Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Korean Sizzling Beef

September 29, 2009

On a healthy diet, chicken and fish make frequent appearances.  However, sometimes you just crave that rich and meaty flavor of good old-fashioned cow.  This recipe is a great way to work some beef into the rotation without going overboard on the fat (both in the meat itself and in the cooking method.  Flank steak (or skirt steak) is fairly lean, but it can also be somewhat tough.  The marinade (think about it early and definitely leave it overnight), the slicing, and the quick, high-heat cooking time all contribute to the tenderizing of the meat.  And, of course, the marinade also gives this dish great flavor!  With the oniony kick of the scallions and the nuttiness of the brown rice, this dish is balanced and satisfying.  It’s also pretty darn quick and easy.  Just don’t spill the boiling rice all over your feet like I did.  Ouch.

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • One 2 1/2-pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into twenty 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 16 scallions
  • Vegetable oil, for rubbing
  • Salt
  • Steamed rice, for serving
  • In a large, shallow dish, combine the soy sauce with the sugar, white wine, chopped garlic, toasted sesame oil and crushed red pepper, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced flank steak and coat thoroughly in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate the steak for at least 4 hours or overnight.

    Light a grill or heat a griddle. Rub the scallions all over with vegetable oil and grill them over high heat, turning once, until the scallions are just softened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.

    Working in batches, grill the steak over high heat until the slices are richly browned and medium-rare, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer the steak to a serving platter and serve with the grilled scallions and steamed rice.

    Korean sizzling beef

    Tomo Arigato, Mister Naito

    September 28, 2009
    1 Comment

    When my sister asked me what I wanted in terms of a bachelorette party, I knew the answer right away.  “I want sushi!” I begged.  “No penis paraphernalia, no veils, no creepy bar games, no drunken idiocy–just a nice sushi dinner with my sis, followed by classy cocktails with a small group of girlfriends.”  But where to get sushi worthy of my wedding weekend?  Clearly, not just anyplace would do, so I asked the expert (this very knowledgeable gentleman), and my sister and I wound up at Tomo.

    The place itself is somewhat unassuming, lodged in the middle of a Kroger shopping center off Cobb Parkway.  The interior decor, however, is subtle and soothing (I forgot very quickly that we were at a strip mall).  We sat at the sushi bar, which is always my preference, and settled in for a feast.  We ordered wine, and I must say that the pours were quite generous.  The beverage selections were also fairly varied, which is good for someone like me who doesn’t really dig sake (blasphemy, I know).

    Sis and I were debating appetizers when we heard one of the chefs say that there was only one diver scallop left.  Our ears perked up and we practically yelled, “DIBS!!!”  A few moments later, we had a beautiful plate of live scallop sashimi in front of us, served in its own lovely shell and garnished with little dots of hot sauce and flecks of micro cilantro.  It was somehow light and rich at the same time, and absolute perfection in terms of presentation.  Fantastic.

    For our entree, we decided to share some sashimi and a couple of sushi rolls.  The dinner sashimi platter included shrimp, scallops, tuna, salmon, and yellowtail belly, and it was all extremely fresh and well-presented.  In terms of rolls, we kept it pretty simple and opted for eel and cucumber (my absolute favorite) and yellowtail and scallion, both of which were really good.  The rice was the perfect stickiness, and the ingredients were top-notch.  When the HUGE plate of food came out initially, we thought we’d be there all night…but we were finished with all of the deliciousness far sooner than we anticipated.  Funny how that works.

    I was contemplating ordering some uni for “dessert,” because let’s face it, dessert at most sushi restaurants leaves something to be desired.  I’d much rather have more raw fish than eat one more bowl of green tea ice cream, ya know?  But Chef Naito assured us that dessert at his restaurant was not to be missed (even though he also said that the uni was a great choice as well).  We trusted him and told him to pick his two best desserts for us, so we ended up with the “chocolate plant” and the “mango sunny-side up.”  The former was a rich, decadent chocolate creation that was thicker than a mousse but every bit as smooth and velvety.  It was in a little glass, covered in some crushed chocolate that was meant to look like dirt, and there was a beautiful sprig of fresh mint that appeared just like it was growing out of the dish.  It reminded me of a grown-up version of a “dirt dessert,” with gummy worms and Oreos.  Ah, childhood.  The mango dessert…well, the picture below is better than any description I could offer.


