Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Book, Like It’s Author, Big, Bold, Brash

Art imitating life. At least that’s how it looks.

BUY IT - Guy Fieri Food: Cookin' It, Livin' It, Lovin' It

Like the man himself, his book stands out from the crowd. It’s big (416 pages), it’s wildly colorful and it’s filled with food and stories that scream GUY! What would you expect from a chef who’s TV persona is larger than life. No matter what you may think about his culinary chops, it always looks like he’s living life to the fullest. I like that.

Reading though his latest cookbook, Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It, you get the sense that he loves his trade. I’m sure there are those that take one look down their nose at the cover and sniff. But, they should take the time to crack the spine. There is some serious business in there.

I don’t really have a set routine when it comes to evaluating a new cookbook. One thing I do know, I’m going to cook something from it. No preconceived idea of what that something might be, but, something. Whatever might catch my eye from a stunning food image (oh, I can make that) to a super engaging recipe title is fair game.

One thing that struck me as I was paging through this meaty tome, was the complexity of the recipes. This was not home kitchen fluff. These were complex, multi component recipes with some ingredients that most people don’t have stocked in their pantries. This isn’t a complaint, this is a pleasant surprise.

I consider myself to be a fairly competent home chef. One a scale of one to ten, I would give myself a seven (OK, maybe six and a half). I can perform most basic skills and have a pretty good idea of what should go with what. I also have a great array to toys (I mean tools).

My search for the perfect “Guy” dish ended when I turned to page 220 and saw the Watermelon Pork Tacos.

Watermelon Pork Tacos

This recipe has a bunch of great, but at the same time dissimilar ingredients. After I read through it a couple of times I thought, “OK, I can do this one”. In reality, it was harder than I thought.

The thing that makes this spin on the usual taco so unique, is the Asian influence paired with the decidedly not so Asian watermelon.

Watermelon

Fresh summer watermelon makes this a great seasonal dish.

Here’s a look at the pork. All trimmed up, sliced, marinated and ready for the grill.

Marinated Pork

Making the marinade is easy enough. Lots of ingredients. There was one thing that did get my attention when I was putting it all together. The possible heat potential of that marinade. A chopped Serrano pepper and red chili flakes are both in there. As you can see from the above image, there is chopped ginger and garlic too.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Looks great after coming off the grill. The cooking time was right on too. Three minutes per side, then three minutes resting. Want to see how it all turned out? Sure you do.

Watermelon Pork Tacos

WOW, is right! As Guy would say “Off the hook!”. They actually tasted even better than they looked. My worry about the heat level of the finished product was totally unfounded. It did not have a huge pepper burst to it at all. I think some of the Asian elements (sesame oil, oyster sauce and rice vinegar) may have tamed some of that. Just a theory.

Here’s How To Do It

Ingredients – Pork
1 whole pork tenderloin, silverskin removed & cut into 1inch thick slices
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
1 Tbsp. Serrano chile, seeded & minced
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil

Ingredients – Vinaigrette
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. sesame oil

Ingredients – Salsa
1 cup watermelon, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 cup English cucumber, seeded & cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 Haas avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes

1 head romaine lettuce

Method
To make the pork, combine all of the pork ingredients except the pork slices in a small bowl. Mix well. In a gallon Ziploc bag, add the pork slices and the marinade. Seal and marinate for 30 minutes.

While the pork is marinating mix all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette together in a small bowl. In a medium sized bowl, mix together all of the salsa ingredients. Pour the vinaigrette into the salsa and mix gently. Be careful not to crush the watermelon or guacamole-ize the avocado.

Trim off the dark green ends of the romaine and cut off the root end. Separate, wash and dry the leaves. These will be the “shells” for the tacos. Place in fridge until ready to use.

Heat your grill to medium. Remove the pork slices from the marinade. Grill 3 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and rest 3 minutes. Take pork to a cutting board and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Fill lettuce shells with pork, top with salsa and enjoy.

