Monday, August 24, 2009


So last night I braved the timpano for the first time, and it turned out great.  This is a very fun recipe, and if it turns out right, you will end up the big hero.  If not, well, it still tastes good.   By the way, there is no right or wrong for this, you can put anything in one of these.  I like different pastas because I think it makes a much more dramatic presentation.  

Pasta Crudo

3 cups all purpose flour
3 ounces cold butter cubed
4 ounces cold lard cubed
5 egg yolks
ice water

In a food processor, add the flour, butter, and lard.  Pulse until all are incorporated and the mixture resembles tiny little pebbles.  Add the egg yolks and pulse some more until all are incorporated.  Remove the mixture from the food processor to a stainless steel bowl.  Slowly add ice water a Tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together into a workable ball.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 3 minutes.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Sauce One

2 oz unsalted butter
2 oz all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 cup pesto sauce
2 egg yolks
cracked pepper

Melt your butter in a large sauce pan, and whisk in your flour.  Keep whisking until the flour takes on a wonderfully nutty aroma, and turns a slightly darker blonde.  This is called a blonde roux.  At this point whisk in your milk, continue to whisk as the mixture thickens.  Add your heavy cream and continue to whisk.  If the mixture becomes too thick, add more milk an 1/8 cup at a time until it no longer thickens past a nice saucy thickness.  Whisk in the cheese, pesto, and cracked pepper.  Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the egg yolks.  Tempering the eggs is not necessary. 

Sauce two

Two cups marinara sauce (recipe on blog)
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil
2 cloves of crushed garlic
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients together in a stainless steel bowl, no need to heat.

Remaining ingredients

1 lb cooked spaghetti
1 lb cooked rigatoni
1/2 lb sliced sharp provalone cheese
1/4 cup slice pepperoni
2 cups of quartered meatballs
1/4 cup sliced green Italian olives
6 sliced hard boiled eggs

Combine the pesto cream sauce with the spaghetti.  You may not need all of it.  Set aside the remaining sauce to garnish.  Combine the red sauce with the rigatoni.

On a well floured surface, roll the pasta crudo into a circle 1/4 inch thick.  Using a timpano mold, or a 5 quart dutch oven, or even a wide but shallow stainless steel bowl, drape the dough over the top of the cooking vessel, and tuck it neatly inside.  There will be a lot of overhang, don't worry about that.  Take a few of the provalone slices and layer them on the bottom.  Add about 2 cups of the red pasta, and put that on the next layer.  Sprinkle with some of the olives, add some slices of hard boiled eggs.  Add another layer of pasta, this time 2 cups of the spaghetti.  Smooth it out, and toss in the meatballs forming another layer.  Add more olives.  Add another 2 cups of the red pasta.  Smooth it out as best you can and add the second half of the eggs.  Cover the eggs with the remaining slices of provalone cheese.  Add 2 more cups of the spaghetti.  Cover with the pepperoni.  Now, fold the overhanging dough over the top of the pasta to completely cover.  If you need to patch it, don't worry it should work out OK.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the dough is a beautiful golden brown.  

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.  Put a serving plate upside down on top of the timpano, and invert, removing the baking dish.  Now, let it rest another 15 minutes before you slice into it.  If it cools it will stay together.  If not it will fall apart.  Slice, and serve on a plate drizzled with remaining white sauce and some marinara.  Garnish with a basil leaf.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The worlds best slaw

From my family picnics into the mountains I developed a love of coleslaw.  Granted, it was usually the coleslaw from a popular fast food chain who's founder looked like a skinny santa in a southern searsucker suit.  If ya'll can guess who I'm talking about.  Coleslaw did mean an evening drive up Junction Creek Road in Durango colorado, eating fried chicken under the aspens beside a beautiful little river.  For some reason, every time I eat any kind of coleslaw, I feel nostalgic for the mountains, and temporarily drawn back to that former chapter of my life.  Since I started cooking on my own I've looked for a good recipe, but so many of them seem laden with heavy mayonnaise, so I developed my own.  This one is a lot lighter than your traditional slaw, but not lacking in taste.

