Category Archives: Blog Post

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

Taco Tuesday – Homemade Blue Corn Taco’s

The Magic of a Perfect Pairing

Food, Wine and Other Things I love

By Russ (The Drunken Chef)

I want to keep my posts here relatively short and light so they can be read by the time you finish drinking your normal size morning coffee. For me that would be a large or extra-large regular caffeinated coffee. Do they even make an eight ounce size cups of coffee anymore? Let’s see, back to relatively short, that also means I want be able to write each of these articles on my lunch hour. Most importantly while eating something at my desk of course while I type. I can’t go all day without having to eat something good. I can skip breakfast most days now but NEVER lunch. Today’s lunch time snack is a pint chicken low-mien from my new favorite Chinese restaurant. I have them make it just a little spicy with a hint of Szechwan peppers, and it’s yummy.

Sometimes good Chinese food is hard to find. I am rather picky when it comes to food and the older I get the “more discerning” I have become about what I put in my mouth. I live in the suburbs just outside of Manhattan so the selection of wonderful and different types of food is as vast and as varied as the different cultures of people that surround me here Long Island. Being so close to a city and yet so far gives me the feeling I can do anything “artsy” I want too from seeing a Broadway play or going to a fine art museum or even a great restaurant without have to actually live in the hectic fast paced world that is New York City itself.

The cooking of something tasty and the eating of it is one of the things I love to do. When I find something I like at a restaurant I often try to recreate it in my kitchen at home. I cook something for myself and my wife almost every day. You see my wife, who can cook and cooks very well, does not enjoy it so she allows me to do all the cooking for her. I started my culinary endeavors in the kitchen at an early age when my mother first showed me how to make pancakes for myself as a child in elementary school. I cooked on weekends and in the summer and watched a lot of cartoons. Bugs Bunny being one my favorite shows back then. Later on I took a few cooking classes in high school but that was mostly to meet girls. I wound up not getting to date any of the beautiful girls that were in my cooking classes in high school  but I did developed my love for cooking as the conversations I could have with them over food grew longer and longer. I now still cook to not only to impress my wife but because I love to entertain friends and family on weekend or for holidays with a delicious meal and desserts.

Fast forward an undisclosed number of years and that brings me to Taco Tuesday this week. That’s not to say I have Tacos every Tuesday, NO. I hardly ever eat them anymore. Although my mouth loves the taste of a good taco and I have even liked some pretty bad ones in my day I can’t eat them all the time. I even have some good memories of eating tacos that were made on camping trips to the terribly greasy but delicious ones I had at Jack in the Box when it was still on Long Island. I even think that the first taco I ever ate came from Jack in the Box! Today, I don’t think the rest of my body likes them as much as my tastes buds do anymore so tacos are not a goto meal item for me.

So maybe it was the fact spring was in the air or maybe I was just delirious on a Monday having had to work all day when it was beautiful outside.  That night after trying to eat something I was not even hungry for I asked my lovely bride if she would like to have Tacos for dinner the next day. To my surprise she agreed and even thought it was a good idea! So, Tuesday on my way home from my real life job (writing is yet just another hobby I enjoy) I picked up the following: fresh ground beef (80% lean) that was on sale, Romaine lettuce and some gorgeous ripe plum tomatoes. I already had on hand an open container of sour cream from earlier in the week, a package of premade guacamole, a single eight once combination block of Monterey and cheddar cheese, a bottle Cholula Original Hot sauce and a box of blue corn taco shells that I had purchased on sale one day that was shoved in the back of the closet that I saw on Monday. This may have even been my inspiration to make tacos in the first place.

When I arrived home with my arm full of groceries I began to brown the pound and a half of ground beef. I was using my favorite large fourteen inch All-Clad Stainless-steel pan (my favorite frying pan) for this. Then just because my wife always wants me multitasking I also opened a beer at the same time while I cooked. Although, I could certainly find a nice wine to go with said tacos I usually never drink wine alone. Beer on the other hand is treated by me very similar to Coca-Cola. I never drink either of them before lunch but I can drink them alone and I do drink more beer then soda. I also never usually drink either beer or Coca-Cola every day but more often than not. So you might even say I love beer too. However, my wife does not drink often at all so I was enjoying my sudsy beverage alone. This particular beer was not a perfect match for tacos nor could I truly recommend to go with these tacos unless it all you have on hand but my bottle of Stella Artois did manage to taste pretty good after being at work all day on a sunny and warm Tuesday in March.

Once the meat had browned nicely on medium high heat I added the taco seasoning packet that I had purchased from some discount store and was now sitting in my spice cabinet. I like to cook but I’m not ALWAYS so anal retentive I can’t use a premade spice packet to season chop meat for tacos. I mean, I did save a whole 30 to 60 seconds instead of using all separate spices instead. There are those who think that maybe it’s a crime to use a premade spice packet for anything (like my “friends” Alton or Martha), but we are talking about easy quick tacos and beer here not Beef Wellington and Pino Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. You can however use separate spices if you don’t have the ninety-nine cent spice packet: 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp. oregano, ¼ tsp. cumin, ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Then I add ¾ cup of water.

While that simmers, I shredded half the block of cheese with a fine cheese grater. I “shredded” lettuce by cutting the head of romaine into thinish strips (thinish being somewhere around ¼ inch wide). You can also use iceberg lettuce for this and it’s just as good. I prefer using Romaine lettuce for this because Iceberg lettuce tends turn brown faster once cut, especially when cut into smaller pieces. Next, I diced a plum tomato and some pitted black olives for a garnish.

I warmed up the blue corn taco shells (these too didn’t make myself!) according to the package directions. Once the taco shells were warm I added the meat to the each one first. Next right against the hot meat goes the shredded cheese. The hot meat helps to melt the cheese a little. Then I plopped on just a bit of sour cream using the back the spoon to help spread it across (I like sour cream now on my tacos, dam you Taco Bell for that). I sprinkled on lettuce and tomatoes next. Then added some chopped black olives on top. Lastly, if you like your tacos with a kick I recommend the Chula Original Hot Sauce but any taco sauce from mild to cant feel you tongue hot will do. I garnished the plate with the huge dollop of guacamole and had some tortilla chips that I also warmed up and were ready to go on the side! The chips are perfect to scoop up all the stuff that I find falls out the back of my tacos and the guacamole, well that just a bonus and needed for any good Tex-Mex meal!

Of course before I sat down I needed a fresh beer to wash my three tacos down while I ate it all off a snack tray next to my wife in the living room while watching Jeopardy. I would not say this is a gourmet meal or the best meal I ever eaten in my life but I would definitely make these again. I may make nachos with all the same ingredients.  Just probably not next week or this month but maybe next season. Like a summer day when it’s raining and I can’t barbeque.

So the next time you want a quick and easy meal on a weekday and don’t mind eating like a teenager think about making tacos! You can make these ground beef tacos or step it up a bit and make fish tacos and drink a nice white wine!

Sláinte! Until next week enjoy the food, enjoy your beverages and be well.

The Drunken Chef

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing,