G/M Steakhouse

G/M Steakhouse, San Antonio, TX
December 16, 2007

Having barely slept the night before (due to a combination of very bad stomach cramps and being stuck in a room right next to the elevator shafts on one side and some aggressively loud French people on the other), Richard and I blearily stumbled out of the St. Anthony Hotel on Sunday morning in search of a cheap yet hearty breakfast.  He was insistent on going to the McDonald’s next to the Rivercenter Mall, but my stomach and the dimly-lit parts of my brain protested.  I simply couldn’t tolerate the insipidness or the grease of an Egg McMuffin after the night that I’d had.  Besides, eating at McDonald’s just feels like giving up. I needed real food.

We walked, semi-aimlessly, towards the Alamo.  And within five minutes, we stumbled across this, directly across from the Alamo itself:

gm-steakhouse.jpg

Richard was sold on the $3.50 breakfast special; I was sold simply on the word “breakfast.” Continue reading G/M Steakhouse

Where in dreams I live with a memory…

finished-meal.jpg

As you may or may not have guessed by the headline (…I’m betting on “may not,” unless you’re an old school country music fan), I’m heading to San Antonio for the weekend.  Richard and I have a wedding to attend and — in my down time — I’ll be doing spreadsheet-intensive work for the Day Job.  So that means no updates this weekend.  Hey, at least I’m telling you in advance.

Until I get back, I’ll leave you with photos from this evening’s meal: Hearty Tomato and Bean Soup with Beer-Cheese Bread.

The batter smelled like, well, beer. But in that lovely, cool, fresh yeast-y way. And it smelled even better coming back out of the oven.

batter.jpg

Look at all the happy veggies, swimming around in the velvety tomato sauce together! I basically threw in every vegetable I had in my fridge and freezer; this is one of those great “clear out your fridge” recipes.

soup.jpg

A close-up of a fault line that developed on the bread, barely exposing the sweet, fluffy interior. I don’t care if it isn’t technically called a “fault line.” I just really enjoy saying “fault line.”

crusty-bread.jpg

And a final, parting shot of the warm bread.

finished-bread.jpg

Good night and happy eating till I see you on Monday!

Christmas Cookies

cookies.jpg

At the Day Job, we’ve adopted a needy family for Christmas and everyone was assigned different presents to bring for either the mother, the father or one of the four children.  Needless to say, we went a bit overboard and bought way more than they asked for on their Christmas list.  Some of us are venting our as-yet-unnecessary maternal hormones on the kids, while others are honing their doting grandparent skills.  And others are merely feeling the Christmas spirit, I suppose.  As for me, I bought a bright pink-and-purple bike with streamers for the seven-year-old girl (not pictured).

prezzies.jpg

I baked sugar cookies last night to take over to the family today.  And then I realized when I came in this morning that the gift delivery wasn’t until next Friday and therefore the cookies have become moot.  Richard will kill me, as he was playing his typical vulture act out in the kitchen all last night, hoping for a cookie to be thrown his way (I almost said “tossed” his way…heh…tossing cookies…*ahem*…anyway) as I was heavily guarding them from his predatory advances.  I’ll save a few for him, but the rest are going to the department potluck this afternoon.

And how’s Christmas looking around your office?  Assuming you have one, that is…

The Oft-Maligned Brussels Sprout

I’m so glad to see that Brussels sprouts are starting to regain their street cred lately.  Cooked properly, Brussels sprouts are a complete departure from the realm of vegetables and have an enigmatic savory taste that’s hard to define; the texture is crisp yet sultry; they melt in your mouth leaving scant traces of nuttiness and fresh air.  Cooked improperly, of course, they taste of cat sick.

To that end, I’m pleased to present a wonderful article on the art of braising Brussels sprouts from one of my favorite blogs, Cooking for Engineers.  If you enjoy Alton Brown (and, really, who doesn’t?), you’ll enjoy Cooking for Engineers.  They even offer helpful pictures of the cooking process along the way.

