Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nothing Says Loving Like Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits are a quintessential comfort food in the United States.   What can I possibly say about Buttermilk Biscuits that would do them justice?   They are simply delicious.   A little nugget of food that reminds you of a better a time.  A time where food mattered and feeding people was what made cooks cook.  A chance to perfect something so simple yet so complex.   A food of everyday men.  A food that I happen to adore.

Recently I have been paying more mind to learning how to make these delicious little pillows of goodness.  I have spent the last couple of months trying different buttermilk biscuit recipes.  I started with the Irma S. Rombauer recipe from her iconic cookbook "Joy of Cooking."  I mean where else would you start?  I have tried the recipes from numerous online location and of course i have tried chef Alton Brown's recipe (my favorite Food network personality).

Now I must say after trying all of the recipes I thought Alton Brown's Southern Biscuit Recipe was my favorite.  However, despite the fact that I LOVE Alton's recipe I thought there could be a few changes that would plus them up a bit.    I know he is an icon of American cooking but still....I wanted to change a few things.   If in fact he would ever read this, I would hope he doesn't get offended by my changes but appreciates them for the reasons that I give.  After all, I think my biscuit bender was kicked off after watching Alton Brown's Good Eats episode on biscuits :)

Anywho...On to the BISCUITS!

So Alton's recipe calls for the following ingredients:

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Now there are a few things he has done VERY right in this recipe.  For starters the equal parts of butter and shortening.   His explanation was because the shortening give a good crumb and the butter gives a good taste.  This is 100% agree with.   I have tried all butter, all shortening, 3 parts butter & 1 part shortening, 1 part butter 3 parts shortening, lard instead of shortening etc.. etc.. etc...  He nailed it.   Equal parts butter and shortening = flavor + crumb.

The second thing Alton has done very right in this recipe is the sticky factor in the dough.   His recipe calls for a very sticky dough and then to not knead it very much.  This is absolutely the right approach.  The biscuits come out fluffy and delicious.

The last thing he explains that is VERY helpful is about cutting the biscuits from the dough.  He states clearly:  "Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough."   At first I wondered why he would be so explicit.   You quickly discover that this is to make sure the biscuit maintains that quintessential biscuit form.   Lesson learned Alton!

The rest of his recipe is available here.  Given it is his recipe you should read it ther

Now what have I changed...

Well for one the baking powder.   I use double acting baking powder and let the dough sit for like 5 minutes after I assemble it.  I do this to get the biscuit nice and fluffy and tall.   Now Alton's recipe is fine but when you use the double acting baking powder and let it set for a few minutes the biscuits come out HUGE.  I love me some huge biscuits :)

The second thing I change is I have changed is I love a little bit of cheddar in all of my buttermilk biscuits.   I feel like the bite of the cheddar really plays well with the buttermilk.  This comes to life especially well in the aftertaste.  Now I dont use alot of cheddar as I am not making cheddar biscuits.   I grate like an eight cup of cheddar cheese and fold it into the dough.  Now because you add in cheddar I reccommend putting in a tiny extra pinch of salt than Alton uses.  This is to blend the flavors a bit.   More ingredients more salt.

The last thing I add is a small pinch of cayenne.  Nuff' said.   Mmmm Heat.

What you get is a tall, tasty and wonderful lil buttermilk biscuit.   Mmmm Yummy.


Pizza Dough!

Being a native Brooklynite I am QUITE passionate about my pizza.   Pizza has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  When I was a kid I would walk home from school and get a slice and a soda at Smiling Pizza in Brooklyn.   When I was in high school L&B's Spumoni Garden was the place to be and BTW has the BEST square slice of pizza in Brooklyn.   If anyone feels differently about L&B's I got one thing to say...  However, I will bite my tongue because this blog is classier than what I got to say.

When I was in college I would drive to Howard Beach to go to NEW PARK Pizza and grab a plain slice.  NEW PARK's plain slices are pretty amazing.  If you disagree with this read what I said about people who disagree with my opinion on L&B's....

So one might ask the question... "Why haven't you really tried to tackle pizza on your food blog?"   The answer is quite simple...There is no pretty good pizza.   There is GREAT pizza, regular pizza, and fake pizza like Dominos, Imos, and the pizza casserole known as CHICAGO PIZZA.   Now I don't want to start a fight so I will leave Chicago Pizza for another post but come on chitown it is a pizza casserole not a pizza.

