidays, and the Fall. This year I am pretty serious about it, and plan to be well under 200 lbs by Memorial Day or sooner.

One of Kate's cousin's greeted me as Lou Ferrigno at a wedding in Jamaica this year, so no more of that for awhile. I am not a diet guru, but I find that keeping it low carb, and staying under 20 carbs a day helps me lose weight the quickest, and also satifies my appetite. So you are going to see a lot of protein being dispayed in different ways over the next six weeks, and we won't forget fish on Friday's.

When you are eating like this you need some serious sauces, so that is why we are going through and detailing how to make the Mother Sauces of France this week. Once you know how to make the right Sauce, the most boring food tastes fantastic. Sure it is rich, but it is on my diet.

I am 6'0 tall and I should weigh around 190 pounds based on my frame. I have been known to flirt with 240 on occasion. The first year of marriage is never easy on the waist line so by doing this diet over Lent I should lose close to 30 pounds. I stay on a moderate version through Memorial Day, and enter Summer at an optimum weight so I can have some fun, and actually take my shirt off in public.

Eating well, and correctly isn't the only thing we do. We make sure we get out and walk 3-4 miles around the neighborhood every day when weather permits. We also have been known to strap on the cross country ski's, and cruise around the golf course when we have time. A little activity, and the right diet is all it takes.

The Mother Sauces....Espagnole

Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also have added Beurre Blanc which isn't officially a mother sauce, but it also is a solid base other sauces are built from. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.

Espagnole is the true Brown Sauce, it has a strong taste and is rarely used directly on food. As a mother sauce, however, it then serves as the starting point for many derivative sauces, such as: Sauce Africaine, Sauce Bigarade, Sauce Bourguignonne, Sauce aux Champignons, Sauce Charcutiere, Sauce Chasseur, and Sauce Chevreuil, just to go as far as the "Cs". There are hundreds of other derivatives in the classic French repertoire.

In a restaurant the classic method of making espagnole is to prepare a very dark brown roux, to which are added several gallons of veal stock or water, along with 20–30 lb of browned bones, pieces of beef, many pounds of vegetables, and various seasonings. This blend is allowed to slowly reduce while being frequently skimmed. The classical recipe calls for additional veal stock to be added as the liquid gradually reduces but today water is generally used instead. Tomato sauce is added towards the end of the process, and the sauce is further reduced.

A typical espagnole recipe takes many hours or even several days to make, and produces four to five quarts of sauce. In most derivative recipes, however, one cup of espagnole is more than enough, so that the basic recipe will yield enough sauce for 16 to 20 meals. Frozen in small quantities, espagnole will keep practically indefinitely.

Espagnole, and Veloute is a project I like to do on in either Late Spring, or Fall on a rainy weekend to pass the time while watching some football on TV. When I do it try to make four different types of stocks, veloutes, or other base sauces at the same time. It is sort of like pickling, and preserving. I pour them in individual foam containers, and freeze them in 1/2 cup, or 1 cup portions.

Basic Brown Stock

Yield: 2 gallons


8 pounds veal marrow bones sawed into 2-inch pieces
6 pounds beef marrow bones sawed into 2-inch pieces
16 ounces tomato paste
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped carrot
2 cups chopped celery
4 cups dry red wine
1 bouquet garni
Salt and pepper
16 quarts of water

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the bones in a roasting pan and roast for 1 hour. Remove the bones from the oven and brush with the tomato paste. In a mixing bowl, combine the onions, carrots, and celery together. Lay the vegetables over the bones and return to the oven. Roast for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the roasting pan on the stove and deglaze the pan with the red wine, using a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan for browned particles.

Put everything into a large stockpot. Add the bouquet garni and season with salt. Add the water. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the stock for 4 hours, skimming regularly. Remove from the heat and strain through a China cap or tightly meshed strainer.

Espagnole Sauce

2 gallon brown stock, hot
3 cups brown roux
1/2 cup bacon fat
4 cups chopped onions
2 cup chopped carrots
2 cup chopped celery
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup tomato puree
1 bouquet garni

In a stock pot, whisk the hot stock into the roux. In a large saute pan, heat the bacon fat. Add the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir the tomato puree into the vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato/vegetable mixture to the stock/roux mixture. Add the bouquet garni and continue to simmer, skimming as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce for about 45 minutes. Strain the sauce through a China cap.


Madeira sauce: Espagnole sauce mixed with Madeira wine.

Mushroom sauce: Espagnole sauce and mushrooms.

Bordelaise sauce: Espagnole sauce with red wine, shallots and herbs.

Lyonnaise sauce: Espagnole sauce with chopped onions, parsley and white wine.

Charcuterie Sauce: Espagnole sauce with chopped onions, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, white wine.

Sauce Africaine: Espagnole sauce, tomato, chopped onions, chopped bell pepper, salt, garlic white wine, basil, parley, bay leaf, and thyme.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Mother Sauces....Hollandaise

Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also consider Beurre Blanc a base or mother sauce, even though the French do not. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.

Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of butter and lemon juice using egg yolks as the emulsifying agent, usually seasoned with salt and a little black pepper or cayenne pepper.

Hollandaise is notoriously difficult to make well and to hold. Properly made it should be smooth and creamy, and if beaten long enough will hold its shape as firmly as whipped cream. It tastes very rich and buttery, with a mild tanginess added by the lemon juice and seasonings. It must be made and served warm, but not hot. If the ingredients are not mixed properly, or if they are kept too cold or too hot, they will separate, resulting in an oily mess filled with particles of egg yolk.

Most authorities use something like the following method: A wire whisk and a thin-bottomed bowl work fine. The egg yolks must be beaten thoroughly first, then the lemon juice beaten into them. Then the butter (preferably clarified butter; clarified, meaning it has been melted and the milk solids removed) is added very slowly, while the mixture is being continually beaten and held over a pot of simmering water.

Once you have made Hollandaise as a base you can add some simple ingredients to make multiple variations such as Bearnaise which is always great with a steak, or even better in the rich appetizer lobster recipe I show you at the end.

Hollandaise Sauce

2 tablespoons white-wine or tarragon vinegar or fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons boiling water
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter and keep it warm. Heat lemon juice until just warmed. Have small saucepan with boiling water and a measuring tablespoon ready. Place the top of a double boiler over (not in) hot water. (This means the bottom of the top of the double boiler sound not make contact with the water heating in the bottom half of the double boiler.)

