Monday, June 22, 2009

Why I hate hotel rooms

I am sitting in a hotel room in Chicago for a week long conference and am for some reason reminiscing about all the times I have been staying in a hotel for work. Over the years I have been on jobs cooking that have taken me out of town some for extended periods of time.

Kelly and I talked about it the other night. She and I were comparing staying in a hotel for work vs staying in a hotel for a vacation. Last night she and I stayed at a casino went to the beach and did some shopping and a bit of gambling. Tonight I am in a hotel having spent the whole day at a conference in the suburbs of Chicago. You tell me which I enjoyed more....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Scott Cooked Kelly Lettuce Wraps

The dinner was going to be postickers from a recipe I found on another website... I will try to put the sight up in the blog but if not its on my blog roll. When I asked if potstickers sounded good the response was "yes but". So the suggestion was made why not make lettuce wraps. So I was off and running.

I looked up the history of them and I cannot seem to find anything that gives a good origin. I have had them as street food in Thailand as well as in South Korea. The restaurant PF Changs seems to have made them popular here in the states. The basics of the recipe is a Asian stir fried meat stuffed into a lettuce shell. Sort of a stir fry meets taco.

The complicated thing was to get a rich flavor of the spices and meats and not use any fat in the cooking process. Not an insurmountable challenge. So here we go.

1# chicken breast(cleaned no skin and ground in a food processor till it looks like hamburger)

1 tbsp fresh (Not canned, not dry but fresh) ginger

1 tbsp chopped garlic

1 cup chopped green onions

1/2 cup soy sauce (low salt is best)

1/2 rice wine vinegar

no stick spray

1 head of iceberg lettuce


2 tbsp toasted sesame oil( I put in a super hot pan and let it smoke a little, it burns off some of the fat)

The trick to doing this is to have all your ingredients done, chopped and ready to go.

In a HOT!!! wok or heavy cast iron pan spray the no stick spray (its going to smoke a bit) and put the chopped garlic and ginger in allow about ten seconds(as long as it takes you to grab the chopped chicken) toss once and pour in the chicken (all of it at once)

Stir the chicken mixture occasionally(allow it to brown some on the bottom of the pan) When the chicken is finished pour in the soy sauce and the vinegar and allow to reduce. Add the green onions at the end. Serve with any favorite oriental sauce such as teryaki or hoisin. Stuff the meat in the lettuce leafs and enjoy.....

OH!! beware this can be a bit messy so probably not something you want to let the kids eat on a new sofa....

Bonne Appetite

Saturday, June 13, 2009

BBQ Cookoff

Well since I screwed up my ankle playing softball I thought this would be a good time to talk about yesterdays competition.

I must say I was excited to be invited as a judge for a cooking competition. I was also a little apprehensive. I don't like to give bad news to amateur cooks. They tend to take things personally. When judging a competition you are not looking to hurt someones feelings you are judging them by their skills. If your skills suck then your food is going to suck. But I was more interested in going to see an old friend Keith Angell who is the Executive Chef of Grillmasters in Zionsville. The other judges were guys I either knew of or have admired. Thom England is one of the premiere culinary minds in the city and Neal Brown is kinda the mad scientist of chefs in the city. So to be sitting next to these guys was kind of a cool thing if nothing else just meeting and BSing with a bunch of chefs.

Kelly was great she was at my side all day and it was funny she kept telling the chef judges where and when we had to be. Then during the judging she would leave then come back(I found out she was going out and looking at the dishes as they were coming in and then letting me know what dishes she wanted to try and which ones she was not interested in. Very cute. We sat in on the classes that Chef Keith was teaching and it was fun to be able to just sit and relax and watch another chef have to work.

We started off with the appetizers or rather it should have been called the lets wrap it all in bacon. Shrimp, beef, chicken, jalapenos, water chestnuts, and asparagus. The memorable one was the asparagus wrapped with prosciutto and phyllo dough it needed a sauce though. That was the thing no one wanted to put in sauce with their meals. There was also a grilled oyster on the half shell that was amusing(yah I said amusing) There was also a grilled scallops on a avocado mousse and a BBQ chicken pizza that was really good. Kelly told me she tried one that was straight out of the oven that was even better. Now if you are a true foody you will know that most of those dishes are a little outdated for restaurant food but remember that these were all amateurs cooking. It was funny the last appt to come through was a trio of everything wrapped in bacon(go figure!) and one of the dishes was a bacon wrapped jalapeno and holy shit was it hot. All the chefs were grabbing water and I think Thom Englands head didn't stop sweating for half an hour.

The entrees.... ribs ribs ribs.... very little originality. There was a smoked lamb chops with a mint crust that was rather nice. All the fish dishes were WAAYYY over cooked. The one that I liked and remember was a perfectly done fillet of beef stuffed with a roasted garlic butter. Very tasty. The ribs were one of the dishes that was a subjective thing. I was surprised to see how UN-tender most of them were. of the 4 or 5 ribs entries only one struck me as being done properly. There were several tri tips again all of them seemed to be a little tough. I did like the sides that a lot of folks put up. There was a sweet potato dish with a cinnamon butter that i am going to have to go into my kitchen and try to recreate. It was yummy and all the other judges were of the same feeling. I thought that the dishes were creative in the type but were needing more work in presentation.

