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Archive for September, 2008

I was going to post this before I left for the weekend, but time was short. So please read this like it was last Thursday or Friday!

Everyone is getting sick of chili in the house. This is the fourth version in the past two weeks. I made a buffalo chili this week, but didn’t like it so I’m not going to post about it. Not that it was bad, it was just not exciting in the least.

If you missed the first two versions you can find them here – Springfield Chilli & White Bean & Chicken Chili. Keep in mind that all three of these recipes are adapted from Cooking Light. They are not the full-fat versions!

We’ve continued to work on the business plan for the new restaurant and are almost done with the list of restaurants we are going to visit in San Francisco this weekend. There are so many cool places we want to visit to get inspiration for the interior of the new place.

I’m very much looking forward to visiting my friends, Diane and Brain’s, very cool, very unique candy store in San Francisco called The Candy Store. You can check it out here. Diane and I used to work together in the city back in the Internet hay days! Diane was one of my best friends in the city and I’m so excited that their store is successful. It had been a dream of hers for as long as I’ve known her, but the cost and expense of doing business is San Francisco is so high. She persevered and finally last year they were able to swing it. If you are ever in San Fran go take a look, it will be well worth it! And tell Diane Joe sent you.

As to my other major endeavor, keeping myself in shape…I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry about exercising or eating right until I come back from the city this weekend. Then I will get myself back on track. Though this chili is from Cooking Light so that’s helpful. Another picture below!

I did blow it big time last night. This will either make you queasy, laugh or make you feel sorry for me, but about six months ago we ran out of milk. We always have the fat-free variety in the house, so I decided to use some half and half. I loved it! Now I know that the caloric content is about 10 million times more so I don’t often do this, but every once in awhile I break down and have cereal with half and half. Last night was one of those nights. Two bowls at 9:00pm of a very cool Canadian cereal called Shreddies (my wife grew up in Canada) and a fair amount of cream. YUM! I’ve even tried it with heavy cream once, yes 40% fat, but this was a bit too much!

So how about more chili? This version is from Cincinnati and has pasta of all things. According to the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cincinnatians consume more than two million pounds of chili each year, topped with 850,000 pounds of shredded cheddar cheese. Wow, I guess I need to put A LOT more cheese on this next time. I did a Google image search and found some crazy pictures with so much cheese I couldn’t even begin to believe it. I guess this is fast food in Cincinnati.

Anyone from Cincinnati who can set me straight on what the real deal is let me know!

I liked it, not as much as the Springfield Chilli or the Chicken Chili, but it was a completely different taste profile and meal. Give it a try and let me know what you think. It was well worth the minimal effort to put it together.

Cincinnati Five-Way Chili (serves 4)

(adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound ground sirloin
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium), divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons spicy barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 3 1/2 cups hot cooked spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and warmed
  • Oyster crackers (optional)

Heat oil a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add both the turkey and the sirloin to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.

Add 2 cups of the onion and all of the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in 1 cup water along with the ingredients on the list up to and including the tomato puree. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Make the spaghetti when the meat mixture is almost done. Heat up the kidney beans in the microwave for one minute.

Place about 3/4 cup spaghetti into each of 4 bowls. Ladle 1.5 cups chili into each bowl. Top each serving with some onion, cheese, and beans. Serve with crackers and devour!

PS – I just picked up a cool Greek Cookbook. I’ve been wanting to try some Greek recipes for a while, not many good Greek places in Reno, so stay tuned. I think I will make pastitsio next week!

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Let me start by saying that I didn’t misspell Chilli in the title.  From what I read in Cooking Light, where this recipe was adapted from, there is a version of chili from Springfield, Illinois where they spell it with two Ls.  If anyone from Illinois is reading this please enlighten us!

So, I’m sure some of you are dying to know how I’m doing on my list of ten.  Well I would give myself a solid B-. I’ve pretty much hit all the goals so far with the exception of everything to do with getting up early and eating less and exercising.

