March 25, 2014

Cooking Show Review: Heartland Table

Welcome back! What I have for you today is a review for a show that has quickly become one of my favorites on the Food Network. On a station filled to the brim with douche bags like Bobby Flay and Alton Brown, it's nice to see a bright spot every now and then. This time around, the bright spot is Amy Thielen.

When I first saw the commercials for this show last year, my thoughts weren't exactly good about it. "Just fuckin' great! Some mid-west, country bumpkin white woman tryin' to teach me how to cook. That's exactly what I need in my life right now! Thanks for nothing Food Network!" I had written this show off before it even premiered. So, how did I come around to putting this show on my blog? Well, it all had to with collard greens. Let me explain...

I have a tendency to just turn on Food Network and let it run, as long as the host isn't too annoying. One morning, I had the station on and this show began. I was on my phone and wasn't paying too much attention to the tv to begin with. That is, until, I heard on the tv she was doing a dish with collard greens. I put my phone down and hit the rewind button on the remote. Did my ears deceive me? Is a tv chef actually using a leafy green that ISN'T kale? It was true. IT WAS TWUE! Yes, that is a Blazing Saddles reference.

The other shocker(giggity) about this is the use of collard greens. Outside of the south, you don't see them used that often. With the host touting her mid west upbringing, again, I started to have doubts. "What dafuq this country bumpkin know about collards???" So, I quietly watched the episode, waiting for her to get to the greens with an anticipation filled with mixed emotions. Half of me was honestly curios to see what she was going to do with the greens. The other half of me wanted to see her fail miserably just so I could feel right about my early presumptions. I know that's not right, but it's where my head was at that time.

To start, the whole episode was about butter. I love butter, so in my view, the show was already off to a good start. When she got to the greens, and what she did with them, BLEW...MY...MIND!! To start, she melted the butter and cooked it with a bunch of spices. Then, she strained the butter from all the spices and cooked the chopped greens in the butter in a screaming hot pan. When the greens got tender, off the heat they went. She then plated the greens and added dollops of fresh ricotta to them. Simply amazing.

All my life, I've only seen collards cooked in a big pot with ham hocks. To see the greens treated this way was a serious eye opener. A week later, I tried the recipe myself and fell in love. Not with Amy Thielen, but the greens. They were absolutely divine! The spiced butter brings so much flavor to the collards. I didn't add the ricotta, but I didn't feel like I was missing it either.

The funny thing is, when I made it, I didn't even do it right. When I was preparing to write this, I looked at the original recipe and realized I was using a spice that wasn't even in the original recipe. Plus, I wasn't using spices that were in the original. Oh well. In any case, the technique is bomb! Remember that!

Here is a link to the original recipe.

I ended up watching that whole episode and was hooked after that. Each week, she comes with real recipes alongside great technique. Plus, she's not a bitch who can't stop smiling or has a head the size of a watermelon. She brings the skills without the gimmicks. For me, it's hard to not appreciate that.

She also has a cookbook out. I just found out about it, so I can't give an opinion on it, But I would like to take a look at it.

They recently started season two of Heartland Table. It comes on Saturday mornings. Be sure to check this one out!

I'm out.

March 17, 2014

The Arzak Egg

What I have for you today is something I had wanted to try for some time. I'm not sure what finally got me off my ass to make this, but I'm happy I did. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to The Arzak Egg.

If you are wondering what the hell an Arzak egg is, don't worry, it's not some freakish egg pooped out by some endangered animal. It's really just a poached egg. The reason I'm using a different name for it is because the technique was made famous by Spanish chef Juan Mari Arzak.

So, what is this technique? If you want to get technical, it's like the sous vide process. In simpler terms, you are cooking the egg in hot water while the egg is wrapped in plastic wrap. Let me show you what I'm talking about.

The first thing you do is layout some plastic wrap. From here, you can rub a little butter in the center, approximately where the egg is going to be. You can add salt, pepper, and any other herb you want the egg to cook with.

From here, line a small bowl with the plastic wrap, making sure to get that buttery area at the bottom. Drop in the egg and proceed to close up the plastic wrap around the egg. You want to get as much of the air out of the pouch as you can. You can tie off the pouch with either cooking twine or another piece of plastic wrap. I just made a string out of plastic wrap and tied it off.

Now that my pouches are set, it was time to get started on the rest of the plate. As much as I like eggs, I needed a little something else to go with it. And what goes hand in hand with eggs? BACON, OF COURSE!!

Honestly, with the plate up I had in mind, I only needed 1 slice of bacon. But who in the fuck only cooks one slice of bacon? Not this guy!!! Don't worry, the other two slices found a happy my belly!

While the bacon was cooking, I chopped up some Thai basil, chives, and a little roma tomato.

At this point, the only things I had left to do was to poach the eggs and make the toast. The toast would only take a minute or two, so I got going on the eggs.

