Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No Top Chef - Again

Figures that I have free time at home to work on recaps, but no new episodes..... Would have been a good thing to watch between dinner out and watching the ball drop on TV!

Have a safe evening, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mid's Pasta Sauce

Mr Minx loves to make (and eat) spaghetti and meatballs, and when he doesn't have the time to put together a home-made sauce, he has to resort to the jarred variety. I'm particular about my sauce - it must cling to the pasta and coat it well. I hate sauce that's water and chunks; I like chunky sauce, but its liquid component must be thick.

We found a sauce called Mid's at Wegman's the other day.   It's perfect.  I see from the Web site that the primary tomato product is tomato paste. Bingo! And that's going to be what I use in my homemade sauce from now on.

Unless I'm lazy and use Mid's.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Not Kosher

Christmas Dinner

Every year I like to make something for different for Christmas dinner, preferably something that can be prepared in one pot so there are fewer dishes to wash afterwards.  This year I did endive salad....

(Belgian endive, bleu cheese, sugared walnuts, balsamic vinegar dressing, sitting prettily on wedding china used for the first time in 8 years.  Mikasa Royal Glimmer.)

...and chicken cacciatore, using a variation on the old Better Homes and Gardens recipe my mother used to use.  That recipe didn't call for mushrooms, but I added several varieties, plus oil-cured black olives.  It was seasoned with a combination of bay leaves, oregano, and celery seed.  Other recipes I found for cacciatore had rosemary or juniper berries instead - all quite different, don't you think?

Everything came out really well.  Dessert was cookies (Toll House, snickerdoodle, oatmeal) plus little cakes I got from Trader Joe's called cannelles de Bordeaux. Delicieux! And simple.  

What did you eat for your holiday feast?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I would like to wish the happiest of holidays to all of my readers here at Minx Eats. May you all be safe and healthy, and eat lots of cookies. :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

I had a hankering for some oatmeal cookies, and as of Sunday, we had not done any of our annual holiday baking.  The only solution was to make a batch.  I decided to flavor them with dried cranberries and grated orange zest, since I had both on hand, but whose master recipe to use?

We had an egg shortage, so I found a recipe that called for only one egg, this adaptation of Nick Malgieri's cookie recipe. It also required only a wee smidge of butter, plus the addition of applesauce.  I didn't have the latter, so substituted apple butter.

The verdict?  Too oddly toffee-like, not nearly sweet enough, and not buttery enough either.  They taste ok, but the texture is not what I wanted.  I'll have to try a different recipe next time...any suggestions for good chewy oatmeal cookies?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hawaiian Haystacks?

I was perusing a forum I occasionally frequent and read a woman's desperate cry for help. She was having a holiday party for 250 guests and was serving this dish called "Hawaiian Haystacks" and needed to know how much food to buy and prepare for such a large number of people.

After finding the recipe online, I immediately was grateful that this person was not inviting me to her party. What a nasty mid-century convenience food recipe! This version particularly cracked me up: Hawaiian Haystacks. Love the admonishment not to use canned peas, five lines above "maraschino cherries" and "pineapple chunks (canned)." What's the diff? It's all going to be nasty.

Yes, I am a food snob. And proud of it!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rocco DiSpirito

Somehow Rocco's face almost looks normal here, no? It's a recent photo, taken on 12/15 at the charity: ball 2008 Gala Benefit in NYC. (charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top Chef New York Episode Six

On another glorious Noo Yawk morning, our chefs awaken refreshed and ready to start the new day.

Although they cut this part from the "supersized" episode, it was in the previews and I thought it was important to share: Jamie is a complainer.

After the kawfee drinking and whinefest, the chefs suit up and head to the Top Chef Kitchen of Corporate Sponsorship where they find the set-ups for a holiday that is only a few months around the corner....

Padma, whose clothing budget has been drastically cut, leaving her to wear jeans so tight one can see the outline of the front pockets, is there to greet the cheftestants.

Pretend it's Christmas and not summer, people, and listen to what the ho ho ho has to say. And Padma, those jeans do stunningly horrible things to your ass.

Today's Quickfire is to create a one-pot dish for the holidays, to be guest-judged by none other than Martha Stewart. She paraphrased Einstein and told the cheftestants to keep the dishes simple, but not too simple. And you know by that she was referring to last week's PYKAG-ed cheftestant Danny....

