Saturday, March 29, 2008

Firecracker Beef on Cold Rice Noodle Salad - Warning: Flavors May Explode in Your Mouth!

I love this recipe! It uses one of my favorite cuts of beef; skirt steak, maybe the most flavorful of all the supermarket beef cuts. It features a dizzying array of contrasting tastes and textures; hot and cold, sweet and sour, salty and bland, spicy and fresh, soft and crunchy, wordy and succinct. This video recipe also shows you how easy it is to prep rice noodles, which are great in all kinds of cold and hot dishes.

Skirt steak is extremely juicy, so it can take the "twice-cooked" procedure here. If you decide to substitute another cut, be careful not to overcook. A flank steak would probably work here, but I would try and find skirt steak. Don't let the scowl, and all that facial hair fool you, most butchers are nice, and will be more than happy to find you a skirt steak.

The level of spiciness is, of course, up to you, but what makes this dish so fun to eat is the warm, fiery beef on the cold, refreshing noodles. Don’t cheat yourself out of all those amazing endorphins because you are afraid of a little pain. Enjoy!

Click here for ingredients and transcript

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Matrix

I promised to post a photo of the crumb structure (aka "gluten matrix" if you're a bread geek) from my next loaf of sourdough. As several of you pointed out, I never photographed my last sourdough after it was cooled and sliced. Well, here you go. This batch used the same starter, but had a little bit of whole-wheat flour added to the sponge. Bread porn at its finest!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

White House Easter Egg Roll Ends in Tragedy

What are comedians going to do when George W. and Dick are no longer around to provide such an abundance of material? Oh well, might as well enjoy it while it lasts. If you celebrate, have a happy easter, and if you don't, at least there will be lots of chocolate rabbits on sale Monday. Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2008

TGIGF - Thank God it's Good Friday

Having been raised a Catholic, I had a "fish on Friday" kind of childhood. I'm grateful for this since it gave me a taste and appreciate for seafood at an early age. I always feel sorry for the "I don't like fish" people, and when probed, they always give the fact that they weren't fed fish growing up as the reason. Or, they were fed badly prepared fish.

I'm sure I drove my parents crazy with the hundreds of impossible to answer questions such as "why fish on Friday," "what does this have to do with Jesus?" "Why would God care what I eat," "what if I accidentally eat fish on Friday?" So, while I didn't really understand these "rules," I enjoyed the dishes they made possible.

Here is a very old clip (so please excuse the low-res film and photo), which shows one of the easiest methods for preparing fish. It is almost impossible to mess up and doesn't make the whole house smell like fish, as some sautéed fish recipes do. Also, below the sole video recipe you'll see a very simple lemon butter sauce that goes perfectly with it. So, whether you are eating fish because it's a certain day of the week, or year, or you just feel like fish, give this recipe a try. Enjoy!

Here is the Lemon Caper Butter Sauce video recipe:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where's Waldorf? My Second Favorite Way to Eat Apples

My favorite way is fresh off the neighbor's tree when they're not home. After that, this is my favorite raw apple dish - the ancient and excellent, Waldorf salad. It's a shame how some of the greatest American recipes fall out of fashion, and get lost in foamy waves of new, cutting edge cuisine.

The ingeniously delicious Waldorf salad is a great example. Why isn’t this very healthy, and addictive, salad on every menu in the country? It's a masterpiece of perfectly paired tastes and textures. Sweet, crisp, juicy apples, aromatic celery, exploding grapes, and crunchy walnuts - all brought together with a light and creamy lemon dressing.

This tasty bit of culinary Americana was invented by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d'hôtel of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. It first appeared in 1896, much to the delight of the early "ladies who lunch." Old Oscar is also credited with creating another classic - eggs Benedict. Do yourself a favor and whip up a batch of Waldorf soon. This is a fairly basic version (which I believe is best), but dried fruit is also a common addition. Enjoy!
Click here for ingredients and transcript

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day - Here's to Ireland's Greatest Culinary Achievement…Guinness Beer!

That's right, Guinness has to be considered Ireland's most famous food. Some of you may be thinking that beer is a beverage, not a food, and that this whole post is just an excuse to show a funny commercial. You have a point, but during my one and only trip to Ireland, about 20 years ago, Guinness was described, and used, as a food.

The natives were not shy about telling me how nutritious it was, how it is "fed" to patients in the hospital, how you can cook with it, how it's made, how to pour it, how to drink, and so on. What I really like best about Guinness is the fact that it can't be dyed green! Green beer…worst idea ever.

This Guinness beer commercial is dedicated to everyone who doesn't believe in evolution, and think the world is only a few thousand years old. It's also dedicated to all those scientists that have spent their entire careers hiding "fake" bones and fossils. I need a beer.
May you all have a safe and fun St. Paddy's Day!

Photo (c)
Scott Thompson

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cheddar Cheese Sauce and the Best Cheese Joke EVER!