Dessert. After 36 course up to this point I was happy to see my favorite course to come up. When out walking and looking at the competitors I was seeing ice cream churns and baking pans. Very cool... There was the usual grilled pineapple and cherries. There was a really good pineapple upside down cake that had obviously made their own cake batter from scratch. There was also a entry that they had cored out a pineapple and stuffed it with cake batter and pineapple and baked it that was very cool. But the clear stand out was the chocolate melt away hearts with fresh whipped cream. It was funny all the judges tasted it then set them aside to eat later.... Always a good sign.

All in all it was a good day of networking socializing and eating WAY!!! to much food. I came home took a nap and generally was in a food coma for the rest of the day. Kelly was getting hungry around 10pm and asked if she could fix some hamburger helper. After the kind of day I had nothing sounded better.

In light of todays BBQ judging I thought I would post this funny email

Note: Please take time to read this slowly. If you pay attention to the first two judges, the reaction of the third judge is even better.

For those of you who have lived in Texas , you know how true this is. They actually have a Chili Cook-off about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of a parking lot at the San Antonio City Park .

Judge #3 was an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting from Springfield , IL . Frank: “Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table, asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy; and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted and became Judge 3.”

Here are the scorecard notes from the event:


Judge # 1 — A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
Judge # 2 — Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
Judge # 3 (Frank) — Holy crap, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that’s the worst one. These Texans are crazy.


Judge # 1 — Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
Judge # 2 — Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
Judge # 3 — Keep this out of the reach of children. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.


Judge # 1 — Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick.
Judge # 2 — A bit salty, good use of peppers
Judge # 3 — Call the EPA. I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting shit-faced from all of the beer.


Judge # 1 — Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
Judge # 2 — Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
Judge # 3 — I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the beer maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. This 300 lb. woman is starting to look HOT .. just like this nuclear waste I’m eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?


Judge # 1 — Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
Judge # 2 — Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
Judge # 3 — My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted, and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I’m burning my lips off. It really ticks me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw them.


Judge # 1 — Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
Judge # 2 — The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, garlic. Superb.
Judge # 3 — My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I crapped on myself when I farted, and I’m worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Sally. Can’t feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.


Judge # 1 — A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
Judge # 2 — Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge # 3. He appears to be a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
Judge # 3 — You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel a thing. I’ve lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing it’s too painful. Screw it; I’m not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.


Judge # 1 — The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
Judge # 2 — This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor feller, wonder how he’d have reacted to really hot chili?
Judge # 3 - No Report

I will report on the BBQ cookoff in the next day or so after I come out of this food coma

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scott Fed Kelly BBQ Fork Pulled Chicken

Its always interesting to me when I get a request through email that starts off with the saying "can we have this". I take it as a credit to my skills that there is never a question of do I know how to make it but more of a request of would you make this for me.

It wasnt until I was with my Irish Lass that I started to appreciate healthy cooking. When the public comes to me for a meal the last thing on their mind is healthy eating. Oh they want to give the appearance that the meal they order is healthy but to actually consume a healthy meal....well thats just Un-American. Hence the nations problems with obesity.

But hear lately I have been challenged to start looking at the meals I prepare at home. Watching the calories, fat content, how many carbs and most of all keeping it healthy.

The recipe was a crockpot dish of BBQ chicken. While I like using crock pots I know I can do better. Using the oven to handle the roasting of the meat as it cooks down will give the dish a richer deeper flavor. The addition of red onions also should help give the chicken a sweeter flavor without putting in any additional calories.

The seasoning of this dish is going to be fun as well. I like to make my own seasoning mixes. Its to the point now that Kelly knows when I make the seasoning mix and when I grab one of the celebrity hack chefs pre-made mixes.

The theory behind any pulled meat is that the meat is cooked down to the point that a push or pulling of a fork will cause the meat to fall apart. This is accomplished through several methods. The first and easiest is to use a peice of meat that is already naturally tender. The tenderloin of beef or pork comes to mind. The problem with using that cut of meat is its expense, up to $18 a pound. The second method is to marinate the meat and let the marinade break down the meat before the cooking process. The third way is to cook the meat at a very low temprature for a very long time. I like to use a combination of the last two.

The history of bbq meats is not from a single source. The French do something simular and call it confit, the British and Irish have been makeing stews using this method. But the origin of American bbq can be pointed to the deep south and pre Civil War. One theory is that the slaves used to take the cuts of meat that were detirmined to be unusable and cooked them over an open flame in and outdoor kitchen. Through the use of vinegars and mustards the meat would tenderize to the point of being enjoyable.

The recipe I got from Kelly was from a healthy weight loss website. I like seeing those recipes cause they let me know a direction to work towards keeping the dish healthy and fat free.

So on to the recipe

2# boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup local lowfat ketchup (I was skeptical of this but found it to be a little sweeter than the normal ketchup, it actually reminded me of the Ketchup I used to eat with my fish and chips when I was in England)
1/2 cup of rasperry vinegar (it was all I had in the kitchen)
1/4 cup worsteshire sauce
1 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of diced onions (white onions are ok red onions would be better)

1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp garlic salt
2 tbsp dried basil

lay the chicken in a heavy bottom pan (preferably a cast iron skillet) mix all the ingredients in a bowl and pour over the chicken. Cover the top of the pan with aluminym foil and bake in a oven at 250 degrees for about 3 hours. Pull the chicken from the pan and break up with a fork. Place the skillet on the stove and turn on to high heat and cook the liquid down until it is nice a thick and pour the sauce over the meat. Serve on a low fat bun and a nice tossed salad.

Bonne Apetite

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fat Free Yogurt with fresh strawberries and coconut milk

I have been inspired with the summer coming on to make scratch ice cream. When I was growing up my parent used to throw ice cream parties. I remember helping my mom make the ice cream base and since this was 30 plus years ago we had to old crank ice cream churn that required lots of ice and rock salt. One spring break we went on a trip to Texas and we went into Mexico for a day trip. On the trip dad found a bottle of Mexican vanilla. It looked like a bottle of brown liquor. For years they hid that bottle from all their church friends. And for the longest time after that anytime mom cooked something that required vanilla she used that bottle. For those of you who do not know its a stronger flavor and the smell is a bit harsher than its asian sister. To this day I can tell just by the smell if the vanilla is Mexican or a south east asian. One of the other things I remember vividly was the fresh strawberry ice cream that we used to make as well. There is nothing like that fresh local grown strawberry flavor in your homemade ice cream on a hot July saturday afternoon. Remember the scene in Ratatouille when the critic has a flashback from eating that meal in the end. Same thing for me.

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to come across an Il Gelato ice cream maker. They stopped making them a while back due to the ban on the type of freon that it used. Needless to say its one of the peices of cooking equipment that I cherish.

My ice creams are legendary amongst my family. Probably cause I use the 42% butter fat heavy cream and egg yolks in the batter. But we dont tell them that. I have an Aunt who swears that she is allergic to butter... not lactose but butter. I have been feeding her butter for years. My partner on the other hand watches EVERTHING I cook and put into the dishes I make for her. She is very particular about her diet and I respect that. So when I asked if we could make some ice cream I was pretty sure I knew what the criteria was going to be. Fat free and lo cal was the response. And then if I recall since I was asking this on IM she sent me a link to a fat free frozen yogurt recipe. And we were off and running.

I started off with fat free greek yogurt. I like the rich flavor and Greek yogurt has the active enzymes that help facilitate the digestive system. I also purchased a large basket of strawberries, from Texas I think, and let them sit on the counter for a couple of days. This part is important. I want the strawberries to get good and ripe.

That means you are going to have some of that moldy fuzzy strawberries in the basket when you go to sort them. Now here is the special instructions part. You have to keep the soggy none brown strawberries. Those are the ripest and have the most flavor.

So here we go on the recipe.

16 oz greek yogurt fat free

3 cups extra ripe strawberries

1 tbsp (yes tablespoon) vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

1 8 oz can coconut milk

1 8 oz can sweetened condensed fat free milk

sweet and low to taste ( I know I know she insisted)

mix all ingredients in a large bowl mix thoroughly and pour into the ice cream maker and mix till cold and thick.

I like to buy those ziplock disposable containers to put the ice cream in and put in the freezer. Once the mixture is in the freezer let it sit over night and cure (Ya right I was scooping a bowl out of the the machine while it was still churning)

I recommend having some sugar cookies to go with this but thats just me.

Bonne Apetite

Its been a year...almost...

Hopefully I will be able to start blogging more... I have not had much time and I found that I have missed this time.

The past year has been amazing terrific and amazingly stressful. I started the new job and was immediately thrust into the life of a university chef. If you dont know a university is its own little world. The kind of world that seems to be very unaware of whats happening beyond its grounds. I had a desire to make my presence known. That task proved to be easier than I thought. The previous chef was not as involved as I like to be. So to have an impact on the food and the operation as a whole was not that difficult.

I moved out from my long time g/f permanently in August this was after a long time separation that I think we both knew was coming. Coincide this with a new job finding a place to live and moving as well as still cleaning up from the catering company closing what a stressful year. But its not been with out its great rewards.

I found I have a knack for TV. I was able to do several shots this year including a week long series on healthy eating on a budget. That was quite a week up at 330am at the studio by 5 doing 5 live shots then going to work and working all day at the kitchen.

I also met someone. I wont go into details of the personal life but suffice it to say... I am very happy. Happier than I can remember being in a long time.