Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Experiment

 Actually I have to qualify this post, I wrote it about a year ago as a guest post for another blog... When I wrote it I just put a random date on it in my blog.  I just noticed that the date is here!   which is cool, I like this one, read on...

Most weekend mornings I am the first human to wake in our house.  I putter around the kitchen with my cup of coffee and get ready for the day.  Usually I do the dishes and clean the kitchen a bit in the morning, the kitchen is really my area.  This Saturday morning I was exhausted... I slept in until almost 7:00 before I stared my day.  I got up and checked my blog then made a pot of Coffee and started cleaning off the counter while watching Food Network and loading the dishwasher.

Since I woke up a little late this day everybody was in various stages of being awake and active.  Miss Lu came into the kitchen and asked for a bowl, a big one.  Requests like this always scare me a bit especially when they are immediately followed by a request for a bottle of water.  I let it go this time and started to load the dish washer I put in three pieces of flatware and one sippy cup then it starts:

Miss Lu: Can I get some apple juice?
Bryan: you asked for a bowl and water... now Juice what are you doing?
Miss Lu: A food experiment, duh! can I get some juice?
Bryan: Ok, here you are.

Then I loaded another couple of dishes and found Miss Lu getting the pitcher of pink lemonade out of the the  refrigerator.  Again the question comes up..

Bryan: A food experiment? Where are you working? and why the lemonade?
Miss Lu: I'm at the table, it is really a drink experiment.

Then I go through the house  to figure out which table she was using, Kris stopped me and reminded me that she wasn't doing anything different that what I do... experimenting with food.  I said that I was just worried that she has water, lemonade and a big bowl and all this can lead to a heck of a mess.  Then Kris said, "sometimes you make a mess."  She is right, well except the word "sometimes" should be "usually."

So Miss Lu walked in and out of the kitchen for the next few minutes and got some V-8 Splash, Fruit punch mix, more water. I managed to keep my mouth shut even when she asked me for 2 glasses.  While I was getting those she grabbed a bag of marshmallows and ran.  By the time I got the dishwasher loaded she and Mr.Man, as kids will do, were on to other things.  It wasn't until about an hour later that I found her experiment... created on the baby doll changing table... duh Dad!

Does it look familiar?
Not quite.. Maybe

Nope here it is, can I just say "apple... tree... how far?"
Oh this one is added for fun... about a year ago I went to Wisconsin to see Miss El and MS R. in a play... While I was gone Miss Lu missed me so much that she drew a Martini for me.  I keep it up on my office wall!

Oh, you know that a recipe follows...

My Holloween Martini
Juice from half an Orange
2 1/2 oz of Black Strap Rum
1 tsp blood Orange Bitters
Splash of sprite

Mix the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well then pour into your skull and crossbones Martini glass.  Top with a splash of sprite and garnish with an orange wedge, best served next to a pumpkin.  Happy Halloween everybody!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ooh finally it worked

I don't know if I have owned up to this yet... I like to make banana bread. I feel like I am using something that would have gone to waste, plus the house smells AWESOME when you bake it. However... My banana bread has often been compared to a brick, well not always a brick sometimes a doorstop, cinder block, box of hammers. Let’s just say it is usually... well I'll use the word "hearty" I have been trying for a lighter one and found the answer in a book.

OK, confession time and one of those moments that I take out the tatters of my "man card" and just leave it behind before I move onto the next sentence. I have read every one of Diane Mott Davidson's books. Yes I read culinary mysteries when I have the time. I am always waiting to find out what happens next with "Goldilocks Catering" and the mystery solving caterer.

Anyway in one of the novels, our hero breaks a murder case when she discovers a cake recipe that calls for baking soda but no acid… Of course any dunderhead would be able to take that information and find a murderer right? But it did make me take a look at my old recipe for banana bread recipe… Bananas, sugar, flour, butter, milk… Hmmm, nothing for the soda to react with. Then I remembered the nerdy kid next to me at the 7th grade science fair with his baking soda volcano. "Just pour some vinegar on top of the baking soda that I have in there and mom has a heck of a mess to clean up."

Say this just might work… So I tried the basic recipe that I had laying around and added two TBS of Balsamic Vinegar. That did it and I think that we can all agree that you can’t go wrong with a little Balsamic here is how the recipe ended up.

2 Cups Flour
3/4 Cup Sugar
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

3 old Bananas (well mashed)
6 TBS butter, melted then cooled
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup coarsly chopped Pecans

Preheat oven to 350

Put all dry ingredients into a bowl and wisk together then set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients together then add to the flour mixture and blend, just until they are mixed. scrape into a bread pan and bake for about 45 minutes. When it is done (poke it with a toothpick or knife and it comes out clean) remove from pan and let cool for about an hour...