I’m actually really disappointed that I haven’t kicked myself back into gear.  I’m doing my old habit of, “I’ll get around to it tomorrow”.  I’m a bit concerned because I’m not good at focusing on too many things at one time.  I was focusing on working out and the blog, but now I’m focusing on the new restaurant, family and the blog.  I’ve been here before.  I’ve lost weight many times only to have it all reappear over the next year. This time has to be different though.  No excuses, I just need to hunker down and do it!

Oh well, let’s move on.  We are in the throes of writing our business plan right now.  Nancy and I went out to a casual dinner tonight and literally spent two hours making a list of the items that we need to discuss.  Forget about discussing details, we just spent the time coming up with a list of discussion points.

We are asking ourselves questions like – What is our concept for the new place? What does the new menu look like? How many different types of cookies and baked good items are we going to have? Are we open from 7am to 5pm or 7am to 6pm? Weekends? Different hours on the weekends? different menu on Saturaday morning? Full breakfast each day? What is lacking in the surrounding area? What do our current customers like? What don’t they love? What new items will we add? How many people do we need? What are the positions? Does the restaurant look like the current restaurant? Does it have comfy seats? Modern seats? Holy cow, fun but nerve racking at the same time! Lucky for us we actually already have a restaurant to go by.  I don’t know what we would do otherwise.

This weekend we are headed to San Francisco to do some research.  I grew up in the Bay Area so I always love a trip to the city.  Tomorrow night we are making a list of all the places we want to visit to get more inspiration, menus and design ideas.  We are not really telling any friends that we will be down there because we hope to visit as many places as we can.  I will post the list on my next blog entry.  If you have any ideas for fun breakfast/lunch places in the city, please pass them along in the comments!

So on to the chili.  Rather the chilli. This was a great recipe.  I found it along with the Chicken Chili I made recently in Cooking Light.  I adapted a few things, but nothing major.  Both Randy and Jacob are self proclaimed Chili haters and they both had seconds, see picture below.  Haha.

If you like some kick you could add a tablespoon of Tabasco, but overall I thought the chili was excellent.  The bacon added a nice sweetness to the flavor and well, it had cumin, which I love right now!

Both this recipe and the Chicken Chili were excellent and both were loved by the kids and Nancy. You can’t go wrong with either!  Here is the recipe for the cornbread, which I followed, but both of the boys like sugar so I added two more tablespoons!

Springfield Chilli (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 2 bacon slices, finely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups finely chopped onion (about 2 medium)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1 (12-ounce) can beer (pale ale worked well)
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we like Tillamook Sharp Cheddar)
  • Oyster crackers
  • Sour Cream

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat 5 minutes or until browned. Stir in 2 cups onion; cover and cook until onion is tender (about 5-7 minutes). Uncover and stir in garlic; cook for 1 minute.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the turkey and ground beef to pan. Cook 5 minutes or until browned, break up with wooden spoon while cooking. Add beer; cook until liquid is reduced to 1/3 cup (about 7 minutes).

Stir in chili powder, Worecestershire, salt, cumin, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until mixture thickens. Stir in beans; cook uncovered for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Ladle chili into your bowls, top with cheese, sour cream, crackers and 2 teaspoons onion. Devour!

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It starts for real today. The architect for the new building met with us today to go over some of our requirements for the new place. Up until this point it was all up in the air, serious, but not super serious.

The economy is in the tank, the stock market fell 500 points today and we are talking about building a new restaurant from the ground up and we don’t even have the money secured yet. No risk, no reward!

We figured out today that the restaurant will be approximately 1,800 square feet with almost half being devoted to the kitchen and storage. Current kitchen = 87 square feet, new kitchen = 900 square feet. I think we will be able to stop turning down business soon.

So tonight I told myself I need to kick it into gear. I need to start working much more on the business planning and complete all of the projects that are out there. I need to engage and reinvent myself for the upcoming 9 to 12 months. Here are my priorities starting right now.

1) Spend more time with my wife, whom I love dearly, away from work so when we are working our ass off and arguing (her words) and debating (my words) in the next year we can realize that it’s only about work. We are going to San Francisco in a few weeks to kick this off.

