I friggin’ love clam chowder. I love most soups, but this one tends to be my first soup of the new football–I mean, fall season.

Check out this rad poem In the Boston Evening Post from September 23,1751. This was the first printed recipe for a chowder. Makes me want to rhyme everything I say…well I just may…which makes me gay, but not like you think, I mean in a happy way…gigitty-ay.

Old Times

Firsay some Onions to keep the Pork from burning
Because in Chouder there can be not turning;
Then lay some Pork in slices very thin,
Thus you in Chouder always must begin.
Next lay some Fish cut crossways very nice
Then season well with Pepper, Salt, and Spice;
Parsley, Sweet-Marjoram, Savory, and Thyme,
Then Biscuit next which must be soak’d some Time.
Thus your Foundation laid, you will be able,
To raise a Chouder, high as Tower of Babel;
For by repeating o’er the Same again,
You make a Chouder for a thousand men.
Last a Bottle of Claret, with Water eno; to smother ’em,
You’ll have a Mess which some call Omnium gather ’em.

This is about New England—clam—chowder, not the “soup” labeled from Manhattan that is nowhere near a chowder. Food nerd trivia–In the clip/link at the top, Ace is asked, “the red or the white?” Unbeknownst to him…there is no red New England Clam Chowder.  I know, I know–my observational skills are staggering aren’t they?

I love the dish for many epicureal reasons, but I swear, sometimes I think it’s all in a name. How awesome is the word chowder.  Say it.  Now say it with a North Eastern accent.  Hee heeee (I’m gonna name my next dog Chowdah.)                                                                     Feelings of comfort and happiness are conjured with this word, but probably only if you’ve had a good bowl of it.  I lived in the San Francisco Bay area for several years; while I was there I spent a little time in the city looking for “The Best Clam Chowder.” Alas, my search was shortened by the disappointment of three consecutive LAME-O chowders. So, as the adage goes; “If you want something done right…better do it yourself.”

Choices for the direction you want to steer your chowder are innumerable. Canned or fresh? Brothy or thick? Bacon or salt pork? Conformity to “tradition” or breaking the mold? Fatty Mcfat-fat cream or milk? The list goes on…

Here are two recipes; one with fresh clams, a few extra ingredients and a couple extra steps. The second is made with canned clams, one pot and less time. If cooking is not your thing, so it…do it.

E-Z Clam Chowder

2 slices bacon, hacked up
1T butter (optional)
1/4c flour
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 potatoes, peeled and diced small
1/2tsp dried thyme
4 6.5oz cans chopped clams in juice
1 bay leaf
2c heavy whipping  cream
1/2 tsp dried dill
2tsp fresh chopped parsley *optional

Heat a pot over medium heat, add the bacon to render some fat and brown. Add the next five ingredients along with a pinch of salt and rind of fresh pepper. Saute until the onion is wilted, then stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Whisk in the chopped clams with juice being sure to smooth out any lumps of flour. Whisk in 2 cups of water and the cream, adding more of either as needed to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, stir the bottom, then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Stir in the remaining ingredients to heat through; taste for seasoning and serve.  Mash up some of the potato if you want it a bit thicker.

Fresh Clam Chowder

4 slices bacon, chopped
2T butter
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced small
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
20-30 little neck clams, washed
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1c white wine
8oz bottled clam juice
3c water
2c heavy cream
2-3 medium russet or yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and fresh pepper
1 tsp dried dill
1-2 T chopped Italian parsley

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon renders most of its fat and strain off all but 2 tablespoons. Add the butter, onion, garlic, bay and thyme; cook until the vegetables are wilted and soft, 8 minutes.                                            Meanwhile; in a large pan, bring the wine to a boil. Add the clams, cover, and steam for 3-4 minutes. Strain off the juice and reserve, then remove the clam meat and throw away the shells(optional).                                                                                                                             Dust the sautéed vegetables with flour and stir to coat everything well. Whisk in the bottled clam juice until the flour is incorporated and smooth. Add the reserved clam broth, water, cream and the potato. Bring to a boil, cover, and boil hard for about 7 minutes or until the potatoes break down. Add in the chopped clams, parsley, dill and season with salt and pepper.

