Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holy Mackerel

I was actually looking for fresh Trout, this was to go with the Sweet Potato Pancakes that I made a week or so ago, they just seemed like they would go together. I went to the store that I usually shop at for anything that isn't a suburban white guy favorite. It is an interesting store, when you look at the signs hanging over the aisles they are labeled "Pickles and Olives," "Beans and Rice," "Mexican Food," "Jewish Food," "Bulgarian Food," "Asian Food," "Italian Food," and "Polish Food." That is kind of nice, because if I want Polenta or Arborio Rice I can go to the Italian Food aisle or Rice Noodles I head for the "Asian Food." Oddly, in this store there is an aisle marked "Ethnic Foods" I had walked past that aisle about 100 times and never looked to see what could possibly be an "Ethnic Food" after all that... Turns out it is every non-American born cookie on the market.

Sorry, rambling again... Focus. So I go to the store to get Fresh Trout, they have it but in packs of 6 I can't eat 6 Rainbow Trout and if you follow this blog you know that the fish is only for me. I think the meat department would have broken the package up for me, but I recognized the guys at the counter and my Spanish is only a little worse then their English I just didn't have the energy. Then I saw Mackerel, I remembered a recipe from a book I have brought up before "Hungry Monkey" by Matthew Amster Burton (read this book by the way it is very good). There is a recipe in this book for Mackerel with Teriyaki Sauce. So I picked up the package of 2 Mackerel and put it in the cart with the rest of my shopping.

I won't go into too many details about preparing whole fish, just a little scoop on the inside, remove the head then run a very sharp knife down the length of the fish right along the spine to fillet. Mackerel is really bony so once you get the fillets put them over a bowl t
his will expose the bones. Now is my favorite part because you need tools! take the needle nosed pliers from your tool box and pull out any bones that you missed during the fillet process. This is the part where Kris came home and looked at what I was doing and asked, "where are you going to cook that?" which I know means "Are you cooking that on the grill or am I going out to dinner with the kids?" I know better, this was going on the grill. I had non-fish dinner for her and the kiddos.

I put the fillets in a zip lock bag, I almost feel silly calling it a recipe:
2 TBS Teriyaki Sauce
Juice from one orange
2 tsp honey
2 Mackerel Fillets

Let them marinade for about 20 minutes them put on the grill first skin side up, to hold in the moisture for about 4-5 minutes then carefully flip (I brushed it again with the marinade) and grill, covered for another 4-5 minutes until done, and the skin is slightly charred.

I had never thought of Mackerel at all really, but this recipe really does work.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving at our house pt 2

The rest of our completely non-traditional Thanksgiving holiday involved me getting up and going to work while My Mom, Kris, Miss Lu and Mr. Man went to IHOP for brunch then spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon in the Hotel Pool. After work Mom took us out to dinner (very nice Italian) and like the Godless heathens that have become this holiday none of us ordered the turkey and stuffing.

After dinner we went back to the pool, that is the way to spend a holiday, it only would have been better with a pool side bar. We live near Schaumburg IL, a Chicago suburb and maybe the shopping capitol of the Midwest. Schaumburg's website boasts 92,000,000 square feet of shopping space. I was surprised by how many people we met at the hotel that were traveling the area to start their Christmas Shopping. There were a couple of families here from Indiana to "get the door buster deals" and another family that was going to the American Girl Place down town. More power to them, I just want to avoid the malls and shopping centers today.

Anyway this mindless rambling isn't what this post is about I wanted to brag about the Cranberries I made for Wednesday's non Thanksgiving dinner. I will post or link this around Christmas too since no one will eat the sour little fruit between now and then.

Brown Sugar Bourbon Cranberry Sauce:
1 12 oz Package of Fresh Cranberries
1 tsp grated Orange Peel
1 Cup lightly packed Brown Sugar
Juice from one Orange
3/4 cup Bourbon
Splash of Triple Sec

Cook all ingredients together at a very light simmer for about 15 minutes stirring often until cranberries have popped and sugars break down. Put in the refrigerator uncovered for at least a couple of hours or overnight. The slow simmering does remove some of the alcohol but by no means does it come even close to evaporating so this is not the dish for your kids (though you may want to give some to your cousin's brats) or recovering alcoholics. However once you taste it you won't want to share anyway. The leftovers are all that I am planning to have for dinner tonight. By the way we were still haveing fun with the flowers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving at our house pt 1

I may have mentioned before that my wonderful wife Kris is a bit picky about what she will eat, while we were dating she told me some of the foods that she just doesn't like; all seafood (smells bad) most pork (too dry and not much flavor) most casserole dishes (too many things in one pan) turkey (too dry, too gamey) were all on the list. I am a pretty good cook so I have convinced her to try some new things or old things prepared well and she has changed her mind about some of them. Still on the list; all seafood (I usually cook any fish outside, I have to admit it does have an odor) and Turkey. I have tried Turkey in every way shape and form and she just doesn't like it.