Place the egg yolks in the top of a double boiler and whisk until they begin to thicken. Now add 1 tablespoon of the boiling water. Continue to beat the sauce until it begins to thicken. Repeat with the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time, beating the mixture after each addition.

Now add the warmed vinegar or lemon juice. Remove the double boiler from the heat. Beat the sauce briskly with a wire whisk. Continue to beat the mixture as you slowly pour in the melted butter. Add the salt and cayenne and beat the sauce until it is thick. Serve immediately.


Sauce Mousseline - - whipped cream folded in to Hollandaise (also known as Sauce Chantilly).

Sauce Aux Capres - add drained capers

Sauce Bearnaise - - replace lemon in recipe with a reduction of vinegar, shallots, and fresh chervil and/or tarragon, strained.

Sauce Maltaise - - orange zest (blanched) and juice, blood orange for authenticity.

Sauce Divine - - reduced sherry folded into whipped cream.

Sauce Noisette - - Hollandaise made with browned butter (beurre noisette).

Sauce Bavaroise - - cream, horseradish, thyme.

Sauce Foyot - - add meat glaze (Glace de Viande) to Bearnaise; also known as Sauce Valoise.

Sauce Colbert - - Sauce Foyot with addition of reduced white wine.

Sauce Paloise - - Bearnaise but substitute mint for tarragon (great with Lamb).

Sauce Creme Fleurette - - add Crème fraîche.

Sauce Choron - - Foyot plus tomato purée.

Sauce Dijon - - add Dijon mustard (also known as Sauce Moutarde or Sauce Girondine).

Sauce vin Blanc (for fish) - - add reduction white wine and fish stock.

Lobster Escargot Style

You can make this recipe with Lobster, Scallops, or Prawns, but I prefer the lobster. Buy a couple New Zealand, or Australian tails for this dish.

1 Lb Shelled Lobster Tail
Grated Gruyere Cheese
Bearnaise Sauce

Melt some butter and put a little in each hole of an escargot dish, or mini Muffin pan.
Cut the lobster tail into bite size pieces and put in the hole, cover with bearnaise sauce, and Gruyere cheese and bake at 375 till brown, usually about 10 minutes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Mother Sauces....Bechamel

Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also have added Beurre Blanc which isn't officially a mother sauce, but it also is a solid base other sauces are built from. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.

This week I figured was a good time to go over the basic sauces because they really make a difference in very simple dishes such, as grilled items such as Steak, Veal, Fish, pork, and Chicken. We are going to start off with Bechamel because we can make an incredible Mac and Cheese with it. Don't be intimidated, all these sauces can easily be made by anyone if you follow directions, and develop an easy to learn skill set.

Bechamel, one of the mother sauces of French cuisine, is usually made today by whisking scalded milk gradually into a white flour-butter roux, though it can also be made by whisking a kneaded flour-butter beurre manié into scalded milk. The thickness of the final sauce depends on the proportions of milk and flour.

Bechamel Sauce

1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Flour
1 Cup Milk
Bay Leaf

Add or substitute the following ingredients to make the following sauces based on Bechamel.

Mornay sauce (gruyere cheese)

Nantua sauce (shrimp butter and cream)

Crème sauce (heavy cream)

Mustard Creme sauce (prepared mustard, heavy cream)

Soubise Sauce (finely diced onions that have been sweated in butter)

Cheddar Cheese sauce (cheddar cheese, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce)

Alfredo Sauce (heavy creme, parmesan, and romano cheese)

Gorgonzola Creme Sauce (heavy creme, gorgonzola, romano cheese)

Adult Macaroni and Cheese

The first time I had this was in Lahaina, Maui at the Mala Tavern which sit's in a small house on the edge of the water. Spectacular setting, with even more spectacular food. the Maytag Blue really gives it a tangy kick. If you don't like Blue Cheese just substitute the Maytag, for a Cheddar Jack mixure.

Rigatoni Pasta
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Flour
1 Cup Heavy Creme
Diced Mushroom
Diced Shallot
Bay Leaf
Mozzarella Cheese
Pecorino or Romano Cheese
Maytag Blue Cheese

Make your basic Bechamel using creme rather than milk, add finely diced mushrooms, spices, and add the cheese and serve over the boiled Rigatoni.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Scallops Three Simple Ways

Scallops are readily available through out the country. There are Bay Scallops which are the small one's, singing Scallops which are fresh steamed in the shell, and the larger Sea Scallops. The part of the Scallop we eat is actually the muscle that holds the shell together.

You can buy Scallops fresh, or frozen. The Sea Scallops you usually see at your local grocery store are most likely thawed rather than fresh. I buy bag's of Alaskan Sea Scallops at Costco and they are excellent. A bag usually runs around $17, and contains 2 pounds. if you have ever ordered Scallops at a restaurant you realize while expensive, it is still a pretty good deal.

Sea Scallops are one of those items, like Prawns, that freeze well if processed correctly. They thaw in just a few minutes soaking in cold water. Make sure that when you buy Scallops that they are individually frozen, show no frost, and are not stuck together.

The key to cooking Scallops is not to overcook them. They don't require much heat, and depending on the thickness only need 1 1/2 minutes on each side till they are done. Cook them to long and you have expensive rubber.

Scallop's make an easy meal, or accompaniment because they can cooked in only a few minutes, and the way's they can be served our endless.

Today we are going to share three of my favorite way's of cooking them.

Japanese Style Sesame Scallops

Pour 1/4 cup of flour in a bowl or container. Season the flour with the spices and sesame seeds. In the pan melt the butter, and add the olive oil and bring up to heat. Dip the scallops lightly in the flour mixture and fry 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Serve with a little teriyaki sauce drizzled on each piece.

1/2 Pound Sea Scallops sliced in half
1/4 cup Flour
2 Tbsp Butter
Olive Oil
Sesame Seed
Seasoning Salt
Black Pepper
Garlic Powder
Teriyaki Sauce Drizzle

Bacon Fried Scallops

Dice two pieces before cooking and fry till semi crisp. Add Scallops to hot drippings and immediately season with the spices. Cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side and serve with the bacon bits and chives as a garnish.

1/2 Lb Sea Scallops sliced in half
2 Slices of Bacon diced
Garlic Powder

Classic Scallops

Melt the butter in the pan, and add the chopped Scallions and Garlic. Cook for around five minutes till translucent. Add sliced Scallops to the pan, and cook a 1 minute on first side, and 1 1/2 minutes on the other. Add wine at finish for 30 seconds and serve garnished with the chopped Chives.