Really though, if you don’t think you want to make one of the recipes, buy your favorite canned variety, add some dried dill and/or a little dried or fresh chopped parsley. Shake a little southern style hot sauce over the top and it’ll be great, well…it might cure a craving at least. Canned clam chowders always leave alot to be desired and there are definitely some quirky differences between them. I recently did a little taste test comparison between four brands I picked up from a local grocer.

The Contestants


Thick, creamy, good amount of clam flavor, lotsa potatoes, no herbs, not off-putting. No MSG added is on the label but… it has yeast extract and hydrolized corn protien which are both msg. 1,780mg sodium, 18g fat and 360 calories.

Campbell’s Chunky-
Thick and creamy with a decent amount of clam flavor, but it was also quite metallic. Lotsa potatoes, no herbs and except for the tinny flavor, there was nothing off putting. Has 2 forms of MSG but at least the label doesn’t lie about it. 1,780mg sodium, 26g fat and 460 calories.

Campbell’s Select Harvest
Label looks healthy and reads: “With natural sea salt, Tender surf clams and no MSG added.” Lol…it has 2 kinds of MSG and is reeeealy clamy (in a bad way).  Lotsa potato, crazy amount of chewy (not tender) clams, visible parsley that was light and pleasant but had several bites with grit/sand. 960mg sodium, 20g fat and 360 calories

Chef Design (generic)-
So processed and fake tasting. Had the same texture and flavor of every horrible, overly processed creamy canned product ever. Had all the bad attributes with non of the good–except that it doesn’t outwardly lie on the label like Harvest and Progresso.
1,700mg sodium, 22g fat and 420 calories

Overall, the first three will be edible with the addition of herbs and hot sauce but no kid would ever like the Harvest Select. 4th one was pretty much canned cancer.

Classic usually works

The potatoes are great, but don’t forget the mandatory second carb to finish off your chowdah!  Oyster crackers or saltines are great, but I would much rather have toasted, crusty sourdough bread as a dipper/soaker.

I don’t know if the east coast uses bread or crackers…hopefully they’ve gotten out of the 1700’s–taken note from San Francisco and tossed the crackers in place of crusty, warm, chewy sourdough. Mmmmm, double carbs.

Teh Figzzz

Family, friends, food, fun and…figs? I missed a few important F’s but I think you get where I’m going here. All these F’s are important to me, and since it is late summer…figs make the list.

Surprisingly, figs are an actual fruit that grow from a tree and don’t just magically find their way in between a pastry.
Seriously though, I’ve finished a whole sleeve more times then I care to admit. Damn little things are so easy to eat; before I know it I have an empty plastic wrapper, a crumb covered couch, and a life or death need for a cold glass of milk.
For some people, the word fig is always and forever attached to Newton. That’s cool…maybe a little sad but whatever. As kids, we never really questioned what the filling was. I’m sure we deduced from the label that it was indeed a fig construct of some kind, but not really anything tangible. After all, what is a fig? I don’t remember ever being given a raw fig. Maybe someone did? But it was probably under ripe; which to a kid means he/she is now holding a scary looking, mushy, bitter, nasty “thing.” Fo reelz…under ripe figs suuuuuuuck. Don’t ever give a child a less then perfect fig.

They can be eaten raw and whole, but are always sweeter with a little heat put to em. Figs looooove heat, especially direct dry heat, like a grill or broiler. I tend not to just munch on raw figs, (although we have a tree now, so maybe I should start?), but they are a versatile way to add sweetness to a plethora of dishes.

Recently I procured an obscene amount of figs via my favorite method. Pretty sure they’re Mission figs, but since there are over 700 varieties of fig…Mission is close enough.

I’ve done figs six ways from Sunday but most often I use them as an hor d’oeuvre. Maybe something like…

ripe figs
olive oil
salt and pepper
good ricotta
toasted almonds (Marconas are great but pricey)
lemon juice

Preheat broiler on high. Cut figs in half and lay on and oiled sheet pan. Drizzle with a bit of oil and season with salt. Broil on top rack until just barely browned but totally heated through. Too much cooking will leave you with a puddle of fig. If that happens you can puree and use as a fig filling or topping.
Plate the warm figs and top with a bit of everything. A little pepper, a nubbin’ of ricotta, an almond, and a drizzle of honey and lemon juice…dee-lish.
Also feel free to wrap up all this goodness into a slice cured meat, like prosciutto.

