Monday, October 25, 2010

Bean Soup

A quick little update.  I made a bean soup tonight.  I sent the wife to the store for some base ingredients (celery, carrots, red onion, garlic, and every kind of bean you can find), and pretty much used up what was already in the house.

Bean and Ham Soup

A big nub of butter
A couple splashes of olive oil
6 Carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Red onions, diced
6 Celery stalks, chopped
4 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Can Red Kidney Beans
1 Can White Kidney Beans
1 Can Garbonzo Beans
1 Can Lima Beans
1 Can Black Eyed Peas
1 Can Diced tomatoes
4 Cups chicken stock
1 lb of ham, cubed
A few strips of bacon (or pancetta), fried until very crispy
1 lb frozen spinach
2 Tablespoons course salt
1 Tablespoon pepper
2 Tablespoons thyme

In the largest freaking pot you own (seriously, this makes a lot) heat up your oil and butter.  When your butter melts and the oil is spitting, add your carrots, onion, celery, and garlic.  Let it sweat on medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Add all of your beans and your tomatoes.  Add your chicken stock and bring to simmer.  Throw in your frozen spinach, your ham, and your crumbled up bacon.  Let simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the carrots are nice and tender.  Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Plate it in a shallow bowl and grate parmesan on top of it.  Serve with a dark, malty beer. 

This made so much soup I imagine we'll be eating it all week.  And cheap.  So cheap.  And so good.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Monday night I got home, sat down on the couch, and suddenly realized I wasn't feeling too well.  By Tuesday morning I had 101 degree fever and was pretty much useless.  So I spent the whole day in bed, ate very little, and basically did nothing.  Tuesday night I got out of bed, bound and determined to do SOMETHING...  So I baked a pie.  Here it is:

Unfortunately, my mother would murder me in my sleep if I divulged this recipe, so you'll just have to do with the picture.  :)

This morning (Wednesday) I'm feeling much better, but I still have a 100 degree fever, so the wife ordered me to stay home (and she also ordered me to get rid of the pie because just looking at it was making her fat...  psh...).  So I dropped the baby and the pie off at the grandparents, and stopped at Chic-fil-A for a chicken bagel.  When I got home I decided I could probably use some vitamin C, so I concocted this:

My get better juice.  I know the picture doesn't do it service...  It actually looks a lot better than that.

CJ's Get Better Juice

1/2 Pineapple
1 Banana
2 Blood Oranges (thus the color)
2 - 3 cups of no pulp orange juice

Put all the ingredients in a blender and liquefy.  And give it a good long while.  Strain out all the pulpy bits and drink it up.  Enjoy!

Ok, I'm going to go eat my chicken bagel, drink my juice, and watch some day-time TV.  


Monday, October 18, 2010

The Weekend Recap

We had a pretty exciting weekend, full of lots of cooking and autumnal things.  Friday we went to my friend's wedding reception.  They had gotten married, on a whim, in South Carolina about a month ago.  He proposed and later that day they got married on the beach.  Super cute, I know...  So Friday night they had their reception where they invited friends and family.  But they had the right idea for reception food.  Fried chicken...  and not just ANY fried chicken, but Gus's Fried Chicken, quite possibly the best fried chicken man has ever dreamed of. That's how we do it in Memphis.  Fried chicken and Miller Genuine Draft.  One of the coolest wedding receptions I've ever been to.  On our way home we stopped at Gibson's Doughnuts and picked up a half dozen (they go on sale at 11:00...  $2.50 for a dozen...).  Their New Orleans doughnuts are killing.  I'm so serious.  Go there. 