1/2 Lb Sea Scallops sliced in half
3 tbsps Butter
1 oz White Wine
2 Chopped Garlic Cloves
1 Thin Sliced Shallots

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Char Siu...Chinese BBQ Pork

Char Siu, is Chinese Barbecue Pork which is a very popular appetizer in Chinese restaurants on the West Coast. The best Char Siu can be found in the Chinatown's of Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Portland.

When you walk by a restaurant in Chinatown, and see the reddened meat hanging in the window under heat lamps you know you have a chance to try the real thing. The red comes from the red dye #2 in the Chinese BBQ Glaze, and the marinade the meat sits in for a day or two. I pass on the red dye #2 in my recipe, but you can add a few drops if you wish, it won't hurt you, and it add's the traditional aesthetic appeal.

Back to the meat in the was marinated for a day, or two in a mixture that includes the red dye, and it is never Pork Tenderloin because Pork Tenderloin does not have a lot of fat in it, and dripping fat of course is what gives meat it's extra flavor. Pork in the US is much leaner than it used to be, so it is tough to get the authentic Char Sui of our fathers even when you use a fattier cut like Boston Butt.

Most of the West Coast Chinese restaurants that don't have a Char Siu Window follow a traditional recipe like this to create a Westernized version of the dish.

Char Siu Pork Tenderloin

4 Pork Tenderloin's
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
Garlic Cloves
Finely Chopped Shallots
Sesame Oil
Brown Sugar
Red Dye #2
Powdered Ginger Root
Hoisin Sauce
Five Spice Powder
Hot Pepper Flakes
Rice Wine
Kosher Salt
Dry Sherry
Sesame Seeds
Chinese Mustard
Chopped Scallions

Combine all the ingredients except for the scallions, mustard, and sesame seeds. Warm in a sauce pan to meld the flavors. Place the meat in a zip lock bag. Pour the cooled marinade over the meat, and refrigerate for a day or two.

Since we are using a Pork Tenderloin which is very lean we have to be very careful how we cook it so we don't dry the cut out. Roast the Pork at 220 degree's for 20 minutes on a rack over a 1/4 inch of water. Turn the Pork and reduce the temperature to 185 degrees and roast for another twenty minutes, don't forget to baste with the marinade.

Take the pork out of the oven and turn the broiler on high. Coat the Pork with the sticky Char Siu Glaze. You can buy it at almost any grocery store store, or make it from the recipe below. Broil the meat for five minutes till the glaze caramelizes, and the edges of the meat start to char. Take it out and glaze the other side, and repeat the process.

It can be served hot, or cold, but it is always sliced thinly. I garnish it by putting Sesame Seeds and Chopped Scallions over the top. I then dip it in the hot mustard, and dredge it through the Sesame Seeds then stuff it into my mouth.

Char Siu Boston Butt

If you want to be more authentic you can use a Boston Butt rather than a Pork Tenderloin. You need to trim it out into smaller pieces and leave a lot of the fat on. You then marinate the meat in the same recipe as the Pork Tenderloin. The difference is how you cook it. You hang the meat on small sharpened stainless steel "S" hooks, and suspend it over broiler pan of water in the oven. This mimics the technique done under the heat lamps in the Chinatown restaurants. The cooking time is longer because the meat is a tougher cut, but you still use your broiler to caramelize the the sauce on the meat.

Both versions are great, the difference is the tenderloin is lean, and very moist, while the Boston Butt has more fat. As the fat melt it bastes the hanging meat.

Char Siu High Tech
Chinese Barbecue is different from Western Barbecue because of the absence of smoke. They both however utilize steam to keep the meat moist. Historically Char Siu was fatty pieces of marinated Pork that was roasted on a skewer over an open fire than promptly eaten caveman style. Heat lamps have replaced the open fire as the dish has adopted more of a Greek Gyro style of cooking.
A custom, modern, oven capable of doing Char Sui the would be an infrared rottiserie which is now available with some outdoor grills as an option.

Char Siu Fried Rice

Fried Rice is actually China's favorite way of serving leftovers. Chinese families take the leftover Rice from last nights dinner throw it in a Wok and mix it what was left in the larder. In America it is more standardized, and is a popular side dish at dinner in all Asian restaurants. Fried Rice for breakfast however was a standard with many Asian families.

1 Cup White, or Brown Rice
2 Cups water
Chicken, Beef or Pork Bullion
Slice of Butter

Bring the water to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook the rice for 45 minutes in a pot with a tight fitting lid. When the rice is done I prefer to cool it a few hours, or overnight in the fridge before using it.

Cold Cooked Rice
Soy Sauce
Chopped Onions
Chopped Celery
BBQ Pork
Sweet Chinese Sausage
Sliced Almonds
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Peanut Oil
Sesame Oil

I heat up the Wok and add the Peanut Oil.

One the peanut oil is hot I add the egg and fry it up. This is the key, scramble the egg first before adding the other ingredients.

Once the egg is cooked break it into to small pieces, and add the vegetables, get them warm and a little translucent before you add the rice. One the rice is added cook the mixture for five minutes stirring it in your Wok, and then add your Pork, Sweet Sausage, Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce, and Almonds to finish. Cook until the mixture develops a nice glaze and serve topped with chopped Scallions.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Perfect Crab Cake

Making the perfect crabcake is easy if you have the best, and freshest crab available. The Crab of course is what makes the Crabcake. Remember it is called Crabcake, not Crabloaf, so the goal is to make sure it is light, crispy, and not in the least bit fishy tasting.

The best Crab in the world in my opinion is the Dungeness which ranges between Northern California, and Alaska on the Pacific Coast. If you are from the East Coast of course you think I am crazy because the Blue Crab is what made the Crab cake famous, and Baltimore and the Chesapeake are Crab cake Central.

You guy's are insane, East Coast Crab Cakes go heavy on the Old Bay, and that is to cover up the media the foul tasting crab you actually import from Asia most of the time. Dungeness is the best way to go if you want to achieve the perfect Crab cake.

Dungeness is best when steamed live after catching. You may see live one's at a restaurant, but after a couple of days they start losing body fat so they are not nearly as good as when they are captured. So the only place to get the best Crab is at the dock while you watch it being cooked, or bring it home live and cook it yourself that evening.

Whole Dungeness doesn't freeze, or ship live very well. We have whole previously frozen one's at Costco in Chicago, and they are a pale imitation to the fresh one's on the West Coast. When I want Crab and I don't want to travel to Seattle I call one of the Fishmonger's at Seattle's Pike Place Market. They Fed Ex it out to me on ice and I have it in time for dinner the day after I order.

If you have Crab cake in a restaurant chances are very good that your crab came in a can from Southeast Asia. I have had various grades of the canned Swimming Blue Crab from Phillips and their highest grade which is sold in one pound cans at Costco isn't bad at all, but you can't make the perfect crab cake with it.

You can get very good canned Dungeness Crab from various Internet purveyors, and it works very well for Cakes, or Salads. The stuff the Northwest restaurants usually use is frozen in five, or ten pound cans.

I have had frozen Dungeness Crab ($22 per pound) from Alaska that was vacuum packed in plastic, and it wasn't that great, I wouldn't say it was salad quality. It was fine for crab cakes after it had been soaked in cream for a couple of hours to return some fat, and leach the brine.

For the perfect Crab meat expect to pay around $28 per pound plus the cost of getting it here overnight. It is well worth the expense, and a pound of Crab meat makes a lot of Crabc akes.

The Perfect Crabcake

1 Pound Fresh Dungeness Crab Meat
1/4 Cup Breadcrumbs
1/2 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs (Optional)
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
3 Tsps Mayonnaise
1 Egg beaten
1 finely diced Onion
2 diced Shallots
1 finely Sweet Bell Pepper (Red, Yellow, or Orange)
Old Bay Seasoning
1 cloves of crushed Garlic
Fresh Lemon Juice
A dash of Tabasco
White Pepper

Chop your vegetables and combine with all the ingredients except the Panko bread crumbs and refrigerate an hour or more before using. You are going to notice that you have a pretty runny mixture that doesn't easily hold together or form into a cake, and that is exactly what you are looking for in the creation of a crab cake that is light as air.

Think like your cooking a pancake.

I heat up my griddle, and rub butter all over it and scoop out the crab mixture. Using a small ladle I drop each mound on a some Panko bread crumbs, then toss them on the grill in a free form shape to brown and cook. Don't touch them, or try to flip them till the bottoms are golden brown. When that happens they are able to hold their shapes and you can simply flip them over with a spatula and brown the other side to finish. At this time you can use your spatula to flatten them a bit to give them a more desirable shape.

These Crab cakes rely on the eggs, and cream more than the breadcrumbs inside to hold them together. The secret to light crab cakes is using the least amount of breadcrumbs on the inside that you can get away with.

I like to serve them with a number of different sauces depending on my mood. Hollandaise, Remoulade, Tartar, Cocktail Sauces, or a mixture of Sour Cream, Dijon, and Dill.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The New Taco Casserole

I remember the first time my mom brought home a kit to make Taco Casserole when I was a kid, it immediately became a new favorite around the house, and ranked right up there with Pork n Bean Casserole, and Lasagana.

I have to admit while I make the occasional Lasagna to feed a group, I haven't made Taco, or Pork n Bean Casserole's since I was a college student. Taste's change as we get older and we develop a more sophisticated palate.

The opportunity came up after we had around 2 1/2 pounds of broiled hamburger patties left over from a cookout here at the house.

What do you do with a day old, cold, broiled hamburger?

You can microwave them, and serve them again which is pretty disgusting, throw them out after you get tired of looking at them in the fridge, and even let the dog sample a few.

What you could do is crumble them up, and spice them with Taco Seasoning, Salsa, Onion, and simmer with a cup, or so of water to help give them another life.

I seldom use kit's, but I do try to use up stuff in the pantry when doing up left over's. My version of Taco Caserole is much better than the kit version.

2 1/2 Lbs of Hamburger
1/3 Cup Taco Seasoning
2 Cups Water
One Can chopped Onions (Optional)
1 Can Black Olives
Red Salsa
Cheddar Jack Cheese
8 Soft White Corn Tortilla's
Crisp Tortilla Chips
I Can Kidney Beans (Optional)
1 Can Mild Diced Green Chili's (Optional)
2 Cans of Enchilada Sauce

If you are using yesterdays old burgers like I did just warm them up in a pan a bit and crumble them down with your hands. Add your Taco Seasoning (which I buy in bulk at Costco) fresh onions, and mix together till warm, add water, and salsa, bring to a boil, them simmer for a half hour. Add the chopped Black Olives, Beans, and Mild Green Chili's at the end.

If you are using fresh burger just brown it, drain the grease, then add the fresh onions and cook till the start to turn translucent, then add your seasoning, water, and salsa. Once again add your Chili's, Beans, and Olive's at the end.

After that you need to spray a casserole dish with some Pam, and brown some fresh tortilla's in a drop of olive oil. When the tortillas are crispy cut them into quarters and line the bottom of the caserrole dish.

Add the first of what will be three layers of taco meat and top with shredded cheese. When you have three levels you pour the two cans of Enchilada Sauce over the top. Follow that by Crunching up some Crisp White Tortilla Chips for the topping, and add a final layer of shredded cheese.

Cook in a pre warmed oven at 375 for 45 minutes till the cheese bubbles on the top.

Since we were cooking burgers for a group of 20 the day before we had a lot of shredded lettuce left, so when we took the Casserole out of the oven we served the slices on a bed of the shredded lettuce with a dollop of Sour Creme, and Guacamole with some Salsa on the side.

This recipe is a big hit because it is spicy, cheesey, and has the great taste of white corn tortilla's melding with the Enchilada Sauce which keeps it steamy, and moist. I think you will agree once you taste it that while it reminds you of Mom's old kit recipe, it really can be a lot better when you make it on your own without the kit.

Like any casserole you can add or omit ingredients to suit your families tastes, and that is why I listed the Olives, Beans, and Chili's as optional.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Friday Fish Fry

Fish Fry's are popular all over the country, but the variety of fish does vary by region. My favorite fried fish is Alaskan Cod. Alaskan Cod is pretty easy to get in any region of the U.S. because it is often processed, and frozen at sea. You can't really tell the difference between frozen, or fresh Alaskan Cod because of the rapid processing, and flash freezing. F.A.S. is the anachronism you should be looking for with frozen Cod.

I find the frozen product to be very consistent in the Midwest. Sure we have it fresh here, but it is often a roll of the dice getting a cut of fish here that was caught within the last day, or two, that being the case, I prefer frozen FAS in the Midlands. Costco carries a very nice product.

