Monday, January 31, 2011

The Eating Out Fresno Mystery Dish Scavenger Hunt!

So here’s how it’s gonna work. Below I’m going to give some strange and fanciful descriptions for the ingredients to one of our own recipes that has been posted on the blog. Once you know what the ingredients are and which recipe they’re for, then it’s up to you to cook the recipe at home (or wherever you have access to a kitchen). Once the dish is finished, take a picture of the finished product and include somewhere in the photo a bottle of your favorite drink. Doesn’t have to be alcohol, just some preferred drinkable. Then take your picture and post it on the Eating Out Fresno fan page on Facebook, or you can send it privately to me via e-mail.

Everyone who picks the right dish and sends us a picture of it is eligible for a prize of either 5 peter pepper seeds for you to grow at your leisure, or if you’re local to Fresno and don’t mind picking it up, a peter pepper seedling of your very own to care for. Supplies are limited and subject to germination rates and good ole mother nature, so once we’re out of supplies, we’re out. 1 entry per household please. So get your shopping lists together and have some fun!

The Mystery Ingredients!

#1: You can find me year round in most supermarkets. I like to hang out south of the border, chillin in my favorite color of green. But chill, I am not. Indeed, I’m well known for bringing a bit of heat wherever I go. Also, you’ll need 6 of me.

#2: I’m a smooth and creamy character from good ole Philadelphia PA! Some like me in the morning with my good buddy Lox. Today, you’re only going to need a half package of me.

#3: Cheesy? How dare you! Why I ought take my orange nuclear fists of fire and burn out thy taste buds sir! Just because I’m a composite being of dairy and fire, gives you no reason to mock me. 4 ounces worth of pain.

#4: Stop staring! I know that most sausages of my kind are limp and cold. But I sir am from Spain! And here we’re well preserved and rigid and spicy enough to make the long journey to the New World with my 2 tablespoons.

#5: It’s good to be a pig. It’s better to be a Spanish pig. It’s even better to be an Iberican pig from the balmy shores of Serrano. But if you can’t find me, I supposed you could deal with that Parmesan Pig that I see everywhere. 6 slices, nevertheless.

#6: Red and mild, I remind you of your Pappy, Rico. I like tablespoons and chilling out in chili powders.

#7: Hey! Didn’t that one guy try to pass me off as pot back in Jr. High? Was he from Oregon or something? Sheesh, tablespoon.

#8: Hey remember that mild and red guy? Well I ain’t mild. As a matter of fact, I cayen’t think of anything else I’d top my pizzas with. And a little of me shure goes a loooong way.

#9: Hi! I’m Piper! And I’m a pretty popular dude. Though why people like to crack my black ass so much is beyond me. I just like the attention. Use me as you’d like.

Well, there you go everbody!  Good luck and good cooking to you all!  The deadline for the constest is 6:00pm (PST) Saturday, February 5th, 2011.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Eating Out: The Anniversary

Well good friends and dear readers, here we are. At a place where, 365 days ago, I’d have probably scoffed at it’s potential for reality. It seems that somehow, by hook or crook, Eating Out Fresno has been posting culinary nonsense about our hometown for a year now!

That first post feels and looks like it was done a lot longer ago than a year. And it was that first dish that helped to establish the belligerently drunk voice by which EOF is bellowed across the cosmos. All started with the wildly inebriated urge while camping for a hearty breakfast to pass out after. I can still remember sitting in the crisp morning air next to the fire, trying to dry out a soaked pant leg and eagerly shoving thyme seasoned potatoes and bacon into my gob with such a sense of happiness and completion. That’s when I knew that it was food that I truly cared about and loved above all other subjects.

And since our dear friend Scurvy had been crawling up our butt for months to get out of the Hobbit Hole and start being creative on my own. It dovetailed nicely with the drunken revelation and Eating Out Fresno was born. Funny that the intent was to focus on restaurant reviewing, yet the first post was a recipe. And that theme has stuck for a lot of reasons, mostly interactions with real Fresno people who are curious about food.

Most often when I’m gabbing about food with actual human Fresnans, more often than not they’re interested in technique or ingredients or curious about entirely new cuisines. But almost none of them are curious as to where they can buy it at a restaurant or are in the least bit curious as to what restaurant is better than another. So really, the reviews we do, seem to be more for my own pleasure at getting to praise or prod a given local eatery based on our given experience. Which I do still enjoy.