Since i <3 pizza and am proud of my cooking, I have NOT tried to really make my own.   Trying to build a good pizza is like trying to climb mount everest.   If you don't have a sherpa, you aint making it up.    Since I don't have a pizza sherpa I have always avoided trying to make a true BROOKLYN pizza pie.

Well I still dont have a sherpa but the time has come to give pizza making a try.  I am now officially trying to work on building my pizza skills.   It will take me years to develop proper pizza skills but the mission has begun.

I am starting to feel comfortable sharing the progress of this work so here goes....

My first new york pizza I am willing to share is a basic pepperoni pizza.  Here is a the shot of it:

The pizza dough was the starting point for me.   Brooklyn pizza is what it is because of the dough.   I need to start my journey with a base recipe so I am going to use the recipe I found.   While this is a recipe that I doubt will turn out the way I want it, it is a good start.   So here it is:

New York Pizza Dough Recipe from


  • 2 1/4 teaspoon (1 package) instant dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (not hot!)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cups bread flour, or as needed
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Add the water, yeast, sugar, and a 1/2 cup of the flour into a mixing bowl. Stir well and let sit for 20 minutes. It will get bubbly.
  2. Add olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until it's together enough to turn out on to a lightly floured work surface to knead.
  3. Knead for about 10 minutes, while adding more flour a little at a time, to produce a soft, elastic and slightly sticky dough. Do not add too much flour, just enough to keep it from sticking to the work surface as you knead.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Drizzle a few drops of oil and coat the top of dough to prevent the surface from becoming dry.
  5. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
  6. Punch down the dough and divide into 2 balls and place in large zip lock plastic bags and refrigerate overnight.
  7. When ready to use, remove from fridge, and let the dough come up to room temperature before using. 

This recipe was ok.   A few things I did not like:

  1. I didn't think the consistency of the dough was all that right.   
  2. The flavor was a little eh and needed some salt
  3. Texturally it needed a lighter internal texture and a crunchier crust
  4. It needed more than just bread flour
  5. I did not let it sit long enough to rise.  TIME IS YOUR FRIEND
  6. I dont have a pizza oven so it doesn't cook quick enough
As per the marinara sauce I used my basic marinara sauce:

2 large can of crushed tomatoes
red pepper flakes
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 sweet onion
1 large shallot
olive oil
herbs (basil, oregano and italian parsley)
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

The trick to a good marinara is time time time...  TAKE YOUR TIME and go low and slow on the cooking.   Just sweat the garlic, onions and shallots.   Hit it with salt and pepper and add the red pepper flakes.   Put in the crushed tomatoes, stir it, add in the herbs and go low and slow.   Stir in the cheee and let it melt then season it to your liking. 


Anywho...  I need to invest my time in working on the dough.  I will give it a go once a month and see how my pizza making progresses.   The pizza I made was delicious and in time I will figure out how to make a great Brooklyn pizza.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Simple Soba Noodles with Sesame Five Spice Tuna

There are days when you are craving flavor but you are also craving something simple.  On these days I look straight to Japan.  A place that has perfected quick, simple, super flavorful dishes.  

Last night I decided to use japan as my inspiration for a simple meal.  

I wanted to bring together a few key flavors as separate items on a plate:  Dashi, Soy Sauce, Mirin, Sesame, and Five Spice.  I instantly knew what i wanted to do!

I wanted to make something with Soba Noodles!  Soba Noodles are served with a Soba Dipping Sauce called Tsuyu.   Tsuyu is made with Dashi, Soy Sauce, and Mirin.   Three of the flavors I craved.  For those of you that don't know what Soba Noodles are, they are a buckwheat based noodle that is served cold.  It can be served hot in soup as well but I love it cold.   One of my favorite things about Japan was getting good food fast in the train stations.    Soba noodles were a big part of that.   

I wanted a light protein that was prepared simply with the Soba Noodles and that is when I decided on tuna.   My plan was to get a nice few pieces of fresh tuna and season them with chinese five spice powder that my lil sister picked up for while travelling in Thailand.   I wanted to add a layer of sesame flavor so I whisked together a marinade from tamarin sesame dressing, olive oil and chinese five spice powder.  I quickly pan seared the tuna on each side and let it rest.

I paired all of this with a simple salad with mixed baby greens, chopped purple cabbage, and chopped white cabbage.  I lightly tossed it with some of the tamarin sesame dressing and dinner was ready.

I plated it on some beautiful long plates that I have in the house and I was ready to eat!    Everything was so fragrant and delicious.  A simple meal, very flavorful, and a taste of Japan.  YUM

Total prep and cook time: 15 mins.

