My other ‘chef-crush’ is a man who goes by the same initials as our wonderful AB: Anthony Bourdain. His masterful sarcasm needs another word define it… and his cynicism… well, hell give that another word too! Though between all of his skillful negativity, when he is happy, truly happy with something he eats… you certainly know. It’s like that sappy, cheesy, disgustingly sunny moment when the sun peeks it’s head around the clouds. He knows how to appreciate when something deserves the praise.
Anyway, enough lusting over AB2. What does this have to do with the project (I ask myself that a lot…)? My other nerdy food habit is to theme dinners to where AB2 will be on No Reservations that night. A few Mondays ago, when my TV guide had him slated to be in Japan, we decided to take on Sushi making. Yes my friends, I am officially insane.
2 shocking discoveries of the night:
- Homemade Sushi is real good.
- Margaritas go disturbingly well with Sushi.
I will not regale you with any step by step details of the wonderful evening… but I wanted to share the fact that while Sushi may seem like an impossible hurdle, it isn’t! Do not fear!
For our fixins we had:
- Sesame Seeds
- Wasabi Paste
- Smoked Salmon
- Panko Fried Shrimp
- Cream Cheese
- Some improvised Spicy Mayo
From these, we created a number of fantastic rolls. We bought Nori (the Seaweed wrap that isn’t actually Seaweed) at Whole Foods. I’ve since found it cheaper elsewhere, but it wasn’t as good. I’d go with the Whole Foods if you were going to try to make your own. Much better. And we bought some cheapo Sushi rice at Jewel.
The first roll was… interesting. Rice kinda everywhere… But after that they got easier and easier! Definitely an adventure worth repeating!! Even though the TV guide was wrong… and AB2 was apparently in Panama?! Whatever… no matter. Mel, Marie, Ben and I had wonderful Sushi with wonderful Margaritas (on National Margarita Day, no less)! Everyone wins!
Additionally… tomorrow, I am off to the land of AB2 and Food Network Headquarters: New York! I will let you know if I catch a glimpse of the Chairman 😉
My lovely sister Stephanie is lucky enough to be spending this semester studying abroad in Italy and traveling Europe (tough life, I know.) She has never been away from home for so long… or so far away, and I miss her quite a lot. Though I think my cell phone bill will be lower without her in calling distance 🙂 Anyway, how does this relate to the project? Other than the fact that I plan on forcing her to bring me back several varieties of real Italian olive oil (this is the first she’s probably hearing of this)… Well, for her send off we decided to give her a grand dinner bon voyage bash! The whole dinner was prepared completely from the book (which I was rather proud of figuring out) for 1 vegitarian brother and for my low fat/ low carb eating mother and sister. I was exceptionally skeptical of my ability to pull of this dinner (with all its restrictions) from within only The Early Years… but I did! And it was quite a success.
Firstly, the “French Onion Soup“
I began cooking this waaay before dinner… because you have to ‘sweat’ the onions for quite a while. I had to use 2 pans to fit them all in because of my ghetto cookware. I opted to put in some red onion as well (AB suggests that this adds a “darker” quality to the soup). This soup was, in a word, magic. Worlds better than any restaurant I’ve had (compliments to AB, not necessarily to the chef… following directions closely is about all I can take credit for :). I now will never stand for bland/ watery french onion soup. It’s a soup I’d never really taken a liking to because, frankly, it’s so hard to find done well. And now I see that the old phrase “If you want it done right, do it yourself!” is exceptionally wise. Even Ben (who haaaatttteeeesss onions) at this. Woo!
Second, “TBL Panzanella Salad“
Fresh herbs… bacon grease… homemade crutons… teeny tomatoes. Yum. The fresh mint and basil added a lot to this salad! I really enjoyed eating it and I’ve made it a few times since. It’s just so fresh and delicious. Definitely a hit.
Third, “Eggplant Pasta“
At first, I didn’t even consider making this recipe for the dinner because of the “pasta” (no carbs for mama and sister…) but then I realized, it’s not pasta at all! Oh you crafty AB, you! It’s eggplant cut to resemble pasta. Oh, how clever. It had a great, spicy, creamy flavor! I had to cook the eggplant a bit longer than the recipe stated, because it was pretty much still raw. I don’t know if that is what AB had intended (a little al dente pasta, if you will) but I know my mom doesn’t like raw eggplant, so I kept it going.
All in all, impressive, delicious, and fun to make with your family! I know my sister is enjoying massive amounts of authentic Italian food and will have majorly high expectations once she returns home. I will try to meet them sis! Love you!
I am just too busy to do leisurely things sometimes. I cook the recipes… I eat… I become lethargic and unable to type details about all the wonderful food I spent my Sunday making and then eating and then being in a coma from. Food coma is a disorder of not only the mind, but the body as well. Especially the fingers… things I need for typing. It’s a cruel, cruel circle I am caught in! And it is you, poor readers, that must suffer! Well, I suppose I’m suffering too… I will have to hunker down in a Starbucks this weekend (I know… I hate their stuff, but I get the gift cards from my students! Free is nice.) and finish about a doze entries!
One small cooking drawback has surfaced since I last entry-ied. My water is potentially poisoned. I had two wonderful rabbits, Don Quixote and Samson, who both passed mysteriously at the same time. I bought 2 fish, Pablo and Claude, to cheer me up after the loss of my poor bunnies… both fish died within 2 days. Hmm… very curious. Took the water and dead fishes to the Pet Store to have them tested… apparently, according to them, my water is way out of whack (yes, that is a technical water-testing term). I have since obtained a Brita Filter and Betta Fish named Igor. He swims exclusively in Brita water (He’s a bit of a Diva. My fault for pampering him). Plans are in the works to have our water tested. As we are scared of it.
I am not usually a “germaphobe”, per say. But, when 4 pets drop dead mysteriously within a few days… I get a little skeptical of what’s living/ lurking in my water. I started out not using anything but the Britta water. This makes cooking very difficult, so I’ve become a bit more lax and have begun to boil things in it again. Not dead yet *knocks on wood*
Anyway… that is the current state of the project. It is amazing though… how one never notices how much they depend on water when it’s clean and easily accessible. Every time I’ve gone to use water the past 2 weeks I’ve had to stop myself/ think twice. Thank goodness it is included in my rent… because, man AB you require a lot of H2O. Not only for cooking, but for the clean up from your recipes, sheesh! That’s become my exercise! Consider this my “Thank You!” to water and its wonderfulness… when it is non-toxic, of course.
I must go and prepare to make AB’s Potato Soup, Cabbage, and Honey Mustard. And start some slow cooker Corned Beef to enjoy tomorrow (Yay St. Patty’s day!)
*Gasps for air*
Ok… this entry covers three different nights and three different meals. Catchin’ up!
Here we have Masher Cakes… these were actually NOT featured in the “This Spud’s for You” episode! These were added into the book specially… so top-secret recipe you only get if you’re a privileged book owner (which you should be!) AB says that if he’d had more time in the episode, he would’ve added these into the show. I gotta say… they were like a more refined version of the Latke. And anything compared to a Latke is automatically good.
Here you can see them at the outset (Blobs of mashers… basically). They were then dredged in special secret ingredients and fried into perfection! We enjoyed them with one of our many repeats of the pan-seared rib eye steak with cognac pan sauce. Mmmm.
Next we have Plain Ol’ Pasta!
I went about this pasta for a mid-afternoon lunch.
One of my favorite things about this book is his little “factoid” columns which (like in the show) share tidbits, explain theories, and dispel or prove cooking myths. I love this about the show, and seeing the man’s ramblings in print actually gives you more time to ponder them and consider their relevance within the preparation process. This recipe shared some insight on many pasta faux pas. AB addresses the “salt makes water boil faster” myth. Though AB does not share this, I remember it from chemistry class: In fact salt does bring up the temperature of the water… by a whopping two degrees! So big whoop… if this makes it noticeably faster for you, than hooray. But chances are, it won’t. AB does say that while it does not necessarily hasten the process, but it is absolutely necessary for the flavor!
Speaking of salt, has anyone gone so far as to order AB’s little Kosher Salt container from his website? I’m thinking of doing this… I just love that little thing… does anyone have it and like it/ not like it?
Aaaaand finally for this entry… Radicchio with Bacon Vinaigrette!
Can’t go wrong with bacon… no sir! I had to make a rather glaring and depressing substitution for this one (which is why I hope to try it again). With the menu for the evening already completely planned… Ashley leaves work, goes to grocery store No 1: no Radicchio. Goes to grocery store No 2: no Radicchio. Wades through snow and goes to grocery store No 3: sensing a pattern? At this point, Ashley clearly needs a drink and is not at all in favor of braving the now swirling snow to find a 4th store that will inevitably, as it seems, not have Radicchio. It’s Radicchio-lous! (Worst pun eveeeeer!) So… I gave up and bought some Swiss Chard. It was still delicious, and I got to keep some of my sanity. AB, I hope you forgive me for this one.
In regards to the recipe… excellent! That Vinaigrette was fantastic and I plan to use it quite often! I liked it even more than the one I made for the Panzanella Salad (upcoming entry) or the one I made for Veni Vedi Vinaigrette (also upcoming). Bacon just trumps all… I have to say. It could be the best recipe in the world, but if you put it up next to something that has bacon… well, no contest. But in what universe would the best recipe in the world not include bacon in the first place? Ok, now I’m rambling.
I loved that he suggested taking the bacon pieces used to cultivate the bacon drippings for the dressing, and crumbling them on top. Why waste all that glorious bacon? Now, I will have to challenge the genius of Jim Gaffigan on this one a little… he stated that Bacon Bits are the “fairy dust” of the food community (well, yes) and turn a salad into a game of “find the bacon in the lettuce” (not always so). Now, while that would ordinarily be true, this time the greens were dressed in some lovely ‘bacon-dripping-and-other-stuff’ vinaigrette which made excessive searching for bits completely unnecessary! What a wonderful loophole!
The greens were accompanied by my first pressure cooker experiment! My brother and sister so wonderfully got me a pressure cooker for Hanukkah, and I’ve since become obsessed with it. Tonight we made pressure cooker spaghetti. Man it was good… since then I’ve made several variations of this and tried 2 types of risotto with it. Soon I will need to make some of AB’s pressure cooker recipe!
I think… well no, I’m pretty damn sure that I am now the proud owner of a full fledged addiction to cooking. In the past month’s NON Alton cooking adventures I made my very first batch of fresh pasta, several varieties of bizarre cupcakes, buttercream frosting, enchiladas, perfected pad woon sen, egg drop soup, blue cheese crusted steaks, udon soup, what I’m convinced is the worlds’ best pressure cooker spaghetti, mushroom risotto, lemon risotto… I’ve invented/ improvised a number of recipes depending upon cravings, and I find myself spending my days thinking about what I can concoct when I got home. Yikes. This could be bad.
Anyway… here is the oldest recipe that I have not yet entried about. Gotta burn through em!
This is an exciting entry… because this was the maiden voyage of my wonderful, beautiful, magical new KitchenAid Mixer (with many unending thanks to my amazing mother for the Hanukkah gift!). Her name is Mabel and she is the best. The night was New Year’s Eve (yes… I know, it was a long time ago. But at least you get to read about it… eventually!) Mabel and I tackled AB’s “Cocoa Brownies” recipe.
This recipe had to be doubled, because the brownies were to appear at a fabulous New Year’s Eve party.
Just to be clear, 4 sticks of butter is only because the recipe was doubled. But, they were amazing no matter why they were used. Mabel blended/ mixed expertly and made this recipe’s preparation a breeze!
To be frank, I think this was the best recipe yet. And it has the highest approval rating of any yet. Among other comments, I heard
“these are the best browines I’ve ever had” and “this isn’t even a brownie… it deserves its own category of food.”
So, I’m going to go ahead and call this a fantabulous success!
I have not died… no. There was no tragic sauce attack or exploding meatloaf. In fact, it’s a much less exciting story involving me being inconveniently busy and slightly lazy after my busy days. Turns out this entry stuff is still more time consuming than the cooking… which I have been keeping up with, thank you very much.