I'm not seeing what's so challenging about this challenge, as I try to make a one-pot-type dish every year. This year it will be chicken cacciatore, last year was pasta carbonara, the year before short ribs. I never understood those families who farted around with yet another turkey dinner only a month after the first stinking bird came out of the oven.

For some folks, however, one-pot meals are a foreign concept. Foreign, geddit?

If memory serves me correctly, Tom Colicchio got Medieval on someone's ass in a past season (Richard Blais, maybe?) for having called a dish "paella" but not producing the traditional crust of rice in the pan. Hopefully Martha won't be as semantics-lovin'.

After the cooking came the tasting. Martha was wonderfully and cruelly stone-faced through most of it, leaving the cheftestants shaking in their clogs.

Hosea is in luck as Martha "gives props" to his paella. She also enjoys Jamie's scallop dish with potato and kale, but likes Ariane's cauliflower puree with filet best of all and proclaims her the winner of the challenge AND a copy of her new cookbook. "From one Jersey girl to another." Awww.

Yet another reason for WhineyJamie to snivel later.

Martha leaves the group with some words of wisdom and beats a hasty retreat before the Elimination Challenge is announced. At that moment, Padma brings in a group of individuals sadly afflicted with Melisma - the need to sing fourteen or fifteen notes where only one is written.

Recently this condition has become epidemic and has afflicted many of our popular perfomers, from Mariah Carey to American Idol contestants. Won't you please help us find a cure? Donations may be sent to theminx, P.O. Box 123....

The chefs head to the knife block. They pull out numbers from one to twelve, which Padma explains are representative of lines in the classic song, "The 12 Days of Christmas," at which point the choir mangles the corresponding line with too many syllables.

The cheftestants are to create an hors d'oeuvre inspired by their assigned line, to be served to 250 people at a benefit for amfAR, hosted by Natasha Richardson. They get 45 minutes to shop with an $800 budget, and then three hours to prep in the Top Chef kitchen that evening. There's not much time to plan, so the chefs think on their feet.

Hey Bravo - how do you like the way I managed to work the name of one of your sponsors in there? You can send the check to theminx, P.O. Box 123....

WhineyJamie decides to make scallops again, this time omitting the kale and making a vichyssoise instead. Hosea goes for pork tenderloin, which he smokes. Actually, he smokes the whole damn kitchen in the process.

Finally, after 2AM, prep time is up and the chefs get to catch some sleep.

When the cheftestants enter the Top Chef Kitchen Sponsored by Glad, et. al., the smoke has cleared but one of the refrigerators was found open. The least-full fridge. It seemed only to contain Hosea's smoked pork and 40 pairs of duck breasts belonging to Radhika, plus Melissa's cheese. That is not to say that Radhika has duck breasts, or that Melissa is cheesy....

Hosea is distressed.

After he miraculously discovers a bunch of pork loins hanging around in another fridge and we find Radhika had saved the non-breast portions of her duck elsewhere, I suspect that Bravo had sabotaged the situation in order to pump more drama into the show. However, this is such a professional group of contestants, they decided to band together and do whatever was needed to assist Hosea and Radhika.

Your evil plot was foiled, Bravo!

Finally, the cooking is done and the chefs head to the Prince George Ballroom.

The Ballroom is decked out for Christmas, and as the chefs set up their stations, guests show up in holiday finery. Mostly sleeveless dresses, as it's hot as hell in NY in the summertime.

The guests are each given a red AIDS ribbon to wear and are told to pin the ribbon at the booth of the cheftestant whose hors d'oeuvre they like best.

After the eating and schmoozing, the judges and chefs head to the set known as Judges' Table.

Hosea, Jeff, Stefan, and Radhika get called to stand before Tom, Padma, Natasha Richardson, and Miami chef Michelle Bernstein. The judges were impressed that the chefs banded together to assist Hosea and Radhika, and that their dishes were among the best. Hosea was awarded the most AIDS ribbons at his booth, therefore he was declared the winner of this challenge. And of course Bernstein got to plug her new cookbook, Cuisine à Latina, and gave a copy to each of the chefs standing before her.

The bad dishes were numerous, but Jamie, Melissa, and Gene were singled out for their awesome awfulness.

Gene stood behind his dish 1000%, which should have been the kiss of death for him. However, the judges were full of the Christmas-in-July spirit. Or they drank a lot.

Tom visits the stew room...

...and delivers the verdict:

Wow - I would have sent all three chefs packing. Merry Christmas!

Next time: Top a-Scallop!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cellphone Popcorn

If they do this to popcorn, what does a cell phone do to a human brain?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mr Pizza

more the engrish!
Fabio, is that you?

Kiss of Death

That would be me, the Kiss of Death for Asian restaurants. If I like the place and consider it a favorite, it's going to go out of business. First Purim Oak in Towson, then Bangkok Place in Govans, then Pacific Rim in Cockeysville, now Jesse Wong's Hong Kong in Columbia. They served the best Peking duck, crispy bone flounder, and other delicious meals at dinner time, and their dim sum was fantastic.

I am heartbroken.

I also have a $30 gift card that I scored after that whole debacle with Jesse Wong's Kitchen. That crappy outpost lives on, while the good restaurant is gone. It's not fair.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Top Chef Previews!

Zucchini Madeleines

Today is our annual holiday party at work.  It's always pot-luck, and I endeavor to bring something different every year.  Sometimes I cop out and do something sweet and easy like brownies or blondies.  I had every intention of doing that this time, but remembered the zucchini madeleines I had made for another function some years back.  They were madeleine-shaped, but more quiche-like in flavor and texture.

They took the better part of the afternoon to make - the recipe makes 4 dozen @ 25 minutes per batch, and I have one 12-impression pan. Four batches and two hours later - loads of yummy madeleines.

I hope my co-workers enjoy them as much as I do.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Rousing Recommendation

The Sun's Rob Kaspar asked idiot Rachael Ray about a recipe for Irish tea, found in her new book. It calls for mixing Guinness and sweetened iced tea. He thought it sounded awful. She admits she didn't love it, but her husband liked it and so did her dogs.

Let us keep in mind that some dogs eat their own feces.

Now, if that's not a recommendation for Rachael Ray, I don't know what is.

Japanese Balls

more the engrish!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top Chef New York Episode Five

As this week's episode dawns, we see Melissa doing some heavy thinking.

Yes, there is a cheftestant named Melissa. She went to the same cooking school as Jill Snyder - the Baltimore International College. No word yet on whether or not she also intends to leave the culinary world in a cloud of self-induced shame.

We also find out at breakfast that a new sort of "bromance" is stewing.

I'm sure it's not all that difficult.

When the cheftestants enter the Top Chef Kitchen Sponsored by NBC Universal Majority Owner GE Appliances, they find Padma standing by her lonely self, clad in decidedly downscale duds.

She tells the chefs that their most important tool is their well-tuned palate. The Quickfire this week will be a variation on the tasting challenges of years past. First the chefs need to visit the knife block in order to get a partner for this challenge. Hosea gets stuck paired with Danny...

...and Ariane reminds us how creaky she is. Bitch. I'm two years older than she is and don't think I act half as ancient.

Also, Stefan gets a heavy "Asshole Edit" this week.


Everyone seems to have issues with the man.

The tasting challenge has a twist this year - the paired cheftestants are actually opponents. After getting fifteen seconds to taste a sauce, they must play Name That Tune with the number of ingredients each can recognize. After eating out of a communal pot, all I'd be able to think about was germs.

The winner of each preliminary round goes on to round two, those winners go on to round three, etc. Finally, we're left with Hosea and Stefan, who are asked to name ingredients in Thai green curry sauce.

That would have been *my* first guess.

Hosea manages to beat Stefan with his guess of "vegetable oil" and wins immunity in the next challenge. For that, the chefs once again draw knives.

Radhika doesn't want to be stuck with, you guessed it....

This time, the knives sport the words "old," "new," "borrowed," and "blue." I'm sure you can guess where this is all going. Someone is getting married and Padma is throwing a shower!

They're called "actresses," Gail.

The chefs gather in their prospective teams. Team Borrowed, aka Team Cougar + Two, is Ariane, Radhika, and Jamie, who decide to "borrow" from Radhika's culture. They are going to make rack of lamb served with a carrot purée spiced with Jamie's secret ingredient, vadouvan (an ingredient so secret nobody has heard of it), and raita.

And now you're doing it again.

Team Blue is Fabio, Leah, and Melissa. They decide that because there's no blue food, they will attempt to evoke the ocean. Which is blue. That means fish, but somehow not bluefish. Served with decidedly un-oceanic corn and Swiss chard.

Team New is comprised of Danny, Carla, and Gene. Gene, who can only make sushi, suggests that he make a surf and turf sushi. Danny is going to make barbecue sauce, and Carla is going to panic and wonder what exactly about sushi is "new" and how barbecue sauce and sushi work together.

Finally, Hosea, Stefan, and Jeff are Team Old, aka Team Baldylocks. They are doing a trio of tomato dishes.

At Whole Foods, the chefs have thirty minutes to shop and $800 to spend. Team Baldylocks spends a lot of time in the tomato section, where Stefan is being a bit overbearing, telling his teammates what to do with their dishes. He doesn't like Jeff's tomato sorbet idea, and he has issues with Hosea because of his immunity.

They in turn call Stefan an asshole.

After 2.5 hours of prep time in the Top Chef Kitchen Sponsored by GE, the chefs get to go home and worry about the next day. During this time, Stefan pesters his crush Jamie for a kiss if he wins.

While lounging on the balcony, Team Loser New decides to tweak their sushi dish by making it a "build your own" type of dealie, calling it, confusingly, both "deconstructed" and "panchan-style." Confusing because panchan is Korean, sushi is Japanese. Danny thinks it's a great idea. Stefan, seated nearby, tosses in his superior opinion that it's a stupid idea, and that women don't want to have to build their own food. Stefan has been married twice - to the same unfortunate person - so of course this makes him an expert on women and what we want.

The next day, the chefs head to the venue at Twenty Four Fifth Avenue and get started on their dishes.

Finally the fake shower's fake attendees arrive with their fake gifts and file into the dining area. Gail shares the seat of honor with two important guests.

Before the food arrives, Padma makes a toast with a new sponsor.

Tom comes in to hang around the kitchen; the shower guests don't want him around because he refuses to show off his boobies in a cute dress.

Fabio is a leetle flustered that Tom will be there the whole time.

I think he means "the Pope," but who knows? I don't speak Italian.

Team Baldylocks serves their trio of tomato dishes as the first course. The women rave over Jeff's Stefan-maligned sorbet. Stefan's terrine is under-seasoned, and for that they call him an asshole.

Team Loser comes next, with their deconstructed, panchan-style, build-your-own trainwreck sushi. Gene introduces the dish but neglects to instruct the women on how to eat it. Later, Daniel describes sushi building as a bit of this, "a splooge of that." Oh yum. He also said the women would be so happy with the dish, they'd be taking off their clothes and dancing. He's got a lot to learn about women. But probably not from Stefan.

Fabio, on the other hand, has us all figured out.

Team Old serves up a fairly tasty dish but it has the texture of "old people's food." In other words, Jell-O, Cream of Wheat, and a splash of Ensure. The un-oceanic corn and swiss chard duo turns out to be a lame attempt at forming blue by the combination of colors. Unfortunately, yellow + green = yellow-green, not blue, morons! But they're cooks, not artists, so we'll forgive them the gaffe only because Fabio is charming.

And Team Cougar + Two, after worrying about the rack of lamb - Ariane's dish - being cooked properly, pulls off a show-stopper of a meal. The lamb is perfectly cooked and everyone loves it. It makes Gail very happy.

Back at Judges Table:

Team Cougar + Two and Team Baldylocks get called out in front of the judges. Stefan seems irritated that Jeff's sorbet is praised. And Ariane is stunned that her lamb dish is considered the best of the evening, earning her the win and a set of Calphalon pans and small electronics. Jamie is upset that once again she's in the top three but she doesn't win. You made carrot purée, kid, get over yourself.

Next, Team Blue and Team Loser come to face Padma, Gail, Food & Wine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin, and Tom. Blue did badly, but not badly enough to lose. Loser, on the other hand, really lived up to its name. Carla was questioned about mushrooms at the bottom of her salad, making her eyes pop out. Danny admitted he had added them, making Carla's eyes pop out further. Gene was excoriated about his overcooked sushi rice. And Danny claimed he loved everything, had tasted everything, and was happy with their "sushi." It made him want to dance around and take his clothes off.

After deliberating, it was determined that Danny was just too dumb to be allowed to stay, plus they were worried about the disrobing thing, so Padma asked him to pack his knives and go.

Or "expecially," as Jamie pronounces it.

Next week: Does Radhika cook Indian food? Is Stefan still an asshole? Is Jamie still a lesbian?