Amount of Delicious: AWESOME

i <3 japan

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Silly Social Ads

So recently I have become obsessed with silly social ads.    I am amazed by the amount of social "punch the monkey" kind of creative executions.

So with that said I am going to start posting my favorites

With that said here is the first few in my installation of silly social ads:

An automall that is trying to get people to like the object and decides to put a giant red heart as the image.   I am curious how many people even know what this is or care but just like clicking on hearts.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pork Chili Recipe That Will Make You Squeal!

So the day was Super Bowl Sunday 2012.   My NY Giants were gearing up for the game and I decided that I needed to represent and make some chili.  Nuffin' says luvin' like Super Bowl Chili.  I texted some people and got a lil Super Bowl event going on at my house.   It was time to go shopping and get my chili ingredients.

Since I called an audible on throwing a Super Bowl party I needed to get ingredients that would power up the flavor and maximize my time that I had to cook the chili.    It was 430pm and I was at the butcher.   Game time was 6pm and I planned on serving the chili at half time.   

Pork was the clear choice because it is such a flavorful meat.    I decided to go with 4 selections of meat for my chili:

6 pieces pork stew meat
1lb of Bork (part chopped beef and part chopped pork)
1 hunk of uncut butcher block smoked bacon
1 smoked pig foot.   Mmmmm smoked pig foot heh

So let us take some time to about why I chose the meat I chose.   

Well for one thing I wanted to have more then one type of meat texture so I decided to get the stew meat and the chopped meat.   The stew meat would be pulled and stringy which is wonderful.   The chopped bork would be the quintissential meat texture you expect in a chili.    

The bacon I am going to be adding at the end so let's move to the really fun ingredient...   SMOKED PIG FOOT...   Now the reason I picked up this ingredient was to really amp up the porkiness and smokiness of the chili.  But let's be honest....  it is a friggin smoked pig foot.   How could I possibly resist?!????

I mean look at that thing.  It is gorgeous and wacky all at the same time.    I needed to experience the power of the smoked pig foot.  I could need resist it's draw.  Mmmmm Smoked Pig Foot.   

So here was the other ingredients I got for the chili.   

1 hunk of beautiful aged cheddar cheese
2 tablespoon Thai chili powder
1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper corn
1 tablespoon Yellow mustard powder
1 teaspoon All spice
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flake
1 tablespoon of honey
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
1 large yellow onion
1 large shallot
1 can of black beans
2 cans of butter beans
4 large cloves of garlic
some warm water
Kosher salt
Black pepper
pickled jalapeños
sour cream
olive oil

Given I was rushed for time I decided to use two pots.  One pot so I can stew the meat and create a base that is porky porky porky.   One pot to make a sweet and spicy tomato base.   Once I was satisfied with the flavor bases I would combine the two pots and cook it down to remove the moisture. 

Porky Pot:

First I seasoned all the meat with salt and black pepper.  I heated up the pot and put some olive oil on the bottom.   I dropped in the stew meat and started to sear it to create a nice browning on it.    Once it was nice and brown I dropped in the bork and browned that up.   I added in the mustard, nutmeg, all spice, sichuan pepper corns, and thai chili powder.   I coated all the meat in the spices and then dropped in the pork foot.   Mmmm pork foot.   I covered the whole thing with water so the pork was submerged in water but just enough to submerge it.    I started it simmering and let the meat go go go.   About 20 mins in I added in the can of black beans and about 45 mins in I removed the pork foot so the smoke flavor did over power the pork pot.  

Now I realize the sichuan peppercorn and thai chili powder are hard ingredients to find.  I suggest hitting up your local asian super markets or hitting up your local china town.   Either way they are worth the effort!  Super delicious and amazing flavor.   The sichuan peppercorn are amazing!   They make your mouth numb and taste like pink peppercorns kinda.   Yum Yum!  luckily I had someone pick me up these ingredients while in Thailand and um er um sneak em into the country.   hehe.

Sichuan Peppercorn

Thai Chili Powder

Sweet and Spicy Tomato Pot:

I cut up one yellow onion and one shallot.   I added olive oil to the pot and sweat the onion and shallot in the hot oil after seasoning it with salt and black pepper.   I added in the garlic and brought all the ingredients to a nice caramelized brown color.    I added in the two large cans of crushed tomatoes, the honey, and red pepper flakes.   I added in some seasoning of salt and black pepper and cooked all the flavors together.   I added in the butter beans and let it cook down for 45 mins.