Avoiding it at all costs (having remembered the horror stories), I never tasted this mini-cabbage until after I left college. Believe it or not, after first tasting them, I thought Brussels sprouts were delicious! What had I been missing out on? Why did everyone complain about these wonderful tasting vegetables and why was it the butt of many jokes in American family sitcoms? I’m not sure, but I think it might have to do with overcooking (which can release noxious smells). Forget the Brussels sprouts of your past and try this fast, simple, and flavorful preparation.

Read the entire entry, along with recipe, here:  Braised Brussels Sprouts.

sprouts.jpg

Now, don’t those look good?

UPDATE:  And as if the good folks at Serious Eats read my mind, here’s another fantastic recipe for Brussels sprouts that was just posted tonight:  Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts.  Yum!

Whose mami? Umami. UPDATED

It would seem that I’m not the only one tearing into this poor Chronicle staff writer over his recent article on the “dangers” of salt.  Apparently, Mr. Ackerman borrowed heavily from other sources to write his piece, including a 1997 article from the FDA’s magazine, FDA Consumer.  And here I thought his limited knowledge of the five basic tastes was deplorable.  But there are always new depths to plumb when it comes to the Chronicle

You can read more about the developing story from my fellow Houston bloggers here:

Chron reporter borrows without attribution (blogHOUSTON)

Press catches Chron writer in plagiarism (Lone Star Times)

Salty sourcing from the Chron (HouStoned– The Houston Press)

Spaghetti Bolognese

Last night was a complete 180 from my cookbook recipe adventures of the night before.  I elected instead to make a simple, hearty bolognese from scratch, adding whatever I felt like adding in the process.  The “recipe” began — I believe — as a Giada de Laurentis recipe for marinara sauce, but was heavily altered by my mother and then further altered by me.

ingredients.jpg

This is probably my favorite dish to cook and for a really weird reason.  And that reason is that I get to chop mounds upon mounds of veggies, which is somehow therapeutic and relaxing for me.  It’s like the same calm that people get from gardening or knitting — I enjoy prepping food.  Maybe I would’ve made a good entremetier in another life.

veggies.jpg

I don’t normally add meat to the sauce; this was a special request of Richard’s, who wanted “spag bowl,” his weird nomenclature for spaghetti bolognese.  He also calls bœuf bourguignon, “beef boingy-boingy” and — just the other day — I caught him trying to slice off a piece of Grueyere cheese to put on his ham and ketchup sandwich for lunch.  These are just some of the reasons I maintain that I married an eight-year-old in a thirty-two-year-old’s body.

Anyway, the three most imporant things in this sauce are:

  • good Italian D.O.P. tomatoes
  • plenty of koshering salt
  • good butter and/or heavy cream (I use both)

sauce.jpg

I also added some cooked ground turkey to the sauce after all of the other ingredients had been added and had simmered for a while.  I would have preferred beef or pork, but we figured that since the rest of the dish included enough butter and cream for ten people, perhaps going with a lower-fat meat would even everything out.  The turkey — being rather bland on its own — added nothing in the way of flavor to the sauce, but at least it didn’t detract from it.  And it was nice to have the additional protein and texture.

finito.jpg

If you’re going to make this at home, I recommend simmering the entire concoction for at least three hours before serving.  I didn’t have that kind of time last night and was only able to cook it for about an hour, but I’m very much looking forward to the leftovers tonight.  The “recipe” (if you can even call it that) is after the jump.

Continue reading Spaghetti Bolognese

The Almond Gods

God bless the vendor who sent a Christmas package of roasted almonds to the office this morning.  I am in Almond Heaven and the Almond Gods are smiling beatifically upon me today.

almonds.jpg

The best part of Christmas isn’t the lights or the decorations or the cheer in the air or even spending time with loved ones; it’s the holiday gift baskets from vendors.

Porkchops and Spinach

Last night, I did something that I absolutely dread: I cooked a recipe out of a cookbook.

chops.jpg

This may not seem terrifying to the rest of you, but there’s something about cooking while reading while measuring while stirring while pouring while flipping that completely destroys any normal cooking ability that I have.  I think it’s the reading part that gets to me.

