Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce [Zack]

If you’ve ever been to a Thai restaurant, you have most likely had an appetizer called Chicken Satay. It’s about as popular as the ubiquitous Pad Thai (i.e. the General Tso’s Chicken of Thai food). Well, It’s popular because it’s a great crowd-pleaser. The sauce couldn’t be easier to make if you have a food processor. You can knock this appetizer out in less than 20 minutes from start to finish.

The first time I tried to make this was in Manayunk, PA at Lauren’s house. We were feeling adventurous, so we bought some peanut butter, ginger, vinegar, and guessed what else was in it until we got close.  It's near the authentic version, but has a little bit of a twist on it.  We’ve used this sauce on everything from shrimp to steak to whole roasted chickens.


We will marinate the chicken first.  

Cut the chicken thighs or breasts into long strips about 1 inch wide by 3 inches long.  Put them into a bowl and toss with the vinegar, sesame oil, curry powder, and garlic powder.

Now, move on to your peanut sauce.  

Loosely dice the ginger, garlic, onion and chile (optional) and put them into your food processor.  Process until you have a paste.  Then, add the peanut butter, hoisin sauce, sriracha, and rice wine vinegar.  Take it easy on the sriracha at first, you can always add more later ;)

Process until smooth.

Start your grill or pre-heat a saute pan to medium.  Take your marinated chicken and skewer them.  

Add a bit of oil to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes per side.

Serve on a plate with a generous glop of peanut sauce!

(makes about 12 skewers or so)

4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken thighs
2 T garlic powder
2 T curry powder
1 T sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
bamboo or metal skewers

1 inch ginger
2 garlic cloves
½ small onion
1 birdseye chile
3 T rice wine vinegar
3 T hoisin sauce
1 cup peanut butter
4 T sriracha sauce (I add this much, but you can back off a bit if you want)

Busta Rhymes - Woo ha

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Home Brewing - Batch 1 - Part 1 [Matt]

Beer has always been a beverage of interest to me. It's delicious, dynamic, and generally better than a glass of water. I always thought brewing my own batch would be as far out of reach as me passing freshman chemistry. I was wrong, and it feels so right.

Jess and I decided to look into home brew equipment about a month ago and we came across a fantastic shop Eagle Rock Home Brew that offered a $10 class and a hub to buy any and all supplies. We took the class last Sunday and were hooked.

We agreed our first batch should be an IPA, but not just any IPA, a crazy-hybrid-ninja-samari-pirate-dwarf type IPA. I've been obsessing with fennel over the past few months and pondered why I've never tasted the flavor note in any of my favorite hoppy brews.

The steps and images below describe what we did with the first run of our IPA. To get more info and read a full 'How To', go to ERHB's instructions.

7:00p - The Clean & Prep
- We started by sanitizing all equipment including our 6 gallon cook pot.
- I took the liquid yeast container out of the fridge and put into my pocket (as instructed - brings yeast to room temp gradually in order to activate it), used - White Labs WLP001 California Ale.
- Place 2.5 gallons of water into the freezer to help chill the wort at the end of the cook.

7:15p - The Cook
- Filled the 6 gallon pot with ~2.5 gallons of water (filtered Brita). Cranked both burners all the way up to get the pot to start heating up.

- Filled a normal sauce pot with a gallon of water (spring) to bring to 150f.
- Grain mix added for steeping: 8oz Carmel 10L / 4oz Carmel 20L / 4oz Carmel 60L

- Kept steeping pot on stove at 150f for 10 min, then took pot off stove and covered for 20 min.
- Strained out the grain when pouring the steeped liquid into the main cook pot.

- Mixed in 9lbs of Alexander's Pale Malt Extract (looks like carmel sauce, about the same consistency).

