Monday, April 30, 2012

Cinco de Drinko

The holiday of Cinco de Mayo (coming up on the 5th of May), commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia of 4,500 men, led by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin (General Zaragoza), over the French army of 6,500 soldiers, at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. Today, it is more of a regional holiday in Mexico, mostly celebrated in the state of Puebla, by celebrating Mexican culture, food, music, beverages, and customs. However, with increasing popularity in the US, it may well be more popular north of the border! There is no better way to kick-off any Cinco de Mayo festivities than with a hand-shaken, high quality, traditional Margarita, using freshly squeezed key limes (known as "limones criollos" in Mexco), Cointreau (not Triple Sec), and 100% agave silver tequila!

This recipe for "La Margarita Original," is from Fiesta at Rick's, by Rick Bayless, and is for one Margarita. Rick thinks Margaritas are best made one (or up to three) at a time, and that a salted rim is essential. I think these Margaritas are truly special and very smooth! I do recommend squeezing the key limes earlier in the day, before making the cocktails. It takes A LOT of key limes, and those little suckers take a while to juice! You can also add some simple syrup (simmer equal parts water and sugar until the sugar crystals dissolve) to the mix, if you find it too tart.

La Margarita Original

Makes 1, 5 ounce Margarita


A lime half for moistening the glass rim
Coarse (Kosher) salt
Ice cubes (you'll need about 3/4 cup-small ones are best)
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) fresh-squeezed lime juice, preferably from ripe limones criollos (yellow-ripe Key limes)
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) Cointreau orange liqueur (essential here for its concentrated flavor and sweetness)
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) 100% agave silver tequila (El Tesoro, El Milagro, Oro Azul)


Moisten the rim of a 6-ounce martini glass (or Margarita glass) with the cut side of the lime half. Spread coarse salt on a small plate, then upend the glass into the salt to crust the rim. Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then measure in the lime, Cointreau, and tequila. Shake for about 15 seconds. (This is longer than you may think: 15 seconds is how long it takes for the perfect amount of ice to melt into the drink.) Strain into the prepared glass. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Real Man Dip!

He makes some good points, but how does he not realize that Shiner is a "twist off?"

The Spoetzl brewery was founded in 1909, in the tiny town of Shiner, Texas. German immigrant and Brewmaster, Kosmas (Kosmos) Spoetzl brought his family recipe for Bavarian beer and created "Shiner Bock," Spoetzl's flagship beer, and my personal favorite! Kosmos had attended brewmaster school and apprenticed for three years in Germany, then worked for eight years at the Pyramids Brewery in Cairo, Egypt. By way of Canada, he moved to Shiner in search of a better climate. For a more in-depth history of the Spoetzle Brewery, click here.

With baseball and the hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in full swing, I thought I would share my recipe, from the Spoetzl Brewery, for "Beer Cheese." I know this is a specialty of Kentucky; however, Texas just has to have it's own! This spread must be made at least a day ahead! In fact, don't even taste it when you make it, it will taste awful! This recipe makes 2 1/2 cups, so pack it in several small containers, so you can pull one out for any unexpected guests coming to watch a game. Serve it with crackers or bread, and maybe some crudites. In my experience, Men LOVE it! What to drink? An icy cold Shiner Bock, of course!

Beer Cheese

Makes 2 1/2 cups


1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated (grate it yourself, don't use the pre-shredded stuff!)
1/4 cup Shiner Bock beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (like Colman's)
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce


Mix all the ingredients together in a food processor or mixer. Pack the cheese into crocks or a bowl, and cover tightly. Refrigerate for at least one day before serving. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Vee shee swaz"

I know it's not National Vichyssoise Day, which is celebrated on November 18, but I can't wait any longer! Vichyssoise is a simple pureed soup made with potatoes, leeks, chicken stock or even water, and enriched with cream. It is traditionally served cold, simply garnished with finely chopped chives. Somehow, these simple ingredients combine to make a deceptively chic soup, epitomizing the sincerity of French cuisine. However, although the ingredients are classic French, Vichyssoise is actually an American creation, reportedly first added to the Ritz Carlton New York menu by homesick French chef Louis Diat in 1917. He was inspired by childhood memories, near the town of Vichy, France, of his mother and grandmother serving him potato-leek soup, cooled down with cold milk. There are numerous versions floating around, some trying to "modernize" this classic soup; but, in my opinion, why mess with perfection? This is my version, which I'm dedicating to my dear friend Chloe, who prefers it warm and requests it all the time! 

Chloe's Vichyssoise

Serves 8-10


1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 large leeks, white portions only, cleaned, and thinly sliced
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 pounds all-purpose potatoes (I like Yukon Gold), peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
Salt and white pepper, to taste
4 ounces creme fraiche
Finely chopped chives, for garnish


In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute until they just begin to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add the stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

With an immersion blender, puree until extremely smooth. Whisk in the creme fraiche and season generously with salt and white pepper. Chill it or serve it warm, simply garnished with finely chopped chives.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Celebrate Earth Day - Grow Your Own Herbs!

Yesterday, I had a delightful day at a local farmer's market! It is so refreshing to peruse the many stalls selling their farm-fresh produce, meat, flowers, and herbs. I picked up some sweet basil, french tarragon, lemongrass (which I am very excited about), and a chocolate-mint plant! Other herbs I always grow are rosemary, thyme, sage, chives, and lavender. I LOVE growing my own herbs. Nothing beats being able to walk outside and snip-off what I need. In addition, I like to know that my herbs haven't been sprayed with nasty chemicals and are as fresh as it gets. If you haven't grown herbs before, I strongly suggest that you do. They are cheap, exceptionally easy to grow, and add beauty to any garden. If you don't have a garden to grow them, they do equally well in pots, handsomely perched on a sunny windowsill. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Molten Lava!

Molten chocolate cake, chocolate lava cake, or chocolate fondant cake, are those decadent little chocolate cakes with a soft chocolate interior. Garnished with raspberries, vanilla ice cream, powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, and sometimes mint, they make a perfect finale to any lavish menu, like my Morton's Steakhouse Menu. These little delicacies were reportedly invented by Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York City in 1987; however, Jacques Torres, renowned French chef and chocolatier disputes that claim, arguing that it was already present in France. Well, wherever they came from, everyone loves them! I have tried a plethora of recipes for this chocolaty delight with varying results. However, Morton's version, "Morton's Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake," is fantastic and comes out perfectly, EVERY TIME! Just make sure you have a lot of eggs on hand, 15 in fact!

Morton's Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake

Serves 6, (This recipe recommends six 6-ounce souffle cups or ramekins. Depending on the size of your containers, serving size may vary.)


1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the souffle cups
Granulated sugar
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 large egg yolks, plus 7 large eggs
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
18 fresh raspberries
6 scoops vanilla ice cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter six 6-ounce souffle cups (or ramekins) and sprinkle each with granulated sugar. Tap out the excess sugar.

In the top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate together. Remove the top of the double boiler pan from the heat. (Don't have a double boiler? No problem, click here.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and set on low speed, beat the egg yolks and eggs for about 2 minutes, or until light and smooth. With the mixer running, pour the melted chocolate into the bowl and mix for about 2 minutes longer.

Put the confectioners' sugar and flour in a fine-mesh sieve and sprinkle into the chocolate mixture. With the mixer on medium speed, beat for 30 seconds, or until well mixed.

Pour the batter into the prepared souffle cups, leaving about 1/4" of space below the rim. Set the souffle cups on a baking sheet and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until puffed and about 1" higher than the rim. The centers will be soft but not sticky.

Remove the cakes from the oven and immediately invert each onto a serving plate. Remove the cup and garnish each plate with three raspberries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Recipe from Morton's Steak Bible, by Klaus Fritsch with Mary Goodbody.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Small (Dysfunctional) Family

I'm sure every successful restaurant with a long-time loyal staff, or "lifers" in the mix, must in some way, feel like a small family. It reminds me of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain. It is a fantastic book, in which he states that "cooks are a dysfunctional, mercenary lot, fringe-dwellers," who are "comfortable with the rather relaxed and informal code of conduct in the kitchen, the elevated level of tolerance for eccentricity, unseemly personal habits, lack of documentation, prison experience." The stories he tells are humorous, disturbing, and enlightening! If you haven't read it, go get your hands on a copy! Here, Raki Mehra has been working at Morton's for 25 years! Oh, the stories he could tell! Maybe he'll write a book? 

