Category Archives: How to Cook “American Style”

Lesson 9 – Dawgs – Hot dogs with all the trimmings

Memorial Day Weekend and Hot Dogs go hand in hand. Here on Long Island, we call ’em: “Dawgs” and beer! Whether it’s root beer or the icy cold adult version, you need something to drink with a tasty dawg. There is nothing like a frosty cold one on a hot summer day!

I start with making either Sabrett brand or Nathan’s hot dogs. I often buy them in May at Costco. It’s only the beginning of the summer season and we go through so many over the course of the next two months. I don’t want to run out, so it’s the club size package for me! I freeze them so I always have a good supply for last minute BBQs with family, friends, or neighbors. Franks, weenies, Red Hots, or dawgs, whatever you call them they all cook quickly on a hot grill. Therefore, it’s best if we prepare all the side dishes first.

Potato, macaroni and cold slaw always take the longest and are more labor intensive than baked beans from a can. You can make these all on the same day (like Memorial Day at 6:00am), but they taste better if they sit overnight and you let the flavors blend. You can make these salads up to five days in advance.  I start cooking Thursday for MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.

There are other easy sides too, like sauerkraut. You can make this at home, but I buy the fresh stuff that comes in a bag in the meat department for this big weekend, like the Board’s Head brand. The canned stuff is horrible if it’s overcooked right from the can. You cannot uncook something that is overdone, yuck. There isn’t anything you need to do to good sauerkraut aside from heat it up when using it for hot dogs. We can do that in a pot on the side burner of the BBQ.

Oops. That might be where my stockpot is full of corn on the cob. Nope, Memorial Day weekend is too early for that. We will save that recipe for the Fourth of July. Please remind me, if I forget.

Next, we have Baked Beans. That can go one of two ways. You can serve them directly from a can by just heating them up in a pot on the stove (I use my Coleman stove for this), or you can make them yourself in the oven.

Let’s say it’s a party…I NEED a party as things open up now after COVID! I have set up the Coleman stove to keep the sauerkraut and the baked beans hot.

We could however make the beans from scratch and have them in a chafing dish. Okay, chafing dish it is. See the Baked Beans recipe. After you’re done making the beans, let’s look at the Spicy Onions recipe and we can keep that on the burner next to the sauerkraut.

We will need Condiments like: spicy brown and mild yellow mustard, ketchup, and relish.

Chili would be good, but ONLY after Labor Day (no more white blouses to be ruined are worn after Labor Day.) Sometimes I wait until later in September or early fall (Octoberish) to make chili. When the weather turns colder and you need to keep the Dawg hot, it works best when it’s cool out. For now, we have beans, for the kid in all of us!

Oh! Yes! We need pickles and maybe potato chips too!

Now, it’s time to fire up the grill! The gas barbeque vs. charcoal BBQ is always a dilemma. There is nothing better than a burger or a steak over charcoal but what about a hot dawg? Well, it depends what else is on the gas grill at the moment. I always start my hot dogs on charcoal and keep them warm on the gas grill in the beginning of parties. Once the charcoal is gone or the kids are toasting marshmallows, I move everything to the gas grill. I may have a batch of chicken wings or chicken legs on the grill early on. In that case, I keep the burgers and the dawgs on the charcoal grill.

In winter, I stop BBQing and the hot dawgs move inside. Then, they are the New York City “dirty water dawgs” or fried in a pan as if Ben’s Deli or Nathan’s made them. These recipes should be posted in the fall (Novemberish), so check back then.

Before you go and invite all those guests, don’t forget to check out the BBQ wings recipe and Chicken legs recipes that I will post tomorrow.

Also try these side dishes: Cold Slaw, Potato Salad, and Macaroni Salad

Enjoy! Stay safe and have fun!

-The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Lesson 11 – Homemade Hamburgers

May 26, 2021

            When George Forman was asked what his favorite food was, he always replied, “Cheese Burgers”! He even said that after he was a millionaire and could eat anything or anywhere he wanted.  No wonder it was HIS name on the George Forman grill! I even owned one myself and used it when I lived in a small apartment with no real kitchen. It worked great too! Thank you Mr. Forman, for all those wonderful cheeseburgers back then.

            Today, I own a huge outdoor propane gas grill to make my hamburgers, plus a few other types of outdoor grills. However, cheeseburgers cooked on the charcoal grill are still the best of all, maybe even as much as George Forman grill. I love all kinds of homemade hamburgers.  Rarely (pun intended), I even eat them out at restaurants too. 

I think the best burgers are still the ones I make at home. Today, we will discuss how to make the recipe HOMEMADE HAMBURGERS.

Any BSA Scout that I have supervised cooking hamburgers still remembers some of my tips or tricks of cooking them just right (I hope!). When you are out in the middle of the woods with a big group of Scouts, always cook the hamburgers to 160ºF. I never ran the risk of anyone getting sick from an undercooked burger. The trick was NOT to overcook them. A hamburger that is too well done is inedible to me.  At home, I cook all my hamburgers to order. If you want your burger rare, then that is your business. If you order it rare, then rare you will get.  Rare by the way is warm and red in the middle. The hamburger reaches an internal temperature of 130ºF on an instant thermometer. I like my burger medium-rare myself, or 135º, medium is 145º, medium-well is 155º and well is 160º. Any meat will continue to cook for 10 minutes as it sits after pulling off the fire. If you are not directly handing someone a burger right off the grill to eat, always then UNDER cook it by 5 or 10 degrees and it will cook as it sits. Then, it will be done perfectly when they come up to get it and sit back down.  

The trick to me is timing and a meat thermometer. I own a wonderful instant read meat thermometer. (See the gadget list). Back in the woods with the Scouts, we would cook frozen hamburgers on a grill. I would tell the Scouts, “watch the top of the burger but don’t touch it. First, you will see it deforest. Still, don’t touch it. Then when you see the blood start to rise up to the surface, NOW you can flip it over! Cook it until the same thing happens on the other side. When you see the burger beading up, then add cheese. As soon as the cheese is melted, THEN move it to a bun. It usually took two or three young scouts all working together to keep the hamburger line moving along smoothly so everyone ate all at the same time and the food was hot. The hamburgers were never dried out or over cooked using this method and they were always all eaten. Even the adults actually enjoyed them!  

At home, I rarely use frozen burgers, unless it is one of my BIG office parties where there is SO much food that you don’t know what to eat next anyhow. This is when I buy the BIG 1/3 of a pound frozen hamburgers. I can actually get those cook to order at least. I buy mine from a local butcher who makes them fresh then freezes them.  

I remember with great fondness my twenties and camping in the woods. All those frozen hamburgers we ate during a four day long Memorial weekend. They were yummy. That was with thirty other twenty something’s with a lot of beer to wash those burgers down. Boy we went through a LOT of burgers, chicken, and beer that weekend!

Until tomorrow be happy, stay healthy and eat well!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Buffalo Burger with Blue Cheese
The hamburger Press helps makes even sized patties.

Lesson five: The Brunch Menu Part Two

Eggs Benedict. Yum! Poached eggs are the pinnacle of egg cooking for any chef. The problem is that it’s challenging to make a poached eggs that looks like something you would get a restaurant.

My first tip is that the fresher the egg the better success you will have, as the whites are less “runny” or more viscous when its fresh. When an egg begins to get older, the whites turn more “watery”. Use the freshest eggs you can buy for a better chance at success.

You can make a poached egg and eat it plain, without making it into something else like Eggs Benedict, but why go through ALL that work if a plain egg is all you want? Hell, just boil the thing in it’s shell until it’s soft-boiled and be done with it. Nope, you want to learn how to poach an egg so you can EAT Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine.

For eggs benedict, I will suggest starting with toasting the English muffins. I toast mine under the broiler. That leaves one side soft and makes it easier to cut and eat with a fork in the end. Then we need to work on the Hollandaise sauce.  Great sauces are what great chefs strive to achieve. There is a chef’s station in French restaurants called a Saucier. The saucier not only makes all the sauces for the entrées but they can be involved in making stews like Beef Bourguignon, hot hors d’œuvres, and sautéing food to order. Mostly, they are the chefs who make the sauces for the entrées.

