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Friday, December 16, 2011

Culinary Point of View

I cannot believe it is almost time for Christmas. It seems like it was just Halloween!

I have been awful with this blogging thing. It is so hard to find the time, between running around dropping and picking up the kids to helping out with the wife's companies. I finally just had to say "ENOUGH! I AM WRITING THE DAMN BLOG TODAY!" So, here I am. I have so many ideas to write about. Do you all want a review of all the fabulous restaurants we went to while in Disney? Do you all want the recipes for the dinner party I through last week? I decided to ignore those and go with something happening with me and my culinary Point of View.

For the past six months, I have been cooking many different types of cuisine. I have done the Italian, German, Chinese and American (which is really just a combination of all cuisines), all while trying to pair down my menu of things I know I can cook at a moment's notice. All this has lead to my discovery of the type of cuisine I love. Southwest/Asian Fusion!

We all know how much I love peppers and how I figure you can add a pepper to anything and make it good. Well, I got to about adding peppers and Southwest flavors to Asian foods? I tried a few fusion recipes and they were amazing! The flavors molded together and made very nice, palate pleasing meals.

So what meals have I created? Well, I would not be a good blogger if I gave away all my recipes. I have to get you all back to read the new stuff, don't I? So a little tease of things to come...Jalapeno Sushi Rolls, Fried Southwest Spring Rolls, Fried Rice Chili Relleno. These are just a few of the recipes I will be sharing in the coming months.

So, how does this relate to you? As I have always said, the adventure of cooking comes by trying new things. Who cares if it does not work? You can always toss it aside and say, "Nope. Not cooking that again."

The biggest gains in life come from the failures we achieve. (went all philosophical on you there)

Happy Cooking!
Ordinary Chef!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Long Awaited 2011 Ordinary Awards

So now that school for the boys has officially started, I figured it was time to get back to the blogging. I know you all have missed this so much over the summer, I decided the "Back to School" blog should be an awards blog. No, I don't have any golden spatulas or chef hats to give out...just the prestige of being on my list. (is it prestigious?)

First, let me say that summer has been outstanding in terms of my cooking. I have been developing recipes over the summer and trying them out on my guinea pigs. (not actually on the two guinea pigs because that would be cruel) I am developing recipes based on a new culinary fusion... Asian and Latin cuisines. Really good stuff is coming together, which I will share throughout the year.

So, here we go!

Best Burger
This was one of the harder awards to give out. Burger places are popping up all over the place in Fort Worth, so it is hard to keep up. Plus the fact I have to keep my girlish figure, taste testing was also very difficult. I am going to cop out and have a tie...Dutch's and Pappas. The ambiance of Dutch's is what puts it in a tie for first. I mean, who would not love a place with all TCU items. Also, I am a little sentimental since Dutch's took Jon's space. Pappas burgers taste the best. They are juicy and seasoned very well. They also have several additional items on the menu that add to the taste-buds, like avocados and blue cheese.

Best Kid Friendly
McDonalds and Burger King need to apply. When I say "kid friendly", I am mainly talking an upscale restaurant that you can bring your kids where the management is not going to give you the evil stare of "how could you bring those mongrels here!" My vote will have to go to Tillman's in West 7th. This place is just FUN. From the trio of fries and fried pickles, all the way to the s'mores dessert, Tillman's is a location where your kids will enjoy it as much as you do. Presentation of the plates are always very appealing and the ambiance of being a "Texas" hoedown is great! When you go, you must try the Venison Frito is horrible on the figure, but is SOOOOOO good.

Best Value
Value meaning an establishment you get more bang for your buck. The award has to go to Lanny's Kitchen. I remember going to Lanny's place when it was still inside Joe T's as he was trying to sort out his menu. I loved it then and love it even more now. The interesting thing about Lanny's is the fact that Lanny is almost always back in the kitchen. It is very rare these days for an EC to be running the kitchen and then come out to talk to the guests. The food is outstanding. I have never had a bad meal there. Prices are VERY reasonable, considering the quality of the food you are getting. Lanny's also receives the Best Mexican Food award because of the upscale Mexican dishes he creates.

Best Sushi
Let me start by saying I have not always been a fan of sushi. In fact, I absolutely hated it until about 5 years ago when I went as a favor to my wife. I was hooked. I never knew NOT cooking something could taste so good and have several different layers of complex tastes. I guess you never forget your first time, so I have to give the award to Sushi Axiom. There are so many special rolls to choose from and they all have the complex flavors you look for in sushi. Plus they have the pad tai and udon noodles for the kids.