1 peeled jicama shredded into matchstick sized pieces (a root that is in most mega marts, just ask your produce guy)
2 cups red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

1 Granny Smith apple cored, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (can be found in most mega marts.  Really just white wine vinegar that's sweetened but I won't tell if you won't.  You can use regular balsamic if you like, it just makes it look like mud, still the same flavor though.)
2/3 cup safflower oil or other nuetral flavored oil
2 Tbsp honey
pinch salt
1/2 tsp white pepper

In your blender combine all the ingredients except for the oil.  Turn the blender on, and slowly drizzle in the oil through the feed tube at the top.  Toss enough dressing to lightly cover with the salad ingredients, and refrigerate at least 2 hours for the dressing to fully work it's magic.  Remaining dressing is wonderful on salads, and will keep for a week.  If you like, you can toss about 1/3 of a cup of blue cheese in with the coleslaw for a nice bite!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pablo's Mom's Roast Pork

One of my very best friends is a great operatic tenor named Pablo Veguilla.  Right now he is singing with the Paris opera, and is really loving France.  He is of Puerto Rican descent, and comes from a very rich culinary heritage.  Pablo's Mom is one of the sweetest human beings walking the planet right now, and I wish that everyone on the face of the earth could meet her and taste her cooking at least once in their lives.  They would be the better for it.  Pablo was my roommate for many years in Philadelphia, best man in my wedding, and we went to Florida State together.  His Mom would make occasional appearances in our home and always make her roast pork.  It was a must, and I'm sorry to say that no matter how many times I've made it, I never have quite gotten it right.  It never tastes the same.  I have a feeling that there is some kind of magic weed she sneaks in with the oregano.  Or perhaps, and it probably is this, it's just the love.  It always tastes better when someone you love, and someone who loves you makes it.  So, in honor of Mrs. Veguilla, here is this recipe.  

1 5 Lb pork picnic roast or Boston Butt
1/8 cup Dried Mexican Oregano
1 whole pod of garlic crushed and finely minced
5 Tbsp Spanish Olive Oil
several turns of black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sweet Spanish yellow onions sliced
1 cup chicken stock

In a small bowl combine the oregano, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil.  Make a paste out of it.  Take your roast, and with a parring knife, stab several holes into the roast all over.  Using your finger, push the paste into the holes all over the roast.  Probably about 25 puncture wounds will do.  Put the roast, onions, and chicken stock into a large dutch oven.  Place in a 325 degree oven and cook for 3 hours or until the meat reaches an interior temperature of 165 degrees.  When Roast is done, remove it from the oven.  It should fall apart.  Serve with yellow rice, or on hoagie rolls dipped in the juice.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Steak au Poivre

I just got home a few minutes ago from seeing the movie Julia and Julia, (which I loved!)  Holy crap Meryl Streep.  If she doesn't get the Academy Award for her performance, all is wrong with the world.  Anyway, I was inspired to include a very traditional recipe for Steak au Poivre in the blog today.  This is one of my favorite meals, and if you make it, you'll see why.  It is very easy if you have the right ingredients.  If you happen to not have made your veal stock yet, then for shame!  You can't really substitute a box stock for this because the veal stock is already at full reduction, but you could reduce this all the way down from the box stock, it's just the intensity of flavor won't be there.  There is a night before preparation if you want to go the extra mile.

1 16 oz 1 1/2 inch thick dry aged ribeye steak (check at specialty butchers or Whole Foods market.)
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 clove smashed garlic
healthy pinch kosher salt
cracked black pepper

Combine the butter, garlic, salt and pepper.  Rub the melted butter all over the steak, and place in a ziptop bag in the refrigerator overnight.  Remove the steak from the fridge a full hour before you intend on cooking it so that it comes to room temperature.  Many people don't know about this step.  For one, you will get a more consistent temperature for your steak if you let it come to room temperature, and the steak will be much more tender.  Another reason is that the outside of the steak could burn before the inside is cooked to a nice medium rare. 

Let's talk about steak temperatures.  For a nice medium rare steak, if you lightly push down on the steak in the center and it feels soft like your earlobe, it has come to a nice medium rare.  If you touch it and it feels like the flesh between your thumb and first finger, it is medium.  If it feels like the tip of your nose, it is well done.  As far as I'm concerned, cooking a steak to well done should be the eleventh thou-shalt-not in the ten commandments.  If you do like your steak the consistency of shoe leather, don't waste your money on a dry aged steak and just get one from cellophane central at your local mega mart.  You won't be able to tell the difference.  If your cardiologist is telling you to eat your steak well done, let me tell you this.  Eat your steak medium rare, and only have one every couple months or so.  Cooking a steak till all of it's juices have dripped into the fire and there is nothing but tar left is settling for less than you deserve.  Just don't eat it as often and indulge yourself on the rare occasion.  Settling for second best is like marrying the girl that irritates you just because you don't want to be alone.  Just say no.  Okay, here's step two.

