Category Archives: Blog Post

ROCKIN’ FISH REVIEW

            On Friday night, I went to the Rockin’ Fish restaurant in Northport with eight extended family members to celebrate the life of my wonderful Brother-in-law, Tom, after his funeral earlier in the day. I found it almost ironic to be going to a funeral ON Memorial Day weekend for such a terrific, fun loving man, but alas here I am.

            We were all gathered around the table exchanging family stories when the waitress approached looking to take our drink order. It was water all around and one lager beer on tap. The beer surprisingly was not for me. I had to drive home and it was going to be a long day so I refrained from any alcohol that evening.

I think we were seated at their biggest table, so I would suggest not going there with any more than eight people, unless it’s a beautiful night to eat outside. Needless to say (but I’m still saying it), it was a rainy Friday night.

The water came to the table in chilled bottles as we all conversed. We all pondered our dinner orders comparing notes of who would order what off the menu. Debbie, my amazing sister in-law, could not decide between the fish sandwich or the “Stupid Chicken Sandwich”. No kidding, that’s what it’s called. I offered to help my sister in-law, much to my wife’s dismay, by suggesting we order both and split them between us. I was delighted when she accepted, but that meant Jennifer had to choose her own meal. Her choice was the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, sans tomato and blue cheese as she is allergic to the former and despises the taste of the latter on anything.

We all ordered our respective meals: one medium rare hamburger was the old standby for my mother in-law. Sam ordered their fabulous fish tacos, Adam the fish and chips, Adam’s friend Will’s choice was the Pasta Bolognese. Ben ordered the Pasta Bolognese as well, along with the wedge salad.

I always wondered why restaurants charge so much for wedge salads. I remember the first wedge salad I had was as a child; it was served to me in a seafood restaurant called the Schooner. The restaurant was located on the Nautical mile in Freeport, New York. This was my mom’s favorite place to eat, right until it closed in the late seventies.  I think back to those days in the seventies when the wedge salad came “free” with the meal. The Schooner’s version of the salad was a quarter head of iceberg lettuce with your choice of salad dressing. They only offered four choices and did not even have a premade vinaigrette dressing, so my brother always had to order oil and vinegar. I myself always chose the Thousand Island dressing as a kid and I loved it. To this day, I still compare EVERY Thousand Island dressing to that one. My whole point to this salad diversion is I have a wedge salad recipe slated for this book. I will be bringing it to work in the very near future so I can post here for everyone to enjoy. It also costs less than $10 to make. I should bring enough for the whole office, huh?

            Well, the weekend is over and it’s time to go back to the old grind. I would just like to close today’s post with a prayer for a truly excellent brother in-law and all those who knew him. We will all miss his laughter, sense of humor, generosity, and kindness very much.

Tom, it was a pleasure to know you, and I will think of you always with a smile on my face, as I continue to live my own life with an exuberance for gardening and things you loved that you have inspired in me.

Thank you.

            Until next time, I wish everyone to be well, healthy, and happy.

            -The Drunken Chef (Russ)

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing, 2021

Memorial Day Tribute

The post I write today is in tribute to all the brave Men and Women who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we as Americas and all the free nations of the world can celebrate such things as: Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, and Freedom to Worship as depicted in Norman Rockwell’s four famous paintings.

Today is a solemn event so as we thank are veterans for their service, remember that today is about our soldiers who didn’t make it home. I hope everyone who reads this has a good a day, a fun day filled with family and friends, sunshine and laughter.

I hope that this country provides for you the opportunities you have dreamed of and strive to fulfill in your right to pursue happiness. You have the ability to choose hope for a better tomorrow and that this hope for a brighter future brings comfort for those who are grieving today.

I know only how much I appreciate all the sacrifices my own family members have made over the years to try and make our world a safer and better place to live with these four freedoms in mind.  It is my hope that one day we can all learn somehow to stop hurting each other and learn to get along in peace.

God bless and be well.

Thank you to you all,

-The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Introducing Our New Senior Copy Editor

Today, I would like to introduce and thank Julianna (AKA Jules) for joining the staff here at THE MAGIC OF A PERFECT PAIRING magazine. Julianna currently holds our new position of chief copy editor.

Julianna is far more than my new copy editor, she makes sure that all the stories in our little magazine read well, flow logically, and are grammatically correct, while also fixing all my incredibly bad spelling errors along the way.

