|BoBo and Riley Rose circa 1999|
Food Wine and Marcy
I am a Smothers + I am a mother = Smothers Day.
Contrary to popular belief, the busiest day of the year for restaurants isn't Valentine's Day, it's the second Sunday in May honoring moms. For that reason, I often cook, not only to avoid the crowds but because I love it. And what to make this year? Two recipes named for my kids in my book, SNACKS: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle. It's their favorite foods, not mine, but as hokey as it sounds, if they're happy, I'm happy.
Especially on Smothers Day.
RILEY ROSE'S RIBS
I won’t call my daughter Riley Rose a picky eater. I prefer the term selective. One food she has always adored is oranges and who doesn’t love ribs? When you’re making your tea in the morning, make a few extra cups for this marinade. Get in the fridge early and enjoy tasty baby backs for dinner.
Serves 4 – 6 as main course and 10 as an hors d’oeurve
4 pounds baby back ribs (Ideally 2 racks at 2 pounds each)
FOR THE MARINADE:
3 Orange Pekoe Tea Bags (Lipton’s Yellow Label Tea is a blend of orange and black pekoe tea)
2 cups water
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup molasses
¼ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves
3 sprigs rosemary
FOR THE GLAZE:
½ cup orange marmalade
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Cut racks in half, but no more, as pre-sliced ribs will dry out quickly while cooking.
Boil water and brew tea. Be sure your final yield is a full 2 cups.
In a medium sized bowl add vinegar, soy sauce, molasses and mustard. Slowly whisk in olive oil.
Add tea to mixture, whisk all ingredients one more time, and place in refrigerator to cool, about 30 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add whole garlic cloves, rosemary and ribs. Squeeze out all air and seal bag tightly. Give it a few shakes to be immerse ribs in marinade and put in refrigerator. Marinate for 8 hours or overnight, turning the bag several times to keep the ribs covered in marinade on all sides.
To make the glaze, put all ingredients in a small saucepot. Heat over medium low until marmalade is dissolved. Turn off heat and set aside.
Remove ribs from refrigerator. Discard marinade and let ribs stand for 20 minutes. Put ribs on rack on top of sheet pan lined with foil.
Bake 1 ½ to 2 hours. Add glaze during the final 10 minutes of cooking.
Allow ribs to rest ten minutes then serve.
If you want an easier and quicker way to get the ribs marinating, use 2 cups premade sweet tea to replace molasses and 2 cups brewed tea.
BO’S FRIED RICE
I took my son Bo to China when he was in the sixth grade. We had a contest to see who would give in and eat Western food first. I lost. I was craving a mixed green salad. Bo’s staple was fried rice. There are many variations in China and here in the USA. It’s meant to be made with leftover and stale rice, so plan accordingly. If you are making it for dinner tonight, make the rice as soon as possible, as it must be cold. For the pork, I’ve never had success getting the same color and flavor for char siu at home, so I buy an appetizer portion of sliced BBQ pork from my local Chinese restaurant. Lastly, and most importantly, all your ingredients must be prepped and measured before you start as the stir-frying goes very quickly.
Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish
4 cups cooked long grain rice, cold and best a day old
1 tablespoon oil
¼ cup minced onions
2 eggs lightly beaten
4 cups cooked long grain rice, cold or better a day old
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 cup defrosted frozen peas and carrots.
1 cup BBQ pork, about a half a pound, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 green onions, sliced thinly
Heat oil in large skillet or wok. Be sure the cooking surface is completely coated.
When oil is hot add onions. Saute quickly until they are lightly browned, about 1 minute.
Add eggs and stir frequently until they are starting to set, about 30 seconds.
Add rice and mix well with onion and eggs, about 3 minutes.
Add soy sauce and oyster sauce, constantly moving rice to blend and evenly color rice.
Add carrots and peas, stirring all the time, about 3 minutes.
Add pork and continue stir- frying, about 1 minute.
Serve on warm platter and sprinkle top of rice with green onions.
The Chinese often use sausage in their fried rice, so if you can’t get BBQ pork, use Aidells'
chicken and apple sausage or pineapple and bacon sausage.
Oyster sauce is readily available in the Asian section of the supermarket.