    The “egg white” was actually a coconut panna cotta, the “yolk” was a mango jelly, and the “bacon” was crepe strips.  Very creative, and very tasty.

    I cannot wait for another excuse to go to Tomo.  All of that food was about $100 (before tip), so it’s not everyday sushi, but it is definitely worth the wait and the price tag.  Thanks to Chef Naito and my sissy for a wonderful dinner.

    Top Chef Las Vegas, Episode 6

    September 25, 2009

    I really liked this episode.  Not because of who won the elimination challenge (more on that in a moment), not because there was a bull testicle joke at Padma’s expense, and definitely not because of the presence of Penn & Teller.  I liked this episode because it got us one step closer to the real deal, and because it really seemed to challenge even the seemingly unshakable (ahem, Jennifer).

    The episode starts with everyone moping about how they miss Mattin.  They miss him so much that they raid his closet and steal all of his MILLIONS of kerchiefs.  They also miss him so much that they start bagging on Robin, claiming that she should have been eliminated instead.  Robin seems to know that everyone in the house has it out for her, but she doesn’t seem too concerned.  This clearly means that she will either win big or go home.  It all hinges on the…quickfire challenge!  Michelle Bernstein is the guest judge, and the challenge is for the chefs to create a “duo” dish that represents the angels and devils on their shoulders.  The top dishes are Mike V.’s salmon two ways (traditional vs. modern), Eli’s scallops two ways (healthy vs. buttery), and Robin’s salad and dessert (good vs. bad).  Robin emerges victorious and wins immunity.  There is much consternation amongst the chefs because Robin totally played the cancer card, which I can sort of understand because, hey, I’ve done that a time or two myself.  Do NOT judge me.  It’s one of the only GOOD things about having cancer.  Anywho, I don’t think it really matters, since Michelle Bernstein would definitely tell you if your food tasted like crap, regardless of your medical status.

    Penn & Teller appear to introduce the elimination challenge in their own special, not even remotely entertaining way.  The task for the chefs is to deconstruct a classic dish (they draw knives to determine their selections).  There is the usual flurry of activity.  Bryan is tasked with deconstructing a reuben, yet he picks tuna for his protein; Mike V. is making his own brioche for his deconstructed Caesar salad; Mike I. doesn’t know how to make, let alone deconstruct, eggs Florentine; Eli busts out a beat-up pressure cooker, despite the fact that the TC kitchen is stocked with appliances; Jennifer freaks out and gets all Negative Nelly on us because she drew meat lasagna and doesn’t like deconstructing; and Robin talks to herself (much to Laurine’s dismay).  Tom C. actually does a walk-through (remember when he did that every episode?), and the biggest observation is that Jen is a hot mess.  When they go back to the house, everyone bitches some more about Robin.  Theme, anyone?  We know she’s not going home, so I’m kinda thinkin’ we should move on to some RELEVANT manufactured melodrama.