Best Seafood
Obviously Fort Worth is about 5 hours away from any coast, so the level of seafood is not as high as a place where they prep it right from the water, but Fort Worth does have a great seafood joint. I have never had a bad meal at Eddie V's, which is the winner of this award. My favorite dish has to be the scallops. They are just ever so delicately salted and seared to perfection. My wife always says that I need to branch out and try something different, but I can never pass up an opportunity to have the scallops. The wait staff there is so very friendly and accommodating that it is hard to leave Eddie V's without feeling good about the meal. The wine selection is also top notch and the sommelier is great at picking just the perfect pairing.

Best Diner
Paris Coffee Shop, no question. Whether you are going for breakfast on a Saturday morning or heading there for lunch, this place has no equal. They know everyone who walks through the door...even a certain head football coach dines there. My parents take the boys there on the weekends to have "squirrel eggs" and "squirrel sausage". (don't ask and I won't tell)

Best Fort Worth Place to Take Out-of-Towners
This long title for this award actually just means where is the best place that says Fort Worth. This is actually an honest three way tie...Joe T's, Reata and Bonnell's. Everyone knows Joe T's. While the food is not the best (except the nachos), the margaritas are unbelievable. It also has a lot to do with the ability to sit outside and just order pitchers and pitchers of ritas. Reata is as Fort Worth as possible. From the Cowboy Steak to the Quail, the food is something you would expect from a Fort Worth tradition. Now Bonnell's is a little different. The ambiance is very "Texas" but the food is exotic. Jon is not afraid to try new and different meats. My favorite is the bison fillet. Nicely crusted and cooked to perfection. Jon is another one of those Executive Chefs who actually work in the kitchen and come out to the dining area to converse with his patrons.

Best Exotic Food
Bella Italia on Camp Bowie, no question. The boys really like going to Bella because they can get Ostrich or Antelope. We have a little game that you have to act like the food you eat, so they get a kick out this place. The staff is also very nice and accommodating.

Best Brunch
While there are a ton of places in Fort Worth serving outstanding brunches, my heart goes back to the Culinary School of Fort Worth. Not only is this place unbelievably gifted at teaching chefs to become great, they also put on a heck of a brunch. At the school, brunch is served every other week (check website for dates and is staffed by the actual students. Chef Brad Waier is the EC in charge of the brunch and always puts out FANTASTIC meals. The meals actually consist of salad, soup, omelet station and pasta station. You then get to choose one of three beautifully orchestrated main dishes prepared by the students on the line. It is really fun just going and interacting with the students to find out where the next generation of chefs are going to be. Cost is actually a steal at around $15 per person. It is BYOB (bring your own beverage) which I LOVE.

So there you have it, the 2011 Ordinary Awards. Congratulations to all the winners. Seriously, Fort Worth is growing into a culinary delight with all the new restaurants in and around town. Take the chance and try something new. You never know what experiences may await you, your family and your taste buds.

As always, happy eating
The Ordinary Chef

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Graduation and Easter Dinner

It is OFFICIAL. After almost two years of hard work and countless practice hours, I have graduated from Culinary School. For some reason, I feel a more sense of accomplishment from this school then I did from TCU. I know it is strange, but this was not an easy undertaking.

I just want to take the time to say thank you to the Chefs (Loy, Kurima and Waier) who made everything fun and exciting. Congratulations to the rest of the graduating class. I look forward to staying in touch with you all and hearing about your culinary careers.

Now that I have gotten all the fluff and tear jerking items out of the way...on to some cooking!!

This Easter, my wife and I decided it was time to start hosting holiday dinners at our house. This was more of an undertaking than we realized. I thank by the time the day was through, we both have a new found respect for our parents. Yes, yes, I know...our parents were right all along.

So the meal was split into four courses: appetizers (which my in-laws prepared), soup (mine), main (mine) and desserts (sister-in-law, sister and my parents). Believe me when I saw that I searched for about two or three full days for the proper recipes for this special occasion. Not only was I preparing the majority of the meal, but I felt this was the perfect time to show everyone what I have learned.

Here is the menu. It would take to long to go through all the recipes for that day, so I will give the main dish.

Roasted Beet, Orange and Dill Soup
I DO NOT LIKE BEETS!!! So why prepare this? The color and the context of the dish made this a must. I must say, this was very good. I actually enjoyed this soup. It was served cold and in coffee mugs, so most just drank it. Compliments were coming in swiftly. Success. I would actually make this again.