If you are omitting the pork to make a vegetarian version, look for “vegetable” oyster sauce, which is available at Asian stores and online.
The Ghost Host.
Paul Frees is the voice you hear when you enter the Haunted Mansion, "Welcome foolish mortals..."
SNACKS: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle, it was Doughboy's connection to my beloved Disneyland that inspired one of my first recipes:
DOUGHBOY BREAKFAST ROLLS
Poppin’ Fresh crescent rolls were a staple at holiday dinners when I was growing up in the San Fernando Valley. I take them to a new level, and a new time of day, with these kid-friendly, eat with your hands, breakfast rolls.
Nothing says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven.
8 slices pancetta or 8 strips bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
½ small red bell pepper, diced
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons chives, or more to taste, minced
1 package Pillsbury crescent rolls
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the pancetta or bacon in a hot skillet until browned. Remove and drain on paper towels. Wipe the excess oil from the pan.
Melt the butter and add the red bell peppers. Cook 5 minutes.
Add the eggs and stir gently a few times.
Add the cheese.
Cook until eggs are just binded, not completely cooked. Remove eggs from heat sooner than you normally would to set, as they will continue cooking in the oven.
Mix in chives and set aside.
Unfold the rolls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Spoon 2 teaspoons of the egg mixture into the center of the dough and fold each edge toward the center.
Bake for 13 - 15 minutes.
|Chef D and Me|
The skill development class was taught by the affable Chef D, John DeShetler, who has been a professor at the Hyde Park campus for over thirty years.
I knew we were going to be a match when he opened our first lecture with a crack about cooking vegetables:
"Listen, I get the to each his own thing, but for me, undercooked vegetables are nothing more than hot crudite."
Now that's funny. It may be somewhat of an inside, foodie-centric joke, but it spoke volumes to me about why I was at the CIA. There are standards in professional kitchens and while I may not always practice them at home, I wanted to learn about them and share them in my book.
Everything from when to use a lid when cooking your veggies to the hidden treasures in kiwi fruit and chicken.
There are fifteen aisles of tales, tips, technique and trivia.
C'mon, have a Snack!
|Guy Fieri, Mollie Katzen and me outside our KJ recording studio.|
(Never fails: One door closes, another opens.)
The backstory begins while I was reminiscing about the show with frequent guest and Kitchen Cabinet Member Mollie Katzen. She commented that she had listened to the radio feature SNACKS on my website. When she suggested I should turn them into a book I was taken aback. I wasn’t a writer. Mollie was a writer - and a James Beard award wining one at that. When she offered to introduce me to her literary representative I was flabbergasted, but heeding the depression-era advice of my dear pal William T. Young, I took the cookies when they were passed. That was nearly four years ago. An agent named Steve, three proposals, a dozen submissions, and a big YES from Nancy Hancock at HarperOne, SNACKS:Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle will be released on May 7.
SNACKS is more than cooking and culinary advice, it's a storybook with recipes.
The recipes pair with the anecdotes - that way you can share an hors d’oeurve featuring endive and settle the argument about how to correctly pronounce it, too.
Since I prefer food shopping to any other shopping, clothes and shoes included, I set the book in a supermarket. You never know what tidbit or tasty treat you'll find in each aisle.
Check it out by clicking on the SNACKS book cover or right here.
|Interviewing Armandino Batali at the Kendall-Jackson Tomato Festival|
Mario Batali was in town to co-host the Chef Tables in the Vineyard fundraiser with Guy Fieri. Guy hosted a dinner the night before at Tex Wasabi, and I was lucky to be one of the handful of guests. Seated to my left was the impossibly handsome Dino from the Italian food emporium Eataly. To my right was the impossibly charming Armandino, "Pops" to Mario. Armandino is quite famous in his own world - not just for being the father of one of the world's best chefs - for being a master salumist. After retiring as an engineer at Boeing he went to Italy and dedicated himself to learning the craft of curing meats. His Seattle restaurant, Salumi, is worthy of a pilgrimage for any pal of pork.
I peppered Armandino with questions, but there was one that really got his attention:
How much of salami making is art and how much is science?
The answer surprised me. 60% science and 40% art. It surprised Mario, too, because his guess was 80% art and 20% science.
