Monday, December 13, 2010

My Big Fat Greek 10th Anniversary

I never thought this blogging thing would be so difficult to keep up with. I mean, all I am doing is writing down my thoughts, right? So, with school, work, kids, wife, dogs, guinea pigs, Christmas, Thanksgiving, fantasy football etc., I should be able to write some words about cooking in a blog, right?

Ok, so I know I am finishing up Pastry this week and should be writing about these wonderful desserts I have been making, but I think I am going to change things up and write about a wonderful anniversary dinner I made. I am, of course, a little biased, but I think this is the best food I have ever made for anyone...and the plating was spectacular!

So I decided to go with a theme throughout the meal, My Big Fat Greek 10th Anniversary, corny right? Well, it seemed to get me a lot of points with the attendees of the meal. It was my wife (of course), kids, my sister-in-law and my wife's best friend.

Instead of giving the entire recipe in this blog, I will just simply link you to the recipes.

First, I started off my guests with a wonderful holiday cocktail, a Peppermint Cosmo. This was a wonderful bright red drink that really gave the guests a nice start to the evening. I added a couple green mint leaves to each drink so to give it a nice red and green look.

With the drinks, I made a wonderful Edamame Hummus with homemade pita chips and sliced red bell peppers. The hummus was this beautiful green color and placed with the red bells made this amazing red/green color. The hummus tasted fantastic and was a little healthier than the normal hummus made with chick peas.

For the next course, I wanted to give everybody a little sweet interlude. Instead of the basic salad, I plated some wonderful strawberries and drizzled a balsamic and fig reduction. I plated these on a lovely Christmas tree plate. The flavors really popped with the sweetness of the strawberries and the tart of the reduction.

We finally made it to the main course. I went to Central Market earlier in the day and bought a beautiful Mahi Mahi. I then took out the spine and divided it into six thick fillets. Then I made it into a Greek Mahi Mahi, with a very interesting crust. The melted feta-mayonnaise sauce was a perfect compliment to the fish. I also made an Israeli Couscous with Purple Asparagus, Sugar Snaps and Peas. I served this side cold. I know this part was great because everyone kept going back for seconds and thirds.

I concluded the dinner with some of Darcy and my champagne we drank at the wedding. (by the way, this particular brand keeps getting more and more expensive each year) I then put my pastry expertise (cough, cough) on exhibit! I made a Chocolate Moist Cake with a Peppermint Ganache icing. This was SO GOOD and a wonderful ending to a very important date.

So, how does this relate to everyone reading this? It doesn't. I just wanted to exhibit a little braggadocio on the meal. It is funny, the very first big dinner party meal I did was for V-Day last year. I was so frantic in the kitchen and made a complete ass out of myself, but this time was different. I was relaxed because I knew what I was doing and had a wonderful game plan. The cost of this entire meal was around $120, which is a drop in the bucket on what we would have spent going out to dinner for a meal of this caliber.

So when you are planning anniversaries or birthdays, think how you can make it special by just staying at home. Know what you are cooking and do not get out of your comfort zone. If you do this, then you will get a lot of points...points you can use for dog-house and honey-dos.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Perfect Sick Remedy

This past week started with a bang. Little Man woke up Monday morning with a sore throat and a high fever. Of course, being the Mr. GREAT Mom that I am, I get to go to the doctor with the boy. Doc Julee takes one look in his throat and says no doubt...Strep. Ok, no big deal. I can handle this. I have taken care of plenty of sick children. We rent Princess and the Frog (MY IDEA THANK YOU) and snuggle on the couch.

Well, that evening, Momma comes home and is complaining of not feeling well.

PAUSE...I have to tell a back story real quick that will make this tale even sweeter. I am notorious for getting sick. It does not matter what the kids had or if they were even sick...I got sick. Darling Wife has reminded me of this plenty of times. Anyway, back to the story...