Anyway, continuing my Morton's Steakhouse Menu, we must include the humble staple of many family meals, mashed potatoes. Morton's version is very satisfying, with the usual heart-clogging amount of butter and cream, but with a little kick from sour cream and freshly ground white pepper. They are the perfect accompaniment to their Porterhouse Steak. Along with harticot verts, or Boursin Creamed Spinach, or a simple green salad, and a nice bottle of red wine, what more could you want? *Dessert? Check back for Morton's Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake!

Morton's Mashed Potatoes

Serves 6


5 pounds russet or all-purpose potatoes, peeled
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper


Cut the potatoes into approximately 1 1/2" cubes and transfer to a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes by 1" and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Be careful not to overcook. Immediately drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the butter and cream over medium heat, and cook until the butter melts. Do not boil. Set aside.

Transfer the drained potatoes to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the potatoes start to break up and blend together. You may have to do this in batches. Gradually add the sour cream and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper. (Alternately, mash the potatoes by hand with a potato masher.)

With the mixer still on low speed, slowly add the hot cream-butter mixture. When all is added, increase the speed to medium and mix for 30 to 40 seconds, or until thoroughly mixed. Add more warm cream if necessary for the correct consistency. The potatoes should not be completely smooth.

Recipe from Morton's Steak Bible: Recipes & Lore From the Legendary Steakhouse, by Klaus Fritsch with Mary Goodbody.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Restaurateur, Playboy, and a Discotheque!

The first Morton's The Steakhouse (formerly Morton's of Chicago) is located at 1050 N. State Street in historic Chicago, Illinois, and is named after Arnie Morton. Arnie was born into a family of Chicago restaurateurs. He was director of food and beverages for Playboy's clubs and resorts in the 1960s, and was known as the man who "pinned the tails on the bunnies." He left the Playboy spotlight in 1973 to open a discotheque (it was the 70s!) and several restaurants in the Chicago area. But in 1978, with Klaus Fritsch as his partner, he opened Morton's Steakhouse as a "neighborhood saloon for the rich and for people who like to splurge now and then." With it's subdued lighting, warm brickwork, and walls adorned with celebrity photographs, it has continued to be a legend, not only in Chicago, but at locations around the world!

Now that you have your Au Jus, let's finish our Morton's Porterhouse Steak, from Morton's Steak Bible, by Klaus Fritsch with Mary Goodbody. Morton's is known for their superior quality steaks, so don't be cheap! Buy the best steak you can find, preferably 1 1/2" thick.

Morton's Porterhouse Steak

Serves 4


2, 24-ounce aged porterhouse steaks, each about 1 1/2" thick
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 tablespoons seasoned salt (e.g., Montreal, Lawry's, etc.)
4 tablespoons Au Jus


Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill or preheat the broiler and position a rack 4 inches from the heating element. Lightly spray the grill rack with vegetable oil cooking spray. The coals should be medium-hot for the charcoal grill. The burners should be on high for the gas grill.

Season the steaks lightly on both sides with the seasoned salt. If using charcoal grill, grill for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn, using tongs, and grill the other side for 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare, or until the desired degree of doneness.

If using a gas grill, grill for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn, using tongs, and grill the other side for 5 to 6 minutes for medium-rare, or until the desired degree of doneness. For medium-well, grill for 10 minutes on the first side and for 5 minutes on the second side. If using the broiler, broil 4 inches from the heat source for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn, using tongs, and broil the other side for 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare, or until the desired degree of doneness.

To serve, slice the steaks and spoon some of the Au Jus on top. (About 2 tablespoons Au Jus per steak.)

Monday, April 16, 2012


I first stumbled into the original Morton's with my husband a few years ago. We arrived late and found a cozy seat at the bar. Along with some libations, we dined on Morton's signature "Petite Steak Sandwiches." They were delicious and just what we needed after a late night of entertainment! The service was great and the ambiance even better! I highly recommend checking it out, if you can!

So, in honor of Morton's, I wanted to create a tribute menu to this iconic steakhouse:

Let's start with Morton's recipe for "Au Jus" (meaning "with juice"), from Morton's Steak Bible, by Klaus Fritsch with Mary Goodbody. Luckily, as Bourdain says you should always have some demi-glace kicking around in the freezer, I did! See Part Deux - Demi-Glace! *Don't forget to check back tomorrow, so you can experience Morton's classic Porterhouse Steak!

Au Jus (This has to be the elixir of the carnivore gods!)

Makes 1 cup


1 cup veal demi-glace (store-bought or preferably homemade)
2 1/2 teaspoons commercial beef base (e.g., "Better Than Bouillon")
1 1/4 teaspoons commercial chicken base (e.g., "Better Than Bouillon")
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper


In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/4 cups water with the demi-glace, beef base, chicken base, peppercorns, garlic powder, thyme, bay leaf, and ground pepper.

Whisk well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook at a boil, (I had to reduce the heat to medium/medium-low), uncovered, whisking occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until glossy and smooth.

Strain through a chinois or a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Discard the solids. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour until chilled. Scrape any fat that has congealed on the surface. Use right away or transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Texas Muffuletta - Part II

Thanks, Jason! That was very helpful! However, my "Original" looks better! Look at the beautiful bread!  Ready to make your own? Trust me, it's worth the effort!!!

Schlotzsky's "Original" Sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich, serves 4-6 (or maybe less....)


For the sandwich
1, freshly baked 11" sourdough bun, (see The Texas Muffuletta - Part I)
1/2 ounce garlic caesar salad dressing (store-bought is just fine)
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2 1/2 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
4 ounces honey cured ham slices
2 ounce cotto salami slices
2 ounce genoa salami slices
1, 4.25 ounce can chopped black olives, mixed with 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 2 ounces olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 ounce plain yellow mustard
Shredded iceberg lettuce, about 1/2 head
6 or so tomato slices
Thinly sliced onion, red or white


For the sandwich
Heat oven to 375 degrees. With a sharp bread knife, place one hand on top of the bread, and carefully slice the bread in half horizontally.

Carefully place each half of the bread, crust side down, on two foil-lined baking sheets. Starting from the outside in, squeeze 6 spiral rings of the garlic caesar dressing on each bun. Next, sprinkle each bun evenly with the Parmesan cheese. Now, spread the cheddar cheese evenly over the bottom bun, and the mozzarella evenly over the top bun. Place in the middle of the oven and bake until the cheese has just begun to melt, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.

For the bottom, or cheddar bun, spread the marinated olive mixture evenly over the cheddar cheese. Now cover the olive mixture with the ham slices, overlapping slightly. Place back in the oven to let the ham heat up for about 5 minutes.

While the ham warms, for the top, or mozzarella bun, squeeze from the outside in, 5 rings of yellow mustard. Cover the mustard layer evenly with the cotto salami or turkey. Then top evenly with the genoa salami. Remove the bottom or cheddar bun from the oven and put the top or mozzarella bun in the oven to let the meats heat up, approximately 5 minutes.

Finally, on the bottom cheddar bun, cover with the shredded iceberg lettuce, just enough to cover the meat. Now add the tomato slices evenly, and the onion slices.

Now, take the top mozzarella bun and very carefully, slap it on top. Cut into wedges of 4 or 6 and serve with your favorite chips. You're welcome!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Texas Muffuletta - Part I

Yes, Texas does have it's own version of the classic New Orlean's Muffuletta sandwich! It was created in Austin, Texas, in 1971, by a guy named Al, for Don and Dolores Dissman, founders of "Schlotzky's," a successful sandwich franchise. Schlotzky's has since expanded, mostly in the South and Southwestern United States. Their signature sandwich is simply called "The Original." It is delicious! Unfortunately, I don't have the privilege of having a Schlotzky's nearby; so, with a lot of research and testing in my home kitchen, I have developed a d*** good version! The secret to any Schlotzky's sandwich is their fabulous freshly baked sourdough bread. I guarantee that you will love it! As one of their former slogans suggests, "Just One Sandwich ... It's That Good!"

*Check back for The Texas Muffuletta - Part II!

Schlotzsky's "Original" Sourdough Bread

Makes 1, 11" bun


For the bread
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise dry yeast
6 ounces warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 cup, plus 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
11"x2" deep dish pie pan
Non-stick cooking spray


For the bread
In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, combine the 1/2 cup warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes until frothy and bubbly.

With the dough hook attachment, mix in the milk, baking soda/water mixture, salt, and the 1 cup of flour until well mixed. Next, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour until a thick and sticky dough has formed.

Spray the 11"x2" deep dish pie pan with non-stick cooking spray. "Spread" the dough out the best you can in the pie pan. (Don't worry, it will spread and settle out.)

Spray a piece of plastic wrap, big enough to cover the pan, with non-stick cooking spray and place, spray side down, over the pan. Let sit for an hour, or until it has risen to the top of the pan. Gently remove the plastic wrap. (It's okay if it falls a little, it will rise more in the oven.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, spray the top of the bread with a little non-stick cooking spray (to keep the crust soft), and let cool in the pan.

*Check back to learn how to assemble the rest of this awesome sandwich!*

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"First he ate some lettuces and some French beans, and then he ate some radishes."

Do you recognize that passage from The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter? Easter is almost here and it's time to make a plan! I want to bring "Spring" to my table, specifically radishes! With such varieties as "Easter Egg Radishes" and "Spring Radishes," I think they make a welcome addition to my Easter table. Radishes are a root vegetable, thought to have originated in Asia, and date back to pre-Roman times. The name comes from the Latin "radix," meaning root, and are part of the mustard family. They come in a variety of colors, from red, black, white (aka., daikon), and even purple. With their pungent peppery taste, they are usually eaten raw in salads, garnishes, and crudites. But did you know that you can cook them, steam them, roast them, and even pickle them? In fact, they are very versatile and, in my opinion, quite under-appreciated, particularly here in the US.

When buying these little beauties, look for firm radishes with a smooth skin and no spots or bruising, and the green tops should be fresh and bright. For a simple and stunning recipe, perfect alongside any Easter ham or lamb, try Laura Calder's "Spring Vegetable Tumble," from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating. It's so lovely! I'm sure Peter would approve!

Spring Vegetable Tumble

Serves 4


8 baby carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
4 ounces snow peas
4 ounces asparagus, cut into thirds
6 radishes, halved
4 ounces yellow beans, cut into thirds (I couldn't find any, so I used harticot verts.)
4 ounces baby turnips, quartered
1 cup frozen or shelled fresh peas
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few handfuls of chopped fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, chervil...)

*Note: As Laura states, don't be limited by the vegetables suggested, you can change the combination to your preference.


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it, and blanch all the vegetables separately. Exact time will depend on the vegetable, but count on a few minutes each and be near by to taste-test for al dente. As the vegetables are done, fish them out with a hand-held strainer, and refresh each in ice water. Drain.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Toss the vegetables together to finish cooking and warm through. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the herbs, and serve.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Amazingly Adaptable Avocados

Avocados are so healthy and delicious, but you don't just have to make guacamole. Try this recipe for "Crab and Avocado Salad." It's so fresh and delicious! Serve it with a nice cold cerveza, and it makes a perfect lunch on a hot afternoon!

Crab and Avocado Salad

Serves 4


1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados, washed under cold water
1 lemon, juiced
8 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for any shells or cartlidge
1 head of Boston, Bibb, or Butter lettuce, washed
2 large ripe tomatoes, washed and cut into wedges


Mix the mayonnaise, celery, chives, and Tabasco in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and pepper. Set aside.

Cut the avocados in half, lengthwise, and remove the pit. With a large spoon, remove the avocado pulp and dice. (Reserve the avocado shells!) Add the diced avocado to a separate bowl, and squeeze over the lemon juice. Stir to coat.

Gently, fold the crabmeat into the diced avocado. Next, gently fold in the dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Fill each avocado shell evenly with the salad.

On individual plates, place 1 or 2 leaves of lettuce (depending on the size). Place one stuffed avocado shell on each plate. Garnish each plate evenly with the tomato wedges. Admire it's beauty and serve!

You may also like Crab Louie.