Frozen fish needs to be handled differently then fresh fish, it needs to be refreshed. Refresh it by rinsing in cold water, and soaking it in buttermilk, cream, or beer batter 45 minutes before cooking. If you do this you will avoid rubbery, tasteless fish. Frozen fish is usually packed in a brine solution which preserves the fish, but leaches the oils, and moisture out of the fish. By soaking the fish in a dairy product you are able to replenish the fish with oil and moisture while leaching out the salt solution it was packed in.

Wisconsin is a big time fish fry state. It could be because the state is heavily Catholic, and even though the edict of fish on Friday's is long gone, except for during Lent, the tradition continues up there year round. They fry all kinds of fish up there, but Baby Perch is the favorite which would seem odd if you are from the West Coast where fresh water Pan Fish are not popular.

In the Midwest we often like to substitute fresh Walleye, Crappie, Baby Perch, Blue Gill's, or any other Pan Fish. They are all excellent, and they have little, or no mercury compared to a larger fish which is a concern in the Midwest.

Some like it breaded, some like it battered, or beer battered, here is the way I like it.

I make a simple beer batter... .

Light Beer
1 Cup Flour
Seasoning Salt to Taste
Garlic Powder to Taste
Black Pepper to Taste

If your fish is frozen soak it in the batter at least 45 minutes before frying. It makes a big difference, and refreshes the fish.

I then lay out a mixture of Japanese Panko Bread crumbs, Sesame Seeds, and drudge the beer battered filet's in the mixture, and put them in the fryer at 375 degree's.

1 cup Panko bread crumbs
Seasoning Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste.
Sesame Seeds

You cook the fish till it is golden brown, and floating, it only takes a couple of minutes, and then it is done. Serve with Cocktail, Tartar, or Remoulade Sauce.

What is Fish without the Chips?

I hand cut Russet's, or use a mandolin for a large crowd. I soak the potato's in a rinse of ice water to get the the starch off the potato's. Process usually take around a half hour. You Blanche the fries in oil heated to 325 degrees for 3 minutes, then set aside to cool. Before you fry the fish finish the fries at 375 degree's and keep warm in the oven at 225 degree's before serving.

Serve with Tartar, Cocktail, or Remoulade Sauce. Malt vinegar is another great drizzle to put on after the finish with a little Sea Salt. Cole Slaw is a traditional side, and Clam Chowder is a great starter.

Seattle is Fish and Chips central on the West Coast. The best stands, store, or chains are Skipper's, Ivar's, Spud, and Totem House. Duke's Chowder house is more upscale, and serves very good Fish and Chips. All the places have their various sized portions, and styles, but the recipe above I am sharing with you is the best of all.

If your are a sportsman in the Midwest you usually just egg wash your fish, and drudge it in a mixture of cracker meal, white flour, garlic, salt and pepper. The Shore Lunch is a big tradition among fisherman in the upper Midwest. Make sure to fry your fish in at least two inches of oil heated to 375 degree's.

I like the cracker crust too, and sometimes make it side by side with the Panko Beer Batter.

You need some Sauce to go with it

You need some great Tartar, or Cocktail Sauce to go with great Fish and Chips. Why buy it from the store when you can throw it together in a couple minutes with ingredients you usually have on hand anyway.

Tartar Sauce Recipe

6 Finely Chopped Dill Pickle
One Finely Chopped Onion
4 Oz Small Capers
1/1/2 Tbsp Horseradish
A sprinkle of Caper Juice
Fresh Lemon Juice
A couple of shakes Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
Dill Weed
Black Pepper
Sea Salt
Garlic Powder

Cocktail Sauce Recipe

1 bottle Heinz Chili Sauce
Horseradish to taste
8 Small Chopped Dill Pickle's
Finely Chopped Onion
2 oz Capers
Fresh Lemon Juice

Remoulade Sauce Recipe

1 cup mayonnaise
1 diced hard cooked Egg Yolk
1/4 cup chili sauce
4 tbsp. Creole mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 1/2 tbsp. horseradish
2 tbsp. Vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 medium scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped green olives
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Friday, February 16, 2007

Beef Carbonade

When it gets cold outside we think of food's that stick to our ribs Beef Carbonade is one of those type of things you want to eat when you are trying to build your body fat. If you leave out the flour, and dust with the meat with spices before browning, and add a lo-carb thickener to the stew about a half hour before cooking it is a true low carb treat. Low carb thickener is great stuff, and I have no idea wht they put in it, probably some soy flour mixture, anyway the dish tastes identical either way. Splenda will work to caramelize the onions.

Beef Carbonade is a decadent Winter Style Stew from Belgium. It isn't the easiest thing to make because it requires some time consuming steps, but the it is basically stew meat, bacon, onions, dark beer, and a few simple spices.

5 Lbs Stew Meat
1 Lb Bacon
3 Large Sweet Onions
1 Bottle of Dark Beer
Carton Sliced Mushrooms
Dollops of Sour Creme
Scallions as a Garnish
Shallots as a garnish
Flour or Low Carb Thickener
Sugar, or Splenda just a dab to caramelize
Thyme Leaf
Seasoning Salt
Black Pepper

Sounds real simple right, well it isn't, if you are going to make this set aside a good hour and a half to put it together.

Start off by mixing the flour with the Thyme, Salt, and Pepper, and set to the side. If doing the lo-carb version omit the flour. I just use more thyme to build the crust of the browning of the meat.

In a dutch oven or metal pot dice and cook the bacon to semi crisp, drain and move to side. Slice the onions thin and fry in the bacon drippings til translucent. Once translucent add the sugar to caramelize the onions. Stir them at a medium temperature till they are caramelized. Take them out of the pot and drain in a wire strainer. Press all the bacon drippings out, and pour the drippings back into the dutch oven.

Mix the flour with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Dust the stew meat after it has been cut into bite size pieces with the blend and brown in the drippings. If you run out out of drippings use some vegetable oil. Once stew meat is browned press between paper towels to remove some of the oil. Place meat, onions, bacon, and one bottle of dark beer in the dutch oven and cook at 350 for 2:30 hours while stirring on occasion. Add mushrooms at the 2:00 point so they don;t get cooked down.

