Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday Night

So, after a delicious dinner on Sunday with the crew, Monday left us to our own devices, and an opportunity to get back in the kitchen after a solid two weeks of not cooking. The wedding/honeymoon and general activity/business travel kept us eating out for a solid week upon our return. No more, my friends. Monday brings us to simplicity in the kitchen, simplicity in the form of Salmon Patties.

Yep -- think crab cakes, but, made with canned salmon. A family recipe perfected over the years exists; however, I didn't have that recipe handy when it was time to make them. So, we improvise.

Salmon Patties:
One can (the big one) of Red Salmon -- I like Honey Boy. Mostly for the name.
One Lemon
1/2 a small red onion, minced
Spices -- garlic, lemon pepper, Old Bay
If, you had some celery, red pepper and/or zucchini, that would be nice too.

Mince up that onion, and throw it into a skillet with a little olive oil and salt & pepper, to sauté. If you’ve got red pepper, mince it and add with the onion. If you’ve got celery and zucchini, mince and add after the other vegetables have softened a bit.

Meanwhile, open up that can, and dump your salmon log out onto a plate. Take some time to pick out the big bones. I also like to de-fat and de-skin the salmon as much as possible. This makes for a better patty. Once you've cleaned your fish a satisfactory amount, throw away those bones and mash up the remaining fish, and then place in a mixing bowl.

By now, your onion should be nicely golden. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. While the onion cools, zest and juice the lemon into the bowl with the salmon. Add your onion. Now, spice the patties as you see fit. I probably used 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon+ of Old Bay. As has been suggested by so many chefs, season the mix until you think it tastes good.

Add a handful of Panko crumbs, and mix it all together. It should form balls fairly easily. If it's too dry, add some mayo -- a tablespoonful at a time. Too wet? Add more Panko. Let the mix firm up a bit in the fridge, maybe twenty minutes or so, before you form the mix into patties -- I generally get 5 from a batch. Heat a skillet with a bit of olive oil, and sauté the patties till golden brown and delicious.

These patties were served with green peas from a can (gross! -- Joy likes them) and cheesy garlic biscuits from a package -- which were delicious. Though, not nearly as delicious as the cheddar bay biscuit from Red Lobster -- which, as it turns out, is the only thing worth eating at the Pirate's Cove.

*Please note, I added an egg, for binding power, to my patties. This was absolutely unnecessary, and should not be repeated.


Beef returns! Posting extravaganza!

He's back, all full of marriage and wedded bliss. And with more reviews and recipes to post than time, so, we're going to try and roll them all up into one.

For those who haven't figured it out, I was recently married. It was a glorious affair, which took place on the Carnival Conquest, in Galveston Texas. Let me start by mentioning something which most of you have heard me say in the last couple of weeks; do not, under any circumstances, attempt to plan a wedding (and honeymoon) in a hurricane prone area anywhere near hurricane season. Even if the event is slated to take place [the day] after hurricane season ends, it takes time to clean up after one blows through your destination. Or so it would seem. Anyway, when it was all said and done, it was wonderful; a good time was had by all.

On to the review[s].

Cory and I had a brief conversation the other night about the food at my reception. And he's right, the good people at Carnival excel at all things fried, buttered, or covered in cheese. What little bit of food I had at the reception was tasty. Especially the smoked salmon and cream cheese on little toasts. I made more than one breakfast out of that smoked salmon on a bagel. I also enjoyed the blue cheese stuffed mushroom, and the tasty, if not overly warm, spring roll. Cory mentioned the drinks, particularly the blue margarita, or hangover punch. I was made aware that we could order beer, so, that's what I did. I did have a sip of the aforementioned margarita, and can say with some confidence that it was likely vodka fueled, and possibly made with Boone's Farm. Melonball-tini anyone?

I'm not going to review all the meals, but I will mention the highlights, and the lowlights.

Let's start low. The entree on the first night was not what I would call spectacular. I, among others at our table, ordered the strip steak. It did come out the requested medium rare but was grey and tasteless. I used steak sauce on this guy. I never use steak sauce, except of course when I'm having the $2.99 strip at The Horseshoe and it's 3am. The rest of the meal was good, standouts including the Caesar salad, and the warm chocolate melting "cake". The cake, which is a soufflé, is outstanding. Served with vanilla ice cream, it's available every evening. This would be our dessert on more than one occasion.

Highlight: Sur Mer, the fish and chips restaurant hidden on deck 10. Great fish and chips, crispy, light, and prepared to order. Joy really liked the fried oysters, I can't say the same, but I'm of the opinion that if you're not eating them raw, you're wasting them. With the occasional exception for a rockefeller-ing, or bienville-ing of said bivalve. The standout at Sur Mer was the zucchini, artichoke[?] and calamari fritter. Fried to order, full of spice, and deliciousness, and available every day from noon to two-thirty. Carnival's fry team strikes again.