Well, enjoy and dread. You see, when I step in to a restaurant, I almost forget that I’m there to be critical. I used to work in one, so whenever I totter into the front of house, I get that “at home” feeling one gets when they’re comfortable at their job. I like to observe how the crew interacts and gets their job done. And should everything run smoothly, I’m so busy being pleased that I’ve almost forgotten that I’m there to be critical. Conversely, when it goes off the rails as we’re being seated, I’m more like the evil secret shopper sent from corporate. Veins bulging, observing every wasted moment, overhearing salty banter from the kitchen, weighing individuals reactions to figure out how much spit is in my entrée. Really, the asshole that the blog was initially meant to portray.

But overall, Fresno has too many of the former type of experiences for me to reliably write in the latter type of headspace. Mainly because too many good restaurants would get caught in the crossfire. And that would, in my eyes, be a violation of the troth that one swears when they become a kitchenite. Good food and good service deserve to have praise lavished on them. It’s a tough job sometimes and to be able to pull it off in style is praise worthy. At the same time, screw ups, lazy fuckoffs and debutantes ruin meals and evenings. And those fuckers deserve every bit of vitriol that can be spat, simply because they make the star players look like chumps. Nobody wants those types of places and people around, they ruin good times and good ingredients.

Now the types of people you WANT around would be the many friends that we’ve become close to over the year. Of course, there is the aforementioned Scurvy of Cap’n Scurvy’s Ragnarok Hootenanny Jamboree. I’ve really got to offer him my thanks in getting me off of my creative butt. I kept swearing that the blog was just a writing exercise, but in all honesty it has become a pleasurable passion. Then of course there is Chef Delaney Boling from the Not only is he a great chef and blogger, but we also have in common that we’re refugees from the same substandard re-educational gulag! He was one of the first pros in the food world to give us a bit of encouragement and even allowed us to guest blog on his home site. Not to mention we had such a great time catching up on the past and discussing the culinary cornucopia laid out before us at the Celebration of Wine.

Of course, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the mayor of the Tower District and interweb TeeVee phenomenon Chuck Leonard. We met over at the Mike Briggs studios during the lead up to the Rogue Festival. A few weeks later while taking in the show, I noticed that Airplane Jayne was planning on shaving poor Mr. Leonard bald, but they had no shears to make him shorn. So quick like a bunny into the bathroom, I grab my manscaping shears, blow the pubes off the blades and head out to Tower. And wouldn’t you know it, he was so grateful at their pain-free performance (hey, I like a close shave too!) that he offered us a cooking segment on his 2 hour showstravaganza! And ever since, each week we get to pull some harebrained semi-portable meal idea into the studio and try not to fuck it all up in a half hour. I’ve really got to offer my thanks to both Chuck and Mike for giving me the opportunity to have so much fun with food, not to mention getting to feed cast, crew and the awesome locals that pass through the studio.

Who else? Well of course there is the infamous Mrs. EOF, who supports, advises, proofreads, edits, finances and just about everything else for the blog. There is no other woman on Earth who has been as supportive and kind to a drunk loudmouth with a passion. To say Eating Out Fresno wouldn’t exist without her is an understatement. I would know less than 10% of what I know about food if it weren’t for her loving support and sharing in my love and curiosity of all things food. Give me a chefs knife, a cast iron skillet and her and I can conquer the world.

And there are so many more! Joe Osejo, the Eye of Fresno, for giving me my first shot at mixology. Andy, Jeph and Fish for showing me that you can make ANYTHING in a pizza broiler if you’re creative enough. Ben “Evil Robot” Toth for being the first person I ever saw make stuffed cannelloni using only a British commando dagger and a baking pan. Mom, for teaching me to cook. Dad, for teaching me that sometimes you’re a much better cook when you’re blackout drunk.

But the most important kudos have to go to you, the readers. Afterall, if you weren’t reading this, it really would just be a writing exercise. And seriously, the feedback that I get from y’all is like a fresh batch of heroin to Keith Richards. I’m positively giddy any time I get to interact with you or find out that you’ve tried out one of the recipes and made it your own.