So when I take her temperature, yes, she has a fever. Look in her throat? Well, I won't gross you with the details, but lets just was a nice white mine field back there.

Of course, she tries to go into the office the next day. Makes it there, but has to turn right back around because she can't even function. (NOTE: Still no sickness for me) She walks in the door and goes straight to bed. I asked if I can fix her some soup and she mumbles something that sounded like OK.

Well, I look in the pantry and cannot find any canned soup. Well, I am in culinary school about to be a chef...I don't need any "canned soup". I can make this myself. Here is the recipe I used...which received rave reviews from the sick, mumbling patient in the other room.

Quinoa Vegetable Soup
2/3 cup quinoa
2 carrot, small diced
1 celery stalk, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can of tomatoes (it is ok to use canned tomato)
~ 15 oz of chicken stock (broth can be substituted, but recommend unsalted stock) ***
~ 3 1/2 cups water
* I also used a little fresh basil and some dried rosemary.

1) Saute' the quinoa, carrot, celery, onion and garlic in medium sauce pot. Cook about 5 - 10 minutes until brown...DO NOT BURN
2) Pour in stock, water and tomatoes and bring to boil
3) Immediately turn down heat and simmer until quinoa and vegetables are tender...about 10 - 15 minutes.
4) Salt and pepper to taste

***The difference between stock and broth is the ingredients. You definitely want to have the no salt versions because you want to salt your own dishes.

I like to think this lead to the speedy recovery of my darling wife. Oh...and did I get sick...I think we all know what the answer to that one would be. I don't want to rub it in anyone's face THAT I NEVER GOT SICK! HA! TAKE THAT! sorry, I am so embarrassed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

And the Winner is....

Not the Ordinary Chef. This was an amazing learning experience for me, and I must say, the chili we put out there was AMAZING. I got great feedback from everyone that tasted the chili. I think we ran into a few problems...1) On the judging form for the People's Choice, we were listed as the Lonely Chef, which confused some people. 2) It was HOT HOT HOT! I don't think 95 degrees is the best time to enjoy some good chili and 3) did I mention it was HOT?

As you can see, The Ordinary WIFE did an amazing job at setting up the table. We were, by far, the best decorated table out there.

Alright, so I might be giving away some secrets, but here is the recipe I used. Please let me know what you think if you try it. Although I would recommend waiting until it drops a few 20 degrees outside.

Ordinary Mexican Chili
1/2 lb. Ground Venison
1/2 lb. Shredded Elk
1/2 lb. lean chuck, ground
1 lb. lean pork, ground
3 Roasted Poblano Peppers
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
8 oz. hunt's tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 can beer (12 oz.) (preferably DARK)
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons Beef Stock
2 Tablespoons cumin, ground
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons oregano leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon coriander, ground
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon Tomatillo Pepper Sauce (or any hot sauce)
1 teaspoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon warm water


1. Heat the convection oven (or standard) to 400. Place the peppers on a sheet and roast for about 30 minutes. Remove from and place in ziplock bag and place in freezer (this sweats the peppers to enhance the flavor) Skin and remove seeds. Small dice the peppers and hold.
2. Brown all meets in saute pan. You can divide the meats so not to overload pan. Place meet in crock pot and drain fat. Leave a touch in the pan.
3. Saute the garlic, peppers and onion. Brown but do not burn
4. Add the other half of the meat and the tomato sauce, water, beer, chili powder, bouillon, cumin, paprika, oregano, sugar, coriander, cocoa, and hot sauce. Mix well. (Don't forget to toast spices first)
5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered , for 2 hours.
6. In a small bowl, stir together the cornmeal and flour, then add the warm water and mix well.
7. Stir into chili and cook, covered, for an additional 20 minutes.

There you have it! You have just made Ordinary Mexican Chili!

Monday, August 23, 2010

It is not in the Recipe...

