Even My Yoga's Spicy, Ya'll!

This may go without saying, but I'm generally a slothful food-a-holic with a very short attention span and occasional bouts of Type-A personality. (I wish I could say that I'm being hyperbolic in saying all that--I'm not. Tis' true). This makes exercising very difficult--if I'm at a typical yoga class or on a run I'm thinking about the following, all at the same time:
a.) a cheeseburger
b.) how boring exercise is
c.) chocolate
d.) how my legs/ankles/lungs/stomach/earlobes hurt too much to go any further
e.) how lame I am at fitness.

Thankfully, all that may have changed, now that I've found Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga consists of way too many people in tiny spandex clothing, doing deep balancing and stretching postures in a 104-115 degree room while being coached by a tiny, cut person with a headset. It's intense, and I've found that the only way I can make it through the 90 minute session is to concentrate all my willpower on doing the postures in a way that benefits my body. If I think for one second about the heat of the room, or how shallow my breathing is, I'm toast. (Mmmmm, toast with apple buttermmmmmmm!)

I've only gone 3 times, and my body is already changing. My torso is longer, and all the tension that I carry around in my chest and shoulders is gone. About 70 minutes into my second class, I was laying in corpse pose after a particularly sternum-crushing posture and it felt like a huge weight I didn't even know I'd been carrying around had been lifted off my chest. And laying there, chest heaving, red-faced, and covered in sweat after an hour + of cardio-heavy yoga, I felt like the happiest person on the planet. And I wasn't even thinking about chocolate.

Ting Cris: Caribbean Jerk Chicken Salad Recipe

This jerk chicken salad was inspired by a handful of sunny days and wild nights spent in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I love the open and exuberant people of Jamaica, and the steel drum bands and fresh seafood don't hurt. If you've never been you should absolutely go--plan on a laid-back trip, where everything is on "Jamaican Time," and hone your rum-drinking skills if you're not a fan of the fizzy, malty Red Stripe beer of the island.

There are a hundred things that I love about Jamaica, but the one that I keep coming back to is...Jerk Chicken. Jerk anything is spicy, smoky, and bold. It's great served as a main course (we love to marinate anything meaty in jerk seasoning overnight, grill it, and serve it over cheese grits) or in a salad. I came up with this recipe so I could have a sweet/spicy Jerk Chicken experience for 3 days straight without feeling guilty for overdoing it on the cheese grits. The mayo cuts the spice just a little, while the onion, celery, and apple add a sweet, fresh component to smoky, rich flavors in the chicken. I'd make a double batch, if I were you.

NOTE: I hate to start a recipe with the requirement that you purchase a specific product, but my favorite ready-made jerk seasoning is made in Walkerswood, Jamaica--just outside Ocho Rios. You can find it here, or at most World Market stores. Homemade jerk seasoning requires that you work with scotch bonnet peppers (ouch!) and have loads of nutmeg, thyme, and allspice on hand. I say it's best to leave it up to the experts.

Jerk Chicken Salad:
3 large Chicken Breasts
2 Tbs. Creole Mustard
3/4 Cup "Lite Mayo"
2 Tbs. Real, Cholesterol-filled, fatty mayo (you deserve it!)
1 1/2 Cup diced Onion
1 Cup chopped Green Apple
1 stalk Celery, diced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground Black Pepper
1 tsp. nutmeg

Make 1 inch-deep cuts in the chicken breasts, against the grain. Cover each chicken breast with 1 Tbs. Walkerswood seasoning, making sure you get the spices into the slits. (Use a spoon--it's awkward, but you don't want scotch bonnets in your eye.) Cover and marinate in the fridge over night (or at for at least 2 hours).
Smoke or grill the chicken. (I know, this may seem annoying, but get some fresh veggies, coat them in seasoning and olive oil, and throw them on the rest of the grill for a yummy snack. Southwest Grilled Corn salad, anyone?)
See? Don't you want this in your chicken salad? Thought so.
Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes. When cooled, cube or shred chicken to desired consistency and place in a large bowl. Transfer any accumulated juices to the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly mixed. Cover and refrigerate--serve over lettuce with some fresh pineapple, or as a sandwich.
Tips and Tricks:
Walkerswood, ya'll. I'm supposed to be an expert on smoky, spicy, meaty foods. If you don't take my advice, then I'm going back to writing about smoothies.
The flavors develop as the chicken salad rests, so let it sit overnight. This is not possible if Mr. Luz lives in your house.
You can add more jerk seasoning to the chicken salad if you want more spice.
Resist the urge to add salt...I have regretted every tiny dash that I've added to the final product. The ingredients pack plenty of sodium on their own.
Also, Blogger's formatting BS makes me STABBY.