This whole sauce making thing is no easy task. Ask anyone who has screwed up the Thanksgiving turkey gravy and never heard the end of it, year, after year, after year. It’s difficult because it can take as many as two days to make some sauces all from scratch. While other sauces only take minutes. Hollandaise sauce is called a mother sauce (According to French cooking anyway) and one of the sauces that is quick to make. That does not make it easy, just fast to make. Hollandaise can be then used to make “other” sauces by adding, for example, fresh herbs. The sauces made from Hollandaise are called: Béarnaise Sauce, Dijon Sauce, Foyot Sauce, Choron Sauce, & Maltaise Sauce. They are in a class called Emulsified Sauces. I will be writing a whole lesson on sauces alone in the coming year as we explore each one over two dozen sauces and how they compare to say “Turkey Gravy”. Yes, that is a sauce! It’s not “Frenchie” but it’s a sauce. There are five mother sauces in all and each one has other sauces that are made from it. To explain it all now I would have to get out my charts and graphs. It’s a whole big science lesson thing and best saved for another day or a YouTube show.

Let’s get back to today’s feature article. Pull out our medium sized saucepot, for poaching the eggs. I use a 1.5-quart size pot filled with 1-quart of cold tap water. Add two teaspoons of white vinegar and one tablespoon kosher salt (2½ teaspoons of table salt). The salt and vinegar are not for taste but rather to help the pouched egg form/cook quicker and to help produce a better looking pouched egg. Bring the water and stuff to a boil so we can add the eggs later.

Now let’s make that sauce!

 

Hollandaise Sauce

To make 2 cups of Hollandaise Sauce, you will need:

  • 1 1/4 lbs. of butter (5 sticks), clarified* (you should end up with about 1 lb. of clarified butter)
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt, (kosher preferred so less if its table salt)
  • 2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons cold water
  • 6 Egg Yolks **
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Salt, white pepper  and Cayenne Pepper or Hot sauce to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  • Clarify your butter*. (this already makes this complicated)
  • Place salt, vinegar and crushed peppercorns into a saucepan and reduce by 2/3. Remove from heat and add water.
  • Transfer reduction to a stainless-steel mixing bowl.
  • Add egg yolks** and beat over a simmering pot of water until the egg yolks become thick and creamy. (If unsure about the thickness, monitor with an instant read thermometer and make sure the eggs do not exceed 150°F/65°C).
  • Once the egg yolks have reached the desired thickness, remove from heat. Slowly drizzle in the warm clarified butter into the yoks while beating with a wire whisk, starting with just a few droplets first to get the emulsion gets going.
  • Continue streaming in the clarified butter until it is completely incorporated. If the hollandaise becomes too thick before all the butter is emulsified in, thin the hollandaise with a couple drops of warm water.
  • Finish by seasoning your hollandaise with salt, lemon juice and cayenne pepper to taste. Add just enough cayenne to help cut through the fat of the hollandaise and to add depth of flavor; your hollandaise should NOT be spicy.
  • You can adjust final consistency by adding a little bit of warm water to both lighten the sauce and give it a better flow.
  • The Hollandaise should be kept warm over a double boiler until ready to serve. The best holding temperature is about 145°F/63°C. This temperature both discourages the growth of bacteria and is hot enough to keep the fat in your hollandaise from solidifying. For both food safety and quality control, hollandaise should not be held any longer than two hours.
  • Common Secondary Sauces: Bearnaise, Maltaise, Mousseline, Foyot, Choron.

Classically Served With: Eggs (Eggs Benedict), Vegetables (especially Asparagus), light poultry dishes, fish, Beef (Bernaise Sauce)

Holy cow that was a lot of work for just two cup of this stuff but it’s so good! Now if you are not into trying to prove yourself as a top chef and still want to try your hand a pouching eggs and/or making eggs benedict, I have a suggestion. Shush, don’t tell anyone, but its Knorr’s Hollandaise sauce. I use it when I’m being lazy, which means I always keep it in my spice cabinet and use it before it expires! Now you can concentrate on the eggs!

Now let’s make some eggs and heat up some ham. In a small pan add butter and fry up some deli ham or Canadian bacon is traditional. As the water comes to a boil begin to crack your room temperature eggs into a Pyrex dishes.  I find when starting out it makes sliding the eggs into he water easier. Pro: Tip. Sit the water so it spinning around slowly, slide the egg right into the center and watch it drop to the bottom. Add the next eggs and so on up to 6 eggs. As the eggs rise up as come to the surface they are almost done. Professional chefs remote them now and place them in water that is a perfect 150 drees to “cook though to kill any salmonella. I like them float on the water just a bit long perhaps a minute or two before placing them on my already toasted English muffin. It time to assemble said Eggs Benedict, place a slice or ham or Canadian bacon on one half of an English muffin. Is any of this American? Next up the eggs on that. Why do we do it in that order? The ham stops the English muffin from getting way too mushy. Now, (wait for it) pour over your Hollandaise sauce. YUM! Serve immediately with a Bellini or Mimosa! I will have to try it with a Bloody Mary next time.

This whole this can be changed up very easy to a second recipe called: Eggs Florentine. This is simply done by swapping out the ham for some cooked and well drained spinach. I have used asparagus too but I don’t know what that’s called.

How to Clarify Butter* or make “Drawn Butter”:

Clarified butter, (my mother always called this drawn butter), is unsalted butter that is melted down and allowed to separate over very low heat so that the proteins that are milk solids can be removed. After the clarification process, the butter now has a higher smoke point and makes it great for cooking or frying in. I will explain why shortly.

The easiest way to clarify butter is over a water bath or double boiler. This allows you to gently heat the butter just to the boiling point of water or 212 degrees and will never get any hotter! At this temperature, the water literally bubbles up and out of the butter as it evaporates. What’s left is the whey proteins that form a  a white foam on top. Eventually the foam will dehydrate as well and collapse as it cooks, leaving you a thin skin of whey protein on top. Some of the dry casein particles now sink to the bottom. If you did not use a double boiler for this process, they would eventually start to brown. We did, so we are safe to finish the process. Simply skim off the “skin” using a ladle or large spoon. Then pour off the clarified butter, being careful not to include any of the white casein particles that have settled to the bottom. Ka-Pow – Clarified butter! Clarified butter can keep in the fridge up to one year! So you can definitely make this ahead of time for any dish. I have a whole mason jar of this liquid gold in my fringe.

What happens if you do not use a double boiler? Then you run the risk of browning those milk proteins on the bottom of the pot. It that case you have now made something called “Ghee”. Ghee is a clarified butter made using almost the identical technique as above, but is cooked in a pot instead of a double boiler. Because the milk solids come into direct contact with heat from the burner, they can get to higher temperatures than 212°F. It is at this point they start to brown. If you continue browning of the milk fats (slowly) then the finished Ghee will have a dark brown color and a nutty aroma. This is very good for other recipes but it is not what we are looking to use in our Hollandaise Sauce. I love science and there is a LOT of it in cooking but no one tells you about it. No one except, Alton Brown and Harold McGee (listed alphabetically). These are just two of my favorite cookbook authors. Enough science for today, go enjoy your breakfast.

I think it’s time to take a break from breakfast so next time maybe we will do a lunch dish. Thanks for reading today and until next time; Stay Healthy, Be Happy, and Eat well!  

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

** Separating eggs :The old fashioned way of separating eggs is by transferring the yoke back and forth between the half shells over one bowl. Then moving each item to its own bowl so as not to contaminate the eleven prior separated eggs with with a broken yoke on the twelfth try. The second method also involves three bowls. One bowl holds up a slotted spoon or strainer. Crack the egg onto the slotted spoon and then move the yoke to its own bowl. Then move the white it its own separate bowl. Repeat this process until you have enough yokes or whites for what you need. Extra egg whites can be frozen for future use. Mixed eggs (whites with broken yokes) can by used for omelets.

PS – You can also add to you menu the following:

FRENCH TOAST

Lesson five: The Brunch Menu Part One

            Ah Sunday! I love Sunday…even though it’s Monday. We can still reminisce about Sunday! The one day I get to sleep in an extra hour or two! Sundays remind me of my childhood. There was that big fat Sunday paper with all those great comics. Back then, Sunday was the only day the comics were in color. If it were Easter Sunday that meant I had a fresh new batch of Silly Putty too! You could press the Silly Putty to the newsprint and when you peeled it off you would have a color comic on it. I don’t know why that amused me back then but it kept me busy for and a bit. Did you know that the silly putty trick does not work anymore? They changed the ink or something. Speaking of Easter Sunday it felt so early this year. It feels like I missed it somehow. It is only now going warm outside. Last night even unusually cold for this time of year. My heat started coming on all night! The home heating oil god hates me apparently and wants me to burn as much of the stuff as he can produce before having to turn on the air-conditions before summer hits. Wow! Where did that rant come from? It Sunday lets chill out with a big Sunday morning breakfast!

We have made pancakes, eggs, and omelets. What’s next? Mmm. Let’s making some coffee then a frittata. A frittata is only really a giant omelet from the oven!

We will need a 9 inch by 13 inch glass Pyrex baking dish and a pan to make the bacon and or sausage in.