    Dinnertime arrives, and the chefs are serving in pairs.  I am pissed that Toby Young is replacing Gail Simmons.  Mike and Mike go first, and the Voltaggio half of the equation gets praise for his deconstructed Caesar.  He was BORN for this challenge, and everyone kind of gets that.  Laurine and Bryan go next, with the former’s dish (deconstructed fish & chips) being slammed for being overcooked.  Next come Ash and Jen, with deconstructed shepherd’s pie and the aforementioned meat lasagna, respectively.  Ash’s dish does not go over well, largely because of unevenly cooked lamb and the lack of any mashed potato-esque element.  The lasagna gets good reviews.  Eli and Ron are next, and Eli’s riff on sweet and sour pork is where all of the ball jokes come in.  Tom likes the balls, though, so yay.  Ron…well, Ron didn’t really understand the whole “deconstruction” thing, and his paella was basically just plain ol’ paella.  Except it tasted bad, apparently, and Michelle Bernstein was irked about the lack of crunch in her rice.  Next are Ashley and Kevin, with deconstructed pot roast and chicken mole negro.  The pot roast is lauded as being the best-cooked piece of meat the judges have had all night, and the general consensus is that Ashley kicked ass.  Kevin also kicks some ass, with Penn saying that he doesn’t want to eat any other kind of mole after eating this.  I think it’s a testament to his talent that he was able to take something as complex as mole and break it down into clear, tasty components.  Well done.  Last but not least (well, that depends on who you ask) is Robin and her deconstructed clam chowder, and it doesn’t get any positive feedback.

    The top four end up being Ashley, Kevin, Mike V., and Jennifer (despite her whining about her lasagna not coming anywhere close to her standards).  Michelle Bernstein announces that the winner is Kevin–YAY!!!  He scores a set of cookware and some serious dirty looks from Mike V.  The bottom three, not surprisingly, are Ash, Laurine, and Ron.  Toby takes great issue with Ash’s shepherd’s pie, despite Ash explaining that there WAS a parsnip puree that just wasn’t good enough to serve.  Laurine fesses up to the fact that the challenge made her very uncomfortable, as deconstructing food is not her bag, baby (hey, it wasn’t Jennifer’s bag either, as she told us about 100 times, but she still wound up in the winner’s circle).  Ron also admits that he’s never deconstructed anything, and his paella gets knocked for being simultaneously soggy and dry.

    During the deliberations, Toby Young inexplicably chastises the other judges for trying to pronounce paella correctly.  Michelle Bernstein gets snippy and says she pronounces it correctly because she’s Latin.  Uh…Michelle Bernstein?  REALLY?  How silly of me to overlook your rich Latin heritage because of your totally white, Jewish name.  Just because you live in Miami does NOT make you Latin.  Annoying.  Anywho, Ron is sent home, and I have no idea what to expect for next week because my DVR failed me miserably.

    What are your thoughts on this week’s challenges?

    Recipe: Seafood Gumbo with Okra

    September 23, 2009

    As some of you know, my husband recently hung out a shingle and started practicing law as a solo attorney.  Mostly (at least for now) he does indigent criminal defense work, but occasionally he gets retained clients and gets to dabble in other things.  Recently, he helped some folks with a commercial lease agreement, and in addition to paying a retainer, the clients gave him some fresh okra from their garden as a token of their appreciation.  Since we are still trying to eat healthy, fried okra was out of the question.  What’s the next best way to use the little green pods?  Gumbo, of course!

    The recipe inspiration came from Tyler Florence, but I mucked with it significantly.  First of all, I was WAY too lazy to make shrimp stock, and I couldn’t find any kind of seafood stock in my local megamarts.  So, for the base of the soup, I used vegetable stock seasoned and simmered with some Old Bay, lemon, onion, and bay leaves.  Second, the recipe called for shrimp and oysters, but the latter were impossible to find at a price I was willing to pay.  So, I found a frozen seafood mix that worked fairly well.

    The end result was actually really tasty.  Okra is a great thickener, so the gumbo wasn’t weak or watery.  Sure, shrimp stock would have provided some deeper flavor, but there was so much seafood in the stew that I think it evened out a bit.  As with most soups, I loved the way my kitchen smelled while everything was simmering.  My only regret?  Not having some crunchy oyster crackers or Saltines to crush on top of the gumbo (the rice and the veggies are soft, so some textural contrast would have been nice).  Overall, though, I think this is a good base recipe for gumbo that can be modified to suit one’s on-hand ingredients and personal taste.  Enjoy!

    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 yellow onions, chopped
    • 2 celery stalks, chopped
    • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
    • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 1 pound okra, cut into 1/4-inch slices
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
    • 1 (15-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves striped from the stem
    • 2 quarts stock
    • 1 pound peeled shrimp
    • 1 pound seafood of choice (I used a mix of squid, octopus, and mussels)
    • 3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
    • Chopped flat-leaf parsley and green onions, for garnish
    • Crusty French bread

    Start by making a roux base: Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot. Just as the foam subsides, add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk to prevent lumps.  Cook the roux until it’s the color of a walnut and smells equally as nutty, this should take about 15 minutes.

    Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and okra; season with salt, cayenne, and Old Bay. Mix in the tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring now and then, until the vegetables are soft. Pour in the cooled stock and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the gumbo is dark and thick. Toss in the seafood, cook about another 15 minutes; adjust seasoning.

    To serve: Ladle the gumbo into shallow bowls and pile some rice in the center. Sprinkle the parsley and green onions over the top. Pass the French bread and hot sauce at the table.

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    Top Chef Las Vegas, Episode 5

    September 22, 2009

    Okay, I’m back from St. Louis and caught up on the ol’ DVR, so let’s jump right into last week’s episode before THIS week’s episode is upon us.  Frankly, I found this episode pretty meh (perhaps I’m still mourning the loss of Hector), but it needs a recap nonetheless.

    At the beginning of the episode, there are arrogant musings from one of the Voltaggios (Mike, I believe) regarding the fact that talented chefs have been eliminated while mediocre ones remain.  The ingredient for the high-stakes quickfire challenge is cactus, and it was allegedly chosen by the viewers, though I do not recall Chef Colicchio calling and asking for my esteemed opinion.  Tim Love is the guest judge, and the contestants are generally concerned about the goo factor of cactus.  My favorite part of the challenge is Ron telling us that they have cactus in Haiti but that they stay the hell away from those poisonous fuckers.  Tee.  Mike I. is the only chef who seems remotely confident about the ingredient, and he scores a win with his ceviche-esque creation.  While he gets the cash, he does not get immunity.  Whew.

    For their elimination challenge, the chefs must prepare a “high-end” lunch for some hard-working cowboys.  Seriously, that’s all the guidance they get?  High-end?  I feel like the broad, nebulous challenges are a lot harder than the super-restrictive ones, since it’s easier to go crazy and bite off more than you can chew.  Anywho, the contestants will only have an hour and fifteen minutes to cook at the ranch, but they’ll be spending the night there in order to get a feel for the environment.  After they scurry off to Whole Foods, they wind up at a campsite with a bunch of teepees, some fire pits, and a chuckwagon full of pantry supplies.  Again, Ron provides the highlight of the segment when he dismantles a tree and arranges the branches in a voodoo pattern in order to keep the snakes away.  Tee.  Eli asks for the keys to the car, which is exactly what I would do.

    The next morning, the chefs run around like little headless chickens and prepare their food.  Two of them (Mattin and Ron) are making ceviche, as it does not require use of the illustrious fire pits.  I tend to think ceviche is a bad idea, especially on a super hot day, but whatev.  Padma rings the dinner bell to signify that their time is up, and the chowdown begins.  Mike I. serves a gyro, which he pronounces horribly incorrectly and which doesn’t really excite the judges.  The judges are equally meh about Eli’s tuna sandwich, but they really like Laurine’s arctic char, salsa, and grilled potato.

    Ash presents a grilled chicken with succotash, which looks yummy but seems to get a mixed response from the judges.  Mattin’s ceviche is literally spit out by Tom, which methinks does not bode well for our kerchiefed little friend.  Robin’s grilled romaine salad and drunken prawns is universally lauded as awful.  Robin herself admits that she only tasted the prawns after she served them, and that they are pretty darn bad.  She expects to be in the bottom.  At least she’s honest with herself.  Bryan serves a roasted pork loin with polenta, greens, and rutabega, and it looks really tasty.  Jen goes with snapper and a daikon and carrot slaw, which also looks really tasty.  Ashley also cooks fish, riffing off of a club sandwich with her halibut (accompanied by avocado mousse, bacon, and romaine).  All three dishes are received very well by the judges, though Jen’s doesn’t really seem to wow anyone.