Last week I picked up little bit after work and the two of us went and picked out some pumpkins at Jone's Orchard, a farm out near Millington.  Now, all of my life I've been buying pumpkins in the city off of crates or the back of some guy's truck.  But not this year, and I never again.  I bought 4 decent sized pumpkins for $20!  It would have easily cost me $50 had I bought them in the city.  The wife and I have already carved 2 of them.  Here's a picture:

Saturday night the wife cooked and I took care of the baby, and Sunday night we switched roles.  So Saturday night the wife made a Ribollita, a Tuscan vegetable soup, and Rachel Allen's poppy seed cake.  Ribollita essentially means to "reboil".  According to Wikipedia, it comes from peasant origins and was originally made by reheating the leftover minestrone or vegetable soup.  It's a pretty simple soup to make, and although I didn't make it and don't have the exact recipe in front of me, here's essentially what it is:


Olive Oil
2 medium red onions, roughly chopped
4 or 5 decent sized carrots, chopped
3 or 4 celery stalks, chopped
X cloves garlic, minced
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can cannelloni beans
4  cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1 lb. of spinach (fresh or frozen)
Salt and Pepper

Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil.  When the oil is hot add your onions, carrots, celery, and garlic.  Saute until onions are translucent.  Add tomatoes, cannelloni beans, herbs, and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add in your spinach.  If you're using fresh, just pile it all in your pot.  It will wilt down to a fraction of it's original size.  Let it cook for...  oh, 15 minutes or so.  Just enough to get the spinach nice and cooked.  Add salt and pepper.  This sucker is delicious, simple, and VEGAN!  It was a good detox from eating fried chicken and doughnuts the night before.

Now, to this recipe you can add just about anything.  Pancetta, parmesan, tomato paste for a little extra richness.  I personally would have added every kind of bean I could get my hands on.  Red kidneys, white kidneys, garbanzos, black eyed peas... maybe not pinto or black beans, but you know...  I suggested to Meagan that she sub spinach for something more exciting like endive or escarole, but she got mad at me and asked why I hated spinach so much.  Let me just state for the record, I do NOT hate spinach.  I just think it's boring. 

After dinner I went outside to carve my pumpkin (see above...  mine is the one on the left...) and Meagan made Rachel Allen's poppy seed cake.  I'm going to post a link to it, but watch out...  it's all metric!  It just proves what a baking genius my wife is.

So last night I made mussels and creme brulee.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention.  I bought a new toy this weekend.  Behold:

And it was cheap!!  $20 for the burner, $1.87 for the butane!!!  But after I bought him I had to justify my purchase, so I decided to make creme brulee.  My mussels are super simple, and so tasty.  Here's what I did:


3 tablespoons butter
2 lb. mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
Handful of celery leaves, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
A bushel of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 fennel bulb (yeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaah....), chopped
2/3 cup dry white wine

Melt your butter in the biggest pot you own.  Big pot.  Big big pot.  When your butter is hot, add your onion, celery, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and fennel.  Cook for 7 to 8 minutes until your onion is translucent.  Add your wine and bring it up to a light boil.  Drop in your mussels and sprinkle the celery leaves on them.  Cook them for 10-15 minutes until the mussels are open and well cooked.

When you're ready to plate, spoon out your mussels into a large bowl and put it right in the middle of the table.  With a slotted spoon, spoon out your veggies into a soup bowl.  Eat with some crusty Italian bread.  Yum yum yum!

You can plate it anyway you want, but I found the best way to serve mussels is family style.  So, next is the creme brulee. 

Creme Brulee

6 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Half a vanilla bean
4 oven safe ramekins

Preheat your oven to 325.  Put your ramekins on a baking pan.

Slice your vanilla bean in half and scrape down the sides to get all the vanilla.  Add your cream, sugar, and vanilla to a saucepan and bring to a scald.  A scald is just below the boiling point.  Make sure to heat it slowly, stirring it often, and keep a close eye on it.  It can burn very easily and essentially ruin the flavor.  Don't burn it!  You can tell you've reached a scald when your getting bubbles around the edges of the pot and some wispy steam.

Whip your yolks and add a little bit of your cream.  Stir it in slowly, so as not to scramble the egg.  Add it to your ramekins.  Put the baking pan with the ramekins in the oven, and then add hot water to the pan about halfway up the ramekins.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Take them out and let them come to room temperature and then pop them in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours.  They should look like this:

When you're ready to serve, sprinkle with granulated sugar and torch those suckers.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures when I was torching them.  I'm sure I'll probably be doing this again sometime soon though.

