food porn

Review: Grilled Cheese by Marlena Spieler

Finally, after two months of Cooking Channel reviews and Next Food Network Star recaps I am back to reviewing a cookbook.  This one specializes in something that is close to the heart of every kid from 4 to 94, grilled cheese sandwiches.

Marlena SpielerMarlena Spieler’s ode to the perfect rainy day lunch is entitled Grilled Cheese – 50 Recipes to Make you Melt and it is available through amazon.  Spieler is no cookbook amateur as she has published over 50 cookbooks including another tribute to a popular comfort dish Macaroni And Cheese.  She has also made numerous TV appearance mostly on BBC.  Additionally she writes for Bon Appétit and Savuer as well as penning the internationally syndicated column “The Roving Feast.”

To some a book about grilled cheese sandwiches might seem silly.  I mean who can’t put a Kraft single between two slices of Bunny bread?  If that is your mindset I am truly puzzled as to why you are reading a foodie blog.  The reality is there are hundreds of types of cheeses and breads and each combination has the potential to blow your mind.  Think about the humble quesadilla – what is it if not a Mexican grilled cheese?

Grilled Cheese - 50 Recipes to Make you MeltSpieler does a fabulous job of showing the versatility of the ultimate comfort food.  Her imagination is inspiring with recipes like Austin Powers’ Sha-a-delic (a 70’s classic featuring ham and pineapple), the French variation Casse Croûte with bleu cheese and gruyére or the dessert-ish French Toast stuffed with strawberries and cream cheese.  The author has even found a way to incorporate grilled cheese into a salad with her Open-faced Chévre Sandwiches – basically little goat cheesed topped crostini – that she adds to a salad of mixed greens topped with a walnut vinaigrette.

At this point I would be remiss if I did not mention the beautiful photography by Sheri Giblin.  It is quite simply some of the best food porn I have seen in quite a while.  In fact, everything about Grilled Cheese is an exploration of the extravagant side of this timeless sandwich.

Review: FoodCrafters

I finally got a little quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time around FoodCrafters.

aida mollenkamp on WannabeTVchef.comFoodCrafters is what Road Tasted wanted to be.  Super sexy Aida Mollenkamp travels the country trying the best artisanal foods to be found.  This is not a profile of the partially synthetic, highly processed foods featured on shows like Unwrapped and Food Tech but rather a testament to the small business owners who chose their course not because of profitability but out of passion.

Mollenkamp, who’s stand and stir show Ask Aida always seemed stiff, is completely at ease in this vehicle.  And why not?  She is a genuine foodie – a certified chef, blogger, editor for mega food site CHOW, TV host and world traveler.  FoodCrafters is like tagging along with Mollenkamp on a road trip.  Her graceful yet hip attitude is tailor-made for for this show.

The production value on FoodCrafters is sleek, like a really well made documentary.  The food porn is among the best you will see on television.  The lighting and cinematography are as good as I have seen on a show of this nature.  It’s a great looking show.  Mollenkamp’s sultry look and modern sensibility only accentuate the quality of the production.

FoodCrafters stylish approach to it’s subject makes it far superior to the aforementioned Road Tasted.  The later always had good core content but never seemed to flow well.  Whether hosted by the Deen’s or the Neeley’s the transitions were always equal parts clumsy and corny.  FoodCrafters on the other hand is food porn at it’s best.

Celebrating the Gulf Through It’s Food

I was lucky enough to be selected by Foodbuzz to participate in the July 24X24 which is a fund raiser for Gulf recovery.  For those not familiar with 24X24 it is a monthly global dinner party featuring 24 meals by 24 bloggers in 24 hours.  This month’s party hasn’t gone unnoticed as the major news wires have picked up on it.  MSNBC said, “Foodbuzz, the largest online food community, is calling on food bloggers across the country to cook up a Gulf Coast-inspired meal on July 24th — and blog about it — all in support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF).”  So I gathered a few friends together, most Gulf Coast natives, and we celebrated by eating the foods we’ve all come to love.

This has special importance to me because I live in South Alabama right on the Gulf of Mexico and I have seen first hand the economic devastation in the area.  Just a few months back I took in the annual Blessing of the Fleet in Bayou La Batre and it was evident to the people in that small fishing village that life would never be the same again.  Recently I released a new cookbook, Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico and it is from that work that I draw the recipes for tonight’s menu: filé gumbo, Cuban pressed sandwiches and Key lime tartelettes.

Gumbo is as continuous an argument around these parts as politics, money or religion but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the one thing that cannot be omitted from gumbo is okra.  The word gumbo is an African for okra.  It is a dish that has been adopted by the people of the Gulf Coast as our official soup.  There are some people who just can’t handle okra so I am stealing an idea from Chef Bobby Flay and using fried okra as a garnish so it remains an official gumbo.

File’ Gumbo

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 1 pint oysters
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 bunch celery stalks, rough chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb okra (optional), sliced
  • 1/2 bottle Louisiana Hot Sauce- a whole bottle if you like it HOT!
  • 4 tablespoons flour4 tablespoons butter
  • Salt, cayenne pepper, File’, white pepper, & black pepper to taste
  • Bay leaves
  • 1 quart fish stock or shrimp stock

Boil rice in plain water and set aside. In a large stockpot melt butter and add flour to make a roux cook until chocolate brown, roughly 20 minutes. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, and a little water if needed and simmer a few minutes then add hot sauce, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, both peppers and fish stock. Simmer for about half an hour. Add okra (if using) and seafood and simmer about another twenty minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve hot over rice, and garnish with a sprinkle of file’ and fried okra.

The influence of our Latin American neighbors can be seen all over the Gulf of Mexico, especially in Texas and Florida and it is in the latter that our next course has become an institution.  And no wonder with two kinds of pork.

Cuban Pressed Sandwich

  • 4 loaves French bread
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 pound smoked ham, sliced thin
  • 1 – 1½ pounds slow roasted pork
  • 1/2 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
  • Hamburger dills
  • Mustard

Finally my dessert also hails from the Sunshine State.  I am including my recipe for Key lime pie although for the dinner I poured my custard into graham cracker tartelettes rather than a single large crust.  Despite the name, Key limes are no longer grown commercially in the Florida Keys, you can thank the hurricane of 1935 for that.  Today most Key limes come from an area of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico that has identical soil and climate to the Keys where this small lime is indigenous thus making it a true Gulf of Mexico delicacy.  You can make this same pie using regular limes but don’t call it a Key lime pie because there is a noticeable difference in flavor.

Key Lime Pie

  • 1¼ cups graham crackers, crushed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed Key lime juice (roughly 12 limes)
  • Whipped cream
  • Dash of fresh grated nutmeg
  • 3 – 4 Key limes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In medium bowl, mix together sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Melt the butter and blend well with sugar and graham crackers. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake 6 to 8 minutes. In another medium bowl, combine the milk and egg yolks with an electric mixer on low speed. Add key the lime juice. Mix until thick. Pour into prepared crust and put in refrigerator overnight. Top with whipped cream, nutmeg and garnish with key lime slices (optional).

NOTE: Real Key Lime Pie is never green.

For more information on the “Gulf Ambassador” program visit HERE.  Follow Foodbuzz on Twitter or the Facebook Fan Page.

My Menu for the Foodbuzz Gulf Fund Raiser

As many of you may have read on MSNBC or at the Foodbuzz home page I am participating in this month’s Foodbuzz 24X24 dinner party.  This is a special 24X24 as it is geared to raise money for my beleaguered Gulf Coast.

Destin BeachWith remnants of Katrina still strewn everywhere and oil soiling what are easily the most beautiful beaches in the 48 contiguous, we need a little good news.  The folks at Foodbuzz have come up with just the ticket.  But I’ll let MSNBC tell you all about it:

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA — As the Gulf Coast struggles to recover from the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Foodbuzz, the largest online food community, is calling on food bloggers across the country to cook up a Gulf Coast-inspired meal on July 24th — and blog about it — all in support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), which has been playing a key role in relief efforts in the wake of the tragic oil spill.

    Each month, Foodbuzz’ 24×24 section of the website showcases blog posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers from around the world about meals they’ve prepared within one 24-hour period. This month, Foodbuzz has chosen 24 bloggers from around the country to serve as “Gulf Ambassadors” and host a Gulf Coast-inspired meal on Saturday, July 24th. A donation of $250 in the name of each of the bloggers will be donated to the GNOF, for an initial contribution of $6000. Some of the participating bloggers from around the country include:

  • Passionate Eater – San Francisco
  • Cooking with Christen – Louisiana
  • Fresh Local and Best – New York City
  • SheSimmers – Chicago
  • Le Grand Fromage – Florida
  • Don’t (White) Sugar Coat It – Boston
  • Four Points Foodie – Austin
  • Wannabe TV Chef – Alabama
  • First, Make a Roux! – San Diego
  • For additional food bloggers — up to 100 — who would like to participate in the program by hosting their own Gulf Coast-inspired meal, Foodbuzz will also donate $25 in their name to the GNOF. Posts can be submitted to Foodbuzz on July 25th at editorial@foodbuzz.com.

    READ THE REST

Here is my menu which features recipes from my cookbook Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes from the Gulf of Mexico:  I’m starting with a rich seafood gumbo chock full of Gulf shrimp, blue crabs and Conecuh smoked sausage.  For my main course I’m knocking out some Cuban pressed sandwiches with lots of roast pork and ham and I’m finishing with Key lime tartelettes.  HERE is the post of the dinner party complete with recipes and plenty of food porn.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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