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  • Doug Ferguson 1:19 pm on May 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    The Bowl of Soup That Tried to Keep Me Down 

    lentil-soup

    Friends and family have been trying to kick my butt into gear for a while now to get me back into the swing of posting to the Suburban Cookbook.

    In the world of Food Blogging I can’t deny it, I’ve been in a slump. A slump that threatened to last an entire year.

    I transitioned to a new job at the beginning of last summer and that sucked all the creative energy out of me. Then in the fall the blog got hacked and it took me a month to get things back. And then it was just a nagging reminder that I was being lame and neglecting something that was important to me.

    Of course there’s no money in Food Blogging, you’ve got to do it for the love of it. But what happens when you’re not inspired? Or you’ve got too much stress at work? Or you’re bummed out about Tim Tebow?

    “Quit your whining,” my neighbor Tom said, “you’ve got 10,000 followers on facebook, it’s your responsibility to keep posting your stupid food ideas, so suck it up”.

    Dang, that’s harsh. And he’s the nice neighbor.

    “I don’t know, I’ve just run out of ideas.” I said to my co-worker Lisa who responded with, “Well that’s just ridiculous, you’re just not looking at it the right way. There are a Bajillion food concepts waiting to be explored!”

    True.

    “You just need something simple to get you going again,” suggested my mother-in-law “like a bowl of soup. How about lentil with beef?”

    Hmm, soup I thought, I can do that.

    So, I researched a few recipes and thought about ways I could doctor up a boring Lentil Soup. Then off to the market my daughter and I went.

    Callie was amazed by the dazzling colors of the Rainbow Chard. So, I’m like, “Get it! We’ll throw that in the soup. It’s not like we’re baking a cake.”

    “What about a starch?” she asked. Hmm, “Elbow macaroni?” Done.

    Back at the cutting board I chopped onions, celery, carrots and garlic while Callie stripped the rainbow chard and washed it.

    We browned the beef, sautéed the veggies and began an hour-long seasoning routine until the soup was absolutely luscious and the Italian bread was screaming to be dunked.

    The beef chuck was just about fork tender, the lentils approaching al dente.

    And then, because I’m such a wiz in the kitchen, I threw in the box of elbow macaroni and poof! No soup for you.

    Literally, in 5 minutes there was absolutely no liquid to be seen in my pot. How is that possible?  My mother used to put pasta in all her soups.

    I scrambled in the pantry for another box of stock and could only find chick broth. Okay, toss that in there. Sluurrrppp! Gone in two minutes. Sh*t, now what?

    I rooted around for a bullion cube and tossed that in with a pint and a half of water.

    Okay, that did it, we’re back to some sort of soupy consistency at least.  Even though the pasta is mush.

    Well there goes my stupid blog post I thought. And at just that very moment my wife walked into the kitchen.

    “Smells good.” she said. Then she placed my camera on the cutting board, gave me a little smile and walked out.

    The Bowl of Soup That Tried to Keep Me Down
     
  • Doug Ferguson 12:43 pm on June 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Cincinnati Chili and Memories of Mom 

    I remember being 10 years old and walking into the kitchen where the “Giant Turquoise Pot” was bubbling on the stove.

    “What are we having for dinner?” I’d ask.  “Cincinnati Chili.” my mother would reply.  “Ugh” and I’d mope off like the brat I was.

    We lived in Cincinnati when I was 6 and my father missed the tastes of his hometown when we later moved to Canada.  So, my mother attempted to recreate the texture and spices of what my father referred to as Empress chili, named after the restaurant where Cincinnati Chili originated.

    I didn’t really remember the original and only knew of my mother’s runny concoction of oddness.  Don’t get me wrong, she was an excellent cook and created/recreated many interesting dishes but this was not one of them.  And that Turquoise pot was always the signal of either Salisbury steak (another one of my least favorite) or Cincinnati Chili.

    It wasn’t until I was visiting my folks from College when the light bulb of taste went off above my head.  My Uncle showed up with two tubs of Skyline Chili.  Frozen and packed in coolers for the long car ride from Cincinnati.

    “Wow!  This is Cincinnati Chili??  Where you been all my life!?”

    Mom never used cayenne, we never had hot sauce in the house and salt, my god, salt!  It really does make food taste good.  Who knew?

    My Uncle still sends me spice packs, both Skyline and Gold Star, but I’ve done it from scratch enough times to where I think I’ve got it down.