2) Spend more time with my stepson Randy because he is in the thick of it at the University of Nevada at Reno and needs all the support he can get. Spend more time with my parents in California since they are the reason I’m successful and able to do any of this.

3) Make a new to do list with deadline dates for all of the projects I want to work on and actually do them. Don’t play paintball if I’m not on schedule. Don’t buy any new books or hobby stuff unless I’m on schedule.

4) Get up one hour earlier each day, thank GOD for everything I have, drink a cup of coffee and read something for pleasure so I’m not pissed off that I don’t have as much leisure time.

5) Work out every night regardless of whatever the hell happens, even if I have to stay up until 11:00 to do it.

6) Come up with a comprehensive blueprint for what is working and what is not in the current location so as not to make the same mistakes again.

7) Increase baked good sales by 50% within a three month period! Yeah Joannie is going to like this one. Much of the business plan for the new place calls for a huge increase in baked goods. Why wait?

8) Cook dinner at least 2 times each week and blog about it! Continue to improve my photography skills. The photography part really needs to wait until paintball season is over for the winter and then I can trade out the time.

9) Eat less than 2,000 calories per day, at least 6 days per week. Lose 20 pounds in the next 5 months.

10) Increase the traffic to my blog from the current 500 to 800 visits per day to more than 1,200 per day.

Okay there it is. I think it covers everything that is really, really important for the next 6 months. Let’s see how it goes. How many do you think I can achieve out of the 10 things? Damn, there are so many more important things I need to do as well.

Oh, here is the first pic of the empty lot where the building is going! This corner is the 4th busiest in Reno, there are businesses on all corners with the exception ours. The daytime population in a 5-mile radius is 140,000 people. I only need .00107 of them to come in each day. Should be a cakewalk. Which we will be selling a lot of. Cake. See Nancy’s blog this week!

So what about the recipe? Well, here it is. Of all places I found it in Real Simple Magazine and I would have passed on it, but it had curry in it, which I love right now, and it was also easy. The perfect food for after work.

I made a few adjustments to the original recipe with Nancy’s help to spice it up a bit.

Curried Rice with Shrimp (serves four)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped – I didn’t have any, the dog ate them
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • Pinch red pepper flakes – adjust to your level
  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds of large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large skillet, with available lid, over medium heat. Add onion and carrot, cook stirring occasionally until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the garlic and curry, cook, stirring until fragrant about 2 minutes. If it starts to burn, turn down the heat. Cooking the curry activates the spice.

Add rice, 2 1/2 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper,  and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Season the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Nestle the shrimp in the partially cooked rice. Cover and cook until the shrimp are opaque throughtout, 5 to 6 minutes. Fold in the basil, this is the best part, and serve right away.

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Well, where did I leave off. Refrigerators breaking and my body fat percentage increasing. Things seem to be going better this week so far. Business has picked up on the catering side and unfortunately I had to turn down some business because we were slammed a few days.

Many people ask me what our typical day is like and most think we work nonstop, which we don’t. Most of the time we have it made. Once every few weeks I might work a day from 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 or 7:00 at night, but I would guess on average I work from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon, which isn’t really too bad. We could definitely work more hours and make more money, but I’ve been there in the past and have come to the conclusion that family and free time is much more important that money.

So how does my average day play out? It’s not glamorous but it pays the bills. I always get to the restaurant by 7:00, the moment we open the doors. Megan gets there much earlier to get the place up and running, make the coffee, make the days soup, bake off scones and breads, etc. Next comes Lisa our sandwich maker and prep cook at 7:30, not long after Joannie our baker and Nancy come in. At 9:00 our counter person, Cassie, comes in unless it’s Wednesday in which case Sarah is our counter person.

Most of my mornings, from 7:00 to 11:30 I spend working on the caterings (making salads, putting together platters, cutting bread, etc.) along with dealing with the customers who come in the door. There are days when I don’t have time to think from the moment I walk in until the moment I leave to deliver catering orders. Other days I might spend time talking to the regulars, though I rarely spend more than a few minutes with any one customer.