Tonight, my lovely wife is making a pot roast.  She called me just a minute ago to yell at me for throwing out the thyme.  It was brown and mushy and gross.  I didn't want it in my fridge.  Yes, we love to cook.  Someone called us the next Neely family the other day. While I'm not a big fan of the Neelys, I took that as a compliment.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flambed Pineapple

So a couple days ago I came across this cute little guy in the grocery store and fell in love:

I didn't really have anything in mind when I bought him.  He was just too cute to pass up.  But tonight after dinner I got a bit of a sweet tooth and decided to do something adventurous.  I flambed that sucker.  Here's what I did.

I quartered and peeled him until I had a few nice pieces of flesh.  Add a little bit of canola to a decent sized frying pan and add the pieces when the oil is good and hot.  I would say somewhere around medium heat.  Saute them until they have nice brown edges around them.  Sprinkle a little dark brown sugar over them and stir until the sugar kind of melts.  Cut your heat and add a shot of liquor (a nice dark rum would have been nice, but all I had was brandy, so I used that instead).  Take a fire stick and light that sucker ablaze.  Don't be afraid!  You're going to get a decent sized flame for a few seconds.  Exhilarating, isn't it?  Add a little nub of butter and reduce your sauce to a nice glaze.  Serve over vanilla ice cream. 

This was so good my wife isn't even talking to me anymore.  I just wish I'd gotten a picture of me flambeing that shit.  Would have been epic.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Chuck Hughes and Red Velvet Cupcakes

I don't watch much TV these days, but when I do I typically watch cooking shows.  Recently the Fine Living Network became the Cooking Channel and I couldn't have been happier.  It's all cooking shows 24/7, and a lot of them are really good.  Most come from the BBC or Canadian networks, but they also show old cooking shows like Julia Child's The French Chef and Two Fat Ladies.  Two of my favorites are Indian Food Made Easy and Chuck's Day Off.  Chuck Hughes is co-owner and head chef of a restaurant in Montreal, and on Mondays his restaurant is closed and they film Chuck's Day Off.  The premise is, he cooks a meal for someone who helps him keep his restaurant afloat, whether it be his repair guys, his beer distributor, or his wait staff.  He films it in the actual kitchen for his restaurant and he only films it on Mondays, his actual day off.  But the food he makes is simple and always fantastic.  I've made several things of his and they always come out really well.  I highly highly highly recommend DVRing this show.  It's worth it.

Last week he made some Red Velvet cupcakes with mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) icing.  Now, I don't like to bake.  In fact, I actively dislike baking.  Half the time I bake things they come out horrible, but these just looked too good to pass up.  Well, my wife came home from work yesterday in a terrible mood.  She'd had an extraordinarily bad day.  And when she's in a bad mood she likes to bake cupcakes and work out all of her frustration...  except last night she was too busy studying for a big test she had this morning.  So not only was she in a terrible mood, but she also had to study...  no good.  So I decided to bake for her, and it just so happened that I had something in mind.


2 eggs
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 cup plain yogurt
Red food coloring (lots of it)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 cups mascarpone
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup 35% cream (heavy whipping cream)
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat your oven to 350.

Mix your dry ingredients and your wet ingredients in separate bowls.  As far as the food coloring goes, you'll have to have an eye for color.  It's going to take a lot to turn your batter deep red.  Something to keep in mind is that the cocoa is going to turn your batter from a bright red to a deep, blood red, so if the color isn't quite right when you mix your wet ingredients, wait until you add the cocoa.  Add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients a little bit at a time.

Line a muffin tin with liners and grease the inside of them.  Fill up your liners a little more than halfway and bake for 25 minutes, rotating them at 12 or 13 minutes.  When you take them out, stick a toothpick in them.  If it comes out clean your cupcakes are done.  If not, keep baking them.

For the icing, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until a smooth, creamy texture.  It doesn't take long to do by hand and you work off a few calories doing it.  Wait for them to cool before you ice them.  Eat them.  Enjoy them.  Pretty darn good, huh?

The official recipe can be found here.  Chuck Hughes - Red Velvet Cupcakes 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Turkey (Part I)

Every year since I was a little boy my mother has baked a turkey for Thanksgiving.  She has her technique down and everything, and simply refuses to let go of her tradition.  Well, this year I informed her that I was going to be frying a turkey.  She obviously put up some resistance, but we came to a compromise.  There are going to be two turkeys this year, one baked and one fried.

I first encountered fried turkey when I was dating a girl in high school, and her mother had moved out to the country and married a good old country boy.  My first Thanksgiving I didn't spend with my family I spent with hers out in the country.  Most of the spread was passable at best, but the turkey was the best I'd ever had (sorry mom).  I thought, surely a fried turkey was going to be greasy and crunchy and terrible, but holy crap...  it was juicy and a little crisp.  I had no idea turkey could taste like that!!  And while the relationship with girl I was dating fizzled like most teenage romances do, the memory of that turkey has stayed with me all my life.  Nearly every year since then I've tried to talk my folks into doing a fried trukey.  And every year they say absolutely not.  Well, this year is going to be different.  I'm gonna fry a damn turkey and YOU CAN'T STOP ME!!! (inside joke)

But now on the other hand, I have also had some very bad fried turkey.  Turkey that looks like this:
Sorry, this is not what fried turkey is supposed to look like.  Yes, I've eaten turkey like this.  It's not good.  It's dry and charred and pretty much awful.  Why is this turkey completely charred?  Because you bought a damn 20 lb bird you yocal!  By the time the inside of the turkey is done, the outside is completely burned to pieces.  13-14 lbs is the so-called Goldilocks zone (not too hot, not too cold).  

Now, frying a turkey can be extremely dangerous.  Every year you hear about a hundred yocals (that's the word of the day) who end up in the ER because their damn turkeys exploded, or his deep fryer did this:
Really, all you need to keep this from happening is some common sense and a fry thermometer.  Oil is a combustible liquid, and it vaporizes at a very high temperature (400-450 degrees).  Once an oil reaches it's smoking point, or flash point, in addition to tasting really bad, all it needs is a spark for combustion.  There is no reason to ever get your oil hotter than the smoke point, and in fact there's every reason NOT to.  Now, as for exploding turkeys, the only reason a turkey would explode is if it were still frozen.  You see, water vaporizes at a much lower temperature than cooking oil.  So when ice (very condense water molecules) hit hot oil, the water instantly vaporizes and EXPANDS.  This expansion is more like an explosion really, and when the ice explodes, the oil goes with it.  As soon as the oil hits the burner below the pot, BAM!  This happens:
In the weeks to come I'm going to be sharing with you my loyal readers a safe and effective way to fry a turkey without killing yourself.  I'm going to document everything from purchasing a deep fryer, to choosing and preparing your turkey, to disposing of your used oil.  Maybe you'll learn something!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cooking on Cedar Planks

Ok, I promise this will be my last post of the day.  The last 5 recipes are all recipes that I've come up with within the last 6 months and were good enough to write about on facebook.  This is one that I made just the other night.

So, for years I've been hearing about people grilling with cedar planks.  Finally a coworker of mine convinced me that it was a good idea.  So I went to Home Depot to try to find some untreated cedar.  Unfortunately, the worker I encountered there, although very entertaining, knew nothing about lumber...  and the guy who DID know something about lumber was on lunch.  Crap.  Well, I ended up finding what I needed on my own anyway.  Towards the very back they had a stack of unfinished cedar fence posts.  They were 5/8ths of an inch thick, and about 5 inches wide, so I had him cut me a few 8 inch pieces.  They're the perfect size for salmon. 

I went and got some salmon at the Fresh Market and went home.  I served this with the risotto dish I talked about earlier.  While I was making the risotto I heated up my grill and soaked my cedar planks in bath of warm water.  I brushed my salmon with a little Sunflower oil I had infused with garlic, and sprinkled a little Penzies cajun seasoning on them (so good).  In addition to the cedar, I also used some oak chips in the fire.  I also had to soak those in water, and then drained them about 10 minutes before they went on.  That along with the cedar created a hell of a lot of smoke.  I just closed my grill and let the smoke do all the work.  It took about 20 minutes (much longer than if they had been on direct heat), but it was the best damn salmon I've ever had in my life.  So damn good!