Add to the fact that Kris isn't a big fan of Turkey, Thanksgiving is usually the Holiday I have to work so Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday I will be getting up at 3:15 so that I can be on the South Side of Chicago by 4:45 to open up. We decided to do two things different than most. First, Thanksgiving took place on Wednesday in our house. Second, this year Turkey and Stuffing were off the menu completely they were replaced by Beef and Polenta. I recently read a statistic that suggests 90% of Americans eat Turkey on Thanksgiving day, really I don't know how that statistic was arrived at or if it was just made up but I am going to run with it for now. If you figure 90% of us are eating Turkey on Thanksgiving then take into account that about 5% of Americans are Vegetarians that puts me and my family in the small 5% of us that forsake the bird on this day. So the Thanksgiving menu in our house was:

Beef Tenderloin with a Red Wine Reduction
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Grilled Polenta
Brown Sugar and Bourbon Cranberries

The Sauce:
1 TBL Vegetable Oil
6 Green Onions Coarsely Chopped
2 Portobello Mushrooms Diced
1 TBS Brown Sugar
2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
2 Cups Red Wine
1 Cup Beef Broth
1 Cup Chicken Broth
2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp Peppercorns
1 tsp Flour
1 tsp Butter

Heat oil in sauce pan the add the Onions and Mushrooms and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes then add the Brown Sugar stir until that has melted then add the Balsamic Vinegar and Saute until all the liquid has evaporated (a minute or two).

Add wine, both broths, herbs and peppercorn and cook over medium/low heat for about 45 minutes. When the sauce is done put the butter and flour in another saucepan and make a roux then strain the sauce into that pan cook until thickened (maybe another 1o-15 minutes)

The Beef
1 1/2 pounds of Beef Tenderloin
2 TBS Olive Oil
2 Cloves minced Garlic
1 very small Onion diced
a little bit of Butter

Preheat oven to 350 then heat the olive oil, saute the garlic and onions for a couple of minutes then brown the beef on all sides (I deglazed the pan with chicken broth and cooked my green beans in that liquid) Place beef on baking pan and top with salt, pepper and about 3 pats of butter then put in the oven for about 35 minutes. Until it registers 120-125 on a thermometer for medium rare, or if your daughter "looks at" your thermometer for only a few seconds and returns it broken into several pieces, guess. Let it rest on a cutting board for about 10 minutes then slice 3/4 of an inch thick and top with a little sauce. You can see in the picture that we were having a little fun with edible flowers

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Red Wine Poached Eggs

Ok here it goes again, I think that I have mentioned the precarious hold that I may have on my "man card" this post is further proof the next sentence says it all. This dish is a perfect brunch.

Told ya.

Actually, the author of a foodie blog that I follow a few weeks ago talked about an obscure Parisian Cafe that she went to making perfect Red Wine Poached Eggs for lunch. and was just raving about them. It wasn't a dish that I was really familiar with so I wanted to pursue it on my own. I tried some different recipes and got it right on the 3rd or 4th try here it is:

1 1/2 Cups of red wine (I used Merlot this time)
1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
1 tsp Rosemary
1 clove Garlic
1 tsp Fennel seed
2 stems of Tarragon
Salt and pepper

Bring all ingredients to a low boil for about 10 minutes to let all the flavors steep together then strain the liquid through a sieve. Then bring to a boil again, there are two ways to proceed; if you are just making these for yourself or maybe one more crack the eggs into the boiling liquid and let cook for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes then serve. If you are preparing for a larger group drop the eggs one at a time into the boiling liquid for about 2 minutes then pull out with a slotted spoon and drop into an ice bath. When it is time to serve put them back into boiling water for about a minute to reheat. I have found the second method gives a nicer (if less intense color) but the flavors both ways seem to be about even.

Here the eggs are served with Spring Greens and toasted Baguette. I topped the Greens with a little Strawberry Vinaigrette and fresh Pepper.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Periodic Table of Condiments

This is just for a little fun, when I started a food related blog I thought that it was a unique idea. I could write about food and life in a place were people who want to read my culinary ramblings can visit and the people that don't care to hear about the silky perfection of pumpkin soup don't have to. Great idea, really how many people would have thought of that? Turns out about a million, many really good ones too. There are a few that I follow pretty well these come to mind as favorites

I also follow the Epicurious blog segment which tends to be a little more comercial, but has some fun guest writers. That is where I found this graphic it made me laugh and I wanted to share.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do you know what today is?