From 11:30 to 12:30 I’m oftentimes out making lunch catering deliveries. Half of our revenue comes from catering orders so I really think at this stage of our business, it’s important to go out and make deliveries and see the clients and the offices. It gives me important contact with my customers and also lets me see their response to the food. Honestly it’s also nice to get out of the restaurant before the craziness of lunch starts.

By the time I get back to the restaurant the lunch rush is usually going in full swing and I then spend the next two hours working the counter, taking orders, bringing food out to tables, refilling drinks, handing out napkins and everything front of the house. If we are really busy and we get backlogged then I will head back to the kitchen and start washing dishes. Basically I do anything that needs to be done with the exception of making the sandwiches. If it’s slow I take pictures…

After we close at 2:30 I usually will do the drawer, count the money, pay out the tips and reconcile the numbers. Then many things have to be done depending on the day. I might spend a few hours on the phone working with customers on their orders or just selling new catering gigs. Other days Nancy and I have to brainstorm on new marketing ideas or talk about how to handle specific situations with customers, respond to bids or talk about how to handle situations with our employees (fortunately this part is rare). Some days I end up going to Costco, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to pick up food we don’t get from our normal suppliers. Once in awhile I just leave and go home!

Most of the time the day ends here, but once per week I spend an hour or two working on Quickbooks. To save us money I do all of the books for the business…I took two years of accounting in college so I know a bit of what I’m doing.

Lastly if something big is going on I should be spending another 5 to 10 hours per week working on projects. Currently we are getting ready to build the business plan for the new location and we need to figure out what our retail marketing plan is for the holidays in short order. All of this work has to happen outside of the normal day unfortunately, but most of the time it’s a blast!

So this last Monday I had one of those days that didn’t end too quick and I needed to make something fast that would taste good. I looked through my book of ripped out recipes from the magazines I read and found one for Chicken Shawarma from Cooking Light.

The picture doesn’t do it justice. I really need to start experiment with some other backgrounds and purchase some different plates. The meal was great and both Randy and Jacob went back more than once to fill another pita.

Here is the definition of Shawarma from Wikipedia – Middle Eastern-style sandwich usually composed of shaved lamb, goat, or chicken. Less commonly, it contains turkey, beef, or a mixture of meats. Shawarma is a popular dish and fast-food staple across the Middle East, it has also become popular world-wide.

Chicken Shawarma (serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into strips

Sauce

  • 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt – I used Fage
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Other

  • 8 pitas
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 16 tomato slices

Combine the ingredients up to the chicken in a large bowl. Add the chicken, toss to coat and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

To make the sauce combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, salt and garlic, combining with a whisk or a fork.

Heat grill pan on stove with medium-high heat. Alternately you can grill the chicken outside on your gas grill. Place all of the chicken on the grill pan and cook for five minutes, turn and cook for another five minutes or until internal temperature is 160 degrees.

If using a outdoor grill, place pita on rack and grill for one minutes on each side or until lightly toasted.

Assemble pita by topping with lettuce, tomato slices, chicken pieces and sauce to your liking! Devour!!

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I’ve been gaining some weight lately.  I can’t really attribute it to the blog or anything in my life.  I just love to eat and have been doing a bit too much lately.  For those of you new to the blog, I’ve lost about 45 pounds in the last year and now I’m in good shape.  I need to maybe lose about 15 more pounds, but I’m mostly happy at this weight.  Everyone who comes into the restaurant who know me well tells me I should be done…I don’t believe them.  I unfortunately can be a perfectionist sometimes and I oftentimes just plain reject compliments.  Oh well, we all have our faults.

This week was fairly slow catering wise – we didn’t have any events for a change and of course it was a short week with the holiday.  The restaurant was fairly busy, but still below my goals.  It was a good week to catch up on things though and we continued to do some organization and deep cleaning.  It’s a funny business.  We are really slow in January, start to pickup up in February, will be pretty busy through May, super busy June, July and August, slow in September and October and then nuts for November and December.  It works out that we make a ton of money for a few months and think, wow lets go buy something or go on a trip, then we have a slow month and the extra money seems to disappear again.  It keeps us on our toes though and Nancy and I have a trip scheduled for San Fran later this month that we are really looking forward to.