Here is what I played around with at my buddies house the other night.  These pics show some lack of refinement, but I had a few handicaps I was dealing with…

lil monster

My goal was to make a savory fig lollipop. I succeeded in all aspects of the dish except I didn’t quite have the appropriate cut of lamb I was envisioning.

But, jeebus was it delicious.

Grilled fig and lamb “lollipop” with almonds and red wine/lamb reduction. 
The last pic also shows a caramelized fig topped shark fillet with potato pave and the same sauce; ridiculously good as well. Both plates also had grilled cauliflower. FYI…grilled or broiled cauliflower IZ THA BOMB! I knew this dish was gonna be good…but not THAT good. Did I mention it was good?

Of all the “common” fruits, figs are the highest in overall mineral content and are an excellent source of fiber. Raw figs also contain a bunch of phenols, which are powerful cancer fighting antioxidants.

Figs have a ton of other health benefits, and if they were imported from South America or the Himalayas, they would be marketed as a “super food.” But they aren’t…which is good for our pocket book as they can already be a little pricey.
You can buy dried figs at most places but Mediterranean markets will have the best price.

If you live in a climate that doesn’t get too cold, you might have a friend or neighbor that has a tree. If you do; then I’m sure they would be more then happy to have you pick some. Fig trees can get messy since birds and bugs love ’em; I mean, why wouldn’t they? Along with it’s nutrient density comes a ton of fructose. Natural sugar is a good thing; it gives you energy with no insulin spike.

A ripe fig is soft and squishy; if it’s cracked, no worries, that just means it needs to be eaten.

So this season; have some fun cooking figgy foods with family, and friends.

Lemon Vodka Update

Day 1

Our plan was to let the peels sit for several days, but after 24 hours it tasted delicious. Nice refreshing lemon flavor and a nice yellow color to boot.
But…since we had a plan, we pushed on for another 24 hours and let it sit.
What we ended up with was an awesome all purpose cleaner, degreaser, lemon oil solvent. Oh bugger.
It was really bright yellow and you could see the oil separate from the vodka.
So, like the genius I am, we combined the beautiful product that sat for one day with the pledge smelling solvent of the second day and made a whole gallon of mediocre/ohmygodthatsnasty lemon vodka.
We’ve had an interesting time making it into cocktails; it’s like back room prohibition era swill.  It did leave the counters clean when I wiped it up after a spill; plus it smelled like pledge so everything smelled clean and free of dust. It did however taste pretty good in a Bloody Mary and yes, we will be doing this again, now that we know the proper timeline.
Happy Summer

Life Gave Us Lemons

We have lots of lemons as you can see…they come from our lemon tree.
The harvest becomes especially large when my wife gets jiggy with the tree trimmer. We’re left with a big ol’ pile, more than we’ll use for simple cooking and cleaning needs. Also, we don’t love the constant sugar influx that all the lemonade brings. Well, back to all those lemons…what to do, what to do?

We thought it’d be fun to make limonocello, like the kind my mom brought back from Italy. But, we don’t love our liquor sugary, so we went with a simple answer…lemon vodka.

Our method was highly scientific, involving the strenuous task of peeling 10 lemons and adding it to vodka…hope you were able to follow all of that. After we added the rinds we let it soak for a day. Plenty of lemon flavor after one day, but we’ll let the other handle go a couple more. My guess is it’ll get more lemony…gigitty.
If it’s too lemony, I’ll take it upon myself to finish the handle alone; thereby saving those I know and love from unnecessary pucker.
Very Complicated Recipe
  • Wash some lemons.
  • Peel the rind off, avoiding getting any white pith.
zest, rind or peel
  • Take out some vodka from the bottles and drink that vodka so you have room for the lemon peels. Add lemon peels. Refrigerate for a day, then drink some more vodka.
Soon to be lemon vodka

Sangria Is Refreshing

Sangria is dangerous…sneaky.