She has a tough job as my copy editor in combating all my dangling modifiers, errant commas, and all other common grammatical mistakes. She is far more than just our magazine proofreader, she is a family friend and I hope she can come to visit my kitchen soon for some taste testing events.

She is very detail-oriented and skilled as a writer in her own right. I hope to be able to get some stories written by her for your reading pleasure. Her input will help to improve the quality, content and style of this magazine. I am now constantly on the lookout for more writers, reporters, and correspondents to join us here at THE MAGIC OF A PERFECT PAIRING so we can provide the best content possible to make your cooking and dining experiences even better!

Please join me if giving Jules a warm welcome and let’s encourage her to write an article or two herself!

Thank you for all your help, Julianna!

-The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Salmon Poached in Butter Sauce

            According to some feedback I received lately, my blog posts are getting a bit too long in the tooth. It’s not that the posts were old, but rather the people who read them were older by the time they finished them because they were so long. I have agree, so let’s make this shorter.

            Some days, you just need to eat fish. This was how I felt Sunday. Besides, I really need to get rid of this huge piece of fish in my freezer that I have been moving around for six months. I was going to fire up the grill but it looked like rain. I have cooked many fish in the great outdoors. It keeps the house from smelling too “fishy” which Jen appreciates. I guess we will have to wait for that until next time, and nice weather. For now, we will turn to the oven.

Salmon is one of my favorite fish to cook and eat. I begin by lightly defrosting the wonderfully huge piece of salmon I purchased at Lidl. It was defrosted just enough so I could pull off the skin (I literally pulled most of it off). It also helps that I have a filet knife (I added that to my gadgets list) to assist me with this task.

The skin is now removed and I made the pouching liquid. It just so happened that I had an open bottle of Pinot Gris. I poured one cup into a pot and boiled it down by half on high temperature. I clarified some butter (about 1½ sticks). This went into the pot with the wine that was now on low . To that, I added some dill, maybe a teaspoon or so, some parsley, and a heaping tablespoon of lemon juice. Turn off the heat under the pot and let it cool to room temperature. While that is cooling, I got together some chicken stock. In a medium size pot, were three cups of water with a heaping tablespoon of Better Then Bullion® chicken stock and just a bit of minced up carrots (for color). I brought that up to the boil. While waiting for the water to boil I peeled some asparagus with a brand new OXO vegetable peeler that I recently acquired from the store Bed Bath and Beyond using a coupon, saving some hard eared dough!

I put the peeled asparagus into a large All-clad pan with cold water. I turned the now boiling chicken broth down low and cook those tiny bits of carrots.

Jennifer does not eat fish, so I poached her some boneless skinless chicken breast. In my smaller All-Clad pan, I had put some water with Better then Bullion ® vegetable stock. It makes no sense to poach chicken in chicken stock. It would only taste like, chicken. So vegetable stock it was but BEFORE I could add the chicken, I peeled and cut up two large carrots. I added them to the vegetable stock. I needed to cook the carrots first, before I can add the chicken. I put paprika on the chicken while I waited for the carrots to get a bit tender. It takes about an hour to cook carrots. I wanted them firm but not mushy by the time the chicken and fish is done. Chicken cooked in boiling water cooks faster than potatoes or carrots so timing is everything in life. More metaphors today. I will try to stop.   

I poured myself a nice cold glass of that Pinot. Okay, I refilled my empty glass. Then, I relaxed a bit on the couch while the fish marinated and finished defrosting all the way. I watched some TV with Jennifer. Probably the Hallmark channel or that RV restoration couple on the County Television Network. I need me one of those Air-Stream trailers! Maybe when I retire.

The fish had been marinating now for about an hour. I popped it into a 400ºF oven. I removed the asparagus from the cold water to a plate. I added a good amount of salt to the water. It was probably close to a teaspoon of salt, give or take. Turn the heat up to high and wait for more water to boil. Do we spend our lives waiting for $%#& to happen? Then when it does, do we act surprised?

Check on the fish. Baste. Yes, it is doing nicely.

I added two cups of large pearl Couscous to the pot of chicken stock with the carrot bits and stir. Bring the couscous to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low. In five minutes, I added three tablespoons of butter and stirred again. Cover and cook five more minutes. Turn off heat and let stand. Mmm fluffy.

