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Mikey’s this and that

So….it’s freaking hot outside. It’s a great time of year once again for my “Guy Gazpacho,” which I’ve already made three or four times including this past week. It’s 90-plus in most parts of the country, and yeah–we sit in air conditioning most of the time. But there is something about a cold tomato based soup that just hits the spot in summer. And I’ve been doctoring up my own recipe lately–adding lemon juice and spicy olives/olive juice.

Speaking of cold soup, I picked up the new issue of Bon Appetit, a mag that my mom still has stacks of, like from the ’80s, never read. So while I associate the magazine with my mom and foo-foo French cooking and cooking that takes all day, I saw the issue on the newsstand and there was this kickass chicken skewer with a sriracha sauce. Oh man. I grabbed it and never looked back, reading that thing cover to cover. My mouth is watering now as I write that there was a page on cantaloupe, now in season. I made prosciutto and melon risotto, and plan on making their cantaloupe gazpacho. Damn. That risotto was freaking insane.

Speaking of cooking magazines, we’ve gotten hooked on Cooking Light lately, as their recipes are (mostly) easy, interesting and tasty. There were a couple of smoked meat recipes–a BBQ pork shoulder that was crispy, spicy, and tender. And a smoked chicken cobb salad with creamy avocado dressing. Yeah, maybe a bit foo foo but not over the top foo.

Do you ever watch shows like Chopped and Masterchef and think that you could be a contestant? Me, I watch those shows and know for a fact I would have zero chance of even creating something edible from whatever they put in front of me–not in 20 or 30 minutes anyway, and certainly not with ingredients I’ve never used befoe. I need time to cultivate the ideas in my head. Anyway, if you are watching Masterchef as Mrs. Mike and I are, let me offer something to hope for–a Krissi vs. Natasha finale. Man, those two would claw each others’ eyes out.

This is the best month of the year for produce–corn, tomatoes, peaches, melon. You can have the 11 other months, I will take July.

Great article the other day about bagged lettuce. However, the article didn’t answer the one question we all have–why does bagged lettuce have that weird chemical aftertaste? Blech. It’s one of the reasons to join a CSA–your lettuce is organic and has no weird stuff sprayed on it or washed with. And it actually tastes good.

Mikey’s Monday this and that

Some random food thoughts for your Monday morning and to start June…..

I think I’ve had just about enough of the spring vegetables. I love asparagus, peas and various spring greens and herbs. But I think almost every stand at the Dane County Farmer’s Market on Saturday had asparagus. My pee is going to smell funny for a month. But anyway, I’m very ready for the summer onslaught–tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, melon, berries….let’s do this thing.

I made meat loaf last night, but not just any meat loaf….Bobby Flay’s Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf. I made it with 2/3 beef and 1/3 ground turkey and I suddenly remembered why I love this recipe so much. The balsamic vinegar/ketchup glaze on top is so good that it’s making my mouth water right now. Next time you are in the mood for meat loaf, you HAVE to try this recipe.

Two summer food shows have started their new seasons–Fox’s Masterchef and Food Network’s Food Network Star. Now, I have nothing against these shows, but sometimes they can be predictable. Masterchef is in Season 4 now, and the best part is that they didn’t drag out the audition part–basically there was maybe one or 1.5 episodes of auditions. And we have our cat fight–between Krissi and Natasha. Natasha is so full of herself but appears to be able to back it up with skills. Meanwhile, Krissi is also talented and she has that east coast “don’t mess with me” vibe. Meanwhile, Food Network Star began its eighth season last night. It’s kind of getting old and stale the way American Idol did. And they seem to pick the same contestants every year–I don’t mean literally, but there are demographics they follow–the tough guy, the Hispanic, the chatty blogger, the dude who can cook his ass off but has no on-camera talent. Oh and this year we have the Ellie Krieger look alike. Of course, I watch these shows like it’s my job, and I don’t see that changing this season.

Have you ever taken a bunch of ingredients and tried to make a meal out of them, sometimes using way more of what you have on hand than you should? I did that last week when I made this chicken dish with bacon and cheese, and somehow tried to incorporate spinach and mushrooms. But I wound up doing the spinach and mushrooms on the side. However, in what should have been a sauce for the chicken, I instead added white wine to the spinach/mushroom stir fry and didn’t cook it out…blech. But I also had an avocado sitting there that I almost used. Sometimes I wonder about myself. I can put cool things together much of the time, but sometimes have cooking slumps. Does this happen to you?

At some point recently, I saw a cooking show about pizza and it may have been one of those competitions between two purveyors of pizza in New York City. And I was struck by the fact that this one pizza chef used canned San Marzano tomatoes as the sauce on his pizza. Those are usually seasoned with a bit of salt and maybe basil and that’s about it. The tomato shines by itself. So I tried this the other night and it was delicious. I’m just one of those people who doesn’t like those garlicky sauces or commercial pizza sauces, but I think this was the best and most natural way to go.

Oh, speaking of pizza…..I have to give a shout out to Scott and Jen at La Fortuna Pizza. I have found great pizza in Madison, and it’s as good as any I’ve ever had. They have a food truck and one of their regular stops in the summer is at the Verona Farmer’s Market, five minutes away. Every Tuesday. And hey, tomorrow is Tuesday! Low carb what?

Mikey’s March Madness spread

As originally posted on the Bullz-Eye.com blog……

March Madness, like most big sporting events, has become a free-for-all of food options. But just because the Madison Avenue crowd tries to pump your eyes and ears full of pizza, tacos and subs, you don’t have to fill your belly with that commercially made food (and I use the word “food” loosely). So here are a few options to try and mix things up in your own kitchen, literally.

TANGY SWEET SOY-LIME WINGS

I’ve been trying to create and perfect various wing recipes, and lately I’ve been into the sweet, tangy and spicy notes of Asian flavors, so here is the most ambitious of this group of recipes.

Ingredients:

¼ cup each soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup sake (rice wine)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 inch piece of ginger, trimmed and chopped fine
5 lb. bag chicken wing sections (if frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before using)
¼ cup vegetable oil (such as canola or peanut oil), divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Sriracha hot sauce to taste
Juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar and ginger in a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat. Lay wings on a large platter or a few plates and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When you put your hand about 2 inches from the oil and can feel the heat, add half of the wings, skin side down. Sear for about four minutes per side and remove to another plate. Repeat with remaining oil, wings and salt/pepper, but after searing the second batch, return the rest of the wings to the pot, and dump in the sauce. Turn down the heat and cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove cover, and let simmer another five minutes, until sauce is reduced and thick. Using tongs, carefully remove wings to a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy. Remove wings to a plate, drizzle with some of the remaining sauce in the pan and Sriracha, and sprinkle with lime juice, peanuts and cilantro.

TRIO OF FAT FINGER SANDWICHES

People like tea-like finger sandwiches. They are also the food of choice for many fancy cocktail parties. But for dudes like us, they should be called something that reflects our caveman instincts, hence the name “fat finger sandwiches.” For the purpose of making this easy for you (and me), I’ll show you how to make about four sandwiches at a time, and you can multiply out as necessary.

Crispy Cristo Sandwich

Is it even worth saying that this may be the single most delicious thing I have ever made or tasted? Because, well, it really was. And after wrestling with the idea that I would have to figure out how to butter the donuts, I realized that with the sugar glaze, the donut as “bread” would become crisp on its own.

Ingredients:

Butter
4 glazed donuts, preferably Krispy Kreme
4 thin slices smoked deli ham
4 slices yellow American cheese
Cooking spray

Directions:

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and throw in a pat of butter. Slice each donut, lay a slice of ham and then cheese on the bottom and replace with the top, and then place donut sandwich in the skillet and press down with a spatula. Repeat with all donuts, and when bottom begins to brown (about 60 to 90 seconds), flip the sandwich over and cook for another 45 seconds to a minute. Move to a plate as is or slice in half or quarters.

Pizza Bagel and Sausage Slider

Another super easy and tasty snack.

Ingredients:

1-2 links (fully cooked) smoked Italian sausage, sliced
8 small pizza bagels

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, fry sausage slices on each side until brown and crispy, then drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, bake pizza bagels according to package directions. Let cool a few minutes, then put a few slices of sausage on four of the bagel halves and top with remaining bagel halves.

Chicken and Wafflewich

I’ve been semi-obsessed with this classic combo lately, and this is about as simple as it gets.

Ingredients:

6-8 small breaded chicken strips
4 double maple waffles (such as Eggo)
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 pats butter

Directions:

Bake chicken strips according to package directions and set aside. Meanwhile, combine syrup and hot sauce in a small bowel. Toast waffles and spread butter on each slice. Then, top two waffles with chicken strips and drizzle with syrup. Top with other waffles (they should be those waffles that are perforated that you can break into four large finger sandwiches) and serve.

PIMENTO CHEESE CANOES

Because you need some vegetables (well, maybe not!), here is an easy and tasty way to put three food groups together.

Ingredients:

1 bunch celery
½ cup pimento cheese (in a jar, looks like cream cheese)
Handful of slivered toasted almonds (Trader Joe’s has them pre-toasted like this)

Directions:

Wash and trim celery, leaving them as long “canoes.” Spread cheese on each and sprinkle with almonds.

BLOODY MIKEY SHOOTER

I imagine this would be a kickass hangover cure, although I haven’t tested that theory just yet.

Ingredients:

½ cup tomato juice or vegetable juice
1 Tbsp. Buffalo wing sauce
1 Tbsp. hot pickled cherry pepper juice
Juice of half a lime

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a small juice glass and stir Drink up! (Note: This makes one shooter, but you can use this guideline to make as many as you want).