We are known around town for our baking and I did have some fun taking pictures for our website this week of a few of the cakes we make.  We did a Red Velvet Cake, our Signature Carrot Cake along with a Pumpkin Spice and Vanilla Layer Cake.  Here are few pics for the fun of it!

So, back to eating too much!  I have and so tonight I decided to cook something simple out of Cooking Light.  I found this recipe in the recent issue and adapted it to meet my needs.

I thought it might be too spicy/hot at first glance, but it turned out perfect.  It reminded me more of a soup though than a traditional chili, but what do I know?  I can tell you though that Jacob never eats any chili I make and he said he really liked this one and in fact went back for seconds which is always the telltale sign that he likes it.

So give it a try and let me know how it goes. I think this might go well as a starter to some brisket or pulled pork or better yet as the main with some corn bread.

Also for those of you who cook a lot or have a food blog…how do you keep your caloric intake down? Especially those of you who bake!

White Bean Chili / Soup (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups less-sodium, chicken broth
  • 5 teaspoons of Tabasco (if you desire a less spicy version lower to 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Greek or Plain Yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions for garnish
  • Lemon wedges from one lemon

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add chopped onions, cook for five minutes until onions are softened, stirring often.  Add garlic and cook for one more minute, make sure to stir so as not to burn the garlic.

Add chicken broth, Tabasco, salt and the chicken to the dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove chicken and place on a plate to cool.

Add the cornmeal and beans to the broth.  Using a whisk mix well.  Simmer for another 15 minutes with the lid off.  Mash about one quarter of the beans on the side of the pan.  Shred the chicken with your hands and add to the pan.  Simmer for another five minutes or until the chili thickens, stirring frequently.

Top each serving with yogurt, sprinkle with green onions and serve with lime wedges. Devour!

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Ok, let me start by saying this. This recipe is kick-ass easy and awesome, assuming you like eggs! I made it this past weekend and will be making it again this coming weekend. I love baked eggs and this improves on my last recipe. How can you go wrong, bacon, cheese, cream, eggs and toast all in one lovely package.

Second, for those of you who enjoy the restaurant stories, below you will find one…It is not a happy one, not particularly funny and I might be whining a bit, so if you are not in the mood skip down to the recipe. If your are, this is a good example of why not to own a restaurant unless you like to clean, don’t mind working long hours, have money that you might never see again and most of all love people and customer service. Well of course you need to love food and have a passion for being the best!

I’m sure you know that restaurants, unlike many businesses, need a ton of equipment to operate. We have stoves, multiple refrigerators, ovens, multiple freezers, prep tables, a very expensive espresso machine, drink display refrigerators, food processors, mixers, etc. Each of these items with the exception of the small stuff runs from a couple of thousand dollars on up.

Like all things, the stuff breaks and needs to be fixed, occasionally it has to be replaced. Fortunately or unfortunately most of our equipment was in the restaurant when we purchased it six years ago and it was already old then. So what does old equipment do? It breaks.

The worst is when it’s refrigeration. First off we are small, we don’t have much refrigeration and what we have is usually full to the brim. Imagine playing Tetris with food. That’s how it works around here. The worst is on Monday and Wednesday mornings when we get the bulk of our deliveries.

We are closed on Saturday and Sunday and sometimes we don’t have caterings on the weekends so there are times when we don’t have to step foot in the place for 48 hours. Most of the time this is a good thing (yes we love the business, but everything in moderation), unless of course one of the refrigerators fails and you come in to warm food. This sucks, plain and simple. You end up throwing product away and then usually have to pay to have someone to make repairs.  I can do the accounting, mostly the taxes, marketing, cook some stuff, sell ice to an Eskimo, but I can’t fix anything mechanical.

Well guess what, wouldn’t you know, one of our fridges went down. It happened to one our our refrigerators that we have been nursing along, which happens to use an extinct refrigerant, R-12. We fixed it almost a year ago, but we knew that next time it went down we would be screwed, for lack of a better term.

