December 28, 2012

Taco Night!

Welcome back, my friends! I hope all of you out there had, or are having, a great holiday season. In case you are wondering, no, this will not be a holiday themed post. In fact, I don't think I've ever done a holiday themed post. Hmmm....I've never really given it that much thought until now. Well, before I get to those tasty little tacos, let me address this holiday issue first.

To start, let me just say that I do like and enjoy the holidays. Or, at least, the ones I choose to celebrate. One of the main reasons I don't create posts centered about the holidays is the fact that everyone else is doing it! Really, you could spit and hit 1,000 blogs all doing holiday themed dishes or reviews. I've never been one to fall in line, and that would put me right in the middle.

Another reason is that the time I spend with my family, holidays or not, is something very personal to me. I don't always want to share that with the world. In fact, I don't exactly share much to begin with. I tend to keep a lot to myself. It was a big decision to start this blog, because I knew I was going to have to share a bit of myself with total strangers and friends alike. While I have opened up some, there are still places I won't go on here.

With that said, lets talk about making some tacos!

What you see above is something I would make in the middle of the week. While it does take a good amount of time to braise the meat, you don't really have to exert too much energy to make it. The oven is really doing most of the work.

To begin, I prefer to go with pork when it comes to making tacos. That's just me, though. You can use whatever the hell you want!

In this case, I went with a cut of pork close to the shoulder. It had a good amount of fat marbled in and didn't cost me an arm and a leg.

I chose to braise the pork, because....I like it like that! For real, I love braising meats. It requires a little work at the beginning, but the end results are soooo good! Usually you end up with incredibly tender meat that will cause your eyes to roll back into your head.

First, you have to sear the meat. High heat, to get that color on there.

I chopped up some onions, garlic, and added carrots to a big roasting tin. Really, if you have a dutch oven or deep roasting pot, use it. For the amount I was making, the tin was my choice.

From here, I laid the seared meat on the bed of veggies and added a can of diced tomatoes and enough chicken stock to go a little less than half-way up the sides of the meat.

This is the stage where you can really get your flavor in. You can add wine, spices, herbs, or anything else you can think of. I can't even remember all the seasonings I put in the braising liquid.

At this point, you cover the tin and roast away! I usually set my oven at about 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Half-way in, I'll turn over the meat to make sure all of it spends time in the liquid.

Now that the meat is in the oven, you've got some time to kill. I tend to finish all my prep right away so I can chill the rest of the time. I chopped up some tomatoes and serrano peppers. After that, it was TV time.

To make sure you don't keep peeking in the oven, keep yourself busy. Read a book, exercise, shag your spouse, pleasure yourself while spying on that cute neighbor, WHATEVER! Don't worry, I won't judge you. Just make sure to flip the meat half-way through cooking.

When the meat was done, I took some of the veggies out of the tin and pureed them with a bit of the liquid to create a salsa-esque topping.

At this point, while the meat was resting, I prepared the corn tortillas. I heat them up in a saute pan with a small amount of vegetable oil. I'm not trying to get them crisp, just soften them up some and get a slight amount of color.

Now it's time to eat. I personally like tacos with a little cheese and sour cream on them. But you can add as much or as little as you want. If you only want hot sauce on there, go for it. If you want everything but the kitchen sink, by all means do it!

That's it. There's not a whole lot to it. You just have to plan for the long oven time. Everything after that is easy.

I hope you enjoyed this one. You have probably guessed that this is the last post for 2012, and you are right. Don't fret, because I have some great stuff lined up for 2013. I am gonna have you saying "This guy is either a genius or completely fucked in the head!"

Yeah, 2013 is gonna fuckin' rock!

Have a (mildly) safe and happy new year!

J. Miller

December 19, 2012

Pho' Nam Dinh

Glad you could make it back for another episode of this funky little blog. For this one, we are going to go down a road I'm not all that familiar with. NO, this is nothing sexual, even though after I wrote that last sentence, that is exactly where my mind went. What I'm talking about is the very cool, very awesome world of Vietnamese food.