Reparations II: Pi/e Party!

I shall continue to flagellate myself with fatty substances (not possible) for my brief stint on the Darkside. This time, it's Crisco!

Here are some fun pics from my Georgetown Lovahs' (plural-don't be jealous) Pi/e Party. I'm not sure how far back this tradition goes, but every year around March 14th, the ladies celebrate 3.14 with flaky-butter-ensconced-circles. Genius!

This year the highlight of the party was either a.) Liza Jane's fantastic Pecan Pie w/a homemade crust or b.) Georgetown Lovah's (singular) Icing Pie. Seriously, she baked a chocolate cake into a pie shell, then sculpted 6 tubs of vanilla icing on top. Behold.

Check out our spread! Rockin' pecan pie is there in the back, right before carnage ensued.
My wee (and not circular, cringe) crawfish pies w/remoulade dipping sauce. I sprinkled cajun seasoning on top before baking.
Mmmm, sweet and savory in one shot.


Reparations I: Meatruck

Sorry about that post below--I think I was having an existential crisis over the fact that I haven't eaten meat, cheese, or grains (!!) in the past 5 days. I just had an illegal cookie, and I think it set me straight. To make amends, and to celebrate the impending death of my health food binge, I give you....

It just seemed like a good omen, waking up to find this sitting outside my house one drizzly Sunday morning. A good omen that is making me regret turning down that LockPicking 101 Course at the Phoenix Online University last Fall.StumbleUpon.com

Healthy Living: May Not Be Suitable for Sensitive Readers

I really wish I didn't have to do this. I'm just not sure that I have a choice. I fear that there may be people just like me out there right now...everything feels off, like they just need to be renewed, or revived, or something.

I'm starting to wonder who I am, and where my life is going. What kind of person have I become, and what does this all mean for my future? Am I going down the road of a---a----a health nut?! These are the questions that I've woken up to every day, in my dim room, the laptop computer that hasn't typed the word "cheese" in over a week grimly staring at me, wondering if I'll ever come back to it.

Will it ever forgive me for what I'm about to do?

The Bacon Concentrate SuperSmoothie:

1/2 medium Avocado (I promise it won't taste funny)
3/4 cup Grapes (for sweetness and fiber)
2 cups sliced Strawberries (for Vitamin C)
1 Carrot w/the skin, sliced (for Vitamin A)
1/2 cucumber w/the skin on, sliced (for fiber)
1 handful baby spinach leaves (for the hell of it)
1 cup Blackberries (for antioxidants)
1 cup unsweetened soy milk (for Vitamins, calcium)
splash of lemon juice, to taste
Ice cubes
Dash Cinnamon (so you can pretend you're eating apple pie)

Puree carrot and cucumber in blender. Add fruits and avocado, a bit at a time, until pureed. If blender sticks, add a splash of soymilk. Add the spinach, and puree. Add the soy milk and cinnamon. Taste, add more cinnamon and lemon juice to taste. Add ice cubes a few at a time until you have reached the desired consistency.

Note: This recipe is for a quick boost of vitamins and minerals and a healthy digestive system, not weight loss. If you drink this every day, you will have fantastic skin and a happy belly, but your butt still won't fit into your pre-teen's leggings. Then again, who wants that anyway?


Serving Size: 1/2 of the mixture above
240 Calories
20% of your recommended daily value (DV) of Fat (good fat aids in absorption of vitamins & minerals)
25% DV Potassium
36% DV Dietary Fiber
5 grams Protein
180% DV Vitamin C
17% DV Iron
23% DV Calcium
15% DV Vitamin D
25% DV Vitamin B12

Tips and Tricks:

You can use good-quality frozen fruits--the sugar content is a little higher, but they are oh-so-easy.

Don't use yogurt, or milks containing lactose. Your belly needs a break.

Convince your boyfriend that these are a special dessert, made just for him. Then maybe he'll drink it, instead of chomping on that piece of pizza as you sip your non-cheesy, non-meaty, non-doughy vitamin serum.StumbleUpon.com

(Jambalaya) Crawfish Pie (File Gumbo) Recipe

"For tonight, I'm gonna see my ma cher-amio..."