This video recipe is my foolproof method for your basic cheddar cheese sauce. The cheese sauce is one of those sauces that every cook must have in their repertoire. During a recent trip to the supermarket I saw that they sell cheese sauce in a can. The list of ingredients was as long as it was phonetically challenging. If I had a nickel for every ingredient on that label, I would have…well, about 85 cents.

But, unlike many canned goods (like potatoes!!), I can understand why people would buy a canned cheese sauce. There is nothing worse than a grainy, separated, failed attempt at the homemade version. The security of the possibly toxic, yet perfectly textured, canned sauce is very alluring. But, once you see how easy it is to make this almost-impossible-to-screw-up recipe, you will no longer need the safety of the "can o' goo."

As a special bonus, at the end of the clip, you'll be treated to what I consider the greatest cheese joke of all time. By the way, I should mention that I only know one cheese joke. Enjoy!
Click here for the transcript and ingredients.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Night of the Living Dough

The photo you see here is from Connie, a good friend of the site, and from the looks of these loaves, quite the baker. You can read her post here, and find out how she "cheated" to move along the sourdough process. Chefs always encourage cheating, especially when it works out so well!

The video that I've posted below is a short trailer I did for Youtube to drive some traffic to the blog. I thought some of you may get a kick out of it. View discretion advised. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Follow the Sourdough - Day 8: We Bake Bread…Finally!

Here it is, the culmination of a week's worth of work and play. The video is pretty self-explanatory, so there is no need for any long explanations of what you're about to see. I will mention that near the end of the clip, I joke that your sourdough probably didn’t work. This should not be taken as any lack of confidence I have in your ability to follow directions, or your lack of cooking skills. It's from the simple fact that the first time you try to make sourdough, it doesn't come out as well, as the 10th time, if it comes out at all.

The first batch of starter I ever tried looked fine, and yet the sponge sat there stubbornly refusing to grow. Undaunted, I started over and my second batch worked perfectly, and I've been successful ever since. I hope this series of posts and videos has, at the very least, inspired you to give it a try (or two), and experience the joy and taste of homemade sourdough bread. Enjoy!

Regarding your leftover sponge:

In yesterday's post I mentioned to refrigerate the leftover sponge. Now that you have a living, growing sourdough, you can use this to make unlimited batches of new sponge. Simply repeat the feeding step we did each day at the beginning of the series, but you only need to do this once a week.

When you are ready to make bread, let this come to room temp, and repeat the sponge making step. After you use the 2 cups to make the sponge, store the leftovers and so on, and so on. Some bakeries claim to have starters that are decades old. I poke a pin hole in the plastic lid I use to store it, since it produces carbon-dioxide and you don't need any explosions in the fridge. While it's being stored, any dark liquid that forms on your starter (called hooch) can be stirred in or poured off.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Follow the Sourdough - Day 7: We Knead Bread

I wanted to upload this video as soon as it was ready, so I will add more info to this post as needed.

The photo you see here is me testing whether the dough had received enough kneading. Some refer to this as the "window pane test," but I call it the "stretching dough over a flashlight test." Enjoy!

My sourdough bread recipe:

2 cups sponge

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

between 2 1/2 and 3 cups flour

*let rise until doubled in size - between 6 and 12 hours

Follow the Sourdough - Day 6: And Then He Waited

I decided to leave my sponge overnight; as it hadn't fermented to the point I was hoping it would. This is all part of the fun of sourdough. You have to look, listen, and smell your yeasty friends at each point of the process to determine your next move. I will film the dough-making step this morning and that will just leave the baking and the eating. Stay tuned!
Photo © RBerteig

Monday, March 10, 2008

Follow the Sourdough - Day 5: The Sponge

Finally! We are ready to make sourdough bread! All right, as you'll hear me say in the clip, you don't want to do this step, until you've seen the last couple videos. Because your times will vary, you should see the last few steps so you can decide when is the best time to make the sponge. If you starter is ready, simply refrigerate it and wait until the timing is right.

Here's what you'll see in the last episodes, and what you'll need to plan for:

You take your starter and make what's called a "sponge" (that's today's video). This sponge must sit out for between 4 and 10 hours to ferment and become very bubbly (pictured here after 30 minutes).

Then, we use part of the sponge to make our dough. This needs to rise and double in size. The sourdough rises much slower than regular yeast bread, so I let it rise overnight.

After the dough has risen, we punch it down, and form a loaf. This loaf of sourdough must then be allowed to double in size before being baked (usually 3 to 6 hours).

Once you've seen the last episodes, you should be able to plan the final bread making. Don’t worry, the starter is fine in the fridge, so don't rush things! You're patience will be rewarded! Enjoy.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Follow the Sourdough - Day 4: Tiny Bubbles

As you'll see in this short, and not very interesting video clip, my starter is almost there. The bubbles seen in yesterday's photo are still present, but now I'm getting that thin froth I wrote about in the last post. It also has that distinctive subtly sour smell that tells me there is some definite yeast growth and fermentation going on.