Using tongs, flip over the chicken in the pan. You did put the chicken in the pan, right? Check the fish. Put the asparagus in the now boiling salt water. Cover and turn on low. Chant: Cook. Cook Cook. Do not uncover for at least ten minutes.

The asparagus is done when its fork tender. Take the fish out of the oven, it’s done too. Am I forgetting anything? Plate it up so it looks like the picture below.

On the salmon is a sauce of: fresh dill, fresh parsley, fresh mint, olive oil, heavy cream and lemon juice. made in a food processor.

Salmon Poached in Butter Sauce

Pan Seared Sirloin

April 23, 2021

Happy Friday. I made it through Thursday at work unscathed however, the car fire on my way home extended my stress level for an extra thirty minutes. S what did I do first thing when I got home? Yes, I opened a beer, turned on some music and started cooking. I did this all just before Jennifer walked through the door chatting on her phone to our wonderful friend Nancy. Now I know most people would read that very sarcastically but the truth is Nancy is indeed a very sweet woman. The kind of friend who bakes Hamentashen for Purim and leaves them on your doorstep. This while being in stuck in isolation because of COVID-19. Now if you don’t know what Hamentashen is don’t be surprised, neither did I at first. In the simplest of terms it a yummy cookie eaten during Purim. I will get us the recipe… Shhhh.

So last night was Pan Seared Sirloin. I began by marinating it and putting two potatoes in the oven to bake. As I waited and cooked the other dishes, the steak soaked up the flavors of the teriyaki. I kept busy by slicing up three onions and frying them up in the pan, as I was going to make the steak. It dawned on me that I had mushrooms I had forgotten to make this weekend when our friends came over.  I cooked the onions separate from the mushrooms (Jennifer is not a big fan of mushrooms), but I imagine that if you were to cook the mushrooms and the onions together there would be a fantastic amalgamation of flavor. Here is the recipe for Peppers, Mushrooms and Onions. Although Jennifer does not eat them she makes a great stuffed mushroom on Thanksgiving. Go figure?

As the mushrooms cooked and I tossed them in a bit of butter. I trimmed the ends off some fresh string beans. These too were also left uncooked form the weekend. We might as well have a vegetable tonight, right? They went right into a small pot I had with boiling water, in a process called blanching.

Time to cook the steak! I dried it off, because as we all know a wet steak won’t turn brown even when added to a hot pan with oil. It steams on the juices then. It does not look as pretty when does. I never thought I would ever be calling a steak pretty. Hmmm, maybe appetizing word be a better word here.

I seared the steak on both sides and placed it under the broiler on the oven to finched. It came out medium rare. I gave Jennifer the end cut as she like her meat a little bit more well done.

When the steak reached a temperature of 135 degrees, I moved it from the pan to a plate. I let it rest a bit on a plate before I sliced it up. I served it with some of the teriyaki marinated I used to deglaze the pan with alongside the potato with butter, string beans, onions and mushrooms. Jennifer did like the string beans although I have to admit they needed to cook one more minute. They tasted a little too “green” to me.

Another successful meal behind me and one day closer to cooking things from my recipe book. I have to be honest I’m not quite sure how I’m going to handle that yet. It’s just a lot of recipes and they are just organized in a large five hundred page word document alphabetically. My second book is more of a cookbook but I only just started writing that (only two recipes in). Somehow, I have to find a way to combine the tow of them here and present them to you all.

That’s the real challenge isn’t it? It will be the daily showing of a brand new cookbook as its written in 365 days. Can it be done by an amateur like myself?

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing,2021

Fried Chicken Cutlets

I woke up at my usual 5:30am and the first thing I made coffee was coffee. Yes, I make coffee. I have tried those “pods” and have not found one that I like. They remind me of an old sci-fi movie. “The pods are coming! The pods are coming!” I digress. It’s early and I have not had my coffee yet. We will have to cover the making of “Real” coffee later on this year in a breakfast blog.

Last night was a chicken entre’. Fried chicken cutlets to be more specific. I started by getting home and opening a bottle of beer.  Jennifer came home shortly after that. I put on some music while she watched TV.  I began with the chicken. It came from Trader Joes grocery store, which I love but this particular chicken is frozen by them and is individual culets in a zip top bag. I find this very convenient after working all day. This meant however thawing out the chicken carefully in the microwave. If you’re not careful how you thaw it out you get microwaved chicken and there is nothing worse than microwaved chicken. Well I suppose there is but I can’t think of it right now.