    Ron’s coconut ceviche is a tad too sweet, but it is his accompanying cocktail that the judges really hate.  Kevin does a grilled duck with watermelon (marinated in mole and tequila), and it looks like it is cooked very nicely.  Mike V. presents a black cod dashi, which is the strangest cowboy food ever, but the judges really like its flavor and the fact that it is fairly unconventional (at least for THAT environment, anyway).  The top four are Laurine, Ashley, Mike V., and Bryan, and the latter’s pork loin ends up winning the day.  Honestly, this brother-on-brother competition is getting a little bit stale for me, so I hope someone else starts stepping it up.

    The bottom three are Robin, Ron, and Mattin (duh).  Robin fesses up to her dish being lousy, though she does try to explain where she was coming from (and she fails miserably, as Tim Love points out).  When the judges tell Ron that his drink was awful, he cries, “I don’t drink!”  Ron is the winner of this episode in my book.  Comedy gold, my friends.  Mattin is the only chef who is truly shocked to be in the bottom, and Tim Love unapologetically blurts that he felt sick after eating the cod.  Ouch.  Not surprisingly, Mattin and his neckpiece are sent back home to the Basque country, which brings the “contestants I can’t understand” count down to only one: my buddy Ron.

    It should be noted that my hubby and I both burst out laughing when, in the preview for the next episode, Padma says, “I’ve had bull testicles,” and Penn (or Teller?) says, “I bet you have!”  Tee.  Here’s hopin’ that’s not the funniest thing that happens during the next challenge…

    Top Chef Las Vegas, Episode 4

    September 17, 2009

    Well, since my hotel room here in St. Louis does not have Bravo, I will not be watching TC tonight.  I am le sad about this.  However, I should probably post the recap from the last episode before I go watchin’ the next one.  Here goes!

    The quickfire challenge finds the chefs at Daniel Boulud’s restaurant in Vegas, with none other than…Daniel Boulud!  Sadly for him, he is only the second most adorable French chef in this episode.  He announces that their task will be to prepare a dish with snails, and that the loser of the challenge will be going home.  Mattin is clearly excited about the escargot challenge, but Jennifer is nervous as hell despite the fact that she works for a VERY French chef.  There are a flurry of recipes, but Kevin emerges victorious with his escargot fricassee with mushrooms, brussels sprouts, and some sort of sweet bacon jam.  YAY, KEVIN!!!  He gets immunity in the elimination challenge and another TBA goody.  The bottom three are Ashley, Jesse, and Robin.  Instead of axing one of them on the spot, Tom tells them that they will have 20 minutes and all available ingredients to make an amuse bouche.  The losing chef will be eliminated.  Jesse thinks she has it in the bag, since she is preparing a tuna tartare and quail egg dish that she makes in her restaurant all the time.  Jesse is wrong.  She is now the fourth straight woman to be eliminated.  Chicas, get it together!

    The chefs learn that for their elimination challenge, they will be paired up to create dishes using both a classic French protein and a classic French sauce.  They will be serving their dishes to famous French chefs.  Kevin gleefully learns that he does not have to compete, and that instead he will be dining with all of the esteemed Frenchies, including the one and only Joel Robuchon (who, in case you were wondering, is the most adorable French chef in this episode).  All of the non-Kevin chefs race off to Whole Foods for their French ingredients, which prompts my husband to ask, “Since when does Whole Foods regularly stock frog legs?”  Since Bravo called and demanded that they stock frog legs, of course.