Sorry it has been a while since my last Ordinary Chef post. There has been a tremendous amount of activity around the household. A positive thing to let everyone know about...I have officially graduated from CP2 class with flying colors. Our final was a tough one, mystery basket, but I aced the food and the written exam. My basket consisted of (in random order): pork tenderloin, sirloin, smoked salmon, chicken wings, beets, eggplants, broccoli raab, green beans, turnip and cucumber. Six dishes were created with cheffy precision.

NOW ON TO PASTRY! Honestly, this scares the crap out of me. I am not one that can measure something out and put it into an oven without any tweeks. Oh well, it must be done.

Now, on with the

Normally, when you get a recipe, it is with you at all times. You constantly look at it, do what it says. Look at it again, do what it says. (I am not going to know where I am going with this.) Here is my suggestion to you...STOP LOOKING AT IT!!!

A recipe should be used as a guide for what you want to accomplish. Take a recipe and make it your own. Don't follow what someone else thought tasted good, use your own styles and ingredients. Granted, you need to keep the integrity of the dish and the final product should look the same, but the dish will should have your own flair!

Here are the steps I use when looking at a recipe: (but what do I know, right?)
  1. I look for recipes containing my main ingredient, whether it is my protein or veg. This is where the iPhone comes in handy. They have a FREE app called Epicurious. It is loaded with great dishes and a search-able function.
  2. Read over the recipe a few hundred times. Know what the end product should look like and what the consistency is going to be.
  3. I then write the recipe in my handy dandy recipe book that I keep (everyone should have their own recipe book. I mean, we have to have something to give our grandchildren, right?). Add some different ingredients to compliment the meal. If it calls for potatoes, I might add another root veg like Turnips or a Rutabaga.
  4. TASTE TASTE TASTE. As I go through the steps, I keep tasting over and over. Pinch of salt here, a little garlic there. Maybe it is a little to sour, so I add some honey. This is YOUR DISH...make it your own.
So, take the time to understand the recipe and where you want to end up. Everything else in the middle is what you want it to be. The one thing I have learned in Culinary School is to experiment. You will not know what something will taste like until you try it.

If it fails...the dogs always will eat it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Little SPICE in Your Life!

Sorry for the recent absence in posts, but the family and I have traveled to Colorado for the week. We are spending about 3 days at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs then up to Denver for a night then back down to the Cabin in Cuchara. It is mainly for D's work, but it is fun for me to tag along. I know...tough life, huh?

Anyway, wanted to chat a little bit about spices. Now, don't be afraid of them. They are not going to hurt you...well, some of them might bite you in the rump after a while, but in general they can be your friend!

You need to try as many spices as possible in order to know exactly how each spice works. There are the few that add a bitter flavor on the front end and those that add a little heat on the back end that can be wonderful.

Now, here is a trick of the culinary world...toast your spices first! But Ordinary Chef, if I heat the spice, don't I need a little fat to go in the pan or it will burn? Yes, nimrod, if you leave it in there for more than a couple of minutes. Here is the procedure...get your pan smoking hot. Add your spice and leave there for a minute. Take it off and store. Simple, right? Believe me, you will never want to not toast your spices again!

Now you are saying...what about the blended spices I get in my neighborhood grocery store? Those are fine, hell, I even use them on occasion. Just be careful and read your ingredients. If you can't pronounce it, then it should not be in there and should not be in your body.

Just should be fun. It should be an adventure, not a chore. Enjoy yourself and be kind to the food.

Good Cooking,
The Ordinary Chef

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Heart Attack on a Plate?!

**WARNING: What you are about to read may disturb you, even frighten some people. Please read at your own discretion**

Alright, so it was recommended by a buddy of mine that it would be kind of amusing to demonstrate how far I have come in my culinary palate. I must justify this with a little back story on how this amazing dish first came about. Maestro, a little flashback music please?!

While my buddy and I were roommates after college, at a place in Dallas called the Village, we did not have much money for groceries. Hell, we ate whatever we could get our hands on. Grilling out turned out to be a big deal. One night I decided to make myself a couple of hamburgers. Well, they fell apart during the grilling process. Now what the hell am I going to do? So I take a good long stare into the fridge...