Tastes like juice but is mostly wine with a bit of brandy. I personally love sneaky drinks. I don’t always love to drink them (usually too sweet), but I love serving them. People who are not as likely to imbibe are much more apt to have a glass of fruit ladened Sangria then a cocktail or beer. This means your buzz to guest ratio increases; which means more smiles and laughter. Which is the point of most gatherings am I right? Spanish in origin and translated to “The Color of Blood”, its typical components are red wine, fruit, and brandy; with many recipes adding fruit juice, soda or soda water.However, white wine can also be used as the base and results are just as refreshing and delicious; with a lighter, brighter, summerier feel. Yes summerier…I looked it up. A couple months ago while teaching a cooking class a nice young lady forwarded me this white Sangria recipe. I still haven’t made it but a friend of mine did, and luckily she gave us a bunch. We drank the crap out of it and fought over the last glass…I won. It was summer in a glass and didn’t get old. I even added some of my lemon vodka to give it…more.
Lemongrass Pineapple Sangria
Serves 1-8-


4 bottles of white wine
-1 C of sugar
-4 stalks of lemongrass
-3 oz of ginger
-10 each kaffir lime leaves (if you can’t find these, just use lime peel)
-2 pineapples (cut off the skin)
-2 cara cara oranges cut in half (you can use regular oranges if you can’t locate these)
-2 sticks of cinnamon
-10 each cloves
Pour the wine in a large container that will fit in your refrigerator. Whisk in the sugar and place all of the aromatics in the container as well. Slice the ginger lengthwise and pound the lemongrass in order to release the natural oils. Let sit in the refrigerator for 2 days, strain off the aromatics, serve over ice with a splash of 7up. Recipe Courtesy of Chef Jonathan Bautista

Flavor profile

The earthy flavors of clove and cinnamon add a softness to the crisp Asian quality of the orange, lemongrass, and ginger. If you can’t find the lime leaves at your local Asian grocer, use lime peel. We just went to a 30th birthday where there was a ginormous bowl of tasty sangria keepin’ tha ladiez happy. Although I was experimenting with every other drink that night, I did get to taste the Sangria. It was great. The only difference is it wasn’t really Sangria. Or was it? Big Kahuna and Sierra mist at a 2 to 1 ratio was all that was needed to please the crowd. Sure there was some fruit mixed in, but that was just for show. For the un-initiated, Big Kahuna is Fresh and Easy’s Charles Shaw, and Sierra mist is their Sprite. So, it’s up to you. You can create smiles with Sprite and cheap wine, or go all out with a bunch of ingredients. Just put it over ice and turn the music up. Now get off the computer and go get your summer drank on.

Steak Is Good


To those that think cooking a juicy, flavorful, well seasoned, highly delicious steak is easy…you’re right.

Time and again I get asked; “what do you put on your steak?” The answer is always the same…kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. That doesn’t mean that other seasonings are bad or that you can’t use sea salt. Salt and pepper are maximize flavor  without muddling the flavor of the meat.

I don’t cook a steak at home often enough to need added interest from spice rubs and marinades. I just want all my taste buds focused on the gloriousness that is high quality beef fat.

Since fat is what turns on the drool faucet, the most flavorful cuts are ribeye (when price is no option), and skirt. Skirt has so much marbling that when cooked to well done, it’s still moist and Mcfatty delicious.

This chef is of the opinion that most rare steaks are not Scottish.  With love of fat being the focus, I need the fat to heat and render through the steak, which takes more time then rare will usually allow.

First, some basic guidelines:

  • Heavily marbled steaks or steaks where fat is coveted, should be cooked to the medium side of medium rare or the rare side of medium, (as explained earlier).
  • If you are cooking a lean steak like flank, top round, filet and flat iron; ensure that it’s not cooked past medium.
  • Cooking surface should be hot. Hotter then most of you might be used to, or comfortable with.
  • Dense and/or heavy cooking surfaces are best.
  • Seasoning ahead of time, is either a couple hours ahead or right before.
  • Cooking steak is better if one hand is occupied by a glass of wine or a good beer.
  • Cooking indoors needs a decent vent hood or a stoned fire alarm.
  • Flipping a steak prematurely is immature
  • Flipping and rotating are not the same thing
  • Gray is not the same as browned, and cooked is not the same as browned
  • Browned means caramelized, caramelized means ohm, nom, nom.
  • Gray = steamed. Steamed steak = :-(
  • If major flare ups occur, a spray bottle is nice to have on hand…in a pinch (serious emergency), you can thumb spray a shaken beer.

There are two convenient preparations for cooking steak. Using an outdoor grill and using a saute pan. The pan method is faster and easier, but dirtier and void of charcoal or fire “flavor”.


For charcoal it’s really nice to have a chimney starter, Kingsford Original or Competition briquettes and “Weber paraffin wax fire starters” which can be found at home depot. Notice the specificity on the charcoal and the fire starters. Kingsford cooks and starts more evenly, while the the wax starters make lighting absolutely stupid simple. Sure you can use rolled up newspaper; but you usually need to do it twice and it creates alot of unneeded ash.