Personally, me experiences in the world of Vietnamese food have been limited. A few bowls of Pho' here and there, a few bites of food from a friends lunch, and that's all I really have to go on. But, the few things I have tried have been really good. I figured if the opportunity ever presented itself, I'd be more willing to venture into restaurants I probably wouldn't try at first.

I ended up at this little place after getting some Christmas shopping done. I had been on a real ramen binge the last few days, so a chance for a big ass bowl of pho' sounded pretty good.

It was around 1pm or so, and the place had about 4 or open seats. Hey, a packed house means that they are doing something right.

As I walked in, there wasn't really anyone working at a host station to seat you. I just asked one of the employees if I could just sit anywhere, and he said sit where ever. That's cool with me.

I sat down and an old guy came up and dropped off a menu. It was about 4 pages total. Everything from Pho', steamed rice meals, broken rice meals, and bunch of other shit I can't quite remember. But I will say everything sounded good and was reasonably priced. Most meals ranged from about $6.99 to $8.99. That's tough to beat.

After a couple minutes, the old guy came back and asked "Do you know what you want?" I said "I'm not quite.." and before I could even say the word "sure", he took off! I was like "Damn. Couldn't even finish the sentence." Oh well...

A couple minutes later, he came back and said "Know what you want now?" I said "Yeah, I want the #48." while pointing at it on the menu. He goes "No. We don't have that anymore." Mother fucka.... WHY HAVE IT ON THE MENU THEN???? That's what I thought anyway. But, I didn't trip.

I started flipping through the menu again, and the old guy says "What, you want soup?!?" I said yeah. He goes "Get the #8, it's got everything. It's good." At this point, I figured he wasn't bullshitin'. He just didn't have time for dum-dums like me dicking around over a simple question like 'what do you want to eat'.

Me-Gimme the #8

Old Guy-GOOD! What size?

Me-I'll go with the small.

Old Guy-Aww C'mon! You're a big guy!

Me-Alright, I'll go with the medium!

Old Guy-GOOOD! Drink?

Me-Iced tea.

Old Guy-goood.

I swear to God that's how the convo went down! This old muh fucka was on his game! Much respect!

A couple minutes later, my food and drink came out. I know I keep saying "A couple minutes", but that's how long it took. Everything happened kinda quick.

This is what I got.

A closer look.

And here is some art that was on the wall next to my table.

Before I get into the food, let me just say that when I got it, they gave me a fork and spoon with it. Did use them. Yes, I did. Even though everyone else was using chop sticks, I used that fork. Why? Not to be disrespectful or anything like that. The fact is, I'm better with a fork than I am with chop sticks. If you, or anyone that was there is taking offense to that, then that's just too fucking bad. My opinion is this: If they didn't want me using a fork, THEY WOULDN'T HAVE FUCKING GIVEN ME ONE!!

Now, for the food.

It was good. It was damn good! The broth was flavorful, yet not overpowering or overly salted. The strips of beef and pork were very tender. I will say that the pork strips were a bit on the fatty side.

One thing that was very apparent was the temperature. I was extremely hot! We are talking lava-like temperatures! It's not a bad thing, I'm just giving you fair warning.

On the plate of goodies to with the soup, it had a few slices of jalapeno on it. I tossed them in the soup, no problem there. I got some noodles and a jalapeno slice and took a bite. HOLY FUCKING SHIT! That was the hottest jalapeno I have ever tasted! Maybe they found a fat ass serrano pepper and sliced that up for me, cuz I've never had a jalapeno that goddam hot in my life! My upper lip was burning for half the meal! Ugh.

I finished as much of the soup as I could. There must have been about a quart of broth in the bowl, but I managed to get most of it. Plus, there was tripe in it. I'm not crazy about tripe. I ate a couple pieces, but left the rest.

The meal came up to eight bucks and some change. Not a bad deal, especially seeing that it filled me up.

One more shot of the restaurant.

That's it for this one. I had some good food and met a wild ass old man serving it up. It doesn't get too much better than that. If you are ever in Garden Grove, check this one out.