How did it fare? Overall the opinions were good. Lighter, but still that hearty texture that it should be.

Note to my blogger friends. I am not ignoring you!!!  I am having huge computer problems right now... the laptop hasn't booted up in about a month, I have tried everything from a system restore to reimaging the hard drive, nothing has worked. Recently my desktop has been acting as if it is posessed, (blue screens, thousands of nonsencican numbers filling the screen,  random reboots etc...) I am trying to get to visit all of you but the only computer I can get to work well on-line is Kris' work laptop.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

That Guy

I have been drawn to catering for years, Kris knows that... it might even be an illness, really work at night, on weekends, busy when normal people are having fun... but she has always been my biggest supporter when I do an event.  A couple of months ago our friends Rochelle and Dan were talking about his parents upcoming 50 wedding anniversary.  Dan was saying that they will probably get   Italian Beef Sandwiches and Polish Sausages from Portillos or some other chain caterer.  Kris stopped him with the question, "Dan, have you met my husband Bryan... the guy that has made food for you... you remember it, you almost cried when he made Christmas Dinner at your house, why don't you talk to him."

On the way home Kris apologized to me for offering my services, but I think that deep down she knew that she wasn't throwing me under the bus, she was making it clear that she wants me to do something that I love even as a side business.

As the time drew near I was putting together the menu and getting everything in order...

Oh the menu....
Chicken Breast with a Vodka Cream Sauce
Polish Sausage with Sauerkraut and Apples
Potato Pancakes
Macaroni and Cheese
Green Beans
Fresh fruit, cheese and Charcuterie (fancy pants word salty cured meats)
Oysters on the half shell
and almost as an afterthought, Focaccia I have made that for them before

In the days before we launched we discussed what to call the business we bounced around several ideas here are some:

BFine Catering
Lunah (play on Mr. Man and Miss Lu's names)
RELN catering (a play on all of the kids names)
Bryan's Bistro to You
Taste and Savour
Spatter Catering
Sinful Spoonful

Actually, Miss Lu and I liked "Splatter" I think for the scary movie undertone but it just didn't seem  to give the right feel.  We wrote  all of these on a whiteboard with a bunch of others and bounced  the ideas around for a couple of days then...
Hmm it seems to happen a lot, life got in the way. As I was making dinner for 70 I was expressing my regret for not getting business cards made for a business that we hadn't named yet and Kris said, "well if we get anyone interested I'll just write your name on a napkin and say it is 'That Guy's Catering.'"  We both stopped there, "That Guy"  hmm that kind of works, not pretentious, easy to remember.  I like the (ok, showing my age here) Marlo Thomas "That Girl" reference.
Can you believe that my sous chef made more in tips than I did?
Anyway it worked!  I did have people ask about using my services!  and we did write "That Guy's Catering" on a a few napkins and got the information needed.  So I put together a good dinner and had two or three people interested in my services overall it was a great night.

I have talked about my kitchen a few times it is a small galley style kitchen... here is how it looks after I cook for a big party...  I swear it was clean when I started cooking this is the aftermath when we got home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Holiday and Some Peppers

The kids are off school today so I had some plans, get the oil in my car changed and get to the grocery store then I had planned to spend most of the day playing in the kitchen.  I had baking bread and making cracklins on the list (yes Camilla the day before I read your comment I decided to give them a go).  However, last night Mr, Man got quite a bit of a fever and hadn't quite recovered as of this morning.  When we saw my beautiful wife off to work today Mr. Man and I were sitting on the Sofa watching Phinaas and Ferb after a couple of hours of that we have moved on a bit.  We all had lunch with Kris, Mr. Man feeling better, but not 100% Miss Lu,  and the Neighbor kids are doing what they should do, carving their initials in the freshly laid sidewalk that the city poured today.  OK, seriously, pouring cement on sidewalks all over town on a school holiday is just asking for that.

So plans change, the down side of not being able to blog much lately is that I have missed out on something that I enjoy so much; the up side is that I still cook so I have a camera full of pictures.  So I am going to draw on some stuff from the last couple of weeks.

These two dishes started the last time I was doing my regular produce shopping I had picked up beets, zucchini, Valida onions, cilantro, green beans, fresh basil, limes, pluats and ginger along with some other things.  I know it sounds like a casserole from foodie hell but the fridge was running on empty and I needed some stuff.  When I got to the check out lane I found a bag of Hungarian Chiles in my cart,  my first thought was, "why did I grab these guys?" but then realized that someone must have dropped them in my cart thinking it was theirs.  Scary thought considering what was in my cart...

I was about to give them to the cashier when I thought, "hey nerdy food blogger, take them home and do something different why don't ya?!?"  Sometimes I get in a foodie rut and have to try something new to fix it.  So these little guys came home for dinner twice...  I asked around the house what I should make with the Hungarian chiles and we had a consensus, something for me to eat.  Which is good and bad, good because I can make whatever, bad because nobody else tries it so you all have to trust my opinion.