Roast Rack of Lamb with New Potatoes and Mint Pesto
This was AMAZING! Cooked to the perfect temp and nicely seasoned. The Mint Pesto was the perfect compliment to the dish.

Asparagus with Vin Santo Vinaigrette (substituted Muscat for the expensive Vin Santo)
Fresh Fruit Salad with Honey Vanilla Yogurt
Orange Scented Green Beans
Spring Green Risotto
FAVORITE SIDE: The Risotto. This is quickly becoming my favorite dish to make. Now, understand, I had not made risotto until school brunch about 4 weeks ago. I have since prepared it 5 more times. It is so delicious and creamy. Yes, it does take a lot of time, but it is GOOD!

Recipe for Roast Rack of Lamb
  • 1 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 18 garlic cloves minced
  • 6 T Dijon mustard
  • 5 lbs new red potatoes (quartered)
  • 4 racks of lamb

Whisk 1/2 cup oil, garlic and mustard in small bowl to blend. Transfer about 1/3 cup of mustard mix to large bowl and toss potatoes to coat. Brush remaining mixture over lamb. Sear racks in large saute pan until nice and brown on one side. Place racks in roasting pan and surround with potatoes. Preheat oven to 425. Roast until internal temp is 130 for medium rare, about 25 to 30 minutes.

  • 6 cups fresh mint
  • 2 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 3 t salt
  • 3 t ancho powder

Add all ingredients to food processor. Hold for service.

That is all there was to it. It was a simple recipe but the flavors just popped.

After 15 bottles of wine, some Irish Whiskey and some spiked coffee, the family left with full stomachs and a smile on their face. I think we might have to do this again!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Don't Forget to Include the Dessert!!

I promised everyone last week that I would put together a couple of desserts to truly WOW your mate. Well, after many agonizing hours of deliberation, I have come up with only one. One amazing and sultry chocolate cake. If your mate is anything like mine (who would marry some chocolate if it asked), this will earn you a nice feather in your cap!

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake
This is a great and rich chocolate cake that is nicely layered with raspberry jam and chocolate ganache (don't worry, I will walk you through the process.

2 cups AP flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 cup water
3/4 buttermilk (don't have? add 1T vinegar to 1 cup milk to make own buttermilk)
3/4 veg oil (can use canola)
3 eggs

Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Topping
18 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 T raspberry jam
12 oz. fresh raspberries
Powdered sugar

Cake Prep
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Coat 2 9" pans with Pam spray
  • Line bottoms with parchment rounds - spray rounds
  • Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt in large bowl
  • Form well in center
  • Whisk 1 cup water, buttermilk, oil and eggs in medium bowl to combine
  • Pour wet ingredients INTO dry and whisk to blend
  • Divide into cake pans (~3 cups each)
  • Bake until toothpick is clean (~30 minutes)
  • Cool completely

Ganache and Raspberry Prep
  • Place chopped in medium bowl
  • Bring cream to boil in saucepan
  • Pour over chocolate and let stand 1 minute
  • Stir until melted and smooth
  • Transfer 1 1/4 cup ganache to small bowl, cover and refrigerate until thick to spread
  • Leave rest to stand at room temp to cool

Combination Prep
  • Remove cakes from pans upside down
  • Spread 3T jam on top of one cake
  • Spoon chilled ganache over and spread evenly
  • Slide second cake on top of first
  • Spread remaining jam on top
  • Pour half of lukewarm ganache over cake - spreading to sides
  • Freeze until ganache sets (~30 minutes)
  • Pour remaining ganache and freeze again
  • Remove and place raspberries on top and dust with powdered sugar
There you have it. Easy enough?!

Hope you have an amazing Valentine's Day. Make it count. Post comments about your experience.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Love is in the FOOD?!?!

Ahh, amour. Valentine's Day, one of the weirdest of the holidays for me as a child, is on Monday. This is the day where your wife, girlfriend, or both, expects to be wooed off her feet. Even after 10 years of marriage, this is something I still cannot get down. I have tried, gifts, and even Cookie Bouquets (I find I eat more of them than my wife). This is why I am super stoked for Monday. This is truly the first year I get to try to woo my love through her stomach. This is such a simple task...anyone can do it. Your significant other will say they like everything on the plate, just so they don't hurt your feelings. Just put some effort and planning into it, and things could not be better. Plus, it does not hurt you are saving a couple hundred bucks!