Baking something out of a cookbook?  No problem.  That’s normal.  I can’t just stand there in the kitchen and decide, “You know, I think I’m going to put this flour together with this cocoa powder and see what comes of it!”  Baking is more science than art, and for that you need a recipe.  Sure, you can fiddle with the recipe as you go or modify it later to your liking.  But baking is simple and straightforward: stir things together in bowl, bake.  Throwing “reading” into that mix doesn’t make too much of a difference.

Cooking, however, is different for me.

I’ve always been the kind of person who cooks in the same way that I play piano — by ear.  Now, I don’t have the incredible palate that my mother has, where she can visualize a meal and all of its ingredients in her mind and know exactly how everything will taste together before she’s even bought the groceries.  But I know what goes together and what doesn’t.  And I usually make our meals out of whatever’s in the pantry at any given time, a practice which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to following a recipe out of the latest issue of Bon Appetit.

onions.jpg

Weirdly, I own a massive collection of cookbooks (again, not as large as my mother’s collection which — at last count — numbered 258 tomes).  But instead of using them for their intended purpose, I read them like you would novels.  And I suppose that somewhere in the back of my mind, I ferret away little chunks of cooking knowledge that present themselves when I’m poking aimlessly through my pantry and trying to figure out what I can make with a can of butterbeans and some leftover baby spinach.

That said, I am determined to start cooking with actual recipes.  And to that end, I chose a very easy porkchop recipe with a caramelized onion sauce (a Rocco di Spirito recipe) and a side of creamed spinach (my mother’s recipe).  And I have to say, I was impressed with the results.

I don’t know if it has more to do with the fact that I’ve finally got decent appliances and cookware (I love you, All-Clad) or that I’m a calmer person in general than when I first started cooking in college, but everything turned out exactly as planned.

meal.jpg

The recipes are after the jump.  Yes, they’re ridiculously easy.  But for someone like me, they were quite an accomplishment. Continue reading Porkchops and Spinach

Whose mami? Umami.

The Houston Chronicle printed an interesting article this morning on “deadly salt” (yes, the actual headline contained the ridiculously salacious phrase “deadly salt”).  The author, Todd Ackerman, provided the following insight on why giving up salt proves to be difficult for most people:

It is almost impossible to prepare a meal without salt — it preserves food by inhibiting bacterial growth, offers technical advantages in the kitchen such as raising the boiling point of water, and, as one of the four taste categories, adds flavor or heightens existing flavor.

Unforunately, Mr. Ackerman forgot that there are actually five basic tastes or tastebud receptors: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.

Umami, which was first identified by the scientific community in 1908, describes the taste of meaty or savory foods.  Although the Western world has only embraced umami as a fifth taste since 2002, it’s still common knowledge that there are now five basic tastes.

That’s okay, though, Chronicle.  You’re only about 100 years behind the times; I’m sure there are lots of events that you need to catch up on.  For example, were you aware that in 1966 a man walked on the moon?  I know!  It’s crazy!

So while you’re off playing catch-up (and from the look of things, this could take a while) might I suggest hiring a fact-checker?

On Scones, Part Two

It took me a while to post them, but here are the pictures of the scones I promised you in the original On Scones post.

Here’s the dough, before it’s kneaded slightly and put onto a cookie sheet.  I added a bit too much milk by mistake (that’s what I get for not measuring…), and although the dough was moister and stickier than I prefer, the scones still turned out fine.

dough.jpg

Two fresh scones; so happy together!  I sprinkled more sugar on top than usual, because Richard wanted “sweet” scones.  We took it a step further and added some jam later.  Normally, I’d just eat them with a pat of butter and maybe some lightly-drizzled honey.

two-scones.jpg

A bit of butter and jam, and we’re good to go.

scone-closeup.jpg

If I’m going to continue my amateur food photography, I think I may need to invest in a light box and some white plates, because my antique — very lovely, but very aqua — plates just don’t seem to be cutting it.  🙂

Enjoy!