Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Restaurant review: Patrick's of Pratt Street tempts tradition

Restaurant review: Patrick's of Pratt Street tempts tradition

Saturday, August 13, 2011

You say tomato I say tomate

©John Houser III 2011

Summer is in full bloom and the tomatoes are attacking. They are ubiquitous right now from the farmer's markets to family-owned road side stands. Around this time of year I constantly get bombarded with questions about what to do with the 30 quarts of tomatoes that someone has just bought. The first answer is always "just make sauce and jar it" and then I get the look. You know the one. The "no shit dude, of course I'm making sauce. Why else would I have bought 197 pounds of tomatoes?" look. What my tomato laden friends mean to ask is "Look shitbird, if I have to eat one more bowl of pasta, I'm gonna open a vein!! Help!?"

So it is with this in mind that I will give you a culinary life raft. This recipe takes less that ten minutes to make and will become a go-to recipe in your arsenal of summer dishes. As a side or a snack it never ceases to please. It also is a recipe that the sum of its parts are greater than just the few ingredients in it. The higher quality of tomato or olive oil, the better the dish will be as a whole. When people ask me about this recipe they seem to think that its complicated. This couldn't be farther from the truth. This dish is dead simple and really doesn't require much cooking.

It's called Pan Con Tomate and unsurprisingly, when translated, it means bread with tomato. It is my favorite tomato recipe and I make it year round. This time of the year though is especially great for making pan con tomate because the variety of tomatoes to choose from is so wonderfully diverse. I've made this recipe with red tomatoes, green tomatoes, white tomatoes (yes there are!), numerous heirloom varieties and a mixture of all of the above.

I had eaten versions of this recipe before, but it wasn't until I spent two weeks in Spain last year that I really became obsessed with the stuff. In Barcelona, where we spent most of our time, they serve it to you with every meal. Like the basket of bread you get here in America, pan con tomate comes out at the beginning of the meal as a complimentary appetizer, a saucy welcome mat if you will.

Before we start let it be noted that this is a base recipe. Try it this way once and then feel free to improvise. Herbs, fruit and spices all can be added to enhance and change this dish, but this is the mothership recipe. Like I said, just try this once this way first. You might never want to try it another way. It's beauty in simplicity.

So lets get in to it shall we????

Pan Con Tomate
©John Houser III 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Working like House Elf

(Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore Sun / June 30, 2011)
Here is a Link to my latest restaurant review for the Baltimore Sun. I would love to know what you guys think. Leave comments and share this with your friends.

That burger was really good even though it was overcooked (I have no idea how they did it).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Just a few quick things about the immediate future.

La Petite Sciere: my favorite Foie Gras purveyor in Paris.
BTW, random pics like this will now be the norm.

Are you tired of me not blogging everyday? Yeah, me too. I am from here on out going to loosen up the format of this blog. I will continue to post recipes as much as I can. Two recipes a month is what I'm going to aim for. With work, baby, doing restaurant reviews and cooking classes I'm a wee bit swamped.

So I will update the blog with as many random pictures of food and non sequiturs as I can. There will be waaaayyy more updates than usual. I've normally spent my time planning these blog posts and driving myself a bit crazy when they don't go up. Now, if there is something that I make, see, or eat, it's more than likely going up on this blog.

I hope you enjoy my less anal approach.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cooking Bacon: You're doing it wrong.

©2011 John Houser III

I never even thought about writing a how-to-cook bacon post but after talking with a few people at the farmer's market on Sunday I realized that I had an obligation to fulfill. While waiting to pay at the Truck Patch Farms stand, I got to talking with the guy in front of me about how delicious their bacon was. The guy mentioned that he loves bacon but it is always such a mess to deal with while cooking. Fat spitting everywhere, bacon curling up and his general lack of attentiveness were his main problems with his favorite cured meat product.

So me, being the well natured, unbelievably helpful and handsome person that I am asked him if he had ever baked his bacon before. He looked at me like I had thirty seven penises attached to my....... well, penis.

I explained to him that in restaurants they pretty much all back their bacon on baking sheets with racks in them. I started doing this when I worked as a prep cook at The Candlelight Inn in 1993. It is a trick that has always stayed with me. You can cook a lot of bacon at one time quickly, evenly, and cleanly. You just put it in the oven, set a timer and walk away. If you were feeling a little devil-may-care you could do it naked if you wanted (and I have).

By this point I had a few people listening in on the conversation and asking me questions. It was then that I realized that I should probably post about this since it seems as if a fair amount of people probably don't know about this simple way to cook the king of American breakfast meats.

This is a fairly straight forward step-by-step, but I still will treat it as if it were a recipe.

Let's get started shall we?

Baking Sheet Bacon (aka restaurant bacon, baked bacon, naked bacon)

©2011 John Houser III
1 pound of bacon, sliced
1 sheet pan with wire rack insert
no clothes - optional

1. Set oven to 375°F

©2011 John Houser III

2. Place as much bacon on the sheet as you can (usually 1 sheet can hold 1/2 pound easily). You can add as much as you want but be advised that like Biggie Smalls once said "Mo bacon, Mo bacon grease". I'm pretty sure that's how the song went....

©2011 John Houser III

3. Place the bacon in the oven, set a timer for 20 minutes.

©2011 John Houser III

4. After 20 minutes, check your bacon for your desired crispness*.

©2011 John Houser III

5. Take out of the oven. CAUTION!!! There is hot bacon grease in the pan. Keep the pan parallel to the floor at all times otherwise skin bubbling oil will splatter out. Seriously, be careful. Once the sheet pan is out and set upon a trivet, immediately loosen the bacon with a spatula. Be sure to do this step. Bacon has a tendency to stick to the rack once it cools down.

©2011 John Houser III

You now have bacon to do with what you want. Don't tell me, I don't want to know.

©2011 John Houser III


*Bacon crispness is a matter that people will come to blows over. I've seen it, it gets ugly. It's worse than watching drunks argue over religion in a bar.  This is why it's always a good idea to ask the people you are cooking for how they like their bacon. My parents used to get made at each other when the other made bacon. My mother liked her bacon super crispy and my father liked his bacon soft and chewy. Having both of them cook me bacon those different ways made me appreciate the range of textures that bacon can give. Try it yourself. If you like soft, go crisp and vice versa. It's a different experience each way. What's the worse that will happen? You'll eat more bacon? A terrible price to pay indeed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Secrets and the arcane tales of the cryptic and esoteric food occult

Errrr...... don't listen to the heading. It thinks it's clever


I’ve been keeping a deep dark secret for a while now. I’ve been hinting at it and now I can finally reveal it to you. I am a serial killer the weekend restaurant reviewer for the Baltimore Sun. I’m really happy to be working for them and it’s my pleasure as always to inform you about where you might be better off spending your hard earned money in Bmore. My first review came out last week and my newest came out yesterday. Here are the links:

SoBo Café-,0,7648023.story

Pure Wine Café -,0,6337299.story

My reviews will be a weekly occurrence and I will link to every last one of them (whether you like it or not). If you guys have any questions about anything involving the process or my decision making, feel free to fuck off ask. Seriously, I will answer your questions.

I’ll be posting a new recipe soon.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shroomin on a Sunday Afternoon

© 2011 John Houser III

One of the better things about springtime is the return of the JFX Farmer's Market. It's a great place to grab some breakfast/ lunch, meet up with friends, get out of the house for a bit and most importantly; buy fresh vegetables.

One of the stands I really have never given my custom to was the mushroom farmers table. They sell, unsurprisingly, mushrooms and prepared mushroom dishes to eat there or take home. One of the reasons I have never bought anything from them in the past is because I thought that most of their prices were a bit too high for just a small box of mushrooms. Yes, yes... I know. Certain fresh mushrooms are expensive and I have no problem paying for them, but usually when presented with a choice between a box of expensive (to me) mushrooms and almost anything else in the FM (that's slang for Farmer's Market), I'm going with almost anything else.

That was until two weeks ago when I noticed that they were selling a box of assorted mushrooms for $11 (at time of writing). Curious, I looked over the contents of the box and was hit by a bolt of inspiration. I'm a sucker for caramelized mushrooms over toast and this seemed like the perfect mushroom mélange for the job. The different types of fungi would combine their collective flavors to make a mushroomy super group.

To add a spring flavor to the dish, I decided to add a few spears of our old friend Mr. Asparagus and a couple of spring onions. Rounding out the dish is some butter, garlic and thyme. And finally, to give the dish a punch in the face I am hitting it with some Dijon mustard, lemon juice and a little bit of chili pepper.

This dish is easy to make because there is  no need for fussiness or special techniques. The important thing to do for this dish is to remember to get a lot of caramelization on the mushrooms. It makes the dish and adds a depth that will make you want to go back to the mushroom people every week that the Farmer's Market is open.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Spear of Destiny

Spring has finally sprung and here's the proof:

©2011 John Houser III

Asparagus has finally hit the Baltimore Farmer's Markets and it is time to savor the green spear that makes our pee stinky. All toilet humor aside (get it?... toilet?..), I love asparagus in all forms and one of the best ways that I like to have it is raw.

When I was in Barcelona Spain last year I had a dish that has haunted me since I had it. It was a poached egg with shaved asparagus, truffle and extra virgin olive oil. It was incredible. The taste of the fresh asparagus, the creaminess of the poached egg, the bite of the olive oil and the depth that the truffle added made it a perfect plate of food. This is a good representation of that dish with the truffle and truffle oil left out. The reason I left it out was because one: truffles are expensive, and b: they're not readily available to most people easily. If you have access to truffles then by all means add the truffle. It will take this dish to a place you will want to hang out all day. Don't use truffle oil as a substitute. Most truffle oils use cheap chemicals to fake the truffle taste. Real truffle oils are expensive and not worth buying most of the time.

Note: You will want to use the fatter spears of asparagus. They're easier to shave because they are thicker and they're sturdier. Grill or pan sear your thinner spears. They'll thank you for it.

Let's get started:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Soooooo.... I've been a little busy......

And this is why:

This is John Crosby Houser IV. Hereto know as Crosby. He was born on Feb. 17th. He is my greatest creation and obviously has been keeping me and my wife busy for the past few weeks. The preparation for this little guy has kept me from this blog (read: I was drinking as much as I could until the end). Now that I will have lots of spare sober time on my hands expect the word production to go up considerably. Yes, eventually I will post baby food recipes. All in good time my friends, all in good time.

I also will have some great news on the professional front very soon, but I don't want to let the proverbial cat out of the newspaper bag just yet.

2011 is going to be pretty fucking interesting.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Salmon Chowder

©2011 Rouxde Cooking School
This entry is going to be a no-frills version of Rouxde Cooking School. Bare bones if you will. I never intended on putting this recipe onto the blog but because it was so goddamn good, I felt the need to share. This is why you will find no pictures of the ingredients or steps in the cooking as usual. I could only manage a picture of the final product because I realized after eating this chowder that I had something worth sharing and poured another bowl just for the picture.

It also is a well timed recipe considering how the weather is at the time of writing this. It's snowy and gross outside. I wanted to counteract the freeze by making something soothing and warm and my very pregnant wife wanted salmon (good omega 3's!). So after some research, I put together a rough sketch in my head of what I wanted in the chowder and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!