Mikey’s Beef Fried Rice

I’ve been on a mission lately to find Chinese roast pork in the grocery store. And I don’t think it’s gonna happen. One day I will stop being lazy and just pick up a container of it from the local takeout place and make my own fried rice with it. Because lately I can’t seem to find good fried rice. It’s either bland, too yellow and not brown enough, has too many onions or green onions, not enough meat, or all of the above.

So yesterday I was in the grocery store and saw these really nice stir fry beef strips. The last thing we had on our weekly menu (yes, Mrs. Mikey and I try to do that) was fish, and I had not thawed it, and want to be especially careful thawing seafood. So now then. I suddenly had a vision in my head for fried rice. Basically watching a lot of “Chopped” and “Top Chef” has made me try to think more creatively than usual lately.

So I took the beef strips and marinated then in teriyaki sauce for 15-20 minutes or until I prepped the other ingredients–Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice (poke a few holes in the bag and nuke for 3 minutes for absolutely perfectly sticky and delicious brown rice), carrots, 1/2 an onion, some snow peas, ginger, canola oil, sherry, soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, some cilantro, a lime, and a couple of eggs. I chopped the ginger up fine, chopped the carrots (I used baby carrots) and the onion, and then sliced the snow peas into slivers. I put about a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet and when hot to the 2-inches-away touch, put the veggies in the pan and stirred, adding a bit of salt and pepper. After the onion just started to brown I removed the vegetables to a plate and added the beef to the pan, with some salt and pepper. The beef started to brown but I wanted it to be slightly charred in spots, or in this case a bit overdone to make it like a sponge for the teriyaki sauce if that makes sense.

Then I put the beef on a plate, and poured a little bit of sherry and soy sauce in the pan to deglaze it. I added a touch more canola oil, a sprinkling more of sherry and soy, a few drops of sriracha and a few drops of sesame oil. I put the veggies back in, chopped the beef into small pieces and added them to the pan, followed by the rice. Then I stirred, and added a little more teriyaki sauce and set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, I heated a small nonstick skillet over medium heat and cracked two eggs in it. I put the rice in two bowls, topped each with a sunny side up egg, some chopped cilantro and a lime wedge, and there you have it….Mikey’s Beef Fried Rice!

My only regret is I forgot to snap a picture. But I will say it was some of the best fried rice I’ve ever made, and Mrs. Mikey agreed. Damn, now I’m hungry again.

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest is a home run

In the PR world, there are gimmicks, and there are the actual bright ideas that, when done correctly, can become a company’s signature. Frito-Lay has, in this blogger’s humble opinion, potentially laid the groundwork for the latter with their new Lay’s Potato Chip Do Us a Flavor competition. When I first heard about the competition on a radio talk show promo, I knew I had to try these chips. The concept? Lay’s asked for suggestions for new flavors between July and October of 2012, and received 3.8 million submissions from which there were three finalists chosen.

When the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange rang on February 12, the three finalists for the contest were on hand along with actress/restauranteur Eva Longoria and celebrity chef and restauranteur Michael Symon to kick off the contest, which runs until May 4, to introduce their flavors to the world. Here are the options and my thoughts on each one….

Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread (submitted by Karen Weber-Mendham of Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin) has a big, bold hit of garlic immediately after biting into the chip, followed by a more subtle cheese taste. I’m not a huge garlic guy, and while the flavor was more of a roasted garlic note, it kind of overpowered the other flavors of the cheesy garlic bread. And I think what is a tad disappointing is that, since I live in Wisconsin like Karen does, I would have preferred the cheese to be more dominant.

Lay’s Sriracha (submitted by Tyler Raineri of Lake Zurich, Illinois) has a touch of sweetness at the start, followed by a big chili pepper kick–just like the sriracha sauce. And it keeps getting hotter and hotter the more you eat. I love spicy food and love sriracha, and I definitely dig this flavor, but it still was my second favorite of the three.

Lay’s Chicken & Waffles (submitted by Christina Abu-Judom of Phoenix, Arizona) was the flavor I wanted to try the most, and it wound up being the one I liked the most, and wanted to just keep eating. If you’ve never had chicken and waffles, let me tell you you are missing out on one of the culinary world’s greatest gifts to our palates. The combination of crispy, juicy fried chicken with a light and fluffy waffle, both drenched in maple syrup, has my mouth watering as I type. And these chips had those notes–maple sweetness, followed by a faint savory chicken flavor. It was like a Chicken in a Biskit cracker dipped in maple syrup. Okay, where are my chips? Now I’m hungry for more.

For more information, please visit the Do Us a Flavor website, which also gives options to vote for your favorite, such as on Facebook. As for where to find the flavors, I’ve seen them in various stores, so you should be able to locate the chips easily as well….or you can use their handy store locator. So what are you waiting for? Do the fine folks at Frito-Lay a flavor!

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