We call our repair guy, he of course verified our findings and told us we could buy a new compressor, rebuild the thing and keep nursing it along or just buy a new one. Cost difference, not much.  We needed it and we needed it now.

$1,978 later, sweaty, dirty and tired after picking up a new one, moving the old one out and moving around half of the other 400 pound equipment that was in the way, we had a brand spanking new refrigerator. Blah, how fun is that? I could have bought a 50-inch LCD tv or put lawn in our back yard, which is still half dirt and weeds, or traveled or done something fun. Let me tell you, buying a new refrigerator is boring.  I like spending money as much as anyone else, but spending it on a refrigerator, well is quite anti-climatic!

Oh and since I’m complaining, to top it off our refrigerator at home, only two years old, LG brand, (don’t ever buy an LG) is broken and is randomly freezing everything in the refrigerator section. Imagine four cans of Diet Coke exploding and freezing to everything in the refrigerator.  LG has been out to fix it three times and every time they do, the same part breaks…but, well, it’s out of warranty. Sorry folks, nothing we can do, nothing at all. In fact at this point we really can’t even fix it because we can’t figure out what is wrong. DOH!

Oh well, life is actually damn good and most of the time I love the restaurant, but there are days.  On to baked eggs recipe adapted from Kitchen Playdates by Lauren Bank Dean.  Adjust as you see fit.  There were only three of us and I was running out of bread.

Baked Eggs, Toast and Bacon in One Package (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 8 slices thin bread – I used a local multigrain bread and flattened it a bit with a rolling pin
  • 3 pieces cooked bacon or use prosciutto or ham
  • 8 farm eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Heavy cream or half and half
  • Chopped fresh chives for garnish
  • Grated cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano or your favorite cheese
  • Butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter your muffin tin.  Cut edges off each piece of bread to form a square about four inches by four inches. Butter the bread slices.  Press each slice gently into the bottom of the muffin cup so that the four edges are pointing up like in the picture.  Bake for 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bread, until it is starting to crisp.

Remove tin from the oven, place the bacon, prosciutto or ham on the bottom of each cup.  Crack an egg into each cup.  Season with salt and pepper, pour a bit of cream on top and cover with cheese to your liking.

Place the muffin tin back into the oven and bake for 10 to 14 minutes until the whites are just set, or to the desired consistency. With a fork or an offset spatula, remove the bread cups, garnish with chives and devour!

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I seem to have a backlog of recipes to write about. I did fish and chips last week and made some super cool baked eggs, baked in toast. Watch for this one – it was super easy and combined cheese, eggs, toast and bacon, with a bit of cream all in one small muffin-sized package.

First up though is the brisket I smoked on Sunday on the new Weber Smokey Mountain. This is the third brisket I’ve made in the past six months and the most successful. The first version I started on the gas grill and finished it in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil. It was good, but lacked the smoky flavor.

The second version I made on my old charcoal Weber. The idea here was to get more smoke. Somehow, maybe I was sleeping in, I like to sleep in, I started late, about 4 hours later than planned, and didn’t finish it until 10:00pm that night.  My wife now frowns a bit when I start talking about making anything that takes more than 4 or 5 hours.

The rub on this version was perfect and I will share it below. I ended up overcooking the bottom of the brisket when the grill got a bit too hot and I forgot to turn the brisket in the last few hours. It ended up with about 1/4 inch of crust, which tasted great, but was not quite what I was looking for.

The third and last version I did this past weekend. My new smoker was delivered from Amazon last week and on Saturday I pulled it out of the box and put it together (in the family room – thanks, Nancy)!

Once again, I did sleep in this time, I started late, but I figured I had plenty of time to get the brisket done, low and slow.  I filled up bottom of the smoker with a load of fresh charcoal, threw the brisket on the top grill, closed the lid and took a temperature reading….140 degrees! What, no way, has to be wrong.  I’ll wait a bit and see what happens.

15 minutes later, 135 degrees. Oh crap. I throw in another load of charcoal I had working on the side. The temp goes up to 150. Something is wrong, but I have no idea what it is. The smoke is coming out of the thing like clockwork, but the heat is not even close to the 225 I’m looking for.

20 minutes later, 150 degrees still, I thrown more charcoal in, the temp goes up to 175 and then won’t budge. At this point I have enough charcoal in the bottom of the smoker to power a small steam engine. I’m now figuring it has something to do with lack of oxygen, but all the vents are open and things should be going well.

Now I’m starting to think about the bacteria that will start growing on the meat soon if I don’t get the f$%##ing temperature up. Ok, more coals and then more coals. Finally about 75 minutes into it I have the temperature at 225. Ok now, I have some time to think so I head to the Internet to see what I can find out.

Aha, the first picture points out to me that I forgot to the put the charcoal grate down as well as the charcoal chamber. How do I run a restaurant, not sure.  Good employees I guess.  Don’t ask me what I was thinking, but basically the charcoal was getting no airflow. I had it all piled up on the bottom of the smoker! CRAP.

So what to do. Well, I couldn’t handle it, I had to fix it. So I pulled the top and middle section off the grill and then used tongs to relocate the charcoal, fix the grill, put the charcoal back, put the meat back on, and pretty much started all over again. DOH!

Well, what time did we eat you might ask? I was shooting for the brisket to be done at 7:00 and I pulled it off the grill at 9:30. Not so bad, 30 minutes faster than last time. Hahaha. The meat was great and the smoke flavor was perfect. I can’t wait to do some ribs or pork shoulder next!

Here is some helpful info:

  • The Virtual Weber Bullet – Great web site will everything you want to know about the Smokey Mountain.
  • Pick a brisket that weighs 5 to 6 pounds and has a layer of fat at least 1/4 inch thick. Don’t pick up a small trimmed brisket that has not fat. It will dry out quick.
  • If you want smoky flavor, but don’t want to spend all day cooking the brisket, start it on a grill, 250 to 275 degrees, until the internal temperature is 140 to 150 and then finish it in a 325 degree oven, wrapped tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil, for an hour and a half or until the internal temperature is 190 degrees.
  • Thinly slice the meat across the grain and make sure to let the meat rest for 20 minutes before cutting.
  • If using a gas grill it should be easy to get the temp to 250. You will most likely leave the back burner on med and turn the others off. You will want to make a smoke pouch. You can do this by placing your soaked chips on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, cover the chips with the foil, making an enclosed pouch. Then poke holes in the top so the smoke can escape. You will place the pack on top of the burner that is producing heat.
  • When barbecuing with indirect heat using charcoal you will need to add fresh coals every 45 to 60 minutes to maintain the temperature. In the past I would add unlit briquettes to my coals but I noticed that it took too long for them to burn and put off heat which meant uneven heating. Now instead of emptying the entire charcoal starter of lite coals into the barbecue I leave 3 or 4 at the bottom, then add 10 fresh coals on top and set aside. By the time I need to replace some of the coals in the Weber these coals are ready to go.

Kansas City Brisket (serves 6 to 8)

Recipe adapted from Peace, Love and Barbecue which is a great BBQ Book with recipes and stories!

Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 pound Beef Brisket with fat cap of at least 1/4 inch

Rub

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Lawry’s season salt
  • 3 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup celery salt
  • 1/2 cup onion salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

Mustard Slather

  • 4 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons good beer

Combine all the rub ingredients and blend well. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk the mustard, vinegar and beer together until incorporated. Set aside.

Coat the brisket with the mustard slather. Season the slathered brisket, liberally, with the rub. Marinate overnight if you have the time. If not don’t stress it.

Smoke the brisket at 225 to 250 degrees for approximately one-and-a-half-hours per pound. Turn the brisket at three hours and then after another one-and-a-half hours.

Start with one cup of wood chips and then 1/2 cup every hour when you add more coals.

Cook to an internal temperature of 190 degrees. Take brisket off grill, tent with heavy duty aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes.

Here is the rub from Steven Raichlen.

Steven Raichlen Lean and Mean Texas BBQ Brisket Rub

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine them all in a bowl and mix well. Rub the brisket on all sides!

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