We will also need:

INGREDIENTS:

12 Eggs

1 TBLS. Milk

Hash browns or potato tots (defrosted)

One pound cook Bacon (crumbled)

One package of breakfast Sausage (Cubed)

8 ozes shredded cheddar cheese (one package)

Tsp. Vegetable oil

A few drops of Tabasco (To taste)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 dregees. Grease the bottom of your Pyrex backing dish with a little cooking spray or just a bit of canola oil or vegetable oil. Olive oil can be a little heavy tasting but if it’s all you have. Use a paper towel to swoosh the cooking oil around. You don’t need to swoosh the spray stuff. I am not really a fan of spay stuff because I don’t know what’s in it. I own it. I use it on occasion, but I don’t like it when I do. Easy is sometimes best! Now that the botten has a nice thin non stsick coting lats add those staore bought home foreis. Why do I use these instead of make my own fresh? Mainly because I’m not masicstic. I could make them fresh sure. Lets peel and great two or three lage potaoes. Then gate a large pan nice and how and frt them up in some peanut oil (If you not allergic otherwise I guess vegetable oil). Drain them cool them and add them to the bottom of the pan. Nope, I diced that the ones I get from the frozen food section and look just like the ones from McDonalds work great once defrosted I press them into the pan making sure they are place next to another flat against the bottom. Then I pop them into the oven for a few minutes. Check on them every five minutes. Take them out as soon as they start to get slightly brown and crisp up and/or sizzle. It the meantime. While the potatoes cook let make the bacon. If you have nevr make bacon before it takes practice to get it just right. Just don’t let your bacon burn it the will ruin your whole frittata. Its best to leasbve it out if it all burns.  When done it should be a light golden brown so it crumbles nicely. Please wait until its cool before crumbling. Otherwise you will need one those Scouts I have mentioned in a previous post to preform first aid for burns on your hands.

Nice job on the bacon! Now you can cook up all of those breakfast sausage in some of that bacon grease. I fist dressed it then slice it. Its easer to slice cold then hot. Do other cookbooks point these things out?

Have you been checking on your potatoes? If not, then they are plenty brown by now. Sprinkle the cooked sausage and the bacon across the potatoes spreading them across the whole dish evenly.

Now it’s time to break a few eggs into a large bowl. You can’t have a frittata without breaking a few eggs. Add a tablespoon of milk to the bowl with the eggs. Too much milk and the eggs won’t set. You can even add some Tabasco now. I like the stuff so I always add a little. This many eggs I would add ten drops or five good shakes of the bottle. That is not even one-drop per egg. Most people don’t even notice it if you don’t add too much! Scramble a dozen eggs using a wire whisk or fork from your flatware set. Do not add the cheese yet! This the same thing as adding too much milk. The eggs will not cook. You will have a cheesy custard casserole, ewe. Now pour the scrambled eggs into the pan filling it up ¾ of the way. Do not fill it to the top or it will spill over before it cooks. Place it in the oven. I hope you didn’t turn the oven off after taking out the eggs. Bake for about 20 minutes. Check it after twenty minutes to see if it’s just set. If it is not done yet, then check on it every ten minutes after that until its set. Then sprinkle all that nice cheddar cheese on top! If you’re really a pro you grated a block of cheddar yourself. You saved money and hopefully your fingers too! Then place it back in the oven until it is all melty and yummy. Let it rest for only a few minutes and sever with fresh bagels, English muffins or toast. Add orange juice, tomato juice or pineapple juice. Add mimosas or Bellini’s or Bloody Mary’s if your home with friends and enjoy!

 This recipe works in a cast iron Dutch oven. If your ever stuck in the woods and need a good hearty breakfast meal in a hurry. This will work. To make it in a hurry you can precook the sausage and the bacon before the trip and breing it with yopu in the cooler. You can even cook the bacon and sausage the night before while making dinner! The just put it all in the cooler for the next morning. Duck oven cooking is a whole lesson in it itself. In addition, you do not need water to clean a Dutch oven only coarse salt, oil and a $#@& load of paper towels! I will save that tip for the Scouts!

Next time we will cover pouches eggs and Hollandaise Sauce for my favorite, Eggs Benedict. That’s all in our next Lesson…

Stay healthy, be happy and eat well!

The Drunken Chef

How TO Cook: Food safety

Now that we are working with raw eggs, making omelets and had our coffee I can bore you with a chat about food Safety. We are lucky enough in the United States to have probably over a dozen different agencies that are involved with protecting the safety and healthiness of food from the farm tot the table. These include but are certainly not limited to the USDA and FDA that help to enforce various rules and regulations that help insure a safe product on grocery store shelves or served restaurants. 

Why should the home cook be concerned then? Because there are still things that happen in nature naturally that are out of there control. Following proper procedures or guidelines when cooking help to keep your family and friends safe from getting a nasty stomach bug. Eww.  

Most bacterial contamination can be prevented with the proper care, handling and storage of fresh food. That big appliance in your kitchen that takes up SO much room is the refrigerator/freezer. To my surprise and dismay, it is not just there just to keep my beer cold (I really need to get myself a Kegerator for that)! In the United States we probably own the biggest refrigerators/freezers in the entire world. Why? Because we only go grocery shopping once a week or once a month if it’s a Cosco run. Therefore, we need someplace to keep all that fresh Dairy, Meat and Produce fresh and safe to eat!

Because bacteria grow and a much quicker rate the warmer it gets (usually between 40°F and 140°F) it’s a good idea to store our food in these chilly devices and keep the refrigerator at a temperature at between below 40° F (4° C) and 33° F 1° C). The freezer temperature should be set 0° F (-18° C). (Insert the picture of thermometer here)

There is some bacteria that are good. They help ferment wheat and barley into beer or grapes into wine. Cheese would not be cheese without it. Some bacteria are what make food spoil and smell bad.

Hand washing – Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food. Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread from raw meat to raw vegetables. Always start with a clean surface. Wash your hands with warm soapy water and rinse and dry well. Wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops and utensils with hot soapy water. Restaurants often have their water temperature tested by regular inspections by the local health department to make sure it is hot enough to kill bacteria.

Wash your hands after handling any raw beef, poultry, fish or even eggs.

Wash you counters, cutting boards and knives after cutting any raw beef, poultry, fish.

I even clean my sponge in hot soapy water and then place it in the dishwasher with the dishes about three tiems a week. I also two use separate sponges. One is for dishes and the second is for counters tops and tables. I always prevent cross contamination by using a clean cutting board between preparing meat and vegetables.

All vegetables like potatoes and those green bell peppers we used for our omelet always need to be washed under cold water.        

Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

Keep hot food hot and cold foods cold! Do not let cooked items sit on the counter until they are cold and then serve them. Hot foods should never drop below 140 degrees before putting in refrigeration. 

Cold foods needs to keep cold just before serving. Do not leave potato salad out in the hot summer sun for 2 hours and then think you can eat it. You will not be going to work or school the next day. Food poisoning not only sucks because it hurts but it can be deadly if not taken seriously! Perishable foods should be brought home and placed in their proper locations in the refrigerator immediately. If you are shopping at multiple stores and your trip maybe longer than 30 minutes or it’s warm sunny day, bring a freezer bag or cooler with freezer packs to cold items until you get home. If your camping make sure, you have a cooler with plenty of ice and things are package appropriately so things like chop meat do not contaminate the lettuce and cheese you are using to make tacos!

For safe picnics and camping trips. Wash all thermal containers with hot soapy and rise well with hot water. You can wash all your vegetables even before packing them.

Use one cooler for food and a separate cooler for beverages. The beverage/beer cooler maybe be opened quiet often on a hot summer day. Place all raw meat in tightly wrapped in zip top bags to prevent them from dripping and contaminating other foods.

Remember to take your instant read food thermometer with you. That’s why you see all the chef’s with that round thermometer sticking out of their pocket. Its there for them to use and keep you healthy and safe. Not just because you want your steak medium rare. 

Lesson Three – Breakfast: Omelet or OMELETTE?

What Happened?! Somehow we missed Lesson three and posted lesson four. I guess I was more interested in coffee then Omelets! Now we should post about Omelets and how to make them, by the way which is correct? Omelet or Omelette? I can tell you that Microsoft Word does not like the French spelling and that figures, since it uses an American dictionary to correct spelling errors. Since I am teaching America Style cooking here (at least trying too) I think I will stick with the American spelling too – Omelet. Isn’t the English language hard enough WITHOUT multiple ways to spell the same F#$%^&@ word! UGG! Can I also say that as an amateur writer how I think, speak and write are three different things! For starters, I could never write down everting I think. I would possibly receive a lot mote hate mail. So I bite my tongue as it were when it comes to my opinion on politics sometimes. Besides you are all here to cook and have fun. Not to listen to my political or religious views here. It is also tougher for me to write stuff because I cant write how I would casually talk to my friends because it is too difficult to read. Once again, I blame this stupid language for not making things simple. Come on people, it’s the 21st Century! Can’t we make things easier to read, write or speak to each other? Maybe, that’s half the problem in government. They have to write everything down then two hundred years later they argue over it because think it means something different NOW! Okay done. Lets cook.