Lowlight: The breakfast buffet. It's fairly standard hotel style breakfast buffet. There is a guy cooking omelets, which is nice, but, other than that, it's food for the masses. Joy did like the French toast, however. My advice, skip the buffet and order continental from room service.

Highlight: The appetizers at dinner. Particularly the escargots. So much butter and garlicky goodness. It's important to remember that you can order as much as you want, so, if you find something you like, hit it again. Other appetizer standouts include the stuffed mushrooms, the always available shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad. In general, the apps were really well done – I can’t think of one that I didn’t enjoy thoroughly

Mediocre-light: The evening that included a duck entrée choice, or shrimp and lobster. The lobster was tough, the duck was overcooked. The duck was delicious, and the sauce was tasty, but, that doesn’t change the fact that it was WELL done. Also, the poor fowl hadn’t been prepped properly and was left with 100% of his fat, making his all too delicious skin soggy and inedible. Yeah, I know, I should know better than to order duck, but, up until that point, with the exception of the first night, they’d been doing really well.

Highlight: The “supper club” restaurant, aka “The Point”. A $30 per person up charge gets you into this 5 course extravaganza of made to order dishes. Think of a Kirby’s or Bob’s, that costs $30 per person. For apps, I had the French onion soup, and Joy had the Lobster bisque. Both were overly congnac-ey, but, still very tasty. Follow that with a Caesar salad, and then, the entrée. Joy and I both had the rib eye, at 18oz, prepared to our liking. I had the three peppercorn sauce; however, it was not necessary. We had a side of the mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach. For dessert, Joy had a trio of chocolaty things, which were all tasty, but, at this point we were too full to eat them. This brings me to my dessert, the cheese plate.

I’ll pull a still from the video of the cheeses that I shot. Suffice it to say that I was served approximately one pound of cheese, from a selection of four cheeses. No joke, they laid down what was likely at least $25 worth of cheese on my plate, if not more. All of them were some level of delicious, and I managed to eat at least one bite of all four, before I had them wrap it up and send it to my room for late night snacking. All in all, the supper club is NOT a Bob’s, Kirby’s or Silver Fox. It is delicious, and at only $30, quite the value.

As I’m now deep into my 2nd page, I’ll go ahead and end here. If you have any specific questions, let me know, but, I’ve done my best to give the highlights for a full week of cruise food.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Massive [Economic Stimulus] Package / Chili Post

Because it is now almost Thanksgiving and because temperatures in TX have dipped below a frigid 50 degrees at least 5 times, with it is high time for a post about chili. This is a post that could likely go on forever, given the endless permutations of sweet, hot, and beefy that you decide to combine. We start with a fan submission, entitled "Bernice's Favorite Chili," named after Bernice. She is a comely woman from the suburbs of an area not far from here and encourages us to listen in class and pay attention to our pension funds.

"Bernice's Favorite Chili" makes 6 servings, and consists of the following:

2 16 oz. cans red kidney beans, drained
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 lbs. ground beef, browned and drained
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. pepper
2 ½ tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in order and cook, covered, in a slow cooker, Crock Pot, I guess, on low for 10-12 hrs or on high for 5-6 hours.

The BeefRobot fans who contributed Bernice's now-famous concoction are no other than Blake and Jennipher Rice. Blake tells BR that he enjoys adding a habanero or two to the mix, probably, by our accounts, in inverse proportion to how manly he's feeling that day. For an Asian kick, he will rock a little Sriracha into the mix. If, true to his Xavier U. roots, he's feeling a little country, he rocks some Tony C's. Both are commendable.

I have a hard time really nailing down a chili recipe for you, loyal readers, but will chance an attempt at the chili I would make right now, if required to do so. Call it improv food blogging if you will. Call me Charlie Parker.

Grab a sautee pan (not your big chili receptacle). Add:

Some olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced (or just quartered, if you or your upper GI tract don't love garlic)

Sautee for on medium low (don't forget to add salt and pepper -- my instruction on how much is: as much as 1 onion and 6 cloves of garlic need, doi) while you take . . .

1 lb ground beef
.5 lb italian sausage (remove from the casing)

Add to the onion/garlic mixture - make the meat exceedingly fine by letting it cook a little and then separating every last piece until your arm is really f-ing tired

now, grab a beer and wait until you've got about 10 more minutes left on the meat; take the pot in which you will put the chili . . . make a roux; at medium low heat, add

4 tbsp bacon grease from this morning's bacon (or from your bacon grease stash in the fridge. what, you don't have one? start one!) [if you don't have bacon grease, use vegetable oil, unless you happen to be an old soul who has Crisco, then use that]
black pepper
lots of chili powder (like 10 shakes)
get a big spoon and and the flour
Parse a little flour in at a time while you stir your oil/spice mixture
stop adding flour when the mixture becomes a paste; if it is too dry, add oil; too wet, keep adding flour
when you're at the consistency, keep stirring and let it cook for 5-10 minutes

now drain your meat and add the onion-garlic-meat mixture


2 cans of pinto beans
2 cans diced tomatoes (or 5 diced tomatoes)

Add more chili powder and as much cayenne as you think you need (or a chipotle pepper); give it a little brown sugar - 2-4 tbsp

Add a thing of chicken broth (whatever you've got); if not, just use water but remember you'll need a little more seasoning. Some people add beer. I think this is wasteful; same for wine. If you want to be able to call your chili "Shiner Chili," add the beer. Whatever.