I got up this morning and was watching TV for a few minutes before everybody came out and started their day (I do that on most of my days off from work). On the days that I work I am typically at my destination an hour away from home by 6:30 am and since I am a horrible caffeine addict I have to get at least a cup or two of coffee in me close to that time every day or the results are not pretty. Kris came into the living room, sat down and said the words that every guy fears...

Do you know what today is?

I know I have a very precarious hold on my "man card" anyway, "honey I have brioche bread crumbs in the pantry" took care of that pretty well but those six words even scare me. I went through everything I could think of quickly in my head; anniversary? no, birthday? no, kids birthday? no... I had to admit I was lost.

A year ago Kris, Miss Lu and I got up and took a train into Chicago where we spent most of the day at the Daily Center. The morning was spent with a Lawyer then we had lunch, went shopping and came back to court. That was the day I went into the office of the court of Cook County and had my fingerprints put on file.

"Ok," the Officer said, "your prints are in the system, if you decide to take up a life of crime I suggest that you buy some gloves." Good advice I suppose, hopefully I won't have to use it. A year ago is when I adopted Miss Lu. The reason that it doesn't stick out in my head so much is that isn't the day she became my kid, the stubborn, opinionated beast was one of my kids as soon as I walked in the front door of the house that I now live in and met her. I showed her pictures of my oldest two daughters and we talked for a few minutes about the things that she and I find important. Since then she has done what any kid should she argues with me, throws things at me, tells me that she loves me and hates me (usually a few minutes apart). She has a knack for picking up my worst habits and has started to take a shine to science fiction movies (yeah mom likes that). Yes, she has been one of my kids since we met, the courts just took a couple of years to catch up.

In honor of the official day Kris and I got cake! and I made one of the girl's favorite meals, Breaded Chicken and Mashed Potatoes:

The chicken is easy take a couple of Chicken Breasts and pound them flat then dredge them in Flour, Egg wash and Bread Crumbs. Fry for a few minutes then finish in the oven while the potatoes boil. I won't spend too much time on the potatoes but the chicken is easy:

Flour mix

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper until I get tired of grinding

Egg wash
1 egg
a splash of milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs (seasoned with whatever you like)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

This has been a staple in the house for ages, it has always been one of Miss Lu's Favorites. It is best cut up and dipped in the mashed potatoes and eaten.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I have found myself in that strange situation again where I get to the end of the year and have a bit too much vacation time left. I have never run out of vacation time before the end of the year before yet I have an impossible fear that it will happen so I save my days until the end then try to take them all in a frenzy in November and December. So for the next several weeks I don't think that I will be working more than four days in a row ever.

The the plus side is that I will get a little needed rest and have time to try some new recipes, the down side is my schedule is so strange that writing them down may be sporadic. Please bare with me. Recently I tried something new, Sweet Potato Pancakes these I served with Mackerel that I filleted, for me anyway I have mentioned before that I am the only one in my house that eats fish. The Mackerel will come up in another post. The rest of my family had pasta.

The recipe itself is pretty simple for each person that you are serving you need:
1 Sweet Potato shredded
1 TBS finely chopped Green Onion
1 egg
1 TBS flour
1/2 tsp Orange peel finely grated
1 tsp Maple Syrup

the rest is easy just like you would regular potato pancakes take these out about an in about Tablespoon sized globs and put on a hot skillet. Press down and cook for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown they really are a nice touch to a meal.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apple Shortbread Bars

With the several trips to the farmer's market that I have taken with the kiddos for Jack O Lanterns and other pumpkin products we have picked up several Apples. Once after we all picked out our pumpkins I was looking at the other produce when I looked back at Mr. Man and he was taking apples one at a time out of baskets, licking them and setting them on the gingham covered table (Mr. Man is 3 by the way). Two thoughts quickly went through my head since he wasn't biting them but only licking; the first, maybe I can put them all back before anyone notices... the second why are you licking an apple?!?

I then thought of picking up an apple that some other kid had done the same to and decided to purchase the ones that he had defiled so we came home from that visit with Jonathan, Gala, Macintosh and Granny Smith apples. So now you are thinking. "Is Bryan one of those parents that lets his kids run wild or is his son a really fast licker?" Neither... both, I don't know, in my defence I bought some non-licked apples so once I got home I could pretend the apple that I was eating was of the non-slobbered variety.