Once the two pots were ready I combined the two pots.   I let this mixture simmer for the next hour covered.   I then removed the cover and let it simmer uncovered to let the moisture come out.  I shredded some cheddar cheese about 1 cup and folded it into the chili.

Once the chili was "ready" I started to work on two addon ingredients to plus it up flavor wise and texturally.  I cubed the butcher block bacon and cooked it up nice and crispy.  I made sure not to over cook it as I wanted the center to be a little gelatinous but cooked.  I wanted the bacon fat to burst into your mouth when you bit into it.  Mmmm Bacon.   I also cubed up some cheddar cheese.    

When I served the chili I folded in the about 10 cheddar cubes and 4 bacon cubes per bowl.   I garnished it with 6 more bacon cubes, some chopped pickled jalapeños and some sour cream.

What I got was simply delicious!   Smokey, porky, sweet, beany, super delicious chili.   This chili made we want to squeal.   This recipe has some unique ingredients but this is by far the best chili I have ever made or eaten.   Yum yum yum!

Here is the final product:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Perfect Thanksgiving Day Authentic Puerto Rican Pernil Recipe

So if you have read this blog over past holidays you know that I am obsessed with cooking pernil for the family.    Pernil is the quintessential holiday roast from the Puerto Rican side of my family.   I LOVE PERNIL.    Garlicky, salty, porky goodness.    YUM YUM YUM

You can witness my obsession with pernil recipes by visiting my Pernil Pork Party.

Ok ok ok.   So over the last few weeks I have been experimenting with ideas for a better pernil recipe than what I put together last year.   I have been messing around with the brine, the cure, the timing of brine and cure, and a custom injection for the pig.

The recipe I developed this year ended up being the best pernil recipe I have ever come up with.    I have maintained all the authentic puerto rican essentials while applying a few tactics to dial up the flavors and perfect the crispy chicharron.

Ok so without any further notice here is my perfect pernil recipe for pernil al horno....

Lets start with the meat.   Get a nice 9lb picnic cut pork shoulder.  It's the perfect meat for pernil.    The better the pig the better the pernil.   Go for the good stuff and get it from your local butcher.    The picnic cut is the lower part of the shoulder as depicted here in this cool butcher pic:

The next step it to prep the meat by scoring the skin with nice long and deep lines across the skin as seen here:

My Tio Benny taught me this scoring technique.    In Cocina Criolla (the best Puerto Rican cook book) it tells you to score the skin with diamonds.    The lines going across the back of the skin from one side to the other is way better.   When the chicharron crisps up it ends up being little chicharron candy sticks.   It is awesome.   Crispy, salty, sticks of pork skin.  YUM

Now it's time for the flavor.  Pernil is all about the flavor.   For pernil al horno the authentic ingredients for flavoring are:

black peppercorn
garlic garlic garlic
salt salt salt salt :)

You will see this ingredient combination over and over again in my recipe.   It is the foundation of the pernil flavor and an absolute requirement for an authentic pernil.

The first flavor step is the brine...   Here is my perfect pernil brine recipe:

Pernil Brine Recipe:

6 bay leaves
3 stalks of oregano
25 mixed peppercorns
2 halved heads of garlic
16 cups of water
3 cups of salt
2 cups of sugar
A healthy sprinkle of Goya Adobo 

I left it in the cold brine for 24 hours sitting in the frig.   Once that was done I removed the pig from the brine and dried it off in preparation of the marinade/cure.  

Here is my recipe for the perfect pernil marinade/cure:

(Designed for a 9lb picnic cut pork)

With a mortar and pestle mash up the following:

15 cloves of garlic
2.5 tablespoons of fresh chopped oregano (a couple fo sprigs)
16 black peppercorns
12 teaspoons of kosher salt
the meat of 2 reconstituted new mexican drilled chillies

Once that is mashed up add in the following and mash it up some more until it is a nicely integrating marinade/cure

2 1/4 teaspoons of cider vinegar
2 1/4 teaspoons of olive oil

Rub down your pig with 2/3 of the marinade.   Get the rub all over the pig.   Every inch must be coated in it.    Stab the pig with a long knife to make some deep cuts in the pig that are about big enough to fit your finger in them.   Shove the remaining marinade/cure into these holes to ensure you are infusing the flavor into the meat.

Here is a pic of my marinade and my pernil after I applied the marinade/cure

Once that is all done cover it up and stick it in the frig.   Don't touch it for 3 whole days.   The longer it sits the better.  I like 3 days.