1/2 cup cognac (you don't need to spend a fortune, you can get one in small bottles at your local liquor store)
1 Tbsp green peppercorns (these are found usually with the capers in the store.  They are not a spice, but a bud.  They are a lot more tender than the black peppercorns you are used to.)
1/2 cup reduced veal stock
1/2 cup cream
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp softened butter

Bring an 11" frying pan to medium high heat on your stovetop. (DO NOT USE NON-STICK!)  Non stick pans will smoke before the pan is hot enough and send foul toxins into the air.  Also you will not have any pan scrapings stuck to the bottom of the pan which is the base for the sauce.  I also don't suggest cast iron because the de-glazing process will release the black seasonings imbedded into the pan.  I suggest stainless steel or aluminum cookware.  (Afraid of Alzheimer's?  Read my section about cookware.)  Drop the steak right onto the hot pan.  It will immediately start to brown.  The shock of the heat will seal in the juices much more effectively.  Cook for three minutes on side A.  Don't move it around, just let it be.  Turn the steak, and cook another 3 minutes.  Do the touch test, it should be at about medium rare.  Take the steak out of the pan and move it to a plate to rest while you prepare the sauce.

De-glaze the pan with the brandy, scraping the fond off the bottom of the pan.  All of the burnt on pieces of steak will liquify with the brandy.  Add the peppercorns, veal stock, and cream.  Let the sauce reduce on medium heat by half or until it coats the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and taste.  If it needs salt, add it, but it probably won't need it.  Whisk in the softened butter to finish the sauce leaving the pan off the heat.  Slice your steak into 1/4 inch slices against the grain of the meat, and on the bias.  Drizzle the sauce liberally over the top, and garnish with a little dusting of cracked black pepper and perhaps a little minced parsley.  This steak cries out for a full bodied red wine.  I like a Barolo, or Amarone.  Enjoy

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chili con Carne

This is absolute bliss for me.  I love this stuff.  My Dad used to get Hormel chili in a can, and make me chili mac all the time, and unless you’ve had that, something is missing from your life.  It’s like the best spaghetti Bolognese you’ve ever had (ON CRACK!)  My addiction to chili started at a young age, and has progressed from the can to several different signature Dallas Bono recipes until I finally decided on this one as the absolute best, and definitive version.  I would usually make several quarts of this stuff and freeze it in pint baggies for later, and believe it or not I would intentionally cook this the day before eating it so the flavors could marry even more.  Sometimes I’d put on soft music, and candlelight, and I’d get all dressed up to get in the mood…  OK, I’m just joking about that, but you get the idea.  Here is the other thing.   A while ago I left the beans in the can, and just concentrated on the meat.  To me, beans belong in the baked bean pot (Which I adore with almost as much freaky sensuality as the chili) not in a good pot of con carne.  This recipe actually has three parts, first the meat, second the tomatoes, and finally the chili sauce.  It is complicated in some ways, and time consuming, but just like any other well planned courtship, the payoff can be mind blowing!

The meat

Ground beef is for hamburgers (which is my death row meal by the way) not for chili.  I feel very strongly about this.  And we want meat with lots of connective tissue here, so brisket, or flank or skirt steak works the best.  I prefer skirt steak.  Lamb stew meat, and pork shoulder.  Don’t use your prime cuts!!!  It won’t taste as good.  Much of the magic comes from the gelatinized connective tissue.

1 lb cubed skirt steak 
1 lb cubed pork shoulder 
1 lb lamb stew meat 
2/3 cup masa corn flour (don’t use corn meal, you want the masa, you can find it in the Mexican section of any grocery store) 
¼ cup homemade chili con carne chili powder (recipe attached) 
1 tbsp salt 
cracked black pepper 
1 sliced yellow onion 
4 cloves crushed garlic 
2 bay leaves (or avocado leaves) 
3 amber colored beers, or honey browns

toss the stew meat in all the ingredients except for the beer, onion, and garlic.  Heat 3-4 tbsp of corn oil in the bottom of a heavy cast iron dutch oven.  Drop the meat in to brown in batches.  There should be more space on the bottom of the pot than meat, we want a quick and high heat browning here.  Add a little more oil, and add the onions, let them sweat for about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute.  Once browned, remove the meat, and deglaze with the beer, making sure to scrape all the fond off the bottom of the pot.  Add the bay leaves.  Add the meat back in and reduce heat to a low simmer.  Continue to cook for 2 hours covered at a slow braise.  If you like you could transfer to a crock pot and keep on low for about 4-5 hours.