Indian Rice Pudding

Many different cultures have their own take on rice pudding, and my personal favorite is the Indian variety (no surprise there).

1 1/2 cups rice (white or brown)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup raisins
3 cardamom pods
1/4 tsp ground clove
Pinch of salt
3 cups milk
2 Tablespoons honey

Take your cardamom pods and squeeze until they pop open a little. This helps. Trust me. Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring often enough to keep the milk from burning on the bottom of the pan. It should be about the consistency of risotto.

Before you serve it, fish out your cardamom pods. Indians like to suck on them, but they're a little too bitter and strong for my taste. Serve the pudding hot or cold (it's better cold). Garnish with fresh berries and ground cinnamon. Enjoy.

Basic Risotto Recipe

Risotto is incredibly simple and easy and you can add pretty much add anything you want to it. It's a great base to get creative with.

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (Italian, short-grain rice)
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 DRY white wine (pinot gris or something)
2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Ok, those are your base ingredients, now to that you can add any vegetable/protein combination that you want. Butternut squash and pancetta work together well. Any kind of small mushroom and grilled chicken. Tofu. Anything. But for this recipe I'm going to use asparagus because, for the most part, you can get it year round.

1/2 cup onion, chopped (shallots are good too)
X cloves garlic, chopped fine (3... 6... 12... how much do you like garlic?)
1 lb. asparagus

1. Put your chicken stock in a sauce pan on the back burner and bring to light simmer. Leave it alone for now.

2. Sautee your onion and garlic in half the butter and a splash of olive oil in a large pot until the onion is almost brown. Add your rice and cook it for a minute or two.

3. While you're doing that, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and keep your asparagus and a large bowl of ice water at the ready.  In the meantime...

4. Add your white wine (and pour yourself a glass while you're at it) and scrape up all your oniony bits. Let the rice absorb the wine. When the wine has reduced by about half start adding your simmering chicken broth, a ladle at a time. Stand over the pot and keep stirring it. When the rice has absorbed the first ladle's worth of chicken broth (there's no more standing liquid) add another ladle. Keep doing this until your chicken broth is gone.

5. When you have about a ladle or two left to go, drop your asparagus in the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Then drain them, and drop them in the ice water to immediately stop the cooking process and lock in the green color.  Chop them into bite sized pieces and set aside.  Stir in the rest of your butter, your Parmesan, salt, and pepper, and then fold in your asparagus pieces. It should be thick and creamy and wonderful and delicious.

Serve as a main entre or as a side-dish to something fancy. Great dish to make when it's really cold outside because you can just stand over a steaming pot of wonderful things. So good. Enjoy.

Palak Paneer (A Work in Progress)

Palak Paneer, or Saag, is a creamy spinach dish with yummy fried cheese in it.  Now, you don't really have to fry the cheese if you don't want to.  Now please note, this recipe is far from perfect.  I kind of knew the flavor combination I was going for and the consistency I was shooting for, and it turned out much better than previous attempts, but could still use some improvement.  But I'll post it here anyway.

1 lb. Paneer, cut into 1" cubes, lightly dusted with flour
2 lbs. Spinach, washed and picked over for wilted leaves
1 medium sized onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 green chilies, seeded and diced
6 Tbsp Ghee (or Veg oil)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp red pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup milk (or sub heavy cream... yeah baby)
1-2 tsp. Garam Masala

1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in the largest pot you have. Add the spinach. If it won't all fit at first, just pack it down. It will wilt to a fraction of it's original size. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes or until the spinach is completely cooked. Strain and immediately run cold water over the spinach to stop the cooking process. Shocking it like this will lock in the green color and lend to a better looking dish. Set aside.

2. On a back burner, put the cumin seeds in small frying pan and dry roast them on Medium heat until they're slightly browned. They should smell sweet and aromatic, not sour. Try not to burn them because burned cumin tastes nasty. When done, grind them in a spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle. Or... you could just buy ground cumin, but this tastes better.

3. Add 3 Tbsp of Ghee to a large, non-stick pan on Medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the paneer pieces and fry, turning the pieces often, until golden brown on all sides. Don't overcrowd the pan. Fry them in batches of 6-8 at a time. When done, set aside.