Pho' Nam Dinh

13032 Harbor Blvd
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 539-0186

One more thing. With the year winding down, I'm only going to get in one more new post for 2012. It's not going to be anything too crazy, but as always, it will be something to look forward to. Until then, take care!

I'm out.

J. Miller

December 12, 2012

Earl Of Sandwich

Glad you could make it for another exciting post by yours truly. I guarantee you are gonna dig this! Well, I can't really guarantee it. My lawyers said I shouldn't guarantee anything on here. In reality, I don't have any lawyers, I only imagine that I do. So, I asked my imaginary lawyers if I could have my  Last Will and Testament tattooed on my dick. They said it wouldn't stand up in court. Oh well....

Anyway, this is gonna be a quickie for a couple reasons. One, I was sick when I ate at this place, so I wasn't tasting all that much to begin with. Second, The Mindy Project is on right now. Yes, I watch this show. Sure, it's more of a girly show, but I like it! Don't judge me! Plus, she's cute and got a nice booty, which they try not to show too much.

Oh yeah, this is a food blog. Now for the food.

The Earl of Sandwich is located at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA. To be honest, I try and avoid most places there because a lot of that shit is overpriced. Plain and simple. But, I heard some people say that the Earl of Sandwich in Vegas was a nice spot. So, I had to check it out.

When I got up there, the line was out the door, about 20 feet or so. I had just gotten of work, so I was in no rush. On the other hand, If I had to wait in this long fucking line, it better be worth it!

Ok, I put this on pause and just watched the show. Great holiday episode! I would have beaten that bitches ass! Come into my house and start tearing shit up! Now I can focus on the blog. She is mad cute though. :)

I waited in line about 20 minutes or so. Not too bad. They had a decent number of sandwiches to choose from. I decided to go with the most basic. It was basically roast beef and some kind of horseradish sauce.

Now, when you step up to order, you are only ordering your sandwich. You grab the sides, like chips and potato salad, on the way up to the cashier. I wanted to try the potato salad, but they were out. It's really a first come, first serve deal in that part.

I grabbed some chips and got a fountain drink. Because they are so busy, you get one of those vibrating coasters to let you know when your order is ready.

When my little coaster started buzzing, I got up, picked the coaster up off the chair, and got my food. Yeah, if you go there and get coaster #79, know this: It may buzz for you, but it's gonna be thinking of me. ;)

This is what I was looking at:

Now, for the unveiling...

Show me that hot, pink center baby!

This place boasts that all the bread and roast beef is cooked fresh on the daily. While having a cold may have dulled my taste buds some, I could easily tell it was fresh. The bread was super soft and the roast beef was very tender. I really didn't get too much horseradish, but I know most restaurants are pretty scared to go heavy on that stuff. That's understandable.

It seemed like it tasted good. The price was actually within reason, which is a big surprise in that location.

Well, that's it for now. What else am I gonna say? I couldn't taste it that much, and plus, it's just a fuckin' sandwich.

Now. I'm gonna take a stroll down the block and see if I can manage to fish my mind out of the gutter. I don't think this is going to be a successful mission, though.

I'm out.

J. Miller

December 5, 2012

First Anniversary; Cheese Napoleon

One year ago today, I published my first blog post. It turned out to be a life changing event.

I remember starting all of this as sort of an escape. A way for me to kind of geek-out on all things food related. Now, it's become more than that. I don't live and breathe only for my blog, but it's something that I've grown to look forward to. It's become something not just for me, but something I can share with friends and family. I can go to work and discuss ideas for posting with my coworkers, who are always there for suggestions and willingness to be guinea pigs for whatever I create.

During this journey, I've discovered new foods which will forever be part of my personal menu. I've found inspirations in some of the most unlikely of places. Hell, I think I've even managed to inspire a few people myself.

What I really want to say, to let you know from the bottom of my heart, is this: Thank You. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to see what I'm doing here. Thank you for reading through all my weird rants and totally necessary use of foul language. Thank you for all the criticism, because it's difficult to move forward without knowing how you're doing.