    There are 3 Keys to this recipe:

    1. put the meat in cold water and beat it with a fork until it’s in small pieces.  I even use a potato masher to speed up the job.
    2. Put half of your salt in at the beginning and add the other half as needed.  Taste along the way and adjust all your spices but be careful with the salt.  As it cooks down the saltiness intensifies.
    3. A pinch of clove and a pinch of cinnamon will give it that distinct Cincinnati Chili flavor but a little goes a long way.

    Cincinnati Chili

    • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
    • 6 Cups cold water
    • 3 tablespoons Chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon paprika
    • 1 tablespoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon clove
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon allspice
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 2 teaspoon salt (1 at the beginning and add more to taste later)
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (you can and should add more later to taste)
    • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
    • 9 ounces of tomato paste.  (1  1/2,  6 oz cans – a bit of a waste, I know)
    • 2 bay leaves

    Add the beef to large pot and cover with water.  Break it up with a fork until the meat breaks up into small pieces. Bring to a simmer and add all your ingredients and bring to a boil.

    Reduce to a simmer and let is bubble for at least 2 hours.  Adjust your seasoning to your liking.

    You may continue to reduce the mixture for as much as another hour.  You want to get it so it’s not running a clear liquid out from a slotted spoon.  It needs to be one, saucy product.

    You can also add a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and I’ve seen recipes using beef broth which I’ve tried before, but I would avoid recipes that suggest you add crushed tomatoes, diced onion or garlic.  I don’t think you want those textures messing with the fine grain of the meat. If you want a garlicy taste add garlic powder.

    You can top it the many “Ways” they do in Cincinnati, kidney beans, etc. and serve over thin spaghetti but I like to serve them on Hot Dogs with shredded cheddar and finely diced white onions.

    When I make Cincinnati Chili I do so in honor of my mom and her many attempts to recreate this dish, long before the internet was at our disposal.  And sometimes my son comes into the kitchen and eyes my big pot bubbling on the stove and asks, “What’s for dinner?”  “Cincinnati Chili!” I say.  “Yuck.” He replies.

    That’s my boy.


     

    Cincinnati Chili and Memories of Mom
     
    • Jeremiah Holt, Jr. 1:29 pm on June 13, 2012 Permalink

      Great story and recipe.

  • Doug Ferguson 12:44 pm on May 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    In Honor of Cinco De Mayo, Our Top Mexican Food Articles of All Time 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    In Honor of Cinco De Mayo, Our Top Mexican Food Articles of All Time
     
  • Doug Ferguson 1:51 pm on May 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    How to Make an Awesome Spicy Tuna Melt 

    You thought I was going to say Spicy Tuna Roll, didn’t you?  But imagine if you were to make your typical Tuna Salad but instead of Hellmans, you used that spicy mayo they serve at Sushi Restaurants.  Got the idea from this funky little Japanese Bakery in the East Village of Manhattan called Panya.

    My secret ingredient is Sriracha.  This Thai inspired hot sauce is made by the Huy Fong Food company.  Click the link and read the story on Wikipedia.  It’s pretty great.

    Spicy Tuna Salad

    • 12 oz (large) can of solid white albacore tuna in water (drained)
    • half cup of Hellmans
    • handful of fresh parsley (minced)
    • 1 celery stalk (small dice)
    • good dill pickle (small dice) McClure’s Spicy if you can find it.
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • 1 1/2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce (double if you want to feel the heat)
    • Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper

    When I say “diced small” you’ll want to cut the celery length wise a few times so you have at least 4 thin celery sticks.  Then cut them across so you have nice, evenly cut, small celery dice.  Do something similar with the dill pickle.  You want to get crunch in every bite but you don’t want it to overwhelm the mixture.

    Dump everything in a large bowl and fold together until well incorporated.  Try to keep the tuna from being totally mushed, it’s nice when it’s chunky.

    Pre heat the oven for broil.

    Lightly toast up some nice, artisanal bread in the toaster and butter slightly.  Place the toast on a cookie sheet and spread a healthy portion of the spicy tuna salad on each.

    Cover with your favorite melty cheese.  I used cheddar here but swiss is great and if you want to stick with the spicy theme go with a pepper jack.

    Place under the broiler for 45 seconds to a minute.  Important, don’t walk away from the oven.  If fact, don’t even close the door.  Just watch it melt.  You want to get the cheese totally melted but you don’t need to worry about cooking the tuna salad.  In fact, I like it when it’s melty on top and the tuna salad is still cool.

    Enjoy with a nice cup of your favorite soup.

    Happy big sister.

     

     

    How to Make an Awesome Spicy Tuna Melt
     
    • Heather Ferguson 4:32 pm on May 4, 2012 Permalink

      It was truly yummy.
      xoHeather

  • Doug Ferguson 11:50 am on April 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    SBCB Video: Smoked (then Grilled) Brisket 

    I can’t say I’ve mastered this Weber Smokey Mountain cooker but I’m not giving up.  Last weekend I tried my hand at a beautiful 8lb beef brisket.

    I’ve had a hard time regulating and maintaining the heat.  I’ve added coals periodically but have had mixed success at them igniting consistently.

    Maybe I need one of these bad boys…

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Anyway, I smoked it for about 4 hours at 225 and then wrapped it in tin foil and grilled it on indrect heat for another 3 hours. Then I sauced it and kissed it with some flames for an additional 30 minutes.

    I give myself a B – on this go around.  But I’m getting there.  Enjoy the Video:

     

    SBCB Video: Smoked (then Grilled) Brisket
     
  • Doug Ferguson 4:28 pm on April 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    In Defense of the Monster Burger 

    I love the freshly ground, brisket and chuck, burger-blend my butcher prepares.

    The beef comes out of the meat grinder in these nice blobs which they refer to as “Flowers”.  Seems far too dainty a term given what’s about to go down in my kitchen.

    Each meat flower weighs in at about 1 1/2 lbs.  So that’s 24 ounces.  I always end up bundling up two healthy (9 ounce) patties and have about 6 ounces left over which I usually use for sliders for the kids.

    One Saturday evening however, I said the heck with it.  The kids had filled up on mac and cheese and I made a command decision: “I’m going to make us some Donkey Kong Burgers!”

    And then an interesting thing happened.  The sheer mass allowed me to cook the burgers a little bit longer without them drying out.  I seared them in my cast iron skillet long enough for an extra crispy crust to evolve.   More than usual anyway.  The meat at the very core stayed nice and mid-rare.  It also gave me time to let the cheese melt naturally, without having to drop a lid over them.

    But what was really satisfying (after my initial gluttony guilt subsided) was that sensation of a seriously substantial beef bite.  Here’s to enjoying the view from atop of the food chain.

     

    In Defense of the Monster Burger
     
  • Doug Ferguson 3:24 pm on April 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Beef 101 – Cool InfoGraphic 

    Beef Infographic

    Source: FrugalDad

    Beef 101 – Cool InfoGraphic

     
    • Tasty 4:54 pm on April 16, 2012 Permalink

      Can I get this in wallpaper… or toilet paper?

  • Doug Ferguson 2:40 pm on March 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    The Beef Wellington Affair 

    Every once in a while you just have throw an epic dinner party.

    Invite those couples in your life that are always there to help you out  in a jam.  And then drop a deluxe, three course meal on them, with a Beef Wellington as the centerpiece.  They will not soon forget it.  And when your power goes out for a week you won’t feel bad imposing. ; )

    First thing I do is take the puff pastry out of the freezer to thaw on the counter.

    I got this amazing, 3 1/2 lb center cut beef tenderloin (aka chateaubriand) from Fresh Direct.  Gorgeous.  If you don’t have a Fresh Direct around you’ll want to become good friends with your neighborhood butcher.  As in, bring him a bottle of scotch next time he hooks you up!

    It’s good that it’s tied, but don’t forget to remove the twine before you begin swaddling it in it’s cozy blanket of puff pastry.  And yes, I have made this mistake. #knucklehead

    Sear the beef in hot skillet until you get a nice crust all around.

    Next, lay out a few sheets of plastic wrap long and wide. Enough to easily wrap that beast of a tenderloin.

    Then shingle out 8-10 slices of Prosciutto di Parma.  It’s about a half pound when you buy it.

    Slather the roast with Dijon mustard.  If you want to be religious about it you should probably use an English mustard (like Colman’s) with this very English classic, but hey, I just love that Maille Dijon.

    Now it’s time to make the Mushroom Duxelles.  Here’s a Key: you need to cook all the water out of the duxelles or it will make the pastry soggy.

