Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Foodblogger Event: The Trailer at Gibson

I was invited to The Trailer at Gibson, an unassuming bar located on south Lamar. I didn't really know what to expect, was it another trailer restaurant? was it a bar? Anyhow, I was very happy to get a chance to see my food blogger friends. As always it was a pleasure to chat and catchup on their latest culinary adventures or new hotspots that they've uncovered.

Ok, so a bit of explanation let's clear up the confusion. Gibson is the actual bar it's got a cool vibe, going for that NY neighborhood dive bar (kinda nice for a dive bar). Dark interior with some outside seating. The windows face lamar so you can go in for a quick happy hour and wait out traffic. Now The Trailer, is actually a trailer on the side of the bar that serves all the food for the bar. They just opened it during SXSW and have been open full on for six weeks. So to answer my question, it's both trailer and bar and I think it works.

Our hosts tonight were Shag (pictured above) and Jourdan a couple of the owners of "The Trailer". They were a lot of fun and very engaging. The were all about the food and really welcoming. So a word about what you're about to read or rather a word from Shag: "We're show casing some of our staples on our menu. After about six weeks this is what most people are ordering regularly." And yes, this is some decadent food, I think a choice quote was, "Wow, that is so freaking good, can someone call an ambulance I think I'm about to have a heart attack". But the thing is, you can't help but chomp down every bite, it was delicious. Now before you health nuts put the big X on trying this out, they have a full menu that includes lighter fare such as hummus, edamame, and a bevy of sandwiches and salads that will sit well for you too.

Onward with the orgy of badness. We'll start out with two of the appetizers. Dedos and the Tater Sticks. The chicken was very tender and the batter of the Tater Sticks were very tasty. It's a strange texture, it felt like eating crispy battered mashed potatoes it's a great texture contrast. The king here was the Mustard dip for the Chicken, it was Cousin Leroy's mustard sauce. Cousin Leroy is going to launch his own brand of sauces so I'm looking forward to that. The mustard was really tasty, it had that awesome zing and sweetness but more bold than what I normally encounter with a honey mustard taste

On to the sandwich and burger. First we have the "Welcome to Texas Chicken Sammie", a tasty treat, again a moist and tender fried chicken, the pickles were a nice addition to kick it off as different than your average chicken sandwich. The "Trailer burger" was the heart attack on a plate. It features a burger with cheese and bacon but for a bun you have a Round Rock donut split in half and pressed. Wow, so good, the sweetness of the donut totally was a great complement to the salty bacon.

We finish up with two dogs. The first one was the "Buenos Dias" a hot dog wrapped in bacon fried and topped with cheese and a fried egg. Who can hate a fried egg? It was very tasty but my favorite of the night was the "Loaded Baked Potato" hotdog. Again with the bacon wrapped dog this time with with potato strips and a sour cream sauce. It had the right combo that said "mmm. loaded baked potato, hey there's a hot dog there"

Thanks to the folks at Gibson bar for having me over I really enjoyed it and have earmarked the place for happy hour. As always great seeing my friends.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sous Vide Chicken Bento

Sorry for the intermission last week. I meant to post something but it was my birthday and my intended substitute post didn't happen because I decided to be lazy. It was an enjoyable birthday but it's good to be back. Anyhow, on with the show. I went with a light box this week I feel like I've jumped off the healthy rails a bit too far recently and this is my attempt to bring it back in. It's easy to get carried away since I no longer have a real mandate to cook healthy. But part of the challenge I laid down when starting this blog was to provide interesting, low priced, healthy meals.

Our main protein today is a tarragon herbed chicken breast cooked sous vide. My other experiments with sous vide chicken breasts yielded some wonderful juicy chicken. I went on to quickly brown the outside (30 seconds per side) and got different results. Although still juice it wasn't the same texture difference. I think my preference is to go ahead and leave the chicken as is (without the sear) and serve it more like a poached chicken breast. I could have gone with a bit more salt, but of course this will let my diners opt for more salt or not so I guess it's not a total blow out. I love the simplicity of the chicken, sprinkle on a bit of herbs seal it up and throw it in the water bath. My biggest question is: Why is it store bought chicken breast are so much bigger than if you order chicken breast entree at the restaurant. I mean these bad boys were huge.

I have to give credit to Ginny, guest contributor over at Maggie's Austin on one of her posts for this side, this was a fun one to replicate. The picture looked very yummy and I went over to the website of The Woodhouse to read the description. Stuffed Tomato: oyster mushrooms, spinach, toasted orzo, asiago cheese. Sounds easy enough. I sauteed some onion and mushrooms and toasted the orzo and cooked it down like a risotto. As you all may or may not know I love orzo, but usually I throw in the ingredients add the liquid and simmer it till it's done. The downside is that there's a tendency for the orzo at the bottom to slightly over cook, especially in the volume that I'm cooking in. So the extra work paid off with a more consistent dish that was cooked perfectly. The asiago really transformed the dish but I felt there needed to be a bit more saltiness so I dropped in some parmesan. I skipped the spinach, I figured fresh spinach wouldn't reheat well. A simple replication, I'll have to drop by the restaurant and try the real deal to see how close I was.

I needed a veggie and I settled on a simple roasted zucchini. Bit of chopped garlic, balsamic, olive oil and salt popped it in the oven for 30 mins and voila side dish done. This turned out far better tasting than I had envisioned it in my head. The balsamic added a nice tangy sweetness to the vegetables and of course I'm a big fan of the texture of roasted zucchini.

Last but not least I did a chocolate bundt cake. I decided to put all the badness into just dessert today. It's a simple cake nothing fancy, I decided not to glaze the cake since that would just add unnecessary calories to the box. The cake came out quite moist and it was pretty easy to put together. I believe the leftovers I've left in the break room have been cleared out so, I guess it didn't totally lose out from the lack of glaze. I think I may have to delve more into desserts, it's one of those things I don't personally eat, but folks generally like. I apparently do quite well with what desserts I produce but I'd never know as I don't ever appreciate them myself. Well I'm sure my bento eaters will appreciate it, we'll see what madness I can come up with.

It's nice to go back to a healthier menu. This was actually a very simple menu to produce, no pre-work the day before, kind of refreshing considering some of my recent meals have taken quite an orchestration to get done.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ketchup bento

Ok today's bento was brought to you by the fine folks at Heinz. I was sitting in a meeting and saw a little ketchup packet that proclaimed, "The worlds best meatloaf". I thought to myself, "that's a bold claim my little friend" which lead me to this link containing a small archive of Heinz ketchup based recipes. Flipping through various links, I was fairly impressed with what all was being made with ketchup and when I landed on the peanut butter cookies (yes made with ketchup) I knew I had to build a box around it. Not much in the way of tweaking this time around (only a bit in the soup) I didn't want any mishaps to be blamed on my tweaking, let the ketchup shine through!

Ok I was going to go into a case between Catsup, Ketchup and the origins of both in terms of word and sauce. This appears to be very diffcult to ascertain and give correct information. There's various citations on the spelling of Ketchup (catsup, catchup) by 16th and 17th century writers and the origins of the sauce are murkey with a strong leaning towards Chinese origins . Here's what we do know, the modern Ketchup is made with tomatos, tomatoes being a New World plant could not have been introduced until somewhere around the 1590s (depending on who you talk to). So the modern day sauce is not some ancient recipe, but it could well have been an older sauce augmented by tomatoes. There are plenty of opinions citing a difference between something labled Ketchup and something labled Catsup. Either way as I see it, when I'm at a Fair or event and I have a hotdog I'm getting that red tangy stuff to put on it, I really don't care what you call it they generally only have one version.

We lead off with an Asian inspired marinated pork tenderloin. As always pork tenderloin is probably the most flexible meat out there, it will fit any sort of theme and you can marinate it and dress it however you like. There was a slight difference in preparation I noticed in their instructions 350F for 20 mins (or 145F internal temp) then broil. Typically, I sear the outside first to lock in the moisture and then put it in the oven. First, 20 mins I knew would not be enough, it's probably closer to 40 at that temperature. Second, I was concerned that the broiling process to produce the crust would bring the ideal temperature up beyond what I normally would consider optimal (if you consider resting after that). The recipe as stated brought the final temperature up to 160F. I felt the pork came out ok, but not the way I like it. There was no appreciable crust, and although the pork came out tender, it's not quite what I would have liked especially knowing that my bentoers are going to reheat it. Flavor? Well the marinade was pretty good and the recipe called for boiling down the marinade and topping the pork as a sauce. The ginger really came out and added a great flavor component to the dish.

First side was a Fried Rice with rainbow peppers. Growing up, one of my favorite dishes my mom would make would be a simple fried rice stir fried with a bit of ketchup. This version is more complex and has a great deal more moisture. The ketchup sauce featured ginger garlic and lime juice. I like this version although I of course prefer mom's version. I think next time, I'll use rice that's a day old in the fridge the rice would be a bit drier to absorb all the moisture. This is a nice recipe that allows for quick upgrades in protein to make into a meal, just add some roasted chicken, ham, or sausage and it's easily upgraded from "side" status to "entree" status.

Once again I pulled out the slaw, which is always a love hate with folks. Usually I'm able to convert some slaw haters with my versions, I tend not to like the heavy mayo based opting for vinegar based cole slaw so this version was up my alley. I loved the colors in this red cabbage slaw the addition of the purple onion to hid amongst the cabbage gave the dish a nice spicey bite to it and took a bit away from the cabbage-y flavor. Hopefully everyone else will agree. The dressing was more akin to a light bbq sauce, using mustard, ketchup, and vinegar as their main components. All in all very tasty.

For our soup today I put together this Manhattan Clam Chowder, I decided to combine chopped clams with whole baby clams to give some more body to the soup, besides, I happen to have both on hand. I'm a New England chowder guy myself, and although this version is no doubt healthier since it lacks all the cream and butter, I still like the taste and flavors of the New England version. The ketchup came through a bit strong on this one, I would have opted for less sweet taste. If you use a flat tomato juice base you can tweak up the flavors individually by not going with ketchup. I'll have to ask how the soup went over.

Finally for dessert, I whipped up these "Tic Tac Toe" peanut butter cookies. This was a big surprise to actually incorporate ketchup into cookies. It was interesting to me that the batter/dough was quite light and fluffy, I attributed that to the vinegar/tomato acids interacting with the baking soda. The cookie was light fluffy where I normally would expect a dense chewy texture for a peanut butter cookie. All of the folks at work that got the extras were pretty surprised at the use of ketchup as part of the dough.

World's best meatloaf? I'll have to save that for another time, but I'm definitely happy with the lunch menu today and it was fairly easy to turn out not bad for a five courser. I'll have a brief intermission next week as it's my birthday, but I'll try to put up one of the posts that I've been saving. Until then, thanks for coming by!

Box Contents:
  • Asian inspired pork tenderloin
  • Fried Rice with rainbow peppers
  • Red Cabbage slaw
  • Manhattan style clam chowder
  • Tic Tac Toe peanut butter cookies

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Three Day Beef Short Rib Sous Vide Bento

Whew a long winded title, I know. Ever since I bought the Sous Vide Supreme, I knew it was inevitable that I would try my hand at the Three day short rib. (I'll post on that more separately) the problem is that it's not a theme on it's own. I freely admit this bento was built around the fact I needed to make some short ribs that took three full days to cook. Heck even wedging the thing into the box created a layout nightmare for me. Fortunately I persisted in my endeavor and hopefully my eaters will enjoy.

I needed to try to keep my bento some what light. I borrowed a recipe that I found from Paula Deen on Roasted Beets with feta. I really am intrigued by beets, I didn't grow up eating (read: forced to eat) beets, I find their slightly sweet flavor and texture to be quite nice. I understand that they are some sort of bain to the typical American kid, I cannot imagine why. The dish called for pitted olives and feta that provided the necessary salt to a typical variation of a vinnaigrette. I think it gives a nice color to the box and the nice tang from the dressing should help create some additional flavor profiles to lunch.

I had a lot going on this weekend and cooking for eight can be an ordeal. I opted for this simple Sundried Tomato Tartlet to rounded out some substance to the bento. I love pastry dough, you can practically make any sort of combinations of flavor and dress it up with the pastry dough. It works as a entree, it works as a side pastry, it works as a dessert, what's not to like. Just put/stuff/fold whatever you want, 450F for 15 mins boom, done. For lunch I have a very simple treatment, I took some sundried tomato pesto (store bought) put some fresh tomatoes, basil and mozerella and called it done.

Finally, something like a beef short rib screams for some starch. I really wanted to avoid the usual suspects of potato and polenta. I had this Barley and Brown Jasmine Rice pilaf that I clipped somewhere in my notebook that seemed to be the right balance between starch and not so heavy. The short ribs on their own bogged everything down and I'll admit everything else in the box doesn't necessarily make for the healthiest of meals, but it does do the best given what I'm trying to play with. Anyhow, I really like this pilaf, the nutty flavors and the textures of the two grains are complemented with the earthy mushrooms and mild pearl onions. This one could easily be a crowd pleaser at a potluck.

Finally the star of the show. The beef ribs you see to your right have been dressed with a simple salt and pepper vacuum sealed and placed in a perfectly controlled 136 degree Fahrenheit water bath for three full days. I then pulled them from their bath and seared them quickly to get that nice brown crust. I plan on posting a more detailed post on the process so for now you just get to see the results but no cross section, but trust me yum. I think the struggle here will be the re-heat process, you want to get some heat on them but you don't want to continue to cook the meat a quick treatment in the toaster oven might be in order.

This was a simple and quick box to build. It gave me time to get on my scooter and visit the Old Pecan Street festival (which isn't on pecan street) with my friend. What a great weekend! Thanks for reading.

Box Contents
  • Roasted Beets with Feta
  • Sundried Tomato Pesto Tartlets with fresh Mozzerella
  • Barley and Brown Jasmine Rice Pilaf
  • Three Day Sous Vide Short Ribs