CATEGORIES

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?

Jenny’s chalkboard: Mexican breakfast for dinner

With an assist from food TV–including a new show on Travel Channel called Feed the Beast, which I’ll be previewing before it premieres on Wednesday; and then an hour of Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins & Dives yesterday, and after my wife (i.e. Jenny) and I both had this sluggish, head-achy thing going on, we decided we needed to eat something fatty and greasy. We were not hung over, but that’s what it felt like, and we needed a Sunday morning hangover remedy on Sunday evening. Those shows made me crave eggs and fat and salt, and when I saw we had chorizo in the fridge, I knew what had to be done–we had to make Mexican breakfast for dinner. Jenny agreed and put that on her chalkboard.

So what you’re seeing in the photo and that went happily into our bellies last night is this…..first, I took a leftover baked potato and cut that up, and stir fried it in a bit of canola oil. Meanwhile, as the potato was cooking, I took a link of chorizo (by link I mean it was maybe a foot long), removed the meat from the “fake” casing, and fried that up in a pan for about 10 minutes until it was cooked through and crispy, draining on paper towels. I wiped out the pan, and fried four eggs in it. Jenny shredded some cheddar cheese (full fat kickass Wisconsin cheddar), and I cubed an avocado while the eggs were cooking. I also opened up a can of refried black beans, and chopped some cilantro. As the eggs were set, it was time to assemble this creation in a big bowl–

First, the potatoes, which were nice and crispy. Then a dollop of refried beans and the chorizo. We topped that with two eggs in each bowl, followed by the avocado chunks, cheese and cilantro. Oh, and some Mexican hot sauce for good measure. Suffice to say we both felt so much better after eating this dinner. It was one of those food nirvana moments when you feed your body what it’s craving, and then some. And hey, now I know what to make next time we are hung over….and we hope you try it too.

Mikey’s This and That

A few random food observations on a snowy Madison Thursday afternoon…..

*Is there a reason why many canned soups have this gummy, almost plastic sheen of a taste these days? This is particularly true of so-called diet soups which I think use gummy fillers to make up for the loss of fat–i.e. loss of flavor. But they wind up making a chemical concoction that has totally turned me off of canned soup. I’ve been trying to make more of my own, which always tastes better, but it’s not always easy to find the time. Thankfully football season is over (well not really thankfully) which means more cooking for the week on Sundays with the wife.

*Salads just are not appealing in the winter. I sometimes find myself not getting enough vegetables in the winter, and a big reason is that I have almost no desire to eat healthy salads. That’s a summer thing, right? Maybe I need to make more soups. Where have I heard that before?

*I can’t believe Kristen fell on a sword on Top Chef: Seattle last week and didn’t throw Josie under the bus as she should have. I pegged her as the potential winner. I haven’t watched Last Chance Kitchen…but maybe she still can win if she won her LCK battle. But wow, Josie. Please go away.

*Speaking of Food TV, did you guys catch the first episode of that Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity cook off show on Food Network? That’s one of those reality shows that grabs its players from the depths of wherever they get contestants for Celebrity Fit Club. This season they’ve got the likes of Carney Wilson, Hines Ward and an actress and a socialite I’ve never heard of. And then there was Gilbert Gottfried. The poor dude doesn’t know how to boil water. So the first episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich. Then, as he’s battling another contestant for elimination in the same episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich AGAIN. Dude, who is your agent and why would they put you through that?

*I often profess my love for Trader Joe’s on here. But I’ve come across something that’s amazing even by their standards. This Speculoos Cookie Spread. It won their award for customer favorite product of 2012, so I bought a jar. Holy smokes. It’s like peanut butter-like crack in a jar. I don’t even know what it is made out of…but it’s like a “butter” that is sweet and has cookie pieces and hints of cinnamon and….well, just go try it, and if you don’t love it, then you don’t like food. It’s impossible to not like it.