8:45p - The Boil
During the class I asked the instructor why Dogfish IPA had 'minute' batches and what that meant. He explained that their technique involved gradually adding in hops throughout the stated amount of time. This process ensures the flavor of the beer will be well-rounded and makes it more hoppy. I decided to diverge from the recipe I was somewhat following and go for an 85 minute total boil time.

- Started adding in the Columbus 14.0% hop pellets, a few per minute, over the next 25 minutes, 1.5oz total.

9:10p - STEP 6
- Started adding in the Cascade hops, a few per minute over 25 minutes, 1.0oz total.

- Started adding in another set of the Columbus hops, a few per minute over 25 minutes, 1.0oz total.

10:00p - Spicing the boil

This is the part of brewing your wort when you add in any additional spices, if that's your thing. If there's a spice of interest that you want to throw into a brew, do research, it is pretty easy to find some reference for what does and doesn't work.

- Added 1.5oz Fennel Seed (the whole container)

10:10p - Cool it. Store it.
Now that the wort has boiled, it is time to cool it down in a hurry. If you have a sink that can fit a 6 gallon pot (psssh luucky), partially submerge it in there. If not, use your bath tub. It's not gross if you're not gross.
- Keep the pot in cold water for 30 minutes. Quickly cooling the wort helps with the beer's clarity.

- Now transfer the wort from the cook pot, through a strainer, to the 5 gallon bucket.
- Add in the cooled water that you have been storing in the freezer to bring the water level to the 5 gallon mark on the side of the bucket. The wort should be between 60 - 70f for some prime-time fermenting to happen.
- Take the vile of yeast that has been hangin out in your pocket, give it a light shake. Dump it into the 6 gallon carboy.

- Use the autosyphon to transfer the wort from the bucket to the 6 gallon carboy. Make sure not to get the last inch of liquid from the bucket. It will cloud your beer and your success.

- Fill the Fermentation Air Lock and Stopper with the cleaning liquid and insert into the top of the carboy.
- Put it in a space that holds an even temperature and doesn't receive any light.

10:50p - Let 'er be.
The beer will begin to ferment over the next 3 to 5 days. Leave it in there up to a week, then transfer to the secondary fermentor. The beer will sit there for another 1 to 2 weeks.
Check back in soon when I bottle and label our fresh brewed IPA!

24 Hours Later
All is well with the brew and it's fermentation. Checkout the bubbles! That means it's working...

((((cook track)))) Trivium - Dusk Dismantled

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lobster Bisque [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: medium (it involves live lobster...)
Time: 20 minutes prep, 1 hour total cook time, many steps in between
Serves: 6 to 8

For some reason (expense!), this bisque tends to surface only on my holiday menus at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But if you sub in shrimp (and the shells) for lobster, it can go year-round.

This lobster bisque is from the Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins cookbook, The New Basics. They were the owners of the Silver Palate gourmet shop in NYC years ago and authors of several Silver Palate cookbooks. The soup recipes in The New Basics are wonderful, and I've scribbled notes of exclamation in the margins of just about all of them.

Lobster Bisque

2 fresh lobsters (1 1/2 pounds each), split and cleaned
5 tablespoons butter
1 diced peeled carrot
1 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
6 tablespoons brandy
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, canned or homemade
2/3 cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons sherry
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
3 cups half-and-half
2 ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste

Right from the get-go, I have to depart from the recipe. I don't do well having to knife the lobster between the eyes. So I boil the little dudes for maybe five minutes, drain and cool.

And since lobster was pricey when I shopped, I split the difference and used just one lobster and some large prawns that were on special.

Remove the lobster meat, pour 3 tablespoons sherry over it, mix, and reserve.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large saucepan over medium heat, add carrots, bay leaf, onions and shallots and cook until the onions wilt, 5 to 7 minutes. Do not let them brown.

Put tarragon, parsley and lobster shells (break them up a bit) in saucepan, pour brandy over and ignite.

When flame goes out, add 1 cup of the chicken stock and the white wine. Simmer over low heat, partially covered, for 15 minutes.