So you’re ready to step up too one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods: The Omelet! If you want to put more than just cheese in it then that means learning how to do some slicing, dicing, and chopping. As I look around for my YouTube production crew it seems they have all left…or are still nonexistent.  That means I will be writhing this it all out. Maybe later I can read it from the teleprompter as I record this lesson on my cell phone (laughing to myself).

Let’s start by learning how to do some slicing. Round things like potatoes and onions should first be  cut in half. Wait! Wait! Not yet…Lets peel that potato with a vegetable peeler first. Peel the skin off AWAY from your body and make sure your other hand has a firm grip on that slippery potato. Make sure too your hand holding said potato is also out of harm’s way. Vegetable peelers, when new will be sharp and that’s good. The older it is the more dull it will become and the more difficult it will be to use. Work your way around the potato making sure to slice off the entire outer layer. You can use a paring knife to carefully remove the deeper eyes of the potato or deep gouges. Now you can wash that slippery sucker. Some people wash it before they peel it but I say: “Six of one, half a dozen of another.” I wash it after peeling it.

For an onion, you need to peel the outer layers off by hand. If you want to dice or mince the onion then begin by placing it down on you cutting board. Hold it firmly with your non-dominate hand (that is the hand opposite of the one that is now holding the sharp knife). Cut off the top of the onion (the opposite side of the root end). Now turn the onion so that the flat surface is on the cutting board. Slice the darn thing in half. Now you can easily peel off those brown layers of tough to chew skin.

Perfect! Now place the halved onion back of the cutting board with the large flat side facing down. Then cut off the root end.  From here, you can slice it up. Working your cuts (slices) from the tip to the root end. Wha-lah! You have a sliced onion! To dice it, cut the onion into strips but not all the way across, and only go as far back as half way. This leaves the root end intact. Now turn the onion 90 degrees (that’s a quarter of a turn). Then, just like you did before cut slices across the onion so it will now form small square-like shapes as it falls away. If you want minced onion, just makes you cuts all closer to together. Too really mince it, put a chopped onion on the cutting board and use your brand new ZYLISS Zick-Zick classic food chopper! Then presto! One perfectly minced onion! I also have a nifty little onion holder that looks like a fork like thingy to hold the onion in place, but I never use it myself. My mother loved it because of the arthritis in her fingers made it difficult for her to hold an onion.

The potato is next and should be first cut in half, then each half into thirds then turn all three pieces together 90 degrees and cut it four more times. *Poof* Diced potatoes.

How about presliced deli ham? Roll up three slices of ham. For thicker cuts of deli ham or corned beef say 1/4 inch thick lay it flat. Slice them all the long way into strips or Julian. Then turn it and cut it into cubes or diced ham or corn beef!

Green bell peppers. OH boy! For this, there are more YouTube videos then Carters has pills! Cut off the top. Then Slice right down the middle. Clean out the seeds and the white pithy bitter membrane. Slice into strips AKA Julienne. Turn and then cut those into dice.

So let’s see we have two large or jumbo eggs, diced green bell peppers, diced onion, diced ham and even diced potatoes. That sounds like a fine western omelet (with potatoes).

Start by cooking the potatoes first in a small 9.5 inch Gotham copper non-stick pan with a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. When they start to brown, add the onion, green bell pepper, ham and cook for two or three more minutes over medium heat. While that cook’s scramble two large eggs that you have added a tablespoon of milk too. You can also add black ground pepper and a three drops of tabasco or not. Now add a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Wait until that butter is all melted and it starts to sizzle. Then pour that into the pan and cover it with all those yummy vegetables and the ham. Turn down the heat to low and cook covered until the top is almost firm.

“Now comes the tricky part” as I hear Julia Child’s voice in my head, “flipping the omelet”. First time flippers should use their brand-new and wonderful “pancake turner” that they just purchased from Amazon and received the next day. I have managed to learn (over too many years of trying) how to flip my omelets in mid air. Please do not practice that with your first time omelets but you can start practicing that trick later on with one of your fried eggs (if you dare) and only if you don’t want that egg over easy with an unbroken yoke. Pro tip: if you not practiced at it the yoke may break when it slams against the pan.

There you go, one western omelet done to perfection. Much simpler to make is the plain cheese omelet.  Preheat your non-stick pan with a tablespoon of butter added. When the butter starts to sizzle and bubble the pan is hot and the butter is ready to cook in. Pour in your newly scrambled eggs and cover that puppy up. Let that cook on low until the top is firm. Add the cheese to half the pan/omelet. The cheese selection is your choice. I like Kraft Deluxe American cheese for this. Why, because it is real American cheese not some processed cheese “product”. That’s why it costs more then the crappy fake cheese.  Cover cook one or two more minutes. Then fold your omelet in half and remove it to a plate. Add buttered toast, orange juice and serve. Don’t forget about the coffee we posted in lesson four that posted before lesson three. See we need coffee!

Other stuffed omelets are made the same way. Once the top is firm, add mushrooms and Swiss and cover or add broccoli and cheddar or salsa and Monterey jack or Spinach and Gruyère . You get the idea. 

Did I mention the coffee, don’t forget the coffee…

Omelets are a great way to start to experiment with flavors and cooking! A good tip would be to blanch or steam your vegetables like broccoli but not spinach in advance. This is also a great way to use MANY leftovers like corned beef. These are also great for lunch or a like dinner!

To blanch something place it into boiling water for a few minutes then plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking process.

Boil vs Simmering – Water at a boil will produce many bubbles that will rise up and beak the surface. Simmering will only show small bubbles on the pots bottom.

Now you’re cooking!

Until tomorrow, be happy, stay health and eat well.

The Drunken Chef

May 4, 2021

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

Lesson four: Coffee

May 5, 2021

Before I start today’s recipe let me just say that last night I did not cook, yet again. Our friend Scott made a delicious pot of chili and invited us over for Chili and “Dawgs” (that’s what we call um in New York City or is it Long Guyland?) Well, enough of my terrible accent for now, the chili was delicious and I even had mine with cheddar cheese and sour cream on top. Plus, I had one hot dogs (sans bun) and only one glass of a marvelous merlot. Yes just one. I know that is strange for me but I have not been feeling very well. It seems I am always feeling exhausted lately but I’m heading to see the doctor and should be right as rain soon. I posted pictures of the wine and the chili at the end, not coffee.

Good morning and now back to our recipe! Today is all about coffee. At least I think it’s good morning. I have either not been sleeping well lately or not feeling well. I have finally decided to make a doctor appointment over this whole extreme tiredness thing that’s happening to me. Its very frustrating to want to do things and not have the strength or the energy to do even simple things like mow the lawn. All I want to do is laydown and rest but when I do, I cannot sleep. It seems crazy! Hence, I’m glad the coffee I made is almost ready.

So for most of you, I bet this is not a recipe. Much like beer that comes from a bottle or a can you may get your coffee from a pod or the local 7 Eleven convenience store. Now don’t get me wrong because I can’t tell you how many cups of coffee I have purchased from the aforementioned 7 Eleven or what is the name of those places on all the interstate highways – Stewarts, Speedway, Wegmans, nope? OH yes their called Wawa!?? Maybe I just love saying it in the car! Well whatever the place is the coffee is usually good unless it is like 7pm and you are on your way to night school and stop at McDonalds in like the year 2000. Then yuck! That coffee from McDonalds was one of the worst cups of coffee I have ever had to endure in my life. Why did I drink it? It was a Social Studies class after working all day and the professor read from the dam book all class long. It didn’t get much more boring for me than that. So to stay awake and still be able to drive home at 10pm I drank the mud that’s was from McDonalds and it was all I had. Since then I understand their coffee has improved but I have never been able to bring myself to drink it. Scared for life I guess.

            Now I have been making and drinking coffee regularly since the eighties. My mother first made coffee in a chrome pot that look like it was from the Jetsons kitchen…no I’m wrong…in the eighties it was probably still the Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker we had for ten years. Anyhow, my mother switched back to an electric perk coffee maker after that one finally died. 