Cooter Brown's is a cave-like bar in New Orleans that serves GIANT sandwiches loaded with fatty, meaty goodness. Mr. Luz and I went there after our first date and ran into native of my hometown, St. Louis, Missouri. As I wolfed down my GIANT reuben sandwich, Mr. St. Louisan told Mr. Luz "Only a St. Louis girl could appreciate a sandwich that much!" As they say, the rest is history.

When a few of my friends told me that they celebrate March 14th with a Pi/e Party, I immediately thought about Cooter Brown's Boudreaux Special, made with mini crawfish pies. The menu description is as follows: "Ms. Wheat's crawfish pies on french bread with remoulade sauce. So good it'll make you wanna slap yo grandmamma!" By the way, I don't mess around with grandmamas. When Grandmama P. passed away, she told me that if I ever felt a swift kick in the ass as I was doing something wrong, that I shouldn't turn around, it's just her telling me to knock it off. And Grandmama McBride took on an F-350 pickup truck. No sir, I don't eff with grandmamas. But I do love crawfish pie.

I made my pie crusts based on The Parsley Thief's recipe, found here. I also realized that I hate making pie crust in general, much less 25 mini pie crusts; next time I'll just use the store bought crap. Amateur Gourmet, I am decidedly not a pie dough personality. For tweaks on The Parsley Thief's recipe, see Tips and Tricks below.

Crawfish Pie Recipe
5-6 prepared pie shells, thawed
1 lb. peeled crawfish tails
1 package crab boil
1 1/2 cup sliced okra (if using frozen, thaw first)
2 tsp. oil
1 large tomato, coarse chopped
1 stick butter (woot!)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup diced white onions
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 cups smoked sausage, diced
3 Tbs. Tony's Lite Seasoning, or another low-sodium cajun spice blend
Cayenne pepper and salt to taste
3 egg whites, lightly whisked

Put crawfish tails and crab boil packet in a large pot, barely cover with water. Bring pot to a boil, immediately turn off heat, and let crawfish tails soak for 30 min.-1 hour. Drain and return to the pot.
Saute okra in oil on medium-low heat, until the ropiness is gone and the okra has caramelized on the bottom of the pan. (10-15 minutes.) Remove okra, let cool, and chop OR pulse several times in a food processesor. Add okra to the drained crawfish. Saute tomato in the okra pan on low, stirring until the browned bits have released from the bottom of the pan.
Melt the butter and add the flour. Stir constantly to make a light roux (approx. 4-6 minutes).
Add the trinity (white onion, celery, green pepper) and saute until the veggies are soft. Add the sausage and saute for 3 minutes. Add the crawfish & okra, the tomato mixture, Tony's Seasoning, and the green onions. Stir until heated through. Set aside to cool.
Spread pie crusts out onto floured surface. Use a biscuit cutter, or a water glass to cut circles in the dough. Spoon filling onto the pastry circles, and fold in half. **It is easiest to assemble the pastries if you pull one side of the pastry to meet the other, lifting both sides off the counter and sealing with your fingertips pressing on either side. You can use your fingers to push the filling to the center of the pastry as you seal.** If the pastries do not seal, use a small amount of water on the seamed edges.
Crimp with a fork, and place onto a floured baking sheet. Freeze until ready to bake, or bake immediately, spaced out on a separate baking sheet. To bake, preheat the oven to 450 F. Spray baking sheet w/non-stick cooking spray or cover with parchment paper. Brush pastries lightly with egg whites, and bake for 18-20 minutes--until golden brown. (If frozen, bake for an additional 5 minutes).

Tips and Tricks:
If the pastry gets too sticky, add flour and/or return to the refrigerator to set.

It takes time to get the filling/dough ratio correct, and these boogers are yummy but they are not easy to put together.

Serve w/a remoulade sauce, (see below) which can be made w/many ingredients you already have in your fridge, plus some leftover from your crawfish-pie filling.


N'awlins Remoulade Sauce Recipe

Now there are two types of people in the world...people who like the French "white" remoulade w/mayonaise and capers, and those who prefer the spicy, tangy, N'awlins "red" remoulade best known for coating fabulous cajun boiled shrimp at New Orleans restaurants everywhere. (Prounounced "reh-mu-lawd," sort of quick, like you're about to jump into a huge sack of boiled crawfish and don't have time to talk about it.)

