May 28, 2012


There's something to be said about calzones. I just wish I knew what it was. The only thing I know for sure is that if you like pizza, you are gonna like calzones. They are pretty much one and the same. In many cases, you will find all the usual suspects of ingredients on top of a pizza wrapped up in the cozy confines of a calzone.

Now, there are a few differences between the pizza and calzone. Besides the most obvious fact that the calzone looks like a great big empanada, the differences are very slight and seem to vary depending on who you ask.

One of the first things I noticed was that there seems to be a small debate about the dough. Some sites simply said to use pizza dough. Others gave a different, denser dough recipe for calzones. Personally, I was a tad skeptical using a light pizza dough recipe. I wanted to be able to pick it up and not worry about the filling tearing through it. I searched a few recipes and this is the one I went with. Yes, it's Jamie Oliver. Yes, I'm using a calzone dough recipe from someone that is NOT Italian. Know why? Because I got a serious bone to pick with Italians and their cooking.

I'm not gonna get into this completely, mainly because I'll be talking shit about one specific asshole Italian chef next post. I'll say this though. too many Italians think they got the lock on pasta. Sorry, the Chinese got ya beat. I'll take some hand-pulled noodles anytime, any day.

To keep myself from going on a rant about Italian arrogance in the kitchen, I'm gonna get back to the food at hand. That big ass calzone up top was fucking awesome! But it took a team effort! My mom and I decided that we would both have to get our hands dirty for this one.

If you have ever made pizzas at home, you know the ingredient list can quickly start to build up. This was not going to be an exception.

I made the dough ahead of time and portioned it out. While the dough was resting in the fridge, I made a batch of ricotta and let that strain. By the time the cheese was ready, it was go time.

Here we have basil, ground beef, Italian sausage and jar pasta sauce. I know, probably should have made the sauce too. But....fuck it, it was on sale.

Next, we have the cheeses. Parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta.

The only things not shown were the roasted garlic paste I made the day before and pepperoni. I didn't make the roasted garlic paste for this dish. I just made it for the house to be used for everyday cooking.

It broke down to me rolling out the dough and my mom putting them together. I don't have pictures of that because I was busy!!!

So here is a pic before they hit the oven.
And here is what they looked like coming out the oven.

The recipe for the dough said to brush it with olive oil before baking. I thought it looked a bit dull doing it like that. The next day we baked the remaining dough and used an egg wash. I think it had a much better shine to it.

With everything that went into making this, do I even need to explain how good this was? For bragging purposes, I will! It was fantastic. The dough had a nice little chew to it. The roasted garlic gave a great underlying flavor to all the the other little spices going on from the sausage and ground beef. The cheeses worked well together and melted perfectly. The last kicker was the accent of fresh basil. It was like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae.

I can't ever remember having a calzone this good. And I know I probably won't have another that good for a long time. I was really lucky to have someone there to cook the meats and wrap them up. I was even luckier that it was someone so close and who I love dearly.

Thanks Mom. For.....everything.

J. Miller

May 22, 2012

Turkish Kahve

Turkish Kahve. Mmmm. I love this stuff. I mean....mmmmmmm. This is some seriously good shit. I can go on and on about how good this stuff is! I just might. But, I want you to stick around for a little while, so I'm just gonna say it one more time: This is some fucking incredibly good KHAVE!!!!!

What is Khave? It's the Turkish word for "coffee". I think it looks better than "coffee". So, for the rest of this post, I will be using "khave" in place of "coffee". Is that cool with you? If not, well.....tough shit. This is MY BLOG!! I run things around these parts!

Now that I've gotten my power trip out of the way, we can get down to business.

This isn't my first time talking about Turkish Kahve. In one of my first few post, I went to a place called Super Hassan's Grill. It was at this little hole in the wall restaurant where I experienced this type of Kahve for the first time. From the first cup, I knew I had found something very special. It had such a wonderful flavor with a ever-so slight sweetness that made it impossible to put down. For me, it was love at first sip.

Here's a pic from that older post.

Since then, I've gone back there a good number of times for the Kahve and the shawarma. Like most things, it got to a point that I wanted to try my hand at making this myself. Sure, it's nice to stop by there after work for a pick-me-up and light meal. But, there's nothing like lounging around the house in your pajamas and enjoying a nice cup of Kahve.

Now, here is where the fun really began. I knew where to buy the Khave, so no problems there. What I wasn't sure on was how to prepare it. After reading the back of a few bags of Kahve, I knew the brewing technique was important. I didn't want to completely fuck it up, so, I did what I usually do in these situations: Get my ass to Google and YouTube.

What I found was....sordid to say the least. Every video I watched on YouTube seemed to be just a little different than the previous. The best part was that on every video, people would comment saying "YOU'RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!!!".

Sites I found on Google were no better. Each one saying "This is the proper way to make Kahve!", and each one being slightly different.

Since getting a straight answer was going to be nearly impossible, I decided to just go with the few similarities that most had. Those are:

1. Start with cold water.
2. Mix in Kahve and sugar at the beginning.
3. Bring to a boil slowly.

Before we go any further, read this. That is a link to a good sum of Turkish Kahve.

Now I think it's time to show how I did this.

First, they say to buy a little narrow-topped pot called a cezve. I know there are different names for this, but this is the one I'm going with.

The standard recipe goes 2 heaping teaspoons of Kahve to 1 mug of water. That is what I went with. I also added 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar.

The Kahve grounds are very fine. Plus, there is a little something extra in it. I'll tell you towards the end. :)

I stirred everything in and turned the heat to about medium-low. Most of the sites said it should take roughly 10 minutes to properly heat it. Mine didn't take that long. We'll call that Fuck Up #1.

When it does start to boil, it will froth around the edges before it start to try and boil over.

They say that when it comes to a boil, take it off the heat for a minute to rest. Then, place it back on the heat and bring to a boil once more. Some sites said just one re-boil. Some said 3 or 4 times. I did it 3 times.

Here is another bit of controversy with Turkish Kahve: Foam. Some sites say a true cup has a bit of foam on top. Me, being the genius that I am, gave the Kahve a soft stir after the second boil and managed to kill the foam. We will call that Fuck Up #2.

BUT, and I mean a big, apple bottom BUT, I did see a few sites that said the foam wasn't very good. The cup I got from the restaurant didn't have any foam, and I thought it tasted just fine!

After the last boil, it's time to pour. Pour it in your cup and let it sit for a minute. There isn't any straining here, so you are gonna have some grinds in each cup. Don't swirl it, just let it rest so the grinds  settle at the bottom.

I took a sip and was relieved that it came out fairly good. I tasted a little different than what I had at the restaurant, but it was very good in its own right. This Kahve has a bit more spice than what I previously had. That spice? Cardamom. Yeah, cardamom.

When I was shopping for the Kahve, I basically had 3 options: No cardamom, medium cardamom, and extra cardamom. I chose the medium, to be safe.

If you like Kahve, or think all Kahve is bitter and needs all sorts of shit to make it taste good, I strongly suggest you give Turkish Kahve a try. If you don't want to make it, fine. Search Yelp and find a local spot that serves it. Just try it.

One tiny little warning: It's very strong. If caffeine hits you hard, I would tread lightly at first, just so you won't be up for 2 days after drinking it. If you are like me (which I DOUBT cuz I rock!) It won't hit you too hard, but it will be clear that it's stronger than your average cup of java.

That's about it. They say that it's usually served with a glass of water and something sweet, like Turkish Delight. I've made Turkish Delight before, and to honest, I didn't care for it too much. Hey, to each his own, right?

I almost forgot, don't drink the last sip. It's all Kahve grounds. Not the best feeling to have a mouthful of  grounds. Trust me on this one.

I hope you enjoyed the post. I REALLY hope you get to try Turkish Kahve at some point. It's one of those things I wish I had discovered earlier.

Take Care,

J. Miller

May 14, 2012

Loaded Chicken Wrap

I don't really like reviewing fast food's fast food. I'm not some snob that looks down my nose at fast food or anything like that. I have been trying to cut back on it for numerous reasons, but occasionally I'll stop by a spot and pick up something I can eat on the go.

As usual, I was doing my last minute mothers day shopping and came across a Popeye's. Contrary to popular belief, black people don't daydream about fried chicken and watermelon. I couldn't remember the last time I had Popeye's, so it didn't seem like a terrible option.

When I walked in, I stood back for a minute to find something cheap I could slam down in-between shopping destinations. I saw a few Po' Boy sandwiches they had, but those seemed like they were a bit more than what I was looking for. Than I saw the one that I was gonna go with. The Loaded Chicken Wrap.

The menu said it was a chicken strip with rice and beans wrapped in a tortilla. Sounds good, right? And with a price under $2, I was sold. I ordered 2 and a small drink for the road. When my order came up, I grabbed the bag and was quickly surprised. This small to-go bag had some weight to it.

I got to my car and quickly took one out to see just what I had gotten myself into. For a $2 wrap, this thing had to some serious size to it. I was originally going to eat it while driving to my next stop. After seeing it, I just put it back in the bag and waited to eat until I got to the next parking lot.

When I finally dug into the wrap, it was as good as I thought it was gonna be. Popeye's knows how to deep fry a bird. You don't have to worry about the chicken. Their red beans and rice are on point. The only thing it needed was hot sauce.

As good as this thing tasted, it was the sheer size of it that made the biggest impact. I ate both of them and was full. No bullshit! If you want to get the most bang for your buck, try one of these "Wraps" out. For real, I think these are more along the lines of burritos than wraps. In any case, it's cheap eats. For less than $2, names are not that important.

That's it. A little story about a snack that became a full meal in-between shopping. Hope you enjoyed it. And to all the mothers reading this, hope you had a great Mothers Day and know that everything you do is greatly appreciated.

Take Care,

J. Miller

May 7, 2012

Avec Eric

They say that inspiration can come from anywhere. You know what? They are right. You can be driving down the street and see something that will inspire you to read a book or write a song. You may see a plastic grocery bag floating in a breeze and think "Wow, that kid from 'American Beauty' must have been really high to zone out on this.". Where was I going with this........oh yeah, INSPIRATIONS!

Some people search far and wide just to get the creative juices flowing. Some simply look out the window or take a walk around the block. For me, I never have to really look that far. I can usually find inspiration within my career, that is to say, the food biz. Drugs or booze were never really needed for this process. Sure, I may have already downed 3 shots of whiskey as I'm writing this, but I don't need to do that to write. I just like to. :)

From time to time I'll head to Barnes & Noble and skim through some of the new cook books out there. I'll laugh for a bit at all the losers and half-wits who got cook books(i.e. cast offs of various reality cooking shows), then I'll grab a book from a chef that I know is at the top of their game. Guys like Rick Bayless and Eric Ripert. When you see chefs like these two cook, you can see the passion that they have for what they do. You can see how much pride they have for even the simplest of dishes that they prepare. I see that and it makes me want to get in the kitchen. So what if it's 2 a.m.! I'm gonna get my ass in that kitchen and try something! 3 a.m.? Yeah, I'll wait until the morning.

What inspired me to make the dish above was an internet video I saw of Eric Ripert. You might have seen him doing a quick demo on a morning show like "Today" or "Good Morning, America". I mostly see him on No Reservation with Anthony Bourdain. He's the calm, cool French guy that Bourdain can never get a rise out of. When Bourdain went back to his old job to work a double, he dragged Ripert on the line with him because he thought he would suffer just as much as he was. Ripert just smiled and did his job. Bourdain got annoyed because Ripert actually enjoyed himself!

Eric Ripert actually has his own cooking show on PBS called Avec Eric. His latest book has the same title as well.

Simply put, I dig this guys style. Simple, fresh, and delicious. He makes it all look so easy. I could say more, but it will be easier to see for yourself.

After watching the video, a couple thoughts really stood out. First, I couldn't believe how easy it was to do chicken like that. Second, he just said "I'm tossing my salad"! When I stopped giggling like a little girl, I knew I had to try this out.

So, after work I stopped by the store and picked up the chicken tenderloin strips. I figured I'd make some pasta to go with it, just to make it a more filling meal.

I Soaked some skewers and ran those right up the keyster of the tenderloins. A few of them I added some cherry tomatoes. I didn't have any herbs de provence, so I just used a little italian seasoning mix.

I chopped up 1small onion and 1 small bell pepper and sauteed those just for a few minutes. I threw in a few chopped garlic cloves to the mix and cooked a few more minutes. I poured in some chianti and reduced that before adding the pasta sauce.

I used a plain jar pasta sauce. I just doctored it up a bunch. When I dropped the pasta in the water, I put the chicken in the broiler. When the pasta was about 2/3 done, I took it out the water and put it right into the sauce.

By the time the pasta was done, the chicken was done.

This meal really took no time at all. It came together so quickly that everyone else in the house was like "Your done already?" You gotta love meals like that. Here's one more pic of the finished product. I know the plate up isn't that great. I'm a pastry chef, ok? Cut a brotha some slack! I'm trying!

After I took that picture, I added some ricotta that I made the day before. The pasta was great. I think I actually got it al dente. Maybe that pole smoker Scott Conant from the show Chopped would approve. Come to think of it, no, he wouldn't approve. Why? Because according to him, he's the only one that knows how to cook pasta right. Fuck you Conant! That's why you were too pussy to compete in Chopped All Stars. Fucking asshole.

Anyway, the pasta was dope. The chicken...was almost dope. Everyone else liked it, but I thought I overcooked it by just a hair. It wasn't dry, but I felt it had slightly crossed that line from perfect to just starting to dry out. It still tasted good though.

I had a few uncooked strips left, so I tried it again the next day and got it right. I also made that honey mustard Ripert made, and that was some really good stuff. Just dijon and honey. It doesn't get any easier.

Well, that's it for this one my friends. I hope you enjoyed my little story of inspiration and what turned out to be a tasty Saturday night dinner. I don't expect this to inspire you to cook something up. If anything, I'd like to think that this might get you to think about what inspires you. Even if it's just for a second.

Take Care

J. Miller

May 2, 2012

Spanglish Muffins

Like the title? I know you do. I can sense you smiling as you are saying it. Now I'm sensing you don't quite like where this is headed. DON'T LEAVE! You just got here! I promise it's gets better from here. Just give me a second and this will all make sense. And I'm gonna try not to use the word "sense" anymore, ok?

What you see above are english muffins....with a little something extra. That something extra is Masa. That's right, I added the stuff to make tortillas to this muffin mix. What in the hell would posses me to do this? Drugs? Nope. A bet? Nope. Drugs???? I said NO GODDAMMIT! Let's get this out of the way...

Somehow I got it in my head that I wanted to attempt a yeast based bread that had masa in it. I had never seen anything like it. I figured it at worst, it would be an "Epic Fail"(I am not a fan of that phrase.). I searched around the net and found a few recipes that would make a loaf-type bread. Then I started thinking about incorporating the masa into something else. I came upon a recipe for english muffins and felt it would be the perfect test dummy to try this out on. Most recipes for english muffins are pretty safe and there's almost no baking involved. Sounds logical, right?

But I didn't go about this as I usually do. I made them once, and got a fairly warm reception to it from the people that tried it. Then, I made it again. And again. AND AGAIN!.Normally, for the blog, it's one and done. This was the first time that I made something more than once before posting it. I didn't intend it like that, but that's how it worked out.

I kept tweeking the recipe and the way I rolled out dough until I got it just the way I wanted it. I'll explain a little more when the time comes. For now, I'll just give you the ratio of flours to masa.

1 part Masa
1 part Bread Flour
2 parts All Purpose Flour

That magic ratio is what got me to my perfection. I'll post a link at the bottom to the page I went to for the recipe.

For now, let's make some muffins!

You are gonna start by blooming your yeast with the sugar and half of your luke warm milk. Once the yeast has done it's thing, add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix in the rest of the milk. It should take about 5 minutes to mix in a kitchen aid and 10 minutes by hand. Round out the dough and let rise to double the size in a bowl lubed up with non-stick spray.

Punch the dough down to release the gasses and get the dough on the bench. I like my breads being close to even in size, so I scaled out the dough. After splitting the dough in two, I portioned out each muffin to about 4 1/4 ounces. Now, that makes a very healthy size muffin. If you want something closer to what you might be used to, go about 3 to 3 1/3 ounces per dough ball.

I rolled out my dough with a rolling pin. Most recipes will tell you just round out the dough to a ball and it will just flatten out on the griddle. I tried that and it didn't work so well for me.

Once you get them to shape, place them on a tray with cornmeal sprinkled on it. Once down, sprinkle the tops with a little bit of cornmeal as well.

Once I took that pic, I realized I forgot the cornmeal. I quickly took them off and dusted the tray. :)

Cover the rounded/rolled dough with either a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise to about 1 1/2 times the original size.

After it's risen, heat a griddle or saute pan to medium to medium-low heat and set your oven to 350F. Gently pick up the dough and place on whatever it is you are gonna cook these things on. You do NOT need any oil on the cooking surface. This is one of the few times lube is not necessary.

When I set them in the pan, the bottom side that was on the tray was the first side that hit the pan. The next batch, I placed the the top side from the tray onto the heat first. Check out the difference in color.

Notice how the bottom pic had very few spots that didn't hit the pan? It's the little things like this which make cooking so complex.

It should take about 4-5 minutes each side on the stove top. Once done, throw them in the oven and bake for 8 more minutes. This will ensure that center is fully done.

Let cool for about 30 minutes before digging in. When you do dive in, you will be tempted to grab a knife to split this thing in half. DON'T DO IT!!! Instead, use a fork and poke holes all along the side. By the time you work your way around, it will split and you will get all those little nooks and crannies.

OK, I know it doesn't look like a certain name brand muffin, but it tastes a hell of a lot better.
I like mine with just a little butter and honey. For the sake of the blog, I put jelly on one half.

When I first started making these, I really didn't know what this thing might taste like. The first attempt was 1/2 masa. The taste was "Intriguing". At least, that's what a coworker told me. And he was right. The taste of the corn and natural sweetness from it came in as a secondary taste. It really took a few seconds for it to hit you. It was a nice change from all the flavorless english muffins I previously had. But, it was very dense. And the dough itself was very tough to work with. The lack of gluten made the dough crumbly.

This ratio pretty much fixed all the problems and kept that sweetness from the masa. If you've ever had an english muffin and thought these things have no flavor, try this out. It may just become your new favorite breakfast item.

I said I was gonna give a link to the site, so here it is.


Even the person on that site went nuts for these things. And that's WITHOUT the masa! Give it a try, you might just surprise yourself.

I'm out!

J. Miller