Serve with with sour cream, and chopped scallion's as a garnish. Great with buttered poppy seed noodles, dark bread like a warmed pumpernickle, and maybe some baked apples.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Classic Chowder's

Clam Chowder is always a favorite wherever you happen to live. It is easy to make, and all the ingredients are available at almost every grocery store. Chowder is great any time of the year, but it is especially appreciated during the winter months.

Clam Chowder is a very regional type of thing. New England is and thick, and white. It is your basic white chowder that is served in varying degree's of thickness. It's usually dominated more by potatoes than clams

Traditional Manhattan which is made with tomato and is looked down upon by New Englander's who swear tomatoes do not belong in chowder. They like to call it vegetable clam soup.

Rhode Island is clear meaning that it is dairy and tomato free. Clear chowder is revelation because there is nothing there to cover up or take away from the taste of the sea.

I grew up with a pink and creamy Manhattan chowder at the long gone Wharf Restaurant at Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle. I've never seen it duplicated so the recipe probably died with the restaurant. I try to modernize and recreate it below.

Down in New Orleans they make a Tasso and Crawfish Chowder which is stunning but there is no denying that it is more of a gumbo town.

Clam Chowder took on its own identity in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980's. Duke Moscrip of Dukes is probably the father of it. He introduced it at Ray's Boathouse and took it with him when he left to create Dukes.

Northwest Chowder has some spice and heavy cream to it. It isn't thick like the chowders back east. The ingredients simply bathe in a cream, clam, and herb both. Bacon, dill, and an abundance of clams are the secrets.

If you have a Costco in your area buy your canned clams there, huge can, great quality, and they are full of juice so you do not need to buy the extra bottle of clam juice!

If you are on one of the coasts you might be tempted to steam your own clams, and it does make great clam juice. In the Northeast they prefer Quahogs, out West, Geoduck's, or Razor's are the gourmet choice. I have made great chowder with fresh Manilla clams, but the real deal is you can make fantastic chowder with canned seas clams and nobody is going to know the difference except for one thing....the clam juice.

I always steam a dozen manilla, or other small clam to get the fresh juice. Steaming a clam is easy, use either beer, or wine, a little garlic, dill, and butter.

Seattle is really a true Chowder capital. Ivar's, Skippers, Spud's, Totem House, and Dukes are my favorites. Totem House is thick like wallpaper paste, and smoky with bacon. Ivars' Skipper's, and Spud's are most definitely New England, while Ray's Boathouse, and Duke's Chowder House are the classic Northwest style.

Northwest Style Clam Chowder

People in Seattle like their chowder thin swimming in heavy cream. Adjust the amount of thickness by varying the amount of flour in the recipe. Always remember that it is clam chowder not potato chowder. Clams, and bacon should dominate the chowder, not the potato's. Northwesterner's often add a few dashes of Tabasco to taste when they are served.

A rule of thumb on spices....always do it to taste, you might like more, or less than I do, so keep adding as you go throughout the process till you have it to your liking.

12 oz can of chopped clams
Clam Juice 1 1/4 cup
Red Potatoes 1/2 lb diced
Bacon 1 Lb
One Lg Onion diced
Celery 3 stalks diced
Flour 1/2 cup
Thyme 1 tsp
Chopped Parsley 2 tsp
Italian Spice 3 tsp
Fresh Basil 2 tsp
Garlic 4 Cloves Crushed
Cayenne Pepper To Taste
Bay Leaves 2 Leaves
Dill 2 tsp
Seasoning Salt to Taste (Lawry's, Johnny's, or Old Bay)
Sea Salt To Taste
Black Pepper To Taste
White Pepper Pinch
Old Bay Seasoning Mix To Taste
Heavy Whole Cream 4 cups
Half and Half 1/2 cup
Butter 3 oz

Dice one pound of bacon and fry in the soup pot till browned and drain. Add chopped garlic, chopped onion, chopped basil, and chopped celery, all the spices, and cook in the bacon drippings. Once onions are translucent add flour and butter to make the roux. Cook the roux for five minutes to get rid of the flour taste. Add clams, clam juice, and stir to make the base of the chowder. Let the flavors meld for at least an hour. Add dairy products, and let reduce to desired thickness before serving. Season to taste as necessary.

Salmon Bay Fisherman's Wharf Style Manhattan

When I was growing up in Seattle there was a restaurant at Fisherman's Terminal called the Wharf. It was a childhood favorite of mine and they made the best version of Manhattan/Long Island Chowder I have ever had. This is a recreation of how I remember it.

12 oz chopped clams
Clam Juice
1 1/4 cup Partially peeled Russet Potatoes
1/2 lb diced Bacon
1 Lb Onions
One Lg onion diced
Celery 3 stalks diced
Flour 1/3rd cup
Thyme 1 tsp
Chopped Parsley 1 tsp
Italian Spice 2 tsp
Fresh Basil 4 tsp
Garlic 8 Cloves Crushed
Tabasco Sauce To Taste
Bay Leaves2 Leaves
Dill 2 tsp
Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste
White Pepper To Taste
Old Bay Seasoning Mix To Taste
Heavy Whole Cream 1 cup
Crushed Tomatoes 1 Lg Can
Butter 3 oz

Dice one pound of bacon and fry in the soup pot till browned and drain. Add chopped garlic, chopped onion, chopped basil, and chopped celery, all the spices, and cook in the bacon drippings. Once onions are translucent add flour and butter to make the roux. Cook the roux for five minutes to get rid of the flour taste. Add clams, clam juice, and stir to make the base of the chowder. Let the flavors meld for at least an hour. Add tomato's and simmer one hour. Add dairy products, and let reduce to desired thickness before serving. Season to taste as necessary.

Crawfish and Tasso Chowder

This recipe comes from New Orlean's, and I have only made it once when I happened to have some Crawfish Tails in the freezer. If you don't happen to have any crawfish tails lying around you can always substitute baby prawns. Tasso is great stuff if you can find it. I have a butcher shop in Chicago that makes there own Tasso, and Andouille. If you can't find Tasso dice up some Canadian Bacon, or Ham and throw a lot of blackening powder on it, and cook it on high till it carmelizes on the ham. Then use it for your recipe.

½ c. Salad oil
½ lb. Bacon, diced
1 cup Tasso, finely diced
1 Large Onion, diced
3 Celery stalks, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 ea. Red and Green Peppers, diced
2 ears Corn, remove kernels from ears
1 Tbs. Tarragon, Thyme, Kosher Salt
1 ½ Tbs. Garlic, minced
2 tsp. Fresh cracked black pepper
1 ea. Bay leaves, 1 pinch Cayenne pepper
½ c. White wine
¼ c. Worcestershire sauce, 2 dashes Tabasco
1/2 gal. Shrimp stock or broth
1 c. Blonde roux
1 qt. Heavy cream
4 c. Crawfish tails, pre-cooked
3 ea. Russet potatoes, cubed and par-boiled Method:

Heat oil in a medium stock pot, add bacon, sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until bacon is slightly crispy. Add Tasso, onions, celery, carrots and peppers, sauté for 5 to 7 minutes. Add corn, garlic, herbs, and spices, sauté another 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze with white wine, Worcestershire, and Tabasco, simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add shrimp stock, bring to a boil then whisk in roux, stirring well, so no lumps form. Turn down heat and simmer for 5 minutes, add heavy cream, crawfish, and strained potatoes. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste.

Understanding Meatloaf

Since we are deep in the middle of a snowy winter I am going to start off with comfort foods. Comfort foods of course aren't usually fancy, and they are the main stays of the household once the weather cools down. Meatloaf is suddenly chic' again as many restaurants have brought it back to the menu. Chef's among themselves, actually admire the simple things that are done well rather than the fancy dishes they cook each day at their restaurants. Simple things like briscuits, meatloaf, and braised item's are often the comfort of the culinary elite.

Meatloaf is one of my favorite things to make, especially in the Winter. It is simple to make, and it takes as much time to make it special as it takes to make it atrocious, in other words there are no decent excuses for a bad meatloaf.

Don't look down on meatloaf either, as it is the American cousin of the French pate's, and terrine's which simply put are just fancy, complex, cold, meatloaf. We will tackle the complicated French version on another day.

Meatloaf of course starts with the meat, and I like to use an even blend of Ground Chuck, Ground Pork, and Ground Veal. The blend gives it more complexity, and flavor. I never use frozen meat, and I never buy chain supermarket meat. Find an old fashioned neighborhood meat market where they grind it daily, or will even grind it while you watch.

In Chicago we are blessed with the Paulina Meat Market on the North side of the city close to Wrigley Field. In the North Suburbs where I live now I was fortunate to find a place called Orchard Prime Butcher Shop in Lake Zurich. we also have a small chain of North shore super markets called Sunset which have excellent meat, and seafood departments.

In Seattle A&J Meats on Queen Anne Hill, and Cascioppo's in Ballard are a couple of my favorites. A big key to any Butcher shop is it should smell smokey when you walk in the door. If they have their own smoker it is a very good sign they care about quality. You might have guessed tha tI am very picky about my meat, and seafood and will go long distances to get exactly what I want.

The next thing to think about is the binder. The binder is what holds the thing together, Most people use softened, seasoned, bread crumbs, egg, and tomato sauce, but I prefer to use oatmeal, egg, tomato sauce, and, or cream. Either variation works, it just depends on how heavy or light you want it to be. Breadcrumbs to me seem to add more of a grainy texture while the oats are lower in carb's and seem to meld better with the meat and soak up the flavor while cooking.

My mother used to add a packet of Lipton's Onion Soup to her meatloaf, and I bet most Mom's still do that today, so we are including a copy of mom's recipe.

I prefer to chop fresh onion, garlic, and add some fresh parsley for color, or basil, or another fresh Herb for flavor. I then add seasoning salt, Worcestershire Sauce, ....sometime's A-1, ketchup, or Heinz 57, black pepper, and Italian spices.

Once you get your meatloaf to this point you have to decide which way to go with it. I usually prefer to keep it simple and make a gravy with the drippings, and serve it with Heinz 57 and some type of potato and leave it at that. Meatloaf gravy is excellent with fries, tots, hash browns. or mashed potato's.

I also have stuffed Meat Loaf's in the past with such ingredients as Italian sausage links, bacon, ham, pepperoni, blue, provolone, mozzarella, and cheddar cheese.

Browned Italian Sausages wrapped with provolone are a favorite stuffing of mine. It's looks cool when you slice the loaf and gives it a little contrast with the ring of cheese ooozing out.

Meatloaf is traditionally topped with either ketchup (sweet), barbecue sauce (tangy), or tomato (mild) sauce. You can also leave it un-sauced while cooking and just let the gravy do the work when it is done.

Meatloaf With Meatloaf Gravy

This is an adult meatloaf made from scratch that has a lighter appearance due to the cream.

1 lb Ground Chuck
1 lb Ground Pork
1 lb Ground Veal
3/4 cup Quaker Oatmeal
2 Egg s
1/2 cup Cream
1/2 Cup Beef Broth
One Medium Chopped Onion
3 Cloves Chopped Garlic
Chopped Parsley
Italian Spices
Seasoning Salt
Black Pepper

Mix Veal, Pork, and Ground Chuck together with all the other ingredients but the cheese and the links and put in a meatloaf pan. Cook in oven for 45 minutes at 375.

Drain drippings from the meatloaf, and place in a sauce pan. Warm the drippings up and add flour to make a roux. Add a thin slice of meatloaf and break it up. "once roux has set over low heat for around 4 minutes to get rid of the flour taste add milk, salt, and pepper. Stir till roux is absorbed by the milk and heat till thick stirring occasionally.

Stuffed Italian Meatloaf

This is the one you make so people will always comment on the future about your meatloaf. It is simple and easy, but when sliced has a surprise.

1 lb Ground Chuck
1 lb Ground Pork
1 lb Ground Veal
Raw Oatmeal
Tomato Sauce
Chopped Onion
Chopped Garlic
Chopped Basil
Italian Spices
Seasoning Salt
Black Pepper
Hot Italian Sausage Links
Provolone Cheese

Mix Veal, Pork, and Ground Chuck together with all the other ingredients but the cheese and the links and put in a meatloaf pan. Brown the Italian Sausage on both sides till golden brown and let cool. Once cooled wrap with provolone and insert length wise in the middle of the loaf. top with remaining tomato sauce and cook in oven for 45 minutes at 375.

This one we prefer with a light marinara put together with a can of Rotel, fresh garlic, and some Italian seasonings finished with some salt and pepper.

Mom's Meatloaf

This is the stuff you should have grown up with, it isn't cutting edge, but it has the flavors you grew up with.

