Category Archives: strange food combinations

Welcome!  Below are a few photos of some new small plate ideas I’ve been working on including: chili crusted tuna tataki, bobwhite quail w blue corn arepas, vanilla spiked foie w barrel aged burbon and 24 hr sous-vide short rib w syrah redux. Ultimately, the goal here will be to post easy recipes of dishes like these along with plating notes, a step by step photographic guide and wine pairing suggestions. I would love to hear any requests for specific dishes from our readers and of course, #wine pairing suggestions are always welcome. Hope you enjoy!

foie gras, lady apple, tahitian vanilla, barrel aged bourbon maple syrup

foie gras, lady apple, tahitian vanilla, barrel aged bourbon maple syrup

Tuna Tataki, Fennel Slaw, Florida Navel, Chili Syrup

Tuna Tataki, Fennel Slaw, Florida Navel, Chili Syrup

Bobwhite Florida Quail, Blue Corn Cakes, Roast Plum, Guajillo Plum Sauce

Bobwhite Florida Quail, Blue Corn Cakes, Roast Plum, Guajillo Plum Sauce

Bobwhite Florida Quail, Blue Corn Cakes, Roast Plum, Guajillo Plum Sauce

Bobwhite Florida Quail, Blue Corn Cakes, Roast Plum, Guajillo Plum Sauce

Salted Caramel-Pretzel Brownie, vanilla bean gelato, chocolate dipped "cocoa puffs"

Salted Caramel-Pretzel Brownie, vanilla bean gelato, chocolate dipped “cocoa puffs”

jun-aug13 292wmCrispy seared sea bass, Spanish saffron basmati rice, organic spring peas, locally produced chorizo, chardonnay butter, organic parsnip & carrot chips

While a pinot gris or chardonnay seem like a natural pairing choice, this wonderful end of summer seafood dish would actually pair perfectly with a wide array of interesting wines. The combination of rich, lightly acidic chardonnay butter and aromatic saffron basmati offer a powerful counterpoint when paired with a California Pinot noir. Alternatively, the richness and fat content of the sea bass seem to pair very well with a luscious syrah and even stood up nicely to an Argentine malbec. Unusual yet delicious! What would you pair with this dish to go with some of the other components like salty-savory chorizo, spiced parsnip-carrot chips or the sea bass itself?

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Recipe: Mardi Gras King Cake

King Cakes are a vital part of history of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition. The King Cake is baked with a small plastic baby hidden inside, the person who gets the slice with baby in it has to host the next party. Make sure to buy a new small plastic baby so you can get the full effect from this cake! Sprinkle with purple, green and gold sugar, or decorate with whole pecans and candied cherries.
Note: Be sure to tell everyone to inspect their piece of cake before they begin eating it. To be extra careful, use a plastic toy baby that is too large to swallow, or hide an orange wedge or 3-4 pecan halves inside the cake (avoid items that may hurt someone’s teeth) and then simply place the honorable toy baby outside on the top of the cake for all to see and adore!

Mardi gras king cake

Ingredients

1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup melted butter
FROSTING:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon to 2 water
MISC:
2 smalls plastic dolls (from party supply store)
green sugar
yellow sugar>
purple sugar

Preparation

1. Scald the milk, then remove from heat and stir in the butter. cool the mixture until it reaches room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, approximately 10 minutes.
3. When the yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Beat the flour in, adding 1 cup at a time.
4. Once the dough has formed, put it on a lightly floured surface and kneed until smooth and elastic, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Lightly oil a large bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat the dough with oil. Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, approximately 2 hours. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it in half.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 cookie sheets, or line them with parchment paper.
7. Make the filling: combine brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour the 1/2 cup of melted butter over the mixture and mix until crumbly.
8. Roll out the dough halves into large rectangles (approximately 10 x 6 inches). Sprinkle the filling over the dough and roll the dough up like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form two oval shaped rings. Put each dough ring on a prepared cookie sheet. Use scissors to make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes.
9. Bake the rings in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove cakes from oven and press a plastic baby doll into the bottom of each cake.
10. Mix the confectioners sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and frost the cakes while warm. Decorate with green, yellow, and purple colored sugars.
ENJOY!

Photo Gallery: Safety Harbor Food Truck Rally

So wow! I had the opportunity to attend the 1st annual Safety Harbor Food Truck Rally today and it was fantastic! Among some of the delicious foods I tried were: 3 Suns Organic Bistro, Sweet Ida Mae’s Bakery, Stinky Bunz, Just Smokin’ BBQ, Keep’n It Reel, Fire Monkey Food Truck, Tasty Stacy Food Truck, This ‘n’ That Mini Doughnuts, Mr. Empanada, Whatever Pops and The pizza Guy.

Okay, so yeah, I ate everything in sight and loved it! All the food was totally delicious and the service was quick and friendly. Add to that the beautiful weather, good live music and a whole bunch of great friends and it made for a pretty awesome day!

Thanks to all the great vendors who came out to feed us today and also to the city of Safety Harbor for putting on this great event…lots of happy faces out on Main Street today, can’t wait for the next one! Enjoy the gallery!

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Things you should probably never, ever eat vol. 1

Natto

I recently came across a container of fermented soybeans in the supermarket. I don’t mean an old container of soybeans some stock-boy forgot to toss. These are fermented-on-purpose soybeans from Japan. That’s what Natto is.

natto

natto

I remembered hearing about this stuff on Iron Chef one time when it was the secret ingredient. The judges in the show were commenting on what a great job the chefs had done to “suppress the smell” of the natto. Now, I’m no Iron Chef, but I’ve got a clever way to suppress the smell… Don’t put it in your food. I might not win “Battle Natto”, but I promise you my dinner won’t smell like 26 year old sun baked french cheese either.

I found it slightly unsettling that the sealed styrofoam container had creepy little air-holes in it. As if what was inside needed to breathe. I dared to lift the lid, which made me regret that I needed to breathe. The natto was coated in some kind of sick slime and had the complex yet playful aroma of a dumpster in July.

Actually, the little pile inside looked kinda like baked beans. It also smelled kinda like baked beans…if they were baked in the blistering heat of a dog turd on a hot summer day.

This particular batch was made by a company in Japan called Shirakiku. I haven’t been able to determine if Shirakiku is a food manufacturer, or just a store that sells gag gifts and practical jokes. It might be both.

Not unlike most of the cast of any version of desperate housewives, these harmless soybeans had undergone some kind of hideous transformation which were now a freakish version of their former selves. (Which, coincidentally, should also be kept far away from your childrens’ eyes.)

The most disturbing aspect of this stuff is it seems to get “activated” when you stir it. What I mean by this is, (and I may actually weep, but…) the slimy coating on the beans develops into stringy, stretchy, marshmallow-like strands that will forever haunt my dreams.

Basically, if you move it back and forth enough, you’re left with a gross, sticky mess.  And now that I think about it,  it looks like the pranksters back at Shirakiku did something really gross into my beans. You guuuys!

activating the natto

I force-fed myself a big ol’ spoonful, and found it to be slightly rancid and extremely bitter. Unfortunately, swallowing didn’t help dissipate the flavor because the strings of bean schmootz melted, coating my mouth and lips with a glistening sheen of extreme sadness.

The entire experience is difficult to describe, but if you can remember back to the very first time you made out with a hobo’s ass, it’s probably a lot like that.

What I find most hilarious is that there is an expiration date on the package. What could they possibly expect to happen to the product on this date THAT HAS NOT ALREADY OCCURRED?!!!

Also, nestled in this mound of compost was a li’l packet of mustard. In its place, I would strongly suggest a hand written apology.

I do have one last theory about the date on the package. It may be an expiration date, but not for the beans. If you finish the container, that’s the day you die.

I used to write here, didn’t I?

Time to get back to that. So many superb meals have passed through my kitchen in the last few years…most have been left unblogged, undocumented & forgotten. For some of them that may be for the best, but a lot of these meals should have been shared. So here we are again.

Where to begin? I guess with the now. Honestly, too much has occurred both personally and professionally over the past few years for me to try to recap it all here and now. Some good, some bad, some great, some sad…so I’ll just pick up with the glorious present.

I’m working on getting past my obsession with overly complicated meals, trying to do things a little more simply. Not that I’m abandoning the ridiculous feasts, I’m just realizing that I can cook a whole lot more really great stuff if I just simplify some of it. In preparation for the super bowl on Sunday, I made a batch of chili on Saturday without spending 3 days preparing for it. I stuck to the true spirit of the dish this time.

A good friend of mine, who had the misfortune of leaving his freezer door ajar overnight, bestowed upon me a large chuck roast on Friday. I thought to myself, “questionable chunk of meat? Hmmm…chili!!”

I trimmed it up, got rid of the more questionable parts, and cut it into bite-size chunks. After browning those in a pan with some oil and salt, working in batches and transferring the browned ones to a pot, I sautéed a medium-sized diced red onion in the leftover “meaty-ness”… dumped that in the pot, deglazed the whole thing with a bottle of decent craft beer, then added a can of tomatillos (run through the blender first), a few cans of crushed tomato and some Mexican spice rub that had been given to me by a friends parents down the street. Salt, pepper, chipotle ketchup, smoked paprika, coriander, masa harina and toasted cumin went in, then I let it simmer for a little while.

After some time, it became apparent that the chili needed more veggies in it, so I started digging in the fridge. I found a little container of salsa that someone had brought the night before, along with half a can of chipotle en adobo, so in it went along with some fresh yellow corn. It was still lacking though. Around the same time, I received a fortuitous phone call from someone on their way over to the house, and I asked them to pick me up another jar of salsa, some kidney beans and a six-pack of some decent beer (to drink of course).

**Side note**

OK, I know how a lot of people feel about beans when it comes to chili…some love it, some hate it. Honestly, I could care less. I make chili with them, without them, whatever…it just depends on my mood and the ingredients on hand.

**End of side note**

Once my buddy arrived, I threw in the beans and salsa and let it simmer a little longer. We made some jalapeño/cheddar cornbread muffins and grated up some sharp cheddar cheese, and I was pleasantly surprised! Not quite the same flavor impact of most of the chilli I’ve made, but the ratio of effort : flavor was remarkable. I think that there may be something to the “lazy chili”. . .but I do advise using caution when selecting the meat itself. That can still make or break any pot of chili, no matter how lazy you feel.

Well…it feels good to get the old ball rolling again. I’ll try to keep you all posted more this time around…really. Stop looking at me like that.

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chili

lazy chili

Do Not Eat This Blog!

So, I’ve got an old friend who is a HUGE Rush fan. He’s seen them live more times than he’s visited his in-laws, owns every bootleg known to man, and can recite each member’s biography with the nostalgia of having lived it himself. But one summer night, after a couple of Grey Goose martinis had begun to take hold, he made a startling confession to me about a musical guilty pleasure…Barry Manilow. Yeah, it’s ok, laugh…lord knows I did. But despite the fact that I can still remember how silly he looked singing a horrible rendition of  ‘Could It Be Magic’, it only made me respect him even more because, we are after all,  all human, and we ALL have guilty pleasures…not just in music, but in food and wine too.

See, here’s the thing- I absolutely love  Foie Gras, Beluga Caviar, Kobe beef, Truffles, first-growth Bordeaux and San Pellegrino. But I also love (and I can admit this because most of you have never actually met me) white castle burgers, E-Z cheeze, Beefaroni, frozen pizza, Mac & Cheese with cut up hot dogs, Ketchup on eggs, fried Snickers, Slurpees, Cajun boiled peanuts and those little wax bottles with the liquid candy inside.

I’ve been fortunate to have dined at some of the finest restaurants in the world and have had meals that are indelibly etched in my memory, but it doesn’t change the fact that every once in a while (when no one is around except me and the dog) I will sit down to a peanut butter & fluff (yep, a fluffernutter)sandwich on WHITE bread, not the healthy stuff. The dog gets a little peanut butter too just in case she’s thinking of ratting me out. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of treating yourself to a Drake’s Yodel or Ring Ding, do me a favor- put down the Riedel stemware and the truffle butter, step away slowly, get in the car and drive to the market as fast as you can, without stopping for pedestrians.

So I asked around, and when promised anonymity, several friends, family and co-workers have admitted to the following gastronomical guilty pleasures:

  • Uncooked Ramen Noodles, right out of the container, crunch and all
  • McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets…what, that’s not bad enough for you? Did I mention she dunks them in her chocolate milk shake?!?
  • Spaghetti with ketchup (a distant cousin of my beloved Beefaroni)
  • Skillet-fried Spam with pineapple
  • Frozen Pop-Tarts
  • Fried bologna sandwiches on wonder bread, sans crust
  • Pork cracklins’

So my question is, what’s YOUR guilty pleasure? Don’t sit there with your nose up in the air and tell me you live on haute cuisine, because I know somewhere deep down, in places you don’t talk about at cocktail parties, you WANT that New York City ‘dirty-water’ hot dog, you NEED that cold left-over pizza. It’s okay, the first step is admitting it, so share your guiltiest pleasure I won’t tell a soul…

Justin-thyme.com

peanut fluffernutter pancake sandwich

peanut fluffernutter pancake sandwich