So, to show my appreciation to you the readers, we will be putting on: The Eating Out Fresno Mystery Dish Scavenger Hunt! Here’s how it’s going to work. On Monday I will post a list of ingredient clues that you’ll have to guess and then bring home and figure out which of our previously posted recipes that they belong to. Then it’s up to you to cook the dish and post a picture of it on the Eating Out Fresno facebook page (or you can e-mail it to me if you hate social networking). As many as possible who get it right will have their choice between 5 peter pepper seeds OR 1 peter pepper seedling plant. So you too can add pornographically hilarious spice to your cooking! (limited supply on hand, pepper seedlings subject to the fickle hand of Nature, seedlings unshippable, so you gotta meet me somewhere in Fresno, etc)

Happy Anniversary y’all!!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eating Out An Asphyxiated Solar Mass

Ok, that one was a bit of a stretch? What can I say? I've kept the pun running for almost a full year now! That's right, in 2 days it will be the 1 year anniversary of Eating Out Fresno! Hard to believe that it’s been a year since I took the dare to get off my creative butt and start babbling food guff to the interwebs. That’s over 64 Eating Out innuendos! My Mom is sooo proud!

So, the subject of this week’s rambling intercourse is on sunchokes, or the jerusalem artichoke. I go with sunchoke mainly because they’re actually a starchy root bulb of a type of sunflower. And man, oh man, do I love when these lovelies are in season! They impart a light, crisp sunflower seed flavor to just about anything and are about as versatile as waxy potatoes like reds.

So far, I’ve only got one tried and true recipe for them. Mainly because I love the recipe so much, none survive long enough to be made into anything else! And since we dragged a wagonload home from the farmers market, it was time for a special rustic style home cooked feast, featuring egg salad sandwiches, a homestyle tomato vegetable soup and the fabulousness that is sunchoke gratin.

Egg Salad Sammitches (this is a gimme just in case you’ve never made your own)

6 boiled eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dill
2 tablespoons pickle relish
Dash of red wine vinegar (just a tiny wee dash!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the eggs in half and place the yolks in a bowl, reserving the whites. In the bowl with the yolks, add the remaining ingredients and mash together with a fork until you have a moist dressing, then chop the egg whites and toss into the yolk mixture. Stir thoroughly and serve on toasted bread.

Rustic Tomato Vegetable Soup

2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 large purple (or regular carrot) diced
1 stalk celery diced
1 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic
2 peter peppers (or other hot pepper) diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch red chili flake
2 tablespoons olive oil

First sauté your shallots in olive oil until glassy. About 5-7 minutes. Then add in your celery, carrots, garlic and seasonings. Toss and sauté for an additional minute then add both cans of tomatoes and the chicken broth, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the carrots and celery are soft. Blend in batches or hit it in the pot with your stick blender until you have a smooth tomato soup. Add additional chicken broth if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Serve…in a bowl.

Sunchoke Gratin

1 lb sunchokes, peeled and sliced 1/8th inch thick
2 cups, + ¼ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup walnuts
1 pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a med size casserole dish with butter. In a pan, combine sunchokes, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, salt and 2 cups of cream. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Mix cornstarch with the remaining ¼ cup of cream and add mixture to the pan. Simmer an additional 5 minutes to thicken. Allow to cool for a moment then pour into your casserole dish. Top with panko crumbs completely, then sprinkle walnuts over the top. Into the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and toasted. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Serve by scoop/slicing pieces out with a serving spoon as you would a casserole.

Who says you can’t eat fresh and hearty in the winter? The soup has a wonderful spicy sweetness to it from the peppers and the carrots mixed with that great fruit/vegetable flavor of the tomatoes. The egg salad sandwich is perfect for toning down the burn from the soup and has a nice dill tang. And I just can go on enough about how wonderful the sunchoke gratin is. The layers of sunchoke give a nice soft bite with a little bit of resistance left of their original crunch. The walnuts and the sunflower seed flavors weave in and out of the cream, ginger and garlic with just small hints of the nutmeg popping up to unify everything together. If you try one of the 3 recipes, that’s the one you can’t live without.

So, happy cookering dear Fresno peoples! I’m still not sure how to celebrate the anniversary. But we’ll figure something out. Maybe we’ll offer some peter pepper seeds and seedlings as a prize for some odd contest. Maybe a Fresno wide culinary scavenger hunt. Give some vague hints about ingredients at certain locations and see what you all wind up cooking. This bears some thought!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eating Out Peppermania!

Sick of all the pepper posts yet? Lordy, I hope not! Because it’s coming time soon to start germinating all of those seeds we mentioned back during X-mas! And life is showing no signs of slowing down my manic pepper seeking behavior. Beyond growing tons of and reading everything I can get my hands on about them, it seems that good ole Fresno is going to be putting on a Fresno Chile Festival. Notice the lack of an “I” at the end? That’s right, it’s a celebration of the species, not the dish. Up until now I assumed the name of the pepper had some relation to ash trees, like our town. But a bit of snooping uncovered that the pepper itself is named for Fresno, CA USA! Of course, the internet doesn’t yield any reasons as to why it was named for the ‘No… But hey, I’ll take it as a compliment anyway. That means I’m gonna have to give a little extra attention to my Fresno plant that I’m overwintering to have some fresh pods to show off this summer. Haven’t heard a date yet, but we’ll post it as soon as we know.

Why the sudden pepper nerdism? There’s a lot of good reasons. They’re fairly nutritious, they bring strong flavors to a dish, they’re very easy to grow and in a garden, some varieties add very striking color to your garden and are just a pleasure to look at. Ok…all that’s true, but there’s also a bit of a goofy macho edge to it too. It’s not like I want to eat pure capsaicin or anything. But I do get a bit of a chuckle when folks react very strongly to what I consider extremely mild heat. For example, I like to toss a couple habaneros into my scrambled eggs. That comes out hot. Usually right at my comfortable limit before I’d dive for the milk. And there is a nice, subtle mood altering effect of a pleasant burn. I liken it to the satisfaction one feels after a brief massage or work out. Sorta like a nice little glow radiating from the mouth and tummy out through the rest of one’s essence. Like heroin, but totally nothing like heroin. Here’s the recipe

Jalapeno Atomic Buffalo Turds

6 med to large jalapeno peppers
½ lb softened cream cheese
4 oz habanero jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped Spanish chorizo (the hard kind! not raw Mexi chorizo, or cook it first)
6 slices Serrano ham
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and cover a baking pan with tin foil (your dishwasher will thank me!). Grab some latex or nitrile gloves for pepper chopping. They’re just jallys, but they’ll still give you a good sting if you scratch something before washing thoroughly. Take your peppers and lop off the stem end, about an 1/8th inch from where the stem connects to the pepper. Then slice the pepper down the middle. Take a teaspoon and scrape out the seeds and placental tissue (the white stuff) and set aside. Then chop your habanero cheese roughly and place in a bowl, add your softened cream cheese and the spices. Take a fork and mash everything together thoroughly. Alternately you could put this into your food processor and spin it up. Spoon or pipe your cheese mixture into your jalapeno boats until they’re about 2/3rds full. With 6 of your peppers, dot them with pieces of your chopped Spanish chorizo and the other 6, wrap them around the pepper, trying to make sure to tie up the open end of the pepper. Place on the baking pan and toss into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the ham begins to crisp on top.
Voila! The pepper will still be a bit crunchy and bring a nice green flavor that’s blanketed by the spicy herbed cheese. Depending on if you used the cayenne or not, you’ll find the cheese is actually more spicy than the jalapeno. The regular recipe is actually very mild. Mild enough to introduce non-chile fanatics to a fun little appetizer. And good enough for Rockabilly impresarios Motel Drive to slake their hunger on the road. Make sure to check them out this weekend at the Babylon!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Eating Out In The Yard

The back yard!  And it's breakfast time!  How often in the winter time can one say that more than half the ingredients that you're using came from your overwintered garden.  But fortunately we've still got some peppers on the overwintering plants that are slowly ripening in the Okie greenhouse.  And there are a good number of herbs that can withstand winter's chill, as long as you keep them from freezing.  So what did we make?

Red Hot Egg O'Muffins!

2 eggs
2 english muffins
2 pats of butter + 1 tablespoon
2 habanero peppers
2 tablespoons chives chopped
1 pinch each salt and pepper
4 thin slices cheddar cheese

It's a pretty simple scramble.  Slice the peppers thin and toss into a bowl, add your 2 eggs, the chives, salt and pepper.  Beat with a fork or whisk briefly.  Add your +1 tablespoon of butter to a preheated pan and after it foams, add your eggs and cook.  Toss your muffins into the toaster and just before they're fully toasted, top them with the cheddar cheese to melt.  Then put your scrambled eggs onto your muffins and get ready to sweat!  Garnish with fresh radishes and an orange from the garden and you're ready to face the horrors of a new day!