            Otherwise, my love affair with coffee came from a dinner or what we called the coffee shop back in the olden days (I’m still stuck in the eighties for you young people). It had a coffee machine that took up most of the owners (who was also the cook) entire counter. There was hot water that came out of the center spigot for tea or hot chocolate. Then there was an orange one for decaf coffee. Then lastly, a black handle for the regular ambrosia that flowed out of the last spigot. I even stood there in awe one day and watched him make the coffee once.

To make coffee in such a large quantity he needed to fill a large aluminum pot that had a black Bakelite handle on it. He then added a pound of coffee to a huge coffee filter and placed that in this time warp of a machine. He next began to pour the hot water over the grinds as a clear glass tube began show how full it was with its black gold. He filled the pot again from the coffee spigot now and repeated the whole process two or three times until the coffee ran a rich deep black from the spigot. He then put the pot down and filled a large Styrofoam coffee cup (I know, don’t get me started on Styrofoam cups that are now band from use). I will save that rant for another day. Next came sugar and milk. I drank my coffee regular. Regular coffee is what you called coffee with caffeine that included a normal amount of milk and sugar. This is how MOST people drank their coffee back then because this predates Starbucks! The coffee was extremely hot so back then I blessed the Styrofoam cup for saving my hand although I always managed to burn my mouth on days when I could no wait long enough for it to cool at all. Thus, became what was a slippery slope of coffee all winter and iced tea all summer and beer on the weekends. Although I did not drink half as much iced tea as I did coffee or beer or so it seemed.  

What were we talking about? Oh yeah, the coffee recipe. Let’s see I will have to put this in my new “How to cook book”:

Coffee

Choose your coffee pot. My go to coffee pot right now is that old standby from Corningware. It’s white with blue cornflowers and Bakelite handle. It is a stovetop percolator with a little glass topper so you can see the coffee “perking”. This is a coffee pot that is not even made anymore. It’s a shame too because it makes great cup of coffee if you’re not in a rush. This will soon get saved for days when the power is out as I will replace its everyday use for a 12 cup electric percolator by Hamilton Beach or Farberware. My Preso one seems to be letting me down and making weak pots of coffee some days that are completely undrinkable.

If you are grinding the beans yourself then coarseness of grind should change based upon the pot you are making the coffee in. Course ground coffee is what is used for my percolator coffee pot or French Press, medium grind is for the automatic drip makers (like that old Mr. Coffee machine), medium fine is for those huge  commercial pour over things that looked so cool and steam punk back  in the day. Then there is fine ground used for espresso machines. There is also extra course for cold brew (really you can’t just chill it?) and extra fine is for people who just snort the stuff like cocaine (just kidding kids! Don’t do drugs!) Extra Fine ground is for Turkish coffee that I have never had. Here is the recipe for eight cups of coffee:

INGREDIENTS:

7 to 9 tbls. ground coffee

8 – six once cups of filtered water (six once cups?! what? That is what those stupid lines are for! Who knew? So a whole pot of coffee is not even a whole 8 cups! Why?! So be careful, there are 8 ounces in 1 cup therefore ¾ cup = 6 ounces in America. I use the dam lines! Sheesh!

DIRECTIONS:

Let us start with the water. Bad water means bad coffee or bad tea. MOST commercial places always have a filter somewhere on the water line that leads into the back of the commercial coffee pot. If they don’t they should! What do I do? I use the ice-cold water that is also filtered that comes out on my refrigerator/freezer. I fill the pot to the 8 “cup” mark that is located on the inside of the pot. Why cold water? Never cook with hot tap water. That is just nasty, ewe. Cold water works better when used particularly with an electric percolator. Like the one you own but never used but purchased it for large parties but then put it in the back of the hall closet. Yes, that one works best when you start with cold water. Next, add a coffee filter to the basket. No one likes grounds in their cup. “Tt’s the Grim!” Well that was tea in the bottom of the cup…if you read Harry Potter. I digress. Lets’ add the coffee already as I’m falling asleep. Now plug it in or turn it on and let it do its thing. Mine, is manual so I actually have to turn on the stove to high. I have to remain close by and wait for it to start to perk. Annoying huh, but it’s cooking! Then when it starts to perk and I can see it, remember that little clear glass thingy on top? I turn the heat down to medium-low so it remains perky (perky get it? its coffee) Never mind, and set the timer for seven minutes. Now if you like your coffee richer or more flavorful this is where the COOKING part comes in. You can adjust the recipe to YOUR taste. Start by increasing the time you cook the coffee by one or two minutes. Next, you can add a tablespoon or two the seven already in there. Each time you try something new make a note of what you did mentally or if you’re your tied in the morning make a note of it in your phone! Once you get a perfect pot of coffee repeat the same steps! Wa-la your cooking! After the seven minutes are up, I turn off the stove and let it stand so the coffee in the basket now filters all the way through (aka finished cooking/perking).

Was this a long version of how to make coffee? It probably was but just as in life when you’re going to a dull meeting at work or camping with a bunch of teenage energetic scouts this is an adults life line to sanity! So a good cup of coffee is a life saver! I myself just love coffee. It is probably my second favorite beverage. They are in order: beer, coffee, and water for which you can’t make the previous two without.

Until tomorrow. Stay awake, be happy and eat well.

The Drunken Chef

An amazing Merlot that I could enjoy all on its own

Scott’s wonderful chili and wine pairing
My Coffee Pot

LESSON two: EGGS

So you’ve you survived making pancakes….now you want eggs to go with them. Did you put eggs in them or were they already there?

Eggs are so versatile they can be used as an entree or as just one single ingredient. As an ingredient it serves as many rolls…..including fresh baked rolls and bread. There are cookbooks out there that include over 300 eggs recipes alone! That’s not this cookbook but I will include a few over the next years’ worth of recipes. So let’s start with the basics, eggs as the main course for breakfast.

Eggs come in many colors, shades and sizes. The most common is the large size, white chicken egg. Chicken eggs also come in other sizes including:

  • Small: (about 1.5 ounce per egg)
  • Medium: (about 1.75 ounce per egg)
  • Large: (about 2 ounces per egg)
  • Extra-Large: (about 2.25 ounces per egg)
  • Jumbo:  (about 2.5 ounces per egg)

Although I never see small eggs and rarely see medium eggs in the supermarket. Large eggs are by default the ones used in a recipe when it does not specify size.

      So how do you want your eggs? Its breakfast therefore, we can narrow it down to hard boiled, soft boiled, pouched, fried as in sunny side up, over easy, over hard, yoke broken or not broken. If we are going to break a few yokes, should we scramble them? If we leave them whole, should pouch them for eggs Benedict? That would involve making Hollandaise sauce. Have patience and we will get to sauces but no today. If we scramble them, do we make an omelet? What kind of omelet do we make?

WAIT I HAVE IT! We need a flow chart! Okay, Okay, I will relax on the flow chart for now but it will be helpful in the future. As you can see there are many, many choices when it comes to making eggs and that is just for breakfast. You should really try them all. Today’s list includes: fried (sunny side up yoke intact {not my favorite}, over easy yoke not broken {one of my favorites}, over hard broken yoke and cooked all the way through. There is also hard-boiled which is cooked in the shell until the yoke is cooked firm or soft boiled eggs in which the yoke is still runny. Soft boiled eggs are perfect for dipping thin strips of bread or toast into. I’ve often used white toast or rye bread that was buttered and cut into one inch strips so I could dip it into the yoke. I remember eating these on the weekends as a kid. I would make them myself at young age on a beautiful spring day. Like a Sunday morning when you know there is big meal that night and just want to eat light! Eggs are easy and a quick thing to make and eat. They can be enhanced with many sides including but not limited to: Bacon, ham, sausage, toast of all kinds, grits, home fries (aka seasoned potatoes) and even pancakes.

      Lessons to learn:

                  1) How do you buy eggs and what makes them different? 2) How do you store eggs? 3) How do you know an egg is bad?  4) How do you cook eggs all those different ways!?

Let us start by buying the eggs we need for breakfast. I usually buy large white eggs and jumbo eggs. I use large eggs for baking as most if not all recipes use this as the standard size. Then for breakfast and hardboiled eggs I use JUMBO white eggs. Eggs also come in brown and/or organic. The fresher the egg, the better it tastes. It bothers me that we need organic ANYTHING in this country, but apparently, we do. Plus, we have to pay through the nose for the privilege of eating well too I guess. Okay I won’t get started on an organic food rant, this morning.

      Back to is there a difference in the eggs you ask? Hell YES!  The difference is taste! Like whole milk, eggs can have subtle changes to taste or texture based simply on age alone not to mention what kind of chicken they came from and how they are treated or what they eat.  However, for the most part, standard MEGA supermarket eggs all taste the same. Just like their tomatoes. It’s only when you seek out and buy farm fresh eggs or organically grown ones and eat them straight from the frying pan will you really notice a difference. As far as eggs in a baked dish….you will notice even less of a difference. If you are trying to impress a special guest or have company over and you are going to make them breakfast by all means go the extra mile and get good farm fresh eggs. You will be glad you did, even if it is just to try them for yourself. 

