Archive for June, 2008

Technique: Peeling a Tomato

Posted on June 30, 2008. Filed under: easy, summer, technique, vegetable |

It’s tomato season. The vines are heavy with ripe red (yellow, orange, black…) fruit. The question often asked at this time of year is: ‘How do I peel the damn thing?’

It’s a pretty simple process, really. Bring a pot of water to boil. Submerge tomatoes for about 45 seconds. Immediately transfer tomatoes to an ice water filled bowl. This is done to stop the tomatoes from cooking. After a minute remove tomatoes from ice bath. The skin will now have separated from the meat of the tomato, making it easy to peel. Hooray!

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Saturday Special: I Love This

Posted on June 28, 2008. Filed under: bacon, hodgepodge |

My friend Nico found this on

I would like to add another line on the graph representing happiness of the belly, which would go up exponentially as bacon consumption increased.

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Drink of the Day: Tom Collins

Posted on June 27, 2008. Filed under: drinks, easy, hodgepodge |

Unless you’re old enough to have served in the Korean War, it’s quite possible you’ve never had a well made Tom Collins. What you’ve probably had is a concoction of high fructose corn syrup sweet & sour mix / high fructose corn syrup sprite, and cheap gin. No good.

Made properly, the Tom Collins is a refreshing cocktail, perfect for an early evening drink.

Two Parts Dry Gin
One Part Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
One Part Simple Syrup°
Club Soda/Soda Water/Seltzer
Two Ice Cubes
Slice of Orange or Lime

Pour gin, lemon juice, and syrup over ice cubes. Stir. Add soda to fill glass. Stir again. Twist fruit slice. Use twisted slice as garnish. Drink.

°Simple syrup is a great name to describe what it is. Add one part sugar to one part water, boil. Simple. (Note: Make a decent amount of this for summertime use. Use it to sweeten iced tea.)

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Garlic Chicken Delight

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: poultry, recipe |

Two Chicken Breasts, sliced very thinly
4 Cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
1/4 Cup Mirin
1/8 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Oil

I like this one. It’s tasty and, while the garlic is pronounced, it’s sweet and mild. The key is to find garlic as fresh as can be. This is a tough task, as grocery store garlic tends to have sat around for awhile. Best bet, as always, is the farmers’ market. If you get it there, and you’re lucky enough to find heads with stems attached, you’re stoked. The innermost part of the stem is edible and wonderfully sweet. Chop that and only use two cloves of the sweet sweet garlic. If you purchase at a supermarket, look for garlic with really tight skin, that will be the freshest.

Begin by sauteing garlic in the oil over medium heat for a minute. Turn heat to high, and add the chicken. Cook for about three minutes, till chicken is done. Add all the other ingredients, and cook two minutes. Thicken with 1/4 cup cornstarch slurry.

For the uninitiated, mirin is a sweet cooking wine made from rice. It has a swell flavor.

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Idea: Don’t Worry About Perfection

Posted on June 20, 2008. Filed under: easy, favorite, hodgepodge |

There are a lot of resources that will tell you how to perfectly cook an egg, or will show you the only way to roast a chicken. Well, I say balderdash.

Look, at the end of the day, eating good food is about what tastes good to you. Perhaps you’ve noticed my recipes specify things like 3-4 cloves of garlic. That’s because there is no right answer. There’s a ballpark you need to be in, but maybe you don’t love garlic as much as I do. So put in less. It’s alright.

The omelet pictured above was made at 2:30AM. I was hammered. I wanted eggs. I didn’t think about setting the pan just right, adding the perfect amount of cream, lovingly flipping it over. I had some good cheese and leftover bacon, threw it in there, and scrambled it up. And, my oh my, it was great.

I write this because I feel that a lot of people are intimidated into thinking they can’t cook because they don’t have the perfect technique. Well don’t stress it my friends, you can do it too. The more you cook, the more you’ll learn what tastes right together for you.

There is an exception to this: do worry about perfection in the ingredients you use. Buy fruits in season. Get grass fed beef. If you do, the rest is easy.

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French Beans With Bacon

Posted on June 18, 2008. Filed under: bacon, easy, healthy, recipe, summer, vegetable |

1/3 Pound French Beans, use string beans in necessary
2-3 Slices Bacon
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Shallot, diced
1/2 Sweet Bell Pepper, diced

Goodness, this is a tasty one. It’s a nice compromise dish, too. You get to eat some healthy veg, but there’s a little bacon, too.

Begin by dicing two (or three…) slices of bacon. Cook over medium heat until bacon turns a nice mahagony. Remove bacon to a paper towel, and drain off most of the fat, leaving about two tablespoons.

Add garlic, shallots, and beans. Cook for about four minutes, until the beans begin to show a bright green color. Add diced bell pepper, and cook another minute. Add bacon, a pinch of salt, toss, and serve.

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Technique: Deep Frying

Posted on June 16, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, technique |

When I tell people I have a personal deep fryer, I am often met with shock. ‘Really, Hal B., why would you want to deep fry something. It’s so unhealthy…’

Now, I’m not going to claim that a deep fried delight is healthier than a piece of steamed tofu. However, fried right, it’s not nearly as bad for you as you might think. It’s also damn tasty.

