Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Random Food Photo - Bacon Pancakes

So in one of my recent searches for "manly food," I stumbled across this incredible idea for "Bacon Pancakes."

To read the complete post, visit the good folks at: http://parchedreports.blogspot.com

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

New Food Wedneday - May 23, 2012

photo from www.dailycocaine.blogspot.com

What could it be?

If you guessed an aspic, you're close...but not entirely.

Find out what it is after the jump!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Food Wednesday - May 16, 2012

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com

So today's post isn't exactly a mystery.  But for most blathering colloquials living stateside (like me), it's probably unheard of.

Find out more about this unique food stuff after the jump

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When Racism Strikes the Kitchen Table (an editorial)

Just to be clear I’m not talking about apples lynching oranges, I’m talking about actual, gut-wrenching, despicable racism; the kind of racism practiced by Hitler, the Klan, and similarly intolerant groups to separate and subjugate individuals based on nothing more than physical characteristics.

I won’t be the first or the last person to acknowledge this fact, but Alabama isn’t exactly forward-thinking.  We still derive most of our state taxes from sales tax, which places a higher burden of taxation on the poor.  While we have legally abolished mandated segregation, centuries of racial stratification are difficult to overcome and it still persists in many of our public schools, colleges, and universities.  In some counties it’s still illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays, and of course we didn’t have paved roads until 1895!

Despite these maladroit quarks, the “Yellowhammer State” does have a few things in its favor.  First, the soil (especially in South Alabama) is rich and fertile, and when combined with a long growing season gives farmers a wide variety of options for planting selections.  Second, people who grow their own food seem to have a deeper appreciation for its preparation and consumption.

It should go without saying, but someone who actually knows what went into the production of that tomato or this hamburger patty will pay much closer attention to how it’s prepared.  This is a legacy that continues in the Deep South.  Fresh ingredients and un-complicated cooking methods combined with Southern hospitality summarize the South’s culinary heritage.  And it’s something that the rest of the country is starting to notice.  Places like Los Angles and New York are starting to see an influx of “Southern” or “Soul Food” eateries as a testament to the quality of this rich culinary heritage.

Despite decades of progress, Alabama’s racist past is catching up with the times and it is now threatening our culinary heritage and its future.  Instead of targeting African Americans, Alabama’s racists are now operating under the guise of “Immigration Reform.”  In last year’s legislative session Alabama lawmakers passed an article of legislation known as House Bill 56, “which turned state and local police officers into papers-checking immigration agents and imposed a grab bag of criminal punishments and deterrents on undocumented immigrants and on businesses and charitable organizations that help or hire them” (The New York Times – May 15, 2012).

I fully acknowledge that illegal immigration is contributing to wide variety of problems around the country; including state-wide budget issues in California and Arizona.  But in Alabama seriously?

Alabama citizens protesting the passage HB56 (photo from http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/)

A state that receives most of its taxes from sales taxes would guarantee that illegal immigrants pay a considerable amount of their wages in taxes.

A state that takes pride in its agricultural heritage should welcome people as connected to the land as many of these immigrants.

A state that savors it culinary traditions should extend an olive branch to a people whose culinary roots pre-date America.

Instead Alabama’s immigration law has forced many illegal immigrants to flee its borders.  As a result many of Alabama’s farmers who once relied on immigrant labor to pick their crops, are now switching to “mechanized crops” or those that can be easily processed with little human contact (i.e. peanuts, cotton, soybeans, wheat, and corn).  So much for diversity in Alabama’s fields; I suppose it’s fitting that since we’ve done everything in our power to legally limit racial diversity that we should attempt to do the same in every other aspect of our lives.

Tomatoes rotting on the vine, as a result of Alabama's immigration law(s)

For Alabama's fans of the “farm-to-table” concept, it’s probably time to invest in shovel and rake because it won’t be long before what you grow in your backyard is all that is available.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Recipe: Beer Pancakes (with Terrapin Moo-Hoo Chocolate Stout)

The perfect brunch after a night of heavy beers.  These pancakes combine the best of both worlds, beer and cake for breakfast... What's not to love?  

By combining chocolate maltiness and a light fluffy texture, a batch of these is sure to impress!

Beer Pancakes; one word "YUM!"


-2 eggs
-1 cup beer at room temperature (your choice, feel free to play around with the selection; just remember that the cakes will take on the flavor profile of your selection)
-2 Tbs. vegetable oil
-2 Tbs. honey
-1 cup all purpose flour
-1 Tbs. granulated sugar
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


Mix the wet ingredients (including the honey but minus the vanilla), beating lightly until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet base.  When mixed, add the vanilla.  Make sure not to over-mix the batter. 

I used the Terrapin Moo-Hoo Chocolate stout for my cakes
Grease a stove top pan or an electric griddle. Pre-heat to approximately 400 degrees or medium-high.

When the pan has thoroughly heated, pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the surface of the pan.  When bubbles start to appear around the edges, gently slide a thin spatula under the cake and quickly flip.  Cook for approximately 1 additional minute.

Forget the syrup, just top with some light confectioners sugar, and enjoy!

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Recipes: Triple Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Let them eat chocolate (with a little cake)!  Around the office chocolate reigns supreme, and for this month's "corporate birthday celebration" the cake is a pleasant combination of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, raspberry, and cake.  

It's a rich, moist, dark chocolate cake, filled with a raspberry jam/ compote, iced with a chocolate ganache, and topped with shards of, you guessed it, chocolate.  

Triple Chocolate Raspberry Cake
 RECIPE: Triple Chocolate Raspberry Filled Cake


For the cake:
-2 cups white sugar
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-1 tsp. kosher salt
-1 cup whole milk (at room temperature)
-2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (at room temperature)
-1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
-3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa
-1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 cup boiling water with 1/8 tsp. espresso powder

For the Raspberry Filling:
-1 can raspberry pie filling
-5 oz. raspberry preserves
-5 Tbs. Tennessee whiskey (aka Jack Daniels)
-1/2 tsp. kosher salt

For the chocolate ganache:
-2 oz. dark chocolate chips
-3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
-5 oz. dark rum
-10 Tbs. unsalted butter (cut into tablespoon size pieces for convenience)

For the Chocolate Shards:
-See the dedicated post here: Recipe and Directions for Easy Chocolate Shards


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease the inside of two, 8 inch metal cake pans (I use a spray-on no stick cooking spray for convenience).  Place a custom cut sheet of parchment paper inside each of the pans, right on top of the greased surface.   

Oasis Moment: To cut the parchment paper, place a cake pan over the parchment paper, and trace the outline using a sharp utility knife.  Repeat for the second pan.

Then spray the entire pan with an additional layer of grease, so that the parchment paper is covered.

Sprinkle a liberal amount of cocoa into the inside of each pan, and shake vigorously until the entire inside of the pan is covered with a thin layer of cocoa.  This will significantly improve the odds of the cake separating easily from the pan after baking.

Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.

In another bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the oil, sugar, and salt.  Mix until combined.  Add the eggs.  Mix until combined.  Add the milk.  Mix until combined.

Working in quarters, add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Combining after each addition.  Add the vanilla.

When the water is boiling, add it to the batter, making sure to scrape the sides.

Pour an even amount of batter into each pan.  Bake in the center of the over for 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out free of batter.

Cool the cakes on a wire baking rack for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the pans.   

Oasis Moment: To remove from the pans, quickly run a knife on the outside edge of the pan, trying not cut the cake.  Place a large plate upside down, on top of the cake.  Invert the cake pan and the plate, so that the cake pan is upside down and the plate is right side up.  The cake should easily fall out of the pan.

Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before proceeding.

While the cakes are cooling, start the compote.  Combine the raspberry pie filling, preserves, whiskey, and salt in a small sauce pan.  Heat until everything is well mixed and the salt has fully incorporated.  Allow to cool to room temperature. 

When the cakes have cooled, cut off the domed portion of the cake top so that the top is level. 

Oasis Moment: I find that long serrated knife (a.k.a a bread knife) works the best for this task.  Simply position the knife directly under the domed portion and carefully slice off the top.  Repeat with the second cake.

On one of the cakes, make a small 1/4 inch indention, leaving approximately 1/2 of cake on the sides (see below image)

Technique for filling cake
Fill the hollowed-out cake with the filling.  Place the second cake round on top of the base.

To make the ganache, use a double boiler (a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water works fine) to melt the chocolate with the rum.  Remove from heat, then working in tablespoon sized pieces add the butter.  Make sure to stir until each tablespoon of butter has melted before adding the next.  Allow to cool until spreadable, stirring occasionally.

Cover the cake with the ganache, and decorate as you desire.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Technique: Easy Chocolate Shards

Since this is a blog intended to introduce people to new foods and cooking techniques, I thought it might be beneficial to demonstrate one of the easiest methods for making elegant chocolate shards.  Now you can elevate simple desserts into something spectacular, just like Julia Child or your favorite 5-star chef (to elevate like Paula Deen, just add a few pads of butter, and presto!)

Chocolate Shards

-8 oz. melted chocolate
-1 large sheet of parchment paper


Melt the chocolate in the microwave, working in 30 seconds intervals, stirring after each cycle.  When the chocolate has fully melted it should be smooth and pourable.

Spread the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper, leaving a one-inch margin on each side.

Spreading the chocolate for the chocolate shards

Then roll the chocolate covered parchment paper into a tight roll.

Rolling the chocolate covered paper

The rolled chocolate
Place in the freezer until rock hard.

Using the back of a heavy kitchen knife, lightly tap the outside of the roll (make sure to work over a bowl).  Shake the broken pieces from the paper, and use to enhance almost any dessert!

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Random Food Photo: Personal Strawberry Shortcake

Personal Strawberry Shortcake
Unfortunately, I don't always have the time to develop a full-post for all of the great food-related photos I collect.  And all too often I have to triage various projects. 

The posting for this petite dessert happens to be this week's scheduling victim.  While there may not be a full post or a recipe, we can always admire the photo!

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Restaurant Review: Watercress at Bridge Street Town Centre (Huntsville, AL)

Watercress at Bridge Street on Urbanspoon

High-end prices, acceptable food, and haphazard service can summarize my recent dining experience at this comparatively new edition to the culinary landscape in Huntsville.

Now I a firm believer that good food can come from anywhere...it doesn't require high prices, fancy ambiance, or flashy service.  Food is an art-form.  It touches all of your senses; from the sizzle of a hot pan, to the gentle lingering aroma of truffle oil, to the salty-brineness of an exquisite olive, to the satisfying crunch of a well-fried piece of chicken.

It transcends time and space.  The dish can be a simple exploration of the moment, enhanced by your surroundings.  After a long night of dancing in Mexico a simple taco on a fresh tortilla can be just as satisfying as a well prepared ribeye from one of New York's finest establishments.  But food also encompasses all of your past experiences, whether consciously or not you will compare the dish in front you to everything else you've ever eaten.  It's human nature.

When I go to a new restaurant, I try to minimize my past experiences and observe the establishment as objectively as possible.  Unfortunately, even through an objective lens Watercress doesn't live up to its hype, yet. (http://bridgestreet.watercresshsv.com/ )

My party ordered an assortment of appetizers; the crab cakes (two cakes-$14) and the pimento cheese (approximately 1 cup of spread with grilled bread and pickled green tomatoes-$8).  The crab cakes were tasty, pan fried and crispy, though a little on the unpleasantly thick side.  The pimento cheese was delicious, well seasoned, and contrasted nicely with the pickled tomatoes.  Unfortunately, the grilled bread was less than enjoyable.  While nicely charred it was slightly soggy, as though it had been prepared in advance and held at temperature like a sweaty gym sock in a steamy locker room.

Our waiter strongly recommended the Soup du Jour, which on this day was a creamy interpretation of a classic french onion soup.  Unfortunately, possibly due to the season, the onions didn't demonstrate an aptitude for flavor.

For dinner, I ordered the pork chop ($24) in part to sample the intriguing components of "creole Worcestershire reduction" and the jalapeno white cheddar grits.  My pork chop arrived well grilled, and well seasoned.  The plating was impressive to say the least.  And the reduction was perfectly matched with the inherent sweetness of the chop.  Sadly the famed grits (which are a side for a number of dishes of the menu) were bland, under-seasoned,  and conveyed only the faintest essence of jalapenos.

From the other members of my dining party a rousing chorus of "where's the salt" echoed from plate to plate, especially from those who had ordered beef.

Overall our food was enjoyable, but it didn't leave us wanting seconds.

The beverage selection, especially the draft choices, left much to be desired.  While the wine menu did feature some excellent bottles, it was not very expansive.  The beer selection was downright discouraging.  For an upscale venue, that touts its penchant for local produce and food-stuffs, I expected to see a broader selection of local beers on tap.  Instead a single Lily Flagg Milk Stout (Straight to Ale, Huntsville, AL) languished in the kegerator.  

The ambiance was marred by the screeching tones of Jazz ensemble that would have been more at home in a suburban garage than in the echoing, open area of the restaurant.  At numerous occasions several managers stopped by our table to apologize (nothing changed), and for most of the meal we were forced to speak with elevated in-door voices.  Which didn't seem to bother the other guests, one of whom was wearing glorified fitness attire.

While attentive, the service was erratic and at several times throughout our meal befuddled servers arrived at out table carrying plates from other dining parties. 

I do have to offer my thanks and gratitude to the owners of this establishment for their sincere attempt to elevate dining in what is otherwise a "gastronomic wasteland." As with any restaurant critique, the heart of this piece is intended to further improve what could be an exciting addition to the area, and it is my hope that these observations are received in such a light.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!