4. Add the remaining Ghee to the pan and fry the onion until it's slightly translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chilies. Let cook for 10 minutes until the onion is slightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool for a minute. Then combine onion, garlic, ginger, chilies, and cooked spinach in a food processor or blender (honestly, I'd recommend a blender... it'll get it smoother, but a food processor will work too). Puree, adding water if it gets too pulpy. Put contents back into pan.

-- At this point I had to screw with the consistency of it. It was little too thick so I kept adding water until it was a little looser than I wanted (keeping in mind it would thicken as I continued to cooked it). I think I added roughly half a cup of hot water, but this is negotiable as to how thick you want your curry.--

5. Fold in ground cumin, coriander, red pepper, and salt, followed by the lemon juice. Add in the paneer pieces, folding them in carefully so as not to break the pieces apart. Let cook on low to medium-low for 20 minutes, stirring every now and then. Add milk and Garam Masala, again carefully so you don't break up the paneer. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. When ready to serve reheat and serve over basmati rice.

Note -- you don't have to fry the paneer if you don't want to. I did it because my paneer was especially crumbly and I wanted to give the pieces a little more rigidity. In which case, cut the ghee by half.


Vindaloo is not a traditionally Indian dish. In fact, its origins can be traced back to the Portuguese dish "Carne de Vinha d' Alhos" which translates to meat with wine and garlic. In the 1500s, the Portuguese invaded and took over the Goa state of India, and ruled until the 1980s, and it goes without saying that they had a huge influence on the culture there. Carne de Vinha d' Alhos is traditionally made with pork, which is not widely consumed in India. Indians don't so much have a religious aversion to pork as they do a social aversion. For starters, the type of high-nutrient grain necessary to sustain a population of pigs does not grow in India. And as Julie Sahni puts it, Indians approach an animal that will eat anything from anywhere with "suspicion". So eventually, Carne de Vinha d' Alhos was given the Goan treatment and morphed into the dish Vindaloo. Traditionally, it's served with either chicken or lamb. And although not traditional, some also put potato in the dish as kind of a joke ("aloo" means potato in Hindi, but it actually translates to garlic in Portuguese). Vindaloo is not widely eaten outside of the Goan state, and is not a very popular dish in India at all. It gained popularity in Indian restaurants in the UK, the Middle East, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US.

Generally speaking, when you go to an Indian restaurant Vindaloo will be the spiciest thing on the menu. Some restaurants serve a hotter variation of Vindaloo called Tindaloo, and Phall which is even hotter still. To give you an example of the dangerous nature of Phall, in the Brick Lane Curry House in NYC, when the chef prepares Phall curry he has to wear a gas mask. It's that bad. But honestly, I'm happy with Vindaloo. While I'm all about spicy food, anything hotter than Vindaloo is kind of ridiculous and becomes so hot that you can't enjoy the flavor. I may be tempted to tackle Phall one day, but Vindaloo is really all I need.

Here's the recipe:


4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium-sized onion
6 or 7 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons veg oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (toasted)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (toasted)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove

Begin by toasting the cumin and mustard seeds on med-high heat. They should be done when the cumin turns brown and the mustard seeds turn grey. When cool, grind them into a fine powder. Put the Onion (peeled and quartered first), garlic, ginger, cider vinegar, and veg. oil in a blender and blend it until it's pulpy. Transfer to a large container than seals tightly, and add cumin, black mustard, cinnamon, and cloves. Add the meat, and mix thoroughly. Let marinade for at least 8 hours.

1 cup mustard oil (or sub veg oil)
1 1/2 cups onion, sliced thinly
1 inch ball tamarind pulp
1 1/2 teaspoons red chili pepper (Indian)
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika (hot)
1/2 - 1 dried ghost chili, ground down to a fine powder (if you can find them... if not, don't worry about it)
2 teaspoons salt

1. You can be doing this step while you do step #2. Boil 1 1/4 cups of water. Put your tamarind ball in a bowl and pour the boiling water over the tamarind and let it steep 15 minutes. Then strain and discard the pulp. Add the salt to the tamarind infused water.

