Thursday, June 30, 2011

French Toast

I love French Toast. Its by far my favorite breakfast food and who ever invented it is pure genius. Its also one of the few really good items my mom could cook. However, I learned how to cook this at around 8 years old and made it many times for myself. My mom would always curse at me because of the mess I made, but hey I was kid. It tooled around with the recipe numerous times and here is my version. I have a kids version and an adult version. To make the kid version just omit the alcohol.

The main ingredients are bread, eggs, sugar and cream. For the bread, if you have a favorite bread by all means use it. I used to make this with slightly stale Wonder Bread all the time. Now I use Challah, or Hallah. You can use Brioche, which is French Challah or Challah, Jewish Brioche. It doesn't really matter, I would just say that you probably should avoid sourdough bread for this recipe.

sliced day old Challah, Brioche or any other White bread you like
3-4 large to extra large eggs (approximate since eggs have different consistencies batch to batch)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup favorite liquer or liquor, I like Grand Marnier or Cointreau (omit this if serving to children or alcoholics)'
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Beat eggs sugar liquer if using, vanilla and heavy cream together. Should have a slightly thickened consistency. If you think its too watery add an additional tablespoon of sugar and taste it should be sweet. It should be noted that consuming raw egg products could be detrimental to your health. If you are afraid of getting sick, do not taste this before cooking. My one and final warning on that topic. Pour mixture into a lipped shallow dish. That's one with a rim so your mixture doesn't get on the counter or floor. Add sliced bread and start poking and mashing with a fork. You want to see some of the egg mixture start penetrating the bread to reach the top side. Once that is done, flip the bread and mash down on it with the back of a fork. Heat you pan to medium and melt two tablespoons of butter to coat the bottom. Add soaked bread slices and cook to golden brown. Then flip and cook until lightly brown and remove from pan and put on plate. Dust the toast lightly with sugar if you like it real sweet. Do not under any circumstance use powered sugar on your beautiful French Toast. I will personally rap you across the knuckles with a wooden spoon. Powdered sugar contains cornstarch and that prevents the maple syrup you are about to put on your toast from adhering and spilling over the sides. Granulated sugar absorbs the syrup for a lightly crunchy yumminess. I promise its delicious.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Influence Part II

So after my month long journey in France and Southern Germany I had found a new appreciation for wine and food. The relationship between food going from raw ingredients to what is on the plate is really inspiring. To take something so simple as a beet or a potato and elevate it into something so sublime as to make you want to lick the plate is a complete power rush. I poured over those Grand Diplome cookbooks. Tasting each recipe in my mind. It was about a year later that I made my next cookbook purchase. It was pure artistry. Jean-Louis, Cooking with the Seasons is a feast for the eyes. I didn't really care about the recipes at all. I just wanted to look at the pictures and imagine what they must taste like. If I had thought that my trip to France was filled with ingredients and animal parts that I never thought I would eat, this book way outdid even that. There was a recipe that called for Geoduck. What the frig is that? I found out later its a type of clam, but seriously, where the hell was I going to find one of those. Not long after or how I remember it, Jean Louis was a guest chef on the David Letterman show. Low and behold what was he going to cook, but a Geoduck (pronounce gooey duck). If you have never seen on I can only describe it as looking as if you might have castrated a horse and clamped two shells where the balls should be. Gross looking was putting it mildly. Letterman had a fair bit of fun with that one. I'm trying to track down the clip of that, hopefully I can. However, this was the true start of my collecting cookbooks. I have way too many at this point and I will get to some of my favorites and even let you know which ones to avoid. Let me know what your favorites are and what are some of your favorite recipes. My next installment is my perfect French Toast recipe.

My Influences Part 1

My friends have often heard the story of how I became the cook that I am. All the credit goes to my parents. At an early age they gave me free reign in the kitchen to cook. While some kids played with their food, I cooked mine. I didn't have to cook, but if wanted to eat something edible I did. It wasn't until I got to my second year of college that I learned that chicken wasn't supposed to be completely black on the outside and vulcanized on the inside. To my mom's credit, she only cooked the chicken the way my father liked it. It was broiled, broiled again and broiled some more. I wasn't always sure whether or not to eat it or use it to light a fire in our charcoal grill. I rue the day my father bought a gas grill, then we had super carbonized chicken. This may seem pretty horrible but it wasn't always so bad. One day my mother decided to buy some really expensive cookbooks. They were the Grand Diplome Cookbooks. Really french and fancy. It had all sorts of stuff that I was hoping my parents would try and cook. Indeed, they actually did. However, if you are going to choose a first recipe, why choose Duck? I remember waiting hours for my parents to complete the process of making duck with cherry sauce. For all intents and purposes it looked great. The sauce was very tasty. Then came the true test, the duck. Well, lets just say that duck is sitting on shelf somewhere in Spencer Stores saying squeeze me. You couldn't cut it or chew it. Thankfully that was their one and only true disaster out of that cookbook. The only sad thing for me was I was already going to college by the time they learned how to make food that was truly edible. While they may have grown into better cooks now, the did like to eat out and eat well. My true culinary epiphany came on a trip right before Senior Year Highschool. We went to France and Southern Germany and got to stay in places that only the French knew about. It was quite amazing. I bought my first cookbook in France. It was the German version of the recipes of L'Ousteau de Baumaniere. I learned so much from the chef. He was extraordinarily personable and free with his time. He told me that he did not become a chef until after he retired at the age of 60. That always gives me hope and about 15 years to go. The food was outstanding and I ate things I never thought I would even see on a plate. Pigeon, Lobster souffle, all sorts of sorbets. I ate my food, my parents and my sister's leftovers and their desserts most nights. It was amazing. It started me on my culinary journey that continues today. I have countless cookbooks that have helped mold my tastes and I will shares those with you shortly. I hope people will post their own experiences on how and why the love to cook or why they don't. I personally hate the dishes, but it is a labor of love. Keep me posted and I will keep you posted.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Passion Fruit Beer, Not a good Idear

I have to say that when I saw it on the shelf, the idea of beer with a passionfruit flavor component intrigued me. However, something's are better left a theory rather than being destroyed by fact. Passionfruit beer is one of those things. I had hoped for a better outcome, but the end result of this beer was very weak.

Now I don't want people to think that I'm the be all end of all of tasters, I'm certainly not. I like fruit beers, but in this case I did not. If you are curious about this beer, I suggest you check it out You may like it. For fruit flavored beers that I have actually enjoyed, I would suggest the following and in no particular order.

Wachusett Blueberry Ale - light and fruity, real blueberry nose to it. Easy drinking beer.

Sam Adams - Cherry Wheat - Cherries and beer go together great.

If you like the concept of fruit tinged beer, check out some Belgian style Lambics or Krieks. Expensive, but if you are drinking this solely for its taste, then by all means go ahead and enjoy. Lindemann's makes the most readily available ones. For an English version Samuel Smith's makes an organic line of fruit laced beers.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's Been Too Long...I need some BBQ

Well summer is coming and like this past winter, I am long overdue for some blogging and barbeque. A great deal of time has passed since my quest for the great Shandy has started and ended with a whimper. Why did it end and why have I not been posting, well its pretty simple. I got fat. Way too fat to type as a matter fact. I couldn't really stand it, but like any addict I'm on the road to recovery. Like any good recovery program it starts with a healthy attitude. I've turned away from filling my previously expanding gullet with just anything. Our household has made a conscious effort to increase its cooking during the week. This has been a tough task to accomplish because of the overly active 9 year old that lives on the premises. However, we have made it. I won't bore you with the details of my weightloss or how to do it that is not the point of this exercise. The point of this is to find and eat great food, create and find great recipes and simply life by enjoying what's on your plate. So my life has gone from a 2 year blob fest, to a palate tempting mission every night.

So to start things off on the right foot, my wife decided to volunteer me to help cook pulled pork sandwiches for the Teacher's Appreciation Luncheon at the end of the year. Now normally I would fire up my smoker and do the low and slow route, but it was torrential downpours all week. If this were for me, yeah, I'd be soaking wet. For a tasting preview for the person in charge, I go the simple way. I bought some Bone Suckin' Sauce and Rub and got to work. Bone Suckin' Sauce Seasoning and Rub 3-6.2 oz Pkgs

Basically for pulled pork the easy way. Take a spice rub and liberally sprinkle and rub it into a pork shoulder (also know as boston butt) and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. Fill a slow cooker or dutch oven with a cooking liquid. This can be water, water and apple juice combination, water juice and bourbon. Whatever flavors you enjoy can work here. For a more latin flavor instead of apple juice, thrown in orange or lime juice. Again its really limited by your imagination. The liquid should come up to about half way on the meat. I set the slowcooker on low and cook for 6 hours. After about three hours I flip the meat. At the five hour mark I test it. It should pull easily apart when poked with a fork. Once you have determined that its done, drain most but not all of the liquid from the pot. Let the meat rest for 10-15 minutes and begin shredding. Be careful as the meat will be hot and will throw off a lot of steam. Once you have finished shredding its time to add your favorite barbeque sauce. One of my favorites is Bone Sucking Sauce Add liberally to taste. For serving I like potato rolls and coleslaw to make into a delicious sandwich. Enjoy and let me know how it turns out.

Plaxo Badge