Mikey’s food resolutions for 2013

Happy New Year foodie friends! My first resolution is to post more regularly here. Beyond that, here are some of my food resolutions for 2013, and feel free to add yours in the comments or by e-mail to mikeyskitchen@gmail.com.

1. Create two new original recipes per month. Any of you that are creative types know that getting started is the most difficult part. But once you figure out your medium (meat/veggies/sauce/herbs/spices), the possibilities are endless.

2. Try four new foods I’ve never tried before. This one is tricky as I am not the kind of person who wants anything to do with foods like snails or even squid. But one new food item every three months? I think I can do that without having to try anything too far out of my comfort zone.

3. Make better use of a local specialty. In Wisconsin, that would be cheese. I have had some of the best cheddars of my life here in Madison, and yet there are so many other varieties. Maybe this will also go hand in hand with both #1 and #2.

4. Eat less junk and eat more healthy but tasty food. That means less packaged chips and crackers and more homemade beef jerky or celery with spicy hummus. It can be done.

5. Create a new column or two. The first idea I have is to re-create vintage food items that I can’t find or that no longer exist. The first of these–Buitoni’s toaster pizzas. I think I have written about these before, and I miss them dearly. But I think with some experimentation, even without an elaborate test kitchen, I can work on coming close to re-creation. Intrigued? So am I.

6. Figure out a better way to organize recipes. We have mountains of magazines and cookbooks, and it’s getting scary. I try and clip recipes, and toss magazines when I can, but it’s hard to keep up. But hey, it’s winter time in Madison, and that means it’s freaking cold outside and time for indoor projects. No excuses.

7. Watch more food TV. Not necessarily Food Network, but any of the other food related shows that are popping up on various channels. Or maybe just watch all of the episodes of Sandwich King and Best Thing I Ever Made or The Minimalist on DVR for a change.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Any more, and I won’t even try to keep said resolutions. Now let’s get cooking….

Andrew Zimmern’s crazy awesome wings

So a couple weeks back, I happened on an episode of Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Made, which is the replacement for Best Thing I Ever Ate, for which I think they just ran out of ideas and categories for. And Andrew Zimmern was on there. You know, the guy from Travel Channel who has a show called Bizarre Foods, and eats some of the absolutely craziest things that anyone would ever put in their mouth–including one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen–bull schlong. Quite honestly, I drew the line right there and haven’t watched that show since.

But when I saw him dial up this recipe for “Grandmother’s Chinese chicken wings” and my mouth was watering right away. My mouth is watering as I type this, because I tried these things two Sundays ago and they were phenomenal. I made them again this past Sunday and I may make them every Sunday until the end of time. They were that good. And it’s not like they are crispy–you make them in a large pot and essentially stir fry them for like an hour. But holy crap, the sauce is like a parade of flavors–sweet, spicy, tangy, soy-ee. Anyway, I get it. I get why he tried to re-create these for years before a friend came across the recipe from a Chinese grandma. You have to get a few ingredients you may have trouble finding–dried chiles, star anise, sake and mirin. But you can usually find stuff like that in a store like Whole Foods, or giant grocery like Woodman’s here in Madison.

So do me a favor and do Zimmern a favor and try these wings for your next party. They will go FAST.

Food Network Star is back

If you are a reality show junkie, you can get your fix pretty much year-round and on every major, minor and/or cable network. Food Network’s signature reality show–the type of show that has weekly eliminations–is Food Network Star, the program they use as a breeding ground for, um, Food Network stars. It’s now in its 8th season, and what really put this show on the map was the winner of Season 2–a dude named Guy Fieri. More recent winners have been Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King; Aarti Sequeira, and her show Aarti Party; and Melissa D’Arabian (Ten Dollar Dinners).