Ok, maybe that overstates things a bit. Regardless, here's my recipe for the red New Orleans style remoulade. It's super-tangy, with a little bit of spice and alot of green onion flavor.

New Orleans Remoulade Sauce
6 Tbs. Creole mustard
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 Tbs. vinegar
3/4 cup chopped green onions
4 dashes hot sauce
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard (I know it sounds like alot of mustard, but it gives the recipe the tangy flavor plus some heat, makes it mauh-velous).
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 small eggs or 1 extra large, brought to room temp with a hot water bath
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2/3 cup oil

Place all ingredients besides oil in a blender, and puree. With blender on high, slowly add oil in a stream. The mixture should emulsify, giving it the texture of a thin mayonaise. Cover and store in the fridge overnight, so the flavors can develop. Serve with seafood, toss with boiled shrimp and serve over lettuce, or use to smother some unsuspecting french fries.StumbleUpon.com

A Day in the Life of a Food Blogger

Not that ya'll need to know about my GI problems, this being a blog about eating and all, but the flu has kicked my ass. In lieu of posting the recipe for the protein-boost, grape, soy milk, cucumber smoothie monstrosity that I will be having for dinner tonight, I wanted to post about the odd life of a food blogger.

I never considered how food blogs come together as I surfed ClosetCooking and PassionateEater, but I'm hoping this post will give bloggers a good laugh, while aficionados and aspiring bloggers can get a peek into our weird, weird existence.

Wake up, still full from last night's dinner (crawfish pie w/remoulade-recipe coming soon).

Consider eating leftover stout-beer-braised corned beef for breakfast.

Remember that I've gained 6 pounds since I started foodblogging a month ago, settle for cereal.

Grab coffee, check Tastespotting; Seriouseats; Foodgawker over coffee. It's brain candy.

At work.

Work has removed links to an email my friend sent me w/"Food Porn" in the title--curious.

Hear boss stirring--instantly fear that I'll be fired for spending my slow days on food blogs.

Boss moves past, log onto Foodbuzz and check out my friends' posts.

My BFF emails me for bacon cupcake recipes.

I loathe the BFF for making me crave bacon cupcakes for the rest of the day.

Back at the ranch, I love BFF for feeding me bacon cupcakes w/peanut butter icing.

Pull prepped mini crawfish pies for Pi/e Party out of the freezer, bake.

Contemplate which plate will complement the "crawfish pie visual." Patterned? Cutesy, in a good way.

Pies are done baking. Choose the cutest one, delicately break it open to reveal flaky crust and colorful, buttery filling.

Eff it up, huge chunks of dough are crumbling into the filling.

Repeat attempt at artistic-pie-breaking till I only have 20 pies left for the party.

Curse that I'm losing natural light, plunk the best looking pie down on the plate. I like the contrast of the red and green in this one's filling.

Drizzle remoulade? Or pool it on the plate?

This decision takes 7 minutes.


Take 127 photos of the crawfish pie (no joke!), holding my breath (no tripod) in macromode (point n' shoot--someday, Nikon, someday).

Realize that I haven't even showered for the party. Crap! I'm always late (but bearing yummy things).

Resign myself to the single-minded, somewhat chaotic life of a food blogger.

Wonder if the DaringBaker's store is open yet, log on to check it out.StumbleUpon.com

Extravagant Side Dishes: Spanish "Antipasto"

I love when other people cook for me almost as much as I love hosting dinners. If someone else is cooking, that means I get to make a ridiculous side dish that I typically wouldn't have the time to put together. In this instance, my friend was making 3 large pans of paella (yurme!) and requested a veggie dish. I spent an afternoon searching for a fun Spanish vegetable recipe. Finding none that were over-the-top enough for my taste, I came up with my own.

This is the Spanish version of the Italian antipasto dish. You could also simply refer to it as a Spanish Vegetable Tapas. I wanted crisp veggies with concentrated flavor, so I stir-fried the peppers, and just cooked the asparagus. Oh, and I threw in a little spicy paprika-garlic-flavored sausage grease, just for fun.