Armandino explained that all sorts of bad bacteria and microbial mishaps can occur in the process, including botulism, which can be fatal. (Thus my suggestion that purposely poisoned paninis could settle a beef or two.)
At the end of the evening Armandino invited me to come to Seattle and "put on a white coat." Salumi-speak for an opportunity to learn the art and science of curing meats with him. Mario looked at me with wide eyes and commented that his dad doesn't make that offer often.
Honored, I accepted, and we sealed the deal with a pinky promise. A first for Armandino, but he agreed to this unusual contract, and I'll be making (safe) sopresatta soon.
A meal just isn't a meal without a crisp, and I do mean crisp, salad.
The basics begin with dry lettuce and greens in the proper ratio of crunch to color. (Please note the distinction that greens are loose and lettuce has a stem.)
The accompaniments should be few and not too heavy.
The bowl, wooden, as plastic and metal don't enhance they detract.
All of the above should be kept in the refrigerator to keep it cold (duh).
It's easy to sabotage a salad with the last step. The dressing should be applied sparingly and tossed at the last minute to avoid soaked-syndrome.
To wit, here's my little secret:
I halve toybox tomatoes and marinate them in olive oil, sea salt, paprika and pepper. Just before we sit down, I remove the aforementioned wooden bowl form the fridge, set the bowl of tomatoes in it, along with half a lemon.
The whole lot goes on the table until it is time to enjoy the salad. Then, and only then, do I add the tomato mixture to the greens and lettuces and toss it all together with a generous squeeze of lemon.
Easy, breezy and meets criteria.
Best of all, when the salad is done right, no one has to be fired at the end of the night.
I was on the plane chatting with my seatmate, a medical researcher from Stanford, about our plans in New York. He told me he was presenting a lecture to his physician colleagues about his specialty - a rare pulmonary disease that effects young women. “Impressive,” I said sincerely.
When he queried about the purpose of my visit I responded, “I'm going to the CIA.”
The good doctor stared at me in disbelief and after a few moments said, “Now that’s impressive.”
Cooking? Really? Then I realized he thought I was a bad ass for the Feds. I was tempted to impersonate Clarice Starling then thought the better of it. “I’m going to the Culinary Institute of America to take a class in the art and science of cooking.”
“Oh, well that’s cool, too, “ he replied before going back to his power point.
Yup, it is cool, at least for a geek like me whose enthusiasm for all things food is insatiable.
Arriving very early the next morning at the Hyde Park campus, I was bleary-eyed and admittedly a tad intimidated. There was no opportunity to hesitate; we changed into our checkered pants and a white chefs coats faster than you can grill a steak. Our instructor, Chef Mark Ainsworth, launched into his lecture about making food taste as good as it can possibly taste. He talked about time and temperature, denaturing proteins, heat transfer, phosphates in chicken, cellulose in vegetables, the trigeminal nerve, sous vide and umami. We didn’t have to do push ups but I could see why the CIA calls this Boot Camp.
After a quick break our group of eight was whisked into the kitchen. We were assigned teammates and I lucked out with Mark. He’s a Cornell-educated engineer (he did all the weight to volume conversions for math challenged me), a veteran of five CIA courses and an accomplished home cook. We went over our assignments and prepared our mise en place. It felt a bit like Top Chef, four teams working against the clock, yet it wasn’t competitive at all. We plated our dishes, experiments with controls and variations, and awaited the evaluation. I received two “perfectly cooked” comments from Chef, one was for microwaved cauliflower mind you, but this is a science class as much as a cooking class, and I knew I was in for a good week.
Actually, it was a great week, despite wearing an incredibly unflattering toque and the uber-misleading chef pants. Those elasticized waistbands are not your friend. All the tasting and eating and no jeans to remind you that discretion is advised. We met Chef Clark, an eccentric and brilliant teacher, think Christopher Lloyd of Back to the Future with a fish, who reminded me why food is fascinating. It was intoxicating to hear, “Behind you chef,” even though I am not a real chef nor do I aspire to be. Our class dined at Escoffier, one of five working classroom restaurants at the CIA, as we bonded over a delicious student prepared meal and reminisced about our kitchen adventures. The week whizzed by and I wanted more. And that’s the fun of food: There's always more to eat and there’s always more to learn.