I want to give a very special thanks to all my friends and family for that extra support in this little venture. Your kind words keep this fire on high!

While this blog won't last forever, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. I hope that you will stick around, because I can tell you right now, it's only getting better from here.

Without further ado, it's time for the food.

What you see above is something I'm calling a Cheese Napoleon. The cracker layers are baked parmesan cheese and smoked cheddar cheese. In between that is a basil infused ricotta with sauteed shallots and garlic. On top is a black olive and caper tapenade. Yeah, that's quite a mouthful(That's what she said!). So, were just going to stick with cheese napoleon.

I'm not sure what made me want to make this. Maybe it was all the assholes on the show chopped that resort to a napoleon or french toast for a dessert. Maybe I saw some cheese and wanted to do something with it. In any case, here we are.

And for the record, I really like how these first two pictures came out. :)

So, there's not much in the way of recipes for this. I made the ricotta myself, but you can just as easily buy some from the store, I recommend making it.

These are the cheeses I used for this:

I chopped up one large shallot and one large garlic clove.

I then chopped up some black olives and capers to make the tapenade. I added some olive oil to hold it together. I didn't measure, so just eyeball it and taste.

I started by grading the cheeses and placing them on a silpat. If you bake more than once a month, do yourself a favor and buy a silpat. They are non-stick and work great.

I put the tray in the oven, with the temperature at 350 degrees fahrenheit. I took the tray out the oven at about 8 to 10 minutes. I really wasn't looking too closely at the clock. You are gonna be better off using your eyes and your nose.

This is what it looked like coming out the oven:

The parmesan is on the left, the cheddar is on the right. At this point, the parmesan was ready, but the cheddar needed a few more minutes.

Here is where it can get a little tricky. My plan was to lift the cheese off the mat while still warm and pliable, but cool enough to not fall apart. To do this, test it first at the edges. Lift a little, and see if it just stretches or holds it shape.

When you can lift it, transfer it to a cutting board. DO NOT CUT ON YOUR SILPAT!!! You will tear it and completely FUCK IT UP!!! Don't cut on it!!!

Once on the cutting board, slice the cheese into strips. I used a pizza cutter for this job.

You can't move too slow during this last step. Once it sets, it will get brittle.

Once the cheddar had finished, I did the same thing to that.

I sauteed the shallots and garlic next. Once done, I folded that into roughly 1 1/4 cups ricotta.

With that done, it was time for the plate up.

I started by laying down a piece of parmesan first. I piped out a small dollop of ricotta on top of that.

From there, I placed a piece of cheddar on the ricotta. More ricotta on top of that. I placed another piece of parmesan on top of the ricotta, and finished with the tapenade.

And here you have it.

I really liked the presentation on this one. I wanted to get some green or red in there somewhere to liven things up a bit, but I was kind of pressed on time.

So, how did it taste? To be honest, it was almost too much. OK, to start off, it's cheese, on cheese, on cheese, on cheese! Lots of cheese! I knew that going in. But, the strength of the baked cheese really came on strong. The ricotta got kind of lost, and the tapenade was pretty mild with the black olives. The cheese crackers did taste good. They weren't completely crispy, so they did have some chew to it. But the crackers were pretty much the standout flavors. Not much teamwork going on in the flavor department here.

But, it was not a complete bust. As my mom and I were standing in the kitchen chowing down on these, I started to get low on the crackers. At that point, I just put a dollop of ricotta on a cracker and put the tapenade directly on the ricotta. NOW it tasted right! I still got that pop from the cracker, but I was able to get all the flavor from the ricotta and tapenade. It really came together! Too bad I didn't get any pics from that.:(

While my original idea didn't quite pan out, I found what I needed to do next time around. Maybe next time I have some friends over, I can break this out and blow their minds.

That's it for this one. I hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned because 2013 is gonna be bangin' for Food And Such Things!

I'm Out!

J. Miller

December 3, 2012

Damn You, David Chang!