The next step is the injection.    I whip up a quick injection by making a soup from the following recipe:

2 roasted garlic heads (45 minutes in the oven at 400)
8 black peppercorns
2 sprigs of oregano chopped up
pinch of salt
splash of cider vinegar
1 cup of water

I boil it and then strain it out so I have the liquid only for the injection.   Prepare it the night before you want to cook or put it in a quick ice bath the day of to cool it down.  The injection must be cool.

Take the meat out of the frig 30 minutes before you cook it and inject about 3 injection needles worth of the soup mixture.   This gets more of the essential flavor into the pernil and also makes sure it is nice and juicy.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and stick the meat in for 35 minutes for every lb of meat.   Make sure it is covered.  About 45 minutes before its done take off the cover.   In the last 10 minutes turn it up to 450 and get that chichiarron nice and crispy.

What you get is friggin amazing.   Pure deliciousness.   The perfect pernil!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gumbotto Recipe - My Rendition of a Gumbo Inspired Risotto

The other day I was watching Food TV and gumbo was featured a few times.   It was the day of Snotober in the NYC so I figured that I wanted to do something warming like gumbo for dinner.    Sadly then two shows later Food TV did something on risotto.  I wanted to make that as well!   It then hit me to try to make a gumbo inspired risotto.

Now I know there are plenty of recipes for Gumbo Risotto but I just wasn't in the mood for the tomato base.  I decided to just take the key ingredients I like of gumbo and incorporate it into some form of seafood risotto.   So here is what I came up with:


2 andouille sausage
4 diver scallops
6 tiger shrimp
2"x1" block of slab bacon
1 salmon fish head
1 extra large shallot
1 yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
bunch of fresh cilantro
chili flakes
4 cups fish stock
4 cups of water
2 pinches of paprika
1/2 stick of butter
2 cups of risotto rice
kosher salt
cracked black peppercorn
half of a fresh lemon
some parmesan reggiano
olive oil

Here was the plan.  I wanted to make my own fish stock base by putting a fish head in 4 cups of water and bringing it to a boil.    I removed the fish head and add 4 cups of store bought fish stock to it.   Whamo!   Fresh fish stock sorta.

I must admit the kid in me was excited to just be messing with a fish head :)


I then uncased the andouille sausage and cubed the bacon.  I tossed the andouille and bacon in the sautee pan with olive oil and made sure the sausage was brown and the little bacon cubes were nice and crispy.  I seasoned that to make sure the flavors come together.  Once the meat was done I took it from the pan and set it aside.   I added the shallots, garlic, and chili flakes into the sauté pan in the meat grease.   A little bit of seasoning to bring it together.  Once they were lightly sweated I tossed in the risotto rice and lightly toasted it for 2 mins.  I deglazed the sauté pan with two ladles of fish stock and began to work the risotto.

Good risotto is "worked."   You ladle in more and more stock and in between ladles you are tossing and moving the risotto.   When you do this the rice releases its starch and the risotto comes together much much more creamy.   "Working risotto" is a bit of a trick you need to practice and learn but once you hit your stride.  But when you do hit your stride you get AMAZINGLY creamy risotto.   This is why risotto is a comfort food....  it is made with love and care.

You work anywhere between 8-12 ladles of stock in to make a risotto.   You add some parmy cheese into it about 2x while you are working it.  Add enough cheese to add flavor but dont overwhelm it as you are going to put some cheese on it at the end.  You really got to make sure the risotto has the right creaminess and right texture.  This just takes practice!

I then heated up another sauté pan and dumped in the butter.    I tossed the scallops and shrimp in salt, pepper, paprika and a bit of fresh squeezed lemon.  I tossed them in sauté pan and spooned the hot butter atop them.    The shrimp I cooked to just done and took out.   I let the scallops get that perfect brown crust to them and took them out nice and done.   You really got to be careful not to overcook the scallop and shrimp.    The get rubbery if you over cook them.   This also takes practice.

I then finished the risotto by folding in som fresh chopped cilantro, the cooked andouile sausage and bacon.  

I plated the risotto down first with and on top of it put a bit of fresh parmy cheese and fresh cilantro.  I then added the scallops and shrimp to be served along side of it.

What I got was simply delicious.    It had the flavors of gumbo that I was graving and the risotto I was seeking.  Yum Yum Yum.   I have never made the gumbo risotto recipes that are online but let me tell you that this Gumbotto is worth making.