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Mikey’s Food Resolutions for 2012

The last few years, Mrs. Mike and I have done New Year’s resolutions together on New Year’s Day. And I must say, we’ve stuck to many of them, often referring to our lists as the year wears on. That’s what resolutions are intended for, but many of us forget about them on or around January 3. But I thought it would be fun to put together a few food resolutions for 2012–feel free to add yours below or on Facebook:

Try one new kind of cheese per month–I started doing this in 2011 and got sidetracked or disinterested. But wait, I live in Wisconsin. Disinterested? Not an option, so I’m going to follow through this time. There are simply too many good cheeses to try in this part of the country.

Try a few things that are out of my comfort zone–I’m not a big fan of seafood, or anything in the organ meat vicinity. But in a meal at Graham Elliott in Chicago this past September, Mrs. Mike and I had a meal that had cooked fish; a deconstructed Caesar salad with a whole anchovy on top; and a foie gras lollipop with watermelon pop rocks. That was enough out of comfort zone for a whole year for me, but the foie gras was phenomenal–and I’m glad I took a step out of my comfort zone to try it.

Eat less junk–and by junk I mean stuff like candy, snack cakes and greasy chips. I am vowing to get back into shape in the New Year, and especially after having back surgery in February. And while I don’t think there is anything wrong with occasional junk food, I ate far too much of it in 2011. Time to start eating more nuts, dried fruit and sensible snacks when possible.

Work even harder to eat what’s in season–we belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) but found ourselves not using everything in our box before some of it went bad. I want to make more of an effort on that one.

Teach our son to eat better–our four year old, who has autism, is very picky about his food. We work hard on this, but it’s extremely difficult to get him to open his mind with food. I think we can work harder at it.

Revive “a can a week”–that was a fun column I started here but need to revive it, reviewing a canned food item per week, be it a new product or one that we’ve been eating for decades.

Use the deep fryer more–I don’t think I took that thing out at all in 2011, and that’s a shame. Who doesn’t love fried food (except me, when my doctor is reading this!)?

Find more cool restaurants and review them here–We live in Madison, one of the coolest food cities on the planet. Mrs. Mike and I love trying new places to eat but need to do so more often. And I’ll bring you the play by play here.

DVR more food shows–I keep seeing press releases and then forget to DVR the shows.

Eat more tofu–seriously? No, that was a joke. Blech.

Thanks for reading, and happy new year!

Maple cheddar

Okay, so if you don’t live in Wisconsin, this might be a bit more difficult to relate to. But on a recent visit to the most awesome Brennan’s Market, I came across a new flavor of cheddar–maple cheddar. It’s cheddar cheese literally infused with maple syrup. I was a bit skeptical but when one of the employees asked me if I needed help and then saw the maple cheddar in my basket, she said that was her favorite. Okay, if I was ambivalent before, now I was sold. And I was already imagining what to do with this cheese.

I had also picked up some thick cut bacon at Brennan’s, and so my breakfast the next morning was an open faced bacon/cheese melt using the bacon and the maple cheddar. And as you might expect, it was awesome. Of course, you can make this with any type of cheese, but this maple cheese gave it that hint of sweetness, and it was subtle, as if you were eating pancakes and some of the syrup slid onto your sandwich. Yum.

And it’s simple–just cook 2-3 slices of bacon. Cut a thick slice or two of crusty Italian bread, top with the bacon and some shredded cheese, and broil or toast for about 2-3 minutes or until the cheese melts and is bubbly.

Cooking Shows and Food TV on the Rise

A number of new genres of television shows have become extremely popular in recent years, due in large part to the wider exposure of specialized networks and the general expansion that always permeates the entertainment industry. For example, there are a number of shows that revolve around “dark creatures” – such as vampires, zombies, etc. – that have become very popular just in the last two years. However, even more sweepingly popular, because of its variety, is the concept of cooking shows, or rather, food-related shows, which have become some of the most popular items on direct tv. Generally, there are three types of food related shows – informative, instructional, and competitive. Here is a brief glance at each type.

Informative cooking shows strive to show you things about the food or cooking industries. This of course can have a good deal of variety within itself. It may apply to showing an audience the best restaurants in a certain area, or simply some of the best dishes around. Consider “Man Vs. Food” as an example. In this show, the charismatic, food-obsessed host Adam Richman travels the country exploring towns for their most famous restaurants and dishes. Each episode culminates in an eating challenge in which Richman devours something either deathly spicy or shockingly huge. It’s a great show for showing off the top restaurants in popular areas, as well as some decadent treats and dishes.

Instructional cooking shows are more about showing the audience how to prepare certain types of dishes or meals. There are many different shows that follow this basic formula, and often the audience sees fit to literally cook along with the host. One good example is “Boy Meets Grill,” in which star chef Bobby Flay shows his audience different tips not only for how to cook great food, but how to throw an amazing barbecue. These shows, in general, are very helpful for those who have culinary interests or inclinations.

Finally, there are competitive cooking shows, which may well be the most popular. These shows – such as “Top Chef” – feature host chefs, celebrity chefs, and cooking contestants, who compete for who can make the best dish, often with all of them using a single ingredient at the core of the dishes. Generally, contestants are eliminated one by one, until only one chef remains, and is crowned Top Chef. This can be instructional, as you do get to see amazing food created, but it is meant primarily for entertainment purposes.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup always classic

A gray day in December just screams for a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, so thankfully we had everything on hand to have the combo for lunch. Here is my take on the most authentic version…..

The sandwich: You can use any kind of bread, but for authenticity sake I used Italian bread–the packaged kind that is essentially glorified white bread. For the best results, also use real butter, thawed to room temperature (seriously, the sandwich will come out perfectly crispy, and you will not have ingested any of that plastic tasting fake stuff). Slice about a quarter inch slab of butter and place in a quality nonstick skillet. Then butter the outsides of two bread slices. Meanwhile, grab either two thin slices of American cheese or cut a few thin slices off a log of Velveeta. Put the cheese on the bread so that the buttered sides are facing out. Warm the skillet over medium heat and once the butter is melted, put the sandwich down. Cook for about 60-90 seconds or until brown and crispy, then flip the sandwich. Cook for about 30-45 more seconds (the second side cooks in about half the time, but I’m not sure why that is). Slide onto a plate and slice in half if you like.

The soup: With all due respect to chefs who make killer tomato soup, or to soup companies that create nice versions of tomato soup, I have to say that nothing quite compares to Campbell’s. And make it with a can of milk instead of water for a nice creamy soup. I’m not sure if it’s because this is the tomato soup my mom made growing up, but regardless, it always tastes perfect and awesome.

I’ll work on more versions of the combo in the next week or so. Meanwhile, do yourself a favor and make this one–I guarantee it will be the best lunch you have all week. Okay, maybe, but you get the point.

Grub for Guys: beef tenderloin

Greetings and welcome to Mikey’s Kitchen in the week before Christmas. Wow, did I just say that? Anyway, we posted my recipe for beef tenderloin with a horseradish dipping sauce over on Bullz-Eye’s Grub for Guys today. I’m also pasting the recipe below. Enjoy!

If you read my column here and food blog, Mikey’s Kitchen, you know that I don’t always suggest using expensive and/or exotic ingredients. It’s more of a an every-dude column for the average guy, mostly ones who don’t necessarily cook much but who are looking for tips and ideas on how to get more comfortable in the kitchen. And so in the spirit of the holidays, since it’s a special time of year that may require a special meal or two, I am suggesting you go buy some beef tenderloin – aka filet mignon. Because sometimes you just have to, and because I made this dish last week and it came out freaking awesome. Now, you can buy the whole tenderloin as I did, and you can roast it whole and then slice it, as I did not do. You can also buy the filets pre-sliced. But I cut my own steaks from the whole tenderloin, and the result was maybe some of the best steak I’ve ever had.

INGREDIENTS:
4-5 pound whole beef tenderloin (filet mignon)
Olive oil for brushing
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons jarred horseradish
Pinch salt

DIRECTIONS
Let meat sit at room temperature for an hour or so. Meanwhile, combine dipping sauce ingredients and set aside or refrigerate until you are ready to continue.

Preheat a grill pan (or large nonstick skillet) to medium high heat. Combine salt, pepper and parsley on a plate. Slice steaks into 8 oz. portions or so (about an inch thick), brush all sides with oil and then roll in salt mixture so that the outside rim of the steak is coated. Also sprinkle some salt on both sides of the meat, then place in grill pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes per side for medium (it helps to cover while cooking to seal in the juices and not set off your smoke alarm). Let stand on a plate with tented foil for about 1-2 minutes before pouring the juices back on top, and serving with the dipping sauce. Serves 3-4.

Good sides for this dish are my twice baked potatoes and sautéed spinach (heat a few tablespoons oil in a very large, deep skillet, and add a 16-20 oz. bag of spinach. Cook down for about 2 minutes, add salt, pepper and a pinch of garlic powder before serving).

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