If a charcoal chimney is new to you, here are the steps–

Add charcoal to chimney, place and light a starter underneath. In about 15 minutes the billowing smoke will have dissipated and fire will be seen out the top of the chimney. Pour charcoal into grill, spread them out and cover with the grill grate to heat up. Once the grate is on, you’re at the same point as 7-10 minutes into preheating a gas grill.

Once grill grates are hot, brush with a wire brush, then oil the grates, brush again and oil again. The second time is to ensure a clean, oiled surface if you started with a gnarled grate. I use spay oil but if I’m out, I’ll oil a paper towel.

Blot the steaks with a paper towel to remove excess moisture, then season liberally with pepper and season heavily with enough salt so you’re questioning and remembering your last blood pressure reading. Alot of it gets lost in the process and animal fat loves salt,

so hook it up. Lightly oiling a steak before seasoning is necessary for lean cuts but not advised for fatty ones.

Place your seasoned steak on the hot grill surface. Depending on the power of your gas grill or the amount of charcoal used is what dictates cooking time, flare ups and how much you’ll have to mess with it. Cooking on the grill is fun and sometimes exciting, but like anything else, benefits from practice and familiarity. Remember to use your eyes and nose; your goal is to only think about one side of the steak at a time.

If your heat dictates you leave your steak alone and don’t “play” with it, (which cools down the grates and the steak), then don’t touch it. If you have good heat, the actual cooking process takes about 10 minutes.

The importance of high heat is so your steak browns before it cooks.  Meat is wet and dense, and if you don’t get a good early sear or crust on the steak, it will likely bleed out its moisture, then steam and seize. Seized, overcooked, gray meat ensures no friends coming over for future BBQ’s.

So, your steak is on the grill and it shouldn’t stick, if it is sticking, it’s not ready to touch and/or your surface is not hot enough…(another reason a hot surface is required).

Once the steak is easily lifted from the grill feel free to rotate it two or three times ovfer the next several minutes to achieve more even browning on the surface. After the steak looks browned and totally delicious, flip it.

At this point is where flare ups can really start occurring so have a spray bottle at the ready.

Continue cooking for the same amount of time as the first side or a few minutes less; always less with thinner cuts. Checking for doneness is something you’ll have to learn and doneness has to do with quite a few variables. Thickness, temperature of raw steak, temperature of fire, density of cooking surface, manipulation during cooking, blah blah blah.

Resting IS important and should not be overlooked. Place the steak on a plate (hot side up) and either lightly tent with foil or place in a warm area; I put mine in the microwave. Resting allows the hot moisture to settle down and find a home. Cutting too early lets the hot running moisture escape.

Gas or charcoal doesn’t really matter other then the differences in preparation of your grill.

PAN: When using a saute pan you need something heavy that can retain heat, not warp under extreme heat and have an oven proof handle.

I use cast iron, but most tri-ply pans will work. Just beware that grease spatter can be hard to clean on a nice pan.

Heat oven to 500 degrees and place your pan on high heat. Blot the steak dry of any excess moisture and season liberally with salt and pepper. Turn on your vent hood and wait for your pan to get raging hot. A little water flicked into the pan should show beads of water dancing around and not evaporating very quickly. The pan should be hot enough that the water beads are hovering, not rolling. After the water is gone, swirl a tablespoon of oil into the pan and add your steaks, only one or two.

Now don’t touch ’em. Let the steaks cook until a clear and distinct crust is achieved. Your allowed to peek so you can gauge the crusts development. Once it looks evenly browned and delicious, flip and throw the whole pan in the oven. Cook for another 5-10 minutes depending on your thickness, then remove from the oven and place on a plate with the side that was on the pan, now facing up.


Slicing:  Always cut against the grain. More important for some cuts then others but pay attention to the direction of the muscle fibers. Very easy to see on a flank steak, the idea is to shorten those long strands. If you see the fibers running up and down, cut side to side. If the fibers are running side to side, cut up or down. And remember that thin is always better and a sharp knife makes thin easy.

One last thing. I like to slice my guests steak for them for a few reasons.  I can cut it thinner and more efficiently on a cutting board with a big knife.  Also, I can toss the slices in any accumulated juices and, I don’t like people to fumble around their plate improperly cutting their meat.


Paella Is A Good Good Time

It’s not the saffron or the succulent meat. The seafood or the lemon. Tis the socarrat!


Paella is and can be alot of things, but much of it has nothing to do with how good it tastes.  The communality it demands between guests provides this surrendering force that relaxes everyone, and excites them at the same time.

I don’t mean to be so dramatic about it but with most great and memorable gatherings there is always a certain je ne say quoi.

Cooking a whole pig or goat can have a similar feeling; or a labor party when all your friends come over for a big yard project and afterwards you party into the night and revel in your accomplishment. Effort I think is the key here, (I know I’ve gone down this path before).

Paella has this kind of magic; where everyone gets to tangibly feel a part of  an effort and a transformation.

Gettin’ it all together

There are three things involved that make a paella party fun and cool.  One is the pan, called a paellera; it’s what gives paella it’s name, which is a Spanish root word for pan.  Now I’ve made great paella on the stove top many times without this special pan, but if you want to have the experience I’m talking about, you’ve gotta get one.

Next is an outdoor fire.  Both words are important; outdoor, and fire.  Gatherings outdoors are great, but if everyone is communed around a fire pit, then the intrigue and anticipation for the dinner rises even higher.

Last is not the ingredients like you might think; but the common thread of all relaxing, fun social gatherings…booze.  I know, I know; I beat this horse to death sometimes, but it’s true!  Add a couple drinks to room full of silent people and BOOM!  Conversation.  As an added bonus–the combination of an outdoor fire and booze gets you a nice little peanut gallery that helps out with labor, un-needed tips and critiques.


Piled on top of all that, we’re finally to the pièce de résistance.  The ingredients are not the “third reason” because we are not in Spain and therefore have no traditional binding that limits us to which ingredients we use.  If anyone ever tells you your paella is not authentic because you didn’t have (insert unattainable ingredient here), tell them you canceled the party and there’s no reason to come over on Saturday.

Rice, saffron, a few veggies and meat are all you really need.  I like the complexity of using Spanish chorizo, chicken thighs and seafood.  Chorizo is spicy, earthy and full of wonderful fat and flavor, although probably the hardest ingredient to find.  If you can’t find the cured Spanish variety, don’t substitute with the soft Mexican chorizo.  Good butcher shops will usually carry it and I know Whole foods has it.  I like chicken for the fatty skin and it’s always my first step–browning and rendering the chicken skin provides your cooking fat for the rest of the dish.  Rabbit, and duck can also be used but it’s up to you.

After I remove the chicken I add the chorizo and veggies (sofrito).  Traditionally the sofrito cooks up to a paste but I tend stop before the veg looses it’s shape. Next is the rice–once again, tradition states not to use long grain rice, but if that’s what you decide to go with, no one will be the wiser unless they “know” paella.  I always use a medium or short grain rice, usually arborio.  It’s readily available at all supermarkets and has the physical make up we need.

Arborio and other short grain rices have an outer layer that melts its starch.  That starch (which so famously gives risotto its creaminess) is what helps form the socarrat.

The socarrat is the beautiful crust that forms on the bottom, adding textural variance and supreme richness.  When the rice toasts on the bottom of the pan the moisture inside the rice is replaced with the fats and spices– then fries crisp.  Ohm nom nom.

A Recipe

1tsp saffron threads, dried or lightly toasted
7-8c water
2T olive oil
2lb chicken thighs with bone and skin
kosher salt and fresh pepper
2c sliced or diced Spanish chorizo
2c finely diced onions
1c finely diced bell peppers
1c diced tomato
3c arborio rice
2-3lb assorted seafood
1c blanched peas or green beans
3T minced parsley
1tsp minced lemon zest

Heat the water and saffron in a pot to steep; set aside.
Prepare your fire and set the pan. Once hot; season the chicken, swirl in the oil and place the chicken skin side down. Render the skin until browned and crisp, then flip. Move the chicken to the edge of the pan and add the chorizo and veggies. Stir and saute until soft or mushy. Add the rice and saute a bit to toast. Add the saffron water with a couple teaspoons of salt. Nestle the chicken into the rice and adjust the fire so it’s not at a raging boil. Cook for 10 minutes and start layering on the seafood with the slowest cooking fish on the bottom. Cook another 5 minutes and flip any fish on the top that is’nt getting hit with heat. If your rice is starting to finish but the fish still needs a little time, lightly tent with foil or parchment to help steam. When everything looks cooked, wait for a crackling sound on the bottom which means the rice is frying. Garnish with peas, parsley and lemon zest.