    Speaking of frogs, the dinner guests gather and include the usual panel and the likes of Hubert Keller and Laurent Tourondel.  Again, I emphasize that the man himself, Chef Robuchon, is the most prosh of all of the Frenchies, and he is made even more prosh by the fact that he doesn’t speak English and has a prosh little translator that he pulls out of his prosh pouch when necessary.  I find it funny that Kevin is seated down at the end of the table with the translator.  Also speaking of frogs, Ron and Robin present their dish first, and it combines Kermit with meuniere sauce.  They don’t slam the dish, but they don’t love it, either.  Mike I. and Bryan serve a cured trout with a deconstructed bearnaise sauce, which looks incredible on the plate and goes over very well with the diners.  Eli and Laurine, who have been conspicuously absent from most of the episode (minus a few hilarious, snarky comments from Eli), present an unimpressive lobster and sauce Americaine.  Mattin and Ashley serve their poussin and sauce veloute, and the only part of the presentation that is lauded is Mattin’s well-spoken French.  Uh-oh.  Jennifer and Mike V. serve their rabbit (details have escaped me), and it seems to go over well.  Hector and Ash bring up the rear–in all respects–with their chateaubriand au poivre.  Comments center around its uneven temperature, its poor carving, and the lack of sauce.

    The favorites are pretty obvious (Mike I./Bryan and Jennifer/Mike V.), and Bryan ends up winning the challenge.  His prize is an invitation to stage with Chef Robuchon at his restaurant in Vegas, which is pretty badass.  The bottom four are Mattin/Ashley and Hector/Ash.  Ashley pisses me off, as usual.  Mattin does not seem to handle the criticism well, probably because he is fucking French and should know how to make veloute.  Ash and Hector are pretty honest about the shortcomings of their dish, though you can sort of see Hector steaming internally about being at judges’ table for a STEAK.  Sadly, Hector is told to pack his knives and go, which both he and I think is a shame because he never got a chance to really showcase his strengths.  Adios, Hector…I will see you at Pura Vida!

    Recipe: Lemon Ginger Chicken

    September 14, 2009

    NOTE: I am in St. Louis for business, but I hope to have the Top Chef (episode 4) recap up this evening.  In the meantime, here’s a recipe I’ve been meaning to post forever!  Enjoy.

    This recipe is absolute proof positive that a) if you are going to follow a recipe, you should READ said recipe all the way through before beginning, and b) adjusting and improvising can garner good results in the kitchen.  I knew both of those things before, of course, but I was reminded this week when I attempted this dish.

    The recipe (from Cooking Light magazine, and posted below as it was supposed to be followed) calls for an hour of marinating and about two hours of double-coating and refrigerating (and that’s all before the 45 minutes of cook time in the oven).  I discovered this at about 6:30 PM, when I was starving.  So, I cut the marinating time down to about 30 minutes, and I only coated the chicken once.  The end result probably wasn’t as crispy and “fried” as it would have been if I had followed the recipe exactly, but the chicken was incredibly moist and flavorful.  I served it with crusty bread, which came in handy to sop up the yummy juices.  If I had more time, I would have served this with some roasted veg.

    I hope to try the longer, uncut version of the recipe sometime soon, so I’ll let you know how the results differ!

    • 1  teaspoon  grated lemon rind
    • 1  cup  fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
    • 2  teaspoons  minced peeled fresh ginger
    • 1 1/2  teaspoons  minced garlic
    • 2  bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
    • 2  bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
    • 2  chicken drumsticks, skinned
    • 4.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
    • 2  teaspoons  ground ginger
    • 1  teaspoon  paprika
    • 1/2  teaspoon  ground red pepper
    • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt
    • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4  cup  peanut oil
    • 1/4  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    • 2  tablespoons  brown sugar
    • 1  lemon, thinly sliced

    Place rind, juice, and next 5 ingredients (through drumsticks) in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and shake to coat. Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning bag occasionally.