I see...

Dozen Eggs
A package of grated cheese
Spicy mustard

Why not, right?

So I finished off the beef in a pan with some oregano and other seasonings. Took it out, leaving the grease behind and cooked the dozen eggs. Then combined the eggs and beef (careful not to overflow the pan). Put that concoction on a plate. Dumped the WHOLE package of cheese on it and topped it off with a hearty drizzle of ketchup and mustard! MMMMMMMMMM?!?!

The recipe evolved to a package of spicy Italian sausage over the course of its shelf-life.

I ate this about once a week or every other week...until my wife said she would like to have me around for a while.

I do not propose anyone follow this recipe. Even thinking about it now gives me the willies. I do not know how I survived, but alas, I did.

Ordinary Chef

Monday, July 26, 2010

Deconstructed Cheeseburger

So tonight the meal consisted of anything that was old in the refrigerator and freezer. I know we all have these moments. Those moments where we are just staring into the pantry/fridge etc. trying to figure out what the hell to fix. Here is something I threw together tonight. Corbin, my 4 year old, helped this evening. Or should I say, he told me what he thought needed to be done.

Deconstructed Cheeseburger on Bed of Hash-browns
   Mango Pepper Chutney

For the Cheeseburger
4 Already formed Hamburger Patties
   I used ground sirloin that I had in freezer
Parmesan Cheese Grated
Montreal Chicken Seasoning
Bell Peppers
Bacon or Bacon Bits

Throw everything in a bowl and make sure you mix the meat thoroughly so they don't break on the grill. Place them on an extremely hot grill 400+. Sear both sides for marks. Place in 400 convection till done.

Frozen Ore Rita Hashed Potatoes (the cubed kind)
Bell Pepper
6 T of oil

Saute the Bells and onions in dash of oil till caramelized. Add rest of oil. Cook potatoes as directed.

Mango Pepper Chutney
1 Mango (chunked)
1 Jar of Mom's Christmas Pepper Jelly
Garlic (dash)
Oil (dash)

Add the mango chunks to hot oil and let soften. Add Pepper Jelly (it can be any type of pepper jelly). Add one clove of minced garlic and salt to taste.

This is it! Place the potatoes down first. Patty on top. Then add the chutney. We had to have some berries with this meal. It was a HIT!

It went well with a State Pen Porter.

First Blog

So today starts a new adventure. From this moment on, I shall henceforth be known as a blogger. I never thought this day would come. It is very strange. I never thought anything in my life would be interesting enough that ordinary people would want to read it. That is until I found my love of cooking.

I have always loved to cook, although my culinary plates consisted of "Heart Attack on a Plate" "Teriyaki Pork Chops" or the occasional steak on the grill. I was in no way a chef! So how did all this begin?

A few years ago I lost my job. I did not know what the hell I was going to do with my life and my career. Luckily my amazing wife (hopefully she reads this) was in a position that allowed me the opportunity to stay at home with my kids. This was a dream come true...stay at home, remember to pick the kids up at school and become Mr. Mom! I mean if Batman can do it, why couldn't I...right? Things were great at first until I got bored, plus the fact my manhood was coming into question because what would I be able to pass on to my boys? What life lesson was I beginning to teach them.

So, my wife and I thought about it for a while...and thought about it...and thought about it. We finally thought, hey, why don't you go to cooking school and be a chef? There was the answer dripping in holy sunlight!

So that is it. I am now in my second semester of school and loving it. My kids are wife is happy...and I am happy. Now, you are going to be happy because I am blogging about this.

I will try to post almost every night or so with different family recipes, how to get your kids involved in the cooking process, plating techniques and will even through in the occasional restaurant review (my the Ordinary patron point of view).

Please let me know your thoughts or ideas.

Ordinary Chef