First dish
Pan Seared Tuna Steaks with Hungarian Chile Slaw
Tuna Steak
Juice from one lime
Grated Zest from on lime
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic minced
Salt, Pepper

Let the tuna steaks marinade on the counter for about half an hour.

The slaw
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Valida Onion sliced
1 Hungarian Chile sliced thin
2 TBS Chopped Cilantro
Salt and pepper

Put vinegar and sugar in a small sauce pan, heat pan until sugar dissolves set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.  As it cools mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Add the vinegar then set aside for a couple of hours.  This can be made a day ahead if you like.

In a lightly oiled pan sear your tuna the way you like it, rareish for me then top with vegetable mixture and serve.

Second Dish
Stuffed Hungarian Chiles
2 Mild Italian Sausages cut up and browned
3/4 cup of bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 onion diced
Marinara Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese
2 Hungarian Chiles slit from top to bottom seeds removed if you want a little less heat.

Mix the first 4 ingredients together and stuff into the chiles.  Place on indirect heat on the grill and cook for about 20 minutes then top with a little marinara and mozzarella and cook for another 5-10 minutes, serve with warm marinara sauce.

In my opinion both of these meals were great... but I guess you will just have to believe me or try them yourself

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roast Pork in a Banana Leaf and a little vent

I have said this a few times about work...  I am forced to go to a place that I don't want to go, to spend all day with people that I don't like, doing a bunch of stuff that I don't want to do.  For the past couple of weeks or so I have really been experiencing that.  I am not going to go into a lot of details because I like to keep things positive in my little corner of the web.  Last Friday I was off work I took on the project of painting Miss Lu's room again, it was actually a day I had taken off to paint the master bedroom. 

Other projects had to be set aside due to the fact that Miss Lu's bedroom became an emergency because well,  you know, she is nine and the old color just wasn't going to work now because she is growing up and any moron can tell you that pink is a baby color, purple however just screams maturity.  So on my Friday off I spent most of the day painting her room, I finished the first coat and promised Miss Lu and Mr Man that they could help with the second coat the next morning.

The next morning started early, I was still on cup of coffee number one.  "Daddy, can we start painting now?"  So we gather all of our supplies together, drop cloth, paint, brushes, roller, roller tray and start to paint.  Now the three of us NEED four paintbrushes and a roller and 3 vessels to hold paint.  Of course that isn't enough, Mr. man starts to complain that Miss Lu has a bigger brush, then Miss Lu counters that he is painting using horizontal strokes when vertical is obviously superior.  Painting lasts about half an hour, while I am cleaning three of the four brushes they both decide that they have to use the computer (our laptop crashed so this poses a problem).  I set the half clean brushes in the sink and to distract one while figuring out the password for the other.  I just got back to cleaning brushes when they both go outside, great I get to finish.  Well almost, a few minutes into it I get the helpful hints from them both,  "daddy is that drip supposed to be there?  why are you watching the SyFy Chanel on my T.V.?  that show is gross!  be careful not to drip on my bed."  Well you know how it goes, sometimes it is frustrating but in the end I love it!

What I am doing is taking a long long way around  to tell you that, I understand when a five and nine year old want 4 or 5 things at a time from me then act like children when I have to take things in a logical order and get frustrated when everything isn't always available at the same time.

Switch that to a forty five year old or someone in their mid fifties and some of the charm is lost.   So over the weekend we had the fun because the children are still charming when they act like children... grown up people not so much I was avoiding them as much as I could.

"How does this LONG bit of prose make the leap to a recipe?"  you ask, well it doesn't I just wanted to vent for a minute then go back to having fun.

So the recipe is Roast Pork, I picked up some Banana leaves from the store a few days ago, Do you want to know how much Banana leaf you get for $1.29 This is Miss Lu holding up half.

I hesitate to call this a recipe but here it goes
4 pound pork butt or some other inexpensive cut of pork (rolled and tied)
3 cloves of minced garlic
3 cloves of garlic peeled
salt and pepper
2 TBS orange marmalade
18 inches of banana leaf
2 cups of chicken broth

Take your pork rub the surface with the minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Put the other 3 cloves of garlic inside your meat and set on the banana leaf, smear the orange marmalade on top then wrap with the banana leaf.  Put in all in a roasting pan and pour in the chicken broth cover and cook in an oven preheated to 275 for about 3 hours.

The broth from this is wicked good, I used that as the cooking liquid for my rice which almost became the star of the plate.  We only ate about a third of it for dinner I pulled the rest apart and cooked it in the same broth for about and hour to make pulled pork sandwiches.  No picture of that though I ate it before I realized how good it was.