Serves 6

Watermelon Pork Tacos

Recipe Adapted From Watermelon Pork Tacos, Guy Fieri, Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It.

Notes: This thing looks and reads through easy enough, but, it’s deceptive. Lots of ingredients and a fair amount of prep. I think once you’ve made it one time, the next attempt would be a lot smoother. It was a nice light, summertime meal. I’ll be a repeat customer for sure.

BONUS: Since we only had two people eating a recipe sized for six, we had a fair amount of pork leftover. I’m not one to just pitch some great seasoned meat. So, day two, a more traditional taco, with the fantastic untraditional pork filling. This was great too!

Leftover Tacos

THE BOTTOM LINE: If you like Guy’s style both in the kitchen and on the tube, you’ll love his book. It’s him to a T. You won’t be disappointed.

Be ready for some challenging recipes. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of culinary security by the sometimes brief instructions. These dishes are worth the effort in the end. But, getting there can be a little challenging.

BUY IT - Guy Fieri Food: Cookin' It, Livin' It, Lovin' It

BUY THIS BOOK

Author: Guy Fieri
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks (May 3, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0061894559

In Search Of The Perfect Chicken

Some people say the pursuit is half the fun. I say, game on!

Did Someone Say Chicken! - Image by Terry Johnston

Ah, the perfect roast chicken. Why does this have to be so hard? I know they say nothing good is ever easy, but, why can’t it be. Cooking the perfect bird is an elusive goal. Especially, since the definition varies from eater to eater.

For instance, I like my roast chicken cooked so the skin is crisp and a little salty. It doesn’t matter what other spices grace the outside of the bird, but, I want a touch of saltiness to it. I want the meat to be moist and juicy. I think most of us can agree on that. And, lastly, my ideal bird has an overall “full” flavor. What I mean by that, is when you’re eating it, you know that it’s chicken and not possibly some other meat that all of the flavor has been bred out of (like most of today’s pork).

That’s not asking to much, is it? I think not.

At this point we’ve all read through enough recipes that lay out a myriad of ways to accomplish these goals. I won’t go through the exercise of reciting them for you. We’ve heard them all before and we would be here all day. Suffice it to say there are as many methods as there are cooks.

My quest is simple. Allow me to break it down in terms anyone can understand. I want to turn this…

Chicken Before The Roast

Into this…

The Perfect Roast Chicken

It doesn’t get any more basic than that. And, I have finally achieved a modicum of success!

It’s summer so my preferred cooking venue is the great outdoors (that means grill). I’m usually either employing the beer can method or trying to jostle a variety of parts around the grate making certain to not over or undercook any. Usually this has very mixed results.

The beer can chickens are consistently consistent. Cooked through nicely, never browned all that uniformly and usually a little roughed up coming off the can. The nice thing about that cooking style, is you could down 20 or so beers (I think that’s why it’s called beer can chicken) and have the same end result. Once the bird in on, well, it’s pretty much autopilot.

As for cooking parts, well, you don’t need an overactive imagination to know how that turns out. You really have to pay attention, that obviously means no running to join the party or playing a game of bags. Some parts end up pretty good and others, well, less than pretty good.

Today I am turning my attention to the most underutilized of all my of BBQ toys. The noble rotisserie. If the beer can is the lazy mans way to cook, the rotisserie runs a very close second. There’s a little more monitoring required, but, you don’t really have to be fully engaged. You just need to know how to operate the burner controls. That I can do.

Here’s How To Do It

Ingredients
1 whole roasting chicken (3-5 lbs.)
2 quarts cold water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 + 2 tbsp. cup kosher salt
Fresh rosemary stalks
1 small onion, halved
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
Olive oil
fresh ground pepper

Method
In a large bowl combine the water, sugar and kosher salt. Stir until completely dissolved. Clean out the chicken. Place in a large Ziploc bag. Pour brine into bag and seal. I brined my chicken for about 4 hours.

Prepare your grill for rotisserie cooking.