      So how do you know an egg is bad? Simple, start by filling a bowl with water. Place in the eggs carefully, don’t just drop them in because they should sink to the bottom. If they float up to the top, then throw them away. If they “stand” on the skinny end or tip, they are an older egg but not bad today.

      Why does this happen? Well for that answer you need a short lesson on the chicken egg. That is just what I’m here to do, teach it. The egg has a few parts to it. Not Just the white and the yoke. Not only do they taste different but they cook up differently and are used by cooks for different reasons because they react differently to heat differently. They can also be whipped or beaten either separately or together. The yoke has many times more protein molecules in it then the white. The white is mostly made up of water molecules.  Egg yolks are so sticky and they even use them in tempura paint going back far before the Renaissance. I believe tempura paint dates back to before humankind could even write but I’m no history professor. I had a hard time staying awake in social studies. Yokes are sticky stuff, so that’s why it’s so good at keeping the bread crumbs on chicken. They help in making shuffles to rise and wonderful cakes to bake correctly! Bread is a completely different lesson in itself with all its complex chemical reactions and physics at work. Where were we? Oh yes, egg parts or the parts of an egg – there is the thin inner membrane that sticks to the shell and can make peeling a hardboiled egg impossible.   

                  So why is all this important? For starters remember the white of the egg? Well in a really fresh egg that is very thick and sticky. When you crack the egg into the pan, it should hardly run or spreads away from the yoke but as the egg gets older the proteins in the albumin break down and the white gets thinner and spreads more across the pan. Why is this important? You just want to eat, don’t you? I’ll tell you why, because if you’re trying to make a poached egg in boiling water it’s the difference between a really nice looking egg and egg drop soup.

      Since pouched eggs can be difficult and frustrating to cook let’s try starting with fried eggs, as they are a delicious and easy way to cook an egg to go along with your pancakes. Begin by preheating a small nonstick pan (we will have a whole lesson in cookware don’t worry) on medium heat that you have added a “tab” of butter to (tab = 1tbls.). {trivia} Tab with a capital “T” was a popular 1970’s diet soft drink. As the butter melts you will know the proper time to add the egg. It is just as the butter starts to sizzle and bubble. If you wait too long the butter will brown, ewe. Don’t cook your breakfast eggs in the brown butter. If that happens CAREFULLY, wipe the pan clean with a wad of paper towels and a pair of tongs so you don’t burn yourself (see first aid tips for Scouts coming soon). When the butter sizzles, crack the egg open carefully over the pan (not on the counter, not on the bottom of the pan) but with the side of a metal fork or backside of butter knife. DO NOT eat with the fork that has raw egg on it or use the knife now for butter, again ewe. Wash any cooking utensils they contain raw egg to prevent cross contamination (we need food safety lesson I here too).

      Watch as the egg cooks in the butter in the pan. The clear albumin will begin to turn white almost immediately. Now is the time to break the yoke if you don’t what it runny.  If you want them sunny side up or over easy up just leave them alone. Now if you don’t flip the egg over the white will be runny and the yoke cold. However, you could cover the pan and let the steam cook the white completely however it also begins to cook the yoke. I prefer to flip my eggs over easy using a spatula. Although, through the years I have learned not use a spatula anymore and can manage to flip it gently right in the pan without spattering out butter all over my hand (don’t try this yet as hot butter hurts and will make you curse like a trucker right in front of the scouts who will all laugh their ass off a you for being a dumb ass). I digress. Cook the second side less than the first. Perhaps 60 seconds to a minute and a half depending on how runny you want your yoke. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper and KaPOW serve with your pancakes!

      Okay that’s how to cook a fried egg. How about a boiled egg? Simple – fill medium pot ¾ with H2O (water) and bring to a boil. YES! Boil the water first! Why? If you start with cold water the egg will sometimes if not always to me, sticks to the shell and becomes almost impossible to peel! Why? Remember that thin membrane on the inside of the egg next to the shell?  It actually consists of two membranes and when heated slowly i.e. as the cold  water warms up and becomes hot the proteins from these membranes and the egg white form a bond  (more often than not) that adheres the shell to egg the egg white. However, when the egg is heated rapidly by steam or placed carefully into a boiling pot water (Just like Marcy did in a Charley Brown Easter. Just don’t crack them open!) this bond never gets a chance to form and the egg releases from the shell easily. 

CAREFULLY add the eggs to rapidly boiling water using a long handle slotted spoon. Do not over crowd the pot with cold eggs (remember they are coming from the cold fridge). Adding too many eggs to a small pot of water will lower the temperature of the water too much.

If you are making a dozen eggs, use a much larger pot of water.  Watch the pot of water return to a boil! When the water boils again, reduce the heat to a simmer! You do not really want those eggs bouncing on the bottom on the pot!  After boiling large eggs for twelve to fifteen minutes, eighteen minutes for the Jumbo ones, I immediately remove them with the same slotted spoon and move them to an ice bath (a large bowl of ice water). This is so A) I could cool them down to eat them quickly but it stops the eggs from over cooking (over cooked hard boiled eggs creates the bitter green ring around the yoke). Then B) the ice water also makes them easier to peel because letting the eggs slowly cool will also give the egg a chance to form that stubborn molecular bond.

Let see what we have covered so far. We have done fried eggs, hard and soft-boiled eggs, therefore logically next step would be to make scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs are easy to make. Crack one or two eggs into a bowl. I prefer using two eggs and a tablespoon of whole milk. The fats in the milk is what separates the bonds between the proteins and makes the eggs cook up softer. It also increases the amount of the eggs by one tablespoon! YUM! Next add a little tabasco. Just three or four drops. Trust me, yummy. Then whisk them up with either a wire whisk or fork.

Now lets cook them by preheating a small nonstick pan (remember we still have a whole lesson in cookware coming up) on medium heat that you have added a “tab” aka tablespoon of butter too. As the butter melts you will know the proper time to add the eggs is just as the butter starts to sizzle and bubble. NOW ADD THE EGGS! HURRY! As the eggs cook….scramble them in the pan by slowly stirring them with a fork or spatula or something. Cook the eggs just a bit then stir, cook then stir…you get the idea. Cook until firm but try not to brown or burn them, again ewe. I like my scrambled eggs firm at least cook through. Some people prefect them “looser” or soft. God how quickly this cooking thing can get complicated…hard, soft, loose, firm?! People are fussy eaters but you are leaning how to make them all happy and that is what life is all about! That and if your lucky enough to have them a mimosa! Be Happy and enjoy your food! You made it yourself and it always tastes better that way doesn’t it?!

Now those eggs can now go right next to those pancakes (if there not cold by now)!

We will save omelets for another day or morning as it were.

Enjoy Life, Be Well and HAVE FUN today!

(Insert basic first aid for minor burns here one day too)

The Drunken Chef

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

Lesson one: Breakfast – Pancakes

This is the Scouting Cooking merit badge. Given to scouts starting at the age of 11 years old who can master cooking for a small group their own age. Surly, if a young man or woman at the age of 11 can conquer this task in the adverse conditions in the great doors using only charcoal and a camp stove, you can do it in the comfort of your own house in a nice warm kitchen with pots pans with hot and cold running water.

            This book will explain the basics and is the companion book to “The Recipe Book” as well as future videos from “Teaching a human to cook” series. Explaining anything to a man is never easy. We have the attention span of a GNAT and if I can do it while drinking you can do it easy. Cooking doesn’t take much thinking; you just have to be paying a little bit of attention so things don’t burn. Here you will be shown the skills need to cook. Then it is up to you to take your time, practice, drink and enjoy cooking. I usually drink while I cook and cook to relax or is it drink to relax and cook to eat. Either way this should be fun. The exception of course would be if ANY scouts were involved. Then drinking anything but water or coffee is strictly prohibited. So lets begin.

            Lesson one: Pancakes. This is as simple as it gets. Start by preheating your largest non-stick pan or grill. I own a Coleman heavy duty cast aluminum nonstick camping gill. It covers two burners on my stovetop and is made to last.  I can make up to eight pancakes at once on this baby. Next comes preparing the batter. TODAY – you can buy pancake mix that is already “complete”. Just add water and there it’s done. Well I lied, there is a little cooking involved. So you will need a pan or grill, a spatula, and a spoon or ladle. You want to start off easy don’t you and work your way up. Then BOOM….here you go. Yeah, I know, its “bam!” but that belongs to someone else. Just follow the directions on the box. Step one: Add a cup of water. “Crap now we need a coffee cup”? NO! You don’t use a coffee cup to measure liquids in the twenty first century. You use a measuring cup. “Didn’t you watch the video”? Anyhow, measure the liquid (in this case water) carefully and add it to dry mix in a LARGE bowl or extra large measuring cup and stir it in. Yes, with a fork.