In recent seasons, they have had 8-10 contestants, but this year they expanded it to 15 and started it earlier in the calendar year. The first episode aired last Sunday and episode 2 was last night. This year, instead of having regular judges and food network execs Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson along with network superstar Bobby Flay, the producers have done it differently by making up three teams of five–each with a coach. Flay is now a coach, and his competitors are Giada De Laurentiis (who was a judge for most of last season) and Alton Brown (who has also guested on the show) The contestants were hand-picked by each coach–and as you might expect, they sort of reflect their coaches’ personalities and, to some degree, their cooking styles. The team that wins the weekly challenges is all safe, and Bob and Susie choose one from each of the other two teams for potential elimination. The two are given a task in which they will be judged by Bob and Susie only.

Some of these contestants look like stars immediately, which is usually the case early on. It’s also typical for some of them to look just awful the first week or two as they may know how to cook, but presenting that on camera and/or to a live audiences is another thing altogether. There just aren’t many people out there who can do that effectively. Cristie Schoen from Team Alton is one of those who just couldn’t do this, and she was sent packing last Sunday. But Josh Lyons from Team Giada barely escaped elimination. That guy fronts a rock band (something he referred to about twelve times last week) but he is really awkward talking about food on camera.

Last night it was between Kara Sigle of Team Bobby and Judson Allen of Team Alton. If Alton had lost another team member, it would not have looked good. But Kara was the one sent home, and wow, was she ever awful in the main challenge, in which the contestants had to use a landmark NYC restaurant as a reference point to create a dish that they had to describe while being a “tour guide” on a double decker bus. Kara had Sylvia’s in Harlem, known for chicken & waffles. Kara complained about her assignment and was doomed from the beginning, especially when she tried to just re-create the dish and not do anything creative with the idea.

So it’s down to 13, and while we don’t intend to post a weekly recap, we may write about the show every once in a while. If you watched it last night, let us know your thoughts in the space below.

Chopped All-Stars Ups The Ante

If you watched last year’s “Chopped All Stars” on Food Network, you know that it was riveting and must-see TV. I, for one, was thrilled to see some of the judges, who were generally very difficult to please and very hard on the contestants, have to compete and see what it was like on the other side. But even better, in addition to the “judges” round, there were three other rounds with themes–former contestants on “Food Network Star,” for instance, and then one final round featuring the four winners. Former “Next Iron Chef” contestant Nate Appleman won last year’s inaugural crown.

So of course, Food Network had to make Season 2 of “Chopped All Stars” (premiering Sunday, April 8th) bigger and better. Seriously, if you are a Food Network junkie, you’re going to freak when you see this list. Here, I’ll just lift it right from the network’s press release:

Part 1, “Iron Chefs Do Battle” Premieres Sunday, April 8th at 9pm ET/PT
Competitors: Iron Chefs Cat Cora, Marc Forgione, Jose Garces and Michael Symon
Judges: Scott Conant, Aarón Sanchez, Geoffrey Zakarian

Part 2, “Prime Time vs. Day Time” Premieres Sunday, April 15th at 9pm ET/PT
Competitors: Show hosts Keegan Gerhard (Food Network Challenge), Jeffrey Saad (United Tastes of America, Cooking Channel), Aarti Sequeira (Aarti Party) and Marcela Valladolid (Mexican Made Easy)
Judges: Amanda Freitag, Aarón Sanchez, Geoffrey Zakarian

Part 3, “Food Network Star Contestants” Premieres Sunday, April 22nd at 9pm ET/PT
Competitors: Food Network Star Season Seven Finalists Justin Balmes, Penny Davidi, Vic “Vegas” Moea and Chris Nirschel
Judges: Scott Conant, Amanda Freitag, Aarón Sanchez

Part 4, “Judge Remix” Premieres Sunday, April 29th at 9pm ET/PT
Competitors: Chopped judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy, Marcus Samuelsson and Chris Santos
Judges: Amanda Freitag, Aarón Sanchez, Geoffrey Zakarian

Part 5, “Grand Finale” Premieres Sunday, May 6th at 9pm ET/PT
Competitors: Prior episode winners
Judges: Anne Burrell, Amanda Freitag, Aarón Sanchez

I mean, seriously? The “Judge Remix” round is going to be awesome, but really, all of them are compelling themes. If you saw “Food Network Star” last year, you know that Penny Davidi is a great cook but also a drama queen who is sure to add to the ratings.