When it comes to cooking, inspiration can be a vital piece to the puzzle. It can take that boring dish you know so well and elevate it to a whole new level. Personally, I never know when or where I am going to get inspired to create new foods. When I do, I have to stop what I'm doing to start writing down all the ideas I get before I forget them. In the case I'm going to tell about you here, I didn't just feel inspired, I felt challenged. I felt like everything up to now had been put into question. And it all started because of the man pictured above, Chef David Chang.

Chef David Chang of the Momofuku Restaurant Group is doing big things right now. He has numerous restaurants in New York and has expanded to Canada and Australia. The truth is, I hadn't really known about this guy until recently. My brother told me about him first. Then, I saw him kickin' it with Anthony Bourdain. He seemed like a decent guy, but I never gave it too much thought.

One day, while screwing around on twitter, I saw someone put a post that David Chang had a show premiering on PBS. I figured I'd check it out and see what all the fuss is about. Plus, I've always liked the cooking shows that PBS puts out. They seem to be a bit more raw, with less bullshit and more cooking.

The show is called The Mind of a Chef. That night, they showed 4 episodes. I have DVR, so I just recorded all of them with the intention of watching them later. I ended up watching one, and that one episode left a serious mark on me.

The episode was all about noodles. And when noodles are the main topic, instant noodles always have to be addressed. Here, is where they say, the plot thickens.

They show him in the kitchen and he says he's going to do a couple dishes using the instant ramem. The first dish was ok. It was like a play on an Italian dish. Whatever.

Then he said he was going to make Parisian Gnocchi from the instant ramen. To illustrate that, he took this:

And turned it into this:

The second picture is not of Chang's finished product, but it's the closest representation that I could find.

For those of you that don't know, Parisian Gnocchi isn't potato based. The base is pretty much the same you use to make eclairs and cream puffs. Instead of just baking the mix, you poach it in hot water, then saute to a golden brown.

Now, when I heard him say that he was going to make gnocchi, I had to rewind it. I knew I didn't hear that right. "Gnocchi? No fuckin' way!" But that's what he said.

He started off by barely cooking the noodles in milk until they just started to soften up. He then threw the noodles in a blender with a little of the milk and 4 egg yolks. He blended that until gooey.

He poured the mix in a piping bag and let it cool. Once cooled, he piped small pieces into boiling water for a quick poach. They were then tossed in olive oil. The last step was to saute in butter for color and texture. He served it topped with parmesan and green onion.

It's tough to tell how many emotions I went through while watching this. I was shocked at first. Then disbelief. Then anger. Then amazement and awe. It seriously blew my mind.

My thoughts went from "What?!?! You can't do that!" to "HOLY SHIT! He's doin' it!". Then, another rewind on the DVR, to "HE'S REALLY FUCKIN' DOING THIS!" By the end, my jaw was on the floor and my brain was nowhere to be found.

As I laid in bed that night, my thoughts and feelings were more of jealousy and envy. "I can't believe this mother fucker made gnocchi from instant ramen! Son of a BITCH!" Part of me was mad at Chef Chang for doing it. Part of me felt like "How come I didn't think of that???" Plus, he made it look so easy! That Bastard!

After even more thoughts, I felt like he was even showing off a bit. "OOhHh, look at me! I can make instant ramen into anything!" Then, it hit me. He wasn't showing off. Ok, maybe he was showing off a little bit. But what he was doing was showing that it's just food. It's just cooking. This isn't rocket science.

I saw it as him firing the first shot. Like he almost came out to me and said "This is what I can do. Now, what can you do?"

Ever since I watched that episode, I've had this feeling like there are no limits to what can be done, or what I can do. I feel like I need to push myself even harder in the kitchen to make the best foods I can.

Now, I actually laugh a little at the whole thing. It wasn't a beautiful sugar showpiece that inspired me. It wasn't a fancy 25 course meal from Alinea or The French Laundry that pushed me forward. It was a guy fucking around with instant ramen that lit the fire beneath me.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Don't be afraid to embrace it and run with it.

I'm out.

J. Miller