    • 3 pints button mushrooms
    • 2 shallots
    • 3 heads of garlic
    • leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
    • salt and pepper
    • small glug of olive oil
    • 1 tbsp of butter
    Whiz this up in food processor until all the big chunks are dealt with.  Cook in a non stick pan so you don’t have to use a lot of oil. I saute over medium for about 15 mins.  You can push the mixture  to the side to check when there is no more moisture coming out of the shallot/mushrooms.  Don’t rush this.
    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
    When moisture is cooked out, let cool and then spread across the layers of prosciutto.  DON’T FORGET TO REMOVE THE BUTCHER TWINE.
    Lay the roast over the duxelles.  Pull up and wrap layers carefully keeping the plastic on the outside.   Wrap tightly around.  Put in the fridge for 20 minutes until it firms up.
    Now roll out two sheets of store bought puff pastry that has been thawing.  I like to slightly overlap the two sheets and  sort of roll them together.
    Okay, now this is a big key:  Once it’s wrapped in Pastry and ready for the oven, make sure you vent with slices on the top.  This will help release the steam and allow the pastry to get crisp through the cooking process.  I’ve forgotten to do this and the bottom third of the Wellington comes out soggy.  : (
    Toss it in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer hits 130 degrees.

    While it’s cooking in the oven you’ll have plenty of time to mak the sauce.  Slice and saute a couple of shallots and 3 heads of garlic in olive oil.  Wait to season it at the end.  Once it’s softened add a cup of  brandy and flambe.  Best to do this when the guests arrive but you’re going to want to reduce this down considerably so it may take a while.  Once the flames die down add box of beef stock and reduce until it has a nice, concentrated beefy/brandy flavor.  Season with S&P. Add a cup of cream (and another tbsp of that mustard) at the end and reduce a little more.  Taste and re-season if necessary.   If it’s not luxurious enough, go ahead and add a pad or two of butter.

     

    Serve on a bed of sauce alongside some nice potato gratin and garnish with a chive or two.

    Cheers!

    The Beef Wellington Affair
     
  • Doug Ferguson 12:06 pm on March 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    SBCB Ep 116 – Suburban SuperMommy 

    Beth is probably going to kill me for posting this but… Hopefully it puts a smile on your face. Happy Friday everyone.

    Love you Mommy!

    SBCB Ep 116 – Suburban SuperMommy
     
  • Doug Ferguson 3:26 pm on February 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Essex County Wing Throwdown 

    My brother-in-law was looking for a new place for chicken wings.  He lives in Montclair, NJ and knows a good wing when he sees it.  He brews his own beer and takes such things as seriously as we do.

    I told him about the heated debate that goes on in our neighborhood and the different camps of hardcore Wing proselytizers who swear by their favorite products.

    “We should have a taste test”, he said.

    “Ooh, that sounds blog worthy”, I replied.

    Hence the Essex County Wing Throwdown was on.

    There’s the classic Buffalo Wing, found at the Millburn, NJ establishment known as “O’Reilly’s” who serves arguably the best around.  “Classic, crispy skin and as spicy as you want”.

    Then there’s the breaded, (gasps all around from the purists) deep fried chicken wings at “Village Trattoria” in South Orange.  “Tasty and crunchy, you can’t deny it”.

    And finally, a unique wing from the relatively new establishment in West Orange, called “SuzyQue’s”.   As I understand it, the wing is first given a shower of spice rub and then smoked in the morning.  Throughout the day it’s flash fried to order.  “Smokey, meaty and delish”.

    Let the Throwdown begin!  Our tasting panel included in-laws Sue and Nick, David, wife Beth and myself.  Callie and Henry really only ate the crispy, breaded Wings from Trattoria but that deserves special acknowledgement.

    Personally, I like the Village Trattoria’s wings.  We get them with the sauce on the side so a) the kids can eat them and b) the outside stays super crisp. I’m probably half way towards the purist, in that I think you should fry the wings long enough to where the skin gets crispy.  This is where “O’Rielly’s” misses the mark.  They skin is rarely crispy.

    The first time I had the Smoked Wings at SuzyQue’s I was blown away but when I’m craving a wing I’m not thinking about Smoked Turkey wings.  I’m craving Frank’s hot sauce and crunch.

    My brother-in-law took his time tasting each wing taking his job as lead taster very seriously.

    “I like the Smoked wing the best.”  He announced, most agreed with him.

    So, SuzyQue’s wins Top Wing in the Suburban Cookbook house.

    Granted, this is a small selection of Essex county restaurants.  We would love some feedback on where you think the best wing is, in our neighborhood or yours.  Leave a comment below!

     

     

    Essex County Wing Throwdown
     
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