And if you’re not familiar with “Chopped,” the show is hosted by Ted Allen, and the four contestants have 20 minutes to cook an appetizer using four items in a mystery basket, after which one contestant is “chopped,” or eliminated. Then the remaining three cook an entree in 30 minutes, and the two finalists have 20 minutes to make a dessert. The producers of the show, of course, find all kinds of weird ingredients and put items together that should never go together (for example–jelly beans, fish, purple carrots and potato chips). But that adds to the fun.

So there you have it–another great season of “Chopped All Stars” awaits next month. Will you be watching?

Rachael vs. Guy

Have you guys seen the new Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off show on Food Network? Well if you haven’t, let me fill you in and I guarantee you will watch–especially if you love watching celebs duke it out on reality shows. The show airs on Sunday nights, and last Sunday was the series premiere. And the premise is that Rachael and Guy, two of the Network’s more prominent stars of the past decade, head up teams of four celebrities in a cooking competition. As is the case with many of these type shows, we’re talking (my apologies to those competing) celebs that are kind of washed up, B-listers or C-listers (or at most high A-minus).

We’re talking Taylor Dayne, Aaron Carter, Summer Sanders, Coolio, Cheech Marin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Alyssa Campanella, and Joey Fatone. Yikes. The first episode had them break into two teams, each coached by Rachael or Guy, and they had to cook for 300 guests at an outdoor BBQ party in New York City. The best cooks seem to be Phillips, Marin, Sanders, and Coolio. Dayne and Carter were the two worst cooks on the losing team, and had to face off in a 30 minute shrimp challenge to see who went home. The loser was Carter, who wound up in the bottom because of a horribly bland macaroni salad. Dayne was able to stick around, much to my chagrin, because while she was quite the star in the late ’80′s with gorgeous, flowing hair, she had some serious plastic surgery done and looks frighteningly like Michael Jackson.

Anyway, do yourself a favor and check this show out….it’s funny and quite entertaining.

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.

Two great food shows right now

There are so many food related TV shows now that it gets mind-blowing to try and watch them all or to even DVR them all. But I want to turn you on to two that have new seasons happening now that you should absolutely watch, especially if you are a foodie.


The first is “Top Chef: Texas” on Bravo. I haven’t watched this week’s episode yet but caught the season premiere last week. The production company Magical Elves consistently hits home runs with their shows, especially this one. This year it’s big, just like the state of Texas, and in addition to regular judges Padma Lakshmi (host), Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, they have added Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson. And they began with something like 30 contestants, but only half or so of which will actually wear the Top Chef chef coats and have a real chance to compete for the title of Top Chef. This show airs on Wednesday nights on Bravo, and if you haven’t seen it, you have to check it out. This is one show that knows how to keep us interested and just delivers quality shows every week. I can’t wait to see how this season progresses.


The other show is “The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs” on Food Network. The “Next Iron Chef” reality show brought us the likes of Jose Garces and Michael Symon, but this season is like no other. This time, they have all celebrity chefs, many of which we have already seen on Food Network such as Beau McMillan, Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, Geoffrey Zakarian, Alex Guarnaschelli, Michael Chiarello and Marcus Samuelsson. Sign me up! So far two episodes have aired, and it’s clear that the level of competition is maybe like no other show that Food Network has ever seen, mainly because of how incredibly talented each chef is. Whoever came up with the idea of going this route as opposed to finding ten great restaurant chefs we have never heard of? Genius. This one airs Sunday nights on Food Network.

That’s it for now. There are more great shows going on and many more holiday themed shows we can talk about, but I think you should check these two out before the seasons get too old.

Related Posts