            During and up the early 1800’s cooking was an art that took a lifetime to learn and all day to prepare. One of the things that made cooking so hard was there were NO measuring cups or measuring spoons! Could you imagine getting a recipe and have to guess the size of the cup or that everyone’s teaspoons were a different sizes as well as their cups! It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century when the Cooking School of Boston and Fanny Farmer wrote out recipes the included even measurements. This was the first time in American cooking that graduated measuring cups and spoons were used to make using a recipe the same for anyone who could get the equipment. Remember too she was cooking with wood and coal. 

            Ok, back to our recipe and cooking in the twenty first century. Can you tell me what’s happening? “Yes, yes (eye roll) your cooking very funny”. What’s happening in the bowl? The water is being absorbed by the flour and there is also a leavening agent in there to make the pancakes light and fluffy called baking powder. That’s why those little bubbles are forming. It is actually double acting baking powder. That means it bubbles once because of the chemical reaction with the acid of buttermilk or cream of tartar and the base of baking soda. Then the second reaction occurs when you add heat or pour the batter onto the pan. “POOF” – it forms even more bubbles and rises on the grill.

            {Trivia note} Cream of tartar has been around for centuries as it is formed naturally on wine casks and wine corks.   Cream of tartar also known as Potassium bitartrate, also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, with formula KC4H5O6, is a byproduct of winemaking.  

            WAIT. Let the batter sit on the grill and as much as you want to touch it…..watch it, now as the edges just begin to harden and see bubbles in the center- Flip it. “YES! with a Spatula or as we called it in my house growing up a Pan Cake Turner! It should be anywhere from golden brown to deep a rich brown. See, remember this is where the paying attention part comes in. I hope you have not had too many Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s yet. 

            So, how do they look? Too fat you say? You can add a few tablespoon more water and thin out the batter or are they too thin? Add more mix…..SLOWLY! Cooking is half science and half well a crap shoot!!

You just cooked you first meal! BREAKFAST IS SERVED!!! Don’t forget the butter, the maple syrup and your mimosa (Or my wife’s preferred Bellini).

            Next we can get fancy and add eggs, sausage, bacon and fresh squeezed OJ. Nah I’ll just stick with the Mimosa. You can also try the pancakes from scratch recipe or many variations and practice your new cooking skills.

            How about waffles next! It is basically the same concept but now you need a specialized piece of equipment called a waffle iron. NO, it won’t work on your clothes.  It’s not likely you cant make these on your next camping trip either.  This process is just a little bit more messier and harder to clean up so of course I don’t make them often, mainly I keep waffles for snow days or really lazy Sundays.   For this you need to buy the ORIGNAL pancake mix and mix up the waffle version is on the back or try using my favorite, Bisquick.

2 cups Bisquick

1 1/3 c milk

1 tablespoon oil

1 egg

Now your cooking! Why is there no baking soda or baking powder? Because its in the Bisquick already!

            Preheat the waffle Iron. Mix together the batter. Grease the waffle iron with vegetable oil or shorting. I use the spray stuff.

This is just the beginning, The more you learn about leavening agents, flour and water, sugar and fat and hot they interact. What happens when you apply heat. What effects yeast have on dough you become more and more a BAKER! Whoa slow down we are not ready yet for homemade bread but it’s coming along with pizza dough, cakes, pies, rolls pastries and COOKIES!

We have to learn to walk before we can run…..right now at least where moving….crawling but on our way. Pancakes, file it under your first real recipe.

Keep cooking pancakes until our next lesson… Will it be breakfast, then dessert or lunch? Maybe Mimosas… hmmm.

Cooking Utensils (Gadgets)

No good cookbook would be complete without this list.

So far this is a short list of things we will be using to cook with in the “How to Cook” section of this website. You may want to keep this list handy like taped to the fridge or even print it out and casually leave it laying about for holiday season and birthday gift ideas for your yourself. Heck just come right out tell your life long partner and all your friends about the list too. This way you can be surprised with presents for a change, instead of flowers or a neck tie for your birthday (not that I don’t love BOTH those things)! The list will be getting longer as I add all kinds stuff to it as we use them to make the recipes I post. I could go on about all the gadgets I have collected in the 30 plus years that I have been cooking but that would take all the fun of it and writing this post would take ALL day. So lets explore all the gadgetry there is out there as we learn to cook with each item together!

Below are just a few items I have used already since starting this project and testing the waters on whether I could write about every meal I make in my kitchen or someone else’s kitchen. The items in green are some of recipes that I will be posting as the year goes on (maybe if I’m tech savvy enough I can turn them into links to the recipe). It will also be pretty magical to see if I can keep this posting stuff up or will I crash and burn and never finish my life long dream of writing my cookbook that everyone can use and understand but only time will tell.

The following is a recommended list of items that I have “collected” and have used thus far:

Oyster blender, bottle and corkscrew opener, cocktail shaker, ice bucket, pitcher, shot glasses, drink glasses, mugs and wine glasses…just to name a few.

Hamilton Beach DrinkMaster and Ice cream scoop

Charcoal Chimney Starter sold at Amazon, Loews and ACE Hardware’s stores

Thermometer

Digital Instant Read Thermometer

Vegetable peelers

I use this item for peeling the skin off vegetables such as potatoes for Latkes, or Apples for Sherry’s Apple Pie, Apple Cake

Vegetable Chopper

Zyliss Classic chopper. The 18/10 stainless steel blade operates like 5 knives in one. It rotates automatically for smooth, even chopping from coarse to very fine. Sharp enough to chop onions and vegetables. Strong enough to chop nuts and ice. Its easy to clean – just rinse it like I do, then place in the dishwasher. This is Great Gift/present (hint hint).   I use it use it for chopping onions as in Meatloaf or Baked Beans mmm beans.

Vegetable Steamer

Used when cooking steamed vegetables like the fresh artichokes I made for Jennifer.

Crinkle is Cut Serrator

Have I made home made French fry’s yet? Nope I guess not but I will do it soon. They are the perfect accompaniment to a grilled steak that is made over charcoal! My crinkle cut serrator features a stainless steel blade, brass rivets and a smooth easy to grip wood handle. Its the ideal tool for cutting vegetables, like potatoes for home made French fries or anything else that needs a crinkle cut to look fancy.

Pots and Pans

Cast Iron – These old classics come in many sizes today. I only still use one, a very large and very deep pan. This pan is perfect for deep fried chicken. Because of its heavy weight it holds the heat well keeping the oil hot. But because it’s heavy I also tend to use it less often but it has many other uses. For example it’s perfect for home fries, eggs and bacon. When new this pan may need to be “SEASONED”. Cover entire with vegetable oil and place in a 350° oven for 30 minutes. To clean this giant just use warm water as soap will remove the protective oil. Someone told me the best seasoning to use is bacon grease. This pan improves cooking flavor over time. Used for frying chicken or in recipes like Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. I also have a cast iron pot that is used on camping trips.

I even heard somewhere that you get the extra benefit of of the much needed mineral of iron just from cooking in it. It also seems that since people stopped using them to cook in regularly we might have to take a pill sometimes or eat spinach to get that in our system! Huh, its just what I heard and I don’t really know how true that is but I found it “interesting”.

Porcelain – Porcelain covered pots come in many beautiful colors now and can be very attractive hanging up in the kitchen. These pots are also nice to cook in.  I found one of mine at a garage sale and even received one as a gift! HAHAHA! Fit this in your suitcase to take home! Well yes I did! I love it now but cursed as I carried it through the airport in my carry on!

Dutch oven – This is a large Porcelain coved pot. Just like the aforementioned airport verity. It is 7 to 9 quart cast iron (heavy) pot that is ceramic covered and with a lid (for extra heaviness).

Teflon – This Dupont non-stick classic cookware always looses it non-stick effectiveness. The best way to make your non-stick cookware lasts it’s longest is with a few simple tips. First never use metal cooking utensils such as metal spatulas or folks. Many, if not all-cooking utensils come in Teflon friendly products. I own plastic spatulas, wooden spoon and tong are just a few items that should be used to cook in these type of pots and pans. Also putting Teflon pots and pans in the dishwasher shorten their life. Clean all Teflon items by hand using a sponge or brush with mild dish soap such as Dawn (product plug only because I like that commercial where they help clean off those cute little oil covered ducklings with Dawn).

Teflon pots and pans come in MANY brands and qualities.  I have owned several different styles over the years. I still have one large pan left that I use for omelets. They have to be replaced regularly because they ALL seem to loose there non-stick surface after a while.  I keep a couple different sizes and I buy deferent qualities pans depending on their eventual purpose.  The small pans I buy the least inexpensive.  I always try to keep three good ones on hand. One is large (12 to 14 inches is huge for an Irishman). This one is in great condition (the pan, not me) and used to make eggs and other things that stick to other pans. So I don’t use this pan for grill cheese, or burgers, Steaks, etc.  The other pans are smaller and less expensive. These I replace more often, and I use these for eggs for one person when new and eggs begin to stick to it I replace it.

Lately I have purchased the new Gotham Steel copper color ceramic nonstick frying pans. I like the 9.5 for making eggs. These seem to last longer then their Teflon cousins but I never really made note of it for sure. So I don’t want all those DuPont people coming after me hold their pans like torches so it resembles a scene from the movie Young Frankenstein!!

In the category of Teflon pots, I also own one. This is stickily for things like cheese sauce and that pot even has a pouring lip on it.   I have had this small “Calphalon Sauce Pan” for 20 years! They still make it and its even found on Amazon.

Stainless steel Pots and Pans – These Pots and Pans are almost indestructible. There is no non-stick surface to worry about and thats why they can last generations. Unlike the cast iron pans, dish detergent and scouring pad or cleaners including comet can be used to keep these pans looking like new. I use a scouring pad and cleanser on the bottom of these pans to remove heavy burn on food.

My favorite band of stainless steel pots and pans is All-Clad These pots and pans are VERY expensive so I only own two but they will last generations.  My first All-clad pan was brought at a close out store (Marshals) and was purchased with a cover at a great price maybe 15 years ago! I never saw another one the same size and at the same price again there. I do look still. 

My Second favorite, if you can believe this, is Ikea 365 – The pots I purchased at Ikea are 18/10 stainless steel and seem very durable. They are also much less expensive then the All-Clad brand. They come in a verity of sizes. The first pot size is the small saucepot. The second is the medium 2-quart saucepot and I also own the large 5-quart pot. They all came with lids!

I own one Pasta Pot – this stainless steel pot comes with a strainer insert perfect for making large amounts of pasta for a big tray of Baked Ziti or Lasagna for entertaining.

Stockpot – This huge pot can be purchased anywhere. I bought mine in an old-fashioned hardware store that carried kitchen supplies.  It holds 10 quarts. Its perfect for Chicken Soup or Corn beef and cabbage.

Tea pots – Can be purchased anywhere and can even be covered with colored porcelain like the old fifties style pots. I like my stainless steel teapot because it’s easy to clean and whistles when the water boils. I am considering getting an electric one (gift hint). So many electric appliances so little time.

Measuring cups

Pyrex –this brand is glass measuring cups that come in various sizes.  I recommend having on hand the one cup (16 ounce), one cup (32 ounce) and one 4 cup (64 ounces) Sizes.  These are perfect for measuring liquids.  I use the four cup size to make pancakes. They are dishwasher safe. Used for liquid measurements in such recipes as Baked Beans.

Stainless steel stacking – 18/10 stainless steel cups designed to balance without tipping. Cup sets should include 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1-cup measures and be dishwasher safe.

Plastic stacking dry measuring – These are only a necessity if you are planning on making the friendship bread recipe that requires them. I also like then because they are light weight. So of course I own more then one set!

Plastic Liquid measuring – I own these too and use them MOST often because they are light weight. Mine have lasted years and always wind up in the dishwasher. They are made by OXO.

Measuring spoons

Stainless steel liquid measuring cup– I have one that is 4 cups. Because its metal with a plastic covered grip I sometimes use this to serve gravy in on non formal occasions. I really need one of those insulated gravy servers. Just sayin.

Knives – I have two knife blocks on my counter. Plus I own a chef’s knife roll. I received that as a Christmas gift that was purchased for me at a chefs supply store but you can find many types on Amazon too.  My knife carrier is filled with the knifes I have collected from estate and garage sales. Knives is one of those things you should try many different kinds of to find the ones you like the best. Some of the best knives are made by Dexter Russell USA. Good knives make great gifts too. The really good ones can be really expensive but the sharper the knife the LESS likely you will be to cut yourself. Picking out good knives is a whole video lesson unto itself….Here are a few essential ones to own”

Butter knife/place knife – we often referred to this knife as a butter knife growing up. The most common use being to put butter on your bread, vegetables or when cooking with butter in recipes such as Apple Cake. It is a relatively dull knife with a rounded tip.  It comes standard in most flatware sets.

The following is usually in the standard knife block: Serrated bread Knife – This is the best style/type knife for slicing fresh bread, rolls or  for slicing cake in recipes like Ice Box Cake. Pairing knife – Carving Knife – Boning knife – Steak knives –

Specialty Knives – Filet Knife

Filet knife

Spoons

Teaspoons – flatware set Tablespoons – flatware set Wooden spoon – avoid getting hit by them, they hurt. Plastic serving spoons – Metal serving spoons – For HOT food Metal slotted spoon – for Hot Food

Pancake Turner or spatula

They come in MANY shapes and sizes. The ones pictured below are just two of my all time favorites. I have at least 10 spatulas that I have gathered over the years. Some I just use at the BBQ grill for burgers and others were plastic and for use with the Teflon pans that I no longer own.

Whisks

I only have two sizes. One is a large balloon whisk and the other is smaller and I use that one MOST often for sauces or sometimes even eggs and should get a second one of that one. Most times I use mix with a fork however.

Bakeware

Pie Pans – I prefer Pyrex glass pie pans for their even heat, dishwasher safe and classic look. Dark metal pans are ok. Tin pie pans tend to burn the bottom of the pie more easily.

Cake Pans – Williams-Sonoma has heavy nonstick cake pans that promote even baking and browning, feature a straight side and ensure that cakes are released easily. The uncoated Cake Pans from Chicago Metallic’s Commercial line performs wonderfully, and has the added benefit of being dishwasher- safe. Cake pans should be purchased in many sizes and shapes. I recommend two 9-inch-round baking pans for making a layer cake.

Square cake pan are not only used for cakes but brownies, and crumb cakes.  Sizes range from 13x9x2 for crumb cake, 9x9x2 for brownies.

Bundt and tube pans –

Bundt and tube pans allow a hurried cook to make a beautiful, tall cake without the worry of layers. The secret is the funnel, which cooks the cake from the inside out. Bundt pans usually have some sort of cut-crystal design molded into the pan and have tall sides with a hollow tube in the center.

A tube pan, or angel food cake pan, has a funnel in the center, too, but the sides of this pan are smooth, which allows the batter to climb up the walls of the pan as it bakes. Tube pans often have feet, which are little metal nubs that stick out above the rim of the pan, allowing the pan to be flipped over while it cools without smashing the cake inside. If your tube pan doesn’t have feet, chances are the tube center is higher than the sides of the pan, which will give you the same clearance that feet would. Angel food cakes need to cook this way so that they don’t collapse in the pan.

Loaf Pans

Loaf pans come in two standard sizes: 9 x 5 x 3 inches and 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches. You can find loaf pans made of glass, shiny metal, and nonstick aluminum. Glass pans and dark, nonstick pans have a tendency to brown your breads a bit faster than shiny metal, so lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees if you use these pans.

Sifter/Sifting – You can sift flour by purchasing this Kaiser metal sifter. You can also use a strainer and tap the side against the palm of your hand. Used in recipes like Banana Cake.

8” frosting spatula – this great spatula is great for spreading frosting on cake. It can purchase these on-line or at most good kitchen supply stores. This is used in recipes like the Ice Box Cake.

apple peeler/corerThis Peels apples as well as cores them. The apples are all evenly sliced but I think they are too thin for the apple pie or apple cake.

Tongs

The first pairs I would recommend is getting ones that are 12 inch long like the ones below (I have two pair of those). The next pair should be 16 inches and I use those when frying things like chicken cutlets. My next pair is 18 inches. I like to use them when I am at the BBQ grill. I also have a couple of small pairs that, that I received as a Christmas gift, I use for serving at parties. They are only 7 inches long.

304 Stainless Steel Kitchen Cooking Tongs, 9" and 12" Set of 2 Sturdy Grilling Barbeque Brushed Locking Food Tongs with Er...

That’s it for now. Check back often for updates and I will be referring to this list in my “how to cook posts” as we go. I hope the pictures help and of course if you have any questions just ask. You can post a comment here or send an email to me if you don’t want your questions seen by everyone.