In separate saucepan, melt the remaining butter (4 tablespoons). Add the flour and blend with a wire whisk over low heat for one minute.

Bring the milk and half-and-half to a boil in another saucepan. Add this to the flour, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Add this to the reserved broth and lobster shells.

Tired yet? No? Good.

Stir in the tomatoes and cayenne. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the remaining stock and simmer another 45 minutes.

Taste and season with salt if necessary.

Pour soup through a fine strainer, pressing down on the shells and vegetables with the back of a spoon.

Return soup to the saucepan and heat through. Stir in the reserved lobster meat. Serve immediately.

Suggested soundtrack: Ledisi's "Pieces of Me"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dishwasher (Engagement) Salmon [Zack]

During our first real conversation, Lauren and I quickly realized that we both really loved cooking (and food).  I was trying to impress her by sharing a new way to cook salmon that she would never believe.  The dish was called "Dishwasher Salmon" and I had read about it in a book by Bob Blummer.  To my surprise, Lauren had already seen the technique on the Ellen show.

I'm guessing you are thinking 2 things:
  • What the heck is "dishwasher salmon"?  
  • I hope he's not going to cook his salmon in the dishwasher.  If he is, I'm leavin.
Well, I hope you keep reading because this recipe is probably the easiest way to cook salmon in the whole world.  In short, all you have to do is dust a few seasonings on a salmon filet, wrap it in foil, and yes, put it on the top rack of your dishwasher. If you wrap the fish enough times, soap is totally cool to use (and highly encouraged!  Clean your dishes and make dinner at the same time - very energy efficient!)

I'm sure a lot of you have heard about "Engagement Chicken."  There's a myth that if a girl cooks a chicken for her boyfriend following this recipe, he'll propose shortly thereafter.  Well we can vouch for "Dishwasher Salmon" as our fail-proof engagement recipe... You just have to be willing to wait five years for it to work!

We just got engaged and I'm proud to welcome Lauren to the Koulermos family, and as the latest blogger on Mama Tommys!


Here's a picture of what you will need.

Cut a few slices of lemon.  Lay out your first sheet of tin foil and place lemon slices in a row.  Season the skin side of the salmon first with paprika, adobo (or seasoned salt) and brown sugar.

Pick up the salmon and place it skin-side down on the lemon slices.

Season the other side of the fish.

Fold the tin foil over.

Take your next sheet of aluminum foil out and place the side that has all of the folds face down into the next sheet.  Repeat the folding process 4 more times.

Make some room on the top rack of your dishwasher and put your salmon packet in with the rest of the dishes.

Run a full wash and dry cycle.  When it's finished, open the tin foil and enjoy!  Your salmon should be light and flakey.

Welcome to the family Lauren!!

Ingredients (per salmon filet):

1 salmon filet
2 T of brown sugar
3 or 4 lemon slices
1/2 tsp adobo seasoning or seasoned salt
1/2 tsp paprika powder
5 sheets of tin foil

Recommended song: Musiq Soulchild - Don't Change (this may get you engaged too!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wild Mushroom Soup [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: easy
Time: 20 minutes prep, 40 minutes to cook and reduce
Serves: 6 heartily

Sourced from an amalgam of recipes--Joy of Cooking, my Cordon Bleu class years ago--I made this soup for my contribution to our Cooking With Friends (CWF) Thanksgiving gathering yesterday.

CWF is a group of 35 fabulous cooks here in New Albany, all of whom operate from the heart in the kitchen, know when and how to rescue a failed sauce (or, on rare occasions, when to dump it and start fresh), and treasure quick, simple dishes as much as time-consuming, labor-intensive ethnic and family recipes.

We usually make the meal start to finish at someone's home, but yesterday we all brought a dish. So many wonderful, fresh ideas for holiday meals: Kate Thomas's grapefruit salad with "glass" sugar cracked on top, Sheryl Zangardi's shells stuffed with leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy. "Sounds gross," she said as she described the dish to the group, "but it's really pretty good." Not just good--amazing! CWF's founder, Marilu Faber, brought an arranged salad of butter lettuce, pomegranate seeds and ripe persimmons (most of us, self included, had never worked with persimmons). We always learn cool stuff from Marilu.

When it was my turn to briefly explain my recipe, I mentioned how I had reduced the chicken stock, wine and sherry down. If you're using homemade stock and have already reduced it, you'll need less time for this step.

And here's a cheat. You can use canned stock in the reduction process and it's still very good. But to make it sublime, you need those--wait for it--frozen homemade stock cubes I keep raving about (see my Mama Tommy's blog post).

Hear that? That's the sound of me twisting your arm to make stock.

Wild Mushroom Soup

2 pounds mushrooms, including at least 12 ounces wild, stems removed, cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup shallots, chopped
4 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (see my notes above on cheating)
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, plus more for garnish if desired, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
5 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

If you're using canned stock, put it in a stock pot with sherry and wine, and the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and reduce the liquids for about 25 minutes.

Heat olive oil and butter in soup pot...

add shallots...

... and mushrooms.

Stir until mushrooms are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add flour...

and cook for a minute, then add thyme. When flour taste has cooked out (four minutes or so), add the reduced stock and heavy cream.

Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, cool a bit, then puree in batches. Adjust seasonings, and reheat briefly before serving.

Suggested soundtrack: "Sechs Klavierstucke, #2 Intermezzo," by Johannes Brahms

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Smokey Chipotle Chicken Tacos [Zack]

If you have ever played a video game system such as SNES or Sega Genesis, you will undoubtedly know about the Game Genie.  For the un-anointed, it’s a cartridge that you can plug into the gaming system that allows you to use cheat codes to make the games a lot easier.  As a child, it was fun to totally dominate a game every once in a while.  As this website progresses, I’m going to start including cooking tips that I consider a “Game Genie” cheat for cooking.  These will be simple items that you can add to your dish that will make it fail-proof and amazing.

I consider canned Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce a “Game Genie” for grilling and Mexican cooking.  The addition of a few peppers to your recipe adds depth, spice, and a smoky note to your dish.   I have used these peppers with great success in marinades for many grilled items: steak, shrimp, and sometimes a whole chicken.  You can even add the chopped chipotle peppers to salsas for a nice smoky kick. 

Most major grocery stores are starting to carry the peppers now, but if you can’t find them, try to find a Spanish or Mexican supermarket.  They don’t have the cans in Europe, so I have guests smuggle them in when they come to visit as "payment" for room and board.

Below is my favorite recipe for chicken tacos.  Instead of using the Taco Bell spice mix from your grocery store, you should try this recipe.  It’s not much harder to pull off, but is miles better in my opinion.


Dice the pancetta, onions, and cube the chicken thighs and add it all to a bowl.  

Add in 3 chopped chipotle peppers.

Add your dry spices: cumin powder, coriander powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and Adobo seasoning.  Stir to combine everything and let it marinade in your fridge for 30 minutes up to a few days.

Make your guacamole.   Prep the other taco ingredients - this is as simple as dicing an onion, dicing the cilantro, and cutting a lime or two into wedges.

Start a frying pan on medium-high heat and let it heat up.  While it is heating up dice a red onion, some cilantro, and slice up a lime for garnishing.  Add in olive oil or canola oil (your choice) and then saute your chicken until it is cooked through.  It should take about 6 minutes.

To assemble your tacos, warm up the soft taco shells, add the chicken, diced onion, cilantro, and guacamole.  Squeeze a lime wedge on top, grab a cold beer, and enjoy!   


3 chipotle in adobo peppers finely chopped plus sauce from the can
1 small red onion
10 slices pancetta or 3 slices bacon
4 chicken thighs (or 2 breasts) chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 T cumin powder
1 T corriander powder
1 T garlic powder
1 T adobo seasoning (or seasoned salt)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Handful of chopped cilantro
1/2 diced red onion
a few limes cut into wedges

A good taco-cookin song:  D’angelo – Spanish Joint

Monday, November 14, 2011

Party Guacamole [Zack]

I'm not sure whether pounding spices in a mortar and pestle actually enhances the flavors in a dish. In my mind, a pesto pops more and guacamole is more intense when the ingredients are pounded. I haven’t read a definitive study proving that you get superior flavors, so let's assume that I’m imagining it.  Who cares? Your guests will love your guac presentation in the mortar and the placebo effect has never tasted better.

Guacamole is one of my favorite things to make.  I like mine to have a lot of flavor with a big back-end of spice.  Once you get a hang of balancing the tastes, you will find it’s very easy to make.  My buddy Mike Kelley and I have extensively tested this recipe by making multiple batches at multiple parties.  It was really tough work, but we ended up with a very good guacamole and Mike ended up getting a mortar and pestle solely for guac production.  It has become an unwritten rule that whenever Mike shows up to a party and people are bringing food, he will show up at the party with this guac recipe in his hands.

You can make this in a bowl, but it's much more fun in a mortar and pestle. 


Pour a cold beer into a glass.

Below is a picture of all of the ingredients you will need.  I omitted the jalapeno for the pic, but you should add it if you can handle the heat.

First, get your 2 garlic cloves and put them on a flat surface.  To peel them, lay the broad side of a knife on top of the cloves and then hit the knife with your fist to smash the cloves.  They are really easy to peel then.  Take a sip of beer.  Put the garlic in the mortar and add 1 T of coarse sea salt and 1 tsp of whole black peppercorns.  The salt will help you grind the garlic to a pulp.  Go to town.

Next, you need to add your cilantro leaves.  I don’t like wasting the stems since they have good flavor, so I roughly chop the leaves and stalks before adding to the mortar.  Grind this to a pulp.  Take a sip of beer.

Dice your onion, and add to the bowl.  Give it a bit of a beating to release flavor, but don’t mash all the way.  Beer.

Here is the time to prove your spice tolerance.  I chopped up a hot pepper and added it to the mortar and mashed.  If you are cooking for people who can handle the spice or will try it on a dare, you can add 1 deseeded habanero pepper instead…

Dice your tomatoes and drain all of the water out of them.  You can do this by simply squeezing them over a sink.  You will end up with a soupy and watery guacamole if you skip this step. This is hard work, so take a good sip.  

The next step is to add your avocado*.  Slice it in half long-ways and twist it 90 degrees like you are winding up an egg timer and you will have 2 halves in your hand.  The pit will stay in one half – to extract, nick it with the blade of your knife and turn it 90 degrees just like you did the two halves.  Drink some more beer.  Scrape out the insides and use two spoons to mash and chop the fruit.

*Note:  How to choose a perfect avocado:  The avocado should be a nice, dark color and have a similar feel as an ripe orange when you press on it.  If it gives too much, it’s overripe and if you get ones that are not yet ripe, you will have to wait a few days.  I prefer Haas avocados (they are the most common).

Roll your limes using the weight of the palm of your hand to loosen up the juices.  Slice them in ½ and squeeze the juice out into your bowl and mix. 

Taste and adjust the seasoning – if it needs more acid, add lime.  If you need more flavor, add a touch more salt.  

You should be finished with your beer just in time to grab a fresh one and some chips and enjoy!!


2 cloves garlic
1tsp coarse sea salt
small handful peppercorns
1/2 small red onion
1/2 tomato
30 cilantro leaves
1 1/2 limes juiced
1 cold beer

Serving suggestions:
With chips (of course)
On tacos of any kind:  fish, beef, pork, chicken, shrimp
On top of grilled chicken
Top a Mexican salad with a big spoonful

The White Stripes – Hello Operator