Spanish Antipasto:

2 Spanish Cheeses (Manchego, Montsec--goat's milk, La Mancha--sheep's milk, Idiazabal, ect.)
4 heads Garlic
2 medium lemons (grate the 2 tsp. of the zest before juicing)
2 tsp. lemon zest
Olive Oil
1 jar Manzanilla olives
2 yellow bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
2 bunches asparagus
1 small package of loose Chorizo Sausage
Kosher salt
2 loaves crusty white bread

Prepare the Roasted Garlic

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Peel the papery covering off the garlic, leaving the skins on the individual bulbs. Cut 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic cloves, exposing the bulbs. Place each head of garlic on two layers of aluminum foil. Pour 1 Tbs. olive oil over each head, massage the oil over the garlic head, and cover tightly in foil. Bake for 35 minutes.

Remove the garlic from the foil, and let it cool. Using a butter knife, pop each bulb out of its skin and into mixing bowl. Add 1 tsp. olive oil, and mash the roasted garlic into a paste.

Stir Fry the Vegetables

Cut the bottom 1 inch off of the aspragus. Steam the asparagus over 1 1/2 cup water mixed with the juice of two medium sized lemons until al dente (8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and drop in an ice water bath to stop cooking. Drain and arrange on a platter.

Cook 3/4 cup of chorizo sausage, and reserve the sausage for a later use. Reserve 1/2 of the grease. Heat the chorizo grease just until smoking and add 1/2 of the peppers, stir frying them until crisp but sweet. Remove the peppers, and repeat with the remaining chorizo grease and peppers.

Finishing the Dish

Arrange vegetables, cheeses, olives, and roasted garlic on platters. (Ok, I cheated and used Cambozola, but we have a 5 lb (!!) wheel in our fridge, and I want to win the cholesterol contest at my work for the second year running, so I have to get rid of it.)

Sprinkle lemon zest, olive oil, and kosher salt over the asparagus. Garnish with paprika, and serve your antipasto with crusty bread.


Nirvana: Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Maybe my bad dreams last night were also rooted in reality.

This weekend, I cooked my butt off (recipes pending). I think I used each pot and pan in my house 4 times over! All this is to explain why the next few recipes will have a somewhat ... random ... collection of photos. I didn't even have time to sip a glass of wine while I cooked, and that's an absolute necessity.

But alas, we ate well. Mr. Luz and I hosted dinner for some new friends who we hope to spend alot of time with in the future. In order to entice them to hang out with us more, I invited some more lovely people, made my favorite recipe (this week), and unleashed Mr. Luz on the ambiance. Anyone who knows Mr. Luz knows that he doesn't do anything even 90%, so the apartment looked beautiful.

I made a Chicken Tikka Masala recipe from Fine Cooking's "Dinner Parties" publication. It's one of the few recipes that I only change minimally, because it's soo tasty. Can you tell that I love this dish?
I'm not certain that it's entirely authentic Indian cuisine, but it tastes tangy and rich, with a little bit of spice and mystery. This recipe serves 6 and if you don't have 6 diners, make it anyway. You'll crave the leftovers.Chicken Tikka Masala:

For Tandoori Chicken
12 chicken thighs
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. garam masala
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne

For Tikka Masala
1 large serrano chile (or other hot green chile) chopped w/seeds
2 Tbs. peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
8 Tbs. unsalted butter
Tandoori Chicken, in large bite-sized pieces
2 tsp. paprika
2 Tbs. cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. garam masala
Prepared rice (see note below)
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Make the Tandoori Chicken

Remove the skin and excess fat from the chicken. Cut three or four long, diagonal slits on each thigh against the grain.

Mix the remaining ingredients for tandoori chicken in a large bowl. Add chicken and stir to coat. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheets w/foil, and place chicken on sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until juices run clear when pierced with a knife. (If you are using bone-in thighs, bake for 40 minutes.)
For Tikka Masala

Blend or food process chile and ginger until very finely chopped. Add tomatoes and juice, and blend until pureed.
Melt 6 Tbs. of the butter in large pot over medium heat. Add 1/3 of the chicken pieces and cook until the chicken absorbs some butter and begins to brown--about 6 minutes.Transfer to a plate, and repeat with the remaining chicken. You want the bottom of the pot to brown pretty significantly--this will add the rich, "mysterious" flavor to your tikka masala.

Melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter in the pan, and add paprika and 4 tsp. of the cumin. Stir until the spices are fragrant. Add tomato/chile mixture and simmer uncovered, until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of pasta sauce.
Stir as the mixture simmers, releasing the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the cream and salt.
Add the chicken, garam masala, and remaining cumin and simmer for 10 minutes. (If adding peppers,potatoes, ect. add them at this time). Add more salt and red pepper if necessary.
Serve on top of rice (see tip below) and garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Tips and Tricks:
To stretch this recipe and great texture and flavor, stir-fry 1 coarse chopped bell pepper and 1 cup of onion wedges and add them to the dish along with cubed, parboiled potatoes.

The Tikka Masala is better after it's sat overnight.

For more flavor, prepare rice with chicken broth, garam masala, and chopped raisins.


I called in sick to work today. My household has the stomach flu, and now I am STARVING. Do NOT browse Tastespotting.com when you're unable to eat.

I suppose that I am also vexed...my crazy anxiety/sick/ate too much MSG dreams used to be about losing my ass "in the weeds" while waitressing, or cross-examining a surly witness while opposing counsel screamed at me (both of these situations are, unfortunately, rooted in reality). Last night? I dreamed about cooking 5 dishes at once, and ruining all of them. I woke up several times in the middle of the night, thinking that if only I'd used more flour, the pie crust wouldn't have melted onto the floor, resulting in my okra catching fire, and then I would have noticed the soup boiling over, etc.

In summary, I need a food-blogger's version of a Unicorn Chaser. And nothing makes me more dreamy-eyed than remembering the moment that Mr. Luz gently nudged me, leaned over, and softly whispered "I think I found your engagement present" while showing me this:

Ok, maybe it wasn't that romantic, and by way of background (MOM) you should know that I've put a 5 year moratorium on talking about wedding bells (I am only 27). But I like knowing that one day, I will give up my freedom to a man who has fantastic taste in wine cellars, and if ever the marriage becomes rocky, I can traipse down my adorable spiral stairs, grab a bottle of bubbly, and drink away the pain.StumbleUpon.com

For the Love of Chowder

While visiting Annapolis, MD and just prior to my very first experience "picking crabs," I found a fun cookbook at the tiniest bookshop ever(with a great view of the Annapolis waterfront).

Anya Von Bremzen's "The Greatest Dishes: Around the World in 80 Recipes" is perfect for anyone who wonders what makes a ratatouille a ratatouille vs. a caponata, a relish, a chutney, or anything else.

Every recipe comes with a narrative detailing the author's quest to figure out the dish's "life story." The narratives include history, lore, and a description of the characters Von Bremzen encounters as she searches for authentic recipes for some of the world's favorite dishes.

This is a modified version of her New England Fish Chowder. It's surprisingly easy and light, and the ingredients enhance the sweetness of the fish for great flavor without any funk. If you have a free evening, I urge you to give it a shot.

**Pics complements of JeffBigNerd, who is so graciously coaching me on food photography and its attendant gadgets, and allowed me to use his Nikon D80 (right?) to get the hang of it. It made life sooooo much easier!***

Gratuitous Use of Aperture

New England Fish Chowder

Fish Stock:

6 cups Prepared Fish Stock (I use Kitchen Basics Seafood; made from fish, veggies, and herbs)
1 cup dry white wine
1 leek (white and light green parts) sliced
1 onion, coarse chopped
1 carrot, coarse chopped
1 rib celery, coarse chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. unsalted butter


1 cup meaty bacon, diced
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 large leek (white part only), diced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
3 large yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream (trust me on this)
2 lbs. skinless haddock (sub. cod, or hake) fillets, cubed
2 cups fresh corn kernels
Salt and black pepper to taste

To make the stock:

Melt the butter, add the vegetables and saute just until fragrant. Add the bay leaf and pepper, stir. Add the wine and prepared stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat until you have approx. 4 1/2 cups stock. Depending on how vigorous your simmer, this could take 20-40 minutes. Strain and set aside.

To make the chowder:

Melt 1 Tbs. butter over medium heat in a large pot, and add the bacon. (Oh hells yeah!) Cook the bacon until it begins to lightly brown--6-7 minutes. Add the remaining butter, onion, celery, and leek. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft.
Add the bay leaf and thyme, and reduce the heat to low. Cover, and "sweat" the veggie mixture for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes and stock, and bring to a boil. NOTE: I used potato slices, but this is a case of "do as I say, not as I do"--a quote pulled directly from my father--because I was unhappy with the results. That's not to say that the pics aren't adorable.

Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked--about 15 minutes. Remove 1/2 of the potatoes and mash them with a fork. Stir the mashed potatoes back into the soup. Add the cream, milk, and corn and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
Add the fish and cook just until the it begins to flake--approx. 4 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Tips and Tricks:

The chowder's better after it has sat overnight--if you can contain yourself. Just refrigerate, and be careful to reheat over low and stir often so the potatoes don't burn on the bottom of the pot.

How to Smoke Food on a Weber Kettle

I've held out long enough. I hereby declare that it's Officially Grillin' Season, even if I have to do it in a parka. (Not that I own a parka, it's just fun to say. Parkuh.)

I love grilling on my weber kettle. It gets at the basics of good cooking--caramelization, heat, and complementary flavors. Also, I get to set things on fire, enjoy the sunshine, and drink beer while I do it. Ever since I booted my 10th-grade-boyfriend out of the way and cooked my first steak over a tiny camping grill, I've been addicted. I've also had a strict rule about letting boys near my fire. That sounds sort of wrong.

In celebration of Grillin' Season, here are some quick tips and instructions for smoking food over a charcoal grill. It's not exhaustive or recipe-specific, but it'll take the mystery out of both grilling and smoking food and leave you a little room to experiment on your own.

1. Using a charcoal chimney: Remove the upper grate used as a cooking surface, but leave the smaller grate at the bottom of the grill in place. Open the vents on the bottom of the grill. Fill the chimney with coals and stuff tight balls of paper in the cavity underneath the coals. (This will make sure the paper lights on fire, rather than simply smolders and ashes.)

Light the paper on fire in several places and observe. If the coals smoke profusely, but you don't feel a significant source of heat after the smoking stops, carefully add more balls of paper to the smoldering paper underneath the chimney. Oxygen is important, so fan the paper underneath the chimney if it's a humid day, or if the breeze is light.

2. Soak your smoking wood chips of choice in water for at least a half hour. Soak longer if possible. I like to use 2 large handfuls of mesquite wood.

3. Once the coals on the top of the chimney are mostly white, and the inner coals are glowing red, carefully dump half of the coals on one side of the lower grill, and half on the other, leaving the middle 1/3 of the lower grill empty. Add 4-5 fresh coals on top of the hot ones on either side. If you're smoking ribs, add an entire loose layer of fresh coals to keep your grill hot for the time it takes to smoke them.

3. Carefully place an empty aluminum casserole pan in the middle of your grill, between the hot coals. (And Lordy, will they be hot!) Use long tongs to move the hot coals, if necessary.

Pour beer, fruit juice, and/or water into the pan to add flavor to the smoke and keep the drippings from charring. Add the wood chips on top of your charcoal, and replace the cooking-surface-grate.

Close the lid on your grill for 5 minutes, making sure the vents are open on the top to allow air to flow over the coals. (This will get the grill hot, so your food sears and is less likely to stick.) Add your food to the grill, placing it directly over the coals for 2-3 minutes. Here I'm using a smaller pork tenderloin, which has been marinated overnight in Walkerswood jerk seasoning.
4. Turn the meat, again placing it over the coals for 2-3 minutes and closing the lid.

If you desire more caramelization on the surface of your meat (I certainly do--it tastes yummy and keeps the juices in) take your chances with taking the lid off and turning the meat frequently until you are just under your desired doneness on the outside. Smoking will further caramelize the outside of your meat.

5. After the initial sear, move the meat to the center of the grill, over the pan of liquid. I smoked this 2 lb. pork tenderloin for 20 minutes and it was done perfectly. For smoking times on specific cuts and sizes of meat, comment below and I'll do my best to reply quickly with the proper smoking time after I check a number of sources. (One of them being my fantastic Weber Cookbook.)
6. To check the doneness of your meat, PLEASE do not hack into it with a knife. Use the Finger Test. Pork should be medium to medium-well.
7. Remove the meat from the grill and let sit for at least 10 minutes. On heating, all the juices in meat rush from the center, and if you cut it right away those juices will be released. If you let it rest, the juices are reabsorbed and your meat stays tender and flavorful. 8. Serve, and enjoy!
To counteract the extreme spice of the jerk seasoning, and to complement the nutmeg and brown sugar flavors in the marinade, I made an orange bacon chutney to go with my smoked pork. I just fried up some bacon (a regular occurrence in my household), sautéed some onion in the bacon grease, deglazed the pan with orange juice, and added chicken stock, agave, and spices until everything tasted fantastic. Then I blended, and served.