While the chicken was defrosting, I preheated the oven. After the chicken was defrosted if any of the edges get a little cooked, I trim them off and throw it away. Next, I beat two eggs in a shallow bowl and get out the flavored breadcrumbs. I trim off the little bit of fat that might remain on the cutlets and filet them in half or even thirds so they are thin. If I had more energy I would have even pounded them thinner with a meat mallet but it was Wednesday so that meant easy and quick.  

I dredged the chicken in the egg and then the breadcrumbs making sure to cover them completely so no wet egg was showing. Then as the vegetable oil was heating up in my favorite large All-Clad pan, the chicken rested. Helping to adhere its soon to be crunchy goodness to the chicken.

I fried them over medium high heat or medium heat. It’s critical that you don’t fry at too high a temp or you will burn the bread crumbs BEFORE the chicken has a chance to cook. Once they are a deep golden brown I move them onto a baking dish on paper towels and place them in the oven. This keeps them warm and they can finish cooking all the way through slowly.

While the chicken was in the oven, I was a good husband this time and made not one but two vegetables. The first was a large green squash or Zucchini. That I cut up into coins about a quarter inch wide. Make sure you cut things evenly. We will discuss that more much later on too I am sure. I cooked these in a second pan with a bit of the hot oil from the chicken. I seasoned them with garlic power, onion powder, salt and black pepper. Hey! Don’t judge, it’s a weekday day and I’m cooking! The second vegetable was baby spinach that Jennifer just did not not want in her salads anymore so I was cooking it in butter and added a clove of roasted garlic to it that I had left over from the weekend.

Jen said it all turned out yummy, particularly the vegetables. I was just happy she liked it. Neither of us like our vegetable cooked to within an inch of their life so after having my second beer with dinner and watching Jeopardy it was a good night.

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing, 2021

Pasta in Pink Sauce or I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to really cook

April 21, 2021

                I have been asked to write a second article; as if the first one wasn’t torturous enough. Now you want to come back for more? So, here it goes, but instead of randomly writing posts, I have decided to write every day. Since I eat every day and do most of my own cooking, I figured I could write about that. Who wants to read about that? But my dear reader, what is in it for you? My answer: FREE recipes from the cookbook I have been writing for 20 years now. Yes, FREE. I will post the recipes from my cookbook that I cook every night at the end of the post. This way at the end of one year, you should have every recipe in my cookbook and for FREE.

                I will start this wonderful or crazy adventure May 1, 2021. Only because I love spring and it’s my favorite time of year for starting new projects. Let us see just how long this one lasts. For now (the rest of April) I will see just how difficult it will be to write a blog post every day.

                Last night I was lazy, tired and not much in the mood for cooking. Crazy I know! I came up with the brilliant idea to make pasta (not fresh but from a box – let’s not get crazy!), although my wife Jennifer was not thrilled with the idea of having pasta again.  It’s quick, (unless you don’t have home spaghetti sauce already on hand, which is did) and it’s easy and it’s filling. Unfortunately, I have been rather lazy lately and my waistline shows it from all the pasta we have been eating. Hopefully this project will help me to eat better!

                I started by heating up the last three meatballs in the sauce in a small pot over med-low heat and put on a large pot of water that I added a teaspoon of salt too on to boil. I would love to say then I when in a watch the hallmark Channel but alas there were no sappy rom-coms while I waited. I have a fear of the sauce burning so instead I opened a beer, stirred the sauce with meatballs occasionally and waiting patiently for the water to boil.

                Once the water boiled I added the pasta (from the box) and set the timer so that pasta would come out al dente’. Just five before the pasta was done I turned down the sauce to low and placed the meatballs (one and half each on our plates. Then I added some butter, half-and-half and grated parmesan cheese. Sorry I was out of heavy cream. Sue me. I put the pasta on the plate. Poured a good amount of the sauce over the top and served it up.

                Did I make a salad? No, I made that for Jennifer for lunch already. Did I make a vegetable? No, I was just too lazy. See I should eat better. I’m a bad, bad home cook for not making a vegetable. Betty Crocker would be very upset with me. Okay I’ll do better tomorrow Betty.

                Its’ time to go to my real job.

               

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing, 2021