Let’s begin with the oil. Vegetable and canola (soybean) oil are your best bets. They are liquid at room temperature (thus liquid in your body), and have no saturated fats. Be aware that canola oil comes from large monoculture soy farms. Since you’re able to reuse the oil for a long time, your environmental footprint still won’t be too large, at least. Sadly, you should avoid lard, tallow, and other heavily saturated oils. They taste swell, but should be reserved for an occasional treat due to their general unhealthfulness.

Let’s talk about grease and timing. When one complains that their fried food is ‘greasy,’ it’s often a result of over-frying. Here’s the deal: deep frying is a battle between oil and water. The oil is trying it’s best to get inside what you’re cooking. This is prevented by water vapor from the inside trying to escape. The result is the crispy, delicious meeting point that we all know and love. Things go wrong when all the water vapor escapes. Then…oil saturation. Greasy food. Bad bad bad things. To prevent this, use your eyes and ears. A killer golden brown crust is a sign that the battle is over. Even more importantly, you’ll be able to hear it. The popping ‘fry’ sound is a sign things are going well. The reaction is happening. When that sound slows, oil is going to make your food greasy. Remove it, now.

Finally, let’s talk temperature. You want to fry somewhere between 325 and 375 degrees. The temperature will depend on the thickness of what you’re cooking. The thinner the food, the higher the temperature. Fry any lower, and the water inside won’t have time to heat up. Remember, when you add food, the temperature of the oil will lower, so give it time to heat back up between batches.

If you don’t own a deep fryer, you can still fry. Use a deep pot. Never fill more than 1/3 of the way. The last thing you want is a grease fire in your kitchen! (If this happens, cover it quickly in flour. Water will make it burn stronger.) Use a kitchen thermometer to judge the temperature, and adjust the heat as needed.

If you do this right, you’ll have crispy treats with no greasyness. Check the oil level before and after- you’ll see it’s just about the same!

We’ll talk about breading in another post.

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Sunday Special: An Interview With Hal B.

Posted on June 15, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge |

Check out an interview I did with the Walla Walla Wine Woman. We chat about my new film Bottle Shock, in theaters on August 8th. It’s a great blog, and a nice preview of Bottle Shock.
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Idea: Your Summer Reading List

Posted on June 13, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge |

So, here’s your summer reading list, in order:

Pollan is today’s foremost food writer.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma will undoubtably change the way you think about food.  You’ll learn how the food you eat get from the farm, or the factory, to the table, and be amazed by the process.  For me, it provided an introduction into how I could make practical changes to where I get my food, and what I choose to eat.  It’s a must read.
Parson’s book will make you hungry.  Really hungry.  How to Pick a Peach is an exciting lesson in fruits and vegetables.  Go ahead, read that last sentence again.  Exciting lesson in fruit and veg?  You bet.  If my farmers’ market post didn’t have you jumping into the market, this book surely will.  It’s a quick read, filled with knowledge and recipes for all seasons.
Kingsolver is probably the best author of the bunch.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles her family’s attempt to spend a year eating only local foods.  Don’t worry, it’s not a hair-shirted, hippy, change your life by being righteous piece.  It’s totally sensible, providing practical ideas about small changes that will make life better.  There is a wealth of knowledge in here.  As an added bonus for us meat lovers, Kingsolver documents why meat eating not only isn’t bad, but, if done the right way, the smart way, can actually be beneficial!

Another top notch book by Michael Pollan.  In Defense of Food expands upon his earlier works, and looks into the general Western diet.  He examines how our culture has gone from a society of eating real food to a society of eating over-processed ‘nutrients’.   Pollen points out that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers probably wouldn’t recognize much of what we eat as food.  And if they wouldn’t think it was food, why should we.  This one really made me see the silliness in fad diets, and how it’s important to eat real food.
In my opinion, MFK Fisher still ranks at the top of America’s food writing ladder.  Her works, especially The Art of Eating, have influenced every food writer and cook to follow in her footsteps.  Julia Child, Alice Waters, even Anthony Bourdain would not be who they are without her writing.  Neither would I.  Very much worth the read if you have the time.
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BBQ Chicken with Bacon and Cheese!

Posted on June 11, 2008. Filed under: bacon, easy, poultry, recipe |

Chicken Breast
Your Favorite Cheese
BBQ Sauce
This one couldn’t be easier.  It couldn’t be more delicious, either.  It could be less kosher, if you use pork chops, I suppose.  Still, it’s pretty unkosher, too.
Cook bacon.  You can use store bough, pre-cooked bacon if you’d like.  Cook chicken.  If you decide to cook the bacon, you can cook the chicken in a little of the bacon fat.  It makes for tasty chicken!
Place cooked chicken on foil.  Spread a layer of your favorite BBQ sauce atop chicken.  Add two slices of bacon to that.  Top with your favorite cheese- I used muenster.  Put it under a broiler or in toaster oven.  Let cheese brown.
See.  Easy.
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