I've decided to feed it one more time, and tomorrow I will probably be ready to start the bread. I mention in the clip if your starter is ahead of mine, and has already developed the froth and lots of bubbles, you can cover it, throw it in the fridge, and wait for the next step. Hey, it's not a race!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Follow the Sourdough - Day 2: Feeding the Starter

Today's installment is very simple. We are going to "feed" the starter. This involves removing, and discarding, half the mixture; then adding 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. This step is going to be done every 24 hours, until the started is ready.

I will show you my starter when it's ready, but since this can happen anytime between 2 and 7 days, you need to know what to look for. Sometime between now and never, your mixture will start developing lots of little bubbles, and start giving off a somewhat pleasant sour or beer-ish smell. The starter may also develop a thin bubbly froth on the surface that will return even after you stir it in. The photo here is my starter on day 3. It's getting close, but I'm going to feed it again, and decide tomorrow if it is ready.

The timing of this whole process depends on the batch of flour you're using, the temperature (75 degrees is ideal, but most of us are cooler than that), and the amount of wild yeast present (they really mean it here in San Francisco, when they say, "there must be something in the air."). So, keep repeating the steps you see in today's video until you think your starter is ready. I will post updates on my starter as things develop. Stay tuned!

Note: if your starter gets a strong, spoiled odor, toss it out and start over. You may have something else growing besides wild yeast. If nothing happens after a week, then you should also start over with another type of flour. Many people add some wheat or rye to the first starter since it has more yeast in it. But, I just didn't want you to buy a whole bag of flour for nothing, and we are going to use the unbleached bread flour to make the final loaves.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Follow the Sourdough - Day 1: Can you say Lactobacillus Sanfranciscensis?

I'm making sourdough bread, and I thought that some of you would like to follow along in real time. So, I will be doing a multiple-day, multiple-post sourdough bread recipe. I'm in the process of filming a sourdough video recipe for About, which will be covered in one 3 minute clip, but for you food wishers (that's what I call you behind your backs), I thought a clip-by-clip presentation would be more fun and informative.

Here is day one's step; starting the "starter." As you'll see, it is very basic, and requires only bread flour and water. The magic of sourdough is this "starter," with is basically a living, fermented batter that is made possible from the reaction between wild yeast in the air and Lactobacillus bacteria. These two live in symbiotic bliss and prevent any other microorganisms from growing in the starter. Good luck and stay tuned for the next video. Enjoy!

Tip: Use an unbleached bread flour for best results

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sausage and Egg Pizza - Fundamentally Delicious

I know what some of you are thinking. Eggs are for breakfast, and pizza is for dinner, and never the twain shall meet. I used to think like that. There was a time, early in my career, when I was a culinary fundamentalist. Chocolate was a candy, and not something one added to a sauce for short ribs (see post below). But, like all fundamentalists, I was missing out on a lot of pleasure. So, if your rigid belief system prevents you from giving this pizza a spin, then it's your loss. This is a truly magnificent pizza.

I first saw pizza topped with eggs in the Chez Panisse Café cookbook. Alice Waters, the chef of Chez Panisse, and one of my personal heroes, used eggs to top a similar pizza using proscuitto instead of sausage. I decided to try it, and it was a transcendent experience. The golden yolks oozing slowly over the spicy sausage and melted cheese is TDF (to die for). I hope you give this a try. Which reminds me to warn you that it may take a few tries to achieve the perfectly cooked eggs. But, when you do, there is bliss. Enjoy.

pizza dough (enough for 1 large pizza), brought to room temperature
2 tbsp cornmeal
3/4 cup pizza sauce
red pepper flakes (optional)
6-oz shredded fontina cheese (may substitute mozzarella, or Monterey Jack)
6-oz hot or mild Italian sausage, sliced, cooked, drained
4 whole eggs
black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
baby arugula, washed and dried
olive oil

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The "Squeezing Blood from a Turnip" Test - Phase 1

This scrumptious beef short rib recipe was first aired last February, when the blog was brand new, and I hadn't yet realized my free video recipe business model had a serious flaw. Apparently, if you spend more than you bring in, you don't make what my accountant calls a "profit."

To keep the site up and running, I've been posting video recipes I produce for While I enjoy doing them, I want to be able to do a lot more of my own clips. So, with that in mind, I'm reposting this clip to test a new way to generate some revenue. As you'll see, I've embedded some product advertising over the video.

Comments are welcome, unless you're just going to say, "I like them better without the ads." Without further ado, I present "Braised Beef Short Ribs with Chocolate and Cinnamon," now with annoying popup advertising! Enjoy.

Click here if you want to read the original post with ingredients.