Recipe fantasy to food reality.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I don't remember what episode it was, but there was an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown was talking about when a Frenchman (or woman) had told him he knows that American don't know how to eat because we buy our croutons. And man, that hurts. Before seeing that TV show, I had given up on croutons - you can't stab them with a fork, and they're stale and hard. After seeing that, I thought there might be something more to croutons.

This was over a year ago, and only tonight have I made my own croutons. I was sitting around watching Iron Chef, getting hungrier and hungrier, I realized I needed a green salad with those fresh croutons. I cut a few slices of bread into cubes and tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper and onion powder, and baked them on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. While they were still barely warm, I set them on a salad of leaf lettuce, carrots, cucumber and tomato with some good old litehouse ranch dressing. I can't say that I am completely convinced that croutons are really an essential part of any dish - but if you feel like eating them, I have to concur with Frenchman X that fresh is best.


On Sunday mornings, I usually like to crawl out of bed and sit down with a cup of tea, my laptop, and switch on the Food Network. I've usually slept through breakfast, so I read the news and drool over the things Ina Garten and Michael Chiarello and Giada de Laurentis are making until I have to get up and make something myself.

In this state, I'm pretty easy to convince that anything looks good, but watching Michael Chiarello brown andouille and make a stock out of sauteed shrimp shells and smoked paprika and saffron - I knew I had to make this recipe for jambalaya. We were planning on having dinner guests on Wednesday night, so on Sunday we cooked the meat and made the stock, and all we had to do on Wednesday was cook up the rice.

Here's a photo of the shrimp shells and veggies being cooked up before the addition of the liquid for the stock.

After adding more veggies and liquid, this is what we let simmer for about an hour. The stock itself was amazingly flavorful and would have made an excellent soup on its own.

Luckily, we were able to avoid that temptation and follow through with finishing the dish. We garnished it with scallions and tabasco, and drank hefeweisen with lemon.

This was my first experience with making a stock, and I came away completely convinced that it is well-worth the effort. The recipe called for adding storebought stock instead of water, which I thought was a little ridiculous, so I compromised and used half veggie stock and half water. As you can see, the results were incredible.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I don't like mushrooms

...but I'm not going to let that stop me from enjoying them. I am in the process of learning to love mushrooms, and tonight's dinner was an excellent teaching tool in that regard. The recipe was simple enough that I only need to list ingredients: homemade pasta, morel mushrooms, fresh thyme, white wine, butter, salt and pepper. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Spanish Tortilla

Last weekend I made my first ever Spanish tortilla, and I've since made two more. It wasn't until my stupid jerk of a brother in law came back from Spain (no, I'm not jealous) that I'd ever heard of a Spanish tortilla, but I'm pretty sure that it's going to be a staple in my kitchen from now on. After picking up some eggs at the first farmer's market of the season, I went home to make yet another tortilla.

3 waxy potatoes, sliced thin
1/2 onion, sliced into rings
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup vegetable oil
5 eggs
salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes and onions in the oils for 20 minutes over medium-low heat, covered in a saucepan on the stove. Season generously with salt and pepper. When the potatoes are cooked through, remove them from the pan, and be certain to take out any pieces still sticking to the pan. Beat together the eggs in a small bowl and set aside while you return the potatoes to the pan, at a somewhat higher medium heat. Pour in the beaten eggs, and shake the pan around to distribute the eggs evenly. Allow the tortilla to cook long enough that the bottom has browned to almost crispness, and the eggs are almost cooked through to the top of the tortilla. Carve around the edges of the tortilla with a spatula to be certain that it doesn't cook to the sides of the pan. Flip the raw side of the tortilla onto a plate and slide back into the pan, raw side down. Shake the pan to keep the tortilla from sticking, and allow to cook until solid and slightly browned on the bottom. Slide the tortilla out of the pan and cut into slices. Serve with smoked paprika piquillo pepper sauce.

Since I have a video camera, here's a video of me demonstrating it.


Smoked Paprika Piquillo Pepper Sauce
1 and 1/2 cups roasted piquillo peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons rioja wine
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
balsamic or sherry vinegar to taste

Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Balance out the acidity with the vinegar as needed, and season to taste.