1 lb Ground Chuck
1 lb Ground Pork
1 lb Ground Veal
Raw Oatmeal
Tomato Sauce
Heinz 57 Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
Lipton's Onions Soup
Chopped Parsley
Seasoning Salt
Black Pepper

Mix Veal, Pork, and Ground Chuck together with all the other ingredients but the cheese and the links and put in a meatloaf pan. Top with Sauce and cook in oven for 45 minutes at 375.

Drain drippings from the meatloaf, and place in a sauce pan. Warm the drippings up and add flour to make a roux. Add a thin slice of meatloaf and break it up. "once roux has set over low heat for around 4 minutes to get rid of the flour taste add milk, salt, and pepper. Stir till roux is absorbed by the milk and heat till thick stirring occasionally.

Gut Bomb Meatloaf

You don't want to serve this on date night, but it is great for when you are having the dudes over for a football game. This variation of Mom's Meatloaf is deadly, and you want to make sure you keep the windows cracked after serving.

1 lb Ground Chuck
1 lb Ground Pork
1 lb Ground Veal
Raw Oatmeal
Tomato Sauce
Heinz 57 Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
Lipton's Onions Soup
Chopped Parsley
Seasoning Salt
Black Pepper
Pepperoni Slices
Cheddar Cheese

Topping Sauce is an equal blend of Ketchup, and Heinz 57 with a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Mix Veal, Pork, and Ground Chuck together with all the other ingredients but the Cheese and the Pepperoni and put half of it in a meatloaf pan. Layer the cheese and pepperoni and then fill in with the rest of the meatloaf mixture. Top with Sauce and cook in oven for 45 minutes at 375.

This one is best served with Heinz 57 or Marinara on the side.

Chefs Recipe Catalog

This blog is devoted to cooking, and entertaining from a seasonal, and regional perspective. The recipes, techniques, and preparations we are going to show you each week are favorites that have been passed down through the generations from various parts of America. Among the things we will be discussing are favorite regional recipes, entertaining for large numbers, and reviews of the regions cusines we have sampled in our travels.

This Blog is going to be seasonal in it's choices as we make use of the freshest regional ingredients available. I was born, and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but have also lived in Hawaii, Montana, Nashville, Minneapolis, and now Chicago for the past ten years. My wife has lived in San Francisco, Boston, and now of course Chicago. One thing we have learned as we move around and explore the country is that every region has it's succulent specialties you want to try and master. What I have done is taken those favorites and fused them together on occasion to give them their own special flair.

When I moved to Nashville I found it quite interesting because a modern type of Southern Cuisine was beginning to grow popular in the region. Like the Northwest where I was from, they were starting to focus on fresh local ingredients utilizing new lighter techniques to celebrate the traditional cooking methods of the past. Nashville up till 20 years ago was a culinary disaster. Pretty much it was meat and three, fried chicken, and anything else they could stick in a fryer. Over the past 15 years they have been on the cutting edge of Southern cuisine as young chefs have fused idea's, techniques, and regional ingredients.

Hawaii is all about fish, and the number one fish in Hawaii is the Tuna. Everytime I go back to visit I usualy eat some form of Tuna around once a day. At the Four Seasons on the Big Island we picked up a Tuna Tartar type appetizer that was just amazing.

During my time in Minneapolis I was introduced to the tall food phenomena which is an interesting concept we are going to take some time exploring. It was also the first place I tried the best tasting freshwater fish in the world, the Walleye. Corn is king in the Summer out here, and I know some people that are very particular on how it is picked, prepared, and cooked.

Chicago is the belt buckle of the Midwest, and Prime Steaks are really what the city is best known for. Chicago however is a melting pot where 150 different languages are spoken. That ethnic touch allows you to go almost all around the world when eating in Chicago. One of my favorite places is a Belgian Tavern in Andersonville known as the Hop Leaf. They have the cities largest selection of beer on tap, and in bottle, but the star of the show is the exceptional Moules and Frittes served with Ailoli. One of the benefits of living in a city that size is there is always something new around the corner.

Wisconsin, and Michigan also bring a lot to the table. Due to their proximity we spend recreational time in both states and have found great regional styles from those places.
Wisconsin is of course famous for dairy products, beer, sausage, and farm canned goods. There is definitely a German, and Scandinavian influence going on with more than a little Catholicsm. The tradition in Wisconsin is the Friday Fish Fry which goes on at about every restaurant in the state. Doore County which is Northeast of Green Bay on a penisula that juts out into Lake Michigan is another culinary hot spot we will visit.

Western Michigan is home to a thriving wine, and craft distillery industry. The Eastern shore of Lake Michigan is pretty amazing, and it is a very large area for recreation, and tourism. We are going to take you through that area to share with you some secrets of the region. As you head North it really reminds me of the Puget Sound region. Chanterelles, and Morels grow wild here and are readily gathered and available at Farmers Markets.

The Puget Sound region and the entire West Coast has probably had the most influence on me. Hard to go wrong with the fresh bounty of ingredients available at the Pike Place Market on a Saturday morning. I grew up and was part of the renaissance of Northwest regional cuisine which emerged in the 1970's, and 80's. I remember doing such crazy things as selling locally grown snails (escargot) to local restaurants after buying them vaccum packed from a craft supplier in the Willapa Bay area. It was the first time chef's in the region had ever worked with a fresh snail.

In another life I worked ten years in restaurants, and another five after that exclusively within the restaurant industry as a supplier, and broker of specialty foods. At home we often entertain groups of ten or more and it can be daunting even when you worked in kitchens that long to serve any type of dinner for twenty or more people, which is about the maximum I can handle on my own, and formally seat. We are going to show you how to have everything from large dinner parties, to small intimate dinners. In addition to that we are going to share some favorite restaurants from the past and future as we explore this great gatronomic country of ours.

For example did you realize that the Corn Dog, or Pronto Pup was invented in Springfield, Illinois and they still make the best one there at the same place today? We didn't, but we are going to share some of these gems with you each week. You guessed it, I am a fan of the proverbial greasy spoon and we explore these regularly.

Right now we are deep into the Winter out here in the Midwest so we are going to be putting the emphasis on more hearty fare as the temperatures dip close to zero. Soups, stews, caseroles, and other comfort food tend to come to mind this time of year, so we will focus on that to start.

The first thing we are going to explore is the underated meatloaf which is actually undergoing a bit of a revival in a lot of restaurants today. It takes just as long to make a stunning meatloaf, as a mediocre one, so we are going to be sharing that with you first.