    Sift together flour and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper). Place flour mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag. Remove chicken from marinade bag, reserving marinade. Sprinkle salt and black pepper evenly over chicken. Add chicken, one piece at a time, to flour mixture; seal bag and shake to coat chicken. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour mixture. Reserve remaining flour mixture. Place chicken on a wire rack; place rack in a jelly-roll pan. Cover and refrigerate 1 1/2 hours. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 350°.

    Return chicken, one piece at a time, to flour mixture; seal bag and shake to coat chicken. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour mixture. Discard remaining flour mixture.

    Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes or until golden, turning once. Arrange chicken in single layer in a shallow roasting pan. Discard remaining oil in pan. Combine broth and reserved marinade in a small bowl; pour broth mixture into pan. Sprinkle chicken evenly with sugar, and top with lemon slices. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden and a thermometer registers 165.

    Lemon ginger chicken

    Top Chef Las Vegas, Episode 3

    September 9, 2009

    It really says something about this season that I was perfectly satisfied to wait until SUNDAY to watch the third episode.  I mean, yeah, I was getting married and had lots of wedding-related activities going on, but during previous seasons, I would CUT someone if they kept me from watching.  Maybe conditions will improve once a few more people pack their knives and go.  Only time will tell.

    Okay, blah blah blah, pre-competition chatting, nobody cares.  The quickfire involves a bazillion varieties of potatoes and guest judge Mark Peel, who I think is adorable.  Again, there are far too many contestants to get into each and every dish, but Atlanta’s own Eli winds up in the bottom three for his too-sweet casserole.  He is joined by Ron’s bland whatever (really, I only understand a third of what comes out of his mouth, and that’s probably being generous) and Jesse’s cayenne-heavy soup.  I have mixed feelings about Jesse, as she seems to have some great and tasty concepts that get bungled in the execution.  There’s something warm and sincere about her, so I’d really like to see her knock one out of the park.

    The stars of the quickfire are Ashley (gnocchi with mushrooms and homemade “quick” ricotta), Ash (who made an ice cream that didn’t set and was then called custard, which he and I thought was hilarious), and Jennifer (mussels in some sort of creamy potato-based sauce).  Jennifer takes the win, and Mike I. calls it “favoritism.”  Yes, Mike, you’re absolutely right.  The judges play favorites with those who make delicious and innovative food.  How DARE they???  Either he is the most gigantic asswipe to ever walk the Earth, or the folks at Bravo are taking some huge editing liberties.

    The elimination challenge takes place at Nellis Air Force Base, where the chefs will be cooking for 300 airmen.  Many of the contestants have family in the military, and I would have been more emotional about the whole thing if I wasn’t so EFFING pissed about Ashley’s hypocrisy (again).  Sure, get all pissy and whiny about having to cater a bachelor party.  But NO PROBLEMO with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  My husband was in the Air Force, and I work directly with veterans, so I definitely support the troops–but seriously, if you’re going to go on national television and propose to speak for an enormous group of people, at least be consistent.  I just really dislike her, if you couldn’t tell.

    The chefs pair up, and Jennifer (who has immunity) is dubbed the “executive chef.”  I prefer the title of “badass bitch of the kitchen,” which I mean absolutely as a compliment, but whatever.  I heart her and her kickassitude.  I also feel kind of bad for Ron and Jesse, who are the last two kids left after all the kickball teams have been chosen, but I guess that’s what happens when no one can understand you and/or you keep making amateur mistakes.  They arrive at the kitchen, and they are greeted with a bunch of canned food and NO pots and pans (instead, they have a bunch of big wok-like devices and enormous soup drum-looking things).  Good thing they have Jennifer at the helm–or, in the pilot’s seat, as this is an Air Force group.  She whips everyone into shape and makes sure that all of the teams have time to cook their dishes.

    Then again, not every team needs to cook a lot.  Preeti and Laurine, for example, throw together a very pitiful looking pasta salad.  Other than that, I’m relatively impressed with what folks prepared, especially given the limitations of both ingredients and equipment.  Mike and Mike’s braised pork belly (which is plain old slab bacon), which is served with peanut sauce in a lettuce cup, gets rave reviews from just about everyone.  Kevin and Eli’s BBQ pork shoulder and potato salad is also a favorite, though it doesn’t look particularly sophisticated on the plate.  Those two pairs are sent to judges’ table first, and Mike V. emerges victorious.  Yay!  He and his bro are really rackin’ up the wins.  The best part of the episode, however, is when Mike I.’s eyes nearly bug out of his empty, brainless skull when Padma tells him that he’s coming back in the bottom three (with Preeti and Laurine).  You see, he committed the TC sin of making an extra dish.  Children, this is a COOKING COMPETITION.  If you are not required to prepare something, but you do it anyway, it better knock Tommy-poo’s socks off.  Mike I. even says something about not being gung-ho about serving his grody shrimp salad, and Padma jumps right back at him and tells him, more or less, “Duh, then you should have tossed it in the latrine, soldier.”  Sadly for viewers everywhere, though, Preeti is sent home instead of the sexist asshat.  Bummer.  Future cheftestants, take note: making pasta salad is a bigger no-no than being a dickwad and serving undercooked shrimp.

    Next week…French food!  Perhaps that means the triumphant return of Mattin and his neckerchief.

    Pardon the interruption

    September 5, 2009

    Posting has been a bit light, since…I’M GETTING MARRIED TODAY!!!  Family and friends started arriving on Wednesday, so it’s been go go go since then.  I have last week’s TC on my DVR, and as soon as all matrimony-related craziness has died down, it’ll be back to business.

    Enjoy the holiday/football weekend, everyone!  See ya on the flipside, as a married gal!

    Alon’s: Pricey, but Pretty

    September 1, 2009
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    On our way back from doggie obedience class this past Saturday, Jason and I were hungry for lunch but not interested in our usual Subway (the limited options of this diet are starting to get to me).  I decided that it would be the perfect time to try Alon’s, a bakery/restaurant I’d heard about for quite some time.  Nestled in the Morningside neighborhood (past Virginia Highlands), Alon’s sells a variety of salads, sandwiches, and prepared foods that you can eat there or take to-go.  They also offer various breads, cheese, chocolates, and gift baskets.  Think of a gourmet market (like Dean & Deluca or something), but then make it local, and you’ll have the vibe of Alon’s.

    I ordered a portobello sandwich, which came on rosemary focaccia with spinach, swiss cheese, and Thai basil pesto.  Jason opted for the French Connection salad (field greens, Anjou pears, spiced pecans, and a port vinaigrette) with grilled chicken.  We also added a small container of curried Israeli couscous, which had peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and apricots.  We also grabbed a Diet Dr. Brown’s cream soda (my fave) and a Pellegrino to drink.  The staff was friendly and efficient, despite the place being packed with people (the space is a bit cramped, and the only seating is outdoors).

    The first thing we noticed was that the portions were larger than anticipated.  My sandwich was chock full of shroomy goodness, and there was no shortage of spinach or cheese.  The bread was very fresh and tasty, the ingredients were high quality, and the flavors worked well together.  My only complaint was that I would have preferred a hot version–the cold spinach took on a bit of a slimy consistency that wasn’t the most appealing.  Jason’s salad was absolutely lovely, with a healthy helping of grilled chicken on top.  The pears were crisp and refreshing, and the pecans contributed a spicy crunch, but my favorite part of the dish was the delicious dressing.  The couscous salad was good, but not great–it was a bit too sweet for my liking.

    Our lunch cost just over $25, which is definitely on the higher side of what I prefer to pay for sandwiches and salads.  Next time, we’ll skip the fancy drinks and bring our own bottled water, and we’ll know not to order a side dish (we were too full to really enjoy it anyway).  We’ll definitely be back, though, as Alon’s is a nice change of pace from standard lunch fare.