Here is my plan for Monday night.

First course is going to be a simple cheese fondue. Cut up some carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, apples and pears to have on hand for dipping. Next, grab a fondue pot...Cuisinart has a nice electric one so you don't need the Sterno.

Chipotle Cheese Fondue
2 cups Gruyere Cheese
2 cups Emmenthal cheese
1 1/2 T cornstarch
2 cloves, halved
1 1/3 dry white wine
1 T Lemon juice
Touch of nutmeg
3 canned Chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
  • Toss cheeses together with cornstarch.
  • Rub inside sauce pan with garlic, leave inside
  • Add wine and lemon juice
  • Bring to boil and stir in cheese mix
  • Bring back to simmer and through in nutmeg, chilies and pepper to taste
  • Transfer to fondue pot and serve.

Main course: Pan-Seared Strip with Red-Wine Pan Sauce and Pink-Peppercorn Butter
Pink Peppercorn Butter
1/4 cup butter
1 t minced thyme
1 t honey
1 t whole pink peppercorns

1 10 oz NY strip
2 t extra-virgin olive oil
1 t minced thyme
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup beef stock

Pink Peppercorn prep
  • Combine first 4 ingredients and mix with fork until peppercorns are crushed.
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • With plastic wrap, form into disk and chill

Steak prep
  • Rub steak with oil
  • Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper
  • Let stand 30 min
  • Heat skillet and add steak
  • Cook to desired (3 to 4 per side for medium rare)
  • Transfer to plate and tent foil
  • Add 1t oil to skillet and add shallot and saute till softened
  • Add wine and boil until reduced by half, stirring often
  • Add stock and salt
  • Remove from heat and throw in butter mixture (Congrats, just made a beurre rouge)
  • Cut steak against grain and divide among plates.
  • Top with sauce

Can serve this dish with asparagus, broccoli or your favorite side.

There. Simple, yet effective.

Now go out there you crazy kids and have a great time on Valentine's Day. Enjoy your loved ones. Or better yet, try to make everyday Valentine's Day. You don't have to wait for a "special occasion" to tell that someone special how much you love them.

On Monday...desserts!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Signature Dish

So, as I begin the final stage of my culinary school, one of the tasks is to create a "Signature Dish." Initially, I thought this was going to be the hardest decision of my short culinary career. What the H E double hockey sticks do I think is my signature dish?

I started to think...and think....and think. Ok, after my brain exploded from thinking too hard, I figured something out. What do I like? I LOVE HAMBURGERS! Great! Now, put this with the style of cooking I am leaning towards. As anyone that has had my cooking lately, I love peppers. Any kind of peppers will do, after all, my culinary POV is basically Southwest/French Fusion. (oooooh...I am now hip since I used the word fusion!!!)

I have now created my ultimate "Signature Dish!" I call it the "The Ordinary Southwest Blue Cheese Burger." Do you think I am going to share my signature recipe with you all? Of course, why not!! And please try to cook this and let me know how it turns out!

Hamburger Prep
1/4 lb ground beef (sirloin is better)
1t (teaspoon) smoked paprika
1t ancho powder
4 cloves garlic - minced

Relish Prep
1 Roasted Jalapeno (to roast, place in a pan in the oven)
1 Roasted Red Bell
1/2 cup pineapple minced (use canned pineapples)
1/8 cup cilantro minced
1/4t horse raddish
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Mayo Prep
1/2 cup mayo
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2t adobo sauce (chipotle powder can be used as a substitute)

I know there are a lot of ingredients in this, but it is not that bad. These are made in stages.

  1. After roasting peppers (black in color) place in ziplock bag in the frig for 25 minutes to "sweat"
  2. Combine other ingredients in bowl and toss to coat
  3. De-skin and de-seed peppers and rough cut and place in bowl
  4. Set aside
  1. Combine ingredients in bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Set aside
  1. Combine ingredients in lard bowl and mix (with hands) until the beef forms a tight ball. Flatten to desired size.
  2. Grill to desired temperature (about 15 minutes). Finish in oven if getting too crusty.
  3. Butter buns and place on grill until crispy.
  4. Assemble burger (open faced) with relish on top.
  5. Serve with fries or chips with the mayo to dip (if desired)
And there you have it. The Ordinary Chef's Signature Dish..."Ordinary Southwest Blue Cheese Burger." Please try to make it and let me know your thoughts.

As always...Happy Cooking!