Remove chicken from bag and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Pat dry. Fasten your chicken to the spit. Rub the outside with olive oil. Stuff the rosemary, garlic and onion inside the chicken cavity. Tie back the legs and pin the wings so they’re not flopping around during cooking. You may want to pin the cavity shut loosely so your stuffing doesn’t fall out when it’s rotating. Sprinkle with some fresh ground pepper.

Place rotisserie on the grill and start. I have a three burner (front to back) grill. I turn my front and back burners on medium and leave the center burner in the off position. Let it cook. It should take about an hour and fifteen minutes depending on the size of the bird. You’ll need an instant read to know when it’s really done. Internal white meat temp should be 165, dark 185. Some people like it cooked a little less, that’s up to you. I’m not a fan of bloody poultry, but that’s just me.

Let’s have another look at the finished product shall we.

A Great Roasted Chicken

I’m proud of my bird!

A few quick notes. I usually brine anyway, so not a big deal. But, with the dry heat of the BBQ, it really makes a big difference here. The addition of the herbs and veggies stuffed in the cavity gave it a very hearty, earthy flavor. And, the length of my brining time meant the skin had it’s saltiness without adding any extra. I’m always a little back and forth on salting after brining. If it’s not brined long enough, you almost have to add a little extra. But, it can be a risky proposition.

Now get out there, dig through our BBQ parts storage area and find that rotisserie. Get all of the accumulated crud off of it and put it to use.

As usual, this being a cookbook site. Here’s a few books with some other ideas for cooking a perfect bird.

The Big Book of Chicken: Over 275 Exciting Ways to Cook Chicken
The Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook: Home-Made Meals with Store-Bought Convenience
The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Chicken

A Reconstructed Caprese Salad

A salad is a salad is a salad, and then…

Fresh Basil

One thing that I can grow is basil. I think most everybody can. If you’ve been reading the exploits of my community garden adventure this summer, you’ll know that I can’t grow much more than that. The basil that I’m raising this summer isn’t growing out on that shared plot. Maybe that’s why it’s flourishing.

I’m at the point now where it’s time to start giving some away, start a pesto making operation out of my shed or risk being overtaken by herbs. Before I open my roadside basil stand or break out the heavy duty food processor another option comes to mind. It’s summer, so, how about a Caprese?

In my humble estimation, Caprese is one of the best all around summer salads (avocado, tomato and feta is also right up there for me). The Caprese is nice because you can experiment without taking people too far out of their salad comfort zone. You’ve seen a thousand different platings of this classic starter. Today I was opting for a reconstructed version.

I use the term reconstructed instead of the “oh, so popular” deconstructed, because I consider a Caprese Salad to be deconstructed to begin with. A slice of ripe tomato, a wedge of fresh mozzarella and a leaf or two of aromatic basil. It’s up too you to put it all together on your fork and then in your mouth. You decide the proportions and makeup of each delicious bite. It doesn’t get more deconstructed than that.

My idea was to take the concept one step further. Plate each individual element so that your salad is uniquely you. In short, three separate parts to the serving plate. Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Dressed up a little and then served in a casual, family style manner. Everybody gets to reconstruct in anyway they choose.

I think I got it right!

Caprese Salad

My guests did too!

Here’s How To Do It

Ingredients
2 whole ripe tomatoes, cut in chunks
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn in half
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
On a large serving platter make three rows. One row of tomato chunks, the center mozzarella cheese and the last row basil. Divide the olive oil and drizzle 2 tablespoons over the tomatoes and the other 2 tablespoons over the basil. Divide the balsamic and do the same. Salt and pepper to your liking. Use a large serving fork and let your guests take as much or as little of each ingredients as they like.

Note: Adjust the amount of olive oil and vinegar to your particular taste. Some people like more, some less.

Serves 4

Seeing as this is a cookbook site, here are a few links to some great cookbooks that feature other variations on the classic Caprese. You’ll also find some other recipes that are sure to go great with your salad.

If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons
Insalate: Authentic Italian Salads for All Seasons
Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes