Friday, February 17, 2017

Back with a Vengeance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, it's been a while..........Fite me!!!!!

Ok,maybe not fite me. How about forgive and forget? You'll really want to because I have exciting news:

I've started a podcast!!

Yes, myself and a ghoulish and hilarious Rebecca Madariaga have teamed up to help inform the general public about food and cooking in these hard and modern times.

We also really like fart jokes.

We're a good pair. She's a lady, I'm a guy, she's gay, I'm straight, she's Latina and I'm a ginger. I'm a great cook and she is terrible. There in lies the rub.

Each week I will present a new item/ food to talk about with Rebecca in order to enlighten and illuminate some of the darker corners of what should be easy home cooking. I'm not looking to do anything fancy................yet.

Our first episode will fill you in (and maybe alienate you) about all things we want to do as well as all of our dumb digressions.

So give it a listen. it's only 28 minutes. What do you have to lose? OK, well, yeah, ........ 28 minutes.

Here is the link to the Soundcloud page.

Please leet us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you. If you'd like to contact us you can do so here:

If you have any suggestions salutations or corrections, we're open to hear from you.

So we're gonna try to do this every week (with a recipe) so it's gonna be a big deal and I'm super excited.

We can't wait to talk to you.

John and rebecca

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sweet Child O' Brine

It's Thanksgiving! The magical time of year that brings out the adventurous cook in everyone. People who mostly survive on ramen and bagel bites get it in their minds that they are going to be tackling a 10 item dinner for 15 people. Needless to say, panic attacks and tears are as much of a part of Thanksgiving as drunk uncles (drunkles if you will).

I'm not going to be able to help you with everything but one area I can help you with is the bird. Many cooks are intimidated by cooking turkeys because of how large and unwieldy the thing is. It's not the kind of thing we tackle on the regular and it can be easy to overcook. This is where brining comes into the picture.

Brining helps to add moisture (for a wet brine) to a turkey and lets it hold onto moisture as it cooks (both wet and dry). It also facilitates the absorption of flavor (aromatics and spices). If you do it properly you'll get a fantastic tasting bird that is almost impossible to overcook.

This brine is special because tastes like the holidays. Cinnamon, orange peel, clove and other spices join forces to flavor a turkey that fits in at the Christmas table as well as a Thanksgiving feast.

This is my holiday turkey wet brine.

Holiday Flavored Wet Brine
1/2 gallon water
1 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbls whole black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
1-2 cinnamon sticks (depends on how much you want)
2 bay leaves
6 sage leaves
2-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4-6 sprigs thyme
Peel of 1 orange- keep it wide as possible with as little pith as possible (it's OK to have a little)
Peel of 1 lemon- keep it wide as possible with as little pith as possible (it's OK to have a little)
1 onion- chopped into quarters
2 carrots- chopped into 1-2 inch lengths
2 stalks of celery- chopped into 1-2 inch lengths
5 cloves of garlic smashed (no need to peel)
1/2 gallon (64 ounces by weight) of ice

1 12-20 pound turkey- thawed

Combine first 16 ingredients in a big pot. Bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes. turn off heat. Let cool until it's not steaming hot (about 20 minutes).

Add the ice to cool everything off.

In a clean five gallon bucket, add the turkey and brine. put into fridge and keep for at least 12 hours for smaller birds and as much as 18 hours on the monster birds. If you don't have an extra fridge or a five gallon bucket a big cooler will work just as well (and you can keep it outside out of the way!). I've found that a good, quick way to know brine times is just to do one hour of brining per pound. It's not an exact science, but it gets you where you want to be.

Cook the turkey as you want.

You can also combine the iced brine and turkey into a big cooler and keep it outside overnight. The cooler keeps everything cool overnight.

Have a good Thanksgiving!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Go Nog Go!!!!!!!!

I love eggnog. It is one of my favorite winter drinks. That's right, not just for Christmas but from November until February I'm rocking the nog when the spirits (and there are plenty of spirits) pique my fancy.

It wasn't always this way. When I was younger, eggnog was a detestable drink. Thick, viscous, overly sweet and oddly flavored sludge was what we were served from a waxed cardboard carton every year. At least the adults got to drink that bullshit with a few shots of Seagram's 7 to thin it out and give it some natural flavor. Ahhhh memories.

It was about seven or eight years ago that I started making my own on a whim. I knew that the real stuff had to be worth trying and with no magical eggnog yak around to milk, I was on a mission.

The first batch I made, cobbled together like an alcoholic Frankenstein from various recipes, was a revelation. Real nog was fresh, bright, clean and pleasantly high octane. I was hooked.

Since then I have honed this franken-recipe to be my own while and now I'm here to share it with you wonderful people.

The recipe, as you can see, has been painstakingly preserved for both it's penmanship as well as it's spelling. The Rheb's phone number is a small token of my affection.

By the way; I will be doubling this recipe for our purposes. The double recipe makes a volume that is great to give a bunch away while also having enough to get you good and ready to be merry and bright.

©2014 John Houser III

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mary and Vincent's Bread

©2014 John Houser III
Today is a snowy day in Baltimore and I have the day off. I was making cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for my wife and son when I ran across a recipe in A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price for herb bread that looked intriguing. The original thing that caught my eye was that the bread called for powdered ginger to be mixed in with dough ingredients but that it also called for "powdered chicken stock" (AKA chicken bouillon) which basically replaces the regular salt with a flavored salt. 

I was so enamored with the recipe that I immediately started on the bread (not to worry, my wife and kid were out playing and wouldn't be back for a while, they got their soup and sandwiches when they came in from the cold).

 I had to adjust the recipe to fit what I had in my pantry because I do not have powdered chicken stock but I do have chicken stock base with is reduced down chicken stock that when mixed with water becomes a descent substitute fro real chicken stock. I unashamedly use the stuff and fuck you for judging me. 

©2014 John Houser III
I also had to figure out a weight for the flour because using "3 cups" of flour will get you a different bread every time. The flour might be packed tighter of looser depending on how hard or light you scoop it so I picked a weight used for the recipe. Luckily for me (and you) it turned out a beautiful product. This way the recipe will be consistent every time it is baked. I also used bread pans that were lined with parchment paper for easier release (instead of greasing them). 

©2014 John Houser III
The resulting bread is a soft and luxurious loaf  that has a tight crumb, is great for sandwiches (I wish I'd have had it for the grilled cheeses) and has a faintly earthy and herb-y scent and flavor. The crust is even and thick with a fantastic crunch. Roast beef or smoked turkey would be perfect for it. 

I only have pictures of the final product because I never had any plans to put this recipe up but it was so damn easy, delicious and lovely that I felt the need to post it up. 

©2014 John Houser III

A slather of soft butter and a sprinkling of  Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper made for a great snack. My son ate three large slices, crust and all (well.... he ate most of the crust). When I dipped the bread, just plainly buttered, into a big bowl of chili I wondered why I ever used cornbread. 


The recipe is after the jump. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Strawberry fields for about an hour

© 2013 John Houser III
We picked strawberries yesterday at Lohr's Orchard yesterday and pulled in a pretty size able haul. 11.5 pounds when all was said and done and it looks like a lot of berries in the picture but after washing them off they seemed to have multiplied like wet mogwai. These are a few of the phone pics I took. The "good" pics (from my camera) I'm going to save for the strawberry recipes to follow in the next few days. Requests?


© 2013 John Houser III

©2013 John Houser III

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kale floret pesto

Since posting my kale floret recipe last week I have made the dish a few times again. I still find it delicious but I had a thought while packing up the leftover kale mixture: "This would probably make for a good pesto base!" Do I yell in my head? Yep.

So the next day I put together a very easy pesto in the food processor. I served it over Cavatappi pasta (it's a fun shape) with a side of pan con tomate (recipe found here). If you were wondering the fresh clove of garlic in the recipe is to give the pesto brightness. The cooked garlic in the kale doesn't have that kind of punch.

The hardest part is making the pasta and, well, if you can't do that then get in touch with me and we'll start private lessons on how to boil water.

Kale floret pesto

Makes enough for 1-1lb box of pasta

1 cup of the cooked kale florets (recipe  found here)
1/2 cup washed parsley- stems and all
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Grano Padano cheese
1 garlic clove- minced
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1- one pound box of shaped pasta (I used Cavatappi)

In a food processor, combine the first seven ingredients. Pulse in the food processor a few times to get the food starting to break up and mixed. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to pulse. You can keep pulsing it until it is smooth, but I prefer mine a little chunky (as you can see below).

© 2013 John Houser III

Immediately after draining the pasta, return it to the hot pot you cooked it in and stir in the pest. Stir until pasta is coated and combined with the sauce. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve while hot (hopefully with pan con tomate).

© 2013 John Houser III

Make it and let me know what you think.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kale Florets

©2013 John Houser III
I was at the farmers'market last Sunday in a terrible mood. I'm not the most jovial person in the morning and when the market is as packed as it was it makes me cranky. Between cursing people out for being in my way (why do they stop in the middle of the walk ways to talk???) and reassuring my son that we will be getting donuts I was out of sorts. It was at Latte da while getting tea that we ran into a friend who hipped me to my new favorite spring vegetable. "have you ever heard of kale florets?" I looked at her like she was speaking in Valyrian. I was intrigued. I had never heard of kale florets in recipes or even in passing while reading. I made my way quickly over to the Gardener's Gourmet farms stand (of course I thanked my friend before I ran away) and asked the guy behind the table if he was out. They were not out, on the contrary there was a huge pile of the stuff sitting there unloved. Walking away from the stand with two bunches of the florets (at $2 a bunch!) I was remembering my back and forth with the attendant:

Me: "wow, these look great! How do you cook them?
Guy: " just chop them, up and cook with garlic and olive oil"
Me: "sort of like rapini?"
Guy: "exactly slugger!"

Ok, he didn't call me slugger, but for how Pollyanna I felt writing that exchange I took a little creative license to feel better. 

So, I had a frame of reference on how to cook this mysterious vegetable and all I needed to do now was apply the flavors I add to rapini to the kale florets and see what happened. 

It turns out that kale florets taste nothing like rapini. They are much more mild in flavor (similar to broccoli) but with the crunch you get with rapini. Paired with garlic, spring onions and chili flakes the florets make for a fantastic healthy dish. The key to this dish is to shock the florets after blanching them in boiling salted water (the water should taste like the sea). Blanching sets the color of the florets and keeps them from turning gray. 

©2013 John Houser III
©2013 John Houser III

Kale florets with garlic, spring onion and chili flake
1 bunch Kale Florets- chopped into 1 inch long pieces, washed
5 cloves garlic -minced
4 spring onions thinly sliced
1 dry chili pepper crushed (or chopped) into flakes
Olive oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp ground black Pepper
Salt for blanching water (1/2 cup per 1/2 gallon of water)

©2013 John Houser III
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil (it should taste like the sea). Blanche the kale florets in the salty water for one minute then put them into an ice bath. 

In a pan (or the wok) over medium heat, drop in a glug of olive oil and a small pat of butter (1/4" thick). When butter is foaming add the garlic, onions and red pepper flakes. Top with salt and pepper. Cook until soft then add the florets. Cook florets until heated through and serve immediately.

2013 John Houser III
You could add pasta to this dish to make it heartier. Mix in hot pasta and add cheese to bring it all together. If its too dry add a little of the pasta water. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. I have done this with bow tie pasta and it came out wonderfully. Just remember to cook the pasta all the way through, no al dente bullshit. 

Find it, make it and let me know what you think. 



So since writing this I have bought more bunches of kale florets and made the dish again a few times. I have found that depending on where you buy the florets from they might be woodier than from other places. The bunch I bought over the weekend was way more woody that the bunch I bought last week. They were also taller so maybe the farm that I bought from last week cut them higher up to keep from me having to do it. To separate the inedible from the edible just treat them as you would asparagus  Try to snap the stem between your fingers. If it snaps, it will be edible, if it bends then it is too woody and you should cut them up a little higher. Remember though, you're never going to be able to get all of the woody parts out so don't go trying to kill yourself doing it. I have found that the cooking process does soften even the woodier parts up enough to be eaten. Here is a picture of the amount of woody stems I had to separate from the edible parts.

Check out the next recipe for what to do with the leftover kale floret mixture (if you have any).

Cheers (again),

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Price of Cooking

Hello boils and ghouls, how's it hanging? Halloween is my favorite holiday and although it does have lots of goofy culinary applications I won't be giving you any recipes this year for eyeball cupcakes or bloody finger ramen. This year my treat to you is the gift of Vincent Price, the master of horror who is known for being in some of the greatest horror movies ever and also for his rap and subsequent cackling on  Michael Jackson's Thriller. It's a little known fact about the Missouri native that, besides being a contributor and benefactor to the fine arts, was a terrific gourmand and cook book author.

Besides the books, which he wrote with his wife, he recorded many how-to auditory excursions that were a step by step instructions on how to make various global cuisines. Some of his recipes are now quite quaint, including ingredients like MSG and accessories such as asbestos trivets. Over all, the recipes are sound and the techniques he walks the listeners through won't be mentioned for another thirty years when the food networks starts up. 

Vincent Price also recorded many radio programs and for a while had his own show called "The Price of Fear" which spanned 22 episodes and were fantastic. Each episode was supposed to be a little slice of Price's life with the macabre as an ever present character. The episode I have linked to this post (specialty of the House) is a combination of his two great loves. It's a horror story that is based around food, restaurants and the gourmand experience. I love this episode and I hope you will two.

Below is the story which you can listen to at your convenience. 

  Happy Halloween everyone! Just in case you were wondering I will be going trick or treating with my son dressed like Wilfred. I bought that costume last year and bullshit if I'm not going to get a few wears out of it for as much money as I paid for it. Be safe and watch out for bag snatchers!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hot Sauce

©2012 John Houser III
Peppers are super cheap and abundant at the farmers' markets. What should you do with them? Make hot sauce of course. Check it out here

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This is what I did with my summer vacation

Ok..... this what I've done for the past month and a half.

If you haven't been reading The Baltimore Sun Taste section every Wednesday for my "From the Harvest" then I would just like to say thanks for nothing. Now that you're good and berated I would like to tell you that it's OK, I don't mind that you haven't read my pieces but for fucks sake, help a brother out. Alright alright... I'm done with the tantrum, seriously, you can un-clench your butt cheeks. I still love you.

Now that we're done with the (made up) unpleasantries lets get to the round up of my last bunch of articles. I'm really proud of them all and if you haven't seen them I hope you find at least one of them will make you want to get out and cook. Most of the items I've written about are still at the farmers' markets so get out there and make some food. I'm really happy with the way people have been responding to the recipes as well as the conversations about food and technique I've had with people either in-person or through email. So keep the questions and comments coming. I'm here to help.

There's a lot going on and it's exciting. As always I'll keep you updated.

So lets get to it: