Friday, August 29, 2008

Meat + Ball = Meatballs!

In my humble opinion, most meatballs are given as bad a wrap as meatloaf. It's not like the name conveys deliciousness. I have run across meatballs that are big hunks of hamburger rolled up and dropped in sauce. I don’t call those meatballs, I call them a meatwad, and that's a cartoon character, not food.

I make meatballs in two ways, the nana Wolfe way, and the nana Gullotti way (girlfriend's side). This post will cover the latter because, frankly, I just finished eating one and the wonderful taste is still lingering. These meatballs differ in a few ways from your traditional meatball. Mainly in the sense that they are fried, pan-fried. While most meatballs find themselves being stewed in sauce, these take on a more crunchy texture. The result? A meatball that is good as a sandwich, with pasta and sauce, or out of hand. I kid you not; a cold meatball is a tasty snack.

The other variable in this equation of deliciousness is the garlic. I like a lot of garlic, which is why in the recipe I gave the 8-80 clove numbers. Yes, I am being extreme, but it's to make a point. Garlic makes this dish. I usually use anywhere between 10-12 cloves because I enjoy garlic in every bite. Hey, nowhere did I say these were breath friendly.


1 pound ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)
1 C Italian or seasoned bread crumbs
1 C grated Romano cheese
¼ C chopped parsley
8- 80 garlic cloves, chopped
small bit of water
2 eggs
1 T salt
2 t pepper
Peanut oil (for the frying)

In a medium skillet or cast iron pan, heat about 1 inch peanut oil over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of about 350°F. Try to maintain this temperature or just below it throughout cooking. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well. And by well, I mean with your hands. You have to roll them out anyway, so you might as well mix with your hands and do a good job. Roll portions (about 2oz) into large balls, making them slightly egg shape (this helps with even browning and cooking). Cook the meatballs in the oil until crispy on the outside and pretty much done on the inside (170°F for those of you with thermometers), about 4 minutes on each side. Drain over paper towels. Serve with pasta and tomato sauce, or just eat them as is.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese (Ron con con)

Wow, I have been writing a food blog for almost 9 months and I have yet to put this recipe up? Chalk that one up to some serious memory impairment. Sheesh. This dish is the first savory dish I ever made on my own. I was 7 and I was hungry, and as any child, I went to my mother and asked her what was for dinner. She replied "whatever you make". Being the hungry kid that I was, I set about trying to make macaroni. Meaning, I got out the ingredients on the counter and asked my mom what to do next. With a little bit of help I turned out a pretty good side dish for dinner (we made pork chops to go along with it). To this day I have altered this recipe very little. In fact, the only change is the cheese split, I used to use all Colby jack (melty) until I discovered how awesome cheddar was in this.

The recipe is straight forward. Make a béchamel sauce (roux + milk), add cheese, add pasta, bake. The secret, super amazing part I credit to my father, who for the longest time mysteriously made better macaroni and cheese than my mom but no one knew why. Turns out he just added a cube of chicken bullion. You know, the stuff I don’t like to use as a substitute for my chicken stock. But it has many other uses. Such as making amazing mac and cheese. That and the fact that this stuff is under a buck for eight cubes gives it a place in my spice cabinet.

One last note is the pasta. I like rigatoni way more than elbows because of the bigger tube that can pick up more sauce, but its totally a preference thing. Oh, and it is sometime referred to as "ron con con" because my girlfriend called it that when she was a baby. No idea why, but it is what it is.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound rigatoni noodles (or elbows or some kind of short tubular pasta)
3 T Butter
3 T flour
3 C milk
1 cube chicken bullion (if you have a smaller cube, use two, if large, go one)
8 oz Colby jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
6 oz sharp cheddar, shredded (1.5 cups)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir, cooking the roux for about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and bullion cube, whisking to combine (if you want it to cook faster, warm your milk before hand). Reduce heat to medium low. When the sauce thickens, add the cheese a little at a time, switching to a wooden spoon and stirring constantly. Add all of the cheese and mix until cheese is melted.

Meanwhile, boil pasta (making sure to heavily salt the water and add a small amount of oil) until al-dente, cooking it a little under (it will absorb sauce). Drain (but do not rinse) and add pasta to a 9x12 baking dish (or something that will hold a pound of pasta and can go in your oven). Pour the sauce over the pasta, mix well, cover with foil, and bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and delicious.

UPDATE: Feel free to leave comments below, you don't even need to be signed in :)

UPDATED UPDATE: I altered the recipe a bit above, as I mistakenly listed the amounts of each cheese needed.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Site Update and Next Food Network Star

Hopefully in the next few days the blog will be getting some pleasing aesthetic upgrades and changes. I am really going to try boosting traffic to this site and expand my readers beyond those who check in on it from Facebook. So please leave me feedback or send an email and let me know what you think about the changes. I have also logged this site into, which will hopefully bring a new crop of readers/ideas and also give my readers some new links and recipes to try out.

One other main reason of some upgrades is a hopeful read by the Food Network. I have put my name in for a hopeful contention on The Next Food Network Star. Hopefully the food I have turned out on this blog and topics I have covered will pique the interest of the FN as well as yourselves. Keep your fingers crossed.


PS As always, your comments, recipes, or ideas for future topics are welcome at


Monday, August 11, 2008

Soy Saucing

I seem to be on a Southwestern kick lately, so I think it's time to switch gears. I want to talk about soy sauce. That black liquid you store in your fridge or pantry that probably says K-something on it. You use it for your stir fries and marinades, adding salt to your dish and some color, but that is probably about it. It's ok, you can admit it, your soy sauce is lacking, but then again, most people don’t even realize that. I lived my life 19 years before I found out. 19 years of bad soy! Looking back, it was almost like living in the dark (soy). Thankfully, my girlfriend's dad John turned me onto to a much more delectable fermentation.

Soy sauce comes in two varieties, light and dark. Light is more salty and has less overall flavor, used mostly for sauces, and does not really work well on its own. Dark soy has a less salty, more complex flavor bordering on sweet, is awesome, and works well as a dipping sauce. I actually prefer to only use dark soy because the flavor it lends is far superior to the light (that and I have more control on how salty I make something). Having two soy sauces would probably be beneficial for those wishing to cook Asian food 5 nights a week, but for those of us who only dabble, having dark around works great.

So let me move on to the product placement portion of this show. I refuse to buy soy sauce in a grocery store (or any Asian ingredient for that matter) for two reasons. 1) It is at least 2-3 times more expensive than in an Asian market and 2) the brands are mass marketed hacks. Yes, that's right, hacks. If you will take a moment, look at the bottle of soy sauce in your kitchen. Check out the ingredients. If it includes "caramel color", then its probably only good for staining shirts. Why? Because soy sauce is made in two ways, by fermenting actual soy beans (the good stuff) and by partially fermenting hydrolyzed soy protein (the hacks). By only using the protein, the color is not achieved and they have to offset this by adding caramel color. Sound good? That's because it's not!

So what can you do? I recommend buying a brand called Pearl River Bridge Superior Soy Sauce. It is the BEST I have found, and it's bordering on dirt cheap. A 1.8L bottle runs you about $4. yep, not kidding. Now that 16oz bottle of soy I paid 5 bucks for back in the day makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I really, really like the Dark Superior Mushroom soy, which is fermented from mushrooms and soybeans, giving an incredible earthy, complex flavor. The stuff is viscous too, not watery and light. If you buy some, give it a quick taste on its own. I guarantee you will be blown away.

Why make a big fuss about soy? Mainly because if you are going to cook with something, it pays to use a good something. Not to mention it's quite cheaper, supports local businesses rather than large chains, and has a wider variety of uses (see:upcoming post). So go ahead and give it a try, and hopefully you too will see the light in the dark (soy).

Addition: next time you are in your local Asian grocery, take a look at some other ingredients like rice and hoisin. You will be amazed how inexpensive they are and the great quality you can find.


Southwestern Creamy Corn

I need a better name for this. It's not creamed corn, but its not just corn either. So creamy it is. Whatever the name, its darn tasty. This was one of my leftover experiments I am willing to write about (some, such as paprika chicken with garlic chips, I will just leave as a not-so-fond memory). I enjoy looking in the fridge, milling around for some leftovers, and seeing what I can come up with. It's a great way to get rid of leftovers and maybe try something new. This one came from a few ears of corn left over from the weekend's barbecue. I love fresh sweet corn in the summer, and I was not going to let it go to waste. So off the cob it came, into a pan it went, and voila, out came creamy corn that was way better than my non-food-experimental girlfriend thought it would be. Mainly because she ate most of it.

Southwestern Creamy Corn

4 ears of corn, cooked, or a 1 pound bag of frozen corn (about 2 cups)
¼ c Cilantro, chopped fine
½ c Sour cream
1 T lime juice
1 T Paprika
1 can diced green chiles (or ½ cup salsa verde, whatever you have on hand)
1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced (roasted and peeled if at all possible, or you can use ½ a can of diced ones)
½ T Butter
Salt and pepper

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat add butter to melt. Add corn and cook until warm and almost starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Add jalapeno and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chiles, sour cream, paprika, salt, and pepper, mix to combine and cook for about 1 minute. Add the cilantro and lime juice, stir to combine, remove from heat and serve.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Close Encounters of the Chile Kind

Close Encounters of the Chile Kind

When I was a teenager, I bussed tables at a fantastic Mexican restaurant in Arizona called Ricardo's. They had without a doubt some of the best food around. However, the one thing they could not seem to get right was the chile relleño (that's re-yen-o). They were something I usually left on my plate. It was simple enough. A green (Anaheim) chile was stuffed with cheese, dipped in an egg white batter, and pan fried. Yet the batter was dry and overwhelmed the chile, and it really lacked a lot of flavor. So I rarely ate them and never tried them in the kitchen. However, recently I came upon a different type of chile relleño, one that was larger and with a lighter coating. I decided to give it another shot. And needless to say, I was delighted with the results. The key is to make the pepper the focus and not the coating. A simple dredge of egg wash and cornmeal gives it a nice crisp while still letting the pepper be the focus (not to mention the tasty filling).

These peppers are deep fried. So I guess I should address the home fryer for a second. Most of you, like myself, probably do not own a deep fryer. But do not despair, fair cook, because you probably already have the components for one and just use it for casseroles or stir fry. Simply use a Dutch oven or decently large pot to fill in for your fryer. Do not, and I will repeat myself here, do NOT use anything that has a non-stick coating, because when your oil gets up to 350°, you will find lovely specks of Teflon floating around. Not cool. So stick to something cast iron, stainless steel, or enamel coated to work. I also use a fry thermometer, which is a great way to keep an eye on the heat so it's easy to adjust and stay constant. If you don’t have a fry thermometer, you can use any kitchen thermometer with a probe of some kind or use a kernel of popcorn (which, according to Alton Brown, pops at about 350).

First you are going to need a cooling sauce. It is no secret that milk and dairy cools off the heat of peppers, so serving something like this with say, sour cream, is a good way to go.

Cilantro Sour Cream

1 cup sour cream
½ c plain yogurt
¼ cup cilantro, diced super fine
2 T milk
½ t salt
½ t pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined. You can skip the yogurt if you wish, but add more milk to thin it out. Going for almost a pourable consistency. Set aside in fridge, lasts for up to 3 days.

Chile Relleños
6 poblano peppers
1 jalapeno

Grill peppers on grill over high, turning frequently, until skin is blackened (you can do this directly over your gas burner if you have one as well, or in your oven under the broiler). Place peppers in a plastic bag and seal. Allow to steam for about 5 minutes, and then gently peel off the outer skin. Split, remove seeds and membrane from the jalapeno, dice it and set it aside. Carefully put a slit along the side of each poblano, and reach in and gently remove seeds. I found that running them under water can help flush the seeds out. You can also do this a little bit ahead of time to help with prep.

For the filling

2 6-8oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 t cumin
1 t salt
½ t dried oregano
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T olive oil (for chicken)
2 T olive oil (for filling)
½ onion, diced
1 T lime juice
1 can diced tomatoes, drained of some excess liquid
1 T flour
1 T paprika
2 t cumin
1 t chile powder
2 t salt
1 t black pepper
2 cups shredded Colby Jack Cheese

Preheat oven to 375°C, season chicken with above seasonings, drizzle olive oil, and bake until done, about 20 minutes. To streamline this process, I would recommend charring your peppers while the chicken is in the oven to save time. Once chicken is done, remove from oven and set aside to let cool. In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and any excess drippings from the chicken (yum) to the pan. Add onions and sauté until browned, add the diced jalapeno and cook for about 1 minute. Dice the chicken as fine as you like it (finer = better in this instance) and add to the pan. Add the lime juice and tomatoes and let simmer for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes start to break up. Sprinkle over the flour (it will help thicken the filling) and cook for another minute. Add seasonings and adjust to your liking. In my opinion, you can never have enough cumin. Add about 1 and a half cups of the cheese, mixing until melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the dredging goodness

1 cup + 2 T flour
3 eggs
½ bottle dark beer
1 ½ c corn meal
Peanut oil

In a Dutch oven, pour about 1 quart peanut oil, attach a fry thermometer, and heat the oil over medium high heat to about 350°F. Back down on the heat and let it rise to 370°. Meanwhile, prepare your dredging station. In one shallow dish (or plate), place the 1 cup flour. In a bowl add the eggs, beer, and 2 T flour, which well to combine. In a third dish, place your corn meal.

To prepare your peppers, carefully stuff them with the remaining ½ cup cheese. Then spoon some of the chicken mixture into each pepper, making sure they are full but not bursting. You might have some chicken left over. To seal up the seam, run a few toothpicks or skewers through the seam to close it up. Dredge each pepper in flour, shake off the excess, then proceed to dip in the batter and roll in cornmeal. Transfer immediately to the fryer and fry for about 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. You can probably fry two peppers at a time. Once the peppers are done, move them to a paper towel lined plate and blot dry. Don't forget to remove the toothpicks!

To serve, spoon some of your sour cream mixture on a plate, place pepper on top. If you have extra chicken, slightly split the pepper open along the seam and add the additional chicken so it appears to be bursting. This recipe may seem complicated, but it is rather cook friendly if you spread it out in steps. Promise. The oil can be saved, simply strain it (once it's cool) back into the bottle through a coffee filter. Serve with Salsa and Beans.


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