While a traditional poached egg takes about 3-5 minutes, the Arzak egg takes about 5-7 minutes. When the water got to a warm simmer, I dropped the pouches into the water. They both sank like rocks to the bottom. I didn't want to play with them, so I just let them sit for about 3 or 4 minutes before I moved them a little.

While the eggs were going, I went ahead and made the toast. I cut the crust off of a slice of bread and toasted it in a pan with butter and dried sage.

At about 5 minutes, I went to pull the eggs from the water. I used tongs to grab the loose plastic from the top of the pouch. I lifted one out of the water to give it a squeeze and test how firm it is. It still felt a bit soft, so back in the water it went. When I tried the second egg, it fell right out of the plastic! My initial reaction was simply yelling "FUCK!" at a fairly loud volume. Then, I realized that the egg was holding it's shape and no yolk had spilled into the water. So, I just proceeded as planned and finished at 7 minutes.

With the eggs done, it was time to plate up. Before I get to that, I do have to mention that there was one item I made the night before and didn't get any pics of. That would be a chianti reduction. What I did was pretty simple: Take one cup of chianti wine and about 2-3 tablespoons of sugar and slowly cook down the wine until it reduces to a syrup. That's it. If it's too thick when it cools down, just add a tiny bit of more wine or water to it to thin it out.

When plating, I started by drizzling the sauce on the plate first. Then, I sliced the toast square in half to make triangles and set those on the plate. Herbs, tomato and bacon pieces went down next.

Now it was time for the star of this show, the eggs. The eggs sat atop the toast. On top of the eggs, I put a tiny bit of salt & pepper, with a thin drizzle of EVOO. Lastly, the chives on top of the eggs. And that's it!!!

The real test is to see if that yolk is nice and runny. I wasn't too nervous cutting into it, but I wasn't 100% either. When I cut into it, this is what I saw:

It came out exactly as I imagined in my head. I took a bite with the egg, toast and sauce, and it was awesome. The chianti reduction was a little tangy and a little sweet. It added a nice balance to the richness of the yolk and buttery toast. The Thai basil and tomatoes were great co-stars in this wonderful production. The crispy bacon bits gave that nice element of crunch and saltiness. And the chives....shit, you can't go wrong with chives!

I felt like I really made an idea turn into reality with this one. It doesn't happen often for me, but when it does, it does feel good. What felt even better was some of the reactions I got when I posted this on Instagram(my handle is @chefjmiller726). A few people asked if I made this or if I ordered it at restaurant. To me, that's a huge compliment. While I try not to fish for compliments, it's always nice to get positive feedback.

In the end, I like this technique for poaching eggs. If you have ever had trouble with poaching eggs the traditional way, give this a try. You might just like it. A lot.

I'm out.

March 11, 2014

7 Leaves Cafe

Hi Everybody! Thank you for stopping by for another round of blog awesomeness. What I have for you today is a quick review of a local coffee shop that recently opened. As a part time rebel, I try and do my part by supporting local businesses. Whenever I see a coffee shop that isn't Starbucks open up, I will always give them a try. Let's face it, Starbucks will be ok without the few bucks I spend on an iced coffee.

One of the first things that got my attention was the décor. I'm no interior decorator, but this place was clean. Everything feels modern and hip. I think my cool status went up a couple points just by walking through the doors.

The next thing I'm going to talk about is not something I normally bring up, but I feel I can't really overlook it. That would be the topic of race. The clientele is almost entirely Asian. Please understand, I do not have a problem with this at all. But I would guess that I was the darkest thing they had seen since nightfall, and I'm not that dark!

In the end, the real concern won't be the other customers sitting next to you, it will be the coffee and food. So let's get down to business.

The menu is small and very straight forward. A handful of coffees to choose from, as well as tea and boba drinks. The food selections are limited as well. All of this is fine, because a large menu doesn't mean good food.

I had ordered a basic coffee and some garlic fries. When asked if I had wanted the fries spicy, I blurted out "YES!". I would soon realize that probably wasn't the best answer.

The coffee was good. Clean flavor with little bitterness. I did add a small bit of sugar to it just for balance, but a quality cup of coffee. The fries were crisp with lots of garlic and spicy goodness. The heat was enough to make you reach for a drink, but not enough to make things unpleasant. It was at this point I realized the error in my ordering.

Spicy fries and hot coffee just don't mix. Who knew that drinking hot coffee would give you no relief from spicy foods???

I felt like a complete dumb-ass after I took the first bite of the fries. I knew that coffee wasn't gonna do shit for the heat but make things worse. Luckily, they offered free ice water at the condiment table. In the end, I took most of the fries home and ate them there.

Overall, it's not a bad spot. A little hip with an eclectic menu. They also offer Vietnamese coffee, as well as duck sliders. If you happen to be in Garden Grove, give the place a try and tell Starbucks to suck it.

7 Leaves Café
13481 Euclid St
Ste B

Garden Grove, CA 92840

I'm out.