You could buy canned tomatoes, and if you are short on time, go ahead but you won’t get the complex goodness that the roasted tomatoes offer.  And yes, I know there are onions in two of these applications.  One is sweated, and one is roasted, the flavors will be very different.

4 lbs tomatoes (peeled, and de-seeded) 
1 sliced yellow onion 
1/8 cup chili powder mix 
generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp kosher salt  

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Pour into a roasting pan and set in the over for 45 minutes to one hours until the tomatoes have given off most of their moisture and begin to caramelize.  Remove and scrape all the tomatoes out of the bottom of the pan.  Put the pan directly on the stove top, and pour ½ a beer in to deglaze the pan.  Pour the tomatoes and the deglazed juice into the chili pot.

Chili red sauce

6-8 New Mexico dried red chilis 
1 8 oz can tomato paste 
4 cups stock (beef or chicken) 
3 canned chipotle chilis with sauce
1 clove garlic 2 oz bitter dark chocolate

In a 250 degree oven toast the chilis for 10 minutes, flipping twice.  Remove and de-stem and de-seed.  Leave the seeds if you want more heat to the chili.  Put into a pot with hot oil, and continue to cook for 30 seconds.  Add the tomato paste and stir quickly allowing the tomato paste to begin to brown on the bottom of the pot.  Add the garlic, chipotles, and the chocolate and add the stock continuing to stir.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Let cook, and puree in a blender until smooth.  Add to the pot of chili.

Season the chili pot with salt if needed, and enjoy.  For chili mac, make extra red sauce, and toss a cup in with a lb of boiled spaghetti.  Pour the chili over the top and add cheese and chopped onion.

Homemade chili powder

6 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
6 cascabel chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
6 dried arbol chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
6 dried chilis de mulato
Op. 6 - 8 dried thai chilis for added heat
4 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
4 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Place all of the chiles and the cumin into a medium nonstick saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, moving the pan around constantly, until you begin to smell the cumin toasting, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside and cool completely.

Once cool, place the chiles and cumin into the carafe of a blender along with the garlic powder, oregano, and paprika. Process until a fine powder is formed. Allow the powder to settle for at least a minute before removing the lid of the carafe. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. 


Saturday, August 1, 2009

What impresses me as a chef, and as an eater

There are a lot of things that I look forward to when I go out to eat.  To me, it is the ultimate in entertainment, and always a great adventure.  However the things that really impress me are not the big culinary gastronomes who have perfected a new way of cooking with liquid nitrogen, or the guys who sculpt their food into intricately garnished, ring molded works of art that almost seem to scare you away from eating them.  Yes, I respect this, and yes, these techniques I've either endeavored to learn or want to learn in the future.  But truly impressed?  Not usually.  To me food speaks to me in a language that is much simpler.  When the ingredients become so camouflaged behind pretense that I can't figure out what I'm eating, I actually lose interest after a while.  When I was younger I went to a few strip clubs with friends, either for parties, or as a fun thing to do on a Saturday night.  When you walk into one of those places as a young man in your 20's the only thing you can think of is BOOBIES!  BOOBIES EVERYWHERE!  But for me, after a while of gawking at a sea of silicone enhanced heaving chests, I actually have to say I became bored, and somewhat depressed.  Who were these women?  What were their histories?  Was one a single Mom who hated her job and would do anything to support her child?  Did one have a drug addiction she was supporting?  Some were actually college students putting themselves through school any way they could.  But did they really enjoy their jobs?  Was this reality?  And most importantly to me, did I leave better for it?  I feel the same way about food in a lot of ways.  I don't want the flavor of a delicate filet of fish masked by some sauce that has a stronger flavor profile than what it's supposedly enhancing.  I don't want to have to dig my way through a sea of garnishments to find what I'm eating.  Since these dishes I'm dining on used to be walking breathing creatures I think we as chefs owe it to them to present them as tributes to what they were.  If I'm eating beef, I want to taste beef, and what can truly impress me the most is when a chef takes the time to figure out a way to sauce, or season a dish so that the true nature of the food speaks first and foremost.  Complicated food can impress my taste buds for the first bite, but after two or three?  It's all silicone, fancy lighting, cheap perfume and loud music.