As happens with produce after a while on the counter I had already lost a couple and would be losing more soon so I decided that I had to use them up. I poked around and found a recipe on Epicurious to work from:

3 slices of bread ground into crumbs

for Shortbread Base
11/2 sticks Unsalted Butter
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt

for Apple Topping
1 1/4 Sticks Butter Melted
2 Pounds Tart Apples
2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
2 TBS Flour

Toast the breadcrumbs at 350 for about 5 minutes, they should just cover the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan, then set them aside for later, leave the oven on.

To make the shortbread crust put the Flour, Salt and Brown Sugar into a mixing bowl then slice the cold butter into the mix about a tsp at a time blend until it forms small lumps. I used a mixer, a food processor would work too. Evenly coat the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan and press it down lightly. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

To make the topping set the 1 1/4 sticks butter on the stove to melt then peel and core apples then cut into quarters and slice them thin. I used 5 apples 2 Granny Smith, 2 Gala 1 Jonathan (all medium sized) that may or may not be the ideal varieties, but it is what I had on the counter. When you take the crust out of the oven sprinkle 1/2 the sugar flour mix on top put the sliced apples on that, sprinkle the rest of the sugar flour mix on them. Here I added a sprinkle of cinnamon you can if you want. Top all of this with bread crumbs then drizzle the melted butter on top of the whole thing.

Put it back in the oven and bake for 50 minutes maybe a little longer. About 1/2 way through you will want to pull it out and press the filling down with a spatula to even it out. Cool for about 20 minutes.

I don't say this often, ok maybe I do, but I really mean it this time. This is sooo good, if you only make one recipe that I have blabbered on about this is the one! My house smelled like angels came in and kissed the oven and it tasted wonderful. Kris was going to give some to the neighbor so we don't just end up fat in my house, she was going to start working on the whole block. Then decided that she would share something else.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Visit part 1

When my In-laws came for their visit last week; we were waiting for them to arrive, not quite sure when they would get here or what they were planning. Oddly we (really Kris) is expected to know what they are planning before they arrive and act accordingly. We were discussing what we should have ready for them for dinner that night.

The first option and my favorite was Pasties. Pasties, if you are not familiar with them, are one of the world's most perfect foods it consists of Beef, Onion, Rutabaga, and Potato
es wrapped in a pie like crust and baked golden brown. I have wanted to make pasties for quite a while but it is one of those dishes that I want to learn from a master (read Kris' mom) before I do. I am pretty sure that Kris is afraid that I will try to "improve" on them one day which would be a crime, Salmon and Poblano Pasties would upset the balance of the universe. By the way this was my favorite option for the evening because it only involved turning on the oven.

The second option was spaghetti with meat sauce, nothing exciting, just like your mom made it. Spaghetti, with ground beef and red sauce from a jar . Kris usually makes this one so I am not sure what she doctors the sauce up with but it is good. This was my least favorite option because Kris would be making the sauce while I discussed the first three in-law topics.

The third option that we had come up with was ordering Pizza. After all we live in Schaumburg, a Northwest Suburb of Chicago... the Pizza Capitol of the world (if you are from New York just shut up, you know it is true). I was pretty good with this option too since I was getting home from work about 25 minutes before they arrived.

When they came into our house and the three dinner options were laid out I discovered that there was another option, the one that we should have known to begin with. "We hoped that Bryan would come up with something... we really like the good potatoes."

"No problem!" I said, "let me see what we have..." The good potatoes were easy that is the foil wrapped cheesy potatoes that I cook on the grill but meat? Ok I had some chicken so I would work from there:

Grilled Chicken Breast with a Bourbon, Apple Cider Glaze:
"Marinade" In quotation marks because there wasn't really enough time to marinade.
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 cup Olive Oil
1 1/2 TBS Honey

5 Chicken Breasts (thawed)

Put the Chicken Breasts in the marinade while preparing all side dishes then put the glaze on the stove and cook for about half an hour until it reduces by half.


1/2 cup Bourbon
1 cup Apple Cider
1/2 cup brown Sugar

Put glaze on medium heat while preparing potatoes
Once potatoes have been on the grill for about 5 minutes take chicken out of the marinate and soak in the warm glaze for a few minutes then put on the grill. Grill over medium heat for about 3-4 minuted then dredge through the glaze and put it back on the grill. Do this once more then serve.

The Chicken came out tender and sweet, the dinner came together pretty fast and kept everyone a bay for an evening. Tomorrow the real work would begin

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Visit

The dreaded happened this week the in-laws came for a visit and all hell has broke loose. On the plus side we have a new bathroom floor instead of bare cement with scattered bits of torn wood, however it has been a bit of a stressful week! between work and home I haven't had a second to sit at the computer so I feel like I am behind on posts. Read on and see why...
Actual text quotes from this week:

Kris "they are here... must start drinking soon!"
Bryan "2 Valium 4 TBS Coffee... grind, brew, serve to dad"
Kris "Mom too"
Bryan "Valium Martini?"

A few weeks ago Kris' parents told us they were going to visit us and finish the bathroom the only condition being that I not be here while her dad works but I do come home in the evening too cook. I get in the way apparently, really I try not to, I rather enjoy household projects but I am by no means a professional level craftsman but I am considered a pretty good cook. I can live with that... The meal I am going to post about today is Braised Duck Breast with Brandy Reduction Demi-Glace and Fresh Blueberries. It is actually the second meal that I cooked while they were here so I am posting out of order but it is my blog so I can do that.

The Duck breast was kind of hard to find we ended up buying it at Whole Foods two 6 oz breasts cost about $1.00 more than a whole duck but I really didn't want to cut my own this time. When I picked up the 4 breasts and put them into the basket Miss Lu started lecturing me, "why are you going to eat a duck? ducks are cute, they are nice."

I told her that she needed to take that up with God, I am not the one that made the nice guys taste so good. She continued, "Have you ever been bitten by a duck?"


"Then how can you do this to one?" I mentioned that using that logic the only thing we could eat at our house wwould be kitten. At least that got her thinking.

My Mother in law brought blueberries that she had picked in the U.P. of Michigan so I thought it would be a nice gesture to use them in the sauce. I started the sauce about an hour before I started cooking the duck, I diced about half a fennel bulb an onion and a w
hole bulb of garlic and put them in a saute pan with melted butter then threw some fresh tarragon in with them and sauteed for maybe half an hour. Then I deglazed the pan with Brandy and strained the deglazing liquid into about a cup and a half of demi-glace added a cup of blueberries and cooked it all together for about 45 minutes.

While that was going I scored the skin of my duck breast (careful not to cut the muscle) and put it skin side down in a hot iron skillet to cook for about 25-30 minutes using a turkey baster every few minutes to drain the rendered fat. After I turned the duck breast over I let it cook for 2 or 3 minutes then put sauce on it and put it into the oven for a few minutes. Above it is served on polenta and garnished with fresh tarragon.

As for the in-law visit... over all it was stressful Kris and I are both dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder just a bit. We have followed through on our bribes to the kiddos to purchase toys for not having melt down in front of the grand parents. The bathroom is nice.


A few weeks ago I read a book called "Hungry Monkey" A Food Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, a very fun book for someone like me. One of the recipes he and his daughter explore is homemade Pretzels, Miss Lu and I both thought that would be fun to try. This is not his exact recipe but close, definitely inspired by the book

It is exciting for me because it has yeast, something that I have a love hate relationship with, and it is a fun process. Miss Lu has been helpful cooking with me often but unfortunately she is not the most adventurous eater, so this was something that I knew we would enjoy making and everyone would like for a snack:

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp kosher salt
1 TBL Honey
1/2 cup warm water (about 100 f if you are the kind of person that checks)
2 TBS baking soda (you don't need it yet, do not add to the mixture!)

Mix the water, honey and yeast into a small bowl and let it activate (the yeast gets a little foamy at the edges) then add that to the flour and salt and mix well using dough hooks for about 4-5 minutes. If it is a little dry ie all the flour doesn't incorporate add a little more water if it is too soft add a bit more flour.

I think that I have mentioned my capacity to worry a recipe to death I took both of these steps a few times... try not to be like me, I am sure it is fine.

Let the dough rise for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, punching down once about halfway through. When that is done cut the dough into 6 pieces (about 2 oz each) I use the back of a knife to divide it up then roll it out into strips about 18 inches long then shape the pretzels and put them on a baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 450 and then add the baking soda to water in a 2 qt saucepan and bring to a boil.

Drop the pretzels 3 at a time into the boiling water when they make their way from the bottom of the pot to the top let them boil for about 30 second then turn them over for another 30 seconds. Take them out and put them back on the pan then do the other 3. Sprinkle with salt (I used sea salt) and put the pan into the hot oven for 9 or 10 minutes.

I have a couple of things to add to this post, first when the author describes making pretzels with his daughter he describes a game where she picks up a string and forms it into a random shape and asks "daddy, would you eat a pretzel shaped like this?" repeat 1000 times. I found this same game repeated in my kitchen and if you read the linked post you will find it again. Please foodie parents read the book it is a lot of fun. The second thing, one blogger I follow made a similar post the same day that I made this one... it is coincidence (I swear) please look at her blog It is a lot of fun.