Following this entry there will be a rapid-fire recap of the last month. But, first a message from Benjamin, my Sous Chef extraordinaire!
Hello world… you may remember me from such epic photos as “Ben in awe of chocolate chip cookies” and “Ben attempts to eat an entire meatloaf in one bite” (which, if it weren’t about 4 pounds, i might’ve done it). The recipes have been fascinating and delicious, and only once has a finger almost been lopped in half. Basically, if I have any deep insightful thoughts related to Ashley’s (mis)adventures, I will put them out to the world. And here is the first one:
Alton Brown, you are a madman, and a genius. And I cannot wait until Ashley has to brew beer, even if she is dreading it. I will taste test anything in that book because of the 100% success rate the rest of the book has had up to now.
That’s all for now…back to your (not so) regularly scheduled programming.
Today is an exploration of one of the more recent episodes of Good Eats: “Live and Let Diet”. This answers many questions from Good Eats fans about AB being ill/ not well… causing noticeable weight loss. Simply not true. 50 lbs down in 9 months sure ain’t bad… especially when you do it on a “steady diet of Good Eats” as AB did.
Now… if I can stick with this plan while completing this mission, I will be very shocked. But I’m certainly going to try. It might be a good combatant for all the heavy cream, butter… etc that Alton has me eating right now! Oh AB, how you confuse me… ‘here’s a book full of all my delicious recipes… now… don’t make them regularly.’ Oh sure, I know he never said make them all in one year… so I suppose I can’t blame him for my reckless decision.
He would never deprive us of his Good Eats… After all, his plan is “not about a diet in the modern American sense” (so, therefore… not about avoiding Good Eats). AB states that it is more about “taking it from the original meaning which comes from the Greek word Diaita meaning way of life.” In other words, taking these Good Eats and eating them with smarts.
He divides his eating plan into 4 lists:
- Whole Grains
- Leafy Greens
- Green Tea
3 x a week:
- Oily Fish
- Sweet Potato
1 x a week:
- Red meat
- Alcohol (“That’s right kids, but one alcoholic beverage a week. I do make it a nice big one… a martini.” <– My drink of choice is AB’s too! Long live the dirty martini!)
NEVER (0 x a week):
- Fast Food
- Soda Pop (except club soda… that’s allowed)
- Processed meals/frozen dinners
- Canned soup
- “Diet” anything (Because after all, we’re not on a diet.)
And the big rule: Eat breakfast every day, no exceptions.
As I cook through your very own book, AB… I realize there are notable absences on this list, which appear in large amounts in The Book, such as:
- Butters and oils
- White flour
- Milk (which he later says he doesn’t drink much of at all, but substitutes with Soymilk. Apparently, Soymilk includes much more protein. For AB, Milk brings up “personal demons” illustrated by a giant, sinister milk carton offering him some nice warm cookies. Haha. But what about for the rest of us? Can we drink milk? How often? Especially since, later in the episode, he says that Calcium is perhaps the most important chemical in losing and maintaining a healthy weight?!)
- … and I’m sure many more.
What about these Alton?! You can’t leave us hanging?! Afterall… a ‘diet’ in the American sense means that you need to tell us exactly what to eat… when to eat it… how to prepare it… and how often we’re allowed it!
He ends the episode with a nice dissertation on the key to making this work: discipline. “Discipline about what you put into the hole in your head.” By suggesting discipline, are you suggesting that we actually use… *gasp* common sense and self-restraint with unlisted foods?! You mean… I should know poultry dredged in white flour and pan fried in oil every day… isn’t the best plan? Even if you don’t say it? Bacon fried in butter every morning? Ok, ok… I guess I get it.
I may be using The Book for an unintended purpose. But, health is also about something called happiness… and to me, happiness is greatly helped by learning to cook an abundance of Good Eats, and sharing them with friends and family 🙂
In conclusion, while AB’s plan isn’t fully comprehensive, it is a solid start and a great guide to transforming your general Diaiata, as he says. I think I’ll be well on my way!
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