2. If you're using veg oil you can skip #2. This step, although it seems odd, is extremely important if you're using mustard oil (which, according to the EPA may or may not being suitable for human consumption, but many generations of Indians have done it so I'm not afraid). Heat the oil to it's smoking point. It should turn a little brown. Then remove it from heat and let it cool completely. You get rid of some of the bitterness of the oil by doing this.

3. Reheat the oil on medium-high and add the onions. Fry the onions until they are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Add the spices (chili pepper, turmeric, paprika, and ghost chili, if using). Stir for about 15-20 seconds until completely incorporated.

4. Remove the meat from the marinade and sear, about 10 minutes. Add the tamarind infused water and salt mixture, and the rest of the marinade. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 30 minutes until the chicken is done. Serve and enjoy!!


Matar Paneer

Matar Paneer is a wonderfully, warm, rich, spicy dish.  It has peas and fried cheese in a buttery tomato gravy.  So good...

16-18 oz Paneer (Indian Cheese) cut into 1/2" cubes
12 tablespoons ghee (Indian shortening), but you can just as easily use veg. oil
1 large onion, diced
3 medium sized cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoons red pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes, diced
1 12oz package frozen peas
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons garam masala (a blend of Indian spices, easily found at any international grocer)
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of ghee over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan, preferably one with a non-stick interior. While the oil is heating, lightly flour the paneer. This will prevent the cheese from exploding in the oil. When the ghee is hot, add paneer. Fry the cheese, turning and tossing often to prevent sticking and burning, until lightly seared (about 5 minutes). It's best to do this in batches to give them ample room in the pan. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and set aside.

2. Add the remaining ghee to the pan, and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the onion and fry until they turn light brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add garlic and ginger and fry for additional 2 minutes. Add corriander, turmeric, red and black pepper, and paprika, all at once. Stir rapidly for a moment, and immediately add tomatoes. Cook until the mixture thickens to a pulpy sauce and the fat begins to separate (about 10 minutes), stirring often.

3. Add 2 1/2 cups hot water, and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook the sauce, covered, for about 20 minutes. Cool the sauce briefly and transfer to a food processor or blender, leaving the sauce a little coarse.

4. Return the sauce to the pan. Add peas, salt, and the fried cheese, along with 1/2 cup hot water, and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, until the peas are cooked (about 5-10 minutes). Turn off heat and let the dish rest, covered, for an hour before serving. When ready to serve, heat thoroughly. Fold in garam masala and chopped cilantro. Check for salt, and serve on some basmati rice and enjoy! Yum!


Note- this is the closest I've ever come to achieving "Indian food bliss." I think the thing that makes it so fantastic is the use of ghee. Veg oil will work in a pinch, but it's the ghee that makes it kick ass.


Welcome to my food blog!  My name is CJ and I live with my lovely wife and 1 1/2 year old son in Memphis, TN.  I am a musician and an avid foodie.  I love to cook just about anything in the world, but what I love cooking the most is Indian and Thai food.  Expect to see quite a few recipes along that vein. 

It's been a long time since I've tried to "blog" anything.  I used to have a livejournal account (actually, I still do but I haven't been on it in so long there's probably dust and mold growing on it...).  And back in my livejournal days we didn't even really call it "blogging".  It was LJing, or journaling, or something...  So I guess, in a sense, this is my first real, honest to god, blog.

I have several weaknesses.  The first of which is baking.  I'm terrified of baking.  I leave that to my wife, who loves to bake.  I feel so confined to a recipe when I bake, like if I do anything slightly creative or "wrong" it will completely ruin whatever it is I'm trying to make.  I guess it's kind of like the difference between classical music and improvised music.  I like to take a recipe and mess with it, reinvent it, and make it my own.  It's a lot harder to do that with baked goods.

Another weakness of mine is...  fried eggs.  I can not fry an egg to save my life.  One or all of the yolks end up breaking.  It's really a blow to my self confidence knowing that I could never pass as a short order cook (not that I'd really want to be one, but you know). 

I'll get busy finding some stuff that I've posted of facebook and post it here.  I think this food blog was a good idea.  Thanks Lauren!