Hit this with a touch of cinammon. 1 shake. Taste the chili. You probably need more salt. Maybe Tony C's? Maybe just salt.

Once I start making chili, I really crave it, so I hate cooking it for long times. I can usually contain myself for an hour or two, though if my chili is looking watery, I will force myself to wait. Keep an eye on the stuff for getting too dry. This is one of the perils of cooking as I do, not measuring ingredients. I like to think the additional attention I have to give food is a good thing.

When its ready to eat, I add shitloads of cheddar and maybe crackers. Sometimes, rarely, sour cream. Oh yea, and some green onion, if, as my dad is known to say, "you are rich."

Grub on this mess hard. You will not hate yourself for it.

Robot OUT (to search for Beef)!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Some wine

After so much food, who can forgo a little wine? I give you a wine review in the absence of a review of Bistro D'Oc, where we hit up a pre-theater menu (the [cheap] way to grub here -- for me: pate, poached salmon with hollandaise on mashed sweet potatoes rife with cumin, and cream puffs + a free glass of [what I have determined to be] Franzia Burgundy -- $21.95).

But, on to the promised fare: a wine review. Tonight allowed us consumption of 2 bottles. Both were from the Whole Foods 20% off on a case of wine sale that just happened. The first bottle tonight was from a part of the Monterey County AVA that I only thought was new to me, Arroyo Seco. You will find the 2005 Jekel Vinyards Cabernet Sauvignon we had tonight described here. It was, indeed, quite tasty. To the review found there, I would add that this wine was incredibly drinkable and with a mild flavor of jalapeno jelly.

The second bottle was the 2007 Cline Zinfandel, which, I will be honest, I thought would be way too young to be anywhere near desirable. I was wrong; it was tasty as hell. While it is very light at the rim, which did not help my initial judgment of the wine, the body is full and with a hefty tobacco/clove punch. This punch is followed by a nice vanilla (from the oak), cherry flavor and a medium finish. This wine, in other words, is what you want.

So far, the Whole Foods / Cory-is-buying-anything-under-$12 sale rocks. Tomorrow very well may lead to another case, so stay tuned!

Robot out! Beef should be back from the cruise any day now -- reviews, it will be certain, await!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beef on Honeymoon, Robot Reporting

After the electric-blue-and-definitely-not-tequila-based margaritas at the Peveto reception aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' best impressionist painting-cum-ship, I simply had to report in. The "Degas-rhymes-with-Vegas" Room [a quote from one of the hands on deck] was the reception site; Toulouse-Latrec's art decorated the ceremony area. Degas ballerina caryatids were the newel posts of many a stairwell, making for a delightfully arty promenade around, well, the promenade deck.

We grubbed a solid lunch buffet, including some standard chicken and lasagna dishes and the unquestioned winner of the hour, the Eggplant Tart. It was a slice of the aubergine atop puff pastry, topped with some mozzarella. The puff pastry was fairly light and the balance of all three flavors (along with a little tomato sauce, I believe), was very well-executed. Given more time (say, a week on the cruise ship), I might have added a couple of inches to the old waistline in Eggplant Tart alone.

By the way, did you know the eggplant is classified as a berry and is closely related both to tomatos and to tobacco? Try peeling your next eggplant and using it in place of potato for an interesting changeup. Or, continue to hate it because you "don't like the texture." (Now that we've said that, I should tell you that I initially left out the 'l' in peeling in the second sentence of this paragraph. That particular method is for paid professionals only. Do not try at home!)

The reception featured some tasty mushroom balls - a delight to Brad, no doubt - as well as some very good chicken nuggets. They weren't McDonald's quality or anything, but it is hard to make a chicken nugget really good, and these were really good. The ship seemed to succeed at frying various things, and even if they didn't keep everything piping hot, the food at least tasted very good.

I conclude with a great prayer of thanks and love to the fine folks at Pappasito's, who were so kind as to have added a take-out location at Houston's Hobby airport. 3 cheese enchiladas, rice, and beans made for 2 full bellies on the flight back to D.C. You may scoff, but Pappasito's was the best Tex-Mex we have had in months.

Robot out (to finish the capicola and emmenthaler sandwich sitting here).