Fireside Cookery
Onions and peppers in chicken fat and olive oil.
Time to Eat!

Mount Kilimanacho

This is the most badass mountain of nachos I’ve ever had; well…at least since the first time I did it in 2004.

Photos courtesy of Chrystal Cienfuegos

If you didn’t know, I love football.  I love sports in general but football is all I have time for anymore.  Although my team will likely never win it all, my friends and family create great memories every season rooting for our perennial loosers.   With football having a much shorter schedule than other sports, it allows fans to continually make “an event” out of most Sundays that would otherwise be delegated to house work…shmouse work.

Like most football fans, our fall and winter Sundays revolve around food and drinks.  Sometimes the food is easy and sometimes it’s a lot of work, but it’s always delicious and usually centers around a grill.  This years Superbowl party was no exception.

Since I didn’t do much cooking during the regular season we tried to go all out this year and get everyone involved.  And everyone DID get involved, it was beautiful.  We weren’t rewriting the book on anything, but when you attempt to do things properly and there’s a bunch of hungry people, there’s just a lot to do.

We had fried chicken bites with dipping sauces and grilled carne asada nachos.  Fried chicken is fried chicken, no real need to discuss that one other then stating how ridiculous perfect fried chicken is, ohm nom nom.

The event was around the nachos since 90% of the party had never been witness to such a thing.  Granted we’ve all had nachos before, but never like this.  I think we may have even missed the picture of just before the lid goes on which showed how tall the pile was.  We were actually gonna do two batches but just decided to go big on one.

What pictures cannot show is the depth of flavor achieved from the charcoal.  The BBQ smoke flavor permeates and the bottom gets all cheese fried crusty.  We of course fried our own chips, grilled the meat, made the beans and made the salsa.  The second batch was going to have some nacho cheese swirled in but we never got there.  I think this was all done during halftime.  How we pulled ourselves away from another mind blowing Super Bowl halftime show…I’ll never know :-|

Fresh chips
Tortillas into fresh chips

A solid foundation

Cheesy goodness

Smokey grilled carne asada

Red and green taco shop hot sauce

Sour cream is always a nice touch

Beans to start another layer

More of everything



Although we put a hit on it…I was eating nachoes for a couple days.

10 pounds of nacho joy

Chrystal is a Local photographer and does an amazing job for any event. — I highly recommend her boudoir shots for any woman wanting to give their husbands whiplash.  My wife took some and I’m still cleaning drool off the keyboard.

Beef Carnitas

Mmmmm beef fat…

Not suet…which is clean, easy melting fat that’s obtained from  just outside the kidney of a bovine. But beef fat trimmings.  Not only is rendering fat kinda cool, but it’s a deeper flavor that reaches juuuust outside our norm.  Easily obtained from a serious butcher shop, suet and fat is inexpensive, easy to render and gives you a clean, savory cooking oil.   On new years eve I set out to make traditional carnitas.  Slow cooking pork butt in pork fat until tender, then raising the temp to fry and crisp.  Cooking meat in its own fat compounds the flavor and rings in that authentic bell.  Unfortunate to those classic carnitas plans, my sister in law was coming over and like always, I forgot she doesn’t dig on the swine.  So I switched it up a bit and decided to try beef carnitas instead.

Getting The fat

Went to the local butcher and asked ’em about getting some suet.  They didn’t have it and I didn’t want to drive across town to get it, so I asked them if they had any fat trimmings.  They didn’t right then, but would later in the afternoon.  Cool. I went back later and got 10 pounds, came home and chopped it up into fist size chunks. Beef carnitas, here we come.

All it takes to render fat is a heavy bottom pan and a heat source on low.  It took about 3 hours to render and I didn’t really do it to perfection.  Towards the end my impatience got the best of me and I got it a little hot.  It didn’t damage the oil to detriment, but it took away the clean purity of perfectly melted fat.  I put it through a strainer to remove the fried pieces of crispy fat and any particulate matter. In went the lime soaked beef to a long slow bubble, bubble, bubble.

Chewing The Fat

Towards the end of cooking and several cape cods later, I over-cooked the beef a bit.  The result was extremely delicious buuuuuut, a bit chewy.  Not to jerky standards but still jaw wearing.  You’d think I’d have learned my lesson at the family reunion, (referenced in my engagement story). Oh well.

Earlier that day when I got the fat, I realized I was gonna have a fry station ready to rock for midnight munchies, so i picked up some yukon gold potatoes and flour tortillas. Around 11pm I fried the potatoes and they were salty and luscious…and needed at that point. But what came next was an experience no one saw coming, and no one will forget. Well…it was NYE, so a couple people might forget.

The Next Fatty Level

The magic came when I used the flour tortillas to make bunuelos (fried flour tortilla dusted with cinnamon and sugar). Bunuelos are always a wonderful treat, but these were out of this f-r-e-a-k-i-n-g world. The addition of some sea salt sprinkled into the cinnamon sugar, with the savory goodness of the beef fat…it was just mouth wateringly sublime. Hilarious how much it overshadowed the beef carnitas.
So remember, you don’t always need to get your cooking fats from a bottle or rectangle; mix it up. And don’t stress too much about dinner, it might be the forgotten munchie that wins the night.

Mud Bug Chug

“Did you suck the head?  Did you get any juice when you sucked it?” –Most common question of the day and an entertaining out of context quote.  Gigitty.

What is a mud bug chug? A crawfish boil.

I’ve got a buddy named Doug. Doug (who is on loan from Louisiana) just threw his 2nd Annual: San Diego Mud Bug Chug. The big difference in a classic boil and this party is that Doug is a home brewer of scrumptious and original beer. Yes, pairing beer and crawfish is nothing new. But Doug does it really well, and in copious quantities. Again: home brewer. 

Hoppy SD

As hop heavy beers gain in popularity, it still isn’t the standard for American beer drinkers…unless you live here :-)With San Diego’s growth in the craft beer world, the city has not only made a name for itself that is synonymous with quality, craftsmanship and originality, but it’s also known for it’s distinct style of hop heavy profiles; and in many circles, double IPA’s are referenced as “San Diego style Pale Ale”. This movement has made even casual San Diego beer enthusiasts familiar with quality, bitter, full flavored brews. I say this because (and correct me if I’m wrong), I question how many people have had the opportunity Doug gives us.

To reiterate

The experience of a crawfish boil with 3 outstanding home brews (out of a tap), all of which gave their own story to the day. So…thanks Doug.He brewed his flagship IPA coined, Matrimony Ale, which (me thinks), was made the first time as a wedding beer for a mutual friend. Matrimony Ale is classic, balanced, refreshing, and smooth; and whenever it’s around, is my favorite of the day. The other two beers of the day were a spiced ale and a smoked lager. The spiced ale was spiked with Kochu, a distinct Korean chile pepper that gave a perfect amount of heat on the back end; and when I say back end, I mean on the finish, lulz. The other brew was a smoked lager that tasted exactly like it was intended to taste. Nice and smooth with a bite of smoke that begged for a bug.

The flavor keeps coming

That begging is what blew me away. The perfect food pairing of the crawfish with the spiced ale or the smoked lager, both on their own or even together. Yes together…if you’ve never combined quality beers before I highly recommend it. If someone scoffs at the idea just let it go. Later on in the party their curiosity will get the better of them, and they will be forced to apologize and give you props. ***Disclaimer–This only works with tapped, high quality beer and a little forethought toward the end product. Meaning…no suicides. Crawfish are boiled in a powerful chile and spice broth that can go with any beer really. But these two beers, whether separate or combined, connected the dots to a perfect food and beverage pairing.


To the uninitiated, a food and alcohol pairing is successful when both food and drink are elevated as the flavors intermingle. This unlocks hidden flavors or pulls known flavors to the forefront.It was a gorgeous San Diego day with lots of friendly, happy people gettin’ down and dirty on a table full of authentic cultural cuisine. I relish communal eating experiences and I get fired up even more when I know someone took the time to prepare something artisanal; something that can’t be re-created by myself, or procured anywhere else. It lets your guests know that you care about quality and their happiness.Here’s some pics until next year, woot woot!

Chuckle heads prepping
The Business

The Spices

The Boilz


You want me to do what now?
It looks like he’s singing patience. But I don’t know, this was after the beer was gone.
Ohm nom nom